Giving thanks.


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Thanksgiving.  Beautiful holiday.  And for me, like many of you, as we get older, it becomes my favorite – one that only requires the gathering of loved ones, friends, and the sharing of a meal – and most importantly, reflection on all the gifts in our lives.

For the past few years, I have listed out my thanksgivings on this blog: all that I am grateful for that either happened, or came into my life in the past twelve months.  And so, it is with great pleasure and joy, that I take some time to reflect. (in no particular order…)

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Walden.   Since I moved to Massachusetts in 1991, I have had a relationship with Walden Pond.  But it wasn’t until this past June that we truly became engaged.  I began swimming Walden Pond a couple of times of week with someone who became a dear friend and confidante over the course of the summer and early fall.  Unless you have experienced Walden – it’s hard to truly explain it.  We swam at dawn – sometimes in the dark; sometimes in the cold.  We would stop in the middle of the pond and talk briefly about life, the stars, or the crazy shit that awaited our day.  It is a blessing to have a friend to whom you can tell anything to – someone who won’t be shocked or surprised – someone who isn’t too connected to the rest of your life.  Simple friendship. And the most interesting part about the experience is that every single time we swam – it was different.  Same pond.  Same time of day…but always special in a different way.  And always beautiful. Next summer I plan on writing about it – starting a journal that captures those subtle changes, those beautiful nuances of nature and our world.  Thank you Mick.  And thank you Sarah.

Acupuncture.  Ok. Never ever in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be such a complete and total grateful mess when I start talking about Robin Sessa and acupuncture.  As my close friends and family know, last year starting around Christmas, I lost feeling in my left hand, arm, and was in complete and total chronic pain for four months. I couldn’t run – I couldn’t sit – I could barely drive. Two herniated discs in my neck. It was awful.  I had two cortisone injections, months of physical therapy…and then my physical therapist suggested I try acupuncture.  She suggested it subtly – she knew she wasn’t making any progress on my arm, my strength, my neck.. And so I got a name, made an appointment.  And it was unbelievable.  Results were almost immediate.  And I am now training for the Boston Marathon 2014.  I feel terrific. And I owe it all to Robin and her healing ways.

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Travel.  This past year, I went to Italy, Seattle, Montana, France (Paris & Normandy), and of course, beloved Maine.  The trips to Italy and Normandy were particularly life changing.  And reminded me of how much of the world there is – and how much I have to learn about life, people, culture.  These trips ignited something in me that had been forgotten.  I am so incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity this year to venture, to voyage, to taste, to experience.  It broadened my heart and mind and I look forward to the adventures that await.

Recovery.  So this one is a hard one to read…feel free to skip ahead.  When I was 16, the abuse began.  It was subtle at first – but grew with time and grew out of the crazy home life that was mine during my adolescence.  This year, I turn 46 – and I have a 16 year old son.  My abuser was 46 years old and someone I trusted.  I was 16.  My home life was very unstable and I was easily victimized.  It wasn’t until about last year at this time – as I approached my abusers age– that I have fully absorbed the craziness and the depth of the hurt.  For years, I have lived in shame, in secret, taking full responsibility for what happened to me.  Now, I am in therapy, working every day at reclaiming that lost child.  I share this today because I am grateful for healing and recovery.  I am grateful to be moving from being a victim to being a survivor.  It is a long road – that so many of us have to walk.

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Coaching basketball.  I was so very fortunate to have found the game of basketball at a young age.  And it has been a love affair that extends from the very first moment I touched a ball to then soon after,  I attended a Police Athletic League clinic when I was eight years old.  Since then, it has been my haven, my retreat, my love.  And now – after years of playing, I get to share that love with my daughter Maggie and a group of young girls.  And I have the great good luck of coaching with someone who like me – loves the game, loves to coach, and understands how important it is to coach the girls as people, individuals, as athletes.  To raise the bar to the right height – and to challenge them to their best day.  I know now because Maggie is my youngest – that these days of coaching her are limited, fleeting- but for now, this past year, and the year ahead –  I am grateful.

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My brothers.  This year brought my brothers:  Danny, Chris, and Peter, – all to my house at the same time (due to an ocean, it only happens every ten years or so); with their children and their significant others.  It was so fun – and I realized the greatest gift that my parents ever gave me were these three beautiful people. And I am lucky to call them my friends.  They call me Lizzie.  I hope to pay it forward – with my own children.  Making sure that they know how special their siblings are to them – and how they will have them when they need them throughout their lives.

