I take great joy in observing life. I spend a lot of time pondering my observations. So, one day I thought I would write them down. These are my ponderings. -dana

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Particular Joy.

I was raised in a family of girls, so when I started my own family and one boy came and then another,  I loved it.  It was different.  It was rough and tumble.  It was wild rumpus 24/7.  Okay... well there was a little sleep in there, but mostly wild rumpus.  It was matchbox cars and baseball cards.  It was frog-hunting and paintball. Basketball and baseball.  Lots of baseball.  It was make-believe where I, of course, was the princess of the castle.   I loved being the princess.

When our third child was on the way, I was sure it would be a boy, and I was absolutely okay with that.  We were totally into the boy thing.  We had the toys and we had the clothes all ready to hand down.

But then a real princess came.

My third child--a daughter.  She entered the world large and in charge!  Physically she was the smallest of my three, but no question she was in charge--almost from day one.  Hey, someone has to lead the troops!

All of the sudden, there was a lot of pink in my world.  In some circles,  to speak of colors and toys identifying one gender or another is considered sexist and certainly politically incorrect.  Well then wrap me up in pink tulle and call me guilty!  

Like I said.  So much pink.  And it was glorious.

Baby dolls took their places in the toy box right alongside the dump trucks.

There were hair bows the size of Texas.  Baby dolls and a special little bunny.  And oh the Beanie Babies.  There were Keds in every possible color.  There were painted fingernails.  There were tea parties and dress-up parties.  There was hula-hoop and jump rope.  There were matching pajamas.  And when we pretended, I was no longer the princess.  I was the grandma and my little girl was the mommy.  Me the grandma at age 34.

Then I blinked.

All of the sudden I'm driving into the city for a girl's day with that baby girl.  She has a calendar full of work, rehearsals, hang-outs with friends and gigs, so it takes some going back and forth to find a time that works for both of us.  (Although truth be told, I would rearrange most anything when she gives me the green light). 

When we meet, she drives up in her little olive green KIA…the first car she's paid for by herself.  She gets out of the car smiling and looking so beautiful in worn jeans and boots with that head of thick strawberry blonde hair, those big blue eyes and that smile that is sunshine to me.  

She knows all the coolest restaurants since she's lived in the city for almost seven years now, so she takes me to one of her favorites and we talk about all kinds of things.  Food. Travel. Work. Music. Church. Boys. Friends. 

I don't want the lunch to end.  I just want to soak a little bit longer in who she is--this person who is at once both known and unknown to me.  With layer upon lovely layer of goodness and beautiful imperfection.

That's my girl.

This strong, independent young woman has confidently navigated faraway places--many times going it alone.  She is fearless--fearless I tell you.  A far cry from the little girl who would drag her sleeping bag into our bedroom OFTEN and sleep on the hard floor all night because she was afraid of "bad guys".  Fearful to fearless in about a decade and a half.  Amazing.

This girl.  She can problem solve on the fly when things go haywire.  She can reason with herself when she finds herself  in a less-than-desirable situation--let's say… oh I don't know...maybe on a dairy farm in Sweden.  I'll stop there, since it really isn't my story to tell!  She is unafraid to take a go at life in the manner she chooses and feels called to.  She is unapologetic in pursuing her dreams and her hunger for adventure.  She is at one moment fully dreamer and in the next fully realist.  She is smart--always absorbing new things. She is a God-seeker.

She is kind.  She is caring.  She always thinks of herself very last.  She loves her people and is as loyal as the day is long.  If she knows you for half a second you will become "her people".  She is tender-hearted and an extender of grace.  This I know firsthand.  She likes to laugh.  She's super funny with those she knows well, but quietly feels her way around when she's in a new group.  Sometimes she's a mystery.  Sometimes she procrastinates.  She isn't overly emotional and she rarely entertains drama.    She never needs to be the center of attention, ironic as that seems since her work lands her on stage on a regular basis.  She's at her best one-on-one.  And on this day, I am the lucky "one". 

So as I look across the table at this dear one, who is and isn't mine, I am so thankful she came into my life in a whirlwind of pink exactly twenty-five years to the day.  

I love her soul and her spirit and her belief.  Best, though, I love her heart.  Anyone who has even a tiny piece of it is better for it.

She is the loveliest song I know….a melody that is familiar one second and in the next, brand new.

She is my girl.

"The particular joy in my heart, 
she cannot imagine"
(from "A Newborn Girl at Passover" by Nan Cohen.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Seeing Good Stuff.

Last week I read this post from a friend who lives inside the city limits of my little town.

"There is a steer on my front porch".

Now that's funny I don't care who you are.  

A little comic relief is like a vitamin B-12 shot to me when the world seems to be free-falling into oblivion these days.  Don't believe me about the "free-falling" part?  Just read a few pages of your Facebook feed.  Sheesh.  There you will find petty arguments between neighbors and friends posted passive-aggressively in those little posters that look so pretty.  Then there are the verbal wars between government leaders.  And of course there is no lack of minutiae to help us waste away our brains.  Like "If I was an animal, what animal would I be?"  Not even kidding.  I got rabbit, and that's not even close!  JK.  I didn't play the game.  No really.  I didn't! 

But it is more than just social media.

There are travesties against humanity right outside our doors.  There's disease for which there is no cure and natural disasters that devastate human lives.  There's greed for money and power. There's hunger and there's war.  Between nations. Between ethnic groups. Between denominations.  So many wars.  What's good is seen as bad.  What's bad is seen as good.

