Category Archives: Simply Living

The Fault in Myself.

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I used to host funerals for myself.

That’s about the most morbid, twisted, strange thing I will probably ever admit to you. That I, Hannah Brencher, used to host funerals for myself on the regular. They weren’t funerals where I died or anything. I didn’t recite a eulogy or lay down on the ground like a body with no soul left inside of it. I just would have these moments— these “I want to change everything about my life and the person that I am” moments— and I would remedy those feelings with a funeral.

I’d find a shoebox. I’d fill that shoebox with little trinkets, old indications of an old life, and then I’d duct tape the shoe box up and heave it into the trash. I’d wear black for the day. I called that little ritual a funeral— throwing away who I was to become someone new. Someone better. Someone more likeable. Someone you’d have a really hard time letting go of. 

No one ever knew about my funerals. No one ever knew that so much of my life growing up was just a matter of facing a mirror and asking, “Could you just be someone different today? Could you just do me that favor and start over?”

 

I had one of those weeks last week.

I am sure you know the kind— the kind of week where you get so hellbent on becoming someone new. Where you run down a checklist in your mind of all the things you need to say and do and do better to actually become the person you’ve hoped to be since the first day you realized you could change, if you wanted to.

And so started the quest to be a more efficient human being on a Friday afternoon.

 

I should mention that it was the Fault in Our Stars that stirred this need to be different inside of me. And some of you are nodding your head, biting your bottom lip, and whispering beneath your breath, “Yes, I know what you mean. I saw the movie. I ugly cried too.” 

Well, ugly cried would be the understatement to whatever slow, inconsolable sobbing got released from my lungs while watching that movie. I mourned. I maybe mourned for everything I hadn’t mourned for in the last seven years in the middle of a dark theater at midnight, surrounded by teenagers getting to hold their crush’s sweaty hand for the first time. I mourned deaths, and old flings, and paper cuts, and moments of insecurity, and friends lost, and moments slipped without me ever taking them for what they were. I mourned the death of old dogs, people I never said “I love you” to, yellow benches, bags of clothes once donated to Good Will, just about everything.

And when the mourning was over, my new friend and I sat in the still of an empty parking garage at 2am and we didn’t speak. And we didn’t stir. Just hours earlier, we’d been laughing with massive vats of extra-large sweet tea in our hands. Now we tried to start sentences for a long time. And my eyes were puffy and swollen. And she didn’t know, in that very moment, that I was sitting in the passenger seat of her car wishing I could be someone different— someone who carried the same thoughts and feelings about life as Hazel Grace. Some type of girl who let people in long enough to let them build some type of forever out of a series of counted days.

 

You see, I am more of the Augustus Waters type.

I am the one who, for so long, always wanted to do something wonderful— something that would make me be remembered by many. I know I’m not alone in that– in wanting to be the sort of girl who stays on your mind long after you’ve met her. But I sat in the car that night and I wondered if I needed to become someone different— the kind of someone who realizes what she has when she has it. The kind of someone who actually sees the people surrounding her. She’s actually there for the big moments. She wouldn’t miss them for the world. My mind trailed back to this one time where I was offered a free trip to Utah. All expenses paid. To just go out there and meet with some entrepreneurs. And I said no because there was a wedding shower. I’d already sent in my confirmation that I’d go. The woman on the phone said, “Let me know if you change your mind.” She assumed I’d change my mind. And I assumed I’d change my mind. But I didn’t, because I didn’t want be that person who forgets the people who are her covering. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t torn between wanting more and wanting what I have. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wanted to strike a balance between the two more.

I want to be that more than anything though— the friend who doesn’t give up. The friend who says, “I’ll be there” and they always, always are. The friend who you can always call— be it for a book suggestion or the kind of conversations that start with, “Hey, can we get on the phone with a bottle of wine and just hang out for a little while? I need that sort of thing tonight.” 

 

So my quest to be a better human being on a Friday afternoon started on Facebook. Because I want to be the type of person who remembers birthdays better and Facebook has ruined me in that capacity. I’ve gotten so guilty with just occasionally looking over to the right side bar of the screen and planting a generic “happy birthday!” into the spaces— sort of like a Mad Libs— and sending my boring message of gratitude that someone got born on that day into the inter webs.

So like I said, I started on Facebook. I took out my planner, the one with the black stripes and gold edges, and I began scribbling down the birthdays of the people in my life. And then I had a panic attack because there were suddenly too many people in my life. And then I rattled through a list of self-constructed questions: Am I good person? Do I talk to them enough? Are they mad at me because I fail them when it comes to text messaging? I should call her more. I forgot her birthday. I never saw it on Facebook. Should I apologize?” 

I bullied myself so much that I didn’t get past the just seven days of birthday. I only wrote down seven days worth of birthdays and told myself, “Just start here. Just start with these next 5 birthdays…”

 

 

One of the five birthdays was this morning.

Libby. The girl who knows all the coffee shops throughout New York City destined to haunt you after you suck their mugs dry. She’s just one of those people I want everyone to know. You know, the kind of friend that makes you want to find random rooftops so you can bellow to the whole city, “Today, one of my favorite human beings was born! Let there be copious amounts of celebrations and spontaneous parades! Or just be extra nice to people today, she’d want that more than anything on this day.” She wears bright yellow sunglasses. She teaches me not to apologize.

I slipped outside of my office space early this morning to call her. I smiled as the phone rang. I could instantly flicker through all the times in my memory of watching my mother close her bible in the morning and then go to her address book, flip through the pages, and find the name of whoever it was she’d marked on her calendar. I remember hearing the dialing of the cordless phone. My mother would wait. And then the sound of a kazoo being played to the tune of happy birthday would be heard throughout the house. Any person my mother has ever loved could tell you the exact way a kazoo sounds when its left in a voicemail on your birthday.

