Thursday, February 24, 2011

today's steam of consciousness

The other day I was listening to an interview with Lambert Wilson on NPR. Who? He's a french actor starring in the film Of Gods and Men. It is inspired by the true and tragic tale of seven French monks in Algeria who were kidnapped and later killed in 1996 during the Algerian Civil War.

In the course of the interview the question arose, "why would [the French] people go to see this film?" Wilson's answer took me a little by surprise. He suggested that there is a yearning in the culture for altruism, and that the lives of monks reflect that quality. This got me to thinking about the serious lack of altruism in our own culture, and the invocation of the notion of sacrifice in the current political debate raging in various (if not all) states, as well as our nation.

I remember learning about altruism in grade school, and that an example of altruism was found in the behavior of a colony of monkeys. Altruism made sense to me then, and is a value I've held consistently ever since. What doesn't make sense to me is the lack of its place, and practice, in our culture. Did it go out the window in the 80's when the tag "me generation" was applied, and entitlement became the plumb line of the culture?

I keep wondering where the "Christian" voices are that insist that God be evident in our pledge of allegiance, and that God Incarnate is synonymous with our national identity. Peculiarly the commandments of Jesus appear absent from behavior and equally absent from the rhetoric. Which is it? Do we proclaim Christ crucified, as Paul writes, or protect the bottom line? The evidence speaks volumes to the  hypocrisy of so many mouthpieces.

In thinking about sacrifice I also got to thinking about how fear seems to rule the lives of so many. I found myself acknowledging that I would rather live a short life free of fear than a long life dominated by it. Fear is such a prison, and yet it seems to drive so, so many, made manifest by the need to exercise power to control or limit the freedom of others. The most recent bizarre example of this from my very own state is proposed legislation to criminalize sharia law, making it a felony to follow that aspect of Islam. Forget that the First Amendment of our Constitution is protects the free exercise of religion.

And among the revived war against women's health and the choices pertaining to health, my very own US Senator is "a cosponsor to the Life at Conception Act. This legislation would declare that the right to life guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution is vested in each human being beginning at the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual comes into being." I love the latter part of this: "or other moment at which an individual comes into being," which betrays the reality that such a determination can't be made. I suspect that such a "declaration" by Congress falls outside its purview, but it will be interesting to see where this goes. Can legislation even make declarations?

So those are my meanderings of the moment. Eventually they may settle into some kind of formed view that I can articulate, but as an introvert that's a bit of a challenge. For now I'm content to raise the questions and ponder the implications that are cast into the domain of public debate. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

creative -- every day?

In an earlier post I shared that I  had gotten wind of, and chose to "participate" in a blog prompt called Creative Every Day. The prompts don't come daily, but every now and then an email comes along that says "Yay for you! Feel free to share!" Well, words to that effect. Each month there is a one-word theme to help focus our creative efforts. February's word is "passion."

This morning one of those friendly emails awaited me at the computer, and I started to laugh. Oh! the desire to be creative! Would that I could be tending that part of me wholeheartedly! And then I had to stop my laughter in its tracks. Picture me slapping my forehead. What was I thinking? I've been creative every day since Christmas!! First there was cross stitch project number one (taking it to be framed this week -- yay!). Then I began cross stitch project number two. Last week there was Gabriel, and now I'm back to CS project number two. Say it with me now, "Duh!"

I guess I'm so accustomed to the dearth of creative efforts that I'd essentially removed that line item from my figurative checklist of soul-satisfying efforts (or non-efforts, since to me, creativity isn't work). I forget that the monthly church newsletter is a joy because it's a creative process (the graphics and the writing). I forget that cooking is about assembling ingredients and producing something that looks, smells, and tastes good. I forget that my mind is constantly generating ideas that can benefit the church, or Pampered Chef, or tending relationships (even if I'm not good at executing those ideas).

