Weekend Coffee Share: God?

17190510_1429948397016251_5647698492734907314_n

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d tell you that it’s been an ugly week here. On the positive side, I managed to pass my apartment inspection; on the negative side, I’ve been sort of stewing about something.

Grab yourself a fresh, hot cup, because we’re going to talk about God today and it may take a while.

About a year ago, I was approached by someone who was a friend a long, long time ago. Confronted, really. She said she sampled one of my books and was sad to see that God is not in my work. She wanted to know why I have turned away from my faith. I blogged about it at the time, and I felt pretty good about my response to her. I thought I did a good job of explaining that I haven’t turned away at all.

I spoke with her again this week. Again, she expressed sympathy for what she sees as my straying and turning away from God. She condemned me in the kindest, most condescending way possible, letting me know that she’ll pray for me to find my way back. She mourned my lost faith and told me how sad she is that I’ve become callous, that I’ve hardened my heart.

I’m not going to lie; that hurts. I feel judged.

I am a Christian. I do my best to be a good one, but I am human and therefore I am flawed. The fact that I see faith as a private and personal matter doesn’t make me any less of a Christian than those who are more vocal about it. I may not be able to quote random Bible passages at will or show up at every Sunday service like my friend, but that doesn’t mean I’m going straight to Hell.

Folks, Christianity is NOT a competition sport.

You see, God IS in my work, because He is the One who gave me this gift of storytelling. He is the One who changed my life and gave me this opportunity. I thank Him every time I pour a little bit of my heart and soul into a story.

God is in my work because God is in ME.

He is the One who gives me courage and strength on the bad days. I have leaned on Him through pain, through heartache, through everything. And you know what? He’s always there for me. He’s never shamed me for not living up to His standards. He loves me, no matter what, and He forgives me when I screw up.

My books aren’t Christian fiction, even though I like to think that my sweet historical romances are somewhat inspirational. People in my contemporary romances have sex before they are married and they swear once in a while. Some of the stuff I say in my humor collections can get pretty raunchy at times.

I’ll be the first to tell you that not everything I write is appropriate for every audience.

But my characters always find love. There is always a commitment that comes with the sex. I try to write them as basically good people who grow and become better people by the end of the book. It is my goal to inject at least a little bit of hope into everything I write.

A little bit of love.

A little bit of joy.

That’s my version of Happily Ever After, in romance novels and in real life.

If my friend insists that God is not in stories about hope, love, and joy, then one of us doesn’t understand Him at all.

Advertisements

Oy , what a week!

coffee2

If we were having coffee, I think this might be one of those days when the coffee needs a shot of something stronger than Coffee-Mate. At this point, however, I’m not sure if that “something stronger” should be whiskey or antibiotics.

Yeah, it’s been a weird week.

My son, my ex-husband and I keep passing around what appears to be a case of the plague. We don’t even live in the same house anymore, but the three of us can’t seem to kick whatever this is. On any given day, at least one of us is either coughing up a lung or throwing up our insides.

On those few days when I’ve been somewhat healthy, I’ve had to deal with a dead car battery. Finally had to give in and buy a new battery, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the battery ended up costing me more than the car is worth at this point.

Seriously, it’s a sad statement on my life when the most expensive thing I own is a new battery for a 2001 Kia Spectra with 200,000 miles on it.

It’s an even sadder statement on my life to realize that I had started to feel a bit envious of the old battery because it was getting jumped so often.

One of my co-workers asked me why I don’t just buy a new car. After all, she reasoned, I must be raking in the big bucks with my books, right? I just stared at her with my jaw on the floor as she raved about the millions of dollars she heard that authors make. She wondered what I do with tens of thousands I make every month. I tried to explain to her that it’s really not like that, but she assumed I was being modest.

I finally told her I spent it all on a villa in Italy. “Please don’t tell anyone,” I whispered. “I don’t want the IRS to find out.”

Hey, it wasn’t a total lie. I had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant a while ago.

Okay, it was a Fazoli’s drive-thru ten years ago, but it still counts.

On one of my dead-battery days, my downstairs neighbor was kind enough to take me to the school to pick up my boy for a doctor’s appointment. That particular neighbor’s vehicle isn’t much better than mine, and the passenger door doesn’t open from the inside. He had to run around and open my door for me so I could get out at the school, which evidently caught the attention of the school secretary.

