Sunday, May 22, 2016

Run, Rabbit, Run

This was one of those days - you know the type: where you run endless errands and scurry here and there and manage to wear yourself out in the process. I was tempted earlier to post this as my Facebook status: "Starbucks to Church to Home to Menards to Starbucks (again) to Target to Home to Riley's friend's house to the Mall to Party City to Walgreens to Menards (again) to Home to Party City (again) to Kohl's to Schnucks to KFC to Home (and waiting to see if I need to pick Riley up from the movie/mall)." Because, yes, that's been my day.  And I could express it like that, as though I were thoroughly exasperated and wiped out. But, thing is, I'm not. 

During one of my stints at home, I had the luxury of relaxing with David in the hammock for a few minutes - and it was lovely.  I could have stayed awhile longer, except for the fact that the lawn service, in tending to the lawn next door, managed to scare up a baby bunny who took flight from the mower's maw only to catch the interest of Pringle.  Yes, Pringle, the almost-10-year-old Golden Retriever who wouldn't hurt a fly, who makes only a passing effort at "chasing" squirrels when they wander into our yard, who can't even be bothered to play fetch - THAT Pringle suddenly took off after the aforementioned bunny like a bat out of hell.  

Before I knew what was happening, he was in the neighbors' yard (Hey, thanks, neighbors, for leaving your gate open!) and not only cornering, but CAPTURING baby bunny. I jumped up as soon as I realized he was in the other yard and that he meant business - ran pell mell straight at him yelling, "Pringle! No! Pringle! NO!" I managed to intercept him as he returned to our yard - I think to show me his prize.  I grabbed him by the collar and yelled, "Drop!" And he did - bless his heart - he did exactly what a retriever is supposed to do. Then I dragged him inside (he wasn't particularly pleased by that - he wanted to play with his new toy.) I returned to check on the status of the bunny, hoping that maybe - just maybe - he was just scared/in shock.  Sadly, Little Bunny Foofoo's pupils were fixed and dilated.  There was a puncture wound on his chest - so either that, or the fright of it all, was just too much.  I picked him up gently (in gloved hands) and deposited him in the yard waste bin. Hopefully he's found his way to Bunny Heaven and is hopping around in clover with all the other little bunnies now. 

I couldn't be mad at Pringle. He was just doing what dogs do - well, what most dogs do.  I had to hand it to him - he impressed me.  I do believe that's his first ever capture/kill.  Didn't know the old feller had it in him.  Not only that, but he got me running at a full out sprint across the yard in my efforts to play Bunny Savior.  Which felt kind of good, I have to admit, even in its futility.  It reminded me that I really do need to get back to running.

Which brings me back to the first paragraph - different kind of running.  The kind which can be the wrong kind of running if your focus is in the wrong place.  It reminded me of my second official blog post:  How Pooh Are You?  wherein I was reminded that running around like Rabbit, being "extremely busy and very important" isn't who or how I want to be.  I don't think I realized it at the time, but trying to get back to a more Pooh-like place, was just another way of searching for peace.  

Interestingly, that was one of the primary themes at church today.  The pastor walked us through the parable of the alabaster jar. I won't go through the whole message - it had several different facets (and is worth the watch if anyone cares to view it when they post the podcast link tomorrow.)  But at the end of it, Jesus says to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."  And I was reminded of the peace that walking with Him brings. 

So, that sort of stayed with me today, despite all my running.  It reminded me, instead of being harried and hassled, to be grateful for the fact that I had a beautiful day like today - I awoke to the birds chirping, I enjoyed a nice church service with David, I enjoyed time with both him and Riley, I checked a few things off my "To Do" list, and now, I'm free to sit on the patio, peck away at the keyboard and write this all out, while enjoying the new mason jar/fire fly garden lights we installed this weekend, and listening to the tree frogs chirp their evening song.  It's been a blessed day. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Overcoming My Underachievement

I used to make regular "Diary of a Slacker" entries as I chronicled my reluctant attempts at becoming a committed runner/half-marathoner/tri-athlete.  Mostly, it was an excuse to indulge my urge to blog while (in theory) humorously poking fun of myself. But it acknowledged some less-than-endearing traits I've recognized in myself: sloth and procrastination.  Sadly, those are my defaults.  Yes - actually getting out there and training and competing was arguably me overcoming those traits, but they're still my defaults -- and I do see them as flaws I'd do well to cure.  

