Thursday, June 20, 2013

How Do You Say Thank You?

This post was inspired by a recent (today) Facebook post I wrote in response to a friend who wrote: "I think I have crossed the line and am now in the 'rudely and tastelessly late' on thank you notes. I am working on them though!!!!!" The sadness in this plea for forgiveness from a person who has been through significant life changes (moving to another state, AND getting married in the last month) brought out the tiger it me. For my dear friend to feel such pressure and constraint in a time that should be only blissful and happy, made me sick, and I commented:

I keep waiting for "Thank You" notes to become outdated. Do I really have to put a stamp on it to tell you "thank you?" People are offended if they don't receive a note from someone who JUST HAD A BABY??? Seriously? Do you know how I feel when I get a thank you note from a new Mom or someone who just recovered from a horrible illness? Guilty! I feel bad that they took time away from their new baby and their families to acknowlege me. People will think I'm terrible (go ahead, you're not alone), and my Mama would be ashamed, but I'm SORRY: THANK YOU NOTES ARE ARCHAIC! There! I said it. ........ I'll probably keep writing them anyway, dammit.

This post received some very interesting reactions ranging from chastisement to hip-hip-hurray! One new mom who recently completed a stack of "thank yous" herself wrote: "I was just trying to fit in." A former student of mine posted: "I will not. I repeat: will not purchase a thank you card to mail. If you need one, I'd rather not have whatever it is you gave to warrant a card." THREE brand new mommies thanked me or "liked me" for saying this "out loud." (I guess writing something on Facebook qualifies as "out loud.") A male friend (males were in the minority of responders) wrote: "I agree, and personally believe that this outdated convention will disappear within a generation, simply because people like you and me won't expect it of our children, etc., and people will just stop doing it. [Wife's name] did the whole thank you card thing because her parents kept reminding us. When [daughter's name] gets all her wedding gifts and whatever else, we won't do that because we don't care, and hopefully, by that point, no one else will either. It is archaic."

At the core of my rant is not that we should NOT be thankful or express gratitude; FAR from it. My belief is that an expression of gratitude should fit the relationship, the situation, the PERSON FROM which the thank you is expressed. Gratitude is not a socially mandated thing. It CANNOT be mandated or it ceases to be heartfelt or truthful...that's not gratitude. That's ritual. And boyoboy am I an enemy of conventional rituals (I don't TRY to be. That's just how God made me.) I enjoy calling people to thank them with my own voice for the kindness they expressed. Sometimes I have sent an email, Facebook message, or even a text. Does the person at the other end of these types of "thank yous" be offended because I did not use a pen and paper? If writing a card is your preferred mode of communication, then GREAT! For most of us, we don't even pay bills by mail anymore. When was the last time anyone under 30 sent something with a stamp from the USPS? Some of the responses I got on my friend's wall, shouted emphatic protestations to my "tacky" comment.

These responses ranged from "If I go to the trouble, time, and expense to send a gift, I would like confirmation that it was received." Oh, please, honey! Don't go to any trouble on MY account. Keep your trifles. Some of them admitted that IF they had watched the person open the gift and had been thanked in person THEN it was "acceptable" not to send a note, but I'd bet money they didn't say to that new mom or bride: "Don't write a note, honey. I know how busy you are." When asked if a nice call would suffice, this person wrote: "Really, I spent the money, you can write a short note of thanks. It's not too much to ask, although I think new mothers should have a long-extended timeline for it." SERIOUSLY!!!? Yes, seriously.

A gift should be freely given. It comes with NO strings attached and NO expectations. A gift should be "other" oriented, not "I took the time, I expect, I would appreciate, I, I, I..." Do any of these people realize (they SHOULD, they're moms too) how impossible it is to find anyone's physical address these days or to get a moment alone to USE a pen without it being immediately misappropriated and used for wall art or worse? Do you own an address book? I don't. However, I do have my friends' email addresses saved and their numbers ready to go in my phone. And today, it is rare to receive a call from someone to just communicate a pleasantry like "Thank you for the darling outfit for Jr. Oh, my! I wish you could see him in it."

