Releasing Children Into The Wild

We are teaching our youngest son to drive. After so many children, so many years, we’ve come to this. It’s an interesting thing to putImage your life and faith in a being you raised. It’s an interesting right of passage to give a young person what seems like the keys to their future.

In a way, getting one’s drivers license is almost bigger than high school graduation. It’s certainly a step with more extreme consequences if you screw it up. Thus far, 4 beings have passed through the halls of my home and on their way out into the world. The fifth isn’t far behind. It’s an odd place to be in life.

But it’s the way of my people to embrace the peculiar. We seem to be suited to transitions and adaptations. My grandmother always told me Friday the 13th was lucky for our family. I don’t know if she said it to dispel fear and superstition  or if she believed it to be true. Likewise, I don’t know if I believe what she said or simply like the idea that we are different, that my family is immune to things that may confound others.

Perhaps one is the chicken and the other is the egg. Who knows which comes first?

As Chase bravely takes the wheel of the car, metaphorically taking the next step to being an autonomous being in the world, I can’t help but believe that he too is impervious to some of the normal difficulties.

I wished to raise children in the perfect home under the perfect circumstances and what I got in return was life with challenges, and children forced to adapt to them. Which they did. They adapted and it is that adaptation that makes us immune, brings us strength and prepares us for the wild ride that is life.

It’s good for my heart to go on this journey with him. With each of my children there was certainly a bit of fear as I watched them drive away. But I cannot deny the thrill of having raised confident people and releasing them into the wilds of the world.

It doesn’t really matter what day of the month or the week. Friday the thirteenth, Sunday the 11th. Whichever. We’re adaptable. We humans are survivors.

Ten Things I Learned From Bad Things That Happened

Life, for all of us, is an exercise in ups and downs. Some lives seem to be merry-go-rounds while others seem like roller coasters. I’m changing my attitude, and I’ve decided mine is more like a merry-go-round.

Well, maybe not that boring. But not like the world’s scariest roller coaster either. Maybe I’ll stick with Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Yeah. Just enough dips and twists to keep it interesting without wanting to lose your lunch. Perfect.

Though there have certainly been drops in the terrain enough to twist me into knots, who amongst us can deny that each lesson, each surprise, every drop in one’s stomach comes with unique lessons and perspective that cannot be had without them? I’m in a reflective mood of late, let’s wander down memory lane. Shall we?

Read on!

  1. I learned from getting my thumb cut off and leaving me with what I call my “thump”, that looks are superficial and even a sorry looking thumb has its uses; emergency pacifier.
  2. Sometimes the worst things happen. I learned this from our exercise in futility trying to work with the IRS. And when the worst things happen, you still wake up the next morning and muddle through.
  3. One of the interesting lessons I learned from Mr Dreamboat leaving for rock & roll camp is that I am quite capable. You do what you have to do in even the worst circumstances and if you’re lucky enough to put off “the big trip” you come out stronger and, if you allow it, happier.
  4. From having asthma as I child, I learned to take care of my body. We get but one for our sojourn here. Might as well keep it up as best we can. This includes flossing. You know how I feel about oral hygiene.
  5. Bad stuff happens. It happens to us and it’s going to happen to our children from time to time. I’ve learned through the years that they’re a lot tougher than we give them credit for and their challenges will end up being their strengths.
  6. I learned from freaking out, that life and it’s difficulties usually need less harsh, swift action and more finesse. It’s a long game we’re playing most the time and giving things space to breathe usually helps. Slow down, hotshot.
  7. Certainly a bit of spilled milk is nothing to cry about, but I’ve come to understand that slow and steady will often keep us from the daily difficulties of trying to do too much too fast and spilling, breaking and generally crashing our life.  (This from a woman who just two weeks ago had too much in her hands and had a devastating accident with a green smoothie in Mr D’s office. It looked like a crime scene with green, viscous blood everywhere. Learn from my mistakes.)
  8. We are human and we are ever so flawed and frail and weird. It is one of our weird tendencies to fill any void with the worst case scenario. I’ve learned from many a bout of anxiety and blame that it’s best just to leave things alone and don’t fill anything in with imagination. There are some times when imagination isn’t your asset.
  9. When my life and my understanding of the way things worked and everything came crashing down around my feet, I learned that the best foundations are built upon all things broken. Our little walls and perceptions are shattered by life just so we can rebuild something better. I truly believe this.
  10. From losing things I worked so hard to gain, I learned that stuff is just a backdrop for life. True riches can never be taken from us. I learned to put my eggs in the right basket.

