Help!

Three weeks ago I started yoga classes. I quickly remembered the terminology from years ago, but the moves…not so much. Muscle memory seems to be struggling at the moment. Surrounded by blankets, blocks, and straps, twice a week I find myself working to move as the lithe instructors do. I am not lithe.

Two weeks ago we took a 15 hour drive to Augusta, Georgia. We went to visit dear friends, have Thanksgiving, and attend a wedding. We remembered our old hometown well enough, and our friends were welcoming and gracious. The trip was fine until we were returning home and got north of St. Louis and the blizzard took hold. We slid off the road. A good Samaritan stopped by. He couldn’t tow us out, but his buddy is a cop, so the cop came by. The cop couldn’t help us, but he had a buddy who had a tow shop. Three hours later, we were towed out and in a hotel.

One week ago, I got far behind in my work schedule. I was turning up late and unprepared for meetings. I fell behind on emails and lost track of an entire project. A colleague jumped in to save me during a meeting. Another understanding colleague gave me an out on that project.

Too often we take on things we think we can do. “I can do this!” “I’m a strong independent person.” “I don’t want to bother anybody.” “I’m all alone on this one.” These thoughts and multitudes of others populate our brains – calling us to struggle and suffer alone.

Well, I’m calling bullshit. Let’s end this year and start the new one with the idea that it’s totally fine to use the yoga blocks and do a modified plank. There’s no shame in getting a tow – in fact, it may be the only way out. We probably do have colleagues committed to the work and mutual success; let’s find them and team up.

You do not have to be alone. Whatever it is that you need – there are individuals, groups, and whole societies that stand ready to support you. If you don’t know who or where those are, reach out or call out or scream out. Create a group. We are here. No matter how awful things seem, we are here. The commune is everyone’s to call upon. So, as you enjoy the holiday season and begin the new year, please remember: you are not alone. From auto accidents to yoga and everything in between: call for and use help when you need it.

To paraphrase the movie “Love Actually”: If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that help actually is all around.

 

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Obligatory 50 List

Hello Everyone. I’m Laura. I will be fifty in a week.

I know nothing for sure.

This is a list of things that I’m pretty sure about as I turn a half a century old.

  1. Diversity is good.
  2. If shoes are uncomfortable in the store, they will be uncomfortable at home.
  3. Some people are worth the extra effort. Some are not.
  4. Go for a walk.
  5. Don’t forget the music – there’s always time for music.
  6. Computers are great. Manual typewriters are also excellent.
  7. Don’t buy clothes with the idea you will diet into them. Bodies change.
  8. The movies are never as good as the books.
  9. The beach. Enough said.
  10. Go to a museum even if you think you’ll hate it. You probably won’t.
  11. Learning a language is a good idea.
  12. The banjo is a grossly underrated instrument.
  13. Exercise is a good idea.
  14. Wine is a nice way to end a long day.
  15. Find books you love and buy them in hardcover.
  16. When in doubt – make a bowl of spaghetti and listen to music.
  17. Find the person who makes you smile when he kisses you. Kiss him. Often.
  18. Complaining doesn’t help.
  19. Loyalty may not be valued by everyone.
  20. Surprises can be wonderful. Stay open to them.
  21. It doesn’t matter what Oprah says to read; choose your own books. Just read.
  22. We have to take care of each other.
  23. Dogs should be trained; I’m not super at this.
  24. Go to happy hour.
  25. Open the windows as often as possible.
  26. Being part of a good couple is better than being alone.
  27. Being alone is better than being part of a bad couple.
  28. Call back. That person might not be there tomorrow.
  29. Drag shows do not start on time.
  30. Keep an on-going list of gifts to get people; when an occasion arises – you’re all set.
  31. Do not buy ill-fitting bras.
  32. The mountains are calling to you. Go there.
  33. It’s important to value yourself.
  34. Plan but stay flexible. Stay flexible but plan.
  35. Listen to people’s hearts.
  36. There is tragedy in the world. Do not get used to it.
  37. Nobody knows what happens when we die. Not for sure.
  38. Treating those you love is not a mistake.
  39. Playing cards with children is an exercise in patience.
  40. Expectations create divides that can be hard to bridge.
  41. Go out to eat. Somewhere good. Don’t go to bad restaurants.
  42. Get up early and stay up late to see the meteor showers.
  43. Beauty can be found everywhere if we look hard enough.
  44. High school show choir is fantastic.
  45. Children are valuable.
  46. Birthdays are a privilege. We will always want one more.
  47. Most days are tuna fish and corn chips – and, that’s okay.
  48. It is okay to feel sad.
  49. Doing something artistic opens up your soul to the universe.
  50. You know – you just never know.