Perhaps, I should put this zealous rant into context. When my mother was dying (cancer, legs paralyzed, tumors everywhere, THAT kind of dying), I asked her, "Mom what can I do for you today? What do you need?" She directed me to a notebook where she had meticulously listed the names of everyone who had brought food, flowers, a gift, etc to the house for her in her illness. They were numbered to about 200. She looked up at me with her beautiful blue-gray eyes and asked if I would help her write thank yous. So she dictated thank you notes to people and I wrote down what she said, suggesting the wording when her mind was cloudy. She felt like she had to do it before she died--all 200. In her presence of mind at the time, I think she thought we would actually get through them all that day. It was sad. It made me angry that even on her deathbed, she felt like people needed a card from her. They did not. I would have much rather spent that precious hour of my Mom's life just talking to her or filing her nails or rambling on and ranting to her about...whatever I was on a rant about that day. That would have been nice.

So, a few weeks later I stood up in front of 500 people at Downtown Church of Christ in Searcy, Arkansas to celebrate my mother's life. I thanked everyone, tearfully and eloquently (if I do say so myself) for the cards, flowers, etc. I told them that their thoughtfulness had meant more to us--the family--than we would ever be able to express. I talked about how Mom taught me about gratitude. It was the hardest thing and the best thing I could have ever done to fulfill my Mama's wishes for how and what I would express that day. I learned gratitude through that whole experience--the generosity in accepting a gift, the artful way of expressing thanks and how many different forms that expression could take.

Can we learn to give an recieve "thank yous" in truly meaningful ways? Can we have grace when we aren't thanked and appreciated the way we think we should have been? I don't know. I'm asking.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Has anyone listened to John Lennon lately?

When I need a lift or a word of encouragement, he never lets me down. John had such faith in the goodness of humanity and such hope for the future. Very inspiring when you consider the times he lived in. I love his song "Hold On."

With the holidays and a new baby Irick quickly nearing arrival time, I have had a hard time not feeling overwhelmed constantly with health and family issues crowding out the love and hope in my life. This song just encouraged me to hold on a little longer. Hopefully, you'll be able to hear the song by using the YouTube link below. If not, check it out soon. If you think about it as you listen, this song has everything, even a holiday cookie right in the middle!

Joy to the World and Happy Holidays! Much love and hope and faith from the heart of our family to yours.

Hold on, John. John, hold on.
It’s gonna be alright.
You’re gonna win the fight.

Hold on, Yoko. Yoko, hold on.
It’s gonna be alright.
You’re gonna make the flight.

When you’re by yourself, and there’s no one else.
You just have yourself,
And you tell yourself just to hold on.


Hold on, World. World, hold on.
It’s gonna be alright.
You’re gonna see the light.
Oh, when you’re one,
When you’re really one,
You can get things done
Like they’ve never been done
So hold on.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Churches: Clean Up Your Act

Ok, I’ll admit it. We haven’t been to church in a while, not since we picked up our precious angel from the nursery with a red mark on her head the size of a quarter. No, it was tough enough to get all three of us out of bed brushed, curled, dressed, and saintly; but when you add filthy nurseries full of the worst cold germs imaginable and kids who learned to hit each other and curse in daycare at the age of two, staying in bed doesn’t seem like too far away from what God's plan might be for our Sunday. It certainly was a lot easier to be "saintly" to each other with a little more sleep. SERIOUSLY! We bade goodbye and God bless to that congregation. The adults were enjoying the services, but we are parents. Baby first.

