A few days ago my friend Jen texted to ask if we were still on for lunch that day. I blinked at the text, trying to remember what month this was. If I had a dollar for every time Jen's texts have saved my bacon, I'd have enough overhead to start up my own fizzy lemonade stand.
Lunching with friends is a rare event for me...you're more likely to spot a narwhal than see me lounging at a café, dwarfed by Jackie O. sunglasses, viciously stabbing a salad.
At any rate, there wasn't enough time to doll up so I pulled the just rolled out of bed, two days since a shower look, which should be coming to runways any day now. I programmed the address of the restaurant into my phone and it promptly led me to a landfill out in the middle of nowhere.
Franchement, that could have been the end of me. This is Las Vegas, you know. All the rumors are true.
Instead, I texted Jen my distress and she directed me back to civilization. She is very good like that.
There are so many ways to write this story, so many angles. I could regale you with my ineptness, with the frumpiness of my appearance, I could describe the brilliant spareness of the restuarant, I could rave about the nirvana that is Korean food on a chilly winter day. The Koreans know how to warm you up, dear reader, they know how to bring you in from the cold.
But what I really feel like talking about is my friends.
One was born in Korea and immigrated here in the 2nd grade. The other was born in Vietnam and was airlifted out the day the communists took over. When I listen to the stories of their childhood, of the sacrifices made by their parents to pursue greater opportunities in this country, I am filled with a deep respect. I also have my own generations who made sacrifices to come here. It's a legacy I think about often.
We sat there sipping mugicha and enjoying the crispy grains of rice sizzling against our hot stone bowls. We talked and laughed. Our children take music lessons together, so there is lots to laugh about. Jen ordered more kimchi. I tried not to be jealous of the fact she spoke in Korean. I mean, she deserves it, right? But the fact is: I am always jealous when someone speaks another language. Not bitterly jealous, mind you. Just...wistful to the point of being bitterly jealous.
One is a doctor. One works with musical instruments. Both run circles around me with their blinding competence, their multitasking and tapestry of schedules. It's amazing they let me hang with them.
They would bend over backwards to help me and I would do the same in return.
Yes, it's my friends I feel like talking about. When I think of what matters most, when I reflect on life's greatest gifts, certainly one is that of friendship. Of having good friends and being one, too.
I feel blessed when it comes to that.
Dear reader, how are you doing? I don't know if anyone reads Tollipop as regularly as my little brother does and has possibly been feeling the urge to send a threat text telling me to update my blog...I hope such is not the case!
Beyond the usual busyness of the season, I have been working on a story project and it has interfered with the time I usually spend here. I'm sorry for that but I at least wanted to mention this much because for some reason I get anxious and feel the need to explain my absences.
Possibly because my brother threat texts me. But also because I didn't want you to think I'd forgotten this little tea party altogether.
I will leave you with these clips of Izzy's recent violin recital. There is no way to express how much I love her teacher, how I would clone and insert her in almost every avenue of our lives if I could. And how I adore Izzy's musical friends who constantly give her a hard time and try to be taller than her.
I am deeply grateful for the gift of music in our home. It sounds like a concert hall every afternoon, filled with singing voices, with strings and piano, with ukelele and guitar. And when we aren't making the noise ourselves, I usually turn on the radio.
Last Sunday I was conducting my church choir and the tenor and bass section hummed their parts as I worked with the altos. We have a magnificent tenor and bass section at the moment. Breathtaking. They keep making me forget what I'm doing.
Music: that hum, the ground moving beneath my feet, that swooping, soaring lark in the sky.
I take it with me wherever I go.
We're all a bit sick around here, dear reader. Nothing riveting. Nothing worth a mention.
Not like the time I was so incredibly sick my throat and ears felt like hot pokers were lodged therein and I went to the doctor in such a state of misery I could hardly believe I was still being expected to live and breathe.
It was that insufferable, not to be melodramatic or anything.
After the doctor saw me, the nurse came in to offer an antibiotic and for whatever reason gave me the option of an oral medication or one which could be administered via needle. Since the act of swallowing had long since been sworn off as a bodily function, I weakly gestured that the shot would suffice.
When she returned with the needle, I rolled up my sleeve.
And she was all: Oh, honey, this isn't meant for your arm.
And I was all (archly): Well, I can't imagine where else you'd stick it.
And she was all (seeing my archly and raising it an eyebrow): Really?
And that's all I feel like telling of that story, except to say I went in thinking I was at the doctor's and left feeling it was more like the vet.
At any rate, no antibiotics necessary for Caroline. No siree. Apparently all that's required to make her feel fantastic is the chance to play mancala and beat me three times in a row.
And don't think you could walk away with your shirt on either, dear reader. That girl is a shark. She's a ringer. All it takes is one brief daydream, one idle gaze out the window and bam! She's scooping up your pebbles and laughing like a hyena.
I'm not a gambling woman by any means, but if mancala was something you could play on the Strip I'd be hard pressed not to take her down there and start earning some egg money.
That's pretty much all the excitement around here, dear reader. Just low grade illness, nothing to make a fuss about.
Pretty much the only thing it's doing is impairing my judgement more so than usual because today, I was cleaning the bathroom and gave myself a prison fight of a cut with a razor blade. How did it happen? I already told you: impaired judgement. But that's not the important part. You should have seen the blood! You should have seen the gore!
And the only thing I could think of, as I was cleaning it all up, is that I hope no one gets murdered around here for the next 24 hours or I'm going to have a dilly of a time explaining why my DNA is splattered high and low, from the bathroom to the kitchen to this very keyboard, where my Hello Kitty bandaid is proving to be more cute than actually effective.
Last night I spent the evening with Izzy at a live presentation of the Nativity. She had been invited to play her violin before each performance, there by the stable with two tiny goats who kept eating the manger.
She played beautifully, in rich and resonant tones, the carols celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
I wonder what it would be like to be around him? I often discuss this with my girls.
How would Jesus make you feel?
We've come up with answers such as: loved, happy, safe, better, understood.
I imagine loved would be the overwhelming feeling. I think Jesus would see you clearly, he would see everything, but your flaws would be eclipsed by the beauty he could see because of his infinite, unconditional love for you.
Have you ever noticed how loving someone transforms them in your eyes?
I imagine you would feel it. You would feel his love in and around you, filling you, drawing you in, helping you reach for and believe in the great possibility he sees in you.
Anyway...no tall order, but I tell my girls this is how I hope they'll make others feel, too.
In our home, sometimes it's a hit. Sometimes it's a miss.
Nothing makes me happier than when it's a hit.
Dear reader, we are all works in progress and I worry if you were to cross paths with me on any given day you might wonder why I look so distracted (it's because I forgot a carpool, nine times out of ten), but my intent is to emulate the love Jesus so freely gave.
I hope, in some small way, if you are ever around me you will leave feeling better about yourself, feeling some greater sense of possibility than perhaps you did before, feeling loved.
Of the many gifts Jesus gave by his life and example, this one, this ability to see the best in people because you love them, means everything to me.