Monday, December 31, 2012


Have you ever looked at someone and realized in that small moment that they are more attractive than you had previously noticed? I mean, looked and really saw their beauty without even trying? I wonder if this is how people in love see each other all the time. At their loveliest. Sometimes I look in the mirror and feel that I am pretty, and other times I look at myself and feel as if I couldn't be a more plain collection of features on a lackluster canvas. I wonder if this means I do not always love myself.

It's hard to look in the mirror sometimes and see what you're looking at or look past what you're seeing.


He once told me that my train of thought was what made me weird.

He was right. I took it as a compliment. He meant it as one.

New Year's Resolution

I think I've decided on what my New Year's resolution is going to be.

It's something I've been toying with, and have even expressed on here but have been kind of afraid to really go for.

I think it's a good resolution because it scares me to want it.

It's not exactly tangible, and at the end of it all I'm the only one who can judge whether I've done it.

But I want to be braver.

And I think I'm ready to do it.

I want to be everything that being brave means.

I want to be more honest with myself.

I want to trust just a little bit more.

I want to be willing to ask for help when I need it.

I want to admit when things aren't so great and not worry about the emotional repercussions of doing so.

I want to be braver in my life for me.

At the end of 2011, I cried. Midnight hit, it was 2012, and I cried. I cried tears of relief. I was relieved that it was over. A year that should have been so many good things ended up being the worst I had ever experienced. There were good things, but so much bad happened. It hurt. I have never hurt as much as I did that year.

I don't want that again. And even though a lot of what knocked me down that year was beyond my control, I think that if I were only be a little braver, a little better, I could have made things better.

I don't know what 2012 has been for me. I feel like it was a lot of lingering and indecision. There were a lot of up in the air moments. I was drifting; just kind of floating through space for some things and mindlessly hurdling through others. Maybe it was something of my inability to let go of the year before. I don't know why I would, because it was terrible, but I just know I wasn't living in my own time. I felt very much at a standstill emotionally. I was living for the next good thing. The next moment that wasn't mine, but that I could cling to. Except for the small happiness I had that I ruined. I hate that a highlight turned into a jumbled mess of hurt and confusion when I never wanted that at all. I want to be brave about that, too. I wasn't brave about that and now I have to be brave after it because I wasn't brave in it.

I know there was good. I have been happy. I always have cause to smile and I know it and I am blessed for it. But I want to be braver. I think that means being able to cling harder to the good and loosen my grasp on the bad. I think being braver will mean facing the bad sooner so I can learn what I need from the bad sooner. Then I can hold onto the good things better.

It sounds selfish to me to want this for me. But aren't New Year's resolutions supposed to be about bettering yourself? I'm already so good at people. Probably better than I should be. I think you're supposed to be a really well adjusted person to be able to help other people. Not that I'm not well-adjusted, it's just that I have more trouble with myself sometimes than I think I should to be able to help people as much as I think I do.

Is it selfish to want to be brave? Because I think I have to be selfish to be brave. I don't think it means that I have to focus so much on myself that I can't be what I need to be for other people. It can't mean that because I need that. I very much need to be what I need to be for other people to make me who I am. I guess I just mean selfish in the sense that I have to think about me. And maybe it takes some strength because I have to be willing to think about me and work on me.

I think I have to be braver this year. My cowardice has done nothing for me. I can't afford to not be braver. I'd throw myself in front of a moving train to save somebody. I wouldn't think twice if it was someone I loved. But what's it going to take for me to save myself in that way? I need to be brave enough to save myself from the metaphorical trains of my life.

I want to be braver. I need to be braver. I'm going to be braver.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A little explanation, a whole lotta love

So, um, about yesterday.

I guess I was a bit, well, excited.

I realize that the way I was expressing my emotions was a bit different than how I tend to express emotion on here and that probably took y'all a little by surprise. But the thing is...


Okay, inside voice.

The thing is, one of my best friends in the entire world just found out that she is pregnant!

