Monday, March 26, 2012

"I know a boy, a boy called trash, trash can . . ."

(song: 'Trash, Trampoline, and the Party Girl')

This is a cautionary tale.
With a subject line using those lyrics, you might expect a story of betrayal from a misbehaving love and the post-breakup rant he somehow earned. Or . . . it could be this account - how a moment of complete stupidity landed me in the ER on Friday night. (Emphasis on 'landed.')

I‘d come home from work to a beautiful evening, and it was slated to rain all weekend. I grabbed the mail and thought, ‘I’d better pick-up the wood in the yard, blown from the trunk of my giant dead tree. It’s time to mow soon.’ So, I pushed ‘Big Blue,’ the trash can the city assigns to each house for weekly trash collection, into my front yard. I bent to pick up the twigs and slabs of bark that were strewn near my healthy white dogwood tree, then pushed Blue toward the towering, dead tree, picking up more scattered debris as I went along. I stopped about 4 or 5 feet after each push, picking up more. And so, for each push, I left the lid open instead of closing it. After all, I was only pushing it ‘a few feet.’ What could go wrong?

Well, Big Blue has two wheels, only on the back part of the bottom, so you have to tilt the can toward you in order to roll it forward. With the lid open, that means the lid flaps between your feet and the can itself as you push the bin. When I tilted Blue to move him this particular time, I stepped forward while pushing him and my foot met the lip of the lid, holding it firmly to the ground while my arms continued pushing forward. Physics class can probably tell the rest of the story, but we can suffice it to say, the bin, already in motion, kept going forward while the lid was planted under my foot. So the bin quickly rolled horizontal to the ground while I was propelled forward, following suit.
My face met the outer rim of Big Blue while he was also going down to the ground. . . and let’s just say that he fared better than I did.

It was one of those moments we’ve all had . . . something happens lightning-fast and yet the testament to the beautiful intricacy and power of our minds is that even in that split second, we can have a specific, conscious thought - one we even remember later, lamenting the knowledge that our minds move much faster than our bodies can sometimes react. In the split second this outcome was put into motion, I distinctly remember thinking, ‘Oh, this is gonna be bad! What can I do to stop it?’ and then WHAM!
I landed on the ground of a silent world, even though I didn’t lose consciousness. For a fraction of a moment, everything stopped. It was quiet. It was this:

And then . . . I felt everything.
I felt pain all over my face so I couldn’t tell where I’d hit the trash can, exactly . . . and I sat there for another second, hesitant to move or find out. When that moment passed, I reached up to my mouth and at least felt that my teeth were in place, whispering a prayer of thanks, feeling great mental relief.
But things got ugly pretty fast - and I won’t elaborate here. But based on what was happening, I just decided to accept the fact that my nose was probably broken (it was) and quickly debated the best course of action. I was feeling a strange mix of being stunned yet hyper-alert. Thankfully, perhaps in a foreshadowing of necessity, I knew where to squeeze to stop a bloody nose. I’d needed to Google it just two weeks before while spending time in the desert of Death Valley while on vacation. I apparently didn’t drink enough water on this particular day and found I needed to know just before bed how to stop a nose bleed.
But the answer to ‘where’ to squeeze seemed like a horrible idea if one’s nose was broken. Yet, it became clear there was no alternative, so I did a mental ‘one, two, three!’ and squeezed.
Yeah. That was fun.
I began to hear myself, actually muttering encouragement that sounded like, ‘Your nose is probably broken. Don’t panic. It’s ok.’ I wasn’t consciously doing this, so when I realized I was, I thanked my inner-optimist for taking over.

So, then, the thought: what now? I quickly decided I did want to go to the ER - - even if they didn’t do anything, I wanted to be sure a broken nose was all that was wrong. I was feeling the strangest mix of numbness and pain, wishing the former would just take over completely. I couldn’t distinguish boundaries in the sense of knowing the injury was limited to ‘this’ or ‘that.’ Everything hurt but I couldn’t tell where the pain started and stopped.

I only briefly considered driving to the hospital, then pictured myself holding my nose while trying to drive my 5-speed. Even before my first bout of lightheadedness came soon after, I realized driving myself seemed dumber than pushing a trash can while the lid was open, so I decided against it.
Still holding my nose, which only sort of seemed to be helping, I grabbed my cell phone and called 911. ‘I can’t believe I’m calling 911 for this,’ I thought, but figured it was best. I was feeling lightheaded again and the bleeding wasn’t fully cooperating with my intentions. I figured no one was well served if I passed out while arguing with myself about whether this constituted a proper call to 911. ‘Besides,’ I thought, ‘I vote this at least scores higher on the legitimacy scale than the woman calling to report the Burger King drive-thru for giving her the wrong order.’

The operator dispatched an ambulance and started to give me instructions about how to handle the bleeding. I’m only half listening because it hurts, I’m anxious, I’m trying to hold my nose and the phone, and he’s telling me things like, ‘lie down.’ Since anatomy class (and Google) taught me this seems unwise with a nose bleed, I asked him, ‘Are you sure I should lie down with a bloody nose?’ (It sounded more like, ‘Arrr you shurr I shud lie dowd with a luddy doe-ze?’) He stammered and corrected himself and I thought, ‘Oh, great, I got the guy on his first day out of training. Thank God I’m not having a heart attack.’ I told him I could tell by the siren that the ambulance was close by and that I was going to go. He told me to call back if I need to and I said, ‘Ok,’ deciding to keep my cell handy, but only in case I needed Google for anything.

So, one broken nose, an ambulance ride, and a now-fully met insurance deductible (and then some!) later, here I am, helping prove the statistic of warmer weather leading to a more active hospital ER.
But, perhaps I’m also helping someone else prevent an injury by telling on myself for doing something I really knew better than to do. Full disclosure: Shortly before this happened, I actually had the thought that it didn’t seem wise to push that bin with the lid flopping open. But the thought was a little vague, with no specifics of 'what could happen' attaching to the mental warning. Apparently, any caution vaporized when the ‘It’s not a big deal’ fairy came and sprinkled idiot-dust over me. It was only ‘a short distance’ for each push, which somehow lulled me into belief that I must be guarded against the likelihood of (a non-defined possible) injury, right?

So, learn from my mistake, friends . . . close the lid, or the equivalent in your ‘about to be idiotic’ moment. Every time. Listen to your instincts, even if they’re faint or ambiguous.
“The only real valuable thing is intuition,” or so says Albert Einstein.

I’ll allow the genius to share my penultimate closing thought on the matter:

And by the way, Big Blue - - I don’t think this is what Bono meant when he sang, “I know he does all that he can. Wham-bam."
You jerk.