“Who was that who drove you here?” she wondered. I told her he was my neighbor, and she raised her eyebrows at me. “Is he a nice guy?”

Folks, I am possibly one of the world’s most oblivious human beings. “Sure, he’s nice,” I told her.

“He’s a real gentleman, isn’t he? Any man that opens the car door for you is a keeper!” she winked at me.

Swear to God, I still didn’t get what she was trying to say.

So, here I am on a Saturday morning, drinking room-temperature Vernor’s and wrapped up in every quilt and afghan I can find. I’ve got the barf bowl, the Netflix remote, and a box of tissue within easy reach, and I don’t plan on going anywhere except down the hall to the bathroom when absolutely necessary.

Which is apparently every four and a half minutes.

But the high point of weirdness in my life this week is the steady flow of phone calls and messages I’ve been getting all morning from friends wanting to know more about my hot new boyfriend that I am about to run away with to my secret villa in Italy.

At this point, I don’t have the energy to correct anyone. I think I’ll just tell them all to pack their bags and meet me at the airport.

As soon as I’m done in the bathroom.

 

 

 

 

Remember

coffee2

If we were having coffee, I’m pretty sure that at some point our conversation would wind down to one of us asking, “Do you remember where you were when you heard?”

Of course we remember.

But the moment that really comes to my mind actually happened a day or two later, when I stepped outside and sat on the stone steps near my back door. My then-husband was at work and my children were actually getting along for once, playing a game that involved Barbie dolls and Thomas the Tank Engine hosting the Island of Sodor’s first real fashion show. The TV was off, of course, because the kid-appropriate channels had temporarily paused their regular programming.

It was beautiful outside. The clear sky was an impossible shade of blue, and the trees around my house hadn’t yet begun to put on their fall colors. I could hear crickets chirping and birds singing as a gentle breeze stirred my hair around my face. Everything was just so normal.

I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to pretend that it never happened. It was pretty easy to do, actually, out in the Michigan countryside, where the only real change I could see was the absence of any planes flying overhead. No white trails to show where one had gone by.

Everything was normal and beautiful and perfect in my corner of the universe that day.

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the terrorist attacks on September 11 to affect me directly. For it to be more than a vague sense of impending doom, a shocked disbelief as I stared at horrific pictures of people I didn’t know in places I’d never visited.

It was too much, too big, too terrible. I sat on those back steps for a long time that day, trying to make it all real. Trying to comprehend that the world was not normal any more.

It seems odd to me now, but I remember that I thought back to an event in my own childhood as I sat on those steps that day. I found myself thinking about Jonestown and seeing the pictures on the news of all those bodies piled up on the ground, and I thought the bright colors of their clothing were actually the bright colors of cars in a parking lot. I wondered why the news cameras were showing pictures of the cars of all the dead people, and it took days for it to sink in that I was actually seeing people, not their cars.

I thought about Oklahoma City that day, too. I remember sitting on the couch in front of the TV and seeing pictures of victim after victim after victim, and crying for the babies killed in the day care center.

Kids in school today don’t learn about Jonestown or Oklahoma City in any real sense. Or even September 11, for that matter. To them, those horrible events are nothing more than moments in history. Days on a calendar.

The same way that my  generation learned about Pearl Harbor or D-Day or Vietnam. We couldn’t comprehend those moments the same way that our parents could. I never quite understood why Mom cried when she talked about her little brother going to Vietnam. He came home, after all, didn’t he? Everything went back to normal after that.

Just like everything went back to normal for my generation after September 11, 2001. We buried our dead, we went back to work, and we went on with our lives.  Once a year, we share the pictures and stories on the internet, and we ask each other, “Do you remember where you were when you heard?”

Of course we remember.

And it’s up to us to make sure the next generation never forgets.

0525151200a

Weekend Coffee Share: Perfect Circle

If we were having coffee this morning, it would have to be an iced coffee, with lots of milk and a splash of hazelnut. It’s a hot day already, with humidity at almost 100%, and I think we’d all be happier with something cold to drink.

I’ve been thinking about circles this week. Not just any circles, though. Those circles in some long-ago math class that I coasted through with a barely-passing grade, where the rings overlap and mark off a small segment of shared ground. I don’t remember what that little bit of shared ground is called, but I wonder if my old math teacher would be proud of the fact that I’m applying math to real life.

