Thursday, September 27, 2012

On Being Present

I am 38 years old.

I am going through a mid-life crisis.

Mountain Man is too.

There is total upheaval.

Things we thought that were, simply, are not.

We are standing on a precipice, not leaning over at all, but the toes on our exposed feet are gripping the edge.

The wind is howling all around us, and clinging to our legs are our children and family of friends. We are gripping each other and to all of them tightly, knowing that before the shift comes a time of gripping onto the past.

In front of us lives the future, and behind us, spread out like a picnic quilt, lies the past. Our past together, and our separate pasts. Each memory a square of joy, or beauty, or pain or longing. But we aren't looking back. We are facing forward, each of us holding up to our eye a straw. You know, the kind you drink soda through.

As I look through my straw, all I can see is the teeniest, tiniest view of what is to come.
It does not comfort me.
But I believe that my view is the entire world--and to me it is.

Mountain Man is peeking though his straw too. He can't see much either, but from time to time we break from straw gazing and look at each other and smile, trying to reassure and convince one another that the view is magnificent.

Magnificent, I tell you.

Like looking through a glass, darkly.

Really, we can't see the future.
And the past is, well....past.

When we remove the straws from our eyes we are free to look into each other's eyes, hear our hearts beating wildly, and feel our children clinging to us. Because I stop trying to look through that little straw to glimpse a future that I cannot see, my hands are now free. As they drop to my sides, they are immediately lifted up by our friends.

With their reassuring comfort of hands and words, this mid-life upheaval is turning into something.

What, I do not know.
But I do know this: I am doing my best.

And Mountain Man is too.

And we are looking at each other, trying not to look back too much, but from time to time we straw-gaze, and that's o.k.
But mostly, we are listening to our hearts beating wildly for each other...and it's good to hear.

After all, amid the crisis and confusion, the wild wind howling around us, all we really have is right now. And now feels like laughter and children and friends and love and change and change and change.

And I'm feeling.
And listening.
And breathing,
                   and breathing,
                                     and breathing...doing my best to be present.

How do you focus on the present? 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Make It Stop.

Quite a while ago, I was in the grocery store when I ran into a woman who was wearing a tee shirt that read, "Make it stop."

I laughed right out loud when I saw it, because it pretty much summed up things effectively and succinctly.

When I told her that I loved her tee shirt she admitted that many people come up to her when she wears it and say, "I don't get it...make what stop?"

She always answered, "If you don't get it, I'm not going to explain it."
Later that day I was sharing this story with a group of people. When I said, "And her tee shirt said, Make It Stop!" the two women to my right busted out great, big belly laughs and as we were wiping the tears from our eyes we noticed that we'd been the only ones laughing.

And then someone said, "I don't get it."

And another person said, "Me neither."

There was a long pause while I decided how to explain the inexplicable.
I finally said, "Give it a minute, it will come to about those Seahawks, huh??"

I've mulled over this experience for a few years now, and I still am not sure what it was exactly that made that tee shirt the best darn tee I've ever seen...except that some days, it pretty much sums it all up, doesn't it?

If you could "make it stop" what would it be?

Monday, September 24, 2012

It's the Small Stuff

A few weekends ago, our circle of friends went out to dinner then ended up at our house because there were children and babysitters at the others. We are all 30-somethings and in the middle of raising smallish children, anxiously watching our careers grow while drowning in laundry or bills (or both), and trying hard to remember that it's the small stuff that really counts.

We sat around drinking Diet Coke (because that's all we had to offer everyone besides rice milk and tap water) and our conversation turned to great 80's movies. We discussed in fine detail the best movies of our generation and agreed it came down to three (two of which stared Molly Ringwald and that guy that I can NEVER remember the name of but who recently starred in "The Dead Zone" know, what's-his-name.)

Anyway, it was agreed that our top three picks for best 80's movies were Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and Sixteen Candles.  

Ferris wins for the sheer cool factor. Who hasn't wanted to skip school, steal your best friend's father's car, tool around downtown Chicago or lip-sync to "Twist & Shout" in a parade??

The hoodlums of Shermer High win for best representation of 80's angst in The Breakfast Club (angst that, incidentally, we still carry close to our hearts as 30-somethings) and for the fact that all of us wanted to be a bad-arse like Judd Nelson or crazy like Ally Sheedy--'cause people don't mess with tough or crazy and tough and crazy are faaaaaaaar better tools to navigate adulthood with than say, diamond earrings--but if you can have both, then you should.

