Friday, December 27, 2013

Walk with Dogs- Laughter

I had a plan for my day.

I was going to put away Christmas and decorate the house for the New Year. I am ready to see pretty white sparkly things.

Little did I know.

First order of business was to walk the dogs. At the driveway, we passed a dad and his three children all of them were enjoying Christmas gifts, a scooter and bikes. With Watson on my left and Daisy on my right, we left them behind and found our rhythm.

A quarter of the way around, I lost in thought saw the daughter coming my way. Her golden curls dancing in the breeze under her safety helmet. With musical synchronization her foot touched the ground as her pink scooter whizzed by me.

Watson, the friendly Basset Hound wanted to say, “Hello.”

He stepped in front of me. I, each hand occupied with a leash, picked up my right to push him back. He stepped forward.

THEN

Did you know asphalt has a flavor? It is a mix of old coffee grounds, burnt barbeque ribs and dirt. I drew my hands up from my sides and pushed myself upright. My glasses felt funny. I saw stars.

Watson sat there looking at me very confused.

The tears began quickly followed by the jokes. I hurt and wanted to cry, but the funny bone took over. Soon I was losing the ability to see out of my right eye. My sunglasses were bent.

Of course I laughed and cried all the way home while this rolling dialogue carried me forward:

Watson wanted to say hello to a little girl on a scooter.

One way to feel young again at 45 is to fall on your face in front of a little girl riding a scooter wearing a safety helmet.

Do I need a safety helmet now to walk the dogs?

I never bruise. It would just be my luck that something this fantastic would not leave a mark.

I walked in the house, ready to break down. Zany-playing with his new rifle sized Nerf blaster- jumped back in horrified shock as I handed him Watson’s leash.

“You need to walk him two more miles.”

“Uh… okay.”

Thoughts in his mind:
How did Mom mess up her make-up so soon… OHhhh. She doesn’t have make-up on.
How long will it be before she makes a joke out of this?

I handed GirlyK my phone. Her lips pursed to hold her stomach in. I said the only logical thing in this age of social media,

“Quick take my picture.”
 
“Uh… okay.”

Thoughts in her mind:
How did Mom get an easter egg under her eyebrow?

Both scurried away as I grabbed a bag of frozen peas and sat down. Thousands of ice knives thrust themselves into my head with pulsating waves. Screaming obscenities at the Counting Mutant because he says ice makes everything feel better. And then I laughed because I felt young with skinned knees. Watson wanted to be friendly. I can check “get a black eye” off my bucket list. I have peas on my face. The right side of my smile looks a little like Joker’s.


Laughter makes life worth living.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sin and Spam

Photo take by xandert
Sin.

I keep hearing that word.

Sin.


Sin-short coming, falling short, mistake, missing the mark, rebelling against God, pride, selfishness, total depravity. All words cultural christianity uses as synonyms for that word.

I hear a faint chorus singing in the tune of the Monty Python Spam Sketch:


“We have Jesus, grace, forgiveness and sin, 
We have Forgiveness, sin grace and sin.
We have sin, sin, sin, Jesus and sin.
We have grace, sin, sin, sin, sin and sin.
We have sin, sin, sin, sin, sin, sin, Jesus and grace.
AND we have sin, sin, sin, sin and sin.”

Studying Romans this year in Bible Study, I read it in the notes and hear it in the lecture, yet when reading the text from Romans 2 thru Romans 7 I hear Paul saying something else.

After the infamous first chapter that everyone quotes ends with this verse:
“They know well enough God's righteous decree that people who do such things deserve to die; yet not only do they keep doing them, but they applaud others who do the same.” Romans 1:32

Photo taken by Darnok

Then Paul turns around in Romans 2 to kick the reader’s keister.
“Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, passing judgment; for when you judge someone else, you are passing judgment against yourself; since you who are judging do the same things he does.”

The rest of those five chapters talks about our freedom in Christ. How we now practice the law because of grace NOT because of a need to fulfill it. In Chapter 7 he makes the whole thing personal in verse 7:
:
“…the function of the (law) was that without it, I would not have known what sin is. For example, I would not have become conscious of what greed is if the (law) had not said, ‘Thou shalt not covet.’”

