Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cliff Jumping

A friend and I were embroiled in a debate a few days ago. Frustrated with life, he indicated he just wanted to wash his hands of something…”be done with it” he spurted.
“That is not what you really want”, I told him. “You need to try again”.
“Why?” He retorted back. “Why? When you know you’ll probably fail?  When you know it will be painful? …Would you jump off a cliff, If you knew you could be hurt? Of course not!” His frustration grew like a hot blister.

I wanted to wait for his anger to subside but before I knew it an answer had spilled out of my mouth.
“I jump off cliffs all the time”. He turned to look at me and I began to explain a philosophy I did not know I had.

Here is what I think about jumping off cliffs:

I jumped off a cliff every time I had one of my children. I did it every time I left them for work or the store or a night on the town. Later I did it when I encouraged them as they left me.  I jumped off a cliff when I agreed to a divorce that I did not want, but needed. I jumped off a cliff when I remarried, bringing a new person into my life and the lives of my children, exposing us to more potential heartbreak in the quest for balance and love. I jumped off a cliff when I got a new dog after vowing to never go through the heartache of putting another one down again. 

I do it when I ask hard questions, face hard truths and then take hard actions on faith, friendships, family and myself. I leap every time I extend trust, or believe without evidence, or forgive without strings. And, many days I am afraid. Afraid of losing, of not being good enough, of not being loved. But most times I am simply afraid that in leaping I'll get hurt.

Still, I jump then free fall all the time. Most of us do.

Some might call it stupid; risking pain for a fleeting chance to fly. I prefer to think it is courageous. I admire those that leap into the unknown, sure to face uncertainty and possibly even catastrophe; willing to do it for love, compassion, growth, fun or simple understanding. Willing to accept the chance that any bliss found will not last forever. Still, we walk to the edge and step off.  Hope our only safety net.

I have not always felt this way.

The day I turned 6 my parents took me and a group of my friends to a popular sledding hill. We were excited as we trudged upward donned in our mittens and scarves and billowy coats. The moment we arrived at the top, each of my friends jumped onto their red plastic disks and flew down the hill. Some went on their stomachs, others on their knees. A few laid all the way back and watched the clouds whiz by as they whooshed down the icy hill.

I stood at the top listening to their peals of laughter and screeches of joy. Yet, I was paralyzed by fear. Friend after friend tried to coax me onto my sled. My parents offered to ride with me but I shook my head, No! My feet sank deeper into the freezing snow and hot tears turned into icicle's and streamed down my frosty cheeks. 

My parents and friends hiked up the hill time and again. Each time stopping to ask me if, "I was ready now?" Time and again, I shook my head and whispered a silent no.  With a shrug of a shoulder, a smile and a wave, they bounded on their sleds again and plummeted into the abyss.

It took me years to understand what I learned on that day.  We can avoid risk; hold tight to our safe zones, but in doing so we don’t typically avoid pain. As I stood there I missed a few scrapes and bumps only to wallow in the pain of fear and failure. I learned something else too. Despite climbing the hill twenty times, despite falling and rolling and sometimes even bleeding, my friends were energetic, alive and confident. I on the other hand, felt tired, defeated and weak. 

If you want to see in yourself courage and strength…  If you want to live instead of just endure…  If you want to know the depth of love...the release of forgiveness or the heights of exhilaration…

Step up to the edge.  Take a deep breath.  Spread your wings, and leap.

Photo courtesy of TutuWon : Jumping in the Beach/Saltando en la Playa

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Autumn is my favorite season. I love the cool air and the scent of moisture on decaying leaves. I love walking through a waft of silky smoke produced by newly hewn logs burning in a well-rested fireplace.

Autumn light enchants me. Something changes in the refraction of light during autumn. Instead of bouncing off objects like it does during Summer, light in autumn pulls apart becoming a cobweb of sunbeams. It blankets objects and sinks into crevices. Edges become softer; colors deeper. The whole world is ablaze in muted golden rays.

When I was young, autumn brought the promise of a candy filled night, pumpkin pies, parties and fluffy piles of leaves.  As I got older, sweets were replaced with crackling fires and cups of hot tea and high school football games.

Still older now, autumn has become the symbol of my age.  I've come to realize autumn, as it always is, will be the last shining season before winter. I don’t know that I am there just yet, but I see it on the horizon. I've lost some of my summer exuberance and even more of the budding youth of spring. The seasons of my life are flying by. Yet, I feel the same excitement for my personal autumn as I do when I open the door to the first crisp, fall morning.

