Did You Just See That?

When I arrived at the hospital today, I began my climb through the parking garage. This process can take up to ten minutes. The aisle is narrow, there are not enough spaces, and people drive way too fast. As I crept to the fifth level, I saw something that caused my jaw to drop:

A Hummer.
Parked in Compact Cars Only parking.
A Hummer.

To the invisible person that I am convinced travels with me wherever I go and listens to all of my witty banter and "social commentary", I yelled,
"Seriously??!?!?!? Seriously?!?!?! A Hummer?"

I considered leaving a note. It would have said, "You seriously parked your HUMMER in COMPACT CARS parking????"

Then I realized that I parked my Toureg in Compact Cars parking on Monday.
Somehow I felt justified since I HAVE been driving compact cars until a few months ago.

Still, I chose not to leave the note. But really, a Hummer? It just seems a little too obvious. If your car was built to crunch the enemy on a war front, Compact Car Parking most likely was not intended for your use.

And maybe that's the point. Sometimes, the obvious completely passes us over. We are unaware of the world around us. We forget we are not the only people here.

Over and over again during my employee reviews two years ago, I was told to increase my awareness. I would have if I understood what this meant at the time. I was so unaware I was not even aware of how unaware I was. But time and time again, I make the wrong joke at the wrong time, escalate the wrong situation, take more than my fair share of time in the bathroom, take more than my fair share of time off the floor with my client, take more than my fair share of time doing paperwork, being late again and again . . . the list goes on.

Working in a treatment center, overseeing 20 adolescent boys, and functioning on a team of five people required awareness. And I had none. It was a hard year. People didn't like me very much.

Being married to another human being that has needs that are different than mine requires even more awareness. I have just a little bit. It has been a hard year.

Herb has taught be a lot about awareness. He has an incredible sense of this thing. He is able to consider others without sacrificing himself or pushing into the "People Pleasing" arena. It is amazing to me. I, on the other hand, am capable of eating up an hour of a person's day chitty chatting without considering they might have some work to do.

And the worst part? I have always written this unawareness off in the name of being a free spirit. Or I blame it on being ditzy. I weasel out of it with my "charm". I figure since I didn't intend to do the harm, I shouldn't be held responsible or accountable.

The reality? It is selfish. The reason I am not aware of others is because I am so busy being aware of me.

Labels: , ,


Marriage: A Tool For the Depraved? VOL. 8

When I worked in the treatment center, we had a young man who came from an abusive family. We're talking unimaginable amounts of trauma and damage. This boy was wounded. Deeply. To the core. He didn't weigh more than a 100 pounds, and yet he was so disruptive and destructive that we could not control him. Eventually, we got to a point where we had to hire an extra person to work the milieu so that there would always be an extra pair of hands to make sure he was taken care of. That is a big deal. In a place where the client to staff ratio was 1:4, this child had 1:1 attention during every one of his waking hours. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for him. We told him I love you. We joked around with him. He was loved. He was given choices. And second chances. And 17th chances. And three meals a day. All luxuries he had not been afforded before.

After several months of treatment, and a month of very good behavior, I got permission to take him out for a reward. We went out to a mexican restaurant. He ate fried ice cream until he could eat no more. He was accelerating in the program. Growing. Healing.

Three days later, he ran away and was brought back to the facility in handcuffs. He lost control that night and had to be physically restrained. After spending the last of my fun money that month on chimichangas and fried ice cream, I was called horrible names and even bit so hard I had a large bruise.

It was like he did not know how to get better. Like he didn't want to get better. And the people who wanted to help him were his enemy.

Melanie's comment from last week about the paralytic in John 5 is beginning to make sense.

In so many ways, I am that teenage boy. I have everything I need before me for full life. And yet, I flaunt my battle wounds (small in comparison to those of other people) as an excuse to stay stuck . . . to resist change.

