Who She Is

I made an over easy egg for breakfast today, as I do any morning I have time.

Just like grandma.

She likes hers so runny the whites still have a little jiggle. With it, she has a slice of toast with Earth Balance butter and local honey from a brown clay jar labeled honey and perpetually sticky. When I was young she drank coffee. C.O. In a heavy, cream colored mug with cobalt blue Japanese print.  It seems only a few years ago she switched to chamomile tea, but time is complex, a blink and an eternity, that it was actually more like 15 years ago.

But that is who she is. Long red finger nails, holding the mug with only a slight tremor when she presses her thumb on the top of the handle, sitting in a house coat in her plush orange rocking chair, feet crossed on the footstool, trading stories in the paper with my grandpa. Many of them not news at all, but playfully made up on the spot. Soon she’ll get up to do her chores, to talk to the plants.

That is who she is. Well loved dancing heels on the shoe rack in her closet below hot and baby pink, royal blue and vibrant red clothes.  Shoes saved from former Friday nights out at the Safari. I’ve seen the pictures. Remember their New Year’s Eve trips to Little America to polka to the sounds of their favorite band leader. She was glamorous. A forest green sequin dress in her closet and then in mine. A fur coat. Bell sleeves and tall boots in a photograph. I believe that was the dress she sewed herself, the arms too tight.

That is who she is. Homemade spaghetti sauce, fried chicken, white rolls, and applesauce made with real apples sliced  and simmered with cinnamon and sugar, cottage cheese, a full cookie jar.  She is rows of canned peaches, pears, cherries, a spoonful of ice cream standing in the light of the freezer at night.

That is who she is. The rhythm of her bare feet back and forth on the concrete patio, rocking the swing back and forth. We sit in the afternoon, swinging and talking,  grandpa out working in the roses. We like it here in the shade. I am not a sun bunny, she says. Me either, Grandma. Grandma’s girl.

That is who she is. Pink curlers in black hair, faint scent of Skin So Soft, a tube of lipstick in the bathroom drawer, the kitchen drawer, the coat pocket, the purse. She chooses shades of deep pink, red.

How can you do it without a mirror, grandma?

Well, I know where my lips are.

She is not ready for the day until her earrings are in, bright gems like rubies or sapphires, or dangling delicate ones. It is Young and the Restless at 11am, a nail file by her blue rocking chair.

It is the same rhythm of her feet on the wooden deck of the cabin, or on the splintery wood on the swing in the yard. Come on, let’s go swing. 

This is where she tells the stories of her early life. An orphan,  a mother who died and a father who left and the chain of homes she lived in. The love and foundation of a woman named Mama Della, the hate of a woman in Texas and the subsequent lifelong disdain for cornbread, the eventual permanent home in eastern Colorado, making meals she didn’t know how to, a step brother named Pete,  an aunt name Maude, Uncle John. There is the boy named Kenneth Dale, who passed by her classroom door one day, I am going to marry that one. She did. At 17. And then there was a war and a daughter and years apart. There was another daughter and a son, the family of her own.

Her stories often include the phrase, You know what thoughts do, teasing, like she was giving a cautionary tale. No, grandma, what do they do? We’d ask and she’d hold out and say, one day I’ll tell you.

Now thoughts are broken or completely lost. Transformation right in front of us.

There probably is no concrete answer. But I still hope that maybe one day we’ll find the anecdote scratched down on a piece of paper like the little notes she would leave for Grandpa to find. What thoughts do.

We know what’s deep down, etched in like fingerprints. Love and sacrifice, resilience and investment. To her belongs the sounds of Patsy Cline, the lid of the cookie jar, the smell of cinnamon Trident gum, the playful slap on grandpa’s arm when he teased her and she’d laugh, “Oh ho, Dale. It is not,” three kisses out the door, love you much, rummy, pit pats and tut-ens, the way she would wind into singing a song,  let’s dance.

That is who she is.

