a conversation with my blender.

It was over the sink, while I rinsed out the gooey remnant of peanut butter banana muffin batter, when we started talking. Through that mundane act of repetitive rinsing, it slapped me upside the head like a bag of chocolate chips (optional add-in). Getting the blender fully clean means filling with water, pouring out, rinsing, scrubbing. Not once or twice, but multiple times. While the majority of goo breaks free fairly easily, there are still stubborn spots which take more elbow grease. Sometimes because it’s dried out and caked on. Sometimes because the gunk is in a hard-to-reach crevice. On occasion I’ve gotta get after it with a brillo pad. And sometimes you have to let it soak. For hours. But it’s never fully washed out with one rinse.

This is my life.

It all came to me in about two seconds. I’ve been spending the last couple years…rinsing out my life. Those who know me well will testify to these changes. I’ve washed out hurtful people, dysfunctional relationships, and negative practices. The cleansing water of therapy, yoga, prayer, iron supplements, and trustworthy friends have brought relief. But there are places in my life that are still in need of healing, both physically and spiritually. I have a stubborn spot in my neck/throat that’s bothered me for years. I have a tenacity for holding on to grievances that would be better off released. I’d like to learn how to truly forgive. I’d like to learn how to be less afraid. And what the blender basically shared with me was…rinse and repeat. That’s the only way you get out all the gunk. Rinse…and repeat. And then I thought, seriously? A life lesson from a BLENDER? For real? Why can’t I wash my dishes in peace, in that numbing, quiet place of mind?? In my annoyance, I thought a not-so-pretty adjective about the appliance in hand: “______ blender!” And in that very same moment – I suppose in retribution for my cursing it – that blender bit me. No blood drawn but the tip of the blade sure did make its point. Right into my middle finger (the irony). And immediately on the heels of that exchange, I sensed that gentle inner voice that I attribute to The Spirit say, “Oh, you love it!” And it’s true. I do. I appreciate how the physical world teaches me about that of the spiritual realm. How what I can see teaches me about what I cannot. Plus I don’t mind having conversations with inanimate objects 😉

Life is so much better than two years ago. Than a year ago. Than six months ago. Rinse and repeat. And every time, a little more goo lets loose.

Blender, you know I love you. Let’s make a smoothie later.

how bedeviled we are.

Earth school, back in session. Not that one ever really takes a break from it, per se. But that homeroom roll call came at me like a ton of #2 pencils on the first day of the fall semester.

We had just shuttled off the 9yo and 12yo to their respective schools and were driving to Starbucks. Isn’t that what everyone does every first day of school ever? (Every Monday ever?) Husband Brandon mentioned how our middle-schooler is becoming more concerned with appearances. Middle school can do that to a person. Through the intercom in the drive-thru, the barista cheerily asked for my order, and I practically sang back, “It’s the first day of school!” He enthusiastically replied, “Oh yes it is!” I pulled the car forward and checked Instagram, spotting a picture of Brandon and a friend. The friend had written sweet words about Brandon and it made me smile. I scrolled to see a snapshot of same friend and ME, but was interrupted by the barista handing over our drinks. As I pulled away from the window, I hadn’t had a chance to read her thoughtful words – I knew they were kind – but it only took that momentary glimpse of the photo to send me into a downward spiral of epic proportions. I didn’t like the picture. At ALL. I said this out loud to Brandon. “You look fine. You’re beautiful!” he replied. But I didn’t really hear him because inside I was crumbling. Before I drove out of the lot I’d been knocked off my feet by a landslide of emotion and the tears rose in full force. Brandon and baby girl sat silent as I drove home, hitting the turns a little harder than usual. I can’t recall what he said as I lurched up into the driveway, but I do remember retorting, “You don’t get it! You’re one of the pretty ones!” By the time I got the house unlocked and made a beeline for the bathroom, I was wailing. I closed the door behind me and raged like I haven’t raged in a long, long time. Cries rising up from the depths of my gut. When Brandon ventured near, I spat out, “Apparently our middle-schooler isn’t the only one concerned with appearances! He comes by it NATURALLY I guess!” In that moment of genuine heartache, feeling less-than, and sob-induced snot, I knew something significant was surfacing. But the only words that roiled up – directed to the Creator – were, “What do you WANT from me??? LEAVE ME ALONE!!!”

Here were all the thoughts racing through my mind: I wish I was prettier. I wish she hadn’t shared the photo but I can’t complain after she wrote such kind words. Why in the world did she post that awful picture?! I wish someone would tell me I’m gorgeous. But no one will. Because I’m NOT! I wish I didn’t care so much. I really REALLY wish I didn’t care so much. Why am I freaking out about this?? What are you trying to bring to my attention, God?! I don’t wanna learn this lesson! NO MORE LESSONS! For the love of all things holy, I NEED A BREAK FROM THE LESSONS!!! 

Later, I messaged my friend. We have a close enough relationship that I felt safe mentioning my dislike of the pic along with my appreciation of her generous sentiment. She offered to take down the image because she herself had had a similar experience. No, I said. My visceral reaction is a sign that I have something to tend to in my spirit. And that’s a good thing, right? To realize my vanity is running the show a little too often? It’s a painful process to come to that realization and then feel the need to address it. But when something as small as an unflattering photo yanks anguish to the surface and exploding out into the open, SOMETHING NEEDS TENDING TO. Time to pull on my big girl undies.

Throughout the morning I prayed: Please talk to me. Tell me what I need to hear. Speak the language my spirit understands and translate these tears to that which my mind can comprehend. I re-applied the mascara that flooded off during my fit, and the 5yo and I walked to the nearby college campus for opening day chapel. As the crowd gathered and started to fill the coliseum’s 5000+ seats, I observed.

There are lot of beautiful people on campus. It’s a college campus after all, permeated with youthful faces and energetic bodies. But it’s not only the students to whom I compare myself. It’s my peers. The women with jobs and outfits and attitudes. It’s a certain circle of people who are the center of everyone’s attentions, openly and repeatedly admired on social media and/or in conversation for their beauty, fashionable style, impressive title. I think of how I will never be One of Them. I will never be sought after because of my beauty, style or title. But I want affirmation too. I want to be told I’m beautiful. I want to be sought after for lunch dates and life advice and companionship. It seems the beautiful/stylish/titled ones have these things – these affirmations of their worthiness, if you will – ardently poured into their laps by their many admirers. And I’ve been guilty from time to time, for being so fascinated with Them that I forget there are hundreds of others around me looking for a genuine friend. I have laid my sacrifice of attention and affirmation at the feet of the lifeless idol of physical attractiveness (a pretty face, exceptional social influence, the outfit I want but can’t afford). We humans like to stare at that which glitters; this includes glittery humans.

