Saturday, June 30, 2018

Alarm clocks and Polly and joy.


Dan's alarm clock woke me up this morning. Early. And loud. Louder, truly, than during the week because for some reason he had changed it from the regular "beep" that is maddening to a "radio" setting.  Honestly, I didn't even know that his alarm clock had a radio on it.  But it was LOUD. And it was early.  And I was frustrated.


The last few weeks have been rough- to say the least- for our family.  I have been drowning a bit- and can admit that now as I am coming out of that space.  Several weeks ago it became apparent that something big was going to change in my beloved job.  I was in regular contact with our board chair- nothing was a surprise for me- but my heart has been broken as we have put The Abraham Project on hold for the upcoming year.  I don't know if down the road it will rebirth itself as something new or not.  But as of now, this program I have fallen head over heels in love with has come to an end.

At the beginning of those weeks of conversations about closing it down, I'll admit that I took part of it personally.  Then I began to see that parts that were outside of my control and then my heart was able to look more clearly at what truth was already there- that to all things, there is a season.

Unfortunately, during the same time this was all going down, it hit Elizabeth for the first time that her Mimi wouldn't be there for her 5th grade graduation.  This was the first "big" event that Mimi hasn't been there for, and it stirred up in both of us the realization that this is what a future without her looks like.

And to create the perfect storm, after going through 4 pregnancies, 1 birth, and loads of issues along the way, we determined that I need some minor surgical help to take care of parts of my body that weren't "cooperating" with what was normally expected of them.

The week of Elizabeth's graduation is when we announced TAP was closing and when I got the call to schedule my surgery.  Of course it was.

Now, one week post-surgery, I'm doing well, Elizabeth is fine (and is excited to be one of the Cats today in Seussical the Musical!), and plans are coming right along to make our TAP closure smooth.  All of that is said with no tears- the storm has happened and I am safely to the shore.

Back to this morning: that damn alarm clock.

Dan and I were hosted for a delightful dinner party last night.  There was great conversation, amazing food and wine, and it was the first time I'd put on "real clothes" in a week. (I came downstairs and both girls ooohed and aaaahed... maybe a week in PJs is more than they're used to for me?  Let's be honest... probably not.)  We got in late and both girls were awake.  Julianna took more convincing than E that it was time to sleep, so I was grateful we had nothing early on our Saturday morning agenda.

Until that damn alarm.

Frustrated and awake, I started catching up on social media.  So many pictures of vacations and exciting things.  So many political and painful posts.  And then I saw it:  a sweet woman I had the privilege of hanging out with last fall during Medicine and Ministry had died.  When we hung out in November, I had absolutely no idea that she was unwell.  And yet, today she is gone.  It literally took my breath away.  


From our brief time together here's what I know about her life:  she loved her husband.  She loved her job.  She loved her daughter.  She made it a point to maintain friendships she had from years past (I happen to be mutual friends with two of them!).  She was fun and wise and calm and a delight to be with.  And now, she is gone.

Our family has gotten in the habit of watching James Cordon's Carpool Karaoke together.  This one brought us all to tears.  I told Dan that if I were famous, I think I would want to be like Paul McCartney.  I get the feeling that he enjoyed this day- bringing joy to everyone he interacted with.  James Cordon does it too- he makes people light up around him.  I want that.  Dan, being the good doting husband taking care of his post-break down wife, encouraged me that on some level I do that now... but oh, to be able to say that across the board.  I want to bring people joy and make them light up.  Polly did that for me.

Yes, there will be job losses.  There will be bug bites like the ones on my elbow (!!) that are currently making me bonkers.  There will be events where loved ones aren't there.  There will be surgeries that bring out our anxiety.  There will be alarm clocks that ruin good sleep on the one morning you plan to sleep in.  But there will also be Pollys.  And Pauls.  And Jameses.  And joy.

Dan and I are heading off to our own version of summer camp after we drop of the girls at theirs on Sunday.  We are indulging in seeing a couple Broadway shows and going to the concert of my favorite band.  All of those events were decided before we knew that I would be 10 days post-op.  Rather than let my physical limitations ruin our trip, we've just altered our schedule and planned more down time.  We're choosing joy.

