Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Resolved . . .

Have you made any New Year's resolutions yet? I know, it's not even Christmas, but I have to spend at least as much time pondering what resolutions I want to make as it takes me to break those resolutions - about a week.

Last year I had a three page list of resolutions.  I remember exactly 3 of them: read more, call my good friends regularly and get more sleep. I do think I've worked on that last one most diligently.

I'm pretty sure that another one had to do with losing weight and getting in better shape.  After all, what self-respecting American woman doesn't have that on her to-do list every year? This year I'm paring down my list considerably: spend less, eat less and get more sleep - hey, I've heard that the sleep thing is really important!

Along the same lines as a list of resolutions for the New Year is another list that has become popular in the last few years, a "Bucket List." Have you made one of those?  I only have one recommendation, make this list when you are young and stand a better than even chance of accomplishing the things on your list.  It's not that there aren't some wild and crazy things I'd like to do at my advanced age, but I realize that the chance of doing most of them is rapidly decreasing.

But I'll share a couple of mine with you. I'd like to go on a cruise - my DH wants to go to Alaska, but I don't care where the boat is going as long as it brings me back to dry land eventually. I'd also like to drive across the USofA, and I'd like to take my grandchildren someplace they've never been before - an adventure for all of us.  See, those things aren't too wild and crazy.  Once upon a time I did want to parachute out of an airplane but not so much now.  I consider that one definite advantage of getting older - getting wiser!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Time, Time, Time

I am a time-waster. I admit it. I can sit down at the computer to check e-mail and 30 minutes later, after several games of Free Cell, finally get around to the task at hand. I can always find something to do to keep from doing what needs to be done. There's another word for that. Now what is it? Hmm?

It doesn't help matters that I have a somewhat "addictive" personality [did I mention Free Cell] and the things I find myself addicted to are those time-wasters like crossword puzzles and before that sudoku; Twitter and before that Facebook; and my newest on-line addiction, "Pinterest" - oh my, so many things to see and do there!

My DH can tell you about all of the hobbies I've been "addicted" to over the years:  cross-stitching, smocking, knitting, wreath-making, sewing, photography, and worst of all, shopping [not technically a hobby huh?] I have closets full of the remnants of those former "hobbies." My latest hobby is card-making. It's all the rage, and if you don't believe me, check out Pinterest. I can tell you that I have made all of our Christmas cards this year. I also make birthday cards, Thanksgiving cards, etc.

The best thing I can say about all these hobbies is that they are an outlet for my creativity. There is definitely satisfaction in that. And many of my hobbies have led to hand-made gifts which have saved money over the years - not sure how the math works out though when you take into account the money spent on materials, etc. Let's just say that the people at Michael's and Hobby Lobby know my name!

The worst thing I can say about these hobbies is that they give me an excuse to not do the things that need to be done, or the things that would be more edifying. For example, I don't read books as much as I did at one time. I miss that. I don't cook as much. The DH misses that! My Mother would say, "Why can't you be addicted to something like house-cleaning?"

Oh yes. Now I remember that other word. I believe it is procrastination which in psychology "refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of low-priority, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time." (Wikipedia) Now there are a whole lot more psychological definitions of, justifications for and baggage resulting from procrastination, but we don't need to get into that.

The funny thing is that the older I get, the more I think about time itself. How precious it is, how finite and how fleeting and how much I want, no, need to be a good steward of the time I have remaining. And of course as my obsession with obituaries shows [see earlier post] I am keenly aware of  how uncertain the future is. So you'd think that I would not allow myself to waste any time, right? Well, it turns out that there is a physiological reason for my addiction to the Internet, et. al. Via a great article on this topic by Betty Duffy I read about a book by David J. Linden called The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good. Linden and Duffy do a much better job of writing about this important topic than I ever could. I especially liked what Duffy had to say about the spiritual aspect of focusing on external stimuli for pleasure. She actually makes the point that the absence of pleasure, or suffering if you will, has merit and benefit to our lives and that our very survival depends on it!  Go read her article and let me know what you think.

In the meantime I'll just be right here playing a game of Free Cell.....     

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November - A Time To Remember

It's still officially fall I guess, but with the leaves quickly falling and Thanksgiving right around the corner (Yikes, that's next week!!) it's almost time to turn the calendar to that last page - and we all know how quickly December will fly by.

