Monthly Archives: September 2011

Ebb and Flow

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Life is funny.

Sudden tragedy has beset people I know and people I love. Sudden joy has crossed the paths of others.

It’s days like today I can almost subscribe to the chaos theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory). There seems no rhyme or reason to it all, and I sit back thankful things are OK in my world. There are many people I know who are experiencing let down, and somehow confuse it with genuine tragedy, because in their own perspective right now, it is.

Then there is true injury and death happening.

It seems to me tragedy cycles. We go for a time, untouched by the sadness that permeates so much. Then WHAM! Suddenly in my life or the lives of those close to me, wave upon wave of hardship falls. Then, just as quickly, it subsides and searches for another’s concentric circle of life to invade.

If life were as simple as some of my acquaintances say, our “good times” and our “bad times” would be brought on by our own action and sin. And while I believe that sometimes things happen in our lives as direct consequences of our actions — or inactions — sometimes crappy things happen for no apparently reason than we are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And if religion were as simply as “this is right,” and “that is wrong,” we could formulate a theory that would carry anyone who would subscribe to it into a “perfect” life. But, life isn’t like that.

I just finished Anne Rice’s book, “The Road to Cana”. For anyone who doesn’t know, Rice is the famous author of such books as “Interview with a Vampire,” and “The Vampire LaStat”. Following the tragic death of her atheist husband, Rice returned to the Catholic faith of her childhood. Since that time, she has begun a series on the life of Christ. Always a phenomenal novelist and the consummate researcher, Rice’s books are a beautiful tapestry of faith, fact, and fiction.

These books trace the life of Jesus through the veiled times we know very little about. Her first, “The Road to Egypt” traced Jesus’ life during the years he lived in Egypt and during his return to Nazareth. This one talks about the years he comes into his understand of who he is … his baptism, his “trial in the wilderness,” and his first miracle. It is FICTION, and not intended for theological instruction (I know some have a tough time figuring out the difference). But it’s a beautiful portrayal of some of the nuances of which we do not know. And … her fiction has encouraged me in ways many “Christian” books cannot.

Rice ends the book with this statement, followed by a quote from Pope Benedict XVI:

“These novels, whatever their faults, have been written for Him. They have been written for Him and for any and all who seek Him, and seek to mediate on the mystery of the Incarnation. And if these books do not bring you closer to HIm, then you are urged, please, to put them aside.”

And from the Pope: “Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves; it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with Him who is the source of life. If we are in relationships with Him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. The we ‘live’.”

“Then we live.” “Life is …relationship.” What happens to those I love affects me because of our relationships.

I struggle with all things “eternal.” Not “for” or “against,” but simply wrestling with them. People I care about, gone from this life. Religion gives us a hope of things eternal — of seeing them again. Whenever tragedy strikes around me, I tend to re-visit what I know, what I think, and what I wonder about.

What I do know is that I can’t figure it all out. So, I take a deep breath, and look for ways to bring comfort and love to those I love and care about. And I do all I can to not fall into a nihilistic funk that mirrors the weather outside.

And believe that tomorrow will be a better day.

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Are we all crazy?

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I stumbled across a site today (won’t give it out, because it bothered me so much) where zealots screamed untruths fashioned from their own limited intelligence and understanding. Seemingly they have made a choice, and then failed to continue seeking any thing that somehow conflicts with “where they stand.”

I purposely left my political philosophies out of my first paragraph, ’cause I see crazy everywhere I look anymore.

Whatever happened to a country where educated people could sit and reason together?

18“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.

19“If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;

20“But if you refuse and rebel,
You will be devoured by the sword.”
Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken…

24  …Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts,
The Mighty One of Israel, declares,
“Ah, I will be relieved of My adversaries
And avenge Myself on My foes.

25“I will also turn My hand against you,
And will smelt away your dross as with lye
And will remove all your alloy.

26“Then I will restore your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the beginning;
After that you will be called the city of righteousness,
A faithful city.”

I know not everyone agrees as to the relevancy of Bible text. And here, I did leave out three verses that deal specifically with Zion (who some would say apply to the US, but their opinions have no biblical basis, since the US didn’t exist “back then.”). But these verses are interesting to me.

