Category Archives: being thankful

NYC5 – That day……

When my hubby asked me if I wanted to go to NYC for our anniversary, “yes, please,” was all I could muster before I pushed my sweet children out of the way and rushed off to pack my bag. I had been to NYC but it’d been so many years that I didn’t remember anything much about the place.

We decided to drive because we could spend more quality time together I absolutely hate flying. One of the many reasons I don’t like to fly is because about 11 1/2 years ago planes fell out of the sky.

We all remember our own details of that day. I was pregnant with my youngest. When I heard the news, I filled my car with gas, got money out of the bank, and rushed to the store to buy Krispy Kreme donuts and milk. Apparently my prenatal self thought donuts could ward of evil. It didn’t work. Evil still exists. Luckily, donuts do too.

Before we set one foot in the direction of NYC, I had my post about the 9/11 memorial half-written. I was mad and shaking my finger at the computer screen, “How could they do that? Why would they do that?” I planned to spew anger at seeing the devastation first hand, and, dear readers, I was ready to walk you down my own spiral staircase of loathing to rant against those who could devise and then carry out such a plan.

My neighbor tried to settle me down by telling me how calming the memorial was. She promised, “it’s really peaceful. You might be surprised.”

But not I. The pen is mightier than the plane and I was fully prepared.

Until we got there.

Our first view of the site was from a helicopter.

I was in awe. The holes in the space were gaping, impossible to miss. But something strange happened. I wasn’t furious. I didn’t wave my fist in the air. I just stared. It was horrific and serene.

The next morning we went for our tour at the memorial. It turns out you need tickets/visitor passes – they are free – but you have to register for them in advance. You can do that here.

We signed up for the 10am slot and lined up at 9:30am. As we were waiting, we heard the people around us telling their stories. It seemed like everyone knew someone who didn’t make it out. Just a few knew of someone who did.

One woman solemnly said, “It is only right that they memorialize those who lost their lives. I am glad they didn’t rebuild office space on the site.”

The man she was with quietly answered, “Please remember, they did not simply lose their lives, they were murdered.” His friend, a firefighter, died that day. Agony.

Those words choked my heart. I had to swallow to jump start it. I started talking to my husband because I just couldn’t take any more stories.

Finally, we presented our tickets and went through security and somehow were second in line for the grand gate opening.

When the gates opened, the first thing I saw was these men.

These men who stand watch over a monument dedicated in part to those uniformed men and women who rushed into buildings that were falling down for no other reason than to save lives. Other people’s lives. Agony.

And then we saw this.

Tranquility. Beauty. Rebuilding.

(If you can get there early, do. We only got to see this view because we got there early. Within minutes, seconds really, hundreds of people were milling about and it felt very different. More urgent.)

I walked around the entire park. The only way I knew to honor the memory of those who died on September 11th was to try to read every name. It quickly got too crowded in the park for me to read all the names, but I did try.

Some of the names looked familiar to me because I love people who share those names. It didn’t, it won’t make any sense that people could hate other people so desperately. People they have never met. That anyone would give up his own life to destroy the life of another. It didn’t, it won’t make sense who was chosen. I wondered, “why them?”

“Why did that Ellen die and not me.” I selfishly thanked God but wondered why again and again as I connected with name after name.

And then I saw this.

And her unborn child.”

Debilitating agony.

Throughout the morning, I read that phrase six more times. There may have been more but parts of the wall were crowded and it was hard to see around the people.

Overwhelming sadness gripped me. No anger. Just devastating sadness because of such unnecessary loss. The promise of so much obliterated by unearned hatred. It made it hard for me to hate back. I was just so very, very sad.

I will never find the exact poetic words to tell you how beautiful this memorial place is. I just love that they built waterfalls flowing from near ground level into the holes the collapsed buildings created. The designers captured the devastation and America’s defiance of that ridiculous hate magically. The running water is calming. The sky is wide open. It feels like God is watching us shine.

Monkee-ing Around with Momastery…..

Yesterday, I got a super duper treat! I attended a presentation
by Glennon of Momastery. And Sister was there. So fun! 

