Don’t Let Go. (And ironically, I didn’t.)

Going to the doctor when I’m sick is always my last ditch effort. After putting things off until way past the last minute, I recently went to a nearby walk-in clinic at CVS Pharmacy to see if they could give me any relief from these *&%$#! allergies. The ‘Minute Clinic’ – as it’s called – actually lasted exactly 170 minutes from the time I walked in to the time that I finally walked out: 2 hours and 50 minutes. UGH! Actually I didn’t really care because my energy level was nil. So I sat patiently and waited.

After it became obvious it was going to be a bit of a wait, I walked over to the magazine/book aisle and picked up this book: Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben. According to the inside jacket, Coben has written exactly 7.gillion books, of which I had read none. But (as always, when in doubt…) the cover looked good so I picked it up and walked back over to my chair in the waiting room area and opened it up to read this mystery/suspense thriller and pass my sniffling waiting time.

He looked at our faces and knew. They often do. Some claim that the first step in the grieving process is denial. Having delivered my share of life-shattering news, I have found the opposite to be true: the first step is complete and immediate comprehension. You hear the news and immediately you realize how absolutely devastating it is, how there will be no reprieve, how death is final, how your world is shattered and that you will never, ever be the same. You realize all that in seconds, no more. The realization floods into your veins and overwhelms you. Your heart breaks. Your knees buckle. Every part of you wants to give way and collapse and surrender. You want to curl up into a ball. You want to plummet down the mineshaft and never stop.

That’s when denial kicks in. Denial saves you. Denial throws up a protective fence. Denial grabs hold of you before you leap off that ledge. Your hand rests on a hot stove. Denial pulls your hand back.

Coben is a quick, leave-’em-hanging-at-the-end-of-each-chapter kind of writer which is great for times when you want to just casually read something entertaining. He hooked me right off the bat and grounded my feet firmly in the have-to-know-how-this-ends quicksand every novelist hopes for.

I had it completely read by the next day. Abandoned military bases, waterboarding, high school friends crossing paths decades later……what’s not to love?! I tried to pass it on to Scott to read who immediately said the curve of the tracks on the front cover is completely unrealistic – a train could never make a drastic curve like that. *face palm*

Sidenote: The title of the book is ‘Don’t Let Go’ and well, ……I didn’t let it go. I was well into the book when the nurse called me back and after our very arduous exam and explanations of meds, etc., I walked right out of that CVS with this book in my hands without paying for it! I am currently on the lam. I’ve been running and hiding for days – never staying in the same place more than two days at a time. I feel certain they are tracking this IP address as I write this review.

Yes, yes. I will go back to CVS, admit to my accidental theft and buy the book for good. (But after reading a suspense novel, it felt only right to type up this book review while still running from the feds myself.)

Need a swimming pool read this summer? This is your book. I think I’ll grab a couple of his other books too and see if I like them as well. Easy. Somewhat mindless. A read that keeps you moving along.

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patriotism is a weird thing these days…

I was not born into a military family. I look with awe at the many pictures posted today of fathers, brothers, sisters, friends who have served in the various armed services of America. I have always had a penchant for patriotism, however. Studying history in college and grad school, I was introduced to some of the more nefarious sides of our country’s history. But that’s what forges strength, correct? The trials and errors and rebirths that naturally occur while creating a new and improved model that is stronger and healthier.

Many new mothers can recognize the surge of weirdo hormones that happens following childbirth. After all the congratulations were ended and my friends and family had all left the hospital, I slept on and off – completely in awe that I was now a first-time mother. As the sun rose outside my window the next morning, I looked out to see that my hospital room was squarely facing the tall flagpole that greeted everyone as they entered the front doors. The American flag was waving valiantly and then suddenly, I began crying. I made fun of myself later as I explained to my husband how overwhelmed I felt in a split second transition from ‘normal’ to ‘hormonal’. I couldn’t keep it in; I was so very thankful my newborn baby – less than 24 hours old – was born into the comforting arms of freedom that America offers. Sounds crazy insane, right? But I was completely overcome with pure, raw gratitude.

