Stuff I Know 2014

December 5, 2014

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Temple of Memory
At a recent holiday gathering, I had the opportunity to interact with a woman I did not know, but had been warned about in advance. It seemed she had a reputation of being a bit of a “pill.” My Irish sense of curiosity fueled the desire to meet her and find out for myself.

She was nothing like I pictured her, although I really didn’t know what a “pill” would look like in human form. Eventually we were seated near each other and began conversing. I asked one of my favorite questions: “Are you originally from Oregon?”  With her polite “no” came the raising of her eyebrows and the subtle shaking of her head. “I’m from back East,” she confessed. She went on to say, “I’m nothing like my family. I’m the black sheep. The artist. The confronter. The one who escaped.” It some ways I could relate having left Iowa soon after college. What I could fully relate to is what she said next.

“It’s an odd thing when I go back home to visit. You’d think I wanted to escape my family and spend my time visiting world class museums. No, instead I like to visit places that hold memories of my childhood.”

“Oh,” I chimed in. “You like to go to the Museum of Memory.”

I’m not sure where those words came from, but we both knew they were powerful. We went on to swap rich stories of various places from our youth. For me, I remembered the school yard where my 7 year old tongue got stuck on the frosty jungle gym. The A&W drive-in where we’d get frosty root beers on a hot summer night. The pussy willows at our neighbor’s house, heralding the arrival of spring. The giant maple tree at another neighbor’s yard where we built elaborate hallways out of autumn leaves.

Everything my human eyes have ever seen hold memory. Not the kind of memory we associate with computers. It’s the soulful kind of memory. The kind stored in my heart, not my brain. The kind that gets especially activated this time of year. Remember this when you bring out holiday decorations, or when you visit someone’s home who has taken “Deck the Hall’s quite literally.

Out of curiosity, I googled Museum of Memory and found this:

We cannot completely rely on our memories, and yet, there is no reality other than what we carry with us in memory. Every moment we live, we get the importance of the moment, thanks to the past. Present and future would lose all meaning if the past was erased from our consciousness. Between ourselves, and nothing, is our ability to remember.

http://www.nie-theatre.com/index.php/shows/repertoire/museum-of-memories

This December, I will remember to slow down and allow the inner art pieces of my soul to emerge. I will give equal time to happy and sad memories contained in a Christmas ornament or other holiday decoration. I will savor the taste of candy canes and egg nog. I will smile when I see the menorah in a neighbor’s window, with new lights every night. Most importantly, I will allow my gaze to linger upon my anam caras, my soul friends, even if they sometimes act like a “pill.”

 

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November 21, 2014

“Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Millennial Thanksgiving
Our Thanksgiving this year will be shared with our adult kids and their partners, plus an assortment of their friends, all in their twenties. That means there could be twelve or more “millennials” in our small condo. This is the generation born between 1981 and 1996. Time Magazine once portrayed millennials as lazy, and ungrateful, and that they don’t grow up fast enough. I’ve also heard it said that if we Baby Boomers are the “Me Generation,” then the Millennials are the “Me, Me, Me Generation.” That’s not what I see in the dozens of millennials with whom we are blessed to be acquainted.

From socializing with 20-somethings in the past, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern of speech. Instead of saying “I think it’s time to eat,” someone will likely say instead, “I feel it’s time to eat.” When I first noticed this, I had the notion to interject, “Deciding to eat isn’t a feeling.” This from a life-long feeler, and yet someone who still sometimes struggles with identifying an authentic feeling. I decided to remain quiet and notice if “I feel” statements continued. They did, and often, always around making a decision about something.

According to the Myers-Briggs Indicator, inspired by the work of Carl G. Jung’s theory of psychological types, people can be characterized by their decision making processes in one of two ways—Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F).

Thinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved. (Wikipedia)

Even though I’m someone who will say “I think,” I show up as a Feeler on the Myers-Briggs Indicator. I am reminded that Feeler is not about emotions. Everyone has emotions about the decisions they make, and we are not to confuse thinking with intelligence. These are simply two different mental functions for organizing information and for making decisions. Ultimately, it’s about how we make judgments.

Thinking (T) chooses decisions based on principles and logical consequences. Feeling (F) chooses decisions based on values and consequences for people. (The Myers-Briggs Foundation)

Perhaps the millennial generation has something to teach us about values and consequences. Perhaps they value feeling more than thinking. Perhaps they value consensus over conflict.

This Thanksgiving I will get another opportunity to socialize with this wonderful group of young adults. I vow to listen more than talk. To seek to understand before being understood. And, when it’s time to sit down to our Thanksgiving Feast, prepared by everyone, I will say, “I feel it’s time to eat.”

 

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November 6, 2014

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Three Unsafe Words
In the past few days I have heard these three words used to describe a radio personality accused of beating women, and the outcome of Tuesday elections:  Power, Control, and Dominance. That’s a triple spiral I want nothing to do with. Yet it is pervasive in our culture and “up” for our pondering and reflection.

