|A birthday gift from a dear friend. |
She knows me too well.
Hard to believe a year has passed since my last birthday post. And what a year it has been! Last February when I blogged about my intention to celebrate my eighth decade, I had a hint the world was on the precipice of a pandemic. But I had no idea how many lives it would affect and to what extent. Then, just as vaccines brought a glimmer of hope, an Arctic blast wreaked havoc in a large portion of the nation, resulting in further loss of life, health, property, or finances.
I actually had a birthday post ready to publish over a week ago about how I was still determined to celebrate. A few days before, the lyrics of “Still the One” (the upbeat 70’s one by Orleans, not the sappy 90s one by Shania) came to me. I was going to parody it with “I’m seventy-one/and I’m still having fun.” It makes a great rhyme and would’ve been a lot of “fun” to write, but in light of the sufferings experienced by so many, blogging about "having fun" seemed a bit Pollyanna-ish, if not downright insensitive. But while I’m not exactly partying, clueless to the suffering of others, I’m still looking for and finding reasons to celebrate.
Amid the current upheavals and the gloomy days of winter, moments and people that bring light to my life are still plentiful—are still reasons to be grateful: family, friends, community, faith, health …. As I listed them here, I realized they are the very same things I blogged about last year at this time, so I won’t repeat myself. But for me, it’s therapeutic to stop—not just on my birthday—and take inventory of and meditate on the “shiny things” that are part of my life every single day. They remind me that even at the ripe ol’ age of of seventy-one, life still offers lots of good stories with hopeful endings.
Monday, February 22, 2021
Sunday, January 31, 2021
I’ll confess when I first read these words from Amanda Gorman’s poem for the presidential inauguration, I was somewhat disturbed. Not because the words weren’t eloquent and profound, but because I’d selected shine as my word for 2021 and hadn’t yet revealed it. Announcing it after her poem went viral seemed a bit like hopping on the proverbial bandwagon. But maybe links to former posts (below) will provide proof that this word was already on my radar months ago. If those don’t convince you, check out these cute cards I purchased at the beginning of the year.
|Hopefully, one of these little cards will add|
a bit of light to someone's day.
I won’t repeat what I’ve already said in my previous posts but will briefly sum them up: Look for the shiny things; be the shiny thing in someone else’s life. In 2021, I’ll share from time to time the shiny things that brighten my life and in doing so will perhaps shed a tiny beam of light into a reader's life.
Wishing you a year filled with shiny things!
(Please share some of the shiny things you’ve experienced in the comments below or on Facebook.)
Sunday, January 10, 2021
Before giving 2020 its well deserved send-off, I feel I must wrap up the loose ends of my word for the past year—community. I got off to a good start with my posts last year, but then…well, you know… the pandemic.
Because this ill-fated year wreaked havoc with my communities, I didn’t get around to writing about some of the very important ones of which I’m a part. They each deserve their own post, but for the sake of time, I’ll cover all of them here as briefly as possible.
My Reading Community: I’ve belonged to the Circle of Friends Book Club for over twenty years and have grown and learned so much through this group of extraordinary ladies. By recommending books I would’ve never read on my own, they have broadened my interests and increased my knowledge and understanding on a variety of subjects. I’ve blogged about them many times, so my regular readers will know they are also fantastic cooks. I believe the meals we’ve shared are partly responsible for the club’s longevity, but it’s more than the scrumptious food. During the time we eat together, members discuss any number of experiences, both public and personal, joyful and sad. In his book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster states, “… whenever people eat or drink together, it’s communion … an act of sharing and peace… eating with another is a way of saying, ‘I’m with you, I like you, we form a community together.’” This is certainly true of our book club. The pandemic has disrupted our times of communion but hopefully hasn’t ended them. I look forward to our next opportunity to break bread together.
|Circle of Friends, circa 2018|
My Writing Community: I participate in several writing groups, but the one in which I feel the greatest sense of community is my critique group, The Inklings. Around 2004/5 a teacher friend invited me to join her writing group, which we subsequently christened The Inklings. (We had no inkling at the time, C. S. Lewis’ writing group had already claimed that name.) Throughout the years, members have come and gone for various reasons, but a core has remained. Through their encouragement and tutelage, I have learned so much about the elusive art of writing. But far more than being a source through which to improve my writing, The Inklings—like my book club—have become family. Once again, social distancing has impeded our chances to meet physically. I can’t wait for our next gathering at the lake for the fun, the food, and the cut-throat competition of Word Wars!
|The intrepid Inklings! |
(We have another member sadly no picture of her at the present.)
