Thursday, November 29, 2007

Am I the only one...

This photo was taken at the airport here in Charlotte while I waited for my flight to White Plains for the writing group gathering. Traveling light. Traveling well. Traveling. I love to travel. I miss being on the road. Am I the only one?


Am I the only one who manages to follow up one fantastic day of basking in joy and grace and peace with three days of tears and frustration and feeling sorry for myself?

No, nothing in particular.
Just feeling a little down.
A little lonely.
A little hormonal.

Am I the only one?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Simply Beautiful

Today has been one of those days, ones of those simply beautiful days.
One of those ordinary days that is easy to overlook.
I haven't overlooked this one.
Waking up after an invigorating, most enjoyable dream

A few silent moments in front of the Christmas tree before every else woke up

The beginnings of preparation for a retreat I will lead in April


Two cups of tea: lapsang souchang and mango green

Breakfast with Kristiana: an egg sandwich she made for me

Reading to and with her: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Blue Like Jazz

Walking Maya in the rain (yes, rain. Thanks be to God!)

Washing my hair

Cream, scented oil, knee high socks, a denim skirt, black shirt, and chenille scarf

Homeschooling with my 9th grade daughter

Ice water to drink

Sitting in the minivan with K outside of her horseback riding barn, chatting

Watching her walk into the barn in her riding pants, boots, chaps, and helmet. That daughter of mine is growing up. Tall, elegant, beautiful. Smart, gentle, kind. Where on earth did she come from?!?!?!

Sitting in the van alone, listening to Christmas music, journaling, nibbling on mint M&Ms, reading a book on how to maintain hope in the face of a difficult relationship, dreaming of travel, wishing I had brought tea in my thermos.

Listening to the rain land on the van

Coming home to a warm, cozy house

Cuddling with Daniel, putting him to bed at 8:30, praying with him, and kissing him good-night... being glad that my 11-year-old still likes to be "put to bed"

Doing some preparation work for a holiday journaling project: Journaling Your Christmas with Shimelle. I am very excited about getting started. I hope to be able to adapt it to ongoing journaling projects I'd like to do. Apparently, Shimelle leads online journaling and scrapbooking classes often. If this one goes well, I may take another one.

Sitting here at my computer in my red robe, blue slippers, alone in my study.

As I sit here, writing, thinking, reflecting, I am reminded of so many quotes from so many books. I look over at my shelf and see Kathleen Norris's ode to daily life: The Quotidian Mysteries. I see Denise Roy's ode to motherhood: My Monastery is a Minivan. I see Becca Stevens' Sanctuary, a book about the unexpected places where she met up with God's grace. And John Eldredge's book title, The Journey of Desire, always sends me into spasms of fantasy. Which journey? Which desires will finally be met? When and where?

At the end of it all, after finishing each book and sighing that last sigh, underlining the pithy statement that I hope will end all the aforementioned sighing, after cutting out and gluing the ideal image into my journal, the book that lays so many of my ideals to (what often feels like eternal) rest,
in the end, I usually feel both grateful and discontented.
I am drawn in to the mystery of this life and dulled by the dailyness of it.
I seek sanctuary and am deeply enamored with the idea of escape.
So many desires, so few journeys.
All those feelings. Ebbing and flowing. All at the same time.

Today, however, I lay those contradictory feelings and thoughts aside.
Right now, this moment is simply beautiful.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

The local shops and streets are lit up with Christmas lights.
Electric-powered deer and sleighs dot lawns all over Charlotte.
Santa has set up his perch at the South Park Mall.
Starbucks and Caribou Coffee have the requisite peppermint drinks available. (I like Caribou's drink names: Falalala Latte and Ho ho ho mint mocha.)

There was an organ concert at church tonight.
Choirs, dancers, and actors are preparing for the Christmas concert.
Poinsettias line the edge of the podium at church.

