Relationships

Conversations About Pie

Stories.


We all tell them. Some of them have more truth to them than others. Sometimes the most horrible stories are the ones we tell ourselves.


But there is no doubt that stories are an integral part of human civilization.

I learned long ago, for whatever reason, people tell me their stories. I’ve written before about stories, and if you like, you can also read Everyone Has a Story and The Stories We Tell and the Stories We Don’t.


Yesterday, I met a man who shared part of his story with me. It was a polite, casual conversation, but the significance of it was not lost on me. Stories are life. Stories are recollections of where we have been, and guidance for where we are going.


So, I met this man at the grocery store. He is an older gentleman, and he skillfully, and mindfully places my groceries into my reusable Chico bags. Then he surprises me when the transaction is complete. He takes the cart that he’s placed my bags in, and heads for the door.


He’s going to take my groceries to the car for me!


I should mention that I am currently in Florida, and this man works for a chain of grocery stores called Publix.


If you have not had the pleasure of shopping at Publix, I highly recommend it.


I said to the man, “I haven’t had someone take my groceries to the car since I lived in the Midwest!”


He replied that it was one thing that sets them (Publix) apart from other stores.


At that, I chuckled as I said, “Well, that and the best Key Lime Pie I’ve ever had!”


The conversation then progressed to how lemon meringue was his favorite and Publix’s version is not quite as good as a chain restaurant he frequents.


He then told me about his time as a cook in the Royal Navy, and how very fresh ingredients make all the different in cooking, as well as in pie,


This man shared part of himself with me, and spoke of how proud he was to have spent 16 years (so far) working for this company because of what they give back to people.


I got so much more than just groceries delivered to my car. I got a reminder of the goodness of humanity. I received, just a glimpse into the heart of a man who loves lemon meringue, and being of service to others with grace, respect, and kindness.


I think I would have enjoyed a much longer conversation with this man. I have a feeling he has an abundance of interesting stories. Yet I am truly grateful for the experience, and for the small reminder that goodness abounds in this world, simple pleasures, like a favorite pie, can brighten any day, and that when we are brave enough to share just a little bit of ourselves, authentically, we are often rewarded beyond measure.


And, I should have picked up one of those key lime pies while I was there…

Margaritaville Radio

Every time I hear a Jimmy Buffett song, I think of my beloved C and our honeymoon. Margaritaville Radio on satellite became the soundtrack of our honeymoon. We got married on Wisconsin and drove to Florida to depart for our cruise to the Bahamas. We listened to Jimmy's music the whole way there and the whole way back.

For all intents and purposes, my wife introduced me to Jimmy Buffett's music. Sure, in tenth grade English we did a lyric analysis of "Margaritaville" and I had heard some of his music off and on over the years, but it was C that really showed me how fun it is to be a Parrot Head. Through her own enjoyment of the music, I came to love it as well.

Tonight, as "Margaritaville" played on the local radio station, I instantly began smiling with fond memories of that blessed time in our lives.

Tomorrow, I leave New Mexico to move to Florida for a few months. I realized as the song was playing how things are returning to where they began in a way.

With my new assignment, my contract ends two days before our first wedding anniversary. Instead of spending our anniversary in Branson, Missouri, somewhere neither of us had been to, we will spend a few days at a beach resort and a few days in The Keys.

We've spent most of our first year living apart, and though we will spend most of our second year living apart as well, it seems like we will begin again, where we began a year ago.

It's so fitting.

And you'd better believe Jimmy Buffett will be playing.

Long Weekend in Santa Fe

I had rare gift this past weekend...time alone with my wife. We do get to have date nights occasionally, although those are few and far between when we are living in different states, and most often we have some combination of our children with us. In fact, we haven't had this much time, just the two of us, since our honeymoon last June.

My cunning wife made an amazing opportunity happen for us. The Unitarian Universalist church we belong to in Iowa holds a Treats and Talents auction every year as a fundraiser. Last fall, my wife won a stay at a couple's home in Santa Fe, bed and breakfast style.

Esther and Bob are a spry and active couple in their early eighties, married over 60 years now. They belonged to the UU church many years ago in Iowa and offer a stay at their beautiful home every year for the auction. My wife spotted the potential for the two of us to have a weekend together, and she made it happen. Neither of us had ever been to Santa Fe and we were excited to discover the city together.

