Saturday, May 27, 2017

Christine

"Nothing can make up for the absence of  someone whom we love, 
and it would be wrong to try and find a substitute;
we must simply hold out and see it through. 

That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, 
for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bonds between us. 
It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap;
God doesn't fill it, but on the contrary  keeps it empty and so helps us keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain. "
Dietrich Bonhoeffer




I remember when I first met Christine.
She was described to be me by my husband as an old High School friend who was a "shit ton of fun!"
My husband doesn't have many people that he would call "friend" from his High School days, let alone anyone he describes as ALOT of fun, so naturally,  my interest right from the start was peaked.
My version of meeting her was that right from the start she felt like family.
Well, and then there is her version, she says I walked out with an Italian woman's attitude hand on my hip and the look of  "best not be trying to crouch in on my man sista," on my face. 
Her version is of course more colorful than I remember. 
We will still be arguing about this first embrace for all eternity ... I told her there might be playback reels in heaven and so that will hopefully settle who's right on this one. 
   But truly, within moments of our first embrace we two became beloved friends. 
We had kindred spirits and a soul sister love right from the start.

I met her when her son Benat was the same age as my oldest son Solomon, only 5 years old.
At this point in her life she had already survived two craniotomies , and seemed to be the picture of health to me.
We instantly bonded over family and the love of our heritages, her's being Basque, mine being Italian.
She taught me the language of passion for life, and a few choice words in Basque as well. 
"Puty Las Wah"- being an all time favorite for the whole clan now.
Translation- Loose Butt to be said after ... well a good loud Fart!!

Shortly after meeting and bonding instantly she attended a women's retreat with me in Lake Tahoe.
We bonded further over our mutual love for the elderly, baseball, babies, wine, the Lake, music, and being moms.
WE may or may not have smuggled wine into that women's retreat... I'll admit to nothing!
I remember falling in love with her heart and soul, and crying out to God for her life, and for that Bitch Cancer never to return and take this beloved friend away from me. 
But, The bitch returned.
We held our breath until the MRI's came in, and I was beyond relieved, and once again astounded that
She kicked it's ass once again.
 
And then it seemed the bitch moved away and left us all feeling a little too comfortable for while.
I moved away and she came to visit first with her whole family and then later she came again for another visit, and I had her all to myself. 
She was wanting so desperately to have a different story.
One that didn't involve death and dying and that disgusting C word!
 We lived fully in every moment of fresh fish from the Seattle waters to the nights out by the camp fire. 

What a treasure that time was. 
She gave me the book Broken Open and she inscribed a love note to me in the front of this book that I will treasure more now than ever before. 
 
We talked about life, death, and all that goes on in between.
In her last months here we had many a conversation about this book Broken Open.
So many of our conversations were about the bigger picture. 
When she came to Seattle the second time to visit, she helped me get my shit organized and slim down the gross amount of hats I had collected over the years, and didn't have room for in my tiny 800 sq ft cabin. 
We laughed until I think I peed my pants and then laughed some more as we tried on every ridiculous hat I had collected over the years.
 
On that trip, and being out of her element of not cleaning house everyday in her own home(she kept the CLEANEST house btw) She was determined to get down to the bottom of my families dirty clothes hamper, which I laughed at and said... "More power to ya sister!" 
You know you're  family when you let someone do your dirty laundry! 
With 4 kids empty clothes hampers like perfectly clean houses, were a distant memory, and almost a myth in my life at that point. 
I'll never forget how happy she was to have an empty hamper even if only for a moment, until kids came in with muddy pants from the rain. 
She was a hard worker, who didn't like to sit still for very long. 
I know she got this gene from her dad and her mom, both of whom she loved with all her heart. 
When I went to visit her only a few weeks after her 4th and final craniotomy she was once again astounding me with her strong will to live, and as she was picking up dog shit in the backyard and cracking me right up about it,  I was astounded at the fight she still had left in her. 
And later when I left that cold day in January I cried, because I knew this was it.
But like wonder woman she just never quit. 
She fought the good fight.
She fought LIKE A CHAMP!! 

On another visit before I came over I wanted to do something, anything to make her feel better... 
She asked me for cookies.
I burnt them. 
We laughed at how here I was trying to help her feel better, and in the end she made ME feel better.
If you met her in that 12 year span that she fought like a warrior against this beast, you wouldn't even have known that she had brain cancer unless she chose to tell you, because she never complained.
Not even ONE tiny bit.
She was not a victim to Brain Cancer but a survivor, and one that spent the last 12 years of her life trying to help others who sit down one day in a Dr.'s office and are told "You have brain cancer." 
Shortly after her first diagnosis of a brain tumor, when most people would have been devastated beyond belief,  she joined a brain cancer forum in the attempt to help strangers process this horrible diagnosis. 
I mean, WHO DOES THAT?
Our warrior woman Christine did.
She was without a doubt a warrior, armed always with humor, hard work, brilliant even WITH Brain Cancer, and she was stubborn as all get out!! 
She wasn't about to let this beat her, or rob her of her time with her son, or tell her what she could or couldn't do.
So she fought, and fought, and fought some more.

I'll never understand as long as I live why she was given the battle she was handed at such a young age. 
But,  I do know that her courage and passion for the short time she was here has forever changed me, and I'm beyond grateful for EVERY moment. 
Every meal.
Every glass of wine shared.
Every song enjoyed together.
Every sunset in Tahoe. 
Every Pig kill in January.
Every warm summer evening on her back porch.
She was and will continue to be a precious gift to my heart.
She gives me hope that even in death you can make others laugh.
If Christine taught me anything its that life doesn't permit us the luxury of time to meet strangers.

