Monday, January 31, 2011

Random Thoughts about Moms

1.  Nora and I are getting ready to hunker down at the farm as the storm moves in.  We've got a gallon of milk.  The problem is that we baked about 36 snickerdoodles and 24 pumpkin muffins today (thanks to the Larry and Bob pumpkins we painted for Halloween), so I'm hoping the milk holds out.  It could end up like one of those "Got Milk" commercials.  If it gets too rough, I've got some half and half we could add a little water to.  Or, even better, we could just add a little coffee, and presto!  Breakfast of champion moms.

2.  Summertime.  Mom and I are watching my sister's four kids while she "runs" to the store (honestly, it's more of a slow sidle).  After an hour of running our rears off, we finally sit down, out of breath knowing that we've only got about another 30 seconds of this.  There is true pathos shared as our eyes meet and then one of us says, "I can't believe there was ever a show called Eight is Enough."

3.  She's eighteen and has to kill 8 hours in Aberdeen, South Dakota with her six month old baby while her husband finishes a gig because the band wants to move on after the show rather than crash at a hotel.  They go to a movie.  And then they go to a donut shop.  And then they sit behind the bar.  "Hey, there's a woman in that pickup," the men say.  "Oh, wait, she's got a baby."  And they turn away. "You were the one who kept me safe," she says to her "baby," grown now and protecting her own.

4.  Moms:  the right person for the job.  Babies:  Also the right person for the job.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Narrowfellow in the Grass

I wish I could adequately describe what a day in our house is like.  I'm aware of the two "slices of life" that interact here: Nora's voice bouncing through each word as she sorts through her stuffed animals.  "Oh, a raccoon."  Pause.  "Octopus."  Pause.  "Snake."

Snake?  What's a snake doing in her stuffed animals?  I'm in my bedroom folding laundry waiting for her to notice and jump on the pile, crawling into the warmth to hibernate until it diminishes one item at a time exposing her tiny curled shape beneath, each piece folded less carefully, I'm noticing, as I get older.  A few wrinkles don't bother me so much anymore.  And then...was I talking about the laundry or my face...?  Well, anyway...  I am learning, as I've said before, to abolish the concept of perfection from this house.

We each have projects we're working on:  we build an island out of couch cushions for the "furrberries" to live on.  We make a rainbow tree out of an old wrapping paper tube, taping balloons to the top and positioning it in the middle of the island.  Nora builds tracks around the house that lead to the island with all the pillows from the beds.  At the same time I am


Snake?  What's a snake doing in there?

Footnote:  This woman is not letting the sun set on her anger.  And that's all I'll say.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I was never good at math.

Like all of us, I am waiting for the something that must be said to arrive so I can pin it to the page, the moth driven to the light.   

I feel like the mirror in Rilke's "You Who Never Arrived":

the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled,
gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows?
perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening...

Whatever is just past me, whatever is not me, whatever is held in the mirror where I look in and see "mirror" rather than this...self.  And though the story is mine, it is not mine.  And though the book speaks to me, it is not I who speaks.  But this I do know:  The bird that sings in me, I also sing of it.

I am working through the equation--the one I am not smart enough to figure.  (Lean not on your own understanding...)

What portion of me belongs here in this world, working?  What portion belongs in rest?  What portion yearns for something here, from this life?  And what will be left of it after I cross over? 

I have tuned my ear for some song that has yet to be made in me.  Your servant is listening.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Today Brings:

1.  Two fruits of the spirit:  patience and kindness, both of which make it possible for every mother in America to get her children to school in the morning.

2.  Nora's school:  I love St. Paul's Lutheran and what Nora is learning there.  Staring out the windows of the front door at her school as I waited for her to get out of class, I thought of all the other schools settled in the middle of corn fields, the sound of children learning to add...

3.  An all orange lunch with Nora and Teagan:  It wasn't on purpose.  On the table:  mac n' cheese, tangerines, carrots, pumpkin muffins and corn (okay, corn is yellow, but close enough).  Orange is my favorite color.  Subconsciously, I must have been trying to let Teagan and Nora know how much I love them.