My beloved was scheduled to arrive just before 1300 on Friday after Valentine's Day. We discussed me leaving around noon that day from work to pick her up. From my office, it would take me at least three and a half hours to drive to the airport. She was content to have a leisurely lunch, maybe catch a shuttle or cab into town and explore until I got there.

What I didn't tell her was that I was working extra hours so I could take the entire day off on Friday and meet her when the flight landed. Surprise honey!

Neither one of us realized how small the Santa Fe airport is. My first clue was Thursday night when I put the address for the airport into my Garmin and the listing read Santa Fe Municipal Airport.

I arrived at the terminal about 45 minutes before my wife's plane was scheduled to land. I noticed signs stating that parking in all areas of the airport was $3.00 per day. When I parked and walked up to the terminal, I saw a sign that said "Did you remember to pay your parking? Cash or Check, No Credit or Debit Cards...Use Drop Box. I started to wonder if I had passed the hitching posts for the horses in the parking lot...

When I finally found the drop box inside the terminal, I realized my checkbook was not with me, and I didn't have exact cash. I opted for staying in my car until the arrival time, then moving my car to the 15 minute spaces for loading and unloading.

The airport was small enough that I was able to see her get off of the plane, then conceal myself just a bit to add to the surprise of me waiting there for her. After a brief and joyous reunion, we set out to find our hosts for the weekend. A quick meet and greet and dropping off our gear, and we were checking out the city.

There are so many great local restaurants in Santa Fe, we were glad to get recommendations from Esther and Bob. One of our favorites was Jambo Cafe...African and Carribean fare. The place was super busy when we arrived, but we got a table pretty quickly. After ordering, we were waiting for our food and enjoying each other's company. Soon, the owner/chef was delivering food to another table and took a long look at our empty table. A moment later, he stopped by and asked if we had eaten already. We told him we had not, and he looked frustrated, made some comment of acknowledgement, and disappeared into the kitchen. A couple of minutes later, our server came to our table with two bowls of soup, the daily specials. He told us the soup was on the house and apologized, but someone had closed out our table, and our orders had to be put in again. After he confirmed our orders, we dipped into the soups...and they were amazing! Coconut, lime, lentil (my favorite) and black bean, sweet potato (C's favorite).

We didn't actually wait long for our food, but I was impressed with the owner's pride and commitment to service. Jambo Cafe is a definite must when you visit Santa Fe!

We spent most of our time together exploring shops, art galleries, restaurants and doing one of our favorite things...talking.

C and I talk...it's our thing. When she was making travel arrangements for our honeymoon, she asked me if I would rather fly from Wisconsin to Florida, or drive. Without hesitation, I answered "drive!" All that time together, talking? No doubt...drive!

This weekend we had a lot to talk about. Our own spiritual journeys, our life journey together...planning for life when we are living in the same place again, planning for life until we are.

What we realized is that by the end of our time together, we had rediscovered "us" as a couple and remembered the reasons we fell in love. The intimacy we share was renewed and strengthened, and we could be just us...life partners. Not mom or dad, or any other role we have...just us.

When I was driving her to the airport this morning, before the sunrise, we were talking about the beginning of our relationship. She realized that I must have had strong ideas about where I wanted our relationship to go long before she did. We reflected on when each of us knew we were falling in love...it happened at different times for each of us, and much faster than either of us expected.

It's good to reflect on those moments from time to time. This weekend was so important for us. We had been married for a little over two months before our marriage became a long distance one. This time to reconnect as a couple was priceless.

Now, as C returns to the Midwest, I linger in Santa Fe, realizing the city has lost some of its luster now that my beloved is not here enjoying it with me.

Tomorrow, we both return to our respective jobs, so grateful for this time together, hopeful for our path forward together, and more in love than ever.

Valentine's Day

I've never thought Valentine's Day was a big deal. It's too commercial, the roses are too expensive, the now cliche heart shaped box of chocolates (bad for my diabetes) and all the hoopla...

Why would I want to wait three hours for a table at a restaurant that I could normally be seated in 15 minutes??

