Stuff I Know 2013

December 30, 2013

And your cold people are beyond all price, When once you’ve broken their confounded ice. –Lord Byron (1823)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin
Breaking the Ice

There are three important December dates in my life. My birthday is December 8th. The winter solstice, December 21st, is our wedding anniversary. And, of course, Christmas is December 25th. It’s taken me a lot of years to truly experience each of the dates without attachment. To live in the present moment. To notice without expectations. This is especially true with a story I had about my birthday.

A few years ago I awoke to the reality as to why my husband couldn’t quite get my birthday right. In a moment’s notice, I had a break through. My mother made my birthday extra special precisely because it was so close to Christmas. As a child my birthday parties were birthday parties. My gifts were birthday gifts and not Christmas gifts, or combined gifts. Christmas wrapping paper was for Christmas, and not my birthday presents. It was her voice I heard upon waking every year for 47 years, all the years prior to her death. I can still hear her voice, in person as a child and fin later years by phone. “Good morning Kathleen Marie McKern. Today is your special day.”

One December 8th, about ten years ago, I realized that I had been projecting onto my husband my need to feel special on my birthday. Don’t get me wrong. Doug and my friends did many wonderful things for me on my birthday. But, try as Doug might, he could not make me feel special in the way that my mom did. I had held him hostage, in a frozen state, awaiting the yearly thaw of feeling special in my mom’s eyes. No one can replace that feeling. And so it remained frozen for many years. Now I feel truly special every year precisely because I am present in the moment, striving to simply notice my feelings that are present that day. I have learned to love and cherish my birthday for what it is, the anniversary of my birth, and to be in gratitude for the many wonderful ways Doug and my friends celebrate with me.

Recently, I wrote at length in my journal about the word notice. I played with the letters:  N O T I C E.  Suddenly, in a moment’s notice, I wrote:  NOT ICE. Moments are meant to be savored in the moment, and not frozen in time. That’s what I had done with the attachment to feeling special at my birthday in a way only my mom could fulfill. She’s been gone 16 years now, and I finally get it. Feeling special is fluid and flowing, and definitely not frozen. The ice around my birthday has been broken, at last.

Where in your life is it time to break the ice?

 

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October 17, 2013

“Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?” Albert Einstein

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

A profound idea came to me this morning, mid shower, with my head covered in shampoo. As I lathered my scalp, I spontaneously said aloud the title of a talk I will give on October 30th. This is often my process when preparing a message. I have a title first, made up of words that I find engaging and inspiring. Eventually the gist of the message will emerge. And so it did this morning! I said the title aloud over and over again, each time with a different accent or emphasis. It was a silly thing to do and even caused me to chuckle out loud. But somewhere in there, between shampoo and cream rinse, the essence of the message came to me. I wonder what the cats thought when I gave a whoop whoop cheer of gratitude and joy?

So why do we have great ideas while doing a super monotonous task like showering? Or have epiphanies while driving or exercising, or, like Einstein, while doing something as boring as shaving? Brain researchers tell us that doing these kinds of mindless, repetitive activities requires very little brain power. “We think what we see is a relaxation of ‘executive functions’ to allow more natural de-focused attention and uncensored processes to occur that might be the hallmark of creativity,” says Allen Braun. In other words, the parts of our brains that we use to ruminate or stew about something, or engage when making decisions, become largely inactive while showering. This allows other areas of the brain to wander. We also generally feel relaxed and at ease while showering, which can release a big dose of that feel-good brain chemical, dopamine. Mix that all together and POOF we are in creative flow.

Obviously we cannot live in the creative flow of the shower 24/7, but we can visit that place throughout our day. We not only can visit, we do! The key is to be ready to notice and remember the creative idea or new thought that emerges. My friend Bryan has taught me to carry a small notebook and pencil in order to remember the little ideas that pop up throughout the day. But what do I do with the ideas that surface in the shower? I just learned of a product that I’m hoping Santa will bring me for Christmas: AquaNotes – Waterproof Notepad. The pad sticks to the shower wall. Any pencil will work. Upon exiting the shower, I can take the paper with the great idea with me. It appears to be dry. I bet the creator of the AquaNotes first had the idea in the shower.

As for the talk I’m preparing to give on October 30th, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s shower. However, I cannot go into it with an expectation, but I can shower with a sense of expectancy. My talk title:  The Magic of Expectancy. If you want to hear the idea that arose in the shower, join us for the 7:00pm Wednesday night service at New Thought Center for Spiritual Living in Lake Oswego.  http://www.newthoughtcsl.org/

 

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October 3, 2013

“…the dead have a way of becoming saints in the eyes of their survivors…” Rachel Vincent, My Soul to Take

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

By the way I talk about my mother, you would think she was a saint. Mary Kathleen Connolly McKern was most definitely not saintly. She had angry outbursts, offered her two cents whether wanted or not, and could triangulate better than anyone I know. Those behaviors irritated me, and, I would venture to guess, other members of our extended family. I remember the day the tables turned.

It was 1986. Upon the advice of a therapist, I was encouraged to say no to my mom the next time she called and berated my dad. He suffered from emphysema for many years prior to his death in 1988. He was not a pleasant patient, nor was she a patient care giver. I hated it when she called at odd hours to complain about him. The fateful day came when, after her first disparaging words, I said, “Mom, it’s my dad you’re talking about. I don’t want to hear it. You need to find a friend to tell. I’m your daughter, not your friend.” Silence followed. Finally she said, “You are right.” That was the last time she complained to me. I said no to my mother and the world did not end.

After that I started seeing my mother as a person, and not as my mommy. Mommies in our culture are supposed to meet all of our needs all of the time. Mothers know that isn’t possible, even in the best of family situations. By viewing my mom as the Archetypal Mother—with Light and Shadow aspects—I was finally able to see her as an aging woman who was sad, lonely and afraid. There was a brief period of time after my dad died when I thought I was supposed to help her with her frustrations in life, past and present. Remembering the advice of the wise therapist, this time I said no to myself.

