The “inbox” is no home for loved ones.

As a little girl, Curly Baby came everywhere with me. Apart from the one time that I threw her out the car window to prove to my mother that she could fly, followed by a panic attack when she surprisingly could not, that Precious Moments doll never left my side. I cuddled her, clothed her, bathed her and would not let anyone else take care of her.

I started thinking today of if I had a companion now that is as constant as Curly Baby; something that I am unable to put down, unable to go anywhere without, something that leaves me full of anxiety when I misplace it. Well now I am not so proud. My cellphone.

This piece of screws and bytes holds my life together. I leave it by my head to fall asleep at night, I check it three or four times in one sitting, I scavenge for it when I hear the text message tone. A lot of us are guilty of this. The rebuttal to the argument that this little gadget owns our lives: it keeps us in touch with the ones we love and the ones that are far away from us.

Call Hallmark because this is about to get touching.

Two summers ago I did some hours at a nursing home where I sat around a table and chatted with the old ladies believing I finally found the place where I fit in. At one point I checked my cell phone and the lady next to me asked what I was doing.

Me: Oh, just checking to see if a friend of mine returned my call.

Lady: I just don’t understand your generation today.

Me: Why? (intrigued per usual)

Lady: When I was a little girl we didn’t have all of these things. My grand children all talk to their “best friends” through a computer screen. That is not a friendship. You need to be able to hug your best friend, kiss your best friend, smell your best friend.

That lady taught me a valuable lesson, that friendship and tight-knit relationships are cultivated through face to face interaction, laughing at one another’s stupid mistakes, being there to actually see those stupid mistakes. We cultivate these lasting relationships through holding hands, seeing the other person cry, hurting their feelings but being able to read from their face that we have hurt them and feeling our stomachs sink.

We don’t get this from a text message. We don’t form lasting connections through an artificial connection. And I realized today that I am tying myself to these artificial connections, binding myself through these 140 character conversations. Taking real and true emotions and forcing them into a small space that travels through hundreds of miles to another person’s screen. And I call this friendship.

Now I am not cursing the cell phone, the Facebook or the email account. These innovations have done wonders for keeping us all in touch with one another and helping us root up buried pasts, but at some point we should draw a line. We should say, “let’s save this conversation for when we talk in person.” Or we should say to someone, “You know, I want to save learning your favorite color or your biggest passions for when I am sitting across from you, where I can see your face light up as you talk about it.” Or “I want to save the I love you’s for when I am lying next to you, feeling your hand slip into mine.”

We should draw these lines and see how much more fruitful life becomes.

And when distance sets us apart and we have to be away from those we love, let’s get a little creative and write a letter. Hand written. About something or about nothing at all. Do me  favor, if I know you, send me your address and I will send you a letter. I want to write you a letter. Heck, even if I don’t know you send me your address and I will write you a letter. But once I write the letter to you, you must pass it on and write a letter to someone else. Deal? But I am serious. Email me your address at hbrencher@live.com, or reply to this post with it.

And if you find the chance, put down the phone and Twitter in the next few days and enjoy those around you, the ones that you are blessed to have. As for me, I will be seeing my best friend tonight for the first time since Thanksgiving and I plan to hug her, and spend real time with her as I sit across from her,  and maybe even smell her.

For-give-ness sake

My father wants gel pens for Christmas. Gel pens. Yes, those things we used to write with in the 6th grade. And we collected them. And nearly had a hernia when they came out with the ones that would show up on black paper. He wants gel pens. Well Lisa Frank, I hope you are not out of business yet because I am coming for you.

This season is about giving but I am starting to believe that I may just gain more this year by giving to myself. I received an email today from an old friend, one in which I have had a falling out with, and it was a moment of peace and clarity. I was not expecting to hear from this person, but this person regarded all that was enclosed in the email as an early Christmas gift to them self, to finally have closure on our crumbled friendship.

Had you asked me yesterday if I thought I needed this, to hear from this person and to really think about everything that had happened to tear us apart into two strangers, I would have not thought twice. I assumed there really was nothing left to say, no more bridge to burn, no wound to care for.

But this person had words for me. Words that I may have been caught off guard to see sitting in my inbox amongst some eChristmas cards and daily fitness tips. These words propelled me to respond and also caused me to think of if there is anyone in my life that I have words for.

We all make room in our minds for the could haves, the should haves, and the would haves. We let them dominate our head, sprawl all over the place and use our brain as a mattress to jump upon. Do your self a favor this Christmas and  kick them out. Is there something you want to say to someone? Did someone hurt you and you feel so inclined to tell them? Did you let someone go that you should not have?

Do you need to forgive yourself?

Take your mind today and treat it like you would a messy desk, clean it up and clear some stuff out. Leave room for the carols, the stories, the ambiance of the holidays. Tidy up your mind and find your peace in the moment at hand.

