Friday, January 01, 2016

friday five: blank slate edition

So here it is, the first day of a brand new year. I'm trying a less conventional lens to think about the blank slate of 2016 using these five categories as prompts.

Food: I enjoyed some success losing weight last year with the help of a fitness app. I'd like to build on that success--and the things that I learned help to fuel it--by incorporating some different food groups into the mix. More quinoa, for instance, as well as some recipes that incorporate fruit. I've still got 25-30 pounds left to reach my goal weight. Raising a stalk of celery to getting there!

Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic: One casualty of facebook is the decline in the use of blogs. Fewer posts are being written, as well as being read. It's nice to have even a modest following, and to know that others care enough about what I share that they read what I have taken the time to write. But although I started blogging to share news and photos with family and friends, I kept at it because it fed a part of me to express myself through the written word. I'd like to reclaim that expression. It would also be fun to try some creative writing, as well. Just 'cuz. I'm starting by doing today's Friday five!

Relating: I live with the double-edged sword of introversion. The tendency to remain "within" doesn't nourish relationships, and hence they suffer. At the same time, it isn't helpful to beat myself up because a part of my nature contributes to that affliction. It's past time to explore ways to honor the nature while nurturing those affected by its less-than-comfy edge.

Mother Earth: A few years ago Ken and I made the decision to try to visit the national parks that are within easy reach of us (2 hour drive, or so). This was inspired by a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park in KY.  We plotted out the parks that fell within that category, and... it's time to revive that plan. It's also time to get to some of our state parks.

Creating: I've rediscovered knitting (that's Eli in his Christmas hat). I didn't think it was really a viable activity with a dog that likes to plunge into my lap without a moment's notice, but it turns out I was just making that up. There are a host of knitting projects I would like to tackle, and with six grandchildren (and one on the way), I've got a rich target audience for this expression. I may just have to revive some other craft pleasures, too.

A different kind of bonus: Parker Palmer has an excellent blog post about five new year’s revolutions that I found inspiring, challenging, and thought-provoking. Consider it an eighth day of Christmas gift! And may the year ahead bless you in all your endeavors and pathways in life.

Friday, August 14, 2015

friday five: tell me something good!

(you're singing it now, aren't you...)

At RevGals today Marie writes this:

I’ve recently gone back to daily journaling as a spiritual practice and I am astounded at how it’s changing my outlook on life. In my work as a justice activist, I’m often fixated on what’s going wrong. But my journal is helping me to notice so many more things that are good, like my relationship with my spouse, my friends, and even the weather. So for today’s Friday Five, join me in pondering what is good in our lives.

This comes at a good time, as there is too much discouraging me at present.

What’s one good thing happening in your personal (but not TOO personal) life?
I am losing weight! After gaining, gaining, gaining during the last several years, a step on the scale at a doctor's office in February brought my inertia to a screeching halt. I am using an app that tracks my intake and my output (exercise), and helps me stay focused and accountable. A great benefit is that it draws attention to my food choices, and as a result I am eating differently. It also inspires more exercise than I would ordinarily take on. I didn't really take a "before" picture, but when I reach my goal I'll offer some sort of "reveal." Something to which I look forward! (The app is MyFitnessPal, for those who might be interested).
What’s one good thing happening in your work life?
I'm presently seeking a work life. I do have a Sunday gig, which is great, but it's not enough to sustain our household, nor does it adequately feed my desire to serve. But those are negatives. I suppose the positive is that I am seeking. I am about to submit my resume for a prospective job, and I feel good about an above average fit for it. Whatever transpires as a result of this application, the positive practice of offering my gifts and experience to the world is a good thing.
What’s one good thing happening in the area where you live?
Nashville is about to elect a new mayor, and it is likely it will be a woman with progressive ideas and viewpoints. She stands a good chance of winning, and the energy around her candidacy and the campaign is dynamic. 
What’s one good thing happening in the life of someone you love?

Our son and daughter-in-law (above, probably obvious!) are on the verge of welcoming their second son, Eli, into the world. We can't wait! My brother (below) has also just invested some time and focus into promoting his business online (facebook, pinterest, web and blog), and has done a fabulous job.  He refers to himself as a design evangelist (home building design). I'm so proud of him and happy for him. Check it out!
What’s one good thing happening in the world? (I'm going to mention at least 2)
The Iran Nuclear Agreement is a very good thing. Blogging about my participation in a Lobby Day related to this last fall is still on my "git 'r done" list. Maybe now I'll actually write it! I'm also regularly inspired by the oustanding work that some of my colleagues are doing related to human trafficking and racism (respectively). Becca Stevens, of Thistle Farms, is one. The Very Rev. Mike Kinman, dean of the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, is another. They each bring different gifts to these significant movements, and impact me in different ways. I am grateful for that.

