Years ago as a single mother I would save up enough to take my son out for dinner. He would get to choose whatever he wanted from the menu while I was doing the same. When the orders were placed he told the server what he had decided on. It was his choice and he expressed it clearly. However, when the meals arrived he would look at his plate with the food he had chosen and look at my plate and the food I had chosen. Suddenly, he didn’t want what he had asked for. He wanted what I had ordered. Since I wasn’t about to waste food or money I would trade with him. Until one night I ordered what really sounded good to me. Liver and onions. It came with mashed potatoes and peas. He no longer wanted to trade.
The thing is I didn’t order liver and onions because he would eat it if he didn’t like his own order. I ordered liver and onions because I like liver and onions. It really was what I wanted. No object lesson. I didn’t suffer through my dinner. I enjoyed it. He sat eating his dinner amazed that I actually liked my dinner. The waitress had asked us both same question, “What would you like?” and we both had answered. We both got what we asked for. I was very satisfied with my decision and my dinner. He had to accept that what he asked for and got was good.
How often do you want to trade with someone because you are not satisfied with what you asked for?
How often are you bewildered by someone being happy with a decision that is not your taste?
How do you like your liver and onions?
I want to stay in my office until all the books I have in me have been written.
I want to stay in my reading chair until all the books I have gathered have been read.
I want to stay in my craft cottage until I run out of supplies and all the projects I can think of have been created.
I want to stay in my kitchen until the last cookie has been decorated and the last of the sugar has been sprinkled.
I want to sit by the fire with the one I love until the last of the wine has been shared.
I want to have my hands filled with the hands of children I love.
I want to see the faces of family and friends through the blur of happy tears.
What do you want?
Yes, this is my prayer list. Or a part of it. Years ago I found the admonition to pray without ceasing to be unrealistic. But since I adopted my prayer by association I find it has become part of my moment by moment day.
A friend who was frustrated with her life said she was ready to throw in the towel. I pray for her while folding towels.
A friend who sat and listened to my story after sharing hers ( a really rare thing) on a snowy day in Colorado (not such a rare thing) has a husband who’s medical condition makes it difficult for him to fly his plane. Living on the approach route to San Jose International Airport ( call me if you are coming to town. No, really, I’m 10 minutes from the airport.) I pray for them every time I see a plane coming in.
A friend I have never met, but hold dear, has a daughter who just got a very special dog. The Labrador has been trained as a seizure dog and the teenager who now relies on this dog has a better chance at a normal life. As I let my own, very untrained labs in and out of the back yard a dozen times a day to do their business or chase squirrels I thank God for the people who train working dogs and for the precious child who is watched over by loving puppy eyes.
A spatula, a rose garden, a pen, the coffee table, assorted coffee mugs, my tape gun, my glue gun, filling the van with gas and countless other touch points through out my day bring people and situations to my heart and mind. Each a nudge to lift them in prayer. My life is surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses masquerading as laundry and dishes and socks dangling from the mouth of a puppy who wants to go outside again.
Who is on your prayer list? Who is on your heart?
Tonight across the country young men and women will stand alone atop a platform in the gap between the field and the stands and answer this question.
These teenagers will look up at a panel of judges and respond with a salute. Between them and the judges are rows of family, friends, and hundreds of strangers waiting for this moment. A quick turn on their heels and the raise of their arms moves the focus from them to the uniformed performers who have been preparing weeks and months in the heat and cold, the wind and the rain.
Are they ever really ready? These kids have worked hard. They have learned what they were taught. They practiced the music. The memorized the patterns of the field work. But the question is “are they ready?”
I have a lot of things left to do. Projects I want to see come to fruition. None of them will be accomplished in a vacuum. All of them require a team, a band. Each has a part to play and a place on the field. As I look at those projects I start seeing the players step up. I can’t wait for the moment when I can salute, knowing my band is ready. I can hear them warming up now.
What are you working on? Who’s playing in your band? Is your band ready?
