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.