the nest

the nest

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The children were nestled...

My children are home all snug in their beds...

I wish visions of sugarplums were all that were in their heads. With children transitioning to adulthood, the visions in their heads are not something I can control (not that I could before!) or ever know. Sometimes they share their dreams with me, but not often.
The world they are going out into is in some ways no different than the world I launched into in 1990,  in other ways, very different. In some ways better, in some ways worse.

When I was in college, I travelled to the USSR - the next year the Berlin Wall came down and we rejoiced that the Cold War was ending. Since then the fear of nuclear war has been way back in my mind as something of the past. We had evolved past that as a global society. Now I fear the incoming administration will plunge us back into not only an arms race, but WWIII. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

When I was in college, there was drinking, smoking, pot, and other drugs being used. Heroin was something mysterious and only being used by junkies in cities. Now a generation of young people are dying. My son and his friends are mourning the loss of one of their own just a week or so ago. TOO MANY. Every week I hear a friend of a friend, or the brother or sister of a friend has died from an OD... my heart aches.

When I was in college, I was pretty oblivious to politics. I voted, but mostly because my parents had instilled a sense of responsibility in me. That's just what you do. For the most part I trusted that the leaders I voted for were good people who wanted the best for our nation. My perspective was to get through the elections and then even if I wasn't thrilled with the result, I felt I needed to give them a chance. I don't remember ever being afraid after an election, that those who were in power were going to destroy us. I never felt compelled to write letters, send e-mails, make phone calls, or march in protest. Now, I've done almost all of those. I'm going to a march in NYC on January 21st. If there is a silver lining to this horror show of an election, it is the number of people who have NEVER been politically active, who are now stepping up. My children are far more engaged and informed than I ever was. They are prepared to stand up and be counted. To stop the forces that would take the progress of the last 50 years and stomp on it.

When I was in college, I knew gay people. I had friends who were gay, I sang with people who were gay. While I don't remember ever thinking there was anything wrong with being gay, I would never have envisioned the progress we've made around marriage equality. The beautiful families I see headed by two moms or two dads were not anything I knew growing up. For my children? It's a part of the many ways that families are created. We still have such a long ways to go as a country, but we were making great progress, not just around acceptance of sexual orientation, but around protecting the rights and well being of ALL of us regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, immigration status...

Now, there are horrible things happening more and more - the incoming administration has unleashed a flood of UGLY. Never in my lifetime did I every fear that in 2016, swastika's would be showing up on playgrounds and in schools. On that trip to the USSR, we also visited Hungary, Estonia, and Poland. We spent time in Auschwitz Concentration Camp - we saw the horror that can be unleashed.
Now, I wear a safety pin everyday not only to signal that I am "safe," to those who may feel fear, but to remind myself that I must be ready to STAND UP. To remind myself that I can't look away from the hate. I must face it with strength and love.

My children are entering adulthood at a time when as a global community we are teetering on the brink. We could move forward into a world that supports and embraces all that is beautiful and diverse and AMAZING, or we could plunge backwards into a world that fears anything "different."

When it is dark and cold and my seasonal fight with depression rears it's ugly head, I truly fear for the future of our nation and our world.

When I look at my children and their friends, and the faces of the children I sing and dance with every day, I know in my heart that the ugliness that is out there is a LAST GASP. Those who are afraid of change and progress and different, are in the minority. Those who believe that what makes our world so amazing is the very diversity that makes up not just our nation, but the planet earth, are in the majority. We are growing and we are learning to speak out and stand up.

May 2017 be a year when love and kindness triumphs over hate and meanness. May it be a year when we demand that those in charge of our precious world LISTEN. May it be a year when we listen to each other and find common ground in our desire to live peace-filled, loving lives. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rest in peace good and faithful servant.