Last week Herb and I were joking around about scapegoat . . . "Sorry, I had a bad day, so I can run this red light." "You know, I just got in a fight with my boss, so I am going to punch you in the face." "I had a colonoscopy today, so, I just wanted to let you know I won't be paying my taxes this year . . . and I am going to put whoopie cushions on the chairs of all of the judges in the Supreme Court. But don't blame me, I had a tiny camera shoved up my buns today. It isn't my fault."

This week and last, my prayer book has been guiding my to scriptures and sacred readings about our part in the process of God's healing and forgiveness. Melanie was right . . . there is a level of responsibility in healing. At some point, we have to say:

"I want to get better."

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Now This is MY Kind of Class

In high school one of my "other mothers", Deb, often assured me that if I could just get through the next couple years, I would be fine. "You were MADE for college", she would say. Deb insisted that once I moved on from the high school scene I would finally find like-minded people who had similar goals and *gasp* understood my sense of humor. And as all good "other mothers", she was right. In college, I finally found my groove.

And last night, after years of randomly trying various dance, aerobic, and step classes, I found my groove again. NIA is to that first week of college as step aerobics is to the required daily 35 greuling minutes in the high school cafeteria. A mixture of dance, healing arts, and martial arts, it is about freedom and moving according to your body's own beat. It is about exploring and healing. There is some structure, but within that structure, there is a freedom to let your body move however it needs and wants to. And the music. Oh, the music! Latin, middle-eastern, african tribal, R&B and deep-gutsy slave spirituals. After an hour, I had laughed, smiled, punched, slithered, pushed, yelled, rolled, cried (but just a tiny bit), cha-chaed, did snow angels on the floor and danced a big beautiful dance of victory and strength. In a one hour exercise class. If you can deal with the occaisional weirdness (I just prayed when we "bowed" to each corner of the room), you must check this out!

Labels: , , , , , ,



There is something about floating in water that makes me so happy. Maybe it is because my childhood summers were spent at the neighborhood swimming pool. Or the fact that many of our vacations were spent at the Lake of the Ozarks or "creekin'" in southern Missouri while staying at our friend's cabin.

About three years ago, my mom and I discovered a delicious treat - the community pool near her home had a small water park, complete with a lazy river. For $7, we could sit on a tube and float for hours as we rested and chatted. Last summer, I discovered Pirates Cove here in Denver. Herb teases me about my adult outlet for my water love. My friend Libby teases me for yelling at the children who get too rowdy and splash me. I blame it on my time working at the treatment center. I still have not gotten the idea that it is my responsibility to discipline rowdy boys out of my head.

I have been hard pressed to convince Herb to join me on the lazy river. But I think deep down inside, he knows what he is missing. After all, as I pack up to head to Pirate's Cove, he says, "Have fun at Nirvana!" He knows. But until recently, he has refused to give into the joy of the Cove. It took the Whitefords visiting with their three children to convince Herb to give it a chance. Guess what? He liked it!

Labels: , , , , ,


But I Regress . . .

Sunday morning I pulled the basil from my friend Kaye's late summer garden out of the refridgerator and made a large batch of pesto to freeze for the winter. Then Herb and I hopped into Valty and took a long drive through the foothills. Up to this point, it was a day filled with very adult activities. A few hours later we looped around the city and pulled up to the home of my co-worker gone friend gone boss, Matt.

Matt turned 30 this week. And what better way to celebrate than a gigantic, homemade slip-n-slide in your backyard? There is no better way, I tell you. Apparently, Matt and Tamara originally thought the classic S-n-S would do the trick, but it had been tossed off to the side by the time we arrived. In its place was 40 feet of industrial strength plastic. You may say fun. I say dangerous. Because at the end of this sheet of plastic was the edge of the yard, complete with a tie wall and a three foot drop off. But Matt and Tamara are smart and they thought of everything. The wooden railroad tie wall had been padded with old carpeting. And at the bottom of the drop-off . . . you got it - a wading pool!