Friday, July 24, 2015

friday five: family traditions

In spite of hosting the Friday Five once a month at RevGals, I haven't played for a while! Let's change that, starting with today. Deb writes:

During a recent family reunion in Lexington, Virginia, I went with some members of my family to see Foamhenge. the creation of Mark Cline that “mysteriously” appeared one April Fools’ Day. It’s a life-sized styrofoam replica of the real deal. (I kid you not.) If you are in to off-the beaten-path, unique family bonding moments, this will do it.

Every family has their own traditions, quirks and follies. So for this week’s Friday Five, tell us about your family/tribe/clan for these 5 distinctive traits:

Favorite Game 

We weren't much of a game family, at least not when we were at home. But take us on the road and we new rituals emerge.
I grew up with a card game called "Flinch," which has its own unique deck of cards that include sets that go from 1 to 15. The idea was to build on common piles going up from 1 and down from 15. A flinch pile was also involved. We also played multi-hand solitaire, as demonstrated below (seven hands).

Favorite Sports Team
We weren't much of a sports family. Afflicted with polio when he was seven, my dad didn't play sports, and this probably colored our preferences. Neither of my brothers played team sports, although my older brother was on swim and tennis teams. In junior high I was highly influenced by my best friend's family, who were devotees of the Montreal Canadiens, a National Hockey League team. They were then, and continue to be, my team, although my attention waned in college when I lived in a non-hockey area.
Birthday tradition
I'm sure we're not unique in honoring the birthday girl or boy with a choice of meal or flavor cake, but nothing else stands out as a tradition. My own favorite meal was beef fondue. I remember that my brother always had chocolate cake with coffee-flavored icing (below--birthday boy on the right).

The place that you collectively call “Home” (even if none of you live there any more.)
I'm the only one who has left the geographic nest, but Connecticut is still home to me, and always will be.
Family Vacation Spot
In the summer we were fortunate that a cousin had a home in Hyannisport, on Cape Cod, and that was our go-to spot until I was in college. The house had beachfront, which was great, and we had a distinctive view of Marine One coming in for a landing at the Kennedy Compound there. Summers at the Cape hold a vast store of cherished memories (below).
Our other place is a family-owned tree farm in South Carolina (above). Once a peach farm run by my great-grandfather, it now yields timber from loblolly pines. With rare exceptions I have gone there every year of my life. It shares the distinction, with Scotland, of being my spiritual home.
BONUS: Family Dessert: Every family has one. That yummy, calorie-laden delight that frequents your table at parties or holidays. Share the recipe, or (if it’s a family secret) share a photo.
Hands down, Mom's brownies. They were a staple of family gatherings, but also a symbol of hospitality to others. She made them to welcome new neighbors, to take to committee meetings, and to say thank you for a kindness shown. She and I recently made a batch to take to the nursing unit where she spent a couple of weeks in rehab after a recent fall, as a way to say thank you for their care. I have even used them as a sermon illustration on All Saints Day to talk about the idea of legacies (the recipe came from my grandmother), and the communion of saints. Mom happened to be in town that weekend, so we made several batches that were packaged individually to give to the kids, along with a copy of the recipe.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

this just in...

Justice has been delivered for Shelby. I have just learned that her husband has been found guilty of first degree murder, and has been sentenced to a mandatory life sentence, with no parole. Amen, and amen.

Friday, January 23, 2015

for Shelby

Within reach of where I sit at my desk is a candle. I keep it nearby for those occasions when I want to keep a prayer concern going for longer than I can remain focused on it consciously, and where the flame (and sometimes the fragrance) will catch my attention over the course of its lighting to bring me back to the reason I lit it in the first place. It's my version of Paul's admonishment to pray without ceasing. Well, it's one version. 

This morning I lit the candle for Shelby Wilkie, the niece of a friend and colleague. Shelby was killed by her husband two years ago, and this week he goes on trial for her murder. She was in the process of leaving him as his physical abuse toward her not only jeopardized her life, but that of their infant daughter.

It has been agonizing to witness the impact of this tragedy from afar (my friend lives in Michigan, her niece was in in North Carolina), but distance does not lessen the importance of being present to and for my friend in whatever way I can, nor does it prevent me from adding my voice to those who seek a world where anger doesn't translate as violence, and every human being is empowered to feel significant and worthy.

