Monday, August 31, 2015

That Stone in Your Hand

Lately, no matter where I go, the scene is the same.

When I turn on the television and flip through the few channels I get, when I open a newspaper or magazine, when I visit a local coffee shop, when I read blogs, and (especially) when I log onto social media sites, I encounter one person after another, all doing the same thing.

Throwing rocks.

Yes, throwing rocks. In fact, it seems to me that rock-throwing has replaced baseball as our national pastime.

Unlike rock-skipping, where the goal is to flip your wrist just so, causing the flattest rock you could find to bounce lightly across a body of water to create a series of slight ripples, rock-throwing involves the heaving of written or verbal rocks at a human target in an effort to inflict harm on that person.

Let me give you two recent examples of the human targets I'm referring to: Bruce Jenner and Josh Duggar.

I'm sure I don't need to explain who these two individuals are or why people are throwing stones at them. I'm also sure I don't need to clarify the nature of the verbal rocks that have been chucked at the two.

Before your indignation rises and you give in to the urge to quit reading, go elsewhere, and never return, let me explain one thing. There's a significant difference between opposing an action and throwing a rock, and I am most definitely not defending the actions of either of these individuals.

That said, my own hand has itched a time or two these past weeks. I, too, have thought about stooping down, picking up a rock, and giving it the hold heave-ho.

And while we're on the subject of my own behavior, let me assure you that in the past, I have been a champion rock-thrower. But 6 1/2 years ago, God jerked a knot in my tail (I love this expression of my late mother-in-law's), bringing me down more than a peg or two and teaching me some much-needed humility.

And even though I was humbled greatly back then, my old nature still rises time and again, and I still long to pick up a rock. Sometimes, to my great regret, I do.

When I do . . . when any of us does . . . we demonstrate our arrogance, our sense of "your wrong is greater than my wrong".

And if you want to rank wrong-doing, you might (theoretically, at least) be right.

But it doesn't matter. Why? Because, with one exception*, all wrong -- all sin -- is forgivable. At least by the Person whose forgiveness really counts.

More importantly, it's forgivable by the same Person who clearly told you and I that to judge others isn't our job in the first place.

Simply put, we weren't designed to be rock-throwers. We aren't supposed to be rock-throwers.

So . . . that rock in your hand? Put it down.

 

*See Mark 3 and/or Matthew 12

Sunday, August 30, 2015

An Exciting Personal Challenge

I participated in a month-long spending freeze this past June and, despite an occasional challenging moment and a bit of internal whining now and then, I enjoyed the experience.

Not only did that challenge bring some growth to my savings account, it also taught or reminded me of a few things about myself:

  • I fret about money and my financial future more than I thought I did. Such fretting is emotionally and, more importantly, spiritually unhealthy.

  • I love a challenge.

  • As much as I love a very detailed, organized system of documenting my behavior, my initial enthusiasm wanes about 1/2-way through a challenge, and I begin to chafe against the tedious accountability system that was initially quite motivating.

  • However, a challenge with a definite end-date seems somewhat "negative" to me; my mind sees the challenge, whether it be a "do more of" or a "do less of", as a temporary negative I need to endure and then all will be back to my more comfortable normal.


It's that last realization that has had me thinking the past 61 days, and two very simple principles have framed my pondering. First, I want to minimize my spending to necessities only and a very-limited amount of "fun money". Additionally, I want to change my mindset and see this change in spending not as something to get through, but as a normal, doable lifestyle.

But how to do that eluded me. Until last night, or I should say, this morning.

At 1:30 this morning, 3 1/2 long hours after I went to bed, I was still wide awake. I had foolishly consumed a jumbo glass of iced sweet tea late in the evening while reading, and I was paying the price for consuming all that sugar, something I normally avoid.

My brain was racing 90 miles per hour, something it is not really accustomed to, and I was despairing of getting any sleep at all, when one random, very rational thought popped into my head.

"Instead of a no-spending time period to endure, how about an open-ended challenge to see how long I can go?"

My delighted (and very tired) brain paused, and I reflected on this idea for awhile before finally falling asleep. One of the last thoughts I remember having was, "Sounds really good, but we'll see how I feel about it in the morning."

It's morning, and I've been thinking about this idea since I woke up.

