(81) a year ago today

A year ago today, we got up early in the dark, probably got coffee on the short drive from the hotel where I’d worked and where we’d spent the night and drove home for the last time. I remember stopping at the 24-hour Safeway for something, maybe cleaning supplies. He dropped me off and went to work, his last day at NAS Whidbey. I remember sitting on the floor in the living room for a while. We’d loaded the moving truck for hours the night before, just us and a few brave friends who helped wrangle furniture, even our small piano, into the 26-foot Penske truck. The loading ramp was narrow and steep. It had been drizzling rain. At one terrifying moment, I’d found myself braced on the ramp, the only one in place to keep the piano from rolling back down as the guys scrambled into the truck to pull it up from the other side.

On this morning, the living room was mostly empty. But there was still a lot to finish. I called a cleaning company and scheduled them to come clean the carpets that night around 6 p.m. Then the day was a scramble and a rush. My friend Jaimie came to help me clean the kitchen that Friday afternoon, January 25, 2013. She glanced around and said dubiously, “You’re definitely not leaving today.” Then she set about emptying and scouring the fridge. “Just don’t look,” she said as she threw away a bunch of perfectly good food. At that point, I knew I couldn’t care about everything and let it go.

Zack came home from work and a friend or two came by to help again. I was non-relational, cleaning the oven as I told them what was ready to be thrown into the truck. The rooms emptied out quickly. Most of the cleaning was getting done. The carpet cleaners came as scheduled and Zack went to get us Subway for dinner while I finished cleaning the kitchen. At the last minute, I realized I hadn’t cleaned the windows, but it was too late for that anyway. We walked on socks over the wet carpets. All the rooms, all the cupboards were empty. A note for our landlord and all our keys were on the kitchen counter. Of course there was one more cupboard in the laundry room with a few things in it. These were emptied into a grocery bag. Zack swept the garage floor and loaded all the trash bags that wouldn’t fit in the can into the truck.

We walked through one more time, then locked the doors and left. What a wonderful first home this had been! We stopped at the hotel where I’d worked and said goodbye. I had one last paycheck to pick up. And my boss let us throw our trash in her dumpsters. She offered to let us stay the night again, but we were anxious to just get going, even though it was late, maybe 10 at night. Then we were off, leaving behind our first home of a year and a half and on to make a new home elsewhere.

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.” (from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)


(52) conocer {to know}

conocer – to know; to have an idea of or to understand (capture) intellectually the nature, qualities and circumstances of people or things; to understand or perceive someone/thing as distinct from others; to feel or experience…


We were playing a “game” in a marriage book by John Gottman, answering questions about each other and, as Gottman says, expanding or filling in details in our “love maps.”

I asked #49, “Name my major rival or enemy.”

He paused a moment before responding, “Your self.”

“I was going to say you don’t really have any major enemies,” he explained, “but I think the only one would be your self.”


I finally took the plunge and did something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: I signed up for an advanced Spanish class through a community continuing-education program. The first night I was terribly nervous. I guess I typically am nervous about going into a new/unknown situation. But by the end of the night, I was excited. I love this language. Beyond that, I am terribly fond of grammar and phonetics. I am deeply intrigued by mutual influence of culture on language and language on culture (is it significant that the complete sentence “I love you” or “yo te amo a ti” is terribly redundant in Spanish? or that many other Spanish sentences employ similar redundancy, probably to emphasize the subjects and objects?)


I hear in surround sound the whispered challenge to “know thyself.” From one side, a sister encourages me to hold still and say yes to Jesus. I protest that I do not know how and persist in unending busy-ness. From another, the practice of Lent swells with unending reminders of the stark juxtaposition of our sinfulness and God’s grace. I am tempted to obsess over the rules of fasting, neglecting the invitation to deeper prayer and recognition of who I really am, simultaneously True and Good and full of sinful leanings.


