December 3, 2011

A Little Less Time in Purgatory

Last night, I headed over to my friends' house for our monthly dinner/gathering/late-night-drinking-good-wine-and-laughing fest. K & M have hosted this every month for a few years now, and I do everything I can to be in attendance (pretty much short of dying, I'm there...possibly even then).

When I parked my car, I noticed a cell-phone lying on the ground. They live near a jogging path, so I figured a runner dropped it, unknowingly. I picked it up, thinking that all of us at the gathering (many of whom are waaaay more techie than me) would be able to contact the owner.

Before we could even get to digging through the address book, it rang, and Michi answered it. Sure enough, it was the owner; and she guided him to her house for a pick up.

Here's the kicker...while it wasn't THAT great of a phone, it was still a pretty nice phone. Turns out, a kid had STOLEN it. Even though it was lifted by someone with questionable morals, it found its way into the hands of people who want to do the right thing.

The man got his phone back, but more than that...I hope he was able to rekindle a bit of his hope in humanity.

September 19, 2011

The Motley Crew...and Grief

Ever been to a memorial service that felt more like a party? Where there seems to be more laughter, celebration, and reconnection than mourning?

I was at one of those this weekend. My friend, Levi, finally lost his three-year, valiant battle with cancer a few weeks ago. Cancer is one of those words that cuts me to my core. I hate it. HATE it. And, although I use the word, “Hate” more than I should in my vernacular, I don’t honestly HATE things or people. I strongly dislike them, but I don’t hate them. Except this. I HATE cancer. With everything in me. It’s wrong. It’s cruel.

I digress.

Levi’s memorial was a party. In fact, his family called it a “Celebration of Life,” and that’s exactly what it was. He collected people like others collect coins or stamps. The group that showed up to his celebration was eclectic – we had members of the small-town where he grew up, and friends from his time living in a commune. You had people who could be considered as part of the “fringe” of society talking and laughing with church elders and town leaders. In truth, though, it was a testament of who he was.

Levi was odd. Even his brother, during the sharing time, described him as such. He was one of those guys who had a hard time finding his place in life when he was younger; which allowed him, as an adult, to love and accept everyone around him. In that acceptance, he collected a group that was as ragtag and odd as he was.

It was utterly fantastic, seeing who all came out to laugh, cry, and mourn with each other. To see who loved this man deeply, and who – through being loved by him in return – were changed. There were tears and moments of deep sorrow, but there were also shouts of laughter and recollections of deep joy. This club, this “Friends of Levi” club, is one to which I am proud to hold membership. I just couldn’t help but think how much HE would’ve enjoyed the other night, being surrounded by those who love him and who love those whom he loved.

I spoke earlier about death being a severe mercy, and that this road we’re on hurts. Finding mercy gives us strength to continue to walk this path of grief and mourning. I found the other night, at a pot-luck filled with an motley crew of people, sharing our love, sharing our grief, mourning, and even laughing together gave us a bit more strength to continue this journey.

It’s not easy. Loving well and losing that loved one never is. But, we have each other to lean on and give support through this, and I think…in his own, odd, collector, wise way…Levi made sure we did.

September 12, 2011

A Severe Mercy

I received some bad news the other day; a friend of mine, someone I loved deeply, finally lost his battle with cancer. He wasn't even yet 30.

Although his death was expected, it doesn't stop the pain. The knowing that there will never be, on this Earth, another heated debate, another goading of me until I re-examined my stance on things, another laughing-until-I-cry moment with him. It hurts.

Grief is a weird thing. You have moments of okay-ness, where life seems to be chugging along, and although there's a hole in your life, you think you're going to be fine. Then, without warning or seeming provocation, you get hit between the eyes with a pain so intense, it takes your breath away.

I've walked through grief a few times in my life, and what I've learned is that when those moments hit, I need to not squelch them, but rather, I need to lose my breath, acknowledge the pain for what it is, call it grief, mourn in the moment, and let it pass. Not doing so is wrong. It's not how we're supposed to mourn. It's unhealthy.

Yesterday, I had one of those moments. I had stopped by my friend's parents' house, where he had spent his last months. His sister is my best friend, and she was there, doing things that needed to be done.

