The mud bubbled and boiled, popping into the crisp morning air. A voice boomed high above, unintelligible to anyone except the forces of nature.
The mud boiled further, until becoming a cacophony of snaps and cracks. To anyone watching, it may have seemed at times that the mud actually took shape, slowly coming together and then apart, ebbing and flowing as if breathing on its own. As the mud came together one last time, God sighed. So this was the beginning of humanity. This little puddle of mud would be the beginning of wars, heartache, death, and famine. He could end it now. Forget the story of creation, and quash the creature being formed in the mud. . . . Awe, but God knew there was a point to everything. Despite the future generations who might blame God for all of their own trials, He knew that through pain comes joy. Through loss . . . understanding. So he breathed onto the mud (and it was a minty breath--because let's face it, God invented spearmint before Wrigley's was even in business!) At this point, an actually man stood from the mud pot, some darkened clay mixture slicking off his tanned body. "Adam. Son," God, said to the man. And He smiled, seeing all that He had made and knowing that it was "Good."
Inspired by Genesis 1:31. And the fact that I LOVE spearmint!
God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.
I don't feel very "good" lately. In fact I feel like the biggest sinner on earth. I joined a Christian band, but I told them I'll only stay for practice. I don't want to get up on stage where people can see me play the violin. The leader is kick a**--see I'm not as straight-laced as I should be. Let me take that back; she's very cool. She said that just 'cause I feel like a sinner, that doesn't make everyone else exempt. And that everyone else might be better at hiding their sins, but for me, I'm as transparent as cellophane. Pretty hilarious because it's true. It's not that I'm the worst person. It's just that sometimes I don't know what I believe anymore. And I get confused because I may be making the "wrong" choice, but it feels "right." Granted, I've been through some horrific things lately. And the one solid thing I know is that I love God. I'm not sure where life will go. I can look back and feel amazed that I've made it through some of the hard things that I have... Maybe I just need to remember this romantic notion (since it's getting me through): If God knows the past, the present, and the future, that means He knew what humanity would be like...even down to little ol' me. And if He thought His creation was "good" even knowing all the crappy things we would do, maybe I'm not so bad off after all.
So, I still won't fiddle up on stage in front of everyone--because I've never been excited about hypocrisy--but I was wondering, do you ever feel like this? Do you ever make "wrong" choices that feel right? Do you ever doubt what you were raised to believe--and then feel like your disbelief is sinful?
Signing off, A Violinist Who May Be A Little Too Honest?
I'm not gonna sit here and lie; sometimes life sucks. Like the fact that the hot water no longer works in my shower. Every time I get in there, I turn to ice. And I'm not sure if I get completely clean because two seconds after washing my hair, I feel like I have hypothermia, and I have to hover over my bedroom vent just so my fingers and toes thaw evenly and don't fall off! And forget how long it takes pouring a "warm" bath for the kids in that bathroom. I end up hauling water from another faucet--then dump it into the tub repeatedly, just like Little House on the freakin' Prairie! ...Or the fact that my van's left window doesn't work anymore. (That makes visiting the drive-thru a real dream!) Or how I have to disconnect and reconnect the van's battery every time I turn the thing off. Or how it sounds like a commercial airplane getting ready to take flight. . . . I'm sure whenever I start my van, the neighbors two streets over yell, "That single mother with the bad hair must be heading out to work again!" But lately what bothers me isn't the shower, the van, my hair, or even the fact that terrible rumors have spread about my life now that I'm divorced. No, what really chaps my a** is the fact that someone keeps toilet papering my house. This shouldn't be a big deal. None of this should be. I could live in a country without running water--and I'm damn lucky to have a vehicle! Hell, one of these days my fingers COULD fall off--but they haven't yet! And I have family who loves me--AWESOME kids--and I'm not bald. But still, last week, after I dropped off my four children to Cade for the weekend, I pulled into my driveway only to see A MILLION YARDS of toilet paper covering my roof. That's when I cried. I got out of my van, sat on the cold concrete and wondered how people can be so cruel. Was this someone who knows me? Or just some teenagers who picked my house randomly? It didn't matter--what hit me was that I'm exhausted and now I had to clean up another mess. As I hugged my knees, loudly bawling in my driveway, I didn't care who saw me. I wasn't trying to please the neighborhood, pretending to be the "Single Mom of the Year"! After mascara had smeared all over my face, and several concerned citizens had rubber-necked as they drove past, I thought that instead of causing a traffic accident, I should pull myself together. I remembered that saying about turning lemons into lemonade. That whole saying is so overused AND I'm allergic to lemons, but as I sat pathetically rocking on the concrete, a fantastic idea dawned on me. After all, the toilet paper was two-ply! So, before climbing out the bedroom window leading to the roof, I put on cute clothes, cleaned up my face and did my makeup. (Sometimes even lipstick can make life better right now.)
