Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I could hear the wind miles before it arrived, its powerful arms careened across the field towards the cabin. I kept thinking it would go away. I wanted it to be like all the rest that had been billowing across the field that night, hitting the house and then dying down. Some creaky walls and whistling through the windows perhaps, but not the kind of wind that has fear on its back. Not the kind that feels as if it will be bad before it gets to you. Not the kind that makes you and your husband sit up straight in bed and start scrambling. The noise was deafening and it was still coming towards us. They always say that tornadoes sound like freight trains and that is exactly the sound that I was hearing. Dan peaked out the window (although without his glasses I don't know what he was seeing) and then yelled at me to get Zach and go downstairs to the basement.

At 3:45 a.m. on the Sunday after Christmas, I was not very clear in my head. But I did recognize the word "downstairs" as the fear settled inside me and jumped out of bed. As I got up, I could feel that wind pushing that house. This is not any house--it's a brand new log cabin that my mother-in-law and her husband built with logs that are about 2 foot in diameter. This thing is solid, people. But the feeling in the room as I gathered up Zach and some blankets was energy and movement, really like nothing that I have ever felt before. As we stumbled down the stairs, the noise was louder and louder. I yelled at my mother-in-law as I passed her room that we should go to the basement and kept on moving. Zach was so calm. For being pulled out of sleep like that, he followed directions and blindly kept moving. We settled on a bed in the cold, darkness of the basement to wait.

After about five minutes, it died down enough for us to feel safe again and we tripped up stairs towards our beds. Zach and I didn't go all the way up to the loft, but stayed on the couch. He felt comfort there, halfway between safety and the roof, but wanted me with him for awhile. When he slept, I snuck back to my bed and listened to the wind. Sleep wouldn't come, of course, not when adrenline has rushed through your body. Oddly enough at times like these, songs are the first thing that pop into my head. As I shook a bit in fright as strong winds continue to pelt the walls, the chorus from Amy Grant's How Can We See that Far played over and over again...

But like your daddy said
The same sun that melts the wax can harden clay
And the same rain that drowns the rat will grow the hay
And the mighty wind that knocks us down
If we lean into it
Will drive our fears away

Okay, so I always thought it weird that Amy wrote a lyric with the word rat in it, but the rest is excellent for thinking about on a windy night. This year has been intense. I can't describe the fears that I have been shouldering as I watch my mom fight cancer. In fact, the weeks prior to Christmas weren't great for me. Anger has been welling up at odd times and I guess I am beginning to go through some of the stages of grief. Our dog had been gravely ill over Christmas and I thought we would have to put him down, but drugs were starting to kick in the last few days and he is okay for now. I am taking a pay cut at work, and watching the fear on the faces of those around me as we look at poor sales figures and ponder the economy.

That mighty wind is knocking me down.

But leaning into the wind gives such an image, doesn't it? Last summer as we took the ferry home from Wisconsin to Michigan, Zach and I went to the top to check out the view. The ferry was cruising in at such a speed that Zach could lean forward and that wind would bolster him up. He looked like he was flying with his arms stretched out at his side and his jacket swinging around him. There was a big smile on his face and his laughter was tossed around me. Such a difference than when he would turn around and the wind was at his back, pushing him onto the floor. Such power. Such force.

Amazing that when we turn and face that wind head on, we are not knocked down. We are held up by the arms of the one who can careen across the field and sound like a freight train, yet who can also wrap us up in love the split second that we collapse in trust.

I'm choosing that option. May it drive those fears away.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dear Diary,

So sorry I have not written. I have been very busy doing all the stuff that adults do such as trick-or-treating (I mean accompanying my son while he went trick-or-treating), wasting time online (there is this new thing called Twitter and Facebook), reading a book or two (yes, we still do that with actual books), and most of all playing the Guitar Hero game on the Wii (believe me, it's way better than Atari) with my husband. Oh, and my son.

You see, we recently purchased Guitar Hero World Tour. This involves a lead guitar, a bass guitar, a set of drums and a microphone. Much fun can be had by playing eighties rock songs and seventies hits and even a few nineties gems with fake instruments on a video game. Seems the days of Pacman and Tetris have morphed into something completely different in the year 2008. Funny thing is...my sense of competitiveness has grown with the purchase of this new game. My husband challenged me to move beyond "easy" level to "medium." And so I did. I am not a firstborn for nothing. Challenge me and I will take up on it in most cases. I double-dog-dare you.

