Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Adventures in Babysitting

I had a lot of babysitters when I was little.  Much to their dismay and resulting in their eventual resignation, I couldn't really be entertained when mom and dad were gone.

In other words, I was naughty.

Really naughty.

Once a babysitter warmed my sister and I some Cambell's Chicken Noodle Soup for dinner.  Refusing to use a spoon, I drank my soup broth with a straw and twisted the noodles around a fork.  Of course, I couldn't eat like that while sitting on a chair at the table, so I was spinning around the middle of the table on the lazy susan.

My sister grew annoyed by the horrendous slurping noise I accidentally made every time I sucked the soup through the straw.

I enjoyed annoying my sister only as much as she enjoyed annoying me.

She knew the best ways to annoy me.  She repeated -- over and over again in her little sing songy voice -- how mad mom would be when she found out about my terrible table manners.  She agreed with everything the babysitter said.  She exhibited perfect table manners to amplify how horrifying mine were.  Everytime the babysitter turned away, she made the twisty, ugly sister faces we used to annoy the living daylights out of each other.

Eventually she ruined all my fun, so I did what anyone would do.

I threw my fork at her.

The second it left my fingers, I knew I made a Very Poor Choice.

With horrified fascination and a little secret awe at the precision of my aim, I watched that fork tumbling end over end across the table.

It struck her in the fold of her eyelid and stayed there.

She froze.

So did I.

Her eyes were open as wide as they could be.  Then she blinked and the fork fell on the floor.

It cracked me up in the worst way and the babysitter sent me to bed.

It was almost as funny as the time I shoved her off the shelf between the kitchen and living room and thought I might have killed her.  She was monstrous good at playing dead. 

Awesome Art

I'm so in awe of my artistic rendering of our old dresser, I have nothing more to say today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dare You to Cross the Line...

When we were small, my sister and I shared a room.

The sound of her soft and rhythmic breaths and the faint rustling of blankets when she moved comforted even my most unrestful mind.

When we had a choice about sharing a room or having our own, we choose to share.


My sister enjoyed chaos in her space. I didn't.

She left pieces of clothes hanging outside the drawers and didn't bother with hospital corners when she made her bed.


We decided to split the room in half. I could fuss and fiddle with my perfectly organized belongings and she could toss hers where they fell. Neither could complain about the other's side of the room.

We marked the split with masking tape.

The door to the hallway happened to fall on my side of the room.

One afternoon we were in our room. I played with my Barbies and she laid on the floor with her feet on the wall, sucking her thumb and doodling with her blanket. It annoyed me when she put her feet on the wall. It annoyed me when she sucked her thumb. It annoyed me when she doodled with her blanket.

She got up to use the bathroom.

Annoyance at peak levels, I denied her access to the door and then dared her to cross the line.

We brawled.

Mom forbid us to use tape ever again.

My sister quit sucking her thumb and moved across the hallway to her very own room.  We kept a secret stash of masking tape and sometimes divided the hallway for old times' sake.

Were we to live together again, I would be on the messy side of the tape lying with my feet on the wall.  Don't get me wrong: I love order.  I just can't keep up with all the stuff that seems to explode around me. My space would be so much neater if I could live with messy cupboards and drawers and closets.  

My sister?  She'd have tight bed corners and perfectly aligned shoes.

One thing hasn't changed, I think.  We'd probably still brawl.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Protector and Provider

My husband is naturally calm. His emotions rarely drag him in deep valleys of depression or raise him to mountain peaks of euphoria. He’s proud of his ability to stay on emotional plains.

For the last month, he’s been markedly different. Since our Brazilian daughter joined our household, he’s been lighthearted, often engaging in silly behavior. He sings and dances with her, listens to her chatter about her new friends and her experiences at school, and takes her to the grocery store so she can bake cakes and cookies for our family.

Our girl had a strange interaction with a boy at her high school on Thursday; I could tell when she told me about it that it made her uncomfortable. The boy gave her a football jersey to wear to school Friday. Apparently this sharing of the jerseys happens all over the high school, but it’s not a tradition she understands. She was a little disgusted too that the jersey wasn’t clean.

I wasn’t really sure what to tell her. Should I do something to help? Should I call the boy or his parents? Should I talk to Adam to learn more about the boy? Since our girl doesn’t always fully comprehend English, my only advice was to say “no” more often than she says “yes” when she’s talking to boys.