Peace.

The Five Decade List

2017 is here. That means I will turn fifty this year. I was not, as youngest son suggested, born in 1953. Still, where has the 50th-birthday-cake8time gone? What have I been doing all these years?

Oh, playing with dolls; learning to drive; being with friends; getting married; getting unmarried; sleeping; working; listening to music; changing diapers; making supper; taking showers; exercising; mourning loss; working some more; listening to people; avoiding responsibility; scooping the cat box; admitting defeat; walking the dog; embracing love; wondering about the future.

As I look at this looming milestone, I am alternately proud of myself and embarrassed. I think of the different iterations I have effected in my life, and I think, “Wow, I’m pretty resilient and great. ” Other days I look back, and think, “What the fuck was I thinking?” Some days I feel like I’m 92 and other days, I am certain I can’t be older than 10. It’s life.

A few years ago, I was feeling very old. Very sad. Washed up. Dark. I even began wondering how soon is too soon to move into an old folks’ home. Many people bemoan milestone birthdays and seek to hide from well wishes and the inevitable comments about how much older or younger they are than their interlocutor. Some people even hide from cake!

Not me. I’m taking a different approach.

I am currently brainstorming 50 things to do this year. These activities range in scope, and may or may not include other people. A few samples: go on a Habitat for Humanity build; see a musical; go parasailing; visit my aunt and uncle; be open to a relationship; read a book a month; write fifty new poems.

A friend messaged me this morning, sharing her intention for the new year. She has chosen a word to define her intentions in multiple areas of her life. I like it.

My approach is to intentionally experience at least fifty different, familiar and unfamiliar facets of life through my list, and to reflect meaningfully on them through the year. I want to grow, learn, and become.

Oh, and I want cake.

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On Going to Pride: Outsiders and Disrupters

Let me introduce myself.

I’m a divorced woman.

I’m a poet and writer.

I’m a dog owner.

I’m a mother.

I’m a book reader.

I’m a sister.

I’m a broccoli-disliker and a nacho-lover.

I’m a music listener.

I’m a college graduate.

I’m a cat owner.

I’m an aunt.

I’m an educator.

I’m a traveler.

I’m a daughter.

I’m a TV watcher.

I’m a car driver.

I’m an exercise avoider, but I try to do it anyway.

I’m a grandma-to-be.

I’m straight.

I’m going to Pride today.

To the LGBTQ+ community: I am attending your event because I support everyone on their path – in love, life, career, safety, and community. Pride is not about me nor is it for me per se. I get that. To be really honest, I probably would not come out today on my own. My middle school son is gay, and he wants to come. So, I’m there to support him. I have college-age son who is gay, and so I’m there because I want him to be safe everywhere: on campus, in a club, walking down a street.

I read a couple of articles this week that suggested that because I’m straight, I do not understand what it is to be gay. Right. That’s true. As is the reverse. Being whoever you are is unique to you; we are lucky or blessed to find communities in which we can be ourselves and feel safe in doing so. And, for LGBTQ+ persons, that experience is rare, especially inside a society that finds it easier to look on those who are “other” as some kind of zoo exhibit. I am there (and I’m sure there are others) as a straight person who cares about the kind of world we have now and for the future.

To the would-be protesters and disrupters: Stay the fuck home. I would be willing to bet that the last community event that was held for a group you are a part of, no one protested or disrupted. When was the last time a group of anyone bounced into your gathering with mean-spirited signs, rude gestures, and yelling? I’d be willing to bet it was never. My mother and grandmother used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  And, yeah, I get the tiredness of that cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less.

You are protesting who someone is. Think about that for a minute. No, really. Pause and think about it. You have actively sought out people in order to protest who they are. Your intent is what? To intimidate them into being who they are not? To drive them underground? To assuage some sort of undefined fear you have? How about I seek you out and protest that fact that you are heterosexual? Shall I throw epithets at you because you have brown hair? How’d you like threatening signage to greet you in your community because your family is third generation from Norway? Think about it. Stay home.

