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This Phoenix Speaks

Seven years in the making, my first published book, This Phoenix Speaks , is now a reality. The tireless and tiring work invested to ma...

thoughts on aging

I've decided to capture a slice of my thoughts now, so I might compare them later down the road.

Being single and in my 40s means I get to witness all of my peers who have gone the distance in their marriages reach epic milestones like 25th wedding anniversaries. Who knows, maybe I'll find someone in enough time to have that celebration before I'm dead, but I won't be in my prime when it occurs. I will be getting on in age for sure. Even if I married tomorrow I'd be officially a senior citizen. Now that's a hard pill to swallow. Not that I think it's bad to get older, but I never pictured myself so devoid of romance in my prime of life.

My parents were not romantic types if you would have asked me when I was younger. Thinking of that in this context, I remember the excitement I enjoyed putting together my parents' 25th anniversary party. I hand stamped and embossed all of the invitations, arranged for the cake to be made by my grandpa who is a master baker, and witnessed my parents' joy in being so celebrated by friends and family for going the distance. Who could have known she'd be gone just shy of their 30th anniversary. And who even does a big deal party then anyway? I'm so glad I could play such a large role in making that one anniversary memorable.

But I don't want to focus on the party aspect. I want to note the small everyday things that brought them to that point: the not giving up, the choosing each other even when life was very hard, the learning to be and stay friends. That's real romance, you know.

I hope to find that to share with someone someday. I just really hope it happens while I can still dance and play with vigor. 

joy quest: hope and healing

Today marks my 30th joy quest post and the end of my formal exploration of joy—for now. So what do I write? How do I choose my words for something that I still don't understand completely? I have questions still.

How can we feel joy when also overwhelmed with sorrow? And yet—it happens. How does joy make its presence known when there is so much fresh pain pushing down? And even still—it happens. How does joy heal our hearts when our hearts are continually being wounded anew? I don't have the perfect answer to this question either except that I have seen the hope joy brings in our human suffering, and it is a continual healer. Joy heals as we look for it, embrace it, and allow it to heal us.

We have to choose joy though. That is something I have learned and know about joy. It is everywhere, in everything we do; however, if we aren't choosing joy, we can't see it or feel it. When in the midst of adversity, it is critical that we reach out to hold onto the joy that is available. Even still, it is more critical that we recognize the joy we experience in times of peace. There is no worse waste of a gift than to take it for granted.

Being apathetic to the gift of joy that makes life so good sets us up to not be able to see how joy works for us when things get difficult. We need to keep watching for it and wanting it continually to truly appreciate the work of joy in our lives.

I found a talk that teaches how to appreciate and understand how joy works in our lives, and I hope you will watch it. As I listened to it, I knew it belonged in my joy quest because of the truths it bears witness of. One of my favorite quotes by Yoon Hwan Choi:
It is not easy for us to recognize the love of Heavenly Father when we look around with our temporal eyes, because we see inconvenience, loss, burdens, or loneliness first. On the other hand, we can see the blessings beyond when we look up.

This joy quest has been perfect in its imperfection. I have let loss and burdens keep me down a few times. But I have learned from it when that has happened. The hope and healing of the paper crane I began with has been ever present, and that is why I share it at the end of my quest too. Recognizing that I have seen how I push away joy, I want to do better. I have done better. I have loved the challenge of these past thirty days that has pushed me toward understanding joy better, to seek it out and be part of it more often.

I thank my friend Julie for being the catalyst for such an enlarging experience when I needed to be stretched and healed and fortified. Joy has become a true companion.

joy quest: memory lane

Harris Lane. Now that has some memories on it. There are actually many lanes and streets and boulevards all over East Las Vegas that hold memories for me. The best memories. The worst memories. And memories that have made me who I am.

I will choose joy today as I say goodbye to my family home. My parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, many cousins and friends, all have been part of that house being made into a home. It takes people making joy-filled memories to have a real home, and we had that. Most of all though, my parents' love for each other and us was why that place was home to me. Despite all the troubles and trials, I can look on that place with joy and love because of them.

