Tuesday, January 31, 2012

He quit

My husband quit his job.

He's not getting another job.

He is retiring.

I was afraid of this.  I knew it was coming.  I didn't want it to come.  This is a change.  It's a scary change.  And, now it is here.  He called me on the phone while I was picking up my rental car at Chicago Midway airport.  Maybe it was easier to tell me when he wasn't looking me in the eye.  I don't think so.  Timing is everything.

My husband doesn't have to go to work, EVER!  (I'm going to have to blog about this again.  just from my new pov.)

I'm getting used to the idea of this thing called retirement.  I'm starting to wrap my head around what this is going to mean for me, for him, for our family.  Some parts of it, I believe, will be great.  My husband will have more time to work on his dissertation.  Maybe he will finally FINISH it.  On the flip side of this, we will now be paying for the classes.  These are not cheap.  But, maybe he'll FINISH it.  Then he will be able to start teaching classes.  See, I'm already planning ways to get him back to work.  And he hasn't had his last day of work, yet.  It's coming, but it hasn't come yet.  (february 24th)

It's hard for me to imagine what retirement will look like.  Of course, I'll still be getting up in the morning and going to work.  I hope I don't resent him too much.  I hope I don't accidentally jostle him awake while I'm getting up and getting ready to go to work.  But, you never know what will happen.  Maybe he will be home when I get home from work?  What am I saying?  Of course he'll be home.  I have a feeling he's going to be home A LOT.  I wonder what it will be like to talk to someone a soon as I get home from work?  I'm not expecting dinner to be ready.  He cannot cook.  Hmm, but then again, I could really use to lose a few pounds.  Maybe I should encourage some cooking.  I can't decide.  Do you think he will do the laundry?  He never has.  Will we have enough money?  This is my biggest fear.  I know my husband is a smart man.  (did I tell you he is working on his PhD?)  I know he wouldn't have made this move if we couldn't afford it.  I guess this means we are officially old.  I've always thought I was old, but now I have a retired husband to prove it.

This week I had to take all my fears to the terminal "what if."  What if my husband quits his job?  (play Law and Order "dunk dunk")  I can tell you, the world doesn't end.  The sun comes up the next morning.  I didn't actually throw up.  And, my husband told me he feels a huge weight has been lifted from his shoulders and he is happier than he has been in a very long time.

I think we are going to be ok. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

You may be right... (I may be crazy)

This is what I should have said.  This is what I should always say.  This is how you deal with a "right-fighter."

My dad is a right-fighter.  He is always right.  No matter what the facts say.  He is always right.  I have just returned from visiting my mother and father.  It could have gone better.  I knew there was going to be trouble even before I set out on the visit.  Mom was very excited and happy I was coming for a visit, Dad was nonplussed.  Nothing.  No real reaction of gladness or dismay.  Nothing.  It didn't matter.  I was going to visit anyway.  I hadn't seen my parents in a year.  A year is a long time when you have aging parents.  I was going to visit.

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived.  Both my mom and my dad acted happy to see me.  I brought my dad a small cooler full of salad greens and cooking greens.  I took my mom for a pampering visit at a local spa.  We visited.  We chatted.  We talked about their future, in a very limited way.  They don't like to discuss the "what we will do if... dad dies... or, mom dies."  That conversation was short and cut off abruptly.  In fact, it was dealt with, at least on my dad's part, with sarcasm and glib retorts.  Fine.  We won't talk about that.  Fine.

It looked as if it was going to be a completely pleasant weekend.  Thursday night was lovely.  Friday, all day, pleasant.  Saturday, half the day at the spa and the second half involved the arrival of my brother (not the feuding brother) and his daughter, fun filled.  Sunday was to be church and leaving for the airport.  It looked as if I would make it out of the weekend unscathed.  But, NO.  I had to have a cup of coffee before taking my shower and dressing for church Sunday morning.  Then it began.  A discussion of my shortcomings as a daughter.  How I am not doing what it takes to reconcile my brother (the feuding brother) and my father.  How I am siding with my brother and have NEVER asked my father about his side of the issue.  (even though I reminded him I had talked both he and my mom about this several times.  even though I reminded him, he had asked me not to speak to my brother about my mother or himself.)  I was at fault.  AND, now I was told, the feud between these two was going to effect my standing in the family.  I had not done all I could to repair this rift.  I needed to do what I could to force my brother to repent.  I needed to do what I could to force my brother to eat whatever worms were necessary.  And, I need to apply some kind of pressure to my brother this situation or I will find MYSELF on the outside of a relationship with my father.

It was fascinating  to watch my father "right-fight" me.  He would bring up an issue he was angry about.  He would explain how I didn't know anything about his point of view.  I only knew my brother's point of view.  If I reminded him of a conversation we HAD had about it, the conversation would immediately shift to another issue he was angry about.  This went around and around and around.  There was so much bobbing and weaving, I was getting dizzy.  Thank goodness I could remove myself from this fight with the need to take a shower and get dressed for church.  (btw, the sermon was about constructive and destructive criticism.  it stung a bit.  I had quite a few critical thoughts swimming around in my head.)

