Saturday, May 31, 2014

Anything Can Be

Anything can be.

Tonight is proof.

5,445 days ago a little baby was born.

He had Down Syndrome...a heart defect and later leukemia.

5,445 days ago I didn't know a thing.

I was biased and prejudiced.
Flattened and broken.
I believed the mustn'ts and the don'ts.
And the universe handed me a child...and his soul whispered to me,
"Anything can be."

I didn't know what to do or how to be.

But my older two kids did.
They knew how to love and they poured it on thick.
They were delighted with this baby filled with shouldn'ts and won'ts.
They knew the secret:
Anything Can Be.

Following the path of love and the glittered steps of preschoolers who knew best, I learned.

I learned that mothering this new baby was the same as mothering those other two...
love, belief, faith, being in and day out.


Recently I read this essay about wishing out loud.
I loved it.
In it, Mitchel encourages you and me to: "Share your wishes freely to anyone who will listen."

I've been doing that for awhile.
Wishing out loud.
Please, please, please let all children learn alongside each other.

Back in 1999, when Patrick was born, honestly, it felt like my wishing flame pilot light had gone out.
I didn't know what to wish for.
I felt alone.
I had no road map...and for someone who used to pour over the giant world atlas, that felt weird.

What does this new world of mine look like?
Who is with me?
Am I as alone as I feel?


5,445 days have gone by.
The baby has gotten bigger, grown stronger, and is sitting on the edge of manhood.
He's reading, writing, passionate, funny, exuberant and his very own self.
Miraculously irreplaceable.

I could never have known his place that he alone would carve out for himself in this world of ours.
I could never picture his truth.
All I could do was live alongside him and show up each day...learning the lessons meant for me alone.

5,445 lessons...perfectly circular...perfectly balanced.

Tonight it all came together.

Tonight Patrick graduated from 8th grade...from a Catholic school.
He's the first in the diocese to be fully included in the regular classroom,
learning alongside his typical peers,
attending the same school as his big brother and sister.
The first.

In blue cap and gown he walked in holding a lit candle.
Light in the darkness.
Another reminder.

Anything can be.

He strode up to receive his diploma.
He sat back down and listened to the award winners.
Award winners for art, math, science, social studies, PE, literature.
His name wasn't called.
It didn't matter.
The award for most improved in Computer Class came and his name was announced.
He popped up -- eager to be singled out and awarded.
It felt good.
We moved on.

Suddenly, the teacher mentioned a special award.
She spent time explaining the award.
She detailed the recipient.
Describing attitude, effort and perseverance...lessons taught, day in, day out.
Patrick's name was the one on the award.

And like a crazy dream, he leaped up to receive the award
as his classmates cheered.
His classmates stood up.
The audience stood up...
the room transformed into a full standing ovation
I just sat there...
until the energy of the room pulled me up and I turned to my mom and asked,
"Is this real?"

I couldn't take it in.
Couldn't really make sense of it.

Anything can be.

This child of mine -- so broken to the outside world -- was fully seen, fully recognized,
fully accepted on this day, in this moment, at his school.
He was worthy.
He was good enough.
In fact, he was admired and awarded.

And in this moment, in this dream-like world, we were one.
Every single one of us in that big church belonged.
We were valued.
We were loved.

The message was loud and clear.
You, Patrick Foraker, have taught us something.
Something we didn't know until you showed us.

There will always be mustn'ts and can'ts.
Don'ts and wont's.
None of it matters, friend.
Anything can be.

So today I am grateful for this moment of hope and encouragement.
Profoundly grateful to the many, many encouragers who met us on this path.
Grateful to Sarah and Steve and Ashley and the many priests, principals, teachers, aides and staff who found a way to make anything be real.
Grateful for ordinary holiness, sacred acceptance, and this moment right now.

Anything can be.

Dreams come true.
Share your wishes out loud.

Watch what happens in a few thousand days.

Happy Graduation, Patrick!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sixty Years Later...

God, I love this man...who uses intercourse and injustice in the same quote and rocks it like no other? MLK.

Here's a trick question:

Do you know what Supreme Court decision was remembered yesterday?

Have you ever heard of Brown vs. The Board of Education?
1954 is when it all went down.
Sixty years later we are still talking about it and yes, still celebrating the decision.

Sixty years ago segregation got the boot.

Sixty years ago.

Sixty years ago a grandson of a slave, Thurgood Marshall, stood in front of the United States Supreme Court and argued against allowing segregation in schools to continue.