Here's to the people around you who bring you light.  The ones who bring you meals for your family.  The ones who swoop in and send a card at the perfect moment.  The ones who make you laugh even when it hurts.  The ones who serve good wine.  The ones who send you silly gifts.  The ones who constantly play Words with Friends with you while you're recovering.  The ones who recommend new shows to watch.  The ones who hold your hand.  The ones who bring you joy.

May we all know those kind of people... and more importantly... may we try to be those kind of people.

And may we always remember to turn off our alarm clocks on Friday night.

Rest in the light of joy and peace, sweet Polly.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On being sad.

Today, 6 years ago, I entered a new kind of nightmare.  I got the call that my Daddy had died unexpectedly.  There are loads of posts about it here on my blog, I don't need to rehash it in this one.

Six years is a long time.

Six years without his laugh, his kindness, his smile.

Six years without all the bad stuff about him, too... but that's not what my heart holds onto.

In all of the grief workshops/ therapy/ reading I've done in the last six years, I know that everyone grieves in their own way.  That time doesn't exactly heal all wounds.  I know that.  But this yearly loss anniversary caught me by surprise.

Last Sunday as I was driving back into town, I began to ache in an indescribable way.  It was almost a heart pain.  Before I even remembered the week coming up, I attributed it to the stress of what I'd left behind when we went out of town: bills unpaid, a tree that fell on our deck while we were gone, laundry that had to be done.  But as Dan and I began to debrief the anxiety that I was feeling, I realized my body knew the sadness of this upcoming "anniversary" even when my mind hadn't fully processed what was happening.

Dan and I talked about how to handle this week of grief and came up with tangible ways to protect my fragility.  I said "no" to lots of things this week.  I made an appointment to check in with my therapist.  And, I made a reservation at a nearby hotel so that I could cocoon this weekend.

There was a season in our lives when running away from home would not have been possible.  Whether it was that we didn't have the financial resources or that our children couldn't handle me leaving, it just wasn't in the cards.  But now is a different season.  It's still not ideal for me to be gone from my kids.  It's not great that I've missed some things at church this weekend.  I will go home to a potentially chaotic reentry which will undo some of the good self-care I've done this weekend.

But I needed to be sad.

I am not in a bad spot.  My mental health is in a solid place today... there are some days I can't report that with such authority.  But I'm sad.  AND THAT'S OKAY.

It's awkward being sad, you know.  People don't like to be around sad people.  They want to fix it- to make it better.  Often times that comes from the best of intentions... we don't want other people to be lonely or suffer.  But sometimes we want to "fix" their sad because it could potentially rub off on us- and make us sad, too.

Being sad isn't fun.  And staying sad is when things derail.  One wise woman in my life told me that I wasn't just dealing with grief- I was dealing with grief upon grief which can break someone.  There have been moments it's almost broken me.

Last weekend at Why Christian, I heard a minister say words that were life giving to me.  She stated that anxiety and depression aren't a result of something wrong with us- they are often a NATURAL RESPONSE to trauma.  Lord knows I've had trauma.  I lost all 3 of my parents in 5 years.  One right after another.  During those same 5 years, I was caregiver for my Mom as I watched her disease progress and wreck her life.  I was sad.   To add to that pain, I experienced the loss of my known community when we changed churches.  Sad.  I lost friends.  Sad.  And all of that pain changed who I am in some ways.  And during that time, I often stayed sad.

Continual sadness has made me more tender.

It's made me ache.

It's made me sensitive to suffering.

Those aren't bad.

Sometimes, it's caused me depression and anxiety.

Those can be bad.

But today, I'm just sad.

The thing that keeps me whole when I'm sad is those who aren't scared of my sadness.  Those who send me gifts of journals and cookie dough.  Those who send texts and call to let me know they remember the life of my Daddy... and they acknowledge my grief.  Those who let me escape and let me run back to open arms.

