Washington/Oregon Wine Country Trip pt 1

Mike and I just returned home from a fantastic 8 day trip to Washington and Oregon wine country. We flew from Wichita to Portland and arrived at 10:30am Pacific, rented a car and started the lovely drive along the Columbia river to Walla Walla, WA. We stopped for lunch at the Multnomah Falls Lodge and had a beautiful view of the Falls as we enjoyed our food. Apparently Multnomah Falls is the one with the famous Native American legend of the young girl who jumped, sacrificing herself to save her tribe. 

We continued our 3 hour drive to the Walla Walla area, and were warmly received at our luxurious bed and breakfast, Cameo Heights Mansion. There are 9 suites, all themed by countries, with huge jetted bathtubs and fireplaces. A dozen roses and champagne awaited us in our Spanish accommodations. 

Our 7 course dinner at the Cameo’s restaurant, The Vines, was delicious and informative as wines were paired with each dish. Chef Nathan did an incredible job with our breakfasts as well, but our favorite treat was an extra 8am wake up tray we could request each morning with rich fresh coffee and homemade pastries! A couple’s massage was also one of our favorite experiences at the mansion.

We had wine tastings at l’Ecole district 41, Sleight of Hands, Pepperbridge, Woodward Canyon, and my personal favorite, Northstar. I must say (while I am known for being a tad dramatic at times) I tasted a merlot that was so perfectly balanced with so many incredible flavors, I was brought to tears. I felt overwhelmed, as if the Ghost of Christmas Present himself had just given me a taste from his mug!

We had a 7 course wine and food experience at the Marc Restaurant in the restored and renowned Marcus Whitman Hotel in downtown Walla Walla. Our service was impeccable and we learned so much about which foods bring out the best aspects of the wines. Our last night in the area we ate at an Italian bar named Passatempo Taverna that had innovative made from scratch pasta dishes with an excellent wine list of course! (To be continued…)

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Holy Laughter

A funny memory came to mind of when I was probably 13 and my best friend and cousin Holly was 15. We would usually sit together in church and play Hangman or Tic Tac Toe most of the service. We tried to hide in the back of the sanctuary but our families often insisted we sit closer to the front, probably hoping something in the service would grab our attention and make us repent of our teenage sarcasm. 

Unfortunately one such Sunday we happened to be in the third row from the pulpit when an older lady with an extremely worbly vibrato sang some hymn about Jesus’s love. In order to hit the high A’s in the song, she would first lower her chin, then ever so softly hum the A an octave lower, and subsequently use all of her physical strength to reach the high A, with a little jump of her feet and her chin popping up as high as the note itself (It’s difficult to describe, I wish I could demonstrate it for you. Next time you see me ask for a live reenactment). 

Well of course Holly and I began to giggle. We felt embarrassed that we couldn’t control ourselves and didn’t want to hurt the sweet lady’s feelings so we covered our faces and apparently looked like we’d been moved to tears by her passionate rendition. She then began smiling and singing directly at us, which compounded the problem! I truly felt helpless in trying to control my own laughter! Between the two of us, we were completely unable to stop the physical reaction that had taken over us! Our shoulders were shaking and tears were streaming from our eyes as we struggled to breathe, so we covered our faces and sunk down into the pew. The song lasted for what seemed to be an eternity, but the soloist beamed at us as she left the platform, certain of our conversion with the obvious outward display of our touched, contrite hearts! 

Years later, I can say with total conviction, I believe Jesus was giggling with us. I’m certain He has a fabulous sense of humor and such a situation would not escape His amusement.

A Lifetime

Mike gave me this plaque in the summer of ‘83 when he was 17 and I was 15. At the time I didn’t like the first line, “I cannot promise you a lifetime or even a day”. I remember thinking, “What do you mean you can’t promise me?? I want promises that we will be together forever!!!” He explained then (as an extremely deep and thoughtful 17 year old boy) that life has a way of changing and we will always have other commitments that pull and push us in different directions but he loves me and always will. 

35 years later this plaque is still placed on a shelf in our home. We’ve had 35 years of our days “bound to others through a lifetime commitment.” Parents, siblings, schools, jobs, children, bills, responsibilities, etc. all have pushed and pulled at us, often straining our relationship, yet we kept making time for each other, planning special dates, yearly romantic trips, and setting aside time to talk, just the two of us. We have laughed a lot together and still do, maybe even more now that we’re older and more relaxed. We have learned to be honest with ourselves which keeps us honest with each other. 

Relationships are difficult to maintain a few years let alone a lifetime. I’m so incredibly thankful I met a 17 year old boy who never promised me a lifetime, but gave me himself instead. 

Don’t Give Up!