This unadorned feeling of patriotism happened back in the good ol’ days when pride of country felt a little easier. I have much more complicated feelings about it these days. The older I’ve gotten (and as news channels are multiplying like rabbits and news coverage seems to show no restraint) the more devastation I have witnessed throughout the world. Perhaps you feel a few misnomers about patriotism too… Primarily – can I be proud of my country of origin (something that was a complete luck of the draw) without excluding all other countries of humans all over the world? I’ve had to work through those kinds of questions, especially since 9/11.

I think of patriotism a lot like I think about my personal faith in God. I want to have and hold and honor my faith but I also want others to bathe in the salve of God’s love as well. I wish this same thing for persons suffering under a horrid dictator, being stripped of their homes, their families and their self-dignity. I do not want to be exclusive with my patriotism. With all of our faults, I wish others could live with the same freedom and justice that we do in the United States. I wish ‘American freedom’ could take on the great characteristics of their own country as they learn to live more peacefully democratic lives. I do not believe myself to be of higher standing because I was lucky enough to be born in the United States. I sincerely wish the Miss-America-answer for everyone: world peace.

I cannot write the above paragraph without feeling a strong sense of the INjustice that is also a part of our own country. We have so.much.more to learn with regards to social justice, equality and false imprisonment just to name a few. I am aware of my extreme white-ness as I type each word.

If there was one thing my mother beat instilled into our minds it was this: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” Luke 12:48 KJV

We have a responsibility as….(name the characteristic)…Americans. Caucasians. Wealthy. Privileged. Instead of taking an apologetic approach, why not stand in the posture “…of him shall be much required.” Men and women who have fought in the armed forces have stepped up to eradicate injustice and tyranny. We honor and thank them – especially today on Memorial Day. But we are each given the responsibility to step up and take action against the oppressor wherever we find ourselves. Taking action against violence can take on many different forms: getting involved in the political process, writing letters, befriending someone who looks different than you, encircling all of mankind – regardless of their political, spiritual, sexual or socioeconomic status.

The red hat maxim that has been splashed across our political arena these past few years hints of too much exclusivity. It makes me very uncomfortable. While comparing my patriotism to my faith, shall I gather all the love and grace and forgiveness of Christ for myself, hoarding His salvation from others for fear of losing any part of it for me alone? That is a preposterous suggestion. And yet too often, that is the message we are sending the world. A message of fear. ‘We have it and you don’t and we don’t want to share it with you because there won’t be enough of it left for our country.’

The goal of a peaceful world is our guide for the present and our vision for the future. The quest is the greatest adventure of our century. We sometimes chafe at the burden of our obligations, the complexity of our decisions, the agony of our choices. But there is no comfort or security in evasion, no solution in abdications, no relief in irresponsibility. The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not? ~ John F. Kennedy

There is no shame in American patriotism. We honor those that have served to fight for our country, especially those that were killed in the process. We pay homage to those within our own personal lives that have gone on before us. We honor and love and respect their commitment to make our lives stronger and more abundant. The greatest way that we can honor them, however, is to take up the mantle of responsibility they made available to us. We want our own lives to be great. We want our immediate families to prosper and succeed. We wish for our cities, our states, our country to excel. Yet our truest success will be found when we can offer these unlimited opportunities of liberties to every human worldwide. As Americans, we must set the example for civility. As Americans, we must lead the way.

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a word about the photograph above:
My sweet friend, Cricket, lives in this lovely 1895 home in Springville, Alabama. Her instagram account is like stepping into The American Dream and never wanting to come out. As amazing as their home renovation has been, her heart exceeds even that. Her beautiful daughters and handsome son have wonderful role-model parents AND Cricket has the MOST adorable side hustle as a vintage shopkeeper in a remodeled vintage camper. Please check out her market schedule and see if she’ll be at a market near you. And look through her home renovation as well as their unbelievable camper renovation. She’s someone on my rather short list of People I’d Like to Meet in Person Someday.

