Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ode to tayte

Two years ago he was five pounds and resting a lot from an early birth. I remember treasuring the opportunity to just be still, sitting on the couch and watching snow fall while he slept in my lap. By doctors' standards he came a bit early, but really he was -- and still is -- right on time.

He still can't say my name, but I like to think he's starting to recognize me. This morning we played our version of hide and seek, and I'm now convinced it's the best game ever. (What aunt wouldn't love to see her nephew jump with delight when he sees her come around the corner?)

Somehow, without knowing how great it would be, I've been given one of the most precious gifts: being an aunt to some of the cutest, most fun and creative kids around.

(...more photos to come later in the week, I hope...)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

#reverb10 day 18: try

#rever10 day 18: Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

By nature, I'm not one to try new things eagerly. I find comfort in the familiar. I prefer staying home to going out. I often choose close friends over meeting new people. I like to know my boundaries and stay within them. I like it safe.

But, mercifully, life has involved a lot of trying new things. I wouldn't have likely chosen many of these things on my own, but they've been woven into a fabric of discovery, of learning, and of periodical failure, all enriching life tremendously. Now I choose to try things, if tentatively, knowing that I need to keep these muscles loose. Trying requires flexibility, perseverance, practice, and being a learner -- all values of mine, all traits I want in greater measure.

My new "try" adventure feels big to me. It'll require a lot if I'm to really give it a good go. And there's a very good chance I'll be no good at it. But that's ok.

I want to try swimming.

A few months back, after running a half-marathon, I read a blog post about a woman who had made it her goal to complete a sprint triathlon. Something moved inside me and I thought, I want to do that. One small obstacle is that I have never in my life swum laps. And so my first step is to learn to swim distances. Or to try, at least.

Friday, December 10, 2010

#reverb10 day 10: God, gluten, and the good in listening

#reverb10 day 10: Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

(I'm trying not to start blog posts with qualifiers, but I think this post merits one: I talk about my faith here because I couldn't tell this story without it. Also, this post doesn't seem very well organized... I think I bit off more than I could chew. So I welcome your feedback about faith, writing, disease, or whatever else strikes you about this post!)

In May I was talking to a dear friend about her husband's decision to stop eating gluten. Sometime during our conversation I shared my curiousity if the diet would help me, too, but then proceded to list all of my hesitations. And at the end I said, "And I don't want to do it if it won't cure me*."

She looked at me and said, "Even if it helps you to feel better?"

I honestly hadn't thought about this as a benefit, but her insistence made me re-consider. And after a few more months of weighing my options, doing some research, and much prayer**, I took the leap. On August 1 I stopped eating gluten and I haven't regretted it since. (Okay, maybe when I took my sister and her husband to my favorite pizza restaurant...)

The deeper lesson that I was somehow ready to learn this year is that disease is an invitation to listen more deeply to my body. The wise thing I did this year is respond.

This might sound trite, especially if you haven't ever managed life with a chronic disease. Life is changed forever with a simple diagnosis. It's changed by never-ending doctor's appointments, medication four times a day, new [sometimes scary] symptoms to assess, and future prognoses. But I have to tell you that in some ways, my diagnosis -- or rather, how I've been formed as I've responded to God about it -- has saved my life. I've been challenged to get more active. I've learned to rest well. And I've slowly been healed some old wounds regarding food.

I'm tempted to get all gushy about gluten-free living, but enough other bloggers have gone there. I think what I really want to say about wisdom is that my relationship with a loving God who I believe cares about even these seemingly little decisions is what helps me take steps that are wise. For me, it's really about obedience. I don't know if all of you reading this will agree -- and if you don't, I welcome your comments that say as much. What I know is that I DO feel better, that it's been totally worth it, and that only God could convince me to give up gluten.

