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Oscar Showcase Recap 2015

For the third year in a row, Drew and I spent the last two Saturdays in the dark. We saw all eight best picture nominees, four on each Saturday. We had not seen any  of the eight previously and knew very little about most of the films; our ignorance (an unexpected virtue?)only added to our anticipation and enjoyment.


The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Poster

The line-up for our viewing pleasure was as follows:

Saturday February 14th: Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, Birdman:Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, Selma

Saturday February 21st: Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, Imitation Game, American Sniper.

To rank them based on preference of what I deemed most deserving of recognition has been difficult past my top three.

Drew is more decisive and lists his ranking as follows:

  1. Boyhood
  2. Grand Budapest
  3. Birdman
  4. Whiplash
  5. American Sniper
  6. Selma
  7. Imitation Game
  8. Theory of Everything.

For me, the top three are without question: Birdman, Boyhood, Grand Budapest.

From there, I’m a rank schizophrenic. What is for sure, is that Selma sits at the bottom.  Let me explain.Selma (2014) Poster

What struck me most, drawing me in and sticking with me, was the power of the questions posed and the internal struggles that cost me emotion and attention in watching and musing over these films. Complicated explorations into themes of self-worth, personal ambition at steep costs, the value of each other’s differences, the endurance and allowances of true love, and what really matters in a whole-life pursuit, wove throughout the dialogue, conversations and characterizations on screen.

Simply because Selma raised no major questions, do I place it in last place. There is no question that justice should be pursued on behalf of the marginalized and oppressed. The story telling of an unbelievably hard fought victory was poignant, the acting superb, and the song, Glory, indeed the best of the year.

I was moved emotionally and educated historically, but didn’t leave questioning anything: equal rights for all should be bestowed without a need for multiple political processes and a violent suffering on behalf of the oppressed people. The struggle is still all too common.

I think I mostly settle on my ranking as:

  1. Birdman
  2. Boyhood
  3. Budapest
  4. Sniper
  5. Imitation Game
  6. Theory of Everything
  7. Whiplash
  8. Selma.

I’ve done my rank based on complication and completeness, the questions it raises and answers presented in ways I wouldn’t always answer myself, shown in a sensationally, movie kind of way.

I was deeply drawn into each story and appreciate the Academy’s recommendations as they led me into worlds and questions I would not have found on my own. This year’s line up was a rich buffet of excellence and depth. Watching the Oscars on Sunday, was a great night cap to weekends of being worlds away.

The characters in each of the films invited me into worlds very different than any I’ve lived myself, or relate to normally. Hosting me in their experience were a(n):

  • Musician
  • Actor
  • Single mom
  • Soldier
  • Concierge
  • Genius
  • Homosexual mathematician
  • African American Civil rights leader

As a white, suburban mom with mediocre intelligence, no acting abilities, zero musical talent, a loving husband, and a job in ministry instead of hospitality or the military, I was humbled to watch and enter into the experiences of others as their actors brought them so powerfully to light. Watching the movies was fun yes, a day away indeed, but the ranking comes not necessarily because I enjoyed the movies, but because I was affected by them in the moment, and the head spaces afterwards.

I like Birdman best of all because of the struggle it exposes around wanting to do something meaningful and be someone who matters. The questions of past regrets, broken family and reconciliation, escaping fame for admiration and love, and the ultimate battle: ourselves with our ego run from minute one, to the very end.

In his mind and on his back, the Birdman super hero speaks to Riggan, the 60 year old aspiring stage actor, saying,  “Don’t you get it? You spent your life building a bank account and a reputation… and you blew ’em both. Good for you. **** it.”  In his own defense, Riggan screams at his daughter, “Listen to me. I’m trying to do something important…To me… this is… my chance to do some work that actually means something.” Later, as the struggle continues and his ambition unravels, deep down he thinks, ” I’m nothing. I’m not even here.” A hard realization at 60-something. What if we get to the later parts of life and feel so stuck in a wander, wondering?

His drive for meaningful work, not empty popularity, is a trap that cycles over and over. To prove he wants to do something real, he goes to great lengths and in the end, only ends up popularly famous once again. Being stuck in a story he professes on stage, and walks out on the treadmill of Hollywood success, he yearns and finds, I think, “true freedom” in a way that costs him everything. The story seems to resonate with the real life loss of Robin Williams early this year. The questions, quotes, and on screen action, deserve a re-watch for further absorption. Birdman was great as a movie, not realistic but very real, as it asked me to suspend my disbelief and engage my search of self.