This morning I drove past a junkyard while listening to The Wailin' Jennys sing "The Valley".  It was a perfect moment of reflection of what this feels like.  A visual reminder of what the "piling on" looks like.  Grief upon grief.

I live in the hills  

You live in the valley
And all that you know
Are these blackbirds

You rise every morning
Wondering what in the world
Will the world bring today
Will it bring you joy
Or will it take it away?

And every step you take is guided by
The love of the light on the land
And the blackbird's cry

You will walk, you will walk
You will walk in good company

The valley is dark, the burgeoning holding
The stillness obscured by their judging
You walk through the shadows
Uncertain and surely hurting
Deserted by the blackbirds
And the staccato of the staff

And though you trust the light
Towards which you wend your way
Sometimes you feel all that you wanted
Has been taken away

There are days when I'm in the valleys.  And days I'm on the hills.  Through it all, I will try to trust the Light.  That trust may happen while I'm eating spoonfuls of cookie dough... and I think that's okay.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Being "Here".

The past few weeks have been bananas for us.  Including my upcoming travel this week, out of 53 days, I will have been gone 23 of them. That's 43%!  43% of the days have been not in Winston, not with my people.

I know that so many of you travel for your job- and this is nothing new to you... but I am not one of those people.  I enjoy travel- especially when it comes to vacations or visiting those I love- but being gone nearly half of the time is too much.  And lets face it, I'm not the spring chicken I used to be... bouncing back from this amount of travel has taken it's toll on my body.

During those 53 days, I've seen some of my dearest friends and colleagues.  I've enjoyed time at Great Wolf Lodge with my big girl (and got to see some of our Foster Friends, too.)  I've been to the mountains, the beach, and back to the mountains again.  I've eaten good food, hiked beautiful views, shopped, and read books.  I've also slept in uncomfortable beds, had allergy attacks, gotten sick to my stomach, been worried about a lice outbreak (we're clear, don't worry), and missed some key events that the extrovert side of me hated missing.

While we're talking about personality types, let's acknowledge that one... on the Myers-Briggs test, I always score just over the line as an extrovert.  Which means that my introvert side is very high.  And for at least 90% of these away trips, I've been required to be "on"... which makes my introvert side feel like it's drowning.  Yes, I am a people person... but I regain that energy by withdrawing and recharging alone.

Today when someone at church asked me how I've been doing, my response was, "Well, I'm here."  While that may have appeared to seem tongue in cheek to my scattered appearance or disposition, it was more honestly an acknowledgment of the beauty of actually being home.  I missed church one week because of sickness and I will miss 3 weeks because of travel.  That means that of 9 Sundays, I'm missing or have already missed 4. That's another 44%.

For a lot of people, missing church isn't a huge big deal.  For me, it is.

And none of that has to do with guilt.

It's honestly doesn't have to do with me missing the chance to "worship"... because I've felt more connected to God than I have in a very long time.

But I've not been connected to my Church Family.

Being with them this evening for Trunk or Treat made me realize just how much I've missed them.

Being gone from my own family has been difficult- Julianna and Elizabeth have both needed their Momma.  My house was a hot mess when I got home from my trips.  Laundry has piled up- and this is no knock on Dan, this is just the state of how things get when we're out of sync.

In the same way, I'm out of rhythm at church.  Part of participating fully in worship is being present... and I have not been.  While I can get "what I need" from attending periodically, I'm not fully enjoying the connection of being part of The Church when my attendance is spotty.

This is not a plug from Father Steve or our Vestry.  This is not something sponsored by those of us working to get people connected through our Welcoming Ministry.  In fact, this isn't even about our church specific.

Instead, as I've looked at my most recent schedule and my slack church attendance... I have to realize that I'm not alone.  Surely some of you have been gone too... for 44% of the time or more.  Know that you're not alone.  And know that it never matters how long you've been gone... you're always welcome.  Don't have somewhere that you miss when you're gone?  You're welcome to join me at St. Timothy's.

