Bryan, my Very Godsend

Fairy godmothers are all well & good in fairy tales, but in this here & now real deal, there’s nothing as bodaciously empowering as a Very Godsend. My friend, Bryan, is the most recent – and spectacularly POWerful – to be plunked down in my life, providing awesome tools to transform each moment into fantastic. All without a magic wand. Like all the rest, his caring heart makes the magic happen.

Most of the Very Godsends in my life come & go without ever being seen, recognized, which never bothers them because they are not in it for honor, glory or gain. Most are never even aware of the changes they wrought or the blessings left in their wake, never aware of being a Very Godsend.

My thoughts go to my earliest KNOWN Very Godsend, Kenneth Stroh, who asked a core question when I was seven – transformative as much for the asking as for the actual inquiry:  it might have been the very first genuinely interested in my thoughts question ever asked, coming as I did from a solidly NON-inquisitive family.

Next up, the first Very Godsend that was obvious from the start – Emolie Kessler Asplundh. Something in me caught Emilie’s eye. She was the director of my high school production of The Gondoliers, I was one of many Venetian maidens in the large chorus. Emilie took me under her wing, having me to her house for tea & chats, sending wondrous Christmas presents that spoke a more sophisticated me. Twenty years after our first cuppa, a nosegay of flowers from her greenhouse crowned my wedding cake.

For years, I’ve tussled with how to approach writing the book that keeps yammering to be written. Setting out to share thoughts on Bryan – will get to him – got me thinking about all the improbables, the out-of-the-blue people who set my life on its ear in most wondrous ways, who flipped switches or greased grooves. Who opened my mind to see awe. Very Godsends.

Darn good book material – positive, real, forward moving. It ould open others to realizing & offering thanks for their own Very Godsends, seen & un.

Onto Bryan. The first time I was aware of Bryan, it was a glorious spring day.  He was sitting outside my beloved Be Well cafe, working on his laptop. Something about him snagged my attention. I made so bold as to stop by his table & open a conversation. The first words he spoke, the gleam in his eyes, the vibes that pinged around him – he drew me in his orbit & am happily still there.

Bryan, a serial entrepreneur/socialpreneur, hung out at Be Well while his home office was revamped & renovated. He’s rarely there these days – haven’t set eyes on him in weeks. The last time I caught a few words, he was about to meet another hustle bustle business brain. Am forever grateful for the months that Bryan was down the counter from me!

As with most people who became friends with me, my first thought was how generous he was to share time with me. Shook me up, realizing at 66 that was still my default. Yet Bryan was clear that he dree something important from our talks. What an indescribable blessing, knowing in my bones that someone with an intriguing mind found ME engaging.

While some people dream of giving a talk on the main TED stage, my dream, from its first gathering, has been to regularly attend the Aspen Ideas Festival ~ ~ Bryan has worked with The Aspen Institute. I crafted a unit on the Nobel Prize to teach my at-risk high school students about the breath of science ~ ~ Bryan was part of the recent World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. Spooky wonderful.

Like Emilie, like my friends Dave & Candy & Janie, Bryan sees someone in me, an aspect of myself  that’s eluded my own awareness.  Unlike most, Bryan GOT how it eludes me, shared tools he thought might lead to my great unleashing.  Put them right in my hands.

Bryan isn’t at Be Well like he was. He’s barely there at all. I miss our talks, miss how deeply massaged my brain is engaging with him, blessed by how he helped me STOP assuming others find me all bluster & no brilliance.  He jogged the great aha that change happens with clear focus AND elevated emotion; that the drag on crafting lasting productive change is due to more than the sweet familiarity of limited & limiting old ways, that it’s tightly tied to body-mind imbalance, & how to bring that right.

My dearest deepest clearest hope is that Bryan is my tipping point, the Very Godsend who, standing shoulder to shoulder with all the rest, accomplishes the great unleashing.  He’s done his invaluable bit, as all the others have & continue to do theirs.

The one question left to be determined – will I do mine?


Lesson learned – Amory, expressing thanks

Losing Amory, aka The Best Cat In The Universe, just over a year after he swooped into our lives & absconded with our hearts (including Chessie’s), taught me the importance of telling those who matter most to me how much they mean, how priceless they are to me. It felt, after he was gone, that I didn’t say it anywhere near as much as I could have.

