Category Archives: grateful

caution to the wind

Fear is on my mind as I search for stones on the beach. It’s something I enjoy – seeking out a stone that stands out, worn by the sand and sun and water. As I pick up stones and turn them over to inspect them, I think about being afraid. How sometimes instead of pushing through fear, letting it goad me into more, it stops me. Instead of acknowledging and facing fear, I hide. I won’t run, but I let fear push me around. What if my dream doesn’t work out? What if my hard work is for nothing? What if I fail? The fear is so loud I can’t hear the beat of my heart. It’s so loud I forget how to believe. What is the point of dreaming when you’re so busy dashing your hopes? Do we stop pursuing because we can’t predict the future? Do we let go of the thrill of something new because we don’t know the outcome? Do I want a life without risking and trying? I live my life so steeped in reality and the possible pitfalls that I snuff out the what-could-be.

The problem with expecting the worst is that you begin to believe the worst. The worst creeps into everything until it clouds your vision, stunts your growth. It’s ugly because it can’t be beautiful. Futile replaces almost. There are shadows rather than light. Good doesn’t matter when it’s never good enough. ‘The worst’ is poison.

As I pick up and put down stones I think about what I want and don’t want. I put down judgment, timidity, and doubt. I pick up grace. Grace for myself and for others. I carry beauty. Beauty in the ocean stretched out in front of me, in the wondrous colors of the sky. Beauty in the softness and strength of my family playing nearby. I hang onto hope. There is hope in trying and I have to try. I am afraid of the unknown, of what I can’t control, but fear doesn’t have to be stronger than love, bigger than all that I can count on. I look at the collection of small white stones in my hand and feel the small ridges, the lightness of them in my palm, and I decide to keep what is true.

swept up

photo (2)in the beach. And throwing-caution-to-the-wind playing.

one day

She was still, her hands in her lap. Tears streaked her face as she told me her story about loss and aching sadness, loneliness that met her everywhere she went. The sun didn’t shine for her anymore. Life was too much, hard and hollow. “I’m trying to fight, to have hope. But, I can’t. I don’t know how to do this anymore. My family is gone.”

I had told my story on a stage that evening to hundreds of people. 20 minutes of how my life fell apart and how I picked up the pieces. Afterward men and women made their way to me and shared their stories of fallen pieces. Some spoke haltingly, the words stuck in their throats. Other losses spilled out fast, fast. My sister, my baby, my husband. Blindsided by tragedy. They lifted their heads. They wanted to know. “When did it get better for you?”

I couldn’t give them a definite answer. There wasn’t a timeline. I just knew that one day I began to feel better, lighter. Sorrow didn’t disappear, but joy found me. I could laugh, a body-shaking laugh, and I felt that joy and sorrow could exist together, side by side. I didn’t have an explanation of how or why, only that it was true. One day it wasn’t only about what I had lost, but what I had learned. One day I didn’t wake up and wish I could return to the numbness of sleep and shut out a world I didn’t want to be a part of. One day I made peace with my scars and saw them as a map of what I had fought for and how far I’d come.

As we sat across from each other, one by one, knees to knees, sharing heartache and hope, I told them it is possible to get to the other side where the pain isn’t as wide, so deep. The only way to get there is to go through. You did not ask for what happened, but you are capable. You cannot hear one more person talk about ‘the journey’ without growing nauseous, yet you go on. You fight because your life is worth living. You find strength you didn’t know you had. It surprises you, this strength. You will carry it with you and one day you’ll give your strength to someone who needs it. You hang on because you are loved. Have hope even though you’re afraid. You have days where you are angry, so angry it blurs your vision and crushes your chest, but one day it won’t be anger that fuels you. There is more for you than this. Because you’re not a victim. You’re a survivor.

swept up

in my new nephew Brennan! I just want to squeeze him. All the time. This sweet photograph was taken by my friend Lesley.

leaving room

This is a field trip I am not going to miss. I checked the box and signed my name with a flourish on that pink piece of paper to ensure I would go to the Orpheum to see the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with my seven year old son Benjamin’s class. We would participate in the magnificence that is Beethoven.

