Friday, June 14, 2019

Goal. Exclamation Mark. Exclamation Mark. (Five Minute Friday)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) flash mob free-write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "goal" takes me.

I'm sensing a theme here. Let me explain.

Backstory first, though.

I've been setting yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals for as long as I can remember. 

In fact, when my mother passed away almost 9 years ago, I found in her boxes of mementos she had kept for both my sister and I, a list of goals for the summer I turned 5. I wanted more than anything to "LEARN TO RIDE MY BIKE WITHOUT training wheels!!". I loved exclamation marks even then, and two of them meant the goal was a very important one. 

And yes, I did learn, through some bloody knees, tears, determination, and my dad's always-patient help.

But recently, my goals and my feelings toward them have changed dramatically.

Oh, I still have goals. In fact, inside the beautiful hand-made leather traveler's notebook given to me by my children, daughter-in-law, and now-son-in-law when I retired last year is a list of 100 things I hope to do in retirement. And I look forward to achieving each one and recording it in that notebook.

But no longer do I feel compelled to make and keep a list of long-term goals accompanied by monthly goals that will take me to their completion.  

Perhaps it's because I've reached a point in life where I have far fewer years of goal-chasing in front of me than behind me. Perhaps that realization has given me a different perspective.

Whatever the reason, two weeks ago (end of backstory), I removed my "2019 Goals" from the front of my current bullet journal. I also removed the just-created "June Goals". Without hesitation, I tore both pages into tiny pieces and deposited them in the recycling bin.

Then I pondered and journaled. And pondered and journaled some more.

And just this past Tuesday, I shared that my goal is authenticity. That I long to live on the outside what I am on the inside.

It's that simple.

I don't need to write it down. I don't need a plan.

I simply need need, with my Creator's standard as my guide, to be in each moment and savor each moment and, with courtesy and respect to those around me, respond to each moment honestly. 

Exclamation mark

Exclamation mark 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

True Confessions

I'm a fraud.

I have been much of my life.

There. I've confessed it.

I didn't become a fraud on purpose. Truth be told, the role of fraud, of what Webster defines as "one that is not what it seems or is represented to be", snuck up on me. I didn't even realize I was a fraud until I was well into my 40's.

And by then, I didn't know what to do about it. I had no idea how to be on the outside, to the world, what I was inside.

Maybe you can sympathize. Maybe you're a fraud, too.

Perhaps, like me, you stepped into the role early in life. Perhaps you, too, put on a brave face to your family, to your elementary-school classmates to hide your insecurities, the social awkwardness that you were absolutely sure nobody around you experienced. To hide the hurt over not measuring up or fitting in at school. At home.

Over the years, what began as momentary defense mechanisms to small things that seemed huge at the time became much more. It became a facade I felt I had to maintain. And so, I did.

People expected me to be outgoing. I complied. I was the person who would talk to anyone. I was chatty. Even outspoken.

People expected me to be strong. I acted more than strong. Overly-strong, perhaps even aggressive at times.

People expect me to handle things competently and without undue negative emotion. And I did. Until I had enough and got angry.

People expected me to be magnanimous when slighted. I became impassive, and later to even smile and say "no, really, it's fine" when hurt. Even when deeply hurt.

I adopted the persona of the person I needed to be in order to avoid hurt and to avoid disappointing those I cared about.

So who am I really?

Truth be told, I'm a paradox.

I'm an introvert who is somewhat -- sometimes, more so -- socially awkward. Yet I long for a circle of close friends, an even wider circle of casual friends and active social life.

I'm uncertain of making decisions, but I am fantastic at making plans.

I'm a world-traveler-wannabe who struggles to figure out all the travel details for a week-long solo trip.

I'm creative, yet I allow my insecurities to stop me from doing much more than start a project.

There's more, but this soul can only take so much confession at one time.

Now, before you get the idea that I'm absolutely miserable, let me assure you I'm not.