That night I told Joe about what happened. He thought about it overnight and sent our girl a text Friday morning. He told her he’d washed the jersey for her to wear if she wanted to wear it. If she didn’t want to wear it, he told her to return it to the young man and tell him her dad didn’t approve. She was so relieved to have a way to return the jersey without having to be unkind. When she came home from school they had a ten minute conversation about what decision she’d made and how she told the boy. Their conversation was the first I heard that he’d done or said anything to help her.

Joe listened to me when I told him the story. He let it rest in his mind and heart. He offered a kind resolution that allowed her the right to make a choice. He’s done the same thing many times for our sons and for me.

Isn’t this how God defines our roles in His love letter with us? The wife offers information and wisdom to her husband and trusts her husband to love, provide for, and protect his family.

My husband has rarely disappointed me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Reader

My son loves books.

He loves them so much, he can't help but look for someone to share them with.

I'm the sharer -- for now.

Adam loved stories from the time he was born.  I was in college at the time, and read him my homework.  I remember pausing a time or two during Othello and thinking "Whoa! That's a little mature!"  He didn't seem to mind.

As he grew, his tastes changed.  At first, he loved what I loved.  It wasn't long, though, before he started to wrinkle his nose at some of my favorites.

He didn't care for girlie lit.  Wasn't a fan of Pooh.  That still makes me sigh.  He hated Beatrice and all things Judy Blume.  He ran out of interest for Junie B. Jones and all her interesting childhood feats.  Wasn't a fan of comics. 


And then we found it -- fantasy.  The boy loves fantasy.  Think Inkheart.  Think Harry Potter.  Think anything dinosaur/warrior.

He became an instant lover of Batman.  MUCH to my dismay, the boy wore a cape for an entire year. 

He can't read and love something without wanting to share it.  His latest passion is the Ranger's Apprentice series.  He kept asking me to read it.

Adam wants discussion partners, and is INCREDIBLY persuasive.  I mean, he's a nag.  He broke me -- mostly because I got busy and ran out of my own reading material.

I started reading his series.

Last night I said to him:  "Adam.  I love this series.  Why didn't you tell me to read it earlier?"

Ahem.  Imagine the most disgustingly deserved Eye Roll.

He suggested.  I just don't listen sometimes.

Interestingly enough, he doesn't care for the latest craze in vampires.  Neither do I.  We both find the undead anti-Christian, anti-life, and completely unworthy of our time.

I'm thankful he's discerning.

He's thankful I can be persuaded to walk his path.

It's a win-win situation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shepherd Me

Even though I have long been able to recite this passage from memory, it still caresses me whenever I encounter it again...

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
For his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and staff
That give me courage.

You spread the table before me
In the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
All the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
For years to come.

Matt Redman wrote a great song that reminds me of this Psalm.  Listen at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


One of our bus drivers, who is also a friend, told me she dreamt about me and our company.  This is not the first dream she's had; her dreams are almost prophetic.

When she told me she had a new one, I got a wee bit nervous.

Here's what she wrote in her email:

I had a dream last week and I forgort to tell you about it. I dreamt that the Hoglund buildings were surrounded by green grass and beautiful trees.  I had to mow the lawn again and again because it kept growing.

It was such a peaceful dream and a verse of the bible came to mind:  Psalms 23.  I belive this year is going to be better for you and your dad.
This woman has the gift of prophecy.  I take her at her word and Hope.  I Hope for the best for our company, for my dad, and for me.
Thank you for sharing your vision, darling driver.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Look what I made for mom.

I never was good at flower arranging.  In fact, I always called mom when I got flowers.  She'd come and move the flowers and greens to make the arrangement amazing.

I don't have that gift.

Still, for my mom's birthday today, I bought these flowers and spent an hour cutting and arranging.  They're gorgeous and they sit on my kitchen counter.  I look at them and think of mom. 

I can't give them to her.  She's sick and needs help.  Until she decides for herself that she should get help, she won't get better.

I keep praying for her to seek help.

I wish she could see the flowers.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Last night I celebrated my birthday with my posse.

Six of the best women I know and some of their spouses, offspring, and friends of offspring attended the mini celebration.