4.  Date night with Mom and Mike:  I have to tell you folks, I'm not sure the last time I went "out"--like, as an adult.  Chinese food.  True Grit (at the movie theatre!)  And then they left me about 20 pounds of beef for the deep freeze.  They take such good care of me, and I love them.

5.  [           :                                                 ]

6.  "I'll be fine:  The author of my life watches over me, and I have a good horse."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Go Babies

Apparently Nora likes football.  I didn't know this until we were driving home from Grandma and Grandpa's, and she just blurted it out from the backseat, a sudden confession that she must have been turning around in her mind for some time--how can I tell her?: "You know Mommy,  I like football."

Wow.  Nora likes football.  This I did not know.  The Nora I know likes watching animated cats and talking ponies.  But football?  I never would have guessed.  Every mom, I think, has this epiphany:  this person who has been with me almost 24 hours out of every day is not me.  This is an entirely new and different person even though I think I've experienced everything she has experienced simply because I was there when it happened, too.  More than ever I am hearing this from her:  Give me some room.

And I hold the steering wheel in my hand (hoping I can finger-wave in time when the next truck passes) realizing that I'm not the only one with interests, with plans, with opinions in this car.  And if Nora could drive, where would she take us?

Apparently to a football game.

I tease her all the time, handing her the car keys when we walk outside.  "You mind driving today?"  She half smiles, looks up with a certain shy confidence.  "I can't drive, Mommy."  "Oh, it's not hard at all, Nora.  Just go that way really fast and when something gets in your way, turn.  It's just like life."  "Okay, but my legs are too short and I still don't think that is how you're supposed to drive."  "Sure it is.  Really.  Just go straight until you have to turn.  And we can tie some cans to your feet or something to reach the pedals.  Or we can just put a brick down there on the go pedal and you can be the one with the right of way."  She's actually considering doing it now.

We go and go and go, and like her, I want the right of way.  I want to flail on the floor refusing to put on my socks and boots and coat with the too long sleeves that frustrate me and the hat that chokes under my chin.  "I just want to stay home!"

And still...the world invites...and everywhere we go there is love hidden in the crevices, some laughter, some fellowship.  And sometimes, just a gallon of milk.

Tonight:  I am praying to learn how to let her grow beyond me, beyond my protection and plans, into her own football loving person.  I'm not the One who made her, after all.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Country Alien, City Alien

Nora and I are at Mom's tonight, and as "we" were falling asleep, Nora says, "I like Grandma's house the best."  "Oh, better than your house?" I ask.  "Yeah, Grandma's house makes noise."  Just then the train whistles, and the sound of Grandpa putting more wood in the fireplace downstairs thunks through the walls.  A car blows a horn.

At the farm, the air is glass, the house mute.  You can almost (did I imagine?) hear the train a mile down calling for an ear to cup its wail, acknowledge its trail.  When the snow coats the ground, to look out the window, you might mistakenly think you are the only person on some new planet.  Terrifying.  Liberating.  Quiet wonder of the curious human dropped in the middle of the blank field waiting for the stars to fall and punctuate her breath.

I like country life.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What I was thinking while reading seed catalogs:

"No way.  I'm not trying Brussel sprouts again.  What do I look like?  A grasshopper restaurant?"

"Ooooo.  Square tomato cages.  150% more growing room.  I wonder what would happen if I climbed inside one of these babies for a few months..."

"Now THAT is one morbid looking flower."

"That Swiss chard I planted last year was gross.  They're right though:  It was easy to grow.  And really hard to kill."

"I love yellow pear tomatoes.  I just love them.  I love you, yellow pear tomatoes.  Did you hear me?"

"Soybean.  Corn.  Both of them are going in my garden this year.  And, you know what?   I'm going to do it without the use of a single tractor.  Take THAT, Nebraska!"

"Beets.  Yuck.  Who eats beets?  Do you eat beets?  Of course not."

"I loved how those lemon cucumbers tasted, but they cross-pollinated with my green cucumbers and turned them a really weird color and I really want to make some normal looking pickles this year.  What to do...what to do...Hey!  Maybe instead of a scarecrow in the garden, I could have a chaperone!"  