I left a voicemail. I wished I had a kazoo. She called me ten minutes later and we talked. It didn’t last long but it was enough for the both of us— it was enough of a space of time to say I miss you and I’m proud of you and I’m cheering for you, no matter what.

It made the morning better. And I chose not to find the fault in myself— because I was trying. We’re all trying. And that looks different to some than it does to others. To me, and today, it looks like birthdays. Tomorrow I’ll plot some new way to be a better version of myself. Today it is birthdays though. And remembering to say “I love you.”

It looks like I’ll accomplish a lot of things today. I’m already on schedule for a productive day. But, for some reason, this birthday of hers will be the thing that matters more than the rest.

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The lifeboats are sparse. I think it shall be over soon.

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I spent the last minutes of 1999 noshing on Ritz crackers alone in my bedroom, pretending to be Rose DeWitt Bukater (the gal from Titanic who bedrocked Leo’s heart like an iceberg and yes, I know you always wondered how her last name was really spelled).

I was in the fifth grade. And I was a J.D. Salinger loner type with too serious of an infatuation with Y2K. These days, I still cannot resolve why mother let me spend my savings on a Y2K sailor hat and snow globe or why she let me loose in the flour to bake a Y2K cake for all my classmates. Yea, I was that girl walking into class saying, “Hey friends, Happy ‘we’re all going to die in the next 48 hours when the computers crash at the strike of 2000’!” Y’all can refer to me as “buzzkill” from now on.

But, in all seriousness, I honestly believed that the world would thrash and fall apart and I’d find myself standing at the foot of the Grand Staircase with Leo looking down at me from the clock, saying, “Darling, you look grand in that Y2K sailor hat. Let’s run to the front of the boat so I can wrap my hands around your waist and make you feel like you are flying.”

Something like that.

Either way, I thought the world was ending and I was perfectly content with falling to particles alone. In my bedroom. Sipping orange juice out of a champagne flute. With crumbs from the Ritz crackers scattered in my lap like sequins adorning my Titanical ball gown.

I think about the Titanic just as much as I think about “What would it be like to be a teen mother?” So trust me, that means the topic is on my brain. A LOT. I’m even so awesome that I went out to the store, bought a bottle of wine, and watched a minute-by-minute Twitter reenactment of the Titanic sinking this year on the anniversary. Yea, you’re bummed you missed it, I know.

I sat there with palms sweating, thinking, “It will be over soon. It will be over soon. They haven’t put me in a lifeboat yet. I guess this is it. The lifeboats are sparse. I think it shall be over soon.” And went to bed somber that night, and a little broken.

Call it what you will but don’t you ever wonder what it must have been like?

To be the one watching your children scamper on the deck after dinner before you heard a thud. A shrill crack.

Panic. There’s panic all around you. You take their tiny hands and you move towards the throng of people hushing one another. It takes a few hours before you know it to be true: the ship will go down. There won’t be enough lifeboats for everyone.

How, oh, how do I fit the rest of my life into 2 or 3 hours? Can I love you any harder, children? Can I hold you any closer? Can I say things that will quiet your fears and make it not so painful when the ice-cold water reaches your ankles? Oh, the pain. Can I take it from you? Can I close your eyes to all of this and read you bedtime stories and promise you heaven?

Did I show you God enough for you to believe in Him? Because all the talking in the universe would not matter if I did not love you right enough for you to think there was a God who cared about your limbs and that time you fell from the old oak tree. Did I show you God?

Did I do enough? Did I do that stuff that actually mattered?

Lately I wonder what it might look like if someone were to tell me that this—this whole wake up in the morning, put two feet on the ground, get through the day, be kind to people, be successful until you close your eyes at night thing—was ending today… tomorrow… next week… would I have done it right?

I promise to be the last person to come at you with a “live like you are dying” speech but the truth of it all is that we really don’t know when these toes will go. When these eyes will close. When these fingers will stop feeling new countertops and the tops of heads that give us a reason to shuffle home at night.

I’ve got a good few folks that I’d love nothing more than to get back. I’d hurl myself over mountains and through deserts and across oceans to get these people back in my orbit. To sit down beside him and say, “You know, you shouldn’t have gone away for so long. We’ve missed you so and, truthfully, the world falls apart without your laughter in it.”

And I know you’ve got them too. The ones who made strudel from nada. The Ones Who Counted Stars with You for the Very First Time.

It’s a different age. An entirely different age. And now we are flushed full with 140-character cries and a status update every 5 seconds but Would It Matter? If it were all ending, would we update those who never really cared or would we find a way to reach back to the ones who deserved our every update in person? Deserved the moments that should have always stayed tucked between Intimate People instead of blasted out to a world that lives for its own reflection.

I want to know that you would throw it aside too. That we both would. And we’d come back to one another like two just meeting from across a crowded room. That everything we said we cared about Oh-So-Much is pale, pale, pale when placed beside human hearts.

And some days I want an excuse to throw all character limitations aside and just clutch you closer than we’ve ever tried before.

Titanic-Fashion.

This Big Ol’ Boat is Sinking Fashion.

& I’m Gonna See You Soon.

& I Miss You Like Heck Already.

& Be Good Until We Meet Again.

& I’m Sorry, I Should Have Said This Sooner, But You Made All of This Worth It.

& Just Hold Me Now and Make Me Feel Like I Did You Right.

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Learning to be the cool, vulnerable chick in the corner.

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I want to remember everything about this time.

