There was a man in my dream last night. I was going to do some work for his new business and went to his shop to visit him. He was someone I'd known quite awhile, and we stood there talking and then he leaned over and kissed me. Oh no, he didn't just kiss me. He put his arms around me first, slowly and tenderly, and then kissed me, slowly and tenderly. It was the most blissful feeling. I think I dreamt that because of a hug.

Last night when I went to church, I ran into Ron in the sanctuary, as the band was getting ready to practice, and he came up and gave me such an enthusiastic hug that it made me laugh and felt so good. As I drove home I thought about the fact that this married man is so generous with his hugs, and I don't know if he realizes what a blessing that is to single women. I get hugs from my son, and my girlfriends, and occasionally others, but it's also nice to have hugs from men that I know. When you've been divorced for a decade, and singlehood looks like it may remain your way of life, hugs from the opposite sex are not a part of your everyday experience. And when you're a woman, there's something comforting about a man's hug - it's strength I suppose. Younger people probably don't realize that even we older men and women miss that simple human connection with the opposite gender. I don't even realize it most of the time. Until a man I know and like spontaneously reminds me of that basic thing - that I am human and I need not only God's arms around me but occasionally the arms of another human being.


What Jordyne said

I was talking to our secretary Rebecca at work this afternoon and she was telling me how she's been having a discussion with her pastor about witnessing, and obviously her four-year-old daughter Jordyne had been listening as well.

When Rebecca took Jordyne to church last Sunday she gave her two Junior Mints to eat while sitting in the pew. A friend of theirs was sitting behind them. He's a man who always has a treat for Jordyne whenever he sees her, but this time he asked Jordyne if he could have one of her mints. Rebecca wasn't sure Jordyne was going to be keen on sharing when she only had two of them, but she immediately put one in their friend's outstretched hand. Then Jordyne turned to her mother and said, "I was witnessing".

Rebecca was trying to figure out exactly what her daughter meant and asked her after church, "How were you witnessing when you gave your mint away?"

And Jordyne said, "He was hungry and I fed him."



I was standing outside the door of my sister's cottage Thanksgiving afternoon while the sunlight danced over the waves on the lake and made the snow on the ground sparkle like diamonds. I stood watching my brother Bill as he kept an eye on the turkey deep frying, and stood talking with our sister Sue, who is the most effervescent of the three of us. I felt filled with love as I stood watching them. Here we were, Bill and I at 50, Sue three years younger, now the official adults of the family with both our parents gone. I lit a cigarette and walked over to where they stood.

"You know what we all have in common?" I said.

"Not much," Sue replied a bit flippantly. "We are so different."

"Yeah," I said, "That's true. But what I see is that even though Mom and Dad are both gone now, we have such a strong loyalty to each other as family."

Bill agreed right away, and Sue did too. I've seen other families who don't stay in touch or stand up for each other that much. Despite our different personalities, the three of us are intensely loyal to our familial bond. It's just a given that we will always be there for each other.

Here stood my very fashionable, financially secure, soccer mom, new-age sister with her plethora of Sylvia Browne books, and the hodgepodge of beliefs she teaches her girls of Christianity, mixed with spirit guides and reincarnation. And there was my handsome, educated, successful businessman brother with his growing devotion to Buddhism, though still harboring a desire for a Christian church home, but not enough to leave his wife on Sunday mornings and venture out alone for one. And then me. The artsy, twice-divorced sibling, eking out a living as a designer, who lives much more modestly than either of them in a small mobile home, and is devoted to being a Christ follower and attending an emergent style church.

