Friday, October 15, 2021

Shiny Things on a Cloudy Autumn Day

I fear I haven’t done justice to my WoY (Word of the Year) for 2021. And it isn’t because I don’t love it. I mean, what’s not to love about such a cheerful, encouraging word? And despite the fact that we’re still experiencing health, political, and economic debacles, there remain plenty of reasons to … shine

Taking advantage of a fall traveling opportunity, husband Bill and I ventured into eastern Tennessee. In addition to being excited to see family, I was also hoping to take in some spectacular fall foliage. I wasn’t disappointed by the family visit, but we might’ve been a smidge early to fully enjoy the foliage fantasy. Maybe, we’ll be able to catch at least part of it on our return home. In the meantime, it’s still beautiful country, the weather is warm, and there are plenty of hiking trails to enjoy. So today, I set out on a short nature walk. 

Now you might think that in order for something to shine, the sun must be out. And that does help. But even on a cloudy day like today, “shiny things” can abound. And I found plenty of them on my hike today in the form of... mushrooms! 

I love mushrooms—not to eat, but to observe. I think part of my fascination with them comes from those whimsical, fairy-like illustrations in children’s books. But those that appear in nature are no less endearing. There’s just something magical about funny little fungi that pop up in unusual places and come in myriad shapes, sizes, and colors. 

So with the first sighting of mushrooms on my hike today, I knew I wasn’t going to miss the glowing reds and golds of autumn. I could catch those later. Mushrooms would more than suffice as my shiny things. And to prove my point, here are a few photos. I hope you find these woodland treasures as fascinating as I did!

This one shyly peeked from beneath a pile            
of leaves, while others boldly displayed                                 
 their showy shapes ... 


impressive sizes...

and vibrant colors!

Wishing You a Fall Full of Shiny Things!



Sunday, April 18, 2021

When Someone Tarnishes Your Shine

The shiny spring day matched my mood. I literally was in a good place—the garden center of my local Lowe’s store. To add to the bliss of the occasion, I’d managed to score the last garden cart. 

Although the sunny, windless day seemed ideal for planting, experience with Oklahoma weather told me it was still too early to place any tender vegetation into the ground. So, anxious to dig in the dirt,  I was following the gardening advice of experts and picking up supplies to prepare my soil. I pushed the cart right next to the forty-pound bags of compost and managed, without too much strain, to slide it onto the cart. 

Close by, a man and a woman—I’d say late forties, early fifties—were deliberating on which fertilizer to buy. As I reached for my second bag of compost, the woman hurried over, saying, “Let me help you with that.” Giving me no time to respond, she heaved the second bag of compost on top of the first one and said, “How many bags do you need?”

Now, I’ll bet you think you know where this post is going. That I’m going to write about the kindness of a complete stranger. That her generosity and willingness to help warmed my heart and gilded the already shiny moment. That I thanked her with an offer of coffee at a nearby Starbucks and now we’re friends on social media.


Well, you’d be wrong. 

The woman had cast a shadow on my sunny day, and my immediate reaction was one of irritation. Did this woman think I was too old and feeble to lift those sacks by myself? Did I look that frail and helpless? Obviously this woman hadn’t read any of my posts about my exercise community and hadn’t seen my Facebook profile picture—the one where I’m performing my tricky yoga pose. I suppressed the urge to challenge her to a planking contest right in the middle of the soil improvement aisle. 

    In case you've missed it, my tricky yoga pose.

Instead, I replied to her question with “That’s plenty.” Then with an admittedly chilly “Thank you,” I walked away. As I maneuvered toward the checkout line, I ohyahed (defined by my friend Shel Harrington  as thinking of the perfect retort . . . too late). I should’ve told that woman I needed ten bags and watched with satisfaction as she worked up a sweat loading them onto the cart. Of course, then I would’ve never been able to push the cart out of the store. But that’s beside the point.

Please stay with me. I promise there’s more to this post than a whiny rant. 

The incident spurred much reflection and introspection on my part, which eventually polished away the tarnish. First, by the time I’d gone through checkout, I’d had a friendly chat with the lady in line in front of me and with the cashier. Neither had reacted to me as if I were feeble-bodied or feeble-brained. Why should I let the actions of one person spoil a perfectly shiny day? 

Second, what had the woman in question done that was so bad? She’d truly thought she was being helpful. With my full head of gray hair and with no make-up, I’m sure I’d supported her assumptions that I was old (correct) and needed assistance (incorrect). I’d let my ego get in the way of being gracious. 

Finally, I had to reflect on the times I’ve made similar errors based on stereotypes. How many times have I allowed outward appearances to dictate my assessment of someone’s abilities and to influence my response toward them? More than I care to remember. 

By the time I arrived home and unloaded those two bags of compost, I’d cooled down and was able to laughingly recount the incident to my husband. (Who, btw, has no reservations about my ability to do yard work and heavy lifting.) And, although I’m reluctant to reveal it, here’s the kicker: Before going to bed that night, I had to take a pill to relieve my aching back. Maybe I should’ve let that lady load both bags of compost . . .  and follow me home and unload them. My ego might’ve been a bit bruised, but I could’ve saved myself some physical pain.

A FUN NOTE! That term my clever friend Shel coined? She has an entire book of quinbloitswords that cover situations we all face as we age. You’ll be hearing more from me about Over 50, Defined, which debuts on April 30!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Still Celebrating

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.

My birthday wish this year is that we all discover lots of good stories to read, to write, to share, to live.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

My Word for 2021: Shine


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.

If you're still not persuaded  . . . well, the call to see and share light in  today's world isn't a bad bandwagon to hop on.

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.)

Keep Looking for Shiny Things

More Shiny Things

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Does Community Require Proximity?

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.)