take your idyllic life and shove it

It used to be white picket fences. Now, pretty sure it’s more along the lines of a 2500 sq. ft. house in the burbs.

I had a white picket. I built it around my heart. (Oddly enough, there was one in front of our very first house and every day, the school kids would scribble words like fuk on it- go figure.)

For far too long I cultivated and conjured the idyllic life. Pretty. Well ordered. Adorned. I thought I had it. Then it slowly disintegrated like a prim mirage in a heat wave.

Finally, the pickets came out one by one. They all had names like perfectionism, self-righteousness, obedient children, financial security, or dream vacations. I am certain a few were taken out by gale force winds of upheaval.

Without that fence, my life felt bare and exposed. This was new ground to tread and nothing appeared picturesque at all.

I have to talk myself out of panic attacks. My toilet hasn’t seen a brush in two weeks. My kids sometimes call each other the “d” words. I look in the mirror most days and think, “Oh crap. The old grey mare ain’t what she used to be.” I can’t paint my rented walls that eggshell shade.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You should see what’s underneath.

Idyllic? No. Ideal? Rarely. Fabulous? Working on it {most days}.

I’m glad that fence came down. It was freedom that I never knew I wanted or needed. Freedom from expectations and confines and religiosity and so-called bliss.

This life of mine is not very neat and tidy but I love it, every weird, loud, emotional, uncertain moment of it.

If I want idyllic, I’ll have to go to Disneyland.

Life is Like an Unfinished Painting

I used to dabble in art, but if I was being honest, I probably got less than 5% of any artistic genetics (okay maybe more like 2%).

Yesterday, my son went to one of those “learn to paint in an afternoon” places. His entire class painted the same scene (Does this seem healthy for an 8th grader’s self-esteem?) and let me tell you, the results were stunning- in good and bad ways. Clearly, art is one of those things – you either “have it” or you don’t.

Seeing this masterpiece my son painted reminded me that I have not done a “Life is like…” post in awhile. So, you guessed it: Life is like an unfinished painting. Unfinished because we never to get see the end result so to speak.

I do know just a tad about painting. You have brushes, oil paints, an easel, a smock (what a weird word), oh and a canvas- a pristine, vibrant white canvas. That is how we start out in this world.

Then little by little color is added, shapes appear. Different brushes are used to create smaller or larger swaths of color. The brushstrokes begin to fade and the beginnings of a picture emerge.

Sometimes the mood is foreboding, the dusky shadows are added- black, grey or brown, then softer hues add a splash of highlight- a brilliance that wasn’t present before comes alive.

Each person we interact with paints using their own technique upon our canvas, some for beauty, (hopefully most), and some for distastefulness.

The choices we make and roads we amble down add a depth and texture, like when the thickness of the paint comes off the canvas in dimensions.

God paints whether you think He does or not. As divine creator He has a picture planned from eternity past- and His brushstrokes are transcendent but not always good, seemingly. He sees the finished work unlike anyone else does.

With time, the picture looks like something. Layer upon layer the colors mingle and definitive lines resemble what it was meant to be. Everyone a distinct picture. No two alike.

In different lighting, it can take on a new perspective, as does the distance one stands from the canvas.

And it goes on like that until, the very last inhale and exhale of life. Then our canvas is filled and only those who live on after us see the final product.

Let us strive for a masterpiece, a legacy for those who gaze upon it, a picture worth admiration and emulation.

In the Ashes

I’m sitting in the ashes.

The grey char has dirtied my clothing and skin but I don’t care. I am content to be here. It’s my season.

We often fear the ashes. They feel unclean and our society balks against dirtiness. They leave indelible stains and we are all about removing those. Their particles permeate the air and our lungs must have only pure oxygen.

Now I sit, sometimes in silence, but only silence on the outside. Inside, there are scenes playing in rapid fire succession. Poignant moments. Warmth of embraces. Snippets of conversations. Compliments. Rebukes. Twinkling eyes. Silly jokes. Dinners, coffees, donuts. Hundreds of thousands of moments. Sweet but aching all at once.