There’s been a lot of overlap in my life recently. Circles have been crisscrossing where I least expect it. Meandering lines have suddenly doubled back to form circles in surprising places.

Circle 1. At my first professional job as an adult back in the 1980’s, there was a very sweet lady named Donna who always looked out for me and helped me settle into the department. It turned out that she knew my father. Small world, right? That world got smaller yesterday, when I met her son, who turned out to be the pastor at my brother-in-law’s church.

Circle 2. At about the same time I was working with Donna, I started going to a big church in another town, where I became really active in a singles Bible study group. It ended badly for me in a way that really soured the taste of organized religion for me.

Oddly enough, one of the people from that group has ended up being a part of my life now, decades later and lots of miles away. She has quietly taught me more about forgiveness and compassion than I ever learned sitting on a pew anywhere.

Last week, another person from that church contacted me, more than twenty years since our last meeting. She said she had sampled one of my books and didn’t see God in it, and wanted to know what caused this. Her words were kind on the surface, but the unspoken judgement and implied recrimination hit me like a physical blow.

Circle 3. My ex-husband and I have been apart for more than two years, but we both laughed together on Wednesday when we realized that it was our twentieth wedding anniversary. Since our divorce isn’t actually final yet, we found a bit of humor in the fact that we can technically say we made it twenty years. He and I always shared the same peculiar sense of humor; even when things fell apart for us, that is the one thing we still have in common.

Circle 4. Most of my family is gone now, and I sometimes feel terribly alone. There just aren’t a lot of cousins or relatives in the area. I feel disconnected from the world somehow, like a hot-air balloon tethered to the earth by only a few strings, and those strings are being cut one by one. When I was married, the greatest gift my husband ever gave me was his family — brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles . . . all strings that helped tie me back to the earth. Connections.

Losing my marriage was like cutting all of those strings.

Those random circles all came together yesterday at a small memorial service on the shore of a little inland lake. A gentle breeze worked its way through the branches of the maple trees and tiny waves tickled the sandy shore as we gathered around the table that held flowers and a few small items. There were pictures of a tiny baby boy, born too early into a world that wasn’t ready for him.

I rode to the memorial with my ex-husband and stood with his family; they are my family, too, regardless of our divorce. His niece — our niece — was supported by a circle of those who love her, while Donna’s son, the pastor, officiated at the memorial for our first “great.”

God was there, too. In the words of the sermon, of course, and in the passages that were read from the Bible. But more than that, He was the one bit of shared ground, the one intersection of all those circles.

I can’t worship a God who thunders from a pulpit.

I believe that God is in the kindness and love shown in each of those circles. In Donna looking out for her younger co-worker while raising her son to be a spiritual leader. In my old church friend who teaches by example and not by judgement. In my ex and his family, who still accept me as one of them and hold onto those strings that connect me to this earth.

And yes, He was in little Logan during his few minutes of life in his mother’s arms, as hard as that is to believe through her grief.

So now it’s Sunday morning. Some folks are getting ready for church, and some of them may think less of me because I am sitting here chatting with friends over an iced coffee rather than heading out to a house of worship.

But for me, God isn’t just in a house of worship. He’s not in judgement and recrimination. He’s all around me in everything that we do, but most of all, he is in that little bit of shared ground, that place where all the circles of life intersect and bring us all together just when we need each other the most.

Image result for bible verse about kindness and compassion

 

Weekend Coffee Share: Hitting My Stride

coffee2

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d invite you to take it outside to the little wrought-iron bench near the entrance to my apartment building. It’s a little chilly outside — it’s May in Michigan, after all — but it’s a beautiful sunrise, and there is always something so peaceful about drinking that first cup of the day outside, hands wrapped around a warm mug while the steam rises and fogs up my glasses.

I used to love sitting on the porch at my aunts’ cottage in these early hours. We couldn’t see the sunrise from there, of course, because the house faced west, overlooking Lake Michigan. Still, the reds and golds of the sun rising behind us would reflect on the water, glittering and sparkling like so many jewels spread out as far as the eye could see.

I am a morning person. I am not an optimist by nature, but I try to believe that every morning brings with it a chance for a fresh start, a new beginning. An opportunity to take a deep and soul-cleansing breath, to wipe away the grainy residue of sleep and occasional dried tears and look at the world through fresh eyes.

