Wisdom Comes Suddenly

Even If

February 10th, 2017 · No Comments

DUDES! 2017 is not AT ALL what I had planned.

First THIS happened.

And then THIS happened.

And NOW THIS HAPPENED:

We’ve spent 6 weeks trying to find a more suitable home for our beloved Penny. Penny is my little all-day shadow, and perhaps I was slow to admit it was due to her anxiety. We consulted 2 different Vets, tried Prozac (which did buy us a good year), and attempted all sorts of tricks and games with litter boxes. But in the end, Penny loves humans over cats. This house is an equal balance of both, and therefore a bad balance for Penny.

Penny is now trying her hand at being a companion cat not with a lovely gentleman from our church. I pass her new home 4x/day, and usually manage to dissolve into tears on only 2 commutes. So…not bad?

Luckily this week, a dear friend recommended I try this:

This book is a fictional tale about the life of John the Baptist, and people, I LOVE me some John the Baptist. What could be cooler than Jesus having a cousin, and ALSO getting baptized by his cousin? But I digress. “The Prisoner in the Third Cell” is about a pretty scary topic: Why doesn’t God heal everyone? Why, after an entire life of 100% devotion, did God allow John to be beheaded? When John asked Jesus for a hint, he didn’t get one. Exactly.

God said only one thing (paraphrasing): Will you love/follow/trust me John, even if I don’t meet your expectations?

Wow. Now that’s convicting, isn’t it?

Because trust me, if there is anything I do well, it’s get mad at God. Not my proudest admission, but truthful nonetheless. If God didn’t meet John’s expectations, and John stayed faithful, I assume this was meant to be an example to all of mankind. THANKS JOHN. Making us all look bad...(as IF I could pray in the desert for 30 years eating locusts…come ON J.B.!)

OK, so I’m not into wearing rags, desert heat and bugs, but God, what if I pray REALLY hard about the mess-o-2017?

No?

LIKE…what if I pray REALLY, REALLY hard?

No Lori. That’s not how this works. (Kelly calls these “2-ways prays”. She just figured out that when you get deep into prayer, God talks back to you. Sometimes prayers are a quick “1-way”, but the good ones are the prayers that go in both directions.)

When I came home from my 1 bajillionth eye appointment and told Greg, “I’m tired. My eyes are tired. I don’t know how much more of this I can take, but going blind scares me more than my tired,” and he replied,

“It’s not about whether or not you go blind.” ….WELL. You can imagine my reply:

HELL YES it’s about whether or not I go blind!!!! Is there anything else on earth that’s more important?! IT IS ALL THERE IS. (I actually said that. Ugh. I can see John the Baptist shaking his head at me from heaven.)

But every single time I tried to pray for my eyes, no words would come out. My fear was ruling my every breath.

When I looked for God and his wisdom, at the church, during sermons, inside songs, while in prayer…I heard only one thing:

“God is in control. Let him lead. GET BEHIND HIM.”

 

Pretty amazing all the cool places this meme works. It’s my uni-meme for 2017.

OK. Let God lead. I tried meditating on this. Praying. God in front, me marching behind in those desert sandals you see in Jesus-movies. Envisioning Jesus on a motorcycle and me in the sidecar (I’m not even joking…I used this one to get to sleep at night). Then I envisioned myself in an arm wrestling match with God, and of course, I lost.

OH, Come ‘on God, give me a hint. Can I keep my eyesight?

“I GOT THIS LORI. I’m sovereign in your life or I am not. There is no halfway.”

Kind of reminds me of a cat that just wouldn’t give up the alpha-fight. Huh. Maybe Penny and I had something in common outside of uncontrollable anxiety.

So I reached out to a dear old pal who had lost everything to an illness and asked him how he kept going, despite losing control over his health and possibly his future. What I got in response was quite sobering, and luckily put my fear in-check:

“While I hope you keep your vision, it was never about your eyes. It’s about you and God and whether you can turn inward, and turn over your will to Him. The answer is inside of you, not outside.”

 

Those were some words to digest. Literally and figuratively, so I turned to my happy place: my kitchen. I can fix nearly anything, literally and figuratively, while cooking. Funny how much my physical and spiritual world are swirling together these days.

I’m fixing such complicated dishes, I have to shop with Amazon open on my phone, just to get the ingredients I need. In my kitchen, I can breath. I can think. I am comforted.

And somewhere along this path (probably in my 2nd hour of rolling gnocchi, which is the most mind-numbing task EVER), my heart and my mind agreed: God has a plan, and it’s not about my eyes. If I could stay FOCUSED (pun intended) on GOD, and GOD ALONE, those eyes would become 2nd fiddle in my day.

Thanks to the wonderful Kara Tippetts, I was reminded to stay focused on today’s allotment of grace while attempting this wild feat. Would I be so brave as to allow God to pry open my hands and take a hold of my dreams? Could I embrace this hard, and my loss of control over my future?

OK. Today’s grace. Each day. LOOK FOR IT. Paella. Science Fairs. Chicken Gnocchi Soup. A gold medal at the flute competition. Sausage with leeks and mushrooms in a tortellini soup. Girls piling into my minivan with ridiculous stories of kids making deals for candy (a certain boy may have worn a tutu to school this week in trade for a candy bar). Dried Apricot and roasted hazelnut chicken salad. Late night Limoncellos with my dear friend Ana Paula. Sweet potato and chorizo bites. Lots and LOTS of complaining about schoolwork (this becomes grace when you fear you’ll lose it).

Every day, day after day, there has been grace. There has been enough, and some days there has been grace overflowing to the point I even had some to share.

Along for the ride have been 2 questions rolling around in my head:

(1) EVEN IF, is my story with God still good?

(2) EVEN IF, will I love God if he doesn’t meet my expectations (i.e. answer my prayers)?

For all the “no’s” 2017 has brought, these 2 questions, thus far, have gotten the yes. Not solid yes’s. Not easy yes’s. Not a thumbs-up which has me jumping for joy…but I’m trying. I’m not John the Baptist desert praying in lieu of a family or a life…but if I’m awake, chances are you’ll find my mind and heart singularly on this trying.

So in this focusing on daily grace, I went to my hometown last weekend to say goodbye to Matt’s house. Matt, my “Even If” of 2016. “Even if” he survives the surgery. Even if he survives the lengthy physical rehab. Even if he gets home, and dies unexpectedly.

As I drove away and looked back at the bright “SOLD” sign, and on some of my favorite high school memories, there was Matt’s sunbeam, reminding me to “follow the Son”.

FOLLOW the Son: THIS is the wisdom I seek right now, along with patience while I await whatever comes next.* Even if it’s not what I expect. Even if it’s not a chapter I wrote.

Even if.

Godspeed my friends. As always, Godspeed.

*To clarify confusion from last week re: glaucoma and my eye condition: Glaucoma is a highly treatable illness which if treated diligently, will NOT cause blindness. Many well-meaning friends have contacted me to tell about family members whom have had successful glaucoma surgeries. I have prior optic nerve damage along with a 3 decade sequelae, PLUS unstable glaucoma. I don’t fear glaucoma as much as this scale finally tipping. But I’m glad everyone’s 80 year old grandmothers are alive and well with glaucoma, and sighted. It truly is a miracle of modern medicine of which I hope to benefit in the very near future. 

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“I Went To The Mountains, I Drank From The Fountain…”

February 2nd, 2017 · 3 Comments

 

OK gang, we’re about to get our hippy-dippy on. Hip-to-the-dip. As in, if you’re not comfortable talking about your spirit/soul/inner-being, walk away. Or to quote 2 year old Sara talking to her infant sister who was trying to attack our cat, “Walk ee-way Kel-Kel. Walk ee-way.”

Long story short: I went temporarily blind at 14 years of age. There is just no way to cushion this sentence, and I can register your shock from here. This does NOT come up in conversation regularly. It was an 8 month slog back to vision, and it’s been a 30 year SLOG since. S.L.O.G. SSSSLLLOOOOGGG. SUH-AHHH-LOG. If you’re ever offered a stroke in your teens with no apparent cause, I do NOT recommend it. However, you will meet cool doctors with wild titles like “Neuro-Opthamologist”, and “Vitreo-Retinal Specialist”, and “Shamanic Healer”. Wait. Hang in there with me.

 

I feel compelled to share this story as (1) It explains why I live my life so all-in. Blindness, melanoma, HELLP Syndrome…I live with an altered sense of time relative to most people. People remark on my…intensity?…commitment to making every day count? It’s not DNA, it’s circumstance. (2) I’ve tried many, many things to heal my eyes. I recommend all of them. In fact, if you have a recommendation, I’ll likely try it. If you tell me to rub oregano on my feet and sing to the moon…check. Don’t laugh, pretty sure that one came from my Dad.

