Monday, July 30, 2012

{On, In, and Around Mondays} There is a Balm in Gilead

There are places so dark
that to cross the threshold of their doors
is to
be at once
in one breath

And like one kidnapped
you become ensnared and entangled
in a whirlwind
of confusion
and all the while
you keep looking at your abductors
you keep trying to look them in the eye
you keep trying to place that familiar flash
that is both familiar and foreign
you keep trying to understand

And to be so completely and utterly
is to find yourself so alone
that the sound of your own voice
sickens and sours
inky holes open wide
you stumble towards them
in hope that they are your ticket

I heard that you opened this door
on accident
the other day
that you meant to open
a different one
but doors, they tend to look the same
and we walk through them
innocent enough

People have been offering
rich ransoms
for your return
ever since
and voices have been calling
your name
hoping to lead you back

I don't know where you are
and there is no easy way to find you
I catch glimpses
here and there
and I hear echoes
of you
but I have the walk
of a stumbling drunk
and I keep ending up where I began

Perhaps you will think me a
when I speak of a balm
that makes the wounded whole
but I've heard that, in time,
it salvages
the wrecked
the dragons

It is there,
my friend

when you are ready

Dedicated to J.B.

Linking up with LL. Barkat
 On In Around button

Thursday, July 26, 2012

{In which we are saved} A synchroblog

I used to think it was only “Jesus Saves.”  Everything else just fell into some sub category of that because isn’t everything about Jesus and aren’t I just one great big nothing?

But life is funny and things aren’t always what they seem and who am I to think I have it all figured out?

And as my clock steadily ticks and as my life spins and swirls and swells around me, I’m finding that joy lurks in unexpected places and, that Jesus...well he is a sneaky one.

I’m being saved by writing. 

I’m filling my insides with the art of wordsmiths such as Sarah, Elizabeth, Micha, Amber, Emily, Jeff, Preston and Idelette.  I’m reading and savoring and storing up their overflow and I am bearing weight that was once unthinkable.  I'm wrapping myself in their voices and insights and honesty and dirt because all of it is being used for good.

And I am being saved by my own writing.  Not because it is awesome or incredible but because it is happening.  
I'm finding that to write is to bleed and I am oozing out all over the place and blood can flow from wounds but it is also a life source and
I. just. can't. stop. it.

And I am being saved by taking photos.  Because my camera has become another set of eyes and I am seeing the world as if for the first time.  

And my children, they, too are saving me.  Saving me from myself.  Saving me from self-importance and pride.  Saving me from hate and disillusionment and anal retentiveness.  My children pull me back to Earth, to the ground, to the humus that I am.  Every day I die and every day I am reborn and isn't that the definition of saving?

And, perhaps most importantly, I am being saved by gratitude.  Because if thanksgiving is the soil than joy is the fruit and I long to be a farmer of bliss.

Won't you join Sarah Bessey
in her synchroblog?

What is saving your life right now?


I always wanted a forever marriage.  The kind where the two old folks sit together on the ancient green couch, holding gnarled hands, wearing musty clothes, while a silent knowing dances between them both.

I always wanted that.

And I always wanted there to be children.  And grandchildren.  And front porches.  And dogs.

Because what is more winsome than all of that?

And so that day when I said that expansive "Yes!" and you kissed my forehead and we ran around the outside of the church all giddy with love and joy...well

I just had no idea. No. idea.

How could I have known that you were never going to fold your clothes up neatly as you stepped out of each piece or that having children was something that you weren't sure if you really wanted or that you wouldn't dry off before you stepped out of the shower or that you would end up going to law school...?

Because when two people are standing up in front of God and everybody, pledging their love to each other and promising to cling to each other from that day forward.  For better or for worse.  In sickness and in health.  Through wealth and poverty.  Well, they really have no idea what they are saying.

And I can still remember the day, how there came this catch in my chest, this seizing of my lovestruck soul, and I realized that I had promised to do this marriage thing with you forever.  Until I died.  Until I was no more.

In the name of all that is holy, what had I done?

Because everything became really, really hard.  It became more difficult to see past your idiosyncratic ticks. Your splendid hard-headedness, when directed towards me, wasn't exactly attractive anymore.   The fact that you couldn't just read my heart and mind and act accordingly became very frightening.  How exactly was I supposed to work through all of these discrepancies that threatened to unravel my perfectly woven tapestry of love and then, on the other side of it all, still be in love with you?  And how, pray tell, did joy fit into all of this?

