:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Day Late and a Dollar Short (John)

I'm a day behind for my scheduled post.  Sorry about that. I was going to do it last night, but... well... read on.

Thus begins another round of project. My last goal was to replace the picture of me paddling a long time ago with a picture of me paddling more recently. But from January 18th to the end of August of this year, we've had adventures in health care. Diverticulitis for me, with associated hospital time. Dad's near death heart attack. Mom's circling of the drain before we got her to Mayo and got her considerably better. My daughter ingesting one of Mom's meds the day after Dad had his heart attack and getting a hospital stay of her own.  Needless to say, it was a bit much, and any time off we may have accrued to vacation was rapidly spent visiting hospitals. So paddling? Never happened.

I am extremely grateful that both of my parents survived this year. Thankful and grateful.

So the second round of project COFFEE I approach with some trepidation.  Goals? Drop 50 pounds and do an olympic length tri. Very doable. It will require some serious commitment, of course. But I can attain these goals. The trick is the nerves. I am filled with anxiety about what bombs life will drop on me as the new year of 2012 rolls in. My biggest obstacles in fact, are entirely mental.  Waiting for the shoe to drop.

But what can I do? Same as you. Fold it up and hide under the bed, or just suck it up and attack the project... no excuses.

I guess I'll choose to attack. That's what the Marine in me is calling for. In that spirit, I went for a swim last night, and didn't finish when I thought I would. I had planned on doing a thousand yards, maybe 1500. Drills mostly. 100 yards on the 2 minute or 1:45. that sort of thing. But as my 200 yard warm up stretched to 500 yards, I wondered what it would be like to just swim a mile straight.  I did it a while back, so I knew it was attainable. So instead of stopping at 500, I kept on swimming.800, 1200, 1500 yards and I still felt pretty good. As I approached the 1650 yard/1 mile mark, I decided to add an extra mile, just to see if I could.

On I swam, focusing on good form and long glide, keeping a decent pace.  And sure enough, the yards kept rolling by. 2000, 2500 3000 yards. I finished the second mile, 3300 yards about 53 minutes after I started my warm up swim. I had glanced at the clock before I started, but wasn't tracking seconds. That's an average of 1:45 per 100 yards... for two miles.  Not near what I could have done twenty five years ago, but you know what? I'm pretty pleased with it! I know that if I wanted to, I've got the swim part of a full iron distance in me. So I know I can do the swim and bike portions of an olympic distance. And I still have many months to train! So I apologize for posting late. I swam a bit farther than I expected.

That swim, though, has given me a boost in the confidence I'll need to shed a fourth grader worth of weight.

What are your challenges? What is stopping you from attacking those? How can I help you attack those obstacles and reach your goals?

More Later

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Inside Out and San Francisco Serendipity (Holly)

When we last met, I was going to go on a massive cleanse and by next post, due tomorrow, I was to come up with a plan.  A schedule.  Attack time!!  Well, I don’t exactly have that, but what I do have, I think, is better.  I found a book I had been looking for since last post and have chosen to implement my cleansing project around said book.  And, in fact, what my project actually will be is organizing. My home.  My office.  My life.  Yes, it will include cleansing, but really what I need to do is organize.  Which includes  an element of purge.  But purging is just an element of the overall goal.  This book, called Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgensterm, details a plan to get organized and stay organized.  That’s the good news.  Bad news is that it will take time.  And, a lot of it.  It’s time to do it though.  My excuses have run out.  Essentially, it’s a fail to plan, plan to fail philosophy.  And taking a close look at what’s keeping one from being organized right now.  She organizes this into three areas: Technical Errors, External Realities, and Psychological Obstacles.   For example, one of my four technical errors is that many of my items “don’t have a home”.  One of my external realities is that I’m bordering on an “unrealistic workload” being a full-time employee, two kiddos, decent sized house with a big yard, exercise goals, blogging projects, group leader for a small group, etc.  One of my psychological obstacles is “sentimental attachment”.  My dad died in 1992 and I still have sooooo much of his stuff, including clothes.   I’ve hung on to quite a few memorabilia from high school, backpacking trips to Europe, notes and emails from 1995 and 96! I found these recently in a 3-ring binder.  What was I thinking?? But, yet, I can’t bring myself to throw them out.  Oh, and what do I do with the huge bag of love letters from my ex-husband?  Anyway….this is just a sampling of things that need to be addressed to become a more organized person.  
The next step is to analyze and “take stock” in the area you are about to organize by asking yourself five questions:
1)      What’s working?
2)      What’s not working?
3)      What items are most essential to you?
4)      Why do you want to get organized?
5)      What’s causing the problems?
Room for improvement!
Note the piles, triple clock
(Des Moines, London, and Dushanbe),
a phone book (why?),
 a Russian Dictionary (why?), and
of course, a picture of a Llama. And,
some bug spray I bought on sale.
In August.