I have experienced how meaningful it is to be known, to have my husband pin down an aspect of my self that I hadn’t yet recognized,  to honor my own dreams. See, that wasn’t too bad, was it?

Why, then, am I so terrified to continue down the road of “know thyself”? If I have the potential to be my own greatest rival or enemy and also my own great advocate, if in knowing my self I have the opportunity to also see God’s faithfulness and grace revealed, if, if, if…

then why not?


(45) long silence and a new chapter

Almost a month has passed since last writing here, a month crammed full of decisions and long drives and meeting new friends and bidding others goodbye and tears and laughter and change, change, change. There seemed to be no space for words in the chaotic rush of transition. My heart wasn’t silent, but few coherent words leaked out in the ache and smile, groan and hope and cry.


My brother-in-law says his baby daughter does not like change. She will scream and cry sometimes when you move her from lying down to seated, from one person’s arms to another’s, from dirty diaper to clean, from clothes to jammies, from bouncy seat to car seat, and yet, often just moments into the new position or place or outfit, she’ll be cooing and perfectly content again. The new place/outfit/position is a good one, just as good as the previous one, but the process of getting there prompts tears.


I am like this too, I think.

I am quick to gripe about the dingy kitchen cabinets in my new basement home, about the strange room sizes and narrow, low doorways, about not being able to fit in all of my familiar furniture, about outlets and light fixtures that don’t work, about spiderwebs and moldy freezers and nail holes in the wall. I miss my home, the one we made  a home together back in Washington. I miss my husband and the way he would replace and repair and renovate until all was set to rights.

Until I slowly remember that unlike many around the world, I am blessed to have a roof over my head and a furnace that heats this space and clean, running water and indoor plumbing and money to pay the rent.

And this will become home as well. Even without him here. Even without all the furniture. Even with odd kitchen cabinets.


What is home anyway? When so many places feel like home, is my heart left in scattered pieces in all of those places?
Or does my heart become big enough to be at home anywhere and to hold all of those places as home?


In the meantime, in the middle of questions without answers and persistent challenges to my stubborn resistance against change, I need to hang some pictures on the wall and continue seeking the things that seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle of moving. I need to text with and talk with my husband, who is far away, but who is still my husband and with whom I will continue to cultivate intimacy and relationship. I need to don a face mask and scour the moldy freezer. I need to crawl into bed and go to sleep alone…again…and focus on just sleeping through tonight. I need only live today and today’s challenges. I need to cry sometimes and laugh others, hold that precious baby niece and marvel at how she opens her mouth and her eyes so wide with happiness (when did I forget how to do that?). I need to sit down and map out a new budget for this new season. I need to make myself coffee in the morning and eat ice cream at night, anything to make this feel like my home too.


sand dunes at White Sands National Monument seem to be an appropriate reminder of change

sand dunes at White Sands National Monument seem to be an appropriate reminder of change

photo 2

“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT/NASB)

(40) marking time

It was only 9 p.m. on the West Coast, but the people in Times Square on television were celebrating the New Year already with the countdown, the ball dropping, and then a blizzard of confetti and cameras pivoting to catch the first kisses of New York’s New Year. “I want to be there, in Times Square, one day for New Year’s Eve,” I said. What a moment it must be, with the excitement of the crowd, all the lights and colors. I was reminded that it must be also quite expensive and quite crowded. Yes, but…

What is it that rises in me, wanting to join the celebration with a thousand strangers? Why do we treat the transition from this Monday (December 31) to this Tuesday (January 1) as special and different? January 1 began as most days of my life have so far: with me waking up.

All cultures have ways to mark the passing to time. We all mark significant life events (like birth, coming-of-age, marriage, death) and other rhythmic calendar events (Sabbath, Thanksgiving, New Year, Christmas, Ramadan…) with community ritual. Maybe we created the calendars that allow for order and organized communication in our communities, but we also celebrate our movement through these calendars. There’s something significant about celebrating and grieving and marking time together.

