goodbye, stars

I looked up at the stars and realized none of them were mine…

Carefully hand-placed and spaced – just especially for ceilings –
nobody knows if the Big Dipper has enough stars, it doesn’t matter
L-O-V-E is for the way you look at me,
Outlined in a heart with one too many connect-the-dots
Glowing with a plastic shimmer, a greenish hue that is familiar
A little pick me up when skies are gray,
my skies and the skies outside with
Their snowflakes and their raindrops and their sun rays and their cloud tufts and even
Their patches of stars
A familiar quilt sewed by 11 year old hands draped above me
“Now I lay me down to sleep,” I count my stars and softly weep
The twinkling stars often echo the night train, on those exceptionally quiet summer nights when I stay up just to hear how the earth teems awake when we are sleeping
Familiar, plastic, glowing, green
Forever will I miss your little light, my own Yosemite sky
My humble, tiny friends for over a decade, creating a small world all for myself, a nighttime secret
For I loved your illuminating company,
sitting
hoping
praying
in the dark.

Pockets

photographs are

nice

But moments

are nicer

when you have a moment

don’t be so quick to always

exploit it and share it

with everyone

instantly

invoking those who don’t know

to care

keep some moments for yourself

tuck them away in your pockets like you do  a gum wrapper, you’ll need it later

you will need these good moments later

Days, weeks, months, years, a lifetime, light years

you will suddenly awake to find a day with a bad moment, a bad memory,

a hundred bad moments, a thousand bad memories

and you will want to change it

and you will need to change it

So, you will wrap it up in something good, that same something good you’ve been saving

and,

 

no one has to know

because you know and can sleep with peace curled up at your feet that

you have good moments

you always have good moments, patiently waiting for you right there in your pockets

and they always have the extraordinary ability

to envelop and redefine

the bad

 

 

Snapshot

Sometimes, I secretly wish he watched me do small, mundane tasks with my tiny, delicate hands. And I also secretly wish that he kept those snapshots of me in his back pocket and pulled them out on a rainy day when everything seems grey, even when I seem grey. The other day I was cutting an apple, and, I must admit, I was cutting with quite possibly the dullest butter knife in all the land. It was a funny and peculiar site I’m sure some took notice of as they chuckled to themselves “why is that girl cutting that apple with that?” But as I continued to cut, I didn’t think about them, all I thought about was him looking across three tables and smiling as he saw my embarrassingly funny attempt to cut an apple. And I sincerely wished and hoped in that way back section of my mind that he saved this snapshot, and at that very moment thought to himself, “there she is, my funny girl.”

Definition

Sun and moon together as one like two hands
Two hands locked together struggling to separate
The left is yanking the right and the right is tugging wholeheartedly on the left
When you mix these, when you begin to see that there is more in your head
There is a profound yearning deep in our minds, in our souls
To be more than this life says we are
To be more than the social security number that, to society, deems to the rest of the numbers that we are
Accountants
Teachers
Doctors
Stock brokers
Engineers
We are not defined by this !
No.
Don’t limit yourself to the confines of this frustratingly ancient, unchanged world
Expand. Deep in your soul you yearn,
For something more.
Express that inner love, that inner passion, that inner desire
Don’t you know this is secretly encouraged?
If we repress this deepest, inmost, genuine passion how can we survive?
How can we survive in a world of people, mindlessly contributing to society without an ounce of fire,
they don’t know the sun
Without an inkling of bright, white hot intense beams
They don’t know the moon
Don’t be a stranger to the sun, don’t be a stranger to the moon
Nothing good can come from this, for when you look back
When you look back on the life you led, and you realize you were enslaved in an identity that wasn’t true to your own, that encompassed no amount of genuineness and passion
Won’t that be a sad day?
Dejected and in anguish, you’ll look back and wish and hope and pray as you might, it will all be set in stone
You will have made your mark on this world, imprinted and etched permanently in the everlasting carved wall upon which everyone remembers
But gypsy woman knows all this, she saw it long ago
Translated and woven in that intricate, mesh like brain of hers, she told you, child.
All you have to do is listen.