Creating, on any front, brings me pleasure. The deepest satisfaction may come from producing something with my hands that has roots in my heart--like Gabriel, cross stitch, or the next project that involves my sewing machine--but all creating is food for my soul and fuel for my day. I may not have a finished product to share on a regular basis, but Houston, we not only have ignition, we have movement! Can I get an AMEN?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

tuesday tidbits

1) Somewhere along the way I started to say "okey dokey!" On another blog a writer referred to the use of the phrase in her household, and how it has morphed to "okey dokey artichokey!" I think that's pretty fab. Do you  have a phrase or saying that might be considered to belong to "the public domain," that you have made your own in such a way?

2) I've got cross stitch fever. I think I spent at least two hours online yesterday scouring the web for wedding-themed patterns. I'd like to do something for Kenneth and Trisha for their first anniversary. There are lots of choices. The hardest part is wanting to choose something that will be pleasing to them without really knowing what their taste is in this area. I think I have opted for something along traditional lines that isn't "overdone." Yes, I could ask them, but I want this to be a surprise.

3) I stayed up until midnight last night working on birth announcement number two. I told you I had the fever!

4) I really need some Pampered Chef orders to put together a small show ($150 in total orders). If I am able to do this then I will get the breast cancer awareness products for free, and they are awesome this year. Let me just say that if you love shoes then there is one product that you will definitely want. There are five products in all, one of which I "won" at Spring Launch earlier this month. Anyway, if you can help, I would be much obliged.

5) Our Christmas tree is still up. It's waiting for me to take down and put away all the ornaments. I haven't been int he mood, so there they hang and there it stands. I was comforted by the confession on facebook last night that another friend just took their tree down.

6) I love puppies. And dogs. Just in case you didn't know. And sheep.

7) We have plumbing issues. Water and other debris is bubbling up through a hole the size of a quarter in the middle of our back yard. I will not panic, I will not panic, I will not panic.

8) Does the wind ever deliver a whiff of something that takes you back immediately to another place (and sometimes another time)? That's been happening a bunch to me lately, and I'm wondering if it's a sign. Of what, I do not know.

9) How did it get to be February 22 already?

10) Crock pots are wonderful things. They can produce things almost as good as a grilled cheese sandwich. Just sayin'.

What's new with you?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Journey On

Some of you know that Ty Herndon is my Country Music heart throb. Ty was a regular on the CM scene ten years ago, and for whatever reason, he sort of faded from this part of the music world after a few years of steady hits. Or at least we didn't hear about him. In recent years he has shifted some of his music focus and made some ripples in the genre of inspirational music. He received a Dove award last year, and a Grammy nomination this year for "Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album." The title cut from his album Journey On has been well reviewed and does, indeed inspire.

Alas, Ty didn't take home the Grammy, but that doesn't change the fact that this song moves me whenever I hear it. May it inspire you on this day of seeking that very thing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

the saturday after

Listen carefully. What do you hear? I'll give you a play by play (sort of). The one face clock here in the office is going "Tock. Tock. Tock." Such a measured, patient sound... Rigel is panting. He does that after pacing relentlessly... I can actually hear myself breathe... And wait! McKinlee is scratching her way into some sort of imagined nest in the carpet beside me...

Those are the sounds of a Saturday morning to myself after a week of icon-writing. Ah... Isn't that bliss?

I really enjoyed Gabriel. We bonded well, in spite of the fact that I messed up royally in a few places and didn't have time to complete a couple of sections or fix the messes. Meh, as my friend The Bug would say. It's all good. He doesn't hold it against me, and I don't either. In fact, thanks to a style commentator on NPR and a comment shared by another painter, I had a flash of penetrating insight.

The gist of the style commentator's remark is that what we wear reflects who we are (in the sense that we choose what we want people to see). That's hardly a new thought, but she stated it in a way that got me thinking anew about what my wardrobe says about me. (We won't linger there!) The comment by my classmate was in regard to how spending time with a work of art gives us deeper and deeper appreciation for what the art communicates. And no matter how you want to spin it, what it communicates depends not on the artist, but on us. Those two things went to work in my mind and what emerged was this: we don't interpret art, art interprets us. With that perspective, my less-than-desired outcome with Gabriel made everything okay. I don't know if any of this makes any sense--I don't want to subject you to the peculiar wanderings of my mind that led to this epiphany--but it served to let me off the hook in terms of aspiring to create an icon that is "just right."

