May They Dream Big

Today feels heavy. Like this scarf I’m wearing is full of bricks. But I refuse to let that feeling win.

I say today is a day for dreamers. As our new President is inaugurated, I am choosing hope over fear. Because I must. I want to scream, and maybe I will for a bit, inside my house, as a lamentation of what we have become. But then I will take several deep breaths, let my blood pressure drop a notch, and remember, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Today is a wrenching disappointment for many, but it is not the end.

I say bring on the dreamers.

We had a family double feature last weekend consisting of La La Land and Selma. Two disparate films, but with one important commonality. One is a bittersweet tale of chasing dreams, of fantastical and lovely head-in-the-clouds romanticism. And the other is a hard-to-take portrayal of a different kind of dream, and a struggle that seems so apropos in our current reality. Both are relevant. Both point to the way to handle Right Now.

After the increasingly combative election, and it’s aftermath which we all had hoped would settle the tension but instead ratcheted it up twelve notches, La La Land was like breathing again. The opening scene of joy-despite-obstacles (both literal (an L.A. traffic jam) and metaphorical (breaking into Hollywood)) made me smile so big my face hurt. It was needed, cinematic medicine. It was an escape from reality. But it also touched on deeper questions of dream-chasing. What is sacrificed in the effort? What about when the dream seems to have died?

And when they let you down
You get up off the ground
And it’s another day of sun


Selma is about dream-chasing too, though King’s dream was a loftier, more altruistic vision of the future by far. Clearly. The movie dives down into the grit of those days in Selma, Alabama without a hint of romanticism. King wasn’t a perfect person, and the film doesn’t pretend so. But it shows both his moral and strategic motivations for non-violent protesting. It gives life to that movement that is still so relevant today. Especially today. It was a lot for my younger ones to handle. But it seemed important. It seemed essential, as learning about history always is.

Many of my friends are headed to Washington D.C. this week to participate in the Women’s March. I thought of going but in the end decided against it. For many reasons, none of which is disagreement. Their tangible effort to express a belief in the rights of all those marginalized in our society echoes those of decades earlier. And it echoes my own heart. People are people, we have the same hurts and fears, we all bleed and love our friends and get sad when someone says we don’t count. These truths have been instilled in me since I was a child and I hold on to them today.

I go back and forth in my mind about how to handle our current reality in America. About what exactly I can and should do. Where my energies will be best spent. How I can be one of the helpers rather than merely a critic of everything I don’t like. How to be for things instead of against them, as a rule. I spend time thinking of this because it matters. Because I want to use my life well. On behalf of others, not just myself. But how to do that is the sometimes overwhelming question. Especially in the face of big obstacles.

I also believe in picking my battles. Because if everything is a fight with me, eventually nothing I do or say will be taken seriously. If I yell at my kids all the time, the yelling becomes normal and completely ineffective. If I only yell when something really awful is going on, my kids take notice. They feel the importance of the moment, of what I’m yelling about. The same goes for life in general. The squeaky wheel only gets the grease when the squeaking is out of the ordinary. What, then, do I squeak, or yell, about?

One battle I am determined to fight: teaching my children about empathy. It’s a battle of daily decision. Of impressing upon them our equality with everyone else and imagining what it must be like to be that other person. After watching half of Selma the girls were getting ready for bed, brushing their teeth and arguing about who touched whom with lotion on her hands. One felt offended at the other’s (moisturizing) assault. It was the perfect teaching moment.

“Can you imagine what it must have felt like for the people marching for their right to vote? They didn’t even have the power to choose their leaders. And then they were hit and kicked and yelled at. It must have felt awful. And they didn’t fight back; they were peaceful. That must have been so hard.”

They stopped and thought. I watched the wheels turning. They got it, in whatever nine and five year old ways they could. One more step toward an empathetic world view. And one small thing I could do.

Which brings me back to La La Land. Some will surely be angry at my comparison of a movie about privileged, white kids trying to make art, and one about poor, black people fighting for their rights. And if I were saying they were equally important in the span of history, that would be fair. But they’re both about dreams – not letting them die. One can assist the other.

So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles…
Here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make


Here’s to my friends marching this weekend in D.C.

