Friday, October 26, 2012


October 29, 1994

Dressed in my usual Wicked Witch of the West costume with my boyfriend Joe dressed as Zorro, we opened our doors (well, actually his door; it was his house) and welcomed guests to our Halloween party.  Dressing up in costume was a must.  It was Halloween after all, the most fabulous holiday ever. (Ok, not including Thanksgiving, where you get to eat, eat and eat and not have to buy anyone a present.)  The house was full, the food was endless and the drinks were flowing when out of the blue, Joe called me over, walked me up a few stairs and gathered everyone else around us.  I thought for sure a Great. Big. Huge. Chocolate. Cake. with 29 (yes, it was actually my 29th birthday, not a celebration of..) candles was somewhere in my near future and that everyone, at any minute, was going to breakout with the Happy Birthday song in three part harmony.  Rather, what happened next took my breath away.  Little did I know then, but something he asked me (and it is not what you think) has cross my mind many times since as I try to figure out this world around me.  Yes, that was the night he proposed to me.  It was wonderful and beautiful.  We married in January and welcomed our first child, Brennen, into the world in June.

Fast forward to October 21, 2012
18 years later…

So, what was that question that has popped into my head so many times since it was first asked??  It went something like this … “Lisa, (while pointing to everyone gathered and watching) are all your friends here?”  I looked out at all the guests at our party and my voice said “yes” but my head said “no.”  Thank goodness this was one time that I didn’t say something out loud followed by “Did I just say that out loud??”  And it isn’t what you think.  My head said “no” not because Joe neglected to call and personally invite all my favorite peeps, it was “no” because at that time in my life I had no peeps.  My best-est friend in the whole-wide-world was not only 2000 miles away, but we hadn’t spoken in years, many years.  She pissed me off for some reason or another and, for lack of better words, I “un-friended” her before the word was even a word.  The other “friends” I had in my life consisted of co-workers and a few acquaintances I had met along the way.  At that time in my life my walls were thick and my walls were high.  There were very few (okay, there was no one) that made it over the top to get close enough to my heart.  I don’t know when it started or how it happened, but I was a full-fledge masonry; building walls so strong, so solid, so high, that no one was able to climb over or break through. 

Rewind - October 2009

Joe’s battle with cancer came to an end on October 7, 2009.  The six months prior to that (from diagnosis to his final breath) were days filled with anxiety and fear and became a time in my life when “the walls came tumbling down.”  I had barely enough strength to get through my days let alone have the strength to keep filling in the cracks and holes of my walls that were tumbling down around me.  In stepped friends I didn’t even know I had.  All the people I had kept at arms length were upon me like a warm safe hug and like that blanket you reach for in the middle of the night when you leave the window open and the coolness starts to become too much. They took over my life at a time when I couldn’t.  They got my children from point A to point B.  They cooked and delivered breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They helped plan funeral and celebration of life arrangements.  At work, they took over my job and did what needed to be done when I couldn’t do it.  Because of them, I was able to continue to go to Logan’s baseball games and Brennen’s football games with a smile on my face.  The friends I didn’t know I had, because of the walls I had built around me, stepped in and took away all of the everyday things that I couldn’t do so that I could focus on holding on to what was left of my family, tight.  To this day, there are no words to express my gratitude to those that were there for me despite the fact that I had always kept them at a distance. 

Fast forward – today

I still battle every day with the wall-building.  I sometimes think in my prior life I played a major role in the building of the Great Wall of China or the Egyptian Pyramids.  I am a master wall builder.  What I have discovered however, is that the most awesome feelings of acceptance and unconditional love can be felt when those walls – created to protect our hearts – come down.  Yes, the feelings are more raw and all of the negative things that come with relationships – rejection and misunderstandings, cut to the core.  But, on the other side … the love and acceptance you feel, from friends and loved ones, with nothing but your well-being in mind, are incredible and certainly trump and out-weigh the negatives. 

I really don’t know why so many of us go through life hiding our true selves or cover up and pretend everything is okay, when in fact it is not.  Or why, when we need them most, we shut friends and family out by painting a smile on our face and say “Great, everything is juuuust great!” when in fact, it is not.  If I had to guess, I would say that pride, shame, insecurity, not wanting to be a burden, not wanting anyone to spend time worrying, are probably all on the list, among other things.

I also think that when our lives are going great and days are filled with lollipops, glitter and unicorns, we are good at communicating that to everyone but fall short on inviting others to celebrate that with us.  So, when you reach the tootsie roll center, and the glitter is now on the floor and you have to sweep it up and the unicorns have disappeared, it somehow feels wrong to say “Hey, I didn’t need you then, but gosh, I sure need you now.” 

In the past few weeks, I have been in the position of SAYING “Oh my gosh, I had no idea.  I wish you would have told me.  What can I do to help?” and have also been in the position of HEARING “Oh my gosh, I had no idea.  I wish you would have told me. What can I do to help?” 