The details. The silver linings. The gooey middles. The intricacies that hold in these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. And how these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities seem to be happening pretty consistently in my day-to-day. And I want to remember that they should always, always humble me to my knees.

Last week I boarded a flight for Hollywood. I was there for a solid 24-hours. I stayed on the Boulevard. I brought wardrobe choices. I walked on a TV set. I had a dressing room with my name in the middle of the star. I sat down with a host I’d known for years by the glow of the screen. I wondered when I would wake up.

Life feels a bit surreal these days. It feels like it probably belongs to someone else. Or that it’s been lent to me by someone who’s coming back tomorrow, planning to ask me, “Was my little life good to you?”

And let’s be honest– I had no real intention of ever blogging about this. I planned to trot back from Holl-ay-wood and post my usual “Inspiring Post that Makes Others Think It Could Be About Them But Really It Is About Me… Maybe…” kind of post and stay off from all y’all. But someone sent me an email as I was boarding the plane, a single sentence email that read: “Please tell us about Hollywood.”

OOF. Wind rush. Me? Talk about my life? On my blog? Jeepers, now that is something I don’t like doing. I am going to be plain & honest & true with you… I have never felt comfortable talking about my life on this blog unless I muddy up the details with imagery & metaphors and leave your head spinning and wondering if the details of that last post ever even happened to me at all. And no one knows a thing about me besides the movement I started and the color of my hair. It might be a defense mechanism. I’ve done it for three years now. But something is pushing me out my comfort zone and I am ready to share more. And be honest more. And give you more of a glimpse of my everyday ordinary. (I am so swallowing hard right now, sweating profusely, wondering if I can actually do this.)

So my life… yea… and what I think it is these days.

I think it simmers down to this: Great faith. & great expectation. The two, braided together like horse hair, took me straight into a life I never planned for myself. A life I never thought my little hands would deserve.

When I quit my fulltime job back in July, God was calling. Trust me, it takes much bravery & courage on my part to admit that to strangers who only know me by the slang in my syllables. But the quitting my job was God’s plan, not my own.

My plan has always been big & illustrious. If I were an Indian child, they’d have named me Lover of Big Names & Fancy Resume Buzz Words. I wanted to work for huge nonprofits. I wanted connections with names that would hitch up my LinkedIn profile and make it shine brighter than the Hollywood Boulevard at night. I craved security. Enough money. I wanted the things that would symbolize a job well done. A kid making well for herself in a struggling economy. But the plan was never to quit the job.

Then More Love Letters came alone. And it was a squander between a role God gave me that hummed to the riffs of His very own soundtrack and a job God had given me to deliver me out of the Year of my Unraveling. The Year Depression Wore Rainboots & Tromped Out My Spirits. I wanted to honor both roles. I burnt out. I worked too many hours. I forgot friends. I kept praying.

In the middle of April, God whispered July. The month would be July. I knew something would heave. Turn. Shift. And, sure enough, a job was offered for July that would cut me down to a fourth of the money I’d been making. I left a salary, benefits, insurance. My pockets were heavy from student loans. I found a limb… and I walked out on it. I was fearful. But I had a feeling it would fan out into something beautiful.

I could suddenly work from anywhere, for someone who gave me one requirement: The time not spent working for me gets devoted to your dream.

I agreed. I stepped out. And I clung to God for security. For abundance. For a direction.

My life takes on a new kind of ordinary these days.

A new kind of normal that I am learning to embrace with both hands. I’m not used to TV studios. Nor am I used to heavy email inboxes. Or public speaking. Or book deals.

But it is all rolling forward and I am being stretched in the limbs to show up every morning and be the girl that God mapped out for me. If I didn’t want so much– if I didn’t already have the sweetest taste in my mouth for what God can do for those who trust Him fully– I’d be the girl I thought I always should be: quiet. Pent up inside a box. Insecure. Sorry for her own existence.

And I don’t want to stand here, with hands in pockets while looking down & kicking at the dust, trying to tell you that you can transform your life into something magical. Truthfully, I don’t think I could pull off a shred of magical on my own. But I looked up to the heavens and said, pretty honestly, “I don’t always trust you, I don’t always know what you want from me, but I am tired of this sadness. I want my life to be whimsical. I’ve got big dreams. I have so much I want to do. I want to write books. I want to speak to many. I want to do Your work, God, if only I knew what that work was…” And yea… God met me with a pretty outlandish but whimsical life. (Twas’ never my own doing and I don’t ever plan to take that credit.)

And so, no, I don’t want to be that other girl anymore. The tired one. The one who is not confident in her abilities & giftings.  & I must refuse to bring her along in this journey because the girl already mapped out for me is another thing altogether.

She is pretty wonderful. She is pretty cool. She gets to do amazing things. She gets to meet amazing people. She feels blessed almost always. She is learning the art of gratitude better every morning. That girl is learning, above everything else, that she needs to embrace what is coming her way like golden tidal waves, whether she ever felt she deserved it or not.

That is the girl I want all of you to meet. She is not perfect. She is not trying to be perfect anymore. She is just joyful. Content. Ready to share. Ready to find her own voice on this blog.

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The art of coming home to you.

Every part of her was like coming home after a long spell of Away.

The way she poured the hot water. The measurement of three scoops of coffee. The spatula in her hand, the mint chocolate chip cookies pulling off from the pan. The way she invited me in. Told me to sit. Turned off her phone. And let me spread my entire life before her–blog posts & conversations still tucked in my lips & thoughts & even fears–to map out an outline. An I’m-going-to-grow-wings-and-be-a-real-live-book-proposal kind of outline.

It was the first time–in a very long while–that someone had let the quiet come in all around us & just asked deeper questions without asking anything at all: Are you feeling like a blessing? Do you know your purpose for today? Tomorrow?

