STRESSED OUT: The Gift of What Just Might Kill Us

clara-bow

Clara Bow — Silent Film and Talkies Star –1920s — She was the inspiration for Betty Boop.  She also suffered with mental health issues due to stress.

 

Stress. We all carry it. Like interest on a credit card, it compounds. Quickly.

We are living in extreme days.  Our country is polarized, and some of us, perhaps many of us feel like we are hanging on by a thread.

Our daily responsibilities exceed the available time to accomplish them. I’m talking only about the things on our “MUST DO” list. Forget totally about our “HOPE TO DO” and “WANT TO DO” list.

Then, predictably so, like a promise that arrives early, a CRISIS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS lands in your lap exactly as your energy levels drop below zero. Couple this with your due date for everything urgent was expected yesterday and before, and your list of what you have to post pone due to emergency, is stretched to indefinite, if not infinity and beyond.   Generally, this will happen when you don’t have the following to cope:

  • money to pay for it
  • time to absorb it
  • energy/resources to fix it

Everything from demanding jobs, to family crisis, to health crisis, to a death in the family, or news that feels like a “sentence” feel like they are going to pull us under the waves.  Up to now we were at least managing our overwhelm, however precariously, as we bobbed between the waves of life’s stormy seas.

Here’s the hardest truth of our lives: Sometimes it sucks. I mean that literally. The challenge of just getting to the next day seems near impossible, because TODAY feels like it is vacuuming every last ounce of our energy, time, and resources to simply deal.

We can’t take ONE. MORE. THING. And then…..

BOOM!

The unthinkable. The unimaginable. The unbearable.

Like it or not. It’s here. How now will you get through it?

I’m not a doctor or scientist or even theologian who claims to know. I’m just a girl who’s been around the block a few times. And each successive lap does get harder, but……

it’s true—that which does NOT kill us, really does make us stronger.

My Christian faith has comforted my heart, and my mind knows many of God’s promises. But that never negates the reality of what is, and the pain/frustration/fear one goes through when one is on overload. The feelings are real, even if our analysis of what’s happening doesn’t agree with others’ perspectives. The truth is: We feel what we feel.

So, how to deal?

Something I learned a long time ago at church. Our wise pastor told us:

You are going to suffer in life. That you don’t get to choose.

The only thing you get to choose is HOW YOU SUFFER.

Will you waste your suffering?

Or will it be redemptive?

I have never forgotten that lesson. I mean I have in terms of application sometimes:

  • I get negative ( I whine to others.)
  • I forget to pray. I forget to be still.  (I’m SO busy!)
  • I complain. (As if stating the problem a dozen different ways will somehow change it.)
  • I avoid reality, or at least dream of it. (I think I will hide under my blankets and pet the cats and just listen to music all day. Yeah right.  )

And then: I remember another profound truth:

IT IS WHAT IT IS

 Seriously, reality always wins.

 I pause.

 I remember.

I get to choose my suffering.   I. Me. No one else.   Other people or life situations—they may overwhelm, even slay me. But I CHOOSE how I deal. Or die. Or live. That is my power. And no one and nothing can take THAT away from me! No one can take the power that I believe God has already put in me, unless I give it to them.

There’s a lot of anger out there these days. The election comes to mind. I get the disappointment and anger. I really do. But seriously, how much power are YOU going to allow someone else to have over your lives?   What changes can you make?  More importantly, WHO will you CHOOSE to be?

We don’t get to change our circumstances much of the time. The only thing available for us to change is: OUR PERSPECTIVE

Stress can BE our friend.   We can “reframe” our situation.

These things I’ve learned for sure, especially in crisis mode:

We can only solve one problem at a time. Tackle your tasks and finish them one by one. It may mean going off-line, off-grid, turning your phone off. That’s okay.   People will live without you for a few days. But you won’t live without you.

If other people can’t understand your limitations sometimes, that is their problem, not yours. Is it good to care what other’s think of us?  Sure.  But our health, our life comes first.

“No” is a complete sentence. This is a biggie, especially for women. We want to give and help so much, we can give ourselves away sometimes. But say no sometimes. Even if it’s just to practice for a real emergency. It’s so freeing. The relief that comes from knowing you don’t have to be responsible for everything just because someone thought you were the most capable to do it.

Get enough rest. No matter what. No good decision is ever decided when running on fumes.   Which brings me to: Delay big decisions until you have had at least one good night’s sleep.

Ask for help. And then don’t be ashamed. Be it tasks or an understanding ear, reach out to others. Please. Other friends don’t always know when we struggle. They are stressed too.

