"Rolling in the Deep"

I don't know about you, but my week coulda been better. It wasn't a disaster at work, or fight with a friend that had me down. There are just some really hard life issues that I feel caught in the middle of.

I read a lot of blogs, and most of the authors, as talented and interesting as they are, don't always admit things like that. Sometimes it makes me wonder, am I the only one that feels like life is caving in on me? Am I the only one that feels weighted down by the pressure of figuring out my career, my marriage, my gifts, my passions, my relationships, my faith?

I know that I am not alone. And so I am admitting that I feel weighted down and scared and frustrated... and inspired and blessed and loved... but not altogether happy right now. I don't admit this so that you can throw me a pity party or beg me to tell you what's wrong or so that you can give me pep talk. I'm admitting it so that in case you feel this way too, you can know that you're not alone.
Sometimes, life is just messy.

Here are some things that really inspired me this week, in spite of everything:

Buy this album. No, really. BUY IT.*

Some funny, belated New Year's Resolutions that I am totally stealing.

My friend Madison has started a healthy living blog - good recipes, and even better info about what's good and bad for us and why. Happy, healthy eating!

Kendi and Bryan: Dream Reporters. They're starting a business, and they're blogging about their journey to success.

Check out Kat's revamped blogspot! She's also got a new product line coming soon, so keep an eye out for her woodland-inspired wonders.

My friend Hollie has started a blog: Baking with Ex-Mix. Join the conversation about gender, culture, and you.

Grace over Karma - that's the kind of faith I can believe in.

Does it Really Matter? A good question to live by.

And finally, just a word of thanks to all the talented, loving, funny, inspiring people that I am surrounded by. You make it worth it. Every day.

*Blog title taken from the album. Did you buy it? Get on it.


On Finding Things.

The impossible has happened. My brother called me today: O'Hare Airport Security found his stack of vinyls that we thought were lost forever, safe and sound, right where he left them on a lobby table at the Hilton. What are the odds?

I can't deny it. After my downer of a post yesterday, it would be wrong of me not to write in response to my own pessimism with the truth that sometimes miracles, even small ones, do happen.

Remember that list of things lost in yesterday's post?
The grapes, the postcards, the pants, the cell phone, the camera, the laptop charger? What I didn't tell you is that I actually did get some of those things back.

The camera I left in a cafe in Vienna was waiting for me when I dashed across the city to grab it before I missed my train home.
The pair of pants were neatly folded along with some clean sheets in the laundry room of the hostel in Florence where I left them.
The time when I got lost on a crowded street in Amsterdam it just so happened that I was in possession of our group's cell phone, and I was able to call the one other person in our group who also had a cell phone. She found me within minutes and I was soon safe in the arms of my companions.

Why was this an unimportant piece of the story yesterday?

Sometimes, having faith makes it hard to reconcile my fear and doubt and disappointment. If we can convince ourselves that miracles don't happen, then the pain of losing out on the things we want most might somehow be easier to deal with.

So then, what do I do with the found things in my life? The miracle moments when all of my pessimism and cynicism are met with the impossible? Against all odds, I'm standing in the moment I feared would never come, holding in my hands the thing I never thought I'd see again. And how do I reconcile that with the moments when I don't get what I'm hoping for?

It should be obvious by now that I'm not just talking about finding records and cameras and pants. It's not even about losing and finding myself on a street corner in Amsterdam.

Maybe what I need is not the thing I want itself. Maybe I just need to find the faith to accept life as it is, lost or found.


On Losing Things.

I woke out of a sound sleep this morning to the ring of my cell phone. Disoriented, I answered to hear my brother's frantic voice. After spending 5 days in Boston for the Harvard Model Congress, he was boarding his early morning flight home when it hit him: he'd left his bag of newly-purchased vinyls somewhere in Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

"I don't know what to do! I retraced my steps, I ran all the way back to the concierge desk in the Hilton and asked around to see if they'd found anything, I talked with airport security. They can't help me find them and I can't remember where I left them," he said, his voice frustrated and strained.

I listened and tried to comfort him, but we both knew that his souvenirs were lost forever. Sadly, a $75 stack of vinyls won't wait around for the one who leaves them behind. If he's anything like me, he'll probably lose more than that.

