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Right now

Monday, May 18th, 2009

On Friday night, I attended a memorial service of a dear friend in Seattle.  While there in the church pew, celebrating the life of and grieving the loss of this amazing woman, another friend took my hand and placed it on her pregnant belly to feel the baby kick.

One friend is giddy about a new love interest in her world.  Another is dreading the inevitable breakup she will soon have to initiate.

And after a gorgeous spring day – the kind that confirms that Seattle is the most beautiful city on the planet, and nudges my spirit saying, “Remember what it’s like to smile?” and in which I got sunburned cheeks from being outside at Green Lake and along the waterfront of Shilshole – I spent the evening with, and felt the incomprehensible sadness of, my sweet friend who is living in the ruins of having lost a child.

Death and life, the end and the beginning, profound joy and severe pain; contrasting events juxtaposed in the most poignant way.  It made me feel so small.

And I was re-reminded: the only way to find life is to live in the present.  To be emotionally gutsy enough to feel whatever we need to feel, come what may.  To attempt to live in gratitude, no matter the disappointments or frustrations or non-ideal circumstances.  To find the gift in the “right now” – because life, ready or not, is going to hold a vast spectrum of events, emotions, stages, chapters, seasons.

We have to be present.  We have to.  Because in this life, longing is inescapable – but to be available right now is to be open to hope right now.


Friday, March 20th, 2009

I took myself on a walk this morning. Some days, it is so easy to feel the love of God – in the dappled sunshine, the cool, crisp air, the chirping of the birds. My bouffant ponytail bounced on top of my head, and I soaked in the hope.

It’s hard to believe what is happening thousands of miles away, in Seattle. After almost two years of fighting pancreatic cancer, a dear friend’s mother died yesterday. She was far too young. And my friend is far too young to have lost her parent, her best friend, her confidant – a woman who fought valiantly and with such dignity.

Death used to be just a distant rumor. I’m sad to think that those days are over for me. I am learning how to stand beside friends as they lose family members.

Watching and waiting

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

On Saturday, it was my immense honor and privilege to take part in little Ben’s memorial service in Seattle. The entire service was perfect – every aspect, every detail, was so Ben – from the “Finding Nemo” medley played by the small ensemble, to the many references to the movie “Cars,” to his Aunt Kristen’s fabulous purple heels (Ben’s favorite color). The sight of his gorgeous face on the front of the program literally stole my breath – this was a stunning, remarkable child.

How did it come to this?

Sitting in the front row during the service, I could feel the wave of grief from the thousands of people behind me – the sorrow was palpable, thick. And as I stood onstage alongside my beautiful friends Catherine, Sue, and Robyn to sing, I saw the brokenness in the faces of the community, of the family, of Jeff and Carin. So many had hoped, so many had prayed, so many had pleaded with God to be merciful.

What do we do with our unanswered prayers?

It would be impossible for any child to be loved more than Ben, I am sure of it. And in his absence, there is a void, an ache, a sense that nothing will ever be right again.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. -Revelation 21:1-5

Come, Lord Jesus, come.


Friday, January 2nd, 2009

This morning in our new house, because of a miserable failure on my part, we awoke to no heat and no hot water. We have spent the past 2 weeks with no internet, and since I left my phone charger in Kansas City after Christmas, I’ve been limping through with no real phone access. My closet doors fell off the tracks. My Chi hair straightener has mysteriously stopped working. I had a flat tire on Sunday night, and when I called AAA for help, was informed that my service had expired. To top it all off, the first time that Mel used the mug I gave her as a housewarming “happy to be roommates!” gift, the coffee flooded out through a crack in the bottom.

A lot of things in my life are broken. But none more so than my heart.

Little Ben’s broken body was taken from this broken world on Tuesday. And there are simply no words to express the grief, the anguish, the suffering of his family and community. It’s the most devastating tragedy I have ever experienced.

God is good. But life’s a bitch.

At the end

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

We are counting down to New Years’ Eve, making our plans for cocktail attire and merriment, or for Dick Clark and take-out, or wondering where that rogue kiss might land – in any case, looking forward to a fresh beginning and a brand new start.

But today, my great-grandma is dying.
And today, Ben is in his last moments.

What do you do at the end? There are no more words, and no more scriptures to be claimed, and no more ideas. There are prayers – there are always prayers, seamlessly woven into our thoughts, silent pleadings, and that last desperate shred of hope – but in the end, the end just… comes.

We weren’t made for death – yet none of us will make it off this earth alive. Not one of us will survive life.

Still. Death should never come, especially for one so small.

Please join me today in praying for comfort for both my legendary great-grandma, and for sweet, spunky, miraculous little Ben. And then pray for courage for those left behind – those whose hearts are crumbling even as I type.

S is for Sister-in-Law

Monday, December 1st, 2008

In September of 2007, I was cruising through Kansas as a part of The Big Trip, en route to Nashville. My über-talented sister-in-law, Ashley, gave me the gift of some pictures to use for promoting my music – we spent hours in a field, and then at a barn, and then in a parking lot with a fabulous red brick wall, taking hundreds and hundreds of images. There were wardrobe changes, there were smiles, there was fabulous hair. The Annie that was captured is hopeful, warm, vibrant.