One of the things that needing doing was his laundry. His favorite clothes of the past few months had been washed and dried, but folding them...that was a final act that was almost too hard for them to do. Dad couldn't do it, and Mom didn't even know the laundry was being done...the grown kids were trying to make it as easy as possible for her.

The thing is, I could see in their eyes, even the grown kids weren't sure they could get through it. So, I walked into the garage and started folding. It's a mundane job, really. Nothing huge, but I had this surreal feeling that every fold needed to be perfect. I think I folded one t-shirt three times, because it wasn't correct. His pants, his socks, even his underwear...I folded every piece.

I bit my lip hard to keep the tears at bay, and I had to stop a few times to breathe a couple deep breaths before I could pick up the next item of clothing. I might've even kissed the beanie that he was wearing the last time I saw him.

Sheldon VanAucken called death God's "severe mercy," and I can't think of a more apt way to describe it. It's severe in the pain - the ripping of a loved one away from our arms, and the tearing of our hearts. Yet...there is mercy. Mercy for my friend - because I know in my core that he is no longer in pain, no longer suffering, and he is at peace. That mercy gives US mercy - in the knowing.

It doesn't make this path any easier to climb, but the mercy gives us some strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

September 1, 2011

The Greatest Compliment I've Ever Been Paid...

I was sharing this story with my friend, L, the other day; and she told me that I needed to write this one down "someplace safe" so that I can remember it. What better place than a blog? it is: THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT I'VE EVER BEEN PAID...

Quite a few years ago, I was at a dinner party with a bunch of friends. Some of those people I'd known literally all my life, others didn't know me all that well.

One of the "newish" people at the party started asking me about my love-life (sadly, it was then as it is now...single). This is NOT my favorite topic at all, because of many reasons, some of which are that conversations on this topic inevitably lead to the person feeling as if he/she needs to reassure me that "the right one is coming, just be patient" (gag me now), or they reach over, stroke their partner's arm, and say something along the lines of, "I'm so glad I'm not on the dating scene anymore. How DO you do it?" (that one just makes me want to bang my head against the nearest concrete wall. Better yet, maybe bang THAT PERSON'S head...). No matter what happens, I always end up feeling sub-human and condescended to, because I haven't found "Mr. Right (now)."

This night's conversation started off in the same manner:

Annoying-can't-not-ask-invasive-personal-questions-person: "Jane, you're so amazing, so smart, so funny (personal note: I agree! She could've just stopped THERE)...what's wrong with men these days?"

Me: "Excuse me?"

ACNAIPQP: "Well, why aren't you dating anyone?"

Me: "Again, excuse me?"

ACNAIPQP: "Well, you're fantastic. Why can't men see it? Why aren't you dating anyone??"

Me: "Thank you for telling me I'm fantastic, but I can't say why men haven't seen it."

ACNAIPQP: "Well, have you dated? Why aren't you with somebody?"

Me: "Honestly, ACNAIPQP, I haven't found a man who can convince me that life with him is better than life without him." (Another personal note: 1) That's a stinking-fantastic line! Not only is it the truth, but it usually stops the person right then and there. 2) For those of you suddenly wanting to defend the men of this world, please know that I DO give them chances...I don't just write a guy off at the end of the first meeting...or date...or sixth date. I just know that an "US" is supposed to be better than just "ME." So then, I date, I enjoy getting to know guys, but until "US" is better than "ME," it's just not worth it.)

ACNAIPQP: "Yeah. NO. Seriously, what is WRONG with men?"

(I think she honestly expected me to have an answer for this!)

Me: ----? (I didn't have anything to say to that. At all.)

ACNAIPQP: "Aren't you lonely? I mean, how do you DO it all by yourself?" (Yep. She went there.)

Me: ----? (There might've been a few incredulous looks, and my mouth might've been doing the "fish" thing. I had NOTHING to say to her at that point.)

This is where my savior rode in on a white horse. Okay, really, he was sitting at the other end of the table; but in my mind, when I remember this scenario, he's on a large, white horse, riding up to the dinner table.

Kobster (that's what I call him): "You know, ACNAIPQP, I think we're looking at this in a totally different way."

ACNAIPQP: "What do you mean?"