She seriously would make friends standing in line at the grocery store. 
When the clouds of grief and sorrow pass and the sun peeks it's head out from behind those dark clouds of a love lost too soon, then is the time to remember that life is for the living.
Her spirit is too big to ever leave us.
In every story that we share and every memory that we have had with her she will continue to be with us and live on in that way.

But, I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is still ALIVE and no longer in pain.

She said she was really looking forward to giving us all some shit down here in her afterlife!
And, Oh what an AFTER LIFE ON EARTH IN HEAVEN she is having now!! 
Anyone who knew her knows that heaven's gates are having one hell of a party right this very moment. 
Thats right I put heaven and hell in the same sentence... and you know what?
It's appropriate.
Because that's what life here for her for the last 12 years was. 
Heaven to have more time with her son Benat... but Hell to live with Brain Cancer for most of his young life.
Now, she is where every tear is wiped dry and there is only good. 
No more pain.
No more sorrow.
No more TRUMP!!
(she would appreciate that last sentence more than I can even express in words)
  
She wasn't a fan of traditional funerals and so she won't be having one if her wishes are kept. 
She asked only that when we found the time, that we would  go to one of her favorite places at Silver Lake and remember her unbelievably beautiful life, that we all raise a glass to this Beautiful Life and all that it entails. 
I will honor her life by choosing to be kind to strangers, loving my family with unwavering devotion, and giving out as many hugs and kisses(on both sides of the cheeks) to as many people who will let me. 
I will scream GO GIANTS at the top of my lungs (even though I'm a Bo Sox Fan) and savor the time around a big long table with good food and beloved friends and family.
 

My life is richer, fuller, and just all around better for having known this amazing soul.
My heart is heavy for her son Benat, Husband Dan, and Parents Annie and Jean Pierre.
Please keep them all in your prayers as they will be living in the gap until they are reunited again with their beloved.
As long as I'm alive here on earth,  I will carry her in my heart and be forever grateful for all the memories. 


Friday, May 05, 2017

New Book/Old Book/ Book Club Via Inter Webs

 I've been thinking about building things lately.
Not necessarily with wood, nails,  and a hammer, but metaphorically speaking. 
Not to worry beloved reader, I haven't suddenly taken up carpentry.
In thinking about building I have realized you need good tools.
One of the tools I was given to build my life early on was the bible.
Many of you know it is a book I love to quote and ponder upon, but many of you might not know that early on in my life the family bible in my childhood home had quite a bit of dust on it and was rarely opened.
Around the time I was 13 years old I realized that my soul needed more than what the words Duran Duran was singing on the radio.
That was almost 30 years ago now (damn I'm OLD)!

 As a Catholic Family I was raised to go to church every Sunday and confession on Saturday, and I was taught by very loving awesome nuns about the 10 commandments and other key scriptures, but it was the bullet point version of faith.  For some strange reason though we never seemed to read the bible at home. So when the dust was blown off  of that  big book I wasn't quite sure what had happened. 
My sister Jen started reading it first and I thought she had entered a cult of some kind.
Then my mom Ellen began to read it, and I couldn't even ask her for money to go to the movies with out her quoting something from the good book....
I also want you to know that when I first started reading the Bible it confused the Hell out of Me!
Literally I suppose the HELL was coming out of me.. (insert laughing so hard you cry emoticon here)
but for real, it is a confusing book and I get that. 
It's also a very large book, in fact it is a book that has several books inside it.
Books upon books upon books.
When I read the bible for the first time, not like in Sunday School but in the comfort of my splash painted teenage room with hand prints and music notes all over the walls I had SO many questions. 
I know see what a gift it was to have this incredible tool in my life at such a young age.
 However, I realize that many people are still so confused, bewildered and really just not interested at all to open that big book and it makes me sad.
I can't stay sad for long...
"Aint nobody got time for that!" 
So I'm happy to report that one of my all time fav
 authors/speakers/storytellers/fathers/husbands/brothers from another mother has published a book to come out this month titled ;
What Is The Bible?
By Rob Bell.
I rarely promote books that I haven't even read yet, but I know in my knower this is one that I personally am going to enjoy, and I think you might too.
I want you to know beloved reader "the why" behind all the quotes I often refer to in the bible. 
And,
I wonder if anyone out there who is reading this might consider reading this book with me via the inter webs and discussing your thoughts on it with me??
If you have ever been interested in reading the bible even just a tiny bit then this book is for you.
If you have been reading the bible and feel you have a handle on it that no one else does and that Rob Bell is a heretic ... then move along this is NOT the discussion for you.
Again I will say;
"Aint nobody got time for that!" 
But if you are among one of many readers I call a beloved reader here and you trust my recommendation for a new book then;
I want YOU beloved reader to take a journey with me and read the Bible in a whole different way.
Or maybe, possibly read it for the very first time?
I'll come back to more thoughts on building after this post, but for now I just want to put this question/challenge/adventure is out there/proposition online for YOU to get this book when it comes out and read it with ME ?
Oh and don't forget to get YER Coffee!!
ANY TAKERS?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Walking Into The Arena

Inspired by the words below written a long time ago by President Teddy, I wrote some prose today.

