facebook, hearts and slushees

I have a friend with maybe the cutest 4 year old twin girls I have ever seen (except maybe my nieces). And the other day she brought them to lunch. Our very grown up, limited time, wine, appetizers and pasta lunch somewhere near a Tiffanys. (in other words I was underdressed).
But they sat there perfectly eating their pasta and playing on the ipads while we talked,  made toasts and got the stink eye from our neighbors for being too loud and inappropriate! (we were too loud, not the preschoolers!).

Our lunch went on well into the afternoon. And still they sat. Cutely. And quietly
Eventually it was time to move on. Plans were made and these two littles were shuffled back to the other parent. Whose weekend it really was. And they were less than happy about it.But there mom, told them the adusted plan. Asked if it was ok? and then said this…
“Is that ok with your heart”

 And I thought maybe that was the cutest most tender question I have ever heard anyone ask.

 And this girl is no sap. I have friends who were born kindergarten teachers, complete blues on that color personalitly test. Who are so sensitive that I’m afraid I have offended them at least a dozen times every time I open my mouth. But not her. She is a bad ass. A triathlete and wake surfer and a mouth that can put my own to shame.

And so this question and sudden tenderness really struck me.
And I wondered what would happen if grown ups occasionally asked each other that.

 Apparently her 4 year old was used to that kind of thing, because she just said sure and went back to watching Dora on the ipad.
I on the other hand, might have choked on my olive.
Or cried.
Or made fun of her.
But I’m thinking it is still a pretty good question.  Regardless of the response.

I spent the weekend with a few old friends. Ones I have known for decades.
And the time was limited so we had to jump straight to the heart a few times.
Asking hard questions in between margaritas and dancing in the middle of the sidewalk.
Because intensity is only good in brief spurts. And is always better with queso.

The next day I met up with a friend I have known even longer. Skipping right to the ache over my chilaquiles with someone who has known me since before I could multiply. She later texted me and said “I had no idea. I mean it looks like you are having so much fun on facebook”
And that actually made me laugh outloud.
That we can even consider attempting to discern people’s hearts from their status updates.
They are not one in the same.
They are not even close.
One isn’t meant to mislead, it just isn’t the same as someone asking you if things okay with your heart.

And please don’t read that wrong. I am having fun on facebook. I am a fun girl. It’s just there are a million other moments that don’t get posted. Some are equally great. Some aren’t. Some are paralyzingly lonely. And some are nobody’s business. Most are just plain boring. And why in the world would I post a picture of me on my dirty couch wearing pajama pants at 6:30 pm. (which may or may not be doing right at this exact moment). Instead we post slivers. Slivers that we hope will get a few likes or comments or laughs. (guilty).  But likes and comments and laughs can’t get coffee with you.  And it is bad enough that we compare ourselves with other people. But. We can not for a second start comparing ourselves with facebook versions of people. Because they are not real. They always have the best husband and the smartest kids and are always out having fun and saying clever things. When 90% of the time they are on their couch just like me wondering how early is too early to go to bed. 

When I log on, Facebook asks me “what is going on, Michelle…”
“what’s happening, Michelle….”
Or if it is being really considerate, “how are you doing, Michelle”
But never once has it asked me about my heart.

Probably because all my 500+ facebook friends don’t want to know. And certainly don’t want me asking about theirs. I feel strongly that we were made for relationships. And some of us require more than others. My husband is super introverted and probably only needs like 4 friends and to say like 1000 words a day.
I need 10X that. People and words. And I don’t always know what to do with that.

Sometimes it completely ends up unwanted and in the wrong place.
Sometimes it ends up here.
Sometimes it ends up across from me at Starbucks.
And it almost never ends up on facebook.
And every once in a while, someone takes the time to ask. Even if she was really speaking to her 4 year old.

(and as a brief followup, I thought I’d try out this fantastic parenting with my own kids. My 7 year old son gave me an eye roll. And my own sweet 4 year old girl who really really wanted to stop at QT on the way home but we just didn’t have time was told that we’d go another day. Is that ok Tess? Is that ok with your heart?
“No it is not mom! I want a slushee right now. My heart is screaming for a slushee with three colors.”  And shortly there after so was her mouth.
I held firm. No slushee.
And I think I heard my heart asking for some earplugs.)

cleaning day

Growing up I used to hate "cleaning day", because my mom would tell me to pick up my room, that the housekeeper was coming. Which I thought was pure irony. Wasn't it the housekeeper's job to clean. Why should I clean for her to come and do the same thing? But apparenly there has to be some portion of your bedroom floor visible if someone else is going to vacuum it. So once a week, after being reminded repeatedly...I'd roll my eyes and then pile everything on my floor on top of my creepy antique bed.
I'd come home from school that day to find little lines in my carpet, the wood polished and all my dirty clothes, YM magazines, homework and mixe tapes all piled right back up on top of my now perfectly made bed with clean sheets. She'd even picked up my clear neon phone and placed it neatly on my bedside table. ( I loved that phone).

