Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Story of Tonight

The family ventured to Chicago the very last week of summer before school started.  I didn't plan out this trip other than vague notions of places we wanted to go.  Mallory had heard the Museum of Science and Technology was great. (It was!)  Riley wanted to explore her roots at the Polish museum and eat at a Polish restaurant.  George rolls with us ladies, bless him. I had looked into theater.   The only musical I found was "An American in Paris" and no one was thrilled about seeing it, including me so I let it go.  And then, about seven days before we left, I randomly looked online again.  And this search discovered... Hamilton.  


I didn't know it has been in residence in Chicago since September 2016.  My heart started beating quickly.  Were there tickets?  The excitement began building.  I had given up and felt helpless trying to see Hamilton at all.  We had gone to NY last summer but tickets were rare and extremely expensive. So I just let the idea of seeing the wildly phenomenal musical go.  I also let the touring version go, because it seemed too hard to do. 

I let the desire die.

I was throwing away my shot.

(I didn't even know the music...and I didn't know that was a line)  But not for long.

I just knew many, many people loved the show, and it was about American history which my family is into and it won Tonys. 

So now, this discovery that it is in Chicago!  And... there were a few tickets in the very back still available!! Boom! I knew I just wanted to be in the room where it happens.  So I brought it with the girls.  Mallory was interested but she was more interested in Aladdin.  Riley did not care although she had been the one that led to my search for NYC tickets the year before.  I texted George, and bless him, he left it up to me. He was my George (Washington) on my side.

I percolated on it during the day while on errands. Do I say no to this? Is it too much $$?  But was it worth it to blow us all away?  Do I drag the girls (well, Riley because I knew Mallory would be satisfied)  The irony is that we were originally only going to stay two nights in Chicago before we headed to Wisconsin to visit relatives.  My intuition made me push it to three nights thinking there would be things to do in the big city.  And that third night ending up being the night of the availability of tickets. (And the day before my birthday!!) 

So, we did go, and it was freaking fabulous!  But in all honesty, getting there wasn't pretty.  I have claustrophobia and it kicked in just thinking about getting on a plane before this trip.  I also have a fear of crowded spaces and this was a packed small venue with two balconies.  And in the end, my excitement over this very special opportunity helped ease my fear of flying.  Riley is not as enthralled with theater as Mallory and I are, and she would have stayed at the hotel if allowed.  She wanted to take a break after being on a Mission Trip the previous week.

But we dragged her. 

I don't really know what my expectations were but it went beyond them even knowing how popular it was. I was verklempt when sat down in our last row seats of the first balcony.  Mallory was my right hand man.  The energy in the place was palpable and I was thrilled to have seats next to the exit door!! To save money, George and Riley were on the same row but the opposite side of the theater.

The week before we went, Mallory listened to the soundtrack on YouTube and already had her favorites.  I borrowed the CD from my neighbor and listened in the car as George and I drove to Florida to pick Mal up from a trip.  The three of us listened to the second act (each act has 23 songs!) on our way back to Baton Rouge and I was moved to goosebumps and tears listening to the very last song.  "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?"  I wasn't alone being moved by the last song.

What comes next?

This musical was simply and utterly beyond.  I was transfixed in my seat and knew I needed to soak it all in as much as possible.  The story, the choreography, the talent blew me away. It was such a combination of history, hip hop, Broadway ballads and pop. Mallory and I were thrilled and chatted back and forth quietly. When King George walked out to the stage and before he said anything, people clapped. The same for the actor who played Hamilton.  The excitement of the crowd was thrilling.

And when it was over, wait for it...George said Riley laughed and smiled. And Riley told on George and said he cried at the last song. Seriously, I have only see him cry at Seabiscuit and Secretariat.

He knew it was something special.

Since we have been back in Baton Rouge, I have found a few people who have seen it or those who know every line to every song and want to see it.  And we gush non stop about how good it is and it's hard to find words to describe it.  That's when you know it's something extraordinary. 

So very glad I did not throw away my shot.

Your obedient scribe.

