Those Rocks. That Tree.

As time passes, and life happens to and around us,  we are not necessarily the same people year after year.

And, it seems, to me, that we shouldn’t be.  Without compromising who we are at the core; we learn and grow. As a rock erodes into a pebble and eventually into sand over time, we have the potential to change in seemingly invisible ways every day. Our minds can change. Lord knows our bodies change. Relationships come and go and add rich layers of memory and story and sometimes hurts and forgiveness.

Our kids, the people we are raising, leave us changed daily.  Responding to the struggle(s) of the day, whether it’s the 7th grade math, freshman year jitters, college goodbyes, first heart breaks, puberty, or the teething and diapers – it all becomes part of our core. Like cooking from a recipe made so many times we feel it more than we can explain it. It just is. We just are.

My son is on the early cusp of puberty, my father has dementia. I am still a mother and a daughter but what that means and requires of me is changing as they change. Some days it looks no different than the day before, and then suddenly it’s obvious we are all different.

That said, among all that we juggle – the balls we manage to catch, and the ones we simply know are hovering in the balance, seemingly invisible but so very present – comfort can be found when we return to a place that does not change. A place that is somehow a constant for us, a landmark in both the metaphorical and concrete kind of ways.  A place that somehow soothes our soul, beckons us to memories that we can smell and feel from visits gone by, but it’s as if it were yesterday each time we return.

When you recognize a tree in the forest like an old friend, and know the one rock on which to sit by the lake.  They are unchanged and exactly where you saw them last.

That.

A place where the soul settles and rests.

And exhales.

We should all have that kind of place.

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  – John Ruskin

A place where we are sure of who we are, excited about possibilities we perhaps can’t even fathom (but like those balls hovering in the balance, we know they are there…) and revel in all that has been.  From good to difficult and everything that lies between. A place where –  no matter the season,  no matter the weather  – gives us just exactly the moments we need. No matter in what direction the winds may blow, to have and find comfort in a place that we are so very lucky to know.

And I’ve been lucky enough to learn that when someone you adore adores the same place as you – well, that’s one sweet exhale.

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Ps…thanks to Lori for the Ruskin quote!
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it just keeps getting better…

When you don’t do something for awhile, it can seem unfamiliar and the starting point anything but obvious. So, somewhat recently on Live & Learn, when David shared three lines of a poem in the midst of one of his posts, it stopped me in my tracks. Not just because the words were just spot on truth for me. Not just because I found myself wishing that I had been the one to assemble them in the way the author had so eloquently (and seemingly so effortlessly) done. But because those three lines capture what had been elusive to me: what I needed to get this post started.

The three lines by poet John O’Donohue posted on this blog read like this…

Unknown to us, there are moments

When crevices we cannot see open
For time to come alive with beginning

and reminded me that much as we try, we can’t know what is to come.

In months that have somehow managed to have sped by, under the hood has been an ongoing process.  An examination of not my conscience, but rather my very consciousness and a riotous path of change and growth. Big things have ended, little things have cropped up and simmered right back down and all along there has been an eyes-wide-open-deer-in-the-headlights-bring-it stance on it all.  I like to think of it as beginner’s mind, which for me is any time we find ourselves in some degree of both amazement and trepidation – and often, dogged determination – in some kind of new or changing time.  But beginner’s mind cannot last forever, for eventually a beginning moves to somewhere in the middle. Yes?

There is the saying that all good things come to an end.

I think perhaps that is not always true.

And, on the contrary, it can actually get better.

However we slice it, in review, it might help for you to know that as I cast my glance in the rear view mirror, I see a marriage that ended, and necessarily so; and subsequently I see a rift in a family for a young and yet so wise and resilient young boy; I see a move to where less truly became more in ways so unexpected and a brand of co-parenting of which I am proud of for my son.   I see professional hurdles and challenges and just a whole lot of unpleasantness that are best described as hanging on tightly to a ship’s mast out on a stormy sea. I see a bank account that some days had more question marks than dollar signs.

But in the midst of all of that: endings, upsets and so many unknowns, there has also been grace and goodness, and so much understanding and without question,  many unanticipated lessons.

wrong roadI have navigated these last few years, with my kiddo and I, bolstered of course by our magical friends and family, in an intentional and optimistic way. I found a way to go at it at my own pace and in my own way.  I wanted to – I had to – go through the pain, not around the pain.  I wanted to understand, and to admit where the wrong turn(s?) have been made and why. So, the kiddo and I, we have laughed, we have logged miles, we have sat side by side on the couch checking off episodes of our favorite TV shows. We created our signature ‘funk-food-dinner-and-movie nights‘ (sometimes, mama’s in a funk and can’t find her way around the kitchen…). And, we have done our own thing – he with his friends, me with mine. Sometimes that happens all together. I dipped my toe in the dating pool. Murky waters I tell you.  But that is another story for another day. Or not.

