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she sees whales

Quite some time ago, I vowed to write about play. Play as antidote to fear. Play as means of coping, even thriving in a quickly changing world.

 

After I wrote this an event happened that stalled my writing, halted my sure and steady movement through my well planned days,

and once again brought uncertainty into the picture.

My step-mother died very suddenly of a brain aneurysm.

 

In a moment everything changed.

I remember a teacher colleague once saying, many years ago, that it is not usually the anticipated events that rock our worlds, rather it is that unexpected phone call on a Monday afternoon.

 

The day it happened ~

I had just had coffee and a slice of chocolate cake with a dear friend, a great inspiring visit actually full of good laughs and exciting future plans, and then as I  left the cafe and  walked towards my vehicle I checked my phone.

 

Three calls from Dan.

 

When I called him back he said right away,

‘Where are you? I don’t want to tell you over the phone what I need to tell you. I want to come and talk to you in person’.

My heart pounding,  ‘No, tell me now. Please just say it.’

In our most secret unspeakable depths, we all prepare for those calls, don’t we?

 

That Monday afternoon call that will force us to put everything we thought was important on hold for weeks perhaps, and then re-calibrate our entire perceptions of the world, our very place in it.

 

Once again.

 

After we hung up I cried out openly, there on the street, in agony for my dad and for this new loss that he was forced to bear. I stood there tears streaming, waiting for Dan, and looking everywhere for my friend who had already gotten in his truck, already gone.

 

Feeling so alone.

 

Wanting to call my friend back so that he could reassure me that things would be ok.

Wanting somebody, anybody, to tell me that we would get through this one.

On that street corner all by myself waiting for Dan who was coming because he was worried for me, I realized that every maternal figure I have ever had is gone ~my mentor, my grandmothers, my step-mother now,

and my mother.

 

It is just me.

 

Even my friend had gotten in his truck and driven away.

 

Then.

Over Easter,

after the hospital and the funeral and the tears and the big conversations and the grief and the family everywhere and all the missed school and work and the beginning of finding a way forward for my dad,

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we went whale watching in Victoria.

 

We had gathered there as a family over the break and we spontaneously booked a tour on our first morning. We had always promised George we would go on a whale adventure, but then had always found reasons not to.  That day,  however,  the weather seemed particularly good, we had nothing else planned, and I can tell you honestly that I knew, absolutely knew, that we would see whales that day if we went.

 

We had to go out fairly far, but it ended up being what they call a T-party of whales. Whales in every direction. Not even knowing which way to look because as one would surface, there would suddenly be another sighting on the other side of the boat.

Families of whales. Young whales pressed against their mother as they swam. An independent male on his own  surfacing then going under as we all watched with anticipation, wondering where he would pop up next.

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All around us, a whole pod, a matrilineal community of interrelated magnificent communicating, beautiful orcas.

Orcas that have visited me in my dreams since I was a child. Magical dreams where I watch them, down from a cliff at night or my face pressed up against the glass of a huge aquarium,

half of me afraid of their power and strength while the other half is delighted, transfixed, comforted and healed.

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Orcas drawing by George

A show that day that just went on and on. Our kind tour guides were willing to stay on past the allotted time because the day was perfect and the whales just weren’t leaving.

And then finally not being able to linger any longer, we reluctantly turned back towards the mainland.

The orcas swam back with us in the same direction, stealth-like and fast, underwater, towards a cropping of rocks covered in lounging elephant seals.

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Such dramatic suspense.

 

Our captain stopped the boat for us to watch the hunt unfold; the orcas surfaced at the rocks and surprised their prey who were by no means helpless, fighting back with vigor. It was over quickly, and the whales were again moving on, having been rewarded with one unlucky seal.

 

A nature documentary in real time.

 

Continuing on, bathed in glowing late afternoon sunshine, the whales headed towards the shore and swam right up against a cliff nestled on top of which was a park where families often recreate. From the boat we watched as children ran along the cliff following the orcas, screeching with delight.

