Sun-stripped {a post on love and anger}

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Today I was particularly struck by the harshness of our modern world’s landscape. It is a desert, a sea of sandy dry dunes, with no quenching water. We are bombarded with articles and advertisements that guilt us and tell us how to make our lives better. We envy those on facebook who cook well and dress well and have better family vacations. Our children are filled with the notion that their belly fat defines them, their likes control them, their popularity and fame create them into something. Watch their eyes light up at the number of instagram likes, tweets re-posted, snapchat battles, sexy teen videos. Watch how they play games for hours to receive the online glory they don’t get in real life.

Watch yourself, doing it too.

There are so many wars raging. Wars between countries. Wars between husbands and wives in closed rooms with clenched fists. And wars between women, who feel one way or another about children, vaccines, political issues, maternity leave, high fructose corn syrup, school lunches. Everyone is on edge that they are being accused of nor working hard enough, that they aren’t strong enough, that they are not enough.   Everyone wants to be better than someone else. And Lord knows if you make fun of something, there will be hell to pay. Relax already. A little corn syrup in your pecan pie at Thanksgiving ain’t hurtin nobody. This bathroom nonsense at Target, with all the things going on in the world? Mercy.

This anger does not serve us well. It undermines the very confidence that we struggle to instill in our children. It also prohibits us from creating a village, where we can laugh together about the hard things and stretch a canvas across the sand to collect rain when we are all parched with thirst. We have to turn these struggles into paper, that we can then crumple up with our fingers and crush into a ball. Then we can bounce it around on our heads so that we downplay life’s grasp over us. Plus, it’s fun to bounce things off your head. There can be a prizes involved for high numbers. I’m just saying be creative when overcoming your own personal crap-storms, people.

But for the love don’t try to make yourself feel better by comparing yourself to someone else. At least I don’t dress like that. Feed my kids that. Say stupid shit like that. Were you raised in a proverbial barn, where people are instead cattle, weighed and measured? Our hearts are what matter. Our thoughts matter. Also? Ice cream and jazz music and the smell of roast on Sunday. These things matter.

Let us encourage each other to be strong and not weak. To say “I’m doing my best. I apologize when I’m wrong. I seek to do good, and I will move forward with purpose.” Let us forgive those around us, to honestly love those who hurt us, to seek mercy for those who have been handed more burdens than ourselves. And when someone is going off the deep end, we can say “simmer down there, sista. I know you’re madder than a wet hen but don’t send that email because we love you and you’ll regret it.” Regarding drunk texts, you’re on your own. Throw your phone down a toilet or something.

These are the women and men and children I want to be with on the high desert, when the winds blow. When the ground cracks. When the lips are parched and dirty. This is the nourishment we need. When Jesus left the earth, John 17 records a solemn prayer that he prayed to God, begging to not take people from the earth but to protect them during their tenure here, to show them unity of heart and mind, to be more like God in spirit. I’d like to laugh and hold each other in the hard times instead of pointing spears. Although making fun of any Kardashian is permissible. There have to be loopholes.

But seriously. We cannot be naive enough to think we don’t need a good washing out on the inside. We are all such flawed and injured birds, curled up on the sand, our power springing from distant mirages. I am not just speaking to the faithful. I am speaking to anyone who thinks that the words of revenge will soothe. That the proper retort will ease the pain. That the appropriate come-back or tweet or blog post will create in them the power that they are lacking.

We could blast to dust our enemies and put our guns back in our holsters with pride. But it does not heal. It does not soothe. It does not help. To quote Glennan: only love wins. God pours down from heaven and covers us. Love fills up our hearts and satisfies us. It creates in us a clean place to start walking again, with shoes strapped tight and low, with a cloud to shield us from the sun. Then we start smiling again, with a village, a people, a purpose. Yes, you with a different color skin. You who belittled stay-at home moms. You who is always nice and yet everyone thinks is stupid. You who didn’t get the promotion. You who consumes nothing but healthy green smoothies, and you who hides in the closet with little Debbie snack cakes.

All of you. We are arm in arm, in the desert, surviving. Sun-stripped to the essentials. This makes our world worth living in, for a while.

 

photo

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/peptravassos/12346727913/in/photolist-bkL9Zb-dmk5nD-x9idS-6NBe5j-oqAqGz-7y21ki-7QxCgm-2vVkpu-cyrvwG-c9Uv8o-d36amE-4KsRLu-acozZa-71enAx-jP3d4c-mLJGDF-7nNVon-7cKBPn-66u9cr-48KTmt-ebsuwB-dPkaon-4S9v3f-bGriq4-mPqCMc-dmk5oR-qfm8EZ-4YJxQh-dQer2o-ctvpWC-4PFpb9-Pv2XC-7xLgMu-5HR4pm-5F3qy8-feTC3E-5HDGbg-FM5EN-feDsKD-6y8Ug1-iF32D2-dKzDK3-qiZr-e8NBzX-4Y6Yo7-sr5ALW-5HJ1Mu-5qBpV2-96rrqm-ctvp7u

Sewn Together Strong

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If I could go back, what would I change? Would I go back to the time when the nurse stuck her hand inside of me, feeling my cervix, with full knowledge that infection would spread and my gut would nearly rot and I’d turn my head to the left toward that little green plastic chair?

If I could go back, what would I change? Would I memorize his password, scrolling through his phone to see text messages and sordid details? Would I walk gingerly through the reasons that splintered my past relationship? All I see there is trust, cracking like an eggshell. Going back means watching my past life break on the floor like a wine glass, shards piercing my hands as I reach down. Blood poured out, and I felt another kind of ache.

