Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ten Things of Thankful- Wrap-up 12

New Year’s is just around the corner. I thought sharing this year’s firsts would be a fitting end to 2013.

Started with Zany getting his driver’s license-The boys were always a 1-2 punch because they are 16 months apart which made them more like twins than brothers. It is nice for them each to drive and also a little sad. I miss the after school conversations in the car. I miss seeing them as often, but I love how they are growing in independence.

Jurassic Park in 3D- Amazingly enough, the kids missed out on this movie. Between Disney, Lord Of The Rings and Transformers the topic of dinosaurs settled near the bottom of the list. Truth is, there is only one way to see Jurassic Park, and that is on the BIG screen with great sound. They loved it!

GirlyK’s first Science Fair- I homeschool through the local private school in town. One of her requirements is to participate in the science fair. The science part was not the problem. How to translate what she likes into a project was. What we decided on was; “What is the biggest pest on an almond ranch?” We went to a friend’s ranch, collected owl pellets for her to dissect. She then identified the skulls and Voila! Gophers

*Side note: When we went to see Hotel Transylvania and they were playing Bingo. I immediately knew she was holding a mouse skull.

A New Dining room Light- The Mutant found pinterest and he made this. 

I observed Lent- As a protestant evangelical, much of the liturgy is lost on me. One of the tragedies of American Protestantism is we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I understood Easter, but not really Lent. This year I was curious and did the research. Prayerfully I observed and the most amazing thing happened, I found a new freedom from things I had wrestled with for years. I felt a new reverence for Easter.

I celebrated my freedom- Healing takes time. This has been the most frustrating truth of my life. Through my Lenten journey, I decided to pause and put a work of art on my skin that reflected the healed scar on my heart. A friend of mine, Craig Fraser,  is a fantastic artist and I have always admired his work. So three weeks before Easter, I sat in his house with one of my oldest and dearest friends. This was the result.

Once Upon a Mattress- The play that started Ase’s journey into dance, completed his senior year. Asked to choreograph Once Upon a Mattress was the highlight of his year. Zany gave up swim team just to be in the show with his brother. Watching his confidence bloom within this  sweet serendipity made my mother’s heart swell.

Took the kids beach camping- Jalama Beach is a complete off the grid kind of place. From 1982-1989, my church’s youth group would spend 10 days there. It was heaven. Our first year, the showers were made from 2x4s, garbage bags and garden hoses. My last year with the camp revealed real showers, with HOT water!! The camp hasn’t changed since then. No cell service. No electricity. Just an estuary, open beach for as far as the eye can see and quiet. They can’t wait to go back.

Invited to my first Blog Hop- New to this blogging thing and not sure where it is all going or even if anyone was reading, I received an invitation to Hump Day Hook-Up on
Wednesdays. It was perfect, I needed to move old blogging stuff to this one. It was an accountability opportunity to post once a week. AND! someone liked me!

Ase graduated- His childhood officially over, Ase is now launched into adulthood. He spent the summer looking for a job, figuring out college, budgeting and other grown up things. I didn’t cry about it like my other mommy friends. I couldn’t. This is what all the hard work is about. To see them grow and launch into the world successfully. So, with beaming smiles I watched him graduate.

Zany spent the summer away- Somehow this boy worked out the details of spending the summer at a ballet school in Torrence. The Lauridsen Ballet Center and Diane were fantastic to him. He thrived there and came back with the skills and technique to be Mouse King and Soldier Doll in Nutcracker.

Got a black eye-I walked the dogs yesterday and Watson wanted to say hello to a little girlriding a pink scooter. Of course I laughed about it all day and you can read the whole story here. For some reason The Mutant looks at me funny and is reluctant to take me out in public. Of course, they all stifle a giggle when I look at them.

I cannot wait to see what firsts I get to experience in 2014.

Ten Things of Thankful

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.


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.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ten Things of Thankful-The week between

It is one of those days.