 

I truly don’t know if I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing such a perfect moment of spontaneous play, natural and true, uncomplicated and wild.

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It is never just me. It is Dan and I, the kids and I, us. It is this beautiful extended family that I love so much that were gathered for Easter fun. It is my dad and I. My friends.       My wonderful neighbours. It is new acquaintances and the grocery store cashier that I exchange friendly words with ~

It is all those I have lost, living in me with every heartbeat.

 

It is all of us…

 

navigating the heartache and the uncertainty yet still forging creative ways to joyfully be in this brave and beautiful new world.

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And it is whales, meeting me at sunset after a lifetime of knowing each other in dreams. The promise is the same. It’s going to be ok.

 

 

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Find the Cake, Part. 2

Our Christmas tree this year is full and tall and drinks gallons of water.  I can barely keep up. We check the water level every few hours, and are continually surprised that it wants still more to drink. The first few nights I even wondered if I should wake up in the middle of the night, set a timer. I have never seen a tree drink so much water. The kids and I joke about needing to hire a babysitter for our tree when we go out. It is as if it is constantly reminding us that she is a living, pulsing thing requiring our attention too. And so I give it, feeling almost as it I have another mouth to feed, someone else needing me. But she responds by hardly shedding a needle. We have had the tree for over a month now and I have hardly swept. She is radiant, and very much alive. People comment as they stand in our entry way on the health and beauty of  this tree.

In my quietest, most clear and sacred moments, I wonder even,

Is it possible that this tree loves us, so generous she is with the fullness of her being?

 

Regardless, it is for certain that her beauty and scent permeate our home and I love her. We turn on her coloured lights first thing in the morning, and turning them off is the last thing we do at night.

 

 

I have not written since the election. There isn’t anything to say, and there is everything to say. How do I write the way I used to, when there is so much change, so much being challenged, such unrest? So many things now feel uncertain, no matter your views or beliefs, things that once felt unshakable .

 

Yet, here is this tree. Steady she stands reminding me that it is still Christmas and there will be delicious food on our table that we have all worked together to make, and the kids will wake up early on Christmas morning ~

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we will all feel excited and wrapped up in the coziness of the dark and silent early hours, and our hot chocolate (topped off with Bailey’s for the grown-ups) will warm us as will the impressive fire that Dan will build us as he always does, and the filled stockings will bring fun and delight. I will sit with my back right up against that roaring fire because that is where I love to sit, and I  will watch our kids bask in the magical joy of their favourite day of the year and my heart will be full because theirs are~

 

This is the beautiful dichotomy that I coming to honour, that sadness and joy can be felt at once. Even hope and fear. For holding one does not mean disallowing or even devaluing the other. So it is that our beautiful open hearts are made to ache and fill, fill and ache.

 

How could I forget the days before my mom died, so intensely written they are in my mind and heart? Though, to be honest, I don’t remember those days as being awful. Family and friends filled our house, there was lots of comfort food and hugs, shared cups of tea and glasses of wine, and tears freely fell but so did laughter easily ring out. Two days before she died my uncle cooked cabbage rolls all day, and then after sharing a meal together a spontaneous family sing-song  broke out that lasted a few hours while mom watched on, so peaceful. Not wanting the evening to ever end, we searched our collective memories for songs of her childhood, hymns of her upbringing, lyrics to bring us comfort. It was one of the most significant and beautiful nights of my life,

heralding both an end and a beginning.

 

In those unimaginably difficult moments  grace, peace, and even joy found us.

 

 

Times have been turbulent before and people have found their way.

This time, we are being pushed to be brave, true to our own hearts, and fiercely kind beyond measure. This is how we will heal and thrive. I know this with every fiber of my being, as do so many others.

 

Take heart dear friends,

for we have evergreen trees and wide frosty sky, glittering snow, and magical Christmas morning wanting to love us and

 

there are infinite cakes to be found.

 

Sometimes, though, it is up to us to bake them.

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Winter Wonderland cake for Alex’s birthday

 

Merry Christmas to all, dear family, friends, and acquaintances~ So many beautiful hearts finding their way. I love you all.