Yesterday the world lost one of it's brightest lights. Not completely unexpected. When someone is 94 and has lived a full life, there is also a sense of celebration and thankfulness. Still, the news that Weston Noble passed away fills so many of us with sorrow.
Weston Noble. Director, mentor, teacher, guide, friend, guru, angel. The words to describe this great man go on and on. I've been reading the FB posts of so many friends and classmates who have been touched by his gentle soul. They have refreshed me. They have made me smile, laugh and cry. Sometimes all at the same time. The stories encompass musical moments, quiet conversations, teaching moments, and jokes. Mr. Noble was one of those special people who had the ability to make each of us feel as if we were the most important and loved person at that moment. Watching him conduct, was sometimes like looking at the face of God. You could not look away!
Many will talk of his skill as a conductor and teacher. The number of chorale conductors and music teachers, both professional and volunteer, that he has inspired and nurtured is truly mind boggling.
His faith in and love for God will also be mentioned. He spoke honestly and openly about his faith and his doubts - modeling for many of us how to do the same in an authentic way.
Many stories have recounted an individuals first interaction with Mr. Noble. A phone call as a prospective student. A personal postcard in the mail from THE Weston Noble. Singing for him as a H.S. student in a festival. The list goes on and on. No matter who you were he made you feel so special! As someone who was often mistaken for my sisters, the fact that he knew ME and cherished ME as one of his own was such powerful reinforcement of my worth as an individual.
I don't remember the first time I met him. He has always been in my life. My parents spoke of him often and we were introduced to the world of music at Luther College early on. I was not going to go to Luther. I wanted to strike out on my own rather than following in my sister's footsteps. In the end I only applied to Luther. I'm certain that my postcard from Weston and the desire to sing with him in Nordic outweighed any wish I had to find my own way.
Singing in Nordic Choir was like no other experience I had ever had or ever will have since. Every afternoon, 5 days a week, for 3 years, I would go with my peers to sing. But it wasn't just singing! Those hours were filled with prayer and meditation, laughter and joy. While we were perfecting notes, rhythms and dynamics, we were praising God and sending love into the world. I sporadically attending church through college, mostly because every afternoon I felt closer to God than I ever had. I was in "church" everyday!
We were introduced to Mountain Top experiences - those musical moments when you felt as if you were going to burst! The concerts (and even rehearsals) where so many of us cried as we sang were many. The emotion that Weston drew from us was as powerful as the music.
For many years after I graduated I was afraid to sing in another chorale - I was certain it would never be the same and it was as if those days were over. The days of Nordic were over, but the desire to sing again and create musical magic with others was strong. While the experiences of Nordic were so special and unique, singing again with others continues to bring me such joy! When we sing a piece I learned in my college years, the memories are sweet and every note is locked away in my memory ready to be shared again.
So much of what I learned about music, I learned from Weston, but more than that, I learned about love, faith, humility and kindness. I learned about quietly caring for the earth and it's people. This giant in the chorale world was also a humble servant. From picking up trash around campus, to quietly listening to and advising student after student about music, life, love, God, and on and on. The greatest lesson I learned from this man was two-fold - I was both the most important AND the least important person in the world. I was loved and cherished as an individual among a crowd of individuals who were equally loved and cherished - ALL of them regardless of color, gender, orientation, religion.
Thank you dear man and may your journey continue to be filled with joy as you lead the heavenly choirs of angels. May we do our best to take the lessons we've learned from you to bring joy, love, kindness, humility and music to the world.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saying goodbye

This morning I said goodbye to my husband and child as they headed out the door. To a funeral. For a 17 year old student and friend.  I'm not going with them for many reasons. Lots of things to do today. I need to pick up our son later. I didn't know the student myself. I can't bear the idea of witnessing the pain of her family.

For a long time I have felt that loss is so very personal. If I don't know the person who is lost or at least know their family I feel like witnessing their pain would be an intrusion on the most personal, painful experience ever.
I feel like I should be with my people to hold their hands, but I couldn't bear it.

We say goodbye all the time. Every day we say goodbye to our partners, our children, our friends, our colleagues, our clients and on and on. We say goodbye with the expectation that we will see that person again. Later that day, week, month, year, etc... We forget that sometimes goodbye is forever.

Sometimes we know when a goodbye might be the last one. Each time we have the opportunity to see my husband's Grandmother we know it might be the last time. She is 99 and while there is no reason to believe she will pass anytime soon, she's 99!

We know that after losing my Father-in-law unexpectedly that our parents are mortal and while we are lucky to still have 5 of 6 parents healthy and in our lives, we could lose any one of them at anytime. When we say goodbye we know it could be the last one.

