Thursday, January 30, 2014

Perfectionism and other dream killers...

Those who know me would not think I am a perfectionist.
And I would agree...mostly...
I don't keep my house perfectly polished and's clean (several days a week), but not sterile.
My laundry isn't perfectly folded and pressed - at. all.
I don't do my nails...ever. (snip, snip)
My hair...well...let's just say...I have a halo and it isn't made of gold, floating above my head.
And, honestly, by what ruler am I measuring myself...what our culture dictates?  What HGTV or Martha Stewart say my house should look like - HGTV has virtually unlimited resources and Martha, oh Martha...that kind of perfectionism is a therapists dream! Do I compare my hair with how straight and glossy Hollywood says my hair should be?  I refuse to spend 2 hours straightening my mop...besides, it makes my face look thinner...maybe...
I'm okay with all of those imperfect parts.  Unfortunately, sometimes others have commented on my imperfections...negatively...but...well...after spending years feeling hurt by the criticism of others, I've retired.  It turns out that no one and I mean NO ONE has a perfect life.  The ones pretending to be perfect and annoyed by your imperfections are the most unhappy of all.  I gained compassion for them and indifference for their criticism.  It is good.
Now the big confession.  I am, in fact, a perfectionist.
In the creative part of my life.
In my art.
In my writing.
You may have noticed that my writing isn't perfect.
I notice that too.
I published it to this public blog anyway.
It's something I'm working on.
There is no such thing as perfect and if I wait for perfect to happen, nothing will happen.
If I'm truly honest with myself, when I worry about how perfect something is, it's people I'm trying to please, not God.  God does not expect perfection.  He expects obedience.  Perfection can only occur when God looks upon our imperfect efforts, adds His grace and mercy and uses them for His glory.  Perfect!
God has placed dreams in our hearts and has generously gifted us with unique talents. He waits for us to use these gifts to fulfill the dreams He's inspired in us.  Will we expect perfection and become discouraged or will we dive in and do our imperfect best?
I challenge you to do what God has called you to write, to make art, to be a mother, to work, to go to it with passionate abandon...imperfectly...and while you're at it, celebrate the imperfect efforts of someone else!  The encouragement we give to others will come back to us multiplied!

Colossians 3:23, 24
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.…

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Record Breaking Movie Streak...broken...

Alex and I love to go to the movies... LOVE!
We just had a record "good movie" streak...6 movies in a row...
Here they are in no particular order (just as they come to mind):
1.  About Time - A time-travel story that begins with an awkward young man trying to fit in and find love and ends with the idea that a perfect life is less desirable than a sticky love-filled one.
2.  Captain Phillips - The true story of pirates and a brave Captain who lives to tell the tale.  The lead pirate was played perfectly and Tom Hanks was as good as always playing the captain.  I was completely stressed out throughout the movie even though I knew how it ended!
3.  Anchorman 2 - Don't judge me.  I love to laugh.  I liked the first one and with all the hype surrounding this one, assumed it would bomb...most sequels of this genre do.  Nope.  It was hilarious...albeit vulgar...and had a surprising political message that went unnoticed by the's the line:  “News is supposed to keep watch over the powerful so the powerful don’t become corrupt. But what happens when the powerful own the news?”  And before it could sink in, they got back to the funnies.
4.  Saving Mr. Banks - Oh how I loved this movie.  I love Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson and in this movie they were just wonderful.  I loved the emotion, the humor and the passion with which she loved her story...her characters...and would not let them be misrepresented.  The little surprise while the credits rolled was utterly sublime...
5.  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - I love Walter.  His awkward desire to find love and his ability to throw caution to the wind to "get a life" was the most fun way!  It ended with a nod to the little guy which always makes my heart sing!
6.  Frozen - We may not have little kids any more but the charm of this movie was not lost on us! The music was wonderful, the animation, fabulous and the fun!!

