The Face That Changed Everything

Marley by Liz Gray

“Marley” — February 27, 2013 by Liz Gray

“Then I saw her face; now I’m a believer….”  “Believer” by SmashMouth  (“Shrek” Soundtrack)

    As promised; this was THE MOMENT, THE FACE, THE EVENT that I already know changes everything for our family.  Meet Marley!  Our Marley!  Yes, his name was partially inspired by the beautiful lab in the adorable and heart-wrenching movie “Marley and Me”, but it was even more than that.  My young son walked into the home of the loving gentleman who offered us this sweet puppy–a beautiful golden male lab.  When my son first laid eyes on him, he shrieked “Marley!”  It was as like watching two brothers reunite who hadn’t seen each other in a while.

     At seven, he’s only wanted a dog for about 2 years.  My husband has waited nearly thirty years for me to say, “OK, let’s get a puppy.”  Moreover, he wanted a lab like his own brother has and is so fond of.  As do half our friends!  Yes, I know–labs make great dogs.

      “But what about the work?” I asked while detaining my family all these years.  “What about poop duty, puppy training, daily walks, feeding schedules, their TOTAL dependance on you for EVERYTHING?”   “What about it?”  tiny little eyes seemed to plead.  “It’s really not a big deal,” my husband and adult daughter have told me.  Millions of people have dogs.

    I know.   The thing is I’m a cat person at heart.  Because they’re easy.  You show a kitten a litter box, walk away, and five seconds later they are potty-trained for life.  It’s all easy breezy from there until they get older and face health problems, and believe me I’ve had my share of older cats and all their issues from diabetes to heart defects. That’s the hard part about pets.  It usually always ends one of two ways:  ABRUPTLY or SADLY.

      Just like in the movie “Marley and Me.”  You know from the get-go the dog is going to die.  Still it was watched and adored by millions.

      I get it.  See I know the real reason I’ve put off this decision all these years.  I already know what all of us in our family are risking:


      I know in the “typical” lifespan of this breed of dog, you’re looking at twelve or fifteen years, God willing, and if life goes as “planned” which the movie “Marley and Me” clearly showed that life rarely goes as such!  But I can see the foreshadowing already.  Two of my children are adults now.  Their lives will change.  Weddings, grandchildren (hopefully) and a host of other changes I’m sure will come.  My husband and I are at the middle mark. Our parents are getting older.  The future now seems less predictable then the plans we had for it about this time when we were in our twenties.

        All these things bring changes in life.  And through it all to come, we will have another soul witnessing the entire bloody and blessed drama that will certainly play out.  Our dog, this sweet newness, will be part of it; for better or for worse.

     Our souls are going to get tangled up worse than a little girl’s long hair.    We’re going to experience magnificent things as a family.  And most likely some heartaches, big and small, and crises of all kinds from the daily annoying to the ones of epic tsunami proportions.

    It’s the part that scares me so much.  And yet, I know from experience that’s the best part in life.

      The part where we risk it all. 

      The part where we say:

  • I do
  • I will
  • I promise
  • I commit
  • I love
  • Always and forever

May you live your life large today and all of your days.  Find good risks to take and find God-sized faith to propel you forward as your step into the great unknown.  Travel well and may you have the shadow of a companion and the comfort of the spirit of God always by your side.Marley Gray

Marley at 8 1/2 weeks, plays with a ball for the very first time.  “I’m still getting a grip on my coordination,” he says!



Lower Image:  The FIRST moment my son set eyes on the puppy, he shrieked “Marley!”
I will forever cherish this moment!

The Moment That Changes Everything

New BabyThis is it!  This is the moment that changes everything.  You just know it intuitively.   It’s every cliché in life rolled into one big split decision:

  • Should I or shouldn’t I
  • This could be the beginning of ……………
  • I (or my family) will be forever changed if I (we)……..

Have you ever had a moment in life like the one I’m talking about?  I’m talking about newness.  Maybe it’s a decision you’ve contemplated for some time and it keeps you up at night, but today’s the day you finally act upon it.   Maybe it’s something you’ll decide on a whim but will have life-altering consequences none the less.  Maybe it’s something that just seems to overtake you and it’s as if it was predestined just for you.  Maybe you’ll make this decision solo, or perhaps some collaboration is involved.  Either way, if you take even one step forward, if you even inhale even one breath of life into this decision, without a doubt life is going to irrevocably change. 