After we settled in our seats and the lights dimmed and the chattering of hundreds of young children quieted, the music began. Violins, oboes, flutes; notes weaving grace. Ben sat in the seat in front of me and after a few minutes of listening he began to squirm, wiggle and sigh. He turned to look at me, pleading with wide eyes. Get me outta here. I leaned over, put my hands on his small shoulders and whispered in his ear, “Ben, you don’t know this yet. But, it is a big deal that you are here in this beautiful theater listening to this beautiful music. Look around you. Take this in. You want to remember this day.” He nodded, one quick bob, and pressed his back against the chair.

At the end of the Symphony’s performance the conductor invited us to sing along. A theater full of children and teachers and parents sang a piece of Ode to Joy. Oh, the sound. The wonder of those small voices. Together.

In the bus on the way home I asked Ben, “So, did you have a good time?”

“Yup!” He bounced, the back of his head crashing into the seat behind him. Over and over again, bounce, crash. He stopped. “I cried a little.”

“You cried?”

“Happy tears. Because of the music.”

My heart swelled, full of joy, full of a little boy who got it.

When so much of life is measured and scored and assessed, this was a sweet, holy moment. A reminder to leave room. For more than tests and grades and math. Jobs and bills and obligations. We are moving, rushing, changing all of the time. And it’s okay…because this is life. Time doesn’t stop. In the heart of busy I want to remember to enjoy, marvel, revel. To listen. I want to be reached when something sacred happens, to have space inside me marked by music and beauty. A place to catch my breath and a place for the breathtaking.

swept up
in this beautiful and poignant post called a Tale of Two Sirens by Julie Gardner. Recently her home was ravaged by fire and she writes about it here with grace.


the gift of words

I love words. Some words beg to be used in sentences, like vast and belligerent. Whimsical is as sweet as it sounds. There are words I enjoy because of what they mean like hope and ecstatic and mindful. They draw you in. I like fancy and delightful because it’s fancy and delightful. I play with words, shuffle them around until they become significant, revelatory. In our house we have words we make up like numptyhead. In our car you could hear, “What a numptyhead!” It’s a nice alternative to idiot when someone cuts you off.

Every year I choose a word to point to, something to steady me when my world gets uneven. Like Charlotte spinning words into her web, it becomes a banner, a guiding star. For a long time it was Perseverance. For two years my life was caught up in that word. Then I slowly worked through Overcome.  One year I pursued Generosity. Then Hope…recently Belief. This year a word found me. I pondered the many words in front of me and shook them as if they were contained in a snow globe.  They whirled and floated and settled. One tiny word winked at me on its way down. Shine.

I wouldn’t normally take on a word like that. A small word that packs a punch. It’s a word that deserves attention, a stage. It’s daring. It implies more. Shine wants to be explored and I suspect it’s attached to this manuscript I’ve been working on for three years. Soon I’ll be able to hold my book in my hands and I’ll feel the weight of my words, the heft of my horror, my undoing, and then my redemption. My wish is that these words will make someone feel less alone and fill them with possibility.

Shine is about ownership of a life I claimed 14 years ago. I said yes to life when death came for me. I turned from despair and chose hope and love. I spent a long time fighting, changing and accepting. Today, now, this year instead of something to strive for or aspire to, I wonder if Shine will be my gift.

What about you? Do you have words that guide you or words that beg for your attention?

promise

This post was meant to go up a week and a half ago and then the flu found us. I’m sorry I haven’t been around, my friends. I’ve missed reading your words. Now that I’ve returned to the land of the living, I’ll visit your places. Here is my belated post…

“I have to back off.” I reached this conclusion after having a long conversation with Scott about our daughter. Annie and I have been busy reacting.

