19 June 2015

Bike Rides and Families

The biggest news of today is this: Cora Adeline Grace Johnson has mastered bike riding.

Look at her go!!

I have spent the week recovering from pinkeye, a sinus infection, two ruptured eardrums, and two ear infections. My left eardrum burst in the middle of the night after I went to the doctor. I'm grateful it wasn't as painful as when my right eardrum decided it had enough.

I feel like today was the first day that could really count as recovery. I'm not sure how long it will take for my ears to fully heal, to lose the ringing and echo-y sounds, or to feel kind of normal again, but I am certain this wasn't what I had in mind for my summer. The not hearing well part isn't great, but the dizzy spells are proving to be the worst. If I turn my head too quickly, or move in a different direction, I feel like falling over. One of my new life goals is to never experience Vertigo. Ever.

Last night, we watched an old family video that touched me. It was Christmas Day at Jake's paternal grandparents' (Mammy and Granddad) home in 1990. Everyone was there. All four children, their spouses, and all eleven grandchildren. Grandmother, Mammy's mom, was even there. This woman is legendary, and I've never seen her on video before. It was wonderful. It was also bittersweet.

Mammy passed away just before Christmas. I haven't written much about it. I've processed her death very differently without having been there during the last few months of her life when Dementia completely took over, and she wasn't really Mammy anymore. In many ways I'm grateful that she was still her when we left for Los Angeles.

The part of the video that really got me was the timing. Six months after it was filmed, that family was put through the wringer. It was changed forever. Vaughn's dad, Granddad, left Mammy on Father's Day in 1991. He didn't just leave her, he left the whole family - stayed in the same small town, but didn't have contact with any of his children or grandchildren. Actually seeing the faces of those sweet little grandbabies, and a family enjoying being together juxtaposed with the story, made me have to work really hard at staying in control of my emotions.

I realized, in watching it, that I knew all of the people, but I didn't know that family. It doesn't exist anymore.

Jake's granddad actually lives a little over a block away from the home his parents' have lived in for the last six-and-a-half years. While Cora was riding her bike this morning, I saw his car back out of the driveway and come our way. Jake had Cora pulled over "up the hill" towards his house when he saw the car coming towards them. I wondered if he would recognize Jake, or see that little girl on the bike and know that it was his great-granddaughter. And not just know that it was his great-granddaughter, but do a tiny happy dance that she'd just made it through a rite of passage.

In the middle of my flurry of thoughts, he turned at the intersection right before he got to them, and I was sure that he [or his wife] decided make that turn as a precaution, to avoid the kid on her bike in the street.

16 June 2015

Ears and Eyes

We've been in OKLAHOMA for one week and four days. (I'm writing this on my phone, and autocorrect continues to automatically capitalize OKLAHOMA, so I've decided I'm just going to leave it that way. Every time.)

Much has happened, but the reason for being up in the middle of the night is what I'm going to focus on because it's at the forefront of my mind. After three really long hours of pain and pressure, my right eardrum ruptured just before dinner. The actual rupture was a huge relief in the pain/pressure department. My ear has continued to drain "stuff" throughout the night (if you really want to know, it's been a combination of pus and blood).

It started hurting enough again that I stopped being able to sleep through it around 3AM. The pain continued to progress, so I finally lifted myself out of bed around 3:30 to seek relief. I went into the bathroom, and there had to work through opening my eyes. Literally. The other rad part of the story is that I have pinkeye for the first time in my life. (Both eardrums ruptured when I was 8 or 9, so at least I have experience to know that it's not as scary as it sounds - though I don't remember it being quite this painful.) I rubbed warm water on my eyelids and lashes until they parted so I could see what I was doing. I went for some Tylenol and Sudafed. And then put a bit of Vick's on a cotton ball and placed that in my ear. I'm now back in bed with a heating pad along the side of my head and throat. And I'm up at 5AM typing away because it seemed like an okay thing to do.

I'm really looking forward to seeing a doctor tomorrow, er, today, despite my long running fear of ever needing one while in Holdenville.

