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Saturday, December 15, 2012

protecting kids from bad news

I wrote this article, which was published in the Winchester Star on October 4, 2013.

An upcoming media frenzy is quietly building in Winchester.  While we get a kick out of having our town being featured in Boston Magazine’s “Best of” issues or spotlighted Chronicle for our gorgeous homes, an entirely different kind of attention will be focused on our charming little cityburb over the next months.  Satellite trucks will be rolling in, filled with reporters, cameramen and field producers, looking for 20 second sound bytes to fill their air.  This is the sort of attention we’d rather not have, but with jury selection for the Mortimer trial beginning on October 9th, the scenario is all too likely.

We don’t just live in this community.  We are this community.  The pain and the heartbreak experienced by those closest to the victims were absorbed on some level by all of us.  How do we armor ourselves and protect our neighbors against the flurry of sadness that is bound to return?  And more importantly, how do we shield our children?

Bill McAlduff, superintendent of schools in Winchester, has no special programming in place that would re-introduce the tragic loss of our neighbors to school children.  He does, however, have crisis teams in each building and says that teachers’ protocol is to, “end any discussion that is found to be inappropriate for the classroom and direct concerned students to the school psychologist.”

Robin Shapiro, director of LEAP School in Lexington where 4 year old Finn and 2 year old Charlotte attended, presents advice as one who has managed some tough conversations with little ones.  To protect the privacy of families and faculty, she did not comment directly on specific conversations, but offers this:

“My advice to parents of young children when facing any kind of tragic situation, loss or major life event is to first try and process the situation away from your child, before entering into any kind of conversation with your child(ren).  It is hard for most adults to understand these kind of traumatic situations and make sense of them, so it is natural that it would be very confusing and scary to young children to be part of the parent’s processing.  

“I encouraged parents on the day of 9/11 to be very aware of the media in their home, the adult conversations in the presence of their young children, and to take time for themselves to work through their emotions first, before discussing events like 9/11 with their small children and make a plan of how, when and what you want to communicate to your child(ren).   

“Some parents feel the need to talk with their children about many life events, others prefer to avoid these uncomfortable topics.  I find it is important to follow the child’s lead in determining how much information to provide that will satisfy the child’s curiosity, while not too much to create fear and insecurity.  

Children need to know that they are safe, that their feelings are valid and have their questions answered in a concrete manner.  It is always helpful to listen carefully to what the children are asking before answering them.”

Deb reminds us to remember older children, too, as they have their own questions and are often in a position of mentoring a small child.  “[Older children] need an opportunity to process information, get their questions answered and receive support to express their thoughts and feelings.  

Depending on the age and level of understanding of the older child, it is helpful to let the older children know how you are responding and supporting the younger sibling, and elicit help from the older child without burdening him/her.” 

Most child experts would agree that honesty is the best policy, keeping in mind that honesty doesn’t mean full disclosure.  Parents and teachers can respond to children’s questions truthfully and tactfully, providing closure for their curious minds, meanwhile being careful not to scare them or draw them into more difficult questions.  Children do not want to know the whole truth.  They just want to be satisfied with answers provided.

For those interested in learning more about children and grief, Donna Smith Sharff, LMHC, Executive Director of The Children’s Room in Arlington, will be presenting a public program on the subject at the First Congregational Church in Winchester on Monday evening, October 29th.  For  more information visit or call 617.641.4741.

-Identify adult feelings first
-Turn off the news while children are in the room or in the car
-Prepare older children who interact with little ones regularly
-Listen to questions carefully
-Be honest but simple

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"all my life i'd been searching for trees such as these" (seuss)

well, as it turns out that beech tree on my street is just about a hundred years old.  i know this because i was able count the rings on its stump today.

as i walked my son and my dog past the site today, i spent a few minutes searching around for the lorax.  i was sure he was hidden amongst the downed trunks and branches.  but, alas, there was not sign of the mythical mustached tree spirit.  just a messy pile of lifeless wood laying before a backdrop of spindly-looking tree friends.  i considered tacking a sign to the stump that read "UNLESS" but decided i'd already given my two cents and it was time to move on.

i then took a moment to reconcile the fact that the trees are gone.  but admittedly, i'm still disappointed that the original owners sold the souls of these truly magnificent natural masterpieces for a few thousand bucks - after all, this is a densely populated town and trees such as these are not exactly abundant in our neighborhoods.

i'm trying instead to feel grateful for the life lesson, for the many residents who do take the natural landscape into consideration before building homes (and there are plenty), for the copious firewood and for the space that's now available for a new family to move into the flats of winchester.  maybe they'll decide to plant a truffula or two in the backyard.

peace, love, gratitude,

scroll down to see the before pictures.

Monday, November 26, 2012

what the frack?????

There are tons of hyperlinks in this, here for you to learn more about this very important topic today.  

I've heard tidbits here and there about hydraulic fracturing, fracking, but this morning Tom Ashbrook of NPR's On Point hosted a program dedicated to the topic.  If you haven't heard it, click here and listen.  

Basically, fracking is using a high-pressure flow of sand and water to fracture shale stone far below the earth's surface in order to extract oil.  Here's a video.  Big oil companies like Chevron and Chesapeake are using this technique in attempt to find other ways of extracting the earth's resources and staying in business.

At this point there are 6,000 wells dedicated to fracking, and this number is only increasing.  Oil companies are not only drilling in Texas and Alaska, they're drilling wells in 18 states and on the hunt for more.  This is happening in everyone's backyard.  Here's a map I found on Earthjustice.  The skull and crossbones represent accidents, suspicious pollution levels and animal deaths that have occurred near the wells:

The fracking process requires lots and lots (and lots) of water.  2-3 million gallons per well.  The first question is, do we have enough water to operate these many thousands of wells and still have a clean supply for drinking, crop irrigation, etc?  No one can answer that question because it is completely dependent on climate and rainfall, which we New Englanders know all too well is anything but predictable.

100% of the water that is used in the process is poisoned - contaminated with biocides and carcinogens and bi-products.  A high percentage of that water (85%, I think) ends up buried in the earth, which these big oil companies consider "safe".  The poisoned water fills crevices in the earth, previously occupied by natural oil deposits.  But it's also filling up old manmade oil wells, many of which are super old and have been lost underground over the years, in which case they may potentially leak into ground water supply.  15% of the water shoots back up to the earth's surface and is absolutely positively unusable.  In other words, big oil needs to get rid of it.

