Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Buildings with large glass windows captured the sun, allowing only a few vagrant rays to reach the ground. A few trees dot the sidewalks, their branches blending in with the dominant grey color of the buildings that outnumber them.
New York has its own heartbeat. Maniacal, yet steady, it easily drowns out the sounds of beauty. My mind ran in synch with that beat. Always pulsating, never slowing down, never stopping. I longed for a slower pace. I needed something that would remain steady, lest my mind be thrown into arrhythmia, but I also needed something that would soften the harsh drumming that orchestrated my thoughts.
I found that peace at the ocean. Though we lived in the city, we made the trek to the beach at least a few times every summer. I am grateful my parents did that. I guess it was easy to assume they made the trip just for my benefit, but in hindsight, it probably saved their sanity as well. With very little concern or knowledge about the effects of UV rays, my mother would slather on a homemade mixture of baby oil and mercurochrome. She wanted to make sure I had a healthy summer glow. I am often amazed that I am not the victim of skin cancer. Those trips to the beach always made my spirit glow more than my skin.
It is no surprise, then that when I was able, I moved to another island, far away from the one I grew up in. This island was green and plush. The weather was always hot and humid. Colors exploded everywhere. The distinct sound of the coqui lulled me to sleep every night, a far cry from the blaring horns and sirens that pierced the New York City nights. And there was the beach. Cool Caribbean blue water. When I felt overwhelmed by stress I’d drive there and just sit on the white warm sand. It was there that I understood why I loved the ocean so much. The waves were steady and rhythmic. The waves were told to go just so far and no further, creating a soothing lullaby. And yet, the ocean demands respect. No one has fathomed its depths, though we have managed to land on other planets. The ocean holds secrets that will never be discovered and in a moment it can claim a life. I feel closest to God when I sit by the ocean. Perhaps it is because it reminds me so much of His character.
I don’t live on that island anymore. I now live 3 hours from the nearest shore. But at least one week a year, we take the time to go, and I just sit and I rediscover and I am reminded of who made me and who I am in Him.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
I have been back to New York at least half a dozen times since leaving. I go back to visit family and friends, to show my children the place that is their birthright, and to eat real pizza. Although I have no plans to move back, I enjoy being a momentary tourist. New York really is a wonderful city.
There is, however, one thing about New York which I absolutely, unquestionably do not miss - driving in the city. The last time I drove there, it took me 40 minutes to find a parking space 6 city blocks away from where I was staying. In the process of looking for the parking space, I got flipped the bird so many times, I thought I was ready to fly. More drivers honked their horns at me than I care to remember. Good thing I have an excellent sound system in my car. They’d honk, I’d just turn up my bass a little more. (see, I remember how to be a real New Yorker). Nevertheless those 40 minutes were more stressful than the 10 hour drive before it.
I live in the country now. We honk, but only at dogs, deer or possum. We wave at each other, not offer the one finger salute. And for the most part, we take life a little slower. I like it that way. It gives me more time to breathe. It gives me a chance to be friendly and to think random thoughts. I guess that is the reason I moved away, first to the ocean and now to the country. I needed time and space to slow down. See, I drive behind tractors now – literally. I took this picture at a wide intersection yesterday on the way home from South Carolina.
What I didn’t capture was the 12 cars that were behind the van, all waiting for the Red Rider to get through the light. The amazing thing was not one of them honked their horn. No one shouted, at least not outside their own car. I sat and watched as that driver went through the light and only after he made a turn into an easement across the road did the other cars accelerate. It made me laugh, because it was such a typical North Carolina scene. And I pondered – why are so many people, including myself always in such a hurry? That man may have cost the other drivers a few minutes in their driving time, for sure. But from my perspective, the entertainment value of seeing a ride on mower leading a line of cars far outweighed any inconvenience.
I read the news this morning. Last night, on that very road, a driver lost control of his vehicle and died in the crash. The road was closed for three hours in both directions. It saddened me, because officials suspect that speeding was a factor in the accident. How ironic. A mower only slowed traffic for a few minutes. A speedster who lost his life, slowed traffic for hours. As much as I still carry New York’s rapid rhythm inside my heart, I think I will never again feel frustrated when I get stuck behind a country driver.
