Monday, October 26, 2009

Regarding Car Conversations

Car conversations. I'd been thinking about this topic for about a day when my friend Tammy Mortenson Sharp called just to touch base. Everytime we talk (and we really should find the time to do it more), we share memories, thoughts and feelings on a wide variety of topics. The conversations alway include updates on our children, bathed in an awareness that we have both become acquainted with rare brands of grief: hers for a child lost too early to cancer; mine for dreams that fall outside the reality of what my life is now.

Last night Tammy shared a conversation that she and her husband had with their daughter Kelly one day while riding in the car. They were coming home from the doctor's appointment where they had learned that Kelly's cancer had returned. Tammy said Kelly intuitively knew she'd not survive her cancer, and the conversation quickly turned to all the things she'd never get to experience: a real boyfriend, marriage, children, sex.

I shared what I'd been thinking about car conversations with Tammy, knowing that she'd connect with the layers of emotion present in those sacred car rides - the kind that carry you from oblivious to knowing.

You travel to medical tests and then return to face the new reality the tests revealed. Or, you ride in silence, wrestling with loud, private thoughts that won't let you revisit old ways. Or, you sit passively, welcoming God's active involvement in life - if only.

I offer this to you - to all who've known the complexity of car conversation with divine implications. Here I briefly reflect on a few car conversation memories of my own with a promise to share those still too raw to describe.

Warning: Sorry about the audio on this one. I wasn't aware of how much the car windshield would magnify the sound. Be ready to adjust your volume.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Different Lives - A Life of Hope

Remember sixth grade? How we became aware of our differences – internal and external – but were not attuned enough to understand how those differences would shape us into grown ups?

I remember that preteen phenomenon in tonight's vlog, courtesy of a school vocal concert, while also remembering a six-year-old named Claire who's life has become different overnight. Claire contracted H1N1 in the first days of October and has been struggling to breathe on her own ever since. This weekend her recovery became even more complicated. I tell you about that tonight, too, and invite you to join me in sending large doses of hope to her, her sister, her mom, her dad, and all those who love her. While I have never had the pleasure of meeting this family personally, I empathize with the new realities that now shape their lives individually and collectively.

I'm finding a tie that binds in the words of a song by Z. Randall Stroope called "Inscription of Hope." The lyrics were written on the cellar wall of a German home by someone of the Jewish faith during the Holocaust.

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining,

And I believe in love even when there’s no one there.

And I believe in God even when He is silent,

I believe through any trial there is always a way.

But sometimes in this suff’ring and hopeless despair,

My heart cries for shelter, to know someone’s there.

But a voice rises within me saying hold on my child,

I’ll give you strength, I’ll give you hope,

Just stay a little while.

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining,

And I believe in love even when there’s no one there.

But I believe in God even when He is silent,

I believe through any trial there is always a way.

May there someday be sunshine,

May there someday be happiness,

May there someday be love,

May there someday be peace.

So here's to the curiosity that is sixth grade, the wonder that is a sixth-year-old and the majestic force that is life itself–even in the face of formidable circumstances.

Different lives - vastly different than could be imagined. Still, hope does not disappoint.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Traditions! Apples, Cheese, Pumpkins ... and Shoes

It's a family tradition from my youth: a one-day trip to Wisconsin to glory in the wonder of autumn leaves, the trauma and triumph of previous months on display in the pigments of each year's changing hillsides. Every year different. Every year amazing.

Before we head up to the cheese factory (Mt. Sterling) and apple orchards (Gays Mills), we stop for clothing staples (Prairie du Chien). A highlight this year (for me) was wonderful, quality, leather shoes at a store that still provides personal customer service: Panka Shoes. The owner, who measures your foot and then assists in putting the shoes on your feet, always keeps a room full of shoe racks with a permanent buy one pair, get another pair free sale.

Some years I only get two pair of shoes. This year? Well ...

But here's why we really go. I hope you enjoy joining us on a bit of our day's journey.

The family fun continues into future generations.

Wonderful Wisconsin! Thanks for a great Saturday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Until Further Notice - Band of Brothers & a Chic

For a full decade, Mark and I have belonged to a band that – in 2002 when we signed a group covenant – agreed to remain together "until further notice." Evidently none of us have served noticed, for even though we've only played one concert together in the past three years, we gathered as a band again last night.