Perhaps you’d like to read about unconventional ways to heal; perhaps like me, you suspect there is a connection between your spiritual health and your physical health, and you wonder how to heal them together. If so, let’s begin.

 

(1) Shamanic Healing/Soul Retrieval

Have you ever uttered the words, “It’s as if a part of me died”? Most of us have said this phrase at some point in our lives. When my Mother had a nervous breakdown, when my Grandmother died unexpectedly, when my parents divorced. These words are reserved for the moments which create a chasm in our personal time-space continuum: All that came before, and all that came after that singular event. A Shamanic Healer would tell you the words you spoke had a deeper truth: A part of you did not die, but rather, it fled. It shut down. It ran away. And unfortunately for you, it took some good stuff with it. “Soul Retrieval” is an attempt to regain what was lost during that tragedy.

While practitioners of these methods probably work in a variety of ways (and this is just ONE thing practiced by Shamanic Healers and in no way encompasses all they do with clients), I can speak to my experience. I laid in a comfortable position for about an hour with my eyes closed, listening to soothing music. The Healer saw whatever it is she saw in my spirit (I was comfortably cozy under the world’s softest blanket), and I too, experienced what I would call dreams. We shared our stories at the end, and I can no longer remember what was my version and what was hers, but they indeed overlapped and coordinated in theme.

She saw the points in my life when my Mother was most ill, and I had thrown away my eyes. “If I can’t see my own Mother, I won’t see anything at all.” The story goes far deeper as she found my “spiritual eyes” and my soul pieces and parts (Missed you!), returned them to me, and then made agreements to create a “whole me” again. I’ll summarize and say…it was “EYE-OPENING”, both literally and figuratively.

 

“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” -Kurt Vonnegut (a mighty fine Hoosier)

In closing, she spun and aligned my chakras. If you don’t do this, I highly recommend it. Imagine a quick meditation that resets and realigns the energy/spiritual channels in your body. Whether we like it or not, we are electrical beings, and our personalities did not arise from thin air. You have a soul. You have a spirit. They can break, not unlike any other part of you. If you can heal a broken leg, you can heal a broken spirit. It’s just math.

And here’s some more math: My eye pressures dipped below the average glaucoma threshold for the first time in 2 years of elevation. They remained clinically insignificant for 3 additional years. I walked away with an entirely different perspective on my back story, and ALL SORTS of me began to heal. Relationships, eyes, moods…it spiraled out of me like a quiet breeze, making everything better. Of course, at that time, I did not know it was a spiral. That came later….

Interviewing seeing eye dogs wasn’t going well, as I don’t easily warm to dogs. Tigers however…

(2) Ortho-Bionomy

This practice is pretty new to me, so I hope I get close: imagine a type of very gentle massage/manipulation with the aim of getting your body back to an aligned state where it can heal. It does not hurt at all, and it’s been around as a practice for a long, long time. I work with someone who pairs this practice with a spiritual element, trying to figure out how you got so whopper-jawed in the first place.

Again, I laid comfortably and warm for about an hour, this time on a massage table. Because my eyes are our main focus, my cranium was the point of work. As it turns out, your skull isn’t as concrete and immovable as we may imagine. Your skull plates fuse in toddlerhood, but there is, while minor, some give to your head. There is certainly give at the base where your spinal cord exits your brain. Your spinal cord is VITALLY important to your overall health, as it’s the messenger from the brain to the rest of your body. If those two aren’t speaking…well? You’re screwed.

My practitioner surmised, having known me personally for a while, that I have a very expansive spiritual vision. Not psychic…let’s be clear. What she means, and what I’ve heard throughout my life, is that I do not use my eyes for anything other than basic, functional seeing. I see people and circumstances far beyond their physical presence. I may have always been this way, but in truth, I cannot remember when I began seeing people for who they are, and not even noticing how they looked. I’m especially good at seeing joy in people, which is pretty easy when you aren’t held up by things like hairstyle or facial expressions.

I walked away with a little homework and some exercises which I find quite relaxing. I also learned about my spirit spiraling in connection with my DNA, and I now have a working picture in my mind as to where and how these two things intersect.

DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID RIGHT THERE?! Your spirit and your physical health MEET and interact! This is important stuff people. If you don’t believe your spirit and your body have anything to do with each other, than you’ve never had a stress headache or worried yourself into stomach pain. Bravo. I’ve done both of these things within the last 48 hours.

 

(3) Regular ‘ole Chit Chat Therapy

My name for “counseling”. Getting tools to deal with serious illness, life changes, mental illness…you name it. A good Chit Chat Doctor is key for me. I wasn’t born knowing how to handle a child with Special Needs while juggling her doctor appointments and my body’s constant desire to fight me. I had to build a coping tool chest, and that’s the output of a good counselor. It’s harder than a regular doctor’s appointment because your eyeballs might sweat, but it’s GOOD.

I’ve also taken medications to assist in my struggles with anxiety, until last Fall when I decided I had “memorized” how to feel calm. HA!!! Pretty sure I had some lunch dates with girlfriends when they tried to secretly sneak those meds into my iced tea. Trying life free of medications was educational, and not for me.

 

(4) Finding my Core

Not the one they talk about in Pilates, although I suppose that’s important too. I’ve had more than one healer tell me I’m entirely missing “my core”. Think of that as a home based in your middle torso somewhere that either houses your spirit when it’s not in your brain or otherwise houses you identity. Pretty elementary explanation, but seeing as I don’t have one, it’s the best I can do. I’m technically missing my root chakra as well, so I figure I’m doing pretty well for missing entire body parts.

Why does this matter NOW, at 44? I’m happy, and I have a fulfilling existence. It matters because it may all change. My glaucoma is unstable and non-responsive to a year of treatment. I am, once again, facing the very real tenuous nature of my vision. Last week, I was in a dark place where sunlight and hope came to die. It was some ugly. Luckily, God had his hands on me and sent helpers. He sent the Good Word. He sent grace, day by day, hour by hour.

And I came to this conclusion: Blindness changes what I do, not who I AM. Therein lies my panic attack; the “I AM” of me has always been an extremely fluid construct. This year “I AM” a meeting planner. Last year “I WAS” a Princess Coordinator. I’ve been an RN, a Neuroscience Researcher, a Stand Up Comedian, a Quilter, a Writer…folks, I don’t mean I can’t keep a job. I mean I can’t keep an IDENTITY.

 

Being a chameleon served me quite well in my childhood and adolescence. My life was unpredictable, so in order to survive, I became someone who could adapt and change. It’s a cool skill set until you wake up one day and have no real grasp on what makes you…”you”. If I have to spend the rest of my life living inside my brain, I might want that core after all. I might want to feel there is a home to my spirit. I might want my life to be about more than how much I can juggle in a day. I can no longer focus on doing. I must start to focus on being.

Easier said than done.

 

If I can’t solidify an identity, I’ll just be Idina Menzel. I can’t sing AT ALL, but…HAIR. Need I say more?

I’m taking a Soul-Mapping workshop for starters, and my core has definitely made an appearance after my last session of Ortho-Bionomy. It’s empty, to be honest. I’m filled with all sorts of wonderful things, but they haven’t moved into that space yet. It’s cool…I’ve got a little time. I’m allowing it to just exist for now, as I adjust to finally feeling at home in my own mind. My mind is a colorful, fanciful-fun joint, but it does lack a baseline.

So for now, here are my “I Am’s”:

I am Lori.

I am endowed with unusual visual capacities, both spiritual and physical.

I see the world differently, and I am therefore different within the world.

I am grateful to be on this journey with so many brilliant people whom have bravely shared their gifts with me.

I am relieved Jesus sticks with me, even when I’m surly and scared.

I am going to be OK, even if some parts of the next few months really suck. Either way, there is OK’ness in store for me.

I am confident my team of physicians will choose helpful interventions that will save my eyesight for the maximum time possible.

I am not alone, nor have I ever been. The support spiraling out from me is the prettiest thing I’ve ever witnessed, and with or without vision, that scene is mine to keep.

I am not wise, but I am certainly seeking it.

Godspeed, my friends. As always, Godspeed.

(Reference to title, “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls)

“I go to the doctor, we go to the mountains.
We look to the children, we drink from the fountain.
We go to the Bible, we go through the work out.
We read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout.
There’s more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line.
And the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.”

 

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Holiday Memories (Teacher Gifts 2016)

January 15th, 2017 · Comments Off on Holiday Memories (Teacher Gifts 2016)

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Kelly’s Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. The 9 year old shooed me away from this cake all day. “Mommy! Stop trying to help! I have a PLAN!”

(Thanksgiving)

Outside of building my family, I am most proud of being a part of a thriving community. I’m the kind of gal who rarely lets go of her friends; space and time are meaningless to me. Those fab ladies I lived with in 1998 in Nantucket? Like sisters. College roomies? Would give them a kidney (but after college, the 6 of us might need new livers). Sorority sisters, childhood neighbors, extended family across the country, kids from my Middle School youth group, nursing colleagues, Lilly colleagues…

Some people collect stamps…I collect PEOPLE.