Bledsoe Lane and Harris Lane and all the other roads in my old neighborhood will still be there, but they won't ever be the same without us there anymore. I know that for sure. And that gives me a tempered joy—joy in knowing how much my parents made a difference in establishing a legacy of love that is only held down by missing their presence for so long.

My joy is full today. My joy has tears washing away any pain, leaving a shining, golden memory lane to walk upon whenever I may need it.

joy quest: quiet

Life can get so hectic that you never find time to slow down and be quiet. But then someone passes away, and all of a sudden, you have to make time to stop for awhile.

It might not sound right, but there is a type of joy in the period of time that is set aside to be with the living and share grief. There is no way to describe it without sounding almost irreverent unless you've been part of it before.

There is no gladness for the loss of my friend's brother, but in the quiet after the funeral, I felt joy that I could see my friend and his family come together to celebrate a wonderful life. Everyone has become such wonderful people as we've all grown up, and their little brother was a real treasure. And then just having some time to be quiet to recognize all of this calls for joy.

I have quiet joy right now, but it is joy nonetheless.

joy quest: friday

There is just something magical about the song "Friday I'm in Love" that makes me smile every single time I hear it. It could be that my friend, Suzanne, comes to mind. It could be the cheerful beat. It could be the hope that is laid upon Friday—that promise of being in love every Friday at the very least. Whatever the reason is at the time, every time I want to get up and dance.

Today won't be a day for dancing for me, but I have a wish for joy to be planted in the hearts of all who mourn and want for love and comfort today. I have joy in that hope. And we will dance another day soon because joy comes from behind and cures sadness. Every single time.

joy quest: turning points

Summer is a turning point in the lives of children. They grow out of their clothes at least once. There are friendships made and lost. Anticipation for what autumn will bring hangs in the hot summer air once July presents itself.
There are other turning points that happen too. Graduation from high school brings with it a lot of change. Learning how to grow up for real and finding the footings for the future pose real challenges for young adults. There is joy infused in every step though. Every accomplishment, every time a goal is met (no matter how small), joy is right there waiting to be scooped up and embraced.

Adults face these turning points. It's not necessarily at the all important summer finish line, but we have them. We lose a job and get a new job. We move and have to make all new friends. We lose a friend or family member to bad feelings, but we renew the relationship through communication. We lose a loved one yet hope for eternity to bring us back together someday. We learn to look around every bend for joy because the hard times just can't last.

Today is a day to be thankful for turning points, getting around the bend of a long stretch of difficulty, and looking to the future for joy and hope. 

joy quest: pink lozenges

I'm so tired I can hardly think straight, so no fun logos on the picture and no refining filters. Just pure pink paradise before your eyes.

These pink candies were some of my favorites growing up, and I've never grown tired of them yet. It's probably due in part from not being able to find them most of the time, but they are worth the search!

My city opened a giant new grocery store, and they have these bulk candy bins there, and lo and behold, my pink candies are there. I bought some and even shared with my children. Speaking of my children, I think they were a bit embarrassed by my sheer delights upon seeing these at the store. So delicious that even the thought of them makes me smile! Sweet joy!

So anyway. I love these candies so much. I hope you do too, but if not—more for me!

joy quest: freedom

As I was pondering what I'd share today since it's Independence Day for Americans, I thought about many things: music, inspiring quotes, inspiring leaders, the wars and victories, and my parents. All of those people and things as I thought of them in turn gave me a measure of pride and joy. How do I decide what to share then?

I decided to share a video of me riding a roller coaster:

This decision came to me because I believe it encompasses in a very short period a metaphor for my pursuit of happiness. Ups and downs. Laughter. A whole lot of "holy craps" said and unsaid. And being free to do all those things.

