Tag Archives: life

Be someone who’s happy to be

“We are human beings, not human doings,” a friend recently said.

I don’t know about you, but I’m often hung up on what I need to be doing next and if I’m doing enough. So when someone reminded me this week that we’re human beings, not human doings, it made an impact.

If we’re always in our heads harping over details of yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow, never enjoying anything as it happens, are we ever really living?

Asking myself this made me realize how much I define myself by what I do — or what I’ve accomplished. I’m a writer and editor. I’m married with two cats, and I’m counting down the days to Season Two of Stranger Things.

But do those things really define me?

Writing and editing are what I do. Cats and a house are what I’ve acquired. TV just fills my time, and my husband is who I hang with. None of this makes me any different from all those other married, literate, TV-watching homeowners perpetually covered in cat hair.

These things categorize me, but I’m not sure they define me.

How would you describe what makes you “you”? Are you defined by what you do, who you’re with, or what you’ve achieved?

Would you instead define yourself by what you feel and how you perceive things? If you were blind or deaf or unable to speak or even move, would that make you any less real? Or any less important?

Makes me wonder if it’s even possible for us to fully define ourselves, or if we need others to fill in the blanks for us. After all, I can believe all I want that I’m a good person, but if no one else sees it, am I really?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while goals and achievements are important, so is being in the now. Get off your phone, and listen to people. Notice what’s around you, instead of zoning out.

I think what truly defines us is how we interact with what’s around us — people, nature, higher power. And how we let it all change us.

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Author Q&A with Allison Garcia: ‘It takes power and courage to stand up and fight’

Today we have a special guest — fellow Virginia author and friend Allison Garcia, in the first of what I hope will be many author Q&As, from time to time, at this blog.

Allison K. Garcia

So tell us about yourself and your writing. What type of writing do you do?

I write Christian fiction. Inside this genre I’ve experimented with a variety of subgenres, including speculative, mystery/thriller, children’s fantasy, and Latino. I really feel called to write Latino Christian fiction, and my book, Vivir el Dream, will be coming out on Amazon mid-May. My other favorite is my children’s fantasy series, called Prince Miguel and His Journey Home.

When did your passion for writing begin?

I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer. My first book, “My Future Car,” I wrote in 2nd or 3rd grade and included some pretty awesome pictures that still might be my current drawing level. It was revolutionary in its ideas about televisions and refrigerators in cars. Though the swimming pool car hasn’t made it to market yet, I think Honda might have stolen some of my ideas. 😉

You have a new book coming out. What’s it about?

Vivir el Dream is about an undocumented college student and her mother, trying to make their way in the world. It’s about their old and new struggles, the faith that keeps them going, and, of course, there’s a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

The subject matter is incredibly current to what Americans are (and have been) dealing with. Was it difficult to approach the subject of undocumented immigrants?

Not really. I really feel like God was calling me to write this book by putting people in my path who have been through similar situations that my main characters experienced. As my job as a counselor, I have heard some pretty rough stories on why people take the risk to cross the border undocumented, the traumas they’ve experienced in their countries of origin, their hopes for their children. I have also been to several Virginia Organizing events, including rallies for The Dream Act. The power and courage it takes to stand up and fight for justice is overwhelmingly inspiring. We have also had several people in my church get deported, so I’ve seen first-hand how it breaks up a family and how unwavering faith has allowed them to trust in God’s plan in the midst of chaos. That’s what impacted me the most.

What do you hope readers will take from Vivir el Dream?

I hope my book gets people wrapped up in the beauty of Mexican culture. I hope it helps people understand why people come here undocumented and why things need to change. I hope other Latinos find their voice in this book and see their people represented as strong, loving, faithful, invaluable members of American communities. And I hope it shows how trusting in God and holding onto your faith can get you through some horrible circumstances.

Though your book is in English, you also weave the Spanish language into dialogue and chapter titles. Could you tell us about that process?

