All Because 6 People Crowded into a 5 seat car…

Saturday was Nana Mary’s Memorial Service. There was lots of funny memories about her, photos of her glorious smile and a sampling of all the people she has touched. Pastor John gave a moving speech about her faith and her Bible. Cousin Erica cried as she recounted how Nana Mary encouraged her in everything she did, especially motherhood. Gary made a beautiful video slideshow with photos from over the years that the Worship Team accompanied with some of Nana’s special songs. But Poppy’s words have lodged in my heart.

Poppy read a letter he wrote Nana Mary last year, celebrating her 61st Mother’s Day. It was full of love and respect, and the story of how they met. I can’t tell it as well as he did, and I don’t have his words in front of me, but in a nutshell, Mary was the sister of someone he worked with and they met when their two groups ran into each other at a soda shop in Rhode Island. The evening went well, and when it ended, Poppy’s friend offered to drive Nana Mary and her brothers home. All six of them trooped out to the car.

The car sat 5. Obviously, someone was going to need to double up. So Poppy asked Nana Mary if she would mind sitting on his lap for the ride. She agreed. Poppy then asked her for a date the next night. She agreed. And as in all good love stories, they fell in love, got married and raised a family which had their own families, who in their time, had their own as well.

I’ve always heard the phrase “All because two people fell in love” and attributed it to their relationship resulting in their children. It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I saw how much greater that phrase resonates. Had Nana Mary and Poppy not danced and shared a car seat, Linda-Mom would not have been born. If Linda-Mom had been born to different parents (and thus been a different person) she would not have had my sister-friend Jen. Which means, I would have had a different best friend in High School. One that didn’t love me so much. One that didn’t have such an amazingly inclusive family that took me in as one of their own.

This weekend was one of shared memories and fellowship. I met an Aunt that I haven’t met before and more cousins than I can shake a stick at! We shared stories of Nana Mary and even a few of my Dad because they were part of the lore. There where in jokes and new jokes and acceptance. And it was the exact thing my soul has been crying out for.

Nana Mary, I didn’t get the chance to say this to you before. Thank you for your family. They are the best of you. You did well in raising them. They are amazing and a credit to you. And selfishly, their love and acceptance has made my life so much easier and better, and I don’t think I can ever thank you and Poppy enough for that.

Family

Nana Mary died last night.

Nana Mary Beattie Holiday is the grandmother of my best friend from high school. Jen’s entire family pretty much adopted me back in the day and as a result I have extra Aunties and Uncles and Cousins and Parents than I was originally born with.

Jen’s sister Jane texted the news to me this morning. I immediately changed all my plans so I could drive to Rhode Island and be whatever they needed today. While I was driving, I spoke to many people who are important members of my life: my husband, my mother, two of my best friends and someone I think of as my baby sister. On the way home, I spoke with another of my best friends and again, my husband and mother. With the exception of my mother, everyone I spoke with today, either on the phone or down in Rhode Island is my family by choice.

Family by choice is a powerful thing, especially when they choose you back. Auntie Mary and Linda-Mom looked a little surprised to see me, but where else would I be? They let me be a part of their family all of those years ago. They showed up for my first wedding and my Dad’s funeral. They invited me back for other family events over the years and even took the time to hunt me down when I tried to run away from everyone I held dear. Even though I chose them, they chose me back.

I had a whole list of things I needed to do today to make my work week easier: picking out work outfits, grocery shopping, meal prepping…I still have to do all of that and I’ll probably end up doing that every day this week instead of setting up the stockpiles I envisioned. I was where I was needed. All I did was hug some people, but while I was hugging, magic happened. Love happened. God.happened.

Family isn’t always a biological thing. It isn’t always a legal thing. It is always a heart thing, and I’m very glad that I could ease the hearts of so many of my family members today.

Thimble List

I spent part of my morning listening to Jennifer Louden discuss her newest book A Year of Daily Joy on a Spreecast. One thing she had us do was write a Thimble List (A Year of Daily Joy, page 138). Similar to a Bucket List, a Thimble List is a list of all of the thrilling things you want to experience often.

Currently on my Thimble List:

  1. Sitting on my porch, listening to good music, reading a good book and drinking an iced cold beer.
  2. Participating in (or even organizing) a photo walk.
  3. Panera Monday. Arriving at the Panera Bread closest to my job when they open so I can sip coffee and write uninterrupted in a different venue before it’s time for me to begin the work week. (*And if I take a job that doesn’t have a Panera close by, find a suitable coffee shop to write in)
  4. Sitting in my slider door and enticing the porch squirrels to sit on my lap and eat peanuts out of my hand.
  5. Go back to playing the clarinet.
  6. Writing
  7. Scrapbooking more.
  8. Retreat time.
  9. Cooking and meal preparation
  10. Learning something new and implementing it.
  11. Making a date with myself to spend one morning on a regular basis at the local art museum for inspiration, writing practice and people watching.

