I’ve been told Jesus loves me.

Note: Below I’ve written about God, Jesus and Mary because that’s what I experienced. That said, I well know the Divine extends far beyond the Christianity of my Bible Belt beginnings, so please feel free to replace my vernacular with words that resonate with you…the Universe, Nature, Mother Earth, Gaia, the Greater Order, Goddess, your guru, Divine Mother, Buddha, Krishna or any deity that resonates with your heart. After all, we’re all one.

Most days, after I drop off the boys at school, I duck into the nearby church sanctuary for five to 10 minutes. Once inside, I pause to gaze at the statue of Mary as I take a seat beneath cathedral ceilings smudged with stained-glass-filtered light.

Sometimes I admire Mary’s likeness. You’ve got it all locked up, Mother of God. How do you do it?

Sometimes I feel awe. Wow, you are pure grace. Amazing.

Sometimes I want to cry. When you were living in the body, did you ever feel the stuff I’m feeling now? You were a woman in the world before you were divine, right? So how did you handle it? What did you do when you struggled?

Sometimes I feel gratitude. OMG, you are really actually here for me, Mary. I can feel it. Thanks for being so expansive.

Sometimes I ask her for help. I wish I could be more like you. Could you help me do that? Work through me. I am so, so lost right now. Please take over because I am just not nailing life at the present.

For reference only, this is me nailing life. It happens sometimes.

For reference only, this is me actually nailing life (with holes in my socks).

After a minute or so of reflecting on Mary, who I experience as an expression of the Divine Mother, I sit up straighter and close my eyes to meditate. Looking toward the center of my forehead, I repeat a silent “hong” on the in breath, and sau (pronounced “saw”) on the out breath. In repetition, this mantra slows the heart rate and paves the way for greater concentration. (Pow! That’s meditation. ‘All there is to it.)

Sometimes I float into bliss for a while. Sometimes my mind races the entire time. Eventually, I end with a prayer of protection and thanks to Heavenly Father, Divine Mother, Christ and all the great ones. And then I walk out the big double doors and into my day.

Today a woman wearing a long, hooded powder blue coat waited for me at the door. I gave her a friendly smile and she followed me out.

“I see you in here praying a lot,” she said, squaring her body in front of me on the steps. She had a low, melodic voice and was tall—a little taller than me. She looked to be halfway between my mom and my grandma’s age. Her face was smooth and soft, and even the skin around her eye area was youthfully taut. She wore no makeup, and her light brown eyes were twinkly. If I had to read her energy, I’d say it was loving, strong, protector-y and practical, in that order.

“I want to let you know about a special chapel I think you’d like,” she said. “It’s not far from here and if you enjoy praying in this sanctuary, I think you’d really enjoy this other chapel.”

She proceeded to tell me about the tiny 24-hour chapel of a huge Catholic church a couple miles away. I’ve seen the church before, and it’s beautiful from the outside. She told me of the chapel’s beauty, of the special feel it has, of how the laity meticulously maintains it, of the beautiful statue of Mary and of how adorers are welcome at all hours of the day.

“Adorers?” I asked. I’ve not heard this term before. Is that like what I did with Mark Wahlberg this summer?

“Yes, adorers,” she said matter of factly. “Of Mary, of Jesus.”

“Oh, ok,” I said, feeling silly. “That’s beautiful. I’m not Catholic, so ‘adorer’ is not a word I’m familiar with.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be Catholic. I invite Muslim people there, too. You’ll feel Jesus, and it doesn’t matter, he’s for everyone,” she said, pausing for a few beats and looking deep into my eyes with a gaze so steady and warm I felt myself melting into it.

“Jesus wants to love you,” she said. “That is a grace you are blessed to have. You know.”

Instantaneously, I began to cry.

The last time I experienced mystical insta-tears was after a chat with nun at my guru's hermitage in Encinitas. This photo was snapped moments after.