But sometimes, just for a moment, I want to go back and feel my baby’s skin. To touch my hand to her cheek, which was round and soft like the underbelly of a duck. I want to go back to that night she wore the pajamas with little white bunnies, when her eyes looked through me and made my head well up with tears. I missed the first four weeks of her tiny little life, the hospital machines beeping an incessant refrain. “I’m so sorry I was gone,” I whispered. She looked past my face and pressed into my womb, the home that she came from. It’s alright, momma. You’re home.

Maybe I would march right back in time and wag my finger in my own damn face, telling myself to travel more, live more, free myself more from my rigid upbringing. Get my ass out into the world. But if I was in Paris before, how would I experience it for the first time last year, like a flower opening its buds in the Spring? How would I be able to replace that feeling of wonder?

I think the past is more like a thread, woven in and out. Going back down, up again and through.   All of those memories appear at random times as I turn over the quilt in my hands and feel the stitching. Remember that time, Suzanne, that we watched the Cosby show for hours while our friends were papering houses? They got in trouble and we were like serves you right, suckahs. Remember that time that I tried to be the perfect housewife, baking bread on Mondays? Remember how good the bread tasted, slathered with that English butter that I always felt bad buying because it was so expensive? Remember all those prayers I said in silence with a clenched fist?

How could I forget. What flat-out nonsense was all that anyway, trying so hard to be the good girl.

I’m in the phase of life now that doesn’t require looking back as often. Perhaps it’s because there’s less in front of me and I want to enjoy the view. Maybe it’s because I enjoy so much the man sitting next to me on the journey. I am trying to soak in whatever phase my children are in right now, regardless of whether they are sweaty and caked with mud. And when I travel, I see it all in a different lens. The shutter is open, the angle is wide, and I allow more light to enter. I want to use time more wisely. Sip coffee more slowly. Talk to one person at a dinner party instead of twenty. Build back trust in a friendship that I’ve broken. A beautiful thing that time gives to humanity is wisdom. I don’t need to reach back in time to get it. I have it now, like a treasure in my hands. God has used all my past to form an intricate and beautiful design, one in which I didn’t see at the time. Back then, all I saw was a room littered with torn fabric.

Looking back shows us how far we’ve come, but it doesn’t control us. The quilt is still being stitched together. Choose the colorful pinks and the richest blues. The darkest browns and the most brilliant purples. Watch the edges being formed and the corners spun. And allow the peace of God to settle upon you, warmed by what is already sewn.

There is nothing I would change if I could go back in time. Except to tell myself that it will all be okay. That God has a pattern that involves all these jagged and ripped pieces. Things can be re-born, wonder can emerge. It’s never too late to keep adding on squares. To be bold and elegant and silly and brave.

Go toward your patched-together future. The kind you can rest your head on. The kind that’s passed down and loved. The kind of life that’s well earned, and well worn, and later spreads out atop the earth, for lovers to picnic upon and frolic, eating cheese sandwiches and little cups of wine.

This is the future that awaits you. It’s sewn together strong.

 

photo:

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/scientificquilter/13989901923/in/photolist-njeUrz-kCSUGi-j68W1x-gTqtpt-nsUwbw-bjpo9a-wT1e-8bXgZ2-9t6QbG-6oxhMi-aBr1TQ-pCzbLZ-kXhN8n-naB5dY-dgLtAS-aBqYQf-91vfj6-ebxED4-am17LX-5mNoCD-pCxeqh-gu9tHh-brtBU1-nFMmEY-gu9ghq-gYANEq-b946oZ-pbNXHW-bcVUYP-evtcEh-4S8J7Q-cN9ZiU-gYB8mx-bDpoSf-9cv9ZP-aNV6TZ-eRJnTA-nFFvzT-26iJPG-dUzNuW-bHVhAP-e32DUx-buahcV-7PCxCf-grd8ky-7PyyNe-2UwSUo-aBr15h-eXifHF-78C59j

A Texas Childhood

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Texas highways are bursting with the signs of Spring. There are fields awash with bluebonnets, poking their brilliant blue heads among the leaves as if a grand welcome to a big a country fair. There are daisies and Indian Paintbrush and other wildflowers that only old people know the names of. And I’m okay with that. I like to say instead “why look at those pretty yellow flowers” even though I know they are only dandelions.

I’m proud to be raised here, in this land of freedom and independence. We carry both handguns and chewing gum in our purses, and use a lot of hairspray and double negatives. I was in particular thinking about how my family would all head to the Kerrville Arts and Crafts Fair when I was young, to listen to bluegrass music and look at all the handmade rolling pins and water pitchers painted with sunflowers. We’d gnaw on ears of buttered corn and wander around the booths, saying “what a pretty gemstone necklace” or “well isn’t this a cool picture of a cow.”

I had a great childhood, apparently filled with lots of rolling pins.

I wonder sometimes what my children will look back upon and remember. Am I the only one who wonders what legacy is set forth? Why just yesterday, we went to the garden to pick out some carrots and potatoes for our dinner, which we lovingly picked and cleaned and chopped and added to the pan. However, since I planted too late in the year, the carrots are only about the size of a pencil, the potatoes big enough for a large family of field mice. But I pretended we had enough and supplemented with vegetables I purchased at Whole Foods, hoping no one noticed. Will they remember nights of roasted chicken and vegetables, fresh from our garden? Dear God I hope so. Why else do I go to the trouble?