During the last few years before her death in 1997, I enjoyed my mother without attachment to how I thought a mother should behave, speak and act. I set her free from my expectations, and the by product was that I was set free as well.

With both parents deceased, I have taken this practice into relationships with my three siblings and their families. We had a reunion last Sunday in Iowa. At the end of the day I marveled over how much fun I had. I had new insights into their lives. I revealed more about my life in Portland. There was no anger, no butting in, and no triangulating. We were adults saying yes to life as ordinary people and not the children of saints. Thanks be to God!

 

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August 19, 2013

“In the end it’s not about how many breaths you took. In the end it’s about the moments that took your breath away.” –Volksweisheitheit

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Witnessing last night’s nearly full moon literally took my breath away. My husband and I were enjoying a casual conversation while driving home from dinner with friends. Suddenly I stopped mid-sentence. I drew a quick in-breath as my upper body jerked back into the car seat. My eyebrows were raised and my mouth agape. After a slight holding of the breath, I was finally able to exclaim, “Look at the full moon. She is absolutely stunning!!!”  Poor Doug. He was driving and couldn’t see what I was seeing at that moment. But through my excitement he was able to feel what I was seeing.

The August Moon was hovering over Southeast Portland, a nearly perfect circle in the early evening sky. I can picture it now because “it took my breath away.” I love the feeling in my physical body when I describe an experience in this way. In that moment of awe all of my senses are engaged. I was fully alive. My body tingled, my thinking paused, and my heart popped open. All in the flash of a single moment. It’s like we want to preserve what just happened. This is true whether we are engaged by joy or sorrow.

I recall the incredible joy of flying into Ireland for the first time. We were greeted by a lovely rainbow arcing over massive fields of green. Beauty took my breath away.

I recall my niece’s first words when she called to say that a body found on the freeway was likely her son’s. My grandnephew and godson. Shock took my breath away.

I recall the first night that our Bindi cat joined our family. She was a tiny ball of black and white fuzz. Upon waking she crawled up next to my face, gently touched my cheek with a paw and then leaned in with her tiny face next to mine. Suddenly she came closer. OMG, she was trying to lick my eyelashes. Sweetness took my breath away. (I did not let her continue!)

I recall the morning on September 11, 2001. I was on the phone with my stepson who was 10 at the time. Together we watched the first of the towers fall. He asked me if this was the beginning of World War III. “I don’t know,” I answered. Fear took our breaths away, along with millions of people around the world.

The phrase “it took my breath away” means to overwhelm someone with beauty or grandeur; to surprise or astound. What moment today will take your breath away? What beauty might you witness that causes you to say, “It took my breath away?” Can you witness someone who, after receiving bad news, says, “It took my breath away?”

How alive will you be today?

 

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August 6, 2013

“When things aren’t adding up in your life, start subtracting.” –Anonymous

“If there is a 50-50 chance that something can go wrong, then 9 times out of ten it will.” –Paul Harvey

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Fun with Numbers
When I was a little girl I loved number games. “One potato, two potato, three potato, four.”  Remember that counting game? I loved writing numbers on the chalk board in elementary school. Addition and subtraction came to me easily. No one could beat me in multiplication flashcards in fifth grade. After that, everything changed.

Charles Darwin: “A mathematician is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there.”

My fun with numbers came to a screeching halt with the arrival of “new math” in sixth grade. Numbers became the enemy. I can still feel the anxiety in algebra class. Why are we moving letters around instead of numbers?

Philippe Schnoebelen: “Algebraic symbols are used when you do not know what you are talking about.”

Tenth grade arrived and so did geometry. I just didn’t get it, even with the help of a paid tutor. I lamented, “I’m never going to use math so why am I forced to study it in school?”

My stepdaughter said the same thing when she entered middle school. By then I had an answer. “Studying numbers opens pathways in your brain. It’s the study of numbers that allows you to think deeper and broader thoughts.” Neither of us were ever good at math, but we are masterful when it comes to soulful dialogues. Numbers never enter the conversation, but now we both get why it was important to study math.

“Do not worry too much about your difficulties in mathematics, I can assure you that mine are still greater.”  Albert Einstein

Fun with numbers returned when I started learning about memory, numerology, and sacred geometry. I envy that numbers have become user friendly in school. I am continually fascinated by sequences and patterns of numbers. The triple spiral in Ireland has become the cornerstone of The Anam Cara Journey.

Recently on Facebook I posted this: 8:11. I noticed my clock said 8:11, which are the house numbers of my childhood home. When I see that sequence, I always pause and smile, and feel the presence of my deceased parents. I also like to post identical numbers in sequence as shown on the clock:  1:11 or 11:11, 3:33, 4:44, etc. Some Facebook friends make similar postings. It always brings me a smile. Recently someone asked why we were doing that. Our collective reply, “Because it’s fun to play with numbers.”

I’d love to hear about your play with numbers:  info@anamcaraconnections.com

 

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July 8, 2013

“Happiness is having a scratch for every itch.” –Ogden Nash

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin
For Every Itch a Scratch

Have you ever had an itch that you couldn’t scratch? Maybe while driving a car, or on an unreachable part of your back? Or maybe you’re in public and it wouldn’t be socially acceptable to scratch…in there, under there or down there? Itching is a condition every human has experienced. It’s defined as “…an uncomfortable sensation on the skin that causes a desire to scratch.”

My itching began a week ago while traveling through southern Idaho on a day when the temperature hit 111.  All during our vacation I had wanted to clip some wild sage to take home and make smudge sticks. We pulled the car over next to an endless field of sage. I fetched my scissors and began clipping sprigs that wouldn’t mar the overall look of the bush. The fragrance was intoxicating, infused by the penetrating rays of the mid-day sun. We wrapped the sprigs in newspaper and continued on our journey. That evening I noticed a few small red bumps on the top of my left foot, traveling up my ankle and lower leg. I noticed a similar pattern on the back of my left forearm. Tiny red bumps, but they didn’t itch. I know this because I tried scratching them, just to make sure they didn’t itch. Finally my husband figured out that we had gotten bit or scratched by something related to the sage bushes. That relaxed my monkey mind, but it didn’t take away my obsession with the little red bumps that didn’t itch. The following morning they were more pronounced, likely because they were now joined by obvious mosquito bites. That’s when the itching began, followed by vigorous scratching. It’s true—for every itch, a scratch. And scratch I did!