The last time we attended church was this past Easter Sunday. We just felt like the little one was getting to an age when it might be nice to get back into the whole “church thing.” We selected a late service at a church less than 5 minutes away to give us the absolute best chance of actually arriving on time. I got up two hours early, and made my McDonald’s breakfast request in writing 24-hours in advance. I started trying on and picking out appropriate Easter Sunday attire the night before for every Irick under my roof. I had everything covered. Success!!! We were only 10 minutes late, and we DID look spiffy! We dropped our angel off in the nursery while Daddy parked the car, and everything seemed perfect…but there was a demon lurking…It began with a tiny little thing. A thing that almost seemed cute at first: a runny nose…

One week later…three out of three Iricks who were initially blessed by the music, the friendliness, and the uplifting Easter message at the unnamed church have also been blessed with terrible head colds, sleepless nights, days of thrusting a bulb syringe and/or saline drops up a toddler’s nose so she can scream at this horrible torture, and at least another ten (estimated) days of three runny noses and about a barrel of used lotion Kleenex to haul out to the garbage. Thanks a lot! I do not have time for this. Send sick kids back to their parents, and invest in some Clorox wipes. Clean up your act. Unless you churches plan to put a little common sense into your nursery planning and maintenance, you can expect us to stay at home for at least another year. Thanks, anyway. God bless!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Truth Be Told or Promotion: Living and Learning
In a few months I will become the Artistic Director for Oklahoma City Theatre Company. (I’m doing my very best not to dance around all the time, but I’ve already bought at least one new dress.) Artistic Director, yes, me, the girl who giggles at inappropriate times and glances nervously at the floor when I have to do something nerve-wracking like pass by a lot of patrons in a hallway as I worry that I might slip in my sassy and very uncomfortable shoes that I’m wearing just hoping to lift my confidence enough to smile and converse pleasantly without bringing shame upon myself and the company I’ve helped lead for the last few years. Or even harder that that? Trying to accept a personal compliment. “Ick, me? You think I look nice tonight? God bless you!” I have just learned to say, “Thank you!”

Yes, I’m shy. Didn't you know that? Shy AND insecure; however, I’m passionate about the Theatre, and I am more passionate than I am shy. My Artist’s Heart is a powerful muscle, and when it’s beating, I surprise even myself. I’m very nervous because I’m not exactly sure what an Artistic Director does…let me run down some of the things I’ve done so far this season and see if I’m on the right track.

1) I helped run auditions because it was the first show of the season, rehearsals were weeks away, and we hadn’t hired a Stage Manager yet. The Director needed someone to shout, “Next, please!” into the hallway. I helped cast the show, in a sense, by helping the Director find one or two additional actors to audition during the second round.

2) I directed a play I had absolutely NO interest in, but I took it on because that’s what I was asked to do. I CHOSE to love it because I respected the name behind it. Agatha Christie did not let me down. What? Not a fan of Dame Agatha? You think her plays are dusty? Out-dated? Boring? Predictable? Melodramatic? Vapid? (Yeah, so did I until I had to delve into her play and direct it.) Try, LEGENDARY and you’ll be in the ballpark. I became passionate about the play (for the reasons stated above) and I grew to love its characters probably because the cast was so damn talented I wanted to kiss every one of them on the mouth just about every night during notes—ALMOST. (Well, they were good. What do you want me to say? It’s the truth!)

3) I threw two smart ass bitches* out of a Preview performance of The Mousetrap because they were talking incessantly, looking down at the clock on their cell phones or texting, laughing at inappropriate times, and they were just a general distraction. The ACTORS could hear them for godsake! I think I yelled. (Don’t tell anyone.) …Ok, truth be told; Yes, I did yell a little—something like “Yes, you should leave. I could hear you talking from way back there, and you’re rude. Very rude!” Well, I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I’m sitting there with a Subway sandwich on my breath, my hair in a frizzy pony tail, and I haven’t showered since the day before (and I can tell that for sure because I still have the paint from yesterday on my arm, Your Honor). I’m wearing a shirt with paint from at least 12 productions on it and sweatpants that one of my designer’s aunts sent her during grad school in a hand-me-down-I-thought-you-could-use-these package. Now I get to sit in the Preview and watch these brilliant actors who are just as tired as I am, yet THEY still have to be up on their feet. They’re up there giving themselves to this show. So, yeah! I threw those bitches* out, and I hope they will join us at the theatre WHEN they learn some manners, which will probably be…um…never! (We’re too good for them.)