“Tapestry of My Father”

I believe in the resilience of the human person
I believe in the beauty of the words “I can”
I believe that you and I and him and her and them and we are all one in the same
All interconnected stitches in a woven complex a beautiful tapestry
I believe these hands touched those hands just yesterday
In some way
In some how
In some place
That is also connected
You see, dear one, we cannot survive
Alone
No matter how
Strong we think we are
Tough we think we are
Smart we think we are
We are helpless.
Helpless without
You
The postman
Sal the deli guy
The old woman at the bank who reminds you of your grandmother
Officer Tom
President Eisenhower
Mom n Pop
Me

Interconnected, the wor(l)d is interconnected
Every fiber of your being, interconnected
Don’t forget you are a tapestry.
A beautiful tapestry
but a tapestry can’t be made without
A lamb

A lamb?
A lamb.

And…
Mountains to find the sheep perched on the wobbly rocks
Hands to guide the tufts of fur off of the amicable lamb
Wool that slowly loosens willingly, easily from the tufts
A loom to weave the wool to yarn
Hands to work the loom and tie the knots
Into a beautiful tapestry, different every time

Without the lamb, you would be nothing. Not even a thought or a plausible possibility.

First Mate

I know this to be true
My brother is the first mate

It rained and we made pillow forts
More pillows for the starboard side! I would say
The stern the corner of our amicable, ever versatile coffee table
Look for shore! as one foot perched daintily on the tippy top of the stern, coffee table
Still searching for my sea legs
Just as the tide would turn, the sails would answer and readjust
Billowing east and west, safe, encouraging flashes of white
No matter the squall, we kept our resilient sails

But then came a time that surpassed boats
Sturdy ships aren’t the only magic harvested from those friendly, familiar pillows

It rained a pretty rain and we made pillow forts
Leave an opening for the breeze! I would say
We don’t want to get trapped in here and miss supper
3 walls, 4 pillows, 2 bags of endless Goldfish, and a rainforest
The jungle won’t be so bad – the animals are our friends
Except for the snakes, except for the snakes
On Saturday afternoons We watched the animals and listened to the rain, my first mate and I
First mates and captains travel everywhere together

It rained harder and we made pillow forts
First mates get bossed around sometimes
But the captain is trying to be responsible, keep the crew safe
Keep the first mate safe, too
We made pillow forts in the driveway, up by the old, moping tree
The tree with the split trunk and sunken branches perfect for one bottom, two feet, and a good book
Keep out the sun, keep the first mate safe, read the captivating story
Keep the first mate safe, too
Sun beating down always meant desert,
But deserts had the prettiest storms, ones entwined with ballets of lightning and concertos of thunder – plié, accent, plié, accent, plié, plié, accent
First mates and captains can survive anything, even deserts

It rained the hardest and we made pillow forts
The sturdiest pillows now, we made them this way
The captain is tired and the first mate is encouraging
The former takes a seat, watches the squall, listens to the rain
The latter is lost, bewildered, angry,
Angry at the storm
Angry at the boat, the pillows
Angry at the captain
But, then the first mate turns around, and grabs hold of the sails
No captain
Steers the vessel
No captain
Hurls the anchor in one handed
No captain

The first mate and the captain sit, anchored
The storm is theirs
The rain is theirs
The pliés theirs to see
The accents theirs to hear

It stormed, but always settled, and we made pillow forts
The captain with her first mate and the first mate with his captain
Seas to jungles to deserts to seas and back again
Their conquests were endless

Then the captain had to leave
How will I face the storms? The squalls? The jungle? The desert? The whole seas? The first mate cried
You have conquered the storms
You have conquered the squalls
You have conquered the jungle
You have conquered the desert

You will conquer again, but with open hands now
Embrace the storms
Embrace the squalls
Embrace the jungle
Embrace the desert
Embrace all of the seas you travel

And the captain left and the first mate left, each for a new adventure

But when it rains, we still make pillow forts.