I linger for a  moment to soak in the chill and savor the fragrance of fall. “It’s almost here” I whisper, as I wrap my silky, sunny robe into a tight cocoon.

It’s almost here. 

Lately I've realized just like autumn leaves, I look forward to detaching from limbs that sometimes hold me against my will.  I can’t wait to drift in the golden haze and then lift again to float on the wind. The frenetic pace of summer has schooled me on the need for fall. And soon, I will be content to be carried where ever life might take me. When the harvest wind arrives, I will be ready. 

I hope it brings a long October, a full hunters’ moon, a spicy sip of cider and a cozy shawl.

After all, autumn is my favorite season.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Tale of the Flying Burrito

I sat in the theater next to my 9 year old son. My daughters and husband lined up neatly beside him, like birds on a wire. We settled into our butter laden, velvet seats. It was family movie night! 

Hungry as always, my son had asked for another meal, despite eating dinner only a couple of hours before. While the rest of us passed around a bucket of salty popcorn, he dug into a  bean and cheese burrito sized like a small Fiat. He was happy.

I was frustrated... at the extra expense, the odor and the large tray that was stealing my elbow room.

The movie started.

20 minutes in, I noticed Christian still hadn’t finished his meal.  This was evident by the pungent aroma that still wafted through the theater and the whining, screeching sound that he produced every time he pulled his fork across the tin pan.

 I leaned over.

"Finish it!” I was yelling as loud as you can through a whisper, “It smells bad and you’re being loud.”
"It’s not good.” He looked and sounded genuinely disappointed.
“I just spent ten dollars for that, I shrilled through clenched teeth. Eat it!”

I went back to watching the movie, occasionally distracted by the tinny sound of his fork against the pan.  I gave him the evil eye.

“It’s naaawwt gooooood” he groaned again.

“Eat or put it down, but don’t even think of asking for anything else!”

I could tell he was negotiating with himself. Could he live without food for the rest of the night or should he gulp it down in two big bites? He scraped his fork across the metal plate again and this time I lost all patience.

I grabbed the tray that held the burrito pan, intending to take it away. Unfortunately, I did not realize how anchored the tray was to the cup holder. Instead of releasing easily, it pulled up quickly... jammed... and SLAMMED to a complete stop.

This caused the tin pan to launch into the air. It flew straight up, hovered just above the plastic tray, then crashed down hard, releasing the burrito. Cheese and sauce slurped as it pulled away from the pan and the burrito shot out like a rocket.

I was horrified.

Time slowed to a crawl as Christian and I watched the burrito climb higher, turning end over end, sauce and beans flying as it propelled through the air. We were stunned.

I reached out just as it hit with a dull thump.

I had prayed it would land on the floor. It did not.

Instead it hit the head of the gentleman in front of us.

It landed near the top of his skull and slowly slid down to the nape of his neck where cheese and hair instantly produced a velcro tight bond.

There it clung.

I gulped.

I knew in a second all hell would break lose. I put the tray back in the cup holder and braced myself to receive a burrito in the face, most likely followed by a fist.

In the dark theater, the man reached up and very carefully felt the back of his head. He slid his hand over his saucy coiffure and finally landed on a significant lump of tortilla with rice and double beans. His fingers read it like a blind man reading a mexican horror story. Then he wrapped his whole hand around it and pulled it out of his collar and hair. I held my breath. Despite the sound of gunfire, horses and western music, I could only hear my heart beating and the sound slurping of cheese again.

I prayed fervently. “Here it comes”, I thought. “Brace yourself, here it comes.” I was tempted to close my eyes. Hot enchilada sauce and daily wear contacts don’t mix. Instead, I bravely kept them open and found that I could not believe my eyes. He didn't huck it. Instead, he pulled the burrito up close to his face. It was as if feeling it and holding it were not enough. He had to SMELL it, in order to fully comprehend the weapon we’d just used to assault him. I braced myself again. But, without a word or even a glance in our direction he quietly placed the smelly lump on the empty seat beside him, wiped his hand on his jeans and turned his face back to the movie.

“What???” I could NOT believe it.

I thanked my lucky stars we were sitting in Utah where Mormon culture often results in people being polite to a fault. With this thought, my nerves got the best of me. I started to laugh, the violent, rumbling laugh of someone who needs to come up for air but has to remain silent. I was shaking the whole row. My son, no longer in shock, pressed his hand hard on my knee. This only made me laugh harder. Still completely silent, I was now buckled over as waves of hilarity tried to drown me. I let out a snort and almost fell to the floor. My son softly kicked me.

“Get it together, I thought. If burrito man can display such control you can too!”