First off, God (through Isaiah) is saying, “Let’s sit down and talk about this.” In this passage HE knows what their sin is. HE is, after all, God, right? But he doesn’t start throwing lightning bolts or screaming about someone’s stupidity or even claim the knowledge of stuff that for all intents and purposes is hearsay and build an entire life or political paradigm around it. Instead, he says, “Lets sit down and reason (think rationally, think logically, use one’s common sense, use one’s  head/brain;  formal cogitated,  ratiocinate) with one another. Or maybe it’s “reason” in the sense of: bring around, coax, persuade, prevail on,  convince,  make someone see the light. Either way, I don’t hear inflammatory speech, or asserting WE are right and YOU are wrong.

The funny thing is many of these people will also claim to “have the mind of Christ.” Yet I find it tough to find any passages in the Gospels that show Jesus in this light. And if you take me to where he cleared the temple, make sure you understand he cleared THE TEMPLE, not a political place, or even a merchant place. He cleaned out the religious place because they were MISSING THE MARK OF WHAT GOD INTENDED. At least that’s my understanding.

The other part of the above passage I see is that God says HE will be the one avenging, cleansing, and restoring. It’s not religious zealots. It’s not extreme patriots. It’s not political saviors. In the words of the immortal band, David and the Giants: He’s got it under control.

Of all the things in the world that seem chaotic and harmful, the thing that scares me the most isn’t that people are thinking for themselves. It’s that many people seem to have forgotten to think for themselves. That they are willing to jump on the first bandwagon that comes along that in any way intimates what they believe — whether they “know” or not …. This hyper identification then seems to lead to vilifying anyone that doesn’t jump on the same band wagon.

The truth is that everyone has “good” and “bad” in them. Another truth is that most of us are on a journey that has many twists, and turns, and bumps and like the parable of the Good Samaritan, I think God smiles on us when stop along the way to help and take care of those abused and beaten up — and he doesn’t take busyness or religious excuses from us when we ignore the wounded.

So, please friends. Let’s stop — even a little bit — of the craziness that is permeating our society! Everyone is so distraught by “terrorists” and their extremism. I only have to check some of my FB friends’ pages to see something much more terrifying to me. We don’t have to all agree. But we should all try to maintain some level of humanity. And just because I disagree with you doesn’t make you anymore “right” or “wrong.” Hang on to your beliefs — but don’t let them make you an idiot, or don’t use them like a sledgehammer against someone who doesn’t agree with you.

Like John Mayer once said, “Is there anyone who really recalls, Ever breaking rank at all, For something someone yelled real loud one time?”

DIEt and eXercise …

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I’ve been around the block a time or two. As I approach my … ahem … “F-ing” birthday a couple of years from now (thanks, friend Barb Stebbins!) I keep searching for the “magic” formula that will help me feel healthy and fit for the next half century (once I reach 100, I’ll re-evaluate).

I like to walk. And walking is something I can do. But consistency is my constant nemesis.I like the thought of walking 4 miles a day … but the actually pulling my sorry carcass out of bed in the morning early enough in the morning to make the routine work for my crazy life is my roadblock many mornings.

I like to eat healthy. I tend to be pulled toward vegetarian, although I’m not anti-meat. I like whole grains, whole vegetables and fruit, and am really not a sweet freak. I love to cook! Most days I’d rather cook and eat at home than eat fast food. I love experimenting with spices, and my family is pretty flexible when it comes to trying new things. I love menu planning (two weeks at a time) and so I have absolutely no reason not to eat healthy all the time.

So … what is my problem?

I also know all about South Beach, Atkins, HGH “micro” calories, portion control, calorie counting, “good fat,” “bad carbs,” and even been reading my friend’s take on the “cave man” diet. I know processed food is the bane of healthy existence, and the closer to nature, the better the nutrition. AND I know “diet” is a bad word when it means restricting food, but a lifestyle choice of healthy and balance is the way to change.

I do all of the above — for a while, and on occasion.

My inability to commit to a healthy lifestyle is simply indicative of my inability to commit to anything long-term. I have one commitment I’ve kept for almost 25 years. I tease the husband and tell him how lucky he is, because commitment is not one of my strong suites.

