International Women’s Day

March 8, 2016

“We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights
that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed
to us and our daughters forever.” – Susan B. Anthony

 

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

International Women’s Day

When my mother was born, her mother couldn’t vote.

When first pondering what I wanted to be when I grew up, my mother told me I could be a nurse or a teacher.

As a teenager my mom convinced me to take a typing class so I would have a skill to “fall back on.”

When I was in college, afraid that I was pregnant, I desperately searched for money to fly to New York for a back alley abortion. Thankfully it wasn’t needed.

I smoked Virginia Slims cigarettes enticed by their tag line, “You’ve come a long way baby.”

In a job interview, fresh out of college, I was told that I was marriage and baby material, and therefore they didn’t want to invest in me. I married at 44 and never had children.

Along with a subscription to Ms. Magazine, I got a free t-shirt with MS. strategically placed across my bosom. I caught a man staring at my chest and confronted him. His reply, “I’m looking at exactly what you want me to look at. Why else would you wear that t-shirt?”

A few years later, preparing for another job interview, I was told the boss was a lady’s man and to dress provocatively. I did, and I got the job.

At 30 I was date raped and never told anyone until a woman friend told me of her experience with the same man. I couldn’t get angry for myself, but I could for her.

Years later, as senior producer of a television program, I was told my women assistants didn’t need raises because they had husbands.

When I told my mother how much money I made, in answer to her question, her reply was “WOW, those are man’s wages.”

In my late 30s my mother told me, “If you weren’t so independent you could catch a good husband.”

About that same time a Yale study was published stating that un-married women at 35 were more likely to be shot by a terrorist than marrying. The Old Maid card was on the cover of People Magazine. I found this offensive and wrote a letter to the editor. It was published in the next issue.

When I first started offering moon ceremonies for women, I met an elderly goddess who told me that after her hysterectomy she took her uterus home and buried it in ceremony. Aghast, I said, “And your doctor let you?”  Her reply, “Yes, because it’s a part of my body and I own my body.”  A few years later I did the same.

In her late 70s my mom attended one of my moon ceremonies for women. Afterwards she remarked, “It wasn’t unlike when I attended the women’s circles at church. But you ladies talk about way more interesting things.”
Forty-one years ago today I arrived in Portland, Oregon. My mother grieved my absence terribly. My father never visited me here. His reasoning was “She left us, we didn’t leave her.”

Before Mom’s death in 1997, she remarked, “I get why you moved to Portland. You’ve created a great life for yourself. I’m happy for you, and envious.”

Remember, when my mother was born her mother couldn’t vote. We have come a long way, but with so far to go. And I am nobody’s baby, except my mother’s. I am grateful for her and all that she taught me. Because we are All One and we’re all in this together.

History of International Women’s Day
http://www.internationalwomensday.com/About

Stuff I Know By Me

February 22, 2016

“If everyone waited to become an expert before starting, no one would become an expert.
To become an EXPERT, you must have EXPERIENCE.
To get EXPERIENCE, you must EXPERIMENT!
Stop waiting. Start stuff.”

― Richie Norton, author of The Power of Starting Something Stupid and
Résumés Are Dead and What to Do About It

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

It’s time to reveal where Stuff I Know originated. Years ago, as producer of a live morning TV talk show in Portland, Oregon, I was exposed to sound bites of information from a wide variety of sources. It was the 1980s. People like Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and Leo Busgalia were yearly guests. Local topics covered politics, fashion, criminal justice, and lots of cooking segments. Well known authors loved to be on our show. Think Ann Rule, Leon Uris and Ursula LeGuin. Because of this exposure, to put it bluntly, I was the ideal cocktail party guest. I could engage anyone in conversation, because I knew just enough to sound like I knew what I was talking about. I was not an expert at anything, but I knew a lot of stuff.

In the mid-1980s I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles. One of her friends, Martin, was intrigued by my job and the stuff I knew. He said to me, “You should write a book and call it Stuff I Know.” My reply, “Yeh, Stuff I Know by Me.” We both clinked our wine glasses and laughed.

