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The first time I read a book by Rachel Held Evans, I couldn’t put it down. My friend, Terri, had somehow recommended it, either on Facebook or Goodreads, I can’t remember exactly. I do remember, however, being intrigued by the title: A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Two pages in and I was hooked.

In the book, Rachel attempted to tackle the “rules” of being a woman, as outlined by the Bible. Every month for a year, she focused on a different trait of womanhood such as gentleness, purity, domesticity, and submissiveness. Needless to say, it was a struggle for her, especially dealing with the topics of misogyny that are prevalent throughout the Bible, but she wrote with grace and humor while maintaining respect and devotion to God and to the important messages of the Bible. She echoed many of the questions and concerns that I had had (and still have, quite frankly) about the role of women in Christianity and does a wonderful job of looking at the scriptures in a modern way. Every time I read one of her books, I have not been disappointed with her insights.

When the opportunity came to read an advance online copy of her new book, Inspired (See what I did there with the blog title?), I jumped at the chance. The Bible, for me, has its places of beauty, of history, and parts that seem glaringly appropriate just when I need them the most but, like Rachel, my experience has also included the problem of how to process the ugly parts. Advocated rape and slavery of women as spoils of war. Genocide. Murder of children. An eternal hell for people who have never even heard of Christianity, or whose experience of Christianity is extremely negative. All of these topics are sanctioned by several of the authors of the books of the Bible and have always bothered me. Thankfully, they never set well with Rachel, either, and she has written this wonderful, knowledgeable, book to help navigate those ugly parts and look at them in a different way.

Inspired

For those who are unfamiliar with her work, Rachel Held Evans was raised as an evangelical Christian with the church and God at the center of her life. As I read Inspired, as with her other books, I was drawn to parallels between her experiences in the church and mine.

I wouldn’t call my childhood church experience completely fundamental or evangelical, but it was very similar. The Bible was taken literally, was fact and law with no room for discussion. I was told how to feel, how to believe, the “correct” way to be a Christian. I learned religion, not how to think for myself or to how really love God. I was afraid; there were too many rules to follow and things that didn’t make sense. The Bible can be confusing, violent, and contradictory, leading to many unanswered questions. When I read Inspired, it brought a lot of peace to my heart.

In Inspired, Rachel tackles these issues and more including creation, evolution, stories of war, deliverance, and wisdom. Her thoughts are backed up with plenty of historical, theological, and liturgical research, culminated over years of studying the topic and from several scholars of different faiths. While her own feelings formed the basis for her interest and research, she is careful to balance it with many perspectives, including her evangelical background. She never claims to have all the answers, but presents a down-to-earth way of thinking about God and the Bible.

Rachel’s unpretentious, friendly, writing style makes it feel like she’s sitting right here with me in my living room with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Her experiences make it feel as if I grew up with her, like she was right there with me in those hard, Pine-Sol scented pews listening to the preacher, wondering why God thought that boys were better than girls, why I couldn’t be a preacher, why God told Joshua to kill everyone in Jericho, including innocent little children. She shares her journey of doubt, of anger at God for allowing horrible things to happen to innocent people, and her thirst to understand and learn. I love her candor, her humor, and her honesty. She’s a genuine, readable, author who, even with doubts of her own, demonstrates a true love for God and a thirst for the truth.

I don’t mean to imply that reading Inspired solved all of my issues about the Bible, that’s not the point. While I still have (so many) unanswered questions and problems with parts, I no longer believe that I’m wrong for feeling that way. I’m not alone; there are other Christians who feel the same, who have questions like mine. Most importantly, it’s okay to talk about it, it’s okay to doubt, it’s okay to not know the answer. Inspiredif nothing else, will make you think, something that I am certain God expects us to do for ourselves. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book: “When you can’t trust your own God- given conscience to tell you what’s right, or your own God-given mind to tell you what’s true, you lose the capacity to engage the world in any meaningful, authentic way, and you become an easy target for authoritarian movements eager to exploit that vacuity for their gain. I tried reading Scripture with my conscience and curiosity suspended, and I felt, quite literally, disintegrated. I felt fractured and fake.” That is how I felt for years: fake. Stepping away from that rigid box of what I “should” think has given me a new freedom to explore and strengthen my relationship with God. It’s not perfect, it’s a work in progress, and I believe that Inspired is a good tool to help me along the way.

