Find the Fun

The week of Christmas.

Every year, on the Sunday before Christmas, we gather at my grandmother’s house and celebrate. Celebrate=eating and lazing about.

The house is cold and has funny smells. It’s an old, large house so the smells could be many things: the renters upstairs—smoking cigarettes and cooking on hot plates; the occupants downstairs—natural gas, human gas, perfume, stale cookies in the cookie jar, turkey, deviled eggs, homemade stuffing, unbathed elderly people, dirty children, unwashed crocheted afghans, well-worn rugs, mothballs, fake logs, fake trees, fake food. Even fake has a smell. “Guess the Smell” could have been a fun, family tradition. But it seems that fun was not the focus of these feasts. Kids, though, steal fun whenever they can.

My sister, my nephew (only a few months younger than me) and I ran from room to room, trying to find the fun. If any was to be had. Sometimes, our same-age cousins were there to horse around and magnify any fun-having. We normally played outside, played games, told jokes, made jokes or snooped around the tree room, looking for the presents with our names. I think it’s socks again. Tube socks.

I am sitting across from Cousin Julie. I was asked to sit. Otherwise, I would be swiping food or fun. I don’t know what to say. People think I’m shy, but I just really don’t know what to say. I feel uncomfortable to look at Julie. Not because she is repulsive to me, but because I am scared that I will stare and ask questions.

Julie has spina bifida. That means her spine is open. She was born that way. She has a wheelchair, which is cool. I would like to ride around in it. That seems like it would be fun, but you can’t do that when someone needs it. I want to ask, but I’m not supposed to ask those questions.

“How are you doing?” Julie asks. Julie is beautiful. No one else thinks so, but I do. She has soft, light brown hair, large eyes, large red lips and a sweet, smiling face. I’m not sure if Julie combs her own hair. I don’t know if she is capable of combing her own hair. Her shoulder-length bob is curled and shiny, but looks slightly bygone. Her mother must comb it.

She is so kind. She has on a cozy holiday sweater and plain, stiff skirt. She is slightly overweight, but so am I. She’s so different from my own family. My sister would never ask how I was. But in my mind, I can’t accept Julie. She’s different.

My family does not engage weakness, illness or difference. Julie was rolled into the family room and locked into place. The people who happened by are the only contact she has. There are older people sitting with her, talking to her, but she is not capable of finding the fun. The moments she steals are connection and kindness.
Why is Julie so happy? I am sad for her. Sad that she can’t run, play, hide, snoop. Sad that she only has old people talking at her. I am sad for Julie because I see that people treat her with sympathy. They approach her wheelchair as a casket. I do too because that is what I see. That is what I learn.

I want to play with her. These are my goals. But she doesn’t play. She can’t play. I want to know Julie, but I can’t ask any questions. But Julie is happy. I see it in her smile. She makes me feel cute. I silently squirm, answering questions when asked, until I am released to find the fun again. I want to understand how to discover Julie, but the desire fades as soon as I am freed.

I never know Julie. I never seek her out. She is gone before I graduate high school and her memories and ideas are lost. We lose her to ovarian cancer and her experiences are not shared with me. I love Julie. I am thankful for her tenderness and brief kindness. I understand now why Julie is happy. She is happy to be alive. She was taught to be nice.

Girl

when i was 14 or 15. i can’t remember exactly. but i was with my friend. Girl (i will call her). she was cool. she accepted me for whatever i was and i think she just appreciated me for being nice and understanding. most people looked at her as poor, white trash. or a slut. she was friendly, outgoing and immediately liked by boys. she had a slim figure and a pleasant smile. she knew how to flirt, but probably because she had been sexually abused. she had a boyfriend, and as far as i knew, was never unfaithful to him. he protected her. and she loved him for that.

my sister, my own sister…told me to stay away from Girl. “Why???” I asked. there was only a shoulder shrug and another head shake of no, telling me to stay away from her. funny, i would rather hang out with Girl than my own sister, that’s for sure. and i wasn’t going to take any advice from my sister who had her own questionable relationships with people of ill repute. whatever! can you say whatever and repute together? that sounds stupid, huh?

whatever.

