Restless again...

After my whirlwind week, I am restless again. It is hard to quiet the mind at times. Over the last four days, I have written essays in my head and delivered several speeches to imaginary audiences. I haven't gotten the sustained amount of time to flesh out any of it, but there are scraps of ideas written here and there and a shitty first draft (thanks again, Ann Lamott) just hanging out there screaming for more attention. This draft is tackling something I have long pondered...organized religion and my failure to connect to it or it to me.

I know someone who has made it a goal to "get right with God" during the school year. I have joked that if they are successful, I want the rights to the secret and my own mega-church will be born....to heck with this writing gig.

But it is no joke. I know this because I have met so many people who feel like there is pressure to "figure God out" and make some sort of sense and peace before the end is here. I hear people worry about their kids and their souls and I wonder...why am I not worried? My kids are kids- innocent and loving and just who they should be. Any problem there may be with God and me is not theirs to bear.

So...this is where my mind goes. It would seem much more beneficial to me to tackle things like order in the household or even organic cleaning strategies and yet success in those areas also eludes me.

Thank goodness for Halloween. It's a good night for pretending....I will act as if I have all the answers. Though I am fooling no one...including myself.

Where, oh where have I been?

Wow.

The last 8 days have been wild. I spent a few fantastic days with Big Man and Things taking in hot spots like a pumpkin patch in Byron and Owatanna's famous reptile and amphibian zoo. Who knew that in the fertile farmland of southern Minnesota reptiles could flourish? I sent the Man and Boy in first since I did not trust the fading sign and tin roof. Thing 2 popped his head out and said, "It's good, mom. Everything is in a cage!" That was my green light.

Big Man's mom, who hates to cook, made him a lovely birthday meal. Her efforts showed her love and once again, we were both reminded of how well we scored in the mom-department.

Later in the weekend, I enjoyed time with the adults in my family and it was the first time in a long time where everyone seemed relaxed. Without children around, we could start and finish a conversation. We laughed and ate and made fun of each other- all of the things we do best.

Finally, I met Randy Roberts Potts and fell in an unrequited love with a gay man. It's all good. Hundreds of other women in Minnesota did the same and his partner, Keaton, gets to gloat with the assurance that he is all his.

But anyway.

I got through my speech, though barely. Little emotions popped up unexpectedly. The story I told happened 20 years ago. I was fact-checking with my sister and she almost couldn't remember her coming-out story. Funny, huh? You think these defining moments will stick with you forever but apparently good and bad fade so there is that.

The discussion in Winona was open and heartfelt and I hope there will be a ripple of conversation that continues throughout the year as we march toward the election.

I said in my speech that love is love.

I know this to be true. In my home, from my family, friends, and perfect strangers. I met a transgender woman with her female partner, I met a concerned parent on edge for her child who might be gay and is wondering how to help him because her husband, she fears, will not handle it well, I met a young man out to everyone but his parents and African American youth struggling with their truth as gay young adults and how it will fit into their culture. I met a lesbian woman so jazzed to see a straight mom speaking out for people like her. My words were heartfelt and true and confirmed.

For my lifetime I have felt that love is love and this was proven many times over in the last eight days.

Yes, it is great to be me. What is even greater, however, is seeing others free and comfortable being who they are despite what our society seems to throw at them. Everyone just wants a place, a chance, a voice. We all really want the same thing...to love and be loved. And for it to be recognized and validated. It's not a big deal and yet...it is the biggest deal.

A little cleaned-up

I am busy, busy, busy preparing for Randy Roberts Potts to visit Minnesota and specifically Winona on Monday. I cleaned up a prior blog post and turned it into an OpEd. for our local paper.

Every word rings true for me and my hope, as always, is to give people food for thought.

http://www.winonadailynews.com/news/opinion/article_512980a4-fb55-11e0-91ba-001cc4c002e0.html

It's in the bag...or is it?

I work in the best kind of retail situation, a small, independent bookstore situated next to a cafe whose great coffee and scones (maple scones with drippy maple icing) test my will every time I work. Enticing smells waft around us all day long.Usually, they are sauteeing garlic and this my new trick to entertaining. I will saute garlic 2 minutes prior to the guest's arrival time. Even if we are having frozen pizza or my latest efforts fail, the brain will think differently.


But anyway.


Part of our customer service routine involves asking questions. How can I help you? Would you like to join our frequent buyer's club? Would you like to be informed of any upcoming events? Would you care for a bag today?


That last question seems so innocent. Ever since I can remember learning the art of persuasion (high school English, though we were far from artful in our early attempts), the environment has been part of a nation-wide debate. For most of my adult life, one tiny answer to helping thwart some environmental issues is dealing with the ubiquitous bags.


To that end, we always ask because people in our neck of the woods feel pretty strongly about bags. They carry backpacks, book bags, recycled store bags, or simply use their naked little hands. 85% of our customers don't use bags. We have one customer who, upon her first purchase in our new location, took one of our cheery paper bags with a twine handle and has carried it in with her for every purchase since. I always ask how it's holding up. I will give her another bag when the time comes. We are that kind of business. We give our customers bags if they would like them.


I hit a little snag in this operation for the first time yesterday. A woman was making the purchase of one handmade card that was enclosed in a plastic sleeve to prevent fingerprints from destroying it. So....I asked my usual questions to which this woman replied, "Well, why wouldn't I? Are bags expensive for you?"


Um...forget to put on your nice-girl pants today, did you?
No. I did not say that. What I said was, "Many of our customers carry their own bags or prefer not to take one."


"Who has ever heard such a thing?"


Um...environment, environment, environment. Reduce, reuse, recylce? I am sure I could rattle off some tree and plastic statistics if she gave me a minute. Miss I-forgot-my-nice-girl-pants appears to have been around a bit longer than me so where has she been?


