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 (52 Lists Project: Week 16)

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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Oh, the Places I'd Go! (52 Lists Project: Week 15)

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 15: List your dream trips.

1. Driving the entire Route 66 (as it is currently, with bypasses, etc) in either a cherry red convertible OR a class B camper, listening to oldies radio and stopping as the mood strikes to explore interesting sites along the way

2. A 48-contiguous states trip in a class B camper, not just driving through each state but actually staying at least a couple of days in each one

3. A backpacking and rail trip through Europe with as much time as I want in each country/city I'd decide to visit; some of the countries and cities I wouldn't want to miss: Spain, Italy, Poland, Germany, Greece, Austria, England, France (southern), etc., Vienna, Amsterdam, Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps, Rome, Venice, Prague, etc.

4. A Bronte Sisters tour

5. An African safari

6. Santorini on the Cyclades Islands

7. Two weeks at Cal-A-Vie in California

8. A month long visit in Maine (in the summer)

9. A summer-long stay in a beach cottage in the Carolinas

10. A month in the Smoky Mountains, spending several days each in various campsites -- Cades Cove, Element, Smokemont, etc

11. A month in a cabin on a lake in Maine (in the summer)

That's all I can think of, but in truth, I'd love to travel almost everywhere in the world. :)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Enough is Enough (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 "enough" takes me.

What's "enough"? Most people would agree that the definition of enough of one thing or another varies, sometimes wildly so, from one person to another. 

I read once about a man who committed to owning only 100 items, including clothes (if I remember correctly). I thought about it and even played around with a list of the 100 things I'd keep, but I finally gave up. 100 things isn't enough for me. In my ideal world, and what I'm actually striving for, is to own only things that I use regularly or that bring me true joy. That would be enough.

I'm also pondering how I can live in a much-smaller home, perhaps even a tiny house. My current home, with two bedrooms, a large living room, large kitchen, and full (unfinished, thank goodness) basement is far more than enough living space for me. 

I've been very blessed. I've always had enough food, enough clothing, enough of most of the stuff of life. But if I were being totally honest, there are some things I can never get enough of.

  • time with my son and daughter 
  • time with good friends
  • laughter 
  • travel
  • autonomy in my job
  • hugs from people I love 
  • books
  • puppies and dogs of almost any breed
  • crab legs, although
  • college and professional football
  • dancing -- not watching, but doing
  • singing along with the radio -- oldies, classic country 
  • road trips
  • chocolate ice-cream 
  • Southern sweet tea
  • learning new things
  • the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues
  • uncongested, uneventful commutes to and from work 
  • sunny days with temperatures between 70 and 95 
  • days at work without meetings 
  • popcorn -- salty and with more than a bit of melted butter
  • time on the beach, or at least close to a very large lake

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Phone Actresses and Conspiracy Theories

Three years ago, I gave a guest-lecture entitled "Conspiracy Theories, American-Style" in an British-university American Studies class. Fifty-plus students sat in a lecture hall furiously taking notes on a variety of conspiracies surrounding topics such as Marilyn Monroe's death, the assassination of JFK, Denver International Airport and The Illuminati, DTV transmission, and the Frozen Envelope.    Trust me, these are just a few of the conspiracies that occupy the mind and social media lives of more Americans than you probably imagine. Don't believe me? Google "conspiracy theories in America" and read on . . . and on . . . and on. 

I closed my presentation with the wry comment that, although I have never been a conspiracy theorist, I had to admit that more than once as I was doing research for the lecture, a fleeting thought passed through my mind. Were my hours and hours of online and university library research bringing me to the attention of some government agency monitoring such activity? The students chuckled at the irony.

Similar thoughts -- minus conspiracy theories -- crossed my mind more than a few times the past few weeks as I've done research for a novel I am working on. Oh, I highly doubt that anyone is even remotely interested in my activities, but I wished more than once that, just in case someone out there somewhere was, I could somehow put the following disclaimer on my activities:

   I am only researching 'phone actresses' and 'phone sex operations' in order to write a novel.

I'm sure that would get someone's attention!

But it's the truth. As much as I'd love to work from home in comfortable work-out clothes and no make-up, readily-available (healthy) snacks at my side, I am not considering a career talking dirty over the phone with complete strangers.

The entire idea makes me laugh hysterically.

I don't have the requisite sultry voice, my hearing aids often make telephone conversations an iffy proposition, and I can't bring myself to use "those" anatomical terms -- not even with my doctor.

There is no doubt that if I counted on income as a phone actress, I would starve and my beloved bank would be auctioning off my home on the steps of the county courthouse.

It's a good thing, then, that what I've learned about the phone sex industry will only be put to use in a manuscript.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring Cleaning Without Dusting or Vacuuming

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 14: List the ways you can cleanse your life for Spring

1. Aggressively declutter my tangible possessions -- if I don't love it or use it, put it in the "garage
    sale" section of the basement, donate it, or throw it away

2. Declutter and cleanse my mind --

              remove negative thoughts about myself and others (except, in my own case, when that
              negative thought is a worthy one that indicates something I should and will address)

              show mercy and graciousness to myself and to others

              remove second-guessing and self-doubt

3. Declutter my social media involvement and online "life" --

              establish a reasonable social media "schedule" that limits my time there

              tidy my email accounts -- delete all but the most necessary subscriptions, etc

4.  Overhaul my eating habits

5.  Establish -- and keep -- a reasonable and healthy exercise plan

6.  Study my budget again and look for areas in which I spend by habit and not because I really need
     or want to