Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Vitamin Lady

Once upon a time, I had wild job resume that spanned from vitamin saleswoman, restaurant waitress, grocery clerk, office secretary, pioneer woman and fashionable mother with purse and dollies. Let's consider vitamin lady, for example, an occupation I started with the help of my cousins. We’d load our backpacks with empty vitamin bottles our mothers gave us and then travel around town (or the living room) to meet with clients and advise them on which supplements they should buy to solve their ailments. An unusual childhood invention, I know, and telling of the days when our parents were discovering the alternative health field. I'll admit I did eat some of that paper that we stuffed in the bottles as pretend vitamins. I never died yet from the ink. And I learned that while good things come in a bottle, our mothers were sacrificing and giving us so much in those days to feed our hungry little bodies, imaginations and souls. 

Today I am grateful for my upbringing and my mother’s mothering. The older I get, the more I live by her wisdom and am blessed by it. So here’s an ode to her, and to all like her, who have mothered or (fathered) us through to who we are today.

Without cable or video games at our house, before the days of laptops and technological devices of all shapes and sizes, we spent the hours playing, pretending and helping around the house, where I first learned creative thinking, team work and innovation. Skills I still use today. We had a quiet home, one where the silences were not muffled by television or attention-diverting devices but one in which we felt comfortable being with one another in the silence. Here ideas flowed. And we were present to one another.

Not being given all the toys I wanted but just enough inspired me to experiment in making my own versions of them with household items like cardboard, recycling things into other things, cutting out food pictures from magazines for playing restaurant or grocery store. Truly, the lessons have paid off, as this showed me into adulthood that I could dream, create and live the life I imagined, and be happy, even with little resources.

You took me to church. You showed me a way of holiness at home, too, through prayer and example. Your longing for God overflowed and touched me and drew me into the heart of the Lover that Jesus is, as you sought Him with your womanly heart.

You raised me up with beautiful music, introduced me to classical works and different composers, and signed me up for piano lessons. You encouraged my musical development and praised every song I played on the piano. Then you encouraged me to take ballroom dancing lessons and express music with my very being! And these things still lift me up today, giving me joy.

Like magic, you knew how to cure my ailments with natural remedies but also with a healing touch of your hand, a prayer said over me, a soft lullaby like “Tell Me Why the Stars Do Shine,” a bedtime story read from just the dim light of the hallway, and the sign of the cross on my forehead as you wished me a “Goodnight.”

There’s so much more, but this is just to say, “Thanks, Mom,” for all you've done and continue to do for your children. 

To ponder, what positive memories do you have of your upbringing?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Leaf Blowing

The first time I experienced Green Lake in Seattle was on a sunny, 80-degree Saturday in spring when I went picnicking at this popular lake, hemmed round by an urban trail. I remember the trail path well because it was here, strolling with my boyfriend in the shady water’s edge, that we joined the throngs of humanity circling around the lake. And it was here that we first held hands–feeling the strangeness and warmth of growing companionship and something beyond ourselves drawing us together in a new way.

“Do you feel like we’re one with humanity now?” I whispered, as we melded into the walkers and joggers, the bicyclists, the dogs on leash, youth on roller blades and scooters, and babies in strollers. We seemed united with the rest by the simple fact we were all walking the same road around this lake.

There were rules to obey to keep traffic flowing smoothly on this "two-lane highway" – walkers on the outside of the left lane and runners on the inside traveling clockwise while humans on wheels were going counter clockwise in the right lane. There was, and had to be, some sense of order, some rules, to make it a pleasant (and collision-free) experience for everyone.

Now five months later, in the damp days of fall, I find myself moved into a house right across from this same lake, staring out the window watching the people pass by.

One evening, under lengthening shadows, I joined them. Little scenes popped up before me. Hammocks hung between two trees, a family out on a blanket picnicking, a man on a bench playing an accordion, a dog chasing a squirrel up a tree, people going fast and people going slow, young people chatting and laughing, and an old man in a flannel shirt and plaid fedora on his head paused at the edge of the water, just listening, or waiting. He looked like the subject of a painting. I glanced back over my shoulder to watch the old man in the hat, just standing there as the world was rushing by around him.

At times I am like him, and I feel so small and so fragile, even antique, amidst the craziness of it all, longing to belong but feeling apart, yearning for what lays beyond the hard pebbles under my feet, yearning to see the leaf turn and shine gold. What makes it shine? Where does the leaf blow when it gets caught up in the wind and transported gently to…where? Perhaps the old man was waiting to get swept up like the leaves too, and like me, rest awhile while being carried on the wings of Providence. We are so fragile, rising and falling like the leaves, buds in spring and fading into grey, our hues shining lustrously one day and greying the next, only to return with vigor in new shades and shapes and sizes and show up in new places, times and seasons.

