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Happy Easter

photo   I have been making Pizzelles today. It’s an Italian Easter tradition.  Did I mention I’m not Italian?  Nope, I’m Portuguese and English but I married into an Italian family and when an Italian family loves you, you become Italian. So after two batches which take a dozen eggs, a pound of butter and three cups of sugar I am now picking off the edges of the crispy cookies so they look half way decent when I give them away.  Because that’s another Italian tradition. You don’t just kill yourself making an immense mountain of cookies, you then give them away. So as I am picking off the edges because I haven’t nailed the exact amount of batter one needs to make the perfect Pizzelle, I’m thinking there might be a newer version of a Pizzelle maker.  One that doesn’t require the laborious work of picking off the edges.  You know some newly edged, sharp and shiny machine that creates the perfect edge free Pizzelles.

Then I look at my Pizzelle maker.  It had to have been made in the 60’s, and that’s being generous.  It is blackened in spots on the outside.  It has the words Automatic written on the front for whatever it was automatic for at the time, but when you open it up and it is shiny. The diamond light still shines every time I plug it in and it has never failed to work properly once you get past the first two.  Which is apparently a rule and a chance for the first taste, which usually goes to the kids who are hovering around me like vultures.

This Pizzelle maker belonged to my mother-in-law, an amazing woman who would bake ten times the amount of cookies I do. Who would give them all away so she was left with only a few “that she really didn’t need to eat anyway” as she would say.  My mother-in-law who passed away in the few short years I met and married her son.  I barely had her in my life for three years and yet she impressed upon me the importance of making and giving Easter cookies.  It is not Easter without Easter cookies.  It is not Easter without a bit of her.

So I guess I’ll keep my old, beaten, Pizzelle Maker and I’ll spend the week before Easter making, clipping and wrapping up cookies, and when I see the smile on the bus driver’s face, or get an email from one of the kid’s teachers expressing their absolute love for the few cookies they received I’ll know that was the legacy Natalie gave to me, not just the making of the cookies, but the happiness she found in giving them all away.  Happy Easter Natalie.

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The Hospitality Story

So at church we were asked to write a short story about hospitality because our new pastor has this uncanny gift for remembering everyone’s skills, passions and talents and wants to include as many people into things as she can (don’t think I didn’t notice), and of course in my unmistakable, yet unintentional contrary way I wrote about the absence of hospitality.  Here is my story.

The Absence of Hospitality

I know I was supposed to write about hospitality.  And I swear I had one or two stories in my head ready to go but this one kept coming to me and after the persistent thought came for the fourth time in a week I was like, “Fine!  I’ll write the thing even if it doesn’t get used,” then I added furiously, “but it has to have an ending, you know.  It has to have a point.”  I implored to the sky.  I felt just a smile, a knowing smile and I gave back a frustrated sigh.

You see the problem with this story, other than it doesn’t exactly fit into the requested parameters,  is that it is not necessarily a story but a series of images with a story that grows up and around those images.

I had to have been four or five years old, just barely five anyway.  We had just recently moved into Navy Housing.  I remember the clean kitchen counter, the empty kitchen drawer, open and being filled.  I remember pulling the plastic Kool Aid pitcher out of a box and either my mother or an older cousin pouring the grape Kool Aid mix into it, the puffy purple cloud coming up, filling my nose and making me sneeze.  I remember the silver ring on the back of the package and pulling out the recently placed scissors, too sharp for me to use, to cut it out and the five year old satisfaction of seeing that Kool Aid ring around my finger.

There was this huge park behind my house and I was so excited to go out and play.  There was thick mud circling the merry-go-round with footprints pressed upon former footprints.  There were puddles under the swings and little balls of earth where the earthworms had come out and then jumped right back into the earth again.  The air was crisp but smelled like a patch of spring making a surprise appearance in the middle of winter.  On the merry-go-round, there was a little girl, about my age, wearing a pink spring jacket and purple rain boots.

I skipped up to her the way a young Navy child who has moved too many times in her short lifetime would and asked,  “Do you want to be friends?”

“No!” she screamed and ran off.

I made a few friends that day for it is hard to resist a sudden spring day wrapped in the middle of winter.  I made even more friends in the days following, and more still in the years after that.  I don’t have any ill feelings toward the girl, and yet I still remember that day.  The images, smells and sensations come up so very clear in my mind when an unexpected spring breeze brings its scent to me.