*Sorry, to use this crude term “bitches,” Mom, but there’s not a nicer word for what those women were. There are worse words I could use, though, so just be thankful that I chose restraint over candor in this instance.

Let’s see…what else?

4) I supported Directors who needed it and I tried to back off too when I thought they’d benefit from my absence more.

5) I went to a lot of Board meetings and tried to tell the truth. Always. I went to production meetings, and I tried to tell the truth. I went to rehearsals and tried to tell the truth. I sent texts and emails and had uncomfortable phone conversations, and I always told the truth.

6) I listened to a Hell of a lot of complaining. There’s a difference between reasonable complaints and complaining, but I listened to both. You have to hear people out so you know which is which. Otherwise, you won’t know the difference, so I chose to listen.

7) I confronted a reviewer! A REVIEWER! (It was in a comment after his article on the web, but still! I used my real name as my username, and I wrote what I felt. I stood up for us. Piss on OUR Directors and OUR Actors? Take personal shots at our Board and our Artistic Director? *F—K you! When’s your next performance? I’ll come and tell you what I really think of your acting, directing, and set design, Mr. 1970s Hair.

*Apologies again, Mom!

8 - 13) Oh, yeah. I almost forgot; I also met with web designers, helped plan next season (Season 13), updated our Facebook page, wrote or edited a few press releases, program notes, actor/artist bio-sketch blurbs for the endless task of producing a nice program for EVERY single show so that the audience will have something to stick their gum in, fan themselves with, roll into a cylinder, leave behind in their seat, throw away without reading 5 minutes after the show, leave in their car for 6 months…you know, the usual. If you go to the theatre, read that stuff in the program. Somebody stayed up until 2:00 am making sure it was correct and accurate, worded creatively, and had no misspellings—someone who might have a Masters degree (and she didn’t get her Masters in “Editing Programs with a special emphasis in Publisher and other Microsoft Office software.” I did my best to tell the truth there too.

Ok, so maybe I have a half-handle on this job after all, but let’s go back and spend a little time with #4 Telling the Truth.

Telling the truth, I’m finding out, is probably the hardest thing and what scares me the most about this position. Telling the truth directly into someone’s eyes with love and with respect and with measured brutality IS what I think a leader should do. I’ve had a LOT of practice so far this season, so maybe I’ll do ok with that one. But then I remember that speaking the good truth is my job too. I’m going to make speaking the GOOD truth my focus. When someone does something above and beyond the call of duty—something that will really make one moment in the show sing or sparkle or dance or make someone cry, I need to tell them: “You are so wonderful. You are so thoughtful. You are doing your job SO well. I really appreciate you. This company NEEDS people like you.” I need to say this right into their eyes and make sure they know I’m not being sarcastic or flippant; I really DO mean it because I would be NOTHING without people like them. Nothing. I can’t do this alone. This is not a one woman show (I’m not an actor…anymore, anyway), and I do NOT always know best in every situation. If you are sure you’re right, convince me, and don’t shut up until I listen to you! That’s YOUR job too; tell the truth. Please. I do NOT know everything…

But I know some things. There are quite a few things that I have down cold, so pay attention. It’s no accident that I am where I am…truth be told.

Special Thanks to: Mr. Founding Artistic Director Rick Nelson, Loyal Lioness Deborah Draheim, Brenda “Leather and Lace” Nelson, Paul “I-Build-Sets-Like-a-Machine-and-Design-Like-a-Rock-Star” Huebner, the Incomparable-Queen-of-SEEMINGLY-Minute-Details Suzette Sroufe, Doug Van Liew (the man, the legend), Donna and Harvey (We’ll never forget you, Harvey. We miss you.), Layla, Ian, Anna, Brooke, Emily, Megan “Ninja-Design-Skills” Skinner-Shrock, Ms. “Manners” Erin Singleton (always composed, always gentle), Stage Manager Smartass Extraordinaire and Stickler Kelsie Morris, the Board of Directors and Board President Harry Kocurek (who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves sometimes), ALL the actors, and last (but certainly not least) my Big Daddy Josh Irick.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Four years ago this song literally saved my life. You might think it's corny, or overly-sentimental, or out-dated; but that's ok. I had my moment with this song, and it changed my life from a futile existence to a life worth living. I realized there was someone who could save my life and unlock my heart. That person was ME. I found myself, and accepted myself--my pain, my unhappiness, my inadequacies, and my gifts. If your circumstances are less than ideal, what can you do to change them? Start tomorrow. Claim your identity, your destiny. Only then, will it be possible to let the love flow into you and through you. Our parents sang these words to us, "This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine." And parents know best. Let the light SHINE! Have you been saved?

