Stories Worth Telling

Stories matter – mine does, yours do. But we all have different ways of telling our stories. From apple picking to Zamboni driving, we weave our tapestries in unique ways from one another – thank the Good Lord. How boring this place would be without the variety!

homogeneous

I most acutely became acquainted with the tale being woven in me when my mom had her stroke. There was just so much about her that I felt deeply needed to be talked about. It was almost an unavoidable action for me – I had so much in my heart. So my heart would just burn with a thought or concept regarding “leaving memory lane” until I wrote about it and posted it here. And what lovely watchers and readers you have been. Oh my.

You know when you find a necklace at the bottom of a suitcase and it seems hopelessly tangled?

tangled necklace

Naturally, you set to work pulling the necklase up close for a better view of the mangled mess. You can kind of make out what parts of the chain need to be loosened so that another part of the chain can be pulled through to freedom, to a straight line, to being untangled. This has been the joy of writing for me.

And it just so happened that 2 women in my life with whom I have for years shared intentional, substantial friendship were doing the same thing; trying to untangle their own necklaces that were the crises of the welcome and unwelcome variety.

We write very differently but we write for a unified purpose; to express that Jesus is the light of the world, the church and certainly in our feeble, little hearts…even and most especially when it doesn’t make sense.

This brings me to our new project: writinginpencil.com.

The mission statement is simple:

“We believe that in the midst of all things – joy, difficulty and even tragedy – the story of life encountering faith is one worth telling.”

I think you’ll see that it’s possible to sharpen one another – you and Holly and Megan and I – if we decide that authenticity is better than perfection and heart level conversations about God at work in the world are better than legislated morality or religious rule-keeping.

So jog on over and subscribe! We’ll be writing (in pencil),  vlogging, and showing off some beautiful art. It would be an honor to have you check it out! And by all means, join the conversation – we’re talking about things of substance to ALL of us.

Posted in Front Porch | Leave a comment

Change of Address

Sometimes blog addresses barely fit their name, their purpose graduating from original intent to something…else – wings of its author transporting it to a new path. Not so with leavingmemorylane.

The house to which I’ve dedicated this writing project now sits vacant. The pleasant chirp of family gatherings and the hum of daily routine are a faint echo. The décor now stands neutral, staged for visitors, would-be buyers. The cabinets are mostly bare, its contents sorted and distributed. Certain lights stay on all day, all night. For the first time in 40 years, it takes effort to make it look like someone is home. Casual passers-by notice nothing out of the ordinary, really. Just a for-sale sign signifying a transition, a decision for change. Quite a change indeed.

A mere 60 days previous to this one, dad made his own transition. Some back pain led to some tests followed by some question marks which opened the door to a diagnosis of cancer and a quick decline – all of which culminated in a heaven-ward home-going. The hands that swept, tended, and polished our family’s little piece of home are no longer busy.

And an even shorter amount of time has lapsed since mom changed addresses, left memory lane. Her days are filled with visiting and living – this is easier some days than others. The decision to move to an assisted living place for safety and for increased independence did not come gradually – as we would have all preferred. The sense of home sometimes become more fond in one’s memory and less comforting when the ease with which you once lived in it has faded.

The other day I sat in my car, stopped at an intersection, while an ambulance blared and rushed its way through to something urgent. I watched as less than a breath was taken before cars, briefly delayed by the emergency vehicle, hurried on – now playing catch up on their journey. It is difficult to believe how many large life events have transpired in the last 8 weeks. Some moments were urgent and full of crisis while others contained measured conversations, intense and important for planning and caring for such important people.

Ultimately, though, it’s much more straining on this little weary soul to comprehend this fact: life keeps going. Moments of loss happen all the time to every shape and size of us. And no one hits the pause button on the schedule. I am both soothed and discomfited by this data point.

And so, this blog address seems to fit its name, after all of the sirens and lights have calmed. Leaving Memory Lane. Yes we are.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 G. Richard Blankinship

3.16.37 – 3.8.14

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Torching the To Do List

My sweet mom and dad were on their way to my son’s 14th birthday party 6 weeks ago when my mom fell. What a set-back for her. She sustained breaks to her left humorous, two bones in her left hand and her pelvis. Of course we are all grateful that none of her breaks required surgery and are so thrilled that she is making a steady recovery. She was in the rehab hospital many days and was able to go home several days after Christmas.