Being "Here" is not always high praise for my mental or physical state... but I look forward to the day when I'm Here more often.  Until then, I'll jump in when I'm able and continue to reach out to my Church when I'm not.  I can't expect they'll know how I'm doing until I tell them... and those days when I'm not Here might be the times when I need them even more.

Grace and Peace.


(and thanks, Beckie, for the pics.)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Our Fifth Annual "Do Good Day"

I can hardly believe that this year marks the 5th Annual Do Good Day.

While, yes, my heart hurts for the reminder that this is the 5th September 24 without my Daddy around to celebrate his birthday, I am instead reminded that for 5 years we have banded together to care for others.  For five years we have reached out to respond to specific needs.  We have brightened people's days.  We have shared the load.

Let me tell you a little of what we've done together this last year:

We made it possible for a friend to travel to travel to have some time with a family member at the end of their life.  We've fixed cars.  We've provided groceries.  We've helped with gas cards.  We've donated pizza lunches and school supplies for Title 1 classrooms.  We've made sure teachers have classroom needs met.  We've sponsored lunches, coffees, and treats for those who need encouragement.  We've provided a wedding reception for someone who could not afford it.  We've reached out in love.

Do Good Day 2017 is on a Sunday.  We will be hosting a gathering at our home for those of you who are local- drop in any time between 1-5.  We've have snacks and drinks- no need to bring anything to share.  However, we're asking that you help us out in several ways:

1. We'd love you to share your stories.  We're asking that you share with us 5 ways you've "done good" as we compile a written resource as to who we are. *shared stories*

2. Between now and 9/24, we're challenging you to do 5 "do good" deeds.  We've shared with you in the past lots of different suggestions for doing good, but we'd love to help you think of more if you're at a loss for what to do. *five deeds*

3. As I write this, we are anticipating how Hurricane Irma will impact Florida.  Consider those in Florida- or those in Houston still reeling from Harvey- as ones to whom you can reach out.  I have 2 dear friends who are staying in their home (because of work obligations) who I anticipate will need lots of help rebuilding.  If you aren't directly connected to anyone in Florida, I'm happy to let you know their needs. *disaster relief*

4. Consider sharing on Social Media some ways you are helping using the hashtag #DoGoodDay.  This will help us as we compile our stories. *social media*

5. If you are able to come to our drop-in event, consider helping us by rebuilding our resource bin.  We are down to only a couple grocery store cards- we are out of gas cards and "box store" cards (Walmart, Target, Home Depot, etc.)  We'd love you to consider donating gift cards toward our united cause.  Alternatively, we will sometimes be in a bind to send cash as their is a need if you feel comfortable donating in that way. *rebuilding resources*

Together we are a force for good.  Together we can do so much more.  And together we can be encouraged to do even more.  Excited to see what #DoGoodDay looks like this year.  Thanks for being a part of this movement.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

There is so much more to say...



5th grade Odyssey of the Mind
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at my buddy Michael's celebration of life.  His sweet momma asked me to a while back... likely because she knows I've never met a microphone I don't like.  I pointed out that I was better equipped to speak to 4 year old Michael than 40 year old Michael, but you don't go through roughly 37 years of a friendship with someone and not have a few stories to share of your time together.

I shared this as I opened: Dan gave me the laptop that I'm typing on now with one instruction... "Write your damn book."

Well, that's daunting.

Even for someone who loves writing... and who often feels like there is a story in there somewhere... the first step of writing a book is paralyzing.

So eventually, I wrote what I know.

I wrote about Michael.

And to this day, that's the only chapter I've written ...

I shared a bit of my relationship with him yesterday, but there is so much more to tell.  I walked away from the microphone- overwhelmed with emotion and love for my buddy- and realized I left so many things out.  Rather than jump up and say "OH WAIT! I FORGOT....", I decided to share some of that here.  For the rest of it, you'll have to buy my damn book.
---
Michael and I met in the late 70's at Hominy Baptist Church- either in preschool or in Sunday School.  We remained friends for all of the years after- even in the times that we argued. #Mistyliker  Michael was, however, the only person I ever hit.  (Other than my brother, of course.)  In seventh grade he said something to me worthy of being hit- and when I went to hit him, he let me.  He knew he was in the wrong, so he stood still and "took it".  And when the teacher responsible for us asked what happened, he quickly said "Nothing."