I find this problem tugging me in a lot of places. My writing, my study, my desire to travel and experience life and try different things. I rationalize myself out of “just doing things,” because I am concerned it will impact my family. I feel like I “should” pour myself into whatever my husband and kids do … but I’m starting to think sometimes I use that as another excuse to simply … not try.

Maybe I’m just lazy?  Yet, I run at a fairly high level most days, and can’t honestly say I see myself as that way. Or maybe it’s fear — not so much fear of failure as fear of success. I know that sounds … stupid. But if I would focus on getting healthier, what would I have to give up? The benefits would probably outweigh the cost, but what if it didn’t? Or, what if I did commit to actually practice and hone my craft as a writer?  What would I have to give up to succeed? And is it because I am “comfortable,” and afraid that if I bring about a major change in my life, it will quickly spiral into another “normal” that might be good for me, but not necessarily for those I care most about?

I like change. I’d tell you that all day and night. But change for ME is much different from change for those around me. My life has been tumulus at times. In my family, stability is highly valued. I’m OK in the crashing waves, but not everyone I love and care about would say that. Would I be trading the happiness of the people I love the most for the discipline of actually sticking to something long enough to succeed?

I’m sure everyone struggles at some point along this continuum of “me” and “you.” Wrestling within our souls to find that place where everyone is … happy? No, I know that’s impossible. I know the only person I can make “happy” is myself. I also know the contentment of other people in my life doesn’t depend on me … even though most days I feel like it does. Even though I’m told one thing, I feel selfish when my actions benefit me more than those around me.

How do you find the balance? I’d love to hear from my friend as to how they decide what is OK to label “mine” and what to share with those they love. I highly doubt everyone has people in their lives that simply “work it out” without struggle, because we are all so different as individuals.

So give me some input. Don’t tell me what to do — tell me what YOU do to find the balance within.

Old Haunts and New Life

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My family is musical. My husband is a musical genius, and all my children are talented and have beautiful voices.

My kids started singing when they were very young. Our home has always been filled with music. As the two oldest have gotten older, and moved on to college, I’ve missed the four-part harmony that became a part of our lives. Still, as they’ve gone on, they’ve continued to pursue music in various ways.

My oldest boy traveled this summer with a group that works to help throughout the region with admissions for his college. Today, that group helped lead worship at a local church. So, I took leave of my own congregation to go hear the band. A bonus was that my oldest daughter got a chance to sing with them as well, so both of my chicks were in one place, leading worship.

This wasn’t just “any” church. The church the kids were at today was one we had pastored for ten years in a previous life. This was the church where these two children spent most of their growing-up years. This was the place that they both sang in public for the first time.

We loved this church and its people. We were there when we were young and full of optimism and hope and ideas. We grew with these people; we added two more children to our family during this time. We had an excellent experience there.

And then it was done.

I’ve come a long way, and this isn’t the time or place to re-hash it all. But it was still a little surreal to be sitting back among the handful of people who were there “way back then” with us. To see my kids up on the platform again, only this time, as adults — full-voiced and beautiful and so confident.

It was a nice service. The pastor that is there now is a good guy, and he has a couple of other men helping on staff that are great guys. Some of the folks came up and shared hugs and warm greetings and “Wow, I can’t believe those kids are that big” conversations. It was … nice.

While the day brought back a lot of memories, it was nice to not be pulled into the melancholy that can accompany such experiences. We’re in a new place … a new stage of life. This new place is good, and welcoming and has restored hope to both my husband and I. It’s not perfect. But for where we are now — for the people we have become — it’s very good.

By it’s very definition, an “Old Haunt” intimates ghosts of the past visiting us again. Ghosts can be scary … if we let them scare us.

But I’m at a point in my life where fear has no place. Not fear of the past, or the present, or the future. Today reaffirmed in me that the new life my family and are investing in is where we should be right now. I don’t have a grip on all the details. But I know now that I wouldn’t trade what is for what might have been there.

So here’s to new life. Not for what might have been … but what is. Here’s to taking each moment and realizing that it is the only one of its kind, and living it to its fullest potential. And again, a gentle reminder that I need to make the most of every moment I’m given.

