31 December 2008

Welcome 2009

I've read on several blogs that people have chosen a word for 2009, one that encompasses where their hearts are and where they feel like they're going. I don't usually do such things. A single word can feel so limiting to me, so constraining and binding. But this time, there's one word that God has been speaking over and over to my heart these last few weeks, and it is what my heart wants.

So my word for 2009? Enough.

As in, I am enough, I have enough, and there is enough. As in, it's enough that I have a job when so many don't and that job doesn't usually require too much from me and offers benefits I can't find anywhere else. As in, while I'd love to be published, to be sought out for my writing and the ideas in my heart, it's enough right now that I'm writing consistently, refining my vision, realizing that I am a writer but am not only a writer. As in, Oso and I run pretty close on money every month, but we always have what we need...we have enough. As in, there's so much about my life that I wish I could change and that I'm working to change but my efforts today are enough.

"Enough" means that there's breathing space, room to be tired and stop striving, stop feeling like I should be doing more, being more, becoming more. "Enough" means it's ok that this feels like a confusing season of life, an in-between stage where I'm coming into something that I don't yet possess, but I possess it more than I used to. "Enough" means that I don't have to understand, I can run into walls in this darkness and it's ok. "Enough" means release, and peace, and sitting with friends drinking coffee instead of always balancing the checkbook and running the errands first.

I'm not a poet, but this is how "enough" came to me today.

Enough

Eyes closed,
sigh, and let it go.
My hands are clean.

So clean,
these hands,
but I've washed them anyway.

These hands.
I've scrubbed, picked, scratched
and scrubbed some more.
Like I wanted rid of them,
I've scrubbed,
like I wanted stubs intstead of fingers.
Like I could make them bigger, better
longer, stronger,
prettier,
I've scrubbed.

These hands,
the same ones I had
coming in,
the same ones I'll have
going out.

Scrubbing hurts
these hands.
They're as clean as they'll ever be.
I can
use, abuse, ruse, stew
them.
They're clean as they'll ever be.

These hands.
My hands.

11 December 2008

Sheesh!

I'm alive over here, I promise.

I don't quite know why I've been away, except I think it has something to do with spending so much time and energy living my life that I don't have the time and energy to write about it. Right now, there's Baccalaureate to plan and Christmas to make and to celebrate and miles to run and people to love on. Over the last weeks, there have been websites to build (though the photos in the box still need some help), blogs to start and freelance jobs to apply for. I've been overcoming some of the fear of little steps that keeps me from going anywhere and learning to care for myself even when others can't care for me like I want them to.

Overall, it's been a good month, but I miss you all dearly.

------------------------

On a practical note, please do check out the website and particularly the blog. I'm hoping to chronicle my writing growth and journey over there, even as I chronicle my inner growth and journey here. I don't much love the idea of separating the two, but it seems like the best way to move things right now. FYI, there's not too much written there yet. Let me know what you think of it all.

18 November 2008

Quantum of Solace, Bros. K, and a little about writing

Neither Dave and are the biggest of Bond fans, but we saw the new movie last weekend with friends. I'd heard a lot about it beforehand, that it didn't seem like a Bond film, was extra violent, that there wasn't much emotion in it and that Bond seemed so cold.

In order, I'd say, true, sort-of true, completely false, and definitely true.

Honestly, I don't quite know what I think of the movie. In some ways, it reminded me of The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. I think that's the only book I ever read at 100+ pages an hour (I read it for school, back when I kept track of how fast I was reading). It whizzed by, and it tore out my soul and shredded it as it went. There was something about that book, how it was written and paced and how the story went, that made me feel like I was there. I became each anguished character in turn, not only seeing and understanding their feelings but feeling them almost like they were my own. In some ways, it was bliss; only a truly gifted storyteller can get you so far inside a character's head that you have to look up and blink a couple of times when you put the book down before you fully absorb that the story isn't your reality. In others, it was torture; there aren't exactly many happy people in Bros. K, and not anyone to really root for, either.

