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11.28.2013

G-TUDE



It's the most wonderful time of the year......  that's the line from the song.  It's reference is to Christmas.  It would seem though any more that Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all sort of slide into a quasi combined season - much like the suburbs of Chicago all blur into the city.

I'm not much into buying gifts, trick or treating or even decorating for Christmas.  Thankfully I am married to Father Christmas who loves all of the above and takes care of it all! I do though love and cherish what the holidays produce - a different pace, a different focus.  We as humans need external things to remind us, slam into us from time to time to help change our focus off ourselves onto something greater than us.  I think the holiday season offers that opportunity, that is if we take it.  If I take it.

Ever since I was a young kid, Thanksgiving has been far and wide my favorite holiday [read A November Sky blog post from 10/31/2010].  Beauty comes in so many forms and gets showcased in all sorts of ways.  November in the Midwest, though stark and bare by Thanksgiving, is a great picture of the simplicity that we should all strive to create in our lives.  Life is simple.  We though make it more complicated than need be.  We get sucked into culture and pace and mindset far too easily.


Maybe that's why Thanksgiving has always resonated deep inside me.  It speaks to the scraped back, toned down, priorities realigned, really important things that are the foundations to joy - acknowledgement of gratefulness for people, basic needs, and something bigger than us that sustains life [both nature and humanity].

I don't want to just think about such things on one day a year.  I somehow want that spirit of living deeply entrenched in how I operate.  I want to be deliberate.
  I want to savor daily.  I want to cast aside the non-essentials.
  I want to acknowledge the constant presence of a God of all of creation. 

Thanksgiving might also be one of my favorite holidays because of fond memories, my personality bent coupled with my deep despising dislike for excess anything like decorations, gifts, and have to's.   Thanksgiving as a word is just simply the act of giving thanks.  It's done in all kinds of way, one of which is a celebration of divine goodness - Thanksgiving Day.

Whether you follow traditions of food, words, prayers, travelling, family or thoughts, Thanksgiving is a quiet and unadulterated way to foster gratefulness and simplicity into our lives.  May Thanksgiving Day lead me into a year of grateful and purposed cultivation for a bigger spirit of thanksgiving that alters all the other days of the year. 

11.26.2013

SETTING MY CRAZY LOOSE . . . [an excerpt]


[an excerpt....]
. . . Divorce seems to bring out the stupid in people.  Maybe more accurate would be that people are many times unsure or even fearful of deep waters - thus their silence or separation from their friendship or relationship with you during a divorce. Divorce is in the deep end of the pool.  I was myself afraid I would drown and was finding out rare few were courageous enough to venture in the deep with me.  Rare few.
Sitting in my counselor’s office one evening after work, I was struck by all the individual things I was seeing, feeling in front of me. Mike was the 3rd counselor I had gone to in my 44 years of living.  I came to him to set my crazy loose when starting through the journey of divorce.  As I sat on the couch, the river current coursed by the patio doors that overlooked its banks.  I noted the counselor’s shoeless feet which were covered in a wild pair of argyle socks [Were those even in style, I wondered.]  I glanced at the messy, almost wildly strewn office and desk.  For whatever reason all the strange disorder, shoeless feet, rushing current, seemed completely normal to me.  It seemed in fact, freeing.
And, I needed to be free. 

The first time I ventured into sharing my thoughts with a complete and total stranger was when I was 30.  I had a breakdown from a self-epiphany, stayed in bed three solid days sobbing and then went to see someone about how to re-group in order to stay in a horrific marriage.  If I were going to survive, I needed to get some things out and find a way to cope with what I knew my life was not full of.

 
Her name was Sue.  And, for a first experience of baring your soul to reorder it, she was the perfect guide.  A grandmotherly lady who wore free flowing clothes, she exuded hope.  Sobbing is usually a part of counseling.  It signifies acknowledgement of loss.  And, I sobbed!  She gave me permission to forgive myself for the anger I held for choices I had made that put me where I  was - in a life that was hard.  She listened.  She encouraged.  She gave me some tools for coping.  But mostly, she told me I was beautiful and would someday come to know that.  She was a woman of grace.

The second time I saw a counselor was after my first husband and I moved back from an unsuccessful job move to Texas.  His depression and behavior unchanging, my ultimatum clearly stated if he did not get professional help it would be over.  This counselor held a doctorate and came highly recommended.   My then husband went to see her for a season alone, a much needed season.  I tried as best I could during those months to let healing take place in him, to allow years of pain and bondage to be stripped away.
One day, fresh from the counselor, he confessed  to me.  As the words of his confession came out, I felt nothing – there was just nothing left in me.  I didn’t yell.  I didn’t even really feel angry.  It made sense now this guilty presence I always saw on him.  I calmly and rationally talked with him about his confession, almost like it was in third person.   I put my hurt away that day, realizing once again this was about him.  It always had been.
 
He spoke of it matter of factly, as in past tense, like the power-the hold wasn’t there now because he was free to say it out loud.  Why was I so devastated over it? It was yet another way that he had once again chosen himself over me.  I think I had known it for years but chose to ignore it because the weight was already heavy enough.
I called Dr. Janelle.  “Would she have time to meet with me?” I asked her, explaining that I had wanted my husband to have time with her without me for a awhile.  I thought it best now if I came in too.
 