It wasn't to make music. Not last night. Last night was simply about reconnecting and sharing life. Greg, our lead guitarist, was back in town; and for nearly three hours, we broke bread together (o.k., it was actually Chinese, so maybe we broke rice?), and we remembered what it felt like to be a band.

It felt good.

We relived our reunion concert this summer and filled Greg in on the experience. Because he'd missed the performance, it had not been a full reunion, but we told him how we could hear his guitar licks playing in our heads and even hummed one of his guitar solos so the song would be as good as possible despite his absence.

Mostly we laughed, teased, cajoled, and confabulated (love that word!).

We shared life ... just like we used to every Tuesday night from 7 to 9.

I know you won't be able to feel how we can fill musical spaces for each other – switching melodies for harmonies and instinctively following shifts in rhythms and tempo without need for forethought. But I hope you at least get a sense of the love and respect we feel for each other despite how vastly different we are. (And we are all really different!)

For six years we rehearsed weekly and performed once or twice during each of those weeks. In the past three years, we've only rehearsed four times and performed once. But we're still a band. A really good one. And even though none of us said it aloud last night, I'm confident that each one of us knows that we'll continue to be a band: Until Further Notice.

Until Further Notice:

Greg Owen, lead guitar
Jeff Gremmer, acoustic guitar
Roger Lyons, drums
Dave Melby, bass and vocals
Mark Newcom, vocals
Joy Newcom, vocals

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Snow!

So, what's up with this?

On October 11, I wrote of my affection for autumn.

Then on October 12, we got a crazy early snow.

And it really was a beautiful snow.

And it really didn't last very long.

And now it's snowing again – on October 13.

So, really, what's up with this?

Poor pink petunias.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reasons I Love Autumn

  1. My birthday. While not officially part of autumn, it's always near Labor Day – the unofficial start of fall.
  2. Schools start too and learning becomes en vogue again.
  3. Better apples in the grocery stores.
  4. Warm apple pie – another reason to love cinnamon. (And baking pies from scratch just happens to be something I'm good at.)
  5. Vegetation challenges sunsets with a new palate: red, yellow, gold, deep orange, tan, brown and – my favorite color for fall – burnt umber.
  6. Combines at night transform the landscape like gargantuan, nocturnal ants, as farmers keep one eye on the sky and one ear on the Weather Channel. This is a farmer's time to shine. Always makes me proud somehow.
  7. The sound of leaves crunching under my shoes – because that crunching sound when I'm walking is o.k.
  8. Hot chocolate – one of my favorite flavors in liquid form.
  9. Soups! In autumn, they not only taste good, they help me feel good too.
  10. Fireplaces. Ours comes to life, giving our Great Room new life as well.
  11. Sweaters – everyone wears them; some wear them extremely well. I aspire to the latter category.
  12. Colder days that get colder. The stark reality gives me permission to be inside without guilt.
  13. Shorter days – my reminder to get busy living life.
  14. The quiet of a dormant season heightens anticipation for seasons with longer days.

I bet there are more than 14 reasons I love autumn. What's one of yours?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

If Life's About Winning, We're All Losers–My Corner of the Sky

"If life is about winning and being right, we're all losers." I hold that truth to be self-evident. I'm not as sure that another statement in this vlog is as easy to label as truth: "If life is about fitting in, we're all out of luck."

Not fitting in isn't really all that troublesome, is it? World events are shaped by fascinating people who are easily distinguished from their peers. They stand out because they are different from the rest–in a good way. And don't we all admire entertainers? Entertainers are driven by a desire to be seen as special somehow. Something deep inside them cries out for others to recognize that they don't fit in–but in a good way.

But for us everyday Joes and Joys, the concept of fitting in simply feels more complex, doesn't it? Our misfit times seem to coax us to travel a little farther down the road, as if our emotional wanderlust can help us determine if we are in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time.

Is that what's happening for me?

For me. Ah, yes ... for me.

What does any of this mean for me?

