Friday, April 13, 2018

The Last IEP or How A White Poppy Blooms


IEPs suck.
There's no other way around it.

I've thought about this a lot...having been through many, many, many.

It feels like we could make them easier on the mama's heart.
We could just stop talking about all of the many ways the student isn't measuring up and start considering the one-of-a-kind, unrepeatable gifts they bring to the class.

Why must we test and test and test...
using measurement tools that have not been created for people with intellectual disabilities at all?

I'm pretty sure I would fail a test in wasn't made for me.

Why do we force kids with Down Syndrome to take tests that weren't made for them and then act surprised when the scores reveal that the test wasn't made for them?

Why do we make educating children so hard?

Why do we sit as a panel of experts judging, critiquing, analyzing...
while the parent waits with dread at the guilty verdict:
We pronounce your child disabled.

Why do we see disability as brokenness?

Why can't we see the rare gift of the individual?

Before Patrick, I would have been bothered by that bold white poppy.
I would have disgustedly thought it should fit in.

Its difference would annoy me.

Today I see that poppy and cheer...or, in this case, stop and take a pic.

You, Go, White Poppy!

How did you become white?
Aren't you your bad self, standing there so bold and defiant.

Best of all, I marvel at the environment.
Somehow, some way, the circumstances were configured so that this white poppy could bloom...alongside the orange ones.

How can we help our classrooms be like that?

What does it take?

It sure doesn't take a panel of poppies sitting around a table pointing out the whiteness...
or should we say "severe lack of orange-ness"...the deficit in orange is noticeable.

Spoiler alert: it's never becoming orange.

And, yet, it is beautiful and capable of being a white poppy perfectly and
needs no panel of experts telling it what to do.


I propose this for the next IEP you must attend:

Ask them to tell you about your white poppy.
Ask them to SEE the beauty in your white poppy.
Ask them to understand that the white poppy is never never turning orange and yet it must live among the orange bounty.

What can they do to ensure the vibrancy and flourishing of the white poppy
among so many orange ones?

Let's just start by valuing the white poppy.

Let's stop trying to make the white poppy anything else.

Let's just notice the beauty...and work to fertilize the soil and water it enough and offer sunlight.


Today, we reached the end of a long long journey.
No more IEPs and panels and tests.

I can hardly believe it.

Patrick's journey through kindergarten to high school is almost complete.
Because Patrick is graduating with a high school diploma,
he will have no transition services
from 18 -21.

Somehow, miraculously, my white poppy has been able to grow/thrive/learn/live with all the
orange poppies.

Yes, there were people who thought that my white poppy didn't belong...
but there were way, way more gardeners who saw his unusual beauty
and created the climate for him to thrive.

I am so grateful to the teachers who said yes.
So grateful for the willing hearts.
So humbled by the gift of educators who found a way to welcome a white poppy
into an orange world.

Today, my 18 year old son with Down Syndrome signed his own damn IEP.

He shared his hopes and dreams - his strengths and his struggles.
He offered his vision for his future to a bunch of adults.
He acknowledged his heroes and dreamed out loud.

I sincerely doubt if I could have done anything close to that when I was 18.

It was a crystal clear moment of courage and clarity.

I was sidelined and in the cheering section...
as it should be.


I can only echo the words that are at the top:
Believe in your child so much the world thinks you're crazy.
Then believe more.

The problem isn't that we dream too big...
I know that much.

Today, I am grateful for the grace of endings, the blessing of beginnings and the power of prayer.
Lord, hold him close.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Just Shine

I am sitting in the MIX...the George Mason University study space...after just dropping Patrick off to his George Mason LIFE program interview. 

On that summer day in July 1999 when Patrick was born,
George Mason LIFE was also in its infancy...almost no other post secondary programs existed in the United States for students like Patrick.

Nobody on the west coast knew of George Mason...or of this possibility...or of what could be.

We heard the word “Sorry” a lot.

“I’m so sorry” they would say as they looked at my sleepy brand new baby.
The incongruence of that never made sense.

Pro-Tip #1: if you see a tiny baby say only one thing: CONGRATULATIONS!

Yes, even if the baby has a heart defect and needs open heart surgery right away.
Yes, even if the baby has Down Syndrome.

Yes, even if the future is unknown.

Say CONGRATULATIONS...because what it has taken for this little sprite to land in our midst is worthy of congratulations.

