Never Have I Ever

A recently popular game, “Never Have I Ever,” seems to have caught on as a bigger trend than ever. I’ll admit it’s intriguing to hear statements from players of things that claim they’ve done or never done, although this drinking game seems to simply be a newer version of the old “Truth or Dare” we played as kids. (Yes, I’m old.)

Today, I’m going to turn it on its head.

Never have I ever stopped to make a list of all the amazing things I’ve done or experienced in my life.

The other night I had trouble sleeping and as is my usual remedy, I turned on some worship music and plugged in my earbuds. As I listened to the choir background to a particular song (a 24/7 stream from Revere if you’re interested), I was transported to my youth days of singing in the church choir. I began at age four.

But suddenly, the multitude of choral experiences I had began to play in my memory. Musical productions, concerts I played and sang in, singing my children to sleep while I played guitar in the hallway between their rooms. I remembered singing trips, leading children’s church worship time, and recording with a large church choir that included my parents.

Many memories playing guitar with my brother

And then music wasn’t the only memory.

I was a gymnast, hockey player, teacher, home school parent, business and restaurant owner. I flipped burgers, sold houses, traded commodities, and acquired financial licenses.

I write books. A childhood dream!(This one’s on sale for Valentine’s Day – get our internet romance FREE.)

Family vacations, trips to play in the snow (sometimes hard to find in Southern California), Rose Bowl Parades and football games, beach play and sailing came flying into my mind. Memories of travels across the continent as well as to England, Greece, Switzerland, Poland, Australia, and France brought a smile.

I’ve been on water and snow skis, ice skated, sledded, zip lined, and ridden horses. I owned a horse. And chickens. And dogs, cats, rabbits, mice and snakes. There’s so many great experiences I could list. Jobs I’ve enjoyed. Relationships I love.

I think you have a clear idea of where I’m going with this.

Sometimes, we’re quicker to remember all the tragedy, crises, and trauma of our lives than the good things. Trauma tends to push out positive. But as we heal from horrific situations, we make room for memories that offer happiness and joy. And as we allow those positive experiences to rise to the surface, we may be surprised at how many we have.

I challenge you to begin a list of all the positive experiences and memories you’ve had. I’ll bet as you start, the list will grow just as it did for me. Even as I write this, days later, more enjoyable times come to mind.

But what if your life has suffered so greatly or been so limited that you can’t think of many?

Begin now.

It’s never too late to make new memories. What have you always wanted to do? Where would you like to go? What experience would you like to have? Even with some current social limitations there is still so much to experience.

Share something in the chat. Maybe that will be a first thing that will unlock the door.

And above all, don’t forget to be thankful. God has been so good to lead me into places, open doors of opportunity, and bring people into my life. I don’t want to ever forget to thank him for all the wonderful experiences of life.

Deadly Expectations

Our first night out (alone) in Australia.

Brendan, ever the gentleman, held open the door of the building. We had agreed to walk because we were close to numerous restaurants.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked.

“Uh, well….since I don’t know any places here or really where we are, I’m not sure.”

I admit I felt a little disappointed at his lack of planning. It’s not like I could offer any ideas either since I knew nothing about the area.

“Well, what do you feel like eating?”

“Maybe we can start walking and see if something appeals to us?” I suggested.

We wandered down the street, my stomach starting to growl because it was nearly 8 p.m. After considering a few places, we settled on a cozy Italian establishment that offered warm, gentle lighting and renaissance walls. I figured we couldn’t go wrong with Italian cuisine. How wrong I was!

Brendan had to ask for menus, napkins, silverware, and water which were brought one item at a time (yes, even each fork, knife and spoon). After a mediocre meal, we decided to fore-go dessert. We couldn’t seem to attract the attention of anyone who looked remotely prepared to bring us a dessert menu or take our order. While we waited for the check, our first disagreement erupted and smoldered.

I had expected to be swept off my feet.

The sweeping would happen as a result of a perfectly planned evening (by Brendan) at an accommodating restaurant where dinner would taste divine, and we would share a delectable dessert over fascinating conversation. Then perhaps more romantic wooing with a stroll down the beach holding hands and sharing our dreams for the future. The strolling, of course, would be punctuated with a few well-timed kisses. Finally, he would escort me home with gallant intentions to protect my honor by restraining himself at the door with a lingering gaze and a kiss just passionate enough to leave us satisfied yet wanting.  I would then proceed to drift off to sleep with dreams of the enchanting night we shared on our first night out alone.

The evening wasn’t unfolding as I planned in my mind.

I did attempt gracious acceptance since I loved Brendan and was happy to be with him, but I began to feel increasingly disappointed. My grand expectations and hopes for our wonderful evening out together dictated my emotions so when Brendan made a comment and I disagreed what resulted was a defensive standoff that had no place in my plans for the previously mentioned romance. Naturally, the disagreement added to my frustration.

I don’t remember even a hint of what we argued about.