so, Girl and i hung out. those were fun times.

i never knew though. i never knew in all the time that we hung out that she was being abused. i was being abused too. physically. verbally. but i didn’t tell anyone. i guess she was the same.

when i tried to kill myself, she was there for me. she comforted me as much as another teen can. and when she had problems, i tried to be there for her. at least to listen. but there were things that she didn’t tell me. those were the real things that mattered. and she didn’t share them. there was too much shame in what she had to tell me. i might have seen her in a different light. that’s what she feared. but i wouldn’t have. i really wouldn’t have. i would have fiercely protected her, as her boyfriend did. and i would have gotten her the hell out. Boyfriend must have known. and he loved her anyway. something in him loved her brokenness. he had probably seen it before in his own family.

but we did get her the hell out. eventually.

a day like any other day that i got to hang out with Girl, we went to the mall. i think. i can’t remember now. we went somewhere to hang out. mall, movies, something. and then we came home. we went with Boyfriend. someone other than our parents took us because when we came back, we stayed at Boyfriend’s house. hung out, ate snacks, smoked cigarettes (not me), and drank pop. Boyfriend’s mom was not home and that was the holy grail of hangouts. no parents! there was another boy there. someone from school who would never speak to me at school, but was willing to be kind in this environment. it was a fun time. just talking and being cool teenagers. but then things went bad really quickly.

as the evening came and darkness rose, Girl started talking about leaving. leaving and running away from home. i had heard this before from other friends, so i figured it was because her mother did not approve of Boyfriend. i didn’t realize it was to escape the abuse. she knew all day that today would be the day that she ran away, but she didn’t let on til now. she started talking about how her stepdad had sexually abused her. she said these things in front of the other boy.

my mind was exploding in anger, shock and repulsion. this is a man that i sat at a breakfast table with, that i was polite to, a man that i respected because he was the head of the house. had i known, i would have told someone, hounded someone, punched this worthless human being in the nose. i was bigger than him at 15 and 5’9″. and he was a puny, little pervert. or i could have just hit him over the head with a frying pan in his sleep. a girl can dream.

or i could have simply stood up for my friend when her mother wouldn’t stop contacting him. i could have NOT encouraged Girl to see and reconcile with her stepdad after he had to leave the house because he was abusing the other girls too. i actually encouraged her to see him. being a Xian and knowing the power of forgiveness, i told her to see her stepdad when he tried to make amends. she really didn’t want to. but i didn’t know about the abuse. NOW i understand! i thought she was just being stubborn. if i had known what he was doing, i would never have told her to see him, speak to him, ever have contact with him.

but i didn’t say a word in Boyfriend’s living room when she told me about the abuse. and when she asked me, “you knew didn’t you?” i just nodded my head yes. i couldn’t speak. why??? why didn’t i scream, “NO! you never told me! how could i know??!” but i nodded yes. that must have broken her heart. because now she thought i was another person who knew and didn’t do anything. but i was too afraid to make her say any more about the abuse. i could tell that she wanted to stop talking about this subject that she brought up. she was simply trying to justify to us and the other boy why she was leaving and why we should help her. no justification needed.

we stopped talking altogether. we started preparing for her to leave. our good time came to a close. we started helping her get things together, we all understood, there was no going back. we were all in. the other boy left.

finally, after talking about a plan and believable lies, we were downstairs and ready to leave. then. there was a knock at the door. Girl panicked. she thought it might be her stepdad looking for her. she was right.

Boyfriend went to the door. to make up another lie about Girl and where she might be. Girl and i hid downstairs in the garage behind a car. she was that scared. she knew if she was discovered, that would mean going back to this hell of a life and not making it out. we hid in silence and i prayed that this horrible man would believe the lie and go away without further incident. i prayed for a lie. that feels weird to type. but he did go away. without further incident.