Try it for yourself: https://www.amazon.com/Inspired-Slaying-Giants-Walking-Loving/dp/0718022319/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Other books by Rachel Held Evans:

Evolving in Monkeytown

Faith Unraveled

A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Searching for Sunday

Read her blog at http://www.rachelheldevans.com

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On Friday afternoons, unless it’s pouring buckets or absolutely freezing, I walk to get my lunch from an Italian restaurant near where I work. It’s not far, not quite half a mile, and it’s my treat to myself while getting in some steps to appease the Fitbit.

I’ve come to really enjoy my Friday walks. I enjoy walking in general, but walking here gives me a perspective on the vibrant neighborhood that thrives, unbelievably, in the shadow of the Ford Rouge Factory and the other factories around it.

While Ford has made great strides in cleaning up its act in recent years, the pollution is all around. You can witness it in the belching smoke stacks, the thousands of semi-trucks that thunder past my school down Wyoming every day, and in the acrid chemical smell that mingles with the mouth-watering scent of meat from Dearborn Sausage next door. There are unidentifiable black specks that coat my car some days and during lessons, train cars crash together on the tracks in the train yard directly across from the teachers’ parking lot. It’s a gritty kind of place.

The area I teach in is not a rich neighborhood, not by any means. While there are some new houses, most have been there for several decades and they look it. Some of the small front yards are fenced in and remind me of the front yards, or gardens, in England. Like any neighborhood, some yards are better taken care of than others. There are porches littered with lawn furniture for evening visits and back yards with fire pits. Broken glass litters the sidewalk in some places and there are wrappers scattered about. Still, the community in the South End is an amazing one, tightly knit together by culture, family, and tradition.

The small neighborhood is made of up of mostly Arab-Americans, mainly Yemeni, whose children I teach. Some families have been here for generations and some arrived last week. It borders on the city of Detroit and has the busy roads of Dix and Vernor running through it, where I pass by on my walk.

Dix is full of small businesses; medical buildings, a Yemeni travel agency, small grocers, and, I love this, two live poultry shops right next to each other. When I go past, I can sometimes hear the clucking and on warm days, I can definitely smell that there are live chickens. It brings me right back to the farm when I used to gather eggs in the mornings or on coop cleaning day. Friday afternoons are usually busy at the poultry shops with cars pulling up haphazardly in the parking lot and parking wherever they like. The customers nod and smile pleasantly at me every time. In fact, in my school year there, I haven’t had one unkind word, look, or gesture on my walks. It makes me feel happy.

After getting my pint of chicken pastina and bread (the bread is the entire reason for going), I head back to school. If I’ve timed it right, I hear the call to prayer coming from the mosque on Vernor, just a block away. On my way back to school, I pass all sorts of people headed to the mosque for the Friday lecture and prayers. There are older men walking alone, wearing traditional clothing, and clumps of women in black abayat, all heading to the mosque for the holy day. The call to prayer, the people walking, all contribute to the overall feeling of this part of my city like nowhere else. It has an exotic feel, a good feeling, a feeling that makes me happy to be there and witness the day-to-day busyness.

I know I’ve painted a pretty-ish picture of life in a tough area, but really, I’m struck by the people. I’m not Muslim, but I love seeing their devotion. I love seeing their pride in where they come from and how they’ve adapted their culture to life in the States. I am a recipient of their kindness and hospitality. I admire their resilience and their sense of community.  Of course, there are issues. What community doesn’t? I don’t pretend to be oblivious to that, but that’s not what this part of my city is about. That’s not what this post is about.

It’s about an observer, me, seeing the wonderful things that another culture has to offer to, just for a moment, get lost in their daily world on my Friday walk. It’s about seeing my neighbors live their lives despite the looming shadow of an industrial area. It’s about embracing all the differences of humanity and loving it for what it is.

I love my city.

The End.

 

 

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The title is self-explanatory. These are things that I don’t understand, some in good ways, some in bad ways, some in neutral ways. These are in no particular order.