Anger and Pain

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I’ve had a serious issue with back pain for about three months now. Not having insurance, I’ve tried every non-professional remedy I know: heat, ice, ibuprofen, stretches, yoga. I’ve had my husband use vigorous pressure on it, and I’ve used solid objects to press painfully into the spot because somehow when I stopped, it felt better.

There has been some relief. But not much. I was to a point where I was going to suck it up and go see the chiropractor.

Then last night, I lost it. I had a variety of little things pile up against me to the point that I literally lost my temper and released a cathartic stream of anger and tears that lasted hours. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t uncontrolled — I didn’t strike out physically or scream obscenities at my family (although I think I hurt lion boy’s feelings unintentionally because the catalysis was him asking about laundry soap at 12:30 am … but that had nothing to do with my anger).

I cried myself to sleep, regretting the outburst and trying with all my might to figure out what the hell my problem was.

An unusual thing happened this morning, though. When I woke up, I scurried around the house, getting ready for an insanely busy day for the family. As I was finally taking a breath at the little one’s soccer game, I looked at my husband and said, “For the first time in months, my back hasn’t hurt today.” It was weird. I could turn, bend, stretch … and there was no pain. The continual pain and lump in the lower left side of my back was gone.

I didn’t take anything for the pain last night or today. I didn’t do any of my prefabbed rituals that have kept me sane for months.

I started wondering … was it the pain build up that created the wave of anger? And then I wondered … did the tangible release of anger actually release my pain with it?

I started searching around the internet (the ultimate source of all knowledge, don’tchaknow) and came across these articles: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/divorced-children/200902/pain-anger-and-hurting-back.  And also: http://www.arachnoiditis.info/website_captures/chronicpainhandbook/Anger%20and%20Chronic%20Pain.htm I know these doesn’t totally explain the phenomena. But, it’s interesting … I’d never thought of it.

I believe we can control a lot that happens in our body through mental stamina and things like exercise, meditation, and prayer. And while a positive mental attitude isn’t the answer to everything, an optimistic outlook on life is usually better for us than the “Eeyore” syndrome.

All I know is that, with the exception of the huge, horrible release of angry frustration that I experienced, I did nothing different. And while I’m in no way suggesting this is good therapy … I’m still feeling a bit numb and lost today … my back feels better.

Anyone else ever experience such a phenomena? If so, let me know.

Chicken noodle goodness

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In this part of the world, the temperature is like a non-committed lover … hot and heavy one minute, cool and aloof the next. Today, we went from the seventies to the high 30’s tonight … yikes!

But the drastic temperatures bring out the brilliant colors that highlight our change of season! Still … it’s tough to take sometime.

However, in my world … this flip-flop means it’s time for (drum roll, please) soup! Soup! Soup!I posted this on my Facebook page, but thought it warranted a re-post here for my friends who aren’t a part of my Facebook world. I need to re-iterate … the older I get, the more I follow what’s commonly known as Ayurveda cooking philosophy. (http://ayurvedic-cooking.com/). That means I cook sometimes by “feel” or sight, or “sense”. I know … call me crazy. But you know what? It works!

So below is my “teetering on the edge of spirituality” chicken noodle soup. I hope you enjoy the soup … and the process of making this delicious soup for those you love.

Noodles:

(Please note: homemade noodles need to “dry,” so I made these the night before)

Homemade noodles are so flipping simple! For this batch, I did 2 eggs, about 1 t. of salt (Kosher) and “enough flour to enable me to roll them out”. Sorry … start with 1 cup, and keep adding until it forms a coarse mixture that, when rolled, rolls like cookie dough. I rolled mine between 2 sheets of parchment paper. I rolled it to a thickness I like (like the frozen noodles you buy that say “homemade” on them). I used my pizza cutter to cut them out, and set them on non-colored newspaper overnight.

Chicken:

I started with two large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, a medium onion, a clove or two of garlic (I actually used dried minced this time), salt and pepper, and some olive oil.

I coat a frying pan with olive oil, and put it on the stove over a medium heat.  I sliced the onion, and spread it around the prepared pan. I sprinkled the garlic onto the onion bed and covered, to let the onions sweat it out a bit.