And I think.  Did Mary remember every sensation of that night?  Every “no,” every slammed door causing her to put her experiences to memory.  Years later did she remember the sound of gravel under her feet, the smells lingering in the air, the taste of wine on her lips?  Was every moment etched in her mind because the sting of rejection made it stay?

I remember the birth of my five children.  I remember holding each one in my arms but I don’t remember the smell of the day, whether it was warm or cold, and I admit that out of the five a few may be blurred together.  Mary would have gone on to have many more children.  It was expected in those days, but this birth, I believe, stayed with her.  This birth was the memory that turned into a tale that eventually became one simple Bible verse we hear every Christmas.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

                                                    Luke 2:7

The beginning of a story told over and over again that would eventually go to live on forever.  Sometimes negative things need to happen, to spur us on, hold us back a little or make the memories stay, so that the one, all important story, gets written.

There’s more to this story that I couldn’t let go.  I am connected to the written word, stories most of all.  Everything I write is true, if not written off my heart.  I didn’t necessarily know where this one was going.  I thought maybe I would talk about how bad things happen to bring about good things or something along those lines, but I stepped away, which I often do when I am writing, and after a perusal of my Bible and a little bit of rewriting in the shower that is what I came away with.

Later that night I saw the Bible open in my bathroom and I marveled.  I shook my head in amazement. He pulled me in.  I have mentioned before that while my concept of God was getting bigger I seemed to have lost my personal relationship with Him.  I noticed at my daughter’s youth group meeting, that I sort of helped out with, that I could write all the other parts of the prayer with specific details but I could not write “God I love you.”  I have also written that every time I pull away He is waiting there ready to spread his arms and take me back.  I have never, until right now, wrote that He pulled me to Him.  That He sent out a lifeline, tossed it my way and hoped I would grab hold and He used a story to do it.  So today I am grateful that He loves me even if I can’t say it back to Him.  Today I am grateful I’m a little closer to the end of my journey because that is what this is, MY journey.  I will find my way back to him but it won’t because someone told me what to believe, or told me how to behave or expected me to take everything written and spoken as fact it will be because I walked back to him straight up with a belief that was mine, a relationship that was real and a strength no one will ever be able to take away from me.

Today I am thankful…Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

 

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Big Depression

Warning: Entry is a Little Depressing

It is.  I’m sorry.  But as I was going through this particular bout I noticed something.  I felt better when I heard someone else describing their great sorrow, a song or someone talking on the radio.  The words just sort of washed over me and I was like yeah, that is how it feels and believe it or not, I felt better.  Not so much because someone else was commiserating with me but because someone else had put to words the very thing I was feeling and that took my depression from my head and into the real world where I could fight it.  So if you’re not depressed, or if you are on the edge and might become depressed then by all means don’t read this, but if you need to have your feelings put into words, if you need your depression made real for all the world to see, then here it is;

I feel my head swimming, confused, unable to focus on anything for long, unable to bring a coherent thought to the front of my mind and form it into speech.  My limbs feel as if they weigh a hundred pounds, each.  My heart beats sluggishly as if it is pushing wet cement through my veins instead of blood.  Any moment now my heart will harden and my chest will fall to the floor forever leaving me unable to feel anything. ever. again.

I’m pushing my way through depression, again.  I just can’t stop my mind from focusing on the fact that I subbed for four weeks, did a damn good job and didn’t get the position and now I have to get myself up tomorrow and go back into that school, walk through those doors and pretend it is not tearing my soul to shreds.  I could easily rant through the reasons and arguments but it’ll do no good toward easing my sorrow, so why bother bringing that negativity into my being.

I tried to feel the pain and disappointment.  I tried to let myself work it through.  I let myself be sad.  I let myself cry but some time last night the depression hit me hard and fast and I fell under like a drug going straight into the vein, bringing torment and pain as it burned through my bloodstream.

Disappointments happen.  I get that.  The problem is the average person does not get assaulted with mind numbing, soul sucking depression when the disappointments happen; I do.  It’s an affliction.  It’s a curse and even though I know it is making me stronger…I don’t want it.  You can have the strength.  I’ll take weak and happy, any day.

I’m not exactly sure where I’m supposed to go from here.  If I wasn’t suffering from depression I would be applying for jobs, trying to find a publisher, maybe writing and editing and possibly cleaning my house.  I would be productive and be feeling good about what I’m accomplishing.

I try to feel the wind on my face.  I try to slack off or push through depending on what I’m capable of within each moment.  I’ve read three books in less than a week and I meditated and yet I am still carrying around this rock in my stomach and these limbs, with hardly enough energy to lift themselves much less do anything.