Nope, never cared much for it.

But my wife does.

This is our first Valentine's Day as a married couple. We've both been excited this week because we get to spend a three day weekend together...the first weekend alone since our honeymoon.

We've both been extra lovey dovey lately...but I dropped the ball.

Miscommunication can quickly shift the energy of a situation.

Tomorrow starts our weekend alone, and the last time we will see each other for at least two months...and we had a fight.

I did not understand the importance of this particular day to my beloved. This day. Not the weekend closest to this day, but this day itself.

There are a lot of changes going on at work, and I have been busy with a few surprises for our weekend together...and my lovey dovey energy kind of dropped off today. Looking forward to the weekend, I forgot about today. I didn't REALLY forget...but my acknowledgement of this day was not quite what my wife would have liked.

It may sound like my wife is high maintenance...she is.

I'm high maintenance too...we both own it.

To be fair, she did not see the meme of Obi-Wan that read "You've got the droids I'm looking for" that I reported on Facebook this morning.

I know...total guy version of marking the day.

She acknowledges my romantic side as well...I am a poet, and thoughtful gift giver...

I just don't dig Valentine's Day the way she does...but that's where I erred.

It's like making the bed in the morning. She likes a nicely made bed and I think it's a waste of time...but on those rare days she asks me to make the bed, I do it... because I love her.

If my transferable skills were serving me today, I would have made a bigger deal out of today, no matter what surprises await her this weekend... because I love her.

So my beloved, if you happen to read this before you sleep tonight, or even before you catch that early flight to come spend the weekend with me, please accept this as an apology. What's important to you is important to me, and I'm sorry I forgot that.

I can't wait to hold you close and whisper in your ear just how much I love you.

Sweet dreams mi corazon.

A Dozen Years Later

I remember where I was and what I was doing exactly twelve years ago to the hour as I write this. I thought I was going to die...and I was scared.

Not easy for a warrior musician to admit, but it's true.

The short version of the story is that a failed intubation during a routine surgery left me with an infection that was reducing my ability to breathe. Exactly twelve years ago, I was losing my ability to speak.

The day was much like today as my friends back in Iowa post weather updates about the blizzard happening at this moment. They wanted to fly me to the University of Iowa hospitals for emergency surgery, but it was not safe to fly.

When I went in for surgery, they told my wife, my first wife, five months pregnant with our oldest daughter, to call family and call life insurance...they did not expect me to survive.

By nightfall I was awake and breathing through a tube in my neck, unable to speak.

A lot has happened since that day.

I've been blessed with three beautiful children and I buried my father

I developed type 2 diabetes and became a martial arts master

I finished my bachelor's degree, I'm finishing my master's and preparing to apply for a doctoral program (if only my high school counselor could see me now!)

I went through a painful divorce and I married the perfect balance to my soul

I've known the depths of darkness and the pinnacle of ecstasy

I have loved and I have grown and I have lived

On this eve of the winter solstice where the promise of life is renewed and of the Galactic Alignment that harbors a powerful yet subtle shift in human consciousness, I have this message for you:

The Ancient Wisdom is true...there is life, there is death and there is rebirth.

I've been there.

"The Times You're Not, But You Feel Alone": The Amazing Music of Billy McLaughlin

Note: I originally began writing this post four months ago. Due to an error with the Wordpress app, and the fact I had written most of the post in Wordpress and not saved elsewhere, a good share of what you are about to read was lost. When I write things like this, I am very grounded in the emotions of the moment. For me, this is not some mechanical process that can simply be recreated...it is fluid, organic and emotionally charged.

I was able to salvage some of the writing from a partial copy I had, but decided that I would have to wait for "the right time" to finish the post if I wanted to do justice to the original.

Just now, as I was going through my morning ritual in the bathroom, on this Sunday morning, it happened. Texting with my wife about our upcoming long Valentine's weekend together, and the song that inspired this blog post began playing on my iPod. Instantly tears formed in my eyes and soon they were streaming down my face, my breath coming in gentle gasps as I was consumed by the emotion, the love I had not known could be so deep, so powerful, before I met my wife.

With tears of love and devotion and longing still wet on my face, I knew at once that this was the time to finish telling this story.