I wanted to make it authentic. I’m bilingual so it came naturally. I have loads of Latino friends, plus my husband is Mexican, so I especially know a lot about Mexican culture. I wanted the dialogue to represent how intergenerational Latino families interact. Juanita, the mother, came as an older teenager but never went to school, so Spanish was her primary language, and I wanted it to be represented accurately. Linda, the college student, is bilingual but there would be times she would need to say things in Spanish so her mom would understand. The chapter titles are all Mexican songs or movies or phrases used in Latino communities. In the end, my editor advised me that the Spanish was too advanced for non-Spanish speaking audiences, so I’m adding in footnotes for my English-speaking peeps. It wasn’t until I started using footnotes that I noticed how much Spanish was in the book. 400 footnotes and counting!

You’ve written other books, too?

Oh my, yes. Many. In terms of readable ones, I’ve got 4 adult books and 6 books in a children’s fantasy series.

Prince Miguel is a children’s fantasy series that was inspired by a real life event, right?

Yes, it was based on events after my son’s birth. In the hospital, I started writing a story and things just progressed from there.

What was it like writing a baby (your son!) as a hero of his own book series?

Weird, at first, because babies can’t do much, and I wasn’t sure how to represent how strong he must be and the journey he had to go through. In the end, my friend, Josette (wink, wink!) helped me decide to use a spirit animal to show the journey. So when Prince Miguel awakens for his journey, he is a turtle.

How’s the series coming along? Do you have more books planned?

I have 6 out of 8 books written. The first book is close to being finished while the others are still in early editing mode. I plan to finish the last two during NaNoWriMo this year.

Many of your books were started during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — for which you volunteer as a Municipal Liaison. (As do I.) Would you share a little about your experience with NaNoWriMo?

Oh, man. I love it!  Previously it would take me years to write a book and I would be editing it the whole time and I was like a lone wolf. Then, I found NaNo and realized I wasn’t alone; there was an entire community of writers to help me through my writing journey. Plus I wrote a book in a month, so that’s pretty boss!

Have you noticed a difference between writing a novel during NaNoWriMo and writing during other months?

Haha, ever since I started NaNo I’ve only written during NaNo. The rest of the year is spent editing that book usually.

What’s next? Publication? More projects in the future?

Vivir el Dream is coming out mid-May. I have another Latino book, Finding Amor, that needs to be edited, plus the Prince Miguel books are nearly ready as well. So many choices! I’m also planning to translate Vivir El Dream into Spanish.

Which other authors do you like to read?

I love Barbara Kingsolver. I love classics like Jane Eyre, And Then There Were None, and Heart of Darkness. I love Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I’m a sucker for diverse fiction, so I love Como Agua Para Chocolate and The Joy Luck Club and Beloved. So pretty much I’m all over the map.

How can people find out more about your writing?

I have a Facebook author page  (https://www.facebook.com/allisonkgarciaauthor/) where I announce my books that are coming out. You can also check out my blog (http://allisonkgarcia.wordpress.com), find me on twitter (@ATheWriter), or look out for Vivir el Dream on Amazon mid-May!

Allison K. García is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a passion for writing. Latina at heart, Allison has absorbed the love and culture of her friends, family, and hermanos en Cristo and has used her experiences to cast a glimpse into the journey of undocumented Christians.

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Inside the Web of Temptation

The temptation to be like God is too great and she [Eve] has not the will to resist, so she eats the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and then gives the fruit to Adam, who neither can resist the temptation, and he eats too. And just like that, so suddenly and so sadly, creation groans and original love is spurned for original sin.

— From a sermon by Tim Hall this past Sunday

The first time I gave up TV for Lent didn’t go well.

It was 1996, I was 16, and I thought after eight years of following my mom’s lead of giving up sugar each spring I would try something else. After all, giving up sugar or anything else you love, even temporarily, isn’t easy, and I didn’t want to do it. But after a day without TV, I embraced the sugar ban.

So last year, when I again considered giving TV the heave ho, I could imagine what I was in for. But I was also 20 years older. I deleted all my shows from the DVR queue, said adieu to Netflix and DVDs, and steered away from any articles or online videos that derived from, talked about, or mimicked TV. It would be tough — Lent fell in the middle of American Idol’s final season — but I also knew any good sacrifice needs to hurt enough to be meaningful. And it turned out to be an incredible experience. Most of the shows I deleted never returned to my queue.

So there was no question I’d do it again this year. But this year offered its own American Idol-esque moment of hesitation: Saturday Night Live.

