For Auld Lang Syne.
31 December 2009
For Auld Lang Syne.
02 December 2009
I'm still getting used to these growing spaces between us.
I seized the opportunity to hold onto my little girl and to keep her close in the name of tradition this Thanksgiving. She reluctantly agreed to leave the family festivities early so we could go to our third Nutcracker in Seattle Friday night. It was magical.
We slumber partied, pedicured and painted our way through Saturday before Paul and Cole returned home. By Monday morning, after a week-long, fun-filled break from our routine, the spaces in our togetherness seemed small. Obsolete.
But under our roof last night, with our backs momentarily turned, Maya slipped from our grasp like one of the dishes I was washing. In a mad dash to cram as much as possible in the last ten minutes of wake before bed, Maya missed a step and tumbled head first and backwards down an entire flight of hardwood steps. Time moved aside, and my heart stood still.
"Mommy, I really hurt myself," she sobbed.
I was frozen, panicked and paralyzed, while Mommy scrambled down the stairs after her fallen daughter. She stepped in, and she knew what to do. She made sure my baby was okay and rocked her tenderly. She let Maya cry her tears of pain, fear and shock. She remained calm in the storm. She nurtured me too once the tears subsided and assured me that my daughter would be okay.
This morning, somewhere between upward and downward dog, Mommy let her guard down and the gravity of those stairs and the spaces in between hit my heart. I ached beneath the weight of my love for this child. The torrent of my own tears finally came.
This morning I wept both tears of gratitude and bitter tears of pain. I wept for yesterday and for tomorrow. I wept for my daughters, my mothers and my sisters. I also wept for every misunderstanding, misstep and mistake. I wept over beginnings, ends and the spaces in between, and I wept for the weight and the ache of this love. Oh, it is beautiful. It hurts, and it is hard.
Just a few days ago, while Maya and I roused from sweet dreams graced by Sugar Plum fairies, four Seattle officers were mercilessly gunned down. They kissed their families goodbye then slipped through the cracks when no one was looking.
This morning, as I wept in the space between my child and I, I wanted to hold her and keep her and never let her go. But then, through the ache and the sting of my tears, I watched my daughter ascend the stairs she had fallen down the night before. She donned a smart outfit of her own design, with disheveled hair she had already styled. In that space, she had also made her bed, packed her bag, and she was poised to face another day.
So we ran down the hill to the bus stop, my sugar plum princess and I. We heartily laughed our way down the hill as her chariot approached. I held Maya tight, kissed her goodbye and then let go. Just before the bus rounded the corner and pulled away, I saw her once more. She was still breathless and beaming.
09 October 2009
I came to this island to write.
I came to this island to die.
In the back of my mind, I've wondered when the terminal illness I have not yet discovered will reveal itself. Did You bring me here to die?
Why else would You give me the keys to the kingdom with outstretched arms when I asked for them? Why else would You swing these doors wide open and invite me to come? Why else would our journey south take this miraculous and unexpected turn northwest and within, then bring us back to Whidbey?
Back, "...bring us back." I sense I have lived here once before.
Perhaps, but I haven't written, and I'm still alive.
I didn't think it through. It all happened so quickly. There was no time to analyze, to examine, to obsess, to weigh, to measure and to count all the costs. I think it was by design.
Now, I am beginning to see and to understand that in order to grasp a thing, to truly master and perfect it, we must poke and prod, unglue and undo at the expense of life. Absolution, completion, knowledge and rebirth are only possible by way of death.
"This year, 2009, is the year of the Lord's favor for my family and for me. It marks a turning point, a new beginning... "
I had no idea what it would mean for me to write these words down and to speak them aloud. How could I have known how much it would cost to take these keys from You?
With the great reward of freedom and change comes a great price.
I asked to go deeper. I asked for more. I purged and pruned, and the path became clear. As it unfolded, I followed you to this peaceful place, where the air is gravid and grey. I am home in a way like no where before. I am where I've been aching to be. It is overwhelming.
Yet in the shadows has come terrifying darkness. In the black of early morning, I can no longer see the road beneath my feet or my hand before my face. As fires that raged have burned out, I have grown cold and unsure. The sharp tools I once used have grown dull and obsolete. The clothes I donned are incongruous and ill-fitting, and yesterday's order wears the mask of a stranger.
With my words and my request, with the light from my lamp, with the shuffle of my steps, with the jingle of these keys, with the creak of this door and the timbre of my "Yes," I have roused a resting giant and stirred this sleeping cancer. She bears the name Fear. She bears the name Obsession. She bears the name Compulsion. She bears the name Deception. She also bears my name.
I came to this island to die.
In the thick of these clouds, You have helped me to see what I couldn't and wouldn't day after day in perpetual sunshine. My eyes are adjusting, and the walls of this prison I've erected have come into focus. Brick by rigid brick, I have fortified myself in this shell that no longer suits me.
Abimbola. Abi, come.
In the shade of tall trees, you have wiped my brow, rubbed my back, and given me time and space to rest. You've revealed the salve of Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and You have strengthened me with bread, wine, and fresh oil for my lamp. With neither fanfare nor guarantees, You have called me by name and bid me once again to come.
I only see the doorway in the faint flicker from my lamp, but that which lies on the other side of this wall is dim. I have tasted the wine you turned, then shed, and I know You have traveled this road before. I needn't walk it alone.
This week, through my mother, my father, my soul sister, my children, a medicine woman, my pen pal and my partner, You have opened my eyes. You have restored my hope and graced me with courage to face my own death.
So tonight, in the earliest hours of my 70th day on this island, I lay myself to rest. With gratitude, I reclaim my joy, my hope and my name, and I sprinkle these ashes atop the rubble at the trail head of this less-traveled road. I look forward to the day when words will rise as the dust from these ashes.
And with the morning sun, I too will rise again.
06 August 2009
Paul's grandma is passing, and coincidentally... amazingly... thankfully, we are here.
