Are We There Yet?

 disney-world-4-592lvg120710

PHOTO:  DISNEY     

Are we there yet?  Would anyone like to place wagers on how many times I will hear this question when our family leaves for Orlando’s Disney World tomorrow after school?   My seven year old son has been counting the days to our Disney Trip when the countdown was still over 100.

And then there was one.  One day left until we leave. Knowing how fast the last hundred days has gone is a bit troublesome because I don’t want our vacation to fly by.  I want each magical moment to linger.    I want each one of our family of five to forget about work, school, obligations, commitments, bills, responsibilities, and challenges.  Basically, I look forward to our reprieve from reality and really hope to drop anchor for a while in the new and improved Fantasyland (among other lands), that just re-opened up six days ago, on anticipation of our arrival no doubt.

This is our fifth trip in nearly thirty years of marriage and family.  It is the first real time for my youngest since he was in utero his first trip, and ten months old the second time.  He is beyond stoked for this trip.

  Personally speaking, it will be a homecoming of sorts.  A family reunion if you will.  Why there’s Uncle Mick with his big ears and chubby fingers and his sunny optimism about everything.  He is the family patriarch full of wisdom and sage advice and a voice that never matured when puberty came, if in fact it ever did.  There’s Aunt Minnie with her oversized furniture, her red and white polk-a-dotted dress, and she always wears a smile and looks as if she’s just baked a warm plate of cookies to greet whoever comes into her quirky and humble abode.  There’s Uncle Donald and his rambunctious nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, whose mischief and energy rival my son’s.  There’s the family dog Pluto, and of course Goofy.  Everyone has at least one Goofy in their family, do they not?

There’s beautiful Snow White and Prince Charming who always has his arm out to escort me and he pulls out my chair before I’m seated in front of a table lined with luxurious food.   There will be white and glass carriages escorted by perfectly groomed white horses for the ball later in the evening.

There are no arguments amongst our extended family members.  Everyone is well physically, mentally, and spiritually.  There is only endless exquisite happiness, laughter, joy,  and incredible talent on display be it singing, dancing, acting, juggling, acrobatics, magic tricks, tricks with birds and animals, feats of wonder, or acts of comedy.   This is the family millions of people run to and attach specifically to because it is such a great antidote to life’s often harsh realities.

This is the model familyThis is the World’s Family.   It’s a family where good food and drink, laughter, and smiles are always flowing and adventures abound.  Whether it’s being delightfully scared by holographic ghosts in the Haunted Mansion,  exploring all the real cool rooms of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house,  eating your way around the world in EPCOT, or watching the Spectro Magic parade at night with all the floats and characters lit up, you know you’re going to have fun.

    This is why we work in life.  This is why we struggle.  This is why we deny ourselves from having everything we want the moment we see it, because there are greater moments to behold later.

As for me and my household?  The next best thing to Jesus and the promise of heaven is most likely Disney World.  And you don’t have to go there to know it exists and that it’s great!  Kind of like heaven.  We sense it.  We know there is more than this life and its struggles.  There is a grand design, a purpose if you will, for our sufferings, our trials, our brevity here.  It’s because God has something better planned for us over there.

Of all the things God gave us in life to use, the most amazing thing he gave us in this life is our incredible mind.  A mind filled to the brim with infinite possibilities of what we could imagine and create, if we dare.  If we take that faith step and risk putting our dreams out there for the world to see.

It’s what good old Uncle Walt did.  He had a dream in his mind and a sketch pad in his hand and BOOM!  His soul connected his vision for animation and he drew what is now the world’s most famous mouse based on a pet mouse he once adopted at his first Kansas City studio.   Isn’t good he made a pet out of what most people would have so easily killed?

     Nothing in life is a coincidence.  I see things in life not with rose-colored glasses (okay, sometimes I do) but thru a lens of divine providence.    I try to connect the dots relating people and events in life as something God wants to use for good in my life and others.  I believe there is something good awaiting us at the end of our journey of toil and peril.   Disney World is man’s gift, a foreshadowing, to remind us of an even greater gift that God gave to us.  He just used vision to accomplish it in Walt.  He can use vision to accomplish it in us as well.  Open your eyes.  See!

Merry Christmas everyone!   We’re off to be a family, amidst all the other beautiful and diverse families of the world, as we watch and experience the magical family of Disney, keeping in mind that Jesus is not just the reason for the season, but a great reason to live life in awe and wonder every day because of what He has done for us.   Life.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Disney here on earth.    Heaven later.

I guess there are only four words left to say!

Are!  We!  There!  Yet!!

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Deviant Roots

Deviant Roots       I am certainly being governed by the physical laws of Murphy these days, and quite possibly the dynamics of String Theory (prior blog).  It’s okay.  I’m still here.