A couple weeks later, Brandon and I attended a gala with friends. One of those fancy shindigs where we got all dolled up for an event benefiting a local museum. There were gowns and tuxedos, lots of laughing and dancing, and an open bar (which makes for a lively venue, whether or not you’re imbibing). The party rolled late into the night, and the day after, a few acquaintances posted pictures with their significant others to Instagram. The good women who shared photos – and are beautiful in a myriad of ways besides their physical appearances – got lots of compliments on their looks: “Gorgeous! Stunning! Supermodel!” This is what we do in the day and age of social media; it’s the easiest attribute to comment on because it’s what you can see. But I couldn’t bring myself to share a picture of my guy and me. I didn’t think I could deal with the lack of response on my photo. I rarely receive comments about my appearance, and compared to dozens of flattering comments on others’ pictures, sharing a picture felt like setting myself up for more heartache. I have felt that emptiness many times before and I don’t want to feel it again. I didn’t want to be reminded of my less-than beauty. But when I made my choice not to share a pic, I felt like the menacing voice inside my head – that one named Fear – had a little win.

How bedeviled we are with the passing circumstances of things like physical symmetry, clothing from certain stores, and social status. I can’t even verbalize how much it frustrates me. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating that which pleases the eye. Of course not. But it’s our obsession with it that confounds me. And OUR CULTURE IS OBSESSED WITH IT. We place so much value on people and things that appeal to our physical seeing sense that we let it dominate our spiritual intuitive sense, thus forgetting our responsibilities here on planet earth to love ALL, both the ones who cast off a sparkly shine and those who appear to have more of a…matte finish. This idol of physical beauty is PROLIFIC and impossible to deny. It’s also a challenge to remain unaffected by it.

In the western-world, north-American culture from which I write, physical beauty of face, body, house and home is exalted. People CARE. Even people who know better. Even followers of Jesus, who extol his words that outward appearances mean zilch. But you’d never know based on the way some of us behave, so taken with physical beauty and social status – our own and that of others – so fixated on it that we don’t even realize we’re bowing to it. It’s biological fact we are drawn to people with symmetrical faces and bodies. It’s a mating thing. Look it up. But as humans we should be able to transcend this animal instinct. I know some people have. Plenty have not. I’m not there yet either. I like to think I am. I do my best to be. But I can feel myself watching the winsome ones dancing through the crowds at social gatherings and being admired in my news feed, and I am just as fascinated as everyone else. And I know I’m not there when I see an unflattering snapshot of myself and fall to pieces.

Back to the first day of school. As I sat there watching seats fill, those words from Paul settled into my mind: I do not do the things I want to do, and I do the things I hate. I want to not care. But I do. Jesus didn’t give a flip about any of it. He extended compassion to people, all of them. It was kinda his THING. But exterior features or invites to the glammest parties or excessive amounts of star stickers (ever read You Are Special? Those silly Wemmicks!)? Not his jam. He didn’t care who was smart, witty, popular, pretty, or if someone was the best at anything. I do though, and it seems nearly everyone around me does too. And these two ideas are at odds with each other. I want to not care…but I care. I want to appreciate my physical self for the simple fact that it houses my self. My spirit. I want to not be so easily swayed by someone else’s shiny or dull exterior.

After chapel, the 5yo and I walked home, me still silently asking for some enlightenment. Brandon picked us up for lunch, and as I helped the 5yo wash her hands in the restaurant’s restroom, I discerned the song clearly on the overhead speaker, a tune by Ben Harper I can’t recall having ever heard: “Diamonds on the inside, she had diamonds on the inside…” Over and over. I can’t understand one other word he sings but those ring like a bell. Diamonds on the inside. And then I am trying not to cry again because maybe that’s my answer. The reminder of what has always been true: the realest of beauty comes from within. It cannot be measured with a modeling contract or number of likes on Facebook or by the amount of people who invite you to lunch. Why is it so hard to convince myself of this truth?

As the hardest naturally occurring mineral, diamonds have a stellar rep. They sparkle, yes, but to find them you have to dig deep. The word “diamond” actually derives from the Greek word “adamas”, which means “indestructible”. Indestructible. Now THAT is a character attribute I can get behind. And I love the comment of someone out on the internets: “…anyone willing to dig, will be rewarded.” Think about how rewarded we might be in our relationships if we could get past that top shiny/dull layer, down into the bedrock of someone’s soul.

Later that day, these words by artist Brian Andreas rolled up on my phone: “Nothing is teaching you a lesson. There’s only this: who do you want to be? And are you being that?” I want to be someone who values the inside diamonds more than the outside gloss. In others, and maybe most of all, within myself.

Time to dig.

runaway Doug – the usual with tea, 11.

GEG-featured-imageThis morning I am greeted by Doug, the two-year-old dachsund/terrier mix we adopted from a pet shelter the evening before. I have never described myself as a “dog person”, but I am now officially – for the first time ever – a dog owner. Pets were neither a part of my childhood – unless you count guppies…or that one year we had a weenie pup named Quincy who liked to eat cottonballs – nor my grown-up life, with the egg-ception of our hens (may they rest in peace). Besides here-and-there dogsitting for friends, we’ve never had a canine, feline, equine, bovine or any-other-ine living in our home. So it was with reservation and trembling that I adopted a dog. The tech at the boarding center said it would take Doug a few days to warm up to us but Doug turned into a “Jana person” within two hours of bringing him home. On me like GLUE. I admit it’s endearing to have a living thing love you so quickly but, um, I have a moderate amount of dog anxiety that extends waaaaay back to my toddler years. In other words, having a creature who wants to play-bite my hands, perch on the sofa directly behind my head, bounce around my legs like a circus poodle on a pogo stick, and whimper at the bathroom door while I’m showering is going to take some getting used to.

After eggs, toast and a supplement cocktail, I slice up apple for the 4yo, she climbs in our higgledy-piggledy stroller that’s wheels are literally about to come off, and we go on our two-mile hike around the nearby college campus. When we arrive home, the yard guys are leaving and our grass is once again trim. Doug finds one of the kids’ stuffed animals and turns it into a chew toy, sitting with his front paws on it, owning it. He licks the 4yo’s face and makes her giggle. They both sit nearby as I don mascara for a 10:45 appointment. The 4yo asks, “After you get your eyelashes on, will we go?”

We put Doug in the backyard with a bowl of water and make our way to the home of a friend. She has agreed to watch Larkin while I drive to the largest house of worship in Abilene and meet with a woman recommended by my doctor. He’s described her as a “savant” in all things spiritual and wants me to discuss with her both the spiritual and physical implications of fear. So, for an hour – the only hour we’re going to have apparently, as her ministerial roles are soon changing – she tells me about her own battle with fear and how she broke free from its grip. She lays hands on my head and my back and prays out loud for me, snapping her fingers to symbolize the breaking of alignment with the spirit of fear and self-condemnation. I wish she could pray for me like that every morning.

After I pick up the 4yo, she says “Mommy, look” and I glance in the rearview mirror to see her trying to snap her fingers and it makes me think of the anti-fear prayer. I buy a few groceries, a pre-made salad for lunch and ingredients for dinner. Hurrying back to our neighborhood to pick up the 8yo at 1pm – early release day for public schools – we head home. The girls make a beeline to the backyard, looking for Doug. But there’s no Doug to be found. He’s gone. I walk around the house, yelling his name and clapping my hands. Other dogs down the alley bark back at me, but no Doug. The berating of self begins immediately. I inspect the fence. Maybe he wriggled around the chickenwire rolled across the bottom of it. But if he did, I can’t figure out where. The gate is closed but not latched; maybe one of the yard guys forgot to push it tight and Doug nosed his way out. The girls and I walk across the street to ask our neighbor to be on the lookout. She doesn’t seem worried – says she’ll gladly drive around and search for him – but I feel I might burst into tears.