I first saw Billy McLaughlin in the fall of 1992 in the Brenton Student Center on the Simpson College campus in Indianola, Iowa...and my life changed forever.

Billy was playing solo acoustic guitar for "Noon Tunes", a brief concert on a small stage in the middle of the student center. His two handed technique on the neck amazed me. I had been playing guitar for a year and a half, and I was inspired!

He did a concert at the theater on campus where he did a set of solo guitar, some instrumental and some with lyrics, and he did a set with a band. Part of the draw for me besides the music was the way Billy would talk about the inspiration for his music. That is a pretty regular thing for singer/songwriters to do, but I realized quickly what a skilled storyteller Billy is. He's really good at describing the inspiration for his music.

I bought the two albums he was selling at the time. His first, Inhale Pink is a solo album and Exhale Blue is a band album.

His signature piece, Helm's Place refers to the name of a street he lived on near the Santa Monica freeway, where he rented a room from a sweet grandmotherly woman. He admits that he should have titled the piece "A Day in the Life of the Santa Monica Freeway." It is a musical interpretation of the traffic waking up on the freeway and working into a frenzy and the natural ebb and flow of the freeway. Brilliant work.

Over the years, I have acquired more of Billy's albums. I talked with him when I could...hell, some of my friends and I even went bowling with Billy and the band after a show once.

Several years ago, Billy developed dystonia, a neurological condition that left him unable to play guitar right handed.

Billy then did the unimaginable, the unthinkable...he relearned how to play left handed.

I saw an interview where Billy and others were talking about the disease and his relearning process. One man said, "It's not simply a matter of turning the guitar the other way. Imagine every word you've ever learned to say in your life, and then learning to say them backwards...that's what it's like."

As amazing as this story is, it's not why I'm writing this post. Billy McLaughlin's music has meant so many things to me at different points in my life, and the story of the music is worth telling.

Over the years, I've studied to Billy's music, I've jammed to it, relaxed to it, made love to it, played it during quiet times when each of my children were newborns, I played Billy's music when my middle child was in the NICU, and I've lulled my children to sleep with his music. His Wintersongs and Traditionals album has been part of my winter since the album's release...every year. I received one of the greatest compliments a warrior musician can receive during one of Billy's shows. I took a girl I was dating to one of his shows at Simpson. I quickly got lost in the music and honestly forgot my date was there until she leaned over and said something in my ear. She said, "Most people just hear the music, but you become the music."

I was so touched by that observation.

If this were the end of the story, it would be enough. Thank you Mr. Billy McLaughlin for your wonderful contributions...

But this story is just getting started.

Several weeks ago, as I was driving alone through southern Colorado, into New Mexico to start the adventure I am now in the middle of, I felt the need to listen to some Billy. Several weeks ago, as I was driving alone through southern Colorado, into New Mexico to start the adventure I am now living, I felt the need to listen to some Billy. I pulled up The Bow and the Arrow, a band album released around the same time as his solo album The Archery of Guitar. It had been years since I listened to this album straight through, so the rediscovery process was an enjoyable, if minor, distraction from all the anxiety, thoughts and emotions I felt on that last leg of my trip, bound for an unfamiliar, solitary life.

As a musician, I am well aware of what Weston Noble describes as "the musical experience." It's that je ne sais quoi moment in music when you get chills, goosebumps... it's more addictive than any drug, and musicians condemn themselves to countless hours alone, perfecting their craft for just one more taste of it.

There is also another experience, and I don't have a name for it. I think most of us have experienced this at least a few times. It happens when a song writer crafts lyrics and music in such a way that they tap into universal life experience and create something that seems like it was written just for us.

"That is my song!"

For those of you nodding your heads, take it one step further.

Sometimes, just sometimes, there is a piece of music or a song that we find that alters our view of life. Once you hear this, you know in the depths of your soul that you life will never be the same again...it has changed forever.

One of those moments came for me on that night in mid August, on a lonely stretch of Colorado highway when I heard Billy's song He Said, She Said.

As a point of reference, here are the lyrics:

“My love,” he said, “You must be convinced, avail yourself to be shown. Though I must leave you here, gonna pick up all my pieces, my love for you, must now be known.

