I believe you.

I lived with an order for protection for nearly a decade because of an abusive ex-spouse. Leaving was the truest act of courage I had ever done. I accomplished it with the assistance of 4 squad cars and good, steady friends who repeatedly told me, “Don’t look back.” The stalking of myself, my son and family members after that night only ended when a brave judge jailed him for violating the OFP.

I see the violence

Even after he moved to another state years later, I still scanned parking lots and public places for him and his car whenever I left or entered a space – even when I was out of town for work or on vacation. Constant vigilance is a learned habit that you take on for sanity and safety. Unlearning it takes significantly longer. I still catch myself scanning parking lots and I have no idea what he drives anymore. It has been nearly 27 years since our divorce. More than a decade since I have seen him. And still.

I don’t share this for myself, and I don’t share it easily. I share it for every woman who has walked this path. I share it because of the recent public statements of the ex-wives of a White House staff member who are being doubted from the highest office in our land. I share it because no woman would publicly tell a story of abuse that wasn’t true. I share it because the stories they told echoed my own. I tell it because the truth of their stories needs to be believed – by everyone.

A man can dress well, perform well at work, have advanced degrees and still hide dirty secrets of abuse. An abuser does not look like the devil. They look like a guy you work with, a neighbor who mows his grass, a man who sits in a pew beside you. This is how they hide. In plain sight.

I believe you

Jennie Willoughby, the ex-wife of the WH aide, who has been unwittingly thrust into the public eye, wrote an essay for Time. She ended it with powerful words, only those who have been abused would know to say to those suffering abuse.

“It is real.
You are not crazy.
You are not alone.
I believe you.”

Read Jennie’s essay.

If you are being abused or know someone who is, here is a hotline/website that can start you or them on their journey from pain.  You can leave.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Dropping Some Truth

LaMonte M. Fowler

rant-warningI feel the need to drop a little truth on y’all. So buckle up…I’m about to be politically incorrect.

We don’t need to take America back. No one stole it. It’s right here…you’re sitting in it. Chillax.

Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall and we’re not going to deport millions of people and break up families. If you think either one is a good idea, you’re not smart and probably not a person I want to hang out with.

We don’t live in a democracy. Technically we are a Federal Republic. But in reality we are ruled by an oligarchy. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. Reading will do you good. You probably need to do more of it.

FoxNews, CNN, and MSNBC have an agenda and are not “fair and balanced” or in any way unbiased. I’ll reiterate…read more. Read newspapers (even online…

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“It’s Through the Cracks that the Light Seeps In

Open doorI wrote this as a guest blogger for a friend’s blog in 2015.  That blog is no longer active so I am re-posting it in its entirety.

The post I wrote for my friend’s blog is tenderly intimate for me. However, I have learned that the only way to share yourself with the world is to do it with bold honesty. Anything else is a waste of time.   Here is the post.

I knew I was broken at an early age.  I didn’t have words for it when I was ten and lost my dad to a heart attack and my two younger sisters in a house fire eight months later.  I knew I was different.  So did everybody else in my small town.

My brokenness was further compounded by a mom who in her own devastating grief, retreated into depression and alcoholism.  She forbade any mention of my dad and sisters.  My younger brother and I breathed in grief every day and breathed out the lie of a smile.

My brokenness spent every day with me but never where anyone could see it.  I was splintered inside but outside I was whole.  Humpty Dumpty in a bodysuit.

Late the night of my 11th birthday, I sat alone in our apartment at a kitchen table that some kind soul had donated to us after the fire, wearing clothes that another generous person had provided.  I considered the last few months.

It was one of those moments where you can remember how the shadows looked on the wall, the sound of the kitchen clock, the sticky spot on the table top.  I was confident that I could spend my life in a place of sadness and most people would support my swirling in my grief without any expectation of mending.

