Friday, September 30, 2005

Happy Birthday! Love, God.

Yesterday was my birthday. I had no plans. No expectations.

I just opened my eyes, and there they were. My husband and son heading for me with a breakfast tray. "Happy Birthday Mama. I made it myself," my six year old told me. "Well, except for the sausage. And the potatoes. Dad did those."

"Wow, you guys. Thanks. How sweet."

It was especially thoughtful of my husband. I'd just used the last of the yukon gold's the night before. He must have made a special trip to get more just for my breakfast.

The sweetness continued when, after putting my son on the bus, I sat down to open my email and found a touching and very personal birthday greeting from my mom.

It made my day. I was Happy Indeed. It was enough.

I settled into my morning routine, including writing for awhile, then decided to go to my new favorite store (The Container Store) in Bridgeport Village to buy a shelf system to add to my converted closet/writing space.

I arrived about 10:30 and picked out my system quickly, choosing one that was on display, rather than trying to piece something together myself in the name of saving a few bucks. Happy Birthday to Me. (Maybe I've finally learned something in my 43 years?)

Anyway, the clerk gave me one of those buzzer things that looked like an overgrown plastic coaster and told me to feel free to wander the store; that it would light up when my order was ready.

"Thanks," I told him and asked where I might find a waterproof case for our camera. Before I could turn toward the travel aisle, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

There stood one of my dearest friends, Susannah. "Well, hello ... " we said in unison.

She explained that she'd come with her friend Tara who'd just taken her out for breakfast to celebrate her birthday, and they'd ended up here.

"Whaddy'a know." I said. "Right where I am. Celebrating my own birthday."

Tara had to leave, so Susannah and I walked across the courtyard to Peet's Coffee and settled in for a long overdue chat. Susannah and I are from different worlds in some ways, and yet, in some ways we are the same. We share many common experiences which have bound our friendship eternally. I treasure Susannah's tender spirit and her quick laugh, and I know, because she has told me, that she considers our friendship a deep blessing as well.

We had a wonderful hour, (thanks to her mom who was at home with the kids)and were about at the bottom of our cups when Susannah looked out the window and said "Isn't that your friend Sara?"

Yes it was. Crossing the street, heading directly for Peets, both children in tow. I'd been missing Sara all week and had thought that morning about calling her to see if she could join me for my shopping excursion, then figured she'd probably have to pick up her son, Max from school so I decided I'd spare her the invitation, figuring she'd want to come, but couldn't.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, and inquired if the kids were sick. "No school. We came to pick out a birthday gift for you."

It was enough. Just to have run into two of my favorite people (well, four, if you count the kids, which you should) without planning it. A gift really wasn't necessary.

"You don't have to do that, Sara."

"I know. I want to."

"Come join us for coffee?" I asked, wishing I'd called her anyway this morning. (Then wishing I hadn't worn the shirt she'd loaned me months before that I was reluctant to return.)

"No. You two finish up. We'll be back. Then, let's go to lunch."

"Okay, then."

Susannah left me with a birthday hug and before long, Sara, Peyton, Max and I were seated for lunch.

"Where's your party?" Max asked me.

"It's right here, Max. Right now is my party. I'm having a great birthday."

"Well, where's the take?" he meant cake.

Sara invited me to open my gift even though she'd planned to give it to me the next evening when we'd planned to meet for dinner. Peyton helped pull off the pink ribbon she'd picked out, and I liberated a hot new pair of jammies and some cool bath salts from the unwrapped box.

"This is too cool," I told Sara. "Thank you," I told her, feeling thankful that she and I share the same God who delights in suprising us. "This whole day feels like it's been orchestrated just for me."

I stepped out to return a phone call to my friend Heidi, but first called Glenn, who told me she (Heidi) had been trying to reach me because she would be heading my way to drop her kids off at a movie, and was hoping we could hang out while she waited for them.

"Wow. It's like this whole day was arranged. And I didn't even know it."

"Well, thank you," he said, jokingly trying to take credit for my day's suprises. We decided to meet for a movie after he picked up Eli from school.

I went back inside and finished lunch with Sara, who asked if I wanted to keep the left over pizza.

"No." I told her. Then I thought of Heidi, who'd been schlepping her out-of-school children all day. "Wait. Yes. Maybe Heidi will want it when she gets here."

We barely emerged from the restaurant doors and there she was.

"Are you hungry?" I asked.

"I'm starving."

Sara handed me off to Heidi and we went back to Peet's for coffee where we had the best talk we've had in months. We talked alot about her Marine son, Josh, who I've known since he was five. We got into a couple painful memories together and shed a few cleansing tears. We remembered why we've been friends all these years.