We saw her today. Her mouth was open, her breathing was labored and her room smelled strong and familiar - like childbirth. She was a shell of the woman we saw just a few weeks ago. Today, she was there, but she wasn't, but she was. I get that. She was beautiful. I wonder if she is still here.
I'm on a hill, on an island, in Washington. Now I live on this island. I live up on this hill.
Yesterday after dinner, we went down to the beach. There were smooth stones and empty shells - remnants of lives once lived - everywhere. This is nothing like I've ever known or seen before. It's hard to describe what it feels like to be 32 years old and to experience the wonders and treasures of the sea for the first time.
Along the road and our beach and our town are bushes and bushes of blackberries. When we arrived last week, they were crimson and firm. Yet by yesterday, many had turned. They were plump and juicy and rich with color -- tart and so very sweet. Paul, the kids and I picked blackberries for nearly an hour. We reached past prickly bushes and collected three quarts of fresh fruit. I've never experienced this either.
Tonight we danced and cried and ate lasagna and blackberries with cousins and siblings. It's all new and beautiful and difficult and wonderful at once. I'm still marveling at the magical journey that brought us to this place and this moment.
I miss my family and my friends.
Just a few weeks ago, my kiddos visited and snuggled with their great grandma for the first time in four years. They, nor we, had no idea what this day would bring. Tonight, Violet is laboring out, surrounded by her children. She is wrapped in a quilt her mother made. The empty shells of mussels, clams, crabs and all sorts of other creatures rest on the beach down the hill from my new home.
The blackberries are turning. Transitioning. We will collect a few of the thousands and thousands and savor in their sweetness as long as we can... blackberry jam, blackberry dressing, blackberry smoothies, blackberries and yogurt, blackberry muffins... Many will fall to the ground. They will leave beautifully rich marks -- violet -- and then they will be gone. But today, Today, they are here. I am here - in Washington. And at least for today, I savored.
19 July 2009
It's the Sunday morning route I've run hundreds of times: down my street, across 108th, up through the office park, up and back down the killer hill, down to the trailhead, winding through the golf course, back across 108th, and a sprint back home.
I rose with the sun as I got out of bed this morning and realized that this old familiar run would be different. Today is my last Sunday in this house.
With strong, fast steps, as I ascended the killer Simms hill, quietly chanting my mantra of late - hills are my strength, hills are my strength, hills are my strength - I recalled the mid morning walks from my first summer here. Breathlessly, I once pushed the jog stroller in which my baby girl slept. There was a time when I could barely walk up this hill.
From its apex, I was warmed by the amber and gold cast by the rising sun. I saw, and I remembered. I see, and I remember.
I see the city, the mountains, the lake and my neighborhood. I see my home. I have logged many miles, laughed and cried many tears. I have dreamed dreams and prayed fervent prayers along this long, scenic route. I have lost myself and found myself again and again. My thirst has been quenched. My questions have been answered, and I have found peace in this place, with its valleys and its hills, its green grass, sprawling oak trees and colorful wildflowers. I am swifter and stronger than I once was. I am changed. I am thankful.
And now, I am back home. I sit in my old familiar chair - fortified and hidden by shrink-wrapped furniture and boxes. The walls are bare in this house that has become my home. It is familiar and unfamiliar at once. I think this is what they refer to as the beginning of the end. But it is no longer sadness that I feel. Rather, it is peace and pleasure and awe. It is time, and finally... finally, I feel ready.
30 May 2009
Lauren, Lisa and Juli,
You are three of the unexpected gifts I was telling you about yesterday. I am blessed and humbled to have you in my life, and I am grateful for the fabric and thread that bind us in friendship. Thank you for sharing life and dinner and tea (and perhaps someday, cookies, paint and wine) with me. My life is warmer because of you. I thank you.
I wrote this back in January. I wasn't sure what it was for back then, but now I see that it was for the three of you and for today. Happy Birthday, Sister...
Cutting wind blows just outside my window. Although bricks and glass and drywall and paint stand between us – although I can’t see it – I am certain it is there. It needs and wants to be known, to be heard. It interrupts. It howls. It unearths groans and creaks. Even from the warmth of inside, I can feel it. Outside, a lone tree stripped of its leaves, its life and its color shutters in its wake and speaks of its presence. A distant chime sings of its existence. Just outside my window, the air is frigid and cold.
I just returned from its grip in a bitter, face-to-face exchange. I left the warmth of within and ventured outside on a trek from chair to mailbox back to chair. The wind pierced me, and quickly cut to my core - deeper and still deeper, with each step. Ordinarily, I would have been undone by now. But I am not.
I am back inside, and I feel warm.
Last week, my friend, Lisa made me a pillow. It is simple and lovely - covered in floral fabric and neatly stitched. I love this pillow. I really love it. I love it because my friend made it for me. She thought of me, and as far as I can tell, for no reason in particular, she made it for me.
My pillow is covered in flowers and filled with rice. It holds heat. Lisa instructed me to put my pillow in the microwave, to heat it for a few minutes and then to bring it with me to bed. “It will keep you warm,” she explained.
Like most people with whom I have spent more than a few minutes, Lisa knows that I often feel cold. Fair enough; Lisa has noted the obvious about me. But the truth is, she doesn’t know me all that well. We have only been friends for a short time. Nonetheless, Lisa made me a lovely pillow filled with rice. She made me a microwavable pillow that holds heat and smells good – like home-cookin’ and sweet spices. Lisa noted, and she notice. She noticed that I wear sweaters in the summer time. She noticed that sometimes I wear gloves inside. She noticed that I come alive when I am wrapped in a blanket or I am parked in front of a fire or a space heater, or when I am sipping a cup of tea. So she stitched two pieces of fabric together, filled the pocket with rice and the contents of a Good Earth teabag, she sealed it shut and for no reason in particular, she gave it to me. In the simplest of gestures, she moved me and schooled me on the substance of love.
To see. To notice. To care, and then to act; that is love.
