Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thank You

Every year, along with the list of guests and the makings for a grand dinner, we begin to take inventory of the things we are thankful for. The typical items come to mind: health, family, good friends, etc. This year, the question was posed to us in church. We were given a small sheet of paper to write a note of thanks to God and one by one, we were all to get up as families to put our notes in a large basket as our offering.

My sheet of paper was too small.

I sat for a moment in the quiet stillness pondering what I had to be thankful for. I have a daughter who doesn’t speak to me. Our family is selling our home because we can’t afford it. The stress of preparing our home for showing has caused quite a few days of serious arguments with my husband. I wasn’t trying to be ungrateful or cynical. I was just trying to clear my thoughts and get to the things I really wanted to give my Heavenly Father a big high five for. And then it hit me… as it always does, just a little late. I thought back to the really hard times.

That’s when my pen took over.

I thanked God for the years that I had to ride my bike through the rich parts of Newport to get to work. It was a little embarrassing, but then I stopped and looked around at the bay and the ocean and the early morning fog rising above the waters. I wouldn't have ever seen that driving in a car. I thanked God for the Christmas that was going to be a huge disappointment for my girls. It was “my” year and I was broke. The school nurse stopped me one morning with a grocery bag in her arms stuffed with wrapped gifts. Because my girls were in the free lunch program, we had been “adopted” by the school. I was embarrassed for a moment. Then I began to cry, as did the nurse. I thanked God for the months I had to sit in our family room, alone and immobile, while my ankle mended. I had to scootch down the stairs every morning on my butt and barely got around the rest of the day on crutches and in a wheelchair. I couldn’t carry my baby around in my arms, nor could I run and chase my two year old. When I got the green light to walk on my leg again, I did! I started running. I picked up surfing. I got back on the mountain with my bike. I had a completely new appreciation for the pain of aching muscles.

“Thank you for every miserable moment…”

For every lesson. For every time He showed up to walk with me. For every heartache that is to come. Thank you. Through dripping tears, I walked up to the front of the church, and like the old widow with her two insignificant coins, placed my small offering into the basket in praise to the Father that has never let me down. I realize that I don’t appreciate the crap as much as I should. I try to remind myself that it’s not what happens, but how we respond that matters. But I'm human and I forget. That morning, He reminded me. I had done my best, and with His help, I stood there… incredibly thankful.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Living Your Life

It never occured to me that talking about death would elicit so many facial ticks!

Recently, I asked several friends who they wanted to have speak at their funeral. Who would tell their stories and make people wish they would have known them more? Harmless... uplifting, I thought... but no...

I forgot.

I forgot how scary death is to people. And I think I know why. Maybe because of our fears of not really living. Of course we are all alive... breathing, at least. But who is ceasing the day? I see my death as number line. I don't know how many little ticky marks there are left, but I know that there will be a final one. This line gives me something to think about when I choose what's imporant, where I'll spend my time and energy, who I'll let walk away. I don't see death as a looming evil waiting to take my last breath, but a reminder that time is slipping by whether we like it or not. And while we all have the same twenty-four hours, am I making it count?

Someone mentioned the Secret and Bad JuJu by bringing up the "D" word. Here's the real Secret... you WILL die and saying it out loud isn't going to make it go away. I think it's funny that we will walk through life and put so much time and energy into buying or having or consuming, but talk about celebrating a life you dared live and people get freaked. "Teach me to number my days aright, Oh Lord." It's a prayer... not a curse.

I challenge you as I have challenged myself to live a life that matters.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's My (Last) Party

Some of the things you start to think about around the mid-life years can be exciting. Some are just plain depressing.

In re-evaluating my personal goals, I always keep in the back of my mind that A) I'm not getting any younger, and B) I'm on a bit of a time crunch. What's the one thing, other than taxes that you can always count on? Yep, the D word.

I'm kind of a freak about planning. However, since the day you die is the one thing you can't really set a date around, I thought I'd get all the other details taken care of ahead of time. My family already knows that if there isn't a bagpiper playing Amazing Grace, I'm coming back in their nightmares! I even started gathering the photos for my montage complete with Green Day's Time of Your Life playing in the background, of course. Like I said... I plan.