The author says you CANNOT skip any of these steps and warns vehemently against giving into the temptation of diving in and starting purging and cleansing.  Exactly what I was going to do! And, I was going to start in the basement.  She also says to start with a smaller project in a highly utilized area so that you can really see the results and reap the rewards.  Consequently, I have chosen to start with the “Household Information Center”.    I have what should be in this area scattered all over the desk it’s supposed to be in and all across the kitchen.  I have answered the five questions as it pertains to the information center, and have to tell you…..I’m not proud of the level of disorganization I operate under and the periodic results of said disorganization. 
So on the plane to San Francisco, I took time to analyze my “household info center” by answering the five questions.  As I was on the plane I couldn’t see the area and so I’m going to take a second look now that I’m home.  It has been a good process to really examine what is working and what isn’t.  And, I suppose good to look at what’s causing the problem.  Julie lists “organizing is boring” under technical errors.  I definitely have this problem. I would much rather be blogging  than trying to figure out where my Runner’s World, Women’s Health, the Writer, and Food Network magazines should go.  I have a subscription to each of these.  What if I need to reference one someday? What if ummmm……why is it I can’t toss these? I even have some Veggie Times from 1998 and 1999.  There were some great recipes in there!! When was the last time I pulled one out and made something from one of them?  Well, why would I do that? I get Food Network now! And, I have about 20 cookbooks in my kitchen and I cook out of those.  Oh, and a 3-ring binder with recipes I pull from the internet.  The way I’m talking, you’d think I’m cooking all the time! Ha! See external reality referenced above.  Too much going on to cook the way I love to cook.  Half the time it’s pasta with a side of vegetables or frozen chicken nuggets in the shape of dinosaurs.  With a side of broccoli, of course!  Anyway, if I can’t even bring myself to organize something as fun as great magazines, why would I want to address bills and 529 and 401k and deferred comp and car registration notifications????? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Well, that’s exactly why you have to answer the WHY do you want to get organized.  For the information center it’s important that I get organized for several reasons.  One biggy is that it will save me a lot of money.  I’m not as bad as I used to be, but I still get the occasional late fee or penalty.  I’ve been ticketed more than one year for not getting my car registration done on time. Hey! When was that due? Oh, October? Okay…..listen COFFEE mates, I’m in danger of it happening RIGHT NOW! And guess what? My driver’s license expires on my birthday this year.  In TWO WEEKS.  Ok, you get the picture.  Another main reason I need to do this area, as well as the other areas in my home, is to feel a sense of calm and control.  When I’m organized, I feel so much more free and light.  A big challenge after getting organized is staying organized.  For the information center this requires 5-10 minutes of daily attention.  Zzzzzzzzzz  And, periodic “tune-ups” zzzzzzzzzzzzz
Information Center clutter in the kitchen.
Children's art, pasta with Cauliflower
recipe, Christmas CD, BRMC CD, 
Wilco CD, magazines, and lots of bills. And,
Puffs Plus with Lotion. And my keys.
And, a knife.
So, next on the path to creating an organized information center is to strategize and create a plan of action.  This is where you think about the area’s activity zones, the supplies used in each zone, and then the corresponding storage unit.  I have started this activity and the zones are things like Mail and Paper flow, Bill paying, Meal Planning, kids’ school papers, etc…..
By next time I write in two weeks or so, I will be done with strategizing and plan creation and most likely moving in to ATTACK! Getting the job done through SPACE!
Sort       Purge   Assign a home  Containerize      Equalize
Again, Julie insists on doing all of the steps and they must be in order.   Tune in next time to see how it goes for the information center SPACE. 
But before I sign off, I must tell you about San Francisco serendipity.  As you may recall, I wrote a lot about serendipity last year.  Though the serendipitous events have waned a bit, I’ve noticed a resurgence recently.  Last week fellow COFFE mate, Becky Johnson, and I were in San Francisco for work.  I posted something about being there on Facebook and fellow COFFEE mate, Angie Ryan, saw the post and we arranged to meet in North Beach area for a drink Friday at 5:30.  Neither Becky nor I had met Angie before and we were both very excited to get together and talk about COFFEE whilst having a cocktail.  During our lunch break on Friday, in an ENTIRELY different part of town, Becky and I were walking to a restaurant for lunch.   We both saw a woman that looked a heck of a lot like Angie walking up a brutal San Francisco hill.  I thought to myself, nah, couldn’t be her.  Becky said, out loud, HI! Is your name Angie??  And, yup! You guessed it.  IT WAS!! Don’t tell me that was just a coincidence! We chatted for about 10 minutes and agreed to meet later as previously arranged.  And, we did. And, it was fun! And, why we didn’t get a picture is beyond me!  Then, I could post it here, now.  Here’s to hoping that I get to meet the rest of you that I haven’t yet!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Brutality of the Dice (Holly)

Tonight the decision dice are really pissing me off.  I realize that it’s highly suspect to make decisions based off of what the decision dice say…..but, I’m telling you, they’re so on target so often when I do it, that it’s hard not to put a little faith in them.  Because of this respect that I’ve developed for the decision dice, I don’t bother them too often.  Only when I really want an idea on how something might turn out.  I guess we could also call them fortune telling dice as you’re allowed to ask questions about the future.  One method allows for vague questions like, “What will happen with my love life in the next 3 months” or, “how’s it going to go with me, the Artist’s Way, and the blog”….stuff like that.  So, I got answers tonight that I did not expect!!  And, they weren’t really what I wanted to hear.   One result of the brutal honesty of the dice, I have decided that I cannot do the Artist’s Way as my COFFEE project.  I still want to do the blog, but I think that the project that I’m really supposed to do is to clean and organize my life.  Cleanse. Deep and thorough cleanse.  I mentioned the importance of this project at some point last year in a COFFEE blog.
I fully intended for this first blog to be about what I learned from last year’s blogging COFFEE experience and why I didn’t end up finishing the whole Artist’s Way course.  But…..I just can’t bring myself to do it.  Turns out it has to do with this clearing, cleansing, purging thing…..as many of you COFFEE alum may recall, I learned a lot about listening to the universe and being open to the many serendipitous events that it presents to me.  Well, that’s what is happening now and all roadsigns lead to a major cleanse as top priority.  I’ve been stuffing it for years. No pun intended.  I have no excuses anymore. 
Here’s what the Artist’s Way has to say on this topic:….(and I highlighted the crap out of it last year)
By tossing out the old and unworkable, we make way for the new and suitable.  A closet stuffed with ratty old clothes does not invite new ones.  A house overflowing with odds and ends and tidbits you’ve held on to for someday has no space for the things that might truly enhance today.
When the search-and-discard impulse seizes you, two crosscurrents are at work: the old you is leaving and grieving, while the new you celebrates and grows strong. As with any rupture, there is both tension and relief.  Long-seated depression breaks up like an ice floe.  Long-frozen feelings thaw, melt, cascade, flood, and often overrun their container (you).  You may find yourself feeling volatile and changeable. You are.
Be prepared for bursts of tears and laughter. A certain giddiness may accompany sudden stabs of loss. Think of yourself as an accident victim walking away from the crash: your old life has crashed and burned; your new life isn’t apparent yet.  You may feel yourself to be temporarily without a vehicle. Just keep walking.
This is just a bit of what I'm up against!
I am excited and terrified all at once by this choice that I’ve made.  That last paragraph from Artist’s Way certainly resonates with me….old life crash and burn and what is the new life?
My goal is by the next time I write, in two weeks, I will at least have a schedule and plan of attack for a major home and life cleansing!
Oh, and btw....it's good to be back, COFFEE MATES.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

a sporadic ending. (Amy)

I meant to do one more commentary on eating healthy and my laissez faire approach to running a 5K (or, to be frank, physical movement in general). After that post, August 8 was pegged to be my big wrap up, the Grande Finale of my grande finale (I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, in these first two sentences, I've managed to use 2 different bourgeois French phrases and 1 French word Americans have turned into total hacked out cliches).

But obviously, that never happened. For many different reasons, but mostly because I have skewed priorities and also this summer my adult onset ADD was exacerbated by no less than three different home improvement projects (2 big, 1 little) and mostly I'm just generally someone who dives head on into various projects and eventually just sort of whimpers out.

So. Let's wrap this bad boy up with a way-too-many-details review:

I began back in October (?) by saying I wanted to get healthy. I wanted to lose 50 lbs, run/slow jog a 5K during a not-too-hot/not-too-cold month, and I wanted to eat cleaner and greener. Later, my eating cleaner/greener evolved into turning myself into some type of makeshift Paula Deen. And then even later I came up with some different projects, like writing and sending out my work and also turning myself from a sluggish, overfed caterpillar into a beautiful social butterfly.

Here's what happened (I've already foreshadowed in the previous paragraphs how this ends, so you can skip to the overall wrap up at the bottom if you'd like):

*Big 5K: Slept through it. Literally. I have no explanation for myself. I totally understand if anyone feels the need to downgrade my AAA rating to AA- (or below).