Quantum of Solace was a little like that. It wasn't that Bond (once again, superbly played by Daniel Craig), wasn't emotional, it was that he was traumatized in the last movie and had to work it out in this one. He was cold, but it was because he held so much feeling, not so little. I left the theater with a bit of that sick feeling that intense self-doubt and revenge always give me, and yet I felt, with Bond, the relief that he'd worked it out (even though I hope to never need to work something out in his way). It was intense and very well done and a little sickening at the same time.

The day after I saw the movie, I began to wonder about the ethics of art, particularly as it pertains to my writing. I aspire to intertwine the emotions of my readers with those of my characters like this movie and like Bros. K. At the same time, I wonder if it's wrong to show certain things, or if there are certain emotions that my readers just don't need to feel along with my characters. Are certain things too evil or too dark to show? Where is the line between real and gratuitous when it comes to these sorts of things?

I don't have any answers for you, but I think the questions are important. I probably won't see Quantum of Solace again, but I'm glad I saw it once, if only for theses questions it raised.

12 November 2008

Wanted

Somewhere along the way, I lost the Quiet One.

She was so beautiful, and so sensitive. It tore her to shreds to watch the movie version of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. How her soul hurt for that other little girl, so far removed from her own world, who suffered and tried to live and died anyway. We killed her, Mama, she said, but no one else saw it that way. She cried herself to sleep that night.

She was so special, making friends with the tiny, perfect violets when they grew all around where the old tree had been cut down. She missed the tree, but the stump made a perfect seat for violet-watching. I think they thought it strange that one girl, so small, could occupy herself with flowers for so long. Come on, they said, let's go, and so she tore herself away.

She was so sweet, her wide eyes and shy smile endeared even the ones she wished would go away. Loved faces brought so much joy, she could hardly contain it. Why can't you go to sleep? someone asked. My mama and daddy aren't home yet...I want to see them.

She wasn't always sweet. Anger poured over and through her just like pain and joy, and poured out her mouth and her hands. She never pounded or hit or bit, though I won't tell you about the times she wished she could.

She was so creative, riding the stairsteps with the curving banister like a train and making all the dolls she could find sit up for school. Sometimes, those dolls got in others' way. Make us a path, we have to get through, they said, but school wasn't any fun with people walking through the middle of the classroom.

I think a lot of people missed her completely. They mistook sensitivity for weakness, shyness for inability, intense emotion for stage-worthy overkill, and creativity for something that got in the way. And to such a sensitive, little soul, being mis-taken burns inside like cold fire. Is it me? became How do I fix it? and when she found that she couldn't, she went away.

What else do you do when it seems like the whole world hurts?

You know, I don't think it's right to say that I lost her. More like, I spirited her away, hiding her somewhere where she couldn't be found. She's too special, too loving and sensitive and wide-eyed and precious, to have to suffer not being understood. If no one else would value those things, I'd put them in a place where only I could see them.

And yet, she's sometimes lost down there, beyond the place where interfacing with the world becomes coping and coping becomes that-thing-you-do-without-even-thinking. She got lost because she got forgotten, in the hurly-burly of trying to figure out life without her.

The thing is, I want her back. Not just the little bits here and there, when I remember her or see her in my conversation or when she starts to tiptoe out because the people I'm with are safe. I want her to come home, to be the me you see when you look in my eyes. I want a second chance, with her and for her. I want her back.

Has anybody seen her?

**Do ya'll even require the disclaimer anymore? This came to me last night when I was falling to sleep, and it encompassess so much of my journey here on earth, my journey towards God, myself, and others, now and in the past and probably in the future, too. Right now, I'm not overly sad, depressed, angry, or anthing else you could come up with from reading this. I'm just holding this, nodding, saying, "Yup...'s all true."

06 November 2008

Doodlebug


This is one of those things I do. It's one of those things I've always done: I doodle. No one ever believes me (except for those few who've found that their brains work the same way), but doodling helps me focus. It helps me listen to a speaker or participate in a meeting that I might otherwise zone out on. Instead, I doodle and I get the information I need. It's like I have to occupy a particular part of my brain or it takes off to LaLa Land and beyond before I can stop it. Some people call it ADD; I don't know what it is, but sometimes I get some fun pictures out of it.