  • Sushi. I know people like it, I just don’t know why. For the record, I’ve tried it a few times just to make sure. After almost hurling up the last attempt sixteen years ago, I decided that I was done. You can have my share.
  • Misogyny. Why do some men hate women and think that they are inferior? Is your ego so fragile that you can’t accept women as equals? Smh.
  • Child prodigies. Amazing, but HOW???
  • Urban sprawl. I brought my son home from college this week and we went the long way down Geddes Road. We passed a bunch of new subdivisions and all of the houses were beige. Every. Single. One. Why beige? And why don’t real estate investors put their money into revamping old neighborhoods rather than taking over wild areas? It could be awesome and not beige. Something that I think about.
  • Football. Four years of marching band and being married to a football fan for twenty-one years and I still can’t tell you what’s happening.
  • Parents who don’t parent and their kids are wild. Enough said.
  • Real Housewives of Anything. I can’t watch spoiled, middle-aged, drama queens.
  • The Bachelor or The BacheloretteNot my cup of tea (she says while watching Hoarders and Say Yes To the Dress).
  • Sardines. I’m Italian and I still don’t understand sardines.
  • Beer. I LOVE the smell of beer, I truly do, and I tried it enough times to know that it makes me nauseous when I drink it. Friends of mine are discriminating beer drinkers and love it. I wish I understood beer, but wine makes it better.
  • The Golf Channel.
  • Early morning band or sports activities on a Saturday. This is sadism, pure and simple. This goes hand-in-hand with:
  • Waking up early when you don’t have to. Nothing against early-morning people, but I’m naturally a night owl. Yes, sunrises are beautiful, especially in December when the sunrises at a decent hour, like 8 o’clock. Wake up at 5 AM in June to watch the sun come up? Nah, I’m good.
  • Lawn obsessions.
  • Mosquitoes.
  • Girl toys and boy toys. Let the kids play with what they want without putting a label on it. My boys had cars and Legos, but they also had dolls and a kitchen. Big freaking deal.
  • Pointy-toed shoes.
  • Walmart.
  • The addictive power of Cadbury Mini-Eggs.
  • Kanye West. And while I’m at it,
  • Kardashians in general.
  • The “teenage boy smell”.
  • Blue Moon Ice Cream.
  • Racism. It’s ugly. It’s ignorant. It needs to stop.
  • Giant houses. The bigger the house, the more there is to clean.
  • Unmade beds. 
  • Internet trolls.
  • Armpit hair. Why? It’s smelly and yucky and serves no purpose.
  • Purposely loud cars. 
  • Fake geese that wear clothes as porch decorations.
  • Astrophysics. 
  • Regular physics
  • Frogs legs as food. I want to know who the first person was to think, “Let’s eat a slimy frog!”
  • My life. You’d think, by now, that I’d know what I’m doing. Not true. I’m just winging it.
  • God. Not the idea of God; I’m unashamedly a believer. I just wish I knew more real information, clear-cut answers to things instead of listening to people who have twisted things to their own interpretation and agenda. I have to go by my heart and what I feel, but there are times that I would love a “what do you really think about this?” conversation with Him.

This is by no means a full list. The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t know. Some of these things I’ll work to understand, such as the God thing, but others aren’t important, just points of curiosity. In the meantime, I’m going to go look for an episode of Hoarders and chow on some Cadbury Mini-Eggs.

Feel free to comment with things that you don’t understand.

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Dear Boyos of Mine,

It’s time to think of the future. One day, I will be old. My plan is that I’ll live to be a feisty old lady with no serious illnesses and will die peacefully in my sleep, many years from now. In London. I can then just be quietly cremated with no fuss, because I will have lived a good long life. It’s a good plan, I like it.

There is a chance, though, as with all older folks, that I may not be able to take care of myself, for whatever reason. Your dad will handle it if he is able to, but the job may fall to the three of you.

I figure that I have at least a 50/50 chance of keeping my wits about me as a senior. Both of my grandmothers had forms of dementia/memory loss and had to have full-time nursing home care while my grandfathers stayed mentally sharp and passed away from physical ailments. Meanwhile, I am following every piece of advice that I can to stave off any future mental and physical issues including eating (mostly) right, daily physical exercise, music, mental workouts, and my absolute favorite, drinking (at least) a glass of red wine a night. (Don’t tell me that grape juice has the same effect. It’s not nearly as nice.)  I am truly trying to be a future trouble-free old person and lessen the burden on the three of you. But just in case you do have to put me somewhere, here are a few of my requests in advance.