I have to believe that God wouldn’t give me this unless I could win, that there has to be something inside of me that will allow me to pull through this.  That the strength and power to overcome this oppressive, all encompassing, torment is within me.  Or maybe it’s simply time to call out, out to the heavens, I can’t do this on my own, I need help.  I’m drowning in darkness and I need the light to pull me through.  Dear God, Please help me.  I’m broken and I don’t know how to put myself back together.

***

I’m better, really.  The real bad depression lasted about a week.  On the depression scale; 0 being no depression and 10 being the worst it can probably be; I am about a 3.  Not too bad.    I’m not sure if it is because it is vacation week or just the way the thing went.  That’s one of the problems with depression it causes you to not trust your own feelings, then again it could just be me.  I am going to clean my house (fun) and I am going to send out a few letters to publishers this week and I am going to cook some really good meals and I’m going to stack up a few good days and in the words of Dr. Who, “add to my pile of good things.”  Many great creative souls suffer.  Some of the greatest writers never came out of it.  I guess I should be grateful I’m not a great writer.

The school year has ended and I am going back to college in the fall to get my Masters.  Yes that’s great, yes that’s exciting, blah blah blah.  I’m not sure if it is the right decision.  I do know it is just the one I need to make right now.  I can’t put all my eggs into the writing basket if I’m not writing.  I can’t write if I’m depressed about not working and the principal I interviewed with said they were looking for someone with a degree and while I don’t necessarily believe him, my tarot cards said go back to school, so I’m going.  It’s a direction at least and I admit I do miss the classroom.  I just can’t help but think there is something out there, waiting for me to wake up and realize what I’m supposed to be doing.  There’s a call and I keep missing it.  There’s a message that I can’t seem to retrieve.   Wish me luck. 

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Attachment

I just wanted to let you know…I’m all right.  It’s been so long since I posted I might not know how to put this thing up.  Summer brought lots of kids to my house and September saw me working nearly every day.  November dawned with National Novel Writers where I usually disappear off the grid anyway and then Christmas came, but honestly I don’t think I wasn’t writing because I was so busy, which I was, I think I wasn’t writing because there was nothing really to write about,  no revelations, no inspiring thoughts, just me doing my best to get through the hectic pace of everyday life.  I’m not depressed.  Of course I have moments here and there where the feelings get away from me  but all in all I’m doing pretty good, so far.

It dawned on me fairly recently that I’m in the middle again.  The middle of a lesson that has been going on since about last year and it wasn’t until I realized it is about to come crumbling down sometime around May that I was able to see what the universe was doing.   I started this year working Mondays, I really had no valid reason to say no other than the fact I just didn’t want to.  So I started September being basically the first or second on the list.  I went into school each day with no preconceived notion of where I was going, who I was to be or what I was going to do.  I went into every day with no attachment.  Attachment is a tricky concept.  It seems fairly easy, don’t get attached to anything and you won’t feel bad things when you lose or don’t get what you want, but who wants to go through life unattached?  It’s no so much that we ourselves get attached but the things we unwittingly choose to attach ourselves to, in my case, a job.

One afternoon I sat in the auditorium looking out on the whole of the seventh and eighth grade and started thinking about how I wanted a classroom.  The same old desperate frustration flooded me and I was back deeply entrenched in my depression.  Once I realized this I let go of what I wanted and peace came back to me.  This all happened in a matter of seconds and was probably what made me realize I was in the middle of a lesson.

Now it would be great if I could just go along with all of this right?  Keep going to work, don’t get attached, bring home a paycheck and still write.  Everything would be fine.  My life would be…content,  but here’s the problem, come Spring two teachers are going to make it clear that they are not returning.  Two English teachers.  And I have to apply.  I can’t in good conscience let the opportunity pass and I will probably not get hired for a multitude of reasons, the main one being I don’t have my masters.  I’m not sure I will be able to come back from that.  I’m really not sure I will be able to walk through those doors again, but know I will, only this time with a broken heart and a fairly damaged spirit.

So my peace and lack of attachment are short-lived because soon I will be rolling in the emotions of rejection.  I am trying to put myself on a path that will help ensure my hiring, I want to go back to school.  I need to get recertified, but with the Christmas frenzy my feet are dragging.   Or maybe they’re just dragging anyway.  I don’t know.

