Bert and Ginger

Sometimes the universe knows what you need. It sends you little messages of presence and encouragement and love. Hold on to those, dear ones, gather them up and keep them close to your soul.

Earlier this week my sister and I were able to spend some intentional time with our aunt who lives in another state. She’s been a widow for a handful of years, and we talk to her regularly to check in and make sure she is doing alright. Our mom, her sister, was the youngest of four by about 8 years. Because our parents had us (what was once considered) later in life, people often thought our aunt and uncle were our grandparents. And they operated as such, our maternal grandmother had already passed before our parents were even married, and I only have a few memories of my maternal grandfather before he went to the nursing home–but they are wonderfully happy memories.

But our aunt and uncle stepped in, in so many ways, to the role of grandparents. They came for visits, kept me for a week or two while the rest of my family went on vacation (no joke), they spoiled us, loved us, gave us advice, celebrated with us, and so much more. Visiting my aunt brought back lots of those happy memories, and thoughts of being worried about her being lonely living states away from family–especially as she ages. And so when my sister and I saw the below picture on the flight home, the wind left our lungs, tears welled up, and there was a stark feeling of reassurance and pain, an eerie combination.

A good reminder that those we love are always with us, sending us signs, offering reassurance, and urging us to remember them. Thanks, Bert. Love you. And don’t worry, we will take care of her.

That’s Church to Me

If you’ve been around me at all the last two years you haven’t been able to escape a discussion on transitions happening at work and our congregation’s decision to relocate. There have been many God moments throughout this process and though pieces feel daunting there is a lot of excitement. This move, once merely on the horizon, is now close within reach and I have been thinking a lot about our temporary/transitional years and what that means as we define or redefine our community. Church will look different. Worship will look different. Fellowship and service work and meetings and, and, and; will look different.

But through all of that we will still be Church, we will still be Community. So what does community mean? What makes a church a church? I did an activity with my kids during Sunday school last week that helped them think about the similarities of our existence when we are in a temp space. I hope it was reassuring for them. And part of that exercise asked them to think about community in creative ways. Here is my list of what church is:

  1. Church is a movement. It’s taking a stand for the things we believe in and trying to live our lives the way Jesus lived his.
  2. Church is family. Not everyone always gets along but there are certain things that unify us. And we love and support each other even when we disagree.
  3. Church is helping others. It’s about giving back in whatever way we can because we aren’t alone in this crazy world, and we all need help in some form or fashion.
  4. Church is all generations growing and learning from one another. Everyone is important and every has something to teach and something to learn.
  • That’s church to me. At the heart it is all about the people and living our lives following in the footsteps of Jesus. We aren’t perfect, we are human. We fail, and we make mistakes, and sometimes we get it wrong. But we keep trying, we keep working, we keep going. Because we know what church means to us.
  • A Crazy Month

    I haven’t posted in a little over a month. I’ve missed writing, but I have a long list of reason why it hasn’t happened. I’ve had ideas flood my head but just haven’t made it a priority to sit down and write them out. That’s on me. But I am hopeful to get back into a routine, to again make this blog a part of my self-care and my goal of being honest with the world.

    It’s been a long and tumultuous month. There have been ups and downs, both in major and in small ways. I haven’t handled it all the most gracefully, but there is something to be said for bouts of messiness in ones life; in a strange way I think it makes living all the more real.

    We had our annual Camp at the beginning of June. I was hesitant and tentative about this year. After 20+ years we decided that we needed to function out of a new site. This was more than two years in the making. It wasn’t an easy decision, not everyone was happy about it, and I am forever grateful to the long hours and diligent work our Camp Team put in behind the scenes. But the hard work and dedication of all involved truly paid off. We had a wonderful week at Pine Creek Camp. It quickly felt like home. And it was wonderful to fully embrace and feel the idea that Camp; much like Church; isn’t about the place, it’s about the people.