While observing my friends, I thought about how we form friendships and how we keep them.

I believe people fall into your life for a reason, season, or lifetime.  Some people are meant to stay for a short time and others for long periods.  A few stay for a lifetime.  Many of my lifetimers were here last night.

I grew up observing my mom's relationships.  I think she thought those who loved her were "safe" and would accept the ugliest parts of her because they loved her.  For a long time we all did -- my siblings and myself, dad, other friends and relatives.  Eventually nearly everyone stopped accepting her abuse and bad behavior.  Those who haven't yet will eventually.

I want something different in my life.  I want the people I love to love me too.  I want to give them the best of myself at all times -- not just when I'm happy or content.  I've failed at times.  When I stood at the other side of my failures and contemplated them, I recognized the growth I achieved each time I failed.

I recognize something else.

I'm tired of substandard people -- people who are dishonest, people who fail to be authentic, people who cannot be kind, and people who cannot learn from their own mistakes.

I once attended a seminar about time management.  I cannot recall the exact verbage or even why I was there, but I do recall a grid the instructor drew on the board while talking about how people spend time.

He said there are certain tasks in our days that consume massive amounts of time and energy, but are completely worthless tasks.  To be successful at time management, we have to learn to identify those time wasters, and mitigate their intrusion in our day.

I think we need to do that with people too.  I've wasted too much time and energy on people who proclaim their honesty while living dishonest lives, people who fail to be authentic, people who cannot learn from past mistakes, and people who suffer from the deadliest of sins -- envy.

I resolve today to focus my energy differently -- to free myself of distraction so I can better support my friends and family in their own struggles and with their own weaknesses.

I think I'll become a better friend, and be more worthy of my lifetimers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ending an Era

My parents have been divorcing for nearly two years.

I've never seen anyone do things my mother's done during these two years.

Or maybe I have.

I remember the drama mom experienced in every relationship she had. Her relationships started well; she quickly became BFFs with someone. During the golden days of the friendship, the new BFF could do no wrong. Inevitably, the BFF would do or say something to offend her. Overnight the BFF morphed into Satan incarnate. She'd cut the former BFF out of her life -- and out of ours. It happened many, many times over the years. To my eternal regret, it even happened with my Grandma A.

The end of the friendship or relationship wasn't the end of the story. Mom couldn't let go of a hurt -- real or imagined. She devoted countless hours devising ways to retaliate against the former BFF. Occasionally nature helped; when she heard that a former BFF had breast cancer she commented "I guess people always get what's coming to them." Nasty.

I think the same behavior has prompted much of her worst behavior during her divorce. Rather than moving forward to all the possibility a new life offers, she seems bitterly trapped in the past.

When she left her marriage, she told me she saw my continued employment at dad's company as a betrayal of her and that I'd chosen my "side" in the divorce. She's called to make bizarre threats against me and my family. She continued to phone and text my boys while under the influence of whatever is her latest addiction. On December 1 last year, mom threw a calculated fit and pretended she was afraid of my husband even though she continues to call him for help during her domestic disputes with the new man in her life.

She is a lost and angry person. Though I'm not a fan of clichés, I think the "misery loves company" cliché suits her. She has done her level best to hurt me. She's tried to do the same to dad.

Her latest antics have resulted in dad auctioning a lifetime's accumulation of toys. One of the things on the auction block is a 1969 Ford Mustang. I remember dad restoring that car when I was a child. I remember watching him shine and polish it. I remember the rare occasions he drove it. He cherished the car for a long time.

I'm sad it's being auctioned. I'm surprised that I'm sad; I don't normally love the things of the world. I think I'm sad because the car holds so many memories and in most of those memories dad's eyes were sparkling and he was grinning. My boys will never see that version of my dad, but I'll keep those memories.

Dad's not sad. He's not much of a thing person either. He sees today's auction as the next step in ending a painful era in his life.  I'm proud of him and his optimism.

For mom? She's lost in a terrifying world of addiction and abuse. I can't imagine she ever feels safe, even though she once told me her new boyfriend is her personal messiah. I pray she finds the light and hope offered by the true Messiah and learns to lets go of her anger and bitterness.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hey Evil... Bring It On

I've encountered evil in so many forms and disguises.