  1. Don’t let the nursing home staff put little bows in my hair. I am not a poodle.
  2. Please, please, enforce my DNR. One thing that terrifies me is not being able to take care of myself and being totally dependent on others to live. Just let me go.
  3. If I say bad words, it’s okay to laugh. I went to visit one of my grandmothers at lunchtime in her nursing home a couple of months before she died. There was a lady sitting across from her being fed by an attendant who would smile wickedly, look at her attendant, and say, “Puta” (Spanish for “prostitute”) to her instead of eating her tapioca, or whatever pudding it was. The attendant would gently tell her that that it wasn’t nice to say that, whereupon the lady would smile and giggle like a naughty child and say it again: “Puta”. The attendant was struggling to keep a straight face, as was I. It was very much like listening to a toddler swear. I’ll never forget the look on her face. She knew exactly what she was doing, she was trying to get a reaction, and she knew that she nailed it. Please allow me moments like that if I’m stuck in a care facility. Humor is vital, especially in that kind of situation.
  4. Don’t talk to me like a baby. Give me my dignity. I gave birth to all of you, for God’s sake, after many hours of pain. I might be a little mentally compromised, but I’m still your mother. Try to have a normal conversation with me.
  5. Don’t let them dress me in stupid clothes. No sweatshirts with kitties or unicorns on them. I don’t wear them now and I won’t want to wear them then. I’m not five.
  6. Make sure I get a little red wine everyday. It will make me happy. Our neighbor’s mother, who is going on 102, still gets her little bit of happiness every day. Make it happen.
  7. Bring my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see me once in a while. Enough said.
  8. Don’t feel guilty for having to put me there. I can’t say how I will take it when and if the actual decision is made, but know that now, consciously, I understand that you will do what you need to do. Hopefully, I’ll make it easy on you. Dealing with the various debilitating mental issues of the elderly, or of anyone for that matter, takes a huge toll and can be more than a full time job. I don’t want you to exhaust yourself making sure that I don’t go wandering in the middle of the night. As long as I’m receiving good care, ease your mind about the whole thing.

I know, and pray, that this is probably far in the future, but I don’t want to put this off until then because if I wait, I may not be able to articulate this to you all. After watching my grandmas go through it, it terrifies me to think that it could very possibly happen to me one day, but I need to face that fear and have an outline in place.

Getting older is scary, it’s different for everyone, and I’m a control freak, as you well know. If all goes well, you won’t have to deal with any of it, but if not, just print out a copy of this and all will be fine.

Love you all,

Mama

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I’m becoming jaded by the news and I don’t like it. I detest the ugliness, racism, misogyny, lies, and disregard for the environment in our country today and it makes me feel hopeless. I don’t understand why people intentionally ignore facts, excuse blatant wrongs, hurt each other, and don’t take responsibility for their actions. I don’t understand why adults ridicule traumatized children. This country needs a big dose of Dr. Phil and/or God right now, but I have to focus on something else for a minute. I have to, or else the anxiety becomes my whole world. I have to focus on good, beautiful things that I love. Here are some of them.

  • My husband, for so many things, but his hand on my hip as we sleep is something that makes me love him all the more. I’m a light sleeper and I have a lot of bad dreams. Most of the time, when I wake up, Marty is there, a reassuring presence who makes everything alright. (Even if he is snoring loudly.)
  • My boys, individually and all together. They’re so unique, I love talking with each of them alone. And then, when they’re together, it’s like having a heap of puppies romping through the house, except the puppies shoot dart guns, play baseball, and creatively insult each other.
  • Fuzzy kittens. Enough said.
  • My neighborhood party store. Brothers Steve and Randy know me and sell me my weekly MegaMillions ticket on my runs. It’s like Cheers, but not a bar.
  • My theatre. Well, not my theatre. My niece thought I owned it, but no, lol. It’s a place where I’m accepted and I can be myself. I can express myself. A nice place to be.
  • My penpal/dear friend, Sabrina. She lives an ocean away, but is such a kindred spirit. And she puts up with my crappy Italian.
  • Music. It gives so much meaning to life. Hamilton, Pentatonix, and Lindsey Stirling are my current obsessions.
  • Writing. I have an outlet. I’m sort of good at it, but still have a lot to learn. This week, I completed a novel on Bessie Blount, the real one, not the sleazy HBO version. Accomplishment.
  • Babies. Babies are my heart, my joy. Incredible innocence. They’re a promise that life goes on.
  • My church. My church is progressive, including people of all races and sexual identities. I love that.
  • London. London is my dream, my hope, my destiny. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere in the world. Six years now… it’s been too long.
  • Italy. Italy is life to the tenth power. I can’t wait to get back.
  • Cadbury Mini-Eggs. Can’t help it, I adore them.
  • History
  • My therapist, Renee. She’s listened to me for seven years now and I adore her. Most of the time. Not when she’s telling me something that I don’t want to hear, but I know it’s for my own good, but, yeah, she’s awesome.
  • Ireland. Such fond memories of an impossibly beautiful place where I went with some amazing people.
  • Genealogy. I’m a sucker for historic records and long-ago grandparents.
  • Easter candy. Right now, this is an essential part of my diet.
  • God. I saved the best for last. Prayer is essential in these times of confusion/craziness and God remains my rock, every day. My spirituality keeps me centered, grounded, and keeps me sane.