She is slowly getting back her strength and energy, having had to endure lots of pain and hard work. Previous to her fall, she walked for over an hour a day, rode her stationary bike for at least an hour and kept a busy social schedule with outings for lunch and Bible study. Now she faces the task of rebuilding all of that strength and energy as her bones heal and her weary heart refuels.

She has a delightful spirit and warm tone with my dad and her other caregivers. She works hard and, in spite of the pain, is upbeat and determined. Her comedic one-liners are still frequent and she responds to prayer and scripture being read with an open and teachable heart.

Which leads me to some thoughts on Advent…

I spent the better part of the Advent season moaning inwardly about how this was going to put a HUGE damper on Christmas shopping plans, decorating, parties and baking prep. I was wringing my hands about the inconvenience of hospital visits and the added burden of care this put on the family. I was dark and gloomy about the weight of tasks on my back.

I know it is close to sacrilege to speak of someone’s needs, hurting and lack being a problem for me.  I get that my parents are working harder than I am and that there is more burden on others than on me. All of that is clear to me. But you and I both know that the thoughts that rumble around in our feeble little hearts are not rational and cannot always be explained away with data. Furthermore, I was searching for a promise from the Lord. In lots of places in scripture I see encouraging truth – like these guys: 2 Peter 1:4, and Jeremiah 29:11.

All I want for Christmas…

BUT what about the scotch tape I need to buy? How about the fact that those stocking stuffers aren’t going to magically show up on my doorstep? Again sacrilege I know – these are 1st world, subjective and irritatingly simple problems. But they are still issues in my life. What to do with the sorrow I feel about my mom’s decline coupled with the continued need to be busy, productive and to just generally MAKE CHRISTMAS HAPPEN!? It’s enough to make me pull a “Tawanda” in some parking lot. (Sorry for the old Fried Green Tomatoes movie reference – but here’s a link: TAWANDA!)

I prayed for a new and specific promise every single time I headed up the elevator to see my mom. In that silent 20 second period going from floor 1 to floor 7, I asked the Lord to reveal a specific promise to ME, for ME so that I can lift my head above the water level and just breathe. (By the way, I am confident that many a co-pilot in those elevators rides with me were looking askance as I moved my lips in prayer and tried to recite a verse or two. I’m sure they surmised I was headed to the psych ward.

The chasm of lost perspective

I learned something new this year and more indelibly this Christmas. In these moments where moms and dads work on MAKING CHRISTMAS HAPPEN, a big pitfall exists that is just wide enough for any of us to fall into. That pitfall is one of losing the perspective.

The joy of being together and enjoying a silly laugh or a mindless game or a yummy morsel or a beautiful song can vanish like the road runner running out of road. If you lose the joy in those seemingly meaningless moments, you will find yourself in a chasm. It is a very responsible, busy and disciplined crevasse that lacks hope and contains no perspective. This crack is one I have almost JUMPED into at times because dedicating myself to a task is much easier than actually finding sweetness in a difficult season of life.

And ladies and gentleman in the face of my pity party pit, He gave me that promise. I am so buoyed by the specific answer to this plea…that I cannot even tell you. I can’t contain the hope of the tone He has set:

The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food at the proper time.

You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.

Psalm 145:14-17

But I also see that it is more than just a promise to my little weary, perspective-deprived heart. It is a promise for my mom:

She will be lifted up.

She is being upheld right now.

You will help her, you will nourish her.

You open your hand and satisfy all of her desires, Lord.

You are righteous in all your ways and faithful in all you do.

He promised this to me. He gave it to me as a gift. He reminded me of its richness right in this time.

To Do: Torch the To Do List

So this year I resolve to banish all attempts at super-diligent-holiday-readiness. After all, I know He is honored when I put a to-do list in the fire and sit down to look into the eyes of one of my little people. I believe we Glorify Him when we decide on personal, private, beautiful moments of noticing His work as opposed to finalizing the breakfast casserole for the next day.

It’s my act of defiance, a rebellious stake I’m jamming into the ground, AND my most decisive action of the new year – so far. Who knows, maybe on Veterans Day the wheels will fall off of my resolution.

Pray for my mom if it comes to your heart. He promises to uphold her. Your intercession is one of His methods of lifting her up.

Posted in Kitchen | 3 Comments

Relocating Hope; clean microwaves and outlawing the whistle

I’ve been pondering “dry” lately.

If you ask me on any given day “how I am” I might give you statements laced with sarcasm (my personality trait of choice when tired and busy). I might say something about how my kids are probably having conversations with each other about which type of drug or alcohol to try first.