The other people at Thanksgiving dinner included my youngest son, who's also a Christian. My sister's girls with their new age spirituality blend, my brother's daughter who "doesn't do church", and my brother's teenage son who declared recently he doesn't believe in God. My friend/companion Noble who, when life was really hard, wanted to go to church, but now that life is better he tells me he doesn't believe in organized religion. My first husband was there too. He would profess to being a Christian, but I don't think he has any desire to talk of it or think about it too much. I think his mother crammed too much scripture into him when he was growing up, and he's never had a desire for much of it since. I don't think my sister's husband or my brother's wife are very much into any spiritual life. I have a feeling it just doesn't interest them too much. But for some reason my siblings and I, despite the lack of faith growing up, are all very spiritual people. But we walk down different roads. I can relate to Paul venturing to Greece and talking with all those Gentiles. My family is my Athens.

But I don't really talk about Christ with them much, except to say how happy and filled with joy I am at my church. I hope one day I'll feel so knowledgeable and filled with His presence that I can communicate more of the stories of this Jesus of Nazareth, because I don't think they really know his story and His words, and if they did it may make a huge difference.

Or maybe it wouldn't. But what I do know is that Christ said to get out there and love people. On a snowy Thanksgiving filled with sunshine, I found that so easy to do. We may be going down different spiritual paths, my siblings and I, but we talk and laugh and are totally devoted to each other. We love each other fiercely. And that, I know without a doubt, is a God thing.


How Toni Found God

At a party recently I sat by Toni. I particularly wanted to sit by her because I knew she had "found God" and I wanted to hear her story. It didn't take long for me to engage her in a discussion about her spirituality. When people are in love, they are eager to talk about it. And Toni is so in love with Christ.

For most of her life an atheist, Toni's journey started a few years ago when she lived in Ireland for a year. She said that one day she was in an ancient church that had been in existence for almost a millennium, and while she was sitting there she started thinking about all the feet that had walked up those steps and sat in those pews for over 800 years, and contemplating what was it that kept people coming to this place for such a length of time. It was the first spark of wondering just how big this Christian faith thing was that called so many for so long.

Back in the States a couple of years later she was feeling lost and sad after a fight with her boyfriend of many years and got in her car and started driving aimlessly. Toni told me that she saw a building and pulled into the parking lot to sit and cry. She didn't realize that she had pulled into the parking lot of a Catholic church until a woman came up to the car and told her that the priest was there taking confessions if she wanted to go in. She said she didn't, she just wanted to sit there and try to find some peace. But after the woman left, Toni ended up in confession, crying and talking for an hour.

But it was a little later that God firmly wrapped her in His arms for good. She said she was sitting in her bathroom one day naked and praying and felt nothing. No God was touching her heart, she felt no sense of the divine, and she started wondering if faith was real, or if she was searching for something that wasn't there at all. Suddenly she said she was surrounded and filled with a love so intense that she still finds it impossible to describe, though it immediately brought her to tears when she told me about it. Toni said knew what it was like to love people here on Earth, but that this love was so incredibly powerful and immense that she didn't even know where she was anymore, or how long her encounter lasted. God caught Toni at her most vulnerable, stripped physically and spiritually.

It was life changing. She loves to go to a local Catholic church whenever she can because it's a church that never closes. She goes for Perpetual Adoration, to sit with Christ who is there for her in the Eucharistic sacrament, and pray and celebrate that she can be there with Him.

And I was grateful that I got to sit next to her one evening and hear how God first opened her heart in a church where other hearts have been reached for almost 1000 years.



Like before - the Boy Scout award ceremonies, the school recognition assemblies
And now - the one-act play in high school -

Him, hopefully: "Maybe my dad will come."
Me, brightly: "Yes, maybe he will."

The last time his dad came to anything he was in kindergarten.


And They Shed Blessings

It's so simple really, that I could sum it up like this: Some guys came over yesterday and helped move a shed into my yard.

It was gorgeous while they were there; cloudless blue sky on a warm end of October day, with a blustery wind that sent leaves swirling like golden confetti. I stood on my little porch and watched Larry, my park manager, manuver the bobcat holding up part of the shed, while the guys guided it as it slid over beams of wood and helped it travel to the back of my yard. The older men -- my brother Bill, and Noble, were the most effective volunteers. Younger men may have raw strength, but not the seasoned skills of organization, problem-solving and leadership that gets a team motivated and working together. There's a lot to be said for experience and the wisdom that comes with age.

