He hangs in the door of my office and I can tell from his face that something is wrong.

"What is it honey?"

"The boys," he hesitates, tries to control his voice, "the boys won't play with me again. They keep  saying that I'm not so good at soccer or basketball."

"Well, you aren't so good compared to them. They are bigger and have been playing a lot longer..." I wait for the rest.

"And they were making fun of me and said my pants are girl pants. and, and," his face crumples, "one of them even called me a piece of shit."

"I'm not so popular here," he manages. "I was more popular in our old neighborhood, I had more friends there. Here, not so much."

I lift my arms to him, to this boy, so sweet, and kind, and loving and he crumples his 9 year old body on to my lap like he hasn't done in years.

"It's hard honey. I know." I hold him close and kiss his forehead, resisting the urge to say what I think of those boys right now, to storm over and tell them how small minded and ignorant they are, how my boy is more mature than they even though they are a few years older. He at least is able to look past differences, to forgive, to practice kindness to people who are deliberately cruel to him.

I know doing that won't change anything so instead I sit and hold him in my lap as he cries until the sun goes down and the room grows dark. I tell myself it is good for him to experience adversity on occasion, to learn how to respond to the mean people and the critics that he will encounter all his life.

I tell him that I'm proud of him, remind us both that he doesn't have to be around them if he chooses not to. I reason that at least he doesn't go to school with them, or have to get on a bus with them everyday. He just keeps going over to try and make friends.

All this is true, but it doesn't fix right now. My boy has been hurt by kids who are mean, and I wipe away my tears in the dark, so he doesn't see.

One Thousand Gifts-Week 55 Thanksgiving

holy experience

Last year we started a tradition.

It's called a Thanksgiving tree and it's very simple. Find a branch, put it in a pot and use rocks or marbles or something to anchor it. Cut leaves out of paper, punch holes, and tie them to the branch with yarn. One leaf for each item we give thanks for.

I liked the leaves from last year so much that I saved them, to remember.

It's good to remember what we last year gave thanks for.

My favorite is the leaf where the Boy scrawled "family", and then drew tiny stick figures of us all, including a tiny balloon floating up for Shiloh.



Some hurts time won't heal. Some words still sting 20 years later. Some wounds still gape open and every word we utter is through teeth clenched with pain.

Memory tears them open, over, and over again and all the shame and pain flood in as though it were only yesterday, those words fresh uttered, that cut bleeding fresh blood.

It's paralyzing to live with stray thoughts that can deflate and leave us sitting without the strength to carry on in the face of them.

We build memorials to our wounds, shrines for the pain, and visit them often, flowers in hand. For if no one else will pity us then we, at least, will.

We are crippled, beggars, victims of another's action and shackled to a past we can not forget and carry with us everywhere we walk.

We are graceless.

We are captive, and captor, keeping ourselves in this miserable prison, fist clenched tightly around the key.

"But I don't want to forgive," we wail. "They hurt me they deserve to suffer. Why should I have to forgive them."

We are too childish to see that the only one we hurt is our self reliving daily the moments that most wounded us.

We forgive to set ourselves free, not the other.

"But I can't, I don't feel like it. All I feel is hurt."

But we can. Grace is there to empower our words and our choice. I say the words, "I will forgive, though my heart is raw and stony. I will choose to be free. I will choose again the next day when the hurt returns again until I find that I no longer need to choose, for the hurt is gone, the sting extracted, and all that is left is a memory.

I set myself free.

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us."

Forgive me, as I forgive. Weighty words that remind me not to be stingy with the grace extended to me. For I am so desperately in need of it myself.


One Thousand Gifts-Week 54 Beauty

holy experience

We live in a beautiful, beautiful place. It's hard to believe that once I hated it here. My first stay of any length in San Diego, fresh from Canada's mountain streams and forests I could see nothing that I liked here in the heat, and the urban sprawl.

My eyes, turned in every direction, could only focus on the concrete, the cars, the crowds. I was blind to the beauty that brought so many people here.

In much the same way that I was able to lift up my eyes to the hills, to see the beauty that is right in front of me, gratitude allows me to see what has been here all along, I just didn't notice at first.