Wanna know how they're dealing with it?  Well, in a few ways.  Some are trying to recycle the water.  Though there is no circumstance in which the water can be used to drink or irrigate after the fracking process, it can be used to do more fracking.  This is the best really crappy option out of several much crappier options.  At this point there is no state mandate on recycling fracked water b/c fracking was made legal before policy had a chance to regulate it.  In fact, the only reason it got through at the federal level was because in 2005 Dick Cheney and his crew of money hungry nature haters exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Believe it or not, in some states, this poisonous water is being pumped through sewage plants or sprayed on roads for dust control.  (((ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????)))

Water use and contamination isn't the only problem.  Fracking requires the use of heavy diesel trucks.  One thousand truck trips per site to be exact, and that's just to haul in the water.  Thousands more will be required to remove waste.  If there are 8-12 wells per drilling site...  well, you can do the math.  That's a whole lotta trucking in your backyard.  Yep.  Don't forget.  This is happening in your community.

Another problem is earthquakes.  This is a fact.  Lubricants are pumped into disposal wells, greasing up quake vaults and resulting in earthquakes.  There have been more earthquakes reported near fracking wells.  My concern here is this.  In that video that I shared above, produced by fracking supporters, you can see that steel tunnel coated with concrete boring into the earth.  If fracking causes earthquakes, do these people really think that steel tunnel is going to protect our drinking water during a big shake?  One crack in that concrete and our drinking supply is toast.  Plus, look at all the cracks oozing out of each fracture.  You think poisonous water can't slip through there???

Looks like Dick Cheney is going to be very rich and very thirsty.  I'm going out to buy 10 palates of Poland Springs TODAY.

I just don't understand why we're taking this risk.  Why we continue to rape the earth when there are other energy opportunities available to us that need exploring.  As Tony Ingraffea said On Point today, "A corporate business plan is not a national energy strategy."  Amen, brother.

We need laws.  We need regulation.  We need to use our voices to let our local and state politicians know that we DO NOT WANT FRACKING HERE IN OUR BACKYARDS!!!


Every state needs to work locally to stop this.  I'm in Massachusetts, and the news for us is good.  According to Atty. Peter Vickery, "Communities in Massachusetts have one important advantage over their counterparts in Pennsylvania and New York: Exploration is not under way yet, never mind extraction. That means towns like Amherst have time to design bylaw amendments that will both safeguard clean air and water and stand up in court."

Do it, people!  Call your reps, your mayors, your state senators today!  Let them know you do not want hydraulic fracturing in your backyard or in MASSACHUSETTS!!!!!

Peace, love, gratitude...  AND ACTION!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

save the trees

about two weeks ago, i had a very real feeling dream.  i woke up in a sweat, stressed out about a property down the street from me that sold a few months ago - a big beautiful colonial on a gorgeous double lot, sacred space here in this city-burb called winchester.  

the side yard, which can be viewed from the curb, is home to two spectacular trees, an oak and a beech.  they must be 150 years old b/c their trunks are rock solid and probably four feet wide.  i love beech trees.  they are my favorite.  i love the uniqueness of each beech.  some have super tall with trunks that stretch forever.  others are more squat with branches that are as long as the tree is high.  still others split at the base and provide the best branches for climbing and monkeying.  there are a few truly amazing beech trees in my neighborhood.  for local winchester peeps, there's an inspiring tree on foxcroft between salisbury and wedgemere.  then there's another in a neighbor's backyard on church street.  it's probably the fattest and most awe-inspring tree i've ever seen.  the owners created a gorgeous meditation garden around the tree and treat it as the treasure it is.  the other beech is the one that sits proudly on this double lot, the one that just sold.

back to my dream.  in it, my husband and i bought the property.  we were unloading moving trucks when someone came over and said we couldn't have the attached second lot.  we started flipping out b/c we love those trees and the man told us it was too late to do anything.  then a tree removal team came in and started tearing down the branches of the beech tree.  i woke up completely disturbed.  my heart raced.  i was confused.

i had hoped that the double lot was purchased by a single family who would cherish the home and the surrounding landscape.  then, the day after my dream, i drove by and saw a demo team tearing apart the structure set wide on the double lot.  

they divided the lot.  mother fucker.

i thought about the tiny seeds from which those trees grew.  i thought about the hundreds of years that passed while their branches reached higher and trunks grew in girth.  i thought about the storms they survived and the animals they sheltered and the carbon dioxide they absorbed.  and then i cried.  i started to mourn these poor trees who flourished for so many years, only to be hacked down for the love of money.

i called the realtor today, just to see what was happening, to see if there was any way those trees could be saved.  it was obvious to me that the trees meant nothing to him, meant nothing to the builder who plans to destroy them so he can erect a mcmansion for 1.9 million.

so now, though the trees still stand, the dying process has begun.  i think of them as being in hospice now, dying with dignity.  their days are numbered, as are ours.  so i paid my respects today.  i clipped an armful of white hydrangeas from my bushes and laid them at the base of the lovely beech tree.  within the pompoms of the bouquet, i nestled a little note for anyone curious enough to investigate.  "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."  -Chief Seattle

i pointed the trees out to my children and explained to them what was happening and why.  i invited them to join me as i said a prayer for the trees and pressed my palms into their sturdy trunks.  while my offering will not save their lives, i can only hope that the effort might cause someone to take pause before mindlessly destroying such gorgeous natural beauty.  

museums display paintings and sculptures worth millions of dollars, and here we are with a work of nature so bold and so inspiring, and all we want to do is demolish it.  

all of this talk makes me feel discouraged.  hopeless.  frustrated.  powerless.  and while wrapped up in those feelings, the universe has been gifting me with the exact opposite.  



yep.  hope.

hope is an extraordinary feeling.  my first sign of hope sprung forth from my children through their ordinary displays of acceptance.  ready to forgive, ready to love, ready to believe, ready to make the planet a better place.  and they will do just that, i absolutely believe that is true.