There’s something unbelievably satisfying about scratching an itch. I am blissfully present as I start by softly patting the little red spots in a “I see you” kind of way. Silently I chant—I won’t scratch, I won’t scratch. I notice that some spots beg for more, and I return to them, over and over. The patting is more intense now. Silently I vow—I will only scratch with the pads of my fingers and not my finger nails. It’s too late. The itch scratching engages all of my senses now, aided and abetted by my fingernails. Endorphins are flying, my body quivering, my eyes fluttering in ecstasy. My mind wonders—How can it get any better than this?  And then I hit that lovely moment of ENOUGH!  Satisfaction has been achieved. The itch no longer itches. The scratch is no longer needed. Together, itch, scratch and I, take a deep, cleansing breath knowing that the cycle will likely resume. But for now we are at peace.

Ever the seeker of deep meaning, it occurs to me that life is a bit like itching and scratching. Each of us has an itch. To create something. To visit somewhere. To right a wrong. To sing or dance. To speak or write. To love and be loved. Every itch comes with some level of discomfort, and so do our strongest desires. I can choose to ignore the itch and in time it might go away. I can also choose attack the itch with whatever weapon is available in the moment, including negative thinking. Or I can be with the itch and ask:  WHAT is this about?

On this New Moon (see Mark’s message below) I intend to use this itching and scratching episode as a time of reflection. In hindsight, I did not approach the field of sage with reverence and respect, something I learned many years ago in a shaman’s training course. I took, but did not give back. Naughty me! I have made my amends through prayer. As for the mosquito bites, next time I’m camping I will be more vigilant about the little critters. If they bite, I will apply a soothing salve immediately and not wait a few days.

That leaves me wondering what the metaphorical itch is in my life. I know what it is. Do you know what your Itch is about?

P.S.  It’s said that if you itch a little, it’s a bother. If you itch a lot, it can be a nightmare. I bless all those dealing with chronic itching!

 

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June 7, 2013

“Seek not for fresher founts afar, just drop your bucket where you are.”
–Sam Walter Foss, American Poet, 1858-1911

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Bucket of Joy
The 2007 film, Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, motivated me to create my own bucket list without having to wait for old age or the arrival of a life threatening illness. Into my bucket I listed the following:

  • Sleep in a tee pee (did it, will never do again)
  • Walk through a forest at night (did it)
  • Travel to Scotland, Peru & Greek Islands (Peru has been replaced by Spain)
  • Visit the Grand Canyon (will do it this summer)
  • Experience autumn in New England
  • Have a McKern kids family reunion
  • Host my grand niece for a solo visit (did it & hope to again)
  • Sing in front of an audience (did it)
  • Belly dance in public (did it)
  • See my book published (in progress)
  • Live in Ireland for a year and a day
  • Have a dog and a cat
  • Pet a tiger

It occurred to me that everything in my bucket is related to my pleasure. While I was pondering this, a friend from Seattle emailed saying she was having odd thoughts of dying soon. Thus began an email dialogue about death and our end of life wishes. When we spoke of regrets, I mentioned the idea of a bucket list. I had several items in my bucket. I was surprised to learn that she didn’t have a list, but she did have a bucket. Her bucket is joy, what’s in it is joy and the outcome is always joy.

She shared with me a variety of little “random acts of kindness” that recently brought her joy. Here’s one:

“I bought a small basketball for an elderly man with mobility issues. He swims at my pool and I noticed he was unable to play basketball as the only ball available was too big to go thru the hoop. I noticed the little children could not play either for the same reason. I bought another small ball and had the aquatic director put the company name on it. Since then I have had so much fun watching families, children and the elderly play with this little ball. I’ve tried for years to get the aquatic director to buy one without success so just did it myself. A great investment in sharing joy with others.”

Motivated by my friend, I no longer have a bucket list. Instead I have Kathleen’s Bucket of Joy. Just naming it brought me smile. I still want to experience the pleasure-giving items on my bucket list, only now I will add frequent “random acts of kindness.” That too brings a smile. A smile of joy. My bucket is now overflowing, in a good way. Is yours?

 

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May 24, 2013

“An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” -Charles Bukowski, poet

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Doing It the Hard Way
I wonder sometimes why I choose to do things the hard way. Yesterday I found myself again struggling with popping open that day’s pill dispenser. (I take numerous supplements.) The plastic tab hurts my finger. I’ve tried using my thumb. I’ve tried using a towel as a cushion. Finally I tried tipping it upside down.  That’s when I saw the word push just below the tab. Sure enough, I pushed and the tab popped right open, without frustration or pain. You would have thought I discovered fire! The embarrassing part of this is that the pill dispenser is not new. I was opening it the hard way for three years.

I recall a time in college when I was sharing an apartment with two other girls. We shared one bathroom. One day we noticed that the bathtub drain was plugged. We all had long hair so we assumed that was what was blocking the drain. We tried pulling hair out by hand. We tried putting a hanger deep into the drain. We pulled out the big guns and tried Drano. No such luck. Finally we called our landlord. It was another one of the discovering of fire moments. We watched in awe as our landlord turned the faucet that tells the drain to open or close. Yep, it was closed. We were trying to unclog the drain the hard way.

I ponder today, under the influence of the full moon and lunar eclipse, where in my life am I trying to do something the hard way. Is that a natural human trait, or unique to me? I’d love to hear your short story about doing something the hard way and the moment when you watched in awe as the simple way was revealed. My intention is to gather and share the stories, for humor and inspiration, and to remind us that We’re All in This Together!!!