Sixteen Candles made the running because all of the husbands admired the puck of that one kid (I still can't remember his name) when he asked for Samantha's underwear--and all the wives often dream of Jake Ryan doing the dishes, or vacuuming. Which, personally, if Quasimodo wants to do my dishes, I'd dream of him too--but you get the point.

The evening ended with our friend, ZF, recording the greeting on the outgoing message on our answering machine. He chose the one that Cameron left to put the red-headed evil principal off of Ferris' trail. He said, "You have reached the Coughlin Brothers Mortuary. We are deeply sorry we are unable to come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number we'll get back to you as soon as humanly possible."  Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

When my phone rings, I wait for the machine to pick up so I can hear the reaction of the caller on the other end. Usually they hang up and call back immediately thinking they dialed the wrong number and for some reason, it makes me laugh every time.
...'cause after all, it's the small stuff.

What small thing brings you joy?

Friday, September 21, 2012

40 by 40

My friend, Clover, posted a list on Facebook a while back of forty things she would like to accomplish before the age of forty. Since Clover and I are only a mere four days apart in birth, and she is one of those people whom I shamelessly copy (because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery) I had to make my own. I'm 38 and three-quarters, so I better get a move on.

Here it is, Lisa's 40 by 40:

1. Read The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  It's been sitting on my bookshelf since I was thirteen and I think I'm ready.
2. Run a half marathon--so I can be prepared when the Zombie Attack truly begins.
3. Take dance lessons, because "No one puts Baby in a corner!"
4. Ride the Hiawatha bike trail outside of Coeur d'Alene, ID.  Because I like bikes, and trails.
5. Attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.
6. Attend every show at the Portland Art Museum.
7. Be still in a Japanese Garden.
8. Attend the Washington State Autumn Leaf Festival in Leavenworth, Washington.
9. Learn to play chess.
10. Learn to make cheese.
11. Make twelve new book structures.
12. Learn to become impeccable with my word.
13. Actively manifest through daily meditation.
14. Write a book.
15. Get rid of half of everything I own.
16. Be present.
17. Sing with a band.
18. Spend a weekend at a spa.
19. Regularly write in the journals I began for my children when they were small.
20. Go on a two week juice fast.
21. Grow peaches.
22. Get a bird.
23. Do Bikram Yoga every day for 3 months.
24. Create a rotating dinner menu and actually stick to it.
25. Lose 40lbs....'cause the "baby" is now 9 years old.
26. Go on a weekend get-away with Mountain Man to San Fransisco.
27. Participate in a flashmob.
28. Climb Mt. Hood...or at least get real close.
29. Spend next year's Persied meteor shower in Glacier National Park.
30. Hike to the Granite Park Chalet and spend the night.
31. Jump into Lake McDonald--(It's freezing).
32. Grow my hair long and wear a cowboy hat with confidence.
33. Fit into my wedding dress.
34. Learn more about technology--I don't even know enough now to know what it is I need to learn...
35. Go boating on the Willamette River.
36. Live in a big city with kids.
37. Spend my 39th birthday doing random acts of kindness.
38. Go clam digging.
39. Read all six volumes of Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East.
40. Enjoy the moment.

What's on your list of things to do?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mormon Diaries, a Review

Being a blogger has some amazing perks.  One of them is sometimes reading fellow blogger's manuscripts before they are published.  My friend, Sophia Stone, has written a beautiful book about her spiritual journey through Mormonism. 

Here's a brief summary: 

Brought up in a religious home, Sophia believes the only way to have a forever family is by following church leaders and obediently choosing the right. She goes to the right school, marries the right man in the right place, and does the right thing by staying home to raise her children. But when she starts asking questions about grace, love, and the nature of God, she realizes her spiritual struggles could rip her family apart.

Joanna Brooks, Book of Mormon Girl author, wrote, “Sophia Stone has a fine eye and a searching heart. Her story of growing up in and reaching through her Mormonism for a deeper, more authentic spirituality reflects all the ways that religion can both keep us satisfied easy answers and push us to more difficult and complicated realizations. We need a hundred more books like this one . . . “ 

“Sophia Stone captured my attention from the beginning. This collection of personal essays, about questioning the legitimacy of Mormonism after having faith in the religion for the first 30-something years of her life, is not just a controversial quake to a reader’s heart and soul. Stone’s voice is brave, bold and intriguing. And surprisingly relatable to someone who is not religious.”—Jessica Bell, author of String Bridge 

Lucky me, I got to read an advance copy of Mormon Diaries. It is superb. Sophia Stone expertly took me by the hand and into her experience through Mormonism. She reveals the joy, questions and ultimate heartache that we all must face if we are looking religion to offer us easy answers. This is an important book for anyone who's struggled with their own spiritual journey.  

