Saturday, May 6, 2017

Says Who?

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited 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 "should" takes me.

I don't know about anyone else, but over the course of my lifetime I have heard the word "should" in reference to my past, present, and future thoughts and actions more times than I can possibly count.

And, to be completely honest, I've used it throughout my life in regard to the thoughts and actions of other people pretty darned frequently.

Sometimes the usage -- both by others and by myself -- is justified. Yes, I "should" wear sunscreen any time I'm going to be outside. Yes, my students should follow the rules of acceptable grammar and mechanics in their writing. And most definitely, my offspring should have followed (and, thankfully, usually did) the rules of our household while living in it. 

But far, far too frequently, the use of "should" has been presumptuous, unwarranted, and at times even unwise.

All too often, the "shoulds" others and I have stated so confidently were nothing more than opinions. And we all know the sayings -- some fit for mixed company and others not -- about opinions, right?

My own mistakes -- especially the more public, embarrassing ones -- and life experiences have taught me in recent years to be much more careful about slinging around the s-word. In fact, I find myself stuttering to a stop and fumbling for a better one ("might", for example) when I realize I'm about to say it. 

And except when an opinion is being expressed by someone who I truly respect and whose motives I know are pure OR in response to my specific request, I now typically disregard whatever comes after "should" when used by others to me. Oh, I nod and say my very-safe, noncommittal "oh" in response, but I let their instructive roll on by.

Foolish, perhaps. Arrogant, you might say. 

But I disagree. 

There's only one Person whose "should" consistently has weight -- and lots of it. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Where's the High?

This past weekend, my daughter participated in a 1/2 marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. The humidity and temperatures were much higher than those in which she has been training (she lives quite a bit farther north) and the route was hilly, but she completed the 13.1 course.

I, on the other hand, walked a bit over 5 miles, traveling from the parking lot to the starting point to two different places on the route to encourage her and take pictures and finally to the finish line to take a final picture and hear all about her run.

I had plenty of time while waiting for her to run by to observe other runners.

Some wore all sorts of fancy running apparel and sported earbuds and various technological gizmos; others had on plain ol' shorts, t-shirt, and tennis shoes, without a single gadget in sight.

There were toned, muscular runners, there were runners who were anything but, and there were runners who fit somewhere between the two.

But despite all the differences, there was one similarity between all of the runners.

They were ultra serious at the beginning of the race, and by mile 3, they looked miserable.

Which begs the question I first considered over 30 years ago.

Why, if running is so much fun, do runners look so miserable?

Seriously! As a freshman in college, I had a roommate who was an avid runner. Every morning, rain or shine, she was up early for her run before showering and eating breakfast. She cajoled and chided and even tried shaming me into joining her. She extolled the virtues of running, including all the health benefits. She told me it was fun!

But it wasn't until she mentioned that runners get a "high" that she got my attention. You see, I was not at all interested in taking drugs -- smoking pot or swallowing pills and definitely nothing involving a needle -- but I was intrigued by the concept of a euphoria that could be reached in a safe, legal manner.

With her assurance that she wouldn't leave me behind and would never make fun of my pathetic attempts, I committed to running with her for the remainder of the semester.

Three and three-fourths months. Fifteen weeks. Five days a week. Twenty-five runs.

It was the longest semester of my entire college career. The longest 15 weeks of my life.

I complained to my roommate that I was not enjoying myself and that I had never once felt the promised sense of euphoria. She convinced me both would come with a bit more time.

I ran through Christmas break and part-way through the Spring semester.

Spring Break arrived, and while laying on a sunny Florida beach with a Bartles & James Strawberry Daiquiri wine cooler in my hand, I faced the fact that I hadn't enjoyed a single run. In fact, I despised the last run as much as the first one and every one in between.

And I'd never once gotten high!

That was it, I decided. No more running for me.

Through my own, albeit brief, career as a runner and from 35+ years of meeting runners while driving around town and 7 years of observing runners at marathons, I've come to two conclusions.

First, running is not fun and there is no such thing as a runner's high.

Instead, both are myths that those people who are for some strange reason addicted to running and don't mind shin splints and knee pain and toenails falling off, spin for 2 reasons.

Just like other addicts, they feel a need to justify their behavior. And, of course, they want to drag others down with them!

