Just Maybe …

I took a walk through the garden aisles of our local store today.  Mmmm … the smell of topsoil, the allure of new garden toys … I’m sunk.

This time of year in Michigan is exciting and exhausting all in the same day.  Mother Nature yanks our chain by giving us a day or two of “almost spring,” then slaps us stupid with single digits again.  I hear the chick-a-dees tweet “where’s spring?” and my cabin-fever riddled soul screams the echo of that question.  I long for the dirt under my nails and the expectancy of the harvest to come to bounce around in my thoughts.  To spend two uninterrupted hours riding the lawn mower, thinking my own thoughts and listening to the oldies … heaven, I tell you.

Today, it rained as the thermometer hovered around 45.  I partook in my annual ritual of standing outside and breathing as deep as I could.  Around me, snow clung desperately to my lawn and the winter birds argued over the once-again filled bird feeder.  But something caught my attention enough to warrant another deep breath.

There is was … just a hint … could it be?  One more breathe confirmed the infinitesimal shard of hope I hold dogmatically inside.

Spring is on it’s way.

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This is the year …

… that I joined a “real” writing group, and push to write something that worth publishing.

…that I’m going to take that pottery wheel class (classes for my birthday) and learn to make something — anything — with clay.

…that I published (http://www.goodreads.com/) a book list with a few good friends to keep yapping at me to actually complete.

…that I will see my first kid go off to college, midst my tears and my overwhelming pride.

…that I will learn more about roasting coffee here at home, damn the corporate strongholds, and learn to enjoy the bean ounce by ounce by ounce.

…that I carve out more memories with family and friends, and learn how to hold them more precious and sacred.

…that I don’t make stupid, superficial “resolutions,” but instead focus on living every moment as if it were my last.

Happy New Year, friends!  As a wise, old turtle once said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today is a gift — that’s why they call it the present.”turtle

Moments

Really been focusing on moments throughout this holiday season…

Sitting with my sister-in-law around my dad’s table.  Eating Italian take-out, laughing about growing older, sharing craft and sewing ideas.

Watching my kids open their gifts to each other this year … simple, inexpensive … but drenched with anticipation and excitement and joy of the sharing of experience and life.

Discussing movies with my brother … getting his ideas, listening to his reflections, able to “argue” with him and still be OK.

Smiling as Ethan bounds to basketball practice, seeking acceptance from his coach, who already thinks Ethan’s a great kid.  Starting to see the man this little boy is becoming.

Seeing my husband’s chest rise and fall as he sleeps soundly and securely beside me in the early morning light.

Gathered around a table tonight at a friend’s home, eating bar cheese and sipping White Zinfandel and laughing … them in their early twenties, just beginning their “adult” lives, me wandering through my mid-forties, just drinking in their laughter and their friendship and our lives together.

Watching “The Little Mermaid” with the family (minus Ethan, who’s at an overnight), and just smiling as they laugh out loud, just like when they were all little.

The more I notice and drink in moments, the richer I am.  The more I laugh, the more I live.  The more I look for beauty in small, “insignificant” things, the more rewarded I become.  This holiday season has taught me much, and it’s had very little to do with Christmas.

Some Christmas Thoughts

We had a great day.  I can’t remember when I laughed so much on Christmas day.  My kids are a joy, and as they grow and continue becoming who they are and will be, I find ecstasy in their becoming.  Both dads visited, and we feasted on fondue and life and laughter and love.

I am very ambivalent about this holiday anymore.  I’ve seen “religious” people misconstrue and attempt to make it something historically it is not.  I’ve seen other friends give themselves over to the “need” to spend money they don’t have, in hopes of creating or changing things that have very little to do with consumerism.  For me, I’ve decided that Christmas is a time of realizing the blessings in my life — my family, my friends, my opportunity to live a life that makes a difference in the here and now.  We can mark it however we wish; at the end of the day, neither the religious or secular “own” the day — it is ours to celebrate as we will.

