Wednesday, January 30, 2013

checking in

So, it's been a few days...

We had a wild ride here last night. The most sustained, raucous wind I have ever heard in my life. Rain pelting the side of the house almost vertically. Roaring. A tornado touched down about 9 miles west of us, half a mile from the business of a friend. It then cut a swath heading east-northeast, ripping across sections of roads that are about 4 miles from us. I don't know how far sound travels when a tornado is making it's way across the land, but I swear I heard that "freight train" sound. I think that is what woke me up. That, and the weather alert beeping on my phone from the living room. I noticed that Ken had gotten up, and sure enough, he was dressed and monitoring the reporting on TV out in his office/den. I'm all for a good adventure, but I decided that his vigilance was sufficient for both of us and I headed back to bed. With the dogs. This morning we have an extremely squishy yard (as opposed to really squishy, which it has been all month from beaucoup rain) and standing water in places. Yay! More muddy paw prints on the new floor! Wink.

I've been pinning up a storm on Pinterest since Valentine's Day is on the horizon. I used to make my own cards every year for the dear ones in my life. In recent years that habit has fallen by the wayside for a variety of reasons, but this year--I'm baaacckk! The list of dear folk has also exploded since the arrival of little ones to several of the people on my list. My biggest challenge? Making a decision about a design (or multiple designs, since multiple cards go to the same address in several cases). And then I discover that I don't have the right paper. Sheesh. With all the paper I have in my stash you'd think I could find something. Anyway, I'm having fun.

Too many things are going through my mind about what to do with my life. I met with my career coach last week. It's a bit of a challenge to summarize our time together, although one piece of advice I took away from that meeting was to reinvigorate my network. I'm starting to address that. Like working with a therapist, at this stage of our work together it's pretty much up to me to figure things out and put the pieces together. I get that, I really do, but can I just say that I've worn that groove down to the bone? Still, it's a process, and fresh insights, coupled with paying attention, are revealing some things. I'm listening to what I am resisting, and starting to ask myself different questions. That approach is starting to pay off. The big question still remains: what do I want to do? The short answer continues to be, "I don't know." The longer answer is unfolding a bit. I think.

I don't know if I mentioned that Ken has been dealing with a diabetes flare up. He has a new doctor that he really likes, so he is following her counsel (more or less) with some good results. For one thing he is more committed to eating better and losing weight. That that end (losing weight), space is finally cleared out in his office/den to set the gazelle back up, as well as a weight bench. He's been pretty faithful about getting on the gazelle multiple times a day for a cardiovascular workout. Since early fall he's lost about 25 pounds, so he feels encouraged in this effort. And me? I've actually gotten on the gazelle twice in the last two days. This is significant progress for me since I hate to exercise. I was planning to start walking regularly in this new year, but we've had rain six days out of seven, and I'm not really a fan of walking in the rain. It's never as romantic as those cliches try to make it sound. 

I finished my second book, Brené Brown's I Thought it Was Just Me. In short it's about the epidemic of shame experienced by human beings, and ways to combat and reverse the effects of shame in our lives. I found it to be very enlightening and helpful, including a "light bulb moment" that has helped me ask some different questions of myself related to my vocational journey. If I'd written this post a few days ago I could have told you exactly what that insight is, but in typical intuitive fashion it has been absorbed into the mass of knowledge and wisdom that equates to my internal database.  If it comes back to me, I'll try to remember to mention it. I refer to it here to relate my progress!

We're planning our menu for heavy hors d'oeuvres for the Super Bowl. We don't have a dog in the fight in terms of teams, though we will be cheering for the Ravens. Given that they are the arch enemy of our home team--the Tennessee Titans--this might seem odd, but they represent our conference. And, Michael Oher (The Blind Side) does play for the Ravens, and we are definitely fans of his. So far we expect to graze on chicken satay, grilled kielbasa with mustard dip, buffalo wings, crudités, chips and homemade salsa, and crackers and cheese. Ken will, I'm sure, enjoy a beer. I'll stick to my usual water, and maybe throw in a splash of cranberry to jazz things up a bit.

That more or less brings us up to date. What's been keeping you busy?

Friday, January 18, 2013

friday five: smile, smile, smile!

For this week's ff Jan writes: what makes you smile? Remembering that Meister Eckhart said that if you pray "thank you" that that is enough of a prayer, share with us five things, memories, or activities that bring you smiles and gratitude.

Too many good memories from which to choose, so...

Very simply, after days and days of rain, we have sunshine today! Big ol' smile!

I got a lot done last night around the house. We've been doing a little remodeling, and the remnants are still present just about everywhere (we are still working on the punch list). I unpacked boxes of books, put things away that had taken over surface areas, cleaned the kitchen, and so on. It's almost a whole new house this morning!

