Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Living in Limbo

I wish I had a dollar -- hey, I'd settle for a dime -- for every minute in just the past 10 years I've spent in what the people at Merriam-Webster refer to as "an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition".

In other words, in limbo.  

In the past nearly-ten years, I've sold 3 houses, bought 2, and had one built. I've waited on decisions from buyers and loan officers.

I've waited on word from hiring committees and from insurance companies.

I've waited on doctors' reports and on the results of an IRS audit. 

And now I'm in limbo again as I wait for the sign in my front yard and the real estate agent who put it there to work their magic. 

I imagine that you've spent some time in limbo as well.

It's not a comfortable place to be. 

But I've learned in just the past few months that while being in limbo is unpleasant, it can actually be a good thing.

Not fun. But good.

You see, for most of my life, when I've been faced with a period of uncertainty, of something not yet happening that I wanted to happen, I'd consistently resort to the same game plan:

Impatient drumming of fingertips on nearest surface + attempts to force my will on the situation + planning + plotting + obsessing about the situation + tears + frustration + dogged determination to personally make it happen + prayers for a result that lined up with my plans

Sound familiar?

This time, though, as I've been waiting for my house to sell, I've been employing an entirely different strategy.

Why? Because I finally realized that all my absolutely exhausting efforts had one thing in common. Each one of them -- separately and collectively -- was futile. Totally ineffective.

My new strategy is simple.

Instead of drumming and plotting and planning and forcing and obsessing and crying and . . . well, you get the picture. Instead of all that, I do one very simple thing.

I simply don't allow myself to focus on the situation that's placed me in limbo and on my desire for a solution. Any time even the hint of concern or frustration raises its ugly head, I deliberately, intentionally replace that thought with something else.

Primarily, I pray. I pray without focusing on the sale of my house. Instead, I thank and praise God for all he has done and continues to do for me and in me. I intercede on behalf of others. I ask that He help me honor Him and increase my trust in him during this time of waiting. I ask that He show me how I can use this difficulty in my own life to help others. And yes, I sometimes ask, after I've addressed everything else, that He bring a buyer for my home.

I don't ask every time. Not because the issue isn't important, but because, quite honestly, I've come to realize the other things -- the things I talk with Him about first -- are what's really important.

I look over my prayer list. I consider the list of people who are battling cancer or other serious life issues. I think about the friends grieving the loss of a dear loved one or the loss of a job and who are facing true financial uncertainty. I picture former students who are now serving in the military or who are starting full-time jobs or heading off to college. I don't actually pray; instead, I just pause on each name and think of that person.

Often, I journal. Instead of focusing on what I want and what I don't yet have, though, I begin listing all the times in just the past few years God has answered my prayers that have blessed me and brought me joy. Or I write a letter to God. Or I simply write whatever crosses my mind.

I do something physical. I lace up my walking shoes and go for a long walk or pack a box or two of possessions in anticipation of my move. I lift weights while listening to uplifting music. I turn on my favorite oldies radio station and dance.

I make a deliberate effort to make someone else happy. I visit a friend in the hospital or send a card to an acquaintance going through a difficult time. I go shopping, not to buy anything at all, but to see how many people I can smile (sincerely) at or say something kind to. I look for and post positive things on social media.

Sometimes I watch a television program I know will make me laugh, or at least smile. I'm currently working my through the entire series of Frasier, laughing out loud at the witty dialogue between Frasier, Niles, Martin, Daphne, and Roz. 

My strategy is working amazingly well. No, my house hasn't sold. Yet.

But something even better is happening. I'm talking with God more than ever before; talking less about myself and more about others. And I'm listening to Him -- reading the Bible or just sitting quietly.

And the result is that I've been enveloped in a calm and peace that I've never before felt while in a state of limbo. I'm even laughing more than I have in a long time.

I'm no longer depending on my circumstances or on the behavior of others to make me happy; instead, I'm finding peace where I am.

Even if it's in limbo. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

I Had No Idea!

"Mail call!" I sang out as I came in the house. I had sorted the envelopes while walking down our driveway, culling the junk mail and dropping it in the trash bin outside and stashing mundane-looking items in my purse. Now I was holding aloft 4 or 5 envelopes addressed to my husband.

That had been my routine for the past week or so. Since word of his diagnosis had gotten 'round.

I wasn't surprised when the envelopes addressed  only to my husband began arriving, but he was. In fact, when I presented the envelopes every afternoon, he looked at them somewhat suspiciously, as if I was playing a prank on him.

I handed him that day's collection and went to the kitchen to refresh his glass of cold water. I didn't want to hover; I wanted to give him his privacy as he read messages that, I learned when I read them every evening after he went to bed, contained heartfelt personal messages.

When I returned a few minutes later with his water and some fruit, he looked up at me from where he was sitting on the couch. He looked shyly embarrassed.

"I can't believe all these people are taking the time to send me cards and messages. I had no idea!"

"No idea, what?" I asked, sitting next to him on the couch.

"I had no idea that this many people liked me."