"It is not the critic who counts; 
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
 or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, 
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; 
who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again.
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
 but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, 
the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and
who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly....."
~Theodore Roosevelt 
I want to be the one in the arena.
I have no time for critics or the callous skin of a judger.
I feel excitement rising as I build with tools of failure, some success,  and vulnerability.
Too many great enthusiasms, and not enough hours in the day, but that won't stop me.
I can't let it stop me. 
As I step up to the arena's in life I hear the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before me.
Chanting fight the good fight win the race. 
Don't get weary in doing good. 
I also hear the whispers of the critic, the one who would come only to rob, kill, and destroy what new vision has been birthed in me. 
To silence the voice of the enemy we have to listen to the friend.
The one who comes along side not even saying a word.
A hand reached out to walk beside me.
Putting one foot in front of the other we walk into the arena and we dare greatly....
Believing tomorrow will be better.
It has to be.
If only made better by one small choice at a time.
One time of laying down ego to pick up humility, and ask for help.
Help me to grow.
Help me to learn.
Help me to trust.
Help me to love again, and again, and again.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Good News... God is With Us and For Us




"So be truly glad!

 There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here...

YOU LOVE HIM even though you have never seen Him;

though not seeing HIM, you trust Him;

and even now you are happy with the inexpressible joy that comes from heaven itself. "
1 Peter 1:6, 8
 
The past few weeks have been really hard for me. 
I have felt the overwhelmed-ness of life around every corner, and the indescribable blessings of just being alive all at the same time. 
For a moment I went deep down into a rabbit hole of sadness and overwhelmed-ness. 
I know overwhelmed-ness is not a word but it is here today on this blog.
 (It's my blog therefore I can make up words among other things when I want to.)
Just try to stop me. 
You can't so don't even try!
Wait... I just told you to try.
When I go places like down the overwhelmed-ness rabbit hole island I get quiet.
*(It's a hole and an island, I can make up imaginary places here too)
I read, I write, and I'm not ashamed to say, I watch a lot of Netflix.
This morning I realized that it's time to come out of that rabbit hole. 
 Easter Sunday has come and gone and its message of hope has once again left it's residue on my heart.
Although the rough things in life and the lives around me are still going on there is hope in the midst of it all. 
The unshakeable knowledge of life after death is GOOD NEWS!!
And all the sadness and overwhelmed-ness that this life can throw my way
pales in comparison to the bright light of Jesus being alive!!
He conquered death, and I'm pretty sure he knows how to pull people out of overwhelmed-ness rabbit holes. 
The song of life is faintly playing and getting louder with every passing moment. 
"When death was arrested and my life began"
This good news of Jesus being alive is not something that is new to me. 
He opened my eyes to see Him and all His glory and love many years ago, but sometimes I let the worries of this world choke out this "inexpressible joy that come from heaven itself"

I know after all these years that it's ok to go down rabbit holes of overwhelmed-ness. 
I'm thankful that Jesus knows where to find me because he never left me. 
He goes down those holes with me.
He sails to the island that is me.
He binge watches Netflix right beside me. 
He is not a Savior who doesn't know how to speak our language or meet us right where we are at.
So today "even though the going is rough for a while down here" I'm going to get up out of this hole by listening to the songs of life and reading the words of truth.
"I look behind me and you're there, then
up ahead and you're there too- your 
reassuring presence, coming and going. 
This is too much, too wonderful- 
I can't take it all in!"
Psalm 139:5-6
Turning our mourning into dancing 
Our weeping into laughing
Our sadness into JOY
Inexpressible JOY!!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hope in Death

Can you find Hope in Death?
Easter Sunday brings forth hope, and new life for so many who know, that they know,  that death no longer hold's it's sting.
“O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”

1 Corinthians 15:55



For those that know beyond a shadow of a doubt there is life after this short time on this round ball of dirt, they get it. 
But what about people who don't quite fully grasp what is so special about this day?
It's not about the season of Spring that we choose to celebrate this day called Easter Sunday. 
Although all the cherry blossoms, with beautiful pink flowers and yellow daffodils coming out of the ground that was covered in snow only days ago...  do help to add to the feeling of hope and new life. 
But this day is pregnant with HOPE  because of something that happened 2000 years ago.
For as many people who hold this day as a sacred day, there are just as many if not more, who don't understand why it is wrapped up in a confusing package of bunnies and eggs, and baskets and chocolate. 
There was a man.
His name was and still is Jesus.
He lived for 33 years on this earth.
He died and 3 days later, he came back to life.
In the 33 years that he walked this earth only 3 of those years were truly recorded. 
We have snip its of the 30 years before he came out in the public eye, but they are like a world without Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap Chat and Blogs. 
They are the years where we wonder... 
Did he look different to everyone he met?
Did he have a best friend ?
Did he struggle with acne?
Did he build some bad ass chairs?
For the 3 years that he was in the public eye and we have record of, here is what we know;
He cried. 
He felt pain. 
He was betrayed.
He drank and made wine.
He had 12 best friends until one betrayed him.
He loved his mom.
He spoke to women even though he wasn't supposed to.
He hung out with prostitutes.
He was best friends with Zealots.
He got angry and pissed off at people who claimed to know God, but really didn't.
He cussed. 
He was called crazy for how he talked about intimacy and eating his flesh.
He said that HE and HE alone was the way, the truth, and the LIFE.
And then after a brutal death on a cross it was all over. 
Until 3 days later it wasn't. 
While he walked the earth some 2000 years ago he forever changed the world. 
He is a mystery only solved by the eyes of faith. 
He is where HOPE in DEATH is found. 

He was wounded for our rebellious acts. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so that we could have peace, and we received healing from his wounds.
Isaiah 53:5

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Intrinsic Worth

I don't know if you know this, but I get really excited about words. 
Words are my muse.
 
I love to hear them. 
I love to sing them. 
I love to speak them.
I love to read them. 
And I love when they are sweetly spoken to me. 

The other day, I read a phrase in the bible that jumped right out at me.
The words intrinsic worth popped off the page this morning with such excitement it almost made a splash in my coffee.
 
