Standing In the Shadow, part 1

Next week we take Biggest to college. I can’t believe I’m typing those words, but my lack of belief doesn’t change reality. Biggest is off to college.

He was an 8 year old, third grader when I started this blog. Back then, my role in his life (and apparently mine as well) was to have all the answers to all his questions. (See my inaugural post for a refresher of how well that went for me.)  These days as a whopping 18 year old, he prefers me to keep my obviously lacking “opinions” to myself and just drive the car in silence, thank you very much. Continue reading

My Slow Fall Into Love With Summer

Falling in love with Summer caught me so unaware that now my heart aches with need. A need to be connected – a need so great that I find myself nearly willing to lose myself. I know this makes no sense.

How is it that me, a middle aged woman not known for spontaneity or reckless behavior now feels like making a public declaration of my love for Summer? I think because when I woke up today, my arm snaking out from under my covers to find the snooze button, my first thought was that it is Friday. And this Friday is the last Friday of this Summer. More to the point, it is the last Friday of Summer as I have come to know and love.

This is the last Friday of Summer.

When I was a kid I hated summer. Summer was the three interminable months between when school got out and when I could escape my childhood and go back to school. Summer was the enemy that meant no fun, no full-belly-laughter, no being a silly kid. Instead, summer was getting up and working all day in the sun-bleached heat of Eastern Washington and trying to hide from the angry voices that demanded absolute obedience.

Things slowly changed when I left the farm. Later, I left home and summer became something more than a season to survive. It became tolerable, even ignorable. Summer happened, but it was just a waiting period until my favorite season started. Hatred had somehow transformed into indifference.

However, yesterday I realized that I somehow fell in love with Summer.

It’s my husband’s fault. He mastered the slipping out of bed as his alarm goes off, closing doors before turning on lights or the shower, dressing in the dark. He’s mastered the gentle kiss on my forehead and quiet goodbye as I hold a cup of coffee, not yet quite awake. He’s embraced sleeplessness as we cajole him into staying up late to watch movies and play games, or moonlit philosophical soaks in the hot tub. He’s been our family’s primary breadwinner so I could spend the summers fully immersed in mothering our three children. Falling in love with summer is an extension of having been given permission to love other people so fully and completely that all I want to do is do nothing with them.

I suppose my slow love affair with summer is like an appreciation of summer’s bountiful impermanence. While experiencing it, summer feels as full a garden plot with one too many zucchini plants. But that feeling is fleeting. One day there is too much and then next there is only withered and empty vines. 

This summer has been filled to bursting with time together. Next summer, Biggest will be marking the days before leaving for college. His weeks between graduation and college will be more about his friends and peers than Netflix and popcorn in the family room with his siblings and Mister Soandso and I crowded on the couch.

Thank you Summer for all you’ve given me. All these years of moments with Biggest (and Middlest and Littlest) and the memories of both the days filled with more “nothing specials” than “big events” but that add up to such a powerful thing that I don’t know what I’m going to do when Summer makes way for Autumn. Because when that happens, there will be no way to ignore that the next time I meet Summer, everything will be different. It may have taken me a long time to fall in love with Summer, but now that I have, all I want is Summer…days and days and days of Summer. But that won’t happen.

Because today is the last Friday of Summer.

 

Friendship, Words, and Reading

One of the best parts of living on the outskirts of the writing community is that I have been able to meet many writers over the years. Even better is the fact that I am lucky to call a handful or so “friend” and mean it in more than the “I interact with them on social media” fashion. One of those wonderful writer friends is Kerry Schafer. Kerry recently shared with me a digital copy of her latest novel and I thought that my first blog post in nearly a year would be a good place to talk about friendship, Kerry, and her books.

518edz1m7el-_sx322_bo1204203200_I have been reading Kerry’s words since her first book, Between, came out in 2013. I devoured Between while camping that summer. While I’m not typically a huge fan of the fantasy genre, Kerry is a good storyteller so she hooked me – to the extent that all three of the Between series sits on my bookshelf.

That storytelling skill continues with her latest series, The Shadow Valley Manor with Dead Before Dying and now World Tree Girl

Technically, World Tree Girl is a stand alone novel, but I feel like some of the story is helped by having already met Maureen Keslyn and her fellow “ghost hunters”. I suppose that’s a bit misleading – you really don’t need to read the first book, but you really should. By the way, they aren’t ghost hunters per se- but like the blurb on the front cover says, there is a very X-File vibe to the work that Maureen does…rather than risk spoilers, let me just describe her as a ghost-like hunter and you can come up with your own description after you’ve read it.

I think my favorite thing that Kerry has done in this book is to create a great protagonist who is as atypical as her job. She’s not a gorgeous, nubile 20-something-year-old. Instead, she’s a bit broken, a bit rough around the edges, a bit like how you’d expect a woman to be with a resume strong enough to hunt “ghosts”.

I think that is why I adore Kerry and her writing. She writes fierce women who are like women you know. Women who have stayed up all night – perhaps watching over a sick child, or waiting for a teenager to creep in hours after curfew, or enjoying the touch of a lover. Real women we all know and probably are when we need to be – it’s just that Kerry’s real women also know all about ghosts, monsters, and dragons.

When I read Kerry’s books, I get to hold a little bit of Kerry in my hands – because she’s fierce and caring and loving…just like her characters.

Thank you my friend, for letting me know you more by knowing your characters. World Tree Girl is a beautiful continuation of your way with words.

ps. this is my first post in almost a year. Wow. I was just telling a friend that it feels like my well of words has run dry. She gently suggested that perhaps this is just my time of laying fallow in order for more fertile writing in the future. I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure about much these days aside from needing to find my way through these days. I am so thankful for the friends in my life who have stayed beside me all this time.

 

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.

The End Is The Best Start

Happy Leap Year everyone. Such a fun little bit of humanity’s attempt to make order out of chaos.

I figure February 29ths should be filled to bursting with all things extra special. I don’t know, like flambé everything tasty and lamé everything wearable.

Of course, I’m wearing super old jeans and a baggy sweatshirt right now, so obviously there’s a big gap between what I think and what I do.

However, what I did this morning was type “The End” on the revision I’ve been working on for like forever. Continue reading

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