Sometimes, it really feels like the only thing that keeps me going — and the idea of missing out on what sketches they’ll do next was unthinkable. Only, I was thinking about it. So, as with any other great temptation, I started to reason.

Even without SNL, I would have loads of programs to give up, right? All that other stuff would be enough for Lent, right? It’s still no small sacrifice… It’s only one night a week. I’m still a good person. Good enough. Right?

So it was, that Saturday night found me in front of the TV, and Sunday found me hating myself as I lay on my bed reading the AV Club’s weekly SNL review.

But Sunday also brought change. It brought a well-placed homily on temptation by a wonderful lay minister at my church — probably one of the best homilies I’ve ever heard — and not only because I could especially relate to it. Other church members commented on its impact for them, and the next day he emailed it around to us after getting requests for a copy. (I’ve copied it below, too.)

What struck me the most was realizing my temptation last week wasn’t only similar in character to that of Adam and Eve — that surely eating one little apple (or watching one TV show) wouldn’t diminish all the good things I do and other homages I make to God — it was also how similar my actions were in meaning and consequence.

Because I don’t only want to be entertained by watching SNL. I want the knowledge that comes with watching.

I want to go online Sunday and see which clips the news outlets tout and know I’ve already seen them. I want to know if the reviewers felt as I did about this week’s host. I want to feel as maybe God does in being able to judge who was worthy of praise, and who wasn’t.

Maybe not literally, but certainly symbolically.

And the problem becomes that it’s never enough. Knowledge begets the desire for more knowledge, which can be a good thing, but not in this case. I watch the sketches over again on YouTube, I read more reviews, I start recording CNN during the day to watch late at night — after the late-night shows — because maybe they’ll validate my thoughts, not on SNL necessarily, but on, well, anything.

I’m not saying such programming is bad, of course.  I’m saying temptation comes in many disguises, and it’s the innocent-looking ones that are the most dangerous. Those are the ones that lure you in with “but it’s only a little…” until you start to rationalize anything as “only.”

It’s a web that traps you, pulling you in tighter and tighter until you can’t move anymore. All you can do is waste away in its confines, forgetting what the outside is like until you’re convinced that there’s nothing out there you could want anyway — even though you know, deep down, the inside isn’t right either. And that’s the scariest part. Inside the web of temptation, it’s all about you and what you think you want. Nothing else matters.

Luckily, though, life isn’t about not making mistakes. We have to make mistakes so we can learn from them. And now, having lived through this experience, I know that I can be better.

Now I can do what last week I didn’t think I could.


Creation Rediscovered
by Tim Hall

(Highlighted text is borrowed from other sources — credited at the end with links.)

Temptation and Sin.  They go hand in hand, don’t they?  At least for us mere mortals!  We pray for strength every day… “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  But sometimes it’s just so very hard not to stray.  Thankfully, Jesus shows us another way.  More on that later, but first…

A minister told his congregation, “Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying. To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark chapter 17.”

The following Sunday, as he stood to deliver his sermon, the minister asked for a show of hands.  He wanted to know how many had read Mark 17.  Several went up.  The minister smiled and said, “Wonderful!  I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying.  And by the way, Mark has only sixteen chapters.”

In Education for Ministry (EFM) we often studied biblical passages (or even current life situations) in the theological context of Creation, Sin, Judgement, Repentance, and Redemption.  In this homily I’ll be focusing on creation and sin, especially the sin that results from giving into temptation and the creation that results from overcoming temptation.

Why did some of those folks in the story I just told feel the need to lie about reading Mark 17, especially in church!  My word!  Were they trying to avoid embarrassment?  To curry the minister’s favor?  To show off?  Why were other folks content to admit to not reading the passage?  Had they looked it up for themselves and were, with the minister, amused (or shocked) by those that raised their hands?  Perhaps some hadn’t opened the bible at all and were just being truthful.  We can’t see into everyone’s hearts, but we can see into our own hearts.  And that’s where we must begin this journey.

