In the Silence

In response to the questions asking about my long absence and am I still here, the answer is an unequivocal YES!

A little over six months ago I was devastated by the sudden and unexpected death of my dad. (“Father” seems too formal, “Daddy” a tad too intimate, though that’s who he’ll always be to me.) While I’m no stranger to the various faces of grief, grief of this magnitude is beyond the scope of my experience. And while I’ve often thought that I’d like to try and somehow convey the road I’m traveling, my companions Motivation and Desire have been conspicuously absent, as well as Inspiration.

The noise of life seems almost unbearable, in stark contrast to the silence of death.  Rationality can’t get an inroad into my heart’s grief – the reality and finality make it untenable.

Its a strange thing for somebody who loves to communicate to suddenly be thrust into a silence. Grief is like that. Silent and colorless. Foreign.

It rose with me in the morning, robbing the morning’s sunrise of color.

It moved through the day with me, weighing me down like a wet towel in the cool of a summer’s evening, making every thought and movement cumbersome.

The pieces of my heart’s breaking sink like stone in my belly, burying my appetite for life and sustenance somewhere deeply beneath it.

The sheer effort of trying to be a part of a life – a life that now has an enormous chasm in it – pushes out all but the most basic instinctual habits. Priorities get shifted so that whatever energy is mustered during the day goes to the responsibilities of family and engaging in the immediate lives around me. In the sum of it all, finding the “oomph” for re-engaging in a wider circle of life falls by the wayside.

Friends and family alike ask, “have you been writing? Taking pictures? Reading?” In other words,  basically anything that I’ve been passionate about since… forever. Nope. Haven’t been able to. ← (“Able” is the operative word.)

But time passes and it does get easier. That dense fog I seem to be moving though continues to dissipate a little each day.  I only get blindsided by the reality that he is no longer in this world (how can he not BE anymore?!) every other day – instead of every hour on the hour.

Its in the moments between being brought to my knees that I remember. I remember that words move me, buoy me, ignite me; that photographs draw me into the emotions evoked and suspended on the screen or in print; that stories carry me into a different reality for a space in time; that music takes me back into the soundtrack and rhythm of life.

Its a gradual re-awakening of the parts of me that grief dimmed. I realize its a process that has to be gotten through if I want to be able to continue truly LIVING my life. And I so do! So I’m getting back to good.

And I realize just how amazingly I’ve been blessed that I got to have such a rich and full life with him in it. I’d like to write and tell you all about him, but I’m not there yet. Baby steps.

Today is the beginning of the Lenten season. Contrition for faults and character defects that directly affect my usefulness in this world.

I attended an Ash Wednesday service this morning, its name taken from ashes daubed on my forehead as a sign of penitence. As the priest anointed me, he reminded me, “Remember you are dust and will return to dust.” Dad’s funeral flashed through my mind, an echo of those words resounding in my memory. I know not the time, nor the hour that these words will be uttered to those who will stand in the silence that I will leave behind. I felt a quickening inside, telling me to move along the shores of life and jump in – make a splash! – live out loud in the time I’m given.

Lent is an opportunity to do some spiritual housecleaning and pare it down to what really matters the most in this soul’s life.

  • It is a time in prayer with my Creator. Listening in meditation, as well as petitioning in prayer.
  • Giving alms in charity, love, and kindnesses given in service to others.
  • Fasting by setting aside my physical self and focusing on the spiritual. I deny my fallible humanness and fasting heightens my awareness. During the spiritual housecleaning I’m much better able to sort out the things that are cluttering up my life so that I can honor and rejoice in the important things and people in my life. Rejecting what no longer serves me well in preparation for an Easter renewal.

I’m settling into the silence of this Lent with a heart that still feels shattered. My fingers still drag over the keys with intention and effort. But just as I believe that the better part of my Daddy is ingrained inside of me, I know that this Lent holds a special purpose in the promise of the joy of Easter.

Namaste,

~me

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Well-Written

What makes a book you’re reading a ‘well-written’ book?”

Errrr…. I don’t… know. Hmmm. Never really thought about it before! Give me a minute…

A friend and I were talking about books – what we’d been reading lately. Having been a voracious reader when I was young, I fallen out of the habit sometime in my 20’s. Life had crept up and ambushed me with all sorts of things that left me mostly comatose by the time my days ground to a halt at night. Outside of an article here and there, a bedtime story, or maybe a label, reading had become a luxury. Opening a book and sticking with it until the last page wasn’t high on the priority list. But life is always moving along and priorities change as surely as spring follows winter.

