Saturday, January 30, 2010

On the other hand, winter is wonderful...

Winter is wonderful for snuggling and being cozy together.
Winter is wonderful for sitting around in my robe and slippers all day.
Winter is wonderful for reading a few of the books piled around my desk.
Winter is wonderful for writing blogs, reading blogs, surfing the net, and clandestinely, virtually stalking loved ones and ones I wish I could love.
Winter is wonderful for discovering and imbibing in new coffee and tea flavors.
Winter is wonderful for watching movies while munching on hot popcorn.
Winter is especially wonderful for making big pots of soup.

Winter is a fine time to allow my imagination to wander and my dreams to bloom.
Winter is a fine time for spontaneous meetups with good buddies at Starbucks.
Winter is a fine time for playing cards and board games and computer games with the kids.
Winter is a fine time for decluttering the house, rearranging art work and wall hangings, for moving furniture around, and for finding new reasons to love this strong, warm house we have been blessed to live in.

Winter is the season when the best sales happen; it's the best time to fill the pantry and shelves and drawers.
Speaking of sales and shopping, winter is also when my birthday comes around: It's December 14th for those of you filling in your birthday calendars for the new year.

Winter is the season when we celebrate the birth of The One I believe in most.
Winter is the season when the music and lights remind us that the darkness and silence won't last forever.
Winter isn't easy, no, but nor does it last forever.

However, if I allow myself a few moments each day to bask in the blessings of winter, in the great blessings that my life has been graced with, to be grateful for each and all of them, then I can admit, I can rejoice in the fact that, on the other hand, winter is - or can be - indeed a wonder-filled time of year.

PS. I plan to indulge in many of the aforementioned blessings of winter today. It snowed here in Charlotte last night, so we are holed up here at home for the day... at the very least.

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's the dead of winter - the best time to think of summer vacation

I have received emails and read blog posts and spoken to friends on the phone.
The results are in: winter is tough. The darkness. The cold.
The separation from family and friends.
The routine becomes just that - routine.

Tea and homemade cookies help.
Journaling helps even more.
Good books, movies, magazine articles distract.
The Australian Open Tennis Championship transports us overseas to some one else's summer.

As I watch my beloved Roger Federer advance to the final, I find myself dreaming of travel.

I dream of warm places, sandy places, breezy mornings and balmy nights.

I dream of walking the beach with friends and loved ones.

I dream of walking city streets and wandering through museums for hours at a time.

I dream of falling asleep to the sound of adults sipping sweet drinks by the pool or cars gliding past in the Spanish night.

I dream of late night book and movie discussions, sharing ideas on writing, or sitting next to someone else who is also tapping away on her computer keyboard, writing stories of her own. Or his own. Sipping cold, sweet drinks of our own.

I dream of travel. Of getting away. Of flip flops and tank tops.

I dream of hanging up my heavy purple robe, folding up my long sleeve pajamas, and laying them all down for a long summer's nap.

So inspired by Magpie Girl, I am putting together a list of 8 things to take on vacation.

1. My journal and pens and stickers and scissors, first of all.

2. My passport and credit cards - and photocopies of all of them, just in case tragedy or a pickpocket strikes.

3. A small index card with my vacation goals (rest, reconnection with myself, discovery of a new place, for example) and my spiritual provisions (patience, a sense of humor, trust that all will go exactly as it should, for example) written on it. Found this idea in Joseph DiSpenza's The Way of the Traveler.

4. Half as many clothes as I think I might need.

5. Twice as much money as I think I might need.

6. My camera, my Bible, and one other book to read.

7. A small daypack/backpack to carry the essentials everywhere I go.

8. A spirit of great adventure. And a wide open heart.

* Okay, so that's more than eight things. But as long as it all fits in my roll-behind carry-on bag, that's all that matters. I do everything I can to keep from having to check bags when I fly. No matter how long the trip, it's not worth the worry of losing my bags and my cherished belongings.

Winter is tough. But spring and summer are not far behind.
Here's to dreaming - and to dreams coming true.

In the meantime, hug someone you love and hang on for a while.
Hey, you gotta stay warm, right???!!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"no one expects you to save the world"

Maya Stein did it yet again.
She put into precious few words,
in ten poetic lines to be exact,
exactly what I needed to hear.
Thank you, my friend.

The headlines are begging for your help. Thousands needing homes, food.

But here, your own children, like inexpert stilt-walkers, flirt too often

with obstacles in the street. It’s no wonder you keep eyes glued

to them. The demands of love, or a job, the hard winter reining you in -

it takes all your muscle to keep your own life upright. And though you know

what you have is fortune compared to the great rift that earthquake left,

and the aftershocks continuing to destroy so much, somehow

that same fortune paralyzes, obstructs you with a heavy, gloomy guilt.

But no one expects you to save the world, no matter what you plan.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to love everything we can.

Can anyone hear me exhale?
Has anyone else been able to let it go a little more in the past few days?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's not that I don't have anything to say...

