reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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life lessons. [merely-a-thought monday]

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you have those friends.  the ones you don’t get to talk to or see all the time, but the instant you call or text or, even better, get to be with them, you pick up right where you left off.  sometimes, those calls or visits are really long; there’s so much to catch up on.

susan and i had one of those calls recently.  the conversation ranged across a gigantic prairie of life subjects – from children to lenten service music to food to relationships to age to challenges to direction to joys to disappointments.  there’s always the inevitable “we should talk more often” and “i miss you”; times we realize how much running our crazy worlds past each other matters.  the “tuition” takes just a little bit less of a toll if we can utter the gory details to our friend, divulge our imagined vindication on whatever the “tuition” is, paint a picture – describing in inordinate detail – of each of our chronicles.

linda, infinite in wisdom and groundedness, finds humor and the wise sticking point in situations.  she has been there for me for decades, close by and from afar.  she is a model of loving steadfastness and makes me feel as if she hugged me, even if we are only on the phone.

heidi, another one of those dear people for me, always asks, “what’s the learning?”.  as infuriating as that question can be, it is a perspective-arranger.  it gives you pause for thought and invites another viewpoint.  the thing i may be obsessing on may not be the point after all.

toward the end of our phone call, susan and i laughed about all the things we were ‘learning’.  oh yes, grateful students?  well, maybe not exactly.  but we are pretty enlightened (for the most part) and we kept laughing as susan said, “yeah, all these life lessons are great, but the tuition sucks.”  we hung up with promises to call again soon.  whether or not that happens right away, i know she is right there.

because here’s the thing we can count on – in the midst of the “tuition that sucks” is that our true relationships and the support we receive from them is endless.  the conversation never really stops.  it just hopscotches from one time to the next, a life-thread of lessons shared.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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what they value is on the wall. [merely-a-thought monday]

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my poppo was staunch about a few things.  tires, brakes and windshield wipers were three of them.  not only staunch, he was particular; his tire brand of choice (for him and for anyone he loved) was without-a-doubt-michelin.  and so, with the exception of the time i had a tire blow out on a highway far from home, on a sunday, with no specialty tire store open, i have always bought michelins.

we’ve sat at kenosha tire many times, really for every vehicle:  the vw, the minivans, the jeeps, the xb.  having new tires mounted or a tire fixed or having all four rotated, they are courteous, informative, and speedy.  i never truly mind waiting for something like this to be done; i love to watch people so i stay amused most of the time.

this establishment has been there since 1970.  it’s not a fancy place; there’s a variety of chairs, a variety of plaques with sponsored-team pictures, a variety of tire samples and tire signs and a large screen tv.  sometimes there’s a dog or two and i suspect maybe there is a cat back in that office with the counter-level swinging door.  this is a family business and their dedication not only to their customers but also to the community is obvious.  i always feel like they listen to me; i always trust them.

before we went out west, we had our tires rotated…i could hear my dad nagging, er, reminding me all the way from heaven.  on the wall next to my chair was this sign.  the four-way test of the things we think, say or do printed on rotary international paper.  it struck me as a simple tool…something to help frame our thoughts, the things we blurt out or defiantly or unthinkingly state, the things we do that have the potential to hurt others.

it is clear to me that kenosha tire values people.  it is clear that they support their community.  and now it is clear to me that they found this simple guide to kindness was important enough to put on the wall.  we should all have a wallet-sized copy to which we can refer.

i’m betting my dad would be pretty staunch about using this shop to buy our tires.  kindness in business was another one of those things he was pretty particular about.

as a matter of fact, i’m also willing to bet that, other than 2x4s, i-beams, sheetrock and maybe shiplap, this is the only wall-related-discussion he’d be interested in.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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which way? [two artists tuesday]

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the moment i saw this trailmarker it made me laugh.  i was feeling exactlyyy this way, so this lightened my mood.  (yes, yes, i understand that the marker made sense, but if you flatten it out (as opposed to three-dimensional) it is admittedly funny and a little confusing.)

middle age (ohmygosh, yes, middle age) seems like a time of arrows every which way.  where we’ve been, where we are, where we are going…these questions are all different now…different from the striding times even a decade ago.  time is starting to mean something else; i recognize the scarcity of time-limitlessness.