"I consider myself a pretty open-minded gardener, but I draw the line at blue potatoes.  I don't even think blue is edible."

"Have you ever noticed how these catalogs put little kids next to gigantic vegetables?  I wonder how little these kids really are.  Those pumpkins might actually only be 3 or 4 inches in diameter.  I'm just saying..."

"Rutabagas?  Do you get good gas mileage with those?"

"The names of these flowers sound like some of the first bands I was in:  Dancing Stars.  Snow Lady.  Primadonna Deep Rose.  Mammoth Russian."

"Buttercrunch lettuce?  Did you just put the words 'butter' and 'crunch' together?  Burpee, you are a genius."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Noah's Ark, a Tea Party, and Running Really Fast

What I learned:

1.  You can make all kinds of things out of all kinds of other things.  In other words, you always have everything you need.
2.  Tea (or coffee) with friends is a little bit of heaven in the middle of a lot of other stuff that you probably don't need to worry about.
3.  If you're going to need to run from one place to another as fast as you can, wear a headband.  Always.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Little Things (That aren't so little at all):

1.  Nora singing "Jesus Loves Me" at the top of her lungs while giving her stuffed animal dog Clover (thank you, Teagan) a bath.  A prayer for her to feel this love always.

2.  Grandma Aanonson's cowboy (err, cowgrandma) boots at the end of the hallway next to the rocking chair.  Oh, how I wish these beauties fit me...but I'm about 5 toes too big.  I'd be willing to trade 2 toes for these babies, but not 5.

3.   A new song, finger patterns like weaving and the sustain hums against my chest, capo'd on the 2nd fret.  That they are even called "frets."

4.  A call from Pastor and learning that dwarf apple trees will produce within 3-4 years after planting them. I don't know why I'm so excited about pruning those trees this year, but I am.  We've lost so many...

5.  Believing:  Someone will come to help you.

6.  Crying as Jacob and Esau met after so much betrayal, the kiss of mercy, the image of herd after herd of coming to Esau as a peace offering.  Take these goats.  And take these sheep.  These cattle, they too are yours.  Understanding that when we pray for help, the answer is often some sort of solution like the one Jacob came up with. Both brothers saying, "I can't accept your gifts.  I have enough."

7.  Realizing we are all just renters on earth.

8.  {                                                                                           }

9.  Ray LaMontagne's voice as he sings "Who are we?"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why I love reading Ann Voskamp's Blog

Only this:  That I am thinking of each of us as God's poems, that I am speaking of a spirit that must make, must touch, must express.

That I will try to do a better job of simply listening to the dream rather than thinking I have the breath to lift it.  That is His place, pneuma.

And I am reliving:  that when someone says, "I don't like it," we put it away and find something else to do, trying once again to please.  Hating the gift.  Doubting that we can make do.

SO:  I am not going to find something else to do.  (I was the one.  I was the one whispering in the corner, "I don't like it."  The voice of the liar.  And, listen here, liar:  I resist you.)

I don't just like it, I love it.  Completely.  Because it is a part of the poem that has only just been written in me by Him.  And what I love of myself is all that He has made.  The rest: vanity, fear, doubt.  Such lies.

This is a person making something, and this is a person resisting.  I stand there.

"Do not go gentle into that good night..."

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I hope it's okay to just appear for a second here to say this old gal is plum tuckered, so goodnight good friends.

Just knowing you folks are out there doing things that also make you tired is pretty reassuring to me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


"No one’s so important that several times a day, even for a few moments, she can’t become small, invisible, in prayer."

--Ann Voskamp

Putting it down here to remember, in the repetition, that I need this invisibility, feel truly safe there.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy Birthday

We spoke of the 'Secret Garden' today, that place we all go to that only we know of--and God.  Isn't He the one who built its walls, gave us the key, the one we're hoping will find us there?

Meet me in the alfalfa field when the moon enters and exits through velvet-lit clouds, some shy white eye.  I'll be the one wearing purple flowers and baling twine.

