If you have ever been to a live orchestra performance, you know that there is always a profound pause when a performance of a musical piece concludes, just before the audience begins to applaud. The pause seems to be a collective opportunity for everyone to fully absorb the beauty they have just experienced before expressing their appreciation.

   Last week a nine-year-old boy created a magical moment at Boston Symphony Hall at the conclusion of the Handel and Haydn Society's performance of Mozart's "Masonic Funeral Music." He filled the pause at the end of the performance with a spontaneous "Wow!" that was loud enough for the 2,500 people in attendance to hear. The audience laughed in recognition of his expressing precisely what they were all feeling, and then broke out in applause.  

   This boy's "Wow!" became a viral sensation as a recording of the moment spread across social media. If you haven't heard the recording, and to get the full effect of this moment, I highly recommend you listen to at --it will just take a minute.

   This inspirational moment would have been beautiful in and of itself if that was the whole story. But it turns out there was more to the story that makes the moment even more moving.  

   The orchestra so loved the spontaneous expression of appreciation that they put requests out on social media in hopes of finding who had expressed such enthusiasm for their performance.  It was soon learned that a boy named Ronan Mattin, who had attended the concert with his grandfather, was the one who had made the exclamation of "Wow!" They also learned that what had occurred was all the more remarkable, because as the grandfather shared, Ronan is on the autism spectrum and rarely speaks. 

   My response to this story is, well....., "Wow!"  It has served as a reminder that there are moments of astonishment all around us at all times if we are willing to pay attention.

   Inspired by young Ronan Mattin, I'd like to share a few of my recent "Wow!" moments. 

   Watching my grandson learn to read. 

   Listening to a woman courageously talk about her struggles with addiction, as she seeks to recover and restart her life. 

   Awakening to the songbirds, present for just a few weeks as they migrate through our area this time of year, as they salute the early dawn. 

   Listening to a story of Vietnam Vets sharing their memories in anticipation of a traveling version of the Vietnam Wall that is coming to our community soon.

   Watching Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo as he effortlessly glides down the lane to make another seemingly impossible shot.

   How about you? What "Wow!" moments have you noticed recently? If you are like me, you may find that they are easy to miss or take for granted.

   And this is precisely why I am grateful for a nine-year-old boy's reminder not just to notice them, but to celebrate them out loud whenever and wherever possible. 

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Momisms 2019


  The last two weeks I have asked readers of this column to share their favorite "Momisms," particular words and phrases of advice and life guidance that they remember hearing from their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and other women. I have been moved by both the volume and the meaningfulness of what many of you have shared.  

  Several of you said that you didn't have a particular Momism to share, but wrote about how your mother or grandmother dealt with challenges in their lives. You explained how the way they lived taught you so much about what matters most in life, and how they taught these lessons through their actions, as much as through their words. Your stories truly moved me.

   Some of you wrote about your grief as you miss your mothers, or because your mothers died before you really had a chance to know them. Others spoke of their grieving for a relationship they wished for but never had. Mother's Day can be a hard day for people, for many different reasons, and so my heart goes out to any of you who are grieving this Mother's Day.

 As we stop to reflect on these Momisms, it is also an opportunity for all of us to pause and remember just how much power there is in the words we speak to one another. Our words have the ability to bless and inspire, not only in the moment but as I heard from many of you, for years, and sometimes decades, after the words have been spoken.  

 As we give thanks this weekend for mothers, and all the other wise women we are blessed to have known, may we also reflect on the words we speak to one another, remembering that their effect continues to ripple outward long after they have been uttered.

Here, without editing, is the list of Momisms that you shared.

It's later than you think.

You don't have to like the cards you are dealt, but you do have to play them. 

Spend a little, save a little.

Don't make me come up there!     

If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you follow?

Let go and let God.

Work like it all depends on you, and pray like it all depends on God.

It may not be ok, but it will all work out.

Try to understand who they are, and you might better understand why they do what they do and say what they say.

Why dahlin', I get my best exercise jumpin' to conclusions! (said in her beautiful southern drawl)

To thine own self be true.