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No idea why I wanted cozy utensils, but I made a boatload of these.

(Thanksgiving)

And while only a tiny few knew of this autumn’s challenges, those who did rallied around me BIG last week. BIIIGGG. Offers to take the kids, pulling me out of bed, covering me with makeup and taking me to a fancy lunch with an invitation to cry into my bagels and lox, and hours spent at Nordstrom Rack where I covered myself in perfume and tried on dresses I’ll never buy. What can I say? Trying on dresses makes me happy. My community offered me the perfect balance of hugs, the space to cry, and distractions. It made all the difference.

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Kelly wanted to be a “Half-Good/Half-Bad Witch”, featuring her cat Penny. Her instructions were PLENTIFUL, but my favorite was “Stand-up collar NOT optional”.

(Halloween)

Looking back over the past few months, they really were filled with blessings and precious memories. I found my creative spark around Halloween, and started “making things” again. When I first starting helping “other people’s children”, I was pretty blue. But as it became a normal part of my routine, I woke up to the holidays, and began to find hope within the hopelessness. Thank God this year’s story happened within the season, because I think the added busy carried me along like a tidal wave.

 

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Handed some random flowers and items to my Mother-in-Law, who deftly turned them into award-worthy centerpieces.

(Thanksgiving)

And as many of you know, I take a great deal of joy in making what is known as “The Teacher’s Gifts”. You can view past years here, and here, and over here.

I usually have a solid plan by Halloween, but this year I was teetering on gift cards and calling it a day. On Thanksgiving night, I admitted defeat: I got nothin’. But when I awoke the next day, I found myself scrolling through Pinterest, looking for inspiration. I stumbled upon a picture described in a language I couldn’t begin to identify, when Sara peeked over my shoulder and said, “NO WAY.” Kelly jumped over and said, “Double no way. That can’t be done.” Oooh. I smell a perfect distraction from my worries.

SO, in THAT CASE…let’s head to the craft store so I can prove you wrong. Or right. Either way, we’re going to need more hot glue.

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Totally boring beginning, but you gotta start somewhere.

(Christmas)

I convinced the manager at Michael’s to extend the Black Friday deal on these large Mason jars and sell them to me for $1 each. “It’s for the TEACHERS!”

(A) That was not a lie, and (B) That phrase, when used truthfully and properly, will get you discounts everywhere.

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Styrofoam, hot clue, and what-nots. 3D, height…now we’re getting somewhere!

(Christmas)

In the end, I decided to create winter-themed jar tops to seal jars filled with bark cookies. How hard could it be to make this? Not hard! How hard could it be to make SEVENTEEN of them? UM?…well??? That was a little harder.

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Sara in the background, having her annual laugh at my expense. Well-deserved.

By early December, stationary objects within my home starting to quake with fear, because if sat still, it was getting hot-glued to a jar. Buttons, cricut paper, everything inside the craft closet, possibly things I found in my yard…(kidding…sort of)…

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Next phase, spray them ALL WHITE. Wintery. I had to spray them inside, because it was -20 below in my garage. I might have lost a few brain cells (as in, I can no longer recall my middle name), but totally worth it. Lesson learned: You CANNOT spray-paint styrofoam; it will melt. NOW YOU KNOW. I used a styrofoam primer paint first. It worked pretty well! I probably won’t spray paint styrofoam again, because it never looks “filled”, but it was good to learn these lessons.

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Not loving the styrofoam look, what if I made it SNOW on my jar tops? That’s wintery! I went to 3 stores, all out of spray snow. (Seriously Indiana, what ARE YOU DOING with so much spray snow? We have ACTUAL snow here, you know.)

I gave up and bought “Snow Tex”. That’s 8 hours of my life I won’t get back, but the craft Gods can keep them…I LOVED playing with this stuff.

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It’s like working with a slightly wet sand that dries pretty quickly once you put it on a surface. I used stiff paintbrushes, both ends, to drape the snow across the tops, imagining the physics of how snow falls and accumulates on surfaces.

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I tried to do a final spray with an iridescent-opal paint, but with all this going on, it didn’t really show up.

Not done…keep going…make a few hundred bark cookies…

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Filling them was no big deal, but transporting them was HIGH-LARE-EE-OUS. I’d give you an instructional as to how I got these safely to school, but I blacked out at some point and woke up on Christmas Eve, covered in spray paint, fake-clay-snow and chocolate.

I think my favorite memory of this craft was the variety in each one. All 17 were quite different.

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The girls were SO excited to hand these out! They gathered friends as they went, eventually collecting a gang of gals, giggling about the holidays and maybe a little high from the paint fumes. Kidding! (I hope. This took A LOT of paint.)

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New Year’s Eve brought its annual traditions: We attend a “Dead Celebrity Party” hosted by our dear friends. Guests must dress as a celebrity who died within the year, so needless to say, this year was a costume BONANZA. Fidel Castro, Princess Leia, the Red Solo cup guy, Zsa Zsa…it was quite a list. As for us, we were Prince, Willy Wonka, Carol Brady, and Arnold Palmer. We also visit another nearby set of friends, which creates a hilarious buzz as to how we’ll switch from full costume to “normal us”. We race, with me always losing, but I undid this in 10 minutes, so RESPECT, people.

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“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today for this thing called LIFE.”

In reality, I was attempting to represent all the greats: Pants were David Bowie, sunglasses and Cross earring were George Michael, hair, velvet jacket, and purple ukelele are Prince. But as my HAIR usually takes center stage, everyone took one look at me and screamed “PRINCE!” He’s my favorite, so fine. I’m PRINCE. To answer the questions asked by my friends (who simply MUST work on their ability to drink champagne, as year after year, I’m left to drink IT ALL): No, I did not cut my hair. It still extends halfway down my back. Nope, not a wig. It’s about 40 bobby pins, a couple of hidden ponytails, and the same hairspray used by Miss America. I might make this look a thing for 2017. Don’t dare me…with the mood I’m in lately…I’LL DO IT.

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Annual Dinner With Friends, Christmas 2016

I’ve always been one to set a big table. I LOVE expected company and unexpected company and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. I love making noodles in a kitchen full of kids, and finding flour 4 days later in places which make no sense, geographically-speaking. I love that I handed the dessert table over to my daughters this year, and they knocked it out of the park. I love curling up on my couch with friends, and hearing their stories, and having them comfort me within mine.

I love community, and I have a sneaking suspicion, in 2017, it will be my community who will light my way. God has my heart, and he most certainly owns this story, but He gave me the most beautiful people to hold my hands. And for ALL of this, I am endlessly grateful.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

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Catching Fire

January 12th, 2017 · 3 Comments

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“I will not live in fear of falling, or catching fire.”

-Dr. Dawna Markova

 

I stopped writing.

I didn’t wish to stop writing. It certainly wasn’t planned.

But for a long time, everything has hurt. And when I hurt, I go quiet, and speak of it after it has passed.

I’ve been doing some waiting. Playing the waiting game. In the waiting line of the waiting store, on waiting island.

It’s a good thing I am on waiting island because I’m pretty certain I filled an ocean with tears.

Is it over yet? [Cringe as I peek around my world…]

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Nope. Not over yet.

Should I write? (Insert no, no, no, no…I never write until the sad has passed…remember Lori’s Golden Rule…wait!)

Silent agreement with myself to just never write again because last year Matt died, then Denver died, then I took on the hardest project of my life, and now THIS…so just STOP LORI. NO ONE WANTS TO READ THIS.

(Insert writing a piece for the Indy Star…yummy, so much fun…that was delish…)

NOPE! Not writing.

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(Insert the taking of another small job to keep my mind occupied while I’m waiting for the hurt to stop.)

“Mommy, are you ever going to write again?”

Uh-huh. Sure. Someday. Kind of busy right now with the “you-know-what-situation”.

Right after I get the world to LOOK. As soon as I light these fires so that people can SEE.

LOOK WORLD! LOOK OVER HERE! HELP! WE HAVE A…SITUATION!

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But I think I should face the facts: some sad things stick. Best to get on with it, knowing this part may involve scars which never heal.

I can write this as I attempt to dip my toes back into the writing pool:

Should you ever find yourself helping other people’s children who are going through an unbelievably hard time and experiencing things no children should ever experience, and if you have to catch yourself on fire while trying to save them (it’s feeling rather literal tonight…my heart is shattered):

JUST DO IT. DO NOT SECOND-GUESS IT. DO NOT DELAY.

Burn that shit to the ground, my friends. Burn yourself, scorch the earth, torch relationships, light up the sky with flames.

At all costs, SAVE THOSE CHILDREN.

