Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Three rules for a memorable night out with friends

1. Eat dessert - 
I ate every bite of that chocolate-peanut butter cheesecake... 
except for the mint leaf.
I would have licked the plate, but the waitress recovered my plate too soon.

2. Wash it down with something sweet and bubbly - 
Moscato d'Asti was my choice.
The friend to my right chose Sauternes.

3. Toast to friendship, quiet lounges, and spectacular views.
Drink it down to the bottom,
savoring every sip.

Perhaps I should live more of my life according to these same rules.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What was he thinking?

Yesterday morning, I sat with a group of people discussing the tragedy of the cruise ship disaster off the coast of Italy. Apparently, the captain of the ship was steering the ship too close to the shore on one side, flashing the ship's fancy lights and tooting its horns for the amusement of the passengers and the people onshore, and subsequently hit a submerged rock on the other side, cutting a 160-foot gash in the side of the boat below the waterline.

What was he thinking?

Then he made the decision to leave the ship before many of the passengers, offering up the excuse that he would be better able to direct the evacuation from the shore, from a safer, more sturdy and well-lit location, being that there was no longer electricity on the ship.

What was he thinking? Isn't it his responsibility as captain to go down with the ship, if necessary?

In our discussion yesterday, we were informed that there is no legal requirement that captains go down with their ships, but we agreed that the moral, ethical, responsible thing for the commanding officer to do is remain on board until every attempt has been made to rescue all the passengers and crew. Anything less is cowardly, and all the ridicule and punishment that the captain must now face, he deserves.

The question kept coming up: what was he thinking?

As the conversation wound down to its conclusion, my thoughts took a u-turn, a "you turn."

What are you thinking, Gail, everytime you toot your own horn and flash your own lights? What am I thinking when I tell stories of my high school and collegiate "glory days"? I can hear myself now: I was such a good runner that... I was such a great speaker that... I was such a notable leader on campus that... I was such an inspiring teacher that... I was such a wise mother that...

The truth is that while all those good things were happening up on deck, I was cutting quite a few gashes below the waterline of my own life. I lied. I cheated. I stole. I coveted. I covered up. I lived a lie. I denied my wrongdoings. I pointed out the minor infractions in the lives of people around me and tried desperately to ignore the rule-breaking, heart-shattering life I was living. I found it easy to point out the ways in which other people seemed to be abandoning the wrecks and ruins they were creating in their own lives while hoping that no one would notice the frantic bailing of water I was doing in mine.

What are you thinking, Gail, everytime you pretend that your life is all gratitude, all joy, all peace all the time, when there are leaks, blown fuses, clogged pipes, settling cracks, and stained carpets in every room of your soul's home? What are you thinking, Gail, everytime you open up a clean page in your journal and lay out yet another escape plan from your life? How many rules are you still breaking, Gail? How many lies are you telling to cover up earlier lies? How are you any better than that captain in terms of cowardice and escapism?

What am I thinking?

Right now, I'm thinking that the story of this shipwreck that is my life is tragic and beautiful, full and empty, joy-filled and tear-stained. It is plagued with pride, deceit, and weakness. But it is also streaked through with laughter, love, and forgiveness.

Right now, I'm thinking that for every betrayal I have perpetrated, for every lie I have told, for every wild goose I have chased, for every sabbath I have not kept, for every idol I have builty up and then bowed down to, for every neighbor's ass I have coveted, grace has covered my sin with still more grace. For every light I have flashed, for every horn I have tooted, for every hole I have cut into the ship of my life, mercy has been multiplied on my behalf. For every time I have abandoned ship under false pretenses, shrouded in weak excuses, I am welcomed to shore. I am welcomed home. I am forgiven. I am unworthy. I am grateful.

When I think about the true story of my life, the stories I will never tell here on the blog, the stories I will never tell anyone ever, when I think about God and how much I have come to believe that God loves me, that like the father in the story of the prodigal son, God keeps running out to greet me everytime I drag my filthy, stinky self back home, when I think about the fact that God knows everything about me and still welcomes me home, I am left with only one question:

What is God thinking?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Water, water everywhere

Go get yourself a glass of water.
Go ahead. I'll wait.