The only way for this three-year feud to end is for my brother and myself to apologize to my dad and agree that we have been completely at fault and my dad has been completely right.  My dad is right.  My dad needs to be right.  No matter what the facts say, my dad is right and I am wrong.  This is how you win at right-fighting.  It's so easy...  All you have to say is, "You may be right."

I hope, one day soon, my brother can say these words to my father because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, my father can NEVER say these words.  It's hard to imagine I am being asked to choose between my brother and my father, by my father.  It's not a choice I want to make.  It's not a choice I ever thought I'd be asked to make.  I feel like I've been sucker-punched.  Or, maybe I'm just crazy.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I plan & God laughs

Things are changing around me.  I know life is constantly changing.  Nothing stays the same.  You cannot step into the same river twice.  "Change brings opportunity."  "We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance."  "If we don't change, we don't grow.  If we don't grow, we aren't really living."  "It's the most unhappy people who fear change."  "Just when I think I have learned to live life, it changes."  "Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine."

Thank you, old Native American, Nido Qubein, Harrison Ford, Gail Sheehy, Mignon McLaughlin, Hugh Prathner, and Robert C. Gallagher, for words of wisdom on change.

I especially enjoyed the one reminding me "It is the most unhappy people who fear change."  Wow.  Thanks for that!  I admit it.  I'm a bit scared of the changes happening in my life right now.  Remember me, I'm the girl who likes a plan.  Let me tell you, the plan has all gone to hell.  I know, I know...Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht (man plans, God laughs).  I trust God.  I know God has the real plan for my life.  Today, everything seems just out of my grasp.  I can't put my fingers on the changes going on around me.  I'm not in control.  I've always known I'm not in control, but sometimes it feels like you have some control and then you start to believe you are in control and this is what has, kinda, happened to me in a lot of parts of my life.

This is over for me.  I have no control.  My son, although still living at home, is taking a class.  In the past, this has not worked well for him, but he's giving it another try.  I have to trust he will put forth effort this time.  Trust.  My husband is making decisions for his future.  These plans include me, but he's in control of when he decides to do whatever it is he decides to do, not me.  There will be change.  It is inevitable.  I need to trust my husband to do the right thing.  I need to trust my son to do the right thing.

What is the Right Thing?  I'll tell you what I think the right thing is.  The right thing is what I want them to do.  However, and this is hard to type, the right thing may NOT be the thing I want them to do.  This is a scary thought.  This is where trust comes in.  I may think the right thing for my son is to work hard in his class and get an A.  I'm encouraging him to go to class and do the work, but I can't do it for him.  I wish I could, but I can't.  I may think the right thing for my husband to do is to stay right where he is in his employment.  Tough it out.  However, my husband's plan for his future may be the best thing.  I have to trust his good sense and knowledge of himself and the love he has for his family and keeping us secure.  Trust.

Finally, I need to trust I am in God's will and in the middle of his plan.  Yep, I said finally.  Why this comes to me at last instead of first is part of my problem.  For some reason, I have the idea that I am NOT in the middle of God's plan if I'm not in complete obedience to God.  Well, I'm not completely obedient.  I haven't been to church the past two Sundays.  I don't read my bible every day.  I don't confess my sins every day.  I cuss.  I break almost all the Commandments.  I know God's love for me is big, but so are consequences of disobedience.  I'm consequence phobic.  I don't mind doing the crime, but I don't want to do the time.  (Baretta, old tv show)  Here's the other problem I have with trusting God's plan.  Sometimes God's plan isn't even CLOSE to what I would like.  Sometimes it's 180 degrees out.  This scares me, too.  Trust. 

There is no way around trust.  I have to trust people other than myself.  I have to trust my husband.  I have to trust my son.  I have to trust God.  I guess I'm lucky, even though I don't feel lucky just now.  All the people I am being put in the position to trust, love me.  They all love me a LOT.  And, I love them.  Now all I have to do is act like I love them and show them I trust them. 

I trust you to make the best decision for our family, honey.

I trust you to do well and make an effort, sweetie.

I trust you, God.  I really do.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Confessions of a hater

I think it's time I started working on a problem I have.  I have a tendency to exhibit some self-loathing.  I sometime have hateful thoughts about myself.  Sometimes I actually say these thoughts out loud.  I am not proud of this.  I really want to stop it.  I know annoys my husband.  These thoughts come to me as soon as the alarm sounds on work days.  I'm able to push them out of my head while I'm at work, most of the time.  Maybe this is a form of compartmentalization on my part.  However, if I make an error, the negative thoughts come rushing back to my mind.  On the weekends I struggle with negative thoughts if I am not completing all the tasks I have set for myself.  The thoughts that swim around my head are always the same ones.  The list is short, but brutal. 
  • I hate myself
  • I am a failure
  • I'm no good
  • I don't deserve...(this one can be very difficult)
  • Everybody hates me
  • I'm ugly 
When I started this blog I was hoping it would help me combat some of this self-loathing.  I even started a Happy Thoughts page to turn the negative thoughts into positive thoughts.  So far, not so good.  I'm going to do a re-start on this project of treating myself better. 