Yet, something nudged me beyond that thought.  I saw my brokenness, glued back together.  Not the same as before, but reconstructed.  It made me know that I could also choose to be hopeful and forward focused, to be a bright spot in the world, to let the spirits of those I’d lost live through me.  No one had spoken to me about this and I have since concluded that it was a God moment.  In that moment, in the shadows of my 11th birthday, in an apartment that held nothing but donated items that were foreign to me, even the clothes hangers, I chose to use joy as my crazy glue.

That shout of whisper from God was my light through the cracks.  As life has moved me through the next 45 years, it was the transformation in my heart at that little table for two in a family of three, that guided me and kept me out of the corner of decrepit sorrow.

I moved from the small town.  The brokenness moved with me.  In new situations, my story was hard for others.  Their reactions were hard for me, a loud reminder that I was still broken behind my veil of fixed.  It was easier for all if I focused on the person I was trying to be at the time, a woman who lived in the moment and was forward focused.  While I had chosen to live outside the pity pit, I still lived in hiding, afraid of my brokenness.  Fearful it would be discovered by others or worse, myself.

My discordant lifestyle was always brought to the fore when asked how many siblings I had.  Did I tell the truth and then have to explain?  Or was my response the one brother everyone had heard stories about?  One answer seemed to betray my sisters and the other displayed my brokenness.  I would leave the question unanswered and move to another topic.

A dislocated shoulder, a physical brokenness, finally brought the dissonance of my life to a cacophonic stop.  It halted all my busyness and the brokenness in me couldn’t be contained.  I could no longer keep the pieces in place and soon they scattered all around me in a splatter of depression.  I began the difficult task of putting myself back together with no help from the king’s horses or the king’s men.

During this time, I learned about the Japanese tradition of repairing pots with gold, called kintsugi.  Kintsugi means “golden joinery” in Japanese.  The Japanese don’t throw away broken pottery.  They collect the pieces and put them back together with a resin of gold powder.  Instead of trying to hide the cracks, they celebrate them.  kintsugi 2Often a piece that is fixed by kintsugi is considered more valuable than an unbroken piece.  Something that has been fractured has a history that makes it more precious than an intact piece.

I felt a kinship with that moved me to a new understanding, a different level of transformation.  If shattered pottery can be made more precious when it is put back together with its cracks highlighted in gold, what about me?  It gave me the courage slowly bring my brokenness from my darkness and instead, celebrate my cracks.

It was a stuttered hesitancy of acceptance.  It scared me to show what I had always kept away to myself.  It was all I had, all I was.  What if my brokenness was found to just be an ugly mess and all who accepted my shell of fixedness found my cracks repugnant?  I did what I always did in the face of the unknown.  I leaned back in faith.  So much had let me down in life, but never God.

I have found the light in my cracks and it is filled with self-truths, overflowing with richness and a story that allows others to know we are all broken in some way.  Broken and still beautiful.  Broken and still functional.  Broken and still whole.

And so this transformation shines from darkness.  My friendships have deepened, my relationship with God has intensified, my encounters with others no longer superficial.  People respond to my broken wholeness with their own stories and together we build hope in each other.

I tell my stories to my children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and the world, leaving nothing unturned, no question unanswered.  My hope is to pass along a legacy that urges them to embrace their brokenness.  That within the embrace there is wholeness. I want them to look for the light in their cracks, fill the cracks with the gold of healing and revel in the beauty of their story, never doubting that the truth and our faith will always be our safest haven.

I am all that I am, without apology.    My cracks are filled with the gold of genuine acceptance and the light that streams through fills me with the strength of wholeness.  May be we all be blessed with the light that shines through our cracks and the golden joinery of our brokenness.


A Red Door

Red front doorToday, on my 56th birthday, I painted my front door red.  Its been something long on my list of things but something else kept getting in the way.  When I woke up this morning, it was on my mind and despite all the many other things I could have done this morning, I dug through our large pile of paint cans, found the Red Pepper color I wanted and patiently taped and placed drop cloths and all the other necessary prep.  To know me is to know this prep work is usually done by my husband, Chris, and if I’m relegated to do it, patiently is not the style.  Today, though, I did it with a calm sense of peace.  I know, odd.