I have to admit, though, nothing will make you feel quite so slothful and slackerish as hearing that one of your classmates is on the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees.  (Yes, it's a list of 11 possibilities which even the not-yet-official-nominee-and-certainly-not-yet-next-President-Heaven-help-us-all acknowledges is not set in stone, but STILL!)  Particularly when it comes several months after the news that another classmate has contributed $100 million dollars to your alma mater.  In fairness, said classmate had a healthy running start on his fortune, but he's obviously done quite well for himself since!  

I. Am. Not. Worthy.  That's where my mind immediately went.  (Hey - I'm human.)  It also prompted me to once again reassess several of my life choices and contemplate what I'd do differently if I had it all to do again, particularly as it relates to my education/career choices:  I'd have taken advantage of the awesome J-School at MIZZOU and double-majored in Journalism and Political Science in order to better blend (and ideally feed) my dual passions of writing and politics.  For law school, as much as I loved my experience at Northwestern, and as great an opportunity as it was (obviously - see above paragraphs), I think I'd have taken advantage of the generous scholarship package I was offered to remain at MIZZOU for law school, rather than weighing myself down with student debt for which, in some respects, I'm still paying. And lastly, I'd have made a point to "apply" myself a bit more diligently.  Not that I did poorly academically - but I didn't really distinguish myself, and I certainly didn't make a conscious effort to focus and soak up the education I was being afforded, as opposed to simply phoning it in.  There are many chapters in my life that, when I look back, I realize I didn't fully appreciate at the time.  I don't just mean simple gratitude, but also conscious, deliberate, stop-and-smell-the-roses-and-soak-it-all-in-and-inform-your-choices-accordingly appreciation.

Of course, the fact that I didn't always see the wisdom in doing so in my younger days in no way prevents me from doing so going forward -- I'm 47, not 97.  So, bearing that in mind, I'll take a moment now to express my gratitude:  For an amazing, funny, smart, loving, kind daughter who is herself entering a new chapter of life, as she completes her last day of  middle school - I am so very lucky to be her Mom, and, as much as I focus on trying to parent her and help her grow into a strong, independent, capable young woman, realize more and more how much she's teaching me in the process.  For a wonderful, thoughtful, clever, handsome, witty, generous boyfriend/life-partner who gives me reason to smile and makes my heart go pitter-patter every day - I am so fortunate to have a best friend and companion who "gets" me and loves me and holds my hand so well.  For my beloved family - my Mom and Dad, and siblings and in-laws, and extended family, one and all - I've been blessed to be surrounded and bolstered by their love and support my entire life.  For my dear friends - the many kind hearts who make a point to let me know that I am loved and valued by choice.  For my network of friends/friendly acquaintances I've met compliments of the conservative movement and social media, and the writing and broadcasting opportunities that has consequently afforded me.  For my church and the journey of reconnecting with my faith it has helped me to make.  For my job and my co-workers - no, I don't hold a lofty title or make prestigious short lists, nor do I make a gabillion dollars, but I manage to support myself and my kiddo and occasionally generate work/results of which I'm proud and still live a life with plenty of fun and neat opportunities.  

I'm not going to lie - I'm still prone to sloth. I'm still a horrible procrastinator.  But my life?  You know - it isn't so bad at all.  Yes, I am grateful.  Now, I just need to focus a bit more on living it accordingly. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cinco de Mayo

I don't recall hearing about "Cinco de Mayo" as I was growing up,  It wasn't until I was an adult and viewed it as an excuse to have a margarita or two that it took on any significance for me.  And even then, it was sort of just another day to meet up with friends and enjoy Mexican food and drink (in honor of the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla - which Mexico doesn't even really celebrate, though I'm sure they appreciate us doing so for them?!)  I have a handful of fun, silly Cinco memories which needn't be repeated. I have a fond memory of Riley's first Cinco - itty-bitty, not yet two months old, bundled in her pumpkin seat, hanging outside at Vista Grande with her Dad and me and a dear group of friends we don't get to see so much anymore.  

Cinco de Mayo took on a different meaning for me 10 years ago: It was the day my Grandmother went to be with God. Which somehow seemed appropriate, as she loved her trips to Mexico AND loved a reason to celebrate.  I believe she was ready to go.  We'd celebrated her 100th birthday two months earlier. She'd lived a long, full life, and I believe she was at peace. But in a lot of ways, I'm still not ready for her to go. Or I wish she could come back and visit every once in awhile.  I've written previously about questions I'd ask her if she did: 

From 2011 - Questions I'd Ask My Grandmother

Tomorrow would have been my Grandmother’s 105th birthday.  I know we were so lucky to have her through her 100th – I got to grow up, go to school, get my college and law degrees, get married, have a child, all with her in my life.  Best of all, Riley got to spend time with her Great Grandma and get to know her before she left us.  And I think – no, I know – she was ready to go when she did.  So, it’s selfish of me to think like this, I suppose.  But, so often these days, I’m struck with the realization that I need her now more than ever.  