I think as parents we work so hard to create a world for our children that’s safe and happy, filled with trips to theme parks and birthday parties and nature walks through the woods. But what they want most of all are not memories of their mother listening to Lyle Lovett or singing loud or cooking sweet potato biscuits, but a place where they can be fully themselves. A place where they don’t have to look nice, be someone special, or meet some high threshold the digital world places upon them.

Kids want a warm place to rest their soul when it’s weary, so they can actually grow. That can be in the city, or in the mountains, here on our little stretch of Texas soil. And whether you plant your vegetables or buy them, kids don’t care. As long as they can curl up in your arms, and you tell them about how they were born and loved, about how wonderful they are to you, and how you’ll never ever leave, even when it’s hard. That’s home, regardless of what flowers are blooming in the fields or how large the vegetables. Because these kind of seeds are internal, rooted deep.  This kind of childhood provides a strong future for our children, evidenced by branches of love for others, gratitude for the earth, and thanks to God.

This is the childhood I want mine to remember. One where they eat loads of roasted carrots from Whole Foods and think I grew them.

Odd and Curious Thoughts of the week

 

  • I had a parent-teacher conference this week. I always cringe,  because I fear they will say something negative about my beautiful daughter, who makes up imaginary worlds inside of her head. Which I fully support and encourage. Instead, we discussed the fact that my usually straight-A kid made a B+ in literature. Which is curious since the last thing she read was the history of armaments in the Medieval era and knows more vocabulary words than I do. I asked my daughter if it bothered her, to not have an A. “Doesn’t bother me at all,” she said. Which pleased me so much we went out for pizza.
  • My boyfriend’s daughter is on a gluten-free, sugar free, egg free, and dairy-free diet, which is otherwise known as No Reason to Live. Her doctor thought it might help her eczema, and we felt so sorry for her that we also decided to also adopt such restrictions in solidarity so she wouldn’t feel so alone.   But this means I’ve been eating nothing but tortilla chips and guacamole, which sounds good but try doing that for two weeks straight without any queso.
  • I am so tired of hearing about Trump, but what I’m more tired of is people posting articles on facebook about how much of a misguided racist troll he is, because that’s also growing old and is just dull. Unless he has a pet squirrel who can say “No more taxes” let’s not re-hash the obvious.
  • For the Easter season I was on the hunt all over town for plates that looked like cabbages so I could take down my brown Woodland spode and lovingly display these new, lighthearted plates from Portugal from the vantage point of the Easter luncheon table. Because let’s be honest Jesus rising from death and lettuce have so much in common. When I finally found them, my daughter pretended to be excited for me and grabbed my hand and said “I’m so glad you found the lettuce plates, mom” and I had this vague foreshadowing of me being crazy in a nursing home. I don’t even care because the plates are nice. You see where this is heading.
  • This week I texted a friend to see if we could bring back the phrase “gag me with a spoon” and she said she actually did gag herself with a spoon in a Dairy Queen in 1987 and I naturally assumed she was bulimic but she said nah, it was just the peanut butter parfait and I said how disgusting peanut butter parfaits were compared to butterfinger blizzards and she was all “agree to disagree, wench.” This is how the modern era communicates. Children, educate yourselves.
  • On the morning commute to school I pretend I’m different people with different accents to make the kids laugh. We have a standing appointment with Maurine from New Jersey who yells at the drivahs and we have a very proper Elizabeth who chastises Maurine for her lack of civility and we just dive in and out of alternate personalities without much ado. Which is normal for us but I realize isn’t normal for all. I assume these are like crazy family secrets that shall remain within the realm of our crumb-laden Lexus. But my son goes around now saying he speaks English and New Jersey like Maurine and people think he’s nuts. I just make that crazy sign with my finger to my head and roll my eyes. Because I really want him to join me someday in the psych ward. I’ll be lonely and maybe this will help speed things along.
  • I went on Amazon today to order a cabbage platter – much larger, more detail – but I yelled at myself to stop. Because honestly. That’s just absurd. A cabbage platter, for heaven’s sakes.
  • This year my kids were with their father for Spring Break, so I used the time to clean out the garage. I rushed the children to the garage immediately to see when they got home. Then for an hour I heard nothing but silence. After, they proclaimed they “made a junk shop” and all the piles I had to goodwill were intertwined with the trash they drug back into the garage and they forced me by almost gunpoint (sad children’s eyes) to shop at said junk shop and negotiate prices and they made me little receipts with stamps. I was so amazed at how quickly they could ruin what was once clean. But it reminded me how much I missed them, and how quickly their lives go by, so I just kept buying half-used spools of thread and old pillows and said things like “my my, these are Neiman Marcus prices” and they’d say “yeah well we may be called a junk shop but this isn’t really junk.” And I smiled because messes can be cleaned but childhood will not soon be forgotten.
  • My credit card company called to see if I made three charges over the weekend to a car wash and tailor. They obviously know me well to suspect I might not have washed my car three times in one weekend since the last time it was washed was (a) never or (b) in an alternate universe. They indicated that my card was hacked and they needed to cancel it and renew it. “But it’s still here in my wallet!” I said. Didn’t matter – it happened online. “But everything is linked to this card!” I said. Their response was basically “this is a first-world problem / you idiot, people are starving in Syria and this is what you worry about / you’ll somehow have to figure out how to re-link your card to Netflix.” I suddenly had an urge to just go back to buying and selling with pieces of silver. Also I thought briefly about washing my car. I have lots of crazy thoughts.
  • I just want to say for the record that my Easter table had a greenish lettuce hue. Which is exactly what I was going for. It was cast from the light bouncing off the cabbage plates. WHO’S LAUGHING NOW.