 

 

 

 

 

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joy and the story of my tattoo

The story of how I came to have a tattoo is also a story about joy.

 

It all happened about 17 years ago.

I am not even over-dramatizing when I say that when my first marriage ended, I  resolutely hauled all of the clothes out of my closet as I sobbed, threw everything in garbage bags, grabbed my beloved basset hound, and drove away from my life as I knew it in the dead of night.

 

I ended up back in my parents’ home and very gradually and gently, began to re-build and create a new life,

 

this life.

 

My break from my first marriage was abrupt and harsh, and though I knew for sure that leaving was for the best, there was much to grieve and much that I still cared about in that little  town that I had so quickly left behind.

Karen, for instance -not me, of course, but my dear friend Karen, the woman who had been my principal through my first few years of teaching elementary. Karen had become my mentor, not just in teaching, but in life: in leadership, in spirituality, in all things good that I aspired to become.

She worried about me after I left, calling me, sending me uplifting gifts, and even driving us both all the way up to Edmonton and back on the day before school started back in September so that we could attend Lilith Fair together.

 

What I remember most about that trip, though,  were the deep conversations during the long car ride –

 

Conversations that still stay with me even though she has been gone 9 years, having died of cancer a little over a year after my mom died.

 

On another car trip that summer, her and I  went to Calgary and each bravely got a tattoo in honour of her 45th birthday.

I had an orange and blue star inked onto my lower back, inspired by the paper lantern that hung in the bedroom of my new apartment.

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The walls of that little bedroom in the top floor suite of the old house that I was renting were painted orange and navy blue and my landlord (who would become my future father-in-law) apologized profusely for this fact. I didn’t care, though,

I loved everything about that apartment, especially the bedroom. 

I would look up from my bed at that beautiful star,

while the bold, strong colours on the walls cocooned me up at night.

Emerging from underneath my feelings of hurt and betrayal was a sense of freedom and renewal that I had never before quite experienced,

an exhilarating sense of possibility that from that day forward I could and would re-write my life. I would choose new words to define my days,

words like integrity, truth, adventure, kindness,

 

Joy.

 

And when I went to bed at night in my little apartment, even though I was alone, I felt

 

happy.

 

I rarely even remember anymore that I have a tattoo. It is mostly hidden, and I can’t see it. For a while I stated that I would, at some point, go back and have the star filled in with a more intricate and detailed design to make the tattoo more artistic and interesting, as it is really just an outline of a star filled in with solid colors.

 

However, even as I said it out loud back them, I doubted I ever would.

My minor act of rebellion was complete and I had no desire to subject myself to more needless pain.

 

The outline is enough.

 

Thank you, Karen, for your big love that summer and for holding my hand through the pain that I needed to then bear,

for generously taking me into the fold of your true self, uncovering to me truths and desires and ideas that I needed to understand then to be who I am now.

 

I am ever amazed by the intricate paths that the stories of our lives lead us down, cleverly and magically winding,

seemingly finding the fullness of circles (and stars)  to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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what is joy

So the first few weeks of this joy plan proved themselves rather trying.

A friend of ours has experienced an unimaginable and tragic loss, repercussions of a struggling economy are all around us, I sustained a very minor but uncomfortable injury after Christmas that is taking time to resolve, and on it goes.

So much pain, heartache, and uncertainty in the world. Every. day.

 

All of this during my first weeks of publicized joy finding.

 

I never said it would be easy. And calling upon joy does not guarantee her arrival, or does it?

Because when I really think about it, there were moments of pure happiness.

For example,     this.

My gardener/writer friend invited me over to his greenhouse one morning. It was chilly. I kept my big coat on and we sat amidst his heartier winter-tolerating plants and drank hot pumpkin tea and chatted. It was overcast at first, but towards the end of our visit we found ourselves and the plants bathed in cheerful sunlight. He entertained me with his stories and told me about some of the plants in our company.

