Why I Watched Six Consecutive Episodes of Lost Tonight

Work and Rest.

We need both.  Living in the tension of the two can often be a challenge.  Recently, as the school year was coming to a close, the thought of lazy summer days was a light at the end of the tunnel.  I knew I needed a break from the constant and never ending to do list that consumes my life from August to May.

I was looking forward to investing in some hobbies this summer.  So, in true over-ambitious Allie form, the first week of summer ended up being a flurry of writing, creating art, gardening, catching up with friends, exercising, and tackling my reading list for the summer.  And don’t get me wrong– there’s something really revitalizing in being able to labor in things when it’s a choice, simply because I want to.  I can get lost in creating stationary for my Etsy store or take my time revising and crafting a blog post that puts my parts of my soul into words.  But I can often get caught up in the goal of accomplishing goals for the sake of it– because it feels good.  Hello. My name is Allie and I’m addicted to productivity.  Well, the various projects I had taken on ended up feeling like a juggling act with one too many balls.

Today was another rainy day in Kansas City, and after running some errands, I came home feeling tired.  Rather than tackling my blog post for the day or photographing my art to put up on my Etsy store, I decided to lay down and read my Nicholas Sparks book.  And proceeded to take a nap.

A nagging feeling of guilt hid just beneath the surface.  

I know myself well enough to know that when that heavy feeling comes, I need to do some business with the Lord.

“God… I’m doing it again.”

“I know, Beloved.”

“I’m putting my worth in my productivity.”

“And how’s that working out for you?”

“It’s not… Help me!”

“Hey- it’s ok.  You are mine.  I have given you this gift– a season with a different rhythm.  It delights me to see you creating.  I put that desire in you. But don’t mistake that for your source of validation or worth.

“I just… like the feeling I get when I accomplish things…. and don’t enjoy the feeling when things are left undone.”

“Allie, even if you sat on this couch and watched the entire six seasons of Lost straight, didn’t shower or leave the house for days— even if you never sold one item on your Etsy store or didn’t finish your writing challenge, nothing would change in the way I feel about you.  I love you, and it’s not because of what you do, or accomplish.

“I want to believe you in that, God.  I think I’m starting to, more than a few months ago even, but I still have a hard time trusting that.”

“I want that for you more than you know, Beloved.  And when you learn to operate in the rhythm of my song– for the best music is a symphony of notes and rests— then you will be free to ‘be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.’”  

Shortly after this conversation, my roommates came home and asked if I wanted to watch Lost.  The to-do list for the day was left undone as I sat down on the couch and chose to be blissfully unproductive.  All night.

 

“My Life is Ruined! Can I have a hug?” and other things kids say…

It was the last day of school.  Chaos and hoopla characterized the whirlwind of a day.  Despite my best efforts as a teacher to make the day a smooth and happy transition into summer, the day was not without tears.

I had quite the class this year, but a majority of my stories that I came home with surrounded a charming little boy, whom I shall call Craig.  Eyes like exclamation points, alight with mischief and the urge to tell you something right now.  Ears sticking out precariously and wiry hair mostly combed into submission.  He made me belly laugh.  He made me cry in frustration.  He stole my heart.

Often, it was a losing battle to get him to be where he was supposed to be, doing what I had asked him to do.  But it just didn’t matter.  He was that kid that could get away with just about anything, because he was just so dang cute.  The fourteen plus hugs I got a day from him might also have played a factor in the soft spot in my heart I had for Craig.  He would come up (again, often at the most inappropriate times, like the middle of a science experiment or while I was giving directions, and I just let it happen…) he’d bury his head and reverently pat my belly.  “Thanks buddy.  Alright– where should you be right now?”

The last day of school was rough for Craig.  He won’t be returning to our school next year, so this felt like a bigger goodbye than the typical “have a nice summer” See You Later.  With change already being rough for this kiddo, it made for a emotional day.  Not getting to be first in line on the way to our lunch picnic ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back.  He threw his lunch screamed at the girl that had cut him in line.  As we headed out to the playground, Craig bolted. After making sure my class was supervised, I went after him. It was clear that he wanted to be caught up to, yet like a deer in the woods, he kept just out of reach each time I cautiously advanced.

“You don’t need to go back yet.  We don’t even need to talk yet, but you need to stay here” I said as calmly as I could, hoping he wouldn’t bolt.  I knelt down and picked up the glasses he had flung from his face, his classic tantrum move.

“I’m so angry at Ashley!  She cutted me in line and I just wanted to be first cuz it’s my last day and she didn’t let me!  I’ll never be her friend ever again and it’s all her fault!