How can I help you get closer to the person you always said you wanted to be?

And while the conversation was good, the progress- good, the cookies- fantastic, I just kept thinking: This woman is a living, breathing sense of Home. Home with kneecaps & fingernails.

I want to be just like her. Just like her.

Not in the sense that I’m copying or hoarding traits of her personality to take for my own, but that I want to be that kind of Home to somebody. To make somebody think, when they are sitting beside me with mug pressed between two hands, that they are right where they belong. That yes, they are good but there is always better. A better lover. A better dreamer. A better human being–not by standards of the world but by standards of the heart when its raw & tender & and just asks of you one thing: be good to people. Love the limbs off of them.

To let someone know that they are not less of what they need to be. Not more. Just perfect and right for that very moment.

That someone understands them. That someone wants deeply for them. That someone is sitting there beside them, ready to stir that same familiar & unrivaled feeling: you pull into the driveway, laundry buckled in the back seat and empty Starbucks sitting in the cup holder, to the lights on. The kettle steeping. Your bed made. And you are home, so home, after a time that seemed sprinkled with long & hard.

I guess that is a worthy purpose for my Today: to learn to carry with me always the kind of Home you never could find the words for. To be able to give & be in a way that makes people think the world isn’t so cold, that it hasn’t quite lost its shine. To leave people feeling like their bones are recharged and their spirit has been strengthened and yes, oh yes, they can tackle the trials in that moment. They can get stronger & then they can teach others to be the same kind of strong. & so off they set to tackle the world.

We need that. More tacklers of the world. More I-can’t-sit-still-and-let-things-be-this-way people. More movers. More shakers. More lovers. More people who see the wrong in the world & it itches at their skin like ivy of the poison kind. And they’ve got to be, just got to be, some kind of aloe.

Remedy.

Confidante.

Familiar face.

Cheerleader.

Blessing.

Home. To the people who have needed it for far too long.

Home. To the ones who have been waiting for the lights to turn on & the kettle to steep.

 

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A stepping stone in unapologies.

“You say sorry when you pull someone’s hair, Hannah,” Audrey informed me as I gathered her mess of sunshine curls to make a high ponytail.

Clearly her advisory was a cue for me to apologize for getting a tangle of bright blond strands stuck in my comb. “That’s when you say you are sorry and you mean it,” she told me again.

Back in a pile of Once Upon a Times, I spent my days with a four year old, tracing Disney princesses and beading together friendship bracelets. With each passing day she taught me new things; from the origins of “raisin fingers” in the hot tub to how to really wear my hair so I can look as beautiful as possible. But more than anything, Audrey showed me that she knew the word “sorry.” What it meant. Where it fit. And she was always very proud of that.

As she skipped through Target in her cowboy boots and Snow White costume, I would catch myself thinking, “Oh, Audrey. It is a very good thing to know how to say you’re sorry, but I hope you never say sorry for who you are. I hope that word never causes you to go back on yourself.

Sometimes I desperately want to sit in the center of Barnes and Nobles and cut the word “sorry” out of every single dictionary in stock.

Because it is a word I’ve misunderstood. It is a five letter word that I have used, time & time again, as a strike against me. Apologizing For Who I Am. For What I Believe In. For What Breaks My Heart. For How My Heart Breaks. For My Dreams. For My Ambitions. For My Walking Away. & Letting Go. & Holding On.

Sorry has been the weapon I’ve used against my own soul.

The S grows sharp and cuts the  spirit. The O is rounded but rugged, ripping apart the confidence. The Rs are double-edged and they pierce straight through happiness and the Y is that final cut that throws all off balance and into a realm of insecurity.

I will be the first to admit: I say it too much. I mean it too much. Some days I think my feet are just here to get muddy and be a living, breathing apology to the world.

And its sucked the life out of me. Its sucked the will out of me.

It has made me want to tread lightly–go quietly– in a life that demands Loudness out of me.  

And suddenly I’m just one in a sea of sorrys. Sorry, so sorry. For wearing cowboy boots in Target. For having curves. For never letting go of childhood dreams. Yanking around a Suitcase Full Of Sorrow and passing out an apology to anyone willing to hear it only to drag feet back to a mirror at the end of the night, to the image of sad eyes staring back. Saying hurtful things like “not good enough” or “not pretty enough.”

It’s been too long. There’s been a breaking point.

A moment of clarity: Don’t be sorry for your bones & your marrow. Don’t be sorry for your frame & your structure & the fact that you are here, right here, and so there must be a purpose inside of you. There is a reason you’re here right now. Are you going to say sorry for that fact?

So here it is: A stepping stone in unapologies to make up for all the years I spent saying sorry for the things that I really should have been thanking the heavens for. Because They Make Me Who I Am.

Sorry but I am not sorry for preferring to sit in with a good book and a cup of tea rather than going out to the bar.

Sorry but I am not sorry for being an overachiever; for waking up at ungodly hours to get a workout in and for doing more things in two hours of my morning than most people do in a whole day.

Sorry but I am not sorry for pushing people. For believing in them even when I should just give up. Sorry but I am not sorry that I don’t believe in Should or Could or Would any longer. That I don’t play with houses made of cards, just bricks. Just stones. Just solid “Yes, I’ll do it.” & “Yes, we’ll make this happen in our lifetime.”

Sorry but I am not sorry for not being easily wooed by pick up lines or charming looks, I am not sorry that I have decided not to settle for less than I deserve.

Sorry but I am not sorry that I have learned. Through pain. Through tears. Through selling myself short & giving in to giving out. That it was hard but I value my own skin now. That I have ended it. That I think I deserve more than that now.