Our tree is up and decorated.
Christmas cookie ingredients are piled high on the pantry shelves.
Christmas music is playing in the living room.
I've pulled my Advent books off the shelves.
I've begun to eye the red and green earrings that I wear only during the month of December.
Steve and I have already promised each other that we won't be excessive with the children's gifts this year.

And deep down inside, in that private cave where my heart hides during most of the year, there is a candle flickering. There is a light breaking through the shadows. I find that I am smiling more. I laugh more easily at my husband's ridiculously goofy jokes. I want to sing Christmas carols day and night.

During my time in New York a couple of weeks ago, one of my friends asked me if I really believed in the Virgin Birth. Isn't it possible, she asked, that it is a story made up by Christ's followers to enhance the story of how good a teacher He was? I told her that I most definitely do believe in the Virgin Birth. If the story of Christ's birth is a lie and He never corrected it, then He isn't a good teacher. He's a liar, and He isn't worthy of any of my praise or worship.

Thinking back on that conversation earlier today, I found myself wanting to sit with my children and reread the story of Christ's birth to them, explaining to them the wonder of carrying a child within one's body, and trying to imagine with them what Mary felt, knowing the true miracle of The Child she bore. This is a magical, mysterious, mind-boggling time of year for me. Every year it seems to be more awe-inspiring.

It is beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas.
And I am happy.
Not only because my birthday is coming up: nineteen days and counting...
It's not only because I may be heading overseas again in December...
It's not only because several old friendships are being renewed and deepened
and some new ones are getting better day by day...

My spirit is light and joyful because once again
I am waiting here for Love again to be born.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

This has been a long day. I woke up at 5 to pull a few things out of the fridge in preparation for the big meal.

Three of us went to the church at 6 to help pack meals for needy families (Daniel didn't even open his eyes when I asked if he wanted to go - he shook his weary head)... wrong time! My fault - oops. So Steve, Kristiana, and I came home for two hours and returned to the church at 8...right time - yeah!

Although there are lots of organizations and churches that pack more than 100 family meals (a whole turkey, stuffing, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls, and a pie), it is quite moving to see dozens of people scooping all of the above into containers, wrapping turkeys, going up and down the church elevator with pies and turkeys that parishoners are dropping off... As I taped cardboard boxes together, I prayed for each family that would receive a meal, and I gave thanks for the tremendous gift it is to be able to provide for our children as we do when there are so many who cannot. It was truly an assembly line of blessings.

Back home to cook, bake, do some last minute cleaning, shower, get dressed, set the kitchen and dining room tables, and prepare for a group of 11 - which included the widower and two of the children of my dear friend, Karen, who passed away back in April. We enjoyed lots of food, laughter, pie, sparkling cider, and more food. Several guests fell asleep during the Detroit-Green Bay football game. Nice.

The last guest is gone. We are quieting down for a cozy night of snuggling and recovering. I plan to sleep in late tomorrow morning.

But I'll be up for the tea party at 10! I'm going to throw my warm purple robe over the post at the end of the bed before I go to sleep and keep my book and journal nearby for the morning's planned rest and relaxation.

Please join me - wherever you are, whoever you're with. Tea and pie at 10.
I'll be right here.
Happy Thanksgiving night to all of you.
Especially you...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Count me out!

Who are the people who line up outside of stores at 5 in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving?

Are the prices really that good that they need to deprive themselves of sleep in order to be first in line?

Do their children really need another plastic toy, another video game, another electronic device, doll, or doo-dad that badly?

Is there anything for sale anywhere in this country that I would consider lining up to purchase at 5 am? At the moment, nothing comes to mind. Nothing at all.

Why do we allow ourselves to be so duped by the sellers of unnecessary stuff that we humiliate ourselves this way? No wonder there is a record number of foreclosures in this country, family-busting debt, and despair about the state of our personal economic situations; we refuse to stop spending. We refuse to "just say no" to all the fear about not having the latest and greatest of whatever is out there to be had. We want the most stuff for the least bucks - and end up with poisonous, faulty, cheap junk that our children want to throw away within days and that our importers and manufacturers want to recall within months.

