making room in the inn.

My heart has been stitched up pretty well in the last year. I feel like the stitches are strong and some of them are mending up well. In the last few weeks, I’ve regularly taken a peek at the local shelter dogs to see if someone might pull at my heart. I kept sending them to my sweet sisters who kept reminding me that a big, black, pit-bull mix might scare the rest of my family away. And then my sister sent me Toby. A terrier-mutt with a sad story. Found on the side of the road, practically bare with mange. A sad sack to say the least but a sweet face that needs a new home. A canine refugee, a last chancer. The kind people of PAWS have had him treated and have given him lots of love and care. His mange is cleared, his body healed, and his spirit is beginning to renew.

I was going to wait until summer. But my “inn” has plenty of room and my heart is ready to be full. So my Christmas gift is a new partner in crime, a new snuggle mate, and a new companion. Maybe in a way, we will save each other.

Tobias Bartlet Thomas will make his home at the Porch Swing Palace in a few weeks and I’m just simply over the moon.

 

52 Tuesdays.

I stopped counting the Tuesdays long ago. I decided it was just keeping me from getting stronger so I stopped. But there is no denying today’s number. It’s 52. 52 Tuesdays since the worst day. The change of scenery in the last few months has worked wonders for my mental health. I feel like I can breathe. I feel like the cloud of widow doesn’t follow me with eyes of pity everywhere I go. I don’t hide it. I talk about it–most of the time I tell the story without blubbering (last weekend not withstanding.) But I don’t feel like it is the first thing people think of when they see me like I did in the last few months of home.

I know tomorrow is going to be messy. I’m ok with that. A lot of “helpers” have told me what I should do…I think stemming from their own fear for my emotions. There will be crying. There will be meatballs and hopefully a cannoli. There will be Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Lily Allen. Darla will go out for a ride. There will be a Starbucks iced coffee with hazelnut (ew.) There will be Old Westminster. There will be looking at pictures, reading cards, laughing, and remembering.

October 21st will always have such a tumultuous meaning. It will also, at some point, be a date in time that will hold less power over me. When that time will come, I do not know.

In 52 Tuesdays, I have learned that grace is the only way. Giving it freely, receiving it humbly. When we open our hearts and let it all spill out, it is our truest friends who will help pick up the pieces and patchwork us back together. And, it is also the countless unrecognized prayers from all over the world, that are felt in moments of despair. Love, patience, grace, and community are the reason I am able to stand up, each day, and know that I can move forward.

a love letter to Glennon

Dear G,

Thank you for so many things. For being real, raw, honest, and hilarious. For stripping the glossy finish off the brutiful in life. For making each and every person who comes in contact with you feel loved and valued. You are a gift to the human race. Last night, you spoke real life to a group of women in Birmingham. You probably speak similarly every time you speak and maybe you get tired of sharing the same stories, but you wouldn’t know it. Shoes off and heart bared-you let us into your soul and we got to share ours too.

Here are some of the things you said last night that made me love you even more:

  • Use your broken heart as a teacher–it will teach you who you are meant to serve and that is your purpose.
  • Some of us are made like canaries. (We are more attuned to the sensitivities of life.)
  • You can be perfect & admired or you can be real & loved.
  • Wisdom, kindness, and resilience are born out of pain.
  • There is a before to redemption-and it hurts, but love wins.
  • Now one is allowed to push us towards hope before we are ready.
  • Rock bottom is the beginning.
  • Be brave enough to tell your story but kind enough not to tell someone else’s.
  • Everything we are meant to be is inside our pain. We need to transform our hot loneliness, not just transport it.
  • The freer people are to be human, the better we are.
  • Be still with your pain.

All of this. Yes. A thousand times. You have shown me that it is ok to be real and to be anything else would stunt my life’s journey. I am grateful to you. I am grateful to those who have held up my joist by sistering it with love, compassion, patience, grace, chocolate, wine (none for you my recovering friend), and laughter.

Love,

S

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freedom

I picked up my book, In the Midst of Winterfor the first time in a while yesterday. I was tired, cranky, and felt a general sense of malaise. I wanted something–I didn’t know for what I was looking. I turned to the summer-fall section entitled, “Grief’s Wisdom” and found this lovely bit from Albert Camus. I read it a few times. I felt a pang of guilt at the phrase, “the loved one obstructed a whole corner of the possible.” Is that ok–to accept that there is/was possibility I would not have seen if life had stayed on the same track?

