Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Being an introvert

I did a google search on "introspective" when I decided to use that as the new name for this blog. One of the first links that came up, was Introspectives.org. There I found a very straightforward, and almost frightfully accurate description of myself as an INFJ (see Meyers Briggs Type Indicator). Here I am in a nutshell:

INFJ Profile:

Absolutely: creative, smart, focus on fantasy more than reality, fears doing the wrong thing, observer, fears drawing attention to self, somewhat easily frightened, easily offended, private, easily hurt, does not like to be looked at, perfectionist, can sabatoge self, can be wounded at the core, values solitude, does not like crowds, organized, second guesses self, focuses on peoples' hidden motives, not spontaneous, longs for a stabilizing relationship, fears rejection in relationships, frequently worried, can feel victimized, lower energy, strict with self

Sort of: attracted to sad things, avoidant, anxious, cautious, socially uncomfortable guarded, prone to crying, prone to feelings of loneliness, prone to sadness

Not really: emotionally moody, fearful, more likely to support marijuana legalization, not competitive, prone to intimidation

Favored careers:

Sounds cool: artist, art curator, bookstore owner, freelance writer, poet, teacher (art, drama, english), library assistant, professor of english, painter, novelist, book editor, copywriter, philosopher, environmentalist, bookseller, museum curator, magazine editor, archivist, music therapist, screenwriter, film director, creative director, librarian, art historian, photo journalist, homemaker (who knew?)

Not a chance: psychotherapist, opera singer, social services worker, sign language intepreter, makeup artist

Monday, June 9, 2008

10 lessons the Presidential primaries have taught our children

The recent 2008 Presidential primaries have taught Americans a lot about ourselves.

Without a doubt, glass ceilings have been shattered, long-held prejudices have been re-examined and forced into the light, and a new vision of opportunity has unfolded for our children.

Yet, sadly, not all of the lessons provided by both parties in recent months have been positive ones. I'm disheartened, disappointed and downright disgusted with the behaviors and values that America's supposed "best and brightest" are teaching our children by example:
  1. Style is much more important than substance.

  2. Winning is more important than being honest or playing fair. In fact, winning is more important than anything.

  3. If the rules aren't working in your favor, change them.

  4. If you repeat a lie often enough, people will start to believe it.

  5. Chose your words very carefully, the technical definition of those words means more than the spirit of them.

  6. Appearance is everything.

  7. Overcome feelings of being victimized by playing the victim card.

  8. Rebut policy differences with personal attacks.

  9. If someone hits you, hit back. Harder.

  10. It doesn't matter what you say today... you can always deny it tomorrow.

I grew up in a family of staunch Democrats, but much to their dismay, I became a Republican ten years ago. Before November, I will change my affiliation again - this time to "Independent." But before I do, I want to openly apologize to Independents.

I used to think that being an Independent was a sign of intellectual laziness, that the people who made that choice just weren't interested enough in the issues to take a stand. I've thought long and hard about the issues and I care very deeply. But I've also thought long and hard about each of the Presidential candidates, both current and former. I never thought I'd say it, but at least for this campaign cycle, I've come to think that being Independent means sadly choosing "none of the above."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Less than 6 Degrees of Separation

A few weeks ago I wrote a series posts about a great book I'm reading called "Night Shift" by Dave Shive. Shortly thereafter, I got a wonderful e-mail from Mr. Shive in which he indicated that a friend had seen my initial post referencing his book and had sent him the link.

What a delightful surprise to receive a personal message from the author of a book I'm reading... something that could only have been made possible by the wonders of the Internet. So much for the theory that there are 6 degrees of separation.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

How do HSP's cope?

I know it sounds awful to say that misery loves company, but I have to admit that I'm relieved to find that I'm not the only one that recognizes themselves in the list of HSP traits. If you're one, you understand the emptiness of feeling alone in a crowd, at a party, or in a marriage that isn't working.