and then the second sign cropped up while i watched a documentary produced by national geographic called the great barrier reef.  i've actually been to the GBR.  learned all about it, then forgot everything i learned.  i guess back then the lesson didn't stick, even as i paddled around the reef and admired its bright colors and alien-looking creatures.  but watching this documentary, i was inspired to reconnect with hopefulness and was grateful to be in a space of mindfulness while it aired.  

did you know that 20,000 years ago, the GBR didn't exist?  it was just a mass of land, plains inhabited by wildlife and aboriginal tribes.  10,000 years ago there was a great flood.  thousands of miles of coastline disappeared under the ocean's waves and in its place, a magnificent coral reef developed, attracting and supporting a whole new world of extraordinary sea life.  most of the documentaries i've seen, specifically films about coral reefs, leave me feeling despair.  after viewing countless pictures of truly breathtaking sea life, the narrator inevitably closes by telling the audience that the reef is dying b/c human beings suck.  

but this program was different.  this program planted a seed of hope.  yes, the narrator said that coral is being destroyed by the rise in ocean temps and by the surplus of carbon monoxide being absorbed by the coral.  but.  there's a but.  (isn't that word "but" hopeful in itself?)  but.  in a certain cycle of the moon, the tides are just perfect for coral to spawn.  eggs and sperm fill the water and unite forming larva which float away on currents and nest in an entirely new location.  and then they multiply.  they survive.  they find a way!  because that's what nature does!  mother nature is a survivor!!!!

this planet has seen a lot of shit go down.  horrible things have happened, but the earth finds a way to make lemonade from lemons.  it just takes time.  

think about all the other beautiful natural events that have come about from great pain.  volcanos spew lava charring everything in sight, but results in gorgeous islands which breed new life.  quakes and rifts caused the pangaea to break up and drift apart, creating new coast lines and climates, allowing new species to evolve, to thrive.  manure fertilizes our gardens and yields brightly colored veggies to aid in our survival.  and then there's the easiest event for us mommies to relate to:  giving birth.  i've had natural childbirth three times, so i know pain.  burning, searing, excruciating pain gives way to baby love, a tiny being full of wonder and potential...  and, yes, hope. 

the earth will give birth to an evolved version of itself, too.  and the earth isn't sad about this.  people say sometimes that the earth is crying, the planet is suffering.  i'm not sure i believe that anymore.  i think the earth remains neutral, as do the forces of the universe.  because the earth will regenerate.  the universe will continue to love.  humankind, however, is just passing through.  we will only last as long as we are able.  we have no power here on earth, just the responsibility to take care of her the best we can.  and if we continue to treat the earth callously, she'll spit us out.  that's all.  and then the next phase of evolution will come about.

it's all just a matter of time.  so why not do the right thing while we rule the school?

i'm still torn up about those trees coming down in my neighborhood, but i cannot suppress the enormous feeling of hope that is rising in my chest.  there is nothing we can do to mother nature that will keep her down.  but by sacrificing the earth's natural resources to line our pockets will certainly shorten the human era.  if we care enough, we can teach our children better.  the best way to teach them is by example.  create balance and harmony with your environment the best way you know how, and see how the wave of your mindful lifestyle washes over your family and your community.

peace, love, gratitude,

Sunday, September 9, 2012

may i have your attention, please?

there are lots of "I's" in this message.  it's all about me and my ego.  i was going to create a "we" based message, but decided to keep my ego as the main character as a reminder to accept and love myself just the way i was created.  here goes...

i have a message.  it's a good one, i think.  a loving one.

and i have a unique audience, you, who tunes into everything old b/c you connect with me or b/c you like my stories.  being the recipient of your time and attention is a funny thing.  sometimes i worry about coming across as one of those "look-at-me" types, one of those ego-driven self-promoters that, to be honest, makes my skin crawl.

yes, yes, i know the line, "what other people think of me is none of my business," and, while it's true i cannot control others' perceptions about me, my humanness prevents me from completely detaching from the desire for acceptance and (gasp) attention.

it's true.  i respond to attention.  and while i feel the urge to be embarrassed about this admission, i work to suppress that urge and just be.  i am who i am; and so many of us share this same need to be stroked, rewarded, chosen.  and you know what?  it's okay to want that.  we are supposed to want that.  for most of us, it's built into the fabric of our destinies.

i do numerology for people all the time, and most charts contain a number 3 in them somewhere.  the 3 energy attracts attention, the 3 desires attention, the 3 thrives on attention...  and the human with the 3 is designed to seek it out.  as the great and powerful lady gaga once said, "you were born this way, baby."  so true.

instead of wrestling that urge to revel in an audience, i am working hard to make the best of it, use it to do my best to make this world a better place.  (this is when i say it's ok to share, post, tweet this blog. ;-)  since my life's purpose is rooted in the service of humanity, i choose to seek attention through philanthropic efforts and creative writing.

i want to collaborate with seekers like me (or people not like me but just happen to find me while they're googling a recipe for "uncle tony's new age chicken tacos").  i have found safe harbor in the delivery of honest messages rooted in a genuine desire to communicate a loving message, set apart from my need for acceptance and blogger stardom, but attached to it nonetheless.

it's a tricky balance, though, this whole attention thing.  be humble enough that people aren't turned off; be confident enough that people are turned on.  but this is my life's work, and there's no need to be shy about it.  so in the end, i have found that when i stop orchestrating my feelings and just do what's in my heart, do what comes naturally, i find happiness and success.

so even though i occasionally worry about being that self-promoting egoiste, i'll continue to post and tweet and email and youtube all of the tiny shifts and bu-curious moments i encounter on the path to awakening.  and i'll continue to feel grateful to you for joining me on the ride.

peace, love, gratitude,

Friday, September 7, 2012

matching frequencies

have you ever had to cut off a relationship?  do your friends make you feel warm and fuzzy?  join the conversation!  and please share, like, tweet, pin and tumbl!

peace, love gratitude,

Sunday, September 2, 2012

a new contender in the race for the oval office?

who do you like?  barack or mitt?

my social views are very liberal, so i lean democrat.  but if a quality moderate republican comes along i'll swing my vote in the other direction.