*50 lbs: Still with me. Bad house guest. Doesn't even offer to help clean up, makes rude comments about my meal preparations, and really just refuses to leave. I'd throw 50 lbs out, and I have in the past, but 50 lbs just sneaks right back in, and also brings uninvited guests with it, like 10 lbs and 20 lbs more. He's totally dysfunctional, and I blame every single one of my ancestors, all the way back to cave woman grandma. Damn you, cave woman grandma!

*Physical movement: Sporadic at best. In fact, I've decided that is what I'll ask to have written on my tombstone: Here lies Amy. She was sporadic. At best. I've learned to embrace this aspect of myself, and I've decided I'm really okay with it. Others may not be, and in sporadic bursts I try to fix that to make them happier, but you know.

*Eating cleaner/greener: I shopped once at Whole Foods, the mecca for those who eat clean/green. I spent half a week's paycheck there and almost coughed up my spleen at the cash register. I then discovered Trader Joe's, who I am still deeply in love with, but the problem is Joe lives kind of out of my way and his shopping carts are ten sizes too small for my needs on the account of the fact I am a married, week's worth of dinner groceries shopper. I suspect Trader Joe prefers single, one-day-at-a-time shoppers and so our relationship may not work out, in the end. But I'll always love him, even if he never acknowledges it.

One thing I will note about eating cleaner/greener that I discovered through that process (this was to be my 2nd to last up date back in July, by the way): it's exhausting. It's exhausting to constantly research which things are genetically modified (GMO), potentially GMO, which companies are most evil and which products they have any kind of association with (Monsanto, I'm pointing at you--you, you feckless, power hungry, greedy-wants-world-domination-of-food-supplies, with your mega-power lawyers/minions and your sneaky business practices and former-employees-turned-federal-level-politicians planted deeply in your blood money pockets) (I'd link to Monsanto, but I'm certain they'd find me and sue for outting them just now), and which dairy products are truly organic and which are not. Exhausting.

And then to go shopping and have to read the labels and really think, while trying to keep a busy 2 1/2 year old occupied and convinced it's to her best benefit to park her butt in that shopping cart or else? Triple E exhausting.

Basically now I've gotten to the point where I do what I can afford with organic produce (peaches, lettuce, apples, etc--get them organic, they have skins that soak up every bit of poison imaginable) and then I buy just regular stuff, whatever's on sale.

I bring my own bags to the store, and I try to shop the seasons as much as possible (note: summer is a veritable orgy of fruits and vegetables. Getting our vitamins in right now because, apparently, in the winter we'll be eating mostly carrots, turnips, and parsnips. The end). And with things like dairy, which are outrageously expensive if you go organic, I've settled for: please no Rhgb or whatever that hormone is that makes cow milk glands go into overdrive and causes girls to go into puberty at age 6.

What I'm generally saying here is: I'd like to vote with my checkbook like all the clean/green food advocates urge, but my checkbook had to do an intervention with me and remind me: I do have a mortgage to pay. So I've lowered my standards, but I'm far more educated and much more aware of what goes into my grocery cart. This is a good thing. Oh, and I think farmer's markets rock.

*Cooking: Yeah, I still do it. And I'll never be a Paula Deen. I must have a recipe to follow; I will never be the kind of cook who wakes up one day and says: "I think for dinner I'll take some squash and cabbage, a little chicken, some of this, some of that, and voila!" And everyone who tastes it insists that I write Food Network to get my own show or at least try to convince Anthony Bourdain to feature me on his show. No, no. I'll always be the kind of cook who needs a recipe in front of her.

And some of these recipes (if they're good recipes) turn out awesome. Some turn out like the sludge they truly are. Since starting this aspect of my COFFEE project, seriously. I've cooked at least 100 recipes, and about 80 of them have been WTF doozies (no finger pointing here, but uh, SELF magazine and 98% of your recipes? No. Just: No. Please stop).

Which is why I will never, ever write any recipes. I think recipe concocting is an innate gift, a true talent, like someone who can sing. And I think some people (just like the ones who appear in the opening shows of American Idol talent auditions) really, truly believe they have this gift. And I think someone in these people's lives should eat one of their meals and gently, kindly let them know: I'm sorry, but you do not have this gift. You have other talents, just not this one. Before they make an embarrassment of themselves on national tv, or some girl in Georgia cooks one of their concoctions that makes her husband (who is naturally gifted at cooking but has decided for whatever reason not to on most days of any week) to say: "Did you follow the recipe? Well, it needs a lot of work. Whoever wrote needs mental evaluation. This is so gross."

But I am cooking, 25 days out of a 30 day month.

*Writing/sending out my opus magnums (magni?): I have written. Sporadically. But I have not sent out my work. I may do Nanowrimo in November and see what happens, but I'm easily distracted and suffer from skewed priorities (see opening paragraphs) and so I never, ever make promises to myself or anyone else I'm not sure I can keep. But I plan to embark on Nanowrimo in November.

*Social butterfly: I've joined a few Meetups over at Meetup.com. I have never attended one. But I like to imagine myself going, and that's a big first step. I bet.

Overall Wrap Up:

I was (clearly) not totally successful at any or all of my projects. But I do work out, a whole lot more than I used to. Like, pre-COFFEE I worked out this many times per week: 0. Post-COFFEE, I work out this many times per week: sometimes 0, sometimes 6, sometimes 3, sometimes 2.5.

Eventually I'll make it to a 5K...or not. And eventually I'll lose 50 lbs. Or just 10. Maybe some day I'll miraculously win the $900 million lottery (I don't play the lottery) and I can shop at Whole Foods to my little heart's content. Maybe I'll just keep shopping at Kroger so I can mutter "What the fudge?! TEN dollars for ONE organic red pepper??? Are these people on CRACK??" ...or maybe I'll find a way to make my relationship with Trader Joe work.

Really. Life is just a scootch and clog and slog and bog process, as writer Anne Lamott says. You scooch ten scooches forward, then you bog down for awhile. Then you scootch back 3 scootches, bog for awhile, scootch up a bit, slog down for a long stretch, and then scootch back and then clog for awhile, and scootch forward. So on, so forth. Sporadic, which is just how I like it. I think everyone else should, too. Life goes way too fast; slow it down, people.

This was a really, awesomely cool project/group to be a part of, goals met or not. In fact, I kind of approach big things now on COFFEE project-like terms--like, something overwhelming will come up that I need to get done and I'll say: "Self, you can work on this for....6 weeks. It's your new project." And then I totally clog and slog and bog on it, occasionally scootching forward now and then. As is my very nature. But it's re-shaped my processing approach to the overwhelming (and life is constantly throwing the overwhelming at us, I find...just look at the United States Congress for example. So overwhelmed, all of them).

And (And!) I got to make a ridiculously silly homemade cooking show video.

