Brave, brave, be brave

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BraveBraveBeBrave

Everywhere I look and in every word I read, I hear,

Brave. Brave. Be brave.

_____

We welcome in this dear girl, knocked around and emotionally roughed up by peers this school year, and she brings her self, an intact smile and quirky sense of humor as if she is not afraid, though she very well may be terrified.

The girls begin to spread their wings as they re-enter conversation, light giggles building to careening jumps and all sorts of games with a giant beach ball on the trampoline.

She is so brave, I think.

I can barely put down this book (The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown). It’s one friends have told me about for months, and then Monday I received it in the mail from a friend across the country, with her note a blessing of the good she sees in me, the hope she holds for me.

Brown’s words add to the brave, brave, be brave refrain, affirming life to waiting dry bones, stirring up what I’ve known, helping shake caked grime loose.

And as these things so often go, the timing couldn’t be more right, and I’m holding this book just hours after I am asked to be the speaker at a women’s retreat — my second such invitation in six weeks.

I’m stunned and excited and feel entirely ill-equipped.

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Five Minute Friday: Belong

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SunflowersBelong

I want to be one who holds solid, who hangs on for the bumpy, long road.

But it’s hot and sticky, and my body hurts from the jostling, and I want the short, quick fix so much more.

I want to grab for what I can see.

I want what I want, and I don’t want to swallow the horrible tasting medicine (even if you say it’s good for me), anymore than Lala does, as she spits another dose down her shirt, onto the floor, into her hair.

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The wonder of new eyes and ears

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Wonder

I will make art whether or not I get a thing on the page
and when I cannot imagine I’ll have another thing to say,
because sometimes art is seeing and listening,
and not fingertips producing more.

I’m not just a writer when I feel like one,
lines easy and metaphors solid.
Something’s written across my insides when I pray for new eyes and ears,
and then see and hear
(and when I don’t? I’m a writer then, too).

I will see art, and it takes shape in acts of faith and a desire for wonder
that removes the haze so I can notice the way my little person
holds that tennis racket,
smallest one on the court, and it is beauty.
And I can hear the laughter of my daughter and my mother, recognize we’re giggling at all the same things.

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Five Minute Friday: Exhale

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Exhale4

I hardly recognize how often I do it. Hold my breath, wait for the feeling of fear to pass, worry to skitter through, even a feeling to take hold. Just how much of my day goes by, I wonder, pushing through to the next thing without expelling waiting air from my lungs?

And I don’t realize how desperately I need the full in and out until he wraps me in his arms. Or I lie on the big trampoline and watch the moving sky with her, whispy hair tickling the tender parts of my arm.

We pick berries, sun breaking through low morning clouds, and they push each other on the tire swing, and my friend and I talk of marriage, togetherness and the ins and outs of life. I squeeze blue frilly-bottomed berries into pint containers and notice the variation of color, and I can’t help but breathe. The light pink, the pale plum and blue to deepest indigo.

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When travel leads you home

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MeGermany1996 As a girl, I studied the globe and pages of books filled with stories of people from many lands, gazed at traditional costumes on my porcelain dolls, memorizing skin tones and lace. I spoke with accents, learned to distinguish U.S. dialects and the origin of last names by my German-born papa’s hints.

Twenty-two, fresh from college and a few months into my job as a legal secretary scoping out the law field, this month in Europe was a once in my lifetime adventure and fulfillment of a dream.

My trek would lead imagination into reality. Free from duty, expectations and the frustrations of the previous four years, I would walk European soil as an adventurer. I’d spend graduation money (and charge too much on my credit card) for plane and train tickets and a huge backpack and see what happened.

_______

I shared bathrooms with strangers in questionable hostels, watched Madame Butterfly in London and Cyrano de Bergerac delivered in a Scottish brogue. I rode the Chunnel, ate baguettes and cheese in the French countryside, wandered ruins of ancient Scottish castles and savored turns of language and culture.

I traveled for two weeks with my childhood friend, Joanna, met up with my then-boyfriend, Michael, at various points on his study tour, saw friends across the continent, and felt like a new girl. Maybe even a woman.

