Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Look Back at 2009

I just took my 2009 calendar down. A look through it reminded me of shopping for Lizzy's prom dress, her immunizations for college, orientation at West Ga, shopping for her dorm room - all those senior year things. Special events are marked down - parties, weddings, graduation, a Braves game, a writer's conference. There in black and white I can see the winding down of things in our lives - high school happenings, our old church, kids at-home schedule. And new beginnings - engagements, BBQ with new Sunday School class, an empty-nest vacation, calls with my agent.
As I looked at each little block, the items listed there jumped to life. With amazing clarity that event, those people, the places came back to me. Freshness of a Spring evening in Atlanta for our anniversary, the heat of Savannah in the Summer, crispness of a Autumn picnic. And the people - funny - but in those memories what comes to me is people laughing. How odd is that? Even in some situations and times that were tense, what I remember is the smiles and laughter. The joy of being together.
Maybe it's just me (I am fairly delusional when it comes to being happy), but it's actually soothed my heart this morning to realize this about my remembering. To know that what has stuck in my mind and soul is the laughter and smiles - the joy. So, try it. Look back through 2009 and see what pictures comes with those markings on your calendar.
Happy New Year to all of you - and here's to filling our 2010 calendars with good stuff!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where were YOU for Y2K?

Eleven years ago we were getting ready to move from Northern Illinois to our current home in Marietta, Georgia. We'd made the decision to relocated with Mike's company in July, but told Robert if he made the Jr. High basketball team we would wait until the end of the season to move. Our move date was Jan. 22 - Lizzy's 8th birthday. So July to January - it was a verrrry long goodbye.
Our house in Illinois was an old farm house, and had at one time been a stage coach stop. It was a small two story farm house on a couple acres. Nothing fancy - the kind of farm house with no upstairs bathroom and lots of years and owners to mess things up.
We lived on a gravel road and were across the street from the elementary school, which had 152 kids in grades K-6. On the other corner was our little church, Wilton Center Federated Church. The Methodist and American Baptist church had joined to survive 75 years earlier. It was a real lesson on differentiating tradition and sacred practices. Amazing how quickly we substitute them for each other, but that's another blog. We lived in our little township of Wilton Center for ten years.
Now for a blast from the past - eleven years ago when we put our farmhouse on the market it was advertised as a "Y2K house". Remember that? Y2K - the fear, the new jobs (both my brothers made lots of money doing freelance computer work for the banks and one still works for a bank), the excitement of living in the 2000's, partying like it was 1999. And now it is all a decade old.
Ten years is a big chunk of life, and it flew by for me. However, when I think of all the people and places and memories it's hard to imagine they all fit in only ten calendars.
A new decade starts this week. Who and what will fill it? I can't hardly wait to see!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Time for Everything

Last night we watched the Georgia game - Go Dawgs! - and had buffalo dip, a mexican layered dip, and tortilla roll ups. To me - the food just wasn't that good. Nothing wrong with the ingredients or preparation. Mike and Ryan and Lizzy loved it, but I'm about rich fooded out.
Beginning with Thanksgiving the food party starts it's march. Parties, baking days, football games, restaurant stops while traveling, and movie nights. There are fun drink recipes popping up on my computer, desserts gracing the cover of every magazine, breakfast casseroles that make mornings with all the crowd easier, and then all that sharing of peanut brittle and peanut butter balls every time the doorbell rings.
Just writing all this makes me a little queasy.
And so the world keeps turning, and I know what's coming next. My growing lack of interest in all the rich food of December is the first indicator. The next sign will be grumpiness with the disruption to my TV and radio schedule. When my shows all take that break for the holidays, at first I don't even notice it because I'm too busy. But then when there's not been a new Office in a while and my favorite commentators are still on vacation - I get a little testy. A sign that things need to really move along is when the little twinkly white lights stop being magical are just down right garish. Yep - time for January.
Time for a cleaned off mantle and an ungilded dining room. Time for basic soups and salads. Time for routine. Time for quiet and stillness and contemplation and reading.
As it's written in Ecclesiastes 3:1 - There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
(Here's the rest of that passage in case you haven't read, or heard, it in a while.)
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Yep, according to Kay's clock, it's just about time for a change.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Party's Over, kinda

