April 28

Finding Peace in the Pain-ting

Practicing the art of tidying up led me to a crazy artist kind of moment.

I was working on the craft closet in my office. It’s a space designed to soothe and de-stress me the way a cigarette used to.

Lately, it’s become cluttered and frantic, the way I get if I’m living too fast and too hurried to stop and notice all that is beautiful around me.

Like my daughter Natalie’s painting she did back in elementary school.

I’ve been meaning to hang it for months, but just found it buried under sheets of paisley and floral printed craft paper, some in shades of green, some in pink. They are leftover from the birdhouses I made for Chelsea’s baby shower, though Saydee Grace is four now.

Four beautiful years old.

I locked myself out of a house this week in all of my scurrying and during that rescue from a real estate colleague, I found out she lost her four year-old son in a pool accident. The unimaginable grief this life can bring makes it essential that we focus on the beautiful parts as often as possible, every day.

And so I went searching in the garage for a frame I thought would fit.

On top of the box of un-hung picture frames, was the green plastic bag that was left behind. A yearbook that’s not mine was stuffed inside, half hanging out. The words, The Time Has Come, was printed on the cover, though the time was the 70’s and I knew opening it would only slow me down. But I did it anyway.

And found more words.

A joke, scribbled in black pen, by my ex-husband on a faded yellow folded Post-It note.

It read, I’ve experienced, “more traumatic events in the time I was married than all the previous years combined. And I’m including birth and circumcision.”

We creative types jot our flash of genius, very best work on things like receipts, envelopes, napkins and gum wrappers.

Hilarious.

I think we were only married three or four years so that’s a lot of trauma to pack into a short time period, but it’s true.

In that moment, I realized another truth and remembered something he asked the last time we spoke. “How come when I mention how horrible it was, you laugh?”

Because the time has come.

The time has come to laugh.

Which is exactly what I did when I woke up the next morning and sat down in my new thanking chair and said a quiet prayer of peace and forgiveness. Then I randomly opened my bible to Ephesians and read in chapter 2 about being saved by grace, through faith, not by works, so that no man can boast.

Trust me, he can.

But the time has still come, to laugh.

Because when I turned the page, under the heading, One in Christ, I read about birth and circumcision, and had a total bahahahaha, isn’t God hilarious, moment.

The most beautiful thing about art and life, tragedy and trauma is the way it always seems to come together on the other side, where the grace is.

And laughter.

 

 

 

 

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April 24

Raising the Roof & My Spirits, 90′ Underground

Before Saturday night, all I really knew about the violin was the story inside The Devil Went Down to Georgia. 

He was looking for a soul to steal.

Mark Landson’s music stole my heart, body and soul, 126 steps below the earth’s surface, as Neo Camerata performed to perfection.

I am not a classical music connoisseur and wouldn’t know the difference between Mozart or Beethoven’s 5th symphony. I recognize the deep beat of bum, bum, bum bum…..and that’s about it. I fancy myself more of a classic rock specialist.

But then I met the geologists at The Cave Without A Name and realized I don’t know much about rocks or fossils or caves that are tens of thousands of years old either.

I also cannot compose a four part classical piece of music like Mark Landson did and I can’t stop talking about what that experience felt like. I’ve always believed that music is a universal language. It’s a language of love and passion like no other. What words can’t say, a strong melody line can.

And it changed me.

Sitting several rows back, snuggled into the intimate throne room where temperatures are a constant 66 degrees, I had a total Pretty Woman at the opera, kind of moment.

Within hearing the first few soothing notes of his piece, Dream on a Cirrus sky, my eyes welled, a tear fell, and at the same time, I received a special cave kiss. A large drop of water landed right on top of my head. The combination of the peace, the sound and the spirit inside the cave, I felt like I’d been baptized all over again.

It was an undoing of every worldly thing that stresses me out.

Not more than 10 minutes into the entire show, I noticed something I haven’t for a really long time.

My hands were not swollen.

I have Reynauds and typically my hands are swollen and red and feel like giant sausages that hang off the ends of my hands, but I don’t really feel them. I promise I am not making this up. I noticed that I could feel my fingers and all of the inflammation in my hands was gone.

Gone.

On several occasions, the music struck a chord in my nerves that calmed me to such a degree that I physically noticed my neck and back stop hurting.

When the last note resonated from the roof top of the cave, I whispered to my sister-in-law, “I’m pretty sure no one describes music like this, but that just felt like a back rub.”