Look at the water.
Taste it.

 Dip your fingers into it. Get your hands wet. Put some on your face and in your hair.
But don't get any on your computer...

What is water? Hydrogen and oxygen molecules combined miraculously to create vapor, liquid, and ice. It is the most important thing in the world - all life forms depend on water in some way. All animals and plants would die without it.

I'm not sure there are many things that fascinate me more than water does. It falls from the sky. It drips from the faucet when I want to fill the kettle, cascades from the showerhead when I want to get the sweat and dirt off my weary body, and bursts forth from the spigot outside the house when I want to wash the minivan.

I stare at it, bathe in it, cook with it, get annoyed with it when it falls on days when I'd like to be outside, but love when it falls on days that I'd like to spend inside reading and drinking tea. I heat it up, pour it out, swim in it, drive over it, clean with it, but somehow never manage to drink enough of it.

Water is truly an amazing thing.
Today, tonight, I am especially grateful for water.


Since writing this post more than three hours ago, I've washed dishes, played with watercolor paints, and sucked down more than sixteen ounces of this life-sustaining nectar.

Ask the current and former residents of New Orleans or Aceh or any of the coastal towns, villages and cities of Japan what water can do and how much water can destroy. Ask the current and former residents of the countries of Australian, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and even these United States what the lack of water can do to crops, rivers, and entire ways of life. Ask anyone whose water supply is powered by electricity how helpless they feel during power outages. Ask someone whose house is in flames whether or not having a fire hydrant on the block is a necessity or a nuisance.

Water can wash sand off our feet and wash pollution up onto the beach. Water can wash over us and wash us away. Water can cascade gently over a delicate water feature in a hotel lobby and crash through the wall of a beachfront home. Water can drip annoyingly from a leaky kitchen faucet and roar ferociously over the waterfalls of Iguazu.

Before going to bed tonight, I plan to slowly drink one more glass of cold water
and give thanks for every sweet swallow.
Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What's the worst thing that has happened to you?

Odd question, I know. But think about it for a moment - what is the worst thing that has happened to you?

Here are a few of the worst things that have happened to me -

* I was hit by a car when I was about six years old. I ran across the street without looking both ways and was struck by a car. My mother was on the other side of the street and saw it happen.

* Soon thereafter, I was bitten by a dog. I was out riding my bike with my brothers and a dog at a local gas station broke the chain that was holding it and bit me on my right butt cheek. Ouch.

* I hit my head on a cement block one summer when I was at camp. I was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion. I spent two days in the hospital.

* I seriously contemplated suicide after breaking up with someone who meant the world to me. My despair was so deep that I carried a bottle of aspirin with me 24 hours per day for a week or two, so that I'd be ready if "the right moment" presented itself.

* My father passed away in 2001.

* In 2008, my daughter was diagnosed with an illness that she will deal with for the rest of her life.

There are certainly a few other things that are a little too personal to write in such a public place.
But this short list will suffice for the moment.

What I have learned as the years of my life have passed is that every single one of my worst moments has served as a means through which I can help someone who is facing a similar challenge.

The lessons I learned while sitting with my father during his last weeks, days, and hours have helped me to listen, to offer comfort, and to be quietly and persistently present when people I know go through the loss of their parents and other loved ones.

The time I spent crouched on my bed in the middle of the night during my sophmore year in college, crying into my pillow, clutching that bottle of aspirin has helped me to comfort other people when they are feeling the agony of abandonment and wallowing through the deep waters of shame.

My daughter's battle with her illness is helping me support another mother whose son has received the same diagnosis. I'm encouraging her to cry, to journal, to mourn the loss of her old life, and to gradually move into a place of accepting the new constellation of their family and the new ways in which they must live their lives. Mostly, I'm listening to her story, reading her words, and encouraging her to feel everything she's feeling, say what she needs to say, and not feel guilty for any part of this painful process.