The Art of Turning Corners

At some point during the dreaded seventh grade year, I broke up with my very first “beau” via a post it note, vibrantly taped on the front of his locker for all the world to see. Since then, I’ve learned a few things on love, relationships, boys, and most importantly, a million other ways to break up with someone, all which would have been infinitely better than my tragic 13-year-old mistake.

I am wiser now, past the stage of post it notes, braces, and ill-fitting clothes on an awkward, lanky body. This below happened just the other day.

We talked just briefly.

I read his body language, and instantly began judging the length of our conversation and comparing it to countless other conversations with countless other ones who triggered all the same feelings that he did. How full of lazy, meaningless, painful small talk it was. When did small talk become this way? Wasn’t it originally at some point or another meant to mean something? Didn’t all talk, all words, used to have purpose and meaning and passion behind them? Aren’t words designed to stir something up in your soul that makes you think? All I hear is empty, empty, empty. All I feel is empty, empty, empty. I walk home alone, empty, empty, empty because no footsteps echo next to mine. My hands clutch my books or swing anxiously open from my sides, empty, empty, empty. I come back to a room, empty, empty, empty. No one to curl up next to, to erase the hard things in life, the sad things in life, my bed is empty, empty, empty. My heart follows as if to the hum drum beat emp-ty, emp-ty, emp-ty. There is no other presence but my own it seems, it often feels so empty. A constant void that started as a tiny hole after the post-it note incident and grew and grew and grew, heartache to heartbreak and back again. A gaping crater in the old t-shirt of life and loves past.

Meanwhile, I have perfected the art of turning the corner. It stems from a love affair with romantic stories and books and films but starts with a hope. A hope so embedded in and derived from the love displayed so beautifully in these films, novels, passed down stories. It stems from replaying the simplistically beautiful story of how my parents met to the innocent start of the love between George Bailey and Mary Hatch. These things have instilled a vision of love that seems quintessential, a vision unique to every person. How desperately we all want our own, poetically exquisite love story, one that we can’t help but beam when we repeat it over and over in our heads and endlessly tell our friends, our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, every rooftop, the tops of mountains.

With this predisposition anchored deeply in our minds, in our hearts, in our souls, we turn the corner. We turn the corner and replay every iconic scene of boy meets girl in our head. We desperately yearn for this to be the corner, this to be the moment, this next pair of eyes to be the one’s. If you’re a hopeful romantic such as myself, you dream of wedding dresses and imagine breathtaking dates and picking out children’s names all starry-eyed, all in the 4.7 seconds it takes to round that corner. And then, you are crushed. There is no one there or worse, there is someone that you’ve seen around the bend before that you know has not rounded that corner in search of you.

Do you ever feel like you’re different from everyone else? Like others don’t think the same way you do or feel the way you do and even if your closest friends sometimes feel the way you do and sometimes think the same way you do, that there still isn’t one single specific person who feels everything the way you do, and thinks about things the same way you do? Not thinking about the same things or feeling the same things in some sort of telekinetic sync, no thinking in the same way about all kinds of different things, and connecting, connecting in a way where all of the things you are talking about and all of the things he is talking about make sense. It could be “what goes on in the mind of an inventor?” to “what do you think Mary loved most about Jesus?” and you would still connect and just “get” each other.

This. This is what we strive to find, what we ultimately desire, what is deep in our hearts, crying out to every decent-looking man we see around every corner. The more corners we turn, the closer we are, yet the farther we feel once that corner is turned. Does he exist? we begin to question. Does he know where I am?   Am I a part of his thoughts? How soon til we meet? How will I know? What will I do if he is not in the cards? If he is not in my plan?

He, Name above all names, knows. He has conquered death, there is no fear He cannot vanquish. He is writing your love story and mine, take heart! Take heart for He is yours and you, His and He will lead you.

