Monday, October 31, 2011

Thank You for Touching My Life

The other day I was privileged to participate in a two-day activity for our church youth group called Youth Conference.  Over the course of those days there were many activities, from physical to spiritual.

One of those activities involved a partner.  Everyone in the room partnered with someone else.  We stood facing each other, within about half an arms reach.  Then we followed instructions as led by the speaker.  The last instruction really got me.  "Look this person in the eye and imagine what you would say to them if this were the last time you were ever going to see them.  Tell them."

I was caught off guard by the emotion this evoked in me.  My partner was a lady from our neighborhood who has become a good friend of mine.  She has been supportive and understanding in a way most people aren't.  She truly cares about me and doesn't hide it.  She is genuine. 

And in that moment I truly thought about losing her.  My eyes welled up with tears.  I had difficulty speaking clearly.  And I thanked her for touching my life.  If we were never to see each other again, I would want her to know she made a difference.  And I am grateful.

I am grateful for many things.  I live in a time and place where most of life's basic hardships aren't a factor.  I have food, shelter, heat, money, a bed, clothes, electricity, clean running water, access to health care.  I have so many things that so many people in the world don't have.  And I am grateful for those things, even though I don't notice them most days.

But what I do notice are the people in my life.  I notice them every day.  I feel their impact every day.  They shape who I am.  They enrich my existence.  They are the whipped cream that makes my life sweeter.  They are the duct tape that keeps me together when I am falling apart.

I am incredibly blessed to have had so many wonderful people touch my life at one time or another.  And I am grateful for all of them.  For the ones who are still around and the ones who just passed through.

To all of you -- thank you for touching my life.  I am better for it.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Where Did the Color Go?

Sometimes life is bright and full of color.  Other times it gets dark.  Mostly shades of gray.

The color was there.  It was everywhere.  And then it started to fade.  So subtle.  Barely noticeable.  Until the color was gone.

And I am left wondering where it went.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

The Center of Attention

As a kid, I loved being the center of attention. Anything I could do to be in the spotlight, I did. Sing a song. Dance. Tell a joke. Do a cartwheel. Whatever.

Somewhere along the line, this desire waned. No longer did I enter a room loudly declaring my presence ("I'm here! The party can start now!"). I kind of stealthed in. Trying to find somewhere to sit or someone to talk to so that I didn't stand out. Trying not to be noticed.

How did this happen?

As children we come into this world with great energy and no fear. The world quickly puts a stop to that silly nonsense. Over time we learn that when we shine others sometimes try to squelch our glory. When we put ourselves out there in the public eye we open ourselves up to criticism and ridicule. We make our offering and it is sometimes rejected as inadequate. We learn that the cost of attention is sometimes too high -- it costs us a bit of our self-worth.

I no longer hide from the spotlight, but I usually don't seek it either.

So why do I blog?

I started blogging at a difficult time in my life, while I was in therapy. I found that writing things out helped clarify my thoughts and helped me process things. It helped me find truths I was hiding from myself. Writing works for me.

But choosing to publish my writings on a blog took a lot of pondering and soul searching. I just wasn't sure I wanted to put it all out there.

I tip-toed into blogging. I began writing without telling anyone. Then I told a couple of people. And I was surprised to find that others enjoyed my writing. Others found value and strength in the things I was learning and sharing. The things I wrote made people think and started conversations. To me, this increased the value of my writing.

Plus, it's fun to get nice comments.

My blogging has evolved. There are fewer therapy sessions but still plenty of philosophical ideas. There are more family stories. As I have moved through that painful time to a happier place, my blog has reflected this.

But I still don't use pictures.

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Today is my day to shine. I am the featured blogger on SITS (a wonderful blogging community that teaches, supports, and connects bloggers). If you are visiting me for the first time, welcome. I hope you feel comfortable here. Check out my About the Author and About the Mess pages -- they have pictures!

I usually stink at replying to comments, but for this day only I promise that if you leave a comment I will reply and/or visit your blog in return.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Celebrity Dinner

You know that question, "If you could have dinner with anyone (alive or dead) who would you choose?"  Have you ever answered that question?  The possibilities are incredible.

I've thought about this question many times.  I'm not really big on celebrities, so it probably wouldn't be one of them.  I do like deep thinkers.  I've thought about Mother Theresa, the Dali Lama, Einstein.  And Jesus.  Who wouldn't want to spend time with Jesus?

But none of these would be my choice.

My choice would be my grandma.  She was the greatest influence for good in my life.  She was the person who made me believe in myself.  She always made me feel important.  And loved.  And valued.

And I miss her.

At first I think I would want her to cook so that I could taste those moments of joy again.  Those dishes that no one else makes like she did.  That little bite of heaven.

Then I think I would want to cook for her, to repay her.  To show her that I was listening to the things she taught me.  To share something wonderful I discovered.

Eventually I realize it doesn't matter.  We wouldn't need to eat.  That really has nothing to do with the idea of this dinner.

We would be together.  We would talk.  I could tell her about all the difficult things in my life.  She could point out the ways they've helped me to grow.  I could tell her about all the wonderful things in my life.  She could help me recognize God's hand in them.

And I would listen so much more.

So much of my life with her was while I was young and so self-centered.  I wish I'd allowed her to talk more.  I'm sad about the parts of her I don't know because I was worried about my own life.  My time spent with her was before I really knew how to slow down and just be in that moment.