Then I climbed up on my roof and started wrapping that Charmin Ultra-soft (yes, I'm a TP expert) around my left hand. I wound and wound until my hand and arm looked like the Michelin Man!
A car honked and two teenagers pointed and giggled. I waved with TP streaming from my arm. Whatever they thought--to me, it WAS hilarious! After that, I exchanged pleasantries with a lady walking her dog. Did she realize how much her small, kind greeting lightened my load that day? And when I told her what I was doing, her eyes brimmed with tears. "Good for you," she said. "You're turning lemons into lemonade! You're gonna make it, honey. Just keep on movin' forward." I'd suddenly regained my cheery perspective. Who cared about the stupid shower of doom, the van's broken window and its jacked-up battery? Who even cared about my hair--wait, that IS an issue. But anyway, someone had given me toilet paper, for free.
Maybe God knows how hard-up I've been this holiday season. This was like that time in the Bible when manna fell from Heaven; all those ungrateful sinners followed Moses and God still fed them. I can see Him now, wearing a toga--'cause that's what God wears. I bet he was just chillin' on a cloud, throwing manna over the side, waiting for it to fall like big hail-balls from Heaven. Wouldn't that make a great country song! Hail Balls From Heaven.
Yep, God provided again--and this time it was TP, probably donated by some pimple-ridden teenager!
After I'd gathered all of the two-ply goodness, I made myself a steaming cup of peppermint coffee, took a bath, and then I used that toilet paper to wipe my own a**! And I thought to myself, When those people TP'd my house, did they have any idea how positive I can be? Betcha they didn't--and now the joke's on them! It'll take more than that to get this single mother down. WHA-BAM.
So the next time life gives you lemons--or someone TP's your house--remember, it's not always about the crap that happens. It's how we respond that makes the difference.
Point #1 She had tom cats looking for her--from miles away. Once they found her, she'd kick their butts and then romance them. Atta girl!
#2 She liked to play chicken with cars. I watched on several different occasions as cars raced down the street. Simkhaw would saunter into the road, wait in the cars' paths, calmly knowing the vehicles would have to stop. And shockingly the cars always did! They'd slowly swerve around her. After they were long gone, Simkhaw would strut back to my side and bask in the sun. My heart would've been racing, 'til I knew she was okay! After getting over the shock, I'd just shake my head and continue drinking my coffee. That's how Simkhaw got things done!
#3 She understood English. Cade told Simkhaw she couldn't come in and she gave him a full-on crusty face. (Cade should've known WE didn't own the house, SHE did!) Simkhaw walked away until she was a quarter of the way down the block. "Come back, ya stinker shit!" Cade had said. Simkhaw's ears perked. She turned, and without ever looking at Cade, she went right up to the front door and gracefully stepped inside. Home, sweet home!
#4 She could kick a dog's ass! Once--when Simkhaw was over ninety years old in cat years--she lounged on the stairs, looking quite weak and lethargic.
Simkhaw (at the human age of seventeen)
Suddenly my huge white husky jumped from around the corner!
Me (still in my PJ's sorry) and Luna (when we still owned her)
I panicked, thinking Simkhaw might die. But instead of lying there like a wimp, Simkhaw jumped right onto Luna's back and stayed there rodeo-style for the longest time, as Luna bucked around the house!
She'd mastered the art of deception.
Simkhaw got very ill in her 18th year. I brought her to a vet who peered down at her sadly. "Yes, she's ready to go. Look how weak she is." He lifted up her limp front paw. "All right, Janice. I won't need help with this one," he yelled back to his assistant. "I'll be back, Ms. Hirsch," he said to me, "we just need to take some blood so you'll know, without a doubt, that you're making the right choice."
That gem of a doctor--that vet, who apparently couldn't read animals very well--decided to take Simkhaw into the back room ALONE. I think the whole state of Utah heard him scream as Simkhaw clawed him over and over.
About fifteen minutes later, the vet limped back into the room. (Well, maybe not completely limping, but pretty close!) Scratches lined his arms and even face! "She's pretty . . . spry . . . for being eighteen years old. It took all six of us to finally get her under control."
