Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Terror and Excitement

I am sitting here at my desk in abject terror.  Enough so that tears are pressing against my eyes, threatening to erupt at any moment.

At the same time, my soul is filled with excitement at what is about to happen next.

Concurrently, my mind knows that the only way to move forward is to leave the past behind and grab hold of the next goal.

All of these things are swirling through my being and it occurs to me that when I was 25 years old, I would never have imagined having the same sensations twenty-five (cough) years later.  At that time, I was leaving everything I thought I had planned for my life, about to leap into running a business with my mother and sister. I had quit my job as a Christian Education and Music Director and was moving out of my wonderful little apartment and planning to live at home with my family until there was enough money in the business to pay me a real salary. I was terrified, excited and ready to go.

I have a tendency to make huge changes in my life ... all of a sudden. Some of them are thrust on me, some are because I radically react to a situation I am in and others happen because I can see great potential in that change.

When I was in high school, I was an avid letter writer. I had many long distance friends all over the place and would write four or five letters a week. I remember writing some of those letters though - when all I could say to my friends was that nothing much had changed in my life.  There were so many times when I believed that nothing ever would; that I would be doing the same things in the same manner for the rest of my life.

Scores of years later, I recognize that though it often seems as if not much changes, in actuality, life is filled with transformations. These changes are both large and small and even though it seems much safer to avoid them, it's not near as much fun. I like to have fun, even when it is tossing my life up in the air and seeing what shakes out as it returns to reality.

For the last seven or eight months, I have been looking forward to this date, attempting to do my best to prepare for the moment when I was no longer responsible to a professor or fellow students, when I had no more papers to write, textbooks to read or grades with which I needed to be concerned.

Today it has arrived ... well, officially I am finished at midnight tonight, but I have submitted my final paper and unless my professor comes up with more questions, I have written my last response on a classroom wall.  It will take a couple of months for the university to process all of the paperwork and deliver the piece of paper that tells the world I have an advanced degree, but right now, I own this moment.

And in the next moment, I am already preparing for what will follow. I have a rather large list of things that need to happen as I forge ahead. Some are piddly little items which will be checked off as quickly as I can get to them, others will require as much concentration and learning as I've put into several of my classes these last three years; but all will continue to propel me into a different life.

Now, I'm kind of looking forward to a couple of days of not thinking about much of anything, but more than that, I'm looking forward to not fracturing my concentration into many different areas. I have stories to tell and it's going to be fun focusing on one thing at a time.

I'm terrified and excited all at the same time.  I want to cry, I want to bury my head in the sand and I want to scream in fear. Change is here today and I guess the best option is just to keep moving into it and realize that it's up to me as to whether or not it is a good thing.  Since I already told you that I like to have fun, it seems like a great idea to decide that it's not only a good thing, it's going to be extraordinary!

It's nice to have an adorable companion on the journey.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Outdoorsy? Not So Much.

I'm not outdoorsy, but I love being outside on my screened in porch. I'd like to tell you I'm much more productive, but that would be a lie.  I get so distracted by the birds flitting about and the trees moving in the wind, the sunlight sprinkling the meadow and the farm traffic that passes, I lose all sense of time some days.

This afternoon, I realized that, though I have very little experience with and understanding of ornithology, I love watching these birds.  From the glowing crimson of the cardinal to the bright blue of the jay; from the hooting of the owls in the wood to the hammering of the woodpecker, from the sweet and too numerous to count sparrows (thank goodness God does that and not me) to the robins who show up every spring as well as the glorious goldfinches and fluttering hummingbirds, I have a beautiful bird's sanctuary outside these screened windows.

TB can hardly wait for me to open the main door in the morning. If I don't do it as soon as I come out of the bathroom, he follows me around, meowing until it happens.  Then, if I don't make my way out to the porch with the laptop and my coffee which means I open the screen doors for him to roam around; he comes back in to find me and remind me that I need to breathe fresh air and see the sun shine.

When we were growing up, we spent much more time outside than I do now. I loved camping with Dad and I do realize that Mom probably ensured we loved being outside so that she could relax inside with a good book.  In junior high we moved to Sigourney with a community pool and during the summer, we took off on our bikes to be there when it opened.