I was shocked by my husband's statement. He was a great guy. Nice to others, non-judgmental, easy-going, quiet (until you got to know him), funny and fun-loving, always willing to help others . . .

Everyone liked him! It was obvious. How could he not know?

The truth is, though, that countless people walk through each day of their life never feeling liked or loved by anyone outside their immediate family. By coworkers or acquaintances. Even by friends.

And that simply breaks my heart. Just as my husband's words broke my heart that afternoon nearly 10 years ago.

If you know my family's story, you realize that my husband's cancer journey didn't end well for those of us left behind.

43 days after his diagnosis, 39 days after his 48th birthday, 13 days before what would have been our 25th wedding anniversary, he passed away.

Today would have been his 58th birthday.

I wish that today you were preparing to come over to our house for a huge birthday party. We'd have his favorites -- white cake with whipped cream frosting and ho-made ice-cream. We'd sing happy birthday and joke & laugh as he tried to blow out 58 candles on his cake. And there'd be lots of teasing about him being an "old man".

Instead of having you over for a party, I have a favor to ask of you. It may be a challenge for you, but that's okay. It's a good challenge -- one that will make you feel great. I promise!

Whether or not you knew my husband, I ask you to do one thing for the next 39 days.

Once a day, every day, somehow convey to someone you know -- preferably a different person each day --  that they bring you joy, that they are important to you.

That you like them.

It doesn't have to be a grand gesture. Often, it's the little things that mean the most. You can do it anonymously, if you're shy.

But do it. Before it's too late.

You don't think you can do that for 39 days? That's okay. Do it once. Today. Then do it again tomorrow. Maybe, just maybe, you'll feel moved do it again the next day.

Don't know what to do? I've created a list below to inspire you, and if you have any ideas to add, please share them via a comment to this post. 

Wait! You can't think of 39 people? I've got a list for that as well. Just scroll on down. :)

These are the cards, stored in a wicker basket in my bedroom. Someday I want to read them again. Every single one was a blessing, a gift of love. 

Suggestions to get you started: 

a regular-mail card (that you took the time to go out, buy a card and then mail it speaks volumes itself  ~~ a phone call  ~~ a bouquet of flowers (doesn't need to be large or even store-bought ~~ just tell them ~~ an act of service ~~ stop by for a visit ~~ a hug ~~ a cupcake or other treat ~~ spend time with them doing what they want to do ~~ ask them about their day and really listen to their response ~~ load the dishwasher if it's typically their job ~~ wash their car ~~

But who? Who will you tell?

your spouse ~~ child/grandchild ~~ a parent ~~ a sibling ~~ a coworker ~~ your pastor ~~  your neighbor ~~ that cousin you grew up with ~~ an old classmate you haven't talked to often enough in recent years ~~ an "old" (previous) teacher ~~ a grandparent ~~ the person you sit by in Sunday School or Bible study ~~ kid who mows you lawn ~~ your doctor ~~ the nurse who always puts you at ease when she has to draw blood (yes, I'm that way about needles) ~

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Beautiful Warrior (book review)

In a nutshell, Beautiful Warrior -- Finding Victory Over the Lies Formed Against You by Tina Yeager is a phenomenal book!

I was at first put off by the subtitle (Finding Victory Over the Lies Formed Against You). I don't think of myself as a person about whom others are forming lies, and I felt confident that over the past 13 years I've developed an honest assessment of myself (more on that later). I simply didn't see how this book related to me, but something kept drawing me back to it. I reluctantly purchased an electronic version and began reading.

Before I was even finished with the second paragraph of chapter one, I was captivated.

Yeager opens with a candid and very moving account of her own experience at a women's weekend retreat that leads the reader into an issue that is relevant, timely, and critical.

In today's culture, women (and men, for that matter) are continually bombarded with messages from the advertising and entertainment industries, social media, peers, etc., upon which they conceive and develop a sense of their own identity and self-worth.

The result? Feelings of insecurity. Loneliness. Bitterness. Self-doubt. Rising rates of anxiety and depression. Self-harming behaviors and even suicide.

Yeager, a licensed professional counselor, offers an antidote, a more sound approach that leads to a more accurate and and infinitely-healthier sense of self.

In thirteen very informative chapters, Yeager addresses topics such as comparison, human approval vs Godly approval, overcoming loneliness, addressing bitterness, and developing emotional strength and dignity. Each chapter provides practical, doable strategies and study questions that lead the reader from unhealthy self-assessment to a healthy one based on who she really is -- a woman created in God's image.

Yeager delivers her life-altering message not as a lofty scribe preaching from the mountaintop. Instead, hers is the voice of a friend sitting across from the reader at the kitchen table, cup of tea in hand, recounting with refreshing transparency her own experiences and sharing life-changing wisdom. It is one of a trusted friend -- kind, compassionate, and loving.

As I read, I quickly realized that this book does apply to me. For much of my life I had assessed myself on the basis of societal norms. At age age 46, after a life crisis and wake-up call, I began to reevaluate who I was. I pondered and prayed and journaled, and I was honest in my assessment -- brutally honest. Harsh. Unforgiving.

