Friday, March 31, 2017

Definition, Please (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 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 "definition" takes me.

Definitions are important to me. Important in almost every area of my life.

Sometimes my passion for definitions is a positive trait; in some cases, it isn't. And, as often is the case, whether it is a good thing or bad depends on the other person or people in my at-the-time situation.

The definition of words is key to me in my career as an English teacher. In that role, the vast majority of the time I can be found in a classroom talking with students or in my office conferencing with a single student or responding to student-written texts of one kind or another. In each situation, words and their usage and meaning are the basis of almost everything I focus on.

Some students appreciate my passion for words and for how all writers -- professional and student -- use words to create images and persuade others and share with the world their thoughts and ideas in ways that will resonate with their readers. 

Some students do not. They just want to know what they have to do in order to pass, and they simply do not see the connection with words and their accomplishment (or lack of) in communicating clearly with their audience. Words and definitions are not as important to them as they are to me.

This passion for words and their meaning and their power have led me to be a lifelong writer. Journals, short stories, this blog, an in-progress novel . . . words and their precise definitions are the foundation for everything I compose.

But sometimes my passion for definitions is a trait I attempt to quash. Sadly, I sometimes don't even attempt to redirect my thoughts but instead let them run rampant.

There are the times that I attempt to define people. People I know well, new acquaintances, and individuals and groups that I view from a distance. Without thinking, I often define them based on the fragments of information I quickly collect, often not stopping to that those snippets can in now way define that individual or group. 

And, all too often, I have and continue to define myself according to my role in other people's lives, what others think of me, of my momentary or long-term successes and failures, and other criteria that simply isn't credible or reliable. 

I know by what and Who I should define myself. But all-too-often I fail to do that.

I ran out of time here but wanted to add that I feel we all do that at some point or another. Some people quickly reorient their thinking and their assessment; others struggle with that. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts and hope you'll share via a comment. I long for this blog to become less a monologue and more a conversation. I hope you'll help make that happen. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Cheers!

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 13: List the things that always cheer you up.


  • being with my son and/or daughter
  • being with friends -- just chatting, enjoying a meal or a cup of coffee, knitting and chatting sporadically . . . it doesn't really matter what we're doing
  • being needed by one of my adult-kids -- those calls asking "Mom, what do you think of . . . "; they may be grown-up and out on their own, but getting called about a home-remodeling project or something along those lines and being included in their lives means so much to me
  • letters -- real letters, pulled out of my mailbox to be read while sipping a cup of hot tea or a tall glass of ice-cold sweet tea
  • watching the SEMO Redhawks or the Capahas play in Capaha Park
  • watching people dance
  • dancing -- oh, how I wish I had the opportunity to do that more often and that I could line dance
  • reading a great book . . . or even a good book -- and there are so many of them out there
  • listening to music from my high school and college days
  • being invited to lunch or to go shopping or out on an excursion of some kind

Friday, March 24, 2017

Embrace (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 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 "embrace" takes me.

I've never been one to embrace change. In order to deal with the constant change inherent in normal, day-to-day life, I was for much of my life a bit of a control freak. A type-A personality, if you will. 

I'd love to say I finally came to my senses on my own, saw the light, and willingly relinquished the control I thought I had, but we type-A's rarely do that. Instead, buffeted by loss and unavoidable change, I finally relinquished control.

It wasn't easy. It wasn't instanteous. And I wasn't at all gracious about it.

I'm trying to not only be okay with not being in control and with change -- and to even embrace it -- but for me, that's a process that has a steep learning curve.  So I'm taking baby steps.

Teeny, tiny baby steps. 

I'm taking one of those right now. It's so tiny that I'm almost embarrassed to share it. Heck, if my timer would only cooperate, the 5 minutes would expire without me having to do that.  (Drat. I still have almost 2 minutes!)

I'm typing this blog entry on my iPad. And it's a mini! 

I, who love my laptop and it's nice big familiar keyboard, am challenging myself in an area in which  I'm a notoriously-slow learner (just ask my kids). 