Or I might joke that my husband has decided the sheets are more likely to dissolve than to be changed and I might even lay it down that my parents need time and energy and love and care that I don’t seem to have in a generous supply.

In a more vulnerable moment, I might even tell you….

…I am disillusioned with myself, a person who used to be able to access joy readily, be perpetually optimistic and never dread a single day.

dry

Dry seasons

Who’s responsible for the drought seasons in our lives, anyway?

Who forgot to water this life-weary heart?

How’d it get this way and why is it so hard to find the way to growth, life, health?

So the question in my heart transitions from

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN to WHAT NOW? (Yes, maybe I am saying this loudly)

What happens when we sense drought?

What is the source of the drought?  Disappointment? Sure. Weariness?  Youbetcha.

But there is something more to drought – from what I can understand about my cracks.

Misplaced hopes

In dry seasons, do you think it’s possible that somewhere along the way, we decided we knew how something should turn out? Is that part of it?

Were we overconfident that we could count on a circumstance to continue being smooth?

And how do we find the river?

Where is that delta of relief?

I cannot even hear the stream running sometimes. I know it exists but the riverbed seems pretty parched.

Relocating Hope

relocating

There’s a place in the Psalms that paints a picture of a deer that is literally panting for water. This is a beyond-dehydration situation. No water in site. This is how my soul feels.

I’m not saying that hoping in certain milestones doesn’t bring a little brightness. Heck, if I have a clean microwave, there could be mushrooms growing in my messy closet, I could not care less – life just feels a little more under control with a clean microwave. Cray-cray, I know.

Perhaps I decided that if my kids turned out okay, I’d feel well-watered – well, that’s putting my hope in my progeny. Really, put my hope in them? (Exhibit A: One child has outlawed the other from ever whistling ever again in their presence – yep, pretty pleasant all the time in the Harrell household).

whistle

I love them to the core of who I am but should I base my soul’s condition on a given day of happy-happy-joy-joy with that crew?

Maybe I should kick the summer of togetherness off with a family viewing of the World Whistling Championships?:

Maybe (I thought), if my husband doesn’t get sick or lose his job,  I will feel refreshed or content. Well those awful circumstances haven’t occurred in our house (I’m grateful for that) but being spared hasn’t filled me with the waters of life, has it? (Exhibit B: He often dreams of owning a ranch or moving us all to Mongolia – In both scenarios I can literally feel the dirt in my teeth and the lack of access to a hot shower. HELP!)

Mongolia

Seriously, though, I think really there is a genuine redefining that happens when I relocate my hope….when I put it where it needs to be.

What if I took a little thing like a clean microwave and a big thing like relocating my hope and let it shift the tide of my soul?

Little by little, I have come to know that the dry season actually has a really important place in my strides forward in time. I am a slow learner, for sure. I think the last couple of years have seen the waters recede so that’s been tough but, because of that, I have found a new level of understanding about my heart. It ebbs and flows like a tide only less predictably so. Death, illness, loss, grief – all of these have been my companions in a sometimes powerful and surging swell of hope and more often a weak trickle of a stream. Have you felt that way?

I recently came across this word as I was digging through the dirt of my drought. In my thirst, in my confusion, I read this word:

Hineni

It’s a Hebrew word.

Hineni

It means “Here I am.”

It’s often used as part of a prayer. It’s in the first person.

It’s very complete and emotionally charged, and implies, “Here I am: ready, willing and able.” “Here I am” is a powerful and layered statement, but there’s another meaning to Hineni, even deeper and more resonant:

Here I stand.

Taking-a-stand-against-texting-and-driving

It’s not just a thought; it’s a bottom line. Here I stand. Here I will make my stand. I will not be moving. This is where I am going to make my stand.

Resolute. Determined. Brave, even.

Hineni.

That is how I have decided to approach this season of drought, dryness, thirst.

Hineni. Here I stand.

Resolute. Determined. Brave, and my knees are shaking just a bit.

What does it mean to say, “hineni – here I am” in fact “here I stand” not out of fear of being tested but out of trust being guided?

In fact, I’m thinking of developing a Hineni type of faith. A faith even in the questions that says, I don’t understand but here I stand.

I am declaring trust. I will plant my feet on this dry and dusty path and I will stand firm. I will trust.

And it’s wild because the secret is in that dry place. Without these seasons of drought, we cannot take delight in the true, new, fresh, source of waters. Maybe the dry places are important. Maybe they’re even essential…

Altogether, bit by bit, digging deep – the drought recedes, the waters come. This isn’t a fancy process and it’s not a quick one. Grab a shovel, stand there, Hineni. I think I can hear the stream up ahead….

stream 1

Posted in Living Room | 1 Comment

The Advent of a Dry Season

It all started when…

I became an adult.