Count me out.

Truthfully, I have never joined in that early morning frenzy on "Black Friday." And this year will be no exception to that tradition. (Oh yeah - Why does it have that name?)

Would anyone care to join me for an internet/long-distance tea party on Friday morning at 10 am, EST? Tea and some leftover pie from Thanksgiving. We can sit in our favorite place in our houses, sip, snack, and smile about the joy of being at home while so many others go crazy out in the stores. Together we can celebrate Buy Nothing Day.

Anybody at all?

Happy Thanksgiving to all.
There is so very much to be grateful for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Groups of Eight - More about me

Lisa, I know you didn't ask directly, but I felt the pressure. Okay, I'll do it.
Seriously, I really like taking on these "meme" challenges and coming up with a few more details about the person I am - and the one I hope to be someday...

8 Things I'm Passionate About =

1. Deepening my friendships
2. Growing in my faith
3. Travel
4. Downsizing in many areas of my life
5. Spending time with my children
6. Strengthening my marriage
7. Learning
8. Journaling

8 Things I Want to Do Before I Die =

1. Publish a book of my musings
2. Live in Europe with my husband and children
3. Live in a cottage-style house
4. Learn to speak Italian fluently
5. Take a class on art history and appreciation
6. Teach a college or graduate level course
7. Become a better photographer
8. Get paid to do any of the above

8 Things I Say Often =

1. Indeed
2. Exactly, exactly
3. It ain't perfect, but it's definitely better
4. Lord, have mercy.
5. Thanks be to God.
6. Did you brush, floss, peep, and Act? (That's how I ask my children if they took care of their teeth and bodily needs before bed. Act is a mouthwash they use.)
7. No one asked me for my opinion.
8. And they're off like a herd of turtles. (I say this when we finally get out of the house and head out to do whatever we have to do.)

8 Books I've Read Recently =

1. Speaking of Faith
2. The Myth of a Christian Nation (not finished it yet)
3. Searching for God Knows What
4. Thirst
5. Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God
6. Eat, Pray, Love
7. Through Painted Deserts
8. Sanctuary

8 Songs I Could Sing or Listen to Over and Over =

1. Your Smiling Face - James Taylor
2. Vamos Pa'lante - Contagious
3. Waiting for you to Turn me On (Norah Jones' version)
4. Smooth - Santana
5. Great is Thy Faithfulness - Selah
6. Waiting for Love to be Born - Rob Mathes
7. Moonlight Sonata
8. Pachelbel's Canon

8 Things that Attract Me to My Best Friends =

1. Intelligent humor
2. Love of life
3. Vulnerability
4. Honesty
5. Lack of a complaining spirit
6. They like to eat
7. Willing to listen to my tales
8. Adventurous

A few categories of my own:

Eight people I wish I could meet and have dinner with

1. Andy Garcia
2. Oprah Winfrey
3. Beth Moore
4. Anne Lamott
5. Elizabeth Gilbert
6. Andrea Lee
7. Barack Obama
8. Leonie Allan

Eight places I want to go back to sometime soon
1. Puerto Rico
2. Costa Rica
3. London
4. Rome
5. Boston
6. Madrid
7. Florence
8. Gibbs' lake house

Eight foods I liked as a child - but not anymore
1. Liver and onions
2. liverwurst
3. Funyun's onion rings
4. cotton candy
5. graham crackers
6. Ritz crackers
7. taffy
8. strawberry ice cream

Eight things or people I think about every day
1. the drought
2. my children's health and well-being
3. all the books I am in the middle of reading
4. my friend, Antonio
5. the classes I am teaching, have taught, and am preparing to teach
6. when I will get to see my dear friend/friends again
7. what would happen to Steve and the kids if something happened to me
8. what would happen to me and the kids if something happened to Steve

Eight things/people I am grateful for tonight
1. Steve and the kids
2. my niece, Lizzie, who is here visiting us this week
3. my new friend, Lisa
4. the many friends that I have known for years and continue to cherish (too many to name - and that's a great problem to have)
5. this awesome house we live in
6. our health
7. laughter
8. the Great Harvest Bread Company: their turtle bars, cinnamon rolls, honey whole wheat bread, savannah bars, and all the other goodies
8b. lots of exercise videos and tapes that I can use to combat the side (and back and butt) effects of #8.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A recurring theme...