She agreed it was exactly what she needed after working long and tiring hours, fighting traffic and a husband who wanted to go downtown and do the same old, same old thing.

My nephew, a thoughtful, old-school music loving sax player brought his cellist girlfriend and the two teenagers thought the experience was very, very cool. Even after seeing many wonderful concerts at the elite Tobin Center, they agreed this was a memory of a lifetime and a moment not to be missed.

We are all looking forward to being back again on June 10th for their next performance.

I’m telling everyone I know that Mark Landson will be noted as the reason for my conversion…..

to classical music.

 

 

 

 

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April 21

The Rest of the Story…

How was your Easter? the text read.

The ham was good. My response.

What else can I say?

The day did not go as planned.

The beautiful prayer I imagined we’d have at dinner, did not happen.

There was no peace making or do-overs over deviled eggs.

No hallelujah chorus could be heard, only repeated howls of pain as I layed on the front lawn bleeding all over the Bermuda grass.

“What happened?” my mother asked.

“He pushed me!”

“I didn’t push her! She tripped and fell.”

“I tripped and fell because you pushed me!”

We both spotted the white egg with the pink polka dots at the same time. It was hiding just under the lantana, growing next to the Esperanza bush that had recently been cut back. The part of my leg the bush didn’t pummel, the green metal edging did.

Somewhere, buried in the dirt or mulch, was my turquoise toenail.

“It was already hanging half off anyway,” my mom said, not void of compassion.

She always takes his side.

“It wasn’t hanging half off, it was finally starting to get better.”

“What happened Grammy?” asked Saydee Grace.

That’s when I knew Peter Cotton Tail wasn’t coming and I had to hop up and stop the bleeding.

My aunt apologized repeatedly and got me a bottled water and some Aleve. I sat in the corner chair the rest of the afternoon with an ice pack on my leg, reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, while stuffing chocolate covered marshmallow eggs in my mouth, one after the other, and trying not to get blood on the quilted footrest or carpet.

I tried to share a children’s story I submitted to Highlights last week and couldn’t even get through 247 words without a barrage of insults and joke making.

Did I mention how good the ham was?

And the whole roasted carrots with their green tops snipped Martha Stewart style were eggcellent. 

See what I did there?

I’m working this week in opened toed shoes and learning to tell stories in the Spanish conversations class. “Mi hermano is el maton.”

My brother is a bully.

I try to act out the motions. “Donde es el huevo? Donde es el huevo?”

Where is the egg?

Where are the things we search for?

Always just out of our reach it seems, gone before we know it, like my aunt Maureen’s pickle dip.

Life is fickle like that.

We don’t always find what we hoped to.

The incident began because we were in a race to find the $50.00 egg, but that’s not what we found. My brother guilt-gave me the egg we fought over and I offered the $5.00 prize inside to whoever could find my toenail.

Five very mature adults ran out to the front lawn, and many minutes later a loud shout was heard by the newcomer, “I found it!”

“Are you serious?”

My daughter’s boyfriend John proudly held the evidence in the palm of his hand for all to see, a huge smile on his face.

“Ewwww! You couldn’t just point to it?” Natalie chastised.

We don’t always find the things we look for, but sometimes we do. Or it finds us.

I will give you rest.

My peace I give you. 

I will hold you in the palm of my hand. 

God always seems to have the life-changing magic, of tidying me up.

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April 14

Risen for a Reason

I have never understood why they call today Good Friday.

Until Sunday.

There are not many words ready at my fingertips today. It’s a day I always seem to feel more reverent, quieter than most.

I pray your Easter Sunday will be filled with sweet surprises and basket loads of the life-giving love of Jesus.

I pray there will be forgiveness and contemplation, a forever reconciliation.

I pray there will be peace.

And new beginnings.

 

 

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April 10

Where’s your boat?

Last week I met a woman from Waverly. We talked about farm lands and big skies, and the beauty of the gently rolling hills in Iowa.

We agreed it was a great place to grow up.

I hadn’t known her long enough to share my whole story, explaining that I did most of my actual growing up in Texas, well into adulthood.

We were talking about Midwest living and the way things were for two girls who only occasionally visited someone else’s farmland.

When I think about farming, I think about fields and dreams and Kevin Costner.

I think about my parents and grandparents who told me to do something, and then I did it, because they were the adults and I was not.

I was a girl who wanted to walk on the moon or where I couldn’t be seen, exploring the depths of the tall evergreen forest and playing make believe. I was the girl who dared to get too close to the pigs in the pen on grandpa’s farm, just so to see if I could out run them in all of that stinky, messy slop.