I am grown in the quiet hour "stolen" from sleep--the place entered secretly so far from the world but somehow still in the world, made for each of us, the gift (if we will receive it and even if we don't) of our very particular and good life, so good we could not afford to spend one cent of it at The Dream Store.  So particular that no pawn shop would know what to call it.

Tonight I receive (how I am beginning to see what is at stake when I refuse it):

the gift of such good work: mother, teacher, gardener, reader.  (The ones I wasn't shy to say out loud) and the others, those things I am that I could not speak yet to you about.  That I whisper to Him in the field.  ("If it's so deep, you don't think that you could speak about it...just wait and see.  Someone will come to help you.")

The blushing, rushing.   And I did speak about it.  I did.  Let me pass along those words that comfort, hold, heal.  The warm breath in a palm pressed against the wet face, chewing the orange twine that bound you:  erasing, recognizing.  Can't you see in all of this, I love you?

I have refused the gift before.  It's too ugly, too hard, too big, too tight, too boring.  I like what you gave someone else better.  But now, somehow, through the fellowship that does not fail, I am seeing it for what it really is and it is none of these things.   Of course, wouldn't the one who made me know exactly what to give me for my birthday, which occurs daily and even in the night in an hour that does not exist?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Beyond vulnerability is the gift received.

I want to receive each moment-- a gift.

This one.

This one.


A bit shy.  But willing.

A bit unsure.  But going to anyway.

Thank you, Dearest One.

Let me never say that I judged the gift, only that I took it with all my heart open and was made whole, filled with its goodness.  There is nothing I could ever need but what You give me.  Teach me how to receive it and what it is I should do with it, something that would please You.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where I Was Never Giving Up

If you look closely at my hands while they tie a shoe, hope will be there.

If you see me scraping the burnt meatloaf from the glass pan, you will see a little hope there, too.

The page and the pen I came to, there lies my hope, my love.

In the kiss, planted in passing across gold field of hair, hope.
The fact that all the socks in our drawers match: hope.

The seed catalogs, the balls of yarn, the basket of mending, the frozen tomatoes clicking like pool balls in the deep freeze, the books on my shelves I haven't read yet, the little notes I write to friends here and there, the deep breath I take before I enter the room, new packages of guitar strings, dirt in the pots, a broom that encounters every inch of the house again and again, the straw fingers of a domestic lover: hope.

The index cards filling with finds for our "basket of tricks" and the slips of paper in my Blessing Jar, the prayer written and taped beneath the kitchen table, under the bed mattress, that the laundry is done every Monday, the dishes at the end of the day, that it will take two years to read the Word in its entirety: hope.

Shoes paired and stacked on the rack in the closet, walk together in hope.

That the sunset then held me to the floor, but lifts me now.

And I can hear the crickets, in frozen January night dreaming of themselves in July.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

When Your Daughter Wants to Talk at Night

A part of new:
Letting go.

"I don't have friends in my wisdom yet," she says, a quiver in her voice.  (She is learning: slowly.  If only she knew how many friends are in her heart, could feel it.  This single child.  Tonight I rock her after warm milk and sing "Baby Mine" like I used to.  Sometimes we all need that.  Carry her to bed, hitting her long legs on the door frame.  She pretends not to feel it because she said she'd be asleep by the end of the song.  She isn't yet; I can see her eyes moving under the lids.  Oh, how this child has grown.)

To bring her a sister or brother.  A friend.  But this body's blood won't allow it.  This singleness.  (Letting go.)

"I wish I didn't have to grow up.  I wish I could still be a baby."
"You know, Nora, even when you grow up, you sometimes wish you could be little again."

"But, Nora, listen to this:  You will always be my baby.  Even when you are an old woman."

She giggles.  "Did you know you get little again when you get old?"

She doesn't know how wise she is.  Like most of us who aren't sure, who step hesitantly around the world's meanness.  "Nora, I have been mean before.  We all are sometimes."  Kind is stronger.  Love is stronger.  Always wins.  Fight with that, dear one.