He will lead you around every corner. Even if you feel that for the love of all things good you can’t bear to turn another corner, to let another false hope come sweeping over you, to muster up the courage to talk to one more stranger that you so desperately desire to be “the one”… let Him lead you. Keep turning corners, and with His help, he will be waiting around the corner thinking in the same way about you that you have been thinking about him. And he will be feeling all of that hope and heartbreak and desire towards finding you, that same hope and heartbreak and desire you have had trying to find him. And only through the grace of God can we find him, because God knows exactly which corner he is waiting around.

Befriending Morrie Schwartz: My Very Best Friend I’ve Never Met

“Love each other, or perish.” – Morrie Schwartz

I love to talk about love.  Who doesn’t love, love?  It’s romantic, it’s exotic, it’s highly sought after, it’s contagious, it’s what everybody really wants.  Sometimes though, we forget how to give it.

This afternoon I finished a powerful, little unassuming book that changed my life.  Cliche right, I know we are in a blog.  But these 192 pages must be read by everyone; read by every mid-pubescent middle schooler who is in the utmost awkward stage of life, read by every middle-aged working class man who has fallen into the hum-drum rut of life, read by every parent who aspires daily to love their children more than they did the day before, read by every grandparent who has seen the world, lived the world, and has enough stories of experience to last 14 Christmas dinners, and especially read by every college student or newly, young adult anxiously trying to get a grasp of who they are and just exactly how they fit into this complex, mess of a world.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom will hook you, sink you, and redefine the way you see the world.  From the very first moment our main character, Morrie Schwartz, is introduced, you will have instantly gained a new best friend.  He was the author’s beloved college professor and  one of his dearest friends.  Your new best friend’s mantra is “Love each other, or perish.”  How simply beautiful is that?  Love each other or you leave this world with nothing, no imprint, no mark on anyone else, no memories for others worth keeping, no memories for you to cherish, no powerful connections with your brothers and sisters, nothing.

Every word that you read that comes out of Morrie’s mouth is definitely something that could be typed up, printed, and hung in a frame in someone’s home.  Morrie is one of the biggest proponents of love and life that I have ever met.  “When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”  As you find out from the very beginning of the novel, the entire story is about Morrie’s last stretch of life.  He explains that you come to appreciate every small and ornately beautiful detail of life as you are smack dab in the ugly process of dying.  Something as simple as going on a walk to admire the changing leaves suddenly becomes such a beauty and such a privilege.  The moment of being able to kiss your sweetheart goodnight becomes a gift.  Reading the Sunday newspaper and hearing the soft, anticipated crinkle of each page as you turn it with ease becomes an absolute joy.  Life becomes richer and deeper and every ounce, good, bad, ugly, becomes inexplicably meaningful.

With the good, bad, and the ugly not just of dying, but of life as well, comes emotions.  You know Morrie’s got a couple golden nuggets of wisdom for these, too.  “Turn on the faucet.  Wash yourself with emotion.  It won’t hurt you.  It will only help.  If you let the fear inside, if you pull on it like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself, ‘All right, it’s just fear, I don’t have to let it control me.  I see it for what it is.’  This is fear.  Step away from it.  Step away.  Detach.”    

Feel every single emotion.  Feel it good and deep, all the way down to your very gut, your every nerve, your very heart, your very soul.  Embrace feeling everything wholeheartedly, even fear.

I’ve only skimmed the surface of Morrie’s tremendously powerful and lasting messages about life, love, and everything in between.  His ideas on death are even more intriguing and insightful.  Go be uplifted by Morrie Schwartz.  That’s what best friends do, uplift and encourage each other to live better lives, more loving and meaningful lives.  I will leave you with this as one last incentive to befriend Morrie Schwartz.  “Invest in the human family.  Invest in people.  Build a little community of those you love and who love you.  In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right?  And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right?  But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.” 

Finding Light in a Dark Time: Middle School

Three nights ago, I voluntarily, and bravely, stepped foot into and revisited middle school.