Here I am looking headlong into the face of 40 and am struck with the bold realization that the pesky winds of hurt, of trial, of disappointment have begun to blow through my heart. I know that sounds strange. Why wouldn’t problems exist in life before that? Weren’t there glitches before now? For me? really – no.

Things came easily. Sports, school, circumstances, family, friends – it all sort of hummed along. I was on teams, made varsity, was elected to student council, passed exams, took cool trips, said yes to Jesus, had a decent wardrobe, got a degree and made friends (of the true and long-term variety, even).

This smoothness early on truly isn’t something in which I take pride. Believe me, especially from this perspective – the dry winds blowing and all. To what can I credit for this easy peasy light and easy? A lot had to do with my socio-economic reality, my small city, a secure upbringing – not things I procured or whittled for myself.

In truth, the early part of life came with the transactional boxes checked – rather than an existence of substance or any awareness of a spiritual reality.  So what gives? What caused this advent of a dry season or periods of drought peppering the Facebook timeline of my life?

Was it health problems?

Was it bills coming in?

Was it the beginning of marriage?

Was it baby and then another baby?

Was it aging parents?

Was it awareness of my spiritual condition?

It wasn’t any one thing. It was part turning a blind eye to God’s mercy towards me and part relying on my own natural giftings to march through life. Mixing those parts created a cocktail of “fine”-ness.

How are you today?

Fine! Thanks!

Blecch. Fine? Tragic is more appropriate. Dry is most accurate.

Which brings me to Drought

Somewhere along the line, things didn’t go the way of the sketched dreams in my 10th grade peechee folder with hearts full of initials and practiced married names written in pretty cursive over and over. Line the reality up to the dream and it’s better to just to say you’re “fine.” And figure out what it all means and what you lost later. Come to grips with it when you’re not putting diapers on a sweet baby, taking out the trash on Tuesdays or scanning allrecipes.com for which covered dish to make for the potluck.

It was a gradual drying, a slow parching that descended on my soul.

But here is the part about drought that Is. Not. Okay.

It’s the part where you get comfy with your dry season. You can become too cozy with it, can’t you?….preferring to stay cuddled up to a grayscale version of your days as opposed to the springtime Technicolor brilliance that is possible. In the process of making expectations realistic, of coming to terms with disappointments, of accepting a plan B.

IN THAT COZINESS WITH DROUGHT…you risk bidding True Life adieu.

Drought begets

disappointment begets

doing fine begets

comfort in settling begets

plodding on begets

doubt in Hope begets

a faith crisis.

The question(s)

Who’s responsible for the drought, anyway? Who forgot to water this life-weary heart? How’d it get this way and why is it so hard to find the way to growth, life, health?

Brian McLaren (article here) says that there are low tides and high tides and everything in between in the faith. He says, “If I didn’t care about following Christ, I wouldn’t care so much about being honest, seeking truth, facing reality … I would be more tempted to simply go with the flow, take the easy way, maybe anesthetize my intellectual pain instead of persevering through it toward the truth.”

 I’d like to spend a few posts talking through this Advent of a Dry Season.

Here goes…..something?

Posted in Living Room, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Anatomy of a New Home

So the home is still for sale – gleaming, staged and in good shape. My parents are enjoying that it is shiny and showable but are also working hard to keep it up for showings. Here’s a link for proof:

4815 Kenyon Court

In the midst of the transition, BB is working through the complications of her stroke in such a brave way. Though limited, her life has a nice routine and her days go well.  She even walks a mile (33 laps) every day in the garage!

022213_0119_AnatomyofaN1.jpg

This garage is cleaner than my kitchen, people.

One of the continuing sticky spots in her life is that she adjusts to change with a lot of nervousness – sometimes sad, sometimes half-hearted – but always with honesty. Change is just plain difficult for her. Changing caregivers, shifting the plan, modifying routines, trying a new…well… anything is cause for emotion.

And lately she has been talking about the anatomy of the new home with just this same amount of antipathy. Is she talking about the new home in a figurative sense or a literal, physical one? –some of both I suspect.

In an even deeper way, one of my favorite people in the world is endeavoring to do this in her life, too – rearrange the anatomy of all she has considered to be truly “home.” Really in the last year, she has been through an unbearable, incalculable amount of loss on multiple fronts.