Things and days have meaning because we give it to them. Traditions are unique to individuals and families and cultures because they have been given meaning consistently and repetitively. Some are repeated so long that the original meaning is lost or diluted by time. Others are started with the best of intentions only to die before they take root in the hearts of those observing them. Most are accidental. A few are contrived. Those that have sprung up in the past 100 years or so tend to be driven by consumerism and social pressure.
Eleven years ago a tradition began in our home that I do not know of being observed by anyone else. I may be wrong about that but based on the origins for us, I doubt it. October 2002 in a little kindergarten class a patient woman named Mrs. Goldsmith was teaching 20 energetic young students. The theme for the fall months was cowboys and ranches. Stick horses were made and named and ridden with enthusiastic imagination. The naming of these ponies and stallions was almost as critical as the decision of the riders in choosing their own cowboy or cowgirl name. Gingerbread Grace and her faithful horse Rosie galloped around together for weeks.
But then the collision occurred. The draw of many young ladies to don the tiara, the long white gloves and the ball gown for the parties at the end of October is a mighty force. The gown was selected. The sparkles shone bright. But the call of the cowgirl was just as strong. Thus began the tradition of Cowboy Chili on October 31st for the Princess. Made from scratch and simmered on the back burner for hours to thicken, a slab of corn bread and sweet tea became the annual fortification before taking Daddy’s hand and heading out into the night to make her royal rounds.
The little Princess is taller than me now. She’s opted to hand out candy with her friend this year, bumping me from my front door duties. Those tears earlier were from cutting the onions. Eleven years of making chili you would think I would be used to the onions by now.
Have we become a nation so bombarded by sound and noise and advice and information that we have stopped listening in self defense?
I have learned to enjoy watching football the past couple of years from going to high school games to hear the pep band. Football on tv is harder for me to watch. At a live game there are people commenting on the play or the players or the coach or any number of things. But then they take a breath or a bite of hot dog or something and for a few minutes they don’t talk. On tv the commentators seem compelled to fill every nanosecond with the sound of their own voice. Having just watched several games of the World Series I feel for the guys in the broadcast booth. Baseball moves so much slower than football and that tension to fill the lulls must be agonizing at times.
With all the advances in technology and communication, education and entertainment, I believe as a society we have actually become less evolved. We no longer know the phone numbers of those we love. We have them programmed in our phones. We don’t call. We text or email. Dinner around the home table is more the occasion than the norm. Cartoons have their own channel and are on 24 hours a day instead of just Saturday morning. If AM and FM were not enough choices for audio entertainment in the car now they come with surround sound Dolby theaters built in so your children won’t be tempted to look out the window at any point in the 5 minute drive to school let alone the possibility of an hour drive anywhere.
This morning there were a dozen or so near misses between cars and bikes and students all trying to navigate a one block section of 6 lane surface street. Each seemed focused on where they were going or what they were doing and surprised when someone suddenly appeared in their way or their mirror or their face. One student walking forward ran into the bus stop pole while looking backward to yell at someone crossing the street.
All this to say, I think we have lost our senses. Our listening skills, our power of observation, our mental acuity and in loosing those I think we may be loosing our humanity. Voices become noise, people become obstacles, and getting there becomes more important than the journey.
This morning I posted on another website I blog for using the headline construction technique often recommended to catch the readers attention. I can now testify it works. Maybe it worked too well.
What I thought was a positive update to a situation had two distinct and opposite responses. The first group panicked thinking no one would take the situation as direly as they had just yesterday. The second group saw the remaining need and offered direct and useful options to meet that need.
The good news is it had impact. Now if I can just hone my skills to get a more consistently positive reaction and action from my readers.
I’ve heard a lot of disrespectful conversations lately. From the evening news to the high school parking lot, there is no shortage of people who do not like the way others are doing their jobs and who are very vocal about it.
