Sisterhood of the Traveling (insert article of clothing which inspires, flatters, and cheers)

We were relatively new to the neighborhood, but several of the little girls were meeting on the porch across the street. Adorable with their ruffly clothes and pony-tailed curls, they brushed their dolls’ hair lovingly as they chatted. Bella had just arrived with her puppy backpack. I don’t think her own hair had been brushed since the day before. I heard one of the little friends greet her and ask if she had “an American Girl doll.” I did not hear Bella’s reply, but watched her enthusiastically drop to the ground, unzip her backpack, and triumphantly produce “Snakey”–the articulated wooden snake she’d chosen from Chinatown. Bless them, the girls went with it. Friends do that.

I have found my “movie friends”–the one or two who get into crazy predicaments and throw out fabulous one liners, who stick by you when times are stupid or hard, who make you laugh till you pee when you really just want to throw yourself out a window, who make you feel like the best version of yourself, and who can sit with you and be ok with your weird inner world.622675ac21c2d1d7a543311c03df7488ad6a5c1211e73ee7bbeb4cdb3d02fccf

I’m an introvert. I do Alone well. I enjoy Alone.
So this is the furthest from The Shire I’ve ever been. I’m going to miss some people. Three people. So much.
Let’s be real, I miss my friends who are far away. But somehow this is different.
Maybe it’s because I’m the one not going anywhere and the three of them are leaving. A Diaspora of Awesome, if you will.
There are three women I’ve laughed with here whom I will miss in a bone-deep way. Three women to whom I’ve actually bonded the way I imagine people bond with friends in high school or college. Three women whom I would totally watch a movie about.

I was in a Bible study for a few months that turned out to be my jam. I can’t even really explain why–on the page it looked very clearly laid out and logical but when I read the assignment each week I felt like it was completely formless and required flying by the seat of one’s pants. Essentially, it was precisely how my students must have felt when I gave them assignments in Freshman Composition classes. Made both no sense and all the sense to me.
I’ve been able to process and write in a way I haven’t felt able to in a while. And I’ve had a wonderful sort of anticipation with each assignment. Like God was going to really show me something each time.
So with the last week of class I was pretty pumped. I told God48324 that I would like to read something about friends and saying goodbye and having peace and not being sad and getting brave. Annnnnnnnd go!
Nothing.
For three days.
Not gonna lie, was pretty disappointed. Thanks a lot, God.
The next morning I resorted to sullenly flipping through my Bible. My eye dropped to the bottom edge of a page and saw “But even if he does not…” There’s a song I love of late and that phrase is the main chorus, so I stopped to see what was happening here.
It was about Daniel.
And his three friends–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In a nutshell, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown in a fiery furnace which had been heated to seven times its normal heat (cuz a regular people-burning-furnace wasn’t enough…) when they would not serve false gods. They speak as a unit; there are no individual lines from each of them. They don’t know that God WILL save them, only that He CAN. And that’s enough for them.

Now. There are plenty of individual lines from my friends and me. And they are brilliant. None of us has known what will happen next,

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which is great

and we’ve had plenty to say about how jacked up a few things have been. But as a unit, and as part of an even greater unit, we’ve been able to wait. To not act too rashly. To remind each other that God can do this thing, but even if He does not, we will not give up our hope in Him.
Wednesday has been my other Sunday. It’s been how I pace and center and recharge and motivate. But with a lot more communion. And a tiny bit of cussing.

We’ve all been here less than a year. We’ve really only been getting together for a few months but the fire has been heated to seven times its normal heat. Bad stuff has gone down while we’ve been here. Broken spines and major surgeries, reoccurring illnesses, peeing blood, shingles, disturbing revelations–and that’s just my house. My three friends have had even more intense issues thrown at them. But, for me, knowing I will see them Wednesday, have a glass or nine of something festive, listen to their stories, and tell them mine, anchors my week.

I don’t know how the silver refining process works. I looked up a few things on the internet and I still don’t really have anything. I thought it would be a great metaphor of transformation from bits of metal and ore or whatever to this beautiful valuable silver after going through the fires. Dude. There are alloys, coppers, sulfides, light measurements, assaying techniques–forget it. I’m not skilled enough to make any of that mean my friends are beautiful and precious and strong.96e1996482068215613365280ef50400

So let me just tell you: My friends are Beautiful and Precious and Strong.