On Finding Balance

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In Eastern cultures, there is a lot of focus on the various elements of our earth. And in relation to these elements, we as humans mirror these traits, and have energy that is aligned with them. So identifying them in ourselves is a good thing, so we can find balance

In Texas, all that sounds like hippie talk. “I ain’t similar to no metal,” they say. “Take your voodoo down to Austin and shove it. Here we’ll talk about 9 mm pistols and ribs.” But hear me out, my southern people. We have fallen out of balance, and we need to open ourselves up more to the honesty about the world around us. Plus a 9 mm is made of metal. Just sayin.

I am not very holistic. I admit that. I like champagne and expensive heels. I eat too much refined sugar. I tell myself I’m going to eat kale, but instead I eat brisket, the edges burned and crispy. But when you really think about it, we all have characteristics that mirror our earth – the precious soil that God created, the wind that scatters the seed. The storms in which God quelled and the skyscrapers that evidence our ingenious minds. No matter how hard we try, we cannot escape the way in which we are built. The earth and the souls of our hearts are intertwined.

I think about my eclectic group of friends. Independent of each other, we are bold or rooted or abrasive or calming. Some need therapy. Oh wait. That’s me. But together we form a sort of harmony, each of us giving something the others need. And I think about our community, and our neighborhood. One family is Catholic and another Muslim. One is isn’t into dogs and another is. One likes to leave Christmas lights up all freaking year. Not that I’m bitter.

Think about wind. These are dreamers, swaying in and out of things. But they also have a brilliant hyperactive mind, good at storytelling and dancing. I have allergies, so wind makes me grumpy. Also, I don’t like to be directed off course. I attended college in the south plains of Texas, where the fury of wind would bear down upon the land, scooping up the dirt and throwing it in my face. I would pull my coat around me and my eyes would sting.

We cannot live in a world with only wind, blowing us about like gum wrappers.

And then there is water. People who reflect this element are self-sufficient and contained, but sometimes hidden and at times fearful. As for me, my mouth is parched. I am always making sure there is bottled water around, in the car, on a trip. I’ll stop, I’ll be late, I’ll delay things, to go back for it. As if I never have enough. When yet I write about water it’s all consuming and often filled with dread, as if I am scared of the way it pulses and the waves disrupt things. I hate the way my lungs seize when I swim long distances, as if I cannot get enough air inside of me, and the power of water scares me. I like to see the rain come down slow and steady.

We cannot survive a world with only water, with no firm ground to place our feet.

I wish I was more feminine as the earth element reflects. More nurturing, more supportive. Relaxed and poised. I have to make a conscious effort at this, when my mind and heart is at odds. I’m often just a ball of twisted knots. There are times at night, when I am sitting with my son, or reading to my daughter, that I am more earth-like, and it feels so sweet and special, and I think “how can I nurture this quality so I can express it better for them?” Although I hate mom jeans. I’m not gonna lie.

But we cannot live in a world of only earth, its dry crusty surface without fruit.

There is also metal. People who reflect metal like structure, order, reason, and discipline. I could use some more of these qualities, since my dishes are never clean and my pantry is in a state of woeful disarray. I am always in awe of how structure comes so naturally for them. It never even occurred to me to put things back in their original package, or to keep things up in slow steady increments instead of letting them pile up like a heap of leaves. I say that organized people are boring, but secretly I’m just jealous.

But a world of only metal would be a sad lonely place, void of life.

There is also the element of fire. These people love sensation, drama, sentiment. They are fueled by being around people, and yet they can rage too hot. I love to be in the presence of fire. It’s warming, and radiates, and it’s a different type of heat. And yet one time a fire burned down our back shed because it got out of control, and could not be contained. Three fire trucks showed up and I freaked out, running out of our house with two kids and a bag filled with granola bars and diapers. Because of course if our house burned down I certainly needed granola bars. WTH.

A world of only fire is a sun, which burns only to give light to others.

Wood is my element. I love wood in a strange way some people love chocolate bars or American Idol. My house is saturated in neutral, and it gives me great peace. I am drawn to carved things. I relate so well to the imagery of a tree with branches, giving life and love. I am tall. I feel rooted, and can perform well under pressure. And yet the wind bothers me, and I’m filled with allergies and prone to eye conditions and headaches. But the thought of spreading my branches and reaching to the sky, birds still atop my outstretched arms, makes me feel happy. Not that literally I want birds on my arms. Because that’s weird.

A world cannot survive packed only with trees. We need rivers and bluebirds and constellations and thunderstorms. For even trees need rain and light. They need a metal saw to prune their branches. They need wind to blow off the dead leaves and allow the earth to be a resting place. And sometimes, even wood needs to be burned.

Living inside of one element is not a balanced life. We have to at times gather from others, and learn from them. It’s not about simply co-existing, but actually embracing differences. Except for those neighbors who refuse to take down their Christmas lights.

Today, on my hike, I grabbed a rock and squeezed in hard in my hand. I kept squeezing the sharp edges until I could feel pangs of hurt on my skin, sharp edges into the soft. I imagined the blood inside of me, thick and red. I was thankful for how the water I drank ran down in all my weak places, filling me up. And I braved the wind, because it’s part of things, and this is what Claritin is for. I climbed into my metal car and drove home with the windows down.

