Personal Journey

Weekend Coffee Share

Just as I took my first sip of hazelnut roast with heavy cream, the retirement club arrived at Panera. Judging by the volume of their voices, they’re a bunch of bingo callers. Actually, they’re adorable, and I hope I have friends like that when I’m white-haired. Heck, I hope I live to be white-haired. Still. I have to move away. I smile as I do, so they know I’m not offended. My hot pink and yellow earplugs just aren’t cutting it at this range. ADHD? I’ll look it up later and diagnose myself.

How do you like your coffee? Be careful how you answer that question in this charged culture. On Saturday morning I read a blogger who made the statement: Donald Trump didn’t teach us to hate; he just made hate fashionable. I’ve been pondering that, as well as several other assertions from my blogging friend. Many groups have had their fashionable day: Jews, Commies, Catholics, Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, Japs, Jews. And Jews.

White men, it’s just your turn, is all. This too shall pass.

It’s at this point you pat my mug-holding hand and tell me to stop. Just, stop.

I get the hint and we change the subject to safer things, like kids. On Saturday Gabe had a swim meet. Can I tell you how much I love to watch him swim? He’s a monster. He swam the 200 freestyle and 100 Fly, as well as both A relays.

On Sunday, Bob and the team going to Africa were called up to the stage. I’m excited because I get to live vicariously through them, a writer’s preferred way to experience life. They’re building a church shelter in the “bush,” which means they get to sleep under the stars for a few nights. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Supposedly the mosquitos won’t be bad this time of year. How about the lions? How are they? (See why I’m your best vicarious team member?) “I volunteer as tribute.” Said I, never.

Which is why I’m humbled and inspired by those who are willing to sacrifice vacation, money, and whatever it takes to love people. Thanks, Eclectic Ali, for helping me find my voice. I’ve got a ways to go, but it’ll happen. I’ll just keep showing up and hope you do too. xoxo

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Personal Journey

If We Were Having Coffee…

…we’d be sitting in Panera because my son has Psychology at the local community college, and I drive him. It’s his first time taking a class, and he alternately loves and hates it. I put him there for two reasons: 1. Psychology is interesting, and 2. I’ll take any opportunity to get him off the couch for a subject.

Because I’m a homeschool mom and no matter how hard I try, I elicit minimal motivation from my kids, which is why Gabe finds himself under the tutelage of a woman who’s been teaching Psychology 101 longer than he’s been alive. So far so good.

I love the mornings I’m “forced” to grab coffee at Panera. Funny thing is, I keep moving around to get away from people talking to each other and talking on phones because I crave silence. So, if we were having coffee together, I’d likely be running away from you, paradoxically.

I’ve enjoyed the coffee posts of Russell Mercer, which is why I’ve decided to give it a go. That, and I get an itch to blog every once in a while. What stops me is my obsessive need to edit and my doubly-obsessive need to write fiction. I’d take a sip of my hazelnut/dark roast mix and tell you I’m in love with my WIP and am actively searching for an agent, which is to say I’m in a level of hell between where cats go who eat plants and where dogs end up who steal food from counters.

Because it stopped raining for a few seconds on Sunday, my husband and I (and everyone else in Northeastern Ohio) took a walk. Whenever a dog passes by we have a dogzaster, which is Abbott, yanking and barking his head off and scrambling for purchase while Bob holds his feet a few inches off the ground so that he’s actually pawing air, thus saving the other dog from annihilation. You’re welcome, little kitten-dog.

I took a jog through the park on Saturday and the beauty distracted me from the pain in my quads. When you look at the picture above, you can see why. Creation is magnificent. (As is the hottie holding the leash.)

I hope you enjoyed your coffee. Next week we’ll have it with heavy cream. That sounds like it’ll be a heavy conversation and I admit many of my posts could begin Father forgive me, for I have sinned… but I’m going to try to remember we’re having coffee, not shots. Thanks, Eclectic Alli, for getting the coffee and conversation brewing.