Simple, Slow Saturday

There were plans. There was sickness. Things were rearranged. And all of that together equated to a wonderfully simple Saturday strolling through the City Market, vegging on the couch, baking homemade goodies just because and short-range planning for some summer daytrips. Organic foods…organic plans.

The fruits and veggies are starting to show up at the farmer’s market, but it’s still predominantly flowers and plants and succulents galore. Each time I see someone walking back to their car with an armload or box filled with tomato plants or other annuals, I feel a common bond of hope with them. We all start out the summer filled with grand plans that usually get tapped down by weather or bugs or budgets. But in the beginning – we are imagining our own small piece of heaven, right there in our backyards. Go small-batch farmers, go!

I enjoy watching the vendors who sell bouquets of cut flowers. Is it just us Midwestern gals that love an armful of ‘freshly cut wildflowers’ over an FTD arrangement any ol’ day?! To watch the vendors pick and choose from buckets and buckets of flowers…it’s mesmerizing to me. Someday I hope to see the big flower markets in the Pacific Northwest. I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking and oo’ing and ahh’ing! I just imagine them to be simply amazing.

Being within walking distance of our farmer’s market is certainly a big plus when it comes to bringing home country wildflowers for our urban home. This week I picked a small $5 bouquet, mostly because the flowers are ones that last a lot longer than the other varieties. I had never seen this particular vendor before but I loved their booth and the extra touch of the brown paper surrounding the bunch. I was specifically thinking of the sweet pink vase my friend, Brenda, sent me from Magnolia Market.

And I was right: the flowers look perfect in their little pink home, reminding me of a simple Saturday with my husband and a friend who allowed me to cancel plans with her because of my stupid ear infection but that I got to enjoy her gift all over again…

Mental, emotional and spiritual recalibration. That’s what this weekend has been for us. I hope you’re enjoying a few extra hours with family and friends this Memorial Day weekend.

Coffeeshop Friday

(and a wee bit of Thursday)
I feel like I’ve been sequestered in our apartment for weeks upon months now. In actuality, it’s just been a few days. Seasonal allergies have knocked me flat this year with a little upper respiratory infection thrown in for good measure.

Scott’s work schedule has switched now. He works for 10 days then has 4 days off. Thursday was his first day off and I was ready to enjoy it despite the achiness. We drove up north to Smithville Lake to drive around and see what’s up there. It had been years since either one of us had been there so today seemed like a good day for a ‘Driving With Miss G’ excursion. We even got to see a few sailboats out for the morning…

We drove through nearby small towns and a small community called Paradise, Missouri which sported a few churches, one of which was this United Methodist Church. Our church will open its new building next weekend in downtown Kansas City. It is also United Methodist. The building will be very different than this. There won’t be a propane tank or a horse stable across the street. But we will all, on any given Sunday, gather together with people we love and worship the same God. Standing in the grass (watching for snakes!), it was a centering moment of gratitude that worship takes on many different forms but the love and forgiveness of God is beautifully consistent.

Driving back into downtown, I was thankful for a few hours of driving in the country. As much as I love urban living, I need time in the trees. Wide open driving. Wind, birds, and green expanse. It felt good for my soul.

The sunset last night was overwhelmingly gorgeous. I posted (too) many pictures on my Instagram stories. But I had to share this video with you here. And still, it didn’t capture the magnitude of color we got to enjoy for an hour or so as the sun took a dramatic last bow before leaving for the night.

FRIDAY
When Scott originally told me his hours would be changing, I grasped for something good to look forward to. Friday morning coffeeshops were high on my list. I wanted to have a Twig Cake Company cupcake at Monarch coffeeshop, but didn’t realize they didn’t arrive until mid-morning on Fridays. I’ll know better the next time.

If you follow any Kansas City instagrammers, I am sure you’ve seen Monarch coffeeshop. The space is gorgeous but also…….the windows are tinted perfectly for the best snaps! 🙂

Isn’t that mint green espresso machine gorgeous?!