Before being fired last week, Jian Ghomeshi hosted “Q,” the CBC afternoon radio show heard locally on NPR. I was a big fan, even more so when I first saw his photo. “Darned good looking,” I thought, “I bet he’s popular with the ladies.” That proved to be true, in a very negative way. Nine women and one man have come forward to say they had been assaulted and sexually abused by Jian. In a long discourse on Facebook, he admitted to his attraction to BDSM—bondage & discipline, sadism & masochism—saying it was his private life and nobody’s business. He said all sexual partners were agreeable, including the use of a “safe word.” Those making the allegations say it was not agreeable. There were no “safe words.” Instead, they say, his behaviors were violent, brutal and degrading, causing them great shame.

Mr. Ghomeshi, and his accusers, will have their day in court. What interests me today is the dialogue that has emerged around this provocative and controversial topic. Power, control and dominance. (See Mark Dodich’s moon message below as it directly relates!) What happens in the privacy of someone’s bedroom is truly none of my business. But what happens in board rooms, in the military, on college campuses, with kidnapped girls in Nigeria, and in Congress is my business, and yours. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s election I read way too many headlines that used the three “unsafe” words of Power, Control & Dominance.

ENOUGH, I say!!!

We contribute to the problem by only reading about these issues, or shaking our heads in disgust, or trying to ignore them by avoiding the news. We contribute to the solution by launching dialogues, by telling the truth, and by listening to the truth of others.

Will you listen my truth that is fueling the need to write this?

I was date raped in my mid-20s by a man whose name I occasionally see in the newspaper for his work in politics. If he ever ran for office, would I come forward with this deeply personal information? Would I enroll a woman friend who disclosed to me a similar experience with him? I don’t know. But what I do know is that it was his shame, and not mine. No one has power over me. I refuse to be controlled by another. I value partnership over dominance. And, critical to my healing, I have forgiven myself—over and over and over again—for not speaking up.

Will you speak up? Will you share your story with someone? Will you join me in affirming daily that Love & Light prevail, always, and in all ways?

Thank you for listening, my anam cara, “…the truest mirror to reflect my soul.” We’re all in this together!

 

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October 22, 2014

“Fiery colors begin their yearly conquest of the hills, propelled by the autumn winds. Fall is the artist.” ~Animal Crossing: Wild World

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

There may be plenty of people who don’t like the seasonal change from summer to fall, but is there anyone that doesn’t marvel over the magical array of autumn colors? Fiery reds, mellow yellows, glowing oranges, crusty browns and those lucky leaves with color splotches of each?  If you think about it, the colors of autumn leaves are in essence the color of death. Yet who would oooh and aaah about death? “Oh, wow, look at the beauty of mom’s death!” “Oh, wow, take a gaze at the amazing beauty of my cat’s dead body!” “Oh, wow, look at all those beautiful dead people in Syria and Iraq!” Of course we wouldn’t say that. I wonder, then, what message autumn leaves might have for us.

Death is an invisible companion that walks the road of life with us. We can ignore it, but one day death will look us fully in the face. Will I resist or embrace my own death? That’s easy to say as I am, at the moment, enjoying good health. But death will come one day, to my door and to yours, and those what we hold most dear. How will we greet death? Colored by fear and loathing, or colored by love and compassion?

I don’t have the answer to that question, but what I do know is that the colors of autumn remind me of the ever turning Wheel of the Year. No one season has the license or clout to last through a solar year. Nothing is still. Nothing is inert. Nothing is blocked. It is only in our thinking that we make so. When I flow with the changing seasons, I flow with Life Itself.

What will you think the next time you gaze at the colors of autumn, or hear someone comment on its beauty? Will you skip over the “now” time of autumn, and instead dread the coming of winter? Will you wish for spring, and hope it turns into another summer? Will you think that it’s the end of something, or Nature’s way of reminding us that all of life ebbs and flows? I choose the latter. How about you?

(This message it not intended to take away authentic feelings around loss. It is intended to shed new light on how we respond. It’s all in our hands.)

 

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October 7, 2014

“To be or not to be. That’s not really a question.” – Jean-Luc Godard

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

To Be or To Do
Sometimes when I’m in the car I listen to a Christian radio station. It’s just to the right of 91.5, NPR.  I like to hear what the good old boy pastors are up to. Yesterday I was inspired by this question—Is your To Be list equal to your To Do list? It was a lesson in setting priorities. “If God is not at the top of both lists,” said the pastor, “then your life is out of balance.”

I have a To Do list in my head even before I get out of bed in the morning. Once at the computer, the day’s To Do items are often written on paper. Sometimes I put something on the list that I’ve already completed, just so I can cross it off. I’ll take success anywhere I can get it.