We are all interconnected. The earth, humanity, our various souls. I hope we can look at our earth as a patchwork of different elements, all working together for good. Otherwise we remain forever leaning, forever off balance, forever incomplete.

We need each other. Otherwise we would be blowing forever in the breeze, across the sea, just a metal pipe rolling along the dry, parched earth. Nothing but dust in the wind.

Let’s embrace each other for what we bring to the world, instead of chastising each other for being so different.

 

photo:

(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/daverose215/9704317021/in/photolist-fMxamH-fMPZ6y-9tUq8M-fMPXSb-fMxru6-fMQ3tj-fMPKPW-vMSvXt-71QVtw-4LeZHv-fMxrVi-4LjcEo-fMPWwA-HZEwN-nbxnip-65Vr8h-26NjP2-fMxnJD-nbxnAP-61P5T2-PTx5H-cBK8jY-4LeZpe-cz4Qyy-8JfxsW-4LeYwD-4LeYQZ-pW41cv-fMPHHW-5qMQkE-fMxwbM-akgC9b-Bds6-fMxgNx-5P9y-8jXuZo-fMPYAq-fMQ11u-fMPLky-fMxqXF-4LjaBq-fMxfSk-4LeYgP-4Lj9Rd-4LeXwD-8XkBH6-4Ljbzf-4LeXhT-4Ljakh-o5SZJC

The Truth about Texting Abbreviations

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I realize everyone has limited time. But if you’re going to give your thumbs a rest by using texting abbreviations, let’s at least better understand them. Studies show that using texting abbreviations during the entire course of life will save you a total of sixteen minutes. So when you’re ninety years old and drooling, you can stare at the wall a little bit longer. Make it count.

Here are the most popular:

OMG (Oh my what – God? Gosh? Grapes?). This is mainly used when there is literally nothing else creative in the universe to say, generally an acceptable response to anything from “I’m having a ten-pound baby” to “Let’s have tacos for dinner, OMG I love tacos.” If we are going to perpetuate this abbreviation we should maybe vary it up a bit, like OMS (oh my stars!) or OMB (oh my bacon!). People can guess. It’ll be fun.

LMAO (Laugh My Ass Off). This is ridiculous. Let’s all stop using this. There is no one who laughs so much that they lose their own ass. Perhaps the laughing is so forceful and it burns so many calories that the fat melts off. This is odd at best, scary at worst. Because you need an ass. Without one, how would you look in jeans? How would you sit? If you are laughing this hard, you need to calm the heck down and take a sedative.

ROFL (Rolling on the Floor Laughing). I can’t believe this is even a thing. I’ve been on this planet for 40 long years, and have heard some extremely funny things. However, I have never rolled around on the floor about it. Not due to Lucille Ball. Not after hearing Jerry Seinfield. Not even listening to the Louis C.K. HBO special. There is dog hair on the floor, and germs. I’m not sure why you’d roll around down there, even for a good solid Trump joke.

LOL (Laugh out loud). This is a classic, but don’t you think it’s getting tired? It is rare that you laugh out loud. It’s often only a slight chuckle, so to say you are truly laughing is a bit extreme. Americans are going crazy with extremes. If you laugh at something, perhaps just say “Ha.” Or “Funny.” Or even “YFPS” = you are so funny that I want to take you to parties like a sideshow. Not to be extreme. As an aside, I had a friend once whose wife was in the hospital with a life-threatening illness, and her mother-in-law thought LOL meant “lots of love,” so whenever she’d text the poor girl she would say “Does the IV hurt? LOL” or “I’m so sorry you are losing your eyesight LOL.” That actually did make me laugh out loud.

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion). I’ve had this thrown at me a few times, meaning that the person is about to say something I do not want to hear. Because of course I wanted their vain, arrogant opinion.

The folks who post on our neighborhood garage sale always use the phrase ISO (in search of). That cracks me up because instead of leading with “I need a used dresser” what they are instead saying is that they are on a search! A quest! A scavenger hunt for treasure! I am desiring a purse made from the threads of Burberry!

The only phrases (in my humble opinion) that are truly worth the energy-save of an abbreviation is perhaps JK (just kidding), the occasional K (okay) and certainly GOTYM (get out of town you moron). Otherwise, you need to salvage your ass and stop rolling around on the dirty floor. No matter how funny Jim Gaffigan is, sit up for heaven’s sakes. K?

photo:

(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/garryknight/8331105136/in/photolist-dGc6iJ-aKPi8T-4zV17D-9qQCYc-5Qb9JK-5Q5g4D-5Q5fr6-6gqgXv-bJYiHH-9EGRvd-bFiepD-eaNEDk-NfCGd-bS6CLn-68rFgK-eyNL71-duEZhk-bR52LB-a8wdVc-6NbQH1-okNmYq-5Q5fdM-pR8z8t-d393Xf-frhDdG-cEGGkd-7SLQGz-npcgs5-btPpXc-7Se6fK-5Q5fWt-5Q9v1u-5Q9v4y-rWPzZX-CRYc3u-gvZyq-fM2ZcC-9ZY28m-5Q9vpY-dsB2Y9-gvZxb-C24FK2-8URHGt-eWKEim-APgSC1-C5LRtE-Bp3ucJ-dVQU7M-4UjLyE-8quZL3

God Is Not Impressed with Us

2937639265_8ab19dcc1d_zThere are times I have no funny lines.