Almost 30 years ago I was working with a mentor who called me up and fired me. She didn’t think I was taking the mentorship seriously enough. I did not put the phone down before calling someone else to mentor me. I am forever grateful to Sharon Andrews for not only answering her phone when I called but for agreeing to take me on. Sharon was a very active woman and I knew I could learn a lot from her. The lesson that stands out the most vivid for me happened one day while we were painting an office. Sharon was the head of the women volunteers working on our new church building. We had gotten to the point of painting offices. Sharon and I had just finished putting the first coat of paint on the room that would be the staff break room when a gentleman I had never seen before came in and said “You missed a spot.” Sharon handed him her paint roller and said “Go for it”. She winked at me. I put down my roller and we went to lunch. When we had come back the man had found so many spots that he had completely painted the second coat of paint on the whole room!
We had every intention of painting a second coat but because he interjected himself into the situation before we were done several things happened. He unexpectedly found a paint roller in his hand and the authority to fix the situation himself. We were relieved of our task. The room got painted. Sharon taught me a great deal by handing off that paint roller. She knew the goal was to get it painted. She was not locked into painting it herself and was able to delegate it to someone who saw the job needed work. Then she was able to walk away and let him do it.
This week I walked away from a situation. I put my roller down and walked out. I don’t expect this particular room to look any different for my absence. There were plenty of people arguing about how to finish painting it and while leadership was noticeably lacking opinions were not. I have no doubt the room will be finished. I just don’t need to be there or be part of the process. They are in the middle. I’m sure it will all be fine when they are done.
Thanks, Sharon, for teaching me how to let go. We need to get together for lunch soon.
Self-defeating behavior seems to run in my family. It goes hand in hand with the creativity and artistic. Those who are the most creative fight with depression, purpose, and motivation. Those who have little to no creativity tend to be productive in mindless routine tasks. Both sides of the family find the other annoying. The producers don’t understand why the creatives can’t keep their homes tidy or their checkbook balanced or be on time for family gatherings. The creatives are equally annoyed with the producers lack of spontaneity, imagination, or flexibility. Walking the line is the only thing worse than being firmly in either camp.
Ideas for projects have never been in short supply. I have outlines, supplies, and plans for hundreds of projects ranging from art to writing and back again. Interests abound. Themes, series, collections are abundant. The creative in me is there and with it come the challenges of actually finishing anything.
The producer in me craves routine. A rhythm to my day, my week, my month, and even my entire year would be such a deep comfort to the part of me that desires structure and consistency. Planning, preparing, and being on time for appointments is a constant drive. Having to plan, prepare, and think for others is a constant drain.
Somewhere between the creative and producer there is a disconnect that saps so much of my time and energy each day. Even the time it has taken me to write this brief and shallow examination of my struggle has been attacked with dozens of impulses to leave my keyboard to rotate the laundry, check the mailbox, let the dogs out and back in, take a shower and finish folding the clothes on the bed.
Across the country I have friends who are young moms juggling small children and life on their own for one reason or another. Some husbands are deployed and some dads are just not in the picture. Each time I hear one of them has a sick child or needs a sitter for a couple of hours of sanity, I wish they were just down the street so I could rock a little one while mom takes a nap.
Also scattered are the WOW. The Women Of Wisdom. These are the rare women who have grown wise and wonderful as they have journeyed through life. They are the ones who remind me of truth and perspective. They are the ones who make getting stuck at the airport a party and who understand how precious the fleeting moments together really are.
I live in one of the most populated areas of the world. We are not a highly compacted as New York or Hong Kong but we are the third largest city in the second most populous state. So you would think finding people to connect with locally would be simple. Just go out the front door and run into them. It’s not that easy.
I’ve tried getting involved at church or with my kids schools. It’s a great way to stay busy and donate money to good causes but it’s not the best way to actually connect with people.
So how do I find these gems of relationship in my own city? my neighborhood? How do people find you? How do they connect with you on a meaningful level?
“It’s easy to make new friends but hard to make old friends”. How do you make friends?