I have a lot to say.
To describe.
To ponder.
To complain about.
To criticize.
To question.
To reconsider.

There are relationships in flux: some in ascent, some in descent.
Others are no longer viable, it seems.

There are letters and emails to be written.
A book or two as well.

There are phone calls that are long overdue.
And several that will most likely never be made.

Apologies to extend.
Forgiveness too.

There is a lot to say.
There is a lot to do as well.

Gym classes to attend.
Meals to be planned, cooked, cleaned up after.

Food to be purchased and stored.

Lessons to write and rewrite and then teach.
Books to be read. Notes to be taken.

Journal pages to be filled.

Floors to be swept and mopped.
Carpets to be vacuumed and cleaned.
Toilets to be swished and sinks to be swiped.

Bills to be paid.
Taxes to be filed.

But for the past week, none of it seems to matter much
because I keep thinking about mothers in Haiti.
About mothers in mourning over lost children.
Mothers in anguish over hungry children and sick children.
Mothers who have no idea of the status of their children.

Somehow I can't imagine that there are too many mothers in Haiti who are worried about whether their sons are winning tennis tournaments two states away. Or whether they have burned enough calories at the gym to eat a vegan peanut butter cookie after dinner. Or where the free vouchers are for the local car wash. Or how their children will do on standardized tests in three months.

For the past week, I have prayed for Haitian mothers and daughters and fathers and sons. I have sent some money. And I have prayed some more - and none of it feels like enough. I have called friends with ties to Haiti to find out what they have heard: the news, as we all know, is mostly dire. I translated a plea for help on Sunday morning - a remarkable Haitian man making an appeal in Spanish to Latino people. I translated his words into English for the Americans in the crowd. I was glad to be of assistance - and managed to hold back my tears...for the most part.

I can't get beyond how helpless and useless and so very selfish I feel for thinking about calories and cookies and shampoo and saving for college and homeschool assignments and holes in my socks and organic salad and biodegradable laundry detergent. So I am keeping my petty concerns to myself - for the moment anyway.

No, it's not that I don't have anything to say. It's just that most of what I was planning to say doesn't matter much these days. And the only stuff that matters right now is being muttered under my breath, through clenched teeth and fists, over and over and over.

"Lord, have mercy.
Please let the food and water and tents and medical supplies get distributed soon.
Christ have mercy.
Why Haiti? Didn't they have enough problems already?
Lord, have mercy."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wise Words from a Wise Woman

On her swirling, shining, gorgeous and colorful blog, Leonie wrote:

"My life hasn’t always been a perfect unravelling of all the things I wanted, happening at the time I deemed as being the right time.

Boys didn’t love me back, some dreams didn’t come true, parts of my family created war against each other, car accidents, and grades that weren’t as high as I wanted them to be. I didn’t get the pony I wanted. Prince Charming didn’t come flying in on a white horse without any personal challenges of his own, and he didn’t save me from myself - I had to do that on my own.

Remember my post The Worst Thing In The World Could Be The Best Thing?
All those things that I could have registered as being bad.
All those things I could have seen as being a failure of the Universe to provide to me.

And yet, the big, brave, beautiful truth of it is…

Whatever I am given, it is the right lesson and the right medicine at the right time."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


A poem by the ridiculously talented Maya Stein. I was reading a few of her poems this morning and had a terribly tough time choosing which one to bring over here. Go see for yourself; that woman can write!

Maybe the camera crew is at someone else’s house,
a spotlight haloing over another’s fleshy story.
Maybe the mailman is delivering the good news
to your neighbor, or a different city entirely,
and you come home to a rash of catalogues,
the second notice for a doctor’s bill, a plea
from the do-gooders for whatever you can spare.
Maybe you haven’t cleaned your kitchen floor in weeks,
forgotten to nourish the front garden, spilled too much
coffee in your car, weaving through traffic.
Maybe you are 10 pounds heavier than last year.
Maybe your skin is betraying your age.
Maybe winter is ravaging your heart.
Maybe you are afraid, or lonely, or furious, or wanting out
of every commitment you entered with such vigor and trust.
Maybe you’ve bitten your nails down to the quick,
chosen your meals badly, ignored the advice of those
who know you best. Maybe you are stubborn as a toddler.
Maybe you are clumsy or foolish or hasty or reckless.
Maybe you haven’t read all the books you’re supposed to.
Maybe your handwriting is still illegible after all these years.
Maybe you spent too much on a pair of shoes you didn’t need.
Maybe you left the window open and the rain ruined the cake.
Maybe you’ve destroyed everything you've ever wanted to save.


If anything, believe in your own strange loveliness.
How your body, even as it stumbles, angles for light.
The way you hold a dandelion with such yearning and tenderness,
the whole world stops spinning.

It is so easy to begin a new year with resolutions.
"This year, I will clear some of those 'maybes' off my list.
I will read more and watch television less.
I will exercise more and eat less.
I will love more and plot the demise of my mother/children/pastor/spouse less."

