Friday, August 29, 2008

Beauty for Ashes

God gives beauty for ashes. I've wondered about this verse, this truth in the Bible hundreds of times. The process of exchange and exactly what it means... We had God ashes, the charred left over remains of whatever we were convinced we could fix that ultimately blew up in our faces. Think about ashes...the left overs of our grand plans; the bitter reminders of what we intended; the truth about our selfish, concentric desire to control everything in our tiny little lives. We stand before Him, countless times, for some of us infinite times, and like children handing over a broken treasure, we raise our hands to Him, passing the ashes.
In the exchange, we get back beauty. Most of the time it's hard to see immediately. It's almost always painful getting to that point where the ash has settled and the film has been wiped clean.
But that phrase took on a whole new meaning today. A woman, a very wonderful, dynamic woman left this world. As chance would have it, her last name is Ash. Diana Ash lost her battle with cancer today. I met her once and visited with her about an hour during an interview for the magazine I used to work for. It was an article about cancer survivors. We made it half way through and I was in awe of her strength, her positive outlook, her lack of fear before she revealed to me that she was, in fact, losing her battle. She is a young woman with a loving husband and two beautiful children. She is gone.
But Diana Ash, in that short time, changed me forever. If you need a metaphor, let me offer this: Our lives are a night sky and every person that touches us becomes a star. Some of them blend with the others, some of them stand out. Diana Ash is a comet, bright, fleeting and memorable and when she shot across my sky, everything else seemed to dim for a moment because of her vibrance. But she isn't the type of person who eclipses others. She is the type of person that brings out the light and makes them shine as well. Diana Ash taught me that fear is useless and a waste of time, that it's wiser to channel your energy into finding the life in your moments, not wishing for more moments in your life.
I thought about her often over the last year, especially recently, but I didn't call her. Something told me not ot push it, to just take the miracle for what it was. And today, the world offered up a different offering for the exchange. We offered the beauty, the beauty of Diana Ash and her giving and passionate spirit. We gave the beauty...we lost Diana Ash.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Get Off Your "But"

I'd like to...but
I would...but
I thought about it...but
I kept track of how many times I used that word today. I used it to begin a rationalization of why I deserved a cinnamon melt for breakfast even though I'm diabetic. I used it to talk myself out of that same cinnamon melt. I used it to get out of a couple of obligations, to get into a couple of bonuses that I shouldn't have gotten and I used it to manipulate my husband.
Such a tiny little word with such huge ramifications. How much of my life have I lost to "buts" with no one to blame but myself?
Such a tiny little word with such a huge amount of loss attached to it. How many opportunities have I lost to my own stupid hesitations?
I talked to a woman today who found out she has breast cancer and our conversation turned to her choice of treatment and what she would ultimately decide. I couldn't help but notice the glaring absence of "but" from our conversation. There was nothing to shirk, nothing to escape, no rationalities to be made. There was concrete and there was certainty and there was no fear. Sure, there was hesitation and there was caution, but there was no fear. Not because she wasn't afraid. I'm sure she was. But there's a big difference between being afraid and living in fear. Being afraid is temporary. Living in fear is terminal. Being afraid is a reaction. Living in fear is a lifestyle.
Yes, my friend has a long road ahead of her BUT she is ready to take that journey. Yes, my friend is afraid BUT she is not living in fear. Yes, this was not in the plan BUT she is adamant about looking for the blessing. And normally I would cry for her and with her BUT this time there is no reason to cry. She has made her absolute decision and asked for her absolute grace from God. Plain and simple... no excuses... no reprieves... NO BUTS!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday's "Seriously?" Sassback - just another reason for me to flip the bird to the world at large...