Then I moved off to college and there was no cleaning lady. But thankfully I lived in a room about the size of most people's closets so, how dirty could it get? Pretty gross actually, but thankfully there were plenty of James dean posters and Abercrombie ads to distract the eye from the fact that my 8X8 carpet square that I purchased used from some fraternity that probably pulled it out of the trash and had maybe never been vacuumed. Then I had a slew of roommates and almsot equally tiny apartments. And suddenly I am thinking that my cleaning skills might have a little bit to do with the fact that I went through so many roomies. (except for one that stuck it out for 3 years which I am sure had more to do with our shared loved of mexican food, dixie chicks and party of 5). Somehow the dishes got put away and the trash got taken out. And I almost never got my cleaning deposit back when we moved on to a new place. But when your couch comes from GoodWill and is held up by phone books how clean do you really need to keep it anyways.

I quickly learned that more space would only mean more responsabilities. Another roommate and I had one of our most memorable fights ever over whose turn it was to mow the yard. Becuase I am pretty sure that having my boyfriend do it twice in a row, counted as my turn X 2. She on the other hand, might have suggested we get a chore wheel.

These days, a chore wheel might not be a bad idea. Unlike, my parents I can not afford a cleaning person weekly. I have one come over once a month and my husband still cringes every time I write that check. But let's be honest, the sheets might never get changed any other way.  To quote some Whitney (the TV show, not the singer), I am not exactly even sure what a top sheet is for.

Cleaning day is one of my favorites of the entire month. Even if it means I have to spend the entire night before frantically cleaning for the cleaning lady. Now I totally get it. And I love nothing more than walking in my front door on those days and smelling lemony cleaning supplies and later than night climbing into a perfectly made bed.

But lately, the cleaning lady has been coming later in the afternoon. Instead of opening my door after a long day and noticing the shiny floor and taking a deap breath of clean, there is someone else sweeping my floors and wiping my counters. Probably muttering under her breath the whole time about how in the world anyone can live this way. I drive up and see her car in the driveway and try to think of some errand to run.  I do not want to be there while someone else cleans up my mess. I have even considered calling the cleaning company and requesting that they send someone earlier. Someone I do not have to see sweeping up the captain crunchberries that may or may not be ground into the kitchen floor. Or my cheeks burn in shame about the fact that my bathtub is being used as a dirty clothes hamper or how much toothpaste my son has managed to cake onto his bathroom counter. I do not want to face the person that I am paying to clean up my mess. My ick. I just want them to take the check on the counter and make it smell pretty. I want them to battle with the fitted sheets, fold the toilet paper into that cute triangle and make those little vacuum lines on my carpet.

And it is less about being spoiled and more about shame.

I don't want to see the person who has to clean up my mess. I feel full of guilt, like I should suddenly grab the cleaning wipes and start scrubbing with her. It is my mess after all.
But I never do.

Wednesday, was Ash Wednesday. I am not that into formal religious things or tradition. Most Sundays I wear jeans to church, even though most people in my service have freshly ironed shirts and hair.  But something about holy seasons like Lent and Advent have always appealed to me. Because I am real good at forgetting and love a season that will help me remember. So I skipped my lunch break that day because I read in the bulliten that there would be someone in the chapel doing the imposition of the ashes.

I love lent.
And feel the need to lean into it more this year than I have in a while. I think I have only been to an Ash Wednesday service once in my entire life and I do not remember it at all. I couldnt tell you what it means or what happens. I just know that at the end everyone leavs with little charcoaly crosses on their foreheads.

So I go. 
A group of older men gather in thelobby. Sipping coffee. laughing loudly.
but the room I am headed for is deserted.

I walk in anyways and see one guy reading at the front. He puts his book down and walks away from the lecturn to the small altar placed in front.

I have done this before. Chosen the empty sanctuary over the crowded service for communion. And it is a little awkward but way more personal and holy.