Do you have any driving stories? Leave a comment and tell me about it.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
When my daughter was in kindergarten, she brought me a little trio of bunnies. They were a 'just because' gift for me from her classroom treasure chest. She got to pick out one gift every 2 weeks for being good. Rather than getting something for herself, she got something for me. I saw it as a special sacrifice from a 5 year old. Those bunnies are precious to me.
Somewhere along the line, perhaps during one of our moves, the bunnies fell and got cracked and chipped. I think it happened more than once. I have glued them back together as best as I could, but there are still pieces missing, and the cracks are evident. Nevertheless, they are precious to me.
I started thinking, I am like one of those bunnies. Purchased with a sacrifice. I have fallen, and have been broken, and even though my Lord's hand has picked up the remaining pieces, the scars still show. There are still holes that plead imperfection. But He still loves me. Sometimes it is hard for me to understand why He still loves me, why He still thinks of me as His precious child. Sometimes all I see when I look in the mirror is how broken I still am. Yet He loves me.
Then I remember my bunnies. And how much they mean to me. They might not mean anything to anyone else. Others would reject them in an instant, but not me. They were purchased with a price, as was I. I choose to see the love they represent, not their imperfections. My master sees me that way too.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
It is a picture of my children's father, walking in the rain. It's a silly picture and one of my favorites because he is wearing blue shorts and cowboy boots and holding an umbrella. The sidewalk reflects the drops and you can tell it is late fall because the trees are almost bare, and there is an abundance of golden leaves on the ground.
I see all this in the original picture, which was probably taken in 1988. I can see the surrounding apartment buildings in the background, I can see the fading grass. It is a picture I took, and I remember it well. It is so familiar to me.
When I scanned it using the color restoration feature, I was taken aback. What I considered familiar, was in fact, faded. The restored photo brings out the brilliant green of the leaves that remain on the bushes. The bare trees stand out in deep contrast to the golden leaves. The sidewalk is a city slate grey, not the warm tan it appears to be in the original photo. Bill shorts are a bright blue, his t-shirt a contrasting yet equally bright red. The umbrella a sleek black, reflecting the silver raindrops.
How could I have forgotten the true nature of a picture I am so familiar with?
Time faded the beauty of the colors, blending them into soft yet almost lifeless shades of tan and yellows. And time faded my memory of what it was originally like.
So often, our relationships with our friends, our siblings, our spouses and even with our God are like that. Time fades the original beauty into something familiar, yet dull. We forget the beauty we once saw in the eyes of our newborn, or the brilliance that attracted us to our spouse. And we forget the way we once viewed our God. We become too familiar with what we suppose Him to be, and we are comfortable, but no longer impressed or moved by His beauty.
Scan your life today. Select the color restoration feature as you look at your friends, your family,and your God. See them with the eyes and the heart you once saw them with. Forget the wounds that hasten the fading process and open your eyes to the beauty, the brilliance, the wonder that is still there.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
They understand Spanish and can speak it when necessary, but not as fluently as I would have liked. It is one of the areas where I believe I dropped the ball. I should have spoken more Spanish to them at home so they would be more fluent.
I believe all parents can look back and think of many 'should haves'. Oh well...
My children speak English with no prominent accent. Yet, when Danielle started school, she had more than one person come up to her and say, very slowly and enunciating every syllable, something to the effect of " W-O-W. Y-O-U-R E-N-G-L-I-S-H I-S S-O G-O-O-D." Mind you, my daughter has never had any type of hearing problem. After the first few times, she finally began to answer, no doubt smiling her biggest smile, "T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U. S-O I-S Y-O-U-R-S."
She understood that the people who told her that meant no offense. And it has actually become a point of humor for us. I am just surprised at the assumptions that people make based on where you live or lived, what your surname is, or any of the other cultural distinctions.
It is one of the things I have learned to deal with. Most of the assumptions are simply based on ignorance. We can get angry, but I don't believe that anger without action has ever eliminated ignorance. Or we can simply find the humor in such ignorance. But the best course of action is to educate people. Of course, some will always choose to remain ignorant. There is little we can do about those. But for those whose ignorance is based out of lack of exposure, we can gently teach them who we are and what we believe and do from our cultural standpoint.
So to those who still comment on our excellent command of the English language, as a former New Yorker, I thank you, especially because I still pronounce coffee as caw-fee.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
It never ceases to amaze me how much 'stuff' I always manage to accumulate! I am not an avid shopper. Truthfully, I stay aways from malls as much as possible. I do a lot of my purchasing online, which helps keep the impulsivity factor at bay. There are no Point of Sale end caps when you're paying with Paypal. I also tend to be rather frugal. Frugal.. not cheap.. the difference being that I am willing to pay top dollar for a quality item that will enhance my life in some way. I always consider the trade off.