I did this one in a meeting today and I like her. She looks carefree and cute. Clearly, I could use some pointers on drawing arms, and also on transferring pen drawings to the computer. But she looks so happy and sweet and free in that cartoon-y sort of way that I had to share her with you. May your day be something like hers.

03 November 2008

Take a look at Soloman Summaries

My friend Heather is doing something awesomely cool, and I want you all to know about it. She's passionate about books and her husband, Chris, is a techie/business guy. Together, they've started Soloman Summaries. Basically, they're reading and summarizing Christian books and then passing those summaries on to busy people who don't have time to read the books for themselves, or who only have a certain amount of time and aren't sure which books to focus on.

I've read the first summary they did, of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, and it's right on. I taught Mere Christianity to high school students for three years, so I know it inside and out, and the summary I read not only captured Lewis's argument but also the flavor of his writing (which is a real treat, if any of you out there haven't read Lewis).

Beyond the summaries, I find myself wanting to cheer on the vision that Heather and Chris have for this venture. They not only want to help others gain knowledge and wisdom, but they have a vision to touch hearts and lives. At one point, in a statement about their business, they say, "...we have opportunities to help people see the Bible and God as relevant issues from practical everyday decisions about weekly financial and church life to bigger questions like purpose, calling and gifting." Later on, they add, "We hope these books will spark discussions that will cause us to peer further into our own lives and will give us opportunities for Christian impact in a hurting, lonely world."

If you know me at all, you know that these are things I care deeply about: discussing the big questions, seeing God in everyday life, discerning vocation, and impacting lonely, hurting people. So I applaud Heather and Chris for taking these things on, and for doing so in such a winsome way.

You know, I finally remembered where I'd seen something similar to this (albeit for business books) advertised before--SkyMall magazine. Maybe someday we'll see Soloman Summaries there!

*Heather and Chris are offering free subscriptions to Soloman Summaries until December 1. So click the link and see what its all about. Really, you don't have any excuse not to ;)

**A couple weeks back, Heather and Chris had a blog tour for Soloman Summaries that I didn't get to participate in because I had The Killer Flu. If you want to check out what some other people had to say, you can find a master list of participants here, or click one below.

AKA Lewis Theodore
A Peek at My Bookshelf
A Prisoner of Hope
Aspire 2 Blog
Bible Dude
Blame it on the Loud Mouth Gene
Fictionary
Gatorskunkz and Mudcats
Geaux 2 Girl
High Calling Blogs
In.A.Mirror.Dimly
In the Dailies
Leap of Faith
Michelle Pendergrass
Morning Cup of Coffee
One Glory
Portrait of a Writer . . . Interrupted
Relevant Blog
So You Wanna Be Published
The View From Here

27 October 2008

Resting

I looked at Oso in the car last night on our way home from church and asked, "Are we crazy?"

"No," he replied. "They are."

Ah, right. Resting isn't crazy, it's human. We're really not made to go from event to event without a break in the middle, or to push our sleep into slots so small that we can't keep our eyes open most of the day.

If you want to know about resting, I can tell you about resting. Recovering from the flu requires a lot of resting, and so I have rested myself silly these last couple of weeks. As I've rested, I've noticed just how odd it is, in our culture, to actually set aside time to be still.

It's so out-of-the-0rdinary that I know some people who've had what I had who just pushed through. I talked to some of them last night, and they kept working, dancing, driving, etc., all the way through the illness. When I first heard that, I felt like such a wimp. I mean, I couldn't hardly walk around my house with my 102.5 degree fever, let alone go to work. And I felt so tired after work last week that I didn't even make my own husband a birthday cake (he wasn't upset), let alone go shopping or dancing or hanging out with people. Sheesh.

And then, it was like I saw the change in me. Me, the girl who almost passed out in high school because she was so sick that the heat from the Bunsen burner flame made her dizzy...the same girl who rode horses for years even though she's allergic to them and they make her sick. Right. That was the girl who wanted to rest last week, who didn't go to the gym because it felt like too much for her lungs, even when her legs really, really wanted to go.