God tells us to do two things, honey:  Love Him and love each other.  Just start there.  Maybe they were just having a bad day--a no good, terrible day.  That's when they need your love the most.

"Nora, listen to this, too:  You are my friend, and I am telling you this:  you DO know friend wisdom.  Because you are my friend and I love you."

Please, let these bed time talks continue long into the years when she needs love and guidance the most (all years)--let the bridge remain intact.  If we keep crossing it again and again, each day, it will remain.

"Promise me you'll always remember:
You're braver than you believe,
stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think."


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hungry for the beautiful things.

"It seems to me that we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive.  There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them."  -- George Eliot

The metal planter rusted below the apple tree near the broken wood planks that served as a "bridge" across the wider part of the irrigation ditch.  This was a sacred place that spoke of love and history, the hunger for the apple and the ear.  The blue house rested 3 acres down the hill, and I lived in it, under the ground in the bedroom in the corner.

"Is this going to be your bedroom then?" Grandpa asked.

"Yes, this one here," I said even though it was nothing more than a few rebar stakes marking where the concrete foundation would be poured.

"It's far away from the other rooms."  Pause.   "I like to be alone, too," he said.  And somehow, he seemed to turn into a hawk at that point in my memory, lifting himself from that dirt floor that would one day be "a room of my own" and he flew above me, alone, watching, part of the air and the invisible hand that lifted him there.

The rain was coming down, so I put on the long, green army jacket I'd been hiding in lately.  The clunky wind chime I'd made in art class in one hand and Patches beside me with her skittish gate, head bowed from the past abuse she'd come away from.  (The Lord asks us not to punish or kill our animals with cruelty.  All things in that gentle hand, the one that understands what it means to end the life of something He created.)  And the rain came down through the fields, down through the leaves, darkening bark of trees.  June, and I was free from school, in my room and writing, reading, listening to music all day.  Now out in the rain that shiver patters through the leaves.  I hang the wind chime there, pick a tart green apple, and fly straight into the air, up through the rain that washes us.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's Funny Because It's True

Nora while filling our homemade bean bags with beans:  "Mommy?  Do you know why they call it a funnel?"  "No, why?"  "Because it's fun."

"Grandpa, do you know that we are neighbors on a farm and the farmer lives behind us but we don't go to his house?  We just send him letters."  (I guess Lynn lives in the grain bins out back.  Nora knows not to play around them, so we have to send him "letters" instead of visiting--the rent checks that I leave in his windshield wiper on the 1st.)

Nora explaining to Grandpa that I also wear boots but they are cowGIRL boots and he has cowBOY boots:  "Do you have a pair of cowgirl boots, Nora?"  "No, because I would need to get calfgirl boots.  I'm just little."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


You, blank screen, are a mystery tonight.  

 First day back teaching.  I didn't sleep much last night.  

Reading the night before:  "In nothing be anxious."   Why is this so hard for me, Lord?  Forgive me my doubt.  Let me know with my bones that you hold not only enough, but more than enough (the gooseberry bush with the overripe berries left over after picking and picking and picking.)   

I am willing (vulnerable enough) to release the terror grip around the locked heart of my mouth to receive the words I struggle to say to those I love so much.  Instead, let me hear THEM.  Those that speak around me, to me.

Give Me everything you have, and I will do the rest.

(old wounds resurface in front of others speaking in a group terror that I have overcome by asking Him to get me out of my way and I wrestle it down instead of letting it go mistaking its intentions relax and let it breathe a count down back to one: I believe and know you can do it.  The faith of a friend.)

I want to erase this post.  But I won't because it doesn't want to be perfect.  

Give me a spirit primed to receive all things as You will them.  Take this anxiety, deadly weed wound around the heart's mouth.  I am made of what I was willing to receive.  Let me never turn You away.

You're trying too hard...trying too hard.  It's not even up to you.  Give it up, sister.

Today was stunning.  More than I could have asked.  


Monday, January 10, 2011

A Snow Day with Nora

She immediately gets down on the ground and rolls without stopping over the top of the snow from the front steps to the orchard.

Snow angels with big wings.  Small wings.  One wing.  Pants.  Crazy hair.