And here’s to raising up the next generation of dreamers.

May they dream big.


Inspiration to help the dreaming…

A portion of Dr. King’s “Where Do We Go From Here” speech

Night Has Passed lyric video, The Brilliance


A Mental Kick in the Pants

While looking at girls underwear at Target on Wednesday I saw something that stopped me in the aisle. A woman was walking with an older woman.  A mother and daughter it appeared. They were doing laps on the perimeter of the store, a favorite pastime for many people of older age: no obstacles for slower reflexes to work around. No issues with temperature and humidity. A seasonless, safe space to get legs moving. I’ve seen this often before, and I must say I’ve never thought it looked fun. But on this day, something was different. The two women were holding hands.

They walked and talked. And held hands all the way around. I watched for them as they lapped me in my hunt for girls soccer shorts, and I thought “That’s just about the sweetest thing I’ve seen all week.” They both seemed calm and content. The younger woman (fifties, maybe) didn’t seem anxious to leave and get on with the good part of her day; the older woman (70s or 80s) seemed glad, but not desperate, for her company. Maybe the younger woman held hands to offer balance to the older, maybe it was just a tangible form of connection, of expressing “I want to be here with you.” In either case, it was lovely. And I stopped and stood and watched for a long moment. It was instant, the smack-in-the-face beauty of the image. I wanted to take a picture, but that seemed weird. So I took one mentally and locked it away for safe keeping.

I happened to watch an AARP video on Facebook today – a friend had linked to it and it sparked my interest. When I clicked and watched, it sparked more: inspiration about living life until it’s gone. About the value of age, the worth of older people in our society, the importance of connection.

I fear old age, to be honest. Of becoming irrelevant to people, of the breakdown of my body and mind, of watching life go by without being able to participate in any meaningful way. But this video reminded me that “old” is more about your mindset. The body and mind might slow, but we can do some things to lessen those effects: eat well, stay limber, learn new things, and most of all, decide to remain in the mix. A 75-year-old man named George in the video summed it up: “When people start stopping, that’s when they start getting old.” I want to keep going. Even if it has to be in the climate controlled, sidewalk-crack-free aisles of Target. And if someone will love me enough to hold my hand while I’m going slowly, so much the better.

So much.

That daughter, in her calm, relaxed “I’m totally here” way was loving the heck out of the older woman.

Oh, that I would do that for someone, and that someone would do that for me someday.

Note-to-self taken. I’m keeping that image close to heart, and I’m putting George’s quote on a sticky note in my kitchen. A reminder to never start stopping; a kick in the pants to keep on going.

I need a kick in the mental pants sometimes.


The AARP video, for your entertainment and inspiration:

And He Went. And I Let Him.

I let my son walk out the door this morning into potential heartbreak.

I wanted to keep him home. Hold him close. Shield him from hurt and hard choices. But I didn’t. I let him get into the car and drive off to meet his fate.

“School drama,” as he put it to another parent overhearing his dilemma, had erupted. Drama indeed. He came home yesterday with worry, and it followed him to bed. It woke with me in the night and said hello as soon as I cracked an eye this morning. A dull, gray cloud hanging above our house.

We talked it over. He called a friend to clarify a misunderstanding. He worked it through with Marc and then again with me. “I wish I had taken notes about everything so I knew what to say tomorrow” he fretted as I tucked him in. I told him the truth was all he needed to remember. All he could offer.

We dealt with the reality of the situation, not trying to escape the uncomfortable yuck he would face today: people will be mad; their mistakes aren’t on you; yours are; the number of people in the world who love you is greater than those who will be upset. As he wisely said the other night “It’s all about perspective.” Yes, buddy, it is. If my 11 year old can carry that through his day, I will be happily astounded.

The weight of carrying your child’s hurt like a trunk full of bricks on your back is…heavy. I could say I didn’t sign up for this when I became a parent, but that would be a cop-out lie. This is exactly the sort of thing a mother agrees to take on when she decides to give birth to or adopt human beings. To attempt to guide these small people through the maze of living. To help them discover the wonders present. To walk with them through the various levels of heartache. To be on their team when no one else will pass them the ball.