Years ago, I would go for a run on mornings like this. I never ran very far or very fast, but I ran. Those first few steps were always clumsy and awkward until I found my rhythm, and I’d bargain with myself. “If I don’t feel better by the time I reach the stop sign, I’ll turn around and go home,” I’d promise.  Then I’d pass the stop sign and tell myself the same thing about an oak tree or a mailbox or some other landmark.

Eventually, I’d stop bargaining. Everything would just sort of glide into place and I could go on auto-pilot. When that happened, I wasn’t running for fitness or watching the time, or even measuring the distance. I was just being. Doing. Moving. And when it was over, my whole body felt stretched-out, warmed-up, energized. It felt as though my body and my spirit fit together perfectly.

I don’t run any more. Some days, walking is almost more than I can handle. But I miss that feeling of fitting inside my own skin.

Oh, this isn’t about physical fitness (or lack thereof). It’s about feeling lost. These past few years, life has felt like those early moments of my morning jogs when I had to keep pushing myself. “If things don’t get better by the time I reach that point, I’ll give up,” I keep thinking, and then I re-set my goal for another landmark. I keep waiting for that moment when things glide into place, when my body and spirit work together perfectly again.

I am restless. I am angry and bitter at times. I am tired.

But as I sit here on this wrought-iron bench with you this morning, sipping away at lukewarm coffee, today feels like one of those long-ago mornings at my aunts’ cottage, when I would take those soul-cleansing breaths and wipe my eyes. It feels like one of my early morning runs, and I have almost hit my stride. A few more steps, just a little farther, and I’ll find my rhythm.

And I guess that makes me an optimist, because mornings like this make me believe that I will find it, that I will hit my stride, and that my body and spirit will work together again someday soon.

That’s what being a morning person is all about.

 

Weekend Coffee Share: “Wick”

coffee2

If we were having coffee this morning, we could giggle and chatter about the joys of spring here in Michigan. The crocuses, the daffodils, and the potholes that have bloomed everywhere. The end of my self-imposed winter hibernation. The beginning of my state’s most extended and well-known season: Construction.

For me, the surest sign of spring is the return of the robin, our state bird. When I was a kid, my aunt Marian taught us to “stamp” robins. She would lick her right thumb, press it into her left palm, and then turn her right hand over and pound her fist into her left palm, shouting out a number.

robin

In theory, she was counting the robins because counting and stamping one hundred robins each spring was supposed to guarantee good luck for the upcoming year. In reality, we all suspected that Marian cheated. We didn’t mind, though, because we all cheated too. It was just too hard to keep accurate running totals in our minds.  After hitting one hundred, most of us kept on stamping a few surplus robins just to make sure we really hit a hundred.

The best part of stamping robins with Aunt Marian was calling her every spring to tell her when we saw our first robin. She’s been gone seven years now, but I still reach for the phone when I see the first one, only to remind myself that she’s in heaven, probably lying to the angels about how many robins she’s stamping at that very moment.

My kids have never gotten into the whole business of stamping and counting, but they’ve caught my enthusiasm for spotting the first robin each year. One morning a few weeks ago, as my boys and I were leaving for school, my youngest started bouncing around in the back seat and squealing “Robin! Robin!”

“Where?” I demanded.

“Never mind. It was a cardinal,” he said sheepishly.

For the record, it was a mourning dove.

What he lacks in in knowledge of birds, he makes up for in enthusiasm. Of course, his older brother now feels the need to tease him by randomly shouting out the names of other birds. “Ostrich!” he’ll bellow.  “Emu! Pelican! Never mind,” he’ll say, pointing at the nearest mourning dove.  “It was a cardinal.”

The robin is more than just part of my family’s weird traditions. He is also a symbol of hope, of new beginnings. A sign of better things to come.  His red breast is thought by some to represent the rising of the sun, the dawning of a new day.

I like that.

In one of my favorite books, The Secret Garden, little Mary befriends a helpful robin who leads her to the garden door and the hidden key that unlocks its secrets. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the book, the garden appears to be cold and abandoned, just like Mary; but a little bit of hope and attention bring both the child and the plants to full, vibrant life.

Dickon, the boy who learns her secrets and guides her along the way, shows her how a seemingly dead plant can still have a little life deep inside. He says they are “wick”– alive, or lively.