What Lisa doesn’t know is that sometimes the cold is debilitating. There have been days in the last year – especially at this time of year – that I am unable to function or even to move because I feel so damn cold. I go to bed cold, and I wake up cold, but I have learned to adjust – I wear socks and sweaters. I take extra showers and sleep with extra blankets. I sip soup, and I sip tea. I cope.
Lisa couldn’t have known of the cold I would face last night and today, when she acted in love on the thought of me that came to her mind. She gave me more than she will ever realize in a simple, intentional act of kindness. She gave me my first night of absolutely contented sleep in the last year, last night. She brought sweetness to my sleep in the faint aroma of Good Earth tea – my absolute favorite – that emanates from my pillow. The warmth and beauty and peace of the pause that comes in sipping a cup of hot tea – the precious respite from the worry and noise and stress and chaos of life that comes with a cup of tea – she unknowingly brought that peace into my sleep last night.
And now, as I sit here – sweater-less and sockless – secure from the unforgiving wind that howls just outside my window, I feel warm. The pillow that now rests at my feet radiates warmth that penetrates every fiber in the fabric of my soul. It smells hearty and sweet. I am utterly and totally moved by fabric, rice, tea and thread.
My friend noticed, and I feel loved.
28 May 2009
My attitude has sucked for nearly a month, and I apologize. I have been spinning, spiraling, griping, nagging, whining, and frankly, I'm getting tired of myself. I've chosen to focus on that which is missing and in the process, I've failed to see and to appreciate the beauty in absence. Sometimes NOT knowing is the best gift there is, because it forces one (ahem, me) to loosen up and to let go.
Go ahead, Ab. Lose control. GOOD ON YOU!
Life is belly laughter. It is meant to be lived out loud. I need to let go and laugh a little. A lot. I need to LIGHTEN UP. I need to give myself and everyone else a freaking break! Where is the grace. Where is the joy? As the Black-eyed Peas ask, Where is the love?
It's here. It's there. It's everywhere. I love and I am loved. What else matters?
Yes. Indeed, I am done. I am ready to move on. I am ready (or at least willing) to loosen my death grip. I want to learn. I want to trust. I want to let my hair down, roll in the mud and play until it gets dark. OK, who am I kidding? I can't stand being dirty, and this staying up late is just not my thing. But I'm willing to try!
Help me. Teach me. Tell me... how do I let go?
I suppose asking isn't really the point, is it?
OK, so I won't ask. I'll just be, and I'll let you know how it goes.
P.S. Happy Birthday, little sister!!
27 May 2009
26 May 2009
I still haven't figured out how to put all my thoughts -- particularly the sloppy and awkward ones -- on the page with and without a filter. So sometimes I paint those broad, polished, black and white brush strokes, when one must fill in the blanks in the absence of gradation. That's how details get lost.
I'm unsure how to paint the picture of the last twelve days. They've been full. Overflowing. I'm trying to see in technicolor, but mostly - honestly - I just see black and I see white. Perhaps another time.
Melissa and Joel and their kiddos spent the weekend with us. That was sweet. Earlier this evening, upon their departure, a high-browed, white-gloved realtor stopped by unannounced in the wake of clutter and chaos. That was not.
And tonight, my right eye won't stop twitching and I'm chewing gum. Tonight, my mouth and my mind and my eyelid are working over time, perhaps so my heart and my soul won't have to. It's nearly 11, and I am copiously pounding away at my gum and my keyboard. After twelve full days, it feels difficult - virtually impossible - to deal with the empty spaces, the unknowns and the silence any longer. So instead, I am tapping and twitching and chomping away.
Not tonight. Perhaps tomorrow.
There is that word again... sigh. And then there was yesterday.
Yesterday, I was scheduled to start my race at 7:16 a.m. That was impossible, however because at 8:30 yesterday morning, I was still at a hospital in downtown Denver, where I had arrived eight hours earlier to attend my last birth.
Somehow -- I'm still not sure how -- less than two hours later, I crossed a finish line 30 miles away.I ran my race in 52.07. I ran my fourth Bolder Boulder six minutes faster than my last and more than seventeen minutes faster than my first. I still can't believe I was there.
There is always a way. Please, help me to remember. Please help me to find my way.
14 May 2009
12 May 2009
Today, I am in that inevitable place and space of looking back on the road we have traveled - particularly over the last five years.
I see a picturesque trail with mountains, blue skies, green trees, beautiful friends, beloved community, life and death and much more life. I have traveled many miles in five years. One step at a time, I have been monumentally and eternally transformed.
Her dream was vivid and clear, and I was its star. "You don't have to worry about the Ironman," she said. "Take in the sights. Delight in the city. Enjoy the run."
For years and years, I sat idly by and I held back because I feared the road -- the daunting destination ahead. How would I go? How would I get there? "Just start," she said. "JUST START," He said. Two simple words have changed my life. Small Steps. A new day. A clean slate.
I am no longer and will never again be the woman I was. That which I once missed is now the substance -- the essence -- of all that I am and everything I hope to become. I have been moved. I am alive. And I am changed.
Oh, the Journey -- the process -- it is poetry. The story is destiny. And it is the kingdom, and it is eternity. I see it. I feel it. I taste it. I smell it. Miles have been logged. Boulders mark the way, and I am overwhelmed.
Oh this road, it was never meant to be traveled alone. Friends have become family, and family have become friends. I am better because of the people I have encountered. Oh, sweet Jesus, I thank you. I thank you.
This is my last summer in Denver. I'm poised and purposed and ready to run, to re-trace my steps, to mark my path and to remember. To remember. I fully intend to heed, to delight and to enjoy. Interested?
I put out the request every year, and I have never gotten any takers. Perhaps THIS is my year. This is the last time I'm asking, because I'm moving, folks! I'm officially registered for the Bolder Boulder over Memorial Day weekend (EA wave), the Rocky Mountain 1/2 Marathon in mid-June and the Tri for the Cure in early August. I'd love some company, so If you've been thinking about it and it's time, let's do it. Just start.
