Wednesday, September 29, 2010


As September wears down here's a poem my dad remembers learning in school. It was written by Helen Hunt Jackson who lived from 1830-1885. How wonderful that September hasn't changed in all that time. Enjoy reading a poem over a hundred years old this morning.
THE golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bearing down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook.

From dewey lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

'T is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.
Notice the last two couplets (or whatever they're called) change the tone of the poem. Many places on the internet they are left out completely. Doesn't it make you wonder what happened on that "One day of one September"?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Disturbing Sells

"Disturbing" sells today. In movies, TV, and - my area of interest - books. Problem is - I don't really care to disturb. I keep thinking maybe I should want to disturb, but then I just keep thinking. And thinking.
And I figured out that what I want to do is have a person say, "Yes, that's right. That is right!" when they read my writing. I don't want to reach down and touch those parts of our psyche that we usually keep hidden. That probably needs to be done at times and I've found myself at times drawn to books or shows that do that. What I want to reach in a reader is the part that isn't hidden because it might embarrass us, but because it's so simple it gets pushed to the back of our mind.
Like a book from childhood you see in a secondhand book store that causes you to smile. You pick it up and run your hand across the cover and then with love you reverently open the pages. Or the way you breath deep when you smell cookies or daffodils or rain. The way our nose crinkles and our eyes squint as we grin watching puppies play. How our shoulders relax when we step out into spring sunshine. The way our eyes fill with tears when we hear the Star Spangled Banner at a ballgame.
Those are the places I want to take a reader. And if that doesn't sell, then it doesn't sell.
But it should.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Willing to Fail?

Willingness. Just plain old being willing has been overlooked by me, I think.
A couple weeks ago I was freaking out about taking on publicity for the women's retreat at our church. It's a large church and my freak out was spurred by the realization that there were probably a couple hundred folks in the church who did publicity for a living and might actually know how to do this job I'd just said I'd do. However, when I expressed this to folks I was told, "Yeah, but they didn't come forward to do it." In other words, they weren't willing. I received many kudos for being willing and as I've muddled my way through the job it's awesome how folks step up to help you if you just display your willingness.
Willingness to learn, to look stupid, to take instruction, to fail. There you go. Willingness to fail.
Willingness to fail - and all that goes with failure. Because being willing to step out and try new things has to include the possibility of failure.
Personally, I think we have to take a stick and knock some of the stuffing out of that monster called "Failure". Yet, the only way to do that is to experience it. To get up close to it, smell it's breath, feel it's slimy skin, hear it's deafening roar - and then watch it fade away in our rearview mirror. Because failure is just a moment in time and it will fade away.
So, how familiar are you with failure? Is it too scary to even think about? Or do you toast it as it goes by because it means you were willing?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Are You Expecting?

Expecting can be messy. Not specifically that kind of expecting. Expectations of those around me; my children, my spouse, my friends. Expectations of events. Expectations of myself. And even expectations of God. All can get kind of messy.
But then, expecting also makes life easier. By expecting what others will do or what will happen I don't really have to think about it. But then, isn't that what sometimes causes the mess?
I've always had the thought that if I don't expect too much then I can't be disappointed. The trick in that is to not become cynical or get cheated. One must begin with lofty enough expectations that allow for everything to come together and allow excellence, yet be ready to accept less. You think that sentence was confusing? Try living it.
How do we expect great things from our loved ones and ourselves and yet not constantly be frustrated when those expectations are not met? Not met due to the persons lack of expectations in that direction or just plain old failure.
How do we expect great things from God and then not feel disappointed in the great Creator of the Universe when our expectations aren't met?
Yet in my experience to never expect is not only impossible, but it doesn't make for much happiness.
And then I'm left with this thing I believe to the core of my being: I trust in a God who has no limitations, no lack of creativity, believes in and loves human beings completely, and encourages me to expect, have faith, dream and live this gift of a life as passionately as possible.
He tells me he can handle my disappointments, cause he can turn them into gold.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Name that Forest