A few months later, I got a phone call at work. I answered, as usual, “AM Northwest, this is Kate McKern.” The man on the other end of the line said, “I’m a publisher and want to book one of my authors on your show.” As the ever-ready producer, I asked for details. “The book is called Stuff I Know by Me.” This was followed by a long pause. In a hush whisper I said, “Martin, is that you?” We both howled with laughter.

I love the word stuff. It’s my favorite subject line in an email. By definition, it means “the material of which anything is made.” An author gathers material for his book. A comedian gathers material for her set. A minister gathers material for a sermon. It’s all stuff. We are all the authors of our own stories. I wonder, what is the stuff you are gathering to live your best life? As the above quote says, “Stop waiting. Start stuff.”

Imbolc

February 3, 2016

The Wheel has turned, spring is here,
Welcome new life, far and near.

 

IMBOLC © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Greetings from the wild, windy, and wet west of Ireland. The 3-day festival I attended at Brigit’s Garden, Co. Galway, was well worth the journey in the dead of winter. What I’ve discovered is that winter is not dead at all. In reality, She is very much alive, as I experienced on her Feast Day, Monday, Feb. 1st.

That day I was the guest of two local women whom I’d met through friends of friends. We first attended a Brigit mass at the church in Liscannor, Co. Clare. The priest there, Father Dennis Crosby, knows well the blend of ancient and new. There were hand-woven Brigit crosses everywhere, including on the sacred altar. Also on the altar, there were dozens of Brídeógs, the Irish word for Brigit doll. School children were holding the Brídeógs they had made, clutching them close to their hearts. Consider that these primitive dolls are fertility symbols! Father Dennis even brought in a baby lamb to demonstrate the meaning of Imbolc, the pre-Christian (dare I say pagan?) tradition. Imbolc (pronounced IMM-ulk) means “in the belly.” It was the time of year—early February on the modern calendar—when the first farmers saw that the pregnant ewe’s milk began to flow. It meant that winter had enough passed that it was safe for new life to emerge. Indeed, I’ve witnessed plenty a pregnant ewe, and cow, as I roam about the eternally green grasses of Erin.

After mass, just down the road a bit, we visited Brigit’s Holy Well. To be there on her Feast Day was extra special. I offered a variety of prayers for healing, for friends far and near. Later we enjoyed lunch at a pub, followed by a trek to a much less celebrated holy well, this one attributed to St. Augustine. It was there that I noticed a paradox of sorts. When I looked at the land, I sensed the presence of spring. The green grasses allowed tiny flower shoots to begin emerging. When I looked above, through the soughing trees, I felt the presence of winter, not quite gone. It was then that I encountered the Cailleach, known as the divine hag, a creator and weather deity. Through the ROARING winds (gale force that day) she seemed to be saying—“Not so quick Little Missy. I’m not done with ye yet.” The purpose for this journey was revealed.

It was time for me to experience and embrace my personal passage from autumn to winter. I saw this at Brigit’s Garden when I came upon an autumn leaf with snow drops on it, while resting next to daffodil shoots. When I stepped through Brigit’s crios, (pronounced “criss,” it is also known as Brigit’s girdle, a seamless circle formed from triple-braided straw rope, thus marrying the sacred numbers of four and three) at Brigit’s Garden, and again after mass, I finally proclaimed, in silence, that I am indeed in the winter of my life, and, like the old Cailleach, I am very much alive as spring is so beautifully demonstrating.

ANAM CARA POETRY

“Something’s Coming”
© Rev. Liah Rose, 2/2/16

The sun is rising, throwing color into a dark sky
Ice and snow still shimmer on the ground
But the mother is waking
Green shoots herald the coming of a crocus bed
Bare trees are beginning to show signs of budding
Small bumps looking more like a crone’s warts than the blossoms it will bear.
Bulbs underground, long dormant, sense the pending warmth
And break through their winter blanket of earth
Reaching for the sun, reaching for the warmth
That hasn’t quite arrived

People hasten by, loathe to slow down
Not wanting to be late for their busy lives
And yet a glimpse of green, stark against the snow
Catches an eye and captures the awareness of one such passerby
Just for a moment, he stops, bends down and touches the blade of new growth.
The firm leaf that has broken through the cold ground
A promise of spring is in that touch.
The promise of warmer days ahead.
It’s enough to carry him through, and he hurries on his way
The smile he wears a testament to the stolen moment.