The last time I experienced mystical insta-tears was after a little chit chat with a Self-Realization Fellowship nun at my guru’s hermitage in Encinitas. This photo was snapped moments after.

Something in her countenance when she said “Jesus wants to love you” reached into my being and ripped down a hard-fought wall, releasing a swell of emotion. She stood solidly before me, gazing at my face with serenity and compassion from Lord knows where. Or how. I swear she glowed. What was this phenomenon? I felt wrapped in love beyond love, unaware of space, people and things around me. Unable to stop the tears from coming, I smiled bashfully and threw my hands in the air as if to apologize for my show of emotion. The corners of her mouth turned up slightly and she nodded her head once like she’d seen this a hundred times. She stood close, simply regarding me.

“Thank you,” I said, smiling and shrugging my shoulders, mystified. “Thanks so much.”

Her mouth turned up further into a sweet smile and she excused herself. I rushed off to the car. Once alone, the tears continued, and in the same moment, they became laced with laughter. Joy in abundance. “What was that?” I heard myself say aloud. “Who was that?”

I don’t know why I was incredulous. This morning before leaving the house, I read that today, Feb. 19, is a good day to ask for guidance from your higher self. So I did. Instead of just asking to receive the guidance, I asked to feel it, to experience it and to have the courage to take action on it. Additionally, as I do every morning, I asked to be a channel for God’s love to all I meet.

I figured I’d receive some sort of mandate from my higher self, like, “Yes, we know you’re having a hard time right now but be spiritual about it and rise above it all, will you? You want superconsciousness? You better straighten up and fly right. Get over all this dumb human stuff already.”

It’s like I was expecting my guidance to come with a healthy serving of shame. But that is just not how God works. I always forget.

When I asked for it this morning, I never suspected I’d receive divine encouragement to let myself be loved. And by Jesus, no less. It’s too simplistic, too nice, too outrageous. But it was unmistakably divine. “Jesus wants to love you,” said the woman in blue. To me, implicit in her words was, “Open your heart and receive the love of all loves. You are worthy. Jesus wants to love you.” Suddenly it was so obvious: I can share God’s love with others only if I allow my own self to revel in that great love first.

I don’t know why this woman chose today of all days to speak to me. I’m sure there’s a good explanation for why she was bundled in a full-length, light blue down coat on the warmest day of the winter, and why she had her hood covering her head. But despite all logic, standing in the morning sun of those church steps, she looked every bit like Mary to me. What’s more, she felt like Mary. As sometimes happens with phenomena, I may see her again and experience her in a completely different way, but what matters to me is that today, on the day I asked for an experience of divine guidance, I was overcome with wonderment on feeling Mary’s love flowing through this very person.

So, my wish for you today is that you open yourself to an experience of divine guidance.  Just ask for it, aloud or in your heart. Then, when you have the experience, I hope that you know it, and that it moves you in some wonderful way. Finally, may you allow yourself to revel in the love of all loves. Just like I was told this morning, Jesus wants to love you.

We thrash to be still: A tale of detox after a tough day

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The sensory-magical power of bowling was revealed to us last weekend. Heavy lifting, gross-motor throwing, twirling around in slippery shoes on waxy wood floors. Both boys were in heaven. It was a dream. We went twice.

I knew it’d been a rough day at school by the way the teacher handed me the clipboard to sign Charlie out. Before she could share any details, he darted out the door toward the parking lot in an attempt to avoid the ultimate nightmare—mom and teacher converging to talk about his tough day. He couldn’t dematerialize fast enough.

Tough days are the same for kids as they are for grown ups, I think. Something not awesome happens. You make some sort of mistake. Someone gets upset. You feel in some way uneasy. You try to pull yourself out of it. But it’s hard. What does this situation say about me? How do I feel right now? What do I do about it? Maybe you keep getting reminded of your shortcoming. Maybe you’re not sure of how to recover, so maybe you keep messing up. Maybe you feel generally discombobulated. Maybe you don’t want to face anyone because you’re embarrassed. Maybe it’s just one of those days. In the end, it doesn’t matter what went down. It’s just a tough day.