And it won’t wear out and it won’t wear down, and it won’t weigh heavy on your mind. And it will stay up, now it will stay sound to last you through all those times.”

"My love,” she said, “I can wait no longer, and you must hear, what I say.I need someone who’ll be there, ‘cause time is all we have to share. Your dreams will carry you along your way.And they won’t wear out, and they won’t wear down, and they won’t weigh heavy on your mind.And they will stay up, love they will stay sound to last you through all those times.”“My love,” he said, “This is not the way that I wanted it, but time in time, my hands feel tied.But I can’t blame you for needing what I can’t blame myself for not finding how to give, this love will be so hard to get pastBecause it won’t wear out and it won’t wear down and it won’t weigh heavy on your mind.Now it will stay up and it will stay sound, to last you through all those times.”“My love,” she said, “You know I truly love you, but I know not what, the future holds.So find your dreams, oh, make them all that they can be and then, you will find a hand to hold.And it won’t wear out, and it won’t wear down and it won’t weigh heavy on your mind.And it will stay up and it will stay sound to last you through all those times.”Oh, the times you’re not, but you feel aloneOh, the times you’re not, but you feel aloneThe times you’re not, but you feel aloneOh, the times you’re not, but you feel aloneThe times you’re not, but you feel aloneOh, the times you’re not, but you feel aloneThe times you’re not, but you feel aloneOh, the times you’re not, but you still feel aloneThe times you’re not, but you feel aloneOh, the times you’re not, but you feel aloneThe times you’re not, but you feel aloneOh, the times you’re not, but you feel alone

Curse of The Modern Family

My sister in law just gave birth to a beautiful little girl a few days ago! In preparation for the blessed event, my wife has been spending every weekend in Michigan (she lives in Iowa) to help out with my three nieces before mommy has the baby.

I've been in New Mexico for a month now, and I've found out that I have a challenge...knowing what time it is where my family is.

My kids are in Iowa, and have been staying there. Easy to figure...their Central Time Zone is one hour ahead of my Mountain Time Zone.

With my wife however, she keeps traveling between Central Time Zone and Eastern Time Zone. Based on her teaching schedule, I can usually tell where she is going to be, but not always.

I mistakenly thought she was going back to Iowa now that our beautiful niece has arrived...

Wrong...

She's staying in Michigan until she has to go to her college alumi weekend this weekend...still Eastern Time Zone...different state.

What time is it here? What time is it there?

Can we talk on the phone, text...Facetime?

First world problem to be sure, but also indicative of a mobile family in the 21st century!

Everyone Has A Story

During my last MT gig, I learned a universal and undeniable truth: everyone has a story. In a follow up post, I'll explore how I learned those lessons. For now, a few thoughts about those stories we all have.

The idea for this post came to me at a restaurant.

I was sitting perpendicular to a table with a large indigenous family...at least twenty people celebrating a child's birthday.

After the cake was served, a couple of the younger kids, three years old or so, started chasing each other...crawling.

I kept glancing at the kids and smiling. A couple of the moms saw me looking and got up and put a stop to the chase.

I don't know if the parents were embarrassed by the behavior or if they didn't appreciate the guy sitting alone in the restaurant looking at their kids.

Then I thought back to something another white teacher said to me. She got the impression that a lot of the indigenous families in the area are strict with their kids...maybe I was witnessing a cultural expression.

I wanted to say, "Your kids are cute! I'm far away from my family and seeing your kids happy gives me hope that maybe my kids are happy too!"

But it seemed out of place to intervene in their parenting...especially not knowing their stories.

It's for similar reasons that I try to make friends with every dog I see...so I don't miss the furry friends I left behind. Or the reason I smile when I see a couple holding hands or talking sweetly in hushed tones. I remember how good it is to be with the love of my life.

I think about the line from the Bon Jovi song Bed of Roses, "As I dream about movies they won't make of me when I'm dead."

He viewed his life as a story, just as I do. I can't count how many times I say something like, "I guess that's part of my story" or sometimes our story when talking with my wife.

I share bits of my story with people here...I'm newlywed, away from my wife and kids...I smile when kids are being joyful children...

Almost as an afterthought, I enjoy "The Most Interesting Man in the World." One of his thoughts seems appropriate here: "It's never too early to start beefing up your obituary."

