Symbiosis

laughter sprinkles from the kitchen
kettle hissing, cups of steam
honey, lemon, or milk?

curled on couches
cushioned conversations
whispered confessions
giggles

you just never know
well that’s what I heard
we’re here for you

me too

trace the pattern on a napkin
over and around, over and around
and sigh in response to conundrum

pillars under clay roof tiles
bedrock settles
windows thrown wide to the weather

friendships steeping
symbiosis
mosaics in a teacup

Mason Jar Goggles

Latch-key kids have two parents that work in jobs for actual paychecks. These kids come home after a long day at school and let themselves into an empty house.

There are no warm cookies and mommy hugs waiting for them.

Who helps them with their homework?
Who do they call if they hear a spooky noise upstairs?
Who do they tell about the mean girl at recess?

As a child I felt sorry for my latch-key friends, so when I went to work full time I had an automatic pity for my own high school boys…the ones with sad little faces who got the fuzzy end of the lollypop because certainly their elder siblings had a mother who loved them…

I let myself into an empty house after a long day at work. There were no warm cookies or kid hugs waiting for me. A faint light from the kitchen was the only thing keeping dusk at bay through windows that hadn’t been cleaned in forever.

What was that noise?

I held my purse at the ready and came around a corner to find a kitchen in the throes of pizza agony.

My neglected CPS children had come home, raided the fridge, made a frozen pizza, an eight-pack of hotdogs, a couple of protein shakes. A banana peel and dirty socks on the table stared me down.

“Kids?” I called out.

“We’re in the den doing homework!”

That’s code for “We’re playing video games because we’re pretty sure you won’t come all the way in here to investigate.”

And they’d be right.

“Didn’t you miss me at all?”

Nothing but chuckles drifted down the hall.

Whatever.

I added my pile of debris to the kitchen counter: four or five dirty mason jars.

Surprisingly, this was a comfort.

When I began working full time, questions about 401Ks and how was I supposed to make dinners paled in comparison to the tea question.

Even the Queen Mum stops ruling the world at Tea Time.

My new job, not so much.

The challenge: make a portable tea party, ready at the snap of a finger but of a quality that will conjure up warm cookies and kid cuddles for a latch-key mom.

Three generous mugs of tea during a ten-hour day, two minutes to make a cup on the fly, and containers that are leak-proof, microwavable, and do not taste of metal, silicone or paper.

There has to be enough that, should I choose (and I do) to not wash a single dish during the week, there are still clean ones handy.

As a matter of fact, whatever it is had better darn well be disposable if necessary.

Enter the mason jar.

I brew three pint jars at home, add just the right bit of sugar, and pack them into my bag. I fill another jar with 2% and add it to the pile. I pull jars from the office fridge during the day and keep right on moving.

And all day long, I get teased.

Everyone else walks by with adorable mugs or manly stainless steel. I creep out of the lunchroom with my jar of moonshine and within two steps someone wants to know what I’m having because it looks sure enough suspicious.

Now mason jars, in all their crafty glory, are supposed to make even weddings look attractive. People put Christmas gifts into them for crying out loud.

Why does my jar of tea look so much like a lab sample?

Once again, practicality wins over style and even my own dignity, because they get the job done. My hands are toasty and every sip makes me smile.

They work so well that I’ve started throwing other things into them.

This is homemade chicken/rice soup and the other is my morning oatmeal, made up fresh with brown sugar and cinnamon and ready to snack on at my 6:30 in the am desk.

Things aren’t always what you expect them to be, but mason jars are pretty transparent.

Things are different now, but they are also a curiosity.

Looking at life through the bottoms of these jars, my job becomes a swirling kaleidoscope, my home appears comfortable despite its residual mess, and the bottom of my cup isn’t empty, it runs over with new possibilities every day.

The Pity Party

Genetically speaking, anxiety and depression and a significant handful of other fun mental issues have a real possibility of showing up in my life.

I grew up watching people I loved suffer with hurts that were deep inside.

Watching was the only thing I could do.

It was on my list of “well, when I grow up, I won’t ever do that!”

The list also included not spanking my kids (spoons don’t count, do they?) not locking them outside (fresh air and sunshine: mandatory, people) and going to all of their school events (but I don’t have to like it).

So when my radar goes off on the fact that I’m suddenly “so tired” and my exercise routine has fallen off, and eating isn’t worth the effort required to walk into the kitchen and stare into the fridge, well, it’s time for my reboot.

Many times, it’s issues outside of myself that trigger a spiral, and I’ve built a great deal of stamina up, keeping life’s stress where it belongs: in the rubbish heap.

But if you see me wearing bright colors and reading funny greeting cards in Target and rearranging my tea cupboard, you are watching me take my medicine.

Please understand: clinically diagnosed depression along with its counterparts should be treated always and immediately. Like any medical issue, medication, physicians, holistic practices, and girlfriends should all be involved.

I am blessed that so far in my life, I have been able to keep depression at bay, but nobody is immune from Pity Parties.

So my blog keeps me well practiced, spinning straw into gold, as I try to remember that life’s worse scenarios not only have silver linings, but, seasoned by a little time, are perfect fodder for turning upside down into comedy.

If you have to choose between laughing and crying, which would you rather?

Because life goes on either way.

And I don’t want to miss it.

One of my favorite reboots is a man named Elijah.

Every time this prophet in Israel (864 BCE) had an idea, God backed it up.

If Elijah thought it shouldn’t rain for three and a half years, it didn’t.

If Elijah asked fire from heaven to fall and scorch up the top of Mount Carmel, it did.

If Elijah wanted the Jordan River to open wide so he could cross on dry ground, bingo.

The man had a job to do, and he preferred the dramatic, the sarcastic, the maverick and the solitary.

Which worked out fine until an angry queen issued an order for his immediate – and as painful as possible, please – death.

The man went from manic to depressed overnight.

He ran out into the wilderness to end it all.

And there, he met God.

Sure, I’m skipping all the delicious details for now, because the thing I want to point out is, since God is everywhere…you can find Him anywhere.

Even at the end of your rope.

Here’s a guy who’s just sick to death of everyone not listening to him. He’s tried everything he can think of doing, and instead of making progress, things are going completely south.

Sounds like a typical Thursday.

When I presented my class on 1 Kings 19, I took everyone verse by verse to show how God helps Elijah through his pain and depression and how we can use this model to help each other through it, too.

Being present, compassionate, and patient are key.

And the answer to all things lies in God’s Still Small Voice.

The voice that opened Creation is also the voice that tickles in your ear when you’re very quiet and listening. It alerts you to His presence and insists that you listen for something much, much bigger than your current circumstances.

(Even Ahab proved that a wife who whispered in his ear was more persuasive than fire from heaven. Crazy, but true.)

God reminds Elijah that he is needed yet, because life goes on either way, and you don’t want to miss it.

“We have a future,” He says, “You are My treasure. The lights are going out on the Pity Party and it’s time to try again. And just because you feel all alone, doesn’t mean you are. I have surrounded you with thousands, Elijah, you just can’t see them from where you are standing.”

And so I have replaced my Pity Parties with Tea Parties.

The pretty tea things remind me that I am also a useful treasure on His shelf of “favorite stuff”.

I am gentle and kind and patient with myself and surrounded with kindred spirits.

The Still Small Voice takes over for a while and hugs my hurts until they dissipate.

And like Elijah finally leaving the cave, the light returns to my heart.

And I can go on.

“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” Psalm 46:10