Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Word to Rule Them All

Jen, over at Denton Sanatorium, issued a challenge to her readers last week that intrigued me. Borrowing a concept from Eat, Pray, Love (a book which I have not read), she proposed that we all find the one word that defines us best. Today, she has done a rather impressive job of doing just that. I, on the other hand, am still struggling with the assignment.

Sometimes, when my mind is not clear on a subject, I can write myself into the answer. Historically, this has been a good way for me to cut through my layers and find what's most true. Sort of like peeling the onion, I guess, but using the keyboard and not the cutting board. You may consider this meandering post a final attempt to look beneath my outer edges and figure this one out. I'll begin by tracing my process to date.

The first word that came to my mind was mother, because that is the part of myself (and my experience) that I value most. Close on the heels of that thought came this one: writer. Because each of these represents only one component of who I am, however, I elected to look for words that could be applied more broadly. Almost immediately, creator and nurturer popped up for consideration. Nurturer went by the wayside pretty quickly, because it probably covers only about 3/4 of my nature (the "nice" part!), but I decided to hang on to creator, which is a quality that plays itself out in every aspect of my life. Having said that, it didn't seem quite specific enough to me as an individual. After all, we are all creators, if we allow ourselves to be.

So...I was still seeking. All of a sudden my mind turned to thinking about my mind (an exercise in self-absorption?) and how it works. Two words immediately leapt into my brain. Romantic realist. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, right? But it suits me to a T. I am both romantic as they come and a diehard realist. However, that's two words, isn't it?

Hmmmm. This was not going to be an easy task. Maybe I needed to try another angle. What was most important to me of all? Family, I answered. God. Okay. So how about believer? Or unifier? After all, I have built my life around what I believe, and everyone in my family insists that I am the "glue that holds us together." I do seem to find particular satisfaction in bringing people together and creating something unique and beautiful. (Oops, there's that other word again.) Am I still liking creator better?

Let's see. Perhaps I should spend more time with things others have said about me. I've been told I'm a good counselor, but that isn't a role I can necessarily embrace because I have to work so hard at keeping myself out of the way. (I'm a little too agenda-driven.) People have said I'm a catalyst in making things happen, but that's less true as I get older and my energy for combustion (heehee) wanes. I really love to evoke people's feelings...Is there such a thing as an evoker? (Feels like a bit of a stretch, doesn't it?) How about an anchor? I think members of my family might see me that way, but the Lord is my anchor, so I'm not sure I can claim that distinction independently. How about curious, then? Or impatient? I'm about as curious and impatient as they come. Except for when I'm not...

I think the layer is peeled, and I'm back almost to square one. Ironically, my word isn't as creative as I'd like it to be, seeing as how it's such a common characteristic. But it's the only one I can apply to every facet of myself, so I'll just go with it...

Creator. My word has to be creator. And I bring that creativity to every area of my life, as we all do. Every time I mother, nurture, read, write, think, work, speak, believe, learn, love, explore, counsel, unite, evoke, imagine, wonder, ponder or even sleep (hey, dreams count, right?), I am creating. I am even creative about the ways I misbehave, and there are more than a few, I'm afraid. (Arguing, interfering, grandstanding, over-functioning, avoiding...)

Yep, I own that word.

(and so do you)


Monday, August 30, 2010

Sad Thoughts on a Monday Morning

Yesterday, an LDS bishop was shot and killed in Visalia, California. I would expect to be shocked and saddened by this news, but when I read about it yesterday, the story hit me like a ton of bricks. For several hours, I couldn't get this good man out of my mind. I still can't. Thoughts of him keep running through my head, sitting there at his desk, hard at work on a Sunday afternoon, probably looking up helpfully to assist the stranger who had just walked into his office (directed by a friendly church member). I can't help imagining how he must have felt in that moment when the visitor abruptly pulled a gun on him and used it. I can't stop thinking about his congregation...his wife...his family of six children. The tragedy of it all is devastating, cruel, unjust, unnecessary.

Every member of the Church must be grieved by this turn of events, and many who are not members of the Church as well. We're human beings, after all, and most of us care deeply about one another. Yet this feels surprisingly personal to me. It resonates to the extent it does is because, as I read about what had happened, my own husband was also at church, sitting behind his desk, hard at work on a Sunday afternoon, looking up helpfully to welcome every visitor and offer what assistance and comfort he might provide. Like Bishop Sannar, he was giving of himself with no expectation of monetary or other reward, taking time away from his family and whatever Sunday pursuits he might enjoy to serve others.

My husband, like other bishops, is a busy man. He was busy with his career before he was called to be bishop, and he is even busier now. Having two jobs requires a lot of sacrifice. Like other men who fill this volunteer calling, he gives freely. Often, he gives until it hurts...but he does it gladly, without complaint and with a smile. The young bishop in Visalia had only been serving four months, but I'm sure he was smiling, too.

Today, I am praying for Bishop Sannar and those who loved him. His life was precious; his loss is immeasurable and unexpected. May every one of their hearts be comforted.