Don't get me wrong; I wish I hadn't suffered through any of these terrible times. At one point when my daughter was in the hospital back in 2008, my husband told one of the doctors that he was grateful for the compassionate and competent care she was receiving. One part of me agreed with him - I too was grateful that she was being taken care of so well, but most of me wished I had never met any of those people. I wished that she had never gotten sick and that we had never had to darken the door of any hospital, ever. I wish my father hadn't been diagnosed with lung cancer. I wish there could have been an easier and gentler way for that guy to have released me from our relationship - other than me seeing him with someone else and knowing that it was more than just two friends hanging out together. I wish none of that had happened to me.

But if we must suffer, and it seems that we all must suffer at some point in our wild, precious, and short lives, we should do so with the expectation that these lessons, these tears, these sorrows, these heartbreaks will make us more compassionate, less judgmental, more honest, less selfish people.

Someone once said something like: Treat everyone you meet with tenderness, for everyone is fighting a great battle.

We've all got something.
We've all suffered deeply.
We all continue to suffer.

May we all be willing and able to convert our worst moments, the worst things that happen to us, into places from which we reach out in service and compassion, with both sympathy and empathy, offering the priceless gift of our attentive presence to everyone around us, because we are all either in the midst of or looking back at one of the worst things that has ever happened to us.

The Apostle Paul wrote it this way: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thankful Thursday

A comment added to this post on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. earlier today reminded me that although we may forget many of the details, the stories, and the moments of our lives, other people do not forget. In honor of Coach D, my son's former basketball coach, I am going to focus my gratitude on people and events from my more distant past. There are far too many to list here, so I will limit myself to 19, because today is the 19th of January.

1. Coach D himself. Thank you for your love for our sweet boy way back when you coached him and for your ongoing interest in him, even though you now live in Texas. Daniel still smiles whenever he talks about you and the team you coached him on.

2. baseball tournaments (I am sooooooo glad that these sunburnt weekend marathons are indeed part of our past... not that it's much cooler on tennis weekends...)

3. watching my little fella sleep soundly in the car. He was ten years old when this photo was taken, but doesn't he look four??? He is truly a sleeping beauty - and always has been. (I took another photo of him asleep in the minivan today. He asked me to delete it from my camera. I didn't oblige him, but I will honor his intentions by not posting it here.)

4. her love of all things natural and all things photogenic

 5. her company on the day I got my first and only crown - and no, it wasn't the kind of crown that is awarded at Moms and Tiaras beauty pageants...

6. the Suburban Women's Writing Group - three of the most thoughtful, funny, generous, hospitable, gifted, open-hearted, adventurous women I have ever been associated with. I miss you all more than you can imagine.

7. Jorge, my Spanish boyfriend back in 1986, who introduced me to Madrid and welcomed me "home"

8. the way his wife, Elena, and their daughter, Irene, welcomed me into their precious family back in 2009 and met up with me again in 2011

9. the kind of love that doesn't end because the two people involved marry other people

10. Lisa, Lisa, Lisa!

11. Chris Woodman, my English teacher during my senior year in high school. He invited me to his wedding that year and three years later to his wife's family home near the beach in Normandy, France. I wish they had warned me about the face that it was a nude beach.

12. the fact that I was both modest and confident enough to keep on my one piece bathing suit even though nearly everyone else was in the buff. Looking back now, I wish I'd been bold enough to let it all hang out - back then when nothing was actually hanging...

13. my Spanish mamá, Marta, and this blonde-haired bombshell of a boy, her grandson, who is now a proud older brother. (Mamá, te amo mucho y estoy orando por ti y tu salud. Te echo de menos muchísimo. Te mando dos besos y un abrazo muy fuerte. Cuídate bien.)

16. the beauty of the children in Nicaragua, their hugs, their smiles, their boundless energy, their limitless joy

17. Karen Hughes, the woman who welcomed us into her home that first Thanksgiving that we spent here in Charlotte. She wouldn't tell me why she kept insisting that we come over, but when we arrived at her home and her husband answered the door, I knew why - like us, they are an interracial couple. Or rather, they were. She has since passed from glory to glory.

18. Her gorgeous daughters, Anya and Bekah, who come visit us whenever they are back in Charlotte from their various new life locations.