Back at our house, phrases like “failure as mom” and “you can’t even keep a domestic animal in your yard for 24 hours” start nagging at me. The self-condemnation and frustration swell so big I start angrily silent-mouthing curse words, and then I am full-on wailing. I cry so hard I think I scare the girls. They slip off to their room, and I text Brandon the dog-gone news. I feel like I alone am entirely responsible for this loss: I didn’t doublecheck the chickenwire, I didn’t make sure the gate was latched, I was away from the house too long. It’s all on me. My fault. Yet another way I’ve failed at life. There’s a teeny-tiny, naive mutt on his way to being roadkill and it happened under my watch. Brandon calls. I am weeping so hard I can barely hear him when he implores me to “please try and calm down”. Amidst all THAT, my ob/gyn’s nurse leaves a voicemail in a too-perky, gum-cracking tone explaining that because I have “extremely dense breasts”, they want a followup to my recent mammogram, a precautionary MRI done with women whose fibrocystic boobies (TMI?) make mammograms hard to read. Because if I’m already in a tizz about the dog running off, why not just ratchet up the anxiety a whole other level while we’re at it? I’m not thrilled about having to go lay in the MRI tube at 7:30 in the morning and having to wait on the results. A friend texts: “Does that mean you have firm breasts? I get why you have to get them checked but most moms of three would be super jealous of that!” She also reassures me that I am not a loser at pet care.

The compounded sleep deprivation from nights previous along with the massive crying fit exhaust me. While I sit on the front porch and force myself to eat lunch, the girls play with a neighbor friend and I text a pic of the puppy to friends who live in the neighborhood. The 11yo arrives home, canvases a few streets looking for Doug, and eventually joins me on the porch. I’m feeling the need to be outside for as long as possible. Delicate emotional states require sunshine and warm breezes. Helps take the edge off.

dense breasts and dougI sit on the porch for at least an hour. As the day heats up, I exchange my jeans for shorts. But still I roast. Sweat rolls down my legs and between my…extremely dense breasts. We all end up back inside and the rest of the afternoon consists of much moping and commenting about how Doug is gone, possibly forever, and how we need to buy another dog immediately. Everyone is disappointed. At some point, Brandon texts: “This afternoon officially blows.” He also reminds me to breathe. A quote on Pinterest reminds me to breathe. Breathe.

Chicken curry soup on this 90-degree day makes complete sense and that’s what I stir up for dinner. The 4yo loves it but the other two don’t and thus are provided with the opportunity to assemble their own meals. The 11yo heads to church with a friend. The hubs and I drive to the volleyball court at Sonic to hang with the high school students we mentor. I’m so weary with sorrow I don’t even consider playing ball; I sit sidecourt and talk to others who’ve been benched due to various injuries. The girls and I order ocean waters and a cherry slush. By the time we leave, the sun has set and the air has cooled. Spending another hour outside has again worked its magic and calmed me.

Back home, there are baths – lots of sand to rinse off – and the 11yo is feeling emotional about runaway dogs. The hubs says, “It’s nobody’s fault that Doug ran away. Doug made a decision. We don’t know what kind of life he’s had these last two years or what’s driving his choice to run off.” I feel like laughing when he says “Doug made a decision.” It sounds ridiculous. But it also makes me feel less guilty. We say a prayer and hug each other and the kids shuttle off to bed.

One of our high school friends – let’s call him Ferris Bueller – texts and asks where we met tonight; he would have come if he’d known. He is on our side of town – his second day with his drivers’ license – so, since he missed our Sonic gathering, I ask if he wants to drop by and say hi. While we’re waiting on him to show, I shower off the sand and the sad. I wonder why I had such a visceral reaction to the dog escaping our yard, why I completely berated myself as both parent and pet-owner. And I am overwhelmed by a thought: maybe my instantaneous and exceptionally emotional reaction to Doug’s disappearance happened because…it’s been an all too common occurrence in my life these past few years. Several people I deemed dear friends – people I thought would be friends for life – ran away. Maybe Doug’s escape triggered something in me, pushed itself into that healing-but-still-tender wound of being abandoned by those I trusted. Even with plenty of food and water, a safe place to sleep, and an affectionate family, Doug ran off. With my friends, I did what I could to provide a safe place for them as well, one of authenticity and affirmation. But still…they ran off. Who knows what kind of life Doug had years previous? Who knows what sort of life those used-to-be-friends are hiding in their hearts from decades previous? Just like Doug, they made a decision. And they chose to run. Not because I’m a lame dogowner or friend. They just wanted something different. They wanted more of something I couldn’t provide. More adventure or attention or thrill. More room to run. And that lust for more drives some away from places of love and safety. Probably the case for all of us, on some level. But boiling it down: it wasn’t me. I didn’t fail at the friendship. That puppy – just like those friends – simply wanted something else. Something besides warmth,  safety and a bowl of water. These thoughts spark within me a brief flash of anger. We exchange love and affection…and then you RUN AWAY? But after such a long day, it is too much for my dog-tired mind to ponder for long.

Bueller hears about our markedly emotional afternoon but we don’t discuss it in detail. The teen talks about matters of importance to 16-year-olds, showing us a video of how he almost did a faceplant at the gym. After half-an-hour, we shoo him home; it’s a school night. We turn on the Tonight Show and watch Fallon and comic David Alan Grier mimic Trump and Ben Carson, and their silliness draws a chuckle from my dismayed spirit.

I am tapping out the beginning of this post in the bedroom when Brandon walks in, pulls the laptop away, closes it and sets it aside. “You’re falling asleep,” he says. I am.

 

what fills in the gaps between those photos on instagram…

IMG_7339Our family of five took a road trip to the Texas hill country a few weeks ago. I posted four pics to Instagram from the venture, highlighting our favorite stops: Bouldin Creek Cafe in south Austin, the LBJ Wildflower Center, Storm’s Drive-In in Lampasas, and the Colorado River. Shortly after arriving home from our excursion, I came across a few articles lamenting the “life-editing” that takes place on social media, and I pondered the photos I’d shared from our trip. They certainly made our weekend outing look like a breeze. And while we DID have a great time, there were hiccups too.

My “life-edits” on social media are not intentional. I don’t sit down and consciously decide I’ll share only photos of my family’s happiest moments, cheeriest holidays, smilingest faces. But it happens anyway. Who of us wants to display the mundane moments of our everyday, the mountains of laundry or the spraying off of chicken poo from the back patio? Who snaps pictures of those frightfully embarrassing moments that happen in a household? Like when you yell at your kids. Or hide out in your bedroom stress-eating a bag of Cheetos (So what if they’re made of corn, the most socially irresponsible vegetable EVER. I ATE THEM. And they were delicious.). Does anyone want to see a shot of processed cheese particles on my fingertips? Nope. Does anyone have an overwhelming desire to see my laundry piles or backyard patio? Doubtful.

