2013 Looms

Time to be thinking about the new year and what possibilities exist there for accomplishment.  I do believe I need a new goal.  Sometimes those are more difficult to decide on than others.  In the past, I had school to get through as well as raising children and working in our business.  Those things are past now (although the business continues in capable hands).  So what shall I choose for 2013?

This is about choice, much as the rest of life is as well.  What choices will we make that will shape our destiny and our future?  Will you add a class this year?  Learn something completely new? Or is your pathway set and you are happy to be where you are?  This past year, I completed my first self-published book and my master’s thesis.  Those were rather large things for me.  Yet I know I’m much happier when pursuing a goal or a dream.

What is next on the horizon?  I will be teaching American History for the first time, so learning about it will be vital (I’m a European History major – this ought to be interesting!).    I am taking an online class in February on writing.  But, for some reason, all that feels like old goals.  “Follow Your Dream.”  I heard that again on a commercial recently, and as often as I have heard it, it reverberated for some reason.  What are those dreams? Do I still want to write?  Have I had the “writing bug” beaten out of me for a while?   How do you decide what your dreams are, and what you would like to do with the rest of your life?  I really would love to know.

2013.  Hmmmmm…


A Perfect Pocketbook

Is it really that difficult?  Can no one out there create the perfect pocketbook?  Or at least, set up a design service so that you can pick and choose what you want?  Is my perfect your albatross?

First, I don’t want it to be so big I am lugging a suitcase but so small I feel like I’m 6.  I need organization.  Pockets that withstand constant use.  A pocket for my phone, a pocket for pens that will keep them in the pocket, a pocket for keys, a pocket for assundry other stuff.  Its a “pocket” book, for god’s sake.  Okay, some of you call it a purse, but that always sounds so – ummmmm – old to me. My grandmother had a purse.  Okay, she had a purse when she was my age, but it didn’t look like a pocketbook.  Maybe a pocket for my future IPad.  And one for my date book, which I won’t need once I have an Ipad.

I need structure.  One that won’t simply collapse on the floor when I set it down.  Not a box exactly, but a firm bottom. Isn’t that what we all want?

I need one that is organized.  If everything falls to the middle in the ever-yawning hole of even the smallest pocketbook, that does me no good.  I can spend what feels like 20 minutes searching in a small pocket book for a set of 5 keys.  That is absurd!

I need a makeup area.  Finding my compact in the midst of an extremely oily moment can take hours.

I don’t want a lot of bells and whistles.  I don’t want a pocketbook that screams “look at me”.  I want one that says “Here I am and I didn’t spend my monthly grocery money on it to be here” look.  No shiny coral colored alligator.  Where are those alligators, anyway?

An elegant, organized, structured pocketbook with plenty of pockets that make sense and hold up.  In an elegant color that won’t make me look like a teenager-wanna-be (what???).  In an elegant reasonable price which will allow me to buy two if I’m smart enough and can afford it so that I don’t beat the same on up everyday.

Is there no one out there with such a purse?

Just watch the sidewalk right in front of you

I have a new bike.  It is fabulous.  I think it is one of the greatest bikes every created.  Did I mention its fabulous?  A Trek – lightweight, responsive, pads on the handlebars on which to rest the pads of my hands.  I’m in love with this gorgeous bike.  When I ride, I feel like all the cobwebs of burdens, uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear are blown from my mind away in the wind as I sail down a hill.  Pumping my legs up the hill is another thing entirely, but the focus remains so intense that I have a feeling of bike-induced meditation.  It is a wonderful experience.

In Greenville, SC, we have a new “rails to trails” bike path, named the Swamp Rabbit Trail, in honor of the former Swamp Rabbit train that cruised the same path.  This is a 14-mile-long path that has slight inclines and gorgeous sites as the trip takes you from Cleveland Street (on the south side of downtown) back through the breath-taking Falls Park in downtown, meandering through an older section of town, winding among trees and along a small river, along the backside of Furman University, and then onward and slightly upward to Travelers Rest, SC.  On warm evenings, and Saturday mornings, the trail is filled with bikers, runners and walkers, strollers, dogs walking their owners, and families.  People that appear to have never ridden a bike before are precariously teetering on pedals that push their knees to their chins.  Finding a bicycle that fits can be a challenge in itself.  I love the whole scene.