It’s a miracle.

And the miracle is no less miraculous if the sprite lasts one day among us or lives for 75 years.

Miracles are miracles and they should be noted.


Patrick left his icy cold water (one of his favorite things on the planet) in my bag...
 I text him...asking if he would like me to drop it off.

No response.

The guy is busy with a college interview.
What am I thinking?
I take a swig, just to be close to him.


This moment is so bittersweet...six weeks after Patrick was born I went to my OB/GYN follow up appointment. I took my little baby in a bucket with sweet tiny baby boy who would need open heart surgery in just three more weeks.

The OB/GYN did not know how to speak of Down Syndrome or heart defects or any other “abnormalities”...the privilege of working in a first world hospital made difficult conversations rare, I guess...or maybe there is no training for this...but what she told me in those aching awkward minutes has stayed with me.

She was trying, really she was.
I know this.
And still, it was a stabbing wound, no matter how unintentional.

She said, “Well, I know we all fear our kids growing up and going away and well, that won’t be something you have to fear with your baby. He will always be with you...and I think that’s great.”

Future doctors of the world, take note: this is not something you tell a sleep deprived, anxious, mom of a newborn facing open heart surgery and two other little ones at home.


You don’t have to try so hard...
Refer back to Pro-Tip #1...say Congratulations...and win the Oscar, mean it.
Even mumbling something about how cute the baby is would work.

As soon as my OB/GYN said this I wondered if that was true...and that’s the beauty of humanity.

We don’t have to believe the stuff they tell us.
We can notice the gates as they are being put up...we can plan to knock them down...or find the entrance.

I have wondered about that prediction for 18 years...but around year 6 I knew it was wrong.

Patrick has no interest in hanging out with me.
After three years of leukemia treatment as a toddler, it was time for Patrick to start kindergarten.

He hadn’t felt good for three of his six years.
Half his life.
I could have home-schooled him...or figured out a modified kinder program for him...but he was determined to go to school with his big brother and sister.

I still consider that one of my greatest acts of kindness as a mom.
I wanted to play with my guy.
I wanted the fun...the laughter...the joy of a healthy Patrick.

I wanted it for me...just me.

He wanted it for the world.

And so I had to follow his lead and find a way to make that happen.
He never looked back.

He never cried to come home...or told me he missed me.
But, trust me, I squeezed him tight every afternoon.

Kindergarten was the preamble to what is happening now...and I feel the same way.

He is following that big brother and sister again...and he knows he’s ready.

Me, not so much...but it can’t be about me, can it.

Getting ready this morning for his George Mason interview, lying in a hotel bed across from me,
he smiled his sleepy that only a mother knows.

I got up and walked over to his bed and I gave him a good morning hug and I looked at his sleepy eyes up close.

“Patrick, I haven’t told you how proud I am of you. You did such a great job at your Clemson interview and I am so proud of you.”

“Why?” He asks...and I weigh the two opposing ideas: he really doesn’t know or he just wants to hear great things about himself...the reason doesn’t matter and I smile...

“Because your job as a person is to shine your are the only one with your light...and you shined it so bright Patrick that not only could I see it but the Clemson people could too.”

He smiled.
He knew I was right.

Some people ask what the whole point of living is and I think it is just to shine.

There is so much darkness.
So much woundedness.
Too much suffering.

The only way forward is to shine...shine so bright that they need sunglasses to stare.

So, friends, let us work to find more ways for our kids to shine...more ways for ourselves to shine...Patrick is going to find his way, really, it’s pretty obvious now...we all must find our way.

Moments before the Clemson Interview...anxiety free...ready to shine.

Step 1: Just Shine.

On this cloudy day in Fairfax, Virginia, I need my sunglasses.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Artisans of the Common Good

It's been a long hard year.

We've had leadership that is undignified, unprofessional, unkind at the highest level.

That places a pall over our country, even our world...
...and yet, every single day, in my world, I see kindness and compassion,
curiosity and integrity.

I drop my children off at school and feel grateful for the teachers who work so hard, every single day, to be role models and to find a way to educate every student in their class.

They come to school with difficulties of their own and yet, they place them to the side and advocate for with children...honor and cherish children...and the best of them set a child on a course of learning and growing that is life-changing.

