Tuesday, February 26, 2013


snowflakes.  no two are alike.  completely original in formation and design, visible only for a short time.  i left work yesterday after the snow had started...giant, heavy flakes fell all around me covering my hair and my clothes in an instant.  it was silent and beautiful and i wanted to simply stand there and take it all in.  i was reminded in those moments of the brevity of life...of the significance of a moment...of the weight of a word. 

last saturday we held my grandpa's sale.  just before we left to make the drive up my grandma called me to say there was little room to park and then said...
"they are pulling out the john deere.  breaks my heart."
"mine too, grandma.  mine too."

they moved to that farm right after i was born.  61 years of marriage, 35 years spent on that land.  he built that farm with his hands, she cared for it day in and day out.  a lifetime of stuff spread out over tables and trailers and muddy, snowy yard for over 300 carhart-clad men to rifle through and bid on.  i wandered through the sea of bearded farmers, looking over things i'd seen a hundred times...touching things i knew his hands had touched...sitting one last time on the tractor we had climbed on so many times as children.  i walked into his barn...his place of refuge all those years...the place grandma found him that october afternoon.  i hadn't been inside in a long time, but certainly not since...the big building that once held so much stuff was virtually empty and i'm sure the few men who were looking around weren't sure what to make of the little redhead in the bright pink coat who couldn't quite keep the tears from falling.  but, no matter...he was my grandpa...i had been the first, a position us grandkids argued over time and again in the hopes he would give one of us the gentle squeeze that told us we were special to him.  in my mind he was larger than life, so strong, so big...there was nothing he couldn't do.  maybe that was enhanced by the fact that he was gone a lot when i was growing up (he drove a truck) so it was a special treat if he was actually home when we were there visiting.  he was a quiet man, choosing instead to take everything in and only speak when he had something important to say.  he was ornery and could drive my grandma crazy, but he loved her and she him.  his lap was a place of comfort, his overall pockets the home of treasures.  the certainty of time measured by the pocket watch he always carried marked the all-too-quickly passing years of my childhood and now those of my daughter. 

i watched the auction throughout the day, saw the men lay claim to pieces of my grandpa's life.  over the course of almost eight hours his things were sold one by one.  some got a bargain, some paid a pretty penny...each walked away with a part of him.  what i realized is this...in the end we are all reduced to just that - things, some of which is junk and some of which is treasure - the worth of each determined by the highest bidder.  those of us left carry the best pieces within us.  his love, his gentle way, his smile, his laugh...all memories now, but of so much more value than anything tangible. 

we are each unique.  like a snowflake.  no two of us alike, no two created for the same purpose.  our lives hold more than we are ever fully able to see i'm afraid.  we are often crippled by fear, or stuck so far in the past that we are unable to fully be everything we were created to be.  i've only known a couple people who seem to have it figured out, who seem to know how to take every experience and see it for what it was and then live in the moment they are given so as to not waste one single minute.  i am truly inspired by them and long to be more like them.  we have one chance at right now...figure out how to live, figure out how to love, figure out how to be everything you were created to be.       

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


when i was in sixth grade i had my first real life-changing experience...

it was november 11, 1988...a cold, rainy day.  it was a special day in the life of a lathrop sixth grader.  we had spent months preparing for our field trip to exchange city and that was the day we finally got to put our hard-earned skills to the test as we ran our own little city.  my mom had come to help and i remember feeling special that she was one of the parents chosen to come, that she had wanted to be there with me that day.  i won some drawing...i never won anything, but that day i had...while i don't remember what it was, i remember knowing that the last time i saw it was when i laid it on the kitchen table that afternoon.  sarah had her friend, laura, over to spend the night...they played the piano and were excited because it was her first time to stay at our house.  i called my dad to tell him to meet us at the local bar for dinner.  before leaving we closed the two doors that would enclose our little dog, buttons, in the kitchen and family room while we were gone.  she seemed to like the t.v. so we would leave it on for her and she would be calm while we were gone. 

at ten til six we drove the two and a half blocks to the main street of my hometown.  i remember thinking that it seemed crowded, overly crowded even for a friday night...the little restaurant/bar full of all the town locals...most of which we knew, and it wasn't long after we ordered that mom went to visit with someone and i sat with dad telling him about our day.  "red, red wine" playing on the juke box...the events that happened next are a mix of a blur and movie being played in slow motion...