Maybe all of this is a plan to make me stronger when I do get rejected.  Maybe this is just a lesson I need to learn before I walk into a new position.  I know I need to not get attached to the job I want, but I’m not sure I will be able to keep myself off the emotional roller coaster that surely will crash and burn when it comes to the end.  I can’t say I have any words of wisdom or peaceful sentiments.  I’m in the middle.  The safe place, the place of nothing,  waiting and learning before the pain and suffering hits and brings with it the real epiphany.  The only difference is that this time I know the exact time my duku (misery, bad feelings) is coming.  How does someone prepare for that?

So I wrap myself in the peace I have right now.  Try to get my butt in gear and do what I need to do to prepare for the spring.  And try not to get attached to things that don’t belong to me.  Easy to say, easy to write, not so easy to follow through.

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The Red Leaf

The trees are all green up on my hill.  None that I can see have turned except for a few brown oak leaves.  We have three maybe four maples in our yard the rest are all oaks and birch.  Oak leaves turn brown, birch turn a bright yellow and usually maples turn orange.  As I sat on my deck drinking my morning coffee attempting to pray, I watched as a red leaf fluttered to the ground.  I looked up and scanned the trees there were no other red leaves, no other trees with even a hint of red.

I muddled through my prayer forcing my thoughts to stay on the task at hand and forcing my body to stay put until at least most of my coffee was gone and I wished for another.  Not sure why but I asked God for another red leaf.  For proof.  But proof of what?  He loves me?  I’m on the right track?  He exists?  What was I asking for? 

Maybe I was looking for a red leaf not to fall.  Maybe I was hoping for a reason to give this all up.  To crawl into a closet, curl up into a ball and quit this gig, stop writing, get a job… go on medication.  If God’s not real then there’s no one to answer to and I can give up. 

Now it would be just like Him to refrain from sending me what I asked for on principle alone.  You don’t ask God for proof.  You can ask for signs about things, which I never get, meaning I never really see them, but asking for proof of existence, that’s, well, not allowed. You have to find faith on your own.  It’s a rule, or something.

Another red leaf fell, roughly following the path of the first.  I sat there denying it was truly red.  It was more brown than red.  That it actually fell. I might have just imagined it.  I stood and with coffee in hand went to look for my red leaf.  I saw a number of brown but no red.  Then I caught sight of a bright red leaf, then another, then another.  The ground was covered with Canadian Cinquefoil all just beginning to turn, one leaf at a time.  That’s a message right?  No, that doesn’t count.

No red leaf, see I knew it. 

A few more steps and there it was.  I picked it up and proceeded to come up with all the reasons why it wasn’t a sign, why it wasn’t proof of anything.  It seems I only asked the question to prove to myself how alone I truly am.  That God isn’t really out there.  Why would I set myself up like that?

We can tell ourselves there are reasons not to believe. There is no reason to have faith.  That God is just a made up concept to keep society in line.  Or we can open our hearts and view coincidences as signs, and dreams as messages and we can see truth.  We can know that regardless of the name we call the Energy it has been here long before us.  It has guided humanity through lessons and failures and it is waiting for us to find it and accept its love.  We can let our hearts fill, find our own way to God and believe.

God is here and he knows I’m going through a rough time and he answered me, but sign or no sign it seems it is up to me whether I choose to believe or whether I choose to walk this life alone.

There are still no red leaves to be seen in the trees, but they’re there.  I can feel them and I know that no matter how many times I doubt, turn away or deny Him He will still love me while I find my way.

 

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Good-bye Mary

I lost someone else.  She lived farther away so my everyday isn’t saturated with her the way it was with my aunt.  I only miss Mary when I make a conscious effort to think about her and usually I avoid pain at all costs, but this morning I took some time to think on her life and oh the lessons she is teaching me.

Mary was my stepmother.  She was kind, caring, and supportive.  She was smart and insatiable when it came to reading.  She was always looking over a cookbook or pouring through a wellness magazine to find better ways to live and eat.  She took me and my family hiking, swimming, cross country skiing and so much more.  She took me to craft shows, bookstores and any little shop that looked interesting.  She explored every part of her world with interest and wonder.  She took my kids when I needed time to myself and gave them back when I needed them beside me.  She sent me notes to cheer me up and gave me anything she felt would help me in my own personal journey.

The last few years of her life were difficult, but she never stopped searching, she never stopped hoping and she never stopped loving those close to her.

Mary spent so much time and energy trying to be the woman she thought she should be that she never stopped long enough to realize how incredible she already was.  And with her death, the upcoming new year, and my new mantra to make everyday worth something I’m coming to realize that I am doing exactly the same thing.