Does that ever happen to you? 
Not necessarily words that literally jump into coffee, but you read something or hear something and it just lingers?
Well I read this little portion of scripture a few days ago; 
"Stop regarding man, whose breath [of life] is in his nostrils [for so little time];
in what sense can he be counted as having intrinsic worth. " 
Isaiah 2:22
And the phrase intrinsic worth got me so all kinds of excited that I tweeted it right then and there so I wouldn't forget it. 
I immediately checked the googles for what the true meaning of this phrase might be.
I found it hard to understand in a tangible human way, but incredibly worthy of a description for the Creator of this vast universe.
It made me think and ask questions like what do I find worthy in this life? 
Someone asked me a long time ago if you really want to know what matters in your life imagine your house is on fire ... what do you grab to get out as fast as you can, and what would you go back in there for?
Of course everyone who has loved ones in their house would of course say them and their pets first, but then what would it be?
When I think long and hard about that there isn't much I'd come running back inside a burning house  for, but I do have a binder of all titles, passports, social security cards, birth certificates that is easy accessible and ready to run out with. 
The other stuff in comparison has no real worth except maybe some precious pictures and MY BIBLE. 
My bible has countless notes and highlights and love letters in it from others that couldn't be replaced but what makes it intrinsically worthy to me has more to do with who wrote it and the conversations we've been having all these years because of that book.
The whole entire bible is one long love letter to all of God's creation. 
Yes, it can be hard to understand sometimes.
Yes, it was written by men. 
But it was, and is, and always will be breathed upon and made to come alive by God's own Spirit.
Sometimes when I sit with my big bible (It's big because I chose an Amplified Version of the bible because there are MORE WORDS in it) I feel as though.. no I KNOW that God himself if sitting right there with me.
Whispering sweet nothings ... wait sweet every-things and so much more into my ear.
"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope." 
Psalm 130:5


There are no other words so powerful as those that are spoken to the soul from it's creator. 
Intrinsic Worth.
 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Water in The Well

There is a quiet knowing ...
a peace that surpasses all understanding that I've been fortunate enough to experience since I was around 13 years old.
Almost 30 years later since this relationship began I have come to wonder why this awesome gift I was given, I often times take for granted. 
I decided that for this season of Lent I don't want to take away something, but rather add a new determined purpose to my life. 
With my heart full of so many emotions, so many ambitions, so many out pouring actions, I'm reminded once again to fill my cup, to fill my well first. 
I'm going back to the basics of watering my well. 

When I reconnect to the rapture of life and fully living it, I'm reminded that my well needs watering.

"And if a desire to serve humanity or to find God comes from a rapturous engagement with  life , then our service and our search will bear fruit.  But if we try to love or lead, or work or pray, from a dry well, then we will serve a bitter cup to those around us and never really live the life we were given. "

Oh that I would never serve from a bitter, and empty cup.


There is something to be said about people who are so full of joy all the time. 

It exudes from their being. 
You can feel it when they walk into a room.
It changes the temperature of said room.

The same can be said of a person that walks around with a bitter, angry, and sad heart. 
You know it isn't their fault.
Some are grieving a loss that they haven't fully processed yet.
Then there are those that have the victim mentality.
They just can't seem to get past the pain that we all endure in the course of a lifetime.

I will never truly understand why the portions of pain and joy are not poured out equally or fairly in this life.

 Still, there are those unique souls who have been given a double portion of pain, and they manage to pour forth joy everywhere they go.

They are like the mythical unicorns in this life.

It takes great effort and determination to move past the pains that a lifetime can serve us. 
I think there is a lot of therapy involved in that effort too.
There is no wonder why some people decide to take the turtle approach and just retreat from fully living.
More often than not I think I'm more like a turtle than a unicorn.

To truly love and live a life of love you have to experience pain.

I believe the more you love the more pain you might experience. 
Those that have the lion hearts are the ones that know this, and still continue to roar with joy.

Ok so maybe they are a lion unicorn type creature. (wink wink)

I wonder sometimes how those that roar with joy,  love, and passion for life, how do they fill their cups so that they don't become bitter from the hard times?

The truth is that every single human that has walked this planet has felt the sting of pain. 
Life has more stings than a hive of bumble bees on a hot July day!
But how do we heal those wounds and move forward to go back out and enjoy that warm sunshine of life again?

I don't really know the answers for you to those questions beloved reader, but I can say that for me what helps me to be in forward motion is a direct dial up number to the lover of my soul.

My therapy is found at the feet of a great counselor.
One that never judges me for the times that I retreat to my turtle shell. 
In this relationship I find a soothing balm that helps the stings of life fade away.
I recently read that if you break down the word COMFORT it looks like; 
Come and Fort. 
That's what I do to get built back up again.
I come and fort at the source of living water. 
He fills this well to overflowing every time and brings a comfort to my weary soul.


" You can serve your God without being so uptight about it. You can feel the simple rapture of being alive and let that rapture be your North Star. "

My hearts desire is that I would serve from a cup that overflows with joy. 
That even in the hard times I would have a song in my heart and an encouraging word for my fellow travelers here. 


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Growing Old ... Gracefully



What is it about getting older that scares the shit out of people?
Ask any hair stylist who their biggest money maker clients are, and they will tell you it is those who try to cover up their age with a different color of hair. 
Why is this?
Anyone who has known me for a minute will tell you that this is not a custom I embrace. 
In fact, quite the opposite.
I've been begging my friend/hair stylist for years to dye my hair grey because it's not coming in naturally as fast as I would like it to.
Call me crazy... but I think grey hair is a crown of glory and should be embraced with honor, not chemicals to cover it up.