Email me your short story:  info@anamcaraconnections.com

 

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April 29, 2014

“Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible.”-Charles Haughey

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

The Bus to Ennistymon, Part I & II
Part 1 – April 2013

Every Tuesday morning in Ballyvaughan a 10-seater bus collects an assortment of seniors and delivers them to the closest big town of Ennistymon. I have enjoyed the ride through the rocky Burren before, and was pleased yesterday to do so again. My pleasure morphed into delight when I recognized Mary and Maureen, one up in her 80s, the other low in her 90s. Smart as a whip these two! I re-introduced myself and they remembered that I was from Oregon and that I loved the writings of John O’Donohue. When they called me Kathleen Connolly, I didn’t correct them.

We made a stop in the tiny village of Fanore when on the bus hopped a jolly fellow more my age. I recognized him as Michael O’Toole from previous bus journeys. “Oh, I see we have a visitor!” Michael shouted with glee. I said a proper hello and then reminded him that we had met before. “Oh, yes, it’s John O’Donohue that ye’d be after. He was raised here and is buried just up the road a ways. He used to do my homework for me. All it took was showing him a fist.” Michael gestured while I grimaced at the thought of John being bullied. “Oh, tis only a bit of fun we were having back then. You see, Johnny boy loved the Bible. I’d like to think I helped him in his studies.” This was followed by an outburst of laughter.

We arrived Ennistymon and all parted ways for a few hours. While the ladies shopped, I enjoyed a luxurious foot massage at the Falls Hotel Spa. Michael’s only stop was at a pub. Last year I remember him telling me that he had been arrested for “drink driving.” I recall tucking my chin and looking over my glasses as I said, “Oh, so you don’t drink anymore?”  “Oh sweet Jesus no. I drink like crazy. It’s driving I no longer do.” He seemed very pleased with himself.

This year, on the ride back to Ballyvaughan, Michael asked me to sit where we could chat. That would be him chatting and me listening. Soon he told me that he had had three drink driving offenses. With the third he permanently lost his right to drive. That was 14 summers ago, he said. He’s never driven since, and nor will he ever again. This is because the last offense put a young woman in a wheelchair for life.

Michael has carried this heavy burden every day for 14 years, he says, and will for the rest of his life. Each summer he makes a pilgrimage to Dublin to visit Ann and her family. He brings them gifts and buys them supper. Ann and her family have forgiven him, he said, shaking his head. “I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I could have killed that young woman, and nearly did so.”

It was then that I remembered something I was carrying in my purse. It was a round clay medallion with a spiral etched on one side. An anam cara made these for my women travelers this year. Each received one upon arrival in Ireland. All had words on the back that became literal touch stones for our journey. The leftover medallion was white. On the back was etched the word “forgive.” I took it out of my purse and showed it to Michael.

“I want to give this to you,” I said, “because now you must learn to forgive yourself.” He scoffed at that notion, saying it wasn’t possible and that he didn’t deserve it. Knowing that Mr. O’Toole was likely a devout Catholic, I subtly played the God Card, using a tone of voice similar to Roma Downey on the Touched by an Angel television show.

“Do you think, Michael, our Loving God would want you to suffer like this? You were made in the image of God. You are a child of God, just like me, just like Ann, just like the ladies on the bus with us. Ann is showing you that God has forgiven you through her. Now, can you Michael, just believe for a moment that
God can forgive you through you?”

I then placed the white medallion in his hand. “Hold onto this, Michael, and remember this moment. Our healing sometimes doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. But with God’s love moving in and through us, forgiveness is possible. Can you believe that, even if for a moment?”

Looking like a lost little child, Michael nodded his head. He clasped the medallion in both hands as if in prayer. “I’ll hold this every day until summer, and then I’m going to give it to Ann.” I added, “That’s a grand idea. Let it connect you as anam caras, as soul friends.” With a grin, he replied, “That’s what John O’Donohue would say. You know he lived just up the road here. His mudder died a year or two ago. Dementia, a terrible thing.”

And on and on he went, sharing stories, pointing out landmarks in the rugged landscape, and, occasionally, with a wink, showing me the clay medallion. I’d like to think that Mr. O’Toole was changed that day, but only he and God know that for sure. What I know is that I was changed by the encounter on the little seniors’ bus to Ennistymon. Mary, Maureen, Michael and I plan to meet up again on a spring Tuesday in 2014. Praise God, let it be so!

Part 2 – April 2014

Today, April 29th, I again hopped aboard the little senior’s bus destined for Ennistymon. Maureen was there, greeting me with a grand smile. Mary, she said, was on holiday in England. Then Maureen proceeded to introduce me to the new seniors I had not met. Maisie is a good friend of hers. The three of us enjoyed a good chat while savoring the sites of The Burren. It was a glorious day, spring effortlessly easing into summer.

I wondered if Mr. O’Toole would join us as in previous years. Yes, Maureen said, adding that he was no longer drinking or smoking. Tom, our bus driver, let out a loud guffaw just as he pulled over. There was Mr. O’Toole, leaning against a rock wall with cigarette in hand. Mary whispered to me, “I’ll bet he’s into the drink again, too.”

So on the bus came Mr. O’Toole. He nodded to everyone, including me, as if I was a local. “You’re back, just like you said you’d be,” he said to me. I smiled and continued to enjoy the bus ride.

Later, when everyone had finished their chores in Ennistymon, we again boarded the little bus. This time I said to Mr. O’Toole, “Do you remember what we talked about last year on the way home?”  He nodded, quickly adding, “And I still have the little coin you gave me with that word on it. I see it every day, and some days I pick it up and hold onto like there’s no tomorrow.”

I smiled and said softly, “You’re looking well. I can tell there’s something different about you.” He wanted details, so I continued, “Your eyes are brighter and your smile is softer. I can tell you’re no longer carrying the double burden of guilt and self- hatred.”

The rest of the journey home was filled with idle chatter and gentle laughter. It was like we were all lifted by Mr. O’Toole’s new found freedom. “To be honest with you,” he said before departing, “I did have a Guinness at the pub in Ennistymon, but look at me—I didn’t drive!” With a wink, he was gone.

Sometimes I wonder if Mr. O’Toole is real. Our brief encounters on the little senior’s bus to Ennistymon have been filled with unbelievable mischief and magic. I can’t wait to see what 2015 reveals.