I've always wondered how those people with such incredibly high self esteem, yet are average or even marginal at whatever they do,  manage it.  Do they feel great about themselves all the time?  Do they have moments when they question their sense of self worth?  Do they have moments when they say to themselves, "I'm a failure."  I know I don't always feel these feelings of self-hatred.  Sometimes I feel just fine.  Sometimes I'm proud of myself.  It's those moments of self-loathing I want to eliminate.   

I found a list of things to do to work on this problem.  (dontcha just love the internet?)
  • I'm going to start treating myself the way I treat my friends.  I forgive their shortcomings.  I need to forgive my own shortcomings.
  • I need to interrupt the negative self-talk.  I need to stop.  Breath.  Maybe turn myself around.  Anything to break the pattern.
  • I'm going to talk back to myself.  Especially if I say something negative about myself out loud.  If I say, "I'm a failure" I'll reply to myself, "I'm pretty darn good."
  • I need to exaggerate my worthiness.  Maybe I need to take 5 minutes out of my day to praise myself.
  • I'm debating whether or not I need to search for the reason I have this self-loathing.  I don't know if it is worth the effort.  The list says to write down reasons, but I think I know.  I'm in the business of being forgiving, not looking to blame.
  • Remind myself why this negative self-talk is bad for me.
I saw a cartoon in the New Yorker.  A woman was holding a lamp.  She says to her friend, "It's so me, but I hate myself."  It's good to know I'm not alone.

Monday, January 23, 2012


"There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world." Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the quote I've chosen to focus on in the year 2012.  The DUTY of being happy.  This is certainly a different way of thinking about happiness.  Being happy as a duty.  As a result of being happy we benefit the world.  This is a huge concept.  It certainly takes the focus off of me, doesn't it.  I always thought that being happier would benefit ME.  I would have a better life.  I would be a more positive person.  I would move through this life with a more pleasant countenance.  I never thought of it as a duty.  I never thought of my happiness being a benefit to the world.

When I first read this quote it gave me pause.  The idea of being happy to benefit others went against my idea of what happiness was.  The first thing I thought was there couldn't be any truth to this statement.  How could my happiness benefit anyone else?  I first thought of the converse of this statement.  Can my unhappiness harm the world?  The only thing that came to mind to disprove this theory was the old adage. "Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the person being resented isn't the person you come into contact on a day to day basis.  In fact, you are most likely to avoid the person you have resentments against.  And they are likely to avoid you, as well.  The people exposed to my unpleasant attitude of unhappiness haven't done anything at all to deserve being in contact with it.

I thought about people I meet who seem happy.  People who smile more than they don't smile.  These people have the ability to draw a smile out of me.  It may only last a moment, but the smile comes to my face.  I've been practicing smiling this year.  I have a little smiley face stuck to my computer monitor.  I take a few minutes out of each day, look at the smiley face and smile.  I typically start feeling a happier feeling.  Even though I'm just smiling and I've NOTHING to smile about, I feel happy.  In fact, I often remember a joke or have a recollection of a pleasant experience while I'm smiling.  I've come to the conclusion that I can trick myself into thinking I'm happy, just by smiling. 

One more thing happens while practicing this endeavor.  I enjoy practicing this smiling exercise when someone comes into my office.  I try to notice if my smiling face causes the visitor to smile, as well.  It's especially fun to see someone who was previously not smiling develop a smile on their face.  Maybe this is considered the benefit?  Maybe by encouraging another human being to smile I am benefiting that person.

This is as far as I've gotten in the experience of my happiness benefiting the world.  I'll start in my little office in a small liberal arts college in the mid-Atlantic.  I'll start smiling at a lot of people I don't feel I have very much in common with.  I'll continue the practice of putting a smile on my face.  Even though this exercise doesn't come naturally to me, I believe it is worth the effort.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Can I call myself a writer?

Look to the right.  In the margin.  See my profile?  It says "I've been blogging for a year. I'm not a writer, but I think I have something to say."  Well, I guess I consider myself a writer now.  What am I thinking?  I'm entering a writing contest being hosted by the college.  I read the requirements for the contest.  The requirements opened the contest to current students and alumni.  I was disappointed.  I wanted to enter, but I am neither a current student, nor an alum.  I crafted an email requesting permission to enter the contest as a staff member of the college.  The faculty member and judge wrote back and said, "please submit an entry.  and please talk this contest up to other staff members."  The "Assault of Laughter" contest is being hosted by the Mark Twain Lecture series.  My entry needs to be a humorous piece and it needs to be 1000 to 2000 words.  I'm thinking of fleshing out my post, In Facebook, veritas.  I'm sure I won't win, but... I certainly won't win if I don't try.  I'm stretching myself some more.  It's a little scary.  I'll keep you posted. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Poison ivy

Fear took me over and stirred my thoughts
Mixing the compost of dark thoughts through my fertile mind
My imagination grew a vine of dread with thick strong stems
I try to pull them out
But the root stayed firmly stuck, in my brain

Foreboding a future I cannot foresee or control
Roots of fear work their way down my throat
I choke on them as they work their way inward
I try to change the taste from bile to honey by thinking sweet thoughts
But the taste is bitter and lingers on my tongue

Panic fills me when I contemplate life's transitions
Employment ends, classes begin, life twists life turns
I feel the roots work their way to my belly, acid flows
It bubbles, it gurgles and roils.  Pink potion please
But I vomit the vitriol of fear