Here’s how it all went down yesterday.  After 24 hours of excruciating nerve pain (a “twelve” on a scale of one to ten), I was fortunate enough to be seen by a student dentist as an “acute” patient at our local dental school.    First call to school:  “I’m sorry we’re booked,” said the male receptionist.  Second call to school (amidst my sobbing) to female receptionist:  “Can you come NOW?”

  Ding, ding, ding—your answer is absolutely correct I think to myself!  Good woman, she was!

So I get in.  I fill out my health history which hasn’t changed—all 4 pages in pica 2 print.  I am introduced to my practicing dentist to be.  Okay, so she hasn’t passed her boards.  I like her anyway.  She sets my heart at ease.  I’m a practicing writer who can relate to the years of free work and time you put in practicing.    I’m okay.  No, I’m actually excited she is the one who will have the honor of piercing my gums to extract my roots.

X-rays are taken–multiple times.  The drilling starts.  Obliterated is the build-up my student from last year so artfully crafted to look like a real tooth, so I wouldn’t have to purchase yet another crown.   First this build-up is bored out with a standard drill for about 25 minutes or so.  Then for the best part:

The burr drill, or what I affectionately call the Jack Hammer drill, dives deeper still.  This one has a low-toned grumbly noise.  Imagine your mouth being an airplane and you are coming in without your landing gear with mouth open wide onto a runway of rocky gravel.  That’s what it sounds and feels like.

I can’t taste anything because I’m resisting choking to death on the saliva that pools up underneath the rubber dam stretched over my mouth, stretched tight and pinched by two plastic walls on the sides.  I fight anxiety as I remember if I don’t breathe through my nose, life could cease and I wouldn’t be able to articulate this phenomenon to anyone.

    I try and think happy thoughts and inwardly chastise myself for forgetting my IPOD which is my drug of choice during routine root canals.  I try to stop overhearing the conversation in the bay beside me where the patient is complaining about the smell of her tooth’s infection.

More drilling ensues.  A team of curious students finished with their rounds has now gathered to rubberneck.  A light that refuses to stay planted causes the assistant to mutter under her breath as it swings slightly above me.   A tray of instruments crashes to the floor.  Oops!

The dental teacher comes in.  More drilling.  We’ve been going strong for about an hour and a half at this point.  She pulls out what can only be described as push-pins that belong in the fabric tomatoes of our grandmothers.  Long skinny needle-like creatures with colorful round button heads hover hungrily overhead.

How are you today dear?  Plunge!  I close my eyes.

“Urrrggghhh   iiiiii,” I  say.   Translation:  Just fine.  This is the correct answer if you have long needles being put into your oral cavities by strange people.  This is not the time to be defiant or non-compliant.

The dentist adjusts her loops.  These are little micro zoom lenses, about an inch long attached to her regular glasses.  Some are clear, some are white, and some glow a brilliant orange.

     Keep thinking happy thoughts Liz.  Go to your “happy place” now!

     “Well dear!  You have anatomy that defies all textbook cases of standard anatomy that I have ever seen,” she says in a heavy Russian accent.  “You have deviant roots.  You will be referred to a grad student.  Amy (name has been changed), you close her up and send her home and explain all this to patient.”  (I think she just did).

Yeah?  Good thing you’re not a neurosurgeon or psychologist analyzing my brain I think.  There is no telling what deviations from and aberrations of normalcy you may find lurking there!

So with rubber dam firmly in place, purposely restricting all my questions, I patiently wait until my tooth is temporarily filled and dam is finally removed.  A torrent of saliva spills forward like Niagara Falls.  Freedom!!!

“Tho, what doth thith mean?” I hesitantly ask my student dentist.

And here is what I learned:  My roots deviate from standard anatomy.  Most tooth roots grow up straight and branch out slightly.

Not mine.

No, I have deviant roots.  Apparently they start out separate, converge in the middle, and twist a little as they go out their separate ways.   They run amok and they run deep.  They make drilling hard, if not impossible.    Hmmmm….this is so apropos of a life lesson I’m sure, if I could just wrap my head around it.    

       Unfortunately for me, and my student, someone with more experience will have to complete the job.  After Christmas.  After our scheduled Disney trip in two days that we waited for seven years to go as a complete family.

But will I be in pain?”  I inquire—this, my one burning question.  The one I exceeded all speeding laws to get here to have answered.  “Will this ruin my trip?”

Answer?  Maybe yes.  Maybe no.    Kind of like life, huh!  Are you going to have pain sometimes?  Yep!  So?  Are you going to let it ruin your trip?

And though I’ve not only graduated from Murphy’s Law school (after being held back and “repeated” a few times), I currently serve in the role of an advisory position.  I can now advise others with full unsolicited non-restraint who may find themselves seated in the front row of such a scary place.