 

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April 24, 2013

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.” -Irish blessing

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Every Tuesday morning in Ballyvaughan a 10-seater bus collects an assortment of seniors and delivers them to the closest big town of Ennistymon. I have enjoyed the ride through the rocky Burren before, and was pleased yesterday to do so again. My pleasure morphed into delight when I recognized Mary and Maureen, one up in her 80s, the other low in her 90s. Smart as a whip these two! I re-introduced myself and they remembered that I was from Oregon and that I loved the writings of John O’Donohue. When they called me Kathleen Connolly, I didn’t correct them.

We made a stop in the tiny village of Fanore when on the bus hopped a jolly fellow more my age. I recognized him as Michael O’Toole from previous bus journeys. “Oh, I see we have a visitor!” Michael shouted with glee. I said a proper hello and then reminded him that we had met before. “Oh, yes, it’s John O’Donohue that ye’d be after. He was raised here and is buried just up the road a ways. He used to do my homework for me. All it took was showing him a fist.” Michael gestured while I grimaced at the thought of John being bullied. “Oh, tis only a bit of fun we were having back then. You see, Johnny boy loved the Bible. I’d like to think I helped him in his studies.” This was followed by an outburst of laughter.

We arrived Ennistymon and all parted ways for a few hours. While the ladies shopped, I enjoyed a luxurious foot massage at the Falls Hotel Spa. Michael’s only stop was at a pub. Last year I remember him telling me that he had been arrested for “drink driving.” I recall tucking my chin and looking over my glasses as I said, “Oh, so you don’t drink any more.”  “Oh sweet Jesus no. I drink like crazy. It’s driving I no longer do.” He seemed very pleased with himself.

This year, on the ride back to Ballyvaughan, Michael asked me to sit where we could chat. That would be him chatting and me listening. Soon he told me that he had had three drink driving offenses. With the third he permanently lost his right to drive. That was 14 summers ago, he said. He’s never driven since, and nor will he ever again. This is because the last offense put a young woman in a wheelchair for life.

Michael has carried this heavy burden every day for 14 years, he says, and will for the rest of his life. Each summer he makes a pilgrimage to Dublin to visit Ann and her family. He brings them gifts and buys them supper. Ann and her family have forgiven him, he said, shaking his head. “I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I could have killed that young woman, and nearly did so.”

It was then that I remembered something I was carrying in my purse. It was a round clay medallion with a spiral etched on one side. An anam cara made these for my women travelers this year. Each received one upon arrival in Ireland. All had words on the back that became literal touch stones for our journey. The leftover medallion was white. On the back was etched the word “forgive.” I took it out of my purse and showed it to Michael.

“I want to give this to you,” I said, “because now you must learn to forgive yourself.” He scoffed at that notion, saying it wasn’t possible and that he didn’t deserve it. Knowing that Mr. O’Toole was likely a devout Catholic, I subtly played the God Card, using a tone of voice similar to Roma Downey on the Touched by an Angel television show.

“Do you think, Michael, our Loving God would want you to suffer like this? You were made in the image of God. You are a child of God, just like me, just like Ann, just like the ladies on the bus with us. Ann is showing you that God has forgiven you through her. Now, can you Michael, just believe for a moment that

God can forgive you through you?”

I then placed the white medallion in his hand. “Hold onto this, Michael, and remember this moment. Our healing sometimes doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. But with God’s love moving in and through us, forgiveness is possible. Can you believe that, even if for a moment?”

Looking like a lost little child, Michael nodded his head. He clasped the medallion in both hands as if in prayer. “I’ll hold this every day until summer, and then I’m going to give it to Ann.” I added, “That’s a grand idea. Let it connect you as anam caras, as soul friends.” With a grin, he replied, “That’s what John O’Donohue would say. You know he lived just up the road here. His mudder died a year or two ago. Dementia, a terrible thing.”

And on and on he went, sharing stories, pointing out landmarks in the rugged landscape, and, occasionally, with a wink, showing me the clay medallion. I’d like to think that Mr. O’Toole was changed that day, but only he and God know that for sure. What I know is that I was changed by the encounter on the little seniors’ bus to Ennistymon. Mary, Maureen, Michael and I plan to meet up again on a spring Tuesday in 2014. Praise God, let it be so!

 

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March 26, 2013

“Sometimes questions are more important than answers.” Nancy Willard

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

“Could We Talk?”
Forty-nine years ago this Easter I stood before the congregation of the First Christian Church in Ames, Iowa and declared my faith. Following my family’s tradition, and months of study, I was baptized by immersion. I loved the ritual of it, especially wearing a white robe. Before the dunking, the minister stood before each of us 13 year olds and asked: “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior?” One by one everyone said yes. I recall feeling antsy because the question didn’t make sense to me. Exactly what did Jesus save me from? My mom used to tell me that I was my own worst enemy. Would Jesus stop me from being me, the bad and good parts of me? Gosh, I thought, wouldn’t that be a neat and tidy way to live. When the minister stood in front of me and asked the question, I couldn’t bring myself to say yes. Instead I nodded in agreement. But what I really wanted to say was “Could we talk?”

Fast forward twenty-five years. After my dad died I started attending the First Christian Church in downtown Portland. It had a beautiful sanctuary with circular seating, symbolizing unity in community. The minister walked among us. The choir was called Joyful Noise. The feeling was wonderful, but still I longed for a meaningful dialogue about my faith. The opportunity arrived when the minister phoned me and suggested a get acquainted meeting. He was a lovely man, truly interested in who I was as a person. For the first time I asked what I wanted to ask way back at my baptism—“If I have God, why do I need Jesus? I mean, isn’t Jesus kind of a middle man?” The minister paused, leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands on the top of his head. “That’s an interesting question. No one has ever asked me that before. Let’s talk about it.”

He explained to me that most people can’t comprehend the enormity and vastness of God. That God is creation itself. All knowing, all seeing, everywhere present. Therefore, we need to bring God into human form in order to relate. This is the role that Jesus played and still plays today.