I said some things—shamey, punitive things—to him as we walked to the car that weren’t my best parenting. Maybe I haven’t been my best in general lately. Maybe I’ve been having my own tough days. Maybe my cropped-up-out-of-nowhere, monolithic internal shifting has prevented me from showing up for my kids in the super-present, heart-centered way to which I aspire. Maybe I could’ve been trying harder. Maybe I could’ve done something proactive to prevent the overload of his sensory system that’s been causing him three tough days in a row at school. Maybe.

Chicago is going on 21 days of below-zero temperatures. It’s been nearly a month of no outdoor recess, no park play and no running around out front. Too cold. This doesn’t bode well for a kid who regulates his nervous system primarily through gross motor activities.

We’ve had a ton of snow, which is heaped in parallel strips through unplowed alleys and side streets. When the sun comes out, it melts ever so slightly, such that it softens to collect and later freeze in the tire wells of our car. Charlie likes to kick at these hardened deposits of grimy, icy snow before and after school. Sometimes they dislodge from his blows, which he relishes; sometimes they don’t.

We pulled into the garage after school yesterday afternoon and he began kicking, to no avail. I helped him get one of the ice blocks unglued from the car’s undercarriage and what happened next amazed me.

Charlie began kicking and stomping the ice block with ferocity. Oh. He is mad, I observed. Wow. He’s really fucking pissed off about something.

“Kick it, buddy,” I encouraged, considering he might need to express his emotions physically. “Stomp that ice chunk. That’s it. Get it.”

His fervor in kicking and stomping grew. With each chunk of ice he chipped, he seemed a little more consumed by it. I stood nearby watching him, being there with him in his expression.

“Hey, Charlie. Are you mad?” I asked gently. He just kept kicking, almost as though he couldn’t hear me. “Yep, you’re mad, aren’t you buddy?”

He looked up at me and nodded his head once before going back to the demolition.

“I totally get it,” I said, noticing a delightful cocoon forming around the two of us. “You know it’s ok to be mad, don’t you? You won’t get in trouble for feeling mad. Say it out loud, even. Let yourself feel angry. Let it out.”

“Ok!” he fired back at me. “I’m mad. I’m really, really mad.” He looked up and, through the anger, I saw his relief. We found another ice chunk, but this one was too stubborn for his boots to dent, so I picked up a skinny length of firewood and he used it to whack the ice into oblivion. We found some more ice. And when all the ice was fractured in pieces around the garage, he marched into the back yard, where he began thrusting piles of snow off the table, chairs and steps with sweeping arm movements.

I pressed him on why he was angry, and at whom. It was a short list of people, and I was on it. I told him I understood why he was mad, and that I knew it was a hard day for him. He didn’t say much. Just kind of growled. “You don’t have to talk about it, but if you want to, I’m here to listen,” I said. “Or you can growl, or yell or whatever feels right to you. This is a safe space for that.”

He went to the trampoline, jumping and kicking at piles of snow, sweeping it away with a ceremonious combination of punches and footwork. On the stairs, he kicked at the ice buildup on the sides. Kip got a little too close and I encouraged him to steer clear of Charlie’s thrashing. “Kip, stand back,” Charlie cautioned. “I am like a ball of fire right now.”

He thrashed around the yard, strumming tiny icicles from their place under the back stairs, kicking at ice and whooshing his arms around wildly through piles of snow for a good 10 minutes. I could hear his breath from a few feet away. All throughout, I acted like a congregant at that Baptist church we’ve visited a few times.

That’s it.

Mmmhmm.

Do your thing.

I feel you.

All right, now.

That’s how you do it.

I got you.