"Love" always,
She who currently, unintentionally pronounces her name, “Schennifer”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"What you got, they can't steal it, no, they can't even feel it."

(song: 'Walk On')

It has been a day of rememberance but not a 10-year old memory of 'the whole' of a day that changed everything. Today has been a day of remembering the tiny moments, the specific stories from specific voices, the unbelievable details that wove together to make up the tapestry of September 11, 2001.

It has been a day of remembering the faces, the names, the cities and field, the shock and horror, the confusion, the baited breath that held back the flood of wondering how much more was to come . . . when and how would this day end? When planes flew into the giant steel structures in New York, penetrated the rings of the Pentagon on D.C. and ripped open the earth in Pennsylvania, they forever changed the country as a whole, but only through each of us as individuals who are the layers, the threads, the hinges in this beautiful land. It is in this way that I saw today . . . the moments, the people, the stories that blended into each other, creating the landscape we've come to call 9/11.

I thought of the impact of those commercial passenger jets into Towers 1 and 2, blowing fireproofing from the steel beams no one in the command centers in NYC ever believed would bend or break, causing the towers to collapse and fall. I thought of the frantic calls to loved ones and to 911 operators, initially confused and trying to reassure the callers that help was on the way. I thought of the searing flames and two thousand degree heat of buring jet fuel causing survivors on the impact floors to perch on ledges and make horrific, imcomprehensible choices, grasping the only definition of control in the moment and stepping out into the air while horrified onlookers tried to wrap their minds around what their city had become in a matter of moments. I thought of office workers making their way down smoky, debris-filled stairwells, locking eyes with weary, passing firefighters carrying 100 lbs. of equipment on their way up. Omar Rivera was blind and had been led into the stairwell by his whining seeing eye dog, Dorado, pleading with him to follow. As they made their way down, Omar could tell it was tight quarters, having the single-file of survivors leaving while emergency personnel filed up the stairs. Dorado was in the way. So, Omar unleashed him and let him go. Dorado walked down a few stairs ahead, weaving his way in front of a few other people on the way down and then came back, pushing against Omar's side. Dorado wouldn't leave him. Faithful and true. Both survived.

In Washington D. C., a plane tore through the Pentagon, one of our nation's most prominent military centers and symbols. As crews raced to the scene, military personnel inside tried to help one another to safety amidst the burning layers. The thick, black smoke choked survivors, and Shirley Moody thought she was dying. She called out again and again and no one answered. She felt she could only muster one more breath and this time, someone heard her. He needed clarification on where she was, but her voice was gone, her throat thick with smoke. She began clapping her hands as hard as she could. He couldn't hear it, but he saw her hands moving through the dust, with the light shining into the gaping hole above, and he reached through debris and grabbed her hands, pulling her to safety. Shortly after he helped her out, the entire side of the building collapsed. Shirley and her rescuer had made it out alive.

Inside the WTC towers, some civilians checked floors for survivors on their way down. Brian met Stanley who was stuck. Stanley insisted he couldn't get out and Brian encouraged him, saying 'You must try,' and asked him to remember family members who wanted him home. Stanley tried harder and was able to make it over some drywall debris with Brian on the other side, helping him to the stairwell. They walked down until the stairs were blocked by debris, but determined to get out, they moved some out of the way and used some of the debris and the flowing water from broken pipes to create a make-shift slide to get through one area of the stairwell. Both made it out alive. They walked away from the site, but stopped to catch their breath. With his hand on the gate of Trinity Church, Stanley looked back and told Brian, "I think those towers are gonna fall." Disbelieving, Brian looked back and in the midst of saying to Stanley, "I don't think so . . that's furniture and paper and draperies burning," he was stopped by the sights and sounds of Tower 2, the second tower hit, buckling, thick black smoke encompassing the sky, propelling swirls of ash and thick darkness down city streets, overtaking many who had watched in disbelief, covering them, taking the ease of their breath, engulfing their lungs.

An EMS worker was on the scene. She was on the phone with her husband, an employee in Tower 2, who was trapped. She was telling him that crews were on their way to rescue him, reassuring him, when she saw the building begin to collapse. Helpless and in shock, she couldn't bring herself to hang up the phone. On this tenth year anniversary, she would recall how it became a comfort to her later to know that she could be connected to him and bring him moments of hope. What was her shock became her strength.

A young Muslim man was running for his life from the WTC site. The air was smoky and the smell of burning jet fuel, overwhelming. The ashy clouds chased him. In the chaos, he tripped and fell. He wasn't sure if his foot hit a manhole cover or debris or nothing at all, but he fell and rolled onto his back. A Jewish man wearing a yamaka was running near him and came over and said, "Hey, brother, take my hand, let's get out of here." The two ran to safety together, the irony not lost on either of them.
At the WTC site, and nearby, inches of dust covered the scene, smoke continued to billow into the air, and shoes littered the city streets around the towers where jagged, fallen metal reached for the sky.

Earlier, the commercial jet, Flight 93, had been delayed for takeoff on the runway at Newark airport. Leaving later than expected gave the passengers a bit of lapse between the 3 earlier attacks and the moment of their hijacking. Just as their pilot, Captain Jason Dahl, received a text message from United that all in-air flights should be on the lookout for an attempt to take-over their cockpits, the hijackers aboard his flight began leaving their seats. Dahl texted back to confirm the message but before he received an answer, his cockpit door was breached and flight recordings captured his shouts of "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!" mixed with a command to the hijackers, "Get out of here!" Confused and frightened passengers making air phone calls home learned of the WTC and Pentagon attacks from loved ones and began to realize their fates. This wasn't a typical hijacking where demands would be made once the hijackers landed the aircraft safely. This was their suicide mission. Lisa Jefferson was the 911 operator who was on the phone with Todd Beamer and recited The Lord's Prayer with him before he and some other passengers recited the 23rd Psalm together. The last words Lisa heard Todd say were to the passengers around him, planning to fight back. "Are you ready? Ok. Let's Roll."

On the ground at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland, unarmed F-16s were scrambled into the air at the news that United 93 wasn't responding. The fighter jets were equipped with the devastating but necessary permission to shoot down the passenger aircraft if it didn't immediately respond to orders. But permission was nearly all those first two F-16s in the air were equipped with. In the rush to stop 93 before it made its way to D.C. as expected, there had been no time to arm the two F-16 jets with missiles and the only rounds in their guns were training rounds which do not explode on impact. While the two pilots, 'Sass' and 'Lucky,' scrambled into position, they made their plans. Sass would hit one of United 93's wings with his own and hope to eject before his plane spiraled out of control. Lucky, one of the first female fighter pilots called into action was also new to the field. She hoped her training would kick in like second nature and she wouldn't eject before the proper amount of impact to take United 93 down.
Little did either of them know that before they would make it to the plane, the passengers and remaining crew would have taken care of business. A tearful Sass later recalled how they were the true heroes, brave and willing, and that he could be alive today because of them.