And this. Reading Harry Potter again, inspired by the news of the recent death of the lovely and deeply talented Alan Rickman.  George and I deciding to take on the 4th and 5th books, immersing ourselves in a world of such magic and beauty-first reading together but then him reading on, eagerly jumping ahead of me. Alex, excitedly chiming in at supper one night as we talked about Harry Potter, reflecting on how her entire childhood was  somewhat defined by J.K. Rowling’s books.

A homemade pizza crust one Saturday night eaten in front of the fire that turned out better than any I have ever attempted. ever. Pure heaven.

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And then just a few days ago we attended the dance show put on by Olivia’s middle school and it was a pure spectacle of joy – a  triumph of creativity, energy, synergy, commitment. Loads of people working together to create something positive and wondrous. My girl swept away by her love for performing.

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Pumpkin tea in a greenhouse, Harry Potter, pizza,  and a dance show.

And then just one more deliciously lovely moment. Cuddled up with George watching a documentary on pelicans that he had been asking us to watch with him for weeks. At first, of course, it was all quite gentle and interesting -pelican behaviours and development, habitat, rehabilitation practices etc.

but then it quickly got depressing as these nature documentaries always do.

Heart-breaking scenes showing helpless pelicans drowning in oil spills, stuck and struggling in fishing nets or with hooks lodged in their throats, their webbed feet deformed by frost bite due to changing weather patterns affecting migratory behaviours. ugh.

It begs one to ask what is even the point of rehabilitation for these birds. What are these poor pelicans even being sent back out into?

 

But even as I ask the question I know the answer.

 

They are being sent back out into life, in all of its beauty and wretchedness.

They are being sent back out into the wild to be with other pelicans, to soar above the ocean waters, and to do that perfectly executed long and straight arrow dive in that particular pelican way. Keeping pelicans in even a beautiful sanctuary is not an answer at all. In fact, if that is the only alternative they are often euthanized.

Life is tricky and dangerous and filled with all sorts of things that could go wrong, events that could very well break our hearts and leave us marred,

but, life, in every form, is also our very greatest privilege and gift.

And to truly experience it and honour it we must be courageous enough to open ourselves up to the fullness of it all, fish hooks, oil spills and all.

For, as the wise women discussed at my last workshop, when we are courageous enough to open our hearts to joy, when we are strong enough to feel, than we are also making ourselves quite vulnerable to sorrow,

all of  it existing within one same spectrum.

We may suddenly find ourselves weeping for all sorts of reasons,

so easily  touched by beauty, kindness, creative acts, pain, despair;

 

The plight of pelicans, a friend’s grief, or a perfectly choreographed dance. All of these experiences  – treasures for the open-hearted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On what it is to be brave, how I almost burned the house down, and an invitation

On what it is to be brave,

There have been times in my life when people have told me that I was brave, that I  was strong….when I divorced, when my mom died, when I had my heart surgery.

I didn’t feel particularly strong or brave in any of these instances.

In fact, people’s encouraging words in part frustrated me because it felt like I had no other alternatives. I was simply putting one foot in front of the other and moving through my days, my life, doing my best to work with the hand I had been dealt.

What courage, I thought, is there in that,

not realizing that this ordinary brand of courage, this gentle strength, is momentous in its own quiet but important way.

And ironically, I now hear myself saying and thinking these same words to friends who are struggling with or facing their own life-altering events,

‘You are strong, you are brave.’

And I mean these words. And yet these friends deflect my sentiments in the same way that I once did.

I now realize, though, that it in fact takes tremendous courage to simply move through a life. And when it is done with honesty and open-heartedness, I am in awe.

In such lovely and ordinary ways, we are brave.

For example,

My friend who is terrified of flying still gets on that plane because she cannot deny her yearning to explore and travel the world,

and she who is grieving her spouse or parent does so with authenticity, expressing her tears, her anger, her laughter, despite the fact that our culture does not like to talk about grief.

This woman says what needs to be said in that meeting, what no one else will say, even though her heart feels like it will pound right out of her chest when she begins to speak

or another friend doesn’t speak up, because sometimes it is better to be kind than right.