This is one of the wonderful things about art. It is organic, relational and transformative if we allow it to be. All art opens a window into our souls, and if we are likewise open to what it can tell us, it has the power to teach and transform. Then, when we see it with transformed eyes, it continues to reflect back to us what we see and know. With an icon there is an added dimension of holiness whether we apprehend it or not. I know this to be true for one simple reason: my own efforts to guide the paintbrush  in an attempt to write Gabriel's name on the icon were disastrous. Only when I invited Gabriel into the effort did it go well. Just sayin'.

On that note, with thanks to the blessed Teresa (teacher) and Sandra (assistant), and the whole communion of fellow-writers, I offer my icon with humility and love.

Friday, February 18, 2011

friday five: words

At RevGals Jan writes: There is a dramatic and surprising venue for Spiritual Formation/Sunday School classes at my church: Each week a different person teaches about a "word" that expresses his/her passion or interest. The first week someone spoke about "hospitality" with abundant treats on her mother and grandmother's china arrayed on tables. Other words have been "connectivity," "Trinity," "money," and "dreams." No one knows which person will be teaching until the class convenes. I am teaching this Sunday and plan to talk about "stirrings."

For this Friday Five, please list five words that identify your passions, spirituality, and/or life. Describe as much or as little as you wish.

1) creativity
 To create is to sustain my inner life-force. Whether it's through cooking, sewing, needlework, assembling scrapbook pages, planning events or generating ideas, I must create. When I don't, my soul shrivels. 

2) hospitality
Creating space in my/our midst where others may be welcomed and honored is something I learned from my grandmother and my mother before me. It's not just about food (although food never hurts!), it's about invitation and welcome.  A space that comforts, literally and figuratively, is a piece of that, as is a space of peace, and even healing. In our present circumstances we are limited in the hospitality we offer in our home because of our dogs. When we have some funds our first priority is to fence our yard so that they may go out, and others may come in. At that time I suspect that, since my husband and I both love to cook, copious amounts of food for guests will also be involved.

3) light
This is my key spiritual word, my mantra, if you will. Whether it's the inner light, the light of Christ, the lights that dawns from on high, light is my visual, tangible counterpart to hope and grounding.

4) metaphor
some years ago when I was unemployed and seeking work, I tried to reimagine myself as a priest in a non-parish setting, applying my interests, skills, and experience in new contexts. A colleague with whom I did some brainstorming responded to one potential opportunity by stating, " that could be a fascinating option, because you're a good translator."  What she meant was that my gift for using metaphor made it possible for me to recast one idea in terms that could be apprehended by another context. Metaphor works well for me in writing, preaching, creating, counseling,  and so on. It's part of the fabric of who I am and I how I move through life.
 5) justice
The choice of this word may surprise some, because I'm not much of an activist or advocate in realms typically associated with justice. But I have a heart for correcting wrongs, compassion for those who have been wronged, and a desire to see God's righteousness made manifest. It is in that sense that I choose this word.

I'm dashing this morning, heading to my last day of an icon-writing workshop. I'll visit other RevGals later on today when I get home!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

gabriel, day two

Let me just say that in spite of appearances, the dude rocks. The icon I've included here is the closest to the one we are doing (it's amazing how many versions of Gabriel there are). I'm rushing, again, this morning because of an even earlier departure, so don't have time to upload my pictures.

If you recall from previous descriptions, the first painting done is the application of the darkest base coats. The idea is to layer each successive coat, getting lighter as we go (dark to light--very spiritually and theologically on target). Gabriel's wings are black (I know, go figure!), although his wings will remain black, with detailing added to show the feathering. Anyway. while painting his wings yesterday I became aware of the enormity of them, and thought about how powerful they are. That got me thinking in directions I never would have contemplated otherwise, and it was a wonderful journey considering how God empowers us for our own particular journeys. It also brings new meaning to the phrase, "on the wings of angels." Can you hear them beating against the air? Whomp! Whomp! No whispy flapping here. Strong, powerful, more than sufficient to carry us through whatever trial we face. And then, soaring, soaring with ease and gentleness to rest from our labors.