This spot will be where I get to rant and rave...and I'll try to keep it short so in honor of the first "Seriously?" sassback, here are the top 5 things that really make me stop, cock my head, squint my eyes and say "Seriously?"
1. Have you noticed that the price of everything that might even be remotely related to anything oily or fuel-like has shot through the roof? Seriously, is it necessary to import petroleum from Saudia Arabia for Vaseline?
2. Is anyone else frightened by Magic Erasers? I think that whatever technology they used to create those things must have come from Area 51 thus proving that aliens have crash landed on this planet and we are gleaning their technology and will seriously end up blowing ourselves up.
3. I think the president of the United States should be required to have never made more in his lifetime than the national average of the working person's salary. In other words, Barack and his $4.2 millions and McCain and his x amount of houses would not be eligible, seriously. What the heck do they know about the plight of the majority of the population...and I would like to nominate Farm Girl. I smell a grass roots campaign!!!!!
4. What's with this new animated Star Wars series? I mean, seriously, it's animated, which none of them have ever been and I can't figure out if it's a sequel (what happened next), a prequel (what happened before) a requel (same story, but with more colors) or a seriously-quel (no one cares, this is just another way to bilk money from parents whose children are seriously open to creative marketing.)
5. There's a child at my son's school who is in Kindergarten and has a cell phone. He was overheard telling the teacher that his mom gave it to him so that if he was being upset by the teacher, he could call his mom. Seriously, I will lay you money on the table that kid has tried to speed dial Elmo, Handy Manny and Santa Claus. What does a five year old need with a cell phone, and even worse, what kind of parent would tell their child to call them if the teacher made them mad? Want a picture of your child in about 18 years? Two words...Casey Anthony...seriously!

That's it for today. If I offended you, please post on my page and defend your opinion, but remember, you must defend yourself within the confines of the law.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chasing Indiana

So, the kiddo's sixth b-day is just around the corner and I promised myself that I wouldn't go overboard this year, so we're going to keep it down to about 400 guests on a yacht in the local pond. Just kidding - I got this brilliant idea for a COOL party and so now I have something new to think about all the time, use as an excuse to ignore my responsibilities and basically obsess over like a drooling psycho: the birthday party.
It's an Indiana Jones them and we're having it at the local park. The invitations, which I finally finished last night, are a take off on the Raiders of the Lost Ark poster, only it says Raiders of the Lost Park - get it? And there's a pic of kiddo dressed as Indiana Jones waving his whip and wielding his gun (all you gun haters take a deep breath, you're talking to a girl who had a gun rack on her Scooby Doo bicycle and drives a car called the CALIBER! Welcome to the rural midwest!)
So in order to get the picture, we had to get the stuff to dress him up like Indiana Jones, right? We had a hat, which he has been wearing all summer long. We had the whip, the gun, the sword and the "pouch" which is DEFINITELY not a purse because you can't put skulls and dusty stuff in a purse - you have to put them in a pouch. Truth be told it is an old leather front flap Liz Claiborne purse circa 1987 that I found at a junk store for less than a buck...but no one needs to know that my kiddo is carrying a man bag.
Thus began the scavenger hunt for tan pants, dark brown shirt and leather bomber jacket. Ask me how it went, go ahead, ask me... NOT VERY FREAKIN' WELL! I made a call to Farm Girl (because I am privileged enough to have her PERSONAL phone number) to ask if she could help out and she offered me a fringy leather coat. "It's a cowboy coat..." she explained while visions of my son's seventh birthday party, you know the one where everyone has to come dressed as one of the Village People, began slide-showing through my brain.
So we found the tan pants - two sizes too big, but we could fix that, I thought. We found the shirt and it was a girls' shirt that was about four sizes too big but I cut the bottom off of it, rolled the sleeves and it looked pretty authentic. I gave up on the jacket - too hot anyway.
We got the kiddo dressed and to the park. Halfway across the walkway to the playground (I had a vision mind you, an artistic brilliant perfect obsessed mommy vision) his pants just fall off, seriously, crumpling to his knees. Thank God the shirt was long enough to cover up ShortRound (couldn't resist).
Then kiddo saw it...the most feared and reviled of all citified vermin: the squirrel. Last summer, kiddo was attacked by a squirrel, well, not so much attacked as threatened verbally while feeding the ducks at the park: short version - kiddo had bread, ducks not interested, squirrel very interested, kiddo got bored but still had bread and tried to walk away, squirrel went into bread recon mode and chased my little guy whilst he screamed "Squirrel, help, squirrel, he's gonna eat me." Anyway, kiddo caught sight of the squirrel and it was over. He took off like a lit-up greyhound, the squirrel headed for the nearest tree, which just happened to be in the direction kiddo was running. Needless to say, kiddo panicked, pants fell down around ankles, kiddo is desperately trying to run with his pants around his ankles, finally collapsing in dramatic relief on the purple plastic slide.
It was fabulous...and we got a great picture which I will share later. But why, you ask, go to so much trouble for a sixth birthday party? Is my kiddo spoiled rotten? Yes, but with encouragement and attention. Is my kiddo a brat? Not too bad... Am I trying to keep up with the Joneses or impress people? If you ever looked behind my refrigerator you would know that impressing others is of no importance to me. Kiddo had a rough go of it, born three months premature. Every birthday is a victory as far as I'm concerned and every parent should feel that way about their child. And whether you show it with goofball birthday parties or picture snapping obsessive compulsive disorder or turning your home into a scrapbook of your family, realize that the small things that turn into huge pains for you are the huge things that turn into amazing memories for your child.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Clothes DON'T Make the Girl