Saying it mattered squat to Amory – words were just so many sounds, while he knew our feelings, heart to heart. It mattered to me. I made sure to tell & show Chessie & all our kitties how much each one has enriched my life. Alpha’s quiet reflective ways won our hearts, Chessie was snug in knowing we held her to be queen of the kitties, Gryf was my Boy of Boys – my heart is made for red fur due to that marmalade tabby, Rennie was the glue that made the cats into a clan, Lakota’s deeply spiritual aura left us in awe. When they slipped from us, I had an album of moments of gratitude with each. That matters to me.

Sky has a suspicious looking growth that gives me great pause. The earliest we can get an appointment at the vet is 1:30 p.m., Monday. He is, by all informed guesses, far & away our oldest cat, supposedly ten years old when he came into our care in spring 2008. For years, we have kidded him with taunts of “Don’t you know you are an OLD kitty?” as he leapt up onto the island or hustled up the steps to our bedroom or MEOWED with a vibrato worthy of a tiger, not a wee small black cat.

Max, our Furever Kitten, officially the oldest of the cats, since we know when he was born – 14 years ago this month – is dropping weight, is a bit lower, more mellow. That could be due to age, or something more serious.

Whatever happens with Sky or Max or any of our dear kitties, each is told on a regular basis how much s/he means to us & why.

Six weeks before my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I took the opportunity to tell one of his good male friends – who was waiting with me for Papa to pick me up from a holiday party – how much my father meant to me. Was grateful for havkiing done taken that moment to say something, to express appreciation – such opportunities can slip by too easily.

Humans or cats, loved ones can never be told too many times how much we care.  A priceless lesson I learned from The Best Cat In The Universe.

Point of Peculiarity

Had a tussle with myself as to whether to post this here or over on Here to There & Back Again. Right here won out, in spite of it being a rather personal post, because it shrieks from the rooftops about the intense growing pains of reaching from stage to stage.

Am feeling every bit like the pupa of a butterfly, where the caterpillar has digested itself, leaving enzymes needed for the transformation into a glorious creature of flight & beauty.  At the moment, am feeling caterpillar soupish, an ooze of potential WOW.

It astonished me, back in my DVHS teaching days, to discover that a caterpillar, from birth, have within itself sacs containing the materials for a butterfly’s eyes,wings, legs et al.  While I have no memory of learning it from Professor Brock, back in my high school days, reading about imaginal discs in my mid-50s, in prep for teaching my own botany class, left me drop-jawed & riveted.

First off, what a wildly wondrous name! And what a truly fantastic idea, that everything that was the caterpillar is digested & used by the material in the imaginal discs to give form & function to the butterfly – – a creature that walks the earth & munches plants transformed into one that flies & sips nectar, all by using the material that was within it from birth.

At this moment, am feeling very much at a point of peculiarity.  Having to stop, once & for all, being the old in order to be what’s been within me all the time. It is HARD being utterly & completely a new creature! Self digestion explains a lot of the painful moments I went through last year. 2018 was a very oozy year for me. Just ask John.

Be Well was a wonderful protective place for me to safely pupate, but the hard core friendship that I crave like a butterfly craves nectar are not going to form there without a nudge. Will always cherish wonderful friendships shared over cafe au lair & Almond Joy scones, but my spirit craves more, and more is only possible by drawing on the digested parts of my former self now available to fuel formation of the winged creature that takes flight & DOES fabulous things, that exists & creates in the real world, outside the cocoon of dreams & longing.

Do not dither. The imaginable discs that staryed forming into something potentially spectacular even before I started to emotionally pupate – as happens in some species – have come together into a recognizable form.

Human nature would have me pause, have me prefer a familiar  status quo of ooze to boldly unfurling wings & flight.  Do I continue to choose my long-time comfy cozy cocoon or rise up & embrace my spiritual self. At this moment, am a butterfly in imaginings only, a pupa ooze in my daily choices.

How is this point of peculiarity resolved, for it will, one way or another – nothingness ooze or ab fab butterfly?

Unexpected blessing – Adam Gopnik

One of the many unexpected blessing from Sunday’s Civil Conversations event was being reintroduced to Adam Gopnik.  What stood out to the organizers was his term “stretching the fabric of tolerance,” which apparently helped form the theme they brought to the evening.  What stirs me, reintroduced to his discussion with Krista, are his thoughts in people over & under 35. Maybe roiled & riled is more on point than stirs.