    Fast-forward two weeks to a death in the family. This provided me the opportunity to reach out to my grandfather who has distanced himself from me over the last two years. It started positively, and I was so hopeful that we had turned a corner. I remembered fond times spent together as a family. And that was enough. However, it wasn’t long lived. I’ve come to realize that people need to live in their own realities, whether true or not. There isn’t anything that I can do to convince them otherwise, and I am tired of trying. I’m a strong believer in honesty and compromise. So I wrote a letter, sent it, and gave myself the gift of closure.

    Sometimes it seems strange sharing pieces of my life like the one above. Because it gives away a little more of myself than I’d normal like to do. But I think there is a power in stories, in shared stories, in understanding where people are coming from and so I share, not always the entire story but the parts that feel right. Life is complicated and intricate–in wonderfully beautiful and awfully tragic ways. Today I am thankful for my experiences and how they have made me who I am. There’s a lot of hurt in this girl, but also a lot of strength.

    I also have to brag that the same week that my dad’s cousin died my Middle School youth spent three days volunteering in the community where our church is moving. They worked at a food pantry, helped with games at a senior center, and did a work project at the Elementary School that will serve as our temporary home on Sunday mornings. Not everything went according to plan, by my kids worked through some hard lessons that were out of our control. #proudmommoment #notamom #proudYM

    And now my High School youth head off to their mission trip tomorrow! And that closes out my month.

    Carousel of Progress

    I habitually listen to NPR when I am driving in the car (or when I am riding with my dad in his car). It stems, I’m sure, from all of the years he would listen to NPR on the radio when my sisters and I were growing up. Because the car always had one of three things playing: NPR, CSNY’s So Far album cassette, or Steppenwolf. I love many of the shows on NPR, and because I don’t watch news on TV, it’s where I get most of my news.

    They are undergoing one of their semi-annual pledge drives this week. There have been stories and quotes of why people choose to listen and why they choose to be members. Many of those have included comments about NPR as an unbiased news source (meaning they don’t lean politically liberal or conservative). This has made me think a lot about whether I believe that to be true.

    Before really having reason to consider it, I would claim NPR to be a liberal news source. Sure, I think they have a good record of having representations from both sides of the aisle, so to speak. But my perception has always been to categorize it as liberal media. But maybe that isn’t actually the case. Perhaps a better way of thinking about it is denoted them as progressive instead of liberal. In some ways that was a mind-blowing revelation for me. Arguably progressive and liberal are two very different things. You can be moderate and progressive. You can be conservative and progressive. So, liberal and progressive really aren’t interchangeable adjectives as some people may claim them to be.

    Then I started thinking about and applying this to my own beliefs and who I am. For a long time I’ve categorized myself as liberal, and at some points (especially during college) have claimed that to an extreme. But has that ever really been a fair assessment of me?

    At this point in my life, whether because I’m older or because my own experiences have changed me, I’d consider myself a moderate. I don’t think the world is as black and white as I once did in terms of my beliefs and the people who hold office and represent myself and my voting “peers”. The world is more complex than merely siding along party lines. It’s more complex than believing with a narrow path of absolutes.

    So I happily claim myself as a Progressive. We have to have change in order to move forward, even when it’s difficult. We have to be willing to be in conversation with one another in order to understand the other perspective and how we can best serve one another. I can be progressive and that doesn’t mean my views won’t change over time. I can be progressive and believe whatever I do about human rights, women’s rights, gun rights, educational rights, etc.

    Being progressive is only a piece of the puzzle. But I wholeheartedly believe it makes me a more approachable human being, a human being who listens to learn and understand, a human being who recognizes the easy answer or the obvious answer is not always the best answer. I am human, I have faults–we all do. But we need to do better.

    I started this blog post with a completely different title. Originally it was titled “Black or White,” referencing Michael Jackson’s song. But as I got to the last paragraph there was a completely different song going through my head:

    There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day. There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, and tomorrow is jut a day away.

    Man has a dream, and that’s the start. He follows his dream with mind and heart. And when his dream’s become a reality, it’s a dream come true for you and me.

