The Power of Sharing Memories

I’m conflicted on social media these days – so much good has come from our digital connections but the weight of the evil done via FB, Twitter, Instagram, et al certainly tarnishes what was once a pretty neato thing. But the other day a business associate shared something that struck a chord with me.

If you’re reading this, even if we barely talk, tell me your favorite memory of me. After that – consider making this your status, because you’d be surprised the memories people hold of you.

It struck me so much that I not only responded to her post, but I put it on my wall as well.

You see, there’ve been a series of events in my life lately that have keenly reminded me that each of not only has the first time we meet a person, but we also have the last time we see them. It’s the last time that we don’t know — maybe they move away, or you change jobs, or they get hit by lightning and die. We just don’t know…

I was thinking about all the wonderful people in my life who I’ve never told them that they’ve made my life better for having been in it.

Several years ago, I was having a particularly hard morning. I’m not much of a morning person and when I was working while parenting small children, heading to work on Sunday mornings was often not my favorite experience. I’d wrangle the kids, tying shoes while trying to apply mascara or lipstick, and hope my slip wasn’t showing went we finally arrived at church–I felt like a hot mess most times. There was a dear lady I sang in the choir with and she stopped me one morning. I was rushing back to my office to grab a forgotten item and she reached out, put her hand on my arm and said, “Kristina, how are you?”

She knew the answer. It was written all over my face. I was harried, crabby, and wishing the morning could have started a few hours later. But what was written all over her face was compassion and care. She was a grandmother by then but knew all about trying to do all the things even when you’re not up to it.

Something about her face, as well as the hand pulling me to a stop, made me change course. I stopped. I saw her. And I realized that she had just made my day feel better. And so my response – which a moment before would have been a quick “fine!” or “ugh, running late!” turned into, “I’m better for having seen you!”

I’ve kept saying that to people all these years later because I’ve noticed that they do exactly what Barb did right then — she paused and then smiled. She’d opened a door to me and I welcomed her right back.

It’s one of my favorite memories of Barb Harlan, her smile while we were standing there in the sunny hallway of Vancouver UCC outside the choir door.

I never got the chance to tell her that but this weekend, as we make our way back into our building after nearly two and a half years after an arson fire, I’ll take a few moments between running back to my office for a forgotten item and stand there in the hallway, right where Barb stopped me, and I’ll think to myself,

I’m better today for having had you in my life.

Take care of yourselves, friends. May the day be filled with real or proverbial sunshine and may your days be better for having folks in your life.


ps. And Barb, I sure do miss you.

The Weight of Small Things

The view out of my window at the moment is lovely – a nice fall morning. A glance at my BBC news app or Google reminds me that not everyone’s morning is going as well.

Hurricanes are brewing and blowing in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – the Philippines and the Carolinas are both being battered by winds and rains and surging waters.

Fascists are raising their voices and fists in slurs, salutes, and symbols throughout the world.

The economies of the globe are poised in delicate balancing acts as the wealthy find unimaginable riches and the poor become generationally trapped in poverty.

All four primary agencies measuring global temperatures (NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and the Met Office Hadley Centre) show global temperatures are the highest ever since 1880 when data collection began.

Dozens of species of plants and/or animals become extinct every day.

These are the things that make these days terrifying. They terrify because most are not things that happen in one-fell terrifying swoop. Instead, they are tiny things, adding up until the weight is too much to bear.

I just erased so many examples that I know in just my community because you have your own lists that are just as valid – families torn apart over politics or war, lives lost because of disease or accidents or untreated mental health issues, communities fractured over differences of opinion or skin tones. So much pain. And so much of that pain begins with a small thing, a tiny thing that is easily overlooked or ignored.

But like the raindrops that add up to a 12 foot tidal surge, small things do add up to become something too large to ignore.

The bad stuff adds up until it weighs so damn much.

But so does the good stuff.



Holding the door for the person behind you.

Doing one tiny, absolutely unimportant thing can absolutely change the world for someone else.

11734305-50B6-4586-8BFC-640C0444D40AThe weight of good small things is immense. But instead of breaking a soul, crushing a spirit, those tiny things rebuild, shore up, change the course of a tide. Added up, even a penny is worth something of value.

So today, do some small thing for good.

It just might be you who feels the most unburdened by the weight of small good things.