I started painting with nothing more on my mind than completing a long overdue task.  As I painted over the never inspiring clay color I thought was perfect a couple summers ago, I began to see what a cheerful hello this door was going to be.  And its a color that works with all seasons and holidays, from red spring tulips, to summer bursts of all colors, to patriotic holidays, as a back drop to fall and perfection at Christmas.

This post, though, isn’t about home decorating.  If you have ever painted anything red, you know it is never a one coat deal.  If the stars are shining in a perfect pattern, it might be a two coat job.  Since the sun was out instead, my door was a three coater.  Which gives you plenty of time to think.  And talk to the dog.

I haven’t posted since March, when our world became chaotic with additional family members staying with us and the need to complete our lower level so there is room for everyone.  Doing all the work ourselves took time and an abundance of patience.  None of us really knew exactly what we were doing and it was a continual problem solving event punctuated with hard, physical labor done by muscles mostly accustomed to keyboarding.  Last week, the bedroom downstairs was completed.  We have the living space and bathroom to complete but they are both close to being done as well.

Now, everyone in our house has their own space.  A swell of relief has washed over all of us.  Its not easy blending an adult child’s family into their parent’s home, even when its a temporary situation.  Separate routines, family traditions and different perspectives have to find ways to co-exist.  Its not simple.  Even when everyone is trying their best to be considerate.  Especially when too many people in too small a space bubbles over.  We are all growing into a new sense of family and getting to know each other in intimate and more insightful ways.

Yesterday, I reclaimed my office that my brother had been temporarily using.  I gave him my desk.  All of my files are electronic and I sit with a laptop in my lap to work and write.  I don’t need a desk.  Its an extraordinary concept that was a blinding flash of the obvious.  Without a behemoth of a desk taking up prime real estate, I moved my father in law’s chair into the corner and discovered a whole new perspective of my office, of doing work, of thinking about doing work.  Today when I complete this post, I will finish organizing it to fit with this fresh focus.

With maintaining the work that has fed us for the last many years, finishing the basement and melding a new family system into place, my business shutter was closed.  It has frustrated me these long many months, but I have learned things during my frustration that have changed me.  I have learned how to frame a room, construct ventilation, hang sheet rock, tape and mud the miserable sheet rock.  I have laid floor, designed carpentry projects, wired outlets and puzzled through problems I never would have thought I could think my way through.

Through it all, I have learned that nothing scares me anymore.  We have created something in the last several months I never imagined I could do, whether physical labor, understanding mechanical systems, or working closely and mostly harmoniously with my husband and brother nearly every single day.Quote Courage

I knew where I wanted to take my business at the beginning of the year.  Now I am certain to the bone I have the courage  to do it.  This lapse in blogging, in business movement, in forward progress has become the gift of courage, a propeller for daring. A cheerful red door – the perfect birthday gift to myself.  Life never ceases to give us what we need, when we need it, over and over again.

Out of Chaos, a World

Lord Byron said, “Out of chaos, God made a world.”  I’m clinging to those words, and others, that promise that the messiness of the unexpected is the catalyst for the beauty of change.  Featured image

I started this year with plans that were less described in detail but more felt in heartbeats and an off key singing soul.  I made progress that looked like a path of Billy from the Family Circus – movement in riddled paths passing by scenery that were road post signs telling me I was right where I needed to go.

I had pulled into the cocoon of changelings, heartily wrapping my arms around the gooey darkness knowing transformation was waiting for me with beautiful wings.

I have a sign in my office that says, “We make plans.  God laughs.”

It started with a blog post that never posted about asking for help.  It was a good post, heartfelt and meaningful.  It was something I’d wanted to say for a ages.  I spent a long time writing it, making it reader worthy with quotes and pictures.  As I posted it, the electronic universe seized it into its grubby grip and dragged it off into the nether lands of lost blog posts.  Sigh.