And suddenly, forever seemed like a really long time.  A. really. long. time.

Today marks fifteen years into our forever. 

I look out the window and pray for rain, clouds, anything that will quell this relentless heat.  It has been day, after bloody day, of this.  But it is still the middle of summer and to think that this crazy weather is going to go away any time soon is lunacy because it just doesn't work that way.  These seasons, they ebb and flow, cycle and churn.  When we stand back and take in their patterns, their rhythm, we can't help but be thankful for the constancy of their change.

I'm coming to understand that it is the same with our marriage, my dear.

This union of ours, into which we have grafted our hearts and souls, has its own seasons.  It cycles and churns and ebbs and flows.  And to stand on one end of it and attempt to see how it all will pan out or how it should proceed is foolish and overwhelming.

Rather, our ability to continue to move forward has been all about the leaning into it.  The slow, gradual relinquishing of unrealistic expectations of greatness.  The thankful acceptance of what actually is.

We are not the same people we were fifteen years ago.  Just like it was not this hot fifteen summers ago.

The world keeps spinning and cycling and we've held on despite it all and even though it is not the same as when we started, it is still very right.  What we have, it is good.

I look out the window now and it has started to rain.  The sky is heavy and the clouds leak wet all over and somewhere in the distance there is the low roll of thunder.   This moment, this is the one that everyone has been praying for.  So much hope and expectation has been poured into the possibility of it that we have begun to shape our plans around its inevitability.  But it is very possible that this rain, this relief that we need, this liquid hope will shift and go elsewhere.  As much as we want it, it might still evade us.

But that is not all that there is.  Our joy and peace doesn't ride on whether it rains or not.
Where our hope rides is in the pregnant moment of now.  This very moment, when we stand on the front porch and can smell hope all the way inside of us..this is what it is all about.

And it is good.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Prayer for a Tuesday

The Praying Mantis
by Ogden Nash

From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space or lost Atlantis?
glimpse the grin, green metal mug
at masks the pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

{On, In, and Around Mondays} Rainbow Birds

It was going to be a big disco party.  Thumping music, strings of lights, over-heated faces that laughed at the absurdity of it all...we were going to ring it in with crazy and it was going to be the best birthday ever.  But, things don't always work out the way we plan them to and so, sometimes, we must go with what is.

I pulled the strings tighter, gathered up those closest and proceeded to celebrate with those who have known me always.

First, it was the sisters.  For two of us, the years that stretch between us could very well be a generation... And between me and the middle sister, there stretches a mirrored lake, into which we have both gazed and seen reflections that criss-cross and melt one into the other until it's hard to know who is who.  These are the ones that came first.  And it was in their presence that I wrapped myself and drank in their love and devotion and stories.  Always, there are the stories...  As the hours stretched wide, so did our thoughts and we asked questions we don't always ask and we listened to voices that sang new songs in our ears and we marveled at how love can chink away hardness.  In the wee hours of the new day, when the sky gets darker before it slips into its new form, I saw the color slip out like a puddle.

The second wave came the next day.  Over the river and threw the woods they traveled and they tumbled out of the car with arms bursting and hearts leaking and I couldn't stop smiling.  We settled around the kitchen table because that is where love is born again and we smiled at all we had in each other.  And as the room spun crazy drunk with goodness and the laughter swelled and lifted like a fantastical balloon, I marveled that I was created out of this.  This, all of this, was poured into me, over and over.  It always had been.

Balking the heat, we sat outside in a circle, like they did in the old days.  We sipped cold drinks and talked of tragedy and triumph and all the time, the sun dripped golden on our heads.  We unwrapped the gift of time and found that it had new things to share with us and we learned that to open ourselves to each other only makes us richer.

And the hours stretched and I knew time was passing and I wanted to stop the spinning and hang suspended, like a mobile, orbiting and turning, over and over, in the same space.  The colors were running, slipping out of my hands and I wanted to gather them all in and keep painting.

Until they started to glow. The colors.

It took the dark of night, the inky blackness that obscures all vision, in order to see them.  We all had bits and pieces of rainbow light, in our hands and around our necks, glowing and burning and turning our skin new shades.  And then the colors started dancing.  To a crazy music we sang out loud, chanted even, these rainbow night birds took flight.

