Second rite of passage: imagining your contribution

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Round two: everyone contributes! My job? To create a fun container for people to place their delectable and teachable offerings. And so, what to do? How to begin? Take one artist, one experienced game-player, two teachers, one journal-writer, a dancer, and a culinary dabbler and throw them into a big wide corrugated cardboard box (not really). Shake ’em around a bit, throw them onto the table like so many dice, and what do you get? All sorts of possibilities!!

Well, I didn’t do that exactly, but I did metaphorically! I invited the rite of passage mentors/participants to think about what they might like to teach Ginny. Since the theme was “building community” I asked them to think about a fun activity that might help Ginny learn to create a sense of community where she was soon moving to.

Some took off with great ideas from the get-go. Others needed a little gentle massaging, but what did I get in the end?

An amazing community art project we all engaged in and gifted to Ginny. A first hand view of building a seven course meal for a friendly gathering. A lesson in meaningful journaling. A frolicking twist on traditional game-playing. A literary brainstorm on sharing personal history with a crowd. And a jaunt into morning meditation and hand massage to promote self-care, care for others, and welcoming the day. Could a collection of mini-workshops be more diverse, engaging or interesting? I think not!!

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Second rite of passage: a new leader emerges

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At age 18, I wanted to give my daughter a further, deeper, broader experience in entering the wide wide world of womanhood. It is a beautiful world indeed, and she was just brushing the shiny surface of it, so in her burgeoning blush into adulthood, I figured it was about time to let her “woman” with us.

Gentle though. Slow down. I did not want to overwhelm her. No major planning or making phone calls for this round. I still wanted this to be a gift. To ease into being an offerer in our little community was the goal, decked out in encouragement, feathered frills, and heart-warming extras. I wanted my daughter to see that being a contributor, really, was itself a gift- to the self as well as to others.

So my assignment was simply this: “Ginny, if I were to give you an hour or two to teach your loving little group of mentors something meaningful to you, and potentially, to them, what would you teach them? It doesn’t have to be a lecture (though it could be); you can make it a hands on experience, a listening experience, an experiment, the sky’s pretty much the limit!”

Well, what Ginny came up with was achingly beautiful. This I will share in a future post. It’s a fun thing to think about, isn’t it? If your child had a chance to teach you something, to teach her mentors something, what would she come up with? The answer might surprise you (and even make you tear up a bit . . . or if it’s hysterically wonderful, laugh out loud. . . .)

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Second Rite of Passage: here it is!

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Whimsical sculpture at Kit Carson Park near San Diego.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be sharing with you some hints, tips, and practicalities about creating a rite of passage for a girl of about 18 years of age. You know, the age that says, “I’m an adult!” but, as a former18-year-old yourself, you know better. But, really, what I’ll be sharing is more than just ideas. I’m going to give you lots of juicy details, because I believe when it comes to sharing, “storytelling the process” is much more interesting. And the truth is, the devil is not in the details, but oftentimes, the delight is in the details (think: the darker, the richer, the sweeter, as in devil’s food cake, or the creamier, the tangier, the more tantalizing, as in deviled eggs)!

O.K., I diverge . . . the bridge into early adulthood is an exciting one. There are vistas in front of you, as well as a little bit of life experience hefted under your belt. And, as a parent or mentor of someone that age, it can be terribly amazing, or amazingly difficult to guide someone through all the changes that often include graduation, college searches, job searches, new relationships, break-ups of old ones. So I hope these next several posts provide a breath of fresh air and a little encouragement for what the possibilites of creative mentorship can look like.

I invite you to come along! Paste a few feathers onto your wings, and enjoy the flight!

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Blessing for a rite of passage, or frankly, anyone

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the element of heartfire, artwork by Gina Mammano Vanderkam

John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara and many other indelible books has been a source of inspiration for me over the years. HIs work is deeply insightful. I encourage you to take this blessing deeply into yourself and into your children’s lives as you remember that each day with it’s surprises, it’s difficulties, and it’s opportunity for personal transformation can be a rite of passage:

A BLESSING

May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.