We are all guilty of that. Pride triggers jealousy over what someone else has. Our contentment challenged births jealousy which expresses itself in envy. Envy feeds greed and around the merry-go-round we go. Not one of us can say we are free from it. Even Paul confesses in Romans 7:15

“I don't understand my own behavior - I don't do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate!”

Growing up I was always told, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” It applied to everyone who was not a Christian. My soul felt a little sick every time I heard it. In high school a Mormon friend and I debated the concept: this friend who I loved, but it was approved to hate her religion because it was sin. I walked away from that encounter never able to say it again. What is sin in my life may not be sin in someone else’s.

I am called to love my neighbor as I love myself.

Photo taken by chelle
For people to know I am a follower of Christ because of how I love others.

To get the log out of my own eye before I try to take a speck out of my neighbor’s.

So while the interwebs are throwing around the Sin ball, I will be over here working on my own shortcomings. Struggling to let go of my own resentments and learning to love others. 

All while singing the Spam song.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nutty Maggots

Originally posted December 2009




This is Nutcracker week for us. In the whirl of costumes, make-up and lost shoes I am reminded of Nutcrackers past. 

Ase and Zaney struggled with responsibility in their early teens- I know, shocker. With dress rehearsals everyday,  I assigned jobs to everyone so the house could run efficiently while we ran out of it. The boys were to take out the trash when it was full, without being asked. Being a firm beleiver in natural consequences, I left them to it. Not nagging was difficult when the kitchen can took on the form of a Slurpee. So, I cinched the sack closed to help make it obvious. Can't add any more to a closed sack.

The volcano of trash sat patiently waiting. 

Opening night was upon us. Tensions were high and I sent Zaney up for a shower. Ase, GirlyK and I sat in the workroom discussing the plans. A whole wall of the workroom is a window that looks out onto our back yard. As we relaxed and planned, my eye wondered to a little white wormy thing wriggling on the floor. I bent down to see what it was.

GirlyK cautioned, “Mom, don’t squish it! It is a caterpillar.” 

It wasn't a cute little white caterpillar. It was a maggot!

I showed it to Ase, 14 at the time, the little wiggling life between my fingers, “It IS a maggot.”

He looked at me blinking.

I clarified, “The pupa of a FLY!”

Reality dawned upon his intelligent face. The three of us looked at the floor; a migration of maggots sparsly covered the floor.

Ase ran for the vacuum.

I picked up what I could.

GirlyK, 8, began her scientific examinations.

Zaney, 13, was finally in the shower. 

I suggested, "Ase, you might want to take the garbage out now."


He picked it up, carried it to the back door and reached his hand to open it only to find a herd of them wanting freedom.

He cried,” EEEEWWWWWW!”

GirlyK squealed with delight.

I vacuumed for the next 20 minutes. Under the couch and in nooks and crannies. GirlyK was so helpful to point out a new "family" to be set free. Ase controlled his stomach as he washed out the trash can. Zaney still in the shower discovering who knows what. 

I looked at Ase, “Do you think it is a good idea to take the trash out on a regular basis?”

He sheepishly smiled.

 Zany finally came down, very, very clean. As Ase and GirlyK brought him up to speed, he looked at me dumbfounded. The story didn't make any sense. A few moments later I found a straggler. Gingerly held between my fingers I showed him.

"This! is a maggot. It is the beginnings of a fly. That's why it is gross" 

Zaney cocked his head to one side. Shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oh, those? I have been picking them up all day.”



A Mother Life

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Nagging Why

Why?
Photo taken by Shakira120

After any kind of tragedy, personal or within the community that is the first question asked. Why so young. Why so many. Why didn't God intervene? Why not a miracle?

WHY?

I spent many years asking this question. Crying out to God. Talking to therapists and mentors. Journaling until my pen ran dry. Each time disappointment added to the pain in my heart. There was no answer that made the pain go away. Never would an answer bring back what was lost. No answer would heal a relationship.

Photo taken by almogaver
I do not regret that season of Why because it taught me about grieving. In our culture, we don’t allow much time for it. We are expected to get on with it. Often the “encouragement” is to let it go and move on. Traumatic losses are not switches that can be flipped off and on. It isn't simply indigestion of the soul that a burp can relieve. It is a deep cut that needs tending. Ignored it festers into bitterness, resentment and anger. With the proper tending the healing process will be long and leave its mark, but in the end love, joy and health will return.