Start Over

January 6, 2016

When the year has been long and successes few
When December comes and you’re feeling blue
God gives a January just for you …
Start Over!  
(Woodrow Kroll of “Back to the Bible”)

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Start Over

There’s something liberating about the two words: Start Over. Consider when we learned to walk. We likely stumbled and bumbled about, falling numerous times. Imagine if we’d stopped the first time we toppled over because we thought…

Walking is dangerous.
Walking means I could fail.
Walking might cause people to laugh at me.

If any of those thoughts took root, we’d be a society of quitters and sitters. But that’s not how life works. There will be bumps on the road of life. We will stumble and fall. We might fail. And, we have the opportunity to start over, and, if necessary, over and over and over again. The tricky part is knowing if we’re starting over because we’re repeating a negative or destructive pattern, or if we are starting over to put something empowering in motion. That’s what January is for!

January is named after the Roman god Janus. He was depicted with one head and two faces, each looking in the opposite direction. It was the fallow time of year when the past wasn’t quiet finished and the new hadn’t quiet emerged. Therefore, it was considered to be a “time between time.” A time to relax, reflect and ritualize.

It took the recent snow and ice storm here in Portland to motivate me to relax and do nothing. That’s a challenge for me, since I’m a doer. During that down time I reflected on the past year’s events and experiences. A major epiphany emerged from the willingness to dwell in the “time between time.” I have all of January to brew the rituals that will support my vision. If I get off track, I can always start over. That’s what January is for!

We’re only 6 days into 2016. Have you taken time to relax after the flurry of holiday activities? If not, how about starting today? Will you reflect on the past year, seeking the thread that you must release in order to thrive in your aliveness? If not, how about starting today? Can you set into motion a dream or wish or vision through ritual and ceremony? If not today or tomorrow, then sometime in January?  Because you can always January to….

START OVER!

Want to see the downside of starting over? Check out this spoof of a promo
for a fake movie titled “Starting Over.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLGYc_uLeLg
Starting Over with Brooke Shields

Christmas 1955

December 24, 2015

An Irish Christmas Blessing

The light of the Christmas star to you
The warmth of home and hearth to you
The cheer and good will of friends to you
The hope of a childlike heart to you
The joy of a thousand angels to you
Love and God’s peace to you.

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Christmas 1955

A strange thing happened Christmas Eve 1955. Our little house in Ames, Iowa was buzzing with holiday festivities created by Mom and Dad, plus we four kids, all under the age of eight. (I had just turned five several days before.) Suddenly there was a loud knock on our front door. By the expression on Mom’s face, I could tell that we were not expecting company. Dad peeked through the crack in the door and then, without hesitation, swung it open. There stood my Aunt Liah, her husband and three disheveled little kids, just arrived from Illinois. “Merry Christmas and praise Jesus!” she shouted with glee. In they came, a line of mysterious people that we kids didn’t know very well, greeting us with smiles and hugs. There were no gifts in hand, no food to share, arriving only with the clothes on their backs. It was apparent to Mom and Dad that they were going to be with us for Christmas. We kids thought—the more the merrier. Our parents thought—how are we going to make this work? Aunt Liah likely thought—we’re home!

Many Christmases before, my dad and his sister, Liah, lost their mom when she died after giving birth to her 9th live child. My dad was 16 at the time, Aunt Liah around age 12. There had been miscarriages and still born babies. That poor woman, Zelma, the paternal grandmother I would never meet, must have been overwhelmed by family life. But somehow she taught her children the true meaning of family. That we stick together. That we help each other out. Especially at Christmas.

So here were with five unexpected house guests for Christmas. Aunt Liah was the kind of odd relative that traveled to the beat of a different drum. As a kid I remember her long, stringy hair. She would braid it while sitting in a rocking chair and singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers” over and over and over again. I remember wondering why Christians would want to go to war. No one ever explained that to me. Then she’d tell us about manna in heaven. That we naughty kids would be eating worms on earth while she’d be enjoying manna in heaven. No one told me about manna either. Or heaven, for that matter. It was all very mysterious to me. But it was truth to Aunt Liah, and that’s what I remember most. Her joy, her passion, her constant whispering of “Praise Jesus!” I laughed at her back then, but today I would love to have a long, sit-down dialogue about Jesus, God and Christmas.

