Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Q: How many paths up the mountain?
A: Just how big is the mountain?
The size of an anthill? Maybe one or two. The size of Kilimanjaro? Well, if you say one, I will just have to politely disagree. A couple of dear friends of mine are ultra conservative Christians and I just finished an email back and forth about that very subject. Some folks believe that there is only one way to salvation and God's Grace, and that is through the belief in Jesus Christ. Having just read an essay on atheism by my son, dating an atheist, having been married to a Jewish man, grown up in an Episcopal household and converting to Unitarianism when I turned 30, I believe that there are many paths up the mountain. The god I believe in is much larger than a single pathed system based on a book that was transcribed by a group of men 2000 years ago. Now I am not saying that the bible doesn't hold numerous golden nuggets, designs for living and beautifully written stories with morals. I enjoy many of the passages. But it also holds much violence, hatred and judgment. Today I choose to walk the path with a loving God that does not frown upon me because I didn't wear a hat to church, or ban me from her kingdom if I decide to love a woman instead of a man. My mountain holds many paths, crisscrossing their way up to unfathomable heights. Each day I try to love a person who I find not so loveable (yes you in the Ford pickup truck that tailgated me today). Each day I wake up with a heart filled with gratitude for all the gifts that have been given me. And no, I don't believe that Jesus is the way to salvation, but if that means I am going to hell, that's fine with me, it'll save me a lot of cash when the price of oil skyrockets this winter.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flight, Just Go Already

A friend of mine has a video camera mounted near a birds nest and for the last weeks we have watched a family of five babies grow up. Today when we checked the screen however there were only four. As they are not due to fledge until Monday, we were concerned.  A few hours later the fifth was spotted about twenty feet from the nest, nestled in the grass attempting to fly. I know how baby number five feels though; the nest was getting small and overwhelming. I too have a default mode of flight and whenever overwhelming emotions hit, my first reaction is to leave. Get a little stressed at school, just go home. Get a little upset at someone at home, leave. They say our initial reaction is usually fight or flight. I have heard freeze is an alternate, something I do frequently, you know, the old deer in headlights reaction. Today I have a choice, I can take off or I can stay and experience my emotions, emotions that I do not want to feel. Experience tells me that if I just sit here, let it be, type a few words out, at some point the feelings will change. Baby number five is back in the nest, we did intervene. Sometimes we just need a little help from our friends.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On the Dead, Dr. Seuss and Corn Pops

When I was seventeen I withdrew my college tuition money and bought a plane ticket to California to see the Grateful Dead for New Years Eve. We actually saw three shows that trip. Yes, I know, it was a long strange trip, but now I will be turning thirty - seven in a few weeks, and yesterday, almost twenty years later, I have finally forgiven myself for diverting and taking a different road. A beautiful friend of mine was telling a story the other day, I don't even remember what story, but something clicked for me. I am no longer the girl I was when I was seventeen. I have been building a new road, instead of merely following one. Today I am in college, and a mighty fine one at that, and have an amazing life. But would I have known exactly how amazing had I not experienced hardship? It took me years to realize that, although my mom only bought us healthy low sugar cereal, I could as an adult, purchase a box of Corn Pops, no questions asked. Often as I travel through my day I take the well traveled road; it is safe, well lit, and paved. Sometimes however I just need to take a detour and fumble along a dirt path, fall over, get a few scrapes and eventually make it back to the main road. But the woman who has taken the tumbles is better equipped when a pothole turns up.

With that metaphor completely overused I turn to my cat, Chaucer, or Chompers as my son has named him. Eleven pounds of naughtiness wrapped up in fuzzy orange fur. Last night he ran through the house, a winter hat in his mouth, jumped up onto my lap, and deposited the "gift." This was the second gift of the day, the first, his toy mouse left on my pillow. I had buried the real one earlier in the evening. If this cat can take time out of his busy day to present me with gifts, acts of love on his part, then maybe just maybe I am worthy of those gifts. And maybe just maybe it is ok that I took the dirt road for a few twenty or so years. And maybe just maybe I am ok. It has been a long strange trip. Sometimes it just takes me longer to realize that everything is exactly the way it is supposed to me. So for now, I'll keep truckin'.


Sunday, May 16, 2010


On May 26, 2009 I wrote the first post for Daily Grace. Now, almost a year later I am writing the 100th post. Much has changed since the first, much has not. The act of writing though for me is part spiritual practice and part survival. Writing is a way of experiencing life, either through re-experiencing one's own life, or experiencing it through the eyes of a character. Since the composing of that first post I have completed my first novella, a YA story, finished a book of poetry, which will be published in summer 2010, and lived the life of numerous other characters having vastly different experiences in the pages of numerous short stories. I thought that for the 100th post of this blog I should have a brilliant diatribe, complete with bells and whistles laid out on the screen. Alas, that will not happen. But I have learned this year that I am a writer, that the sound of the tapping of the keyboard, the scratching of pen to paper, pages filling up, soothes me like nothing else has ever done. On May 26, 2010 I will be preparing to head to another country, to study the language, the words of one of the world's most beautiful tongue, Italian. My computer will be accompanying me, as well as my notebook and purple pen. I will write on the beach, I will write in my room, I will write on the train. I will write because it is what I do, it is where I meet God, it is where meet myself. I will write because it is just crazy not to.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. Before I had a baby myself, when I was still a wee little one, I would joke about how they should have a day of celebration for the children as well, complete with cards and presents. After almost 20 hours of labor and 17 years of child rearing, I understand the importance of this one day. The first Mother's Day celebration was organized in 1870, by Julia Ward Howe, who hoped to bring mothers together for a peaceful day protesting the Civil War. Today's holiday is much different. In a typical American style it has been overtaken by consumerism. Yet I can tell you, that the best Mother's Day present I received wasn't a card or bouquet of roses. It was walking into the kitchen to see my then 16 year old, scrubbing the sink, clean dishes stacked neatly in the drain, without being asked.

Tomorrow I will honor my own mother, who is always there, lurking in the shadows, ready to give her support and love when I need it. I could quote from a corny poem about the importance of mothers, but most have one very important quality, they give because they love. The mothers that came together in 1870, came together because they wanted their children to stay alive to live full lives. Today's mothers, the ones that we honor with pansies and poetry, want the best for their children. So for my mom and all of you who are moms, Happy Mother's Day. I hope you receive the same love, peace, and joy that you have so freely given us children. And to you children, here's a hint, actions speak louder than flowers, although the flowers just might do it too. (In the picture, my mom is in pink!)

Ode to Mothers
by Kristin F. McKendell

Mothers cannot do it all

But surely do they try.
Mothers hear the angel's call,
To comfort all who cry.
Mothers for themselves may fall,
For others they will fly.
Mother's bear the weight of all,
For their children, they would die.
A Mother's gift extends beyond
All bounds of time and space.
Her lovingness and nurturing
Make Earth a peaceful place.