If I had to do it all over again, and cry the same tears to extinguish the flames, I would.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

 

 

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The Effortless-American-Woman Quiz

November 21st, 2016 · 2 Comments

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Photo courtesy of bando.com (socks available for purchase)

As we’re wildly running about town, trying to create Pinterest-worthy tables and ingredients we’ll never need again, I thought the timing was right to publish my “Effortless American Woman Quiz”. Are you doing a great job pretending it’s easy to do a great job? America 2016 has presented us with an interesting twist in our media-portrayed narrative, ladies. You must DO IT ALL, while appearing as if you are DOING NOTHING. Don’t blame me. I don’t make the rules. But as your Rule Historian [inserting daily fake job title, hoping one might actually stick], I feel I should highlight our current state of affairs.

The Effortless-American-Woman Quiz

Career

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My career aspirations are judging your career aspirations.

Your job title must not indicate what it entails or how it earns money. It must show ingenuity in entrepreneurship, with a LinkedIn photo showcasing a casual lean against a desk, arms crossed, wearing a knowing-smile that you bring home the bacon (metaphorically speaking, as the Effortless American Woman hasn’t eaten gluten or meat since 2009).

Possible titles include, but are not limited to:

+10 points: Vision Board Consultant

+5 points: Mantel Stylist/Beauty Innovator

+5 points: Social Media Curator

+100 points: Font-Muse/Blogger

+10 points for every time you’ve updated your professional social media platform with a catchy hashtag:

    +5 points for: “Landed the Elderberry Candle Contract! #powerofawe!”.

    +5 points for: “What’s in your poop? #jet’aimeprobiotics”.

    +5 points for: “Put down the Arial! #fontlivesmatter”.

Deductions

-10 points for wearing Wellies unless you are a Candlemaker/Charitable Soap Enthusiast.

-1000 points for any job with a concrete mission. Possible titles include, but are not limited to:

Nurse

Teacher

Accountant

Attorney

Exercise

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Shouldn’t someone be in charge of saying, “I saw you wipe out on that paddleboard. It was NASTY.”

Count your Athleisure-wear. Special note: This question does NOT measure a commitment to exercise; work-out anticipation sufficient. Or nap-anticipating. It’s athleisure-wear, so it’s hard to say.

+1 point for every piece you own (adding ½ point for every black piece).

+1 point for every piece with a Yoga-esque title. Examples include:

Vinyasa Scarves

Half-Moon Half-tops

Easy Plow Pants

Bikram Bra

Deductions

-3 points for any single piece costing less than $75. If you want to transition from sweatless exercise to the grocery aisle to the comfort of your couch, it’s going to cost you.

-5 points for every time you break a sweat in these clothes. Your life is not a Nike Ad, Sweetheart.

Home Design

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Personal deduction of -500 points for my mantel.

Affirm every room in your home contains at least one piece of trash from a dead person. This is known as “vintage”, and may NOT be used for its original purpose. It’s better to be related to the dead person, or to have “restyled” the trash on your own, but the most important key is that you must not use your OWN trash!

Dead-people-trash is divided into “whimsy” categories:

Nautical Whimsy:

+10 points if you have a ship’s wheel on your wall.

+100 points if you are a descendant of Herman Melville and have his wheel on your wall.

+10 points for oyster baskets turned into a tables.

+5 bonus points if anytime someone tries to sit a drink on it, you scream “NO! That table is just for LOOKS! It’s not stable!”

Aeronautical Whimsy:

+10 points if you have an airplane propeller on your wall.

+10 points if your Grandfather flew the plane from which it was rescued.

 +20 points if your Grandfather ripped it from the plane of a dead Nazi.

General Historical Whimsy:

+10 points if you rescued a chair at roadside vintage flea-market on a brisk, autumn Sunday while sipping coffee and wearing layers of knit.

 +20 points if you stole an antique item from Williamsburg while drunk on a girlfriend getaway.

+5 points if you have a milk delivery crate on your front porch.

+5 bonus points if your Great Uncle was a milkman.

+5 bonus points if it holds mums and pumpkins in the fall.

-/+ 0 for bureaus. Items with drawers are neutral. Any tramp can turn a dresser into a dresser.

Foreign Language Whimsy:

+5 points for items printed with the word “atelier”.

+3 points for items featuring Italian words and placed in a kitchen.

 +2 points for anything referring to “la vie”.

Mindfulness

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This is me, drinking coffee at IKEA, judging people. But I was in the moment, so it’s all good.

This will be your most difficult item to score, because just by reading this quiz, you are ingesting junk-writing and not being mindful (it’s similar to Doritos, but without tell-tale orange fingers and self-loathing).

+10 points for every adult coloring book you own.

+10 points if you feel guilty for not knowing how to meditate, but swear you’re going to learn. Soon. Next year. Maybe.

+10 points for the use of daily mantras.

+10 points for writing Haikus during a mundane task:

 In the carpool line

Beeoutch, you can’t park your car there!

Forgot the snacks. Crap.

Deductions

-50 points if you actually meditate. This isn’t “Eat, Pray, Love” ladies, so I know most of you are lying.

Diet

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Just because my cousin grew it doesn’t mean I’m eating it.

HOW MUCH ZUCCHINI DO WE NEED?!

+10 points if you’ve eaten nothing but avocados and almonds for the past month.

+5 points if you’ve ever said “I just grab it off the vine and eat it”.    

+5 points if stopped eating fast-food and started eating “fast-casual”.

+5 points for every time you say “bloated” in casual conversation. 

 +3 points for any meal consisting of “handful of nuts”.

 +3 points for giving waiters special instructions when you order.

+3 points for drinking artisan cocktails from your favorite Mixologist.

Hair & Makeup

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Effortless, I say!! Gone are the long days at the spa and the admission you put any effort into your appearance whatsoever!

+10 points if you claim you’re only wearing mascara and lip gloss while sporting a full face of makeup.

+5 points for every “1-step facial kit” you own.

+3 points if you own dry shampoo.

+1,000,000 points if everything you slap on your body is made with locally-sourced ingredients.

SCORING:

250+:

YOU ARE THE ULTIMATE-EFFORTLESS-AMERICAN WOMAN! You do not sweat, smell, rush, or even try. You are the human equivalent of the messy ponytail. Your Vision Board is a tranquil utopia. Your career formed itself from the ashes of the corporate ladder which you set on fire. Gourmet dinners appear on your dinner table with no apparent prep whatsoever, and your guests sit their bums on mixy-matchy chairs you refinished without getting any paint on your hands. You own more infinity scarves than there are stars in the sky.  

100-250:

Are you even trying? You are, and that’s the problem. You probably still own a hairdryer, and you have things like “a boss”, and “matching furniture”. While this score is disappointing, there is still hope. Improvement steps include:

-Go for a hike while drinking water from a Yeti. (The container! Hiring an ACTUAL Yeti is personal-brand suicide!)

-Create a new font.

-Think about how things are arranged on your bookshelves. Is there a visual continuity, paired with an unexpectedly delightful focal point that inspires you to make your own deodorant?

-Study the differences between “pops of color” and “splashes of color”. I don’t have time to cover this territory right now. Honey, I could write a BOOK.

Less than 100:

You wasted precious time taking this quiz when you could have been mopping a bathroom or folding laundry. Effortless women hide these dirty deeds in coordinated baskets (YES, they keep their toilets INSIDE baskets.) You are worse than effortless; you are average. You wear ecologically unsustainable jeans without even noticing your holiday mantel is visual cacophony. I won’t even suggest you paint the word “Ciao” on your Great-Grandmother’s pie safe which you could use a dog-washing station. It’s hopeless.

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“They Loved Me Up So”

October 19th, 2016 · 1 Comment

 

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Michigan, the year 2002…snowing…SO cold…kind of ruined me to soccer…

About a million years ago I was 17, and I fell in love with a football player with a dark sense of humor and dimples. These are the things one does as a Senior in High School, followed by Prom, Junior Miss Pageants, Senior Skip Day, and other sweet memories we tuck away in boxes labeled, “1990”. We made quite a show of breaking up, getting back together, and other mayhem-ridden decisions one makes throughout a proper twenties. By 2002, I tucked our story away in a box labeled, “You made all the right mistakes”.

While we weren’t great at dating, we were pretty great at being an Aunt & Uncle. He had 5, my Fab Five…my precious nieces and nephews whom I adored to the ends of all time. When people say, “Did you stay together for the kids?”…well…yes…but oddly, they weren’t even ours. In fact, they had superb parents and a huge, wonderful family. He was too decent a guy to take away the only family I had at the time, and for that, I am in his debt.

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Oh my GOD…we were SO YOUNG! And SKINNY! But oh-so-dumb. No really…we were straight-up ridiculous, bless our hearts. I wish I could hug their innocence.