As a woman of age (I'm now over 35 and that is all that needs to be said!) life has made some pretty indelible impressions on me: never spit in a well; it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all; and there is never any good reason at all to wear panty hose with open-toed shoes. Despite all that emblazoned wisdom and my seasoned life experience, I am always shocked and amazed when something shocks and amazes me. That happened yesterday as I was standing in the checkout line at the Dollar Tree. I'm a big fan of the Dollar Tree for the simple reason that I can still feel like I have some buying power even when in all actuality I am broke. However, standing behind me in the dollar store was a woman, a "mature" woman whom I can only guess was attempting to recapture her youth through the creative use of apparel. Sporting a flouncy, barely-there plaid skirt that didn't quite cover her buttcheeks, a pair of bright pink stilletto heels with hearts and kissy lips all over them and a t-shirt with the words "tell your daddy I said hi" written in pink glitter. Her hair was cut in that sleek graduated bob, was platinum on the top and dark brown underneath, her purse was no more than an armpit earring and sported pink and aqua hearts, she was wearing frosty lip gloss and glittery eye shadow and talking on her rhinestone encrusted cell phone while chomping her gum. Now how do I know that she was not some young, spirited high school or sorority girl? Two words: crow's feet only magnified by the fact that her glittery eyeshadow had seeped into the lines and crevices and was now acting as a neon sign screaming "mature woman desperate to be a teenager." And then there was the language she was using. Everytime something astonished her, which was quite often, she would say "OMG" which is text message speak for "Oh my god - an expression of disbelief."
Did I judge her? Probably...but I swear on all that is sacred that I only judged her for her own benefit. You see, that woman is of my generation - we survived the 80's and perhaps we have been scarred by it. Big hair, strange and downright ugly clothing, telephones that required cords and stationary states of being - it was nothing like these kids have it now. But looking at her reminded me of something: first of all, it is never okay for a woman over the age of 18 to wear a shirt that makes any kind of reference to her "daddy". No there are no exceptions, it's just WRONG! Second, being okay with who and what you are has become such a rarity and this woman really brought that point home to me. Attempting to fit in with a generation that she should have been attempting to lead and influence, this woman was screaming one thing to me: I am so unhappy with where I am at in my life. Did I read too much into her? Possibly, but the impression that was made I can assure you is indelible. I am all for self-expression. I am all for being who you are and even for spending most of your life discovering who you are. It's a journey worth taking even if it takes a lifetime. But trying to recapture your youth by turning yourself into a cartoon character is walking backward on the path.
I suppose what I am trying to say is this: At age 37, I realize that what I had in my youth was not a permission to be a spoiled princess or freedom to do whatever I wanted without any consequences. What I had in my youth was a freedom to explore and express myself, to break away from conformity, and an anticipation for what the future might bring for me. At age 37, recapturing my youth so much more simple that dressing like a little pop tart, it's simply a matter of regaining that anticipation for what the future may hold.