On 93, flight attendants had coffee pots of boiling water, someone ran the drink cart up the narrow aisle, passengers threw plates from First Class. There was screaming. Someone on the recording was heard yelling, 'Let's get them!' After the terrorist who had taken over the plane rocked it right to left then lifted the nose before lowering it, trying to throw the passengers around, the fight intensified. Someone was heard yelling, "Get into the cockpit! If we don't, we'll die." You can hear the cart ramming the cockpit door. There is lots of noise. The valiant heroes did not sit back and wait - - they had devised a plan, voted on it, and acted. They made a conscious decision to wait until they were over a more rural area than they were. When the view from their windows revealed a landscape that would minimize damage in the worst case scenario, they acted. United Flight 93 hit the ground in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at a speed of 580 miles per hour, burying the plane in pieces and fragments, its recorder found 25 feet past the crater. The courage and determination of those passengers is overwhelming and beautiful on this tragic day, when black smoke filled blue skies and turned a September date into an instant well of patriotism and pride.

As the sun rose on September 12, 2011, it rose above a changed America.
At the WTC site, hundreds of shrill, chrirping beeps from the electronic locators of 343 FDNY workers filled the air, a sobering reminder of what was lost. Rescue workers dug through overwhelming piles of rubble, calling out above the noise, silently pleading for an answer at each call. Rescue dogs helped comb the site, the last survivor pulled from the wreckage found by a dog named Tracker. Rain fell. Days passed. And the moment all dreaded came . . the moment when the rescue mission turned to recovery. Flyers and photos wallpapered city walls, fences, lamp posts, any surface that could hold a piece of paper welcomed the desperate pleas of loved ones, hoping beyond hope that their missing was being sheltered and would find the way home.

On this tenth year of remembering and honoring the victims, the heroes, and the stories of survivors who have faced emotions I could never know, I so clearly felt that today was not a blanket remembrance of 'what happened.' Today, I felt like I could see each thread in the tapestry, how each wove into another, how each person who died and each person who lived, how each one wrapped their fingers around that day and without asking for it or wanting to, gripped the circumstances and how their fingerprints remain.

Years ago, in my grief and in the days after 9/11/01, I kept hearing U2 lyrics over and over in my mind. As they always seem able to do, lyrics from my favorite band were able to express my grief, my pain, and my hope.
Here, to end this post of celebration and remembrance, I'll turn the floor over to those boys from Ireland and some words they've penned through the years pieced together and written down by me ten years ago:

"I can't believe the news today.
I can't close my eyes and make it go away.
The city walls are all pulled down,
the dust a smokescreen all around,
see faces plowed like fields that once
gave no resistance.
Voices on the cell phone,
voices from home . . .
voices down the stairwell,
in New York.
It's early fall,
there's a cloud on the New York skyline . . .
Innocence dragged across a yellow line.
September, streets capsizing
spilling over, down the drain,
shards of glass, splinters like rain,
but you could only feel your own pain.
October, talk getting nowhere,
November, December, remember . . .
They're reading names out over the radio.
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know.
Their lives are bigger than any big idea.
One life, with each other, these are our sisters, these are our brothers.
One life but we're not the same, we get to carry each other, carry each other,
I know it aches, and your heart, it breaks,
and you can only take so much,
Walk On,
you've got to leave it behind.
What once was hurt, what once was friction,
what left a mark, no longer stings,
because GRACE makes beauty
out of ugly things."

Monday, May 24, 2010

"We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong."

(song: '11 O’Clock Tick Tock')

Well, last night’s LOST finale was enough to bring me back from my accidental blog hiatus! That show-ender will stay with me for quite a long time.

Going into the finale, we fans kind of already knew that all the questions we had weren’t going to be answered. We’d started paring down our lists, selecting the ‘major’ questions. We had to know: What was the island? What was the light? Who was good? Who was evil? What was the ultimate meaning of it all?? Why were the connections so important?

And then . . . the last 15 minutes.
I watched as Jack, the last to have his island memories return to him via a sideways-universe realization catalyzed by a connection to the people he loved, realized where he was and why . . . and walked to join the others in the church, while his island-self laid down in the same bamboo forest we saw him lying in during the opening moments of the series, and died.

At the time, I thought, ‘It’s got to be reincarnation! They keep coming back as themselves, always trying to right their wrongs!’ I remembered MIB telling Jacob, “They come. Fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.” I now thought, the ‘they’ MIB was talking about wasn’t ‘general humanity,’ but specifically, these Losties. THEY keep coming back!Island Jack was lying in the bamboo, while Sideways-Jack was sitting in a church, wearing a suit just as he was in the first episode of the series. I thought I was going to see Island-Jack’s eyes close, then moments later, re-open as the camera pulled away, revealing the opening moments of the series, including Vincent running past.

I waited.
But that didn’t happen.

For a few minutes, I felt deflated. This can’t be the way it all ends! What about the answers?? Who was good? Evil? What about the connections???

Later that night as I couldn’t sleep and my mind was racing, it started to wash over me. We’ve been asking the wrong questions. Focusing on the wrong points. We’d loved learning about the characters, but as the storyline became more complex, we became immersed in the questions, waiting for answers, forgetting about . . . the people. We’d lost sight of something. We’d lost sight.

The themes of the series started to swirl in my mind like pinpricks of electricity, unraveling the brilliance of what the creators and writers had done. They’d distracted us. They turned everything sideways. They made us realize that the answers didn’t matter . . . the lessons did.

Whatever happened, happened.
The island was real. Everything we saw, happened.Whatever mysteries of the island remain under lock and key aren’t what affected their lives the most. Christian’s words to Jack were the spotlight toward refocus, a brilliant unfolding of ‘the end.’

“Everything that’s ever happened to you is real.”
They were meant to live that part of their lives on the island. To seek change. To face their demons. To sacrifice, fear, suffer. To find redemption. To come together. To overcome.
And at some point in their lives . . . to die.

Christian told Jack, “Everyone dies sometime, kiddo. Some of them before you, some long after you.”
Jack may not have been the last to die . . . but he was the last to remember.
As I wondered why, I was reminded of Jack’s struggle . . . his constant need to fix things. People. Change situations. To influence and direct. Control.
His grip was still too tight.