Sometimes you can.

And sometimes, you can’t.

When I was growing up, we were taught to obey and ‘because I said so’ was the most golden of all the rules. It wasn’t one to be questioned, analyzed or discussed.

“But why do we have to get up and clean the house early every Saturday morning?”

“Because I said so,” my mother would reply, handing me a handful of torn pieces from an old t-shirt and a spray can of lemon Pledge.

“Make sure and get the base boards.”

“Why?”

“Because I said so.”

Almost compulsively now, I check base boards where ever I go and the smell of lemon Pledge evokes warm thoughts of dusting the furniture console that contained the stereo turntable.

I hear the song Stand Tall and ones from The Guess Who and Creedance Clearwater Revival on repeat in my head when I dust to this day.

When I wasn’t cleaning, my early years were spent almost exclusively, outside. We climbed trees, roamed fields and swam in less than clear lakes.

My sixteen birthday, the age of knowing it all, did not come with balloons in shades of pretty pink. It was celebrated under blue skies on Spirit Lake with watermelon, inner tubes and a motor boat.

Yesterday, when pastor Jason started talking about Jesus and Peter in the boat and learning to become a fisher of men and casting nets on the other side, I became sidetracked in my seat.

Because I’m lyrically inclined, as soon as I heard the word boat, my whole focus went to Chris Janson, who put on an awesome show at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

“What can Jesus do for you?” or something similar was asked. I nearly sprung up from my seat with super joy.

Well,He can buy me a boat, he can buy me a truck to pull it…’ 

He can.

I’m not sure we can sing the part about the 110 Yeti iced down with Silver Bullets during holy week, but still…

When I read that story myself in Luke 5, something really jumped out at me this morning.

He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Because you say so.

Because you say so, I will put my nets down in deeper waters.

Because you say so, I will ask for forgiveness.

Because you say so, I will forgive even when I don’t feel like it.

Because you say so, I will notice that my way may not always be the best way.

But also…

Because you say so, I will reap a harvest from fields I did not plant.

Because you say so…I am a child of God, one who is growing up a little more every day, wanting to learn how to be a better fisher of men, deeply craving the revival of our spirits.

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April 7

Young and Old, Stories Told.

I met a girl yesterday with long flowing hair and a contagious smile.

She was introduced to me by her teacher, the kind of teacher every kid wants to have. The type of teacher that has a way of talking about you that makes you feel like you are ten feet tall and unstoppable, even when you’re only in 4th grade.

I waited for her to get her cafeteria lunch and noticed behind the glass enclosure, where the lunch lady was serving, that they were having Sloppy Joe’s. Worthy of capitalization. And french fries, strawberries and chocolate brownies. Suddenly I was overcome by hunger and a need to have food served to me in a Styrofoam container with separated compartments.

It was delicious. Delicioso if you’re sitting in my new Spanish Conversations class being held at the Boerne library. I only mention this because I need new people to attend who will converse with me like a 10-year-old.

El perro is maroon.

La casa es grande.

Donde es banos?

Amazing the difference a few days can make. A few days and extra rest. I’ve been sleeping in later than usual this week, but waking with super joy and an incredible energy and desire to make my minutes count.

I feel the prayers of the people around me who know very well that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful and that faith can and will move mountains.

So we sat there, outside, with the sun toasting our heads and a cool spring breeze and drank our chocolate milks. I shared about the time Mitch Albright spit in my peanut butter sandwich and not knowing, I ate it.

“You know what I did after that?”

She shook her head, “What?”

“I stopped asking people for their peanut butter sandwiches.”

A smile spread across her face, a mutual understanding of the occasional woes of living life in elementary school.

My little brown bag of colored pencils was filled with every color to brighten our note cards and our day. The stamp I bought from Hobby Lobby and put on the front of the bag reads, Make each day a story worth telling.

I’ve had a lot of good ones lately.

Just the other day I was out at the Cave Without a Name working on a story. I met Patty the geologist, had my head dripped on with cave kisses and nearly slipped flat on my butt in the food court because I was silly enough to wear my new navy sandals from Payless instead of a pair of proper footwear for exploring.

Tom Summers, the incredibly kind owner of that 167 acres then had to fish my fancy Michael Kors handbag out of the sunroof of my car with a stiff piece of wire we found in the shed, because I locked the keys inside on purpose and I’m not as bendy as I used to be.

Nowhere on the planet has a Michael Kors handbag, stuffed with way too many non-essential things, been pulled through a sunroof with a piece of ranch wire.