With this in mind, almost exactly a year ago, I took a few days away to reset, and continue this re-evaluation. I went up to the mountains, a place that I consider a second home.  I spent nearly a week: I went driving around the entire lake, hiking, sitting, walking, and chasing sunsets.  And thinking. A lot.  And learning. For example, one night the power went out. All of it. Guess what I learned? That I really am a little bit afraid of the dark!  Who knew!?  

I learned something else equally important.

On my last day there, I positioned myself at a stunning location facing west and since the summer rush had subsided, the beach was nearly left just for me. And my glass of wine.

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I sat in wait and I was not disappointed.  The sunset was literally spectacular. And slow. And evolving.

Like we are.

I savored each moment as the sun performed right in front of me.

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As the sun sank lower and lower, and aware that I had parked somewhat far away, I – so reluctantly – left in time to get to my car before darkness set in fully (I’d  already completed my Intro to Darkness course, successfully, I might add). I walked along, hopping over some boulders, looking back to catch every last possible glimpse. I wanted that image printed in me as much as in my camera’s SD card.

We all see sunsets, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Right? The sun sets every day. It has to.

I thought I’d seen the last of it, but the sunset had changed once again.

It was like it had one more act, an encore perhaps?

I found myself smiling, relaxed and leaning up against a railing on the boat launch and muttering to myself, ‘it just keeps getting better’. And then, I thought to myself, huh, and nodding, and thinking, realizing…

…it’s all going to be ok. It just keeps getting better…

I was smiling.

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I’m not going to lie.

The last few years have been enlightening, maybe you could even say “exhilarating” at times. But not easy.

But, I realized what I was saying. Out loud.

As I heard myself, I smiled bigger as I realized, yes, it does. It just keeps getting better.

It’s true.  There have been moments unbeknownst to me where things were at play and I had no idea.

My kiddo is doing awesome. He continues to teach me and surprise me.   His resilience is not just comforting; it’s affirming. At work we have a new captain of the ship and while you cannot turn a ship on a dime, it seems the seas have calmed and we are headed in a better direction; I am excited to be starting a new academic year, energized and maybe somewhat overwhelmed, but excited.

Colleagues have said to me, “I’m so glad you hung in there…”

And, I met someone. Someone most special. In the most unexpected of places.

People keep telling me, “You look so happy, it’s good to see you smiling again…”

It just keeps getting better.

Kiddo and I mixed it up this summer and instead of hitting the road, we jetted off through the friendly skies to enjoy our annual summer trip. Let’s just say, it was monumental.

So lessons learned:  Don’t get stuck in the dark. And it can definitely get better.  Sometimes we just to have to trust the wisdom penned by John O’Donohue.

And a ps…to the ‘nudgers’, you know exactly who you are, and thank you.  You have no idea…

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Lemonade Is On The Porch

Come on in!

Things are looking a little different around here today finally.  So much for phase one and then phase two and then phase 3…one and two seemed to really want to ride tandem.

So, we’ve got the new outfit and the new name tag today.

Here’s the old place…just in case you are a little unsure!

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Remember me?

It’s the same place on the inside and

there is lemonade is on the porch for you!

Relax, enjoy, stick around…while I figure out how to change the name officially.

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Hi Honey, I’m Home

I have shared before that when I started this blog, I really didn’t know why I was, other than I thought I was supposed to, to support another creative endeavor.  I started with such uncertainty and trepidation. It took me a long time to really feel at home here, but something in me said to keep going, even when I wondered, “What’s the Point” ?

What’s ironic (and irony is never lost on me…) is that I have had to put that other endeavor on the shelf, indefinitely for now, perhaps permanently, but yet this blog remains and has come to be something central to who I am. It has allowed me to become more honest with myself.  This honesty breeds direction, understanding, confidence and contentment, within myself.

I trust myself more.

I have learned to pay attention and attune myself to the quiet subtle moments that are rich with insight and import.

Stories once long forgotten are sometimes my teacher in these moments.

I can now sense the shift that occurs within me when the writing needs to happen, and how much I miss it when too much time has gone by.