Hant is a word my grandmother Weldy used to say in place of the word “hate”.  She mispronounced that word regularly.  I hanted Dr. Janelle the moment I walked in her office.  I felt bondage in the room.  I felt limits and borders.  I knew without a word out of her mouth that there was no way in hell this pairing of client to doctor would ever work.
I truly believe God is a God of instantaneous.  He spoke Creation into being, commanded demons to flee, healed the lepers.  I truly believe God is a God of old to new.  Tattered to rebuilt.  A God of grace.  I knew that from the inside of me just like I knew my name was Nancy.   What I needed to come to understand deeper was just how much God loved me.  She though was not that vessel to me.
 
On our first joint session with Dr. Janelle she read the Bible to us.  Don’t get me wrong,  I love the Bible.  Steeped in the things of God, living a journey of faith with God, a pastor’s wife for 25 years, I too loved the Bible. Her method though was one that I had tried to live with unsuccessfully for the past 25 years.  She was giving me more of the same.  More bondage.  More try harder.  More forgiveness is the key.  Sometimes there is not a magic key.   There was not enough rosary bead recitations that would fix this.  Then what Dr. Janelle?  Where does that leave me with God according to you? 
Discussing personal and private things with someone who knows not one thing of how you operate in life, what your personality bent is, or the experiences that have collectively made you what you are, is a bit out of bodyish.  Dr. Janelle was clueless to the nuisances of the clients in front of her - me.  Her approach was clinical.  It was strictly biblical.  It was technical.  It was without emotional intuition.   It was rules.  It was very, very fundamentalist.  I was squelched.
 
I had lived by rules all my life starting as a child in a home that was strict, at times stifling, and regimented.   It was mind over matter.  Pull yourselves up by your boot straps.  Work harder.  Do your best and never let it rest.   Religiously, I grew up in a denomination that believed you could “lose” your salvation.  By choosing “sin”, whether it be once, twice or three times a lady, you un-chose God.  Or possibly, He might even un-choose you.

We are collectively the sum of all things that created, affected, touched, were spoken, we witnessed, experienced or were taught us.  That is a weird sort of mix in anybody!   I have equated the magnitude of getting a divorce, based on the collective sum of all I was, to running a marathon, 26.2 miles, without ever having run even 50 yards.   

 I had stayed married not because I wanted to.  I stayed married for 25 years because;  I was convinced that was what God expected, because my parents would disown me, because I would take away my husband’s way of life of pastoring, because I had a daughter still at home, because I had made a bad choice and it was my fault to have married someone that I should not have, because it was penance for having an affair at year one, because I would alter people’s view of God as seen through my choice, because I was tough, because to do anything but stayed married was selfish, because I would hurt everyone.  And summarily, because what I needed or wanted was less important than all of the above things.  The because list was long.  It never ended and played on repeat . . .

11.21.2013

MY FIRST LOVE AFFAIR (an excerpt)


 
My first love affair happened when I was quite young.  It happened in seventh grade.  I was quite young by some standards, but really old by others. 
 
Mrs. Nelson was her name.
 
 
Mrs. Nelson was my seventh grade English teacher.  And, by the time I rolled into seventh grade at 12 years of age, Mrs. Nelson was a seasoned veteran.  She had teaching down to an art and exemplified a tenured teacher with her plump body, cardigan sweater and pockets stuffed with Kleenex.  She perpetually seemed to have a cold, using nose spray like it was oxygen.  In fact, she might be the reason that certain over the counter cold medicines are kept behind the pharmacy now.

She did not have an inviting demeanor with her addictive nose spraying, blowing her nose and general grumpy hap-hazard ways. Though she had a soft side for kids. That’s where my love affair started for all things English, with Mrs. Nelson.  She still has a place in my heart for what she awakened in me.
 
I found diagramming sentences interesting - how words were organized in patterns, supporting each other, painting pictures.  It piqued my mind.  A world opened up to me.  Words were creative and open and able to be arranged to cause emotion, thought, reaction.  I saw words in a new way.  My torrid life love affair had begun.

Since I was a little kid my mind has been like a big movie screen.  Whenever I heard verbage or music, smelled scents, or read words, my interpretation would play on my mental screen.  Things were in high definition in my head long before the real technology came on the scene!  It still works that exact same way for me.  



Occasionally words would slip from my mouth at inappropriate times causing me to get conduct marks in school.  In Kindergarten it was, “she is bossy with others”.  In tenth grade algebra with Mr. Walters it was merely stated as one word, “questionable”.   I could mostly keep it in check when I was young, but as I aged and grew into my own skin small eruptions began.
 
The youngest of 3 girls, my aggressive non-compliant ways did not follow suite with my two older sisters.  As I got into high school conflict ensued with my dad.  I wanted to be who I wanted to be, and my dad wanted me to be a better version of himself missing all the potholes that he felt had kept him from being all he could have been. [My dad is a great man and I'm not sure there is greater.]  Combine that with the natural process of blossoming freedom as a teenager and you have a bit of a scenario for conflict. 
 
My love of words and their power, both written and spoken, became what I wanted to pursue for a career.  It too would be one of the things of conflict between my father and I.  His financial career, upbringing and practicality came into play with parenting.  We only parent with what we know - me included!!  My desire to pursue creative writing in college was met with a halt, “You can’t make a living with a creative writing degree”, my dad said to me sitting in the Dean of the English Department's office at an upstate New York College, “Not many make it doing that.”



Those words would be powerful, even show-stopping for that part of my life and for many years.  So were my choices and reactions.  It would take me some years to find my voice and my words again.  Two elusive loves continued in me through the years and never abated – writing was one . . .

