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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The More Than Half-Full Glass

After my previous angst-filled posting, I thought it appropriate and necessary to acknowledge the overwhelming amount of love we received on our recent vacation.

I had opportunity this morning to talk about vacation with some friends, and I was suddenly overwhelmed by the memory of all the people who so graciously fed, housed, entertained, and accommodated us. I realized I have not painted an complete picture of our trip.

So, the following is a list of much-deserved thank you’s to some of the people who made our trip special and memorable:

Thanks to Karin for housing and feeding us so generously, and for being so centrally located. There were many great conversations over glasses of wine. I got my first introduction to TIVO and watched “The Sopranos” for the first time ever. Karin has a genuine gift of hospitality. She was very gracious about letting us invite over extra people.

Karin and John

Doug, John, Me and Ellie

Thanks to Doug and Kathleen for being so willing to slip into any available time slot we had, including coming all the way up to Birch Bay just for the day. The cousins had a great time playing together, despite wind, chill air, rain, and facial injuries. And for having us over at their place just long enough to go to the playground, break a vase, and eat some sandwiches.

Baby Joey

Thanks to Gillian and Kent for having us over and feeding us lunch at the drop of a hat, and for having us for an entire afternoon. Also thanks to Gillian for driving up to Birch Bay for an overnight (not an easy task with two-month-old Baby Joey, plus the two girls). Jack will miss Katherine almost as much as I miss Gillian.


Thanks to Jill for pulling kids out of school in order to have a two-night stay at Birch Bay. We had some great talks and managed to keep the nine kids relatively reeled in. Jill brought games and kites for all the kids, and had a supernatural patience and graciousness in helping the kids play both inside and out.

Mom and Me

Thanks to my mom for coming down to Seattle for one night just to spend some time with us, and for later hosting us at Birch Bay. Even more thanks for her bottomless graciousness in allowing me to invite two friends and their kids up for a couple days. Thanks also to Mom for so quickly mailing back to Anchorage the videos, Bluey, and day-timer that we left at her house.

Thanks to Gary and Mary for not only hosting a St. Paddy’s Day party, but letting us stay overnight, and take over the master suite. I promise next time I’ll try to stay sober long enough to play a genuinely competitive game of Texas Hold ‘Em.

Me, Kaylin, and Karen

Thanks to Auntie Karen who so graciously let us move our family reunion to her house at the last minute, despite recovering from back surgery. Her poor dogs may never be the same after being bombarded by the six nieces and nephews. She also spoiled those same nieces and nephews with lots of presents. Thanks for spending that extra afternoon with us on Mercer Island.

Thanks to Scott and Wink for the amazing brunch at their beautiful home, and for some more great conversation. Wink’s own nose-piercing paved the way for acceptance of my own. Wink also provided me with a couple valium to get me through the terror of flying home.

Kinh and Hali

Thanks to Kinh and Dave, who, despite almost having given up on us making our prearranged meeting time, had us over anyway, and were amazingly tolerant of our eating in such close proximity of their new sofa.

Ellen, Gillian, and Me

Thanks to Ellen and Marian for taking valuable family-time on a Sunday night to spend a couple hours with us, trying to catch up and connect in a meaningful way – not an easy task with so little time and so much to say.

Thanks to Gillian, Jill and Margie for working in time to meet at our traditional haunt, Third Place Books, for dessert and decaf. Extra thanks to Margie for offering her lake-front vacation home as a possible base-camp for next year’s trip.

Thanks to Liz and Steve for coming down to Federal Way for the afternoon, despite a very busy schedule and some health restrictions, and for contributing such thoughtful choices in brews. I wish we’d had more time with you. I hope you can make it up in June.

Thanks to Bob and Barbara for having us invade their Port Ludlow home just days after Bob having a “procedure” on his retina. They always spoil us with activities and treats. Barbara was kind enough to babysit a couple times, and Bob and I had one of our traditional dates involving lunch and books. He even helped us find a beach with sand.

Thanks to Kaylin and Dave, for making me feel like a princess even when I’ve convinced myself I’m a toad. In addition to attending and partially bartending (apple-tinis only) the St. Paddy’s Day party at Gary and Mary’s, they hosted us for an afternoon at their beautiful Mercer
Island condo. Thanks for the change of clothes for a very moist Evan.

Lisa and Me

Thanks to Lisa and Rich for having our family over for a rewarding and memorable morning. It had been way too long.

In the end, every day of vacation was spent being loved by beautiful, beloved people. Why it takes me so long to notice how full my glass is, I don’t know. I’m thick, I guess. From how we were treated, you might have thought we were movie stars.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Who Am I?

Spring break is over, and so also is winter in Alaska. Despite the remaining piles of snow, and puddles of ice all over town, the air has tempered, and the accumulated dirt and grime of the past five months is being freed.