Part of the healing is a season in the land of Why. It is important because it gets us talking: to God, to others, and ourselves. Sometimes the answers fall flat, others are a soothing salve, but the answers never solve the problem. It is when I came to accept this that the next stage of my healing began.

How?
Photo taken by Schick

How am I going to get through today? How can I share the grace and love I have received in this season of grieving with others? How can I get to know God better?

After suicides, flashbacks, misunderstandings and constant change, How is my focus. It doesn't make it easier, but life is smoother. Whenever my mind visits the Land of Why, I remind myself to focus on the How. There are no answers for me in Why any longer. My energies are better focused in the present moment. How doesn't erase what happened, but it turns it into something to grow from. The scars from the past will never disappear. They aren't meant to. They are part of my character.

In Rick Riordan’s book, The Red Pyramid, Bast-the cat goddess- is asked to heal a battered old tom cat. Bast replies;

 “And take away his marks of honor? A cat’s battle scars are part of his identity.”


Thanks to those few words, I learned that everything I experience makes its mark. Some beautiful others unsightly, but all together my life is lived. My story is told to hopefully encourage and inspire others. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Damned Joy

Originally published September 12, 2011

Photo take by arien

Offered to perform play in LA my apprehension took form of a dandelion puff leaning into a slight breeze. I grew up in an environment where worth was measured by the amount of disappointment a person created. This pattern fueled the trap I found myself in. I was asked to portray on stage my greatest lifelong abuser, a "righteous" Christian. After many years of therapy, medication, and prayer, I walked away from this type of Christianity. Taking this role would put all of that work in jeopardy. 

I vigilantly sought wisdom, I found peace. I felt His hand take mine. I understood He had a purpose for this dark path: "Learn compassion." 

Each time I examined this character’s motivation, wrote her thoughts, or spoke her words: I experienced anxiety. It started as a cricket crawling around my sternum. As the show loomed, anxiety became pulsing electricity. I knew I needed help and support from those around me. I asked. The show was taxing everyone. I realized help would need to come from outside of the show.
Photo taken by tcatcarson

During tech week the question screamed in my head each day during the two hour drive there: "Why are you doing this?"

"Because I was asked," I replied.

"That's not good enough. Why are you walking through hell just to make someone else happy? What is in it for you?" The voice retorted.

"I don't know," was all I could utter.

During my research, I stumbled upon a Bradley Cooper on Inside Actor's Studio. He said, “The Joy is the work.

This work brought me none.

Women, like the character I played, walk in a difficult Christianity. They wrestle daily with an obsession of being "right" in the eyes of God. Righteousness is measured through actions:


The Proverbs 31 Woman is the definition of a good wife and mother.

Their view of forgiveness is skewed. When in the wrong, they only need to pray, asking God for forgiveness. They can never wrong their neighbor if they are right with Jesus. No conflict exists. The impact upon others is irrelevant. Their backs bend under this weight of legalism and fear. True peace and joy is impossible. In getting to know this character, I felt a deep compassion for those who live this type of Christianity.

Joy was in discovery.

Even though twenty years have passed, LA still feels like home. Everyone is inadequate, has a therapist, attends a recovery group, and is not afraid of being a "Hot Mess." I learned more about my shortcomings and inabilities and found freedom in facing them.

Joy was in the process. 

Photo from NY times article
Guarding the streets around the theater, I met Lewis, a 6'10" former NCAA Final Four basketball player. Homeless for the past 10 years, his patrols keep the area safe. He will not accept money he does not earn, is a beautiful storyteller and kind listener. Ase and Zaney have a new standard for washing a car, after watching him work. GirlyK will remember him as he danced with her and two friends. The four of them strutted the sidewalk and sang "Party Rock Anthem" at the top of their lungs. 
A Facebook friend came to see the play. Tahnee gave me unearned friendship my senior year. Walking between classes she told me one day, "Ya know, everything I heard about you is not true. I like you."

It was the single best moment of my high school experience. We spent hours catching up in a coffee place on Orange and Vine.

Lewis and Tahnee filled me with overwhelming Joy.