We are penguins looking for icicles to eat.  (There's one in our freezer right now.)

"Look what I found!"  (Digging up her turtle sandbox as if she'd never seen it before.)  This new planet.

Cats egg-shell footed over the snow.  They hate this stuff.

Hot chocolate.  Blanket warmed in the dryer.  Barbies.  Listening to her voice all day throughout the house, talking, singing, jumping, rolling.  Completely wild with loving life.  Making a complete mess while baking (and me trying to "keep it in the bowl.")  "I'm covered in this stuff!" she says, obviously delighted.

This is joy.  

Then later, her laughter turning to tears, to laughter again.  "I can't figure out what I'm feeling, so I got mixed up with my tears."  I'm holding her because I know this place: 

But it's hard to write it.  The edge.  I don't know what I'm thinking exactly, only that joy requires a loss of control, demands that vulnerability I've been thinking about and trying to live within.  I live with a teacher.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

White, Frozen Fields

At last:  the snow.

And what more could we ask, those of us starting out on some new page (each day), excited or scared or both?  Pure potential.

Whatever my fear or my thrill, I ask that You walk in me, placing my feet across the expanse, one movement conveying the next.  A(t) pea(ie)ce of(in) You.  Let me be that vehicle, the medium, the gesture.

Let me not fear my vulnerability but rather see it as the space made for love to enter and exit, no matter if it breaks the field in two.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

That's Just Women's Work

Did I get your attention?

A small, simple 90-page book has found its way into my home, and I've gladly made a space for it on my bedside table.  It goes by the name of The Quotidian Mysteries:  Laundry, Liturgy, and Women's Work by Kathleen Norris.

Here's a small sample.  You'll see why I love it.

"God's attention is indeed fixed on the little things.  But this is not because God is a great Cosmic Cop, eager to catch us in minor transgressions, but simply because God loves us--loves us so much that the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life.  It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is "renewed in the morning" (Ps 90:5), or to put it in more personal and theological terms, "our inner nature is being renewed every day" (2 Cor 4:16)."

Bring me to my knees so I might wash the floor in that presence.

I actually love the rhythm, the movement, and pace of this work--I have a dishwasher, but I don't use it.  I'll trade the mop for a bucket and rag.  I love snapping beans.  Crochet.  The small, simple signs that say I was here, and it was full of peace.  Slowness.  A job, a seemingly small, unpaid job done well--that my whole soul was a part of it, in fact that it felt calmed pulling one apricot after another from the branch.

To grow, to mother, to cook, to sing, to sew, to stitch one note, one word after another--it's so simple.  And I get it.  I really get it.  I was made for this.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Day that Did Not Happen

Nothing I had originally planned and scheduled happened today.  Nora was too nervous about going back to school, so we worked through that this morning.  Her doctor's appointment was postponed, and the parenting class I drove out of town to attend tonight was actually on a different night.  I caught myself humming that Easton Corbin tune "Roll With It" as I got into the car and then it came on the radio, but I was still in a terrible mood despite how I knew God was winking at me.  It's not that often that everything doesn't happen.  And it's not that often that I let a whole day go by without getting something "done."  Today was that day.  And I have been doing my best trying to be all right with this plan that was not mine because if there is one thing that today is telling me, it is this:

My days do not belong to me and the concept that I am in control of them is an egotistical illusion.  Having a calendar with plans written into them does not mean that this is what will happen.

To put it bluntly:  I am an uptight, "To Do" list addict, and God was reminding me that I'm missing the whole point entirely.  I am grateful for this kick in the (highwater) pants.

So, here are the gifts of the day that did not happen:

-Spending the evening at Mom's working on our Christmas puzzle.
-Eating with Nora, Mom, and Mike when I was just planning on skipping supper.
-The church in Geneva I visited for "no reason" had a giant painting of a tree with the word "ALIVE" written under it.  There was also a poster that said something about women being fully present as themselves in the love of Christ.  (I know he can love a heart like mine.)
-Knowing that when I pray for more of His truth to be revealed to me, He always follows through.
-The coffee and driving and space of the fields and sky as I drove toward the place I never went to.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How I overcame my fear of eating alone at a restaurant

This seems like a good title for a post, but now I can't think of anything to say about it.  Somewhere down the line, I finally overcame my fear of eating alone at a restaurant.  How?  I was hungry.  I was alone.  It just sort of came together.