Finally, with a touch of flair, he yanked his hat from his head, handed it to me and heaved a sigh. “I think I’m done, Mommy,” he said, the sweetness back in his face. “I’m ready to go inside. I feel so much better now.”

After the thrashing, we snuggled and played into evening, and we talked about what to do when he’s feeling overloaded at school. The next day, his teacher handed me the clipboard and tossed her hands in the air. “Well, today was much better,” she reported, baffled. “I have no idea why, but it was.”

I guess kids aren’t much different from adults on this front. After a tough day, sometimes the best medicine is to call it what it is, give yourself room to be mad (reeeeally mad, if need be), get your heart rate up to flush it out of your body and then go for hugs.

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While Brian was at a meditation retreat all weekend in Encinitas, Calif., this trio took to the bowling alley. After a rousing game, we huddled together for a photo. (it’s really too bad the scoreboard doesn’t show, because yours truly bowled an impressive 130. I felt sufficiently awesome about that. Grandpa Fogel would’ve been proud.)

357-word review of Frozen (yep, that Disney cartoon)

You don’t have to see the movie, Frozen, for a good gobsmacking, but if you like cartoons and musicals as unashamedly as I do, I recommend it. (Cynics, be still. Everybody knows neither cartoons nor musicals are “cool” and I just don’t care.)

Yes, the characters are vibrant, the compelling love story is between two sisters rather than a shallow prince/princess and the music is off the chain. In any event, the importance of Frozen lies less in the visual and aural appeal, more in the prevailing theme, which is this: Fear and love cannot coexist.

When Queen Elsa is raked with fear of her own power, everything becomes cold, frozen and bleak. When Elsa chooses love over fear, everything melts, blooms and flows again. Her fear causes destruction. Love makes everything ok. And love allows her to step fully into the brilliance of her own power.

Did you get that? Because my kids sure did. And, whether they were conscious of it or not, so did every other kid in that theatre, something for which I want to high-five the hell out of Disney.

But let’s talk about you. Did you know fear and love were incapable of coexisting in your consciousness at the same time? It’s true. Try it:

  1. Think of something that terrifies you. Something you can’t control. Someone you don’t want to lose. A possibility that makes you shudder.
  2. Now think of the object in those scenarios, whatever or whoever it is, and send loving thoughts toward her, him or it and send love toward yourself as well.
  3. Buh bye fear. Hello, vulnerability. (Not that vulnerability feels good, exactly, but it gets better over time, and anything is better than the fear space.)
  4. Eventually, with practice, that gripping, freezing fear automatically transforms into a cagey sense of vulnerability, which ultimately melts into blossoming love and tranquility.

You can either freeze or you can bloom. You can choose fear, or choose love. Please choose love, if only for this one moment. And maybe the moment after that. And again after that. Just go see Frozen if you need more convincing.

Love lessons from kindergarten sweethearts

ImageLove flowing freely is a wonder to behold. Think back. You know the feeling. It’s that pure, can’t-stop-it-and-why-would-you thing that happens when you meet another who sparks you, the sort of falling-in-love kind of love that brings spectacular joy without condition or expectation or design or hope. It wants nothing; it just is. Your souls spark an ember at first meeting, the ember catches flame and, when the love is returned, it consumes your whole being and warms everyone in your radius.

I believe I’d grown a bit out of touch with the magic of this glow, the spectacular power of seemingly out-of-nowhere, ancient love. Then on the way home from school yesterday, Charlie opened his mouth, seemingly out of nowhere, and we all grew warmer.

Charlie: (Mumbling) Mommy, I’m in love with Rosie*.

Me: What, bud?

Charlie: Oh, never mind. I didn’t say anything.

Me: Babe, did you just say you’re in love with Rosie?

Charlie: (Getting worked up, about to cry) Yes, I did! I said that, ok?!

Me: (Gushing) That’s wonderful, Charlie! Wow! I’m so happy for you that you feel so much love for Rosie. How does it feel in your body to feel this way about someone? How does your heart feel?