Another woman says no to joining the committee, despite her overwhelming feelings of guilt and obligation, because she knows it is just too much

and she who is overwhelmed asks for help.

My friend leaves her marriage because it is the best thing, the only thing, for herself and for her kids

while another stays in her marriage for the same reasons.

And this one follows a path that few understand or support, yet with deep determination he keeps doing his art and persists in his vision, his passion,

whilst another takes a job because it will pay the bills and that is the bigger priority.

A  mother I know watches her child walk right into a difficult situation even though it breaks her heart but she knows her child needs to navigate this particular storm on his own,

and this friend uproots and moves away because she knows deep inside that it is the right next step for her, even though it means leaving so much.

Another has the courage and confidence to shine when the moment asks for it, but  also knows when it is time to stand in the background in a supporting role.

This woman shows real and uninhibited exuberance and delight in her daily encounters despite this world that presently seems to favour cynicism and guardedness,

and he who has worked for so long in pursuit of his goal finally reaches the finish line and accepts his rewards with grace, while another friend understands when the time has come to walk away.

My friend who has cancer shares with us all her reasons to smile and describes the cherished places where she finds gratitude and hope, just as she expresses her feelings of helplessness and gripping fear,

and another brave soul silently processes the news of her illness because that is her way.

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We               are            brave.

How I almost burned the house down

My dear life-long friend and I were recently able to get away on a quick and much long-anticipated weekend getaway. I was finally able to see the vacation home that Charlotte and her husband have built along with 3 other couples, a lovely getaway in the mountains.

After arriving Friday evening we awoke Saturday morning eagerly anticipating our day of cafe breaks, walks, and early Christmas shopping. While Charlotte was showering, I went downstairs to put the kettle on for my tea. Mindlessly, as this is one of the most routine behaviours of my daily existence, I filled up the kettle with water and put it on the gas stove. I then grabbed my phone and dialed Dan and the kids to have a quick chat, and see how their night had been.

As I was chatting with Olivia, I began to smell a combination of smoke and burning plastic. I looked over at the stove-top, and noticed that the entire bottom of the ELECTRIC KETTLE, exposed wire and all, was on fire.

Yes, readers , I put an electric kettle on a gas range and almost burned the house down, and not even my house, but my friend’s house that she shares with 3 other families.

As I was throwing bowls of water on top of the stove, I was half-panicking, half-imagining how I would tell everyone what I had done. And as the smoke alarm was going off, I was weakly calling  Charlotte’s name, not really wanting her to come down before I had attempted to peel off the hard pieces of melted kettle off the burners.

The most embarrassing part of this whole story, though, is that neither Charlotte nor Dan were entirely surprised by what I did,

but            they both still love me.

So, if you see me randomly bursting into laughter in the grocery store aisle or while waiting to pick up my kids,

I am probably just remembering what I did.

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Despite the kettle mishap, we did each manage to find beautiful new boots to buy.

An invitation

I have a few projects on the go right now, and often wonder at when and how they should intersect. They inevitably do intertwine, though, and so it feels right to extend an invitation to my readers to my PeaceCard evening slated for an evening in late November.

For at least the last ten years, I have imagined such mini-retreats~ times set aside for honest connection, meaning, and simple and artful play. I know so many of us crave this, and I also know it lacks in many of our lives.

Women have always gathered. My mother and her friends used to gather so often, whether to quilt and craft, or talk and plan. This is women’s play and it is essential to so many of us, to our well-being. To find out what I have dreamed up for this first evening of its kind, please message me for the details.

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On this is all I will say about politics, connection, and last week’s hero

This is all I will say about politics (for now)

I am going to tell you a little secret about me. I am not much of a joiner.

It’s actually hard for me to admit this because it feels somewhat like claiming a lack of commitment which isn’t at all true. I can be fiercely committed and loyal. 

I have always felt, though, that there can sometimes be something slightly dangerous about identifying too much with a particular perspective or stance. If we become too patriotic, too zealous, too enmeshed with a group,

we sometimes end up leaving out other people, other views, other valid ways of being in this world. It can all get       a little too ‘us’ and ‘them’, though often             

that is the place where we feel the safest.