Cold sweat covers my skin as I wipe puke from my lips
I try to wash it away and rinse sour spit from my mouth
I glimpse myself in the mirror I see the terror in my eyes
Spiral tendrils twisting through my hair and fingers sprouting leaves
The vine of dread bloomed full in me

Praying the break of dawn with sunshine rays to kill this creeper in me
Shift the shadows, shine the light
See the forest for the trees, all is darkest before dawn
Truth lies in axioms of the ages
I can brave another day

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Normal has returned

The final project in the restoration of my home was completed today.  It feels good to have the walls and ceilings and windows sound again.  It's good to have this all behind me.  I still have to finish putting a few of the odds and ends back into place.   But, for all intents and purposes, normal has returned to my house.  This experiences held so many lessons for me.  There is nothing like having your home, your sanctuary, invaded.  It teaches you about yourself and what you can do.

I've learned I have a strength I wasn't sure I possessed.  I'm strong enough to carry five gallon buckets of water from the attic to the bathroom all night long.  I'm strong enough to deal with insurance companies and mortgage companies who don't want to give me my money.  I'm strong enough to push my son to take action when he is paralyzed with fear.  I know I'm not the person saying quit, but the person saying persevere.  It's good to know.

I learned I'm the person who trusts my husband.  I don't have to double check his work.  I know he will do whatever is necessary to get the job done.  He spent hours (I'm not kidding or exaggerating in regard to this) on the phone with the mortgage company.  They did not want to give us our insurance money.  I think my husband learned to have confidence in me, too.

I learned I can make decisions, and then be satisfied with my decisions.  I know this may not sound like much, but for me it is.  I have a huge fear of not being to make decisions in my life.  I observed my mom and her mother, my grandmother, have difficulty making decisions in their lives.  I've had a few experiences in my life with buyer's remorse and it scared me.  I don't want to be the person that cannot make up her mind.  This experience offered opportunity after opportunity to make decisions and choices.  I rose to the challenge.  I made decision after decision without hesitation.  There are some things I'm happier with than others, but, you know what, it doesn't matter to me.  I'm not fretting over the roof being a bit lighter gray than I'd hoped.  I'm not upset the window is a half an inch taller than it should have been.  It's done.  The fact of the matter is, nobody but me will ever know the difference.

We've still got a few trees leaning this way and that way.  They will be taken care of in due time.  Normal has returned.  Life is good.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

You can do ANYTHING

I wonder if most SNL viewers thought this sketch was as funny as I thought it was?  I know I am no longer the demographic SNL seeks, but, in my old age, I have discovered the joy of DVRing shows I cannot stay up late enough to watch. While I was skimming through with my Sunday morning coffee, I ran across this gem. Thank you, thank you, thank you SNL for portraying exactly what I'm thinking about regarding this very subject.  YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, and you don't even have to try very hard.

"No one has ever been honest with me about how mediocre I am."
"What if someone were to be honest with you?"
"I would immediately cry."
"And that's accepted now."

 SNL, You Can Do ANYTHING sketch.

Since I watched this sketch Sunday morning, I've been thinking about this generation so much. I'm still laughing about it, but there is a part of me that cannot help but feel sad about it. This sketch depicts young adults with no idea of what excellence is or the desire to work towards it. I see a lot of young people in leadership positions proclaiming "good enough" to the tasks they have been sent out to accomplish. Good enough.

The phrase "you can do anything" used to be a phrase of encouragement. It used to mean being born an American gave you the opportunity to pursue whatever your heart desired. This was the land of opportunity. One could "pull oneself up by one's bootstraps."

Now, "you can do anything" just means you are great if you "take a stab" at something. There is no need to excel or win or be the best. In fact, we've raised a couple generations of children without winners and losers. We didn't want to hurt their self esteem. What we did was kill their drive.

I'm still laughing at the sketch and at the people I know that are JUST LIKE the people in the sketch. I hope the target audience of SNL will see themselves as portrayed here. And WAKE UP! And realize it takes hard work and effort to succeed. Not just 1% inspiration and 99% "getting your name out there."

Friday, January 13, 2012


Which is the predator?
Don't be fooled by their cuteness.  Or lack thereof.  Looks can be deceiving.  Have a good weekend.


Killer tomato By JessicaRaeRobeson

Thursday, January 12, 2012

In Facebook, veritas

Veritas.  Truth.  And then there is facebook.

We all know the Latin phrase, in vino veritas or in wine, there is truth.  There is nothing like a couple glasses of wine to loosen the tongue and reveal real feelings.  This holiday season, I discovered, in facebook, veritas.

It amazes me to read the fb posts of the people who have declared themselves to be my friend on facebook.  I wonder if they think about the people reading their status updates when they post them.  One of my favorite things about reading facebook statuses, especially from young people (and by young people, I mean people younger than me, so that is most of the people on fb) is the obvious disregard for their privacy and then the fury resulting from other people knowing what they posted on fb.