One detail I recently thought about is: Who would be speaking at my last party? Unfortunately, that's not really anything you can bank on but if I could, I would pick:

Roger Burns: my mentor and friend. He knows just how to say anything. He makes you think while making you laugh. If I could, I'd clone him so you could all have a Roger. A long time ago, he told me not to be afraid to go out on a limb... that's where the fruit is.

Julie Hollenbeck: my old Blue Bird pal. We went all through school together, from first grade to graduation. We walked down the aisles at each others weddings and cried through each others divorces. I swear God put us together. I would walk through the gates of Hell for this lady.

My Children: all of them. I don't know what they would say about me, but no one can give you the full scope of who I am better than these little creatures. Good or bad, I hope they are there to see me off with a word or two.

Not my husband. He'll be dead WAY before me! (Love you, honey, but you know it's true.)

So who would speak for you? Tell the stories to the grandkids? Make people laugh and cry and wish they would have known you better? For the more dramatic, feel free to choose anyone, dead or alive, real or fictional, famous or infamous.

Rest In Peace,

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Throughout my entire life, I have fought the urge to be myself. Several times, I was unfortunately victorious. I was successful by societal standards, thereby earning pats on the back from people I didn't like. What was that about? Whenever I started heading down the path of my real persona, I found myself defending my thoughts and desires to those around me. It never dawned on me that I was talking to the wrong people. Rather, I believed I was wrong. So I retreated from my dreams, time and time again, only to be more and more disappointed in life and who I was not becoming.

I'm experiencing a huge paradigm shift right now. Some acquaintances are teasing me about a mid-life crisis, but I just keep saying it's my Awakening. They don't get it. But this time, I get that I'm telling the wrong people. The few that nod and understand are the ones I'm going to gravitate towards. For the first time, I'm trying to be who I really am. I'm writing and photographing from my humble but cute home office. I know I can do this. It's not going to be the lucrative career I left, but it will be a life of my own making.

My husband is having some of those moments, as well. He has the heavy burden of being financially responsible for us, one made even weightier by following conventional wisdom. A few years back, we bought a house. One that all six of us plus a business fit in. One that we sort of could afford. We were told we would "grow into" the payment. No one told us that meant axing your personal dreams in exchange for the American Dream. Owning (or at least being indebted to a bank for) a home has taught us some lessons. Aside from the many ways to enjoy Top Ramen, we've learned that a house is not a home. We've also come to learn that other's ideas of "owning" a home should not be inflicted upon us. We are selling our American Dream and moving on with our own. We may at some point "own" a house again. Regardless, I'm confident that wherever we live, our home will be filled with joy and laughter.

My children have been given to me by God. Some to be taught, and some to teach. I'm learning daily about my own limitations... they love to remind you about them. The oldest is technically an adult. Her meanderings seem to be a reflection of the funky wisdom I tried to pass on to her. Most parents prepared their kids for the SATs and college. I prepare my kids for life. And this one is living. I am inspired when I see her pursue her dreams, even though they don't align with society's norms. My second child and I are on a time out. We haven't seen or talked to each other since September. I don't think either of us minds that right now. Some parents get it. It doesn't make us bad. She and I are just teaching each other patience. My little ones came after I married my husband, hence the "huge gap" in ages. People actually think we had two kids, and then after ten years, looked at each other and said, "Hey, let's do that again!" No... sorry... It's a second marriage. You'd think folks would be used to divorce by now. We have a tight group of friends in the same family situation: one child from a first marriage and now a growing group of "round two" kids. We don't think it's that weird.

I go to a church that used to only have unconventional teenagers, which isn't that odd. Well... we ran all the boring people off to their newer, whiter congragations and took over. It takes blood, sweat, and tears to do the Lord's work, but it's exciting. My hiatus from volunteering is coming to an end. My husband and I need to think about our commitments to this group of awesome believers. I think once we leave this house, we will be more able to hear what God is asking us to do without the noise of life bogging us down. (And, I swear, Christians actually talk like this.)

I don't know what life is going to look like in the coming months... that used to startle me awake in the middle of the night back when we were living other people's dreams. Now, I'm positive we are finally living, if just in theory.