Several weeks ago, my husband and I were riding the trail, but we decided to take a detour.  Hundreds of runners were participating in a local marathon.  26+ miles.  I’m not a runner.  I like my bike.  The runners deserved their space and dodging bikes can be difficult on the 20th mile of a marathon, so we headed off the trail and up Hunts Bridge Road.  Sometimes, when you ride, you encounter mean-little-hills.  These are not the lengthy heart palpitating inclines that will make your legs burn with pumping, but a simple mean-little-hill that will lure you with its short length, but bite you as your breath comes in ragged wheezes and you realize that the hill might win.  Mean-little-hills are almost always a surprise, even if you’ve ridden them before.   I’m not crazy about riding on 4-lane highways, as this one is, so I got off on the cracked and gravel-covered sidewalk.  Not a good place for a lightweight trek.  A new lightweight beloved trek bike.  On a mean-little-hill.

I noticed immediately, however, if I shifted my attention to the sidewalk right in front of my bike, I didn’t fear the hill so much.  I could stare at the two feet or so that was directly in front of my tire, and the “idea” of the hill went away. (was Plato speaking directly to me?)  This was not about beating a little hill, but it became the process of peddling through the two – three feet that were right in front of me.  And I also noticed that with that kind of focus, I didn’t notice the hill part.  All I saw was that short amount of cracked sidewalk that, with this kind of focus, would allow me to miss the particularly deep cracks and huge rocks.  Hmmm.

This felt like an analogy to life.  If, on a day-to-day basis, I focus on what I need to do that day, and not what the longterm scary goal is, I don’t notice that the goal has not been reached that day.  I only notice that I’m doing what needs to be done.  On that day.  In that hour.  In that moment.

This is referred to as mindful living.  I haven’t actually looked it up, so I can’t see that is what anyone else calls it.  But it is what I call it.  It is paying attention to the person to whom you are speaking at that moment.  Sincere undistracted attention.  It is finishing the creation of one quiz for my history class.  It is writing the next 2000 words of my book for today.  It is making that appointment that I wrote in my daybook that I will make today.  It is being present in my mind while I hold my grandchild, talk to my son, or read a book.

Just watch the sidewalk in front of you.  The rest of the hill does not have to be conquered at the same time.  You won’t even notice it is a hill.  Because your daily bites and successes can come two – three feet at a time.

Forgiveness vs. Acceptance

Is the biggest reason we struggle with forgiveness because we fear it indicates approval?  Or we fear that if we forgive, that which was “done” to us will be “done” again?  What is the essence of forgiveness and how do we wrap our minds around a concept that may indicate to ourselves that we have not only allowed our perception of a bad thing to happen to us, we are almost encouraging it to happen again?

I was married young and divorced young.  The anger and pain which I held  for years did not allow me to consider forgiveness.  The ongoing financial trauma and lack of monetary support by my ex of our two sons kept the crappy feelings fed.  I knew nothing of forgiveness at that young age, nor did I want to forgive.  I was years away from forgiving my parents for my upbringing, along with many other perceived wrongs which I had experienced in my youthful life.  I had no concept of the understanding of forgiveness.

For my experience of offering forgiveness, it has ebbed and flowed.  I have offered it, I thought, only to have it pull back a bit.  I believe I have finally reached the point where I have forgiven my ex, but I don’t have the need to tell him so.  Perhaps that is only the tip of forgiving, and perhaps it is the essence.  Forgiving really doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be a rug again.  No need to lie down and get stepped all over.  So forgiveness comes hand in hand with awareness.  And good judgment.

A  young man has stepped forward from over a decade ago who wants forgiveness.  From me.  He did nothing to me, or in this case, to my son.  The choices he made for which he has been punished were poor choices and involved illegal actions.  But he didn’t attempt to bring my family into these bad decisions.  Still, he has asked for forgiveness from me.  I hesitate.  Is it because I fear acceptance of him and offering of this to him will somehow implicate me in approval?  What if I find out later that I was mistaken to go there, and want my forgiveness back?  I just don’t believe it works that way.  I think forgiveness is a one way street, and you can’t turn around and head in the other direction.

There are many things for which I hope I am forgiven.  If this was withheld from me from the important people in my life, I would be lost.  The things which I have on occasion done to hurt people aren’t illegal, but I establish my punishment.

This is one I shall have to offer to my own higher being.  I need direction and comfort.  I want to offer comfort.  But I want to be sure.  However, I think it’s a lot like being in love – if you haven’t felt it, you can’t know what it is by explanation.  For now, I’ll work on acceptance.  For tomorrow, I’ll think about forgiveness.