"I'm sleeping with myself tonight,
Saved in time. Thank God,
My music's still alive.
Someone saved my life tonight,
Sugar Bear. (Sugar Bear)
Ya, almost had your hooks in me,
Didn't ya, dear?
You nearly had me roped and tied.
Altar bound, hypnotized,
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear,
'You're a butterfly, and butterflies
Are free to fly. Fly away.
High away.' Bye-bye."

Thanks, Elton John (and lyricist, Bernie Taupin)!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Music has always been a huge part of our family life. Road trips to see our grandparents in Tennessee were highlighted with my parents harmonizing (quite well) to songs like Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Lemon Tree" or worse, a 1970s sampling of the dreaded country music (gag). These were horrifying, groan-inducing experiences for a cool girl of twelve and a savvy boy of ten, but now I think back and appreciate the underscore of our family memories. Mom and Dad would giggle with devilish delight at our protestations from the backseat and seemed to gain fuel for a third chorus of "If I Had a Hammer." On rare occasions, we would join in for a song or two. We joined in most often on hymns--hymns from the good ol' church of Christ hymnal "Great Songs of the Church." (And they do mean "the" church as in: "Is there any other church? No. No, there is not.") The "Blue Book," as we used to call it was full of musically challenging and slightly high-brow offerings for the college-educated worshipper. No knee-slapping Baptist revival fare would be found in THIS hymnal lest we be tempted to emote during a service. But I digress...

No matter how much my beliefs may evolve, I will always have tender feelings for those old songs: "When Peace Like a River," "Abide With Me," "Nearer, Still Nearer," "Just As I Am." Mom had a sweet lilting soprano, and I would sing alto because I knew how and someone had to. Dad sang a strong tenor, and my brother fit in somewhere; sometimes tenor, sometimes lead, sometimes he came up with beautiful harmonies of his own. I loved to hear the blend of our voices bouncing off the upholstery and glass of the car windows, and I would entertain fantasies of our family travelling the world as professional singers. My brother and I could easily take the music industry by storm as the southern versions of Richard and Karen Carpenter, or so I thought. My Mom always remarked, "Rachel could sing before she could talk." I knew this to be true having felt music in my soul from a very early age. I can't remember a time when I was unable or unwilling to sing. Mom must have had something to do with that.

We will be celebrating our little girl's first birthday in a few weeks. Since before her birth, I have attempted to embed music--specifically, vocal music--into her little brain, and I swelled with pride last week when she started singing along to the "La-la-la" part of The Carpenter's, "Sing, Sing a Song." (They sing it a lot on Sesame Street too, so I had been using it as part of my night-night song repertoire.) Her Daddy and I immediately started scheming: "Singing before she can even talk! She's even singing on KEY! We obviously have a musical genius on our hands. We had better start saving for music lessons. Piano or guitar? I hope she'll wear modest clothing in her music videos. I hope she won't take dangerous drugs to stay thin while she's on tour." (My fantasy life is rich, my friends. Rich.)

Since meeting my husband, the songs of Billy Joel have been added to the family repertoire. I fell in love with Josh the night he looked into my eyes and sang "She's Only a Woman," (and yes, he WILL kill me for telling you this, so it'll be our little secret, ok?). I had never listened to Billy very much, but now I can call myself a fan. I have a good head for memorizing lyrics, but not good enough to memorize and sing Billy's "Lullaby: Goodnight My Angel" to our baby. I listened to it on iTunes in the hospital while I was in labor along with other "soothing" sounds. I would love to someday thank Billy in person for writing it.

