Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The gift of laziness

It occurred to me that when I shared how I use October as a time to slow down and reflect, it may have sounded a bit noble and self-sacrificing. That in taking time for quiet and relaxation I am taking up the challenge to step out of the busyness and demands of life and boldly make this very counter-cultural choice. As if I am triumphantly taking a stand for simplicity and fighting against the inner compulsion to always do more, be more, and have more. I picture myself throwing off the shackles of ambition and perfectionism and instead daring to venture into the unknown lands of complacency and contentment.

I kind of wish that were true.

In reality, when I give myself permission to do less, seek quiet, read more, and rest, it's less like a personal challenge and more like the mothership is calling me home.

When I hear people say things like, "I prefer to be busy. I don't really know how to just sit and do nothing." I only hear the teacher's voice in Charlie Brown saying, "Waah, waah, waah, waah, waah..."

What is this language you speak? How can one not "know how to sit and do nothing?" I feel as though it is the very thing I was created to do. I can sit and do nothing like a BOSS!

People usually laugh when I tell them I am inherently lazy. I know they think I'm joking, and I understand why. I'll be the first to admit that my life does not have the outward appearance of being managed by a lazy person. I take great pride in that simply because it means that somehow I am managing to go forth most days keeping my slothful ways nicely tucked in and hidden under a veneer of competence and productivity. That feels like a pretty huge victory.

It always feels good when you can move about in public and safely assume your crazy isn't showing.

But seriously, I get it... I might not be lazy in the way most people think because in the end I always get done what needs to be done. I think the thing is that I am lazy but disciplined.

If I set an expectation for myself that my house needs to be tidied up and cleaned, then I will do just that. If I tell myself that some form of daily exercise is a non-negotiable, then I'll squeeze it in somewhere. If I declare that only savages would leave the dinner dishes sitting in the sink overnight, then I will muster the inner strength to restore the kitchen to an appropriate level of civility before retiring for the night.

I do these things out of a sense of discipline and because in spite of my internal desire to spend most of the day lying down, I do not actually want to live in squalor and on a diet of cold cereal and Doritos. (Okay, actually that sounds delicious. But, again, discipline....)

I make lists, lots of lists. And I take enormous pleasure in crossing things off those lists. Because you know what I get to do once everything is crossed off of my list?


And that is when I really shine.

My life mantra.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The gift of not running

This October I am trying to give myself time to do more of those things that bring me joy. Writing is not always easy and there are times it feels as if there is nothing to say, but I am always glad when I take the time to pound out some thoughts on the keyboard. So this month I am trying to write more- whatever that may look like. In keeping with the theme of October as a gift, I will be writing about daily practices, habits or activities that I intentionally choose for myself and others. I think. Hopefully. We will see how this goes...


When I turned 40, I gave myself the gift of not running.

Before you spend too much time trying to puzzle out the metaphorical implications of what was surely a deeply symbolic gesture to myself, let me help you out. I mean I literally gave myself the gift of no more running.

I said to myself, "Self, you are 40. God willing you still have at least another 40 years of this life to enjoy and it is time to stop doing things you hate. You do not like running. You may stop. That is my gift to you. Love, Me."

And I have not run for exercise since.

I think it might be the best gift I have ever received.

It's not that I didn't ever get any satisfaction out of running. When I completed my first 10K there was a definite sense of accomplishment. There were days when my run actually bordered on some sort of feeling slightly below torture. And there were periods when running actually helped me to accomplish my aim of losing weight and increasing my overall fitness (which was always the only point).

But I was never a "runner". I never once experienced anything that could be described as a "runner's high". (Honestly, I am convinced that is a myth concocted by athletic companies in their quest to sell shoes.)

I was slow and plodding and pathetic looking in my running endeavors. I never set my sights above a 10K simply because I don't think anyone should spend more time running than it takes to watch a Law and Order episode. A 10K was already pushing the boundaries of that for me (which is why 5K's are so much more civilized) so anything upwards of that time and distance was off limits.

I spent a good chunk of my 20's and 30's attempting various versions of "running" (distance, intervals, HIIT etc...) but for the past five years I have woken up everyday and re-opened my gift to myself by saying, "You may do many, many things today. You will exercise and take care of yourself. But you do not need to run."

