A little bird told me …


Hanging from the eaves of my front porch is a fuschia basket that my husband carefully pruned and wrapped up last fall in hopes of protecting it from the harsh elements of winter. Sure enough, it’s now bursting forth with lush green foliage and lots of buds promising to bloom. And right smack dab in the center is a sweet little nest, with four tiny eggs, and one hyper-vigilant mama Chickadee.

I discovered her little secret about a week ago when I was tending to my flower baskets in the front of the house. This noisy little bird kept flying around, making a racket, trying to divert my attention away from the front porch. And the closer I got to the fuschia, the more frantic she became. Upon closer inspection, I found the reason . “Don’t you worry, Little Mama” I whispered, and promptly ran in the house to holler at The Nice Catholic Boy. “Honeeeeeey, we’re having Chickadees!”

A few years ago, another mama bird did the same thing. At that time, I was recovering from yet another back surgery and just beginning to venture out into the world after several months at home. It had been a grueling and brutal ordeal, I was beat down and exhausted , and the front porch was as far as I could get. Literally. My husband had moved a chair onto the porch that I could get in and out of by myself. A few moments of fresh air, sunshine, and a glimpse of my garden in spring were dangled as a carrot – something to lure me out of the darkness and encourage me to crawl out of bed and put one foot in front of the other. Aim for once a day, said The Nice Catholic Boy. Baby steps. You can do it, Baby!

As I write this five years later, even though I am recovered and upright and mobile, even though I’m completely free of opiates and methadone and mind-numbing painkillers, even though I’m able to work with reasonable limitations and lead a full and meaningful life, and even though I’m grateful, TRULY grateful … recalling that period of my life and my overwhelming sense of despair is especially painful and brings tears to my eyes. I often joke with my neurosurgeon and tell her she should name a surgical wing after me – I’ve been there so many times that I’m sure I’ve paid for it. And I swear I’m going to get a tattoo across my low back that says “Still Standing” … someday. But it really isn’t all that funny, and where I’ve been to get to where I’m at now – I don’t want to revisit it.

But then I saw the Chickadee and I recalled the mama bird who quietly kept me company while she nested. Unlike the frantic little mother currently in residence, this one didn’t panic when she saw me coming. I watched her as she gathered little twigs and mud and built her nest. Not long after, she laid two speckled eggs. And then she waited. I’ll sit here, and you can sit there, she seemed to say to me. We’ll wait it out together.

In time, I found myself looking forward to my front porch visits with Hannah (yep, I named her), anticipating the day when her eggs would hatch and I would get to meet her little brood. But Mother Nature was taking her time. I began to find things to worry about – like that Hannah would be killed by feral cats and her eggs would be orphaned, and I fretted that the raccoons would find her nest. But there was absolutely nothing that I could do to intervene. I knew it. It was out of my hands. Hannah was steady and true. She’d fly out of the nest periodically to find a worm, and then return to resume the wait. I marveled at her patience and ability to quietly endure, and wished I could do the same. Patience, however, was not one of my particular virtues.

At some point in the process, I came upon the words of Luc de Clapiers, a French writer who died at the age of 31 in the late 1700s, in broken health. “Patience” he wrote, “is the art of hoping.” And I realized that in the midst of what was one of my greatest personal challenges, I was being given the opportunity to become more than who I was, and to learn the fine art of hoping. It was more than just hoping for the successful hatching of baby birds; I began to hope for me.

Initially, I hoped in baby steps. First, that I could walk to the end of the cul-de-sac and back. And then a little further. Then I hoped that I would be able to walk normally, without the awkwarad gait that comes with foot drop and nerve damage. I hoped for simple but important things, that I would be able to control my bladder and my bowels. (I apologize for my frankness, but as I said, it was brutal.) I hoped that I would be able to return to working in the shop that I love, with the people I love, in the community that I love. I hoped that I would learn to accept my limitations gracefully, without being bitter. I hoped that I would be a different and better person when I “came back”. I hoped that I could have a story to tell that would encourage someone else in the future. And I hoped that my husband would not lose patience with me. (Fortunately for me, when Gene Wobbe said “for better or for worse”, he meant it. Thank God for small mercies.)

In time, a crack appeared in one of the eggs, and soon a little beak, followed by a scraggly creature that looked NOTHING like its graceful mother. And then another. A day later, little tiny chirps could be heard from my hanging basket! As they grew, they were emboldened to perch on the edge of the nest and flap their little wings. And then one day they were gone – all of them! Hannah had launched her kids and moved on.