Because in real life, decisions are hard. Paths are confusing. My future seems like a mountain looming before me. Who I am to move mountains? In front of me is a hiking trail canvassed with trees and I haven’t worked out in seventeen years. There is no way I can climb. So I pray for answers, but none come. I want the path to be made straight and not so damn high. Basically I want things to come to me, easy and consistent, like water out of a tap when you turn the handle.

But all I hear is the buzzing of flies. The path is still high and crooked, and I’m left sitting cross-legged, in a large wrinkled heap of me. Where is God in times like these? Why doesn’t he answer me at church when I call?

And then I think, “woman, get yourself together.” Think of something funny, something to overcome, something that will boost up your own sagging ego. Write, so you’ll have readers. Sing, so you’ll have listeners. Say something funny, so you’ll be the one who is invited to things. I’m always wanting, like an insatiable thirst. I pick myself up, eat less carbs, wear smaller pants, get more sleep, clean my house, and tell the world that I can knock this hill. I can climb this mountain. Maybe with these efforts, my desire to be heard, to be loved, to be accepted, to be strong, to be married, to be needed – such longing will be quenched. Or maybe if I wait it out, the mountain will even itself out and I’ll be able to climb.

Maybe God will see how strong I’ve become.

The irony is that longing apart from God has no boundaries. There are always more pictures, deeper and richer. There are funnier jokes, less wordy and shrill. There are more friends to love and more wine to drink. More lessons to teach and more decisions to make. Our children try our patience and challenge our stamina. In turn, we take more pictures, write more books, eat less carbs, do more laundry.  We may even disguise our desires as having a higher purpose, a noble goal, a gift we are born to share. We run and run without a finish line. And we are emotionally exhausted.

In the end we are sitting on the floor with a toothbrush, scrubbing until the dirt is gone. And yet we still feel filthy. We walk outside and see that same tall, crooked path. The mountain still looms, despite our best efforts to ignore it. We shut the door and scream, for who likes hiking anyway. Clothes from REI are dumpy and it’s allergy season. Let’s make brownies instead. Maybe we can satiate this never-ending, never fading, always consuming, need of ours to be fully loved.

Self-absorption is tricky. We have to get our head away from the mirror to see it. And all my own efforts – to stand tall and look thin and be funny and be wise –they are all foolish children’s games, round and round and round with no end and no beginning.

God never moved. He never needed me to show off. He didn’t need my service. He was never impressed with my frivolity or my ability to do things. How small and insignificant did I think God was? He only wanted my heart, and my aching desire to be directed at him for comfort. All God wanted is for me to make a choice – to throw myself at his feet and ask. Will you help me, Lord? Will you direct my path? Will you give me the strength in this day to walk this one step up this looming hill? But please don’t make me wear REI, because it’s not that feminine and all the sweaters are drab shades of green.

One step. It doesn’t matter what I look like, what I say, how many people are watching. It doesn’t matter that I’ve treated God in the past like a vending machine, wanting good things to pop out.

I am here now, in comfortable shoes. I am standing outside my kitchen and staring at this mountain I have avoided all my life. I am asking God to please give me the strength to take a step. One foot at a time, as fast or slow as He directs. I ask forgiveness for my arrogance, for my need for acceptance, for my vanity. All I want is to exist inside of the love that only God can provide.

He said yes. He always says yes to this question. So I take a step in faith, small as a mustard seed. I trust God will lead. He always does. And then the funny comes, because happiness comes, and love comes flowing out everywhere. It is sun shining through clouds, butter sliding over potatoes, syrup over pancakes. It covers and penetrates and fills me up.

Today is the day you can tackle that mountain. One step at a time. One prayer at a time. One small breath at a time. Even wearing REI. Even in ugly comfortable shoes. Because honestly, green is a good color on you.

 

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The Intersection of humor and faith

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I wonder if God laughs at Gaffigan. In my small town viewpoint, anything that honors others, doesn’t tear people down, helps bridge gaps, and makes hard things easier, is sort-of like religion, without having to choke down all those wafers.

Last night I was invited to a wonderful gathering of women – strong, powerful, change-leaders in our society. There were lawyers, doctors, CEO’s, accountants – all seeking to find out how to mesh faith into their daily lives. It was loud, because hello we are women, and there was wine, which makes life better. I was talking to the main speaker about her topic, trying to hear above all the chatter.

“Did you say that you were speaking about Jesus s**t?” I said. Because that was odd. Not what I expected her to say. You should have seen the look on her face. Incredulous. Surprised. Maybe offended? I don’t know her that well.

“I said LEADERSHIP,” she said.

“Oh, right.” I said. “That’s way better. Let’s not refer to that other thing ever again.” And then I stared at my toes for a while. I don’t know if I’ll be invited back.

Of all the parts about being alive, I find laughter to be one of the most exciting. It’s a little creepy from the outside, probably. Lions are probably like what is up with all that shaking from the humans. Our mouths fly open and strange burst-like noises come out. Sometimes there is bellowing. We might cry and say things like “Stop it!” and “Get out!” when we really mean “Go on!” and “You’re hilarious!” And in the process of laughing small little bubbles of happy are released into our bloodstream. We are drawn to humor like Kardashians to plastic surgery.

I was asked to speak a few months ago at a women’s retreat on the topic of humor. I wanted to somehow express the odd dynamic I saw between humor and faith. The friends of mine that make me laugh out loud are not at all religious and seem to tolerate my faith like I have a wart or crooked teeth. The poor girl can’t help herself.