But even if I went on and on, she would radiate love.  She would be glad to be with me, too.  And when it was time to go she would tell me how much she loved me.  She would tell me to be good.  And as she hugged me she would give me those rapid, successive kisses on my cheek.

I want to be like her when I grow up.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

All Sorts of Trophies

I have recently been in the process of gutting my house.  Getting rid of the superfluous.  Ditching the things that don't matter but are taking up space in my home and my life.

Last week I focused on the living room. 

I know some people have big homes and the living room is kept nice and rarely used.  That's not us.  We live in a relatively small home, the living room is the first room you walk into when you enter the house, and it's where we live.  It's where we congregate.  It's where we hang out.

And, when I got sick, it started to stack up.

Every horizontal surface was covered with stuff.  Boxes of things were stacked in corners.  It was a dizzying array of our lives on full display for everyone who walked into the room.

Most of it was easy to deal with; it just took time.  Throw it away.  Put it away.  Anyone know what this is?

But there were other things that were tougher.  One category that I've struggled with is trophies.

In our living room there were 28 trophies, 33 medals, and 1commemorative pin.  None of them belonged to me.  Or my husband.  They are our children's.  They are for softball, baseball, basketball, soccer, wrestling, track, piano, band, choir, math, writing, and art.  And there are more in some of my kids' rooms.

There are just so many.  And they serve no purpose.  Or do they?

I asked my kids if they wanted to keep them.  They each said they did.  I told them they'd have to make room for them in their rooms.  They said they'd think about it.  I ended up putting them all in a box in storage.  Maybe after they've been out of sight for a while they will decide they don't need them.

And I asked myself why they are so desirable.

When I coached there were times we bought trophies for the kids.  They cost about four dollars each.  They usually have a solid base and incredibly cheap plastic moldings of some sort on top.  They also usually have a nameplate of some kind.  They are pretty, but whittled down to their basic materials they aren't really worth much.

They have value because of what they represent.  Trophies represent a victory, like the trophy of a hunt.  They say, "Look at this cool thing I did!"  And through this they say that at one time we were great, maybe the best.

And I think that's why we hold onto them.  We all have moments when we doubt our worth.  But we can look at these and see that there are (or were) things we are good at.

And there are all sorts of trophies.  I think that's often what the big, beautiful library is.  It shows that we read all those books.  That we conquered.  That we are of value.  Or the trophy wife which shows that a man was chosen as superior to other men.  Or the trophy car.  The trophy home.  The trophy title.

There are so many trophies in our lives.  Why do we want them?  Why do we keep them?  Isn't knowing that we won enough?

When my kids ask, "What do I get if I win?" and I say "bragging rights" or "the knowledge that you won" it doesn't always cut it.  The world seems to ask, "Why is it worth working hard if I don't have a prize to show for it?"

But I'm going to keep trying.  I'm going to keep teaching that even when the thing that marks the accomplishment is gone, the accomplishment isn't.  That doing great things is shown in the people we become, not a cheap piece of plastic.  That many friends and a life you can be proud of are the best trophy.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

We Gladly Feast on Those Who Would Subdue Us

It's here!  It's here!  I can't believe it; it's finally here!  It's the most magical time of year!  It's Octoboween!  Huzzah!

There aren't many things that get me truly excited, and I am usually very frugal in my use of exclamation points, but this is wonderful!

Octoboween is a tradition at our house, a time when we join together in our celebration of the macabre.  And it makes me incredibly happy.

The gist of Octoboween is that we watch a Halloween movie every day.  But there are so many great films to choose from that we frequently watch more than one.  This year I was so excited in anticipation that I started watching a few mid-September.

I wrote about this tradition last year.  As October approached and I felt inclined to write about it again, I started to ask myself why Halloween is my favorite time of the year.  Have you ever tried to explain why you like something?  It can be tough.  But I'll try.

There's the glory of the cooling weather and the changing leaves.  There's the fact that my grandmother's birthday is in October, and she was my favorite person in the whole world.  There's football.  But those things are just part of the spell.

To me, Halloween is a time to play.  It's a time to be mischievous, to be sneaky.  There is something about the ability to laugh at danger, and death, and things that are frightening that can make us feel powerful.  Plus, there is something fun about doing things that make others shake their heads and doubt our sanity.

I'm not a big decorator.  The only reason anything gets put up for Christmas is because my kids insist on it and do all the work.  I don't even do much for Halloween.  But there will be a few touches. 

There will be a big, black swath of fabric draped above my front porch.  There will be a stuffed, rubber rat the size of a large cat in my living room.  And my living room is already pumpkin orange, so the mood is kind of preset.

I'm not sure why the macabre is so fun for me.  It has been for as long as I can remember.  I grew up on Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent Price.  I grew up watching Thriller Theater every Saturday afternoon.  I grew up telling horror stories.  I grew up loving the strange and spooky.

I love scaring people and getting scared.  Not the startling "BOO!" kind when someone sneaks up on you.  I like the scaring that is like a beautiful dessert.  It takes time.  There is a recipe to it, many details.  And after preparing it slowly and lovingly and carefully, I savor it!

No, we don't eat people.  My title comes from Morticia Addams.  It's the Addams' family motto.  One that we have adopted for our own.  Don't worry.  We're just playing.

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