I'm tired of toting around my laptop. Even though it's one of the lightest models available, it weighs me down. 

I'm tired of stuff -- possessions, my own insecurities and fears, other people's games . . . 

I want to throw off the weight, the unnecessary.

I want to be less encumbered by stuff, tangible and intangible.

Free to embrace . . . 



















Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Shack

Today I'm joining all the other bloggers and social media folks who are weighing in on the movie version of William Paul Young's best-selling novel The Shack.

I read The Shack when it was first published, back in 2008. Even if you disagree with my next sentence, stay with me. I didn't love it; I didn't hate it; I was simply left with a feeling of, "That's it? That's what all the hoopla is about?"

Unlike many who have criticized the novel, I didn't care that God/Papa is portrayed as a female throughout most of the novel. I didn't care that God/Papa is portrayed as non-white.

I was concerned somewhat about some of the comments by God/Papa and other Members of the Trinity because many people (unfortunately, in my opinion) formulate their religious perceptions and beliefs more from popular fiction and nonfiction than from the Bible. However, that concern was tempered by the fact that this is unavoidable and the hope that the dialogue in the book would lead readers to read what the Bible has to say.

Overall, though, I just didn't think the book was all that well-written. I thought it was gimmicky and not well put together, and that there were things that just didn't fit the story line.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when after I emerged from my 2-week flu-induced fog, I saw the online hoopla about The Shack's film adaptation. I had no desire to see it and no intention of doing so.

But what's that saying about intentions??

This weekend, I passed the ticket seller $5, and he passed back to me a ticket to The Shack. I sat in the darkened theater with 4 complete strangers scattered around me, ready to watch the film and see if this time, almost 10 years after my first exposure to the storyline, I would have a different opinion.

In many ways, I didn't.

The race and gender of the Members of the Trinity were not an issue for me. The same mild theological concerns I felt regarding the book were present, perhaps even more pronounced, in the film.

So, other than that, what did I -- a woman who just a week ago was adamant that she was not going to see the film -- think of the movie in terms of the movie itself and not its message or theological soundness?

First, I thought the casting was, with one exception, outstanding. No, the better word is stellar. Almost every actors' performances embodied the personalities and emotions, for want of better word, of the characters they portrayed. Octavia Spencer's eyes seemed to be the very embodiment of love and compassion, for example.  On the contrary, Wisdom's portrayer lacked emotion and connection to "Mack" and to the audience, nor did she in any way personify wisdom.

The cinematography was, for the most part, also outstanding. Two exceptions were the scene in which Jesus and Mack run across the lake and the hologram-type figures shown to Mack in a vision. The first was cheesy and overly-fake to the point that I felt myself cringing; the second was simply not well done. Other than those two scenes, though, I was captivated throughout the film.

My one "complaint" is that quite often I could not understand what Mack (played by Sam Worthington) or Willie (Tim McGraw) were saying. Part of that, I thought, is because of my hearing issues. Even with hearing aids, articulation can be problematic for me with men's voices, particularly if I cannot see their faces or if the speaker does not move his lips very much. Mack's face was often not clearly clearly visible and, when it was, his portrayer's lips moved very little, and many (most?) of Willie's lines are spoken as a narrator.

As I said, I thought the articulation issues were mine only, but several people have told me they also had trouble understanding what Mack and Willie were saying.

But what about the emotional impact?

I have never lost a child, thank God (literally), and nobody I know personally has been the victim of a violent crime, but I have struggled with the grief that comes with the death of a very close loved on. I've also struggled with regret and guilt (as Mack does) over my own actions.

I've always known God loves me and forgives me and has a plan for me and that His plan is far better than any I could come up with. I've known those things. In my head.

But in all honestly, I haven't always known them in my heart.

But seeing the compassion and love in Papa's eyes touched me. Seeing Jesus play with the little children in Heaven touched me. Sarayu's (the Holy Sprit) words to Mack in the "messy" garden touched my heart.