In the same breath of everyday life, one of our adult children called asking for help.  She and her children needed a place to stay for more than a few days.  The expected stay has shaped into the length of a calendar.  The kind with 12 months and pretty pictures.  While not the ideal for any involved, all agree it was the practical and needed response for the situation.  If honest, no adult child wants to return home and no parent of adult children are eager to fill up the bedrooms in their house with boomerang grown children.  And we were all honest – out loud and to each other.  With kindness.

Doubling the size of our household did more than fill bedrooms.  It demanded routine and structure, happily missing from our home of three adults, two cats and a dog. In our home, the definition of days was never really necessary as we are either retired or work from home.  My retired husband has happily proclaimed our house as one where every day is Saturday.  Our new household requires parking arrangements in the driveway and keys left where others can find them in case the first one out the door is someone who didn’t expect to be the first.  It requires thoughts of school bus schedules, work schedules, dinner planning, homework and making room for everyone to have enough space to breathe.  It snatched away quiet moments for blog writing and simple rhythms of middle aged life and replaced them with adapting to unanticipated lifestyle disruptions and vocabulary lessons from teenagers.

There is a richness in this chaotic, three generation filled home.  Its an intimate understanding of each other we would never had experienced or known.   Its a cultural appreciation course with a mash up of music and reading material and TV shows.  Its a sharing of meals with grace and robust conversations.  Its a knowing of love that walks beyond words and seeps into the softness of souls.

In the midst of household growth, we have fast tracked finishing our lower level with the slowness Featured imageof doing it ourselves.  We have tackled drawing plans to get city permits,
framing walls and corners, building venting systems for heating and cooling, installing lights, running electrical circuits, installing plumbing and sheet rocking.  Several times I’ve almost listed Home Depot as my home address.  We have puzzled through how to do the many tasks together, my husband, my brother and myself, surprising ourselves with our ingenuity and patience to work through what often presented as impossible.  In problem solving together, we are creating more than extra living space.  We are strengthening our ties with each other, building sturdy walls for rooms and unbreakable bonds.   We have had great help from people we love much and who have demonstrated their love for us through cuts and bruises and so much time.  There is a richness in this messy, dusty endeavor that echoes with God’s laughter.

It is all a detour from my January thinking.  I have come to learn on our many road trips over the years, that detours yield unexpected and treasured spots we have returned to on purpose when the detour signs have long been taken down.   At first my stubborn eyes only saw the disruption from my expected and highly anticipated journey.  My dad used to tell me as a little girl when I was looking for something to, “Open my big blue eyes and look.”  I’ve come to see, with big blue eyes, that this is just more adventures in the cocoon.  There is a richness in the gooeyness.

Inside a Dark, Messy Cocoon

Can’t you just hear Maya Angelou speaking these words?  “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  Her voice was as much the beauty of her words as the words themselves.Featured image

I started before the new year challenging myself to change, personally and professionally, because I am not a tree.  My head had been dancing with so many thoughts and ideas for so long and it was just time to turn thoughts to reality.  So I started this blog, as a mile marker of progress and a place to gather thoughts.  It started with this quote. “Find what you love and let it kill you.”  As I said in that post,  part of the purpose of this blog is to not be on this journey alone.  It is also equal parts keeping myself honest to my aspirations and keeping it real to myself by capturing the days.  I’ve discovered too, that another purpose is not to candy coat the path of change.  I have the vocabulary to make it sound pretty.  But I also want to document the messy moments, the unsure times, the doubting days, the panic attack soundbites that nag my head screaming I have truly lost my mind,  Already, on this 10th day of a new year, I have experienced all of that.

My progress is not as easily marked as a child’s height changes.  I’m not convinced that I’ve made any definitive progress at all.  But I am finding that I think of my world and its work, in a different way.  The writer in me has finally been loosed.  I will claim that title as what I am.  Those of you who have supported this thought for years, I have finally arrived at that place you have been nudging me.  I have three books in the works, with two more percolating.  I have several years of Advent Devotions and training curriculum that I have written and have been published, albeit in limited form.  I no longer feel that I am unequal to claiming writer as one way to describe me.