Every spring, when I see my first robin, I think of that moment in The Secret Garden, when lonely little Mary follows the robin and finds the key to her own inner springtime. I think of Mary, and I think of Marian, and I know that somewhere, even on the very worst days, there is a part of me that is  “wick.”

Take a moment this week to look for the signs of spring that mean the most to you. Count your robins, pick a daffodil or too, have a picnic. Whatever it takes, get out there and welcome spring with open arms and remember that you, too, are “wick” inside, no matter how dark the winter has been.

And if that fails, you can always try counting one hundred robins for good luck.

garaden

 

Be sure to visit Diana over at Part-Time Monster to link up and see what some other bloggers have had to say with their weekly coffee share.  Thanks to Diana for hosting the #coffeeshare posts!

Bye-lo, Kalamazoo

coffee2

If we were having coffee this morning, I wouldn’t be very good company. I keep crying. I’ve been crying off and on since I first heard the news when I got home from work at midnight, and all I can say is “no.”

No.

That’s it. Over and over. No, no, nonononono. Not here.

The sins of Kalamazoo are neither scarlet nor crimson

I should be thinking about the people, wondering if I know their names or if I’ll recognize their faces on the news. I should be wondering about their families and loved ones and thanking God that my daughter is home this weekend and not in Kalamazoo.

Instead, I am glued to the TV and internet, watching for updates.

Kalamazoo is my hometown. I grew up in one of its suburbs, and I used to work in the downtown area. Even now, I live less than an hour away. I can’t even begin to count the number of people I know in the area.

It’s been almost twenty years since I lived there, but it’s still my home. I should be frantically trying to contact people, but I don’t know where to start. Instead, I’m sitting here with the words of a Carl Sandburg poem running through my mind. And the people who sin the sins of Kalamazoo are neither scarlet nor crimson.

Last night, one of the people of Kalamazoo sinned a sin that was both scarlet and crimson. A man named Jason Dalton went on a killing spree and shot eight people in Kalamazoo, killing six of them. One of the victims, a fourteen year-old girl, is being described as “gravely injured”.

As far as the police can tell, Dalton didn’t know his victims. He shot a woman in the parking lot of a townhome. A father and son at a car dealership. Four women and the teenager at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.

Some reports say he was an Uber driver, calmly picking up and dropping off passengers between shootings.

Why?

If you are nuts America is nuts

Dalton’s neighbors have been interviewed on the news, saying that they never saw this coming. He seemed like such a normal guy, they say.  They also say that they are “concerned” about his wife and children, who haven’t been seen recently.

Police are looking for more crime scenes because four hours went by between the first and second shooting.

More crime scenes. More? God, please, no more.

And when they have looked the world over they come back saying it is all like Kalamazoo.

There it is. That’s the part that hurts. We are no longer immune. Every other time there has been a mass shooting or killing spree on the news, I’ve been able to stifle just a tiny bit of my horror with the inner reassurance that it hasn’t happened here yet. And now I can’t say that anymore.

I bought my last car at that dealership. I’ve eaten at that Cracker Barrel. Chances are good that I am going to recognize the names and faces when more information about the victims is released.

The wishing heart of you I loved, Kalamazoo.

I sang bye-lo, bye-lo to your dreams.

I sang bye-lo to your hopes and songs.

We are not strangers to death and tragedy in Kalamazoo. We were never any more or less innocent than any other town in America. We were just the people who lived a town whose name means “bubbling water” or “mirage of reflecting river”. Normal, ordinary people living in a normal, ordinary town with a memorable name.

Glenn Miller had a gal in Kalamazoo. Hoyt Axton had a cat named Kalamazoo and even Johnny Cash had been everywhere, man, including Kalamazoo. We have a hockey team and sometimes a baseball team. We had the first outdoor pedestrian mall in America.There are t-shirts and mugs and posters that declare “Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo!”

When an F-4 tornado levelled parts of our downtown on May 13, 1980, there were t-shirts available less than twenty-four hours later that said “Yes, there still is a Kalamazoo!”

We are a resilient town, just like any other town in America, and now, we have been hit by random, unthinkable violence, just like so many other towns in America. I don’t know what to say. What to think. How to feel. I guess I should be angry, but I am just sad and old and tired. For me, the sins of Kalamazoo no longer run to drabs and grays.

