Anne Lamott on Praying for Spiritual Signs

fallRecently I’ve been enjoying this song by Colbie Callait.

And, this morning I stumbled on an interesting Facebook Post from Anne Lamott. I think it fits with the month of remembrances and thanksgiving.

She wrote it on August 9, Just last summer.

I love the idea of God’s grace being available in an ATM.

Every morning these days, you have to ask yourself, What the hell IS it all about, Alfie? Or you pray for a sign that you absolutely cannot miss or misinterpret, the tiniest hint of direction and assurance.

Well? I got one.

It has been one of the worst week in years, and that’s saying something. You know exactly what I’m talking about, no matter how much you love your life and your pit crew; no matter how hard you strive to present a good face. It is so hard here. It’s like Old Yeller meets the Hunger Games; plus the parking is terrible.

Under the best circumstances, we are a nutty and sometimes violent species, on an extremely dangerous piece of land.

But one of the saddest things happened. We had to put my darling old dog Lily down. She died peacefully at home in my son Sam’s arms on Wednesday.

I think she was the closest I’ll come, on this side of eternity, to experiencing the direct love of the divine. You may know the feeling.

Through this love, Sam and I came through. We cried a lot, but agreed to let our hearts stay broken for a while, because that is how light, grace and healing can get in, through the armor.

The next morning, I took Lily’s beloved ne’er-do-well husband Bodhi for a walk. I adore him, but he has tiny mental issues, such as aggression, and having eaten entire chickens, and 24 muffins once. Then, too sad to stay at home without Lily, we went out for a bite.

After eating sandwiches in the car, we headed home. I was disoriented, and so far behind on my daily life, after a month of Lily in decline, that Sam frequently consults A Place for Mom online. But a block from home, I got that Holy Spirit nudge, a tug on my sleeve, which urged me, as it often does, “Stop.” It’s given up on nuance.

They say that when all else fails, follow instructions. The nudge on my heart said, “Go to your friend’s kid’s school.” So I said, “Okay,” the fourth great prayer.

My closest friend’s child, who has been through the ringer, the On Beyond Zebra ringer, starts kindergarten soon, but the friend has been on Total Fucking Overwhelm (TF0). She has not entirely gotten him enrolled, and the school’s website had conflicting info on how to do this. And, of course, no one is in the office, because it is August, which was one of the two biggest mistakes God made–August, and snakes. So we drove to the school.

There was one car in the parking lot and a woman climbing into it. Then some janitors ran into view and called to her–had she locked their lunches in the office? She had–Oops, to quote Rick Perry. So she got out, to unlock the office. I asked if I cd run along beside her, like a little dog, and ask a quick question. “Fire away!” she said. I told her about this boy, and asked all our main questions. She was so helpful. I thanked her, and asked if she worked in the office.

“Yes,” she said. “I’m the new principal.”

Of course she was the new principal, because God is such a show-off. Call this energy the Divine It, or Ed. Whatever works.

“Wow,” I said, bowing my head.

“Look,” she continued, “the easiest thing is probably for me to just give your friend my cell phone number.”

I said, “Okay,” on the verge of laughter and tears. “Thank you.”

Bodhi and I went home and called our friend. “You better sit down,” I told the mom. “I think we got some kind of Inbreaking.”

I told the mom my story, about how we’d somehow ended up at the Grace ATM, and how holy spirit had saved the day.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Or Lily.”

I gave her the new principal’s cell phone number. Then Bodhi and I went to read the new People, and took a nice morning nap, feeling a little bit better, which is a miracle.
from FB page Suspended Coffees

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I Found Great Resources on Guilt vs. Shame

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This is my favorite photo of our dog Paul. Why? Because he is always in trouble, and when I took this he was apologizing.

I don’t remember why my phone was photo ready, but I am certain that he was raising some kind of doggie hell just before I tapped the picture button. The clovers that got stuck in his collar are the clue that he was up to no good in the yard. Right before I plunked into my reading chair to calm myself, I likely stepped onto the back porch and embarrassed my family

again

by forgetting that I live in a city now. Three years later, I sometimes still yell in my farm voice.

That look on the face of Paulie is his “apology face” and it works, of course, every time. He doesn’t try to convince me that he will never do IT again. Our other dog. Lennon Francis (Lenny) cowers, and hides and shivers when he is in trouble until the issue passes. His way of apologizing is to drop a ball or chewed up play toy at me feet and then step back and sit down. It’s like he’s saying, “seriously mom, we both need a round of fetch to resolve this tension.”

Paul McCartney on the other hand, manages to make me stop shaming him by insisting that I NEED him, and I need him right now! Right here. On my lap, in my arms, or his favorite – like an infant resting his head on my shoulder.

Isn’t shame an interesting topic?

If  you don’t agree, you should.

JeezlePete. I did it again. Shame on me.

I have had some really great things happen this summer, but right now near the top of the list is reconnecting with my friend Therese Borchard. She is so funny. We hadn’t had a private chat online in a long while and for some reason time alllowed for that to happen more than once over this school break.