Sometimes the ash is mingled with tears- copious amounts of them; tears of anger mixed with expletives like f**k cancer and “why don’t I have parents” questions. Then drops of anguish or fear come splashing out, fear of my own mortality (will I get cancer too?) and anguish- the crushing kind where your chest feels heavy from a broken heart.

I get up and walk away from the ashes because I have to. Life goes on around me- homework, work, bills, dinners, grocery shopping. Then I go back, not because I have to, but because I want to. It’s my season and it will soon be a distant memory, not forgotten, just moved past.

I am not afraid here. These ashes are a reminder- a sobering one- that life is like a mist but there is an eternity that awaits us; that a life lost is not a life forgotten. As the soot cannot be easily removed from anything it touches, so grief stains our entire being in a somber grey. But I will rise from the ashes a better person.

my so-called-insta-life

Pictures are stories captured in moments. (Or so that’s what my Instagram blurb says.)

It IS true. The shutter opens and closes for less than a second and depending on how fancy shmancy your device is, you can have a 40 picture burst in a mere 2.5 seconds.

Then you crop and chop and filter and frame– and VOILA- out comes the image we pass on about our lives to how many ever followers or friends we have.

It’s so simple. But is it? What you didn’t see are all the mistakes and outtakes, all the before filter blemishes and lighting issues, or more importantly the emotions that no emoticon could quite convey.

So here’s the lowdown: my beautiful picture of the beach was amidst a heart full of worry and turmoil. The cute one with my teenagers had a prelude of not-so-nice sibling spats and concluded with complaints about “how ugly I look in every picture”. The one with my hubby (where we look so in love after 22 years) was taken after a couple days of exhausted tension in which countless conversations seemed to fall on deaf ears for us both.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash on social media pics or the evils of selfies or the perfectly coifed and highly filtered shots we post. (I always find it strangely ironic when people complain about that through the conduit of social media!)

Rather, I am simply reminded that life is like the photos we share, snapshots into a larger world- a moment in time that passes as quickly as our shutter speed. And often, it is not all it appears to be.

Maybe you’re going through hell right now, waiting with baited breath for this season to be over. The shutter can’t close quickly enough on life as you know it.

Perhaps, the picture you posed for is a moment you wish could last forever, hoping by the image captured, you will be able to conjure this blissful memory for years to come.

Whatever the case, good or bad, the moment will pass soon enough. If you look longingly into the snapshot of someone else’s life, it may appear glamorous, exciting, perfect even, but it’s not. It really isn’t. Remember that you can never know the “before filter or effects” version of their picture. You see what they want you to. The pixels on the screen only tell a fraction the story.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s stop pretending that all those words are amazing, beautiful and stunning because they are not. In fact, some are downright ugly and painful. But some truly are magical and lovely, picture stories that will linger on for years to come.

30 Days Without

 

sugarspoon-5ee1d9cf2615c976d34480051e0cba6762f7cf81-s6-c30I did IT! I really did not believe I could, but I did AND I LIVED to tell about it :).

For a variety of health related issues, I decided to do something radical (for me):

Cut out all forms of sugar- yes, even honey, agave, stevia, et al. Cut out all white things- rice, flour (wheat and white). Cut out all dairy- my beloved cheese and even butter. Cut out all alcohol- yes, I live in NAPA after all.

Here are my take aways from 30 Days Without:

~ Week One… was pure torture- genuine bona fide food withdrawal hell. I went sulking around, feeling sorry for myself, questioning why on earth I would decide to do such an absurd thing!! I wasn’t trying to get in touch with my Neanderthal relatives by eating paleo (as if I could even do that- I choke most meat down as it is). I drug myself around with zero energy and a hungry tummy. My family shook their heads at me. Opening the pantry, I’m pretty sure the chocolate chips would whisper my name sometimes.

~ The second week was better. I went to Peet’s Coffee and ordered an almond milk latte’ and it was delicious. (NO, I refused to give up my beloved cup of coffee.) I began to notice how sweet ordinary things tasted- lettuce, peas, carrots. I felt less deprived, but still craved a piece of bread- just one little whole grain piece with just a wee bit of butter perhaps. SIGH… I finally figured out how to feed myself alternatives and I cannot tell you how copious my almond and cashew intake was. Raw almond butter was my everyday rave.

