Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Monday, October 24, 2016

Eyes to See

In a world of information, where every other new blip is negative, it's easy to feel discouraged about the state of the earth. But the truth is that all around us, common every day people are carrying on their lives with courage, perserverance, and kindness.

I've been thinking: what if there was a Good News Gatherer--a person who ferreted out all the acts small and big that separate humans from inhumanity? What if we could begin to hear about all the good stuff? All over the world there are brave and wonderful things happening. Inventions. Breakthroughs. Grandmas and grandpas that know their grandchildren are the best thing ever and who celebrate these little and big people with delighted eyes.

I'd also like to see the truth about high schoolers
featured, these up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow who despite their ubiquitous electronic devices are sweet and savvy and full of dreams. They have a high value for loyalty and belonging, teamwork and equality. I'd love to hear more about what is right with them and less about what is wrong.

Seriously, how many more scary stories do we need about all the bad things that can, are, and have happened?!--so much so that this beautiful, precious world of ours feels more like a war zone than the cradle of creativity that it really is.

Yes, there's bad stuff out there. Yes, there are people who do bad things, and I'm not advocating we pretend otherwise. But what about the tragedy of going through the gift of each day in fear, in battle armor, scaring ourselves and our kids about possible catastrophes and things to fight against,
while being blind to the unwavering beauty of the people and the world around us--hunkered down in preparation for the apocolypse when all around us eternity unfolds?



It's easy to be scared: Vaccine disasters. Isis. Polictical bashing, failures, and "what's our nation coming to?" is plastered everywhere. But what about the good news? People rescuing, caring for, empowering other people. Helping. Feeding. Loving. These things are newsworthy, too. Good things are happening in this old world of ours. The next generation of mothers and fathers are having
children and loving them as fiercely and wisely and with as much passion as previous generations. Sure, there are different challenges and different philosophies. But have you watched a young mom cudddle her baby lately? That's a timeless beauty unfolding right before our eyes.

And then there's the everyday bravery of farmers in the field, up before dawn planting, cultivating, harvesting. Mothers and fathers coaching soccer. Brothers and sisters laughing and loving and playing together. It's happening all around us in big and small ways, and if the truth were known, more frequently than the bad stuff.

Fear is invasive, but it doesn't stand a chance against hope and joy and love. And here's some more good news--we get to choose where to focus. That's not living in denial. That's living in balance. Evil is not greater than good. One tiny little candle causes darkness to flee, and we need to be reminded of that. Why live in fear when you can live in hope and love?

So I'm thinking we need a revolution of good news gatherers. What if each of us set out to discover one brave or beautiful or precious moment out of each day, and flood our world with the proper ratio of good to bad. I'm not talking about instagram moments that present an unreal picture, as if every moment of our lives is amazing and photo-worthy, but the true riches in the everyday-ness of life. There's so  much good news and so many great people around us, like gold and silver and precious stones laying right in  plain sight. We just need eyes to see them.

Check out some good stuff happening: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/


And here's another good link: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/the-america-i-know-the-humanity-i-know/

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On Being Known


We all want to be known, don't we?
--Known for who we really are. Our essence, the real us under all our socially acceptible or unacceptible behaviors and herculean efforts to do--and be--that which others will value. I find this exhausting: rather like a merry-go-round that is spinning way too fast to jump off from without sustaining injury, but from which I cast longing eyes to the stillness of the ground beyond vertigo and white-knuckled hanging.

I suppose that's rather dramatic for a quiet July morning. Certainly my current oasis of trickling stream, hot coffee, and cool mountain-morning air seems the exact opposite. But in this quiet moment I'm wondering why we keep that inner merry-go-round whirling. We want to be known, and yet--

Ultimately, I think it boils down to fear.

Fear that if we are seen--really seen for who we are with all our bumps and baggage and not just the good stuff we hope people see--that they will not find us worth knowing. Doesn't that phrase just put a weight on your chest and a twist in your gut? It does in mine. But here's what I'm finally understanding on a more than intellectual level:

I'm just me.

That includes all my bumps and baggage. And while I'm seeking to systematically chuck that baggage and grow more whole, if someone cannot look beyond it and find the real me--mistakes, shortcomings, and all--then I will never be completely safe with that person. If I am only "safe" as long as I don't scare them by my thoughts, choices, or actions, then I am not truly safe. It's merely a momentary lull.

But to be known and safe--now that is a rare gift. 


If we're casting about in our minds trying to think of even one relationship where that level of peace exists, I've got to say, the good news is that every one of us has at least one; God knows us each completely. Loves us with our bumps, baggage, and beauty, though these have absolutely nothing to do with why He loves and values us, and I find that in the face of this level of acceptance, fear dissapates.