You see, it had occurred to me that my life’s pace had changed. As in S – L – O – W – E -D down.  Between problems with my backbone, stepping out of the work force, and my kids advancing through their education, I really had no excuses as to why I couldn’t start, read, then finish a book. Well … except being out of practice.  And while I do love to write, if I don’t feed my inner WORD NERD (the ever hopeful romantic in me), then writing is an exercise in futility. Stymied by a lack of inspiration and haunted by an absence of muses, I knew I could revive myself through a little reading CPR.

So I picked up one of the many, many books collecting dust on my shelves and began to read it. I didn’t let myself pick up another one until I had finished the first one.  Uh uh. No easy task, especially if you’re like me and you tend to start one, pick up another one and read it through the end of chapter one, put it down and see yet another one and want to  “just read a couple of pages“… an nauseum.  Is it possible to be ADD with books, as in life? How better to break that cycle then to force myself to finish what I start?

So as I’m telling my friend about this book or that book I’ve read, I qualify what I’ve read. I say one book was so-so and not as “well-written” as this other one I just finished.  The question she interrupts me with is this: what do I consider a “good” book or one that is “well-written”?  Hmmm …

I love a book whose words I can wrap my soul up in. Words that flow like prose and make me say “Oooooo, I LIKE that!” Words that paint a picture in my mind that I can not only see, but feel and smell and taste. Phrases that marry the most unlikely subjects together in a way that makes the most unexpected sense.

Giant sunflowers, like junkie scarecrows on the nod, dozed in one spot with their dry heads drooped upon their breastbones. Their lives extended another day, flies buzzed everything within their range, monotonously eulogizing themselves, like the patriots who persist in praising the glory of a culture long after it is decadent and doomed.

–from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Oh,” she said. “So a well written book for you is like colors are to a painter: YUM!

Yes. You could say that! 🙂

I wonder what everyone else uses as criteria for a “well-written” story?

Namaste,

~me

What if…

Madison Street Festival 2009

“What if…

We stopped waiting for permission to be content and started working towards it?

We spent less time thinking of what we can’t do and more time just doing things that make us come alive?

We focused on loving ourselves first instead of trying to find love through others?

We didn’t think it was bad when we felt down but instead recognized that it’s part of the ebb and flow of life?

We believed that each person we met could change the world?

We used the resources we have wisely rather than trying to get more of what we don’t need?

We remembered the good things as much as we remember the bad things?

We cried when we needed to and asked for help without feeling small?

We looked at ways we could help other people instead of ways they can help us?

We worried less and loved more?

We thought about possibilities instead of necessities?…

We spent the time we spend researching celebrities and athletes figuring out what makes our kids tick?

We enjoyed success of others as much as we enjoy our own success?

We stopped praying for solutions to problems we’ve caused and start fixing them ourselves?

We believed the only way to get the Good Stuff of human life is to help others get it first?

We believed that people would manifest the best parts of themselves if they had the opportunity to do so?

We’re more powerful than we’ll ever understand?…” ~Excerpts from: Productive Flourishings and Productive Flourishings

And my own two cents:

We filled our lives with uplifting news?

We quit making assumptions and tried to be more empathetic?

We saw ourselves and everyone around us as our 5 year old selves?

We could believe in the integrity of others’ beliefs,  instead of needing to be right?

We didn’t let the past define today?

What if…

Namaste,

~me

New Book

All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive. (Yann Martel, The Life of Pi)

I’m reading a “new” book (the quotation marks are intentional – I’ve had the book for about a month, but just got to reading it!) The Life of Pi. I have to say that its much better than I’d hoped or assumed it would be. I keep finding reasons to have time to read more, which tells me I must be enjoying it! Here’s a couple of quotes and excerpts from it that I particularly like!

Namaste,

~me

I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy.

It goes fro your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread.

Fear next turns fully to your body, which is already aware that something terribly wrong is going on. Already your lungs have flown away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a snake. Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to gallop on the spot. Your ears go deaf. Your muscles begin to shiver as if they had malaria and your knees to shake as though they were dancing. Your heart strains too hard, while your sphincter relaxes too much. And so with the rest of your body. Every part of you, in the manner most suited to it, falls apart. Only your eyes work well. They always pay proper attention to fear.

Quickly you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There. You’ve defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you.

The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in our memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.

Connectivity

“With each breath, you take into your body 10 sextillion atoms, and — owing to the wind’s ceaseless circulation — over a year’s time you have intimate relations with oxygen molecules exhaled by every person alive, as well as by everyone who ever lived.” ~ Guy Murchie, *The Seven Mysteries of Life*

There has always been talk of being connected. A feeling of being a part of the human race. A kinship felt with others, even when we don’t know them all that well.

I sometimes scratch my head and wonder about people – why they act the way they do, do the things they do, say the things they say.  Try as I might, I sometimes just can’t get my head around what motivates some people. Yet even when I cannot relate, I still can appreciate the things that make us different. Where I am strong, you may need help. Where I fall short, you have the experiences and strengths that balance it all out.