Now of course, I know I am in the minority here, and I don't judge the mass population that feels otherwise, I just wonder sometimes what is it that we are SO afraid of?
To me growing old is an honor and a privilege that many people don't get the luxury of doing. 
Those of us that are given years beyond our 60s, 70s, and even 80s should be so blessed because it is extended time here on this beautiful planet that provides more learning and is full of one adventure after another. 
There are of course parts of getting older that aren't so fun, but if we would only shift our perspective to see how lucky we are to have the time we have here... we might see things in a whole other light. 


"I am learning to hold health and sickness, weakness and strength, and even life and death side by side- two sides of one coin. In fact,  it is the acceptance of death that has finally allowed me to choose life. I am learning that it is never either-or but both, and more. Not life or death, but life and death, health and sickness, good and bad. Both, and something more. I am learning to love the human condition, to say a full and rousing yes to it all, to work with it, to choose it, just as it is, every day."


Recently I attended a gathering of artists that came together to talk about the topic of aging.
To me the "growing old gracefully" topic has always fascinated me.
It's possible that it has always held my interest because I'm an old soul.
I truly appreciated the conversation at this gathering.
 It was about not only the young learning from the old, but vice versa. 
There were many elements of truth to what was talked about, but what I took away that really resonated is how we have lost this conversation between the young and old. 
The gap seems so wide.
The divide too big to bring together. 
And somehow when we attempt to cross that great divide the words get lost in translation.


The OLD says- "I'm older and wiser SO therefore you should listen to me."
The YOUNG says- "I'm young and full of life let me live it and don't tell me what to do"
When really the reality is that we both need each other so desperately. 
We need the wisdom that can only come from age, and we need the hope and inspiration and new knowledge that can only come from the young. 


I'm extremely grateful for my close friends and family members who are older than I am and who are living life to the fullest. 
I look at them and glean so much from their life experiences. 
They give me hope and inspire me to be that person for someone else who is younger than I am, and might a need a voice of encouragement.

The picture below captured some of these older people who give me hope in my life. 
These are my people and they make me proud.


 
My Uncle Mal passed away last week and left behind his now widow my Aunt Joan. Only days after her husband died she was choosing life and love and bringing joy to the older friends she had made in  an assisted living place she had been residing.

You can find her in the picture in the blue shirt with swollen eyes from tears and a smile on her face. This moment was taken only 5 days after her beloved had passed away and she is there with her two brothers, and my mom and her grand niece Savanah. They are all bringing joy to those around them, because my Aunt would say, as her mother said before her, and her sister(my mom) has said to me;

"Life is for the living!" 
I am also beyond giddy for the young life that surrounds me because they continue to challenge me to see life through different lenses. 
It may seem uncomfortable at first, much like getting used to a new pair of glasses can be, but in the end the outcome of pushing through the awkward learning phase there is beauty and laughter, and life.
WE are in this thing called life together. 
When we don't isolate and are honest with each other about all the challenges as well as the highlights of life we gain a wealth that cannot be measured. 

I feel as though, when we pause and think about what we do with the hours that we are given here, that is where wisdom is found.
That's all this blog post is about.

A moment to pause and thank God that YOU are alive and no matter what age you are you have a voice unlike anyone else's. 
I pray you will take the time to pause and listen from the older and the younger voices in your life. 
I pray that I would always have a voice of encouragement as long as I am blessed to be here. 
I don't have the recipe for growing old gracefully, nor do I think that if you suddenly stop dying the grey out of your hair that you will have it either. 
I just think that somehow it is wrapped up in not being afraid of what is to come and receiving all of life and even death as a teacher.
Here's to being life long students and to growing old with grace!

Here's to BEAUTIFUL LIFE!!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Redmond Washington

There is no school today here in the Biggest Little City.
It's not a SNOW day... it's a Rain Day!?%$*&?

It got me thinking about life in Washington and how different it is here now in Reno.

It is a funny thing that even though you would think this dry desert land would soak up the moisture like a marathon runner on a hot day, instead it does the opposite. 
It causes flooding because the soil here is just not prepared for this kind of moisture. 
It can only go so deep is what I've been told.
There are SO many metaphors in this natural occurrence....
It got me thinking about some things I've been re-reading in Broken Open.

Now almost 4 years later since we transported our clan from a wet rainy Redmond WA. to a normally very dry Reno NV I'm once again reminded of that journey to the woods. 
Travel back in time with me beloved reader for a little reflection on this rainy day here in Reno.


We headed into the woods of Redmond Washington having no idea what would come out on the other end. 
The big move was inspired after losing our third owned home through a forced foreclosure and the Bank of America scandal. 
We were tired and weary of the way things were and what the cards of life had dealt us, so we embarked on one of the greatest adventures of our lives. 
A small cabin in the woods of Redmond Washington was our destination, but little did we know we would arrive in Dante's famous Dark Woods.
"In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself within a dark woods
Where the straight way was lost. "

The woods were indeed dark, and the cabin was indeed ever so small but what came out of those 4 years is still something that all of us still talk about. 
Something beyond what I can describe happened when the MoNoSco clan of 6 set out to live in an 800 square foot cabin with only 1 bathroom, no dishwasher or central heat and not a penny to our names after we spent all what little we had left to make that shit hole livable again. 
I remember the early days there when I kept turning the corner at the end of our driveway too closely and damaging the tires on Beasty Boy, (Our 8 passenger Ford Expedition). 
We had NO money to buy new tires or even really to fix the one I kept busting, yet somehow Moses, the magic man that he is, made them last until we could finally buy new/used ones off of Craigslist. 
They were dark times, and at the same time filled with SO much light because we still had each other.
 
We learned that having a huge house, money in the bank, and brand new designer clothes like ALL of our neighbors(and I do mean ALL of our neighbors had) was not where true life is found.
The time in our cabin forever changed us all.
 