Just in case you’ve been living under your keyboard and haven’t heard of Glennon yet, she is a blogger, a tremendous writer, a parent and wife, a sister and daughter, and a recovering addict/bulimic.

She just signed a book deal with Scribner. The name of her blog is Momastery and she calls her readers Monkees (get it, monks, momastery – yes, it’s very, very clever!) The name of her book is Carry On, Warrior. It is due out in April 2013. Her essays frequently appear on Huffington Post.

And yesterday, she became a public speaker. I will never be able to capture her thoughts as well as she does. She writes like she is catching butterflies in a big brutiful net – poetically, gently, with the intent of doing no harm, and with plans to eventually let them go. Glitter falls off her words. I highly recommend you read her words for yourself. But I do want to share some of what she said yesterday.

The very first thing Glennon did after being introduced was kick off her adorable red shoes and sit cross-legged in a chair.

At that moment, the entire audience leaned back in their chairs and relaxed.

And this is (some of) what she told us….

Being Shameless and Truthier

As a recovering addict and bulimic, she has some stories that most people might not be so proud of. But Glennon proudly declares that she is shameless. She says she should be ashamed at how shameless she is. But she’s not. And it allows her a freedom probably few of us enjoy.

During the question and answer session, one of the monkees in the crowd asked about her parents and why they didn’t help her when she started throwing up in fourth grade. (Did that just stop your heart? Bulimic in 4th grade – yes, you read that right.)

The monkee wanted to know: How did they not know? Why didn’t they help?

We all wanted to know. You want to know, right?

She raised her left hand, stretched out her fingers, and tilted her head just a little to slow things down. She shared that she felt as if we were getting into dangerous territory. She said that the facts were they didn’t do a lot. But then she said that it was their story, not hers. Only they could answer those questions. Wow.

And, on the way home, I wondered if Glennon’s own shamelessness sets her free from judging other people. If she is not holding herself up to what other people think she should be, why would she hold others up to what she thinks they should be?

I know, right now you are probably thinking you are so mad you missed the presentation. Keep reading, you’ll be really mad by the time you get to the end. Tee hee.

Sister

If you have read at least a little bit of Glennon’s blog, you know she has a lifeline sister. She seemed equally amazing and they do balance each other out wonderfully. It was a super duper bonus that Sister was there too. Sister is the one who gave Glennon her laptop and told her to get busy writing. I thanked her for that because ultimately it was a gift to all of us.

Finding Your Thing

A lot of the moms in the audience worry about their daughters and their body images. So, who better to solve the mystery of how to starve off eating disorders than a woman who has done it and is raising two daughers? No pressure Glennon. 😉

In what seems to be true Glennon fashion, she answered honestly, “I really don’t know.” But she did recommend helping kids and ourselves find their/our “thing”. She said that finding joy in our lives scares away a lot of demons (my words not hers – just paraphrasing here). And talking about the things that scare us is extremely important. The more real we are the more safe we become.

There were some moms in the audience who don’t have a “thing” and wanted to know how to find it. Glennon suggested asking our friends what we are good at because they see our strengths.

One woman said, “but we all want to be as good at our thing as you are at your thing.” Then Glennon shared that she spends about 8 hours a day writing and will choose words over sleep. That sounds very Outliersish, doesn’t it? It takes a lot of time to be really, really good.

 Heartbreak

Another monkee question focused on how Glennon manages to deal with the heart-breaking mail she receives. Glennon gets over 100 emails/letters a day from people asking for help. And a lot of them get it. But it is impossible to help everyone. So the monkee wanted to know – how does she do it?

We all want to know, right?

Glennon shared that there is often beauty in heart break. That wonderful things can happen when someone’s heart is shattered. People come together, prayers are formed, and miracles happen.

Mantras

Glennon and her monkees have three mantras…

1. Love wins.
She finds this one particularly helpful when she receives a negative comment on her blog. She chooses to respond with love and she said the effect of that is amazing. She hangs these two powerful words over her computer so that they serve as a constant reminder that love wins.

2. We can do hard things.
A teaching friend of Glennon’s had this posted in her classroom and Glennon loved it so much she had a sign made and hung it in her own home.  She reminds us that “Life is hard. Not because we aren’t doing it right but because it’s hard.” But she also knows we can do hard things together.