My advice?    Relax.  Keep your chin up.   Because as we know, Murphy was indeed an optimist (O’Toole’s Commentary).  Things could always be worse.

May you be able to laugh today and find the beam of sunshine meant just for you!

MURPHY’S LAW:
If anything can go wrong, it will.

O’Toole’s Commentary:
Murphy was an optimist.

Murphy’s Corollary:
Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.

Murphy’s Corollary:
It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious

Murphy’s Constant:
Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value

Quantized Revision of Murphy’s Law:
Everything goes wrong all at once.

Quotes taken from this excellent blog site regarding Murphy’s Law and other law that may be guiding you today:  http://www.fraserlandia.com/murphy2.html

Sir Thriver

Behance.net Tooth Pain

Painting By Takahiro Kimura – Tokyo, Japan

 

#$&^@(!!!  Rats!  That’s what my brain keeps thinking every five minutes.   For I am a teensy bit bummed right now.    I’ve been up most of the night with throbbing nerve pain on my upper right molars.  I know what it is:  I need an emergency root canal.  Again!  Sixth time, in fact!  God has blessed me with many great things, but sadly amazing teeth isn’t one of them.  And in case you were wondering, I do brush and floss and don’t drink soda.

This unforeseen and unfortunate medical emergency has coincided “perfectly” in its timing with our family vacation trip to Disney World in just a mere three days.  We are so looking forward to our first vacation as a family of five since our youngest son was born seven years ago.

Merry Christmas from Adversity!   Happy Blue Year!  You’ve just been given a citation for exceeding the speed limit under Murphy’s Law.

So as I lay in bed all night in a futile attempt to snatch moments of sleep between these nerve-shattering contractions of the mouth, I’ve had some time to have a few choice words with God.  Primarily this one:  Why?  Or these two:  Why now? 

I winced at what I think may be His reply:    Why not?

Why should I be exempt from suffering any more than the rest of the world? I realize that in some other part of the world, perhaps Cambodia, at this very moment there may be a nearly toothless fisherman who would laugh at the simplicity of my situation.  I can after all go to a dentist.  I do have access to dental care, even credit to ultimately arrive at a remedy.  That alone is worth so much.

Gahhhh!  Even now, the throbbing is fairly insane!  No matter.  I will still write.  I will use my suffering.  I will not let it defeat me.  I am however humbled by it; it reminds me, yet again, I am not completely in control of my own life.

Perhaps one of the most import things we can ever do in life is to learn how to not just survive inconvenience, pain, trauma, illness, and other drama in life, but how to thrive in doing so.  Striving towards excellence in all situations should be our modus operandi.

But it’s hard.  It’s hard when you hurt, be it physical or emotional.  It’s hard when there seemingly is not a person around.  It’s hard when others just don’t get it or are too busy.  You’re going to have to go deep and deal with this with God.    Or you can try and handle it all on your own, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll reach the end of that resource fairly quickly!

      So how do you survive adversity?  How do you go from survivor to Sir Thriver?  (Or Ms. Thriver, as the case may be.) 

      Stop counting your sorrows and start magnifying your blessings.  It’s all about perspective.  You can see your life as a glass half empty or just about full.   Which thoughts you feed will determine the words you say and thus the feelings you carry.  Focus on what is good, pure, true, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy—you know that already!

       Stop looking to other people for understanding.  I’m not saying stop relating to humans.  I’m just saying there isn’t always a strong enough person available to carry all your burdens.  Remember, they have some too!  This is where faith steps in: when people walk out.  You will not always get what you need from other people.  But you will from God, if you allow your own doubts to be extinguished by a love that knows no limits.

     Stop focusing on FEAR.  Start STEPPING OUT in faith.  Christian writer and speaker Joyce Meyer said the acronym of F.E.A.R. stands for false evidence appearing real.  How true this is!    We let what we are afraid of paralyze us from doing what we know we need to do.  I can’t let fear of pain, finances, or outcome keep me from going to the dentist today.  So in 81 minutes, I’ll have the opportunity to pick up the phone and make the call that can change all this.  What call or faith step do you need to make or take today to make that change?

     All things can be used for good.   Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that all things ARE good, but that they can be used for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.  It’s easier to see situations and people as “lessons for life” that God uses to grow us, when we look beyond our line of sight, beyond the person or circumstance staring us in the face, and beyond our human understanding.  If you can trust God who gave you life, you have already taken the first faith step to thriving!  Congratulations!  You have accepted that you can’t control everything!

Pain, suffering, death—it’s all part of life.  It’s the part where we want to hit the fast forward button that doesn’t exist.  We don’t get to walk around it.  Through it all, this is the only way.  Just remember, you are not alone.