And then there are my religious friends. Some get offended, or think humor is hurtful or that they are doing something wrong by laughing at off-color jokes. There is a point that humor can become divisive. I actually wanted to walk right out of a Dave Chappelle show because instead of joy all I heard was pain. But generally speaking we need to calm the heck down already. These wonderfully spiritual people crowded into the room in which I was giving a talk because they were thirsty for funny. Something real and not polished. Something about faith that didn’t involve the word grace or salvation and instead involved the feeling of joy.

When I was writing my first novel (I say that like I have ten others when I only just have this one), one of my main goals was to juxtapose humor with pain, because laughter is a great connector, and our aching hearts need to be filled with endorphins instead of anticoagulants. But it can also cut like a thousand knives, into deep places of shame and hurt where other weapons cannot reach. We have a duty to use it wisely, and responsibly, to bring good to the world.

I’m not saying Gaffigan is a saint. He clearly eats too many doughnuts. But I am saying that humor is a gift. It’s a part of who we are. We are literally built for it. And anything our body craves so deeply and provides so much joy is a good and holy thing. In my non-preacher, simple girl opinion.

Laughing is effervescent. It fizzes and tickles, and when your life might be otherwise flat, wit makes it sparkle. Invest in friendships that encircle, and uplift, and fill you with happy. Seek out comedy. Don’t be afraid to cross these two worlds – faith and humor.

We so desperately need it to stay afloat.

photo:

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/abukij/19118573923/in/photolist-v8rFWT-hdsK62-a14QY8-JbDdR-8g53Pi-brhJ7W-5r9cR4-st9iAk-7YFSxb-pov6cD-pjVErG-5YHsAw-7mBjHU-59hNjK-rpNHt5-aFQ64k-bTmdbe-85an7k-k5hdz6-ebr3Ec-5vmmek-3q5Rss-8HUe3m-vzCqC-zEwzNF-9GtVd3-wvJFMn-7RCH9-n6dRz-8HZ8hZ-ae5qoH-aUuKDK-5SKnNG-5xdPjR-5GFxXz-E8Y4i-7iNNFo-zAebqJ-hkHLFn-9htucp-9XHZPK-9vmm6-eKHX9i-myNz9q-qmyaM4-76JYWD-5bQsDp-dzdia1-fiRvwU-3qzemW

Hindsight

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It’s hard to go back and read essays I wrote years ago. Before the divorce. Back when I was making dinner and singing songs and baking bread. I shake my head at how naive I was. How sheltered I was. How ridiculous of me to make that much bread. The world as I knew it fell beneath me like a molten floor, and I simply crumpled in the melting.

It’s hard to dig even deeper, to when I was first diagnosed with cancer. When they told me they’d probably take out my eye, and it would ruin a perfectly fine legal career. I’d be filled with radioactivity and wonder every six months whether that melanoma would permeate my liver with death and have to look like a pirate with a patch on a Tuesday. I had needles shoved in my eye to relieve the pressure and later it was filled with oil just to hold up my stupid retina. Imagine, I told my mother. An eyeball filled with oil.

You know what else is hard? To have been strapped down to a table before surgery, because your baby is seven months along and you feel his heart beating strong. To feel his kicks and his little hands and to know you are his sole and undivided protector. And they tell you they have to operate and remove the cataract or your eye will explode but you refuse anesthesia because of him, inside of you, living. So you sweat and you can hardly breathe but for the tube and you are covered in plastic and iodine. “Whatever you do,” the surgeon said, “you cannot move.” “Oh God,” I thought. “Here we go again.”

And oh, my first born. She exploded out of me as a brilliant fire. And yet the staph infection set in, and my gut raged, and I was in and out of being present, and the pain hurt so much I didn’t even feel it anymore. They cracked me open and took out all my organs, and then put them back again, freshly flushed with a saline rinse and Vancomycin. For a month I lay there, turning and searing and begging God to someday let me see my baby. I put my lipstick on despite the raging fevers. I tried to pretend I didn’t feel the stabbing pain of pumping with a ripped-up gut in a delirious drug-induced belief that I’d go home and breastfeed my child. I cracked bad jokes to the nurses, thinking it would earn me freedom.

It’s hard to go back. To take a moment to stare at the burned parts, the ones seared into the fabric of my life. I have not just waded, but tore my boots off and plunged head-first into some very troubled waters. And each time, I asked. “God? Are you there?” All those Bible stories I learned just seemed to fade away. All the times I sat with my gloves on in church on Sunday just seemed like fools gold. Oh, God. I am too young to die like this.

There was no still, small voice. There was no Charlton Heston voice either. There were no words at all. But God spoke straight into me. I was fully loved. He was present. I did not have to handle this. And although I didn’t hear this last part, he was probably also like “take deep breaths” and “so when we are done here let’s not have any more children, K?” and “girl, that bread just goes straight to your hips so for the love of heaven eat more kale.”

Sometimes it’s okay to remember. Because in the hurt you see all the healing that’s taken place over a lifetime. You take note of the way in which it’s formed you. You recognize the power of vision – in hindsight – even with one eye.

You see for the first time how far you’ve really come.