Perhaps this is YOUR year. Perhaps this the year that we will run together. Or perhaps we won't. Perhaps these are my races to run on my own. If I must, I will. I began, I will end, and I will move ahead with a race. Whatever the case, I will run, and I will take you with me.
10 May 2009
I was dazed and confused when I woke up this morning. It was 3:50 a.m. Paul was breathing heavily beside me, Cole was staring me down in the dark, and he was saying something. Eventually he came into focus.
"Mommy, I had an accident."
Perhaps if I laid still long enough, he would make his way over to the other side of the bed. He didn't. I'm not sure how long I laid there before I eventually stood up. Once I did, I was annoyed.
Happy Mother's Day.
Anxious, vexed and busy thoughts assailed my mind as I washed my face, brushed my teeth and suited up an hour-and-a-half earlier than I had planned. It was dark, quiet, cold and clammy out. I breathed deep breaths trying to find peace in my pace, to quiet my mind and to enjoy the run. Mostly, I felt anxious and annoyed. Fast, squatty rabbits darted across the dark trail, and I encountered two coyotes. For 108 minutes, I was on edge.
I was greeted with a hearty "Happy Mother's Day" when I returned home and opened the front door. It was sweet, and my heart sailed. Almost immediately, however, the barrage of questions followed. Would you like to open your cards? Can we have breakfast? What's for breakfast? Can we reinstate the rule that we don't go to bed without saying goodnight? Momma, can we have wraps for lunch? Mommy, will you heat my rice pillow? What's the plan for today? What do you want for mother's day?
And so went today. I've been wallowing, cranky and annoyed ever since - silently wondering if I am the only mother alive who just wants to be left alone for Mother's Day.
I didn't always feel this way. I think I started to dislike this "holiday" only once I became a mother. That was the point at which expectation settled in. It was no longer just about my mother, but it also became about me. This year in particular, it was mostly about me.
What's the plan for today? What do I want for mother's day? For starters, I don't want to have to answer this question. As a matter of fact, I don't want to answer any questions. But since you asked...
I want a massage, a pedicure and a manicure for Mother's Day.
I want a week at a she-she spa/silent retreat for Mother's Day.
I want someone else to think about breakfast (and lunch and dinner) for Mother's Day.
I want an uninterrupted nap for Mother's Day.
I want someone else to wash the urine-soaked sheets on top of my washer for Mother's Day.
I want my house to go into contract tomorrow (interested?), and I want our move to be swift and sweet for Mother's Day.
I want respite from menstruation, with all of the rewards and none of the embarrassment or side effects (i.e. pregnancy) for Mother's Day.
I want my bike and I want it now for Mother's Day.
I want blue skies and sunshine for Mother's Day.
I want a clean kitchen and $25,000 for Mother's Day.
I want everyone I love to live in the same town for Mother's Day.
I want patience, peace of mind, self control, inside voices and a cup of hot tea for Mother's Day.
I want to bid tantrums, bad days, binges and chin hairs an eternal adieu for Mother's Day.
I want to be over myself and celebrating other moms for Mother's Day.
I want a good mood... and world peace for Mother's Day.
With all my pissy himming, hah-ing and carrying on today, I didn't open my gifts until a few minutes ago. Just before my kiddos went to bed, they proudly presented me with:
1. Two crayon-colored cards with rainbows, flowers and my favorite: kid-print.
2. Cole's paint-stained hand prints - one red, one blue - and a poem on a page:
"...Mothers are for loving when you snuggle up tight. Mothers are for kissing you a sweet good night."
3. "About Me and My Mom" from Maya:
What is your mom's name? Abi
What is your name? Maya
How old is your mom? 22
How old are you? 5
What is your mom's favorite thing to do? Write.
What is your favorite thing to do? Color
What is your mom's favorite food? Oatmeal.
What is your favorite food? Hot Dogs.
What makes your mom smile? When I help her clean the house.
What makes you smile? Playing with my brother.
At the base of the page, she colored a picture of the two of us standing side by side.
And now my kiddos have retired for the night, Paul is downstairs, my house is definitely quiet and it is relatively clean. I am finally alone, save my laptop, my gifts and my thoughts, and I can't help but to think about how differently today may have gone if I had opened my heart and my gifts this morning.
What's the plan for today? What do I want for mother's day? Mostly, I just want a do-over for Mother's Day... OK, and world peace.
05 May 2009
E is for elimination. It has been our mantra of late. On the heels of winter, warm winds of change have begun to forcefully blow. They have shifted and transformed. They have scattered seeds and blown open doors. They have resurrected and restored. They have lifted dense fog and helped us to see.
They have revealed the paradox of beautiful and abundant simplicity, but they have also opened our eyes to notice all sorts of other stuff. Stuff, it is such a bland and non-descript word, but save a four letter expletive, there is no better description for the boxes and files and bins and piles, above us, below us, within us, without us, in cupboards, in drawers, around and about us. The burdens, the weights, the policies. The plans. The noise... The stuff. Where did it all come from? How did we get from there to here?
As we have looked and seen with focus and clearer eyes, an urge to purge, to toss, to release and to give away has overwhelmed. In the weeks of late, piles have been pillaged. Policies have been canceled. The noise has been silenced. And in the spaces between we've rediscovered long-buried treasures. It has been good. Very good.
Paul and I hoisted the hoss from its hutch and lugged it to our garage amidst the other discards. What do they say? One man's refuse is another man's refuge... or something. I posted our TV with a photo and its dimensions on Craigslist, and within minutes, I began to receive calls.
An eager and interested, Lisa was among the first to inquire and to commit. She called from work around 8:30 a.m. Perhaps it was a coffee break. Perhaps. She would plan to come by with her boyfriend on her way home. Would I hold it for her? Would it fit in a standard sedan?
Yes, I guess and I'm not sure.