Please enjoy this example.  I noticed an invitation being passed around on fb for a holiday party.  I'm guessing the people hosting the party were too lazy to send individual invitations.  Instead they tagged a few of their friends in the status update mentioning the party.  Here is a news flash.  EVERYONE (of your friends, or even friends of friends, even EVERYONE, depending on your privacy setting) can see your fb status.  Even the people (friends) you don't want to invite to your party.  Oh yeah, AND, when you respond to a fb invitation to a party, EVERYONE can see where you are going to be at a certain date and time.  And, Oh Yeah, if the party invitee THEN tells someone else they will attend their party instead of the party first accepted and then blow off the first accepted party EVERYONE knows this, as well.  Let the fb fury begin.  It's high school all over again.

Please understand this is not the end of the trouble truth in fb can cause.  When the party goers are at the party, NOTHING is more fun than taking pictures.  Oh yes, the pictures.  And what good are pictures if you can't post them on fb for EVERYONE to see.  The pictures are taken, posted and tagged quicker than you can say "Bob's your uncle."  Please remember, I'm a woman of a certain age, and yet, I know what happens on the internet.  These pictures are there forever.  And, btw, that facebook status you posted calling someone a "sociopath" and then get nervous about the posting and delete it.  Have you never heard of SCREEN SHOT?  There are no secrets on the internet.  Once it's on fb or your blog or Google+, whatever, it is there forever.  Whether you like it or not.

Truth, whether you want to tell it or hear it or read it, is on facebook.  Oh Emily Post, where are you?  There is a desperate need for an etiquette app for our iPhones.  Or, maybe, Mr. Zuckerberg, we can add a privacy alert for stupid postings.  Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I grew up in Italy

Every morning I post a quotation about "being happy" as my facebook status on my Happy Girl page --->  Btw, if you click the Like button you can like my fan page and see my daily quote.

This morning I posted this quote by Bertrand Russell; "Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy."  This quote brought my thoughts back to living in Italy.  I was so happy there.

I moved to Italy in April of 1984.  I had been married for 20 months.  My husband had been out to sea for 10 of those 20 months.  Before I married my husband, I lived with my parents.  I didn't go away to college.  I did go to college and I graduated, but I lived at home, with my parents, while I attended college.  I moved out and was on my own for three years after I graduated, but I lived close to my parents and visited often.  Now you have the Reader's Digest condensed version of my life before I moved to Italy.

Moving to Italy was the most exciting thing I had ever done in my life.  I was so excited.  I had traveled to Europe at other times, but I'd never LIVED outside of the US and I'd mostly spent my life, thus far, in Illinois.  I had not lived a very exciting life.  But all that was going to change.  I was going to live in Italy.

Let me tell you, Bertrand Russell is correct, Italy can make the gloomiest person happy.  I lived in Naples, Italy.  As far a places to live in Italy, Naples is not considered the choicest of cities.  Too bad for those that think this way.  I loved it.  The first night I spent on Italian soil gave me the experience of 30 to 40 tremors (little earthquakes).  I spent most of the night sitting on the curb outside my hotel room, in my pajamas, with the other new arrivals.  Welcome to Italy.  I didn't care.  I loved it.

My husband had to go to work immediately upon arrival, so finding an apartment fell to me.  I didn't have a job, I didn't speak or read the language, but I had time.  I couldn't wait.  I found a friend (we weren't friends yet, but we came to be life-long friends) to take me around and show me the different areas of the city.  After a couple weeks of looking and learning the lay of the land I found an apartment.  I negotiated the rent, in Italian, and signed the lease, written in Italian, and paid in Lire (this was prior to the EU).  Our apartment was in Arco Felice near Pozzuoli.  I loved it.  I Google Earthed our old apartment.  It's still there, but the area around it looks quite different.

This was just the beginning of my life in Italy.  I woke up happy every day I was there.  Every day there was the adventure of communicating with people.  Every day there was the adventure of discovering a new place to visit.  I immersed myself in the culture.  I shopped in the markets.  I used public transportation.  I visited the coffee shop every morning and practiced my language.  I loved it.

I grew into the person I am today because I lived in Italy at this very formative time of my life.  I had no contact with my parents or old friends.  There was no phone in my apartment.  Al Gore had not invented the internet yet.  Steve Jobs was still building computers in his garage.  I had to get out there and just Do It.  I had to be brave and overcome my shyness and PARTICIPATE in life.  I learned I could make mistakes and be ok.  I could make incredibly embarrassing mistakes in language and customs and not die of embarrassment.  (remind me to tell you about ordering a plate of policemen for dinner, some time)  I was 27 years old and I was making decisions and choices in my life without having to get confirmation from a parent or a friend or ANYONE.  My husband was working very hard at a challenging time for our country and needed to be able to trust me to take care of our home and take care of myself.  He didn't have time to coddle me and I didn't wish he didn't have to go to work, EVER, because it was his job that was providing this wonderful opportunity.

I agree with Bertrand Russell, if you can't be happy when you are in Italy, then there is just no way to make you happy.  Because even the gloomiest of people should be able to find la dolce vita in Italy.  If you find yourself feeling gloomy, grab your first love and rush to Italy in May.  You will find the happiness you seek.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fear Not or Fear the Lord?