I ate alone at Runza tonight (with reading material--you have to look busy.)  Have you noticed that many restaurants have started to incorporate the single-seating area?   You'll find a long table, usually slightly elevated, that faces toward the window, so all the lonely diners can stare wistfully into the wide world while consuming the sad calories of their solitary meal.  It's almost as if facing toward the people eating together would simply be too painful.  I suppose it works on some level.  The restaurant looks busy.  Plus it would just be awkward to put all of us in the middle of the dining area peering like anti-social vultures over the tables of families fighting over the last mozzarella stick or young couples sharing shakes and cooties.

But seriously, eating alone isn't bad at all.  Really.  When was the last time you went on a date and agreed with everything your companion said?  How often do you get to eat ALL the chips and salsa?

(While this post might seem comical, it actually points toward this process I'm in the middle of--the process of feeling good in my skin no matter the circumstances.  Tomorrow's post:  How I overcame my fear of clowns, bandaid adhesive, and highwater pants.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

That's the Power of Love

Nora's 4 year check-up was today.

"And did you know? I love you." Nora's doctor stopped there leaning over slightly in her rolling chair, looking at her patient, hands frozen in place. We were suddenly so present, pulled into the actuality of the situation by the girl I live with and love. "I love you, too, Nora." And I knew Dr. R did. And they hugged. And when they finished, Nora looked at Dr. R and hugged her again.

My mom was there, and she was crying. Written on the wall were the words:

Believe in Miracles. How often do the walls speak so literally?

The small, sterile room became sacred suddenly; it exhaled a breath, invited warmth, something human, something divine. And I was learning something: that I wish we said "I love you" more often, not just to our family or our friends but to all our neighbors. I mean, why not? My girl has hutzpah, the kind that loves the world without the fear of rejection. This is what it means to love with abandon. "What? You can't handle this love? Too bad! I just gave it to you! You don't scare me! I love you!"

What do you think would happen? We exit the bus: "Thanks! I love you!"

We turn down the telemarketer, "Not today, but I love you!"

The janitor standing stunned in the hallway, the mop stuck to the shock of it: "I love you. A lot."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

He was not waving but drowning.

1.  Kirk walks out of the shop door and waves, the way he always does, head bowed so his hand reaches that much higher above his head--a humble acknowledgment that his relationship with people is more important than his own recognition.  "Nice weather!"  For this man who spends 75% of his time outdoors, the statement reflects more than a simple platitude.   Last winter was tough out here.  Even Kirk with his usual thin, upright stride started to wilt a bit under the lack of sun, the pounds and pounds of snow.  "Yeah.  It's great weather.  I should have come outside earlier," I say while lifting Nora into the back of the car as she yells, "A happy new year to you!"  A good winter.  A new year.  They deserve mention.

2.  We run into Teagan, her unmistakable smile, dark glasses--wedding preparations filling her heart.  We joke about simply providing each of the wedding guests with a single spork that they have to hang onto for the entire day.  "Don't lose this.  I'm serious."  She waves to Nora as she gets into the car.  Nora turns and swipes her arm back and forth, clearing a path between her and her tall friend, "Bye, Teagan!"

3.  I would venture that 88% of the people who drive trucks around here have "steering wheel" waved at me, the single finger lifted slightly from the one hand perched like a five-fingered bird on top of the wheel.    I usually feel like I'm playing "Wack-a-mole" when this happens, lifting my own finger from the steering wheel 2 seconds too late.  He's gone.  And he thinks I'm a jerk.

4.  I'm particularly fond of waves with sound effects:  the old index finger to the forehead with a wink and a "click" sound, like you make when you're calling a horse.  I like that.

