Monday, April 29, 2013

Blog on Life Support

            This is the week—I think this is the week— that Dr. Lisa Marotta challenged us to take a technology time out. No, we don’t have to go cold turkey, completely giving up all of our little techie devices we’ve grown to depend on and love. But in taking the pledge for “screen free week,” we were to strive for balance. Try “talking” to someone on the phone rather than texting. Maybe engaging in face-to-face dialogue rather than "facebooking." Or reading a book rather than watching TV or playing a video game or...blogging.

 Uh oh.
Big lesson I've learned about blogging: If I
don't write, readers won't come!
            As you can see from the date of this post, it’s only two days into screen free week, and already I’ve fallen off the wagon. But I’ve got a good excuse. I really, really do. I’ve spent the past ten days either visiting family or having family visit me, so screen free week began early and was more or less forced upon me. Not that I’m complaining. I had a great time, and it was truly liberating not to feel compelled to drag out my laptop or phone at every unoccupied second. But I’m afraid what breathed new life into me dealt a death blow to my blog. It has been over two weeks since my last post, and my stats have all but flatlined. Five hits a day—three of which are mine—are barely keeping it alive.
            So in a desperate attempt to resuscitate my blog and remain true to the spirit of screen free week, I’m resorting to cheating—uh, I mean, borrowing. And in blog-speak “borrowing” means providing a link. If you’ve not already read Lisa’s blog, hop on over there and see what she has to say about taking time out from technology and tuning in to life. There’s so much wisdom in what she has to say, you’ll probably want to take the pledge yourself.
            Next week, I’ll let you know how my tech time out went.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Need of a Catharsis?

            Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the meaning of catharsis. I probably wouldn’t either if I hadn’t taught high school sophomores for over twenty years and included that term in the background material for Antigone. In my ongoing and often fruitless quest to help teenagers understand literature, I’d explain that catharsis meant “a purgation or cleansing of emotions.” When that was met with blank stares, I tried to put it into everyday language. “Catharsis,” I told them, “is a good cry.”
             While some will tell you catharsis is usually achieved through art, there are other ways to experience it. When I was in college I had friends who relieved pent up feelings by riding a roller coaster and screaming at the top of their lungs. And, of course, most males will swear by engaging in some form of extreme athletic activity or by pounding away on...well, just about anything. But for me, there’s no more effective way of bringing feelings back into balance than a good ol’, hold-nothing-back wailing session.
             So, you ask, what sparked all this ruminating about a term few people know and even fewer care about?  It was an article I found while thumbing through an outdated magazine. It announced 2012 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the play SteelMagnolias. Oh my gosh! How did I miss that??? Had I known in time, I would’ve thrown a Steel Magnolias party, complete with “cuppa, cuppa, cuppa,” and sweet tea—“the dinner wine of the South." Besides having great dialogue and zingers—“You are a boil on the butt of humanity”—Steel Magnolias is the mother of all tear-jerkers. Talk about catharsis. If you aren’t emotionally drained after watching this play/movie, you have some serious sensitivity issues going on.
            I vividly recall the first time I saw the movie. Because I had heard it was sad—a jumbo-box-of-hankies sad—I purposely went alone at a non-peak hour so as not to embarrass myself. It proved to be a good strategy. In the darkness of the almost deserted theater, I didn’t even try to hold back my sniffling, sobbing, out-n-out blubbering. I’m sure if I had, all the backed-up tears and snot would’ve caused my head to explode. As it was, I left the theater with both my emotions and my sinuses completely “purged.”
            If you’ve never seen the play or movie—and I can’t imagine there’s anyone over the age of twelve who hasn’t—don’t be put off by my post. Yes, the story is sad, no getting around it. But Robert Harling, who wrote the play, ingeniously balanced its seriousness with laugh-out-loud moments. As Truvy says, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” And “laughter through tears” is my favorite way to experience a catharsis.    

            Now it’s your turn. Have a favorite way of experiencing a catharsis? Or how about sharing a favorite line from Steel Magnolias?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It's Alive!!!

             Look closely. Do you see them? There they are! Yes, there, nestled at the base of bare stems and stalks, hiding under a protective blanket of dead foliage are the first new leaves of my hydrangea. They tell me the bush is alive and soon will be erupting in an ostentatious display of lime green leaves and gaudy pink blossoms. They tell me the bush, like me, has survived another dreary winter and is ready to celebrate the cyclic wholeness of life.
            Every year the first warm days of spring find me out in my yard, nudging aside dirt clods and brown leaves with the toe of my shoe, bending down to closely inspect what might be underneath. As intent as a child hunting for Easter eggs, I’m searching for bits of green. And when I discover that first new sprig—either sprouting from a branch or poking its pointy nose through the dirt—I’m as thrilled as the kid who finds the prize egg.
             This week my friend Sonia wrote on her blog she considers spring the prettiest season in Oklahoma, and she posted some fairly convincing pics to support her claim. But I don’t agree. For me, autumn is the most beautiful season in this state. However, even with its buff-colored grass, mercurial temperatures, and threats of violent weather, spring is my favorite season. And although I’ve now seen quite a few springs, I still get excited about another one’s arrival. After being stuck inside the house and stuffed inside heavy sweaters and coats all winter, I can’t wait to get outdoors—to fill my lungs with fresh air, to expose my bare arms and legs to the sun’s gentle rays (using sunscreen, of course), to dig my fingers into the cool, fertile soil. All my senses are whetted by the sights, the smells, the sounds. By mid-summer the early morning drone of a lawnmower will annoy me, but right now the sound is as inspiring as my favorite hymn. It informs me my neighbor is scalping his lawn and soon the dried turf covering all our yards will be transformed into lush, green carpets. 
            As the famous verse in Ecclesiastes proclaims, “there is a season for every activity” (3:1).  Fall brings relief and refreshment, winter rest and restoration, and summer...well, in Oklahoma I’m not really sure what summer brings other than misery. Just kidding. Summer brings relaxation, recreation, and red, juicy tomatoes! But spring brings renewal. It assures us that regardless of whatever season we might be experiencing in our personal lives, God is in control and there is hope. Spring reminds us God loves us enough to “make everything beautiful in its own time” (3:11). And the triumph of a delicate bud bursting forth from a dry and brittle twig tells us that God, in His abundant mercy, hasn’t given up on mankind—that He continues to offer new beginnings.
Life renewed...the message of spring
            What about you? Does spring put you in the mood to celebrate, to “wax poetic”? What is your favorite season?