Boyhood was best because of it’s soundtrack, it’s raw and honest portrayal of adolescence, parenting, anger, mistakes, patterns we get stuck in and generational sins we can break. Filmed over 12 years in separate segments, and edited together to tell a connected story, was a wonderful thing to appreciate. There was no climax, no rising action and conclusion, just “life” with people trying to do what they could with what they had, learning and growing over time, and looking back at times, wondering what it all meant. As someone who spends time with adolescence, Mason’s assertion that  “I just feel like there are so many things that I could be doing and probably want to be doing that I’m just not.” captures the search for connection and purpose that accompanies a kid turning into an adult.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was absolutely entertaining. “Eye-candy” in the shots and scenery, and “conversation-candy” in the intelligent, witty, and hilarious script as spoken with eloquence and entertaining cadence. I would watch it again and loved it on the big screen. Drew’s analysis was most apt as he affirmed the movie was a commentary on the relationship between how we treat people out of the integrity of our own character. When we serve others with a sense of excellence, they are called up and into greatness. Gustave tells Zero, “Rudeness is merely an expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.”

Sniper illuminated the lives of soldiers and their families split apart, and held together, by love and passion. The arresting ending, complicated layers, and a posture of gratitude, left our theater sitting in silence at the end.

The Theory of Everything was a sneaky rank climber for me. The acting was amazing and the story so layered with struggle, human triumph, moral ambiguity, and the tension between art, science, God, and physics. No scene lasted too long and the victory of man over deadly diagnosis was mind blowing to watch. 

Imitation Game is gut wrenching as you watch someone pour their life into something that must be hidden instead of celebrated. In his war victory and his personal life, I’m left thinking Alan Turning had only an imitation of true acceptance, respect, and fulfillment.

Whiplash moves down the list due to my discomfort with long instrumental drum solos. Impressive and awesome to listen to, yes, but I was crawling out of my skin by the end…which is…drum-roll please, very drum solo heavy. What I appreciated through contemplation with Whiplash was the father figure roles in the life of a growing up guy. The support of a dad who didn’t always enter fully into the depth of what his son experienced, but constantly showed up, was in sharp contrast to the abusive teacher who completely understood the drive and passion, but refused to ease up in his “encouragement” and “training” of the aspiring talent. Both men, dad and teacher, I believe, showed love. The movie exposed our tendency towards “righteous justification” of our actions when we refuse to be challenged. Also exposed was the brokenness that covers over and distorts our attempts to help or love.

I stop here. I do not attempt to assert I have figured out or can add to the experience of seeing these films. I write to affirm the journey into their worlds has touched upon mine. Until next year Oscar…



Questions…Good Ones

To have a good conversation, it matters what questions you ask.

Christmas is one week away.

Hopefully, you’ll be gathering with great people around good food and special traditions over the next 7-10 days to celebrate. Also hopefully, you will find a cozy corner and sit down with…, head out on an early morning walk with…, cuddle with a kiddo home from school…, pour a drink and join a few, or sit around a table with many. Opportunities for Christmas conversations are everywhere.

A few comments about questions:* 

  • Do not tell what you could ask. Emphasize a listening over talking and telling this season
  • Avoid “teaching” moments in social discussion by not asking what you already know
  •  The best conversation questions are oriented towards discovery, require thinking and a sharing of what’s inside, instead of information regurgitation skimmed simply off the top.
  • Questions that allow the other people to share what only they can know, allows the one answering the question to share something that will grow a relationship, unveil what’s underneath. We should mostly ask questions of others we cannot know the answer to already.
  • Prompts or invitations help. “Tell me more about…” is a versatile conversation extender and places the opportunity to share back on the one whom you’ve sought in conversation.

One area of my own life where good questions are key right now is in after school conversations with Eli and Andi. I want to draw out of them notes about their almost 8 hour day away, without burdening them.

Drew sent me a link to a Huffington Post article with a list of 25 Ways to Ask Your Kid How School Was Today, without Asking, “How was school today?”

I bookmarked the list in my browser and tried to glance at it just before I’d shut my computer down in the minutes before Eli and Andi were getting off the bus.

The list was helpful and the kids noticed right away that the question was different, a little more intriguing to answer.

Here is a list of some questions that have led us to fun and connectings after school conversations. Some are from the article, others I’ve developed as I’m attempting to change my  default.

  •  Tell me about something that made you laugh today.
  •  Tell me about something that surprised you today. 
  •  What did you do with a friend today?
  •  When did you feel successful today?
  •  Who did you help today?
  •  When did you feel sad today?
  •  Tell me a friend you had fun with during the day?
  •  What was the highlight of your day?
  •  What was hard about today?
  •  Who’s someone you wish you could send to the moon for a day?
  •  What did you hear your teacher say a lot about today
  •  If you were the teacher, what would you have taught today?