5.  Breaking the waves.   When we wave at each other, we acknowledge our usual boundary and burst through it as from the surface of the water.  Your presence brought me out of myself, and I lift my hand to acknowledge you and this lifting that frees me from myself.  And I'm glad to see you.  So glad to see you.

Your turn.  Tell me your waving stories.  I'm listening.  And waving.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Making Mountains out of Mountains

Where we were raised, what we see and know of our time and our place, all of it was chosen so our hearts and hands might bear a particular terrain and texture, one that would help us with our work and our love.  

 When at 16 I dreamed of moving far away from this place, living in Denver and wearing the city lights like some proud and civilized diamond necklace, I was here between two small mountain towns:  Silt and Rifle.  It took so long for me to understand that mountains make for strong, silent souls and a diamond necklace is just a few rocks on a string, not much good for anything.  I love these mountains.

 These are the bookcliffs that surround Rifle and lead to the valleys of Palisade and Fruita (you've probably eaten a peach from there.)
 All the wild horses...
 The walls of Glenwood Canyon carved out by the Colorado River.
 There have been a lot of fires in the area--they leave the mountains bare but for the stubble of tree stumps along the bald face.
 I don't know how many times I've been down this road.  You'd think you'd get used to the scenery, but you never do.
 The Colorado River passing through Rifle.
 My first job was here at the Rusty Cannon as a maid.
 This is Burning Mountain.  There was a big mine fire that left this scar where the mountain still burns.

The hogbacks in Silt where I grew up.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

When in doubt, quote Mother Teresa.

Today while reading and driving home from Colorado, I "ran into" this and thought it useful in terms of yesterday's ramblings about being good at something.  (Don't worry--I wasn't actually driving, though this quote did drive a lot home for me--uh...yeah.  I'll stop now.)

"How can you know when the Lord is calling you into some vocation?...You can know by the happiness you feel.  If you are glad at the thought that God may be calling you to serve Him and your neighbor, this may well be the best proof of your vocation.  A deep joy is like a compass, which points out the proper direction for your life.  One should follow this, even when one is venturing upon a difficult path."  -Mother T  (tougher than even Mister T)

Oooooo.  A deep joy is like a compass.  She is speaking my language here.  But I want to be clear on this, too.  I'm not excited about this statement because it seems like a good excuse for just having a good time.  The second part here reminds us that it's a "venture" that might require us to walk a difficult path.  Believe me, when I choose to "follow my joy" by eating an entire bag of Doritos, this is not the same thing at all.  This is not the 60's kind of abandon that found us "loving the one we're with" and doing "whatever got us through the night."

You know the kind of joy she's speaking of here.  You've known it suddenly, like the light of a star passing through you.  The perfect moment when peace and joy fit inside you and:  IT.  IS.  ALL.  RIGHT.  You forget your name.  And you feel God's sweetness and the honey from the rock and it makes you...not just happy.  Happy is this feeling that comes and goes depending on your circumstances.  Ah, but joy.  Joy isn't a feeling.  It's pure spirit--the kind that lifts you out of your boots, straightens your socks, and puts you back where you came from but with a clearer sense of how your boots are the right boots, the kind that can walk through anything including a pile of fear.  Joy says, "I'll do it scared if I have to, but I'd rather do it laughing."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

How do I know if I'm good at something?

1.  People eat more than one helping of it.

2.  Whatever it is, it doesn't rust.

3.  You might not know that you're good at it.  In fact, it's probably best if you don't know how good you are at it.

4.  It feels natural, graceful, full of ease.  (or)  It's difficult, you don't get it right sometimes, you wish you could trade it in for something else, something easy, safe, repetitive like putting the plastic wrap around fortune cookies rather than coming up with the actual fortunes.

5.  Some days it takes a team of wild horses to get you back to doing it.  Many times you try to bribe the horses with apples and honey-covered carrots, but they don't fall for the sweet stuff until you've done your work.

6.  You struggle with it.  You talk to it.  It talks back.  You have opinions.  It has opinions.  You continue to work together because you both need each other--sometimes more than water or air or food.

7.  You lose sleep over it, but you never feel tired.

8.  It no longer matters to you if you're good at it.  You just do it.