I'm getting pretty good now if I do say so myself. My husband plays the darn thing more than I do and has already attempted the "hard" songs...show off. But I'm here for the Throw Down. He's gone for two weeks on and off this month and I will show him. I'm going to practice every night and master "Eye of the Tiger" or "Beat It."

It seems like only yesterday when I was dancing to "Eye of the Tiger" at a friend's slumber party and now...my son knows it? Weird. And Michael Jackson was too cool for words when I was in 7th grade. My friend even had the red leather zipper jacket. Maybe for effect, I should put on a marl knit sweater and leggings. It might put me in the mood to rock.

Well, I'd better lock this yellow diary up tonight. Don't want that husband to accidentally see what I've written. My secret's safe here, I think. I can't let him know my plan to take over Guitar Hero Universe...

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

As Alanis Morisette once said, Isn't it ironic?

I recently stayed at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas. It's part of the chain of hotels that Gaylord owns, the original hotel residing in Nashville. These hotels are well known for their biosphere-like atriums that are the centerpiece of each location. Rooms go around the sides and the sun shines in through the glass to the plants and people below. They are all quite beautiful, but if you stay for several days they tend to make you feel as if you are a specimen under glass.

At any rate, this particular hotel has one bit of weirdness. There is a lovely restaurant near the creek that runs around the interior of the hotel. With tables outside and trees/flowers all around, it seems as if you are in a sweet cafe. The best stuff lies inside the restaurant where the enormous buffet becomes a sight to behold. In fact, it is the first buffet I've seen where a section (friends, this is a section!) is devoted solely to dips. Spinach dip, crab dip, veggie dip, cheese dip--well, hello. We might as well call it as it is--the "1,000-calorie-per-bite" section! Splendid.

It is, I had some.

Anyway, once you grab your caloric plate of food, you take your seat at the tables near the creek to enjoy din-din. But wait! And what to my wandering eyes should appear?

Oh. My.

The workout room. I do not lie to you. As you eat your hefty meal of cheese dip and beef stroganoff and pretend to eat a salad, you may look across the creek to the backsides of thirty people on treadmills. I am sure you are thinking that this is not as bad as it seems. But, oh, yes. It most definitely is. There happens to be floor-to-ceiling windows with which to view those thirty backsides as they jog their little legs off.

Eating at this restaurant with that view begins to make one feel pretty bad. And so you get more dip.

But it gets worse. If you are on that treadmill acting smug, thinking that you have really made a breakthrough because you have gotten your (overly large) butt into shorts and walked down to the workout room on vacation or a business trip, no less--think again. As you workout you have the priviledge of looking at the mirrors in front of you that reflect that darn BUFFET. So, you are delirious with pride that you are working out, but in your head you cannot stop thinking about the large beautiful chocolate cake on the end of the buffet. It screams at you. The smell fills the entire workout room. Women all around you begin moaning. One falls off the treadmill and passes out from her desire! And then reality hits you. You must walk past the entrance to the restaurant on the way back to your room.

Who plans these thing? Obviously someone with a wicked sense of humor.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A little square of love

Getting away on a business trip always gives me time to think. Time to process events of the prior week, time to look out of a window at 30,000 feet and see what my life looks like. I know that during a normal week, I am most often running around like a chicken with his head cut-off only seeing two feet in front of my face. And, yes, sometimes making a face plant on the carpet when I fall over those two feet because I am going too fast.

Before I left the other night, I wrote on a bunch of little stickies and stuck them around the house. I told Zach to have a good day and to smile. I told Dan that I loved him. I reminded them to give Tyson his treats. I expressed love in the form of a 3" x 3" yellow piece of paper. As I talked to them last night about those notes, I thought later of how happy it made them.

Simple words on one of the most basic staples of life. It took five minutes of my time, but it made a huge difference in my relationship with the people I love most.

It reminded me of a story that a good friend Carol Kuykendall tells. Here husband was in serious condition from a brain tumor and a stroke in a hospital in Denver. There was a real possibility at the time that he would not make it. Her adult children rallied around them offering love and support. After they left her at home one night, she found little sticky notes stuck everywhere in her house. On mirrors, in the kitchen cabinet, on the fridge...all from her kids expressing their love and encouragement. You see, she did this for them when they were kids and they were paying it forward to her all these years later.

Telling someone that you love them is one of the most basic staples of life. They are simple but powerful words. They can change your life when you hear them for the first time. They can make the anger go away. They can break down a wall between people. They can cause peace.