But it’s harder than I could imagine. Letting go enough to let them feel some pain, to learn from their own mistakes, to allow risk enough for them to feel the glory of their own triumphs. This is the work of restraint. Of not meddling. Of letting our children become.

There’s a song on Foy Vance’s Live at Bangor Abbey album (also his Joy of Nothing album, but I prefer the live, alive version) that has pointed me toward a phrase I’d like to employ in my life. For my whole life. It seems to be about the breakup of his marriage. An anthem of survival – something we could all use. It busts the album open with guitar, violin and drums, and this humble but matter-of-fact declaration:

Well I tried to do what I felt was right
And I know I fucked it up sometimes.
But at least my heart was open.

That last line is the title, and the point of the song. The astute reminder of how I’d like face my days. As well as what I hope for Luke.

Knowing that my son faced something hard, Mama Bear wanted to take over – protect and defend. Give a lecture to the entire 5th grade class. Overreact and pull him from school and wrap him up in my love to ward off all pain, therefore ruining his chances to grow at all.

But the better and harder reaction is letting my heart stay open. Calming down, doing what seems right, and avoiding building a protective wall, for me or my kids.

Luke didn’t balk about leaving this morning. He seemed ready to face the day.

His heart seemed fully open.

I want to guard that tender little center of emotion and character, but my job as Mom is changing. Mama bears have to let their cubs try to survive at some point – maybe when they’re the equivalent of 11? I had to let him go try. To do what he felt was right, perhaps mess it all up, and hope he retained his open, loving, forgiving heart.

And he went.

And I let him.

Deep breaths. Nervous anticipation for school pick-up. A propped open heart. These are my companions today.

Thank you, Foy Vance, for the beacon in the darkness. It’s helping.

I Didn’t And It Wasn’t

I drove with my kids to Chicago for Spring Break. By myself. Meaning I was the only adult in the car, able to drive, needing to stay awake. Anyone who has taken a road trip with me is now wide-eyed with horror and amazed that we survived. During our entire trip last to Los Angeles, up the coast to Seattle, and back to Lawrence, the only portion I drove was across the street in Yellowstone. I have what my friend calls carpolepsy – the desire to fall asleep as soon as the engine starts. I’m like a baby. When she fusses and you can’t get her to settle, put her in a car and the gentle motion does the trick. If it wouldn’t also mean death, I would hop in my minivan at the first sign of insomnia.

But as evidenced by my ability to write today, I did not kill four fifths of our family last week. In fact, I wasn’t the least bit sleepy for almost the entire trip. The solution: podcasts and copious amounts of green tea. It felt like I became a full-fledged adult on that trip. Able to drive long distances all by my damn self. It was life-changing.

It seems like a juvenile realization for a 41 year old woman. Who’s had many jobs and been married for 16 years and had three babies and does all sorts of grown up things every day. But sometimes, even as an official adult, you experience something that makes you feel more free, more independent, more capable than you have before. Like the first time you talk your credit card company into removing a fee. Or making a complicated recipe and enjoying the delicious result. Or giving birth. When I pulled up to our friends’ house in Hyde Park, having followed my GPS correctly over seven interstate highways, and a trickier back-road route through rural Missouri and Iowa, I was tired but happy. Look at me. I got us here. We didn’t die and we didn’t have to pull over so Mommy could sleep by the side of the road. You have an adult as a parent. Congratulations.

Maybe you don’t get it – what a big deal driving eight and a half hours was to me. Allow me explain how extreme my carpolepsy has been over the years:

In college I took a spring break trip with two friends to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, from Kansas. (Not the spring break for which three collegiate girls heading to the distant beach hope.  It rained nearly the entire time. I remember seeing two movies in a row one day and eating overly, extremely, I-can’t-emphasize-enough-how-fried, fried fish at a cheap buffet one night.) I drove maybe two hours total.

Marc and I have driven to the panhandle of Florida three times, and I remember driving through part of Louisiana. That is all.

Last summer we took a 31 day road trip all over the west half of America. During the entirety of our adventure I drove across the street in Yellowstone Park.