Kobster: "I think you're looking at Jane as you look at yourself, but she's a very different person than you are."

The man had everyone's attention at that point. Did I mention that it was a LARGE dinner party? Yep.

Kobster continued: "I believe that there are two types of people in this world. Both are valid, one is not better than the other; but they are very, very different. The first type includes people like you and me. We're the ones who aren't complete until we find our soul mate (and here, he looked at his wife, Michi. It was all very romantic, now that I look at it in retrospect). We strive so hard to find that right person because there's something missing inside US without that person. We're desperate to find that person, and life is better once we do.

"But, there's another type of person out in the world. This person doesn't have to search so desperately to find her soul mate, because that person is complete within herself. She's able to take her time and be picky because she's looking for the person who will compliment everything within her. She's complete, totally and wholly, in who she is. Being connected to a person who isn't her perfect compliment will diminish the gift she is to the world.

"Jane is one of those people; and the way I see it, she's doing just fine as she is."

Those words sunk deep into my soul and took root. They're still blooming today.

July 23, 2011

Summer Fun

A few weeks ago, I received an invitation in the mail to a summer bbq for my church's worship team. It's an annual thing, and every year we have a different theme. This year's theme is "Fiesta," so the postcard included a paper-doll cutout of our worship pastor, including a sarape, a sombrero, and an itty-bitty mustache.

J and I were bored. It happens towards the end of summer vacation (J's a teacher, too) - we've done all the usual "fun" things, and suddenly we need to tap into our creativity to find something fun to do. That's when we remembered the postcard.

Our worship leader's name is Mark. In the hours following our amazingly brilliant idea, he became "Marco Libre," and we...well...Marco had quite an adventurous afternoon. We documented it. Here you are:

Let's play "Where's Mark?" Ready? Go!

Marco Libre was our Navigator (or, as J called him, our "NaviGATO.")

Marco "chopstuck" up a tree. He loves their spring rolls:


Tall, skinny latte:

"X" Marks the spot!


"I'm on a horse":

A Tiny Marco! (Get it? Hahah!)

CD. E. D. B. D. Marco!

Giant Dipper...little

Sand in los pantalones, no bueno. Amigo con cannon, muy bien.

We still have ideas...more fun in the works.

July 1, 2011


I've been home longer than I was gone, but it's taken me that long to work through the culture shock, jet lag, and Plus, my amazing family has claimed so much of my time since I've been home, that it's just now that I'm able to really process (during the school year, they are shamefully abandoned; and then I left the country not 48 hours after graduation...they get to claim as much of my time as they want.).

Am I changed? Yep. You can't journey to the fifth-poorest country on our planet, look into the faces of their neediest children, walk in the dirt to their homes, talk with the caregivers and NOT be changed. My heart is even more broken for their plight than ever before. And, a mighty huge chunk has been left in a feeding centre in the middle of the "bush" in Malawi. It's in the care of children with names such as Bridget Chomba, Mishak, Jonathan Saidi, Zione Flak, Yankho Guya, and Gabu...

Another thing that hit me like a two-by-four between the eyes was watching MY students rise to the occasion. In trips past, there was always something that fell through the cracks, some minor task that needed completing (if not, it would upset the whole applecart), some child that needed a friend that was overlooked, some person who needed a kind word. Not this year. This year's crop of students CLICKED. One person's weakness was covered by another person's strength. There were very few holes - in our team's strengths and in our program. To the point that I felt lost at times. Where was my job? I'm used to following the pack, picking up the dropped pieces, and filling in the cracks.

That loss of equilibrium is actually what we want. It means I feel a a leader, but it's a real dream come true. It means that we have enabled our students to the point that they don't necessarily NEED us to do what they were meant to do. The biggest dream of any person who's training leaders is to "train ourselves out of a job." Will we ever be out of our job? NO. There's always a new crop of students rising through the ranks for whom we need to be available. But, to actually see confidence, talents, and gifts woven together so beautifully as we leaders were able to...that happens very seldom in our lifetimes.