Jesus is absolutely my anchor, but these people have been the links connecting me more securely to Him. As much as I will miss their presence, these friends leave me with powerful outlines on my heart’s wall. Being blasted in a furnace leaves marks and I hope I never stop trying to walk like they do–with courageous and quiet strength, enduring and focused intensity, and an all encompassing joy and energy to not only do battle with this life like Boudica on speed but also to love the journey and infuse every person encountered with encouragement and hope and proof that the fire can always get hotter and the seas can always get rougher, but the Anchor will take the heat. The Anchor will hold.

Now,

bring me that horizon

and a box of Kleenex.

In Which Christina Tries to Find the Poetry in “Breaking One’s Ass at the Bowling Alley”

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Spoilers: There is no poetry in breaking one’s ass at the bowling alley.

And even sadder, this was not even my most epic fail.

So, picture it– the Ft. Leavenworth Strike Zone, moments after leaving a child home with her father, in a fit of rage and tears and possibly blood because the toy she’d ordered with her piggy bank money and which was scheduled to arrive that day did not in fact materialize with her sibling’s order. (This is an entirely different story of pain, anger, and ultimate redemption.) “I’ll just take Auggie and Mal,” I said. “It will be fun,” I said.

My lovely friends had set up the bumper lanes and there was an adorable little alligator slide for Auggie to push his ball down. We donned our stylish shoes and set up our screens. Then I proceeded to burn 4,000 calories whilst deflecting my youngest son’s attempts to bowl everyone’s turn, lift 10 pound toe-crushing balls, eat various snacks that did not belong to him, and essentially run betwixt and between every other human’s legs while they tried to send heavy orbs spinning down the intensely waxed lanes. All while trying to remember to cheer for my oldest son’s valiant efforts to hurl a ball only slightly heavier than his own person down a narrow lane using arms the length of a bald eagle’s wingspan and the width of a walky talky antenna.
Remember that “intensely waxed lane” part. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

So, all went All-American-Family well for about 8 minutes. And then Auggie decided he must and WILL follow the pink ball to its destination. The child may be shaped like an overstuffed Peep but he’s surprisingly fast. I honestly don’t remember anything but trying to grab his shoulder and taking 2 or 3 rapid steps when suddenly all was silent, I was closing my eyes, and the briefest of thoughts scrolled across my brain like a banner flying behind a retro bi-plane that I remember soaring across the cloudless sky when we would go to the beach as children: “ooooh maaaaaan, this is going to huuuuurrrrttt…”
I was not wrong.

I’ve fallen on my tailbone three times. Each marked by significant humiliation. The first time I had to pay my brother a dollar to go across the street and tell my mother that I was hurt and couldn’t stand up. (It may or may not have been payback for that time I broke his collarbone.) ((Bygones.))
The second time was in an English farmhouse at the lovely party of a dear friend. I had just reached my post-baby body goal and was wearing a darling vintage-inspired tea dress with my favorite seamed stockings and platform shoes. I remember every detail. I was carrying a beautifully delicate heirloom china plate to the kitchen, relishing the sound of my awesome shoes clopping across the old wooden floorboards, thinking how amazing I must look when–Lo there did I see the line of my people, back to the beginning. Lo, they did call me, they bid me take my place among them, in the halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever.
For I knew: I was going to die.
My friend’s two bulldogs. At a dead run. Where are they going? And why with such swiftness? I thought briefly as I continued walking toward them, as one continues toward impending doom. ‘Tis inevitable. ‘Tis fated.
Later, I would replay it countless times. I do to this day, 7 years later. There was nothing I could have done, save dive out of their path and into a curio cabinet or innocent bystander. My main concern at that moment was to preserve the plate. I don’t know why. In the same way I don’t know why singing Ole’ McDonald Had a Farm during labor helps me focus.
With each step, my shin met a solid, speeding animal. Two legs, two animals weaving betwixt and between them. Allow me to break it down for you: in the course of 2 strides, my legs made contact with a dog at least 4 times so that my body had no choice but to both pitch forward and then rear backward. And the whole time, my eyes were focused on that china plate. I watched it reach forward, rise up, and then float above me, ever connected to my hand, ever safe, ever preserved.
Not so my dignity.
Moments later, seated and swatting mortified tears from my eyes as stealthily as I could while assuring people–all the people–that I was fine, Sam showed up. Conspiringly, he leaned in, “Did you hear about the poor girl who fell? Legs up in the air and everything, poor thing.”
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The coccyx. Apparently a vital part of our anatomy. Having an injured one inhibits many activities, such as rising from a seated position at any speed other than glacial, bending down, picking up, laying down, lifting, etc. Standing is fine. Walking is fine. So essentially, I’m like the bus in Speed. I just can’t ever, ya know, stop. No problem.