Going His Own Way

The new routine around here gets us up and ready for work and school way too dang early (!) but also at staggered times. A bit over an hour after Mister Soandso and Middlest leave to get her to high school, I stand at the window and watch Littlest walk to the bus stop.

It’s our first week of school and already he’s got a system: eat breakfast, get showered and dressed, and head out the door all with limited interaction with me. He’s never been a super chatty morning person, but even for him it’s a bit muted. Not in a rude sort of way, but more in line with how he interacts with the pets – sort of a quick acknowledgement and then a “bye! Love you!” thrown over his shoulder as he head out the door.

Sounds like I’ve got a middle schooler on my hands, 100%.

After the door lock clicks, I refill my coffee cup and the dog and I head into my bedroom where the window affords me the best view. It takes a while for him to come into view, and then, after a short walk up the hill, he disappears. At no point does he look back over his shoulder – why would he? His destination and friends are ahead of him. And he knows how to get back home when it’s time to do so.

Eli first day of kinderThis photo of Littlest popped up on my FB feed this morning. Seven years ago Mister Soandso and I walked him to his first day of kindergarten.

He didn’t look behind much even then. He knew where we were… right behind him should he need us. Plus, he knew he had free reign until he got to the corner where’d he need to wait for us and the crossing guard. He knew how to do this trip.

After all, his dear sister was back there with his dad and I, and he’d made this trip with her too many times to count in his life.

Seven years and now that little boy is gone. That too big backpack wore out years ago, he’s favorite tee shirt has long been outgrown. And those tiny running shoes he was so excited to get have been traded in for 8.5s in adult size!!!

The young man I watched walk to the bus stop resembles this tiny boy so much, and yet very little. His voice proves adulthood is around the corner even more than those big shoes do. And his fierce independence seems to demonstrate how grown up he is as well. Except it doesn’t.

Instead, it reminds me that he has always known where to find his dad and I – behind him, watching his back while giving him the space he needs to become the person he will be. And g-d knows, we love that person so much.

Welcoming a child into your life is always a scary thing – and Littlest’s entrance to our world was not without drama. Oy. But in the big picture, journeying with this young man has been such smooth sailing. Or, maybe the joys have just so outnumbered the challenges that I rarely think about the scary stuff nowadays.

A friend’s baby came early this past week – his little boy was born at 24 weeks 5 days and weighed only 1.9 pounds. So far, little Will is doing well. Every photo his parents share is a reminder of just how precious and tenuous life is. And how very lucky Mister Soandso and I were to have three full-term babies.

Our babies start out so very vulnerable and need so much. And then in a blink of a proverbial eye, they put on their backpacks and head off to kindergarten.

Yep, the days are long but the years are so very short. And then they are off, going their own way.

Come Back To Me

I am cleaning house today; erasing the evidence that five people and two pets live in this home. Everywhere I look there is pet fur and pet nose prints, lost socks and scraps of papers awaiting recycling. I wonder how on earth we could have accumulated so much detritus since I last did these chores just the other day. And I wonder if these bits and pieces of others ever actually leave me, or if they are somehow fixed to my being like I’ve been tattooed by my life choices.

img_1352On my shower door is a handprint. Several actually, but one stands out in relief. The Mister and I often pass by the shower while it is in use and place a palm against the glass…waiting for the other person to reach out and cover the other’s palm. Palm prints, warming the glass and leaving a reminder that even when separated, we are still connected. The odd thing about these handprints  is that they resist removal. As part of my cleaning rotation, I scrub the shower doors. And yet, ever so often I find that one still appears in the fog, days after it was placed there. It is as if when Mister Soandso and I take the time to connect even in this silly, small way, it leaves an impression. I like this possibility. And I like this tradition we seem to have created for ourselves.

I don’t know who started this tradition only as old as this house, but I do know Mister Soandso doesn’t know that when the light is just right and I catch a glimpse of one of those smudges on the glass, I put my hand over it and whisper, “Come back to me.” It is the same thing I say when I drop off my kids at their schools; “come back to me” I whisper to their backpack-covered backs and their youthful conviction of permanence and optimism.

Come back to me.

Life is filled with uncertainty. For every goodbye said has the potential to be the last time we say those words to that person. I am never not aware of that fact. And so I am always asking them for one more time–please come back to me.

I think we are all in the same boat as we find the souls we cherish – the people who make our lives better for having been a part of them. The challenge is letting folks walk away and knowing that someday they won’t return.