The past two weeks has felt timeless – as if it were a much longer span than 14 days. This last weekend barely gave me a chance to reacclimatize to being at home and fully in charge again.

Today, I arose early (relatively), did all the requisite school-day preparations, and found we were still running 20 minutes ahead of schedule. It must be the longer days. During our absence, Anchorage gained 1 ½ hours of additional daylight. Now, and for the next six months, the kids will arise and go to bed with the sun in the sky.

On the dusty, snow-free drive to the library to return a book, which I worked very hard at not losing on our Seattle trip, every possible mountain greeted me. McKinley and Forakker hovered ghostly to the north. Susitna’s folds are showing delineations of snow free earth. The Chugach, Kenai, and Alaska ranges, still cloaked in winter white, all towered at their respective distances, a symbol that ever-present God watches over all.

The esoteric question of the moment is: Who am I, and what, exactly, do I think I’m doing?

Vacation was a clarifying experience in some respects. But a bizarre kind of clarification. Just when I think I know what I’m about, it becomes very clear that I don’t know nothin’ at all.

I thought I was Who-I-Am-Becoming in this isolated sub-arctic cosmopolis. I thought I was wife to Bruce, trying to reconcile childhood issues in order to restore and refresh our marriage. I thought I was mother to Jack, Sabrina, Ellie, and Evan, trying to teach being true to oneself while cultivating an others-oriented spirituality. I thought I was friend to my Alaskan companions with whom I attempt emotional transparency in the belief that, while I can never be perfect, I can be better.

But during vacation, the armour that is these things did not fit and had to be shed, piece by piece, until I was entirely defenseless. And I so I cloaked myself in garments I thought I had left behind, and as I adapted to old but familiar surroundings, I wondered if anything had or will ever fundamentally change in me at all.

Am I still the daughter of Pat, trying to be dutiful and kind, even from across a continent? Am I still sister to Doug, trying to be witty, self-deprecating, and maybe a little wise? Am I still friend to Seattle-buddies Jill, Gillian, and Margie, around whom I check my language, drinking, and heretical theology?

Like a chameleon, I fade or I darken or I mottle in order to fit into whatever-shaped box I walk into. Sometimes I shape-shift so well I disappear altogether.

But I am not deceiving anyone deliberately - I am all these things, playing all these roles and more. And the issue then becomes larger than myself. Rather, who are all these other people? And I wrestle in frustration over not being able to bring each and every person into each and every multi-shaped compartment that is me. I ask myself: Why can’t So-And-So fit into my heart-shaped place? And why does Him-Or-Her refuse to rest inside my square?

I can be “all things to all people.” I can fit in almost anywhere, with any crowd. But the harder challenge is letting people be all things to me: letting those who are angry be angry, letting those who are shallow be shallow, letting those who are hurting be hurt, letting those who are content be content, letting those who are seekers ask their multitude of questions.

Accepting other people as they are, where they are, is my monumental challenge. And it comes down to understanding of what love really is. And therein lies the rub: how can I fully comprehend love, when my practicing love does not even extend to myself?

Perhaps when I can finally can accept myself - love myself - I will finally be able to accept and love others in the way I so deeply desire to be loved.
I will never be perfect – not in this life – but, in time and with effort, I may begin to be better.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Home Again

Okay, so this isn't a "real" post, but I just want to announce to the world that we are back in Anchorage after two whirlwind weeks in the greater Seattle-area.

Between the borrowed valium for the return flight home and the bottle of Gewerztriminer (misspelled) I downed this evening, I am not committed to writing 6,000 words of the top five things I learned this year on vacation.

Let it suffice to say: 1) we are home safe; 2) I seem to have vaguely noticed some cold white stuff still on the ground; 3) 32 degrees in Anchorage feels warmer to me than 45 in Seattle; 4)my dogs are thriving if somewhat more cuddly than usual; 5) "Don Quixote" is a very readable and humorous book; 6) I am committed to starting to write again once I finally accept that I'm REALLY home and that it isn't just a dream.

It will be until at least tomorrow what all our twenty-billion vacation pictures are downloaded to the computer.

Epiphany no. 1 of tonight's alcohol-and-valium-induced-spirituality: One of these days I'm going to have my own ISBN number. Any person interested in helping in me accomplish this goal - PLEASE send me a line. Dammit, I CAN'T do it alone.

Best email correspondence line during vacation was sent by Darlene who said at EXACTLY THE RIGHT MOMENT: " Your angst was delightful to read. Both from the topic and literary perspective. Angst hones your writing my Dear. Sorry."

Don't be sorry, Dar! Freedom to be angst-filled is an enormous gift. I feel like a delicate butterfly! Fly, Fly! Little Butterfly!