She's been wanting this and waiting for this and she deserves this and now it's happening!

And now I'm caught up in all the wonderful things that a baby means - for her and her husband and their families and just in general.

This is truly love multiplied. This will be happiness added onto a marriage that is already full of love. What a lucky little poppy seed.

This baby will have some really awesome parents! For so many reasons. Alongside all of the love and protection and security, there's gonna be so much fun! In between the creativity and talent of his or her parents, this child will have some really cute and awesome traditions and activities, and also a collection of really great pictures! Can I just say, "creative photographer daddy and artsy jack-of-all-trades mommy"? Yeah, it's gonna be good.

There's gonna be a little Long baby (Long being the last name) born into a wonderful family. The parents will undoubtedly pass the best of their traits onto this tiny little life, with just enough personality hiccups to keep things interesting. This baby will be strong and determined. He or she will be passionate and willing to fight for what he or she cares about and believes in, but also laid back enough to know how to pick their battles and let the little things roll off their shoulders. They will be artistic and creative and tech savvy. They will have a strong sense of family. They will be a little spoiled, but never bratty, and they will work for what they want. They will be a good problem solver, and know how to take charge when necessary. They will be active and happy and athletic and funny and bunches of other great things that I can't even fathom right now.

In between the two sets of grandparents, and a bunch of aunts and uncles (by birth and blessed grand design of friendship) this baby will have an extended family that is large, quick-witted, incredibly punny, caring, big-hearted, dependable, super involved and just a little bit crazy. And there will be more love than this baby will ever need. This child will never want for love.

There are going to be little bitty pieces of clothing, and a lingering smell of baby powder and baby lotion. There will be experiments with baby food and snacks, and debates and discussion about which new mommy trends to get on board with. There will be baby's first Halloween and Christmas and the first Mother's and Father's day. There will be bedtime stories and lullabies and prayers and laughter and smiles.

Don't get me wrong. I know that having a baby isn't all fun and games. This will be lessons and learning and growth for all involved. It'll be hard work and tough decisions for the mom and dad. There will be a lot of late and sleepless nights. There will be moments of worry and indecision, and there are going to be surprises that may not always be good.

But there's also this incredible love that is going to come with it to make those hard times so much easier. Any rough moments will be worth it in the end. There is going to be so much support. Support for the parents and the child. There are going to be so many prayers and people willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that this beautiful baby on the way will always be taken care of.

I'm excited for this addition to the lives of people I consider a part of my extended family. I'm excited to be the Mexican "aunt" by blessed grand design to this little Long baby. I'm excited for the journey that my dear friend and her husband are embarking on, and I want to be there to do whatever I can. I love these wonderful people who God is blessing with a baby, and I already love this kid like crazy. How could I not?

Thursday, December 27, 2012


This is the only outlet I have where I can express happiness for something AMAZING that is happening! I REALLY want to give details, but I can't. And I'm afraid to even be cryptic on other forums because people could put stuff together. I don't know how, but they could. Paranoid Parrot moment. Seriously, I can't even bring myself to use CAPS or !!!'s on twitter or facebook. But let me just say that MY HEART IS ABOUT TO BURST!! I heard some AWESOME, HEART-WARMING, FUZZIES-SHOOTING-THROUGH-MY-ENTIRE-BODY news from someone I love very much!!!

You should be proud that I have so much faith and trust in you, imaginary blog readers!!!


Knowing when to stop

Have you ever met one of those people that goes just one step too far?

Think about it. You know who I'm talking about. A name or some sort of mental image probably just popped into your head. Maybe your brain even went back to a particularly embarrassing incident that you're still cleaning up or have been trying really hard to forget.

My apologies.

But you know who I mean. The people with the broken filters. It's that friend or family member or co-worker who lulls you into a false sense of security by contributing just the right amount of something special to the conversation and then metaphorically pulling the rug out from under your feet with some awful comment to ruin the moment.