When I say “Namaste” at the end of a posting or at the end of a message, I do so because it is the most complete way I have heard to recognize and be the Love.  It is a way to humbly say, “I recognize that we are all on equal standings, all of us are children of Divinity. We are one.” The literal  interpretation is “the Spirit of God within me recognizes and honors the Spirit of God in you.”

However we may move in this world, we all breathe in the same air. We all have been made each wonderfully flawed so that we really DO need each other in this life. The Divine resides in each of us, just as we hold atoms that have criss-crossed both distance and time to become a part of each and every one of us that breathes.

I dunno much about alot of things, but this one simple truth for me – when I keep it present in my day – helps me to realize that even though some people will continue to baffle me, I can always recognize and honor the spark of the Divine that we have in common.

Namaste,

~me

An Excerpt from YWP Nanowrimo

A couple of years ago, c.a. from over at Southern Sinful Bliss, sent me an email with a link in it to something called “NANOWRIMO”, with the instructions to pass it on to my littlest (aka “Mary”) who, like c.a., loves to write (I don’t know where she gets it!).  I forwarded it to her with a note that it was a link that she “might find useful for writing” (side note – translated:I haven’t looked at it yet). Later, I asked her if she’d gotten my email and had she checked out the link?

“Yup.”

“Sooo… what was it about?” I asked.

NANOWRIMO (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth) is a annual event that encourages writers from across the writing spectrum to meet a 50,000 word novel goal, beginning November 1st and ending November 30th.  The website offers helpful hints, user forums, etc. in an effort to bring together a disparaging group of novelist and novelist-wannabees, with one common goal – to let the literature flow!

If you’re in K – 12 you can set your own goal of number of words written- sort of like in school, but without having to worry about a grade! But the obvious purpose is to set a goal and then write, write, write!

Last year, like most things in the harried and over-committed world we live in, Mary started with a BANG!, but got derailed by holidays and mid-terms and day to day STUFF that tends to distract. She was disappointed, but knew there was always next year.

Well, this year IS next year and last night, around 10:45pm, she bounded into the room with a “Guess what?!”

“What?” I laughed, mirroring and delighting in her barely controlled excitement, without a clue as to what it could be.

“Wait! Don’t tell me …you’re all done with all your Christmas shopping and you want to do mine? …no… You cleaned up your room!? …that’s it, isn’t it?!”

I did it!! I finally finished NANOWRIMO!! I actually DID it!!”

“That is AWESOME!! Congratulations, Babygirl! What was your goal?”, I asked, figuring it was a couple of thousand words – you know, like an essay.

“13,000.”

Wow. I mean wow. Seriously? I can’t imagine writing that couple of thousand in a month, much less thirteen thousand! When would there be time to do so much writing? I can’t even really find the time to post on my blog regularly…and even that is questionable, since I like to use quotes so much!

13,000 words.

“Have you finished your homework then?” I just had to ask, given the sheer number just thrown at me like it was no big thing.

“Er…almost! I just have a couple of math problems left, but I wanted to finish on time and tonight was the last night.  I’ll get right on that math. I just wanted to tell you about it – I’m so excited!! And the best part is that if you finish on time, you get a certificate to get your story printed into a paperback book!! So once I finish the story, I can get it printed!”

Whoa. Tap the brakes there.

“It’s not finished?! You wrote 13,000 words and you’re not done?”

“Well, I finished 5 chapters, but I’d like to add more to the story. I already know where its going to go,” she said matter of factly.

“That’s fantastic, Honey… it really is, but I know where YOU’RE going to NOT go if you don’t finish your math!”  (Hey! Its my job as a mom to redirect…)

Congratulations, my Mary! You GO, you NANOWRIMO-crazed girl! I’m very proud of you and excited for you!!

Namaste,

~me

With the author’s permission, here’s a small excerpt from the story (Chapter 3):

Suddenly, Madelyn smiled – and it wasn’t a friendly one.

“Well, then, Dylan, since you’re so interested in the woods,” She said coyly, putting her hands on her hips. “Why don’t you go do the squirrels a favor and collect some acorns, since they can’t, due to the rebuilding, because of the damage you caused?”

“B-but…” Dylan blanched, picturing the thousands of acorns strewn across the woods.

“I agree,” Shaniya chimed in, reaching down to pick up an empty paint bucket, which she handed to him. “Don’t come back until this is completely filled, okay?”

“And don’t pick up any wormy, diseased, or broken ones.” Madelyn added, still smiling.

Dylan looked from girl to girl, realized he was outnumbered, sighed, and started towards the woods.