I continued my line of questioning. “If God is the Almighty, then why would we pray to Jesus and not to God? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to bring our prayers to the source?” He chuckled at that while inviting me the next Sunday to listen closely to the prayers. “We pray in the name of Jesus, not to Jesus.” That statement allowed me to think of Jesus as a human expression of God. Later, in my New Thought studies, I learned an even greater truth. That God needs each one of us in order to express.

This Easter, I once again ask, “Could we talk?” I want to know what Easter means to you. Is Jesus your savior? What does being saved mean? If Jesus died on the cross to save us from sin, then what does his resurrection mean? And my favorite question of all, “Why did the authors of the Bible leave in the parts about Mary Magdalene—weeping at the base of the cross, anointing his body with sacred oils, and being the first witness to his resurrection?” I wish I could ask both ministers that question.

 

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January 10, 2013

“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection
with one another – and ourselves”  -Jack Kornfield

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

We’re All in This Together
While in deep sorrow over the tragic shootings in recent weeks, I found inspiration in a phrase that was often repeated—We’re all in this together. Oneness, I thought, is at last making its presence known in mass consciousness.

I heard a Connecticut police officer say it. I heard President Obama say it. I heard the first devastated parent to speak out say it. We are all in this together. Making conscious connections, whether through eye contact, a hug or handshake, or a soft smile, will assure that we are moving forward together. That is the ultimate purpose of Anam Cara Connections.

ACC formed long before it became a non-profit in 2008. The form was my desire to bring anam cara, the Irish term for soul friend, into every day vernacular. The structure it took was creating a non-profit ministry whose mission was/is to cultivate connections between soul friends seeking a deeper experience of the Self, the Other, and Community. We do this through our First Friday Forums, plus seasonal ceremonies, workshops and classes, and e-newsletters like this. You are among the 642 people on our email list!

It’s time for ACC to reflect on its future by looking at its past. Given Mark Dodich’s new moon message below, it’s prudent for all of us to ponder. What better time than January! The month is named after Janus, the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions. He’s considered the guardian of gates and doorways, often depicted with two faces. One is on the front of his head facing the future, the other on the back of his head gazing at the past. He was neither here nor there. All of January was considered a delicate “time between times.” For us, that means 2012 is barely over and 2013 is in its infancy. What do we want to keep and what do we want to release? What future lies ahead? Will we move ahead together?

It is my greatest hope that 2013 will be the year that we, as one human family, can continue to say in unison—we’re all in this together. This will be the focus of all First Friday Forums throughout 2013. Each Forum will also feature a personal story of oneness, unity and connection. (See my first offering below.) I hope you will consider joining us for inspired dialogues, gentle meditations and beautiful music—and fun—as we make connections with soul friends.

What does “we’re all in this together” mean to you?

ANAM CARA CONNECTION MOMENT shared by Kathleen
One winter morning, while grocery shopping, I found myself trying to maneuver the cart through very narrow aisles congested with other shoppers. It was irritating, to say the least. During one of the traffic jams I happened to notice an older man answer his cell phone. He didn’t say a word, but his body language spoke volumes. He shoulders dropped. His head shook in obvious despair. His previously pleasant expression sank into one of sadness. As he put his phone away I saw other shoppers give a quick stare and hurriedly move on.  Even though I too was in a hurry, something compelled me to approach the man. My cart now next to his, I reached out and gently touched his arm. Our eyes locked, his filled with tears, mine with the gaze of the silent witness. “I see you,” my soul whispered. We shared a soft smile, and, with a nod, I moved on. What lasted seconds will last me a lifetime. It was an anam cara connection moment.

Do you have a brief anam cara connection moment to share? Please email it Rev. Kathleen at info@anamcaraconnections.com

Stuff I Know 2012

November 28, 2012

“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.” L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

STUFF I KNOW BY ME
Home
© Kathleen Verigin

My first visit back to Iowa after my mom died, over 15 years ago now, I noticed that I said I was going to Iowa. Prior to her death I always referred to my visits as going home. Something changed with the passing of my mom

My first childhood house was razed a few years ago. An apartment building now dwells on the sacred land where I climbed the cherry tree, chased butterflies and fireflies, ran through the sprinklers in the summer, and tried ice skating on frozen patches of rain water in the winter.

The next house was across the street. What a move that was! I remember well traipsing back and forth between houses while having “the mumps,” now a long forgotten childhood rite of passage. That second house was sold after my dad’s death 24 years ago. The family that purchased it has slowly remodeled it over the years, including a completely new kitchen. Oh, how my mom would have loved that!

After moving to Portland in 1975 I lived in a variety of apartments, five to be exact. It was somewhat of a gypsy lifestyle, and it suited me well. It wasn’t until I purchased my own house in 1987 that I finally felt “at home” in Portland. But still, when visiting Iowa, I would say I was going home.

There is one constant amidst all of the many places I have lived. And it is simply this. Home is where the heart is. According to the Free Dictionary on-line the idiom means “…something that you say which means that your true home is with the person or in the place that you love most.”

The person that I’m always with is me. It’s taken me years to truly love myself. Now I lovingly take me wherever I live. When I am conscious of that, in a spirited way as opposed to an ego way, then there truly is no place like home. I am at home. Right here. Right now.

Carl Jung said that the house is a metaphor for the soul. A house becomes a home when we infuse it with love. I draw a relaxing deep breath while remembering the many joys of my childhood homes. My mom was a true homemaker. She too lives in my heart. I hear her whisper, “Welcome home, Kathi McKern, welcome home.”

What does home mean to you?

 

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October 14, 2012

“A witch and a bitch always dress up for each other, because otherwise the witch would upstage the bitch, or the bitch would upstage the witch, and the result would be havoc.” -Tennessee Williams (American playwright. 1911-1983)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin
“Which Witch?”

One mid-October day, when I was the minister of a church, a jolly older fellow asked me, “Rev. Kathleen, do you dress up like a witch on Halloween?” My reply, “No, I dress up as a minister.” Others in the room burst out in laughter. The older fellow didn’t get the irony.

This Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation, nearly 6 million adults will masquerade as a witch, holding the coveted number one spot. (In second place is vampire with 3.2 million costumes.) I wonder what the fascination is regarding the archetype of witch.

Since embarking on a path of earth based spirituality, in connection with the basic tenets of New Thought, I have repeatedly been asked if I’m a witch. When looking up the dictionary definitions, I find many opposites. For example:

Witch: An ugly or wicked old woman
A fascinating or enchanting woman

Witch: Destroyer
Healer

So which witch is it that captures our fascination and imagination? According to Carolyn Myss the archetype of witch “… uses knowledge of the universal laws of nature, the conscious mind and esoteric powers to manifest their desires. The shadow witch uses their gifts to increase their own power.” I wonder, could Obama and Romney both be witches? Could the Pope be a witch? Could you be a witch?

The cultural definition of witch relates to “wise woman.” They were the healers and midwives in the community, many whom were single and elderly. That alone made them suspect. Through herbal remedies they knew how to take away the pains of childbirth, which was a big no-no to the faithful.

Genesis 3:16 – “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'”

All because of Eve’s supposed disobedience to God. Eeegads! This mindset goes back thousands of years and is still echoing through our consciousness today.

During the Great Witch Hunt (1567-1640) over 3 million witches, mostly women and some men, were put to horrific deaths for practicing the healing arts. I wonder if today’s advent of alternative modes of healing (aka “natural medicine”) is the resurrection of those who suffered the brutal killings.

Same with those of us attracted to moon ceremonies and celebrations of the seasons. Many of my mentoring clients struggle with being seen in the world for whom and what they are. It’s particularly difficult if they are breaking free from the confines of the familial box. Could a modern day “witch hunt” ensue? No wonder so many of us hesitate to embrace our natural gifts as healers, midwives, artists, ceremonialists, herbalists, spiritual warriors, etc.

Now, when someone asks me if I’m a witch, my answer goes something like this: “No, I’m not a witch, but I might do something witch-like, just like I’m not a Buddhist but I might incorporate Buddhist prayers in my ministry.” That’s what I say today. Who knows what I’ll say tomorrow.

I greatly welcome your thoughts. Which witch are you?

 

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September 14, 2012

“On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the
dawn of decision, sat down to wait, and waiting died.” –Sam Ewing (former baseball player)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME “Plains of Hesitation”
© Kathleen Verigin

It’s not surprising that I hail from Iowa, right smack in the middle of the Great Plains. It was there that I learned the fine art of hesitation. There’s the fun kind, like pausing before jumping into a cold swimming pool. I know it’s going to feel great, but not at first. The initial splash will be over quickly. After the momentary discomfort, pleasure sets in. Then there’s the not so fun kind of hesitation, when I feel the urge to do something but I don’t know what the outcome will be. Pleasure or pain? Hesitation becomes indecision. Success or failure? The risk morphs into fear. Should I or shouldn’t I? I start roaming the plains of hesitation. It’s a familiar place. Suddenly I sit, waiting, and in the waiting a little part of my soul dies.

Today I choose to live my aliveness. When I find myself roaming the plains of hesitation, I will see it as an opportunity to pause and reflect. WHAT is the hesitation really about? When the right question is asked, the right answer will emerge. I once again thrive.

What role does hesitation play in your life?

 

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August 31, 2012

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t
matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

STUFF I KNOW BY ME: Feelings
© Kathleen Verigin

“Get off the stage, no one is watching.”
“You take things too personally.”
“Your tears manipulate people.”

Okay, I’m guilty. I’m a feeler personality type. A deep, deep feeler. I often express my feelings. I cry easily, whether I’m happy, sad or mad. Sometimes other people don’t know what to do in the presence of my feelings. Sometimes I don’t always know what to do with my feelings. The key word is “do.” A feeling doesn’t require action, but it does require presence.

Call to mind the flaggers stationed at two ends of an intersection that is under construction. They get our attention by their orange vests and hard hats, by holding and sometimes shaking a sign, and occasionally by communicating with a gesture or their voice. We are at their mercy, no longer flowing in traffic. They have our full attention! And that is precisely what a feeling does. It gets our attention. It’s the waving flag that screams—“Warning, warning, do not proceed. Stop, pause, breathe.” It is then, in the present moment, when we can identify the feeling and simply be with it. This is true for joyful feelings as much as anger and sorrow. After being with the feeling, the feeling flag will let us know when it is safe to proceed. In fact, just like the traffic flaggers, it will guide us into right action.

Something that brings me joy is to make eye contact with the traffic flagger. I like to wave or shout “thank you” to them. The smile in return always brings a happy feeling. It reminds me to look my feelings fully in the face. Feelings are there to inform me, to guide me, and to remind me that I’m human. Now, what I do with those feelings is another matter. Stopping, pausing and breathing helps me stay centered, and prevents me from moving into a place of danger, either real or imagined.

When you next approach a stretch of road under construction, I invite you consider the metaphor of the flag and feelings. Stop, pause, breathe. After you’re done being, then do something to mark the moment. Perhaps a look in the rear view mirror, giving yourself a wink, a smile or a nod. And don’t forget to be kind to the flagger. That’s a tough job, on the roadway and the path of my soul.

 

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July 31, 2012

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” — Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games

STUFF I KNOW BY ME: Winning
© Kathleen Verigin

Last Friday evening found me clued to the television set as I watched the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. I can’t say whether or not it was well done, because I was caught up in the ritual connection to its ancient origins. According to legend, the first Games were founded by Heracles, a son of the Greek god Zeus. The first written records date back to 776BCE, stating a naked runner won the event.  The early Olympic Games expanded and continued to be played every four years for nearly 1200 years. In 393CE, the Roman emperor abolished the Games because of their pagan influences. Approximately 1500 years later, a young Frenchmen named Pierre de Coubertin began their revival. (See his quote above.)

I am one of the 40.7million Americans who watched last Friday night with fascination and curiosity. During the parade of nations, I couldn’t help but wonder—What does winning a medal mean to an individual? Gold is obviously the best, but I would think winning any medal would be an amazing thrill and provide an incredible sense accomplishment. A 1995 study revealed an interesting fact about that.