When you say goodbye to your child as they head out the door to school most of us don't allow the idea that we won't see them again to cross our minds. For that to happen, it would have to involved a horrible accident or disaster. Opening that thought process is just a recipe for over-protection and paranoia.

Goodbye is something we just toss out to them, maybe occasionally adding an "l love you!". We are confident that they will get off the bus after school and we will see them again.

As children get older, start driving, heading off to college or living away from home, goodbye is a little more intense, a little more poignant. We know that we can't protect them from the world, but we trust that we've done a good job and they will make good decisions and use common sense. We are aware though that horrible things happen. We infuse those goodbyes with a little extra power and love and a prayer for their safe return.

Parents of children who are black, muslim, gay, even female, have the significantly higher fear that their child will be targeted, harassed, assaulted, killed.  As the mother of white children, one boy and two girls, I have had many fears for my son. I have never had to fear that he would be pulled over by police because of the color of his skin. I cannot even begin to fathom what that fear might look like or feel. I have felt the pain of listening to him recount stories of being bullied in school and only wish I had known, but I never really feared I wouldn't see him again.

As the mother of daughters I have feared for their safety. I have feared for their hearts as I've seen them deal with "mean girls," cliques, bullies etc. I have also intentionally raised them to advocate for themselves and others and they, along with their brother, are growing into young people who have a strong sense of right and wrong. A strong sense of social justice. A powerful need to stand up for those who are being oppressed. I still fear for my daughter's physical safety in the way I fear for my own safety as a woman, and have taught them to be watchful and protective of themselves and their friends. I also fear for the safety of their rights as women to have agency over their own bodies. To make decisions about reproduction without the interference of the far right.

When I say goodbye to them, all sorts of horrible scenarios could run through my mind, but I can't let them. I have to trust that the worlds they live in are by and large good ones. They are smart, caring, powerful people who will do their best to care for themselves and others. I have to trust that I will see them again.

Today a community of people will say goodbye to a lovely young woman. 17. Struck down swiftly and unexpectedly by a horrible illness. This goodbye is so final. So wrong. Her father has already had so many losses - a wife and unborn child, another son, and now a daughter. Too much loss for one person to bear, yet he does.

We can never take for granted the goodbyes in our life. Each one could be the last and what that means is each one should be said with love and an understanding that life is fragile. This last Thanksgiving my in-laws left early Sunday morning from their hotel having said goodbye the night before. As they got on the road, my Father-in-law asked if they needed to stop by the house to say goodbye so that our daughter wouldn't be upset. She understands how important those goodbyes are. At 17 she has said a final goodbye to more loved ones than I had at age 30.

Whether he would admit it or not, Grandfather's acknowledgement of the importance of her goodbye was an understanding that he too knows that each goodbye is sacred and not to be dismissed.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bring the light

I hate the dark. Every year I am stunned by how strongly my mood and energy are affected by the shortening days. I take my anti-depressant, my vitamin D, I sit with my Happylight for 20 minutes a day, and I remind myself that the light will return.

The events of the last month have served to make the dark even darker. The hate, fear, violence, mistrust, and pain that is everywhere just seems too much sometimes. It becomes overwhelming. It feels like you are responsible for making it all better. 

I'm sitting with my "light" right now and writing to bring myself some perspective. The darkness clouds out the rays of light that are always there. My husband and children. My crazy dogs. My dear friends. The families and children who I share space with everyday. My work. The persistent signs that even when the dark is pressing in, the light will eventually burst through. 

Morning always comes.

As a part of the growing movement called The Pantsuit Nation, I read stories everyday of people finding their voice and standing up for themselves or others. I go through my day and see others wearing a safety pin. We smile and nod and know that there is someone else who is watching. If there is one giant silver lining from this whole election fiasco, it is the way people are mobilizing.

The dark starts to come again though when I think of the times over the years when after other disasters, we have mobilized and then gone back to our lives... We still haven't made much progress around gun violence. We still leave individuals struggling with mental health issues, addiction and poverty to fend for themselves. Unless the darkness directly touches us, we eventually go back to our lives and leave it to others.