I held my breath and chastised myself over and over. I tried to think of discipline, of professionalism, of empathy for the man covered in mexican spices. I started to laugh again.

Finally, after a good mental scolding, I took in a few gulps of air and slowly straightened in my seat. I purposely did not look at the back of his head.  I tried to focus on the screen. I inhaled more deep breaths, then turned to acknowledge the icy frustration exuding from my son. I scanned for his face in the dark.
When I found it, I saw his hand formed in the shape of an L pasted to his forehead. I looked at it momentarily confused and then watched as he emphatically mouthed the word “Loser!” and slowly beat his L fingers to his head.

I laughed out loud, sent the popcorn bucket crashing to the floor and ran out of the theater.

Forty minutes later the movie ended. My kids and husband apologized on my behalf, blaming my behavior on a rare neurological disorder called stupidity. Then they picked me up from my hiding place. We laughed all the way home as we re-told the story with greater and greater vigor. Years later, the legend lives on.

I often wonder about the legacy I will leave when I'm gone. Despite my best efforts to be known for goodness and grace... (eye roll), I know  it is more likely that tales like The Flying Burrito will be what gets remembered. Though it is not regal or even Mother Theresa like, I'm OK with this.

As Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."

Based on the mishaps I have almost daily... there will be lots of laughter when I'm gone.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


We stumbled over the rocks to the dusty road to begin our evening walk. My 7 year old niece was recapping various events as we trudged up the hill. Occasionally I asked a question to try and steer the conversation.  She was jumping from topic to topic like a frog on caffeine. I was hot and tired and I wanted her to land. I wanted a thought to sit between us for a while and float on the air as we hiked. In the heat and the dust, I wanted her not to be 7.

So how often do you swim in your pool I asked?
“Pretty much a lot” she said.
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, 'specially since we got the slide.”
“I didn’t know you had a slide”
“Yep, daddy got one for us a while ago.”
“That’s cool” I said, as she tumbled over me with her words.
“I didn't like it at first. I didn't want to go down it, but daddy told me I had too. I cried and said I didn't want to but daddy told me I had to try. So I climbed up and got down on my stomach and then he pushed my feet. I was scared." 
She had a look of dismay as she thought back to the event, and her voice hit a crescendo as she said again, “I didn't want to go.”
I waited a moment to see if she had more.
“So how was it when you slid down and hit the water?”
I watched her go from glum to glee in 0.6 seconds.
“It was fun! I didn’t want to go! She sounded exasperated and excited.  “But then I did again and again and again. It was fun!”
We kept walking. Excitement and pride lingered in the air.

“So what did you learn from that?”
She looked at me with wonder and perhaps just a little frustration.
“From what?”
“What did you learn from going down the slide even though you were scared?”
She put her head down and was surprisingly quiet as we walked.
Finally she looked up at me.

“I would say…… I shouldn't be afraid of being afraid.”

Her eyes held mine. She had stated a matter of fact and she knew it. Deep understanding lit her face and I realized she sounded as old and as wise as the desert we were trudging through.

I gulped to keep the tears from coming.

Her eye caught a jack rabbit and she ran down the trail.

Little bodies are deceiving. It’s easy to believe that they hold little brains. I don’t know why I was surprised at her insight.  I paused to remember what I already knew about the world at seven years old; about the conclusions I had already drawn. And then I thought about my own children, who often exhibited more wisdom in their youth than I do now that I’m old. Pride and regret wrapped around me; pride for her perceptivity.  Regret, that in my moment of impatience I had wished her youthfulness away.  She, like all children would grow up too fast....

Her sing song voice pulled me out of my thoughts.
“Race me Uncle John. Race me!”
Suddenly I heard the pounding of feet and the gulping of air and the music of laughter. I watched as they ran up the hill and disappeared into the chalky sunlight. 

Little guru to little girl in 0.6 seconds.

I smiled. And, then I ran too.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Problem with Words

Most people who know me would say I have a pretty good grasp of the English language. I attribute some of this to good genes and most of it to my word of the day marathons and my quest to read the dictionary when I was nine.

I drank in the pages of Webster’s and Roget’s. First I read the word. Then I read the definitions. Then I chose the definition I liked the best. Next, I closed my eyes and tried to spell the word correctly. Then I tried to repeat the definition exactly right. Once finished, I would open my eyes and scan the word again.  If my recitation was close, I’d move on.  If not, I made myself start over.

Thinking back on this I have to laugh. “Close” in spelling has proven to be quite unhelpful! But at the time it was all about quantity!