Daily Quiet Time. (DQT) Prayer. Meditation.   Simple solitude where you simply empty your mind of all thoughts, if only for ten minutes. This is absolutely essential if you are on overload. Practice this now. Make this your habit, so you won’t forget in emergencies.

Breathe. Just breathe. Slowly. Take it all in, understanding you don’t have all the answers. Remember? You can’t control it all.

Consciously choose to accept with grace, to the extent that you are able, what is happening now. I recently read a wonderful quote by Corrie Ten Boom:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow
It only empties today of it’s strength.

For those of you suffering severe stress right now, I encourage you to watch this amazing TED talk by Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend. I found just taking the time, all precious 15 minutes or so, recharged me. It reminded me why we are gifted with our present. We have this beautiful opportunity to be brave as we rise to the occasion of our challenges.

You WILL suffer.

You WILL have to make a choice (even not choosing is still a choice).

Be brave.  And may you choose well.

 

 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Close your eyes. Just listen to some pop pscyhology. There. Did your demons float away if only for a few minutes?
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Not Necessarily Namaste — Lessons from Yoga Barbie

Yoga girl sunset     YAY! It’s Friday and that means it’s Yoga Day in Liz’s world. Fridays, I decided are to be my “down days” from running and hitting it hard at the gym during the week.   It’s a physical reward, like getting a massage after working hard all month.

I’ve been on a roll recently, but I know from past experience if I don’t build in some gentler workout days, I’m liable to crash and burn. So yoga makes sense as an alternative to running everyday. So on Yoga Day, my goal today was to cleanse my seven chakras, elongate my muscles and relax my mind.   At least that was the plan.

This is what really happened:

I awake just before 7 am. I scurry downstairs in a caffeine-deprived stupor because on Yoga Day you should only drink water. Lots of water. No time for the filtered pure stuff. Just rinse out a dirty glass from the sink super quick and guzzle the tap. I feed our three cats and let the dog out so I can begin.

Time to get started. I roll out my yoga mat and live-stream Yoga Now on TV. Ah, so many choices. This one looks good: Total Body Super Core Challenge– 58 minutes.

The first thing I notice is the lovely young serene blond-haired blue-eyed yoga instructor; she is the epitome of tranquility. Her voice is a steady soft low, just a few decibles above a whisper. If I wasn’t being mindful, I’d probably shout, “What’s that?” or “Come again?”

Hurdle one: I will not compare my body to that of a woman half my age who is probably a trust-fund graduate student who’s probably never birthed children and has been vegan and well, stretchy, for most of her life. No, today I will take the hat of judgment off my body, and just keep my eyes focused gently on my teacher for today.

So we start with a few cleansing breaths before easing into Chaturanga Dandasana. Basically, that’s the snobby Indian way of saying planking. And although I was nearly comatose only moments ago under jersey cotton sheets and down comforters, I’m suddenly sweating profusely as I try to align myself parallel to the floor in order to strengthen my core.

The first thing I notice is just how much dog hair is literally everywhere; there’s entire could-be-sweaters hiding out under all the couches and TV stand.   And now thru my Pranayama breathing, I realize my yoga mat actually smells more like a dog than even my dog does.

So as I gently plank myself, I turn my gaze ever so softly towards the TV to make sure I’m still in sync with Yoga Barbie. She’s so peaceful I think. Her eyes are so soft, like she’s just waking from a great dream.

Well, no wonder I think to myself. My gosh! Look at that view!

Her mat floats atop short manicured green grass, that looks soft as carpet. It’s positioned exactly at the midpoint between two magnificent palm trees with an emerald green ocean in the distance, also proportionately placed between two mountains. The sun is just rising. In her world there are no vehicles zooming by, only tropical birds singing their morning songs.

In my world, I hear a humming dishwasher, a distant washing machine, and creaky plumbing sounds. Soon my husband plunks down the stairs before leaving for work. He asks me a question related to taxes and bills in a loud voice.   Talk about a harshed mellow. “Can we talk about this later?” I reply while trying to tune out all distractions.

I press on thru the planking so I can hurry up and get to Downward Dog which would be more appropriately named if it were called Upword Butt. Truly, that’s what it actually is.   You are making an offering, a sun salutation of sorts to the world that silently screams: This is my butt. Consider the view as a double sunrise.  Please deal with it and above all, leave me alone and don’t speak to me while I do this.

I alternate between Upward Butt and Painful Plank while Ujjayi breathing a few dozen more times. That’s where I steal some of the breath from the ocean directly behind Yoga Barbie.   I hear a fire truck siren in the distance that is growing ever closer. I briefly consider the possibility that our house is on fire so that I can wrap this up a tad quicker. My husband lets our dog back in because he’s afraid of fire trucks, so now he comes over to my side to howl closer to my ear. Oh come on! Really?!  Who’s the idiot that burns their house down on a Friday Morning?