Then we saw "August, Osage County".
If you haven't seen it and want to see it, don't read any further.
This was our reaction when the credits started rolling...and we said these words almost LITERALLY in unison: "This movie was made specifically to give Meryl Streep a vehicle for an Oscar"
The movie has no other value.
Here's the thing.
I couldn't muster an ounce of sympathy for a single character....wait...I cared about the Native American assistant they hired...and abused.  Everyone else was so narcissistic and/or self loathing that they repelled any sort of real concern for their well-being.  Let me add, I love a good villain...a character who is easy to hate but has layers of interest and one in this story cared about any other person.  The movie ended when the Julia Roberts character decided to abandon her mother...and who could blame her...SAD!
It had funny moments, but most of the movie was acting, acting, acting (it felt like acting...not storytelling)....a study in dysfunction...and not entertaining least not for us...and no story whatsoever...just August in Osage County...left raw and unfinished and unresolved and messed up....which, I suppose was the point...and so I guess they succeeded.  (yuk)

Last night, we saw Nebraska.  Alex didn't like it.  I did.  It was bland (even shot in black and white).  But in the end, it was about honoring your father...even your imperfect, alcoholic father...and caring about someone else above yourself.  It was touching and sweet and ended perfectly.

See you at the movies!!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Value of Mud

She stood on the path, blocking our way.  We approached her slowly.  She stepped to the side.  She was pretty, but she wasn’t as energetic as others that wandered nearby.  I took note of her belly…swollen.  She must be pregnant I thought.  She blew air out of her nose lazily, making a long puffing sound. Her head was down.  She wasn’t bothered by our presence, but her eyes watched.
            “She’s pretty”, I said.
            “She looks old and tired”, my husband added
            “She’s PREGNANT” I rushed to her defense…she was too tired to speak up for herself…to winny at him in protest…to rear up on her hind legs and show him her real strength.
            “Let’s go”, he said, taking my hand…let’s find some shark’s teeth!”
            We headed down the path to the small beach the ranger had said held the treasure we sought.  We already had a bag full of beautiful shells we’d found on the beach but there were sharks teeth on the other side of the island and we wanted to find a few to add to our collection.
            We arrived at the beach to feel the earth giving slightly under our steps. 
            “It’s muddy” we echoed each other
            We could see the beach just a few yards away but the mud – which was invisible under a layer of sand and grass – was like quicksand.  We kept trying, walking up and down the area surrounding the beach.  We discovered that if we walked very quickly, the ground wouldn’t have time to give.  We scampered over the grassy, muddy, sandy stretch to the beach.  Our shoes were covered in dark gray mud.  We wandered onto the sand until…it started to give way.  I quickly jumped to some more solid-looking sand…it was sinking sand too!  My shoe was sucked under and I struggled to pull it out as my other foot sank.  My husband was sinking too and he quickly ran to the safety of the land beyond the beach. 
            “If you go fast, you won’t sink!  Hurry!” he called to me.
            “ACK!  I’m sinking!”  I yelled
            “Run over this way” he called.
            “I’m coming” I replied as I stretched my legs as far as they would go, leaping from where I was to more solid ground.
            Our shoes were muddy and so were our pants.  We were a mess! 
            As we walked the path back to the dock, we noticed the horse again…this time she was lying down.  She looked up at us as we got closer but she didn’t get up.  Why was she just laying there?  I worried.  Was she okay? She didn’t seem THAT close to delivering.  As we got closer, she finally, very slowly, and with great effort, rose to her feet.  It was then that I noticed her legs.  They were muddy all the way up to her swollen belly.  She had been stuck in the mud too! 
            “OH look at her legs!” I said   She looked at me.  I could see the exhaustion in her eyes.  How awful that must have been…pregnant, heavy, struggling to get free from the sinking sand.  She must have been frantic.  No wonder she looked so old and tired.  She’d spent every ounce of her energy!  I talked to her, telling her we’d been stuck too and how scary it must have been for her.  She was muddy, very muddy, but I hadn’t noticed.  It wasn’t until I’d wrestled with the mud myself that I was able to see evidence of her struggle.
            I thought about that on the walk back to the dock.  How often do I ask God to show me how to serve others and in the same prayer, ask him to keep me from discomfort and struggle.  Trials can be the answer to the first part of that prayer.  Trials are not wasted.  They are often the tie that connects us to someone else.  Enduring a struggle can help us see a brother or sister in the midst of one, or the ability to tell them where the mud is…to warn them against the danger.  A shared trial can be a comfort to someone who feels utterly alone.   
            Perhaps when we pray for opportunity to connect with others, we could also pray for grace to withstand the inevitable mud we wander into every be thankful for the trials that grow our faith and draw us nearer to God…for eyes to see the value of mud and empathy to care for those who are stuck.