It happens to all of us, and certainly me too. I speak to this but I have been guilty of sitting up on my high horse     a thousand or more times.

Since the beginning of time, though, that is exactly the point where it falls to pieces. We make it all black and white, see things at face value and forget to look harder in the depths for the clarity and understanding beneath. Feelings are hurt, resentments breed,   wars start.

We forget that we ALL have our burdens to bear and for the most part, we all want the same things.

Love.     Connection.     Peace.

I speak to this perhaps because talk of the upcoming election is everywhere. I will not speak up for a specific party here, or speak down to another one. I do, think, however, that the challenge is to really make this about seeking to understand the issues,

identifying the leaders that truly speak to our hearts and minds at this time, and sifting through the rhetoric and the drama and the posturing until we find the place where we are simply most aligned.              Then vote.

Undoubtedly and thankfully, we will forevermore need to gather and form groups and associations and parties and work for positive change and, to be honest,

there is little that moves me more than people working together to create beautiful initiatives in this world, inspired events, important societal or environmental change.

My hope, however,  is that when we form our partnerships and alliances we can always remember that

It’s not about ‘us’ and ‘them’.

It’s always about ALL of us. 

Connection

Recently, I saw a video documenting people who offered up a minute of eye contact to passers by on busy streets. I have seen other versions of this project executed in different ways, but it always ends up being deeply moving to watch people just seeing each other.

It strikes me that if I was, for an entire minute,  to stare into the eyes of someone who I felt I didn’t understand or that I was at odds with,

something  in both of us would inevitably shift.

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Even just imagining it feels a little transformative.

Last week’s hero

Last week, the hero of our story was George.

He had decided that he would agree to have his head shaved for the Terry Fox Run event hosted by his school and he stayed resolute in that decision.

It was a beautiful and ambitious event for a school that is known for celebrating Terry Fox’s legacy. Thousands of kids, teachers and parents came from all over our city to walk together, cheer on the memory of Terry (even his dad was in attendance) and raise money for cancer research.

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When it was time,

George marched up onto the stage with the other brave volunteers and quietly let the stylist shave his hair all the while wearing a sticker announcing that ‘he was running today for Grandma Carol‘.

My beautiful boy who has always had a gorgeous head full of blond hair that I have loved to smell, kiss, ruffle~

afterwards walked back to where we were sitting (a little shakily),

          completely bald.

All at once my heart both broke and grew.

I have long since given up on the idea of finding a one and only hero who always acts in a way that is brave and true and good. Few, if any of us, are capable of that.

But we do get little opportunities, scattered throughout our every days, to have heroic moments.

Yay George, for accepting and rising up to yours.

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On 3 things about my adventure

The adventure I alluded to a few weeks ago has now come and gone. I spent 10 days in New York City and it was a significant trip for a couple of reasons.

Firstly,  I had been looking forward it for quite some time. Since the diagnosis of my heart condition, we haven’t ventured very far. When I found out that I was going to finally have my surgery, I imagined this trip as something to look forward to at the end of my recovery period,

my carrot that I would be able to enjoy with renewed vigor and health.

FullSizeRender[50]Also, New York is the place of our Olivia’s dreams. I couldn’t wait to see it through the eyes of my girl who has always yearned to see the stages of Broadway and feel the captivating energy of this city that oozes such wild and glorious creativity.

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater where the kids did a West African dance class

For the first 5 days in New York I had the honor of chaperoning the grade 8 dancers from Olivia’s school. We had the luxury of a big bus and a witty and fantastic guide. Our days with the tour were long and packed full with sightseeing and dance classes.

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On the last day of the school tour, Dan and George flew out and met Olivia and I for five more days.

It’s always a bit difficult to talk about trips. Condensing a myriad of adventures into some sort of interesting summary feels challenging and I always wonder how much people actually want to hear. So for my purposes here, I have chosen 3 favorite moments, with some Peace at Home Project style meaning attached.  (;

Broadway Dance Workshop:

When Olivia was little, I used to find her in her room making up dramatic musicals about her feelings.