This below picture is full-on CREEPER stalker level. This wonder woman is Tricia Bushnell and she is the director of the Midwest Innocence Project. (She was being interviewed here, as I not-so-stealthishly took this picture.)

I was introduced to her during the public listening party of the SERIAL podcast about Adnan Syed (2016?). Tricia works tirelessly for wrongfully convicted prisoners. Their stories are sad and her overwhelm at the magnitude can be heard during her speeches. There is so much more to do. But she is ruthlessly dipping water out of the ocean, one cup at a time.

We were supposed to go to a concert tonight. Our sweet neighbor gives us such random tickets from time to time. Scott is still going with some friends, but this sickie is staying home to recoup. I’ve had my little outings and now I want warm tea and a soft bed. Cheap Trick and Poison will have to go on without me. Maybe I’ll wear a Bret Michaels/Shannon Beador headband tonight in solidarity. 😉

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! It looks like it will be a hot one here in KC. If you can enjoy a sailboat ride somewhere in your celebrating – all the better!

Childhood Fiction: Adult Realizations

…one felt like one was listening, not reading…

I finished a book this week that left me a little distraught. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The National Book Critics Circle Award and named one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year – even more than that, it absorbed so much of my childhood, leaving me with very happy memories and contributing to my lifelong love of reading.

I was excited to read the biography of the life of a childhood ‘friend’ – Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilderby Caroline Fraser. I absolutely loved my copies of each of her children’s books, in particular ‘Little House on Plum Creek’ which seemed to capture every inch of my imagination with the devastating prairie fires and the onslaught cloud of locusts. Living in a home underground set my mind on fire as a child, wondering what it must be like to live that way.

What I never considered was the real-life devastation locusts and prairie fires would have on a farming family…

I honestly don’t know if I can recommend this biography to a fan of the Little House books or tv series. It was difficult to read the true events that happened behind these childlike books of fiction. Prairie Fire covers the entirety of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life, so it is exhaustive in its details taken from her diaries as well as city and state records. It is bookended by the real Charles Ingalls at the beginning of the book and Michael Landon in the end. (In fact, Landon’s….end…is discussed. His backside was so popular on the tv series ‘Bonanza’ that he decided to wear no underwear in the ‘Little House’ series. Is this something we really need to know?!)

BECAUSE I was such a fan of the books and later the tv series, I found this book fascinating. But fascinating in a car-wreck-I-can’t-look-away kind of way. There are parts of Laura’s life that I now wish I didn’t know. I will not be able to look at the books with the same innocence I always have in the past. As a fellow Missourian, Laura and Almanzo’s home in Mansfield, Missouri, is that of lore around here. Reading Prairie Fire gave me a different perspective into her life and that of her childhood.

I mean – of COURSE her life was not as idyllic as the books and tv show led us to believe. Her books were carefully categorized as fiction for that very reason.

As a history student in college I thought a study of pioneer women would be enticing to study someday. I suppose that’s because it is a time period that I do not believe I could have endured very successfully. The arduous trek across untamed America toward uncharted land…no calling ahead for hotel reservations! So it was interesting to read ‘behind the veil’ of the hardships the Ingalls and later the Wilders endured to settle land and build their dreams.

The books are not the truth but the truth about our history is in them.

Yes, I recommend this book because it holds valuable insight into the trials and hardships of building America. (Only slightly touching on the Native American aspect of ‘building America’.)

No, I don’t recommend this book because it will taint your bucolic image of freckled-faced Laura and her adoring family.

Have you read it yet? Tell me your thoughts…

The Lion King

For Christmas, Dad surprised us all with tickets to see The Lion King when it came through Kansas City in May. We have been anxiously waiting to see this amazing show. There are four of us that have traveled to Africa and have a special fondness for the continent. I spent a month there in 1995 when I traveled to South Africa (and some surrounding countries) as a part of a work conference – attending strategic meetings during the day, safari tours in the afternoon and visiting AIDS clinics and rural church services on the weekends. My daughter-in-law, Ryann (far left) spent a summer in Rwanda during college (2007) working at an international high school teaching history in the morning and volunteering at an orphanage in the afternoon. My parents have gone twice as English teachers at Africa Nazarene University in Kenya. So there were layers and layers of excitement for everyone. Baird and Ryann and Hannah all grew up during The Lion King Disney movie era – a movie that was a wonderful ‘babysitter’ many Saturday mornings for this tired mama!