What will your obituary say?

What's your story?

If you don't like it, change the plot,.change the characters, but YOU write it.

Live your story every day!

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin: Colin Hay's Music and the Dichotomy that is me

Recently, on the drive to work, I was listening to Colin Hay's "Man at Work" album. In recent months, since buying the album, I find that I really connect with a lot of the lyrics. I will admit that I became familiar with Colin Hay by watching Scrubs. I thought "Waiting" was a beautiful song, and "Overkill" was pretty cool too. I was not familiar with the Men at Work version of the song. I guess that goes back to something my mother said often about me...I have strange gaps in my knowledge.

As I was singing along with "Waiting" that morning, I got choked up. As a music therapist, I've learned that one reason music is so powerful is because of the personal connection people can form with it. Hearing a certain song can instantly transport someone to a different time and place.

I have lost a lot of people close to me and music connects me to each of those experiences. "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan came on the radio when we were driving to be with my Dad after my Mom died. "It's Alright" by Huey Lewis and The News was on the radio when we were driving to my best friend Merry's memorial service and I will always think of my Dad's passing when I hear the Adagietto from Mahler's Fourth (a story for another time).

A lot of songs make me think of my beloved wife and everything we have been through in our short time together. "Waiting For My Real Life To Begin" is one of them.

Three weeks after I proposed to my wife, I lost my job. I had unknowingly, and very incorrectly tied my sense of self and self worth to my job...again, a story for another time. When another job did not present itself readily, I slipped into a deep depression. On top of that, my then bride to be took it upon herself to be the primary financial support for me and my children. I kept saying, "I'll make things right by you." She expressed her trust that I would.

I'll throw in a bit a lyric analysis here and there:"Any minute now, my ship is coming in...I'll keep checking the horizon..."

This reflects my sentiment of "I'll make things right by you" and as with other lines of this song, it expresses an assuredness of the wonderful things to come...something I forgot at times.

"And you say, 'be still my love, open up your heart, let the light shine in.'"

This is the voice of my wife. She was my biggest supporter and my strength through this difficult time. More than that, she says things like that to me frequently...fully embody your spiritual self...let your light shine!

"Don't you understand? I've already have a plan, I'm waiting for my real life to begin."

Here is where the dichotomy in my thinking kicks in...but I'll get to that later.

When I woke today, suddenly, nothing happened, but in my dream I slew the dragon...

So many days, waiting for call backs, hoping for interviews, searching for more job leads...wondering why my life was turning out as it was. I was born to do important things! I was called to a life of service and helping people...making a difference. Were those dreams on hold? Had they vanished altogether?

Further into the song we find "Just be here now, forget about the past, your mask is wearing thin"

Something else very similar to the things my wife often says. She is so tapped in to the Universal Wisdom. This woman that I am sharing my life with is truly one of the strongest people I have ever met. She has to be to withstand the torrent of emotions I bring to the table at times. She is also the kindest, most gentle life partner I could have hoped for. She reminds me, "be here, now." She sees through all the masks I have ever worn, and she still loves me. I could not have dreamed of a better woman to spend the rest of this lifetime with.

...and I'll check my machine, there's sure to be that call. It's gonna happen soon, soon, oh very soon, it's just that times are lean.

I know my wife took a lot of flack from family and friends...asking when that next job was going to materialize. In her own sweet way, she didn't really give me a lot of details of those conversations.

Let me say again, she is one of the strongest people I have ever met.

In my moments of clarity and being tapped in myself, I kept saying, "Something BIG is about to happen! I can feel it!" Often she would say something like "That's wonderful! I'm so happy for you!"

The she'd would be right there to support me when I hit another rough patch.

Here's the dichotomy in thinking...and this reminds me so much of the concept of "doublethink" that George Orwell discusses in 1984...the idea of saying one thing, but believing the exact opposite.

It also reminds me of something the ordained minister/college professor said during a religion class I took: "I believe that the Bible is the absolute word of God. At the same time, it is FULL of contradictions and inconsistencies."

For purposes of this post, my version is: Waiting For My Real Life To Begin is a beautiful song that connects with me on a very deep level because I relate the lyrics so closely to my own life...and yet the very title of it goes against every belief about how to live life.