11.20.2013

UNLEASHING MY FURY



I really don't have a fear of dogs.  Would I though remain totally calm if a pit bull came running toward me?  Probably not.  But, I don't fear the average dog on my runs, walks or bike excursions. I really don't have much fear in regards to creatures or critters that can be encountered while out in the wild.  Maybe I should.

I've seen some grand animals in their own environment; bear, rattlesnakes, elk, antelope, coyote, deer, beaver, fox, turkey.  There is something magical about getting to witness them out in nature. It's also a humbling experience to be a part of that natural world.  When I am partaking in the grand out of doors I am fully in the animal kingdom's world.
It's their habitat.  I sleep inside four human built walls with electricity, heat, and a bed.

On a walk over the weekend my husband and I ventured to the field north of where we live.  There is a make-shift path/trail around it.  On the one side that faces Granite Mountain is a rickety fence that keeps the cows from leaving the rancher's land and entering our subdivision and the adjoining field.  The east straightaway of the trail is near the road.  Give me a trail, a path without houses or people or traffic to run on any day.  I love the quiet of nothing but me and my feet hitting the path.  That's why I love that field - it's wide open, peaceful, free of distractions and reminds me of my growing up on a farm years.

Both yesterday and today I ran that field path as it was nearing sunset.  Heading down the small hill near the fence and the cows I spied two women and a German Shepherd walking a distance ahead of me.  It would appear they were letting their German Shepherd roam free without his leash.  I had a quick dialogue in my head, [Let them know early that I am coming up behind them so they can leash that dog]. 

I did just that.  About 40 feet behind them I hollered, "Don't want to scare you!  Coming up behind you. You might want to get a hold of your dog."  It wasn't that I was scared of being bitten, I was more concerned that they didn't know I was there and I would startle them.  And I sensed their dog would think me a human running ball and chase me as I passed them.

They quickly obliged and clipped his leash back on and held it as I ran past them.  It was a smaller German Shepard that appeared held back only by their strength and the leash.  I thanked them as I went on my way up the small incline that would let me exit the field.  No harm.

Today as I began the descent down the hill on that same route, a man with a huge German Shepherd was walking toward me.  It was not a small shepherd, but the breed of German Shepherd that had a head, nose, mouth, and feet that put Kujo's size ferocity to shame.  As I neared the man and his dog, the owner quickly grasped the collar and leash so there was absolutely no slag in it as I ran past them.  The proximity of that massive of an animal was a bit startling.  The owner though had handled it correctly.  I called out, THANKS!!

On the home stretch leg of the path I came up behind the same two women and their smaller German Shepherd as yesterday.  I did not call out my coming up behind them warning today though I sensed they didn't know I was there until I ran between them.  Their dog was again off leash and ahead of them. I felt a rush of anger at them walking a dog without a lease where others partook of the same path.  There are leash laws here! 

That dog did just what any dog would do when someone running passes by them - he ran after me.  I had no desire to try to outrun a German Shepherd nor probably could have I.  With my anger rising, I stopped and turned my back to the dog as he jumped up on me.  [If I wanted a dog to run the trail with me I'd have one - put it on a damn leash!]  Part of my anger welled over the fact that they were careless with their animal around others.  Part of it was over the fact that I had to stop my run and try to get the dog to stop chasing me.  The other part was their casualness to our interaction.

They were totally oblivious to how runners feel about loose dogs - angry that we usually have to stop our run till the owner gets the dog away from us.  I don't like stopping a run period.  Nor do I like having to stop it because of someone else's inept and careless behavior. I started running again with their words ringing loudly, "Oh he just wants to play. He won't hurt you!"  Whether that was true or not I was not convinced.  If I wanted to play I would not be out running alone!!!!!!  You play with your own damn dog and not on a trail with others.  Leash laws!

He started chasing me again and jumping so strongly on me while I ran that I had to stop yet again.  I turned my back to him as he continued to jump up reaching my shoulders. I was getting red hot with anger. These two women had made little attempt to coral this German Shepherd nor were they abiding by leash laws designed for the safety of others and ultimately the dog as well.

I stood still, continuing to shield myself from this ginormous dog as he jumped with power, until the women reached me.  I knew I could not take off running again until they had leashed him.  They were wasting my run time, causing my timing to now be off, interrupting the flow of a run. 

Not one word did I say to them [my mind was holding back quite a flurry of words and wrath all centered on them] as they pulled him off me.  I just glared at the women with silence and a look of disgust. Though it wasn't the kindest of interactions I could have given them probably, it was at the very least the kinder of the two options that I was going to give them! 
 
As I ran away, I turned and looked directly at them and just shook my head.  I was hoping my quiet but angerful body language would speak volumes without the words.  I was attempting to stay my fury inward.

Tomorrow I will go back there. Tomorrow I will not be quiet.  If I run into them and their German Shepherd they will gain a new fear of runners and a contact from animal control. 

11.19.2013

BEHAVIOR BASED LOVE (an excerpt)


 
 
It’s hard to not equate behavior to love.  I mean we live in a reward based society so naturally we apply that system to everything – including love.

I heard it a lot growing up in the church - around the people of God, the earthly interpretation of God on earth – “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  It’s great in theory, but I didn’t always see it played out.  There was a strange disconnect and huge dichotomy between what I heard and what I saw sometimes.
 
 
Smoking and drinking were “wrongs” in the church I grew up in.  So much so was that indoctrination that the first time, as a young kid, I saw someone smoking I knew based solely on their behavior that they were destined for hell.  God’s love could not tolerate those behaviors. Thankfully though, I figured out how wrong, off base and misguided the smoking and drinking or behavior based train of thought was fairly early in life.  God doesn’t see our wrongs, our short comings, but us.  Period.  He loves all the pieces, misguided, mixed up and a bit off parts that make us who we are.  He loves us where we are at that moment.  Right there is motivation and the healing we need to want to be less fragmented.