People are already using this as an excuse to start issuing grand proclamations about gun control, but this is not the time time to argue politics or Second Amendment rights. It is not the time to jump on a political bandwagon and turn this into an opportunity to climb on a soapbox. It is a time to open our arms to each other and find comfort in the closeness of our neighbors.  And mourn.

I sing bye-lo, Kalamazoo. To your hopes and songs, and to your people.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

coffee2

If we were having coffee this morning, I think I’d have to send you home before I got myself into trouble. I’ve had things happen in my life this week that I’m not allowed to share, and I am not good at keeping my mouth shut. A few sips of coffee, a couple minutes of friendly conversation, and I’d relax enough to start blurting out things that could cost me my job.

My ex used to say that my mouth “runs like a whippoorwill’s ass.” I know nothing about whippoorwills or their asses, but I have to assume he didn’t mean that as a compliment.

At any rate, this was one of those weeks that was just full of stuff I need to talk about . . . but can’t. It was also full of healthier eating, turmeric tea, and several frustrating attempts at meditation. “Just relax and empty your mind,” I was told. Honey, at my age, if I empty it, there’s no guarantee I’m ever filling it up again. “Let your mind roam,” they said. My mind has no sense of direction; if I let it roam too far in any direction, there’s a very strong possibility that it’s never coming back.

But there’s one direction my mind keeps taking right now, and that’s where I have to tread carefully.

I got to help someone this week. I got to hold a hand and give comfort to someone who needed it.

Something I don’t share often is the fact that my mother used to teach First Aid/CPR classes when I was a kid. My sisters and I would be the pretend victims for her classes to practice on. I used to love putting on the fake wounds and artificial blood so I could sprawl out on the classroom floor and pretend to be dying. It really appealed to my dramatic nature.

I got to be really good at faking a heart attack or insulin reaction. I could pretend a pass-out like nobody’s business. And the fake wounds with glass or sticks poking out of them were my favorites; I sometimes “borrowed’ them and stuck them under my clothes to freak out my friends at school the next day.

When it was time for the final exams in Mom’s classes, we really stepped up our game and staged some majorly dramatic accident scenes for her students. I loved it. Exam week for them was like a Broadway opening for me.

I was in middle school when she quit. Mom was even more of a drama queen than I am, but she rarely talked about the event that changed things for her. She had to use her training only once, performing CPR on an elderly gentleman in a parking lot, and she couldn’t save him. In that moment, I think she realized that knowing how to save a life wasn’t the same as actually having to do it.

She got scared.

I took First Aid/CPR certification classes as soon as I was old enough to do so. It was only natural, considering the environment I grew up in. And when I became an aunt and started helping out with my nieces and nephews, my sisters insisted that I become certified in Infant/Child First Aid/CPR as well. When my ex-husband, the Big Guy, became a volunteer firefighter and Medical First Responder, he urged me to take some classes and renew my certifications, but I let it all slide.

Looking back, I think I was scared. I don’t want to be responsible for life and death. I want to be the one in the back of the room who stays calm enough to dial 9-1-1 while everyone else is spinning out of control.

About ten years ago, the Big Guy saved a man’s life right in front of me. We were in a restaurant when an elderly man at the next table collapsed, and I held his wife’s trembling hands while my husband used CPR and then an AED to re-start a heart. They took the man away in an ambulance and we went back to our dinner as though nothing had happened, but reaction hit while we were on our way home later that night.

The Big Guy suddenly pulled over to the side of the road and started laughing. “I feel really good,” he told me. “I saved a life tonight.” He laughed and laughed, but his eyes were moist and I couldn’t do anything but hold his hand.

I remember that his hand was shaking.

This week wasn’t as dramatic as all of that. There was no real First Aid needed — which is a good thing because my certifications have all lapsed. I don’t think I would have known what to do if any kind of real medical intervention had been necessary. But once again, I held a trembling hand and offered comfort.

Image result for holding hands

I was needed.

I helped someone.

I don’t know exactly what this is that I’m feeling, or what to do about it. But I think . . . I think I need to help people in some way. I don’t know how or where, but I need to do more. I mean, it goes without saying that I realize I need to get recertified in everything. Top of the to-do list. Find out how much it costs, get signed up, and go to class. But after that? I just don’t know.