Rose was the first to remember.
In the first few moments of the sideways-universe, we saw the plane shake and the uneasy passengers swallowing their fears. It was initially unsettling that this time around, it wasn’t Jack trying to comfort Rose, it was Rose talking to a nervous Jack. When the turbulence settled and Jack was still gripping his arm rest, Rose told him, “It’s ok . . . you can let go.”
He wasn’t ready.

Many thought the sideways-universe was what their lives would’ve been if the crash hadn’t happened, even perhaps that the two timelines were occurring at the same time. But we knew that couldn’t be right when they started remembering their island lives. “Time is irrelevant, it’s not linear.” Our focus had been wrong.

Jack asked his father, “Why are they all here, now?”
Christian replied, “There is no ‘now,’ here.”
Jack: “Where are we, dad?”
Christian: “This is a place you all made together, so you could find one another.”The sideways-universe was a ‘timeless’ holding area for them all, a place where they would all go individually until they were there collectively, and had all remembered. A place to reunite, to move forward together.

Jacob had told them they were chosen because they were flawed and because they were alone . . . they were available. But with that came a downside . . . the short-sightedness of living for themselves. Their time on the island taught them the perils of the kind of life that answers to no one . . . even in Season 1, they began to understand this idea when hopes of rescue dimmed and Jack gave an important speech that included a line that became another of the show’s themes . . . “But if we can’t live together . . . we’re gonna die alone.”
The connections. They mattered.

Christian continued, “The most important part of your life, you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them . . and they needed you.”

When MIB told Jacob, “It always ends the same,” Jacob replied, “It only ends once. Anything that happens before that . . . it’s just progress.”
I thought about the recurring ‘opening eye’ moment that would often open a new episode, each character beginning that road to their personal awakening. The island moved each of them toward their personal road of redemption, which mattered for their lives. That road left many questions unanswered, but the finale taught me that it truly was ‘vision over visibility’ all along.

Reflecting on those closing moments, specifically for Jack, I thought of lyrics from ‘Moment of Surrender:’ “I've been in every black hole, at the altar of the dark star, my body's now a begging bowl that's begging to get back, begging to get back to my heart, to the rhythm of my soul, to the rhythm of my unconsciousness, to the rhythm that yearns, to be released from control.”
Jack hadn’t been ready. Now, he was.

When Christian told Jack that he and the others had needed each other, Jack asked, “For what?” Christian answered, “To remember. And to let go.”

For me, the full beauty of those moments was only revealed upon my second viewing of the ending. I had no idea I would have a stronger reaction to it when viewing it a second time, but it felt like a gut punch. Watching again, without needing the answers - - it's like watching for the first time all over again.
I need to add 'tissues' to my shopping list, now.

Thank you, LOST . . . for six years of thinking, wondering, and theorizing . . . for excellent conversations with friends and interesting reads from intelligent strangers who shared their thoughts online. For smart, engaging entertainment that kept its tradition even as it ended, where we will think, wonder, and theorize some more. Thank you for beauty and grace, tears and trials, comfort and closure. Thank you for helping me remember that sometimes, the answers aren't what you need.

Nothing will ever beat you. Nothing will ever come close.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"A generation without name . . ."

(song: ‘Like A Song’)

This post is dedicated to the ‘Jennifers’ and ‘Stephanies’ of the world who are in their 30s.

Yes, while growing up, our classrooms were overrun with us. We went by variations of our names and distinct spellings in an effort to differentiate. It didn’t really help, but it was fun watching our teachers try to remember which of us was ‘Jennifer,’ ‘Jenny,’ ‘Jen,’ ‘Stephanie,’ ‘Steph,’ and ‘Steffy.’

I distinctly remember being ten years old and thinking to the future, deciding that I had real difficulty imagining what it would be like to ‘be grown up’ because I didn’t know a single adult who was named ‘Jennifer.’ I honestly felt like I couldn’t be taken seriously when I got older because I’d always have a kid name. (Of course, I wasn’t considering that all of my ‘Jennifer’ classmates would ALSO be my age along the way. Call it pre-teen lack of critical thinking.)

Let’s just take a brief ‘sharp left’ and cut to modern-day tv viewing, shall we?
There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to watch ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’ or ‘The Bachelorette’ if not for a Texan blogger named Lincee Ray, who incidentally, hates green beans. But I digress.

Dear Lincee should honestly be on ABC’s payroll because countless viewers of these shows only watch because they’re principally readers of her hilarious blog. In her spare time, when she’s not busy avoiding green veggies or dancing around the house to ‘Dancing Queen,’ (LOOOOVVEE!), she’s hard at work recapping the shows and (in the off-season), revealing the life and times of a genuinely wonderful person who has more stories to tell than your average Jane. If you watch either of those brain-cell deleting shows and aren’t reading Lincee’s blog, start now and - - you’re welcome. You (like me!) now have (barely) enough justification to continue. Watching will still kill your brain cells, but it hasn't yet been proven harmful to your liver.

In a recent, off-season, nostalgic backward glance to posts of yesteryear, Lincee reminded us of her jealousy when her sister, Jamie, was able to do her homework with pencils that had her name printed on them. And much to the chagrin of anyone (a) with an uncommon name (b) before Al Gore gifted us with the internet (where you can now find/buy anything) . . . those were called the days of ‘going without.’

Lincee’s lament reminded me of one of my own.
As has already been alluded to, ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Stephanie’ were the most popular girl names for a few years around the time I was born. And what followed was this series of years when it was trendy and popular to have your name emblazoned on, oh, I don’t know, EVERYTHING YOU OWNED. So, though I never met Lincee’s problem, there was another roadblock I encountered on my way to a personalized world-of-wonder, and her name was “mom.”

As long as it wasn’t sold out, there was anything and everything you could want or imagine with ‘Jennifer’ printed on it. And though I had one of the two most popular girl-names in the North American English-speaking universe at the time, my mom would never buy any of the ‘Jennifer’ goodness for me. As it turns out, she was too paranoid it would be used in an evil plot against me.

I remember she was particularly averse to even CONSIDERING the hair barrettes with ‘Jennifer’ on them because she was absolutely convinced that a stranger would read them, call me by name at the mall, and tell me a story that ‘your mom sent me to pick you up because she couldn’t come,’ and successfully kidnap me because he called me by name and I believed him.
“It was on the news!” mom said in her defense against my disbelieving eyes, squinty stares, and pleas to reconsider. I’m pretty sure my behavior and eye-rolling probably also earned (and deserved) quite a few, “You’d better hope your face doesn’t freeze that way”s. But her mind was not to be changed.