God is so good. Rest is so good for the soul. It's opened so much space for me to be and breathe and experience God's goodness. While choosing rest means that sometimes I choose to miss out on other things, it's so rich and deep and good that I can't help but think it's part of what we're meant for.

22 October 2008

*cough, cough*

Oh, my poor, neglected blog! Actually, I feel that way about a lot of things in my life right now...about everything, in fact, except the couch, the TV, and the political commercials.

I guess The Killer Flu will do that to you. Seriously, I haven't been as sick as I was last week (or had as slow a recovery as I'm having this week) since grade school. But I AM recovering. And once I find the energy to once again string thoughts together in sentences and paragraphs, I'll come back and do right by my blog and my blog friends, I promise. For now, though, I'm going to go get better.

08 October 2008

Painting and God

So, painting and spirituality, huh? I can do that.

Honestly, there aren't many paintings that move me, let alone grab my attention for more than 15 seconds as I walk by. The Mona Lisa was pretty much a disappointment, though that may have had more to do with the number of French schoolchildren surrounding her at the very moment I was trying to gaze into her elusive eyes than with my disposition toward the work. The Uffizi overwhelmed, and that National Gallery was nice, but honestly I'd rather look at the bits they stole from the Parthenon than color on canvas. I did see one painting, once, at the Getty Museum, that enthralled me, but I'd never seen it before, I've never seen it again, and I'm too ADD to remember the name and the artist without writing it down.

On the other hand, I find the act of painting entirely enthralling. There aren't many things I do where I lose track of the world around me (see abovementioned ADD tendencies). It just doesn't happen. But when I paint, it almost always happens. I forget about time and place and hunger and focus on what's before me, what it's becoming, and how I can help it get there.

When I paint, I give voice to the intuitive. Writing is similar, except that when I write, it has to at least break down into sentences and paragraphs with some kind of flow. Painting isn't like that. Color, line, form, symmetry, they're all a language that I can speak, though I couldn't tell you how. And my whole process is intuitive. Sometimes a painting will sit on my easel for months, until one day I look at it or I think about it just as I'm falling to sleep and suddenly I know what needs to be done next.

I don't know if this process connects me to God. A lot of artists say that it does, that when they're in that intuitive, idea-flowing zone, they feel close to him. I don't necessarily feel that way. Most of what I paint comes from me, from my eyes and my heart and my hands. On the other hand, I am giving voice to things that I don't usually say, that I might not even be able to say in words, and I think that honesty like that almost always brings us closer to him. I know that I learn more about myself, how I work and what I like and what lives inside, and that process is also true and brings me closer to knowing fully how he made me. I also learn that I can make mistakes, that they aren't the end of the world, that I can fix them and incorporate them and that they're not as scary as they seem, and I can't help but think that God wanted me to know that.

When I walk away from painting, it's almost always with an incredible sense of peace. It's not necessarily external, like something coming from God. I think it has more to do with having rested my usually-multitasking brain by focusing on one thing, and having somehow gotten put back into alignment with myself. I can't help but think that this is how he made us to function, doing things that bring us to ourselves, because those are the things that will ultimately lead us to him.

25 September 2008

4 things...11 times

Kirsten tagged me ;)

4 things i was doing 10 years ago:
*trying really hard to like philosophy
*hanging out with Katie
*working as a teacher's aide at "the private Catholic school up the street"
*trying to keep up a serious long-distance relationship

4 things on my to-do list for today:
*
finish our budget (at work)
*look up stuff for Oso's birthday (in about a month)
*email Monica
*have lunch with Katie and Stephanie

4 things i love about my husband:
*his stories from the Army
*how often he tells his stories from the Army
*his ability to speak truth
*how he has enough space inside him for people to be who they are, not who he wants them to be

4 jobs i've had:
*
Boston Market server
*therapist for autistic children
*Torrey Academy tutor
*spiritual director

4 movies i've watched more than once:
*Bend it Like Beckham
*Sneakers
*Sahara
*Charlie's Angels

4 places i've lived:

*an apartment on Gagely
*a house on Fairvilla
*the "bowling alley"
*Sigma Third Short

4 places i've been:
*Bellingham, WA
*Estes Park, CO
*Saltzburg, Austria
*Dachau

4 places i want to visit:

*New Zealand
*Australia
*Thailand
*Antarctica
(and many more...)