They arrived at my door just after four - at the tail end of a clamorous afternoon of cleaning out, clearing out and eventually stressing out. My crazed, cabin-fevered kiddos, who had just been sent to their rooms to simmer, were upstairs bouncing off the walls, a frustrated Paul had departed with a truckload of treasures for the good folks at Goodwill, and I had just begun to find short-lived solace in my pantry.
Lisa's eyes were soft, dark and framed by ebony rims. Her shoulder length hair was also dark, inconspicuous and straight. She was small-framed and hugged in shades of blue - aqua on top and navy below. He (I can no longer recall his name, but for the story's sake, I'll call him Marcus) stood just behind her. A man of average height and build, Marcus had salt and pepper curls, five o'clock shadow, jeans and a just-tight-enough t-shirt. We exchanged our hellos and agreed to reconvene in the garage a few moments later. Somewhat down and distracted, I failed to notice the matchbox car in which they arrived.
It wasn't until I opened the garage that I even notice the neon writing on the wall. It quickly became clear that the Trinitron was much larger than they expected. Nevertheless, the three of us spent the next hour trying to squeeze a 200+ pound watermelon into a Dixie cup. We lifted (with the legs... at first) and attempted the back seat. Rrrrrrright.
With a furrowed brow, Marcus stood back, sized up, measured and rallied his troops (us) to try again. We attempted the back seat a few more times from a few more angles before we proceeded to the front seat. Uh huh, not so much. Marcus continued his wishful calculating and strategizing, and he offered idea after idea. 1-2-3... lift, he coached. Turn it this way... what if we tried... How about... Do you have twine?...
Twine?!?! Is he KIDDING?!?!
It went like that for nearly an hour: he instructed, we obeyed. I suppose both Lisa and I felt the need to give the guy credit for his optimism. So we lifted and lugged with little to show for our work an hour later. Lisa was done before we began, and Marcus eventually capitulated too. They would not go home with a TV that afternoon, and I would park on the street another day with empty pockets, a late start to dinner and a sore back.
In a desperate attempt to reclaim my parking spot, I followed up with Maurice, the astute and arrogant voice from mid-morning. He had also inquired about the Trinitron - shortly after Lisa - and drilled me with a long series of specific, well-crafted questions. Does it cut off the ticker at the bottom of the screen? Will there be someone there to help me? May I test it? Can I take it off your hands for $80. Is 9:30 tonight too late?
In a reaction and a momentary lapse of judgement, I sold out my soul, my husband and my sleep far below their value with my hasty responses: I'm sorry, what? Yes, my husband. I guess so. I suppose so, and no, that's just fine.
In the hours that followed, I emptied and lost and filled myself. Anxious and obsessed, my thoughts became fixed on my stuff. I took on the least becoming qualities of my things: I felt heavy and weary and out of control. I gave in, I wallowed and I checked out - way out - before I finally attempted to check back in. At some point, it started to rain, and right on cue, in walks Maurice.
He was mousy - a big voice for such a little man - and he donned pegged jeans and a black jacket. He had a spring in his step, a VCR in tow and he arrived in a van (thank the LORD... or so I thought). We exchanged brief hellos and agreed to reconvene moments later in my garage. While Paul was warm and cozy inside, I had to face the rain and the cold and the mini-monster of my own making.
In the garage, Maurice bypassed the niceties altogether and barked orders for power and an extension cord. He plugged in the TV and the VCR, and like a scene from a bad (really bad) movie, he pulled a VHS tape and a remote control from an inside pocket of his jacket. Copiously rewinding and fast-forwarding through scene after scene of news footage and sports footage, he inspected and tested without a word. CNN, Fox News, ESPN... he had it all.
Sometimes it improves, he broke ten minutes of silence and spoke aloud to no one in particular. He continued to examine, and then explained, You see, there's an arc in the display... and it cuts off the feed at the bottom of the screen... and the pictures isn't clear... and...
AND, IT'S A TV, MAURICE!!!!! I screamed in my head.
For twenty more agonizing and freezing minutes, Maurice worked. He decided to pass on the Trinitron and for the second time that day, I shut the garage with a-tenth-of-a-ton television still in my possession. At least I didn't have to lift it.
The following morning, the cloud had lifted, the sky sparkled and the sun shone bright. It was a glorious Tuesday morning and I determined before I got out of bed that I would delight in my day... and I did. In the peace and quiet of the morning, I wrote and wrote some more and the words flowed. I worked out, I showered, I made breakfast, and I enjoyed. I was fully engaged, fully alive and fully present, and it was good. Very good.
Just as I made plans to go for a walk, my little red phone rang out. It was Daniel calling to inquire about the 36" Sony Trinitron I had advertised on Craigslist.
Yes, it's still available... Yes, I'll be around in an hour... Yes, there is an ATM machine just down the street...
Daniel, a huge kid dressed in baggy black, with shaggy hair and a baby face arrived at my door with two friends - a girl and a guy - 45 minutes later. I'm not sure how old they were, but their spirits were young and light and hopeful. Their expectation and anticipation were contagious. We exchanged brief hellos and agreed to reconvene a few moments later in my garage.
OHHHHHHH!! They erupted in laughter, disbelief and excited high-fives as I opened the garage and the Trinitron came into full view. They were beaming as they approached the enormous electronic with ebullience and jubilation. Before I could opened my mouth to explain that it would likely take the four of us to lift it, Daniel and one friend effortlessly hoisted the TV into the back of the black SUV (phew!) that was parked in my driveway.
It's $90, right? Daniel asked with a glowing, rosy smile.
He reached into his deep, chain-clad pocket and handed me five crisp $20 bills. This is AWESOME, he exclaimed. Keep the change. And as quickly and as simply as Daniel and his friends had arrived, they were gone. They left me 217 lbs lighter.
I stood in the sun for a long while and soaked it all in. Incredulously, I looked at the empty space in my garage, and I felt warm. With a smile on my face, the sun in my spirit and $100 in my pocket, I left my truck outside, shut the garage and headed for the trail.