And (And! AND!) I made some super cool, hip new friends. Which kind of makes me want to modify my Social Butterfly project a bit--I've been a veritable social butterfly here, at COFFEE, and this is good.

If you want to keep up with me further (in a very sporadic way), you can always find me here at my (sporadically updated) blog: sweet little crosspatch, where I both muse and rant on topics of great, worldly importance that no one (no. one.) in any presidential administration past or current appears to care what my opinion is on. Or about. Or just what my opinion is. I have no idea how to end that sentence in a sensible, grammatically appropriate way. Anyway, if you want more of those kinds of sentences, go there.

And that's it. Amy out. Peace, love, and granola. Catch you on the flip side. (That's all I have. I'm all out of 70's slang.)


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kim and No Sidekicks (Tanya)

We all have heard about those friends that you seek out in life to make yourself feel better. You know, the uglier or plain-Janer friend, the one who dotes all over you and lets you run the show. The friend who is just a little less funny or who looks uncomfortable in her own skin, usually wearing stupid shoes with an ill fitting skirt or saggy butt pants. The kind of friend will forever be wearing braces and thick glasses, even when the braces come off and the glasses are now contacts. The kind of friend who is a nervous puppy and never finds her confidence. Of course I'm talking about the “sidekick friend.”

Well, okay, if this is the kind of friend you are seeking, run fast and far away from my rock star friend, Kim. Kim is the polar-bombs-exploding-opposite to the sidekick friend who we’ve all seen, had, or heard about, the kind starring in Mean Girls or The Breakfast Club, and Kim is even a nice gal to boot. Kim is cool, hot, confident, determined, resilient, loyal, human, hilarious, patiently blunt, and wildly adventurous to say the least, and Kim has simply got-it-going-on. Kim has also ALWAYS got your back.

So I’m writing about Kim because I was thinking recently about what I love about this friend of mine. As I work towards self evolution and increasing this self esteem stuff, I have been struck by just how life saving and awesome it is that I have found someone like Kim in my life. She has truly been a life saver too, lit-er-a-lly. We have known each other for years, but only when we were both going through our separations and ultimately our divorces did we become uber close pals. Of course, this was due to another rock star friend, Liz, who in very common Liz-form, suggested we connect up while we were going through what we were going through (Liz is forever the social matchmaker of all sorts….. LOVE YOU TOO, ROCK STAR FRIEND!!). I simply can never thank Kim enough for the strength she gave me during those dark and shady days. I mean those terms, “dark” and “shady” in many many, many many endless ways too. Kim knows what I mean.

Anyway, I had to giggle recently at a concert Kim and I attended (Poison and Motley Crue for all you 80s/ 90s children – glam rock style, garage band dreamers unite!). I went on a school (aka work) day completely exhausted, so not into it, and definitely not prepared mentally or physically appealing to the eye. I didn’t change from my matronly work clothes (aka smart black cotton dress that hit me below the knees, sensible diamonique stud earrings for jewelry, little make-up if at all visible, and a general fuddy duddy vibe) except for changing my granny shoes to my way hipper (comfortable) flip flops and removing my slip. By the way, you should never admit to anyone you still wear a slip, even if Duchess Kate is wearing nude hose these days.... Anyway, Kim, on the other hand, looked like a respectable Poison / Motley Crue concert go-er. She was blinged out with eons of sparkle and the vibe on fire to match. And, most importantly, Kim has that appeal. She ALWAYS has that appeal. I lost count of all the random men (and chicks by the way) who either high-fived her, struck up meaningless conversation, asked for a smoke, nudged me out of the way to get closer to her, or generally just ogled her from near and far. Me, well, I was the invisible, sensibly dressed friend who knew her place and bounced around in her sensible dress impressing nobody, except perhaps Kim, and of course my die-hard heavy metal band friend, Carey, who is always the FOREVER ROCK STAR FRIEND too (thanks C, Bop, Tommy Lee is friggin' amazing, huh!).

So, all of this got me thinking about the COFFEE project. I thought, okay, this is good. Everyone SHOULD have a friend like Kim. A friend who steals the show EVERY SINGLE TIME, and who rocks in EVERY SINGLE WAY. A friend who is carefree and who lives life to the fullest. A person who takes every day as the day that things will happen and nothing less. I thought, now this is also healthy humility. I am not quiet. I am not normally a sensible person (despite wearing occasional slips under my unlined skirts). I don’t wear thick glasses and I had a retainer only briefly in middle school. I feel pretty decent in my skin, and I am not afraid to speak up to just about anyone, in polite fashion hopefully. I’ve kicked some ass along the way, in good healthy form, and I feel good about that too. I have never been known to be anyone’s sidekick, and Kim certainly would not allow me to be hers. She would kick MY ass if I did that. Anyway, I love Kim, and I love that when I’m around her, she makes me want to be just a little bit more spontaneous, a little less careful, and perhaps cuss just a little bit more. Like Shania sings in her new song after a forever hiatus, “today is your day and nothing can stand in your way.” Shania must have heard about Kim somewhere along her journey…..I'm sure she plans to thank her too. Shania is polite I've heard.

I wanted to write this COFFEE post to publicly thank my friend for being my true soul friend in all of her rock star, sex appeal-ness, cool vibe ways. Rock on Kim. Sidekicks, now rock out.

I am sure I haven't met nearly all my goals, but I will keep trying COFFEE mates. You all rock on too. :)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

day late, dollar short, last post (patresa)

I was supposed to post yesterday. I did not. Today, a day late, and a dollar short, is my last COFFEE post.

When I started COFFEE last fall, I was trying to shake off an irrational fear of playing music and singing in front of people. When I was younger, I played music and sang in front of people all the time. But I did it with a tremendous amount of insecurity which induced a lot of shaky and unpleasant performances. By the time I'd gotten older, the feelings associated with the shaky and unpleasant performances (i.e., shame, frustration, and defeat) were what stuck with me. Finally, I just quit playing and singing for anyone. I felt stupid, untalented, inferior to more talented friends, like a poser, and decided I should just stick with behind-the-scenes sorts of expressions and support roles--nothing that would put me on the spot and make me vulnerable.

So, although, on the surface, my initial COFFEE project--to play original songs at 3 open mics--was kind of silly, to me it was definitely something much bigger. It was about forgiving myself for being imperfect, trusting that I had something worth singing even if not everyone thought so, and being bravely vulnerable. It was also about not letting irrational fears limit how I experience life. I think a lot of people spend their lives treading water in the same backyard kiddie pool, because they're too afraid to explore their own potential. I don't want to be one of them.

The support and encouragement I received here at COFFEE, including from a couple of pros (Hello, Wendy & Tawni!), was... magical. I was actually a bit surprised at how powerful it was. Thank you! I accomplished my goal. I played and sang in front of strangers. I did it several times, and it got less scary each time. I even enjoy it now--even when I screw up.