My husband prefers to drive. In part so he doesn’t have to dole out snacks, change cds, read chapters of books aloud, break up KidzBop vs Raffi arguments. And we both know my typical driving contribution is only minimally helpful – as soon as Marc scratches the surface on work emails I start fading. So, for real, people, I never drive further than Wichita, KS alone.

This trip to Chicago was a big deal. And I just decided to go for it. I figured if it wasn’t going well, Columbia, Missouri would become the destination. We’d get a boba, play at a park, and turn the car around. Better than driving into the ditch. But like the little engine that could, I thought I could. And I was right.

We had a fabulous time seeing our dear friends. We went to museums, played at parks, spent hours reconnecting with some of our favorite people. And we made a memory to savor for years to come. Overall, a complete success. (minus the tornado sirens in Springfield IL while in a Cracker Barrel without a basement/ hotel with the tornado “shelter” located seven feet from the front desk). And all because I decided to try. I could have failed, and that would have been a different lesson. And resulted in a different post. But I didn’t, and it wasn’t, and this is my happy post of victory over carpolepsy.

Yay for green tea and the era of podcasts.

And yay for trying. There’s not much else you can do.



Happy Regrouping

You might have noticed I’ve been gone a while. There are a plethora of reasons: sick kids, sick me, days off of school, and more of the same, but the deeper reason for the long absence from posting to my blog is I’ve had nothing to say. I’ve tried. The few chances I’ve gotten I’ve sat for my allotted three-hours-minus-travel-time-from-preschool-to-Starbucks-and-back and written crap. Or nothing at all. Which in itself is depressing. But there wasn’t much to be done since I can’t apply the often touted writer’s rule “write every day.” My rules are more like “shower every other day,” and “get some sort of exercise,” and “don’t let the laundry start overflowing out of the laundry room.” I do fairly well at these.

It’s hard to say exactly why the drought in well-formed and interesting thoughts occurred – perhaps February is cursed, maybe I just don’t do winter well, or it could be the fact that my thyroid had decided to take a break from it’s busy schedule. But luckily, the drought has passed and I had a glimmer of an idea today. Thank you March, spring, functioning thyroid.


I was recently waiting for several days on some test results that could have been bad news. Thankfully, I received good news instead. But the space between not knowing and knowing gave me a new swath of gray hair. I tried to stay calm, aware that worrying about the unknown accomplishes nothing but stress dreams and intestinal problems, but waiting is not my forte. It is one of my many nemeses (cold feet, hunger and relational conflict being others). I prayed. I breathed deeply. I exercised. But worry crept in and took over a number of welcoming folds in my brain. It found a comfy home next to the concern over finances, unmade summer plans, whether Mae will deal well with all day kindergarten next fall. Fretfulness takes up a lot of the spots in there. This, too, worries me. If my brain is filled with anxiety is there room for anything else? Maybe that’s why I can never remember what it was I needed at the store.

And then there is our current political climate in America. I would describe it as scorching fire and wind swirling from the mouths of those with bitterly cold hearts. I don’t even think that’s being dramatic. All of which gets me riled to the point of heart palpitations and makes it clear that this has got to stop. Worry is getting me nowhere but down.

So I employed a tried and true coping mechanism. I put on my headphones. I found my new musical obsession on Spotify and with the first line came down a notch on the stress scale.

Foy Vance is an anomaly: an Irish guy with a penchant for American blues and soul. He is one of the best songwriters I’ve heard in a long time. And he has a raspy, world-weary voice that sounds like coming home on a cold day and wrapping up in a wool blanket – a little scratchy but warm and cozy and absolutely welcome. I’m soaking up his live album these last few days and I find it calming me, inspiring creativity, and hinting at the beauty that does still exist the world even if our own presidential candidates are making it uglier by the day.