Stop! Thoughts are like bubbles I remember. You can just pop them if they become a distraction. I mentally prick at them a few times.   Now my son has come down stairs and is telling me in detail about a video game he was playing upstairs.

I look at the clock. It’s only 7:25 am. “Why are you even up?” I ask. He normally gets up around 8. By now I’m doing some Cobra stretches to make my backbone more flexible too. I’m breathing, but if feels more like the “Ch, ch, ch, ch” I learned in Lamaze class all those years ago. I may not be doing this correctly, but hey, I’m trying.

Next, one of my cats decides to get in on the action. He’s a sweet fellow, just not today. He comes up to me and my nearby dog and bites my wrists while I pose like a dog again. I’m determined not to give up.   He’s happily purring; he just happens to want to snack on what’s currently holding me up.

I plank and stretch and breathe and soar like an airplane and reach my feet and arms far apart from each other parallel to the floor for what feels like hours. I walk my feet that are far behind me all the way to up to my hands on the floor and come straight up. I go up. And then go down again. Breathe. Stretch. Be Aware. Take up lots of space. I feel what my body is doing as my body does it. Relax. Go deeper into it. Release all thoughts. Be still.

Yes, be still

While the dog drops a saliva-covered tennis ball on your throat once you finally get to do a relaxing stretch. While you’re child asks their fifteenth question during a half minute of Child’s Pose. While the phone rings. And the sirens blare. And the door slams. And the dust-coated fur-balls rage under the couch. While your thoughts race as to how to make it all stop just for one freaking moment!

Yes be still and know: That life balance is not easy.   That trying to take care of our self is a concept we delude our selves into believing that is reserved only for those who have time. Or energy. We will try harder when we have a little more of each. Time. Energy. Later. We’ll get around to doing this eventually–later.

Except that it doesn’t. Later never comes.

 Our distractions of choice increase exponentially by the day. As moms, all the hats we wear, it actually is hard to do anything at all for our self sometimes. Much less, do it alone in order to do it well!

But as a Master Yoda once taught me: There is no try. There is only do or do not.

So I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to do it scared and I’m going to do it frustrated sometimes.  I’m going to do it busy, even if it appears aadha-gadha . (That’s Indian for “half-assed” ) I’m going to do it tired and frazzled sometimes. I’m going to do it ungraceful and undignified.   Because if fifty-eight minutes of pretzel-twisting mental-cleansing Yoga Barbie taught me anything at all: I’m going to do it FINISHED.  Because that’s what counts.

We have to decide to love ourselves enough to want to cherish what God gave us so that we can serve all those others a little bit longer and a tiny bit better.   Less attitude, more strength.   We’re deciding right now to exchange our whining selves for our winning selves. Gently. One day at a time.

Just breathe, then do.

Press on all my Sisters Seeking Strength and Serenity.

Namaste’

Photo Credit:  http://food.ndtv.com/health/the-ultimate-full-body-workout-surya-namaskar-769780

Scrolling Past It All: Intentionally Choosing To Be Missing Out

It’s 2016 and time to make those resolutions. Hmmm….which ones should I commit to this year? Which ones will I realistically keep? Don’t think too hard about the ones I might just fail miserably at.   Or just maybe—I may succeed?

I made a list of a few things I hope to accomplish this year, but all of them can be summed up by one desire:

To better live each day and moment with intentionality, purpose, and organization.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed in 2015 and have been dealing with some anxieties. The problem with anxiety is this; it’s like interest -– it compounds. The more you think about all that makes you anxious, the more your anxiety exponentially increases. Meanwhile, the law of entropy continues to thrive: Things fall apart—continually.  Everything decays as time passes.   Anxiety plus entropy is hard enough, but if you add procrastination to the mix?

Aye yi-yi. The triple threat of the unproductive life has arrived.

Because with each passing moment, our internal time clock knows we have one less minute to sort thru the complexities of life than we had a minute ago.

Are you stressed yet? If you’re still reading this, you’ve already lost one minute of your busy day.   You could’ve plowed thru an email or two, perhaps deleted 8 or 10 junk ones, but for whatever reason you’re still here. So I’ll try to cut to the chase.