Okay, so I'm no longer making sense. Writing is my life. I will do more later - when I put down "Don Quixote" long enough to be creative.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

That Which Doesn't Kill , Serves to Make One Stronger

This phrase (see header) is floating around in my mind. I can happily declare that I am no where near physical death (or so I like to think). However, there is an inner welling, a foul roiling kind of thing, that started in my belly and is progressively working its way up to my throat.

I am really angry at the moment. I feel very powerless in the face of unrealistic expectations. Every inclination wants to lay down on the altar of martyrdom and take responsibility for everyone's grievances. In trying to re-direct responsibility to those who are, in fact, responsible, I am frustrated over appearing the nag/gestapo/bitch.

How can I free others, when I still don't know what freedom really looks like? I have only ever tasted it, had an impression of it, seen it flickering in my peripheral vision. I want to live in it, broken free of unhealthy obligation and indebtedness. I crave equality, graciousness, and beauty in all my relationships.
As if.
I thought maybe I was getting stronger, but now see that I am not. I am still wretched and broken. But perhaps, not yet beyond repair.
There is no freedom yet. I continue to be enslaved by guilt. I wrestle with anger and frustration and disappointment.

Or, it could just be PMS.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Vacation: Part I

Day four in our annual pilgrimage to "Seattle" is winding to a close. Downstairs, my mother makes dinner, Jack cries over Evan having upset his block tower, and electricians put the final touches on my mother's hottub. I have had my first beer of the night (Pike Kilt Lifter) and am desperately trying to finish the library book I swore I would not bring all the way to "Seattle" for fear of losing it. The real vacation book is supposed to be an unabridged translation of "Don Quixote," but between the five books I bought today and the busyness of our schedule, my "vacation book" may not get cracked until the plane ride home.

I am upstairs in Mom's "bonus room," which is where all her myriad of art supplies are stored, where her home office is set up, and where Evan's port-a-crib is situated (far out of arms' reach of aforementioned art supplies and home office equipment).

"The girls" (my mom, myself, Sabrina, and Ellie) went for tea today in Lynden at a tea shop. Happily for me, we parked our car right smack dab in front of a coffee shop/used book store. After cucumber dill sandwiches and way too much clotted cream, we waddled in to visit the books, as I felt strongly one was calling my name. It would take perseverance, patience, and fortitude (things my daughters and mother sadly lack in bookstores) to discover the one diamond-rough tome that beckoned.

I did finally find the book - one that writer/reader-friend Darlene already has - E. B. White's "The Second Tree from the Corner." Mine is a hardbound (with damaged dust jacket) edition from 1954 (first published in 1935). Once I greedily snatched it off the shelf, my soul relaxed and I knew it was okay to leave.

Out in the street we ran into two of my mom's friends, one of whom is a local artist, who upon hearing I sell art in a gallery in Anchorage, rushed to her car for her brochure; like all artists ever-hopeful of finding another marketing resource.

So, now here I am, writing for the first time in.... a long time.

The main story I wanted to relay happened last Sunday at our old church. I sat listening in an exhausted haze to teaching about Revelation 5 (on 3 hours of sleep it almost made sense). I was letting my mind wander, thinking about the underlying level of [insert descriptive phrase that conveys sense of differentiation] that I no longer share. Yet, I also rejoiced to be worshipping with dear friends.

After service, Pastor Scott came over to talk to Bruce and me. In mid-thought, he suddenly grabbed my arm and said, "Hey, I've been meaning to talk to you! I've got an idea for a book, and I want you to write the woman's perspective." I chuckled and said, "Of course I will, but be careful what you ask for." And here, I indicated my nose piercing. I added meaningfully, "I'm a little bit edgier than I used to me."

Scott's eyes twinkled. "You haven't seen Wink [his wife] yet, have you?"

Talk about wind out of the sails! My former pastor's wife got her nose pierced over a year ago! That was even earlier than I did it! No one cared about my diamond stud, no one commented, no one was shocked over how "free" life in Alaska has made me.

Sigh. So much for coming back reinvented.

When I mentioned this story to my mother last night, I added, "May be I should go ahead with the tattoo."

Her eyes twinkled. "You know, if it weren't for the needle, I wouldn't mind getting a tattoo either."

My mother said this. My mother, who.... well most people reading this have probably met my mom. You understand the significance of this. She attributes her newly discovered rebellious nature on being a member of the Red Hat Society, which, incidentally, were thicker on the streets of Lynden than June tourists in Anchorage.

Lord help me. I can't rebel for snot.

So far, so fun. Tomorrow promises a busy day with my brother and his family visiting, and then, about the time they leave, my friend Jill and her two kids are arriving in Birch Bay for a couple nights.

I could probably spend all night blogging about all the things I have been observing and all the connections I've made with dear loved-ones, but hey, I've got to finish this library book and start on "Don Quixote."

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