And as they swirled and swooped and bent my understanding of how things should be into acceptance of how things are, I couldn't stop laughing.  Because all of these odd birds, with their glowing and burning colors, and their ability to take new shapes...all of them, are my flock.

And it was with these rainbow birds that I had my dance party.

Joining L.L. Barkat 
 On In Around button

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beautiful Boy

You wanted to sleep with me last night.
Like, officially sleep with me.
Like from bedtime til morning.
Like it was Christmas Eve.  

And I suppose that last night was the eve of something big.
At exactly 5:37 a.m. this morning you turned 10.

But did you really need to sleep with me all...night...long?

It wasn't just me, then?

Because as I tucked you in last night and kissed your head and found a myriad other ways to stall my leaving just a little bit more, I found myself pushing against a force that scared me.
An urge to pull you in tight, into the vacuum of me, so as to forestall all that might wait for us on the other side of dawn.

Because, on that shore, time marches on and you will grow up and people will laugh at you and you will make mistakes.  And hard times will come and you will get confused.  Over there, you will have dreams and ideas and you will meet new people but things won't always be what they seem and sometimes you will wonder what is the point?  And one seemingly insignificant move here might trip a whole domino run of potentially life changing happenings there and you won't always have control over any of it.  And because the fairy land of childhood where you have laid your head, with all of its comforts and love and spice cookies and Harry Potter books will outgrow its skin on the other side and it might pinch.

How can I release you to all of that?  How, exactly, does a mama begin to let go?

Because I always want it to be that running to my side in the dark of the night will be enough.
I want to continue to operate on the belief that there is nothing so big and bad and dangerous that we can't fight it off together.
We are a formidable pair, you and I.  And I move mountains for you.

But while we slept, the Earth kept turning and the katydids flirted and the Sun found its way to the horizon.  And here we are, changed.  You are ten and I am torn.

Having a child is to forever have "your heart go walking around outside your body" and maybe that's why I am stalling.  Why I can't seem to loosen my grip.  I don't want you to go, my dear sweet boy.
To untangle that which has woven us together is a task I'd rather not tackle and I've always been clumsy with my hands anyway.

But then I look at your face, with its dimples and almond eyes, with its baby cheeks melting into an older chin and I shiver.  You are looking at me, yes, but you are also looking beyond me.  Because there is more to see these days than just my face and I am no longer your only Sun.

And so what I see now, well, it is beautiful.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Half a lifetime of days...

Dear little Holly

with the Dorothy Hamill haircut that snatched away your golden locks
and left you with a mop of brown
that for years
caused people to think that you were a boy

I see you

whose almond eyes will 
one day
find their way to the face of a son
who shares the day of your birth
who will quarry your heart
to the end

I see you

after the moment
suspended above
you will rush off to play in the summer heat
slapping at mosquitoes
and screaming of ghosts run amuck
while you grab the hand of the girl down the street
the one that you will boss and hen peck
again and again
until you both tire of the charade
and she moves away

I see you

there is no way that you can know
the myriad paths you will stumble down
ones where you will be following the trail
of others
half smiling, half stunned
hoping you can just stop
for a moment
to grab the stitch in your side
and so you can figure out
where the hell you are going
before they leave without you


the ones where the grass is waist high
and you are convinced that you are
the very first person to lay flat the blades
and you keep praying
that you won't aggravate the snakes
or make anybody mad
because you walked off
without telling them

I see you

do you remember that one class picnic
at the park on Nottingham
where there was a merry-go-round that 
even then
seemed ironic
and you jumped into the center
holding onto the bars with both hands
and as you turned and turned
the world spinning round you
you noticed that
if you tilted your head one way
you could still make out all that was whirling round you
each tree
each person
each lunchbox on the picnic table
but if you tilted your head the other way
the world became a blurry watercolor painting
with everything leaving colored vapor trails
and you could still recognize things
but they kept slipping out of
your mind's eye and oozing into
the next image

That is what separates the little you
from the big me

half a lifetime of days
my dear

but I still see you

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

{On turning 40}

Here I am.

I am here and nowhere else and that is okay.

And if I've learned nothing else these forty years, I am clinging to this truth:

It is this moment, right here, that breathes meaning and substance and contentment into every other moment that follows.
It is this moment that gathers and pulls, like a thread of gold, all the moments hitherto.

And I cannot think of a better fortieth birthday present to myself then to bathe in the glory of that.  

Because what is the rest of my life if I don't have right now?  