I think all the church bloggers out there will agree, the bible is one confusing book.  Where should I start?  I know, let's start with the fear of the Lord.  Don't think, for a minute, this will be an exhaustive study on fearing God, but it will be a start.

I've mentioned I've been doing a study on angels these past few weeks.  It's interesting.  I don't think my salvation hinges on what I know about angels, but I am learning more about God by studying this part of his creation.  One thing I've noticed is the people in the bible that get to see angels are described as having a fear of the Lord.  I, for one, have never seen an angel.  I began to think about why I'd never seen an angel.  I listened to the members of my small bible study group discuss their angel experiences.  One of the guys had had, what seemed to me, to be an authentic angel encounter.  It was an amazing story.  I can't remember exactly where he said he was in the world, but it was in Southeast Asia, in the area of Cambodia or Laos.  He was a missionary serving in this part of the world.  Part of his job involved taking pictures.  At the time, he didn't consider himself an accomplished photographer, so he was willing to accept any advice tossed his way.  On this particular occasion, he met a stranger who said he was a photographer, too.  My friend from the small group bible study, Steve, said he spent all day with this fellow.  He said this guy was amazing.  He knew so much about photography and was excellent at teaching.  The images Steve produced that day were stunning.  He wanted to thank the guy for all his help, but when he went to invite him out to dinner, the guy was gone.  Simply nowhere to be found.  And, no one had seen anyone resembling his description in the area.  This makes you say, "hmmm," if nothing else.

Let me tell you a bit about Steve.  Steve is a God fearing man.  He believed God called him to mission in the jungles of Cambodia.  He left his job and went.  He was obedient.

What does it mean to be God fearing?  Does it mean to respect God?  I hope it means more than that.  I respect my boss, because he's my boss.  However, I lie to my boss.  I cheat my boss out of time.  I say crappy things about my boss behind his back.  I don't like going out to lunch with my boss and making small talk because he is bad at it and I don't like talking about work on my lunch hour.  (I am getting off-track)

I don't want to just respect God.  I want to love him.  I want to WANT to do what he wants me to do because I love him.  Not because I'm afraid of him.  I know the bible says I'm his child because I believe in his son Jesus.  But, I don't want to take advantage of God's love like my son takes advantage of my love.  I've been taught once you belong to God you always belong to God, but I'm not completely sure.  I want to be serious about my relationship with God.  I'm done fooling around and living on God's good graces.

I think in order to have an understanding of God and his nature, I need to spend some time studying about him and what he says about his people and this world I live in and the people I've chosen to involve myself, also known as relationships with human beings.  I think in order to have a loving and intimate relationship with God I need to spend time talking to him and being quiet enough to allow him to speak back to me, also known as prayer and meditation.  I think, between these two actions I can combine the fear not and fear the Lord ends of the relationship spectrum into a healthy relationship with God. 

I know this is not all I need to do to understand God, but I think it will help me become the God fearing woman I would like to be.  And, maybe I'll be able to see an angel. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom... Proverbs 9:10

Monday, January 9, 2012


When one wants to become good at something, one is encouraged to practice.  Right?  I've mentioned that to become proficient at something you have to spend 10,000 hours doing it.

So, is it contrived to blog often?  If you are a blogger and you want to become good at blogging or even if you don't want to become good at blogging, you just want to improve your writing, you write.  If you want to write poetry, is it contrived to write a poem every day?  If you want to be a wonderful chef, is it contrived to cook every day?  If you want to be a wonderful actor or lawyer, is it contrived to tell lies every day?  (just kidding, not really, yes I am, no I'm not.)

There seems to be a trend of thinking out there amongst the younger folks, that one is BORN being talented in some area or another.  I'm guessing, and I could be wrong, but I don't think so, this trend of thinking comes from observing teen pop stars like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift and (from the olden days) Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.  There is a trend of thinking that believes these folks were born talented and luckily, became RICH and FAMOUS.  And, the thinking continues, if it happened to these folks, it could happen to me, as well.  I mean, aren't I talented?  My high-school art teacher said I showed some talent.  And, I saved all the pictures I drew in high school and they must be worth hundreds of dollars now.  And, I play the guitar some and, even if I don't play every day, I'm still as good as any rock star and I deserve to be rich and famous, too.  I think there may be a disconnect with the fact that these LUCKY pop stars didn't graduate from high school and spent ALL their time singing or dancing or both and there was a lot of hard work involved and there were parents giving up their time and energy, as well.  But, ... who's thinking about that.

Practicing is thought of as contrived.  I guess the words or the music or the art or the cooking or the arguing is supposed to flow through a person organically.  Anything of any worth or value comes out of the person without rehearsal.  If the music or the art or the cooking or the arguing has been practiced or rehearsed, it is contrived.  In my point of view, this is just being lazy.

Practicing, especially when you don't want to do it, is what makes you proficient at whatever it is you want to do well.  It not only gives you the opportunity to do your thing 10,000 times, it teaches you to have the discipline to keep working at whatever it is you want to do, even when it becomes tough to do.

If I want to be a better writer, I need to write every day.  Even when I have a tough time thinking of a topic to write about.  Even when the topic is something that isn't so much fun to write about.  If I want to become a better writer, I need to write.