Charlie: (doing his little half-smile.) Really, really good. Awesome, even.

Long pause

Charlie: I thought you would be mad at me.

I admit, my gut-nanosecond reaction was to think, “What the—? But he’s too young for this kind of…” And then I remembered that falling in love is recognizing the infinite light in another, and no one is too young or too old for that.

Falling in love is seeing the truth of another’s perfection and him or her beaming your own perfection back at you. It’s pure. It’s beautiful. It’s world enhancing. It’s everything and the only thing. And, without a doubt, this glimpse of heaven is entirely accessible to two bright-as-the-sun five-year-olds.

Me: Mad at you? No way! Being in love is such an amazing feeling and I’m so happy for you that you get to feel this way for your friend. This is a huge deal, Charlie. You must enjoy it! It’s absolutely wonderful. You can’t control who you end up loving, I know that. So I will never be mad at you for falling in love with someone.

Charlie: Ok, Mommy. That’s good. Thanks. (smiles.) I’m just really in love with Rosie.

In the words of Rosie’s supercool mom: “If only love could stay this simple forever.”

Kindergartners, they only know one way to love:  With abandon and without expectation. Grownups, on the other hand, we don’t always get this. And if we ever did, we may have forgotten it by now. We’re so quick to build walls, apply stipulations, put up protections, drive expectations, make demands, play games and otherwise move further away from the unconditional, unattached purity of that first divinely orchestrated spark.

Kindergartners, they don’t want to hold the other, they just want to love the other. For Charlie and Rosie, there are no plans or aspirations, for example. Just loving is quite enough.

We arrived home, went inside and opened his backpack for the note Rosie’s mom said would be in his folder. She’d written him a note over winter break, presumably because the only thing that feels more victorious than simply loving is speaking it aloud. He opened the note slowly and intentionally, savoring the moment. I read it to him, right down to the “P.S. I love you” part, and he smiled.

“That’s so nice,” he said. “I’m hungry. Can I eat something?”

A couple moments passed as we dug into the pantry and then…

Me: How did it feel to read that super sweet letter from Rosie?

Charlie: Awesome. So good I almost feel like I could cry. Can I have some pretzels now?

Even at this stage of life, maybe it can stay that simple. I, for one, am going to take a page out of Charlie and Rosie’s book, and look for the perfection in others, raze my walls and detach from expectations. If just loving each other is enough for them, maybe it’s enough for all of us.

(*Rosie’s name has been changed.)

Surprise! Professional portraits prove more pleasurable than…alliteration, I guess.

Yes, the cocked hip is weird and unintentional. Kip would. not. look. at the camera, so I’m sure this odd positioning must’ve helped. Nevermind all that. We did it! We got professional family photos taken! And I didn’t hate it! And I actually will consider doing it again! It’s amazing!

I never sent birth announcements for our sons. We don’t do holiday cards. (But I really do love getting yours, so please keep us on your list.) No one is shouting out the adorable Quinn family on Facebook or blogging about how delightful it was taking our pictures in the dewy field that weekend morning.

Historically, the phrase “professional photographs” makes my teeth hurt. And so I don’t do them.

On the other hand, Andrea, my way cooler little sister, loves preserving family moments professionally. To give you a landscape of her diligence versus my neglect on this matter, Nora, my glorious niece and goddaughter, is one year old and they’ve already had professional family photographs taken three times. My boys are four and five and we’ve had our photos taken once. But I thought I looked awful in all the shots, and we never did anything with them.

So…a couple weeks before we celebrated an early Christmas with my parents in Kansas, and Andrea was all, “Sister, I’ve arranged for a photographer to come to Mom and Dad’s house Saturday when you’re in town so we can get some pictures taken of all of us,” I was all, “Oh. Uhh. Ok. That’s…really…nice.”

And she was all: “Dude! What’s your deal?”