In my early twenties, I discovered you could rent CD’s from the library. Instead of going for works of fiction, I looked for CD’s rife with words and definitions. I would pop these into my various stereos and listen to words for hours on end... but listening was only part of the game. Using them in sentences was the part I loved. I tried to weave my new found words into everyday conversation.  Standing at the chip bin in my tassel laden, Mexican waitress outfit you might hear me say something like this;

“She stood with a lacy snood covering half of her eye and started a jerkwater preamble about the pervicacious man in booth two.”

Though I found it great fun, I learned quickly that using sentences like this did not help my ability to communicate.  So I dialed it back a little. Instead of stringing together many words, I just tried to use them here and there.  A conversation about sleeping in church might sound like;

“I could tell you were asleep in the meeting because your head was nutating and you had drool on your chin.”

I never understood the reaction that usually resulted in something like, “what the hell did you just say?” After a while, those closest to me said nothing at all.  Instead, they just rolled their eyes and walked away.

I admit that sometimes things sounded a little munificent, but why not?

Other times, my kids or my husband would chastise me with annoyance.
Them:  “Oh, so you’ve started your word of the day thing again.”
Me: “No, actually that word is part of my standard vocabulary.”
Them: “Well it shouldn’t be!” ….stomping  away disgustedly.
Me: “Killjoy!”

But, I ramble…my real intent of this writing is to explore what happened to my brain around idioms. I’ve been told time and again that I am a very good communicator. Yet, for some reason, I never get them right! This has become more evident since I spend a lot of time as the keynote presenter in rooms full of people.  As part of my discourse, I often make an off the cuff comment that results in stares of confusion or peals of laughter.

Yesterday, I did it twice.

After a very effective communication about initiating a project correctly I said, “Let me leave you with one last thought on this topic.”

Dramatic pause.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pint of gold.”

I thought I said it right.
 I looked down to orient myself to the notes for the next section. When I looked back up half of the people looked confused and the other half were snickering under their breath.

Me: “What’s going on?”
The cute blonde girl at the back of the room: “it’s a pound of cure”
Me: “What?”
Her: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
Me: “What did I say?”
Her trying not to laugh, “A pint of gold”
The room erupted in laughter.

Later in the afternoon we were in a robust discussion about Key Stakeholders. Someone wanted to know why you wouldn’t just work around them?

“Here is the deal,” I said. “You shouldn’t lick a gift horse in the mouth.”
I tried to continue my thought…”This key stakeholder is the….”

Jason spoke up though he could barely get the words out through is giggles.
“You did it again! You said you shouldn’t LICK a gift horse in the mouth.”
The room erupted again.
“I think you got that wrong!” He tried to catch his breath.
“You shouldn’t lick ANY horse in the mouth.”
People started falling out of their chairs.

“Ok,” I said. “I think we better take a break”

So, I’m making a list of the idioms I ALWAYS get wrong. I hope by publishing it that one of two things will happen.  1) Either my brain will finally realize that these can never be used again. Or 2) and better yet, some of you will decide to adopt them too, and together we’ll start our own language!

The grass is always green where they water
It is no skin off my tires
Go down like a lead boat
Idle hands make light of work
One couch short of a living room
Started off on the wrong leg
A pig in a poke is worth two in the bush
Rome wasn’t built in an hour
The ball is in your yard

This just went over like a lead kite

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dance Like There's Nobody Watching

For years, my family and I been talking about having a dance party on the sport court. It is large, with a beautiful view and given the right weather it is the perfect place to do almost anything. 
So, every year we try to find a date and thus far every summer has slipped by without a party. Despite our best efforts, life gets in the way.

This year I was determined.

We set a date for the dance party, sent out invites and made a pact that even if we were the only ones who showed up we’d party anyway.

12 rice paper lanterns , 2 strings of twinkling lights, 1 canvas screen , 1 projector, a copy of Just Dance and a great sound system later,  our vision was underway.

We were relieved and pleasantly surprised as person after person trekked up the rock path to our disco under the stars.

We ate, we laughed, and we bantered about life. Most of all we danced.  Young and old, family and friend; not one of us really a dancer. Still, we did it anyway.  We turned the music louder and threw caution to the wind.  Before the night was over most of us realized that love isn’t reliant on how you look and joy will almost always trump embarrassment.

Inspirational Author, William W. Purkey once said:

“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.” 

If you were asked to describe heaven on earth what would you say? I’ve not thought of this very deeply, but for now, this description comes to my mind:

A cool summer night in the mountains surrounded by family and friends.  Light conversation, hugs and smiles weaved together by music and laughter and love.

I have no way of knowing if this description is right.

I hope that it is close.