It becomes a crazy scramble, is what.  A vain attempt to make sense of the things that have happened to me rather than a gathering of the gifts that have been given to me.

And I'd rather not do crazy any more than I have to, thank you.

I think I will choose to slowly ponder the repast that has been forty years in the making and to recognize it for what it is...
something very good.
I was inspired, recently, by a favorite blogger of mine and the list that she made on her forty-first birthday.  Although I felt like I already "knew" her through her writings, her list filled out the picture more fully.  So, I thought, perhaps, a list of my own might help you to understand me a little more.  I suppose lists are easy and overdone in the blogosphere but it is my birthday, doggone it and I will do what I want to, thank you very much.
Forty Things I Love
1. Early morning quiet
2. that I have managed to figure out how not to kill houseplants
3. my kitchen
4. Downton Abbey
5. photography
6. the first cup of coffee
7. cinnamon-raisin toast
8. the smell of clothes dried on the line
9. this song, on repeat, on my iPod, every day, as I write
10. experiencing epic books, for the first time, with my boys
11. gin and tonics with lots of lime
12. lifting weights
13. crisp mornings that pink your cheeks
14. apple fritters
15. pipe smoke
16. acoustic guitars
17. down comforters
18. Troytinis
19. sappy romantic comedies
20. the French language
21. nursing
22. zinnias
23. taking photos
24. not my feet
25. rooms lit by lamps
26. knitted scarves
27. rainy days
28. the sound of gravel under slow moving cars
29. bacon
30. birds
31. dogs. always.
32. the smell of a freshly mimeographed worksheet
33. and while we're at it, the smell of gasoline (I know, what the?)
34. my family
35. old houses
36. pesto
37. clean windows
38. fireplaces
39. chickens
40. my life

“Middle school is for being like everyone else; middle age is for being like yourself.”
-Victoria Moran 

Monday, July 16, 2012

{On, In, and Around Mondays} How to dive deep

The water has warmed since we first slipped our toes sideways
past the shimmery surface
to explore what might be hidden beneath

It was early summer then
and we had been tricked into believing
that we lived somewhere further North
where the nights belie the calendar
and the mornings are cloaked with a drop of purple chill

It is further along, now
And many fiery days have blazed and melted
filling the inky pools of dusk
as if devoid of all reason
those same manic days emerge
to sing the familiar refrain on the morrow

There have been no offerings from the sky
all these months
So the lake has a bank now
and there are piles of rocks
large and small
littering the edges
standing like little altars
Ebenezers to the days of rain

There are different water plants, too
Not the familiar duckweed or cattails
But willowy grasses and water dragons in their stead
growing thick and dense
choking out the bellow of the bullfrog
while making beds for cottonmouths

We have come to the water at midday this time
And you boys dive deeper than ever before
I'm startled by your boldness
The lake sort of scares me, of late
And yet you both have grown braver
How is that?
I'm the one inching, by the day, closer and closer to midlife
And where is my fear?
It is palpable and practiced and it pricks at my cheeks

You have decided to explore the bottom of the lake
where it is cold and quiet and dark

Just your feet, at first
and you show me the mud between your toes
proof of your presence in those deep places
My head thinks you should be stunned into defeat
deterred by the muck and mire of the deep
I know I would be

And yet, you both dive under again
letting the green water push you down
closer and closer
to the bottom
Your hands reach out
groping along the depths
searching, exploring, mining
and it is there
that you stumble upon them

They are hard and dark and ugly
but you cup them in your hand
like treasure
As you bring them up to the surface
you bathe them in the water that birthed them
clearing away the mud that
has hidden them
all this time

And then
we see it
the sun slants
and the light
finds a crack
and suddenly
ripples of pearled color
fill up the concave space

And what once was 
hard and closed and black
hidden deep and dark and dead
is transformed
by light

I look out on the surface of the lake
across its patterns and dancing light
and I sigh
for I know that this swelling body
that ebbs and flows
that fills and empties
it holds a deep darkness
that grips and scares and blinds
the weight of which
could suffocate

but that same being
with its trills and tender flickers
its deep quiet and silent ear
it has
luminous joy
bursting through its cracks

 On In Around button

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A love letter to my body...supposedly

This is supposed to be a love letter to you, body, but something is not right.  The love letters I've saved in dresser drawers, hidden and secret because of their passion and ardor, come from a lover, not a hater.  They profess unbridled devotion and eternal commitment.  They whisper truth in a language that can be interpreted only by my heart.  How can I write such an epistle to you?