I came across a “new” quote for me:

William James once said, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

May this be the year I stop simply rearranging my prejudices in every area of my life, and truly think, listen, learn, love.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Turmoil in his wake

First off, I love my dad.  He’s a great guy, as anyone who knows him will attest.  There isn’t often he pisses me off to the point that I feel like I need a literary vent concerning the situation.  Tonight is one of those exceptions.

I love talking to my dad.  He gets lonely (although he’d never admit it), and a long phone call makes him feel better.  Me?  I absolutely hate talking on the phone, but for Dad, I make the exception (and for a few other good friends!).  Tonight he called, to let me know they may be a change of plans for this weekend, which is fine.  But in the course of our forty minute conversation, he tried to get me to talk negatively about three or four different relatives.

He gets these ideas in his head … like my daughter takes an hour in the bathroom in the morning (she doesn’t).  Or the “financial” situations of various people we know.  Or he “hears just fine,” even though I’m still yelling at him to get him to understand me on the phone.

For whatever reason, he gains enjoyment from yanking people’s chain.  And he does it most with me, because I won’t react back.  He’ll go on and on, trying to get me to say something.  Tonight, I did.  I defended my daughter, and then he tried to make a joke out of it.

So me hating to talk on the phone combined with his desire to just piss me off made for frustrating conversation tonight.

I’m trying to cut him a lot of slack.  He’s old.  He’s lonely.  He’s a great guy 95% of the time, and I’m reminding myself of that even as I’m writing.

But what gives old people the perceived “right” to cause havoc and mayhem, then sit back just to enjoy the show?  What sickness overtakes them that they conveniently “forget” how most of life runs, start imposing their own rules on the people that love them the most, and then turn inward so that their “reality” has very little to do with anyone but themselves?

You know, we have a lot of good conversations.  My dad is wise, and he tells great stories.  He does a lot of interesting things still, and I’m always anxious to ask him what’s going on — even though he rarely asks me the same, and acts inconvenienced at my family’s busy life.  I ‘ll ask him, “Dad, remember when I was a kid?  You were working, Mom was working … everything was spinning around all the time.”  He says he remembers, but then he’ll go on into whatever he was saying before.

I just gotta take a breath.  Nothing changes — but I wonder if it’s his passive/aggressive way of acting because we recently borrowed some money from him — money he offered and offered and offered again.  He has a way of stating his mind — regardless of who he hurts or who is spins around him.  I’m trying to be OK with it all — I’m just angry and confused right now.

But tomorrow will be another day.  I’ll let it go — I need to for my own sanity and for the love of my Dad.  Still, I wish I could figure out his “need” to cause mayhem wherever he goes …

Pressing On

So, Friday was my last day working at Starbuck’s.  There’s a new company policy that says you are “part-time” if you work three shifts during the week, or 16 hours on the weekend.  Well, I’ve done that gig before.  And that, combined with homeschooling four children, teaching at support group, helping ferry the kids to their numerous “things” (right now — basketball, teen choir, birthday parties, visiting friends), and helping the big boy get ready for his time in Chicago, and scholarships, and … you get the picture.

Starbuck’s was an absolute live saver for me.  I came into the job about a year after we moved to our current location.  As I’ve written over and over again, no part of me wanted to be here.  It was a bad break up from our last community; it was a lot of crap between the spouse and me; I was so trying to find myself amidst the carnage.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted — but I wanted something, anything that was different than I had.

Along came my life as a coffee maven.  I really enjoyed the challenge.  The work was simple.  But the experience, the knowledge, was something new for me.  I embraced the “Starbuck’s culture,” and it embraced me.  It wasn’t always fun, but a lot of good things came from my time there:

* I learned I could “make it” outside the four walls of organized religion just fine, thank you very much.  My job helped me overcome my religiously altered reality about “those people,” and helped me really start caring about people again.

*I learned that’s it’s OK to enjoy some of the “finer” things in life.  That I didn’t have to settle for “crap coffee,” or superficial conversations, or just finding out about religious things.  There is a huge, beautiful, scary, fascinating and amazing world and Starbuck’s is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

*I learned that I can be “someone” apart from my husband and kids.  That people could like me, not because they had to, but because the simply did.starbucks-1

*I learned that there really isn’t an “us” or a “them”.  There is a “we,” and we share this life and share love and share the earth and it’s best time we stop drawing so many lines of difference, and start drawing more circles of inclusion.