I shared the idea with God this morning, and I thought about it as I did my morning session of physical therapy. I examined it more as I fixed breakfast and tossed it around a bit more as I sorted laundry and straightened the kitchen.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. And then, just as I was sitting down to share my new challenge with you, I had one last thought. An idea for tweaking this challenge just a bit in order to meet my goal of creating a new, normal, doable lifestyle.

Ta-da! Here's my new, exciting personal financial challenge:

I commit to an essentials-only spending plan with a monthly "fun" stipend of $80. This challenge will not end when (because, let's be honest, it will happen) I slip up; instead, I will learn from any deviations and move forward. 

This new challenge commences with the new month tomorrow.

I'll update from time to time, and I promise to be transparent and honest with you.

What do you think? Crazy idea? Would you like to join me?

Let me know what you think by commenting below or on my Facebook page (Patti Lincecum Miinch).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Alone

I'm very excited again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "alone". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set,

Alone. The concept has weighed heavily on my mind and heart for some time now.

As a widow and an empty nester, I spend a vast amount of time alone.

In fact, just the other day, it dawned on me that, except for two periods of only a couple of months each in the past couple of years, I haven't lived alone since I got married 30 years, 11 1/2 months ago!

Now don't get me wrong. I love having some alone time. I don't love being alone most of the time.

And I know that I'm not really alone, that God is always with me, and I appreciate that. I really do.

But I long for the companionship -- on a consistent basis -- of loved ones with whom I share a common history, who I know well and who know me equally well.

I miss the days when the fabric of my life was woven from 4 strands that were diverse, that often went their merry way, but that regularly came together to create a tapestry of love and laughter, of shared joys and sorrows, of inside jokes and gentle teasing, of shared experiences.

 

Oh, how I miss those days.

 

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Television

I curled up on the couch last night with Dazey and, after knitting for an hour or so, decided to watch television.

I turned it on and began surfing through the channels to see if there was anything on that interested me. In less than a minute, I was finished and the television was back off. You see, it doesn't take long to check the offerings on 9 channels.

Disgusted by the almost-nightly interruptions of service (on gorgeous evenings with nary a cloud in the sky) and the counter-intuitive and customer-unfriendly on-screen channel and program search system, last month I unhooked the Charter television box from my TV and returned it to the local office. I'd been a DirecTV customer for almost 20 years and loved it, but when I moved into this house, the installer (mistakenly) told me I couldn't get service at this location, so I had to sign on with Charter. I quickly learned, though, that it wasn't a good fit for me.

My son went with me to Best Buy to purchase an in-home antennae, and he hooked it up for me. My channel line-up is unlike anything I've had before; it's even different than what I had in this same town pre-cable/satellite TV. Back then, we could watch 3, 6, or 12 -- ABC out of Harrisburg, Illinois; NBC out of Paducah, Kentucky; or CBS from my hometown.

I can't pick up channel 3 now. Instead, I have 6-1, which appears to be "regular" NBC, 6-2, and 6-3, along with 12-1, which is "regular" CBS, 12-2, and 12-3, which is Grit. From what I can tell, Grit is the home of more "manly" programs -- westerns, James Bond movies, cop dramas, etc.

Manly or not, I've watched it a few times. The other night, in fact, I turned on mid-way through the movie "Billy Jack" -- the original starring Tom Laughlin, not the Joe Don Baker version. I sat back and watched the final 45 minutes of the movie that more than a few years ago stirred my then-13-year-old's righteous indignation at the prejudice of small-minded people and caused me to consider becoming a teacher on a Native American reservation. As it did over 40 years ago, the ending made me sob.

Along with the 3 channel 6's and the 3 channel 12's, I get 3 Fox channels; alas, neither of the 3 are Fox Sports Midwest, which would allow me to watch my beloved St. Louis Cardinals.

In truth, only 6-1, 12-1, and 23-1 show programs that are new; the rest are filled with reruns of old favorites like "Newhart", Bob Newhart's show that took place in an inn in Vermont (not to be confused with the show in which he was a dentist in New York) and "Perry Mason", as well as old programs I didn't care for back then and don't care for now ("The Dukes of Hazard", for example).

Oh, and I should explain that the 3 channel 6's have, for some reason, only been available about 1/2 of the evenings I've bothered to turn on the television.

And that's an interesting thing -- interesting to me, at least. I, a person who for the majority of my adult years turned on the television almost immediately upon waking up and left it on virtually all the time I was home (except for when I went to bed), rarely even think to turn on the television now.