That night Mom stretched out a dinner meant for six, now shared among eleven people. My dad was a firefighter, my mom a seamstress. Money was always tight, especially during the holidays when three out of us four kids had November and December birthdays. After dinner that night, we gathered near the Christmas tree for the singing of “Jingle Bells” and the reading of “Rudolph.” Then Aunt Liah wove a magical story about a star, a shepherd boy, the baby in a manger, three kings and an assortment of animals. It was my favorite story that Christmas Eve.

Make shift beds were made up around our small house. We all settled in for our winter’s nap. While everyone slept, Mom and Dad stayed up late dividing up our toys, now to be shared with our young cousins. Over the years I never once heard them say that this was a chore. Instead, it was a gift meant to be shared. It’s what families do.

I have vague memories of that Christmas sixty years ago, but what I do remember is a tiny living room alive with the miracle of Christmas. Wrapping paper was scattered throughout the house. We kids were actively engaged in activities related to our gifts from Santa Claus. There was enough of everything to go around, including a Christmas Day feast that Mom again had to make work for five additional mouths. I don’t remember how long Aunt Liah’s family stayed during that surprise visit, but the memory of their Christmas Eve visit it still with me today.

I wish you a Christmas that brings the kind of memories that stay with you for the next sixty years, and beyond.

We Are All One, and we’re all in this together.

Flooding

December 10, 2015

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.
– William Shakespeare

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Flooding

It started Monday afternoon with the arrival of disappointing news. I can live with another small disappointment, or so I thought. Soon my mind began to remember other similar disappointments. My eyes began to well up with tears. Faces and places became attached to memories. Uncomfortable feelings began to emerge. My stomach felt like I had been punched in the gut. My thoughts were swirling now. I hated how I was feeling but I couldn’t stop it. The dam had broken. Before I knew it, disappointment was left behind. A surging river of sorrow and grief arrived as I was in full flood mode. Is this what life is about? Just one disappointment on top of another? World events that are unthinkable and possibly unstoppable? Within an hour, I went from a mild disappointment to uncontrollable sobs. Ask my husband. It was not a pretty picture.

When the tears subsided and I could breathe again, it occurred to me that my inner flooding was similar to the recent flooding here in Oregon–and in Ireland. Too much heavy rain forced numerous rivers to overflow their banks. Sinks holes and landslides suddenly appeared. Sewage flooded several streets. Cars were stranded with murky waters above the tire line. Major highways and roads were forced to close. Entire towns were under water. And so it was with my feelings on Monday. I could no longer contain all that had been building up inside of me. Something had to give.

With all that is going on in the world, and here in the U.S., I wonder how many of us have unintentionally dammed up our feelings. Maybe even intentionally since so much of what is going on incomprehensible. What would it be like for you to sit quietly and allow your flood gates to open? To observe your thoughts by inviting past hurts and current confusions to ooze forth? The flood is coming and we have the power to say when and where. I’m grateful that I did this on Monday night. Although I suffered an emotional hangover on Tuesday, I had returned to my center where the water is a gentle pool of love. It’s where I know God, and remember that wherever we are, God is, and all is well.

Making Memories

November 10, 2015

“I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.”
-Sweet Honey & the Rock

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Making Memories

If you are a parent, or if you recall your elementary school days, you will remember what getting ready for school was like in the morning. I got a crash course in this when I became a stepmom to a five and seven year old. When they were with us, their dad would wake them up in the morning. The whining and moaning sounds were annoying but also heart wrenching. This because, like them, and unlike their dad, I am not a jump out of bed person in the morning. I prefer to linger and ease into my day. So we tried giving them a 10 minute warning. After that, one of us would begin shouting orders. “Now, get up now!!!” You know the drill.