Wish I could go on, but I've got to go! Blessings on the day. I'll carry you with me on Gabriel's wings!

Monday, February 14, 2011

I heart you

It was a great Friday and Saturday in Louisville learning about Pampered Chef's new spring products, receiving fabulous training, and getting motivated to shift some attitude to help me help my business!  And then out of nowhere, BAM! Sunday morning I woke up miserably sick, and slept fourteen+ hours after heading to bed Saturday night. I'm not sure what was wrong, but through the day I lay low, and by bedtime the misery had worn off substantially, although not altogether. What a relief, because....

It's another dash this morning, this time to get downtown to the cathedral for the next installment of Icon Writing! Once again I am honored to serve as chaplain for this week-long adventure. This is my third workshop, and I covet the immersion in holy silence and community as we pray and write with our brushes. The angel Gabriel is this week's icon. I had been hoping for The Good Shepherd (you know, sheep!), but maybe next time. It is all good, and I look forward to learning more from our amazing instructor, Teresa Harrison. It will also be fun to see familiar faces from past workshops, and meet some new friends. Whatever residual crud I carry with me will be helped by the stillness and prayer of the day.

In the meantime, I wish you all a glorious Valentine's Day.  The cards I had hoped to make last week and send out would have said this:
How sweet it is...
to be friends with you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

dashing through the morning

and no time to do justice to today's friday five. I'm heading out the door to Louisville for Pampered Chef's Spring Launch. "What is that," you ask? Twenty-seven new spring products will be revealed, and all sorts of other goodies will be announced. Woot! I love PC events. They inspire, they're fun, and I come home pumped to work my business. Something I REALLY need to do.

So stay tuned. And for those of you who come here who usually play Friday Five, my "who do you love" quick answers are:
1) Mom!
2) Jimmy and Barbara, favorite people in the world in Augusta
3) Phyllis Rayner, early spiritual mentor
4) Carole Fisher, high school teacher
5) Johanna Burbridge, my goddaughter.

These are people that have influenced, mentored and inspired me. And sometimes just loved me in spite of myself.

See ya later in the weekend. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the letter

To the Editor;

I read with interest the two articles addressing the proposed state joint referendum on abortion (Feb. 8, 2011, Abortion rights under fire, by Jeff Teague; Aim is to make constitution neutral on abortion, by Karen Brukardt). With such glaringly different viewpoints on the matter I decided to read the text of the referendum known as SJR127 to determine for myself what it suggests.

To be clear, the referendum does not change abortion law. What it does do is open the door for laws to be repealed or enacted. In a sense it’s akin to removing the safety lock on a gun. The potential for harm is great, and those who advocate protecting a woman’s right to choose feel the gun pointed in the direction of those protections.

The argument advanced by Ms. Brukardt steers away from the emotion surrounding the issue of abortion and the implications of the referendum to focus on the power of the people to shape state law through referendum. It is ironic that the text of SJR127 puts the power right back into the hands of our legislators. In other words, we are to trust the people to undo laws that we entrusted to the legislature who made them in the first place.

There’s a reason that we elect representatives to make our laws. Popular opinion or religious conviction may coincide with what is just for those impacted by our laws. They may also skew our perspectives, not in regard to what we believe to be right, but in how all of us—with differing belief systems, needs and experiences—find those beliefs upheld, needs met, and experiences honored and trusted.  The law seeks to protect all of us from the specific tenets of one part of our society. It is why democracy works as the law of our land, and it is why government may not endorse a particular religious view through its laws, no matter how moral that view may be.