We survived the first hour without anyone mentioning the fact that Herb and I were merely onlookers without our swimming suits. But as the keg emptied, the masses got rowdier. Now, before I go any farther, let me remind you that I am on a quest to rid my body of all things that aren't useful - so the only bevie in my red party cup these days is water. All decisions made henceforth were without any sort of liquid assistance.

It started with Matt approaching Herb. "Herb, what would it take to get you on the Slip-n-Slide with me?" The reality is that Matt has a self-proclaimed Man Crush on Herb. Has had one for years. I think he really wanted to see my hunky and dreamy guy without a shirt on. Trying to save my husband from unwanted attention through the power of distraction I blurted out, "You would have an easier time getting ME on that thing NAKED." It was one of the those moments when your brain is not computing what you are saying as quickly as your mouth is producing the words. But by this point, the natives were wrestless. They had already had a naked party train down the slide with five grown men and were ready for something new! All of a sudden, guests who were previously disinterested in the presence of the Harji at the party, "YEAH! That will do too!"

At this point, Herb jumped in and tried to take the focus off of me. "Okay. You know what it would take for me to go? I am going to need the baby pool at the bottom filled with Strawberry Jell-O!" At this point Matt begins shrieking for Tamara to find some Jell-O. That guy REALLY wanted to see my husband topless!

About 20 minutes later, Herb had sufficiently distracted Matt with conversation of Fantasy Football, which is apparently powerful enough to take the focus off of Matt's quest to see Herb catapult his half-naked body down 40 foot of wet plastic. At this point, Tamara emerges from the house with a satisfied smile on her face and a large glass of steaming urine-colored liquid. "Sparkling Tangerine!!! It isn't Strawberry and it hasn't firmed up . . . but . . . it is Jell-O!!!"

The inner frat-boy emerges again. At this point, I think Matt was actually chanting Herb's name. Herb's response? "I said strawberry." As Herb's stubbornness on the subject became apparent, Matt got bored and turned his attention back to me, "Cara???? What would it take to get YOU on there?"

Who me? Little old me? Well friends, I am much easier when it comes to making a fool of myself, so really all it would take is you showing enough interest to ask the question in the first place. Thrilled but pretending to be exasperated, "Gimmee a t-shirt and boxer shorts!" And then, in a brief moment in which I must have forgotten that we were taking turns saving one another from unwanted attention, "And Herb will go with me!" You should have seen the look on his face. After quickly computing his expression, I let him off the hook.

Moments later, I found myself in my boss' bedroom with his wife, hoping that his skinny-man boxers will fit over my butt. At this point, I was completely committed to the Slip-n-Slide. After all, I had perfect strangers chanting my name and if the boxers didn't fit, I was going down in my pink polka-dotted GAP "Cheeky" undies! The boxers fit. And while in the moment, I may have been a little disappointed that I didn't have a good excuse to take the plunge in my underwear, in hindsight I am very grateful that I fit into a 30 inch waist pair of shorts! I guess that sugar-free diet is good for something!

There I stood, at the top of the hill with two drunk men - stretching . . . yes, stretching as they coached me on technique. At one point, a bikini clad girl who had taken to sliding down the hill on her knees, slow enough to miss the drop-off but fast enough to get down to the cooler for another Bartles and James looked at me and asked, "How much have YOU had to drink?" Unimpressed with my tea-totaler's reply, "Oh! You're gonna hurt tomorrow! You will really need some Ibuprophen!"

All of a sudden, I found myself running. Fast. I felt my toes in the muddy grass. The plastic crunching beneath my feet. And then. I stopped. Laid down. And slid. About half way down the slide. And here is one thing I love about drunk people. They have very skewed boundaries and as a result they attach to strangers very quickly. And with that attachment comes loyalty. As I peeled myself off the plastic, unsure of what my next move might be, I heard one of my drunk coaches yelling at the crowd behind me, "NO! Come on! No booing! No booing!!!! Come on Cara, you can DO THIS!!!"