02 June 2015

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry

I dropped our car off to get new tires right after I dropped my girls off at school this morning. I didn't have time to make my morning smoothie before leaving home, and I had some time to kill, so I decided to start walking west in search of food. I ended up walking about 2.25 miles to the beach, but not before stopping at Nekter and getting some juice. I really wanted a smoothie, but this juice just had everything I wanted.

Not too far into the sand, I saw a broken glass bottle. I carefully picked up the pieces with one hand while carrying my juice and shoes in the other. After the pieces of glass that used to be a bottle were deposited in a recycling bin, I continued on to a perfect spot of level sand right before it dipped down to meet the water. I sat meditating for a little while before working through a few asanas. One thought I had was of some woman who might be on the other side of the ocean staring back wondering about some woman who might be me. I want to meet her someday. I want her to show me what her days are like - how she lives.

I'm participating in two yoga challenges on Instagram. Both are in their second day, and it's the first time I've ever done anything like this before. Sometimes I think pausing to take pictures, or working on executing a certain shot gets in the way of my practice. My focus becomes capturing a moment, rather than being present in one. I've found it helpful to record my practice, and pick a frame for a still shot. So far so good. One of the challenges asked participants to do "Wild Thing" pose. It's my favorite.

When looking through the video of this morning's practice, I was a little sad knowing that a still shot wouldn't capture the sound of the waves, nor the wind moving through my hair. But I also knew it wouldn't do it justice. My skin felt the cool breeze, my hair still has sand in it, and my heart can still feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. 

In that moment, I was able to rest with the grace of the world. I was free.

I caught the bus back to the tire shop, and witnessed a quiet act of kindness I want to remember. An elderly man slowly got on the bus with his walker. A young man sitting just behind the section reserved for the elderly and handicapped quickly raised the seat in front of him to make room for the older gentleman's walker. The man with the walker ended up just keeping it in front of him in his seat. As the bus began to move, the young man reached in front and lowered the seat back down. I was touched. I said a silent prayer of gratitude for the young man, for his kind deed, and a hope that even though he wasn't taken up on it this time, he wouldn't hesitate to act in the same way in the future.

I think it's very rare that a kind deed goes unnoticed. It puts more love in the world. And that's palpable. Every single time.

30 May 2015

Keeping Track

Last night I spent a few hours with dear friends at LAX during a layover waiting for their flight to Hong Kong. It really goes like this: China, Malaysia, then Cambodia. They'll be in Cambodia and Vietnam for the next two years serving as missionaries. I left them around 8PM, and now, 25 hours later, I'm glad to see that they're finally past the halfway point in their travels. I've been checking in on their flight status approximately every three hours since 4AM.

As I watched the image of a plane make its way to various points over the Pacific Ocean, I thought that plane might as well be shaped like a heart. It didn't represent an aircraft moving at hundreds of miles per hour through different timezones and eventually into a completely different day, it was showing me where I could find people I love.

Every time I move, I find comfort in replaying familiar scenes in my mind. I imagine friends and family going about their normal daily tasks. Keeping on in their lives exactly where I left them. I imagine Ashleigh power-housing at United Way, Regan loving on Eva with Eli laying nearby. Meemaw is moving around from task to task, only to be interrupted by her favorite programs and three square meals. Grammy and Mammy reading books. Jake's parents are cozy upstairs watching something on television before bed. Mary Bliss sitting in the living room with her laptop and different bits of reading material around her, making dinner while listening to the news on NPR, or the sound of her walking up and down her stairs several times a day.

Certainly these scenes change. Mammy is in heaven now. Meemaw's normal days have been interrupted by [bleepity blank bleepin'] cancer. I don't know what sound Mary Bliss's feet will make as she walks around her apartments in Cambodia and Vietnam. Change is hard, and it still gets the better of me from time to time, but I've experienced enough of it to understand that change is one of the greatest catalysts for growth. And in that sense, I welcome it, even if begrudgingly at times. It will challenge me, and shake me, and chew me up and spit me out, but in my response to each shift lies opportunity for elevation. I gain a new view, a new sense of being, a new way of imagining.

