Friday, September 18, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Celebrate

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 "celebrate". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set,

What a wonderful word for today!

While I was sitting at the dining room table this morning, working out the plot of the novel I plan to write, my attention was caught by something fluttering outside the window. I got up to take a closer look and saw that it was a lovely green leaf that was caught in the act of, I presume, falling from the tree branch about 20' above.

What was so interesting is that it was truly caught. It hovered about 3' off the ground, dancing lightly in a space of about 8" square. It didn't fall to the ground; it didn't blow sideways. It simply danced.

I went back to my writing and, after about 15 minutes, I glanced up. The leaf was still there, fluttering lightly, mischievously, if you will. Teasing me as it dropped just a few inches and then darted upward again. Over and over.

I smiled, took a sip of my tea, and turned back to the computer.

30 minutes later, the leaf still dances.

Logic says the leaf must certainly be caught in a spiderweb, but one can't be seen from the window or even from the deck. I checked.

I could go closer. I could walk out into the yard and solve the mystery of how, for almost an hour now, one small leaf has frolicked unconnected to a branch without finally succumbing to gravity's draw.

But I don't want to check. I don't want logic to win and the mystery to be solved.

Instead, I want to live in wonder. I want to embrace the illogical.

I want to celebrate the mystery of the dance.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stop It!

Perhaps you're like me, and books (perhaps more recently, the internet) are your go-to guides for learning about things you are interested in or for finding ways to address an issue you're struggling with.

If you are, perhaps you also share my frustration with many current writers whose books are lauded on various blogs, Facebook, and Amazon.com reviews even before the book has been released to the general public. These reviewers have received an advance copy in exchange for an unbiased review but, unsurprisingly, all of the reviews are suspiciously the same and read like inside-cover endorsements from the author's fans and friends in the writing and speaking world.

As I read some of these books, I wonder if the reviewers and I have even read the same book. Perhaps, I think for just a second, major edits were made post advance- and pre-published copies were released. I know, though, that isn't the case.

Then I wonder if it's me! Am I the one who is always missing the point? Am I the one who is blind to the wonderful, life-changing, very practical insights that supposedly fill the pages of the book in question?

I don't think so. You see, I'm a good reader and have been since I was a little girl. I can find the main idea and supporting points and understand language with the best of them.

What I can't understand, and what is causing my frustration is the abundance of Christian-speak and the lack of true practical insight that both the professional and volunteers claim fills these books.

And if it frustrates me, a long-time Christian, I can only imagine how many new Christians or open-minded non-Christians have walked away totally lost, ready to give up on the whole "Christian walk" thing.

Now, I'm not saying that Christian-speak is something new to present-day writers (and speakers, for that matter). For decades, phrases such as "let go and let God" and "carry your cross" have been tossed around as if everyone knows exactly what they mean. And perhaps many people do.

BUT, and this is the point, many -- maybe even most -- of the people reading these types of books are reading them because they have heard these phrases uttered by Christians, don't know what in the world they mean, and have come to this book -- this book that promised a clear, practical explanation of whatever is the topic under discussion -- for answers.

Only to find more of the same Christian-speak.

Take me, for example. In recent months and years, I've noticed a lack of joy in my life. I've now carefully studied 3 of the most-praised, highest Amazon-rated and Good Reads-rated Christian books on the topic and am currently reading a 4th.

The first 3 were page after page of generalities and Christian-speak. I walked away disappointed. Then I began a year-long study of finding joy. I'm 8-weeks in, and still waiting for the author to explain the many phrases that pepper the text.

What, for example, is meant by "join my Savior in joy". How does a person "choose joy"?

Part of me thinks the author means by that 2nd phrase that the reader is to put away negative thoughts and think only positive, joy-filled thoughts and attitudes. That would make sense to me and, I think, many of the books' readers.

Except that the author repeatedly claims we as humans do not "have to figure this [finding joy] out". In fact, she says we cannot figure out how to find or manufacture joy!

Wait a minute. If we can't figure out how to find joy and don't have to anyway, what is the purpose of a 52-week on choosing it? Isn't that "figuring it out"?

Perhaps I sound cranky. Maybe I'm being unfair. But before you jump on the author/book-praising bandwagon, stop and think for a few minutes. Do you know, on a gut-level, do-it in the trenches level, what these 2 phrases I mention mean?

If you do, great. I applaud you, and I admire and even envy you your ability to cut through the platitudes. But me? They frustrate me. I long for plain-spoken language.

So I plead with Christian authors out there to stop it! Stop using Christian-speak.

Stop churning out books and speeches in which you string together trite phrases that you can't explain -- clearly and concisely -- to the seekers who buy your books and sit in the seats in churches and lecture halls.

Please. Just stop it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Same

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 "same". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set,

Same? Really, Kate? When I opened my email this morning and saw that Kate had chosen this word, I groaned. Well, not literally, but inwardly. I didn't have a clue what to write on that topic.

Oh, I could write about how we humans are the same but not really the same. Or I could share how my life was never the same . . . after I got married, had a child, had a 2nd one, was widowed . . . I'm sure you get my drift.

But none of those options spoke to me. For inspiration, I checked the dictionary definition of the word to see if there was a meaning I wasn't thinking of that would spark some sort of response.

The dictionary didn't let me down!

According to Mr. Webster, "same" can be either an adjective or an adverb (I knew that, of course -- I'm not an English teacher for nothing!). But it was his definitions that caught my eye.

As an adjective, this word means "identical".

As an adverb, the exact same (used as an adjective there, so you know what that means) word means "similarly".

Now that's interesting! In case you missed the distinction, the meaning for the word is not the same when it changes form. Let me reiterate: the same word has a distinctly different meaning depending on what other type of word it modifies*. :)

Now, if that isn't irony, I don't know what is!