We became among those who The Philosopher William James describes as being Twice Born.
 In Elizabeth Lessers book Broken Open she describes in detail what William James means when he writes about being Twice Born. 

"The Philosopher William James wrote that there are two kinds of people in this world- 
The Once Born and the Twice Born. Once Born people do not stray from the familiar territory of who they think they are and what they think is expected of them. If fate pushes them to the edge of Dante's famous dark woods- where the straight way is lost- they turn back. "

We didn't turn back even when all roads were popping our tires, and telling us to just go home we remained in those dark woods. 
They were literally dark because we were surrounded by trees, but inside when we could get the wet logs lit there was a bright light going on that the rest of the world, except for the 6 of us will never truly understand.
 
I'm grateful beyond measure for the time that we had there and to my husband who despite a deep seasonal depression going on stuck out those almost 4 years for the sake of our happiness.
 
"They don't want to learn something new from life's darker lessons.  
They stay with what seems safe, and what is acceptable to their family and society. They stick to what they already know but don't necessarily want. Once-Born people may go through life and never even know what lies beyond the woods- or that there are woods at all. "

No one would argue that the choice that we made in the mid stream of our families life to move into this tiny cabin in the woods was a safe choice. 
It certainly wasn't acceptable, but somehow that doesn't seem to be the way of this Clan. 
I can never really put into words what happened there but it was magic. 
Pure magic.
I'm still confounded by the fact that now that we are back here in Reno Nevada, living in the largest house we've ever had( an almost 3000 square foot home), my children all say that they would go back to Redmond WA in a heartbeat.
(Insert wide eyed emoticon here)
A few nights ago during a family dinner I sat back and listened to my kids reminisce about those years and it made me a tad bit weepy, and a whole lot grateful. 
Our time there was short but it impacted all of our lives in such a way that we will never forget. 
We became "A Twice Born" people group and we didn't even realize it was happening.
 
"A Twice Born person pays attention when the soul pokes its head through the clouds of of a half-lived life. Whether through choice or calamity, the Twice Born person goes into the woods, loses the straight way, makes mistakes, suffers loss, and confronts that which needs to change within himself in order to live more genuine and radiant life."

My hope is that now that we are almost 4 years out of the woods that we were in for only almost 4 years we all would remember how and why we became Twice Born. 
I pray we never forget what really made that time in that space so very special. 
It had nothing to do with the close courters that we found ourselves in or that we tried to eventually share those courters with 6 more people (insert wide eyed emoticon here... TWICE!!)
I'm not completely sure why that time forever changed us, but I think it has something to do with the fact that despite the fact that we were the Hippy VW bus driving house on the Hill we had love in our hearts. We treasured the time we had together. We enjoyed every acre of that property.  We laughed at the rain and met each new day with creativity and adventure in our hearts. 
And when the next adventure arose to move back to Reno Nevada to help open another Tattoo place, we once again embarked on the journey of being re-born again...again.
I pray that the soil of our hearts never becomes one so dry that we can't contain the overflowing goodness of what a life looks like that can be re-born again and again.
Here's to a beautiful life where we get to be twice born...or thrice born, 
and 
Here's to all of YOU who despite the dark woods you may have entered you refuse to turn back!
Happy Rainy Day!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

K.I.S.S.

(PC-Natalie Rose)
KISS- is the acronym for the well known phrase; " Keep it Simple Sweetheart"  or how I have more commonly heard it said;  "Keep it Simple Stupid."
In trying to find the origins of this well known phrase I read on Wiki that it may have started with the Navy. 
(things that make you go hmmm...)
Either way it's a phrase most have heard in their lifetime, and one that is so very applicable to me right now. 

I've also heard it said that when you don't know what to do go back to the basics.
Basic training for the human soul is complex and we never truly graduate and move on from this state of learning and growing to be our true selves, our best selves.
I find myself going back to the basics of what this life is all about. 
As I pause, and look at what is going on in the world around me I have had many moments when I don't know what to do, say, or even think.

It is in this state of unknown that I travel back to what I know to be true.
In my travels back to the basics I wrote this list of reminders for my soul.
For the sake of the conversation we might have here because of these reminders, I included you in my travels. 
So Let's Travel well together beloved reader and do some basic training for our souls.

Here's my list of basic soul training reminders;

Let's work on growing our "acceptance muscles." 
Let's commit to silencing our "attacking ones."
Let's remember we are all "Bozos on The Bus."

"Keep it simple stupid!"

Let's not soon forget that we were all once immigrants in need of a home land.
Let's remember this is only a pause in all of eternity and not our final destination.
We are all still foreigners here.
For those that feel they are the settlers remember not to settle for cruelty.
For those that feel more and more foreign every day remember that 
you are not alone here, and we desperately want to embrace you, but for some embracing seems foreign.

"Keep it simple sweetheart!"

Let's have patience with one another as we work on agreeing to disagree agreeably.
Let's not choose sides of this race, but rather remember we are all part of the human race.
Let's be diligent to teach our children that; "Perfect love casts out all fear"

"Keep it simple stupid!"


Turn off the TV, Computer, Phone, and engage in this beautiful life we get to live.
Breathe in deep.
Breathe out deep. 
Sigh and moan if necessary.
Hold a baby and smell them.
Really smell them.
Smell their smile.
Smell their fuzzy head.
Smell their sense of wonder.
Smell their stinky diaper and then change it.

"Keep it simple sweetheart!"