The Supreme Court unanimously agreed.


Do you hear that?? It has no place.

Sorry to yell but this is something that educators are still talking about.

And I wanna know why.


Today, of course, thanks to Thurgood, it is taboo to suggest that a child of color should be removed to a separate learning area just because of the color of his skin.

But that doesn't stop the system from having an overabundance of children of color identified as needing special education services and then removing them from the classroom that way.

Segregation is alive and well and yes, educators, very well-intentioned ones, try to use the whole separate but equal idea in a subtle way.

They say things like:
Your child will receive special services in the separate classroom.
We can meet your child's needs better in a smaller classroom.
The "educational gap" is too big and your child needs to go to a different classroom.

It's all crap.
SIXTY years ago it was decided.

We all get to learn alongside each other.

In the same classroom.

I sure wish schools would get the memo.

No special room.
No special class.

Nothing special...just the regular class.

That's all we want.
All our kids need.

We have thirty years of educational research that support the sixty year old decision.

We know what works.
Separate classrooms don't.
Engagement, technology, teaching with supports, visual aids, music, clear, specific feedback
these are the things that matter.

It really isn't hard.
We just need access.

Sadly, people with intellectual disabilities get denied access to their neighborhood classrooms all the time. 
Still, 60 years later.

So I'm writing this as a message in a bottle.

Thurgood went to battle.
He had the strength of the Constitution and common sense on his side.
He won -- unanimously -- 60 years ago.

If he can win,
so can we.

Fight the system.
Demand to have your child placed alongside his typical peers.
Don't back down.
Share the stories of success.
Follow the ripple of inclusion.
Watch your child grow and thrive.

If he doesn't.
Don't give up.
Tweak and adjust.

It can happen. Successfully.

The Supreme Court is on our side.
Federal Law is on our side.
We are on the side of love, acceptance, tolerance and inclusion.

That's the side that matters.

Be their voice.
Speak truth to power.
Watch with wonder as miracles happen.
That's the's right in front of us.
Thanks to Thurgood.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Being Catholic

I'm Catholic.

Yesterday, I had a chance to practice my faith and deepen my faith and share in it with Caroline as she prepares to make her 
Holy Communion next week-end.
We had a Bread Retreat for the entire second grade.

We made bread.
Simple. Humble. Delicious.

We said a blessing over every single ingredient:

"Bless this flour.  May it remind us of all who have helped us come so far.  
We pray for all people who work to make the world a better place."

"Bless this sugar.  May it help us to be sweet in our words and actions toward others."

"Bless this water -- a sign of our baptism.  May we always remember that we are God's children."

"Bless this milk.  It reminds us of our first food -- mother's milk.  Bless our mothers who love us and care for us each day."

"Bless this salt.  Life first began in the sea.  May we show respect for Life in how we treat all of God's creations."

"Bless this wheat flour -- it reminds us that change is hard.  The wheat had to grow in hot sun, be cut, ground and milled.  Sometimes we also struggle to do what is right.  Give us strength Lord."

Even the pans got a blessing:

"Bless these pans that give bread shape.  God has shaped us from the earth and love.  
May we remember that He is always there to help us and love us."

Honestly, the whole day is a lesson in being grateful for the most essential and simple items that we take for granted and barely notice.

It's humbling and beautiful and it fills me up for a good long a cold, icy drink on that ragged, hot day...I am so so good after this retreat.

Caroline brought home her bread, eager to share it with all of us.
We had to wait until John got home from a business trip so we waited a day to break the bread together.

And in one day...a tiny blip of a few hours...
our priest was arrested and put in jail for statutory rape of a minor.

And that is being Catholic too.
(And I'm not being ironic.)

We are in this together.  There is no us vs. them.  We are all us. 

Bad things, terrible things, heartbreaking things are all around us.
Really good people make really bad choices every day.
People who you count on, disappoint.
Hell, we disappoint ourselves and the very people we love dearly, constantly.

It's messy being human.
It's hard to have moral courage day in and day out...damn near impossible.

It's shameful and heartbreaking and sometimes just plan sad.

But then we get moments like this:

And it all becomes really clear.

We only have each other...for a limited time at best.

Even when it's messy, scary, dangerous, or maybe especially when it is those things, 
we need to cling to each other.

Cling to the ancient wisdom that is our faith.