This morning we’re paying another visit to the Garden of Eden, catching up with Adam and his new bride Eve.  Remember them?  Our most ancient ancestors that God created out of the dust?  — After working for five eternal days separating the night from the day and the waters from the land, lighting the skies with the Sun and the Moon and the stars, bringing forth multitudes of plants and fruits and animals, God chooses to create humankind in his own image… to give them dominion over the whole earth, to be fruitful and multiply.  The Lord God himself forms them from the dust of the earth and breathed into their nostrils, even into our own nostrils, the breath of life… an act of original love.

Adam and Eve are happily tending the garden, delighting in God’s favor in paradise, freely eating of the fruit of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as God commanded.  Excited to show us the garden, Adam offers stroll through the grounds and we enthusiastically accept his invitation.  Eve tells Adam to give us the best tour ever and off we go.  And there before us are the most wonderful sights… huge varieties of trees filled with magnitudes of birds of every color and size, crystal lakes and tumbling streams where lions and lambs drink shoulder to shoulder, teeming with fish and crabs and salamanders, majestic waterfalls and savannahs of silver and purple and green abounding with herds upon herds of wild animals of every kind, all under a glorious azure sky brushed with deep crimson and dazzling gold where the sun is setting beyond the snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance.  All a gift from God, the wonder of creation freely given to us as its stewards.

Back now at the first family’s abode, Eve is not to be found and so we thank Adam for the wonderful tour and with our best wishes to Eve, bid him adieu.  Unbeknownst to us, while we’ve been away Eve has been tempted by the crafty serpent, Satan in disguise, who convinces her to go against God’s one command, even though she knows better.  The temptation to be like God is too great and she has not the will to resist, so she eats the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and then gives the fruit to Adam, who neither can resist the temptation, and he eats too.  And just like that, so suddenly and so sadly, creation groans and original love is spurned for original sin.

And isn’t that the way temptation is?  We know it’s wrong, that there’s a better way, but temptation can be just so … well … tempting!  Or irresistible.  Sometimes it takes us so quickly we don’t even know it’s happened until it’s too late.  Other times, it just keeps after us.  You’ve heard it said that opportunity only knocks once, but as someone once said, “Opportunity may only knock once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.”  

We make up excuses and justifications, but if you’re like me, it’s a constant struggle.  Why are the devil and the angel sitting on each of my shoulders?  Thank God for the angel.  But why can’t I get the devil to just leave me alone?  I try, believe me I do.  I am so thankful that Lent comes once a year… and often just in the nick of time.  I need the spiritual discipline.  And I need to give up things that are dear to me.  I’m not sure if I’ve found the right stuff over the many Lents that I’ve fasted.  This year it’s alcohol and sweets and pastries.  The discipline of denying myself simple pleasures I truly enjoy is helping me to focus on other pursuits… on reading and praying, and trying to practice and proclaim my faith more outwardly.  

When I was out delivering the mail the other day I stopped in at Phil Bolen Park where I’ve developed a lighthearted relationship with Isabel, the nice lady that works the front desk.  Usually close to lunch time when I stop by, she’s often munching on something.  This day it was cookies and she offered me one.  Girl Scout Samoas… my favorite!  I almost accepted her gift but remembered, just in time, that I was giving up sweets for Lent, which I told her.  “Good for you!” she exclaimed. “I’m giving up liver.”

Jesus told us in our Ash Wednesday readings that where our treasure is there will  our hearts be also.  I hope that what I’m giving up for Lent are not my True Treasures!  I don’t think Liver is Isabel’s treasure either.  As a matter of fact, I bet she doesn’t even like it.  But she did make me laugh, which pleased us both no end.  C.S. Lewis said, “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good.”  Those are the waters I try to ply during Lent.  Struggling to recognize temptation and avoid falling into sin.  Searching for true treasures, my creation rediscovery.  Can we return to the Garden?  I don’t know, but we should never stop trying!

So why does God allow the devil to tempt us?  It may surprise you that God uses the devil.  At any moment God could banish Satan, but he does not do so.  Temptations have a purpose in God’s plan.  Even Jesus experienced temptation.  As we read in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus was “led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”  That’s an amazing statement…  The Spirit led him – in order for the devil to tempt him.  As St. Augustine of Hippo  wrote, “Christ made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan.”  Temptations must and do have a purpose.  