But I want to live authentically.

I sound like a cliche, I know. The 60 (okay, 61) year old woman who is determined to rediscover that young woman she once was and to be that person again.

Maybe I am.

Or maybe, just maybe, instead of a cliche, I'm simply normal.

Maybe there are many other people -- women and men -- who have chosen to live on the outside contrary to who they are on the inside and are now ready to toss away the facade.

To become who the Creator designed.

I don't know if there are or not. I do know that I'm ready -- more than ready -- to live authentically.

To not only life a redesigned life, but to live it is the originally-designed me.

I wrote this post a few days ago and have debated whether to share it. But I've decided that if I am going to live authentically, I have to start doing so. Not sometime. Today. Thank you for reading. 

Remember, this blog is meant to be a place of dialogue, so please take a few minutes to share your thoughts via a comment. Thank you so much!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sometimes I'm Amazed

Sometimes I amaze myself. More often, life amazes me!

This is the view of one of my two spare bedrooms yesterday morning. It's a mess, of course. Until a few months ago, all of this stuff -- yarn, craft supplies, photos and memorabilia, etc -- was neatly stored in boxes and bins, ready for me to deal with this summer. A few months ago, on a rainy weekend, I decided to get a jump on the chore. I began unpacking boxes, but life interfered mid-way through the task, so I shut the door and ignored the mess.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours finishing the job. That's not the amazing part. But to explain, I need to go back in time just a bit.

In a blog post from over a month ago (Taylor Swift and Me), I shared that on May 30 I would be making an announcement.

My daughter had just told me she and my son-in-law are expecting their first child (and my first grandchild!!), and I was bursting at the seams to share the news. But I couldn't.

Their plans at the time were to tell close family only, but to hold off on telling extended family and friends until May 30. That meant I could share the news with my own friends on that date -- 05.30.  That was to be my exciting announcement.

I should have known better. My daughter, by her own admission, has never been able to keep a secret. Family lore is rich with cute stories of her spilling the beans about Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, Mothers Day and Fathers Day gifts . . . I think you get the point.

So I wasn't all that surprised when they decided to share the good news on Mothers Day.

As I began sharing with my own friends and on social media, I realized I now had nothing exciting to share on 05.30, but I figured something would come up.

It did. And as a result, I spent a couple of hours yesterday sorting through the stuff on the floor and in the boxes and bins in the spare bedroom. I packed some things back neatly, put quite a few items in the garage for a sale in June, and discarded a large trash bag full of stuff. Now the room looks like it did before.

I didn't sort through all the stuff and tidy the room in order to create room for a crib and other baby supplies.

My daughter and son-in-law have asked if I'd be willing to move to where they life and babysit their precious little one after he/she arrives. After prayerful consideration, I knew it was what I needed and wanted to do!

So I got to work on the spare bedroom and decided late last night to write this blog and share the news today.

And then I looked at the calendar. I was amazed.

You see, I'd given up on having something exciting to share on 05.30. I was planning to sort of slink on past the day, with no announcement, hoping that nobody would call me on the fact that I didn't deliver as promised.

But now I do have an exciting announcement -- I'm going to be selling my house and moving!!

A little thing perhaps, but I see it so often when I pause and look back over even the simplest chain of events.

I make my schedule and my lists, and I think I have things all lined out.

Then something or someone comes along and throws my well-ordered plans into disarray.

But while I'm dealing with the mess, trying to tidy things into a new neat schedule and lists, something amazing happens.

It all falls into place.

Without me.

And it's better than my original plan.

It's amazing!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Bake a Cake & Sharpen a File

I'm a criminal.

Not just the type that zips down the highway more than the excusable 5 mph over the posted speed limit.

I'm also a hypocrite. 

I'm a stickler for academic honesty, for giving credit where it's due, and for the past umpteen years I've taught classes about citing sources responsibly. Sadly, more than a couple of disgruntled former university students can attest to the fact that I've significantly marked down (think "zero") student papers that a quick Google search proved to have been deliberately plagiarized.