Talk about being immersed in another world.  Previous to this night, I had faintly remembered the old, metal locker smell mixed with the strong, overwhelming scents of adolescence and puberty.  (I think I had done my best to block all of those smells, and the memories associated with them, out.)  While the building was different and cleaner and more modern, it still reeked of middle school.  I vividly pictured my little brace-face, 12-year-old self immediately.  As I squinted through my checkerboard glasses, adorned in a faded North Carolina t-shirt, with my scrawny arms struggling to clutch a stack of books larger than the shelves in the library held and carry my decked out L.L. Bean backpack, I was the definition of eager.  Middle school was this whole other world, a bubble shuddered at by all once you escaped.

The memories that returned would have struck a chord with any current tween.  Looking at the corner of the hallway dressed with the endless rows of lockers, I remember asking my crush to the school’s infamous “Glow Dance” ( a dance complete with none other than a Christmas-sized amount of glow sticks).  I was shot down with a simple and blunt “I’m going to go with my friends.”  Salt in the wound, not only was I not his crush, but I wasn’t even his friend.  Walking past the auditorium, I remembered the agony that was school picture day.  Much like the awkward, lanky Jenna in the hilarious film 13 Going on 30, I dreaded school picture day.  To sum it up, my hair was frizzier than Tina Turner’s, my one eye always faithfully decided to squint from the bright, almost mocking, flash, and due to a seemingly endless phase of braces I tried the “smile without your teeth showing” tactic which always ends up looking like you’re trying to cover up the fact that you just farted, and the whole class is about to smell it.

After reading this, I am sure a whole host of similar memories are unfortunately being brought to the forefront of your head as you try to reconcile with questions like “why did I get those bangs?” and “what was I thinking trying to wear that purple jumpsuit with a purple background on picture day?” and “why on Earth was Home Ec. sewing so difficult?” or even “why was I so afraid of lunch detention?”.  The more I think about it, the more I realize just how much of another world middle school was.  While the majority of flashbacks from this time are negative, embarrassing, or just downright awkward, I neglect to remember the positive and funny ones.  For instance, the time I had the Dairy Queen worker write “Happy Birthday, Mrs. Nick Jonas” on my cake for my 12th birthday after watching Camp Rock just over a dozen times (God Bless that DQ worker).  Or the time we had a scavenger hunt in the mall, complete with the endless hours spent in Claire’s and getting our ears pierced without our parents’ permission (Sorry, mom – at least I didn’t do it myself with an apple and a sewing needle, right?).

Like any other world, as strange as it sounds middle school has now taught me that wherever you are, take it all in.  If you’re in sixth grade English class and you have to read your poem about how much you love your cat, take it all in.  If you trip in the hallway, just a mere five feet away from the saving grace that is your locker, and your books sprawl out in an array wider than Jackson Pollock’s artwork, take it all in.  Even if you’re at the Glow Dance and your science teacher is trying to painfully bust a move with you, take it all in.  Soak it all up and extract something positive from every world you’re immersed in, no matter how bad or painfully embarrassing it may seem at the time.  Think of the most wise and inspirational Dumbledore: ” Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”  There is always positivity to be found.  God has this awesome way of creating situations and experiences in our lives that always, without fail, lead to growth.  But you cannot partake in this eye-opening, often life changing, growth until you find and procure that positive happiness.  Sometimes you may have to hunt and search and dig real deep, especially when thinking of middle school, to find that nugget of positive gain, that golden, priceless prize that God has hidden in these life experiences of ours.  Even if you once had frizzy hair, braces, and scrawny arms and it takes you five or six years after the fact, you’ll find it.  After that, it becomes all the easier to find these positive nuggets right here and now in our daily lives.