Growing up I remember being aware that Thanksgiving was a big darn deal, as important as Christmas if you must know. I'm not sure if this was true for other families, but I believe that it was. Maybe my parents, as part of the generation that grew up during the Depression and fought in World War II, were more sentimental about home and family. They married young and left home to start their own families. Many of them spent years separated from their families while serving in the armed forces far from home. Let's face it, today's young people are more likely to be living at home and delaying marriage.

From Norman Rockwell's iconic Saturday Evening Post cover pictures of families celebrating Thanksgiving, to the ubiquitous "made-for-TV-Coming-Home-For-Thanksgiving" movies, it appears that this uniquely American holiday has more meaning for us that we might like to admit.

It is a holiday that harkens back to our very beginnings as a settlement and later as a nation. It's a holiday that puts us in touch with the agrarian roots of our ancestors, though we've long since stopped growing our own food for the most part. And it is a holiday that is, at its very heart, an acknowledgement of God's grace. As Rebecca Harding Davis puts it, "For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread.  The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet.... Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?"

I hope I have instilled in my children the importance of remembering, of family and home and of faith. Thanksgiving is not just a day on the calendar as we all know. It is, in fact, a state of mind that can and should be turned into an action word. One thing I do believe is that gratitude is an attitude that grows stronger as we grow older. So there is always hope for the next generation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Autumn Leaves . . . or Does It?

Wow! Snow in October - from North Carolina to New Jersey and New England. That is what I love about the weather; unless you're a meteorologist by profession or read the Farmers' Almanac religiously, the cliche is true - there is no predicting the weather.

Each year we anticipate the seasons changing, but we can't pin the exact time to a date on the calendar. The early frost or snowfall, the spring ice storm, whether we'll have a white Christmas in the south, when the fall leaves will be at their peak - are all reminders that we don't control the weather.

When I was younger I "had to" watch the weather report on the late news before going to bed. In truth though, the only thing affected by the weather was my commute [which I still had to endure] or my wardrobe choice. But, of course, I grumbled and complained about bad weather like many people do.

These days I don't pay much attention to weather reports, well, unless there is a weather "event" like a hurricane or ice storm predicted.  But really, is there anything I can do to change the weather? Nope. I can find out how hot or cold it is by going out on the back porch to feed the dog. I don't go to many parades or picnics anymore, and I've lived through enough droughts to actually be thankful for rain.

I try to enjoy each day as it comes. I don't [or try not to] complain about the weather. I appreciate all of the seasons, but don't try to anticipate what each will be like or when they will arrive. Of course I have a favorite season; doesn't everyone? Mine is fall. I do love the colors, the cool crisp mornings but still warm afternoons.  The recent October snowfall may signal an early end to autumn in parts of the country, but not in Atlanta. With any luck, I will get to enjoy my favorite season a bit longer, but who knows how much longer? Not I. I can live with that!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Country Roads

I just returned from a trip into my past or more accurately my Mother’s past.  A visit with cousins in Louisiana led to a trip down some back roads in Washington Parish which led to a remote Baptist church and a small cemetery and a surprise.

Mother says I’ve been to the cemetery before, but I have no recollection of that.  My great grandparents and some of their siblings and children are buried there, and I amazed my family by locating the cemetery on the internet via my iPhone and accessing a website that actually listed all of the people buried there. 
There are thousands of such cemeteries accessible to varying degrees via country roads in every county and state in North America. This particular cemetery, Sunny Hill, is maintained by the descendents of another family whose name appears on many of the headstones. The sad truth is that too many small family cemeteries are not maintained and thus likely to be overgrown and lost forever.

Does it matter if they are lost or found?  Maybe not.  I suppose I’m interested in such things because of my love of history and dabbling in genealogy, but there was something compelling about standing in the yard between that cemetery and the small white country church that my Mother remembered attending as a child. [She says it used to be a lot bigger church back then!]
As we stood there she started talking again about the Sunny Hill community of her childhood, pointing out where the Methodist church and the general store used to be, where the school she attended was located.  She reminisced about walking to school for one year, first grade, because her Daddy wanted her to go to the school he went to when he was growing up.  Funny thing was that he made Mother’s little sister accompany her on the one mile walk, so my Aunt Pansy sat through first grade that year and then had to go the next year too.  Oh, and by the way, I’m not sure what a five year old could have done to protect a six year old had something bad happened to them on the way to school. But those were different times.

