Archives for March 2014

What is Your Integrity Worth?

Christmas 2013 13

When it comes to the 5:45 pm witching hour, I know better than to expect much of my youngest child.  On the few days I head to the office, Kolby spends a solid nine hours in pre-school navigating toddler concerns, craft-making and playing “doggy bad.” 

It’s tough work for a four-year-old!

She tells me “mommy you were gone way too long” and wraps her soft arms around me when I pick her up.

So, I try to use my nicest voice and keep expectations low.

The last thing Kolby wants to do is run an errand or go ANYWHERE for that matter.

I’ve written about this before.  Her vehement outrage at being asked to do anything other than go home and play with the neighbor kids is legendary.  We don’t use the word Pavilions in our house after 5:00pm. 

But this time I had a game-plan—bribery.

As I buckled Kolby in her car seat, I casually mentioned I wanted to get her a special small toy at the store. 

And to my delight, she happily agreed.

We entered Albertson’s, found the toy aisle and picked out a bunny glider plane on sale for $1.79.  It seemed a reasonable price to get through my dinner shopping without any unnecessary toddler drama. 

I quickly gathered up my chili fixings, picked up a few more items and headed for the line.  After a long wait—due to the 6:00pm rush hour—it was finally our turn and we paid and rumbled out of the store. 

I say “rumbled” because I was pushing her in a behemoth bubble gum pink plastic contraption with two steering wheels.  I’m convinced that whoever invented these carts hates mothers, because a mother would make a cart with a remote control and an engine. 

My kid always wants to ride in this 400lb truck/cart. I can barely steer the thing empty–much less loaded down with a kid or two, groceries and a purse.

So, out we rumbled into the parking lot. 

I saw my car and exhaled deeply, “Almost there Sam, almost there!”

But then Kolby exclaimed in terror, “Where’s my toy?”

Fuuuuuuudge…

I frantically rifled through the bags but didn’t spot it.  Kolby’s chest started heaving with the first big wail, when I saw the plastic packaging wedged in the side of the cart. 

“Here it is honey!” I joyfully exclaimed.

Kolby examined her toy carefully, “Mommy, I don’t think we paid for it.”

This child is too observant.

And for one brief sinful moment I thought about how easy it would be to fib to my child and make off with $1.79 toy.  I mean I was almost home free. 

I stopped the cart and my flesh struggled with temptation.

I turned and looked at my car about ten feet away and then looked back at the busy store.  I looked at the sky darkening into twilight and realized by the time I picked up Kyle from football practice, unloaded the groceries, supervised homework, got Faith back from babysitting and made the stinking chili we would be eating around 8:30pm. 

A small tear of frustration slid down my cheek.

Then my sweet baby girl turned and looked up at me with her big blue eyes, “Mommy you always say we have to pay for our things. We don’t ever take anything that’s not ours.  We have to be honest and go back.”

I nodded yes and another tear fell—convicted and chastened by my tiny tot.

“That’s right!  I did teach you about honesty little angel.  So we are going to go to the car, unload all the groceries, and then turn this monster pink truck around and wheel you right back in to the store to wait in line another 15 minutes to pay, so mommy can be honest.”

And that’s exactly what I did, reluctantly and dragging my …!

Later on that evening over dinner, I told the family about our little encounter with honesty and how Kolby had been a model citizen and a great reminder to Mommy about integrity.

Kolby beamed (and yawned) as everyone affirmed her.

My husband leaned over and smiled at me, “Baby your integrity is worth a lot more than $1.79.”

Yes it is Pastor Tim. 

Yes it is.

But sometimes I forget this truth because I get run down by life.

I forget because I’m freaking exhausted after a long day at work, of making lunches and coffee and breakfast at zero-dark thirty, after car-pooling three kids to and fro, and going to the gym at lunch, and writing any minute I can grab, and doing endless laundry in my sleep.  I forget after trying to be meet my husband’s needs and caring for my parent’s through illness and even death and on and on and on…like every other mother I know trying to balance family and work and life.

I forget that integrity costs something.  It’s not always convenient.

It can hurt to be different.

And I want to be the person who goes the extra mile.

Even over a cheap crappy toy.

As I prayed that night, I thanked God for using my little one to keep me honest, because I need accountability in the weaker moments.  I need people holding me to a higher standard.

I need someone who inspires me to reach deep within my pits of selfishness and pull out of this muck something good and pure and holy.

I need Jesus with skin on to give me “the look” when I am tempted to fall.

And this time God used little Kolby to keep me on the straight and narrow path.

Who helps you become more of the person you want to be?

 Christmas 2013 14

A Little Bit of Fabulous

Becky Pic 9A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.