Other than my weekly trip to Walmart for groceries, I don't 'go shopping'. I know - the very thought of mall avoidance makes me anathema to many of my female friends....
So how it is that regardless of how frugal or conservative a shopper I have been, I always have stuff that needs to eliminated? I am looking forward to the day when money accumulates that quickly!
What it led me to think is how our minds are like those closets and cabinets. We accumulate stuff in our thought life that we don't need. Negative thoughts, anger, bitterness, worry, fear. Even though I try to be diligent and eliminate those things from my thoughts, they still take up residence. So I have determined that in addition to cleaning out the junk in my home, I will also clean out the junk in my thinking. I will examine what my mind ponders and only keep those thoughts that are positive and fruitful. Sounds easy doesn't it?
Have you ever started purging your closet and come across a dress that was once your favorite? It was expensive and you wore it often, but now it no longer fits you and is hopelessly dated. You haven't even worn it in four years. Yet, you decide to hold on to it because maybe someday you will lose the extra ten pounds, and hey! retro is in, isn't it? So instead of chucking it, you dust it off and put it back on the hanger.
Some of our thoughts are like that. We have become accustomed to having them. They may have once served a purpose. So we hold on to them. But they no longer fit our goals, and unless we shrink our goals, they never again will. They keep us bound to the past, and prevent us from pushing into the future. The longer we hold on to fruitless thinking, the harder it becomes to clear out the mind.
So I have determined to be ruthless in my spring cleaning. I will only keep those thoughts which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8).
Let the sun shine and the creativity and love flow!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Maybe it's because today is Saturday and I didn't have to jump out of bed, responding to the immediate demands of the weekday: wake up the boys for school, let the dog out, make the coffee, let the dog back in, give her a treat for bringing in the paper, make breakfast, sign school note, take a shower, look for matching socks, and get out of the house in time to beat the school buses.
Most Saturdays I wake up when the sun starts to filter in my room. I have time to gather my thoughts. And today, this is what I was thinking:
I want to make $500,000. The only marketable legal skill that I have which I believe can make me anything close to that amount is writing. I also have cojones. For my Spanish challenged friends, that means I have guts but it sounds so much better in Spanish.
So I figured I would write a book. Many people have told me I should write a book. I have had some really unique experiences in my life, so I know I have something to say. The problem has been that I could not figure out what to say. Should I write about being a homeschooling mom? about raising an autistic child? about taking care of my father until the day he passed away. my faith? my family? living in a rainforest? in the city? in the south? Too many possibilities.
So I did some research and found that the majority of best sellers are instructional or motivational. I can do that, I thought. I am an encourager. It is one of my spiritual gifts. So I got a twitter account and began posting inspirational quotes. And I started this blog. I figured I would make it an inspirational blog. One that people would keep coming back to in search of a reason to keep on keeping on. But somewhere inside me was this nagging little voice that kept whispering something. Only my mind was too covered in cotton to hear. But this morning, I heard that voice loud and clear. I have to be me. I have to write about the things that occur to me. I have to stop simply regurgitating posi-speak.
I came to realize that no other person on this planet has been through exactly the same combination of experiences, challenges, shattered dreams that I have. We all have our own, for sure, but this is my story to tell.
So I have decided that I must put down the rose colored pen and write about life from the view God has given me. Will this lead me to the monied road? I don't know. Maybe there are others out there that will relate and find the truth refreshing. But at least I will know at the end of each day that I have spoken my own words, relayed my own thoughts, shared my own dreams with you.
I hope you stay tuned.
So who am I?
I am a mother, a daughter, an employee. A Christian, a dreamer, a motivator. A reader, a writer, an artist.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Born to be wild,
born to be outrageous
Born to live your life out loud,
born to be courageous
Born to make some mischief,
born to rock ' n roll,
Born to spread your wings and fly,
born to bare your soul.
Born to be a dreamer,
born to dare and do,
Born to make the world a better place
because you're you.
I was taken aback by this view my colleagues have of me. At my professional job, I tend to be a private person. I don't engage in office gossip, and for the most part keep to myself. I do my job with joy and I am always willing to help out with tasks that need to be done, even if they are not in my job description. Other than the occasional family update, most of them do not know much about my writing or other activites I engage in. I am sure none of
them know that my bucket list contains things like 'own goats' and 'go zorbing' .