Fibromyalgia- For a long time I prayed to understand my own limits. I wanted to have boundaries and hold them with grace, to know myself. The great gift of this disease is I now have these things. When I need to shut down I can, free from guilt. Thanksgiving, Nutcracker, Christmas, New Year’s and The Mutant’s birthday is a marathon. Therefore, ‘tis the season for my body to revolt. Yesterday and today will be days spent in bed in attempt to catch my breath.

The Counting Mutant- After dancing last week, a bout with diverticulitis and back at work, add in a few Christmas parties and you get the gist of his week. What is he doing today? Cleaning- because of the marathon it hasn't happened. Toilets, floors, dusting and marketing are his conquest today. He is my hero.

A retirement party- We attended our first retirement party today. Yup. We’re that age now. A friend of The Mutant’s brother retired from the local police force. In a room filled with love, we sat in amazement listening to stories, friendship and heroism.

A change in plans- Friday night The Mutant was supposed to take me to the company Christmas party. A new outfit planned and legs shaved met with the unexpected. The boys’ high school played in the State Championship along with another school in town. Both games were televised. Out went the party and in we stayed. The Mutant, Ase and Zany yelled in the living room while GirlyK, Ase’s girlfriend and I huddled around Pinterest. It was perfect.

Shopping- This year I am not organized, yet everything is falling into place. Almost all shopping is done. The budget is straining, but not busted and I have been able to delegate some. This thing with kids getting older is kinda nice.

Fairy lights- We had three gray days this week. I am so grateful for the sparkling lights I put all around the house. It tricks my brain enough with the ambient light that I don’t get blue. While the sun us supposed to be up the little lights are on. When it goes down, I turn them off.

Watson is all better- During Nutcracker, we got him neutered. Nuts cracked during Nutcracker. The idea was to get the most out of his confinement time. Of course that meant things wouldn’t go smoothly. Apparently sometimes, in well developed dogs, the sack swells after the contents are taken out. The pain medication gave him diarrhea. After a hits and misses, we finally got him the good drugs. Finally free from the Cone of Shame yesterday, he is one happy dog.

Warm and toasty blankets with snugly dogs

This week’s giggle- a twist on Cat’s and Dogs.


AND a Christmas giggle. 

Ten Things of Thankful

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sin and Spam

Photo take by xandert

I keep hearing that word.


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.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ten Things of Thankful-The Nutcracker Edition.

It is finally Nutcracker week. My favorite week of the whole year. I am thankful for so much when it comes to Nutcracker that ten things is not enough, but these are my top ten:

Dance-This whole journey started in 1999. I took the boys to a community theater kids’ production of Once Upon a Mattress. On the walk home Ase said, “Mom. I want to do that.”

2002 found us moving back to this wilderness. One of the selling points was he could dance here. It took us a little while to find the studio that fit us but in 2004 Ase started tap. Zaney and GirlyK took ballet. That year we attended the studio’s production of The Nutcracker. Most of the Party Scene Boys were played by girls. After the show, Ase looked at me and said,

 “That’s just wrong. Boys need to be played by boys. I need to take ballet.”

That was it. Soccer, baseball, basketball came and went. Their first love was dance. Teasing from other boys within church, school groups and other places didn’t discourage them. It didn’t matter if they didn’t have friends or were accepted. Feeling God’s joy as they used the talents they had was enough.

The Counting Mutant’s Dance Career- began when he realized dance was their sport of choice. If they had chosen football, he would have helped. He co-coached a basketball team and soccer teams. Around Jr. High the boys left everything behind for the sweaty rooms filled with girls. He made the offer, if they needed help with Nutcracker, he would be willing to audition as the Nutcracker. They took him up on the offer. To watch all four of them dance together makes my heart soar. The Mutant is 6’3” which makes his Nutcracker well over 7’. It was the first year GirlyK was not a soldier.


Two Nutcrackers ago,  Ase played the Nutcracker Prince, which was a bit poetic. Nutcracker-Mutant dies and Nutcracker Prince-Ase carries Clara through a land of snow to a land of candy.