3. We belong to each other.
Glennon admits to borrowing these words from Mother Teresa. She said this reminds her that we are all in it together. It ties in nicely to my favorite thing ever that Glennon has written:  “I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is, too.”

Facebook Lives

Glennon cautioned us from comparing our insides to other people’s outsides.

She outlined her outside/Facebook life. In that life she is…..
An author with a book deal
A wildly successful blogger
Talking to tv producers
Pretty and smart
Very funny
Married to a former professional athlete and model
Mother to 3 beautiful children

In her inside life, she is…..
A recovering alcoholic
A recovering bulimic
A recovering drug addict
Was pregnant before she got married
Was arrested 5 times
Overwhelmed by parenting
In marriage counseling
Snuggled in guilt over being a working mom again

She wants us to remember that on Facebook and in other facets of life, people are showing us their best. They might even brag a little lot. But it doesn’t mean it’s the whole story. In fact, we know it isn’t. Life is hard, for everyone. But we can do it.

If you ever get the chance to hear  Glennon speak, do it! Don’t hesitate!

What’s that? You’re surprised I don’t have a picture of me with her. Silly Monkee!

Taking the “er” out of Mother……

I know taking the “er” out of mother would simply leave us as “moth”s.

But maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

Moths don’t care what their hair looks like, when their children start reading, or what size anyone’s jeans are.

Gray doesn’t mean they are older. It just means, well, they are gray.

Moths don’t need earrings that match a purse that matches their eyes. They don’t have to clip coupons (although that might be fun to watch). Moths don’t have to potty train their little moths so that they won’t embarrass them at the playground.

Moths are just, in every moment, moths.

They spend most of their time searching for bright, shiny light that has all the promise of warmth. And there’s lots of room around those lights for everyone to squish in and warm themselves. Those moths shy away from dark, lonely places.

It’s when we add in the “er” that comparisons ensue. We become mothers and comparers.

She is prettier.

Oh look, she is skinnier.

Her house is bigger.

Oh dear, her child is faster.

And her son is reading earlier.

She might just be better than me. Eeeeks.

Wait just one minute…

She is fatter. And my child is taller. Whew.

I recently read this fabulouso article by April Perry on a website called the Power of Moms (what a wonderful use of “er“) that details how social media isn’t helping mothers one bit. We spend too much time online mourning over who we are not.

We see meals on Pinterest that we could never actually make, party themes that would require an entire film crew to pull off, and others who are supposedly doing it better.

Facebookers share with us trips that we could not/did not go on and college scholarships our children won’t get.

Twitter takes clever to a whole new level. There is tremendous stress in trying to figure out how to be witty or impart wisdom in 140 characters or fewer, especially when emoticons are frowned upon as a wasted use of space.

All the while, our little moths sit and wait for us to stop clicking on keyboards and return to being just who they want us to be. Their mothers.

And if you have evidence that moths actually eat their young at birth, please don’t confuse the beauty of this symbolism with science. I am not trying to be smarter, just less “er“. And that cute little moth made me smile. 😎

Just in case you didn’t get enough of my “er”ism here – I wrote this post a while back. A small warning – I was snarkier then. 😉

I’m gonna write me a letter…….

There are a few blogs out there focused on letter writing.

I guess in some ways, what’s old is new again.

You might recall Jennifer used some of my handmade stationery for her letter-writing campaign over at A Letter a Day Keeps the Sadness Away.

And Stephen Elliott has a Letters in the Mail subscription for anyone interested in getting actual letters in the mail – some are even handwritten.

I wrote two letters today.

One to someone who is too young to be as sick as she is.

The second letter was to my vet, saying that if they can’t figure anything else out, it is okay to let my cat stop hurting. This is my dear sweet cat Queso. I wish I could simply write my youngest daughter a letter with the news. But, sigh, it won’t be as simple as that.

You don’t have to read between the lines here to understand that today has been kind of rough.

But the writing these notes made me think of all the letters I used to get. Read more »

Asking for your votes…..

This week I entered a poetry contest. The prize being a 20 minute consult with Rachelle Gardner – who I mentioned just the other day. She seems so fabulous.