-Coco Chanel

When I was about Kolby’s age—three or maybe four—a man approached my mother and I at a restaurant. He was well attired—dark hair slicked back, expensive suit and rather dashing to boot. He got down on one knee and said to me in a thick and husky accent, “Do you know your mommy is the most beautiful woman in the entire world?”

I nodded yes and he proceeded to ask my mother out on a date. My mom declined, but her smile was wide like a Cheshire cat. She sent the handsome dark haired man away and leaned over to me after he left.

Then she whispered words of wisdom into my tiny ear, “Samantha, Italian men are flatterers. Don’t believe anything they say.”

I giggled and nodded, but secretly, I knew the man was right.

Nobody else’s mommy looked like mine. She wore beautiful clothes and jewelry and looked like a glamorous movie star. Other mommies drove mini-vans and had baby vomit stains on them. My mommy zipped around in a yellow corvette and wore cobalt blue leather pants.

I was pretty sure my mom was special.

Growing up, I saw my mom through child’s eyes—a rather myopic view that changed as I grew older. As a little kid, she seemed bigger than life and I treasured the time I spent with her. She worked hard and often had a second job, so our hours together were very precious.

Recently, she confessed to me that one of her biggest regrets was teaching me to read so young, because once I mastered the words I didn’t need her anymore. I was off in my own world devouring books instead of cuddling next to her at bedtime.

But this love of books was something we both shared. On Thursday nights when my step-dad was off playing poker we had a ritual of going to a French bakery and then to the bookstore where we picked out juicy new reads. We had lots of little special Seal Beach rituals—brunch on Sundays downtown, chocolate croissants at the Swiss Bakery, Char-o-Chicken nights and Ruby’s on the pier were always a treat.

We spent many happy days shopping. My mom was the master shopper and picked up clothes, antiques and textile on a dime. We spent so many hours at South Coast Plaza they knew us by name. To this day, my husband says I have mall GPS . He can thank my mom for that gift. I would take a book and hide under the racks. I knew every bench in every store where she would try on one outfit after the next. We would arrive home limping and crash in heaps on the sofa from exhaustion.

My mom’s closet was my playground. It was a part of her and I felt connected to her there. I would hide in there as a kid when I felt scared or alone. I would try on clothes and hats and scarves pretend to be a princess or one of my favorite characters in a book. And she would laugh at my get-ups and eventually lock me out of her closet by the time I was a teenager.

I found myself in there last week, staring at her clothes, remembering the way she put things together and crying as I breathed in her smell.

We had different personalities. I was more introverted and a bookworm, she was a social butterfly. I was more conservative—she liked to take risks with fashion. I was a dreamer—she more pragmatic. And yet, despite our differences we rarely argued. Our home was always peaceful and serene.

I’ll never forget when I bought her a workout outfit as a young teen. It was a unitard with neon cutout straps in the back. When she walked in the door after working out my mouth dropped open. She had it on backward and the neon straps were barely covering her ripped abs and bust. I, of course, was horrified and told her she couldn’t wear it like that. She laughed at me and said she liked it like that. And she continued to taunt me by wearing it backward for years.

That was my mom.

But as I grew older, I began to notice different things about her. During the last four months as she battled pancreatic cancer I saw a different woman than I knew as a tot.

First, she knew how to make the ordinary things extraordinary. She celebrated the smallest things in life. If she was going to have a snack it was on china and crystal. If she left the house, she was ready for the paparazzi because she always looked gorgeous. She made the holidays into an art form and the most intimate dinner parties into an event. Her home became her show piece and every object and every arrangement has her fingerprint on it. She was extremely thoughtful and if you showed up for Christmas your gift would always be perfect for you—even if she barely knew you.

Second, I saw the connection she had with my step-dad and it was different than most marriages. These two truly put each other first. They were best friends and playmates, dance partners, travel buddies, and lovers. They say the grass is greener where you water it. If that’s true, then my mom kept her sprinklers running constantly because her lawn was a brilliant green. Few people are married over 30 years and are still giddy with romance and yet my mom and Herman had an intimacy that I hope to model in my own marriage. My mom taught me by her actions how beautiful a relationship can be if you put in the extra effort.

Last, as the end drew near, and in the final months I began to see the impact my mom made in the lives of the people around her. She was so well loved—in fact her friends in Indiana held a service at the same time as her funeral in California.

She was truly adored by the friends she taught with, zumba’s with, volunteered with at the art museum and by everyone she met. I have never seen an outpouring of affection like I did with my mom. She had hundreds of visitors in the last few months. There were always people staying in the home and there was always someone knocking on the door.

