Category Archives: Anne Lamott

She Believed She Could

This beautiful image courtesy of Artsy Pumpkin- Click HERE for the link.

“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
Anne Lamott

Happy New Year! How was your holiday? I can’t believe it’s over already. Now it’s back to reality and real life! I couldn’t resist the above quote by Anne Lamott. She makes me laugh, cry and smile, sometimes all at the same time. Reading her books and writing can turn around my whole day.

Penny on the beach, Summer 2016

When I look back on this year, I can consider it an amazing one. I did many more events than I thought possible. My church had a centennial celebration that I was blessed to be a part of. Penelope Katherine, my newest grandchild, was born on January 24 and brought such joy to my (and the whole family’s) life. I published my first book, Ordinary is Extraordinary and sold more copies of it than I thought possible (thank you!).

On the flip side, I was sometimes overwhelmed by too much to do. As usual I think I am managing well but then a dark cloud comes over me. That is why that quote above is especially poignant. I can really relate to it. Sometimes it is other people that bother me, sometimes it is the situations I create myself.

My word of the year for 2016 was Believe. It was a great word and I have kept it in mind all year. I hoped to use it to deepen my faith and I believe I accomplished that goal. I also know I will always keep building my relationship with God. I am never done and He will never be rid of me.

In the past two months, I lost a good friend to cancer. Another friend of mine, who was to be a first time grandmother, experienced a stillborn loss that I am still struggling to believe. Both of these were deep losses that I felt (and am still feeling). This is the hard part of growing up, getting older. You lose people that you love, bad things happen and we don’t understand them.

I remember when my father died almost nineteen years ago. We didn’t really see it coming although he had been sick for quite a while. The day after his death the sun came up. Time waits for no one I thought. Despite the awful loss of my dad, the world did not stop. People came and went. Friends showed up.

Isn’t this how we get through life? We plod along and sometimes there is deep mud to walk through, rain that beats down on us, and the occasional lighting strikes. Then there are those days when the sun comes out, someone gets married, a baby is born, a new friend is made. These events are what makes life worth living.

May you go forward in 2017 with a renewed attitude, a motivation to learn something new, and an awareness of the grace that will surely come your way.

I wanted to share some highlights of my year. These moments were especially wonderful. xo

Penny’s Baptism

Meeting an old friend, Dreama after many years.

Watching my son John and his entrance into Fatherhood.

Our visit to Nantucket.

Watching Penny adore my mom.

Meeting Vivian Howard of “Chef and the Farmer”

My sisters, mom and I at the kick off party to the Centennial of my church.

Penny and me on Christmas Eve.

Siesta Key Florida March 2016.

Backpack Feeding Kickoff at FOCUS West Central PA

Last wedding of the season- Ashley and Eli, Photo by Michael Will

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When Our Children Become Parents

My son John, with Penelope Katherine

My son John with his daughter, Penelope Katherine

“I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.”
Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

My granddaughter Penelope is now one month old. She no longer has that mini newborn look. Her features are becoming more pronounced and her personality is taking shape. Nursing is her favorite pastime along with snuggling. Resting in someone’s arms (especially mommy’s), nice and warm, is her favorite place to be.

It has been a wonderful experience to be a part of Penny’s first month. The excitement of the birth, the few weeks afterwards, and the love I feel towards my granddaughter reminds me of my grandson’s birth fourteen years ago. It feels good to embrace these moments all over again.

Watching my son’s newly acquired fatherhood has been a true gift. Penelope’s mom Jess told me the day after the birth that John said, “I can’t believe how beautiful she is.” I never doubted that he would look into his baby’s eyes and be in love.

When John and Jess found out they were expecting, John was a nervous father to be. I tried to talk to him on a number of occasions but I was too wordy and he, too wound up. Like an organized person on hyper drive, he saw everything that needed to be done- the nursery painted and complete, plenty of frozen meals in the fridge, lots of clean baby onesies ready for action.

It turned out Penelope was on her own schedule. She arrived two weeks after her due date, giving both Jess and John lots of extra time. I called one day to invite them to dinner and Jess told me John was cleaning out closets. By the time Penny arrived, they were both ready.

John and Penny

John and Penny

To watch my son with his daughter is simultaneously a spiritual and hilarious experience. He looks at her like she is the stars and the sky. Then he kisses her hands and nose. Penny stares at him like he is her favorite boyfriend. If she makes funny noises or faces, we all laugh. Baby, Mom, and Dad have a bond of love. If she is crying, John will pick her up and talk to her. Most of the time (unless she wants mommy’s milk) Penny stops crying.

John and Jess are a team. It is reassuring for me to see them in action. They will frequently give each other breaks, taking naps to recharge themselves. John tidies up the house nightly, prepares a nice dinner, then cleans up the kitchen. Jess will nurse Penelope, a full time job at the moment.