WHAT!?!! They were booing? Decision made. I ran back up the hill. My drunk coaches are strategizing and encouraing me. I am focused. I run. I stop. I drop. I slide. Half way down the hill. Again. This happens two more times. By this point, the crowd wants me to succeed. And I have determined that I will NOT relive my elementary school days of public humiliation! I am already wearing my bosses underwear and now I am soaking wet with nothing to show for it. At least Tamara had the foresight to give me a BLACK t-shirt. That is, at this point, about all I have going for me!

Finally, determined NOT to be "picked last for the kicball team" ever again, I let go of all fear (and most of my sensibilities) as I ran across the grass, hit the plastic and DOVE! No stopping! About half-way down, I realized, I am about to hit the edge of a wodden wall and then drop three feet into a kiddie pool. I closed my eyes. It didn't hurt. Herb was there at the bottom - with the garden hose, filling the pool - and as I hit the platic, he lifted the edge of the pool up to brake my fall. And it worked. It didn't hurt that time. Or the next two times.

But yesterday and today . . . now that is a different story.

Labels: , , , ,


What Do You See?

Yesterday I read about the paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus on mat. My guess is that he was hoping to be healed.
I tried to imagine what life for this man might have been like. A motionless life - so clearly set apart from the rest of people. And then God in the form of a rabbi approaches me. I am very clear about what my need is. To move. To be physically healed. And if this man is God, then I can only guess that what I need is even more clear to him.

My entire existence has been focused on understanding why I am paralyzed and trying to no longer be paralyzed. So, we approach Jesus for healing. And he responds to the request. But instead of acknowledging that I am a motionless man lying on a mat being carried by other men, he tells me my sins are forgiven.

It is only an after thought . . . a response to the men around him who are chiding him . . . that he adds, "Get up, take your mat and go home." If those men had not been there challenging his power, he wouldn't have addressed my need. He would have left it at forgiveness.

My mind is overwhelmed as I consider that Jesus seemed to be unconcerned with the man's paralysis. He only healed him in order to appease the crowds - to prove to them that he had authority and power on earth to forgive sins. He was only concerned with the forgiveness of this man's sins. He seemed disinterested and unconcerned at best about the man's physical needs. And not only was he unconcerned with healing the obvious, external need - it was a piece of cake to do! It took so little effort.

Why is this? Why can it be so easy for God to change our circumstances and yet He doesn't even seem to take note of them. He sees the need and yet doesn't address it. It would seem, then, that the things he values for us are completely different that what we value. How do we begin to desire and love the things that He desires and loves for us?

Labels: , ,


Marriage: A Tool for the Depraved? VOL. 7

Herb posted this on the comment section of my last post this morning. But I think we should let him have his own forum to share his thoughts . . . so here's herb!

I'll have to steal Cara's blog space since I have yet to plunk down the time and energy of setting up one for myself! :)
I just wanted to share an exchange with my doctor a couple of months ago. I see him every month, so he keeps tabs on most of the goings-on in my life. He started by asked how my stress level was...

Me: Fine. Nothing to big... just relationship stuff, you know.
Dr: Oh, how's that?
Me: You know, just the roller coaster ride of marriage (being ambigious, hoping he would drop it)
Dr: (Not one to drop things) Oh... well, how big are the dips and hills on your coaster ride?
Me: Well, they've been pretty high and pretty low at times.
Dr: What are YOU doing? (He's been married 25 years or so, he will always assume I am the cause!)
Me: Well... you know we have over 50 years of combined selfishness we are trying to work through and it's been really tough at times.
Dr: {laughing} You should have that posted above your front door like McDonalds. "Over 50 years of selfishness!"
Me: {Laughing with him now} Oh, and then we just count down for every year we take off?
Dr: No, underneath that, you start counting how many years of selfLESSness you guys have together.
Me: yeah... (That's about all I can usually muster up when presented with such clear wisdom).

We'll never erase the selfishness, but we don't have to be tied to our past. Identify it and move in a new direction... together. To quote RENT, "Forget regret or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way, no day but today. There's only now, there's only here, give in to love, or live in fear."

Labels: , , , , ,