That is the type of thinking that can suck a day’s joy from me in a hot minute. If I let it. But one thing that helps me is remembering that just like how Mister Soandso and I leave our fingerprints on our shower door, no matter how far my children travel away from me in their lives and how many hours the Mister’s job takes him away from home, they are still with me.

This is true because no matter how far they go away, their fingerprints are tattooed all over my heart.

Just as it should be.


Giving and Receiving Sanctuary

At 3 am on Wednesday, May 25th, a 3 Alarm fire was set outside the sanctuary of First Congregational UCC Vancouver. Fire crews did amazing work to contain the fire to the western end of the sanctuary and also saved the church steeple and cross. The church is insured and will begin the process of rebuilding.

These 56 words may tell the facts of what happened this week, but they don’t tell the whole story of what happened, and they don’t capture the feelings of the many people impacted by the fire.

What remains of our sanctuary and the million dollar renovation we did on this stained glass.

What remains of our sanctuary and the million dollar renovation we did on this stained glass.

And they certainly don’t answer the question a 4 year-old boy asked me, “But why, Miss Kristina, did somebody do this to us?”

When he asked me that, I did the only thing I could think of…I knelt down, held his tiny hand and said, “I don’t know. But I do know we will be okay.”

I’ve fielded many questions as best I could since I first arrived at the church Wednesday at 6 am looking like a person does when they are awoken to the news that their church and place of employment is on fire. (It’s not my best look, to say the least.)

Most of the time I give the same answer to the 44 and 84 year olds as I do for the 4 year olds.

“I don’t know…but we will be okay.”

But the truth is, okay is also going to be different. The space will never be the same, and the people who regularly use this space will change.

This particular sanctuary, and the sanctuary our whole church and building provides has been a sanctuary in our community for 125 years. It wasn’t just the congregants and holiday worshippers of First Congregational UCC Vancouver who are impacted by the fire. We offer meeting space and office space to many organizations in SW Washington. And we are all homeless and adrift right now.

Weight Watchers, Sierra Club, Martha’s Pantry, MCC of The Gentle Shepherd, Vancouver USA Singers, AA Fireside, the Samoan Adventists, Clark County Music Teachers Association, 6 Rivers Mediation, a disabled young man who works in our building as part of his occupational therapy, and two homeless people/families who shelter on our property are a handful of the groups and folks who no longer have a sanctuary.

Some of those organizations have lost everything. Some have lost only scheduled events and meetings. All will need to find new homes.

All around the world there are people who are homeless and adrift, looking for a place to settle down and settle in. They are looking for their sanctuary in which to take shelter from life’s storms. Up until Wednesday, First Congregational UCC Vancouver was happy to say, “Come, you are welcome here. Sit awhile and know that there is always room at our table.”

Today we have to say, “Come, you are welcome to take sanctuary here…under this tent. Sit awhile on this rented plastic chair. There’s plenty of room for all of us if we sit close enough together.”

We’ve always been more than a building giving sanctuary, but for right now we can’t be that. Instead, we have to be a living sanctuary for one another as we get through this day and the next and all the days after. Together…

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You

Tested by fire, the cross remains, symbolizing our commitment to peace and justice for all.

Tested by fire, the cross remains, symbolizing our commitment to peace and justice for all.

RBF Versus RBG

Let me start out by saying I’ve had no “work” done aside from the sort of work that life does to you via too many late nights and too much stress. Probably the most effective work that life’s done to me is giving me a serious case of myopia which has had the effect of a lifetime spent mostly squinting.

What I’m getting at here folks is that I have wrinkles. I’ve got some lovely smile lines around my eyes, this one weird ass wrinkle that showed up about 3 months ago above my lip, and a super impressive set of Elevens plus a friend between my eye brows. Continue reading

Pooping May Kill

I know, I know. That title may come off as a bit extreme and even perhaps misleading because we all know that its far more likely that not pooping would be a more probable cause of death. But recent events have led me to believe that all those famous folks who are reported to have died on the toilet were probably not simply victims of bad hearts or poorly timed drug overdoses. Nay, they were most likely victims of poorly aligned vertebrae. Anecdotal evidence only holds so much credence, but seriously, it is possible to put your back out while using the toilet. And when that happens, you may just want to die right there on the commode like the rockstar you are. Continue reading