C. Gol

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dad And Trees and Speaking Up

Dad died three years ago today.  I wrote a piece right after dad died about how I wished I could have connected more with him.  I longed for personal interaction.  I don't remember any conversations or activities that we did together just the two of us.  It felt like a huge void in my life.  I was boy crazy from an early age.  I was that girl that had to have a boyfriend and as I look back, I wish I would have had more respect for myself.  I cringe but am learning to laugh when I watch a sitcom that makes fun of a young woman with "daddy issues." That was me. It is a thing.  I am aware of it now.

I am also aware that I tend to freeze in place and not act even when I know what to do. I don't speak up. I didn't have the confidence. I'm learning.

Months ago at a teenage values seminar at our church that broached sexuality, one of our youth pastors advised dads of girls: pay attention to your girls and hug them.  They need it and it reduces sexual promiscuity.

When George and I were dating, and we talked about having a family,  I remember telling him that if we had girls he had to pay attention to them, talk to them and do things with them.  I said it once and he has obliged my request since they were born.  I now can see (after George pointed it out!) that it came out as a forceful demand on my part.  I don't regret it.  I spoke up.  I am thrilled that the girls connect with him.  It is necessary and needed.

Yet it also brings up sadness as I type.  There will always be the little girl in me that needs her daddy's attention. It took me many years to accept Dad as he was and it wasn't an easy process. I was angry for a long while and then I grieved.  I grieved him before he died and eventually came to a place of acceptance.  I then could appreciate what he did give me.  I know that he loved me but he could not say it out loud.  I admit I have trouble with this myself.  It was much easier to express love with my children when they were younger than it is with grown people.  I have work to do, to practice vulnerability, to speak up.  It's new territory. Dad's form of love was to provide a roof over my head, clothe, feed and educate me.  Education was really important. And I'm grateful for that.  I really see that now.

Dad loved the outdoors.  I remember his very tanned arms.  On the other hand, I'm an A/C girl who likes to write and talk about thoughts and feelings and spirituality and go to yoga.  He was a gardener, hunter and fisher.   Years before he died, he built a cabin on family property that goes back several generations.  He built it for his family to use. He didn't talk about it or tell me, he just did it. Thanks to him, I'm a tree farmer and I enjoy walking with my brother and surveying the land. My kids love to ride the four-wheelers and get their feet wet in the creek and the girls love to kid me about my country roots, but I know they like it too.

My connection to him now is in land and trees.

And as I walk the dogs in my neighborhood on my street,  I found the most ironic display as a reminder.

Do you see it?

The tree is speaking to me.


Saturday, June 24, 2017


A month or two ago, I met with my small group as part of the Spiritual Formation certification process.  We do so every other month or so. At the end of the meeting, our wonderful leader had a display that included these seashells.  But they were turned over.  We each picked one.

As I picked it up and turned it over.  I gasped.
And my reaction was exactly what a leader hopes for.  On that day, or that particular week,  I needed to read that I am enough.

It was such a fantastic Divine moment.  Meant to be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Moving On

On Wednesday, our middle school will have a special eighth grade chapel to send them off to high school.  Most everyone of them will be continuing on to high school at Dunham, but this will be Riley's last chapel there.  It is a big goodbye for her but done so, in her very quiet way and I'm the one feeling it.  (Of course I am because I'm a thinker and a feeler!)

After attending an eighth grade event last week, I checked in with her about how she felt about the ending of the school year.  She loves the school but has not found a fit within her small class of girls and she is really ready to move on. I have to remember that it is very brave to acknowledge that you need to make a change and follow through and do it.   This is a big life lesson and we have worked through it step by step together as mom and daughter and as a family.

I know a thousand percent that she needs to try another school and she's ready.

But my heart is ripping up ever so slightly. 

For seven months from the very beginning of school, we have talked about this endlessly.  When difficulties arose over the last few years, I would broach the subject of changing schools for  high school. I said this never thinking she would ever move.  After much disheartenment over the summer and at the beginning of the school year, I brought it up again.  She said yes.   We diligently looked at other schools, weighed every pro and con and she is moving on.  She even has uniforms from a graduating St. Joseph's senior.  Thank you to that mom and daughter for thinking of us!