My favorite uncle on my mom's side lived in a suburb of Chicago when I was a kid.  He was a mix of high intelligence with multiple degrees, wild irreverence and charm, and a love of living life.  He smoked a pipe [to my mother's disdain] and drank alcohol [to her consternation also].

He was a bachelor for a time and when I would stay with him he would give up his bedroom to me and my sisters.  But, his messy ways meant that we would sleep in his unwashed sheets that were covered with dog hair.  There was nothing patterned or orderly in his house or world in comparison to how I was raised.  Because his method of living, approaching life was different, much of his life was considered wrong by the measuring stick I grew up with.  I saw past some of those deep imperfections.  I saw passion, depth, creativity and spark.  I couldn't throw away the good because of the bad I clearly saw in him.

It was that uncle who awakened in me the desire to be fully alive, to experience, to feel, to think, and to express.  He fanned those things from a spark to a fire over the years.  Affirming me through my life with written and verbal words of clarity on who he saw me to be, commissioning me to go and live, creatively giving gifts that were unique and personal.  His influence in my life and world stood in grand contrast to the ways of order, tasks and discipline first.  Even though he was a greatly flawed man who left a swath of pain in his family, there were good things in him.

People’s patterns or methods of operating in life were also things that determined whether love would be allotted.  If it did not make logical sense to some people, the church, the denomination, a community, it had to be wrong and therefore love could not be doled out.  It was as though being tolerant and accepting of things “perceived” to be wrong would be allowing and perpetuating that behavior.

And sin, well sin was a whole other subject matter itself.  There was a system for that too which involved much self-righteous finger wagging over sin’s outward manifestations.  Though so much of our sin is hidden and kept from others which doesn’t make it less than the noticeable or horrific, just hidden.
I saw a man in our church stand and declare his moral failing, his sin of adultery, to the entire church one Sunday morning.  Since I was a kid at the time I don't know whether he simply felt compelled to extrapolate his soul to his brothers and sisters in Christ or if he felt pressure to handle his sin this way from leaders in the church. One seemed like a good thing. The other, seemed wrong and forced. 
I wondered at that young age how many of those sitting in the pews listening to his confession had also sinned or were presently in sin?  What were they doing about confessing and what justified having to say your sins out loud – the perceived bigness of them by others, or by God?
I would some day find out myself what that felt like . . .

11.18.2013

THE DRIED BEEF DIARIES (an excerpt)


You would have thought growing up we were poor and destitute.  Now as an adult when I ask my mom about the “depression era” manner in which we lived she says, “Well, you know we didn’t have money when you were young.”  I get limited resources, but dried beef as a staple?  It was 1972 not 1860.

Some of you may be unfamiliar with the salty, thinly sliced cured meat lovingly called dried beef.  Its uses are several - please note I did not say many are the uses for dried beef.  My parents, believing without a doubt that we still lived pre icebox/refrigerator era, were great lovers of this dried and cured meat. 

I once asked my mom in my adult life -  this side of a world of dried beef - why they had so much dried beef around when I was a kid.  My mom replied, "Well, when we butchered a cow we had them put a lot of it into dried beef.  It was cheap and kept for a long time."  The only thing missing from us being pioneers was the hard tack.

You can imagine, if in the 1970's your parents are buying dried beef in bulk, what their stance was on buying your lunch at school or packing it.  It did not take me more than 2 days of bringing my packed lunch to school to realize I was in the minority.  Even more so when I removed my dried beef sandwich from its waxed paper baggie that had been neatly folded over at the top. 
 
I looked around that what other lunch packers were bringing to school; peanut butter and jelly, bologna, ham, Twinkies, chips, cookies.  Incredible bounty!  Then I looked back at my 2 pieces of bread that were only separated by a smattering of mayo and one thin, salty slice of dried beef.  With it was applesauce or an apple and maybe some carrots or celery.  I remember no processed anything or even homemade dessertish items in my lunch.  Ever! 

Soon I realized, after eating a dried beef sandwich every day for lunch since school had started that year, there was a sort of swap meet thing that went on during lunch.  Almost everyone and every lunch item was a free agent up for trade.  I thought to myself that I just couldn't bear to eat that mostly bread and salt sandwich one more day.   I too would try a trade. 

Making my offer to another kid at the lunch table I suggested a trade - my deliciously salty pioneerish mostly bread sandwich for oh I don't know, ANYTHING BUT a salty pioneerish mostly bread sandwich!  I put that sandwich in the best light possible as trades were occurring faster than I could market this sub par sandwich.  Nothing.  No one would trade.  When no trade could be had, I realized I had to come up with some other alternative to get out of eating that sandwich. 

In our cafeteria at lunch time was a teacher on duty who monitored both the behavior and the food consumption of the kids.  That day I knew I could no longer eat a dried beef sandwich which I had begun to refer to in my head as “salty gruel”.  After some thought, I decided starvation would be a better alternative which would, at the very least, permanently remove me from the possibility of ever having to eat another dried beef sandwich. 

How to get dismissed from the lunch lady and hide the fact that I did not eat my sandwich?  I would need to conceal it under my napkin and then quickly throw it away.  That too was risky though as Roscoe, the school janitor, usually stood near the lunch trash can and would police waste, telling kids to eat what was still on their plate.  I had once witnessed Roscoe scold a kid into eating something still on his tray before throwing it away. 