To Adam, everyone under 35 is still growing, still discovering, still finding themselves, while those who are over are “merely aging rather than actually growing,” “getting a little tubbier, a little grayer, a little balder, a little flatter.” “The under-35s are approaching the mature point.  Us mature ones are approaching our mortal point.”

It might seem weird that I utterly LOVE those comments, yet I do. Would love Adam to do a deep dive into what he means by what he shares, because it’s impossible for me to wrap my head around him actually believing that growth stops in our mid thirties. What I am wildly thankful for in his words, his description, is that it so perfectly captures what many people DO think about aging after a certain age – that it’s flatter than all that came before.

While Adam is right about bodies getting more prone to tubbiness, grey hair & hair loss as we grow into our forties, he goes off track – in my experience – when he addresses the impact on our spiritual intellectual emotional dimensions. Totally off the rails, in my experience, although it does capture a common misconception.

Here’s what I will share with Adam as we share a cuppa somewhere down the road ~ ~ mid-thirtysomethings are like a newly bottled wine, with all the components of a great glass of delectable delight BUT a truly great, complex vintage needs years of aging before its full glory. Some need just a few years to come into their own, others need many; some  turn to vinegar with too many years, while others turn the years into a spectacular savor.

Am WOWed that my original shock at the organizers of Sunday’s Civil Conversations selecting tolerate as the evening’s theme drove me to find the full transcript of Adam’s interview with Krista, to experience his words on aging which so match the misnomers held by so many about a great & glorious experience & time.  A beyond-the-beyond unexpected blessing.



The dingiest DING! – #4

The most swinging, dinging DING! of Sunday’s WOW realizations arrived during that evening’s Civil Conversations event, sponsored by my birth faith, held in the church’s beautiful social hall, a place dear to my heart. I mention that because the room was full of memories for me, as well as a host of people who have been part of my life spanning back to my youngest days. From our moment of arrival, the gathering had a weirdly wonderful funkalicious feel.

The Civil Conversations Project, “planting relationship and conversation around subjects we fight about intensely,” is the brain child of the great Krista Tippett, a major influence over the last year. The opportunity to be connected with it through the church that nurtured me seemed beyond wondrous.

All of which is to say I was super psyched Sunday night to be uplifted & inspired. I did not expect to be shocked.

All week, I’d looked forward to hearing “fresh language to approach each other.” To reviewing the six “grounding virtues” of the Project – – words that matter, generous listening, adventurous civility, humility, patience & hospitality.

It meant the world to me that my once tradition-bound church has loosened up enough to embrace that “change come about at the margins,” that “people in the center are not going to be the big change makers,” as Frances Kissling shared with Krista & is quoted in the Project’s Better Conversationsa starter guide.

John & I walked up to the church building with anticipation & excitement. I’d chewed the poor man’s ear off over the past year, hauling him onto The Retreat or barging into his studio to read this passage or pages, to have him take a listen to an interview.  So much of what I love hearing on Krista’s radio program, On Being, and in her book – thoroughly underlined, pages turned down, sticky notes throughout – Becoming Wise has become part of my spiritual fiber. And now I was about to hear people I deeply care about & wildly respect channeling her in my own birth church. The blue bird of happiness, nesting in my own back yard!

With all those expectations, all the deeply held affection for Krista’s messages about tender-hearted communication, connection, community building, I had not, for a moment, wondered, “What if they go off track, as I understand those rails to be?” That is what, to my stunned shock, happened.

The evening’s large & small conversations were rooted  consideration of the terms TOLERATE, TOLERANCE. My dropped jaw was not over the fact that tolerance is NOT one of the Project’s grounding virtues, but because in everything that I have read & heard, it is a concept that Krista had openly & decisively rejected as too small, too flat, too unfeeling to be more than “a civic tool, but is not big enough in human, ethical spiritual terms.” In what I’ve read, heard, she holds that hospitality, that love are the concepts we need to bring into play to bridge differences with respect, compassion, shared humanity.

There I sat, in ths social hall & later in a small group, at first swept with an all-too-familiar feeling of “Gee, I surely bungled that – got an upside-down message from Krista. What Chuck & Bronwen & Pauline are saying is NOT what I understood. Once again, am out of the loop, woefully out of step.”