*Three years ago, I was diagnosed with mild-moderate Crohn's disease.
**I firmly believe that God cares about these decisions and has a word to speak to us about them. In fact, my final decision came after praying and having a sense that this new step was something God has for me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

#reverb10 day 9: thirty came exactly as it should

#reverb10 day 9: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

At one point during the night I thought, I should have some photos of this.

I didn't want it to, but Thirty was becoming an increasingly Big Deal to me. There are so many conventions about what life should hold at this milestone and mine held none -- or so it seemed to me. Still, I knew I had reason to celebrate big, in my own way.

I never did take a photo; I was having too much fun.

But imagine this:

Our long dining room table full of pizza toppings -- cheeses and roasted veggies, bacon, chicken, and proscuitto, herbs and sauces. And balls of pizza dough. Trays, soon crisped with burnt cheese, cutting boards and plates and napkins. It got messy but the best parties do, right? I opened the bottle of wine I'd been saving from my trip to Napa, and friends brought bottles more, all open and flowing. A cake or two. Friends, children, even a dog, from our dining room out the french doors to the front lawn. Music curated from the 80's and 90's, one for each year of my life. A few gifts; dear friends gathered from my six years here; thoughts of family and friends who couldn't be a part of the celebration but who are always close to my heart.

These details made it memorable. But I suppose any photos of the night probably wouldn't have captured what it was I really wanted to remember years from now: the sense that life is unfolding as it should. Thirty didn't come too soon or with too little force or too few accompaniments or accomplishments, but exactly as it was meant to. It came in the middle of a messy, music-filled Friday night, surrounded by food and friends and love. Oh, and that wine.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

breaking my brain

So here's the truth: I haven't written regularly in a long time, and now it's been six consecutive days of not only writing, but publishing it on a blog. This is new territory for me.

My pastor once used the expression "break your brain." He was referring to that moment when you pass the threshold of what comes easily and enter a new zone of operating. This, of course, doesn't come naturally. There's often a breaking of what is so that there can be a kind of re-forming. Did you know you have to tear muscle to build it? That's what happens when you start a new exercise program -- and feel that muscle ache a day or two after.

My point is that my brain is broken right now. For the first few days I was on a bit of a high and felt an incredible surge of creativity and excitement. But words for the recent prompts haven't come as easily. Today's prompt is about community -- and while I have a few stories lying around here somewhere, today I can't quite form them. They have to do with conflict and housemates and leaning into it. So stay tuned, the stories will show up here soon.

(I hope.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

#reverb10 day 6: making and being made

First, a little blog business: a HUGE thanks to all of you who are reading and especially to those who have left comments. I haven't responded to any, but I've been super encouraged that some of you have connected to the posts. I'm still figuring out how I'll respond to folks who comment here, but I didn't want your sentiments to go unrecognized until I figure that out.

#reverb10 day 6: Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

For a dear friend's baby shower this past weekend, I made a card and included a print out of a super cute baby celebration print that I've ordered to be made after her little sweet-stuff is born. Anthropologie catalogues are my favorite for inspiration -- color, texture, images -- so I used part of a photo of a sweater to create a pattern on the card. Then, to go with the theme of the gift and the thoughtfulness and care the parents are putting into choosing a name, I wrote on the front the last line of Isaiah 43:1: "I have called you by name, you are mine."

I'm always drawn to paper goods. I think it has to do with their practical nature mixed with the potential for a bit of beauty, and the fact that they are meant for communication -- something I'm becoming more and more passionate about. During and after college, making cards and envelopes was my prime creative outlet. In fact, card-making was in part how I discovered that I was creative. (Maybe more on that in another post.) In a recent mondo beyondo list I made, I named creating and selling a line of cards as a dream of mine. Someday...