And yet, I am pleased beyond measure that this is how they see me, because this is how I see myself.
I have always believed in living life, not just enduring it. Embracing it, come what may. I have had as many hard knocks and heartaches as the next person, maybe more. But I believe that out of every adversity comes a seed of equal or greater benefit, to paraphrase Napoleon Hill. So I look for those. I look for seeds I can plant and nurture and grow. I look for the next adventure, the next journey, all while enjoying the one I am on. Apparently my zest for life shows through my professional demeanor. Trust me, I don't wear a fuzzy pink hat to work...ever! Goes to show that what we think about creates what we become on the inside. If it is radiant, it will shine through.
So my message today is - Shine!. Let what you were born to be become a light for others.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
In the book of Joshua, a story is told of an amazing journey. The Israelites had spent 40 years wandering in the desert, and they were finally going to enter their promised land. Led by Joshua, they were going to live in the land of milk and honey. But there was a river to cross before they got there.
God held back the waters of the Jordan river until all the people of Israel, probably over 2 million in number, were safe on the other side.He then told their leader Joshua to take up 12 stones from the river. Inevitably, these were stones that had been made smooth by the passage of time and water. What follows is the rest of the story:
I believe God commanded Joshua to do this because He knows how easily we forget. If you doubt this, ask your spouse or a close friend to recount the details of a particular event. See how they differ from yours.
Remembering helps keep us grateful. It helps us put things in perspective. When we can remember good things, it is easier to hold on to the belief that whatever trial we are facing may only be temporary. We remember joys and can face sorrow. We remember peace and have hope that wars will end.
Our minds get easily cluttered with so many things. So how can we remember? Set your own stones. There are many ways of doing this, including:
Take time to think of a recent event that was pivotal in bringing you to where you are now. Hold it in your mind and find a way to set a stone.
“When suffering comes, we yearn for some sign from God, forgetting we have just had one.”
Mignon McLaughlin (American Journalist and Author, 1913-1983)
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Robert Fulghum
The combination and intertwining of body, mind and soul or spirit is what makes us uniquely human. It is also what makes us, more than any other creature, susceptible to being out of balance. Being out of balance is often the trigger and cause of physical and mental disease. While we may not be able to fulfill Robert Fulghum's model of balance every day, we can find ways to consistently reach the middle ground.
1. Get enough rest : Sleep is important. Naps are great. Taking a vacation, even if it is only to your backyard, should not be considered a luxury, but a necessity. Our body recharges and rebalances itself when we rest.
2. Eat well : This cannot be overstated. We literally are what we eat, so find time to nourish your body properly
3. Exercise: Run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk then do stretches in your seat. Get the blood flowing. Move those bones. This not only will benefit your physical body, but your mind and soul as well.
4. Slow down and do what you are doing: When you are eating, then just eat. Smell the food, look at it and capture the feeling of it on your tongue. When you are reading then read. Stop multitasking. You will make less mistakes and be more efficient.
5. Train your brain: Read good books. Learn a new skill. Take a class in something completely foreign to you. Find a mentor. Redirect negative thinking. Your brain is a muscle. Don’t let it atrophy.
6. Share your life and your love: A wife, a husband, girlfriend, lover, best friend, your neighbor, your dog, a stray cat. Find a living breathing being to spend time with and embrace them with the love that resides in your heart.
7. Laugh a lot …and don’t be afraid to cry: Learn to laugh. Not the self conscious, half hearted chuckle kind of laughter, but the “Oh God, I think I am going to pee on my pants” kind. Do it often. But also allow yourself to cry and grieve. Preventing yourself from grieving is like forcing yourself into make-believe happiness. When you prevent one, you stifle the other as well.
8. Be honest : First with yourself. Be honest about your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Both are visible to the world anyway. Be honest with others. Not the kind of brutal honesty also known as criticism, but the kind that will allow you to be who you really are. You’ll sleep better at night, knowing you don’t have to remember to keep up with your lies.
9. Apologize: Admit your mistakes and say sorry. You earn a great deal of respect when you can admit that you were wrong.
10. Finally…Respect everyone, including yourself: Your respect for people is a reflection of your respect for life. Disrespect life and you will always be unhappy and unbalanced.