Joel's ballad elevates the singing of a lullaby to immortal status. The song helps us view the simple act of singing to a child as an invisible and timeless thread--an unbreakable bond connecting parent to child to grandchild through life and death and life again. This thought comforts me in moments when I want to violently rail against the circumstances of my life today: My daughter will never hear my Mother sing a song for her. She will not watch from her highchair as Mom hums along to Alan Jackson, her gooey fingers rhythmically patting out rolls to the throb of country bass. My chest aches when I think about it. I need to remember; the "Song" Mom put in my heart is being sung to my daughter every night. Night after night after night, my mother's sweet soprano voice still echoes against the pale pink walls in my little girl's room, because when I sing to her, I hear Mom singing to me too. Her presence resonates deeply in those tender moments before my girl drops her head on my shoulder and releases her body into my arms. And long after I'm gone, the Song will be in Graceanne's heart to comfort her too. She cannot lose it. She will not forget it. She will sing it for the rest of her life. She will sing it to her little ones someday, and I will be with them just as Mom's Song is with us, embedded upon her little heart and singing through mine.
   Someday we'll all be gone,
   But lullabies go on and on
   They'll never die
   That's how you and I will be.

Thanks, Billy.

Here's Billy Joel's "Lullaby: Goodnight, My Angel" in case you've never heard it or haven't heard it in a while. It's worth a listen.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Mom Grace
Delivered by her daughter on February 18, 2008

(My brother Josh told me I should go ahead and share this eulogy I wrote for my Mom in 2008. I was hesitant to publish it, but I think Mom would approve.)

I want you to know how comforting your presence today is for our family. On this day, when it is almost blindingly painful for many of us, it’s finally clear to me why we perform this ritual of gathering together to celebrate a life that is gone. Your presence is your love in action, and I want you to know that your love has been deeply felt by our family. Your prayers, cards (we have mountains of them at home, by the way), food brought to the house, pampering gifts for Mom, visits, emails, and calls throughout Mom’s illness have strengthened and sustained this family through our darkest trial.

Throughout my life, Mom constantly impressed upon me the importance of showing gratitude for the blessings of life and the many ways people around us go out of their way to express their love for us. When I complained as a willful teenager, she constantly reminded me of the good in people and the details around me that I should find gratitude in. She impressed the importance of gratitude with her actions, not just her words. She was so thankful for the many family members and friends that filled her life, and one way she showed this was through her famous habit (skill, talent, obsession…whatever you want to call it) of sending cards, notes, and letters on anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and birthdays. Sometimes she sent a letter “just because.” She probably wrote thousands of cards and letters throughout her life, and although I have an equally famous reputation for dramatic histrionics, I’m not exaggerating.

When I was with her this past Christmas, I sat down beside her bed to file her nails. I took her hand in mine, and as the fingers of our left hands intertwined, I was struck by how similar our hands looked. It was almost like filing the nails on my own hand, and I began to remember how many times I have heard people say, “Rachel, you look just like your Mom.” In that moment I was so full of gratitude for her hand of influence in shaping my life. As I worked, I began to reflect on the kinds of things those hands had done; the letters written, babies rocked, construction paper projects made for 2 and 3-year-olds’ Bible class, the dishes washed (she stubbornly washed her dishes by hand in case you didn’t know), the baby blankets she embroidered, the rolls folded over and pinched into that perfect moon-shaped pillow of southern buttery goodness.

I could go on and on with an endless list of the things about her that I am so, so thankful for. Whether you knew her for 33 years or three years, you are here today because you are thankful for my Mom, Grace, in some way, and so this comforts us today. And while I have to admit that I am still very angry at the cancer that has taken her away from us, I know that eventually I will be able to allow my gratitude to bury my anger just like she taught me.