Monday Moment ~ Living Up To Your Expectations

I admit, and sadly so, that when the young and idealistic explain to me the way their lives are going to unfold, I find it cute. It’s not that I wish anything bad or painful upon them, quite the opposite. It’s just that life has a way of twisting and turning and bumping and molding us into what we need to be instead of what we want. To have it any other way is impossible. But it’s cute when we try.

I am simultaneously in favor of high expectations. The tricky part is simply where we hold on so tightly to those expectations that when the they inevitable don’t turn out exactly as we expect, we become disappointed, disillusioned. We get sad.

I don’t like sad. It’s not as much fun as happy.

This morning, this Monday morning, before us lies a week without a mark upon it. You may have a week of leisure planned, perhaps your schedule is brimming full. Whichever way it appears before you now, you have just a smidge of control over it.

The ingredient that packs the most punch, the tool that brings the best results, lies simply in attitude. It is gratitude, it is high expectations with no attachment to outcome.

It’s an easy concept that is challenging in practice. But this morning, I promise you I have a grin on my face, a spring in my step and a “bring it on” attitude.

I’m happy. Come what may.


Michelle Church ~ Making Peace With Religion

I was raised in a religious household and a religious community. I have raised my children in a religious household with a strong religious community. As such, there have been many benefits… and oh so many flaws.

My experiences are not unique. There were some messages that were helpful, and those that weren’t helpful at all, wether they were specifically sent, or simply interpretations of my own mind. Really, it doesn’t matter.

The same experiences have been true for my children. The foundation of our family is based on many of the teachings and traditions from our little sub-culture. They are lovely and homey and founded on fine principles and morals. Each of my children, regardless of their paths enjoy and love those traditions. They make us all feel safe. They are landmarks to help us get home.

But, let’s be honest, it’s not all sunshine. Organized religion is inherently flawed. Cultural traditions can overtake universal truths. I’m just gonna tell it like I see it. Bad stuff sometimes happens in these circumstances. And yet…

If we can take the good. Internalize it, embrace the landmarks that make us feel good and safe and loved, there is brilliance. If only we can find the strength to cast a sympathetic eye to those who “trespass against us” and live the truths we do find to the best of our ability. If only we could look at the rest with curiosity and without judgment, what then?

The fact of the matter is that all religion is quite “curious”, if you get my meaning. There are as many religions as there are people and as such, things can and do get a bit dicey. But when we can take the good, accept that it is an inherently flawed world, and as such, accept the bad, I think, no, I hope and often pray, that’s where we will find the peace in our own religion. Wherever and whatever that may be.

We Were Made To Appreciate The Magic

I continue to bask in the glow of the adventures of the last week. It really was a spectacular vacation. Alaska was never on my bucket list and mores that pity that it wasn’t. Oh. My. Gosh. Alaska is a spectacular array of vistas and people and nature all rolled up into a peculiar melting pot of people.

North Pole and Ceviche. These are not things we normally put together.
North Pole and Ceviche. These are not things we normally put together.

I say this, because we ate some pretty fine Mexican food in North Pole, Alaska and the Korean food in Fairbanks was of serious quality. I did not see that coming.