The adventures one has as an Aunt Yori (as toddlers, “Lori” wasn’t in their wheelhouse, so I became “Aunt Yori”, whom I remain to this day); Aunts are WAY better than Moms. Aunts never make you shower or eat vegetables. They take you to week-long science camps and feed you popcorn for dinner. Aunts let you cuddle late into the night, playing games of geography and giggling. They let you put the ornaments ANYWHERE on the Christmas tree, and if the tree falls at 3 am, nearly crushing you as you sleep in front of movies? Aunts LAUGH. Aunts sneak candy into Harry Potter movies, and let you watch movies WAY-NOT-OK. (I cannot BELIEVE the stupid things I did as an Aunt). Rollerblading? Aunts are young enough to go. Muscles don’t ache when you haven’t stayed up all night with your own kids. Sleepovers on the floor? Yep…I’ve got nowhere to be tomorrow. Junk food at ball games? I’m in. Trick or treating in the snow? Let’s do this thing. We’re leaving town and the fruit is going to spoil and smell up the apartment? We should crush it on the back porch and measure how far it flies. It’s FOR SCIENCE. Don’t worry…my roommate will clean it up. (Sorry Amie! Love you! Call you later today…)

NO WAY my own daughters would EVER believe I was Aunt Yori. Aunt Yori must be a mythical creature invented in my imagination.

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Ice cream for dinner at the ball game! Was this the  year they convinced me “American Pie” was a cooking movie?

As the years passed, even I began to believe Aunt Yori was a myth…oh how they flew by, and my Fab 5 grew up. REALLY grew up; their own spectacular 20’s are in full-swing now. You can imagine my excitement when I received a wedding invitation! Beautiful stories I had tucked into a box were pulled out, and there they were, my reason for wanting kids of my own: Chief, Princess, Fish, Babs, and Little Mike. If not for them, I’d have foregone parenting, believing I didn’t have the skills.

I still don’t have the skills, but I have the kids; so you know. No turning back now. I lost the return receipt in the confusion of childbirth.

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This young lady sent me an invite to her WEDDING! Look at her! She’s 8! She can’t get married!

I wondered if they would even remember me? 14 years is a blink to an adult, but to children? Eternity had passed. How could I convey how much they’d meant to me? I could barely breath as Greg and I packed up the car and drove the hours to Great Lake Michigan. “Breathe Yori…breathe.” Now is an important time to add I have the best husband on the planet. My friends were back in Indy building a statue in his honor while we made the trip.

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When Halloweening in the snow, it’s best to dress as furry animals. All 4 year olds know this.

On the way to the wedding we got stuck on a bridge over Great Lake Michigan during a tornado warning. You can’t make this stuff up. At one point I looked over at Greg with tears in my eyes and said, “So we’re going to die inside a tornado wrapped in a mangled bridge on the way to my ex-boyfriend’s niece’s wedding. Odd twist of fate, wouldn’t you say? [Insert nervous laughter.]” We eventually got off the bridge intact, and very relieved. Then we got lost. On flooded back roads in Michigan. Have you ever been to middle-of-nowhere Michigan? I’m from the Midwest…I specialize in “middle-of-nowhere”, and no one has this act together like Michigan. It didn’t take long to realize we were going to miss the entire wedding. Better than a watery-windy death on the bridge…but I was heartbroken.

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We decided to take one, last selfie on the bridge, for posterity. We’re dying! And smiling!

When we finally arrived in the downpour, the entire wedding party had been sheltering in a cabin, and we missed nothing due to the weather delay. Standing right at the door of the cabin was my friend, dimples still intact, holding an umbrella, and laughing as if not a day had passed. One hug and high-five, and no words were needed to convey that we’d turned our story into a deep respect for each others’ journey. Life can be beautifully surprising, can’t it?

The beauty of a Michigan wedding on a lake: It’s hard to describe the breeze and the mist, the green and God’s beauty. The Mother-of-the-Bride squeezed my shoulder on her way up the aisle, my sweet, sweet Jen, letting me know I was meant to be there. I walked quietly up to each one, and asked if they remembered me…and oh…the wave of relief as I realized they too, imagined me into being. Little Mike asked that I not throw him into any ceiling fans (IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!!). Luckily he weighs more at age 20 than at 4, and I was unable to lift him. I carried a small stack of photos like an old lady, but the laughter was worth the dork-gesture. I nearly carded Princess on our way to the bar, and she laughed the hardest. “Aunt Yori…I’m years past legal.” REALLY?! BECAUSE at LAST check, you barely qualified for the XL Slurpees at Sonic! Now let’s go eat waffles until we puke. (Princess and I share a waffle-problem, but we are in this thing together.)

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Prettier than all the brides, EVER!!

The Bride…my beautiful, wondrous Fish, who always knew exactly who she was and where she was going. After a week of sleepovers at Aunt Yori’s, at the ripe old age of 8, we were rollerblading (and deciding on ice cream vs. hot dogs for dinner), when she yelled out, “I’m as FREE AS A FISH!” If you live on a Great Lake, that analogy makes more sense…I realize that now. So my Fish she has remained, the gorgeous creature I held on the day of her birth, and now I can say, cried over with tears of gratitude during her wedding ceremony. I should have guessed it would be the middle child who pulled my beginning and ends together and wrapped me up whole again.

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She who does good hair at Age 5…

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Does 5-star hair at Age 20. It’s just good math.

It was a magical wedding, and I wake up some days quite certain I dreamed the whole day. I never imagined what I meant to them…I was so busy remembering what they had meant to me. At the end of it all, Greg remarked, “This is such a great family, and Lori, they love you so, so much. I didn’t anticipate this part…their faces when they saw you.” The loving of me…these kids were the making of me. Isn’t it funny how kids raise us into adults? Without kids, we’re just big kids ourselves, forgetting our bike helmets and staying up way too late.

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The beautiful bride and groom at sunset.

I’ve spent a couple of months trying to find the words. I’ve started and stopped writing more times than I let Babs do my hair. Ali-Babba.Loved.My.Hair. Not all feelings have matching words; all writers know this. Tucking my own squirts into bed last month, I picked up Jacqueline Woodson’s Newbery Honor Book “Show Way”. I stand corrected: Jacqueline Woodson always finds the words. In this one-of-a-kind story, she writes, “They loved that baby up so. Yes, they loved that baby up.”

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How far will a brown banana fly when smashed with a meat tenderizer? Everywhere.

I laughed right out loud, because it was then I knew: I didn’t love those babies as up as much as they loved ME up. Oh how they loved me up so, my Fab Five. In return, I probably gave them a couple of cavities. Maybe diabetes…it’s hard to say. This much I learned: You should NOT give little kids glass bottles of root beer while in a moving car. And if they ask for a ride on your shoulders, look above you for moving ceiling fans. And if one says “Watch my dolphin dive”, you should scream “NO!!!”, and stop him, because that’s a dive with NO ARMS FORWARD. THIS will not go well. But it will make for quite a story on school picture day with all that face-skin missing. Dear Lord, I know we had good times, but how did these kids survive me?

I guess when you love big, there are bound to be mistakes mixed in with the memories. Maybe making the right mistakes was part of the plan all along.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Princessiest Princess IN ALL THE LAND: A Tutorial

July 31st, 2016 · Comments Off on The Princessiest Princess IN ALL THE LAND: A Tutorial

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Kelly, like 99.9999% of little ladies in America, desired a 4-post canopy bed for her birthday, encased in shimmery curtains of LIGHT. “HOW glamorous”, I remarked, as she invaded my Pinterest boards with beds that cost more than all of my living room furniture.

Problem #1, I explained to her, was that she already owned a beautiful bed, which was a generous gift from her grandparents the month she ditched the crib. Mommy doesn’t buy perfectly good furniture to replace perfectly good furniture. I’m the Mom who did CPR in the mountains on a minivan with the age equivalency of Winston Churchill if he were still alive.

Problem #2, was that I WASN’T IN ANY MOOD TO SPEND ONE MORE DIME ON KELLY’S ROOM. She wanted the round shelves, until she GOT the round shelves. She wanted the artichoke light, until Sara chose are far more spectacular light. She wanted Chinese lanterns, which all went up…only to come down. Her current room theme is “colorful, lawless swamp of stuffed animals which cover every square inch of flooring.”

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Round Shelf Tutorial Is HERE.

Which leads us to Problem #3: The only thing more unlikely as a birthday gift than a canopy were additional stuffed animals. Canopy WINS. Which is to say, after shopping for anything adaptable without the 4-post bed (that was NOT happening), I handed this conundrum to Greg. He had it solved in about a day, because Kelly has his numba’. What does his Baby Princess need most in the world on her 9th birthday? TO BE MORE PRINCESSY, OF COURSE!