By the closing weekend, anxiety overpowered logic. Flashbacks of past condemning confrontations and absolute rejections shattered my grip on reality. The doors of insanity burst open.  Both nights on closing weekend, I raced to my car, curled up in a ball and sobbed for thirty minutes. I rode out those memories my brain thrust into view. As the waves of crippling anxiety washed over me God whispered, "Ride it out." When it was over, I still existed.

Joy was in survival.


I write this with significant cracks in my sanity and realize: Father was with me. Jesus carried all of my pain with Him on the Cross. He knows what a reality split feels like. Holy Spirit was an ever-present help in my time of trouble. Those old wounds feel drained of infection and cauterized. For the first time in years I have access to tears. I am better acquainted with my limits. Never again will I be afraid to express them.

Joy was in understanding Divine Love.

As I read the latimesblog and backstage reviews about the play:  it occurred to me that I could have survived as a working actress. Had I taken those few acting opportunities when I lived in LA, back when I was young and with stars in my eyes, my life might have looked differently. I know it wouldn't have been much, but a commercial here and there could have bought groceries once in a while. Knowing is good enough for me.

Joy was in realizing this possibility.

In the end I was granted Joy in an unexpected place.


A Mother Life

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Friendship Inspires Creative Horizons

Originally posted on June 20, 2013

Starting a new venture is daunting. Especially when it is discovering an art and allowing it expression. Divine Appointments brought people into my life who believed in me when I was not able to believe in myself. Jeannie Hart entered my life first. Weekly coffee which birthed through adversity became an oasis of empowerment and love. Through her encouragement, working through my art possibilities developed from a hobby into a pilgrimage. Learning how to make mistakes with flare are the spice within creativity.

Jeannie introduced me to Aaron. A small business owner and artist in town. He wanted to sell my quirky products. He didn't care what they were. He was happy to give light to anything I attempted. First came towel embroidery.

It surprised me how well they sold. I kept making them and people kept liking them. I played with floursack and bar towels. It morphed into custom orders. Play began to pay off.


 GirlyK needed an new messenger bag. Money was tight and I had clothes heading for Charity. Inspiration hit and using old jeans, a vinyl jacket and sheets, this bag was birthed. I played with pattern making for the first time.

Jeannie fell in love with it and ordered an Ipad bag, I blended denim and upholstery fabric samples.




Next came a purse for myself. I found this Buttercup Bag pattern online and fell in love with it. Her design has a magnetic enclosure, but I added a zipper to mine. Confidence grew
within my abilities. Bag making became a fun experiment. Each one tweakishly different from the one before. 

One day, Aaron suggested I try aprons. He like the ones which looked like vintage cocktail dresses. Like Dr. Frankenstein, I retreated into my laboratory. A little frightened of what might come to life. Joy of surprise flooded as I watched them take shape.

 Skeleton Toile                          Nutcracker                                  Sugar Skulls



Not to be excluded a pile of The Counting Mutant's shirts headed for Charity called out to me. They wanted to be mutated into something different. Of course I couldn't disappoint them. Thanks to pinterest and Grow And Make this happened:








Then, as with all moments of art and crafting, the greatest surprise of all, a person I never met loved the sugar skull apron concept but wanted something different. Gary Smith wanted a muy macho version. Retreating into my laboratory of creative madness I experimented. Many times, I started, then walked away because it just wasn't working. It sat on the wire form in the work room taunting me with desire for a testosterone infusion. Images of barbecue tools and a cold beer in hand kept me motivated. After months of wrestling with inspiration, it conked me on the head. Last week I finished it.

An etsy store is waiting in the wings for inventory. Soon it will be up and running. I do take custom orders as well. With each project, I feel stronger and braver as the next creative puzzle is faced. Without people such as these, my artistic spirit would not fly as confident as it does today. Their company breeds freedom as this artist looks for a true north. I am deeply grateful.


A Mother Life

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Unlovely Around My Heart

Photo taken by grietgriet
“Be angry, but don't sin - don't let the sun go down before you have dealt with the cause of your anger; otherwise you leave room for the Adversary.” Ephesians 4:26-27

I thought I was over it. But my brain has a mind of its own and every holiday season I am reminded of what is missing.

I want to be done.

More tears have been spent on making myself be peace about the circumstances. I have forgiven those who misrepresented me. In my own strength extended grace to those who choose to believe gossip. I understand that who I am will never be accepted. I don’t hold it against them. They have their own pain to deal with. I cannot judge them because I did have a part to play.