A few other random thoughts about making:
  • My friend Charissa writes a blog about gift-wrapping and has composed some insightful entries about why we make. Definitely worth checking out.
  • I'm in San Francisco on a short work trip right now. What an inspiring place to think more about making -- so much of it going on around here.
  • This morning, as part of my advent practice, I read Psalm 148. The first few verses talk about nature praising God "for he commanded and they were created." I've been reflecting today about what it means to praise God simply because He created me, because I am one who is made.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

#reverb10 day 5: the good in letting go

#reverb10 day 5: Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

Warning: slightly stream of consciousness...

I'm having trouble starting this one, but not for lack of having let go. My first idea was a list. And it wouldn't be a short one. But that's not to brag, because life is just as much about letting go as it is about gaining things. In the Bible, Job famously says, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

But the thing I really want to write about is this relationship that I let go of -- or really, I want to talk about how it's ok to let go of people we love. You see, I don't let go of relationships very easily. Loyalty is a high value to me. But there's something about relationships that I'm learning. Namely, that some aren't meant to last a lifetime. (Have you all learned this already? Am I terribly far behind?)

I won't divulge much about this particular friendship here. But I will say that I love this friend deeply. There are beautiful things that she offered me in our friendship that I didn't receive anywhere else. She has spoken words to me that I still hold on to as very precious, words that God wanted me to hear. She affirmed me and cared for me during some really difficult times. And through our friendship I was awakened to creativity, girliness, and intuition in a new way.

But the truth is that we've started journeying down some pretty different paths, places we can't, or won't, walk with each other. I think we've both come to accept this, and we've made our peace in our own ways. It's challenged me to hold on to the good that was our friendship but only for a time, to recognize that God placed her in my life for a specific season, but that season is over. Does this make sense?

One of the treasures of this process has been sharing this burden of letting go with others around me and finding that they've gone down the same road, or that they're walking alongside me in their own process. We aren't really alone even when we think we are.

Another treasure is finding that I'm becoming different about relationships. Maybe it's that letting go of something creates a needed distance for us in other areas, too, realizing that nothing is ours to keep forever.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

#reverb10 day 4: looking at the sky

#reverb10 day 4: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

wonder (n.) a feeling of surprise and admiration that you have when you see or experience something beautiful, unusual or unexpected

I kept trying to get them to lie on the grass with me. Maybe it was because I was tired. I had just flown from the west coast to the east, an all-day affair, then took Andrew and Natalie to the park while their parents went to a school open house. First we did the swings, then we played Jonah and the Whale, then tag -- up the stairs, down the slide, under the jungle gym, screaming the whole time. I loved this play, loved seeing their imagination at work, loved seeing their new tricks and how daring they can be at trying new things.

But I just wanted to lie on the grass, just wanted to look at the sky.

Natalie finally agreed. Andrew still wanted to run, and I figured if he saw us on the grass together he might come over eventually -- and it worked. So I got on my back, and Natalie snuggled close to me.

"What do you see?" I asked her.

And we started our list: clouds, tree limbs, leaves. Then we saw the smaller things, farther away things, and the things that are so obvious sometimes we miss them. The birds dancing in a wide waltz between the trees. The faintest image of the moon starting to show. Blue that went on forever.

I closed my eyes and breathed in. Sometimes we become aware of how complex life really is, once we get out of our daily routine and stand at a distance. There was this trip and my family and how intensely I miss home sometimes. And there my running injury and the half-marathon I had trained hard for bu likely wouldn't run in a few days. And there was a man. There was disappointment and confusion and joy all mixed together.

Like looking at the sky.

After a few minutes, Natalie was up and wanted another go at the monkey bars. So the chasing continued. But we had our few moments of sky-gazing, of seeing things we never expected to see.

Friday, December 3, 2010

#reverb10 day 3: rolling down hills

#reverb10 day 3: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

If play were my art, then Amelia would be my muse. She plays hard, as if life depended on it. (And doesn’t it?) In the generous light of an early spring evening we had a whole park as our playground, but we chose the hill by the baseball field. On the count of three we closed our eyes and let ourselves go, over grass and bumps, down and around, ending on our backs, the sun our spotlight, giggling in wonder. At thirty, I’ve learned to be a child again. I have her to thank.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

#reverb10 day 2: the art of doing imperfectly

#reverb10 day 2 prompt: What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing -- and can you eliminate it?