This person may or may not know it, but they gave me the greatest gift of all this Christmas; a precious chance to salvage a friendship and ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness, to me, is more beautiful than the star on top of the Christmas tree. Forgiveness, right now, is filling my cheeks with happiness and elation, warming my heart with so much heat that it has the potential to melt the snow outside.

Forgive someone else. Forgive yourself. Say what you need to say, or listen to someone else. After all, this is the season for giving.

Welcome Christmas season, won’t you please stay with me for the next few days?

Just close your eyes. Maybe the world’s hurt will go away.

So I never expected to be nearly harassed by a belligerent man in Starbucks (of all places), nor did I expect to be saved by two complete strangers who pretended to know me and had me come sit with them so that he would leave me alone.

A nice pair of people. A man and a woman. Stirring up a nice bout of conversation. They begin to speak about Haiti. The woman is from Haiti, born native, and the man is asking if she will return soon.

I am sitting stunned and paralyzed, I have stumbled into a conversation about a country that I am applying to go to in the next several months.  I tell the woman this and she doubles me over with a look.

“You, oh no, not you,” she said. “You are a pretty, bright-eyed white girl, you will never be seen again.”

Of course the further into this conversation I get, the more afraid I become. Naturally. This woman is telling me all the awful things that would happen to me straight off the plane. I am listening but I am softly crying in my head. I have labored over this application, mulled over this decision, and now I am basically dead before getting off the plane.

“You want to help people? Skip on down to a hospital down the street, I am sure they need your help.”

I know it is a sad and scary world. I know this is not a vacation spot. I hear it on a daily basis, why do you want to go there? Of all places.

My replies: Life is not meant to be easy. I was not made to be stuffed into a tiny little box with a tiny little world view. I want to see how 75% of the world’s population lives, because it is certainly not in the manner that we do.

But how do we change the world when everyone is barking at us that it cannot be done?

For one, we stop believing people right then and there. The world is big and large and every other adjective that could boost up the size of this planet. Other places,  other developing worlds, are exposed to danger and violence and war on a daily basis. We sit comfortably saying, don’t go over there, help in your own country. I say, well they cannot come over here, we never gave them that option. So. Watch. Me. Go. To. Them.

The most irritating, skin-scratching thing for me (besides hiccups, which I absolutely hate) is when people try to say that one cannot make a difference. If one cannot make a difference then why are we even here? Were we meant to come into this world thinking, ho hum I will never do anything in my life except “be.”

No, I think we were meant to fill our lives with verbs– helping, sharing, loving, finding, searching, understanding. And we cannot do it in a 1X1 space.

So although it hurt me to hear these things and to think for a second that I should not be doing all that I am doing, to think that it really might not make a difference, I am proving myself wrong. Maybe my service next year will still be Haiti, perhaps South Africa, or maybe domestic. But there will be serving.

What I do with my life will be a difference to someone else. I will make sure of this. So they say I cannot change the world. But I can change worlds. I can step into the lives of others and I can change them. And as each person shifts, the world will shift as well. Yes, yes, I believe I have found  a starting point.

And as promised by a few of you, and I will shortly make a page to accomodate this, I am leaving you with a book from my winter reading list. Largely inspiring my post today, Little Bee has opened my eyes to a lot of things: humanity, globalization, the mere fact that we are really not all that different. A story of two worlds merged into one, two women fumbling through a past that is not pleasing to the eye, two worlds becoming one story. Written by Chris Cleave, I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a change in perspective and that push to make the difference. Let me know what you think.

“You live in a world of machines and you dream of things with beating hearts. We dream of machines, beace we see where beating hearts have left us.”

Little Bee-

Where are you Christmas?

I cannot get into the Christmas season and it frightens me. There are six days left and I am nowhere near the level of cheerfulness and brightness that I normally aspire to. The tree does not seem as decadent this year. Hot chocolate at Starbucks just is not doing it for me anymore.  I am practically hurling myself around the house, looking under cushions and random junk to see if the season is hiding on me.

But regardless of if my heart isn’t feeling its usual holiday self, I am taking a step back to see that it’s ok.

A lot of people are having a heard time this holiday season. The economy is disabling people while breaking hearts and dreams. More people are sick, more accidents are happening, more people are passing away. I think it is even more difficult to lose someone during the holiday season because their absence becomes so present.

They are not at the front of the table where they used to sit. They are not laughing wildly at the grown up table or leading the game of football with the family.

Losing someone, during this season that is so invested with friends and family, is by far the hardest thing.