Meditation. I have started a new practice. Meditating.  Sitting. Being.  Quiet.  It is very difficult for me.  But – when I get there – in the quiet of nothing, I am refreshed.  I like the idea that I don’t need running shoes to get there.  I like the idea of settling into myself and feeling the space around my thoughts – instead of thinking all the time.  I am someone who thinks all the time…rethinks and overthinks, and considers and projects (that’s  a verb, not a noun).  Someone who is very close to me has helped me to see myself.  Meditation has opened up a whole different view of being me – and I am grateful for the stretch.

Thanksgiving.  Stopping and remembering back – reflecting to all that is good.  And in looking forward – the year ahead promises all sorts of new challenges. Life, recovery, therapy, marathon, a child moving on, life moving on.

Thank you for our connection, this community.  May your day tomorrow be filled with light and love.  Hug your children.  Hug each other.

And lastly – no thanksgiving would be complete without this, for this is what my heart looks like:

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Swing story

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Believe it or not…this is not about our swings at CNS.  This is another swing story. Coincidentally happened on the day the swings came down at CNS, but a different story and reflection altogether.

Quick background:  along with a few of our teachers at CNS, I have been invited to and participate in a new endeavor formed by some wonderful educators (most notably including Joanne Pressman, my mentor, confidante, friend, and predecessor at CNS). This group has created a series of workshops inspired by two wonderful educators, David and Frances Hawkins. For more info: http://hawkinscenters.org.

On Saturday, November 2, I attended one of these workshops at the de Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park.  The material of the workshop was inspired by the artist in residence, Orly Genger, who has created some fantastic sculptures out of former lobster trap rope.  We were meant to explore and experience the exhibit and then invited to work in a small group with a wide selection of rope, outside in the park, without any guidance or restrictions.  The idea was to have us experience, experiment, play.

The core mission of this Hawkins group is to have teachers, educators, administrators, to first person engage with materials. This brings us in better touch with our work with children. The idea is that by experiencing first hand what we are asking of the children – that we will have deeper insights, be more sensitive to their experiences, and as an end result be more in touch with our work.

And so my group – which included Amy Kvaal, Danielle, Cindy, and another person that was from another school – began to find a spot (we chose a tree) and gathered up some good choice rope.  At first we were busy ‘decorating the tree’ – weaving different colors and lengths of rope around its trunk. But then we became interested and inspired by a branch and we wondered if we could weave a section up and over the branch.  It took some doing – but once we had it over – then of course, the idea of a rope swing came right to us.

I grew up with a rope swing.  It was located at the very back back of my yard and I used that rope swing all the time.  I loved to swing.  And spent many hours back and forth – pushing off the great big tree and allowing my mind to wander.

The video attached here will tell the next part of the story.  We did have success. And for a few minutes, we had joy.  I was flying.  I took a risk that the branch would hold my weight (literally  figuring out if I did indeed fall, would have time for an ER visit before leaving for NY later that day to catch my friend running the marathon).  The branch held my weight.  And I flew.  Transformed.  It was a lovely antidote knowing that I had left CNS only an hour earlier having given the work day list including ‘take down our swings’.

And then something happened.

The director of the educational program at the deCordova – a super nice person and thoughtful, inspired educator, came over to tell us to stop.  I don’t know if she was worried about our safety, the tree, or the spectators wanting to try out our swing (there were regular museum guests at the deCordova on this day as well -along with a reception ongoing on the adjacent lawn).  My guess is that it was a struggle for her to ask us to stop – but I can tell you that as soon as she did….it was a complete and total buzz kill.  I felt like I was five years old again.

And so the workshop did what was intended – it helped me to see how it is that children so often feel when we give them a little freedom – but then need to “rope” them in when they push the boundaries just a little too far.  It happens for us as parents, teachers, all the time.  That project that turns just a little too messy and we need to redirect the energy; or the song that gets just a bit too loud with their enthusiasm and big voices.

The purpose of these Hawkins experiences is to help us gain insight into our work with the children – and it absolutely did.  Once the person curtailed our swinging, we were deflated and done.  We didn’t even want to play any more.  There was a sense of shame and sadness.  One minute, joy and flying; the next minute a sense of needing to apologize and pull down the rope.

I suppose what we were doing was dangerous- we could have fallen; the branch could have broken.  Other museum guests might have taken up the swing after we were done.  There was liability.  But before that adult sensibility – there was flying, and weightlessness, and joy.

And so I have held that in my heart all week.  Thinking about how it is that we create experiences at CNS – that we invite the children to explore, experiment, and try. And how I want us all to be self-conscious about those moments when we need to redirect or reboot their enthusiasm – maybe out of a concern for their safety; or maybe because we are worried about the example they are setting and of things getting ‘out of control’.

But let’s try not to deflate their creativity or their ingenuity.  Let’s find gentler ways to redirect – that appreciates their inspiration without deflating their effort and spirit. It was a good experience for me to feel like I was five years old and in trouble once again.