 

photo:

(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/mind_scratch/2434031231/in/photolist-4H63FH-9HmR8k-r3TnFb-4Tp2di-iWrphM-qeGoqt-ri7PkJ-6f2FxK-rhNm52-8UoM6P-vSxh7V-omYNZ-r3ZD2Z-5wSNM4-cuEJzf-4XUFCv-7ibUj9-5W5zEW-4R2jHH-4gzf2p-53sKUX-byzF4r-hMoJcN-36wjrG-accrur-9Hs5Ki-6NL6bf-xVeWa-AKpJxG-gaJ6hP-6tjjRP-AS1q-gaHyhA-9G9yBa-92DtyB-92cKEW-7xLSK-gaHoQi-b7snfx-6TALYJ-7f7etw-CGFz6-b8LCmk-oANj62-4n6mBG-axhGdL-bQKvVr-xTFgSz-xTFe9i-dPfVV

Odd and Curious Thoughts about the Holidays

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  • Most people who know me recognize my neurosis about house décor. I like browns and creams and whites and I basically would live inside a restoration hardware magazine if I could squeeze myself inside of it. So imagine my sheer delight when my mother makes stockings for my children covered in snowmen and santas with more sequins than a Vegas showgirl. Now the kids want to display the wretched things. Which I allow, only because “it’s the season of giving” and “it’s all about the children.” But I’m slowly dying inside. The birth of Jesus does not translate to green sequins. It does not.
  • My daughter is hosting a History of Tea party whereby she is doing a lesson for all the guests on the influence of tea around the world and in various cultures, and when I told another mom about it she was like “my daughter’s not really into tea.” People are weird. Who isn’t into tea? I told her to just “pick a chai and come anyway” but she looked at me like folks round here in Texas don’t throw culturally-themed parties involving spices. Then I told my yoga friend and she was like “that’s awesome we’ll bring along china from my grandmother as a special surprise (and how will we choose the tea?)” and this is how I know who my friends are.
  • I bought an Advent calendar so the kids would have something to look forward to every day leading to Christmas but kept forgetting to buy little gifts for it so I ended up ripping open Halloween candy packages and stuffing M&M’s inside the little slots and my daughter was like “you have got to be kidding me.”
  • I am purchasing a handmade gift off etsy and I’ve been communicating with someone named Armen with a last name longer than my shoe size who tells me “Hi here is link for payment” when I emailed him regarding dimensions and I’m wondering if I’m actually buying a bomb and I’m on the FBI watch list now and all this time I thought it was just an engraved wooden box.
  • Somehow in a strange twist of mistakes I ended up being the chairperson of both my son and daughter’s Christmas parties and I’m put in the hard position of choosing a favorite child. Or at least that’s the way their eyes looked when I told them. Then my daughter said “no problem you can just set up a big screen and video chat with us in the classroom” which is kinda brilliant. Except she goes to a classical school where they study roman history and medieval architecture and don’t have any computers.
  • “But the burlap stockings with the little spring of holly leaf is so much prettier!” I say. No one listens. They want to know if they can put up COLORED LIGHTS . They must hate me and wish me dead. It must have been all those times I made them eat Brussels sprouts.
  • Speaking of food, I roasted acorn squash with dinner and in the middle of every squash was pooled up liquid gold with all that melting of the of butter and maple syrup and brown sugar but my kids wouldn’t touch it. Because BROWN SUGAR bleugh and SYRUP disgusting and BUTTER gross and squash that ends up tasting like HEAVEN yuck and then after dinner they wanted to know if they could have a cheap store-bought cookie for dessert. I worry about the long-term success of their future given their current poor decision-making abilities.
  • Last night I didn’t want to do dishes because I don’t have a spouse and it’s just me so I was all “stick it to the man” and “I can do whatever I want” like Miley Cyrus but then I woke up to all these nasty dirty dishes in the sink so sticking it to myself was dumb. See (7) above and now it all makes perfect sense where they get it from.
  • I may have slightly insulted the elf-on-a-shelf by calling it “an utterly stupid invention; honestly I have enough things to move around my house; whoever invented that damn thing should be given a mental exam; how did that thing catch on to begin with” just to be told by the mom I was talking to outside the school pick-up line that she was “really into it” and set her alarm at night to get up and move the elf around to the various elfish places. So that happened. I decided to smile, nod in an understanding way, and compliment her boots. That’s my default most days.
  • My boyfriend’s daughter spent the night at our house and I was like “would you like some tea?” and she was so excited that we were tea drinkers and I then crossed the line to bring out all the various teas and asked if she wanted some sugar in a British flair and “it’s awfully good with cream” and my internal radar was like TOO MUCH. YOU ARE SCARING HER. IT IS ALL TOO MUCH.
  • So we visited the boyfriend’s family for the Thanksgiving holidays in Pennsylvania, which was lovely except our hotel caught on fire and we were evacuated so all my clothes were stuck back in a suitcase by a firefighter and smelled like molten ash so my boyfriend’s mother ended up washing my unmentionables in her washing machine. Sadly, this is my life and it doesn’t sound all that weird. My girlfriend on facebook was like “well at least your house wasn’t hit by lightning like it was a few years ago.” Now you see why I don’t get rattled when my daughter’s all “Halloween candy in our advent calendar?” Yeppers bell peppers, kiddo. Deal.
  • This year I decided what the heck / give in already / let the kids put up whatever tree they want (upstairs) so they decorated it with glittered pinecones and put a peppermint Christmas tree on the top and they taped extra stockings to my work desk. I told them I thought it was beautiful. Maybe I’m growing up. I think it’s because I eat squash and get loads of sleep and don’t set my alarm to move ridiculous elves around.

Drink some tea. Get some sleep. Glitter it up for the holidays.

 

photo:

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/aoifecitywomanchile/4198461986/in/photolist-aU5teR-7p1dtC-8dZqS