I have been none of these things, nor have I ever made a habit of saying such loveliness to you.  And to start now would almost seem a sacrilege...a veiled attempt at greatness, of which I am simply not capable.  Ever.

It seems that the more appropriate thing would be to accept the love letter that you have been writing to me all these years.  The one that is carved and etched in secret (and not so secret) places and slips quietly from its onion skin envelope.

That letter speaks of the wonder of things.

Of the very moment you gasped wide and the breath of God blew through you, awakening you to the flip side of heaven and to a world that was ours for the taking.
Of attempts at mastering language and movement and...failing, only to start over again and triumph.
Of tastes and smells and touch, both delicate and disagreeable, that began to shape a palette and a personality.

That letter sings of strength and beauty and then finds it in the most unlikely places...
in the dense muscle that I inherited from my father or in the delicate shoulders gifted by my mother...
in the way that, despite the struggle or the handicap, in the end, I can't help but choose love...
in my desire to shape and shift you and, then, at the end of the day, to accept you...
and even still...
in my overly tender heart that weeps too much and too often...

In all of these have been tracing tales and spinning yarns.
You have been scribbling it all down.

And I've just been too distracted to stop and read.  Or I've been too busy running away from your truths, too insecure and immature to recognize love spoken and beauty beheld.

How broken you must be.  To have penned a love story so exquisite, only to have it lay there, on the page for years, unrequited.

I am a terrible lover.
Selfish.  Abusive.  Aloof.

Why have you stayed with me all this time?  Why have you not quit me?  I would have quit me.

I quit you.

Perhaps it is because you still have more to write.
Perhaps this not all that there is.
That is why you still hang on.

You are stronger than I could have ever imagined.  And on this day, in the week that I turn the corner and find myself at a turning point in time, I feel compelled to make a decision.

I need to mend this relationship.  I need to read these life letters that are, at their heart, love letters.
I need to read them, meditate upon them, memorize them, and accept them.

You, my dear body, are a marvel and I am in awe of you.

Thank you for believing in me...even when I was an infidel.
Thank you for not giving up on me.
Thank you for your faithfulness.

And thank you for loving me.

This is my contribution to the 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Word

the Word was first
even me
even Him

a seed-thought
born in the heart of God
swelling and pulsing
ripe with all that
ever would be

that Word was spoken
holy breath blown across
there was life

and there was light

a light whose
burned life
the darkness

and the darkness
like an ocean

yet still
there was light

because the Word and the light

like seeds
they have been planted
in my depths
woven together
in my secret places
they take root

as creation spins
and the heavens twirl
I am grafted into something

it is in the splicing
in the splintering
that I am

that is where 
my story begins

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Once again, I went to bed too late.
And I was so tired, too.
I lay there, trying to sink into the mattress...the pillow...the Earth
trying to just let go of all that I hadn't gotten done
and sleep was slow to come.
Isn't that always the way?

Obviously, at some point, I surrendered and sleep came like a blanket.
But, I didn't grasp that sweet relief until, ironically, you woke me up.
I saw your dark figure, lit from behind by the weak rays of the porch light,
just standing there
willing me to consciousness.

That's how you do it, most nights.
You just stand there.
And hope.

Because I know, somewhere deep, that you don't like to wake me.
Your goal is not to disturb me.
You just want to be with me.

But that kind of heart-vision is bleary eyed at 1:30 a.m.
and confused
and irritated

I just want to sleep.

So do you.

I escort you back to your bed, the one that you share with your brother, and I see the reason for your waking.
Your bed partner has managed to fall deep into slumber, as he always does, and in the falling, he has begun to explore your side of the mattress, your covers, your stuffed animals. 
Even in his sleep he is reaching out to everything around him, just as in the day.
But his endless striving has a flip side and that is your waking.

I curse the night conspirators and shoo you into bed.
I pull up the sheet, tuck it under your chin, smooth your hair from your forehead and plant kisses across your brow,
believing that such rituals will somehow ward off that which disturbs you...
the world.

But it is not enough.

There you are again, an hour later.
And another hour, again, after that.

The memory of hours linked together, one after another, bridging the darkness until morning's first light is the stuff of fairy tales and I long for someone to tell me that story again.

At one point, I stir and find you in my bed.
Silently, you melted in between your dad and me.
Your hand, gently searching for mine under the sheet, is what woke me.