Soon they would arrive at the breakfast table, still sleepy eyed, but ready to eat something delicious their dad had made. This was true also when they were with their mom. She was a nurse and worked an early shift at the hospital. The kids would get dropped at our house at 6:45am. I tried to make this a fun time by asking about dreams in the night. On two occasions we had memorials at breakfast. When their great grandfather died, we each lit a candle and spoke of what we loved about Bomp. When Orville Redenbacher died, we had popcorn for breakfast.

Doug had to be at work at 8:00am. I got solo time with the kids until I drove them to school forty-five minutes later.  Much of that time was filled with getting dressed, making beds, packing lunches, and gathering homework. If there was time to spare, we had fun storytelling sessions. One particular morning they both were out of control with potty talk. Rather than reprimand or ignore them, because that clearly wasn’t working, I had the inspired idea to create a story where they could potty talk. But I didn’t tell them that. “Let’s tell the Snow White story today,” I said. “What shall we call her?” “Snow Brown,” one of them snorted. Then the other shouted, “And she works in a poop factory.” They both rolled on the floor laughing while I rolled my eyes. I’m not sure the story went any further than that but I do remember that the potty talk continued all the way to school.

Another morning I took them on an excursion on the way to school, waiting for my speedometer to turn over to 100,000 miles. That was a milestone for me as that little GLC hatchback was my first new car purchased ten years before. We drove back and forth on residential streets near the school. It felt like forever for the numbers to turn. I was afraid this would make them late for school. But suddenly 99,999 gave way to 100,000. At that moment we three started humming the theme song to “The Johnny Carson Show.” Thankfully, they were not late for school.

Another favorite activity on the way to school was to daily observe a favorite tree. It was just on the other side of a hill, so there was always anticipation. In the late winter we would look for signs of spring. In late summer we looked for signs of autumn. It was my intention to help them connect to the natural rhythms of nature, while making sure shuttle time was pleasant.

Because fun is a part of my nature, I try to bring joy to mundane activities and chores. We make positive memories when we do so. To this day our kids, now 26 and 28, still chuckle about Snow Brown. They remember the candle lighting at breakfast and they can hum the Johnny Carson theme song. What magical memory can you help create today to enhance your life, and the lives of others?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW2TpW4gCt8
Wanting Memories by Sweet Honey in the Rock

Practicing Non-Violence

October 12, 2015

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” Thomas Merton (1915-1968) Writer, Theologian & Mystic

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Practicing Non-Violence

I’ve never hit or slapped anyone. I’ve never thrown or broken anything in anger. I don’t own a gun or any other weapon. I even take (most) spiders outside. My guess is that many of us reading this would say the same about their own lives. “I’m not violent,” and adding, “And therefore I cannot understand the violence that permeates our contemporary culture.” Yes, I’m referring to the recent massacre in Roseburg, Oregon, and the horrific acts of violence that have come before. If we are truly All One, and we’re all in this together, the question becomes: how am I actively participating in a climate of violence?

I call upon the wisdom of Thomas Merton, as quoted above. In his world view, I could be seen of someone who is violent. I can easily work, work, work until my body stops me and forces me to rest. My mom, even into old age, was always in a hurry, rushing here and there. Like her, I often bang into things thereby gifting myself odd scrapes and bruises. Too many demands, over committing, the desire to help everyone in everything, “…is to succumb to violence.” I cannot stop the violence in our country, but I can stop contributing to it by stopping the insanity in my own life. SLOW DOWN!!! When I do that, amazing connections emerge. Like recently when having breakfast at Shari’s.

Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed a woman about my age sitting by the door. She was very small, somewhat unkempt, and shivering. I had the idea to stop and ask if she was okay. Instead, because I was in a hurry, I kept walking and met my friend for breakfast. She said she hadn’t noticed the woman at the door. During lunch I saw the woman pacing outside the restaurant, smoking a cigarette. Because the woman was again sitting on the entry bench when we paid our bill, I asked the waitress if she knew anything about her. She said she’d been sitting there since they opened at 6:00am. It was now 10:30am. “No one has checked on her?” I asked. The waitress said the woman had ordered and eaten breakfast, paid, and then told the staff that she was waiting for a ride. I actually had a violent thought—What if she’s a domestic violence victim and her partner is stalking her and might come into this restaurant and go on a shooting rampage?