I drop them off with gratitude in my heart...but I want to yell 

These teachers and principals, lunch people and custodians are
the very threads that make our country beautiful...
they are, as Pope Francis so gracefully said,
"artisans of the common good"

Yesterday, I went to an oak grove and I found a worker raking the path.

I listened as the rake clawed at the ground over and over, cleaning the way for people like me who enjoy wandering among tall oaks in the mist.

I smiled but I wanted to shout THANK YOU!

He is an artisan of the common good.

I mailed off a package that was important to me...
it holds a dream, an opportunity, a wish.

I handed it to Laura, one of the local people in my town who mails things off...
I wanted to hug her and thank her...instead I just gave her my few dollars - safe in the knowledge that my package would make it across the country because of her expertise.

Another artisan.

I walked my dog and noticed the street sweeper had swept the gutters of my street.
Another artisan...invisible but holding us together.

We have firefighters, policemen, 
nurses and doctors,
ambulance drivers,
city workers,
the highway patrol,
the people who build our bridges and smooth our roads,
the tree trimmers,
the park maintenance workers...who bring WD40 and find a way to help the swings lose the grinding metal on metal sound...honestly, these park guys do that (!)
we have people who plant flowers
and paint stripes on the roads,
the people who keep our electricity running
our water clean and flowing...
our garbage picked up,
our sewer system functioning,
our street lights on
our signs clearly marking the way,
our railroads in operation,
our city buses with wheelchair access...
we have artists who create public art...
farmers who bring their food to the local farmers market...
we have musicians playing on the sidewalk...and even bicycle taxis.
Our local co-op grocery store sponsors a candlelight walk at Christmas time...

Together, our community is a magical place...
the keyword: TOGETHER.

WE are who we have been waiting for.

WE are the artisans of the common good.
Every time you stop completely at the stop sign and wait your turn in traffic and truly only take 20 minutes or less in that 20 minute parking spot, YOU are contributing to the common good.

When you sweep your sidewalk, pick up the litter, share whatever extra you have with the people who have nothing, YOU are an artisan.

Today, I'm so very grateful for the people who go about their day just doing their good work...faithfully, professionally, honestly.

I'm so struck at the grace of that.

The interdependence we all have with each other.

Thank you, each one of you, for making our world a better place.

Deep breaths

Together, friends, we are the artisans of the common good.
We'll get our leadership to reflect our common good...soon, very soon.

Until then, craft your corner of the world with beauty and compassion.

Together, with other artisans.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Whispering to Remember - Christmas 2017

Hope - Peace - Joy - Love - The Four Candles of Advent

It's Christmas 2017.
One entire year of the Trump Administration.

Usually reflecting on the year, no matter how hard, is a joy...
we have each other...
we will get through.

During the four weeks of Advent, one of my favorite traditions is the Advent Wreath.
We have four candles, three purple and one pink, set in a circle.
We get to light one each that by the time Christmas comes around,
there is serious light in the darkness...
four bright candles...shining triumphantly.
Holding open the spot...creating space for a baby...and a miracle...and family.

I was pregnant at Christmas time twenty five years ago.
All these years later, I cherish that extra special time of singing and preparing for two babies during that Advent in 1992,
not just one.

But this year is different.

I feel the weight of a year's worth of lies.
A year's worth of looking the other way.
A year's worth of pretending everything is ok.

I feel the crushing crashing of dreams of so many Americans withering on the vine...
this week it is grad students due to the tax bill that gives massive deductions to corporations over its citizens...
months ago, it was those with disabilities...
those with medical conditions...
...people of color...
...the LGBTQ community...
...or immigrants...
...or refugees...
...or children.

A year ago, I could feel an entire nation of children's eyes watching the adults in the room
make excuses...
it doesn't matter that she's never been in a public school classroom...
or that he derides the Environmental Protection Agency...
or that he flies private planes all over the United States at our expense...
lower your eyes...
pretend you don't see.

Are our children any better twelve months later?
Sadly, no.

They've seen open racism and half-hearted excuses.

They've witnessed their President UNwelcome entire nations of people.

The've had to accept a new normal and the sickening taunts of a president...
corruption and people so achingly out-in-the-open greedy that it insults those that work to teach integrity and honesty.
They've witnessed the open disregard for suffering people in Puerto Rico...
the pointed, barbed insults to people hidden in the shadows working for our safety...
the FBI, the CIA...
and our press...
daily derided...
with blatant untruths...
and intentional misinformation.