I officially love Christmas on Friday. Going straight into the weekend made the holiday stretch out, so much so that I'm having difficulty letting it go now. The weekend was relaxing and fun, but now it's time to move from Christmas and on to New Years.
Mike is at work and my to do list today is mainly to undecorate the tree. I hate to see it and all the multi-colored lights go, but it is time. The limbs are no longer supple and are beginning to droop. Plus, on New Year's day we always have an open house which starts with the first bowl game (11 am) and ends when the last bowl game ends (around 11 pm). So we need additional seating in the living room where the tree is. (BTW - open house means you're invited! Come on by for chili, nachos, and football!)
This month has flown, but I think it is ending without regrets. Special times with special people all happened. Quiet moments with the lit tree, a fire, and a book happened. Games were played, walks taken, dinners served, carols sang, candles lit, and Wow - does my house show it!
Today, as I remove ornaments from prickly limbs, climb to the top cupboards to put away the special dishes and glasses, make dinner out of left-overs (again) I want my work to remind me of our just past holiday - not turn me into a Grinch.
Sad, isn't it, how a few hours work can dampen a month full of joy. That's a truth I'll keep close at hand today - because I KNOW I'm going to need it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Getting up Early to stuff that Turkey

This was one of my most popular blogs. It was written Thanksgiving morning so here it is for Christmas because I've got a turkey to stuff!
Merry Christmas!

Here's to all the coffee brewers, onion chopping, turkey stuffing, cool whip thawers out there. You are the Stage Setters.
Things are quiet at my parents home this morning. Everyone is asleep - but me. I slept later than normal, but I knew I wanted to get this blog written and I just wanted to get up and get the day started. The early quite of a holiday morning belongs to moms and grandmoms, in my experience. The ones who went over the next day's menu right before going to bed and the ones who woke up with thoughts of what needed to be done when, so the next thing can be done. The turkey has to be stuffed before it can go in the oven and before the stuffing can be stuffed - cornbread has to be cooked, onions and celery chopped and sauteed, giblets boiled and chopped, eggs boiled and chopped. You can see where the mind racing upon waking comes in.
But in my life, those setting these scenes when I was to young to understand, did so lovingly and joyfully. Grandma and my aunt Cora Mae bustling in the kitchen as I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag on their living room floor. Smells from Mama's kitchen waking me up and saying that this was a special day. Even the cooking of cornbread at midnight on Christmas eve so it would be ready the next morning. Hot cornbread at midnight? - some people just KNOW how to set a scene.
The day is set in the hands of the Scene Setters and it is ours to embrace and do prayerfully - or ours to treat as work and do grudgingly.
Once again - a choice. A choice on what I will do to make this day a gift for my family.
Got to go, I have onions and celery to chop!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

O World, I cannot hold thee close enough!

It's Christmas Eve - just put a pecan pie in the oven and need to get a chocolate one made. And since the only thing that would end up here if I tried writing this morning would be the menu for tonight, here's a blog from my first week of blogging.
"Knee-buckling Gratitude" - and it fits exactly how I feel today! Enjoy!

Early morning sunshine through the trees
Kids - mine especially
left-over chicken wings
Jesus life story written in Mark's action packed way
Hydrangeas in vases given by a friend
Southern Living Magazine
Smell of exhaust
Light reflected on water
There's a line from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Milay, which since jr. high has met my need for words on days like today. "O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!" When my very soul so expands that to hold all this beauty in proves more than I can do, that one line is my mantra. My prayer of all-consuming praise for being alive and being me. And I know God is grinning like crazy when we take a minute or two and actually see, really see our world. Wow - he must really like us!
"O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!"
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chore OR Celebration

