Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hidden Treasure

I was loading up kiddos into our car while two white-haired older ladies walked by in their pastel-colored pants and matching striped shirts.  I couldn't help but overhear them:

"Yeah, I think I was at my Zumba class when I lost it.  I had stuck it in my bra and couldn't find it afterward."

(Did she just say Zumba?!)

"Yeah" her friend answers dryly, "Usually that place is such a treasure chest.  That's too bad."

Funnier comeback than anything I would have said.

I felt a surge of hope.  Maybe we portray senior citizenship a certain way, and all the while people are sassier, funnier and more vibrant than we give them credit for.

Maybe those polyester peach pants are just there to throw us off until we're qualified to join the club.

Monday, April 21, 2014

To Dwell in Hope

I want to tell you something important.  And because it is important, I worry about being misunderstood, not just in content, but in motive, too.  I am apprehensive because I'm not seeking advice or sympathy.  I just want you to know.

If I added your name to the list of people who could see that facebook post, it's intentional.  I hoped you would come read this because...well for many different reasons.  And if you found your way here by any other means, welcome to you.  I believe there are reasons.

Last week I posted Seat Belts and Bill's feedback was that it didn't have context.  "It doesn't need context," I told him.  "This is life, and everyone has something for which that metaphorical seat belt would serve them well."

Tonight I want to tell you why I posted that for our family.  This is hard news, so if you just have a moment before you've got to have your game face on again, this might not be the best time to be reading this.

My mom is fighting for her life against stage 4 lung cancer that has metastisized throughout her body.  She left for a Cancer Treatment Center today because they have determined that her particular kind of genetically  mutated cancer has responded well to a drug. We all dwell in hope for positive outcomes.

All while beating back the voices of worse-case-scenarios.  Your mind goes there.  It does.  It's a wracking, overwhelming ache to wobble on this ledge with her and wonder which way it all will go.  Any which way it does go, we still dwell in hope.  My mom most of all.  Because she has put her faith in a living God, she dwells in hope.

From her website she writes, " I will try to keep you updated...on my journey to heaven or health!  ;-)…. or both for that matter."

That's my mom.  She is 100% sure of the end of the road, even if she can't even see around the next bend. 

We travel in the sunshine. We travel through the storms. As my mom has so simply stated, "The rain falls.  The rain falls on all of us."

"I can't stop the rain," sings Third Day, "but I will hold you til it goes away."  Even in the rain, everybody needs a few umbrellas of love and support.

 If you know her,  will you go sign her guestbook  and let her know that you're thinking of her?  If you pray, will you pray for her?  If you don't pray (and never expect to) you are no less loved by me. I get that we all live on the path we're on.

 In the end, I don't want to stumble through a life in which you ask me how I am and I stare at you blankly and say, fine. I must acknowledge what is before me, and let you see why I am so distracted sometimes.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I am grateful that my path has crossed with each of you.

What Would LaDonna Do?

Sometimes there is no plan.  There is no menu, there is no agenda, there is no to-do list prewritten for the day.  I just wake up and wonder how the day will unfold, hoping I'll get through it with some strength and grace and patience for the people I care for most.

For you Type A's I know this must sound ludicrous.  How do I ever get anything done?  All the rest of us know.  One thing at a time. Sometimes the unplanned days are a sad, pale tale of listless unproductivity and worse, not even any fun.  And sometimes we surprise ourselves and get a bunch done, and have a lot of fun, or some acceptable combination of the two.

But do you ever wake up and feel no inspiration for anything?  Zilch.  Your drive and fun have both flatlined.  There isn't a cause you want to contribute to, a recipe you want to try, a friend you want to catch up with, nothing.

How's a day like that gonna unfold?

That's when I'm grateful for LaDonna.  Today being a flat Monday and all.  Monday, in the world LaDonna created for my husband's childhood, was Laundry Day.  Reliably as a metronome, they could set their watches by her ability to keep their household organized. Before I met my husband, I did not know that people had an assigned day for laundry.  In the world my mom created for my childhood, laundry was done perpetually--as needed.  All the time.  Anytime.  The night before your uniform was needed, if necessary.  If you had nothing clean left to wear. If you borrowed your sister's sweater and were hoping to return it to her closet without her noticing.

As a single girl, I got in the terrible habit of not using my hamper to contain the dirties as much as my entire laundry room to contain the piles of dirty clothes that I would let stack for weeks until I imagined you could have mogul ski competitions in there if they were snow.

What are we going to do today? Landon asked me with innocent expectation.  In the wake of a wonderful, busy Easter hosted here and prepped for for days, I truly didn't know.

Today is Monday.  Laundry Day.  And Landon, getting half his legacy from those organized Browns loved the sound of that and went off cheerfully to get his hamper.

At dinner, Bill asked us what we did today.  After a bit Landon said, "Well, yeah, Dad.  You know it is Monday.  It was Laundry Day." as if that was the sum total answer to explain it all.  Predictable productivity to kickstart our week.

Thanks, LaDonna. I've never met you, and yet, I owe you.
My free-wheelin', random girl really needs A Plan sometimes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Houdini-Monkey Baby

I hear a terrible clatter down the stairs.  I race toward them, dreading to find my one-year-old at the bottom of the landing.  Instead, he is staring at the baby gate with a stunned look on his face.  The baby gate that, at 15 months old he somehow figured out how to disconnect entirely from its sockets and send flying down the stairs like a webbed sled of doom.