 

*Note for the non-grammarians out there. An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun. An adverb modifies a verb, adjective or another adverb.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I'd Like to Wring Technology's Neck!

I've mentioned before -- and because I tend to forget to whom I've already told what, I'm sure I'll mention it again -- I dislike clutter and "stuff'. As a result, I'm almost always in "streamline" mode.

Technology provides me various ways to reduce the amount of tangible stuff. I no longer own any CD's, for example; all my music is stored on my iPhone (and if I can figure out how, it will also be stored on an SD storage card for use in my computer and SUV). I have also begun scanning important papers and storing them on my computer (and external hard drive). I've already had about 30 VHS and Hi-8 tapes digitalized and, if I ever get my act together, I'll reduce more boxes of photos and memorabilia than I am willing to admit to having to digital images and sleek, bound memory books for my son and daughter.

Yes, technology can be the friend of  simplicity-seeking folks like myself. It can even, on occasion, be our hero.

Until it fails us. And then, things turn ugly. Gut-wrenchingly, anxiety-inducingly, tear-threateningly ugly.

This morning I opened "Notes" on my iPad, planning to enter an account number and password (in code -- I'm very careful) for a series of online digital scrapbooking classes I recently signed up for. I have all of my online and real-life account numbers and passwords (in code -- remember, I'm very careful) in a "note" titled "Grocery List".

On a side note, I chose "Grocery List" as my note title because several online sources advised against naming it "Passwords" in the event that someone would find my iPad, somehow bypass the password required to log on, and then easily find all my account numbers and passwords. 

Imagine my shock when "Notes" informed me that I have no notes!

At first, I thought it was just a glitch. I hit the back button and tried again. "No Notes" appeared on my screen.

I remained calm, but I'll admit I was getting a bit concerned. I turned off my iPad and turned it back on -- rebooting often works with computers, so why not with my iPad, I reasoned.

I hesitantly and with great hope opened "Notes" again. It again informed me I have not a single note.

I began talking to and bargaining with "Notes", trying to somehow talk it into making my notes reappear. No dice.

My notes are gone.

I'm sure someone out there is saying, "Well, just get out your paper back-up copy, you silly goose!" And I had a paper back-up copy.

The operative word there is had. Yes, I had a mini black composition book (it was so cute) with all of my account numbers and passwords (in code) entered in alphabetic order with plenty of space for additions. I searched my home office. You guessed it -- no mini black composition book!

One of two things must have happened. Option 1: When I moved here and unpacked things, I didn't unpack the box holding my mini black composition book (and in-need-of-repair left hearing aid, which is also missing). Unfortunately, I've unpacked everything except for the Christmas decorations, and I'm 99.9% sure I didn't open one of those bins and toss in my mini black composition book (and left hearing aid).

Option 2: In sheer delight at how well technology was working for me and utmost confidence that it would continue to do so, coupled with my desire to rid myself of (supposedly) superfluous stuff, I threw away (shredded, because I'm careful that way) the pages of my mini black composition book.

So here I sit, thinking of my various accounts and passwords. Realizing how desperately I'm going to need them when it's time to log on to something I don't use daily or renew a service/subscription or talk to a company representative for some reason or . . .

I'm not panicking. Instead, I'm one part numb and the other part incredulous.

How could "Notes" do this to me?! How can I get "Notes" to make my note show up again?! How can I even talk to "Notes" to resolve this issue?!

Grrrrrrrrr . . . it's times like this that I want to grab technology by the shoulders and shake it until it squeals for mercy and then . . . yes, I'd like to wring it's scrawny electronic neck!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It's Not About Me

These "anniversaries" come around, and I don't know quite what to say here on my blog or on Facebook. Of course, I could saying nothing at all, but that seems so wrong. How can I let this day go unnoticed, unmarked?

You see, six years ago, just a few weeks after turning 48 and just 6 weeks and 1 day after learning he had cancer, my husband passed away.

A wonderful man, husband, father, son, brother, friend . . . he was all those things and more . . . was gone.

But he is never forgotten by those who loved him, and that is what prompts me to log on to Facebook every July 25 (his birthday), September 2, and September 15 (our anniversary). There's this need, this mission if you will, to ensure that others don't forget him, either. That his time here on earth, the man that he was, the impact that he had on others, is remembered and that he is honored.

My post here isn't enough, and a Facebook update certainly isn't enough to honor a man who consistently sacrificed his own wants for his family; he drove the old pick-up while the kids and I had the newer vehicles. He would regularly work a 12-hour shift and then go to our son's baseball game or our daughter's recital or other activity; even though his body desperately longed to find a bed and get some sleep, his heart was determined to spend every possible moment with our son and daughter, to be there for every event, every milestone.

There isn't space enough to share the kind of man he was. The man who loved amusement parks  and roller-coasters and those huge water slides. The man who loved to hunt and fish and simply enjoy the great outdoors God has blessed us with. The man who loved to play card games and board games and who loved to win and, although he hated to lose, usually did so graciously.

There are no words to describe his absolute love for me and his family, his bone-deep, all-encompassing love for our son and daughter.

There are so many memories, some big but most so very tiny, tucked away in my heart. I share some of them with my children. In fact, I probably share them too often, repeating a favorite time and again. And I appreciate that my son and daughter never roll their eyes or sigh; no, they listen and smile and add their own recollections.

They, like me, don't want his memory to fade away.

And that is why, on these "anniversaries", we post on Facebook and I share about my husband here on my blog.

It isn't about me, and I don't want it to be about me.

No, it's about him -- a wonderful husband, an absolutely fantastic father, and a son, brother, relative, and friend whose presence in our lives was an absolute blessing.

He is so sorely missed. May that always be so.