In light of the tragic, high profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I felt a strong desire to address the stigma of what we call “mental illness.” In today’s day and age, there is still way too much confusion and avoidance concerning mental and emotional health. I am by no means an expert, but being cyclothymic I do have personal experience that has shaped my understanding.

Depression is a physiological and chemical condition that can either be cyclical in people on the bipolar spectrum or triggered by a shocking loss or significant change in one’s life. Unfortunately, depression is still widely misunderstood and often ignored. Even those who seek treatment often end up getting their symptoms treated instead of the core issue. Medication should never be used as the sole “cure” for such conditions. While pills are often necessary to balance the chemistry in the brain and can relieve certain physiological symptoms, they cannot completely change a mindset or give the depressed person purpose for existing. Therapy with an experienced, understanding professional is imperative. We go to the doctor and dentist for yearly check ups, but tend to ignore our minds and emotional health. There is still a prevalent attitude in the masses that thinks only the “mentally ill”should see a therapist. As we’ve progressed in other medical diagnoses such as ADHD, anxiety, and autism, we now understand virtually all of us are on the spectrum of these disorders. We need to see depression as a spectrum as well. I’ve never met a “normal” person. “Normal” doesn’t exist in human beings. Denial on the other hand is part of our daily diet. We distract ourselves with entertainment, work, busyness, to keep our minds off of the loneliness, the fear, the doubt and insecurities we all experience at some level. We’re constantly measuring ourselves against each other to either make us feel better or worse about ourselves, “I’m healthier than her,” “I’m not THAT crazy,”  or “Nobody else feels this depressed,” and “I’m useless compared to everyone else.” 

While there are no easy answers to explain the whys of ending one’s own life, studies have shown a high percentage of suicides are due to relationship issues. From the day we’re born we long to connect with each other. We are made to be in relationship together, and study after study shows long lasting, committed relationships are the source of happier, more emotionally and mentally balanced lives. Relationships with animals have this same effect. We all need each other, consistently and wholeheartedly. 

I have found in my own life that I need to believe in something bigger than myself. This world can be dark, complicated, heart wrenching. My faith in a God who loves the world so much He sent His only son to give us eternal life is what gets me centered on love. I believe God is Love and the more I share that kind of unfailing, grace-filled love the better the world is. We all need hope in order to feel who we are matters and what we do makes a difference. Hopes and dreams are a mysterious component unique to humans and I believe they exist because they point to something greater than ourselves. “All is not lost. Trust in the mystery…you matter…and your kindness creates a ripple effect as far reaching as the waves on the ocean! Don’t give up!”

 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:35, 37-39 

More Than Meets the Eye

We recently watched the 1999 film What Dreams May Come starring Robin Williams as Chris Nielsen, a husband and father who loses his two children in a tragic accident and then dies a few years after them leaving his clinically depressed wife behind. He winds up in heaven and the journey continues as he explores his new surroundings. Heavy theme, but worth viewing in the right frame of mind. I saw the movie when it came out but I was in a different place emotionally, mentally, and spiritually and wasn’t able to receive it’s messages and meaning. This time around I was deeply moved.  

Cuba Gooding Jr. portrays Albert, Chris’s mentor and friend. Albert takes Chris on a tour of heaven where he meets a lovely Asian airplane stewardess named Leona. After spending some time with her it becomes clear Leona is actually his preteen daughter Marie in disguise. She wanted him to see her through new eyes and actually chose the form of an airline stewardess Chris had pointed out to Marie as “the most beautiful type of woman.” When Chris realizes its Marie and what his thoughtless words did to her psyche, he hugs her and tells her “that’s not the only type of beauty.” He later finds out Cuba Gooding Jr. isn’t really Albert but is his son Ian. Ian asks Chris if he understands why Ian presented himself as Albert and when Chris shows confusion, Ian says, “He’s the only man you ever listened to.” Wow. 

That got my mind going. We get so used to how we physically look. In fact, we often obsess about our looks. Skin color, hair, physique, weight, wrinkles, you name it we obsess over it. What if we don’t look like ourselves in heaven? When Jesus was resurrected he appeared to Mary Magdalene and she mistook him for the gardener. Maybe she didn’t recognize him because He didn’t want her to. Would I recognize the people I claim to know and love the most on earth? If my mom appeared to me as a young black man, how long would it take for me to know it was her? 

Sometimes we rely too much on our eyes and not on our intuitions. We judge each other by what is visible instead of by our commonalities, our hearts, and our intentions. This reminds me of a beautiful song I sang back in the 90’s called More Than Meets the Eye written by Michael Puryear and Connie Harrington. The link to soundcloud is below…it’s track 3 on the album When the Bough Breaks.

More Than Meets the Eye

We live our lives in such a hurry we hardly look up,

We don’t take the time to listen nearly enough

People are seldom what they seem to be, there’s so much of them that we don’t see.