This Christmas I want to whisper who we are.I want to remind each of us what it means to be American.

Like the Advent candles, first I offer HOPE.We are better than this.
Millions resist openly.
Millions more resist in the smallest of ways.
Two-thirds of us...the majority of us say NO.

Light the candle of hope...and see how it breaks the darkness.
The second offering is LOVE.
Love is opening the circle wider...building a longer table...
love is recognizing fear and still pushing up your sleeves to do the work.
Love is the answer...the only response to racism and sexism.
Love is knowing that all humans are equal and working against injustice...
it's seeing yourself in the stranger.
It is living in the present moment.
What can I do right now?
and then taking the first step to begin.

Choose love and you change the trajectory.

Ours is not a small God...the endless, timeless beauty of the universe whispers the grandeur of Higher Love.
Seize it.
Breathe it in.
It is yours everyday for the taking...
grace in the ordinary.

Can you hear the murmurings??

The third offering is JOY.
With so much hatred, corruption and can be hard to find...but it is there.
There, in the ironic plot twist of a transgender women winning the seat away from someone who bragged that he was "Chief Homophobe" in Virginia.
In the way the sun still sets...the clouds still swirl across the sky...
the perfect simplicity of a cup of tea...or an act of kindness...a baby's laugh...a toddler's wonder...
rain on a rooftop...clothes fresh from a dryer...firefighters who work to save houses...and teachers who read out loud to students stories that bind us together.
Pick up a rock.
Try to watch the dance of a snowflake.
Gather friends together and cherish their company.
Walk your dog.
Hug your kid.


The last offering is PEACE.This seems like a wish.
A fantasy.
Something out of reach.
But tonight I listened to a mother who had to bury her first grader after he was murdered at his elementary school in Newtown live her life with forgiveness at its core.
Five years after every mother's worst heartbreak, a woman named Scarlett showed me the way.
Forgiveness carries peace on its wings.
Scarlett mentioned:
Nurturing, Healing Love.
She wants every human to have that and recognizes that her child's killer was unable to
either receive or give love.

One year of Trump's despicable behavior...his devastating cruelty...his duplicitous companions that tolerate the tarnishing of all that is sacred about our country...
one entire year.

Advent offers light in the darkness.
My whisper blows it forward...
to you...
to another you...and another you...
as Pope Francis said in his TED Talk:
"Hope begins with you and then another you and another you
until it becomes US.
When there is an us, there is a Revolution of Tenderness."

I'm ready for the Revolution.

I know you are too...
let us begin.
Light the candle.
Notice the warmth.
Offer it to others.
Remember the way home.
Be honest.
Work hard.

We are better than this.
Demand it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


For a few months I'd been hearing about the eclipse that was coming to North America...
it was a rare full solar eclipse within driving distance from my house.

It would be a schlep.
A definite road trip.
School would have started.
Life would be interrupted.
Plenty of reasons to not make the effort...
but it was like a tiny little magnet was tucked into my soul...and the pull was the shadow of the moon.

I knew it was a must.

I've gotten good at listening to this inner whisper of mine...and it doesn't disappoint.
It always leads me to some moment that was exactly what my heart needed.

Turns out today, my heart needed totality.

Every last drop.
ALL of it.

Yes, that's exactly what my heart needed.

I found a nursery and wedding venue that was mostly a lovingly tended herb garden that was willing to open their place to people to camp there.
It was called Thyme Garden.

The universe had fun with words today, trust me.

In rural the coastal mountain range, is a little spot called Alsea.
Located in a valley is the Thyme Garden.

I had no recommendations from Trip good friend who pointed the way...just an email that was delightful and inviting and open hearted...
my kind of people.

The Thyme a gift of time...and beauty...and color...and grace.

I made my deposit and five of us made our way up to watch the solar eclipse in their garden.

As we were driving, we left our comfort of continuous cell service...
instant information...24 hour shopping.

We left behind a bustling, busy life and plopped into a garden that was off the grid.
With people who string white fairy lights into trees and on tables...who decorate with flowers...and cook with herbs...people who love the land they live on and who want nothing more than to share it with others.

This open hearted warmth...seems like some sort of illusion, but it is the farthest thing from it.

In fact, for those twenty four hours, it felt exactly the way we are all supposed to live.