*I also learned that things come and go.  And right here, right now, is my time to leave Starbuck’s.  It’s time to come into something else, whatever that else might be.  Time will tell.  I’ll let you know.

So now, I’m traveling on.  I’m laying low over the holidays — actually, that’s not true.  I’ve already taken a test to possibly work with the Census this spring.  And if that doesn’t work out, I’ll probably be writing for a local newspaper.  Or working on that next book.  Or … we’ll see.  As crazy as it seems, I’m pretty happy with the person I’ve become, and the person I’m becoming.  I’m not there, by any means.  But the journey I’m on is filled with interesting people, great opportunities, and the ability to tell good coffee from crappy stuff 🙂

All I’m saying is …

This song has been rolling around in my head for quite some time now.  The other day, on my walk, I listened closely to lyrics again for the first time in a while.  It made me smile — and cry.peace-train

“Peace Train” (Cat Stevens, Yusaf Islam)

Now I’ve been happy lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh I’ve been smiling lately,
dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be,
some day it’s going to come

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again

Now I’ve been smiling lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh peace train sounding louder
Glide on the peace train
Come on now peace train
Yes, peace train holy  roller

Everyone jump upon the peace train
Come on now peace train

Get your bags together,
go bring your good friends too
Cause it’s getting nearer,
it soon will be with you

Now come and join the living,
it’s not so far from you
And it’s getting nearer,
soon it will all be true

Now I’ve been crying lately,
thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating,
why can’t we live in bliss

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again

It’s not gonna come from government, religion, or industry.  It’s gotta come from each one of us, doing what we can to make our world a better place.  Whatever each of our motivation — God, humanity, karma or what have you — we each need to decide, “Will I join the Peace Train?”  It was a good thought thirty years ago … it’s a better idea today.

Interesting read …

Came across this blog:

http://littlecog.com/2008/11/12/an-opinion-on-gay-marriage-rights/    constitution1

I don’t usually engage in “this” conversation, but the following line struck me as truth: 

No state or government entity should issue “marriage” licenses at all.  Instead, marriages for none, civil unions for all.  It creates a system of equal protection under the law.

If religious organizations wish to protect their views on the sanctity of marriage, they may do so outside the realm of Government.  If gay couples wish to marry and create a family, they may also do this outside the realm of Government.  Governments are not moral entities…they are simply not equipped to tell us right from wrong. — little cog

“Governments are not moral entities …”  The recently published book by Shane Claibourn, Jesus for President, reminds us that salvation isn’t found in any agent of the “empire,” a.k.a. government.  Government doesn’t have a soul — it doesn’t have a moral obligation at all.  The government, in theory, is an agent for chaos control … an attempt to keep us civilized. 

To some, morality cannot be separated from civility.  They expect the government to reflect biblical standards because somewhere they got the misinformation that this country was established as a “Christian” nation.  They’ve accepted regurgitated informatin from their church leaders who have spent their lives trying to synthesis religion and government for their own uses.  If they’d look back at history, they would see America was established as a place for people to be free — whether their freedom agreed with personal belief and conviction or not.

Earlier in his post, “little cog” quoted the 14th amendment of our constitution:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

That is the constitution, speaking on civil rights.  We equate it with race … but it doesn’t specifically state that anywhere in the constitution. 

Maybe it’s time we become educated on the arguments we make.  When we quote things, or we assume things, and somehow superimpose our assumptions into the realm of reality.  According to me, against my personal beliefs and convictions, there are things that are “right” or “wrong.”  According to the Bible, and people who have comitted themselves to this belief system, there are definite rights and wrongs.  But can we really transpose faith tenets on an institution that doesn’t have the same goals as that belief system?