I feel a strong sense of vocational calling connected to this endeavor. I'm driven by a desire to share feelings that I believe are universal but, too often, are left unspoken. While it's not my vocation–not my job–to vlog, it is something I'm able to do that may meet a unique need. At least when I get feedback from readers/viewers, it feels like I've met a need somehow.

You'll note I'm a bit raw today - not fragile, but quietly pensive. Of course, I'm vlogging my feelings, so I'm aware on some level that's not such a quiet way to live. Yet I feel quiet despite what you see. You may also notice that when I'm trying to keep my voice from showing too much emotion (a.k.a., attempting to hide the fact that I might begin to cry at any moment), I start using a bit of an accent. Not sure what kind of an accent it is, but it seems to help keep my voice from wavering. It's an involuntary reaction - this accent. Something I've not noticed until this vlog ... but I recognized it when I saw it.

So here's to you - to all you winners out there who are looking for your place to fit in. We'll find it. I know we will ... and when life changes, we'll simply find it again.

With love to all you Carver's Singers alumni. I'm so blessed to still be standing by the tenor who always seemed to find his way to my side when the song required a partner.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Video to Post - Someday

Well, I couldn't help myself. I recorded a vlog in my office–something I've been thinking about ever since the experience that inspired this vlog first happened. So, when the clock struck 5–actually when my Mac showed 5:00 PM–I hit record and began vlogging.

It's a reenactment in the truest sense. A reliving of an epiphany that happened a few weeks ago. This awakening, of sorts, elicited a feeling I want to always remember. And, thankfully, I was almost able to fully recreate the experience. Of course, I couldn't capture the original euphoria of my epiphany, but I did relive the sense of peace it brought. And, I'm hanging on to that sense of peace right now and the promise that "maybe, someday, we'll figure all this out and be better off somehow."

Sorry, I can't bring myself to post it just yet. But I promise I will.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stross' Review of Dan Meyer the Sword Swallower

Tonight Stross, Mark and I attended a type of event that you really have to see to fully appreciate: a man who can swallow swords. For real.

The sword swallower is Dan Meyer, a 1977 graduate of Waldorf College who received a distinguished alumni award this weekend. His unique ability has taken him around the world and found him performing for the Food Network, Ripley's Believe It or Not, and America's Got Talent.

For Dan Meyer, sword swallowing serves as a tangible faith metaphor. He puts his life on the line every time he does it, and his motivation is to prove that what he's doing is real. What began as a fascination for him–courtesy of sword swallowers in India–has become his vocational call.

As Dan realized, his greatest impact on a person comes only after that individual is convinced he's real. And as I've realized, it doesn't matter what faith you profess: Your ability to impact someone's life must come from authenticity. I very much respect that. God is God in any language. Authenticity is valued universally.

Stross didn't want to go at first, but we convinced him this is the kind of thing you don't usually get to see in person. According to Dan, in 1988 there were less than one dozen practicing sword swallowers in the world! I certainly can understand why the number is so small.

Stross and I try to share what we saw, but it's probably something you need to see for yourself to fully appreciate:

And, please take Stross' closing words of advice to heart!

Keep it real, people. Keep it real.

Ongoing Rebirth: When Alumni Were Young

Homecoming 2009

My afternoon conversation with Tali Salberg Paulson (class of 2000) was a bright spot during this rainy, cold afternoon. While she was waiting for her classmates to return (after they had ditched her ... just kidding Ben and Joy E.), Tali and I nestled in for a vlog about the internship she had at Access Hollywood during her junior year at Waldorf College.

At first Tali worried she'd have nothing to say, but I don't think that's ever really been a problem for either of us. Also, she made me promise to let you know that she's vlogging under the influence of cold medicine. (I'm not sure why that matters. She's a very coherent and intelligent woman in any circumstance.)

Hope you enjoy hearing Tali's stories about spending a portion of her first day as an intern with Rosie O'Donnell, assisting at the premiere of Erin Brockovich and discovering that her dream job wasn't really what she'd dreamed of after all.

We're all in a constant state of discovery and rebirth, aren't we?

P.S. - Congrats on Baby #2, Tali and Chad...may he or she be as wonderfully life-changing as the amazing Beckett.