We left town a few days before Kelly’s birthday to visit my cousins, and Daddio spent his weekend making the “World’s Best Birthday Present In The Entire World, EVER-EVER, She Has Never Loved Anything So Much.” -Kelly Testimonial

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SUPPLY LIST:

10 Feet of PVC Piping, Cut Into (2) 3ft sections, and (2) 2ft sections. (3/4″ worked fine, be sure to pick up 4 90′ bends as well)

White spray paint to cover the black print on the piping.

1 set of icicle lights

2 sets of a high thread count sheer voile curtains

Drywall screws

Large hooks

Small hooks

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THE GENERAL IDEA:

It’s pretty simple stuff: Create a white rectangle with the PVC piping, and feed on the curtains. Attach to the ceiling with the drywall screws and large hooks. Screw the small hooks into the PVC piping at a 90 degree angle to create a hanging system for the lights.

And you’re done, for half the price of the canopies I found while searching la Information Superhighway, and at twice the quality of their curtains.

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I was surprised how well this fits into her room. Kelly has a very small bedroom, so I thought for certain we were totaling any chance of order. But honestly, it’s very pretty, and Kelly sits on her bed for hours reading, covered in kitties. I’m not so hard-hearted to admit this is the realization of every childhood dream. Add in a pony that can fly to magical lands, and we win parenting. FOREVER.

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And really you’all, ’bout how much longer will our Boo Boo Chicken have childhood dreams? Despite my tears and tantrums, she went ahead and turned 9 last week. My youngest child is in her last year of single digits, and I have one headed into Middle School. When we joined hands out in this space originally, Sara was ONE. Freaks you out a little, yes?

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So here’s to little Princesses (who refuse to stay little), their kitty cats (cleverly hiding in this picture, waving at you with his paw), their beloved-loveys (covering their floors), their inability to place band-aid wrappers anywhere near a trashcan, and that tiny heartbreak we feel every night when we tiptoe into their rooms for a final tuck-in, and find them curled up with books and baby dolls. Oh how I have loved the elementary years…they went by SO QUICKLY. To you and your own little Princesses, Godspeed, my friends. As always, Godspeed.

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The Chicken Box, June 2005-June 2016

July 5th, 2016 · 2 Comments

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Last shot: pre-tow truck, epi-grieving, post-last-mile-driven.

The Chicken Box departed this life atop a mountain in West Virginia on Sunday, June 26th. While her health deteriorated rapidly in her last year of life, it was the transmission which finally caused her demise. Her family takes pride in the fact it took a mountain to kill her, but silently moans her inability to make it 30 more miles to the vacation house. I mean seriously Chicken Box…you made it 268,000 miles and you couldn’t make it 30 more? But I digress.

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Another year, another berry field.

She will be remembered for carrying her favorite human fowl: Ducky Wigglebottoms and Boo Boo Chicken, known for being both fowl and foul in her interiors. Her hobbies included storing old Happy Meal boxes full of half-eaten fry containers, catching coffee spills, and commuting to school and back. And to school and back. And to school and back. Again and again, and OH MY GOD WILL THIS SCHOOL COMMUTE EVER END? Her greatest contribution included 6 years of daily 100-mile commutes, when The Momma would compose verbal blog posts, arriving home with 1000 words memorized, ready to spill onto the page. The Chicken Box was an exemplary editor.

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First School Commute, August 2008

She was a cherished member of the Gifts Galore team at school, hauling approximately 10,000 gifts over the course of 8 years of service to the cause of “kids purchasing holiday treasures for their friends and family for the low, low prices of $5 and under”. She was a Daisy, Brownie, and Girl Scout van, a proud member of the school’s Cross Country team, attended to the needs of 20 field trips, served as the limousine for the PTA President, could easily hold hundreds of gourmet cupcakes during Staff Appreciation Week, loved rescuing “found furniture”, volleyed countless meals for sick friends, and safely transported enough items for the Momma’s ridiculous volunteer activities to float a ship (a minivan can hold 415 foam fingers, and not a single more). It’s worth mentioning she also moved the entire family’s belongings during the “summer of the haunted apartment” when the neighbors discovered bed bugs, and The Momma tossed her coffee down the drain and packed EVERYTHING into the hatch in 10 minutes flat. Not her favorite job, but lauded as “the best of the best”, The Chicken Box completed approximately 35 round trips to Washington DC while packed to the roof with Christmas gifts, pool floaties, beach chairs, diapers, pack n’ plays, a Barbie Jeep, and a snowblower (long story). Her ability to haul knew no end. Until “the end”, when she was fully stuffed and could haul no more, despite the Momma’s insistence that if she were just turned off and on enough times on the shoulder-less highway, she would somehow magically come back to life. Oh Momma…you dreamer.

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The first gifts of The Gifts War.

If The Chicken Box could speak, she would most likely repeat the poetry recited in her core:

  • Never, EVER throw things in a moving car!
  • She’s touching me!
  • OH NO. Oh no. Momma…I spilled it.
  • I have to go to the bathroom.
  • Good morning, may I have a large coffee with cream and sugar please?
  • Good afternoon, may I have a large coffee with cream and sugar please?
  • Good evening, may I have a large coffee with cream and sugar please?
  • I think I’m going to throw up.
  • I threw up.
  • Don’t make me pull this car over (repeat 5,000 times).
  • SHE TOOK IT FROM ME! MAKE HER GIVE IT BACK!
  • STOP LOOKING AT ME KELLY!!
  • STOP LOOKING AT ME SARA!!
  • Did you bring snacks?
  • Ewww…what’s that smell?
  • Turn on Kidz Bop please. Turn on Kidz Bop please. Turn on Kidz Bop please. I’m not going to stop talking until you turn on Kidz Bop.

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Oh dear Lord, no more Kidz Bop.

Grateful she’ll never have to listen to the melodies of Kidz Bop again, The Chicken Box is especially glad she won’t repeat the “year she contained a portable bathroom”. With girls potty training and a Momma on immunotherapy, she dutifully carried her family through arguably the most disgusting of experiences. But such is the call of the American Minivan: deep interiors can easily conceal camping bathrooms, complete with a handwashing station. The makers of SUVs don’t want you to know this (literally) dirty secret, but in her death, The Box asked this truth be revealed: YOU CAN POOP IN YOUR MINIVAN AND NO ONE WILL KNOW (hypothetically, of course).

Unfortunately, her interiors were impervious to annual detailing jobs, and some smells stick. This much we learned.

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How many kids can fit into a Chicken Box?

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All of them. Plus 2. Plus pets. And some groceries.

She is survived by Greg, who perpetually complained of her “minivan stank”, Sara and Kelly who caused most of the smells, and The Momma, who loved her with a devotion unnatural between a human and a minivan. What can I say? Not everything can be explained by the laws of nature; love is love. Gratefully she will not be scrapped for parts, as Momma is fairly certain she’s being held together by nothing more than stale trail mix, crushed Cheerios, and lost ponytails. There have been hush-hush mentions of her being sold to the Space Program. Since the decommissioning of the Space Shuttle, research efforts for “affordable alternatives” to “space vehicles” makes the Chicken Box an obvious test case. [Insert maudlin overlay music of David Bowie’s “Space Odyessey”. ODYSSEY…GET IT? I drove a Honda Odyssey?]

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Kitten Transport Days. Sweet, sweet baby cats.

In her final moments, there were no famous speeches, no holding of hands with doves flying overhead. Her service was held at the edge of a depressing, gravel mechanic shop in Eastern West Virginia; just The Momma sitting in her favorite driver’s seat, silently weeping with her head on the wheel. Honestly, not unlike many, many afternoons after returning home with cranky children.

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Kelly drove from Month 14-18, until she lost her license in a horrible Little Tikes car accident.

The family would like to extend a special thanks to Bart Beach at Indy Honda for keeping her mechanics in 5-star shape through the particularly challenging “commuting years”. Our dreams of pitching a commercial to Honda at the 400,000 mile mark may be dashed, but we’ll always have the oil changes, Bart. So, so, SO many oil changes. Also, special thanks to Firestone (especially Elizabeth and Scott) who attended to The Chicken Box during her last year, aka her ICU year. We are equally sorry you may go out of business without our weekly visits, begging you to keep her running while fixing anything broken around the $75 mark. If you kept her alive with duct tape and spit, I don’t need to know.

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Some fashion choices The Chicken Box agreed to take to her grave.

Memorial contributions may be made to “The Momma”. “Who suddenly has to buy a minivan.” “The week tuition is due.” “The year 2 kids are joining band.” “Entering the orthodontic phase.” “With kids in glasses.” “Baby need new shoes.”

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P.S. In even sadder news, the Craft Tower was also laid to rest with The Chicken Box. We rented an SUV to get home, and it wasn’t big enough for The Craft Tower. Stupid, dumb-stupid SUV. To everyone who has said to me, “OH..UGH…I’d NEVER drive a minivan”: REALLY? Well your STUPID SUV won’t hold a magnificent craft tower, and it won’t even hold LUGGAGE which had to be strapped to the roof and driven through a rainstorm. Keep your sexy SUVs where you cannot pee in private. I’m buying another minivan. STAT.