Yeager gently guided me to see that neither yardstick -- society's or that of a rigid, unforgiving judge -- is healthy. More importantly, neither is valid.

Instead, it is imperative that you and I see ourselves as God sees us. That we finally, truly understand who God says we are and live accordingly.

Beautiful Warrior is indeed a life-changing book. It's so wonderful that, minimalist though I am, I purchased a second copy -- a print copy that I can hi-lite and annotate. And 5 more copies are in my amazon.com shopping cart so I can give copies to young and not-so-young women who are dear to my heart.

It's that kind of book -- the kind you will read once and again, rave about to your friends, and give as a gift.

It truly is phenomenal!

Friday, June 28, 2019

What in the World?! (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 (so excuse all errors) 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 "world" takes me.

My two grandmothers were as different as night and day.

One was a German-American Indian, Lutheran woman. She loved to play games like Sorry, Yahtzee, and various card games. I never saw her do any handiwork; it seemed to me that all she did was chores. She enjoyed a beer on occasion. She was married to my larger-than-life, boisterous, outrageous grandfather. He was probably the reason she enjoyed that occasional beer!

My other grandma was a Scotch-Irish, die-hard Southern Baptist. Games with dice and cards of any kind weren't allowed in her home, but if we brought a spinner she would play for hours. She loved to tat and make quilts. In the summer, she'd connect (by hand) tiny scraps of cloth into squares, and in the winter, my father would put up her quilt frame so she could hand-quilt every evening while she listened to her favorite television shows. She was a widow, and she proudly proclaimed that not once in her life had even a drop of liquor crossed her lips.

As unalike as they were. My grandmothers shared 3 traits.

First, they were women of very strong faith.

Both loved their families fiercely and with amazing patience for their loved ones' foibles.

Neither of them cursed. When shocked, the most they would say was "What in the world?!"

As I chat on social media, read the newspaper, or listen to the news today, I often find myself parroting my grandmothers' words. 

Happily, my amazement is often of the happy variety. 

I'm often awed by what is going on in the world around me. Just this week, for example, a friend posted on Facebook a short video of the most beautiful sea creature I've ever seen. I watched the that clip of the graceful, colorful creature over and over.

But six or seven years ago, I realized one day that it was in anger or disgust more often than not that I uttered the phrase "What in the world?!" 

I realized that I was letting what I read or heard color my attitude -- making me sad or cranky or worried.

And so, I made some changes in my approach to 

Wow! That's it . . . that's all I have time for.

How do you react to things in the world around you? How do you keep a healthy focus while staying in touch with others and informed on the things you need to know? Please join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts via a comment.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Yes, Virginia, There is Such a Thing! (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 (so excuse all errors) 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 "question" takes me.

"There's no such thing as a dumb question." 

In fact, according to Carl Sagan: 

“There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.” (The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark)

Mr. Sagan may have been famous for his keen intelligence, for his brilliant mind, but he totally missed the boat on this.

Yes, Virginia, there IS such a thing as a dumb question. We're all guilty of asking them, and we've all rolled our eyes either visibly or internally when someone poses one to us.

Let me give you an example. One day two weeks ago, my realtor put a "For Sale" sign in my front yard. Bright and early the next morning, when I went out to get the paper from my driveway, a neighbor walking his dog paused and asked, "Are you selling your house?" 

No, I didn't roll my eyes (well, at least not visibly). I simply smiled and said "yes, I am". The man nodded and continued on his way. 

As a teacher, I was often asked dumb questions. Now, parents, before you get all huffy, you know your kids ask you dumb questions all the time. But let me give you just one example. Imagine the classroom. On the board is the assignment that clearly says: DUE at the BEGINNING of CLASS on FRIDAY. The same is printed at the top of the assignment sheet, and I have just said (more than once), "Remember, this is due at the beginning of class on Friday."

We all know what's coming. Yes, some student will raise his or her hand and ask, "When is this due?"

That is a dumb question. Period. 

Sagan might try to put a shiny veneer on it, call it what he likes, but it's a ridiculous question. It is not a "cry to understand the world". 

And that's not the only myth we perpetuate by telling them to our children, posting them in memes on social media, trotting them out as truth to support a point we're trying to make.  

There is such a thing as a dumb question.

50% of marriages do not end in divorce.

Mother Teresa did not write the poem "Anyway" (also known as the "Paradoxical Commandments"). *

The list goes on and on. 

Truth be told, I've asked my fair share of dumb questions. I've had people roll their eyes at me or sigh in disgust or resignation.

Why do we do it? Why do we repeat so-called truths without thought, without questioning their validity? Why do we do that at a time when, with google and in 2 minutes, we can check their validity before sharing? 

I don't know. But I do know that we're better than that. 

Or, at least, we should be. 

*"Anyway" was written by Kent Keith when he was a sophomore at Harvard. It was published under his name there in 1968, long before Mother Teresa hung the poem in her room at Calcutta. 


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What Doesn't Kill Me . . .

Well, here goes. I hope I survive!   

That's the thought that has flashed through my brain more than a few mornings since that fateful day back in December.