In my polite, the customer is always right (except in this instance) manner I said, "I do believe some people just don't want to accumulate bags. In the end, people feel it may save some trees. We always ask. I am happy to give you a bag."


"Well, hurry up with this nonsense. I have a taxi, can't you see?"


Um, no. I do not face a window nor police the transportation systems of our customers. My now-fuming brain has prevented the rote operation of the cash register from running smoothly and, of course, she wants me to count her change from the five dollar bill. Twice. Doesn't she have a taxi?


"You remember, now, next time. I like bags."


Ha, I thought. I don't like bags! And I mean that pun with every mean girl, naughty bone in my body.


But I smiled and said my usual closing. "I will. Thank you for coming. Have a nice day."


There is the popular belief that what you put out into the world comes back to you. Was this some sort of payback? Or should Miss Environmental be a bit concerned for her future? I won't know so I better keep on the nice-girl pants and work on my nice-girl brain so that one doesn't betray the other. I think I got lucky this time.

Let me know.

We have all heard stories of people whose lives have changed in minutes. One minute they are riding to the top of a mountain and 15 minutes later, they have crashed their bike and severed their spinal cord. Suddenly, their future holds daily physical therapy and the hope that they can sit up on their own.

Or, someone opens to the door to receive an unexpected visitor and suddenly the life of your child can only be discussed in the past tense.

How do the rest of us take in these things? What do we do with the unbelievable misfortune of others? How do we honor the loss and pain and utter unfairness of one person's draw against our lucky hand?

Is it that we walk along knowing our fortune could change at any minute? Is it that we say thank you for the use of our legs and the smell of our daughter's neck? Take nothing for granted--from the scent of dry leaves to the sticky pool of milk left to curdle on the table yet again, to the curious stickiness of your son's bedroom floor.

I ponder these things and know I can't be the only one to do so.

So far, all I can come up with is that I will try to live with grace.

I love the word grace. Within it is humility, forgiveness, and honest appreciation. I did not look up the definition. I gave it my own and sometimes I think that is the best I can do...give the world my own take, my own way of honoring all the pain and suffering and live it in a way that suggests that I have done so.

If someone has a better idea, please let me know.

Gotcha!

My kids were nice to each other twice this weekend. I saw it and didn't believe it. I stalked them a bit (carefully, slowly, quietly around the perimeter of their play zone), and left the house without comment. I kept this secret to myself and kind of marinated in it. I finally burst at coffee with some friends. "My kids....they were playing together! With joy! Like they were having fun! Together! I.....I don't know what to say. It was just so....wild and crazy and...do you think it will happen again?"

No one knew what to say because these dear friends have kids who actively like each other.

Later in the weekend, my daughter expressed her disbelief. "Mom, in the middle of playing with Thing 2, I just...couldn't believe it. I almost stopped because it was just so....wild."

The magic continued when the entire family went on a hike and there was minimal grousing. Actual fun transpired. No one complained and two minutes into the hike, I witnessed skipping. Skipping! And a bit of humming and lots of pine cone gathering. Thing 2 stopped with a "Ta-dah!" and swept his arms out toward a view he found compelling. "It's not the look-out, but it's a look!"

Yes, there was an unusual mojo in our family this weekend. Like the 80 degree weather in October in Minnesota, I will hold on tightly to these glorious and fleeting moments before reality sets in.

Just dreamin'

I read a quote that said something to this effect: An apology doesn't have to be a declaration of who is right or wrong. It just means that you value the relationship more than your ego.

I fear our world is too full of egos.

I fear our lack of progress is a result of our inablity to let go of "me" and really talk about all of us.

If you wanted to start a laundry list of things that are unforgivable, it stands to reason that pitted against that list is what you are willing to give up. In my life, I have known people who have given up sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, and entire families because they were mired in their own sense of rightness.

I hope I never get too far into my own self to be willing to give up the people in my life. I hope that I always value my family, friends, and community more than my own sense of "right".

Perhaps this is what is wrong with our country. It seems we are willing to give up health care, quality education, clean air and water, jobs, military benefits, and an entire middle class because no one can admit to the error in their ways and apologize. I don't want to think so, but as I watch the biggest group of ego-maniacs fail at progress, our United States Congress, I do wonder.

I have this crazy little dream. There are warm cookies and cold milk and everyone is in their slippers. The lights are dim as the President steps into the congressional chamber. He walks around and asks people about their families. This is also part of my dream...that he knows them well enough to ask these sorts of questions. The tapes aren't rolling and people are just people and soon everyone is talking about their kids and their stories...even those millionaires have stories because I bet some were self-made millionaires. It dawns on them suddenly that the people they are talking about are the people who elected them and this elusive future they frequently grandstand is actually the future of their own children and grandchildren and soon the conversations get really animated and exciting and remorseful when they realize what a huge disservice they have done to us. There is no right or left...just a huge bunch of people in slippers walking around talking and soon...they start calling their moms and dads and old friends for advice and opinions. They dig out paper and pen and make charts and just....dig in. At the end of the night which has become the next morning, the glasses are empty and there are crumbs everywhere. Everyone is tired and it is finally, finally, finally! the new day we have been longing for.

The breaking news of the morning shows sleep-deprived people with bedhead apologizing desperately to the American people for their assinine behavior and then the real work begins.

I'd accept because I am more interested in creating a better relationship that provides for our future than dwelling on the fantastic fiasco we have been living in.

So a quote and a silly dream will have to satisfy me for now. A girl could do worse, I suppose.

It looks better here.

I took this post off my blog because I couldn't get the format right. The Twin Cities Daily Planet got it in the brief amount of time it was up. Their format is much more readable!

Here is the link to Weird, huh? Not quite...

http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/blog/lisa-gray/weird-huh-not-quite