So this is my tribute to Simkhaw. She's now buried under her favorite tree in my backyard. I've had her since I was twelve years old; now I'm thirty! I'm gonna miss that character--she taught me a lot about life. I love you, Sim. I hope you'll keep Zeke company in Heaven.
If you don't know who Zeke is, and would like to, please visit this link:
Sometimes it's hard to roll with the punches. Life hasn't been easy lately, but at least I can say one thing: I've been honest to a fault.
When it sucks, I say so.
When it's awesome, you know it.
But this hasn't been the best idea, not all the time. And I realized this in the grocery store the other day when I wasn't my normal "nice" self. If you've read my blog at all, you know I'm a pretty sweet girl. I don't say mean things to innocent people. I'm not vindictive and I LOVE my enemies! For most of my life I've done everything I can to make everyone else happy. Well, maybe I'm starting to change just a little. . . . A guy walked toward me as a studied the various types of chips in front of me at the local store. I was bored, honestly. Cade had the kids for the weekend, and it seemed like I had nothing better to do than buy an energy drink and peruse the chip aisle before going home to sew. I stood minding my own business, gauging whether Cheetos or Doritos sounded like a better time, when suddenly the guy at two o'clock started talking to me. "Oh, my gosh! I LOVE Doritos too! Can you believe it? We BOTH love Doritos." Did he want a flippin' prize! Is this the best guys can do these days? Besides, I have a problem with men lately. Actually there are only three men I really trust right now, and chip-boy isn't one of them. I studied his face and saw "DIRT BAG *ALERT*--I LIKE TO SLEEP WITH WOMEN" practically tattooed on his forehead. That's when I decided to let my temper out. "Doritos? Really! I bet 90% of Americans LOVE Doritos. That doesn't make me your F'n soulmate!" He paled. And as I said the words, I actually felt bad--until he gained his second wind! "A feisty redhead! Meow! I like that! We should go out." At the point he said "meow" I think I threw up a little in my mouth. "I'm happily . . . unavailable," I said, starting to turn away. "You aren't wearing a ring or nothin' AND I'm a great guy." "You're shorter than me," I countered, because that's something a guy just can't bounce back from--unless he's a midget 'cause that's badass. I've seen Willow enough times to know! "What?" he said. "You're. Shorter. Than. Me," I raised my voice. "I'll always look up to you." "You look younger than me." "Never stopped me before." "How old are you, babyface? Can you even grow a beard yet?" I felt so insensed that he wouldn't just leave me alone to pick some chips; I thought if he continued much longer, I might give him my ex-husband's number--and name--just for the hell of it! (I could pass for a Cade--or Cade-ee--right?) That would teach chip-boy to hit on girls in the chip aisle! "I'm twenty-five," he winked. Holy . . . water! Was he really asking me out? Had his balls even dropped yet? "Well, child. I'm thirty. I could have changed your diapers." "We aren't THAT far apart in age." "To a five-year-old, that's a freakin' lifetime!" I said, then grabbed a bag of original Lays--which I'm not especially fond of--and I nearly sprinted to the self-checkout. And as I scanned the bar code of those original Lays, I kept thinking about how I didn't want that brand of chips! I just wanted to mind my own business and probably buy Doritos--because, after all, 90% of Americans LOVE Doritos.
Why is it so hard for me to stand up for myself, do what I want, and now control my temper? I love that I'm a nice person and I do want to remain true to myself, but being divorced is teaching me a few things. I don't have to be sweet all the time, and it's okay to stand up for myself. Like the Bible--and The Byrds--say, to everything there is a season.
Are there ever times in your life when you've told someone how you feel and they just haven't taken the hint? If so, how did you respond?
Once upon a time--when I was a teenager and things still had the blessed taint of youth--Cade and I went rock climbing in Hawaii. We didn't say much, feeling nature and the beauty around us. We were near the top of a huge waterfall when my hands started stiffening from being too close to the cold rock and water. Cade climbed over the cliff ahead of me, and was about to turn around when I started slipping. Time moved slowly. I didn’t have a chance to say a word. So many thoughts went through my mind as I slipped and began falling back toward the water that cascaded hundreds of feet below me. A cliff. So this is how I would die. My stomach lurched. I slipped farther and my eyes darted back to the water. The jagged rocks scrapped my shaking hands as I tried clinging to the mountainside. My shoes felt heavy and leaden; the whole predicament was hopeless. Just as my hands completely faltered and I began tumbling from the rocky siding, Cade turned toward me. My heart pounded. I couldn’t hear anything. In slow motion, I watched as Cade’s face grimaced in concentration. He instantly flattened himself and reached for my wrist. I swore he missed. My right arm flailed in the air because my feet were staying in place as I fell backward. Desperate, I stared into Cade’s eyes. That’s when I realized he’d grabbed me, just in time. Tears poured across my face as I twisted and slammed against the rocky wall. The water rushed once more within my hearing. A buzzing sound filled my aching head as Cade helped me over the side. I leaned into his shoulder and didn’t even realize how badly I’d bruise later. “I almost fell,” I stuttered. We stayed like that for a time, and when I saw Cade’s face, I couldn’t believe how shook up he was.