As I stood on my elevated perch on the porch, I watched these men -- brother, teenage son, nephew, church brother, friends -- and it brought me to tears. I'm sure the guys wouldn't have understood if they'd caught me crying right then. But here were these people all gathered just to help me out with something I couldn't have done on my own. Friendship, caring, community of others -- how precious these have all become to me. A bit of wisdom myself as I grow older, and a heart that is filled with love and appreciation of the beauty of something that may look so simple to someone else. "Love your neighbor" Christ said, and these men, sweating and straining, put it into action for me. It was a holy moment. I have opened myself up to others, increased my connection with other human beings, and embraced a community in a church that I love. My life, which sometimes feels like a lonely battle, has been so enriched.

Blessed too by the craggy, eccentric neighbor who moved and gave me his shed, and said gruffly with a catch in his throat, "Yeah, I've got to move up north to find neighbors as good as you," and then quickly walked away. There is such immense power in truly loving your neighbor.


A Fine & Broken Man

I talked to Rick tonight. It's been months since we've talked. Two years since we've seen each other. I don't know if he knows it's been two years. The shock therapy wiped out his memory of the last ten years, though I know that's very rare. But with Rick, not surprising.

He has flashes of me now, though, he tells me. Scattered memories, as though I am petals of a flower that occasionally float down into his brain. How strange it is to have worked together so long and hard, and been so intimately connected, and now -- I am just petals of memories.

"You know," I said to him once not that long ago, when I was feeling humorous about the shock therapy and the loss of his ten years of memories, "You know, I could tell you that I was the most amazing lover you ever had, and you'd just have to take my word for it." And he laughed, as I knew he would, but whether he remembers I was once his lover, I have no idea. Part of me doesn't really want to hear the truth about that.

This man. Oh, this man who has been so broken by life, who has been institutionalized, who has suffered abuse and extreme depression and physical pain and surgery and now MS the doctors think. This man who nursed his mother for years while she spiraled down into her own narrow world of Alzheimers -- a world that scared me sometimes when I visited and she would pop out of her bedroom for the seventh time in three minutes asking who I was and why I was there. This man who diapered his mother, and his grandson, and lost his sanity at times, this man is still one of the finest men I've ever known.

Rick rails against the church, and beats up on God everyday. He calls him the Coach. And yet he never gives up talking to God. As much as the church hurt him, he never gives up believing that the Coach is there, even as he yells at him for letting him suffer so. And as much as he yells at him, I know he loves him. I know just calling God Coach is probably the highest honor Rick would give anyone.

And Rick. Dammit Rick. I wish you hadn't had the life you did. I wish that your body wasn't failing you, and your mind didn't shut itself off because it couldn't handle any more pain and abuse. I wish others knew what I knew -- that deep inside there is a man of such rare quality, a man with sterling character and the highest morals. I wish, my dear Rick, that you had had a normal life and not one lived in sacrifice, not one you had to fight so hard through that your brain shut off sometimes, and took long vacations away from us all.

Rick and I should have had a quiet and deep romance, a small house in the country, babies together, and a dog you had to step over on your way out the door. But instead God gave me a friend who said tonight, "You know if you ever need me, anytime, that I'll be there," in the midst of his pain, and I know he'd have to be dying to go back on his word. And God still gives him petals of me, little pieces that occasionally break through and hopefully land softly on a life that has been too brittle and hard.



In my dream I was told that when I design, shapes of things are much more important than I know or give them credit for. The energy of shapes -- circles, triangles, hexagons -- I'm supposed to pay careful attention to how I use them in my design work, because of the energy they convey. Interesting.


Striving for the Ordinary

I am bereft of my soul today. Well, not my soul, per se, but all that makes it soul-full. I am soul-empty today. I think that's why God gives me dirty dishes. He gives me a chore to do, he gives me the mindless acts to perform, and in the performing I am lifted up a bit. Just a smidge perhaps, but it gets me off my rear end, and out of paralyzing melancholy and over to the kitchen sink.