My caper almost complete, I walked to the trash can and smiled at Roscoe and threw my lunch trash away, including the sandwich wadded up in my napkin.  I hurriedly walked away trying to not look or act guilty, feeling as if I had done something and actually gotten by with it.  NO MORE DRIED BEEF SANDWICHES...HOORAY! 

My excitement was short lived as Rosco found the sandwich in the trash.  He, like the entire school, knew it was the Weldy kids and ONLY the Weldy kids who had dried beef sandwiches every day.  He came to talk to me about throwing my sandwich away.  I was scared and intimidated and confused over all the fuss given over a sandwich not being eaten, let alone a dried beef one.  I wondered as Roscoe talked if he could have eaten a dried beef sandwich daily since school had started.  As he scolded me for my waste, I just nodded my head in agreement and didn't say a word.  I would take the scolding over eating it.

I remained very thirsty for much of my elementary years.

11.14.2013

ARE BABIES REALLY BEAUTIFUL?

Babies are great.  Think about the wonder, the creativity, the awesomeness of God's creation in this new life that is now living in the outside-out-of-the-womb world.  In that new person is a whole life that God has in store for them.  Everything lies before them. 

Babies are really pretty durable too for not having muscle control or full motor functions.  The birth process they go through to enter the physical outer world is both astonishing and marvelous and brutal and painful.  It's funny how we say the mom looks tired and wiped out after birth but declare an infant squeezed through the birth canal for hours or pulled through an abdominal opening looks beautiful. One of those statements is fully true and one is colored just a bit.

I suppose we say a newborn, fresh from birth, is beautiful because life itself is beautiful. The realization of new life makes physical appearance appear beautiful even if it isn't exactly. It is beyond looks that creates real beauty.

Our local newspaper has a birth section daily.  Above the small blurb denoting the child's name, dimensions, date/time of birth, and parent's names is a mug shot of the baby.  It is exactly that; a poor quality picture taken up close at only their head.  This photo is taken by the hospital and provided to the newspaper.  I should hope their medical knowledge and expertise is far greater than their digital camera experience. 

The picture of each child's head is roughly 2 1/4" high by 2" wide.  It is taken the day they are born which could account for the looks of most of the infants.  I know if you took a shot of me that consisted of a zoom in on just my face my looks too would appear distorted.  If you also took a picture of me after a long hard difficult day I wouldn't look my personal best either.  A little bit of distance, some good lighting, the right angle make all the difference in a photograph.  Just look at the cover of any magazine if you are questioning that! 

Once in awhile there is a baby that truly is beautiful, pretty or handsome - whatever you say about a good looking newborn.  But, that is not the norm by in large.  I think we grow into our good looks.

There is also a whole new batch of names out in the world.  Names like; Aiden, Asher, Zuri, Nova, Kinsey, Hudson, Deaglan, Broderick, Sage, Dalainee, Jovie.  I read the births daily.  It reminds me that God continues to create specific life in each of those names. It's what He is really about - loving the things He creates.

Our fourth grandchild was born on September 27th.  He was 6 weeks early and weighed in at 4 pounds 9 ounces.  His first time parents named him Mason Keenan.  And, without a doubt he is a beautiful baby:)  He seems to already have made a point in his newborn picture too. [Mason Keenan - right photo]

11.13.2013

THE LAND OF NOD


My daughter is a remarkable sleeper.  She's always been that way.  There are pictures of her, food in mouth mid-chew, sitting in a booster seat at the kitchen table asleep.  She also ate most of those meals from the age of 18 months to 3 years old with a paper Burger King crown on.  There are other pictures of her sound asleep in a bathtub of water laying on her back with a wash cloth laid out on her stomach.  If it were possible to float in 3 inches of water while being in the Land of Nod, she did it regularly. 

Hannah had such a love affair with sleep that I never really had to tell her to go to bed, she just went when she got tired.  At 6 weeks old [with a bit of rice cereal mixed in a bottle of breast milk] she would sleep at night for 6-7 hours straight.  In first grade at 6 years old she would come home and take a nap. 

Her magic love of snoozing got more and more magnified as she grew up.  High school showed that, unless I forced her to get up, she could easily sleep 14 hours at a time.  She also spent the better part of any car ride while growing up sleeping en route to wherever we were going.  She would be the first to tell you she loves to sleep.  She would get that from my mom who has genetically passed on to her not only the capacity to sleep long periods of time, but solidly and just about anywhere.  Hannah and her Mammer share a special bond - sleep and tiny feet are two of them.

I did not get that sleep gene.  Literally I sleep only about 4-5 hours a day.  On the rare occasion that I get 6 uninterrupted hours sleep I feel invincible the next day.  Most definitely I get tired.  I go to bed tired, ready for sleep, able to fall asleep mid-sentence telling Doug something but wake up 4-5 hours later ready for the day.  There are times I am extremely envious of Hannah the great and mighty sleeper.  I take after my dad, and according to my Aunt Dee, her and my grandmother.  I didn't get the peaches and cream skin but instead got horrible sleep patterns - the inability to sleep deeply, soundly or for long periods.

My husband's sleep patterns have no doubt changed since being with me.  He recounts that he used to stay up late, sleep on Saturdays till 9 or 10 and roll out of bed during the work week at 7 a.m. just in time to hurriedly get to work.  Not anymore.  He now goes to bed by 10:30 -11 p.m. nightly and gets up by 5:30 most mornings.  Since I know he operates on less sleep that he is used to, I let him sleep on Saturdays/Sundays while I go out for an early run.  He joins me for coffee about 7 a.m. always claiming he can't stay in bed if I'm not there.  I have no doubt he now lives with a small measure of chronic sleep deprivation.  He would say love is better than sleep anyway.