In 12th grade, we had the privilege of registering to vote in our school cafeteria.  Michael said to me before we went in, "I might as well fill out your card for you... you're going to be a Republican, right?"  I'm guessing he assumed that because I spent more time in Bible Study than in Bent Creek, I would align with the Religious Right.  Whether to prove a point to him or not, I was pleased to check DEMOCRAT on my card.  And even though my Momma told me politics were private, I immediately went to tell Michael that his guess was wrong and I was not a Republican.

Along those same lines, he constantly was unimpressed with my music variety.  He rolled his eyes at my love of Amy Grant and 4Him, and rather than just harass me, he put into my hands new music.  I have a tape he made for me with Red Hot Chili Peppers on one side and Soup Dragons on the other.  I kept it for his handwriting- my cassette player long gone.  That was the first "mix tape" he made me... and why I wrote a RHCP shirt yesterday.  He opened my eyes to music beyond my own preferences- some bands I loved and some I didn't- and I'm grateful that like so many of you, he educated me.  And constantly encouraged me to go see live shows.

One day, someone brought acid to school.  It was the first time I'd ever seen it- and I was surprised at how pretty it was.  I said "If I could afford that, I'd wallpaper my house with it."  Michael said (without skipping a beat) "And I would come and lick your walls." (#justsayno)

Michael was so fun to be around.  His laugh was infectious.  His smile was radiant.  And he never smiled bigger than when he was talking about his kids.  After the football game we saw during our 20th Reunion Weekend, Michael drove me and Emily back to her car.  First, he took Trenton to a youth group activity.  When we dropped him at the church, Michael said "Can you believe my son is going to a church thing instead of a bonfire? I'm so proud of who he is. He's a much cooler kid than I ever was."  And that says a lot, because Michael was the coolest kid I knew.  He raved about Savannah's artistic side.  Every time he mentioned her, he'd say to me "You would love her."  I do, Michael, I do.

So many more stories. Hours of stories- only about Michael.  Many people told me yesterday that maybe he should be the focus of my whole book- not just a chapter.  I got offers for "guest authors" helping write it.  There's something that makes my heart smile to think of that... the story of Michael. The story of us.

Let's write it together, friends.
Let's #makeithappen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Connection.

I'm currently sitting on my couch... watching Grace and Frankie.

Dan and I started watching it several months ago, and then we never got past the second episode.  It didn't "hook" us like we were hoping.  All of the reviews and hype just didn't click.

Until....

Some time recently I decided to give it another shot.

Something was different.

It clicked.

And it was because I knew it was something my Mom would have enjoyed.

Maybe it was because of 2/3 of "9 to 5" actresses were showing the world that their heyday wasn't over.  Maybe it was because I knew she would cringe and laugh with every moment that they were bashing their exes.  Or maybe the time was just right.

I've recently entered a new phase of looking for- longing for- connection.  Finding something that would bring my Mom... or my Daddy... or Michael, joy.  I enjoyed the BNL concert even more than usual... because of the company, the beer, the music- all because I knew Michael loved each of those things.  I enjoyed buying a new grill because I knew Daddy would want to buy it for us- he actually bought our previous one.  I enjoy wearing earrings of my Mom's because- while she would still be frustrated that I had been in her jewelry box- I long for the connection they bring.

I think this is a normal part of grief.  I think I'm actually in a healthier spot these days- trying to connect with those I've lost.  I feel more like "myself" than I've been in the last 5 years.  It feels good.

----

I haven't updated my blog since September.  A lot of that is because of lack of connection.  I attempted to update it in October, but the words were half-assed, the sentiment wasn't genuine.  I wrote out of a sense of obligation, not out of the love of writing.

And this has mimicked itself throughout my life- not just in writing.