I've just begun to think about what this means for me and how it manifests, but just like with so many other things, I've decided to consider this a blessing rather than a curse. Of course I realize that being highly sensitive to your environment (places and people) can be problematic, but rather than dwell on that, I'm choosing to focus my energies on learning how to minimize the challenges and maximizing the benefits.

There seem to be a few books on the subject, but so far I've only found one article with tips on coping strategies: 14 Success Strategies For Highly Sensitive People. There must be more. I'll keep looking. Perhaps I'll make my own list. Please feel free to post if you have suggestions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How sensitive is TOO sensitive?

I had another "aha" moment today. For some reason, the word "empath" got stuck in my head. After following a few links through Google, I ended up reading several articles about highly sensitive people (HSPs), and not surprisingly, some references to being INFJ also showed up. I started researching characteristics of HSPs and recognized myself instantly.

I found an interesting list of the traits of HSPs that were all too familiar. In fact, I answered "yes" to every one of the following questions:

  • Do you get overwhelmed by stimuli such as lights, noises, and smells?

  • Do other people’s moods and emotions deeply affect you?

  • Are you easily startled?

  • Do you become uneasy when someone is watching you complete a task?

  • Do you become tired easily after a “normal” day of activity?

  • Are you aware of other things in your environment that most other people are not aware of?

  • Do you become agitated or anxious when you have a lot of tasks to do and not enough time to complete all of them?

  • Do you avoid disturbing or violent movies, books, or T.V. shows?

  • Do you feel the need to escape and retreat when there is too much going on around you?

  • Are you deeply interested in the arts or music?

  • Do you dislike changes in your life?

  • Do you enjoy delicate tastes, scents, sounds, soft fabrics, or beautiful works of art?

  • Have you always been labeled as shy or sensitive by other people?

  • Are you overly conscientious?

  • Do you seem to be more sensitive to pain than other people?

  • Are you sensitive to certain foods such as foods containing caffeine, sugar or alcohol?

  • Do you become unpleasant when you are hungry?

  • Do you easily sense the energies of places or situations?

  • Are you easily touched by others' experience, stories of kindness, and courage?

  • Are you attracted to the deeper things such as spirituality, self-development and philosophy?

  • Do you need time alone?

  • Are your feelings easily bruised?

  • Do you have a vivid imagination?

  • After reading this list, is it really any wonder that I'm often exhausted, can't sleep, or feel sad, stresed or overwhelmed? Interestingly, I think that the more time that I spend in intentional solitude, getting to know myself and enjoying my own company, the more sensitive I am to the influences of external factors.

    Last week I was baffled by the fact that I had a few informational job interviews and in one case in particular, the minute I walked into the office, I had a "bad" feeling about the office and the prospective employer. I tried to articulate to a friend why I knew that wasn't the job for me - even though I don't have any other firm offers - but I couldn't find the right words. I just knew that I "wasn't feeling it", as my daughter would say.

    I'm really curious to better understand the correlation between HSPs and INFJs. If you know anything about this, or can recommend good resources, please post a comment.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Accepting the Night Shift (part 3)

    According to Dave Shive, author of Night Shift, "One who enters the pit cross the threshold to 'God's tuf.' This entrance sets in motion a cycle of events and activities designed to transform proud, unbroken, and essentially useless people into vibrant servants of Christ who have a new song on their lips, a message to proclaim, and a usefulness in making an impact for the Kingdom."

    He goes on to discuss this transformational process as a series of seven stages:

    1. The Pit. The awful place of brokenness where the testing begins.

    2. The Wait. The usually long period of time spent waiting, often without understanding, for God to make His divine plan clear.

    3. The Cry. The desperate prayer for relief from waiting in the pit.

    4. The Answer. God's reply as He reveals the message that is to be the focal point of the person's future ministry.

    5. The Deliverance. Liberation from the pit, "in God's way, God's timing, and for God's purpose."

    6. The New Song. The music inspired by spiritual, emotional and physical freedom from earthly (materialistic) things, with a newfound focus on God's purpose.