After yesterday’s radio sermon, this morning I made two lists. The To Do list had several tasks to accomplish, each preceded by a bullet point. The To Be list was short and to the point—Kindness. Today I will kindly address each item on the To Do list. Today I will be kind to everyone I meet. Today I will be kind to myself.

What’s at the top of your To Be list today?

 

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September 23, 2014

Psalm 126:6, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Bringing in the Sheaves
My Aunt Ava came to me in a dream last night. The significance is that it was she who inspired me yesterday—the first full day of autumn–to look up the old hymn, “Bringing in the Sheaves.” I remember as a kid going with her to a little country church in southern Iowa. For some reason that is the hymn that stuck in my mind. Partly because we kids were often actively involved in the harvest at their nearby farm, and partly because Aunt Ava used to sing at the top of her lungs. Bringing often sounded like branging, infused with her “down home” accent. I remember thinking that she was singing much too loudly. Truly, you could hear her voice above all others. That woman knew how to rejoice!

Today, while reflecting, I harvest the aliveness of Aunt Ava’s spirit. Her mother, my grandmother, died during The Depression after giving birth to her ninth live child. My grandfather was an alcoholic, sometimes absent for days. Imagine being 18 years old, a new mother herself, with 8 younger siblings. Aunt Ava was the glue that held this family together. Summer reunions were at the farm she shared with Uncle Robert. Christmas dinners always included talent shows featuring us kids. Aunt Ava’s applause was the loudest. Best of all, every summer each of us McKern kids, one at a time, got to spend a week at the farm. Yes, we worked hard doing chores, but the take away is that she made each of us feel special.

There is the literal harvest, and the symbolic harvest. I’m not sure anyone reading this will have come in from clearing a field or loading hay into a barn. Yet we are in a resonate field that reminds us of the sower, the seed and the soil. This autumn, during harvest time, what do you bring to the coffers? What needs to be tossed away? What still needs to ripen? Most importantly, can you rejoice in the process?

Bringing in the Sheaves
1874 by Knowles Shaw,

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,

 

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August 24, 2014

“If you want to get along, go along.”  Sam Rayburn (1882-1961)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Why Can’t We All Get Along?
A few days before he passed, my grandfather-in-law, Arnold Boettcher, affectionately known in the family as Bomp, said words that have stuck with me for years: Why can’t we all just get along?  He was lying in a hospital bed, his hands connecting above his head, making a frame around his weathered face. His eyes twinkled as he smiled at those gathered by his bedside. To my knowledge there were no dramas or fights going on within the family. Instead, I think Bomp was advising us on how to live a life of love and respect, rather than one of fear and judgment. Make connections, not enemies. This was, perhaps, the rugged farmer’s dying wish for us.

Today I think of Bomp when I view the massive amounts of photos and YouTube videos showing odd pairings of animal. I can watch the same ones over and over. The cat with a bird. The elephant with a puppy. The dog with a deer. I always wonder—if they can get along, why can’t we? I “read” this as a demonstration that our world is working in more ways than we give credit. Yes, there are wars, famines and plagues. Racism and sexism still exist. These are sad facts. But there are happy truths swirling about us as well.

Scientists say that our brains are hard-wired to connect with friends. If we could see everyone as an anam cara, a soul friend, imagine what kind of world we would live in. That is what Anam Cara Connections is about—offering opportunities for soul friends to connect. Rather than asking why can’t we all get along, as Bomp did, your anam cara affirms that we go along with the truth:  We Are One. There is no separation. This allows me to be optimistic in the midst of heartache and strife, in my little world and in the great big world. Let’s join together and allow truth to triumph fact. If animals can do it, so can we.

For a beautiful experience of anam cara critters connecting, click on this link for a delicious 7-minute meditation.


Can’t We All Get Along  6:58

 

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August 24, 2014

“Nature is a labyrinth in which the very haste you move with will make you lose your way.” – Francis Bacon, Sr. (1561-1626)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

You know the saying. What happens when we make plans? God laughs! I’ve heard some people say that that is a mean why to perceive God. I don’t think it’s mean at all. In fact, I think it’s a fun and playful way to stay in my God-center. An invitation to make plans, without attachments to outcomes. Hahaha!

We started our three-week sailing adventure with plans to cruise about the San Juan Islands north of Seattle. That we did, with ease and grace, including three days of fun with friends renting a house at Roche Harbor. God was smiling, I’m pretty sure, in approval of our plans.

The plans for the second leg of our journey found us in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. All was well until Capt. Doug discovered a leak in the engine our sailboat. Suddenly our plans were disrupted as a mechanic would not be available until two days later. That meant we’d have to stay put for four nights. So much for our plans. I listened closely, but could not hear God laugh. So we made the best of it and hunkered down at a working class marina in Cowichan Bay.

While roaming through the little village, I noticed a postcard size flyer on a light pole advertising a wine tasting tour. It was the perfect on-shore get away for us and a ripe opportunity to see the countryside. Our driver, Vernon, greeted me by saying, “Hello Rev. Kathleen. I know all about you. I looked you up on the internet. “You’re into that woo woo spiritual stuff, aye?”