Rolfe, the visionary behind the Thyme Garden, enthusiastically shared the story of his place and the people behind it. He proudly offered up the home-cooked food that was at once the comfort of home and taste of the was totality...
earth's bounty lovingly provided...
in just the right moment.

About 60 people showed up at the Thyme Garden.
Families, some with babies, other who were single, young couples and old bodied and others who needed didn't matter...
it was totality.

Rolfe, after the litany of delicious treats paused and talked for a moment about the eclipse and the plans around it...and then he looked up and said,
"It's kind of amazing that we are all here for just 57 seconds of totality...
the moon perfectly covering the sun...
a shadow for such a short time...
but I think it's really great."

We all nodded...
it was already pretty great...
a simple shangri-la that reminded us all of the important things:
the gifts of family, friendship, beauty, harmony with nature, and always the food.

The morning dawned blue and still...
a moment in time that was sparkling with expectation.

We all ventured out from our tents with dew on our shoes and huddled together with coffee and the famous local cinnamon rolls.

After our coffee and cinnamon roll, we got ready for nature's show...we joked about our worries about missing much of a deal could it really be...
were we crazy for driving all this way for 57 seconds?

Short answer: no.

Totality is exactly what it says.
100% of the sun is covered by the moon...
miraculously, the sun is 400 times bigger than our moon AND the sun just happens to be 400 times the distance from the moon...they perfectly align when the tilt of the moon is just so...and a million incredible configurations work like cogs in a clock to create the perception of the moon slowly, slowly moving across the surface of the sun to slide in place and cover it...totally.

In those final seconds before it is covered up, the earth is an unusual bluish hue, it's colder - enough to see the frost of your breath in August - and it looks like the sun is putting up a keeps shining a bright red thin thread until it finally lets go...
into totality.

When that happened...the campers around us cheered.
We joined in.
It was joyous in a mesmerizing way...and then for 57 seconds we could see the corona...
the atmosphere of the sun that is hidden from us earthly mortals every other moment.

For 57 seconds we sat in marvel...awe...wonder...stunned by the beauty and the cosmic perfection of this moment...I found myself crying...looking at my family in their bluish tint...wanting to crystallize the fleeting...and knowing I never could.

The closest thing to understand the ethereal beauty of the moon's shadow is trying to describe a rainbow...almost everyone has seen one...and we know that photos rarely capture the truth of something as magical as a rainbow but still we try...

there was no capturing the corona...
words certainly can't contain it...
my mind's eye holds it clearly and that's why I'm writing so carefully now...

somehow I want to remember the gift of knowing that for 57 seconds it all made sense...
what mattered was that perfect moment,
shared with people you love...
and the rest of the world who took the time to step into the shadow as well.

Totality makes sense in a deep, soulful way.
We are all connected in such a beautiful, sacred, holy way...and with totality, you catch that glimpse.

For tonight, I am grateful for that whisper that told me to go...
for the joyous, gracious hospitality of the Thyme Garden...
and for the celestial magic that is totality.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Guy on the Street

Yesterday was a busy day...
for those of you who are moms, you know what the end of the school year is like.

If you're a teacher, too,  well then, these days of May and early June feel like the end of a 
Fourth of July show.
One after another, bigger and brighter, blasting higher and louder, the days pass by...building and building to the crazy feeling of "OK, that's enough now."

"When will it stop?"

And suddenly it gets quiet.

Lunches aren't being made.
Homework isn't being discussed.
Obligations melt away.

Beautiful summer.

Today, was the last day of high school for Patrick and I volunteered to organize and put on the 
Senior Lunch.

I had done it last year and enjoyed seeing these smart, thoughtful teens/adults on the verge of life.
I loved the buzz of both nostalgia and excitement.

So, I ordered the deli sandwiches, filled up the cooler with ice, gather the cookies and grapes and chips and some minimal decorations and got ready.

It was raining in the morning...the scent was lovely...but the vibe was not picnicky.
Oh well.

The message from the school: the picnic must go on.
Rain or shine.

So, I do what I'm super good at...
Long ago, someone gave me this tip and it has really helped:

Act as if, then you will be.

For a new teacher, a new mommy, just whenever you have no clue...
act as if you do.
Soon enough, you will morph into that thing you were hoping to be.