~ Week three- I kind of hate to say it out loud, but I felt good and pretty darn proud of myself (although you can’t know how many times I wanted to just grab a spoon, pour some honey in it, and savor the pure ecstasy). The big test came- baking chocolate chip cookies for my dad, who had come for a visit. I solemnly do swear that I did not have a granule of the dough or cookies. (I might have snuck a lick from the spatula of the peanut butter pie I made though- SHHHH.)

~ At the beginning of the fourth week, I finally discovered there are alternatives for “baking”. After a run to Trader Joes for coconut flour and flaxseed meal, I whipped up my own banana bars, using NO sugar. Although the texture was not a satisfying buttery baked goodie, the taste was surprisingly sweet. Even my oldest son partook and thought it was decent. This week found me resolved and steadfast- and UBER SICK OF SALADS WITH VEGAN DRESSING. Ok, but truth be told, I was not missing the cheese, or wine or butter any longer.

I was an addict going through a sort of detox. After the initial feeling like I might die, and the looking longingly into the bag of chocolate chips, I dug in mentally (See, stubbornness IS good for something!)

Then, the 30 days was over and I ate my first chocolate chip cookie. I wasn’t that impressed. In fact, I kind of thought, “What’s the big deal?”

And I thought of a parable for life: We often think we want something. Maybe do this one thing or get this other thing because we think we deserve it or it makes our lives better. It turns out to be not that great after all. It takes our focus away from something much, much better.

Do I intend to eat this way forever? Heck, no. But I learned a thing or two about will power and the bewitching affect something like sugar can have in the mind and body.

I’m actually looking forward to baking up some healthy vegan muffins AND sinking my teeth into a decadent chocolate brownie topped with sea salted caramel from time to time!

Windows

We spend our lives looking in and out of windows.

Upon waking every day, the first thing I do is go turn on the coffee pot and open up my kitchen window’s blind. I look out and determine what kind of day it is: grey and foggy, cool or warm, bright and sunny. In that moment, I also assess the view in a purely metaphysical way. What kind of day lies ahead? Happy, melancholy, worrisome, carefree, over scheduled, relaxed, burdened, peaceful?

Windows are like snap shots- just a portion of a bigger picture.

If we look in the window of someone else’s life, it may appear picturesque- almost perfect. Envy arises because perhaps this view is so wholly unlike our own. But remember this: don’t be deceived. Just like the display widows at a department store, it shows the best, the prettiest, the coolest, the most alluring, the trendiest, the slickest, the most put together items to be found. It is a living mirage that doesn’t look like that outside the large plate glass.

It’s funny how, even looking out our own window, shows only a sliver what’s beyond. It may appear to be a beautiful day, but what I don’t know is that just a few houses down, an ambulance has arrived to take someone away in it.

Maybe it is time to change perspective, to remind yourself that the view from a window is just a snap shot, a still frame in the bigger picture of life and yours is never going to be just like anyone else’s. Or maybe your window has been far too long covered with filth, making the view of even a lovely day impossible to see.

i am ALIVE again!

It’s been far too long.

I’ve missed this.

You know how when you don’t do something for a really long time, you feel a sense of paralysis to tackle it again?!

That’s been me.

Why is that? We shy away from the very thing that helps make a better us.

For me, it’s been fear- fear that I have nothing valuable or clever to say, fear that I will present a post that is boring or grammatically incorrect (for shame, you know), fear that the FEARS I am currently facing in my life would bleed through to my writing and readers would play on their tiny violin when reading my failures. I am so often constrained by expectations still (need to work on this more)!

But then it hit me: I write because I love it. I write because it frees my mind. I write because if one person can resonate with my thoughts or feelings and it encourages or helps them, my heart is HAPPY!

My blog means something to me and I have neglected it. I intend to change that starting today. You may find an occasional syntax error and I might just type some offensively strong language at times, but I am OK with that.

I strive towards integrity in all things and this can be done only through candor and without fear.

To that end I will write. Hang on. It might be crazy!