As I watched my daughter, my nieces and nephews, my cousins and friends, my parents and uncle and aunt, and finally as I watched my husband that night, one thing kept rolling through my mind.

Nights like these are the stuff that memories are made of. 

I wanted to say something profound to accompany any recollection that might come later.

I didn’t. 

I was afraid I would ruin the moment. The truth is that Lee Ann Womack says it so much better than I ever could. So I’ll end this blog with her lyrics. Ever since that evening, this song as been on my mind.

 I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love never leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance...

I hope you dance.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance,
Living might mean taking chances, but they're worth taking
Loving might be a mistake, but it's worth making.
Don't let some Hell bent heart  leave you bitter,
When you come close to selling out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…

I hope you dance. I hope you dance.

Dedicated to my brother in-law,
Rick Blakemore who passed away the night of our party. 

Ricky, I hope you're dancing now!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Doing The Dishes - A Musical

Years ago my kids and I were in the kitchen talking. I was trying to get my son to help me unload the dishwasher but like most 16 year old boys, he was not budging. Instead he sat at the counter taunting me with a rhythmic ditty he was making up on the spot. In a moment of inspired motherhood, instead of getting mad, I started to sing along. My musical boy joined in and within minutes we were composing a rousing anthem and dancing around the kitchen.

At some point I looked over to see my youngest daughter.  She was laughing and holding what I thought was a still camera and appeared to be taking pictures as we danced around and acted like hoodlums. We did not realize that her camera also had video. Indeed, she captured almost all of our antics that night
Later she would post them to YouTube without our knowledge. And though everyone who found the video thought it was hilarious, both my son and I would be embarrassed for years.  We did everything we could to keep it from getting around. Despite our best efforts it made the rounds to friends and colleagues and even high school teachers. Oh how we wished we could take it back.

Years have passed now and I can’t help but notice how things change. Kids grow-up and moms get old. Before long the house is empty and there aren’t many dishes that need to be done.

Now instead of hounding my children to be independent and responsible, I’ve learned they are. Each of them is grown and living their own life. The paths they have chosen are as diverse as their personalities, but all of them are finding their own way, paying their own bills....doing their own dishes. 

I miss them.

Sometimes more than anything else I wish I could hear their voices again, see all three of their faces in the same room; revel in the sound of their laughter. 

Of course, I am excited for their chance to make their own lives and to become the adults I raised them to be…still, it does not mean that occasionally I don’t long to turn back the hands of time and have them all home again.

When I feel this way, I often go to YouTube to find the video that made us squirm so long ago.

Age is a wise old teacher. 

Instead of being embarrassed, I’m proud of that night in the kitchen. Given the opportunity, I would likely show the world. Oh, there is still a wish my hair was combed and I looked a little more fashionable. But this wish is quickly replaced by what I know…

I know real life isn’t picture perfect; the best moments are never planned. I know it did not matter what we were wearing, if we were pretty or cool, or even talented. I know on that night we LOVED being together... And NOW I know I am so glad my daughter captured us enjoying an instance of pure and nutty joy!

So I play our video. I grimace for just a second, but then the memories come flooding back and I laugh.

Doing the Dishes Video Link (But only because I know you won't hold it against me!)


Monday, April 22, 2013

Monkeying Around

Today someone asked me how I spent my weekend.
“You can tell a lot about a person by how they answer this question” he said, and looked at me inquisitively.

I did not have the guts to tell him that my husband had rented a gorilla suit, and donned it for the better part of Sunday afternoon, while I followed him around with a camera. I did not tell him. Yet, that is exactly what I did. If this says anything about who I am. Well, quite frankly, I’m a little scared.

A few months ago, as we sat in the movie theater, one of us had a bright idea. “Wouldn’t it be funny if we were sitting here in Gorilla suits?” I’m not sure who said it. I will admit we both laughed.  But, John couldn’t let it go. So last week after lots of gorilla talk he sent this email to my Minnesota hotel room:

Gorilla Suit….just ordered it. It will be here on Thursday. I have it all weekend. I am going to the mall, Costco, Home Depot, grocery store, etc. Grab your camera ‘cus this is gonna be fun!!!!! J

All action…and minimal good sense….now that is my kind of guy!

One gorilla suit later, I have learned a few things. First, he was right. It was fun!

… and in some ways strangely disappointing. This weekend I realized the world is largely immune to rubberized, fake fur, Gorillas in public places. It was odd to see how many people, including little kids had no reaction at all. I think this says something about the world….and, I’m not sure I like it.