Ready. Go.
Last Day of School Picnic is ON.

The deli sandwiches were piled high.
The grapes, washed and ready.
Chips galore.
Water bottles + grad balloons + random frisbee  = legit picnic.

The lunch goes easily and the grateful teens eat their fill and depart 
to practice for the graduation ceremony.

What was left was plenty of leftover picnic.

I stared at it and was struck by the gift of food.
The gift of community...
and belonging.

The land of plenty.
So obvious...and so much left over.

I consoled myself with the leftovers thinking I could bring it back to school and the teachers could use it the next day when everyone would be in the post-graduation slump.

Packed up the van and headed out.

I wanted to stop at Starbucks on my way to the high school to get some gift cards.

I walked down the street...rushing because of the left overs...needing to get going...when I hear a request coming near my feet.

I look down and there is a man in his 20's or 30's...
dirty, big bushy hair, slumped shoulders.

Looking up.

He asks, "Do you think you could buy me a lunch?"
[I'd like to stop right here and say that never has someone asked me that. They've asked if I had any extra money...or if I could help them out. But, never has someone asked for a lunch.]

Those syllables and sounds of one human to another instead of irritating me, work their way through my ear, pierce my heart and into a brain that stops my forward movement and shakes me awake.

This guy needs a lunch??

In that movie, Inside Out, I imagine my emotions discussing in real time my is a split second mash up of Disgust, trying to shout down Joy...Sadness wrestling with Anger...and an 
Emergency Fire Alarm going off in there.


I am frozen and I smile so big.

"You need a lunch? Really?"

I look him in the eyes and smile and keep smiling.
I tell him that he is not going to believe this but I just finished up providing a lunch to a bunch of graduating seniors and I have plenty of lunch just for him.

I ask him to walk just a few cars down the street and I open the door to my van and show him a platter of sandwiches just waiting for him...and then he shyly says,
"I have some friends."

"You do??"
"Would they want some lunch too?"

He nods...
and I hand him the whole platter.
I put a bunch of grapes in a bag...some chips and ice cold waters...
and he just can't believe it.

Neither can I.

Or maybe I can.

It feels so right.
So cosmically perfect that I take a deep breath as I watch him walk away.

Then I spy the cookies - hidden beneath some towels.

He needs some cookies doesn't he?

I quick close up my van and begin jogging toward the guy holding a platter shuffling down the street like a waiter who's been ambushed...big bushy hair, dirty jacket, untied shoes.

I catch up to him with my cookies and it's my turn to be shy.

"Would you want some cookies?"

His hands, already too full, magically maneuver different items to create a spot just for cookies.

It was then that I ask him his name.

He smiles, "Ben." 
He offers it like the gift it is.

He smiles again when I tell him my name and for a moment life makes sense.

The weird obstacle course of my days somehow feels in perfect alignment.

How stunning to have too much food.
How understandable to have too little.
How blessed to cross paths in just that moment.

Unloading the food and filling up my heart...
it wasn't really a fair swap.

But the grace goes both ways.
Today, I'm grateful to bushy-haired Ben...who went from stranger to secret friend 
in less than five minutes.

Grateful for too much food that found its way into the hands of people who have far too little.
Grateful for the hopeful whisper that started it all.
Grateful for the heart that could hear it.

Think I'll sign up to do that Senior Lunch next year.
Maybe I'll meet Ben again.

Until then, happy summer.
Cue the fireworks.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Down The Rabbit Hole of Gratitude

Our world is messed up.
Seriously messed up.

We have a president that openly lies...few call him on it.
So truth becomes "fake news".
Down is up.

Refugees are shut out.
Immigrants pushed to the shadows.

Public schools are on notice...maybe they don't need the money that they have...maybe they can donate to a private school in the name of "choice"...another false narrative.
There's no choice when they won't let you in...
except for maybe Historically Black Colleges - touted as the originators of choice by the woman running the Department of Education - who never worked in a public school.

The Environmental Protection Agency...maybe that should be optional.
Maybe not everybody is equal.
Freedom is your documents as you exit your domestic flight.

Let's watch Republicans change 230 years of precedent when it comes to the Supreme Court...
like Veruca Salt, THEY WANT IT NOW, DADDY!

Those Trump-Russia ties are only in your imagination.
Along with climate change.

And what about the immigrants...taken from schools and courthouses, placed in detention centers...
where and for how long?
No one can answer.
No one knows.