I’ve tried blaming Amazon for this. Why couldn’t you put BOTH Dinotrux in the same effing box? And the United States Postal Service. Why couldn’t you put BOTH boxes on the same truck? Then we could have all gone bowling together and maybe Auggie’s impulse to run down a waxed-to-hell bowling lane would have been thwarted. But then…what if Sam had been the one to try and catch him? What if he’d been the one to fall and had reinjured his spine?
So let’s say this: I’m glad it was me.
Let’s also say this: We’re not taking Auggie bowling again for quite some time.

Sword

From under the stones-
in a flurry of sticks-
the weapon bursts outward.
The weapon is singing a song.
The mission has a soundtrack.
Lists, signposts, a return address:
they mark the map I follow.
I want to hold the weapon–
for protection
for promise
for prosperity.
It seems to have new batteries though.
The weapon goes out into the fray.
I follow at a distance
out of respect
and safety.
But the song it sings is catchy.
I need to hold the weapon–
because of danger
because of defeat
because of death.
I feel disgrace when I lose sight of its shadow
and am left only humming the tune I’ve learned.
My hands want to hold the weapon.
But then I look around the field
where I’ve been in the fray
and realize the weapon has been holding me.

How To Be Christina Fishburne On Monday

Find yourself planted for three years in a place people typically stay for only one.
Congratulate yourself on all that personal growth you did in Hawaii.
Think about all the people you know who might have cancer.
Plan a productive day.
Damn the constantly dirty floor to Hell.
Think about writing.
Go to the gym.
Preemptively grieve all the friends who are leaving this summer.
Start crying because people you love might have cancer.
Want another baby.
Vacuum.
Forget to buy more bagels.
Think about writing.
Think about painting.
Think about cancer.
Think about being pregnant.
Damn elliptical machines to Hell.
Vacuum.
Decide not to have another baby.
Wish you cared more about politics.
Wish you cared more about history.
Wish you cared more about Power Rangers.
Damn cancer to Hell.
Vacuum.
Think about writing.
Think about babies.
Think about wine.
Think about the people you know who have survived cancer.
Wish you were Diana Gabaldon.
Wish you were Claire Fraser.
Wish you were taller.
Wish you were better at conversation.
Wish you had a plan for dinner.
Pick up crumbs with a wet napkin.
Hold Malcolm’s hand when he offers it.
Thank Sam for doing the dishes.
Listen to Bella’s detailed plan for her birthday party half a year away.
Laugh at how Auggie says new words wrong.
Think about not wishing for more.

This is not about the election.

They have to leave us.

They try to do it strongly.Version 2Version 2

We have to let them go. We try to do it gracefully.20161110_201110

They have to go far away. 20161110_185628We have to stay put. But it doesn’t always happen fast. Sometimes it drags out over days. Version 2Days of waiting to leave. Days of knowing they are technically still here. But we can’t see them. Then they are gone.img_0605 And they have to do hard things. 20161110_18575720161110_193815They have to live in hard places. 20161110_193857Version 2They miss us and we miss them. 20161110_193734100_2532We try to be brave like them. Version 2Version 2 Things happen to all of us. img_0514100_3275100_2507Version 2100_3056Version 2But they miss our things. 100_2990OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA100_3183100_3403100_2731And we miss their things. 20161110_185713Version 220161110_194029It’s hard for each of us to understand the other’s things.

And then one dayVersion 2 they’re back. img_1387_zps676d09f1And there’s more waiting. img_1519_zpsba00bc47Agonizing minutes and hours of waiting. img_1521_zps2bec4be9We can see them. img_1527_zps1a17229cWe can almost touch them. img_1539_zps152cc91aWe are about to lose what’s left of our minds. And then

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Welcome home. And welcome back. And whatever the world is like, it will always be changing–but the reason we send you and the reason we wait for you is the same as the reason you go and the reason you go again, and again: we love our country and what it was built for and we love each other because we have this in common.