Here's a lovely trailer too...


You can download Mormon Diaries by Sophia L. Stone from your favorite eBook seller.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Houses & Roses

I have an unnatural attachment to the house I live in. I think it has to do with the fact that over the last five years we've resurfaced, painted, stripped or refinished practically every thing in this old house. My hands painted every square inch of the outside, except for the windows in the mudroom which are filled with countless mullions--my mom did those because I missed the line for patience.

Our house isn't big, and we all share (remarkably well) one bathroom (which isn't very big either)--and I'm in constant amazement of this old girl everyday. It's weathered and dusty (no matter how many times I clean it) and it groans a lot, (but I would too if I lived for 113 years). Our house has character. It's a house of love and joy. I get the feeling that the people who lived here before us loved well, and can't help but feel like their love kind of spilled over onto us too. 

Sitting in the dining room, surrounded by dark wood, the morning sun shines through the eastern windows and the aged wood grain breathes anew. Nicks and scratches and the life of this house are illuminated, but I don't see the nicks or the scratches because the light evens out all of those little imperfections.

The rooms are surprisingly spacious for a house this size. Every door and window has thick molding, making me feeling like I live in a house of picture frames. The yard is small, but with enough room for a two story tree house and a swing which gets a lot of use. It's a cozy little house.

I realize that I'm just talking about a place--and at the core it doesn't really matter what kind of house that I live in, but I am reminded of what the fox said in The Little Prince when he uttered, "People have forgotten this truth, but you mustn't forget it. You become responsible forever for what you've tamed. You're responsible for your rose."

Our house, this old creaky contraption, is my rose. All of our spare time over the last five years has been put into recreating the old girl, making her shine again. She's been our hobby, our joy, a place that protects us from the storms of life and where peace resides. Sometimes I get freaked out because we are slaves to where we live, but then I think of St. Exupery who said, "It is time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."

...and then I don't feel so bad.

How do you feel about your home? What is your hobby? 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

If a math teacher emails Lisa on Monday at 8 p.m., how long will it take her to post a snarky reply?

Yesterday, I received an email from my daughter's Geometry teacher about her progress report, and that she was announcing the new, interactive website for parents and students to go and experience all things math related.  

I've discussed a few times how much math makes my brain hurt.  You can read about that here.

Because I have so much math baggage, and the last place I want to be is at an interactive math website, here was the response I sent her: 

Dear Amazing Math Teacher,  
I hope you had a FABULOUS summer!  
I just wanted to communicate that I take great offense at being called a "geometry parent".  You can call me a "hot mama" (which would be weird), a "domestic goddess" (only when the house is perfectly clean and dinner is in the oven which is, like, never)  or even a "crazy loon" (probably the most appropriate) but to be called a "geometry parent" is just, well, insane.   
If ever, at any time, I gave you the impression that our daughter's remarkable math ability came from any of my genetics, I truly apologize.  The only traits she has inherited from me is that she uses her hands expressively while speaking, and she keeps a tidy room.  She can also make a mean chocolate chip cookie, but I think that has more to do with her grandmother than me.  
By calling me a "geometry parent" I hope that you don't expect me to do anything more than nod and smile at her if she brings up the words, "angle, protractor, compass, proof, or co-tangent" (Mountain Man had to explain to me what that last one was and all I heard was , "blah blah blah" for five minutes at which point I finally just ran from the room.) 
In addition, I would like to thank you for the information about the website so we can check our daughter's progress reports. I was very interested in the ability to set preferences on my child's account.  However, instead of a "send me an email if my kid is missing an assignment" preference, I would like to see a "send me an email when there is free chocolate cake in the school cafeteria for all parents of brilliant, sweet, kind and wonderful children."  I would find that much more beneficial, and I would even be willing to bring my own fork.  
Please feel free to forward this suggestion to the principal, the website administrator and the cafeteria lady, of course.  

How do you feel about math? Being called a "geometry parent"? Free chocolate cake? 

courtesy of Google!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Smallest Kindness

Have you ever had a really bad day? Week? Month? Year?

I'm in the middle of one of those.
And here's what I've learned: the smallest kindness means the world.

The words, "I'm so sorry" feels like a hug.  A kind word, email, text or phone call appears as the greatest gift anyone could ever give.

Kind hearts of dear friends reveal, while my world is undergoing a major shift, that compassion isn't dead (or even on vacation) but living and breathing through others kind enough to pay attention.

Simply put, that the smallest kindness changes everything.

When has a kindness influenced your life?