I've thought this situation out every way possible. I talked to so many people to get every angle on this specific issue.  We did our homework.  But now there is nothing more to think or decide, only to finish and feel. My stomach turns when there is a reminder that she won't be at the same school we have known for ten years and she won't be with her sister.  These feelings are all mine, not hers. I have to own my stuff and not project, but I am allowed these mixed feelings.   I am so excited for her new future, she deserves it.  Owning my feelings will allow them to pass through more easily.   I think mixed in with these emotions, is, could we have done something differently? And much deeper is do I fit in? Yeah, it goes deep.  It always does.

And then I logically think it through and know that not every school works for every student.   And my appreciation for my uniqueness is growing.  And she is ready to go.

So here we go, the end of this school year is here.   There are always mixed feelings about things ending and new beginnings.  This is a special year.  No more Lower School Moving Up ceremony.  Riley is moving on to a new high school.  Mallory is moving up to 6th grade.  All is well. (Well, there are other things going on in the world...)

Today is the Honors ceremony.  It's a good run through before tomorrow's send off chapel.

I will bring tissues.

All will be well.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

She Was Enchanted

I have been trying to finish the 2009 Disney Scrapbook album for many years.

Yes, eight years to be exact.  We are leaving in a few short days to visit Disney World again.  Something spurred me on to make it a mission to finish this album.

In 2013, I made an earnest effort to finish and by that I mean, I pulled out all the materials and posted about it on Facebook.  My daughter came across this pic on FB two days ago and made fun of me.

That was four years ago.

But that attempt did get me as far as being completely organized and knowing exactly what pages were left.

I swore off ever doing another scrapbook years before that, but I had to finish this one.  I now make Shutterfly albums using digital photos and I have several of those under my belt and already on the shelf.

But the 2009 Disney Scrapbook remains.

This was a trip we took with my mother in law.  She is no longer with us.  When you first look at pictures of people who have departed, it's like a sucker punch.  Now, it's just a soft push.

GaGa loved "It's A Small World." She was enchanted by it.  When we went in 2012 a few months after she died,  I felt her on that ride and I teared up.  I was enchanted and enjoyed it and was grateful.

I was in the moment in that ride.

Do I not want to finish this album because it permanently finishes the trip?  Who knows?! I only had a few pages left.  Last night, I finished those pages. So it's done.  But yet, I keep tweaking and printing captions.  I need to put all of the remaining materials away and yet I procrastinate.

 I can feel some emotion stirring as I type this so I may be on to something.  I just know it's time to finish.  There will always be residual sadness.  GaGa died five years ago last month.  She loved my girls up close and personally.  She was at our house all the time.  She was with us.   

Letting go of a person who loved my children and I, whole-heartedly, well, it's hard to lose a person like that in your life.  


But it's time to finish.  She is still with me.  Her sense of fun.  She had much gratitude about simple things.  That stood out to me.  I carry that with me. 

She and Charlie (her husband) would always remark after we went somewhere for a meal or an event how nice it was.  Those remarks always stood out to me.  Now I can see it as a gratitude and living in the moment.  Gratitude is good.

I'm looking forward to Disney World.  There will be good moments and bad moments.  But I'm thrilled that the girls are looking forward to it. We have a countdown dry erase board for it. We are so excited to see our family spirit animal, Eeyore in person! An aside is that Riley is starting high school in a few months. How long will family vacations go on? Time is passing.  How DID that happen? 

I still see them this way.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Questioning the Meaning of Easter

I am going to talk about something that's new to me in the last few years and as it's Easter, the topic is drawing me in. I heard a lot of Jesus, sin, salvation and blood talk growing up in different settings and especially in regards to Easter.  This type of language is not in my current church, but I am excavating my personal theological history and it's deep.  The topic is atonement or substitution theory relating to Jesus' death on the cross. 

I grew up with images of Christ on the cross and hymns entitled: Nothing But the Blood of Jesus 
Here's a stanza: 
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

When I write about a fundamentalist topic, I tend to go off on the deep end because I am in still in process of healing myself. So I'm reining myself in. 

Right now.  

Well, I try. 