For example. In his song Be, My Daughter I hear the wisdom of the ages, resembling the words of Ecclesiastes, but with a modern, personal take. He wrote it while on tour, after a difficult Skype session with his daughter who was back at home. Another girl was treating her badly at school and he penned a song in response to her worry. An admonition to simply be. It’s just lovely…

There’s a time to talk about it

A time to live it up

A time to sit in silence


A time to cry about it

A time to laugh it up


A time for stillness in the water

Be, my daughter


There’s a time to shout about it

A time to bottle up

A time for all time to be over


A time to think about it

A time to give it up


A time to burn up every altar

Be, my daughter


Tomorrow morning you’ll be slowly waking up

And I”ll be far across the water

But I’ll send reminders against the times it gets too tough

Be, my daughter


There’s a time to want a love

A time to need a friend

A time to put your hurts behind you


A time to chew it over

A time to make amends


You remember that time my baby jumped and daddy caught her

Be, my daughter

Be, my daughter


As a parent, I hear the kind guidance, the wise direction to be still, the reminders of his love. And as a person of faith I hear God’s voice saying the same to me. This is exactly my view of his love for us. If you think that’s bunk, well alright. Sometimes I simply can’t hold it in. I hope you can see the joy and stillness in the song. I hope it makes you smile, and think, and be.

I’m choosing to think about this for a while instead of all the worries. Trump will still be on every news outlet tomorrow.

There’s a time to enter the fray and a time to retreat. A time to engage in the madness and a time to regroup. Happy regrouping, everyone.


(Here’s the song, so you can come down on the stress scale, too:


Weary World

I’ve been thinking a lot about a certain song, and how it applies to the world of late.  It’s the perfect song to think about this Christmas season.  I think it’s safe to say we’re all feeling a collective sadness over the state of the world these days.  No matter what side of the aisle you call your own (or neither, like me).  ISIS, racism, refugees, climate, mass shootings, terrorism, politics.  Yuck.  And then there’s my own heart, which consistently lets me down.  Pride, jealousy, anger, selfishness, a tendency to get grumpy when my kids all talk to me at once.  Again, yuck.

But as I approach Christmas, I want to get outside all of that.  I want to see above the madness of the world.  Behind it, around it.  Take a breath and get perspective on what truly matters.  And when I ponder that, I land exactly where Ben Rector does…


I used to think I needed all the answers

I used to need to know that I was right

I used to be afraid of things I couldn’t cover up

In black and white


But I just wanna look more like love

I just wanna look more like love

This whole world is spinning crazy

And I can’t quite keep up

It’s the one thing around here

That we don’t have quite enough of

So I just wanna look a little more

Like love


I find the farther that I climb

There’s always another line

Of mountain tops

It’s never going to stop

And the more of anything I do

The thing that always ends up true

Is getting what I want

Will never be enough


So I just wanna look more like love

I just wanna look more like love

This whole world is spinning crazy

I can’t quite keep up

It’s the one thing around here

That we don’t have quite enough of

So I just wanna look a little more

Like love

Like love


Ben Rector has a boyish, yearning voice, but a lot more wisdom than his years warrant.  It’s a lovely notion, to look more like love.  Imagining everyone has a picture they carry around that represents them, and thinking what mine might look like sometimes…well, it’s not always love.  But if it was, or if it could be, even a little bit more, what a fabulous thought.  And then if everyone else’s picture looked like love, too…wow.  That’s the whole reason we celebrate a little baby this month.  It’s why he came.  To tell the world about the author of love and help us find a way to Him.  So people can look more like love themselves.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

A weary world.  Check.  A thrill of hope.  Yes, please.

So here’s my song for the month of December.  Listen to it (More Like Love) because it sounds even better than the lyrics alone imply.  May it point to the “new and glorious morn” that has broken.  May it affect change in the way we handle the surrounding madness.  And may we rejoice this Christmas.

Even in the midst of our weary world.




I’m a creative type, thus I tend to have big feelings.  I also have a mind that loves logic, so I’m usually able to talk myself down from the cliff when my feelings get too big for my own good.  Too sad or mad or worried.  “What is true?” is a common question I ask myself.  “Remember…remember” is another personal mantra, and it points me back to what I know in my heart and mind and guts to be true.  My faith.  The basis for my whole being.  It works.  And I’ve had to utilize it’s grounding effects these last weeks.  When Facebook and the paper and NPR are overwhelming me with so many awful things I feel like unplugging completely.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m peri-menopausal and my hormones are out to lunch, but my feelings have gotten so enormous I’ve felt trapped under their weight.  And this isn’t even personal grief.  That’s a whole different level of sad.  This is a more existential, less experiential heartache – over the suffering of refugees in massive amounts, being met with xenophobia and hatred in many places.  Over the political circus our country is living through, and encouraging.  Over the here’s-what-we’re-AGAINST mentality that many in my faith family are embracing these days (or years) instead of here’s-what-we’re-FOR.  It’s enough to make me lose my freaking mind.  