Writing this blog has helped me get into a better routine of writing and a more conscious way of thinking of writing.  The daily work I did for my church’s blog (http://easterprays.com/2015/01/06/holy-epiphany/) in December, created some discipline in my writing routines.  I know writing is more than inspiration.  It is work – work that I love, but work.  Like a good marriage.  (So the State Farm theme song just crawled through my head.  And I hate State Farm.  Squirrel!)

Beyond my writing, my desire to add social consciousness as a crucial element of my work, to create work that gives back, is driving my thinking about my work expansion.  When you don’t deal in product, in making widgets of some kind, its a fuzzy thinking moment.  My brain is working through this and I think I have found a direction, but there are obstacles in getting it off the ground right now.  And the two year old in me with sticky fingers and pudgy knees is chanting, “I want it NOW!”  I am trying to take the time the universe is forcing on me and better sculpt out the vision.  Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”  I have my block of stone and am in a state of discovery.   This is what I tell the two year old in me to quiet her down.  Chocolate works more frequently than reason.

I have started again on my website.  I have never needed a website as my work came mostly from word of mouth.  But now, as I plan to venture outside my comfortable backyard and trek into others, I need an electronic face for people to see. To move forward, I will need some online tools that need a website connection.  So here I am at the corner of Do I Have to Do This and Need.

I created a website design a number of years ago when these ideas were first test drove and before I had to park them at a wayside.  I have been trying to update the old design images and formats using the same design ideas and layouts.  Finally, the blinding flash of the obvious has peeled my eyelids open.  I need to let go of the old and start over.  Sigh.  I find it thrilling to creatively re-think how to put myself out there in the electronic work force of the internet.  Its just those tedious steps that have to follow all that creativity that make my eyes spin like a cartoon character.  And, since I am trying hard not to bankrupt us, despite my husband’s encouraging perspective, I have taken on the development task myself with a deadline.  Soon, I will have that tangible to point to as proof that I am doing something.  The A-type in me, whose heart surges on plans and deadlines, is dancing for joy.

But today, inside the cocoon of change I am in, it is dark and messy and not at all clear.  Before this, I was busy, busy, Featured imagecaterpillar busy until I pulled myself, stretching and twisting, into the cocoon.  It is a cocoon of my own making, one I fought hard to create, pulling it up over me, like a blanket from all else but the change.  Watch this short clip:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gsm_ZyJz_s

For a doer, the cocoon can be a suffocating and frustrating moment that seems endless.  For the doer that is trying to let change occur and let nature do its dance, it is a moment of breathe and breathe again, trust and trust again, still and still again.  Yet, I am not afraid.  My leg is twitching and head is banging on the brick of metamorphosis, but fear is not the impetus.  I find this varmint of a cocoon intriguing, it is messy and gooey, it lacks clarity and is maddening but not frightening.  It moves without direction, but with purpose.  Still, I’m not one bit of scared.  Which sings to me that this is the note I’m supposed to hold until the music takes me to the next.

You probably can’t hear the song.  I don’t think much emerges from inside the cocoon until it is ready for new life.  So, you’ll just have to trust me when I say there is singing in here.  The words are garbled, notes get lost in the goo, the darkness steals some of the crescendos, and all the jiggling around makes a note go flat here and there, but there is music.  And it beats to the sound of emerging wings.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  Just like every other rote statement we make, the true meaning of the words get lost in the repetition. When we say Happy New Year, are we thinking “I hope they are happy all year long?”  Most likely, they are words of greeting, used the first time we see someone at the first of the year.  It is an acknowledgement that we have entered a new year.  But what about that elusive state of happy?

Featured imageWhat makes you happy?  I did joint interviewing with colleagues some years ago.  When we were deciding interview questions, one colleague insisted that we add the question, “What makes you happy?”  The skepticism of the rest of us was evidenced by the silence in the room when it was suggested. (This is a Minnesota way of saying, “Are you nuts?”)   We were unsure of what the answer would tell us that would help us judge the candidate’s appropriateness for the position.  However, in the spirit of cooperation (a sanctioned non-religious religion in Minnesota) we let the question remain on the list but relegated it as the last question asked.