So resist the runner propaganda. Don't buying those spandex shorts and compression socks and $300 tennis shoes. Forget all about a watch that measures distance, pace, heart rate, and BMI (but can't tell time worth beans).  Throw away the energy jell packs and cardboard-like protein bars.

Throw on your comfy shorts and t-shirt, snap a leash on the dog's collar, and take a walk in the beautiful sunshine.

Ahhh . . . there's the high!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Lighting a Fire

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I've been a list-maker; in fact, I've been known to make lists of lists I need to create! As a result, I'm excited to participate this year in Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project; look for my list every Monday.

List 18: List the things that motivate you.

1. Love for my children

2. Fear -- healthy fear

3. My faith

4. Love for learning and knowledge

5. A desire to have a cozy, comfortable, simple home

6. A desire to travel, to see different places

7. The need for companionship/friendship

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Do as I Say, Not as I Do . . . Right?

As a child, I absolutely despised when my mother would behave in a manner she'd told me was wrong and justify it by saying, "Do as I say, not as I do."

I've never said that to my children, but there has certainly been a time or two when I could have. Last week was one of those times.

I shared on Facebook several months ago that I would, until mid-August, be available to volunteer (yes, no pay) as a house- and/or pet-sitter for anyone . . . within reason. No trips any further north than I currently am during cold weather. No amphibians.

So far, nobody has taken me up on it. However, after checking with her mom, a friend very generously offered me the use of her mother's Nashville-area condo while she (the mom) is wintering in Florida. I almost didn't take her up on it, and the reason is what caused raise eyebrows from both of my children when I told them I was considering it.

You see, I've never met the woman whose condo I would be staying in. In truth, I don't really know the woman who offered me the use of it. We've only met on Facebook! Now, that isn't as bad as it seems. Her husband is a former high school classmate. But to be perfectly honest, we never had a class together.

Or even a conversation.

In fact, I'm pretty sure he didn't even know I was one of the other 404 people in our graduating class! He was supremely popular -- varsity baseball player, Prom King . . . you get the idea -- and well, I was not.

If high school was Medieval England, he would have been in the royal class (Hello? He was Prom King!) and I would be a serf. Not a peasant, so it wasn't all bad. But definitely a serf.

Looking at the situation logically, my son and daughter's skepticism could be considered logical. For many, many years I gave dire reminders of the horrible things awaiting those who meet and become friends with people on the internet. And don't even ask them what I told them would happen if they ever went off somewhere to meet one of those virtual "friends"!

Yet here I was, blithely heading off to spend a week in the condo of a woman I've never met at the invitation of a woman I'd never met who is married to a man I'd never met. Yes, this was the type of thing that absolutely-terrifying episodes of true-crime television shows retell by hush-voiced reporters accompanied by eerie music and cheesy reenactments.

But, of course, I'm the woman who rode with a coworker to a teachers'  conference and, when faced with a free evening and nothing to do, hitched (not literally) a ride in a florist-delivery van to an outlet mall 5 miles from my hotel with no planned way home.  I'm not too sure my kids know about that, though.

They do know about the time I drove off to Kentucky to spend a weekend in a historic cabin with five or six ladies I'd only met on a farmgirl website.

Now that I think of it, both of those experiences would be great additions to the book I'm writing. But I digress.

I finally met my former classmate and his wife -- they are wonderful people and not at all the axe murderers that are the basis of those true-crime shows -- and I spent a wonderful week away from all the distractions that come with being at home.

No laundry or chores or television or internet (the latter two were available, I'm sure, but I never even attempted to use them). Just relaxing mornings spent exploring the area and late evenings reading.

The afternoons and early evenings were spent working on my novel. On day one, I wrote almost 4,000 words, and I continued that pace for the remainder of my stay. It was, in short, a wonderful and wonderfully-productive week.

So . . . if you need a pet- or house-sitter, let me know!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Difficulties & Essentials

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I've been a list-maker; in fact, I've been known to make lists of lists I need to create! As a result, I'm excited to participate this year in Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project; look for my list every Monday.

I was unable to post last week's list because, as the recipient of someone's unbelievably-generous hospitality, I was staying in the Nashville-area condo that belongs to the mother/in-law of a couple who are very special friends. The mother/in-law is wintering in Florida, and she agreed to her daughter's generous offer to let me stay in her condo and write without the distractions of home.