I like to write. I’m also kinda-sorta trying to grow a photography business—I think. Or put it this way, my hobby is trying to stretch me in new directions that I’m trying to decide if I wish to pursue. While still homeschooling full-time. And working part-time, minimally, but responsibilities still beckon. Oh, and be available for a mom who is getting older. There’s also time allotted for church, scouts, sports, clubs, groups, and time invested still with grown children by attempting to know their busy schedules and still have time to hear their plans and dreams for the future.   There are chores, emails, voicemails, texts, bills, and requests. Then there are gadgets galore with menus, parts, batteries, and well….issues. It’s all too much.

I’ve been feeling this epiphany brewing in me for some time now:

I actually already know what I need to do. You probably know too.

We have to do less, in order to do more, or at least do better.

       But what to give up?

For me, I know that I know that I know: I absolutely am going to have to get off social media a lot more in 2016. I know people don’t really want, need or care to know my every whimsical thought, opinion about, or plans for “x”.   And though I love sharing so many photos, or even my writing, I have to brace myself with this fact:

       I’m overwhelmed with all that’s out there, you probably are too.

       So here we are. Three minutes gone for you, thirty for me. We have some decisions to make this year don’t we?   How now, do we spend this moment, this day that we’ve been given?

Sometimes we have to just scroll on by it all.   So much information is out there. But we have to just turn away and keep going, if we’re going to get anything done at all.   We have to not look sometimes, and do it fast.

A little less Facebook, Instagram, and Tweets? Oh well.

It’s okay if we don’t know it all. It’s not like we can fix it all anyway. It’s okay if we don’t respond to what all seems urgent. No comment does not equate to doesn’t care. It’s okay if we choose to “miss out” on the people’s news sometimes. The world isn’t going anywhere. And honestly, on some days I’d rather not know the news, be it world news or social news. I just want to live in the solitude of my cocoon for a day or so.

Call it weird. Call it antisocial. Call it worrisome. Call it intelligent. Call it rebellious.   I just call it the Liberation of Liz.

May 2016 find you at peace. Be well as you navigate your life this year and all its complex priorities.

I’m Late! I’m Late! For a Non-Existant Date!

AIW RabbitThe Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (Copyright  — Disney)

Have you ever been massively stressed out because you showed up incredibly late to an important event that didn’t even exist?

Yeah?  Me too.  Here’s what happened to me yesterday:

I am part of an artistic group that I’m super jazzed to be a part of.  I had spent a good portion of my day working on my “exhibit” that I would showcase along with the other artists.  It’s something we do once a month in order to constructively critique our work and sharpen our skills.

The problem is that some of us artistic people are sometimes more creative than organized, more distracted than punctual, more scattered all over the place than efficient. 

So it was no surprise last night I felt myself internally blowing a gasket when:

My husband forgot about my meeting despite repeated reminders, thus forgetting to come home from work to watch our young son so I wouldn’t be late for the fourth time in a row.

At 6:59 pm, I stopped by the local gag-a-burger joint en route.   I was 2nd in line at the drive thru (“One fry, one sweet tea, please hurry, thank you!”) only to have to wait 9 ENTIRE minutes for ONE car in front of me to receive their order.  I watched my rear view mirror as the line began to snake an entire circle around the joint.   I had no room to back up and abandon my order, and I couldn’t ram the driver in front of me to “the special designated area for “folks whose custom orders delay EVERYTHING for the rest of us.”  I was forced to wait!

I felt my blood pressure points accumulate faster than the points on a Medieval Madness pinball machine.  To make matters worse, Bachman Turner Overdrive was singing “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” on the radio.  For whatever reason that song totally grates on my nerves and added to my stress levels.    I began to scroll down the paltry six presets on my radio:

  • Station One:  Lady Gaga.  No, please! 
  • (Switch)  Katy Perry.  No Lord, I beg you please, double no!  Not if it were the last song on earth!
  • (Switch)  Commercial (Men are you urinating more frequently then you used to?)
  • (Switch)  Another commercial (Parents, does your child talk back to you at least once per month?)
  •  (Switch)  Pearl Jam  (Jeremy Spoke in Class Today)—should I blog about the deeper meaning of this song or chuck the thought? I quickly decide on the latter.  I realize the song is weirder than my weirdest thoughts and yet it intrigues me how such lyrics generated millions of dollars and fans.  Whatever!
  •  Switch–Classical music.  Cool!   I start to calm.  I go to Whole Foods in my mind and make 15 cups of Kona breakfast blend with lots of brown sugar and cream.   I meditate here for a moment.

7:29 pm.  I have arrived at my destination.   Let the stress of late begin.

Everything this entire forsaken day has transpired against me it seems. Nothing got finished on time.  I had been disorganized, delayed and detained all day.  No hour of the day remotely resembled the hour preceding it.   It was all I could do to make up a new ultra creative excuse for why my family sometimes forgets why this night is important to me.