We saw an ice museum at Chena Hot Springs and we soaked for hours in the healing mineral waters. We had plenty of time to go out to movies. We had oodles of options for lounging and painting and relaxing in the Great White North.

The aurora borealis are a beautiful spectacle. Being on the mission to see them, I learned quite a lot more about them than I knew before. Occuring over the Northern pole, you cannot see them all the time. Certainly not during the day and many nights they remain elusive.But what amazed me is that they are always going on. Whether the skies are cloudy or other conditions make them invisible to us, they are there, always dancing, ever magical and strange.

The last night we were in Alaska, we four adventurers climbed up the platform made specifically for viewing the lights and stood in awe before the profound blue of sky, and the gods smiled upon us as we watched the miraculous atmosphere dance and celebrate, it seemed, just for us.

We Four Adventurers Me, Mr D, Bill & Melissa
We Four Adventurers
Me, Mr D, Bill & Melissa

I didn’t know enough, perhaps I didn’t let myself dream enough, to aim for the northern lights. I’d heard of them, but hadn’t given the phenomenon enough thought. But a whole new world came into my view and with it, the knowledge that there is magic, real life magic, happening every day around us.

We need to pay attention. I, need to pay attention.  Pay attention to the magical workings of the Universe. It is only when we wake up to what is there, that we can enjoy the brilliance we were made to appreciate. It’s going on all around us, even when we can’t see it. Even when we’re too shortsighted to see.

Note to self: Get Glasses.

northern lights


The Sweet Spot ~ The Secret Of Happiness

On holiday in the great, white north, I realize most people choose warmer climes when looking at vacation options. I totally understand why, and yet, this was a wise choice. Good friends, unusual adventures (national curling competition, day-long, scenic train ride, a visit to the North Pole and aurora borealis watching, to mention a few) and long quiet hours doing whatever one likes. That’s why you’d choose a place where the forecast for last night was “frigid cold”.

I stand totally in my power when I admit to you I am a lucky girl. I am abundantly blessed and the options available to me are endless. But this post is not about me or about this holiday. It’s about the Sweet Spot.

There is a certain place where the good things that happen to us in our lives meets with whatever level of gratitude and expectation we have. It’s about attitude and gratitude and, if I’m being honest with you and admitting the level to which I believe all that woo woo crap, a little bit of magic from The Universe.

That’s us on the bottom right in the ‘frigid cold’, happy as can be.

Here’s a map to the Sweet Spot:

  • First, always first, one must practice being grateful. That is to say, even on the worst of days you can see the Divine, and you express gratitude.
  •  Practice letting your inner child out to play. A good sandwich is a reason to feel flooded with glee, a beautiful flower, an excellent kiss. Revel in those things as if it were your first time, every time. That’s what kids do, even when it’s not.
  • The focus on perfection is ill placed. Seeking it for ourselves will only accentuate the imperfections, but trying to provide a little piece of perfect for others will reflect back to us.
  • Know, for certain, that everything you need is already yours. Perhaps you’re not yet accessing it, maybe you can’t even see it, but if you can figure out how to believe it, well, maybe this is just the part of the map where your shoulders get to relax and you realize you never need feel desperate again.
  • Whatever happens on your holiday or your way to work, just go with it. There’s only so much planning that can be done. It’s going to be what it’s going to be and you can enjoy that, receive the gifts of it and feel blessed. No matter what.
  • Be brave. Taking risks, expecting setbacks and going with the outcome, that’s the recipe for awesomeness, the map to amazing, the power of the person.

I have an amazing life. I admit it and take no credit for it. It’s The Universe and life unfolding and a healthy dose of take life as it comes.

Mountain Climbing & The Secret Of Life

Saturday was spent on a slow train past the spectacular Mt. McKinley. While I’m sure the fact that it’s spectacular is likely true, I have no way to know for myself since the cloud cover made it impossible to see the grand spectacle. I’ll take it upon the testimony of those intrepid souls who have been there and done that mountain.