It was a show stopper.  That one innocuous and unexpected question, gave us more information about the person than any other question we asked.  Given that the candidate was applying for a job that required daily interaction with people in crisis, it was important to know things beyond degrees and practiced answers to typical interview questions.  Some looked at us agape.  Others paused, and asked for a minute to think.  One man looked at us and said with a knowing smile, “That’s an excellent question.”  Their answers to this one question were often the deciding factor of whether they would receive further consideration,  It is a telling answer.

What makes you happy?  What is your state of happiness?  How do you get to a life that makes you happier?

Only you can answer what makes you happy.  There is a survey you can take that tallies your level of happiness, based on scientific research analysis.  The survey can be found here.  http://happycounts.org/survey/GNH/.

How do you get to a life that makes you happier?  In my research, I learned these are things that lead to greater happiness:

  • Be fully presentThe Key To Happiness Is Letting Each Situation Be What It Is Instead Of What You Think It Should Be
  • Be curious
  • Be energetic
  • Be joyful
  • Find time to relax
  • Get focused
  • Find balance

There are things that lead you away from happiness:

  • Greed
  • Hatred
  • Delusion

When I was in high school, I was Linus in the play, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”  There was a song that we ended the show with, “Happiness.”  Each character listed things that made them happy.  Here’s a link to the song.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKKjqzkGo3o  I will never forget, sitting on the edge of that stage, singing that song and feeling that sense of happiness that circles you in warmth.

So what makes you happy?

A Crayoned List of What Matters

I gave up New Year’s resolutions decades ago.  I could never keep them and that made me feel even worse than living with what I was trying to improve.  Chris and I have a strategic plan meeting each year on or about January 1st.  We don’t call it that but it describes it – loosely.  It makes it sound too formal though.  Nothing in our life is formal.

Featured image

It started by accident one New Year’s Day many years ago while we were having dinner at Macaroni Grill.  We were waiting for our youngest son to join us.  Time was a concept to him back then, not a stiff reality.  Times have changed, somewhat since then, but on that day, we found ourselves with an hour or so to entertain ourselves.

Macaroni Grill is one of those restaurants that covers its tables in white paper and leaves you with a few crayons.  Their colors are limited and the condition of the crayons can be questionable – but as the quote says, broken crayons still color. Chris and I have very little drawing skills.  We use the crayons as rudimentary instruments to better explain things to each other that would look like hieroglyphics to someone else.

On this day, we were lamenting the fact that there were so many things we didn’t get to do during the year.  Remember, I’m a list maker and so is he.  So we started writing in crayon the things we wanted to do in the coming year as a reminder to not forget to do them.  Before we left the restaurant, I ripped it off and took it with us.  It was a very oddly shaped piece of paper, which I’m certain made my husband a little nuts as he prefers more precise edges.  (This manifests itself with wrapping gifts and cutting out coupons.  In our world, if your gift comes in a gift bag, you’ll know I wrapped it.  If the coupon is ripped out of the paper, I had a hand in that too.  Even if he’s tearing out a coupon in the grocery store, he will edge it against the counter so it has neat edges.  It never fails to make me smile.  Its why we work well together.  We consider our differences as the other’s charms.)

We had this oddly shaped, folded piece of paper that kicked around our kitchen for the whole year.  We mostly kept in a metal container we called, “the box”.  It was where we put things we didn’t know where else to put so we wouldn’t forget about them.  Menus, invitations, things grandkids left behind, birthday cards we wanted to mail but it was too early, odds and ends.  Every month or so, we’d go through it.  I’d like to say it was a purposeful activity but it was usually because we were looking for a lost item or it was overflowing.  Every time we went through it, the list would show up.  We’d unfold it, read it again, comment on things we had done or hadn’t or things we had forgotten we wanted to do.  Then we’d go back to whatever had propelled to “the box” in the first place.