But the fact remains; we're divorced now. And if I fall, Cade won't be there to catch me. I thought about this the other day as I waited at the pediatrician's office, wondering how I could possibly face life without anyone for a safety net. That's when I read a quote on the wall: "Be strong for your kids. Make them your priority and everything else will follow." I closed my eyes and thought hard. Maybe this is what growing up is about: Taking responsibility for ourselves. Seeing the journey that brought us where we are. Accepting changes gracefully, as best we can. It's wonderful that Cade and I were married for the time we were. But a new life awaits both of us. I need to hold firm to the rock--no more falling for me. And I need to be strong for my children, in case they ever need me to catch them--like I once needed someone to catch me. It's my turn to be the source of security. It's my turn to be the safety net for my kids. We'll make it through this. And that's what I'm thankful for today: the good times, the bad times, the times in between. And the fact that I'm being strong for my kids, when really they're my source of hope through all of this.
Remember "The Golden Sky"--the story of my son who passed away? Well, today Zeke would have been 11.
I want to write a special post about him today (find it below). But before sharing that, since it's his birthday, his book, along with many others will be available for FREE download from 11/18/13-11/22/13. Here's the list of FREE downloads:
And I'd also like to tell you about a new release CLICK HERE
Not only is it an amazing story about overcoming facial defects, bullying, and other devastations life can bring--it's a tale of hope, forgiveness, and redemption.
Zeke was born with a cleft lip and palate. So to read Karl Schonborn's story--and delve into the life of someone else born with some of the same issues as Zeke--it was absolutely fascinating.
I hope you'll enjoy this story if you have a chance to check it out.
“A poignant, heartfelt tale of endurance and hope. Schonborn’s story is
an inspiration to all who endure physical or mental health challenges
and those who care about them.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Dedicated to Zeke, Junko & Shigekazu:
A forty-year-old Japanese woman sits rocking in a rocking chair; the wooden boards of her front porch creak under the pressure. She gazes out, studying the rice paddy fields that continually sway from the passing of the wind.
"Shigekazu-san, hurry. Get ready! He's coming!"
A tall man, appearing to be a bit younger than the tiny woman on the porch, steps from the small house. He's been working to tune a new piano that was delivered to their house earlier that week. He wipes his large hands on his pants before hugging the small woman.
Without another word, the woman continues rocking, the man standing eagerly behind her as they watch the fields. And if anyone had walked by, they would have thought the scene picturesque--the two Japanese people, waiting so expectantly, as if for another miracle to come.
Time passes like a dream. The two silently enjoy each other because they sometimes feel as if it's been years since they've seen one another.
Soon, the wind really picks up, and the sea of paddies dances even more than before. That's when a striking young man steps from the fields.
Junko, the elegant woman on the porch, stands. Tears glisten in her eyes. "When we heard that you'd died, we felt so much sadness. But to meet you here! You look just like our son-in-law--like your Uncle Shane!"
The three of them smile. They'd never met on earth, yet something tied them together. It was the love of those they'd known while alive.
"I've waited years for this. I heard your prayers the days after I died." He studies both of them with returned kindness. "And I've wanted to thank you for everything you did to help my mother after I died. Have you seen them recently?" The man--Zeke--suddenly asks, as if unable to stop himself from saying the words. "Have you seen my mother and father?"
Junko nods. "I saw your mother a few weeks before I died. I wonder if she knew my time was coming because she asked me something as if it were more important than anything in the world. . . ."
"What did she ask?" Shigekazu says.
"She asked if I could give her one bit of advice--one thing that I'd learned in all of my years of experience."
Zeke and Shigekazu both wait for her to go on. Junko closes her eyes, then smiles. "I gave her the advice I knew she needed most. 'Don't lie to yourself, Elisa,' I said. 'Don't lie and your life will be filled with joy.' I hope she'll always remember."
And as the three of them sat, visiting in Heaven, their families on earth were still amazed that Junko died exactly two years, to the day, from when her husband Shigekazu died. And that Junko was cremated on Zeke's birthday.