I salt and peppered the chicken breasts, and laid them on the bed of onions. Then, I cooked them until they were ever-so-slighly brown.

While they were cooking, I prepared the crock pot. I added about 2 C. chicken broth, 2-3 stalks of celery (cut into thirds, for easy removal), about 1 t. celery salt, 2-3 bay leaves, another good sprinkled of dried garlic (1 clove equivalent) and about 1 t. garlic salt (I’m thinking the garlic made this soup rock!).

When the chicken breast were browned, I transfered the breast, and all the goodies in the frying pan into the crock pot. I set in on “high,” and left it along for 3 – 31/2 hours. After that time, I took the chicken out. I set it aside, and drained the broth through a strainer (catch the broth!!). I threw the chunks of stuff away, and then added the broth to another “box” of store-bought chicken broth and put it all back in the crock pot. I skinned the chicken, cut it off the bone, and chunked it into “bite-size” pieces. I put those back into the pot.

Veggies:

I’m always using different kinds of veggies for soup. This batch consisted of four more stalks of celery (cut into 1/2″ or so pieces, leaves and all), 5 large carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes, another medium onion, peeled and diced, and about 8 oz. frozen corn. I put 2 T butter into my frying pan, melted it, and added carrots. Covered those puppies for 5-7 minutes. Then I added the other veggies minus the corn. I cooked them about 3-5 more minutes.

Then, I scraped all the veggie goodness into the crock pot. I turned the heat to low, and let it set another four hours.

Two hours before serving, I slip the dried noodles into the pot. I covered, and let it simmer until we ate.

Lots of work? Yeah, maybe. But it was all from whole foods (sans the box o chicken broth), and seriously, it was very, very good.

OK, enjoy … and play with it a bit!

Baked Beans, Baby!

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My mom always made wonderful baked beans. They were, in fact, the stuff of picnic myth, anticipated with much salivation and anticipation. Even now, six years after her passing, the family still speaks in hush, reverent tones when speaking of “the beans.”

When my mom was alive, I cooked, but there was something that happened to me after she died and I was no longer able to call her and ask her culinary questions. I became a self-proclaimed foodie, and my exploration of different dishes became almost obsessive.

So it has been in my quest of monumental baked beans. I “know” what my mom did to the beans. Mom always used navy beans. If she had the time, she used dry beans, boiled and soaked overnight. She drained the beans, mixed them with ketchup, and mustard, and brown sugar. Baked beans always involved at least a pound of good bacon or “fat back” if she could get it (my dad was from the South, so fat back was a staple even in my northern home).

But somehow, simple knowledge of ingredients does not a memorable bean make. I’ve played, poked, experimented and had both near-successes, and miserable failures.

I know this seems like a small thing. But when the responsibilities of a family fall from one generation to another, things like the perfecting of baked bean recipes become a part of what continues a family line. There are photos, there are stories — and there are recipes. We have a few … peanut butter frosting; “dough-glob” soup … and baked beans.

Tonight, we had a small gather of some friends. It was simple — hot dogs on the fire, store-bought potato salad  — and (by my husband’s request) baked beans.

I started with two cans of “Bush’s” baked beans (one can traditional; one can maple). I added about a cup of loosely packed brown sugar, two tablespoons of mustard, three tablespoons of “Sweet Baby Ray’s” BBQ sauce. I mix it all up, and let it sit while I partially fried about 1/2 pound of bacon. I pre-fry my bacon (especially when I only have three or less hours) because I like the flavor without the “fatty” texture of the meat.

I cut the bacon into 1 1/2″ pieces, and mix them throughout the bean mixture. The last couple strips I cut a little larger, and left them on top of the beans for “looks.”

The entire casserole goes (without a cover) into a pre-heated 300 degree oven. Then, you simply walk away. Trust me on this one. Don’t peak. Don’t lower the temperature. Let them meld and bubble and allow all the ingredients to mingle and become good friends.

This party goes on for about 2 -3 hours. Mine was closer to three tonight — longer than I’m usually comfortable with, because I thought they were a bit burnt when I pulled them out of the oven. But I let them set (enough to tighten up a bit), and served them warm.