Last year I started reading the trilogy The Golden Compass.  It was about the time the movie premiered.  Phillip Pullman writes a compelling story about a child that will save the world.  The child has strong parallels with Eve; she will have to make a choice that will save or doom humanity.  The second of the three books is darker than the first.  It left me unsettled and prompted me to read about Pullman.  His goal, he says, is to kill God because he believes the story of salvation is a lie.  In the trilogy, the child's journey is to get to heaven -- a heaven that is really just an alternate world -- and kill God who is really just an angel that outsmarted the other angels and claimed the throne for himself.  I didn't care to finish the trilogy, so I have no idea if they succeed or not.

I didn't stop reading the trilogy out of fear; if something as simple as a child's story can shake my faith, I don't really have faith.  I stopped reading because Pullman's goal disgusted me.  The fact that his work is intended for children made me cringe.

When I talked about this trilogy and my reaction after a SALT rehearsal, my friend Scott gave me this perspective:

"Imagine two adjacent rooms.  The door is open between them.  One is full of light; the other is dark.  Did you ever notice that the dark never spills into the lighted room, but that the light from the other brightens the dark?"

He's right. 

So to the Phillip Pullmans of the world, all I can say is "BRING IT ON!"  The Light will ALWAYS outshine the Dark.

Confessions of a Book Lover

I love the moment I start a new story.

I hold the book for a few moments before opening to the first page, running my hands along the outside covers, letting my fingertips test the edges of the pages.  I imagine where the story and I might go.

Opening the cover of my book, I gaze at the first pages.  I see the title and author, publisher and copyright while the book smell overwhelms my senses.

Reaching the first page, I sink into the words, mind buzzing in anticipation.

Willing to suspend my disbelief providing the author creates a logical world, I enjoy almost every story and the place it takes me.  In one of my major courses in college, we read southern fiction and wrote critical papers about each work.  After reading my paper on In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason, Professor Grunst wrote, "You convince me the story is better than I thought.  I'm going to have to read it again." 

The best stories make my heart ache.  I remember first reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Mom sent me to Maus Foods to purchase diced tomatoes in the middle of Jane's heartbreak.  Still lost in the story, I watched people paying for groceries and wondered why no one else was worried about poor frozen and hungry Jane.  That was the same summer I read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Brothers Karamazov by Fydor Dostoyevsky.  It was a depressing summer.

Kindle Schmindle. 

There's nothing like savoring a new book and the story it holds.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Celebrating Self

On Saturday I turn 40.

I forbid a party.  I absolutely am anti-party.


This was the worst year of my life. 

About eight months ago I made a list of things I "had" to do.  It was obscene.  It took three pages in my daily notebook.

Guess what?

I crossed off every item on that list by September 8, 2009.

I'm free of the past.  I'm free of what others need from me.  I'm free of the negative baggage in my life.

So for my fortieth birthday I want to revel in peace.  I want to celebrate quiet.  I want to be free of what others need.  I want to celebrate my self.

Staci and I will spend four hours together that morning doing secret sister stuff.

I will go watch Adam play Soccer.

Our family will particpate in St Henry's Saturday Fall Festival events.

Very, very special and select people will come to my home after the Festival.  We will laugh and play games and celebrate each other.

This is what I want.

When I turn 41, I want a bash.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Losing a Child....

Today I encountered my friends the Stumpfs. 

I love these people.  They're SALT of the earth, good people.

Last week they lost their daughter, Laurie.  Laurie was fifty and had a lifelong battle with alcoholism. 

Her dad, Jim, told me this story:

I was there in the ER when they said she wasn't going to make it.  They talked about what was coming and hospice and other things.  All I knew was she wasn't going to make it.

I looked at her. 

I said:  "Laurie, I want to gather you in those blankets and take you home.  I want to put you in your crib and start over." 

Those words made me sob.  I stood with tears pouring down my face with these people who lost their daughter.

Jim reached out and cupped my cheek. 

How does someone extend Grace in the midst of their greatest loss?

I love these people.  Their grief lives in my heart. 

The Twisted Sisters

My sister and I share our birthday next Saturday.  She was born six minutes into my second birthday in 1971. 

She is the only person on earth who grew up like I did.  When I call and tell her mom's latest antics, she understands.  Those conversations don't take very many words.  She gets it.