We had piled in the car to begin our trip back to the present, but the past wasn’t through with us yet.  As Mother pointed to a wooded area across the road from the church and told us, “The school was right there,” my cousin said, “I see something.  It looks like a shack.”  Sure enough we got out of the car and peering into the woods could just make out the building, or what was left of it. 

Just as my cousin was promising to come back and explore the area later, we discovered a path that was more or less clear so we all traipsed into the woods, right up to the dilapidated two story structure where my grandfather had gone to school and played basketball, and where my Mother had attended first grade. 

There wasn’t much left there to see, but there was a broad staircase, walls, parts of the floor and the roof, and somehow I had no trouble picturing my Mother there. 

For good or ill, the past lives and is always part of our present.  For me, it is all good.  I think John Denver said/sang it best: “Country roads take me home . . . “

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Moving On

Not sure what to do with what I’m thinking and feeling right now – except to write it down and puzzle it out.
So, I [we] decided to leave the Methodist Church and become Baptist, and I thought I knew what that meant.  Although I’ve never been a Baptist, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what a Baptist was.I think what I’m finding out is that there are many different kinds of Baptists and many different kinds of Baptist Churches.

The good thing is that, unlike the Methodist Church, I can join a Baptist Church and not have to support some advocacy group that does not speak for me…at least I think that is possible.  I am still learning about the Baptist Church, Baptist beliefs, etc.But here is an example of something that is kind of troubling me and that is making me feel woefully uneducated – the local Baptist Church that we have chosen to attend is participating in a study called “Monvee”.  It is loosely (?) based on a book by John Ortberg,  The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God's Best Version of You”.

Now I’ve known of John Ortberg for decades, though I can’t remember if I’ve read any of his books.   The title of this book is intriguing though and certainly speaks to me – someone who is seeking to hear God’s voice and discern God’s will for my life.  And yet, when I do a little research, I find that there are some Christians who have a few problems with John Ortberg, with his writings and associations and with Monvee itself.  These critics categorize Ortberg, Monvee, et. al. as part of the “spiritual formation” movement or the emergent church movement within evangelicalism.  For the moment, I’m suspending judgment on this particular issue.Another influence within the Baptist Church is Calvinism and there are churches that even use the term Reformed Baptists.  I really don’t know what to do with this.  I have recently learned that a new “movement” -  the 9Marks movement is Calvinistic and apparently there are a number of Baptist Churches that are choosing to self-identify as “9Marks Churches” – including one local church that I’m aware of, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. 

Bottom line, we still have some talking to do about what kind of church we want to be a part of, what we want to hear from our minister and teachers on a weekly basis.  If you have any insights, pass them along and stay tuned . . . 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday is the new Monday

I don't know what happened to Monday - one minute it was here - and the next minute it was gone. It makes me sad because I love my Mondays. It's true. Mondays are free days - nowhere I have to go, nothing I have to do. 

You're right, it wasn't always like that before I retired. I dreaded Mondays like most of the rest of the working world. But now Mondays are like an extension of the weekend and it is wonderful.

But now it is Tuesday, and I miss my Monday, and my Tuesday is my new Monday - a day I don't look forward to at all.

That's because I have committed to help a family in my neighborhood on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week for the foreseeable future. Yes, it's a good thing I am doing. Not how I planned on spending my retirement, but God had other plans. God knew of their need (and truthfully so did I) and said to me,"Hey, you've got some free time now, don't you?" What could I say?

So on Tuesday, today, and on Thursday, I go next door and stay with their children - 3 under the age of 5 - all day so that Dad can finish his dissertation and Mom can get therapy as she recovers from a brain injury.

I think I'm too old to be doing this, but again, God doesn't agree.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are long, hard days that almost make me miss my desk job.  But there is a light at the end of the tunnel - the 5 year old started school yesterday and the 3 year old starts pre-school in 3 weeks. I can do all things through Christ . . . I can do all things through Christ. . .

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reading Obituaries

I read an article last month about why Christians should clip obituaries. Occasionally various family members have accused me of passing strangeness for my obituary reading, so I felt vindicated by the article. 

Reading obituaries is a shocking reminder that we can not always predict the time of our death.  Even those of us in seemingly good health, those at the peak of success in our careers, those just starting out in life, those going about God's work in the world - all of us are absolutely sure of only one thing - we don't know when our earthly lives will end.