And I was all: “Ok, I don’t really know. I just hate getting pictures taken.”

And she was all: “Why!?!?”

Because I feel pressure to look happy and perfect and amazing all at once. I spend so much energy trying not to worry about appearances and then I’m supposed to pose at flattering angles and ask my kids to smile so that we have a happy family memory preserved in excellent lighting? My childhood memories of professional photos include all the women in our family picking at each other and their daughters and telling them to stand up straight and hold their tummies in and it wasn’t fun at all. But what I really hate is the part of me that will pick at my own kids, sweep the boys’ hair with my fingers, tell them to smile and bribe the little guys with candy if they will just stop hiding their faces in my torso. I can’t be expected to look delighted when in fact I’m petrified that, when these pics come back, I’ll find myself looking stressed out and very much the opposite of a gleaming mother.

I don’t remember if I spoke this aloud to her at the time, but it doesn’t matter because my sister knows how I feel about all this, and she’s given me one or two great pep talks on WHY it’s important to get photos taken.

What I did say was this: “Whatever happens, know that I appreciate you wanting to preserve these memories. And I ask you to give me a lil room to figure out what my deal is. I promise to try really hard not to suck when it comes time to get our pics taken.”

And she was all: “Cool.”

So, the second Saturday in December, I made myself look a lot like a news anchor, the Quinn men and I got all dressed up in shades of blue and purple, and we snuggled together in front of the wall in my parents’ living room.

Does my family of origin not look like everyone’s favorite warm, engaging and credible-looking 5 o’clock news team?

And, know what? It was actually kinda fun. It could’ve been the ease, grace and eye of the photographer, or the fact that she used to be a pediatric nurse and knew just how to talk to my boys—one who was being a touch obnoxious and the other defiantly reticent. Or it could’ve been the fact that my enjoyment of the group and the day conjured some primal desire to capture an official portrait of our family. Whatever it was, the fact is, I’m glad we did it.

You probably still won’t find giant portraits of four Quinns dressed in coordinating colors on the walls of my home or in your mailbox in December, but I bet we’ll do this again before another five years go by.

See here for more images from the shoot with Lori Ruf, and check out Lori’s work at Lemon Tree Photography. And, KC peeps, hook it up with her next time you want your pix done. She’s vivacious, easy to be around and great with the childrens. Everybody’s happy.

The greatest gift of this photo shoot with Lori Ruf was scoring several never-before-captured snaps of my little guys and I interacting authentically and joyously in our own way.

I’ve never seen our playfulness and snugglelove in action like this before and it melted this mama’s heart to see it in still. (yep, because nothing is so heartwarming as a head lock…)

Can we all agree my news anchor hair really does look kind of amazing here? I’m pretty happy we got that on film, too. (because it may never look like that again.)

A bedtime meditation for sensory kids

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For those who don’t already know, I have two sons, one of whom is an official sensory kid, the other unofficial. While heightened intuition, innate wisdom and emotional sensitivity are grand gifts in today’s world, parenting sensory kids like my little guys can be a nail-biting ride.

Throughout the course of a day, these kids absorb a lot. By “a lot,” I mean they take in all surrounding sounds, smells, sights, touch, tastes, energies and even other people’s emotional frequencies. In other words, their level of perception can get a bit like that of Robert Downey, Jr., as Sherlock Holmes. At the end of the day, if I’m lucky, their little nervous systems may have processed all this input effectively. However, after a long day of school and/or the stimulation of daily life as a city kid, it’s more likely they’re amped to high heaven.

So, before they go to sleep, we clear it all out. That way, they can start the next day fresh.

When they get older, they’ll figure out their own tricks for hitting the re-set button, but because my kids are so little, I’ve found they need help releasing all the gunk they’ve absorbed throughout the day. After years of experimenting with different approaches and gleaning knowledge from friends and experts like Alicia Isaacs Howes, an intuitive coach and friend who’s used visualization with her own sons, and Nancy Floy, whose powerful Mindfulness of the Body exercise prepares her patients to receive miraculous healing through her acupuncture practice at The Heartwood Center for Body, Mind, Spirit, I’ve come up with an evening meditation that works well for my boys. If anyone’s wondering, it works for grown-ups, too.

