Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I talk a lot about how I'll spend the second half of my life. When my daddy was 50 he used to say he knew he'd live to be 100 because he felt half dead. Very funny, Paw-Paw. He didn't live that long, but he did get to know all his grandchildren, and they all have fond, if fuzzy, memories of him.
As I think about it though, life isn't really divided into halves. To me, it's divided into generations. Christmas time has brought this to my mind.
I'm remembering the childhood season when I was the grand recipient of every good thing. I had a very stable, middle class childhood which afforded me the luxury of dreaming weeks in advance about what Santa Claus would bring. We never called him just Santa. That sounded Yankee to us, like saying "fries" for french fries or "shake" for a milk shake. I guess we like a lot of words in the South.
Anyway, I also spent a lot of time blowing the tinsel on the tree from across the room, because it fascinated me that seconds would pass before my breath actually reached the tree. I expected breath to be instantaneous, like light. But it wasn't. Turns out light isn't either. I'll bet Einstein spent his childhood years blowing on tinsel on trees.
During those years, my parents were the center of my love life. If my mother even noticed me staring hard at a toy commercial, that whatever-it-was would appear miraculously wrapped under the tree. I was a princess and my throne room was every corner of my parents' castle. (of course, during the teen years they became despots and I was held captive in the dungeon with no food and water, but that's for another time).
Then I woke up one morning, freed from my chains, only to discover that I had become the next generation (not to be confused with Star Trek, The Next Generation which wasn't made yet). It seems like over night I had a new love life, a new family and I wielded control of Christmas memories for all of us.
I took it very seriously. We had Advent Dwarfs. I won't go into detail but will only ask, "What do you get when Snow White gets lost seven days before Christmas and her entourage takes the opportunity to teach Thomas and Leah lessons on the coming Messiah?" I thought it was brilliant. I loved being in charge of the decorations, the tree, the parties, the Warm and Happy Christmas punch and, best of all, the presents. My dear children spent endless hours strapped in their car seats on Saturday mornings so I could create magic on Christmas morning from garage sale finds. It was just fun! (for Greg and me, anyway).
The next "season" of my life is "Christmas yet to come" and will see me as the eccentric purple-wearing matriarch. I will be the "Grammy" (or some variation thereof). At this point I'm not sure if I'll be living in close proximity to the family or distant, like my parents did. There are so many ways I can visualize myself as a grandma; all warm, sentimental, and full of new love.
I honestly don't know what this coming era will look like. It will be a complete surprise and I'm glad. I anticipate it like an over-sized box with my name on it, wrapped in silver, reflecting the delicate tinsel on my mother's tree.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Iced In

It's my first Alaska ice storm. Just looks like a little frozen rain to me. I don't see what the big deal is. I was supposed to fly to the village this morning to work at the school and then have our first lady's Bible study tonight. I've been praying for this and looking forward to it for weeks. I called my bush pilots and they said "no way". The weatherman says every one should just stay home today if they can. According to him, it's "a doozy of a morning". I thought slipping and sliding was second nature to these people. What IS the big deal?
Well I'm either in the depths of serious depression or I'm starting to spiritually mature because....I just don't care. I'm disappointed, but I have given this whole year to the Lord and it's His show. He's the conductor and I'm just sitting in the back playing along with the orchestra...something like 10th chair. I'm trying to follow His direction, but if the symphony sounds a little dissonant, I'm sure He'll work it out.
Is this what peace is? I hope so. As we approach that time of year when we celebrate Christ as the "Prince of Peace" I can say I'm learning to access that peace by learning submission. For many years I've heard preachers preach, writers write and singers sing about the benefits of being broken before God and then rising from the ashes in total surrender. I've Amened and Hallelujahed but didn't have a clue what it meant. You can't have ashes without a fire. And fire is all-consuming. And burning hurts...really bad.
So here I am feeling at peace, not knowing the plan for the day or how the week will unfold (or how my life will unfold, for that matter). Having said that, I do realize that my paycheck isn't dependent on this weather, nor is my health, nor the well-being of anyone in my family. Weather peace is a "peace" of cake ( :
When I think about my good friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer, I feel anxious and afraid. And I want to feel that way for her. She needs us all to feel that with her. I know peace can coexist with sadness and fear and all the other emotions that make us human. But it's elusive. I'm not sure you can find it without a little soot on your cheek.
Right now, I'm nibbling at peace but have a long way to go before I can feast on it. But at least, for me, it's out of the fire and on the table.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Late Morning Walk

I slept 11 hours last night. Don't ask me why. But when I finally got up I felt like a filly at the Derby gate. I needed to move, and move now!
There was a light layer of snow on the ground that was calling out for my boot prints. The last time I went walking, I carefully selected an appropriate wardrobe that was both weather worthy (the inflatable dummy) and somewhat stylish. You never know but maybe you'll run into Sasquatch in his snow shoes, and he'll be Mr. Right Sasquatch.
But this time, I didn't want to think that hard. Yet I really, very painfully badly, wanted to stay warm. So....I just threw on a bunch of clothes over my pajamas. I said a quick prayer that I would not be hit by a car and have to be stripped down to stop the bleeding. I grabbed this thing that looked like a toaster cozy for my head. Then I set off.
It was more like slipping and sliding than trudging, at least until I got some rhythm. It was cold and icy. I've learned to navigate my neighborhood pretty well, so instead of thinking about where I was, I could pray, feel awe at the snowy mountain peaks, watch the magpies chasing each other and breathe in the fresh air. The sun is playful this time of year. It rises, winks at you, then starts to set when your head is turned. So many photo ops.
The walk was glorious! I'm missing exercise around here. I have some weights and stuff, but an uncooperative shoulder is keeping me from my usual Pilates routine.
So I'm planning to walk a few times a week and walk briskly, even when I don't sleep half the day away. I'm sure I'll be re-evaluating this plan when the temp starts dropping. I'll likely be dropping along with it. Or maybe not.