Point being, we are all in this together and it is always going to be a give and take. We need each other, in good times and in bad times.  To quote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest,  “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  And the “human experience” well, it’s not easy.  We all know that.  And the “spiritual experience,” well, that is just plain confusing!

For me, it all comes down to this … in the darkest, most saddest times of my life, what gets me through is knowing, feeling and believing that I am a “beloved child of God.”  I don’t have to earn it or deserve it, it just is.  And, when I focus on this it helps me kick down the bricks forming the walls that keep everyone else out.  God puts people in your life for a reason.  Let them in.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I had lunch with an old friend the other day ...

We hadn’t seen or talked to each other in quite some time.  But, all of a sudden, there she was, the voice on the other end of an unrecognizable number appearing on my phone.  I don’t know why I even answered the call. Usually when a number appears on my phone that I don’t recognize I let it first go to voice mail.  

I answered with my usual “This is Lisa” response when I don’t know who is on the other end.   “Hey friend!  How are you?  How about lunch?”  It took me a moment to register who it was I was talking to but then, the smile began to grow across my face.   I am not particularly sure when, or how, we even stopped talking to each other.   All I knew at that moment was how happy I was to hear her voice.  We didn’t chat long that first time but rather just got down to the business of scheduling lunch together.  I knew I couldn’t wait to see her so I suggested we meet that very day.  She seemed hesitant, like I had caught her off guard, but she agreed just the same. 

After hanging up the phone and coming down from my giddiness over having just spoken to my friend, my head began to fill with all sorts of thoughts.  Why had it been so long?  Why did we stop talking?  I don’t remember any sort of fight or disagreement but as I sat contemplating it for a few moments, my stomach began to not feel so good.  There was something I was forgetting that I was now desperately trying to remember before meeting my friend for the first time in a very long time.

Reflecting on my life over these past few years, I came to the realization that a great deal of life had gone by that I didn’t even take notice of, my missing friend being one of them.  We used to talk, laugh, cry, dream and scheme all the time, pretty much every day.  What happened to me, I began to wonder.  Why did I let that part of my life go away?  How is it that I didn’t even notice it until my phone rang with that unfamiliar phone number showing up?

So off to lunch I went.  Our conversations started out something like this…

Me…How is your mom?
Her…She’s doing terrific.  I was talking to her yesterday and she was telling me about your visits with her while she was sick.  She said they were the highlights of her days.  I wish it had been me that could have been there for her but I am thankful she had you.  I am able to see her on a more regular basis these days and we have a ton of fun together but she always asks about you and wonders why you don’t come by anymore.  Now that she is feeling better and can get out of the house and experience life she says it would be nice to share the good times with you.


I ask…How are the kids?  I love reading their facebook pages and seeing how much they have grown.  I think it is funny how times have changed.  Their world is so much different than ours was.  Remember when the latest technology allowed us to “click over” to an incoming call instead of getting a busy signal?  That feature saved me countless times when it was my dad on “the other line” wondering what I was up to as he and my mom were busy at work.

From the look on her face, I sensed the “They are doing great, all things considered.” was going to be her answer.  It was always her answer.  I felt bad that so much time had passed and the realization that my involvement in her children’s lives wasn’t as involved as it used to be.  I took their outward appearance of happiness, “my life is great” pictures on facebook as “They are OK.”  They probably are OK, but wow, how much more “OK” could they be if the adults in their life that they counted on and trusted were always there, never letting them down, letting them know they mattered, that their feelings, whether expressed or not, mattered?

It soon became apparent to me that this lunch wasn’t about old friends connecting and getting back in touch as much as it was about old friends getting together to say:  Hey…where did you go when I needed you?  Or, more like her telling me, I had let her down.

I was thankful for the sudden appearance of our server.  It gave me the moment I needed to mentally re-group.  Seriously, who did she think she was??  Did she not notice how busy I have been?

While her mouth was full of the bread that was just delivered to our table I thought I would take my shot at letting her know how she had let me down. 

Me … Sooooo….we missed you at the last Girl-a-Palooza.  You said you had so much to burn and give up to God.  Sending an email with your list of things to burn for you wasn’t the same as having you there with us.  Did you ever let of go all that was bothering you?
Her … I was there in spirit.  I just didn’t feel like unloading all my problems and I was tired.  Everyone has so much they are dealing with in their own life, adding my problems to the mix seemed selfish.  I couldn’t imagine going through what some of our friends are going through.  I am thankful to be carrying my own cross.

Me … Yes, I get that but, really?  Friends are friends.  While they can’t carry our cross, they are still there with us every step of the way.  They may not be able to take away our pain or burdens but having them there to wipe our brow or take our hand to help us up the hill is immeasurable.  They can’t do that if you don’t share your life with them.