"Joy" it says on the dishwashing liquid, which I find ironic. Happy happy blue liquid mocking me. But in the act of sudsing, in the act of rinsing -- one plate, one more plate, then a glass and a mug -- my mind is soothed somehow. I can make order out of kitchen chaos if not mental chaos. I can pull myself out of the doldrums enough to at least perform arcane tasks. Look at me! I must have hope! I am making my glasses sparkle!

The behavioralists are right in my case. When I drag my sorry ass to the kitchen and force myself to do something, anything, I am healing this funeralistic feeling just by a smidge. God knows I can be good at wallowing in dark halls of my mind, and when I call Him and can't find Him there, at least He sends me dirty dishes. My soul eventually finds some rejoicing in the ordinariness of life. Normal is sometimes all I aspire to reach.


Carman Isaiah

"Elissa's party's from 7 to midnight."
"Well, if you decide you want to leave earlier, you can call me."
"Mom. It's Elissa."
"Oh yeah. Okay, I'll come at midnight."

And then the ride home, on a steamy late August night:

"I really like Ian. I want to have him come over sometime."
"Good. I like it when your friends come over."
"Yeah. Ian's gay. I kinda thought he was, but he told me he was at the party. He's really funny. And he likes a lot of the same movies that I do."
"Well, you'll have to have him over."
Pause. "I'm not gay though."
"Yes, I realized that when you were about two years old and fell in love with Whoopi Goldberg. "
"Ian's really cool, though. I like him."

My 14-year-old, totally-accepting-of-different-lifestyles man child, I think I see Jesus inside of you. Here you are just loving people without putting any criteria on the loving. I'll be learning a lot from you these next four years, I think.


It's been a melancholy morning. My stepfather remarries tomorrow, and that's hard enough in itself. But money decisions he's made make it harder, especially feeling that Mom wouldn't have liked what he's doing. Especially because I feel rather adrift now. A woman can come along and suddenly her well-being is more important than the family you've had for 30 years.

Maybe if I had plenty of money, if it wasn't always a dripping faucet of worry in my life, this wouldn't effect me so much. But life has seemed too tenuous of late, or at least I'm not as good at pushing those feelings aside. And so I struggle with this God of mine -- wanting to draw even closer to Him, and yet wondering if He wants this perpetual struggle in my life. I can both love Him and want curl up in a corner sometimes and have nothing to do with Him, like a petulant child.

But maybe I just want/need/desire Him to take me with my arms crossed and my lip sticking out in a pout, and put me on his lap, and let me cry for a little while. I am tried of being strong.


5:48am is a heckuva a time to decide to start a blog. Especially when you've been up since 4am with nightmares, and finally gave up, got up, made coffee and sit bleary-eyed.

In my dream, my son's best friend was murdered, and it was my fault, really, because I let them go somewhere without really checking out what they were doing. They were going off to play good guys, really good and holy guys in clerical collars. Out to a park to talk to the dangerous people living there. Al was killed when he went in the tunnel. And there were other components -- my oldest children's dad, Carman's dad -- both of them were in the dream and wouldn't help Carman when he needed help.

There's more, but this is enough. It seems to me that I am feeling a tremendous burden being a single parent whose father is almost completely out of the picture. But why now? I've been a single parent for oh so many years. Most years. And neither father has been around much, so I'm used to shouldering the responsibility on my own. I wonder if it's age? I've turned 50, and this youngest child of mine is over a decade younger than his siblings. Perhaps my own mortality creeps into this. Perhaps I'm afraid I won't be here long enough. Perhaps it's because we're scanty on relatives, with both parents growing up as only children, and both my parents now dead. Maybe life seems more tenuous than I consciously realize. Maybe it's that living paycheck to paycheck existence of mine.

Actually now that I type all those factors out I realize my life is rather tenuous in age, finances, people to lean on. All I can think to do is pray more....