There's a scene in the Muppet's Christmas Carol when Scrooge (Michael Caine) leaves the office on Christmas Eve, bound for his home and his ghostly encounters. Left behind is his clerk, Bob Cratchett - Kermit, and the other clerks - rats. And the narrator says, "And with their employer gone they began that most pleasant of activities - the celebration of Christmas." They then proceed to put things in order - book on the shelves, closing the blinds, and sweeping. All while singing the song about "One more sleep 'til Christmas."
I'm re-reading a book I love this time of year, "An Irish Country Christmas" by Alice Taylor. It is charming in her relaying of getting ready for Christmas many years ago in a small Irish village. One chapter is about the Christmas goose. How they care for the mama and papa geese all year and the little goslings are raised and fattened for Christmas. She goes into great detail of the seven geese they needed for Christmas, as gifts and special meals. The butchering by her mother and then each child having to pluck all the feathers from the, still warm, geese. How she manages to make this interesting and not disgusting is unfathomable, but she does. And it's all in preparation for Christmas.
Today my list is long and I have a choice - to see these chores and errands as necessary work, OR they can be the beginning of that most pleasant of activities - the celebration of Christmas. When we make a separation in our lives, and our childrens' lives, that says work is not part of the celebration we make a mistake. Don't let your children's Christmas work only be writing out their list for Santa. Let them in on the secret - the preparation is part of the celebration. We are short-changing our children, and ourselves, when we loose that knowledge.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lessons from Forrest

We watched "Forrest Gump" last night and I got to wondering what is it that makes Forrest so different, so appealing? A few things came to me.
One is he always says, "Okay" when someone asks him if he wants to do something. Go into shrimping, play ping pong, whatever. The original "Yes" man.
He lives in the present. Past and future don't seem to hold much appeal to him. He dives off the boat and goes when he needs to go. Where the boat will go isn't a concern for him.
But last night the thing that I kept noticing is he always does the right thing. Without thoughts of his benefit or his cost, he just does the right thing. He doesn't carry around baggage in his head and heart which muddies up right and wrong.
I know Forrest is mentally challenged and fictional, but that always doing right - without a lot of thinking - sounds really appealing to me right now.
What I'm stuck on is the forgiving and forgetting thing. I want to forgive because it's the right thing AND because I don't like having bad feelings toward anyone. But I don't want to forget, because, well, I don't want to forget and let the person think they got away with it. But that kind of forgetting is not only not forgetting, that's not forgiving. Bummer.
So my choice is to forgive AND forget or neither. Maybe you've found a way to be at peace not forgetting, but I seem to lack that ability. So, me and God have got some talking to do this morning because this baggage has got to go.
Seriously - I've got Christmas cookies to bake and baggage messes that up!

So either I let it all go, which is going to require supernatural help, or I keep feeling yucky about it all. Supernatural - you know that means outside our natural world - and that's what God is. Good thing for me, because my nature is to hold on to this and feel hurt.
Wait, maybe that's what is so appealing about Forrest - his mental problems didn't allow him to develop past the nature of a child.

Monday, December 21, 2009

And there was dancing and singing . . .

My eyes just keep wanting to close. One, because I could sleep for a week. Two, because I want to close my eyes and remember all the beautiful moments from this weekend.
Robert and Carrie are married.
W'ere still in Athens with some moving of furniture, gifts and general wedding details - such as taking their cat to it's new home, getting the groom's tux, and clearing out of the hotel rooms.
The wedding was happy, sweet and so beautiful. The night sky peering in three stories of windows, surrounded by old mellow wood and stone out in the middle of the woods, it was magical. And then the reception in the atrium with tropical plants, citrus trees bearing ripened fruit and hundreds of tiny white lights set a fairytale stage for laughter and tears and lots and lots of dancing.
What a wonderful feeling to see the culmination of so much planning and thought and concern. I think that's what is so fun about the dancing at the reception - the celebration that it all really, really happened. Just like we dreamed and hoped.
Today is Dec. 21 and in three days we'll celebrate the evening God watched his plan unfold and develop in that stable in Bethlehem. Sure, he's God and he can do all things - but he chooses to use humans and we are notoriously problematic when it comes to heavenly plans.
So last night on that dance floor when we all clapped and danced and laughed we probably reminded God of the celebration in the heavens on that night long ago. When angels clapped and danced and laughed and shouted, "Glory to God!"
God loves a good celebration!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Morning has Broken

Wedding weekend is finally here! Rehearsal has to be today, two days before the wedding, so we get to stretch out the fun.
I feel all tingly and excited and my mind is racing so this blog just doesn't seem to want to come together. Next time I write this blog - I'll be a mother-in-law! How cool is that? Everything seems too big, too wonderful to wrap my mind around. There's a song that swells up in me when I feel this way. So these words are my gift to you on this day.

