Sunday, August 31, 2008

Green Acorns ABOUND

Because I am incredibly emotional...filled with joy and grief...I've decided to ditch what is going on in my life right now for something more relevant...GREEN ACORNS. My favorite time of year is fast approaching. I love fall for too many reasons to detail...alas, my greatest joy of fall is GREEN ACORNS.

I discovered this delight as a freshman at A&M. I was walking across campus to class, when I spotted a beautifully green...plump...inviting acorn. It called out to me...and I answered. With one decisive step upon this deliciously ripe nut, my life forever changed. There is NOTHING quite as satisfying as popping a ripe green acorn under foot...nothing. Granted, you must be in proper shoe attire...flip flops do not allow for that POP that feels soooooo gratifying.

All this to say, I am staying with friends who have a driveway littered with GREEN ACORNS. It has been hard for me to focus on anything else, as they call to me night and day...speaking of, I hear one now....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Things I Would NEVER Do

There are some lines that should never be crossed cause once traversed, there ain’t no turning back. I know this because I may have trounced upon such a line or two from time to time…and I have learned my lesson. That being said, there are some things that I simply would NEVER do.

I would never allow the closing of the home that I had shared with my sweetie to fall dangerously close to the first anniversary of his death. That would be ludicrous, especially since one can be a bit tender during such a time…one might be prone to irrational behavior. Were I to do something like that, I might spread myself too thin emotionally. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s my personal boundaries…when to say when…when to be gentle with myself because I have fully accepted the fact that I am a mere human…with frailties and such. So I would NEVER do that. But for fun, let’s just say that maybe I did cross that line; I would certainly NEVER follow it up by volunteering to keep my sister’s kids for a surprise anniversary get away that her sweetie had planned for her. I mean, come on…volunteer for something like that? As in say, “Hey, I can do this…let me help.” Cause had I signed up for something like that, it could potentially cut my time to get out of the house short by TWO days. That would be utterly ridiculous. For grins though, let’s say that I had given in to that lie that I am a bit stronger and more capable than the average slob, so I had actually done all of the above…then I would NEVER try to accomplish “work” during such an insane time. I would take at least a day or two off. Cause had I tried to do work during such an insane time, I might actually find myself running impetuously out of the building toward home to try a last-ditch effort to sand a burn mark out of the cultured marble in the bathroom…since I had foolishly burned a candle too low…since my mind had been on a zillion other things. Of course, the only reason I might find myself rushing off to try such a mad-cap idea would be because I was trying to decompress at work by googling odds and ends…such as removing burn marks…and then received a phone call about the final walk through being in a few hours…and since I had been playing mom (voluntarily) had not been able to get to the house until this very moment to take care of the burn mark that had been plaguing my sleep…NO WAY would I have run home to try out the remedy (successfully)…right smack dab in the middle of the work day. I would NEVER do that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just Jan

I love it when God brings everything full-circle. For example, the name of my blog. I agonized over what to call it...seriously...for a very long time. The history of my blog is that my dearest Janet showed me how to blog a YEAR prior to my actually doing it...and for that entire year I tried to come up with a name. Then on a whim, I decided to jump in the day before Chuck's surgery. It provided a quick, easy way for me to communicate en mass. Never could I ever have dreamed how God would use times as a life-line!

So, back to the name...Just Jan...I'm there. It really is just me. It is sinking in...the packing...the organizing...the phone calls...all done by just me for just me to start a new life with just me (Chuck in my heart...but you get it.)

Currently I am spent...probably a combo of the air mattress and the constant packing, sorting, storing. I don't remember what life was like when I had moments of NOT PREPARING TO MOVE...when I actually had time to just sit. After Friday (closing date), I may freak out a bit...culture shock...nothing to do.

In any I come world...just Jan.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Roughing It

I am down to my last two nights in this home of ours. All of the BIG items have been carried away and stored (thank you Darrin, Cory, Tod, Troy, and CLARA). All I have left in the house is an air mattress, the computer, the TV (sad, but "necessity") and some clothes. I tend to have separation anxiety whether is over a loved-one OR a loved-thing. To help with this, I thought I'd separate from our home in stages...thus the brilliant idea to rough it the last few nights. As is common, I didn't think the whole thing through. It is MUCH tougher living without a refrigerator than I realized it would be. I keep popping in at my sister's, "Feed me, Shea!" Her kids look at me like I'm insane...they best get used to their aunt's unconventional ways of walking through this life...we've got a long road ahead of us.