That day, like every day for nearly 10 years, I opened the small plastic bottles and took out a multivitamin, a calcium pill, and my teeny-tiny Vitamin D gel pill. I popped the gel pill in my mouth, took a drink of water, and swallowed. I did the same with the calcium pill. I repeated the process one more time with the multivitamin.

That's when it happened. The white pill filled with nutrients lodged in my throat.

I tried to swallow. The pill refused to budge. I grabbed my Yeti tumbler and started drinking water,
hoping the pill would just go with the flow, so to speak. No such luck.

I began to cough and choke and gag.

Finally, the pill shifted and went on its merry way.

And I laughed till I cried at the irony of it. Just think -- a measure I was taking to stay healthy might have killed me!

The incident, funny as I found it after the scare was past, was a wake-up call.

You see, I thought I'd done a fairly decent job of creating a new life in the wake of my husband's death nearly 10 years before. I'd found a new job (and then another one 8 years later), moved a couple of times, bought cars and appliances and furniture. I'd had one home built and remodeled two more. I'd encountered some big challenges head-on and survived them.

I was, as a dear friend says, taking care of business pretty darned well, thank you very much.

But one small white multivitamin taught me that I needed to be more aware of the not-so-big things as well, or they might become big issues.

More importantly, I realized that life redesign isn't the "once through and done" process I'd thought it was.

Instead, those of us who have experienced a major life change and redesigned our lives must remember that as time passes, circumstances around us change, we age, etc, further adaptations will no doubt be necessary.

We can worry and even obsess, wring our hands and gnash our teeth, and even cry in our beer.

Or we can be open to change and even welcome it, square our shoulders and lift our chins, and live  abundantly and joyfully.

I know the path I want to take. And I'd bet it's the same most people would choose.

But sometimes it's not that simple.

Sometimes those little things -- the small vitamin pills of life, if you will -- cause us to choke and cough and gag and just plain struggle to go on. 

So . . . what about you? Are you living an abundant and joyful life? If so, what helps you do that? If not, what is holding you back?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, learn from your experiences, and pray for you. Please leave a comment or send me an email. Join the conversation . . . 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Goal. Exclamation Mark. Exclamation Mark. (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 (so excuse all errors) 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 "goal" takes me.

I'm sensing a theme here. Let me explain.

Backstory first, though.

I've been setting yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals for as long as I can remember. 

In fact, when my mother passed away almost 9 years ago, I found in her boxes of mementos she had kept for both my sister and I, a list of goals for the summer I turned 5. I wanted more than anything to "LEARN TO RIDE MY BIKE WITHOUT training wheels!!". I loved exclamation marks even then, and two of them meant the goal was a very important one. 

And yes, I did learn, through some bloody knees, tears, determination, and my dad's always-patient help.

But recently, my goals and my feelings toward them have changed dramatically.

Oh, I still have goals. In fact, inside the beautiful hand-made leather traveler's notebook given to me by my children, daughter-in-law, and now-son-in-law when I retired last year is a list of 100 things I hope to do in retirement. And I look forward to achieving each one and recording it in that notebook.

But no longer do I feel compelled to make and keep a list of long-term goals accompanied by monthly goals that will take me to their completion.  

Perhaps it's because I've reached a point in life where I have far fewer years of goal-chasing in front of me than behind me. Perhaps that realization has given me a different perspective.

Whatever the reason, two weeks ago (end of backstory), I removed my "2019 Goals" from the front of my current bullet journal. I also removed the just-created "June Goals". Without hesitation, I tore both pages into tiny pieces and deposited them in the recycling bin.

Then I pondered and journaled. And pondered and journaled some more.

And just this past Tuesday, I shared that my goal is authenticity. That I long to live on the outside what I am on the inside.

It's that simple.

I don't need to write it down. I don't need a plan.

I simply need need, with my Creator's standard as my guide, to be in each moment and savor each moment and, with courtesy and respect to those around me, respond to each moment honestly. 

Exclamation mark

Exclamation mark 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

True Confessions

I'm a fraud.

I have been much of my life.

There. I've confessed it.

I didn't become a fraud on purpose. Truth be told, the role of fraud, of what Webster defines as "one that is not what it seems or is represented to be", snuck up on me. I didn't even realize I was a fraud until I was well into my 40's.

And by then, I didn't know what to do about it. I had no idea how to be on the outside, to the world, what I was inside.

Maybe you can sympathize. Maybe you're a fraud, too.

Perhaps, like me, you stepped into the role early in life. Perhaps you, too, put on a brave face to your family, to your elementary-school classmates to hide your insecurities, the social awkwardness that you were absolutely sure nobody around you experienced. To hide the hurt over not measuring up or fitting in at school. At home.

Over the years, what began as momentary defense mechanisms to small things that seemed huge at the time became much more. It became a facade I felt I had to maintain. And so, I did.

People expected me to be outgoing. I complied. I was the person who would talk to anyone. I was chatty. Even outspoken.

People expected me to be strong. I acted more than strong. Overly-strong, perhaps even aggressive at times.

People expect me to handle things competently and without undue negative emotion. And I did. Until I had enough and got angry.