When discussion about this topic began on Lincee’s blog, ‘Jenny G’ reminisced not-so-fondly about only wanting a ‘JENNIFER’ license plate for her yellow banana-seat bike, but they were always sold out. Adult-me had to laugh because in the safety of my own home, kid-me HAD one of those . . . pinned to the corkboard in my room, so, you know, only those who already knew my name and were legitimately in my life could see it.

‘baseballmama’ admitted to being a “paranoid mom,” too, who wouldn’t let her kids wear anything personalized, either. After I’d relayed my mom’s fears, baseballmama added, and I quote, ‘It was on the news that kidnappers watched for that.’ (I'm pretty sure that wherever my sweet mom was at the moment that was posted, she inexplicably smirked with satisfaction for reasons she’ll never know.) The explanation continued when baseballmama claimed the fear of personalization ‘was an 80s thing’ and added that her whole family nearly had ‘heart failure’ when her niece got her son a backpack with his name on it. She didn’t say otherwise, so I’ll assume no Amber alerts have been put out for him. Thankfully.

Lincee actually has ‘one up’ on me because, though we share the same memories of impersonal yellow number 2 pencils and Lisa Frank styled homework folders while our friends boasted sparkly doodads with ‘Jessica,’ ‘Kimberly’ and ‘Amy’ all over them, at least Lincee grew up with a unique name that few share with her. Me? No matter where I am, I usually end up one of twelve people who turn to see if ‘they’ mean ‘us’ when they call for ‘Jennifer.’

I know my mom loves me and like any good mother, took note when something extra could be done to keep her child safe. I hold no grudge against my boring school supplies and actually feel kind of guilty that I felt avenged when required by the teacher to write my last name (a far stronger bit of identifying information, no?) in the white block on the front of my hideous, polyester, navy blue gym shorts at school.
Mom would rather endure the eye-rolling that accompanied her ‘safety overkill’ than take the .001% risk of being one of those pleading mothers on the news, and in retrospect, how can you really fault her for that?

I should probably thank Mom, really.
Maybe one of the best lessons I took from it all was that the best way for people to know your name is to make one for yourself.

Growing up personalization-free didn’t scar me for life or cause me to run out and get my name tattooed around my wrist in latent defiance.
It did, however, give me a less-than-stellar defense when I’d say, “Hey, that’s mine!” to my brother and he’d respond snarkily with, “Oh yeah? Is your name on it?"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"And I can see those fighter planes . . . . I was lost, I am found."

(songs: 'Bullet the Blue Sky' and 'I Will Follow')

I was shocked when I saw his face on the news on Sunday.

Words tumbled out of the newscaster’s mouth . . . “Michael Scott Speicher . . . missing U.S. Naval pilot who ejected from his F/A-18 Hornet over the Anbar province in Iraq during the opening hours of the Gulf War on January 17, 1991 . . . remains have been found after 18 years . . . U.S. Marines led to burial site by Iraqi nomad who had witnessed members of the Bedouin tribe burying him . . . identity confirmed with dental records, awaiting DNA test results . . .”

My lips felt dry. I realized I was holding my breath.
My thumb and index finger hurt and I became aware of how hard I was inadvertently squeezing between them the POW/MIA bracelet I’ve worn on my left wrist for the past six years. The name on the bracelet: Michael Scott Speicher.

You hope for a day like this.
You hope that he is still alive and that he will be found . . . but if the worst is true and he has died, you want to see him ‘home,’ buried in the dirt he pledged to defend.

His family has lived 18 years with unanswered questions, probably fearing they might never have him home on American soil. His children, now 21 and 19-years old were ages 3 and 1 at the time. They likely don’t remember the man affectionately called ‘Spike’ by his military brothers who didn’t seem to nurse competitive jealousies toward him the way the confident men you hope are your surgeons, your soldiers, and your fighter pilots sometimes do.

The 33-year old wasn’t even supposed to be ‘right there’ that night. He was slated to be the ‘airborne spare’ - - the fighter plane to rotate into the strike if any of the other aircraft malfunctioned that fateful night. But in what feels like a deleted scene from Top Gun, he pleaded with his command to let him take part in the actual strike, and his commander relented and agreed.

Capt. Speicher’s designation/status has changed through the years from ‘KIA’ to ‘MIA’ to ‘MIA-Captured’ based on secret intelligence details. After the fall of Baghdad in 2003, U.S. soldiers tasked with continuing the search for him revealed what appeared to be the initials of ‘MSS’ carved into a wall in an empty prison in Baghdad. Had he been there? The letters were in English. It seemed hopeful, in some way. Was he still alive?
Even so, it would be six more years until his story would have at least the biggest question answered: Where is (now Captain) Michael Scott Speicher?

Speculations and confusion remain, as even now, his remains were found ‘a good distance’ from the crash site. Investigations continue into whether he survived impact and later died/was killed, and if so, by whom. And when? And where was he in between those times? And for how long?
Like watching a real-life episode of Lost, it seems this is one of those times when one answer will lead to many more questions.

Six years ago on a trip to Washington DC, I was walking by a vendor’s kiosk near the Lincoln Memorial, approaching the reflecting pool. I think it was $10. I spent on this POW/MIA bracelet, slipping it onto my wrist as I walked away.
Since that day, I’ve worn the thick, silver bracelet in tribute and gratitude, taking every opportunity when people asked what the indented inscription said to tell his story again. I’ve angered airport security employees by refusing to remove it during security screenings because it set off the metal detector. “Can’t you remove it?” they’d ask, and I would always answer, “No,” which was the truth, but not in the same way they meant it. I’m sure my refusal tempted a police officer to haul me away in February when I had to go to court for a speeding ticket and he insisted I take it off to pass through security and I apologized but politely told him I wouldn’t. My darling nieces and nephews have played with the bracelet countless times while sitting on my lap and managed to get it to ‘just the right angle’ time and again where they could easily take it off and I’ve had to tell them not to pull on it because, “I never take it off.”

Seeing his face on tv on Sunday and hearing the story . . . I felt relief for his loved ones, and happy that he wouldn’t stay buried in the sands of another place. And I came to another realization that I hadn’t realized would hit me as hard as it did: it’s time for me to give it back.

POW/MIA bracelet tradition includes that when the person whose bracelet you wear is found and returned home, you’re supposed to send the bracelet you wear to the person’s family. It’s a way of completing the circle, in a way.
It’s an incredibly moving idea, a beautiful thought, and I can only imagine what it must feel like to receive something like this from a stranger bearing the name of the person you knew and loved.

