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

Diplomatic Immunity?

The wisdom of Anais Nin keeps tossing itself into my line of vision these days without my soliciting it.

“Respect for the vulnerability of human beings is a necessary part of telling the truth, because no truth will be wrested from a callous vision or callous handling.” — Anais Nin

How do we provide access to the truth in a given situation, not necessarily THE truth? How do we do that simply and with grace without alienating those who don’t want to hear it but need to in order for things to progress? As it turns out, some folks just don’t want to hear it. They possess a sort of diplomatic immunity from being held accountable and sit with arms crossed and legs crossed and chin high. And their poses hum the tune of insecurity and over-compensation for vulnerability. It’s quite a tangle, working through the layers, discovering “who’s most vulnerable here?” And asking “how do I respect every person involved when so much opposition exists in one room?”

I’m amazed when someone has volunteered their involvement or their time and then assume because they have done so, they are not to be called out even if they’ve stomped on another in their line of charitable work. This is what brings to mind a twisted daily reality of “diplomatic immunity.” Their generosity or help becomes a sort of embassy in their minds where they take refuge against accountability in the land of heartful relating. “But…all these hours, all this work!” Right, but you smashed someone. Why?

Some folks will run howling from the room if you simply say “This really hurt.” Why? Because they’ve never been asked to see beyond their own sphere. Or. Because they’ve been trying so hard to prevent any disasters they’ve forgotten they’re attempts may create disaster. Why? Because control or fear-based actions tend to do that after a while. And so this business of deciding what is “callous” in a situation can appear to be subjective. But it’s safe to say a callous vision is one that doesn’t regard the needs, concerns or desires of another. (And there are vital pre-requisites to being able to even do that.)

It eventually boils down to this main question: Who, in this room of opposing views, am I most responsible for, besides myself? Loyalties, relationships, kindred souls in agreement with furthering a vision. Sometimes you have to storm the gates because there are so many gates around so many insecure sequestered “embassies” of fear any movement would be exactly that, a storm of collisions swirling. But I like this too…

“Equally, we may cast the spells of appreciation, gratitude and love – with every breath and word we utter, poetically.” Jim Fry

It’s something to aim for, anyway.

Vulnerable and Powerful

This is feeding my soul today…

“We are powerful beyond measure, and so deeply vulnerable at the same time. This may seem like a dichotomy, but it isn’t. We have misunderstood real power. It has been something assertive, non-surrendering, pushing on through. This is not real power. This is simply willfulness. Real power is something else- receptivity, openness, the courage to keep your heart open on the darkest of days, the strength to feel it all even when the odds are stacked against you. Real power is showing up with your heart on your sleeve and absolutely refusing to waste one moment of your life hidden behind edginess and armor. The art of enheartened presence. Now that’s power.” Jeff Brown

Yesterday was a messy day with attempts for unity and adults sitting around a big proper table trying hard to be grown-ups. Two teenagers looked on. And one wept. Quietly and courageously. She could see the landscape behind us all and just ahead. And all she could do was wipe tears, speaking through the flow, sharing her concerns. A river. We grown-ups, some of us were wiping tears. Some sat rigid, trying not to explode. Others apologized profusely, while one just sat like nothing mattered. Another sat opposite me, speaking when he could, trying not to step on egos. I spoke, trying to put my heart in my words without losing sight of the issue that needed to be resolved. I was told I did well with that. But my heart wanted happy endings and without that it felt like I had failed. Not that it was all on me…

There are times when heart and mind and strength collide with truth and unhealthy situations. And someone leaves the room yelling and stomping and the teens marvel that the adults are still growing in some areas. It’s all such a mish mash of humanity beautiful. Every bit of it is. I see the stomping, retreating figure as one who has every reason to stomp and yell but it’s misplaced and unfortunate in that scenario. And nothing is resolved.

So, I greet my day with this wonderful Jeff Brown gem and appreciate the heart I see in those who’ve been allowed to be human. I wish for us all that beautiful freedom…

Constellations Colliding

Previously quoted, posted, appreciated, re-stated and applicable always and especially today:

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” Anaïs Nin

My world has roiled lately with backlash (my back gave out, a regular event in my life for over 2 decades now, fortunately only every 2 years) and more backlash (constellations colliding). I’m amazed, in spite of 45 years of living, at the seeming contradiction of realities residing in one individual, including myself. And multiplied across the planet almost exponentially: Loving, giving, punitive, manipulative. Unable to see it as such. Wait. Whiplash. My back hurts. Not that I’m perfect. (Shhh) Not that there’s any such thing.

But why? Why do people feel it acceptable to push others into a corner and call it motivation? Frown on anything not rigid, not controlled by fear of judgement, not bending to narrow-minded perspectives and, as they frown, self-justified, turn and declare the one-not-cowed “immature,” why? It’s not only heartless. It’s illogical. (I see this in the media everyday. I roll my eyes. But when it knocks on my door. WAAH!)

( And as I analyze and deal with this fact in some situations, if I continue to go after all that’s wrong about it I refuse the truth I’m embracing in this quote. o.O )

We had an event in my home this week. Not directly. But definitely involving a huge victory for my oldest and youngest children’s robotics team followed by this smashing crash with bits and parts flying everywhere as constellations collided in a pile of relationship flotsam. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t love. It was ridiculously confusing. (And still is.) It amounted to a refusal to see the acceptable humanity in another and a sad, rigid perspective of behavior with resulting punitive elements thrown in for good measure.