Morning Has Broken
(A Traditional Song, Lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon)

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Blessings on you all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Winter Palettes

Southern winters have a softness I find appealing. Dove gray and rusty brown make up the biggest part of the color palette. Leaves gather where they fell, in drifts of warm brown. Tree bark and limbs remain supple and small twigs make a full silhouette against mother of pearl skies. Punctuations of green are dark, thick, and pungent - pines appear as if placed there just yesterday to fill an empty spot. Magnolias tower in emerald and bronze - leaves speaking of their superiority to that creamy, but showy, flower which lacks staying power. Like women of old money, a few Bradford pear trees wear modest adornments of ruby or gold. While male cardinals dash around like Rhett Butler, astonishing in their good looks - and completely aware of it.
Soft, gray, brown, and green wreathed in the scent of wood smoke. Like an afternoon nap in front of a football game.
How different a Northern winter palette. Colors never bleeding on to one another or fading into softness. White, snow white, binds all elements of the landscape and brown hides for lack of ability to compete. White in the sky, the sun focuses on getting through, but the brilliant blue air holds any warmth captive. Twigs did not make it through winter's arrival. Sturdy, strong black limbs are hardened and ready. And then sunset. As the stunning blue is pushed off stage, the sun steals the show. Magenta, orange, and red floods the sky and covers the white ground. Intense light fills the colors and even the black bark glows as if on fire. On the verge of waking everything up - the sun slips behind the dark hill and color is asleep - again.
Ebony and crystals with a curtain call of astonishing. Like a night on the town with a dangerous, but beautiful, man.
Whatever your winter day looks like - enjoy it and see it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dwelling in Possibility

You know that cartoon bit where someone starts rolling down a snowy hill and as the ball picks up speed it also picks up everything in it's path? People, dogs, trees all get swept into it and then legs, arms and branches stick out of the rolling ball. Then at the bottom the ball breaks apart and everyone jumps up and says, "Ta Da!"
That's what keeps coming to mind as we near this weekend and our son's wedding. We're on the downhill side now and things are moving fast toward the beginning of the fun. Maps have been sent, everything ordered, trips planned, clothes arranged, shoes practiced in and we're almost there. The arrivals and meetings of so many folks whose lives will be henceforth entwined. Sharing memories and laughter around rehearsal dinner tables, at hotel breakfasts, on errands, doing make up--everywhere and anytime. The past and the future, all in one weekend.
I'm so looking forward to celebrating Robert and Carrie this weekend.
And then less than a week later, the celebration of Christmas. More anticipation building and building as the advent season arrives at it's goal.
Anticipation for me is almost as much fun as the actual event sometimes. To set the stage for wonderful things to happen. To dwell in the possibilities of it all.
One of my favorite authors Emily Dickinson wrote this poem called:

I Dwell in Possibility

I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Superior--for Doors--

Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky--

Of Visitors--the fairest--
For Occupation--This--
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise--

May today find you not only dwelling in possibility - but downright wallowing!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just Shine

My favorite part of the Christmas season is, I believe, the lights. (Lights are very noticeable here right now because this is our fourth day in a row of drizzle and fog in Georgia.) Our Christmas tree is covered in tiny multi-colored and white lights. Across the buffet, entertainment center, fireplace mantle, front door and stair railing, five strings of white lights are entwined in evergreen swags. (Here's where I admit I wanted to not do all the lights this year, but Mike convinced me to - he is SO right some times.)
Like the proverbial "candle in the window", Christmas lights call me to hope. Think about it, most of the lights we decorate with, (leaving off the over-achievers, like Clark Griswold) don't really provide illumination, direction, instruction, or safety like most of the lights in our lives.
They just are.
Once in place, Christmas lights may twinkle, but there isn't great movement. They have one purpose - Shine. We may imbue them with additional purposes - provide joy for the kids, impress our neighbors, put up a brave front, hide confusion and sadness, express our delight and faith. But they really only do one thing - shine.
Sometimes I want to be so many things, to so many people. But maybe what I need to do most of all is just shine. Provide hope, not because of anything I do or am, but because of whose light I carry.
Just shine.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gift Giving is . . .