Criminy!  I barged into the room, now thirty minutes late, where the other artists would already be showing and critiquing their work.  They would be calm, in place, at peace, focused, and ready to present.  I would be out of breath, frazzled, confused, and wondering if I could slowly slink by and find a chair without spilling my wares or causing everyone to look at the REALLY LATE girl (again).

“Hi, I’m sorry I’m…..” OH!  Wait a minute. ..

These aren’t my people!  These people were immersed in a bible study with soothing moments of solitude, prayers, peacefulness, and calmness.  Like those who shall someday inherit the earth, I meekly said, “Is this the Thursday Night Artists Club?”   Duh!  I knew it wasn’t!!  I was just grasping to say anything at all while my breath was making its way in from the parking lot to catch up to my body.

“No sweetie, it’s not.  But you could probably ask someone at the front desk on your way out.”  Gahhh!

I couldn’t exit quick enough!  It finally dawned on me.  I ran to my car and fished thru my purse full of clutter.  Finally!  I found my pocket calendar.  Yes, I know my phone has a calendar, but I’m always afraid I’ll lose my phone if I rely on it for not just phone numbers, Facebook, and photos, but my actual life plan so I view a paper calendar as an insurance policy, a reverse Murphy’s Law if you will, that as long as I don’t totally DEPEND on my phone, I’m insured against losing it.  Just a stupid mind game I play myself, but hey we all have them!

I pull out the calendar.  Though I clearly knew the day of the week (Thursday) I had inadvertently forgotten the date!   I see now it’s the 5th Thursday of the month.  Though we meet the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month, I had not run into this 5th week phenomenon before.

Deflated and breathless I take a moment and realize I am the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I live my days traveling at the speed of light from moment to moment and task to task but often with the awareness of a gnat.  I not only don’t see the forest through the trees sometimes, I sometimes miss the fact that I’ve left the woods entirely and am now suddenly surrounded by Mac trucks on an eight lane interstate.

All this technology to keep us in check, we spend all our time emailing, texting, status-updating (way guilty!), messaging, tweeting, chronicling and calendaring ourselves into oblivionBy attempting to do everything, we often accomplish nothing. 

In the end, my daughter called.  She’d be coming home in an hour!  A rare treat!  We only see her a few times a year now as she is in college, living at the beach this summer, and traveling still between jobs.  She’d be crashing at our house for just tonight.  She wants sushi rolls for supper.  Downtown.  With all the trendy people under perpetual Christmas lights with their shiny cars that are parked by the valet. 

So now that I’m free tonight, it’s a date.  Our family goes.  My seven year old has only a banana split with massive whip cream and ice cream for dinner, as he is not sushi-tolerant yet.  I justify this sugar infusion since he will also be dealing with sleep deprivation tomorrow at school.  Oh well, not my problem. 

And so it goes.  Another day in the life of Liz.  No two hours are the same.  If you have a family you may have a life like that too.  You wake up dreaming of order and art; you close the day with chaos, crabmeat, and chopsticks eating “Steven Tyler”.  It’s TRUE!  That’s what my sushi dish was called; The Steven Tyler.  It was delicious!   We also ate the Bob Marley but passed on the Marilyn Monroe.

A change of plans is our only constant in our busy lives.  We’ve but one option:  Roll with it.

“It was amazing how you could get so far from where you’d planned, and yet find it was exactly were you needed to be.”  Sarah Dessen: “What Happened to Goodbye”

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.    Ecclesiastes 3:1

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

It’s All Good

Wow, has it ever been a week!  It started on Monday!  I had just gotten my weekly manicure and pedicure at Paradise Salon when I chipped my middle nail on my right hand as I fumbled for my Jag’s keys.

“Lord, have mercy!” I shouted to no one in hearing range.  I was already running late to meet Betsy for lunch.  She always chastises my organizational skills because I never get to lunch first.  How are we going to have enough time to plan EVERYTHING necessary for the Association’s Charity Ball now?  I can just hear her think this as I peel out of the parking lot.

Fine then.   I wouldn’t have even been late if I hadn’t spent the extra fifteen minutes this morning arguing with my husband. When I opened the dryer earlier that morning, a rogue blue sock had tumbled out in a sea of my silky whites.

“WHAT’S THIS?!?!?    Damn it, Charles!  If I told you once, I have told you a thousand times, DON’T MIX COLORS WITH WHITE!”  He just doesn’t get it.  He thinks apologies should just cover everything.  Well not this time, mister.  I want you to learn to listen to me!  Clearly he’s off his meds again.