He sees the real us. The us that He created and called very good. It is said that we are not born afraid. We learn fear. Well, I'm thinking it's high time we unlearn it. Hop off that whirling round of performing to get love, and find out how amazing it feels to be as happy about the real us as He is,.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Today's Little Wonders

Ha. I just scrolled back about four years on this blog to an entry titled "Drawn by Pleasure." I find that lo and behold, I am on the very same quest. Still. Or again. Or perhaps both. From the standpoint that I should be a pro at something I've been working on for four years, this was not an encouraging thought. But on the other hand--I'm thinking that it is still my quest because this is one of my passions in life--to discover the big and small joys of the present, to be fully alive in this moment in which I live, and to see the wonder in the everyday.

So I ask myself what I have learned about this in four years, and I am glad to say that here are several things I know a bit deeper now than I did then:

1. Busyness moves me out of the zone of seeing the little things: breathing the air, gazing on the sky. Well, I still breathe the air, but I don't even
notice that. When I load my schedule, dovetailing appointments, deadlines, and chauffeuring teens, I sprint through the moments. I live for the future, a nebulous intangible promise of rest delayed by this frenetic effort of mine to keep all the irons in my fire equally hot.

2. I'm in charge of not just what I put on my schedule, but how much I allow that self-imposed merry-go-round of life to pressure me with oughts, shoulds, and guilt for less-than-brilliant follow-through. No one else can slow my  merry-go-round down. Just me.



3. No matter how often I find myself in one of these times when I'm moving too fast, feeling out of touch with myself and wondering how I got there, I can start over. I can slow down. Rework my schedule to include more moments to smell the roses, sip the coffee, laugh with loved ones. If I scale back on the activities that are crowding out these small and oh-so-vital-to-me wonders, I will be much more able to live in the present.




4. And finally, I'm learning that it's okay. For me and any of you that might be reading this and seeing yourself reflected, we need to remember that we're eternal beings. If we rush through some of our moments, in the long run it will still be a mere blip on our timeline. We'll lose a lot more of our peace and enjoyment if we spend our time regretting what has already passed. It's the now that needs our focus. This morning. This minute in which I'm watching the sun come up, hearing a whippoorwill calling in the creek bottom, and yes, sipping a good cup of Colombian Supremo. What does this moment hold for you? What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting?

These moments are gifts. But we'll whiz right by them in our busyness if we're not mindful. I'm in the process (once again) of re-working my calendar to include a lot more of these moments; and if your merry-go-round of a schedule is moving way too fast, I invite you to join me!
These Little Wonders

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Magic of Children

I just returned from participating in the 48th annual Warrensburg Children's Literature Festival, and I want to say that it was an honor and a pleasure to get to stand before a classroom of youngsters and  take them on a journey with me.











...Imagine you're a cowboy.



 It's December, and you and your buddy are riding on the Colorado mesa searching for stray cattle.

And then it starts to snow...







I loved watching them dive deep into the scene. Loved introducing them to one of my most favorite places on the planet, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and incidentally, the setting for my latest book for middle graders, The Flight of the Cliff Bird.

Their eyes were alight with the magic of imagination, wide with wonder, and for those few brief moments, we became cliff dwellers together.




The classroom fades, and it is just us and the scent of sagebrush and the comfort of sun-warmed sandstone at our backs. The cliff dwellings begin to glow with the light of cooking fires and a cool wind sweeps up from the canyon floor.

Don't let anyone tell you that this generation of children is somehow lesser. Somehow lacking. Yes, they're dealing with elements that we of earlier generations did not--electronic games, images, accessibility beyond belief.

But consider this: they are dealing with the challenges they have been handed. Denial is not a good option. Even if they were to live the electronics-free lifestyle of earlier days, when they emerge into the real world at age 18, they would be handicapped to deal with the freedom and opportunities of a world that is constantly progressing. Better, then, to help them learn to steward those freedoms.


They are not a lesser generation. I saw in these children the same intelligent wonder, the same innate questioning, the same ability to explore the unknown and unseen as that of children from earlier decades. I'm excited for them and for the world which they will in their turn curate for a generation not yet born.

Their eyes were full of wonder and hope, and although I was taking them on a journey back in time, they left me with renewed expectation for the future.




Friday, December 25, 2015

Fresh Christmas

I've spent the last month or more capturing Christmas--to try to feel once more what I felt as a child, and to help my kids, now almost all grown, capture it as well. But this Christmas morning, I find I have a new perspective. Despite what I've just been doing, I now realize that it's not about trying to relive Christmas past, as if those few fleeting years of my childhood or my kids' childhoods were the epitome of what Christmas should be.

This is the last year I'll do that. From this morning on, what I want to do is let each Christmas season unfold its own unique treasures. We can't always have everyone here. We can't always do exactly what we did that one year when it was perfect for me or some other person. But we can live in the now and treasure what's happening this day.