That sweet, warm hand.
Reaching out to me.

That is what I must hold onto.

Yes, it seems like you are too old for this.
Yes, I am tired.
Yes. Yes. and Yes.

But that hand.

It is, at once, a gesture... a request... a need... an offering... a truce.

And so, I squeeze it into my own.
My hand, which is big enough to consume...crush...absorb...engulf
it reaches out to
your hand.

They clasp each other
pulled together by a deep innate power
and there is a humming.

Our hands, linked together in the night, become that bridge I've been chasing after.
The stuff of fairy tales...
And, finally,
we both sleep.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

{On, In, And Around Mondays} The weaving

They became holy the moment we opened ourselves to them
the house
the bar stool
the floor
all of you

At first, it was in the waiting.
Then, in the turning.

Leaden skies, for which we had prayed and hoped and dreamed, stood at the ready
groaning and flashing at the weight of it all
Yet, there you were
the answer
to what had been rippling and singing below
for years 
despite our best efforts to quiet it 

Because how can you really deaden songs from the deep?

And so
for hour upon lovely hour
we remembered how to loosen the wraps
and to again
lay bare
that which we had kept draped

Old wine passed over new lips
and in the drinking...

We spoke of lives shared
of how
once you are a gift
you never stop getting
and the lilt and timbre of the words
rang like psalms

And a new wisdom
was birthed
a collective knowing
that who we always thought we were
is not inked in blood
but rather
works itself out
Each incarnation
folds one into another
and stacked together
there is

And there is grace

So we let you keep traveling
even though there is a knowing
that your journey
might separate us
might further pull
at the ways we are fastened

I turn to see the dust following you
headed West
chasing the sun
and I throb somewhere deep

I finger the raised thread
you've embroidered
with stitches crossed
one over the other
and it is then
that I know

we are still weaving

 On In Around button

Friday, July 6, 2012

How, in the choosing, we become

It happened the other day when I was driving.  A flash of memory.  Of course, there was a song involved but I honestly can't remember which one right now, since the melody was more like a catalyst to the memory rather than the essence of it.  Suddenly, I was in high school, senior year, and I needed to make my college choice.  Would it be Ohio Wesleyan with its small, close knit student body, quintessential collegiate setting of ancient trees and miles of sidewalks, and the presence one of the coolest cats to ever grace the halls of my high school who chose this college the year before?  Or would it be Colorado College with its euphoric Rocky Mountain backdrop, unique block system of classes and money back guarantee that I would have dread locks before I graduated?  What about Northeast Missouri State University (now known as Truman University) with its gargantuan student population, stuck-in-a-cornfield setting, and healthy scholarship if I agreed to stay in Missouri and teach?  Or would it be Emory University with its marble and red tile quadrangle buildings, its Driving Miss Daisy setting, and its water fountains that flowed with Coca-Cola?

I really could see myself at each location.  It was both liberating and paralyzing to see how each school had something to offer me, something that would engage and inspire some part of who I was.  And, somehow, at the tender age of 17, I was supposed to figure out which facet of my being should be polished the most, which elemental characteristic of mine should be distilled further.  No pressure.

How should I do this?  Should I think about who I wanted to be, who I thought I should be after I graduated from college...and go with the school that seemed most capable of making that happen?  Or did I go with the school that called out more to who I was at the moment, or at least, who I thought I was at the moment?  And how, at 17, was I even supposed to know the difference?  Again, no pressure.

It was in that place of suspended existence that I stayed for awhile.  And it wasn't long before I found myself on a "what if?" and "what could have been?" rat wheel that, left unchecked, had the power to undo me.  Because those are the kind of questions that can cut to the quick and fly straight to the rawest, most sensitive places.  And, even scarier... in hindsight, did I make the right choice?

If I had chosen Ohio Wesleyan, would I have sought out the one person that went before me, whom I idolized, and try to fit into his theater crowd?  Would I have chosen to major in Elementary Education, a decision that I was completely on the fence about and about which I was paying way more attention to how I would be perceived because of that choice rather than listening to what my heart was telling me?  Would I have stayed in Ohio after graduation and become an official Ohioan, like my dad?  I have since met lots of other folks from Ohio, all of whom were very cool and so, it begs the follow up question: would I have become very cool, too?