All that said, I'm very glad I went to see The Shack, and I look forward to watching it again with closed captioning. I rarely -- very rarely -- watch movies and even more rarely watch one a second time, so that should indicate how impressed I was, overall at least, with the film

If I were Siskel and Ebert, I'd give the film 2 thumbs up!

If you've seen The Shack, what did you think? Please enter the conversation by posting a comment about what you liked or didn't like, what moved you, etc.











Monday, March 20, 2017

Traits of the Positive Type

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.

This week's list is not an easy one for me to write, just as the interview question "What do you consider your strengths?" causes me to squirm. But I've committed to responding to each of the 52 prompts, so . . . 

List 12: List your best qualities

  • intense commitment to family 
  • commitment to the Christian faith
  • acceptance of and love for individuals who differ fundamentally from myself -- culturally, politically, spiritually, etc. 
  • curiosity and a strong desire to learn 
  • loyalty
  • a healthy balance of common sense/practicality and the ability to dream 
  • compassion
  • creativity -- with words
  • strong desire to help others 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friend (5 Minute Friday)

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 "friend" takes me.

Wow! Once again, it's as if Kate has peeked into my journal or listened in during my quiet time. "Friends" has been a recurring theme for some time now.

For a myriad of reasons of circumstances

  • kids graduating from high school -- many of my most wonderful friendships were with moms of teammates, friends, etc.
  • moving almost an hour away to build a house and raise cows & chickens
  • becoming a widow
  • moving another 90 minutes away to the city to start a new job
  • moving back home but commuting 2 hours each way to that job
as well as things I could/should have done differently, I find myself with acquaintances and one or two quasi-friends and a larger number of Facebook friends (who I hold very dear) but no real friends. 

And oh, how my heart longs for friends. 

Friends who . . . 
  • share common values, but not necessarily beliefs
  • are available, who aren't incredibly busy, with no time left for friendships
  • like to do things -- travel (inexpensively), play cards or board games, go to sporting events, browse the local shops just for the fun of it, etc. -- and even try new things
  • don't have to always be doing something or talking about something 
But more importantly, friends . . .
  • with whom I can share openly and honestly and who know they can do the same
  • who understand 
  • with whom I can laugh until I cry
  • with whom I can share a few tears of sorrow and who feel comfortable doing the same
I read an article once about a lady who longed for over 15 years for what she called "book club -- possibly even without a book club -- friends." I knew just what she meant. She wasn't so much looking for monthly or weekly discussions about a book; she was searching for community.

As I age, I often feel the need to hurry, that time is precious and that I don't have so much that I can dilly-dally about finding what my heart searches for.

Friends. 





Monday, March 13, 2017

Home Sweet-but-could-be-better Home (list 11 of 52)

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 11: List the ways you can rejuvenate your space

1. Have a new "high school senior" photo of my son (old one water-damaged :( while in storage) and other photos printed and hang senior pictures and a photo collage in the living room

2. Finish remodeling the bathroom -- and find a way to magically enlarge it without tearing out my bedroom closet and having to create a new closet  :)

3. Redo the floors throughout the house

4. Replace both exterior doors

5. Downsize my possessions significantly -- more than I already have

6. Install a ceiling light in the living room


Friday, March 10, 2017

Abandon (Five Minute Friday)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who, week after week, join in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "abandon" takes me.

Again this week, Kate's choice of word -- "abandon" -- gave me pause. It's a word I rarely use and even more rarely contemplate. But as I did for a few minutes just now, I realized something.

I don't live with abandon. No. I'm what at is nicely called a "type-a" personality (and not so nicely as "anal"). I thrive on organization and having a day planner that actually contains plans. Quite honestly, a few years ago when I tossed my paper planner (and oh how hard that was!) and vowed to live only with a calendar on my iPhone and iPad and not make detailed daily plans -- yes, in my paper planner I had a daily schedule down to the minute, not that I always stuck to it exactly -- that I was going to live more freely, with more abandon.

But now that I think of it, I haven't actually done that.

Instead of having a written schedule, I keep an internal schedule. 

And I don't step out of my comfort zone very often.