14 April 2009
It wasn't an I've-hurt-myself-and-I'm-in-pain sort of wail, nor was it the Momma-Cole-hit-me manner either. This was exasperation. It was drama seasoned with despair. My red-faced five-year old materialized in moments with fresh tears streaming and something tiny in tow.
"What's wrong, My," I asked.
"I (sniff) lost (sniff) my (sniffle) earring (sobbbbbb)."
Just a few minutes earlier, while my children delighted in our yard's simple pleasures, Maya hopped off her bike and took off her helmet. In the process, a loose strap grabbed hold of the sparkly, five-petaled daisy in her ear, pulled the post from her lobe and sent it flying... somewhere.
As I listened to my daughter despondently described the events of recent past, my mind temporarily left the room. It traveled down a short flight of stairs through our toy-strewn family room, out the sliding glass door to the patio, with its teak furnishings. There were benches, tables, chairs and stairs up to a deck, with a grill beneath its cover. There was flagstone and concrete with levels, cracks and sinews. There were pots and plants and trees and weeds, which I fully intend to get to soon. There was dirt, rock borders and grass, LOTS of grass.
As I came back to myself, to my daughter and to her desperation, our backyard seemed vast and infinite in its pockets and possibilities. In contrast to the missing, tiny stud our backyard was Eden. Looking in, one might conclude that the situation was hopeless. How could we possibly find what we were looking for? In that moment I could have given Maya a sympathetic hug and a dose of the grim reality. She would have cried for a while and eventually gone back out to play. I would then return to my pad and my unfinished thoughts, and eventually, I would have showered. We would have cut our losses and moved on. But we didn't. She didn't, and neither did I.
Instead, I reached out to the little girl clutching all that remained of something precious, and I gently held her shoulders, kneeled down and looked into her moist eyes. I paused, spoke out and said something unexpected. It changed the course of that moment forever.
"Maya, we will find it. I always find what I am looking for. Always."
I reminded her of the many things that have made their way back to her posession and to mine -- the little: a yellow barrette, a sippy cup, and a workout shirt -- the tiny: the screw that holds my sunglasses together (in shag carpet after nearly a week) -- and the big: a wallet and a dream.
"I always find what I am looking for. I always find what I am looking for," I told her and myself. "That which is rightfully mine invariably find its way back to me, and it will find its way back to you."
In that moment, I wasn't sure about the how or the where or the when. All I knew is that I knew, and all that mattered is that Maya knew it too. The revelation and reality we have each begun to see and to experience gave us contagious confidence that I can't entirely describe. The more I have noticed it, the more I have begun to believe it. The more I have believed it, the more I have begun to see it. And in that moment, as I stopped, acknowledged, and spoke it aloud, the tears stopped, our focus shifted and it was true.
In the sunshine and splendor of yesterday morning, we retraced Maya's steps and approached her bike, which rested near the fence. This, she explained, was the spot where she removed her helmet and last felt her earring. We dropped to the ground with its cracks and its sinew and began a hopeful search.
Where is it, Lord? Where is it? Show us the way. Help us to find it.
What if it fell into the rocks, the thought flashed into my mind as a worried Maya simultaneously inquired. "Momma, what if we don't find it? May I wear one of your earrings instead?"
I always find what I am looking for. I always find what I'm looking for... there is no way I will find it if it fell into these rocks, so there is no way it is in these rocks. Did it fall into the grass or the collar of her dress? Where is it? It could be anywhere. Which way?
"Maya, we are going to find it" I responded to her worry and to my doubt.
We walked to the left (and to the right) up and down the length of the fence several times with our noses to the ground to no avail. We each took potty breaks, retraced her steps inside to the couch, and then we headed back outside. After ten or fifteen minutes of looking, I asked again and I knew -- it was time for us to stop.
"Maya, I'm going to go take a shower, and I want you and Cole to play."
"But what if it gets dark, and we don't find it?" she pleaded.
"Maya, I promise you (oh my), we are going to find it. Remember your barrette or my itty bitty screw? Just picture your earring. Really try to see it and visualize yourself finding it. Maya, we will find it. You will find it, or else..."
In that moment, in the splendor and sunshine of a glorious morning, my gaze fell past my daughter to the flagstone patio behind her. Nearly ten feet to the left of the path we had grazed, the background faded away with my words. Time and space and sound stood still for an instant, and that was when only one thing came clearly into focus: a tiny silver post perched atop red stone.
"...or else, it will find you."
either way, you are right."
31 March 2009
Lucid, I read it at first glance. I know that one. It means clear; easy to understand. Not in this case, actually. Not at all. This is not a typo. This is not a word I've come across before. The word indeed is LUDIC.
ludic \LOO-dik\, adjective: Of or relating to play; characterized by play; playful.
The kids and I walked to a particular park on a particularly pleasant morning a few weeks back. I'm not sure what came over me, but I did something I've never done in my five-plus years as a parent: I played. I mean I slid down the slide, climbed up nets and poles, scaled ropes and swung from the monkey bars with my belly button showing. I played. My kiddos were flabbergasted. They weren't sure what to make of it. Neither was I.
You see, I have spent so much time soul-searching, digging deep and pressing in - dealing and healing, seeking and searching over the last few years. It has been good, VERY good. But somewhere along the way I lost my ability to play.
I have cultivated efficiency. I am effective. I am the master multi-tasker. I am peaceful and profound in thought, action and deed. I am content to learn, to grow, to create and to clean. I love to run and to rollerblade, to hike and to sit in the sun. I love to read and to write and to spend time with the people whom I love. I love pedicures, sipping tea and sitting in silence. I am thrilled to experiment with good food in my kitchen and even more, I like to eat it. I appreciate quality and depth and color and flavor. I delight in these things. I get these things, but sit me down with some action figures, and I am at a loss. Where are the crafts and learning toys? I silently wonder.