A great friend of mine interrupted a rant session a few of us were having right before finals began to tell us that a man that she knew from home was dying. He probably would not live until Christmas. He would leave behind four little boys and a wife that loved him very much. I sat there with a rock in the pit of my stomach as she told me this. I imagined what it would be like to lose someone so close to me during this time of the year, or any time of the year for that matter.

Unfortunately, of all the things they can sell in stores to supposedly make our Christmas season a better one–  the brightest lights for the tree, the hottest toys under the tree, the most delectable desserts for the party– the stores can do nothing to aid the gaping hole of a loved one lost at Christmastime. You won’t find the relief on Ebay, in the Target $1 aisle or at the Christmas tree farm. It is not lurking around anywhere. It is not 50% off.

Perhaps that is why it hurts so bad. Here is the season where we simply find happiness. All the things that money can buy submerge us in the sugar coma state of the most wonderful time of the year. But the market cannot materialize the loss of a loved one.

So we must.

We must make the choice to make those who are missing this Christmas reappear and be more real than ever. We must bring out the memories we have with this person, scatter them on the big dinner table, pick up each one, talk about it, laugh about it and then settle it into our souls for safe keeping.

Keep in mind what they loved the most, carry on those traditions. It is not the same. It never will be.  But it is the way they would have wanted it. Picture them looking down and smiling because they know you are moving forward and trying your hardest.

The Christmas after my grandma passed away was definitely the hardest one yet. I cried a few times through the Christmas Eve festivities and I just thought it was not fair. But my tears would not make her anymore real. I had to make her real. So I said a Christmas prayer, I proceeded downstairs to rejoin the chaos and I dared to bring her into every part of that Christmas. We laughed, we reminisced and ultimately, we thanked the heavens that she had once been there to make this season so special to us.

It is never an easy thing. It is always a hard thing. But with the support and love of friends and family who are near and dear to us, we somehow find the way to make it bearable.

So today I will pull out the photo albums and old scrapbooks and attempt to find the Christmas joy. It is not in the stores or under my tree. It is in the memories that have already been made with the ones, past and present, that have made me who I am.

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” –Kahlil Gibran


Hold tight to yourself. No one else can.

How quickly we forget how much we are worth.

So I am not “the brightest crayon the box” but I can admit that I am a smart girl. I have always studied hard in school and aced my tests and quizzes. However, I learned in the 8th grade that guys like “ditzy” girls. Woof.

Well since I did not exactly fit that mold I decided to make myself.

I began dumbing myself down to get a laugh out of a cute boy. I made stupid comments. I claimed I did not know that Montana was a state (now that a super star has rhymed my name with it there is no chance that I will ever forget it).  I asked dumb questions like “Can you tan in lightning?,” in front of all my classmates. Everyone. All the time. I sat with the guys at lunch and they would drill me with questions pertaining to geography, politics and history. I got the answers wrong on purpose.

I will always remember a boy named Andrew who once approached me after lunch to say, “Some girls just pretend to be dumb. You really are dumb. That’s cool.” For a long time I held that “compliment” close to my heart.

Sure this insane dumbness got me attention, but not the kind of attention a girl should ever want. It made me less than I really was.

Halfway through high school, when I wanted to shake the ditz off of my self it was nearly impossible. I worked hard to make my self dumn, pretend to be dumb, so that guys would like me. Dumb.

We do this alot. We take ourselves and we criticize instead of praise, we find out faults instead of our best qualities. We tangle ourselves up in relationships and friendships that bring out the worst in us. We change and transform and morph into what we think will be more pleasing to the world. We let people step all over us and we convince ourselves that this is ok.

Well its not really. It is never really fine when we start forgetting how beautiful we are as individuals and how unique each one of us is. We want to be like other people, like celebrities and magazine covers. We aim to wipe out anything that sets us apart from society. We forget that all these crazy qualities that we have been given are a blessing rather than a burden. We let the media and society whisper in our ear at the end of the day. Our heart softly saying, “You are perfect just the way you are,” is hushed almost instantly by society yelling “BE MORE! DO BETTER! BE SKINNIER! WORK HARDER.”

It is not an easy task to stop listening to what the world is telling us and start focusing on what we really want for ourselves. I am trying to master this every single day and I wake up still seeing the obstacles in my way. The covers of magazines. The TV shows. The billboards. It is not easy to tune it all out but we can either let it roll off our shoulders or let it kill us slowly and softly. I opt for letting it roll.

SARK, if you have not heard of her then Google her. She is an amazing author with a kind and creative spirit. Her books have taught me to find my own forms of self love and harvest them on a daily basis. Today I use one of her quotes as a mantra to myself. Whenever days get tough, whenever I start to believe I am not enough I repeat her words in my head: You have enough, you do enough, you are enough.

Click this image to get to the Planet Sark homepage

And oh yea, now a senior in college, I have finally and officially shaken off the ditzy side of my personality. It is so much cooler to be  the smart girl Turns out, guys will proably like you even more if you know that Montana is a state.