The blueprint has been torched and not by her own choice. The anatomy of her home – all that she thought of as home, comfort, security, future – is now being redesigned.

The anatomy of making a new home.

There is something profound about this. When something traumatic shifts the trajectory of your life plan, you must reckon with that moment. You must look at the blue print that you were carefully crafting together and, in effect, dispose of it.

home anatomy

My friend and my parents share the similarity of not having had a CHOICE. They don’t want to rebuild or redesign anything – in fact, the prospect of a new start is fatiguing, even disheartening. And part of it might also be that the new thing they are headed toward doesn’t seem to carry with it the possibility of being better – not more beautiful than that “tricked out” blueprint that went up in flames. It doesn’t seem better and it is NOT happening because there was an option.

BB and my friend would both hastily put a no_sign_thumb over the word “change.”

This reminds me of a book I read this year. In the book Little Bee the author, Chris Cleave, builds in me an irrational love for the lead character (have you ever prayed for a character in a book?). She is a Nigerian teenager who finds herself, after some intense strife and loss, in an immigration detention center in the UK.

Little Bee is smart, talented, young and has no future. Along with many others, she waits and waits and waits and waits. Endless long days lead on and on – over 800 days in fact – over two years in the same sterile, awful, option-less building. So this is a tale about piecing life together – at an agonizingly slow pace. Over time, this young girl becomes a wise woman. Here is some of her insight:

“….a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them.

We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” P. 9

Defying the scar makers. This journey from loss of normal to figuring out a new normal is not for wimpy, unction-less suckers. There’s the scar of grief. And add to that the scar of deep loss of all that was – the torching of the blueprint.

Do scars collected start to mean something over time?

Are they blue-print changers?

Do scars start to build upon one another, constructing themselves into something that looks like something new?

How does one “defy” a “scar maker”?

This summer as we sorted, cleaned, updated, stored and filtered most all of BB’s earthly possessions, the issue we discussed most often was her lack of desire to look toward the future with optimism and excitement.

And so when she proclaimed one day that she wanted to be a guest blogger for leavingmemorylane, I saw it as her desire to do something new. I also could see that it took courage and she was game – something that is foreign territory for her.

So this is her attempt at defying the scar makers, at surviving another day.

She SPOKE her blog to me because she doesn’t see well, doesn’t type worth a darn with one hand and doesn’t enjoy writing. Her expression seemed to be more like a poem, so I formatted it as such. This is very much a depiction of her outlook on life.

She is also sort of WILLING herself to be steady with a full, bright hope for this future blue-print making experience – remember, the one she didn’t ask for.

She talks about her children but I almost hear it as a benediction offered to ALL of her loved ones who have journeyed down this road with her….not just her biologicals – to you as well.

 who meYES, you.

And so try and read it that way – sweet, simple, and honest:

From the moment I felt your fluttering heartbeats inside of me

you wrapped yourself so tightly around my heart that it ached.

So that even the slightest movement caused an ache

– an ache that is not pain –

it’s an ache from when you love so hard.

And the ache appeared the first day I saw you walking into kindergarten

and when I saw you walking down the aisle with your chosen mate.

And you’ve grown into adults full of courage and wisdom

with the astonishing ability to love until it aches, also.

And so along the way we discovered that we could depend on each other like rocks – and our heartbeats now are in sync, altogether,

now our heart beats one last movement and those golden cords of love spring off of my heart

and they spring around and around our new home so many times that it shines

so that it is not just leaving home but it is…

 

the anatomy of making a new home.

Love, bb

 

Posted in Living Room, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Impossible Moments; The Way To A Decent Story

A bit of leaving memory lane news is in order today. You may vaguely remember the post about a very determined Maria Madi, my great grandmother. The Story of a Teacup is a rambling combination of Condoleeza Rice wisdom and lore about World War II’s attempt to ruin a relic. The cup was buried along with the ambitions of a hopeless season. Great grandmother Madi, a physician, a mother and a staunch warrior against the odds managed to keep this brittle piece of hope safe from extinction giving us a moment of perspective in a beautiful cup.

Perhaps as a means of memory-keeping, hope-securing tenacity, she also kept a detailed journal of her days during her separation from my grandmother, Hilda. As we schlepped through the crawl space remnants this fall, we came across bound copies of this tomb. Sometimes the pace of our sorting went from clip, clip, clip to an almost audible halt, a screeching of progress to a dead stop – and finding these journals was just such a time. We knew they were up there, collecting dust and fading from legacy’s view. So when we took the lid off this special box, all sense of staying on task left our minds.