Still, there were lots of laughs and even more stares. I was especially amused by the people who earnestly tried to figure out why a guy was walking around in a Gorilla suit on a perfectly good Sunday afternoon? Bewildered, they asked each other questions like:

“Why do you think he is wearing that?”
“Do you think he’s part of a social project?”

I wanted to say, “Lighten up…This really isn’t a problem solving moment people. Just enjoy the show.”

By the end of the day, 
  • John the Gorilla made a few kids cry. (Something he is not proud of)
  • He made a group of teenage girls run screaming. (Something he is VERY proud of)
  • He made the Blockbuster checker laugh as he tried to buy a copy of Planet of the Apes.
  • He joined a random family photo…
  • …and he created a pretty funny moment in Harmons when he walked in and purchased bananas.

Given another choice, I’m not sure I could have come up with anything better.
So what did I do this weekend?

 I guess you could say I monkeyed around with my best friend. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013


A week ago, Mariesa and I decided we needed an ice cream cone before heading home. We pulled up to the Dairy Queen drive through and a teenage boy asked if he could take our order.  When he repeated it back he no longer sounded 17. Instead he sounded ninety three and a lot like the fairy tale witches of my youth.

 It shocked me. My face must have registered surprise and I started to laugh.  Obviously the star of some hidden camera feed, the boy on the other end of the microphone started laughing too.

I tried to place our order, but found that I could not stop laughing. Every time I tried, I laughed harder.
 “I’ll haaavveee  aaaahhhh..heeeehehehe….hahahahaha….aaaahhh …..heeehehe… snort….aaahhhhahaha.

 It did not help that my daughter had slid out of the passenger seat and was half sprawled on the floor in her own fit of merriment.

Nor did it help that every time I tried to compose myself, I could hear shrills of laughter coming through the microphone. One 17 year old had turned into at least 3-4 boys who were yucking it up over the joke played on me.

In a matter moments, all of us, my daughter, me, the guys inside the Dairy Queen…all of us had completely lost our composure. We were no longer obeying established rules of decorum and politeness.  Like a bunch of college kids on a drinking binge, we had run amuck.

And for the few minutes that it lasted, it felt AWESOME!

It also felt a little scary. Cars were piling up behind us. The responsible part of my brain kicked in. We couldn’t keep laughing forever.  I either had to get the order placed or I had to hit the gas and charge Pell mell past the drive through window.

I finally regained enough control to place the order. As I drove up, four guys came to look at us. I shook my head in mock disgust and said,”You are an idiot” to the boy that grabbed my credit card.

 This time I was the one producing the shocker. Still, laughter had created a bond between us and he immediately knew I had name called with love. He threw his hand to his mouth and then doubled over. We all burst out laughing again.

“Hey”, another guy said,” we gotta do something to have a little fun around here.” He shrugged his shoulders as he handed us our ice cream. We exchanged one last smile and then it was over. A few minutes later we were back to reality, lots of decisions to make, too many things to do.

But for a moment a little laughter made the weight of the world go away. If we’d had known it was that easy, we would have saved the calories. Turns out we didn’t need our vanilla twisty cones at all.

Did you know studies show that kids laugh 400 times a day? The number of times adults laugh? 15. Yet, the health benefits are numerous and more studies show that nothing breaks down cultural barriers like laughter. Laughter is a universal language that can forge an instant bond.

Those Dairy Queen boys reminded me how great it feels to laugh, how good it feels to be human, how lucky I am to be me.

If you are an adult, chances are you need to laugh more too. So find a kid, look at the world from their perspective or do something unexpected and create a reason for someone else to laugh.

 LOL! It really is the best medicine.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Because of You. A Tribute to My Dad.

Today is my Dads 70th birthday and I have been thinking all week about what gift I can give him. But nothing comes to mind. I know that he has every material thing he needs and wants. I also know that he is getting older and though he is in great health, dads don’t live forever.
As a mother, I long to know the legacy I have left on my children. I can’t help but wonder, despite all the things I tried to teach, what will they take away from me?
It made me think that my dad might long for the same thing. But, I’m not good at saying this stuff out loud. As much as I might want it to, it never seems to come out right.

So I hope you won’t mind if I borrow this forum to share some thoughts about the legacy my dad has left to me.

Dear Dad,
Here is what I want you to know.

Because of you, I love to be outside. I love to walk up mountains picking up rocks, examining the shape and the color and trying to recall the names you taught me. Occasionally, I find rocks in random places in my home. They appear in pockets, in drawers and on window sills. Rocks I picked up on one of my journeys and rolled through my fingers while thinking of you, and unconsciously carried back home.