My Family: I’ve referred to the previous two groups as “family,” and indeed the connections are as close as possible without sharing the same genes. Explaining the special relationship that exists among blood relatives is difficult, but maybe this true story can help. (Well, “true” as I remember it.)
When I was seven, my family lived in a neighborhood teeming with children. As with all kids, our playing would often break out in arguments. On one such occasion, my sister Elaine and I were playing with neighborhood girls, when a squabble developed—probably over something critical like who was to be “it” or whose toe touched the line while playing hopscotch. Anyway, when the feuding factions gathered on opposite sides of the street, it turned out I was allied with the neighborhood girls and Elaine was standing across from us. Alone. The other girls began to mumble. Elaine was bossy . . . always had to have her own way . . . always thought she was right. While I issued identical invectives on a daily basis, something just didn’t sit right with me for them to be doing it. I began to cry.
From her post across the street, Elaine hurled her own accusations. “What did y’all do to her?” Just as I had no problem with my own complaints about my sister, she had no compunction about her own frequent affronts which resulted in my crying. But I think we both knew intrinsically that, against outside forces, family stuck together. I crossed the street to join her.
There is truth to the adage “blood is thicker than water.” Despite the distances that separate us and our sometimes differing opinions, I’ve always known family provides me a safe place to land when times get rough or uncertain. They’ll always have my back. I pray you have such a community.
|My sister and I had no reservations|
about dishing out grief to each other.
But woe to the outsider who attempted it!
My Faith Community: I’ve posted many times about different aspects of my faith, so I’m focusing here on one of the ways it provides me with community. I belong to a church of about two thousand members. While gathering with a large group of people—many of whom I don’t know personally—can be inspirational and affirming, it is within the smaller groups I feel my greatest sense of connection. Those are the people who know me, who encourage me, who hold me accountable. Almost twenty years ago, a few ladies and I started meeting once a month for a Bible study. However, most of us were working then, so difficulties with time and availability to teach made those meetings challenging. We eventually came to the conclusion that the larger church provided us with many opportunities for Bible study. What we wanted was the opportunity to relax, have fun, and enjoy each other’s company. So we decided our gatherings would simply be sharing a meal—communion! (You’re probably noticing that food plays a large part in my communities. 😆) As with The Inklings, the membership has altered slightly through the years, but a core group remains. Covid limited our physical gatherings this year but not our enthusiasm and desire for connecting with each other. Via texting and emails, we’ve been able to support each other and lift up each other in prayer. But it will be so much more encouraging and fun when we can again meet in person.
|The faith community on which I can always depend.|
Sadly, we're now missing sweet Anne, who was such
a beloved member of our group.
(Shout out to Marie, our de facto historian, for this photo!)
When I first posted about community last January, I posed this question: Does community require physical proximity? I wasn’t sure of the answer at the time, but in writing this post I realized that while physical gathering might not be required, it most assuredly is preferred and desired. Technology can help us make it through this challenging time, but it certainly is no substitute for being together in person. When we make it through this pandemic—and all the other craziness of the moment—I know we’ll return to our communities with a much stronger appreciation for the joy that being with each other brings.
So now I bid an enthusiastic adieu to 2020. On to 2021 and my brand new word! (I’ll reveal it in my next post.)
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
|Even after an ice storm, |
shiny things exist.
This fall, as Bill and I departed for a trip, an ice storm was being predicted. I knew it would most likely kill my annuals and finish off tender perennials for the season. But I also believed even as that cold snap removed a lot of greenery from my yard, it would trigger the resplendent colors of fall. By the time we returned, our trees would be bedecked in their autumn regalia.