    7. The Impact. The fruits that manifest as a result of allowing the season of suffering to serve its purpose.

    I have survived the first five stages and am somewhere in stage six. I wish I'd found this book sooner, as it would surely have made the first four stages more bearable. But then, perhaps that's the point. If I hadn't gone through then, I probably wouldn't be here now. I'm scared, but also excited, to see how God plans to use me.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Accepting the Night Shift (part 2)

    If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've survived a past with more than a little violence, pain and suffering. As dark as many of those days were, the operative word is that I survived. By God's grace and mercy, not only have I overcome my past, but I'm a better, stronger person because of it.

    I spent nearly 30 years either denying or fighting my past, unable (or unwilling) to see how unresolved anger and pain was impacting my life. I knew that I was missing something very important, but I could never quite connect all the dots. I may never understand why God allowed certain things to happen to me. But now I understand that He wants me to use my experiences to try to ease the pain and suffering of others. If He can use me as a living example of how we can learn to overcome life's challenges because of rather than in spite of them, then the things I went through will not have been for nothing.

    So knowing all this, why am I so afraid? Because what I'm being called to share is very painful, and very personal. Writing this blog, and receiving the feedback that I often get, has been a tremendous experience in terms of helping me to stretch my writing muscles in preparation for writing the books that God has placed on my heart to write. But I know that writing the books is not enough. I know that I'm going to be required to speak publicly about these things too. And that's the part that scares me the most. I've heard that speaking in front of crowds is a "normal" fear under the most benign circumstances, which doesn't make it any less fearful for me. But then add to that the subject matter that I'm being called to speak about and I find it terrifying. But then I'm reminded of David. He must've been terrified too when facing that giant with nothing but a little rock and a slingshot.

    I haven't started reading Night Shift yet, but I did glance through it and saw that the author identified seven stages of the night shift cycle. I can't tell you how comforting it was to receive confirmation that I've made it through the most difficult stages and that now it's time to plant seeds and wait expectantly for them to bear fruit.

    (to be continued)

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    Accepting the Night Shift (part 1)

    I've known for some time now that God has a special purpose for my life. I jumped into into it with full force two years ago, and nearly drowned. I decided that I must have misunderstood. This work is much too hard and too painful. Surely God can't want me to do it.

    Since then, God has been slowly preparing me, guiding me, nudging me, and introducing the right people into my life to support me on this journey. I understand now that it's not going to be easy. It's not supposed to be. But even though I don't understand why God chose to use me in this way, or how He could possibly think I'm qualified or capable to do this, the conviction in my heart to move forward has become so strong that I can't ignore it any longer.

    Today I remembered a book that a friend sent me about this time of year two years ago. I didn't really understand why she sent it at the time, especially because it's signed by the author, and addressed to her mother. What a special gift. Now the purpose is suddenly clear. The book is called "Night Shift" by Dave Shive. It's written for people who find themselves being called to do the hard, difficult and lonely work that's usually not on most people's list of fun projects to volunteer for.

    I liken it to working the night shift in a hospital. Most health care professionals choose not to work the night shift for reasons that make perfect sense to most of us. Yet the reality is that "someone" has got to do it, and it looks like I've been drafted. Of course I believe that God gives each of us free will, so I'm not saying that I'm being forced to do this. I guess I'm saying that as much as it scares me and overwhelms me, now that I've clearly heard the call, I have to respond. I have to take a giant leap of faith and believe that God will give me the tools, the skills, the resources and the people that I need to do the things He'd have me to do. And when I'm able to meet His challenge, doing so will be another testimony to His power, because He knows that I know that I can't do this by myself.

    (to be continued)

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Less really is more

    Now that I'm less than 12 months away from turning 50, I've been thinking about what that milestone is going to mean to me. What amazes me is that while I'm earning less money, have less professional prestige, and claim fewer close friendships, I also have less stress, less drama and fewer debts. In reality, I have more... more peace, more authenticity, more creativity, more self-confidence, more spiritual maturity, more meaningful relationships and more joy. Is my life challenge-free? Absolutely not, but age and experience have given me a different perspective. Big problems are much smaller when you learn to focus on the big picture.