Someone asked me yesterday, what it was like knowing I would get divorced last August.
This is the only way I can describe it.
I cringed on the stone slab in the middle of the crypt. The rock felt so cold, biting into the bare skin on the back of my arms. An old man leaned over me and inspected the muscles just below my collarbone. "You're sure?" he wheezed, his low voice chilling my soul, his breath smelling of ale. I swallowed in an effort to moisten my drying throat. My eyes closed tight and I wished the last few years had never happened, the sadness, the heartache, the lies. . . . "So?" he asked somewhat impatiently. I nodded. "Yes." The word was little more than a whisper. "Yes. I'm sure." He doused my upper chest in iodine, then added a splash of whiskey for good measure before taking a quick swig of it for himself. The old man laughed maniacally; the hairy mole on his cheek vibrating with each croak of laughter. I began rethinking my choice of physician; not because of his laughter, but because of that damn mole. It really was bigger than Milwaukee. I wondered if he'd ever begin working--my body tensing more with every passing second. But it wasn't too much longer, that he started cutting out my heart. He'd asked if I wanted something to ease the pain, but I'd refused. I thought, this was the last thing I'd feel and I wanted to remember you . . . one last time. Screams escaped from my throat over and over as the moments passed like single leaves--time.less.ly--falling from an autumn tree. I felt even more cowardly than before, writhing on that table, screaming because of something as stupid as physical pain. WE'D been through much worse than that. And WE knew there are worse things than death. Like the time we held our son--as he suffocated in OUR arms. Or the journey--when WE'D practically been to Hell and back in those following years--yet still made it through. The old man's assistant came in at one point. "Here! Hold this!" The physician slammed a reddened scalpel into his assistant's hands. I sobbed from the fire-like aching that shot through my chest. My body shook uncontrollably then, just like it had the first time I'd made love to you, back when I was seventeen. It had been a snowy night, the night we took our vows. . . . It was things like that--I no longer wanted to feel--even if only in my memories. Tears slid down my face--so many, they could have created a damn lake. We were done. Our relationship spent. As if our candle had finally burned to its final, inexplicable end. And I felt like our love had died, just like our son did so many years ago. . . . I tried sitting up on the stone table, but the old man had tied my hands and upper body--when I'd been so eager to forget. Now, there was no getting away. And as my stomach muscles tensed, my chest throbbed with the severe pain that ensues the shock from a serious injury. Panicked, my breaths came out too quickly. I'd wanted to stop feeling, no matter the cost--but had I known what it would really do to me? "She'ssss breathing too-ooo quickly," the assistant hissed. "Let her," the old man replied. "She'll pass out soon. And this will all go much faster." But I didn't pass out. Not until I felt my own heart pop from my chest, with a gurgling snap that made me lose consciousness faster than Monica Lewinsky lost her virginity. (Sorry for that--but this post is getting so flippin' serious. . . .)
When I woke up, I realized the old man must have untied me because my arms kept flying to my chest as my hands pawed at everything that was no longer there.
The old man and his assistant were gone--and so was everything they'd used to "operate." In fact, the room was empty . . . except for one thing. Resting on the side table was someone else's heart, diseased, rotting and aged with heartache of its own; next to it, sat a note.
The fine print read:
"Give it time and you will grow another heart, a fresh one. Use someone else's diseased heart and although your own pain will lessen now, in the end, it will magnify tenfold. You can only grow anew, when you aren't using someone else's heart as a crutch."
I shook my head--use someone else as a crutch? I shunned the idea, walked toward the exit, my empty chest throbbing with each step. But eventually, my progress to the exit slowed so much, I hunched, hurting beyond my previous comprehension. I almost left that room . . . almost. But then the pain was too great. I sighed with irony; I'd had them remove my heart, so I'd never feel again, yet now I felt more pain than ever. I could hardly make it to the exit; how did I expect to make it in the world outside? It took a while, but I hobbled to the diseased heart on the table--picked it up and thrust the damn thing into my own barren chest cavity. At once, I felt that it had belonged to someone else near my own age. I sensed their sadness and that numbed my own pain. Slowly the heart began beating, ever so gently, even as it spread a disease throughout my own body, pulsing with a rhythm unlike any I'd ever known. And although it wasn't anything compared to what I'd had before, it was enough to get me through. I walked up the tiny stairs leading from the crypt, and went into the blinding sunlight just outside. My skin shone gray and dying, but at least I was still alive. That's when I realized, I'd really left my past . . . and I could never go back again.