I just about did.

But then I remembered.

That thing I mentioned earlier – the faith on which my whole being is based – brings me back down.  Because no matter the circumstances which the world, my country, my own life face, God is circumstance-immune.  What is true is true outside the confines of space and time, and certainly outside of Donald Trump’s ridiculous presidential candidacy.  No matter who is elected, no matter the fear we face, no matter the un-Christ-like behavior that his followers demonstrate, the God of the universe doesn’t change.  Can you imagine if that wasn’t true?  If the whole thing was really up to us to handle?  “Oh. Crap.” is my censored response.  But thankfully, the one who made the mountains and amoebas and babies and sun has it all held in capable, metaphysical, eternal hands.  So I can come down from the cliff of insanity.  And take a big ol’ breath of the air I had nothing to do with creating.

As the news keeps on coming I’ll have to do a lot more remembering in the weeks and months ahead (why oh why is the presidential race so unbearably long?).  A lot more breathing.  And maybe less Facebook surfing.  But hallelujah for something to remember.  And that it doesn’t all come down to me.  That’s some good news.

Love Story

I just started a book my mom got me for Mother’s Day.  (The World Split Open: Great Authors on How and Why We Write).  And I mean just.  But I’m already hooked…

As Robert Stone states, with blazing simplicity: “Storytelling is not a luxury to humanity; it’s almost as necessary as bread.  We cannot imagine ourselves without it, because the self is a story.”  Amen.

It’s true — the universe would survive without decent writing, much as it did for a trillion or so years before writing was born.  And it’s true that the vast majority of people on earth will continue to live full, eventful lives without the benefit of Jane Austen or W. S. Merwin.  But by this reasoning, you could also argue that almost nothing matters.  (Or, rather, you could argue that if you knew how to write well.)  People can live without basketball, domestic pets and real butter, too.  If the question is simply one of literal survival in its ultimate sense, eating twigs in the wilderness or Pringles in front of the Xbox, we can survive with almost nothing, we’ve demonstrated that.  For those who want to live in a deeper, funnier, wilder, more troubled, more colorful, more interesting way, a way in which not only writing matters but also beauty, memory, politics, family, and everything else, put on your reading glasses and turn the page.  Your people have something to tell you…

– Jon Raymond

So ends the best introduction in a book I’ve ever read.  It left me both sure this writing thing is where my heart lies and convinced that I should stop trying to write at all, because I will never reach the level of artistry Jon Raymond clearly possesses.  He did his job perfectly: made me eager to read the book immediately, wishing I had the whole day to dig in, while also arguing a larger point with dexterity.  With technical accuracy, humor and logic.  I wish I could quote the entire piece.  But that would be illegal.

How can I add to this?  Not with any better argument in favor of the written word.  But perhaps with my own story to back it up.  A personal tale to defend the artistic genre that I love.  A story to promote the importance of story.  That’s all I can offer.  And so I do:

In my third year of college I enrolled in Fiction Writing I, along with my good friend Marc (who, because he had a harder time getting a story onto paper than onto film was taking it for the second time).  He wasn’t a great writer, but he knew great writing.  I was nervous.  I had been writing since I could remember.  Little poems, songs, stories, a scintillating screenplay for a puppet show when I was in grade school.  Then more poems, songs and a Poe-like short story (that in retrospect was reeeeeally similar to Psycho) for my high school Gothic Lit. class.  Then tons of essays in college.  TONS.  All of which were boring to write and probably also to read.  About other people’s writing, or historical events and their relevance to the present, or why Nietzsche was wrong.

But I hadn’t written fiction that bore my soul since I was little, when I didn’t care who knew what was in there.  I was old enough now to know people might mock.  Might not like what they saw.  And to worry that my writing might actually be terrible.

And Marc was in my class.