A few days ago I spent the afternoon with them. While I held Penny, John cooked dinner. Funky 80’s music played in the background. A great song came on and the four of us danced. It was the best.

I’m a calmer grandmother this time around. Fourteen years of grand wisdom have given me a perspective of when to worry and when to let it go. God has granted us a huge blessing. Her name is Penelope Katherine.

I'm one month old!

I’m one month old!

 

 

 

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The Beautiful People

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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My friend Amy has been through the wringer and back. She is currently recuperating from shoulder surgery and is laid up for at least six weeks.

I’ve written about Amy before. She has three grandchildren already (at age 55) and two of them are to her daughter Mandy, who passed away suddenly three years ago.

What do you do when someone close to you loses someone very dear? I’ll tell you what I used to do. Uncomfortable with my own feelings, I would go to the funeral home, make polite sympathies and leave. Then months would go by before I would say “How are you?” to the friend or family person, lacing my greeting with an apology for not being in touch sooner.

I was never comfortable around sick, dying, or ill people. Preferring the land of the living and healthy, it never occurred to me to look deeper into someone’s heart and soul. To align myself with how they might be feeling. To have EMPATHY instead of detachment.

When my mom was in the hospital, I made an effort to smile at strangers all day. I struck up conversations with people in elevators and the cafeteria line. I would glance into rooms and smile at the recovering people inside. I wanted to bring a smidgen of joy to someone’s day…including my own by connecting with others in a similar situation.

I had an idea that there should be a “Smile Wagon” at the hospital. It could be manned by a very cheery person who had a “wagon” of sorts filled with all kinds of happiness stuff. Smiley stickers, mylar balloons, whoopie cushions, etc. The cart could go around, cheering up the patients and brightening their day. Especially the patients who did not have loved ones that lived close. What do you think about this idea? (Should I write to the hospital?)

Back to Amy. When she lost her daughter, I made a conscious decision to keep in touch. I worked in town and her house was 20 minutes from my work place. When she would pop into my head, I would stop by after work, usually unannounced. I trusted that God would let me know when she might be need a sympathetic ear. Once, after she had back surgery (only within a year or two after Mandy had passed), I laid on Amy’s bed with her and we hung out for hours.

During these many times of being with Amy, I did nothing miraculous. Mostly, I just tried to listen and be there.

I was with Amy this week and I asked her about friendship and grief. She told me people fear loss as being contagious (this blew my mind) and of course, many avoided her because they just didn’t know what to say. I’ve heard of others who try and manage the life of someone with such loss, thinking that is the answer. For me, that is too much control, unless the friend really asks for such help.

My favorite author, Anne Lamott, talks about loss often in many of her faith books. I remember she has said something like All you can really do sometimes, is just show up. It is true. By just showing up, I do what hopefully God wishes of me- to just be there for those beautiful people.

Photo taken at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA. by my lovely daughter, Michelene.

How have you dealt with another’s loss or illness? Are you comfortable with lending an ear?

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On Heaven, Faith…and Love

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I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. Many books, mainly on Heaven and Faith. It has given me much food for thought.

In the last six months or so, I’ve read “Heaven is for Real“, “90 Minutes in Heaven“,  “In the Shadow of a Badge” and I just finished “Proof of Heaven“. Lest you think I am completely off my rocker, I’ve also read “Explosive Eighteen” (I love those Stephanie Plum novels!), just to give my brain a break. And…I’m in the process of finishing “Everything Matters, Nothing Matters” by Gina Mazza and “Help Thanks Wow” by Anne Lamott. Yep, I am steeped in Heaven and Faith lately.

Here’s the hodgepodge of thoughts running through my head about Heaven, Faith and Love.

DSC_00041. It’s all about Love- Unconditional Love. The Universe (God, your Higher Power) loves and cherishes you and me unconditionally. Literally, we can do no wrong. We are forgiven.

2. You and I can have a deep relationship spiritually with the Universe (again God, HP) if we but take some bits of time to connect and feel the spirit deep in our soul. Prayer and Meditation help with this.

3. At the very least, we can have a kitchen sink of faith; the kind that doesn’t answer to any real organized religion. It can be a belief system of our own creation. I think God isn’t really picky. S/He just wants you and I to be happy.

Now, this may not sit well with everyone reading this and that’s ok. I am not aiming to stir up controversy (well, maybe!) but I just want you to THINK a bit.

IMGThat’s what I’m trying to do. THINK a bit. And keep myself open to all that I can learn and feel about God and Faith. There was something I read recently, something that seems too well placed to be just a coincidence. Here it is:

“Once I knew that I wanted to be an artist, I had made myself into one. I did not understand that wanting doesn’t always lead to action. Many of the women had been raised without the sense that they could mold and shape their own lives, and so, wanting to be an artist (but without the ability to realize their wants) was for some of them, only an idle fantasy, like wanting to go to the moon”. Judy Chicago

What do you really want? Do you have the courage to ask for and then receive and accept your dream?