Of course, this being 2020, that cold snap morphed into full-fledged ice-mageddon. Bill and I rode out the storm in a condo in Virginia (talk about good timing!), while a helpful neighbor kept us abreast of developments at home: ice-laden limbs crashing onto lawns and roofs; decades-old tree trunks splitting as if cleaved by an icy maul; ice coatings on power lines depriving many of electricity. And if all that weren’t tragic enough, the hateful ice rendered two-year-old Emma’s tree swing inoperable.
Returning at night from our trip, we saw in the car’s headlights great bundles of branches my industrious neighbors had already gathered and piled along the curbs. My heart sank as I determined there would be no foliage fantasy to
enjoy this autumn. It wouldn’t be the first fall that Oklahoma trees went straight from green to brown to bare, but it’s always disappointing when that happens.
On our first morning home, I woke early (to vote) and expected to see nothing but dead leaves littering the ground and jagged limbs hanging from stripped trees. To my great relief, I discovered the storm had done some damage but it hadn’t turned my entire community into an apocalyptic wasteland. While the trees in our own yard suffered heavy blows, elsewhere determined leaves clung bravely to undamaged branches. In the sun, the leaves glowed in brilliant tones of gold, orange, and red. The fact they’d survived the storm made them all the more beautiful and appreciated. Shiny things indeed.
|While the flowering plum in our|
yard didn't fare very well ...
|... in other areas trees put on spectacular shows.|
|And in Hafer Park, the storm hadn't|
damaged my favorite tree!
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
|Photo credit: MarlyneArt on Pixabay|
“Make a trailer for your book,” she said. “It will be easy. It will be fun.”
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry was published in 2000, but it has just recently appeared on my reading radar, thanks to my daughter first and then a couple of friends. Fellow reader Cheryl, who shares with me a love for books with a “strong sense of community,” says Jayber Crow offers much observation and wisdom on the subject. Since community is my focus word for 2020, I determined to give the book a read.
Jayber Crow, the eponymous barber of Port William, Kentucky, does indeed express a deep love and affection for his tiny community—the one that called to him as a lonely young man. Upon first arriving in Port William, he “… felt at home. There is more to this than I can explain. I just felt at home.” Years later, the time he has spent investing in the people, institutions, and well-being of the community have enabled him to verbalize his belongingness. “What I saw now was the community imperfect and irresolute but held together by the frayed and always fraying, incomplete and yet ever-holding bonds of the various sorts of affection…. It was a community always disappointed in itself, disappointing its members, always trying to contain its divisions and gentle its meanness, always failing and yet always preserving a sort of will toward goodwill. I knew that, in the midst of all the ignorance and error, this was a membership…”
Amid both the accepting and unreceptive residents of Port William, Jayber is able to find grace in and express gratitude for both the tragic and joyful events of his life. He has lived through the Great Depression as a foster child, an institutionalized orphan, and then a young man forced way too young to be on his own. While he could’ve very well allowed those hardships to define him, he draws on the strength and blessings of community to build a contented—though not fairy tale—existence for himself. With the help of generous friends, he fashions a life mindful of the grace that God through Christ has extended toward him. In return, he strives to extend generosity and grace toward others. “As for Troy Chatham, whose enemy I was for so many years … I have forgiven him too, even him…”
I read books for a variety of reasons: information, inspiration, insights, instruction. I also read for entertainment and escape. Jayber Crow provided all of these. It taught me history—in particular about the years from 1917 through the 1970s in rural Kentucky and about life during the depression and world wars. I garnered insights on land conservation, human nature, and religion. I developed a greater appreciation for the natural world and, of course, community. Jayber’s yarns about the happenings of Port William and the hijinks of its inhabitants entertained me and elicited many LOL moments.
Mostly, though, this book inspired me. In this current time, when angst and uncertainty abound, Jayber Crow reminded me I have much to be thankful for, not the least of which are the communities of which I’m a part. I don’t live in a sleepy, closely connected hamlet like Port William, but I’m a part of several communities that offer me opportunities for learning, sharing, laughing, worshiping, growing. Communities that accept me and allow me to feel at home. Like Port William, they have their shortcomings, but that’s okay. I do, too. I wouldn’t feel at home amid perfection.
If you’re looking for encouragement during these difficult times (and don’t mind if a story meanders a bit), I highly recommend Jayber Crow.