Nonetheless, the sadness is starting to set in. I sat in what used to be "the blue room" last night and cried with Chuck. That was our room o' comfort while we lived here together. He went through about 9 months of extreme pain and constant weariness prior to the surgery. Every day after work, we'd retreat to the blue room to watch movies or whatever he had recorded on the DVR. We ate popcorn, drank soda, and basked in each other's company. Dang, I'm crying again.

So, two more nights here...then off to a new beginning...a new life. Chuck is permanently implanted in my heart, so he's coming, too! I know he's getting a kick out of watching me do all this stuff...handling all the business of selling our home. I know he's proud. I know he's not surprised, as he always believed in me.

Please keep my heart in your prayers...courage and joy for this final leap into the new way of life to which God has called me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Celebrating Chuck

Thanks again everyone. You made the 20th truly GREAT. (You'll note my photos are missing due to technical difficulties...)

View this montage created at One True Media
I Celebrated Chuck 8/20/08

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thank You!

I KNOW many of you prayed yesterday. I should not be shocked and amazed, but I am...not that you prayed, but that God was so faithful in granting our requests. The day was so full of sweetness and fun...of course a few tears...I'm still me after all. So thank you for covering me in prayer. Like usual, God gave me a day above and beyond anything I could have hoped for or imagined.

My morning began at 6:30 with a knock at the door. Standing outside were five smiling faces (with a hint of will-she-be-mad worry...too cute). My sister invited my small group over for coffee and prayer. I was, because I just woke up, but two, because I was overwhelmed with their thoughtfulness.

I spent most of the day with my sister and her family...Barnes and Noble story time; lunch (with Cel alone...she's a sushi fan, too); HAIRCUTS; then the campfire.

My camp friends and I created a time capsule for New Year's Eve 1999. We vowed to open it at the passing of the first one of us...I could strangle Chuck for being first. It was filled with photos, various t-shirts, ticket stubs, and a list of memories. It didn't take long for us to figure out that the next time we open it, we need to have actually WRITTEN OUT THE our minds, they are a aging. Next step, we will all contribute two articles of memorabilia and write out a couple of stories to seal until the next passing. I assured everyone that no one else will die...EVER.

OH, and the photos you sent...cherry on top. THANK YOU. Thank you for celebrating Chuck with me. I feel so loved...and honored...and grateful.

Photos to come.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This Day ROCKED!

It is stinkin' 11:26 and I'm still awake. Alas, this day has rocked from beginning to end. I know many, many, many of you covered me in prayer...mission accomplished. This day was filled with joy and fun...and a few tender tears. Thanks to those who sent pics...too much fun...all grins from ear to ear, I was. If you don't mind, I want to post them. Ross may create something for the FixUpChuck website, too.

In any case, I will details the days events at a more reasonable hour. Thank you everyone for such a BLESSED day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grief Uncensored

Since Friday evening, I’ve had a constant ache…that has grown with each passing moment. Unexpectedly, FRIDAY was hard…as was SATURDAY…as was today. No, not the anniversary dates, so quite unexpected. It took me a while on Friday to figure out what was creeping in…it was the last FRIDAY that Chuck was conscious and that we spoke…it was the last SATURDAY that I kissed him on the cheek…it was the last SUNDAY that I spent with him.

It’s been a while since the ache has been so constant. I had forgotten how hard it is to breathe…to move…to act…to function. Facing the matter head on, I decided to do some “laundry room time,” thus facing my actual pain…in the hope of alleviating some of the sting. I gathered my supplies = candle, Chuck’s wedding ring, toilet paper…as I am currently out of Kleenex. I set the timer for 15 minutes, took a deep breath, then closed the laundry room door.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly and violently my tears come…and that sound that is so utterly torn that escapes from my lips surprises me still. “Is that me? Is that sound coming from me?” I started to talk out loud…and soon found myself censoring myself…censoring my grief. Thoughts such as “Lean on God, Jan...” or “Cry to Jesus…” or worse, “This is all for a purpose.” How ludicrous…I took a stand….I would NOT censor myself…not for me and certainly not for God. He didn’t want my weak attempts to be strong. It wouldn’t fool him anyway. What he wants…all he ever really wants…is the real deal.