Let's remember that we all started there.
Let's go back(metaphorically speaking) to when we were a foreigner in our mother's womb.
Let's be born again to that place of wonder.
Let's try to imagine the world we all want.
Let's remember we only get to borrow it for a bit.
Let's recognize that it looks quite similar and actually even almost the same if we look with a magnifying glass.
 Let's ask the questions and truly listen to the answer.
Let's have enough creativity, and courage to embrace this beautiful life with all the colors, and sounds, and smells.
 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Love. Acceptance. Forgiveness.

I have so many thoughts running through my head regarding the Women's March that happened on Saturday. Millions of women, men, and children came out to be a voice for LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. I wanted to jump up and down with excitement when I heard of the numbers of people that got out there and spoke up for equality and respect for ALL human life.
It reminded me of the ah-ha moment I had when I read this book many moons ago that forever changed my life. 
It moved me in a different direction and how I now choose to walk out my faith.
It was a worldview changer for me for sure.
The message is as simple as the title of the book, and the author was as authentic and legit as any man could be. In his time here on earth he made an impact. The impact was similar to many great leaders, but maybe not as polarized because he led a quiet life in Gresham Oregon.
His name was Jerry Cook and the book is called Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness. 
The title is packed with big words that comes with all kinds of emotional baggage, and at the same time those three words have the capacity, and power for true healing and restoration.
 Love.

I understand that not everyone has had unconditional love in their life.
  In fact, I know I am in the minority of those who have shared a relationship with several people where their love has caused them to flourish instead of whither and die.
That's not to say that I haven't ever experienced a relationship with someone that I love where they have had destructive behavior toward me and toward others. I've been lied to in the name of love, and friendship. I've been rejected because I spoke truth in the name of love and it hurts.
 
"Our love for others must never be confused as a license for their destructive behavior toward us, toward others or toward themselves. Love commits itself to their "highest good" and stands stubbornly and relentlessly against their destruction from any quarter."
It's helpful for me to know that I don't have to continue to subject myself to that kind of behavior in the name of "love" but that I can continue to pray for those people who have hurt me and hold them at arms length until God says otherwise. 
If he ever does.
But there is a love offered to everyone that brings life and hope, and never fails. 
John 3:16

It's this love that gives me the ability to truly love everyone and wish no ill will on my fellow man or woman.

 
Acceptance.

I realize that as a white, suburban wife and mom in most circles I'm generally accepted. 
(Unless of course you find tattoos offensive)
I've never really known what it's like to not be accepted because of how I was born.
In my lifetime I have been so fortunate to live in a country where I have the freedom as a woman to wear what I want and have a voice.
I don't have to fear that if I burn my husbands dinner I will be chained outside and treated like a dog.
I have a family who loves me and a husband who is still my best friend 23 years later. 
I also have been so incredibly blessed in this life to be
friends and even family with those who aren't generally accepted in most circles of life. 
Some of my closest friends are people that when they walk into a room people automatically make preconceived judgements about them.
They are rejected simply for the color of their skin or clothing they wear or who they choose to hold hands with.
Their rejection has strangely become my own and I feel a strong urge to speak up and out for them, on behalf of them. 


"Unreserved acceptance of people should be a habit with us."

The "us" Jerry is referring to there is Christ followers or Christians. 
Why is it that a people group that should be the most loving, the most accepting is often times the most judgmental and unforgiving? 
It saddens my heart beyond belief that Jesus is represented by a people group that often times come across as THE MOST judgmental and therefore hypocritical than any other on planet earth!
I want to shake people sometimes and say, don't you know Jesus hung out with prostitutes and thieves  and without a doubt if he was here in body today would be among those that marched this past weekend and he might have hung out at a gay bar afterward!
(Insert wide eyed emoticon here)

But I digress. 
It is the acceptance that I feel on a daily basis from the lover of my soul that has given me the capacity to accept others even if they challenge my way of life to the core. 
When I read about Jesus in the book of John I see one who loved without reservation or judgement. 
You can't stop this kind of love and it scares people. 
It's a force that has to be reckoned with and is the very reason He was crucified. 
His love scared the people who thought love and acceptance should only be shown to an elite people group. 
If Jesus taught us nothing else in his short 33 years here it is that love and acceptance for ALL people is what the heart of God is all about. 


Forgiveness.

I am only given the capacity to forgive those who have wounded and damaged me because of this great love and acceptance I have felt from the very young age of 13. This kind of forgiveness is a learned way of life. 
"I'm learning to live without you now, 

But I miss you sometimes.

The more I know, the less I understand, 

All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again.

I've been tryin' to get down 

To the heart of the matter

But my will gets weak 
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness, 
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore."



The longer I live the more I want to live in such a way that truly reflects HIS LOVE, HIS ACCEPTANCE, and HIS FORGIVENESS. 
 When you spend time with the great lover of your soul, your creator, it
then becomes habit to forgive those that hurt you.
This comes only after many years of realizing that to not forgive them only hurts you more.
A hardened, unforgiving stubborn state of mind closes you off to a world of true
 freedom.

After seeing millions of families come out and march this past Saturday I am filled with hope that there are more people out there whose voices won't be silenced. 
The love, acceptance, and forgiveness that we are able to cultivate to the best of our ability will be in the end what lasts thru the test of time.
When we look into another persons eyes and see them, and accept them for who they are with no agenda, when we recognize we bleed the same color red, and feel the same about much more than we think we do, then we get to experience a little heaven on earth!

Sign me up for that.   
 


Monday, January 16, 2017

No Greater Love


Today is the day we recognize this one man.
 
A great leader. 
A Christ follower.
A Son.
A Brother. 
 