Get angry, disagree.  But spend some time thinking about what the constitution really, truly says before you start using it as a weapon to uphold your beliefs.  The government was never created to favor one faith over another.  The government, by design, has little to do with faith at all.  The more I learn, the more they become mutually exclusive for me, despite what our religious institutions insist. 

Just something to think about.

She’s 15 today …

My daughter Kara turned 15 today.  Crazy … I know, I have a boy that’s two years older.  But there’s something between a daughter and her mom that I simply can’t explain.  And it causes me to reflect and consider …

Kara and her big brother, Wes

Kara and her big brother, Wes

When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, we were in the middle of a possible transition.  We were on a job interview in Phoenix, Arizona.  When we got home to Indianapolis, I started feeling a little weird.  It wasn’t the same way I felt the first time.  But our lives were chaotic … Bruce had found out he was being fired (or “asked to resign,” for those of you still living in the religious fantasy life where church leaders are nice people).  We knew we were pregnant, but the place we were was more concerned that Bruce didn’t have a seminary degree, and their good church kids “deserved” someone with a degree (that’s a direct quote …).  But I digress.  All I knew is that I was welcoming another little one into the world.

Excited?  Sure.  But apprehensive.  I mean, I was looking at thirty, and this was only my second baby.  Top that off with a major move, going from a large house to an 850 square foot apartment, my husband going into a very demanding job … I really didn’t have a lot to think about the pregnancy.  Plus, there was that toddler running hither and yon …

I was deathly afraid to have a girl.  We didn’t find out … Bruce was big on the surprise.  But I remember laying in my bed, exhausted, while Wesley took a rare nap, and just crying, fearful that God would give me a daughter, and I would let her get hurt how I had been hurt as a little girl, and I would fail her, and I had a lack-luster relationship with my own mom, and I was a failure as a woman … you get the picture, and know what I mean if you’ve ever been hormonal during pregnancy.

To top it all off, Wesley had contracted the chicken pox!  I remember my next-to-last doctor’s appointment, and she had said, “Listen, unless he’s scabbed over, he must go somewhere else.  The baby can’t contract these …”  Imagine, sending away a little two year old who knew he was the middle of our universe, and bringing him back with a new little invader … anyway, thankfully, he got better on time.  But still …

About 3:00 am, on November 11, 1993, a huge thunderstorm blew through Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Weird, right?  No snow — just lots of rain and thunder.  I woke up, a little uncomfortable.  Not in labor; just achy.  After about an hour, I thought, “Hmmm … maybe I’ll shower just in case.  It will relax me …” and it did, but I still couldn’t get to sleep.

About 5:00 am, I woke Bruce up and said, “I think I’m in labor.”  He said, “What do you mean, you ‘think’ you’re in labor?”  It was totally different than labor with Wesley, I told him.

So we called my friend, Andi, to come and sit with Wesley.  We called my folks (who were coming down that same day, so Andi could go to work), and headed out to St. Joseph Hospital.  By the time we got there (only about a 10 minute ride), I was definitely sure I was in labor.  Bruce dropped me off at the door, a nurse met me with a wheel chair.  I went immediately to an examination room.

The nurse casually put me on the table, downplaying my excitement because I knew I was close.  She checked me out, yelled, “She’s at 10!  I need a delivery room NOW!”  I puked, my water broke, and they whisked me down the hallway.  We had gotten there so fast that my doctor couldn’t be reached.  She wasn’t even on duty — I was going to have to deliver with one of her associates.  While we were waiting, my usually quiet husband began to panic.  “Can anybody here deliver a baby???” Bruce asked.  The attending resident reassured him he could do it, if necessary.

At that point, Bruce just about passed out.  He had to sit, and asked for ice chips (who was in labor here???) because he’d wore a sweatshirt, and was too hot.  I knew the baby was on the way before the doctor arrived.  When he did, he took his coat off, washed his hands, gave me a look and said, “Well, let’s have this baby.”  I entered the emergency room at 6:00 am.  Kara came into the world at 6:28 am. 