After we’ve bathed, brushed teeth, read stories, snuggled a bit and the lights are low, I help them draw attention to the soles of their feet by taking their feet in my hands and gently yet firmly squeezing the bottom of each foot, using my thumbs to give them a little massage. The idea is to treat the soles of the feet as exit doors for releasing built-up energy. If your child is super ticklish, just press the bottom of the foot firmly with your fist or open palm, using the heel of your hand to press into the heel, instep and ball of their feet, to the extent that it’s peaceful for them. If it’s not, just skip the touch and go straight into the guided meditation.

Guided bedtime meditation for Sensory Kids

The following is just a guide; it’s what works for our family. If a bedtime meditation resonates with you and your kids, play with your “script.” Tailor it to your kids, make it your own.

You’re walking through the forest* and you notice the ground feels soft beneath your feet. Right there, amid the tall, tall trees, you take your shoes off and let your bare feet sink into the cool, squishy mud.**

You feel the mud squishing between your toes, and it covers the tops of your feet, just up to your ankles. As you stand there feeling the squishiness of the soft earth, you notice the bottoms of your feet opening up, releasing all the stuff that you don’t need anymore. Any thoughts, feelings, experiences, beliefs, energies, ideas and other things that no longer serve your highest and greatest good come flushing out of your body through the bottoms of your feet and into the earth, where these things are cleaned and transformed. Anything from this life or past lifetimes that no longer serves your highest and greatest good flows gently and easily out of your feet like a faucet and you feel light and free.

At the same time, you notice a cord extending from the base of your spine*** into the ground. It extends down through all the layers of the earth—grass, mud, dirt, water, rock—all the way to the earth’s core, where you are always connected for as long as you want to be.

You now notice the crown of your head tingling gently as shimmering white light enters your body through the top of your head, filling it, your brain, your eyes and your throat with the brightest, most beautiful, most peaceful white light. This sparkling white light fills your chest, your heart, your lungs, your spine, your nervous system, your blood vessels and all your glands, purifying everything it touches and recharging every cell in your body. The glistening white light fills all of your organs, cleansing and restoring your liver, your gall bladder, your kidneys, your pancreas, your spleen, your stomach, your intestines, your bladder and your reproductive system. The shimmering white light then moves down into your arms, hands and fingers, and your legs, feet and toes. All of the bones and tissues in your body are filled with this brilliant white light. Soon, your whole body is shimmering light, and you feel totally free, totally peaceful and totally rejuvenated. You are ready for a wonderful night’s sleep.

Let’s pray:

God, give these children all the protection they need tonight while they sleep. As they journey through dreams, bless them that they may be bathed in Your protective light, accompanied by angels and filled with the peace, joy, love and belonging that comes from knowing Your constant presence. May they sleep beautifully and awaken in the morning feeling peaceful, restored, joyful, excited about the day and filled with the knowledge that they are loved, wanted and supported as Your divine child and as my child on Earth. Thank you, God. Bless these children. Amen.

NOTES: I use the term, sensory kid, to describe a child who has sensory integration issues or has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD). If you’re not familiar with SPD, see the SPD Foundation website. Regardless of how your child’s sensory issues present, I’ve observed that all sensory kids have at least a few things in common: They are highly intuitive, sensitive, quirky kids who often seem to have an otherworldly wisdom about them. (Not that it presents all the time but, when it does, wow.) These kids have great imaginations, which makes them especially open to visualization and guided meditation. I came up with the below script one night while putting them to bed and it stuck. Now, it’s part of our nighttime ritual. 