Another reason I decided to share this video is as a metaphor for my freedom. I was with my son celebrating his 17th birthday on Independence Day last year when I shot this, and the memory of it reminds me of how free I am now. Life isn't easy in the least. I get sad. But I am free to keep trying and keep improving and be myself.

Speaking of being free to be myself. Is it terrible that I can watch this over and over and I laugh at myself every time as if the video is new? Like, I crack myself up so bad. I wonder what level of crazy I'll look like when I'm an old lady. I can't even comprehend it! haha!

I'm so thankful for everyone who has made my freedom possible. And thank you for sharing this slice of joy with me today! God bless America, land that I love!

joy quest: grief's gift

Some sad news came my way last night after writing the joy quest post, and so I felt compelled by inspiration to write a poem, Without Even Trying. It's what I do; I write poems when I am grieving. I write them for myself and for my friends and family who are affected by loss. And something happened with this poem that surprised me and gave me such a gift.

Because of the sad news, I thought I wouldn't be able to find anything joyful to share today. But I was so wrong. I didn't think anyone would really read the poem. And that's fine, I write to express inspiration and feelings whether or not anyone else reads my writing. However, it does feel nice when my work gets read and shared though, and this poem was read, loved, and shared so very much. It was truly appreciated. And that gives me so much when I second guess my writer's life I've been cultivating. To be clear, I feel like such an imposter most of the time.

Not today though. My writing gave comfort to the sad and gave people reason to smile inside. And they shared this far and wide already in less than a day. It gives me a full heart to know I could help even one person with my words—and there were many more than one. I am so thankful, and gratitude is joy's seeds.

without even trying

In an instant
Everything is different
Just like when we first meet
They change us
Without even trying

Meeting a baby for the first time
Whether your own or someone else's
Someone's baby brother
Can change you
You fall in love a little
With their laugh and smiles
You tuck a piece of them
In your heart
Carrying it with you
Without even knowing
It's there

They change you again
By not being here
To breathe earth's air
With everyone together

It matters not
Where they live
Or how long it has been
Since you saw that smile
Or heard that laugh

It matters not
Any of the different paths
Everyone took
Because you realize
In an instant
That you had them held
Within your heart

Where they will stay

To remember the smiles and laughs
And the sweet and tender heart
Who showed you
So many years later
That there are many pieces
Of your heart that were whole
Until they left

For Jeff, the baby brother I loved the moment I saw him
Rest in peace

joy quest: fire

I don't have an elaborate story to tell, nor a well thought out response to an inspiring source. I don't even have a proper picture really. I just snapped a quick shot of our fire pit party and kept on enjoying myself.

There's something about roasting marshmallows and hotdogs (and pork steaks like savages) over an open fire. We were able to really enjoy the evening as we wound down from the week before on this beautiful Sunday. And it gave me joy. I am thankful we could take the time, that we observe the sabbath and shut out the world some one day a week.

My joy is quiet yet on fire tonight.

joy quest: making room for more

We can love something so much. We can have the best memories. We can even not want to set it aside. Yet—if that something, a habit, a hobby, a thing, anything keeps us from receiving untapped joy, it is time to let it go and try making room for something new. 

Tillman has been a fun bear, a sweet bear, and remains a most precious bear to me and my children, but I've decided that we need to retire him. There's so much love wrap up in this little stuffed animal that I fear prolonging our adventures with him will only end up breaking our hearts more as time goes on. He has come to represent a bridge of sorts for us with one of our dear friends, and it's just hard to think about how much we care. 

So I've found a home for Tillman where he will be safe and accessible but not out as a constant reminder, in the hope that we will open up some space in our hearts for more joy—new joy—fresh and rejuvenating. 

This whole thought isn't very joyful if you ask me, but this is a quest, not a perfectly joyful 30 days. I am finding joy, understanding joy, and learning how to open my heart to receive more of it. And this is something that I believe needs to happen to make room. 

Just don't tell my kids. Okay? They will figure out my decision soon enough, and I don't feel like crying over a purple teddy bear in front of them.