People expected me to be magnanimous when slighted. I became impassive, and later to even smile and say "no, really, it's fine" when hurt. Even when deeply hurt.

I adopted the persona of the person I needed to be in order to avoid hurt and to avoid disappointing those I cared about.

So who am I really?

Truth be told, I'm a paradox.

I'm an introvert who is somewhat -- sometimes, more so -- socially awkward. Yet I long for a circle of close friends, an even wider circle of casual friends and active social life.

I'm uncertain of making decisions, but I am fantastic at making plans.

I'm a world-traveler-wannabe who struggles to figure out all the travel details for a week-long solo trip.

I'm creative, yet I allow my insecurities to stop me from doing much more than start a project.

There's more, but this soul can only take so much confession at one time.

Now, before you get the idea that I'm absolutely miserable, let me assure you I'm not.

But I want to live authentically.

I sound like a cliche, I know. The 60 (okay, 61) year old woman who is determined to rediscover that young woman she once was and to be that person again.

Maybe I am.

Or maybe, just maybe, instead of a cliche, I'm simply normal.

Maybe there are many other people -- women and men -- who have chosen to live on the outside contrary to who they are on the inside and are now ready to toss away the facade.

To become who the Creator designed.

I don't know if there are or not. I do know that I'm ready -- more than ready -- to live authentically.

To not only life a redesigned life, but to live it is the originally-designed me.

I wrote this post a few days ago and have debated whether to share it. But I've decided that if I am going to live authentically, I have to start doing so. Not sometime. Today. Thank you for reading. 

Remember, this blog is meant to be a place of dialogue, so please take a few minutes to share your thoughts via a comment. Thank you so much!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sometimes I'm Amazed

Sometimes I amaze myself. More often, life amazes me!

This is the view of one of my two spare bedrooms yesterday morning. It's a mess, of course. Until a few months ago, all of this stuff -- yarn, craft supplies, photos and memorabilia, etc -- was neatly stored in boxes and bins, ready for me to deal with this summer. A few months ago, on a rainy weekend, I decided to get a jump on the chore. I began unpacking boxes, but life interfered mid-way through the task, so I shut the door and ignored the mess.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours finishing the job. That's not the amazing part. But to explain, I need to go back in time just a bit.

In a blog post from over a month ago (Taylor Swift and Me), I shared that on May 30 I would be making an announcement.

My daughter had just told me she and my son-in-law are expecting their first child (and my first grandchild!!), and I was bursting at the seams to share the news. But I couldn't.

Their plans at the time were to tell close family only, but to hold off on telling extended family and friends until May 30. That meant I could share the news with my own friends on that date -- 05.30.  That was to be my exciting announcement.

I should have known better. My daughter, by her own admission, has never been able to keep a secret. Family lore is rich with cute stories of her spilling the beans about Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, Mothers Day and Fathers Day gifts . . . I think you get the point.

So I wasn't all that surprised when they decided to share the good news on Mothers Day.

As I began sharing with my own friends and on social media, I realized I now had nothing exciting to share on 05.30, but I figured something would come up.

It did. And as a result, I spent a couple of hours yesterday sorting through the stuff on the floor and in the boxes and bins in the spare bedroom. I packed some things back neatly, put quite a few items in the garage for a sale in June, and discarded a large trash bag full of stuff. Now the room looks like it did before.

I didn't sort through all the stuff and tidy the room in order to create room for a crib and other baby supplies.

My daughter and son-in-law have asked if I'd be willing to move to where they live and babysit their precious little one after he/she arrives. After prayerful consideration, I knew it was what I needed and wanted to do!

So I got to work on the spare bedroom and decided late last night to write this blog and share the news today.

And then I looked at the calendar. I was amazed.

You see, I'd given up on having something exciting to share on 05.30. I was planning to sort of slink on past the day, with no announcement, hoping that nobody would call me on the fact that I didn't deliver as promised.

But now I do have an exciting announcement -- I'm going to be selling my house and moving!!

A little thing perhaps, but I see it so often when I pause and look back over even the simplest chain of events.

I make my schedule and my lists, and I think I have things all lined out.

Then something or someone comes along and throws my well-ordered plans into disarray.

But while I'm dealing with the mess, trying to tidy things into a new neat schedule and lists, something amazing happens.

It all falls into place.

Without me.

And it's better than my original plan.

It's amazing!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Bake a Cake & Sharpen a File

I'm a criminal.

Not just the type that zips down the highway more than the excusable 5 mph over the posted speed limit.

I'm also a hypocrite. 

I'm a stickler for academic honesty, for giving credit where it's due, and for the past umpteen years I've taught classes about citing sources responsibly. Sadly, more than a couple of disgruntled former university students can attest to the fact that I've significantly marked down (think "zero") student papers that a quick Google search proved to have been deliberately plagiarized.

Yet I am guilty of using other people's artistic property dishonestly.

When I first began blogging, I simply wrote and wrote. A lover of words (and not very adept in using various social media platforms like Pinterest), I believed that what I had to say was "enough".