Ironically, it was about this time that I began to walk without a cane, first past the end of the cul-de-sac and then around the corner and beyond. I was beginning to taper off the multitude of medications that had previously kept life bearable, my head was thinking more clearly, and I was able to make short trips into my shop and feel a part of something again.

As I slowly became a more active participant in life, I found that my view of my little corner of the universe had changed. I’m of the belief that perception is reality, and all those hours on the porch waiting for two eggs to hatch had caused a paradigm shift in how I viewed the world and my place in it. I no longer had the energy or the inclination to “sweat the small stuff.” I found myself patiently waiting for situations to work themselves out without my intervention or “help”. I consciously started my days taking a grateful inventory of my blessings instead of lamenting my losses. And I came to believe that if, indeed, the creator of the universe has His eye on the sparrow, then He most certainly is watching over me.

Some years ago, when I was working in alcohol and drug treatment, a patient shared with me an old Chinese proverb that I think, today, perfectly captures my perspective of what I’ve learned from the fire and the rain and a wise little bird on my front porch. I’ve typed it up on a little strip of paper and keep it where I can see it often to remind me of how far I’ve come and how thankful I am for the journey. It goes like this …

“My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.”

All this flooded back to me last week as I discovered the Chickadee and her little secret. I wish I could quell her anxiety every time I walk by instead of sending her into a panic. She has an important task ahead of her and I don’t want her fear of me to be a distraction. She doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Bird, and there’s no way I can alter her perspective of me or the world around her. So for the next few weeks, or as long as it takes, Gene and I will come and go through the back door in the hopes of keeping the disruption to her little life at a minimum. It’s the least we can do.

And what a delightful thing I’ve discovered … on a clear night, the view of the moon from our back porch is spectacular! If not for the Chickadee, I wouldn’t have known.

On Motherhood

Note: The following is a re-post of a reflection I posted 3 years ago on a previous blog. My daughter Tori will, once again, be unable to come home this Mother’s Day, so I thought I would share this … with a few updates!

This will be my first Mother’s Day childless. My 23 year old daughter Tori has taken a respite from her Big City Job and is off on another Great Adventure to explore the wilds of the Alaskan frontier, leaving me to be content with a card and assurances of her undying love and gratitude. To be frank, I’m thrilled for her and somewhat in awe of the fact that I managed to raise such an magnificent, accomplished, adventurous, and life-affirming young woman. Good for her … and good for me!

For reasons that seemed rational at the time, I never planned on being a mother. Instead, I opted for being a godmother, an aunt, a mentor, an entrepreneur, and a philanthropist. It made for a rich and rewarding life, to be sure, but being Tori’s mom has been the greatest gift of my lifetime. Hands down. No doubt about it. Take it to the bank. Put it in your pipe and smoke it (okay, that might be a bit much!). Truly, I think I am the luckiest woman I know.

I have always been a planner, a list maker, a strategist, and a tenacious make-it-happen woman. So even though I never planned on Motherhood, I am here to tell you that sometimes an unplanned life makes for the best life of all. The script I wrote for myself in my early 20’s has long since been round-filed. In addition to being the mother of a remarkable young woman, I am now the step-mother of 3, and grandmother of 7. I have been a single mom and a married mom, the foster mother and guardian of my niece, and a mentor to a number of young women teetering on the precipice of life’s toughest choices. And while the path I took was not what I intended, I am absolutely certain it was where I was supposed to go all along.

Donna Ball, the author of At Home on Ladybug Farm, wrote, “Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”

Yep, true dat!

So this Mother’s Day, rather than sniffle into a kleenex because my Big City Girl is playing Eskimo (or this year, touring the California wine country), I’m going to tell my own mother that I love her, hug my sweet little granny, and lay flowers on the grave of the remarkable woman who gave life to My Nice Catholic Boy. And at the end of the day I’ll breath yet another prayer of thanksgiving for one curly-haired bohemian with the voice of an angel and the unexpected blessings of an unplanned life.

Lesson from a Horse

silverToday I was reminded of one of the earliest lessons I learned in life, the importance of Getting Back Up On the Horse. It happened when I was the tender age of three-ish and my parents decided to buy me a pony. His name was “Silver” and he was a Shetland Pony stallion. For those who know a thing or two about this particular breed, they are NOT the best choice for children despite their petite stature. They are temperamental, headstrong, frisky … and they bite. Silver was oblivious to my devotion, even though I brought him sugar cubes and carrots. He turned left when I wanted to go right; he galloped when I wanted to trot. And just as soon as my parents put me up on his back and turned their heads, he’d head for a tree with the lowest branch. He feared no one.