Jesus was tired and hungry.  Why wouldn’t he be?  After all, he had been traipsing around in this desert place – this wilderness – for who knows how long? Days… Weeks, even. It had been a time of focus, of resolution, of preparation.  It had to be.  He needed to feel isolated from his parents and friends. He had to endure the raw elements of the wild. He must endure the biting hunger from his fasts.  For this isolation, these harsh elements, this hunger would only be a foretaste of the Cross that awaited him.

It was dizzying to consider where he had been just days ago.  Walking gladly into the Jordan, the swirling cool water (water…) enveloping him, as he approached his cousin, John.  John knew him for who he really is.  It was John who questioned if it was even proper that a lowly, disheveled prophet should baptize the Spotless One.  Yes, it must be done.

And then there was The Moment. 

The heavens opened, the Spirit descended and the Voice of the Father was heard.  Affirming.  Reassuring.  Anointing.

Peace.  It was utter Peace.

But now, Jesus heard another voice. And suddenly, the bitter wind, the tearing thorns, the gnawing ache deep in his stomach returned with a vengeance.  With this voice, he was sharply thrust back into the desert.

“If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

Surely, you have sacrificed enough, the voice excused. A man has to eat!  It is a trifling act toward a good end.  Eat.  Break your fast.  Sate your appetite.  Allow yourself some pleasure.  You deserve it.

But the God-man responded,

“It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”

In a moment, still reeling from the vanishing, unreachable image of bread, he found himself standing atop a perilous Temple parapet.

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written:
‘He will command his angels concerning you’
and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”

Clearly, the Tempter assured, the Scripture itself tells us of your power.  Show me.  Prove yourself.  Humble me with your might.  Go on, do it.  Do it.

But the Christ answered,

“Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’”

And then the Great Deceiver sought to stun him.  You Jesus, from that poor, lowly, undignified Galilean slum, you can have all of this: kingdom upon kingdom pledging proud and triumphant allegiance to you.  Imagine the limitless wealth!  Consider the boundless honor!  Isn’t that what you deserve?  Isn’t that the kind of faithfulness you seek?  Isn’t that only fitting for the King that you are?  There is no need to suffer for these people when you can own them, possess their wealth and bask in their accolades… and it is all yours for one small, inconsequential price.

“All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”

And the Son of God replied,

“Get away, Satan! It is written:
‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’”

And with that, he was gone.  The one who offered Jesus bread if he would only break his faithful fast to God.  Gone.  The one who offered him the exercise of power if only Jesus would use his Divine Gifts for prideful, self-serving purposes.  Gone.  The one who offered him worldly honor and counterfeit wealth if only Jesus would call Satan “Father”.  Gone.  The Devil offered it all: Pleasure, Power, Wealth and Honor. 

And Christ said no.  He chose God.

Only one man totally resisted temptation.  Jesus alone experienced the full force of temptation.  You and I are like plants that waver according the way the wind blows.  But Jesus is like a mighty Oak.  He alone has withstood the full power of temptation.  The temptations occurred at the inauguration of Jesus public ministry so that – in his humanity – he could take power from those temptations.

We are weak, but each time we stand with Jesus, each time we resist temptation, we gain power.  That power ultimately does not belong to us, but to God.  A Sufi Master (Sufiism is Muslim mysticism), Abdullah Ansari, said, “If thou canst walk on water, thou art no better than a piece of straw.  If thou canst fly in the air, thou art no better than a fly.  But if thou canst resist temptation, thou canst conquer the universe.”  Genuine power, real strength, comes from resisting temptation by God’s grace.

The power is real, but when we think it is our own, we set ourselves up for a big fall.  God allows the devil to tempt us is to expose our real selves, so that we can recognize our own weaknesses. Temptation – especially falling into its sin and suffering its consequences – can be a powerful lesson in humility.  

And when we give in to temptation, when we sin, we go it alone.  We may feel that we are freeing ourselves from restraints, but in fact we are falling into bondage.  The person who recognizes their powerlessness and entrusts themselves to a Higher Power becomes truly free.  Furthermore, when we resist temptation, we gain strength.  

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Roman, 4 BC – AD 65) admired by early Christians, who may himself have been converted by St. Paul, wrote, “We should every night call ourselves to an account: what infirmity have I mastered today? what passions opposed? what temptation resisted? what virtue acquired?  Our vices will abate of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift.”  