Vertigo.  The world has vertigo.

And my stomach is in knots.

Quite frankly, I find it refreshing that there is a steer on my friend's front porch.  That is just so good!  In fact it makes me deliriously happy and I'll tell you why.

 I was away from home recently, and a sweet neighbor rang me up to tell me she had seen an old truck pulling out of my driveway.  She'd never seen the vehicle around before, and she wanted to make sure we were home and aware.

I was immediately struck by two very different thoughts.

Thought one.  The goodness that lives in the human heart that urges us to look after each other.

Thought two.  The sadness that in our world we are all on high alert against bad stuff.

When bad stuff happens, we tend to forget about thought number one--the good heart.  The good stuff.

So I went through a little self-help rehab some time ago and I'm happy to report I'm not a news junkie anymore. Of course, I still hear things, but I don't watch the news or listen to talk radio any more.  I just don't do it.  It's my effort to starve the fears that have already been rooted inside me, while hoping to stave off any new fears that try to get through my bubble.  It was kind of an act of self-preservation, I guess.

Don't misunderstand.  I'm not living with my head in the sand, but watching replay after replay of recent tragedy cannot increase my sympathy and my heart for those suffering.  I'm already there. I hurt for them the minute I learn the news.  Continuing to watch the media circus that surrounds  these events, though,  does nothing but make me slowly forget about goodness--the goodness that lives in most human hearts.  I begin to feel fear creeping in.    

I begin to think more about the bad.  

I have to say that I need zero extra encouragement to look out for bad stuff.  Even on the brightest, most gorgeous days with blue skies and marshmallow clouds,  I can imagine it lurking in the bushes, around the corner and a mile down the road.  So when bad stuff happens, it just confirms what I suspected would come eventually.  It's one of my very worst traits.  See how important it is that I cling to goodness?

Sometimes I think I'm on the verge of thinking bad is winning.  I know better, but the images I see and the words that I hear are such a contradiction to good. 

We just can't do that--forget about "good", I mean.  It is our life-line.

I'll tell you who hasn't forgotten about the good.  My friend John.  He publishes a newspaper with only good news.  Seriously.  Only good news.  He is the hardest working writer I know, running all over the Texas hill country trying to photograph and report as much good news as he can.  He writes about and photographs dog parades, boat races, charity fish fries, concerts, art shows, benefits, awards given to law enforcement officers, new businesses and so much more.  He applauds any good endeavor that he knows about, and he does it all with his trademark smile plastered all over his face.  Even if he's been going all day and it's 100 degrees outside, he smiles. John is one of the most beloved individuals in the community.  His paper just makes you feel good. It's his mission and he is intentional about it!

So in an effort to not forget about it,  I started thinking about good.  Really thinking about it.  And there was so, so much of it that I had to write it down.  The more I wrote, the more there was.  I couldn't write fast enough.  

This is a portion of my list.

The bright, almost glow-in-the-dark color of green on the mesquite trees as they begin to bud out in spring, despite the drought.  It's my favorite color.  That is good.

The way my little piano student laughed so hard he couldn't even talk when I sang him "On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese.  I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed".   Hysterically good.

The sweet note I received from a friend.  She was already in bed and thought about me and wrote a note on the yellow pad that was within reach.  That is oh so good.

Coffee with my favorite creamer in the morning.  Hot good.

The brain surgery of a young boy that was a huge success.  Goodness.

A random email from a son.  Way good.

Watching the river flow by.  Peacefully good.

My student playing his entire lesson the week before Easter in bunny ears.  Funny good.

Seeing a picture of old friends holding a new grandchild.  The most adorable kind of good.

Little bitty tomatoes growing on my tomato plant despite my thumb that isn't even a little green.  Delicious goodness.

Young love that is turning into marriage.  Good, good, good.

A picnic lunch with friends at the park, complete with green, polka dot napkins.  Simply good.

Losing 5 pounds.  Gooood.

Sharing a breakfast of eggs and fruit with friends.  Sweet.

Sneaking into the back of a large church service in another town  just to hear my girl sing.  The best kind of good.

Hearing my husband tell me in a sing-songy voice when he walks in the door, "Something's smelling good in there".  Silly good.

My dog Pearl.  Good doggie.

Pumpkins.  Fall-is-here good.

There is so much good stuff in life.  So much.  Way more good stuff than bad.  

So when I hear bad stuff, I can say to myself, "Well, yeah, but there's this".  The this of course is my list.  My good-stuff list.

When my oldest son was a little boy, he loved to watch Mister Roger's Neighborhood.  He hands-down preferred it over Sesame Street.  It always baffled me because Sesame Street had all the bells and whistle and was a high-dollar production.  They even had movie stars as guests from time to time. But no.  He loved Mister Rogers best.  He was in love with Lady Aberlin.  He was mesmerized by  Meow-Meow, the Trolley, and King Friday.  I think now it must have been because it was a simple show and it was just so full of goodness.  I believe it was completely due to the good heart of the man who created it.

One of my favorites quotes of all times is from Mister Rogers himself---also a fan of good stuff.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.' "

That is truth.

That is seeing the good stuff.

Today when I got up, I sat out on my porch and watched the sun break through the clouds.  It reminded me of how really big God is.  And how, no matter what, good wins.  It triumphs.  It soars.

And that right there? That is good stuff! 

"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious---the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse". 
Philippians 4:8 (The Message)

Boy.  Playing piano.  In bunny ears.  It can only be good!