Sunday, December 14, 2014
Monday, November 24, 2014
Now all our snow has melted yet Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It will be Geddy's 2nd, my 5th as a wife, and my I-won't-say-how-many as a person. I have spent Thanksgivings at the beach— freezing my toes off because we were not in the tropics—at home with family coming over, away from home at other family members' houses, and I have enjoyed one Thanksgiving in France where we had quite a feast and celebration thanks to all the American students at my school putting it all together. No matter where I spend it, I still feel amazing inside.
I think about the traditions I want to keep and new family magic that Luke and I can create with our son. This gets me to thinking forward to Christmas as well. So much about the holidays are just that, pure magic, and I want to capture it and build on it and sprinkle it about like confetti. My blessed, safe upbringing just makes it all seem like these feelings, joys, and traditions must exist for everyone. But they don't.
Ugh. I can't stand to think about children in my city without cozy, loving, family magic and reasons for brimming with thankfulness. I can't stand it, then I dwell on it, then I bury it from my mind. I can give money to the shelter; I can buy someone a turkey; I can donate toys at Christmas; I can smile; I can be kind; I can pray. But I can't give them the childhood they've never known.
I can't give grownups who had crappy childhoods a redo: no "abracadabra your childhood was AWESOME and you love the holidays too."
And it hurts to realize that God can't do it either. I mean, yes, God could turn back time, God could snap his fingers, whatever, he's all powerful, all knowing, all God. But if he did any of that it would just screw EVERYTHING up and we would no longer have God as God but just some genie or something. We wouldn't have reason for his sacrifice or hope of life eternal without sin.
So I get out my Kleenex and blow my nose and take a deep breath and stop my insane train of thought and relax a bit because no one is going to change the past, for better or worse, and it is OK for me to enjoy my beautiful memories and share them with my husband and son, but I need to still do what I can to love in the now and make it worth it for others. Whatever I can is enough because Jesus died to make everyone whole, and that's everything that matters. That's worthy of thanksgiving. I can keep my corn, and leaves, and parade, and warm fuzzy magical joy and know that there will be a day when Thanksgiving will cover the biggest table ever and every million billion person around it will be brimming with gratitude.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
"You're doing such a great job, but I'm not in a hurry and I'd love to push your cart for you."
I looked back to see a tall woman, maybe in her 40s, take over the old woman's cart and follow the couple the rest of the way past me and on to another part of the store. I couldn't quite make out the response except to hear gratitude in a wavery voice. Wow, that's paying it forward, I thought to myself. That's news worthy of sharing.
I continued in the opposite direction when it occurred to me that the compassionate stranger must have had a cart herself. Then I saw it, just a few items full, resting to the side at the end of the aisle.
I didn't see the old couple the rest of my time in the store nor did I see their new friend again, but I will never forget them.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I debated for a few months whether to even write about this, because I don't want to judge the people dining at Starbucks. I especially don't want to look down my nose at the person who maybe shouldn't spend her last two pennies on a frappuchino, because, really, we all deserve a little treat now and then. And the last thing I really want to do is criticize or judge how people choose to give.
Ah, but that is what I am doing.
Here's what got me all worked up. I read a news article about a particular Starbucks that had pay it forward going all day one day, resulting in I don't remember how many hundred orders paid for by the drivers in front. It came to an end when someone decided to accept the gift but not pay for the driver behind him or her. What did the barista do? He (or she) told the driver about the chain of kindness and asked if the driver wanted to keep it going. The driver did not. Then the barista said, quoted in the article, that he (or she) didn't think the last person really understood the concept of pay it forward.
I say maybe the person really did understand. Maybe the person thought that pay it forward wasn't about free fluffy drinks or making the news by setting some kind of record for a business. Maybe pay it forward to that driver was all about reaching out a helping hand to someone in need. Heck, I don't know, maybe that driver was the person spending his or her last two pennies on a drink. Suddenly having those pennies probably felt really great.
So I was pretty worked up over this issue, thinking over what pay it forward meant to me, when Luke and I became the recipients of a random act of kindness while visiting a Starbucks. I was first fuming about the truck in front of us with the four wheelers and elk head strapped to the back. I was going off about why people wanted to cut off animal heads and put them on their walls (I'll save that rant in the depths of my brain), when the truck left and Luke pulled up to the window. The barista told us our drinks were paid for and would we like to pay for the ones behind. I won't tell you what we decided to do, but I will admit I felt a little bad for thinking such evil thoughts about the people in the truck.
What spurred the person ahead of us to pay for our drinks? I don't know. I can't question his motives. I do hope it was in the spirit of spontaneous giving, or if not spontaneous at least not because he felt guilted into it. It was nice.
Rather than judging everyone or picking apart how they share money or gifts with others I really need to look in my own heart. What good is it to go around telling myself, Well, I'm not going to pay for that person's coffee because he shouldn't be drinking it anyway. (Hey, I'm not a hypocrite; I never said I drink coffee at Starbucks). It goes back to what I said about action compassion. I need to live with a spirit of giving that puts callouses on my hands. Not so I can show them to everyone and brag about what I've done, but so that I am not just talking and talking and talking about doing kindness but actually doing it.