I have owned my part. Offered amends for my shortcomings and accepted that the damage is irreversible. No longer do I feel the need to be understood or validated. I only wish them well on their life journey.

Yet…something irritates.

I re-examine Forgiveness: analyze it from their point of view. Where were my expectations unrealistic? What life experience motivated the choices they made. I feel empathy. I understand. I check to see if I hold any expectations of justice or reconciliation with them. I almost feel peace.
Photo taken by bekahboo42

Then… something burns under the surface of my soul.

Anger is checked and I filter through all its definitions:

Anger is a secondary emotion, find out the primary source and resolve it. Then anger will diffuse-check. Did that.

Anger is a messenger. Ask her what the question is, answer it and then anger will be satisfied- check. Did that.

Then GirlyK and I were watching Bones. Sweets interrogating someone said, “Anger is triggered by unmet expectations.”

A glowing hot spear stabs my heart. I missed my own feelings. I never allowed myself to simply feel. Every examination has focused on them. Empathy, sympathy, forgiveness and grace extended to them, but never for myself.
Photo taken by Agarianna

My brain recoils: that’s selfish. That’s not Christlike. Indulging my sin nature gives room to all kinds of evil. I am not supposed to think about me in this situation for it to be resolved. They were the ones wronged. Not me…

But I must. I must filter through it all again this time granting permission to feel. The tools of recovery have taught me only through truth in love can real healing occur.

I awaken at 3:00 with the realization of this unlovely truth: I feel resentful. As I try to fall back asleep, Holy Spirit gently unravels the thick black wire shield which encases my beautiful pink heart. Looking closer I see barbs which point outward, intending to protect my heart from harm. The Still Small Voice calls them resentment. On the inside of the wire are smaller, sharper spines. Still Small Voice calls them bitterness.

In the hands of Divine Love I understand that while I protected myself with frustrated resentment, each time my heart encountered those people, the shield pressed into my heart. Those little spines of bitterness added pain which triggered a landslide of anxiety. Longing for freedom I submit to the Healer. As I release my own feelings, a healthy prettypicket fence will surround my heart. With healthy boundaries I will have clarity.  True grace will I finally be able to extend


And the best gift of all: Shalom.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Of Toilets and Boys

Originally posted Feb 28, 2013


I had no idea. Raised in a house with one bathroom, five females and one male, I never realized the bliss I was in.

As chores go, cleaning the bathroom was a breeze. Heavy cleansers for the caked on hairspray and other nice smelling beauty accouterments on the counter. A quick scrub of the bathtub ring with scrubbing bubbles. Easiest of all was the toilet. A squirt of cleaner under the rim of the bowl, swish with a brush and flush. The bathroom sparkled. We spent twenty minutes tops cleaning the room.
Photo taken by DodgertonSkillhause

I remember my Mom telling us about what her friends with boys said about their bathrooms. She would shake her head in disbelief and say, "You're Dad isn't that bad." The four of us would look at her and agree: how could it be so bad? A large mouthed bowl. The target is big enough. Boys like to shoot things so, how could they miss? Hitting a bulls eye is what they do best, just like Robin Hood.

Then I grew up and had boys.

When they were little, it was excusable. They were short, the lip of the bowl was taller. On tip toes they would aim and mostly make it. Little Cheerio targets would float, waiting to be sunk. M&Ms were the reward when the offending wheaty O melted to the bottom.Once in a while, the unattended seat would slam down on the tender weapon and screams of agony would shake the walls of the house. I felt sorry for them then.

Find them at amazon
As they got older, it became a game:  How far away from the bowl can I stand and still make it? Or, my favorite;  Let's pretend there is a forest fire in the whole bathroom and put it out. The first thing in the morning cold land mines were special. I would giggle to myself, pull out the cleaner and get to work.