This has been one of those weeks where I just don't look too far ahead or wander out of my little box much. Monday was spent in airports getting home from Wisconsin and tomorrow I head off on a one night retreat in the mountains. I'm the speaker for the retreat so my head has been stuck in my computer every day. I'm also doing the publicity for my own church's Spring Retreat and things are due this week. Again - more computer time.
But my head keeps popping up for glimpses of next week. Next week when normalcy returns. When I can put up the fall decorations and get back to writing on the third Chancey book. When the little household duties like vacuuming, cleaning the refrigerator, and dusting all actually hold some appeal. Yes, appeal.
To a point, for me making a home has been about making it for my family. But this time alone is stirring in me the knowledge that the home is also for me. The little touches and comforts and organization ideas might've felt good for my kids and Mike, but they started from my own desires.
It's like not seeing the trees for the forest. Being alone is causing me to take a new look at the individual trees that make up my forest.
A forest called, "My Life."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Weakness = Strengths?

There's a thought going round that we focus too much on our weaknesses, which takes time and energy away from furthering our strengths. I understand the point, but I don't agree. More to my way of thinking is the belief that one's greatest weakness is also their greatest strength. In my story, which was published in the compilation book, Heart of Mother, I write of how Mama knew me and my brothers and told us about ourselves. Through playing cards, she pointed out my desire to win fast. You can read that story by clicking here
My three kids have weaknesses- (sorry for the sudden shock). One hates making decisions, one is an instant expert, and one has never met a good change. But those are also their strengths. Not making decisions quickly means all sides are examined and many options usually come to light. Being an instant expert, means being confident and ready to lead. Disliking change makes that one laid back, easy going and comfortable to be around. Who better than parents to tell their kids who they are - good and bad.
Me being aware of my desire to win fast had helped me know myself. The strength in that flaw? I'm a mover. When something is wrong or messed up, I gotta get involved. Often I've lamented that I hate to find a problem, because I can't rest until it's fixed.
So knowing our strenths AND weaknesses makes for better knowing ourselves. I heard this thought one time and liked it so much it still hangs on my refrigerator door.
"Walk in your strengths, manage your weaknesses."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tickled at Milwaukee Airport

You know those times you look ahead on your calendar and even from a distance you can see a period which will be discombobulating? That's how August and the first half of September has been looking to me since early summer.
Move Lizzy from the house into her apartment at college, Mike getting settled in Milwaukee and getting used to him coming and going, a week in Tennessee, trip to Orlando, then a week at the Beach, followed by this past weekend's trip to Milwaukee. All of that is why a sign at the Milwaukee Airport tickled me.
Going through security yesterday morning I grabbed my shoes and purse out of the gray bin and turned to see the tables meant for putting everything back together. Above the tables was a sign saying, "Recombobulation Area".
Isn't that great? Most of you know that "Discombobulation" is one of my favorite words - now I have it's cousin - Recombobulation.
So, I made it thru August and Mid-September and now it's time for some recombobulating. Are you good at recombobulating? Putting everything back together? Regaining a routine? I'm thinking I'm better at the dis- than the re-. With recombobulating, I just want it to happen. There's not the deadlines - that hurtling towards discombobulating events which require action on my part. I'm good at that.
However, at this point - I'm tired and things are unfocused and just lying there waiting for someone to do something - like the stack of mail, the empty cupboards, the dust. And, as they would say in Hollywood, what's my motivation?
So here I am in the Recombobulation Area and I'm not feeling it.
About the only thing I'm interested in catching up on are my shows on the DVR, but you know - I gotta start somewhere. . .

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Settling for Good Enough?