Do you read Eckhart Tolle?

The ideas he shares about present moment awareness...truly life changing. The ideas are not new as he admits, but his method of delivery resonate with me. You can find parts of talks he gives on YouTube too.

His book The Power of Now reminds us that ALL we ever have is the present moment. How many times have you said, "I'll be happy when I drive this kind of car" or "When I make this amount of money, I'll be set!" Maybe you think a house, or a baby or new clothes will make you happy...the list goes on.

I know I've done that...hung my happiness on material possessions, or money or relationships.

You can't wait for life to begin. It's happening, right now.

The job that I found took me 1200 miles away from my family, for at least an academic year. Yes, there are breaks, but it is certainly the longest I have been away from my children...my wife too. Sometimes this doesn't seem like my real life. I've thought, "I will be so much happier when I am closer to my family!" I realize of course the error in that thinking.

I believe happiness is the awareness of being connected to the whole of humanity. Realizing that we are all spiritual beings and we're here to help each other out. Joy, lightness, ease, all come from staying rooted in the present moment.

Just be here now, forget about the past...

I try to live in the present moment as Eckhart suggests...that is a work in progress for me. Being in this place, in this highly spiritual place that I have been led to has clarified things for me. Some of the things I used to think we're important, really aren't. Each day, I try to live a life of service; a spiritual life. I remember one of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama's favorite prayers: "Guide me and heal me, so that I may be of greater service to others."

On a clear day, I can see, see a very long way.

The Warrior's Journey/Hero's Quest Part 2

What exactly qualifies as a warrior's quest or hero's journey? For Frodo Baggins, it was a danger-fraught journey to destroy a ring. Luke Skywalker had to become a Jedi and bring peace to the galaxy. For Hiro Nakamura (et al) it was "save the cheerleader, save the world."

I have taken great pleasure in reading books that tell tales of journeys such as these. In one series, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the characters, even the minor ones, struggle with coming into their own strength and power. At times they are reluctant to claim the roles they have been led into. They continue to grow and adapt, and ultimately succeed.

In The Saga of Recluse and The Spellsong Cycle by L. E. Modesitt Jr., the protagonists are reluctant heroes. They find themselves thrust into challenging situations and make the best of it. They are often praised by others while thinking very humbly about themselves.

So here's my story:

Right now I am in Portland, Oregon. I came here directly from my honeymoon to plan the next chapter of my life. Fellow neurologic music therapist Angie Kopshy and I are creating a clinic specializing in NMT. So many people I talk to are excited that I have this amazing opportunity. Trust me, I'm VERY excited for this opportunity...but this is where my story gets more complicated.

In a recent conversation with my beautiful new wife, she mentioned that most people explore the world a bit in their twenties...spread their wings. I'm 38 and I've lived in Iowa that whole time...born and raised. By 24, I was married to someone who was adamantly place bound. Three amazing children and a divorce later, I still felt place bound. Iowa was all I had ever known...my children were there.

The day I met my wife on the playground as our children were playing, my life changed forever. She is a woman of the world, a traveller. She's lived in many different states, many different countries. She is notplace bound.

After several months of being unemployed, and being severely depressed as job after job seemed to pass me by, my then fiancée quietly said to me, "I think you should do a nationaljob search."

Immediately the questions started flooding in...what about the kids? What about us? Am I really ready to live on my own, that far away from everything I've ever known?

Yes, I said "live on my own." L is a university professor...there is a very established method for profs looking to change location...the process takes at leasta year.

So I started applying for positions in Connecticut, Boston, North Carolina, Minneapolis...places I never thought I would be. Then the fateful day in mid March came. It was late at night and I just found out I had been passed up for a position in Minnesota. I was catching up on Facebook when I saw Angie posted about a NMT clinic in Portland with the simple phrase "Let's get this clinic started."

Angie and I met when we got our NMT training. I thought she was a little bit crazy and she had a quirky sense of humor...my kind of person! We kept in touch through Facebook so when I saw her post, I had to know more.

Long story short, Angie told me of her plans to build this NMT clinic...I offered to help...she accepted.