 

Plainly,

Jane

 

 

 

 

 

 

pinball brain

You know how when toddlers get quiet, you suspect something is amiss? Well, my lack of blog posts say the same thing about me.  My mind has been, shall we say, a little off kilter?!

I like to call it pinball brain. When I am under a certain amount of tension, my thoughts ping around in no linear fashion; once in a while hitting their target, mostly falling short and definitely going all over the place.

So without further ado, my friends, you will get a glimpse into the madness that has been pinging around. Have fun! 🙂

~ I promise, cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye (why, oh why, did we ever say things like that as kids?! Talk about macabre rhymes!) to NEVER, EVER again give any other woman the “elevator stare”. I observed this phenomenon twice in the same Trader Joe’s shopping trip and it was disturbing. It’s a catty woman thing- up and down the eyes go, scanning body type, hair and possible outfit blunders- mostly in an effort to make sure your posterior looks better than hers. Female to female elevator looks are NOT innocently motivated. Trust me.

~ On a slightly related note, please, please can we make some rules regarding the legging trend? Like, if I can READ your underwear THROUGH your leggings, you need to change (or wear a longer shirt)! Those are tights not leggings. For Pete’s sake. I now know that my optometrist’s receptionist bought her skivvies in the PINK section of Victoria’s Secret! Her butt said it 20 times.

~  My new job is spending every morning in the presence of 12 three-year olds. I love it! My heart melted when one little girl said (after knowing me for a few short hours), “Teacher, I love you.”  Preschoolers are the most accepting, non-judgemental types. They don’t care what you look like or if you have coffee breath. They love you. As a side note, I have wiped copious amounts of snot on faces, smelled strange odors wafting up from nether regions and I was called, “Teacher Poo-poo” today. Little cuties.

~ Raising kids sucks- the life out of you sometimes. Toddlerhood for its ever active, always exhausting, temper tantrum phase, had nothing on teenagers… But seriously, I pretty much have been through a proverbial meat grinder emotionally this past month with child issues. You pour heart and soul into them, then (some of them) grow up, take your heart and stomp on it. I am left picking up the pieces, while mentally batting down all the evil voices in my head telling me I failed, am a loser and I did everything wrong. Guilt can kill all sense of joy, but I fight it tooth and nail, knowing God loves my kids WAY more and WAY better than I ever could anyways.

~ God is good. I don’t always FEEL it though especially when I find out that a sweet friend is likely to lose both parents within the same year to cancer. I don’t feel it when a friend calls and says her daughter ran away. That is why, I am increasingly convinced to know God better- to understand Him as best I can, study His nature, character and attributes. Knowing how very good He is, feeling HOW much grace He pours out on undeserving me and seeing His providential work in my daily life makes me awestruck. For real.

~ And finally, music. I love it. Words, notes, melodies, instruments, tempos- they speak to my inner person like nothing else can. Lately, I’ve been enjoying a cornucopia of sounds and especially liking newcomer Lorde (even before she won all the Grammy awards) and This Song.Who can be sad listening to this?

why?

You know how toddlers cutely, inquisitively and annoyingly ask, “Why?” one hundred fifty times everyday? Yeah. Well, sometimes my inner toddler just won’t quit. It queries all day long like a song on repeat.

Fortunately for you, dear readers, these questions have a bit more depth than a 3 year-old but can be equally perplexing (if not even unanswerable).

Here’s what’s been bobbling around my head (and this is just today)! {Do you ever wonder these things? Or am I the only one with this intense toddler like curiosity?}

– Why is it that when a celebrity succumbs to reckless or naughty behavior, we fiendishly mock, ridicule and scoff at their downfall? Stupid people do stupid arrest worthy things everyday. Shame on us for delighting in it. It shows what man worshippers we can be.

– Why do those over shared “you’re gonna bawl your eyes out”, “watch this with a box of tissues”, “I dare you to get through this without crying” videos NEVER even make me tear up? Am I some cold hearted, non-emotional creature that feels no connection to cute babies, animals or sappy love stories? My heart strings are not easily tugged apparently.