I would have never guessed that this blog would persist, and that the other project, the original activity, would recede. If you had asked me then, I would have for sure predicted the inverse relationship between the two. I have written about the stunningly rich community we have here, how blogging really takes place in the comments and this amazing opportunity to develop and share a voice.

We have all talked about how these elements have impacted us as people, as writers, as friends – in ways we could never have predicted and likely would have never even believed if someone had tried to tell us. To be seen, to be understood, to be accepted through this, is a gift of epic proportion in my estimation.

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The days I am kept away from blog-land – reading and/or writing – are not preferable in my opinion. When I am here, when I log-in to Word Press, I feel as if as if I have walked into a room full of friends – the virtual community is real. It’s the online Cheers, where everybody knows my name. And so much more.

The power of two.  So, its somewhat confounding to me to think of where this all began and realize that time has snuck up on me; and sit back and appreciate that over two years have gone by.  Over 200 posts I have written. How is it possible that I have had over 200 things to talk about?  Two road trips have been taken with you along for the miles.  I have met two of you in person and wow the looks I get when I share that.  And I know that two is not the end of that list!l

My life has changed, my kid has grown. This blog has changed me, in ways I could not have foreseen, but were necessary. I have grown. There has been a Freshly Pressed in the mix but to be honest, the honor is far greater when one of you is moved enough to share something of mine in your own space. That we know each other’s lives and stories because we dare to share them here, is moving to me, and something I hold closely.  I love how we have a sense of the essence of each other even though we have never met. We get each other’s humor; my days feel much more complete when I see a response to one of my comments and the reply simply says: “laughing”. Somehow a connection has occurred in that moment.

This feels like a second home in many respects.

So, I am sticking around, it is just way too much fun here!

But, I now have a much better idea of what the point is. What the point is for me. When I started, I chose the name PaperKeeper because this blog was meant to play second fiddle to that other endeavor. As time has passed, I have a better understanding of what I want to do here, why I am here.  That it is really about this endeavor.

So…

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I am ready to make some changes, and here’s how that is going to do down. We are going to start first with:

voice-girl-makeover-mondays-editA new look – it’s time to spruce things up around here. Times have changed, so we have to update our wardrobe and hair style.  In the next few weeks, or maybe days, you will notice things looking a little different. Everything on the inside will stay the same!  I have some ideas for new types of posts, but nothing radical. It will feel just like it does right now.

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babynameAnd then, once that step is taken, the next phase will be that this blog is getting a new name! I have been thinking for a long time of what I want this blog to be called. It needs to reflect why I am here, not why I thought I was supposed to be here.  It’s probably been over a year and I was waiting until it just came to me. I am a ‘I will know it when I know it‘ kind of person, and I percolate in the meantime. The best part is that a great friend of mine helped me see what was already right in front of me.  The new name will be revealed soon, but I will give you a hint, I have used the phrase around here already! If you think you know, no spoilers!

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And, then the last step will be a new address.  The www will change. No more paperkeeper.wordpress.com.  It will be http://www.somethingsomething.com!  WP assures me that everything will be seamless, but course, like with any move, it’s making me a bit anxious.  I want you all to come with me, of course, so when I get ready to load the truck, I will tell you ahead of time what my new address will be. If anyone has gone through this, please let me know if you have any good tips/tricks you learned in the process.

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It’s going to feel a little like being in WITSEC at first;  new look, new name, and a new address, but the important difference is I won’t be in hiding, or without all of my friends!  One step at a time, but change is exciting, its keeps things fresh and new. It seems impossible to convey my gratitude to all of you for making this everything that it is.

Amazing. Remarkable. Safe. Challenging. Fun. Home.

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In Your Words, part deux

I love how this conversation has just continued and continued, here and elsewhere. It’s amazing to me how something so small can make such a difference.  

More words came in over the last few days, and well, it’s not like me to carry on with out them.

So, here is “In YOUR words, part 2” 

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In a word? Amazing. All of you.

Just finding?

Start here, and then go here

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How Will I Be Changed?

This time last year, to the day, I wrote about how I had begun engaging in the process of choosing a word instead of resolutions to guide my year. I was resolute about giving up the habit of making new year’s resolutions; and how they had little sticking power in my experience. For the year of 2012, I had chosen the word ‘nudge’ and at the end of that year, I realized, with stunning clarity, how big changes and new understandings had their genesis in a word of such gentleness. To be nudged is not dramatic or even perceptible in some cases, but over time, a series of nudges allows for great change. I let myself be pushed.