“Oh man, I bet you’re pretty angry right now.”

“Yeah!  My last day is ruined and it’s all her fault.”

“Hmm… I’m sorry you’re having a bad day.  That makes me sad.”

Inching closer, I see a literal puddle of tears that had splashed onto the pavement.  I move to the swings and just wait it out.  Arms still crossed, and shoulders tensed, I can see Craig’s defenses starting to come down as his breathing slows.  I wait.

“You know what buddy?  I’ll bet Ashley’s feeling kind of sad today, because she’s losing a pretty good friend.  I know how much she cares about you, and she won’t get to play with you at recess next year or see you in her classroom.”

“Yeah?”  (shuffling slightly closer)

“Yup.  I know she’s going to miss you so much.  And sometimes, when people are really sad, they end up saying things or doing things that they don’t really mean, because they’re upset.  They may act mad, but it’s really just because they are sad or scared about something changing.”

(Silence)

“Can I tell you a secret, buddy?  Did you know that Ashley and some of your other classmates had a surprise poster that they made you?  They had everyone from the whole class sign it to give to you as a goodbye present because they care about you so much!

(Craig looks up, tears still streaked on his face.)

“What do you think about that?

“….Well, I guess I could forgive Ashley,” he consents as he comes in for one of his signature hugs.  He holds on just a little longer than normal.  And I hug him right back.  It’s been a rough year.  Each day has been a challenge, but I wouldn’t have traded it.  Craig’s unedited emotions were such a window to the human experience.

As we walked back to the playground, hand in hand, I reassured him, and myself at the same time “You know, it’s ok for this to be hard.  It’s OK to be sad for awhile.”

“Yeah…. Miss H?  Can I eat my popsicle now?”

Oh buddy.

 

Shy

Today’s Daily Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

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I used to be painfully shy.  I was the girl in elementary school that would blush when she got called on in class.  So self conscious, I was the wallflower at school dances, and rarely spoke up in large groups.  In the privacy of my own playroom, without an audience, I was wild, gregarious, arms flung wide open- unapologetically me.  I created imaginary worlds in which I was the heroine- strong, independent, and debonaire.

Ironically, the stage is where this shy girl broke out of her shell.  I was chosen for a major role in the spring play my freshman year.  While still shy in classes and in the lunchroom, I found my voice and confidence as I took on the role of Marianne in Tartuffe.  Being on stage gave me such a thrill.  It’s funny how through pretending, I was able to find a way to be more me in public.  

Throughout high school, I slowly shed the cautious, protective layers I had put up around me and learned how to carry a conversation, hold someone’s gaze, and give a firm handshake.  Now, when I share how shy I used to be, or admit that I’m an introvert, people are often shocked.  They don’t see it, they claim.  While I do feel a lot more confident than that seven year old girl blushing in math class, that part of me is still very real.  Madeleine L’Engle has this beautiful quote, recognizing that we are the culmination of all our ages.

“I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be… This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages…the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide… Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don’t ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”

So that shy little girl is still a part of me, one that I would be negligent to ignore or try to cover up.  Twenty years later, I am more able to understand the deeper root.  What is shyness?  Fear of being known– or that in being known you will be found out to be fraud, or somehow not desirable.  Somewhere along the way, I bought into the lie that in any given interaction, my worth and identity was on the line.  If I perceived that someone didn’t approve of me, I was undone.  The fear of that risk kept me from being that vibrant, uninhibited girl I was behind closed doors.

Now, the problem with being very in tune internally and self aware is that you can identify and eloquently articulate all that is happening in your mind, but you still lack the ability to make immediate changes with lasting results.  A very frustrating place to be in!

So, I haven’t fully mastered the art of being unapologetically me and 100% authentic all the time.  Truthfully, I would be distrusting of any human who claims to have “arrived.”  But the realizing is helpful because I can name my insecurities for what they are.  And that gives them less power.  I can know that regardless of how I’m feeling in a given moment, my worth is not dictated by anyone or any circumstances.  More than that, the older I get the more I realize that everyone really is in the same boat.  Everyone feels insecure.  Realizing that we’re all on the same team helps me let go of my ugly defenses of pretending or comparing. Naming my insecurities helps me to claim that I’m a mess, and I don’t need to have it all cleaned up.  It’s ok to be a work in progress– those are the kinds of people whose company I prefer anyway.

So I have lost my shyness.  There are still some bits in me that are insecure, but those voices are getting quieter by the day.