I have some shipping supplies left over from a time when I had an online craft business. Thistle Farms (I live about 30 miles from its location) has just let me know that they would be glad to have them. I'm freeing up even more space in my house and doing a good deed in the process. Yippee!!

I tried online shipping last night for the first time, and am thrilled not to have to make a trip to the post office, and I saved money (you pay less, which I didn't know).

Spent an hour and a half on the phone the other day with my best friend from seminary. Tonic for my soul, it was. It had been too long since we had talked, and the joy of that exchange is inspiring me to get on the phone with my friends more often.

A bonus, "feel good" story to share. The mother of my phone conversation friend died a few years ago, and Carolyn shared with me that her mom's last words, surrounded by her family, were, "my cup runneth over." Apparently this was a popular phrase with Carolyn's mom, so much so that the letters MCRO were embroidered on a pillow for her. That story elicits a spontaneous smile when I think about it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

swimming in the dark

Last Friday Ken and I had a date day. We took advantage of a gift card and had lunch at Olive Garden before heading to an early matinee to see Zero Dark Thirty. We found our seats in plenty of time to get a good start on the popcorn, and settled in for the previews of coming attractions.

Generally I anticipate a couple of what I call "shoot 'em up" trailers, and a film heavily dosed with computer generated imagery, with perhaps a drama or comedy or two for balance and good measure. On this occasion, with the exception of a dramatic biography of Jackie Robinson, every trailer previewed stories that included violence, abuses of power, excessive use of weapons, vengeance, and the domination over or destruction of one party at the hand of another.

How can we not draw the inescapable conclusion that we live, and move, and have our being deep in the stench of violence? The darkness of the trailers--and you can interpret my choice of that word in any  number of ways--invited me to look from another angle at the conversation raging about gun violence in our society. What I saw, in a succession of vignettes, was that any means seemed justified to accomplish a desired end, and the end (see the list in the paragraph above) is where the problem lies.

I have no idea how many scripts cross the desks of movie producers, but I suspect that those chosen to reach the screen represent disproportionately the genres from which to choose. There are many good stories waiting to be told and brought to life that would impact and, perhaps, change lives. There is history to be reviewed, music to illuminate our souls, and laughter to carry us away from the anxieties and concerns of our own lives. What we apparently pay good money to see, however, is the dark and tawdry stuff that is best viewed in darkness among the likely presence of strangers. Darkness translates as dollars, and Hollywood appears eager to give us that for which we are so very willing to pay.

We are a culture in trouble, sad and lonely and indulging in feeding the ugly side of our  natures. When what we actually hunger for and need most is light and life, we gravitate toward death. I don't believe this makes us trigger happy. I do think it gives room to the minds of those who might otherwise feel constrained to stretch toward and tap into a well of permission to "go there." We blame the media for sensationalizing the horror and fueling our voyeuristic inclinations. They do so because we lap it up and beg for more. We are all culpable, even if we are not responsible.

Again I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare, penned as the voice of the Prince of Verona lamenting the deaths of Romeo, Juliet, Tibalt, Mercutio and Paris as he cries out, "All are punished!" The word "punished" may catch our attention, but the solution is to be found among "all." Somehow when we clamor for rights--whether for ourselves or for others--we must also speak to its twin, responsibility. Individualism is trumping the collective good over and over again, shredding the very fabric that holds us together as a society and a nation. 

I started this post with this thought in mind: it's no wonder that violence is so prevalent when so much of our world is saturated with darkness. Yes, guns are part of the problem. The greater problem is that we have become so detached from one another--for whatever reason--that we don't value who we are as a whole, blunting our ability to value each. This generalized statement overshadows the good work being done by many to shine light into darkness, to do right for and by others, and there are certainly a multitude of those good souls among us. Our voice, however, lacks strength, and our actions are too often obscured.

In spite of seeing with new eyes the forces at work around us, and lamenting the steepness of the road that leads away from the pit into which we are sliding, I do believe there is hope.  I am grateful that the faith community of my early life taught and reflected the belief that  God's light shines within each and every one of us. Not only does that mean that I am in the presence of the divine at all times because I carry it within me, it means, as well, that I am able to share it at all times and in all places.  As a popular adage circulating these days states: a candle doesn't loose its light when it lights another candle. 

So, light-bearers, let's be about letting light shine through and from us. Better yet, let's keep igniting the light within others so that the collective brilliance of God may overcome the darkness that surrounds us. It is a daily effort, to be sure, but one that helps us find our way, together.

Photo from Zero Dark Thirty chosen with intent. Feel free to ponder it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

love through light

It is my firm belief that the most intimate relationship we have in our life is the one we hold with God. Whether or not we can ever allow ourselves to embrace the fullness of the theology that we are loved beyond measure by him, the hope that God's love is constant and pervasive can get us through our bleakest hours, and persist when doubt rears its head. 

