Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Opposite of Hate Can Be . . .

My soul has blistered with hate these last few weeks, an intense hate that both overwhelms and surprises me on alternating days. Hate bubbles to the surface quickly and unbidden, before other more rational emotions can take control.

Not only does my soul bear hate blisters, it's also trying to recover from a deeply inflicted wound.

While I wish I were weathering these injuries better (and faster), I do see progress. The problem with the wound is that I'm not completely in control of its healing. I flush it out and smother it with soothing balm and bandage it, and then it scabs over and I feel better--for a day or two--until events outside my control rip the healing scab away, once more revealing the gaping hole beneath.

It's not as deep as it used to be, but nights like tonight still hurt. Nights where I'm unkindly and unnecessarily punished, purely out of spite.

These types of wounds only heal through effort. Prayer. Mindfulness. Discussion. Sympathy. Daily Focus. Work.

And also, as I'm finding out, through forgiveness. Forgiveness of someone who neither seeks it nor feels they need it takes gut-wrenching, character-building work. I am very far from a place where I feel I've reached complete forgiveness, but I am a little closer now than I was a month ago. One path I've found to this hard-to-access forgiving section of my soul is the path of compassion.
Compassion for myself. Compassion for countless innocent others tangled in the situation without their consent. And hardest of all to find--compassion for those who need it most and warrant it least. This is the life lesson I have to learn these days, and the only path available is the rocky one before me.

It's still going to be a long journey, but God only expects me to keep moving towards forgiveness, and the wound may take months to completely heal. I have to be ok with that.

But the blisters . . . I refuse to let the blisters take a permanent place within me, even with hate consistently being slung in my direction.

The salve for these blisters comes from a surprising source. The opposite of hate in this situation isn't love, ironically. At least it isn't yet. The opposite of this hate is actually . . .


Pity soothes the blisters these days. I don't know if pity will be the final salve, but it lessens the pain as the blisters disappear. Maybe one day that pity will be replaced with some more admirable quality, but for today, it is enough. The blisters still erupt just as quickly, but they no longer burden me for days, and the flare-ups are increasingly less intense. That's progress.

I have taken the high road in this. I have nothing to hide and nothing of which I'm ashamed. I tell the story unabashedly withholding no detail, and this process surprisingly generates even more pity within me.

Two wounds. One constant and deep will take time to repair. One quick to emerge is becoming easier to tame.

Baby steps. But baby steps forward.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Prom 2018--The Dress

Finally pulled these pictures off my camera.
Prom 2018

Lily's last high school dance.

When did she grow up from this:
and this
To this
and this

Wow. My girl has grown up right before my eyes.

It seems like yesterday when she was as little as Ruby and Annie, looking up to the big girls and their princess dresses.

How I love her. How proud I am to be her mom. Only four more weeks, and she's graduating from high school.
And chicken #4 will be ready to fly away from the nest. No matter how many times I do this, it never gets easier--the letting them go part.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"And It Comes With a Breathtaking View"

My writing skills are rusty, but I knew I needed to record my adventure from this morning, whether or not I articulate my thoughts as well as I once may have done. This post didn't come out the way I'd hoped or the way I truly felt, but at least it's written, and that's more than I've done in a long time.

I hiked the Wind Caves trail this morning.

Crazy how personal revelation often comes when we least expect it.

I've taken to this trail many times over the last two decades when life is good or when it got hard (most notably two years ago--you can read that post here).  My heart has been heavy the last few weeks and my spirits low. I didn't leave for the trail this morning looking for deep answers or insights. I left for the trail this morning because the weather today was perfect for a quick hike, and perfect hiking weather in AZ is almost over. I knew I needed to take advantage of that perfect hiking weather before it's gone till fall.

So off I went.

You may not know this about me, but I like to take life on my own terms. I am decisive almost to a fault, and I often try to mold life around my ideas of how it should go. I blaze my own way through life, finding new paths and adventures all along the way. Yeah. Not a big secret I'm revealing.

While this life philosophy generally serves me well, recently that hasn't been the case.

Problems weigh heavily on my mind these days, and on the trail this morning they found their way back to my consciousness even after being forced back by the words coming through my earphones and my desire not to think about life for a while. Why? Why? What could I have done differently? Should I have done something differently? Where will all this take me? When will I know?

Often as I hike this path, I wonder why it swings so far to the west before switching back east towards the final destination. At one particularly wide switchback today, I thought the familiar, "Why didn't they cut the trail through here? It would save so much time . . ."

And that's when I noticed the signs, probably a dozen of them spaced out along the path. I never noticed how often the same reminder is posted along this route.

The trail is rough in spots, but still manageable even for small children. The trail is hemmed in by thorny desert plants--ocotillo beginning to bloom red on the tips, prickly pear with some of their yellow flowers beginning to open, and of course the saguaro, sentinels of the Sonoran Desert and central Arizona. But if you're careful, you can easily avoid the thorns and take a shortcut.

Why so many reminders to stay on the path?

That's when it hit me.