The Soundtrack of my Life

Today’s #writing101 challenge was to write about the three most influential songs in my life.  I decided to take a twist on this assignment and do something that’s been an idea I’ve had for awhile.  Below is a list of some of the songs that would make up the soundtrack of my life.  I tried to limit myself to 20.  I will try to follow a chronological pattern, starting with the earliest song that meant something to me, and ending with my most current significant tunes.

 

1.  The Sign (Ace of Base)  This was my first “favorite song.”  I can remember being strapped into the kid seat in the back of our cornflower blue minivan and hearing this song on the radio. I thought it was so catchy.  I also thought this song was literally about stop signs.

 

2.  Baby, Baby (Amy Grant) Oh Amy Grant.  The pop star that was too Christian for pop culture, and too secular for Christians.  She was a much  beloved artist at our house anyway.  I LOVED this song and would rewind the cassette tape over and over and choreograph dances to this song in my living room.

 

3.  Old Days (Chicago) This song is so nostalgic for me, although the time period Peter Cetera was singing about is about 40 years before the “old days” my memory conjures up when I hear this song.  My dad may be Chicago’s biggest fan.  Many a Saturday morning this song could be heard playing from our garage as he tinkered around on one of the many projects he had, or blasting from his truck as we took another trip to Lowe’s.  He would crank up the music at his favorite parts and direct the trumpet solo’s with emphatic hand movements, with me grinning from ear to ear in the passenger seat.  While this was one of my favorite memories from my childhood, I am happy to say that not much has changed.  We still crank it up and sing along to the old days now, 20 years later.

 

4.  Colored People (DC Talk)  Remember when Christian music got “cool”?  I can remember listening to this song at full volume in the car with my mom.  One of the many times that I realized that my parents were pretty hip too.

 

5.  Deep Love (Michelle Tumes) This was one of the first CDs that I owned.  Michelle Tumes was this eloquent, graceful musician, her music haunting and deep.  I would sing along, not really knowing exactly what she was saying, but thinking it was really beautiful.  I rediscovered this album in college and enjoyed listening to it then as well.  She has this mystic air about her lyrics that I really resonated with.

 

6.  Barbie Girl (Aqua) Sixth Grade. This song.  A nickname that took a few years to live down.  What else can I say?

 

7.  Meant to Live (Switchfoot) This song will forever take me back to driving to and from school with Chris in his white Grand Am.  Sibling bonding and contemplating life in a way that this song invokes.

 

8.  Your Grace is Enough (Chris Tomlin)  I can remember letting go of self-consciousness as a shy teenager and worshiping with abandon to this song at a youth conference in high school.  This song represents a time when my faith became my own for the first time.

 

9.  Beautiful Redemption (Joy Williams) The lyrics of this song are heart-wrenchingly beautiful.  I remember weeping as I came to grips with the first glimpses of what grace really meant listening to this song in high school.  Father, Father, forgive me/ Child, I already have/ You are beautiful, beautiful redemption.  These words were so comforting at a time when I started to wrestle with my faith.

 

10.  Jacqueline (Franz Ferdinand)  My best friend, Jaci, made some pretty sweet mixed CDs for me.  This was the first song on her famous “Pink CD”.  It was our jam, whether we were hanging out after play practice, on our way to pep band, or driving around to all of the fast food drive thrus, pretending to be British.

 

11. Only Living Boy in New York (Simon & Garfunkel)  I discovered this song, and so many other musicians that I came to love from the Garden State soundtrack.  Previously, I had always assumed that I didn’t like Simon & Garfunkel, as the only song I knew of theirs was the sappy and overplayed Bridge over Troubled Water.  I was so wrong.  That Garden State Soundtrack introduced me to several great musicians and shaped my music tastes that I still have today.

 

12.  Boy with a Coin (Iron & Wine)  This song has a physical effect on me.  As the rich and complex harmonies start, my body instantly relaxes and sighs with pleasure.  Everytime.  Equally pleasurable to my ears are Naked as We Came, Such Great Heights, and Lion’s Mane.  Love me some Samuel Beam!

 

13. Mushaboom (Feist)  I loved dancing and singing along to this song when I lived at Lampost.  It was on our (very limited and often repeated) playlist in the coffeeshop.

 

14. Life in Technicolor (Coldplay)  LOVED this album- danced my heart out to it with my dear friend Krystal in one of our many spontaneous dance parties.