So my words took on uncensored truth as I cried out, “I don’t want to be strong, God. I want to be weak. And I want CHUCK to carry me. I want Chuck. I want Chuck. I want Chuck.” I sounded like the little girl who used to beg for her mom when dropped off with the babysitter. The babysitter was great…kind, sweet…but I did NOT want the babysitter. I wanted my MOM. And that’s how I felt about God in that instant. I DID NOT WANT TO BE CARRIED BY GOD…I wanted Chuck. I wanted to let go and let Chuck speak peace to me. I wanted Chuck to soothe me. I wanted CHUCK.

When is it that we learn to censor our grief? I am so grateful that God…in the midst of my wailing…whispered to me, “yes, yes, yes” rather than “it will be alright…don’t cry…shhhhhhh.”

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Whatever You're Doing...

Heard this song for the first time today. While the video is a bit cheezy...boy/girl stuff, my take on it was much deeper and a bit more profound (not to knock boy/girl stuff, of course). It reminded me of the beauty of this year. Truly, this year has been precious. While it was painful, it kept me on my knees constantly...if not on my face. It allowed me to see the very face of God...his tender care for the crushed in spirit. And it's allowed God to "fix" some of the broken areas of my life. These transformations could not have occured had it not been for the agony of losing my dearest, most precious Chuck. I learned for the first time in my life that I am not strong enough...that I am not smart enough...that I am not enough to make what happened to Chuck alright. Yet God did...can...and does. I've never known God as an intimate...until this year. I've never known for certain that I could trust him...until this year. I've never believed in beauty from ashes...until this year.

Whatever He is doing in my bigger than me. What a trip that He let's me be part of something larger than life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Dropping of the Dignity

Last Saturday I took Kyser and Celis with me to a wedding reception. Going alone, where there was sure to be dancing and frolicking, I really wanted some accessories. It was in an open-air paviliion complete with a HUGE dance floor and a d.j. Now I took special care in getting ready for the event...eyeshadow and EVERYTHING.

We show up and things are slow, as is natural at the beginning of such events. The kids were bored stiff and I thought, okay, we'll eat our dinner then least it was a beautiful drive and we had fun in the car. BUT WAIT. The d.j. announced the first dance for the bride and groom...then the fun began...first song to last, Celis was on the dance floor. Kyser soon followed her...and then me. Not many ensued. Occasionally a few brave souls joined us especially for the chicken song, the hokey pokey, Y.M.C.A...the kids delighted in the lights, the music, the free reign over the dance floor. I delighted in THEM.

At one point I took a break, and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. That carefully applied makeup was G-O-N-E and I looked a mess...but happy. I took a wet paper towel and cleaned all the remaining makeup from my face...and hit the dance floor once more. At one point I thought, I'm that woman. And it was quite a surprise. Socially I am timid and shy...unsure of how to behave or interact with others...but with years of tutelage under the auspicious Chuck Picciuti, I've become a dropper of the dignity.

Back in the day, we had a discipline at Texas Lions Camp called “dropping your dignity.” Essentially, it was instilled in all counselors that the more you could achieve this state of disregard for your pride, the more delighted the kids would be. The more silly dances, the more goofy songs, the more wiggles and giggles, the better. This was all well and good for camp. It was perfectly acceptable…nay…commendable to achieve maximum lack o’ dignity at camp.

Enter, Chuck Picciuti. He brought this discipline into my very life. And it’s impact stays with me still. I couldn't help but smile as I thought of how Chuck would have joined us on the dance floor. Many of you have seen his classic wiggle in the chair routine...with long arms flying and fingers pointing in all directions. I take delight that I have become that woman...that I love being silly on the dance floor...that every time I do, Chuck is with me...that I have children in my life who (at this point) will encourage my silliness. (I know, the teen years are a coming.) For now, what a joy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Third night in a row I've dreamt of Chuck...all good dreams...all healthy Chuck. My mind must REALLY be working over-time trying to prepare itself. God's design is amazing and never ceases to amaze me. I'm looking forward to tonight's adventure.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fitful Sleep

Weird night o' "sleep" for me. God has graciously bestowed the gift of sleep upon his gentle servant. Alas, I had bizarro dreams all night. I'm certain that I'm processing the events of last August 20. To make matters worse, I've been reading last year's August posts...I'm not reading ahead...just keeping up with the dates. Sick? I can't seem to help myself...searching for clues, I guess.