Cue uncomfortable silence, nervous laughter, or a whole lot of cringing. If you're really lucky, the group gets to experience all three of those things, plus more. Really, there's a whole spectrum of possible outcomes.

Trust me, I know.

I have that friend who goes just one step too far with their inappropriate humor. I have that family member who is just a little too honest and blunt. And believe me, I've known that person who just does not seem to know when to stop.

These qualities may cause those of us around them to shake our heads and sigh, but there's typically no malice in this occurrence. While I do believe it's something that needs to be worked at and improved upon, it doesn't make those guilty of this faux pas bad people. Maybe it even makes those of us closest to them better people.

We become better buffers. We learn to spin a situation like the best and most experienced of politicians. Being with them is a lesson in preparedness and reaction time, because we know someone is going to have to jump in and find a way smooth things over. We embrace the graceful steps of the delicate dance of damage control. We become just a little more forgiving and let things roll off our shoulders with a tiny bit more ease because we know it does no use to take these moments to heart.

And we become really grateful people who count it among our blessings that we don't know the taste of crow quite so well.

But even though many of us do not count this embarrassing public quality among our personality hiccups, we actually kind of may in private.

Like me.

To a certain extent, I was made for diplomacy. I was blessed with a pretty good filter and a fair amount of grace and refinement, and I know people. I can feel out a situation and know what needs to be said or where a conversation needs to go (most of the time). Basically, it's pretty rare that I find my own foot in my mouth.

But then there are the things that I don't say. I know this is very 1984-"Big-Brother"-esque, but I'm often guilty of thought crime. It could be that my brain is wired weird or something, because my train of thought has a tendency to derail. And not just off the tracks derail, but crash-through-the-"bridge-out-ahead"-sign-and-over-the-cliff-derail. That could be a bit dramatic, but maybe not.

All I know, is that I can be in a perfectly good place and then take my thinking just one step too far.

I'll lie in bed at night and think about my blessings. I'll reflect on the good times and laughter and happiness of the day or even just my life in general and find myself at the perfect place to stop.

But then I pull the rug out from underneath myself.

I think about that one thing. That one thing that I just can't let go of. The one thing that is the thought that is one step too far. My own personal faux pas against myself.

And I cringe. And laugh nervously. And find myself in an uncomfortable silence that is usually only broken by sobs. Pathetic.

What makes me make myself sad when I have so much cause to be happy?

Why more and more lately do I find myself staying up late watching television or reading until I can't keep my eyes open just so I don't lie awake thinking?

I preach about the importance of being happy with what we have.

I reassure and reason and remind people that they are so much better off than others.

But I beat up on myself.

And it's not about everything or anything, but just that one thing. The one thing that I want but ruined. 

My thought filter is broken and the only person I'm hurting is myself. I'm the only person judging myself, and I'm the only person who can smooth things over. I'm the only person who can spin the situation, but I don't know how. I'm just not that graceful, and I don't know the steps to this damage control dance.

But I want to be better. I know that this needs to be worked at and improved upon.

I can't do anything to change my situation. I can only change my perspective and attitude, and I have been reminded of this. I know this. I know better. And I will keep reminding myself of this, because it is the only thing I can do. I can't keep hurting.

But, with help, I can learn to be prepared for dealing with those moments where I'm tempted to keep on going. I can try to step up and save me from myself. I can learn the dance, and I can be a little bit more forgiving and let it roll off my shoulders with a little bit more ease those times when I fail.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I don't fit into any normal shaped boxes

I planned to get on here and sort through some thoughts and express some emotions.


I'm having one of those moments where my thoughts are too long for twitter and too hazy for blogging.

Instead I'm just gonna crawl into bed and judge people on tv until I fall asleep. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Problem Solving

The first step to problem-solving is to identify the problem. I don't remember much about the scientific method, but I know that much is true., check.

My problem: I only really know how to be brave for other people. I'm often a coward in my own life.