These diaries (11 in all averaging 150 pages a piece) are a salient interpretation of the political and war-torn climate of World War II. One recording incident chronicles her hiding a Jewish boy behind a looking glass while the Germans sought him out. That boy is 75 years old, resides in Atlanta and keeps in touch with my mother’s brother and only sibling, Stephen Walton.

And so as you can imagine, if you simply at random open the journal, you will be struck with the strong emotion in Maria’s sentiments. These writings capture a communication from mother to daughter of all the miles and moments separating the two. I got two feelings at once as I read; #1) the broken-hearted turmoil that so many had to endure in order to give a loved one a new dream in America and #2) a resolve that Maria sending Hilda to America to marry George and become upwardly mobile was just what a mother should do for her daughter. These are impossible positions to combine, one being almost opposite from the other. But this is the stuff of life, is it not?

Figure 1 Maria Madi

Facing the impasse of two warring heart pulses is one of truest ways I have known to come about increased wisdom – a deeper reservoir of resolve in the things of love (phileo, agape and everything in between). These journals show me that a story is not worth telling without these impossible moments.

Figure 2 Maria’s daughter, Hilda

Now for that promised news, which came in a letter to my Uncle Stephen (Barbara’s brother) received after much legwork and communication on his part down multiple channels. The letter stated the desire to have these dairies. The letter asked whether we knew why the diaries were written in English as opposed to Maria’s native tongue, Hungarian. The letter promises a digitized copy to us on the condition that we donate, not lend, this precious artifact. The letter is from the Archivist at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (www.ushmm.org) in Washington D.C.

Good news about a cool story.

There are a million moments of ordinary gumption accumulating into extraordinary legacy. My Great Grandmother didn’t do any of these things; burying cups, hiding Jews, or capturing a season on paper so that I could write this today. She lived her life. She took the next correct action that faced her…and with enough of these choices, she created a woven tapestry of grit, intrigue, and heart.

Worth archiving? I think so.

May our ordinary moments (and, oh!, how inanely ordinary they seem) string themselves into even a teeny bit of story worth telling someday.

Posted in Storage | 4 Comments

Keep – Donate – Sell – Repeat

A natural part of moving from one home to another is taking an overall look at all that you have and deciding whether or not it all comes with you. So unless you are a nomad, this is a major undertaking.

What do you do when you have to keep, donate, sell and repeat? Are you the type that can wave off a box of old items as they make their way to Goodwill without so much as a sayonara or a second glance? Or do you hold on, remembering the season in which the item was most useful?

What a crucible moment this can be, amen?

 

As I go through this process at my own home, the conversation in my wheelhouse goes something like this:

I could do without this _____.

I remember when Jack and Audrey used to (insert random memory about said item here).

Won’t it be great to create more space once it’s not around?

In 20 years, that memory will come to mind and I’ll wonder wear that thing went and I’ll wish I had it.

“Should I sell it on Craigslist? (No, too much work).”

Sheesh, if I keep everything, I will soon be clearing a narrow path through layers of debris just to get to the lavatory and my TV tray.

I’ll never remember this once I’ve donated it.

It’ll be a good tax deduction.

Done.

I’m sure with most of us there is an arc of thought that occurs once we endeavor to simplify whether it’s because we want to finally be able to park in the garage or because we are transitioning homes. My siblings have been all different on their arcs; one says no to most things, one considers the future use of the item and then makes an even-handed decision, and one will take absolutely anything that nobody is taking in order to preserve the legacy.

Here are a few little tips I’ve picked up along this Keep – Donate – Sell – Repeat journey:

#1 – Snap away. Take pics of things you think are awesome-sauce but just can’t be saved. My childhood dog, Maggie, was the worst juvenile delinquent in dog obedience school so when I came across her graduation certificate, I hooted loudly with laughter, took a quick photo and tossed it


 While looking through old notebooks in a storage box, I also found this:

(Heck if I remember who “Barrett” is, but look at the intensity and specificity of the scorekeeping for some serious 80’s gamers)

#2) Label label label. No matter how many times I thought I would remember what was in that box, I always lost track of it once the boxes started to multiply. This helped us quickly decide if there were any boxes that needed to be re-visited at a later time.

#3) Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Knowing there was absolutely no reason in God’s green earth to keep something, it was subversive at times but always appropriate to not spend time discussing and deciding the fate of an item with either parent. Case in point: boxes upon boxes of cassette tapes.

#4) Ask and Tell. Clarify the need, respect the decision and move on. This is something I did well SO RARELY!!