Girl and Boyfriend got in his truck, i said my goodbyes and they drove away. then i walked down to her house, just 2 houses away. the plan was to tell Stepdad and Mom, Girl ran away. that Girl and another person that wasn’t Boyfriend had dropped me off. that i walked home by myself. that they didn’t tell me where they were going and that i didn’t see where they headed other than out of the neighborhood. half truth, half lie. i lied. to protect her. and they believed me.

i was in tears when i said these words. so the tears made it seem like truth. but i was crying for the whole mess. being in the presence of this monster. looking at him and pretending that i didn’t know what he did. how he touched all the girls. crying because i lied to my mother. she was there when i told Girl’s parents the lie.

Girl and I had been missing for hours and my mother was very worried. i told her the truth later that night, after we left Girl’s house. she didn’t rat us out.

i cried for not knowing. for not protecting my friend. for living a day of lies. i never saw that house again. or those people.

i never saw Girl again. she never came back to school. she made it out. i hope.

Wild

from 2013:

when Brain and Heart are not in agreement, the stress is immense.

worry and fear take over. completely.

God and his word tell us not to worry. let tomorrow worry for itself.

how do you make the heart run like the mind? or mind like heart?

or make either run after/for God?

my answer would be, for myself, to myself, pray.

pray for the desire of God’s will. always. until his will is my desire automatically.

Buddhism-4 noble truths-suffering is universal, desire is suffering, stop wanting things, suffering will end

stop putting things in the place where God should go.

train your brain, Martha. and your heart.

the heart is wild, but so can our desire be for God.

Wide, Wide World

In this whole wide world, why is it necessary to redeem an artist who has betrayed the public trust? Rape or molest or assault a woman, there should be consequences. For all time. If that means revoking your right to contribute to this world artistically? Then so be it.

There are many talented people who produce art who do not produce hatred, fear or mistrust. If someone has violated another person, why should their work have any meaning?

The whole reason we produce art is to escape the brutality of the world. Anyone who offers truth, beauty or wisdom in the form of art and then molests the very people who consume their brand? They should be held accountable and exiled from the creative community. Meaning: go crawl in a hole, be quiet, make amends. And/or go to jail.

Can they be redeemed? Yes.
Will their work survive? It shouldn’t.

Because it was a lie.


Can you love the artist who rapes or offends after their sin? Yes. Can they be forgiven? With true, sincere remorse and understanding. But I don’t have to save their work or participate in the appreciation of their contribution. Let’s all just move forward without paying these selfish creatives to show us lies. Let’s support positive, moral artists who show us their true inner life and make the wide world a better place.


Louis CK was one of my favorite comedians. I even let my daughter watch some of his specials. Never again. I won’t support an artist who would take advantage of someone like my daughter. It’s heartbreaking, but so is life.

Christmas Crash

This is a poem I wrote several years ago. I wrote it for the church I was attending. The drama director had doubts about a white woman writing a spoken word poem in a masculine voice. The piece was for a male performer. That made me want to do it all the more. I think I did a good job and the voice is neutral. Men and women can both be strong. Both love God. Both raise their voices to honor Him.

The drama director was surprised at how well the piece came across and apologized for her doubts. She still never fully trusted me, but that’s her loss. This was my first spoken word poem. I still love it. Here’s a link to me, my husband and my daughter performing it from our home in KC. It may be slightly overwrought, but we’re actors. You can’t fight city hall.


Crash.Crashing.Crushing.Crushed.

I stagger here crushed, crashed into by God,
Crushed by the weight of his mercy and grace,
My sin gone without a trace.
And it feels like…heaven.

A flash.
Flashing.
Hit by lightning, the wonder of his coming,
Saved by his dying,
Crying at the moment I see his glory
And he is revealed to me.

This world is full of:
Head-on collisions,
Rear-view visions.
Hurt may appear
Closer in the mirror.

Hitting, hurting, burning,
Scratching, fighting, scarring.
And we don’t even know
Who we’ve struck on the road

With our carelessness. Our thoughtlessness. Our inhumanity.

Though–we are saved.
Without reason or cause.
Captured and raptured.
In spite of our flaws.

Made by his hands,
Made for his plans,
Made just like him.

Built for relationship.
Desiring fellowship,
Asking for love and loyalty–
Our trust in His royalty.

Our undivided attention.

And when he crashes into us,
It doesn’t hurt.
But you know that you’ve been hit.

Crash.