Now Christians should already know this shouldn't we?  We've read it in many verses of Scripture.  And yet Christians are just as shocked and incredulous when we read the accounts of lives ended too soon.

Then last week a friend from Church died "unexpectedly".  He was only 58 years old, but that's not old, is it? It sure doesn't sound old to this 62 year old! So it was a shock and it took several days to process the news and to accept the finality of his death, except . . .

as Christians we don't accept the finality of death.  We know that death is just a passage from this earthly life that is finite to our life with God that is eternal. 

And so, the reason we should keep reading those obituaries is to remind us to number our days, to not take life or any moment of it for granted, and of course to make every moment count - not so our obituary will be a glowing account of our earthly life, but so that we will know the peace and joy of living with and worshipping our God for eternity.

Monday, June 20, 2011


That familiar smell just outside my back porch this time of year comes from the gardenia bush planted there.  It's a giant shrub now but it was once a small plant that required lots of TLC in the winter and also in the summer. (I thought the white flies would be the death of my beloved gardenias.)

Now it is huge and covered with flowers from whence comes that glorious smell that takes me back to my Granny Nicholson's porch in South Carolina, and that is a place I love to revisit in my mind.

I can't say that the distinctive smell of this flower always brings with it lots of different memories of my Grandmother or her house in Mullins, SC or the family times we spent there.  On the other hand, I cannot smell the gardenia without thinking of that particular porch.

The gardenia - both shrub and flower - is a touchstone for me.  In NLP [Neuro-Linguistic Programming] it might be called an "anchor" - something that triggers a memory every time it is experienced.  Like hearing an old song and remembering where you were and who you were with and how you felt the first time you heard it.

The blooms this year are just about spent - only a few remain.  Then I'll have to wait until next June to enjoy that lovely fragrance again. I sure wish my gardenia could bloom all year long.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A New Journey Begins

I've been waiting for this time for a while now.  And finally it has arrived. R-E-T-I-R-E-M-E-N-T!!  Ah, the word is music to my ears.  I actually have to work 6 more weeks or so, but I am already giddy with anticipation.

I know some people who can't imagine ever retiring.  They love their jobs, or they can't afford to retire or they have become accostumed to a standard of living they are not willing to give up.  But for me my job was rarely ever a source of satisfaction and it certainly never defined me.  It wasn't a career, it was just a job.

My job isn't awful, but there have been some awful moments in the past 13 years. Why did I stay in that job? Fear, inertia?  I'm not sure.  Instead of quitting, I tried to figure out how I could make my job something that I could be proud of; something that would be pleasing to God.  I've found in other circumstances that every situation I'm in - whether positive or not - is a learning experience.  I frequently asked myself what God was trying to teach me in my current situation.  So, I've spent a lot of time reading about and thinking about "faith and the workplace", about working on my servant spirit toward my colleagues and trying to see some of the difficult people I worked with through God's eyes. 

I'm not boasting, because I was rarely successful, and I certainly did not always "love" my co-workers; but I did gain insights into my own relationship with God over the years. I wanted to witness to the people I came into contact with - if not in words then in my attitude and  my deeds.

I'm probably retiring before I've done all that God wanted me to do in my workplace, but I choose to believe that God has big plans for me in the next phase of my life - starting July 1st!! :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Guilt Trip

This morning, instead of going to church, I stayed home.  I was listening, am still listening to Christian music - does that count?  I am feeling guilty, but not about not going to church. I'm feeling guilty about the fact that yesterday we bought a BIG flat screen TV! I didn't actually want one but my DH did very much want one.  He's been talking about it for months, had some money saved up and finally wore me down. To be honest, he rarely wants anything for himself so it's hard to say no when he does.  The only other material thing that he has wanted in the 32 years we've been married was a boat - but that's a story for another day.
So I went with him to Costco and even though I had talked him into getting a 47" TV instead of the 55" that he wanted, I convinced him to go ahead and get the 55". It didn't look that big in the store, but as I think about it, Costco is a pretty big warehouse! Our den, however, isn't quite that large so this sucker pretty much dominates this room. I know lots of people who have big screen TVs.  I guess after a while you get used to the presence of a monstrosity like this. But I wonder how long it will take me before I can look at it and not feel like I need to ask God to forgive us!