Neither a lender nor a borrower be. 

Handsome is as handsome does or pretty is as pretty does.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child…

Rise above it.

It's what you do when you don't have to, that makes you what you are when you can't help yourself.

It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Waste not, want not.

Because I said so.

What if your face froze like that?"

Think about all the children starving around the world.

If you lie, people won't believe you when you're telling the truth.

To have a friend, be a friend.

Don't lower yourself. Rise above - and in the end, you will be defined by those actions.

Every time you point your finger, look at the three still pointed at you.

You will always have some dirt in your house, but you will not always have kids in the house.

Let your conscience be your guide.

Don't rush the brush and spill the paint!

If you can't say something, nice don't say anything at all.

It only bugs you once if you fix it.

I have eyes in the back of my head.

Common sense is not common.

What other people think of you is none of your business.

We have time for what we want to have time for.

Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today because you never know what will come up tomorrow.

Make a plan, then be willing to 'work' your plan.

Kill them with kindness.

You make a better door than a window.

Don't look too far down the road. Be where you are. 

People are important, not things.

Always remember to take your vitamins!

I don't know. I'm just telling you.

I don't care what everyone is doing, I care what you are doing.

If you sleep under a fan, it will give you a cold.

Take care of a goldfish, and then you can get a dog.

If you choose an action, you choose the reaction also; choose carefully!

Ten years from now it won't make a bit of difference.

There is always room for dessert; it will fill in all the cracks in our bellies!

If you kids are going to fight, take it outside.

Don't worry about it; it will all come out in the wash.

I am sure you will do well, but no matter what happens I still love you and am proud of you.

Come here...I just wanted to say, "I love you."

As mom was dying, "I said, I am going to miss you so much." She responded. "I love you so much. But I no longer belong to this time - I now belong to eternity."

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Pulling Back the Curtain

Pulling Back the Curtain

Pulling Back the Curtain  

If I were to ask you if you have a favorite scene from the movie The Wizard of Oz, what would come to mind? Flying monkeys? A melting witch? The Lollipop Guild? A singing scarecrow? Lions and tigers and bears, oh my?  For me, it's the scene where Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals that the previously fear-inducing Wizard of Oz is in truth just a frightened, insecure man, who at that very moment implores Dorothy and her companions to "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." 

    I love that scene because I can so easily relate to it and because I reference it so often in the work I do as a marriage and family therapist. In the context of our closest relationships, when are we most likely to treat others rudely? I know for me, it is when I am feeling most vulnerable, insecure, and unsure of myself, and am hiding those feelings behind a curtain of rudeness and false strength. When I share the image of the Wizard of Oz being exposed with clients, they almost always immediately recognize that they, too, are most prone to anger when they are feeling afraid and unsure of themselves.  

   Our Living Compass Wellness Initiative has a parent wellness program, and one of its core teachings is found in the photo meme above: "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Don't say it mean." I find that the wisdom of this teaching extends well beyond parenting. 

     Many of us are familiar with the first two phrases of this teaching, but I think it is the third phrase, "Don't say it mean," that is most important, especially given the culture we live in where fear and insecurity often gives rise to "saying it mean."

     So the next time you experience someone "saying it mean"-whether that person is you, a child, a spouse, a boss, a public figure-or whomever, pause for a moment and think about Toto and the Wizard and see if that helps you to understand better what is going on. And on those occasions when that "someone" is ourselves, may we have the courage to step out from behind the curtain on our own, and overcome the fear of revealing our vulnerability to others.

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I Think You're Beautiful

I Think You're Beautiful

I Think You're Beautiful

How would you respond if someone said to you, "I am taking pictures of things that I find beautiful, and I find you beautiful, so can I please take a picture of you"?

A high school student ran a social experiment a few years ago and did this exact thing. She made a video or the reactions that the students and faculty at her high school had to hearing that they are beautiful. In the second half of the video, the student conducting the social experiment followed up her telling people she finds them beautiful, with a question, "What's one thing that you think is beautiful or unique about yourself?"  You can find the link to her video at the bottom of this piece to see the variety of responses. . 