This gave me pause, as it good be good news or bad news. Turns out it was good news as we had much in common. Vernon had a couple of wineries in mind for us since we were the only ones on the afternoon tour. Each winery was better than the next in terms of landscape, the knowledgeable, friendly and funny vintners, plus tasting wines we’d never heard of in the States.

After three wineries, I was tasted out, and ready to get back to the boat. But I could hear the excitement in Vernon’s voice when he said he made special plans for us to visit Damali Lavender Winery & Farm. Capt. Doug said yes, while I said I’d forgo the tasting and just roam about the lavender patches. With a smile at Doug and a wink at me, he said, “You will both really like this.”

The fragrance of lavender was intoxicating. As I breathed in the powerful yet gentle scents, Vernon walked up behind me and whispered, “ Walk the path below and you’ll find something pretty special.” What could I do but follow his obviously pre-planned plan for me?

I passed by row after row of tiny grapes, with lavender gardens nestled here and there. After a few twists and turns, all downhill, I suddenly came to a stop. There it was. A magnificent labyrinth in a flat field at the bottom of the vineyard. The backdrop was a dense forest. Our sailing plans on hold for a few days, it was Vernon’s plan that triggered a laugh in me, and I think in God as well.

I spent as much time just gazing at the labyrinth as I did walking it. I had the entire area to myself. I know it is often said that we should set an intention when walking a labyrinth. That was too much like a plan for me. So I just walked, roamed, and circled, eventually delivered to the center.

There I stood, in sweet delight. Warm sun on my face, a cool forest breeze at my back, lavender tickling my senses. A chuckle bubbled up in my heart as a smile spread over my face. I pondered the third leg of our sailing journey. What plans would we make, and who would laugh first, God or me?

 

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August 9, 2014

Insight is better than eyesight when it comes to seeing an angel. ~Quoted in “The Angels’ Little Instruction Book” by Eileen Elias Freeman

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Angels in a Bottle
“Do you know about angels?” I asked my soon to be 4 year old grand-nephew while preparing for his baptismal blessing ceremony. I had just given him a sticker to wear with two angel faces, one presenting him, the other his “widdle brudder.”

“I have some angels,” little Dylan announced. “I’m going to go get them.” With that he scurried out of the room, leaving his parents and me intrigued. Dylan returned, holding an old fashioned solid red ketchup bottle. He jumped up on the couch next to me, unwound the lid, and dumped out the contents in his lap. Before us was an array of a pre-school boy’s treasures: coins, tiny trucks, little animals, and a few beads of varying size and shape. Very meticulously, Dylan picked out three beads, two yellow, one blue.
Now held in his small open hand, he said, “Here.”

“Are these angels?” I asked, now fascinated. Dylan answered with a vigorous nod of the head.

I held a yellow bead up to the sunlight. It was clear plastic, multifaceted. “Look how it shines,” Dylan proclaimed. Now seemed to be the right moment to talk about God.

“Do you know about God?” I asked. Dylan lifted both arms up high, waving them side to side. “God is in the sky,” he pronounced. “He watches over us,” him mom chimed in. Her son nodded in agreement.

The moment was now ripe for a bit of teaching. “We call the God above Father Sky. We call what’s below us Mother Earth.” Together Dylan and I reached one arm up and pointed the other below. “Now,” I said in my most heavenly of voices, “Let’s draw down some Sky light and plant it in our heart.” We both placed one hand on our hearts. I continued, “Let’s draw up some light from Earth and bring it into our hearts.” Now we had both hands on our hearts. Our eyes locked as big smiles emerged. “And that’s where love lives,” I said. “Our ceremony today is about love. God’s love, angel’s love, and the love of family.”

Dylan again nodded, then asked, “But what about the moon?” Ah Ha, I thought, he is indeed related to me.

Soon I announced that it was time to go outside and begin the blessing ceremony. “I want to hold the yellow beads,” Dylan advised. “Good idea,” I replied. “How about one bead angel for you, the other for Devin?” I asked. Dylan nodded in agreement. I continued, “How about the blue bead for God?” With another nod, Dylan suddenly ran to my husband, his great-uncle, and handed him the blue bead. “Now we can start,” Dylan proclaimed.
It was a lovely little ceremony, honoring two of God’s precious new children, while affirming their wholeness in body, mind and spirit. Dylan was amazingly focused and attentive throughout, angel sticker on his heart, angel beads in his hands.

Later, while enjoying a post-ceremony buffet, Dylan ran up to his great-uncle, tugged on his shirt and said, “God, can I have the blue bead back?” It was a perfect conclusion to the day’s lessons about God, angels and love–only we adults were not the students. Wee Dylan was the master teacher, assisted by angels in a bottle.