I believe it’s because my mom had a tremendous gift of hospitality. She was an inviter and she welcomed everyone into her beautiful world. She was the ultimate hostess and she cooked and prepared for days to offer her gifts of food and presentation to her friends. She loved to serve people in her way—with grace and beauty, good food and good wine.

She also never burned any bridges. Even if someone ticked her off she covered it with a smile. I liked that about her. There was very little relational drama with her. She got along with everyone. And even in the end, she didn’t complain much. It just wasn’t her style.

I think of my mom as a work of art—like a sculpture defying the ages. She did life her way and on her own terms. She was strong—with a backbone of steel and the cardiovascular endurance of a twelve year old from forty years of step classes and spin. She was the epitome of elegance and when she walked in the room people stopped and watched her. It wasn’t just her beauty—although that was part of it—but it was something about her. She commanded space. My mom had a charisma all her own.

Her favorite color was cobalt blue and it’s all I’ve been wearing the last week. Before she died, she told me to rent a U-Haul to take all her clothes home with me. I’m hoping it won’t come to that, but then again, this woman had clothes in abundance. She expressed herself through fashion.

I do know that every time I wear one of her dresses and it draws admiration, every time I write a story that moves someone to tears and whenever my home is open and hospitable and the food and wine are flowing freely—my mom’s spirit is still alive and kicking.

I believe my mom’s legacy is beauty and elegance with a perfect twist of fabulous.

Becky Ann Parsons 1945-2014

Becky Pic 12

The PAUSE Button

 9ee5552a7c56b9afa42c60bb51eb1ec7

It’s tough to watch a show on TV with my husband hovering around.  Tim likes my full attention and he doesn’t particularly appreciate sharing our precious moments together with Downton Abbey or Property Brothers.  If I do partake of a little TV therapy in front of him, I’ve learned to make liberal use of the PAUSE button.

It’s mostly win/win.  I pause and listen to him chat about Seattle sports—and he feels heard—then I go back to my show until he interrupts me once again.

But sometimes I push PAUSE and don’t go back immediately.  Maybe a child wakes up or I get distracted.  I turn off the DVR and days pass before I have a moment to sit again. 

And I inevitably lose my place. 

I fast-forward and rewind.  I search and search for just the right spot to re-engage.  But I never really find it if I let too much time elapse. 

Even though the story is the same—it feels different somehow.

This imagery perfectly describes my life right now—a life interrupted. 

Maybe it resonates with you too?

Life suddenly hits the PAUSE button and we spin out of control.

For me, it’s been four months of messiness—relational and emotional and physical wounds to the soul.  I left normal like Dorothy in the whirlwind of the Wizard of OZ.

This week I said goodbye to my mom.  Four weeks ago I buried my dad.  Two funerals in a month—two terminal illnesses and four months of intense suffering and grief are finally over.

This chapter closed.  The PAUSE button lifted.  It’s time to exhale.  Dorothy is back in Kansas.

In some ways the brevity of the loss may be just sinking in, but on the other hand, the intense anxiety is washed away in the sweet release of death.  I never thought I would welcome this separation, but then again, I’ve never seen cancer close up.  I’ve never experienced what a brain on a crash course with atrophy looks like. 

I prayed so desperately to be with my dad when he passed and God granted me this wish.  But with my mom, in the final hours I couldn’t handle it.  Call me a wuss—I’ll own it.  As the shadow of death crossed her face, I fled to the safety of my husband’s arms—as if I could pretend it wasn’t real. 

Unfortunately, it was.  I was on the road driving back when she died. 

When I arrived at my mom’s house I sat by her side.  Even in death she was beautiful.  I found her red sequin slippers and ever so gently placed them on her feet.  I wanted her to be ready to meet the Grand Wizard—just in case she changed her mind in the last moments.  Just in case Jesus reached out for her hand and she took it.

I don’t know what to do with myself this week.  The vigils are over.  No more hospital visits, no more oncologists and neurologists and high security Alzheimer’s homes.  No more hospice and social workers and home health care workers. 

Where do I hit play again?  Where does the movie start when the entire landscape has changed?

Maybe your movie changed too?

Maybe you lost a child, got divorced or experienced the death of a dream?  Something within you died and your movie is radically altered.

And yet you hold on…

There is a part of you yearning for restoration, clinging to hope, and confident that someway God will build something glorious out of this tragedy.

I don’t always understand the mystery and bigness of God.  I don’t understand how he heals or rebuilds or reignites a flame of hope in the desperate. But I do know when I cry out and hold out my hands HE is there with me in the fire and the storm and even in death.

And he will direct this new film as I hit PLAY once more. The ending might change but the story is still beautiful.

Has your life been interrupted recently?

 

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