Part of the problem was the expectations I had regarding our date. The evening needed to look a particular way in order for me to be content. Flexibility wasn’t the issue. We didn’t have to eat at a particular restaurant or order something specific. I wasn’t looking for precise words or actions, but in my heart I had unknowingly set up a scenario that required adherence to (at least) the most general of details. And, I expected Brendan to telepathically pick up on my disappointment, apologize sincerely and fix it. Except that I didn’t even know that’s what I was thinking.

I realize now that expectations like that can be deadly.

The best thing to do is communicate. My fear of hurting Brendan’s feelings or sounding like a demanding shrew kept me silently scrambling to figure out everything in my head. But if I had shared what I was struggling with, we could have worked things out. Maybe we would have argued, but probably we would have ended up laughing over it all.

Love covers over so many things and makes a place for us to share what’s in our hearts—both the good and the bad. Fear keeps us trapped while we question our desires and the other person’s motives. Fear made me judge Brendan’s lack of planning and foresight and offered me the conclusion that it revealed a lack of care for me. I didn’t realize all of that at the time, but I did want to put aside whatever it was in me that was creating discontent.

In order to salvage what I thought was a ruined evening; I suggested a walk on the beach in the moonlight…

Have you ever been disappointed when your expectations weren’t met? How did you handle it?

The Other Side of the World

Marveling in the surreal impossibilities that had just become possible, we set off towards the “cah pahk” (translated car park or parking lot as we Americans say) with Brendan and I clinging to each other starry eyed and grinning. I couldn’t believe I was actually, finally touching him in person after all the weeks of waiting. Watching his face, listening to his voice, feeling his protective arm around me filled me with awe, and I whispered repeatedly in my heart “Thank you God. Thank you.”

They drive on the other side of the road in Australia which makes car parks treacherous for a sleep deprived American, especially a love-dazed one! I’m sure I was dodging cars left and left. I think Brendan asked if we wanted to go get some breakfast. Food was the last thing on my mind at that point—I just wanted to stare at Brendan and listen to him talk. We decided to get out of the airport and search for food back in the Gold Coast where Brendan lived. Surfer’s Paradise, voted one of the best beaches in the world, was on the way to Brendan’s house so we headed there. The forty minute drive gave me plenty of time to gaze at my Aussie man and take in the sights which are not unlike ours in California. In fact, the similarity of certain areas, with groves of Eucalyptus trees like the ones where I live near Santa Cruz, surprised me.

“Do you have surf clubs in the States?” Brendan asked as we neared the beach.

“Surf clubs? Like a club in high school that kids who surf belong to?” I asked, struggling to figure out what he might be referring to. Already I discovered that language would be an interesting challenge when he told me our luggage was going in the boot. As far as I knew, boots only held feet not suitcases. In addition, Australians condense their words and often add “ie” to the end so board shorts are boardies; sunglasses, sunnies; environmentalists are greenies; and Ashley immediately became Ashie.

“No, I mean clubs along the beach that serve as headquarters for lifeguards who man the beaches,” he explained as we pulled up to Southport Surf Life Saving Club in Main Beach near Surfer’s Paradise.

Of course, we don’t that I know of, so I didn’t know what to expect, but the resort style restaurant on the beach didn’t seem much like a lifeguard hangout. We signed in at the front reception desk with Ashley and I as Brendan’s guests, reminding me of the tennis/golf club my family belonged to for a short time when I was a teenager.

Pictures of surfers and lifeguards along with various awards and memorabilia lined the walls. Windows graced the spacious, nearly empty dining room and framed the wide white sandy beach stretched in both directions for miles. Towers of apartments huddled in mass a couple of miles (or should I say kilometers?) down the beach. I considered any of the numerous California beaches I’m acquainted with, and while they hold some similarities, like the wide expanse of Pismo, Huntington or Coronado Beach, or the lofty buildings of Long Beach, nothing in my experience compares to the fine, bleached sand and aquamarine blue waves of Australia’s Gold Coast.

I don’t remember eating except for a vague recollection of limp strips of bacon. Breakfast completed, I shyly beseeched Brendan to allow us to go down on the beach for a walk.

“Now? Here?” He inquired.

“Yeah! Of course! It’s beautiful and I’d like to see it up close. The sand looks so fine and white. Is it? Is the water warm? Our water at home is almost always cold—no more than about sixty degrees in summer…” I rambled until I saw a momentary look of confusion cross his face.

“Oh, I mean, well, I’m not very good at converting it to Celsius. Do you know how?”

He did and with a little computation eventually arrived at a figure that surprised him.

“Wow! That IS cold. The water here is much warmer.”

“Can we go check it out?” I timidly asked again.

“Ash, are you up for it?” I checked.

“Yeah, sure,” she replied.

Off to the car to grab a hat for Brendan. Since Australia has one of the highest incidences for skin cancer in the world, four times that of Canada, US and the UK, Australians tend to outfit themselves with rash guards (called rashies of course), caps and sunscreen fairly fastidiously. But as Brendan hadn’t anticipated this outing, his cap remained at home. Ashley came to the rescue with her Virginia Tech cap, and so our first pictures together on the beach in Australia featured Brendan sporting an American collegiate baseball cap. How fitting.