I am beginning to realize that I can truly dare to dream on a higher level and a wish can become reality. Or better yet, I can have no idea what would be right for me and dare I stand back and let God choose for me?

Yes, it is a huge leap of faith. And it is not about taking the bull by the horns. It is about stepping back, letting go and allowing Faith to step in and assist.

(Thanks again to my daughter Michelene and my sister Cally for these photos!)

What’s your brand of faith? Share it with me…I’d love to hear about it!

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Expect a Miracle

God is such a show off….Anne Lamott

In a recent development, a close friend of mine has lost her job. I saw Phyllis at a gathering recently and couldn’t help sharing my own experience with job loss. Is it humiliating? Yes. Do you wonder if you should have done something differently? Yes. Does this mean they didn’t like you? (well, we really didn’t say that but we thought it!)

My period following a job loss several years ago actually turned out to be one of the best times of my life. Some financial compensation provided me with enough income to get by and thankfully, I received a job offer that didn’t start for a few months. It was a blessing. I took advantage of the time by doing whatever it was that I had always wanted to do but never had the time for. I went to Florida with friends on a winter vacation (cheap, because one friend of a friend had a time share), cooked great dinners (Jim loved this part), and read lots of great books. I also hung out with my very favorite friends.

I tried to be encouraging to Phyllis but I know it is still tough. It’s so scary, job loss; it touches all your survivor emotions and then some. I’ve been praying ever since for Phyllis to get a brand new job she just loves.

Meanwhile a close friend sent me a text that she knew someone who had a Christmas tree to give away. Cathy said “Do you know anyone who could use a tree?”. I sent a text to Phyllis and she graciously accepted the gift. How’s that for something sweet?

Last night I said to another friend, “I love to stand back and see what God will do”. Because God is magnificent in her execution. I hold the football and she runs forward and kicks the crap out of it. All we have to do is believe. It will be more than just a Christmas tree for Phyllis, I’m sure of it.

Anne Lamott likes to say “God is such a show off”. It’s true. If we but ask then wait for the gifts, amazing things will come about. Miracles occur every day and I’m spoiled…I’ve just come to expect them.

Is there anyone special you know who needs a miracle? Mention their name here (just a first name is fine) and we’ll all send it up to the heavens…

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A Blessing on Your Head

A blessing on your head Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov…Fiddler on the Roof

Meeting my favorite author!

Yesterday was my 55th birthday and today is Thanksgiving. This same remarkable timing occurred five years ago when I turned 50. I consider it a beautiful juxtaposition of birthday to gratitude day.

Five years ago (on my FIVE OH birthday) I took my family to Fallingwater– the stunning Frank Lloyd Wright house which sits over a rushing creek full of water. The house was much smaller than I had imagined but it was still breathtaking beautiful. We had lunch in the cafe, took the tour and walked around a bit in the nearby woods. Then we all headed back to dinner at my sister Cally’s house where her husband Raymond had prepared a beautiful dinner of lemon shrimp and orzo. We even Greek danced a little after dinner, just to connect with our deep roots.

My birthday this year was another dreamy day of inspirational happenings. A couple of months ago I noticed via Facebook that my favorite author, Anne Lamott, not only had a new book coming out but was coming close to where I live. She was going to be less than two hours away in Akron, Ohio at a public library.

I asked my sisters if we could go hear her speak. Ironically (or not so) my North Carolina sister Mary was coming home for Thanksgiving to attend her class reunion. The timing was perfect.

The view from the hotel!

We left the day before my birthday and stayed at a hotel that overlooked the Cuyahoga Falls (and the Schwebel’s bread factory!). Dinner was at a lovely little place called “Crave” in Akron, a mere block away from where Anne was speaking.

I insisted we get to the library early and we did. An hour and a half early. My sister Mary thought I was crazy. But there was a small line forming already. We decided to buy a family library membership for $20 and that got us into the auditorium early. We sat in the front row, dead center.

Have you ever been in a situation that felt surreal? That’s how I felt in that auditorium, an hour before Anne came out. When she walked across the stage to the podium, with her dreadlocks and bandanna wrapped around her head, I instantly smiled.

She spoke for over an hour then answered questions. She said many awesome things but my favorite was “we are really here to help each other get home”. I loved that.

I stood in line to meet her and get my (her) new book signed. We chatted for a few seconds and as I was walking up the ramp to exit, a group of locals began singing Happy Birthday to me. They knew it was my birthday and wow, that just made my day!

When I got home yesterday, there was a song in my head. It was A Blessing on Your Head, Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov. I’m a Christian but I love that song and I love all of Fiddler on the Roof. The song seems fitting, doesn’t it?

Have a wonderful, gratitude filled Thanksgiving day! What are you doing today?

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