I am not persuaded by Ms. Brukardt’s focus on the process of lawmaking as an argument to support this referendum. The reality is that if laws change to outlaw abortion, women will continue to seek them by means outside the law. Unwanted pregnancies have dotted the human landscape for centuries, and women have found ways to end those pregnancies at great risk to their own lives. Rather than return to back alley terminations of pregnancies, our society is much better served if we seek to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And when a woman’s life is traumatized and damaged by rape or incest, trust and allow her to determine what is best for her with information, wise counsel, and respect for her right to choose her course.  No woman wants an abortion.  That doesn’t change the possibility that choosing that option may be the best course for all concerned.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

an emerging identity

I feel a rant coming on, but I'm trying hard to channel the energy behind it toward something more constructive. It's one thing to be incensed about political agendas, it's another to speak up and be heard. Toward that end, I'm contemplating a letter to the editor in response to two editorials in yesterday's paper. 

There's a bill working its way through our local state government that would change the state constitution. The bill reads: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

The first editorial was written by the state director of Planned Parenthood. The second by a woman affiliated with the state right to life group.  Although I suspected my view would  be in alignment with the Planned Parenthood voice, after reading the piece I reserved judgment to see how the opposing view would argue its case.

As I read I thought to myself, "are they talking about the same legislation?" And I wondered, again, how it is that perspectives fall so far from each other on the continuum of opinion.  That's when I went to the language of the law itself.

The legislation essentially impeaches existing laws that protect a woman's right to address her pregnancy as she determines, and opens the door to prohibition.  We've heard the rhetoric from the right on the national stage: rape victims should no longer be called victims but accusers; insurance plans that cover abortion would no longer be tax deductible, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of policy holders would not be utilizing that "benefit" of the plan. The code behind this piece of law is clear: we're on our way to outlawing abortion.  The pro-life voice had the audacity to claim that this legislation would make the constitution "abortion neutral."  Right. Just like removing safety locks from all guns protects children. 

My hesitancy in putting the proverbial pen to paper stems from not feeling confident about the voice I want to have heard. Having an opinion isn't sufficient cause to write. I feel the need to be persuasive. Should I? It's been a long time since I've written such a letter, though I have composed many in my head.  I wish I wasn't so easily held back. 

It may have something to do with recognizing that as I get older I become increasingly more of an activist. Or, more accurately, an advocate. The other week I preached the directive received from the prophet Micah (6:8) that the first thing God desires is our appetite for justice.  Then, sprinkle that with compassion.  In other words, consider and tend to the world around us as a context for tending to our own needs.  Then, as we walk humbly with God our desire is to do the very thing that God requires.

The best way to become a good advocate is to practice. I guess it's time to take that step, and edge my way toward confidence.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

it is finished!

At last, the finished-before-framing product! I started stitching four days after Christmas, and every evening since then (and some days), I worked on this birth announcement for my firstborn grandson, Luke. It's true that he's now more than three-years old, but you know, so what? I have begun work on the announcement for grandson number two (he's just 15 months), and with a pattern a bit less complex than this one, I should have it finished in a month. That will give me time to work on, and complete (except for the vital statistics) the announcement for grandchild number three before he or she arrives sometime in July.

There are some errors in this work, thanks to not having adequate magnification during the first week of stitching. There were slow downs and redos when the color of the thread just didn't work (the greens of the clown outfit were too close together to show contrast), and for similar reasons of color shading I had to rip out the entire bow and ribbon and redo it so that it would work. Fortunately I learned a long time ago to be patient with sewing/stitching, and it is worth undoing something to get it done to satisfaction. The original pattern also called for the bunny to be in pink, but since this is for a boy I opted to go with purple. Against the bunny's "skin tone" purple also works better. I need to do another rinse on this to get ride of some color-bleed, but I just couldn't wait any longer to show this to you!  The finished size of the pattern, fyi, is 10 1/2 inches by 6 inches.