My bracelet bears the scars of six years of daily wear.
It is scratched and nicked. It has marks and dings.
There times when I can literally feel heat from my body warming the metal and feel it against my wrist.
My arm has had daily imprints from everyday movements, the thick metal pushing down on my skin as the bracelet would work its way up and ‘dig in’ when it had no more room to move.
There is not a doorway in my house that has been immune to the careless movement of my rushing around a corner or into a room, fragments of paint on doorways missing everywhere at wrist-level from the thick bracelet hitting it, chips of paint on the floor through the years.

To think of parting with it is difficult. I’d never thought about what it might be like to give it up, to send it off, to return it to its rightful owner, to let the family know, “He's been remembered and I’m glad he’s home.”

I’ve struggled with this idea over the past few days because I’ve grown so attached to it. Just by the nature of never taking it off, it’s been a true constant in every single thing I’ve done for six years.
But, I know it’s not mine to keep now.

In the past few days, I’ve searched the internet for release of the family’s address or information on ‘what to do now.’
I was almost relieved when searches at first proved fruitless . . . I didn’t feel quite ready to give it up yet. And knowing that was selfish, it unsettled me to feel that way.

Then, today, I read it.
“I have received quite a few messages from people who would like to return their Captain Michael Scott Speicher POW/MIA bracelets to the family. I have heard from Captian Speicher’s family today and they have asked that you send them as soon as possible . . . they will be buried with Captain Speicher.”

It nearly took my breath away.

I’ve visited Speicher’s ‘in memory of’ tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery when I’ve been in DC before, and it filled me with a sadness to know that he was there in name only . . . that HE was ‘somewhere in this world,’ but seemed as distant as can be, in an unknown place.
It seemed . . . so wrong.

It somehow makes it easier to part with this bracelet to know that the token of remembrance I’ve come to love will finally see its anticipated ‘full circle’ - - and rest with the man I’ve wondered about and prayed for all this time.
It may sound cliché, but I’ve felt honored to wear it.

Captain Speicher will be buried in Jacksonville, Florida with bracelets bearing his name, remembrances from strangers who never knew him but never forgot him. I can’t imagine a more fitting conclusion to the privilege I’ve had in honoring what I now know is ‘his memory’ for these years. In this moment when I’m sad to part with it, I also know that because of the hope that existed in wearing it, I was always meant to someday let it go.

He’s finally home.

“Oh, don’t sorrow, no don’t weep, for tonight, at last, I am coming home. I am coming home.”
- U2, ‘(A Sort of) Homecoming’

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"To lose along the way, the spark that set the flame . . ."

(song: 'Indian Summer Sky')

It’s the kind of phone call you dread.

5:00 yesterday, my work phone rang. It was my mother.

“Jenn?” she said, in that rushed ‘It’s not really a question although it sounds like one, but that’s just because I’m panicking and trying not to cry because I have to tell you something important,’ voice she has.

“Mom, what is it?”

“We’re going to the ER. Daddy and Neal were working outside and what they were doing caused a spark and it caught Dad’s oxygen hose on fire at his nose and his face is badly burned.” And then she lost it.
I heard my dad’s voice in the background, saying something with his typical calm composure. ‘He’s talking,’ I thought. ‘I’ll take that as a good sign.’

“Ok, Mom, you’ve got to calm down, it’ll be ok - - I’ll meet you at the ER, I’m leaving now,” I said, adding “You stay calm, all right? Dad needs to see you’re strong and can handle this, ok?” The words made me feel like a charlatan. I could feel my own insides tighten up and the water rush to my eyes, stomach in knots as I reached for my keys, locked my computer, and hung up the phone in one simultaneous motion I couldn’t duplicate if I tried.
I don’t even remember locking my office door, but I did.

5:00 traffic on the way to the hospital left time to think. Unfortunately.
‘Should they have called an ambulance instead? How bad is the burn? He must be in so much pain! Thank you, God, that he’s alive. What about his lungs? He has emphysema . . . did he inhale smoke? Are they damaged from it? Oh, thank GOD the portable oxygen tank didn’t catch on fire! It could have killed him. And my brother, too! Did he burn his eyes? Can he see ok? Is there permanent damage to anything??’
The thoughts were endless and traveled the spectrum of gravity.

When I reached the ER and they directed me back to his room, I nearly raced down the hall, but found myself hesitating as I approached the curtain-door to his room. I closed my eyes for a second to imagine the absolute WORST so that whatever I saw would either be that . . . or better.

I prepared myself, took a deep, quiet breath, rounded the corner into his room, and walked swiftly to him, hooked up to an IV and oxygen, but sitting up in bed.
“Hey, Firestarter!” I said. “What’re you tryin’ to do to yourself?!”
My brother piped up, “He got tired of trimming his nose hairs.”

“Dad, really, there are better ways to open your pores. We would’ve gotten you a facial for Father’s Day, all you had to do was ask!”
I could see my mother’s nervous, tense face begin to ease, her shoulders relax.

I’m not gonna pretend it was pretty.
Without getting too graphic, (but don’t read this paragraph if you have an incredibly weak stomach,) dad’s nose and face were black from both smoke and damaged skin that was peeled, with splotches missing. Parts of his face were swelled up, beginning to blister. His lip was swollen and looked charred. The outer halves of both ‘his sets of eyebrows’ and ‘his sets of eyelashes’ . . . gone. Pieces of plastic from the oxygen hose that had been in his nose, drawing the spark, causing the flame, were actually melted into the inside of his nostrils, which were entirely black, and not in the usual ‘cavernous’ way.

“That must’ve scared you to death,” I told him, imagining what a scene like that would look and feel like. “And you, too!” I said to my brother.
“We'd been talking about that tv show ‘1000 Ways to Die’ while we were working,” Neal said. “I found the thousand-and-first,” dad joked, thankfully wrong.

“The spark was drawn quickly to the oxygen flowing into his nose and BAM! everything caught on fire instantly,” Neal said. “It happened so fast.”
“Just a flash in the pan,” dad added, and we all laughed.
I appreciate his way. I know how he views these types of things . . . why fret when it doesn’t help? Why worry and stress? You deal with what comes your way, and if you can find a way to try to laugh about it, then laugh, even if what you want to do is cry. The time for that may come later, and that’s ok . . . but until you know what you’re dealing with (or crying about) for sure, don’t believe the worst.

After the giant, mobile x-ray machine was wheeled in and x-rays were taken, a nurse came in with solution and gauze to begin cleaning his face. “You’re my most interesting patient, today!” she exclaimed, apparently subscribing to dad’s brand of therapy. She apologized, saying, ‘This isn’t going to feel good, I’m sorry,’ and began cleaning his face. I watched his hand on the bedrail, waiting for him to grip it harder, but he didn’t flinch. Unbelievable.