My dad thought that once Silver was “fixed” (that’s fancy talk for turning a stallion into a gelding), he’d “simmer right down” but, alas, this was not the case. Still, there were lessons to be learned in owning and caring for an animal, and my folks were determined that I should learn them. I knew at a tender age that I was Silver’s caretaker. I learned early that the animals were dependent upon us for their care – that’s why they got fed and watered first. We did not sit down to the table until the livestock had been fed and the water troughs filled to the top. I was taught to “walk down” my horse after a hard ride, to stop and check periodically for a rock in its hoof, and NEVER EVER take my anger out on an animal.

And so the day that Silver decided to exert his independence and show me who was really the boss was, for me, a humiliating betrayal of world class proportion. I had just hopped up on his back and clicked my heels for a slow walk around the pasture, when Silver took off down the hill at break-neck speed, running through the hedge of poplar trees attempting to dislodge me, then coming to a screeching halt at the bottom, and bucking me off! I sailed through the air and landed flat on my face. There were no broken bones, but my spirit was shattered! I vividly remember my dad running out to the middle of the pasture, pulling out his hankerchief to wipe the dirt out of face, and telling me “Get ahold of yourself, Piggo, and Get Back Up On The Horse!”

Naturally, this was the last thing I wanted to do. “How could Silver do this to me?” I wailed. Oh, I was heartbroken. And then betrayal turned to anger. “I NEVER want to RIDE THAT HORSE AGAIN! Dad, YOU’RE GONNA GET ME KILLED!”

Those six words – Get Back Up On The Horse – were often repeated to me during my childhood and adolescent years. I heard them when I came in last place at my first horse show, and when I didn’t win a blue ribbon at the 4-H fair. I heard them when I failed my first audition for jazz choir and when I missed my final attempt in high jump at the state championship track meet. I heard them when I crashed my powder blue AMC Gremlin at the age of 16. I heard them after the demise of my first marriage. And I heard them when I crawled my way back to the Land of the Living. Truthfully, I hear those six words every time something I do flops, goes south, or fails to flourish. These are also the words I say when I feel I have failed myself, the only failure I truly fear.

After a lifetime of climbing back up on metaphorical horses, here is what I know … The world is not always gentle. Perfection is rarely sustained. Success is never permanent (and neither is failure). But the value of a single moment is immeasurable. And that moment when you take a deep breath, face your present fear, press forward and try again – that moment when you Get Back Up On The Horse – well, that moment is priceless.

Wearing Grace

Today I am reminded of why I wear a crucifix. Yes, I know “Sunday is a’comin” … but I’m not willing to go there yet. Please let me explain …

I did not grow up in a religious culture that recognized and observed Lent. I didn’t know about Ash Wednesday. I vaguely remember palms being passed out on Palm Sunday, and somebody bringing a donkey to church for the Sunday School kids, but the concept of “Holy Week” was foreign to me. Easter was about The Resurrection and the Risen Christ. There was an Easter Egg Hunt, and an Easter Pageant, and good old-fashioned hymns like “Up From the Grave He Arose, Like a Mighty Triump O’er His Foes.” But I wasn’t real clear about Good Friday.

I am now.

In my little town, we have something called “Three Hours at the Cross” on Good Friday. Several churches come together and set aside three hours for half-hourly reflections and meditation. Folks can quietly come and go. I’ve been sneaking in late for the last 15 years. But for a variety of reasons, this year I’m right here, deep in thought, keyboard in hand.

I mentioned that today has something to do with why I wear a crucifix … my well-intentioned Protestant friends often make pointed comments about the crucifix I wear. “Why don’t you wear a cross? Don’t you know that our Jesus is a Risen Savior? Cindy, He’s no longer on that tree!” I’ve lived much of my life as a Protestant, so I understand why they don’t understand me. And while I frequently use humor when I refer to my rigid upbringing (hence the tongue-in-cheek-self-description “recovering pentecostal”), I am truly thankful for my pew-jumpin’ Pentecostal roots, and for the care and nurturing I received along the way from the Quakers, the Nazarenes, the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, and the Free Methodists. I love the rich diversity that comprises the foundation of my faith and my spiritual life. And I unconditionally love the many, many people who have contributed to it. But today, Good Friday, this Catholic Girl is especially mindful of why I choose to wear a tangible and visible representation of Christ’s crucifixion, every day of the year.