This year, Zaney’s dream came true and he plays Mouse King. Years of backyard sword fighting with his brother paid off. Through rehearsals and performances the two of them wordplay Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings and just regular man smack talk as they battle to the death.

GirlyK is in heaven as well. She is tall enough to be a mouse and back in battle scene. This time helping her brother war against her father, talk about a family dynamic.

Family Time- Rehearsals begin in September. Weekends are spent, a few hours here and there working toward this common goal. Even if we not always in the same room or the same time, at some point in time the rehearsal is talked about at the dinner table. We laugh about in the car.

The Music- Our studio has the privilege of dancing to a live symphony. I played violin when I was younger. All of those individual instruments playing their own notes and woven together by a conductor is a most beautiful sound. All those differences working together in unity is the perfect example of how we should all live.

Sewing- My Mom taught me how to sew at the end of high school. Off and on I used it, but never as a fully devoted hobby. One year I noticed the Mouse King’s cape was a little tired. I made a suggestion and for whatever reason they let me make a new one. Soon after came a new Mouse King costume, The Mutant needed a new Nutcracker jacket, a friend taught me how to make a pattern and somehow I made it. Each year tests the limits of my self.

The Nutcracker Jacket- It was the first creative project we had ever done together. The Mutant’s grand ideas and my sensibilities often collided within practicalities. The kids lovingly refer to this year as “The year that tested Mom and Dad’s marriage.” By performance time we spent much of the shows on opposite sides of the stage. But we made it. We are still married and he listens to me. Who knew a Jacket could be therapy?

Nutcracker restored my faith in Christmas-Growing up Christmas was dodgy and unpredictable. With parents in ministry, it often seemed more about the production than reverence and reflection. In my early adulthood it was downright devastating. The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas have a new holiday for me-Nutcracker. It is a time when we can argue, play, laugh, cry, make mistakes, give the silent treatment, sleep and all other kinds of madness yet still be a part of something filled with love and beauty. Each year we finish Sunday’s matinee a little sad, and a little stronger as a family.

Nutcrackers- Other kids have trophies and medals. Mine have a nutcracker based on the roles they have. Written on them is the year and what parts they played-even the understudy.

Understudy- Each person has experienced the understudy. The dancer has to attend all the rehearsals, learn the part just in case the person cast cannot perform. It can feel like a pointless and unmotivating part to play, but they do it. The hope became reality the year Soldier Doll didn’t show up for dress rehearsal. Ase hurried to put on the costume and surprised himself and everyone else with what he could do. The following year he was Prince

Drama- What is theater without the drama? Ase, Zaney, and GirlyK have learned a lot about themselves through dealing with personalities and preferences of others. From divas to tech crew, they have learned that everyone is important and need to be treated equally motivated by love.

Ten Things of Thankful

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

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?


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.

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. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ten Things of Thankful-27

Today is the beginning of the end. It is the first day of technical rehearsals for Nutcracker. The Counting Mutant, Ase, Zaney and GirlyK are all in it. I do a little sewing with the costumes, embroider names on the show jackets and the odd delivery of food or supplies. Next week will be the Ten Things of Thankful: Nutcracker Edition. This week, however has been full and I am tired, so this is the quick and dirty edition.

First order of business though, because you asked so nicely, here is the Cranpear recipe: 

Cranpear Croustade

3 c fresh or frozen cranberries                             ¼ tsp sea salt
¾ c maple syrup                                                 1/3 c Orange juice
2 medium pears peeled, cored and diced               3 tbsp kuzu dissolved in 2 tbsp water (You can use                                                                                        cornstarch)
1 tsp vanilla extract                                              1 tsp orange extract
¼ c fruit only jam heated with 1 tbsp water