    So there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day. There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, and tomorrow’s just a day away.

    Disney’s Carousel of Progress, originally created for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, is the home of this song. Currently, this “ride” is housed at Magic Kingdom at WDW. One of my dad’s favorite rides, it was a staple for our family trips to the park. It’s not the flashiest ride, but there is a great deal of nostalgia about it. And I think it exemplifies that progress keeps us moving, keeps us learning, keeps us working together.

    Things Remembered

    My mom and I shared a special bond, each of my sisters and I had our own special bonds with her. But in the time she was in hospice our relationship changed in ways I’ll never fully be able to articulate to anyone. It was precious time, difficult time but still very dear to my heart. Our conversations varied, her moods varied, and my ability to just enjoy the time varied.

    But one afternoon as we were having a serious conversation she asked me what I would remember about her when she was no longer here on earth. I came up with a few things, but before I came back the next time I had a list of about 20 that I typed up and printed out for her. I have this list saved on my computer, I also have a copy of it in my wallet, and my dad has the copy I gave to my mom. By no means was the list exhaustive, but it was comprised of the items that immediately came to mind when asked.

    I’ve found over the last year that many things could be added to the list:

    • New books by favorite authors
    • Sewing projects
    • Carrie Newcomer events
    • Silly moments
    • Butterflies
    • Math problems

    The list could go on and on. It’s hard to get through those moments I see her, or feel her, or something makes her come to mind. It’s hard but I am thankful for those glimpses. Sometimes when faced with remembering, it feels like waves are crashing against me harder and harder until I go under. Sometimes the remembering just makes me feel adrift at sea, as if I’m weightless without direction–caught in the mist. And sometimes I can feel the warmth and joy of the memories as if they have just happened, fresh and new.

    I’ve learned that all of those rememberings are important. They are a part of my grieving, and a part of rediscovering myself, because this experience has changed me. That’s not good or bad, it just is. Every event in our lives gives us a new layer of ourselves because we are molded by the situations and people that surround and interact with us. I am thankful for change, and growth, and the opportunity to see things differently.

    A few short days and the anniversary will be here. And I am bound and determined to make it a day of sweet memories: not those wrapped up in a bow, but those that are examples of her strength, her beauty, her stubbornness, her intelligence, her grace, her tenacity, her kindness, her diligence. Those are the memories I choose for this anniversary. The memories that aren’t sugar coated but are the best examples for who she was and how she raised me.

    I miss you, mama, everyday. But thank you for making me strong. Thank you for making me stubborn. Thank you for teaching me to not silence myself when I need help, have questions, or disagree. Thank you for continuing to remind me of the importance of love and compassion. Thank you for being my inspiration, now and always.

    I Find Her in the Words

    One month to go. Less than really. And it doesn’t seem any more real than it did a year ago. There’s this strange time between 2/22 and 3/18 that will always leave me in a haze of wonderment.

    I talked to one of my many “sisters” today. She brings much solace to my soul through her insight, mystical soul, and youngest camaraderie. Her words today soothed me, enlivened the song in my heart, and reminded me to keep watch.

    No one will understand exactly what my grief is like. No one will understand perfectly my journey and purpose on this earth. But several know pieces. And I am thankful for how those pieces and those people are bound together. So when I feel sad or lost or without hope or direction I still have places to turn.

    The words of others are just amplifying her words. They are bringing new insight, shedding new light, and constant reminders of her presence and being in the here and now. Today I am thankful for the thin places where I can hear her, where I can feel her, where I know she is reaching out fully of laughter and grace.

    I am thankful for the memories other people share so I can continue getting to know her. So that when I am too tired to grasp on to the fragments of her there are still pages flooding in that keep her story in print.

    I can remember the joy and wonder she had 30 years ago of being a mom again and welcoming you into this world. May this year and new decade be filled with many blessings and opportunities.

    Blessings and opportunities. These are things I can create.