Monday we went to the Museum of the North. The Alaskan art and history and nature kept us all diverted for hours as we walked through clean, white halls filled with artifacts and stories of brave souls who were made or broken by the harsh country they chose to call home. We devoured stories of gold rushes, prostitutes, entrepreneurs and tales of the climbers of the great Mt. McKinley.

As we communally discussed those things that most impacted each of us, I knew I had my blog post when Melissa and Mr Dreamboat started talking about mountain climbing. The way I understand it, when you’re scaling a mountain of grand proportions, you stake a base camp and then continue to use it throughout the adventure. Climb to your highest height and back to base camp.

base campHigher than you’ve ever climbed before, back to base camp. Heights and base camp. High and low, high and low.

Recently I had my feet taken out from beneath me. Again. I find this tiresome. And ironically it seemed I was truly making ground just before it happened. Big plans, hard work and dreams that, while seemingly out of reach, were brand new baby dreams and I so desired to keep them alive. I’ve been sad, dear reader. And sad does not feed dreams. No. No it does not.

It wasn’t until we were talking about climbing literal mountains and the need for base camps that I could put it all back into perspective.

Out of necessity, we need to keep balance in our lives. We need to come back to earth. We need to catch our breath, sleep safely in our beds, learn what we learned from the heights and prepare for another day when we will climb still higher.

This is Michelle Pierson Young reporting in from climbing my own personal mountain. There’s been some treacherous climbing and days I thought about giving up, but I wanted to let you all know I’m safe at base camp and preparing for my grandest climb yet.

And I will see you at the top.

As much as I try to be fresh and original in my blog posts, I tend to have my themes. I bet you have themes too, lessons that stick in your head and you think about them regularly. They might even be talking points for you when you’re in conversations. And one has to wonder, are these things we need to teach others or are they things we need to learn? Perhaps they can be both.

Here’s my current theme; forgiveness. I’ve been chewing on this one for years.

Of course to one degree or another we all have. There’s the trickiest of elements to forgiveness, and that is that whatever we’re forgiving, it feels an awful lot like we are blessing it, accepting that it was an okay thing. I am not down for this. But…

What I desire more than anything is to live a life of joy. I wish to live unfettered by other people. I don’t want the things that have brought me pain to take up space in my head and my life and not leave room for the important lessons that I’ve learned or the joys of the future. And you can’t have that without forgiveness. Damn. Would that you could.

And then there’s the element of forgiveness I would seek for myself. If I can’t fully accept that others deserve to be forgiven, how can I seek it for myself? And the tricky part is that I might not even know what I did. Just as those I would accuse of abuses may be completely oblivious to the pain they’ve caused me, what about my transgressions against others that were unknown on my part? Sheesh. This is getting sticky.

But still I desire it. I desire forgiveness and I want, more than anything, to lay down the burdens of past transgressions. Suck it up, soldier. There’s nothing to it but to do it, or at least that’s how my oldest son Adam tells it.

Last night I had a vivid dream about a person who takes great exception to me. I know this because people tell me things that are said. It appears I am as much a thorn in someone’s side as I imagine they have been in mine.

So I woke up feeling a little heavy. And a little sad. None of us wants to think ill of others and none of us wants to be thought of or spoken of poorly.

There’s little doubt what the answer is. “Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons…” (Max Erhmann’s poem, Desiderata).

So I hit the meditation mat and I meditate on happiness for all. For myself first, it’s like an oxygen mask, you have to give it to yourself before you can share it with others. Then I meditate on happiness for others. For those I love, for those I have loved and for those who may, forgive my wording, despise me.

To one degree or another I have practiced this for a very long time. For many years I would follow my generous meditations with, “And please help me to mean it,” because my well wishes were not entirely sincere.