I am not a night owl.  My best energy is morning.  And, by morning I mean pre and post sunrise.  I am on the downward cycle of energy by about 8 p.m.  Who am I kidding, I am beyond the downward cycle, I am completely out of energy.  If I sit down, I will fall asleep. So I try not to sit down till I am done with all I want or need to get done.  That did not happen tonight.

Tonight, post dinner, I told Doug I had to lay down.  I just needed to rest [code for sleep].  It was 6:45 p.m.  I laid down and woke up one hour later totally unaware that an hour had passed.  The TV was on, my cell phone went off with a call right by head.  I heard nothing.  When I do crash it is hard.  When I woke up I felt refreshed, a bit afraid that I didn't hear anything for an hour, and revived.  My bet now is that sleep will elude me at bedtime because of such a deep nap.  I told Doug one solid hour sleep for me was equal to 3 for normal people.
 

When sleep hits me I take it - mid sentence in bed while talking to Doug, at 6:45 p.m. on a Wednesday night or during a movie in a theatre.  Doug quickly learned, on date number three at his house for dinner and a movie, that I cannot stay awake past 8 p.m. if watching a movie on a couch.  He let me sleep and then asked me out again for date number four.  I've even had my eyes start to cross from fighting sleep when company has stayed too long at the house.  Once I even stood up and said they were free to
stay as long as they wanted but I had to go to bed.
I am so the life of any party.

11.12.2013

2 OUT OF 4 (an excerpt)

 
I was a statistic.  I was now part of the failed marriage statistics.  I was also an evangelical divorce within the church statistic.  George Barna had my direct number.
There are already shelves and shelves full of books on divorce.  They range from self-help books, to psychological processee time lines.  Some smack of self-pity.  Others, from a sterile sort of removed from it experience.  Some of have penned their journey of self-discovery, like the book Eat, Pray, Love  [Not a fan!  It was the first movie I went to alone post-divorce!].  Other writers splash acid on their readers from the bitterness still heavy on the pages from their divorce.  There are fundamentalist writings on God’s hatred of divorce.  How the fall of man is directly linked to failed relationships.  I would agree on that to the point that the fall of man was the result of a failed relationship – the one between God and man!

I don’t want to be any of those books.

Shakespeare has a quote in “Hamlet”, which was repeated by Gilligan from “Gilligan’s Island”, “To
thine own self be true.”    That is what I shall attempt to do. 

It seems as though whenever I am searching or shopping for a very specific thing is when I cannot find it.  When I desperately am needing that particular item, I come up empty handed.  That was true too of my journey through divorce.  I had no point of reference.
If I was the author of Webster’s Dictionary and could create new definitions, this would be the entry for DIVORCE:
 n: A separation from everything concrete and known.
v: The act of reassembling separate parts to make a whole again.

I don’t want to wear events in my life, divorce included, like a badge of honor - as if, those events are what define me.  Instead, I want to see them as a conduit of sorts, a path designed to cause me to redefine myself.  I don’t want to portray the misnomer that horrific events make us more special.  Make us smarter.  Make us more emotionally intelligent.   It is not an exclusive “good old boys club”.  Pain is an extremely universal link in every one's life.
Divorce teaches us, but only as far as we are willing to learn.  Only as far as I was willing to learn.
I am not a painter.  My daughter is though.  I wonder if someone were to paint a picture of a mountain, but didn’t put any other pieces of nature surrounding it, would we be able to see the full beauty of the mountain in the picture?  Or, is beauty found when things are highlighted or contrasted next to it?

Marriage, the concept and the expectation is a beautiful thing.  In that context its beauty is surrounded by other things of beauty that make it what it should be; love, affection, passion, connection, attraction, partnership, acceptance, spark, selflessness.   Outside that context, without those details that support and construct what it truly should be, it is a picture of a mountain only.  No sun, no color variations, no trees, no landscape.  It is very, very one-dimensional.
Divorce is not a unique experience.  With regularity it happens statistically 2 in 4 times.  It can be tossed into the salad of shared and similar human experiences like; birth, death, marriage, college, graduation, jobs, retirement, illness.   Divorce though is intensely private.  They say that “war is hell”.  To that I say divorce is one of the routes there.   It takes you to a place of deep hellish agony weighed down by the under lying pain that led to it.

. . . I stood in the church nursery moments before my first
wedding at all of 18 years old.  Just three months shy of my 19th birthday I was walking down the matrimonial aisle.  No, I wasn’t pregnant, just young and stupid.  And, I was lost in hurt.  That day should have been one of excitement, giddiness even.  Most definitely passion.  The dream of a lifetime.  It wasn't.

If you don’t believe me.  If you think it is an after-the-fact sort of conclusion drawn to make my divorce understandable, you would be wrong.  Clearly seen on my dad’s face as he walked me down the aisle was a reflection of the trepidation I felt.   He felt it too . . . .

11.11.2013

SLIPPERS ARE REALLY JUST INDOOR FLIP FLOPS, RIGHT?


I never wore slippers until last Christmas.  I have though spent years ridiculing and generally hassling [in good nature and mostly to hear her giggle] my oldest sister, Jeanne, for her many layers of clothing she wears indoors in cold weather.  There has been ne're a cool to cold weather holiday gathering or birthday celebration where Jeanne has not been bundled up like a homeless woman seemingly wearing all they own layer upon layer.