Somewhere down the road, I misplaced my ability to watch a movie without folding laundry concurrently. Come to think of it, I can't actually recall the last time I saw a movie. But my kiddos - my avatars - are clearing the path, lifting my veil and helping me to see. And as I have searched myself and seen myself, as I have considered my worth and my place and my desires, as I have pursued peace, simplicity, creativity and the kingdom without clarity and with abandon, a funny thing has happened. Modeling clay, board games, Kung Fu Panda and paper airplanes have pushed their way into my days, and I have rediscovered the joys of a soccer ball.
In my free time of late, I have test ridden and subsequently dreamed about a road bike, sketched at a coffee shop, lost myself in an art museum and walked to the park without plans, reading material or packed lunches. I have played, and it has been good. Damn good.
Now 25 years after I became a grown up, I am learning to appreciate the art of ludic living, and what do you know? Lucidity. The kingdom is becoming clearer.
17 March 2009
You dive in, you hit a high note, you step into the unknown, and it resonates. It just feels right. With little but your heart to fall back on, you make another move, and somewhere down deep... a song. Just to be sure you take another step. Harmony. You strike a chord.
The sweetest song. I love that. Thank you.
This morning I had a revelation: I love socks. I've never really given them much thought before. But today, I do declare, I love socks.
After 10 years in California, they eventually eluded me. There was that year and a half after I got married that I literally didn't wear shoes - just flip flops. Not sure why, I just didn't. But as I've moved on and grown up, slowly, surely, socks have made their way back into my life. This morning, I stepped into one of my favorite pairs, and I swear I heard wind chimes and birds.
Socks are awesome. They are all snuggly and cozy and soft and warm. They cradle and keep my weathered feet. You've seen the best and the worst of my feet. Regardless of their state or my own, they hold me and hug me and love me and make me smile.
I love them.
And I love springtime and sunshine and sisters and sushi and soup... and all manner of things that happen to start with S.
There go those birds again.
12 March 2009
A simple, silent, random act of kindness. Of thoughtfulness. Utterly perfect and profound. You know me and I, you. Ah, to know and to be known, it is sweet. You have blessed me. You have blessed me, and I thank you. Your gift arrived at just the right time on just the right day for just the right place, wrapped in just the right color. To know and to be known... ah, so sweet.
You listened. You heard. You gave, and I thank you. I thank you.
You surprised me and moved me and warmed my insides and my face with wet, wonderful tears. You fortified my faith and my family, you nourished my soul and inspired me to give as you have given. You have incited my heart to push forward and to press in - to give to another and then to another and then to another. I thank you.
Oh, if we all stilled ourselves and listened and loved as you have loved. What a wonderful, warm and bright world this would be. It will be. I promise I will not let your gift stop here. I will work and till and sow this seed in rich soil. And it will bear fruit, bushels and bushels of sweet, splendid fruit. And you, my sister, will reap a bountiful harvest. Ten times tenfold, my mysterious and magical sister.
You have blessed me, and I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
10 March 2009
I look in Maya’s eyes and I see beauty and brown and love. I see creativity and curiosity. I see promise and potential. I see my mom, my in-laws… myself. Every once in a while, I’ll catch a glimpse of my husband or my granddaughter, and my heart will flutter. I feel love and at the same time I feel loss. I feel sweetness and sadness at once. Sometimes, I feel responsible, overwhelmed, ill-equipped and insufficient. She has questions, and I’m not sure if I have the answers.
The truth is that I also have questions. I have a lot of questions. I needn’t look any further than my own reflection or the pictures of my sleep to see that they are there. I hear faint whispers calling my name. “Abimbola, come. Maya Grace, come. Come.”
Martina, or Katrina, or whatever her name is, and so many others have gotten me thinking. I look around and within and I want to know.
I heard recently that the only way to get answers in life is to start asking the right questions. I’m not sure what those questions are, but I am willing to ask. I want to know… Do you?
I am embarking on a journey, and I’d like you to come with me. I’m not exactly sure where it will take me – or you – but I am certain that this is one race neither of us can run alone. Will you join me? I’d love your company, as well as your thoughts, your insight, your feedback and your perspective along the way. Perhaps together we will unearth the questions.
If you will help me or you would like to accompany me or you are at least curious, please email me at email@example.com , and I will fill you in on the details. Feel free to invite others – your mother, your daughter, your grandmother, your granddaughter, your sister or your friends – to join us. Who knows what we will find.
24 February 2009
Today I am thinking about it - the day, the word, the concept. The hopeful song of a red-headed orphan comes to mind...
Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmmmmmm.... tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow...
Yes, tomorrow's forecast is sunny and 62. It's only a day away.
It promises a bright, beautiful, bare slate - 24 hours of purpose, potential and possibility. It affords time to complete, to continue or perhaps to begin the tasks and work of today. It yields the fruit of yesterday and offers ripe soil for next week, for next month and for next year. It symbolizes and signifies hope and opportunity free of today's cobwebs and sorrows. You can bet your bottom dollar that the sun is coming.
Or can you?
Another song comes to mind. This, the resonant, tenor ballad of a blue-eyed cowboy in a black, ten-gallon hat.
My relentless hope in tomorrow is both my heel und mein kampf. I have looked ahead. I have held on and put my stock in tomorrow. Yet, I have also put off, held back and missed out all in the name of the same day. Spelled backwards, it is worromot.
And what of yadot?
Today, leafless winter trees sway in the breath of wind's whispers. They reach up and out against a cloudless azure sky. A symphony of birds chirp. A distant chime sings.
Tomorrow is a precious gift. It is cause for hope, for gratitude and for celebration. But the sweet, speckled girl in the red dress with the white belt and the black Mary Janes failed to mention that it is infinite except in its assurance. Tomorrow is everything but a guarantee.
Annie, meet my friend Garth.
We must always hope in tomorrow. And if it comes we may welcome it with love, thanks and open arms. But in so doing, we mustn't miss today. Today is an often overlooked and consequently undervalued commodity. It offers all the promise of tomorrow, but it is infinitely more valuable because it is within grasp. Today, it is sunny. Breezy. 70.