Thank you, Mom. I love you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

john lennon- Oh My Love Digital Remaster (2000)


I have not posted on this blog in over two years. Since I last wrote, I quit my excellent (and easy but boring) high-paying job, moved to another state to start my dream career (or so I thought); got fired from my dream career know what? No one ever told me why, so I’ve just been assuming it was stupid academic politics (i.e. the person I replaced decided she DIDN’T want to stay home full-time with her baby after all, so they fired me for vaguely-stated reasons and let her have her job back…correction: they let her have MY job back. Smug Christian BASTARDS!) So I moved HOME, got married, had a beautiful baby, and LORD JESUS, help me! It’s been quite a busy two years. So, I thought a good way to return to my blog might be to share a few things I learned since I posted the last time. It’s just my round-about way to catch you up-to-date. (Accept my apologies in advance for the all-caps. Here’s my formal apology: If you don’t like all-caps, too bad. This is my blog, and I speak in all-caps sometimes, so why can’t I write that way? I always picture the Ten Commandments in all-caps, and these are my personal commandments):

I am not assuming you need me to teach you any of the following. Enjoy.

1. DON’T BUY THE HOUSE OF YOUR DREAMS IN THE CITY OF YOUR NIGHTMARES. If half the population attends the “church of Christ” and the other half is in bed by 10:00, that town is not for you. Church of Christ people need a lot of sinners around to keep it interesting, and trust me, you will need a drink some night when the bars are closed. Rent something close to work, so you can shake the dust from your feet with a lot less hassle when the time comes for you to WAKE UP from the Matrix.

2. DON’T UNPACK IT UNLESS YOU NEED IT NOW, TODAY…You could lose your (expletive deleted) job and have to move again in six (expletive deleted) months.

3. LET THE HOUSEPLANTS GO. Moving them is a waste of time. Give them to somebody who will love them and give them a good home. Don't waste energy feeling guilty. You did right by them.

4. DON’T TAKE THE JOB IF A LITTLE ALARM GOES OFF IN YOUR HEAD during the interview that says, “You can’t work for this guy. He’s a smug, closeted/homosexual, micro-managing, control-freak who thinks you are beneath him. You are clearly NOT beneath him. RUN!” Yeah, don’t take that job. I know it seems perfect, and it’s a dream come true. DO…NOT…SEEK…THE TREASURE. (Thank you, Cohen brothers.) Listen to your inner voice…that’s God trying to tell you not to work at a Christian school. He has much better things in store for you. (I’m not asserting the accuracy of any of the above statements, but that IS what my little voice said in the interview. I heard it. Sue me.)

5. GET MARRIED WHEN YOU’RE READY TO GET MARRIED, not when other people in your family are ready for you to get married. Get married when the time is right, even if someone just died. They would want you to be happy. Who cares if there’s a lot of crying at your wedding? At least you won’t look at the pictures and regret your choices years later. You’ll also have deep-seeded issues with people, the people who “changed” your mind for you. If people are uncomfortable with the circumstances of your life, then…wait…wait just a second…remind me again why they have a say…? It’s your (expletive deleted) life.

6. PLAN THE MOMENT-TO-MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE AROUND WHAT YOUR LOVER WANTS TO DO. (I use the term "lover" here because if you’re not married to whoever your lover is, but instead are married to a cowboy Republican fascist with anger-management issues, then you’ve got a lot of long nights ahead. Divorce that jerk, and find your lover.) If your lover is not available, plan moments around what your kid wants to do. If your kid is taking a nap, plan those moments around what your dog wants to do… and so on… You might be tempted to live for yourself. Don’t be. Yes, yes… Have a healthy image of yourself, do a few things for yourself, get a pedicure every once in a while, but LIVE for the people you love and “living for yourself” will take care of itself.

7. DON’T CLICK “REMOVE FROM MY FRIENDS” ON FACEBOOK, EVER. Facebook unto others the way you would have them Facebook unto you. Forget that button exists or you’ll be drunk with your own power and who knows what might happen then? You might be tempted to remove people who worked at a place where the boss sabotaged you because you are paranoid about what kinds of lies and extrapolations they may or may not have heard about you from the total cock that was your boss (a “cock” is a small rooster who struts around a house full of hens—that’s the cock I mean; however, the double entendre is fortunate here). Instead of “de-friending” those people, hold your head high. Your future success and happiness will vindicate you. While they’re teaching it, you’ll be doing it. Someday their students will ask you for a job. Besides, how will they ever see the photographic evidence of your future success and happiness without Facebook? And they WILL Facebook stalk you. Count on it.