19. the fact that cameras, computers, hard drives, and journal pages preserve these and so many other life-changing, heart-opening, world-uniting, precious and priceless memories.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Back in 1983, I wrote my first letter to you thanking you for how the legacy of your life made my attendance at Poly Prep Country Day School possible. An all-boys, all-white school in Brooklyn, New York, opened its doors to girls in 1977, and I joined that first incoming group of girls. In the spring of 1983, I was the first black girl to graduate from that amazing school "way down on the heights called Dyker." As a result of writing that letter, memorizing it, and reciting it in front of the student body, I was awarded a gold medal in Poly's annual Bearns Speaking Contest for extemporaneous speech.

 The courtyard at Poly

Six years later, I returned to Poly, Dr. King, as a teacher and college counselor. Soon thereafter, I wrote another letter to you, telling you how much the school had changed in those few years: there were so many more students from so many more backgrounds, with names, languages, head coverings, and holiday celebrations that more closely resemble the reality of the city in which the school stands and the world in which we all lived. I stood at the podium in front of the student body one morning and read the original letter along with the one I had more recently penned. As I read the two letters, I wept, but  then again I cry fairly easily. Upon completing the readings, I looked up and through the veil of tears, I watched the student body and faculty rise to their feet and applaud. Together, we were living out another manifestation of your dream.

The stage from which my letters were recited and read

When I returned to Poly for my 20 year reunion, I wrote you a third letter and read it to the alumni gathered in the chapel that day. Poly, with all its faults and deep divides, is a place where students of all religions, races, and backgrounds are still welcome. I remain grateful to this day for the six years I spent there on campus in the shadow of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The Poly path felt wide on that campus - wide enough for me to grow, to laugh, to run track, to play basketball, to meet my first serious boyfriend, and even to be suspended for drinking while not losing the respect of the faculty or other students. (Sorry, Mr. Jones, for ordering that beer on our choir trip to Washington, DC.)

Today, as we celebrate your birthday, Dr. King, I want you to know that your life, your death, and your legacy continue to cast a bright light into, over, around, and through every area of my life.

As I write this letter today, I sit at my desk in our beautiful home in Charlotte, North Carolina. My white husband is down the hall in his "man cave" watching the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. Our gorgeous, intelligent, fearless two children are in their bedrooms doing whatever they are doing, almost completely unaware of the price you paid so that this family in this home in this neighborhood in this city in this state in this region of this nation could even be possible.

Certainly, they know about the history of this country, especially the South in which we live. They know about sit-ins and marches and lynchings and Jim Crow laws, but thanks be to God and thanks be to your sacrifice, they don't know what it is to not be able to swim in public pools, to not sit at lunch counters and be served, to not be able to play tennis at certain clubs, to not be able to attend certain churches, colleges, or to not be able to see movies while sitting on the first floor of the theater. In fact, I'm not sure if my children have ever gone to a movie theater with a balcony. They have never been turned away from a hotel, a beach, an airport, a water fountain, a seat on a bus or train, or been denied service at a gas station because of the color of their skin or my skin or the combination that makes up our multi-shaded family.

After further investigation, I can report that our daughter, Kristiana, is applying henna to her hair and watching a movie on netflix. Our son, Daniel, is watching tennis on television. And I'm sitting here at my computer, weeping, thinking about your children. They lost you in the battle that made my life, the lives of my children, and our family's life possible. Their tragic loss led to so many tremendous victories.

My soul finds rest in God alone. But today, my soul finds extra comfort and a slightly wider sliver of rest in the knowledge that your life was not lived in vain. There are no words to express my gratitude. But I will use the customary ones offered at times like this - Thank you, Dr. King. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Happy birthday to you. 
Forever in your debt, Gail

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Twelve Things on the Twelfth

I'm grateful for so many things these days.
So many people.
So many blessings.
So many memories.
Today I will limit my list to 12 things.

I am grateful for:

1. curtains and blinds, especially the ones in the bathroom

2. the chair in the corner of my bedroom. this afternoon, I sat in it with a big book of painting techniques in my lap. I promptly fell asleep. Lovely nap.

3. that this kind of peace and quietude exist in my house - even when both teenagers are at home.