I have too many physical limitations to even consider being a first responder of any kind. But I need to add something to my life that allows me to help. To hold a trembling hand when needed.

Something’s got to change. I think maybe this is part of what I’ve been struggling with in recent months as my kids grow up and need me less and less every day. I need to be needed. I need to help.  I just don’t know who, what, when, where, or how. I feel restless, like I’m looking for something . . . but I don’t know what it is or where to start looking.

Sunday Morning

coffee2

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d invite you to sit in the rocking chair by the window so you could see the glorious sunlight on this beautiful morning. We’ve just had our first snow of the year, and brilliance of the sun gleaming off that pure white surface is a wonder to behold.

Aw, who am I kidding? I’d give you the rocking chair because whoever sits there will be blinded by the glare on sunlight on new snow, and I have a headache.

Yes, I am a horrible hostess. Does that really surprise anyone?

I hate snow. Loathe it. Despise it. Awful, nasty, slippery stuff. If I didn’t love Michigan so much the rest of the year, I’d head south at the first opportunity. But not too far south – my sister lived in Florida for a while, and she told us horror stories about Palmetto bugs and lizards dancing on the screens.

I have to admit that the first snowfall of the year always puts me in a nostalgic mood. It really is beautiful. As long as I’m safe and warm inside and don’t have to go anywhere.

The funny thing about winter is that everyone seems to have stories about how bad winters used to be. “These storms nowadays are nothing like the ones we had when I was a kid!” they’ll declare, and I have to wonder if it’s a symptom of Global Warming or if we all just get selective memory as we get older.

My mom used to tell stories about the Blizzard of ’67. It was so warm that morning that Dad went to work in his “shirtsleeves” as she put it. In other words, coatless in January.  She and Grandma sat outside in their slippers watching the baby play on a blanket, as the story goes.

Over the years, I’ve figured out that there were probably no slippers involved; that was just her way of saying that it was nice enough to go without boots. I’ve also figured out that the baby playing on the blanket must have been me.

The snow hit so hard and so fast that there were people who didn’t get home from work for days. They stayed where they were when the snow hit. Seven people died statewide as a result of that storm.

For me, though, the biggie was the storm of 1978, when I was in seventh grade. It was known as the “White Hurricane” and lasted for five days. I lived in Portage at the time, and we knew it was big because they closed Western Michigan University and Upjohn. Nothing ever made them close Upjohn.

I remember that specifically because my mom worked for Upjohn, and that meant she stayed home with us for all of the snow days during that storm. All of them.

Nobody could drive in that nightmare.  After a few days, some of the dads collected money and shopping lists and drove their snowmobiles to the nearest convenience store for things like milk and bread.

The snowdrifts almost reached the roof of our little one-story house. I really wanted to leap from the roof into the deepest drifts, but our neighbor, the minister, was keeping a pretty close eye on me and kept calling Mom every time he thought I was trying something too dangerous.

I had my first kiss in that snowstorm. All of the neighborhood kids bundled up and met in Lexington Circle for snowball fights and games of King on The Mountain. We played until we were numb and the streetlights came on, and someone dared Donnie to kiss me under a streetlight. I remember that there were runny noses and chapped lips involved, and I went home wondering why people made such a fuss about kissing.

Where were you to stop that dangerous activity before it started, Reverend Buwalda?

We really don’t seem to have winters like that anymore, but they’re still bad enough. I hate driving in it or walking in it or knowing that the people I care about are out in it. I hate bundling up in layers and smashing my hair under a hat, and I really hate the fact that I’ve already slipped and hit the ground hard already once this year.

But for today, safe and warm and cozy in my too-warm apartment, I have to admit it’s awfully pretty out there.

I wonder if the neighbor kids will play King on The Mountain or exchange sloppy kisses under the streetlights.

What about you? What are some of your favorite winter memories? What’s the biggest snowstorm you remember?

Be sure to visit Diana over at Part-Time Monster to link up and see what some other bloggers have had to say with their weekly coffee share.  Thanks to Diana for hosting the #coffeeshare posts!

Feelin’ Groovy

coffee2

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d probably have to toss you a to-go mug and tell you to try to keep up. My boys are coming home today, and I’ve got to be to work by 2:45, so my morning is going to be a whirlwhind.

Taking the time to write a blog post is probably not the best use of my time, to be perfectly honest. But that’s sort of what I want to talk about today.