"I still believe that love is the most durable power in the world. Over the centuries men have sought to discover the highest good. This has been the chief quest of ethical philosophy. This has been one of the big questions of Greek philosophy. The Epicureans and the Stoics sought to answer it; Plato and Aristotle sought to answer it. What is the summum bonum of life? I think I have discovered the highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos. As John says, “God is love.” He who loves is a participant in the being of God. He who hates does not know God."


A Father. 
A Husband.
A Preacher.
A Servant to all of Humanity.

"Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos."

A Poet.
A Philosopher. 
A Teacher.
A Student. 

A man whose only mission was to promote LOVE.

“There is no greater love than this: that a person would lay down his life for the sake of his friends.” John 15:13

Because of Hate and Fear 
He never got to see his grandchildren.
He didn't get to witness the first Black President.
He never even saw his 40's. 

Despite his short time here, he was A world changer.
His words carry weight because he backed them with the actions that eventually killed him.
His voice is still heard today.
And hopefully will be heard for many more years to come. 

I'm beyond thankful that I live in a country that recognizes men just like Martin Luther King jr.
It is my hope and prayer on this day that we won't silence the voice of love. 
That all of us will work together to be love promoters and in doing so become world changers in our own right. 






Monday, January 09, 2017

Storms, Songs, and Some Food for Thought

This blog written today has a bit of the children's book 
If you give a Mouse a Cookie feel to it.

If you give a girl a day off due to a recent storm....
she's going to want to blog about it.
And when she blogs about it....
she's going to want to listen to music while she types.

Join me now beloved reader as I process out loud with you 
THIS DAY.






I'm sitting here the day after a major storm has almost swept downtown Reno away.
My children are home from school because of this storm and we are pausing from everyday life.

Somehow the recent weather has brought all kinds of storms in my heart, mind and in my soul.

I will admit I was on the doubtful side that this storm would be as bad as predicted. I couldn't believe that they cancelled school on Saturday before the storm had really even come to town.
This same doubtful side of life kind of reminds me of the doubts I had before November 11th.
 
As I read the news reports yesterday though, I began to pray for all the families and businesses that this great storm would affect. I realized that once again the path of indifference is so easy to take, and comes with terrible regret. I'm glad that others didn't take my nonchalant attitude toward this predicted terrible storm.

There were many preparations made for this expected storm.

Days before the storm was really here, the Reno community prepared for what was to come. There were all kinds of people that came together and helped in anyway they could so that houses and business wouldn't be flooded.
Many sand bags were laid down.
People posted on Facebook their cries for help and their neighbors came to their rescue.

Strangers united for the purpose of helping their neighbors here.

This got me thinking about my neighbors and "We The People" who have recently weathered a political storm of sorts.

With only a few weeks before the Presidential inauguration is about to take place, I'm thinking about what the world will look like now.
I'm thinking about what preparations "we the people" should be taking.
And by sitting here writing this blog post I'm taking a different path, and I don't feel indifference will be one of the streets names.
 
I feel it in my bones. 

My heart is swept away with sadness as we say goodbye to the Obamas and try to prepare for the Trumps.

As I sat in the comfort of my home yesterday when the sky was grey and the earth was wet, I enjoyed the sound of the rain.
Those that know me well know that I LOVE THE RAIN!
Rain brings life and green and green is my favorite color. 

(that's your one light hearted side note beloved reader)

Now, I'm thinking about how water is life and at the same time how powerfully destructive it can be.

The same could be said about music.

Music brings life.

"Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music."

Today here in Reno there is much talk of levee's and bridges.
I somehow feel like the life giving water levee of the White House will be left dry after January 20th when it once was so full.

The sun came out for only a few hours today and already so much of the water is dry. In a matter of 24hrs it all looks so different now and will again look different tomorrow as predictions of more snow are headed our way.

But when I think of levee's and them being dry, musically speaking, Don Mclean's song American Pie comes to my mind of course.

(in my life there is a song for everything and everything is a song)
Okay, so maybe you get two light hearted side notes...

When asked to interpret the meaning of this classic song Don left it up to we the listeners and never really gave a clear description for it all. 
In the interview that you can listen to below he talks about how it started with the death of Buddy Holly, but then morphed into something so much greater.

He says;

"Politics and music flow in the same channel because music is created by the society that is under it."

Somehow, I feel as though this could be a theme song for this present moment we find our country in. 

Will the music die?

Will "WE THE PEOPLE" no longer sing the songs of freedom and grace or 
Will we prepare our hearts, our minds, our voices to continue to sing out that great song that brings us all together as the United States of America?
Will we silently sit by and let the music of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness die
or
Will we come together again for one great purpose?

Will we stop the commentary and personal opinions if only for a moment to hear what our neighbors are crying out?




It's funny how whats happening in the natural can affect the super natural.

What happened here yesterday in the natural can be a new beginning for our biggest little city.

What happened on November 11th was the beginning of a song, a cry that we thought was buried here, but so painfully has come to life for our immediate attention.
It has brought about a political storm of record proportions.

Next Monday my children will be home from school again, this time not because of any storm, for I have no doubt that like it did today the sun will be out and the land will be dry again.

No, my teenagers will be home to celebrate and remember a man named Martin Luther King jr. I will remind them that this is a holiday that all states recognize but one, and we will once again pause from everyday life.

I find it so interesting that it comes the Monday before the week ends with a very sad inauguration day.

What happens in Washington on January 20th will also be a new beginning that "We The People" get to decide what the ending will look like. 

How can one voice speak to so many people?

How can one song can capture so many emotions? 

I'm convinced that The music will NOT die and thankfully in the super natural a mortal man does not fill the levee's of our hearts.
Although the levee's here in Reno will be dry in the natural the super natural state of this girls heart will be full.

Full of Love.
Full of Prayers.
Full of Song.

You know what song I'll be singing on January 20th?


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