"are you jack canaday?" the waitress asked my father (oddly, she happened to be the one person in there who didn't actually know who he was.) 
"yes.  why?" he answered.
"someone just called and said your back porch was on fire." she told us before walking off to get back to work.
in a matter of seconds, radios started buzzing and the room became even more chaotic as the several random volunteer firemen who just happened to be eating dinner were called to duty.  i remember absolute confusion....my mom and dad trying to figure out what was going on and then they were gone telling us to stay there and someone would be back for us.  my sisters were instantly afraid asking questions that i had no answers to.  no one stopped me as i walked to the front door to look outside.  the sound of the sirens was deaffening, the lights so bright...as i watched the firetrucks race out of the fire station in front of me, making the two right-hand turns that would lead them to the smoke and flames i could see from the old brick house two short blocks away.  i have no idea how much time went by, but eventually my neighbor came for us.  we took the back way to their house because the entire area was blocked with emergency vehicles, cars of friends and those just needing to see what was going on.
i had kept it together until we walked up to the backside of their house...right next to ours, i was struck with the magnitude of the situation.  the smell of smoke thick in the cold, damp november air.  water still poured from hoses as men i had known my entire life worked hard to save our home.  my entire body gave out with the weight of the reality unfolding in front of me.  their house was full of family friends, mom was making phone calls...the first person to hug me was my friend, catie's, mom.  our parents had grown up together, her dad one of the volunteers who had gotten the call...the call that came without word as to whether or not we were home but only that it was the canaday's house on center street. 
what we later learned was that the fire started right around six...just minutes after we had left.  there was an explosion of some kind in the family room that blew out all the windows in the back half of the house.  the heat so intense the blinds in our bedroom at the front of the house melted to the window.  the explosion blew the doors open and somehow buttons managed to run behind a water bed and the long arms of a dear friend pulled her out.  i will never forget how i felt when he brought her to me as i sat on our neighbor's front porch surrounded by the random things firefighters had pulled out of our home at my parents' request.

there is something about knowing you don't even have a toothbrush...or a change of clothes...nevermind all of the things that matter to you when you're 11 years old.  the sense of loss i felt in those hours was immeasurable.  my entire sense of home destroyed in minutes.  true to form, our little town pulled together for us like a small army...the first of many times in my life i've received the generosity of others and felt the grace of God when nothing else mattered.  we walked through our destroyed home that next morning...dad giving us trash bags telling us to collect whatever we wanted to try and save.  catie was with me and we found our barbies...still in tact, but in desperate need of cleaning.  notes from friends, treasured books, many family photos and home videos all gone. 

that evening we went as a family to get something new to wear to church the next day and then my next memory is of that sunday...my dad and gran standing up in front of our church family as he thanked them for everything that had been done for us...it was the first time i saw him cry and it almost killed me.  in those moments i saw him as human, as a man strong enough to stand before his peers and weep out of thanks and exhaustion...and i've never forgotten how my vision of him changed with the example he set for us that sunday morning.

i battled nightmares for months...had the timing been just a moment or two different, we would have been there...likely in that room.  the details varied with each dream, but the outcome was always the same. 

the next year was spent with the five of us in my uncle's tiny two-bedroom fixer-upper.  my sisters and i shared a super-single water bed and as much as i couldn't wait for my own brand-new room, i felt lonely in those first weeks without them next to me. 

home is many things...an idea defined only by those who live within it.  i learned in a matter of minutes that a home can be destroyed, but the family within it is ultimately all that matters.  i grew up a lot in those months following our fire, maybe quite a bit overnight.  my childhood marked with a turning point that taught me nothing tangible is permanent...my innocence removed just a bit with the reality of loss.  a lot happened that day.  my little safety net was removed, but i was quickly shown there were plenty of people willing to catch us.  i learned that life can change just like that, but found the value of others to be much greater than i had even known.            