I spend so much time wallowing in what I haven’t done that I’m missing what I have and furthermore, none of it matters.  None of it.  In some of the greatest love stories ever written, the the Twilight series included, the biggest draw was because he loved her just because she existed.  Who he was was drawn to her because she was alive and standing right in front of him.  She needed to do nothing other than love him back.  Which in most fictional novels, she always did.

I am valuable because I exist.  It doesn’t matter if I wrote one book or a hundred, if I have a job or work part time, if I raise one child or many.  God loves me because I exist.  Simple.  I need to recognize that I am amazing.   I need to know, in the center of my being, I am enough.

God made me.  He took the time out of his busy schedule to design and sculpt me.  There are things planted in my soul that are supposed to be there and rather than pull them out or plant around them I need to cultivate them.  I need to be who I was designed to be.  No scratch that, I need to appreciate who I am for no other reason than I exist.  There are things I am and will be called to do and even though I don’t see the value in it, He does.  I was designed for a purpose that I may never see until I am gone so in the meantime I need to appreciate who I am right now, and tomorrow who I am right then.

Life is too short to wish to be something else.  Life is just long enough to appreciate who you are, right now.

Good bye Mary.  Hello to a woman who is whole, content and centered.  Thank you for the lessons, I hope I serve them well.

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Come, Yet Again, Come

Last Sunday I attended church.  I wasn’t teaching.  I wasn’t serving coffee and I wasn’t home sleeping.  I was there, actually listening.  Reverend Michelle was talking about our own little ways to bring God into our lives.  People from the congregation shared their unique ways and it dawned on me, I don’t do that anymore.  I used to.  I used to talk to God all day long, but since my conception of him has gotten bigger my closeness has just sort of faded away and sitting in the pew I realized, maybe my writing is having so much difficulty because I’ve taken Him out of it. 

If I want to accomplish something, if I want to send a message then this needs to be a team effort and I have to trust that whatever the message is it will be the right one.  The bottom line is God needs to be a bigger part of my life and then the doubts set in and I fight mindlessly following and I descend right back down the depression spiral.  If believing and worshiping God helps me to feel better then I need to do it.    I have to stop trying to do everything on my own.  The only one who says life needs to be a solo act is the depression and clearly the depression is not serving me.

So I started my own little thing to bring God back into my life.  I sit outside anyway so while I’m drinking my coffee I recite my favorite line from the bible.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Yes I’ve used this one before but this time it’s a little different.

Be still and know that I Am God-yeah yeah you’re God, I’m mindless….yah-da yah-da yah-da.

Be still and know that I Am– Know that I Am all you envision.   Know that I am still bigger than what you can imagine.  Know that I exist in the way you believe me to be and more, so much more.  I Am everything.  I  Am.

Be still and know-know everything you are and everything you ever will be. Know that we are a part of each other. Know that you hold the power to accomplish great things.  Know that your life is valuable, has purpose and is precious.

Be still– and hear, and feel and smell the world around you.  Feel how the earth and the birds and the trees and the sky are made up of the same energy and how that energy is the same as you and how that energy is the same as Me.  We are all connected.

Be-Just be.  Just exist.  Be content and happy and let your life follow the path it is meant to.  Leave your guilt, leave your drive, leave your depression and just be.  When you stop fighting you will start living.

This is what I believe, what I’ve always believed.  That God is big, that I am a part of Him as He is a part of me and that we are all connected.  We are all loved.  I forgot that my beliefs started with the foundation of the bible and the church.  I thought I could do it all on my own.  Oh how wrong I was.

It won’t take long to get back to God.  I’m the only one standing in the way now, because God, he’s waiting, with open arms ready to take me back, again and again, a hundred times if necessary, a thousand.  He’s ready to wrap His arms around me, soothe my pain and stand me back up to do it all again.  Because that’s what good fathers do; soothe, strengthen and then send us back out into the world to do what is right, never too far behind to pick us up if we fall or pull out a map if we get lost.  Maybe You could just walk with me a little bit more?  Just a few steps.  Until I get it. 

Come, Come, Whoever You Are

Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.

It doesn’t matter.

Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times

Come, yet again, come, come.

-Rumi

This is a poem I carried around when I was writing my first book.  I never quiet understood it but something about it called to me.  There was peace mingled with joy, but mostly a pervading forgiveness that I found compelling.  I weaved it into my story never realizing I was weaving it into my own life.  How many times have I left only to come back?  How many more times will I do the same? And yet… “Come, yet again, come.”

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