A recurring theme in my life, in my thoughts, and during last week's trip to NYC/CT to hang out with a few writing friends is this: contradictions.

The contradictions between what I think and what I do.
Between what believe and how I live.
Between what I feel and how I act.

Here's an example: I say that I believe that I ought to give more things away, support worthy causes, and that I care about the plight of the poor, but I end up spending much more money on myself than on anyone else.

I say that I think there should be an end to war, easy gun ownership, and abuse. But I do very little to bring those ideals to life. Sure, I write letters to some people and make phone calls to others, but what have I done that has cost me more than a few moments of my time and a few strokes on a keyboard?

One of the highlights of my time in NYC and CT was a visit to the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. We walked through the exhibit of the work of Kara Walker. Racially and sexually charged silhouette pieces focused on the era of the Civil War. Difficult to look at in some cases. Certainly unnerving. Shocking. Intentionally so.

The title of the exhibit, "My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love," summed up, not only the images she created, but also the emotions I carry. The ones who are supposed to complement us often entrench themselves in war-like stances opposite us on certain issues. The ones we love most and claim to love us are often the same ones who oppress us most. But we love them and live with them anyway. Contradictions abound.

Unable to pass through any museum without a notebook in hand, I copied down a few quotes, a few phrases from her posted explanations and introductions.

* "All I want is to be loved by you and to share all that deep contradictory love I possess."

* "...the impossibility of communicating to you these contradictions..."

* "Funny how we pick and choose what can and can't be said. Which stereotypes to be applied. Which ones are in or out."

* "I can be as self-righteous and upstanding as the rest of y'all. But I figure why bother?"

Here are a few of my responses to those quotes and a few goals I have set as a result of pondering them for a few days -

To give and receive love, no matter how contradictory it is. To love the gay and the straight, the sober and the drunk, the married and the single, the religious and the atheistic, and to do so without hesitation or explanation. To speak the truth to and about the ones I love and the ones who love me. To embrace those who are different, whose opinions are different, whose desires are different - and also to embrace the contradictions inherent in all of it.

To acknowledge and surrender to the impossibility of communication. Words come out too fast sometimes and are unretractable. Meanings change over time, across telephone lines, and even in face-to-face encounters. Intentions are misunderstood. But still I try anyway, I will reach out again, I will take adventurous journeys of the heart - risking dignity and danger. What else am I going to do with this one wild and precious life of mine?

To recognize that stereotypes and prejudice play a role in every interaction I have with everyone I meet. To attempt as often as possible to admit my own. To fight against my tendency to be afraid and distrustful of people who are not like me. To stop excluding others based on superficial characteristics. And be willing to revisit this issue often. As often as necessary.

To ask that last question over and over: why bother being self-righteous, judgmental, intolerant of difference? Why bother to seek reasons to be separate and not equal? Why bother to lift myself up onto a pedestal that causes more division in an already-divided, unequal, intolerant world? Why bother to argue about political differences when the goals, ideals, and dreams that bind us together far outweigh and outnumber those that set us apart?

So many contradictions.
So many questions.

Here's to doing what Rilke wrote so many years ago to that young poet:

“I want to beg you as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Glimpses of Soul

There are times in life when we catch glimpses of glory.

When the sun rises over the water, we catch the eyes of someone sharing the glorious, golden view,
and we acknowledge that we have seen true beauty.