Humility to see our own weaknesses, trusting in God to help us, gaining strength by God’s grace: these are the hallmarks of what we profit by being tempted by the devil.  And Jesus showed us the way to turn this temptation to our advantage, to become true servants and to get one step closer to rediscovering the beauty and love of original creation: “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”  It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that.  May we have a blessed and holy Lent.

Amen.

Bibliography / Credits:

Red text: “Why Christ Needed the Wilderness (& So Do We)” by Tod Worner, February 10, 2016.  
Full text may be found at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/acatholicthinker/2016/02/why-christ-needed-the-wilderness-so-do-we/   

Green text: “The Purpose of Temptation”, author not given, 2011.  Full text may be found at:
http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/homilyfor1stlent-a.html

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Loving the life well-lived

“Loving life includes loving the fact that it goes.” – Rick Brookhiser, critic

I came across this remarkable quote while reading about the staying power of the film Groundhog Day – a highly acclaimed movie I watch every year, usually more than once, because it leaves me with a feeling of such inspiration that I immediately want to run out my front door and change the world.

But, in spite of the effect Groundhog Day has on me, that quote is such a foreign idea, I can hardly wrap my mind around it. And considering the popularity of the recent nostalgia boom, I would imagine it’s just as foreign to most other people trying to resurrect wonderful things about the past that they wish were still true today.

I find myself doing that all the time – trying to make aspects of my world today mimick parts of my childhood. Or else longing for the feelings I associate with former times, which I fear aren’t possible anymore.

But that’s a dangerous game, because if you ignore the present to live in the past, then one day you’ll wake up and wonder where in the world the last 15 years went.

Plus, memories are deceptive. We can remember things being better than they were, focusing on the good and glossing over the bad. We start living for the past and ignoring our present, and that gets us in trouble. Because the present can never live up to the past we’ve built in our mind, and dragging the past into the present doesn’t let us live with honesty.

So I think that’s where that quote I mentioned above becomes so important.

If you were truly happy right now, this very moment, would you happily let go of that feeling so that tomorrow you could experience something else? Something new? 

Would you be okay packaging away today’s experiences and leaving them in the past? 

How do we even go about living for the present and not longing for that moment to last forever?

And when it all ends, can we really expect to love “the fact that [life] goes” and embrace death as the next great adventure?

Well, yes, I suppose that’s exactly what we’re meant to expect, isn’t it?

“Don’t be afraid of death,” Natalie Babbitt wrote in her book Tuck Everlasting. “Be afraid of the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”

And that’s one of the conclusions of Groundhog Day as well.

Bill Murray’s Phil Connors is a cynical man who doesn’t realize how very stuck he is in life until he gets trapped in a time loop on the worst day of his life. He eventually learns from the experience not only to embrace living, but also to be a hero for others whose misery and pain might have gone unnoticed by others if not for him.

“The curse is lifted when Bill Murray blesses the day he has just lived,” Brookhiser wrote. “And his reward is that the day is taken from him.”

I guess it’s an idea I’ll have to mull over. Because for me, the idea of devoting one’s life to others sounds a whole lot easier than loving the passage of time – and the changes that come with it.

But I don’t suppose great ideas like this are meant to be understood easily. Otherwise they wouldn’t be meaningful.

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Ten years I almost forgot

Usually when people who haven’t seen me in the long time ask what I’ve been up to, my answer is the same: Nothing.

Everything is the same, nothing has changed, this is my life.

But it’s not true.