I start sweating just looking at her.  I head right toward hyperventilation at the thought of wearing as many layers of shirts as she does at the same time.  I might collectively wear 4 shirts in the span of 4 days.  She wears 16 in a 4 day period.  Maybe it's a bit of the claustrophobia that I struggle with that presents itself in what I will not wear.


I will NOT wear turtlenecks, cowl necks, too high of necklines on t-shirts, pull over hooded sweatshirts that are too constricting in the neckline, decorative drappie scarves, shirts over stop of other shirts unless the one closest to my skin is a cami and/or I ditch the bra to eliminate bondage and a layer.  Not Jeanne.  She wears 2-3 shirts, a loopy-do scarf, a big sweater, heavy socks and slippers.  Mind you she looks great even though you can't see one piece of skin on her!

Jeanne's slippers come with her to every cool weather family gathering.  I would imagine, based on her public clothing style, that her bed time pj attire would send me into a full out night sweat!  I see flannel, socks, and a heating blanket for her.  I, on the other hand, utilize the ceiling fan on high, arms outside the covers, the window open a crack, my right leg peeking out of blankets to create a balance between the warm covers and the cool air of the room, and nothing touching the sheets except skin. 

People change though.  My never wear slipper stance changed last Christmas when Doug bought me a pair of slippers.  I laughed at first when I opened them knowing he knows of my position on slippers and had bought them for me anyway.  Why would someone do that? 

Our house back in the Midwest had beautiful original 1954 oak floors. And, since I do not wear socks [inside the house or even in shoes in the dead of winter], he knew that I would benefit from the ease of slip on slippers.  He was spot on!   I slipped them on Christmas Day last year and fell in love with their warmth and softness.  If my feet got too toasty, I just tossed them off.  Freedom!

Fast forward to Arizona, my new digs.  We put tile throughout the whole house except the bedrooms.  It coolness felt great when it was 90 degrees here.  It doesn't feel as great when I get up at 5:30 to traipse to the kitchen to make coffee and the temps have dropped to 34 degrees outside. No basement and cold nights make my slippers imperative.  I pull on my sweat pants and shirt and slip my feet into my gray slippers before I head across that cool tile.  I don't like socks and slippers. That is just too damn many layers.  I just don't like being totally constrained!  Toe socks are definitely not an option for me either.

I have turned into Jeanne, at least in the slipper category.  I actually packed my gray slippers when I flew back to the Midwest recently.  Had I forgot them, my sister probably could have loaned me a pair.  I saw her when I was home.... she was clad in multiple shirt layers, a scarf, big thick socks and slippers.   She looked hot, in both ways.

You will not though ever see me at Walmart in PJ bottoms (don't own any) and slippers.  Slippers are for warmth, not because you're too lazy to wear real shoes.

11.07.2013

THE FAMILIAR SOIL OF KNOWING


Why is there great soul comfort in familiarity?  No matter how much we love where we might be planted presently, there is something deeply satisfying about going home - about that place from hence we came.  There is something calming and restorative about the place of our origins - our roots. Our spirit knows and feels that deep connection of familiarity and experience all without words - like sign language to our soul.

I went back to Indiana last week to see family.  I went back to my parent's house, the house I grew up in, the house they still live in.  I laid in bed in the room I grew up in.  I laid on my back and stared at the ceiling which showed the outline of the lath boards under the plaster.  I thought about sharing that room with my two older sisters.  [How did we fit three beds and two dressers in one room?]  Obviously we didn't have near the belongings and stuff that kids do today.   

I recounted to my husband a few of the things that happened in that room.  In saying them out loud my heart was flooded with joy and contentment for the childhood of goodness that I had experienced. I told him about my sisters and I piling into one single bed and giggling so loudly that my dad would holler up the stairway, "You better be quiet or I'm gonna come up there and knock some heads together!  Get back in your own beds!!"  We would stifle the giggles long enough for him to think we had really quieted down.  Then, with greater giggle control, we would start in all over again.

On my run I ran to the bridge down from my parent's house and looked at the metal railing on the bridge.  I wanted to see if I could still see my name etched there by a boy who loved me.  It was there amidst some rust.... Nancy, I love you.   I ran on - around the section to my dad's other stretch of farmland.  I found myself filled with familiarity of the houses, the people that lived in them, and even the look of the soil in the fields.  I knew it from the inside out.  How can a field and its soil feel like the back of my hand, but it did. 

I ran past the fields to the fourth mile of the section.  The road was still gravel, just like it was when I was a kid.  There it was again - familiar and same.  I was literally transported in my mind and spirit to all the sights and sounds that had filled my growing up years.  I heard the hum of the corn dryers, the partially turned back soil with stubble of corn stalks mixed in, the wave of a pick up truck driver. 

 
There was a comfort in the know of knowing stuff without knowing how you knew it.   Stuff like; what the clouds in November mean, what bugs make their last hooray in the few days of heat at the end of October, that one day it could be 60 degrees and the next day 40 and rainy, that there is a race to get all the outside work done before winter came, that farmers work like madmen trying to beat time and weather, where each road led, and that there is a quiet and stark beauty in the harsh change of seasons.
 
It was just part of me much like my skin was. There was comfort in knowing something clear to your soul.  The know was so big it would always take up residence there no matter where my life took me.

11.06.2013

CONVENIENCE AND LUXURY ARE NOT ENTITLEMENTS


Entitlement bugs me.  We breed it here in the United States like a mink farm.