If I had chosen Colorado College, would I have embraced my inner hippy and still be wearing tinkling ankle bracelets while I shopped for organic vegetables at the market?  Would I have discovered that one passion that defined me while I was taking those intense block classes, holed up on a mountainside for a month at a time?  Would I be closer to my older brother if I had chosen to be the one family member that relocated closer to him in the West?  Would I have had a stronger bond with my 17 year old nephew and, thus, could he have been with me that dreadful night in January instead of being struck down and killed on the streets of Denver?

If I had chosen NEMO (Northeast Missouri State/Truman University), would I have kept many of the same friends from high school, migrating along with them to a new location where we would have joined up with other familiar faces that had gone before?  Would I have been able to break away when I started to discover that I felt differently about the role of faith in my life than I had all the years that they had known me?  What does it feel like to not "go away" and, instead, simply segue to a different place in the same musical composition you've already been a part of?

And then I thought about what I did choose--I chose Emory.  And I really don't think I am saying this to justify my choice but...I believe that I chose Emory because, on the day that I took that campus tour, I felt something stir deep.  Something that I couldn't quite put my finger on, exactly, but that reverberated in every hollow and rabbit hole within me.  I know,now, that it was deep calling to deep, the hushed whisper of the Holy Spirit, but at the time, it was more about what felt right.  I walked through the Quad, I smelled long and deep the potpourri of pine and magnolia, I spied on the library spaces with a mixture of fear and awe, and I sat on a bed in the very dorm that I would move into my freshman year and...I could somehow see me there.  The full version of me.  Not a fragmented or splintered me.  All of me.

Somehow, all of who I was and saw myself becoming came together in that place.  And I knew this because all of what was familiar to me hummed knowingly and all that was unknown called to me.  Who I would be when I left there seemed still a mystery and made all of the other possible places seem utterly predictable.  There was potential here rather than probability.

But I guess we are never fully free of the things we didn't choose, are we?  Because, the very fact that we turned from one decision informs the reality of what we did choose.  I am who I am today because of the existence of those other choices that I could have made.  And so that is why they linger.  That is why they hang out there in the universe, latent but unrealized, veiled but unexpressed.  And whatever it was that made them potential choices in my life at one time, all of their collective je ne sais quoi, actually means they still had a part in shaping me.

So when I think about how, even though I went on to get certified in Secondary Education and teach older students, I now homeschool my 7 and 9 year old...well, that's the Ohio Wesleyan in me.  And when I muse over how, if money wasn't an issue, I would love to live on land in a mountain valley, have goats and chickens and pigs and most likely have a membership with Greenpeace...well, that's the Colorado College in me.  And when I see pictures on Facebook of all the folks that I graduated with who never left Webster Groves, still live there with their own families and whose 4th of July celebrations look straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting..well, that's the Northeast Missouri State in me.

All of those things can co-exist with the me that I am as a result of having chosen Emory.

And when I look around at this life I have...with my amazing husband, my incredible kids, and my hodge-podge of personal work experience (all of which I have enjoyed)...well, it's all good.  And, it's all me.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

You Are A Writer {so start acting like one}

"Close the door. 
Write with no one looking over your shoulder. 
Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; 
figure out what you have to say. 
It's the one and only thing you have to offer."
-Barbara Kingsolver

I wake at 5:00 a.m., pour myself exorbitant amounts of coffee, slip in the ear buds to my iPod, and plant myself in front of the computer for two hours.

It is dark and quiet and it is wonderful.  

And it is crazy.

It is in this space that I am trying to figure out what I have to say, to gather up bits and piece of myself and, with trembling hands, to present them as an offering.

It is one of the hardest things that I have ever done.

To sit and muse, to poke and probe at one's deepest places, and then to just lay it out there
well, it is profoundly humbling.

Frightening, even.

I long for approval and head nods and pats on the back.  I want to know that the pain of self examination is worth it.  I look to the comments for proof that I should keep doing this.  I secretly hope that some big-name blogger will, somehow, stumble upon this space and share me with the world.

But that is beginning to change.

Because, at its very core, this writing process...well, it's for me.  I write to figure out what I am thinking.  I write to make sense of it all.  I write to discover who I am.

So I will keep waking at 5:00 a.m., I will keep drinking too much coffee, and I will keep my iPod programmed to repeat my "writing song."

Because in that space, it is dark and quiet.
And it is wonderful.

“Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us.  The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write.  To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know.  Thus, writing requires a real act of trust.  We have to say to ourselves:  ‘I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.’  Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, trusting that they will multiply in the giving.  Once we dare to “give away” on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts and gradually come in touch with our own riches.”
-Henry Nouwen

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What pulls me

I stare into the center of the hollyhock blossom and am caught unawares

I already knew that it was beautiful
with its blazing color
its feathery grace flowing 
its length and breadth swaying 
with subtlety and nuance

And I had long ago marveled
the joy it brought
how it connected me to
the man
who walked along roadsides
in a state miles away
gathering colored joy
in his pockets 

And how I wanted that
to grow in my garden
for my boys
to be dwarfed by
and comforted
by its

These things
I knew

But it was
outstretched hands
with rays of light
gripped me

this is what pulls me
I gasp
this star shaped center
almost hidden
but still brilliant

This is what it has always been

And so I wonder
when people turn their heads
and gaze
all that is me
what do they
already know?

what has it always been?

Monday, July 2, 2012

{On, In, and Around Mondays}: going South

There was always an excited pull in my stomach as I dressed in the dark in the rippled clothes that lay on the bed covers.  Moving silently and with purpose I would melt down the stairs to join my parents, already moving and arranging and shifting in a flurry of preparation.  There was not much that I could do but step back and fade into the background of house and home, anchored to the one thing that wasn't being touched or moved or rearranged.  Before long, a large collective sigh would simultaneously gather in the last of the necessities and let go of whatever else had been forgotten and we would be on our way.

There was always a small split, somewhere, in the vinyl car seat and so I had to keep my leg skin from being sucked into the crevice, or sweating, or both--a futile attempt, seeing that it was summer and I was wearing shorts.  So, I would hunker down, crouched low and small, my head resting on my bed pillow covered with the Peanuts Gang pillowcase and its smell of sleep.  It wouldn't be until we were miles away, in other people's houses and in different states, that I would recognize that it also hid the smell of home.

Despite my excitement and percolating anticipation, I would inevitably doze off.  There was the droning white noise of the radio and the rhythmical rocking of the car and my dreams would be spotty and confusing, narrated by the disembodied voices of my parents and a.m. traffic helicopters.  It would be the rising of the sun, the snap of the newspaper's front page, and the smell of coffee poured from the red thermos with the Highland pattern on its side that would pull me back to consciousness.  Peeking over the car window's ledge I would see that the landscape had changed and the sound of the tires on the pavement was different and we weren't in Missouri anymore.

There would come a point, somewhere in Tennessee, where we would decide to stop for lunch.  We would find a rest stop with picnic tables and clean restrooms and maps.  To the concrete table already covered in ants we would haul the mammoth green Coleman cooler and we would eat in the shade of the last hardwood trees we would see for awhile.  I never felt rushed.  Rather, I ruminated on the idea that this road we were traveling reached wide and deep, long and high and connected us to people who loved us.

I could smell that we were in Georgia long before I ever saw a sign with a peach on it.  It was the swelling of pine pitch and the hard crusted red clay that now edged the roadside that did it.  I would marvel at the interminable cascade of kudzu that enveloped trees and barns and whatever didn't move and I would wonder whether we would escape its death hold before we headed homeward in a week.  Georgia was glad to see us, but it didn't want us to leave.

And then, just like that, we would be there.  And we would be squeezed and kissed by folks with bright lipstick who wore Shalimar perfume and smoked Benson & Hedges in the gold box...folks whose voices curled and dropped in different places and always ended in laughter...folks with familiar lines to their faces and silver hair that glistened in the lamplight and twinkles in their eyes that were reserved only for us.  And for a week, we belonged to them.  We would listen to their stories and we would drink in their love and we would memorize their faces because no one wanted to forget anything.  

We never left for home as early in the morning as we had that first day headed South.  The parting was always difficult and dreaded and drawn out because how, exactly, do you say goodbye to yourself?  And after the loud and wet farewells and that momentary suspension in time where one is caught between worlds, we would find ourselves sunk deep in our seats, quiet in a way that we hadn't been for days.  It would be that bed of silence that would carry us the first hundred miles or so headed North.  Then, a restroom break or a stop for peanut brittle would cut the tension and we would begin to accept that we were headed home.  But as we continued to drive, passing mile marker after mile marker, we became more comfortable with the thought that all of it was home.  For home is where you are loved and cherished and we were all of that.

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home."

 On In Around button