    If you're a woman over 40 and you've never read an issue of More magazine, I highly recommend it. It's a wonderful magazine that celebrates the joys of being a "well-seasoned woman." In honor of their 10th anniversary, the magazine's editors posted a list of 10 reasons why we're really glad we're over 40". Here's the short version of their list along with my editorial comments in italics.
    1. We know our own style. I feel absolutely no need to wear trendy clothes that cost a fortune and make me look like a clown. I didn't want to look pregnant in my 20's, and I certainly don't want to look pregnant now.
    2. We've honed our ability to allow things to roll off our backs. I know that there's always going to be at least one person in any social setting that's going to say something "stupid". Better them than me.
    3. We feel absolutely no compulsion to have a MySpace page, and no need to apologize for not having one. What's MySpace?
    4. We've grown to appreciate the singularity of our own selves. I'm much happier being a late bloomer than being the most gorgeous girl in junior high school who now looks like she's 65.
    5. Sex is better than ever, largely because we're not afraid to ask for what we want and realize that faking orgasm only reinforces male ineptitude. Enough said.
    6. We are able to embody the confidence and wisdom of Coco Chanel, who once quipped, "I don't do fashion. I am fashion." When the situation warrants it, I can definitely "clean up well." But then, I can look good in jeans and bare feet too.
    7. It's a cinch to say no. That would be "no" as in no more overcommitting to things I have no interest in doing, no more giving my phone number to people I don't want to call me, no more attending social events out of a misguided sense of politeness, and no more apologizing for things I'm not sorry for or that I have no control over.
    8. Younger men are now old enough to have real careers and order a round of martinis. Yes, there's something to be said for younger men when you reach my age. :)
    9. We've finally absorbed the reality that no pair of $3,000 sandals will ever be as sexy as quarterly dividends. $3,000! I'd never pay $100 for a pair of sandals!
    10. We've regained all that time we used to spend freaking out about turning 40. True.

    I've decided that I want to do something extraordinary for my 50th birthday, but I have no idea what yet. If you did something wonderful for your 50th (or 60th or 70th) or you're planning to do something wonderful, please share!

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    Gratitude Journal: March 2008

    It's the time of the month again when I share a partial list of all the things I have to be thankful for during the month just ending. This was a particularly difficult month for me, partly due to the snowballing effects of being laid off and losing my health insurance. I've also undergone a personal crisis that zapped what little emotional energy I had left.

    Yet, in spite of the challenges, and they were HUGE, I am so thankful that God has been more than faithful this month. He has shown me that He does and will provide for me in ways that seem incomprehensible and inexplicable to my modest mind. He has also answered complex questions in ways that can only be explained by Divine intervention. He has given me comfort when I thought I was inconsolable, and once again, He's given me hope.