This list is going to change like the tides. It’s entirely mood dependent and right now those eleven things are the most appealing out of all of my choices. 6 months from now, it is entirely probable that at least half have been replaced by something different.

It’s mid January, so sitting on my porch is not going to be happening anytime soon, but Monday morning (weather permitting) I plan on starting my work week with Panera Monday. The others will happen when the time is right.

Now that you have been introduced to the concept (and in some cases Jennifer Louden), what thrills you? What will end up on your Thimble List?

Yearnings

It’s been a long week. I started a new job on Monday. After months of being out of work, I was confronted with a commute, navigating the corporate culture, new skills to learn and an appalling lack of Liz time. My system and my soul was overloaded and I jumped from being excited about the newness of everything and depressed at how little I felt I knew and how alone and unsupported I felt because I am new. It’s not bad to be new, but I’m out of practice.

It’s Friday afternoon and it’s been really slow at work today, which has given me too much time to think. Thankfully, I’m in a mental place where my thoughts are along the lines of “what if I?” and “how can I?” instead of “What am I doing? Why did I say yes? How am I going to make it through this?” (As always, my brutal honesty streak is demanding that I acknowledge that those thoughts took over my head yesterday and even a little during my snowy and too long commute this morning.) There were times this week when I couldn’t see the possibility even in the things I’ve already accomplished and set into place. And most of the mornings I only had the energy for getting ready and playing Farmtown rather than carving out some Liz time or even mentally preparing for the day.

This morning was a little different. I still sat at my computer and gulped coffee while farming. But while I was clicking with my mouse, a voice started whispering “What if I took one Saturday morning a month and went to the Currier and wrote or walked around and looked at the art or even people watch? What if I declared Monday mornings Panera mornings and leave the house super early so I can sit in Panera for two hours before work and write or plan or create? How can I create space for everything that I want to do and balance it with everything that I need to do? What else do I want to include not only in my daily and weekly routine but how can I use what I have to create the life and the business that I dream about? What does that life and business in my dreams look like?”

I took those questions to work with me. They kept me grounded when I was upset about being late for work because the highway was even more of a parking lot than I had planned for. They amused me by playing a game of tag while I was waiting for someone to give me something to do and the words in my head weren’t cooperating with my keyboard and fingers. They gave me hope when they rested and I could ponder the “hows” and “whens” of my desire.

It’s not going to be quick. It’s not going to be simple. It’s certainly not going to be easy. I don’t know what I want exactly or how I’m going to do it. Right now, it’s enough that the desire is there and talking loud enough so I can hear it.

Questioning

Jeffrey Davis asked

What burning question of possibility will influence what & how you create these first 3 months?

I feel like I am standing in the heart of the flame and all I can see is the blues and whites of extreme heat. There is a whisper of orange and yellow from time to time, but all I see is the energy surrounding me. The flame is silent but so loud that I can feel my heartbeat rather than hear it. I’m cooking, being fired, incubating…

Possibility is writing the story on my soul. The main characters have been named, but the plot is nebulous and working itself out. I can afford patience. I’m taking tiny steps that even a month ago, I would not have believed myself capable of taking. For the first time ever, I referred to myself as an author. The world did not explode. I am still alive. There’s a peaceful acceptance in my heart now that I have claimed something I always thought myself unworthy of.

Growing Whole

 Very appropriate to post this piece that I wrote back in November. This was the first major part of my recent journey where I felt like the person I want to be. Tuesday was my second day of working in a new position. Just being out in public and having one of those normal people routines: commute, lunch, tasks, commute feels amazing. Today certain tasks became easily automatic, and as a reward, I got to prove myself by taking on a couple of new ones. It felt good to contribute and it felt amazing to be able to show my skills and talents. Another piece of me settling in to where it needs to be.


I’m more whole now than when I woke up this morning.

The closer I drove to the bed and breakfast yesterday, the deeper I entered sacred retreat space. One by one, my closest friends joined me and we started the weekend with games and jokes, beer and conversation, and best of all, the joyfulness of being together again.

I started this morning early. No prayers or ritual, just coffee, some conversation and a whole lot of setting up workstations and tool stations and the store display. After breakfast it was more of the same with greeting new arrivals mixed in.