The fact that this day came together the way it did is amazing to me. I couldn't have arranged any of it if I'd tried, I'm sure.

But, that it happened on my birthday, and that my it was followed by a sweet movie with my son and husband, a hand wrapped present from Eli and dinner with my son, then was topped off with a beautiful jewelry box and two dozen roses from my husband... well, it's enough. It's too much.

I've been wondering today if I'd been listening real hard, if I would have heard God singing Happy Birthday.

I think so.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Learning to BE

I remember my mother saying once that when the last of us got in school she wondered what she was "supposed to" do with herself.

That "supposed to" thing has been my undoing many times in my life. I've always been one to produce, to do, to perform whatever task is needed. Now I think I am at a place where I get to choose between "supposed to" and "want to." And, I'm feeling a little stuck. Or maybe scared. Learning to BE instead of constantly DO. This is good for me, even if a little disconcerting.

Because, now that my son is in first grade and I have hours to do what I want to do (work on my novel, read, work, finish painting the hallway) I find myself avoiding being home where all this deferred creativity should be pouring out and coming to light. Even when I am at home, I'm not really using it effectively. I'm constantly checking the clock, counting down how much time I have left, wandering around the house, thinking how much more efficient I could be if I could find a routine. Trying to figure out how to accomplish things without the pressure of fitting in tasks between interruptions.

I want to be careful that I'm not just filling my time, but filling my life with things that matter. Adjusting my productivity clock, I guess, is what I'm doing. Trying to create a routine that revolves around me for a change.

Thought it would be easier than this.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Thank God for the Rainbow...

Eerie couple days ...

Recapped my storyline for my new writing mentor yesterday. I included a link to THE VANPORT FLOOD OF 1948 to familiarize her with background for my novel. I've been researching this catastrophe for over a year now; it fascinates me that it the only physical remnant of this city built for 50,000 is an obscurly placed mural along the entrance to Portland International Raceway. Just yesterday I located contact information for a flood survivor I want to interview about life in VanPort.

Then David Long's post this morning over at Faith in Fiction...

And to top it off, my friend Katie sent me this Oct. 2004 National Geographic article today -- a long, but fascinating read about Bayou life and scientific perspective before the flood...

Makes me feel like wearing a swim vest, getting to work on my book proposal, and putting our photos way up high.

Not to mention changing my blog name...

p.s. Got in exactly 500 words today. Not on my novel, rather on a short story I'm writing for a Faith in Fiction contest. I counted yesterday's storyline description as my 500 words -- figured it counted toward the synopsis I've been avoiding.

Guess I'm fudging a little on my No Matter What rule. But, more than anything I'm just trying to establish the habit of writing every day. So, I'm letting myself off the hook.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

500 words no matter what

Can I do it? Can I convert my "sitting in front of the computer time" to productive word count?

I'm going to give it what I can for the month of September. 500 words a day on my novel. No matter what.

My son is due off the bus in an hour and I've piddled away most of my day.

(Well, part of it was in a PT appointment and a big chunk was spent looking for our runaway bunny who I am still hoping is just napping under the deck.)

But now, no more distractions, no excuses.

One hour and 500 words to go. Check back, if you care, and see how I did...

First, though, I do need to "piddle" for real. Which, under no circumstances will I allow to lead to toilet scrubbing or organizing the medicine cabinet...)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

First day of First Grade

Six Hours. To myself. Every schoolday 'til summer rolls over us again.

Today it looks like summer, but it smells like fall. There is a crisp coolness in the air, hanging like a thin veil of change over everything I do, everything I contemplate doing.

Yet, here I sit. Doing nothing really. Just soaking up the time. The quiet. The first moments I've been waiting to celebrate.

My life has spun around and around my son for years. I suppose I can't expect it to spin on my terms all at once. I suspect it will return to a pace I vaguely recall; one my introverted self naturally responds to.

Now the hours stretch before me like a prologue waiting to be written. What will I make of my life now that I have a chunk of it back?

Looking back yields a blurry flurry of activity and noise and endless to-dos.

It is my time. To rest. To do. To be. To work. To stretch out and out until I feel the outer reaches of myself again.

To give God time to fill the inner reaches again.

I am looking forward to being repaired, renewed, refilled, remade.

And, I am excited for my boy. Excited that we survived. That he thrived, in spite of me at times. And that with our nudging and encouragment, he is out there. On his own.

On his way to finding the inner and outer reaches of his own self, too.