     It’s that BIG MOMENT when you:

  • Say YES or I DO to…………
  • Have just one last drink and put the keys in the ignition anyway, and then ……
  • Take your company public even though you are risking……..
  • Decide to move all the way to…………
  • Kiss someone for the first time knowing that…….
  • Run for office even though……….
  • Want to feel something different than this so you try……
  • Decide to no longer be held captive by the secret of……
  • Pick up the gun and…….
  • Despite any fear of failure, take your dream job doing…..
  • Gaze into the eyes of a baby less than a minute old and your heart floods with….
  • From this moment on, I will live different and choose to believe…………

Think about it.   If you’ve pondered this for a while you know without a doubt, life will never be the same.  Even if you make a decision on a whim, especially if it’s a bad one, an immoral one, perhaps a dangerous one, there is always that one-second hesitation that says  uh uh uh….maybe I better not.   Perhaps it’s something you’ve always wanted to do and this is the moment you say yes, even though you are unsure of future outcome.  Temptation.  Risk-taking.    These are the moments we meet at every crossroads.  How will you decide?

      I call them God Moments.   We either walk with Him or walk away from Him.  Perhaps we don’t consult Him at all, but I believe either way, He is watching, always aware, knowing the future before you take even one step forward.  Even if you’re unsure, perhaps you’ll seek His guidance and wisdom before or as you go through this decision process.  Perhaps you deceive yourself thinking this has nothing to do with God, I’ll just handle this one on my own, thank you.  How will you decide?

     This is the moment you could lose everything……or gain everything.  It’s the moment where you put your chips on the table.  Maybe you’re risking money.  Maybe you’re risking revelation of truth.  Maybe you’re risking your entire heart.

Nervousness.  Butterflies in the tummy.  Heart over head.  Head over heels.  Terror.  Exhilaration.  Freedom.  Passion.   Love.

Today is MY DAY that changes everything.  I have no doubt it will radically alter my life and the life of my family.  It’s something that happens all over the world every day.  As a writer, I know for sure it will give me plenty to write about. 

      What is it you ask?  Ah….the cliff hanger.  Stay posted dear friends.  All will be revealed soon!   I’ve buckled my parachute to the best of my ability.  Now there’s just one thing left:

      Go ahead and jump!

How to Win The Game of Life

LIFE IMG_4516My family has started a new tradition.  We have decided to turn Wednesdays into Family Fun night.  We started last night.   We decided we are going to take good old Milton Bradley’s suggestion and have a family fun night on Wednesdays and start playing board games.

I was first inspired a week ago when playing a vicious, okay scratch that, mildly competitive game of Double Twelve Dominoes – The Mexican Train Version with the ladies from my bible study group.   There is nothing like playing a great game around a table with fun people, food, coffee and tea, laughter, and a community quest to learn something new and if luck has it, to WIN!

So when my seven year old son requested we play the game of LIFE last night, I was all in!  I made dinner speedy quick and cleared the table lightening fast after we finished eating.  That is to say, I moved the dirty dishes and miscellaneous other clutter to the counter to deal with later.

My husband, young son and I pulled the game of LIFE out of the box and started setting up.  I fanned out the cards.  We chose our careers.  We all decided to skip college as we couldn’t find how starting out with borrowed money would get us a higher paying salary which was basically luck of the draw anyway.   We spun the dial and off we went.

I was a policeperson, my husband was an artist, my adult son was a computer programmer, and my youngest son was an entertainer.  Not so much different than our real life actually.  The only difference is that in real life my husband is a mechanic, but even that requires a modicum of creativity to be able to repair cars when car parts or cars themselves are no longer manufactured.

I landed on the first PAYDAY.  I was elated to have an annual salary of ninety grand.  Which if moms were actually compensated in real life for policing a busy household, I would say this is adequate at best.    We made our way around the board collecting our salaries multiple times, picking up LIFE cards, paying both frivolous and necessary bills, and chastising one another for memory lapses over whose turn it was.  My oldest son said we could just play for him as he had important games in real life he had to play on the Wii.  So entertainer-boy  just spun the dial for computer geek-man and moved his box-like van around the board, and basically made every decision for him.

My husband, being the artist that he was and is, had an annual salary of twenty grand and took a loan out for a $200,000 mortgage.  Very quickly he landed a wife, a kid, then a set of twins, and then another kid.  Figures.  We all know people like that.  I told my young son he’d probably be a “drain on the system” before too much longer at the rate he was accruing kids and a high-falutin’ lifestyle on a pauper’s salary.

I could not have been more wrong.  After two paydays, he got the card that said “exchange salary” with any other player.   Of course he picked me.  So there I was for the rest of the long drawn out game stuck at a paltry $20,000 a year salary with 4 kids of my own, a blue husband who refuses to speak to me, and an uncanny knack for landing on every known expense imaginable.  Sigh!  It’s amazing how the parables of sports and games so mirrors our real life!

About ninety percent through our game, my real husband SERIOUSLY asked my real kids and I if he could trade his kids in for cash; he had so dang many of them—they had already spilled out of his six-slotted car and tumbled onto the highway of LIFE several times.    This from the same man whose first wife had previously fallen out of his dilapidated artist’s van into the Grand Canyon (the kitchen floor) upon which he had said, “Don’t worry about it; I’ll just get another one!”