(and ours, too)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Liberation, Revisited

Saturday Centus has a whole new twist this week, an assignment instead of a prompt. We get to take one of our past stories (or someone else's) and add 100 new words to complete it. Cool, huh? So, part 1 is in red and today's Centus (part 2) is in black. I chose my own story, titled...

The Liberation

It felt good, being free. No more rising at the crack of dawn, no more sizzling sand patrols, no more watching my kid grow up via Skype and e-mail.

No more jonesing for his father, either. The relentless desert sun had burned those feelings out at last. Not an easy cure, but a welcome one.

The doorbell rang at 6:00, pick-up time. Some things never change, his punctuality among them. I opened the door, looking forward to this final liberation.

Our eyes locked. BAM. So much for the purging effects of war and heat. Objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear...

Feelings, too. Some things never change.

But some things do. Forever.

"Say good-bye to Mommy," I said carefully, leaning down for a kiss. Even the little good-byes were hard now.

"Bye, Mommy!" Bounding across the doorstep, he looked back at me with his father's eyes, minus the heat. "We're gonna catch real, live fish and eat 'em! But not their eyeballs."

I felt my lips curve involuntarily. Oh, how I'd missed him. Both of them.

He spoke as our son ran to the car.

“I never see her, Annie. Not for months. It’s over.”

“So are we,” I said, then shut the door against the aching plea caught in his eyes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Scenes from our Family Photo Shoot

These just came my way from Erin T. Photography, who did our family photos at Newport Beach. I have so many great shots to choose from that I will post only the "original four kids" and two group pics for now. But you can bet you will be seeing many more in the days and weeks to come...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Do You Do When You Feel Blue?

What do you do when you're feeling blue?

I follow the gulls to the sea, do you?

I count every cloud in the bright, blue sky

and watch as the sun sets on one kite, flown high.

Sometimes I pretend I'm a young girl once more,

digging for sand crabs and seashells galore.

I find bits of sea glass. Night lights the sea foam...

and I carry bright, ocean memories home.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Happily Ever After

We all want our kids to live happily ever after, don't we? Right now, all four of my (grown) children are working hard to achieve four separate but equally critical life goals that are of the utmost importance to them, and I am trying my best to cheer them on from the sidelines without getting in their way. I am not always good at this.

Sometimes a parent cares so much that it becomes hard to respect an adult child's boundaries. I've been stepping over too many of those lately, and I know better. I'm fortunate that my children are unusually kind and understanding when I do this, but that doesn't mean I should take advantage of their good nature.

Parents of grown children must learn to walk a rather fine line if they want to be effective, nurturing, and welcomed supporters. A level of stewardship is and always will be there, but its nature changes with the onset of maturity in a manner that's hard to define because it isn't really set in stone. In fact, it is the fluidity of this evolving arrangement that makes it so confusing, and mistakes do happen.

I hope, when I make a mistake, that my four very competent adult children will feel comfortable telling me about it. Their happily ever afters are up to them, and my job is to cheer them on from the sidelines...unless and until they invite me to step over that line and give them a hand.

I love to help. I'm ready to help. I want to help. But I don't need to help. And I'm going to try just a little bit harder to remember that.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Day of Pre-School Bliss

My first day of preschool, and I'm feeling good.

I might make some mischief. (I think that I could...)

But Mom says, "Be nice, like the great boy you are."

So I promise her I'll behave like a star.

(A rock star, that is...)


Monday, August 23, 2010

What's It All About?

What's it all about, Brycie?

(Looking at this photo, I wish he could tell me all he knows...)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer Drafts

There's a new twist to Jenny Matlock's Saturday Centus this week. Participants still add only 100 words to our fearless leader's prompt...but this week, the prompt (in red) must also be the title. It can be fact or fiction. Mine is fiction, about a woman whose summer has been...well...I'll let her tell you.

∞§∞ ∞§∞ ∞§∞

What I Did over my Summer Vacation (100 words or less)

I never saw the split coming. Our usual summer plans were set in January: a weekend or two with the grandkids, a few days driving up the coast, a couple of months at the beach. The greatest blessing of retirement was freedom. We'd always made the most of it.

He still made the most of it. I made very little of it indeed. He flew his newfound liberty high as a flag on the 4th of July. I flew at half-mast, hiding. Home and never more alone.

What I Did over my Summer Vacation (100 words or less)

Hid, hibernated, hated him, hated me.

What I Did over my Summer Vacation (100 words or less)

There are no words.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bookplates from Zazzle, Dazzle!

(I'm not being compensated in any way for talking about Zazzle...
Just sharing something I like with all of you.)

Have any of you every used Zazzle to generate your very own, semi-custom and personalized bookplates? I have! And you know what? I am one satisfied customer!

There are nearly 3,000 backgrounds to choose from, and you can alter the words on the front (meaning you can change any or all of the text, including font type, font size, and number of lines). There are also two sizes available, and I have ordered some of both.

Sadly, the photos of my creations pictured below are not too sharp, but I think you can get the idea. I'm afraid I may be in the market for a new camera before long, as mine no longer focuses as well as it once did. Do cameras suffer from old age? (Just wondering...)