Anyway, after many references to this project I am happy to reveal it to you. I'll post another picture after it has been framed and before I ship it off. And that actually brings me to a question that I hope you will help me answer. Since the first two announcements are "late," should I wait and send them both together? Or should I go ahead and send this one now, and then send the next one when it is done? It seems to me six of one, blah blah blah, but I'd be happy to hear thoughts about when to send them. I could also deliver them in person in April, when we will see the kids at Ft. Benning.  Whatcha think?

A busy day ahead with lots of cleaning, but having finished Luke's project I am feeling energized and enthused to git 'r dun. 

Have a glorious day. Stay warm and dry. And thanks for stopping by.

Monday, February 07, 2011

yet another effort to emerge from my own chaos

I used to be an organized person. Underneath the surface clutter of my life I think I still am an organized person, but you would not know it by a) looking at my house (it does not meet feng shui standards) and, b) evaluating what I manage to get done in my day-to-day stretching into month-to-month life.

I need a basic life makeover. The structural kind. Not just time management (I've got the theory down pat. Practice, not so much), and not even clutter management (I can still revamp a closet with the best of them when I set out to do that). Zen management. Yeah, that's what I need. Free the chi and let loose. I've intended to write Christmas thank you notes for, well, since Christmas, but I can't manage to clear sufficient surface area at my desk to write. Dining room table? I'm lucky if there's room for my plate without setting it down on the newspaper or a pile of the latest clipped coupons. Aaaaaaaaaaacccccccchhhhhhhh!

I have discovered in the last several years that prompts help. In the scrapbook world these come in the way of challenges: use this color, x number of photos, four words in the title, and so on. It helps! In blogging, having the friday five narrows down the field of possible subjects about which to write. Occasionally I draw on memes posted by others, or, if I've been out with the camera, participate in the monday mosaic of photos.

Thanks to my cross stitch project (it really is almost done!) I have been exercising creative muscle over the last month, but I want to do more. More, I tell you! Another cross stitch project waits in the wings, but my blogging buddy Nancy has provided a pattern for a project I'd really love to do and told me to get busy. Marching orders help, too! Feeding my inner creator is really vital to my well-being, and I am trying to find ways to get on a workable feeding schedule.

And then I came upon a blog that intends to help in that area. It's called Creative Every Day, and it offers a theme for each month as a way to focus creativity. I really like the concept. At the moment, however, the effort to create feels overwhelming. I expect the clutter has something to do with that. That, and the procrastination gene, which has gone into overdrive.

Truth is, I can conquer the clutter. I have just not made it a priority. It's true that each day that dawns comes with its own list of priorities. I have a job to do, and there's always more to do than can be accomplished. And then before I know it it's time to go to the gym, and then, well, look at the time! Lunch, and half the day is gone. Where did it go?

Today, before going to the gym, I will sit down with my calendar and allot my time for the week. I will include a minimum of 30 minutes each day to tend to the clutter in my office. I will reacquaint myself with the Fly Lady (who was a big help last summer).  I will design my own 12-step program to reclaim myself from myself. You heard it here first.

I want you to know that each and every one of you helps. Some of you inspire me in the creative realm, others in the area of following through with intentions. Well-articulated blog posts that make me think with my head or my heart stir me away from stagnancy. Others make me giggle, or outright guffaw. Nothing starts the day as well as GOL--guffawing out loud. You are all part of my friendly, informal support group, and you make my day. So, thank you.You matter.

And now, my daily banana, the first round of fuel reinforcement for my gym workout. Then I'll see if I can find my calendar buried among the clutter on my desk (insert smiley face, winking).

And for a really good laugh, please visit this web site to learn how playful icons and prayers might assist you in your hour of need! But more importantly, have a great Monday, and an even better week. Smooches!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

MLK's dream, recast

Of all the images coming out of Egypt the ones over which I pause are those of protesters stopping in the midst of their activity to pray. Right there in the middle of the street. With police just a few feet away. The commitment and urgency of the movement into which so many have joined comes to a screeching halt so that Allah may be honored. Allahu akbar. God is the greatest.

I find it hard to put into words what stirs in my heart when I see these pictures. Harder still is to translate the tears that spring forth with the picture above. The ring of men encircling those at prayer are Christians.