We had to write a haiku about St. Patrick’s Day or about writing.

I wrote this one

Why do I have to
Write a haiku to talk with
you? Can’t I just call?

There were over 250 entries and I made the finalists list.

If you are so inclined (insert my begging, pleading voice here), you can go here and vote for it. Names are not attached to the polling box, so you have to find it by the wording (see above 😎  )

Voting ends at 11:59p on Saturday, March 24th – so please hurry. And thanks!

UPDATE – I won, I really did! Yeah for me and thanks for voting!

Oops – I forgot one – Momastery….

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the blogs I have been following. I completely forgot about Momastery – which is actually ridiculous because Glennon is all sorts of awesomesauce.

Glennon is a fabulous writer who puts thoughts like this into real sentences…

“I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is, too.”

Glennon is  a recovering alcoholic and bulimic and a recovering mother and wife. She doesn’t pretend that parenting isn’t easy and she celebrates that it’s not impossible.

She has a tremendous sense of humor and isn’t one bit afraid to say what she really thinks.And it’s extra loverly that what she thinks is pretty fair and balanced and full of compassion and acceptance. What I love most about her is that she turns thoughts upside down and inside out before she spits them out. Plus she coordinates very generous things for people in real need.

AnyMomastery, I am honestly a little late in joining the bandwagon but if you haven’t seen her work, check it out soon.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese………

Photo compliments of Campbells Soup

I just found out that someone that I care a great deal about is very sick.

“It’s amazing just how quickly your whole life can change,” is a phrase that I have repeated far too often this month. And it is amazing. How quickly these delicate lives of ours can change. In an instant.

What does that have to do with Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, you ask? Welllll, just about absolutely everything.

About a month ago, my son asked me what tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches taste like together. Yes, I have admittedly failed him as a parent.

“They are all sorts of fabuloso,” I exclaimed. The poor kid got to hear all about how I grew up on tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and Sprite. How saltine crackers are the best accompaniment and how Cheetos aren’t bad either. How oyster crackers stink because the poor babies are just too thick. How, when I was sick, not even penicillin could cure me as quickly as a can of Campbells and some Kraft singles melted perfectly between two buttered slices of Wonder bread.

It took my husband decades to learn the exact composition of milk and warmth that would soothe my woes and speed my recovery. I was like Goldilocks – this is too hot – this is too cold. Then, finally he heard the magic words, “oh, my dear, this is just right. I feel better already”.

The day my son asked me about the mythical combination was a warm winter day. Hardly worthy of tomato soup introduction. So I said, “sometime I will make it for you”.

Now the daffodils are blooming and winter promises to soon be barely a memory. I missed a chance to share some cheesey tomatoey goodness with my son on a blistery day. To create memories for him and relive memories for me.

And I am reminded that he will leave for college before I know it and that, while some may be better than others, there probably isn’t a bad day to make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

So, today I hope I remember to slow down enough to smell the tomato soup and that life doesn’t change too quickly for me to enjoy it.

(By the way, the picture is from AllRecipes/Campbell’s recipe site. Yum, right?)

The Ripple Effect………..

So, I pledged to participate in the Generosity Day Project and made some donations on Feb. 13th. On Feb. 14th, I pledged to myself that I would not just take the easy way out and make my contributions solely monetary darts thrown from the comfy, cozy chair in front of my computer.

The giver gets the gift

Every where I went, I tried to think, “what would be generous to do here”.

And while standing at the checkout line at Walmart, I tried to figure out something generous to do. Several people came up after me with much smaller loads than I had but the cashier had already started processing my items. It was too late to let them go ahead of me. Dang. Then I thought about offering to pay for their items. But there was that whole monetary darts thing. And besides it really would have just seemed, well, weird. Especially given that several of them were buying valentinesy kinds of things.

Can’t you just hear it:

Valentine: Honey, you shouldn’t have (brought me this fabulous gift from Walmart)
Gift Giver: Uhm, actually, I didn’t.
Valentine: What?
Gift Giver: Nevermind, it’s too weird to explain

Almost everyone who got behind me quickly changed over to the express lane. Except one man. He was a much older man in a mobile shopping cart. He was already moving kind of slow so my multitude of c.r.a.p. didn’t seem too daunting.