*Pick the element of nature that resonates most with your child. Nature is the ultimate cleansing agent for all of us, which is why many guided meditations begin by setting the stage in some beautiful outdoor place. As I desire to bring a sense of grounding before my boys enter the superconscious sleep state, I choose to paint a picture of earth and trees. However, we’ve tried it with sand and sea before as well. If your kid loves mountains, describe a mountain setting. If your kid loves the lake, describe the lake. If your kid loves rocks, describe a field of boulders. And so on.

**If your child is sensory averting, you may wish to describe something that feels less messy and offensive than mud or wet sand. For example, you guide them in removing their socks to feel a warm or cool stone beneath their feet.

***You may wish to touch the base of the spine to help your child with the visual. In fact, feel free to have your child lie on his or her stomach so you can give a gentle full-body massage as you walk him or her through the meditation.

A lesson in finding the blessing in the muck

High five for the blessing of a messy life. Behind the broken raspberries, there are five healthy fingers.

High five for the blessing of a messy life. Behind the broken raspberries, there are four healthy fingers.

Oh my peas, I have a cold. And I’m tuckered out. Everyone in my house has a cold, so until they’re healthy, mama marches on as usual. I’m coming off a week of temporary solo parenting while the man was at a conference and he came back sick and tired and in need of rest, too. Which means I got no rest last weekend. And this week has been a bear. (are you crying for me yet?)

The work deadlines have been bumpier than most weeks. I’m coughing a lot. My youngest squished these gelatinous Halloween eyeballs into a thousand jiggly crumbs on the living room carpet such that I had to jack the vacuum up and down to catch all the pieces like I was playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos. The dogs nudged the lid off the bathroom trashcan and dispersed its contents all over the floors of my office and bedroom. Brian’s artisanal breakfast sausage habit has reached a crescendo and now everything in my closet smells like his morning feast. Obviously, this is a sampling of the more trivial stuff.

Without going into detail about the bigger issues, everything and everyone coming at me was making withdrawals from my energetic bank account.

I vented a little when my next-door neighbor, Gwen, who we drive to work in the morning on our way to school, asked me how I was doing. I was fully expecting woman-to-woman empathy. Instead, she had a little something to teach me:

“You’ve got to be thankful for the messes because it means you’ve got wonderful little children. Right, boys?” she called in her booming voice, laughing, toward the back seat.

(insert record screech) What? I was looking for some sympathy. I’m here feeling burdened by life, you know…

“You got to thank God for the dishes because He gave you food. You be thankful for the laundry because it means you have clothes. Be thankful for Brian being out of town because it means he’s got a job and takes care of your family,” she said. “He makes a mess? Say, ‘Thank you, God, for giving me a great man who’s home with me.’ You got to say thank you to God for these things.”

Charlie announced my tears as soon as they sprung. “Oh, Mommy. I know you’re crying now,” he sounded amused. “Ok, well it looks like you’re crying for happy. So why are you crying?”

Gwen just smiled out the window. Gwen, the one who spends five days a week working in an assisted-living facility playing games with and caring mostly for mentally ill adults and her nights playing nurse to her husband, a stroke-victim who used to direct traffic in the Loop, serve as the neighborhood watch for our street and listen to jazz on his front porch when he retired. Now he calls to her at all hours of the night and she goes, she helps him and she thanks God for it. She yearns for a break, a vacation, some time for herself but, amid it all, she’s still grateful for what is.

I hesitate to name call, but what an out-of-touch diva I can be!

I face messes and other challenges because I have three affectionate, devoted, protective, hilariously quirky dogs; two brilliant, inventive, boisterous, physically strong little boys; and one luminous, soulful, powerful, inexplicably adoring husband. I have a cold because I’ve been out in the world touching a thousand different experiences and drinking in life as it comes.

Ok, ok. I get it, Gwen. And thank you for helping me see through a different lens. When in the swirl, it is helpful remember the source of it. Chances are, it’s a blessing.