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In closing, my favorite of things, a Photo Essay, “Kids Sleeping In Minivans”:

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A portrait of one baby sleeping.

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Bar graphs are exhausting.

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Toddler in need of a manicure praying.

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Sleeping on craft tower with one-eye open (in case Kelly is committing Ding Dong thievery).

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Sleeping in color.

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Sleeping a la burrito.

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Trust The Momma

February 29th, 2016 · 4 Comments

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Dear Duck & Chick,

 

We’ll probably look back on this year fondly. I hope. Perhaps we’ll cringe. But if this messy math of mine works out, we’ll certainly come out on the other side of this year changed. I KNOW I WILL. After 8 years of swearing I was happily retired, I went back to work. Was this my wisest decision in the midst of grieving and helping the grieving and being present for the grieving? Hard to say, so as we do in such cases, we make it up as we go along:

As your dedicated historian, here’s what REALLY happened (because as we know, The Momma’s version is the one which counts…look it up): Matt died. I came rather unglued. 2 of the primary witnesses to my childhood disappeared (long story, one literal and one figurative). With too much time on my hands, I began to worry the narrative I’d spun about the brave survivors of Muncie circa 1985 was only relatively true. One should not pick friends based on estimated life span, but in all seriousness, think about choosing a bell curve if you can. Scrappy Survivor does not always equate to long life, this much I’ve learned.

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Art and Quote Courtesy of Brian Andreas, Creator of “Story People”

And then your Father asked me to grab some gum, and Kelly made a laundry list of items she needed for project…like right now, Momma. NOW, you’re going to think I must be half out of my mind to generalize your Daddy asking for a Costco run and Kelly creating a needlessly expensive project were VALID reasons for me going back to work…but remember: this is HISTORY, not REALITY. In the midst of Daddy having this “gum-scarcity-crisis”, I received a job offer for a really intriguing part-time, part-year job I’ve wanted for 22 years (not an exaggeration…this was my plot’s destiny). BUT NO, I DECLARED! I’m happily retired, helping people…buying that gum. And the 18 different candies on Kelly’s shopping list so she can create a cake that looks like the innards of a cell.

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Then we lost our friend, Denver, and she was 28, and doing such amazing things for our city. This isn’t OK on any narrative.

There I was, thinking life is so unfair in its dispersion of life spans, and well? Maybe I should be doing more than buying gum and crying about it all. Maybe I should get back in the game.

I know I’ve threatened to go back to work (’bout a million times) when you refuse to clean or get a case of the sassy-pants. I know you’ll probably look back and think I went back to work to make good on that threat. I’d love to think I was that strong (or brilliant enough to have kept it a secret until a night when you complained about dinner): “REALLY?! You don’t LIKE ratatouille?! FINE! I’m going back to work!! TOMORROW!” And you’d roll your eyes and laugh…and then at 7 am I’d put on a suit, grab my briefcase, and say, “This chef has left the kitchen!” But the truth is I really, really liked being present for you three.

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My People

For a long time, it was a good fit for us. Darn you life, changing all the time. After some seriously hard thinking (like, serious guys…I got headaches praying about this), I realized you needed pushed out of the nest. You needed a deeper relationship with your father. I had become the central force in our Universe, and began to joke the 3 of you stopped breathing when I left the house. Then it hit me: what if I stopped breathing?

I couldn’t do that to you; this leaving you with no skills. The hard truth is as long as I stayed at the house, you guys weren’t budging. I tried several weekends of being a disgruntled Officer, belting out orders. I don’t want to be that Mom, so maybe it would be best if I let you learn how to do it your own way.

Many friends stop me in the school hallways, call, write…”SOOOO, how is it going?!”, with that expectant smile that I’m “Lori’ing the whole thing up”. I’m taking this new challenge and spinning sunshine! It’s SO GREAT! PHENOMENAL! Being a working Mom is so much better than I anticipated!

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Sara made her own snacks for Girl Scouts! (See those tiny sprinkles? Let’s call those “my new floor decor”.)

Are you laughing yet? You should be laughing. Because no woman on earth can work this equation to perfection. You balance it, but it’s never actually in balance. Seriously…look away. From my floors. Which haven’t been mopped in weeks. If I do stop breathing tomorrow, the autopsy will show I’m made of coffee and Big Macs. I’ve taken the soda habit back up, and now I have a cavity. I think my hair is falling out. Either that, or I haven’t had time to clean up cat hair. Daddy has been an absolute champ (he loves a challenge!), but girls? You are a hot mess. For starters, I let you take over hair care, which means you now have missing chunks where I’ve had to cut out rat’s nests. Laundry? Don’t get me started. Rooms? I haven’t gone near them in weeks for safety reasons. And I’m not going to even mention your attitudes. THEY STINK. There. I said it. You two have been as supportive as a 10 year old sports bra.

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They need a sign which reads, “Can be bribed with cake pops”.

Are you still waiting for the good part? Good for you! My positivity partners! It has felt like a rush of fresh air to have an office, a title, a little income, and a parking space; not because of ego, but because of identity. Having a job means I get up with a clear purpose…and move aside world, I have THINGS TO DO! (Oh Dear Lord, I have so much to do.) It’s my world’s greatest honor to have been blessed with a family, but sometimes one needs to dust off the skill set and grow a bit. It’s been hard, but I’m pushing through to find some answers for myself…and that’s a good thing. And the wish I wanted most has come true: you and Daddy have “your own thing”. That “thing” involves a disgusting menu of things like “scrambled pasta”, but it’s ALL YOU. You have “your way” of doing things when Mommy is gone, and from the outside, it looks like happy-dipped in-happy. There was that challenging moment when I had to point out 2 little girls had not changed underwear in a week, but luckily Daddy is a fast learner (loving his military-mornings when he belts out, “GIRLS! TIME TO GET UP! THIS DAY WILL INCLUDE CLEAN UNDERWEAR!!”).

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These two. SO alike in so many wonderful ways. Daddy gave her his best genes.

And there’s the job: working with Indiana’s best college students in a program so rich in legacy, it makes me want to stand from the mountain top and sing out praises for my great state. Wait. HOLD THE PHONES. We don’t have any mountains. I am going to find a small hill and SING IT OUT WORLD! INDIANA ROCKS! This program changed my life in 1994, and spending time helping others experience the same magic is worth a few challenging months. I hope to know these young women forever, because just witnessing their journey is making me braver.

Looking back, many years from now, you may be tempted to ask, “So Momma, let me see if we get this straight: 3 friends you’ve barely seen since 1994 either died or disappeared, and Daddy asked you to buy some gum, and that brought on an identity crisis so large you decided change the entire course of your life and go back to work?”

MAYBE. Or maybe you didn’t put away those board games scattered all over my house after I asked three times. We may never know.

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Their Ubongo games can best be described as “perpetual”.

Kidding. The chance of a lifetime came my way when I needed it most, and perhaps when you needed it most, and I jumped at it. Analyzing is fine, but life is short, my sweets. When your ship comes in, get on it. WAIT. TERRIBLE ANALOGY: we don’t have deep water in Indiana! Let’s try this: when the harvest time comes, you gotta bring in the crops. Baby’s gotta eat. Crap, that doesn’t work at all. Indiana…we have the Race, nice people, great pie…but terrible topography analogies.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

See you after the Race (100th Running in 89 days, 21 Hours, and 42 minutes),

Momma

 

 

 

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The Sacred Now

January 24th, 2016 · 4 Comments

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As per my tradition while mourning, all pictures are from times spent hiking. Nature soothes a hurting heart.

I know, I know. We were rolling about in post-Christmas bliss, cleaning out leftovers and taking down ornaments, and you were expecting my final piece about the hostess tackle boxes I crafted. I had a funny picture of me riding Kelly’s new bike around the 1st floor at midnight on Christmas Eve, cookie in mouth, goofy expression plastered across my face…my post was gonna be ALL THAT, my friends. But life has it own “all that” ideas, doesn’t it? All that and more, as it turns out.

Greg’s friend died, and she was too young, and this past week has been…so very hard (to put the hard quite simply).

We’ve been sad. We’ve been quietly and gently processing. We’ve been loudly and jaggedly processing. We’ve been napping, because hard things make us tired. We’ve been cranky with each other. We’ve been kind to each other. We’ve been distant. We’ve been close. We’ve questioned God’s timing. We’ve praised God for allowing us to help with her final days. We’ve… once again (actually 4th again, if you’re beginning to wonder how many funerals I’ve attended since fall)…come face to face with the harsh reality that life on earth is an extraordinarily temporary gig. But mostly, we’ve spent our time cherishing her legacy with her friends and family.