I knew it was really helping when Eli came home one day and said, “Mom, I bet you want to know what surprised me today!” The invitation for them to share a story, lay down a frustration, show themselves as the expert on their experience, and let me in on what it’s like out there, is a five minute highlight of my day. Asking better questions of my kids has deepened our relationship and given me great new information. I have experienced the same fruits with some adults lately as well.

I hope Christmas conversations will change me this year.

What do you want to ask about this week? 




*For conversation and discussion purposes only. These guides do not apply to didactic exercises.

Privilege and Thanksgiving

We’ve taken our Royals family to the Rockies for Thanksgiving. Here in Colorado, we are enjoying bright sunshine, precious moments with grandparents (my kids with theirs and me with mine) and preparing for a day of cooking, eating, playing, relaxing, and then eating some more.

As I’ve thought about how to mark the moment tomorrow, I’m thinking of the articles I read about Ferguson yesterday. Ben Irwin wrote “Stop Praying for Peace in Ferguson” in which he dismisses prayers for peace if they are actually calling for a “return to the status quo, a resumption of normalcy- that is privilege for us and discrimination for them.” And goes on to say, “Stop praying for peace if what you want is for your privilege to remain untouched. When the privileged pray for peace- if it is not accompanied by a commitment to justice, a willingness to lay down our privilege…it’s like trying to have the benefits of resurrection without the crucifixion. Peace without justice. Reconciliation without owning up to the sin of oppression. Harmony without relinquishing any of our privilege.

Eli had “privilege” as a spelling word a few weeks ago. When we quizzed educated adults on how to spell it, almost everyone got it wrong on the first try- adding a “d”, using an “e” instead of the second “i”. Hard as it is to spell the word, actually using our privilege is wrought with struggle.

Jesus taught about privilege in Luke chapter 12. He writes about knowing and doing, responsibility and responsiveness. Luke 12:48 says, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”

I love a list of blessings, a reflection in gratitude, and a scripture litany of thanksgiving verses. Around the Thanksgiving table,  I love singing, “Albuquerque, he’s my turkey” and saying what we are thankful for in different seasons, because of the year behind us, or even a personal thanks to the person on my right. I believe articulating thanks, cultivating gratitude, and digging deep for a something to be grateful for when all in front of me seems hard.

Over the last few days, I cannot help but think our thanks giving should push us into some thanks doing.

If we acknowledge with gratitude the “much” we have, we should act with conviction towards the expectations upon us.

Around our table tomorrow, or maybe over afternoon pie when we’re not so excited and hungry, the invitation I’ll extend (as Minister of the Gospel/Family Ritual Leader/Bossy Linds?!) is for us to say,

“I’m thankful for the gift I’ve been given… And so I will GO and DO…”

With our great privilege, comes responsibility and doing the right thing.

For all we have to be thankful for, how can our lives look different?

2 Corinthians 9 in the J.B. Phillips translation talks about blessings from God, abundant and often, coming so that we don’t only have what we need, but also what the world needs.

Verse 9 says, “After all, God can give you everything that you need, so that you may always have sufficient both for yourselves and for giving away to other people.” The translation around verse 10 or 11 is, “The more you are enriched by God, the more scope there will be for generous giving, and your gifts…Moreover, your very giving proves the reality of your faith, and that means that that you practise the Gospel that you profess to believe in. ” Finally, verse 15 ends the chapter with the exhortation to “Thank God, then, for God’s indescribable generosity to you!”

With gratitude for God’s indescribable generosity, how then do I act with intentionality?

I’m thankful you read. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!




A Limit on Gratitude?

Try as I may, I cannot get alliteration into my title this week. Know that hurts me.

Background information:

  • Thanksgiving is 17 days away.
  • I have a blessed life. No “real” problems- I don’t have Ebola or sick kids, or suffer from injustice. And yet…
  • I am an external processor and in certain circumstances, I’m prone to complaining
  • Today I’m trying to make some changes.

I’d like to blame the World Series, or being sick, or Halloween , or being a new aunt, for the recent uptake in my sugar consumption. White flour, alcohol, candy and plain ole desserts, have found their way into my mouth far too often over the past month and its my own fault. There are 7 pounds, a nagging case of congestion, and poor workout results that testify to an October of fun and sugar that’s taken a toll!

Alas, as I set out to eat differently, there are strict-ish limits.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve come to appreciate limits as a gift- a boundary line that provides focus in a calendar, work schedule, relationship etc…  that often feels nebulously unbounded. Saying no to some foods for the next few weeks is limiting yes, but freeing as well. I can make easier decisions in the moment knowing I have a goal for the long haul.

Eating restrictions often challenge me or others because of the “CANNOT EAT” list. A change in perspective to, “All that I CAN eat” helps curb discouragement and keeps me from failing.