I'm not proud of this problem, but it's mine and I'm owning it. I recognized it a while ago, but now I'm really owning it.

And now that I've owned it, I should fix it.

Except that fixing it could lead to some pretty scary scenarios.

When you pray for something, when you really want something like this, God will take you seriously.

 Psalm 37:4 - "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Matthew 7:7 - "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

He will help you, but it's not always so easy. If you ask for patience, he'll often bring you trials so that you may strengthen your faith.

There's a chance that asking for courage means opening myself up to situations that will test my courage.

I want to be braver. I know I'm not a complete coward, but I feel like my courage comes and goes and I want to be better. But right now, I'm not even brave enough to pray for bravery.

Kind of ironic in a sad, sad way.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

We Interrupt These Blogs For a Special Announcement

Sometimes I'm really glad that I never promised my imaginary blog readers a true direction for this blog. I get distracted and it kind of doesn't necessarily have one. If you doubt me, then go back to the first post - it was an introduction. I even say so in the title! And I flat out said that the posts would be funny sometimes and sometimes they wouldn't. But I did promise you hope. That helps when something seems too heavy. Still, honestly, it's like reading directions to read the first post! Nothing good ever comes from not reading the directions.

Like that quiz your teacher gives you where she keeps stressing beforehand that you should read the directions because she knows that if you don't read the directions you won't see that the directions say "Write your name and turn in your paper. Thank you for reading the directions." And then you'll be that kid trying to figure out why the math on this test is so incredibly hard yet half the class is walking up to her desk to turn it in.

Yeah, don't be that kid. On that note, here's another kid that you don't need to be:

That kid who smells like syrup. That kid ruins the air for everybody. Except the extreme pancake and waffle lovers in the room, but seriously, how many of those are around? Or wouldn't they just get extremely jealous that they didn't get syrupy goodness for breakfast and start bullying him? Yeah, this just got real dangerous and into whole new realm of diversity talks wherein you have to stress that "Syrup kid may be different from you, but you shouldn't hate him for his dietary choices." Just wash your hands and your mouth and do whatever it is you need to do so that we can avoid that mess and so I don't have to smell you.

Yeah, okay, so point in case...above. That is not where I was going. Though I may have to write about "that kid" someday. Because there are a lot of kids that are "that kid" that don't need to be "that kid." Grumpy cat hates "that kid."

See? Told ya.

It's just that my thoughts are so very varied. That "non-sensical" in the title really saves me. The "ramblings" doesn't hurt either.

I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm pensive, I'm all kinds of whelmed (even without being in Europe), I'm hopeful, optimistic, and rant-y at times. I'm just a very expressive person. It's my blog and I'll emote if I want to! (Cue music)

Look, I'm just saying, there's a reason there's a scroll option. And direct links to posts. I hope you've learned something here. It could be that I'm a crazy person. Or maybe that it is waaay past my bedtime. (Hint: it is) Hopefully you've learned that that you'll like me a lot better if you just read the directions. And realize that nobody is forcing you to read this blog. I haven't taken to the whole negative reinforcement puppy thing yet.

You would totally understand that last sentence if you read more of my blog. Fine. Here's a pretty little link if you desire understanding.

But I guess I should say thanks, imaginary blog readers. For reading even though I haven't taken to threatening puppies. That kind of warms the heart a little bit.

Loss and Grief and Clinging to Hope: Sandy Hook Elementary

"Grief is not a disorder, a disease or sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve." - Earl Grollman 

That is a lesson I learned much too late after I was forced to experience my first real sense of loss. I felt every emotion possible in my dealings with death. Not always all at once, but sometimes all at once, and often without any rhyme or reason. I experienced them in a jumble and they were aimed towards myself and all different kinds of people. I hurt because I loved my friend, and because I felt his absence. I was terribly aware that the story of our friendship would never have new chapters while on this earth. My hurt was stronger because I didn't know how to deal with my feelings. I hurt longer and harder because I tried to keep things in. I tried to be better all at once. I did not allow myself to grieve. If there is something those experiencing loss need to know it is what I know now about grief.

