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Does the universe speak to us?

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It is often said (and I concur) that God speaks in mysterious ways.

But what about the world? The universe?

And as a person who believes in the One True God, when circumstances which seem other-worldly speak to us, do we ignore them, attribute them to God exclusively, coincidence or something else?

I just don’t know. There are more likely than not great coincidences which happen all the time, but I’m often reluctant to believe in them. I couldn’t tell you why specifically. Maybe it’s my hard-wired desire to unravel the mysteries of life coupled with the harsh reality that I’m not even remotely smart enough to wrap my mind around what is seen, let alone what is unseen.

Case in point:

Last week I had a rather vivid dream which involved my kids, an 18-wheeler which I did not know how to drive, a large gathering consisting of people I went to high school with, and the troubling knowledge that I needed to get home with my kids. The 18-wheeler was the only means of getting me to my destination, and while the people there were friendly, it became quite evident that no one in the crowd would be able to help me get to where I needed to be. Had I been alone, I would have risked driving the truck without knowing how to work the gears, but as I sat in the driver’s seat, I looked over my shoulder to see two seats–one for my son and one for my daughter and I knew risking their safety was not an option. As I walked through the crowd seeking out someone–anyone–who might give me some insight as to how to safely get this truck up and running, the only topic of conversation anyone seemed interested in was reliving their high school glory days. All the while a soundtrack from the 1980’s is playing in the background.

I have no idea what any of this means, if anything.

Fast forward a couple of days to my sixty dollar haircut. Tony, the master stylist who cut my hair tells me I look familiar. Come to find out, he and his wife worked at a salon called Visible Changes back in the early 80’s. That salon was where I used to get my hair cut when I was in high school because I happened to work in the same mall during the same span of years they worked there. One or both of them could have cut my hair. The conversation moved to which night clubs we used to frequent. (Yes, I know I said I was in high school, but I was a wild child back in the day). Yes, we frequented the same club, the Rocksy, which specialized in my favorite music of the day new wave.

So far, I’ve made no connection from the dream to the conversation at the hair salon.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. I was driving my daughter to pick up a friend who was spending the night. As I’m pulling out of the garage, she starts singing “We Got the Beat” by the Go-Go’s–one of my favorite bands from the 80’s (don’t judge me–I was young and foolish). Since she wasn’t exactly getting the tune right, I decided to do a search on Pandora for a Go-Go’s music channel, and what do you know? “We Got the Beat” was playing, followed by what just might be the song voted most likely to sing along and dance to, “My Sharona” by the Knack. (Which is neither here nor there, I had just forgotten how wicked-awesome that song is.) Every song which followed was a walk down memory lane and of all the people who have touched my life in some way.

Like my best friend from junior high, Laurie, who I’ve only recently reconnected with on Facebook. I shared with her my Go-Go’s channel discovery and I’m sure some of the same memories I’ve been reminded of have caught her attention as well.

Does any of this mean anything at all?

And if it does, does it matter?

We are all connected. Some theorize this connection has to do with mathematical connections and something called string theory. Others will tell you we are all connected by God, all descendants of one man and one woman.

But what if it’s both? The former created by the latter? Can a theory which in part seeks to disprove the existence of a higher power actually point to Him as its creator?

And will we choose to do anything about it or simply ignore the connections that are already there?

Glory days

I have two Facebook accounts. The one associated with this blog and the other one. While there is some crossover, the account not associated with this blog is primarily for family and friends I actually know in the non-virtual world. Right or wrong, I like to keep these two world separate to a certain degree.

When I first signed up for Facebook (the friends and family account), apparently I did it wrong. I didn’t think to hyphenate my name. I am simply Kathy Richards, not Kathy Dishman-Richards, which (in theory) has prevented old friends and acquaintances who knew me before I was married from finding me. Not necessarily a bad thing. But despite my Facebook faux pas, several people from “back in the day” have been able to track me down and “friend” me, and it’s been interesting to see what became of some of the people I haven’t talked to in so many years.

I don’t spend much time on Facebook, but recently someone tagged me in the following photo:

Can you find me?

How about in this one?:

Hint: I'm one of the few girls in the picture who didn't get the Charlie's Angels hair memo.

And yes, I did make the same Charlie’s Angels hair comment on the Facebook post. As other people began to comment on the picture, someone said something that struck me:

“The fact I don’t even remember that day frightens me. I remember the 8th grade group photo not this one.”

to which I replied:

“That’s funny you should say that. I remember the 8th grade pic as well, but don’t remember this one at all.”

Then someone else chimed in:

“I hear ya Kathy-I don’t remember this pic. either. I thought it was our 8th grade pic.until I saw northbrook class of 83! damn we’re all getting old!!!”

Why would we all remember our 8th grade class picture and not a much larger picture four years later? I have a theory based upon my memory, but keep in mind that picture was taken 28 years ago and memories are tricky things, aren’t they?