Because of you, I often dream of living on a farm. And because of you I know it is not a romantic, easy dream. I know my days would be filled with back breaking work, the mending of fences, the care of animals, thirst and sweat and tired bones. Yet, when you talk about these things I see where your strength comes from, your patience and your stubborn spirit. These are things that I love and admire about you. 

Because of you, I like the scent of tall pines, the smell of cut wood, and the way the light bounces off a rolling field of golden wheat. I like the sweet aged taste of choke cherry syrup and the pucker of a twelve lemon pie. And… because of you, I can’t ever eat plums without recounting in vivid detail, the day you fell while picking them.

Because of you, I love dogs. I’ve enjoyed their unconditional love and companionship all through my life. Time after time, you gave our family the gift of a dog. And every time, he or she turned out to be one of my dearest friends. I have Kayak today, because you taught me to love dogs so long ago.

Because of you I am slightly afraid of hitchhikers! But, I am never wary of offering a helping a hand. Through you, I learned tolerance and to see things from the “other guys” perspective. Through you, I learned to lay judgment aside and let love and service stand in its place. 

And though I am not always good at the details, I appreciate the value of them because of you. You taught me to slow down, to be more precise, to understand how and why things work. Because you taught me these things, and because details don’t come naturally to me, I actively seek for others to provide that balance in my life and my work.

Because of you I am not afraid to laugh so hard I cry.

And like you, I have learned to laugh at myself with grace and joy.

But, I’m also not afraid to sit quietly, watching the world unfold around me. I learned peace in observation, from you.

Dad, your example makes me want to preserve traditions, to tell stories, hold reunions and stay connected to people and places and things that I love. You have taught me the value of history. And because of you, I have gratitude and respect for the people who came before me. It’s important to me that they know that I remember. It’s important to me because of the stories you have told and the traditions you and mom have created for us.

From you, 

I learned love. 
I learned the pride of dirty hands after a long, hard day of work.
I learned to stop and listen; to soak it all in and then to be thankful.
I learned to be forgiving.
And I strive to be as humble.
It is my love for you and my gratitude for the things that you taught me that push me to be better and to try harder. Your example reminds me to be thoughtful, loving, and to strive for truth.

I know that we don’t always see eye to eye. Since I am a parent too, I am sure that there are times when you wish I would do things your way. But I also know you respect my differences and that you honor my right to make my own choices. And I hope you know I accept and appreciate these great gifts you have given to me.

Thank you for being my father. I am proud to be your daughter.
I love you. Happy 70th! 


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Don't Forget the Small Stuff

A couple of years ago I got stuck in a car wash.
I drove my car in, the doors closed behind me and nothing happened. No water. No spinning brushes. No flashing lights. No colored foam. Nothing.
I sat there, all kinds of questions running through my brain.
Do I get out of my car?
What if I do and I become a human dish in an over sized human dishwasher?
Do I leave my car running, because it’s pretty darn cold in here and I don’t want to freeze?
How long does it take to be overcome by carbon monoxide?
What will the headlines say?

Local Woman Dies in Car Wash
Sandy Woman all Washed Up

I decided to get out of my car.
I pushed the “In case of emergency button”.
I pushed it again. Still nothing.
I walked to both doors and tried to pull them up but they did not budge.
I found a side exit, a glass door, frozen over with ice. After trying the handle, I slammed my body against it twice. The door remained tightly shut and my shoulder started to throb.
I heard a car drive up to the car wash and I started to yell.

“Hey, I’m stuck in here. Help! Help!”

I pounded on the door. I could hear the engine and the radio. I could hear someone punching buttons. Unfortunately, they could not hear me. The car sat for a few minutes as I yelled, then backed up and drove away.
I tried to call the gas station, but they did not answer. Finally, I called the police who connected me to emergency dispatch and my car wash rescue was under way.

In the end, I lost 2 hours. I got my 8 dollars back. My car remained dirty and my friends and family were amused. All in all, it was an experience. Not a good one, but not a bad one either. And yet, every time I go to wash my car, I think about this event. Like a child once burned by a hot stove, as I inch toward the car wash doors I think twice…I enter cautiously… and if it is even remotely cold outside…I just drive away. My life was changed by a car wash.

Walking past my oh so dirty car today, I had this thought:

“It is the unexpected things that so often change us most.”

When I look back on my life I am surprised at what sticks. I’m surprised by the simple memories that remain when I can’t recall even the slightest details of bigger events. I’m in awe of how inadvertently I learned some of my most important lessons.