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2016

 

Every year about this time, in the season of both retrospection and brand new,  I think about how madly and beautifully the world spins. I reflect on what’s happened and what those events or moments produce in us, how they shape us for the next one.  2016 was chalk full of major events on a personal and familial level, not to mention all that’s occurred on a global level. All of it produced a  broad spectrum of emotion. It’s been a year of intermingling, bliss and deep joy met thick trial, coexisting like laughter and tears. It’s in the crossfire of the spectrum that living gains depth. I know I’ve lived deeply this year. I know this also to be true for those closest to me. I’ve read the headlines, so I know this to be true for people I’ve never met. People who’ve experienced what I cannot imagine. I pray they’ve had peace scattered in the incomprehensible.

I’ve been looking over past posts and found a running theme of structure from rubble like redemption. Throughout is a vein of recognition that brokenness is merely a possibility, that imperfection is inevitable and that life still goes on. I wrote it, but how quick I am to forget it. I wait for the reminder to sink in, to permanently reside in my mind and in my heart. The list I’ve compiled of all that’s happened this year is further proof that God is resolving what I call incomplete and imperfect; a life being orchestrated goes on in redemption and possibility.

2016- Miracles and Mire

Engagement at the end of 2015.

The marathon of 50+ wedding dresses in two different states.

Venue hunting and planning, margaritas reduce the productivity of financial planning sessions.

Employment after 6 months of waiting.

New apartment, new furniture, new fridge full for the first time with groceries only belonging to me. Strange how big changes can be charted in the smallest of things.

A June visit from family, two parents and one nephew, we play at the beach.

Sonoma and Colorado in July, wine and paddle boarding respectively.

Bridal showers and rehearsal dress meltdowns (many other kind of meltdowns).

Wedding time brought people from across the country, my grandpa drove across states against a medical advice to make it. The generosity we experienced on every level was overwhelming.

Wedding day. Any day preceded by having dinner with all those who mean the most to you is going to be a good one. Any morning featuring your persons, good coffee, and soft pajamas will lead to a great day. Any day set aside to marry your best friend in a room draped in gold, pink, glitter and giant white flowers, where prayers are given and honest vows are said, is going to be a perfect. And it was, to the very end and a midnight drive thru run in a dress and tux. The only thing I wish I could’ve changed was the pace of time; gone in a blink.

New position at work,  a promotion of sorts, and the learning process begins again.

Husband in school and working also gets a promotion, weekends are for races.

We fight for time and weekends fill up so we conquer Disneyland on a Monday, my very first trip is deemed a success.

We experience a big surprise and then a big loss. Laughter and the tears show up. The man who said I do said I will: I will be excited about the unplanned nature of life, I will realistically look at what’s next, I will make you eat and let you sleep, I will make you feel safe.

A Christmas Day like we’ll never have again. It was simply the two of us and presents and breakfast over It’s a Wonderful Life, a walk and a trip to La La Land. It was one necklace in the shape of a heart to remember and one Chromebook so I could get back to typing words.

 

At the beginning of 2016 I wrote that it would be the year cynicism die.  2016 saw miracles.

Cynicism and miracles cannot coexist.

It was the year when silent prayers, “perhaps one day,” showed up. It was redemption and possibility, miraculous in nature and accomplishment. So on the last day of it, I reflect on its orchestration and resolve to remember. To take what I’ve learned into 2017 and to ready myself for a continued education in what it means to be faithful, kind, content and responsive.

Resolution:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  (Galatians 5)

 

 

Discover Challenge: Retrospective

via Discover Challenge: Retrospective

 

Unable to saturate ourselves

we hold tight to the glass half-empty

unwilling to hope for immeasurably more

The banner prayer of 2016-

the year cynicism dies,

we are being built.

The example has been set

it is both the weight of the human experience

and the abundant understanding that

there is more to hold and more to give,

cinch tight the velvet bag.

Hold onto the gems, recognize the threads of light

in the dark void

scattered rubble is not definitive,

We are being built.

 

-The banner prayer of 2016-

I didn’t really even want to

write it,

I want to live it.

 

Found poem from posts: One Year Later; Headlines; The Truth About Lilacs; Make Room; Water Wars

One Year later

Exactly one year ago today I took up residence in my new state.

There are mornings still where I think to myself, I can’t believe I live in Southern California. The land of heeeeeeeeeeeat and palm trees. And him.