It is disgraceful.

As you can see...the world is upside down.

Deep breathing, long walks, fervent prayers aside what is a person to do?

Since books are my happy place, I hunkered down into The Book of Joy - a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

It became the salve of my heart.
My haven.
Something I carried with me wherever I went.

I've lived a grateful focused life since I began the practice of writing down
5 things as a project for 2003.

I have many many journals filled with those moments of gratitude.

It's a part of the way I see the world now.
Embedded into almost every interaction with others, every small moment with my kids, every ordinary chore like washing dishes or even washing my hands.

I water, soap, the ability to squish my hands together under the running water, the gift of clean hands to prepare a meal...and away I go. Finished with my chore and filled up with gratitude.

It's a life changing vantage point.


So, reading The Book of Joy, I nodded knowingly when both the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu kept circling back to the importance of gratitude.

I got this.
This is something I am good at...
Gratefulness 101 = A+

Only those two don't teach the beginner course on gratitude...they move it deeper...they nudge you further down the road.

You can get your PhD in it if you hang out with those guys long enough.

Like anyone really great in their field, both of these men offer their wisdom freely.
They share.
They work to get the word out.

No price of admission.

If you read The Book of Joy to the end, you will get to their "Joy Practices".

Mental Immunity
Morning Intention Setting
Overcoming Obstacles to Joy
Cultivating the Eight Pillars of joy
Rejoicing in your Day
Relationship and Community - The Greatest Joy

It was here where I tumbled down the Rabbit Hole of Gratitude.

Under Humility - A Lojong Practice - I found what my heart needed that day...
and it has helped in this upside down world every day since.

The book asks you to:
"Reflect on all the people who are responsible for your life."

At first, I was simplistic...thought of my mom and dad and moved on...
to this:

"Think of your parents who gave you life, your teachers who taught you, the people who grew your food and who made your clothes, the countless others who are responsible for your having the life that you have each and every day. Now think of all those who discovered and created all of the things we take for granted, the housing, the crops, and the medicines that keep you alive. 
Think of all the ancestors, who had to live and survive, so that you could be born, who braved enormous hardship so that you could have the life that you do. 
Now think of the family and friends who give your life meaning."

That one paragraph stopped me cold.

In all of the years that I have been keeping a Grateful Journal, did I ever stop and thank the people who came before me?
Or the inventors, the designers, the researchers, the creative artists who have influenced my life?

Not really.

If you stop and try to thank all of these people it can be a rabbit hole of amazing.

It goes like this...step into a public restroom.

Who came up with the idea and effort and work to place this restroom here?
Who actually dug the pipes?
Who invented the pipes?
Who mined the copper?
Where did that come from?
Who designed and created the place that collects the water that flows through these pipes?
Who designed the tile on the floor?
Who made the tile?
Shipped it?
Laid it?
Who designed the sink?
The faucet?
The paper towel dispenser?
The toilet paper??
(thank you!)
The blow dryer hand dryer?
The soap?
Who created the first window?
What about the lights?
The actual structure of the building?
Who were the people who worked on my behalf to build it?
Who funded it?
Was it a city?
Who founded the city?

On and on it goes...

Literally, you can get lost in the gratefulness.

This "humility" as the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu describe it is mind blowing.

In those moments of consideration,
you see the interconnectedness of our world...
you see the beauty of hard work, creativity, persistence, boldness,
ordinary mankind finding a way to make things better.

If you have gotten down in the rabbit hole with me,
you can imagine what it feels like when you enter a grocery store.
Lately, tears have sprung to my eyes as I stop to look at the produce and consider the many hundreds or thousands of people who have been working so hard on farms, in food production, in food companies, in advertising and grocery stores just to bring me this food.

How about a coffee store?
A library?
A road?
A sidewalk?
A park?
A building?
A garden?

Trying to come up out of the rabbit hole...and into daily life gets harder and harder.
It's like Alice says when looking through the looking glass:

"Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn,
"if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."
-- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, And What Alice Found There

I've seen a unicorn.

Or have I?

Like Einstein notices...each of us gets to choose:
either everything is a miracle or nothing is.

Today, I choose miracle.
Ordinary miracle.
Ordinary holiness.

So many gifts freely available down that rabbit hole.
Try it.
Let me know what you see.