I love the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” but I want to write a sequel. “Don’t Forget the Small Stuff”.
Don’t take it for granted. Don’t underestimate the power of little things.
Don’t forget to take stock of why love exists,
or strength appears
or where fear comes from.
Don’t forget to notice which unexpected things changed you for the better and which changed you in ways you didn’t really want to change at all.
When you realize the latter, do something unexpected. Adjust the outcome.

It is the unexpected things that so often change us most.

With that in mind, despite the cold weather, I’m going to wash my car.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Shapes on the Ceiling

When I am lying in bed I see shapes on my ceiling; little pieces of artwork that appear in the plaster. Some of these shapes I see once and then they disappear for days. Others are always there. Like calling cards, they entice me to look up and take notice.
I’ve tried to share these with my husband.
The conversation usually goes something like this.
“Ok, look up…right to where my hand is pointing. Do you see it now? It’s a torso with 3 buttons.”
“Does it have arms and legs?”
“No….just a torso, a torso with 3 buttons. Can you see it?”
“Then you are looking in the wrong place! Seriously you can’t miss it.”
“I can.”
I turn to look at him incredulously. There is a long pause while we try to figure out what is wrong with each other. I turn back to the ceiling.
“Ok, what about the witches face? See the nose and the pointy hat? She is huge. You can’t miss her. Look! Right there…pointy nose…big wart…she has her mouth open.”
“Nope, don’t see her either.”
I crawl to my PJ clad knees and then stand like most 46 year olds on a wobbly surface. I am stretched as tall as 5’2.5 can possibly be. My fingers trace the shapes in the air but I am still about 6 inches away.
“Here….right here. It’s a rabbit. See? Here are the ears and the cotton ball tail….”
My fingers twist out a small fluffy circle.
“I’m leaving now.”
“Seriously! You are not even trying!” I stomp a little and the bed ripples. It’s right here!”
I turn to see him walking towards the shower.
My NO “ show and tell” is over.
I flop back down. More shapes appearing as I wonder.
Why can’t he see what I see?
Sometimes trying to get my husband to see things my way, is like trying to describe cinnamon to someone who cannot smell. It is impossible to do, and yet so hard to believe that it cannot be done. After all, we both have noses!
I know, that if asked, he would say the same about me.
And it isn’t just that we see things differently, we experience them differently too. Often, I wish this was not true. I wish that our understanding was instant, that I did not have to explain my point of view… that we liked the same things… that we never had to compromise…
The world would be so much easier!
But if I am honest, this isn’t really what I want at all. I think easy things are kind of boring. I like a good challenge and a chance to change a mind. And sometimes, though it is hard to admit, I even like my mind changed. As I think of all the reasons I love my husband, I realize it his differences that are high on the list. They are exasperating and exhausting and enlightening and exciting. He provides a different way to see the world. All I have to do is look.
I ponder.
They say when you are ready, a teacher will appear.
As really odd shapes on the ceiling? Who knew?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Time to Enjoy the Ride

As we flew into Salt Lake City tonight we hit a bit of turbulence. The plane dropped steeply and then pitched back up. Moments later it did it again. I looked at the people around me. One lady looked green and was already holding the brown paper barf bag in her hand. The man across from me was clenching both arm rests tightly. His knuckles were so white they looked like marble.

Most everyone else was bored; frequent flyers not easily shaken by a little turbulence. The plane pitched forward again.

This time I heard squeals coming from the seat behind me. I turned to see two little boys. I would guess they were five or six. One had his chubby little arms in the air, as if on the ride of his life. He was wearing a mischievous smile. The other boy was holding his stomach with a look of excitement and awe. He turned to his mom, “my stummy is dropping!” He squealed again then giggled. His counterpart let out a long and low, “Whoooooa! I didn’t know it would turn into a roller coaster. Did you mom? Did you?”

I couldn’t help but smile as the plane rocked forward one more time and shrieks and giggles erupted again.

A few minutes later the plane bounced on to the runway.
As I gathered my bags, I heard the boys express disappointment that the ride was over.
“Now what?” sadly questioned the youngest one.

There was a momentary pause...“Skiing!" Yelled the taller and I turned to see two toothless smiles as happy screams filled the tin cabin again.

Walking off the plane, I couldn’t help but wonder what happens as we age?
When do we go from enjoying the ride of our lives to just waiting for the moment we can get off the plane?
Why do we get stuck at "now what?" when another adventure would be so easy to find?

I’m taking a cue from these kids. Next time, I'll choose not to be annoyed at a few bumps in my road. Instead, I'll throw my chubby arms in the air and put a grin on my face. Who knows? I might even try a giggle as my "stummy" is dropping!