Just over a year later, I look at those pictures and think, “I feel like a completely different person.”

This past weekend, I talked with Ashley, and told her about what’s been going on in my heart. There has been a cold wind blowing through, and the death of some dreams. At times, it has felt like my life is a stark and barren wasteland. My heart has been broken, my spirit stripped, and I’ve been confronted with my many limitations. It’s been a dark time.

And yet, somehow, hope remains. There is a resilience in my will, and a warmth in my chest.

I told Ashley that right now, I feel simultaneously the happiest and the saddest I have ever felt. Odd, but true. So we decided to try to capture that in some pictures.

Can I brag on my sister-in-law? Ashley Parsons is a true artist. Creative, soulful, truth-telling. She allows people to be exactly who they are, and encourages them to take off the mask. She has this unreal ability of using a camera to capture something more than just a picture – she captures life. She takes the time to get to know her subjects, and has a deep desire to tell their story through photographs.

I don’t know anyone else like her. And when she laughs, I can’t help but feel absolute joy.

She has become one of my best friends, one of my favorite people – and she has set the bar high for those who might someday join the Parsons family. My younger sisters and I cannot marry duds, because Jeremy sure didn’t.

Thank you, Ashley, for sharing your gifts. And of all of the beautiful pictures that you took, this one speaks the loudest to me. The happiest and the saddest I have ever been, all at the same time.

For more stunning images from the Parsons Photographers, see their amazing blog. And then hire them for all of your photography needs – you will not be disappointed.

And now, for a blog about animals and death

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

When I was in junior high, I was asked to pet-sit for some family friends while they went away for the week. It was an animal lover’s dream come true – horses, cows, dogs, cats, and ducks, all to myself – and I got PAID. I showed up once in the morning and once at night to feed the beasts, and would run from pen to pen while my mom waited in the car.

Early one misty Colorado morning, I walked into the coop where the ducks were housed to find every last one of them beheaded.



Their lifeless bodies lay in the sawdust and dirt, blood soaked into the ground around them, their heads nowhere to be found. I screamed a scream that screamed TRAUMA, and then ran to get my mom. It turns out that both skunks and raccoons kill ducks and eat their brains, and this was our best guess as to what happened. Needless to say, that pet-sitting job was a bust.

I once pet-sat for a family in Seattle who had a golden retriever and a rat. At the time, the rat had a large tumor on its chest, and before the family left on vacation, the mother pulled me aside and told me that they would pay me extra if I killed the rat while they were gone, thus sparing their children the anguish. “How?” I asked, and she replied, “Any way you want.”

At first, I thought, “No way” – how sick and wrong is it to put a 20-year old girl up to murdering an animal for cash? But as the week wore on, I thought of the money. And as a result, I found myself imagining sealing the rat in a Ziploc bag, or putting it in a box in the freezer, or employing the ever-handy RAT POISON. I mean, if there’s payment involved… but alas, I chickened out, and wound up letting it live.

There was only one woman in Seattle who I would consistently pet-sit for, and she had a black hell-cat named Tika. Tika was aloof and sleek and sexy and absolutely unperturbed by life. She wore a leopard print collar, and casually batted around orange balls and feathered cat toys. I would call her in at night, and then wait about 20 minutes for her to show up, as if to communicate, “I’m here, but not because you called me – I’m here because I DECIDED to come.” She could be a bit eccentric, which is why she was on Kitty Prozac that I had to mix into her Fancy Feast every morning.

Once, Tika pranced inside with a still-alive sparrow in her mouth. When she let it go, it started flying around, dripping blood and shedding feathers. I SCREAMED, grabbed a broom, and Mark McGwired it, mid-air, straight out the front door. I thought that was the worst thing that could possibly happen. But.

The next time, Tika dragged… dragged… in a pigeon the size of football. She lugged it to the middle of the kitchen floor, and then let it go, revealing its OPEN CHEST, its STILL-BEATING HEART, its arteries pumping blood out all over the tiled floor. Its wings would occasionally ruffle up, and its mouth was opening-shutting, opening-shutting, in final desperate, heroic efforts toward life. The blood was everywhere. It was dying. Tika was watching it die. I was watching it die.

I did not know what to do. I almost vomited, because WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH A BLOODY STILL-ALIVE ALMOST-DEAD NEARLY-ALBATROSS-SIZED BIRD? On the kitchen floor?

I curled up in a ball on the couch, gasping for air, and felt silent tears squeeze out of the corners of my scrunched-shut eyes. Then I called my mom, because what else was I going to do? She told me to think of it as a giant spider that I needed to catch in a jar, and then release outside.

Gee, thanks.

But her words inspired me to find a dust pan and scoop the (STILL-ALIVE, and BLEEDING, and MUTILATED) pigeon into a bucket, and finally deposit it behind a bush outside. Needless to say, I am still suffering the aftermath of this agonizing event.

I have not had the best luck with pet-sitting, as the animals in my care have either wound up killed, almost killed, or killers. And I have no larger moral or point to this report.