my greatest concern has always been social policy.  don't take our rights away, that's all i ask.  live free or die, baby.  the issue closest to my heart is gay rights, which should be re-termed "human rights", because love is a basic human right.  who we love and how we display commitment has absolutely nothing to do with government, federal or state.  my quick story today is spun from this idea.

when we were kids, my sisters and i played house a lot.  one girl would be the mommy, one girl would be the baby and one girl would get stuck being the daddy.  you might as well tell that poor girl to go clean out the garage while the others play.  for a girl, being the daddy sucked.  so every time my daughters play house with their friends, they inevitably start squabbling, "not fair!  i want to be the mommy!"  and inevitably, my girls realize, "it's okay.  girls can marry each other.  let's both be mommies.  yay!"

it's such a simple act of imagination.  but it's also a beautiful act of acceptance.  kids today provide me with an extraordinary feeling of hope for our future and pride in this generation of parents who are rearing children to be open and accepting of others as they have been created.

with this in mind, i see clearly that the man in the oval office may wield power over current domestic  policy, but the future of this country lies in the hands of a new generation.  the tides are changing, people.  the emerging generation is aware.  they are awake.  they are innovative.  they are compassionate and sensitive.  they are already changing the world.  and i have nothing but faith and confidence in these children.

this morning while i was making chocolate chip pancakes, my son XG, my 3 year old son - 3 YEAR OLD SON, said out of the blue, "mamma, did you know giwls can mawwy giwls?"  my husband MG and i looked at each other then looked back at him.

"that's right, buddy," said MG, waiting patiently to see where the conversation would go.

after a minute i said, "you are very smart, little man."

"yup," he said.  "boys can mawwy boys, too.  and batman defeats spidewman."

well, that decides it.  XG gets my vote this november.

peace, love, gratitude,
vanessa gobes

don't forget to like, share, tweet or tumbl!  help a sister out!

Friday, August 31, 2012

just let it shine through

i imagine that you can understand what it's like to have something really special that you want to share with the world.  something that you want to stroke and nourish and grow.  something you love so much that you want it to shine.  maybe it's your child.  maybe it's your business.  maybe it's your volvo.  for me, this "thing" is my soul.

when i release thoughts through my keyboard, i feel like i am polishing my heart.  i write to encourage my fellow human beings to love without limits... to take a deep, purposeful inhale and receive what the universe has to offer... to take a long, slow exhale and surrender to what the universe has in store.  i write to remind you, and myself, that we are all worthy.  period.  we don't need to be anything more than what we are.

each of us is divine, flawed perfection.

i came across this thought today during a particularly emotional meditation:  "receive and surrender.  you don't need to be anything more than what you are."  as these words strummed my mind, a rainbow-like ribbon of light began unraveling from my heart.  it wrapped around my waists, weaving through my organs and working up my back, filled my head and shot to the sky through my crown chakra.  white light drenched my body and burst through my root chakra, bringing with it a feeling of connection and love and healing.

it was quite lovely.  shiny, happy lovely.

peace, love, gratitude,

strangely, as i sit here and type, this is what i have stuck in my head:  "just let your soul glow...  feelin' oh so silky smooth, just let it shine through....   soul.  glo."  damn you, eddie murphy.  can't i post just one sentimental piece of creative writing without having a weird, twisty moment?  oh well.  maybe you'll be inspired to begin a meditation practice this weekend - just after renting Coming to America.

Please share this blog.  Like, repost, tweet, tumbl, anything.  I'd be so grateful.  And you know I'd do it for you if you asked me to.  :-)  xoxoxoxox

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

i just had another baby

okay, okay, not an ACTUAL baby.  but, thanks to your support, i have given birth to a bouncing baby blog called bringing up buddhas.

everything old has been so fun, so cathartic, so empowering, so patient, so perfect for me during my spiritual transition.  through this online journal i have been able to explore all sorts of new age ideas and overshare countless stories about self-discovery through spirituality.  it's served as an ideal transition for me and i hope you have enjoyed snickering and crying along with me.

i'll continue posting here on everything old but have decided to launch bringing up buddhas to focus specifically on the art of family buddhism.  i made the transition from christianity to bu-curiosity to zen buddhism and i'm eager to share what i learn and connect with others who are rearing baby buddhas, or are simply bu-curious.

so check it out, peeps!  just one click gets you there:

wish me luck!

peace, love, gratitude...  endless gratitude,

Saturday, August 4, 2012

happy trails

on sunday we took a family hike along the trails surrounding our home in new hampshire.  belonging to a clan of passionate hikers, i have lots of woodsy time to contemplate nature and spirituality and life in general.  and over the years, i have learned that hiking is the perfect metaphor for life.

big thanks to CG for all of these great pics.

take the time to think about what it is you want to achieve, how hard you want to work, and where you want to go.
a topographical map of newbury trails

once you're on your way, look down enough to keep from tripping over obstacles, look up enough to enjoy the scenery, look behind you to appreciate where you've been, and look far ahead to keep your goal in sight.
navigating the stone garden at the hay estate and wildlife refuge
opening up to a sandy beach on lake sunapee
not from sunday, but couldn't resist this pic of KF enjoying the view on gunnison lake a couple weeks back

it's important to stay on the path.  a few steps to the side and you might end up in the thick.  you can always work your way back out to the path, but if you keep your eyes peeled, you'll see there are plenty of trail markers that will help guide you where to go.  you might even see some hidden gems.
can you spot the marker?
the kids spotted a perfectly gorgeous scarlet tanager hiding in the brush
there she is!

be sure not to leave any of your belongings or trash behind for others to find.  be responsible for the things you bring with you on your journey so they don't damage the environment or offend other people.
SG was never far from her walking stick, aka "the wizard's staff"
find joy on the path.  if there's no joy to be found, try a new path.
always time for a silly face...
or to just feel really happy.

peace, love, gratitude,

please share this with your favorite hiker.  :-)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

turf war

i've spent a lot of time hanging out in bushes lately.  blueberry bushes.  i've been patiently learning the art of picking.  there is an art to it, as it turns out.  i'll quickly share my best observations:

when pulling a ripe berry off the branch, there should be no effort. the berry should surrender to the picker easily.  sometimes i'll pull one off and notice a bit of fuschia under its skin and i can't help but mourn the berry that it could have become the next day. and sometimes when i pinch that perfect berry - fat, shiny, navy - i have to eat it right away.  mmmmmm....  sometimes, there are so many berries dangling on the ends of the finest twigs that i just need to hold my basket under the branch and gently curl my palm around the cluster, dragging and guiding the ripest, readiest blueberries into my basket waiting below.