I remember the feeling well. When I traveled abroad in the fall of 2008, it seemed like I left pieces of myself all over Europe. In the midst of doing something as simple as fumbling for my passport, I'd forget the item I set down next to me.
It started with a bag of fresh-market grapes I left in a train station in Slovenia, and then it was a stack of postcards (written and stamped), a pair of jeans, my cell phone, my camera, my laptop charger, and sometimes, I think, my heart.
Minutes, hours and many miles later I would realize that I was empty-handed and there was nothing I could do about it.

Mementos, possessions, they're replaceable, maybe even forgettable. Nevertheless, the moment you realize you've left them behind, a deep ache, an inconsolable sense of failure sets in.

Sometimes, life feels that way. Memories, bittersweet and vivid as they are, won't replace the tangible feeling of a weathered album between your fingers or the weight of a friend in your arms.
You're on a train, a plane, in the car, and every second is taking you further and further away from reaching back in time to that moment when you held everything in your hands.


The Hard Conversations

I've written before about good conversations with close friends, but today I got to thinking about the hard conversations, the ones we seem to spend a lot of time and energy trying not to have.

As I scrounged late last night in frustration for one good thing to cling to on what turned out to be a rather horrid Monday, I remembered a conversation I had with one of my best friends earlier.

She had a wake to go to yesterday for a friend's mother who passed away suddenly this week.

"Ugh. Funerals make me sad," she said. "When I die, promise me you'll celebrate my life and wear lots of bright colors, okay?"

"Will do! Please do the same for me... Is it weird that I sometimes hear songs and think 'I want that played at my funeral?'" I asked, glad to finally confess this to someone.

"I totally do that all the time! And don't worry, I've got you covered," she replied.

"When I die, there should be karaoke, guitar hero, super bright colors and cake. Celebrate lives lived, not just the lives lost. Life is way too short, so go out and live it!" She soon posted on her Facebook status. Within minutes, several people responded with a 'Like' or comment in agreement.

"When I die, I want people to have a feast of scrumptious food and I want them to dance all night," I told her.

We then made a pact to write each other into our wills, to make sure that the other would be the 'party' planner in the event of our death. Our initial brainstorms included a bachelorette party redux, but we thought the erotic cake might be a little over the top for some of our relatives. We settled for posting pictures of good times we've had over the years.

As much as I hate to think of the death of someone who means so much to me, our conversation was the brightest part of my day. We always think that these are the things not to bring up, the things that don't need to be discussed. [After all, we're only in our twenties - who needs to think about dying yet...] But when you've had a crappy day at work, and you're worried about money and bills and what your future holds, and you're feeling the squelching pains of writer's block, and you're missing family so bad it hurts, do you really want to chat about the weather?

Sometimes, it's the biggest sigh of relief, the deepest breath of fresh air to tell your best friend,

Yes. I will be there for you. Even then.

Suddenly, the thing you've been trying not to say or acknowledge, the really hard, awkward conversation you don't want to discuss, turns out to be the only thing worth saying.

Don't be afraid to say that one thing that might open the floodgate to admitting that life is hard and scary and short,

and beautiful and joyous and worth celebrating,

even as we say goodbye to it.

Picture courtesy of the lovely Erin Lee, taken about a bizzilion years ago... or maybe only 5. I can't believe it's been that long! I love you, Rachie. <3


A Wager and the Weather.

What are the odds that things will turn out as planned?

What are the odds that things will go our way, just this once?

How much do you want to bet that the person who said they would call or lend a hand or fulfill their promise will flake out?

Is it possible that the weatherman's blizzard predictions will be right this time?

Why are we not surprised to wake up the morning after a blizzard and realize that the plowman, in the midst of white-out conditions, did in fact hit your car last night?

And so I often wonder if I would make more money by betting against my own life than I would investing in it.

Despite that, I'm still probably the only person left in the Midwest that can honestly say that I love snow. Right now it's snowing my favorite kind of snow - giant, fluffy flakes that hang heavy on tree branches and window sills and cover the world in a blanket of quiet.

There's the snow that leaves you with the peaceful, quiet, contented feeling.

And there's the snow that reminds you : the world, nature, the environment is a force to be reckoned with.

Either way, it's not in my control. There's a time and a season for both. With that in mind, I'm dropping all of my predictions, expectations and disappointments. I'm just trying to heed the warnings and avoid getting caught in the midst of it.