When a stranger becomes a friend, and both parties know it in the instant that it happens.

When a sorrow or a loss or even a death become the conduits for grace, for an embrace,
and for the deepening of love for those who survive.

When the words in a book, a poem, a song, a magazine, an email, a text message,
or a hand-written note speak to and for the truest, deepest, most treasured desires of our hearts.

Glory. Beauty. Grace.
Words do not capture it well.
But our hearts know.
Our souls know.
We are changed forever.

In her book, Speaking of Faith, Krista Tippett describes those glimpses this way: Because however fleeting, these "glimpses" are transformative. They stay with you, long after you can still remember clearly what you saw and even begin to doubt that you saw it, and they work on you from the inside. The shared glimpses of others stay with me, changing the way I move through the world. But my work of questioning and seeing and knowing and unknowing and living remains mine to do.

My prayer this chilly Saturday afternoon in Charlotte is that
we will each and all
embrace the wonder, the joy, the messiness, and the mystery
that are inherent in this life.

May we receive good tidings of great joy,
of ancient and soulful love,
of sacred and profane friendship,
and in the midst of our contradictory and confusing lives,
may we catch glimpses of each other's souls and smile.

Friday, November 16, 2007

It defies all logic...

Last night, we walked through a local shopping mall - heading back to a tea shop that Lisa thoroughly enjoyed earlier in the week. To our horror, Santa is already set up and taking photos with children. What about Thanksgiving? Why do we celebrate shopping but spend precious little time publicly or collectively giving thanks for the thousands of things we already have? Anyway, we stood beside the tree and took photos. Lisa, the same woman who taught me (in a single email) how to upload photos and add links to my blog, taught me how to take good self-portraits. I did this one myself!!! She has taught me more than she will ever know.
I won't try to explain it, because I cannot.

But there are moments in life when people appear and relationships are born.
There are connections that are instant

I've had a few in my life, precious few.
This is one of them.
Thanks be to God.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Messy, Thrilling Life

One day a few weeks ago, I lit a candle on my desk. The scent was lovely. After a while I got up to do something else someplace else, and when I came back, the candle had melted in the saucer. The hot wax overflowed onto everything in the small plate: the button I bought at a concert I attended last spring, a pin my son earned from something he did at church, confetti from the restaurant where we celebrated our wedding anniversary, rosemary I picked from the herb garden of a friend, and a few other objects that happened to be in the vicinity. What a metaphor for the messiness and thrill of my life: it smells great sometimes. It glows sometimes. It oozes all over everything sometimes. And it's all mine. That melted candle collage still sits on my desk as a reminder of that day and of all the things and people that make up my life. Read on...

This is the day of the week, Thursday, on which I often write a blog related to gratitude. Today is no exception to that. Today I am feeling enormously grateful for the messy, thrilling life I live.

More specifically, I am grateful for -

* the rain that fell last night and this morning
* Maya, the smelly, frisky dog that Kristiana and I bathed this morning
* the Great Harvest Bread Company, with its chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, honey whole wheat bread, and turtle bars
* Teavana's flavorful, energizing, relaxing teas
* British digestive cookies dipped in lapsang souchang tea
* Archipelago candles in the Luna scent
* Lisa, the most gracious, thoughtful, gentle, peaceful, caring person I've had in my home in a very long time

* the frantic hour we spent searching for my son at his school yesterday
* finding him
* the ability to acknowledge the fear that drove him to run away from me
* the ability to explain to him the fear that I felt at the prospect of not being able to find him
* hugging him and crying with him and explaining to him why he didn't need to do what he had done

* the fact that Lisa was with me the whole time, this new and true friend. She searched with us, cried with me at the end, and never once judged me or my husband or Daniel or criticized us or how we handled the crisis
* the fact that Lisa said she wants to tell him how much she loves him and us and was worried about him yesterday and is glad that he is okay...
* mojitos with Lisa at Miro (my favorite South Charlotte restaurant) last night celebrating Daniel's safe return and the beginning of our friendship

(To all of the skeptics and fear-mongers out there: welcoming this beautiful, wise, comfortable, comforting, open-minded, kind-hearted, spirited woman into my home and introducing her to my family is one of the most sane, peace-making, God-honoring things I have done in the past five or ten years!)