We leave out the monotony, struggle and despair because we figure who wants to hear? And really…who wants to hear?? A couple years ago I posted a letter to my 20yo self on Facebook regarding the pain of feeling excluded. A friend messaged me, teasing: “Remind me to never piss you off.” When I dug a bit at his comment, he admitted he read my paragraph as passive-aggressive and said I should have confronted in-person whomever had excluded me. Our conversation was pleasant and I was happy to hear his perspective but I also stood by my words, directed to no one in particular and the result of years of feeling on the periphery of various communities. But it was clear my friend didn’t feel social media was the place for my outpour of sentiment.

While some certainly attempt to paint a particular picture of their personas, I think most of us just prefer to focus on the positive. Clinging to upbeat moments help us navigate other lengthy and/or painful life challenges. Naturally we want to share our joy with others (or even just keep a record of those moments to share with our future selves). Some of us enjoy the hilarity our kids provide and like dishing about their funny antics. Some of us love being outdoors and sharing the wonder we find there. Some of us appreciate all things home and like to display its comforts. Food, art, sports, crafts…social media is a way to reveal what is dear to us.

Thus we share our favorite moments, however brief their appearance. The unfortunate by-product is that we see only each others’ smiles, friends, parties, vacations, honors, award-winning children, extended families who all live in apparent peace and harmony, and seemingly solid faiths. And we miss out on the other equally valid and very real aspect of life – each others’ tears, loneliness, bruised feelings about not being included, tight budgets that don’t allow vacations, shame, angry kids, extended families who aren’t so harmonious, and crushing doubts.

So while the photos I shared were a true part of our fun weekend outing, I thought I’d elaborate on some other moments that comprised that same trip that I didn’t share because, well, see above.

  • We watched a cyclist bounce across the pavement of a busy road after being hit by a car, frantically called 911, then attempted to pacify and reassure our terrified daughters.
  • The friends who had planned to travel with us were unable to join due to a sick child.
  • The resident cats were semi-obnoxious. Pretty sure one of them sipped my drink.

    IMG_7329

    Feline hair, everywhere.

  • Watched a cab t-bone another car in downtown Austin and re-lived the biker-hit-by-car nightmare with the girls.
  • Lost count of how many times we had to remind the kids: “Stop yelling.” Everything in public is spoken at yell volume for some reason.

    IMG_7362

    Yell. Yell. Yell.

  • Did I mention a not-so-welcome guest joined me – JUST me – all weekend? SEE??? These are the things NOBODY WANTS TO KNOW.
  • A napping toddler urinated in her carseat.

    IMG_7536

    Probably peeing.

  • The 7yo ended up with a mysterious brown funk on her elbow. Sniff check required. You know, in case the “brown” was ____ . It wasn’t, thank our lucky Lone Star.

    IMG_7439

    Ew.

  • Neither Brandon nor I slept much, due to incessant coughing and overactive mind, respectively.
  • The kids ripped a giant hole in the rental home’s trampoline.

    IMG_7465

    Or maybe it was me.

  • And on Sunday morning, a near vehicular travesty of our own. A blur whipped into the open passenger window and brushed across my left arm. When I glanced over, all I saw was a black, blue and yellow SOMETHING dart between the console and Brandon’s right hip. And all I could think was ARACHNID. Since neither of us knew what we were dealing with naturally I started shrieking and Brandon’s driving turned erratic as he gripped the door frame in an effort to keep from sitting on a creature that potentially had pincers or stingers at-the-ready directly under his bum. Upon screeching to a halt, we observed an obviously terrified swallowtail butterfly holding on for dear life to Brandon’s shorts. I’m not sure what traumatized her more: my insane screaming or her near-miss of being smashed by a human behind.

    IMG_7530

    Our pal Ryan’s reply to this pic: “That butt looks fly.”

All that to say, our trip was so much more than the four carefree-looking photos I posted on Instagram. The moments that filled in the substantial gaps between those snapshots were real life, the sort of life that is always flowing, just like the Colorado River that cuts through the the middle of Texas. Thought you should know.

why it’s been quiet here…

GEG-featured-imageTwo of my three blog fans recently asked why I haven’t been writing much lately. I have, I told them. I just haven’t been sharing. A lot of my writing from the past year is an oversized, not-so-pretty jumble of missives, due to processing several recent relationships of mine that have unraveled in very different ways. I’ve felt abandoned and/or betrayed by some I once called close friends. The mess of all THAT has been plenty. In addition, lesser acquaintances devoted to those with whom I’ve experienced conflict – loyalists to the other party, as it were – have made their disapproval of me clear. In those acquaintances’ show of support to my used-to-be friends (which I get), I’ve felt discarded on a secondary level. Because the fallout of those relationships has consumed so much of my mind this past year, I’ve spent plenty of time writing about it. Just not HERE. Because…anger and deep hurt have been driving out a lot of my words, and I can’t see how sharing rage-infused commentary is at all productive. And because…is it fair to share someone else’s behavioral stumbles, even if it’s anonymously? I’m perfectly fine sharing mine, but not sure it’s my place to share others’. At the same time, those relationships HAVE contributed to my story in very distinct ways. That’s my truth. As salty ol’ Anne Lamott says, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” But how to tell the truth without prompting more discord? The thing is, as much as I sometimes want to share my experiences – the truth of my life – because I know it would resonate with someone else out there, and while YOU might not know the antagonists-in-question, THEY would know. Why dish out more hurt? They’re people with feelings and egos, just like me. Dealing with their own demons in their own time. Just like me.

Despite my quietness here in this online forum, I’ve done plenty of talking about my heartache. My trusted life partner, therapist and a few friends have helped me work through the intricacies of these convoluted relationships. But to publicize it? I’ve decided there’s no need. (Not to say there isn’t a WANT. When it feels like someone is getting away with bad behavior, my knee-jerk reaction is to tell the world. You act like a ding-dong, the world shall know of your ding-dongedness by way of justice-seeking Jana Banana!!!) Dumping out relational injustices online feels like the social media equivalent of “making a scene”. Like when someone’s waiting to buy concert tickets and someone else cuts in line and a brawl ensues? Making a scene ensures that others recognize injustices are being committed. I so, SO get that. But I’m not a scene-maker. That ain’t my thang. I don’t see how it contributes anything positive to the world at large. So why would I do it in slo-mo on my blog?

This is a hard call that I’ve been wrestling with for a while now. Many of life’s most interesting experiences – the ones that often most nurture inner growth – include other people. But I just can’t seem to make peace with the idea of sacrificing another person’s feelings at the cost of a riveting blog post, even if their behavior has been less-than-stellar. It’s not worth it. I like what poet Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg says on the matter: “Even if you’re writing about a family member who physically abused you, the writing will be strongest and most transformative if it’s written from the perspective of telling your truth rather than judging and convicting your torturers. What’s the difference? Usually, it’s perspective — having had enough time, space and healing pass through you that you can tell the story that wants to be told.”