I also met a woman in her late 80’s yesterday.

She was the little girl, now grown-up, who discovered the cave with her brothers back in the 1930’s. Mary, like the Fabra Elementary school teacher, is the kind of woman who can change your day and at the same time teach you a thing or two about life in just a few short hours.

The kind of woman who, behind the wrinkles, is still extremely passionate about children and education and exploring new adventures. A woman who was apparently born brave and remarkable, a trail blazer before her time, at a young age and throughout her long and incredible life.

Mary is a role model of unstoppable for girls.

I think there will always be someone trying to spit in our peanut butter sandwiches.

Our role is to not let it stick, and keep living stories worth telling.

 

 

 

 

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April 3

Ignoring the Alarm

Why wake up?

The prayers I cried last night took me far, far away in my dreams, as I slept.

Traveling away from here, to spend time with someone I miss and a place of peace. Something I crave, but cannot seem to keep.

Even after the post-alarm-clock sunbeams, “Good morning!” through my window, even though I love to wake up to this kind of day, I know it is not. The bright light is too much after such a dark and stormy night.

It’s not the way I planned for the day to start.

It’s not the way I wished it would have begun.

It was not fun.

And forgiveness will not come easy.

The phone rings on the kitchen counter, but I don’t hear it. I only know it’s ringing because the Fit Bit on my wrist tells me it is. I notice the time. There is a deadline and things to be done.

I want to go back to sleep, back to dreams that aren’t real and dinners and walks and kind words that are spoken from a distance, when the world feels like it is coming undone around you.

I’m running out of time.

The garbage men are coming.

I try to ignore the sounds of the truck, reminding me too late that I haven’t gotten it to the curb. I could jump up and run out, but I won’t.

Why bother?

I already know, no matter how fast I throw on an appropriate shirt, my baggy morning pants and drag the large green can out to the curb, it won’t be enough.

The stench of garbage will still linger in the garage for days.

The same as sin. That word we don’t want to use, don’t want to call it what it is. That word that seems to fill up every crevice and corner. The evil, relentless force that causes us to gouge and groan and live less than our intended best. Even when we pray, it doesn’t seem to stop its advancing attack against us until we succumb.

There will still be an odor that no amount of air freshening spray or plugins can cover and I don’t know how to mask the trash I cannot contain any longer.

I have words to write, and nothing to say. I try and remember, it’s not about me.

Reader first.

Reader first.

Reader first.

I try to type. I try to think of something, anything, a fun story, a time when…but nothing.

This day, I can’t seem to muster up encouragement or enthusiasm. Just yesterday I felt full and happy, the possibilities were endless. Today, all I can muster on this sinking morning after are one-word pleas.

Please.

Jesus.

Help.

I open my Message. The one that has parts of soft, lavender leather flaking off the cover. A gift from an editor who thought I might have something to say, something worthy to read. I confessed to him that I rarely felt worthy of anything good.

I open to a Psalm of David.

Silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling God.

And also obedience. You hear the prayer in it all.

We all arrive at your doorstep sooner or later, loaded with guilt,

our sins too much for us…

but you get rid of them once and for all.

Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest at home in your place!

Most days I am an over-user and abuser of exclamation marks.

God help me see them today. And bless this day.

 

 

 

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March 31

The Only Way

Girls, girls, girls.

We just wanna have fun.

We wanna fly colorful kites that soar up to the sky and shape sand castles on the beach. We want to eat chocolate and shop for shoes and pet furry creatures.

When we are young, we laugh and play and sometimes boss our friends who don’t know the right dialogue scripted for our Barbies.

“You’re supposed to say this.” 

“Why?”

“Because.” 

Because there was only one way to play.

My way.

“And she should wear this skirt with those shoes.”

Then we would have to take a snack break before things got heated.

When we become adults, a chocolate chip cookie and glass of milk aren’t always the easy fix for those disagreements and misunderstandings that have been allowed to simmer under the surface for way too long.

When we become adults, the stakes are higher. We are less flexible, less bendy.

“I feel like you judge me for drinking,” she said.

“I don’t judge you for your drinking. I judge you for your excessive trips to the nail salon.”

And that was true.

And I am a hypocrite.

Just a few weeks ago I got my toes pampered and painted a very light turquoise and I have to admit, it made me quite happy. So happy in fact, that when I went through security at the San Antonio International Airport with the adult equivalent of a Fiesta Texas Fast Pass, I was a little disappointed I didn’t have to take off my boots.