i lost one of my very best friends from elementary school, junior high and high school last week.  kenny was brilliant and funny and courageous and a really good person.  together with his twin richard and i, we were often thought of as “triplets” in school, mostly because we were all platinum blond kids growing up.  i haven’t seen kenny for many years.  the last time i can remember was having coffee with him at the atlanta airport; he was an airline captain and based there so we met when i flew through with a tad bit of a layover.  he was thrilled to catch me up about his beautiful wife and son and he joked about how long it took him to find her.  even though i saw him rarely, there was something about knowing he was in the world that was comforting…a piece of my long-ago-past that i could still talk to or text with, maybe see from time to time, who knew me when i was little, when i was a preteen, when i was a teenager, when i loved calculus.  i tried to explain this to d…when certain people who connect me way back to my roots are no longer present on this earth, it is as if i can feel the earth tilt on its axis; it wobbles.  and nothing will ever be the same.  i can’t get to ken’s service, but i hope to carry with me – always – a piece of kenny and our growing-up history.  i hope to honor him somehow.

and the next time i wonder “which way” in angst, i hope to stand still, right where i am.  time is not unlimited.  i don’t want to waste it.

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flawed cartoon wednesday #2 (duuuuude!)

claudine's making cow eyes THIS jpegevery time the girl texts me and says “dude!” i laugh aloud.  i have to say i prefer “mom” or “mommommommommom” to “dude” but i’m just happy to hear ANYthing at ANY time from the girl and the boy that ANY name goes.  i’m guessing AllMomsEverywhere get that.

there is a sweet bistro in town called wine knot that we love to go to.  our favorite spot is at the bar at the end in the corner, where we can people-watch or chat with andy or jeremy, awesome bartenders who, for the longest time, knew to order – wait for it – brian’s amazing meatloaf split and two glasses of merlot – the instant we walked in.  there is something smalltownish and heartwarming to be said about this.  kind of like one of the things we all loved about watching the show cheers with a cast of ted danson & shelley long, kirstie alley and woody harrelson, kelsey grammar and george wendt and other regulars who became a part of our living rooms and lives.  given our new dietary restrictions (gluten free/dairy free -more whole30 compliant and feeling good!) we haven’t been to wine knot as much lately; we are cooking more with glasses of wine on our counter.  but sometimes it is nice to just go and sit and visit on a stool in the corner.

this past saturday we were at the cedarburg winter fest, an annual trip for the up-north-gang, an unparalleled and beloved cast of characters.  we walk around town, in and out of fun boutiques and shops, laughing at merch together.  we watch the parade of firetrucks and snow plows and scurry to the frozen river to cheer for the bed races.  it snowed a bit and was very “winter-festival-ish” (as dubbed by dan) this year, as opposed to last year when it was, oddly, almost 70 degrees and forced the bed races to be on the street.  we – without fail – end our day together at the crowded pub the silver creek brewing company.  dark beers, gluten free ciders, wine and kettle corn are our fare of choice.  it’s a total blast.  everyone talks at once; the topics are all over the place.

this flawed cartoon wednesday  in the melange makes me laugh.  the “duuuude”, the (oh-so-wisconsin) “cow-eyes” pun, the bovines at the bar.  every opportunity to laugh.  it’s a good thing.  happy wednesday.

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the faces of my life.

IMG_1991“…in the nighttime of your fear…” the lyrics of this hymn jump out at me. how many times have i been awake in the nighttime…wrapping my arms around fear of some sort. how many times have i been awake in the daytime with ‘the nighttime of my fear’? being awake with fear makes every muscle aware, every hair stand on end, every emotion close to the surface. and the fear doesn’t have to be physical…sometimes it is fear of the unknown, fear of change (no! really?), fear of differences that set you apart. any way you slice it, fear becomes visceral and, as carol used to always say, you can taste the adrenaline. in these moments, there are voices i pine for, people i want to be near, reassurances for which i yearn. how many times have i told david i wish i could just talk to my sweet momma. how many times have i asked my dad aloud – hoping for a sticky note to float down from heaven – for his words of wisdom. i’ve asked my brother wayne for car and fixing stuff advice; i’ve asked my friend richie for a tad bit of his sense of humor in a tense moment. the list of people on the other side extends out, in ever-larger concentric circles, as i realize how much i miss their words of wisdom. the faces of my life. and then, often in an awakening moment of grief, i realize that there is indeed wisdom and reassurance all around me.