______

Jo and I hugged good-bye in Paris, and I boarded a train to Munich alone. I didn’t know a soul in Germany. A few days later, I headed to my father’s hometown. The trek to Garmisch felt distinctly weighty, textured with mystery and history like a dark, rich tapestry unfurling.

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When Your Dream Seems Dead: My Mom, the Graduate

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TheGraduateAndHerProudDaughter

You could tell their stories weren’t garden variety kid fresh out of high school enters university and leaves with a diploma four (or five) years later, ready to take on the globe.

What with their beautiful wrinkles and teary-eyed children, spouses and grandkids, one could feel the weighty power of their individual songs — of the long and winding paths of lives that took unforeseen turns. Some kids and a divorce here. A career opportunity and a good dose of self-questioning there. Plenty of life mourned and rejoiced over. Plenty of shoes tied and hair braided. So many obstacles overcome and cause for stumbling, and yet…this group couldn’t quite shake the dream from their soles.

Sitting in that ballroom, you could feel the swelling pride, chins lifted with what they’d actually done and were doing. Yes, we were in the presence of overcomers, and we shared holy ground. Among the overcomers my own mama, her life song rising with the rest of the gorgeous and motley bunch from a local university that’s home for many returning adult students.

So, you’ve got to hear this: forty-six years after she began college, my mama walked across the platform to receive a piece of paper calligraphed with her name! And we cheered hard. Oh yes, we did.

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In memory of Grandma Fanny

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WyomingDriveHomeWe drove across three states, as we always do, to visit the log house she built with her husband named for sunshine. And the ache was palpable, undulating with the rolling hills of Wyoming, as we faded in and out of sleep.

One could almost imagine the ruts family tires had made over years, like those wagon trains of the Oregon Trail and the migration paths of animals before them, taking the long drive home.

We all loved her, this pioneer founder of a small community in western Wyoming, this no-nonsense woman of another time who kept the chili hot and the cocoa steamy for scads of kids, who taught many a young person the proper way to make a fountain Cherry Coke at the pharmacy, who raised four girls and kept the home while her husband mountaineered and coached near every sport in town.

These people — Grandpa with the infectious crinkle-eyed, near-coughing laugh, Grandma with the subtle smirk and beauty shop hair and lovingly chiding “Daddy” and “You boys” — they are woven right into the fibers of my husband and his brothers, my daughters and nieces and nephews after them.

I’ve called her Grandma for years, too, because she made room for me.

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On the weirdness of where we’ve been & why we’re hungry for more grace

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TulipsOnTheirWayGone

It’s late at night for me to think about writing, let alone do it, but when Lala tells me flat out that she doesn’t plan to sleep in tomorrow morning, and I start feeling itchy with all I haven’t written, the thoughts in my head mingling with the rattling dishwasher noises in the kitchen, I know it is time to take a seat.

I haven’t known how to write about this week and a half we’ve been living. Details of a precious dog that turned startlingly aggressive and the decision to remove him from our home, and then the bawling conversations and then good-byes and then no place for him for a week and a half, so that Michael is living alone at our house with the dog we need to give away, while I’m living in my mother-in-law’s home with the girls.

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Opening our rusty gates and why it matters

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99fb218bfc884ed928f777ca0e7e61bf

We’re creaky,
a little worse for wear,
orangey rough sharp edges.

When you open us up like gates,
we make a racket
and feel some embarrassed,
like maybe we should have buffed out the bumpy parts and
greased the creaky parts
and put out shiny best,
but you and me, we can’t kid each other.
We know we’re all dinged up.

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Five Minute Friday: Close

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LoveAndPeace

After J presents her group’s painted bridge model, constructed with toothpicks, popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners, and we watch a video of exuberant second grade dancing, Sici leads us to what she’s heard called the henna station. Two older girls sit earnestly with Crayola markers and a page of options. They can write peace, love, wisdom, strength across the forearm in Arabic.

J and Lala choose their pen color and words without difficulty. Lala love. J peace. They just seem to know. (Sici watches from the side because it’s not really henna as she’d hoped, but I’m fairly certain she’d be my wisdom girl.)

The woman behind us in line points to the sheet and tells her daughter, “Here’s love and peace. The word love is simple. Peace is complicated. Just like in real life.”

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