I remember a friend of mine sharing how challenging it has felt for her to attend and participate in the weddings of her friends as she continues as a single woman. The most difficult aspect she identified was that she wanted the community to gather around her in celebration as it had for so many of her friends, but there is no organized celebration to mark life events between college graduation and marriage — events such as big job transitions, decisions to pursue further education, cross-country moves, international travel or personal achievements like weight loss or starting a blog or overcoming fears to lead a small group or paying off debt. She and I talked about how we need to celebrate more often.

So here I am, breathing the air of a New Year, marking the transition from old to new beginning with a few million others around the world. I feel connected to all those strangers as we mark the changing of the year together.

May we grow deeper into our communities this year, soaking up shared nourishment as our roots extend into holy places of honesty and vulnerability and Truth. May our eyes be opened to notice the efforts, achievements, joys, and griefs of others and may we celebrate and mourn wildly and with absolute selflessness. May we be fearless in giving of our selves and our resources. May we be gentle with ourselves in our own journeys, engaging in the highest practice of acceptance with love. May we boldly walk through open doors and knock courageously on the closed ones.

Source: sundayinbed.tumblr.com via Anna on Pinterest

It is just another Tuesday. And it’s also another year. May we live well in today.

(9) presence

Ponder this Insight: How can you fully experience your Presence here and now? Connect with the sensations of life in your body, from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 47)


Coffee. A miniature apple cobbler in a new ceramic ramekin. Waking up to an odd, disconcerting dream about a house fire and firefighters trying to use Pepsi to start putting it out while untangling their hose; my whole family had been there and there was product placement, even in my dream. His unending ideas, now to buy a boat only a few days after finalizing the sale on our new truck. They are truly unending and I am here, listening, present to his ideas without allowing my reactions to steal the reins. Traffic outside is steady, constant. Where the hell are all these people going and why? Why do we get up and move in the morning? What is it that pulls us or drives us? I felt satisfaction seeing that our trash had been picked up today. Isn’t that odd? Last week missed because of the holiday and I am looking forward to trash pickup? Perhaps it feels like a small accomplishment already: Even while I sleep, I am productive because we put out the trash and they picked it up.

My body feels heavy into the couch. The steam rising from the coffee has lessened, probably ready to drink before it becomes cold. The sensations of life in my body. A morning chill prickles down my scalp and neck. I am aware of listening, his footsteps, birds, traffic, pump station. He walks over and steals the first bite of my mini cobbler and I watch for his reaction. “Pretty good!” is the verdict and I smile, on face and in heart. Feeding him, feeding anyone, gives me great pleasure. Take note of that, heart, for the next time you are wondering about the heaviness of calling. I think feeding feels like tangible love. I see sun outside. My thoughts are slow in pace this morning, which is something of a relief.

I am here and now. But I realize I am not particular practiced at this, this being present, especially being present to my body. So I will try to remember to practice again. Soon.

(1) for god’s sake, write

Or should that be “write, for God’s sake.” And should God be capitalized? Will someone be offended if it is not? Am I too ridiculous, trying to write on this blog…again. Am I just doing it because “everyone is doing it?”

For now, my goal is to simply write. Not gain followers, not become famous, not compete with anyone, certainly not to impress anyone. Just to write. Yes, some of those other less attractive motives are also lurking here, in my unwieldly heart. I am attempting to deny them satisfaction or disappointment by keeping this endeavor a somewhat-private one for now.

i would write, but i have nothing to say.

Intriguing then that you talk so much, my dear. What did you see today?

Bubbles in this Portuguese wine catch that evening sunlight. So do the dirty streaks on the window glass, just in case the to-do list was shrinking too much. Zack outside moving the sprinkler, intent that every blade and leaf is thoroughly watered. I pulled weeds, many of them, returning the flower beds to a rather pristine state. The fuschia-colored peony did not reply when I commented on her foliage and the soil.