* idea books for scrapbooking and journal-making scattered in our dining room and living room
* stickers, patterned paper, glue sticks, glue dots, rubber stamps and ink pads - all of which serve to help me document my life journey
* museum tickets, airplane stubs, and postcards that grace the pages of my journal
* memories of good and bad times gone by - it's all there
* watching Lisa fill her journal with stickers and papers and cut-outs - little things that will always remind her of this visit
* blank pages yet to be filled with the stories of my messy, thrilling life

* the fact that the messes and thrills of my life,
the questions and contradictions,
the tears and tales, the missed appointments, the broken promises,
the demanding relatives, the inattentive friends,
everything and everyone that has intersected with and in my life
have made me a stronger, more joyful, more thankful woman,
not only appreciative of the many blessings I have,
but also excited about all the messiness and wonder
that lie ahead for me.

Thanks be to God.
All is well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lisa is here!

Kristiana and I met her at the airport. We waited at the bottom of the stairs of Terminal A, and down she came, smiling, warm hugs at the ready. All I kept thinking was: "She is a brave woman. And I can't wait to get to know her better."

She brought us gifts of food from Ohio. The yummiest salad dressing we've had in years. Pasta sauce, apricot pumpkin spread (which we will spread on Charlotte's best bread - to be purchased tomorrow), and chocolates.

From the airport to Trader Joe's and Starbucks.
From there to the house for talk, tea and cookies.
We picked Daniel up from school, took her for a tour of the church.
Dinner here at home, a trip to the mall to check out a fantastic tea store.
Blah, blah, blah.

Yes, blah, blah, blah. It feels like I am telling the simple story of our simple life with someone who is simply a friend. It feels like nothing remarkable. The truly remarkable thing is that someone who others spoke of as a "total stranger that you have invited to meet your husband and sleep in the house with your children" already feels like someone I have known for years. She probably knows more about my family and my in-laws than she needs to know... but once I get on a roll, the truth comes out.

Yes, Lisa is here. Sleeping soundly in the guest room.
Tomorrow we are off to a noontime church service, a visit to a local museum, lunch at a favorite Indian restaurant, tea and cookies here in the afternoon...
Fun will be had by all.
Fun is being had by all.

Soon there will be photos to post.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Home again, home again

The view from the window this morning when I awoke in the guest room in my friend's house. Words failed me then; they fail me now.

Just back from a long weekend getaway. I spent the past four days hanging out with the writing group I'd been part of while I was still living in Connecticut.

Heated discussions. Chilled wine.
Hot tea in Susie's kitchen.
Cold walks in New York City.
A shocking art exhibit by Kara Walker at The Whitney Museum.
A disturbing movie about the war in Iraq called "No End In Sight."
Cozy warm nights in bed.
A spectacular sunrise over the ocean this morning.
A bad fall on the rocky shoreline a few hours later and a deep cut in my right palm. (Steve said I should have gone to the hospital for what he thinks would have been between two and four stitches. If I had done that, I would have missed my return flight to Charlotte.)

Memories to document in my journal.
Stories to write here on the blog.
Photographs to organize on the computer.

But first, I need to unpack my suitcase.
I need to fold a load of laundry.
I need to make sure the house in clean and in order.
I need to get as many hours of sleep as possible.
Lisa is coming tomorrow.

It is good to be home again.
Good to get away.
Good to be back at home.

