Saturday, December 26, 2009

Out of the Closet

I've lived with the shame for some time now. I knew it was time to get it out there for the world to see. For at least the past year, I've had a walk-in closet into which I cannot walk.

Just look. My laundry hamper can't even sit level. I suspect there are shoes underneath it.

So today, I dragged it all out. Every. Single. Thing. It all came out of my closet. 

While I was in there, I ran across an old friend. I knew he was in the closet. I hide him from my children in there. It's......Darth Vader. My Darth Vader action figure carrying case I've had since I was a kid. Let's take a look inside.Impressive, huh?

I also ran across a few magazines that have my articles in them.

Finally, my closet was completely empty.And guess what I found? An electrical outlet. Never knew it was there. And we've lived in this house almost three years.

Now, I like to think of myself as a somewhat intelligent woman. I read. I appreciate the fine arts. But let me tell you something...

...I love clothes. Oh, my holy goodness, how I love clothes.

And shoes. That's my laundry hamper full of my shoes. I truly didn't realize I had that many.

I found my "I'm due in January!" T-shirt from my pregnancy with Julia. She's almost 11. Keeping it.

My mother's Guatemalan skirt. She bought it when she was a teenager in Panama. It's beautiful, but because my mom was just a teensy little thing back then, I can't wear it. But I'm keeping it.

Who does this to hangers? And why? And why do we have one? I got rid of the hanger (but I kept what was hanging on it.)This is my ACU shirt that I had to wear when I worked there in the late '90s. I have no need for it now. It's gone.

The beautiful Chinese gown given to me by my sweet friends Serene Goh and Bernadette Lee at my bridal shower in college. This gown has moved all over Texas with us and now to Arkansas and I will never part with it. Ever.

My floral-print Zena jeans from 9th grade. That I can still fit into. I wear them every time I need to dress up as someone from the '80s for a party. Which has been twice in the past year. Keeping them.

Three hours and four Gilmore Girls episodes later, I was done and my closet looked like this:

I got rid of piles of stuff. And I found clothes I had forgotten about. Which is like getting new clothes for free. I feel like a new woman.

Next up: The crap closet. I mean the craft closet.


This is the 600th post of my blogging career. Just thought you should know.

We had a nice Christmas here in AR. Because just about everyone we’re related to has moved here since August, we didn’t have to go anywhere. My brother Brian paid us a surprise visit, which is always fun. The girls loved the stuff they got (although I’m still looking for something I bought for Jenna in early December that I apparently did a great job of hiding) and I got a new coat, new Bible (first time I’ve had a new one since 1992), the new Norah Jones, WHBM gift card, etc.

I’ve been dreading January coming back around because that’s when all my non-fun started last year. So I’ve decided to combat this by going to Florida for a week. Of course this couldn’t happen had a very sweet someone not invited me, but it just so happens to fit perfectly in with my plan. My goals until my trip are to:

1) Wrestle the laptop away from Chad and the girls so I can work on my novel while I’m there. I can call it research. I’ve decided my main character should go to a condo on the beach for a week, and I really need to write that part while I’m there so keep it as accurate as possible.

2) Wrestle the camera away from Chad so I can Facebook my very first January beach vacation.

3) Go swimsuit shopping. In the wintertime. Another first.

The weekend before my trip, we are traveling to Houston for Chad to run in the Houston marathon. He ran the half-marathon back in 2004, and he has always wanted to run a full marathon. The girls and I will be there to cheer him on with Harold, our marathon tour guide.

I’m still working out on a regular basis. I’ve been doing this for almost a year now, which should make #3 up there on my list somewhat easier. Chad gave me new workout clothes for Christmas, and there was a time that I would have taken offense at such a thing. But I’m married to a guy who understands that looking good while working out is just as important as the workout itself. Bless him.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Starting Points

Yet we cannot accumulate friends like so many trophies. Friends are not objects to be found and collected. Our calling isn’t so much to find friends as to become friends to others. I am not even sure it is possible to “find” friends. Instead, we befriend others, and in the befriending, worthy companions are mysteriously born. As imitators of Jesus we are here to grant to others the gifts of safety, attentiveness, compassion, empathy, accountability, truth-telling, loyalty, distance, time, forgiveness, spiritual care, and selfless love. In offering such graces to others, friendships emerge. - from Pilgrim Heart by Darryl Tippens

On one level, I'm right on board with this concept. Darryl Tippens (my former professor and elder) puts into words a process that I've believed in most of my life.

I've never viewed friendships as something to be collected. I've never had more than a couple of close friends at any time in my life. (I understand this is consistent with my astrological sign. Not that I believe in that crap.) I never tried breaking in to the popular crowd in high school. I didn't pledge a social club/sorority in college. If a relationship can't develop naturally, as described above, I'm going to move on to something else. I don't believe in trying to break into tight social circles. It’s just not me.

When I think of the significant friendships I’ve had in my life, they all involved a starting point. When I moved to a new school in first grade, a girl overheard a boy being rude to me. She didn’t think that was right and she decided to be my friend. Lori and I were inseparable through that year, 2nd grade and even after my family moved away in 3rd grade. She’s now my Facebook friend and I’m continually amazed at all the things we still have in common, despite the fact that we haven’t seen each other since I last visited her in high school. (I'm the one with the broken arm in the photo.)

Then there’s my bff Carol. She’s the kind of person I probably would not have been friends with in high school. But we met a few months after high school, when we were just starting college. The same weird guy liked both of us at the beginning of that year and it gave us something to laugh about. We’ve stayed friends for years and she’s the one I can talk to about anything. We rarely miss a week of talking on the phone – even though we haven’t lived in the same town since 1993. (That's the two of us at the U2 concert in Dallas two months ago.)