I hope this time is different. The darkness is so thick and oily. We need to bring all the light we can and we must keep it coming. Seeking out the light will help - finding those people and experiences that strengthen you are a must. I will fill up this weekend by immersing myself in the experience of Christmas at Luther. Seeing one daughter singing and one daughter experiencing the joy for the first time will be amazing. Re-connecting with family and friends will make the experience even better.

Find those things that fill you up. Sing, Dance, Pray, Talk, Give. Whatever it is - do it.

The light will come. It always comes. It just feels like the wait might be longer this time.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I believe

I believe...

that ALL PEOPLE are created equal

that ALL PEOPLE deserve to live in peace

that ALL PEOPLE should be able to practice their religion (or not) WITHOUT infringing on other's ability to practice (or not) theirs

that ALL PEOPLE deserve to live in a world free from fear

that ALL PEOPLE should be able to speak out against hate and violence in all forms

that ALL PEOPLE deserve the opportunity to work towards their goals

that ALL PEOPLE have a responsibility to rise up and care for those who need to be cared for

that ALL PEOPLE have a responsibility to rise up and protect those who need protection

that ALL PEOPLE have a responsibility to rise up and resist efforts to divide and demean us

that ALL PEOPLE are children of God and deserve to be treated as such with love and compassion.

The hate and violence that is spreading is like a horrible virus. The only way to defeat it is to fight it with love and compassion. Each time I see or read something that brings me down, I see two more things that remind me that there is so much good in the world.

We cannot stand by and watch as all that is good about these United States is destroyed by an increasingly alt-right agenda.

I continue to struggle with feelings of fear. I am terrified of being in a situation where I will be called upon to step up. I wear a safety pin every day, as much to signal that I am a "safe" person as to remind me that I have a responsibility to be watchful and courageous in the face of hate and violence.
I am praying that I will have the courage necessary to speak out and stand up if and when I am called upon.

Friday, November 11, 2016


This has been quite a Fall.

Like many others I have been swept away by the rhetoric and hype and fear surrounding change in the White House.

This week was such a roller coaster of emotions. I started out the week, as did many, feeling pretty sure that my candidate would win the White House the progress that has been made over the last 8 years would continue if not even accelerate. I never in a million years saw what was coming.

Tuesday I went from elation at voting for the first Woman President of the United States, to utter dismay and desolation when her opponent won the Electoral College. I took small comfort that my candidate won the popular vote.

I allowed my fear and frustration to take over my ability to think rationally and I lashed out on FB. I know that some of my words were hurtful to people I love and respect. For that I'm truly sorry. My biggest mistake was to forget how very public the FB forum is and what a wide range of friends and acquaintances I have there. My rant should have been public to a small number of friends who could hear my pain, hold my hand, and help me through to the other side.

The last few days I've been blessed to spend time with colleagues I love, focusing on the work we do. It has been a much needed distraction. I'm still not watching or listening to the news or spending much if any time on social media.  I need to be in a bubble for a few more days.

What I'm struggling with is the idea that we are living in a nation with two completely different viewpoints. We look at the same information, and come to completely different conclusions. I'm sharing a post here that you may have already seen, but the author articulates so well my feelings Wednesday morning.

This winter will bring an opportunity to look inward and figure out how to move forward. I so badly want to be able to look at people with love and generosity. I want to spend my time loving, supporting, guiding, nurturing and singing. I want to enjoy my last year with a child at home. I want to dig into my work and expand the places we are sharing music with families and young children.

It will also bring an opportunity to rethink how I interact with the world. I need to find ways to better filter what comes into my heart and mind. I need to find one "focus" for my fear based energy- most likely women's rights. One of the real drawbacks to Social Media is that WE SEE EVERYTHING and it becomes overwhelming. I should know better - it's happened before and may happen again.

For now I will be keeping my opinions in private conversations, closed groups and perhaps here. I will keep Social Media for pictures of my dogs and my family.

If you were hurt by my comments I apologize. I don't understand how this election went the way it did. I'm so sad that it feels like we are more divided than ever. I don't apologize for my feelings or opinions. I do apologize that I lashed out. It's time to find our way again and be vigilant against fear and hate and violence. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

the Fall begins...