I can't say I suddenly feel great about all this pay it forward in the media (I do like good news stories for a change, but . . . ), yet I will say that I hope my grumbling turns into active ways I can pay it forward out there.
And thank you to the hunter who paid for our drinks.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Well, two guys named Chip and Dale (I think those were their names) came to put the new floor in because Luke decided he wanted the floor so well done we wouldn't have to replace it in a few weeks. He still took on the plumbing and reinstalled the toilet and sinks. I ended up painting the walls with some late-night help from Luke the night before the new floor came. Of course we ran out of paint, but I won't go into that here. It was all starting to come together. Then I couldn't get the stinking sticky blue tape off from around two door frames that we had decided to leave on. So while I was crying and fuming over all the additional work, Luke took off the molding and a little bit of paint and wall with it. More crying and fuming. Then I spent a lovely afternoon scraping paint off the molding. Lesson learned: take everything off the walls to begin with and avoid the blue tape.
It was time to put the sinks back. I won't even list all the trips to Home Depot, but my wonderful husband made for a pretty hot plumber and the sinks were in solid without leaks. Then hecalled down the stairs to ask me to get a paper towel ready. What gross thing was he going to come hand me? I wondered. He appeared in the kitchen with white gunk on his fingers. Caulk. As I helped him wipe it off I asked him, Why didn't you wear gloves? He just smiled at me and didn't say a word.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Outside, outside, outside—where Geddy wanted to be. He would pound on the yurt door and, once through it and down the steps, head for the road and the beach. He knew the way after our first outing, and could walk along pointing as he went. Strong winds, blowing sand, cold ocean water, fog, bright sunshine—none of these deterred him from walking, crawling, and crab scuttling his way over the sand. He loved to squish the dry sheets of sand in his fingers and laugh and laugh and do it again. He loved to scoop up the wettest of the wet sand and fling it all over himself and anyone standing nearby. He loved playing by the creek, being wet, and watching Daddy's kite zip around over his head. He loved cawing to the seagulls. There was nothing more joyful than watching his excitement. Or than watching father and son play together. The only part Geddy didn't like was when we showered the sand off of him. So, he only got one shower and spent most of the week with sand between his toes. And in his diaper. And in his hair.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
"Carefully selected oats that can help lower cholesterol"
Then my imagination took over and I said to my husband, "What kind of job that must be—Oat Selector." I pictured this guy picking through a barrel of oats going, "Not this one. OK, this one's good. Not this one." He sits there tossing oats over his shoulder and putting some in a nearby Cheerio box, this skinny man in his fifties, balding, wearing a white lab coat. I laughed at the idea I had conjured.
Maybe no such occupation exists, but there are some rather fantastic jobs out there. I recently met a bee chauffeur. He doesn't call himself that, but his incredible work is to drive bees around to their work and social engagements. They could fly to the almond trees in California, but they get to ride there in style. I think that's incredible.
I just found online that there are people called gold stackers who have to move bars of gold from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I don't know if this is like seasonal work or what, but it must be mind boggling to touch so much gold in one work day.
When I was in France I toured a perfume factory and learned that a person can get a job as a Nose, or le nez. Mixing scents that will smell good and sell well takes keen olfactory ability. I might have a big nose but I think I would just get sick, thus I will never be a nez.
Some jobs may or may not be exciting but they could really use some new titles to uplift people and give them a new outlook on an old career. When I taught middle school I sometimes called myself an encourager of teenagers. My time didn't always revolve around encouragement, though I tried to make it so, but thinking of myself as a teacher just didn't fit. My goal was to encourage and help kids want to learn and teach themselves. There are, truly, very few subjects I can actually teach. I think I'm better at being a guide. Plus, just think of all the negative connotations around the title "teacher." There's the old lady with the ruler, the man who stands at the front of the class and drones on and on in monotony. And the saying, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." But if you said, "Oh, I'm an encourager of teenagers," or, "I'm a Homo sapien zookeeper,"—ooh, what a cool-sounding job! How could you slap hands with a ruler or be bored by your own lecture if that is what you really believed you did for a living?
Hmm. So right now, I'm a writer. It's sort of an occupation, sometimes for pay, sometimes for an audience other than I. Just saying "writer" might plant a variety of images in people's heads, from reporter with a pencil behind his ear to novelist sitting in front of her typewriter. People might think, so sad, you don't make any money. Or, why don't you go out and get a real job? They might say, "I wish I could write! I want to be the next J.K. Rowling." Maybe I should change the name of what I do, like maybe more than once, just for fun. Maybe it would make for a more appealing conversation, attract more people into the world of words, or at least inspire me to keep at what I love regardless of what people say or think. I could be an essay engineer, an imagination diffuser, a sentence aesthetician. Cool!
Imagine if kids didn't say they wanted to be nurses or firefighters or cops but compassionate healers, flame destroyers, and peace protectors. Maybe people would look on their jobs with more joy. Imagine if the oat selectors in the Cheerio factory went in to work smiling about all the people whose cholesterol lowered after eating the cereal. I mean, when I smile as my son laughs and hides Cheerios in his high chair, I feel pretty healthy.