As a result, I'm sharing two lists today, and I was struck by the connection between the two. Although that connection isn't an aspect of either of my lists, I'm struck by the fact (as I believe) that difficulties are actually essential to we humans for several reasons. But now . . . on to last week's and this week's lists. :)

List 16: List your essentials.

  • family, particularly my son and daughter
  • faith in God (the Triune God and an intimate, dynamic relationship with Him
  • the practicalities: food, water, shelter
  • being at peace with where I am and what I have
  • friends
  • creative outlets
  • books -- preferably great ones, but good ones will do, and if neither are available, a tolerable one
  • learning and growing as a person
  • simplicity in every respect of my life
  • avenues by which to serve 
  • a job that allows me quite a bit of autonomy and with an employer of integrity
  • music -- preferably the oldies, both rock and country

List 17: List the difficult moments that have shaped you for the better

  • without a doubt, the most significant event that belongs here is the (short) illness and and passing of my husband at age 48 (I was 51 at the time)
  • the relatively-public loss of a job
  • a significant misunderstanding on the part of a former supervisor at my current job
  • a dark night of the soul (I'll just leave it at that :))

Friday, April 14, 2017

An Empty Tomb?

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited 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 "empty" takes me.

I'm not a Bible scholar and don't know a thing about the Greek language, and it's important to keep those facts in mind as I contemplate what happened when Mary Magdalene and, shortly thereafter, 2 of the disciples found when they arrived at Jesus' tomb that Sunday morning so long ago.

According to the King James Version account in all 4 Gospels, Mary Magdalene and the disciples discovered that the stone had been rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, that "they" had "taken away the Lord" and He "was not there". 

In not one of those accounts does the Gospel writer say the tomb was empty!

And why would he? It wasn't!

Yes, I know, I know. We've all heard all our lives that the tomb was empty. If you check many Bibles, you'll find a subheading for this portion of the Scripture, and that subheading might even read "The Empty Tomb". 

But that's not what the actual Scripture says. It merely says that Jesus was no longer in the tomb.

You may be shrugging right now and saying, "What's the big deal? Jesus wasn't there. What's wrong with saying the tomb was empty?"

I think we can agree that that moment -- the moment it is discovered Jesus' body has been "taken away" and before the realization that he has risen of His own accord, is a very low, perhaps even the lowest point of Scripture. 

And because we have so often heard and said "the tomb was empty", we picture a barren place, a place devoid of God.  

But it wasn't. Because God -- God the Father -- is always with us. The Bible tells us that over and over again. When Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb, and when the disciples looked into the tomb, they were not alone. God was with them, just as he promises to be. He's omnipresent, remember? 

But again, why is that important? 

Because we need to remember that even at this time when Christ' own followers thought all was lost, God was there with them.

We need to reinforce the truth that no matter how bad things were for Jesus' followers, no matter how alone they may have felt, God was there with them.

Because the same is true of us. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lessons from United

Everywhere -- social media, every avenue of news reporting, talk show opening monologues, etc -- United Airlines' recent removal of and then re-boarding of a passenger has been the topic of the week.

I won't unnecessarily rehash the situation, nor will I share my (for what little it's worth) opinion. Rather, I thought I'd share a few reminders that can be gleaned from the incident.

1. Just because something can be done, doesn't mean it should be done.

2. Privacy no longer exists. If your actions and speech are not already framed by your faith or belief system, let them at least be guided by the fact that everything you do and say can at any time be filmed by someone with a smart phone.

3. Preparing physically and mentally to likely stressful situations can avert problems and bad behavior.

For example, I know that I get frustrated when drivers on the interstate don't follow the "stay in the right lane unless passing" law and that my frustration causes me to behave in ways I shouldn't.  I've found that my trips to the city go much smoother if, recognizing this, I prepare myself. For example, if I have any control over my schedule, I travel when I know the roads will be less congested. I pray before my trip, when I see drivers ahead of me not following the rule, and when I get to the city, where the volume of traffic means even more people are not following the law.

A dear friend who realized that even one glass of wine makes her forget her "rule" not to gossip told me she absolutely refuses to have wine when out for lunch or dinner with her girlfriends.

4. It's better (and usually much easier) to control actions or swallow words in the moment than to have to apologize and make amends later.

It will be interesting to see how the situation involving United plays out. No matter what happens, damage will be done; damage that will not be easily corrected.

What other "lessons" can be taken from this situation? Share them via a comment.