4. lentil soup with barley

5. yoga workouts with Rodney Yee

6. the sight of beautiful wine bottles, even when I know I will never try the wine

7. friends who call and tell me about the trials and tribulations of dog ownership. we talk, we laugh, we moan, and we wonder what the heck we were thinking. how was it that we didn't think parenting was enough to keep us busy and broke?

8. having all the ingredients for the aforementioned pot of lentil and barley soup at home - not needing to go to the supermarket for anything

9. discovering that my stash of art books and art supplies is more than sufficient for the art I'm creating these days

10. Tostitos stone ground white corn chips with a hint of lime

11. Kiss My Face Cold & Flu Soothing Foaming Bath and Shower Gel - the scent of that soap, the lather - I am very happy when I take a shower with it. And I don't even have a cold or the flu.

12. the sound of my daughter rustling around in the kitchen... what goodies will she create??? (During the time that it took the photos to upload, I went downstairs to see what was going on in the kitchen. My daughter, my magnificent child, HAD CLEANED THE KITCHEN! She put the remaining soup into containers that will go into the fridge, washed the soup pot, and emptied the dishwasher. Where did this child come from? I know not whence, but I thank the Good Lord on High that she was lent to me for these first eighteen years of her blessed and beautiful life.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Every little once in a while...

Every now and then, I am stunned by the beauty of a single moment, by the wonder of mid-afternoon sunshine, and by the harmony of concrete and steel and glass.

In a perfectly, extraordinarily ordinary moment, suddenly I am lost in a tangle of thoughts, imagining all the stories that had to be lived out and lived through in order for that intersection to be created. Beams, windows, cranes, forklifts, electricity, wiring, waterpipes, street lights, crosswalks, trees, curb cuts, and statues, that were either built or deposited there years ago. Buses, automobiles, drivers, pedestrians, police officers, homeless men and women, and me. In that split second, there we all were. Breathing, looking, listening, walking, driving, riding, planning, hoping, pleading, searching, wondering and wandering.

This life, these days, this moment - how often I ignore the magnificence of it.
Sometimes, though, the radiance is undeniable.
There is so much beauty.

I am profoundly grateful.
Thanks be to God.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Someone somewhere...

I read this piece two nights ago on this blog (language warning - she likes the drop word bombs that some of you may not want to read) and was reminded of a line of thought I've been nursing for a while.

Someone somewhere is -

sewing something lovely, something warm, something frivolous,

cooking something healthy, hearty, and delicious,

farming, plowing, harvesting,

milking a cow and laughing at a calf,

packaging up the fruit (or vegetables) of long labor,

stacking boxes, clothing, and food,

driving goods, people, and garbage,

pouring paint, milk, medications,

planning the next great electronic gadget, a sermon, or a meeting,

watching a screen of slow-moving blips - airplanes, heartbeats, and the floor numbers of an elevator,

studying to become a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, a teacher, and a great parent,

praying for peace, justice, and righteousness to reign,

reading words of hope, a love letter, and a last will and testament,

writing a thank you card, a "Dear Gail" letter, and an indecent proposal,

dreaming of a life without suffering, without abuse, grounded in love,

designing a new website, a new way of green living, a new curriculum,

organizing a messy guest room, an overstuffed closet, and an unruly filing cabinet,

ordering the pills you need to take, the spinach you love to eat, and the bolts necessary to fix the rickety bridge you are always nervous about driving over,

making phone calls of condolences, to relate good news, and to ask for forgiveness,

taking phone calls from a long lost child, a distant brother, and a frightened friend,

nursing a newborn baby, a woman in her final days of life, and a lonely teenaged daughter,

making a hearty pot of soup, an often-requested batch of chocolate chip cookies, and a mess in the kitchen,

chopping onions, shallots, and carrots,

cleaning a much-loved minivan, doggie paw prints off glass doors, and toothpaste splashes from the mirror,

rearranging books, children's clothing, and the broken pieces of a shattered heart,

shopping for groceries, warm socks, and a well-worded compliment,

dispatching firefighters, police officers, ambulances, and hugs,

making sure the internet, the phone lines, electricity, and water all keep flowing,

boxing up pots and pans, sporting equipment, and resentment,

unpacking a shipment of produce in the supermarket, a load of Tom's shoes in a small village just outside of a large city, and long-buried dreams.