After a crazy scramble to salvage what can be salvaged, I land on this Anaïs Nin gem and can only comfort myself with the fact that some things can’t and won’t be reconciled. Not logically. But heartfully…

the heart is another matter, residing on planes and resting in soil refusing sometimes to ruthlessly record the wrongdoings and unjust goings on but deciding instead to remember the love (not that this is always the best approach, mind you!), growing a harvest hopefully nourishing soul. We know we won’t be able to fathom the motivations or stated justifications since we don’t live on whatever planet some live on but we do fathom the love regardless. The love we feel in spite of it. The investment made and the hopes nurtured. Somehow smashed bits of relationship flotsam can be pieced back together. For now.

I’m left with a deeper appreciation for the fact that one facet (or say, 20!) of any one person is not all there is to know and what we choose to embrace in our challenging experiences with those less desirable layers will reveal and deepen our capacity for love. If we allow it…but the backlash can be challenging.

As it turns out, we all know each other as well as we know outer space and the mechanisms and multitudinous intricacies of mitochondrial function and the core of the earth. And. Ad Infinitum. And the certainty of uncertainty. As much as I’m able to accept that anything is possible from person to person, that some people suddenly change their pattern of behavior (without doing drugs or having a psychotic break) because this is the way it is, there are still times when I’m blown away by the sudden turn of events. And the backlash is surreal.

The point of maturity reveals itself in how skillfully we discern which situation calls for a broader vision of tolerance and which scenario simply cannot allow us to continue the dance. And even then. We don’t always know what we think we know until the songs are over (or until the metaphors are finished roiling in the oven of transformation, threatening to stink up the post in a confusion of impressions!).

So, we shall see.

Specifically Human

This Sunday my youngest son participated in the bell choir at a local church. It wasn’t just any worship service. It was a Moravian feast candlelight service. I sat there (and stood and sang hymns and held the candle and broke bread) looking up at the chandeliers and all around at the lights and decorations of the season and wondered why I felt glad to be there. Former semi-fundie no longer of religion sitting in a pew. With sister to my right and son and daughter to my right and the father of my children too. It was, once again, an odd arrangement of purposes. I was there to honor my son’s love of the bells and all things group. He loves community and has felt estranged from it all by our very unique way of living. His parents co-parent ‘though divorced and don’t fight, squabble or otherwise do anything but support each other in nurturing three beautiful lives. This is odd. We foster love and generosity in their lives and educate them on different paths of spirituality, as we’re able. And we live in a town that is 99.9% uber Christian. So, we are even more odd. And add to that the fact that we sit in what is actually a beautiful church with thoughtful and caring souls and we are that much more odd. We can go where we don’t “belong” and yet find belonging. And I realized, as I sat there, that I was glad to be there apart from the wonder of hearing my son in chime rhyme with all of his choir friends.

It was perplexing to me. On the one hand I knew immediately that it was that part of me longing to belong to a group bigger than my own clan, my own little world. I watched the bell choir director and her passion, knowing from her own revealing that she was struggling with some deeply challenging grief. And she stood there giving with whole heart.

There are, to my mind anyway, so many deep flaws in Christianity and so I walked out. But there I sat. Glad to be. And today I find this from Fromm:

“The most important sphere of giving…lies in the specifically human realm. What does one person give to another? He gives himself, of the most precious he has, he gives of his life. This does not necessarily mean that he sacrifices his life for the other–but that he gives him of that which is alive in him; he gives him of his joy, of his interest, of his understanding, of his knowledge, of his humor, of his sadness–of all expressions and manifestations of that which is alive in him. In thus giving of his life, he enriches the other person, he enhances the other’s sense of aliveness by enhancing his own sense of aliveness. He does not give in order to receive; giving is in itself exquisite joy. But in giving he cannot help bringing something to life in the other person, and this which is brought to life reflects back to him; in truly giving, he cannot help receiving that which is given back to him. Giving implies to make the other person a giver also and they both share in the joy of what they have brought to life.” Erich Fromm – The Art of Loving

And I realize that the source of perplexity in my mind was the recognition that there was something deeply and authentically good about my being glad to be there. And that it didn’t mean I had changed my mind about my place in Christianity (not IN but with those who can be in it without being destructive). It meant that I could appreciate the flow of giving that occurs in these odd arrangements of purpose. I wondered, as I sat there, why are these folks here? Each family. Each person. Why? Do they do it by rote? Is it just another habit? And as I wondered that, it occurred to me that even that didn’t matter. I knew, without being able to say so to myself, that they were there to partake of each other. Even if stiffly assembled in long pews of wooden restriction. It is a place of sharing, of opening up to receive and reaching out to give.

And in the one most cherished verse of a long-favored hymn…

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel…

We inherit our delusions sometimes, or our blind acceptance of long-held beliefs passed down from generation to generation. Or we openly, knowingly choose our walk of faith. We are an odd arrangement of reasons and purpose. And we resonate to what is inherently human within both our delusions and our beliefs. We do the best we can until we learn what more we can give, what more we can know, what more we can discover.

And sometimes we make ourselves odd. We disrupt the rhythm and cast off the tradition. But ultimately, we all want the same thing. To know and be known in love, to give and receive of our stories. The only way to do that is to meet each other where we are, as we are, without insistence on agreement in all things. We have this common ground…

j. ruth kelly, 2012 all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2012 all rights reserved