Yet I am guilty of using other people's artistic property dishonestly.

When I first began blogging, I simply wrote and wrote. A lover of words (and not very adept in using various social media platforms like Pinterest), I believed that what I had to say was "enough".

Then I began reading and following other people's blogs. Some sites drew me in more than others, and I found myself wanting to make my own posts more visibly appealing.

And that's when I crossed the line.

I began adding images, almost always from Pinterest.

As I learned last week, that is not okay. In fact, it's illegal.

It's illegal even though I often gave cursory credit ("photo courtesy of Pinterest") in a photo tagline. It's illegal even though the photo or meme had already been used inappropriately by other people before me.

One could argue that what's done is done or ask what's the worst that could happen. It's not like there's an "image-stealing jail" I could be sentenced to, right?

I mean let's be honest here. In the vast blogging universe, it's unlikely that my little blog will be noticed by anyone who might discover what I've done.

But the truth is, I know.

And despite the (attempted) levity in this entry's title, I take this very seriously.

So, amidst all the hoopla that makes up my life right now (more on that next Tuesday -- how's that for a teaser?), I will be spending the next few days removing all images from my blog.

Forthwith, I will be using only photos that I have taken or that I can share legally.

But today I have no images to offer.

Only my apology to those whose work I've inadvertently used dishonestly.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Opportunity (FMF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) flash mob free-write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "opportunity" takes me.

If you were to go to a site like or Pinterest and do even a very quick search using the keyword "opportunity", you would be inundated with quotes -- some glib, others quite profound -- on the topic of what Webster calls "a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something". 

Perhaps my favorite quote about opportunity is this one by Albert Einstein: 

If I said that I have been able to recognize this when I've been in the midst of a trial, that would be a lie. When in the midst of a trial, I'm not thinking, "Yes, this is a difficult time for me, but really, there are lots of opportunities here."

No, I'm thinking, "What!? God, get me out of this!!"

But the proverb about hindsight being 20/20 is so true in this case.

As I look back on the difficulties I've faced, the tragedies that I have weathered, I can now see that with each one of them came opportunity.

One example in particular stands out to me. In the Spring of 2006, a huge storm -- tornado strength and devastating -- entered my life.

Long story short, that storm presented me with a valuable opportunity. And so much of the positive things that happened in the aftermath of my husband's death three years later would never have been possible had it not been for that storm.

It cleared away debris from my life. It created a new path both in my spiritual life and in my vocational life.

Now, when difficulties seem unavoidable, I remind myself to remain remember Who is in charge and to focus on the opportunities the difficulty will no doubt bring.

It's not always easy, of course, and

Time's up! Please join in the conversation by sharing your own thoughts or experiences via a comment. What difficulty have you endured that brought you opportunity? Could you see that at the time of the trial?  

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Hitting Submit

First, I procrastinated.

I didn't just procrastinate. I procrastinated in a manner worthy of a gold medal, were procrastination an Olympic event.

I did laundry and cleaned the house. I called friends and asked if they needed help with anything. I began not one, but two exercise programs. I watered plants and bought weed and seed for my yard. I wrote emails and knitted. I reorganized my files and wrote overdue letters. I wandered around on the internet looking for Christmas gifts (hey, I always shop early for Christmas!).

Finally, though, I got to work. The task was simple: write and submit a 5-page, no more than 1,500-word excerpt from a (mine, of course) novel in progress; the sample should include dialogue and be properly formatted.

A clearly-stated and quite simple assignment; unfortunately for me, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.

Perhaps it should have been. Easy, that is. When I initially told a few friends about the assignment, each one of them, in their own way, dismissed it as the proverbial piece of cake. They all assumed I would sit down and produce at least a reasonably-good excerpt for the practicum I've signed up for at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference next month.