Case in point; this week someone said to me, "My cell number is going to change.  Since I'm at the poverty level, I'm getting one of those Obama phones with 250 minutes preloaded on it."  I tried to keep my white hot thoughts from spilling onto my face or bleeding into my response.  I fussed and fumed for the rest of the day about that statement.  I groused around about yet again having to pay for someone else's non-need.

This is not an expose' on politics, political parties, or whose fault it is that we now give out Obama phones to those at the poverty level.  Political leanings and parties aside, I totally believe that we are called as human beings to help those that need help.  I don't always know how that looks, what shape it should always take, or how to draw a definitive line on the subjectiveness of needs and wants sometimes.  Helping with needs is concrete.  Count me in.  Entitlement is shifting sand at times.  I don't believe in it.

I write this though from my lens.  And, my lens is white middle-class with an upbringing from the Midwest.  I was taught to work, take responsibility for myself, try harder and be a good steward of what I had whether it was much or little.  Based on my own experiences, I expect society to reflect that same train of thought. It would appear that our governmental systems, and portions of our society, do not.  That irritates me.  No, it makes me angry.  I felt it again today when I heard the words poverty level and Obama phones.

Let's take that spirit of entitlement to those not at the poverty level.  It's easy no matter your socio-economic grouping to feel entitled; I'll pay the credit card off later, I need this extravagant this or that, I work hard for my money and I deserve this.  Those too are forms of entitlement.  Here's the difference though; you and I are paying for those at poverty level and their entitlements. Their entitlements cost me.  My own entitlements though are mostly only billed to me or ensnare me.

When have cell phones become a need. [I know in my life it is not a need but a cultural want that costs me a lot of money every month!]  When did our elected officials agree that this is now part of the available benefits given to those on some form of government assistance. [I realize when this measure was passed I was in the middle of a divorce and re-ordering my own life so I may have missed it!]  When did we stop being a society built on independence and allow our government to rule everything. [Isn't that why we came to the New World to have freedom from governmental control!]

I hate when the real problem or issue has caused so many other problems that you don't totally remember what originally started this waterfall of entitlement.  

Franklin D. Roosevelt never intended social programs to be permanent or on-going or to grow to the significance and cost they are today.  They were bridges in response to the Great Depression.  The New Deal was about relief, recovery and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.  I think where we stand now is not at all what was intended back in 1933. 

I have to pay for my own cell phone [I hate the cost of my cell phone.  It seems outrageous!], if I choose to have one.  I have to pay a significant amount of money to have the convenience and luxury of a phone I can carry on me at all times. Don't confuse convenience and luxury with need.  Believe it or not, you also can live without a microwave.  The stove top and oven can heat leftovers too, just maybe not as conveniently.

11.05.2013

THE HIATUS' HIDDEN VALUE



I was absent from the world of writing for over a week.  Hiatus' are good once in awhile.  They help to set our minds back in order, rest our bodies from the monotony of routine and recharge us to return to the things we love with renewed vigor, vision and drive.  Sometimes though hiatus' (chosen and unchosen ones alike) make us miss horribly the thing(s) we are apart from.


A good friend of mine once sent me a quote that I can deeply relate to.  The author of it must have crawled into my head and heart and plucked from them the words that describe clearly missing something or someone....

"Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly
 walking around in the daytime and falling in at night.
I miss you like hell." ~Edna St Vincent Millay
 
On this hiatus we met a new grandson, saw kids and grand kids, parents, siblings, friends and said goodbye to one of the kids for an indefinite and undefined period of time.  Certain people's absence from our lives does leave a hole.  No matter the other good and positive things around us their silence remains loud at times.
 
What I didn't do on hiatus was write.  I missed it.  This blog, started while I was going through a divorce, very quickly became an act of discipline that I desperately needed for so many reasons.  I didn't stop writing blog posts for 100 consecutive days.  I was afraid if I stopped I would let loose of something I had wanted all my life.  So, I did not stop.  I kept writing long after the transition from marriage to divorce back to remarriage occurred.  No matter what else has been happening in my life over the past three and half years, I have kept writing - albeit with a couple of hiatus' here and there.
 
It's a bit of my personality at play as well.  I write because I have something to say that I think relates to most people deep inside.  Likewise I also keep running because I know it is good for my mind and my body.  I do both though at times with a sheer act of my will.  It is too easy to let loose of the things that are vital and important and abandon them for the now, the immediate.  That's why I double lace my shoes and log miles.  It's why after working all day I sit to think and pen 800-1000 words.
 
I have far more than this blog to write.  It has been my testing ground, my discipline training ground so to speak.  Will anyone read it?  Does anyone relate?  Do people pick up on my sarcastic ridiculous tone at times meant not to be taken too seriously?  Has anyone had a moment when the words were just what they needed to take a "hiatus" from the rough day they had?  Was there a reader out there who knew that God had talked to them through this very imperfect person's words?  Are there those who come back to see if I posted anything new today?
 
In my computer and filing cabinet are tens of thousands of words.  They are trying to make themselves into book form.  I have been a bit reticent to put some of those words in this blog.  I think I might though.  Maybe you should be my editors.  Maybe you should see if there is value in my story.  Maybe my story might make you feel a bit more free to be who you are.  So, I think I will occasionally put an excerpt, a chapter of this book in progress as a post on this blog.  
 
Hiatus' are meant to refresh not frustrate.  They are meant to tool out the realness, the authenticity and depth of value of that thing or person in our lives. 
 
n. pl. hi·a·tus·es or hiatus ... in space, time, or continuity; a break