I couldn't think of another project that made my drawers tremble the way my original COFFEE project did, so I decided on a couple of discipline-oriented goals--keep building my set until I have enough to open for someone. Revise one of my novel drafts. These aren't about fear so much as they are about my own laziness and inattention. (Which also threaten to limit how I experience life.)

Work is going to be intense for the next 2 months and then another 2.5 months after that as I prepare everything for maternity leave. In November, I'll become a mother. If that isn't intense, I don't know what is. So you know what I want right now? I want to be lazy and inattentive.

I will continue to write music and play at open mics. I may or may not ever do anything but play at open mics. I just want to do what I do, meet who I meet, and let happen what happens. I will continue to work on my novel when I feel like it. I may or may not ever create a vision board.  I will probably eat a lot of ice cream. And then I will become a mother, completely fall in love with a tiny squirming poop machine, and learn that my ambitions aren't worth crap anymore, or so I imagine.

At any rate, I will stop in and high five our bold COFFEE spirits.

Go forth and be bold!

I leave you with "Rotary Dial," which I wrote several months ago after a walk through an antique store and on a day longing for solitude.

Please note that I have no idea where to focus my gaze when I am singing to myself. I feel a little self-conscious about this (as well as how much I have rounded since my previous videos. I am not a dainty pregnant woman.).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Time is Time (John)

I'm not sure what happens with time.  Occasionally it flows like silly putty in January.  Especially when I am working overnights with no calls, or waiting for the cookies to bake.  Then it turns around and surprises me by seemingly skipping whole days and weeks, such as when projects are due, or I have an event coming up.

Sometimes I look back at a calendar to figure out where I was when, and can't believe the amount of places and things and events that were somehow packed into days or hours.  The past month since I've posted here is good evidence of that.

First, how did I do on my goals?

Well, the Seven Sandwiches Project was concluded on Monday.  I skipped Father's Day, so it actually spanned eight days.  But I was pretty busy on that day.  More on that later.  All things considered, we had some tasty sandwiches, and my seven year old son even contributed a recipe for one of the days.  So - GOAL COMPLETE!

I also had a goal to keep improving on my times during sprint triathlons.  I realize that at some point I will have reached top speed and getting personal bests will be a stretch.  Fortunately, I'm new enough to this and have enough room for improvement that I continue to shave time from the events.  I did the Pigman Triathlon back on June 5th, and the Rochesterfest Triathlon a few days ago on the 19th.  Click on the links for my full race reports.  The Cliff's Notes version is I can swim like a fish, but my bikes and runs continue to be slow.  I did shave time from my run from one to the next. And considering the two weeks of mayhem I had between the two, I am overall pleased with the results.  So - GOAL (pretty much) COMPLETE!

As for those two weeks, somehow I managed to keep my sanity through my Mom having a full out stroke, and getting sick enough to want to just crawl into bed and remain immobile for weeks on end. 

Mom is doing remarkably well, post stroke.  She is back to walking and talking and continues to improve.  Apparently my parents have bullet dodging abilities when it comes to major medical events.  Though I wish they would quit with the demonstrations, as they are taking their toll me!  All of the driving back and forth to Cedar Rapids to visit, along with sleepless nights and days filled to the brim with living life led to me neglecting my own health.  I developed a really juicy sinus infection, ear infection, throat infection, which reduced me to a goo hacking mass for most of the past two weeks.  It wasn't a pretty sight during the Rochesterfest Tri, but I survived it.

That tri was on Father's Day, and I was lucky to have my Wife and Kiddos there to cheer me on.  That, above anything else, really kept me motivated and moving.  The rest of Dad's Day was spent opening presents, calling our Dads, and recovering from the tri!

I took a break from the pity party in my head and was able to give thanks that my Dad was still around and doing relatively well, and thanks also that Mom was still alive and also doing well.  I have beautiful, smart kids, and a beautiful, caring and supportive wife, a roof over my head, food on the table and hobbies to keep me moving.  I am able to do triathlons, which is physically beyond most of my patients. So in all, I am quite blessed. 

These are the things I need to remember when that little voice in my brain tries to beat me up for something. Time is constant, but will always appear malleable.  And life is hard all over, so count your blessings and continue the march. 

  So - Goals for the next month...

1. Figure out another Seven Day Project, get it done and posted.
2. Train harder for my next triathlon, the Tour de Kirkwood down in Missouri.  I want to be ranked really high coming out of the water, and improve my bike and run times so I'm not in the bottom 10%.  This means training on more hills.
3. Spend less time on the computer, and more time playing with the kiddos.  And on that note, I'm posting this, turning the machine off and getting out the toys! 

Good Health and Happiness until next time!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Little Death Bird

Have you heard the one about the girl who went to a therapist to talk about difficult relationships and ended up trying to make friends with her own death? It's kind of a funny story...

It's true, I am living in fear of the most inevitable thing in life - death. I'll be having a totally ordinary or even exceptionally pleasant moment, and suddenly a picture of my death by any number of different accidents, illnesses or just plain old age will rise unbidden to the top of my mind, and a low grade panic sets in.

A couple of years ago, there was a terrible and tragic accident in downtown San Francisco. A man was on Mission Street, at a corner where there also happened to be a bus stop. He was trying to hail a cab, and stepped off the curb behind a bus that had stopped to unload passengers. Another bus was coming toward the stop, ostensibly slowing down to a halt. Somehow the driver of that second bus got confused, and accelerated instead of braking. The second bus slammed into the first bus, and the man hailing the taxi was crushed between them, dying instantly.

A co-worker of mine was close friends with the man who was crushed between the buses. Had, in fact, recently been best man at his wedding. Something inside me broke a little listening to my co-worker describe the agonizing minutiae that comes along with a sudden death. No one knew the password to the dead man's Blackberry, or his computer at work. No one had his bank account number. I have had relatives and friends who have passed away, and I didn't even know this man, but for some reason hearing about his death made the reality of my own mortality come rushing in like a muddy river.

One of the most frustrating things about this is that just a few short years ago, I was practically fearless. For instance, in 2007 I took a bus ride in India. In the middle of a raging monsoon thunderstorm, the bus ascended the foothills of the Himalayas, surfing the sides of sheer cliffs on a one lane road with blind intersections at every curve. Lightning was streaking through the air around us and little pieces of the road were washing away. On that bus ride, I didn't once think that anything disastrous would happen to me. Fast forward to 2011, where a drive across town on a sunny day can leave my palms sweaty, as I imagine all the different ways I might perish behind the wheel.

It occurred to me that this might be something to bring up with my therapist. We had a chat about the subject, and I learned some important things.

1. It's normal to fear death, most people do, and sometimes it is literally like flipping a switch. We get older, and one day we wake up and our mortality is sitting on the edge of the bed, handing us a cup of coffee, asking, "What are we going to do today?"