By the end of the year, we had done most of the things on the list.  There had been no action plan, just this oddly shaped, crayoned list that came to the surface of our days every now and then.  Like all good things, we got more organized with it, breaking it into categories,perfecting it.  Chris even typed it up once or twice.  The list got longer.  It didn’t show up in our days, just languished in a notebook or a computer.  Occasionally, we’d mention it.  Then they closed our local Macaroni Grill.  There are other ones, but they are further away and aren’t “our” place with the servers we’d come to know well.  The more we perfected and polished the process and stepped away from the spontaneity of that first list, the worse we have become at accomplishing the items on the list .Last year, we just never created the list.  And there are many things we wanted to do this past year that we didn’t get around to doing.

This year,we are going back to the list but with a different approach.  We are not going to a restaurant.  We do much less eating out than we used to do.  Trying to eat better and all that growing old stuff.  This year we are having a pork roast at home because somewhere in my childhood I was taught that pork on New’s Years Day meant good luck.  My mom always made a pork roast with sauerkraut. We’re still debating the sauerkraut.

We are casual people.  A crayoned list is more our style.  We are going back to the spirit and form of the original list  At some point on New Year’s Day, we are going to our local Caribou coffee shop with a big sheet of white paper and these great twistable crayons I found.  You have to change with the times, but sometimes improvement doesn’t make it better.

Since this year the list will be a nice even piece of paper, we’re going to hang it on the back of  our office door.  That way, Chris won’t wince every time he sees it.  It is a place where we will see it occasionally but not all the time as our office doors are usually open.  But we close them enough of the time.  Enough to nudge us yet not push us.  Enough to encourage us, not yell at us.  Enough to remind us to do what matters most.

And to think this post was going to be about vision boards.  Tomorrow perhaps.

A Fine Mingling of Letting Go and Holding On

There are certain things I will never let go of, that I will take with me into the afterlife, tucked into my soul.  Its not like I’m trying to haul a pile of gold with me, so I think I can sneak it in.

The ongoing paper doll sagas that my sister, Carla, and I created that involved upending every hard backed book in the house to make rooms that turned into houses that stretched from my room through the hall and into her room.  Our combined imaginations took us all sorts of places every day.  I never remember being bored.

The indescribable love I experienced when I gave birth to my son, Patrick.  He was born in a mess of health complications, two months early and loudly complaining, despite his undeveloped lungs.  Nothing in the world prepares you for that moment when the tiniest of beings wraps their fist around your finger, tying your heart in knots that will never be untangled.

Featured imageThe comfort of knowing I am loved by my husband, Chris, for all time.  It is that simple.  It is that momentous.

The words of the birthday card my mom gave me the last year she was alive, that told me beyond a shadow of doubt that she loved me fiercely, despite our tumultuous relationship.

The stealth love of a brother, Brad, the two of us the last of the original six.  No matter what, we are there for each other.  We might not be happy about it, might voice our displeasure, but still, there.

There are also many things I have had to let loose, not by choice but by circumstance.  The first fracture of heart was my dad, who slipped into the sky while I was riding a school bus back from Girl Scout camp on a Friday afternoon.  At the tender age of just turned 10, when dads still know everything and can fix anything,  I saw him, stilled by a heart attack, sitting in his car.  But when I think of him, I think of a man who played badminton with us the weekend before when none of the other adults would.  I think of him in motion.  I can let go of his motionless body but not his ever bounding soul. A fine, fine mingling.

Every single doll or toy or dress made by my mom that I had until I was 10, almost 11, and a house fire ravaged my life and took with it my sisters, Carla and Penny.  That was the day I learned, things don’t matter.  Don’t matter at all.  My mom, my brother and I moved on to other houses, other toys, other dolls, other dresses.  My sisters were irreplaceable and the hole that day burned in my heart will never close until it beats its final sound.  I have let go of the sadness, of the what ifs, of the anger, of the interminable question of how to celebrate their birthdays and honor their passing.  I hold on to the moments of having sisters, doing the silly things little girls do, of seeing their eyes looking at me from my nieces faces.  I hold on to knowing that as far away as they are, they are near.  The finest of minglings.