And I smile.

My walking buddy.
He gets me out even when it's rainy and wet.
Although, sometimes I think even he questions the sanity of the whole thing.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The gift of October

Sometimes I'm not sure why October is the month that brings it all back into focus.

Because really, for most of that October, 12 years ago, everything was still possible. Plans were being made. Baby items were being bookmarked and put on wish lists, many of them in twos. The basement was being remodeled to accommodate another bedroom. We talked of buying a bigger car.

For 23 days of October, we still had every reason to dream and plan and organize and imagine. 

But by the time October was over, everything had changed. And yet, in some ways, nothing had changed.

We were still a family of four. We still had plenty of bedrooms for everyone. We didn't need to think about upsizing our car. We were still us. 

And yet something was missing. Something we never really had. 

My favorite college professor (mentioned in the previous post) taught me something once that I have never forgotten. He didn't teach this in a class but rather wrote it to me in a letter when I was struggling with a personal loss. He said that almost all losses fall into one of two categories, they are either the experience of absence or the absence of experience. In a few instances, a loss can be some of both. 

Our loss felt like both. We missed the babies we had. We wanted those babies, specifically. We gave them names. We held them. We missed their physical presence. But at the same time, we never really got to know what it would be like to have them in our home. Who they would have been as people and as personalities, we can only imagine. 

We mourned the loss of our son and daughter, but we also mourned the loss of raising twins, learning their quirks and unique gifts, and being a family of six. We couldn't know what any of that would look like in reality, but it was a dream in which we had invested our hearts and souls. 

We wept over the experience of their absence but we also felt bereft at the absence of experience we were suddenly left with.

I realize this all sounds like I am settling into my annual case of the October blues, but oddly enough, I'm not. 

Actually, I'm kind of loving October right now.

There was a long time when October felt sad, really sad. And then it morphed into something less tangibly sad, but still emotionally heavy. And now, October feels like a gift. 

It is the month I allow myself to slow down, to take stock. I'm a reflective, borderline moody person by nature but most of the time I try to stay in my happy place. In October, I put no such pressure on myself. If I want to sit and read and underline deep thoughts and write down quotes I want to remember and sip my tea...then by golly, I just will. If I want to listen to music that makes me a little weepy, then so be it. If I want to stay in yoga pants all day, then... oh, wait... that one is not really confined to October.

October is my month to love life. It is my month to love the whole story of my life, even the sad parts. 

Maybe November is more traditionally thought of as a time to focus on gratitude, but for me October is the soil where my deep thankfulness takes root. Because there was a time when I thought I could never love October again. 

And I do. So much. 

Because it's when I remember. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The question

It was somewhere around 1989 and I was sitting in the class of my favorite religious studies professor. I took so many of his classes that I can't even remember the name of this particular class but I think it's safe to say it was about religion. And on that day, in the last minutes of class, Dr. P proposed a rather interesting question to his group of raggedy 19 year old scholars.

Imagine you will be asked one question at the gates of Heaven, what do you think that question will be?

The responses came slowly at first and then gained traction. Some were funny, some were personal, and some were deeply theological. I remember Dr. P leaning back against the table he had been lecturing from with a big smile on his face. He was clearly reveling in hearing kids with scarcely two decades of life experience to their names distill the meaning of life down to a single question. I don't remember giving an answer myself, even then I was pretty content living with the unknown and not trying to have all the answers. But I enjoyed the banter and I remember waiting to hear how Dr. P would draw the discussion to a close.

He started to gather his papers which was always the signal that class was wrapping up. You could hear papers shuffling and books closing as students began to follow suit. But before everyone could disperse one brave teenage soldier dared to ask, "But, Dr. P.... what do you think the question will be?"

He stopped. Looked around for a moment. Looked up. Seemed to take a deep breath and then simply said,

Did you know you were loved?

I've thought about that question many, many times over the years. Knowing Dr. P as I did, I always knew the question wasn't about salvation. It wasn't a test. Having been a pastor and university chaplain for decades he was well acquainted with the kinds of life stories that might lead a person to answer that question with a bitter, "no". It wasn't a question designed to wound, but to heal.