 Chorus

But there’s more than meets the eye

In each and every life we meet

There are stories to be told

Pages full of hopes and dreams

So don’t let a moment slip away

Take the time to look beyond the face

In each and every life there’s more than meets the eye

There’s so many smiling faces that hide broken hearts

We seem to have it all together when we’re falling apart

We judge each other by the way we look

Tend to read the cover and ignore the book…

(Repeat chorus)

Bridge

Sometimes the well is deeper than we think it is

Sometimes the empty handed have so much to giveMore Than Meets the Eye

The Twitch

My anxiety manifests itself in many different ways. One of the most obvious and annoying is in pictures. My best snapshots are those taken spontaneously without my knowing. Tell me to look at the camera and smile and my face tightens into a strange “twitch” that at best looks uncomfortably self conscious and at worst as if I’ve suffered a stroke. To help with this issue I’ve taken to scrunching up my face in between shots to loosen up my frozen facial muscles, and occasionally someone snaps a pic in the process.

Photogenic people annoy me. How can they be so relaxed when a camera is threatening to uncover every personal insecurity known and unknown?? Each staged picture captures the same terrified expression in my eyes, “Don’t see me…I won’t be able to hide how awkward I am.” What’s hilarious is I’m terrible at hiding anything! Everyone already knows how awkward I am and everything I’m thinking because as you’ve read in my posts, I hold nothing back! So what am I so self conscious about??? 

Maybe it’s from childhood. My mom and older sister look like movie stars. Not the bigger boned kind like Joan Crawford but the petite and timeless beauties such as Audrey Hepburn and Donna Reed. I remember wishing I would look like them but then I grew taller, towering several inches over both of them with my larger boned frame, feeling awkward and out of place. Couple that with King Jon’s goofy personality and voila!! It’s ME!!! Twitch and all…

Intimacy

Mike and I have been going through quite a bit of stress the past couple of years. Financial issues, prolonged illness and death of loved ones, employee turnover, transitions…all of these things can inhibit and choke intimacy out of a relationship. It’s easy to “batten down the hatches” and barrel on ahead to the next crisis, without taking the time or energy to nurture our relationship. 

We are leaving next week for a tour of Oregon and Washington Wine Country in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary and to help get our focus back on each other, our family counselor assigned us to write love letters every day. Ladies, my man is so in touch with his own heart, he melts mine! We’ve only written two days worth and I’m already head over heels again!❤️

This hasn’t always been the case. We spent our first 10 years walking on eggshells, not really knowing who we were individually so therefore incapable of understanding each other. The past 20 years have been filled with discovery, struggles, authenticity, and genuine knowing and loving. We still find ourselves in difficult places, we struggle communicating, we still sometimes hurt each other with our attitudes and words, we still reach crossroads in our relationship that require thoughtful consideration, we still have to consciously choose growing together which means being vulnerable with each other, being honest which is often painful, and having hard conversations without someone walking away. 

It’s never easy. But oh how rewarding! I’m so thankful I married a man who truly wants intimacy with me, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. The latter is not even an option without the other three. I am so lucky to be in a living and active, loving, committed relationship with this man! 

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories we tell ourselves. Some of them are true, but most have shreds of truth about ourselves that are woven in and out with distortions and downright lies. What’s unfortunate is these false stories become our roadmaps and world views. We tell ourselves who we are, which is often a negative tale, and where we fit in the world if at all. We paint over our true selves with the images we think others see or want to see. Relationships are difficult regardless of how real or healthy we are, but It’s impossible to have long lasting meaningful friendships when we’re only selling fiction.

A few have grandiose stories…we’ve all known people like this. Those who seem larger than life, spinning fascinating tales of all the magnificent things they’ve experienced or achieved and of their unique abilities and credentials. For a time the rest of us stand in awe, hanging on their every word, wishing we were more like them. When reality sets in and we see them as flawed as ourselves they cut us off and move on to the next group, ready to mesmerize fresh crowds much the same as traveling circuses or magicians. 

Many of us have broken-hearted stories that often paralyze us with fear and helplessness. We’ve had our views altered by other people’s distorted lenses. We believe we’re unwanted the way we truly are, that we need to conform and actually morph into whatever image our families or society dictates. We spend years, decades, tragically even lifetimes masquerading as people we think were supposed to be, either living double lives that eventually end up hurting everyone we care about including ourselves or denying and shutting away our core selves, never discovering who we were created to be. 

Some of us begin to see through the cracks in our stories. As in a painting’s restoration, we begin to peel away the layers, rub off the faded paint and catch glimpses of the unique masterpiece hidden underneath the whitewashed dime-store print. It’s scary at first, the questions that bombard our thoughts …”What if the real me is worse than my facade?” “What if it’s brilliant?” “What if I’m unloveable as I am?” “What if I’m not strong enough to face the truth of me?” 