Do you conversate?

Some verbs simply sound wrong.  I think that is one of them: conversate.  Regardless, do you?  While reading a sermon in my city paper (yeah, me), my imagination was caught by the title, “Leadership: Caring for Conversation.”  If a headline does not grab my imagination, I am unlikely to read it.  This one did.  Big fight with my spouse yesterday mostly over conversation.  Perhaps it truly was about communication, so there’s something I need to think more deeply about.  The difference, that is.  But I think conversation and communication necessarily go hand in hand.

I digress.  In the article, I quote the question, “Today, are you and I caring for our conversation?”  What does that mean?  In this man’s opinion, it has to do with first truly seeing the people to whom we are speaking.  Seeing them as fellow human beings with needs and desires and baggage.  See the person to whom you are talking.  SEE.  His argument is that we are leaders no matter what role we play, and as leaders, when we speak we are then most God-like.  Hmmm.  This is connected to his belief that creation began with language.  The very first thing that happened to start our world were the words  “Let there be light.”  So in living our lives through language, we are displaying our most God-like similarity.  I’m not espousing that anyone needs to embrace the creation story.  But as a history teacher, a mother, friend, spouse, daughter, etc., etc., I am fully aware of the importance of language.

Part of his discussion revolves around de-dramatizing our speech.  Along with rejecting the “temptation to to overstate, over dramatize, ratchet up the conversation for the purpose of drawing attention.”

Today, this captured me and it happened to be from a man who is a minister.  I speak a lot about communication which includes conversation.  There are many other types of communication, including facial expressions, gestures, personal space, etc.  But when it comes to choosing words, which words you express, which ones you don’t, and which ones you change, how important is it?

Here’s another thought.  I recently read that the Latin root of discipline is “to listen”.  To listen.  When is the last time you felt truly listened to? Or did your own total body listening to another.  When  I make the conscious decision (and it isn’t often enough) to listen to the person speaking to me – and I consciously stop myself from preparing my answer ahead of time – the whole tenure of the conversation changes.  If I go back to try to remember what I was preparing to say, I can’t.  Its gone.  I have involved myself in the conversation in more ways than one – I have gone below the surface – and the response is usually delightful.

I venture to guess that some people go into therapy just to have someone sit for an hour and listen.  I gave up on a therapist once because all he did was talk.

We all have personal agendas.  Sometimes these are business situations, family, neighbors.  Perhaps we don’t know what the agenda is, or perhaps we do.  But the effort spent to wrap someone in your needs is not nearly as satisfying as connecting on a deeply emotional level with someone who matters to you.  I will try it with at least one person today.

(If you’d like to read the article which I cite, you can find it at http://www.wpc-online.org).

Gratitude List

Many years ago during a tough emotional time and depression, a friend suggested that I do a gratitude list.  At that moment, it seemed such a trivial thing and frankly, a lousy answer to my problem.  After a few days, I decided to give it a try.  I found out that it wasn’t so trivial, and the suggestion helped.  Actually, it did more than help.  I caused me to change my perspective, and assisted in leading me out of a difficult depression.  I think its time again.

1)  I am grateful for a spouse who supports me and is there for me.

2) I am grateful for 2 incredible sons whose lives are going quite well, and who are working on making positive and rewarding decisions in their lives.

3) I have a three wonderful friends who I can call on at anytime, and an incredible sister who offers the same.

4) I have plenty of food each day, a warm house, and a job.

5) My immediate family is healthy, as well as my family of origin.

6) My mom is still living and her mind is strong.

7) I can drive a car anywhere I want to provided I have enough time.

8) I have plenty of money, and with better management, it supports me well.

9) I can read.  And write.  And create.

10) I live in a country that allows me to vote, to disagree with the government without censor (or worse), provides roads and schools and electricity and water for my use and consumption.

I could go on and on.  And on.  When the tough times come, my tendency is to focus too much on the tough things.  Just to pause and to remember that the good outweighs the bad so greatly is an needed adjustment in my perspective and attitude.

Primers under Makeup

I have to admit I didn’t even know these existed, and I’ve been playing with makeup since I was 13.  I have very oily skin in the T range, and this might be something that would discourage the early afternoon glare off of my face.  I think I’ll get a sample and give it a try.  Have any of you used primers effectively?