4 television shows i watch:
*House
*Fringe
*Alias (the joys of DVDs)
*um...CSI...any of them...

4 things you may not know about me:
*I have a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do
*I used to ride horses...jumping and all that
*I love turtles
*After early grade school, I didn't paint again until summer 2007

4 people i'm tagging:
um... all y'all who haven't done it yet (there, Christin...did I use it right?)

19 September 2008

Grace, Tables, and an Artist's Easel

LL Barkat shared, yesterday, about the story of a friend's worn, wooden table, and how grace brought it into her life and placed it just right. Then she invited others to share about the storied tables and chairs in their own lives. My comment that I didn't have a worn, wooden table, let alone space for one, opened some thoughts and I thought I'd share them here.

Right now, Oso (that bear of a man that I married) and I don't own any property. We have our rented apartment, and we haven't had the chance to pick and choose different pieces of furniture to put it it. Generally, we have a hodge-podge of the things we each owned before we married and whatever we could get right around our weddig from various friends, family, and stores with sales. We're so far from having a worn, wooden table that's just perfect that I can't even tell you how far that is...it's just far.

Most couples start out like this, I think. Over the years, they get their own place and slowly replace the things they have with things they love. Sometimes a particular aesthetic rules the day, but many times people buy pieces that mean something to them, then arrange and rearrange until they get it just right. The whole house is like the wooden table, reflecting the family, what it means to them to be a family, and the graces of sharing with each other and caring about each other.

I don't know if Oso and I will ever have that.

These days, he's working his tail off to qualify as an Army chaplain. When he does, we'll start a twenty-something year journey through the United States' Army bases. We don't have many details yet, but even if we're graced with longer-than-usual tours in these different places, we'll move more and farther than the average family. Growing the kind of home where I'd even know where that sort of table belonged seems out of the question, let alone having the time to find the perfect table and put it in place.

It's a mixed bag, all this thinking about moving around. For me, I love traveling new places and seeing new things, but I hate moving. I love immersing myself in different places, but I like coming home. I think that's what this is all about for me--a sense of home. The worn, wooden tables and the stories behind them mean "home" to me, with the grace and the love and the laughter of the home I want to build.

I don't think it's just chance that this is coming up now. Oso and I have been talking about what it would take to raise healthy, happy, secure kids in the Army and how we would build our family around that. One of the things we've talked about is how we'd have to intentionally build a sense of home and make our family's sense of home different from that of most people. We've talked about different options: a place we return to, again and again, as a family; calling one of our parents' homes or a close friend's home "home" and visiting often; teaching our kids that home is found more in people than in a specific place, and then whenever we're more-or-less together, they're home.

Honestly, some version of the last one seems like the best option. And so our children will have stories about each other and about us, stories that go with photos or memories, and not so many stories surrounding the physical things that structure our lives. I think it will be a grace-filled life, indeed, but a different sort of one.

All of this reminds me of one of the things that drew me to Oso the most. He was with me the night my grandpa died. We'd been dating about a month, though we'd known each other for about a year-and-a-half before that. That night, he held me. He didn't say anything, didn't try to make it better or get me to talk or make me laugh. Instead, he sat with me.

I don't know how long we sat there. It probably wasn't long, but I've reflected on those moments so many times that it seems like we sat there forever. What I felt that night, besides grief for my grandfather, was an immense amount of space. There was enough space in Oso for me to be however I needed to be that night, for me to cry or laugh or say nothing. He didn't have an agenda and he didn't need me to feel anything in particular.

As we continued to date, that space became more and more important. I felt like I could stretch out in it, like there was really room for all of me. Gradually, I realized that the space in him had become my home, more than any four walls and a roof ever could.