Each of them knew that writing has been a key component of existence my entire life. Depending on how long or how well they know me, they were aware that I began reading before I even started kindergarten and that I began writing around the same time. They know that I kept a journal throughout my childhood and teen years and off and on since then. They almost surely know that I hold a Bachelors Degree in English and a Masters in English with an Emphasis in Composition. They even probably realize that I've done some free-lance writing and been published -- and paid for it!

And here's the icing on the cake. They know that I have spent my entire career teaching writing. Yes, writing.

Lifelong writer + multiple degrees in writing + a career teaching writing should equal the ability to sit down in front of a laptop one afternoon and write a 1,500-word writing sample worthy of submission to a writing workshop.

Like I said before, it's not that simple.

My previous writing, whether it be personal, academic, or free-lance, has been nonfiction. Essays, reports, article summaries, lesson plans, human interest articles, and even a writing textbook . . . each text has been nonfiction.

A few years ago, though, I decided to {drum roll} focus on writing a novel.

Don't say it. I've heard all the jokes and (sometimes) snide comments about the stereotypical English teacher who thinks they're going to write the next Great American Novel.  Besides, that's a topic for another post. 

The novel hasn't come as easy as I'd hoped it would. There are a variety of reasons, some of which are probably more excuse than reason. But I decided when I retired last May that the time had come. It was time for me to put my fingers on the keyboard and write a book.

Fast-forward to last Monday, 8 days ago. With a week to go before my submission was due, I was forced to get to work. The novel was (is) still a work in progress, but that was okay; all I had to do was choose an excerpt to submit. That took about 30 minutes.

I spent a couple of days polishing. I revised and revised, and then I revised again. I revised so many times that I could recite chunks of dialogue from memory. Then it was time to edit. I proofread over and over, checking for errors in subject-verb agreement, parallelism, and so on.

By Friday, all that was left to do was submit the excerpt. Instead, I reassumed the role of procrastinator extraordinaire. For almost 3 days, I did a masterful job of pretending I had no assignment, no deadline to meet.

Sunday afternoon, though, less than 2 days before the submission was due, opened an email, attached the document, and hit send.

My award-worth career as a procrastinator was finished.

It's never been my intent that this blog be nothing more than a monologue. Instead, I hope you'll join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts and ideas via a comment. Thank you!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Touch (FMF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) flash mob free-write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "touch" takes me.

While in college, I learned of a study involving babies in orphanages. I've forgotten many of the particulars -- the wheres and the numbers involved -- but what I do remember is that the babies were not thriving. In fact, although they were well taken care of and received more than adequate nutrition and medical care, they were dying at far higher rates than babies raised with poorer medical care, a lack of food, etc. 

Orphanage workers were baffled. Doctors were brought in. Again, the details escape me, but somehow it was determined that the babies failed to thrive because, due to a shortage of manpower for the number of babies being cared for,  the infants failed to be touched other than when absolutely necessary.  Diaper-changing, baths, and feeding were done as quickly as possible because so many babies needed attention.

Volunteers from the community were recruited to hold and rock the babies on a regular basis. The babies began to thrive and the death rate plummeted to far below average.

Similar studies in America and around the world prove the importance to seniors -- particularly widows and widowers as well. 

Over and again, science has proven the enormous value of human touch. 

In recent years, though, we've become leery of touch and of touching others. Businesses and school districts provide training about touching and even warn employees to not touch other people unless absolutely necessary. 

More recently, the conduct of some politicians and celebrities have turned the concept of touch into something dirty and even the subject of one-liners and social media memes.

That saddens me.

The fact is, we all benefit from the appropriate, caring touch of another human being.

A hand on the shoulder of a frightened or grieving person, a gentle hug for a friend who is struggling, holding the hand of a hospital or nursing-home patient. 

A simple gesture, but oh how life-affirming. 

Time's up! 

This blog is intended to be a place of conversation, and I hope you'll join in that conversation by posting your own thoughts via a comment below.