Such a perspective practice is helpful in all of human [at least American] experience; not just food. To be thankful for what we do have, instead of anxious, disappointed, or angry about what we don’t have, changes us.

In adversity, can I still be grateful?  We are heading into a possible 21 days of freezing temperatures! 

To have a holiday around gratitude is a great idea. Yes, it is commercialized, out of historical context, filled with football, and overshadowed by Christmas. Still, I’m thankful we have it. No, we should not limit the practice of giving thanks to a season or a day, but I’m not going to bemoan having the holiday.

Instead, I’d like to take the limited number of days we have between now and Thanksgiving to practice gratitude more pointedly. Some ideas of how I might practice an attitude of gratitude:

-I will pull myself out of complaining with a list of three things I’m thankful. For example, I might be tempted to complain about changing a diaper at the park..instead, I can be thankful I don’t have to use the nasty park bathroom with my two year old, that I have a kiddo with a healthy digestive system, and that my child isn’t all grown up quite yet and that he wears a diaper means he also cuddles, smiles, plays, and talks like a really fun 2 year old.

-I will write thank you notes for people who have worked with me in Young Life stuff in the last few weeks with specific examples of why what they did served us so well.

-We will keep a list on our chalkboard of why we are thankful as a family.

-I will say thank you out loud and in my head as I move through my day.

-And my family knows, I will craft a Thanksgiving ritual for our thanksgiving table time in Colorado!

I don’t want to limit my gratitude, but I want to take advantage of the limit of a Thanksgiving season to be specific and actionable in giving thanks. Want to come?!

A week without watch parties

There was evening and there was mourning at the end of last week.

The run that was the Royal’s playoff dream, the revitalization of a city, and the bringing together of family, friends, fun, and great food, ended with a pop up ball that Pablo Sandoval had the gall to catch. That Panda, he carries the full weight of Eli’s ire- “I am so mad at Pablo…I can’t believe he had to catch that ball!” Andi’s more bummed about Bumgarner.

With Eli and Andi out of school for conferences Thursday, it was an easy decision to attend the season-celebration rally at Kauffman stadium. Laura and June were up for attending and we donned blue for one more day. Hustling into the stadium, we were welcomed warmly by ushers saying, “Come on in. We’re glad you’re here! Come on in kiddos” and the balloon arches leftover from the previous night’s celebratory preparations. We stood on the lower level in packed stands with other blue-clad, and a bit blue-hearted, faithful Royal’s fans.

photo 3 (28)photo 2 (36)photo 1 (34)

The theme of the rally was gratitude. The city thanked the team, the team thanked the fans, the fans thanked the players. The loyal Royal fan base was back at the K, on their feet, with signs, cheers, and a few tears. Ten or so players showed up in street clothes and took pictures of the crowd on their phones. They received their Sly James gift of a bow tie and spoke with resilient pride and obvious emotion.

Laura remarked later that the rally was like a funeral. She’s spot on. It was a bunch of people gathered to remember, talk about, and celebrate what was great and alive and true, but is now lost, gone, and over.

We left feeling glad we came but really, really sad. Playing with the kids outside at a park helped, but the afternoon was terrible- I was dragging with a moping gloom! It didn’t help that I was carrying a sinus infection and cough sickness in addition to my broken blue heart.

Eli asked if I wanted to play catch at 4pm. We threw it around in the backyard which was really, really fun. A rooting into how we have changed (for one thing,Eli cares about playing baseball now), and that there’s so much to be grateful for and move on towards. Really, its a bummer they lost, but it’s a gift they got there at all.

Drew and I are still trying to compose a bit of a family diary of the whole month. We loved so much of what we saw, heard, cheered, talked about, crafted with paper (#paperroayls), and shared with friends and family.

While we compose ourselves and our memoir, might I suggest you read this one that is already published and excellent by Rany on the Royals writer,  RANY JAZAYERL.

It’s a well-written story with highlights, memories and good points. If you don’t read all of it, here’s a tidbit I found especially helpful in my healing.

What hurts so much isn’t that something was taken away from us, but knowing that something amazing and life-altering was very nearly given to us. A title is rare enough; to win a title like this — with a generation of irrelevance melted away in an instant — wouldn’t have  been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It would have been something most fans will never experience. We were 90 feet away from the kind of triumph you might see once or twice a decade in all of sports. We were so close to it that we were planning for it — by necessity. The city had the parade route mapped out for today. There was champagne on ice in the clubhouse. Everything was perfect.

Everything but the ending. And that will live with us for a long time.

But if the ending will live with us, so will everything that made it possible. The Royals didn’t just bring us joy for a month or give us memories to last a lifetime; they gave us a sense of mattering again. The Royals are relevant. They are the champions of the American League. Yost will manage the All-Star Game next season. We didn’t #TakeTheCrown, but we still own the pennant — a pennant the Yankees and Red Sox and Tigers can never take from us. More than one Cubs fan has already told me he’d trade a testicle for the chance to lose a World Series by one run.

