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I thought of Miss Ruth’s post from yesterday when I saw this quote.  We all have two choices in life.

  1.  Be a mediocre copy of someone else. This doesn’t mean you have to copy someone else but if you are constantly contemplating what they will think when you X, Y or Z?  You are more their person than you are yourself.
  2.  Be ourselves.

I was raised to be #1.  The most commonly heard chorus at home was “What will the neighbors think?”  As an adult, I realize that if the neighbors are spending that must time thinking about me, their lives are sorry indeed.  But I spent a lot of time as a teen considering every single action.  Occassionally I would break free and do my own thing, but not often enough.

Then came college.  At that point in my life there were too many neighbors to keep everyone happy.  I had to find my calling.

Whether your calling is to be a teacher, a doctor or a parent, there are others doing the same thing.  Your job?  Bring your own special way of doing things to this path that God has put you on.

Sometimes I worry that I’m a bit too myself.  Maybe just maybe I should tone it down.

Then I run into a friend I haven’t seen in years.  Before taking her Mom to chemo, she goes on Facebook to check out what the rest of us are up to.  “Keep posting, please!  You always crack me up and I need that.”

3 parts sarcasm.  2 parts irreverant lip.  What do the neighbors think?  At least some of them get it and that’s good.  Because this is the me that God made.

Find your calling.  Find your light.  God made you to be you.  Not to be me or Ruth or even Lori.

–SueBE

In a new story I’m writing, one of the characters is an older Chinese woman. I searched “older women in Chinese culture 2018,” but couldn’t find anything relevant.

Ten pages of results yielded articles about a teenager’s prom dress causing controversy and the fact that educated, professional women in China aren’t marrying these days, but nothing about what life is like today for a women of 65. On page 13 of the search results, I did find an interesting article about how a three-digit “social score” can change the course of a person’s life in China, but still, nothing about the experience of older women.

It shouldn’t take miles of search pages to find out the most basic facts about older women in China. Should it? It’s disheartening that the algorithm we all rely on to bring us the world is leaving out large chunks of humanity. At least older people and women as a group can exist online. Can’t they?

But then again, do we ever really see each other?

Last year during a MOOC about poetry, I watched a terrific video lecture from poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Despite viewing it many times, I didn’t realize that she had on a bow tie, even though it’s obviously a bow tie. My mind assumed it was a scarf. Why? Because I like scarves. I wear scarves. I knit scarves. I was wearing a scarf as I was watching the video. Later, I realized that this poet identifies as gender non-conforming. All I saw was my own worldview.

No matter how open-minded we may think we are, we always see the picture through our own frame. Like a reverse selfie of sorts. Maybe we all need to be double-exposed to new ideas to view the world as a group-photo waiting to happen.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Despite my beloved mother’s best efforts (God rest) and the hours she put in playing Bach on the piano, I’m still nowhere near as cultured and refined as she was. She’d quote Chaucer for me, in middle English. She’d school me on the origin of words.

Still, I’m just an easily-distracted, uncultured, good-natured gal from New Jersey.

Doesn’t matter if I’m looking right at you as you tell me your long-winded spiel. In my mind, I’ve gone to Carolina.

Watching this video of Hilary Hahn, I was reminded of my mother playing Bach on the piano.

I’m amazed at how beautiful even one note can sound in the right hands. At the same time, I’m also utterly distracted by the fact that her producer looks like a combination of Fred Mertz (of I Love Lucy) and Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong).

Then I realized that her conductor looks like Art Garfunkel (of Simon and Garfunkel). 😎

So whilst (little faux fanciness for ya) I try to be good at culcha, alls I can really do is appreciate it in my own New Jersey way. I’ll never have tea with the queen, p’raps, but I like to spin a yarn and have a good laugh.

I noticed that when Hahn plays, her whole body moves in a particular choreography. It’s as if she knows that she can’t reach the notes with her hands unless her feet move in a certain way at the same time.

Her whole body is her instrument.

In the same way, your whole life is your testament.

Most of the people you meet would never stand still and let you convert them to your beliefs.

All of the people you meet are seeing, hearing and feeling your beliefs every time you speak.

With all that’s going on in the world, all I can do is offer you this cozy corner where you’ll always be welcomed like a friend and we can share our stories. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, kind people. You’re okay with me.

ef1h5yttmz8-annie-sprattAs they say in Vegas, “Whatever happened in 2016, stays in 2016.” We’re just days away from a brand new year. It’s your chance to decide which way to set your compass. Whatever mistakes you made during the year are in the past.

Most of our worries fall into the category of “anticipation anxiety.” I just made up that term, so if you use it, kindly send me a dollar as a royalty. 🙂 Focusing on the worst case scenario can send anyone into a panic.

So here’s what I’d like to propose for 2017. Make a vow to yourself to live in the present tense.

Think of negative emotions as volatile compounds that can burn and scar.

Guilt is like gangrene.

Regret is like rust.