i pass hours picking.  sometimes alone, sometimes with family, sometimes with visiting friends.  my niece came up to sunapee with us for a couple of weeks.  she couldn't get enough of the berries.  i'd pick for 30 minutes and carry the basket into the kitchen.  within 45 seconds my berries would disappear.  my niece has been renamed "berry monster".

one day after the berries quickly disappeared i asked, "where'd my collection go?"  my 6 year old SG said, "PG drank them."  "huh?  what do you mean?  she drank my berries?"  SG picked up a nearby bowl and demonstrated the art of drinking berries.  yup, that's about right.  down the hatch.

i've also been in a heated battle for the past several weeks with a rowdy flock of blue jays nesting in the yard.  the noisy bastards wake me up every morning with their reindeer games.  they harrass the playful nuthatchers, steal eggs from the sweet sounding robins,  they tease the woodpecker as he patiently pecks the old ash for bugs.  they squawk and careen and divebomb my blueberry bushes all day long.  clowns.  even though i harvest the berries twice a day, there is still enough to tempt the damn jays.  i turn my back and they immediately swoop right down and clean out my bushes.  schmack!  schmack!

you can tell that i've really enjoyed berry picking this summer. all the more reason for me to be protective of those bushes. my husband's like, "let those poor birds have some of our berries. we have plenty." and all i can say is, "they can eat them when i'm not watching.  or they can find their own at five bucks a pint!"

so lately, when i catch the damn blue jays pigging out in the bushes, i send the kids out to chase them away.  XG runs out and hollers, "get away blue jays!"  the girls sneak up and ambush the birds.  they're pretty good at it now.  SG's efforts were even rewarded with a perfect blue feather.

this was my reward that morning:
(i told you we have a lot of berries!)

blue jays are just the tip of the iceberg, though.  there are several animals jockeying for food in the yard.  we have three resident groundhogs.  all named miss tiggywinkle, they are often seen eating clover in the lawn.  my husband caught one in a paint bucket while it was feasting on bib lettuce in my mom's garden and i was devasted to see it relocated to a cranberry bog in the next town over.  my parents, on the other hand, said, "one down, two to go."  i guess i should be more understanding considering my feelings about those damn blue jays.

we also play host to porcupines, a red fox, about a hundred wild turkeys and the occassional black bear (they like to climb the apple trees and gorge themselves on honey crisps til they fall out and puke on the lawn).  last week, i even saw a mountain lion cross the street, about 1/4 mile from our house.  i can only imagine what he's eating, especially since i haven't seen the usual deer family in the meadow this summer.  regardless, it's pretty amazing.  and a sign of a healthy, thriving eco-system here in the sunapee region of new hampshire.

it's a wonderful blessing to live so closely with nature.  the wildlife, the food - such wonderful proof of the extraordinary gifts this earth has given us.  as much as they drive me crazy, i'm even grateful for those damn blue jays.  and i'll secretly hope that they cross paths with that new big cat in the neighborhood.  ;-)

peace, love, gratitude,

Thursday, July 26, 2012

jump for joy

when i was small, i would jump off anything.  i remember leaning a tall ladder against my neighbors' backyard clubhouse.  we climbed to the peak, about 12 feet up, and launched our little bodies into the air...  a brief moment of weightlessness spoiled by a jarring reunion with mossy earth.

the clubhouse was one of many jumping opportunities that beckoned me as a kid.  i scaled trees and jumped from rickety branches, dropped sheets out of my bedroom window to  create exciting escapes from home, scrambled up icy rock ledges and propelled myself into snowy banks, or, my personal favorite, mud-puddle-jumped my way through rainstorms at summer camp. 

as time passed, i continued to find myself climbing and jumping - dancing on bars at clubs, shimmying up 10 walls to catch a glimpse of a great concert, etc.  i remember the last time i took a great, youthful leap.  i was in barbados with a group of friends at a beach called cranes (at least i think that's what it was called).  we followed a group of local kids up a 40 or 50 foot cliff and lined up.  one after another, the kids ran their fastest and let out a giant whoop as their bodies canonballed and pencil-dived into the aqua caribbean waves, barely avoiding imposing boulders below.  when i stepped to the front of the line i assessed the rocks and surf.  (at age 24, i still relished in the treasured "youthful invisibility clause" but i was old enough and smart enough to be careful.)  i deemed it safe, back pedaled 15 feet, revved up and dashed forward. 

free as a bird! 

on the long way down toward the sea, i felt a shift.  a very mortal shift.  i remember plummeting and thinking, "i should have hit water by now.  was i that high?"  my legs started pumping frantically and involuntarily and i felt an incredible desire to get the hell out of my body.  i was terrified.  i finally hit water (hard) and decided i wouldn't try that again.

and i didn't. 

for a long,




as a mature adult (choke, i'm choking), jumping does not come second nature like it once did. i'm too aware of discomfort, mortality and early morning wake-up calls, of my aging bones and tight lower back muscles, of hangovers and bruised knees, chilly walks home and sand in my underpants.

as my sistress (sister from another mistress) K would say, "it sucks getting old."  yes it does, K, yes it does. 

but it's not all creaky joints and gensing.  not yet, anyway.  there are moments of youthfulness that we can still capture if we are mindful.  about 7 years ago, i had a chance to taste my younger, jumpier days.  i was vacationing in maine with my hubby's family.  we caravanned to beautiful mountain hiking trail and were thrilled to find a treasure deep in the forest:  a stunning natural pool surrounded by waterfalls and stone water slides.  a high rocky ledge bordered one side of the pool and hanging above it was a gnarly old rope.  i watched my nieces and nephews bound up that ledge with their parents, eager to grab hold of that sucker and ride it with delight into the chilly water beckoning below.  i watched.  i watched.  i watched.  i played peacefully with my one year old baby and i watched. 