Then I began reading and following other people's blogs. Some sites drew me in more than others, and I found myself wanting to make my own posts more visibly appealing.

And that's when I crossed the line.

I began adding images, almost always from Pinterest.

As I learned last week, that is not okay. In fact, it's illegal.

It's illegal even though I often gave cursory credit ("photo courtesy of Pinterest") in a photo tagline. It's illegal even though the photo or meme had already been used inappropriately by other people before me.

One could argue that what's done is done or ask what's the worst that could happen. It's not like there's an "image-stealing jail" I could be sentenced to, right?

I mean let's be honest here. In the vast blogging universe, it's unlikely that my little blog will be noticed by anyone who might discover what I've done.

But the truth is, I know.

And despite the (attempted) levity in this entry's title, I take this very seriously.

So, amidst all the hoopla that makes up my life right now (more on that next Tuesday -- how's that for a teaser?), I will be spending the next few days removing all images from my blog.

Forthwith, I will be using only photos that I have taken or that I can share legally.

But today I have no images to offer.

Only my apology to those whose work I've inadvertently used dishonestly.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Opportunity (FMF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) 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 "opportunity" takes me.

If you were to go to a site like brainyquote.com or Pinterest and do even a very quick search using the keyword "opportunity", you would be inundated with quotes -- some glib, others quite profound -- on the topic of what Webster calls "a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something". 

Perhaps my favorite quote about opportunity is this one by Albert Einstein: 

If I said that I have been able to recognize this when I've been in the midst of a trial, that would be a lie. When in the midst of a trial, I'm not thinking, "Yes, this is a difficult time for me, but really, there are lots of opportunities here."

No, I'm thinking, "What!? God, get me out of this!!"

But the proverb about hindsight being 20/20 is so true in this case.

As I look back on the difficulties I've faced, the tragedies that I have weathered, I can now see that with each one of them came opportunity.

One example in particular stands out to me. In the Spring of 2006, a huge storm -- tornado strength and devastating -- entered my life.

Long story short, that storm presented me with a valuable opportunity. And so much of the positive things that happened in the aftermath of my husband's death three years later would never have been possible had it not been for that storm.

It cleared away debris from my life. It created a new path both in my spiritual life and in my vocational life.

Now, when difficulties seem unavoidable, I remind myself to remain remember Who is in charge and to focus on the opportunities the difficulty will no doubt bring.

It's not always easy, of course, and

Time's up! Please join in the conversation by sharing your own thoughts or experiences via a comment. What difficulty have you endured that brought you opportunity? Could you see that at the time of the trial?  

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Hitting Submit

First, I procrastinated.

I didn't just procrastinate. I procrastinated in a manner worthy of a gold medal, were procrastination an Olympic event.

I did laundry and cleaned the house. I called friends and asked if they needed help with anything. I began not one, but two exercise programs. I watered plants and bought weed and seed for my yard. I wrote emails and knitted. I reorganized my files and wrote overdue letters. I wandered around on the internet looking for Christmas gifts (hey, I always shop early for Christmas!).

Finally, though, I got to work. The task was simple: write and submit a 5-page, no more than 1,500-word excerpt from a (mine, of course) novel in progress; the sample should include dialogue and be properly formatted.

A clearly-stated and quite simple assignment; unfortunately for me, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.

Perhaps it should have been. Easy, that is. When I initially told a few friends about the assignment, each one of them, in their own way, dismissed it as the proverbial piece of cake. They all assumed I would sit down and produce at least a reasonably-good excerpt for the practicum I've signed up for at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference next month.

Each of them knew that writing has been a key component of existence my entire life. Depending on how long or how well they know me, they were aware that I began reading before I even started kindergarten and that I began writing around the same time. They know that I kept a journal throughout my childhood and teen years and off and on since then. They almost surely know that I hold a Bachelors Degree in English and a Masters in English with an Emphasis in Composition. They even probably realize that I've done some free-lance writing and been published -- and paid for it!

And here's the icing on the cake. They know that I have spent my entire career teaching writing. Yes, writing.

Lifelong writer + multiple degrees in writing + a career teaching writing should equal the ability to sit down in front of a laptop one afternoon and write a 1,500-word writing sample worthy of submission to a writing workshop.

Like I said before, it's not that simple.

My previous writing, whether it be personal, academic, or free-lance, has been nonfiction. Essays, reports, article summaries, lesson plans, human interest articles, and even a writing textbook . . . each text has been nonfiction.

A few years ago, though, I decided to {drum roll} focus on writing a novel.

Don't say it. I've heard all the jokes and (sometimes) snide comments about the stereotypical English teacher who thinks they're going to write the next Great American Novel.  Besides, that's a topic for another post. 

The novel hasn't come as easy as I'd hoped it would. There are a variety of reasons, some of which are probably more excuse than reason. But I decided when I retired last May that the time had come. It was time for me to put my fingers on the keyboard and write a book.

Fast-forward to last Monday, 8 days ago. With a week to go before my submission was due, I was forced to get to work. The novel was (is) still a work in progress, but that was okay; all I had to do was choose an excerpt to submit. That took about 30 minutes.