"Do your best", "put your best foot forward", "don't settle" are things I've heard - and said. Yet have you ever thought about this? If there is anything left to learn then your current effort can not be the "best".
You must "settle" at some point. At some point the manuscript has to be sent in, the resume mailed, the send button pushed. But to settle doesn't set well with what the world says.
"You can never be too skinny or too rich." And so we have anorexia and Bernie Madoff. Getting a 4.0 isn't good enough - weight those grades. And then there is giving 110%.
But what if for one day - I just did what I already know. If I didn't worry about also learning to knit, but just enjoyed crocheting? If I didn't look for a new recipe, but made something familiar? If I treated folks the way I know to treat them and didn't worry about what "more" I could do?
This train of thought came because of a Bible verse I found today, which I'd never noticed before.
"Only let us live up to what we have already attained." (Phillipians 3:16)
Now I know the Bible points to being "people of excellence" and "striving", but this little, non-heralded verse grabbed me this morning. It speaks of contentment and of the truth that most of us know what we need to know - we just need to do it.
And sometimes that's the bigger problem.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lengthening Shadows

Sitting in my rocking chair looking out the front windows, I notice the maple across the street is beginning to turn. Before long it will be orangy-yellow. The tall walnut beside our house will be pure gold, towering over our roof. A jewel-toned tapestry is what the oak will remind me of and the half dozen crepe myrtles will turn peachy-red. And then every single leaf will fall to the ground. Every one. Hard to imagine.
When we lived in Jacksonville, Florida folks took their vacations in the fall to go to Tennessee and "see the leaves turn". Since I'd grown up in Tennessee, I thought that was funny. Until I spent a couple falls in Florida. Then I found myself seeking out roads lined with sumac - basically a spindly weed, but which turns scarlet red in the fall. That was the height of my autumnal glory for a few years.
I love summer, but when the leaves begin to look tired and the flowers struggle to appear happy, I'm ready for everything to have a rest. For the trees to go out in a blaze of glory. For the zinnas and begonias to be put out of their leggy misery. For the sky to deepen to match the deep blue of September's birth stone. All signs it is time to say goodbye to summer.
Sometimes in the early darkening of the afternoons, I remember those days when I gathered my little ones inside as the leaves fell. Remember the laughter and red cheeks around the table, eager to share supper with mom and dad, brother and sister. Tales of their days at school or play winding down in cozy beds sheltered from brisk winds.
Lengthening shadows seem to lengthen my memories.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"NO" is a Baaaad word. Really?

It’s so much easier to tell my kids “no”, when “yes” isn’t a possibility. Being responsible and not giving them too much is being a good parent. It’s just easier if there’s no way I can give them too much. When we lived in Illinois, we lived out in the country because we didn’t expect the huge difference in cost of housing between central Florida and Chicagoland. It was a wonderful setting, a couple acres in a hundred-year-old farm house. But even that cost a lot and being so far out in the country meant you didn’t go shopping until you had to. And eating out? We just didn’t do it. Mike and I were raised in modest households so we really didn’t think much about it.
When we moved to Georgia we found another wonderful place to live – but it was a culture shock. Little House on the Prairie to Beverly Hills 90210. Kids working on family farms and doing chores versus kids having computers in their rooms and getting new cars for their birthday. Learning that eating out isn’t a treat, but a way of life.
It’s easy for me to say those wealthy folks on TV - or around the corner - shouldn’t give their kids so much, but it’s harder for me to do. If I have it, or can get it, I want my children to have it. But when is too much, literally, too much? It takes backbone and clear thinking to deny my kids.
But wait, parenting isn’t about raising kids. I’m in the business of raising adults.
Okay – got it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Trains and Alligators