As the court seeks justice for Shelby, I invite each of us to do at least one thing today to affirm a person whose confidence may be low, to extend a hand to someone who is isolated, to embrace someone who has withdrawn, to speak for someone who can't find his or her voice, and to love, by whatever means available, those we hold dear, and those we keep at a distance. 

Connect, smile, hug, reach. For the Shelbys of this world, and for us all.

Friday, December 19, 2014

19 december

It's been a long, long time since I posted anything here of substance. Not that some of the prompts of the Friday Fives don't elicit meaningful bits of sharing, but I started this blog as a way to share news and pictures about my world and the things that make me stop and take a look at it more closely.

In the last few years the view from where I sit hasn't been particularly compelling. A lack of work, direction, community, and a sense of purpose have all led to a fairly insular existence. I have a limited tolerance for sharing the shallowness of those kind of days, and I suspect there's even less interest in reading about it. These pages have been silent as a result. Even when I did have something to share the habit of turning to this space was dusty with neglect, and I am not known for my housekeeping.

Still, the desire to communicate and connect burns like a pilot light, so I am going to endeavor to be here more frequently than Friday Five memes.

With less than a week to go before Christmas we are in good shape here. The tree has been up for a couple of weeks, the lights finally got sorted out and strung, and ornaments decorate the branches. The mantel is seasonal (that kind of decorating is not my strong suit), the Nativity set is on the piano, and most of the daily clutter has been removed. The first round of baking has been mailed or delivered, and the second round is underway (note to self: smaller containers next year will make the baking go farther!). The first batch of cards went into the mail yesterday, and today I will endeavor to address the remainder of the list. Nothing more will go out until next week, since we can't buy stamps until Monday. The letter is written, but will only go to people with whom we haven't been in touch. We are still pinching pennies.

A couple of pictures! The above photo, already shared on facebook, is this year's ornament for the grand kids. The idea came from Pinterest, and with some pine cones already on hand, along with felt and a glue gun, this was my choice of what to make. I think they're adorable! Colors were chosen according to favorites of the three oldest. I wish there was an easier way to cut out small pieces of felt--I'd be inclined to make more of these!

The picture below was taken last week at our county Election Commission's reception for poll workers. I joined the ranks this year to work the elections (Ken has been doing it for several years), and am grateful for the opportunity to be involved. Ken is decked out in his veteran attire because the reception also honored veterans.

That's a wrap for now. Stay tuned, I'll be back. Promise.

Friday, November 14, 2014

friday five: the eve of Advent

At RevGals, MaryBeth writes: This time of year can be so busy with planning for Advent and Christmas, for those who work in churches and we who live close to them. Today, I invite you to sit quietly…as Mary sits in this phot…and consider five things about Advent. They might be images, practices, hymns, anything you like. Just let the thoughts wash over you. Be peaceful with them. Be blessed with them.

My love for Advent is steeped in the family traditions of my youth. Annual outings, rituals, the inner warmth of our home protected from the growing darkness and cold of winter all gave a glow to the season.  Church rituals have been less meaningful for me, perhaps because I inherited practices already in place at churches I served, and where those communities didn't feel inclined to revisit those choices. (Let me say that there wasn't anything wrong with them, but shaping them to add meaning for me wasn't an option).

So, five things... 

1) Sharing. Whether it was the creation of the family Christmas card, writing the family letter, helping mom with her homemade goodies of toffee and spiced tea, or singing Christmas carols outside the homes of friends, we spent family time engaged in activities that connected us to other people. 

2) As an maturing Christian who shifted from Quaker to Episcopalian in my late twenties, Advent hymns became precious to me. I especially loved hearing them played from the carillon of the chapel at the college just up the hill from my first home.

3) The Advent calendar. I don't remember the practice of using a calendar being a spiritual one, but it nonetheless instilled an awareness that we were in a season of marking a journey, and waiting with anticipation. This annual ritual made it so much easier to live into the spiritual practice of waiting when my faith began to bloom.

4) Purple.

5) Decorations. My mother chose a seasonal theme each year as a way to focus the decorations of our home.  The ones that stand out in my memory are the Magi, Peace, Joy, music, and the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Except, perhaps, for the "12 days," these themes emphasized the spirit of the season, instilling in me an abiding appreciation in my bones for the depth and meaning of what I would come to know as the Incarnation.  Little did she know that she was planting seeds...
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