    A Week Late

    In the last few years I’ve never missed an opportunity to reflect on my grandpa’s birthday. He was born 20 days and 80 years before me. But this year, even though I remembered his 110th birthday, I didn’t write about it. And so, a week later, after finally feeling like I have a moment to breathe and spend some time writing, I’m am reflecting.

    Many of my fondest memories of my grandpa, in his true state, are snippets: pieces strung together that I grasp onto tightly so they don’t escape my memory. I remember the way he’d wink at us, I remember his stories about his trips to Jerusalem, I remember the laundry room and playground at the last apartment he had before moving to the nursing home, I remember his faith.

    Unfortunately, many of his “good” years were when I was too young to remember or before I was even born. But I never doubted the love he had for his family and his God. I love hearing stories of him in the garden, his daily regiment of apple cider vinegar, and his dedication to not only the Methodist Church, but also his local congregation.

    In many ways he is someone who still has a very strong influence on my life. I find special connections to him to this day, even if they may be slightly created in my mind at points. To me, there are things that will always keep us connected. And I am thankful for his presence in my life.

    As my mom grew older, one of the first things I started to notice was how much she resembled her father. To many that may not be noteworthy, but because so many people tell me how much I look like my mom, it was 100% endearing to me to see her resembling him and then by association myself resembling him as well. This holds a very special place in my hear.

    Happy belated 110, Lowell. Thank you for watching over me.


    Christmas has come and gone. And it was eerily apparent this year that holidays will never quite be the same. It’s something that is logical after loss, but I don’t think you really get it until you experience it. I very much enjoyed Christmas and some of our new traditions. I loved going to both of SCC’s Christmas Eve services. I actually really enjoyed opening presents Christmas morning instead of Christmas Eve, and a small dinner feast was a welcome change from the loads of food in the past.

    My recognition of change made me a little hesitant about our New Year’s Day tradition. For as long as I can remember, we’d wake up the morning of the new year and have breakfast as a family–a quasi-French tradition: crêpes. I don’t know anyone else who has the same tradition, and I just loved its uniqueness growing up. I was pleasantly surprised last week when Shelly said “can we have crêpes on Monday morning?” And so, we did. Some traditions and celebrations will never be normal again. But there are glimpses and pieces that are easy enough to keep alive and as we make our way into 2018 I am glad of that.

    I have decided to jump on the band wagon of choosing a word of intention for my year. This year I picked “create”. There are many things I want to create this year: healthier habits, new traditions, new friendships, and crafty projects of all sorts. I can’t wait to see where this year will lead and I am glad to leave 2017 in the dust.

    Happy New Year!

    Let Vulnerability In

    When your sister is in a monologue production you go and support her. When the monologue production is “Coming Out” monologue, you don’t bat an eye, you go because your sister is your sister—love is love.

    Tuesday night I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite people in the world share a very powerful story with a group of onlookers: some she knew some she didn’t. This story was about one of her coming out stories. It was honest, vulnerable, hilarious and heart-wrenching all at the same time. I am so thankful that I was able to experience all of the stories Shared that evening. It was eye-opening, enlightening, depressing, and uplifting. I am especially grateful for the ability to support my sister.

    Many of you are probably scratching your heads. “Sister coming out?” Clarification: this sister is a sister of the heart. She babysat us when we were young, and has been a part of our family ever since. Like myself, she is the youngest child in her nuclear family and I identify a lot with her. She’s someone I look up to, someone who inspires me with her strength and someone who I am blessed to have had in my life over the years.

    Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes our family is chosen instead of blood. Sometimes those who “get us”, accept us for us, and love us conditionally are not those who are obligated to because those who are supposed to love us have shut that door. That’s hard for me. I don’t close doors easily. I harbor pain and deeply feel the emotions of others, but I give and give and give—often times more chances than should be allowed. Even though it hurts sometimes, I love this part of me. Because it reminds me that everyone has a story—we need only listen and allow others a space to share and be vulnerable.