    Here's just a small listing of all the things He's done in my life in the month of March alone:
    • My daughter came home from Iraq for nearly 3 weeks. I hadn't seen her in a year, and she came home in March to celebrate my birthday. We had a wonderful time together and she's doing so well. I am so proude of her.
    • My weekly women's group meetings have been absolutely awesome. God has taken a group of women who didn't know each other at all, and created a tightly-knit, Spirit-filled support group where we can share our deepest fears and our most private prayers. Even though the official 8-week session ends in two weeks, we've decided to keep the group going on our own.
    • Every Sunday this month I've heard exactly the sermon I needed to hear that day, including this past week's message which was entitled "Men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti." Yes, it was hilarious, but it was also an awesome tutorial on the differences between men and women and how we can learn to communicate with each other better.
    • My discount prescription card came just in time to help defray a portion of the added expense of my medications now that I don't have health insurance.
    • A wonderful woman from church has recommended me for a job opportunity with a colleague of hers who I'm meeting for coffee on Friday morning.
    • I'm working on a full-time time contract which is helping to pay the bills for now. And, it's less than 5 minutes from my house.
    • I joined the church I've been visiting for the last few months and I'm absolutely convinced that it's exactly where God wants me to be. I've even been asked to prayerfully consider enrolling in upcoming Small Group Leader Development training so that I can co-facilitate a new women's group.
    • The final copy of my book came back from the printer and it looks great. I'm about ready to start marketing it (stay tuned for more on this soon).
    • I had a great lunch with a very dear friend that I hadn't seen in years. It's been a long time since I laughed so hard.
    • I got a box full of wonderful birthday gifts from my dear friend Susan, including some items that had been hers and/or her Mom's that she chose to share with me. I am so honored.
    • I completed a small consulting contract.
    • No matter how much money I've spent this month, the balance in my checking account has somehow stayed the same. I can't explain it other than to say that even when no money was coming in, I continued to give offerings at church and to the charities I support.
    • I was able to take my daughter to have her first full-body massage. She loved it!
    • The facilitator of my women's group introduced me to an entirely new way to "pray" that has made a miraculous difference in my relationship with God.
    • I've lost the extra 6 lbs that I've been trying to lose for the last year.
    • God is answering my prayers about a personal situation in ways that can only be described as miraculous.


    Sunday, March 23, 2008

    A different look at the black church

    I made it the early Easter morning service today. The dance ministry presented an amazing depiction of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The mass choir sang "Don't cry, he is not dead. He has risen" while an angel comforted Mary and the other mourners. Despite the words of the song, the experience was so moving that I don't think there was a dry eye in the sanctuary.

    But it didn't take long to realize that we weren't crying because Christ was dead, we were crying because of the incredible and excruciating price he chose to pay so that we could live. Our tears were tears of awe, humility, gratitude and praise. We cried because knowing that we believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, we also know that anything is possible. And no matter what we're going through, we were reminded today that God can and will bring us through.

    During the service, we were also blessed with a selection from a nationally-renowned Christian musician, Angella Christie, who's reached the top of Billboard's Christian instrumental music chart. She played an incredible arrangement of "Great is Thy Faithfulness." I couldn't find the video on youtube, but I did find a very old video of her highly stylized arrangement of another old school gospel favorite, "By and By."

    There's been so much discussion and apprehension about what goes on in "the black" church over the past few weeks because of the video clips of Oback Barama's paster, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Certainly, there are as many different experiences within black churches as there are within white churches, but it seems that a very one-sided, and atypical, portrait of black churches has dominated the airwaves of late. So, in my pursuit of balance and authenticity, I offer this video, though it's old, as a view into my black church experience. While we clearly don't have a famous musician join us each Sunday, and the hair styles and fashions have changed, this is what goes on at my church every week.

    Saturday, March 22, 2008

    Still on the journey: Week 4

    This morning will be Week 4 for my women's support group. I find myself looking forward to this very special time of fellowship each Saturday morning, and this week in particular. For the first time in a long time, I've had a very difficult week. While I still have so much to be thankful for, I've been struggling emotionally with a serious and unexpected personal issue and with the stress of a new job. I know that I can't talk about the specifics, but simply being in the presence of these supportive and loving women is such a blessing to me. I know that when I ask them to pray for this situation, I know that they will.

    My "homework" assignment for the week was to practice cultivating the ability to do more listening and less talking when I'm praying. And as much as I hate to admit it, this is something that I need a LOT of practice on. Early in the week, I feared that this task would be difficult for me, and of course God knew that even better than I, because He gave me a reason to practice this new skill just when I needed it the most.

    The night before last, I felt so low that all I could do was cry. I wanted to pray, but the words wouldn't come. My mind and heart were so heavy that I couldn't even think of a coherent string of words, much less utter them in prayer. So, I did the only thing I could do. I cried. And then I cried some more. Finally I cried out through my tears "Why God? Why this? Why now?"