Take some some time and reflect on what makes you happy. Leave it as a comment if you like. I’d love to hear what you love.

Until next time, a presto.

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From my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a mother. I had a bevy of babies that I would wrap up, feed bottles to, change diapers, and talk to, including my actual baby doll, Jill, three Cabbage Patch kids, and an assortment of stuffed animals. They are some of the very few things that I saved from my childhood. I loved playing mommy, it was always in me, and I looked forward to the day when I would have my own real babies.

When those real babies began arriving, I was exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed or irritated, but totally and completely in love. I still am, even though they’re all bigger than me now. My job was very simple to me: I was entrusted with these new souls, these helpless little squishy beings that I brought into the world and depended on me for everything. It was my job to protect and nurture them into becoming caring and wonderful adults one day. Did I and do I continue to make mistakes? Oh, yes, indeed. There are things about raising them that I would go back and do differently if I could, times when I let adult problems overwhelm me and I would lose focus, times when I was just too tired to play or I didn’t listen properly. But I will tell you this: I tried my best to make sure that they knew that they were loved and wanted, no matter what. I hope they felt that way, I hope they still do, because I wouldn’t trade them, or the experience of raising them, for the world

That being said, I know that not all women are geared that way and I get that. I have dear friends who have always loved on my kids and the kids of other friends and family, but are very content not having any of their own. I admire that, because, let’s face it: there’s a lot of pressure for not only women, but people in general, to have children. Kids are a humongous life change and commitment, but society pressures couples to have them anyway. Women especially, who choose to remain childless, are often called selfish or unnatural if they choose to not have kids, a totally unfair judgement. Society doesn’t make it easy to make those decisions permanent, either. Women of childbearing age who seek out voluntary sterilization are often turned down by doctors, told that one day they may change their minds. How insulting! Sterilization is a pretty intense operation for a woman, I seriously doubt that anyone would go through that on a whim, not to mention that it is incredibly condescending to question a decision like that, but I digress.

So, why am I writing about this? I read an article the other day that infuriated me about parents who regret being parents, which again, I understand that someone could feel that way.  In a perfect world, every baby would be wanted and born into a loving environment where all of their needs are met. Unfortunately, not every child brought into this world is wanted or loved. People have children sometimes because they feel like they are supposed to, because of restrictive birth control issues, or because it’s expected, rather than having a real desire to parent. It would be a terribly difficult situation to be in, one that isn’t true for me, but I definitely have sympathy for those who find themselves there.

No, my beef isn’t with parents who regret having children, it’s with the parents who regret having children and then publicly tell the world about it at the expense of the feelings and well-being of those children. That second part is definitely not okay.

There have been several articles written in the past few years by both women and men who regret having children and then decide to write about it, using their own names and stories, such as in the case of Corinne Maier, author of No Kids: 40 Reasons Not To Have Children.  Google it, it’s amazing how many sources there are. As much as I think that those feelings of regret are legit for a lot of people, is it really ethical to air those grievances when those very children will very likely hear or read them one day? Simple answer: No! No, it isn’t. It’s never okay for a child to hear that they should never have been born.

To be fair, many of these articles contain comments from parents who are remaining anonymous or who are using pseudonyms. There are even closed Facebook groups for parents who regret having kids, with the idea that it is a support group. Again, I understand that those feelings are real, even among parents who initially wanted children, and having an outlet to discuss those feelings with others could definitely be therapeutic. In fact, I think that therapy is an excellent idea in general. But it was shocking to me to see how many parents did not bother to conceal their identities, who openly stated that their lives would have been better if they had never had their kids.