She loved to scalp and de-arm or de-leg my Barbies.  She didn't like Barbies and hated it when I played with them.  Her mutilation would make me cry and mom would send her to our room.  We didn't like that interference; I'd go sit on the landing outside our room and we'd plot revenge against mom.  She once heard us planning to push her down the steps. 

Until she was in third grade, she thought my name was "Hunny" and would hurl it at me in our little girl battles.  "I hate you, Hunny!" she'd yell before stomping off.

On my first day of Kindergartern, she got a wee lawn chair and sat in the yard by the lilac bush sucking her thumb.  She waited the entire three hours for the bus to return me to our little world.  Of course our little world was never the same after that; she was always my very unwilling student in the new game of "School."

The advent of our brother was life-changing.  The little foreigner displaced her as the youngest and he was from the strange world of Boy.  We didn't care.  We found our old clothes and dressed him in them.  Dad wanted that to stop long before it did.

She was as perplexed as I at our brother's potty training.  The boy couldn't get on the potty without being stark naked.  The habit lasted until he was four.  We'd find a trail of clothes all the way to the bathroom and know he was in there.  We laughed hysterically the day he came back to watch tv with mom's sanitary napkins taped all over his little body.  He even strategically placed one for modesty's sake. 

We were there the day he stepped on his hamster's tail and saw the comically tragic look on his face when the tail came off the hamster.  Bent over double with tears pouring down our faces, we were dubbed the "Twisted Sisters" by our very annoyed baby brother.

Left alone often with him, we also shared the darkest moments of his early rage.  We would hide in the bathroom when he was at his worst.  One of us would sneak out the second bathroom door and run to get mom or dad while he spent his rage throwing things at the bathroom door.  'Twas a very scarred door indeed.

As teens we suffered each other.  'Nuff said.

I asked her to be my maid of honor when Joe and I married.  She was a great maid of honor.  Our mom was sick by then, spending most of her days in bed.  My sister and I planned my wedding and spent hundreds of hours in that frothly Bride world. 

She fell apart on my wedding day.  She read the second reading at our wedding from Corinthians.  "Love is Patient love is.  Kind love never leads to anger It bears."  She read lines rather than sentences.  The video cracks me up.  We're not sure why she fell apart.  Was it the potential change to our sisterliness?  Was it the normal nerves of someone not used to public speaking?  Was it that both boyfriends were in attendance?

Three months later I found her at her first morning class at St Kates.  Her professor poked his head out the door when we squealed and saw us jumping up and down in the hall.  "Not coming back in, I presume" he said.  She grabbed her bag and we went to Dayton's to buy Adam's first little onsie.  That night I gave Joe the tiny yellow onsie when I told him we were expecting our baby.

The new auntie was a little shocked when she found out the baby was a boy.  She practiced memorizing his name on the way to the hospital.  "I'm NEVER going to remember!" she kept repeating.  She walked in the hosptial room, took tiny Adam in her arms and visibly fell in love.  She spent all her spare time at the hosptial, touching his sweet baby skin and holding his tiny baby fingers. 

She couldn't participate in feeding the baby, so she did everything else.  She dressed him.  Rocked him.  Changed his diapers.  He always pooed on her -- often explosively.  She's a germaphobe to her core, but she never stopped caring for tiny Adam.  Her ability to ignore germs with my boys carries through to this day; they wipe sweat on her, and she just laughs albeit with a tiny shudder.

She often stayed at our house.  One morning I woke and found her and Adam in the kitchen.  She'd made him three or four breakfasts already, and was trying to prepare the next one.  Apparently annoyed that she couldn't figure out what she wanted, he was biting her thigh.  She was frozen in pain and clearly couldn't figure out how to make it stop.  Couldn't help laughing.  Loudly.

Never sure she wanted her own baby, Adam changed her mind.  He was such a content baby, she thought she'd like one too.  Hers wasn't the same calm easy baby, but she was the perfect baby -- the perfect daughter -- for my sister. 

Joined later by Jake, our three offspring became more than cousins.  They are siblings of a sort.  My sister and I shared mothering the three of them for the duration of their lives.  Her and I grew up in the bosom of a tribe; not able to offer them the same, we offered them each other.