That’s where I am. In this place of passing through, from the acute sorrow and want to convict, to a position where I can look back and say, ‘Well that SUCKED. But I moved forward anyway. I survived that loss. And that one. And that one.’ And in the midst of the grief, I lived my life and fed my kids and did boocoodles of laundry and ran errands on no sleep and laughed really hard when I saw my husband tango with another man at the Christmas party. And over time (NOT overnight), the desire to tell the world how so-and-so broke my heart begins to diminish. Funny how it works that way.

All the personal relational ruckus has thrust me into this faraway, removed-from-society place of self-introspection. I’m kind of naturally like that anyway, but this experience of loss after loss after loss of companion – and why those losses have all been so searingly painful – has directed me to examine myself to a depth I haven’t before. My hope is that this soul-searching will help me recalibrate how I interact with people in general, especially those closest to me, including myself. Maybe myself most of all.

So. I will scribble out my discontent privately for as long as I need. Jot it out in my journal and tap it out on Claire (the MacBook Air). Write the ache right out of my heart, and – I’m hoping – pen forgiveness back in. The other day I noticed I had typed out several pages of thoughts that made no mention of those frayed relationships. I take that as a good sign. There’s been some healing. A little, anyway. It doesn’t mean my spirit is settled about what’s happened. I know I’ll visit those wounds again (and again) and wonder why things shook out the way they did. But “time, space and healing” seem to be doing what the poet suggested: giving me new perspective. The hurt isn’t fueling my discourse as much. Which means it feels safer to share my words again.

three-day getaway.

On the first Saturday of the new year, I drove into a brisk and windy Austin for an opportunity to rest, write, and eat sugary dessert things whenever I wanted. Exactly one year before, I had visited the city for a “writing retreat” that ended up being more retreating than writing. This year I came back to the same cozy bungalow in the center of town. Presenting my reflections from the weekend:

Upon my arrival, I made a beeline (as yours-truly tends to make beelines in large metropolitan areas…with exceptionally scenic, unplanned detours) for Mount Bonnell, the highest natural point in the city. The view is stupendous, and I haven’t been up there since moving away twelve years ago. I was not feeling good (headache, heartache, all-over ache really) but I wanted to take in the vista of the curving Colorado River framed by scrubby evergreens and shiny blue sky.

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While the view of the countryside was expectedly fab, I ended up way more entranced by all the peoples. The diversity of cities like Austin – all races, many languages, various forms of ethnic dress – fascinates me. For example…this man’s banana pants.

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Be glad it’s only a shot of his backside.

Apparently one of my ancestors did some vintage zip-lining from the peak of Mount Bonnell. Must be from where I acquired my athletic prowess and risk-taking sense of adventure.

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While chillaxing at a friend’s house on Saturday evening, I first-time watched “It Happened One Night”. LURRRRVED. When Peter Warne (aka Clark Gable) charmingly explains to Ellie Andrews (aka Claudette Colbert) how a man undresses and says, “…after that, the pants should be next. Here’s where I’m different! I go for the shoes”, I laughed out loud. Doesn’t take much.

Pumpkin pancakes, veggie omelet and grapefruit juice at Kerbey Lane? Why yes, I believe I will. “You are the Sunshine of My Life” playing in the background? Yes, of COURSE. Driving in circles around downtown trying to find a parking place? Yes, that too. Blasted one-way streets.

I cannot escape Central Market for under $50. Good thing I had Christmas cash with me. All digested into my belly via apple caramel cookies, gingersnaps, mascarpone cream cheese torte, and blueberry pie. I bought real food too. Gah.

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Had to be done.

Yo. Prius. You parked way too close to my driver’s door. But I forgive since you appear to have a highly developed sense of humor.

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Arresting.

The bungalow where I’ve stayed the past two years is, as Goldilocks might describe it, just right. Within walking distance of UT campus and oodles of restaurants, the secluded yard is adorned by bamboo, a hammock, a trampoline, and several Buddhist statues. The upstairs accommodation surrounded by timber makes me feel like I’m snug in a nest, waiting for a mama bird to fly nourishment my way.

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My temporary nest amid the bamboo.

Except the mama bird is me. Such a strange sensation to be nestling in, with no wee ones waiting for me to drop bugs in their beaks. I acclimated within an hour 😉  For anyone who needs a getaway, whatever your reason, make a reservation HERE. All by your lonesome. Or take a friend, whatevs. Just make sure your friend is ME.

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Having to text my out-of-town hostess asking 1) where the extra sheets were, 2) how to unhinge the screen door, and 3) for reassurance that I would not carbon-monoxide myself into the afterlife due to my ineptness at working a gas stove, made me wonder if she scribbled my name into the High-Maintenance Guest category.

There was absolutely zero plan to delve into the categorical history of the Beat Generation writers. But that sure IS what I did for well over an hour. Um, how did I get to 40 without reading Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs and that whole posse? They pretty much pioneered the social revolution of the 1960s…HELLO?!?

Because I drove into town with a head and heart full of aches, I made it my subsequent mission to pursue head-clearing and heart-warming activities. I went for a walk in the late afternoon sunshine, stood silently at the lectern of the nearby seminary chapel, read Anne Lamott’s newest book, and did a little writing.

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The giant contact lens used by God to watch humanity roam the earth, on display in Shelton Chapel.

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Buechner, Lamott, journal, my laptop Claire.

I also jumped on the available trampoline. Of course I did. I mean, I HAD to. It was THERE. I then attempted the challenge of snapping a mid-jump, action-shot selfie. Which means I started laughing. The thing about a 40-year-old woman who has birthed three 9-lb babies bouncing on a trampoline while giggling uncontrollably is that her aptitude for pant-peeing goes up…waaaaaaay up. It might have happened two or five times.

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What I look like while involuntarily relieving myself mid-air.

Spotting families-of-five about town made me really, REALLY miss my own. I could barely make eye contact with the children, much less the babies (!!!), without a huge swell of Love blasting my heart. I like my getaways but they make me miss my people, the ones who bring me joy AND drive me batty. Taking a break from my crew reminds me how much I like having them around.

I lived in Austin for three years and never ate at Bouldin Creek Cafe. HOW??? The coffee, hash browns, and veggie omelet were so on point that I went back the next day and ordered a lavender – yes, LAVENDER – mocha and a breakfast taco surely assembled in the heavenly realms.

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See??? REAL food!

The friend who recommended Bouldin Creek mentioned that he used to live nearby so, just for kicks, I tracked down his old pad. It has blue sparkly spires and a moat. I wasn’t surprised. It’s Austin after all.