Pain Wisdom:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.   Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Philippians 4:8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
   in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:2

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.  ~ C.S. Lewis

One Day this pain will make sense to you

Princess of Grace

karolina kotkiewicz

PHOTO CREDIT:  KAROLINA KOTKIEWICZ

So maybe I wasn’t born into the Royal Family and beseeched with adoring Brits and Royal watchers the world over tracking my every hiccup, pimple, gaff, dress of the day, pound gained or lost, and event attended by infinite mobs of paparazzi with camera lenses the length of yardsticks.  I’ve never had women faint or men swoon and lay down their coat for my dry clean feet to tread, simply because of my existence.

I’ve never been deserving of security detail, a personal hairdresser, chef, or secretary to manage my job of social engagements and charitable work, though I would love to have the latter three just for kicks!

When I was pregnant with each of my own brood of three children, the world didn’t stop spinning if I woke up hugging the royal porcelain throne.  I certainly wasn’t given a diagnosis with as many syllables as Princess Kate has been given.  No, I was simply told, “It’s normal; now go eat a cracker.”

Yes, it’s not always easy being a mere serf to servitude and simplicity, complex array of daily chaos.   It’s challenging indeed.  There are no minions to blame.  There is no staff to assist.   There is only my individual blood, sweat, tears, and frequent sleeplessness that accompanies the challenge of trying to do it all: work a day job, raise kids, assist parents, volunteer at church and school, clean house, laundry, attend and reply to endless paperwork, pay bills, feed pets, chauffer children to school and activities, help with homework, find time to play, oh and breathe!

The real challenge is trying to find the essential time known as “Liz Time.”  Yes, these are the precious hours necessary to rejuvenate my own soul: writing, photography, my beloved bible study group, or trying to catch up with good friends.

Living life outside the palace is messy.  We sorely lack a protocol of propriety.  It’s not always structured and it’s rarely consistent.  Yes, high drama occasionally exists outside the drawbridge but doesn’t make the press (thankfully)!  There is no portcullis at our home’s entrance to shield us from the dangers of the outside world.  We have no moat to slow down the uninvited guest or Royal Guard to interrogate and arrest the annoying solicitors who all come at inopportune times.  Ready or not, our house is always open.

But before you grab a monogrammed hanky and cry for me Argentina, hold your horses.  I am grateful for my commoner status.  Above all, I am grateful that I don’t live inside a fishbowl where perfection is the water one must constantly swim in.  For I know this much is true:  I would drown.  Quickly.

See I have evolved over the years.  I have reframed my thinking.  I am not a slave to my family or even to forces outside my control.  I am indeed a princess of three things:

     A Princess of Procrastination:   Ask any accomplished, or worse, struggling (aka “wannabe”) artist, writer, painter, visionary (okay…I’ll stop there) and they will tell you this:  You sometimes must procrastinate regarding your duties of life in order to nurture your high calling, even if at this moment it is perceived only by you.   For who knows the plans God has for you?   Perhaps, you were born for such a time as time as this.  Translation: To respond to intuition and to occasionally shirk what others perceive as duty.  Wisdom whispers quietly sometimes.

     A Princess of Prognostication:  Yes, because the winds of perpetual change often blow in and out of our home, it sometimes feels as if our so-called fortunes can only be predetermined by the accuracy of my prognostications.  That is to say, if I freak out better and more efficiently, you will get off your butt and see the urgency this particular situation requires and quickly get on board!  Indeed! A prophet in her own household is rarely met with honor.  So be it.   My predictions, assessments, and royal decrees march onward, until even I am reminded of a simple truth:   Submit.  Pray.   You are not in charge.  Even though you sometimes act as if you are. 

     A Princess of Peripatetic ProportionsNothing lasts forever.  This too shall pass.  Wanderlust.   The world is so beautiful.

These thoughts comfortably coexist in my brain.   Life is sometimes challenging on the home front, but it’s equally good as challenges not only make us stronger; they reveal who we truly are.

In the midst of trial, I’ve been known to contemplate what life is like outside my kingdom.  What is happening at this moment under the Eiffel Tower?  Does the Taj Mahal have a five o’clock shadow?  Is a child crying for her mother in Halong Bay?  Will the Asteroid belt continue holding up around us?  Who is hurting near me?  Can I help?

I realize life is indeed good.  Blessed, in fact.  This is not of my making, but of God’s.  He has given me life, health, and a family to be grateful for and good things too numerous to count.  He has given me tears to assist with trials and a trust to deal with life on life’s terms:  a temporary assignment.    Because I don’t have to be entirely responsible for generating my own strength or controlling outcome, I am immensely grateful.

I am a princess indeed.  A princess of grace.  Thank you.  Thank you very much!