When I think about the ugly rhetoric of some Christian voices on this side of the pond who want to paint all Muslims with a single terrorist brush, this image defies the fear at the root of those claims. And so much more.

God is the greatest. May our actions reflect that.

photo from Imgur

Friday, February 04, 2011

friday fodder

I'm not playing the usual friday five today. The topic is perks of ministry, and, well, this week I'm not feeling perky about ministry. Some weeks are like that. I DID get the newsletter done, and it's in the mail and will reach people today, so that's a good feeling.

In other news, big news for our family, our daughter and her clan finally have their assignment for the next stint in Travis' career. He winds up his residency in San Antonio this spring and then they will be off to Augusta, stationed at Fort Gordon. Yay! For one thing, they will be much closer to us (a six-hour drive), which means that it will be much easier to get to them, and them to us. AND, they will be near Melrose. With baby number three due in July, we'll actually be able to get there and see him or her as a newborn. Nana is smiling big time!

I'm working toward the fodder. Initially Ashley and company were very excited about the possibility of going to Augusta. It was their first choice. Travis was born there when his dad was stationed at Fort Gordon. His parents love Augusta, and at one time talked about retiring there. Now, it seems, the attractions of family-friendly San Antonio have spoiled the kids a bit, and they're feeling disappointed that Augusta doesn't measure up in that department. Augusta may not be the place where they settle in for the long haul. Then again, once they get there they may discover that it's a great place to raise a family, even without Sea World. The ease with which they can get to the lake, a handful of hours to the ocean, Savannah and Charleston, and a fairly quick ride to Atlanta make Augusta nicely situated.

Daughter-in-law Trisha is from Augusta. A big chunk of her family is there, and as an extended family they are a rockin' party crowd. The annual Gator Bowl is like a national holiday to that clan, and they have multiple Christmas celebrations. I know that being near her family is important to Trisha, and it wouldn't surprise me if she and Kenneth settled, at some point, closer to home.

With those family factors pointing toward Augusta it would make sense that our eyes would be focused on a relocation there at some point as well. We talk about it. We imagine it. But...

Retirement is likely another ten years off, and there's some time to make a decision about whether we do that here, or somewhere else. It's close enough, however, to be thinking about it with some seriousness. And here is where I am seriously torn. On the one hand I want to be near our family, to part of the lives of the kids and grandchildren. I didn't ever get to be Mom, so being Nana is hugely important to me. On the other hand, the idea of moving farther south fills me with loathing. Hot and humid is not my idea of fun. I'm a Yankee. I love the snow. I love the cool summer nights. Weather effects quality of life, and I want life to be full of quality when I'm older and, well, older.

Do I have to make any of these decisions now? No. But it never hurts to lean into the future and lay groundwork for it. We won't ever be in a financial position to have two homes (unless, of course, I win my dream house). Settling somewhere is what we will do. So I take in information, listen to my heart, and find its compass swiveling about. It would be so nice for the future not to look so much like a big question mark.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

dream home, be mine

As dream homes go, I have to say that this one is a winner. It meets lots of my criteria: openness, lots of natural light, great views, not hemmed in by neighboring homes twenty feet away, and, well, who can beat a location like Stowe, Vermont! Stowe is awesome!

When I get reminded by the HGTV newsletter I enter the dream home giveaway sweepstakes twice a day, but since I DO forget on the days that I don't get the newsletter, I'm taking the prayer route for additional help. I want this house. And guess what. You can come visit whenever you want! Both Ken and I would love a space where people could come on retreat, and there's space for that. And we'll feed you! Both of us like to cook, so what could be better?

You don't have to come in the winter (though if you want to ski, I recommend it). Vermont is beautiful any time of year, and there's plenty to do if you want to play tourist. Or sit on the deck and read. Or walk and meditate. Or sit and meditate. Or cook. Or do whatever! I can so picture living in this house. So I'm dreaming, and hoping, and entering sweepstakes, and praying. You are more than welcome to join me.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Barrett, a boy after my heart

I received the following this morning from a friend. I appeal to all people who love dogs, children, have a compassionate heart and maybe a little money, to help.  I have edited this piece just slightly for space.