Cling to the holy words of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.  
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

Oh, Divine Master, grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled, as to console.
To be understood, as to understand.
To be loved, as to love.
For it's in giving that we receive.
And it's in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Somehow.some.way.we find comfort that this messy crazy world has been just like this for thousands of years...full of broken people doing their best  -- and failing quite often.
Still in this world of sadness, disappointment, loss, ignorance and hatred there is the beauty.  

Unmistakeable beauty.

It is full to the brim with miracles like water and salt and sugar and love and redemption and second chances and new life...
over and over again.

For some people, faith seems ridiculous.

For me, especially in times like's the only thing that makes sense.
It is a comfort to know that others have been right here in the middle of their messy, broken lives and found a way.
It's a comfort to rest in the words, the prayers and the basic truths that are my faith.

I'm going to wait for the light.
It's coming.
I have faith.

Until then, I'll make my peace with the dark.
For that's what makes the light even more beautiful.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tea for Two

"Enjoy life sip by sip, not gulp by gulp."

A tiny taste of heaven.

Do you have a secret place?
A spot you unknowingly find your way to when you need a rest or need to take a deep breath.
I have several secret spots that refuel me, that calm me, that bring it all back to the real stuff that matters.

When the world feels too crazy, I make my way to one of these places and
and breathe...big, long, deep oxygen-rich breaths.

It's not so serious.
No to-do list is that important.
It's all going to get done anyway...
who cares if it's not all done at the exact perfect time in the exact perfect way.

This, this right here -- is way more important.

And that's how I was feeling last Saturday.

I had chores to complete.
Work to finish.
Emails to return.
And a presentation to get done.

None of it mattered.

I woke up on Saturday and decided to share my secret place.

Caroline was ready.

So I zoomed out of my pj's (which really isn't-Saturday-morning-like-me), showered and got ready and whispered to Caroline...
"I'm taking you someplace special this morning, just me and you.  Will you get dressed?"

She needed no prompting...she got herself together in a flash.

We completed a tiny subset of the regular Saturday stuff that must get done and headed out...on bikes.


[Now I must add here that I've been wrestling with the constant intrusion of my cell phone.  I've been feeling like it's been owning me rather than the other way around.  And then a tiny little seed sprouted in my mind...I know it shouldn't be too crazy of a thought...but sadly, it was for me...I decided to make my cell phone optional.  I was going to make Saturday (and maybe even Sunday if I got good at it!) my cell-phone-free day. And since that little thought just kept going around and around in my head, this very Saturday seemed like the day to try.  So, I told John that I was going to be out of touch for a few hours, left my cell phone on the counter and away we went.]


It was the weirdest sensation!
I felt naked and free and vulnerable and information-less and
finally, finally,
blessedly undivided.

I could attend to this moment, right now.




Attention squarely on the important things of the moment:
this little girl, seven turning eight,
what table to choose in this darling garden patio?
what tea?
should we get a scone or another type of pastry or the fruit cup?
what is Devonshire cream anyway?

how are you?
what have you been noticing? or thinking? or hoping?

I began to notice her eyes;
the way she fashioned words;
the grown-up way she was sitting;
the way she perused the menu.

Time, so often my enemy, stood still.

Without my phone to capture the moment,
I took snapshots in my mind.
Froze it...right there.
Noticed the sunlight.
The tiny purple zigzag fringed flowers in a tiny vase on the table.
Her eagerness to watch the sand timer count out the three minutes -- the perfect amount for steeping the peach tea that we had chosen.
Her willingness to pour our tiny glass chiseled cups carefully full of the golden elixir.

We marveled.
We sniffed and savored and stopped.

We giggled at the dollhouse sized wooden spoons that were what allowed the Devonshire cream and jam to make it to our scones.
We talked and talked.

It goes without saying that my secret place has become her secret place...and, as is the worry with sharing secrets, she loved it so much she wants everyone to go there.
Immediately she asked if Daddy and Patrick could come next time.
How about her cousins?
Maybe this was a place for a birthday party?

I just smiled...and told her sometimes secret places have to be kept quiet and shared carefully.

My answer to every question was Cheshire Cat confusing...maybe...we'll have to see how it goes...

Right now I want to hold it close and keep it tucked out of sight.

But I know it won't last long...
she's itching to go again...trying for a second Saturday in a row.

I know she loved the tea and the garden and the Devonshire cream but I really think she's asking for more undivided attention.

I'm going to honor that request...try even harder...and I admit, I've done a poor job this week.
But, there's always Saturday.

Glorious Saturday:
 A pot of tea
Some denim blue eyes
Time, lingering and lounging like a friend,
And the supreme comfort of really being present
as my present.