“Seriously?”  I asked.  “Yeah!  Check the rules” he insisted.   For some weird reason I just started laughing and couldn’t stop.  It’s that absurd moment in LIFE and in real life where someone says something so ridiculous you just fall out on the floor wondering how did your brain get wired like this?  But of course, who amongst us hasn’t wished at some point we could’ve traded our kids in for a lump sum payout on any given teenage hormonal day?

My young son got to the Millionaire Estates first because he had mysteriously spun tens almost the entire game.  His spin kept “not taking” except for when it consistently scored a ten.  Throughout the game he’d been entrusted to not lose his fortunes when paying bills and acquiring money in tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But for him the best part was at the end.

He quickly mastered the art of skip-counting by half-millions even though he often claims his daily first grade homework of skip counting by fives or tens is just too stressful.  Sure it is!  If you’re not getting paid to do it.   He counted and handled LIFE money the way politicians handle our money The game of LIFE is always more fun when playing with OPM (other people’s moolah!) to accomplish your goals; the results are secondary to the joy of spending it.   Like GAO accounting procedures, it’s not even worth counting if it isn’t first followed by at least six zeroes.

At the end of the game, we all experienced temporary happiness as we counted our stash:   a million, a million five hundred, a million seven hundred fifty etc.  Perhaps that may be the closest we ever get to counting numbers that high related to real life finances.    At the end of the game, my husband “won” but only by five thousand dollars.  My little boy had two million, seven hundred and seventy thousand dollars.  And hubby had exactly that plus one extra five thousand dollar bill.  Just one wrong move somewhere probably cost my son the game. 

Towards the end, he once spun the dial on my turn before I had a chance to see what number I had spun.  “HEYYYYY!” I shouted, “Watch it!  That can change the whole outcome of the game!”  And indeed it did.  For the next ten turns (I’m NOT kidding here) I landed on every expense known to exist.   I drifted from one crisis to the next railing against the unfairness of the greedy rich just inches away from me.    I had my turns skipped multiple times and the rest of my family inherited all the LIFE cards while I got nothing.   I lost.  Big time!  And then when it was all over, I reread the rules just in case we had missed anything.

We did.  I wanted to cry foul but it was too late.  In LIFE and in life, there are no do-overs.  Since I was the policeperson, I had forgotten to collect $10,000 every time a certain someone had spun a ten.  That alone would have given me an extra hundred grand no doubt.  I had forgotten to plan for my future and buy stock, as did every one else.  My oldest son lost almost as spectacularly as I did, perhaps because he played by proxy and had allowed a seven year old to represent him.  You can’t win if you don’t play the game. 

Finally, as the game ended and reality beckoned with dirty dishes waiting and teeth that need brushing and jammies that needed filling, I realized I had finally spent my most valuable currency very wisely after all:


    In the end all the money we had tried so desperately to accumulate during the game of LIFE just got put back in the box.  It was all meaningless.  But the time we had spent laughing, competing, journeying across the land, and just being a family?  Well that was the best night we had spent in a long time.  These are the moments that pay eternal dividends.  And that you can bank on!

Not Like Me

Not Lilke Me      It’s been a weird week.  It’s been way too long since I last carved out some time to write.  But alas, my head is about to explode as I’ve absorbed visually and auditorily more than I can take without regurgitating some of it back up in the form of writing.

I find most writers write because they are compelled to because well, frankly, life is just so darned interesting!   I’m talking about people who are not like me.  While most people just slough off and quickly forget all the unusual people they pass by, writers turn these strangers instantaneously into writing fodder for potential fictitious characters who quickly take up residence in the dark crevices of a writer’s mind.

For example, and I swear all of this is true—mostly.  These are just some of the examples of human diversity I encountered this week:

While waiting in the lobby earlier this week for an appointment, I couldn’t help but notice the lesbians-in-love couple who were holding hands and kind of cuddling up to one another.  Please take note, I am not passing judgment here, I am simply reporting, however accurately, what I observed.  These were two women clearly affectionately touching one another.  No harm, no foul.    In a diverse culture, this is common and really most people don’t give it a second thought.

But what really stood out was one of the women was significantly overweight and had a purplish blue hair color.  The other was about twenty years younger and was fairly thin with a neon pink color in her hair that would make the musician Pink a tad envious.  If there is a pure form of pink, this chick nailed it.    At first I thought I was witnessing a mother-daughter reunion, but as the affection intensified, I could see I was witnessing end stage romantic love.  It doesn’t stay like this I tried to telepathically communicate.   Clearly their minds weren’t open to this revelation.   I just smiled at the happy couple who never even saw me.  Then I turned away.