Today I started to incorporate the many rituals I've developed to help me as the days get shorter, the nights get longer, and my mood dips. Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts many of us to a greater or lesser extent, but for me it defines this time of year. I'm sitting with my Happy Light. Before I had my first cup of coffee I had a cup of warm water with lemon and honey. I will be more diligent about taking my anti-depressant daily. I will try not to feel like there is something wrong with me because I have to work harder to be alert, focused and cheerful for the next few months.
In the grand scheme of things I have few problems. When the darkness starts to descend though, those few "blips" in life sometimes appear more like mountains.

It is so easy these days to get sucked into the darkness. The hate, violence and fear that is ever present in the world is magnified by the endless source of information available to us. It is hard to not see it. You can stop watching the news, stay off social media, avoid newspapers etc., but that's not realistic. Right now it also feels irresponsible. The future of our country will be determined in the next few months and it feels wrong to ignore the process.

We can support a leader who, while imperfect (by her own admission!), is incredibly well prepared and well qualified to be the next President of the United States, or we can support a demagogue with no political experience, who says increasingly shocking things and supports increasingly hateful, divisive, isolationist and fear-based policies. We can fall into the darkness that is misogyny, xenophobia, racism, homophobia and more, or we can stand strong against the dark and shine a light of love, peace, tolerance and acceptance.

As I'm writing this I hadn't planned on politics. I was thinking about darkness and mood. The politics of our world right now mirror the growing darkness of the season.

In the same way that I'm going to buckle down and do the things that I know will help bring me through the seasonal dark and cold, we have to dig in and fight against the darkness that threatens to overtake the light in the world.

There is SO MUCH GOOD. Maybe, like the historian in a post I read yesterday on FB said, humanity inevitably goes through dark times. Maybe we can't avoid them. Maybe we can't learn from the past. Maybe every few generations we have to learn hard lessons to emerge stronger and better.
This feels so wrong though. I refuse to believe that we are foolish enough that we can't learn from the mistakes of the past.

In the same way that the proliferation of media makes it hard to avoid the hateful rhetoric and lies being spewed by those in the darkness, why can't it be used to spread the light?
Sharing stories of goodness, kindness and selflessness remind us that there is SO MUCH GOOD.
Refusing to share the lies and innuendos that suggest the world is a terrifying place helps keep them in perspective. There is more light than dark. The light always returns.

We live in a world that is increasingly global and interactive. We can open ourselves to the good that is in it (and there is SO MUCH GOOD) or we can close our doors and hide. We can avoid taking a risk on a new friendship because we are afraid, or we can welcome the stranger and embrace them with kindness. We can allow the darkness to envelope us, or we can stand strong and insist that the light will return. The light is stronger than the dark.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The saga continues...

I can't believe it's been such a long time since I had anything to say!?! I've actually had lots to say, but decided much of it was either private or inappropriate or just not nice :-)
Mostly the last year has been absorbed with life and that's it.

Today my youngest starts her first day of her Senior year. Our last of 10 consecutive years with someone in High School. A few people have asked my if I'm sad or "how can you stand it?" I have to say I AM SO READY TO BE DONE WITH HIGH SCHOOL! I feel like I have to confess that I am looking forward to all the "lasts" with excitement rather than sadness...

I love my children. I love being a mom. I've been at it all of my adult life having started my family on the early end of things. I love babies. I love toddlers. I love pre-school. With many ups and downs I have loved watching my children grow and I have cried and yelled and hugged and kissed and snuggled and done all the things a parent does.

I am finding my fledgling adult children to be endlessly interesting, funny, smart caring people. The kind of people I like to spend time with. I'm ready to get to know them even better as they dig into the world and find their place in it.

I'm also ready to dive into my next chapter. My marriage after 25 years continues to fill me up and bring me joy. My work is endlessly fascinating and evolving as I take on different roles and learn new things to share. We dream about traveling and just hanging out at home. While I'm certain I will miss my children (and do when they are gone), I love hearing about their adventures and enjoy filling them in on mine.

This is the whole point. We don't have children to keep them children. We have children to enrich the world with new energy and ideas and passion as they grow. We raise adults.