Ah-ha. There was my chance. I offered to load his items on to the conveyer belt for him. I was careful to say “would you like help” rather than “do you need help”, in an effort to not offend him. His face wrinkled and he kind of smirked and said he could do it. He wasn’t insulted but he also wasn’t thrilled that I had noticed that maybe he couldn’t do it alone.

Feeling a little uneasy and thinking he might be feeling it too, I joked that it was Valentine’s Day and said “hey, today of all days we should try to be nice to each other, right?”

He agreed. Then he joked back and said that if he wasn’t married, he would ask me to be his valentine. And don’t worry, it wasn’t in a creepy-I’d-better-be-careful-walking-back-to-my-car kind of way. Just in a nice, funny way. Totally like my grandfather would have done.

And I said pretty much the same thing back. And he laughed and looked a little sad at the same time.

He said that when he isn’t sitting in a cart, he is 6’2″ tall and that it is interesting to look up at people.He said it gave him a whole new perspective – this opportunity to look up. He almost seemed like he felt invisible when he was in the cart. That must be quite a change for a man who used to stand 6’2″ and tower over nearly everyone else.

Anyway, we laughed and had a nice chat. And when I turned to leave the store, we both had little bitty tears in our eyes. He seemed so appreciative of not being overlooked and he reminded me so much of my grandfather that I couldn’t help but get choked up a tad. And then he said, “your husband is a lucky man.”

I know, awwwwwww.

How I ended up with the bigger smile is maybe not such a mystery. I started out to just do something kind – something so simple as stop and help another person – and I ended up having a nice conversation, making someone smile, and being flooded with memories of one of my most favorite people in the whole universe. All in about 2.5 minutes. (All while I would have been otherwise just standing and waiting – doing nothing important.)

As I got in the car to drive away, I didn’t check my rear view mirror to make sure he wasn’t following me. I simply wondered why, why, why.

Why don’t we stop being so distracted so that we can enjoy interactions with those around us. Even if we don’t know them?

Why are we so busy that we ignore what a plain old smile or a helping hand can cure?

Why can’t we just slow down and breathe deeply and exhale slowly so that we can fully enjoy the precious minutes we are given?

I started off by trying to help him and his smile rippled right through my memories and warmed my heart. It’s true that the giver gets the greatest gift.

Putting my money where my keyboard is……

Yesterday I wrote about Sasha’s Generosity Day Project and I pledged to participate on February 14th. Well, dear readers, I just got me a jumpstart.

I started by donating to a project called Acres for Agnes. Naomi is a friend from my Delhi life and her mom has already reached her goal of $12,000 which will do this for Agnes and her family…

Buying me some bovines for the Generosity Day Project.

  • buy 2 acres of farm land
  • build a simple mud hut and separate kitchen
  • dig a pit latrine, with an adjoining washroom (for bathing)
  • and possibly be enough to dig a well so that she and the boys can have clean drinking water

So I figured a little extra can’t hurt because maybe it will be that little extra that will get them a well for clean drinking water. Let’s hear it for clean drinking water! Yeah!

Then I bought me some heifers at Heifers.org. These bovines will be donated to families in need. And I also donated to the Seeds of Change in Arkansas and Appalachia through the Heifer.org website to help those families struggling in America.

And yes, I feel amazing! Tomorrow might not be about monetary donations but I am going to make sure I am generous in one way or another! You can still join in the fun by clicking here to pledge! You will be the one who gets the greatest gift! Pinky Swear!

Taking Valentine’s Day to a whole new level…..

Generosity Day

One of the blogs I read regularly is written by Seth Godwin and today he wrote about selfishness.

He reminds us that, basically, the more we give the more we get. And he is so right – it is a true gift to do something for someone else – and not for the getter but for the giver.

In his post, Seth also mentioned Sasha’s Generosity Day Project. He has deemed Feb. 14th as Generosity Day and invites us all to do more than just give chocolates and flowers.

He had me at: “I felt like what was smart was keeping me from doing what was right.”

I just signed up – won’t you join me?