The nurse laughed and said, “Your breath smells like fire-smoke! Seriously, I don’t think even a toothbrush is gonna take care of that!”
“We’ve been telling him for years he’s just blowing smoke,” I told her.
“I was just auditioning for the role of ‘Fire Breather’ with the circus,” he explained, and the nurse responded, “You’re hired!”

“Yeah, the swelling and blisters have started,” she said.
“We’re gonna call you Puff the Magic Dragon, Dad. Puff. The real Puff Daddy!”

The female version of Doogie Howser walked in, made a gesture like she forgot something, and left. I leaned toward mom’s ear and asked, “Is that the doctor?!” “Yes, I think so,” she replied. “Has she graduated from medical school yet??!” and before mom could respond, Doogie walked back in.
“Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Young,” she said, and I nearly fell into the floor. It took ALL I HAD not to respond with, “No kidding!”
I elbowed my mother and saw her mouth fight a smile.

“You’re beautiful!” the doctor said to dad. “How are you feeling?”
“With my hands,” he replied, and the doctor joined my mom in the battle of ‘smile fighting.’ She lost. “The x-rays showed no damage, thankfully, but you do have a bit of fluid on your lungs, unrelated to this, but because of your condition.” “I tried to evaporate it,” he said, smiling, “But at least there’s no damage, thank the good Lord.”
‘Indeed!’ I thought. ‘In-deed.’

She examined his face and told him she thought it had been a flash fire and it was good they were outside because a lot of what could have gone into his lungs probably escaped into the air instead. He has second degree burns that she thought wouldn’t scar much if at all, and said he would probably swell and blister more by the next day, so be prepared for that.
They were going to watch his breathing and oxygen rate for another 30-minutes, then release him with ointment, an Rx for pain meds, and some follow-up appointment instructions.

Thinking back to the drive over to the ER, when your mind runs wild with ‘what ifs,’ . . . when you finally hear things like ‘no permanent damage,’ ‘the lungs look ok,’ and ‘it’s all (ultimately) going to be fine,’ you realize how much those initial thoughts actually give you to be thankful for. We knew how much pain dad would feel when the numbness of the injury began to wane. We were worried for that. We also knew that, as bad as it was, it could’ve been so much worse.
Sometimes, when the immediate danger is over, humor creeps in to help cushion the fear and trauma during that interim period where ‘the waiting’ usually weighs heavy, and ‘the unknown’ attempts to discourage. Our bad puns and attempts at humor masked great anxiety and worry, but not gratitude. We feel so thankful to God for the protection He afforded dad. That he could even leave the hospital that evening, without needing hospitalization or surgery, we knew was a miracle.

Mom began to remember Neal and I had 3 other sisters she needed to call. She got the “Oh, no, what do I say to them?” look on her face. The initial panic gone, the words sounded ridiculous. “There’s really not a delicate way to tell someone, ‘Oh, hey, your father’s face caught on fire, today!’” we said, cracking up. I could feel the stress leaving my body more with each joke that was made.
Dad laughed hardest of all.

“What do I look like?” he finally wanted to know. “Like you’ve been through hell,” I told him, searching for a mirror. Neither mom nor I had one. “Two women and no mirrors?” Neal asked, shaking his head. He took out his cell phone and took a picture of Dad to show him.
Dad made absolutely no visible reaction to seeing the picture.

“Well, my dream of finishing up that job today just went up in smoke,” he said, chuckling, probably mentally planning how and when he could finish it, despite everything. “And I want to get outta here,” he announced. “I’m hungry.”
“I know a great barbeque place,” I said, prompting a 'head thrown back quiet laugh,' which was one of my favorites of his.

As the 30-minute mark neared and we anticipated getting the green light to leave, I couldn’t help but notice how tired he looked.
“Poor Dad, you look exhausted,” I told him, and without missing a beat, Neal added, “Yeah, he’s pretty burned out.” The nurse re-entered and hearing our obnoxious laughter, looked disappointed to have missed the joke. She smiled at dad, "You have an awesome family," she said, "The best therapy. You're also free to go home, now,” she announced, moving toward his IV. “Stick a fork in me, I’m done!” he said, happily positioning himself to leap from the bed as soon as she was done. Well, as well as a man with horrific arthritis and serious emphysema can ‘leap,’ I suppose it’s fair to say.

Three hours after the initial phone call, we had all settled back into a semblance of calm. Panic had turned to knowledge and acceptance. Stress relented as we focused on gratitude and recovery. My throbbing head had been a welcome distraction from the anxiety that caused it, thankfully decreasing with the passing of each hour.

With all said and done, another silent round of ‘learning from dad’s example’ had been witnessed. Dad was compassionate in spirit, always more worried about what others were going through than himself, even when he was the one injured or in pain. It was completely futile to 'fight' him on this. He’d rather laugh and joke through it all to keep those around him relaxed than respond the way he might actually feel and add to their concern.
He truly is the strongest man I’ve ever known.

He’s also given me the perfect gift idea to round out his Father’s Day packages for Sunday. He’ll soon be the proud owner of an eyebrow pencil, fake eyelashes, and a fire extinguisher.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Into the heart of a child, I stay a while . . ."

song: Into the Heart

Many of you know that I have 3 older sisters who are 15, 18, and 21 years older than me (and a younger brother who’s 3 years younger).
This puts me closer in age, really, to my sister’s children . . .

My nephew Chris called me at work yesterday, and as a master of disguising his voice, claimed to be “Walter” looking for a job.
I’m on to him, now, though . . . I asked him a question or two before exclaiming, “CHRIS! You have a job!” and he couldn’t hide behind the chuckle that escaped him.

He’d just dropped his wife, Wendy (my friend/niece = 'friece'), at an appointment across the street from where I work and we made plans to all go to lunch after. They had 2 of their 3 children (the ones too young for school) with them . . . darling 1-year old Emmy and 3-year old ‘Guy Smiley’ Maddox.

When it was time to leave the restaurant, Maddox stood on the edge of the booth seat where he’d been sitting beside me.
“Schen-fer,” he called, arms extended toward me. “I want you tuh hoe-wd me,” he said. I gladly obliged and grinned at him as he leaped off the edge into my waiting arms. I kissed his temple through his long, brown, sideswept hair and tried to calculate the amount of time I’d actually need as a head start to successfully ‘nephew-nap’ him.
Considering there was no way I’d make it out the door with him AND Emmy in time, I’ve put those plans on the back burner . . . gotta wait for a weekend, anyway, so I can be assured to have a chance at Kyler, too! Haaa!