Later that afternoon I encountered a bubbly medical sales rep talking to a co-worker who I assume was also a medical sales rep in the elevator we happened to share.  She was talking and smiling with ultra white teeth and speaking very rapidly about the latest technology in MRI imaging and which doctors they could count on for sure in an upcoming presentation, when all of a sudden the elevator lurched and she said, “Well, great!  This will be the perfect ending to my crappy day!”  She directed this comment at me as if suddenly she just now noticied I too was on board the elevator with her and her associate.  She didn’t know what I already knew.  This particular elevator always lurches on the fifth floor.  It’s just the way it’s wired.  I smiled softly and said, “Well, have a good day” as I reached the roof of the parking deck where my car was parked.  I never park on any floor lower than the roof, because I suffer from fear-of-roof-collapse-a-phobia and I hate having to walk under many layers of concrete and automobiles above me.  But I digress.

The week continued with work, errands, and family life as it always does at a break neck speed and yet mundane moments that somehow seemed like they may be significant later.  I tried to keep the RECORD button on in my brain whenever I noticed anything unusual.

Take for example tonight:  I had just finished a delightful workout at my gym.  I say delightful because I practically had the place to myself since it was a Friday night and everyone under age 40 probably has a plan as to how to spend a Friday night.  Not me.  I had a vigorous date with the treadmill while listening to my favorite music, while simultaneously watching in close-caption the amazing video footage of how a meteor-not-an-asteroid (the news media kept repeating this as if it were very important to clarify) slammed into the mountains of Russia and injured about a thousand people and shattered the windows of many buildings.

I found my LizLogic mind was suddenly inspired to immediately change my current brunette hair back to blonde again.  I don’t know why.    It’s as if the meteor reminded me that if the other upcoming asteroid due to narrowly miss Earth this weekend should miss it’s mark (that is space) and instead impact our entire planet, perhaps I should go out blonde.  Clearly I wasn’t reaching my target heart rate, or I wouldn’t have room in my brain to think these things.

So as soon as my work out ended, I sprinted merrily to my car because I was now on a mission.  It was time to go buy a box of blonde again.  And that’s when the trifecta of weird this week happened.   I arrived at Wal-Mart.  I continued to see entire herds of people not like me.

       The most notable was a gentleman who looked like the exact twin of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  He was just sitting at the driver’s seat in a beat up green micro pickup truck beside me, whose carbon emissions would surely make Al Gore proud.    In his back windshield, he had a confederate flag embedded in the glass with a black bumper sticker with a giant jagged five-fronded leaf that boldly proclaimed LEGALIZE THIS!   He stared at me with stalker like eyes as I got in my car!  Huh, I thought….probably not the President of Iran then.  Still, he really was the spitting image.  And I thought, you know, both these guys really do look like a little bit like they are a monkey man.

      But who am I to judge?  After all, what do people see when they see me?  An upper 40ish woman with dollar store reading glasses, hair pulled back into a messy bun, dark blue sweat pants with lint and cat hair on them with a bright pink v-cut t-shirt, a black velour pull up jacket, and a very generic oversized black purse (No Louis Vutton or Coach bag for this mom) getting ready to step into her beige Buick!      It’s like seeing Jane Eyre on steroids.  Plain, practical, and pragmatic oozes out of my pores sometimes!  Or perhaps it’s a combo of lazy and frump; anyhow it suits me.

Who knows what others see when they see me?  What stories do they invent to go along with my visual?   Poor old Buick lady, I bet her husband beats her.  (Not to worry, he doesn’t!)  or maybe they think,  Didn’t I see her last week at that slam poetry session?     Or perhaps they think, Oh great, is that the dingbat who messed up my registration at DMV (nope, not me) or maybe they just pass on by and never wonder at all, which is most likely the case, and that’s okay too.

We all walk around all our days and we have these amazing stories that are concealed just below the surface, and yet we pass each other by hundreds of times a day totally unaware of one another.  We are all forgotten faces in a sea of faces, save the occasional anomaly that happens to stick out in our brain.  And in that brief moment of Remember This, we do this:     

We judge a book by its cover.

    If you’re the slightest big imaginative, how can you not?  In our head, we fill in the story we imagine might go with the cover of the soul we meet.    Yet you know if you were to actually talk to them, a different story would spill out entirely.

Do you have the curiosity or courage to get to know people not like you?     I challenge you this week to smile, to speak to, maybe even embrace a stranger.   Who knows?  Maybe you’ll glean a nugget of wisdom as each of your individual orbits coincide for the briefest of time.   Kind of like the friendly kid, okay probably twenty-eight year man-child with giant gauge earrings in his ears, and who talked totally surfer dude to me at Trader Joe’s earlier this week.  I couldn’t help but notice his over-sized cargo pants and smallish black t-shirt that boldly claimed in giant white letters LOVE WINS.     Indeed it does, mate.  Indeed it does.