2. The more attached you are to things in your life, the harder the idea of your death is going to be. (This is something wise folk [like, say, The Buddha for example] have been saying for thousands of years. I know they are all waiting for validation from a slightly neurotic, wholly unenlightened woman in Northern California, and so I say unto them - you guys were totally right!)

3. The more comfortably aware you are of your death, the happier and richer your life will be. My therapist recalled a passage from a book by Carlos Castaneda, where a shaman advises him that Death, sitting on his left shoulder, is his most powerful teacher. This reminded me of a story in the wonderful novel Population 485 by Michael Perry, where he talks about going deep into the woods every now and then, lying down on the ground, and getting completely still. He imagines his heart stopping and his body slowly fading into the very earth that he reclines upon. It's his way of nodding "howdy" at Death, and acknowledging that soon enough the two of them will be shooting the shit together in eternity. I think this is marvelous and heroic, and I really want to be like that. Which brings us to another lesson….

4. You can't force yourself to feel better about death, or control your thoughts around it. There isn't a quick fix, it's a process of healing and practicing new perspectives. My therapist likened it to holding a little bird in your palm. You can't squeeze it or hold onto it too hard, because it will freak out and fly away. You have to let it sit there, gently, and leave it be. That is how the truth about ourselves comes to us - a little bird sitting quietly in an open palm.

I like the idea of this gentle little bird so much that I think I am going to picture my death that way. A soft, downy thing, solid but also ethereal, perched on my shoulder, singing its song in my ear, reminding me how beautiful and rich and amazing it is to be alive.

So this is my latest big bad goal. Heal, change my perspective, let the truth flow and listen to the song of my little death bird. Hopefully, as time wears on, I will deliver myself from the invasive thoughts, the angst, and the low grade panic. Perhaps some day soon my mortality and I can sit down and enjoy that cup of coffee together as friends.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

damn you, mcdonald's!! (amy)

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said: "Live simply so others may simply live." In my ongoing quest for kinder and gentler road behavior, I gave that guy a big thumbs up when I passed him. I hope he didn't think I was giving him the finger.

I'm sitting at McDonald's right now. I hate McDonald's. They represent all that is wrong with our country, our world, and the McDonald's standard and culture has helped created a mass food production industry that has created deplorable and criminal living and slaughter conditions for animals and encouraged irresponsible genetical engineering of our plants (my research teaches me that genetic engineering in and of itself isn't really that bad; people have been modifying plants for thousands of years. Now we just do it way more scientifically. Which can, when used responsibly by responsible people, create better life for all of us.) (Monsanto is not one of those responsible people.)

Anyway. I have to be at work in a few minutes to test incoming Kindergartners, so I'm eating artificial food at a place I find icky, for the sheer convenience and location of it. This is a major theme in American culture these days: sheer convenience, location, and giving tests. (If you must know: right now I'm consuming the proverbial egg mcmuffin + coffee with crap "cream" and Splenda) (did you know Splenda is one atom away from being cyanide? A nutritionist told me that once) (the coffee is probably the only responsibly grown/harvested part of my breakfast...but this is McDonald's coffee, and so I'm sure it was picked by migrant workers for slave labor wages under broiling hot sun conditions, which makes the coffee itself a slave as coffee trees prefer growing under shade).

Last update, one of the things I said I would do would be to try shopping at Trader Joe's and Wal*Mart. I have accomplished one of these, and I'm kind of in love with it (it is not Wal*Mart) (although I do love Wal*Mart for all the sincerely bizarre specimens of humanity that occasionally pass through its doors) (I think diversity is a GOOD thing).

The following are why I would now like to find Trader Joe and plant a big kiss on his cheek:

1-I can find free range raised, organic chicken. Grocery stores around me don't carry this. If they do, they charge $20/pound for it. Trader Joe's charged me $8/pound. Which is still a lot. But at least I know those chickens got to run around and breathe good air a little before their innocent, unsuspecting throats were slit (do you sense, as I do, that I'm thisclose to being a vegetarian? I just need to figure out how to get buy-in from the people who live in my house...and find a way to circumnavigate putting tofu in anything I eat).

2-It's sad, but true: Trader Joe's doesn't have Slavic male ballet dancers in its aisles, but it does have overdressed yuppie singles milling around, pretending to look for food while having REEEAALLLY LOOOOUD conversations on their cellphones ranting about the a-hole they met at XYZ Bar last night who drunk texted them a photo of their less-than-attractive nether regions (I'm actually not making that up) (and while I was deeply amused by the single yuppie's tale of woe, I also really hoped she'd finish it up and stop standing in front of the hearts of palm jars so I could get what I needed).

3-I bought almost a whole week's worth of groceries, and could still afford my mortgage.

4-They have a little kids' table area with books, games, and coloring pages. It's a good place for a rambuctious 2 year old girl with high maintenance diva issues to go hang out while I'm paying for groceries.

5-The cashier I got was super friendly, and gave my rambuctious diva a sugar-free lollipop to convince her to leave the fun table when it was time to go.


I don't remember what my goals last time were exactly. I know I said writing. Which I still have not done, but I have taken one step forward by blocking off 1-2 days per week to get busy.

It's just. I have this ADD problem that is linked to our shallow values culture. For example, yesterday was one of those 2 days I was scheduled to get busy. But I got distracted by that Anthony Weiner business, which is just a fascinating train wreck of a train wreck to for me to watch, because it has this cad-like politician (though I think in order to be a politician anywhere on Earth you're required to have a certain amount of cad in your character) who has issues with telling his family and constituents the truth (and I think this is also a bipartisan Political Career prerequisite) combined with one shady, slimy, opportunistic character with questionable journalistic integrity operating behind the scenes trying to expose the politician's caddishness solely to score some cheap political points AND make a name for himself at the same time, and now there's this gum-chewing girl who apparently spends a lot of time sexting cads and she's decided to sell her pictures and information to the news and people like me with things to do who know better but can't tear their eyes away.

Man. The internet. It's both a good and a bad thing. Such a useful tool, used so often for evil. And so frickin' distracting. Damn you, McDonald's!!

So I've got to find a way (MUST find a way) to put some blinders on myself when I get online. In addition, I need blinders while: watching tv, reading the newspaper, and while wandering through Wal*Mart. If anyone out there has a solution for this psychosis, I am all eyes and ears and open minded for them.

The good news?

Since summer vacation has started, I am doing STELLAR on eating healthy (except for today of course) (damn you, McDonald's!!) and consistently working out and documenting my physical and movement activities in an online journal (because it's a quick distraction, unlike Weiner stuff). Two thumbs up to me for that.

So basically, I think my goal for the next month is to:

A) Keep on keepin' on with clean health stuff.

B) Write twice a week, if not more.

C) Just say NO to Weiner (and other distractions, like Facebook and googling "shady political opportunists")

The End.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

COFFEE POST 15 – What Matters (sorry... pretty long)

Ever have one of those experiences that absolutely, completely, permanently, totally shakes you to your core and changes who you are and how you live? Have you really? I’ve read here in COFFEE Land about some of your moments like this: close calls with parents’ health, cancer, deaths of loved ones – furry and human alike… I have to admit some serious déjà vu here. I’ve written something about a moment or two of my own this past year right here in COFFEEville, but thankfully not quite like what I’m about to talk about today. Thank God.

