Thursday, July 31, 2014

And Yet

For a split second tonight, I could not envision her face.  I was sitting at the dining room table as she came to mind like she often does when I'm sitting alone.  It created enough of a reaction that my chest began to pound and my breath quickened, frustrated at having to take so long to upload an exact image of her in her chair, clinking her fork through her front teeth and driving me crazy in the process.  It was like my mind was feverishly scrolling through a Rolodex of 26 years with her in order to bring back to life one still portrait in the hope that a single memory could, once again, temper my sadness.

Today makes for five years since she's passed away. In some ways, it seems longer and in some ways, it seems very fresh. I don't know what is the accepted or normal way of perceiving time related to someone's passing.  Is it supposed to be that time has flown by or slowed down? I'm not sure that there is a right answer.

In an email written to a friend years ago, I explained the feeling of coming into her bedroom once all of her personal belongings were gone:

"...He [dad] bagged and boxed up most all of mom's belongings, cleaned out her clothes in her closet, leaving only a sparse picture frame resting on her dresser.  Mom had all but been physically erased from my eyes.  At that moment, there was complete silence, a void that nothing this side of heaven could fill. Walking around the room and hearing the stark sound of my footsteps, I opened her closet door with just enough force to gently swing a metal hanger, resting naked on the pole.  Everything was gone.  Up until then, she had been there.. a still snapshot of how things were, as if she could just come in and pick up where she left off."

But that's the beef I have with death. She won't be back. That is the most unnatural feeling, by the way. Man was not created to die. That wasn't in the original set of cards which is why it is foreign, confusing, dastardly.

Regardless, I have a hope that extends beyond these circumstances. Hope that says there are reunions and restorations to come.  And yet, I have to be honest and accepting of the undercurrent of sadness that still sweeps over me and calls to me, you'll miss her all your life.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


We're hard wired for the bloom. We expect that things should be intensely seen, felt, tasted and explosive. Immediate. No where else in life it seems do we make these assumptions than in the search for love. Walking into a new job, we dare not assume we'll have the corner office in a day or in a week.  Likewise, a new acquaintance will only become a great friend after weathering a storm or two. What is it about the promise of great, intoxicating love do we cast aside all measure of reality and shake our fist at the heavens while we wait for everything to come together. just. as. it. should. be.

A bloom is obvious, blaring. Its raw power and intensity justifies our inclination to believe that because something feels like goodness that it is actually good. Reality reports back that the bloom has little to do with outcomes or whether we will be enriched or destroyed in the process. But we demand that it be so. 

So we search.

Our attraction to the bloom is centered around the idea of expectations. Expectations are a scary, insidious thing especially when they are not tempered with reality. They hold us back from experiencing life differently simply because we cannot see past our own version of what should be. So we revert back to what we know and what feels the most like smoldering fire. However, this insistence could strip us of the very thing that we are fighting tooth and nail for to begin with: to know and be known. 

It takes great faith to believe what we have been told by those far wiser than ourselves. Wisdom that says that love, great love, the kind we all search for can be grown and cultivated by seed through sweat, selflessness, understanding and patience towards other and self. In a word, work. As unsexy as that was to write, it is far less enchanting to envision for one's own life. I still prefer to be transfixed.

My hope is, of course, that I'm not asking too much.  My hope is that it is entirely possible that I could have goodness with fire, real love and bloom.  The kind that will not render my soul ember and ash.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Memories of a Legacy

Gram rubbed her hands together briskly, lighting an imaginary fire while piquing curiosity in her grandchildren's head. “What shall we do today, Amanda Kate?” she'd ask. 

Gram always thought that farting was funny.  When it wasn’t politically correct to laugh uproariously at your grandson’s flatulence, Gram was always first in line to chastise while slapping her knee in hearty approval.

Idle threats of a using the “big black stick” when we misbehaved.  The rumor was that she kept it under the deck but I never saw it.  And that is not because I was a particularly well-behaved child.  I think she just rather liked us even when we were naughty. 