I spent a couple of days polishing. I revised and revised, and then I revised again. I revised so many times that I could recite chunks of dialogue from memory. Then it was time to edit. I proofread over and over, checking for errors in subject-verb agreement, parallelism, and so on.

By Friday, all that was left to do was submit the excerpt. Instead, I reassumed the role of procrastinator extraordinaire. For almost 3 days, I did a masterful job of pretending I had no assignment, no deadline to meet.

Sunday afternoon, though, less than 2 days before the submission was due, opened an email, attached the document, and hit send.

My award-worth career as a procrastinator was finished.

It's never been my intent that this blog be nothing more than a monologue. Instead, I hope you'll join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts and ideas via a comment. Thank you!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Touch (FMF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) 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 "touch" takes me.

While in college, I learned of a study involving babies in orphanages. I've forgotten many of the particulars -- the wheres and the numbers involved -- but what I do remember is that the babies were not thriving. In fact, although they were well taken care of and received more than adequate nutrition and medical care, they were dying at far higher rates than babies raised with poorer medical care, a lack of food, etc. 

Orphanage workers were baffled. Doctors were brought in. Again, the details escape me, but somehow it was determined that the babies failed to thrive because, due to a shortage of manpower for the number of babies being cared for,  the infants failed to be touched other than when absolutely necessary.  Diaper-changing, baths, and feeding were done as quickly as possible because so many babies needed attention.

Volunteers from the community were recruited to hold and rock the babies on a regular basis. The babies began to thrive and the death rate plummeted to far below average.

Similar studies in America and around the world prove the importance to seniors -- particularly widows and widowers as well. 

Over and again, science has proven the enormous value of human touch. 

In recent years, though, we've become leery of touch and of touching others. Businesses and school districts provide training about touching and even warn employees to not touch other people unless absolutely necessary. 

More recently, the conduct of some politicians and celebrities have turned the concept of touch into something dirty and even the subject of one-liners and social media memes.

That saddens me.

The fact is, we all benefit from the appropriate, caring touch of another human being.

A hand on the shoulder of a frightened or grieving person, a gentle hug for a friend who is struggling, holding the hand of a hospital or nursing-home patient. 

A simple gesture, but oh how life-affirming. 

Time's up! 

This blog is intended to be a place of conversation, and I hope you'll join in that conversation by posting your own thoughts via a comment below.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Me and Taylor Swift

I don't follow celebrity news and gossip, but a friend shared on Facebook the other day that Taylor Swift has been posting "cryptic" social media posts with references to 04.26 and has added a countdown calendar to that date on her website.

To be completely honest, I'm not a Taylor Swift fan. So when my friend stated that she couldn't wait to see what Swift was going to announce -- a new tour, a new CD, perhaps the publication of her autobiography -- I stifled a social media yawn and scrolled on past the post.

Well, Taylor Swift has nothing on me.

Last Friday I shared here that life had thrown me a big curveball, causing me to face a major decision.

It turns out the decision was not as difficult as I thought it would. One discussion with a trusted friend of over 35 years and reading chapter 1 -- yes, just the first one -- of The Next Right Thing (Emily Freeman), a book that I'd been planning to read anyway, was all it took.

Lightbulb moment and peace.

But I'm not ready to share that decision with anyone just yet.

So, here you go.


Now if I can just figure out how to add a countdown calendar to every blog post!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Next Step (FMF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) 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 "next" takes me.

Just when things have begun settling down a bit in my life, just when a couple of previously- difficult situations have changed for the better, just when I'm starting to feel like I'm moving in the right direction, life has thrown me a curve ball.

A big one. One that is, in many ways, absolutely-wonderful!

But there's a catch. This delightful, unexpected situation requires a decision on my part. And like the curveball itself, that decision is major. 

I used to be a pretty confident decision-maker. Not anymore.

I've discussed this here before. Perhaps my decision-making confidence is weaker now that I have nobody with whom to share ideas and the responsibility of the decision. Perhaps I struggle because, with age and experience, I realize for more than before the far-reaching consequences of the decisions I make. Or maybe now that I'm older and more battle-weary, I'm not as fearless as I used to be. Of course, the wide array of options available to me as a retired woman living on her own can be overwhelming. 

Whatever the reason(s), I'm going to need to decide -- and soon -- what my next step will be. 

Not for the first time these past nearly-10 years, I wish I could abdicate responsibility. I wish I could go back in time and put on my pajamas, brush my teeth, and go to bed, content in the knowledge that while I was drifting off to sleep, my parents would discuss the situation and make the decision for me.

But that isn't an option. 

I've prayed. I've jotted down my options. I've journalled. I've prayed even more. I've jotted down my options yet again and put little plusses and minuses next to each one.

Yet I'm no closer to a decision than I was when the curveball first came my way.

As a result, I'm stressed, impatient with myself and the world, and more than a little cranky.