It’s interesting – she and I share a birthday and when we lose touch and reconnect a little bit, it’s pretty common that similar things are on our minds. I really appreciate that she passed on some facinating resources in between our twisted and humorous conversations.

I’ve mentioned here a couple of times, I think, that last year I started my studies to become an Educational Sign Language Interpreter. Well, this year I am able to move ahead with three classes and I am so excited. The frustrating and disappointing thing is that I had to turn down a great offer to continue working at the school I enjoyed so much last year. My classes will be during the day.

Backer to my writer friend Therese: here’s the short version of what we are connecting about right now and are both sort of, well, tearfully even, thankful about: we are a little bit stuck on the topic of shame and redemption.

I know. Strange. Isn’t it? I envy the the people that start their break with plans to be light hearted and and keep up with that commitment.

I promise that I started the summer with three goals: lose twenty pounds, create a kitchen that looks like this:

long range kitchen color planand stop obsessing about the topic of shame.

I did clean out the cabinets, and I am still obsessed about the topics of shame and redemption – but it is in a super charged and good way now!

Through conversation with my college roomate and writer friend, along with gathering some books, I sort of clarified why I was so angry during that first year and a half back in the work world. I had taken a much longer than I should have sebatical.

I’m not the only on that was, and still is enraged about the Sandy Hook massacre. But, for me, the impact was to realize that realistically, people my age don’t have forever to enjoy their careers. Maybe that’s why it is common to start one, or restart one at age 50 – which is what I’m doing.

And pardon my french, but I am thouroughly pissed at what the world has become while I was home loading the wood stove and packing the moving boxes and discovering the great Mississipi river.

Thank God I re-stumbled onto to my mental health and spirituatlity writer friend and now have some resources to try and understand and cope with how obessesd society has become with shaming and blaming each other. The first thing I learned is that what is most destructive, is that we, America espeically, are keeping our worries and secrets private and losing our sense of place and self.

How in the world did this happen? Is it because of social networking? Global warming? The Berlin Wall? The death of Fred Rogers?

I don’t know – but it was a huge shock to me when returning to the classroom and teacher lounge after a fiver year or so break,

yet, I have never been so thankful for work in my life.

My confidence is slowly regaining it’s speed and my faith life has taken off again. My family of course means the most to me, but I am also the one who was lucky enough to hold a hungry first grader who was throwing a crying fit about sounding out a WHOLE page of reading After I convinced him that sitting in the hallway with me is the most boring idea ever and that carpet time is the Bees Knees, I ended up being the lucky one. I get to remember that In grade one my belly was always full enough and I spent hours watching Fred from Dad’s lap. And while I sorely miss to my sons…those were good days indeed.

But you know what? The world has gone mad.

 

We are shaming this fantastically charming little generation of readers in epic proportion and I will not put up with it another minute.

Someone, somehow, somewhere – decided that name calling is no big deal.

Well, guess what.

It is. And the last thing that these teachers and students need, in the face of gun violence and hatred, is more wasted time on tattling and idioticTom Foolery.

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If you are feeling frustrated on similar topics here is a video, and here is a **killer good** article, and here is a song. Each of them have helped to calm me down while I try to sort all of this out.

By the way – isn’t that tin of buttons that my friend Marti made the coolest rainbow you have seen since yesterday?

I do like buttons.

 

How I Tried to Teach a tiny Kid to Shake Hands like a Man

“Look at that moon. Potato weather for sure.”
Thornton Wilder, Our Town

A grace potato moon

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about redemption the past few weeks.

No, really.

These are the kinds of topics that keep me awake at night and interfere with my ability to remember that my husband sent me to the store for milk and not a new dishwasher. When I say I’ve been thinking a lot about redemption- I mean, like, well,

                                                           pretty darn frequently.

I am thankful for some time to relax, because it has been several weeks now since some tricky things happened on the playground at work. They weren’t funny happenings, and they got my attention. Funny things happened as well, don’t get me wrong! Yet. Now that I am on break and am responsible for hardly any brain work, my mind can wander and contemplate all it wants.

So, for now, redemptive cogitation and the family rodeo it is…

My school and job for 2012-2014 was a most wonderful and wearysome one. I was a para educator in a school located in our downtown. There were several things going on last year that made it a very tough building to go into every day. I’ll just mention a couple. Maybe you can relate.

One thing that was happening was that tragedy had struck the previous spring and impacted the school community as a whole. A shocking accuasation had been made against the previous principal and the legal and practical fall out was ugly. It was a situation that didn’t impact just one child or family or school staff member, it involved everyone. Who was hurt the most by it? I’m still not sure. There were some paces that the students had to go through that I’d be willing to bet was boring, frustrating and annoying to them in their spring 2013 year. I’m guessing that the kids were rewarded with some extra recess time and other than the impact of parents not keeping adult conversation among themselves, the Mighty Mustangs had a fine summer break last year anyway.

So, what made the job difficult? Was it just because I was newcomer amongst some really plucky and fun little kids? Not so much.