He crashes into us.
He leaves a mark.
Stunned mind, ears ring.
A mark made by the one, true king.

Crash.

He came on a star.
He left on a cloud.
Here but a brief second.
A drop in the bucket.

But he changed man’s heart forever.

Hit and run.
Hit and stun.
Crash.

Crash.Crashing.Crushing.Crushed.

Crushed by his glory, stick around for the story,
The story of Love.
A story of grace.
God came to earth and showed us his face.
The face of a child in such a lowly place.

Eternal spirit become flesh.
Forever and finite, in a sense,
Wisdom clothed in innocence.

Power in weakness,
Eternity from meekness,
He does nothing but seek us.

He came here to this dangerous space.
A tiny member of the human race
To save.  The.  World.

He crashed into history.
He flashed into being.
Everything changes,
Believing is seeing.

The story gets better.
The story is a letter.
A letter from me to you
By Him.

Read it from beginning to end.
And read it again.
And again.
And again.

Brace for impact.


I feel so lucky that God came down for Christmas. Happy holidays. ❤

High

Coffee & Leather
Unsmoked cigarettes
Words & Tea
Guzzled with regrets

Remembered rambles
Filled with remorse
Ancient ships
Blown off course

I didn’t love you
With all that I had.
I saved some for me.
Am I bad? Are you sad?

Sharp in the vein.
Blood in the glass.
Drink all the pain.
Don’t give hurt a pass.

This aroma.
This smell.
This pain.
This well.

I sweat these smells and swirling thoughts
Linger on the rush of Past.
I get high on who we were.
Too bad stinging smoke won’t last.

Sail Haiku

Only the insane
Would sail from a safe harbor
Crazy for the sea


Sails don’t always fly
Sometimes we all lose our wind
True sailors make waves


Sailing in the sea
Upon wooden boards and hope
Wanted: wood and sea


Sails fly high above
My troubles sink far below
Rock me down to peace


Sailboat harbor home
Only for a tiny rest
Tomorrow: the world


Towing home the sun
Bringing in the clouds to shore
Now the day is done


Here, so much I saw
Witness to what God has borne
Sea, fish, birds, and sky

jetty sunset.jpg

Have it your way

Hypocrites always tell you
How to live your life.
But do you ever see them
Taking their own advice?

Know-it-alls: dime a dozen.
Always telling you what to do.
How to do it, where to go,
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you!”

These type of people
Live their life in fear.
Able to see others’ mistakes,
But their own quickly disappear.

If you really did know it all,
Perhaps you would realize–
Nobody likes “I told you so.”
Unwise to self-aggrandize.

You’re toxic and arrogant.
Selfish and impolite.
But somehow, in your opinion,
You’ve always got it right.

Riding high upon your horse
Must make you pretty sore.
Above it all, until you fall.
It’s going to hurt worse when you hit the floor.

I would offer you some charitable words,
But I assume they are not prized.
So I’ll just say, “Have it your way.”
Alone and rather surprised.

Walking in Darkness

For my friend, Laurey. Love you, Doll.


Night has come and we walk in dark
Because we have not made it home.
But in the black, hand in hand,
We do not go alone.

The light will come again.
We know that now for sure.
For lightless earth and dimming path
Love is the only cure.


Isaiah 9 ESV

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish…but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea… The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.


Laurey lost her mom over Thanksgiving. Anytime is not a good time to lose your mom, but it was unexpected and on holiday break. If you would like to help, they have funeral costs. You can give here. Ellen Johnson Please do not feel obligated. I’m sharing to try and help.

What if?

What if I can’t lose weight?
What if my clothes aren’t cool?
What if my hair isn’t right?
What if I’m considered a fool?

What if I didn’t give a shit about what anybody thinks and chased after what was really important to me?

Oh, to be 18, again
Or 14, in junior high
To live out loud, out from under this cloud
Staring at bright, blue sky

I would be fierce, artistic
Outspoken, yet simplistic
Lovely and fantastic
Moderately enthusiastic

Oh. Wait. I don’t have to be 18. Or 14. I am all those things. Now.

What if I loved myself wherever I am. However I am. Now? Huh.