Sorry but I am not sorry that only one man will have me, only one man will get me and, until that point, I’ll stay waiting. Already loving him more than he knows.

Sorry but I am not sorry for believing. For trusting. For putting all faith in a God who knit me. & made me. & spun me from His fabrics. & gave me a life so long as I would learn to forget myself in all of it & just be His hands to hold His people.

Sorry but I am not sorry that I am a Light. That I am a Lantern. That I intend to shine. & even brighter than you know. That I know there is darkness, so much smog of darkness. That the only purpose that seems fitting to me is to be a light to the that darkness.

Sorry but I am not sorry for anyone coming to me and seeing that my heart is already broken with no hope of it ever being fixed. Broken Over Poverty. Ignorance. Hunger. Oppression. I let my heart lie broken. I think it’s beautiful that way. I am unapologetic about it.

Sorry but I am not sorry for not fitting into a small box or a quiet corner. I was made to be loud, to be fierce, to uncover my limitations only to limbo under them.

Sorry but I am not sorry for finally learning to liberate myself. To give myself the credit I deserve for thriving and being crazy all in the same day.That I am no longer wanting to be more like you. & less like me.

That I am going to learn satisfied for once. Satisfied. For once.

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Because some days I want that excuse to clutch you closer than we’ve ever tried before. Titanic-Fashion.

I spent the last minutes of 1999 noshing on Ritz crackers alone in my bedroom while pretending to be Rose DeWitt Bukater (the gal from Titanic who bedrocked Leo’s heart like an iceberg and yes, I know you always wondered how her last name was really spelt).

So I was in the fifth grade. And I was a J.D. Salinger type with a semi-too serious infatuation with Y2K. And I still cannot resolve why mother let me spend my money on a Y2K sailor hat or snow globe or why she even let me loose in the flour to bake a Y2K cake for my classmates. Hey friends, Happy Millennium Bug/ We are All Going to Fall Off the Earth at the Strike of Midnight/ MATH CLASS WOOOO!

But, in all seriousness, I must have thought that the world would thrash and fall apart and I’d somehow find myself standing at the foot of the Grand Staircase with Leo looking down at me from the clock, saying, “Darling, you look grand in that Y2K sailor hat. Let’s run to the front of the boat so I can wrap my hands around your waist and make you feel like you are flying.”

Something like that.

Either way, I thought the world was ending and I was perfectly content with falling to particles alone. In my bedroom. Sipping orange juice out of a champagne flute. With crumbs from the Ritz scattered in my lap.

And really, I am just wondering what it might look like if someone were to tell me that this, all of this—this whole wake up in the morning, put two feet on the ground, get through the day, be kind to people, be successful until you close your eyes at night thing—was ending today… tomorrow… next week… would I have done it right?

I promise to be the last person to come at you with a “live like you are dying” speech but the truth of it all is that we really don’t know when these toes will go. When these eyes will close. When these fingers will stop feeling new countertops and the tops of heads that give us a reason to shuffle home at night.

I’ve got a good few folks that I’d love nothing more than to get back. I’d hurl myself over mountains and through deserts and across oceans to get these people back in my orbit. To sit down beside him and say, “You know, you shouldn’t have gone away for so long. We’ve missed you so and, truthfully, the world falls apart without your laughter in it.” And I know you’ve got them too. The ones who made strudel from nada. The Ones Who Counted Stars with You for the Very First Time.

To be very honest, I think about the Titanic a great deal lately even though I’ve somehow moved past the pending wedding proposal from Jack Dawon. It’s a normal balance of love letters, friends, work, family, the occasional “what if I were an MTV Teen Mom,” training, poverty, and Titanic. Call it what you will but don’t you ever think what it must have been like?

To be the one watching your children scamper on the deck after dinner before you heard a thud. A shrill crack.

Panic. There’s panic all around you. You take their tiny hands and you move towards the throng of people hushing one another. It takes a few hours before you know it to be true: the ship will go down. There won’t be enough lifeboats for everyone.

How, oh, how do I fit the rest of my life into 2 or 3 hours? Can I love you any harder, children? Can I hold you any closer? Can I say things that will quiet your fears and make it not so painful when the ice-cold water reaches your ankles? Oh, the pain. Can I take it from you? Can I close your eyes to all of this and read you bedtime stories and promise you heaven?

Did I show you God enough for you to believe in Him? Because all the talking in the universe would not matter if I did not love you right enough for you to think there was a God who cared about your limbs and that time you fell from the old oak tree. Did I show you God?

Did I do enough? Did I do that stuff that actually mattered?

It’s a different age. An entirely different age. And now we are flushed full with 140-character cries and a status update every 5 seconds but Would It Matter? If it were all ending, would we update those who never really cared or would we find a way to reach back to the ones who deserved our every update in person? Deserved the moments that should have always stayed tucked between Intimate People instead of blasted out to a world that lives for its own reflection.

Because some days I want that excuse to throw all character limitations aside and clutch you closer than we’ve ever tried before.

Titanic-Fashion.

This Big Ol’ Boat is Sinking Fashion

& I’m Gonna See You Soon

& I Miss You Like Heck Already

& Be Good Until We Meet Again

& I’m Sorry, I Should Have Said This Sooner But You Made All of This Worth It

& Just Hold Me Now and Make Me Feel Like I Did You Right.

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Filed under Month of the Pick-Me-Up, Simply Living

It’s as if we’ve been granted this Immense Potential for some Remarkable Storytelling, if only we use it right.

Some people only need to be lent a single sentence to captivate us for some kind of tiny eternity.