Saw a recent letter in a newspaper advice column from a woman whose family was mad at her. They were mad because she wouldn't provide them a list of gift ideas for herself. She said that folks just going and buying things you write down on a list, isn't what gift giving is about. And if they couldn't think of her and find some little something they thought she might like, then they didn't know her well enough to be buying a gift for her anyway.
That rings true to me. But it takes time and effort and a winnowing of the list to only include people we want to buy things for.
A few years ago my sibling and parents all realized we were just exchanging restaurant gift cards. Examined, that practice seemed silly. So we stopped. The kids still got a gift of money or a gift card, but for the adults, spending time together seemed better.
As our kids get older, the experience of being together is more the gift to me than the ones wrapped under the tree. A dinner out. An outing. Our one son and his fiancee don't exchange gifts, they come up with something they both want to do and then that is their gift to each other. This year they spent a day at Stone Mountain Christmas.
There are so many ways we can express our feelings for each other, but it's powerful to buy into the suggestions set before us by others. I want to be honest to myself and buy gifts because that's how I want to show love to someone. To be intentional, not just do what I've always done, or feel I should do.
Life, and the Christmas season, is too short to not pay attention.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I LOVE Christmas Letters (and I'll fight you over it!)

Today is the day. As soon as I'm done with this, I'm writing my Christmas Letter. Seriously, was there any doubt in your mind that I'm one of those? That's why working at the newspaper worked so well for me - I want to know everything and then I want everyone I know to know. It's a gift.
And for all the complaints out there - I love getting Christmas letters. This morning I got a card from a friend in Illinois who always does a letter. I got out my glasses, turned on the lamp, and opened her card in great anticipation of hearing about their lives - and there was no letter. I'm still reeling in disappointment. Now that family falls in to the category of people who have the same names as last year (that's all the info I got) and want to just say "Hi". I love those people, but I want to know how things are going. I really do - when I ask, "How are you?" it's honestly a question looking for an answer.
I tried one year to not do a letter, but I found myself writing long messages in EVERY card. Do you know how long that takes? (and how hard it is to write in long-hand anymore?)
We've never lived near family and we've made wonderful friends everywhere we lived. Some of the folks on our list, we've not seen in over twenty years. Much of the staying connected has happened through Christmas letters.
Making connections is work, maintaining them is even more work - and not always appreciated. I wonder if I pay enough attention to the folks in my life that work to keep connections going? Wonder if they feel like giving up because no one notices? Maybe today I'll remember to notice and say, "Thanks".
After I get my letter written.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Scrooge and Denial (not the river)

"You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

Can you imagine how Dickens chuckled when he wrote that line? You don't have to be a writer to know the feeling of having plucked the exactly perfect thing from the universe. I can just see Dickens reading the line over and over to himself. Maybe then reciting it to his wife or one of his children. I know I love repeating the line, "More of gravy than of grave about you," and I didn't write it.
Old Ebenezer Scrooge explains his seeing the ghost of his partner, Jacob Marley, as a bit of indigestion. Scrooge is so set in this world and so lacking in imagination that something wrong in his stomach is the only possible explanation. "More of gravy than of grave about you." I love that (say it out loud and see if it doesn't come out with an English accent and in a lower octave than you regularly speak.)
We are in the season of Wonder, but most times we're not nearly as creative in explaining away the unexplainable as Mr. Dickens. "I'm just so tired." "We've done that so many times." "It's too much trouble." "Do you know how awful the traffic will be?" "I hate crowds." "I'm just so tired." "It's too cold." "No spare change, today."
As an author, Mr. Dickens, had a place to take his readers and so he couldn't allow Scrooge to persuade the ghosts to leave him alone. But I've often wondered why Jacob Marley didn't get visited and told to change his ways before he died?
But maybe he did.
Maybe we all do. Maybe we're all given chances to reach across our indigestion, tiredness, boredom, cynicism and hold Wonder in our hands. But we dismiss it and struggle on.
We struggle on, wondering all the time why God doesn't answer our prayers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Something to put on your Refrigerator

The writing below has hung on my fridge for many, many years. It changed my life and I found myself needing it this morning. I know my carpet is old (threadbare in places) and the furniture is very used and cat scratched and there is so often the temptation to let those things keep me from inviting people over. To worry about what people will think. That is why this list has changed my life - I've worked to not have these same regrets. And see, what people don't realize is it is WORK. It doesn't happen naturally, at least not for me. So, here's an early Christmas gift. Print it and put it on your refrigerator - see if it doesn't change your life, or at least this Christmas season.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.
I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have sat on the lawn and not worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.
I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." There would have been more "I love you's." More "I'm sorry's."
But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it, live it and never give it back. Stop sweating the small stuff.
Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what.
Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