In any case, last night I had a dream about Chuck. He was "my Chuck" i.e. before the hospital and even before he become wracked with constant pain. We were standing in the backyard of my childhood home. He was explaining to me that he was about to die and I was crying. "What am I supposed to do without you? Who will help me figure stuff out?" Now granted, it was a dream it may not make sense...but he told me, "You know. I'm just like my dad. I love to problem solve. That's why it's been so great being married to you." (Great compliment eh? ) "Just make sure that you don't pass up people because they have problems." Meaning? No idea. But they seemed like such wise words in my dream. That's what it left me with, a feeling of wisdom being passed from him to me...his final words of encouragement.

Then I had a sweet dream about my friend, Laura. We were at church and there was a time of prayer for married couples. I got down on my knees and rested my head on my seat. Then I started crying uncontrollably. Laura came over and put her arms around me...I couldn't respond for the longest because I was crying so hard...I couldn't hug back or speak. She sweetly whispered to me, "This is where I came to be." Again, dream words that don't necessarily make sense in the light of day...but they did in my dream. They struck a chord of sweet peace.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Chuck and Bernie

Bernie Mac has left the world of the dying and is playing with Chuck in the land of the living! I know Chuck could not be more thrilled as he was a HUGE fan. Sad for the world...happy for Chuck...and Bernie.
I've been so encouraged by the show of many hair cuts planned for the 20th. The Brinkerhoffs have come through once again. I work with Lee and he's letting it all go...beard and hair. So daily, I get to see his scruffiness. Makes me feel humbled and grateful that people would go to such lengths. "I'm not worthy!"

Okay, I've received tons of support concerning my tendency to hold on to Chuck as MINE. I tend to hold on to people and things with a death grip. Refreshinly, I learned in a finance class that the fist is the international sing of anger...when I hold onto things like that, it's out of fear and anger...not part of God's plan.

At times my heart does not register that Chuck was God's. I know it in my head...but there's no connect in my soul. So hearing that Chuck was not really mine doesn't help BUT hearing it in a new way does. My sweet friend Tiffany put it this way...and for some reason it struck home.

"I challenge you to cast out the lies in your life that anything that God gives you is yours. It is all his. The grief, the moments with Chuck. The love Chuck gave you, the love you gave him."

It's the idea that the LOVE we shared is God's. It's hard for me to accept that God owns the physical stuff...but I can easily accept the abstract things...LOVE. God is love. The amazing feelings and devotion Chuck and I shared were God' AMAZING gift to us. And yes, that helps me know that my very Chuck was his, too...a gift (that I really liked...and really wanted to keep!!)

Monday, August 04, 2008

He Makes Me Lie Down

God has been calling to me for weeks now. “Rest with me. Come spend some time. You are running on fumes. Let me breathe life into you. You are doing too much in your own strength. Rest." I have responded with never-ending to-do lists. I have kept myself busy with the computer or movies or babysitting or looking for apartments or going through boxes or selling stuff on Craigslist. You name it, I’ve used it to keep away from quiet rest…from God.

We just finished an amazing series at church on Psalm 23. It stands on its own as a beautiful, calming piece of poetry. When read or spoken aloud, it can soothe even the most anxious heart. Mindy read it a couple of times during our vigil with Chuck. It was so beautiful the first time she read it, I couldn't help but whisper, “Read it again.” I could have listened to it all night long. Here it is in all its perfection:

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

While the rhythm of the words alone creates comfort, learning the background behind the message brought me to my knees in awe of God's gentle, knowledgeable love for people. This knowledge , of what it is to shepherd a flock of sheep, has breathed new life into these precious lines. The study was extensive, so I shall highlight only the part that God used on me yesterday.

Sheep will NOT rest. They will NOT rest…they will go and go, or stand in the heat. They will stand in the heat til they pass out. Thus, a good shepherd MAKES his sheep lie down in cool places…like tall grass. MAKES them do this because they just refuse to do it on their own.