Who does that?  Who is this Houdini-Monkey baby who makes me crazy when he isn't charming me?  And I'll be honest, sometimes even the charm wears a little thin when the perilous things he does make me count hours til nap time or bedtime.  Not because I don't love him.  Of course I do.  You would love him too, if you met him.  He's a lovable spitfire of spazzy, laughing wonder.  It's because my love mixes with worry and wears me out.

I went to the office for one minute and thirty seconds.  I heard stomping and came out to find this:

That's Micah doing a rain dance on TOP of the kitchen table.  Chomping on a gigantic binder clip and laughing like he was at a comedy show.  I've known my firstborn for almost five years and not one single time has he ever danced on top of the kitchen table.  Micah is just past one, and already he is getting a track record for the unprecedented things he comes up with.  I feel like I need unprecedented mom skills to keep up with him.

The other day my friend called me quite concerned, returning a cryptic text that said, "Call me as soon as you get this. S"  He asked, "Do you normally refer to yourself as 'S' in texts?"  I didn't send you any urgent text, I told him.  It took me a long time to figure out that Micah must have navigated to a menu with prewritten text choices and actually managed to send one.  It happened at 1:30 during the ten minutes I gave him my phone at a museum because he was squawking like somone was biting him. I pacified Micah with a bit of forbidden technology and what?  He sends rescue-me text messages like we're holding him hostage?!  Tricky, that one.  Very tricky.

I think Micah might be a better 4th child than a second.  I think if he were a 4th I'd have older kids to help me keep an eye on him, my nerves would be steelier and my skills would be madder.  As it is, I feel like I'm toe-to-toe with a contender.  Small, but mighty.  And sometimes he wriggles his way to victory and I'm left kinda helplessly trying not to cry, sigh or lock myself in the bathroom.

Today, I felt the most profound gratitude that he is still in a crib that he hasn't figured out how to escape.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Food Equals Love

Food equals love in my world.
Before you suggest a good therapist, let me explain. 
Umm....Food equals love.

Just kidding!  I realized as I was about to try to explain that it all seemed so self-evident; what could I possibly need to explain?  But then, believing that something is glaringly obvious is usually the first hint that it may be an opinion deeply particular to yourself.

So I'll try.
When people put thought, effort and energy into planning, preparing, and presenting food (of almost any caliber) I see it as an act of love.  When I eat food prepared by people I know, I feel a little bit more loved by them.

So when my dad prepared food to feed 50 for any party over 5, we all could eat from the bounty of his generous heart.  And when my mom got into "food ruts" and we enjoyed chicken burritos or stir-fried mixes from the red wok every week for three months in a row, we could all eat from the well of her deep love.  Food like that says, my love may not be fancy, but it will be here. Every week. In repeating themes. When my Aunt puts as much care into the way the table looks, with coordinating dishes and napkins, setting plated visions of beauty worthy of five stars, her food says, I honor each of you with royal treatment because my love finds you worthy.  This day, this family, this moment is worth my love and attention because some things are just meant to be special. My love celebrates you. When people send me food after babies, during grief, when I'm sick, we eat each bite in overwhelming grattitude, tasting the message, "Whatever it is, may this food give you comfort and strength.  We love you." 

Sometimes love tastes like a vegetarian pizza from Papa Murphy's that your sister has waiting for you when you get home from the doctors.  Sometimes it looks like the last bit of dessert that your husband left for you without being asked.  Sometimes love smells like breakfast being cooked while you get to stay in bed.  Sometimes it's the way fresh basil from your in-laws' garden elevates the deliciousness of everything you add it to.   

Holidays come around and we look for familiar favorites on the menu. Why? Because the memory of this special food, served with joy each year on these special days, is like singing the chorus to the song of our food stories.  Our food stories that tell the story of our lives and of our love.  All mixed up together in ways that I don't easily separate.

So yes, I know love is love in my world. 
I'm just saying that sometimes, it also looks, smells and tastes an awful lot like food.

Seat Belts

If I could stand on a street corner and pass out free gifts, I know just what I'd like to give.  If metaphors were ours for the asking, morphing into the reality they represent, then here's what I'd want my pen to purchase:

a seatbelt.

The girl who wrote In Defense of a Dangerous Childhood almost a year ago to the day, is now seeking a metaphorical seatbelt?

Yes.  Yes, I am.

And here's why:

No matter how you're travelin', at some point along the journey, the trip is going to get bumpy.  Treacherous.  Uncertain.  Mine has.  Maybe yours has already, too.  And as much as we may feel inclined to jump ship/car/train/rocket or whatever other mode you compare your vehicle to,

life is the journey with no exits until it's over.  So while it's awesome may I encourage you to say wheee!  Sit at the front of the coaster with the wind in your hair. Live and cherish and breathe and make the memories you're going to need later.

And when life is completely wrong  and messed up and crumbly and confusing, may I encourage you to still sit in that front row?  Feel the rain in your face, mixed up with the tears, and live and breathe and look for ways to be grateful and slow down and endure the ride.

So whether you are in a season to endure or enjoy, in either case, with a seatbelt fastened, you won't hit your head so hard that you completely lose your mind.

So what's a metaphorical seatbelt, anyway?  How do we stay anchored in reality while we live the ride?

Ahh, my friends.  I'm sure for different people it is different things.  Mine is really one simple sentence.
Be still and know that I am God.

Spoken by God.  Not me.  I'm nothing.  I'm a bit of star dust housing a soul that's hurtling through space and time awaiting the day I'm released from both.

But I'll wear this seatbelt. Cinch it back on every day if I have to.  Because it's a beautiful, terrible ride.