After a day or two of feeling a bit...not needed, I realized that this off-balance-ness was what I needed to learn. That maybe, just maybe, there was something for ME to do that didn't involve training or equipping my students (because, we already did that SO WELL.). That's when I got to look around and realize the incredible need for LOVE in the children at the centre. It was made abundantly clear to me when a seven-year-old boy climbed in my lap like a baby and sat there, letting me hold him, rock him, and sing to him for almost an hour. Seven-year-old boys in Malawi DON'T snuggle like that. But, this little boy had a deep-seated need, and he took the opportunity presented to him - one that, if I had been doing my usual "job" wouldn't have been available.

Memories are embedded in my heart, and since my camera broke down while on the trip, they're all I've got. Once I steal some photos from my team, I'll post them here. :)

May 11, 2011

The Tale of the Money Jar

A little while ago, I mentioned that I have a grammar kitty in my classroom. Any time that a child uses the incorrect form of a pronoun ("Me and Johnny went to the store...") or chooses "can" when they should've chosen "may" ("Can I go to the bathroom?"), they owe me 25-cents.

We've been keeping a running tally of the money because, as per my students' requests, at the end of the year a donation in their name will be made to Malawi Children's Mission. We were talking the other day, and I mentioned that if we raised $50, it will pay the school fee for a child at MCM for a whole year.

This morning, we decided to count the money. $43.75. Not too shabby, if you ask me (although, to be honest, the teacher in me is appalled at how many mistakes I've caught!). One of my boys walked to his wallet and pulled out $7.00.

"Let's pay for a child's education, Ms. Doe!! I don't need the ice cream I was going to spend this money on, anyway."


May 1, 2011

The Storm

I'm a blessed woman. I have some amazing friends who ask me how I'm doing and then demand a real answer. None of this pansy-butt, "I'm fine" stuff (they'd just cock their heads and give me the "cut the crap" look), but the dirty, real, ugly, honest truth.

Kd is one of those friends. A few months ago, she asked me how I was doing, and my answer was, "I'm in that holding spot. I know there are storms brewing off the horizon, I know they're coming, but right now I'm in the sun. Sooooo...I'm soaking up everything I can - every moment, every deep breath, every joy, every laugh...because I know the storms are coming." She just nodded, squeezed my hand, and smiled. There's nothing to say - it just is.

Life has continued on since then - there is nothing we can do to stop the march of time. The storms brewing off the horizon have moved closer. Ever stand on the coast and watch a storm move in? That's where I'm at right now. The dark clouds are still a bit away, but I can feel the whip of the wind on my face - the wind that always comes before a gale - one that ushers in the dark, cold weather.

A few weeks ago, I helped to teach our church a new song, called "Always." (Oh, my dear readers - I sing in the band at church. I haven't mentioned that, have I? Oops.) In the song, there's a line that says, "I will not fear the war; I will not fear the storm; my help is on the way..." (*Feel the need to clarify - the theme of the song is that our Lord will not abandon us in our times of distress, and that His love endures "always." I just re-read that and it sounded very militant-cultist-like, and that is SOOOOOO not the type of church I attend!)

I had a hard time singing that line that day...and every time we've sung the song since. Remember that bit about feeling the wind on my face? That day is when I realized just what that wind signifies. It's not a gentle breeze of a summer's day. It's a harbinger.

It also reminded me of a journal entry from a long time ago. Like, 2003, long-ago, but the words I wrote then still ring true to me today. Maybe even moreso. (Background: a friend and I had been traveling through New Zealand, and we had finally finished the last of the "big travel" days. We had just arrived at my family's house in Christchurch.)

We drove down from Blenheim today. It’s a beautiful drive – when you’re not sick of traveling. The news said a Southeasterly’s moving up the coast…looks like it’ll be a cold and snowy Fourth of July evening. Just outside of Kaikoura the storm came into view. A huge wall of gray. It’s fascinating really, we’re still in the brilliant sunshine, yet we’re on a collision course with a horrible storm. One predicted to bring the coldest temperatures in 10 years. I could probably wax poetic about how this signifies life, and how we need to be ready for the inevitable trials that lie ahead, and…blah-blah-blah…

Truth is, as fascinating as the storm’s approach was, it was J's (my nephew’s) reaction to it that has stuck with me. We get into Christchurch, it’s windy, snowing, colder-than-cold, and the kid is so excited that the only thing holding him together is his skin. At first, I thought it was my arrival (after all, I’m the favorite “Auntie” and he hasn’t seen me in 16 months)…but…no. Truth is, he’s bursting because the storm means snow, and snow equals snowball fights. In fact, we get to the house, and I’m unloading all the gifties I’ve brought for him (everything from microwave Kettle Korn to the VeggieTales “Jonah” movie), and where is he? Bundled up, out back, singing and dancing in the midst of the howling wind and blowing snow.