Which is why in time I began to hear the question as a redemptive one. I came to hear it as, Did you know you were loved? And then, gently, the next question would be, Do you know it now? 

And that's how I heard it for a long time. But lately I've been hearing that question in a different way.

In the past few weeks as I have left one child (who is not so child-like anymore) two states away, and have been helping another one make decisions about his future and where he might land as he takes off a year from now, that question has taken on a new tone. Suddenly, the question I have carried in my soul for over 20 years has a new voice.

It is the voice of a parent. A father. A mother. It is the voice of the one who has loved you most of all, who has always wanted the best for you, but has sometimes had to stand silently by while you stumbled through heartache, missteps and failure.

Did you know you were loved? 

All those years... When we took turns eating dinner for the first three months of your life because someone had to be bouncing you from 5-8pm every evening to keep you from screaming your little head off...When we made you give up your beloved binky....When we didn't bat an eye about you wearing your pirate costume to the grocery store in the middle of June... When you wore a coat and tie to PreK for three months straight.... When Dad ran around like a crazy person on Saturday mornings trying to coach two soccer teams at the same time... When we drove you to the skatepark hundreds of times... When we went ten rounds over cell phone privileges and responsibility... When we taught you to drive... When we asked you to clear your dishes five thousand times... When you did great things and stupid things and funny things and brave things.... All those years...

Did you know you were loved? 

Do you know how much you still are?

In the end, isn't that the only question that matters?

Friday, July 31, 2015


There are so many things you can't really prepare for when launching your first child from the nest. You cannot truly prepare for how tedious and stressful the college application process can be. You cannot understand how perplexing it will be to decide on a meal plan package when all you know is that at home they seem to eat constantly. You cannot begin to fathom how much money you will spend on what feels like nothing- hangers, laundry detergent, shampoo, extra sheets...poof! You just spent five...million...dollars... (Okay, not five million. But, you know, a lot).

And you can't prepare for how quiet it feels when they are gone.

But then you get used to things. And, in our case, as I've said before, maybe you get eased into things because they go to school close to home and you continue to see them on a semi-weekly basis for laundry, food, money, and just because. And even though you wonder at times if staying so close to home was such a good idea you finally admit that maybe you were, gulp, wrong because it seems to be going so well. 

Yeah, maybe all that.

What a great story.

The End. Right?


Because do you know what "they" do then?! "They" decide to throw you a curveball in the eleventh hour of summer and tell you that "they" are thinking of transferring schools!! And then "they" actually go through with the application process and get transcripts sent and ask for recommendations and talk on the phone with admissions counselors! (I ask you, where was all this self-motivation and industriousness the FIRST time around?!) And after all that, "they" do in fact get into a new school and decide that, yes, "they" do want to transfer, and so now "they" are leaving in three short weeks for Southern California!

Have you figured out who "they" is yet? Have you picked up on the fact that this may not just be an exercise in fun hypothetical stories?

Uh huh. Because "they" is determined to finally see us lose our ever-lovin minds.

BUT, let's keep our eye on the prize here. Because as head spinning as all of that is- do you know what is really most important?

Do you know the one thing we should not lose sight of in all of this?

With all of the packing and prepping and planning that the next three weeks will entail, do you know what we should all remember above all else.


Okay, maybe we were both a little bit right. He was right that what he needed was here, for awhile. But I was right that at some point he'd need to stretch his wings a little bit more.

He's always had it in him. Always marched to the beat of his own drummer with a style all his own. Always done things in his own time, in his own way.

So, now, just when we got comfortable. He's shaking things up again.

Gotta love him.

And we do.

So long, Seattle.
Jack has left the building.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Preparing to Launch v. 2.0

I started writing this blog the summer before Jack's senior year in high school. Our firstborn was poised to leave the nest and suddenly I felt woefully unprepared for such a momentous occasion. Was he ready? Had we taught him enough? Would he remember any of it? Would he get into college? Which college? Will he succeed? Will he ever stop leaving half-full glasses of days-old-nasty-looking-liquids everywhere?

Turns out the answers were: yes, hopefully, most of it, YES, more than one, so far, and...no.

And, let's be honest. His launching wasn't nearly so traumatic as it might have been considering he took a great big running start, leaped into the unknown, aaand landed 2 miles from home. He is currently living at home again as we speak.