For weeks now I have "been out dealing with things way beyond my maturity level.” And I have been trying to do it cerebrally, with reason and information. (My default is always knowledge. If I am worried about something, I educate myself on the topic. This makes me feel safe…or at least gives me the illusion of control. Since Chuck’s death, I have taken FIVE classes on grief.) This is my very own stumbling block since 1) God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and 2) God is so far beyond comprehension that all followers eventually come to the same point of submission...God, you are a mystery. You cannot be understood. No one can fathom the depths of your knowledge. And we let it go at that.

So for a while I had been running from a fear...and it slowly took up residence in my heart. The whole time God had been beckoning me to be still and rest in him...confide in him...cry to him...but that required a level of vulnerability that scared me. What if I couldn't recover from that level of brokenness? What if I couldn't get it together again? Slowly...a bitterness that shocked me made itself VERY present Sunday during worship. These things did not just pop into my brain...they sprang from my very heart...where they had been sitting and festering.

What follows is a heart that had roamed far from God...a heart that had become mired in self-pity and fear. The song that triggered this outburst dealt with how we will give everything to God. I lost my mind. My thoughts were thrown up toward the singers on stage (poor, unsuspecting targets). I shudder that my heart can be so filled with judgement, venom, and self-righteousness:

YOU STUPID don't have the first clue of what it is to really give up everything to God. With your raised hands and your happy worshipful faces. I'VE DONE IT. I HAVE GIVEN HIM EVERYTHING. STRIKE THAT. HE TOOK EVERYTHING that mattered to me. He took my very life and breath. He took my heart. EVERYTHING? You think you'd happily just give him everything?? And you, cute, pregnant DARE you sing about giving everything to God because YOU WOULDN'T. With your cute pregnant belly, and your loving husband...what do you know? Would you give up your "life"...your baby and husband? NOOOOOO. SO STOP with this ridiculous song BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS TO GIVE IT safe with your happy families...singing about how you would do something THAT I HAVE ALREADY DONE. Stupid happy people. I've just decided, you don't get to sing this song. Stupid in your your perfect your cute pregnancy states...stupid, stupid, stupid.

Yeah. During worship. Yeah. I could almost hear God's heart break. A line had been crossed and I had a choice to make. Continue in this state, or literally come to Jesus. Just like a kid who knows when she's gone too far and willingly surrenders to consequences, I was ready to lie down. And that's exactly what we did. After church I crawled into bed and spoke out loud to him...I poured out my fear and confessed my bitterness. I confessed my fear. I repented from the running. I confessed and repented until I was spent...then I listened. Almost immediately a verse popped into my head, Psalm 51:10. "Create in me a pure heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me."

He did and I slept. I slept for two hours. I'm still a bit shaken and weak, but God has provided a shepherd's table on which I can rest and regain my strength as he breathes new life into my weary soul.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Getting into the Spirit of Things...

I love that several of you have made your hair appointment for August 20. The more I think about that, the more I giggle. What a perfect way to celebrate A) Chuck's life and B) his homecoming.

"The date" is still a bit sketchy...I am learning to wait on the Lord. Actually, he is showing me the wisdom is waiting...and showing me that he is always on time...and is continually walking before me. Now he's showing me how to be still and follow his the BEST paths and the BEST places of rest...for me.

Case and point, I waited for an idea for how to honor the day. It came and BOY was it good! I have been agonizing over what to do for months...seriously, since about March. Lots of neat ideas, but nothing registered in my spirit. Nothing was right for me and nothing was right for Chuck. So I waited...and waited...and waited (not my strong suite...I tend to leap and then look back over my shoulder and consider what it is that I've gotten myself into!)

Okay, this is how the plan is unfolding...if you want to cutting or shaving until August 20. Please oh please take a before and after photo. Men--go to a barber for a cut and shave...ladies--salon of your choice. Then send me your pics! I cannot wait.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Okay, so I woke up this morning...and it was just another day...another gift. Thanks for all the ideas for ways to celebrate the month of August.

Mom came to the rescue with a gentle reminder. This is what happened to Chuck on August 20. First, he saw the face on the one who made him and heard, "Well done, Chuckito." Second, his body was pain free and STRONG (to match his spirit!) It was the BEST, most joyous day of his life. Thinking of Chuck's take on the day makes it a joy.