Now the mothers of teens, we share sure knowledge that there is no one who loves those three like we do.  And there is no one they love like they love us.

Twisted sisters we are.  Twisted and twined genetically; twisted and united by mutual admiration and respect; twisted and melded as friends. 

I love you, Staci.  Happy Birthday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Heart of a Mother

My sweet baby got hurt tonight.  The trainer called from the field, and my heart dropped.  "You'll have to take him to a doctor immediately."

His entire life flashed before my eyes. 

The moment I turned from the wonder on Joe's face to see his squashed red squalling face.

The first time he fell on his head.

The feeling that blossomed in my heart every time that green-eyed, chubby baby reached for me.

The hurt in his eyes when I bit him to make him stop biting Adam. 

The night he howled through every Maus Foods aisle because he was damn well going to have Macaroni and Cheese.

His first day of school when he was just a little nervous.

The second day when he was NO WAY letting go of the bus seat to go back to That Place ever again.

The happy little grin when he scored his first ever soccer goal.

The happier little grin when he scored four goals in the second half.


I could fill a book about this boy of mine.  I could fill a second, slightly longer book about the other.

My heart paused in those moments between "you'll have to take him to a doctor" and seeing firsthand that he was fine. 

I've failed many times with my boys. 

They don't care.

I studied their strange boy world and learned.

They taught me to ask forgiveness -- but more about how to accept it. 

They ran to me with outstretched arms and brimming hearts many, many times -- and I learned how to open my arms and heart. 

They wrap me in their own version of sweaty, hearty boy love every single day -- then sit on me to prove their manliness.

I'm so thankful God chose these boys for me.


He's okay. He's a Kounkel. They don't bleed. They get up and keep playing.

My Random Thursdays

No one I know is surprised when I talk about my minor OCD.  It manifests in so many little ways -- the need to have my notepads in line, pens in the cup, and pictures straight.  It's what prompts me to count things.  It's compelling; I can't deny my need for precision or stop counting.  Still, I have a sense of humor about it.

I designate each day of the week for certain tasks, whether at work, home, church, or away; whether laborious, intellectual, or spiritual.  On Thursdays I invite something random into my life.  We eat random food for dinner, attend random community or church events, and I read random passages in my love letter from God.

This Random Thursday, I turned to Romans.  Romans and I are not yet intimate, but I'm thinking we could be.  Still... Ephesians and I are pretty tight right now.

I opened to Chapter Twelve with a quiet prayer in my heart hoping to find words I most need to hear.  The letters swam before my slightly unfocused eyes, finally coming to rest on verse 9.

"Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good..."

Those words are enough for today.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It Is Well

There's this thing my mother-in-law does with my boys.

She asks them three questions.

First, what was the best thing about your day?

Next, what was the worst thing about your day?

Finally, what did you do for someone else today?

I love watching them do this... thing.  They never answer lightly or flippantly, although their answers are often funny.  They ponder before answering.  Their answers always paint me a picture of their lives in those moments.

Adam articulates well; he's a reader, and I always think reading makes people better with language.  Jakob speaks monotonously and quietly and manages to re-shape my view of the world.

Today I was thinking about this thing and about our day.

I loved the upbeat, excited mood everyone wore today.

I detest failure on the part of myself or those around me.

I loved others today.  Really, really loved them.

I've been hearing a song with the lyrics "Jesus has overcome, and the victory is won:  He is Risen from the Dead."  The only other line I can recall is "I can say it is well." 

That's what I'll say:  it IS well.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My White-Knuckled Joy Ride...

About six months ago, Joe and I played in a driving simulator.

It was a bizarre physical experience.  There are no g-forces in a simulator.  No matter how hard you depress the brake, for example, your body remains in the same position.  No matter how sharp the curve in the road, you don't even sway.  No matter how intense the maneuver, you feel the same.  The entire experience made me nauseous.

We were learning.  I would really like to offer our employees the opportunity to work in a simulator.  Unfortunately simulators are expensive, so this is one that goes on the back-burner for now (and, lest it appear I have just contradicted my last post, if I only had a month to live, I would not be using it to send my employees through a simulator!).

Nearing the thirty-minute mark, I was doing very well avoiding obstacles and driving safely.

Then the instructor started to get a little crafty. 