I won’t say I took my Grandmother for granted.  I can’t remember there ever being a time when I didn’t see her for the amazing, strong, beautiful spirit she was.  Grandma just had this…presence.  An almost regal bearing, though not a cold one.  But I do regret not taking the time to sit and really talk with her before she went -- not just about the little things, but the big things, too:  life, love, loss.

I didn’t realize I’d someday find myself on a path quite similar to hers.  I never really stopped and thought about how she came to travel that path herself.  What it meant to her.  What it might have cost her.  I never asked her either.  And I don’t even know if she’d have been able or willing to tell me.  But I sure do wish I would have.

It will, no doubt, seem strange to some that I’ve felt her, here with me, at times since she passed on.  Always, there is the idea of her.  But on a couple of occasions, I’ve actuallyfelt her with me, even heard her voice and felt her hand on my shoulder.  Those weren’t scary moments, at all.  A little strange, but more comforting than anything else.  Sometimes, I wish she’d come back and sit with me for awhile.  And then, maybe, I could ask her:

Was it hard to be so strong?  Where did you look to for that strength? What sustained you?

Did you envision your life turning out the way it did?  What would you have done differently if you could?  How did you maintain your focus on what you had, instead of what you didn’t? 

When your heart was broken, what helped heal it?  When you wrote, what inspired you?  When you cried, what brought the laughter back? 

Was it scary, being a single mother?  Did you ever worry you were letting Mom down?  If you were failing her by not providing her with a traditional family?  

How did you manage to run a farm and a post office?  (I realize the town was small, and you had some help with the farm, but I can barely manage a tiny house and a decent-sized yard.)  How did you know what you needed to do?  Where did you find the time to do it all?

How did you learn to live alone without being lonely?  To be independent without becoming isolated? 

What would you tell me if you were here now?  What wisdom would you share with me to help me find my way?   

Most of all, do you have any idea how amazing you are?  What a blessing you’ve been in my life?  

I love you, Grandma.  

I'd have even more questions for her now - like what she thinks about craft beer; and this crazy election we're having. I'd love for her to meet David - I'm certain she'd be quite fond of him (and remark to me about what a handsome fellow he is.) I know she'd adore his Emma and Holly. And I'd love for her to see the smart, beautiful, thoughtful and brave young woman Riley is becoming.  I'd love to challenge her to another round of Canasta even though I know she'd win. Mostly, I'd love to sit outside in the evening with her and listen to the cicadas - or maybe the tree frogs if we were here instead of at her farm. 

I drove by it last week.  I had to be in St. Joseph for work, and planned on stopping off in Dearborn on my way back home since I'd be right there.  I wanted to drive out past her farm, and then back toward town; to stop off at the cemetery and place some flowers on her grave - I can't believe it's been 10 years since I was there. The timing worked out well - I finished my work in St. Joe at 2:30, and headed to a local florist. But then a weather alert popped up on my phone: "Tornado Watch: Buchanan County." The sky to the west of me had turned that ugly shade of cobalt blue muddled with swamp green. The radar app on my phone showed an angry red crescent of nastiness moving east-south-east toward me.  I hesitated, then nixed the florist and got right back on 29 headed south, trying to convince myself I still had time for a quick visit - maybe. But Mother Nature refused to slow her roll. As I drew close to the Dearborn exit, I knew - at best, I could hope to race by the cemetery and, if I was lucky, have just enough time to locate her grave and say a quick hello before the storm unleashed its fury. And that didn't seem like such a good idea. Especially since I wasn't sure where I could take shelter from there. So I kept going. I looked up at the Dearborn water tower as I passed, and whispered, "I'm sorry, Grandma," through tears, even though I'm quite certain my Grandmother would have chewed me a new one had I not done exactly that. It just - made me miss her so very much at that moment; made me sad.  

So, I called my Mom to let her know I wasn't going to be able to stop - and to assure her I was ahead of the storm, though the dang thing nipped at my heels most of the way back to Columbia. And I suggested perhaps she and I might plan a visit very soon.  She said she'd like that.  And so would I. Miss you, Grandma.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Would You Come to a Christmas Service with Me?