The Way You Look Tonight, Today, and Every Day

When I was a little, tiny baby with no cares in the world except whether I was eating mashed carrots or mashed bananas for lunch that day, I spent many a day bouncing back and forth in my rocking chair, my grandpa’s lap, and my cozy (easily-escapable) crib. It was in this crib, at the young age of not even one year, that my mother taught me one of the most valuable lessons I still carry with me to this day. Similar to a fairy tale straight out of a soft, embellished picture book my mother would sit by my crib and hold up a hairdryer. Yes, you read that correctly – a hair dryer. I was, and still am, white noise’s number one fan. But when the hair dryer was broken or my mom’s arm went numb, whichever happened first, she would sing to me. “The Way You Look Tonight” by Sinatra soon became my anthem.

But it’s the perfect song for an anthem if you stop and think about it. Yes, you’re lovely with your smile so warm. And your cheek so soft, there is nothing for me but to love you. And the way you look tonight.  You can wear a smile with any outfit and your cheeks are always soft and rosy no matter what color sweater you have on. “There is nothing for me but to love you.” Isn’t that what we are called to do? Above all, let us simply love one another- even if we do absolutely nothing else.

Each one of you reading this knows someone who never feels like they look good. Maybe that person reading this is you, but keep in mind darling we all have these days of feeling absolutely dreadful, and we look in the mirror and, I’ll admit to this, we feel like the world has won. World-1, Maddie-0. I often find myself staring helplessly at the mirror, so bewildered with a million and one improbable, seemingly impossible thoughts racing through my head. Did the Sour Patch kid cut part of my hair off with scissors to produce this gargantuan, protruding cowlick? Did I really fall asleep with my O-Chem homework smothering my face resulting in the explosion of an ink blob on my cheek that all too closely resembles the state of Texas? Why is my one eye twitching- is it still trying to slowly wake up or do I have to strictly go decaf with my tea from now on before bed? Is that yesterday’s leftover church make-up that has so artistically congregated underneath my rapidly twitching eye?

After waking up with many mornings like the one previously described, I came to the startling, quite simple question: Why? Why do I care so much what I look like before heading out the door? Of course I do shower regularly so as to stay clean – I am strong supporter of showering, it’s really just healthier for you for a whole host of reasons. But why on God’s green Earth do I care about how my hair looks or what color shirt I’m wearing with these pants or the amount of eye-liner dawned on each eye? It’s because I am afraid of what others will think and judge about me if I wear a certain shirt, socks/sandal combo, make-up, or braid in my hair. Let me tell you something, a little key to happiness – wear the overalls. I have these ultra-comfy, broken in pair of outdated overalls that I just love. In my somewhat clique-y and judgmental high school wouldn’t you know it – my whole art class snickered at me when I walked in wearing them, prouder than a first grader with a loose tooth. I got some farm animal calls, and I caught a barely audible, muttered remark, spewing with disgust and fake sympathy, “I feel bad for her – I mean if that’s what she’s into I guess.” As you can imagine, this was followed by an eruption of laughter from the back table of, would you have guessed anyone else, the “popular” crowd.

I am ashamed to admit that after that incident, I cut my overalls into shorts. I have since come to accept and love my personal style and my uniquely beautiful personality that comes along with it tightly like a package deal. Each of you reading this – I don’t care if you’re a high school senior or a rough ‘n tough football player or a mother of three or a friend of mine or my calculus teacher– you are you. You are beautiful right this very second with your smile and your rosy cheeks. You will be beautiful tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that, just as you are tonight, right at this very moment. Don’t for a second underestimate or belittle yourself into not wearing or doing or saying something that defines you and your all-around extraordinary, love-promoting self.

         “With each word, your tenderness grows tearing my fears apart. And that laugh that wrinkles your nose touches my foolish heart.” You make so many people laugh, and you pour courage into the lives and hearts of so many every single day just by waking up, throwing on your favorite shirt, combing (or not combing) your hair as you please, and walking out the door adorned with a smile. You make a difference in this world by being you. Always strive to make it a positive difference; you never know who may need a little extra love and to be reminded that they are simply stunning the way they look today.