It was important to fully feel that, if only for an instant, because it WAS how I all too often felt until a few years back, when an observation by the great Jane Kerschner – life coach par excellence- snapped me out of it. But there that old limitation was, in full, last night, making me feel for an instant like crawling into a hole & pulling the dirt over me.

Except THIS time, that feeling dissipated almost as soon as it was felt. This time, I knew that either Krista has seriously changed her tune over the past year or the presenters had chosen an off-kilter topic as the guiding intention for the introductory evening.

My experiences on Sunday night were not what I expected entering that beloved building, but they were about as ring-a-ding DING! as they come.  I came to appreciate that we tolerate & have tolerance for behaviors -and- love & respect people. That I can respect another’s right to different opinions, even when anathema to me; that even when someone makes my heart sink & my skin crawl, I am honor-bound to recognize our shared humanity.

And I find myself wondering about all those other times across the years, from childhood to last night, when I felt terminally out of the loop, out of step – maybe I wasn’t hopelessly clueless, intellectually whackadoodle.  Maybe I just saw things differently, maybe I was one on the right track. There’s a lot of liberation & unleashing in those maybes.

I did not come away from last night’s event with even a smidgen of what I’d expected, but the greatest, most glorious DING! DING! DING! of my day was precisely what I needed.

Looking forward to the next three New Church LIVE Sunday services, building on last night with conversations on discovering “our voice, as we search for the words that created worlds,” to the Civil Conversation facilitator training on 02/27 & 04/29, to exploring the Passport to Understanding from Interfaith Philadelphia. To nurturing what Brene Brown, in a treasured Krista interview, describes as a strong back, soft front & wild heart. To using tolerance as a civic tool for moving past behaviors, while leaning toward conversation with love.

Continue reading “The dingiest DING! – #4”

Ding! #3 ~ yes,drafts; no, crafts

Sunday afternoon, 4:00 p.m. typically finds us at, Naked Brewing, our local craft brewery, for crafts with the amazing Michelle. Not yesterday.

Yesterday, we were there for a pint of Ground Effects & Missionary Impossible, but NO yarn crafting. Snuggled with John in a super cozy 2-person chair, I didn’t take a single swipe at myself for not joining in, for opting to settle back & watch the creativity unleashed before us. Where I once would have berated myself for being a sluggard – or worse, for being only partially involved –  I savored the show.  FACT: neither of us had the slightest interest in yarn art – although we did come up with some dandy ideas for kitty toys involving yarn & dangly things!

I am grateful to be at a place where I can choose to join in or to watch without self-recrimination. Where I was once a whiz at emotional self-flagellation, now I am a grand master of great times!

To yesterday’s crafters, men & women & kids – we’ll be back among you next Sunday, brandishing scissors & wielding hot glue guns as Michelle steps us through making felt cacti. Thanks for the great show of talent & ingenuity  & for always being part of our creative community!

Ding! #2 ~ blues begone

My sister, Mim, came up unexpectedly in conversation yesterday, during the after-service social gathering. A visitor with no apparent connection to my older sis started singing her praises – turns out her sister is a big fan of mine. And just like having two people two  weeks ago mistake me for her, one with “Oh shit! You’re Mim Lockhart!” (shocked because she is dead), my immediate response was NOT a deep drop to depression & feeling Xed.

Yesterday was an even bigger triumph than two weeks back. Other than bothering me that people didn’t know the difference, since she was eight years older, the frequently made comparison didn’t irk my soul, unlike Mim, who made no bones she considered it the ultimate insult, in spite of the fact that she was many pounds heavier & her trademark style for most of her life was perfectly plain & utterly unstylish.

Mim did many wonderful things for people, especially for young folks. She did some pretty terrific things for me, too – but mine were always baited with a piercing sharp hook.  She was clear I never rated with her. Whether I was eleven or forty or fifty-something, she took pains to make sure I knew her true feelings. I never questioned that what she said wasn’t absolutely true.

Even into my sixties, hearing others praise Mim’s tender loving ways & countless kind considerations knocked the breath right out of me, left me emotionally gutted, invisibled all over again. But here was Jeannie yesterday, getting That Look on her face, using That Voice & Those Words, hushed & awed, and my stomach did not go cold, my heart did not sink, was not bashed by the blues.

Best of all, I have the sense that should something similar happen in the future, I’ll take it in stride without even thinking. ‘Wow – you’ve come a long way baby!” Being okay will just be my norm.

Sounds small, but to have those blues begone is BIG.