The Royals have returned to the land of the living. Sports are pain, but pain is something only the living can feel. For far too long, the Royals weren’t good enough to trigger any nerve endings. You stand up after your foot’s been asleep for 29 years, and the pins and needles are going to drive you crazy for a while. But it’s better than being numb.

Here’s to a week of watching for other ways we can wake up, come together, and be relevant in making good in the world.





Fiction or Non

A smattering of reads

A smattering of reads

Around this Osborne house, everyone is reading something.

Drew is wrapped up in Royal’s tweets, blogs, articles, statistics, opinions and advice.

Oakley is into picking out his own books and likes Runaway Bunny, How do Dinosaurs…., Brown Bear, Brown Bearthe “Tractor Book”, Goodnight Moon, and the Curious George book from the library that was supposed to be for Andi.

Eli is reading about baseball from long ago (ie: Shoeless Joe Jackson) and Googling how to throw different pitches. You’ll find Eli in one of two places these days: in the chair next to the window with a book, or in the backyard with a baseball and a glove- by himself or with whoever will play.

Andi was awarded a certificate for surpassing her reading goal for the first quarter at school She has stacks of books scattered in her wake- beside the couch where she “watches” [mostly Andi reads through] Royals games, or next to her bed for “rest time”. She is on a reading romp.

I’m coming off a summer reading binge where I loved following suggestions and borrowing books that filled hours of my time…escape? Maybe. Enjoyment? Yes! I read many books now movies and am trying to see what I read. Since July, some of what I’ve read includes: Where’d Ya Go Bernadette, The Spellman Files, This is Where I Leave You, Half of The Shadow of the Wind, About a Boy, Cryptid Hunters and Zach’s Lie  by Roland Smith, in efforts to see if Eli was ready to read them, and lastly, The Book Thief. 

On Andi’s midterm report, her teacher said she has a better grasp of fiction than non-fiction and she should be encouraged to read more non-fiction at home.

Fiction or non-fiction? What shapes our minds more aptly? What does Andi need from a non-fiction book to enhance her comprehension beyond what a fiction book can provide?

I firmly believe, just because something didn’t actually happen, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Stories can tell the truth.

Jesus was one of the best story tellers- using parables to teach instead of straight dictation of religious facts. A parable is a short story used to illustrate a moral truth. Jesus thought story could shape spirit and direct behavior. Painting pictures with words, using characters and conflict and offering a conclusion, can make a brain path to a new reality for a real life situation.

The Royals are consuming much of our mental, emotional, and pphysicallife (yes, this post season is affecting what we eat and drink, whether or not we are up early to work out, and if we get enough sleep!) and they are directing our reading! The Royals are also writing a story- a non-fiction one with narrative invitations towards drama, hope, believing, and rallying. The non-fiction part of this real life KC adventure has the spirit of a fiction story someone should write.

We will share with Andi the non-fiction facts of nature, history, science or sports when it’s happening around her and upon assignments from school.  I think the best non-fiction reading happens when we need it- like me now. I’m taking a fiction break and reading about spiritual and emotional health for me, and a book on parenting strong spirited kids.

Fiction will not fault us. Non-fiction works when we yearn for the facts and why’s behind the what’s we see and experience.

I have to think that Andi and the Royals will be okay and that both are shaped by stories of fantasy with some fact and history all woven together.


Watery Flanks

One of the best foods my mom fed me growing up was flank steak…which is a flat cut of quality meat. Yum. Thank you Mom.

I’m waiting for a text from my sister Laura that might say her water has broken. It’s almost baby cousin time and perhaps water breakage will be her go-time signal!

Today I read Exodus per my truant but still devout lectionary practice. The reading for the week of September 14th began with Exodus 14:19-31 Twice in the 12 verses,(verses 22 and 29) it says they passed through, “the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.” They walked in redemptive rescphoto (53)ue flanked on both sides by parted waters.

I am currently a watering widow.  Our poor watering orphans have fared for themselves while we’ve been out moving sprinklers. We planted grass seed 9 days ago and are on day 9 of 15 of twice a day watering. When Drew is doing the hard and arduous work of watering, he’s absent from whatever’s going on inside for almost 30-40 minutes. Over and over this weekend, I turned to talk to him and realized he was outside.

Our walls of water, sprinklers in the front and back, are working…sweet green grass is growing. The freshness of the brand new, bright green, encourages me out of being grumpy over the time and money it costs us. The small seeds are embracing the saturation and releasing growth.