Her … I know.  I am sorry I wasn’t there for you.
Me … And, I am sorry I wasn’t there for you.  I was so caught up in my own life that little time was left over for helping anyone else but myself.  The funny thing is, as I am sitting here looking you straight in the face, the one thing that could have made all the hardships in the last few years more understandable and tolerable would have been to take time to sit quietly and just be with you.

Her…I don’t have the answers to your worry’s or problems.  I have enough of my own to deal with.

Me…I know.   

Her … I miss you.
Me … I miss you too.

After our lunch and the several meetings that took place afterward, I am happy to report that my friend and I get together on a more regular basis, if to do nothing else but “check-in” and remind each other that we are indeed our own best friends.  Quiet meditation is our favorite means of communication followed by a daily Mass or two.  Once a week on Sunday just doesn’t cut it for us.   We need all the help we can get.

We also realized that we got so caught up in trying to “live in the moment” that we neglected and spent little time figuring out how to make our tomorrows better than our todays when those “live in the moment” times weren’t exactly what we had hoped for.  It is so easy to be present in your life when the life around you is all lollipops and glitter.  My friend and I, however, NAILED the art of being present in life when things, for lack of better words, sucked.  So much so that what we failed to see was that much of the turmoil we were living in and the conflicts and challenges we were facing where, in large part, due to the fact that we had become paralyzed by “the moment,” forgetting that in order to get through something, you had to go through it, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, until you reach the other side.  

Together we discovered and realized that yes, by all means, when life is a grand county fair full of glitter, lollipops and cotton candy … live in the moment, savor the moment.  Thankfully we have had many of those days these past few years.  However, when life seems overwhelming, unfair, dark, scary and sad, by all means, BE PRESENT but certainly don’t waste your time “living in the moment.”  Walk, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, right through it until you get to the other side.  Which by all means is NOT the same as running from it.  The only way to get through something is to go through it.  Running from it or going around it are only going to lead you back to square one.  And from my experience, when I run from something or avoid something, I don't realize I put myself back into square one until it hits me up-side-the-head, right smack in the middle of one of my cotton candy- filled days.

So it has been said, “The journey of a lifetime starts with just one step.” Or, something like that.

The first step is having lunch with an old friend.  And, the friend is you, looking right at you every time you look in the mirror, just waiting patiently for your invitation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

Sopapillas…doesn’t every Latino know what these are?  My recent trip to Mexico gave me the answer…absolutely not!  It was clear as day to me when our plate of “sopapillas” was placed in front of us…not the big, fluffy pillow of fried dough sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar that I have come to expect but rather, a plate of flat, over fried, cut up flour tortillas with too much sugar (too much sugar?..yes that is possible!) and grease was presented instead.  Really?  How was it possible that the cook had no idea what a sopapilla was??  We described them (so we thought) to a “T.”

So the story goes…

Over the past year(s) I have lost track of how many times what I have said, done and expressed has been “lost in translation.”  And, if I took the time to really think about it, I am sure I would discover a lifetime of “lost in translation” moments.  They are those moments that hit you up-side the head when you least expect it.  The times when someone “calls you out” on something that you supposedly said or did and you are so taken aback by their interpretation that your first and only response is WTF??  And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t say they also include those moments when I have mis-translated something that someone said or did to me.  I know I am guilty of this, probably (and thankfully) more than I know.  I can recall times over the years when I haven’t spoken to friends (and likewise) because I (or they) were so angry and hurt by my interpretation of what they said or did and then later come to realize I had misinterpreted the entire conversation or situation. 

It is at those times, when I realize that I have been misinterpreted, or I have misinterpreted something, that I find comfort in knowing that friends are friends, the ones who are with you through good times and bad times.  The ones who tell you… you have spinach in your teeth, or you have bad breath, or GOD, I can not believe you just said/did that..they forgive, they move on, they accept you for who you are.  You love them, they love you.  I take comfort in that because for the most part, most of us can count those friends on one hand and still have fingers left over.  I know personally I have two fingers left over when I count.  In our world of instant gratification…we get hundreds of birthday wishes on facebook, we can put up a post of how we are feeling and get a ton of “you go girl” or “I love you” or “I am there for you” notes but when it all comes down to it, it really is those friends who don’t care what you said, what they said, what people think of this or that.  They are the ones who don’t translate.  They take what you say, what you feel and help you through it by just being themselves.  They are the friends who live close by and give you hugs when you need them.  They are the friends who live thousands of miles away who are there to accept your texts and emails at all hours of the night.  And, they are those friends who you feel a connection to, who you think about many times but for some reason aren’t a part of your daily life but you know you can turn to them if you need to and they will be there. 
So, back to the point…lost in translation…keep an open mind.  Walk a mile in their shoes.  Or, at a minimum, if you don’t understand, rub their feet after the mile they have just walked.  They are friends, they are our brothers and sisters all seeking the same happiness.  Don’t let their message get lost in translation.