It's time to put on my pajamas, brush my teeth, and go to bed. The decision won't be made for me while I sleep, but maybe, just maybe 

There went the buzzer. Time's up. If you're so inclined, I ask that you pray for me as I make this decision. Please understand that I cannot share any details yet. I'd also love to hear about your experience in making a major decision. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters (Review)

When I first learned several months ago that mother-daughter team Dr. Helen McIntosh and Blythe Daniel (respectively) would be releasing a book about restoring the very-unique relationship that exists between mothers and daughters, I immediately contacted Daniel and asked to serve on the book's launch team. I was chosen and received an advance copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review, which I am sharing here and on amazon.com and other sites.

I was intrigued by this book for two reasons. First, my relationship with my own mother (who passed away in 2010) was, as many mother-daughter relationships are, a complicated one. I hoped that McIntosh and Daniel might address coming to terms with issues that remain unresolved due to circumstances such as the death of either the mother or daughter.

I was also interested because I am the mother of a daughter and the mother-in-law to my son's wife. The two relationships are, of course, very different, and I hoped that the book would provide insight into what I can do so that both relationships remain as strong and healthy as possible.

Mended far surpassed my hopes. Before I go into further detail, though, I want to stress that this book is not just for those looking to heal a broken or strained mother-daughter relationship. This book is for anyone that is looking to better an "okay" relationship or maintain an already-strong one.

Equally exciting to me is that the information in Mended is relevant to all relationships, not just that between mother and daughter. Work relationships, those between friends, husbands and wives -- all can be strengthened and healed by the application of the principles and practices discussed in Mended.

McIntosh and Daniel address a variety of topics related to healing or building a mother-daughter relationship. Some of those topics include: choosing to be "right" or choosing to be in relationship; knowing when and what to say; choosing words of reconciliation; offering advice; resisting the urge to control and change the other person; and working through difficult things together.

The book is written from the alternating viewpoints of McIntosh, who holds a EdD in Counseling Psychology, and her daughter, Daniel. Daniel is an author and literary agent. The book is greatly enriched by their honesty and transparency as they recount their own experiences as mother, daughter, grandmother, and granddaughter.

Another strength of this book is the authors' reliance on Scriptural truths as the framework for their discussion. That said, readers who shy away from "Christian" books should not do so. Mended is neither preachy nor heavy-handed, and it is not a book about doctrine.

I read prolifically, 5-10 books a week, and from time to time I come across a book like Mended. A book I wish I could buy at least 100 copies of and give to people I care about. A book I would love to lead a group study of. A book I know I will read time and again and that, even when I'm not reading it, nuggets from it will come to mind frequently.

Mended is a book I hope you will read. For you, for your relationship with your daughter, and yes, for the relationships you have with those around you.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Offer Me This (FMF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) 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 "offer" takes me.

Wow, Fearless-leader Kate, tough word this week. And yes, thank you, that was a shameless attempt to stall, take some seconds off the clock, and think of where I want to go with this week's assignment.

Every day, I receive offers. 

On the radio, on television, and particularly via social media. Everyone, it seems, wants to offer me a free workshop/webinar/guide or a free consultation or a free night's stay at a lovely lake resort.

I'm sure you know what I mean. 

Every one of those offers -- every single one -- is one thing. Each one is a sales gimmick not-so-cleverly designed as a gift.  

Yes, I'll get a free webinar, but the "giver" will receive my email. They'll not only increase the size of their mailing list for their own purposes but, here's the real kicker, so that they have more email addresses to sell to other companies.

I'll get a free consultation or free night away from home, but there will be some sort hard sell somewhere along the line. I've been there. By the time the consultant or guy/gal at the sales presentation is 2.5 minutes into their spiel, I'm willing to give them my left arm to get out of there. 

Call me a cynic, but the vast majority of offers I receive are from people who, despite their seemingly-sincere demeanors, are nothing more than fishermen, dangling out the tantalizing bait for what they hope is a gullible fish who will bite.

I know I sound "anti-offer", but that's simply not true. 

You want me to take you up on an offer? Then offer me one of these.

Offer to clean my bathroom. I hate cleaning the bathroom. Always have; I have no doubt I always will. Small space + wet stuff = yuck!

Offer to fix my hair for me every single day. I am notoriously horrible with hair, as anyone who knows me can attest. You offer to fix my hair every day, and you have a resounding "yes" and a friend for life. Or as long as you're fixing my hair every day. 

Offer to play dominoes or cards or cribbage with me a couple of nights a week. 

Offer to teach me how to knit socks or to scrapbook digitally.

Offer to take over my yard. Landscape and mow and make it lovely. Don't expect me to know the names of any plants or gush over organic mulch. You'll only be sorely disappointed. 

Offer to go on a road trip with me. Think Thelma and Louise minus mayhem and . . . well, the ending, 
which I refuse to watch. 

Offer me a book contract. 

Offer me a large sum of money to do absolutely nothing. Yep, I'm all over that one!

See? I'm not anti-offer!

So bring on those offers!!

Honestly, I hesitate to share this post. It's not profound or eloquent or really much of anything. But I respect the FMF concept and will share. Because the goal of this blog is conversation (not monologue), I hope you'll share your thoughts via a comment. Perhaps you'll be profound or eloquent or even both!