. . . because I have been physically broken.

. . . because I have suffered.

. . . because I have known fear so desolate and deep that it defies description.

And so has He.

That’s it, folks.  It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the Risen Christ, and it doesn’t mean I won’t be celebrating come Easter Sunday. It means that the road I have traveled has given me an understanding and definition of Grace that runs deeper and wider than an empty cross. It means that I have learned there is something unspeakably exquisite about the comfort and steadfast companionship of a friend who has been where you have been, and who has walked where you are walking. It means that there is strength in brokenness, and beauty in suffering. It means that there is hope in the darkness.

And it means that I need more than three hours to say thank you.

One Last Gift

Today is my dad’s birthday. If he were still here, we’d have a nice family dinner, I’d give him the latest John Grisham book (after I’d read it first), and we’d make banana splits. My whole family would be together – my mom, my brother, our spouses, all our kids – and we would have a nice, low-key celebration, just the way he liked it. “Don’t make a fuss,” he’d say.

Anyone who has spent any time with me at all knows that my dad had a lasting impact on my life. He was a man with a big presence and I loved him fiercely. He wasn’t perfect, and there were many views we didn’t share (much to his chagrin). He was not a patient man; he was terribly uncomfortable around people with mental disabilities and physical deformities, and crying women. He was intolerant of what he called “willful stupidity.” And he hated to stand in line. But he was a great dad. He was keenly aware of his shortcomings, humble about his successes, generous with his wisdom, and a magnificent mentor and friend.

My dad died of prostate cancer at the age of 62. Let me rephrase that … my dad died because he was stubborn, bull-headed, and unwilling to go the doctor when there was still time to do something. He deliberately ignored his symptoms, for years. He ignored the fact that his own brother had died of the same disease, that his father had been treated for it, and that the deck was stacked against him. He ignored my mother’s pleas to see a doctor. “Nobody’s going to go poking around in my orifices!” he said, and THAT was final.

When dad was finally diagnosed, it was much too late. Too late for treatment, too late to take action, too late to change the course of what was now a limited future. I was angry.

“It’s your fault,” I told him. “Did you really think you were going to get out of this life alive?”

He thought about it for a few minutes, then turned to me and quietly said, “You know, I think I did.”

“Well,” I said. “You were wrong.”

“Forgive me,” he said.

And I did.

My dad gave me a lot of gifts over our lifetime together. The first one I can remember is when I was in kindergarten. My friend Linda had the neatest little cabinet to keep her doll clothes in and I really wanted one. One evening, after my mom had picked my brother and me up from daycare and we walked into the living room, there it was … my very own dolly dresser sitting on the dining room table, with three shiny red apples resting on top – one for each of us! My dad had fashioned it out of scraps of panelling that he made at the mill where he worked nights. It had two sliding doors and a drawer at the bottom, much fancier than Linda’s! That doll dresser lasted my childhood, and my own daughter’s. Right now, it holds a collection of vintage Nancy Drew books in my guest room … waiting for the next generation of little girls. (Note to my daughter Tori, no pressure ….)

My dad liked to give me books that he thought I might find interesting. One of the last ones was a small paperback titled Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much.

“What’s THAT supposed to mean?” I asked him.

“You know,” he answered.

And I did.

He had some definite ideas about giving presents. “Don’t wait for a special occasion to do something for somebody,” he’d say. “Do it now!” There’s a little wooden knife he whittled for me on a fishing trip. And a few Albert Terhune books about dogs, his favorite as a child. On our back deck, is a cedar bench with planter boxes he built the summer before his passing. At the foot of our bed is a beautiful, pine blanket chest he made. And in that pine chest is a box of hand-written notes that my dad wrote me over the years with words like “Way to go, Piggo, I’m really proud of you!” and “I knew you could do it!”. And my personal favorite, “You must have had truly amazing parents!” (Yes, as a matter of fact, I did.)

The intangible gifts my dad gave me are too numerous to count … modeling for me the difference between being fair and being just, why the animals need to be fed first, never let the sun go down on your anger, speaking your gratitude, do it now, and how to plant corn. I’m grateful for all of it.

But the best gift he gave me – that he gave all of us – was the last one. Because when my dad knew that his days were numbered, he embraced the final leg of his journey with grace and gratitude, and he made it his mission to make it as easy on us as he could.