Lunch was pretty much an exercise in futility as Betts shot down all my ideas for the ball, but giggled that annoying little 7th grade laugh of hers, as she showed me her designer’s plans for the ballroom that all her friends just raved about.

On Tuesday my daughter Crystal informed she got a B- in Honors Calculus.  Seriously?  After all that money we spent on tutoring last year?

“College is competitive Missy.  I don’t know what your problem is, but you need to pull yourself together.”

“Okay, Mom!  I get it.  I know!  Dad went to Brown, as did his father and his father.  I am doing my level best to march lock step in line with your plans for me, so I won’t be the first to break our family honored chain of tradition!”

   Crystal does that.  She has this way of being sarcastic when she knows she screwed up.  Deep down, she knows her father and I only want what’s truly best for her.

The rest of the week was exhausting.  I was dealt an impossible to do list:  Take our oldest son Will’s Tahoe to the shop for an oil change.  A second meeting finalizing the Charity Ball plans.   Take my mother in law to her weekly bridge club.   Deal with the frisky exterminator, what’s his problem?  Finish my Christmas shopping for all 6 of our siblings and their kids!   Unload all the groceries and then realize I forgot the freaking dental flossPeggy, our housekeeper of fifteen years gets sick the week of Thanksgiving!  Great!

Finally, on Friday I had to chaperone Jason and an entire class of second graders on a field trip to what else?  A water treatment plan where we all learned how raw sewage is recycled back into water.  I swear from this day forward, it’s Evian or nothing at all for me.   Then, wouldn’t you know it, when I was at the smelliest part of the water treatment facility, about a half mile from where I had parked, I tripped over a rock, and broke the heal on one of my brand new Jimmy Choos.  I had to finish the field trip by precariously balancing my weight on my good left leg and tip-toeing on the right.

I barely got home in time to watch Days of our Lives.

What’s this?   Right there smack in the middle of our wall screen, our dusty old box TV with rabbit ears from the attic was perched on a card table.

I called my husband at the hospital immediately!  “Page Dr. Clark stat,” I yelled at the very rude receptionist.   You’d think a busy metropolitan hospital could page a neurosurgeon in under twenty minutes.  What if someone had an actual emergency?

    Twenty minutes later, Charles informs me the overhead projector is broken so he took it to be repaired this morning.  “So I set up our old TV in the living room, because I know that’s where you like to sip your coffee as you watch your Days.”

    “Thank you,” I mumbled.  Bless his heart, he really does try sometimes.   I collapsed in a heap on the sofa.  I couldn’t help it.  I started crying.

Suddenly a memory crept up towards the surface of my consciousness.  When I was a little girl, probably no more than seven, I can remember I once fell off my Princess Daisy bike and scraped my cheek a little bit.  My granny Pearl was the one who parted my hair back off my face, wiped the dirt and blood off with her clean little hanky, and kissed my tear-stained cheek.

    “There there, my baby girl.  It’s not so bad.  You’re gonna have days like this,” she softly whispered.

“Yeah, but I’m going to be in the Little Miss Charleston Pageant this weekend and now I’ll be the only one who is ugly.” 

She laughed and laughed.  That made me cry more.  “Child, you’re no more ugly than the sun is freezing.  You’ve got to relax sometimes.  Just go with the flow.    It’s all good!”

  It’s all good.  I try to remember that when I have a week like this one.

I do something next I haven’t done in a really long time.  I probably haven’t done this since my granny used to take me to Sunday school all those years ago all decked out in bobby sox and Buster Brown Mary Janes.  I get out my bible.  I close my eyes and open it up to any old random page.  I put my finger on the page.  I open it up.  Then I smile.

Well, golly gee, I can just hear my granny say, look at the encouragement the Good Lord left for you today:

For we know all things work to the good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.  Romans 8:28

     It’s all good.  Indeed.

Pen Fed

Photo credit:  Promopencollector.com

Grab your nearest pen and examine it’s features. Is it a micro billboard for a dentist, a plumber, a church, an insurance agency?  Where did you get it?  Did you acquire it honestly or do you just have no idea where it came from?

If you are in the latter category, you may have PKD or partial kleptomania disorder.  You don’t mean to steal pens; you just do.  “Can I borrow a pen please?” is code for “you’re never gonna see this baby again.”

Maybe it started as a baby when you held your first rattle.   Maybe it started as a toddler in preschool when the other kid’s toy was more desirable than yours, so–

You snatched it.

You weren’t thinking of the future.  You were living in the now, a positive character trait you perhaps spent untold thousands of dollars relearning from your shrink, as you learned to let it go (all your anxiety) and embrace the present (for it is indeed a gift).

