I Found the Holy Spirit (My Spirit) in a Toilet Bowl in Orlando, Florida

In the fall of last year, stuff started sucking significantly (I’m so good with alliteration!) around here in a whole new way. In fact, I pretty much stopped posting here biweekly, which was fun while it lasted, particularly those Adam Lambert “It Could Happen” posts. I stopped working on the book I’ve been writing. And then I stopped writing anything. At all. This is not like me. I Just Could Not put my fingers on the keyboard without feeling like they didn’t belong there. This is really not like me. At all. My fingers on the keyboard are usually a place of peace, centeredness, flow, and joy. Typically, every time I write, my fingertips on the keys feel almost as good as when I touched my babies’ faces for the first time.

Something shifted in me recently-ish. Really, it’s been shifting for a long time, and I’ve known it and even worked hard for many years at creating space for it. I just so happened to become particularly mindful of the significance of the shift when I recently had my head in a toilet. (More about that in a bit.) Although I find the ebb and flow of shifting is a force to observe and experience in and of itself, with the advent of the mindful-toilet-bowl shift, I began to feel my fingertips’ desire to touch my keyboard.

As Randy Pausch said, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” I would add that even when it looks to us that we are dealt shitty cards, we are looking at them in a snapshot in time. We can’t see the bigger picture, and often forget there is one. We’re human. We have only our perceptions of the past, although when we rely on them in a healthy way, those perceptions may inform good choices. We do not control the future, although choices we make and actions we take today will affect it. The present moment is all that we have. So what will we do with it?

A couple of weeks ago my oldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson came to visit me. We looked forward to this visit for months and made lots of plans. Along came The Unexpected and some of our plans went awry. There was some struggle and sadness too. It was amidst The Unexpected, struggle, and sadness that we kept finding acceptance, peace, joy, connection and love. Some of our struggles were with mighty issues, but none have ever beaten us before. Following is an example of a tiny one because this one isn’t so personal, but even when the struggles aren’t so small, we still seek to handle them just this way: We spent A Really Long Time at a local restaurant because the kitchen messed up our order. We enjoyed spending extra time together as a family. We enjoyed our server’s kindness and heavy Irish accent (in an Italian restaurant). Conversation and laughter flowed even as the food from the kitchen did not. As we waited and then ate, I simply marveled at the acceptance, peace, joy, connection, and love around the table.

The next week my youngest daughter and I went to visit my middle daughter in Florida. Temperatures were in the high 90s all week and the humidity made my hair look like this:

TaraxacumOfficinaleSeedWe had some challenges and struggles, and along came The Unexpected while we were there. One such challenge was a little gross (so the squeamish should click away now) and expensive. I spent $600 on three park hopper tickets to Universal Studios in Orlando, in particular so my youngest daughter could visit the Harry Potter theme parks. I didn’t even read all of the books or see the movies, so much was lost on me, but I was just happy to be along for the ride – until I rode the first ride. It was hot, humid, and also HOT and HUMID. Did I mention that it was hot and humid? And you know what? All the while that it was hot and humid and my hair looked like a dandelion seed head, I marveled at the acceptance, peace, joy, connection, and love that I was feeling. Without fully inquiring as to what we were about to ride, we boarded something that I imagined would be a tour through Hogwarts (like the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland). But no. It was not that. At all. It was a motion simulator from hell. It was all I could do to not barf on the nice lady next to me.

As soon as the ride ended, my daughters and I all ran for the restroom. It’s bad enough to have to vomit in a public restroom in a theme park in Orlando, but this one had automatic flushing toilets. Every time I moved my head, it would flush in my face. Puke. Flush. Puke. Flush. It’s fine. Go ahead and laugh because you know what? I did. Something else happened too.

As my head was in the toilet that was repeatedly flushing in my face, I was completely overcome with joyful feelings. I am not even making this up. My daughters were in other stalls doing the same thing, and although I did not wish for them to be puking, I was so profoundly happy to be with them in that incredible moment and place in time. I found that it was possible to experience unrelenting puking and joy simultaneously. It was awesome and I will never forget it.

We will wound and become wounded in this lifetime. There is no avoiding that as sentient beings. However, amidst the wounds and the wounding, we can find acceptance, peace, joy, connection, and love. We just have to look for it, although I don’t think it is necessary to puke in a public toilet in Orlando to find it. Dorothy Gale from Kansas probably had it almost right. She said, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.” I think that we will find whatever it is that we are looking for within our own hearts.

What are you looking for?

Dirty Tracks

jack tracks

At a park near my grandson’s home, I noticed some metal tracks running at a slant along a low cement wall surrounding the play area where the slide, swings, and whatnot were located.  It occurred to me that perhaps the tracks were meant for racing Matchbox cars or Hot Wheels. I also noticed the tracks were a bit dirty and covered with dead leaves from nearby trees.

The next time I visited Jack, I stopped at Target to buy a whiskbroom, some wax paper, and a half-dozen or so Hot Wheels race cars. I packed a cooler with a few toddler-friendly snacks. When my son-in-law, Adam, got home from work, we loaded up his car and drove out to the park to introduce Jack to the joys of Hot Wheels racing.