Yesterday, Friday, December 14, 2012, gave birth to one of the worst events in the history of our country. A senseless tragedy that stole the lives of 27 innocent people. In Newtown, Conneticut, 20-year-old man killed his mother in her home before forcing his way into Sandy Hook Elementary school and massacring 20 precious children and 6 brave educators who dedicated their lives to loving them through to gift of knowledge and nurturing. 

There are no right words to describe this occurrence. There is nothing easy about what happened. It is not something that is truly comprehensible and there will never be enough to offer hurting hearts.
I'm still trying to piece together the events. So are the police. I know why they have to do this, but I'm not too sure why I do. I wasn't involved. I'm hours away, continuing to live my life. I could live the rest of my life without feeling the true effects of this tragedy. Yes, I will look back and remember the next time something horrible happens. I will find the families and loved ones of those killed to be on my heart from time to time. I will pray for their healing. But I will not feel the same hollowness. I will not have those sleepless nights. I will laugh. And I will hug and physically love on those that I love once again.

I just know that what happened forced me to deal with and experience more emotions than I have all at once in the time since my personal loss. Except the emotions are more confusing this time around. Because it is so inexplicable. My fist major loss was terrible, but in a way it was easier than had it come about in some other way. My friend died in a car accident. Yes, it was sudden and unexpected, but no one was at fault. No one was drunk or texting on their phone or driving incapacitated in any other manner. The weather was bad and the roads were icy. The car skidded and spun into oncoming traffic and my friend who was in the passenger seat was hit. He didn't suffer. He died instantly. 

I never blamed God. I was never angry at him. I didn't charge him with a "why?". I knew that there was a reason. As hurt as I was, I knew that he wouldn't just take my friend away without having a plan. There were people saved at his funeral. People recommitted to living better and Godlier lives. I saw people striving to be a little bit kinder to help make up for the wonderful person that the world had lost. As much as it hurt and as terrible as it felt, I had these things to comfort me. 

But when children die, and when people trying to protect those children die, it gets a lot more confusing. It's maybe more devastating. It's not so easy to understand. It's hard to see the reasons and the beauty that will come from the ashes. Yes, they will come, but they will be a lot harder to appreciate.

This wasn't an accident. This was not the loss of one, albeit a beautiful, kind, funny, inspirational, amazing and life changing, person. This was loss of 6 brave individuals who went above and beyond the call of duty and of 20 beautiful babies who had not even truly begun to live. They were learning new things. They were happy and excited to go to school. They were curious and beautiful and innocent - unmarred by the evils of this world. And someone killed them on purpose. 

This made me so angry. I don't hate much, but I hate experiencing those kinds of bad feelings. It hurts me to feel that kind of anger. I feel the loss of my humanity in that anger. These are the moments that threaten to rob me of my compassion, and sometimes do, even if only for a short while.

With the anger came the tears. I spent a lot of the day crying. I couldn't put on my eye make-up before work because I kept ruining it. My heart was heavy with hurt. Sometimes being an emotional, empathetic person has some really terrible downsides. As more and more details came in, I became more and more of a mess. My mind was flooded with thoughts.

I thought of the way that the parents were reunited with their kids. The absolute terror of having to search for your children with your stomach all tied up in knots and incessant and pleading prayers on your lips. Just hoping that you'll find their eyes in the crowd or hear their voice calling out.

I thought of all those people waiting. Having to watch as other parents felt the relief of seeing their children and hoping that you would be able to feel the same way.

I thought of the parents who were forced to face the realization that their babies were never coming back to them alive to hear, see, or hold, but could not be reunited with their precious little bodies right away because children are much harder to identify and there is red tape that must be dealt with. 

I thought of Christmas presents already at home that will never know their intended owners. Of families who will always remember Christmastime with this tragedy, for whom the holidays may never be the same.