With pink rubber gloves on, bleach poured into the toilet itself. It is a bucket with clean water, right? Sponge dip into the cleaning concoction, the wiping and rinsing began. As the cleaning moves toward the baseboards, small yellow dots appear. Rinse sponge and re-moisten with germ busting liquid, I wipe the lip of the floor. Sitting back with satisfaction, I examine a job well done, only to notice streams of yellow on the wall. A snicker accompanies the reloading of the sponge. Scrubbing the lines turns into washing the whole toilet alcove. Perspiring, I follow the amber lines down the baseboards.  Sweating with discontented murmuring, the hidden puddles behind the toilet are scrubbed. Aching arms scour the floor joint and bolts. In full cursing surrender, the complete outside of the toilet is bathed. I am afraid to even look at the seat.

"I did this three days ago." I say to myself setting back on my haunches.

An archaeologist could find prehistoric bugs in the amber droplets encrusted at the bottom of the seat. The sponge is forced with a death grip into the bowl of bleach and wrung to within an inch of disintegration. Excavation begins and the grease in my elbow sprouts a leak. Soon all that is left is the fossil evidence. Laying the seat down, I scrape the lid, bolts and bridge that holds the bowl to the tank. Then disinfect the tank itself, including the top.

The simple task of cleaning the toilet took me 30 minutes!
Find it at amazon

I thought, as the boys grew it would improve. I. Was. Deluded.

Discussing this over coffee with some girlfriends, comradere was thick. One girlfriend wants a urinal put into her bathroom so she can have the toilet all to herself. Another suggests a fly sticker next to the drain. This has been put into place in some public bathrooms: . Research shows that aim improves if men have something to aim at.

I need those flies. Maybe then, my daughter will understand what a clean toilet is.


A Mother Life

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering Veterans

Photo taken by Ladyheart
Today is Veteran’s Day or Remembrance Day. 

My Dad is a veteran.

Now it is popular to be one, but when I was a kid it was not. Dad wrestled with shame, like many Vietnam Vets. He felt a little extra-because he was stationed here.

He worked personnel. Many faces passed through his office. Some were on their way over; some on their way home. He would tell me about the guilt over the ones he sent over and the question that nagged-which ones came home.

We were stationed at Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Hill Air Force Base in Logan, Utah. My Mom played the chapel organ, my Dad worked at the radio station. I would listen as Dad would talk about the new music coming on the scene; Christian Rock which shared hope, all the while being relevant.

As an observer-grown-ups don’t realize how much kids really catch-I watched his pained face as the black screen with names scrolled after the news. When in the car, listening to the radio, songs quickly changed with the push of a button because of a lyric. One time after work tried to run him down. He was in uniform.

The other kids and I had a secret:
Photo taken by mzacha

We loved our lives in base housing. The roar of jet engines and helicopters lulled us to sleep. When other kids stopped playing because of a car, something in the air stopped us because we couldn’t hear each other. Everyone was welcome because tomorrow they might live somewhere else. Being lonely was never an option.

We were proud of our Dads for wearing Blue. For giving their time to our country because the country needed them.

It didn't matter to me if he served in a jungle or in an office. In a jungle he would face bullets, mines and enemy lines. Here in the states, he faced media, people and the feeling of being left on the bench.

Each place held scars.


Both missions held dangers.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

About Me: NO vember

NO vember is when it all started.

Photo taken by earl53

November took me away from a family filled with love and laughter. Boy cousins ready for fun adventures. Fall colors at Thanksgiving and snow at Christmas. A house filled with sunlight, a gentle grandfather who had tea parties with me and a grandmother who laughed. Running, camaraderie and bionic adventures for hours were the holiday experience.

Photo taken by ancientrobot

November took me to a winter filled with cold gray foggy days. A house where the windows looked out on trees, but no sun came in. These grandparents argued and watched golf on television. Too busy to play, but not too busy to spank or discipline. I had nothing in common with my girl cousins. Lonely, quiet and waiting for it to be over was the new holiday experience.

Now Thanksgiving Day was filled with angst. Parents stressed because my three sisters needed a nap and these new grandparents insisted on dinner at 2:00. During the hour’s drive, I would talk myself into being excited. Maybe this time it would be different. Maybe someone would talk to me. Maybe fun could be found. Sometimes it would glimmer but like the fairy it was, never stayed for long.

 November finished a year of death. It started the December before, my senior year with a boy named Jeff. We met third grade when we finally settled into this Central Valley town. 

Then that odd Christmas break obituary.