There are indignities involved in the process of dying. And for a man who had always lived life from a position of strength, this was not an easy pill to swallow. There came a time when the man I’d always known to be solid as an oak and strong as an ox could no longer get himself in and out of bed. He lacked the strength to stand on his own two feet. He could no longer walk and had to be pushed in a wheelchair. And then there was the personal stuff … no, he couldn’t do that for himself either.

Again, my dad was a PROUD man. He had no sympathy for weakness in others and he detested it in himself. But he was not a selfish man. Never, ever, in my entire lifetime, did I see my dad put his own wants and needs before his family. Ever. And so he did what had never come easy to him, he accepted help. He accepted strangers into his home to help bathe him, administer medications, and take care of the personal stuff. He accepted offers from friends to finish the projects he couldn’t, even when it meant that they weren’t going to be done the way he originally intended. He encouraged my mom to get out of the house and do things without him, even if it meant he spent some time alone. He spoke his gratitude, frequently. He did not make demands on us. He did not want to burden us in any way. He welcomed the help of my brother and me and our frequent visits, even when there wasn’t much to talk about. As unpleasant as must have been for him, he never complained. His first concern was always for his wife, his children, and his grandchildren.

My mom and I talked about this yesterday … of Dad’s last gift to us, of how it very well may be better to give than receive, but that if you’re not willing to receive, you deprive others of the gift of giving. He allowed us to see him in his weakness even though it humbled him, to express our love to him in quiet and simple ways, and to work through the process of saying goodbye. He granted us the privilege – and oh, what a privilege it was – to care for him and accompany him on the journey. He knew how hard it was for us. And in those last few months of his life, he gave me the gift of many truly holy moments that changed me, strengthened me, deepened my faith and character, and filled me with such gratitude that I am determined to spend the rest of my life saying grace.

Happy birthday, Dad. You really were the life of the party.

Dancing for Her Mama

There are few things that give me greater joy – and I mean deep down, inexplicable, happy-licious all the way to my toes joy – than watching my daughter dance. I mean it! I love to watch her throw her whole self into the carefree, delightful business of celebrating the joy of the moment in the moment … cuttin’ a rug on the dance floor with her friends without a worry in the world.

Growing up in a very conservative Pentecostal home, I was not allowed to dance. Nope. My parents said we didn’t “believe” in it. I wasn’t aware of this until 7th grade, when the first school dance of the year was announced and I excitedly went home to tell my mother. My friends and I had talked about it all the way home on the school bus – what we were going to wear, how we were going to do our hair, who was willing to share their lipstick and blue eye shadow … I was pumped! But three little words – “You’re not going” – took the wind out of my sails pretty darn quick.

It had never been an issue before. I took square dancing in gradeschool, but apparently that didn’t count. Dancing on a dance floor (or junior high gymnasium), with the lights turned low, suggestively shaking body parts with members of the opposite sex to K.C. and The Sunshine Band was strictly forbidden. End of story. My parents were firm, immovable, non-negotiable. There would be no discussion. We. Did. Not. Do. That. Kind Of Thing.

And so I didn’t. I won’t elaborate further, but suffice it to say it was a Pretty Big Deal.

Let me say right up front that I had a wonderful childhood and wonderful parents. I always knew I was loved, even when I felt I wasn’t liked. And I have great memories of growing up in the house on Summerville Road. But my adolescent years were difficult ones for me, and some of those well intentioned restrictions stifled me in ways I felt were especially unbearable. My parents had rules, and I followed them … most of the time.

There wasn’t much room for teenage rebellion at our house, but I did manage a little bit of clandestine behaviour. I rolled my bermuda shorts up and borrowed a friend’s bikini when I was at church camp. On Friday nights, I “dragged the gut” with Tami Gheen when we were supposed to be at a bible study. I kissed Chuck Brooks. And he was black.

But I never, never, ever once snuck myself out to a school dance. NEVER! And if I had, I wouldn’t have known what do once I got there … and therein lies the root of my lament. I’m 50 years old and I don’t know how to dance. This goes beyond knowing how to do the two step, the hustle, the shuffle, the tango, the fox trot and the macarena. Sure, I could take a class at the community college and learn a few steps. And maybe I will. But what I don’t know how to do, because I never learned, is how to dance … with abandon .. to kick up my feet, toss my hands in the air, and shake my bootie to the music FOR THE SHEAR JOY OF IT!