May the flame of anger free you from falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and may anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

~ John O’Donohue ~

Brainstorming: the creative scatterings of imagination

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

In a few weeks I will share the gorgeous tale of a second rite of passage- one for my girl at age 18. The whole thing was a scrumptiously rich smorgasbord plated with small secret plans and large platters of imagination, but like all good things, it took some healthy helpings of daydreaming. Carving out enough space to let the mind wander and meander is the stuff “genius” is made of. How can a person think outside of the box, if he or she doesn’t even know (s)he’s in one? I say, bust out the cardboard sides, lay the corrugation to waste and let the dreams scatter! That’s what I did when brainstorming how to help my daughter traipse across this second bridge to adulthood.

I was actually in an airport with a friend when the broiling creative stew for this event starting bubbling. I believe the phrase “thinking out of the cage” might be more appropriate as bird-themed images were the ones that kept appearing.

“What kind of wisdom can be shared with a “fledgling” adult, who is gently being nudged out of the nest?” I said . . .

“Hmmm . . .  I’m now thinking of images sprinkled around the house of spreading wings and attempting flight . . .” my friend said.

“What if we created a weekend where there was ‘nesting’, ‘taking flight’, and ‘journeying home’?” I said.

“What if we actually made her a nest!” my friend said.

You get the picture. It may sound a little “bird-brained” at first, but it did turn out to be an amazing event. I’ll share it with you in upcoming posts. But think about it. Today, whether building a rite of passage or a gateway to your own future, what tributaries can you follow that trickle, flow, or gush past your own house of cardboard?

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

Your child: a thank you assessment

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Yesterday, our household celebrated two intricately tied events: my son’s 19th birthday and Mother’s Day. It was a chance to both honor the child brought into the world on that fine May afternoon (all nine and some odd pounds of him) and the one that hefted that oversized boy around in the primordial stew of embryo en utero (sounds fancy and French, doesn’t it?)

Such a stars-aligned event brought about another unique opportunity: to make a fairly comprehensive list of appreciations for the united act of motherhood and childhood. To take 15 minutes or so out to carve a personal thank-you note on the stationary of my computer was a worthwhile experience. I find that when creating a list of appreciations, the more detailed the better. Small is beautiful (think petit fours or diamond earrings). Little specifics make the gratitude both palatable and real. Here’s a few of mine. What are yours?

gratitudes when contemplating motherhood:

receiving texts that simply say, “love you, mama. good night.”

my son snuggling up closer to me during a movie because, “it might be a bit scary for you, mom”

my daughter alluding to our favorite children’s book character, Paddinton Bear in a text message sent from her dorm room

on contemplating my son, John, I’m grateful for:

hearing him say, “I have been craving doing math lately” as he responded to a middle school kid’s need to go to him as a tutor for school

paying consistently for the vegetables on our grocery list since he’s procured a job

wanting to catch up with me over a cup of coffee on a fairly regular basis

Simple things . . . but I feel better already recounting them. It’s sort of like a piece of chocolate on my pillow to welcome me back to someplace special . . . .

Sun-honeyed milestones

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What makes certain moments in our lives, “momentous”? You know the ones- those sun-honeyed memories that seem to conjure up all sorts of good things in the stew of your soul. Deep, simmering, rich with multi-dimensional broth. They are not even necessarily “the big ones”: marriage, graduation, childbirth. Sometimes the times that reign large in our souls may appear smaller, even inconsequential to the rest of humanity.

I think the ingredients may be simple. From my own experience in the wilds of being a soulful human, the common denominators seem to be love, awakening, and beauty. I stare into past moments that I savor as milestones in my life, and ask myself, “was it the deep acceptance? the sincere and loving embrace of friendship? the way the sunlight was distilling gold onto the peeling eucalyptus trees? a new experience of myself? all of these?” And I say in reply, “yes, I think so.”

Milestones aren’t always fluted with royal icing or champagne glasses (although I like that, too!), but can be trimmed with a recognizable understanding from eye to eye, “a long loving look at the real” (that phrase courtesy of a good friend and fellow spiritual director), or the gift of pure presence from a fellow traveller, or from Nature Herself, in all of her constantly changing splendor.

What were some of the sun-honeyed milestones of your life?

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