This week I celebrate what is already here, the gifts received, promises kept, and growth I have seen.

It is good.

The high point.

She's doing well considering her fear of heights.

The pier after sunset.

A catch of kelp.

Wetsuits that allow them to enjoy the water longer when it's chilly.

These tall children playing in the waves have replaced the babies that used to cling to me.

One of my favorite people in the world came to visit for 9 whole days!

Light breaking through.

The gratitude community is at A Holy Experience.


3 months

Dear Jellybean,

You are 3 months old already. I completely forgot about writing you a monthly letter like I did for Little until this week. It's part of being the 4th child I suppose, your mommy will always be slightly distracted. Sorry about that.

But you, you are a joy to have around. Since day one you have been so peaceful and content. Aside from the initial "how rude to shove me out here where it's cold and I have to breath air" cries, your cries were more like experiments than anything else. You would make a little bit of a sound, and then fall quiet and wait to see what happened. If I didn't do anything for you right away you just made another little sound and waited again. I've never seen a baby do that before. You were so content and trusted that someone would come if you needed them.

Your big sister loves you and I have to protect you from her love. She kisses and pats and rubs and gets right in your face yelling "hello buddyboy!" She has recently taken to trying to undress you when I'm not looking. She thinks you are her own private doll and she proudly shows you off to anyone who comes to visit. When you first wake up in the morning she runs through the house yelling in excitement, "Jellybean's awake! Jellybean's awake! Come and see!"

The day you were born she asked me when you were going to walk because she wanted to help you. She was very disappointed to learn that it would take you several months to be strong enough to try walking.

You drool, a lot, all over everything. All of your outfits have gray stains on the front of them. Now I know where all that water I drink when nursing goes to. I've considered just dressing you in a fresh dry outfit and then pouring water down the front of it right away to save time, but you soak it in drool about that fast anyway, I figure why bother. Is it a boy thing? Your big brother did that too.

You are very strong and kick and kick and squirm and look like you could power a paddle boat with your feet if you could only get the timing right. It's getting difficult to hold you still, you wiggle and squirm out of every position.

You have found your people and you recognize us now. When we pass your field of vision you light up and kick and flail and smile, smile, smile. You have a dimple in your right cheek that I just noticed. I don't know if it was there before or has developed but it's adorable. You even smiled for your passport photo last week. Sometimes you go straight from smiling to a lip quiver and I've started to realize that you were trying to tell me something with those smiles. They really say, "Look at me. I'm cute. I'm being cute so you will pick me up and get me out of this soggy diaper. Wait, no, don't walk away, I was happy because I thought you were going to fix this situation here. Wait. What's that other thing I do sometimes to get your attention? Oh right, wahhhhhhh!"

You are surrounded by people who love you. Some of them are really noisy. Sometimes you just want a break. When you get fussy and don't seem to want me to hold you anymore I take you to a quiet corner and put you down. You just fall asleep by yourself in there, away from all the confusion that is your family. I'm making a lot of moms jealous right now by telling them that.

I'm so glad that you are so good natured and content.

We needed you, you know. You already add things to this family that we didn't realize we were missing. Your brother and sisters hold you, and take care of you. They are learning from you how to be kind, gentle and responsible.

These are good things.

I love you little boy. I'm so glad you are here.

Your mama


When friends come to visit...

it's a good time to drop everything else and go exploring. Especially when you live somewhere with such great places to explore.

So we went straight from the airport to the beach.

We showed them seals and pelicans and cormorants.

sea caves, and little hermit crabs in tide pools,

 ocean views,

and more seals.

When the visiting friend is one of my  oldest and dearest, and also one of my favorite walking buddies we will take another day and go for a hike in a nature reserve.

Sandstone cliffs,

and then to the beach again, this time to get wet.

Jellybean is growing.
We got to show her little girl the ocean for the first time.

look at that face!

She cried when it was time to leave.

Then we watched the sunset.

And to top off the day we visited one of California's oldest and best burger joints, and I let the kids share a milkshake.

We are having so much fun, and there is a lot of catching up going on around here.

It's been a wonderful week.
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