As we walked toward the door, Maddox’s arms resting on the tops of my shoulders, we passed by the hostess.
“Awwww, he must be yours. He looks just like you,” she said, smiling.

I don’t know where she got that. At all. But . . . hey, Maddox sure is adorable, I’ll take it!

And speaking of ‘taking,’ . . . the quick calculation concluded: 45 seconds before they realize I’m gone, another 10 to realize, ‘So are the kids!’
45 more for them to formulate a plan . . .

That’s over a minute-and-a-half I might have on them . . . might be worth the risk . . .

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Every sweet tooth needs just a little hit . . ."

song: I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

So, my brother-in-law, Lario, is a hilarious mixture of nutritional Jekyll and Hyde-ness.

When he's not demonizing High Fructose Corn Syrup, he's making Homer Simpson 'donut-inspired' noises about hot dogs, creating 100% false justifications about the massive levels of nitrates they contain.

While gathering at my parent's house this weekend, mom breaks out 2 boxes of Tastykakes ("I thought people would be over so I got these . . .") . . . the delish chocolate cupcakes and . . . the evil Butterscotch Krimpets!

I'm 1/2 good. I open a packet of the Krimpets and break the twins in half, saying, "Who wants the other one??!"
I'm pretty sure Lario started salivating, but I can't be sure.
"If you insist," he says, reaching . . .

He takes 'the other 1/2 Krimpet' and holds it for a moment.
Staring down at his hands in a moment of quiet reverence, he then says, "Hello, friend. It's been a long time."

I'm really glad I didn't have my mouth full when this happened.

(p.s. 'Twilight Girls' Night recap, coming soon, I promise!)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

" . . . there's many lost, but tell me, who has won?"

song: Sunday Bloody Sunday

Has it really been TWO YEARS since the tragedy on the Virginia Tech campus?

I'm thinking of and praying for the families and friends of loved ones who were lost, injured, and scarred from that day.

May "peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ." - Philippians 4:7

Sunday, April 12, 2009

" . . one man betrayed with a kiss . . in the name of love . . what more in the name of love?"

song: Pride (In the Name of Love)

I know this song is usually identified as being about Martin Luther King, Jr., but these are the lyrics that always stand out to me the most, because they are truth in the purest form.

It is not the ‘religion’ of Christianity that I love so much, it’s the CHRIST of Christianity. Today being Easter Sunday, it’s a day that I am yet again feeling overwhelmed with the love that Christ has shown for me.

Have you ever felt the sting of hurt from a close friend?
Perhaps even a betrayal?
What if you had called 12 people from the world to be your closest brothers, taught them your truth, and one of them betrayed you to death for 30 pieces of silver. Can you imagine the pain your heart would feel?

What if you called the remaining 11 to come pray with you as you understood the time of that betrayal and your crucifixion was near . . and while you prayed and anguished over what was to come for you, your closest friends fell asleep on you, not once, but twice? Would you feel as if you anguished alone?

What if you had to tell one of those 11, one who was an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of you and your work . . the one who, out of reverence for you had tried to stop you from washing his feet at supper . . the one who would follow you after your arrest just to be near you . . what if you had to tell him that he would deny even knowing you three times that very night?
And even in his vehement denial, you knew that he would do this?

And what if, only hours later, you witnessed all three times . . you heard him say, “I don’t know him,” and “I am not (one of his disciples)!” and “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” when he was “accused” of being one of your beloved.

And what if, as you were brutally crucified and mocked by ungrateful men who scoffed and scorned and ridiculed . . . you had to feel the most overwhelming sorrow of all in the hours that your Father, a holy God, had to turn His back on the sin and shame you bore for us, and you felt the darkness of that separation from Him in that time . . perhaps the most difficult thing of all to endure.

And yet, in all of this . . . love.

What I remember most about seeing ‘The Passion of the Christ’ was the moment depicted after Peter’s third denial of knowing the Christ he followed and loved. Christ himself had told Peter this would happen, and just after it did, Luke 22:61 says, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him . . . and he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Peter was crushed that he’d disappointed the Lord. But what did the Lord give in return? Nothing but a look of pure love. There was no hint of condemnation or judgment in his eyes . . . only the love Peter knew Christ had for him.
How bitter those tears must have felt.

Here Christ is, beaten, bleeding, crucified, mocked, ridiculed, suffering, betrayed by His friend Judas, denied by His follower Peter, and feeling momentarily forsaken by His beloved Father in heaven. And what does He ask for those who hurt him? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

In His last few hours on this Earth, Christ told His disciples to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ Christ loved unconditionally, sacrificially, and without measure. He loved in spite of, not because. He loved when it wasn’t deserved and it wasn’t earned. He gave us a definition of love that I’m not sure we could understand without Him.

John 15:13 is an often repeated verse, saying, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

What, then, can we know about the one who would willingly lay down his life for His betrayers and His deniers? His mockers and His ingrates?
What can be said of Him?

Perhaps this: That the greatest of all love can never be duplicated.

I’m thankful for Christ: betrayed with a kiss and yet, in the name of the purest love, has already laid down His life for me. For you.
What more, indeed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Hello, Hello (Hola!)"

song: Vertigo

All right, so I've finally done it.
I'm now officially part of the blogger world.

So, first, let me explain what this blog's theme is (and isn't), so that those of you who are not U2 fans (a) have more time to go get your heads checked, and (b) might actually read this once in a while.


I'm not saying I'll never talk about U2 (example: I'll probably give my thoughts on their new album next week sometime), but this is not a blog 'about U2.'

Ok, so, a collective 'whew' from those in my life who are crazy enough to be relieved right now. I love you all anyway, and will pay for your first mental health therapy visit.

U2's music has been an important part of my life since 1986 when my sister Lisa and I were at our cousin's house in NJ and first heard the U2 album 'The Unforgettable Fire.' We bought U2's 'October' for the 8-hour drive home to Virginia and literally warped the tape (yes, TAPE!) from listening to it over and over without stopping.

For those of us who are music lovers, how often do we strongly identify with a song or relate it to an event that's personal to us? How often do we hear a song that reminds us of something that occurred one time when we heard it? How often has a lyric sprung to mind that mirrors exactly what's going on 'right then?'
For me, a lot.
And U2 lyrics seem to do that the most.

So, I decided that the theme of this blog would be to write about all kinds of stuff . . . and title the posts using U2 lyrics.

Thus, the sub-title of the blog is born: Life in U2 lyrics.

So, we'll see where this all leads . . . I hope it's as fun as I'm told.
If not, I have your names. I will hold you personally responsible. You know who you are.


Whooooo hoooooo!!!