I tell him he is going to have to tell me what to do. And he laughs a little and says there are no rules.
He takes his time gathering ashes. dipping and redipping his index finger in the bowl.
I kneel because I figure I am supposed to. And I can still hear the old men swapping stories in the foyer.
And I suddenly realize I am not even sure what the ashes are all about.

Right about then he smears the ashes on my forehead and says words that peirce me.

"In the name of jesus christ your sins are forgiven"

And he steps to the side and leaves me to prayer or linger.

He leaves me with my sins. And it is just me. Left alont with my mess. That again, I am hoping someone else will clean up. And most days I don’t want to face that. I want to pray a quick prayer. I want cheap grace.

But today there are ashes on my head reminding me that it is not cheap.
I don’t stay long, and I walk back to my car. A little heavy. A little covered in holiness. And I drive back to work.
Before walking back into the building I do something I shouldn’t. I take my jacket sleeve and wipe the ashes off my forehead. The moment seemed personal and mine and I do not feel like sharing it.

The afternoon passes quickly, I pick up my kids and go home thinking about dinner, practies, reading logs and my own papers to grade. There is an unfamiliar car in my driveway.

Cleaning day.

As I pull in the drive, my hand unconsciously goes to my forehead.
And the words echo

“In the name of Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven”

Someone else is cleaning up my mess.
The one in my living room. And the one in my heart.
The least I can do is go in and face it.
And say thank you.


I come from numbers.
My dad is a CPA, my mom is a CPA, even my older brother is a CPA and even Although I don't think I have attempted to balance a checkbook since the 90s, my math sat scores were still impressive. I usually like to think that I left all that nice neat left braindedness behind in my high school calculus class.

I talk in circles.
I rarely drive straight.
and nothing in my life seems to fit a formula.
and sometimes I miss those nice assured answers. The ones you can be certain of. The ones that can be checked at the back of the book.
Instead, I am all over the place. I have no sense of limits. I do not show my work. I can never prove my answer. I and am one eraser mark short of tearing a hole right through the page.

But I still find myself counting.
counting the minutes.
counting the days.
counting the miles.
counting backwards to go to sleep.
counting my blessings.

The other night as I was in that place of almost sleep, I remembered a song I used to play. My 5th grade school violin solo. Minuet #3.
I don't know why it popped into my head, it must have been the cold medicine.
I did not remember the notes or the tune so much as I remembered a pattern of #s.

3-1-3-2-0-1-2.    2-2.

and they repeated themselves all sing-songy in my head.
in that order over and over.
just exactly how my 10 year old fingers hit the strings.
until eventually I fell asleep.

Those little numbers came out as music.
as beautiful.
but, the creation of them was in the counting.

I read this recently on Ann Voskamp's webiste....
"how a piano teacher had once stood over the white keys and had whispered it to a muddled protege: "When you are a musician and you stop counting? …it’s like running around in the forest, in the dark without a flashlight."

When you’re a musician and you stop counting
you’ve lost the song’s way.

When you’re a follower of Christ, and you stop counting you’ve lost your way."


That song, back in the 5th grade was tough. They hardest one in the whole school. My teacher made me stand on the stage and play it at our spring concert. Alone.
I'm sure, that I missed a few notes, scratched my bow on the wrong string and was terribly nervous.
but I stood there and played.
By then it was memorized. I did not need the sheet music. The notes. The ones everyone in the audience heard.
I closed my eyes and played. number by number. Until the clapping started and I sat my shaking knees back down in the metal folding chair.

I have stopped playing the violin. The case all duct taped and dusty sits on a closet shelf. I rarely make music anymore. And I keep thinking one day, maybe I will pull it back and attempt to play again. I think my fingers will still remember where to go. And after all, I still know how to count.
Even if occasionally I think I might have lost my way.

And there is so much more to making something beautiful than numbers. It is not that simple.

But this is.

What we hear in our head is not necessarily what other people hear.
At 10 I knew this. my head spoke numbers, my hands played music.
Many years later, I am struggling with that same concept.
Making sure that what I hear in my head is not what I start to play.

At night the reason I try to count is to fall asleep. Some day it is the only way. That and Tylonal PM. I count thankfulness so that I can remember what I actually have instead of all the things I think I want. But mostly, I count prayers to replace the lies that whisper how not enough I am.

I just keep counting,
and I hope that what comes out is a song.