 

on writing, Personal Journey

July… Don’t Want to Forget

CNW_Winner_200July was NaNoWriMo month for me. I set a goal of 30K words, figuring a thousand a day would stretch me. Boy, did it ever. I consider writing a fun, yet precise and artful enterprise, but in NaNoWriMo the point is to get your story out as fast as possible. In the writing world this is referred to as the vomit draft.

Because so much will be slashed or re-written, it’s not worth it to make every image glorious, every word just so. That comes later. Still– spending a month hurling sub-par exposition onto the screen because I had a word count to make… hurt my lit-snob eyes.

At first it was hard to keep going. Part of what motivates me is the delusion that what I’ve got on the page is excellence. Like exercise or right eating– if breakfast was a donut, might as well hit McDonald’s on the way home because they day is shot. With the vomit draft, I had to leave that thinking behind, to have faith that the sacrifice of my summer mornings would eventually reach the throne room. Confession: I actually love writing and would gladly do it all day long. What I sacrifice are the other practical things I could be, maybe should be doing.

This chart represents my July. How Maureen McHugh got into my head as I slogged through this process, I don’t know. Or else, maybe I’m not that special; I’m just like every other person struggling to write a book. Ok, probably that.

Credit: Maureen McHugh
Credit: Maureen McHugh

While I was practically chanting to myself it’s not a waste to pursue this dream of mine, my kids were doing their summer things too. My job is to get them there. Luke spent Monday through Thursday afternoons downtown. That meant I created my curriculum in the beautiful Carnegie Library or jogged the Hope Memorial Bridge while Luke dragged weighted sleds across Wasmer’s turf field. Have you ever stepped onto a turf field on a summer’s day? It’s like stepping on Mercury. I could see the skyline of Cleveland and feel the breeze off Lake Erie. Luke could feel his thighs melting, I imagine. Two of the pics below are of the aftermath of soccer tryout preparations. Note the dead grass and clever use of lawn accoutrements.

They say chlorine is the breakfast of champions. Gabe had it for breakfast and dinner. He participated in our city’s rec team and in the long course with his club team. The combination made him strong and lean as he’s ever been. Long course was a dish of humility– holy cow, is this pool long; the rec league, a dish of validation– is this kid for real…

20160723_193758
Gabe and Coach Lindsey

Yep. Real as the alarm every morning and the practice every night. …because that’s how winnin is done. – Rocky Balboa

Bob’s summer. He gave it as he often does, to planning a mission trip to South Dakota. Nothing makes Bob happier than helping people stretch themselves in service and charity. The team built a playground and helped construct a house. They led the church services and even fed anyone who came to church. This missions trip is not for the faint of heart. I also posted about it here.

It’s no pleasure trip either. A manager at Aeropostale, Tory gives the same due diligence to cleaning sludge out of a flooded basement in South Dakota as she does to running the store. That was her task for two days. All alone, no complaints. Like Bob, she’s got a feel for managing people and is not above any job that God needs done. I’m here, Lord. Send me. I have a feeling that willingness to get their hands dirty is what makes them effective managers.

As the team wends its way back home, stopping in the badlands, Custer State Park, and Mount Rushmore, they solidify friendships that will last long after the trip is over. Here they are at Indiana Dunes State Park, the last stop on the way home.beach

That was July. Today Luke is at soccer tryouts for St. Ignatius. We’ve always sought the biggest pond for our frogs. Sometimes that big pond was speech and debate, post-secondary college, Model UN, Civil Air Patrol, or the higher athleticism of club sports. I watched club soccer kids getting cut on Tuesday, kids who’d be playing varsity on their city teams. I watched them shake hands with the coaches, hang their heads and walk away from a sport they love.

I think, this pond feels more like Lake Michigan.

It was at this point in my post that I had to leave to pick up Luke from tryouts.  Teams were being finalized as I typed. But August happenings will be another post. 🙂

 

 

Personal Journey

Incidentally You Have a Brain Tumor and Your Van Won’t Start

I’m not whining, for the record, I’m recording. Those violins are entirely coincidental.

Ever have an experience that was so thoroughly insane that you wondered whether God-in-heaven had just bragged about you to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, X?”

March, 2014. I had pneumonia. Not walking pneumonia, mind you. Although I walked from the parking lot into the doctor’s office, mewling, and kept it up while I waited for them to work their magic and make everything better.