There are days when we find ourselves only two feet away from a body that will have us ripping clocks from the walls just two hours later, wishing we could chuck the ticking things from the highest of skyscrapers. Make Time Stop.

It can happen every day if we allow it to, if we believe the world is something to be entranced by, like the librarian with the purple-rimmed glasses.

Sitting Patiently. Legs-Crossed. Hands in Lap. Waiting in Awe for the Pages to Turn.

These Words. They are dedicated to One. One Who Captured Me With a Single Sentence.

She had a way of making her words latch on to one another like Children Atop the Creamy Clay Pueblo Storytellers.

“There are some books I cling to because they are indispensable…” It was all she needed to write in her tattered diary for me to know she was a writer, and a good one at that.

Her selection of favorite classics– from the Rilke volumes to Alice in Wonderland– left me wondering if my own diary had begun 60 years ago or so.  Her words made me ache. Her appreciation for life caused me to stare at the diary for ten minutes, every one of the 6,000 seconds scampering to the forefront, all wanting a glance. None wanting to find their Secondly Selves wasted.

I traced the outline of her black and white portrait and forgot for a moment where I was standing. In the middle of the United Nations’ Main Lobby. Surrounded by an extraordinary commemoration for the women of the Holocaust.  Lured by the life and telling of Helene Berr, a young woman who died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp just five days shy from Liberation’s arrival.

It wasn’t merely her knack for prose that swept me away from my afternoon’s work to sneak peeks at her not-so-private diary.

It was the reason she wrote that caught me. 

Perhaps the very reason why any of us should sharpen a pencil, open a new word document or pick up a pen and decide to Say Something.

She kept a diary throughout the Suffering Times of the Holocaust, during the times that some still don’t speak for, for an image she drew in her head of her fiancé, Jean Morawiecki, holding the book of her confessions close to him when he could no longer hold her.

She Wrote To Leave Someone She Loved With Untold Treasures of Her Heart. She Wrote Only To Leave Someone with the Single Story.

Helene Berr, she was no Anne Frank. She carried no childlike anticipation within her that the sun would come streaming through the fences of the camp and nest in her curls as the liberation came. She knew all along that she would not make it. And so, she kept that diary for the man who would still need something to hold after all the tragedy seeped into his hands.

She had this chance to make a mark. And so she did.

I have often taken for granted my mobility and potential to leave a mark on this world. With an age of the Internet where it literally takes less than five seconds to imprint something that will stay forever, I take it for granted that one day, if someone is clever enough with a Google search, they will be able to find me.

I spent last January entrenched in the stories of Holocaust survivors, cascading the walls of the United Nations. Some wrote books. Others, like Berr and Frank, had diaries published. But it is a generation of people who are falling away to Old Age. To Life Lived. To years that swapped youthful skin for the whispering of wrinkles upon the faces of those they passed. And I find myself sitting and squirming, praying that we will pick up these stories and push them forward. Because they are Captivating. Because they come Packed with Teaching Moments. Moments that Teach Better than Textbooks. Better than Technology.

I am praying that we are all learning and understanding from these testimonies. Using them as a foundation to draft our own. To take nothing for granted. To leave no page without remnants of dabbled ink.

We have this crazy, crazy ability to leave a mark that will stay. To Imprint. To Stamp. To Collect. To Tell. With a few single Taps on a Keypad.  To tell stories in a more permanent manner that those of the Holocaust, World War II and the Great Depression never had. And so it becomes our job to be storytellers, wouldn’t you say? To pick up stories that are close to being washed away by the tides of a paperback yesterday. To gear ourselves up with the Very Best Verbs & Adjectives to tell stories to the Next Generation.

It’s as if we’ve granted this Immense Potential. Immense Potential for some Remarkable Storytelling, if only we use it right. IIf Only We Use It Right.

It isn’t so much about sitting plugged into a computer all day concocting an internet persona that we envision will live on for lifetimes. It is plugging in after have lived it. It is going out into the world and doing Great Things, having Great Adventures. It is trying new things, being daring and excitable, wide-eyed like children seeking “Mama” in all the places around us.

Paying Attention to One Another. Staying Present to One Another. Not wishing away moments. Not always itching for the next chapter to begin.

It is living in the Here. Scooping up the Now. Finding ways to make the Present Moment blush.

And then recording it all for Our Children, for the Future. For those who will still want to hold us in the days when we can no longer be held.

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Filed under Big Dreams, Family, Life Lessons, Live with intention, Simply Living, Uncategorized

The Tale of the Box: For the Reader with Clipped Wings

“What do you think it is?” he asks the girl and boy crouching on both sides of him as all three dip their heads down lower to the leaves to get a closer look.

“Whatever it is, it looks broken,” the little girl says, poking the metal contraption with a stick.

“A robot?”

“Probably a UFO,” says the other boy, having remained quiet up until this point.

“It’s a box…” I say, coming up behind the Three Young Ones. “Or… it was a box at least.”

I take a knee beside them and pick the ramshackled piece of metal up from the casket of leaves in the ground. As if it were a broken-winged blue bird. Tiny & Delicate Sing a Song of Mercy.

“Well that’s pretty boring,” says the little girl, standing to place her hands on her hips.

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But this box has quite the story behind it. Maybe you wont quite understand it yet, but later in life it will all make sense.  Come, let’s find a place to sit in the shade and I’ll tell you everything.”

The Tale of the Box.

The Box formed many, many years ago. Long before iPods & iMacs or iHomes & iPads. Long before automobiles or poodle skirts or sewing machines. For centuries, stacked upon one another like playing cards, living and breathing beings have stuffed themselves into this very Box.

“But its way too tiny,” says the little girl. “I couldn’t even fit my baby brother in that box.”