    Almost immediately the tears stopped and I felt comforted. The pain didn't go away, but it lessened. At first I thought that maybe it was the sleeping pill beginning to kick in, but I soon realized that it wasn't that at all. Because instead of drifting off to sleep, I felt as if God had placed the answer to my questions in my heart... "This is a test."

    I didn't feel the anger or anxiety that I'd feel if a professor had just sprung an unexpected pop quiz for which I was totally unprepared, and told me that my entire grade for the class depended on how well I did on the test. It felt much more loving than that... sort of a "you said this is what you want... now it's time for you to see if you really want it" test, one that would ultimately be for my benefit.

    Suddenly I started so see the situation a little differently. I have no idea how things will turn out, and I'm still prone to start crying at the drop of a hat, but knowing that even this is part of God's plan for me makes it somehow easier to bear.

    Yesterday morning, I decided to indulge my guilty pleasure and see what my daily horoscope had to say. I know there are mixed feelings about horoscopes, but I do admit that I sometimes take a peek, and when I do, I usually find just the message I needed for that day. I chose to believe that God can speak to us in any way He chooses, so why not in a horoscope too? Here's what mine (Pisces) had to say:

    Conflicts place unreasonable demands on you now, especially if you believe it's your responsibility to fix a situation that is actually beyond your control. Consider how you hold on to familiar behavior patterns because of your fear of change. Old habits are being tested by new circumstances, so don't waste valuable energy by struggling; let go and make room for what will follow.

    Last night I felt much better than I did the night before. I feel a sense of comfort, a sense of peace, a sense of how God is using me in this situation, and for that, I am truly thankful.

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    A quiet rant

    Have you ever had "one of those days"? Today was one for me. I knew when I woke up that it would be a trying day at best. I didn't sleep well because I'm concerned about a personal health issue that recently cropped up from nowhere.

    My initial perceptions on the state of the day were confirmed when I showed up at work to find no one there. Why is that a problem? Because I'm a temporary employee brought in to take over for the office manager while she's out on maternity leave. The thing is, we were supposed to have at least 2-4 weeks of training before she left. But her son decided not to comply with my most heartfelt wishes that he delay his arrival until the latest possible moment. In fact, the little angel decided to arrive a month early, and after only 3 DAYS of training! There is a wonderful part-timer who will be working with me in this small two-person office, but as my luck would have it, she was off today and tomorrow.

    So there I sat alone all day, juggling two phone lines and a fax machine, all of which felt compelled to ring constantly, and also handling numerous new staffing requests that needed to be scheduled and assigned, resolving six pages of telephone messages and notes, working on a new project and more. My "things to do first thing in the morning list" already has 12 items on it!

    And to make matters worse, in my haste to try to use the bathroom between phone calls, I somehow managed to drop my cell phone into the toilet. Needless to say, the phone is history, along with the 50+ telephone numbers that were stored in the phone and no where else. It was then that I realized that I didn't even know my mother's or my guy's phone numbers by heart. How sad is that? A new phone, minus my much-needed telephone directory, should arrive tomorrow. The good news is that I had insurance against the loss. The bad news is that it cost me $70 to replace a phone that I paid half that much for only 6 months ago.

    Today I also confirmed that a purchase I ordered 6 weeks ago was "delivered" last week, only I never received it and no one has any idea where it is. I got a bill from my dentist's office saying that my former dental insurer denied coverage on my last dental visit before I got laid off because I wasn't covered at that time, when in fact I was. My appointment with an agent to discuss my unemployment claim has been scheduled for a time that I can't attend because I'm working now, meaning that I may not receive benefits for the time that I wasn't working (and I still don't have a full-time job). And, because my new prescription discount card won't be effective until April 1st, I have $180 worth of meds waiting for me at the pharmacy that I'll have to pay for out of pocket tomorrow. I'm sure there's more, but I can't remember right now and who cares anyway?

