Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Is this thing on?

Every night when H is done reading I hear the book hit the floor with a thud, the snap of her bedside light switching off, then she calls to me, "Goodnight, Mommy; I love you!" I reply, "I love you, H; goodnight!" because palindromes amuse me.


Last month I looked up something I wrote about Handel's Messiah because I wanted to share it with the music director who orchestrated (heh) the whole thing. She's being treated for cancer that's come back and metastasized and could use all cheerful distraction and reminiscing she can get.

Tonight I was reading through the fat binder full of pages I wrote while in college, mostly, and ran across a few things about my then 8 yr old cousin that I texted to that cousin who is now in his 20s.


If I like reading back over things I've written then I should write.

Friday, February 23, 2018


"I feel unappreciated and invisible. It was a terrible day!"

She burst into tears and collapsed onto the floor of her room.

I sunk down to my knees beside her and began rubbing her back. "I'm sorry, sweetie."

It hadn't been a great day for me either.

"I love you and appreciate you so much. I'm sorry for not showing it today."

I invited her to lay with me, there on the floor. She cried as I continued rubbing her back until her breaths returned to normal. She lay quietly, head on my arm.

I thought about her toddler days and younger, when just my presence was enough to fix all her problems. It's more complicated than that now. In fact, my presence sometimes creates additional problems.

Tonight our hearts met again, after being separated by the day's stress. When we each bring our fully-present presence I think the problems go away, even for just a little bit.

To know and be known is a lovely reality.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Last night I attended a parent meeting at school.

I love our charter school for many reasons, not the least of which is whenever there is an event/potluck, they ask that everyone bring their own plates, utensils and cups in order to reduce trash. I love this. I also wish I brought a larger dish to eat from, as the food was excellent.

The meeting was more of a discussion, facilitated by the school counselor. The topic was motivation. What motivates your child? What works well with various learning styles? How can we help set the atmosphere and expectations? Parents of children of all ages attended and it was great to be able to listen, discuss, commiserate and celebrate together.

Today, as I put off (again!) something that needs to get done it occurred to me to ask myself, "what motivates you?" The answer was obvious and immediate. For most of my life my motivators have been fear, shame and guilt. This doesn't feel good. It never has. I realize I procrastinate until the "shoulds" kick in and then I miserably drag myself to complete the task, fully expecting to be criticized or corrected. My inner voice is mean and harsh and tells me I deserve it because it's all my fault for not starting sooner, not doing my best, not spending my time differently, etc., etc..

I developed procrastination as a response to my uncomfortableness at not being perfect. That way I had an excuse. "Well, of course it's not perfect, I waited until the night before!" Procrastination also fed the motivators of fear, shame and guilt. I would wait until one (or all) of those feelings kicked in and would act only when I couldn't stand the heaping pile of misery that was accumulating.

I wonder what it would feel like to be motivated differently? Until today, I haven't recognized my own participation (via procrastination and mean self-talk) in the fear/shame/guilt cycle.
     ---> put off responsibilities
          ---> accumulate fear of consequences of being late or irresponsible, guilt at not being "good"
                 and starting sooner, shame at being "bad"
               ---> keep putting it off until I can't any longer
                    ---> hurry to do the work at the cost of other responsibilities
                         ---> finish the work (mostly) but feel terribly about it
                              ---> criticize myself, berate myself for not starting sooner, not doing "my best"
                                   ---> fear/shame/guilt cycle continues

This applies to me for everything from cleaning my toilets to doing work that I like and signed up for! Now that I'm aware I am free to choose differently! I can speak kindly to myself, with encouragement.

As I've healed and gradually become more whole through counseling, therapy, medication, codependents anonymous, and lots of self-care I've experienced a little of what it's like to be motivated by love and relationship and the sheer joy of doing something I love for the sake of the pleasure it brings me!

It feels so much better.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Might listen

K took Sputnik to school to share with her class of 9 fifth graders. Sputnik is the larger of our two cats but his meow is precious: high pitched and tiny, as you'd expect from a newborn kitten. He missed his sister and wasn't sure what to think of the car ride in a crate by himself. He let us all know how he felt by his dramatic vocalizations.

K responded quickly and gently, "I hear you, little kitty. I'm listening with all of my might."