Oddly enough (or maybe not), I can immerse myself in relationship with the godhead far more easily than a relationship with Jesus. I suspect this has something to do with my understanding of salvation history, whose sweep over time and space can appear to gobble up the finite human life and times of Jesus and move on. History provides a context and a landscape for appreciating the full impact of what we know as the incarnation. Of late, that has been on my mind.

In a recent email from my friend from Newtown, she relates that the massacre there "tested the power and joy of the Nativity." In her words, the presence in their life of their first grandchild made the Incarnation palpable. Perhaps I missed it, caught up as the media was with reporting the story through almost every human lens, but it seems that the only theological reflection that was offered for the masses at the time hit on the theme of theodicy--the tension between the existence of evil with an omnipotent God. The questions of faith that were raised swirled around "how could God let this happen?" and the desperate need to draw on one's faith to be sustained in the face of what was inexplicable. I suspect there was some good preaching here and there that made the connection between the incarnation and surviving life's traumas, but I also know that by the time we found ourselves at the manger many people were saturated with grief and numbed by the horror that we couldn't escape. Joy felt out of place at the very time we perhaps needed to embrace it most fully.

As is natural and necessary, most of us have returned to the daily grind and demands of our particular lives, and the power and joy of the Nativity won't have an opportunity to penetrate the particular darkness that the massacre at Sandy Hook bestowed. That is why I am so grateful for Carolyn's words and the testimony it reveals. I have been given an opportunity to turn back for another look, to scrape away the scabs that have already formed and let the light into the residual darkness. My compassion, empathy and prayers will forever be present for the families and the community so devastated by that December Friday. For myself, I am burrowing deeply into that marvelous intersection between God and humanity. I have an immediate context and a new canvas for attempting to understand the very power to which my friend refers, and to taste the joy that is its promise. It isn't easy. It is laced with pain and vulnerability. And it is in that place that I can experience Mary as she succumbs to the event that will change her world, and then transform ours. Her pain ushered a life into the world, and her love made her vulnerable to all that would come by way of that life. Scripture describes her heart as being pierced, and now Newtown has pierced ours also. It can only be pierced because love and joy are already there, and perhaps the recognition of that reality is what we need to remind ourselves that no matter the season, we are Easter people. 

I am reminded of the words of an Easter hymn, "love is come again, like wheat that springeth green."  Grief is born of love, and through grief we find our way to resurrection. Whether through a first grandchild or the birth of an idea whose time has come, love trumps death because love creates and perpetuates. I think it is that aspect of the Incarnation that gets overlooked when we dwell on the miracle of a manger birth. It is all of a piece, but when we get love right we are then equipped for death in a way that, eventually, makes it bearable. It is my prayer that I may do my part to make love palpable, that joy will persist. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013


My friend The Bug is cherished by me for a whole bunch of reasons, but one of them is that she comes up with great blog posts to steal. Here’s the latest—not just as a post, but as a resource for moving into the new year with some intention. She is making her list as a way to mark a birthday. I’ll steal that idea, too.  Remember, Bug, imitation is the nicest form of flattery!  

I turn 56 this year, so here is the first half of a list of 56 ways to mark the occasion (which will arrive in May, should anyone want to take notice).  I’ll make an effort to update the list monthly. That should probably be #2.

1.        Review this list every Saturday & plan which items I can do that week.
2.       Update this list each month so that the full complement of 56 items is on record by my birthday.
3.       See at least one of the movies nominated for an Academy Award. For 2013. Before the award ceremony.
4.       Bake bread at least once a month. Rye will do nicely, at least to start.
5.       Resume cross-stitching. Starting with Jude’s birth announcement (now that he’s 18-months old!)
6.       Write thank you notes in a timely manner (i.e. within a week after opening a gift or benefitting from someone’s kindness)
7.       Read more often. At least one book a month. Start by finishing Brené Brown’s I Thought it was just Me (but it wasn’t).
8.       Learn a new digital scrapbook technique each month.
9.       Send someone a postcard each week (use that opportunity listed as #1 above to fish out and address the postcard).
10.    Keep “date night” at least once a month. We can be such slugs about our social life—once a month might be perceived as a marathon!
11.      Teach McKinlee something new.
12.     Learn how to cook quinoa so that I want to eat it.
13.     Eat more fruit.
14.    Eat more vegetables.
15.     Call my brothers just to say hello.
16.    Call my nephew to let him know he matters to me. A lot.
17.     Call other people who matter to me.
18.    Finish an unfinished craft project
19.    Finish another unfinished craft project.
20.   Mail the turtle shell to my sister-in-law. The one she found when she visited in 2009.
21.     Play the piano at least once a week (yes, keep track!)
22.     Write a letter to the editor.
23.    See The Bug and Dr. M. in person!

Beware: monthly status reports may appear here!

You are more than welcome to share things you’d like to do (or not do) in the days to come. Lists love company!


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