 

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June 27, 2014

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

When you call someone by name, or call them a name, you come into relationship with that person, creating a connection, whether you are conscious of it or not. That’s what we humans are hard-wired to do. To relate and connect. And that’s why the Irish term anam cara is so important to me.

When I watch, read or listen to the news, I am drawing to me the content of the various stories. If something particularly captures my attention, I know that it is a mirror of some sort. Recently I have been struck by the acronym ISIS in reference to jihadist militant group now prominent in Iraq and Syria. While ISIS in the news stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, I know that there is a goddess by the name Isis. According to Wikipedia:

She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patroness of nature and magic. She was the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden, but she also listened to the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats and rulers. Isis is often depicted as the mother of Horus, the hawk-headed god of war and protection (although in some traditions Horus’s mother was Hathor). Isis is also known as protector of the dead and goddess of children.

I wonder if the connection between ISIS and Isis is an invitation to call upon the goddess for protection and healing. To honor the generative, life-giving aspect of humanity rather than the non-generative, life-taking paths so prominent right now, especially in the Middle East.

Here is a lovely “Prayer to Isis, Mother of Us All” by Linda Iles posted on this website.
http://mirrorofisis.freeyellow.com/id605.html  I invite you to read it aloud, creating a connection to her name, which means She of the Throne. Will you allow her to become a mirror to you, my anam cara?

Isis, Mother of us all,
Light that is all light,
Form that is all forms,
Beauty of Holiness,
From age to age,
Through countless ages,
You are ever-renewing
And ever-renewed.

We all came from Your Body,
We all came from Your Heart,
We all came from Your Soul.

Restore us to the perception of Truth,
The Truth of Your Love in all that is,
The Truth of Your Spirit in all that is,
The Truth of Your Presence in all that is.

I wonder, what if the emergence of the term ISIS is a call to return to the Mother Goddess in the form of Isis? For the Divine Feminine to be honored as an equal to the Divine Masculine. To stop condemning the actions of ISIS and instead calling upon the life enhancing aspects of Isis. That’s what I’m choosing to do, starting right now. Will you join me?

For those who scoff at prayers to goddesses, here’s my take on it. I pray to a goddess in the way a Catholic might pray to a particular saint. The goddess is an aspect of The One, just as saints are aspects of God.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

 

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June 12, 2014

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.” -William Shakespeare

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

For Father’s Day

One of my favorite photos is of my brother Dave, the youngest of us four McKern kids, maybe four years old, sitting on the couch with our dog Bootsie on his lap. A boy and his dog. It was a classic 1960 image, the Lassie and Rin Tin Tin years. We always had a dog, usually mutts dropped off at the fire station. When Dave and I were both in junior high, he got to pick out the next family dog from a litter at another firefighter’s house. This was our first pure bred dog, a beagle that Dave named Duke. He was a feisty little dog, just as Dave was a feisty little boy.

One warm night in September 1963, I was at home practicing the saxophone as a dutiful member of the seventh grade band.  My older sister was at dance class. Mom was cleaning up after dinner, while Dad was on duty at the fire department. My two brothers were enjoying a romp through the neighborhood with their friends, and our beloved dog Duke.  He was a sweet Beagle, frisky and friendly to a fault, and clearly belonged to Dave.

As I tooted on the sax, I recall hearing the back door fly open and Dave screaming, “Duke’s been hit by a car!”  I dropped the sax while mom dropped the dish towel, and together we ran outside. My older brother had Duke’s limp body in his arms. The dog looked like he was asleep, except for a tiny trickle of blood at the corner of his mouth. “Mom,” Dave cried,” we’ve got to take him to Daddy.” Mom reminded Dave that Dad was on duty at the fire station, and shouldn’t be interrupted unless it was an emergency.

Dave looked at Mom, with this own puppy eyes, now wide with terror, and begged, “Please, can’t we take him to see Dad?”  Mom agreed that this was a true emergency.

Dave got an old plastic dish pan into which our older brother, Mike, gently placed Duke’s body. We were all shedding silent tears, except for Dave. He kept talking to Duke in a soothing and supporting voice, while stroking his still warm body. “We’re going to go see Daddy. He’ll know what to do. Everything’s going to be all right. You’ll see. Daddy can fix it.”

We drove into the alley behind the fire station, where only families were allowed. One of Dad’s fellow firefighters came bouncing out, wearing a grin that quickly faded into a grimace. He disappeared into the station while we got out of the car. Dave was carrying the turquoise dishpan that held Duke’s lifeless but still warm body. Soon my Dad came out to meet us, with the other three on-duty firefighters standing behind him. No one said a word. It was like time stood still.

Dave broke the silence when he held the dishpan up to Dad.  “Daddy, can you fix him?”  Silence. Complete silence.

“Daddy, isn’t there something you can do? Anything?” More silence. The wind even stopped, and no one dared breathe.