The afternoon of Sunday, May 22, was a typical Sunday afternoon. The kids and I had a fairly lazy day, some cleaning and wii playing, snacks, outdoor play with the neighbors, the usual. It was overcast, and there was a chance of thunderstorms at the beginning of the day. As the day went on, the chances of storms increased, and they were announcing the threat of a tornado outbreak. “Conditions are optimal for significant tornadic activity.” (Thank you, Weather Channel, for that nugget.) Now, if you are not from the Midwest or have never lived in the Midwest, this doesn’t mean anything to you at all. If you are from here, you know the drill. Prep the basement, and just go on with your business until you hear the sirens, if they come at all. It’s what we do around here from about March until about September. That’s just part of it. Sometimes it gets nasty, and other times it’s just a matter of being ready.

(I have to insert right here and now the fact that I am DEATHLY afraid of storms. I hate them. It’s a silly fear, because there isn’t one doggone thing a person can do to combat them, stop or control them, or make them less frightening. Some people are drawn to the power of Mother Nature. I am not one of those people. I have a more than healthy respect for what She can do, and I’ve seen the aftermath a couple of times in my life. As the mom, though, I have to keep it together when She shows up. No sense in ALL of us being crazed with fear, and I truly hope my kids simply respect Her and are not as fearful as I am for their whole lives.)

Well, no amount of being ready or even the Weather Channel could prepare anyone for what took place that afternoon.

Sometime mid-afternoon, my kids and I went to a student’s home to help her finish her semester’s work. (She’s homebound due to a medical situation.) We stayed until about 4:30. When we left her home, I looked up and was truly afraid. I’ve seen some scary skies before, but what I saw to the west was utterly horrifying. (See photo, courtesy of my homebound student) My gut immediately knotted up, and I could NOT get my kids and I home fast enough. I’m sure I broke more than one land-speed record.

Once home, we immediately went to the basement. I took my laptop, flashlights, pillows, extra blankets, and snacks down. I also unhooked the wii and hooked it up downstairs for the kids. I knew it would be a long night below deck. I then did something I have never done before. I took my 9 mm and all the ammo I own for it, my file of important documents and such, the largest box of family photos, and my phone and charger downstairs. I then packed a bag with a couple changes of clothes for each of us, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and our Bibles. That bag, too, went downstairs. I’m not sure why I did this. I just know my gut said this time was different. I double-checked the bottled water supply. I grabbed the radio and turned it on. The local radio stations were going wall-to-wall with weather information by then, which usually means something’s brewing, whether it’s just a nasty thunderstorm, strong winds, hail, whatever.

At this point, they were beginning to report that tornadoes had touched down to the west and that we needed to be taking cover, preparing for the worst. The track the storm was taking was supposed to go through Carl Junction, immediately to the west of us, into Airport Drive and Webb City, our home sweet home. “Oh, Lord, please, no. Keep us safe,” I remember repeating over and over.

I made a call to the kids' father, who is in the medical aviation industry. His pilots get weather reports that are more accurate than most meteorologists’. I asked if it was really coming. I didn’t like the answer. He told me it was very bad and going to get much worse, to get the kids to the basement and be prepared to STAY THERE. And again… THUD, as if my heart could drop any lower. The phone call ended with these words from him, “I have to stay here. Be careful. Stay calm. Talk soon.”

By this time, it’s around 5 p.m., and the winds are BLOWING, the rain is coming, and it’s getting scarier in the skies. The radio station is reporting tornado touchdowns in southeast Kansas and that the storm is RACING across that part of the state and directly into SW Missouri. They were telling people all over the area to seek shelter and take cover. A big one was coming, and it was coming fast.

Still, nobody knew what was about to be unleashed.

The sirens sounded. The kids stopped what they were doing, put on their shoes, and sat quietly. The sirens continued. The hail started. The radio announcers declared tornadoes were on the ground in our county. The hail stopped but the sirens did not. The rain pounded so hard I thought it would take the windows out of the house. The winds shook our nearly-3000-sq-foot home. Like pictures-off-the-wall shook the house. And then came Hail, Round 2. And then it was quiet. The sky was an eery green-gray, but it was over. It rained again briefly, a soft, cleansing rain, and then quit altogether. I looked around, and the house was intact. Trees were still standing, and everything was as it should be. It. Was. Over. We made it. I breathed a sigh and said a prayer of thanks.

And then the reports began coming in. Facebook lit up like Baghdad on that first night of the air raids. “Turn on the Weather Channel. It’s terrible.” “Oh my God, what just happened?” “Is everyone alright?” “What the H@LL?” “Does anyone know what is going on? Why aren’t the phones working?” “I can’t get my mom on the phone. She was trying to drive home from Joplin!!!!! HELP!” “Is YOUR house still standing?” “Is it true?”

We were fine. What was going on? SO, I did what I wish I hadn’t done. Maybe if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t have been real. But I did, and it was. I turned on the Weather Channel. Mike Bettes, the famed Weather Channel storm expert who has seen it ALL, was standing in front of what used to be St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, a short 8 miles from my home, where he and his crew parked because they couldn’t go any further into the city because of the destruction. I was shocked…..

I immediately tried to call the kids' dad again. He was THERE, at St. John’s, working. From the looks of that building, I could only pray that he was still alive and able to answer his phone. No answer. No signal. No service. (I would later learn that most cell towers were completely leveled in the tornado.) Nothing. I tried again, knowing he wouldn’t answer and completely afraid of why he might not. I hit redial and got the kids away from the television just in time to see Bettes break down in tears at the devastation he was looking at, live and up close. I knew then that it wasn’t just a tornado, not just a storm, but something awful, truly awful. I hit redial again. Nothing. Absolutely nothing… Except my tears and pictures I could not comprehend.

Eventually, my phone buzzed. A text message! I learned via text that their dad had survived an extremely close call, that he was helping to remove bodies and do search & rescue at the hospital. I learned via text that our church was all but completely destroyed, what was left was being used as a make-shift surgery center, that the tables where my kids sat to do crafts and read their Bibles were used to remove limbs and debris from people. I learned via text that even though St. John’s was still standing, it was decimated and those on duty were trying desperately to account for all the patients and staff, removing both survivors and the dead. I learned via text that my grandfather, who had been in that hospital visiting his twin brother, was missing and unaccounted for. I learned via text that three schools were destroyed. (Later we would learn that it was more than those three.) I learned via text that friends were alive. I learned via text that others were missing or had discovered loved ones who were no longer alive. I learned via text that many lost every single thing that they owned. I learned via text that many of the businesses, restaurants, & places that we frequent were completely gone. It was a long and difficult couple of hours.