While the "lasts" of this year will certainly bring some feelings of nostalgia and maybe a few tears, I plan to enjoy them all. Some of the "lasts" I will say goodbye to with a "don't let the door hit you on the way out" kind of attitude. Some of them will be more of a "wow! I will miss this!" They will be special for my child because they are "hers." I plan to document them for her. I plan to celebrate them with her. I will not mourn them though. Mourning is for those things that make you sad. My children's lives make me anything but.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016 - the year of being "present"

Just like that another year has passed. I want to have something awesome to say. I don't. Several times over the last few weeks I thought about writing, but between college kid coming home, concerts, a Nutcracker performance, grown-up kid coming home, Christmas festivities, driving to Western NY, wedding festivities, driving to IA, celebrating New Years Eve, grown-up kid leaving for Puerto Rico, driving back from IA, and getting husband and youngest back to school, my brain has been full of lists and to-do's instead of thoughts and ideas.
Honestly it's better that way at this time of year. Even though everyday is slightly longer, it's still dark. I'm beginning to emerge from my annual winter "dip" but like the sun, it takes time for my energy and enthusiasm for life to really get back to speed. Too much time to "think" sends me into a pit, while a list of things to check off keeps me going.
Every January I want to start fresh. I make lists and goals and create strategies and plans. Some years I do better than others at reaching those goals. We all do. Some years I look at last year's goals and realize they were left behind in January. That's what happened this year.
Last January, I started out with a focus and commitment to really dig in and grow my business. I created 1 year and 5 years goals and wrote out actions steps. Goals not met, action steps? Some completed. Many not. Last January I started with a plan to reduce our debt. This January? Debt level is the same (or higher if I'm really honest). Last January I committed to working out and losing those last annoying 20 lbs. Worked out more than in 2014, lost 10 lbs., but bailed the last 4 months of the year.

This January I'm doing it differently. Lately I've been trying to find ways to help my youngest spend less time mourning the loss of her past, less time worrying about her future and more time living in her present. I've ignored the fact that that's exactly what I do. It's not what I SAY, but it's what I DO. I talk about how things used to be as much as the next person. "When we were kids..." "When I was in school..." "When I was younger..." I endlessly worry about the future. What's going to happen to my business? What are my children going to end up doing? What am I going to be when I grow up? How will we ever pay off our debt? What if? What if? What if?

When we spend all our time worrying about what was true or what will be true, we miss what IS true.

Here is my list of "what is true"

~ I am in a loving supportive marriage with my best friend.
~ I have raised three healthy, quirky, interesting, compassionate children.
~ I have work that is important, powerful and ridiculously fun to do.
~ I have an extended family spread around the country full of people who love me.
~ I have a warm place to live.
~ I have delicious food to eat.
~ I have clothes to wear.
~ I have a strong body that allows me to dance, play, work and serve.
~ I have a crazy dog who is always up for a snuggle.
~ I have friends who love me and who are there whether I need a hug or a kick in the pants.
~ I have more resources available to me than the average person.
~ I have an amazing life full of blessings.

This January I will look back briefly. There is a place for looking at where we've come and what we've done. This January though, instead of saying to myself "I didn't do this and I didn't do that and I didn't get that done..." I'm going to say "here's what I want to continue working on and here's what I'm going to let go."
This January I will look forward and set some goals for myself. I will create some action plans and to-do lists. I may find a place to put them so I don't lose them so quickly, but as life moves on I will tweak and edit these guides as life dictates.
New this January will be a commitment to look at "what is true TODAY." I don't want to get to the end of my life and realize that I was so busy looking behind me and ahead of me that I missed what was right in front of me.

Life is about change. Change can be good, change can be bad.  The one thing that is consistent in life is change. So much of life is out of our control. The one thing in life that is completely in our control is how we react to it. We choose how we live our life. We choose how we react to changes, good and bad. We choose how we react to challenges. We can choose to be overwhelmed and defeated or we can choose to shake it off, stand up and move along. We can choose to get stuck in the past, overwhelmed by the future or absorbed in the present. We get to choose to be reactive or proactive, sad or happy, negative or positive. We choose how we live today.

2016 - the year of being "present".