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As 2012 rolled over into 2013, I began my reflection on what word to choose. I invited Nudge to come along for the ride, with me, into the year 2013 and asked her to help me with my new word of Give which again, I must say, chose me.  It was a word that admittedly, kinda made me a little nervous! I tried to say no and convince myself that it was a different word that just hadn’t appeared yet.

I was wrong about that; ‘give’ just wouldn’t give up. It wouldn’t go away. I know, only now, that I really needed the push in that direction.

It turned out that it was the right word after-all.  And for reasons I couldn’t have fathomed. I assumed that the idea was for me to be the one to do all this ‘giving’ and I was ambitious enough to initiate the task of composing a long list of ways that I could give during the year. I will be honest, though, and tell you that deep down, I was squirmy and uncomfortable with this task and as such, never really was completely successful in accomplishing that mission. I was just too embarrassed to tell you.

Instead, I found that in quiet, ordinary, every day life, I would hear the word whispered to me in simple moments:  give that car the room to merge ahead, wave them on nicely; give that person your full attention – remain quiet and let them talk; spend a few moments in conversation with the building custodian when leaving work, give that compliment to the woman in line ahead of you with the gorgeous hair; tell the person who helped you that they made an impact; express gratitude to the ones who are there for you all the time; give a moment a chance to happen instead of taking over.

As I glance back over my shoulder at this last year; I realize something important was quietly occurring all along.  I see that in giving we also receive, and that I had some big lessons to learn about this. I was afraid of the word ‘give’ but not for the reasons I thought.  It’s not always easy to receive.  To allow in love and support from unexpected sources, when you are expecting judgement and shame? Being able to receive the giving of that is large.

Were there moments when I did not give, or give in?  Of course.  It would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise. The push-pull and tug of war of me-vs.-them was ever-present in so many moments.  But I can also see, now, that the times I remembered to give, are ironically when I also received the most in return. Peace, Gratitude. Understanding. Laughter. Knowing.

It felt different. I wish I had written down every time I commented how the Universe just seemed to have my back, when I was most vulnerable and most uncertain about what was coming next. I’d have shoe boxes full of notes to myself.

I didn’t complete a check list of ‘giving moment’s that I thought I was supposed to do, and yet, I think I am able to accept that. It feels far more authentic to weave the idea of giving and receiving into quiet, simple and gentle moments. At first, my logical brain needed it to be a project: linear and attainable. My spirit needed it to be fluid and meaningful, never finished but instead, simply a way of being. Sometimes it happened in the hardest and most painful moments. Sometimes it was just something so simple. When friends I had not met in person would text, when I somehow needed it the most, and say, “you got this, girl!”, or listen fully to every detail of an unraveling of one life and the beginning of a new one. Or when my son showed me his resilient and adaptive soul, over and over again. Or when honest conversations brought me closer together with those I already held close to my heart. Or when giving myself over to the snail’s pace of a 93 yr old mind with dementia and I receive more stories, more layers about what I know as family. Or when giving in to a moment and a new friendship is formed before my very eyes.  

Yes, it seems fair to say that the word “give’ chose me for reasons I could never have anticipated and I feel changed because of it.  The year had not yet concluded when I was presented with the loudest whisper of all, when something inside me said ‘we have to help her‘ and we did. Again, I was on the receiving end and was graced by my beautiful friends and their unbelievable generosity and compassion, but more importantly, by their faith in me and willingness to take my lead. But even more so, I received the gift of making a difference in not one but two lives. A mama and her still-on-the-way baby boy. I received the gift of being richly rewarded and affirmed for taking a risk.

Nudge and Give were working in tandem and what an awesome team they make.

A new year has begun and it’s time to choose a new word, or perhaps be open to what chooses me.  Like when naming a child or a pet, it takes time to see if the word and the year are a good fit. This one just won’t leave me alone; it even started showing up early.

For 2014, I bring along Nudge and Give, they have been so good to me and by now we are such close companions. We travel well together and this year we add to our growing word family:

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done on purpose. deliberate. intended. conscious. 

In the process of reflecting and writing this, I came across this sentence:   You have to want it more than you are afraid of it not happening.
Bam.  There it is.

And yes, just like other years, it scares the shit out of me.

What will this require of me? What path(s) will this lead me down? What changes will I need to make? What sacrifices? How will I be challenged?

How will I be changed?

There is only one way to find out. Let’s go.

Happy New Year and what is your word? I would love to know.