Without Dad around, though, I've turned into a lousy camper. I finally realized that it just wasn't as much fun now because he loved it so much, he made it easy for all of us to have a good time.  He spent months preparing for camping trips, making lists of all the things he would need, ensuring that everything was in good shape for a trip and packing so we could take things and never be without.  When we were very young, he worked with a tent maker and designed the perfect tent for our family. It is heavy as hell, but still works and is in great shape.  That was always the first thing he would pack into the van and I loved helping him set it up once we arrived at our destination.

Notice I said that I loved helping him set it up.  As I grew older, I realized quickly that he had done all of the work and allowed me to place stakes for him, even though I didn't do all that much.

We traveled to South Dakota one year and met my brother and his family up there for a short vacation. Jim thought it would be a great idea for us to all go tent-camping one night rather than spend money on hotel rooms.  I agreed, remembering all the fun we'd had as kids.

Well, that night torrential rains poured down. Max and I huddled in the tent trying to avoid the water streaming underneath us and doing our best to not touch any part of the tent so we didn't get dripping water.  We failed completely and I tried to sleep that night, laying on top of a rock, wondering why in the hell I had made such a strange choice.  Because of the weather, there was no bonfire and no laughing together as a family. We were soaked and miserable the next morning as we met for breakfast and quickly made the choice to not repeat that event another night.  Since then, I have set aside all thoughts of being an outdoorswoman and choose to stay where there are bathrooms within the same structure where I sleep and screens to stand between me and nature while I relax.

That being said, I love watching the leaves glitter in the sunlight and hearing the multiple bird songs, smelling the scents on the breezes that float past, cooling me in their wake.  God has created an amazing world and even though I sometimes like a little separation between me and its glory, I still love it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I have spent the last few weeks thinking about freely given, unsolicited advice.  It annoys me.

Advice: an opinion about what could or should be done about a situation or a problem.

Synonyms: guidance, help, input, instruction, judgment, lesson, persuasion, recommendation, suggestion, two cents' worth, warning, view, word to the wise.

Several weeks ago, around the end of school, I read a blog post by a well-known blogger that sent me into hysterical giggling. I laughed and laughed; then I laughed some more as I read follow-up comments from others who had as many ridiculous experiences as the original writer.  Then I quit laughing as I read comments from those whose only intent was to ensure the entire world knew how the author had misused words, obviously didn't know how to raise children correctly and had disappointed the universe.  They told her over and over how to change her life so she could meet their standards.

I finally had to quit reading because I no longer read the hilarious comments with joy, but trepidation because I knew that soon there would be another 'oh-so-helpful' person giving advice ... quite freely.

The other day, I caught myself doing something a bit like that.

A friend had fallen into a deep, blue funk and had the courage to tell me about it, knowing that I would encourage her. But, I couldn't stop after I had written those words; I had to keep going. I wrote it all out, sent the email and then cringed. She hadn't asked me to give her advice on how to fix the situation, but I was more than willing to offer it; I spewed hundreds of words all over the page.

I immediately sent an apology and her reply was gracious - telling me that she knew my advice was not only freely given, but also came with no strings. She's right, I have no problem with a person choosing not to use what I say. And at that point, I relaxed.

What is our deal?

Is it because we need others to know we're the smartest person in the room?  Oh, I'm certain in many cases, that's a great part of it.

Maybe it's because we've been down a certain path ourselves and want to make sure that no one else has to face the same issues we did.  But, that's assuming they're on the exact same path we've been on and will make the same choices we made along the way.  Heaven forbid they walk that path and make better choices all on their own.

Some of it has to do with the fact that we like to homogenize everything to our own limited viewpoint and standards.

In many cases, it's just because we're opinionated and can't imagine that anyone with a different opinion could be correct.

If you look at the title of this blog, I've been called "The Oracle," because I give advice quite freely.  Sometimes I really do think I'm the smartest person in the room; sometimes I know what I've been through and simply don't want to watch someone else deal with it; sometimes I'm seriously opinionated.

But, I need to watch my words.

- Is it the right time to say (or write) something?
- Will they receive it in the spirit with which I offer it?
- Have they really even asked for my advice?
- Do we have a relationship in which I have permission to offer advice?
- Am I simply sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong?
- Will my words affect this person positively or am I being judgmental?
- If I do give advice, am I fine with it being ignored?
- Is my opinion simply that and nothing more?

There's advice and then there's telling people what to do.  It's not an easy line to walk.

And for something a little more fuzzy - here's a picture of TB: