Happy Father’s Day

Our scars and the resilient, willful, relentless quirks of soulfulness shape the sculpture that is the great unfolding of person, carving impressions on those we’re responsible for, turning us out into the streets and hills of life and back again to know – in the ebb and flow – whatever we can of the love we can be, the love we can share. We are, when determined to be shaped by love, ultimately grounded in a great steadfastness. We have the opportunity to embody that steadfastness as we stand in love with those we choose.
I am so thankful for the love then and now.

j. ruth kelly, 2013
j. ruth kelly, 2013

Serenade Special

There are memories and happenings you know will continue to sing to you long past the actual moments. They are usually down-to-earth, simple happenings and not always typical of the daily grind.

I’m privileged to experience something special-not-typical every now and then. Since my ex and I alternate weeks with our children, I’m picking them up at least twice a month and carting them to the home they’ve always known. (That doesn’t include the perpetual taxi service I am.) And, thankfully, since I work from the home, I see them every afternoon regardless of whose week it is. On the short ride to my house, car fully loaded with everything from xbox games to instruments, my sons sometimes hold their guitars and play as we make the less than 5 minute trip. I don’t know why it makes me grin every inch of the way or why the sound of enclosed guitar jams feeds my soul as richly as it does. It’s one of those things you know you’ll never lose. Sweet serenades…

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013

Yes. It’s a slow driver at the wheel on these occasions. (With big sis taking pics!)

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013

And it’s a song particularly perfect for accompanying the falling rain…

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013


Radiohead’s Polyethylene (I like my sons’ acoustic, lyric-less, no frills rendition of it best, of course.)


Tiger Mom Nonsense

Warning: Rant alert. I can be ruthlessly honest and somewhat brutal.

Apparently, the word on Tiger moms is that it’s actually debatable as to whether or not the “tiger” approach is destructive. We seem to be regressing on so many levels this past year and a half I shouldn’t be surprised. But this one pulls my anger daemon out of the box with a tiger snarl.

So, I had to have my say and I’m having it here too, copied from a comment on a “news source.”

The issue this doesn’t address is the one of the forming/shaping of the will and the development of authenticity.

When your parents’ will is the only allowed willful reality or the mainly dominating reality, you lose the caliber of awareness of what your own will is uniquely moved by, motivated towards and put here on this earth to accomplish. Your ability to know your own bull vs. your true vision and personal truths is smashed “for your own good.” Instead you have the insertion of a dominating fear-based (posing as this thought process: life is tough, the only way to succeed is through Borg-like “dedication” because you could fail otherwise.) ruthless drive-not-your-own. What do you learn? You learn that you can endure and you learn a strength that is created not of yourself as much as in reaction to the possible consequences (all unpleasant) should you not comply. And it sure looks good to the world in terms of regimental basic “success” if you pull it off. (And hey! That’s all that matters! Soul? Soulfulness? Alive and authentically YOU? Pssshhhh. Who cares?! It’s about how you make your parents look and whether or not they will have to worry about you being fed and clothed.) So you’re now doctor, lawyer, teacher, scientist. But who are you, really? The most formative years were spent with a controlling, dominating set of caregivers and from that you were shaped. Authenticity? Good luck with that.

Who you are outside of a fear of failure, recriminations and status-loss? You’ll have to create that anew WHILE you’re embracing responsibilities that RESTRICT your ability to create because you truly don’t have as many choices as you did in childhood, you get to unearth what was buried by “tiger” nonsense while the world asks you to be an adult. While I’m not Asian or Asian-American, I too was raised by tiger parents. It’s not a great thing. If you think you can be raised with tiger fear and not be changed in ways devastating, then your mind has been pretty thoroughly hijacked from a young age. And you believe your chronological age gives you some expertise on it when you’re really just frozen in time, complying and loyal. Tiger shmiger. It’s all fear. Show me the real tiger women and men who are raising their kids fiercely in love, snarling at b.s. and conjuring up the authenticity goodies and creative outbursts while training with consequences married to compassion and fearless faith in the goodness of humanity AS WELL as a healthy awareness of the sometimes wicked slipperiness of the human experience. That’s no small feat. Deluding yourself and posing tyranny as “tiger” is insulting to tigers. Wake up.

We don’t facilitate the emergence of a person by putting on the tyrant’s cloak. Instead, we facilitate the assembly of a robot (with suppressed gold and rubies and beautiful dirt and grime and grit and roar) who has to learn her brain, his brain and all the wonders of the soul while healing the damage (and sometimes just facing some things that can’t be repaired very well). The nonsense in the concept of this style of parenting as anything other than fearful, insecure, bullying is an insult to whatever image, animal or icon we cling to in order to dress it up.

My inner tiger would happily bag this predator and move on with a snarl and bloody teeth.

Mother’s Day Breakfast

…it’s the same every year and my once-a-year transgression a la eggs benedict. (Not that it’s the only transgression. It’s the only one of this variety!)

I’m so proud of my daughter’s success this year, I had to post the inevitable food image… YUM!

Happy Mama’s Day to all you moms and moms-at-heart …

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
child of life, visiting grace on me for a season

Universe Twirl

Yesterday turned out to be one of the longer dances with life and universal rumbling tango twirls as I focused mainly on staying steady on my toes. It was beautiful, something I would not have predicted. Exhausting. Just life, mainly. But there was this girl…

almost 18…

she was in the backseat behind me, quiet. Rolling with the latest spin in the dance of our day. Her guitar teacher hadn’t been there. Door locked. Next? We’re taking my niece somewhere. Been an emergency kind of day…

quiet. Her silence was palpable.

And then BAM, crash, slam. “Mom! You have to stop. We have to help! Call the police…” She tends to command scenes when they qualify as such, without thinking or calculation. It just happens and this half-smile grows on my face every time.

The small pickup truck in front of us went from humming a straight trail along the path ahead to quietly careening off the road with no provocation, straight for the telephone pole. Full frontal impact and resulting crunching smash. I pull into the doctor’s office parking lot adjacent to the wreck, scanning for risk of fire, seeing none. The girl in the backseat is out of the car and running towards the truck. That’s my kid. Slow down girl. Life’s dangerous. Gulp. I’m calling emergency response and she’s helping the 86 year old grandma out of the car. Someone’s grandma. Not hers. But might as well be.

They’re talking. She’s holding her hand. Then she’s taking her cell phone and calling family for her. “Hello…first off, your Grandma’s ok, ok? Everything’s fine. But…” But the truck’s not going anywhere ever again. And I’m watching the universe spin a story of instant care. Passers by have stopped and are directing traffic. My daughter is bent over, inspecting for injuries and the police, emts and firemen haven’t arrived.

I’m not needed. Except as guardian of the girl on scene and as an observer privileged to witness love unfolding. This girl wasn’t aware of the world around her. She was focused, disinterested in any attention. Behaving like someone born to respond. And I’m in awe, now the quiet one.

The official responders arrive. And they’re appreciative, not shooing the girl away, making their way around her ministrations and determining the grandma’s not injured beyond the tear-inducing shock and pain from airbags deploying.

She’s “the girl” here because I’m watching her become all she is apart from me and yet not apart from me. I’m in no hurry to say “my daughter” because this is a person the world receives apart from any realization of me and she’s a wonder I like to witness and acknowledge apart from the blinders motherhood can be. All I could do in the aftermath was sit with tears of appreciation. She’s going to be just fine, Mama.

I had to leave her there on scene. That girl. Willful. She refused to leave before the grandma’s family arrived. So, knowing her to be cell phone armed and surrounded by emergency care workers, I finished my rescue of my niece, shaking my head as I drove off. She would be where I told her to be and all would be well.

But she wasn’t. She was ok. But across the street at a radio station sitting quietly with the woman and another passerby. And that passerby sat marveling to me about that girl. She’d left to call the family again, making sure they knew where to find their grandma. I just smiled and acknowledged the wonder of a girl, fearless, instantly concerned and eager to provide comfort.