I thought of the parents who were so happy to be reunited with their children only to feel the guilt that comes with their happiness. The guilt that they were among the lucky ones, while the parent standing beside them may not be.

I thought of all those precious and innocent children who survived who will never play with some of their friends again. Who will never see some of their siblings again on this earth outside of a coffin, if even that. Of babies who had to see people they passed in the hallways everyday lying lifeless on the ground.

I thought of the innocent children who will experience survivor's guilt, and live with the question of why they are alive when others are not in the back of their minds. 

I thought of the sweet, sweet babies and all the things they will never know and what their lives could have been if not cut short.

I thought of the educators who so selflessly gave their lives for their students. Who went above and beyond what is expected of them.

I thought of the spouses and families and friends of those educators, who would never have thought their loved ones' job to be dangerous. Who thought today would be like any other.
And when I thought I had considered every thought, the different prayer requests that people shared opened my eyes to other types of hurt. 

Someone asked prayer for the first responders. I don't know what I would do if I had to walk into an event so terrible as a massacre of 6 and 7 year olds. 

I began to think of the police and those who would have to process the crime scene. Who were forced to face and report every detail of this tragedy.

I felt for the lone funeral home in Newtown, Connecticut that is so overwhelmed with bodies that they must seek help from outside sources.

I felt for the community that was shaken by what had happened. Who were robbed of their feelings of peace and safety.

There are people wondering why God would allow this. These are people who just don't understand. I want so much for them to understand. They are people who are hurting, and I wish them faith. And for the hurt in their hearts to be removed so that they may understand. Or for them to understand that having faith will help them remove the hurt.   

Sometimes I look at things like this and think that we must be living in end times. Watch the news. Devastating things happen every single day. I almost want to believe truly that we are in the end days because there is too much hurt in this world for me to be able to imagine how it could get much worse. And no, that is not a challenge. 

I've had a lot of thoughts about what happened. In the days to come, I will have more. I worry that when I go back to school on Monday some of my kids will bring these events up. I don't know what I will tell them if they do, but I pray for the right words. That's one of the hardest things in this situation, and I've had this conversation about words before. In this type of tragic circumstance, I would urge people to remember that it is not always what we say, but what we do that matters. Sometimes just being there is enough. But there is no real "enough" for something like this, and I know that there will be people searching for words. 

Watching the news, a Dr. Keith Ablow said something that really got to me. Something that I think would be really close to "the right thing" for those going through this:

"I cannot fathom the depth of your grief. I give you credit for your courage. I think that somewhere out of your incredible wound could come extraordinary sensitivity, such that you would be an incredible gift to other people in life. And yet, I hesitate to even ask that of you knowing now how much you're suffering, and yet I know that that's possible for you. But I don't pretend to know everything you're feeling and I invite you to tell me. Please tell me. Because silence is the enemy of healing here."

I don't know what I would say to those closely experiencing this tragedy. What my words would be to a hurting heart. I believe that if faced with that situation my words would come to me through God as they so often do when I must find something to say.

As much as the pain in my heart was and is from the losses I have experienced, I don't dare pretend to believe that it could truly be compared to what these individuals will have to live with for the rest of their lives. Parents should never bury their children. Children's lives should never be stolen. The world should never have to lose well-meaning hearts and individuals who live their lives giving, loving, and nurturing.

But I know that in the face of my loss and heartache I didn't let myself grieve, and that was a terrible mistake. It prolonged my hurt. It broke me more to try and keep it in. I was never afraid of being weak, but I was afraid of not being strong. I was afraid of being someone that people didn't know me to be; of not being someone others needed me to be. But there is something so incredibly brave about expressing and experiencing your grief. There is a healing to it. "Silence is the enemy of healing." It won't be easy. It's gonna hurt like hell. You'll have days you think you're better and then reality will hit you. Hard. In the stomach. It will knock the breath out of you and you will be down on your knees. You'll stay there and you won't know if you'll ever get up. But you will. Somehow you will. 