We Put The “ER” In Character

This past week I had occasion to call an ambulance. Twice. The first time was especially great because I was also obliged to leave my screaming husband and screaming baby in the exam room so as to run across the hospital to the parking lot where I had to move my car in order for the emergency helicopter to land. Now, the last time my body hit a dead run was about the year of our Lord 2006. My body doesn’t like running. Nor does it do it well. But I was motivated. Highly motivated. And I was fast. It felt amazing! As I flew down the halls and burst out of the sliding doors, I rocketed toward my about-to-be towed vehicle and thought: I am a beast!
Who knew? And had the hospital been bigger than the frozen food section in Target, that Olympic record would have been in big trouble. I’ll tell ya what.
no-runI hate running. But apparently I can do it when I have to. For short distances.

***

I am trying to cook something for dinner while ping-ponging between the kids for homework assistance. Bella is trying to remember “the flag song” for her program at school, so she has me singing every flag song I can think of while she unceremoniously cuts me off after each beginning line.
“Oooooh say can you see…”
“Not the national anthem, Mama.” (Said in the tone reserved for simpletons, fools, and the miserable slobs who don’t know what color ranger is always the leader of the Power Rangers.)
I have just unloaded the dishwasher and turn around to see Auggie has emptied the cabinets. Sigh.
“This is MYYYYYY country…”
“NO.”
This is the day after the first ambulance ride and Sam has been able to come home, so I have a flurry of texts from concerned family members coming in. I answer a few at a time as I sing,
“My country ’tis of thee…”
“NOPE.”
Getting a little punchy, I throw in some swinging elbows:”You’re a grand ole’ flag, You’re a high-flying flag…”
“TOO FAST! TOO FAST! I can’t remember the hand motions!”
I pause over the laundry basket on the couch. Half of it is distributed around the room now. Thanks, Auggie. Why are there only 2 pairs of underpants? One, two, three…eight shirts and pants…
“KEEP GOING.”
“And forever in peace may you wave.” I start to get into it. I sing louder. I fold clothes in a rhythm. I’m on key. I sound great. “You’re the emblem of the land I love, the home of the free and the brave!”

I don’t know it yet, but my brand new friends, who’ve never even met Sam, are plotting. I don’t know it yet, but I’m about to get dinners and spontaneous visits to make me laugh and my lawn mowed and random snacks. I don’t know yet that the next day I will go to the store and totally lose my crap and cry and snot all over the woman who bags my groceries as she prays the most beautiful and powerful prayer over my family. I don’t know that a couple of hours after that bolstering I will be calling another ambulance and texting “I need help” to my friend who will show up and take care of my kids all day while I deal with the hospital situation. Or that my mother-in-law will put her life on pause earlier than planned to get on a plane. Or that moments after that I will be crying in front of Sam’s boss, who has returned to tell me to let him know if I need anything.

“Every heart beats true, under Red, White, and Blue, where there’s never a boast or brag.”
Asking for help is really hard. Accepting help is actually really hard too. I don’t know if it’s a woman thing, a mom thing, a military thing, or what–but I tend to think, I can do this. I just need a few more minutes OR I just need to put that in the backpack so I can use my hands OR I just need everyone to be quiet so I can think… Spoiler: none of these things actually enable me to do what I need to do. I can actually do a majority of what needs to be done on my own. I have the twitching eye and stripe of gray hair to prove it. But I can only do it on my own for a short distance. I need my brave friends and my family and to be reminded that God is here and in control. And I don’t have to be.

“But should auld acquaintance be forgot, keep your eye on the grand old flag.” The chorus of George M. Cohan’s song is in all of our heads now as we stomp, run, wander, and shuffle around the house. James Cagney played him in the movie, so I see him singing it too. There’s a line that the Cohans would say at the end of their shows, and I’d like to say it to all my new friends here and to those praying and supporting us all over the place,
My mother thanks you, my father thanks you…my husband thanks you, my daughter thanks you, my sons thank you, and I thank you.