 Combine cranberries, salt syrup, orange juice and pears in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil        and simmer 5 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop open.
Stir dissolved kudzu and extracts into fruit and cook until thickened.  (About 1 minute.)  Transfer filling to a shallow glass bowl and chill.
Roll one chilled pie dough into a 12-inch circle between 2 pieces parchment paper.  Roll ½ recipe to ¼ inch thickness.  Cut into desired shapes such as maple leaves. Refrigerate both, wrapped in plastic with parchment paper still underneath, for 30 min.
Remove unbaked crust from refrigerator and carefully peel off plastic.  Spread dough with   chilled filling, leaving outer 3 inches of dough bare.  Use parchment to help fold edge of dough up and over filling.  Press down lightly and form tucks between you thumb and  forefinger.
Bake pie in lower third of a preheated 400* oven for 35 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350-*, brush crust with jam mixture and bake 15 min longer, or until crust is firm and filling is bubbly. 
Now to the Thankfuls:

Catching Fire: The holidays are tricky for me and this year is especially so- I will write about it soon- and my PTSD/anxiety was at an all time high. We went to Catching Fire on Sunday afternoon.

I cried through the whole thing.

Because of my family and life experiences, I really relate to Katniss. Watching it purged all the anxiety and for the first time in five nights, the nightmares did not come. I slept soundly. I might get the movie just to have it on hand when I need to clear my head.

Mondays: Yup. I said it. I am thankful for Monday: especially the one after Thanksgiving. With four days “off” so full of fun, it was nice to have a normal day. I woke up slowly. Had a nice long walk with the dogs and mentally prepared for the rest of the week.

Damned Joy: I am part of another blog hop on Wednesdays. It is at A Mother Life’s Hump Day Hook Up. After Sunday’s movie, I felt at a loss for words. I pulled out this little gem and dusted it of. Why wouldn’t I want to pour salt into my anxiety wound? ANYWAY reading through it and editing it gave me a bit of my voice back and reminded me why am working so hard at healing. It is about JOY.

Photo taken from Rosy-Posy 
Homeschooling: This week I taught a craft class for our homeschool group. The Christmas class is one of my favorites because of the handmade ornaments. We made Cinnamon Christmas Stars from Rosy-Posy's blog. The kids had a great time and they looked fabulous. GirlyK helped at two of the other stations: decorating a foam wreath and a how to draw from Art Projects for Kids. I love watching the kids’ collaboration and creativity explode.

Gary Hoey: A musician friend introduced me to him years ago. His Christmas albums are a refreshing twist on old favorites. I actually look forward to him all year long.

Brian Setzer: Yup, the guy from Stray Cats in the 80s. His regular stuff is fun and if you ever get a chance to see either of these guys in concert: GO! BUT his Christmas stuff is the perfect extra shot of espresso in my Carols. 

Find it at Amazon
John Stewart: His commentary on The War on Christmas was the absolute perfect therapy to my holiday anxiety. The whole thing just adds to the anxiety I already feel about the holidays. Aren’t we supposed to be getting along? Why are we fighting?

I have decided to abstain from “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” all together. Consider this my sit in as I wish everyone a HAPPY WHOLIDAY.

Dr. Seuss: For creating Whos and Whoville and the Grinch.

Icey cold temperatures: I know. Again with the cold. But let me ‘esplain Ricky. In the Central valley of California our winter weather is rain. Now, if we have warm temperatures we end up with this:

It hangs around for days and even weeks. NO SUN for days and weeks. Just dirty, brown gray.

When we have cold temperatures- low here is in the mid 20F/3C- fog doesn’t form. We have bright, shiney, sparkly days. I am happy to wear a hat and a jacket on my morning walk.

For my back yard: On stormy days like today, the colors as the sun peaks out make every glance out of the window a surprise. Instagram’s Weekly Hashtag Project was Liquid Landscapes. I had so much fun running outside to snap these today when I needed to clear my sewing brain.

During the Wholidays, people decorate their back yards. Simply magic...

Have a great week! What is your favorite post Thanksgiving/early December thing?

Ten Things of Thankful

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