It’s been one very full year with time furiously flying by. I hope I am remembering it all. Take a deep breath, focus I tell myself often, take notes and live it. “Being intentional” is an oft over used phrase among the crowds I know and the Facebook feeds  I read. I don’t want to read it or think it or even say it. I didn’t really even want to write it. I want to live it. I want it to become so much a part of my person that intentional as a phrase is erased. It just is and I just am. Especially now at this moment when I have three more Saturdays of singledom. For when the fourth one hits I will be surrounded by people I love getting ready to walk down the aisle to the one that brought me out here. To the one that explored Hoover dam with me in blistering heat on the last day I was in between states and the one that calmly dealt with my melt downs along the way. Change ain’t easy honey, even the really amazing kind can make my head spin. So he spent time distracting me on trips to the mountains (even though I mocked them as mountains in the beginning because this Coloradoan knows what a real mountain is. I’ve since relented, they qualify.) He let me trail along on his work trips so I could see the beach nearby or endure the crowds of Downtown Disney. I lost my keys skipping along the water of Redondo Beach one of those days. When I am happy I have a tendency to skip. The beach brings me the skipping-joy. He made sure I was comfortable with my surroundings and made sure I had a couch in my new apartment. He made sure in some way everyday.

I’ve written about standing at the edge of the water and feeling the sand being pulled from beneath my feet, how the earth literally shifts and I’m left standing in uneven and refreshing pools of water. In my opinion, it is one of the best sensations in the world. The earth moves and you’re still standing grounded and kept and cooled by the salt water.

I’ve grappled in parts over who I am and what I am doing,  the identity crises that comes from everything new and the sand being pulled out from beneath my feet, because it is both wonderful and awful to be in a place where no one knows who you are. It makes you ask yourself that same question, who am I here? It’s been an opportunity to practice the person I’ve been shaped in to and  to engage in the ways I am still being shaped. It’s been about learning to trust myself. For the past six months I’ve gone to a job I don’t fully know how to do to impact a community I don’t really know. The first months were exhausting and everyday is still a practice in trust, self and otherwise.

Everyday inside and outside it’s been sand pulled and pools collecting because that is grace. It is bounty in the midst of reduction and bounty in the midst of bounty. And God is full of it, constant and sure. On my first anniversary, I dig into what has happened and right now where I am and what will be in three Saturdays. I think of how the Most Sure has given me one who is sure. I think of how I will most likely skip my way down the aisle to the next shift and wait for the cool pools to surround us and if I lose my keys so be it for we will learn a new way to be, together. This time we will both be in new state, learning a new posture, swept up in grace and absolutely sure.

 

“What is desirable in a man is his kindness.”

Proverbs 20:22

Headlines

I have been fixated on the word callus. The picture of the thick skin that develops in an area subjected to friction. Like your hands. Like your feet. The places that get roughed up from repeated wear and tear to the point that full feeling is inhibited. A callus becomes a barrier between environment and self, small points of protection to limit the exposure to agitating stimuli.

That is what the news is like, friction filled headlines that repeat often enough that the barrier has started to build itself, line by line it becomes thicker and stronger. That is not supposed to be my response. I am supposed to feel. I am not supposed to admit that I can read or hear or talk and be only momentarily affected. I read it, I think, “Oh God, not again”and then, in my ability to do so, I continue on with my day. The “incidents” stack up and reinforce the callus. Because I can. Because I need it. Because what would the experience be if  the shield wasn’t there and I could feel it all as I stepped and stepped through the crumbling streets in a chaotic world.

I’ve been thinking too of open wounds. Bleeding grace free from the luxury of callus although certainly entitled to it. Entitled but unwilling to succumb, He felt every wound and the entire weight of the human experience . He fell and He rose and He felt every step and the wildest part is that He still does.

I do not understand it all. I do not have to hold that much.

I recently watched a video of an Olympic athlete who 24 years ago tore his hamstring in his final event. He finished hobbling and aided by his dad. I cried at the death of his dream, the global arena that it happened in, the support of his dad. There was a crack in the thick skin armor. What about the death of all the dreams violently torn away by other human hands, humans inundated with the belief that their radicalism is the only cure, for the disease they themselves are suffering from, blind to their own need. Enraged and empowered by systemic hate or cultural differences, or the kind of unwillingness to view one another as fellow,  inbred backward views of worth and values passed through the bloodlines of generations.