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


two years ago today i spoke to my gran for the very last time...looked in her blue eyes for the very last time...sat speechless with her, afraid to say anything for fear the lump in my throat, in my chest, would break free causing the tears to start and keep me from being strong for everyone else...for her...for myself.

today i am not much different.  i can feel the pressure in my chest as i think back to those moments, aching still for words i wish more than anything i had said yet reminding myself of the little things i want very much to remember.  

we are guaranteed nothing.  each moment is granted us with a hope that we won't waste it on our own human selfishness.  yet, more often than not, that's exactly what we do. 

one week ago i sat here full of questions, wondering what one small thing in my life could possibly amount to...fearing its magnitude and giving thought to many what if's in my mind.  ultimately the prognosis was good, best outcome possible...and the what if's turned into now what's and i was left wondering about the future - both immediate and a bit further down the road. 

tonight as i sit here, the one constant phrase of her's that keeps playing over and over in my mind is, "take care of each other"...she said this to my sisters and i many times throughout our lives, but i know she meant for us to use those words as a guidepost in all of our relationships, with everyone we meet.  one of my greatest gifts, and often for my own personal detriment, one of my greatest flaws, is my capacity to love...to care...to be...too much.  it's like i have no filter, no floodgate, no barameter that tells me when to stop.  i think i've mentioned that i see most things as gray...not black and white.  i have very few things that are set in stone for me and am able to see all sides in most situations.  my mom always told me i was very sensitive as a child, that i seemed to take others in...absorbing their pain as my own...i do that still today.  i think that's part of why i love people-watching so much, why i'm so drawn to the stories of others.  with this comes great empathy, which i suppose is the only real positive.

so...with all of this, comes my need to look forward.  i was told the other day that i still don't know what i want for me life, that i am still as lost as i was a few years ago, that i am going to spend my life looking for the meaning...for my purpose.  but they were wrong.  i know why i'm here, what i'm doing, what my purpose is.  those things evolve for sure, but at the core they are the same as they've been my entire life.  i've known since fourth grade that i was a writer, that i wanted more than anything to write and tell my stories...it's just taken me a while to get back to it and then build up the confidence to actually go for it.  i know that i love people, that i am meant to tell their stories somehow.  i want to see the world and experience all sorts of things and then know the comfort of returning home.  i want to guide my daughter and show her what it means to love and to live and to follow her heart even when it's scary.  i want to make a difference.  even if it's just to one person.  and, that's just the start of what i know, what i want, who i am.

but, tonight...tonight i'm stuck on a tiny round footstool that i sat on most of my childhood...at her feet, watching her breathe and looking into her eyes...torn between wishing she would be able to go, that He would take her home as she so badly wanted...and wanting to keep her here with us just a little longer. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

to have and to hold...

i have a very dear friend...she waited her entire life to be found by the one...and in so doing she created a beautiful life for herself.  one that was full in ways many only dream of...she lived on her own, she found the things that bring her joy, she discovered her true talents, she learned about things that fascinated her, she explored the world around her...she lived HER life.  and then, with the magic that only true love seems to provide...their worlds collided.  it was a simple story, nothing out of the ordinary...yet extraordinary for her.

that was two years ago...i remember so many conversations about him...how he made her feel, the things she instantly loved - his kind heart, his determination, his sense of humor, his devotion to the people he cared about and to his work...and about the fears she felt - the insecurities we all face when we give of ourselves to another.  but, with patience and grace, they fell in love with one another...like a puzzle with all the pieces placed just perfectly together.  their individual lives, the things that make them each unique, still in tact; yet stitched together with the gentleness and understanding that comes with the alignment of two hearts that are meant to be.

they've faced tragedy in its most devastating form.  walked through heart ache and the fear of the unknown hand-in-hand...stronger together than apart.  they learned how to love each other, how to be the person the other needs, how to put their own selfish ways aside to be the very best they can be for one another.

i watched their story unfold...knew instantly the moment i met him that he was the one for her.  i saw it in his eyes...not just hers.  the genuine love and respect that only some are blessed to find.  they seem to have IT...you know, that intense connection many of us never experience...and i couldn't be happier for them.

on saturday, he put a beautiful ring on her oh-so-special finger and told the world that he chooses her...that this is the girl he wants to spend his life with...that every moment is one he wants to share with her.  he made her the happiest girl in the world with only a few special words...and she said yes.

they are lacey and adam...and they are engaged!!!!  and, in october we will celebrate two people who deserve every single bit of happiness this crazy world can give them.  she is my very dear friend and my heart is full for her...

Saturday, February 2, 2013


words. simple, yet definitive. said in haste or well thought out. once spoken they are unretrievable. they have the power to make or break a person. to build or destroy and it only takes one to do either. often the most meaningful ones spoken by those closest to us. we remember few...carry certain ones with us. ones never to be forgotten. we touch each other with them. sometimes on purpose, sometimes with no intention. and, oddly, some of the loudest messages are found in silence.

speak less and listen more. seek to understand rather than to be understood.