When we arrived at the park, I busied myself sweeping the dirt and dead leaves from the track. Next, I set about rubbing wax paper along the tracks to give the Hot Wheels a little extra oomph. Adam and I took turns sweeping, waxing, and playing on the slide and swings with my grandson.

Once we had the track ready, it was time to show my grandson just how cool it is to race Hot Wheels! Adam and I lined up the cars and sent them roaring down the now-slick metal tracks. We called, “Jack, look! Watch the cars go!”

Jack had another idea. The whiskbroom was much more interesting to him. He busied himself with the apparently joyful task of sweeping dirt and leaves onto the metal tracks. After a couple of attempts to engage Jack in our Hot Wheels racing, Adam and I gave up, laughed, and enjoyed watching Jack sweep and sweep and sweep. He swept dirt all over those tracks!

I recently reflected back on that day at the park, and thought about it as a metaphor in life. Sometimes we make a plan, prepare for the journey, sweep the path, and even take extra steps (such as using wax paper on a metal track) to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. However, sometimes we find it doesn’t work out the way we thought. In fact, sometimes someone comes along and sweeps dirt onto our path and seemingly blocks the way we had planned to go. Sometimes that person is not a sweet grandson, and sometimes the dirt turns our plans and our journey in an entirely new and unwanted direction.

What do we do then?

We move forward, one day at a time. We take stock. We find that there is love all around us if we look for it. We also see that we still have our broom. On our best days, we use it to keep our side of the street clean because that’s all we can do anyway. On other days we just might jump on that broom and take it for a spin in a direction we’ve never gone before. Our choices are as wide as the sky.

Santa Baby*

bob.clock_Laura can tell you what nineteen to the power of nineteen is. She can tell you the difference between a tonic note and a dominant note. Laura can tell you what each planet in the solar system is made of, the names of every dinosaur and what they eat, and the number of every hotel room we’ve ever stayed in on any given vacation we’ve ever taken. The other day while riding her scooter, she explained to me why she likes the winter solstice (her birthday is in winter), the summer solstice (a longer day in which to ride her scooter), and equinox (because she gets just as much sleep as she gets energy).

Not a fact that goes into Laura’s brain ever gets lost, but then every now and again she says or does something to remind me that while my ability to understand her math homework declines by the week, tucked around that brain of hers is the innocence and wonder of a sweet, little girl. The following conversation took place last weekend:

Laura: “Mommy, on Christmas Eve, Daddy offered me a choice of three presents that I could give to you.”

Mommy: “Oh, he did?”

Laura: “Yes, he let me choose between a really cool clock, a Pirates of the Caribbean DVD, or surround-sound earbuds.”

Mommy: “Oh.”

Laura: “Yes. And, of course, you know that I picked the clock, which turned out to be a really good thing.”

Mommy: “It was a good thing, because I really like the clock.”

Laura: “It was also a good thing I picked the clock because the next morning Santa brought you the DVD and earbuds. If I’d have picked one of those, then you would have gotten two of them.”

*Originally posted at Blog This Mom!® on February 3, 2007; Laura was seven.

It Could Happen: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Clark! I don’t want to spend the holidays dead!

We’re kicking off our fun old fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols. ~Clark Griswold

Adam Lambert and Cheri going out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh with Clark and Ellen Griswold?

It could happen. Obviously.

We do Christmas Griswold-style in our family.  Hello, my name is Sparky.  I taught my children everything they know about exterior illumination.

Beginning almost twenty-five years ago, it became our family tradition to decorate the tree, put on matching Christmas pajamas, drink eggnog, and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation together.

Over the years, things change because that’s how things work, that’s why.  Children go off to college.  They get married.  A grandson is born.  Granddogs are adopted.  Worst of all, sometimes those very children who gave you stretchmarks, sleepless nights, and bills for everything from braces to wedding dresses, have the audacity to move to other cities or states!  The nerve.

The love and the traditions remain.  Now my two older children Griswold their own homes.  Because they have their own trees to trim and houses on which their exterior illumination skills shine, we wait until we are all together (in matching pajamas) to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation because being together matters most.

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse. ~Clark Griswold

The New Black . . . Friday

black friday

‘Twas the day after Thanksgiving, when all through the mall,

Parking was not to be found, no spaces at all

With Mom in her minivan, and Dad in a truck,

They spied handicapped spots, glad for such luck.

Hours before opening, crowds gathered by doors,

Who would be first to get in the stores?

Shoppers screaming and shouting, a deafening noise,

Getting into position for electronics and toys.

The doors were flung open; the throng did rush in,

They trampled each other, both kith and kin.

They pushed and they shoved; they seized and they took.

Grabbing item after item without even a look.

When in one of the aisles there arose such a clatter,

Cell phone cameras turned on to catch what was the matter.

Two people determined to buy one Barbie doll;

With no computer skills, was she worth a brawl?

An elderly woman was knocked to the floor;

Yesterday thankful, today they want more.

Now Target! Now Big Lots! Now Nordstrom and K-Mart!

On Costco! On Macy’s! On Best Buy and Walmart!

They came bearing club cards and coupons for sales,

Then dragged themselves home with their booty and tales.


Next year let’s remember the season is still

About joy, peace on Earth, and to all men goodwill.

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