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Back when “it” all happened, a friend said to me, “If this happened to me, I would pack my kids and my bags and be out of here. If you decided to do that, I would not hold it against you.” That has stuck with me. While it wasn’t immediate, I did pack my bags and get away. But I wasn’t running away. I could have found contentment and healing in my home place. I ran towards the uncovered possibility that had always been part of the “plan.”

So I look to the next line, “Freedom emerges from weariness.” Freedom is not forgetting. It is not closing a hole. It is the acknowledgment that forward motion is right and good. It is not freedom from love or memory; it is freedom from the daily in and out of grief. And a lot of the time lately, I feel free and even happy. As my weariness dissipates into fits and spurts rather than a steady stream, I hold onto this freedom with a vice grip for fear if I loosen my grip, it too will slip away.

hole. whole.

You can never fully repair the hole in your heart. It simply becomes a part of you. You mend and you grow and you make peace with it. In his piece in the NY Times, David Melham said it best, “No, what happens is that a weight that initially feels unbearable becomes, in time, manageable.” I feel like this weight has become manageable. It sometimes tears through the mended stitches but it is no longer shredded.

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from the Mishkan T’filah

I walk forward. I walk on. I make peace with what has happened to and around me. For I cannot truly live without finding this peace. But, sometimes I walk at a different pace than others and I must make peace with that too. For we all walk the path of forgiveness, acceptance, and resolution in our own time. I want to heed the wisdom of the Mishkan T’filah and live fully. This means risk. It means risking the possibility that the wound will rip open once more. It means risking the possibility of more loss. And, it means risking the possibility of regaining wholeness.

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The hole shall live with its stitches but it does not mean I am not whole. It simply means I have to make peace with all that was, with all that is, and with all that will be.

Alabamaversary. 2

(so I missed the first one…but here we go.)

It has been two months since I moved to Alabama. It feels like it has been six. I suppose that is how one should feel when in the whirlwind of work and starting a new phase of life. Here is what I know so far…

  1. Yes, it is really hot. All the time. Today is the first day my AC has actually made it down to 74. I can’t talk about my electric bill without oxygen or a cocktail.
  2. It is no longer appropriate to wear most of my favorite footwear or jeans. My toms are crying in the closet.
  3. I have been “yes, ma’am”ed more in the last five days since school began than in my total previous 13 school years. (I appreciate this very much.)
  4. I have also had the door held for me more times than in my previous 36 years, perhaps withstanding early childhood. (Chivalry is good.)
  5. Nowhere in town takes more than 10 minutes, even in “rush hour”. 
  6. Alabama craft beer, for the win. I suggest Good People Snake Handler for a kick in the pants.
  7. I am a little nervous for football season. Can’t the eagle just roll in the tide? (Just Kidding!!!!)
  8. Episcopalians tend to be awesome everywhere and here is no exception.
  9. I say y’all now. I mean, every day and “you guys” has started to sound weird. 
  10. When people say, “how can I help”, they mean it and they show up early and with donuts. It is not hard to be accepted here if you are genuine and kind. 

All in all, I feel happy every day about something. I am so grateful to be here. I am in the right place. That in itself, is a miracle of sorts.

and we go on

The ten month anniversary is almost here. As the teen days creep up or sprint to the twenties, the nag comes up in my head. “it’s almost here”, it whispers. Each month I’ve handled the nag differently. The first few were buckets of tears and then less and then more. This grief is like waves. Up and down. Sometimes the rip current so harsh it feels like drowning and some days, it’s placid. 

When I read this woman’s account of grief today I wanted to shout, YES! THIS! Preach Sister-Widow! It’s like she completely understood me in a way that I didn’t understand myself. It was as if she validated in my coping mechanisms (Douglas Green Sauvingnon Blanc and Netflix), my feeling about what K has missed (He totally would’ve wanted to go to Cuba and the President’s Own has a B-flat opening.), and my utter shock at my own ability to go on. To move forward.

I feel like I dropped a cinder block on my 804 mile journey to Alabama. My world, flipped upside down. And at the same time, the guilt webs it’s way into my skin. Am I allowed to start to feel better? Is it wrong? Is it too soon? I feel like every day I wake up here is a better day. I feel like I am in the exact right place where I’ve been called to serve. Is this ok? Is this fair? Does this disrespect memory?