Before we entered high school, we were still the neighborhood kids. We may have begun to splinter off into our little cliches, but we all still remembered the days when we played together because our houses were within walking or biking distance. Rather than choosing community, community chose us. I have to think those circumstances helped us accept our differences if not embrace them.

I remember wondering why my friend’s family three streets over rode bicycles wearing slacks and ties and carrying books, but he didn’t seem to want to talk about it, so we never asked. I remember one friend who spent her evenings sitting at the end of her driveway to get away from her parents’ constant fighting, so we sat there with her. Or we made up some stupid game to pass the time. I remember after my dad left. My mom was working nights and I remember friends’ moms and dads taking time out to talk to me. Not about the divorce, but just enough small talk to let know someone cared about me.

Funny how those differences that didn’t seem to matter when we were kids became important when we started our journeys into adulthood.

I don’t have fond memories of high school. By the time I was sixteen years old, I was going to school half days (I was in something called Distributive Education which allowed me to do this) and working full time at a department store. I didn’t have time for pep rallies and football games, and if I’m being honest, I thought I was all grown up way before I really was. I merely tolerated high school rather than embrace it. I missed my senior prom because my 20-something year old boyfriend was out of town. I pretended it didn’t matter, but it did. I think my high school experience could have been so much better if I had allowed myself to be a kid instead of being in such a big hurry to grow up and get away from all these people. People who weren’t so bad after all–just the kids from the neighborhood trying to figure out where they fit in.

How was your high school experience?

If you could go back and do it differently, would you?

(Special thanks to Ted Reade for taking the time to  post our senior class picture on Facebook and allowing many of us to reconnect after all these years.)

The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 4

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Family Reunion

It’s Sunday afternoon and the family has gathered for a very special occasion.

The boys and their families flew in from Colorado and Tennessee. The girls married and settled closer to home, neither one more than an hour’s drive from their childhood home.

The big occasion? It’s Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. The house is small, so John, Kevin and their families chose to stay at a nearby hotel in town. Now gathered in the tiny family room, the brothers and sisters wonder aloud how they ever managed to all fit in this house, let alone grow up here.

While their parents are in the back yard playing with the grandkids–nine in all–John, Kevin, Janet and Kara catch up on each other’s lives. The brothers each left home after high school graduation. John set off for college on a football scholarship and Kevin headed for Fort Bragg and a career in the military. They talk about their kids; about how much has changed and how much has remained unchanged.

What they don’t talk about is why Janet’s husband has spent most of the afternoon taking private calls on his cell phone out of earshot of his wife, or the fact that no amount of make-up can cover the purple, swollen skin under Kara’s right eye.

The elephants in the room loom as large as Kara’s husband’s absence from this auspicious occasion.

But the biggest elephant of all–the one each sibling recognizes but none want to admit to themselves, let alone each other, is the old saying that in this case rings heartbreakingly true:

Both Janet and Kara married men just like their Daddy.

And the elephants feed and grow…

If you missed the first three installments of this series, you can find them here:

The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 1: An Introduction and Explanation
The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 2: Unspoken
The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 3: Anniversary Gifts

Lessons from the snow

As I mentioned on Saturday, we had a pretty significant snowfall last Friday. I received a pre-recorded phone call from the school district informing parents that students would be released early due to inclement weather. I was expecting this. Folks in this neck of the woods drive big trucks and SUVs, but we’re pretty clueless when it comes to how to drive in snow and ice. I was also expecting my kids to be very excited about being able to play in the snow.

Both kids soon bounded through the door–my 12 year old son more excited about getting out of school early than the reason behind it, but my daughter? She couldn’t wait to get back outside and play in the white stuff.

Soon enough the three of us made our way to the backyard. After a brief snowball fight, my son found his way to the swing set. Content to be an observer rather than a participant, he simply enjoyed the blanket of white and the cold while listening to tunes on his ipod.

At this point in the story I could wax poetic about how I reveled in the opportunity to trod through the snow with my 8 year old daughter and experience the rare and magical experience. Instead I’ll be honest and tell you it was cold out there. I had things to do inside. The early dismissal forced me out of my regularly scheduled programming. Basically, I wanted my day back.

And then I caught a glimpse of what my daughter was experiencing and suddenly none of those other things mattered. Because what she had found in the snow-covered lawn was joy — pure, unadulterated, unapologetic, incredibly contagious joy.

So I cheered her on while she made a snow angel, helped her wrap up some snow in tin foil and stored it in the freezer for safe keeping.

We rolled three balls of snow together to make a snowman. We raided the kitchen together to find a carrot nose and raisin eyes. She cheered me on while I clipped a stray branch from an oak tree for arms, even after I got a face full of wet snow for my trouble.

By the end of the following day the snow had been replaced by drizzling rain and the snowman was a shadow of his former self. But even though the snow had melted the memories will remain.

I’ve often wondered where that magic of childhood goes once we’re introduced to the realities of this world. I’ve wondered if it simply abandons us or if it merely sleeps somewhere inside our hidden places. I’m still not sure if it’s either or none. But I am sure of this–we don’t have a say in growing older. But we sure do have a say in growing up.