He added wind -- and then kept increasing it in massive proportions.

He dropped glaring black ice on the road.

He turned day into night.

He put a pedestrian in the road.

White knuckled and crawling along the road, that pedestrian in the road was the last proverbial straw.  The bus -- well aided by ice and wind -- began a slow spin as I tried to avoid the pedestrian.  Nearly blinded already by the dark, I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and ignore what was about to happen.  I came to a stop in a field, surrounded by peaceably munching cattle, my pedestrian splattered in the wind.

First, there is an element of unreality in the entire scenario.  We often have warning of coming hazards.  We almost always have warning of impending darkness.  We don't go for walks in icy, windy, late-night conditions.  The cattle?  Well, what DO they do in the winter?

Then there was the issue with the g-forces.  I would have felt SOMETHING happening -- right?

Really, I didn't have any notion of impending disaster until it was far too late to do anything about it.

That happens sometimes in life too.

Mothers abandon.  Dads get sick.  Friends betray.  Finances sour.  Spouses struggle.  People die. 

Usually, they don't all strike at once like they did for me.

For a great many months I was able to cope, some days with the wide-eyed "what the HELL just happened" look on my face.  As the stresses mounted, I grew numb with grief, fear, and -- sometimes -- rage.   I felt buffeted by events well beyond my control.  Worse, I felt unsafe.

Though it took me months to realize it, family and friends I had long supported in a variety of ways were standing beside me.  And I saw they were willing to be my support were I willing to let them.  I surrendered and have rested in their loving embrace, and am so thankful for them. 

This summer, I found a new support system in a suprising arena:  the people at work.  While struggling with their own issues and events, they've been able to do things I've always done myself.  They studied new technology and coped with constant, unfriendly Change.  They've managed long, sweaty hours by laughing.

Thirty-six hours from now, we'll assess how successful our efforts have been in the world of transportation.

While I pause for these few me-moments and consider the last few months, I recognize where the hazards were, which one was my "last straw" event, and how I learned to navigate in a new way.  In reality my journey has been very like my simulator experience:  I've been driving white-knuckled along this road -- with its wind, ice, and whacky pedestrians -- at the whim of a derranged instructor.  I've arrived in a new world, sensing it's a good place to be.

Now I just need to find a way to reward the hard-working and dedicated people who journeyed with me.

While writing this morning, I keep hearing, "Like a shepherd He feeds His flock." 

Maybe it's a message:  take them to Red Lobster. 

I wonder if they take reservations.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Twist on a Bucket List...

In the waxing and waning of the day, Joe and I often spend a few quiet moments watching snippets of television.  Sometimes it's Fox or ESPN or DIY.  My favorite snippets are the fiction. 

Yesterday we watched the final moments of the Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nickolson.

Joe told me the story:  two guys meet in the hospital, make a wish list, and take a journey that ends with each of them finding joy.

I can't create a bucket list.  Maybe I'm still not old enough.

Rather I look around my space and think I'm content at this moment to having buckets of lists.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"I Promise to Love You"

Last weekend I played the piano at a wedding. 

I've already said I always, always cry at weddings.  From where I sit, I can see the groom's face when he's saying his vows.  He ALWAYS, no matter which groom it is, looks at the woman standing in front of him with such love and conviction while he says "I promise to love you all the days of my life."  He means it when he says it.

At this particular wedding, the couple chose the reading from Corinthians about love.  "Love is patient, love is kind...  Love never fails." 

Think about that line:  "Love NEVER fails."

How many of us really have that kind of love?

Joe loves me like that.  He's patient.  He's kind.  He is not a person who envies others.  He protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

How could I have ever known how blessed I was to find him?

I have a difficult time with love.  I grew up with an addict and daughters of addicts have a tough time with love.  In fact, I wasn't SURE I loved Joe until we'd been together for nearly eight years, and the realization occurred over, of all things, puke. 

Thank God Joe understands that and loves me anyway.

I wish I could tell all those hopeful and loving grooms how difficult loving really is, but wouldn't that be a downer on their wedding day?!?

Instead, as he looks so lovingly at his new wife and says those words that bind him to her, I pray. 

I pray for him to love her like God loves her, and for her to do the same.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Think

I think. 

I think all the time.

It's exhausting.

That's all.