 _______

My mom moved 11 times when she was a child because her dad was a geo-physicist for Exxon, requiring him to be wherever there was new oil. This took them to major Exxon hubs like upstate New York and Houston but also to a place like Peru.

So I imagine she did some serious purging along the way. She never was much of a saver and takes true delight in a cleared-off countertop. A room looks better to her with fewer pieces of furniture in it. One of the things that was very difficult about her move to Colorado Springs when my dad joined a pediatrics practice in 1968 was the idea of staying put, never being required to move on.

She finally settled in, though, and this home has become her refuge. There were times in the winter when it snowed, that I didn’t see her tire tracks on the driveway at all – even 4 days after a snow! Settled in, cozy, home-bound and in her sweet spot. She has lovely things, many with a beautiful story. She treasures items because of who she thinks of as she uses them. Relational and sentimental.


Dad grew up in a tiny town in Southeast Arkansas as an only child, albeit with tons of cousins, aunts and uncles. Everybody knew a Blankinship in those parts. Owning quality items is important to him perhaps because of the way he was raised; always some uncertainty looming in the future as to whether his alcoholic father would be reliable.

His mother bought dishes one piece at a time, as finances allowed. Cleo was, from the rendering of her I have received, the picture of consistency in life. She taught piano, she saved her pennies, she prayed to Jesus. She was a lovely and necessary compliment to her husband. And so, my dad is sentimental about things he has earned and things that she worked hard to provide but he’s emotionally tied to little else. He is practical and linear about possessions.

 
 


And so imagine blending the practical with the relational, combining a linear process with a sentimental one. This has been our plight since September as we tackle one cabinet and closet after another.

 
 


If in the mood, my mom can rationalize well about why she doesn’t need this or that any more. And she has done a might work in letting go. But there are moments in this season where letting go of that treasured item just because it was $5 at TJ Maxx and has no family story was just not enough ammunition to convince her that she could part with it.

And surprisingly, there have been moments when my dad has been in a similar spot. He has more of a “purge everything” mentality, predictably. However, there have been times when he stops to leaf through old notes from medical school lectures or ancient documents from his mother’s bible that he just can’t make a decision. And those are times when we have insisted that he pack the item up, and enjoy looking through those items when he is in a simpler place in his life.

Here are some interesting spots to look if you’re in a similar zone:

Video about Where Our Things Go

The Story of Our Crap, I Mean “Stuff”

In summary, keep – sell – donate – repeat, but don’t lose sight of the person you’re doing it with and the point of your project…a principle we work on all the time with varying degrees of success.

Happy Purging!

 
 

 
 

 

Posted in Front Porch | 3 Comments

Sisters Hearts

So the hunched over crawl space walk is in the past. In fact, a lot more of this “leaving memory lane” is behind us than at my last blogging.

 

 We have sorted, donated, stopped to laugh, kept going, organized, bagged, hauled, labeled and sometimes stalled to wipe away a tear. It’s all stirred into the same pot. Emotions come in a rich and varied supply in this process of celebrating the past and looking toward the future.

 

 

The beauty of the home itself is beginning to emerge. The updates are gleaming. The “fixes” leave parts of the home purring in a new way. The shine and shimmer is starting to be more evident. This is the result of lots of coffee, sweat and tears on the part of many.

One aspect of leaving memory lane has struck me most acutely over the last two weekends. Both sisters have visited and really entered into the “leaving memory lane” process with their sleeves rolled up and their tanks full.

With the entrance of each sister has come her precious heart towards the situation. This has a value beyond any measurable standard. Jeremiah 17:9 tells me (even though I resist its perspective) that “the heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle no one can figure out.” And that is certainly true of mine.

I blaze into Kenyon Court with my mind on the task, my big girl pants pulled up and snapped, and my resolve strong. And yet, when the sisters bounce into town, I feel so blown away by the freshness of their hearts. They have an overflowing load of patience slung over their shoulders and generosity flowing out of their pocketbooks and calendars. They always take 7 more steps to help or file or lug or manage – no matter the triviality.

 Fresh hearts.

How to come about such a thing? This is my steady pursuit. Wrapped within this journey is a lot of fatigue and entitlement is peeking its gnarly head around the corner, as well. I long for a heart that’s unconditional, lovely, supple (eww?) and prepared for any request. But sadly, this is not something I can manufacture.