Friday, January 6, 2012

An angel colors my hair

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.  Hebrews 13:2

I've been studying angels.  It is an interesting and enlightening subject.  Guardian angels, angelic hosts, warrior angels, strangers as angels, there are a LOT of angels.  I think my hairdresser is an angel.  If she's not an angel, she is the next best thing to an angel.

The day before yesterday (Wednesday) I had to have a root canal procedure.  It was a BIG root canal.  Four roots.  An hour and a half in the chair not counting the time it took to become numb with whatever numbing stuff they use these days.  I also had a hair appointment scheduled two hours after the root canal.  My hope was I would be able to get my hair appointment and get colored and cut before the Novocaine wore off.  Unfortunately, this was not to be.  Instead, my hairdresser said I could come in the next day for cut and highlights.  I was grateful.  So, instead of getting my hair done, I went home and made dinner for my family before the Novocaine wore off.  Good.  I then swallowed the maximum amount of Tylenol allowed and crawled in bed.

When I arrived at my appointment yesterday the shop was dark and empty.  I was sure I had screwed up.  I remembered this day was Thursday.  My hairdresser closes her shop on Thursdays.  As long as I've been going to her, the shop has been closed on Thursdays.  I guess when it's a week with a holiday on Monday and you're talking on the phone while driving your car just after you have finished spending two hours in a dentist chair having him scrape and poke and drill and generally mess around with the inside of your mouth, you can forget what day it is.  And, I did just that.  I forgot this day was Thursday.  I forgot.

The art gallery next door to the salon was open and an artist was sitting at a desk.  She said, in her exotic Portuguese accent, the salon had been closed all day.  I knew, just at that moment, I had misunderstood the time and day of my appointment.  Darn.

Just then, my hairdresser stepped through the door.  She had come into her shop just to do my hair.  And not only did she come in just to do my hair, but she brought me a sweatshirt to wear under the smock because she knew it would be cold in the shop.  The shop had been closed all day with the thermostat scaled back to 58 degrees.  She is an angel.  She opened her shop, just for me and thought of my comfort.  She is definitely an angel.

We chatted while she foiled my hair and we waited and we drank wine and she washed and she cut and she styled my hair.  All during the time it took to cover all my gray and make me feel pretty again, I kept thinking, "she did this all for me."  I can't explain how special it made me feel.  It was such a gift.  During our chat she asked if I ever wrote about her in my blog.  I said I thought I had once, a while ago, but I wasn't sure.  I want to be sure next time she asks if I ever write about her in my blog.  I'll be able to tell her, YES.  I wrote about you and I wrote that I believe you are an angel.  I pray for God to bless you, Bren, and send his angels to gather around you and protect you from every bad thing.

If you ever find yourself in the mid-Atlantic and desire to meet the very best hairdresser and colorist, go to the Salon and meet Bren.  She's an angel.  :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What do you do when you see the train wreck coming?

What do you do?

I've read in the Bible that God has gifted his believers with spiritual gifts.  There are a few places where this is mentioned, but for sake of brevity, let's focus on just 1 Corinthians 12.  In this passage there is a list of spiritual gifts:  administration, apostle, discernment, faith, healing, helps, knowledge, miracles, prophecy, teaching, tongues interpretation and wisdom.

This is quite a list.  And there are a few things on the list I have never seen manifested in any of the church people I've come into contact with in my short (read - 54 years) life.  I would love to have run into a real healer.  I see the healers on tv and, well..., I just don't believe it.  I want to have faith, but I cannot muster it up for the guy with the giant comb-over or whoever else is charging big money for the healings.

It seems to me most people who believe in the gifts of the spirit and most people who believe they possess one or more of these gifts are fairly "out there" about them.  I can't tell you how many people I've met who have been gifted by teaching or knowledge or administration or discernment or faith.   Yep, they are out there.  I'm glad they know their gifts and I'm glad they are proud of them.  I'm also glad they are willing to use them.  Hopefully they will use them to serve others and not themselves.  I can always hope.

I've never been proud or happy about the spiritual gift I believe I have.  It scares me.  When I've shared it, people don't care much for me.  I was thinking about this while I was away from church and prior to returning to an organized church.  I decided, I'm not going to share my spiritual gift with anyone in the church.  While pondering this decision I spent time l discovering what happened to other people gifted similarly.

Isaiah:  suffered martyrdom by being sawn in two.
Jeremiah:  suffered martyrdom by stoning
Ezekiel:  suffered martyrdom in the land of the Chaldeans
Daniel:  Saved from martyrdom in a lion's den by angels
Micah:  suffered martyrdom in Jehoram
Amos:  tortured by Amaziah and then martyred
Johan:  remember being in the belly of a giant fish, yeah, he lived
Nahum:  died in peace (yay)
Habakkuk:  died two years before Israel was released from Babylonian captivity
Zephaniah:  I didn't discover how he died
Haggai:  ditto
Malachi:  died young
Nathan:  died old, but pissed off David regarding his infidelity with Bathsheba, so I'll bet his life wasn't so much fun after that.
There are more, but the bottom line is this.  Most people didn't like what they had to say.

Yep, these were the prophets.  It seems, most people do not want to hear what the prophets have to say.  Even if what they have to say is, "Hey, stop what you are doing.  There is a train coming.  Hey, you are going to get hit by a train."