Staying on the trail is the best way to get where you're headed--maybe not the fastest, but the best. It might be really rough in spots or clogged with thorns and inconspicuous but deadly rattlesnakes in other places, but the trail is the best way to get to the top.

I saw myself in those signs today.

I often think I know the best way to navigate life. I ignore signs and suggestions along the way that I think will shorten--not necessarily simplify--the route. I forget that the best way is the Lord's way. Not mine. I forget that the rough spots teach lessons, and that the thorns and snakes develop character and wisdom unavailable on other paths.
And sometimes when I try blazing my own trail, I unnecessarily make life harder and more complicated. I have all the tools I need to get to the end, but if I choose not to stay on the path or try to overshoot the mark, then I'm "traveling at my own risk." It's best to stay on the path, even if I can't see around the next corner or if I don't understand why it's going this direction for a while. I'll get there.

Please stay on trail.

And for an hour of my morning, I once again saw joy in my journey, purpose in my path, and happiness in my life. I knew these positive moments weren't permanently missing, but I'm glad to meet up with them again.

My step was lighter on the way back down the mountain. And that spring in my step has lingered even after returning home.

The problems are still there, but they have slid down the priority list.

And it feels so good.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Who Lives? Who Dies? I'll Tell His Story

It took time to find these photos, but I knew they were in that memory box somewhere.

My high school drama teacher, Dick Call, died after a fierce battle against cancer. He fought long and hard, and I would have expected nothing less from this passionate man who was dearly loved by so many.

Mr. Call didn't introduce me to theatre. My mom exposed me to the great musicals of the 50s and 60s at a very young age, and I fell in love with the spotlight from the first moment I walked onto the stage at a Christmas party, dressed in a homemade nightgown and kerchief, ready to recite 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Mr. Call opened my eyes to the joy that comes from finding yourself in the theatre.

He wasn't an armchair director, not Mr. C. He would grab a script and join his cast on stage, changing our perspective on our characters purely through the power of his presence. He exposed us to the greats of the stage--anything by Shakespeare, Our Town, The Crucible, Blithe Spirit--and expanded our views of the world in the process.

He could see inside us to what was possible--depths of feeling we didn't know we had, but with his guidance, out it came. 

I wasn't the best actor in his class or part of that inner circle of students that always congregated in his room before school, but I had a place in his world.

And I mattered there.

I remember being so disappointed when he posted the cast list for this show. I wanted to be the star, the one with the most lines and the one with the most scenes. Little did I know at the time what trust Mr. C had placed in me casting me as Lady Bracknell, the best character in the show. From The Importance of Being Earnest I learned the importance of every actor on the stage, the power in delivering a funny line well, and the value of a great hat in transforming into character.

I wasn't cast in every show our school produced, and my high school ego often doubted his judgment on who got to be on stage. When he chose the musical, Something's Afoot, I complained about my place in the pit. He needed me at the keyboard, and after a few practices, I saw the wisdom behind his decision, but I still longed to be on the stage instead. Isn't that what all actors long for? From that show, I learned that every piece of the show matters, even those not in the spotlight.

Mr. C also had the gift of relating to teenagers. He listened, and he counseled. He never grew up, so you always knew that somewhere inside him, he felt what you felt--and understood. Sometimes he could see right into your soul and know what part you needed to get you through the struggles of real life just outside his classroom door.

High school was hard for me, as it is for many, and I live with a few regrets and bad memories. Don't we all? I always wanted to be a cheerleader, but aside from the capacity to cheer really loud, I didn't really fit the mold.  Thanks to Mr. Call, I got to live that dream in a solo scene from Vanities--in a real cheerleader uniform and everything. It was a drop of salve on a gaping popularity wound, and those few moments acting the ditzy cheerleader filled a little of the pain.
I only know of one member of our troupe who went on to have theatre be their life (and John was the best of the best of us, without question), but I transferred my love of theatre to my own kids, watching them experience the miracle that happens inside when the house lights come down and the floodlights come on. They learned that not all problems can be solved, but at least you can forget about them for a few hours a night while on the stage portraying someone else.

There are hundreds of people all over the country who carry a piece of Richard Call with them. Snippets of shows come back without warning, rooting their way into the most mundane of daily tasks. I have a friend named Ernest, and little does he know that I often hear his name as a punch line I recited dozens of times. Even when Brad and I walked through Elsinore Castle in Denmark this summer, I came face to face with Ophelia, and in that moment I was back in a flowing nightgown in Twin Falls, Idaho, reciting, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember."

While most of the world will never recognize his name as a famous actor or director, those who truly knew Dick Call will never forget the imprint he left on their lives and in their hearts. He was so much more than a director and actor. He was a teacher and mensch, one who gauged success by the family he loved and the people who continue his passion for what he loved--transforming words on pages to intimate moments that connect you with the world of human experience.

Thank you, Mr. C. Thank you for touching my life and guiding me through the rough road of high school. The world is better for you having been here.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Admitted Lover of Humbug

How long it's been since I enjoyed a show this much I can't even remember. Maybe the first time I saw "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" with Donny Osmond in Chicago back in the 90s? (That's a good story. You can read about it here. And for the record, Eve was five days old when the show opened, and I still went at least twice. It's what I do.)