Lewis and Mary Bliss will soon not have a way for me to track their every move, but I know that they are brimming with goodness and love, and it's not at all hard for me to imagine them spending their days sharing that whenever and however they can. You can follow their mission blog at Along the Hong.

(Face-timing with two young grandsons, the youngest of whom is shaping up to be an expert photo bomber.)

Counting the miles:

PS: Just in case you're keeping track, this is Day 299 in Los Angeles, and you know what? I've started feeling a bit fond of my new city.

29 May 2015

Playing Priest

About a month ago, Cora wanted to play "Priest." She spent the morning preparing for the role, including making a special bowl out of clay to hold the holy water. After the bowl had baked and cooled, she finished her preparations and called us into the living room. The piano bench was our pew. 

She broke bread and invited us to take communion. We each drank from the communal cup. She sprinkled us with holy water using an orange KitchenAid teaspoon. She taught us the story of Jesus in Gethsemane, had us contemplate our interactions with others, and how we could do better. When she finished, she blessed and sent us on our way. 

How can I ever say, "Honey Child, no matter what you feel, nor how much you want something, as it stands, both in your school and in the faith tradition of you mother, you cannot be a priest." 

I won't ever tell her that. 

I'll tell her that sometimes a well-meaning community will defend something because it's what they know, not because it should be upheld. And sometimes the position of those we love will make us question ourselves, and sometimes they won't remember to be kind, but it doesn't mean we can't live what we know so deep down inside is right. 

Someday we'll collectively be ready.

28 May 2015

My 40 Days

I gave up Facebook for Lent this year. I have done so for the last three years.

The difference?

Easter was 51 days ago, and I'm still not back on Facebook. My 40 days has turned into 91 days and counting, and it has been a blessed break.

I've been able to gather, regroup, think through things without idle distractions, without watching what I was saying because I wasn't sharing. The truth is that my time on social media, via Facebook and my blog, has been tricky at times. It's difficult when my main form of sharing, computing, of understanding has always been writing and sharing some of that writing with others. Involved in any type of sharing is the chance for criticism. I always thought I had pretty tough skin when it came to criticism. I value different opinions. The difficulty came not from simple sharing of opinions and ideas, but from people who took the things I said and used them as a soapbox for their own rants. Lost in their ranting was always the real point of what I was trying to say. My favorite term for such instances has become "Bully Pulpit." Because I care deeply about most of the things I write about, it was hard to see not only ideas, but ME, my character being dragged through the mud.

The criticism didn't stay in the confines of social media outlets. I became the topic of a lot of gossip, mostly by people I love dearly. For as thick as I thought my skin was, I couldn't help but be hurt by that. There's nothing I can do about how people perceive me. I can't change it. But when love is involved... it's very hard to know that people are only willing to accept a very narrow and misconstrued perception of me. People who I thought would dig a little deeper, and wouldn't just go along with the most sensational piece of trash-talk attached my name. I was hurt and disappointed.

The last year has been a time of huge changes. Of expansion in ways I could have never imagined. It was so good to step back, to get away, to be free of those waiting to jump on and twist something I said in any way they saw fit.

What have I been doing with all of my free time? A lot of reading. Yoga. Meditation. Prayer. Becoming acquainted with my new city. Loving on my family. Turning 30. Not cooking (this is so unlike me). Hiking. Beaching. Thinking. Enjoying my time in the wilderness.

I exist outside of Facebook. We all do. :) While I'll never say "never," right now isn't the right time to reactivate my account. But I have missed writing. So here I am. Back at it.

Ms. President - A Conversation with Cora

A conversation with Cora -

Mom, why can't females be president?
Me: They can be.
C: How do you know?
Me: Don't you believe anything I say?
C: Yes, but 44 presidents, and no girls?
Me: [In my head: "touché" and an expletive]: Well, it might happen soon.

We went on to talk about Hillary Clinton running in 2008, not getting the party nomination, but that she's running again. There are certainly women who have run, and been their tiny party's nomination, but I didn't bring them up just yet. I don't want her to see how stacked the odds have been. All politics aside, I need there to be a Ms. President. I have a point to prove to our daughters.



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