Have any other ideas for living a balanced life? I’d love to hear them!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
- Pay for the meal of the car behind you at the fast food drive through
- Volunteer to read to children at your local library
- Bring a family meal to a sick friend
- Serve the family! (and if you can stay for clean up, that's a plus!)
- Leave an extra large tip for a waiter or waitress
- Mow your neighbor's yard
- Or shovel it, depending on the season!
- Bring some goodies to share at work
- Send a thank you note to your child's teacher
- Drive an elderly or handicapped person to the gorcery store.
- Leave a bouquet of flowers on someone's doorstep
- Pay for a soldier's mealPick up litter
- Offer to help a parent load their groceries in their car while they load up their kids
- Offer a genuine compliment to a stranger
- Give up your seat for someone
- Give up that great parking space!
- Clean up the dishes in the breakroom at work
- Give your pizza delivery guy a gas card with his tip
- Host a kids movie night and give the parents some much needed time slone together
- Send a thank you note to your local police office
- Leave your magazines at a doctor's office once you've read them
- Cut out a comic strip or article of interest for a friend
- Visit your local animal shelter and offer to walk some of the dogs
- Hold the door open or someone
- Smile and thank a cashier
- Pay for someone's toll
- Donate your gently used professional clothes to an orgaization that helps people get back into the workforce
- Listen to someone who is going through a tough time
- Give an inspiring book to a friend in need
- Share your umbrella with someone who doesn't have one
- Leave enough change in the vending machine for the next person to get a snack
- Maintain waterbowls and birdeed for migrating birds
- Surprise your spouse with breakfast in bed
- Write a note to a family member telling them why they are special
- Have a food or clothing drive for a local shelter
- Donate blood
- Print an inspiring story and post it on your work bulletin board
- Buy books for a day care center
- Donate art supplies you no loner use to a classroom
- Volunteer at a senior center
- Fill your spouse's car with fuel
- Donate your cut hair to Locks of Love
- Cut coupons and leave them by the items at the store
- Leave comments on a blog page you like
- Drop off a toy or game at the hospital
- Give your friends photos you have taken that include them
- Invite someone who lives alone over for dinner
- Put a quarter in an expired parking meter
- Tell someone special in your life that you love them.
- Give your significant other foot rub, with no strings attached
Friday, March 13, 2009
The great Spanish Cellist, Pablo Casals once said:
"Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here."
I love that saying. It reminds me that no matter how tired I am, how frustrated or defeated I may feel, there is still something I am here to do. When God created me - and you- He had a purpose in mind. We are not here by casual accident, but rather by primary intent. There are things that can only be done by you. If you don't do it, it will go undone, and the world will be emptier for its absence. You might think you have nothing great to contribute. Perhaps your life is filled with mundane activities. Laundy, dishes, cooking, filing papers, entering data. I have those things in my life too. Those are not the things that make the difference. They may pay the bills and literally put food on our table, but they can be done by someone else."But I am not an artist, musician or writer. I have nothing of lasting value to contribute."That is an absolute lie.
Let me share a story with you.When I was in Kindergarten, we had a snack time. Usually it was juice and cookies or chips. One day there was no fruit juice available. There was only root beer. No offense, but I cannot tolerate even the smell of root beer. I would have to be half way through the desert with no end in sight before I would think of trying to consume it. Blech! and yuck! are the two words that come to mind when I think of root beer. Got the picture? Problem was, there was nothing available but root beer for the Kindergarten class. My momma taught me right, so when I was served a cup of this vile liquid (sorry) I refused it with a polite, if very unhappy "No, thank you." The teacher's assistant asked why I didn't want it, and I told her, that I just could not drink it. I didn't ask for anything else. I don't know where she got it from, but that sweet lady brought me a cup of fruit juice and quietly whispered in my ear not to let any of the other children know I had it.
I don't remember her name, but I can still remember what she made me feel like. She probably never had her fifteen minutes of fame, but her kindness has been indelibly recorded in my heart. She made me feel important, unique and worthy of a kindness. No one else could have one that for me the way she did that day.So what can you contribute? How about a smile? Everyone's got one of those to share. Maybe you can compliment an overworked cashier, read to a child, pay for a stranger's lunch, let your husband know how much you admire him, tell your wife she is the best thing since sliced bread. Sing in the church choir, take photos, record your family history, donate blood.Most of all, find out what it is only you can contribute to the world. Then do it.