Talk about grace...this home-in-him that I found is the best gift any one person could ever give another, I think. A place to stretch and cry and pray and play and change and grow and laugh. Like anything human, it's not perfect, but it was the best gift this girl could have been given. Though my everyday sense of that gift fades the longer I live there, that's the kind of home I want my children to have.

And all of this brings me to the one piece of furniture (if it even qualifies as that) I have that has a great story. Actually, it's a really simple story.

I started painting again in the summer of 2007. When I say "again," I mean that I hadn't painted since somewhere around 3rd grade, making it nearly 20 years between tries. I've written a lot about rediscovering the art in me before, so I think it's sufficient to say here that it was a huge step for me to pick up a paintbrush and make something.

I'm a slow painter, but by the fall I had a couple of works that I actually liked, that meant something to me and that I felt happy with.

One day last fall, I came home and Oso was already there. He was in another room, so I went to throw something in our extra room before I went to find him. I walked in the door to the extra room and saw a box on my chair. Since I didn't leave a box on my chair, I went over to move it to his chair so I could use mine.

When I looked at the box, I couldn't believe it. It held a folding art easel, complete with different paints and brushes and a palette.

I ran to the hallway and, still not knowing where he was, shouted, "You bought me an easel!"

He yelled back, "You weren't supposed to go in there!" and then came out from wherever he was.

He found it at Costco, he said. It wasn't that much, he said. He didn't know how good it was, he said. But he couldn't have seen me any better or bought something that, right then, would have touched my heart more.

The easel still stands in our extra room. I paint on it when I get the chance, which isn't as often as I'd like but that's ok. Every time I use it, I think about the man who is my earthly home, and all the little graces he gives me every day.

And one of the best things about the easel? It folds down into a little box with a handle, so I can take it wherever we go.

17 September 2008

The Killer Fog

I'm kind of laughing at myself over here. I make a new blog, then don't post on it for several days. What a way to start a new conversation ;)

The truth is, I'm fighting the Killer Sinus Fog. Not only does it sap my energy and make me feel like I just want to close my eyes, but it makes my brain slow. I look at words over and over and over again, and they still don't mean anything. Writing is even more out of the question, if coherency is anything of a goal.

While I am getting better, the blank page is still daunting. In fact, I think that's one of the reasons I hate sinus problems so much--they take some away some of the things I value most, like the ability to communicate effectively and well, and the ability to think and feel deeply and process what I find there.

Instead, I feel like I end up saving it all up, noting things I want to come back to later but that I know I just can't do justice to right now. I tow them with me through the fog but I know they're at the end of a long rope that, someday, I hope I'm able to reel in.

Meh. I hope I'm back to speed in a few days.

11 September 2008

A New Space

I look over my new space here and I'm struck by how like the rest of my life it is.

I always say that I like simplicity, clean lines, with everything in its place. But when it comes down to it, what I usually choose and have myself surrounded by involves bright color, vivid images, and varying amounts of clutter. There's a simplicity in it, but it's more complex and harder to see a pattern on first glance, like a fractal.

Welcome to this space.

I've moved over here for many reasons. I wanted to come back to blogger...I feel like I'm moving into something new in my life and have a strange desire for my space to reflect that...I want more anonymity on the web and posting at a blog that was once tied to a URL that included my full name seems counterproductive. Those are the main reasons. Beyond that, I have a vague notion that this is good for me.

I miss my old home already. It's just a bunch of data on the Internet, but it was a home, of sorts. I met so many good friends there (hopefully you all turn up here, too!), shared so much of my heart, thought so hard and so long about so many different things.

I'm not sure what will become of the old place. I'll leave it up for now, though I'll delete any links between this space and that one, at least for the time being. It's not that I don't want to embrace what's there, because I do, but because I want to be more free in what I can post and I can only do that if the blog isn't tied to my name. It's a long story, but trust me on this one. I will say this...if you email me (via the link on my profile) and we get to know each other, I'll send you that link.

Beyond all of that, come in and pull up a chair. Enjoy the art and the words. Relax into them and into yourself, if you can. I hope you enjoy your visit.