Normally, I’m all about being open to ideas and feelings, truly I am. I draw the line, though, when airing those ideas and feelings can only serve to hurt innocent people, especially kids. Kids can’t fight for themselves, they need adults to stand up and do it for them. If your own parent doesn’t accept you, how does that shape your self-worth in relation to the rest of the world? Articles and statements like that are extremely damaging.

Children have no choice about whether they are born or not. They come into this world as innocents, helpless and needy. Part of parenting is to not only fulfill their physical needs, but their mental and emotional ones. When those needs are not met, the emotional damage is extreme and lasts a lifetime. I’m no psychologist, but I’ve had the very eye-opening experience of working with children who were victims of abuse and neglect for most of their lives. Underneath the exterior of violent outbursts and abusive speech, they were still children, desperately looking for someone to trust, for someone to love them. The child who had cussed me out right and left and tore my room apart one day would come into my classroom the next day, lay his head on my shoulder for the entire lesson, tell me that I was the best teacher ever, and let me mother him a little. As damaged as they were, that instinct to be taken care of, to feel that someone out there gives a damn, was still present, as it is in all children.

Children not only want, but need to feel loved and accepted by their parents; it’s a basic life necessity. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen. Families can be dysfunctional. There are so many world problems that it can be difficult to be present with kids and to give them everything they need. But what purpose does it serve to tell a child that if you had to do it over again, you wouldn’t have had them, that they should never have been born, that they should not exist? It’s selfish and destructive, no good can come from it. I can’t even imagine it’s cathartic for the person saying it. What comes next after that moment? What do you say when your child reads in an article or a book that your life has been dismal since he or she came along? How would you ever repair that? I don’t know if you could.

We live in a society where everything is overshared. Social media provides an easy platform for us to get things off our chests and say things online in the heat of the moment, especially when we’re angry or frustrated. I know that I’ve been guilty of that, especially when social media first started becoming a thing. Opening up about things, speaking one’s mind, and speaking truth are all very trendy, but I firmly believe that there are some things that should not be publicly shared. Telling your kids that you regret having them is one of those things.

So, what to do then with those feelings if one has them? Again, therapy is GREAT. I should know, I’ve been in it long enough. There could also be underlying problems that a therapist could diagnose that might be contributing to those feelings, such as depression or anxiety. From what I’ve read in these articles (I tended to be a bit obsessed once I started reading), there are also support groups where one can talk about these feelings without hurting the children involvedHopefully, actively addressing those feelings and having a support system instead of taking them out on kids will help temper the angst into something more manageable.

A wise neighbor once told me that with children, the days can be long, but the years are short. As parents, we only have so much time with our kids, especially when they’re little. We think the sleepless nights will never end, the diapers will never end, baseball season will never end (oops, maybe that one’s just me), but it all will and one day, they’ll be gone and the house will be empty. Depending on who you are, this might make you happy, or, in my case, you will tear up every time they leave after a visit home. Whatever the case, a parent’s job is to turn out grown kids who are prepared to be a contributing member of society. If a child believes that he or she should never have been here, what motivation will they have to believe in themselves, to be joyful, to have a happy life?

To wrap it all up, parents have good days, parents have bad days. It’s a parent’s job to raise the children they have to the best of their ability, whether they regret having them or not. It can be a tough racket at times, mistakes will be made, but if you brought them into the world, you owe it to them to give them every possible chance at having a successful life. That starts at home, in the heart.

Until next time.

 

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I was cleaning our bedroom yesterday, not just the weekly maintenance of taking water glasses downstairs or popping stray socks in to the hamper, but get-out-the-Pledge-and-dustrags-and-Swiffer type cleaning. True confession: I’m not a fastidious housekeeper. I really hate taking time out to clean, although I like a clean house and am a bit of a germaphobe, so I compromise with myself. I keep the kitchen, living room, and the main bathroom consistently clean, but the bedroom, while everything has its place, does not get the dusting and floor attention it deserves. Every couple of months or so, it finally gets to me enough that I dive in and do it, but there is a healthy accumulation of dust in the meantime. I really am okay with it, though. Life’s too short, although my husband and our kids would tell you that I always worry about cleaning. It’s all about perspective, right?