I’m writing a book (a series of downloadable e-books actually) with my aunt Tamara and the first is entitled Green Embraces. I’m just now realizing perhaps the title is coming true in my back yard. Water, hugging seeds, brings new life. Seeds, accepting the embrace, grows green.

The water walls in Exodus have stuck with me all day. Why write twice that the walls were up and down on both the right and the left? Being flanked by protection- insulation from the enemies on both sides, had to be assurance for a suffering people finally walking away from their torture.

God was generous then and continues to be. What provisions do I walked through, flanked in blessing?

What I have is two sprinklers that need to move. The watery moments continue around here and growth will ensue.

Us/Me Too

A picture of empathy from our own family past.  A not sad Eli, comes alongside a distraught Andi...seeking to understand as only a brother can.

A picture of empathy from our own family past. A not sad Eli, comes alongside a distraught Andi…seeking to understand as only a brother can.

After someone shares a story, it’s an American, sometimes empathetic but all too often narcissistic, posture to respond, “You do? You have? You did? You liked it? You are?…..Well, Me TOO [or] Us TOO!”

Healthy and other centered listening tips instruct careful listeners not to interject into someone else’s story with our own. Instead, to ask more questions or provide a simple active listening prompt, “I hear you….Wow…Okay. Tell me more…”

Empathy says dig into the experience of another so much so that you begin to truly feel and understand what it’s like to be THEM in their experience. Empathy instructs us not to lay our own story on top of the one being told to us.

I’m not good at empathy naturally and listening is far down on my natural gifts scale…talking is much higher. I have lots of growing room and need help to humble myself enough to be changed.

On the other hand, saying “Me too!” can create community and connection, find similarities among strangers, or affirm good ideas. An appropriately placed “They did so….us too!” can inspire action, bolster confidence, or pass on wisdom.

Some concrete examples from my weekend, lest I babble in the abstract.

Here is a list of when to use “US TOO!” or when NOT to use “US TOO!” in my “I’m a total work in progress and a big screw-up often” opinion.

Go for it…toss a “Me too” or “Us too” out there, Example 1:

Drew: “I think standing on the floor of a concert makes it so much more of an experience. My body is engaged, I’m closer, there’s no way I would rather sit far away in a seat, in the stands”

Me: “The concert wimpy part of me wants to sit down for a minute but if you’re moving up into the crush of the floor crowd for the next band, me too!”

The result: Better views of the bands, human connection with fellow fans in a physically, sometimes uncomfortable way, but mostly in a way that opened us up to others, pushed us out of our bubbles, and let us go deeper into the music and the night.

Go for it…toss a “Me too” or “Us too” out there, Example 2:

Friend: Tells me a scary story about an almost life threatening incident over Labor Day weekend with kids at a pool. We discuss for over an hour the pulls of parenting- we want to give our kids space and confidence to explore the world on their own. We don’t want to hover over them, holding them back until we can be there, go before, and iron out every kink in their path. BUT, we MUST pay attention, wield fierce instincts, instill good decision-making skills into our little kids’ forming minds, and we must prevent any and all dangers we can. She said something like, “I can look back and learn so much from the story.”

Me: “Me too”, and her story has and should shape me, inspire me towards better parenting, and remind me of the gifts and miracles I have in the tiny bums that fill seats around my table. Shame on me if I don’t let this teach me.  My “Me too” here is a pledge to be transformed and to rise up.

How about a different response? When NOT to use “Us too” Example 1:

Eli’s first soccer game: There is a giant disparity in the talent and experience of the two teams on the pitch (is that a soccer word?). Our team is NOT the one with goals in the teens. We have one goal, they have all the rest.

Overhead on the sideline in the second half:  (Note: this is parents, not 8 year olds talking) “They are pushing our kids! The refs are not calling it. They aren’t calling anything! So…if the other team is going to push, Us too! Let’s just push them back. If those boys can get away with it today, we should too.”

I didn’t say anything. Inside my head, I agreed there seemed to be some unfairness in the match up, but don’t know enough about soccer reffing to blame the seemingly young (14? 15 year old?) refs on their first game of the season. More to the point, I did not want Eli to think that if someone else can get away with something that is not okay, all of a sudden, the offense becomes allowable, and he should do it too. For me, I was caught between the group think before me, and the conviction of raising my kid to think that the world does not owe him fairness, and that the rules don’t change because someone else is doing it. I wanted him to say, “Not me” even if it was only in how he played out the rest of the game. Athletic aggression, yes. Bitter retaliation, no.

How about a different response? When NOT to use “Us too” Example 2:

My sister: shares ideas about having a baby.

Me: “Me too! I blah blah blah blah blah” and a launch into a story from my own experience.