And there’s Lois, probably my most unlikely friend. We were born a half-century apart, for heaven’s sake. When I first walked in to Missouri St. Church of Christ in Baytown nine years ago as a young mom and minister’s wife, I didn’t think “She’s my kindred spirit” the first time I met her. I just thought of her as one of the elders’ wives. Then I organized a weekly moms’ group at church and asked her to be our speaker at one of the meetings. We had been having decent attendance at those things but on Lois’s day to speak, no other moms showed up. Lois and I sat and talked for an hour. We connected on a level that our age difference simply could not touch. Six years later, at our going-away party, she described it like this: “I forgot how young Deana was and she forgot how old I was and we just became friends.” But didn’t the space between our ages cause us to be too different? People have asked me that. Let’s see. Here’s the only difference I can think of. I read about the impact of World War II on American culture and society in my high school history book. Lois lived it. And to me, that made her even more interesting. So the age thing didn’t matter. In fact, I think it made us better friends. Lois was a librarian for years and one thing we share is a love of books. I told her when we moved away that our friendship reminded me of that of Anne’s and Diana’s in Anne of Green Gables. Two kindred spirits with completely different backgrounds who came together and connected on a truly unique level.

All of these relationships had what relationships must have to form: a starting point. If Lori hadn’t cared that Daniel was rude to me, or if Carol (who went to college in the same town she had gone to high school in) was content to stay with her high school friends and not let anyone else in, or if 15 moms had shown up at that meeting and Lois and I never got to talk that day, those three women would be distant memories, if that. Instead, they each hold cherished places in my heart. Because we extended starting points to each other. I wasn’t looking for a new best friend when I met any of these people. It just happened, as the Tippens’ book describes.

Same Kind of Different as Me, a book I just finished reading, illustrates this concept beautifully. Two men who were worlds apart in every aspect of their lives came together and one extended his hand to the other. It was a reluctant hand, but it counted. Their resulting friendship went on to bless both men in ways neither of them could have envisioned.

Having moved around a lot, I’ve become something of a pro at showing up somewhere and making friends. At least I thought I had. What I’ve learned is that the older you get, starting points are harder to find. Someone who hasn’t moved to a new place in their mid- to late-30s may not understand this, but it’s true. Because of time constraints, busyness and life in general, or maybe just because existing relationships are too comfortable, people get more stingy with their starting points. This is what I think the paragraph from Dr. Tippens’ book doesn’t quite grasp. You can be a friend to others all you want, but if they are not offering you a starting point, you will get nowhere. You’ll end up sitting on the couch for three New Year’s Eves in a row, staring at Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest and trying to figure out why, after a lifetime of having had at least a couple of friends everywhere you had lived, you have suddenly gained citizenship on the Island of Misfit Toys.

Starting points aren’t always the springboard for some match-made-in-heaven relationship. There have been times that I’ve found myself at a starting point with someone that needs to be an ending point. I’m a big believer in people having boundaries and protecting themselves from relationships that could be unhealthy and exhausting. But can’t there be a middle ground between trying to be friends with everyone (which will wear you out) and shutting everyone out (which could make you the Unabomber)?

I can see why it could be more comfortable to just pull up the welcome mat and become the embodiment of that Emily Dickinson poem (“The soul selects her own society – then – shuts the door…”), but I just don’t interpret that as being Jesus to others.

We could leave the welcome mat out there and see what happens. I’m willing to see what happens.

Friday, December 04, 2009


Here’s what’s been going on with me lately:

- My parents moved here in August. They keep our kids overnight for free. My mom gives me her extra coupons. Life is pretty sweet.

- Chad’s mom moved here a couple of weeks ago. That situation is going to be somewhat more demanding of us, but we can do it.

- I went to Dallas in October and saw U2 with my bff Carol and her husband Patrick. I haven’t blogged about it because I don’t even know how to write about how great it was. Seeing U2 was in the top three of my bucket list. So after I write an award-winning novel and go bobsledding with the U.S. Bobsled Team, I can pretty much die happy. My only disappointment with the concert is that Bono didn’t propose to me. And I was counting on him to. I think he was waiting for a more intimate moment. Or it could be that we’re both married to other people and he doesn’t know I exist. But I’m trying to stay positive.

- Speaking of writing novels, I’ve been working on one for the past several months. Good writers don’t divulge too much about their works-in-progress, so if you want to know what it’s about, come to the book-signing.

- I've taken some time away from being involved in Chad's youth ministry. I kept getting signs that maybe I shouldn't be involved in it. This was very strange to me, especially since I thrived in it at our old church. I've really missed being around the kids. They IM me on Facebook and tell me they miss me. I'm thinking of easing back into it. We'll see how it goes.

- My depression is at bay for now. I spent most of this year getting my mind around some circumstances I once thought I couldn’t live with. With the help of old and new friends and with the unwavering support of my husband, I’m almost OK. Just do me a favor. If you ever see a sign outside a church that says “WE’RE TOO BLESSED TO BE DEPRESSED!”, go to Sam’s, buy however many dozens of eggs you want, and (at night and wearing dark clothes) throw them all at the sign. Because whoever put that sign up is stupid. And you’re doing them a favor by letting them know that.

- I'm thinking about grad school. The thought of me getting a master's is exciting and overwhelming and downright scary all at the same time. Should I start this fall? When I'll have a new middle-schooler and a new kindergartener? Should I wait a year? Should I never do it and lie on my death bed at 80 (after the novel and bobsledding thing) and let my last words be "I should have gone to grad school."?

I'll get back to you on that.