Photo taken by diggerdanno
I went because I knew him. Friends knew him. No knowledge of how he died, just that he did. I sat in the overflow lobby, his pastor announced that he would read the note he left behind. The word suicide was never spoken, but something within me cracked. The idea of adolescent invincibility weakened. I spent the rest of the day trying to figure it out. My parents were as dumbstruck as I. The rest of that year would include a winter suicide, a spring accidental drowning, and an almost fatal accident.

Then November.

Mark was the brilliant musician youth group leader. Blond curly hair, big brown eyes all backed his overwhelming kindness. He was patient enough, one church camp, to learn by ear a song I was going to sing. Complete with grin, he led the band as I for a moment felt like someone with something to offer the youth group. One time he taught on the Beatitudes, which would anchor my relationship with God forever. He said something along these lines:

Photo taken by anitapeppers
“The pure in hear will see God. That means telling him everything. If your mad, yell at him- he knows it anyway. Let nothing stand between you and God. Not even yourself. Always talk to him. Always seek him. Ask your questions. Yell at him about your doubts because eventually you WILL see HIM. He promised.”

This beautiful soul decided he could no longer live.

Eleven months of life taken left an indelible scar. For me there is no, “You Only Live Once.” Life became fleeting and fickle. Every moment deserves attention and presence. Death no longer surprises me.

Almost 30 years later, three kids and a loving husband, we have made our own happy Thanksgiving memories. I make a great turkey and trimmings myself so The Counting Mutant can make his Friday after Thanksgiving Turkey and Stuffing omelets. I find myself forcing myself to enjoy it all. I find joy in it and the presence of these events still hovers, like the winter fog the Central Valley is known for.

So I am allowing myself this moment to remember.

To grieve so that I may be comforted.


I am grateful for that.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Quitting

Originally posted on December 9, 2010

Photo taken by fractl
I am always the last one to leave. A party, a theme park, church. An argument isn't over unless true harmony exists for all involved, much to The Counting Mutant’s irritation. A decision is weighted upon all collectible options. In all situations, affirming and confrontational, I do not quit.

Some consider this diligence a personality flaw. 

My soul screams this mantra to my head: to quit in the face difficulty, cheapens the experience of life. 

When in conflict with person or situation; first comes the talking. There is an echo inside my head, so the only way to hear myself think is out loud. Unfortunately that means someone has to listen until a piece of solution reveals itself. Only when I have exhausted all avenues of resolution will I resign.
Photo taken by taliesin

“Just as iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend” Proverbs 27:17

What people don’t recall when they throw around this cliché is:

You can’t have sharp iron without sparks.

Within interaction there will be controversy. To end a relationship or an experience because of difficulty, compromises the value of the life we have been given. To work through these differences creates a better life story.

Photo taken by taliesin
The Counting Mutant took part in a business philosophy course. Close to the end, he was invited to continue in an advanced level. He said yes. At the end of the course, life happened which complicated his ability to continue. During the final conference the offer to continue was extended. This time he declined.  The instructor of the course spoke to the many that changed their answer. He challenged them to examine their behavior.  Was this a common practice in business or their personal life where an agreement was made and then broken?  The instructor introduced the word reneging: to break a promise or go back on an agreement. The consequences of reneging of reneging are; people become leery of  your word and question the reliability of it.

The shame of quitting evaporated. My real issue was about reneging. Whenever a commitment needs to be made, I am thoughtful and count the cost. I never want to jeopardize a person’s trust or faith in me. Through disagreements we learn about each other.  This is why the idea of quitting is unreasonable to me. Listening to another’s grievances I gain strength and wisdom. There is a certain power in admitting my weaknesses and face the conflict. It grants me an opportunity for a Reality Check. My focus turns to crafting those flaws into strengths.  Life is the greatest adventure. Being available for resolution makes my life story richer.



A Mother Life

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rocky Horror Taught Me Divine Freedom

Photo taken by mconnors
“I can’t wait for Friday!  It will be the coolest thing ever.” April said to Elysse at lunch.  We sat next to the chain link fence at the end of the corridor.  Brown bags crackled as we pulled out our lunch.  In 7th grade, these girls were the first school friends I made since moving to this California valley town in the 3rd grade.  They really wanted to sit and talk with me.  It was nice to feel accepted.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“THE Rocky Horror Picture Show! It’s playing at midnight and we get to go. It’s so cool!  You get to dress up and yell at the screen and throw food and spray people.  It’s so funny.” April gushed.  