May more of us respond this way to the people we encounter every day.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Time Travel

The pianist strikes the opening chord and words appear on the overhead screen. My breath catches; my heart swells; tears of recognition sting my eyes. 
This song is a portal to a place in time past—a place cemented in my mind. The place is unchanging as time pulls me farther and farther away. This is a place where my grandpa plays the piano in a little chapel amidst the pine trees. He plays for the sheer joy of it—all alone except for the audience of his God. Except I’m there too, drawn by the notes rising through the mountain morning air, but he doesn’t see me. Grandpa’s presence, especially Grandpa’s presence at the piano, seems as constant as the stars. It is no trouble at all for me to recall the words to the melodies he plays in his boisterous way. They come as naturally as the names of any of my boisterous family members. Those same family members sing every time we gather no matter the occasion. My past self sneaks in to listen. I am in college and possess all the vitality and curiosity of a young adult unsure of her future and simultaneously excited for it to arrive.
And now it has arrived. I stand among hundreds of women on a Monday night, in this future. We sing the familiar words and that is all it takes for me to be transported back in time through the portal of an unassuming hymn. Ambushed by the music, I’m powerless to stop the tears as they well up and roll down my face. Here I am, standing next to my daughter in this good future, marveling at the path I took to get here and grateful for the blessings generously strewn along the way. I look back on my past self with wistful tenderness. I ask her to hug Grandpa, to sit a minute longer in the back of that little chapel, receiving that timeless truth sent ahead to me by the song’s author and strengthened by those who entrusted it to me by repeating it often enough that I can sing it entirely from memory.
I carry the song forward into the future again. I look down at the blonde head of my daughter as she sings. I wonder, will it one day transport her as it did me?
I can’t read the future but I can sing the song and hope. 

I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me he hath made known, nor why, unworthy, Christ in love, redeemed me for His own. But I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The prettiest sounds

Just before Christmas in 2014 Elaine went with me to the music store and we came home with the tiniest violin. She was five. One morning in the spring of that year, she woke up asking for violin lessons.

"Why?" I asked.

Her response was always the same, "They make the prettiest sounds."

I waited to pursue lessons for her because she was FIVE and if this was going to be a passing fad, I didn't want to jump on board, much less throw money at it. But in the fall, as she began kindergarten, she still bugged me about violin lessons.

She turned six a month after her first lesson and her teacher said, "I've never seen a more beautiful bow hand on a child so young. And her ear? She's a natural."

I wasn't going to argue. Melodies have always come quickly and easily to Elaine. She is a deep feeler and deeply expressive. The violin is a perfect fit.

Elaine's love for the violin does not (always) translate to a love for daily practice. I insisted upon it. The money spent on lessons would NOT be wasted! We clashed. Finally I told her that if she still wanted to quit violin lessons at the end of the school year (by now she was nearly done with 1st grade) then I would let her quit. Until then, however, there would be absolutely no discussion.

June arrived. I approached her hoping I had read her correctly those few months back.

"Well Elaine," I began, "school is out. What do you think about violin? Should I tell Ms. Nancy that you want to stop lessons?"

She thought. While she thought, I thought. I had done something pretty risky, leaving it up to her, but I also knew this was necessary. She had to own it. It's so much more rewarding when you own it. Plus, if she chooses it, then she can't be so bitter about me "forcing" her. This would be HER decision and I wanted her to make it herself.

She cocked her head and looked up at me, as if trying to read my thoughts about this whole situation, "Wellllll..." she finally said, "I guess I'll keep going." Ah-HAH! I thought in exuberant victory, Mom wins again!

But really, she's the winner.

She's seven now, and can play all the songs her elementary school band (plus strings) plays. And band is only for 4th and 5th graders.

Tonight she asked to listen to music at bedtime. I picked up my iPad and prepared to pick a kids music station.

"Actually, Mommy," she said, "can you look for something with violins?"

I certainly could.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Good, better, best

Sometimes I have a day in which many wonderful, good things happen and many awful, terrible things don't happen. I move through the day's hours and reach the close without "real life" ever seeming to catch up.

Today was a day like that.

I slept in; I ate donuts for breakfast.
My husband volunteered to take both kids back-to-school clothes shopping while I took my new MacBook Air to the library.
The weather is mild and a baby cucumber is growing in my garden.
I had sushi for dinner.
Now I'm watching the olympics and eating ice cream.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


A counselor I know says depression is the opposite of expression. I don't know. I have expressed quite a bit while depressed. I think he meant expression of the whole, healthy "true" me. Depression is truly me sometimes.