So the conference in Orlando wrapped up last week and we headed up the coast to St. Augustine Beach for a week of vacation. We took some back roads, found a manatee watching spot on a sand road between the ocean and the inter-coastal waters - no manatee though. Found out you can't just drive through Cape Canaveral, but eventually made it to the condo. Spent a week with our toes in the sand and face to the wind & sun. Then yesterday headed up through South Georgia in search of trains and thus found ourselves at The Folkston Funnel.
That's where all the trains headed into the state of Florida come down to just two tracks and folks come from near and far to watch them pass. You think I'm joking - we stopped by to sit on the specially made platform alongside the tracks which is outfitted with wireless and a train radio so those on the platform can hear all the communication between the trains coming and the dispatchers. We met a gentleman on his way to a Florida vacation from Scranton, Pa. It was noon and he'd been there since early morning. He was headed off to find some lunch when another young man sitting there told us it was going to be a busy lunch hour. His computer program told him we had trains coming from both directions. "Looks like we're going to get a meet," he foretold. A "meet" is when trains meet and you get to see both at one time - but you'd figured that out, hadn't you?
Well, that let out going to get lunch. We took lots of pictures and met some nice folks. We eventually did make it to the McDonalds drive-thru and then ate our cheeseburgers back out at the track. Mike still hasn't quit grinning.
Folkston, Ga is also the "Gateway to the Okefenokee Swamp" and you can tell they have a hard time in their museum choosing trains or alligators for their tee shirts, videos, and logos.
Trains and Alligators all in one little Georgia town. Ain't this a great country?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Found a Typo in the Bible - who do I see about this?

I found a typo in the Bible and it carried over into that well-known song by the Byrds.
Here it is in Ecclesiastes 3:1
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
Do you see it? A time, A season. That's just not right. So, wonder who I need to see about getting this fixed. I'll be getting a petition up on facebook right away, so stay tuned.
Okay, okay - I know it's not a typo. It's not even wrong, but doing some thinking brought to mind that we may need to rethink that "A".
We have gardenia bushes in our yard and everyone knows gardenias bloom in early summer. Hence all the June weddings they've appeared in for decades. However, ours also has another blooming period at the end of summer. Of course, the second blooming is smaller, shorter-lived, not near as showy and really can't be counted on. You wouldn't plan your wedding flowers on it. And besides, who would carry gardenias in an August wedding? It's just not the right season.
See -THE right season. But what if there is more than A season? A time? What if we bloom more than once? What if we try to love the second (or third, or fourth) blooming as much as that first showy one?
If someone who had never seen or smelled a gardenia came into our backyard in August and picked that creamy, multi-petaled flower and then smelled that amazing sweetness - they would be enthralled. They'd have no clue it wasn't the first bloom, the big bloom, the meant-to-be bloom.
Now, can I remember that as I begin my 49th year? Can I not fall into the worlds trap of "it's all downhill from here?" Can I enjoy and celebrate blooming now as much as when I was 25?
Besides - Wouldn't "A time for everything" include all the blooming I can do?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thinking versus Worrying

From behind low clouds the sun breaks through and swaying sea oats are touched with gold. Stronger than usual waves jump and leap due to a faraway storm and spray reaches higher and higher in the early morning sky. Playing on the raucous waves, sunshine rides and falls and offers itself back to its source.
I find the ocean mesmerizing, but then I find a mountain stream mesmerizing, ditto for a lake; fall leaves moving in a breeze; a pasture buzzing with insects and summer sun; black bark in stark relief against winter snow; or my own backyard. I’m just one of those folks that likes to sit and stare. It’s a gift, I tell you!
Recently I joked with a friend that I have a great ability to do nothing. She, a very busy and accomplished person, said, “Yes, you do and I want to be able to do that.” I laughed, but she didn’t.
Could it really be a gift to be able to sit and enjoy my surroundings? It feels like a gift very often. Like God creates tableaus, sets scenes in place purely for my enjoyment. But what about the days I don’t appreciate the flowers lining the sidewalk or the clouds formations above or the way the rain refreshes our tired lawn? Does God lament all the trouble he went to that no one noticed? Does God look for folks that will sit and stare at his creations?
This trip I've had some difficulty letting go and just sitting and staring without worrying on something. Sitting and staring and thinking is totally different than worrying. When I'm thinking my surroundings add fuel, inspiration, impetus. When I worry, my surroundings fade to distraction. But each wave, each leap of spray, each swaying sea oat is in collusion with God to make me let go of any worries, fears, and doubts.
God sure does go to a lot of trouble to get my attention, doesn't he?