Then I set up my computer and checked some things online when I saw it.

Before I go any further, I should explain. For almost a decade, I was a Creative Memories Consultant. I taught people how to preserve their history through scrapbooking as well as carve out some precious “me time” by attending my workshops and retreats. This career choice became as vital a part of my identity as being John’s wife and Abby’s mom and Frank’s daughter. It was part of me just as playing the clarinet or owning a yellow Beetle or bleeding red. When the company declared bankruptcy twice and ultimately restructured into a new company with new products that I had no interest in selling, I was heartbroken. I ultimately left the company I loved for so long and that started this descent into not knowing and being lost that has been my current truth for the past two years.

At the end of the summer, rumors (and later facts) about a new version of my beloved company surfaced. Last month, final details were announced and I felt a stirring inside that has been missing for longer than I’m happy to admit. This morning, I logged on my computer to discover that I had the opportunity to join the new company. I excused myself from my fellow scrapbookers because my heart felt overflowing with what ifs and hope. I decided on a walk to the dock on the lake behind our bed and breakfast. When I got outside, tiny snow flurries were flying through the air adding to the sacredness of my retreat space and giving a sense of magic and fairyland to my journey. I ran down the hill in my bare feet, long pink skirt flowing like a bride’s, until I got to the dock. Walking out onto the dock, I could slow my pace down and reverently approached the water. I stretched. I wept. I prayed. And I ran back up the hill, carrying my shoes, and back into the lodge.

Overflowing with feeling, I sat down at my laptop and began the sign up process. When I was done, I printed off my confirmation page and addressed my group of ladies. They all knew what this meant to me, having helped me grieve the loss of the previous business and give me the support I needed to find my way to where I was meant to end up. I broke down and cried while I was making the announcement, and everyone took turns hugging me and affirming my choice to take my chances with the new company.

All morning, it felt like pieces of me, the essential Liz, were shifting and repositioning themselves. As the day went on, and I followed through on these choices, pieces settled into place, as a jigsaw puzzle piece snaps into place with it’s mate. I’m still crying these tears of joy because for the first time in this long dark time, I am beginning to feel like me rather grieving for the me who used to be.

Anxiety? Or Desire?

I wrote this last fall during Jennifer Louden’s amazing Life Organizing Class. The tribe that took the class with me should recognize them. For the tribe I’ve yet to meet, I hope they help you.


I haven’t felt desire much this week. Or so I thought. I want to feel it. I go into my room hoping to feel it and up feeling overwhelmed instead and retreat to my bed with shadow comfort games. That’s where I was 15 minutes ago, sprawled on my husband’s side with my pillows on top of his when I felt the stirrings of anxiety. I listened to my body and asked myself what the trigger is. I didn’t have an answer because I wasn’t thinking triggering thoughts or doing triggering actions. In that moment, I was in a trigger free zone. Is this another facet to my illness? Do I need to do some work and discover more symptoms, triggers, coping skills? Am I getting worse?
I listened some more. I turned off the game and sat there with the anxiety beginning to tingle in my veins. I didn’t need to remind myself that I was safe and that nothing could eat me because right now, I believed it wholly. I didn’t feel the danger that usually accompanies these tingles, just the tingles getting my blood moving.

I let my thoughts wander some. By this point, my husband came in and kissed me good bye. He and out daughter Abby are off adventuring this afternoon, selecting pies for our Thanksgiving Feast and restocking their Mountain Dew supplies among other things. I got up and walked around my empty house, alone with this tingling. And my thoughts continued to wander as I looked at the parts of my house that need some attention or looked at the ingredients I will be using to make tonight’s meatloaf dinner. And I heard Lora’s voice exhorting the closet writers among us to write and I began to question.

What if this tingle I’m feeling isn’t anxiety? What if it is desire? How often do I feel desire and mistake it for anxiety because the initial sensations are the same? Am I finally understanding how to dance with anxiety? Is this what “If you are to create, you must invite anxiety in. But then you must manage it.” means? (Jen, I know those are your words, but I cannot find what book I’ve memorized them from).

I’ve noticed as I spun these words, the feeling morphed from an almost pins and needles tingling to alternating between feeling hungry and sated. Excitement races through me the same way panic does. Have I been too consumed by the fear of panic and anxiety that I have ignored the call of desire and creativity?

I need to listen some more. Something woke up inside me today. I’m not sure what it is, but I appreciate it’s arrival. I’ve taken small steps towards creativity and peace today as a result. Nothing extravagant, just large enough to be a reminder that if I move, bad things will not happen and the good things are worth it.