My name is Tammy Ruck and I am a Nursing Major at Cumberland University. I am reaching out to my fellow students and staff at Cumberland to share my son's story. I have 3 children, but my middle son, Barrett, has some special needs. He is Autistic, has seizures, is a heart patient, has asthma, ADHD and OCD. He is really bright but he has many development delays, physically, emotionally and socially. My husband and I have decided to get Barrett a service dog. A service dog is not covered by medical insurance and costs $20,000 to train over the course of 2 years. The company we have chosen fund raises to cover half of that cost and the family has to fund raise to cover the other half. The family also has to cover their own expenses to get to the training and cover other expenses related to owning a service dog (special ID for dog and handler, vest, leashes, harness, dog crate and veterinary expenses).  We have estimated we will need $12,000 total.

We decided to create a web page telling Barrett's story and asking for help in reaching our goal.  I would appreciate if everyone would just take a moment to read Barrett's story. You won't regret it. He is so inspiring.  I know, in tough times, many people will not be able to donate (especially us students), but if you could share Barrett's story with all your contacts by forwarding along his web address, that would be so helpful.  Barrett's web page has only been operational now for 7 days and just through word of mouth, email and facebook, he has raised over $5000.00. Now we can turn in his application and they can select a service dog who has completed his basic training and begin training him specifically for Barrett's needs.  We have a relatively small window of time to raise the rest of the funds in order for Barrett to get his dog. A service dog will be life-saving and life changing for Barrett. Barrett's story has also caught the attention of Nashville News Channel 5 and they will be at our house Thursday to film a segment about him and his efforts to get his service dog. Be watching for the news clip to get an inside view into Barrett's incredible life.

Thank you for hearing Barrett's story, taking him into your heart, sharing his story with others and helping us reach this goal. With your help, Barrett can learn to be independent and be safe. My family thanks you all so much...from the bottom of Barrett's special little heart. If we go over our goal, our family has decided to get a hold of the company we have chosen and find the closest family to us that is also currently fund raising for an Autism Service Dog and let Barrett surprise them with a check. Please take this journey with our family by following Barrett's progress on his web site. You can feel good knowing that you mattered in the life of a small child and made his life better. Thank you.

Tammy Ruck.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

bathed in light

Maybe it's the unrest in Egypt, a relentless winter, and the diabolic agendas of certain conservative politicians that make it seem as though the world is shaking beneath my feet. Or maybe the world really IS shaking beneath my feet. All I know is that life feels hard right now. Hard as in difficult, and hard as in not soft. There seems to be very little gentleness to be found anywhere.

Except there is. Here is where I found it in recent days.

Two Pampered Chef customers closed their shows yesterday. They didn't get the results they wanted, and I always feel in situations like that that I didn't do enough to coach them and help them. But they thanked me, enthusiastically, and appreciated what I did do to help. (They didn't know I have a  yardstick for measuring how I do my job--they just know what they experience with me). I didn't expect the appreciation, and it felt lovely.

A friend included me in a prayer petition. That may sound mundane, but I assure you that this was not. I have felt so isolated and bereft of friends of late, that this was like manna from heaven.

A blogging friend shared a favorite book with me, and included a packet of coffee in the mailing that contained the book.

I found the courage to speak up and address something that was problematic, and the person with whom I was speaking didn't hang up on me, get mad at me or push back very hard. I felt a little leaf of inner growth shoot forth as a result.

In spite of suffering dreadfully from the goldfish syndrome much too frequently (short attention span and very little memory retention), I have had extended moments of focus and clarity, grasped complex issues and experienced insight. Being fifty-something is not the end of the world.
Ken brought me flowers.

It really is the small gestures that make our hearts bloom. Just like the lilies of the field.

watercolor lily painting by Jane Halliwell Green


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