Of course we'll probably still have our traditional foods: grasshopper pie on Christmas Eve. Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. (Why we use this occasion to slam ourselves with sugar, I have yet to define, and truthfully don't want to, because we literally only make these things once a year. Some things you just have to hold on to)!

But with the possible exception of food, I don't want to be looking backwards at Christmas except to reminisce. I want each December 25th from here on out--and I figure I've got at least 35 more to go--to be uncharted territory, as in reality, each new day is never and can never be a repeat of the one before it.

I want to add to my memory bank a newly-minted, one-off Christmas, vintage 2015, instead of trying to relive but never quite recapturing the magic of some other time time. Next year, besides God, who really knows how it will be? Who knows who will be here. Who knows what the weather will be, the dynamics, the tree.

We'll have to discover what unfolds. That's what we're doing today, and rather than feeling like it is less than other years because not everyone is here or no small child is present to add wonder, this Christmas is perfect because it is fresh and new and unexplored.

Let the celebration begin! 


Once everyone else gets up, of course. Me? I'm on my second cup of coffee :-)


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Capturing Christmas


Christmas is almost upon us, but I feel as if I'm running after it, trying to capture its essence as if it were an elusive snowflake caught on a current of wind. So I play carols on spotify. I stare at the lights on our Christmas tree, and I ponder how to "feel" Christmas-y
  And I also wonder:

Where has Christmas magic      gone?

Did I leave it in the land of childhood where
We breathed the rare air
Of bigger-than-life hopes and dreams
All hanging on the happenings
Of one December night
When sleigh bells 
And angel songs 
Shimmered the air 
Like silvering of the veil between seen and not seen?



When did sleepless eves of Christmas past
Bright lights and starry eyes
Give way to growing up?

And when did suspension of belief 
Meld slowly into a surer and less sweet knowledge that magic,
Christmas magic,
Is fragile?

I don't have those answers,

But I do know this:
Christmas magic may be fragile 
And yet it endures

Preserved by the strong belief of children
And the strong love of adults who hold the stage curtains as backdrop






For a generation who in their turn will grow up and light the lights, 
Play the music,
Tell the Birthday story,

And keep Christmas magic shimmering
And alive for one more year.



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

The closing strains of the national anthem drown in the roar of the U.S. Air Force jet as it buzzes low over the line of veterans in their vintage cars. World War II. The Korean War. Vietnam. The Gulf War. POWs. Iraq, Afghanistan, and more. They're all represented here on the street of small town Shasta Lake where babies, teens, parents, and grandparents line the streets under the cool northern California sun. No one cringes at the thunder of the fly by. No one fears. And that in itself is tribute to the veterans we honor. They've won and preserved our safety. They defend us. They are the "good guys."

“What a great country we live in,” says a random man who strolls out to a convertible to shake the hand of CA senator Ted Gaines, “when a military jet flies by to commemorate a parade," and the Senator, just one of us, agrees and calls attention to the blue sky and the beautiful day. There's honor in the air.


Yes, it's tangible, the honor for these veterans and the ones they represent who have served and are serving in our great nation's military. With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I watch the cars pass, waving my flag and feeling so thankful. One old vehicle passes carrying a veteran of 35 missions on a B24 in World War II. He rides quiet and silver haired, looking like someone's grandpa dressed in military uniform: but there was a day--many days, when he was a young man in the belly or the pilot seat of a bomber, not sure he would make it back to friendly soil. Doing something he wished he didn't have to do, but proud on the behalf of a nation that depended on him and all those like him to hold onto freedom with their bare hands.

I see another WWII veteran--James Broack, 102 years old, with as brave a heart as ever beat, even though he rides quietly in the parade. Yes, the bravery is palpable today. I'm feeling the weight of it. Heritage and history strung out in front of me, and the weight of generations represented here. That's another thing that strikes me. Kids and grand kids ride police launches, Swiss ammo carts and firetrucks; middle school to high school marching bands blazoning out She's a Grand old Flag and Salute to the Armed Forces. Two-year-old baton twirlers; a tiny BMX rider with a pink helmet and maybe three years to her credit join soldiers, sailors, and special forces. These are the ones those military personnel held in their hearts in the jungles and deserts of their campaigns. And these are their reward.

My dad, a machinist's mate on a destroyer in the Korean War could have been in this parade, and how he would have enjoyed the quiet company of his fellow sailors. I want to run out and hug the valiant men and women I see passing before me, and I hope they know that all across the country in thousands of parades small and great, grateful people gather to say thank you and to give honor. 

Thank you veterans old and young, active or retired. It’s because of you and your fellow soldiers we sit safely by the sidelines in a little California town. May we who now run carry the baton in a worthy way, worthy of those who did and still do their best on our behalf, and remind those children twirling batons or playing the drums what it costs to be this safe and this free.

Happy Veteran's Day. And on behalf of a grateful nation, thank you!