Not wanting that thought to take root, instead I took a breath, walked over to the woman by the door, and sat down beside her. “Are you okay?” I softly asked. When she turned to look at me, I saw despair on her face. She said she was okay. That her boyfriend had kicked her out last night after a fight and she had no place to go. No friends or relatives, only a bench at Shari’s. “Are you safe?” I asked. She said yes, that he wouldn’t harm her. Then I asked what she wanted to have happen. She said she wanted to find a shelter or some other means of protection, but she didn’t know how. She had a cell phone so I suggested she look up the crisis phone line for Multnomah County. Because I use to volunteer there, I knew that whomever answered the call would point her in the right direction. I offered her bus money, but she said that she had enough money to get downtown.

She thanked me profusely while promising to make the call. I asked her name and I told her mine. We parted in friendship, the anam cara kind, with a hug, and a nod that said “I see you.”

It was only later that I thought of the five minute exchange as a way of practicing non-violence. How many perpetrators of violence with guns have felt unseen, unheard, or unloved? Abandoned and alone? I may not be able to stop a lonely individual’s act of violence, but I can stop my participation in violence by slowing down. Will you join me?

Simon & Garfunkel, Feeling Groovy, stereo (1:50)
Surprise singers at the end!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBQxG0Z72qM

This Little Light of Mine

September 11, 2015

“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” —Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, in Shanksville, Pa., in 2002

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

This Little Light of Mine

The night before 9/11 twenty-four Ireland travelers, registered for my first tour, convened at O’Connor’s Pub. The excitement was palpable as we made final plans to depart Portland on Friday, Sept. 14. I went to sleep that night with a big smile on my face, knowing everything was in place. The next morning the smile was replaced by a face that registered shock and devastation.

My stepson, 12 years old and about to start middle school, phoned us from his mom’s house. “Turn on the television,” he whispered. Together we watched in horror what unfolded over the next hour or so. At one point I asked him if he was okay. He replied, again in a whisper, “Is this the beginning of World War III?” I told him I didn’t know, while reminding him that he was safe. I asked him if he wanted me to come get him. “No,” he said, “I want to go to school.” That’s when I remembered I had to be at a Waldorf school at 9:00am for my weekly Life Lessons storytelling adventure with a group of second graders. I hadn’t a clue what I was going to say.

I somberly entered the classroom to find the children gathered around the feet of Mrs. Johnson, all with looks of devastation on their innocent faces. “Pastor Kate is here,” she cried out. “She will help us.” Suddenly I had my own little nest of baby chicks gathered around me, looking for guidance and meaning. My story went something like this.

Far back in time, when the first babies were born, the Creator gave each of them a heart. It would be the place where Love lives. (I invited the children to place their hands on their hearts.) Like a drum, the hearts would beat, making a thump, thump sound, so we could hear them and remember Love.  (We made the sounds together.) At first the heart beats came at different times. But soon they came into rhythm. All hearts beat together, from the North Pole to the South Pole, from America to Africa, reminding us that we are one human family, created to express Love, together. Now, let’s close our eyes and feel the love coming from our hearts. (At last, smiles began to return to their little faces.)

But over time some grownups started to tie strings around their hearts. (In a pretend mean voice I asked the children to pretend to tie up their hearts, making mean sounds as well.) Like a ball of yarn, soon some of these hearts were nearly covered up and invisible. And so was their Love. It was replaced by fear and hate. Show me what fear and hate looks like on your faces. (Imagine their expressions.) And that is what happened this morning. Some grownups, with fear and hate in their hearts, caused great pain and sadness for many, many people, us included. I know I’m feeling sad, and a little bit scared.  (At this point I invited the children to quietly say aloud what they were feeling.)

So here’s what our job is today. We must un-tie the strings of our hearts. Ready, get set, go! (Chaos ensued as the boys and girls ran and tumbled around the room, pretending to let fly the many invisible heart strings. Eventually we came back into circle.) Now feel the Love in your heart. (Another round of thump, thumps.) Can you feel the love again? (Cries of yes, yes, yes echoed through the classroom.) This is what we must remember today. Most people are good and they let their love shine. But some tie up their hearts with fear and hate. Fear of people who are different than they are. Hate because of skin colors unlike their own. Or fear of different languages from around the world. Maybe hate because of different beliefs about presidents, countries, or even God. But what’s true is this. Every human has a heart, even the people who did the bad things this morning. The Creator intended the human heart to be where Love lives. Let’s make a pact today to let our Love shine, even if we feel sad or afraid. How about we all connect pinky fingers. Look around our circle. Are we one family? (“Yes,” they shouted in unison. Slowly I began to sing “This Little Light of Mine.” The children joined in. We separated that morning with big smiles on our faces and young hearts once again at peace.)