As I let myself think it and type it, words begin to unearth the deep despair that sits at the heart of, “oh God not again.” The callus comes from disbelief. From not wanting to hold it. From learning the balance of what I take on and what I let go. Perhaps it even comes from being only thirteen years old when two students attacked their fellow classmates in the halls and rooms of Columbine High School. Knowing it was only an hour away. Knowing I myself had to go to school the next day. Not knowing how this would happen over and over again, it would not be an isolated event. How would we even function if we were raw wounds walking around? I need that layer of protection that sounds like a continuous prayer, coursing through my system at various volumes. He knows the need.

I have no tolerance for parents that treat their children poorly or with disdain. Foul words and a cold presence in the grocery store aisle light a fire in me and I want to react, to intervene, to offer something to that little someone. A chip in the shield; it’s in front of me, I see it, I feel it. I don’t watch the videos posted on my news feed. The non stop news reel is more polarizing than informative. I don’t share my reactions because I don’t feel I know enough or safe enough to share my opinion. If  I did, based purely on the trend, my opinion would become secondary or all together tossed out and met with unrelated comments on my face, my history, my character. There is the present threat of shame and defamation because everyone’s entitled not to truth or accuracy but to say whatever they want. You can witness the culture of personal attack equally in the newsfeeds of teens and in the current political arena. Facts and educated rhetoric are traded for soundbites of what and why the other isn’t. It all comes from a place of isn’t, it is a deflection from self and insecurities. If I can make someone else not like you, then they won’t be focused on my own short comings.

Scarcity reigns and shame reverberates.

All Lives Matter and the chorus of, “hey me too” from a group free from crisis begging for the comfort and support of the afflicted because what if when it’s their turn, when the attention turns, what if all the care is gone. What if there is none left? I cannot care. I cannot give you the grotesque spotlight because I might need it. Calluses build under the friction of “there will not be enough for me” or “I do not have enough to give.” I keep it because I do not have enough.

I am the callus required to be the open wound, unafraid of depleting the reserve. Love is love can be inaccurate in its limitations. That is love on a whim, that is love because I feel like it or love that wants to prove a point. My own version and idea hemmed in and framed by what I think I am capable of. Love is love is love that is sustained by a never ending reserve. Tap into that. He bled for a whole world that makes one another bleed.  Love that is, is love that does not end, the bottom won’t drop out or dry up or disappear when the next person or cause comes around. It is the love that stays that bleeds that believes even in what feels like a dying breath that there is no end. The example has been set, it is the weight of the human experience and the abundant understanding that there is more to hold and more to give. It is  building capacity. It is effective and sustainable and runs from the source of bleeding grace. I do not have to carry the whole of the experience but I do have to fight with love in the midst of the scarcity and shame that wants to build callused walls between and around you and me, us and them.

He fell and He rose and He felt every step and the wildest part is that He still does.

Black and White and Glitter All Over

Kids can view the world in black and white- how I love, how I am loved, how I play, how and when I eat. These things are because they are. They are easy to grasp because that is the world they have entered. ( I pray they have entered). I have two nephews and one niece. The two little ones especially believe without question that the day is a never ending opportunity, they will be fed, dad will carry them on his shoulders from room to room. They believe clothes are optional, dancing is always acceptable, and mom will let them paint. These are the black and whites.

Kids also have the ability to see all the colors, even or especially, the glittery shades.  Within the rampant imagination of created worlds and conversations and super hero powers, even as they ask and test and create from the need to learn, from curiosity, from rebellion, they expect the black and white to remain. In fact, I believe they can free fall so wildly into their own worlds because they feel protected by the black and white. Their reality supports their creativity.

(Experience will change and challenge any child’s simplicity. Their black and white blurred by actions and choices that surround them. I think of the ones who don’t have a concrete foundation, their imagination is stunted by the premature need to be realistic.)

I believe we all crave this kind simplicity- that things are, and that I am steadfastly who I am in the midst of it.

And what I have found is simplicity is so complicated.