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And her legacy is LONG…very, very long. In the short time I knew Denver Hutt, and although she was 15 years my junior, she taught me things which have forever changed me (again, she was a friend of Greg’s with a large community of close friends…I am just an acquaintance who turned into one of her many helper-friends in her last week). It’s a rare gift to have our lives so profoundly affected by people as bold and as wise as Denver. I witnessed first hand a young woman who didn’t complain, even while in the midst of profound suffering. I witnessed her treat nurses and doctors with a graciousness I could never muster in the face of certain death. Even while on the fringes of consciousness, she communicated to those around her LOVE. Big love. PATIENCE. Big patience. Thoughtful decision-making. Big wisdom. And BRAVERY. Big, big bravery.

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Because there was no time remaining, Denver, her family, her friends and I, were thrown into a “Sacred Now”. We could only exist in the moment at hand, and hold onto each minute as a treasure. There were no wasted words. There was no pretense. We were both helpless and courageous, as we attempted to fill the air around her with love. I watched her friends muster a maturity so many in our society would like to believe isn’t present in “the younger folks”. Oh gracious…the false caricatures we paint and assign to our generational labels. The “younger people” who graduated from college in the depth of the Recession, and therefore have career resilience beyond their years. People who know security and possessions are a mirage, and live their lives by their values instead. Say what you wish about the Millennials, but as a disgruntled X’er raised by divorced Baby Boomers, I have yet to meet a Millennial I don’t like.

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Their intense focus on the quality of their connections with people and to their community is inspiring. Denver was a phenomenal human, but she equally surrounded herself with phenomenal people. And as we sat in the quiet night, I asked of their stories. Such divine moments we shared, because as time slips away, the Sacred Now grows in its vividness. We love to mark the joy of birth, and it’s right to do so. It’s a blessing. But witnessing someone’s battle is a blessing as well. We learn arcane things which shape us into better people. We grab onto the best humanity has to offer, and allow it to seep into every crevice of our consciousness. We discover the future is a myth, and what we really have is each other; seeing, loving, and knowing one another.

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Denver’s brother so eloquently shared at her Celebration of Life, “Let us not say things such as ‘All things happen for a reason’, and therefore absolve ourselves of any responsibility in drawing meaning from her death.” I clung to those words, as they so succinctly summarized all I’ve been trying to take away from this tragedy. I WANT to be changed by the legacy of someone with so much to offer. Here is what I know:

(1) Denver didn’t whine. Whining isn’t something adults should do. If Denver didn’t bellyache about end stage cancer in her 20’s, I can tough out my ridiculously dumb medical drama. Dumb, I tell you. Really, really dumb. Don’t question me on this; I’m a nurse. We are sworn to our nursing categories: (1) You made that up, you histrionic bastard. (2) It’s a cold. Take some Nyquil and go to bed. (3) Stop giving the entire city your dumb cold. Unless you are saving the world, drink some WATER and go to bed. (4) Dumb. Irritating and persistent, but dumb.(5) Um? You should get that looked at. (6) Crap, that might be a thing. (7) Oh no. Officially a thing. This shit calls for pie. (8) Aw, HELL NO. (9) How can I help you with comfort? It’s time to get real and get things done. No more saying stupid things stitched on pillows, as we are nearing the Sacred Now. (10) “Dear Lord, reveal to me how I may of be of use walking your child home. And please, please, please…don’t let me say anything dumb.” Seriously…I know that’s why we all fear going near dying friends. We fear we’ll say something dumb. Our friends NEED us in their most vulnerable moments, and all we can think of us is our own, egocentric fear about saying something stupid. Humans are, in fact, rather obtuse. You’d think we’d get used to this.

(2) Denver made everyone in her presence feel that he/she was the only person on the planet, and she absorbed and reflected her loves’ goals and dreams. She was the world’s greatest cheerleader and had a special talent for lighting a person’s path towards their heart’s desire. This was not something she did for the special few. This was something she did for the entire city in which she lived. How often will you read multiple news stories about a 28 year old losing a battle to cancer, and journalists are able to elucidate the massive hole left in the commerce of a large city? Denver’s loss is Indianapolis’ loss, to put it in the most basic of terms. HUNDREDS of people poured into her life’s celebration to mourn not just for ourselves, but for our city.

(3) Denver sent cards. Not emails…actual snail mail cards. I have to highlight this fact, as it’s something I have always loved doing. In fact, one of the last things Denver did was sit with her best friend and write cards. I received one in the mail the very week she died, so I’ll be keeping THAT card forever. I’ll be keeping one more card: The one I wrote to her, but didn’t get to mail. It’s sitting addressed, in my kitchen. I couldn’t take it to the mailbox because I was driving like a bat out of hell to the ER to meet her. How I wish I would have thrown it in my purse. We always think we have at least one more day, don’t we? As it turns out, we had exactly 23 hours. My last text to her read, “It’s raining and I can’t find a parking spot!! Screw it. I’m giving the car away. I’m on my way into the ER doors now.” See? Cards are better. E-messages are ephemeral. Print is forever.

(4) Denver loved, loved, LOVED our city, and made it her mission to make it a better place. She wasted no time in doing so. She flung her talents about and let her passion for Indianapolis get onto everything and everyone. For many of us tired Hoosiers (tired of hayseed references, tired of flyover state comments, tired of being made fun of by folks who pay too much for housing and spend their lives sitting in traffic), this born Californian opened our eyes to the treasure of a city before us. She became a Hoosier by choice, and she forced us to revisit our treasures: Our hospitality (we assume everyone is as friendly as we are), our culture (we have a lot more than most people realize), our community (take our shared value of kindness, and add-in the belief that if you are meeting a new person, you probably have a friend in common, and you’ll have a city of people who treat each other as friends). Indianapolis is just a truly nice place to live. I know a West-Coaster with a huge box of “I love Indiana” tshirts to prove it.

(5) Denver had mottos which have become an anthem ’round these parts lately: (1) If not now, when? (2) Her final words from her final blog post: “I will ask that you smile at strangers more this week. Be kind simply because you are a kind person. Judge a little less. Hold the door open.”

If we just lived by these uncomplicated words alone, we’d make the world a better place.

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We fear change. I fear change. But I’m so grateful for the personal change I’ve experienced after this unexpectedly painful past 6 months. This change means I no longer make decisions using my old platform of filters. Example: I’ve had a weird, uncomfortable, not-so-great week. Living out Denver’s legacy, I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone and committed to helping my city in a big way. Some of it was super cool. Some of it was not. I had a moment (many moments) when I feared I’d made a huge mistake. Perhaps I should run back to my safe and quiet cottage, and let the city remain “as is”. After all, I’m sure my beloved city will be just okey-dokey without me mucking it up. But those darned new filters of decision-making!

Me: I should quit. This is harder than I planned.

Denver-isn’t-here-to-talk-me-out-of-quitting-filter: Have your passions for Indy changed? Have your goals for Indiana changed?

Me: No.

Denver-legacy-in-my-head-filter: So whassup? You’ve never quit anything in your life.

Me: Seriously, dude. This is scary.

Denver-would-be-laughing-at-my-cowardice-filter: You’re scary.

Me: Yeah! I am.

Denver-loved-Indiana-filter: You can’t quit on our city. You have to stick with it. Look at the wrinkles as an adventure.

Me: You’re totally right. I know you’re right. And I know it’s bat-shit crazy to make up conversations with people who aren’t here, but it eases the pain of the missing.

Matt-isn’t-here-either-and-that-sucks: Keep your face towards the Son. Remember? You promised.

Me: It’s WINTER! There is NO sun!

Matt-took-zero-of-my-bullshit: Don’t argue with me young lady! I mean…OLD LADY WHO I KNEW WHEN SHE WAS YOUNG, AND THEN GOT OLD, BUT KEEPS TELLING ME MY EYESIGHT IS FAILING, AND SHE’S STILL YOUNG, LIKE I CAN’T DO MATH!

Me: Can’t we all just get a beer together and pretend this whole year never happened?

Matt-and-Denver-who-never-met-but-would-agree-on-this: Grow up. Stop whining. Get to work.

 

Version 2

We spend our lives fussing about, short-circuiting over things disguised as blessings, wishing the paths were less bumpy and less full of “adventure”. We forget to say “I love you” at the end of each phone call. And most importantly, we forget how limited our stories on earth will be. Denver knew better, lived better, and modeled a better attitude than most of us will ever have. She exhibited a graciousness which left me speechless. So if I had to leave only one legacy from this past year (and I deeply thank each and every one of you for witnessing my own story, as I know we’ve been through a tough year together), it would be this:

Rush towards people whenever you can. Don’t run from grief if people you love need you, because when it comes down to your final hand: Grief is inevitable. Love is the blessing for which we came. The Sacred Now is all we really have.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly. Godspeed, my friends. As always, Godspeed.

 

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