This morning, after a bad dream, I went to meditation. The pains of the past really have no place in my today. I meditated about true happiness. I bestowed it upon myself and then I went out, in my mind, and I bestowed it upon those who have trespassed against me. And you know, I meant it a little bit more today than I did yesterday.

Maybe that’s the key.


Red Faced

This morning’s adventure is on the Denali train all the way from Anchorage to Fairbanks. No internet service and stunning views. These are the days I take Mr Dreamboat’s company’s saluation, “It’s a great day at Laughlin,” and morph it into my own.

“It’s a great day to be Michelle,” I might answer, if I had cell coverage, which I probably won’t.

I’ve been thinking about life, which is what I tend to do when I’m on vacation. It’s my hobby. And am reminded of taking the children (which I am wont to call “chicken heads”, don’t ask me why) camping when they were young.

Mr Dreamboat and I bought a tent trailer to pull behind the Suburban that was an obligation when I had 5 kids at home. Because he did that “job” thingy, more often than not I would take the kids out to the wilds of Oregon and we would camp. We went to the mountains and we went to the beach. It didn’t matter if it was a short drive or a long one. If it’s the Northwest it’s going to be breathtaking.

We had a lot of great adventures and mishaps, the kids and I. They were patient with me, which is a key characteristic if you live in The Land Of Michelle. I tend to try people’s patience.

It was on one of these trips that my Achilles heel reared it’s head… or foot… whichever.

We’d had a great trip at the coast. We’d had s’mores (Max used to call them “smorts”), we’d sung around the campfire and we’d gone crabbing and eaten ice cream. All the ingredients for a successful trip.

We were all packed up and heading home and had to return the crab pots. The place we rented them was on the Historic Waterfront in Newport. We were a full Suburban and a tent trailer and the streets were narrow. When it was time for us to go home, I realized the problem.

I was going to have to back everything up. Which is where things got dicey. Most of the time I could do a pull through wherever we went. If I did have to back up, usually no one else was around, I could relax, take my time, make my mistakes.

I won’t bore you with the details. All you need to know is; parking lot, tight turns, many failures, anxious children, grouchy old man, many more failures, try and try, fail and fail, rescue. The end.

I was red faced. I was uptight. But here’s what I learned:

Anyone who knows how to back up a trailer will tell you that movements must be subtle. Turns are more like shifts. There’s an elegance to the experience that will not abide bold, big moves. You’ll just end up banging things up that way. I should know.

And so it is in our lives and in parenting and goals and in our dreams. It’s the subtle shifts that get us where we want to go.

Life has an elegance to it that we sometimes miss if we don’t slow down and notice it. That’s what I’m going to do today. I hope you take a moment for yourself.

Buddha On Vacation

For the coming week you can find me in the frigid regions of Alaska. I, Mr Dreamboat and our close friends are headed to the great, white North on a hunting trip to see the Northern Lights. A most excellent adventure is sure to ensue.

I am excited because It’s a week without work for Mr D, who desperately needs a break. I am excited because I adore the friends we’re traveling with and we’ve known them practically from the beginning of time. I am excited, because I am a lucky girl and I know this. I know enough of life to be grateful for it.

This week I am planning a new practice. It seems like the perfect time. The Buddha said that all disappointment is based in attachment and I’m through with disappointment.

With enthusiasm and excitement I am going into this adventure, but I think the trick is the part where I am attached to how it turns out. If the trip is only successful if we actually get to see the lights, then I have a good chance of being disappointed. If there needs to be a specific level of comfort creatures available to me, or no twists and turns in the plot of my vacation, surely disappointment is inevitable.

Life is definitely made up of twists and turns and dips and bumps and some serious grinds as well. If we are attached to the life we have planned we can’t be available to enjoy the one we actually receive.

I am attached to the idea of being with my Sweet Man and dear friends. I am attached to the idea of having an experience unlike the experiences I have yet had.

Beyond that, I am attached to life and being grateful for it.

Let the good times roll. Let them brush your rick & roll hair.