Anyway, I also usually do a purge of clothes, shoes, and costume jewelry at this time of year which involves going through all of the drawers, the closet, and such. I also go through the little drawers on top of my dresser where I keep treasured letters and cards that I have received over the years, including a letter that my father wrote to his father in March of 1973. I know that it’s there, but every time I go through that drawer, I pull it out to read. It makes me feel close to him and every time I read it, I gain new insight into his thoughts.

The letter was written at a time when my dad was trying to find himself. From other writings of his that I’ve read, I knew he felt like he didn’t quite fit, that he struggled with what was expected of him, and what his feelings were. To me, he sounds a lot like me.

The letter comes from California. He was nineteen at the time and had left home to go and live with his oldest sister, my aunt, in the land of peace and love. He had dropped out of high school, despite having a high IQ, had been honorably discharged from the Navy after only a few weeks, and really didn’t seem to have a direction in life. He and my mom had been dating on again, off again and things weren’t certain. He tempered his emotions and discontent with other substances, especially weed. He wasn’t getting along with his dad and wanted a fresh start out on the west coast.

The letter is dutiful in the beginning, telling his father all about what they have been doing in California and what the weather was like. Then, a tone of regret as he tells his father that when he gets home, he would like to talk to him, really talk to him, even though they had had their differences in the past. An attempt at reconciliation. He goes on to say that things were much better between him and my mother (A good thing, or I probably wouldn’t be writing this) and then delves into the environmental requirements of cars and lawn mowers in California, a much more comfortable subject for him.

It’s all very cool to read and sentimental, but the thing about this particular letter that floors me every time is that at the time he wrote it, he had just over a year to live. That’s it. On March 22, 1974, one week and three weeks later, he would lose his young life in an impaired car accident. Did he know that? Of course not. And that’s what brings me back to that letter again and again, forcing me to think about things that I would rather push to the side.

We don’t know when our last day will be. We have no clue. When my father wrote that letter, he had no idea that he wouldn’t live to essentially grow up, that he would never see his only child born, that he would never be able to fully repair that relationship with his father, that he wouldn’t marry my mother as he had planned to do. Those plans would never happen and it was terribly tragic, leaving so many people with holes in their hearts, including me, who never got to meet him.

My point is this: we all have plans, every single one of us. I don’t mean plans like redoing the kitchen or taking books back to the library, I mean real plans, like telling someone that they’re loved, or forgiving an old hurt, Plans like making a wrong right, or at least taking responsibility for it. Plans like letting someone know that you were wrong, asking for forgiveness, or maybe letting someone know that they touched your life in some way.  Maybe you need to make a life choice that involves taking a risk in order to be happy. You know, the important things, the things that you would deeply regret if you didn’t do them.

I don’t mean to imply that we should try to repair bridges with everyone who hurt us. There are definitely people who are toxic, who are the sources of trauma, who would hurt us again and again, physically or emotionally, and we should stay far away. I would never reconcile with my abuser or let him into my life in any way. That kind of situation is better left to trying to internally forgive and move on to bring closure rather than to make sense of what happened or connect with those involved. But there are other situations that can be fixed or at least improved.

New Year’s Day is coming up in two more days, a day of resolutions and new beginnings. Maybe, instead of halfheartedly resolving to quit smoking or to lose weight, we can resolve to try and heal an area of our lives. What have you been putting off that keeps whispering in your ear every now and again?

Many of us, myself included, don’t like making the first move on anything. My anxiety issues make me prone to obsessing over the worst possible outcomes until that seems worse than what I had originally intended to do, so I usually don’t. But what if we knew that we only had a year left, unlike my father? Would that spur us on to reach out, to make that connection to say what needs to be said? Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t. The thing is, we just don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We’re not promised tomorrow, whether we like thinking about it or not. What would be your biggest regret if you died tomorrow?

I haven’t put the letter away just yet because it’s been sitting on my mind this whole time and I knew I needed to write about what was inside. It’s sitting on my dresser, my father’s handwriting, the paper he touched and folded into a makeshift envelope staring at me. As I’m getting ready to click “Publish” on this post, I feel that urgency draining away and I’ll be able to return it to its accustomed spot in the little drawer, but I know that my mind will wander back when I think about him and out it will come. Even though he’s gone, my father is still teaching me life lessons.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy and Blessed New Year. Peace to you in 2018.

 

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