Somebody somewhere is doing something that will make your life and my life run smoothly.
Somebody somewhere is picking a tea leaf that will show up in my tea cup.
Somebody somewhere is overseeing the canning of my favorite black beans.
Somebody somewhere is wondering when their sick child will be well again.
Somebody somewhere is hoping that the job will finally come through.
Somebody somewhere is pleading for another chance to make amends.

Someone somewhere is thinking about you, about me,
missing you, hoping that all is well in your world,
wishing you well, saying a prayer for your health and safety,
lighting a candle or a stick of incense, smiling, remembering,
writing a note, a card, a text, a blog - and thinking of you.

You are somebody somewhere.
What are you doing for somebody somewhere else?
What do you need to say to that somebody somewhere else?
What are you waiting for?

(Just because I don't want to confuse anybody, I am adding this addendum - I'm not sure why the date on this blog is Thursday, January 5, 2012. I began to write it that day but I'm posting it on Saturday, January 7th at 1:25 pm.)

Thankful Thursday

Today, I'm thankful for -

* the feather I found in our frontyard while walking Maya this morning. the last time I found a feather was on the final morning of my silent retreat at The Jesuit Center back in July. Feathers make me think of birds, nests, flight, and the movement of the spirit of God, often depicted as a dove.

* a successful and informative first visit to a new internist this morning. I hadn't had a check-up in years, a non-OB-GYN check up, that is. I like her. Her assistant, not so much. But she seems like a good doctor.

* several deep, meaningful, and challenging discussions with my children over the past few days. Setting goals. Choosing dreams to pursue. Who they are and who they might grow up to be. Love, patience, grace, and how they are surrounded by these and many more gifts of God. Reminding them that, no matter what path they choose, no matter where they end up, we will love them and be here for them and with them. Having them listen, smile, and invite me closer for hugs and more conversation.

* I went to the library to pick up a book I've been waiting for since late November, The Warmth of Other Suns, and while strolling around the stacks near the checkout, I found a book that a dear friend recommended to me just a couple of day ago, The Resolution for Women. I almost bought it on Amazon.com - then I remembered that this is my year of not shopping. I was glad that I found it at the library!

* Five days of success in not shopping. As I mentioned, I am hoping to get through 2012 without buying any new clothes, shoes, journals, pens, art supplies, or books. The only foreseeable problem with that decision (other than the daily temptation to buy stuff) is that I'm taking a watercolor painting class starting in early February and may need to buy supplies for that class. Otherwise, I'm going to be using what I have this year - and like most of the people I know, I've got a lot of stuff in my closet, in my drawers, on my shelves, in our art and crafts boxes, on my nightstand, and many other places in my house. I did this "no shopping for a year" thing once before, and loved not only how resourceful I became in doing what I needed to do with what I had, but also the realization of just how much I did have and how little I needed to purchase. I am looking forward to more of the same this time around. 

* An unexpected five hours of quietude and solitude in my house. Tennis, the movies, and paid employment distracted the other three people who live in my house. So I walked the dog, cooked dinner, listened to prayers online, journaled, did laundry, sat, stared out the window, and I baked a pan of gingerbread...

* Gingerbread for a private party with Patti Digh and a few hundred of her closest friends. It's a new year's, new life, new dreams party - online. I need a cupcake (I don't like cupcakes, but I do like gingerbread), a candle, a match, my journal, and a fistful of pens. It starts soon... so I've gotta end all this gratitude stuff and get ready in a minute.

What are you grateful for today?
Do share a few things.
I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Perfect Picture

Some people say that the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is a tough week. Just after the busyness of all the Christmas preparations, the kids aren't in school, a lot of people (in the banking industry anyway) are off from work, folks are sleeping in, shopping, watching football. All that time together can be tough on the nerves and the house starts to feel smaller than usual.