“Please, Daddy, please. Can’t you do anything?” Silence ruled again, until a small bubble welled up in Dave’s throat, unleashing a wave of sobs. That’s when I saw the first tear fall from my father’s eyes.

He stood in stillness; one hand on Dave’s heaving shoulder, the other touching Duke’s lifeless body. Dad’s tear-filled eyes were on Dave’s face, now contorted by the ravages of grief.  There was nothing my father could do but stand as Silent Witness to the harsh reality of life. His little boy’s heart was breaking, and he simply allowed it. No fixing. No rescuing. No miracles. Just witnessing—in silence, in gratitude, in love. We all belonged to the moment.

My older brother gently took the dishpan out of Dave’s hands, as Dad welcomed the sad little boy into his strong arms. There they stood, that warm September night, weeping together in recognition of the joys and sorrows that come with life. I saw the other three firefighters crying as well, a supportive back-up team for everyone present. Dad was there for Dave, and would always be there for him, and for all of us. We belonged as a family that night, sharing a common loss. Mom was silent as well, and knew that she had to be strong for all of us, especially Dave.

When bad things happen in a family, we belong together. I pray that the breaking hearts of the families connected to Tuesday’s shooting at Reynolds High School know that they belong—to each other, to the community, to all—because we are all in this together.

 

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May 27, 2014

“Many drops make a bucket, many buckets make a pond, many ponds make a lake, and many lakes make an ocean.” -Percy Ross  1916-2001  American Businessman

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

On/Off/On Bucket List
A few years ago I decided to start a Bucket List, well before I got any sort of health news that might cut short my anticipated longevity. It was a grand list filled with adventures of the mind, body and spirit.

Those items already receiving successful check marks include:

Sleep in a teepee – Was not pleasant at all. It was a hot night so the flaps were up, which means all sorts of creepy crawly thing could get in. I’m not saying they did get in, but they could have, which is why I didn’t sleep much. I enjoyed both my teepee campouts, my first and my last.

Walk thought a forest at night – It was a full moon walk at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge area with a guide, group of friends, and clear path, under a bright moon. Invisible wildness is still alive in me.

Belly dance in public – Check. Enough said.

My once overflowing Bucket List, however, is in danger of drying up. This is because I have gradually X-ed off wishes and dreams that I know cannot come true, mostly because of my aging body. I’ve said goodbye to Machu Pichu and the Greek islands. I still hope to visit the Grand Canyon and to see the fall foliage in the Northeast. But the saddest thing of all that I removed from my Bucket List was this—to see the night sky from the middle of the ocean. I could not see any sane way that that could happen. Because…

I am not cruise ship material, nor am I a sailor. I am someone who loves the water and likes to be on boats. No smart skipper wants me as crew. I’m not a reliable lookout thanks to tri-focals and cataracts. Never consider me for night watch because I have serious control issues. Don’t ask me to hoist the mainsail as my arthritic joints will likely fail. If I don’t get enough sleep, no one wants to be around me, including a bunch of able bodied sailors. If you are seasick, puke somewhere far away from me. Unless, of course, I am the one puking. Suddenly, the boat will come to a standstill. Someone will hold my hand as they gently dab my forehead with a cool cloth, cooing, “There, there, Kathleen, there, there.”

Last week I had a change of mind and heart. I really do want to see the night sky from the ocean, and an opportunity to do so was at hand, on a boat that I co-own. The stars had aligned in a way that I simply could not overlook.

This Wednesday, under the New Moon, I, along with my husband and his crew of experienced sailors, will cast off our boat, Wilparina, from a dock in St. Helens and begin the journey to Astoria. We will sleep aboard Wednesday night, rising early on Thursday with ears attuned to the best possible time to cross the infamous Columbia River Bar. The mantra is “When in doubt, wait it out.” We will not take chances, yet we believe early afternoon Thursday will find us making a voyage from the Mighty Columbia into the Pacific Ocean. You can bet I’ll be picturing a flowing triple spiral that includes the Columbia, the Pacific, and Wilparina, our incredibly sound ocean-going 37-foot cutter rigged sloop.

Now, about that night sky as viewed from the ocean. I may not see it due to predicted rain and cloud cover. But I will know it’s there, and it will know that I made the effort to see it. It’s just between us. I hold no one else accountable for my Bucket List moment. Manifestation is up to me, knowing that my Bucket is vast and strong. Who knows, I may add back Machu Pichu and Greece. I dwell in possibility!!!

P.S.  Our journey will continue into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then on up to Orcas Island. I’ll do the ferry/bus/train trek home Monday on my own, knowing that I will return to Wilparina, and her captain, my beloved Doug, throughout the summer months ahead. If you’re going to be in the San Juan Islands, let us know and we might connect. Perhaps we’ll look at the night sky together.