 

15. We No Speak Americano (Yolanda Be Cool)  When I lived in Brazil, this song was really popular.  Trucks with speakers mounted on the roof would drive slowly through the streets blasting this song.  It seemed an appropriate accompaniment to the many Brazilians who tried out their limited English with us Gringos! (PS-check out the video– it’s pretty sweet)

 

16. Heartbeats (Jose Gonzales) I think my travel companion, Jana introduced me to this song and gorgeous video (actually it’s a commercial for Sony Bravia TV.) This song has accompanied many a late night art project or early morning coffee.  Also, check out this video as well.  It will make your day

 

17. Dog Days Are Over (Florence + The Machine) I had the privilege to see Florence + The Machine at Starlight Theatre a couple years ago when my friend Julie invited me to go last minute.  I was so struck by the power and raw femininity of Florence as she belted this song out on stage.  It reminds me of the summer days of independence and starting fresh in Kansas City.

 

18. We’re Going To Be Friends (Jack Johnson) At the end of the school day, I play a song- during which my students have to get packed up, stack their chairs, clean the classroom, and get ready for the end of the day.  They can sing along, but can’t talk, and the transition has to be complete by the end of the song (great way to avoid the chaos and stress that the end of the day can be in a third grade classroom)  I used this song for a long time.  Jack Johnson has a great way of putting all that childhood should be into musical form.

 

19. You Are the Best Thing (Ray LaMontagne)  I think my friend Adam introduced me to Ray LaMontagne.  I love his earthy, soulful voice.  This song has become one of my favorites, and immediately puts me in a good mood.  I could see this song being in my wedding… someday…

 

20.  In Christ Alone This is a song I’ve sung my whole life, whether it was at my grandparent’s church, my brother and sister in law’s wedding, or just on my own in the car.  The lyrics sum up the deepest truth I’ve found, and I am continually struck by them.  If my life were a movie, this song would be the theme.

 

So, what songs would be on your soundtrack?  Do you have any suggestions?  My soundtrack isn’t done yet!  Maybe you will help me add the next one on the list!

Chapada Diamantina

The sun shone on my bare shoulders with more intensity than usual as I climbed up the rocky path. While the rocky terrain took most of my attention, I managed to glance up periodically and marvel at the landscape that surrounded me. The trail was ever steepening as we continued to snake our way up the chapada, but I didn’t even notice the strain in my muscles. Hopping over a few more logs and carefully crossing some streams, rusty red with iron, we came to the plateau’s top. Strangely serene and unassuming– a wide plain, spotted with brush and dusty rocks. Our guide led us to the edge of the plateau for a view that caused my heart to simultaneously sink and soar. Hundreds of yards below was a lush forest that stretched out for miles, verdant cliffs rising all around, forming an Amazonian Grand Canyon of sorts. While gushing over the edge of the cliff, the waterfall a few feet to our right dissipated into mist that kissed the air before hitting the ground, so high up was the river that fed it. Yelling into the canyon didn’t even produce an echo, so massive was the single most beautiful sight I’ve ever beheld.

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Chapada Diamantina (Chapada meaning region with steep cliffs, and diamantina, Portuguese for the diamonds mined there) was and continues to be my favorite place on earth. I had the privilege of living in Brazil for five months, during my student teaching. We took a week long hiking trip to the state of Bahia, in the northeast region of the country. This adventure came at the end of my student teaching. This hike was my commencement, in a certain sense, and an experience I wouldn’t have traded for anything. Those five months shaped me in ways I cannot even comprehend. I discovered new dimensions in myself as I explored this vibrant country. I was more brave, readily saying yes to any opportunity that presented itself. I was much more spontaneous and embraced my inner free spirit. I became much more observant; keenly aware and grateful for the diverse culture I was immersed in. I found myself less focused on “doing it right”, less self conscious and cautious. And I loved these changes.

Standing on that precipice, I was looking into the horizon of my adult life, ready to take on the adventures that were yet to come. I recognized a wanderlust inside that I wanted to foster. There are more mountains to climb. More cultures to explore. More journeys to be had! Someday, I hope to return to Brazil. In the meantime, I want to rekindle and foster the Adventurous Allie right where I find my feet planted. Here. Now.

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It was fun to relive my Brazilian experience as I reread my blog I had during my travels in Brazil: Take a look if you’d like!
http://allieinbrazil.blogspot.com/

Crash Course

5 hours before:  It started out as a wonderful first official day of summer.  I slept in deliciously late and went on a run.  

3 hours before:  I contemplated how to approach my first blog for the writer’s project as I leisurely made breakfast and putzed around the house.  

20 minutes before:  Running late to meet a friend, I dashed out of the house.  