For me, the tougher week is this week: The week after the new year begins but before homeschooling and college start up again. I'm on call for chauffer duty from 9 am until 9 pm or so. Meals to cook. Laundry to do. But the main work of my life feels like it's on hold - even though sometimes I'm not entirely clear on what the main work of my life actually is anymore... I'm reading a fair amount. Writing some. Sleeping later than usual. Exercising enough to stay warm but not enough to prepare for any races or competitions - not that I ever enter races or compete in any athletic endeavors. Ever.

Today, I dropped my daughter off at her college campus around 11:30 am to meet up with a friend. From there, Daniel and I went to our favorite Wednesday noon church service but had to leave in a hurry when it was over so I could drop him off at his tennis coach's house. The coach and three players were going to set their goals for the year. Not just for the year, but for college and beyond. Draw up maps and plans and schedules for how to get from junior tennis in Charlotte to the US Open and beyond. Great stuff.

The plan was for them to work at the coach's house for an hour, then they would go to the courts, practice for two hours, and I would pick Daniel up at 4 - his usual pick-up time on Wednesdays. So I left him at Ben's, drove home, had a snack, drank a cup of tea, watched part of a movie, Crazy Heart, and then drove to the tennis courts to get my boy. No sign of Ben or the boys. Uh-oh. Called Daniel - "Oh, we're still at Ben's. He's gonna bring me home later." "Why didn't anyone call me and let me know?" "Oh, sorry."

Then Kristiana texted me and told me she and her friends were gonna have Nerf Wars at their church. Fun will be had by all. But she didn't have her Nerf Gun with her, so I drove to a local gas station and waited for her friend to show up so I could give him the gun to take to her. Fortunately, he will give her a ride home later.

Deep sighs. That was my life today. Drive here. Drive there. Sit. Wait.
Drive back home. Watch a movie in three pieces. Talk. Listen. Drive some more.

It might sound like I'm complaining.
And I guess I am complaining a little.
But this IS my life.
Wanna see the perfect picture of how I feel about my life today?
Are you ready?

Happy. Shaky. Confused. Present. A little bit out of control. But okay with that.
Looking straight at whatever is coming my way. Ready to face it all... I think.

This is how I looked just after midnight a few nights ago - Happy new year to one and all.
Gotta love a good glass of ice wine to toast in the new year.

(Don't you love all my party bling??? My husband is the KING of Party City shopping! Need a party planned, shopped for, decorated, and carried off without a hitch or a glitch? He's your man.)

Sunday, January 01, 2012


During the past few months, I have become obsessed with nests. Birds' nests. Especially little ones. When I go out for walks, I take lots of photos of nests. It must drive my beloved Kristiana crazy that every few minutes I stop and stare at a nest, then pull out my camera and try to capture the fragility, the beauty, the precariousness of those remarkable feats of architecture.

that might be a squirrel's nest
how high is that???

During these months when the leaves are gone from the trees, nests are more visible. I'm amazed at how small some of them are, how impossibly located on impossibly thin branches at impossible angles. And yet, despite all the impossibilities, there they are. Nests. In trees that have lost all their leaves. In trees that have lost many of their branches in windstorms and thunderstorms. There they are. There they remain.

what is that nest connected to?

How do birds do it? Who teaches them how to make nests?
How do they build nests that don't fall out of the trees?

the nest of a brave bird

Sure, sometimes they fall. But aren't we all amazed and saddened when we come across a nest sitting on the ground, turned upside down? Instinctively we know that nests don't belong on the ground. They belong in the trees.

 hovering over the sidewalk next to a busy Charlotte street

two views of the same nest

How do nests withstand storms, wind, and the ravaging of squirrels? Roofs fly off, but nests remain.

the upside down bird's nest on the front door of someone I know
I'm feeling a little like that bird this evening...

Anyway, after 37 straight days of blogging, 38 counting today, I'm gonna take a few days off to do some nesting of my own, to feather my soul's somewhat battered nest. I won't be gone long. Truthfully, I may be back tomorrow. But this much I know for sure: I won't be blogging everyday for the next 38 days. These aging fingers and this unquiet mind of mine need to rest for a while.

Have you ever stopped to pay attention to nests?
How is your nest?
To whom or what is it connected?
Who or what will keep it from falling during the next storm?