With each visit, at least once, my sisters have sensed the sarcasm in a statement I have made (how about we keep this vest? It’ll be the 40th one in your collection!), and tenderly but firmly mouthed the words, “GO HOME!” at me. Somehow they could pick up on the fact that something had soured in my heart that could only be helped by some distance, a glass of wine or 4, and a plain and simple….break.

Soured hearts.

 

 I don’t know if soured is the opposite of fresh but with regard to the heart, I think it fits.  Sourness connotes a foul smell, an expiration date, something past its prime – like much of what’s in my fridge right now.

How did I get here? I’m sort of smart. I have a bible. I talk to Jesus.  I have great “sounding board” friends. But my momma taught me this ain’t the right way to be. So….what…is….the….deal?

Trust me, I have laid in bed at night going over all of the reasons for my sour heart. I am busy in all ways. I work, I cook, I clean, I carpool, I volunteer, I speak, I blog (very infrequently). But so do you. So do my sisters.

In Brennan Manning’s book The Furious Longing of God I see that he’s like me (and maybe you are, too); “The men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their own imperfect existence…I believe in God with all my heart. And I wonder if God exists…I address Him and I get discouraged. I love and I hate. I feel better about feeling good. I feel guilty if I don’t feel guilty. I’m wide open. I’m locked in. I’m trusting and suspicious. I’m honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I’m a rational animal. But I’m not.”

It’s not enough to quantify my to-do list into a justifiable way of behaving poorly. I refuse to settle into this over-ripe, life-taking pattern.

I rebuke the soured heart.

I say no and turn away from that perspective even though I’ve gotten pretty cozy in this little den of dread.

Oh! That I may I seek to understand my heart in a truer way because of the freshness of my sisters’ hearts. I love them so much. I am in awe of their investment in me and in our family especially from afar.

So I’ll leave with you that promise. I’ll work on submitting my heart to the One who is the Renewer – no matter my hearts’ smell or expiration date.

(note to self on next blog post: explore the comparison of refrigerators and hearts – a situation for which no amount of baking soda can compensate.)

 

Posted in Living Room | 3 Comments

The Crawl Space Crawl

This weekend is momentous because we are planning to clear out the crawl space. Some people don’t know what a crawl space is. All I can tell you, since this is my childhood home from the age of 1, is what the Kenyon Court crawl space looks like.

Not many people can stand in the crawl space at Kenyon. The ceiling is about 5 feet high, max. A recipe for back problems, for sure. This is why we send the kids in there the grab items of seasonal importance if at all possible. Here’s what it looks like when you do the crawl space crawl:

The crawl space is in the basement of the house. The air is different in there. Is it the cherished memories and the seasoned history? No. It’s just a bunch of old stuff that hasn’t been ventilated well for too long.

It’s just a big & long space. I would estimate (poorly, I’m sure) that it is about 100 feet long. It is to me a marvelous symbol of walking literally through the years as you do your “hunched over – slipped disc walk” down this longer-than-it-is-wide cave.

It’s literally loaded with the old treasures of many people– even people who aren’t in our family, oddly. It is almost as if, when a life-change happened, we needed to pare down, change it up, simplify.

We did not, however, think we need to throw these items away, nor did we ever think about them again; it’s that strange life crossroad. And when you come to that transition intersection (at the corner of Worn Out Avenue and New Dream Boulevard, perhaps) this is the kind of place where you make decisions.

For instance, you decide you’re not really a skier anymore, so you can store your ski gear. Of course someday you’ll pick it back up again because, of course, ski gear never changes. Those good old straight sticks will be just as fast going down the slopes as the guy with the new parabolic fiberglass jobbers. You get the picture, I’m sure.

We drop things off with hopes for returning to them again. And most of the time, that transition or intersection we found ourselves in, mean a pretty permanent change in our life style and life choices. If we knew it at the time, the full breadth of what this new place would bring, we wouldn’t be able to handle it. The progressive revelation of what change means in our lives make the crawl space a really important place. I safety valve for the possibility that we could return to that old pastime if needed.

 

And so this place is a disorganized time capsule at best and a hoarders dream at worst.

 

 

We’re already gearing up for the many concentrated conversations that will have to happen with my parents about what is “keep” and what is not. May they be conversations peppered more with funny memories of people long past in the timeline of our family than the stark, transactional “what pile does this belong in” transaction.

And of course I wish the same for you, when you find yourself in your time capsule clean out moment.

I’ll let you know how it goes – if I can crawl out of the crawl space intact, that is.

At what intersection do you find yourself these days? What are the street names? (This could get entertaining).

 

Posted in Storage | 3 Comments