the ukulele band rehearsals are at our house in the summer. most often outside on sometimes-warm-sometimes-cool summer nights on the patio, last night was inside with impending storms in the area. i had broken my little baby toe earlier in the day and was limping around a bit (and maybe whining also.) betsi and jay offered advice, carol and helen grimaced with me, remembering breakages of their own, david jokingly spoke of designing steel-toed flip-flops. a posse of people making my little toe feel better. there were conversations about dietary/lifestyle changes, inexpensive backyard solutions, growing herbs, new albums out, nitrate-free bacon, up north… really, anything you might want some solid talk-talk about was possible. the faces of my life. “…we are pilgrims on a journey, we are travelers on the road.   we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load…”

in conversation with susan or linda or jen or heidi, we talk about loss of a parent or we talk about children growing up and away or we talk about where we are in life…they have been there when i’ve cried…they have shared tears with me. they have laughed with me till it hurt. powerful moments of empathy. with david, the sharing of raw emotion, the frustrations and the bliss of being “too close”, the tears and the laughter are full spectrum. the faces of my life. “…i will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh i’ll laugh with you…”

we were standing on the opposite side of a stream from where we needed to be. three times while we were in the mountains this was where i found myself.  (well, metaphorically, i suppose that would be countless times, but who’s talking in metaphors?) the first time, david crossed over, using stones and a wayward log that had fallen. even now, my feet tingle thinking about it. he quietly told me that i could do it and reached out his hand to me so that I could grasp it as soon as i was within reach. his eyes, unwaveringly gentle and reassuring, convinced me to work with the fear i felt and move forward. “…i will hold my hand out to you..” IMG_2744one of the other times becky, david and kirsten (the girl) had already crossed the stream. it wasn’t a huge chasm, but it was enough to make me think about going the “other way”. and yet, it was their faces on the other side that helped the nugget of fear i felt go away.   the faces of my life.

” …i will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through…” our time on this beautiful earth is forever and fleeting. both. this journey is filled with design of the universe and gorgeous wisdom and warm reassurance. the faces of our lives. on this side and on the other side. they will hold us in ‘the nighttime of our fear’. they will hold us in the moment.  we are never alone.

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who needs you?

downloadthe forecast said ‘heavy rain’ so we all gathered in the living room. now, remember, this is an old house – so there is no central air conditioning and this is a summer evening with rain expected. people who are really zealous about the dew point could explain why it felt so ridiculously hot and humid, but we didn’t worry about the details of it. we just all sweated together, our ukuleles in hand, the dogdog running from one person to another getting ample dogdog attention in his nervousness about the thunder. this community of people meets weekly. during the ‘school year’ we meet at the church; during the summer we meet on our patio (ok, for you detail-oriented folks, sometimes it is inside our house, weather-dependent.) playing the ukulele in this band unites us…we strum through songs, singing and laughing, rehearsing for performances. today daena has a huge blister on her thumb. (the hazards of ukulele!) but that isn’t all. we catch up on news with each other. there are conversations about chords, strum patterns, aging parents, children living away, recipes, probiotics, new medical procedures, new pets, houses, chip and jojo and hgtv, life below zero and alaska, vacations, romances, reminiscenses, grandchildren. this community is part of who we are. i look at them in wonder. they are all so important to us. the gift of community.

we sat outside to eat at the pizza place. under the shade of a big umbrella we talked about weddings and health, diets and children, camping and career questions. these two people have been a rock for us in the last years. before it was ‘the four of us’, they used to include me on their ‘date nights’, sitting me in the middle of the movie with them, pouring a glass of wine for me, including me in dinner, helping me surf through the challenges i was facing. their community is part of who we are. i look at them in wonder. they are so important to us. the gift of community.

20 comes to our house most every sunday. we make dinner, drink wine, talk our hearts out and maybe watch a movie or sit out back. we share stories of life, stories of worry, stories with tears, stories of great joy, hilarious stories. we share so many years of memories and times gone by, some very happy, some we speak of with much sadness in our voices. the years have flown by. and now we plan – so many adventures to come. he and 14 are ridiculous middle-schoolers together. they make me laugh. i look at him in wonder. he is so important to us. the gift of community.

the girl wrote about her group of snowboard coaches and instructors one day. she referred to them as ‘family’. she has a fantastic group of people upon whom she can rely who live right there near her. they support her, challenge her, inspire her. i am grateful for her gift of community.

the boy writes about his group of friends – a tight-knit, widespread group of people upon whom he can rely, some of whom live in the city near him, some of whom live in other cities he travels to. they are ‘family’ to each other. i am quite sure that they support him, challenge him, inspire him. i am grateful for his gift of community.

our community is all around us. our community is far away. we have family and friends we’d love to see more, be with more, who live away from us. we have ‘family’ right here. they support us, challenge us, inspire us. i am grateful for our gift of community. i am grateful for you.

you know you are all family – bloodlines or not – when you can sweat all over ukuleles together, create joy and recognize you need each other. a band isn’t a band without all of us.download-1

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