Three social psychologists created a study on the effects of counterfactual thinking on the Olympics. (Wikipedia: Counterfactual thinking is a term of psychology that describes the tendency people have to imagine alternatives to reality. Humans are predisposed to think about how things could have turned out differently if only, and also to imagine what if?) The study showed that athletes who won the bronze medal were significantly happier with their winning than those athletes who won the silver medal. The silver medalists were more frustrated because they had missed the gold medal, while the bronze medalists were simply happy to have received any honors at all. Both the gold and bronze recipients are considered winners, but the silver recipient is a winner and a loser.

In response to Pierre de Coubertin’s words, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part,” what if every athlete won a medal just for showing up? Would athletes want to participate? Would people watch? Would anyone care?

As we transition from what Riane Eisler calls a Dominator Society into a Partnership Society, and while the Olympics are in progress, I ponder what it means to be a winner or a loser. Does winning mean to have power over something, thereby creating a loser? If I want to co-create with a perceived competitor, seeking resolution rather than being best, does that make me a loser? The silver medalist is the one who dwells in the splits, neither a winner nor loser, yet also a winner and a loser. Could we be happy in a world of silver?

 

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July 17, 2012

“The ego is the false self born out of fear and defensiveness.”
― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

STUFF I KNOW BY ME, KATHLEEN
Ego, Fear & Greed

While on vacation I met a very successful businessman, likely someone we would consider to be among the elite 1%. Since I happily dwell in the 99%, I was fascinated by his approach to business and life in general.

“What motivates your success?” I asked. He shot back, with a grin, “Ego, fear and greed.” I laughed and said, “Seriously, what is the mission statement for your business?” “Same thing,” he said, “ego, fear and greed.” This generated a lively conversation at our dinner table, with most of us rather shocked by his declaration. After several minutes of lofty disclosures about our personal approaches to business—mostly motivated by being of service—the businessman once again chimed in. “Admit it, everyone. You are all driven by ego, fear and greed. It’s the American Way. Yes, you have jobs that provide a service. So do I. What gets us up and out the door each morning is the same thing. It’s ego, fear and greed.” And then he grinned, again.

I didn’t have much to say that night, but I have been thinking about it ever since. As I ponder, I invite you to ponder as well, and then post your comments on our secure On-Line Forum.

EGO. Okay, I’ve got an ego. I admit it. It is my sense of self, my persona, how I perceive that I fit into the world. Leaving a 20+ year career in broadcasting was a huge transition for me. Since age 18 I had only worked for “call letters.” It felt incredibly vulnerable to show up somewhere and not be able to say I worked for a radio or television station. It was my ego that whispered, “See, you really do need me to be in charge.” Thankfully I moved through that fearful time, and am now quite content to be a minister.

FEAR Yes, I can get into fearful thinking, too. It’s usually when I’m stressed because something feels out of my control. Oh, there’s my ego again, wanting to take over. Because I am ever so spiritual now, definitely not run by ego, fear and greed, I try to pause, honor the fear, allow it to move through me, and then forge ahead. Where does that leave my ego? Whining in the back seat. It has a very loud voice.

GREED It’s true, I loved the generous salary I made when I worked in television. There was a time when I was a true yuppy, making a salary figure that was the same as my age. Then I took a leap of faith as I began to “live my bliss.” That translates to an 11% cut in salary when I left one television station for another. I was terrified that I couldn’t live on such a meager salary. Ha! Not only did I live easily on less money, I was able to save a lot that year. The money I accrued would eventually support me after a surprise lay off. Now there’s a story about ego and fear, and maybe greed!

The lay off forced me to shed outdated garments and begin anew. That’s when I surrendered to the call to ministry, and a new dance began with ego, fear and greed. You see, to a degree, I think the businessman was right. Ego, fear and greed are always with us. It’s a part of being human. As for EFG being our prime motivators? That wouldn’t work for me, but it has worked for the businessman. He is wealthy beyond measure, and appears to be generous with his spending. Everything in his life seems to be working well. His last comment over dessert that night was revealing. “I’m going to see a life coach after I return from vacation. I sense a change coming on.” This time I grinned.

What are your thoughts about ego, fear and greed? Are they motivators, companions, saboteurs, or just a part of the human condition?

 

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July 2, 2012

Inspiring Thoughts from Kathleen

And Crown Thy Good…

The first celebrity of my early baby boom generation that I wanted to be wasn’t Ann Margret or Annette Funicello. I wanted to be Haley Mills. I loved her English accent and amazing wide-eyed innocence. I would practice words she spoke in movies, like “nooo, reeeeally,” “pull-pel” instead of purple, “faaaa-tha” instead of father and “muhhh-tha” instead of mother. I would rehearse these words over and over again in the privacy of my early adolescent bedroom in little old white bread Ames, Iowa.

As we approach Independence Day, I am reminded of Haley singing “America” in the film “Pollyanna.” As a child, and even an adult, I disliked singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” It felt too war like to me. I much preferred “America the Beautiful.”

America the Beautiful
Written by: Katherine Lee Bates

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I highlighted “and crown thy good with brotherhood,” because, as a child, besides Haley Mills, I was intrigued by Robin Hood. His motto was “to rob the rich to pay the poor.” Tantalized by this idea, I heard the song lyrics as “And crown thy good with Robin Hood.” I could imagine Haley Mills sharing the joy in my misinterpretation—robbing from the rich and sharing the wealth with the poor.

I chuckle as I type this as many of us, as children and adults, have misunderstood lyrics. This 4th of July, while sailing in Canadian waters, I intend to contemplate the perceived opposites of rich & poor, the free & the brave, Canada & the US. I will cloak myself in an imagined American flag and sing with the conviction of Haley Mills. Am I a “Pollyanna” if I celebrate Independence Day? Or am I a proud American collectively shouting “Whoo Hoo, we have a long way to go. Let’s go together so that we may all enjoy freedom.”

What are your thoughts about the meaning of this year’s 4th of July?

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