So in the new year, if when you make a mistake, don’t feel bad about feeling bad. That was something you wouldn’t do if you had it to do again – even if it just happened yesterday. Give yourself a break.

Feel what you feel, but give yourself a timeframe. Say, I’ll wallow for the duration of this sad movie, then I’m getting out of the swamp. There’s a meadow over there I can meander through instead.

Don’t look back on times you weren’t yourself and say, that wasn’t me! Of course not. You’re you now. That’s good enough.

Don’t look back and say here’s another reason why that wrong ___________ was wrong for me:
□ Man
□ Job
□ Hairdo
□ Clique
□ Church

Two wrongs sometimes do make a right. That noun that left your life did you a favor. It wasn’t right for you.

Re-hashing is a drag counter-productive, because, in the first place hash is kind of gross aesthetically unpleasant, so having it again is yucky not optimal two times over.

Here’s to a new year and a new you. You’re a blessed, beloved being in all your glory. Whoever you were last year is in the past. Whoever you were a minute ago is, too. Why not take advantage of this unlimited time offer and be yourself in this moment, right where you are?  

Peace & Blessings to you and yours!

“The Pope took a tumble at an event today, and we have video.” This was a report on the news a few weeks ago.

Okay. Do we really need video of that? That sentence is the story, if it’s a story at all.

The newsreader said, “It’s known that he suffers from sciatica.”

Comments online said, “He’s getting on in years.”

Oy.

I’m not sure when it happened, but there really has been a shift over the years. We’ve gone from reading the headlines to needing video for a news story to matter.

It’s too easy to draw conclusions about a person based on that one moment in which they were captured on film (often not their finest moment) instead of getting to know them.

Now, I love fun videos and memes as much as anybody, like the double rainbow guy, or this hairless hamster in a specially-knitted sweater – they can be light-hearted diversions on a hectic day.

For all of this non-stop coverage, it can often seem like we don’t even know each other.

But when I go back to basics to soak in Psalms and pore over Proverbs, I’m reminded that some things are certain and sure. I am known. I am loved. I can be myself, whether on-camera or off.

“You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power. Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding.” Psalm 139:5-6 GNT

I suppose that if camera-phones were available during Biblical times, all of those momentous events would’ve been recorded as well. Technology is here to stay; perhaps the key is to keep our lenses focused in the right direction: upward.

“Are you a teacher?”

The Uber driver had looked at me in the rearview and asked the question.

“No, but everybody asks me that. Must be the cat’s eye glasses,” I said. “I did teach ESL years ago.”

“Really? How’s my English?” he asked.

“Not bad,” I said.

“I’ve only been here four years and I’m always trying to improve my English.”

“You’re doing fine,” I told him.

He said, “It’s more important than ever to blend in. Trump is making my life harder.” He felt the difference in the last year in the way people look at him, talk to him. “They think I’m here to cause chaos. I’m just trying to feed my family, y’know?”

Just like everybody else.

Last week in the news, police in Nice, France, were filmed forcing a Muslim woman wearing a burkini to disrobe on the beach while other sunbathers watched. A person on the scene said that some even applauded. A local official said that if people don’t feel safe, or are offended by someone’s outfit, it needs to be addressed. It’s a risk to public order, he said.

Thong bikinis and speedos are okay, but a fully-covered woman is a public crisis.

But what I want to know is this: what’s the difference between a burkini and a scuba suit?

Everybody has biases. One of mine concerns t.v. reporters wearing casual clothes. It seems every female reporter is wearing a tank dress to show her toned arms, and every male reporter on a news scene is wearing skinny jeans. You’d think they just came from a nightclub!

Of course, I know it’s just a matter of taste, and it’s my own hang-up. No need to hassle them, as happened when this weather reporter was told while live on-the-air that she needed to cover herself up.

Just as the Uber driver profiled me as a teacher, we can choose to view others through the filter of faith. Ah! Another blessed, beloved child of God on the road of life.

And maybe, just for today, the fashion police can take the day off.

Over the weekend, I took a deep breath and suddenly was in so much pain, I doubled over. The doctor on call said it was something called “pleurisy” and told me to go to the ER.

My son drove me to the hospital, and, on the way, I mulled over what this mystery condition was all about. Could it be the plural version of leprosy?!? Something that sounds like a fancy French dish can’t be a big deal!

Two stern-faced nurses, one male and one female, started to disrobe me and put electrodes on my chest for the EKG. At least buy me dinner first! I thought.

They put an oxygen tube over my nose, started an IV line, drew blood and wheeled me in for a chest x-ray.

Finally, one of the nurses smiled. “Love your cat socks,” she said. Another one laughed and said, “How great!” and pointed to her jacket, which had a pawprint design on it.

Another nurse, Marielle, asked what I did for a living, and it almost occurred to me to say I’m a professional patient of late, but told her about my writing gigs.

Her parents only spoke Tonga at home, she told me, but she really tries to speak English like a native. Her “friends” corrected her all the time, and she said that she sometimes  confused “was” and “were.”