“Well… what have we here?” asked a motherly Indian doctor. I cried. I gasped. She said she doubted I had pneumonia but she’d do a chest x-ray just in case. I didn’t even say I told you so. Breathing the words required too much effort.

Dr. Thank-God gave me some superhero antibiotics, steroid lung mist, and a codeine cough syrup that made me think I was hearing choruses from The Grateful Dead. I looked forward to being not dead and grateful.

Convalescing is lovely for kids and old people and anyone else who can afford two weeks on her back. Not me. My refrigerator was empty, and the minions were hungry. No, starving. They’re always starving. We go straight from full-of-orange-chicken to desperately languishing. It takes five minutes, I tell you, and a mother can only take so much whining.

I shuffled into Aldi, weak and shaky, and considered turning around and going back home, but I’m prideful and didn’t want to admit weakness the kids would flog me for returning empty-handed. As I pushed the cart down one aisle and then another, I felt weaker and weaker, like my knees couldn’t be trusted. That being an entirely new and unwelcome feeling for me, I became alarmed. My heart raced, and no matter how much air I gulped, it wasn’t enough. I began to fear the very real prospect of fainting in Aldi.

It took herculean effort to put those groceries on the belt and gasp into my phone. Come… get me.

In all our 20 years of marriage, I have never asked Bob to come get me.

On a bench in Aldi, quite the spectacle, I waited. Bob was taking forever (7 minutes), and I regretted not calling the squad. I’m going to die in Bob’s car.  Because I couldn’t feel my arms and legs, because my heart was completely out of control, because I couldn’t breathe– I sincerely believed I might be dying. What a relief to make it to the ER. Much rather die there.

The intake nurse asked if I ever had a panic attack before.

No. I don’t have panic attacks. I’m here for you to fix this whole weak kneed, heart pounding, head hurting, unable to breathe thing I’ve got going on. Don’t judge me, just fix it.

I think the strategy in ER’s is to make you wait until you either 1. die or 2. get better on your own. My symptoms worked themselves out while I lay there waiting for test results. #2 for me.

The doctor told me they didn’t know what caused my presenting symptoms, but they had found something else while they were in there looking around. An incidental finding, he called it. A mass, he called it, about 7 millimeters diameter in my brain.

[record screech]

I know metric measurements, and I know what diameter is. And I thoroughly know masses don’t belong in one’s brain. Still, I held up my fingers and asked: This?  Like a marble? Yes, that. He was a nice-enough guy. He was just punching me in the gut with his incidental finding. It’s hard to like someone when they’re doing that, even if they speak like Buddha and gently touch your skull while illustrating. I wouldn’t lose sleep over it, he told me. Just see this neurosurgeon…

Don’t lose sleep over it?  I have pneumonia and a brain tumor and I still don’t know what mutiny happened inside my body to bring me in here in the first place.

Have you considered my servant, Kelly?  Only that could explain the ridiculous pile-up of medical afflictions with which I found myself. Don’t lose sleep over it, snort.

Bob put his arm around me, and we hobbled to our van, aware we still had a trunk full of groceries in the Aldi parking lot. I was in shock and beat down and mumbling bits of Scripture to myself.

The van was dead. The whirring, moaning sound it made left little doubt. In my mind I laughed that I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening maniacal laugh reserved for the truly absurd. I wouldn’t be more surprised than if we walked out of the ER to a couple of dairy cows in our parking space.

What I know now, without a doubt, is there is no hedge and no escape from the brokenness of our world.  Anything can and will happen. Jesus tried to warn me (John 16:33b), but I’m more of an experiential learner: In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. 

He has, I tell you– overcome. It’s been more than a year since they discovered my marble. I find it a handy excuse when I forget things or am generally scatterbrained. Maybe I’ll have it cut out someday if it gets unwieldy. Life gets unwieldy sometimes, like that day. But then there’s a next day, and a next. And eventually you can look back and laugh, not even maniacally. You can look back with Jesus and watch your personal storm together like you’re watching a movie, and he looks at you and you look at Him, and He winks.