There are so many others that left this world in that glint of light and shadow.  I carry pieces of them with me, poked in my pockets, checking to make sure they are still there, shining.  The brilliant laughter of Colly, the wisdom and truth seeking of Keith, the young dreams of Wendy, the sardonic wit of Bill and the big hugs of another Bill, the heart of Jason, the love of Deb and Don, the spitfire soul of Kaitlynn, the preacher who said it like it was Skip, the friendship of light in Jordan.  They spray painted my heart with a graffiti of love and it can never be erased.   A pocketful of minglings.

I have let go of asking “Why?”  It is a question with no other answer than, “I don’t know.”  No matter what words you use to ask why, the answer always comes back to the brittleness of not knowing.  I hold onto to the questions of “what” and “how’ because they have shown me how to move forward, to rebuild a shattered heart, to celebrate birthdays when the years have ended.  A practical fine mingling.

I hold onto the love of friends, of wild angels and cousins and let go of the betrayals and hurts of those who dressed like friends but were skeletons of pretense.  I tenderly hold the twisted wreckage of my first marriage that gave me a child of everything and thrust me on a path that led to this life that I love and constantly amazes me with its colors, its dances and its wonders.  I have let go, at least most of the time, of the indefatigable anger of that practice marriage that incensed all of me for a time.  I have to admit, that every now and then in my writing I create a character that I come to despise and realize there’s still residual ash on my fingers and work to do on forgiveness.  A messy, less than fine mingling.

So I ask you, in these waning days of 2014 and expanding minutes of daily sunlight, what fine mingling have you?  What do you hold so close it is skinlike and what floats away from you like the flotsam of life?  Dare you be bold enough to share with others?  If so, post a comment.  If not, be bold in your heart and turn it over in your mind.

“Letters mingle souls.”

When I was a teenager, I wrote a lot of letters and got many in return.  Back in the days of long distance telephone costs, even the discounted ones for after 10 pm and on Sundays, was still too rich for my teenage budget.  My single mom was not going to pay for me to talk to my friends and cousins who were states away. I would sit on my bed, listening to the Eagles, Three Dog Night and Fleetwood Mac and write out my heart with pens of many colors, filling page after page with teenage angst, humor and dreams.

And the joy when I would pick the mail up at the post office and find a letter from a friend or cousin!  I would hurry home, take the envelope to my room and pour over the pages, hearing the sender’s voice speak the words written on paper.  The writing of a letter lets a heart share its bare truth, paper giving courage to raw emotion and secrets of the soul.  Those that i shared letters with knew me in ways no one else did.

Chris and I found a box of letters between his parents when they were apart while Chris’ dad was in the army.  The letters are filed with ordinary daily activities with subdued emotions.  They were a connection of two people who went on to live a love story of depth, meaning and shared steps.

With cell phones, email and texting, letter writing has definitely found itself in the bottom 3, with not many voting to keep it around.  Schools are considering no longer teaching how to write in script.  I have grandchildren who have never written a letter or been to a post office.  Most people don’t know the cost of a first class stamp.

I miss letter writing.  I miss sending letters and receiving letters.  At the same time, I am interested in the old fashioned concept of keeping the Sabbath.  A day designed to honor all that matters and no work.  As a workaholic and someone who doesn’t do well with do nothing days, the idea challenges me on many levels.  So my thought is to combine letter writing with keeping the Sabbath.  Featured image

Today I am breaking out the basket of stationery I have collected over the years and writing a couple of letters to family members I love and miss.  It will be a missive of ordinary things happening in my world and a note of love.  I will put the flag up on our mailbox and send them off to a mailbox states away.  I hope they are filled with my remembered joy of receiving a letter for no reason other than someone thought of me.  And maybe, I’ll get a letter in return.

Today’s quote is John Donne’s.