I'll be honest - I'm struggling to find the right words to accompany this invitation. It's an idea that's been kicking around my mind the past few days and really took shape at yesterday's service when one of the pastors mentioned there were actual invitation cards available for us to take and hand out this week. The cards contain a handy-dandy schedule of Christmas services and even a link to join and watch on-line if one can't be there in person.  

"Perfect!" I thought. I snagged a few from the Information desk on my way out...and promptly left them at home this morning.  So the best I can do at the moment is extend the invitation this way. 

Oh, I know - some may not be at all interested in taking me up on it. It's okay - I won't try and twist your arm. I just suspect there are more than a few people out there who - as has often been the case with me in recent years - are so busy with the comings and goings they don't think they'll have time to fit in a Christmas service, even if they really would like to.  This is my way of letting you know - yes, you can - even if all you have is an hour to spare!  (Even if you plan on wrapping gifts and/or fixing up a veggie casserole for the family gathering while you watch/listen.)  Here's the link if you'd like to check it out:

If you'd actually like to attend in person, there are lots of options, both location-wise and time-wise. And if you think you might like to attend, but you're hesitant - for whatever reason - well, just consider this your personal invitation from me. I don't bite. And neither will this. :) 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


"25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]:Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." - Ephesians 4:25-32.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, there are rarely -- if ever -- times when I attend church and don't come away feeling that I was meant to be there -- to receive the message and once again be reminded that He is almost always speaking to me.  (Maybe I just listen/hear Him better while I'm at church -- after all, being still and quiet is sort of an ingrained part of the churchgoing process. Besides, surfing Facebook during the worship service just seems uber tacky.)  Because of this, I've gotten in the habit of walking in with a particular question on my heart.  Whatever is weighing on me -- I bring it there and hold it out, like Zuzu's petals, for God to "paste it," and make it better; make me whole.  I don't know why it still surprises me -- but He always does. 
Lately, a couple different concerns have been weighing on me, but both have to do with loss -- loss of people who matter to me, to be precise.  There are different ways we lose people -- sometimes to death, sometimes to anger or betrayal, sometimes just to drift.  But loss is loss and the closer the tie to the person, the greater the hurt when we lose them, particularly when it's abrupt and/or unexpected.  I've been carrying a good deal of hurt with me over several people who've chosen to exit stage left in recent months.  It's left me feeling very small and not valued.  And I've been trying to figure out how to get past it.
Just letting go of it and walking away isn't really my way. Usually, my instinct is to attempt to mend fences, but in order to do that, I know I need to get past the point where I feel compelled to plead my case; to explain how I've been "wronged" and how and why I didn't "deserve" it.  Problem is...I've been stuck there for awhile, and haven't been able to move on to that "It doesn't matter who's right or wrong; what matters is the relationship with this person" phase. So when I realized today's theme was "forgiveness," I thought, "Oh, boy - here we go."  
As it turned out, the message was about more than just forgiveness.  If I had to sum it up succinctly, I'd say it's about walking the walk. But forgiveness is a crucial component of that -- God's forgiveness of our sins and, in turn, our forgiveness of one another.  Towards the end of the message, the Pastor encouraged us to seek out those we need to forgive -- to start figuring out how to get to that place.  ("Great," I thought, "That's what I've been trying (rather unsuccessfully) to do.")  But then, he added another dimension to it and encouraged us to seek out those from whom we need to seek forgiveness.  
I was still mulling this over as I drove away, and it suddenly hit me: I've been so focused on forgiving, I've forgotten I need to be forgiven. Maybe I need to shift my focus to that, in order to get to where I need to be.  So I'm putting this out there, and I'm asking any and all - if I've let you down; if I've hurt you, please forgive me. If there's something I can do to make it right, tell me. And if you're still not there yet, know that I'll be right here when you are.  

There are people in your life who've come and gone;
They've let you down, you know they've hurt your pride.
You'd better put it all behind you, baby, cuz life goes on;
You keep carryin' that anger, it'll eat you up inside.

I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter.
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore. - Don Henley

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Flip or Flop

It all began for want of a pencil case.  Of course Riley got one along with her other school supplies about a month ago.  But the one we originally got, it seems, wasn't all that sturdy.  Ergo, when stepped on by a classmate last week, it sort of fell apart.  So I was informed that she needed a new one.  It went a little something like this:  I went to Target last Saturday and picked up all sorts of things (as one so often does when one goes to Target.)  Got home and, as I was unpacking my purchases, was greeted with, "Next time you go to Target, can I come with? I need a new pencil case."  I might have rolled my eyes a teeny bit, but laughed and said, "Well, yes, the next time I go to Target, you're welcome to come along, but I can't say for certain when that will be, seeing as how I just now got home from Target!" 