He was a great visual of abundant life and trials. I often look at the stormy times in my life as the stretches when the joy and fun stop. The “good” of life is put on hold until this hard time has passed. I honestly do not think that’s how God designed it. I think He wants me to be in the midst of that storm ~ and all that entails: wind, cold, darkness…and yet, to still be able to sing and dance because I am joyously looking ahead to the snowball fights to come.

So, help me to dance, Lord. Even when the only music to be heard is that of the storm's howl.

I think I need to practice my dance moves.

April 13, 2011

There is HOPE...

So many times, especially as a teacher, I hear people complain about this current generation of youngsters. How they're always connected to some electrical device, how they have no respect for their elders, how they don't know...nor seem to be challenged to ever know...the value of hard work. Heck, I've entertained some of those thoughts myself, and I've heard some words slightly akin to those same things be uttered out of my mouth.

Truth is, though, that there are some kids defying those expectations. They're breaking the stereotypes, and they give me hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, the nay-sayers and negative-trash-talkers might be wrong. I give you some evidence:

1. Boy #1. The other day we had an all-school assembly. Now, our school's not large by any measure, but we do have 900+ students. Those 900+ students, plus faculty, plus parental visitors were all crammed into our bleachers for the assembly. Seating was tight, so I made my way up the stairs and chose a spot to stand that was near my students. One boy looked up, from his space on the end, and said, "Ms. Doe! Here, have my seat!!" He proceeded to stand the rest of the assembly, and, I might add, he didn't goof off or distract anyone. Did I mention this youngster's only 11?

2. Boys #s 2 & 3: These two are best friends, and they're inseparable. Lately, their mission seems to be to rescue every book that's been left out in the elements. My classroom has become a "book hospital" with these boys bringing in sopping wet books, using a hairdryer (*ahem*'s possibly mine. Why do I have a hairdryer in my classroom? Don't ask.) to gently dry the pages, and then using stacks of dictionaries to press the book back into its correct shape and thickness. They then will use packaging tape or contact paper to make sure the cover is properly on before they take the book to the Lost and Found. Yes, in some ways they're just boys being boys - exploring their "MacGyver" side; but it's more than that. It's the care they give to every book that demonstrates their respect for the things they have been given.

3. Boy #4: I have a serious inability to turn down BBQ chips. It's embarrassing how much I like them. Boy #4 hates them. He can't stand 'em, but his momma can't seem to remember, so she keeps packing them in his lunch. Almost every day, there's a zip-top baggie filled with BBQ potato-goodness left on my desk. He just walks by, smiles, and places them on my desk. Kinda like the apples of ages past, but this one is fat and MSG-filled, and they go straight to my hips. And I smile through every bite.

4. All of 'em: I was struggling to get them to remember (and use correctly!!) proper pronouns ("Johnny and I..." not "Me and Johnny...") as well as the proper verb (it's, "May I use the restroom," not, "Can I...?"), and I joked with the students that I would make them pay me a quarter every time they made the mistake. To my utter shock, they liked the idea (who knew?). Then, this conversation took place:

Kid: What are you going to do with the money?
Me: I dunno... (in my head: vacation???) ...spend it on you?
Kid: Why don't we donate it to the orphans you work with in Malawi?
Me: Absolute stunned silence...and then, maybe a couple tears.

I set about making the jar that very day. We've been at it for a few weeks now, and we've made a game of it. The kids do their best to NOT get caught using incorrect grammar (let me clarify - it's not that they've started using the proper words/phrases, it's that they still do it and hope I don't notice), and I have definitely upped my game. I just counted the money in the jar. We're at $23.00.

I know that these kids definitely aren't the norm. The youth of our nation is a hedonistic, selfish group, and I have more than enough examples to that fact - heck, I see it on a daily basis. But, there are some who are defying the trend, and it's possible that there are more out there than we know. Moments such as the ones I just described give me hope - that maybe the future isn't as bleak as it seems.