Placing the happy in front of the ending

Things end.

We grow up knowing this. Anything that is good surely cannot last forever. Anything worthwhile and special to us relies on the fact that it has some kind of ending point. An expiration date.

We can convince ourselves that good byes don’t exist and that we can hold time in the palm of our hand and dicate when it will stop and when it will go. But be warned, a sad reality awaits around the corner when another ending comes to sit at our feet.

We need to live with the ending in mind. If I have learned anything in this past semester, more valuable than the papers that I wrote and the lessons that I was taught in the classroom, it is that when we keep the ending in the picture the story line becomes all the more sweeter.

When we keep the ending in mind, we start to think “why not.”

When we keep the ending in mind, we start to say “we should.”

When we keep the ending in mind, we forget the “I will find time later,” or the pushing of people to the back burner.

When we keep the ending in mind, every moment becomes special.

When we keep the ending in mind, we remember that these days are not to be played with, they are to be treasured and used.

Now I dont ask you to treat your life like a story book with your thumb placed on the last page, but I do encourage you to look at the people all around you, today and tomorrow and think about how much you value their presence. What would life be like without them? Would you be the same person? Have they taught you something that you would not have learned otherwise? Do they know this?

We should always be mindful of the fact that we cannot slap timers on peoples’ backs and expect them to stay forever. Life does not work that way. Some endings come when we least expect them.Some endings are known from the beginning.

Either way there is no excuse. There is no excuse for not telling someone how much they mean to us. There is no excuse for not making time for the people that we love. There is no excuse for not building relationships that make saying good bye so hard to do. I have decided that I would much rather have a memorable experience, one that I can hold close to my heart rather than one that I held back from because I knew it would end too soon.

Keep the ending in mind, not because it makes life seem cruel but because it’s there. But dont let the ending get in the way of starting something or letting something grow. The ending should remind us that this moment is sweet and once in a life time. This moment will never be duplicated. We should never take the time we have been given and the people that we have been blessed with for granted.

Forget the clock on the wall.

Go hug your friends. Call your family. Let people know how you really feel.

Things end. Don’t let the fact hinder you, let it remind you of what it really and truly important.

This post has been dedicated to Celia Fox. Today we found our ending point but have already forged a new beginning. Let the world be your playground. You are ready.  

If you love me, do the obvious. Let me go.

Has it always been like this?

Or maybe we recently have come to a day and age where we love people so much that we let them go, we risk losing them forever, just because we have this wild infatuation with the world. There is not much time to watch movies (I plan to catch up over my winter break) but of the great love movies that I do see, there is normally a scene where the two tangled protagonists part ways. On purpose. Is this the romantic way to do things?

I can picture myself by an airplane terminal and then “he” (whoever “he” is) comes running up, pushing through the throngs of people, yelling that he simply cannot live without me. And then there is the choice, to stay or to go.

I think I may have started off the year wanting something similar to this. Wanting to find someone who made leaving so hard. But do I really want the pain and the heartache that comes paired with it? Do I really want to have to tell a person that I come to grow and love that I have to go off and see the world for myself? By my self. Singular. 

It is tough, like all things in life. I don’t understand it. Maybe when I fall in love with the right one I will not have to roll this question around in my head. I will just know that he is worth sticking around for. My mother and I often get into this kind of debate. I say that someone should love you enough to let you go, she says that sometimes you love someone enough to decide to stay. Perhaps it is a delicate combination of both. 

If we go- well then we might miss out on the greatest love and be doomed to the typical movie plot. The person writes us letters and then our evil parents hide them from us, normally in the trunk of the car or wrapped up in nice ribbon, all 365 of those letters. Our lover is so heart-broken over the distance that they unexpectedly fall in love with someone else who can console them with their grief. And we can’t ever hate the person they fall in love with, because they are always so damn nice. It just gets messy when we come back from where we have been and figure out that our feelings are still raging and wild. Or perhaps if we go, they wait, and then there comes the chance of being together. 

I think our hearts are too restless to stay put. Most of us have this itching and passion to see the world and if we are held back from it then we never fully develop. We find some kind of regret to cling to. We always wonder “what if?” 

To stay or to go. 

I could very well be headed off to Haiti or South Africa in 2010, so does that mean I ward off any kind of love? I know that I will eventually depart, standing by terminal 17, sick to my stomach. 

I think its more glamorous in movies, harder in real life. It hurts more off-screen. But it may be worth it. It may be worth it to know that someone loves you enough to wait for you. Or that someone loves you enough to ask you one question, to never leave them, to wake up every morning in their arms. The real question we must ask our selves, when we encounter this kind of love, is not whether they will let us leave but rather if we will choose to stay.