It wasn’t until I got home that morning that I wondered if the horrific events of 9/11 would cause the Ireland tour to be cancelled. As 9/11 unfolded, and then 9/12, I realized on 9/13 that the 9/14 tour departure would not happen. It was declared an international day of mourning. I felt horrible knowing I had to phone the twenty-four travelers with bad news. That’s when it occurred to me, my own Life Lesson. We were merely inconvenienced, while millions were devastated. We would not go to the airport on 9/14 and demand our flights to Ireland. Instead, I would encourage my travelers to join the world in prayer, reflection and contemplation.

On 9/11/01, and every 9/11 since, I remember that it’s a choice whether to see through the eyes of love or the eyes of fear. To remember that it’s not all about my needs or desires.  To always pursue the deeper truth. Missing a tour date was an inconvenience. Loss of thousands of lives was devastation. True to the generous hearts of the Irish people, we were able to move the tour to spring, at no extra cost. The vendors in Ireland took the loss out of respect for their American anam caras, their soul friends.

My plan for today is to sing, whistle and hum “This Little Light of Mine” whenever and wherever it occurs to me to do so. Like the Waldorf second graders (now young adults) I will visualize the joining of pinky fingers, with skins of many colors, reminding us that We Are One, and that we’re all in this together.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKaCqaUjV48
Miraculous Holy Spirit Moves Crowd At Supermarket “This Little Light Of Mine”!  3:15 length, 315 views

Miss Meads

August 28, 2015

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.” -Dan Rather

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Miss Meads

The first time I remember feeling back to school anxiety was the August before starting fourth grade. No longer safely roaming Roosevelt’s first floor, I would soon have to ascend the ancient stairway to the second floor. That’s where the big kids were, including my older sister and brother, and my fourth grade teacher, the wicked Miss Meads. For years I held her accountable for my fear of writing. In vivid detail, I remember the day when she ordered me to the blackboard to diagram a sentence, in front of the whole class. I failed miserably. Was it performance anxiety? Stupidity? Or the fact that I disappointed her?

The Miss Meads I remember was tall and skinny. Her face was pinched in a permanent scowl made even more dramatic by the glasses that perched on her pointed nose. Even though she was bone thin, I recall the flapping of her upper arm flab when she wrote on the chalkboard.

Today, while pondering the millions of children who are going back to school, some entering the fourth grade, I thought about Miss Meads. Who was she, really?

From the 1962 archives of the Ames Tribune: “I like fourth grade the best, because by then the teaching tools are pretty well taught and the children are ready to branch out on their own.” The article, honoring her retirement, went on to say, “Miss Gladys Meads started teaching at Roosevelt Elementary School in 1940. She estimates that in her years of teaching more than 1,500 children have come under her jurisdiction.”

Intrigued, I looked up the definition of jurisdiction:  “the right, power, or authority to administer justice.” Yep, that sounds like Miss Meads. The ultimate task master, both judge and jury. Perhaps the humiliation I recall from her admonishment that I couldn’t diagram a sentence if my life depended on it, was really her way of telling me that she saw something in me. This McKern kid, one of four in my family and an estimated 1,500 students over time, was smart enough to get the importance of a well written sentence. Perhaps she was my champion, and not my nemesis. Miss Meads, I owe you an apology.

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

It is my belief that as we heal in this moment, we also heal the passing forward of our limiting stories to future generations. And, sometimes even more importantly, we heal back in time. As I have had this revelation, I invite you to reflect on past teachers in your life. Is there someone to whom you owe a debt of gratitude? Someone to whom you owe an amends? Someone to whom you simply want to say, thank you? Then do it. Because We Are One, and we’re all in this together.