March 29, 2011

Reminders in Dreams...

I woke up this morning, and I swear, I could smell it. That acrid, smokey smell that blows into our windows every morning when we're in Malawi. The locals burn their trash at daybreak, and that smell is more efficacious than an alarm clock. I felt the wisp of the mosquito net across my face and the humidity that is ever-present. I promise you, I was not on my comfy, pillow-topped mattress; instead, my hip was firmly planted on the board of my bed, since the mattress is so thin and there's a hole right where a person's hip should be. I couldn't have been happier.

Then, my alarm went off, and I realized I was still in the States. Don't get me wrong, I am GRATEFUL for my life here. I am blessed beyond measure. I have a job I love, an apartment that, while it's not much, is my home; I have friends and family who remind me daily of why I was put on this Earth, and I lack for nothing.

It's just...the countdown has begun. 69 days until I leave with an amazing team of high school students, and we travel almost 48 hours to the other side of this globe. To a place where everything is different, and yet...the important things are still the same. Smiles mean the same thing; heck, I think they mean more. They're definitely easier to share. Hugs are tighter. Language is only words; smiles, laughter, and hand-gestures communicate just as effectively. Children laugh. Songs are sung. And, gratitude abounds - for me, it's just the thankfulness to be able to go. To see and experience what so many here in the US have never seen, and never will because we're so wrapped up in our struggle to fulfill the "American Dream." I'm grateful to help feed the hungry, to love the "unlovable", and to let some orphans - kids who have been shunned by society because their parents died of AIDS - know that they have value. That they are not a mistake, and that they have a purpose in this life.

I've been looking at my students a little bit differently today. I see them not as little junior high kids, but as future world changers. Students I will someday, maybe, travel around the world with, sit in the dirt & hold little kids with, cook food at the center with, and hopefully, help instill into them a desire to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick.

I can teach my students what the definition of "salient" is, how to effectively defend a thesis, and how to diagram a compound sentence with direct objects and indirect objects and compound verbs, not to mention nouns of direct address. But, if that's all I do, I have not, truly not, been a teacher. Because, being able to score well on a test means nothing if one cannot look with compassion on others.

That is my true calling. Teaching is just the vehicle I use.

69 days...

March 21, 2011

It's Seriously One of the Greatest Things I've Ever Heard...

It's loud. I mean, LOUD. It's loud enough to find you wherever you are hiding, flexible enough to wrap around you, and strong enough to drag you along. To the fun. Back to the person who uttered this amazing thing. Because this thing - and this person - help you to suck the marrow out of life.

What is this thing? Who is this person?

The person is J. The thing is her laugh.

Yes, it's loud. Boisterous. Not "lady-like" at all. Infectious. Silly. Generous. Childlike. All grown up. Larger than life.

Just like J (except the non-lady-like thing; she's girly - all the way down to her 4-wheel driving, power-tool owning, high-heel wearing toes...oh, and the larger than life bit was seriously metaphorical.).

Her laugh is an invitation - to let go. To forget that the world is watching, to forget that I'm supposed to act a certain way, or to "appear" to be stylish and sophisticated. Her laugh calls to the soul and yells, "Sophistication is overrated. Come LIVE."

My laugh has gotten louder over the years that I've known J. I used to be quiet, hiding my humor in a subdued chuckle or a smirk. But, just as the sun cannot escape the dawn, you can't escape from the life that reverberates around in J's laughter. And, you cannot help but join in. Laugh. Guffaw. Chortle. Even wheeze because you can't breathe anymore. (Oh, and forget about keeping on mascara or eye makeup. You're going to laugh so hard you cry...a LOT.)

J's my bestie for many reasons; I'm blessed beyond words that God decided to intersect our lives. We've gotten into scrapes, had "adventures," eaten our weight in Candy Corn, cried our eyes out at the ugliness and indecency of life; but through it all, her laugh reverberates in every corner of every memory.

I'm going to hear it even when I'm old and deaf. It's that ingrained in my soul.

March 15, 2011

Me and My Momma...