Remember that there is a time for everything under the sun. There is "a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance." These do not come with a certain allotment of time, and there is no promise about when they will come. But if you open yourself up to love and peace, you will find it. There is hope. Even without truly knowing such a devastating pain, I know that there is hope because I have faith in a loving God who is reaching his arms out to heal the hurting hearts.

I wish those affected by this senseless tragedy so many things. Understanding. Healing. Happiness. Laughter. And above all, never-ending faith, love, peace, and hope.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The post that got away

I haven't been around. I get that.

That's not to say that I haven't been writing, because I have. I just haven't been able to finish my thoughts. I have quite a few unpublished posts.

Right now I have a lot of crazy things going on, and so much of it is good! I want to share about those things, but I find myself preoccupied. There are some things I'm still sorting through. I wish I wasn't, but I am. I am facing moments of weakness and tests of my faith.

Part of the reason I write is to combat my inability to open up to people. It's not that I don't have a million wonderful, amazing, incredibly understanding and brilliant people in my life who can make me feel better, because I have those kinds of blessings coming out my ears! I just don't always share due to something I learned about myself after one of my friends died last year: I can't stand to make people I love sad.

That is true of a lot of people, but I take it to an extreme. It's part of a vicious cycle I often find myself in. After my friend died, I needed to talk about it. So I did. I talked to friends who were there for me, and it brought this strange and terrible sort of catharsis. It hurt, but saying things out loud helped ease some of the storm that was going on inside of me. But then I would look into the eyes of the people who loved me and see that they were hurting. For me. Because they loved me. It was like I broke them. My pain broke them. And it is a beautiful testament to the kind of love God has blessed me with to have friends so willing to hurt with me and for me, but I couldn't handle it. So I stopped.

I bottled up my emotions and pretended that I was able to approach one of the most devastating experiences of my life with ease and the same kind of positive attitude and strength that I applied to everything else. I stopped sharing my sadness. Or I'd share a little bit and then cut myself off and switch to talking about something happy. I'd give whoever was listening a good memory so that they could believe I was okay. So that the hurt would leave their eyes.

I spent a lot of time pretending. I spent so much time pretending that I didn't ever deal with my pain. Not fully, and not for a quite a while. By the time I really started to I was pretty shattered, and it was that much harder to put myself back together.

There was something to learn from that. About the importance of facing my demons. About the dangers of avoiding. About how the "fake it until you make it" thing only goes so far. And also about how you're a lot more likely to hurt your friends more if you're dealing with things they think you've already dealt with. I thank God for friends that stood by me when I was out of control. But that's another thing entirely.

The point of this history lesson is that I know better than to keep things in. Writing is a way to let things out without having to see the hurt it can cause, but when I can't even get my thoughts out in this way, I feel so very cowardly. I want so very much to be honest and brave. I want to write again. I need to. I will.

I don't know if this sufficiently explains my absence. That's what I set out to do with this post before it got away from me. Maybe it's more of an excuse, but it's also something of a promise. That I will try to do better. That's gotta count for something.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

mi familia es muy especial...y muy loca tambien

Family makes you crazy.

They do this for no other reason than because they can.

In fact, this truth may very well be the most tauntingly spoken rule of families.

At the end of the day, after any thoughtless comments, poor decisions, judgmental words and actions, or face-palm shenanigans, we must still love the ones behind those less-than-admirable enterprises.

You don't get to disown your crazy. I think maybe Jesus said that.

Maybe it's for self-preservation. We love and forgive, enable and excuse because we know that the same blood running through the veins of the ones calling those shots also runs through us. And on the off-chance that the blood in our veins is what causes those crazy things, we need that scapegoat should we ever lose control of our better senses.

In a trial situation:

Prosecutor: But she blah-blah-blah'd.
Defense Attorney: I'm sorry, have you met the girl's family? Here, watch these home movies.
Judge: Case dismissed. You are free to go with the court's apologies.