The thing is we live in a highly distractible world.  Most people schedule their calendar, pay their bills, check their email, conduct their personal and professional calls, and tweet and post to the world their minute by minute status at the CLICK of a button on a vast array of smart devices.

Not me.  I mean I have a smart phone and I use some of its features.  But I’m still a pen and paper kind of gal. And my pocket book runs deeper than my memory.  I mean way deep.

Even when I’m up to my elbows in used Kleenexes, crumpled coupons, crumb-crusted chopped off lipstick tubes with no tops, loose coins, a few Happy Meal toys, and my emergency dollar (to be used only if the apocalypse is suddenly upon us) I continuously bump up against this truth:

I can’t find my friggin’ pen!

So I feign extreme hardship and ask the nearest stranger that exudes an ounce of grace, may I please borrow one.    I bat my eyelashes, and voila!

A new pen magically appears in my hand!

Van Cleef and Arpels — Montblanc’s Mystery Masterpiece — Value:  $730,000

So I write my check at the check-out line, and then notice I can’t find my phone.  Hey, where did my kid go?  He was right here!  Dang it!  The cashier already bagged my stash and forgot to use the reusable bags under my cart again!  On and on the physical and mental drama continues.  But time marches forward quickly.  Soon I find my kid, load my car with supplies, and what seems like a matter of nanoseconds, I am at the bank teller line, ready to make a deposit.  Correction, ready to make a withdrawal and play a round of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” with a variety of low-valued bank accounts.

I hit SEND in the bank’s drive thru line, as I simultaneously hit CALL.  Whoosh, goes the pneumatic cylinder, straight to the banker’s awaiting hands.  “May I help you?” she asks, sensing I’ve just wasted electricity to send her a tube of nothing.

“May I borrow a pen, please?”

“No problem, Liz.”

I love it.  They all know me.  How is it that a big metropolitan bank has an entire staff who knows me personally by name, despite an absence of large funds or influence?  Now that’s service.

And then I remember, oh yeah, I already got a pen. Oh well.   By now, the new pen has sailed effortlessly through space and time and is now in my hand conducting complicated banking business.

“Liz?” the teller asks.

“Yes?”

“It looks like your front tire is low on air.  You may wanna take a look at that.”

Seriously?  Now that is PHENOMENAL service I think.   I’m so inspired by this teller’s personal concern I may go home and write a letter of commendation to the branch manager.

“Thank you!  I will!” as I send back the various checks, withdrawal, and transfer slips, and a roll of coins as I remember, oops, you’re not supposed to send those.  You might clog the pipes.  Too late!

Whoosh!  The various receipts come back.  Thanks again!” I exclaim as I drive off, still so happy that my bank teller is more concerned about my personal welfare than just money.

An hour later I’m home, the tire’s infused with fresh air, my kid’s had his meal on wheels, and all our supplies our mostly put away.  My son is ready to do his homework.

Arrrghh!  He can’t find his pencil, one of at least two hundred I’ve surely bought this year, a penance or form of poetic justice I suppose, and one I endure often.    I plunge both arms into my pocket book to see if I can find a token of tree and lead.

“Just forget about it” I say, “just use a pen this time.”  I pray his first grade teacher doesn’t mind.

Oh no!  I’m plagued with guilt.  I silently ask God for forgiveness.  Almost immediately, this burden mysteriously lifts.

“Which one do you want?” I ask my son.  The purple one (Dr. Elvin Schmidt, Proctologist) or the black one (Black Bic, no frills—probably came from the bank).

I try to behave, be kind, and live in the truth.  But if you ever find yourself annoyed, because you can’t find your pen as you spin a 360 stammering, “I just had it!”, then I humbly ask your forgiveness now.

For I am just a lowly, aspiring writer whose brain thinks at a slightly higher RPM than a car’s tachometer straining in the red zone.

I can only say a prayer and hope St. Peter holding his Book of Life has his pen firmly in his grasp.

Back In the Day: Life in the Twenty Fish Century

The Great One and Various Other Actors

My six year old son always keeps us in stitches!   Tonight it was announced during our family dinner of Stouffer’s lasagna, sweet corn on the cob, and sliced home baked pumpkin vanilla chip bread* (not made by me) that following supper there would be a performance play of epic proportions to be performed by:

The one, the only—–The Great One!   Our little six year old!

 He dictated to us the start time (ASAP) and length of our required attendance (one hour)!   So no TV tonight!