My momma and I have one of those über-cool, kinda creepy, mind-melded relationships that freaks some people out, but for the most part, makes other people just smile and shake their heads (either in understanding or sympathy, I'm still never quite sure). Today, we had one of those conversations. Via text. She's just learned how to text, so it's been quite an adventure with her. Today's conversation still cracks me up. I've been reading it over and over - once while waiting in line at the store. It's just slightly embarrassing to be standing *alone* in a line, and suddenly, without provocation (at least, to the understanding of everyone around you) just burst out laughing. That's what my momma did to me today. See for yourself:

Me (to Mom): I need some promises from you. If you're ever unable to care for yourself, 1) you'll relinquish putting on makeup and let me do it for you, and 2) you will not, NOT roll yourself around Target in your wheelchair, muttering to yourself & scaring little children (and grownups) with your clown-like makeup and random rants (Mostly 'cuz I don't want to come explain to Security after they called me because my name and number were pinned on your shirt with "If I'm lost, call..." on it "just in case."). Do we have a deal???? PLEASE??? (and yes, I do need mind-bleach after this last trip to Target.)

Mom: OMG! (Side note: She actually typed "OMG!"; I did not abbreviate that. How cool is she??? SOOO cool.) She was at my Target, too! Deal...but I get to choose the nail polish colors. Red, pink, green, blue, and purple. All at once! No fair changing your number! I know where you live - if I can remember!

Me: As long as you're wearing orthopedic shoes and support hose, DEAL.

Mom: Oh, no. Mini-skirts and tank-tops. We're letting it all hang out! Perhaps Walmart in Oklahoma is a better venue...

Me: Mini-skirts, tank-tops, support hose, and orthopedic shoes. We'll call it "Dementia Chic."

Mom: We'll corner the market!

I keep reading this over and over. Crack up EVERY time. That woman slays me...

January 27, 2011

Who Knew?

I was digging through a drawer the other day, and I found an envelope that, I swear, I had never seen before. I grabbed it, and took a closer look.

Hmmmmm. Interesting. "A Share in America"? What does THAT mean? I looked inside.

Wellllll, whaddya know? It's a US Savings Bond. I've heard of these. I've actually purchased some for my darling nieces for Christmas and the like. I just didn't know I had one of them hiding in the dark depths of my vanity (it was in the bottom drawer - and, I have no idea how it got there...I have no recollection of this whatsoever).

Upon further investigation (ie: calling my momma), it turns out that my father's coworkers purchased this for me after my father died in a car accident. It was their way of helping me out.

Not to give away my age, but if you look closely at the purchase date on this thing, you could figure it out (I was seven months old at the time of purchase):

(This thing is so old, even the ink was fading...)

Now, me, only slightly understanding this whole Savings Bond concept, figured I'd cash it in. It's been in my family FOREVER, so it's well beyond it's maturity date. $50 is $50, you know?

Because this was a gift, but one given in a very special way at a very hard time in my life, it made sense that I use this money for my trip to South Eastern Africa, when I take high school students for two weeks to work with AIDS-orphans. Somehow, I think my father would've liked that idea.

Mom agreed, wholeheartedly. She knows me so well, that her first question to me after explaining the background of the bond was, "You're going to use it for Malawi, right?" Yes, Mom. Way to read my mind.

Again, not fully understanding the whole concept of "interest" and all that (I teach ENGLISH for goodness' sake!), I just figured it was $50. While that's not a large donation to the cost of the trip, it's still something. It's the right thing to do.

Imagine my surprise when the teller at the bank informed me that they were giving me $270! Wow. That's a LOT more than $50! :) My heart just about burst with joy.

I know my father's coworkers, from so long ago, had no idea what this money would bring. I know that they just felt they had to do something for the young baby who had just lost her dad. It just seems right that, now, they help me go love, feed, and teach some other young babies who have lost their dads.

Kids like...

James Patrick




and, my girls. The girls of my heart, Zione and Malia (L-R).

I'm so excited now; I can't wait for June when we get to see these darling children again. I miss them so. The time I have spent with them has truly been the greatest moments of my life.

Somehow, I think my father will be smiling.

January 10, 2011

Takin' a Drive...