And I waited in the car. Later the girl supreme told me the grandma said she had restored her faith in young people. Youth. Girls.

But she didn’t tell me until I had nudged her, mentioned the wonder of her unfolding response myself, suggesting maybe she should consider emergency response work (gulp). She had little to say. Mostly quiet again. Except to let me know that one thing about restoring faith.

Sometimes the universe puts us into these amazing twirling dance days of happenings orchestrated for the sole purpose of that one thing…to slam us into an appointment with faith.

Imagine that. And a girl. She makes my heart sing.

child of life, visiting grace on me for a season
the girl of a universe twirl…

Life Full

Three soulful creatures make my life sing through the tough, tender, confusing, infuriating, billowing, humming, shining, screeching, affirming, birthing, loving roil that is now

(and then)… I love their unique ways of expressing vitality…

j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved

For John P. K.


j ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved

pondering existence and all we grasp to assure us of the meaningfulness of a life, my phone rang. it’s true. i was exhausted. had finished my morning round of work, resting before the next wave, feeling the frustration of loss the past month had become and realizing how many times i’ve had to remind myself that measuring my worth solely by some evidence of obvious success is a nowhere game. so, i was pondering, sensing, feeling the pull of the very fact of existence itself and all the possibility held in one life. in mine. in my children. sighing. hoping.

my phone rang.

the father of my children in the middle of the day. this can’t be good. “hey, what’s up?” i answer. “my dad died this morning.”

his dad. 80+++ years. i’d known him from the age of 3. of all there is to know of him, the thing that remained was his capacity to accept and love people in the moment, to so seldom speak harshly to anyone that i cannot recall ever witnessing such. a rare individual who often bubbled up a little dance i took to calling the barney dance back when i was sure he couldn’t cut loose, convinced it was a major dysfunction, picking over all that i thought contributed to all that is wrong in a religion. so little i knew for all my knowing…

now i just want to see that dance again.

this is what life does to us, if we open our hearts. it cuts away all that we judge to be flawed, all the measuring sticks we cling to for proof of value. it teaches us that some blossoms come and go fast, never to return again ’til the next season of blooming. others bloom at the most unlikely times and then turn around and bloom again. and again.

this was true of a man i think of as my other dad. (not just because i married into the family. but because he exuded nurturing concern. and he radiated a nourishing color of love unique to his own expression of life. he called me ruthie. and he said it with such love and pleasure. he oftentimes prayed over me throughout my childhood, here and there when life had ripped at my confidence. he was so sure of my value. so full of confidence.) he kept blooming. one more expression. and another. and a new one there. and he encouraged the same in whomever bothered to open up to him.

i got off the phone after spilling involuntary anguish and concern, then the dam broke. and broke.

and broke. and i went to the school to pick up my sons with my daughter by my side, urging me to not reveal anything until we were outside the school, knowing i was barely holding it in.

we made it out into the sunlight before they had had enough of being deflected. then we all just stood there in a huddle, hugging, a tribute to a man who made it possible for me to know love by way of knowing his son and bringing three amazing children into this world. divorce doesn’t change that gratitude or diminish the meaning, the purpose of our knowing each other. it reminds us that there are limitations. we are not super-human, able to fix all problems. but we can do the best with what we have to care for, to cherish.

we drove up to my house and found him waiting in his car. wanting to see his children. and another huddle in sunlight. all of us.

there’s no preparation for death, not truly. we are so busy with our blooming. in all my awareness of existence and the fleetingness of life, i wasn’t even slightly prepared to hear this cherished father had gone on to the next expression, beyond our sight or ability to witness his adventure.

up to the last, he held out in love. only until his wife of many decades spoke the words “I release him…” did he actually let go and fade. within minutes, he was beyond our grasp. but our lives unfold and blossom in ways uniquely influenced by his presence. he lives on. and we gather our stories, grateful to include his best in our words, in our actions.

here’s to meaning we cannot fathom, achievement we can never measure and the love that holds us all together when those we cherish move on…