If we muster up the courage needed to continue towards reality, we begin to grow stronger. Our hearts mend in acceptance of ourselves and others, our eyes clear from the cleansing tears shed and our lungs fill with life giving fresh air. We come out of the dark hiding place of a box in which we’ve been barely surviving, feeling the warm sunshine and cool breeze of freedom. 

Once begun and the commitment is made, It’s a never ending process, this restoration of a masterpiece. Ask any expert, it’s a painstaking process, often tedious and lonely, as no one else can do another’s work, but the discovery of the unique and priceless treasure is worth it.  You are worth it. 

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

2 Corinthians 4:7 

Cool as Kool-aid

When I was in my 20’s as a young mother, One of my biggest goals in life was to be “the Kool-aid Mom.” Kool-aid had these commercials with a smiling mom pouring Kool-aid for all the neighborhood kids who hung out at her house.  For a season of my life I was a stay at home mom, baked a lot of cookies, made tons of lemonade and of course, Kool-aid, and hosted many neighborhood kids at our house. I have loved adopting in my heart (and home) all of my boys’ friends as honorary sons, and always will see them as my own(Tanner, Spencer, Zachary, Austin, Kevin, Chance, Ian, and Braeden you know you’re family!)!

I was only 23 when I had Dillon, so before I turned 30 I think Dillon once told me that I was a “cool” mom. I took that very seriously. I had already been called a “cool” aunt since I became one at 16, so the transition to “cool” mom was easy. I still wore Flannel shirts, pajama bottoms, Doc Martens, and changed my hair color frequently, all while volunteering at the boys’ elementary school. Yes, I was definitely “cool.” Until I wasn’t. 

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, sometime in my 30’s, but apparently Doc Martens went out of style (though I continued to wear them). What once was in was now completely out and had been for some time. My youngest, Tristan never once called me “cool.” In fact, Its safe to say I’m actually a total dork, which is obvious by my usage of the 80’s word “dork.” All three of my boys regularly make fun of me when I show my ignorance of their generation’s slang or technology, or demonstrate my loss of hearing when they say “I agree” and I blurt out “Creed peed???” 

Yes, all those years ago I achieved my dream of being a Kool-aid mom, but I now must admit defeat, I will never again be “cool,” and let’s face it, I probably never was. But someone told me Doc Martens are having a comeback! Maybe I will too!

Into the Woods

This wonderland of a world we live in is confusing. At every crossroads there’s a sign just like in Alice in Wonderland’s Tulgey Woods, “THIS WAY!”with arrows in every direction. Religion is attractive because it offers us distinct differentiated instructions to help us stay out of trouble and feel safe, but our hearts know that black and white answers don’t account for all of the grays, reds, blues, yellows, purples, oranges, greens (etc) that are in front of us.

Unfortunately many of us tend to accept the world’s view of “truth is whatever you want it to be,” until we feel hurt or mistreated. Then we become “all or nothing”, “either/or” believers. “If you’re wrong then I’m right”, “if you’re evil than I’m good.” I’ve known so many people that make a rash decision and then lash out at others like a caged animal. Some of us do the opposite. For instance,  if we’ve made a erratic choice with negative consequences we then believe WE are evil and bad and constantly berate ourselves.

News flash! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). 

We all are a blending of good AND evil, selfish AND unselfish, kind AND mean….we all are a mix of both…we are shades of gray and every other color imaginable. The sooner we accept this and integrate all colors of the conscious spectrum into our understanding the more honest we will be and the better relationships we will have. 

Have you ever had a friend do a complete 180 degree turn on you? One minute they treated you like you were their savior and the next you’re the devil? It’s that either/or mentality…”if you’re not for me and my causes then you’re against me!” True friendship encourages honesty and growth, it requires a balance of accountability, understanding, commitment, trust, and forgiveness. None of us are angels, nor demons. There is a cause and effect at work in all of our lives which we respond to either positively or negatively with proactive or reactive choices. None of us can completely blame our pasts for our current situations, though they contribute. I’ve known many people who have lived through unthinkable heartbreaking circumstances but chose to grow and be the change instead of accept the victim mentality, and I’ve known others who have grown up with privilege and love who have seemingly taken it for granted and chosen to be angry victims. 

No matter who we are, from where we come, who we know, what we’ve experienced…we all have a great capacity for good and evil, love and hate. We all have choices to make that will determine which path we are on, one that leads to a beautiful mountaintop or lovely valley of truth, love, hope, purpose, and joy, or one that leads further into the woods of broken relationships and heartache.