Elysse giggled and nodded.

“Cool,” I faked.  It sounded fun, but I was sure it would be forbidden. 

Photo taken by ManicMorFF
At home I asked my parents about it. I received the typical lecture, explaining the demonic presence lurking and waiting to infuse my soul with chains of bondage. By the time it was over, I pictured demons sitting next to people, throwing food with them and entering their bodies to possess them. Fear overtook my thoughts.

The next few weeks I continued to sit with April and Elysse at lunch. Each day a looming presence weighed on my conscience. Thoughts of what might be controlling their minds and how it would affect my spirit, consumed me. I became afraid of them. Soon lunch was a lonely hour for me again.

My parents’ concern for our Christianity included the treatment of Halloween. Radio preachers who would urge listeners to avoid it altogether. Its origins seeped in deep mysterious magic and the occult. Participation would guarantee evil’s consumption, or at least interference, of a soul. God could not work if evil existed in
Photo taken by Kevin_P
one’s life. Your Salvation could be compromised. My parents disallowed the night revelries. I could participate at school so that we wouldn't be mistaken for Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that was all. Some years the light was turned out when Trick or Treaters came through the neighborhood. Other years found my Mom passing out gospel tracts laced with candy. The pumpkins carved with a fish or a cross beamed from the front porch. Before the night was over, someone would take them and smash them to bits in the street. Mom said it was just the Devil trying to discourage us. 

As a young adult, I met people who had been subjected to Halloween worship ceremonies. Cats would go missing because of sacrifices. Tainted candy hurt children and I felt the pain of those victimized. The holiday became pure anxiety and dread for me. Continuing in the belief that it was acknowledged at all, something of my faith would be taken away. My connection with God would weaken and I would be all alone. The day came to represent my darkest fears and deepest nightmares.  

Photo taken by AuntLaya
Yet Divine Love is the perfect teacher. Every prayer is answered and I learned to look at God as my loving Creator. My focus turned from what He couldn’t do to what He could.  I began to think of the message I wanted to share on the night. As a family we participated in different things; Harvest Festivals, family theater nights, pizza and movies. I met a woman who had the same struggles. She celebrated delight by decorating her house with lights, doors were open and candy handed out liberally. Through her example fear began to lose its hold.

Photo taken by ardelfin
In BoyA’s the class observed Dias de los Muertos. He learned the truth of how holiday was celebrated in Mexico: they do not celebrate death, haunting and evil. The belief is: loved one’s spirits come back and they have a night to celebrate with the living. BoyA created a memorial for his Uncle, who had committed suicide the previous April. For the first time he talked about his uncle’s death. As BoyA created his own story of Uncle, his soul was able to heal. This holiday no longer needed to be filled with horror and dread. It could be about celebration and remembering.

The cherry on the sundae was The Counting Mutant.

 “Do you want to go to Rocky Horror this Saturday at midnight?”  Mutant asked sheepishly.

My soul jumped with delight, “YES!” 

Photo taken by ardelfin
He arranged for tickets. We double dated with a friend and her husband. The Mutant and I spent the day on Saturday together collecting props and making kits. Giggling like kids, we shopped for our costume’s bits and pieces. I was amazed at the freedom I felt preparing for this seemingly forbidden thing.

Sitting in the theater, the four of us admired the bravery of many.  Peter Pan dressed in a vine covered Speedo won the costume contest. Anticipation rippled through the sold out crowd. The film started and we were united. All yelling, singing, and covering our heads with newspapers; the highlight was when everyone threw toilet paper.  The theater’s beautiful old ceiling covered with storms of arching toilet paper rolls unraveling. We were covered with tails of gentle white. I checked within myself. God still loved me.  I still felt close to Him.  He didn’t leave me. As the film came to its conclusion and I recognized a subtle morality within the film. Those who are evil ruled for a season yet in the end they are destroyed by their own. 


Exiting through the oddly dressed crowd into the cold breath of the night, I felt safe and warm. I was still me. Nothing was riding on my back or taking over my conscience. I still believed in God and He still loved me. I still need to be wise in choosing the influences in my life, yet I no longer need to be afraid of those influences being greater than the Creator I believe in.  I am loved.



A Mother Life