Less than an hour before leaving for the airport, I ventured down the steps from Susie's patio to the tiny patch of rocky shore seen here. Less than ten seconds after reaching the bottom of the steps, I slipped and fell. I scrambled to my feet quickly, brushed myself off, and hoped no one had seen my moss-induced collapse. Even before I looked at my hand, I knew the wound was deep.

"But what the heck? I'm down here," I thought. "I may as well look around at the rocks and the stones." So I lingered a while. Gazed out at the water. Closed my eyes and listened to sound of the waves lapping close by. As I made my way back to the staircase and up to the house, I slipped again. Ouch. Double ouch.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


This is what my typical pile of books looks like as I exit the library. Who do I think I'm kidding? How did I think I could read that many books of poetry and poetry analysis in three weeks? I did enjoy the poetry of Mary Oliver. The love letters were a little more raunchy than I was prepared for...


I was talking to a good friend last week about three or four books that I am reading. Yes, three or four books at the same time. After I rambled on a bit about the book on muddled American politics, the book on how to find a middle ground in all our religious arguments, and a book on how to strengthen our marriage - I didn't even mention the two books that I am going to be teaching in the coming months - she asked, "Gail, do you ever think about reading something light?" I laughed and explained to her that since I so rarely have inspiring, challenging, or interesting conversations live and in person, I try to use my reading time to keep my brain active and stimulated.

Later I thought more about what she asked, and decided it was time to give my over-stimulated brain a break. Not long after, I picked up a novel by A. S. Byatt at the library. It is too dense for me at the moment. I need something lighter. A novel. A page-turner.

Can anybody out there recommend a few good books?

Forgive me, Father...

Funny video on YouTube. Check it out.
Word of warning: it is in Spanish and has subtitles.
Second warning: it is very funny.

Here it is.

Monday, November 05, 2007

How smart are you really?

Wanna take a test? A vocab test? Go to the website link below. Pick the right definition for each word and donate rice to hungry people around the world.

Take the test here.

How smart are you really?
How easy is it to feed somebody?
How dumb would it be to not give it a try?

PS. Thanks, Kristiana, for sending me this link.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Through a Glass Darkly

I've decided that I like to take photographs. We have two excellent digital cameras in our house. I don't know much about using either of them, but I do know that I like taking pictures. I want to learn what terms like f-stop and aperture and shutter speed and pixels mean. I am going to go to the Nikon website sometime soon because, as fluent as I am in Spanish, flipping through a camera guide that is written in "the language of the angels" isn't helpful to me; I am NOT an angel. At least, not yet.

I've decided that I want to learn how to take good self-portraits. Because I have a lot to learn about how to handle the cameras, it follows that I have a lot to learn about composing photographs, especially those that I take of myself. I've taken a lot of really bad self-portraits, and I've taken a few good ones. I'm learning - slowly, but surely. Someday, I will take one that I love. Until then, I will take a lot of duds.

In any case, in the meantime, I keep trying. Here are three recent attempts at self-portraits.

I wonder: Which image is the most accurate depiction of the woman that I am?
The smiling one in the distorted, screened mirror?
The fuzzy, shaky one in the Sunset Beach hotel room?
Or the long-distance, barely visible one at Gibbs' house by the lake?

The one whose smile is perhaps a little too ready and eager?
The one trying to look like she knows what she's doing with the big fancy piece of machinery?
Or the one whose desire is to hide as far away from being known and seen as she can?

The one who pretends to be happy all the time?
The one who pretends to be in control?
Or the one who pretends that she doesn't matter to anyone?

Perhaps I am all of those women, at one moment or another.
Perhaps I truly am every woman...

This much I know for sure: right now, I see through a glass darkly.
Through a distorted mirror, a lens that bends the truth
in my favor, I hope.

I've decided that I want to capture my life, as it is,
with all of its distortions, twists, turns,
shadows, shakiness, and distant viewpoints.
I want to learn to take better photographs.
I want to learn to write better stories.
I want to learn to live better.
Laugh hard.
Love well.