She has never really walked, rather she bops and twirls and grooves. She entertains as much as she talks. Don’t ask me where all of this drama and constant movement comes from because Dan and I can’t figure it out, but a love for the stage seems to be embedded in her cellular makeup.

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Waiting to enter the theater for our first Broadway show in NY, ‘Wicked’, it is no exaggeration to say that she was fairly vibrating. 

My favorite fine arts moment, though, was when Olivia got to experience a Broadway Dance workshop at the Broadway Dance Center. Her instructor had performed with the cast of the hit musical  “Matilda‘ and taught the kids a dance from that show (we were fortunate enough to be able to see Matilda after Dan and George arrived).

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At the end of the class, in a very real and candid way, this kind young man spoke to the kids about what it really takes to make it to Broadway. He described his journey, his background, his training, his triumphs and his difficulties. He generously dispensed advice and            Olivia held on to every word,

           riveted.

It’s one thing to have your own dreams, and have them materialize or not, or  hold deep passions that are mostly suppressed but perhaps occasionally nurtured in opportune moments that find us,

but to see the heart of your child being directly met and spoken to

surpasses anything a parent might ever want for themselves in this life.

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This was such a moment.

Anniversary of 9/11

It so happened that the first full day that we were in New York was also the 9/11 anniversary.

Our guide was gifted at bringing home to us the impact that this event has had on the psyche of the city,

and came back to the topic frequently, as it is so intertwined now in the collective identity of New Yorkers.

The teachers felt it would be meaningful for us to enter one of the fire halls and have a moment of silence together, as the fire halls open their doors every Sept. 11 and welcome in people to talk, continue to process, and leave flowers and condolences . Though the kids may not have been able to truly grasp the depth of how the world changed on that day, it felt important to us that we model to the students a showing of respect, as visitors. Some of us chaperones reminisced about being pregnant at the time of the attacks with our now 13 year-olds. We clearly remembered feeling terrified by the prospect of bringing babies into a world where such a horrific thing could happen.

And so we all entered into one of the fire halls, stood in a circle and held hands as we offered our own minute of silence.

Several of us wept while the firefighters watched in deepest gratitude for our gesture of love. This particular fire hall had lost every one of its firefighters. I cannot pretend to begin to understand the complicated feelings of loss and fear, and abiding sorrow that still surround this event,

but I did feel as if for a precious moment we were gifted the profound and beautiful privilege of sharing and holding just a sliver of the grief.

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Dancing on the High Line

There is a beautiful park in New York that you must go see if you are ever there. In a city that is masterful at creating green spaces in such a densely populated and urban environment, the High Line is a 1.45-mile-long New York City linear park built on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad.

It is beautiful, full of wildflowers, plants, artwork along the way, plenty of seating, and a section where you can buy food and gelato,

What an innovative and extraordinary way to look at parks and greenspace design. We saw The High Line in its infancy the first time I was in New York, and our tour guide Mitch gave us a quick taste of it on the tour group’s last day, but it is the kind of place that calls you back again and again.

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Towards the end of our very best family day in New York (because traveling is not always easy, carefree, and without its cranky times) we found ourselves enjoying walking along the High Line after enjoying tacos from Chelsea Market.

At one point, we stopped and looked down as a wonderful band was playing on the street outside a restaurant below. People had gathered round the musicians and were smiling, singing, moving to the beat.

The music was lively and happy, the city night lights were aglow,

and we stayed on for a good twenty minutes, watching and dancing.

Everything felt                      twinkly and magical and good.

This moment cost nothing and we weren’t at the top of the Empire State Building or eating a gourmet meal or shopping in a designer store or staring at very old and famous art. All of these things are very nice and have their value,

but I think it’s safe to say that this moment  was our very favorite at all.

I wish I had a photo of it, but we were too busy just being happy to take one.

Life’s funny that way.