Getting this group together at the same time in the same place is always a little difficult. There’s usually someone missing when we get together for family functions. Today, Baird came straight from Theater in the Park rehearsals and Craig came straight from a weekend of running up and down a basketball court as a referee. Getting work schedules and social schedules lined up just perfectly is a feat in and of itself – but we did it!

Since Scott and I live the closest to the Music Hall, everyone met at our house for a little Lion King appetizer…

(Dad gave each of us a stuffed Lion King animal as a way of telling us at Christmas what our ultimate gift was)

While I would imagine seeing the show on Broadway would be incredible, the traveling show was spectacular and amazing. After enjoying the first half of the show, I found myself engrossed in the mechanics of the costumes in the latter half. Seeing all of the kids in the audience I must admit to selling them a little short. I wouldn’t have thought they would understand the show with the uniqueness of the costumes. But from what I could see they sat mesmerized by the story and the characters. I, on the other hand, have yet to understand how Scar’s mask worked – but loved it, nonetheless. I would imagine it was quite an experience to work on the set crew for this show. Fabulous curtains and ‘implied scenery’. A truly outstanding experience altogether.

I would much rather be given an experience over a physical gift. This fit the bill perfectly.

Following the show there were places that people congregated to take pictures and selfies. The Lion King banner had a long line of people waiting to get their group shots. I asked all the grandkids to get their picture taken in front of the banner. Baird said, “I think it would be cooler to take our picture in front of a random banner instead. We can hold up our playbills.” And truly, the better representation of our gift giver (Granddad) was to do something completely against the grain – so that worked out perfectly. -ha!

We were all happy and excited and sleepy by the time it was all over. It was a full weekend that ended with a lifelong memory-making event. Absolute perfection. As my sister so aptly put it, “It was a prince on Saturday and a king on Sunday.” 

Scott and I both groaned when the alarm clock went off at 3:30 this morning and to be honest, I don’t have a strong memory of him even leaving for work, I was so groggy.

I soon realized I was no longer on the African serengeti when Monday morning became Monday morning very quickly around here with overflowing oatmeal and a cat hairball episode at my feet! But my heart was still overflowing too (…kitschy comparison, sorry.)

Here’s to a week filled with simple, Hakuna Matata reactions to all life has to show us!

Midweek Musings

Happy Wednesday, my friends. I hope your week is going well.

We are having a lot of new growth around here. I am always surprised that Spring rolls around and plants just know. You know? Sure, the ones outside do their thing on the trees and break through the ground after a long winter’s nap. But my houseplants inside are doing the same thing. I have a few that have been ‘consistent’ for years now, but this Spring, new growth is sprouting up everywhere. And just like my green-leafed pals, my own heart always stirs with something new each Spring. The winter hibernation can be rough some winters – feeling caved in by cold weather and nasty illnesses.

Just getting out and walking the neighborhood enlivens my spirit automatically. I am writing this at our local coffeeshop, Operahouse. I am beyond thankful for that short block walk to this little gem of a getaway. This is the street on which I live. I am sure it’s crazy for many people but it is truly a dream come true for me. I’m crossing the street in front of our building headed to the black awning to the left.