The other thing about Rachel (my new sister-widow)’s blog was that it made me feel ok about the way I’ve chosen to publicly live grief. I do not, for one second, judge sisters who prefer a private path. For me, living this out loud has helped. It makes me feel like a can take the stigma out of grief. Perhaps that is the Yankee in me and most polite Southern gals would shy away, but I believe this authenticity has been what has kept me whole.

And so we go on.

rebuilding

I am now a month into living in my new hometown of Montgomery, Alabama and I’m pretty sure I’ve run more here than I did in the last 10 months at home (part injury-part life.) I’ve lived in lots of different communities all over the country and I’m always grateful when I can find the common ground in running. (Also church…and starbucks.) So now that I’ve met a few people, found the local running store, found one or two routes, ran a race, and will sign up for a few more–what does that mean for my training? Will I finally, after years off from serious training, actually regain the long lost discipline?

I would like to. My body and mind will be stronger if I nourish them with miles. I will gain energy. I will possibly fit better in my pants. My back will hurt less. So, what will it take? How does one finally get the intrinsic motivation to rebuild after so much time away? I don’t know the answer right now. I do know that there is a run tonight. I do know that there is a 10 miler in November (and a training program to go with it.) What I don’t know is how to re-fall in love with running. I want to. I need to. I want to bottle up the joy I felt a few weeks ago at the Chewacla Tri and remember it. I want to use it as a catalyst to move forward.

IMG_4680this sort of joy….

Have you had to rebuild? What brought you back? What motivated you? I’ll take any ideas. And I’ll keep you posted. XO.

#37

37

photo source (perfect that it’s a Yankee #)

I am finally my favorite number! For years, my lucky number has been 37. I have three seven’s in my birthday and it always seemed like a logical reason to make it my favorite number. Also, there are a lot of interesting math things around 37. I’m #4 in our group of 7 cousins (7-4=3), I’m one of three sisters, and Ken’s classroom number in 2nd grade (his Mom’s class) was 7, so it just fits.

Starting a fresh new year of life in a new place doing new things is just what the “doctor” ordered after a tumultuous 36th year. I will officially get an Alabama license today and have officially sent my “back to school” letter to faculty today. So both feet are firmly planted for a great new year in the South.

For your interest, here are some cool facts about the #37 I think my Mom will be most pleased by the Shakespeare reference and I’m pleased that I’m the fifth lucky prime. I think K would be pleased that this is Casey Stengel’s retired Yankee number. Also, because some people have too much time on their hands, the interwebs found me this 37 Factoid site. My favorite factoid from this site is:

  • The winner of the 1996 Ironman Triathon World Championship, Luc Van Lierde of Belgium, was entrant #37. (Sweet.)

Also, not to get all morbid, but apparently Dylan Thomas died at the age of 37 (no plans for that for me…) but since he wrote one of my favorite poems, I give it to you here. (His wife was named Caitlin, also appropriate.)

So that is enough of me for one 37th natal day. Have a Sofia or an IPA today and tell your family you love them.I continue to feel overwhelmed by the grace which I’ve been given by my friends and family in the last nine months. Honor each day as a gift and a step forward in faith and joy.

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good morning baltimore

My heart is breaking for Baltimore today. While not my hometown, I have spent many a day in the city-learning at Hopkins, cheering the O’s, running the marathon, hearing and singing with the BSO, and introducing family and friends to the science center, aquarium, and Ft. McHenry. But these are not the parts of Baltimore that are on fire. These are not the parts of Baltimore that cry out in pain from decades of oppression and violence.

As Baltimore burns this morning, I push away from the easy rhetoric; the “those people should behave” talk. Rather I seek the whole story. I seek to understand what drives people to lose their will be peaceful and pushes them to rage. I am not an historian. I am not a theologian. I am not a journalist. So instead of my own words, I share the words of others who are helping me glean perspective today.

David Simon-creator of The Wire

Two States of Emergency in BaltimoreThe Atlantic

Non-Violence as Compliance, Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

God was Born on the Streets of Baltimore, Jason Chesnut, Faith Interrupted

John Angelos, Orioles COO, perspective

An historical approach-MLK’s Speech in Gross Pointe, MI 3.14.68

Why Baltimore Burned, Forbes

Double Standard of Riot Coverage

I beg you, before you rant about unrest or attempt to place blame, try to get a 360 view. Turn off the cable news (all the channels, not just one.) Try to glean as much information as you can to understand the root causes. And pray, my friends, may we pray so fiercely for clarity, peace, healing, and justice—FOR ALL.

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