You can take a break from your outward circumstances (job, family, hometown) but grief, fear, Life will follow you everywhere. Heartache, brainache, backache will follow you everywhere. There’s just no leaving it behind. So…the self-medicating thing? I get it. Dealing with my own stress and grief usually entails chasing after 1) indulgent foodstuffs and 2) excessive affirmation (which I’ve pushed for to embarrassing measures with some people), but I see the appeal behind all the other things that give humans a temporary buzz or sense of control: shopping, neurotic cleaning, sex, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, extreme exercise, even violence. But they never address the root of one’s fear or anxiety. I’ve spent hours, dollars and so much energy obtaining things that only temporarily quell the ache. When the sugar or shopping or whatever buzz dwindles, when the momentary moment of a seeming sense of control fades away, the ache remains. What does genuinely heal a wound? Bandages only hide the trauma. What heals?

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Being pensive about life and such.

On the way out of town, I stopped at the campus of Riverbend Church, where I once worked at the preschool. There’s a sweet chapel set apart from the main campus, behind it a memorial garden. The ashes of hundreds are buried there. Enveloped in trees and tranquility, a path winds down the hill through the garden and bottoms out at a creek forking off from the Colorado River. The sun was shining and the air was crisp so I moseyed down into the canyon, gravel crunching under my feet. I followed the trail through the woods, looking up through the naked branches at the gorgeous blue expanse, and all I could hear was water cascading through the creek bed. The experience was so otherworldly I felt a fluttering through my middle and half-expected some ancient being to materialize from the forest. (Tried not to dwell on the thought of a mountain lion materializing…) Compared to where I spend most of my days, I guess it WAS otherworldly. Just the deep, rustling quiet of creation. Highlight of my trip. IMG_5033

One of my fave bloggers often describes life as “brutiful”, equal parts brutal and beautiful. That’s just what the weekend was for me. Life is never either/or. It’s both. All the time. So was my getaway.

This final shot I snapped from a bridge in the memorial garden. It pretty much describes where I feel I am in the process of becoming myself, how to be me wholly and genuinely, transforming from a person of insecurity and resentment into one of compassion and contentment. I don’t know how long these sorts of journeys are – I suppose they’re different for everyone – and, let’s be honest, I could get hit by a truck tomorrow and game over. But as far as walking the path to spiritual health here in this world, this is kind of where I feel I am. Onward.

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lessons learned, 2014 edition.

GEG-featured-imageSpotted these words last week from blogger Mandy Hale: “I hope you find some time to get really, really quiet….to sit silently in front of your life and contemplate how magical it really is, before we turn the page and greet a new year.” I like the sound of that. And I realized…thanks to my parents, I do just that every December. Sometime around the century-turn, my mom and dad requested that their children each write them a letter reflecting on “lessons learned” during the previous 12 months. So, for about the last 15 years, my brother, sister-in-law, husband and I have all gotten quiet, sat silently, contemplated our lives, and turned out the resulting Lessons Learned letters. Here’s my list for 2014, minorly-abridged (some things are a tad too personal for the blogosphere, you know?):

  • Things happen for which there is no explanation. The sooner one can accept this hard truth, the better.
  • For many years, I’ve placed too much security in and excessive value on my interactions with certain people. This needs to change.
  • If you go to Austin by yourself for a writers’ retreat, you might get a little writing done. You also might overbuy on treats from the nearby Central Market.
  • I try hard to be authentic in my speech and actions. I expect others to do the same. Not everyone does.
  • People will say/imply that they are in relationship for the long haul…and then they won’t be.
  • When several close friends fall away, you may feel there is something inherently wrong with you; when several other close friends insist that there is NOT, you will try to believe them. If you instead alter your perspective and consider that God may be directing you into a sort of necessary wilderness – a place of deep growth – the loneliness will be easier to accept. Welcome even.
  • As much as I crave for others to express affection for me, when everyone pours it on for my 40th birthday within one weekend, while appreciated, it will also reaffirm the fact that I do not enjoy being the center of the attention.
  • Friends who see you at your silliest and saddest, most honorable and most wicked, and still pursue relationship are The Very Best Kind.
  • If you text your doctor and therapist and tell them you are in despair due to not sleeping for four nights in a row, you will be a priority patient and land a spot in their offices within hours.
  • It’s hard to pursue relationship with anxious people when you yourself struggle with anxiety.
  • Care for yourself. As much as others love you, they can’t know every desire of your heart or the depth to which those desires extend. No one can care for your spirit like YOU can.
  • Dealing with grown-ups acting like children turns out to be good prep for dealing with children acting like children.
  • If you are going to wake up at 6am EVERY MORNING, you might as well write something.
  • Anger is perfectly acceptable. But if you sit with it too long, it turns to bitterness and resentment. No sense in staying there. Move along.
  • Really glad I didn’t go to Europe for seven weeks with three children under the age of ten.
  • Loved having seven weeks with my girls while the boys traveled. Loved us all being reunited.
  • While your handyman husband travels overseas, the yard sprinkler will fritz out, the city will deliver a citation for “low-hanging vegetation”, and a hailstorm will pummel your one-and-only car.
  • Don’t try to outrun the hailstorm.
  • Having a 10yo playing baseball means you’ll be cheering him on wrapped up in a blanket this week and sweating in the bleachers the next.
  • Your 7yo will take a gymnastics class, seem older and more independent, and it will freak you out a bit.
  • Having a curly-haired, dimpled 3yo living in the house will be an endless source of entertainment.
  • Surviving hard circumstances and relationships will show you that you’re stronger than you might have initially thought. Even if circumstances remain the same, you can allow yourself to be transformed into a more content, compassionate, forgiving being. This sort of change is painful, which, I suppose, is why many people resist. But after observing this sort of metamorphosis in others (and the very beginnings of it within me), I think this is where I see Love in its most complete form.
  • Some folks really wanna micromanage the details. Let them. While at times their behavior may annoy, it also means one less thing you have to think about.
  • If you hear a teenager say things about herself out loud that you think about yourself inwardly, you will carefully consider the advice you give her, knowing that if it holds true for her, it holds true for you. Are you willing to take your own advice?
  • It takes time to build trust. If you break someone’s trust, it will take more time to rebuild it.
  • Practicing yoga might incite prolific crying.
  • There is a time to homeschool; there is a time to public school.
  • The Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth are worth every penny for admission.
  • A relationship with a close friend will present you with the (heartache-inducing) opportunity to figure out where exactly you’ve been placing your self-worth all these years and question why you have esteemed the approval of specific people for so long. This event will make you contemplate those in your life who extend the hand of welcome – grace – even when, especially when, a relationship is in a delicate spot. Because of your own experiences of receiving grace, you will think a lot about how to be a person who offers it to others.
  • I could live in New Orleans. But only in certain neighborhoods. And not during summer.
  • You will drive into the heart of Dallas sick and sleep-deprived to pick up a friend from the airport so you can talk in the car for three hours uninterrupted on the way back to Abilene. It will be one of the highlights of your year (and you will tear up typing that into your Lessons Learned letter).
  • I’ve spent so much energy getting to know other people. Maybe it’s time I get to know myself.
  • Watching Abilene’s Christmas parade from the 2nd floor of The Wooten might beat watching the Macy’s Parade from a condo overlooking Central Park.
  • My life partner isn’t perfect but he’s pretty perfect at helping me handle life.
  • The simple practice of looking at strangers and praying for them (“May you know love and peace. May you be free from suffering.”) will change the way you feel about strangers. In a good way.
  • When your heart tells you to wait…WAIT.
  • Healing takes time. time. time.
  • Today, I believe.

trash turned treasure.