To everyone: if you have read this post, you realize that I am not digging into the myriad of serious issues around Pride and the LGBTQ+ community. I do not have authenticity of voice to do that. Sure, I could spend some sentences whining about how I’m an ally and now I read that the LGBTQ+ community objects to my being at Pride or wants to devalue me in some way or even downright doesn’t want me at Pride.  Wait, so if I feel marginalized and not included for who I am and how I’m living . . . whoa, did I just have a second of actually walking in someone else’s shoes?

Look back at my introductory list, you will find that whoever you are, you probably have more in common with me than you think.

Regardless of sexual identity, we all have things in common. And, if we can start with the things we all love and care about, I want to hope that the differences will fall away like so much dross at the end of the day.

Let’s try at least. Love.

Happy Pride to everyone.

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Gone to the Dogs

I did it again. I briefly ventured into the morass that is online dating. Interestingly, I saw many of the same faces, narrated by the same demands as I saw last year.

I read a good number of alarming sentences. “I spend a lot of time thinking about: the the-online-dating-ecosystem_50290b8d29fb4_w1500supper girl of my dreams.” No thanks, Hannibal.  There’s the vacuous: “I’m really good at: being with like-minded people.” No shit, Sherlock. How about Mr. Run-on: “Hi,my name is T, I’m divorced and am looking for a woman that will complete me,I enjoy the outdoors, fishing,I have a kawasaki 4×4 side by side to play in.” Paging Warriner’s First Edition. How about boring sexual innuendo man: “I’m really good at: wouldn’t u like to know?” No, no I would not.

Then, there’s the guy who messaged me who said he’s dominant, married, and just wants to chat with someone. When I told him to go chat with his wife he took umbrage to that. Still, he messaged me two more times; he was just begging to be blocked. There’s a host of scammers who can be spotted a mile away by anyone who took Linguistics 101 in college. And of course, those who use the same message for every email they send “Wasup?”; these guys occasionally get inventive: “Wasup? U dtf?”

Then, we have the screen names! Oh, the screen names! JoedaBoss. No, I was married to two of those. How about fordtuff? Nope, I’m looking for a date, not a car. Interested in papadan? I said date not dad. Niceguycr? If you have to say you’re a nice guy, I’m going to bet that you’re not.

image6So, yeah. The landscape is not that different than twelve or eighteen months ago. I closed the laptop and took my dog to the dog park. I walked around and Jasper frolicked with a boxer mix, two poodles of questionable parentage, a basset hound, and a host of mutts. Dogs of all sizes, shapes, abilities, and personalities sniffed each other, shared a water bowl, and ran around. They made friends. They grouped up and then dispersed. They were all happy. Oh sure, an occasional growl, but nothing that the breeze didn’t blow away.

Then it hit me.

We should take all the online dating sites offline and make dating parks in exactly the same model as dog parks. Large spaces to move around, sniff each other, and then move on or hang out a bit. We could walk around alone, in a pair, or in a group. We would all be required to bring a handler: you know, someone responsible to pick up our shit, make sure we behave, and put us on the leash if we act up. These handlers could walk a third of a mile track while the rest of us tried to make friends.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s a bar. Nope. This is outside. And only water allowed. If we have good handlers, they might bring training treats to give us if we come when we are called. And, at the end of the outing, everyone has to go home with their handler. No hookups allowed. Oh sure, you can exchange numbers or whatever, but that initial meeting is just that: a meeting. No overly contrived profiles. No screen names. No ridiculous cliches. No lists of demands. No promises of pampering.

Just people.

Meeting people.

Honestly.

 

 

In the Middle

Monday my middle schooler had the day off from school. He watched “The Magic School Bus,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” He cleaned his room. He made his own lunch. He snap chatted that lunch. He played with the dog. He did his homework.  He made a mess in his room.

Middle schoolers are a much maligned population. They are awkward and often unattractive. Middle school kids are frequently sexually inappropriate. They still like bathroom humor. Their hormones rage; their mouths operate before their brains have booted up. Organization? Forget about it. Tidiness? Rare. Good ideas? Maybe once a year.

But, here’s the beautiful thing about middle school kids: yes, they are at an in between age, and that in between age is actually quite beautiful and balanced.

They can watch cartoons as easily as a documentary about water access in Africa. They can Legos-1make food as easily as they can order out. They can be silly and serious. My son can still rock some Legos just as easily as the latest Xbox game. Tweens and early teens can eloquently discuss both presidential politics and the possibility of the existence of magic. Although middle schoolers are best friends one day and enemies the next, those best friend days are fierce; and, they roll around way more often than the enemy days. These kids have no guilt about all-day TV or three bags of microwave popcorn, but they also eat vegetables willingly.  Middle schoolers will argue their throats raw, and then snuggle with you on the couch.