It was past 9 pm.  Most children are long asleep.  I’d already received six phone calls full of details that had made my head spin during the preparation of dinner.  My husband and adult children came in intermittently as they all got off work.  My mom came over.  My needy cats needed food and medicine.   So I was already a wee bit tired when my theatre star son announced the required play we would all be attending.    I really wasn’t in the mood for another play choreographed, produced, and acted by the same person who starred in last night’s play.

Alas, the emperor had spoken and my wishes were simply that—wishes.   Dinner was to be wolfed as quickly as possible so we could all see the amazing and fantastic play.  Oh, and audience participation would be required.

I got the dishwasher loaded.  I got off a long-distance call from my dad whom I hadn’t spoken to in months.  I took Tylenol for the migraine that was returning from the night before.

I sat down and tried to dig deep into my exhausted body and muster up some enthusiasm.  I was sitting beside my mom.  My husband was in a chair beside her with our cat’s Elizabethan collar upside down on his head.  This collar prescribed by our vet is used to keep animals from licking injuries, but my husband calls it “The Collar of Shame” from a movie I clearly never saw.  His lampshade-attachment like choice of accessorizing made him appear to be a rickshaw driver.  Do not ask me why he was wearing the cat’s collar.  I have learned in my world it is better not to question some things.  My six- and-a-half foot tall adult son stood beside me near the door in case he needed to make a hasty exit.  My daughter was given a pass by my six year old since there was no more room for people or pets to sit or stand in our sunroom that doubles as a Toys-R-Us, when it’s not being used for off-Broadway plays.

The house lights were darkened.  The conductor (my son) flipped a switch and the programmed organ began to play a classical rendition of Deck the Halls sung by tonight’s soloist (my son). Then the star of the show (also my son) made a compelling announcement to the audience!

Welcome Everyone!  This Play is About:   

Back in The Day of the Twenty Fish Century!!!!!!

Dun Dunna Duh Duh he trumpeted!!

Well okay then!  Maybe this play won’t be so bad after all.  I’d love to hear about life in the TWENTY FISH century.  I wonder if it’s better than the twenty-one-ways-of-communication century I’m living in every day!    I figured I was about to be entertained by a riveting story similar to the times our Lord and Saviour lived in.    A story where people baked bread with yeast, and made loaves that fed multitudes.  A place where the roads were made of dirt and only the prosperous or the greedy had sandals or donkeys anyway.  A story where fish really had a starring role and where fishermen fished for real men AND fish.  Regrettably, I was about to be disappointed.

Where’s the concession stand I wanted to know!  I would like a Moonpie and an RC Cola please!!

Ain’t happening.  Take your seat I was informed!  My tall grown up son was roughed up a little bit and tapped on the back with an umbrella hook by security (my son) for attempting to leave in the middle of the play, which sort of (okay—a lot)  was lacking in plot, character development, and believability.    It didn’t matter.  This displeased the emperor (my son) and so security (also my son) was called in for non-compliant patrons.

The rest of the obedient audience, that is my mom, husband, and myself, continued to endure the show:  a mixture of a laser light show (a light from a broken electronic slinky), a frightening song about ghosts being on the ceiling and inside of our head which was penned and performed for the first time ever, on the spot, by the singer (my son).  Then we were treated to a stirring rendition of Für Elise set to a backdrop of an electronic metronome.

Occasionally the actor in his limited reading ability did seek help from his grandmother to help him read the verbal script that she had helped him prepare prior to the show.  He stumbled on one line, quickly gained composure, and then delivered this line perfectly:

     Okay, this is the part you are really going to freak out!

Again, however, the plot weakened.  I didn’t freak out, but I did look at my wrist praying a watch had somehow materialized.    That’s when the emcee (also my son) announced the play no longer had a set time to end.

That did it!  I revolted!  I turned on the lamp and thanked him for the amazing and exciting performance.  We were all affected beyond belief!  We would not forget this night ever.  We could not if we tried!     You see, we love the movie star who was in it.  Even though the entertainment can sometimes be sub-par, he really has a way of hooking the audience—literally!    Every star makes their share of box office flops; why should my child be the exception?  The point is this—it’s the passion and the intention of what he was trying to get across:

I love my family!  This is so much fun!  Thanks for coming to see ME in MY SHOW!  Creating this for you has been my supreme joy!  This audience rocks!

The truth is, we had lots of moments when we laughed.  There were indeed moments I thought I might cry.  There were boring parts and there were parts with music.  Not a lot different than when we shell out $11.95 at the theater to go see a movie on a Friday night after our tax refund finally arrives!  Okay, so the story was a bit lacking.  But you know?  You get what you pay for!

But spending quality time with a family you just might be too embarrassed to go out in public with anyway after a delicious dinner, in the presence of a rising star?  Well now, that’s priceless!