A friend said to me last week "I've missed you recently"... Funny, I've missed myself.

In September, right as I was writing my last post, I spiraled.  An off-handed comment from a friend pushed my tentative self right off the ledge of grief.  It has taken me months to claw my way out of that hole.  It's not been a straight up journey- I've fallen back down a time or two.  Hurtful words from people, feeling left out, not having a "place"... those tend to trip me up.

But thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, good therapy, a purpose, a strong church community, and some helpful friends who won't let me fall off the ledge alone... I feel like I'm back.

I've missed connection.

I've wept over friendships that have slowly faded away- ones that I thought would last a lifetime.

We've hosted fewer events in the last 9 months than we ever had... partially because I've started a new job, partially because we have a new dog, and partially because I've been too weary to be social some days.

But that job?  That dog?  They have given me connection.

----

I share all of this with you not to make you feel uncomfortable.  It's not to put grief upon you if we have faded apart recently.  But I share this to you to let you know that sometimes when people fade away, they need you to continue to reach out.  They may not respond, they may blow you off, or they may legitimately be too busy/ tired/ whatever to hang out.

But sometimes, as was the case with my buddy Michael, they are on that edge of the hole and just need to know that they are not alone.

That's the whole premise of Grace and Frankie- finding connection when the connection you thought you had is no longer there.  I'm still making amends with my heart and it's broken connections... but even in this bizarre social media connected world, I'm thankful for what connections we have.


Here's hoping you find your Grace (and Frankie), too.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Do Good Day, 2016


Hi Friends.

It's Coming.

Do Good Day 2016 is only 2 weeks away.

Here's the quick recap for those of you who are new to Do Good Day: Each September 24th (my Daddy's birthday), we unite forces to Do Good.  It's sort of a collective Random Acts of Kindness day... honoring a man who showed Goodness to so many of us. (longer explanation below**)

Each year since Daddy died, I've suggested to you a focus for your Good... a little bit of direction for those of you who might not know where to start. In the past we've donated to St. Baldricks in honor of children who fight childhood cancer, we've served the kids who benefit from the backpack program of Meadowlark Meals, we've organized gift cards for food for those who arrive at their doctor's office and haven't eaten, we've donated to Alzheimer's research, and we've collected money for a family who had been recently diagnosed with cancer.  Each collective effort brings a smile to my face and meets a need in such a tangible Good way.

You don't have to join our collective effort, though.   Anything you do is great- my day is made by the stories I hear from you about what you do in your own little sphere of influence.   I get texts all day of people who pay for people's coffee anonymously in the drive through... people who bring lunch to coworkers... people who provide musical instruments for children who can't afford them... people who have honored my Daddy by bringing treats to his beloved Home Depot coworkers.

So what will you do this year?  Already have ideas?  SUPER.  Need help with a little direction?  Think on this:  I'll be collecting school supplies for two area teachers who teach at local schools that need extra Good.  One of them teaches First Grade, and one works with Exceptional Children.  Both of their classrooms have children who need a little extra- and don't have parents that are able to always provide in that way.  They can both use basic school supplies or gift cards to Target/ Wal-Mart/ Barnes and Noble/ Amazon.  I'll be collecting items and gift cards for them.

Want another way to help?  Our "Do Good" fund is super low.  This year alone we have provided money to buy appliances, car repairs, and basic needs for multiple individuals.  Our supply box of gift cards is nearly depleted.  Do you work for an area business that would like to donate a gift card?  We'd love to keep it on hand.  We give them out as we hear of needs- and don't always have time to publicize for help.

Speaking of which, in this next year, we are going to be changing how we publicize needs- both on the giving and receiving end.  If you have a need or feel like you can meet a need, please make sure you've liked our Facebook Page.  We will begin better utilizing our page to help with the anonymity of our needs.

I'm grateful to get to celebrate my Daddy's life with all of you.  He would hate the attention, but he sure would love the results of this effort.  Whatever you do on 9/24, know that how you Do Good can have lasting effects.  Join me, will you?

** More on the history of Do Good here.