they were having a ball.  as i sat on the edge of the pool - all dry, cozy, quiet and warm - a quote popped into my head.  my friend CF always ends her emails with this line:  "Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away." 

another shift.

i asked myself, when was the last time i did something that took my breath away?  for years, i'd been playing it so safe.  i remembered that time i took a flying leap in barbados.  it scared the shit out of me, but i sure remembered it.  because i lived it.  had i sat back and watched that day, i probably wouldn't have remembered that beach at all. 

i decided to live that day.  live.  live it.  live it up.  there would be subsequent days that i would decide not to live it up, but this day, i made a decision to do just that.  i decided to jump.

i told my mother-in-law about my tiny shift.  at 70+, she decided she wanted to live it up that day, too.  so i handed off my baby and the two of us scrambled up the cliff.  somehow each of us mustered to the courage to grab hold of that splintered rope and Tarzan our way to a breath-taking moment.

as my children have grown, i've enjoyed watching them take risks and live it up.  often times, i catch myself sitting back and observing while they get soaked in rain puddles or somersault off diving boards.  laughing, snorting, revelling.  but life isn't just for the little ones.  it's for mommies, too.  and when i live for me, i show my kids how to live for themselves.

i can't count how many times i've told my kids this summer, "be one with the sand," or, "give into the heat.  joy lives just past the uncomfortable transitions."  when they let nature wash over them and accept that discomfort is part of living they can let go and experience the pure joy that exists just beyond.  wet, sticky, muddy, sandy, chilly, scary, crazy, sloppy, buggy, silly joy.

discovering myself through mindful thinking and behavior has allowed me to see this clearly.  through mindfulness, i encourage myself to engage, to live, to trust.  trust in the climb, trust in the leap, and trust that the fear that precedes and the discomfort that follows is also living.  joyful living.

i have to constantly remind myself to live.  it sounds so silly, but, as a mother of young children, years passed by that i forgot to do just that.  i got so caught up in schedules and diapers and feeding times that i would forget to remind myself to LIVE THIS LIFE FOR ME. 

so.  now, i jump.  i am no longer a stranger to that exhilarating feeling that comes just before my body plunges into cold water.  i'm not worried about my recently blown-dry hair or the chilly walk home.  this is my summer to get wet, get dirty, get messy.  this is my summer to jump.  you might see me out there somewhere.  i'm the mommy with the sandy undies.  i'm the lady jumping off the dock at dusk.  i'm the 30-something splashing in the mud puddles after a thunderstorm.  because i'm the one living my life.


today, i was hiking with my family in goshen, nh.  we walked past a wooden ladder nailed to a tree beside a lake and i noticed there was a rope wedged discreetly behind the top rung.  i asked my family to wait while i peeled off my socks and cross trainers.  i snatched that old rope and, with a little encouragement from my own mom, sailed into the water below.  i sloshed out shivering, no towel, soaked through, and smiling.  my kids were thrilled.  me next!  me next!  all three of them took the plunge.  several times.  even my 3 year old.  

fearless youth.

i hope they hold onto it always.

peace, love, gratitude,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

you suck and i don't

People love to post one-liners about "small-minded people".  Like this little gem:

We are stimulated by these words b/c we believe these words apply to us - to us and our frustration with those people who are petty, closed-off or simple-minded.  Those people who, for some reason, cannot stand to see us find success in the world and seem to revel in our screw-ups and missteps.  When we think about these peeps, it goes something like this:

Oh, you don't like me b/c you are just so small-minded.  You can say nasty things about me but I don't care b/c you are small.  And I am big.  I am a big-minded, high-road-taking, well-adjusted, totally wicked awesome person.  And you're not.   And you're a bad dresser, too.  And you have a big bum.  And an ugly husband.  So think about that while I become a huge success.

Exaggerated.  But tell me I'm not right.  Right?  That's what these little picture quotes should really say.  Because that's the deeper meaning.  These uplifting quotes are really passive-aggressive digs at other people who, we think, don't like us or don't support us.  They're judgments.  This is us judging other people as small-minded b/c they don't see things the way we do.  We are pointing our fingers at that person who sits in judgment and saying, "SEE?  I AM the GOOD person here.  YOU ARE the DOPE," and doing exactly to them what we fear they are doing to us.   

I really think this type of name-calling is all about insecurities and our basic human desire to be acknowledged.  If we could just acknowledge each other, be more receptive with each other, be more respectful of each other's presence, we wouldn't have any need for these sneaky, yet colorful, "you suck and I don't" boxes popping up all over our news feeds.  

Peace, love, gratitude,

p.s.  Please share this if you like it.  I would very much appreciate the support!  :-)

Monday, June 18, 2012

short & sweet... literally

a few weeks ago, my 6 year old SG (6 years old today, actually) threw a penny in the fountain on the town green.

"whatdya ask for?" i probed.

"fluff," she answered matter-of-factly.

"fluff," i repeated.

"yah, fluff."

later that evening i trucked over to the stop & shop and bought a tub of fluff.  the next day i made her a soy butter and fluff sandwich and sent her off to school.

she came home elated, all teeth and cheeks, "mommy!  mommy!  my wish came true!  i had a fluff sandwich in my lunchbox today!"

i didn't say anything else about it, just smiled and winked.  i want her figure out on her own how her power works, how by sharing her wishes, she's helping to make them come true.  a little example of the way the universe conspires to help her along the way.

wishes are beautiful things.  but if we keep our wishes a secret, how will they every come true?  most wishes require other people's participation.  we all have wishes, we all have dreams, we all have goals.  no need to be shy about it.  this is our humanness in action - by nature we are dreamers, we are doers.  so why deny ourselves by not sharing our dreams?  scream it out loud, i say.  why not?  let family and friends know what we want to do, where we want to go, who we want to be.  b/c then, they can help us.  they can improve our chances of bringing our wishes to life.

just today, my son XG ran by the fountain and tossed in a penny.

"whatdya ask for, big man?" i probed.

"a donkey tree," he sputtered.