It is almost mid-year and I have not known how to adequately talk about a subject that has flowed in and out of my mind this year. 2008 was the most difficult year of my life. Hard decisions and even harder heartbreaks. It’s a phrase as old as time, but one we cannot understand until we have walked through it: It will get better. I would never have believed it then. 2008 changed me exponentially. I would love to say (a decade later) it was all for the better. I would love even more to say I am 100% healed. But that just will not happen this side of heaven…the scars are still visible, even though significantly lighter in shade. I am, however, absolutely sure of one thing: that God did not wave his mighty wand and bless me from above. Instead, he had grime on his face from the falls we took together. Surely his heavenly robe was torn during it all. He got his hands dirty as he held tightly to my own. My mascara ran down and puddled in the grace he repeatedly swathed me in. Sometimes our choices and decisions leave lifelong scars, but I look at the track of the streetcar above. The old brick buildings. The people – both beggar and businessman – walking the same streets where mafia wars were fought and presidents stayed eras ago. God softens the years past and points me to these streetlights to say, ‘Things get better, Greta. Dreams still stir. Potential is always on the cusp. You’re doing okay. My grace and love for you knows no limits. Rest. Walk. Breath in the dusty city air and know I am still here.’

The little rubber tree that could. As some of you remember, I ‘borrowed’ this cutting from a restaurant I visited last year. There was a HUGE rubber tree next to our outdoor table and well, a branch with a few leaves accidentally fell into my hands, rode home in our car, and somehow got planted into a container. #idontknowhowithappened. It keeps putting out new leaves and growing taller and taller. I took this picture on Monday and this morning I noticed the new leaf is completely unfurled. You go, girl!

I mentioned on Instagram that Scott bought me a beauuuuutiful Bridal Veil hanging plant for Mother’s Day from our farmer’s market. Oh my word – I love it so much. I haven’t found the exact place to hang it yet but in the meantime I am loving it sitting right here – behind our white loveseat, tying everything together nicely. The flowers are so delicate (which is what drew me to it in the first place) and they close up tightly in the evening (no Unisom needed.) Just rest and repeat for the next day. Sounds like a perfectly devised plan.

Last summer I was all about succulents. I am happy to say that 99.9% of them are still alive and thriving. I have a burro’s tail succulent that has grown so much that I removed a few branches to plant in my face bowl. Doesn’t she look like someone you’d want to hang out with now?! So sassy.

Springs in Kansas City bring lots of tornadic weather. It’s interesting for us to watch from our porch as rainstorms make their way into the city. They’re majestic and scary and thrilling and I love the way they fill up the sky.

And speaking of Mother’s Day gifts – my kids both came by for lunch and to just hang out together on Sunday afternoon. It is the best treat in the world to me. Their lives are full and interesting and I am amazingly proud of them both.

My daughter brought some goodies with her, among them this giGANtic box of DOTS. -ha! I love many rich and decadent desserts but honestly I turn into a 5-year-old for anything gummy. DOTS have been a lifelong favorite. Speaking of which – are you a Twizzler or a Redvines fan? How you answer that question will determine the continuation of our friendship. 😉

I will check back in at the end of the week but wanted to pop in and say ‘hey’. I hope you look at the calendar today and say, ‘Oh my word!, it’s already Wednesday?!’ and then the rest of the week just flies by. Ooo, and speaking of weekends…two things:

  1. Scott’s work schedule is changing. I can’t decide if I’m frustrated or happy about it. (Well okay, I was definitely frustrated by it initially.) He will be working 10 days straight and then have 4 days off. Anyone else out there that works with that kind of schedule? Any tips or tricks for me? I cannot imagine the stress level toward the end of the ten days. Scott works 12-hour days (but is on-call for even longer.) I see very little of him right now. I might forget his name after 10 days! So we are adjusting to that right now…
  2. This weekend, however, my family is all going to see The Lion King in Kansas City. I am so excited!! My father bought tickets for everyone (for Christmas) so we are all getting our Pumba and Timon excitement in this week leading up to it. I know it will be amazing. My parents went to Kenya to teach for a semester a few years back. My daughter-in-law went to Africa for a summer when she was in college. And I spent a month in South Africa (and some surrounding countries) about 20 years ago. So there is also a personal connection to Africa – a continent in which once you have visited, it will forever be in your blood. It expanded my world tenfold.

Have any of you been to see the musical The Lion King? It was incredible, right?? I can’t wait!

Until later –
(and as always, thank you so much for stopping by for a read)

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