The gumball machine that sat (or called to me) on the kitchen counter.  Sometimes it spit out two instead of one brightly colored sugar ball with just one sticky penny from her copper jar.  I found as I got older that if you shook it really hard, it spit out one. 

Her muffled whistling as she completed any number of tasks around the house:  "shrr-shrr-shrr-shrr-shrrrr".  

Her insatiable desire to win at board games.  Some people might have said she employed cheaters' tactics at Rummikub.  Since I am neither a graceful winner or loser, I can say I came by it honestly. 

The crisp $10 bill she gave me for dusting her 120-some wooden animal pieces when I came to visit.  She wanted us to understand the value of a dollar and admonished me not to spend it at Starbucks.

Sorry, Grammie.  I have failed you many times in this regard. 

My favorite snapshot is driving with her to my cousins wedding in Wisconsin. I made sure to get a picture of her to remember how she suavely placed her sunglasses on top of her bifocals for the optimal sunless driving experience.  It was a beautiful summer day on a long stretch of road where she and I listened to her big band favorites on CD.  Glenn Miller.  I knew right then that this would be a memory I would have of her for the rest of my life. And it is.

A few trips to downtown Chicago over the past few years are what I’ll associate most with her. That Windy City so cold last time we visited.  We made our customary stop downtown to eat lunch on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building where we could see out on to the city rooftops.  Tonight the city dines without her.

The older I get, the more I realize that all I call good in my life I can trace back to the godly legacy lived out in the lives of my grandparents.  Those decisions they made, through the good and the bad, in the difficult and the plenty carried such significance as they shaped and anchored the lives of all those who followed after them. Our ripple effect is great. Thank you, Lord, for the power of her continued legacy. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

And... Go...

So this is my first post for 2013.  What about it?  Truth is I’ve not been particularly busy, just lazy.  Sometimes you get out of the habit of doing something and it just becomes a habit that you become lazy.

But I have thoughts.  Lots of them and they are occurring right now:

1) I will never get rid of this crusty black suitcase.  If this suitcase were a person, it would show up with hot rollers in its hair, a ratty cotton bathroom robe coupled with a half-lit cigarette hanging out of its busted zipper mouth. But you know it’s trusty and it’s been everywhere on earth with me.  Literally.  It’s like an old friend.  And do you get rid of old friends?  I don’t think so.  You get rid of your old, mean friends.

2) When I leave the farm, I will leave behind a part of my soul. When that thought surrounds me, I remember that everything has a season. I know I will relinquish a part of my soul in every place I love and leave behind. That’s the beautiful part of an evolving life.

3) When I leave the farm, I will be leaving for Colorado. There will be more to write about that at another time. 

4) Hopefully Mr. Darcy lives in Colorado, that gnarly fictional bastard.  In reading through P&P, I’m again finding myself wanting to kill off my likeminded heroine Miss Elizabeth Bennett and ride off into the sunset with Mr. D where we can be snarky and angry at each other forever. That, my friends, is love.

If I may quote: 
"At his own ball he offended two or three young ladies by not asking them to dance; and I spoke to him twice myself without receiving an answer.  Could there be any finer symptoms [of violent love]? Is not general incivility the very essence of love?"
5) I love and abhor change all at once.

6) Part of me is scared because it’s just me in this.  Part of me is relieved for the same reason.

7) Most of me wants to erase that because it’s weakness for me to admit that I’m scared.  But it’s a necessary function of my human experience to be scared.  It alerts me to keep myself open and flexible, engaged and discerning in my new environment. 

8) Being scared on another level allows me to appreciate normalcy when it returns.  The part that is relieved when I don’t look at my workplace like a battle field waging war against my fragile competencies, a home-place that smacks of my juju, my running trails, those routines of life that allow me to feel centered and grounded. 