IMG_2350One Wednesday morning a couple weeks ago, a friend texted me a snapshot of a photo from several years back that she presently has displayed on her windowsill. The framed pic is of my friend Mandy and her young daughter Tatum at Cook Children’s Medical Center; Tatum had just been diagnosed with leukemia. Adhered to the frame is a note I wrote Mandy during that Christmas season, the words of Jesus to the father of an ill child: “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Her message was a note of simple thanks, and I immediately wrote back: “Thanks for reminding me to believe. It’s been a challenge for me my entire life, on several levels. I love that my note has encouraged you over the years; thanks for encouraging ME today.” Mandy replied: “We recently spoke at church on the verses in Mark when the father of the sick boy says, ‘I believe…help my unbelief!’ Any other verse I would have said no to speaking. But we live this verse daily. We believe! Help us stay there, Lord.”

Later that morning, I booted up Miracle on 34th Street so I could have a festive holiday flick playing in the background as my toddler and I festooned the tree. In and out of the room, I missed half the movie, but happened to be watching with rapt attention when Doris Walker says to her precocious daughter Susan: “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. Just because things don’t turn out the way you want them to the first time, you’ve still got to believe.”

Then, as I strolled into our house of worship that evening, I glanced through the open blinds of someone’s office and observed the colorful block letters across the top of a wall: BELIEVE. I hadn’t noticed them before. Okay. OKAY. I got it, Spirit. You want me to believe. You want me to believe. Believe WHAT?

Rumination commenced. For the next three days, I rolled that word over and over in my head. Believe. Believe…that God exists? that there is a Divine Entity permeating our lives? that Love took human form to give humanity a primer on how to be? that Jesus came back to life? that the note I have hanging on my mirror: ‘I am well. I am healed. I am whole. I am Loved.’ is true? that I really am good enough, in my fragile/broken/neurotic/sometimes anxious state of mind? that humanity is rife with good and truth and light and Love, even when the networks and news feeds insist otherwise? What am I to believe?

I didn’t come up with anything. No more coinciding texts-from-friends, movie scenes, and wall signs elaborating on an answer to my inquiry. The curious synchronicity of Wednesday’s events began to fade.

On Saturday morning, our family-of-five and two friends drove to a nearby field we had spotted a week earlier growing a crop of plastic baggery. We donned our gloves and started plucking litter from the thorny weeds. I noticed a nondescript index card wedged into the dry, dormant grass. I could see there was one word written in the middle of the card in another language. My first thought was Russian. Because if it’s not English or Spanish, it’s all Greek to me. Turns out it actually WAS Greek. Possibly written by the hand of a Bible major at the nearby Christian university. With the telltale signs of being a flashcard gone AWOL, I flipped it over and almost dropped to my knees. There I was, standing in the middle of a field, suddenly weeping, my skin goosebumping, my son yelling across the plastic bags at me, “Mom! You okay? What are you looking at?” Of all the fields, of all the flashcards, of all the words…it was THAT field, THAT flashcard, THAT word. What are the odds? The Greek was πιστεύω. Its translation? I believe.

When I relayed the whole story to my 10yo, he exclaimed, “That’s so WEIRD!” When I asked his thoughts on what I needed to believe, he replied, “That God is real?” His dad responded: “Believe in God. Believe in yourself. Believe that this period of your life will pass and you’ll be better because of it. And believe that your husband is awesome.” Such wisdom 😉

I don’t know exactly. But I don’t need to. And I feel pretty okay about it. It wouldn’t be God if there wasn’t some mystery surrounding Her, right? I don’t need to know right now. It’s enough to be in the middle of a barren west Texas plain, the wind whipping around me, and find a holy index card (that now has a prominent spot atop our upright piano). Makes me think of Elijah hiding out in a cave, searching in the wind, earthquake, inferno…and finding God in a whisper. Makes me think of shepherds in a field over two thousand years ago, being spoken to by a heavenly presence. I wasn’t guarding sheep, just picking up trash. But maybe a heavenly presence was whispering to me too. Right now it’s enough to know that Someone is talking to me at all.

This sort of thing rarely happens to me. Or maybe it happens often and I’m just not tuned in enough. Whatever the case, I can’t help but think Someone Somewhere was trying to get my attention. IS trying. Yours too. The details – the people, the events, the flashcards – of our lives are different, but the Teacher is the same. Believe it. I do.

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spinning madly – the usual with tea, 10.

GEG-featured-imageBreakfast is comprised of scrambled eggs, buttered toast with homegrown honey, and jasmine tea. After the 10yo and his dad shuttle off to school and work, the 7yo and I settle into the sofa and read from the graphic-novel-like Action Bible (about long-haired Samson), McGuffey’s Third Eclectic Reader (for oral reading practice), and C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. I cannot read many of the passages about Aslan without choking up a little. Okay, a LOT. This paragraph gets me weepy: “…there they saw Aslan and Edmund walking together in the dewy grass, apart from the rest of the court. There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying but it was a conversation Edmund never forgot. As the others drew nearer Aslan turned to meet them bringing Edmund with him. ‘Here is your brother,’ he said, ‘and – there is no need to talk to him about what is past.’”

Around 10am, the girls and I load up for a visit to the doctor. Over a week ago, two fingers on the 7yo’s left hand turned swollen and bloody thanks to a case of eczema gone out-of-hand (get it?). Today is a check-up to see how things have progressed after a few days of applying a topical steroid. As we sit in the waiting room, a woman with a blonde-haired child who appears to have Down’s syndrome signs in. We all end up in the corner with the toys, which includes a green, plastic toddler-sized rocking horse. My daughters stand back and take in the girl’s mannerisms, while I try to decipher her grunted words. Her mom calls her Deborah so I ask, “Deborah, how old are you?” She holds up both hands, one with her thumb folded down. “You’re four?” Her mom chimes in, “She’s seven. But that’s the first time I’ve ever seen her hold up her fingers like that!” And then Deborah is pulling the girls’ purses and jackets from my lap, pointing for me to climb on the rocking horse. I laugh and say, “I don’t think I’ll fit. It’s gonna be awkward for everyone in the waiting room if I get stuck there.” Her mom chuckles. Deborah throws herself across my lap in an effort to hug me, so I reach forward and we do. “She never meets a stranger,” says her mom. Somehow we start talking about homeschooling, and she mentions that their family is home on furlough from the mission field in Guinea, one of the countries in the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak. When she adds that they arrived home only two weeks before, I feel a flash of fear. She then comments, “People are so afraid -” and I can’t tell if she says “here” or “there”, so I ask her to repeat the sentence, to which she replies, “People are so afraid HERE.” I feel a bit ashamed about my reaction…and my home country’s reaction. As grateful as I am to live here, we Americans sure are an anxious bunch. Is this the by-product that comes with a lifetime of first-world privileges and luxuries like hot water, books, shoes, and decent healthcare? An undercurrent of fear that it can all slip away in a heartbeat?