The student running the experiment wondered why it is so uncomfortable for people to think of themselves as beautiful. After watching the video, I wonder the same thing, knowing for sure that I would respond in a way similar to many of the subjects in this experiment,

On the other hand, and this is a bit sad to say, but if someone asked me what some of my faults are and what do I think needs improvement in myself, I know that without hesitation, I could come up with a lengthy list. Here's the short version that took me 30 seconds to create: I need to be more organized. I need to get more sleep. I need to get better at sending thank you notes. I get too busy sometimes and don't take time to nurture friendships. I am more judgmental of myself and others than I would like to be. I neglect yard work and have almost zero skills in being handy around the house. I take way too many things for granted. I am always searching for "more" rather than being satisfied with how things are.

Why is it that it is so easy for us to see the faults and what needs improving in ourselves? Why is it so difficult to see and celebrate that which is beautiful about ourselves? And while the social experiment I have referenced does not address this as it applies to how we see others, it is well worth noting that it is often the case that it is easier for us to see and point out the faults we see in others, than it is to point out the beauty we see in them. Again, why is this?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but I do know this: if you take a few minutes and watch the video of this social experiment, you will find your heart softened and perhaps a little more willing and able to take the time to see and celebrate what is beautiful in both yourself, and others.  

Do yourself a favor, and click HERE. to watch the video.

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Muddy Resurrection

Muddy Resurrection

Muddy Resurrection

I live in Wisconsin, and for those of us who celebrate Easter, there is often a beautiful convergence of our Easter celebrations with the magnificence of spring bursting forth all around us. The symbolism of new life bursting forth from the dark days of winter here aligns perfectly with our celebration of Jesus' resurrection.  

This year is not quite like that though. If you have ever lived in the northern part of the US, especially in New England or the Midwest, you know that there are not just four seasons each year. There is actually a fifth season, one that comes between winter and spring and only lasts a few weeks. We call it mud season. If you could see my running shoes which are currently sitting outside my back door (because I made the mistake of stepping off the paved running path I was on earlier this week), you would know that this season is well named.

Part of what creates the massive amount of mud and messiness this time of year is the fact that after a long, cold winter the depth of the ground freeze is quite significant.  During the mud season, while the warming temperatures thaw the surface of the ground, the deeper ground remains frozen, and thus the melting water at the surface is unable to percolate down into the soil.  Until the deeper ground thaws, the water stays on the surface creating increasingly deeper levels of mud and mess.  

While most of us would probably prefer the blooming new life of Spring to coincide with our Easter celebrations, I am finding that there is unexpected wisdom in considering mud season as a metaphor for what resurrection sometimes feels like in our lives. This week we watched with grief and sadness the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. Before the fire was even fully extinguished there emerged signs of resurrection as so many committed to fully restoring this sacred place of worship. I believe with all my heart that  new life will occur for Notre Dame, and I also believe that it will be a long messy, muddy process before fresh spring-like expressions of new life emerge.  

I think of friends who have a new baby-could there be a better example of their overwhelming celebration of this new life occurring in the midst of a lot of sleepy, bewildered, muddy, and messy times?  

I think of when I have lost someone I love and how slowly the process of grief works. There is a long, muddy season that both proceeds and accompanies the thawing and healing, and then the gradual resurgence of new life and a new kind of normal. 

There are of course times when resurrection and new life bursts forth all at once in our lives. In my experience though, it is more often a gradual process, one that includes some muddiness and messiness, no matter the change.  

The last verse of The Green Blade Rises, one of my favorite Easter hymns, beautifully describes the process of new life, resurrection, and healing. I have no doubt that the fields that serve as the host for the new wheat described in this verse also contain their share of muddiness.  

When our hearts are saddened, grieving, or in pain, 
By Your touch You call us back to life again; 
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: 
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

(Words by John M. C. Crum)

To all our readers that celebrate this day, we wish you a Joyous Easter, even if it be the slow, messy and muddy kind.

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