So here I am in mid June, in Portland. Our first website is up, business cards are ordered and planning is in full swing.

The true journey will be revealed in Part 3.

The Warrior's Journey/Hero's Quest

In just a few minutes I will be boarding a flight that will land me in Portland, Oregon. This is the beginning of a larger journey for me which will result in me moving across the country, alone, (did I mention I just got married a week and a half ago?) and starting a project that could change the course of my professional and personal life. As the boarding call is sounding, I must put off more detail until later, but stay tuned...this warrior musician is just beginning an epic journey.

All the cards on the table: Love is never wrong

I have spent some time considering the creation of this post. While a social networking friend seemed intrigued by the subject, my beloved L cautioned me with connecting personal and professional lives. After much careful thought, I am now laying all the cards on the table.

I am in a polyamorous triad. I'll explain what that means for those unfamiliar with this language.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed I sometimes use the term "beloveds" in the plural rather than the singular.

I am in a loving, committed relationship with two women. I have two beloveds.

To provide a bit of discretion, I will refer to them as "L" and "A."

We do not try to hide our relationship, because to do so would be to suggest there is something wrong with loving more than one person at a time. I have three children and L has one child. We have discussed our relationship status openly with them. The children are young, so there is a different level of understanding for each of them dependent on age. We chose to explain our relationship to them in age appropriate language and we made clear that most people do not choose to live like this.

Although the conversation with our children took place a few months ago, I think they are still adjusting to the idea. My youngest daughter, in a very loud and public way communicated to a few people after soccer practice that "my dad has two girlfriends."

Our strategy with the children is to act like this relationship is not an oddity, and it is simply one way to do things.

This same daughter was telling a friend at school that she has three moms and two dads (my ex-wife and my two beloveds, me and L's ex-husband). While I thought this was wonderful (after all, as L reminded me recently, it takes a village to raise a child) my ex-wife frowned upon my daughter's understanding of the situation. She fears that we are confusing the children.

I have the utmost confidence that our children will grow up loved by many parental role models and will learn that there are many ways to do things in life. We are rooted in a place of love, honesty and open communication in our relationship. How can that be confusing?

We live in a state where same sex couples have the right to get married. Yet to some people, the idea of a poly relationship is nearly inconceivable. The church we attend, more specifically the Unitarian Universalist Society we attend is proud to perform marriage ceremonies for same sex couples. Yet L, A and I feel some bit of anxiety of being accepted even in our own spiritual community. Even so, I will not hide the nature of our relationship. I will not be ashamed for the deep love I feel for L and A, or the deep love the feel for me and each other. I will not apologize that our relationship configuration does not fit within the mold of societal norms. Yes, we have our relationship challenges, but who doesn't?

We entered into this relationship with many discussions, with love in our hearts and the consciousness of present moment awareness. We hold no secrets in our relationship and we talk about everything.

Maybe we are part of forming a new paradigm. We may never see full acceptance in our lifetime. Estimates a few years ago were that acceptance of poly relationships may be 20-30 years behind the acceptance of same sex relationships, and there is still a lot of resistance to same sex relationships.

Here in Iowa, the state Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage. Because of that fact, in the last election three Supreme Court justices were voted off the bench. A sad day for the civil rights of my gay and lesbian friends and a sad day for Iowa politics. I remember distinctly a candle of sorrow shared by a judge in our Society after the election. He explained that part of the oath a judge takes is to do their duty without fear. He became emotional when he talked about the judges removed from the bench because they fulfilled their oath and did their duty without fear, and they lost their jobs because of it.

Now there is a campaign to overturn that decision legalizing same sex marriage in Iowa. I have written letters to my local representatives asking them to uphold the decision. This truly is a civil rights issue. How can we, in good faith, say that some people have rights and some people do not? How can my family configuration ever be truly accepted?

I now pose a question that I presented to a grad class I took in Instructional Psychology: when is love wrong?

Someone pointed out when there was an adult involved with a minor...so I clarified, between consenting adults, when is love wrong?

This group of intelligent, vibrant grad students could not answer my question.

I believe (that between consenting adults) love is NEVER wrong.

I expect this post might generate some heated discussion. I welcome comments and questions as always, but at least now you know where I'm at...all the cards are on the table.