My Marc.  My secret future husband.  If my first short story was bad, he wouldn’t know what a hidden jewel I was.  Wouldn’t see me as I longed to be seen: as, duh, this beautiful, intelligent artiste.  Right in front of his eyes all this time.  The pressure was on.

So I went home and did my thing.  Saw a photograph in my American History textbook that sparked my imagination and began.  Hunkered down in my dorm room with pen and paper (yes, actual pen and paper, back in the olden days of 1995 when computers lived in the computer lab).  I got in the zone.  Threw in some historical details.  Scratched out entire paragraphs.  Wrestled with the words until I was happy with my story, or out of time.

Our class workshopped everyone’s stories, a few each class period, so we had to read them in advance in order to give each person feedback.  My day had come, and I was terrified.  I got up, dressed, walked down to the dorm cafeteria.  Knowing I would likely see Marc – his curly ponytail bopping around the cereal dispensers, the sight of which always made my stomach turn with excitement/anxiety.  And there it was.  I watched where he sat.  Got my daily dose of LIFE with milk and headed to the booth, heart pounding.  And when I turned the corner to sit, and he saw me, he stopped talking to his friend and looked at me.  For a long time.  Longer than necessary to acknowledge my presence.  Longer than anyone looks at anyone unless they are seeing them differently than usual.  Maybe for the first time.  I just about peed my pants.  I didn’t know what he was going to say – maybe he didn’t know how to tell me it was awful.  But then he smiled and I burst inside.  I stayed cool, don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t want him knowing how desperately I wanted him to love my story.  But he did.  And it was the beginning.  I had been right in front of him all this time, but now, to him, I was a writer.

And that, my friends, is just one of the love stories I can tell you about my relationship with the written word.  It’s in my bones and has worked its way out my whole life long.  I may not be as good as Jon Raymond, but I will defend this art form until I physically cannot.  By writing.  Plain and simple.  It matters in the world.

Now to read the rest of that book…


My fabulous friend, Dar, sent me a message this week.  It was a pep talk in the form of a text.  It made my day.  My whole week.  And all she did was say what’s true.

Sometimes we need reminding of the truth.  The facts, or more subtle realities, that we can stand on.  Sometimes we can remind ourselves, and sometimes we need others to do the admonishing.  When the truth is lost to us.  Because life has us swirling outside of our ability to get perspective.  And then we come across a perfectly applicable line in a novel, or hear lyrics to an honest and thoughtful song, or read a psalm that seems was written only for us.  Or a friend texts with some good ol’ encouraging straight talk.  And perspective is restored.  At least for the moment.

Speaking truth in love is always recommended.  It can be brutal, and therefore should be handed out only with good intention and a gentle touch.  A month ago I received news that was hard to hear.  It was true, and needed to be addressed, but it hurt.  It was the brutal kind.  At other times truth is the sweetest sound, raw and unfiltered.  No careful delivery necessary.  This is the kind of honesty I received from Dar on my iphone screen.  Say what you want about technology ruining a generation’s ability to communicate, but I was glad for it on Wednesday.  She, sitting in Los Angeles, sent me a message.  I, sitting in Kansas, received it almost instantly and responded.  And so forth.  Five minutes was all it took and my head was turned in a new direction.  I had something new to ponder, and firm ground to hold me up instead of the miry muck of fear I was walking around on.

There are some basic ingredients necessary in this whole speaking-the-truth-in-love thing.  Starting with knowing what the heck you’re talking about.  My friend and I have a history together.  She met me when I was fresh off the U-haul from Kansas to L.A. and, admittedly, even less cool than I am now.  And yet we became friends.  She knew me when I felt like crap every day but didn’t know why or really want to admit it.  We went through the roller coaster years of trying to have kids, having them, adopting them, me being insensitive, her being mad, us making up.  And then I moved away and we knew we were in this thing for the long haul.  Even from far away.  Emailing, calling when we could, visiting, loving each other from afar.  She has earned the right to speak the truth to me.  She knows me, my past, my present, and I know I’m safe in her care.  And she’s safe in mine.  She can tell me hard things, or sweet things, and I can receive them because the source is reputable.  The check out lady at Target could say the same thing and I’d know she was a nut job.  You have to earn it.