You might think that the lack of program variety has caused me to change my viewing habits so drastically, but as I've been writing this post, I've realized that isn't the case at all.

I don't know why or how it happened, but my desire to watch -- or even just listen to -- television all the time disappeared when I carried the cable box out to the car that June morning over a month ago.

Don't get me wrong -- I still watch television. But I only watch when I have absolutely nothing else to do or am tired of doing everything else I have to do.

I know there are programs I will miss and times I will feel lost, even deprived. I'm already anticipating and trying to prepare myself for college and professional football season. No longer will I sit on the couch, surrounded by papers that need to be graded and snack food, every Sunday afternoon until bedtime, every Monday and Thursday night, and Saturday afternoons and evenings.

And the Olympics! A prolific Olympic-watcher, I soak up every event, staying up far later than I should to watch competitions live if need be.

It's very possible that I will sign on for pay-television again. Who knows? I may not even make it through football season.

But for now, at least, I'm going to relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility that come when I turn off the tv.

 

 

 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

All Good Things Must Come to an End

In a few hours, this week will come to an end. It's not just the end of any old week; it's the end of the last week of my summer break. On Monday, I'll return to work, and a week later a new semester will begin.

Before I turn my attention to the coming school year, though, I thought I'd reflect just a bit on a few things I've learned these past couple of months.

1. My body is not immune to the affects of time. Of course, I already knew I was (gosh, but I hate this word) aging, but until this summer, I hadn't had to face that reality to any great degree. This summer, though, I discovered flab & sags that I'm fairly sure didn't exist this time last year. More significantly, I faced my first surgery (other than a tonsillectomy when I was 6 and wisdom teeth removal when I was 23). My orthopedic surgeon assured me that a torn meniscus can and does happen to people of all ages; however, he also informed me that "as we age" . . .

2. My "hotter is better" motto isn't working for me anymore. I've always loved summer and welcomed temperatures in the mid-high 90's, even with the high humidity that my part of the country is infamous for. This summer, though, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as in days gone by and {gasp!} a few times I even found myself looking forward -- just a bit -- to Autumn and the cooler temps it will bring.

3. I may never have a chick-lit type best friend or circle of friends. For a myriad of reasons, I've never been part of a small circle of best friends that meet regularly for lunch or to knit together or to do some other type of best-friends activities. Finally, just a few weeks ago, I came to the realization that such a thing might never be in the cards for me, and I'm coming to terms with that.

4. My teen-age perceptions of my peers was, at least in some cases, pretty wide of the mark. This summer I learned that a high school classmate that I admired from afar and thought was popular really wasn't after all and that she struggled with the same insecurities, feelings of not fitting in, etc., that I did. Conversely, I learned that some other classmates that I thought were rule-followers and law-abiders like myself, were not. Until this summer, I've never had even the slightest desire to go back and relive my high school years. Now, though, the idea holds some appeal. I would make an effort to befriend some people I didn't have the confidence to approach 40 years ago, and I wouldn't be as awed by a few others.

5. I like Martinis. Thank you, Michelle, for introducing me to these wonderful little adult deserts! I've also learned they taste better when in the company of dear friends.

I also relearned or remembered things I already knew.

1. When I give of myself, I get far more in return. Near the beginning of the summer, I had the opportunity to visit in a local nursing facility the 90+ year old father of a former classmate who now lives hundreds of miles away. I plan to write more about this soon, so I'll just say now that my visits with this very intelligent, interesting gentleman were a highlight of my summer, and when I said goodbye to him when he moved to live closer to his daughters, the feeling of loss was far stronger than I expected.

2. I love getting mail. When I open the mailbox and see an envelope with a typed (yes, on a typewriter) address with corrections (XX's and ---'s covering typos), I'm taken back to the days when, as a pre-teen, I received letters from my Swiss pen pal. I no longer race through the house and into my room to devour the letter like a correspondence-starved person; instead, I pour myself a glass of iced mint tea, relax on the deck, and savor the wisdom and wit of my new, very dear 90+ year old friend. The outward reaction may have changed, but the inward pleasure remains the same.

 

This summer didn't turn out as I had hoped; my knee injury, surgery, and recovery kept me from doing many of the things I had hoped to do.

That's okay. It was a good . . . no, a fantastic summer just the way it was.