As parents we comfort each other with, “Do what you think is best. You know what’s best for your kids.” Sometimes I don’t know what’s best.

I listen to other mothers and I mentally scribble, sway, scream as I race to keep up. When did parenting get complicated? Was it always this hard? I’m pretty sure I’m giving this too much thought. Maybe I’m pushing too hard. Clearly, I need a vacation and a martini. I long to soften life’s bumps and blows for my kids and, at the same time, I want to teach them to cope. My instinct is to hang on when I should take down the fences. Let them be. After 9 years of knowing my daughter I’m still unsure, I still second-guess. Who is she?

A week ago, perspective found me as I told my story. I heard my breath, the beat of my heart. For one hour my worries lay at the back of the room behind a small group of kind people as I answered questions. I saw my mangled car, the hospital. I saw me. I saw Scott. My family. My friends. Someone asked, “When you were in the hospital, what did you want from people? What did you need? What worked for you and what didn’t?”

I explained what drove me crazy. Self-help books with a heavy religious hand. People with plans to fix. I was broken and I had to be broken for a while. And what helped. People who were there with love and no agenda.

Later that night, on my way home, belief was on my mind. When I was jerked from a coma and confronted with a question, “Heidi, do you want to live?” and I answered, “Yes,” I knew I could get through. When my conviction wavered, the belief of my family and friends carried me. I rested in their hope.  Trust heals and strengthens. Belief is often what holds Scott and me together. We’ll get lost and then find our way, each other’s anchors.

I parked the car and hurried inside to tell Scott about my great evening. Annie stood just inside the door waiting, “I wanted to say goodnight.” I squeezed her hard; buried my face in her hair.

“Mommy, that’s too tight.”

I sighed, “I know. It’s because I love you so much.” I released her with a kiss, “Have a good sleep.”

I watched her shuffle to the stairs, tripping over pajama pants that puddle at her feet. And I ached. I didn’t know I could hurt this much, feel this guilty, get this angry and love this much.

I don’t always know what’s best and I don’t always know what I’m doing, but I’m her promise. To love and believe.

humbled

You know when you’re blah and everything is just off?  You’re pretty sure you will never like writing again. When the phone rings you sigh. An email in your inbox is a chore – like mopping the floor chore. Shopping loses its shine. Even chocolate has let you down – yeah, I was doing all of that for a while. After a ho-hum summer, fall has been gracious and I’m breathing deeply again, reviving a flattened self.

I’m thankful for the beauty of the outdoors and I no longer judge the person who puts her dog in a stroller or straps this dog to her body. (Okay, I still judge a little. It’s not a baby!) I found art for the bare walls in my living room and dining room. The basement is cleaned up and organized after the kids shouted at me to HELP! I had promised to help and then I got sidetracked upstairs, trading cleaning for chocolate. Eventually I gave in to the guilt, unable to ignore their cries. And the best part of my rediscovered zeal for life? I’m working on the acknowledgments page of my book which means I get to thank the people who helped me.

Actually, I’ve been done for about 2 weeks. I just can’t hit send. I can’t part with it. It’s one of the last pieces to my story and maybe the piece I enjoyed writing the most. As I sat at my computer, I thought about the journey – the heart in my fingertips beginning, the agony of the middle, and the rush of finally, of the end. Writing and risking. Querying and rejections. Acceptance and contracts. Revisions, revisions. And now. While I applauded the people who supported me, listened to me and made-me-do-it-anyway, I felt grateful, loved and honored.

I’m especially honored by you guys. Honored that you read my blog. Honored by your encouragement. Honored by your belief in me. Beyond honored, I’m humbled. With all my heart, thank you. You’ve helped make this book a reality, a dream come true.

swept up

I’m thrilled to be featured at She Knows as one of the top 10 inspirational bloggers. I’m #2! Last week I received this good news from Jessica Watson, the lovely author of the article. I am filled to bursting. Check it out and visit the blogs of these amazing women.