When it was all over, I was ready to go home — seriously.  Even the doctor said, “You don’t even look like you just had a baby.”  I told him, OK, let us go.  But Kara was struggling.  Her glucose levels weren’t leveling out.  They were dipping … and he told me if they went below 35, there could be brain damage.  Brain damage?  My daughter … we prayed, and cried, and prayed some more.  I wasn’t going anywhere without her, so I spent the night, sleeping little but visiting her constantly.  The wouldn’t let me nurse her.  They wouldn’t let her stay with me. 

But the next day, she was OK.  We got ready to go home, to a waiting grandpa, grandma, and Wesley.  Kara had her days and night mixed up, which was hell on us — on me.  It was then that my dad informed me I had to suck it up and deal with the baby and Wesley, because Bruce had to go to work, and had to be in top shape for that.  Wow, great thing to tell an exhausted, sick (I’d caught a cold in the hospital), nursing mother of two little kids.  She also had some digestive problems.  She and I were at the doctor every single day for ten days …

She was a beautiful baby, though. She had more hair at birth than Wesley did his first year of life.  She had this brilliant, flashing eyes.  And, she had the most perfect little angel mouth I’d ever seen on a baby.  Even through my exhaustion, I was in love.  All the apprehension I had before her birth slipped away in the months that followed.  She was such a good baby — easy.  She actually slept (something her brother took a long time to do).  She was a snuggler.  She easily adapted to the snuggle sack (an African-like baby carrier that gave me the freedom to be active, while keeping Kara close), and basically lived in it until she could

Where has time gone?

Where has time gone?

walk. 

She was funny.  We talk about her first words being, “Taco Bell!”  She was an early walker (like the other kids), and very precocious.  She was funny, because she would follow Wesley around and learn to do things.  But then, when you’d say, “Kara, show grandma what you can do.”  She’d look at me like I was an idiot (I should have gotten use to that, for when she became a teenager …).  Then, we’d get home, and she’d do whatever I’d asked her to before!

Kara use to be a pretty outgoing kid.  She was in numerous dramas, and loved to dress up and perform in front of the family (when it was her idea; not mine).  She was always a bit quiet — she preferred her friends to be out front first.  But she’s always been friendly.  She’s become a lot more reserved as she’s gotten older.  I blame it on all the transitions that have become “normal” in our lives.  But ask she’s gotten on in her teenager years, she seems to be coming out of her shell more again.

Kara is amazing in my eyes.  She is intelligent (but she’ll never let you know it).  She has such a huge heart … for people, for the earth, for her family.  She is a servant … my daughter is someone who will, for no reason, clean my kitchen, or make cookies with her little sister.  She’s funny … her sense of humor is so dry — and quick.  She often keeps her comments to herself, but when she does speak up … watch out. 

She recently started driving on her permit.  It’s fun, because she’s so cautious.  It’s like, when she was a little girl, and she saw Wesley do something.  She’d really, really want to try, but was a little hesitant.  But eventually, when she couldn’t take it any more, she’d throw herself into it all the way — and she’d do great.  Kara has never let fear keep her from something.  For that, I am so proud of her.

She’s also very strong in her convictions.  She’s not one to push her will on anyone, but she stands firm in what she believes.  She listens, but will not easily be pushed from thing to thing.  She tries a lot of things; but at her core, she is strong, determined, and consistent. Again, I admire her so much for that.

So happy birthday, beautiful girl.  I’m so proud of your first 15 years, and can’t wait for the next sixty or so I share with you.  (OK, optimistically, on my end of things).  Keep being who you are, Kara, and never fear what is to come.  The only limit to what you can do or achieve are the limits you put on yourself.  I am so, so thankful you are a part of my life.  Love you!

Turn the page…

OK, I’m prefacing this post by saying I don’t have a lot of faith in any institution.  I don’t look at government to “save” me or make my life better by hand-out, legislation, or whatever.  And I firmly believe that one man (president or whatever) cannot make a huge, sweeping difference without the consent of a lot of people.