I was impressed with her because she worked in the ICU of another hospital in our town on weekdays, and at this hospital’s ER on the weekends. She’s already achieved so much, but what makes her feel less accomplished is her grasp of the language.

The nurses focused on my cute cat socks, even though all the while I was thinking, I look and feel like forty miles of bad road. They didn’t see what I saw.

Marielle focused on her perceived language issues, even though all the while I was thinking, she’s young to have accomplished so much in her career. She didn’t see what I saw.

When I got home that night, I prayed for all the nurses who had taken care of me, and that we could all see each other through God’s eyes, healing each other with kindness.

 

photo-1444116877118-6da0ed3c879aCross my mind, Lord,
when all I see
is a hard road and a heavy load.

Cross the bridge with me, Lord, 
so I can leave the past behind and clear my mind.

Cross my heart, Lord,
I’ll hold fast to the last.

I wrote this prayer a while ago, but didn’t post it, because I thought it seemed hokey or old-fashioned. Today, when I came across it, I had a different perspective and thought it had a simplicity to it and now I appreciated it more.

It’s amazing how your view can change over time, and how words can be spun in many directions.

One of my favorite t.v. programs is “House Hunters,” a series that follows the process of buying a home. On a recent episode, a realtor pointed out that the “vintage” house’s “original molding” kept it “true to the era.” She said that there were some “restored” features, but updates were done sparingly, so as to “keep its character.”

And it made me wonder…why has no one has come up with a way to spin aging in our youth-obsessed culture? We could market our later years with direct mailings, touting the joys of “moving more slowly in a fast-paced world.”

The things normally considered negatives could be re-jiggered with clever copywriting. You, too, can embrace your “Mirth Markings” (formerly laugh lines) and highlight your “Silver Crown” (formerly grey hair.)

For me, the best part of growing older is that you eventually come to realize how important peace is in your life. In younger days, it may have been about the late-night hang-outs and life in the fast line, but now? A quiet night in with a good book and a warm cuppa makes it all worthwhile. Maybe these really are our “golden years!”

DayWell, by now you may think that I’ve crossed over into crazy-cat-lady-dom with yet another post about my catpanion, KitKat. And, yep, you may well be right.

But, you know, I’ve really come to admire his absolute autonomy. He doesn’t:

  • Wear a watch
  • Punch a clock
  • Perform on cue
  • Pay taxes
  • Wake up with bed-head

In fact, his hair is always perfect, except for those mile-wide whiskers, which would irk the heck out of me if I had them attached to my face, and surprise the heck out of the cashier at the grocery store. And nothing surprises Marishka!

In short, KitKat does his own thing.

Why then, I wonder, isn’t it possible for our feline companions’ overlords (let’s be honest – in truth, servants) to live in the same way?

Doesn’t it seem that so much of our time belongs to other people? And that our money, even before it comes in, is already spent?

My point is this: when do we get to do exactly what we want to do? We designate specific days to honor the people we love: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc.

I’d like to propose a new holiday: “Soul Re-charge Day.” Put yourself on your own calendar. You can’t take care of anyone else if you’re continually depleting your own reserves. If you’ve got vacation days at work, take a mental health day for yourself.

Even if all you can carve out is ten minutes of bird-watching (a hobby shared by KitKat, mind you), those moments of repose can really make a difference.

The Good Book doesn’t say, well, maybe, someday, you’ll have a chance to fill your own cup. No, it says, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

That passage is in the present tense. This is the day. Be like a cat and do your own thing. (Whiskers and catnaps: optional.)

⌧ Let the cat out. 😺

⌧ Wake my son up. 😑

Checking things off my daily to-do list, I went through my morning routine.

Hold it. That should be “let out the cat.” And, “wake up my son.”

I remembered what my English professor would write in red pen on my papers: “Keep related words together!”

Any language can be hard to learn, but English seems to break its own rules. For instance, all of these words have “ough” in them, yet each is pronounced differently:  

  • doughnut
  • through
  • enough
  • bough
  • thought

And another thing. Why is it: commit perjury yet perform surgery? I think surgery takes more of a commitment than telling a lie. Don’t you? I mean, who wants a non-committal surgeon operating on their spleen? Just saying.

The whole point of language is communication. To connect with people, to hear and be heard. To create a community and listen to each others’ stories.

In the same way, faith is not about the letter of the law. It’s about grace. It’s not about being a stickler for the rules and making sure everyone around you worships, works and walks the same way. It’s about being a blessing and keeping a positive spirit.

So go ahead. Split the infinitive if you choose. Speak in sentence fragments. Like this one. 😉 Dangle that participle! Use emojis. Alk-tay in-yay ig-pay atin-lay. (Talk in Pig Latin!) Whatever words you may speak, it’s manna from heaven when you say it from the heart. 💗

Tell me your story, in your own words. I’d love to hear where you’ve been.

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