James 1:2-4
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Cumberland Island is a barrier island on the Florida/Georgia border.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Old People Behavior

My husband and I are going to Florida this week.
Because it's January.
And it's cold.
And we can.
He was looking up funky/offbeat places to stay and found a "condo" in a "resort" that was very affordable...
"They have shuffle board" my husband (who is under the age of 50) exclaimed.
"Show me a photo of this place" I said...a red flag fluttered.
He did.
In the photo were lots of gray-haired people in sweaters...smiling, having a lovely time playing shuffleboard.
Turns out, it was a senior RV community with small manufactured homes for rent.
I pointed out the gray-haired people.  My husband has gray hair. (It's not important what color mine is under the dye)
I told him we weren't ready.
It wasn't time.
Instead we're going to visit some good friends and stay in Panama Beach City, at a place that requires a "spring break" deposit during the months of March and April.
We may be empty nesters going to Florida in the winter, but that's where the old people behavior ends.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Upside of Emptiness...

Our nest is empty.

I'm cool with it.
No, I really am.  I think it's good because the kids are all doing very well...being successful...reaching for the stars and dreaming big dreams...they're's good.

There are several things I really like so far...they are as follows in no particular order:

1.  Less laundry.  If you're one of those people who love to do laundry, you won't appreciate this, but since I have never finished the laundry in one day, nor put it away the same day it was folded, this is one of my favorite empty nest benefits!  A related benefit is the ability to run half-naked to the dryer to find that pair of jeans I haven't pulled out of the dryer and folded yet...without fear of the kids seeing the stretch marks they so generously donated to my physique.
2.  Fewer dishes to wash.  I run the dishwasher every other day....every. other. day.  Let that sink in. (pun intended)
3.  Cleanliness.  The only messes that are made are mine or my husband's...which was eye opening.  Seems I'm messier than I thought.  BUT, I don't mind cleaning up the messes we own.  Also, as the years have passed, I have learned to care less and less what people think when they drop by unexpectedly and see my house in it's messiest no longer bothers me and I haven't shimmied around trying to distract the wandering eyes of a visitor for quite some time.  Go ahead, look around...I'm willing to bet we have a similar number of dust bunnies...yours may be more creatively hidden...
4.  Freedom.  Do we want to go to the movies?  Sure, why not?  No one has a game or a concert or a meet to go to.  No one has to be driven to this or that practice.  What about a little trip?  Dinner?  What dinner?  I'm not cooking dinner!
5.  Food in the pantry.  It's amazing.  When I go to the store, I put the food in the pantry.  The food is still in the pantry the next morning!!!  I had no idea some items had such a long shelf life!  Now if I can only train myself to buy for two people instead of 5...
6.  I'm married!  I knew it!  He's been here the whole time!  It's true that when you have kids your whole life changes.  For 23 years I was in kid-raising husband and I tried to keep our marriage front and center, but life is a roller coaster and sometimes, honestly, we'd get a little nauseated.  We muddled through and raised our children and now we are alone with each other again.  Marriage is like a sandwich, lots of fun interesting stuff sandwiched between what holds it all people who love each other...and it's nice to get to enjoy him without so much distraction again!
7.  Money.  Even with one kid still in college, there's more money in the bank.  Less mouths to feed and fewer people forgetting to turn off lights does wonders for the budget. (another eye opener, I leave a lot of lights on...working on that!)   
8.  Appreciation.  When kids move away, they appreciate the things you used to do for them...the meals you cooked...the family fun...the immediate support in life's many situations.  When the parents are left, they appreciate the little things about their kids' every day presence...the hugs, the talks, the the constant whirl of activity, sarcastic comments, missing curfews, dishes and wrappers all over the house.....wait a minute....yeah, I really do miss those hugs!