To-do List versus Memory List

So many things swirling around in my head, hard to settle into one to blog about. So, welcome to my brain this morning:
Wedding is less than two weeks away. Which Christmas concert at church do we want to go to? Love chatting on twitter with new friends from the agency. Want to get downstairs and start writing (I left off right before a good scene yesterday). How cool and fun the mall was yesterday. Being backstage for my friend Stephanie's performance on live TV was really interesting. The poem recited before another woman sang was haunting and moving - and she's Irish so there was the whole accent thing. Kids are getting big things you can't wrap, like going to Passion, so is there going to be anything under the tree? Dinner. Laundry. Garland for the front steps. Lizzy's housing at new school. Going to the movie Blind Side Sunday. Rehearsal dinner. Cake for Rehearsal dinner. New Years Day Open House. Christmas card letter. A frame. Pay bills.
It's not so much that I'm stressed - it's just that whirling around of everything in my head. Must be like a kid with ADD. So many distractions - most of them fun and fulfilling. Really two kinds of lists - a To-Do list and a Memory list. Too often my memory list gets pushed aside for my To-Do list.
When Lizzy was little, around kindergarten age, she sometimes had a hard time going to sleep. So I'd sit beside her, scratch her back and recite for her her day. Laughter, running, playing, friends, family. Soon you could see her face relax and see a smile pop up with a funny memory or grow soft with a calming moment from her day. And then she'd be asleep.
Remembering to spend as much time on my Memory list as my To-Do list sounds like a good thing to do today. Sweet dreams tonight, all.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Solid Rock beneath my Feet

This writing journey I'm on changed drastically in the past week. Those of you who know me will be a tad scared to hear that my confidence has grown by leaps and bounds. But before, my confidence came from inside myself and that small, still voice. Now, I know that seemed to most of you like more confidence than a normal person should be allowed. But it grew and developed at a very slow pace. I found a journal from 10 years ago when I ruminate and agonize on calling myself a "writer." This was even after I'd spent years writing and editing for a newspaper. The word held so much meaning for me, to apply it to myself seemed irresponsible and foolish. But after stuttering to get it out for a long time, it finally began to trip off my tongue.
When things still stalled and rejections abounded, my ability to pretend took over. Keep writing, have business cards made up that say I'm an author, talk about writing like it's not a weird thing to spend my life doing, cry alone, complain to my husband, whine on my blog and finally ask God, if it's time to give it up.
This fall, every song on the radio seemed to talk about dreams failing, hopes vanishing and holding my head up anyway. Walking into the library or a bookstore found me swallowing deeply to keep tears from falling in public. I'd exhausted everything I could think of and even had a many published mentor say that to me. That was validation, but it also meant he couldn't think of a next step either.
And then the email from Cari, my agent. Driving was difficult because I felt I was drunk. My mind hasn't worked correctly due to this daze. Knee-buckling gratitude, mixed with delirious exhilaration and more than a tad of disbelief has driven me to distraction.
However, it's also put my feet on stone instead of mud.
Remember the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where in his quest for the Holy Grail he has to take a leap of faith? He has to leap into the abyss and only then will a bridge appear.
I feel as if I've been walking on air for all these years and suddenly solid rock is beneath my feet.
For each of us, it's our own personal journey and if you're still waiting for the solid rock to walk on, know that you only get there if you keep walking.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Gift of Validation

One reason I thought I was supposed to write was because of the things I notice in nature. Like today - the leaves on the bushes in my back yard are such a dark green, they are almost black. So different from the yellowy-green of spring, deep mature green of summer, or the tired, dusty green when fall is just around the corner. Now, those of you up north are wondering why we still have green leaves - well, down here some of the bushes, not just the pine or fir, have green leaves year-round.
Through the years, as I would share my observations about the world around us, I could see people were seeing them for the first time. If that wasn't something for me to share, and of course the outlet I thought of was writing, then why did I notice these things?
So, into the books these descriptions went.
This week, working with someone on my manuscript, Next Stop, Chancey, she said she thought my descriptions of outside settings was wonderful. She actually named some published authors and said mine were better than theirs.
Wow - isn't it amazing what validation will do for you? My confidence in my gift soared. To know the passages that were some of my favorite are thought good by someone with real knowledge of the craft was probably the best gift I'll get this Christmas (except for a daughter-in-law).
Like while walking in mud, to suddenly find solid rock beneath my feet.
I hope I don't pass up the opportunities given me to sincerely validate those around me. Not empty flattery, but true awareness of a gift being used, and made the most of.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Publix Intimidates Me