This is the crux for me,  what I heard growing up is that on one hand, Jesus died for my sins, because I am a SINNER and NEED to be forgiven but on the other hand, God really loves me, very deeply.  So follow this: what I need is someone to bear a punishment that I deserve for just being born. Can I say that this mixed bag of messaging did nothing for me and most importantly didn't draw me nearer to God.  
I am simplifying this because I want to keep it as short as I can.  After many years of trying to come to grips with funky theology, I had to question everything I knew.  
Literal bible translation...gone.  
Is God in Control of everything: No, shit happens.
Looking at all religions to see what is similar..yes.  
Core message of all major religions: LOVE...check.  
Embracing people different than myself which was uncomfortable but necessary... yes.  
Reducing fear and embracing love...uh huh.  

That last one is the answer to what Jesus was all about. 

He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

This Easter, I feel comfortable enough with a loving higher power to dig deeper.  The penal or substitutionary atonement theologies very basically mean Jesus died for us, to fulfill the old covenant sacrificial system, reconcile us to God, and change our lives forever.

But what if , what if Jesus was teaching us a new way to be. Be still and know that I am.  Jesus could have stopped his own death, right?  He didn't have to die. What if he was teaching us "the dark night of the soul?"  What if this was really about a mystical union with God and not a penal system.   What if God was teaching us that with darkness there is always light, and how to be with our suffering. 

There are two ways in which humans connect to the divine: through awe or through suffering.

I can hear in my mind, people saying, but Jesus died for our sins - that is awe inspiring, right?    But what I'm questioning, well not really questioning anymore, I know what I believe in my heart, it's just my mind catching up from so many years of washing things white as snow, do humans get that?  Is that really what was going on.  

Father Richard Rohr sums it up so very nicely in his latest book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (with Mike Morrell)  Please read the photo.

I come from a more behavioral view of the Bible.  What was Jesus' main teaching? I would put it in one word. LOVE.  Has the church missed the mark by instilling fear or retribution instead of love?  The heart of the above passages is what I underlined in my book: Humans change in the process of love-mirroring, and not by paying any price or debt.  

That pretty much sums it all up.  

We get stuck in right and wrong, black and white.  It's not about retribution but about restoration.  God is with us in our suffering.   I think the story got hijacked.  It's easier to keep people in the pews by making them fear, instead of teaching them practices that bring them closer to God.  

I stepped away from the Bible years ago to heal.  I use to recoil when I heard Jesus' name.  It wasn't awe inspiring.  But now after much introspective work, I feel a divine flow of love when I am awake and in the present moment. And that was a lot of behavioral work, not blood, not retribution.  Learning about unconditional love and it's source.  Learning about the dark and the light.  It must reside together.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hits and Misses

This morning as I eased my way out of bed in a fog and the darkness of the newish Daylight Savings time change, I looked down and noticed I missed stepping in cat hairball throw up by mere inches.

Hits and misses

In my best Debbie Reynolds' "Singing in the Rain" interpretation..."What a lovely morning!  Good morning, good morning, We've talked the whole night through, good morning, good morning to you!"

There is a significant chill in the air on this March morning in south Louisiana. One that I celebrate and adore before the heat and humidity begin kicking in all too soon.  I love that I have to put on George's long heavy robe to bring the dogs outside.  I take them in the darkened back yard as the sun is barely coming up on the front of the house. I had to turn the outside lights on to be able to see.  Annie has done her business on the right side of the yard and receives her expected treat.  I have been training Brinkley to go as well.  We are on the left side of the pool near a dark corner.  As I am straining to see whether his leg has been lifted,  I look up and notice the beautiful moon shedding a faint light in the darkened sky.  It took a few seconds to orient that it was the moon!!

I check his leg and I gaze up again at the moon, trying to experience it's magnificence and I'm startled by the sight and the sounds of by a flock of birds flying in formation which the view of, had been previously blocked by our shade tree.  Breathtaking!  I look down again and there's dog poop on the patio.

Hits and misses

This is life.

There is unexpected beauty while dodging dog poop.  I may not be awake enough to catch it every time but when I am, it's always a thrill like it's never happened before.

Do you know what I'm saying?

Some days, I have no energy from running here and there or in place with whatever is necessary in mine and my family's life.  My mood is low and I feel I'm not enough.  I used to be scared of these kinds of days. I have now become accustomed to the fact that those feelings will flow and my energy will return and my mood will rise.  And sometimes, the next day I will wake up more rested and ready to spot the light of the moon and hear the unexpected honk of the birds in flight and marvel and miss the dog poop and celebrate.