We’re all busy. That’s just the way it is. It’s part of being a grownup. I work my two jobs plus some freelance writing and of course, I work on my books. I try to squeeze in a little bit of housework here and laundry there, and once in a while I have an extra ten minutes to unpack yet another box of stuff I probably don’t need but brought to the new apartment anyway. Last week, I also made cookies for the tailgate party at the school, and I managed to hem a pair of pants for one of the kids in the marching band. I even found a few minutes to throw some stitches into a baby quilt I’ve been working on for almost four years.

The baby I was making it for started kindergarten this year. At this rate, the quilt may be finished in time for her first child.

At any rate, I have been trying to settle into a routine. I’ve always been a morning person, so I’ve been setting my alarm a little bit earlier every day. I drag myself out of bed and try to check a few items off my to-do list before my day really starts. I’m usually up and functioning from 5 a.m. until I get home just before midnight.

Last night’s shift at the hotel was even busier than my personal life. I was alone at the desk on a Saturday night with a stack full of check-ins, a family reunion in the meeting room, and a mountain of laundry in the back. I was on the run the entire shift, delivering rollaways and cribs and extra blankets to rooms on the third floor, riding the elevator up and down in search of missing luggage carts, and answering phone calls from people who couldn’t understand why every hotel in town was booked up. I was busy folding sheets, making coffee, delivering pitchers of ice water, answering questions about the internet password, and resisting the urge to throat-punch the ridiculously loud inflatable ghost in the lobby that is going to drive me to insanity long before Halloween ever actually gets here.

It was around ten o’clock when the ladies from the family reunion gathered in the lobby and asked me to take their picture. They were laughing and handing me phones and cameras, and all of them kept shouting “wait!” or “hold on!” until finally one of the older women shushed them all and reminded them that I still had work to do, so would they please just quiet down so I could take their picture and go? Then she turned to me and said, “You really seem to have so much fun with your job.”

It knocked the wind right out of me.

She was right; I was having a blast.

I love what I do. I am good at customer service. I’ve been so caught up in the cycle of working and feeling sorry for myself that it never dawned on me that I’m actually having fun again.

I still miss doing hair. I miss the regular customers who came to me as kids, and for their proms, and for their weddings, and then with their own children. I miss my little old ladies who came to me for their roller sets every Friday for eighteen years. I miss the smell of perm solution and the tingle of bleach on my fingertips because I always hated wearing gloves during color services. I miss having that little nick between my first two fingers that I consistently gave myself at least once a week. I even miss coming home at night and finding those tiny pieces of hair in my pockets and sometimes inside my bra.

IMG_20130530_083438

Okay, too far– I do not miss the ones inside my bra. Especially not the ones that worked their way into my skin from time to time and became infected.

The point is I know I’m never going back. I’ve known it since six months after my accident. When the judge denied my Disability claim — and my appeals — I accepted the fact that the rest of my life will be spent doing something other than the job I loved. Just like I’ve accepted the fact that I’m always going to hurt, I’m always going to tire easily, and half of my left hand is always going to be numb. It is what it is, right?

Last night, those wonderful ladies made me realize that I’m having fun at work again. I’m not just punching the clock and earning a paycheck; I’m enjoying myself. My inner snob wants me to strive for something better than minimum-wage, second shift, entry-level stuff.  But my inner snob is kind of a jerk, to be perfectly honest.

I’ve been struggling all along to accept. Accept that my life is different now. Accept that my body has changed. Accept that I’m divorced and my kids are growing up and the world is changing faster than I can keep up; accept that life is flying by and I’m just along for the ride, hanging on for dear life.

I’m done accepting. I want to have fun again. I want to enjoy my time here on Earth, enjoy my friends and family and yes, enjoy the work that I do. So what if I can’t check off everything on my to-do list every day?

You know what? Give me back that to-go cup and let me give you my favorite mug with the seagulls on it. I’ll throw a batch of Jiffy blueberry muffins in the oven, and we’ll sit down at my grandmother’s old table and really talk.

It’s Sunday morning, the sun is shining, and I don’t have to be to work for a few more hours. Let’s enjoy today for what it is.

Be sure to visit Diana over at Part-Time Monster to link up and see what some other bloggers have had to say with their weekly coffee share.  Thanks to Diana for hosting the #coffeeshare posts!