I can feel it come over me, like a mask, over the space of a few hours. My face hardens and becomes like an outer shell; it's me by default but feels completely disconnected from me. All 42 of my facial muscles settle into a stoic expression that I force into more socially acceptable expressions with great difficulty (and varying degrees of success.) It feels like only my eyes move, and even then it's not without considerable effort and concentration. 

If I manage to prevent myself from falling deeper into the black hole of depression, then I usually end up with raging discontent and irritability coupled with highly negative self-talk. 

I usually don't write things like this until I have some positive spin to wrap up with, but this time the positive spin hasn't arrived before my desire to write.

I think I'll go play the piano.

Friday, August 14, 2015

the least of these

For the past few years Val and Elaine have helped me make what we call "homeless bags." We go buy a bunch of things that may be usefull to someone living on the streets, pack them into ziplock bags and then put them into our van. That way we'll be ready to hand one over to whoever we come across. 

We saw a guy yesterday on our way to Smart & Final. "Aw man," I bemoaned, "we're out of homeless bags."

We drove on and turned into the parking lot. 

"So?" Elaine said, "we could still buy him something at the store and take it to him." 

I said nothing. I didn't really feel like it. I had a system, and it was true that system was down due to my lack of oversight, but I didn't feel like going out of my way. It wasn't part of my plan for that day. So I'm fine with doing God's will only when it fits into my will? Is that it? I think that's it. Crud.

"Yeah," Val agreed, "let's get him something. Probably like water and a snack like chips or something."

"I don't know..." I said doubtfully, searching for reasons why giving something to a homeless man in broad daylight wasn't a good idea. Nevermind that it was JESUS' idea. "We'd have to drive around again out of our way to head the right way past him." I protested weakly. Am I really doing this? Trying to talk my kids OUT of being Christlike?!?

They regarded me curiously. Elaine spoke, "Mom. We could just go park on the parking lot side and walk up and hand it to him and not be on the street side." Yes, children, apparently you do need to refresh my memory on how cars work. 

Ugh. Even more of a personal investment and interaction. Walking up and talking instead of handing something out the window as we drive past.

We went into the store and got our things. Val tugged my arm in the check-out line. "Gift cards! We could get him a gift card, that way he can buy exactly what he needs instead of us guessing the wrong thing."

Okay fine. We got the giftcards (there were two homeless guys, working different parts of the same corner.)

I pulled the van into a parking space near the man and got out. I hate awkward situations even with people I know. This wasn't at all comfortable for me or something I'm a natural at. (As if God only asks us to do things we're comfortable with - hah.) Many of my family memebers live for this kind of conversation, but I don't. 

I smiled and held out my hand, "Hi! I'm beck. We've seen you here a couple of times." He shook my hand. His name is Ryan. I held out the gift card. "I hope this helps." He thanked me.

Next time we drive by Ryan I hope I'll have a better attitude and a more willing spirit. Thanks, kids.

Monday, August 10, 2015


The good people of In N Out can be depended upon to ask how you're doing before they take your order. I've always thought it big of them and usually attempt to return the favor. As if either of us will say how we really are. It's a question I've answered with varying degrees of honesty; sometimes strangers can't handle the truth. (Or they look at you oddly for honestly communicating it.) Tonight at 9:58 pm, I wanted to respond, "mentally worn out and completely empty" but instead I smiled and placed my order. (Number three with onions, ketchup instead of the spread with root beer for in the car.)

Arriving home thirty minutes prior, after four hours of intense interaction with people, felt like a bombardment of needs. Superman wanted my opinion on which clothes to donate. Val wanted to talk about her chapped lip. Elaine wanted me to sing her bedtime song. I met the needs as best I could and then met a need of my own by driving away by myself. I didn't listen to the radio.

I didn't even play Ingress.

I wouldn't trade the two groups I'm a part of on Mondays for anything, but man they can take a toll on me. I'm ON ON ON (all GOOD GOOD GOOD) but when I get home I seriously need some OFF OFF OFF time.


Our family is looking for a new church home. I've always enjoyed observing people but I find observing people at church particularly interesting.

I know the observing goes both ways, especially in smaller gatherings, like the one we attended yesterday.

I tried not to care too much when Elaine spent most of the opening singing time with both fingers firmly (and not inconspicuously) planted in her ears. When I leaned over and quietly inquired as to the reason for her turning two deaf ears, she met me with a violent scowl and proceeded to say (loudly, so as to be heard over the song) "I'm mad because no one gave me breakfast." I was off the hook because I left the house before she was awake, but I wondered what else she told the Sunday school class teacher about her morning (which apparently had not gone well!)