8. IF SOMEBODY OR A GROUP OF “SOMEBODIES” DOESN’T WANT YOU, TEACH YOURSELF NOT TO WANT THEM. This includes churches, spouses, places of business, family members, etc… You might have to teach yourself this valuable skill in EMOTIONAL BOOT CAMP, but learn it, or those close to you will get tired of hearing you moaning and groaning and feeling sorry for yourself. Move on!

9. WHEN PEOPLE ASK YOU… “So, when did you decide you’re not church of Christ anymore?” Say unto them, “I didn’t decide. I just realized I wasn’t.” They’ll think you’ve become a Buddhist, and it’ll be really fun.


Here are a few life lessons that I learned from other sources:

“Just smile, and laugh and talk and be nice to everyone and no one will even notice that zit on your chin.”
–Mom (My mother was a wise, wise woman because this method works even if the “zit on your chin” isn’t really a zit on your chin...let THAT one sink in.)

When the baby cries and cries and cries and you don’t know what to do: “Just love her. Keep loving her.”
–Aunt “Nurse” Betty.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

“People who mind don’t matter, and people who matter don’t mind.”
–Anonymous (This one should also be attributed to my Mom. This was one of her I'm not Hindu either.)

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Oliver Wendell Holmes

“It’ll all work out.”
–Mom (Thanks, Mom. It did.)

Monday, May 05, 2008


I haven't posted anything in quite a while. The pain in my life has been a little too raw to share. My Mom was diagnosed with cancer last spring, and she died on February 15. With Mother's Day close at hand, the following post was extremely hard for me to write. I hope it helps someone out there. First, reflections from the Bard.

"To be, or not to be: That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them. To die; to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep we say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to; 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die; to sleep;--
To sleep? Perchance to dream..."
-Hamlet, Act III, i

"O weary night! O long and tedious night,
Abate thy hours! Shine comforts from the east!
...And sleep, that sometimes shuts up sorrow's eyes,
Steal me awhile from mine own company."
-A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, ii


I used to ask my Mom, "Was I a good baby?" She would smile and say " were good, but you fought sleep." I wonder if this is learned behavior because I still fight sleep when I've got a lot on my mind, when I'm overly anxious. Fighting sleep. Maybe I could un-learn this horrible habit. I tell people I'm "having trouble" sleeping, but the truth is; I fight it. Why? I think it's fear of missing out on something. Maybe I have a lack of trust, and subconsciously, I think I have to stay awake to make sure the the world keeps turning.

In the weeks leading up to my Mom's death when I was staying in my parents house with them, it made sense to fight sleep. I didn't want to miss a second of interaction with her. If she needed me, I wanted to rush in and save the day, to cater to her every whim. I knew that if she died without me by her side I would be uncontrollable. I couldn't miss out. As strange as this sounds, I wanted to participate in that moment. After reflection, I think I assumed my presence might somehow stop this horrible thing from happening.

The night before she died I remember getting into the car to make the longest six hour drive of my life. I was told that she had been nonresponsive for a few days. I wanted her to see me, to respond to me. I wanted to get there in time for her to know I was there beside her. I foolishly assumed I could give her the strength she needed. I leaned over her bed when I arrived, "I'm here Mom! Mom, I'm here." She opened her beautiful blue eyes, saw me, and closed them for the last time. And she slept.

Dad and I stayed up all night with her and watched her sleep a deep deep sleep. We talked. We even laughed. We held her hand. We brushed tears away and tried to be strong. For her. But she simply slept. She didn't fight. She didn't need my strength. Her strength was in her acceptance of this final sleep. She was stronger than I have ever been. Her death was gentle, a release of pain and tension. Her "fight" against pain was won. There were no tears. Only surrender. Only peace. And sleep.