This past summer, though, I did just that. My daughter arranged for the 4 of us -- her, my son, my son's then-fiance, and I -- to do an zipline eco-tour made up of 10 ziplines through the woods and hills of mid-Missouri. I'm actually afraid of heights, and I wasn't too sure (to put it mildly) about trusting a stranger to attach me to a cable via a hook attached to a harness I was wearing and turn loose, zipping (hence the name) through the air.

But I didn't want to be a spoilsport. And I did have "zipline" on my 100 Things to Do List. So I donned my harness and trooped out through the woods to the first line. Long story short, I moved from line to line, each one gradually progressing in length, height, and speed.

Finally, we arrived at the 9th line. It was so long we couldn't see the end point, and it went across a deep and very wide ravine. It came my turn to step up onto the launch "box" and have my harness attached to the line. I stood there, looking down at the ravine. Then I did something that even 5 minutes before I couldn't have imagined myself doing -- I turned to the lady responsible for attaching our harnesses to the line and said, "Now if I lean back and stick my feet out, I'll go much faster, right?" She answered in the affirmative. 

When I stepped off the box, I leaned back, stuck my legs straight out, and zipped along the cable, across the wide and very deep ravine, with 100% abandon.

And I loved it.

I'd like to say I've lived with abandon since then, but I realize I haven't. 

It's time -- far past time -- for me to do that.

This blog isn't meant to be a lecture, but a conversation. I invite you to join in that conversation by taking just a few minutes to share your thoughts. Thanks so much!


Monday, March 6, 2017

Quotes, Treasures, To be Ignored (lists 8-10 of 52)

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.  Two weeks of the flu put me behind, so this week I'll be sharing 3 lists. 

List 8: List Your Favorite Quotes

1. Some people search for happiness; others create it.  ??

2. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.  Henry David Thoreau



List 9: List the Things You Treasure Most

I don't treasure many "things"; what I treasure is people and experiences and time with them. 

1. Books
2. Good spiritual, physical, and mental health



List 10: List the Things You Should Ignore

1. About 90% of the posts on my Facebook feed (and most days,  I do)
2. Fears about the future -- my physical and financial concerns, for the most part
3. Whispers from the past -- what was, what is no more
4. Temptation to wallow in loneliness
5. Gossip
6. Self-doubt about my writing
7. Self-doubt about myself in general

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Purpose (Five Minute Friday)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who, week after week, join in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "purpose" takes me.

How fortuitous (yes, I paused my timer to check the spelling) Kate's word choice for this week is.

For awhile now, I've been battling lethargy and even a feeling of "what does it all matter" as I've struggled more than ever with living alone. Just a few days before the flu visited my house for a nasty two weeks, the word "purpose" popped into my head during my morning quiet time (devotion, prayer, and journaling).

It was one of those light-bulb moments. I realized that I feel no sense of purpose. Or at least, no sense of purpose that I care about or feel passionate about. 

For most of my adult life -- 25+ years -- I felt a strong sense of purpose as a mother and wife. I haven't been a wife for almost 7 1/2 years, and in the last year or so, the youngest of my adult children made a very clear, defining step out into her own life. After living either with me or fairly close by for 26 or so years, she moved a distance away that precludes frequent visits, dinners out, etc. 

Over the last year, my adult son and daughter have needed me less, to the point that after years of frequent, sometimes daily contact, a week or more may go by before I get even a text from my son. 

I know that's normal. But I've found it extremely difficult to deal with.

My purpose -- the very one that brought me joy and fulfillment and energy -- is gone.

Oh, I know I have other purposes -- as a Christian, a teacher, etc.

But my career as a teacher, which consumed much of my time over the past 20+ years, has become less of a passion and more of a necessity. Less of a joy and more of a stressor. Less of a source of work I found to be of value and integrity and more of a source of frustration and a questioning of its honorableness (not all teaching, of course). 

I've been questioning who I am and what is my purpose, and I'm not finding any answers. 

That leaves me feeling empty and rudderless.

And so I search for a purpose for this new stage of my life.