They were, dare I say, breath-taking! My husband even commented on how the were “just like his aunt’s” which I believed he loved even more than my mom’s. “Only they didn’t have the molasses,” which is a plus for him.

They were something to be proud of, I have to admit. Somehow, as I was enjoying their sweet, tangy goodness, I really missed my mom. I knew she would be proud. I’d taken the baton, and carried it successfully into my generation.  A small step … but a step in the right direction, nonetheless.

Metrically speaking, of course …

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So the Lion boy starts chemistry on Friday.

I am well versed in a variety of things. Ask me questions about Shakespeare, or early twentieth century film, or ever basic biology, and I usually can come up with an intelligent answer. Cooking, cleaning, history, geography, even government, I can have a conversation with you. I have this friend who works large dairy farms, and he’s given me enough information that I can even nod knowingly talking about cows.

But chemistry? Yeah, I’ve never taught it or taken it.

How did I get two other kids to college with chemistry on their transcripts? Thank God for a home schooling community that allowed me to ship them off to a highly intelligent doctor who (for a ridiculously small fee) taught them and even did labs! See, it’s a misconception that, because I home school, I “do it all” alone. Home schooling in its best light involves a community. Ms. Clinton wasn’t so wrong when she said “It takes a village to raise a child.” That is especially true in context of home schooling.

The difference for me, though, is that I still always had a say in what the kids learned and what environments they were subjected to while learning said stuff. But, I digress, because this isn’t a post about home schooling, per say.

So, the first chapter of chemistry is all about teaching the student metric conversions and equivalents and all. Yeah, we did that … like in third or fourth grade math! That was a long time ago, and like many skills we learn, if they are not used on a regular basis, we lost them, relegate them to the back of our memory so we can say they are “still there,” but they sit like forgotten patients at a nursing home, quiet and overlooked, lost midst the activity that is our “real” life. “Teaching” this stuff again is like trying to resurrect a man dead more than three days. It stinks! to put it bluntly.

And I see the frustration in my son’s eyes, and it takes everything in me not to whine right along side of him. I reassure him it will come easier as he practices. It’s no longer simple metric work … decimals and conversions to other things like volume and mass … it’s a little frustrating, no doubt. And while he is the type of child that is able to figure almost anything out eventually, his ability to understand is definitely proportionate to his level of frustration.

If he could only see that metrics is little more that sliding that decimal around. Going to the right helps us convert large units to smaller ones, while doing the opposite gives us bigger measurements from the smaller. Moving a simple dot helps change the measurement. It changes the game. It changes everything.

I wonder, how often in my life is a simple change the key to understanding my biggest questions? I understand the world is not metrically constructed. Things can’t be boiled down to unyielding formulas and certain game plans. In fact, the “fun” of life is often we really have no idea what’s coming next. My experience has taught me that is true in my greatest tragedies — and my greatest joys.

Still I wonder … do I allow myself to over-complicate things so much that I inhibit my ability to not only understand, but to get things done? I was thinking about that this morning … how many times I let my methodical way of thinking get in the way of simply moving a decimal here and there, making all the difference? I know I’m oversimplifying things, but honestly … sometimes I get lost in the ways of over-complicating that I’m rendered useless, stalled on the sidelines when all it would take to “get me going” is to get going!

I know my son is really going to enjoy chemistry. He likes to learn new things, and before long, this metric way of thinking will become second nature. I’d like to say that this, “simplify and put into action” way of thinking would become my “second nature” as well. The only person that can determine that, though, is me. So … we’ll see.

“Moving In Day, She Comes”

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 The title of this entry was my daughter’s last Facebook post before she left for  college this morning. I’ve already bemoaned the struggle of letting my kids —  especially my oldest daughter — grow up and move away to college. So I won’t  bore everyone with my day of joy and sadness entwined together tightly … so  tightly that there were time I could barely breathe.

But what became more clear to me today, as I encountered old friends who were  in the same boat I was is that this confusing feeling of loss is universal. Not  totally —  I hear some parents rejoice as the kids leave home.