Later, I was informed that there was a particular case the kiddo had found on line which she needed wanted. So she described it to me, and I promised to pick one up the next time I was at Target.  Went last night to "our" store only to discover that they didn't have the item in stock.  So she asked if we could order it on line.  Sure. We can do that.  Hopped on line last evening and's out of stock on line!  And in "low stock" in only two stores in the St. Louis area -- O'Fallon and Jennings. Okay fine, the O'Fallon store isn't too far away, so I decided to run by there on my way to work this morning.  

Got there shortly after the store opened at 8:00 a.m., and, as I was walking in...something went terribly awry with my left shoe.  I was wearing my prized Colin Stuart black wedge flip-flops -- which, anyone who sees me regularly can attest, is basically the entirety of my summer shoe wardrobe.  Actually, I like this particular shoe so much, I have it in 5 or 6 colors, but since I wear a lot of black, the black ones get the most wear.  And it seems, I've worn them so much that I wore the flip right of the flop.  Busted.  So, what was I to do?  I was already at Target. Wasn't going to hop back to the car and go home.  I figured Target might actually have a reasonable substitute, so I trudged forward. 

Trust me, you haven't lived until you've attempted to traverse a large box store in a busted high-heeled flip flop.  Let's just say, I moved verrrrrrry slooowwwwwlllyyy.  I'm sure anyone who saw me thought I had a terrible leg injury.  

But I made my way over to the shoe section and low and behold - they not only had a decent selection of flip flops -- they actually had some black wedges!  Not identical to my beloved Colin Stuarts, but close enough!  

Now the trick was to figure out how to swap the fully functional flop out for the busted one without appearing to be some kind of shoe shoplifter, as simply donning the tethered-together Target pair seemed likely to cause further mobility issues.  I was able to carefully untether the left flop from its mate (and thankfully, the price tag was affixed to the right flop.)  So I donned the left flop and proceeded with my shopping sporting a pair of mismatched, yet close-enough, black wedge flip flops.

I flopped over to the school supply section...only to discover that the desired pencil case apparently wasn't in stock at this store either.   I asked the kind gentleman who was restocking the team-wear nearby to check.  He did, and after several moments and some hunting around, ultimately determined that there'd been an accounting error, and they really didn't have any in stock.  

I grabbed two alternatives and headed towards the checkout, where the cashier graciously placed my old shoes in a bag and snipped the price tag off the right flop so that I could wear my new pair out of the store.  Hope one of the cases I snagged will do, because I'm not driving to the Jennings Target for a $4 pencil case!  

Monday, August 31, 2015

Be Still

I went to church yesterday for the first time in several weeks. Summer's been busy and weekends fly by, and it's all too easy to place church down low on the priority list.  But I felt it tugging at me a bit. Truth be told, I've been feeling a little bit low of late. No one thing, no enormous thing, just the paper cuts of life leaving their sting. 

So I went with the hope that an hour in church would renew my spirit a bit, as it so often does.  I went with a prayer on my heart that God would speak to me there as He's done before.  It's the reason I've come to love my church so -- rare is the time I attend and don't take something meaningful away.  

And as the service went on, I felt...well, not really what I'd been hoping for.  The music was good, the message was fine, but it wasn't really connecting with me in the way I'd thought it might. Even when the pastor mentioned "those times when God speaks to us and we know it's Him."  Yes - I've experienced those times, and they're a large part of what informs my faith. But He wasn't really speaking to me yesterday.  

Then, at the end of the service, the lights dimmed, and the pastor engaged in a sort of "question and answer" prayer session with God.  He voiced a concern or doubt, speaking directly to God, and then, in turn, a verse would appear on the screen -- one which spoke to the question. I don't recall the pastor's first query, but the responsive verse was:  "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine."

And for some reason, that prompted me to think of the times I've called out to God in sadness or doubt, and "heard" (in my head - not in a big out loud GOD voice): "Be still, and know that I am God."  So I thought, "Okay, maybe that's what I'm supposed to take away from today."  I thought on it a bit as the question-and-answer-prayer continued for a few minutes.  

And then the pastor was quiet and the lights dimmed completely. And then, a blue spotlight illuminated a lone pianist on stage.  And this is what he played:

I heard you, God.  Thank you.