I've thought, for quite a while, that my spiritual gift is prophecy.  Not the kind that knows what the lottery numbers are (darn it).  Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe it's just the kind of prophecy that mom's have.  I don't think it gives me the right to say anything I want.  I don't really know how to explain it.  I've discovered when I share my thoughts about God stuff in God centered activities, it isn't always well received.  (even when the result is exactly as I predicted)  As I write this, I see how strange this sounds.  As I find myself back in church and moving closer to God and spending more time with God, the visions the desire to share my thoughts with others is returning, as well.  I don't like this.

Thanks for letting me share this dilemma with you.  I welcome all criticism and correction on this.  I'm open to your opinions.  :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Making friends

Am I a good friend?  I sit with my coffee cup warming my hands and wonder if I am a good friend to  the people in my life.  My struggle is with being myself to those around me and wanting to be liked.  How are the two held in balance?  I have no advice for myself. 

I remember the golden rule.  Be kind.  Treat others as you would like to be treated.  People like to be around cheerful people.  What if I'm not cheerful this day.  Am I fake if I put on a happy face?  Maybe I should warn my friends, "I'm sad today."  Then watch them back away.

A smile is contagious.  Are tears contagious, too?  What about truth?  Do these pants look good on me?  Or is saying nothing at all the better choice.  "Words fitly spoken are like apples of gold in pitchers of silver."  This is what the plaque over the buffet in the dining room said.  Are the fit words flattery or truth or... what? 
Am I a good friend?  I've lost some friends this past year.  I haven't been able to be who they wished me to be.  I didn't measure up.  On a good day I'll tell myself we just weren't a good fit.  On a different day I'll blame them for their selfishness.  On any other day I'll tell myself I failed.  What makes a friend?  Acceptance?  Appreciation?  Similar interests?

My coffee is cold now.  I haven't found an answer. 

I will continue to be the best me I can be and we will see if others are drawn to me.  It's all I can do.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012, the secret to living well

I was hoping to blog about my New Year's resolutions and changes I want to make in my behaviors, etc.  Instead, I'm going to write about the lessons I learned from falling in the shower this morning while getting ready to return to work after my 10-day break.

First of all, I heard this truth quite a few years ago.  Here goes, "The secret to living well into your old age is, Don't Fall Down."

This is the truth, people.  Don't fall down.  If you fall when you are a young person, it's annoying.  When you fall, as an older person, it is devastating.  Luckily, I didn't hurt myself too bad in this particular fall.  I'm not going to kid myself.  I'm going to be feeling aches and pains from this slip and fall for quite a while.  As I sit here in this cold room I can feel my lower back seizing up.  I can feel my left wrist beginning to hurt.  (and I don't really remember what I did to my wrist.  I guess I tried to catch myself.  hilarious.)  And, my butt hurts.  (tmi?)

What have I learned from this experience?  I mean, what's the point of surviving a near-tragic accident if we don't learn anything from it.

The first thing I learned is, clean up after yourself.  Yesterday, I took a bubble bath to relax.  I can't remember the last time I took a bubble bath, but there you have it.  At the end of the bath I thought it would be a good idea to give myself an invigorating scrub with a sea-salt/oil scrub I have had sitting by the side of the tub for longer than I can remember.  It seemed like a good idea to begin the new year by exfoliating all the dead cells from my 2011 body.  I rinsed off and let the water drain away.  I dried myself off and dressed for my small group bible study.  Here's where I made my first mistake.  I should have rinsed out the tub.  I should have cleaned all the residual oil out of the tub.  The slip and fall would have been avoided and I would be writing about exercise or dieting or smiling more often, whatever.  Clean up after yourself.  This is a good resolution to make for 2012.  It will save you a world of hurt and, seriously, all your family members (read - wives or moms) will love you all the more.  :)

Secondly, I learned I really need to strengthen my abdominal muscles.  I have to admit, I fell fairly slowly, as falls go.  Had I had stronger abs, I may not have fallen all the way to the ground.  I may have been able to catch myself and not hit bottom quite so hard.  So, here is the ubiquitous new year resolution, exercise more in 2012.  I think having a strong core can save a world of hurts.  It is certainly good for balance and supporting a lower back.

Lastly, function over form.  I don't have a non-slip bath mat in my tub because I've always thought they look ugly.  I depended on the slight texture imprinted on the porcelain bottom of the tub.  Big Mistake.  I will be going out shopping for a non-slip bath mat for my tub as soon as possible.  Form following function.  This is an architectural truism and I'm going to make it a credo in my life.  Ornamental foo-foo is not essential.  It has, in fact, become dangerous as I grow older.  As I write this, I see this lesson goes to another ubiquitous resolution, clearing clutter.  Form over function.  If it does not have a function in my home or my life, it does not need to be in my home or my life.  This year I will be ruthless in the quest for minimalism in my life. 

It seems this post has ended up to be a resolution post without even trying.  Happy New Year and a Blessed 2012 to you all.  Now, back to the grindstone, salt mine, get your ass in gear, get back in the saddle, or whatever work idiom you like to use.  The vacation is over.  :)