– Why do some of my friends continue to have Mount Everest amounts of crap happening in their lives right now? Again and again. Over and over, dealing with pain, suffering, sadness, disappointment. I wish I could take a Mount McKinley sized piece of it from them. Lighten their load. Make them breathe easier. Find an easy cure or magical potion to make it all better.

– Why do things really break in triplicate? Or why do car repair places always find additional repairs to recommend while fixing the original issue- as if the costs were not already making you bleed out?

– Why are teenagers walking oxymorons whose ideas wax and wane more than the phases of the moon; whose emotions yin and yang more than all the 80’s surf shirts still in existence? And WHY oh why do do they eat so strangely, have such filthy mouths and sleep either like a hibernating bear or like an always prowling cat?

– Why are some days just ethereal in nature and I find myself subconsciously saying: La Vita y Bella, smiling at the silliness of my children’s antics, fondly recalling the dashing bravery of my husband to go out and face the world for us everyday? When, why on other days (and for no apparent reason at’all), I feel a dark force hanging like a rain cloud around me, weighing down the very core of my being and making me mope around like Eeyore?

– Why do people seem to weave in and out of my life for different seasons? Or why does it seem so hard to make lasting friendships at this age, when as a kid, you could make a best friend in 5 minutes?

What bobbles around your head? Do tell.

Decade Dreams

Warning: This is likely to be bit cheeky and long but won’t you come, take a walk with me down four decades of my own memory lane.

Decade One- I was given life (which in my case really is an extra special miracle because my mom’s doctor told her to abort me- true story). Earliest memory: sitting near my mom as she whipped up another perfect item on her Singer sewing machine. Copious amounts of pb & j’s were consumed as well as a variety of foods cooked in bacon grease. At the age of 6, the family moved to the boonies where I spent the rest of an uneventful early childhood. First decade dreams: simple girlish fancies: lovely play things, sibling & parent love, a new Barbie, more Nancy Drew books.

Decade Two- Totally tubular preteen & teen years spent doing like the raddest stuff ever: sleepovers, pigging out on ice cream, dancing to my personal mix tape of Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, LL Cool J, Madonna, et al.  I was all over the place emotionally & stylistically: one day depressed emo girl, one day sunny SoCal surfer chick, one day laid back gypsy boho. Tragic to this decade would be the diagnosis of my mom’s 10-year cancer battle. Tremendous to this decade- married my college sweetheart at the ripe old age of 19! Second decade dreams: a boy to call my own (check), a friend to laugh with (lots of checks), be done with the misery called “high school” & embark on a bright future.

Decade Three- Words to sum up this decade would be: CRAZY, BUSY, SLEEP DEPRIVED and HARD LESSONS.  Birthing 3 babes in 10 years is a feat of epic proportions! Oh and add wifehood- the “hood” so often over romanticized, sexually glamorized and morally idolized. The honeymoon was over before our honeymoon was over and ay caramba I had a whole lotta learnin’ to do! Being a wife and mommy opened my eyes to many short comings in myself, but BY THE GRACE of God, I made it out alive! My babies grew and I grew. Third decade dreams: SLEEP (a lot of it), peace and quiet, no more poopy diapers and becoming more than just a better Betty Crocker wife.

Decade Four- I remember turning 30 like it was yesterday! With my 20’s over, I was sure that life was spiraling  quickly downward. (I stopped short of preparing my eulogy though!) Halfway through, I was diagnosed with a congenital hip defect that required major reconstructive surgery. Can I just say for the record- THAT SUCKED BIG TIME!? Yes, if I thought the last decade was hard, this one was too- in totally different ways- a complicated, intricate web of both beauty and beast. Poopy diapers and loss of sleep has nothing on raising teenagers into adulthood either!

As decade four draws to a close, I am strangely overcome with a transcendent feeling of calm. Like never before, I am at peace with myself, confident of my (more) saggy skin, my more ample thighs and very graying hair. And my dreams? They are bigger and brighter than ever!

I want to dig deeper intellectually. I want to live stronger emotionally and physically. I want to give more time to people who are needy and less to myself.  I want to be free of shackles like caring more than I should what other people think of me and being afraid to try new stuff. I want my love for God to grow so pervasive, that it fills me up and spills out everywhere.

Here’s to my forties!!!