You can't argue with evidence of dysfunctional family moments.

Of course, outside of blame shifting activities, families offer a safe place. With them we may take off our shoes of sanity and wiggle our crazy toes.

We believe this because we know what family get-togethers can be like. During these times our insides recognize their insides. We are kindred spirits. Among them we may say crazy things. We trust them enough to bare sides of our souls otherwise reserved only for those we have explicitly invited beyond the second veil.

We are protected by the love rule.

I guess I'm thinking of this because my family is approaching a milestone. Tomorrow, we celebrate 50 years of marriage for my mom's parents. This has inspired much preparation and communication. Probably more than we normally have.

We've been calling, texting, dropping in on each other. We had a meeting of the five seven families. I was consigliere. Nobody except my father understood me when I said this. I said it more than once. I just wanted to be Tom Hagan. I think Robert Duvall portrayed him with a quiet dignity. And if you don't understand my reference with all these hints, then you need a lesson in classic cinema. But that aside, during my time as consigliere, I learned that if you put an authoritative tone in your voice, people will listen to you.

This is a valuable tool for my family.

It is valuable because we are loud. We are thirty, loud, hungry Mexicans. We will talk over each other. We will hunger. Then we will eat. And when we are done eating, we will talk over each other again. We will joke. We will make fun of each other. We will bring up old embarrassing stories. We will pry. We will complain. We will judge. We will say many inappropriate things. We will offer advice where it was not requested. We will insist that we know best. We will stay too late and eat too much and do many things that break all kinds of social norms simply because we can.

But we love each other. And not only in spite of these things but also for these things. Maybe because we are proud that we can love each other in spite of these things. It's a crowning achievement.

Truth be told, sometimes the "you-have-to-love-those-people-sharing-your-last-name" rule can be incredibly frustrating. Family will stare you in the face, stick out their tongues and make donkey ears at you. Just because they can. But it's never done with malice. And when you need them, they'll be there. When life's not so great, they'll wrap their arms around you and tell you that it's okay. Their irritation with you will fade faster than it does with others. They will help you when you need it. They will stand beside you on principle. They will do little things for you simply because they remember that you happen to like them. They will make you smile in spite of yourself and make you laugh until your stomach hurts and you can't breathe. They will come to you for advice because they trust you. They will share their secrets and hopes.They will push you to be better. They will foster your dreams. They may not always hold your hand all the way through it, but they'll believe that you can do something if you want to do it. Because why shouldn't you be able to? We share the same blood. And if the same kind of crazy flows through our veins, then so do the same abilities. So if one person believes they could do it, everyone else can, too.

I'm proud tomorrow to celebrate all of the things that family means with the people who kicked it off - my grandparents. My grandparents who are the proud owners of seven children, twelve grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and a number of other husbands, wives, and fiances who love them as their own. I'm proud to celebrate their 50 long years of marriage. The years spent raising a bunch of kids on not a bunch of money. The years spent ministering and pastoring and preaching and leaning on each other and God. The years spent getting through all the craziness that life threw at them and learning lessons they probably never thought they'd have to learn. And all those years of love. More than anything all those years of love.

Over time, I've learned a lot of things from my family. One of those things is that being a Rodriguez means that you will most likely fall prey to a particular kind of weight gain and end up a certain shape if you're not careful.

One of the more important things I've learned from them is this: Family love starts out as a love that you feel because you're supposed to. But it's a love that stays love because it's real.

Family blessings tree with everyone's fingerprints.

"Blessings on all who reverence and trust the Lord - on all who obey him! Their reward shall be prosperity and happiness. Your wife shall be contented in your home. And look at all those children! There they sit around the dinner table as vigorous and healthy as young olive trees. That is God's reward to those who reverence and trust him. May the Lord continually bless you with heaven's blessings as well as with human joys. May you live to enjoy your grandchildren. And may God bless Israel!" - Psalms 128