I might not be where I expected to be by now, or have what I thought I’d have, but my life has been far from tedious, and it’s about time I admitted it. So, without much emphasis on details, here’s just a quick list of some of the things I might have forgotten to mention if you ever asked me what I’ve been doing since 2006. And after reading this, I hope you’ll make your own list — for your blog, for your Facebook page, or for yourself – just a reminder of all the little things in life worth remembering and celebrating!

latte

At Le Pain Quotidien, with my niece, in NYC

  • Bought a house
  • Started playing the old clarinet again
  • Photographed three weddings
  • Went to my 12-year high school reunion
  • Gave the sermon at church five times… with a sixth coming up soon
  • Took four overnight skiing trips — and didn’t die
  • Met my best friend
  • Ran a 5K
  • Wrote a 50,000-word novel in November — seven times
  • Performed the Verdi Requiem, Carmina Burana, and Bach’s St. John Passion with the Masterworks Chorus at Shepherd University
  • Was a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding
  • Attended a Pakistani wedding reception
  • Become an aunt twice over
  • Took my husband’s niece on a “Christma-Birth-uation” road trip to NYC
  • Took another niece to the local premier of a 14-year-old writer/director’s horror movie
  • Saw Aerosmith and Hootie and the Blowfish in concert
  • Interviewed LeAnn Rimes over the phone and Candace Cameron Bure in person
  • Saw Phantom of the Opera twice at the Kennedy Center
  • Saw various other local stage productions
  • Traveled the entire East Coast, from Montreal to The Bahamas
  • Went tubing and kayaking on the Shenandoah River

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Perspective

The man behind me in line at a Martins’ food store tonight backed up to allow me to pay for my purchases at the debit card machine. When I returned my card to my wallet, he commented on the number of credit cards I carry with me.

“You have a boyfriend?” he said, and at first I thought he was making an offer.

“Husband,” I said. He didn’t hear the “Even better” through his chortles.

“He must be treatin’ you pretty well,” the man said.

I was outside before I realized that he must not have considered me much of a bread-winner. My husband and I currently take home exactly the same amount in salary (after insurance) — and yes, he treats me well — but now I’m wondering, was it his $36.23 or mine that paid for that grocery store purchase? Considering it all filters into the same checking account, I’d say the contribution was 50/50.

In 2012 it might seem like an unnecessary devotion of time to cheer for moments of equality between men and women, but the man at Martins’ words only reiturated for me that a lot still hasn’t changed in the last thirty years.

I tend to go on movie kicks — watching the same movie over and over and over again if, for some reason, the plot/setting/characters resonate with me. Lately I’ve been binging on the 1987 film Baby Boom.

It’s not like I’ve never seen it before — I own it on VHS — but there’s something about it that sticks with you. I realized on the second consecutive viewing last week what it was doing — what J.C. Wyatt was doing — to me.

A titan in her corporate world of Manhattan, J.C. is emotionally ambushed when a distant cousin dies, willing her his baby.  J.C. keeps the baby instead of putting her up for adoption, a detriment to her romantic relationship and her career. At the movie’s midpoint, she finds herself with nothing tying her to the city anymore, so she and the baby move to Vermont.

In truth, by my fourth viewing in a week, I was fast forwarding through large portions of the movie, but I always stopped at one spot — the montage of apples rolling down conveyor belts, of shipping boxes closing over packed jars of baby apple sauce, of envelopes cascading through the sky over a map of the mid-western states like so many letters to Santa Claus, and of newspaper articles flashing one after another across the screen relaying news of J.C.’s success in building her baby food business — an even greater and more meaningful success than she has in the movie’s first few scenes, when her boss offers her a partnership in the marketing firm.

Every time I watch that scene, I can’t help it. I think of the book I’m working on — my book, which I finally started editing again this week after weeks of procrastinating and self-defeating thoughts. Baby Boom renewed my motivation. I know it’s just a movie; it’s a fictional plotline about a woman on an unrealistically fast track to success alongside a baby who doesn’t seem to age at all over the course of a year and a half, but I watch it and I think anything is possible.

I think we need stories like this that inspire change in ourselves — change for the better. Sure J.C. pursues her baby food business out of desperation to get back to New York and away from the 52-acre Vermont money pit she buys in a moment of weakness. Along the way she seems to lose everything — her significant other, her career, her money, even her pride. But then something amazing happens; she falls in love with her new life and fights to regain everything she lost — tenfold. She builds a business that’s all her own and which accommodates her life, not like the one that squeezed the life out of her.

The person J.C. is in the beginning isn’t so bad; but it does take an emotional punch in the gut and the ensuing recovery for J.C. to realize that she can have so much more than she’d thought. In the beginning, she strives for ideals that others pitch to her as “perfection.” In the end, she realizes her own perfection.

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