...good luck with that one, kid.

peace, love, gratitude,

please share this if you like it!  :-)

Friday, June 15, 2012

quitchyer complainin'

man, i've been CRAZY the past few weeks!  i liken my behaviors and thoughts to a dairy queen blizzard.  a messy mix of irresistible but unhealthy morsels that require much concentration and discipline to resist.  the hormones, the season change, the pressure of the suburbs, the tennis moratorium, the constant intrusion of three small children in my eighteen inch bubble...  have all contributed to this recent state of relative dis-ease.

whilst in this state i have found myself doing a lot of moaning and groaning.  eeeeessshhhh... i can be such a complainer.  and like i said in my post a few  days ago, inviting complaints to the party will only attract more of the same.

trouble is, i'm a talker.  i'm an analyzer.  i'm an over-sharer.  so when i'm feeling all complain-y, i tell people.  i say, screw the edit button.  i'm going to play the raw footage.  i replay my ridiculous story of hormones and transition and children until it's completely played out.  i can only imagine that, as much as my friends love me, they cannot possibly enjoy listening to my woe-is-mess.  

it took me a casual comment by my friend RG (yes, lovey, your RG) to realize what i've been doing.  after complaining about having to mow the lawn and manage the kids and blah blah blah, RG looked at me and said, "it sounds like you need a drink."  a fairly benign remark, but this is the effect it had on me:

honestly, i've just been waiting for the dust to settle.  for the vacation to start.  for the big change that's gone come.  right?  b/c the hormones will balance.  b/c the kids will find a new routine.  b/c the pressure of living next door to the joneses only exists if i allow it to exist.  b/c my kids are actually pretty great.  b/c something wonderful will happen that will break me out of this state and everything will be better.  right?  right?  right?

WRONG.  if i want better i need to demand better.  ahem, invite better.  inviting better starts with changing my story. and that means i've got to stop making excuses, stop telling the old story.  it's easy to complain - it's mindless to complain.  complaining puts me back in the big dairy queen cup filled with things that are bad for me.  living with gratitude is much healthier, much more wholesome.  you can't complain and be grateful at the same time.  and this life is certainly something to be grateful for.  so, the change starts now.  the change starts with remembering that we are exactly where we are supposed to be - in this very moment.

we can all use a dose of moonstruck once in a while, can't we?  we all complain.  we all play the victim.  some more than others.  (i am so guilty of this.)  we air our grievances, forgetting that life is actually pretty damn great.  we tell our friends - can you believe she did that to me?  i feel sick.  my husband is so lazy.  i'm having the worst day.  my eyes are too wide apart.  this shopping cart has a squeaky wheel.  this traffic is atrocious.  the grass is too long.  there's never enough time.  it's too hot.  it's too cold.  the sun is too bright.  the rain is too wet.  

there.  that one's for you.  isn't that better?  

peace, love, gratitude,

share this with someone who's been going through a tough time and complaining a lot lately.  hopefully they'll appreciate it and not slap you back.  ;-)

the joneses don't really live next door.  my neighbors are actually extraordinary.  :-)

this lawnmower was the inspiration for this blog post.  she was my final straw.  when she gave out about 7/8 of the way through the lawn, i tried to sweet talk her.  i caressed her, stroked her, i even did reiki on her.  she was so stubborn.  so i'd like to formally apologize to her for the kicking, cursing, and manhandling.  turned out all she needed was a little more fuel.  oops!  good girl.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

letter to the editor

A couple of months ago, I found this article on "Christian Worldview" by Albert Mohler and wanted to share my email response to him.  

Never Having to Say You’re Dead? The New Interest in Reincarnation

Dr. Paul DeBell believes that he was once a caveman. Not only that, he is fairly certain that his life as a caveman ended violently. “I was going along, going along, going along, and I got eaten,” said the psychiatrist.
To his life as a caveman, Dr. DeBell adds his knowledge of previous lives as a Tibetan monk and “a conscientious German who refused to betray his Jewish neighbors in the Holocaust.” Dr. DeBell’s account is found in “Remembrances of Lives Past” by Lisa Miller of Newsweek magazine, published in the August 29, 2010 edition of The New York Times. Miller writes of the growing acceptance of the idea of reincarnation among Americans.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported last year that a quarter of all Americans now believe in reincarnation. As Lisa Miller notes, the report found that women are more likely to believe in reincarnation than men, and registered Democrats are more likely than Republicans. In any event, the popularity of reincarnation is rising, and Dr. DeBell is but one example. A psychiatrist trained at Cornell University, Dr. DeBell is one of the voices on behalf of reincarnation, but he is not alone.
In her report, Lisa Miller also introduces Peter Bostock, a retired teacher in Canada, who believes that he was once a large estate manager in England, and that he was then in love with his present wife, who was then a cook in the estate’s kitchen. Their forbidden love in a past life gives meaning, he suggests, to their marriage today. He told Miller that the couple shares a powerful attraction “that a soul makes when it encounters the familiar.”
The most influential figure in Miller’s report is Dr. Brian Weiss, who has pioneered what is now called “regression therapy,” based in the remembrance of past lives. A graduate of Columbia University and the Yale Medical School, Weiss became a lightning rod for controversy within psychiatric circles after he published an account of his treatment of a woman by hypnotizing her and assisting her to remember several past lives. Dr. Weiss now holds weekend seminars that attract hundreds of participants. He also claims that such therapeutic approaches are gaining credibility within the psychiatric profession.
Miller, who recently wrote a book on the afterlife, recognizes that the growing acceptance of reincarnation points to a retreat of Christian beliefs. In her words: “In religious terms, the human narrative — birth, life, death and rebirth — has for millennia been relatively straightforward in the West. You were born. You lived. You died. After a judgment you went to heaven (or hell) forever and ever. Eternity was the end: no appeals allowed.”
Reincarnation offers an escape from that linear view of history and human destiny. The Eastern conception of time common to Confucian cultures is deeply cyclical, with events and persons appearing again and again throughout time. As Lisa Miller summarizes the worldview: “You are born. You live. You die. And because nobody’s perfect, your soul is born again — not in another location or sphere, and not in any metaphorical sense, but right here on earth.” There is more to it, of course. Hinduism teaches that eventually, after however many lives, the soul reaches perfection and release. Until then, the soul takes on life after life.
One of Dr. DeBell’s patients told of finding relief from grief over her mother’s death by discovering that in previous lives she had been an Italian merchant who sold textiles along the Amalfi Coast, a herbalist in Africa, and a freed slave in New Orleans.
Readers of the report are likely to note some strange patterns. Why is it that these people seem only to recover knowledge of such noble past lives? A German who refused to betray his Jewish neighbor during the Holocaust? Where are the people who claim in past lives to have been concentration camp guards or complicit neighbors?
Put bluntly, even if you set Christian concerns about reincarnation aside momentarily, the picture looks dubious. Furthermore, the therapeutic application of reincarnation as a concept looks like just the latest fad. Do these people actually believe what they claim? Some do, of course, but Lisa Miller acknowledges that the nature of these recovered “lives” is slippery. She explains that psychiatrists “have begun to broaden their definition of ‘memory,’ leaving aside the question of whether a scene uncovered during hypnosis is ‘real’ or not.” That is a difficult question to leave aside. Most people would probably want to know if their neighbor really believes that he was a galley slave on a Viking ship in a past life.
Lisa Miller suggests that reincarnation is growing in popularity because Christianity is in retreat, especially among the young. But Stephen Prothero of Boston University asserts that increased interest in reincarnation is tied to the relative prosperity of the American people. Americans like their lives and their possessions, he argues, and they like the idea of postponing eternity. “Reincarnation means never having to say you’re dead” he offers.
In reality, few concepts can match reincarnation in terms of being incompatible with Christian doctrine and the Christian worldview. The biblical view of history is linear, not cyclical. The Bible assumes and claims a past-present-future orientation, with the end bringing the perfect judgment and justice of God. History is not a great wheel, but a chronological current.
The Bible states clearly that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” [Hebrews 9:27]. There is no “do-over,” and no great cycle of life.
Lisa Miller has a point when she suggests that the growing acceptance of reincarnation is tied to a loss of Christian knowledge and conviction among Americans. Nevertheless, it seems very likely that this new acceptance of reincarnation is more a matter of therapeutic fads and cultural fashions than as huge theological shift. The shift is more likely a loss of Christian conviction in the face of secularization — not a comprehensive embrace of Eastern worldviews.
Nevertheless, it is important to know that a growing number of Americans now believe in reincarnation and are accepting ideas from Eastern religions and worldviews. But, even as this development is important in missiological terms, it is still hard to take very seriously.
Even in these confused times, how many Americans really want to consult a psychiatrist who believes he was once a caveman who got gobbled up?