That said, I’m about fed up with the bemoaning and fear and whining a lot of my “Christian” friends have  obama-23concerning the amazing and exciting thing that happened yesterday.  I’m sick of people making this election a “one-issue” vote (I am pro-life, but I am pro-life for the babies, the young, the old, the poor, the rich — whomever).  I am saddened by the stem-cell research bill in my state, but I ask:  What would all the people freaking out do with the frozen embryos that people who desperately want children, but don’t want ten at a time?  See, it’s not an “easy” solution to some of these issues.  And for way too long “the church” has oversimplified the situation.

We have a current “pro-life” president.  He’s been there for eight years.  And while some things have been done (partial-birth abortion ban), what about the hundreds of lives he’s taken with his economic mishaps?  The innocent Iraqies who have died because of our fautly, WMD’s war we’re waging?  The older people who have lost everything in the lastest Wall Street scandal and will end up destitute?  What about the lives he ruined by totally disregarding the Constitution, imprisoning innocent citizens, terrorizing their families — their small, already born children?

And I’m also sick of the fact that I some how feel the need to have to apologize for believing that Mr. Obama will bring a change for the better in this country.  Even for the simple fact that we actually elected a non-white person!  Come on, folks.  Are we so blind to ignore our latent prejudices?  That only white, male, “Christian” people can run this country, or know what’s best?  Oh my goodness… let’s call it what it is.

If someone claims to be a “Christian,” doesn’t the book they hold to (the inerrant “Word of God”) tell them not to fear?  I heard comments from friends from they’re “leaving the country,” to they’re “stocking up on ammunition” because Obama is going to revoke the second amendment.  People, people, people.  Please stop listening to the propaganda designed to control you through the use of fear and intimidation.  Do you honestly think that a man who couldn’t control his temper, who encouraged his supporters to angrily threaten the other candidate, who has a sordid past of a spoiled child, and who has a totally different public persona from four years ago like John McCain would have been a better president?

Sometimes, I really hate being a part of an organization that has a tough time thinking for itself.  I’m tired of people just generally accepting what they’re fed and regurgitating the information without being informed on their own.  You say you’re “researched” the internet?  I could probably find a counter for every “fact” you find,and visa-versa.   I’m sick of people saying they subscribe to a belief system that they really don’t, because they couldn’t say and do some of the insane, crude, hurtful and just plain stupid, because that’s what the majority of people they associate with think.

Their politics are like their faith — leftovers from a system that they are too lazy to question and too fearful to explore too closely.  So many people want so desperatly to belong to the “family of God” that they’re more focused on the “family” than on the “God” part.  I know this is a generalization, and if you’re reading this, and you’re a part of the system, and you are NOT like this, please don’t take offense.  The God I read about in your holy book isn’t being well reflected in a lot of “Christian” people right now.  Am I judging?  Just “going on the fruits,” you know.

Anyway, the end of this tirade is that I am excited and energized that Barak Obama will be our 44th president.  I am anticipating good changes.  I am aware that it will take a lot of work on all of our parts to see this country through the cesspool we are currently in, and that trust in this country and the position of president will be a long time in coming.  I also know a lot of my “Christian” friends will not acknowledge any good that comes over the next four years.  They will be totally one-sided, and not intelligently decipher the good, the bad, and the indifferent.  And they will be waiting for “God’s judgement” to fall at any moment, and they will be prepared to applaud anything that looks like “God” pushing things toward their belief of the “way it should be.”

But as I’ve sai hundreds of times, at the end of the day, this whole thing really rides on us personally.  If you want to help the economy — only spend what you make, and don’t get into credit card trouble.  Work hard, and don’t spend everything on making your life easier.  Give to the poor; welcome the lonely into your home.  Keep your eyes open for opportunities to help people.  Be bold to invite the pregnant, unmarried woman considering abortion into your home, instead of spending all your time ranting against unjust laws.  Don’t wait for the government to bail out a needy neighbor, then rant against the “socialism” taking place.  Be the change you want to see, and get off Barak Obama’s back.

He’s only human, for God’s sake.  He’s not your savior — or your advisary.  Roll up your sleeves, be prepared to work hard and work together.  And in four years, maybe we’ll look back on all this insanity and laugh.

Hey, I can at least hope, right?

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