I want to ask Deborah’s mom more questions but then we’re called back, so instead I say “Nice to meet you, Deborah.” Her mom says, “Have a good afternoon.” I reply, “Have a nice life!” and we both laugh. What are the odds of us ever crossing paths again and me getting the rest of her story? Probably nil. This spinning through each other’s lives…so strange and intriguing to me.

Back at home, Skylar works on her math lesson while we listen to the Narnia film score (which makes me cry too). Larkin illustrates a birthday note for a friend; I wrap the gift. Nachos are assembled for the girls’ lunch. I eat a chocolate/cherry/cashew bar while waiting for Brandon to arrive home so I can go to counseling. It’s been three weeks since my last appointment, so a whole bunch tumbles out this time around: thoughts on how to raise children in a grace-filled fashion, on how to stay on the same page in marriage, and about working through dissonance with friends. On the way home, I buy a Cherry Coke and veggie sandwich from a downtown eatery, and while the girls rest, I tune the tube to Dr. Phil. Haven’t watched that guy in years. Today the show is about sex; specifically, women’s reasons for having it. Interesting 😉

Our sitter shows up at 3pm, and I leave to shop a bi-annual consignment sale started by two sisters, both friends of mine. While I’m perusing the goods, I hear a song by The Weepies that’s the favorite of a friend of mine: “…and the world…spins maaaadly on”. I love the song, but the friendship is on the backburner, so it makes me sad too. For a grand total of $50, I purchase a small turquoise-painted desk for the 7yo, a vintage-looking red coat, a pair of earrings, a bracelet, and a scarf. Realizing I’ve left my phone at home, I zip back to get it, then return to the sale to work a six-hour shift. On the way, I stop to take some shots of dozens of American flags set out for Veterans’ Day near a downtown museum, flapping and snapping in the wind.

My volunteer responsibilities for the evening have me assigned to the check-out desk, and my table partner is someone I’ve worked with before. We quickly resume our conversation from the last sale, whenever it was, six months ago or maybe a year. The next several hours are spent giving my best friendly hello, scanning tags on clothing, and asking people if they want to pay cash or card. A local dessert vendor is set up in conjunction with the sale, proffering strawberry and apple breads, orange-cranberry-chocolate-chip cookies, and pumpkin whoopie pies. PUMPKIN WHOOPIE PIES. I take orders from my table partner and one of the entrepreneur sisters; between the three of us, we buy almost every delicious option. The whoopie pie is ALL kinds of scrumptiousness and definitely NOT gluten-free (pretty much given up on that since I spent a weekend in New Orleans two weeks ago). About an hour later, I cruise around the corner in my floral work apron to order dinner from a local joint. The young greeter is so kind and helpful that I text my friend, one of the co-owners, to let him know I’m impressed with his hire. I order the shrimp-and-grits plate with a side of sweet potato fries. As I’m strolling back to the sale, I overhear one of the patrons sitting at a table outside: “…and that was the end of some really good sex.” Kinda sorry I missed the first part of that story. Or maybe not.

After I nosh on the shrimp, I climb up into the window box to snap a pic of the sale so I can promote it on Instagram. My table partner picks up a call from her dad that her mom is ill and she disappears into the night, visibly rattled. Another sale volunteer takes her place and we do the get-to-know-you chit-chat in between checking out customers. A couple women show up in the crowd around whom I feel uncomfortable, for different reasons. My perception is that neither of them care to interact with me. If I could view them as women with deep-seated insecurities, like me, maybe my heart would be softer towards them. But this evening I just feel a deep, loser-ish sadness, an annoyance with them that they aren’t friendlier, and an annoyance with myself that it bothers me so much. While thinking on such things, I load the new-to-me desk in my car and try to combat the berating voice within reminding me of my loser-ish status. When I arrive home around 11pm, I’m trying hard to focus on my sweet-deal finds, the several kind people I crossed paths with at the sale, the general feeling of camaraderie between the volunteers, and the pumpkin whoopie pie…but I’m irritable, focusing more on the women who I perceive don’t like me. I want to learn – I MUST learn – how to extend love to people for whom I feel little compassion, those who have inflicted pain on me or the ones I love. I want to learn – I MUST learn – to love my frienemies. (“Enemies” has always struck me as such an overstatement in my modern-day, first-world life. An enemy is someone who comes running at you with a sword or cannon or something, right? Even people who have wounded me deeply, I have trouble calling them “enemies”. So I’ve started going with the more current “frienemies”. Just makes more sense in my book.) I guess these opportunities give me plenty of practice at learning that virtue.

I sit on the loveseat in our room and shoot off steam to the hubs for half-an-hour. He does the same about some goings-on in his life and I listen in return. Then I eat a cocktail of chocolate pudding and sleep supplements, and we watch the Halloween episode of “Modern Family”. It’s 1am before I switch off the light.

And the world spins madly on.

drooling over yoga.

GEG-featured-imageLet me set the scene for you. I tiptoe into a yoga session with about a half-dozen other class-goers, all of them quiet and relaxed, meditating themselves into a yogaesque daze. The only space left to roll out my mat is near the front. Great. The front row is NEVER where I want to be. I’m not the most coordinated woman around, and I don’t need everyone else watching me lose my mojo in the dojo. But…it also happens to be the spot nearest the Kleenex box. Which I take as a sign, since I’m about 7-to-1 making it out of yoga class withOUT crying. (My instructor says the waterworks are totally normal. TOTALLY NORMAL.)

The room is long and narrow, with a hallway running parallel to it; two windows are cut into the wall between the room and the hallway to let in some light, lend some openness, whatever. Rolling out my mat, I decide I want to peer out into the hallway via the window and have a looksy because, as my 10yo later puts it, “You’re like a little kid.” So I lean forward…SMACK! into a pane of glass. All the class-goers gasp, startling out of their supposed meditative states when the sound of my forehead slamming into glass rings out like a gunshot. I continue to set up my area, avoiding all eye contact and confess, “Yeah. That was me. That was my head hitting the window…there.” Super-fun trying to explain that to a bunch of strangers. There is uncomfortable shifting around amongst the others. Another concerned instructor asks if I am okay. I say I’m fine, just blushing. When I joke that this will make a great Facebook status, the girl next to me snickers.

Then, as if that isn’t enough, somewhere amid all the posing, I drool on my mat. Not once. TWICE. (Possible head trauma?) And of course I followed through on the expected weepfest. It’s nice that they turn the lights down low, so as to conceal all the blushing and drooling and crying. Sometimes the instructor massages our scalps, ears and shoulders during class. That night I was the only one. Can’t imagine why. Afterwards, someone asked again if I was alright, and I said, trying to redirect the conversation with a compliment, “Those windows are SPARKLING CLEAN!” (Unlike my mat, by the way, which is now covered in saliva.)

I’m not worried. At the end of every class they all say “namaste” which translates: “I bow to you”. No matter if you’ve tried putting your head through a pane of glass, can’t keep your spit in, and use up all their tissues. Those yoginis love me. They have to. It’s what they do.