I cannot wait for Laura to have her baby and yet I fear I will take over her experience with MY mommy stories. Yuck! Yikes. How frustrating to want to tell someone your story and have them tell theirs, longer and louder!  I want to walk the line of sharing wisdom I’ve gain in 8 years and yet also realize the world has changed, I’ve grown up through the parenting process and didn’t know it all at the beginning. I look back and see lots of what I learned, I learned by doing it myself, messing up, studying my kids, and putting my head next to Drew’s and hoping a great idea would come. I want to walk with Laura and love her baby but I do NOT want to overstep or oversay.

**This concept expands to include anytime anyone tells me about something they are doing that I also do: go to Colorado, do Crossfit, grow a garden,  etc.. I know my “Me too”s must come only after their story is fully told and only if, adding mine would bring us together, add information, or deepen the conversation.

People are great. And as Jerry Sienfeld wisely says, “People…they’re the worst!”

We must be careful not to commiserate when we  should confront instead. I want to empathize not proselytize. I will affirm, “Me too!” and talk for hours about a shared interest with a peer friend- all along the way, asking questions and shutting up with they speak.

I want to grow up kids who know when to say, “You’re drinking alcohol? NOT ME”  as well as,  “You’re going to try that really hard academic, athletic, artistic thing? Me too! Even if we fail, let’s try!”  I hope their risks are taken boldly and wisely, and that their pain never comes on the heels of a negligent and uninformed “They are…so Me too”.







Bits of Berthoud Pass

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Throwing questions of legality and vehicular safety to the wind, I stopped on the side of US-40 near the peak of Berthoud Pass and picked up a piece of a mountain. Falling rocks roar and tumble past small trees, over mountain grasses, and careen and crash onto the roads, whenever they feel like it. That day in 2010, I was on a mission with my inlaws to collect a piece of the mountain to take back with us to our flatland homes in Missouri. To this day, to see it and step on it, is to remember moments of God’s goodness and movement at Crooked Creek Ranch, Young Life’s Frisco valley property.
This past Labor day weekend, as in the 3 days prior to my penning this post, I was back on Berthoud Pass and brought pieces of it home with me once again. Drew and I took our family to the road Thursday morning and sailed across I-70- landing in Denver by dinner time. We ate with Maama that night and slept comfortably in the cooler Colorado temps in our cozy beds.
We awoke for adventure early Friday morning. The plan: camping near Winter Park-  reservations not accepted, tents, food totes and firewood required! Drew was the lone guy heading up with us and shouldered the load solidly. We loaded the van with sleeping bags, air filled sleeping pads, pots, pans, games, books, and headlamps. I rode up with Nat- candid conversation much needed between sisters who connect far too seldom. What a gift to listen to her life.
Idlewild campground was open and welcoming in the bottom of the Fraser Valley. Just past the entrance to Winter Park Resort, Idlewild sits nestled in trees, blanketed in green forest growth and alongside the Fraser River- a live sound machine. We would come to hear the train often and highway trucks occasionally- the chorus of civilization coming into the natural noise. We added our cheers, thanks, attention, and 1 (29)
Site 15 gave Eli and Andi  immediate and large amount of space to play, climb on logs, run up and down the mountain, meet new friend Christopher, and imagine a world in the woods. Oakley took to the dirt, the tents, and the always-outside with a smile and a nap by 1pm. We were set up long before lunch and relaxed all afternoon. Ahhh- bliss. The temperatures dropped markedly after the sun went to sleep. We huddled around the fire and then snuggled deep in too-light of sleeping bags. Kids needed more blankets despite sleeping in their sweat or ski pants! Missouri-mom fail. I did not pack enough warm clothes!!!
John joined the party Saturday morning and we took our smelly selves into town. We could walk the Fraser River trail .5 mile into downtown Winter Park. Skate park, play ground, grassy hills for cartwheels and rolling, and flushing toilets! We each found our little piece of indulgence: Eli’s in the skate park bowls, Andi with a dog, an aunt, and a Maama to play with, Oakley on a small concrete drainage path through the grass that he could run back and forth on with Aunt Nat right behind. The sun was warm and we had very little to do but be right 2 (30)photo 4 (20)
We hiked back to the camp site and our car for adventure number two! We drove to Winter Park mountain base and did the alpine slide. I do not want Oaks to grow out of being a baby and bemoan his adorable, personable and awesome speaking abilities because it means he is growing up very fast. However, when we learned he had to be two to ride the slide, I was ready to round up- just this once!
Oaks rode with me, Andi held her own, and Drew followed Eli as he leaned into the turns and never let up on that forward push. “I was really fast Mom. It was awesome. What was your favorite turn? What did you like the best? How do you think they built it? Those bumps are called Ripples, Maama. I can’t believe we can only do it once. I want to do it over and over. Even if it was raining, I never would have stopped.” Eli LOVED it and relived it for the rest of the 1 (30)
We got to play giant tumbling towers in the village, and then got to rent bikes and ride a pump track for free. Finally we flew over the parking lots in a bucket lift. I went to the bathroom 4 times in a flushing toilet during a day of “camping”. I agree with Eli, it was epic on many 1 (28) photo 3 (24) photo 2 (29)
Great food. Fun family. Lots of relaxing. New blankets from John. We enjoyed the rest of our camping trip in earnest, with story sharing, and s’more specialties. Turns out Nat is a bit of a s’more snob and no one was going to let her live it down.
Sunday was party day. We were showered and napped and ready to celebrate the wedding of Dad and Judy. Married in private in March, they were inviting the community to celebrate and acknowledge their marriage. We were glad we could come be a part and enjoy such a great party. The food was great, meeting family and seeing old friends was special. A new piece of family is growing.
The fun never stops. Monday morning was teeth cleaning time. Thanks to Maama for working on a day off! We checked out cavity free and packed up with ease. Per tradition, 7 years strong!- we stopped by Lakeside Amusement park for rides and memories with Nat, John, and Grandpa. There are just some things that an 108 year old park with a 74 year old coaster and duct taped doors on the spinning flipping ride, can offer that no where else can. Oaks joined the fear-free ranks of his siblings and rode the roller coaster, cars, boats, and the adult flying airplanes with me!photo 2 (31) photo 3 (25)photo (51)
Today is let-down, transition, discover that our tire went flat in the car at home in our garage while we were traipsing around mountains in our van, day. I am picking the bits of Berthoud out of our lives in smaller portions than a boulder. I vacuumed dirt and pine needles out of the van and shook wood chips out of the dryer lint collector. Seems we wanted to keep a little bit of the beauty, the better-than-a-pine-candle-smell, and the memories of a mountain weekend in our pockets. We will settle for it’s imprint on our hearts.