I don't understand the controversy surrounding "The Greatest Showman." I mean, we all live in the Google age. I'm sure I'm not the only one who googled P.T. Barnum as I left the theatre to see how much of the story was accurate. Was I disappointed this wasn't a biography? No. Aren't we all wise enough to judge between truth and fiction? Newsflash--"Game of Thrones" isn't an accurate portrayal of the Middle Ages. (Although I've never seen it, the dragons gave me my first clue.)

Hollywood feels obligated to create their versions of famous people and pass them off as history. Rarely are they completely corroborated by even a quick Wikipedia check.

Can't we all drop the pretense of serious historians and just enjoy something for its face value? (Finally live a little, finally laugh a little--see what I did there?) When did we all become so uptight about facts and accuracy? They don't matter here.

This is a show of fun--catchy tunes and lyrics, incredible dancing, beautiful people, and suitable for families to enjoy--the kind of show P.T. Barnum may have written about himself.

I went with some family over the holidays and returned later that same night to see it again. I've seen it a few more times, and it brings me joy every time--from the first notes to the final curtain.

Let's all relax and revel in a shared moment of pure joy and entertainment. That's rare in this world of government shutdowns, nuclear threats, and economic strife.

If you haven't seen "The Greatest Showman," get there before it leaves the theatre. Stomp and clap and sing . . . and enjoy the greatest show.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Biggest Event of 2017

I don't have any other pictures from this big day.

Can you believe these are all ours?

Makayla joined our family on December 28th, and it was a perfect few days, aside from the migraine that felled me just before the wedding dinner on the 27th (happened at Heidi's dinner, too. I don't get migraines very often--why on weddings?).

We had 80+ people over for Mexican food the night before and housed 15 additional people for a few days before and after the wedding. It was one of the best times ever--late-night games, movies, long talks, and food food food!

Makayla's grandfather performed their ceremony, and it was one of the most beautiful I've ever attended. How tender to have your grandpa who's known you every day of your entire life marry you? I felt very privileged to be there that day.

Nothing makes me happier than having all of my family together. I love each of their personalities and quirks, and the more we add to the Sanatorium, the better it gets!

Brad's sister Amy took this picture at the Gilbert temple right after their sealing. I really need to get better at taking pictures with my phone instead of hauling out my big camera. Now that I rarely use the big camera, I have this weird idea that little things aren't worth a crappy phone picture. Another mental block I need to get past--literary and deep blog posts. This is my family record, not a candidate for the Pulitzer. Twoof my goals for 2018--more photos and blog posts.

Especially since this photo is already outdated--Karli and Tucker announced they're expecting a new baby in July!

Friday, January 5, 2018

I'm Off on an Adventure!

Toto, we're not in Arizona any more!

Guess where I am?

I am one of the very lucky few that beat the bomb cyclone along the East Coast and made it to Boston without a flight cancellation! I arrived Wednesday, just as the first flakes were hitting Florida. I got snug in my AirBnB apartment Wednesday night and woke up to snow! It's been years since I was in a big snowstorm, and I would guess this is the biggest I've ever seen in my entire life. I chronicled the increasing depth on the garbage cans outside my window.

Up to fifteen inches in certain places in Boston, the reports say. My unscientific measurements would have to agree.

Yesterday was glorious. I took three stomps through the snow to get food and and to get my bearings, and I felt like a little kid living an adventure story. Ok. It wasn't that exciting, but for an AZ girl, it was pretty close. There were few cars (and even fewer people) out, and those that were brave enough were generally stuck (one car was being dug out by a skinny young guy in a Santa onesie and hat). Snow plows cleared the roads in groups of three, efficiently and regularly keeping the roads accessible. Sidewalks were a different story, and I had to blaze my own trails with my trusty waterproof duck boots and Siri. I may have grinned like a ten-year-old boy out with his first BB gun as I plodded knee deep through the snow.

I had to buy a new coat for such an adventure, since I've lived in AZ way too long to have leftovers from our law school years in Chicago. Who knew that a $54 coat from Amazon would be just as toasty as a high-end coat from The North Face? Temperatures yesterday were beautiful--hovering around 30 degrees with only a few (albeit strong) gusts of wind. The weather made the adventure even better. I was cold, but not miserable. I loved it all.

Today the weather is brutal but clear, and I have yet to venture outside, even though it's almost 2 pm. I can hear the wind howl and I watch the flakes swirl across the plowed streets and now-shoveled walks, knowing that a different experience awaits me today. I've been cocooned with a cup of herbal tea, a blanket across my lap, preparing lesson plans for school next week. It's been a good morning, but this afternoon begins the real adventure and the real reason I'm in Boston--I'm taking a class on the Constitution, preparing for a new seminar I'm teaching. On Monday. Yeah, I cut this one a little close, but I'm excited, and a little bit nervous, to be honest. I haven't been a student inside a regular classroom in almost three decades. Here's hoping I survive the Arctic blast as I walk outside!