As this new chapter of my life unfolds in the bustling heart and soul of the city, I am thrilled at experiences yet to be lived out with eyes of wonder and an open heart. I am reminded that to be a writer requires practicing openness and receptivity at all times, but also of the Scripture warning, “Do not let your hand be open to receive, but clenched when it is time to give.” (Sirach 4:31) Yes, all these things require something of us.

“Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city...” these lyrics by Chris Tomlin blared out of the car radio and caught me by surprise on my drive to my new home.

And so I write, for I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed the empty blank page lying open and exposed and ready and waiting to be filled with ink of my pen or the shape of the typed letter. I miss the creative flow and the rigorous act of writing that leaves you panting but exhilarated and feeling like you have achieved something beautiful or inspiring or at least just truthful. Inside my heart is a thousand flutters, a thousand birds that need to take flight, to let me rise with them from the earth to glory, to life in my soul, in my mind, radiating from my limbs, drawing others by its warm and gentle glow, being haven of growth for new things, and healing to all who come in contact with me, all who touch me, all things I touch…Body of Christ, “Amen.”

So I rake the scattered remnants of words, gathering them up into piles and heaps. Won’t you take my hand and revel too in this new season and all it brings?  Go ahead, jump in!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Flying Writer

You never know who you’re going to be seated beside on an airplane, especially when traveling alone. I’ve met all types of interesting sorts, but once in a while, there is someone who really stands out in your mind, someone who seems placed there for a reason. Over two years have passed since I met Claudia but it seems fitting that I share her story now.

April 2013 – I am unsettled. I’m floating thousands of feet up in the air on a plane, not only lifted off the ground but torn somewhere between east and west, between home and the wild, untamed wonder of my dreams. This trip has been different from other vacations in that it has stirred up so much of dreams and desires and made me re-evaluate everything. I’m somewhere in the middle, suspended, waiting, wondering. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to write, hard to know just what it is I want to communicate. 

It’s a bright, clear day for flying, and we go soaring in and out of the cumulous, billowy clouds. I have to admit I love the feeling as the plane lifts off the ground, the engine roaring and my stomach leaping. I make the sign of the cross and my heart beats fast, like a dozen butterflies beating their wings rapidly as we lift off the ground for adventure. Out of my window, I see wide, stretching mountain ranges in Nevada. Unlike snowcapped Mt. Rainier I had just beheld in Washington, these mountains are rugged, craggy, and painted in layers of deep brown with orange and gold, sandy stripes. 

But as I write this, the reality of descending back into the normality of life in my Midwestern Wisconsin town is confronting me. At 5:25 p.m. Central Standard Time to be exact, these wheels will hit the ground back home and the plane will vibrate as it comes to a sudden halt.  I don’t know where I shall go then, for this trip has sparked a longing for new beginnings. 

The passenger next to me has long wavy hair, equal parts silver and gold, and wise, twinkling eyes that make her look like she is frequently laughing even though she tells me, she’s a widow.

She opens her heart to tell me about herself and her house in the hills, somewhere off the coast of Washington. No surprise she was a florist in her younger days (which brought back to my mind the large tulip fields I’d just seen in Skagit Valley), and now she works to care for the developmentally disabled and enrich their lives by taking them to the opera in Seattle and doing fun activities with them. Looking at her, I think, How beautiful! I want to be that kind of woman when I grow old. And already, I sense a kindred spirit, one who has risen through grief and loss with hope and passion and purpose.  

She is thrilled to hear I work as a freelance writer. Divulging some of my hopes and the possibilities before me, she says she has no doubt I will do well. 

“Most importantly, you have a passion for it,” she says. “It is in your heart. I can see it in your eyes.”

Moments before this woman was a perfect stranger but here she was believing in me and having me believe that I would be back here in the west one day, pursuing my dreams. 

When she gets up to leave, I ask her what her name is. Claudia. And tell her mine. This exchange before we part cements her personality deep into my mind, and as she turns to walk down the aisle and off the plane, she says, “Have a wonderful life, hon.”

That’s when I realize deep down why I love flying. 

We may never meet again, the folks who have shared passenger seats with me while suspended in the air. But for a moment, there we are, fellow pilgrims, bumped and jostled together from different walks of life, every one of us on the same epic, upward journey.