An answer from underneath

Things are not always what they seem.

At first glance, upon entering, or after an introduction, assumptions are made. Is this thing, this place, or this person what I’m thinking now, or might there be something more, or at least, a great explanation for what is?

Moving into our house at the end of April and settling in throughout the summer, the revelations of what we’ve moved into continue to unfurl: exciting bonuses (our kids are sleeping so much better in their own rooms than in one room all together!) and some disheartening setbacks (ugh- a small piece of tape is pulling off ceiling paint and drywall in the living room…seems some of the paint might not be sealed properly).

We are getting to know the house and how we work within it’s walls. Squeaks are sounding familiar, the smell is more our own, and space is being used for food, family, fun, or work with more efficiency.  We love it here.

One of the early quirks we encountered after move-in day was that our backyard hose spigot did not work. The handle would turn and turn but no water would come out. We spent the first few weeks watering the garden from 20 yards away- straining the front yard hose to reach as far as it possibly could.

It was discouraging and we had no idea who to call or what to do about a broken spigot. This was no ordinary spigot either; it’s handle was a bird. Despite the character it added, it seemed even more to complicate what we couldn’t figure out…where was the water?! photo 1 (22)photo 2 (22)

My friend Sara came to hang out one morning and help with some small projects. She comes from an extremely handy family, grew up on an almost-farm in Savannah, MO, and did a lot with FFA in high school. Give this girl a hammer, or ask her to identify a quality pig at an ag show, and she’ll excel! Sara came that day with her two small kiddos as a blessing to me and as my friend. We enjoyed catching up and got some work done around my house: hung some shelves and played “That’s a weed…That’s a plant” around the back yard.

On our backyard walk, I showed Sara the hose problem. She said, “It might be turned off from the inside.” In fact, one other person had suggested this but then, and even now with Sara, I didn’t know what that really meant or how to take action. Sara knew.

We went to the basement and she found a small cut-out in the ceiling down there. Peeking up, she found the answer. There was a knob, that looked like a spigot knob, right up there in the basement ceiling! I reached through spider webs and with wonder, turned it 5 times- lefty-loosey.

Back to the backyard, we turned the bird…and out sprayed water! What I had thought was a major problem, was actually an easy fix. The water was just shut off to protect pipes and hose. Someone had taken care to prepare the hose for proper use, not to derail my summer gardening plans after all! Daily, the bird shares her bounty and the effect is production of sustenance. The garden is indeed bearing fruit!

Our haul from today!

Our haul from today!

I wonder how many other times I’ve looked at the surface of something, or even someone, and drawn errant conclusions? Maybe our first impressions, our immediate assumptions, are not to be given much credence. Instead, digging deeper, asking questions, seeking to understand or getting to the root- being open to transformation in our own minds, will make us a better person in the world and help us get the best results in what we seek.