15 minutes before:  Realizing I forgot something my friend had requested, I quickly doubled back to grab it.

12 minutes before:  Distracted and running even more late, I started towards her neighborhood.  

That’s when it happened.

In an intersection, I looked to my left just as I saw a red car dangerously close to mine.

Although it was only 3 seconds of my life, the cliche slow motion out of body experience kicked in, giving me time to think through several distinct thoughts.

Why is that car so close?

I think it’s going to hit me.

It’s hitting me.

Those squealing tires are loud.

Those are my squealing tires.  

Holy cow.  This is happening to me right now.  

Wow, I’m not stopping!  

Oh that wasn’t so bad.  The curb was pretty low.  

Now I’m in a parking lot, facing the opposite direction.

Oh shit, am I going to run into the hardware store?

Nope.  It’s done.  I stopped.  Wow.  That just happened.

That was my fault.  It was completely my fault.  Crap.  

10 seconds after:  I get out of my car and look to see the sweet old lady I just hit get out of her car, mouth agape.  “I just got my car back from the repair shop!  I can’t believe it!”  I lamely call across the traffic that I’m sorry, as I look at my own car, now caddywompus in the parking lot.  The red light I just ran is, indeed, still red.  

1 minute after:  I am trying to give myself a pep talk internally as my mind catches up to the reality of what just happened.  It could’ve been a lot worse.  I’m fine, this woman is fine.  It seems like, miraculously, our cars are both fine.  I feel like an idiot, but this doesn’t have to ruin my day.  It was an accident, and it happens.  In fact, I’m just amazed that this is my first.  I’ve made it through 26 years of life without one, and this was truly a best case scenario, if it had to happen. I’m ok, it’s ok, it’s going to be ok…

2 minutes after: My resolve starts to break down as the sweet black lady comes to console me.  “You were just distracted, weren’t you darling?  It’s ok to be distracted. It’s gonna be alright.  You’re shaking!  Oh honey, do you need a hug?”

3 minutes after: The police show up surprisingly fast and the questions start coming.  Carole, the 80 year old woman who lives just a mile away tells the officers, “She’ll tell you everything, but she knows it’s her fault.”  I do and it was, no other way to slice it.  Utterly and completely my fault.  I start losing the fight against the shame and embarrassment of it all and it becomes more and more difficult to keep my composure.  I try to keep the tears in check as I answer the officer’s questions and attempt to participate in the absurd small talk that everyone else is content to throw out.  No I don’t live close to here.  I’m a school teacher.  Yup, first day of summer break.  Oh, really?  You have a granddaughter close to my age?  How nice.  I’m sorry I’m not very talkative, I’m just trying to not cry.  

10 minutes after:  Carole and I part on very amicable terms.  In true midwest form, she apologizes to me.  The officers give me my ticket and explain what to do next, as onlookers curiously gawk from their cars.  I’m hoping my sunglasses hide most of my tears, but some slip down my cheek unchecked.  

3 hours after:  Having completed the inevitable sobbing on the car ride home, tearful phone call to the parents (full of consolation and next-step advice), and a 30 minute phone call with insurance (not too painful), I am finally ready to sit down and complete my writing assignment.  “To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.”

Well, I certainly don’t have writer’s block today.  Earlier in the day, I was thinking about how risky writing a blog can feel.  I think that there’s something that is so vulnerable about it.  Especially when you are trying to blog every day and as a post of your twenty minutes of free-flowing consciousness.  I am much more comfortable with being able to internally process, think through, and edit my thoughts before sharing with anyone else (and truth be told, I probably will be doing that before posting it…)  Consistently sharing what is on your mind is not something for the faint of heart.  I think that blogging everyday, with this writing challenge is going to reveal the messiness inside.  The fact that I don’t have it all together, and in fact make blundering mistakes all the time.  That was made abundantly clear to me today, standing in the hardware parking lot, for all the world, or at least Waldo to see.  The hard evidence that I screwed up.  And I couldn’t hide it.  Push the backspace button and try again.  My humanity, on display for all to see.  

So how will I choose to respond to this?  

  • Own up and admit to my own brokenness, without buying into the weight of shame that wants to crush me.  
  • Rather than hide my embarrassment, and attempt to put up a cool front, I can let those around me see the tears and just be in the place that I’m in.  
  • Embrace my imperfect, messy soul: choosing to courageously move forward– not dwelling in regret or guilt.  

Both in the aftermath of my car accident, as well as in this venture of blogging, I want to proceed with brave vulnerability, full of grace, and freedom to let it be messy.