Publix grocery stores intimidate me. I feel like an employee in their green apron is going to step away from the eggs cartons they're stacking and give me a pop quiz. Or when I ask the guy at the seafood counter for a pound of shrimp, he's going to point at them and ask me to name the body of water they came from. Or how I'm going to cook them, to see if it's acceptable. Even the kids bagging groceries make me feel insecure.
Yet, I've known many folks who work there and they are all nice. And I've never, never been treated badly at Publix. I admit that it's all in my head.
I usually shop at Kroger where I feel at home. Where I think I probably know as much as the folks working there. Again, the Kroger employees have always been knowledgeable and professional - it's all in my head. And, yet, I one time had a friend admit to the same feelings, so I'm not completely alone.
Most people who have preferences around here prefer Publix, because, as their advertising jingle says, "It's where shopping is a pleasure." Good ad, because when I do go into Publix, I feel like it's more fun, than serious.
Now, I can go into the fanciest department store or exclusive food shoppe and be comfortable as can be. So, it's not that kind of intimidation. No, it's something I felt the first times I went grocery shopping after moving here. But I bet the marketers of the two store chains know all about this and do what they do on purpose.
We're not all looking for the same thing or same experience. There are reasons we shop where we shop, eat what we eat, dress how we dress and many times - I don't think we know why. It's just something we feel comfortable with. I need to remember that - I'm too quick to think if someone doesn't do things the way I do them, they are deficient. I'm too quick to think - and judge. Too quick, entirely.
And if you've ever been given a pop quiz at Publix, please let me know. I'm just sure they do that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turn, Turn

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.

I found myself singing this song when I woke up. So why this song? A couple things come to mind.
Lizzy has been accepted at Georgia College and State for the next semester. She worked hard to make West Ga fit for her. Her brother, Ryan, has loved his four years there. My respect for her grew as I watched her turn, turn to discover who she was out there, away from us. What she wanted became clear to her only with the winnowing of external stuff.
As Ryan and Casey make wedding plans they are discovering having it all, comes with strings - and price tags. You have to widen your vision by turning, turning to see the whole picture. And, then, simplify the picture by identifying what's most important to you.
So why do we resist this turning, turning?
Sometimes, I think, it's just so hard to believe there really is a place where we will "come round right". We stop turning because we find a way to accept where we are. And, yet, that's not a bad thing, to be content.
But contentment and settling are two different things. I believe God in us knows where and when we should "come round right" and keeps pushing us to turn, turn until we're there.
"Lord, let me never forget to listen for your voice saying it's time to turn, turn so as to find myself in the place just right."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wrestling that To-Do List to the Ground

How's that To-Do list looking? Tis the season, right? Being stressed and hurried jumps to a new level in December for a lot of us. Especially those with little kids and big expectations.
I realized years ago that the thing that stressed me out the most were those little things I wanted to do, but couldn't seem to make fit in before Dec. 25. Bake a special cookie, decorate the mail box, put up garlands on the front handrails, make a certain craft, and on and on. Those little things which add that finishing touch to the enjoyment of the season. However, until they were done they lurked there on the bottom of my To-Do list. Always there. And those years I didn't get around to them - I lamented that fact on Christmas Day, because then it was too late.
Now, I know I'm the only one who has ever done this - but just in case you're still reading - I fixed this problem.
I set earlier deadlines for those things. The things I just want to do. For example, if the railings don't have garlands by Dec. 15 - then they aren't being done. If that special cookie hasn't been made before the Sunday School party - then they aren't being made. Maybe it's just a way to spread out my stress, but it works for me. Because seriously - I do not want to even be thinking about these little things in the days leading up to Christmas.
Too often I let minor things steal my joy. They aren't unimportant - but they aren't worth as much as I make them out to be sometimes.
So today I'm spending a few moments with my To-Do list and putting it into perspective. After all, who's the boss here anyway?