Less wireless

Friday, June 13th, 2008

When I moved into my apartment in February, there was a strong, unprotected wireless signal for me to pick up on. But now, it’s broken. Broken like Shania’s heart. Twenty-four days ago, the signal disappeared, and so during the evenings and weekends, I have been left internet-less.

This is probably a good thing. Having a desk job that requires no responsibility with the exception of answering the phone (that rings approximately 3 times each day – and at least once, it’s a wrong number), I spend 8 hours, Monday through Friday, staring at my computer screen. I check emails as soon as they arrive, I respond to wall posts and blog posts and comments and messages in real time, I read and and I leave work feeling exhausted from all that I’ve DONE, even though I haven’t DONE anything. The cyber world is a dangerous world to get wrapped up in, and something awful is happening to my brain.

My creativity is seeping away. And I am becoming lazy.

Does anyone else feel this way? The internet is a convenient tool, and makes our lives so much easier. But when it takes the place of real-life communication, or gives the brain a quick-fix of instant stimulation or distraction, we wither.

I’m withering.

I am so thankful that it is Friday afternoon, because this means that for 2 glorious days, I will not be sitting in front of a computer. My eyes will be given a break from that terrible glare that causes me to leave work doing a slow-blink. I will bask in the glory of being far-removed from the instant fingertip access that I have to information – information thought up by OTHER minds, and presented to me by OTHER people, and funny stories about OTHER worlds.

This weekend, I will think and create and read and play my guitar and MAYBE interact with real humans. If they’re lucky.

Every story has an ending

Friday, November 30th, 2007

[Attention: if you have not finished the Harry Potter series, don’t worry. There are NO PLOT SPOILERS in this blog. Read on, my readers. Read on.]

I just finished “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which, if you’ve been living under a rock, is the seventh and final book of the Harry Potter series. The book came out in July, and because of life circumstances, I didn’t have the chance to read it until now. Somehow, I miraculously (or… magically…) made it until now without having the ending spoiled, but I began to realize that I was pushing my luck.

It became a race against time – I didn’t tell anyone what I was reading for fear that they might give away the ending. I snuck onto the plane to Richland on Tuesday, and as covertly as I could, slid the HUGE, HULKING volume from my bag, trying to block the title from everyone around me to avoid a plot-spoiling comment.

I have spent the past few nights lying awake in bed for hours and hours, turning pages and savoring each image. Each time that a chapter would come to a close, I would think, “Just one more.” This continued until my eyes saw spots and drooped unwittingly. And then, when I would wake up in the morning, before even brushing my teeth, I would simply roll over and open the book again.

And yes, I made it to the end of the book having maintained the surprise.

The ending of a series has always felt like a death to me. When I finished “Lord of the Rings,” I sat quietly in my little armchair for what felt like an eternity, just staring at the blank page at the end. A good story brings characters to life, and they become close companions. A poignant tale can delineate my thoughts, and punctuate my emotions. I am not ready to give up Harry and Hermione and Ron and the rest, just like I was not ready to give up Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy.

I feel sad. When a family member dies, we have the promise of seeing them someday in heaven. Maybe it’s silly, but I wish I could see the Hogwarts crowd in heaven, too.

A time for every purpose (including black dresses)

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

My dad and I are flying to Richland, WA, today to say our goodbyes to my grandpa. We bought last-minute tickets, and needless to say, the past 24 hours have been chaotic.

One of the tasks I had last night was to find something appropriate to wear to a memorial service. Now, given the circumstances, perhaps this should have been the last thing on my mind. Maybe this was a vain endeavor. But when it comes down to it, I simply do not own anything appropriate to wear to a funeral. Period. The only black dress that I own is a saucy little number that someone once called my “sex on a stick” dress. And can you imagine? The blatant impropriety? It would be the horrifying equivalent of wearing white to someone else’s wedding, or saying “bomb” on a plane.

And yes, even if I wore a shawl.

Earlier yesterday, at Dooce’s recommendation, I went out and bought these shoes – and on a terrific sale, I might add. So last night, I was searching for something that would complement my new wedges. Perhaps I was working backwards?

Here’s the problem with shopping for a funeral dress during the holidays: nothing is basic. Everything is flashy. Everything is jewel-toned and sparkly and velvet and see-through. Rule of thumb: funeral attire should not be capable of doubling as your New Years’ get-up. In fact, if you can even refer to something as “get-up,” then it should get the proverbial trap door.

In a brief hour and a half period, I searched high and low: Nordstrom, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Target, even Kohl’s (gasp) and Wal-Mart (scandal!). I ventured into stores playing music featuring backup singers who were panting. I saw sheaths that appeared to be shredded, but were, in fact, “meant to look that way.” What ever happened to a basic, affordable, modest-yet-well-cut dress? That I could possibly wear again?

I returned home defeated, empty-handed, with a blister from my new shoes. And I went up to my room, opened some boxes, and searched until I found a black skirt and top. That’ll do.

Perhaps my urgency in insisting that I find a new dress was in order to distract my mind from the fact that I am about to see death up close – something that has never happened before. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit scared.

And yet, selfishly, I pray that we arrive in time. I hope we’re not too late.