the eve of the eve.


“to a better year.”

this was me a year ago, at a New Year’s Eve party my friend and i hosted.  in front of the lens of the photobooth, we danced, and wrote posters and celebrated the end.  and the beginning.

my biggest desire: a better year.

so here i sit on the eve of the eve of the end of this year i hoped would be “better,” and have to admit that it was in so many ways.  hard but good.  stinking of death but robust with life.  i entered this year a broken (and broke!) wreck, and am walking out of it at peace with my ever-healing mess.

this year saw a few different guys who laid claim to my heart, a devastating separation from a good friend, a bike accident, the long-anticipated Superbowl come and gone, goodbye to an old dream and hello to a new job, a sickness that made me afraid i might ultimately lose my father, yoga and 12-step groups, dating and falling in love, reconciliation and renewed friendship.

whew.  that’s a mouthful.

still, with all this (and so much more), i sit in a state of slight disbelief that this year is nearly over. as remarkable as this year has been, it’s end is approaching with very little fanfare.  i will rise tomorrow, and go to work, and check emails and eat lunch.  and apart from spending the evening party hopping from one hopping party to another, it will look just like any other day.

i think this is why it’s been hard for me to reflect on the year.  i’ve been trying, though without much effort, to think of what my new year should focus on, what is the burning desire i want to see fulfilled?  what is my “to a better year” for 2013?

i still do not have a clear answer, but the word “contentment” floats lazily and peacefully to the surface.  i cannot yet tell if this is my desire or where i find myself or if its something i should try to center on.  but still, it sits on the edge of my mind and lingers, like the smell of lotion after a bath.

here are some other words that i’d like to focus on during this coming year:

whole and wholesome meals.  for fun and for serious.  even when i don’t want to.  especially when i don’t want to.

patience.  hospitality.  yoga.  learning to let go.  grace for myself.  sitting still. observance of the gifts of the seasons (rest and reflection in the winter, preparation and planting in the spring, growth and giant living in the summer, harvest and ending in the fall).

that place where my strengths and passions intersect.  endurance.  healing.

myself.  my home.  a garden.  the yard.  a peaceful space. those pesky finances.

victories, big and small.  my 30th birthday!

myself.  my sweet B.  those around me.  wildly.  fully.  in risky ways.  all those quiet and subtle places only i am privy to.  even when it’s hard.

so, here’s to 2013, and all the unknown wonders and experiences it has to offer!


good-bye too soon.

i remember that day.  my first “real” job in awhile.  i walked into the training room and a sea of new faces, smiling nervously as i sat down.  we played a “get-t0-know-ya” game, where we shared a few facts about ourselves, and i shared some easy to digest vittles, such as “i started an art gallery” and “i live downtown.”

but she, well, i’ll never forget what Tiffany shared.  she was the number 3 dart-thrower in the state and had “cadaver dogs,” dogs that were used by the police to find dead bodies.  in a room full of typical answers–i just graduated college and i’ve worked at this call-center or that customer-service job, Tiffany immediately stood out to me.

for 4 1/2 long weeks, we reported back to that training room each day, learning the ins and outs of timeshare ownership and vacation-booking.  Tiffany was a natural, and i envied her ability to pick things up so quickly.  but her personality was never one that fostered envy.  in fact, she was always ready with a smile, and a “hello,” and a “how are you?”

how ironic that just 6 mos later, the handful of us still left with the company would return to that training room to process the loss of one of our own.  earlier in the morning, work had come to a grinding halt as our management stood in the midst of us to deliver the horrible news: Tiffany had been killed in a car accident.

i felt like a board had hit me across the face, and i felt tears come to my eyes involuntarily.  i have to get out of here, i thought, and made my way to the door.  i bummed a smoke from a friend, and sat in the chilly sunshine of the morning, trying to wrap my mind around what i’d just heard.  our trainer made contact with me later, and asked if i would be interested in visiting with the grief counselor with the rest of my class.  i said yeah, if other people wanted to, i would join.

we walked into the training room, a strange feeling of formality choking out the desire i felt to let my grief hang out.  in the corner, near the front, sat a lady surrounded a haphazard group of chairs.  we took our seats, just as silent as that first day.  just as awkward in how to proceed.

but proceed we finally did.  we spent nearly an hour processing our responses, wondering how a person could go so quickly from existing to not existing, realizing how destroyed we would be if our sister/mother/father/boyfriend were the one who had died, talking about Tiffany and the kind of person she was.  we shared stories about conversations we’d just had with her, about how she was looking forward to the holidays and vacation with family, how she had recently just assumed guardianship of her niece.  we even talked through what little we knew about the accident, all of us hungry to know the details, hoping, i think, to figure out just what went wrong.  we lamented that we, and all those that knew and loved her, were having to say good-bye too soon.

most importantly, we agreed that Tiffany was a beautiful soul, who brought so much to those around her.  so here’s to you, Tiffany Carol Shull; this world is certainly a better place because you were in it; and a lonelier place because you’re gone.  may you rest in peace.

death is a part of living…

as i reflect on the title of this blog, “Living is a Process,” i am reminded that death is a natural part of living.  i wish i could say that were not true.  especially today.

my sweet Uncle Wade Whitley has left this world and, while i know he’s gone to a better one, my heart aches tremendously.

i wanted this to be an “in memoriam,” but the truth is i don’t know much about the details of this man’s life.  he was, in fact, my great-uncle, husband of my grandmother’s sister, Mary.  as a child a knew him as one of our Memphis (Tennessee) relatives, the ones who had the pool.  we stayed there many times when my grandmother would go to visit.  he was a rock, a stronghold in our family, the man we all looked up to and admired.  besides my dad, there weren’t many of these for me to find.

i knew he was in the military, and that he was somewhat of a boy-scout extraordinaire.  my favorite memory was when he taught me to whistle by holding a blade of grass between two thumbs, and blowing are over it.   impressed everyone at camp that year.

in more recent years, and weeks, and days, i would come to learn the beautiful character of Uncle Wade.  his time spent on tours in Vietnam during that heinous war.  how he would spend a week at my dad’s house when they were children, helping my struggling grandmother, a single working mom, with house projects.  he became a surrogate father, of sorts, to my father, teaching him to be strong, be bold, and risk.

to me, he was the grandfather i never really had.  we didn’t see him much, only once a year or so, but he was always present, asking me about school, encouraging me to be a professor.   i’ll never forget the day i told him i was moving to Arizona…he hugged me close, and told me he was so excited for me, that my sis and i “had been through so much” and it was time for good things to happen.  it was so encouraging to know my struggles were not beyond his scope.

so, here’s to Uncle Wade…this man who, though i didn’t know much about what he liked to do or where he’d been, changed the lives around him with his love.