“You have a very good eye. You see, they never got to fitting. Never found an angle to sit in or a way to be comfortable. And if you had asked them when they were your size and just your age if they’d ever squeeze into this Box one day, they would have told you ‘No, no, no.”

But they got stuck. Trapped like Rapunzel, High Up in Her Tower with Yards & Yards of Unruly Locks.”

“How do you get trapped in a box like that?” asks the little boy with red framed glasses.

“Good question. I can tell you that it happens very slowly at first….

A small pitter patter on the roof of the Box…

Should & Would falling from the sky.

Then louder…

Droplets of Mustn’t & Must

Then more robust…

Hail pellets of Cannot & Never

Then Thicker…

Disbelief. And Give Up Now. And Foolish to Believe You Could Follow Your Heart.

And Heavier…

Why. Try? Too. Small. No. Good. Worth. Less.

And before long, a heavy layer of all the reasons why the Box is the safest, smartest and most logical place to stay sits unmoving on the roof. And people stop trying to break free. Or Break Out. Or Break the Mold.

And they make Less Noise. And try to take up Less Space. The Box becomes the very place where people learn to keep themselves so that they never have to grow the courage to crawl out and seize the world by its Love Handles.”

“It sounds very scary.”

“Very scary indeed.”

“Did you ever get stuck in the Box, miss?”
“Me? Well, sad to say, but yes.”
“How did you break free?”
“I suppose I woke up one day and noticed One of Two Things or Two of One Thing:

One) That my Spirits were Tattered & Torn but not beyond repair. They could be fixed with a hammer, a few nails, and some care.

Two) That my dreams, still strong, had grown tired of me. They would stand No Longer to not come to be. They’d pack up their things and turn with a twirl, hitch hike the stars until they found a New Girl.

I’d have spent a lifetime in the Box, or maybe even two, if I only used the carved windows for looking purposes and never as a way to crawl out of my own doubt and fear.

I could have spent forever with my hand to the thick glass, waiting for the voice webbed in my soul to whisper, “Climb out and join them.”

Climb. Out. And. Join. Them.

“I don’t think I’ll ever want to be stuck in that Box. It looks so tiny and lonely,” says the little girl, cringing and shuddering.

“And I hope you never do get stuck in the Box. It won’t ever be much of a home. And it won’t ever make you happy. The longer you get stuck, the harder it will be to break out. Heavier Rooftops as Life Goes On.

So go on playing today, Loving the World through Little Girl & Boy Lenses. But remember this later, if your Little Minds can Hold it Tight… Those dreams that stir you, the ones you paint on easels today and draw in crayon tomorrow, they are precious. And one day they will come to you and say, “I want to come true now. I am ready to come true. So what are you and I going to do to make me true?”

And that will be the question… the question that will either put you in the Box or Break the Box Right From the Hinges before you ever try to fit a body inside.

Break the hinges from the beginning, you won’t fit inside that box. Break the hinges from the very start; you were made for wonderful things.

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Filed under Live with intention, Plans, Simply Living

Learning to coat all that is Hard and Hard to Admit in my life with a thick stew of Love & Storytelling.

I make it a priority to tell one ugly story a month.

One Hideously, Ugly, Unflattering Story Every Thirty Days.

You can guarantee that as the 30th prances closer to the front of my calendar I am clearing my throat and looking for someone to sit beside me with a cup of joe between their hands, waiting to hear my Ugly Tale.

Throughout the years I have learned that it is not hard to find an Ugly Tale. Lord knows I have a bookshelf full of Ugly Tales, disorganized and restless, sitting on some handmade shelf within my soul. No, finding an Ugly Tale is not difficult but having the courage to tell one is another matter completely.

I don’t ever attempt to dictate or be right when I write but for the first time in ever I am going to come out and say something I believe with every fiber of my being: We don’t tell enough Ugly Stories. We don’t hold them up to the light nearly enough. We rarely find the time to stop and talk about Tragedy and Hardships unless we know Oprah is covering a tear-jerker of a topic at 3p.m. or a new nonfiction claiming to tell a sad story as if it were the only one has just hit the Best Sellers List.

But I don’t believe we carve out enough time to get Ugly with one another. To tell one another about the times we fell flat on our face or the very first time we realized our heart really did have seams that could rip. Rip Quite Easily. Perhaps we forgot to cover that base in kindergarten as we all held up our valiant pieces of plastic for the first time and checked out Heroic Stories from the Local Library. Someone should have told us then that it is o.k. to speak out loud the things that hurt us most or to acknowledge Broken Stories. That we can have Favorite Things and then Not So Favorite Things that we actually admit to ourselves and others.

Some part of life taught us at a very young age that we should hide away the ugliness, the not-so-pretty stories, as we vow to never grace those spots again with a flashlight or a word.

Fragile relationships. Bitter feelings. Hardships. Resentment. Leftover pieces. Remains of strength. Confusion. Doubt.

You just be strong, buttercup. Hold your head up and get over it. You go ahead and tuck that experience deep into some abandoned compartment of your heart . Deeper than you would the lipstick in the bottom of your purse. And we will never talk of it again.

That is how Ugly Stories go untold. Precious Ugly Stories that taught us everything we know about being human beings and yet we reject them because they make our throats dry and our palms sweat as we attempt to stutter out, “Once Upon a Time.”

Here is what I know:  That we, the crazy messes of skin that we are, have the marrow of storytellers within us.

Something in our DNA makes us cry out for stories. Again and Again and Again. And not just Pretty Stories but Ugly Stories as well. Those are the Gold that Jerk Tears from our Eyelids and Keep Us Pushing Onward. Relentless. Capable. Invincible.