In the very beginning it was a very angry, sad and tense work environment. The students were fine! But, with a new principal to deal with, the local media still buzzing with legal proceedings, and a vast amount of educational outcomes to catch up on – the joint was jumping when I was hired a few weeks into the school year. Overall, my coworkers were welcoming and friendly and amazingly resilient. The teachers were top notch professionals and the students were excited for new routines and comforted by old traditions.

Either wasted energy on catty banter was not common place or I was deaf to whatever was going on behind the scenes in the parent parking lot or elsewhere.

Well, I did fall into one cat fight in the making right after starting my position, but skeedadled out of the situation it quickly with just a teeny scratch.

“Yes, now you know. Now you know!

That’s what it was to be alive.

To move about in a cloud of ignorance;

to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those…of those about you.

To spend and waste time as though you had a million years.

To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another. Now you know — that’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to.

Ignorance and blindness.”
Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Thankfully, with the impossibly generous support of the new administration and a minute or two of fun banter while meeting various teachers as I helped them corral the Mustangs into their seats, it wasn’t long before I was having a great time indeed. What made leaving my comfy home and cute dogs every morning difficult was the heartbreaking realities of the majority of the families that attend our school.

I’m not a talented enough writer to try and describe some of what was going on for these children and families. I can’t do it without breaking confidentiality. To tell the story of one kid, or one family, I would want to tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The truth of MY experience of trying to distract a kid who is struggling to read away from hunger, or anger, or frustration, or the shame that had been piled on him or her in a short few years. I really would like to post a photo of this one little, long and grouchy face. Or YouTube a voice recording of his ear piercing tantrums when life built up and he felt picked on or didn’t want to cooperate with carpet time rules.

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I’d like to describe in detail how incredibly guilty I felt the morning that I found out he had been waiting in the hallway to say good morning to me and practice “How to Have a Firm Handshake Like Mr. Cooper and His his Sons.” He had to get to class because the last morning bell rang. Rules are rules.

The whole story on that day isn’t just about a cute kid or moment.

Since the very short time since I moved from Ohio to Iowa, school work (public, private and home school) has changed drastically.

That missed chance for a handshake was one event of many that added to my already bigger than it should be sense of guilt. I was becoming grouchier as a coworker and educator by the day because of the ending school year. As a staff we were trying to do our best to do what the boss ordered which was to keep them reading and in routine until the final bell of the year.

Thankfully boxes of coffee and trays of fruit and home baked goodies kept popping up in the teacher lounge as the final 2013-2014 count down continued for everyone.

For many of the little kiddos I met at this school, routines and structure at home are frequently lost to the fight to put food on the table and a safe roof overhead.

This creates an interesting, challenging and resilient atmosphere.

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I can’t tell you my affection for the kid that I mentioned above about without telling you his whole story, and trust me, I know very, very little. My few classes in counseling not only taught me that it is not wise to ask too many questions, but it’s usually against the law. I just know that there were days that he hung on my promise that developing a firm handshake like a man could help him rule the world. I explained to this tiny person that Mr. C wears a suit and has a very important job, at a very big school. I confided to him that that sometimes grown men want to cry and scream at school too, but they aren’t allowed to either. (My husband is a college administrator). I tried to encourage that with some hard work he and Mr. Cooper could handle their job to learn and teach just a few hours longer until it was time to go home and play.

“We all know that something is eternal.

And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . .

everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings.

All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it.

There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.

-Stage manager, in the play OUR TOWN”

If anyone has any additional cool ideas on how to get a kid, or a teacher or an administrator through a school year on ANY educational campus since the events of Sandy Hook (I added an interesting link that maps some of the recent trends that administrators are working to prepare us for), do tell me.

All I’ve got in my tool kit at this point is to take a knee and let the funny things crack me up.

Thank God funny seemed to happen all of the time last year, and I trust that future years will offer the same. I hope that those who are getting a bit of summer break are getting some rest, or at least enjoying the view.

peace, Kate

 

I Have a Lenten Plan…..

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(image from This Quiet Lady by Anita Loebel

In a flurry of trying to call in sick to work and the college class I’m taking, two of the texts I got back said:

1: Yikes!

and the other:

2: Feel better.

I’ve decide that these three words are going to somehow become my theme for this year’s Lenten observance. I’m not sure what will come of these thoughts. But, one of the good things about having bursts of unthinkable busyness is that it gives something to reflect on when those calendar pages are done and turned.

If life were different I would challenge myself to blog along the way to this Easter.

My intuition tells me to stay focused on the marathon spring ahead for our family, and enjoy that circus until school’s end.

A teaching mentor and dear friend who held me on his shoulders when I was a wee lass sets those boundaries to prevent total exhaustion. Creative juices go wild in the summer. This was my mother’s creative calendar too now that I think of it…

In any case. I miss the solitude of connecting with others and the spirit while writing and posting, yet am so thankful for the way life has fallen together for me and interrupted my blogging journal tool.