The first step into the woods, and Dylan crushed a couple of acorns under his feet. He ignored them, and got on his knees disdainfully, starting to pick through the multitudes of leaves to find clean ones. The work was, unsurprisingly, monotonous, and, soon enough, Dylan found himself muttering random song lyrics to entertain himself:

“Cause there ain’t no rest for the wicked,

And money don’t grow on trees…

Got bills to pay, got mouths to feed,

There ain’t nothing in this world for free…

Ya know we can’t slow down, we can’t turn back,

Though you know, we wish, we could…

No, there ain’t no rest for the wicked-“

“Till we close our eyes for gooood!”

“Wha-?”

Dylan glanced up, surprised at hearing somebody else finish the chorus, and found wide, hazel eyes peering back not three inches away from his face.

“HOLY-!”

Dylan lurched backward, throwing his hand forward in a punch instinctively. Another hand reached up and stopped it, and laughter soon bounced off the trees, slightly nervous.

“Woah! Slow down there, dude, my singing’s not that bad.”

Dylan looked at his attacker frantically, only to find there wasn’t much to look at. While the voice made it obviously a female, the only piece of them that was really visible were the eyes, in between two pieces of teal cloth covering the rest of their head. The rest of their body was covered in the same colored outfit, stretching down to even cover their feet and hands – tight-fitting, but not obnoxiously so.

Holy crap. Dylan thought, recognizing the uniform. I’m fighting a ninja.

Somehow, that didn’t reassure him whatsoever.

“Let go!” He yelled, kicking at her. The ninja jumped back, but somehow maintained a grip – one that yanked Dylan forward and onto his stomach.

“Oof!”

The ninja quickly let go, eyes widening in surprise.

“Ah! Sorry, I didn’t mean to hu-“

But Dylan was gone.

Creepy Fears And A Reckoning

I just had a “family meeting” last night with the kids. A laying down the law, coming-to-Jesus sort of meeting   (a firm, lecturing, no nonsense dressing down, comparable a Fire and Brimstone revival meeting).  After listening to me talk for 15 minutes or so, I asked them,

“Are we clear? Do you understand? Have any questions?”

Son: “So basically the last 14 and 15 years are gone and a new era is beginning?”

Um, Yeah!! 😉

After he left the kitchen and its just me and the littlest talking about some strategies for being more responsible and productive, she glances down, goes white as a sheet and screams,

OH. MY. GOD!! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD!!”

Instinctively, I calmly and with the “Mom voice” say,

“Look at me and breathe…no, do NOT hyperventilate! LOOK AT ME!! In through the nose…out through the mouth…WHAT is the matter with you?!”

She points down to the floor speechlessly and there is a spider creeping along the baseboard next to the tile in the kitchen. (:O Remember now, this is the same kid who produced this!

In her defense, this was a larger than average spider (maybe a half-dollar sized one? A tad more? I dunno)

Grabbing the newspaper still wrapped in plastic, I walk over to it and “THWUNK!” It is no longer an issue.

“Its just a spider, sweetie – you are 1000 times bigger than it and it was obviously lost.”

Her eyes were bright with a couple of unshed tears and her pupils were dilated until they looked black,

“It was a tarantula, Mom, and WHY WAS IT IN THE KITCHEN??!! WHAT IF THERE ARE MORE? WHAT IF IT HAS FRIENDS??”

“Spiders don’t have social networks – you’re starting to hyperventilate again! breathe!” I said in my most soothing, calm, commanding voice.

“But what if it had BABIES??”

Pointing to the paper on the floor covering the carcass, I reminded her,

“THAT one isn’t going to have babies or do anything fun or social…its little spider spirit has moved on to a better place…”

OMG! You mean there might be spiders in heaven!?”

“No honey, I don’t think there will be in YOUR heaven…I think your heaven will be whatever you expect it to be … and that would be spiderless,” I reasoned.

Well,” she said after thinking some more on it, “I want to live where there aren’t any spiders… you know, like Canada.”

Mustering up my serious face, I burst that bubble:

“Canada has spiders too. There isn’t really anywhere on Earth that doesn’t so you may as well make peace with that fact and come up with a plan as to how to deal. Personally, I hate spiders too.”

That got her wheels turning!

“How do you kill them then?! I keep thinking about all the ‘what ifs’…”

“Ok, you need to stop that RIGHT NOW! The ‘what ifs’ will make you crazy and they definitely don’t help. You get lost in the future and that isn’t right now! You need to deal with the reality right in front of you – and right now, right in front of you is a DEAD, non-threatening spider that is going to go away while you look the other way… are you looking the other way? ‘cuz I’m going to dispose of the body now.”

Reckoning. Opportunities. Lessons. Fears. Eternity. Laughter. Love.

And some vicious spider-killing to boot!!

My work here is done.

Namaste,

~me