I parented a little differently than my folks – I like to think that I picked my issues carefully (of course, my daughter may have an entirely different opinion!). No, you CANNOT GET YOUR NOSE PIERCED or wear tiny little t-shirts that show the WHOLE WORLD your navel, but dancing … you betcha! So, when it came time for Tori to attend her first dance in middle school, it was a big night for both of us. As I dropped her off that Friday evening in front of her school, I leaned around to the back seat and said, “Tonight you get to do something I never got to do and I am VERY excited for you. I trust you completely, and I’m giving you permission to dance until they stop the music. Now go in there and dance for your mama!”

Over the years, I chaperoned many school dances and always loved watching Tori dance. I remember one evening in particular when she and her boyfriend Kyle were in rare form – the crowd parted and clapped to the beat of the band, and in the center of the dance floor were those two kids dancing like crazy! And boy were they good!

When Tori was born, I hung a little picture on the wall of her nursery that said, “God Danced the Day You Were Born.” The Old Testament says that Samuel “danced before the Lord,” the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a “time to weep and a time to dance,” in Exodus Miriam “took up the timbral and danced”, in Psalms we’re told that our mourning is turned to dancing, and my favorite … in the New Testament, the prodigal son was greeted with music and DANCING when he returned home to his father’s house. The truth is, I think God does a lot more dancing than we know. In fact, I think He believes in it.

I share this because a few weeks ago, my daughter posted a picture on Facebook of herself dancing at a friend’s wedding … and in a nano-second I was transported back to the parking lot of Siuslaw Middle School, dropping off my girl, and telling her to dance for her mama. She’s a Big City girl now, a 25 year old CPA with a promising career and an impressive 40lk, and a dog named Spiffy. She loves to throw parties and feed her friends. She loves adventure, and travel, and celebrating momentous occasions. She loves making the people around her feel special. And she LOVES to dance!

I have no idea where she gets it.

The Things I Cannot Change

In my late 20s, I was introduced to the Serenity Prayer adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and similar 12-step groups, and attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr. You know the one …

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

I’ve had a lot of opportunity over the last 50 years of my life to pray this prayer, to ponder it, to prove it, to break it down and analyze its parts, to eat, sleep and breathe it, to plead it, to share it, and to make it my own. It has been my mantra through a myriad of physical challenges and personal heartbreaks.

But that second line has always tripped me up a bit. I’m a Get-in-and-Get’er-Done, Let’s-Make-It-Happen, Be-The-Change-You-Want-To-See-in-The-World Kinda Gal. Give me a project and GET OUT OF THE WAY. Nothing is impossible, if you can believe it you can achieve it … yada yada yada …

Every once in a while, I have to extract myself from my crazy, on-the-go life and head off to my “home away from home” to re-fuel and wrap my head around the stuff I cannot change. A few years ago, my hubby and I renovated a cozy little cottage we call “Seamist” overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a short 20 minute drive from our home. The demands of our work make it difficult for us to take “real” vacations, so Seamist is our spur-of-the-moment getaway, and the place I often go to re-center my life. If the weather is amenable, I walk down to the beach, plant myself in the sand, and listen.

In the quiet moments that I spend in contemplation, I breathe through the process of accepting the things I cannot change. Over the years, I have accepted that I cannot make someone love me, and that I cannot protect my child from everything or spare her heartache. I have accepted my physical limitations and my losses. I have accepted grief, and change. Lots of it. And I have come to believe that the secret to life is twofold: the ability to accept change and loss, and the ability to move forward with gratitude.

I am grateful for second chances, and do-overs. For a chance to love and be loved by a truly beautiful man. For a home that is a haven for my family and a gathering place for my friends. I am thankful for my health and my mobility, and for the lessons in humility and surrender that I have learned through great suffering. It has deepened my character and given me a compassion and sensitivity to the suffering of others that I might never have experienced any other way. I am grateful for peace of mind and quiet confidence and an unwavering belief in the miraculous. It has given me courage to step into uncharted territory, to lead without a personal agenda, and share generously without worrying about how much it’s going to cost me.

There is a second part to the Serenity Prayer, something I didn’t know until my father passed away. I discovered it when I was writing his eulogy 11 years ago. It goes like this …

“Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.”

So I sit on the beach, with my toes in the warm pebbles, and work through the accepting of life “as it is, not as I would have it.” It’s not always an easy thing to do for this Get-in-and-gitter’done-kinda-gal!

And because I trust that He will make all things right, I surrender … and receive what I came for.