 

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May 13, 2014

“Fact and fear are the two greatest polluters of the modern mind.” Patrick McCormack, farmer/poet, Co. Clare, Ireland

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Fact & Fear
After trekking across fields of grass and rocks, with strong Irish winds at our back, my little band of merry women arrived at St. Colman’s Well. It is an unmarked sacred site that few tourists visit. We were lucky to be guided by a local farmer, Patrick McCormack, also known as the owner of Father Ted’s House and resident poet. This holy place is where St. Colman MacDuagh lived for seven years as a hermit in the early 7th century.

Patrick first invited us to just “be” in the seclusion of the mossy oratory.  We were serenaded by a variety of birds, in tune with the sound of the babbling brook that fed the Well. Above us we heard the “soughing” of the wind, sounding remotely like freeway traffic. If there was ever a Church of God in Nature, this place was it.

We were treated to a poem or two, one in special tribute to a friend of Patrick’s who recently passed away. You could tell this rough and rugged farmer was grieving. He encouraged us to see beyond the obvious, to feel beyond our senses, and to think beyond what we think we know. Out of his mouth, and originating from his heart, Patrick said to us, “Fact and fear are the two greatest polluters of the modern mind.”  He then invited to sit in silence and notice the stirrings of our hearts.

It occurred to me that we live in a world that values fact over truth. In one moment I truthfully feel young at heart, delighted to be in a body that moves, whether walking on plush Irish grass or swimming at the rec center at home. Then a fact creeps in. “Yeh, but, you’re not young any more. You’re 63, the upper edge of middle age, easing into old age, with a body creaking from arthritis.” Which thought do I listen to? The truth or the fact?

And then there’s fear, a known polluter of the modern mind. When did we move from fearing the wooly mammoth into the irrational fears of ego? Years ago a wise friend, much older than I, she probably 63 at the time, said to me, “When you’re in fear mode, ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen?” To this day I allow my fearful thoughts to remind me that the worst that can happen is that I’ll die or someone I love will die. Then I smile, remembering that death is inevitable, merely a birth into a new dimension filled with Love & Light.

So, I ask you, and myself, what facts and fears are polluting our minds today? Individually and collectively? Can I “go green” and dissolve the pollution of my mind?

Suddenly I am transported back to St. Colman’s Well, his oratory and cave, Patrick waxing poetic, surrounded by forty shades of green, in the company of wise women. And people still ask me, “What is it about Ireland that you find so compelling?”

 

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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. When they called me Kathleen Connolly, I didn’t correct them.

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.”

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 14, 2014

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Pretending
“They call me the great pretender,” crooned the 1950s band, The Platters. The pretending they sang about was rooted in angst. While in water aerobics class this morning, it occurred to me that I too am a great pretender, in a fun way.

When we were instructed to run in place for sixty seconds, I remembered how much I hate running, even in my younger and thinner days. So today I pretended I was an Olympic runner, on my way to a gold medal. The minute flew by and left me panting and smiling.

The instructor told us to do a series of forward leaps. This time I pretended that I was a prima ballerina gracefully moving across a stage. Baryshnikov beckoned, poised to catch and lift my lithe body. I swear my leaps took me above the heads of my fellow swimmers.

Later we were instructed to move our extended arms together and apart, in front of our bodies. “Make waves,” the instructor shouted. Suddenly, in my pretending game, I was Moses parting the Red Sea. The patterns in the water were amazing. I didn’t want to stop.

At its root, pretend means to “stretch forth.” We did this very naturally as young kids. By pretending, playing make believe, we stretched our minds by using our imagination. Anything was possible! I wonder when that stops. When we start school? At puberty? Or perhaps when the first adult told us that what we imagined wasn’t real.

I think it’s time to drop the shame and reclaim our joyful sense of imagination. To make time to play, to vision, to dream. When I was a documentary writer and producer a boss once startled me when he walked into my cubicle. I had my feet up on the desk while staring out the window at a beautiful spring day. I immediately put my feet down and started moving papers, pretending I was really working. I’ll never forget his wise words. “You do not have to pretend like you’re working. Taking time to do nothing is part of the creative process. Because out of nothing always comes something.”

How can pretending help you today? Can you turn an angst into a positive by pretending everything is okay, even if just for a few moments?  Remember, we are all Great Pretenders!

 

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March 31, 2014

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” -Gilbert K. Chesterton  1874-1936, English writer

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

“Parades & Rainbows”
“Grammy, come quick,” said the 3 and ½ year old granddaughter of a friend. What was the urgency? “The parade is about to begin,” announced the young girl. The little one then dragged into the living room two tiny chairs for them to sit upon. My friend said it was like sitting on a curb, literally waiting for a parade to begin. A front row seat, but not very comfortable for an adult size behind.

After a few minutes of sitting and looking around, the girl’s eyes wild with anticipation, my friend asked “Soooo…when does the parade begin?”

“Soon,” the little girl squealed, “it’s starting soon!”

My friend began to make small talk by pointing out other people watching the invisible parade. Together they picked out colors of clothes, different hats people were wearing, and funny things they were doing. Just hearing about this made me giggle.