Or perhaps the easiest thing is to enter the year determined
not to make any resolutions because we haven't kept them in the past.

The toughest thing is to believe what Karen Maezen Miller always says:
"We are perfect just as we are right now."

I admit: when she writes that and repeats it, I chafe.
I wince.
I disagree.
Then I let my shoulders drop.
I take a deep breath.
And I remember: all is exactly as it should be right now.
Right here, right now, all is as it is meant to be.

I know, I know. I have asked the same questions -
How can cancer be perfect? My father died of cancer. Not perfect.
How can a hospitalized child be perfect? Been there, done that. Not perfect.
How can losing a job and having no prospects be perfect? See above.
I once had a pastor, a man I still miss dearly, who used to answer the tough questions this way: "I have four words for you - 'I do not know.'"
I liked his honesty. I agree with his answer.
But still...

I have learned to stop thinking of "perfect" as without problem or difficulty or challenge.
Perfect is not the way women look in magazines - because those women don't even look like that.
Perfect is not having earned a billion dollars, married a beautiful wife and fathered two gorgeous kids. Don't we all know that!
Perfect is not having all the answers to every question of faith and doctrine and Scripture and claiming to be without any doubt.
To me, "perfect" means life is exactly what it is supposed to be right now.

I remember standing by my father's bedside in those final moments, those final seconds, and then watching his face as his spirit left his aching, broken, pinned together frame. He was there, then he was gone. I saw it. Every second of it. Perfect.

I remember when my husband was looking for a job several years ago. I went to bed confident that all would work out well some nights. Invariably, I woke up crying and panicky the following morning. Friends supported us and prayed for us and encouraged us not to give up hope. We prayed and pleaded and tried to bargain with God for a job offer. For a while none came. Still, in the midst of it, there were pockets of peace. Perfect peace.

But I digress.

No matter what the situation, no matter how many "maybes"
are on your mind, your heart, or your hips at the moment,
you are still beautiful and strong.
you are still loving and lovely.
you are still dreaming and dreamy.
you are still worthy of grace and mercy and peace and joy and love.
all shall be well.
all manner of things shall be well.


Monday, January 04, 2010

Ten things you may not know about me...

Lisa Ottman inspired me to pull together a list of tidbits that may not be public knowledge.

1. I am inexplicably drawn to "reality shows" about people in prison.

2. And also shows on hoarding.

3. I have a serious collection of gift bags - bags that have been sent or given to me that I have held on to. (Perhaps there's a little bag-hoarding going on.)

4. I have a fair number of purses and suitcases, but I am always dreaming up ways to get my rather large hands on a few more. Especially Kipling. I bought a wonderful little backpack of theirs at Madrid's Barajas airport back in September.

5. I cannot imagine ever holding or firing a gun. Ever.

6. Sometimes I forget that cordless phones can be used anywhere. I will often stand in one spot during a conversation because that is where I answered the phone.

7. I like cleaning more than I like cooking. Especially vacuuming and doing laundry and ironing.

8. My favorite breakfast is oatmeal with blueberries, soy milk, and a little sugar. I wash it down with hot, sweet coffee.

9. I am on a mission to declutter my whole house this year. I never thought I needed to declutter because, thanks to the FlyLady, my house is clean and neat most of the time. I figured I would "just go through" the drawers in my bathroom and the shelves in my closet. Boy, oh boy. I have TONS of stuff that needs to be passed along to Good Will or recycled (like a few of the paper bags I discovered among my gift bag stash!) or laid to rest in the local dump. Just because it's neat and orderly and frequently dusted doesn't mean I need to keep it. So I am working through the house in small chunks of time. One drawer and shelf at a time. This evening, my son said he has noticed a few changes around the house. Yes!

9b. Today while decluttering in the family room, the kids and I (Yes, I have included the children in this quest to clear out the stuff we no longer need) discovered a few surprises in a game cabinet we hadn't explored in a while. There were games there that Steve and I played years ago, but that I had never played with the kids before. We spent nearly an hour playing "Outburst." We had a blast.

9c. After finding the games, the kids felt encouraged about "going through" some of their own drawers and shelves. Daniel found one of his many wallets today and discovered $8 in it. Again - yes!!! Nothing like a little instant gratification to motivate a 13-year-old to stay on the path to simpler living.

10. My word for this year is "pilgrimage."
Getting from here to there internally and externally.
In heart and mind and spirit - and hopefully in body as well.
With others and alone.
I am a woman on pilgrimage.

I recently read a great verse on this very topic.
Psalm 84:5 says: Blessed are those whose strength in is you,
whose have set their hearts on pilgrimage."

Turns out there's a blessing specifically for those of us who can't sit still,
those of us whose hearts and minds are constantly on the move.
Who knew?

I suspect that the urge to declutter has something to do with my spirit wanting to travel light...