Monday, November 8, 2010

More Thoughts On Grief

I have come to believe that the grieving process is like a great work of art. Don’t roll your eyes. I thought about this lying in bed last night.
When my canvas arrived and my paint was fresh, I just stared at it. Some people get right to work: zip-zap, swish-swosh, just whip it out and get on with their lives. Not to minimize their pain, but they just face it head on.
I procrastinated. I think I was too full of baggage from the preceding three or four years. Those last two were particularly harrowing. It (the good grief) just wouldn’t take shape. But it was always deep inside me, clanging around like a clumsy ghost. Everything that had previously seemed meaningful (and fun) in my life seemed dull and uninspiring.
I haven’t had a Christmas tree in three years. And I always loved Christmas trees so much. I never thought even Hell itself could purge the holiday spirit out of me. But grief-in-waiting distorted everything and made my world old and mournful.
This year I began painting. At some point I came to realize that the thing in my frame was a mirror and I just got tired of looking at it. So I got to work. I bought some books about grieving and, surprisingly, they were extremely helpful. I started praying on the floor. You wouldn’t believe the junk that came out (or the junk under my bed!) And I let myself just cry and cry whenever I felt like it.
Some days my grief colors are bright and bold, and I see recognizable images forming and starting to solidify. Other days, it's more hazy and smudgy and nothing seems to work that well. But after three years of unrelenting art lessons, I have slowly but surely added some exquisite detail to my work. I’ve learned to steady my wobbly brush by leaning back on God and allowing His hand to guide my hand as we create this masterpiece together.
I brought my grief canvas to Alaska. I packed it solid, not intending to leave it behind. Seeing the new landscape, physical and mental, is helping me put the finishing touches on my picture. On the outside I may seem like the daring, altruistic missionary, going where no Floridian has gone before (or would want to), but when the gallery closes, I’m telling you that painting hanging lopsided in the corner will be an undeniable self portrait.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Snowy Day

Guess.....what.....I.....did.....this.....morning!!!!! Hee hee. I went for a walk in the snow. When I looked out the window, the ground was white and outside looked like a Christmas movie. "Hello Uncle Scrooge. Won't you please join us for Christmas dinner this year? We're tired of that humbug line of yours." I digress.
When I had sufficiently disguised myself as an inflatable used-car dummy, I went trudging. Trudging is something we don't normally do in Florida. Our environment often requires shuffling (and you beach bums know what I mean) but not trudging. I trudged and trudged and followed some foot prints in the road that were about 18 inches long. Either I'm sharing the neighborhood with Sasquatch, or someone has snowshoes. Am I right about that? I should get some snowshoes. I'm excited about snowshoes!
I dropped in on a friend down the street and had coffee and by the time I left her house, it was rainy and slushy. Yuck. So I showered then went to Barnes and Noble for a bowl of potato/lentil soup (they have the thickest, creamiest soup) then grocery shopping.
When I left the grocery store (with my Starbucks venti latte in hand) it was seriously snowing again. I would call it a blizzard. The Alaskans seemed unaffected and would probably call it a light snow, but I'm sticking to the blizzard story. Everyone in Florida would concur.
I had a little trouble getting the groceries in the trunk while protecting my Starbucks from the elements. But I got it all done safely and made it home in the traffic. It's been a couple of hours and it's still snowing. I wish I could post pictures, but as you know, when I try to post pix on my blog, I get lines of gibberish. I'll put a picture on FB tomorrow. (later edition: photo added. Yay!)
Tonight I'm settling in to Lifetime Movies. Thursday is always "true story" day. Funny the things you learn when you're new in town and living alone. I'm not complaining. This has been a great day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back From The Village

Quiz: On what airline........

1. ...can you make your reservation 10 minutes before the plane leaves?
2. ...chat with the pilot while you're waiting?
3. ...drop your bags beside the plane?
4. ...sit in the copilot seat (move over, God)?
5....have a 10 minute layover (in Beluga) on a 20 minute flight?
6. ...pay when you get back?
It ain't Delta. Only four seats on the plane, including the pilot. I loved it! This is how flying should be.

I had a great two days working in the native village school. Here's something funny: When I first got there I was introduced to a teacher in the lounge. I asked, "What age do you teach?" He must have thought I said, "What grade do you teach" because he answered, "6,7,8". I told him I loved that age group and asked if I could visit his class. When I walked into his classroom my mouth dropped open. Sheesh!!!! Those were the biggest 6,7,8 year olds I had ever seen. I was thinking, Wow! They sure grow 'em big in the village. These kids were HUGE!! It finally dawned on me that they were in middle school. I started laughing at myself. Next week, I'm flying back over to sub in that class.
I came back to Anchorage to discover it had snowed in my absence. Now that's just not fair. I've been waiting a month for snow. I had to scrape it off my car to drive home. Now I'm snuggled up with my computer and TV, and tomorrow I'll frantically get all my paperwork organized to submit to the school system. I'm actually planning to sub Tues-Fri next week. And the district will be paying for my flight. Sweet.
Thanks for your prayers. God is listening.