Be that as it may, the bookplates look wonderful in person, and I have made several different sizes and styles to suit my book-owning pleasure. Hopefully, a few more of the books I lend out will find their way home to me!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

How Many Colors of Green...?

Green is the color of life, growing free.

How many colors of green do you see?

Mint by the flag, near a shrub called nandina.

Star jasmine, fragrant as any gardenia.

Green agipantha leaves, sagey green stems...

Birch leaves that sparkle like emerald gems...

Lilies, grass, ferns, bushes, roses, and more...

Manicured trees by the sliding glass door.

Green near the water to make your swim jolly...

Pine trees and conifers, palm trees and holly.

Green springs like life from the earth (and green thumbs)...

But watch out for green snakes, when suppertime comes!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do Good Unto Others...AND Yourself

I read an article yesterday by Maurine Proctor of Meridian Magazine. It's entitled The Lord Is Not the Accuser, and I think it is well worth reading.

I've always been a big proponent of people (including me) being gentle with themselves, so this article might not have spoken so loudly to me in the past. As I grow older, however, and as my capacity to "be all things to all people" (or at least, try to be) wanes, I find my inner critic speaking a little more loudly and being a lot more difficult to banish once it gains my ear.

Those who know me well would probably find this a surprising development, as I do. I can't tell you how many times I've given lessons to young people, reminding them with no small amount of conviction that when a voice in their heads tells them they need to do more "good things" in a way that leaves them feeling so discouraged they can only imagine themselves doing nothing at all (or, worse yet, "bad things"), they are listening to the wrong voice. Frankly, I've always been remarkably good at shunning that unhelpful, discouraging voice in favor of loving myself up a bit, being my own cheerleader, and continuing the climb that is and always will be life. Onward and upward, right? Fall seven times; stand up eight. If you can believe it, you can achieve it.

And yet, I feel vulnerable as the years advance, perhaps because I am increasingly aware of my own frailties. Or maybe they are multiplying (physically, for certain...and in other ways, too).

The thing is, I'm more prickly than I used to be. More picky, as well. I often feel like I've traded down for someone else's body, like we made an exchange that seemed reasonable at the time but left me holding the short end of the stick. I can't help but miss the days when I had more pride of ownership about my body, mind, and spirit...when personal growth felt more like solidifying gains than shoring up losses. I liked feeling entirely vigorous and capable and up to any task. Some days, I could have sworn I was invincible. These days, I'm about as "vincible" as they come.

Of course, these are just the normal effects and feelings of getting older, but since that is exactly what I'm doing, I enjoyed Maurine's timely reminder that whatever the Lord has to say to me will be said in an encouraging tone of voice, and that whatever else I hear is not worthy of my attention.

It has even occurred to me (tuning "in" to the Lord's voice and "out" to that other), that my body, mind and spirit are actually improved as I grow older, and that the deficiencies, difficulties, and differences I now perceive as age-related were always there for the finding and (gentle) improving. My kinder self reminds me that what age really does is allow people to see through life's glass less darkly*...which exposes both the flaws and the beauties inherent in each one of us more clearly.

So go home, critic on my shoulder. I'm already working on those flaws. Today I am looking at the beauty...which begets beauty. And so on.

* "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known" (1 Cor. 13:12).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Kid Lid

For the kind of hat that chicks like best,
a boy hat always stands the test.

No other look can match the flair
of someone standing on your hair.

That's right; the kid lid on your head
is guaranteed to knock 'em dead.

These toddler top hats are in style,
so wear yours with a sexy smile.

No woman can resist the lure
of boy on head...the hat du jour!

(of that, I'm sure)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Skype Ain't Just Hype!

My cute grandkids were urging me to Skype (their latest thrill) with them last week, but I held off until I looked and felt a little less like death warmed over. I'd heard about skyping, of course, but never realized what GREAT FUN it would be! How cool is it to be able to look at and talk to some of my very favorite people in the world whenever I get the urge (which will probably be often...)

It was funny to watch them climb all over each other at first, trying to get in on the action. Eventually, though, they were willing to wait their turn and go one at a time. (Good job, guys!) I loved hearing and watching them tell me all about the various virtues of their new teachers (even the youngest is starting preschool now) and seeing evidence (big boy underwear) of that little guy's requisite voyage into potty training. Best of all, of course, was just feasting my eyes on their cute faces, although Carli got it right when she said, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could hug?" My answer was a wholehearted yes, and it did occur to me that it must be hard for those servicemen and women to look at each other on the screen and not be able to physically touch their loved ones. But it sure beats email or a phone call!

Can you tell that I am an enthusiastic Skype convert? And it's free, if both parties download the software. Not bad, eh?

On the coughing front, things are finally improving with my chest cold. I even slept in this morning! My energy level's still down, though, which should be interesting because I have one of those big Young Adult dinners at my house tonight. Fortunately, Dave did a lot of the preparation after church yesterday...

Over and out. Wait, that's not Skype, that CB radios, right? (Back in the day of the very-much-duller dinosaur.)