I look around today, and I see fields of good fruit and ripe soil. Yet, I hesitate to consider how vast a harvest this could have been but will never be because of yesterday's misplaced focus. I suppose that would be today's tragedy: to waste another moment of thought on the empty spaces in today's harvest.
Instead, I will open my hands and my heart and my mind to receive. I will take, eat and enjoy. I will taste and share the sweet splendor of today's fruit without regard for what was and what will be.
Yes, this harvest is ripe. There is far more fruit than I will ever be able to pick, to consume or to give away. But a far greater tragedy - one I have seen and lived before - is to stand overwhelmed (and hungry) surrounded by the firm, plump, crisp, juicy fruit of today and to let it fall and shrivel and die for fear of picking from the wrong tree or worse, waiting for tomorrow, which may never yield anything.
I mustn't delay. The harvest is ripe.
Yes, I may bypass the sweetest, choicest, tastiest fruit. But, I am of no value to myself, to God or to anyone else if I stand paralyzed by the possibility of choosing "wrong." I will listen and learn and I will be filled. Perhaps today will be the day that I pick the sweetest fruit of the bunch. And perhaps it will remain untouched. Perhaps it will shrivel up in the heat of today, it will fall to the ground and eventually, it will die. But I will continue to hope that the seeds of today's dead fruit will blossom into the cobweb-free harvest of tomorrow.
And if I awake tomorrow, I will gambol in the sun with a smile of my face, and I will eat and give of its bountiful harvest. And if tomorrow never comes, I will have dirtied my slate with the sweetness and stickiness of today's fruit. I will have lived and given my best, and I will be full.
02 February 2009
I know this is not a sentiment often heard, but for me, it's the truth.
Long before the sun stretches from its slumber and warms the morning sky, I eagerly spring from my bed into uniform: one ribbed, power-blue, long-sleeved shirt, which swims beneath a lived-in, loved on Pepperdine t-shirt. I don a pair of used-to-be-black Capri pants, which loosely hang from drawstring at my waist, and two red-banded, stretched-out heather gray socks, which swallow my calves and limply pool around my ankles. Tightly tied around my head is a sky blue, paisley bandanna, which almost matches my undershirt and secures loose tendrils in place that threaten to escape from the coif atop my head. My feet are shod with house slippers that almost match the faded, muted, black(ish) of my pants. Finally, two tiny white pearls, which conspicuously stand against the ebony backdrop of my earlobes, accentuate a sporadic spattering of head-to-toe bleach stains and pull together the perfect outfit for one of my favorite occasions: cleaning day!
My Mondays begin with a tall glass of water and hearty bowl of oatmeal, and they proceed with a second precious commodity: time - time to think, time to write, time to read, time to pray, time to work out, and finally, time to clean.
Paul is on deck to hustle with the bustle of 7 a.m. (a.k.a. groggy, empty bellied, pint-sized, caramel latte kiddos longing to be loved, fed, groomed and dressed), so I – gloved from fingertips up to elbows with squeaky, yellow rubber and equipped with sponges, brushes, rags and an assortment of cleaning products – am carefree and poised to tackle another Monday as the sun and my children arise.
Almost immediately, I am swept away on the tides of a to-do list through the paradise of Pine Sol to the universe of my thoughts. I frolic through lush landscapes of laundry and get lost - in audiobooks and dreams and gratitude. I wash and rinse; I get down and dirty, and I have grown to love it. High on life (and fumes), I feel thankful for toilets to scrub, carpets to clean, clothes to fold and the time and space in which to get it done. As I complete tasks, I delight in the simple pleasures of productivity, efficiency and teamwork. Awestruck, I get to witness the systematic transmutation of chaos to temporary order – of night sky to morning sun - and it is beautiful.
This particular Monday, as another outstanding morning of cleaning neared its conclusion, I ascended the stairs enveloped in my thoughts with a growling vacuum in tow.
I was stripped from my ethereal Eden and wisked back to Westminster, as a red blur whizzed by my face and brought me back to the present.
Screams… the thunder of running feet… discord… my son barrel rolls over the back of the couch and lands to the floor with a thud.
Just then, another projectile – orange this time (I think) – is launched from the lower level of my house over my head, and strikes the ground with a second thud.
Chortles and giggles squeak from behind the couch.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Maya, with the grace and silence of a jungle cat, slink across the living room from the coat closet to the shelter of the TV hutch. Immediately behind and in contrast to her, Cole bellows a tribal roar as he springs from his hiding place and leaps back onto the couch. This time, he is struck squarely in the chest with a black, foam ball. He shrieks, clutches his chest and drops to the cushion below, as a chorus of hearty belly laughter erupts from the couch, from behind the TV and from the family room.
Aha… Dodge Ball. The only rule is that the game is over when somebody cries.
As I watch the game play out from the stairs, still delighting from another delicious Monday morning, my cup runs over. I can’t help but to join in the chorus; I laugh until I cry.
The vacuum drones on.
On this particular Monday, I feel especially thankful that the Monday mornings of old – dreary, bleary and drab – are long gone. Today they are a colorful, creative, chaotic… and clean. I am thankful for the one-sided world in which I delight - of cleaning days and quiet times and story times and quality time, of sunshine and good nutrition, of museums and parks, of bike rides and of long hikes. I am equally thankful that Paul periodically rescues us with moments of commotion and clutter, of adventure and dance parties. He brings peanut butter and jelly and side ponytails and dodge ball to Monday mornings, and they are just beautiful.
Shortly after I climb and clean the last few stair steps, I emerge triumphantly on the landing. I look down just as my teammate - my husband, my best friend and my partner - assumes his pitcher’s stance, and looks up. I grab hold of his gleaming baby blues on this particular Monday, and I hold on tight. He smiles, and my heart races. I am in love.
I smile back, round the corner and head for the showers.