Dear Mr. Mohler,

I just found your article online about reincarnation and wanted to share my viewpoint as a Cultural Christian who believes without doubt that our souls take on human form time and time again.  Of course the first thing I wanted to do was poke holes in your argument, specifically the following quote from the good book:

The Bible states clearly that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” [Hebrews 9:27]. There is no “do-over,” and no great cycle of life.

The Bible is an awesome resource.  One from which a person of any religious persuasion can learn and grow.  But it's also a book that has been, can be and will be translated and interpreted for all time.  As many will agree, the book is alive.  The idea of reincarnation does not compete with this quote from The Bible.  A man does die once - well, in most cases.  Sometimes a man can die, be resuscitated then die again later.  But, yes, we agree that an individual man usually dies once.  And, yes, after that comes judgment.  The soul reviews the life of its individual, along with Jesus or other Masters and, according to the research done by folks like Raymond A. Moody, experiences the joys and pains inflicted upon others during that lifetime.  There is no "do-over".  That personality existed once in your steadfast chronology and the soul grew exponentially by the lessons learned in that lifetime.  

The second idea I'd like to refute is that this is an American's need to stay connected to material wealth.  In fact, I have spend years working on disconnecting myself emotionally from material things, as Buddhists teachings have advised.  In addition, I can safely assume that when my soul does return to earth, I will not be "me" again.  I will not live in my house again.  I will not drive my car again.  I could be a man in Africa, I could be a nun in Switzerland, I could be a humpback whale for all I know.  So the argument that westerners are frantically reaching in attempt to hold onto possessions is simply invalid.    

My faith is not a "fad".  I believe, as well as BILLIONS of others around the world, that while the man lives once, energy is forever.  Like trees and flowers that bloom and die, capturing energy for a short time then releasing it back to the universe only to capture it again...  so does the human body.  No energy can be created or destroyed; therefore the soul exists eternally.  Before AND after death.  Just think:  If God can launch my soul into a little baby's body once and pluck it out of a wrinkly old body once, then who's to say that God doesn't have the power to do that a hundred times?  A thousand times?  Our earthly lives are a drop in the ocean.  Why would God waste all of that heavenly energy when He/She/We can recycle it over and over?  Doesn't it make good efficient sense to reincarnate souls?  Do you really think that when you die you will spend eternity sitting on a cloud and playing the harp?  What or where was your soul before you were born?  These are the big questions that I asked myself and why reincarnation was the only idea that made sense to me.  

Another incorrect assessment is that folks always regress to lifetimes when they were somebody special or important.  I have regressed through meditation many times and visited many past life times.  I have seen myself as a poor Chinese woman in the times before Christ - no one special.  I have seen myself as a little girl living in the country - no one special.  I have seen myself as a civil rights activist - passionate, but seemingly un-special.  I've seen myself as a nomad in Nepal - completely alone in life.  But I have had experiences when special people have been revealed to me, too.  The Universe released these lives to me when the time is right.  *Note:  I don't see what's so special about being a caveman who was eaten, or about being a caveman at all.

I respect the Christian faith and those who believe so passionately that they are living their "one sacred life".  I believe with equal passion that God created man in harmony with the Universe, as a reflection of nature, with a soul that cycles just like everything else on Earth.  And I love Jesus.  He is awesome.  We can all learn from his messages of love and compassion.  I can't limit his teachings to a single book, though.  I prefer to keep my eyes and ears open to the messages that God's great universe delivers in the here and now - and not limit myself to the messages provided to us through lens of founders of Christianity.  Those men had clear agendas.  I, as a seeker, do not.  


Vanessa Gobes

p.s.  Dr. Weiss has a terrific saying regarding the experience of channeling past life memories:  "When you hear hoofbeats, don't look for zebras."

Peace, love and gratitude to my readers.  Feel free to post comments here.  Love to hear all of your ideas and viewpoints.  Oh, and please share the blog with friends if you like.