The empty nest is a keeper.  I'm sure I'll add to this list as time goes by and we settle in and adapt fully to this new phase.  I encourage everyone to embrace shed a few tears as the door hits those precious offspring in the bum on the way out and then dry those tears and enjoy the wide open spaces of the empty nest!  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

On Going Outside...

Ah, the comfort zone...that wonderful, glorified prison.
I love being comfortable...coasting...dreaming.  I can talk a big talk without risk, but it's only been in the last few years that I've put feet to my dreams.

I recently closed my Etsy shop...a venture that was risky when I started.  I put myself out there artistically.  Knock me over with a feather, it was successful!  Selling my creative works was also put pennies in my pocket...but it wasn't what I was meant to do.  

I distinctly remember having a sleepover with a friend when I was in grade school.  The fun activity we decided to do was to write a book.  I wish I had saved that partially written book.  I wrote 3 or 4 chapters.  It was about babysitting and I remember that my protagonist was THRILLED to find out that the new neighbors would pay A DOLLAR AN HOUR if she babysat their child!  I also remember asking my mom to come upstairs to hear our progress.  She sat patiently, listening to 10-year-old sentences strung together with 5th grade panache.  She said I had talent, a gift for writing.  My 10-year-old self didn't doubt that one day I'd write a book!

Why does our adult mind tell our childhood dreams that they are stupid, impossible, and unreachable?  Why do we listen?  Comfort.  It's comfortable to stay the same. It's pleasant to live day to day without fluttering butterflies in our stomachs or the stress of potential rejection.  Then maybe it hits us...I'm ____ (insert age here).  In 10 years I'll be 10 years older whether I tried to do that thing I've always wanted to do or not!  C.S Lewis said:  "The future is something everyone reaches at a rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is."  True, Mr. Lewis, very true.

2014 is the year of doing...of doing the things I've always told myself I would do but haven't had the guts (or is that faith?) to do.  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

On Running and Resolve...

I don't make resolutions, but I made a commitment about a year and a half ago to take better care of my body.
I was about to turn 47 and I was very disappointed in how I was living...eating junk, sitting on my bum too much, not exercising AT ALL.  It hit me one day that I wasn't getting any younger and that the old adage was true...if you don't use it, you lose it.  I've never really had anxiety about growing older, but at that moment, I wondered what the second half of my life might look like if I didn't take better care of the body that God had given me.
My daughter, a runner, offered to train me to run.  I protested.  I'm not a runner.  But over the course of the next few months, she coached me to my first 5K!  It was a journey that has changed my life...changed the direction of my life.
My coach is a busy girl and she no longer runs with me regularly.  Ultimately, I had to make a conscious decision to do this for myself.  To commit to caring about myself enough to keep on going.  So I have.
One of the most remarkable things I've gained in my journey is that my self-talk has improved.  I have proved to my inner critic that I CAN do things that at one time seemed impossible.  It's a powerful thing to prove yourself wrong.  It's difficult too.  I had to practice talking back to myself when I'd start thinking lies like "it's too far, you'll never make it" or "gosh, you're so tired, you should stop".  Every time I'd ignore my negativity, that voice was quieter the next time I ran.
I'm going through a phase of negativity at the moment (I blame all of the beautiful sugary treats that have taunted me for the last month) but I'll get through it, I've shut it down before.  The first step is making sure the words that flow from my mouth are negative talk!
If you made a decision to do better for yourself, to take better care of your body, start shutting down the negativity.  If you believe in yourself, you'll always have a built-in cheerleader!

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year, New Look!

This is the year of new beginnings!
I've always loved to decorate and home and studio...painting the walls in fresh new colors, changing the curtains or adding something to the wall.  Why not redecorate my blog?

I considered bagging the old blog and starting fresh but there's so much history here.  There are posts I love, memories I cherish, words I don't want to delete! I couldn't abandon it, leaving it to rot like a broken down car on the side of the information superhighway.  So here I am, not only a re-decorator of tangible spaces, but of virtual spaces as well!

There are many things I'd like to share with you in the coming days, weeks, months and years.  But for now, come in, take a look around.  Read some history...I've spiffed the place up for ya!