Finally, a bit exasperated and with a numb bottom, my friend shouted, “Look, honey, the parade is starting! Let’s stand and welcome them!”

They both jumped to their feet, applauding, laughing and dancing about. Soon the little girl said, “Grammy, let’s play something else.” And the magic continued.

The word parade comes from French, literally meaning “a showing.” In my friend’s story about the mythical parade, I love how both the child and the grandmother showed the other something. The little girl showed Grammy the importance of patience while still feeling excited. Grammy showed the child that it’s okay to fantasize, imagine and daydream.

I do not want to lose the magical thinking I had as a child, especially the sense of anticipation. For as long as I can remember, when the spring skies turn the color of bruises, I announce aloud, “A rainbow is about to begin!” I don’t know exactly when, but I know it’s coming, just like little the little girl’s invisible parade. If I go looking for it, it may never emerge, or my impatience might make me miss it all together. So, like the little girl and her Grammy, I must wait patiently for the parade to begin. Because it will, just like a rainbow in the dark spring skies.

 

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February 13, 2014

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Kindness
Remember the New Age rage that emerged twenty years ago—Practice Random Acts of Kindness? I say we upgrade the message to Practice Intentional Acts of Kindness!

On our recent journey home from vacation, my husband and I were crowded into a tiny shuttle bus on a very cold Dallas morning. Sitting in the back, we had full view of our fellow travelers. (People watching is one of my favorite past times.) Forward and to our right, I saw a husky older man sitting by the window. He looked rather grumpy, but then it was early in the morning. The only seat left was next to him. Suddenly in came another husky older man, this one looking rushed and disheveled. It was freezing outside and he wasn’t wearing a coat. He let out an annoying sigh when he saw the only seat available didn’t afford much room. He plopped down, his generous body spilling over into the narrow aisle. Occasionally he would heave a sigh, shake his head, and then rub his face. My mind wanted to think him rude, but my heart sensed something different.

Breaking the soothing sound of the bus engine, the man on the aisle suddenly broke the silence. His head tilted toward his seat mate as he said, “My daughter just died.” It felt like time stopped. I wondered what would happen next. To my surprise, the grumpy man at the window responded, “Oh, I am very sorry for your loss.” Thus began a quiet dialogue between the two men, sitting side by side, looking forward, presumably into the future. For one man the future was very bleak. I heard little of what they said. I could feel a sense of kindness and compassion between them, soon washing over me, my husband and our fellow travelers.

Later, while standing in the security line at the airport, we found ourselves next to the once grumpy man who was sitting by the shuttle bus window. My husband commented on his display of kindness and compassion to the grieving father. The man sighed, shook his head, and said, “I was just diagnosed with cancer.”

Our Random Act of Intentional Kindness followed. We simply looked into the man’s face, gave him a soft smile and gentle nod of the head. We then watched him walk away, into his bleak future.

Now safely back at home, it’s not the journey to Belize, our souvenirs or our tans that we treasure. It’s the many moments of kindness we witnessed and shared on our journey—the most profound on the shuttle bus and in the airport security line. Grumpy and Rude morphed into Kindness and Compassion, inviting me to look into my future with gratitude and grace.

What will your Random Act of Intentional Kindness be today?

 

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January 15, 2014

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” – Sean O’Casey

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Anxiety Dreams
Researchers say we all have classic anxiety dreams related to our work, oftentimes more profound under a Full Moon. Post college, I would have dreams about showing up for class only to learn that there was an exam that day. Or I would go to class and realize my arrival was on the last day. Years later I had a dream that the university called to say they discovered that I had never taken chemistry, which was a prerequisite for other classes, and they were going to revoke my degree. I can still feel the punch in my gut from that dream, partly because I really didn’t take chemistry and it was a prerequisite. Please don’t tell.

In my 20’s, while still participating in community theatre, I would occasionally dream that I was on stage and didn’t know the play, the dialogue, the dance steps or the music. Lucidly I would tell myself, “When the moment comes, you will know what to do.”

In my 30’s, while producing a live television talk show, my dreams would sometimes find me in the studio with no lights, no guests, or the hosts would be late and I’d have to fill in for both of them.

In my 40’s, dreams were illusive as I was in ministry school by night, working as a publicist by day, and also a new wife and very active stepmom.

In my 50’s, as a minister, my dreams would find me again on stage only now the audience members were congregants. Sometimes I would excuse myself to go find my sermon notes, only to return to an empty sanctuary. Other times I would arrive late and find someone else taking my place. In one dream everyone in the audience slowly exited, one by one, as I continued my sermon.

Now, in my 60’s, I’m pleased to report that I’m not having as many work related anxiety dreams. Have I matured, or does my psyche no longer cater to the whims of my subconscious? The moon is fully full tonight at 8:52pm. I wonder what the dreamtime will reveal.