I continued to follow facebook and the Weather Channel. I continued to text. I continued to pray. I continued to try to talk to my mother, my friends, my people via phone. Finally, I reached my mom. I told her we were fine. I told her many were not. We cried.

Three hours after the storm, dark was descending and the city was beginning to move. Shelters were being set up. Supplies, water, clothing, bedding, etc., were being collected and distributed. The kids and I had seen enough via TV. We decided to do something. We went through all the clothing and such that we’d bagged for rummage sales or donation and selected many pieces, shoes, etc. We grabbed old sleeping bags and a couple extra pillows and loaded it all in the van. Just before we left, my phone buzzed again. “I found him. He is fine.” The kids' dad had found my grandfather, dazed but miraculously unhurt. Praise God. I tried to call Mom but couldn’t get through. I texted my brother and asked him to call Mom. He did. And somehow she was able to get another call through to me. Through tears, she asked me to pass along her thanks. I told her I would. We got so lucky. SO LUCKY. After that news, the kids and I were able to head for town. Memorial Hall, a downtown entertainment venue, had become a central location that survivors were being sent and was quickly becoming the first triage center for the injured. We drove there but could not get within two blocks of the place for the emergency vehicles and other cars trying to get their injured loved ones to safety.

Just then the radio began to read a list of other shelters that had opened and were ready for use. We headed to a church nearby to deliver the few things we could offer. They didn’t have anyone to shelter yet, but they were so grateful to have some things to provide when the people came.

Traffic was bumper to bumper. People were everywhere, walking, running, riding bikes, driving half-there vehicles, clearly damaged from the storm. There was no electricity. It was so dark. Thank God I couldn’t see any of the damage at that point. I’m not sure my heart could take it. With nowhere else to go and not one more thing we could do to help, we went home.

I put my kids to bed, even though all I really wanted to do was snuggle up with them forever. They and I had school the next day. Their world was intact. Their father was fine. Their home was standing. Their friends were safe for the most part. Their reality and understanding of what happened was limited. They slept. I did not.

I didn’t know about so many of our friends, who both lived and worked there, and had no way to find out about them, either. As my mind started to list everyone we knew in the affected area or who had family there, I got so overwhelmed. SO MANY PEOPLE. SO MUCH LOST. SO MANY MISSING. How were people getting through this? I was okay. My family was okay. My home was okay. I was lucky. The storm didn’t go where it should have gone. The storm was so much worse than it should have been. The reality was ugly, and I felt guilty for feeling grateful. Yet I was so profoundly grateful. Guilt and gratitude is a strange mix of emotion that turns like the tides, in waves of pain and unworthiness that crash and recede into relief and thankfulness.

Overnight, the death toll started to climb, and the reports about just how widespread the damage was began to emerge. Reports about sacrifices made to save others also emerged. Information from the National Weather Service was almost more than many could bear to hear. Rumors were rampant. Just how bad was it? No one knew. In truth, things just kept getting worse, and there was no end in sight.

Then daylight broke, as did the hearts of every Joplin resident, every family member of every Joplin resident, and everyone who has ever had ties to this community. The damage was unprecedented for a single tornado. The devastation was VAST, with over 30% of the entire town wiped completely off the map. And I do mean COMPLETELY. Off. The. Map. In all, over 150 were killed, over a thousand injured, and, for many days, hundreds were missing. (Thankfully, the number of missing/unaccounted for is now 0. ZERO. A real miracle, frankly.) Yet search and rescue efforts continued, with volunteers from all over the country arriving to help. Fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, emergency services vehicles, ATVs, heavy equipment from countless communities in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas was already in town working. The National Guard arrived to help. It was a sight to see. On many street corners, groups set up cooking stations to feed those displaced and the volunteers working. It will take months for people to drink all the bottled water that was donated, semi trailer after semi trailer FULL of it. Everywhere you looked, people were helping others to dig for people and possessions, crying and praying together, talking, just staring in bewilderment, repairing anything that was repairable in hopes that SOMETHING could be salvaged. It was like something you might see in the movies, only the people of Joplin were LIVING it in real time.

Unless you have been under a rock since that day, you’ve no doubt seen something about it. I could post several thousand pictures, none of which I took. You need only google “Joplin, MO tornado 2011,” and you’ll be inundated with more pictures of what’s left than you could ever stomach looking at, I guarantee it. You might have watched coverage of the memorial service that took place exactly one week after the storm that President Obama attended. Our pastor, Aaron Brown, delivered an amazing sermon at that service. If that service didn’t move you, you are not human. You might have observed the minute of silence at 5:41 on that Sunday, exactly one week after the storm. You might have watched the national news outlets, many of whom (including Diane Sawyer, Anderson Cooper, & Mike Bettes) interviewed my kids' father about his experience inside the hospital before, during, after the storm, talk about the outpouring of support for this community from within and from around the world. It has truly been something to behold. TRULY. Not only is the damage unprecedented, so too are the relief efforts and the response & morale in Joplin.

People didn’t scream for help. They jumped in to help others. They didn’t ask questions. They didn’t hesitate. They didn’t complain for the most part. They worked. They consoled one another. They slept little and ate a lot (thanks to all the awesome volunteers who drove the streets dropping off meals and worked at those food stations I mentioned earlier). They hugged each other, friends & strangers alike. They spray painted messages of hope and care on what was left of their homes. They opened their homes. In fact, many of the shelters didn’t house more than a few families because so many people had taken in friends & family members! How cool is that??? These people who lost loved ones, homes, businesses, livelihoods, cars, jobs, things were looking out for each other. I was and am in awe. For real. Yeah, there are some real low-lifes around, trying to scam people, loot, take advantage. Sure. I wouldn’t want to be one of those who got caught around here, let me tell you. That wouldn’t end well in any way, shape, or form. I can promise you that. Ish… makes me cringe just to imagine it!

This disaster didn’t happen to me. It’s not my story. Again, my family and I were lucky. I cannot even begin to tell you how thankful I am for the fact that I am not without power, shelter, clothes, a toothbrush, an address, a loved one, a job to go to. That kind of pure and complete gratitude is an experience I can’t say I’ve ever felt in all of my life. I am grateful for many things and have been over the course of my life, but I’ve never really seen people lose so much and carry on the way so many around here have in the last weeks. It makes crystal clear how good life is and what counts; it also makes clear WHO counts, and THAT counts for so much.

Hug your spouse/significant other, kiss your kids, walk through your house – whatever shape it’s in - and be grateful for the shelter it provides, salute your boss (all 5 fingers, please) and tell your co-workers you appreciate them, give that old car a pat, and imagine all of it being gone in the blink of an eye, taken out by one violent funnel cloud. Don’t know about you, but I’m one uber-humbled chick, and I’m so thankful I still have all of that and then some. Pray for Joplin, please, including those helping and those who aren’t as lucky. Everyone around here right now could sure use those.