9) There are, like, 11 people on this flight and they're still boarding by sections. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thought Provoking Thursday's

“But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. . . . As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. . . . The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

G. K Chesterton

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dragons, Golf Carts and Jesus

A few Sunday's ago,  I was hoping to drive home a point during Children's Church using that good ol' game of hangman.  In attempting to review a story we discussed the week prior, I did a little Q&A.  Generally, those don't go so well. Some kids were gazing up at the ceiling, pinching or being pinched by their neighbor, others were blowing air into their emptied Capri Suns and sending the straw flying across the room.  Some were burping.  It's what they do. Good thing one kid chirped up to clue me in:  "Maybe no one is answering because the answers are obvious.  It's like, duh."

True story.

And I thank you for that valuable piece of information, Sonny.

I turned my attention to the chalk board where I drew out a succession of dotted lines and the infamous swinging gallow.

"We will not be hanging people this morning, kiddos!" said I.  Truth is, Miss Brenda had been swinging from the gallows a few Sunday's before.  Just didn't seem right in the moment.  Or ever.  So we decided on a komodo dragon because they are nasty little cusses anyway.

The kids figured out pretty quickly that I am a disabled drawer of animals.  As you can see, the tail on this komodo rivals that of a tyrannosaurus rex.  The kids thought it was hilarious.  And they took advantage of it, my drawing disability.

They were on a roll.  The board soon reflected the following:


Now, these kids... they're bright.  And they're crafty.  Instead of letting me off the hook and just providing me with the "m" needed to end the game and save the poor dragon from certain death, they were laughing hysterically and shouting out "z" "q" "x" and other improbable suggestions.

Pretty soon, the komodo dragon was sporting a rastafarian hat, sneakers and a glove.

They continued on with more of the same calibre guesses: "w" "7" "egg" which left me with no choice but to draw the komodo driving a golf cart. It's just where my mind is.

After exhausting the entire alphabet (with the exception of "m"),  I decided to add a few golf clubs in the back. After drawing them in, one said child remarked, "That looks like a pair of grannie legs sticking out of the back of that golf bag.  That's weird."

Touche, kid. Touche.

As a disclaimer, no children were hurt in the staging or as a result of this game.  I think. What I do know is that they were taught that Jesus loves them and wants them to keep their promises through a ridiculous game of hangadragon. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Comings and Goings

Life has a funny way of taking you many places if you let it.  Even in my own mind, I wander.  That's generally dangerous though.  Especially behind the wheel.

But that's jumping ahead of myself.  Recently, me and few companions were able to take a trip down Highway 1 along the coast of California.  Our travels took us from San Francisco, North to Napa Valley then down to San Diego.  Of course, that seems like a lot of driving (and it was) but instead of passing toll booths, turnpikes, and angry Michigan drivers (DON'T pretend you don't know what I'm talking about), these were the sights we took in on our way through Monterey and Carmel...

Welcome to San Francisco...

 I made the guys listen to "I left My Heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennett a few times over the course of the day.  I insisted that I was culturing them. 


"... to be where little cable cars 
climb halfway to the stars..."

And then on to Big Sur and Pfeiffer Beach.  My favorite.  There were probably 20 people on the beach that day.  It was 75 degrees but the water was bone chilling cold.  I winced and then scurried back to lay on the warm, dry, soft white and purple* sand. 

 Panoramic shot.

 *I tell the truth.

 This is Digger.  He was waiting [im]patiently for his Master to come back from surfing. 

This is my brother whipping himself with some long tube-like kelpy thing that washed up onto shore.  I had never seen anything like that before on beaches on the east coast. I've been too lazy to research what it is.  I'm sure google will know exactly what I'm looking for when I type that name into the search engine.

Below are a few random shots from our travels. I hope some time in your life's journey, you'll get the opportunity to visit California and these wonderful places. It's unlike any other place in the world (can't verify but it sure sounded right).

With gratitude,

Hearst Castle.  Or at least 1/10 of it. 

The heated indoor pool at Hearst Castle that I would have gladly sold my first born to be able to swim in.  (sorry, kid)

Laguna Beach.