So...perhaps I should have dialed it down a notch with all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth three years ago?

But now...here we are again. And for reasons I cannot explain I feel I am even less prepared for this next child's first flight than I was the first one.

 I ask you, does this look like the face of a child who should leave home?!?

I keep catching myself staring at him and thinking, W-w-w-wait a minute. You mean you're leaving too?!

And then I imagine him looking back at me like this:

We have a lot of these imaginary conversations because in real life he's kind of a man of few words. (Except when he's singing and then he has a lot of words. LOUD words. Musical, but loud.)

And most of the time I'm super chill about the whole thing. I'm all it's all gooood, man and hakuna matata and whatevs...

But every once in awhile (okay, every day...at least once...or a dozen times) I go full blown Carrie Underwood and start running around with my hands in the air belting out, JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL because I. cannot. even.

And beyond the odd quiet we will be left with when our Sinatra-singing Mad Man leaves the house, there is also the sense that maybe we are moving toward other changes that I can't yet see.

I'm not a big fan of change. 

Have you noticed?

But for so many years there were ideas and plans and dreams that we tossed out there and the conversation always ended with, Maybe...but not until the boys are out of high school. For sure not until then. Maybe once they've both graduated...

These two? Out of high school? That's a million years away...

And now here we are, one year away from venturing into that mythical land of hypotheticals and possibilities known as Both Boys Are Out of High School. 

What does that land look like? I honestly have no idea.

Of course, we still have this showstopper.

Thank goodness. I think we are all glad I still have 8 years to prepare for her departure. Pray that Carrie Underwood comes up with a new theme song for me by then. 

Until then, welcome to Preparing to Launch v. 2.0.

Because when I wasn't looking, this one grew up, too.

My Mad Man.
Fly to the moon, Son. Play among the stars.
In other words, I love you.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Broken for you

When I was a teenager, Maundy Thursday was one of the most memorable nights of the church year for me.

As a kid, there was something about those few services during the year when we attended church at night. In other churches and traditions attending at night might be completely commonplace. But in my childhood church home, evening services were quite exotic. As I recall, they only happened three times a year; Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Christmas Eve.

Now, no adult who saw me at those Maundy Thursday services would have had a clue what an impact they had on me. Keep that in mind when you think all of your efforts to impart tradition and wisdom and memories to your teenagers is having about as much effect as shouting into a hurricane.

No, I did not appear all holy and contemplative in my corduroy skirt and peasant blouse. I'm sure if I bowed my freshly permed head it was mostly to hide the fit of giggles my best friend Karen and I erupted into at least half a dozen times during the somber service.

(Okay, but seriously, we had this male soloist who, I'm sorry, was just a recipe for making immature youth dissolve into shoulder shaking, tears streaming, mom-giving-you-the-evil-eye church giggles. What was the worship committee thinking? The vibrato on that man! And the volume! The volume plus vibrato was positively more than two girls already prone to hysterical laughter could take. It's no wonder our parents didn't care if we sat in the back by ourselves. I'm sure they wanted to disown us and feign utter ignorance to our shenanigans.)

But in between the giggles and the eye rolls and the whispers and all of that other stuff that teenage girls do, seeds of faith were being planted.

Nothing could have told you that something was stirring in me every time I walked into that quiet sanctuary. You wouldn't have known that when the bread was broken and the wine was poured, my heart swelled just a little. All you would have seen was an awkward teenage girl sitting in a dark sanctuary looking for all the world as though she had better places to be.

And maybe it was the darkness that made it all make more sense? Because even as a teenager I seemed to understand that there is both darkness and light in this world. What teenager doesn't? What other time in our lives is more punctuated with the highest highs and the lowest lows?

Sharing a meal with friends. Telling our stories. Saying good bye. The pain of betrayal. The fear of what lies ahead. Left alone. Soul crushing despair. The family and friends who stand by you and the ones who run away. Forgiving. Loving. Faith. And ultimately, hope.

Even as a teenager I could see and hear and understand that this is the story. This is our story.

Nobody wants to be broken.

But we will be. A thousand times over.

The question is, will you reach out and grab hold of that which will make you whole again?