Middle schoolers have not yet forgotten the freedom of childhood, and they have only an inkling of the responsibility of adulthood. It’s a great place to be, really.
Phineas-and-Ferb-pictures-7.jpgWhen we are too busy being grown-up (you know, paying bills, getting the car serviced, planning healthful meals), it is easy to forget to have fun. Seriousness is not all it’s cracked up to be. So, when life gets too grim, we might all do well to spend time embracing our inner middle schooler. Watch cartoons; eat too much sugar; be caring; snapchat your breakfast; and, make gross jokes.

It’s actually a fun place to visit – and, you don’t have to live there.

 

Esse Quam Videri: It’s No Joke

“To be rather than to seem”

Here’s the thing: it’s easy to say stuff. It’s harder to follow through. It’s easy to say you believe certain things; it’s harder to live them. These are a couple of uncomfortable facts of being human.

Everyone has the middle of the night moments, and sometimes those in need will call you. She might call you because she fell off a distressed personladder and broke her heel. He might reach out to you because he is stranded and sick in a foreign land and needs to get home. She might email you because her child’s counselor refuses to file for accommodations on the ACT, and you know how to make that happen. He might text you when he needs Wednesday afternoon motivation to get through the essays and readings associated with a tough college schedule. Law enforcement might contact you because she’s in the hospital, and your number was the last one dialed in her cell.

If you are being and not seeming, you will show up. Help. Put out. Support. Hang out. Pray. Talk. Cry. You will be there. A friend recently suggested to me that planning for negative contingencies is a way of living in fear. This same friend has also suggested that being generous with someone who isn’t also generous is stupid. I say: being as ready as one can for any contingencies is being steadfast. I say: being generous is a way of loving others whether or not they return the favor.  Being able to offer to be there and then actually being there is esse quam videri.

Shift Gears:

I had a spirited internet discourse several months ago with a person I consider a friend. She is a well-traveled, well-read, educated Christian woman. She opposed any immigration from the Middle East to our country. Remember the few minutes when almost every governor was saying, “We won’t allow immigrants in MY state”? Yeah. She supported that.

red letter bibleI asked her if Jesus wouldn’t embrace those different from himself (thinking: tax collectors, prostitutes); she said not if they were threatening. I said immigrants are not threatening. She said they were. I asked her about Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” She said it didn’t apply if you needed to protect your children. I wondered if Matthew 25:45 applied, “‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'” No go. She wasn’t having it. None of it. If Jesus’ stranger-angels couldn’t convince her, I wasn’t going to get there either.

Not only did this make me sad; I was confused. If we claim to believe something, we really should follow-through. Fully. In religion. In personal manifestos. In neighborliness. If we say we believe something, are we not supposed to act on those beliefs? You know, the whole walk the walk thing? If we offer to be there for a neighbor, shouldn’t we be there when they call?

Adding it All Up:

I know it’s hard. Even in little things – maybe especially in the little things. Being prepared and being willing to help those in need has been something that I have tried to do with consistency over the past ten or more years. I am imperfect in this: sometimes everything works great, but other times I follow through only begrudgingly, complaining the whole time. Other times, I fall short – way short. The deal is: I have received such kindnesses in big and small ways, and I don’t know what the future holds; so, I am going to keep trying.

 gallbladderI remember the time when I had emergency gallbladder surgery as a result of a horrible gallstone attack (something I didn’t know I even had) while I was chaperoning a school trip. Let me say that again: I was hospitalized four hours from home for surgery while chaperoning a school tripThe number of people who leant cars, drank energy drinks, stayed with me in the hospital, cared for my children, and brought meals to my home after this event was enormous. And that’s just one example. (That’s me in the bed and my friend who kept me and my son laughing despite the pain and misery and fear.)

You see, it really doesn’t matter  if the person in need is your own child, a former student, or a colleague. We all need help, love, and support in this life. From a TGIF text to sitting at the hospital to making a meal to staying for the whole visitation. It is not living in fear or being weak to be prepared to live our values. We should be doing the right things for people. The right thing to do is not the same for everyone, but the right thing to do is: esse quam videri.

Join me.