Christina Fishburne: Worst Time Lord Ever

First of all: No. You haven’t lost time–it has been mere days since I last posted, not months (as is my custom). You weren’t expecting to see me again so soon, and honestly I wasn’t expecting myself to have anything to say so soon. That is because we internalize, Precious. We internalize like a mofo.

I’m on a two-year moving cycle. When we hit two years in a place, I’m ready to leave. I start backing away from commitments. I decline invitations. I stop watering my plants. I start throwing out a lot of stuff and filling boxes with useless possessions. I clear out pantries. I go to Costco less often.
This is all very effective when on the cusp of a move.
This is not at all helpful when one is not going anywhere.

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~
After an event one day, I was given two extra nice loaves of bread. I didn’t need them and I thought one of the many many homeless people I pass every day might appreciate them more. I was feeling pretty good about helping someone out and couldn’t wait to see the guy I pass almost every day at one of the stoplights on the way to school. He wasn’t there, but another guy was. I asked if he would like some bread and then presented him with the bag. He was very cheerful and smiled, thanking me, saying he had some little bird friends who would love this bread.
…Um. Ok. If that makes him happy. Sure. Why not.
Then the awkward waiting for the light to turn green. I sort of wished I had saved a loaf for the other guy I see every day at the other stop light.

~
It’s a frantic sort of feeling. I want to be doing something. I need to be moving on. I have to compartmentalize emotions and rank them in order of Freak-Out Worthiness. Cuz, make no mistake, there will be freaking out. How much does it cost to ship a vehicle? What is the school situation? IS THERE A CHICK-FIL-A? Should I be stockpiling winter clothes that are on mad crazy sale here? The garage needs to be cleaned out. Borrowed books need to be retreived.

One of my dearest friends just moved away. It was gut-wrenching. It cut yet another chord loosely holding me here. It further advanced the feeling of Get The Hell Out of Dodge.
But there’s nowhere to go yet.

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~

I came to the stoplight the next morning and there was my bag of bread.

Unopened.

Hanging like a head of one of Turendot’s victims off a chain-link fence.

The effing little bird friends couldn’t even get at the loaves.

~
This pre-move self has been around for six months now. That’s six months of heart clenching reluctance to invest any more emotion, energy, or growth than absolutely necessary. I’ve rearranged furniture to make my home feel different. I impulse buy out-of-character clothing at Target. It helps, but I’m not fooling Pre-Move Self. Ya know what doesn’t help? The fact that the weather is a constant 87 degrees. It could be loads worse, I know…East Coasters put your snow-shovels down…, but I feel like there is no passage of time. It’s maddening. I’m both wasting time and stagnant in it.

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~
I was flooded with shame at that stoplight. It felt like everyone knew it was my bag of bread getting gross in the hot sun. Offensive. Condescending. Wasted. What a stupid thing to do, giving someone bread. How arrogant. He probably thought I was giving him old bread. Stale bread. Bread no one else wanted. Bread that would insult even the birds. Not the good stuff. Better to leave it in the bag.

~
I know in my brain that it’s foolish to squander the time left with my friends here, but my heart is already grieving having to leave them. My kids are in such a gloriously fun stage of life and I want to enjoy it, but I sort of hope the days go quickly so we can find out where we’re going next. I have responsibilities here; there are things I’m supposed to be doing. But I don’t care enough. I’m cutting corners.

But I don’t want them to remember me as someone who gave them only the leftovers. I want to be a real friend. I want my kids to have a mom who not only has a vague idea of what games they’re playing over there, but is also a character in them. I want to be present and useful in what I’ve committed myself to.

There’s a plant on our porch that’s been without water for months. It used to be awesome. Bloomed bright pink waxy flowers for 2 years. Until I let it die. Slowly. And on a lot of purpose. Now it looks like a cactus.

I want to plan.

I can’t plan.

This vexes me. And then I decided to really engage in the Bible study I’m sort of a leader in… Remember the story about feeding the 5,000? Remember how He did it twice?  Yeah, neither did I. He did it twice. In a short amount of time. But the second time when all the people got hungry the disciples were all, “What are we going to do?! How can we possibly feed all these people with a few loaves and fish?!” And I was right there with Jesus,

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The exasperating truth is: I want to plan, and planning is good. But I need to trust.

Then one day, after I’d given this guy up for gone, I noticed this.

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No new leaves. Just flowers. Just the good stuff.