I woke up this morning feeling grateful. Very grateful. To the point that, in my typical girl-emotional-ness, I burst into tears. Even though they were tears of gratitude, it still was an awkward way to wake up, and boy am I glad that I had some spoons in the freezer (the cold metal does wonders for puffy, red eyes…).

My alarm this morning was Christian Kane’s “Let’s Take a Drive,” which is arguably my favorite song of his. I’m not one to wax poetic about a singer, or his/her songs; but this morning, the song took root in my soul – again. Here’s how and why…without sounding too much like some fangirl reviewer, I hope (‘cuz, he has A LOT of those)…

A good song tells a story. That’s the purpose of a song. But, a great song…that tells many stories. It hits to the bone and marrow of its listeners and connects on a deep, soul level – whether to bring laughter and joy, or to remind its listener of their own journey.

“Let’s Take a Drive” is mine. Well, part of mine. In it, Kane sings about a friend who had forgotten who she was, and he talks about their childhood – the crazy adventures they’d gotten into, and the wild, chase-after-the-wind young woman she had been. He told her to take a drive with him, and he’ll remind her of that young woman. He’s actually said that it wasn’t that “deep” of a song, and it really wasn’t that big of a deal; and I’m sure that, to him, it really wasn’t. It’s a song for a friend – that’s all.

There was a point in my life where I had forgotten who I was – had lost the sense of adventure and the lust for life that had defined ME until that point. How I forgot…what had happened to me is a whole other story (which, ironically enough is told in another of Kane’s songs – an earlier one called, “Mary, Can You Come Outside?”). Life was dark. Hard. It literally HURT. There was a deep pit of pain, but I felt as though I had to mask it from those who loved me (hey, pain does WEIRD things to people. At the point when I should’ve been talking and getting help, in my skewed-logic, I was protecting those who loved me from my issues. They had enough of their own, I would think, they don’t need my messed up world, too.).

I’m a great actress, I came to find out. Some of the best friends in my world didn’t even know anything was wrong. But, man am I incredibly grateful for those who were able to catch those moments when I thought no one was looking. When the façade would slip just enough and they could snatch a glimpse to the inner turmoil.

Those were the people who set up camp in that dark night of my soul and led me back. My kilt-wearing, rugby-playing, rough, crass, behemoth of a brother (who’s also a marshmallow) who would literally carry me to his truck and drive…sometimes for hours…reminding me of the girl I once was. Of how I viewed the world…and how I let it view me. My best friend, who saw the destruction that the lies had caused in my soul, would “hold up the mirror” (her words, ones I find quite apropos) and whisper, “THIS is you, not who you’ve come to believe… .”

God is gracious, and I came back “to me.” Came out swinging, as some friends put it. I just don’t ever want to forget that time. Not that I want to relive it (oh, Sweet Jesus, never again!); but for the sake that scars are a reminder of an injury, the scars on my soul are a reminder of deep pain – and deep love that brought me through.

Today, that lust for life is back. I dance in the rain again (I really do. I should be embarrassed about it, but I’m not). I laugh, loudly. I sing (on-key at times) in the shower. I try to find joy in every moment – even the ones that hurt. I’m forever grateful to those friends and my brother, for not giving up on me. Not letting me stay in that pit.

Songs like “Let’s Take a Drive” remind me of the hell I walked through, but they also allow me to remember that life is GOOD. The tears were of thankfulness; that life is worth living, because I’m ALIVE.

Not that Christian Kane is ever going to read my tiny, little blog…but if he did, I’d just say thanks. For putting words to the struggle some of us have gone through, and giving us an anthem to sing. That, and if, at some concert in the future, you look out while singing this song and you see a blonde woman trying to hide her tears in her beer, don’t worry too much about it. Really. I’ll be fine.

To those of you who just slogged through my damaged psyche in this post…I apologize for my dirty laundry. Those memories – of pain and of love – have just been following me around all day. I can’t shake ‘em, so I’m giving them a name and a voice, recognizing them for what they are; and I’m choosing gratefulness. Deep, deep gratitude.

Now, I’m going to go hug my annoying-as-hell-brother’s neck extra tight. And, I’m going to sit at my best friend’s table, snuggling her babies, and thank God, again, that life is worth living. It’s good.