Friday, November 02, 2007

For the Coffee Lovers Out There...

And I count myself among you, for sure. I received this today from a friend via email. I like it.

A group of alumni, all highly established in their respective careers, got together for a visit with their old university professor. The conversation soon turned to complaints about the endless stress of work and life in general.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went into the kitchen and soon returned with a large pot of coffee and an eclectic assortment of cups: porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal - some plain, some expensive, some quite exquisite. Quietly he told them to help themselves to some fresh coffee..

When each of his former students had a cup of coffee in hand, the old professor quietly cleared his throat and began to patiently address the small gathering. "You may have noticed that all of the nicer looking cups were taken up first, leaving behind the plainer and cheaper ones. While it is only natural for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is actually the source of many of your stress-related problems."

He continued. "Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In fact, the cup merely disguises or dresses up what we drink. What each of you really wanted was coffee, not a cup, but you instinctively went for the best cups. Then you began eyeing each other's cups."

"Now consider this: Life is coffee.
Jobs, money, and position in society are merely cups.
They are just tools to shape and contain life,
and the type of cup we have does not
truly define nor change the quality of the life we live.
Often, by concentrating only on the cup,
we fail to enjoy the coffee that God has provided us...
God brews the coffee, but he does not supply the cups.
Enjoy your coffee!"

And then a few quotes were tacked on at the end.

*The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have. So please remember: Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

And remember - the richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.

It doesn't matter to me what kind of cup I drink from as long as some good conversation comes with it.

I admit that I spend far too much time thinking and worrying about the cup that holds my life and not nearly enough time sipping it, savoring what is in the cup. Tomorrow morning when I make that first cup, I plan to stop, take in a deep breath, give thanks, and then take that first savory sip.

Here's to coffee, tea, ice water, love, laughter, peace, friends,
and all the other goodies that fill the cups of our lives.
Here's to gratitude.

Happy sipping!

These two coffee shop photos were taken on the morning of the first half of "the coronation." I tell you what: that morning I appreciated the ability to eat, to drink, to enjoy food and drink. The days leading up to that appointment were painful ones. I was hesitant and anxious with every morsel I put into my mouth.

While I don't think I could sell many books based on this formula, I will say this: between the cracked tooth and the invasion of ants, I lost eight pounds that week. I have managed to keep five of those pounds off. I guess there really is a blessing in everything.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Breaking the Sound Barrier

Tonight, we did it, Lisa and I. We broke the sound barrier.

We met online a few months ago and quickly discovered that we have many things, ideas, dreams, and even eating habits in common. We began to check out and comment on each other's blogs regularly.

A few months back, she suggested that we speak on the telephone, nothing urgent or specific; she wanted to talk. I hesitated. What does one say to someone one doesn't know and has never met? So I did the most cowardly thing I think of at the time: I didn't reply to her suggestion.

She waited patiently. Kept reading and commenting here. Kept sharing and deepening our virtual friendship. Then about two weeks ago, she suggested that we meet in person. She offered to come here to Charlotte.

What? You'd come all the way here? To meet me?
So she's coming. In just under two weeks. To plunge herself into the only marginally controlled chaos that is my life.

Tonight, we broke the sound barrier.
We spoke on the telephone for just over half an hour.
She sounds as cheerful, as joyful, as peaceful,
and as funny on the phone as she comes across on the internet.
I can't wait to meet her in person.

I recommend it, this friendship thing. It's good for the heart, the mind, the spirit, and the soul. And soon enough, it will benefit the body as well - I am saving a long, warm hug for her. And there will be much feasting on the goodies from Trader Joe's, Teavana, World Market, and an extra special favorite Charlotte eatery as well.

Two weeks from now, when she's here, we will take photos that we can both post on our blogs. In the meantime, we will talk on the telephone, send emails, and count down the days.

Anybody else wanna talk? Meet? Have a mojito or a martini?
Drop me a line... We can start by breaking the sound barrier.