You also have to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.  When to speak and when to zip it and just be.  Sometimes the truth can wait.  Until the person is ready to hear it, is open to that piece of reality.  When someone is hurting, sometimes she needs to hurt for a while.  To do the work, the push and pull of dealing with a mess.  But a good truth-teller can wait, can sense the right moment to come in with some tough or lovely honesty to cast the person’s vision in a new light.  And that person is priceless.  That friend should be kept.  Even if they live a thousand miles away.

That’s what smartphones are for.

Wrestling Match

I was recently told I probably have Epstein Barr (that’s like mono), and that I’ve likely had it for a very long time.  Like since I was in high school.  And I’m 40.  The unfortunate thing about the Epstein Barr virus is that it never goes away.  It goes undercover sometimes, waiting in the shadows to reemerge when the time is right (you get really tired, sick, stressed out), but it never gets the hell out.  Which sucks.

I’ve been trying to decide whether I’m glad I know (sort of) or whether I’d rather not know.  I’ll be chewing on that question for a while I suspect.  There was something wrong years ago – before I had kids and I felt tired all the time, and achy, and foggy, and couldn’t eat anything without dire results for my guts.  But I was in denial.  I didn’t want to have an auto-immune problem, so I decided I didn’t.  That approach got me exactly zero percent better, so it can’t be the answer.  But knowing – giving the wrongness a name – isn’t sitting well with me either.  Maybe it just has to suck.  No getting around it.  But I’d like to explore the possibilities of making it suck less.  So, how to achieve such a lofty goal?  That is the question bouncing around my brain these days.

Obviously, and thankfully, having medical care that comes from a direction of understanding and problem-solving, instead of symptom-masking, can play a big part.  And maybe facing the darkness head-on is better than denial.  But I hesitate to give in.  I know that psychology has much to do with one’s wellness, and positive thinking can save people from a downward spiral at times.  My instinct is to white-knuckle all attempts at health.  Will I fall into the pit if I admit that something is wrong?  Or will it free me, as truth does?  It seems the answer is clear.  Logically, cerebrally, the answer to my self-questioning is obvious: truth is always better.  I believe that.  But it’s hard to convince my heart to get on board.  When fear is running the show.  When the baggage of years of it have piled up in my arms.

My mother had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when I was in high school and college.  I’ve written about it before, but the summary is this: she slept, she felt awful, she was absent from Life.  And ever since then I have feared that this would happen to me.  So when I began feeling bad in a general sense while in college (and really in high school if I use my 20/20 hindsight) I diminished it’s importance.  Fought hard to stay above the waves.  I never fully fell in.  Was that my willpower?  Was my illness just not that bad?  Was God keeping me from complete submersion?  I really do not know.  I awaited the results of my blood test three weeks ago with such anticipation. The mystery of why I keep getting sick is nearly as upsetting to me as the sickness itself.  But then I got some answers (or, rather, an educated guess) and all was not fixed.  Some things were better: no more wondering constantly; the need to search the internet for symptoms/causes/treatments was gone.  But do I want to own Epstein Barr?  Not a single bit.  “You know my mom had Chronic Fatigue when I was younger, right?” I asked my beloved kinesiologist.  “Yeah, same thing,” he said, not knowing the weight those words carried on their measly backs.  I crumpled inside.  Just what I had always feared, had run from in years past, was smack dab in front of my feverish, snotty face.  I wanted to cry.

Often in my essays I end with a nice, neat “summary paragraph.”  Because writing is my way of working things out, and the summary paragraph seals the working-it-out deal.  I typically truly wrestle with the topic enough, before or during the writing, that the last bit can be neat and tidy.  But this.  This is a big one.  A fear, like the virus itself, that has been lingering and quietly waiting for it’s moment – to explode on the scene and get the attention it deserves.  My fear demands an audience.  Maybe that’s the best thing in the end, though it’s painful and hard and scary.  But…it’s painful and hard and scary, and I don’t like any of those things.  I haven’t worked this one out to the point of neat and tidy yet; I’m not ready to give.  This is a to-be-continued post.  Let the wrestling proceed.