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!