I’m only asked to do that on days I’m traveling with dry skin flaking off my heels. Days when my yellowed toe-nails can nearly grip the carpet piles in the TSA security area when all I’m really hoping for is a little pat down action.

Girls just wanna have fun.

Except we hold onto grudges and our side of the story, and it’s costing us fun and relationships with the people we love the most. It’s easier to walk away and give up than it is to stay and work through it.

It’s like the old Going on a Bear Hunt song, sometimes it’s so wide, we can’t go around it.

Can’t go over it.

Gotta go through it.

Through it is honest conversations and owning up to our hurt feelings and the ugly things we’ve said when the fun we wanted to have turns everything but.

Misunderstandings happen. Some are easier to get through than others.

The winter storm warnings were issued. There was going to be below freezing temperatures in the hill country and I asked my daughter if she would please bring the plants in from the pool area.

A typical teenager at the time, who despised anything that remotely sounded like a chore, she agreed in a less than enthusiastic manner.

After about twenty minutes or so, she came in from the utility room, closed the kitchen door behind her and said with great exasperation, “There. I’m done.”

I went to look to make sure that all the plants were safely inside, including the furry asparagus fern that grew in one of the larger pots.

Black dirt was scattered across the floor, the pots were in disarray, set down with no particular order or a clear path to the back door.

And then I noticed something else about a few of the hanging baskets.

“Those are the plastic plants.”

“Oh. I wondered.”

To this day, we call this, A Chelsea-ism. Quirky little things that this always precious, always sweet, always generous child could come up with.

When I asked one morning what her test was going to be on at school she answered quite seriously, “Paper.”

When we drove into Mason County on Highway 87 for the first time and she saw a herd of animals roaming the field she said, “Wow! Look at all those dogs!”

“Those are goats, honey. They’re goats.”

We are a motley crew.

And my way, becomes our way.

Capable of going through hard things together, and always finding forgiveness and fun on the other side. That’s what I love most about my girls.

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March 27

The Highlights of Searching for Black Bears and Fun with A Purpose.

the

where

there

bear

yeah

‘s.

Write a story using only those words. It must be 30 pages. Those were the directions given by the instructor.

My writing partner and I came up with a story about two friends, left out in the cold. We imagined a wintry scene with snow, a forest, and a peek-a-boo bear.

Every turn of the page took the bear to a new hidden location.

There’s the bear.

Where?

There.

Where?

There.

For the last night three nights, I’ve been staring out the picture window at this peaceful, wooded wonderland, hoping to see a legendary black bear without actually running into one on my walk down the lane to where they keep the things I love, like bacon, coffee and books.

Black bears are more scared of us than we are of them.

I write run-on sentences.

Grammar is important.

These are a few of the things I’m hearing and figuring out as I visit with other authors at a writer’s workshop in Pennsylvania where they make the most amazing chunks of cheese just a few miles from here.

See what I mean?

But I write like I talk and many times, I do not breathe in places where there should be a comma and I’m constantly compelled to share thoughts that are really better off staying at home in my head.

This is Fun with a Purpose.

toothbrush

snowman

hockey stick

slice of pizza

ice-cream cone

golf club

crown

Trying to find and live a life of meaning and purpose is often like searching for the tack in the Hidden Picture puzzle of a Highlights magazine. It’s elusive and lost in a myriad of other distractions like the carnival vendor, puppies without leashes and kids holding cones of cotton candy.

The only thing we loved about going to the dentist when we were seven were the Highlights magazines that sat on the Formica table in the reception area.

Did you know those same fun-filled copies can be delivered to your children and grand-children’s front door every month? They also have Hello for children 0-2 and High Five for 2-6 year-olds. That kind of fun is worth subscribing to, no dental chair involved.

I’ve also spent the last few days thinking about how I’ve been more of a Goofus than a Gallant kind of individual.

Sometimes when we deeply feel the need to discover something new or propel ourselves into taking action, what we really need is a change of scenery.

It doesn’t hurt to hook-up with a dedicated group of like-minded individuals who are also pursuing the same passions. Meeting real authors and editors who have honed their skills, paid their dues and made it out of the slush pile into paid-for publications has been both exhilarating, and challenging.

Sitting there in the circle last night, with a group of scarf and boot wearing writers, talking about books we loved and books that changed our hearts and minds and lives, I felt like a first grader who finally found the boomerang, the last item on the list of hidden objects.

There.

Where?

Here. 

Here? 

Yeah. 

 

 

 

 

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