The parents I encountered today, however, were all looking a bit shell-  shocked. Fortunately, there was plenty to do … setting up the rooms, attending various planned activities to keep everyone busy enough not to think about the separation that loomed all day like the dark, threatening clouds. Still, most were obviously trying to be more excited than their hearts would allow them to be.

Later, when I got home, I check out various on-line notes from friends offering emotional support. Many had their children much further from them than me. I appreciate that … but it didn’t bring comfort that she’s “only” two hours away. Some offered prayers, others simple, beautiful words. But an old college friend said this, “I guess now we know what our parents went through…”

I wasn’t a very understanding daughter to my parents’ feelings as I left for college. Neither of my folks even finished high school. Although I thought both were very smart, they really couldn’t understand my strong desire to escape my small town and dive head long into college life. I jumped in head first, and never looked back. I visited. They visited. But thinking back now on how my insensitivity and selfishness probably broke their hearts over and over … I am humbled and saddened and so thankful that my kids are so much more compassionate than I was.

Had I had any idea of the pain that watching those people we love the deepest spread their wings … of the incredible sacrifice a parent makes for the happiness of their kids … I would have written a lot more letters, made a lot more phone calls, and spent a lot more time with them when I could.

Regret is a useless emotion and a waste of time. My mom is gone now, and my husband assures me I was a good daughter … although I have a tough time remembering that. My dad is 83, and I’ve learned to call often, and visit regularly. Now, I have texting and Facebook and e-mail, and it’s a rare day I don’t talk to my son at college, as I will my daughter. We’re a different family than mine was growing up. I’ve intentionally invested in my kids, sharing life and living as a family community unit as to make our “growing up together” much different from  had with my folks.

I hear all the time that we never really understand a situation until we are there, in the midst. I also believe that we can learn a lot from our children, if we are humble enough to see the lessons. This process of mentally handing my kids over to their “whatever comes next” is teaching me a lot about myself … my strengths, my weaknesses, my dreams, my fears … so much it’s tough to articulate here. But whatever comes next, I’m sure if I stay open, the process and the product will be beautiful.

Painful, but beautiful.

It’s the little things …

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Today was a good day. Ninety-two in September … a trip to the Farmer’s Market, grocery shopping with the Husband and lion-boy, stopping at “Guitar Center,” and picking up some much-needed musical equipment. BLT’s to celebrate “National Bacon Day,” both of my kids still in school beginning (on their own, I might add) their assignments three days before “school” starts (that’s a first, I tell ya!). Now, watching “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Today was a day of little blessings that culminated with an incredible kindness by a friend. Angie is a sweet woman from our church. She is quiet, yet strong. Amazingly observant (something I am not), and her entire family exudes gentleness. Tonight, she stopped by after telling the Husband, “I found something at a garage sale for your wife she might like.”

I have a lot of history with “church people.” Much of it is good, I’ll admit. But there have been times people have “thought” to give me clothes because they were embarrassed by the way I or my children dressed. Or books they thought I would “be interested in” because they spotlighted things these fine folks thought I should change. Or times when people would come to our house and inform us our vehicles were an “embarrassment” to them, so much so they could never invite their friends to our church.

I try to focus on the good, you know? But some of the wounds inflicted “in Jesus name” are difficult to heal.

So, when someone (who I believe to be wonderful) says something like that, my heart is torn between what I “want to believe” and what I have been subjected to. I tell myself, “Think the best, think the best, think the best …” but honestly, I struggle.

So, when Angie came by tonight, I put on a smile, and went to see her. “I found this,” she said, and handed me a cup. “I noticed you collect these, and wondered if you had this one.” She was right — we collect goofy things but that hold very special places in our family mythology. And the cup she found … the cup she found was one of eight. I had seven. The one she found … was the one cup I was missing.

Crazy. Crazy that this busy woman was observant enough to notice we even had these cups. Crazy that she was so thoughtful that she would be out and about, thinking about us. Crazy that the one missing cup from this collection was found at a garage sale, fully intact and boxed, and “just happened” to be a sale my friend Angie stopped by.

Crazy enough that a God I often doubt cares about me can use a little thing to further my faith.

So here’s to a day of small things that culminated in a very big thing for me. May I etch this day in my heart, so that when the days are not so beautiful, I remember, and still believe tomorrow can be better.