Take for example my closet. I want it to be simple. I want basic colors, basic silhouettes, few but high quality, versatile shoes. ( want want want is a topic for another day). I have done a lot of purging lately. I have gotten rid of things that don’t fit or are falling apart or are a part of another lifetime and I no longer recognize myself in. Ah there it is, a complication. What does that change look like on the outside?  It is not bad to be different than.  I have come naturally to it and I also have to figure parts of it out. I want to curate it until it is correct. It matters to me that the outside matches the inside for my own sake. I need my black and white to find my color. I want clarity and quality. It’s time and it’s money that I do not always have. All I want to do is pare down but there are hurdles (for which I am sure I don’t have the right pants to jump over). Simplicity is so complicated. Complicated wears me out.

Take for example food. I believe in simple food- broccoli, meat, turmeric, salt, coconut oil, sweet potatoes, apples, black coffee-the foundation of my diet. The kind of simplicity that requires a couple different grocery stores. And once home from the grocery store, washing, chopping, baking, sauteing all in the name of meal prep that will make packing my weekly lunches easier. It is simply preparation but preparation takes discipline and energy. I want to do it. I know the benefits. I know we work for the sake of ease.  

These are small but daily examples. The way I would like to live and what it takes to live that way corresponds to every area. Faith like a child. Basic, accepted rules of a child colored by their own glittery crayon.The way they love, the way they know they’re loved, the acceptability of wearing the spider-man suit and the tiara on a Wednesday, the how and the when they eat. Love, clothing, shelter, food. 

They way I would like to live and what it takes to live that way.

Black and white faith of a child. God is because God can. That He is, is the foundation of black and white, but how He is who He is the whole color spectrum. Experience will chip at the foundation until all we see are the chips. The imagination to see color evaporates into thin air, air that is thin because we have let the “bigness” diminish under the weight of our complexities. Complex becomes the volume. Gray mass.

This is the simplicity-that He is, steadfastly in the work and the striving and in the disarray. That the inside match the outside. May simplicity reflect simplicity. Black and white foundations saturated in the colors of all that is possible and beyond imagination.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  Ephesians 3:20-21

The Truth About Lilacs

 

lilaceWe had two large lilac bushes at our house on Shadowglen as a kid. One in the front yard and one in the backyard. Whenever I pass lilacs now, smelling them blocks before I actually see them,  two distinct memories float to the surface of my mind. There is my mom standing in the corner of the yard picking and breathing in the tiny little purple blossoms clustered together, later to be placed on her dresser top, and my mom waiting in front of the lilacs watching kindergarten-me show off how I learned to ride a bike.

Lilacs belong to my mom. Small, delicate purple clustered lilacs with a scent that permeated our house, front to back. Mighty  lilacs.

Cinch tight the velvet bag. Hold on to the gems.

My mom maintains small things better than anyone I know. There is no resource too limited, no treasure too tiny. Whether it’s a La Mer sample she magically makes last for six months or the americano she transforms for three days, because she is a savorer she wastes nothing. Some of this, in her habits, comes from resourcefulness- she knows that in life sometimes you just have to make it work. The root of it though, in her values, is her gift. It is her unwavering ability to derive worth and uncover value. There is no resource too limited, no treasure too tiny. She keeps, cultivates, and fights for worth. For herself and for those around her.

Cinch tight the velvet bag. Hold on to the gems.

We function on hyperbole. Our overarching themes shout DOOM DOOM DOOM or MOST MOST MOST. Everything is the end, the most catastrophic, the irrevocable, the definitive, the greatest.  Every snowstorm is the worst in the last century. Every pop star is the most celebrated of their generation. We say the word “literally” constantly because the lines of real and exaggerated are so blurred. We function on sensationalism and extremism in massive and minor ways. We can’t hear over it.

What’s big, bad, and ugly, is the constant, prevalent threat. The giant’s foot that is our overwhelming tendency to weigh everything as the most extreme will crush the small, good, and the beautiful .

Cinch tight the velvet bag. Hold on to the gems. 

Clutch the simple, whispering truths so tight they begin to scream . Let them be the loudest thing in your ear. Until they are-word of the day-axiomatic-self evident, unquestioning.  The treasures are the genuine, simple truths whispered to us from creation. They are never too small. Let them be lilacs- permeating and mighty. Keep, cultivate, and fight for what holds value. Be a savorer.

And my soul knows it very well. 

(Psalm 139; Isaiah 62, Romans 8)