And so I have become quite comfortable with sharing Ugly Stories as if they were animal crackers at  snack time.

Times where I felt pitiful. Or I fell flat on my face. Or I gave up, throwing my hands up and surrendering to a God that has kissed my skinned knees since childhood.

I find it is the only way to clear out cobwebs of the soul. To dump out the clutter from the leather satchel with the one thousand compartments that I refer to as my heart sometimes.

For there are whole parts of my life that I wish I could just sweep out into the open with a massive broom but I haven’t gotten that far yet. Right now I have a toothbrush and I am down on hands and knees scrubbing. Scrubbing Hard. Telling One Ugly Story Every Thirty Days.

Some might call it “moving forward,” others, “starting over.” I call it “carrying less this time around.” Learning to coat all that is Hard and Hard to Admit in my life with a thick stew of Love & Storytelling.

Forgiving myself for the messes I have made. Releasing the power from those Hard To Tell Stories by giving them a voice. A Narrator. A Strong Narrator. Taking them back, out of the night, with the help of a flashlight I find myself clicking on for the very first time.

So come find me and I’ll share an Ugly Story with you.

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Filed under Simply Living, Staying, The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

This will give us enough of a good feeling, a right feeling, to go on knowing nothing at all.

My best friend smells of leather ballet slippers and lavender hand soap. 

The scent mingles with the highlights in her hair as I hug her, taking me back to the nights spent sharing secrets on hardwood dance floors while nursing the blisters that came from uptight tap shoes.

And though I file away people I have met, placing their name beside a concordance of eye colors within my head, smelling my best friend became a new addition to daily routines only after I met Maggie.

Maggie was the queen bee of the nursing home I was forced to visit during a day of service in college. Truth told, I didn’t want to be spending my Saturday morning playing gin with old folks sharing stacks of Aces and Spades with the dentures sitting on both sides of me.

I made the Macho Mistake of checking my phone beneath the table while waiting for Maggie to make her move.

I don’t understand all you young people,” Maggie spoke, directing her comment right at me without a tinge of hesitation. “You are always talking to one another on a screen. My grand-daughter talks to all her best friends on a screen. That is not a best friend! You need to be able to see your best friend, touch your best friend, smellllll your best friend.

Maggie will forever be the reason why, when my first child asks me for a cell phone, I will retreat to a cedar chest settled beside my bed and pull out a chalkboard like the ones the pilgrims used to practice their ABCs upon.

Here,” I will say, stringing the small board up with a bright red cord and saddling that little sucker right around my child’s neck. “This is even better than text messaging. You just write that message down and pass it your friend.”

Presto, handwriting practice and social interaction all in one swift swipe.

And then I will pull six more chalkboards from that cedar chest and plop them onto the table beside my child. “Here’s more, in case you need to send out mass messages.”

Yup, this conversation will take place right after I buy my girl her first petty coat and teach my son all the Right Ways to walk along the Yellow Brick Roads that Pave the Hearts of Young Girls: Tell her she is beautiful. Always.  Never tell her she looks big in those jeans. Buy her flowers even if there is no occasion. Admire her and do not fear being in awe of her; there is nothing more radiant to watch than a young woman who knows her way. 

But, in all seriousness, I am already fearfully watching from the car window as my children scurry onto the school bus; already pleading endlessly with the gods of socializing that they will sit beside Someone. And that they will like the bus ride adventure beside that Someone so much that they decide to share lunch with that Someone.

Their feet will grow bigger. Their hands will grow bigger.

But still, they will itch to sit with people and find Someones. And call before texting. And just show up even before calling. And know how to use those ten fingers of theirs.

Lesson Number One, my little kiddies: Your hands will never feel so full and so well used as when they find themselves enveloped and interlocked with those of another soul in need. 

Another Restless, Itchy Soul who needs Love. Well, don’t we all need love? We might not know much of what we want in this life, nevermind what we actually need, but we know enough to distinguish how it feels to rest our heads on Certain Shoulders or to be wrapped up tight into Certain Arms. And let’s face it, no one told us we had to know everything so I think that sticking to knowing Shoulders & Arms & Ten Fingers and the power behind them is plenty.

Because that will give us enough of a good feeling, a right feeling, to go on knowing nothing at all.

No, I don’t want my children to miss out on that. To miss out on Certain Shoulders and Life Changing Conversations because their noses are super glued to Kindles or their minds are surfing the Internet ten thousand miles away from the dinner table they are sitting at. Their Faces Illuminated by the Glow of the Screen from Beneath Them. 

I want them to know certain things that will never be unearthed from a pile of mobile devices, certain things that I believe will define their lives and leave them without worry as to what this life is actually for: the way it feels to say sorry in person instead of cowering behind an email address. The way it feels to gush over another human being without fear of being cut off after 140-characters. The way it feels to sit beside someone with Palms Sweating and Heart Racing; feeling so awkward, so uncomfortable, so anxious but so incredibly alive. 

Lord knows one day I will be sitting in the same spot as Maggie, preaching to a restless youngin’ of the days when we still received letters in the mail and we trotted over to the neighbors to borrow a cupcake tin.

Cupcake tins, neighbors, and handwritten letters may all be extinct by the time I play gin with young college students.

But perhaps they will learn from me what Maggie so graciously taught in her preaching of smelling best friends: we have precious time upon us; spend it with friends. There is laughing to be heard, names to be learned, manners to be used and friends to be pulled in after a long spell of “Missing,” transporting you right back to the days of lavender soap and sitting on dance room floors.

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Filed under Best Friends, Disconnect, For a Better World, Humanity, Simply Living, Uncategorized