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Storming: and we are not talking about the weather

There is a phenomenon known in organizations as forming-storming-norming-performing-adjourning that speaks of the the life of the behavior of an organization experiencing change or major transition. It beckons us to understand the strife caused and experienced when big shifts occur and how to best maximize the true potential of a team.

It’s officially known as the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing – Adjourning model of group development and was first proposed by a man by the name of Bruce Tuckman in 1965, who maintained that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results.

I have been fascinated by this process since I worked with high school kids in leadership development many moons ago. I’ve come to interpret the model a little more loosely over the years and see how, in ways, it gets played out beyond work groups or teams in a professional environment.

I have seen over the years how this process shows up in relationships, among children, and even individual responses to change or challenging situations.

And while there is no I in team, I have also seen how it plays out  in  my own life.

In the first stage of forming, we are driven by a desire to be accepted, avoid conflict and behaviors reflect this: we stay focused on busy-work, making impressions of what’s to come and how to survive in this environment.  Then, we start storming, where individuality starts getting expressed and the variety of personalities and problem-solving styles begin to emerge; a truly necessary phase.  Eventually, the bumps are smoothed out and the group begins what is called norming, where  a mutual goal is the common objective and consensus is embraced to move towards the end result.  Nearing the final stage, the successful team is able to function as a unit and reach the performing stage and get things done beyond what they envisioned, without prompting, supervision or too much conflict. Adjourning  involves completing the task and breaking up the team.

Yes, I have seen this play out in my work settings over and over; it’s almost inevitable in a work environment with multiple players.

What’s interesting to me is that I have sensed incarnations of these stages, in their own way, in other settings too. For example,  among kids in play and friendships time again: imagine the initial excitement which morphs into conflict that smooths over into working it out and results, ultimately, thankfully, in some kind of fun.

I have seen this when arriving at a destination for the first time: the excitement, the newness, everything seems shiny and perfect, only to start to settle in and realize the water pressure isn’t what you would like, and then you realize that the service or accommodations are not exactly to your satisfaction, but ultimately, you adjust, overlook the idiosyncratic imperfections and sink into enjoying this temporary home. And further, return home with some beautiful memories.

But what really struck me, is that I am seeing this right now, in my own life. I have not been secretive about the fact that change has been a very close and constant companion of late; and granted while I, in some ways, beckoned this change, it is no less challenging, daunting, thrilling and cloudy at the same time. Each day brings a new layer of awareness, of emotion, and realization of what this change really means to me. It plays out in my friendships. My job. My parenting. My finances. My dreams.

The change is not new, and yet so very new. We are talking infancy stages of new. I am forming; and yes, I am driven by a desire to be accepted and to avoid any more conflict. I have been focused on the tasks set before my hands, and the therapeutic value that nothing can provide better than that of emptying a box, painting a cabinet and organizing a new closet.

Oh yes, I am forming. Or is it re – forming?

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I am keenly aware of each and every friendship and relationship; whether old and established to new and yes, forming.  I would also say that because I’m in the midst of change, I have friendships in each of these four stages. Change is kind of like making popcorn – as each kernel springs to life, they all have to shift to make room for the new one!

As a  mother, in the throes of transition, I am forming; every day, but driven to be both the same exact and yet a better mom than I was pre-change while navigating life with new parameters, with new schedules, with new realities.

My bank account and I are definitely still forming; making daily agreements with each other and my dreams reveal truths I didn’t know were there.

While I can’t see past my own nose on some days, I am confident that this forming bit will find some resolution at some point; life has a way of working out. To-do lists have a way of getting done. Emotions have a way of smoothing out. Bumps have a way of flattening. Yes, the forming will get done and when it does, let the storming begin. My inner ‘team’ –  with many voices [inner critic, creative, practical, playful, sensitive] will no doubt emerge and have competing  ideas for how how to do this I suspect. (And hopefully, it’s a team that will work in harmony.)  As will some confusion over which problems I am really supposed to solve, how will I function in a truly independent manner and what ‘leadership model’ I will choose for myself, or what perhaps will choose me.

What will be tempting? To focus on little things that are not really that important to distract me from the bigger, harder, crazier decisions.

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Storming is necessary. It has to happen. It will happen. According to Tuckman’s model, storming can be “contentious, unpleasant and even painful..and without tolerance and patience, the efforts will fail”. Uh-oh…I am not sure where my umbrella is, but, I do have that sexy new coral trench coat that I purchased on my recent time travels.  I have the shelter of amazing friends and siblings. I have patience and resilience.

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Let the storms roll in.

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