Once those words are said, though, they stick.

I love you. Simple. Powerful. Don't miss the chance to say it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wasting time is truly an art

I didn't realize how much having my husband around on the weekend keeps me moving and doing until these last two when he's been out of town. When he's around, wasting time or uh, relaxing, happens more in chunks of time rather than all day. Because there is stuff to do and places to go and things to get done. And most of the time, that's is a good thing. There is stuff to do and places to go and things to get done.

Last weekend without him here--I was busy cleaning, getting oodles and oodles of clothes together for Goodwill, mopping (I hate that), laundry, etc. But then I got done. This weekend, there was a few things to do, but nothing that took time. So for two days in a row, I stayed in my flannel pj's all morning and did not take a shower until noon. I felt like a rebellious college student. I slacked off and let Z play the wii waaay longer than he should have. We did get out for awhile on Saturday afternoon but only because I forced myself to get in the car and enjoy the sunshine for one more day before fall hits with a vengence. Today though, I couldn't get myself to leave the house.

See, as my husband knows best, I am a homebody.

Yes, the people at work might be surprised at that statement, since I am very social in their presence. Most of them would describe me as opinionated and loud. My laugh tends to carry out of my office and several times a week, people will shut the door to make me go away.

But, home is where my heart is. As a child I was painfully shy. I remember cringing when people would talk to me and never believing that I would be able to carry on an adult conversation. So even though the outside persona can now carry on with the best of them, my inside persona can't wait until I get in the car to drive home. To retreat and sit and reserve my opinions for another day. I guess there is still a bit of that little girl in me after all these years.

In a few weeks, we'll all be home at the same time on the weekend and I'm sure you'll find me around town, happily (or not) gallavanting around on errands with my husband and son in tow. There will be stuff to do and places to go and things to get done. But the day will end on the perfect note when I can finally sit at home with my tea in hand...wasting time.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Lately, I have been wanting to put things in order. Let's be clear, I am definitely not the neatest person in the world (it's that right-brained creative side of me) but I am also not the messiest. But the events of the last six months or more have sent me on a tailspin.

My mom was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in April. Two key employees left my department within the space of four months which left me with only one other employee. My husband and I travel often. Sometimes he is gone for a few days one week, then I am gone the next. Back to back. All year long. I was involved in a small group every two weeks that I taught. Volunteering as the "room mom" for Zach's class left me party planning for every major holiday. For fourth graders. I don't DO that very well, I plan work events that don't involved cupcakes. I was also teaching a four-year old Sunday School class every other week. My desk at work became buried under piles of manuscripts and to do lists. The house seemed to have corners and dark closets that multiplied with stockpiles of stuff, like a squirrel getting ready for winter.

And it all began to leave me breathless. So, I stopped. Cold turkey. I *un*volunteered for the Sunday School class. I resigned from the small group leadership...and actually the group itself. I will only show up to Zach's class on party day to support him and help out as needed. But, thank God, I don't have to figure out the games anymore! In a frenzy, I cleaned the desk. People were pointing and looking at me as if I was some zoo creature they had never seen. I've organized more piles for Goodwill than I care to count and am cleaning parts of the house like a mad woman. I've taken time for myself and am rebuilding a wardrobe that I love. And I bought red shoes. At work, I've hired two wonderful women that, I swear, will change the world.

Sure, there are some things that won't change. My mom still has cancer, although she is much improved and there are very positive signs that the cancer is in a managed state. Dan and I still travel, but I am making plans for scheduling date nights on the calendar, even if it's for a month from now. Life is chaotic. There are responsibilities and bills to pay and hobbies we want to enjoy and guilt we face and pain that we don't understand. But in the whirling dervish of our lives, we need to find that center again. That core of who we are.

In the pulling back, we can refocus. We can remind ourselves that we are individuals with needs. That life is too short to ignore what matters most. That it's okay to make time to stop and play the wii with a son who is now ten and going to middle school next year. It's okay to dig out that passion for writing, dust it off and devote time to it. It's okay to sit with your husband on the couch during Monday Night Football and laugh at his antics, secretly enjoying the fact that you are perfect for each other. It's okay to put aside time to create for fun. It's okay to become crazily fixated on taking photos again for the art of it. It's okay to begin running because you feel amazing when you are done.

And it's more than okay to be able to pray with a freedom that comes from knowing that you have done what you needed to do. It feels so good.