A few weeks ago I was sharing with a mentor about a new opportunity -- related to writing -- on the horizon. From what I know on this side of it, it will require a lot of work and involve a steep learning curve. And for that reason, I was telling her, if it doesn't work out I won't be devasted. Sensing my hesitation, she started to poke around and led me to start thinking about mediocrity versus excellence. Now we all know that doing something excellently requires lots of practice (10,000 hour rule), and likely many experiences of missing the mark before you finally hit it. That's true for this new opportunity, and to be honest, I'm scared.

And this led us to talk about the need for perfection.

She and I (and many of you) are wired the same: we want to do it perfectly or not do it at all. But this creates a huge block because, knowing we're bound to fail or be just mediocre or make a few mistakes, there are many things we don't even try. She's learning the art of doing imperfectly, she said, and told me a story of her recent experience with it. I felt some relief. (Because, I'm leveling with you here: I still have a mommy complex, I still see authority as perfect, and my mentor is pretty darn cool. But she's not perfect! I don't have to be perfect either!)

For me, learning the art of doing imperfectly means deciding to be ok with a couple of things:

being a learner instead of always a master
showing weakness when I'd rather be seen as strong
letting go of ideals and seeing what new skills, ideas, feelings arise

One final note about this: the idea of the imperfect isn't new to me. What's new is that in the past, it's led me to settle for mediocrity. Case in point: In high school I graduated at the head of my class. The months and weeks leading up to graduation were so incredibly stressful for me that when it came to choosing a college, I chose to be mediocre and anonymous; I wanted to hide and my decision on where I would attend college and how I would approach my time there reflected that. The experience has been redeemed, but that's not the point. Being ok with doing something imperfectly serves to get us past blocks so we can practice, play, try things out, and eventually be excellent (not perfect). I'm trying this out not only in writing, but in other areas, too: work, cooking, running, my image and the way I present myself, artistic ventures, etc.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

one word: strength

Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

In a word, 2010 was about gaining strength.

I ran my first half marathon. Long runs, early mornings (and early bedtimes), and repeated mantras taught me that distance running is about mental strength as much, if not more, that it is about physical. Still, my body feels strong, which is a feeling I took for granted for a long time. Mentally I got over my blocks -- first it was hills, then six miles, and most recently it's been 10. I still start to freak out in the middle of some of those long runs, but with more and more miles under my belt, the long runs come a little easier (and are even fun!).

Too, I've gained more substance. The physical body is a good metaphor: less flab, more muscle. I'm more weighty. I have more to offer. The half marathon was a physical manifestation (and perhaps helped to manifest) what's been happening in other areas of life. My work, my relationships, my spiritual life -- I've worked hard, trained some important muscles, and have repeated sacred mantras to keep me focused on what I really want.

And a note about this: I attribute it, really, to God's work in my life. The other morning I read this verse and said to myself, "yes."
For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
He grants peace within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat.
-Psalm 147-13-14

As for 2011, the first word that came to mind was success. I'm going with my gut here. I have to admit it feels slightly uncomfortable -- I'd prefer a word less competitive and showy, like comfort or curl-up-with-a-book-and-hide. But I plan to keep exercising my new strength and see what good it brings. Some exciting opportunities are on the horizon; I have good feelings about 2011.

december blogging: #reverb10

This morning I read on another blog about #reverb10. Prompts are good, and I love a good end-of reflection. So meet me here for the next 31 days. Warning: some entries will be quick and dirty, just to write and get something down. I'll try to put more effort and craft into some of them (maybe even a photo if you're lucky!).

Leave a comment with your reflection, or let me know you're playing along, on a blog or your own personal journal.

First entry, coming up tonight.