    I'm too emotionally exhausted to even think eating dinner, much less fixing it, but I think I can muster enough energy to pour myself a very large glass of wine. Then I'll snuggle up on my couch and watch back-to-back episodes of In Treatment to remind myself that as bad as things seemed today, they could have been much worse. Hope your day was better!

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    A new dialogue on race

    I don't consider myself an Obama supporter, at least not politically. While I think he is inspirational on many levels, and I like his style, I disagree philosophically with him on many policy issues. That said, I grow more and more impressed with him as time goes by, and today was certainly no exception.

    I have been following the recent controversy concerning the comments of Barack's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright with mixed opinions. On one hand, having grown up as a member of the same denomination, the United Church of Christ, I know that these preachings are not representative of the entire denomination, despite what recent media clips might suggest. While I've since moved on spiritually, many members of my family are still very active in the denomination and not only is UCC not racist as a body, but I'd be surprised if nationwide, the membership was more than 10% black.

    I also recognize that although the anger and vitreol of Rev. Wright's comments were extreme, I'd be lying if I said that I haven't heard those types of sentiments before. In fact, while I strongly disagree with the manner in which Rev. Wright's views were expressed, history bears evidence to generations of despicable treatment of blacks from slavery through Jim Crow and beyond. While most would have to agree that the state of the African-American union is much better than it was in my grandparents' generation, there is still work to be done to heal wounds that run so deep and to reverse the consequences of hundreds of years of unequal treatment.

    Yet, on the other hand, I do reject the notion that all white people are evil, rich racists, as much as I reject the notion that all black people are illiterate criminals and drug addicts. I am blessed to have many very dear friends who are white, and I have heard some of the most racist statements uttered by blacks. I have been denied jobs because of my skin color and I received an academic scholarship to graduate school as part of an affirmative-action program. Was I qualified for those jobs? Absolutely. Was I smart enough to get into grad school on my own merits? Without question.

    The bottom line is that race is not simply black and white. There are countless shades of gray, and as many perspectives on racial issues as there are skin colors. It is difficult, and dangerous, to rely on 15- or 30-second sound bytes or opinions from politically-biased pundits to develop meaningful positions on racial issues. As with any controversial subject, context, perspective, world-view and personal experiences are all inextricably bound in the tapestry of race relations. There are no easy answers to the pains that plague us or the divisions that still divide us, but one thing is certain. Unless we can begin to honestly, openly and humanely begin to discuss the very real issues of race in our culture, we will never be able to move beyond them. On this point, I agree wholeheartedly with Obama. Can America move forward? Yes, we can.

    So forget the sound bytes. If you haven't heard Obama's speech in its entirety, it's worth 10 minutes to listen to it here.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Standing by unmanly men

    I was shocked (although I probably shouldn't have been) and saddened (who wouldn't be?) at the sight of Mrs. Spitzer standing by her man as he resigned as the Governor of New York today. I don't think there's anything else that needs to be said about the former Governor's alleged participation in a prostitution ring. But when is enough enough when it comes to high-profile men further publicly humiliating and disgracing their wives in public?

    There's a part of me that wants to be angry at "public wives" who allow themselves to be shamed publically as they stand stoically by their husbands as they confess (or deny) sexual allegations that have been made against them. I know that this is one of those situations that I shouldn't pass judgment on unless I've walked a mile in the wronged wife's glass slippers. But I simply can't understand why these women show up at the press conferences to stand by their men.

    I understand full well why the accused husband, his political advisors, agents (in the case of celebrities), lawyers and financial advisors would stress the importance of having the wife stand by her man in a show of support. After all, if a man's wife, the one most deeply hurt by his betrayal, can forgive him, then who are we as Joe and Jane Public not to do the same? But what's in it for the wife? Is it ever in her best interest to stand there for the prying eyes of the world to see? I've heard the case made that some women do it for the sake of their children. That may be, but as a mother myself, I'd have to wonder what kind of message I'd be sending to my children if I stood publicly behind my husband after he'd betrayed every vow and promise he'd made to me and to them. I think I'd be telling my children that this type of behavior is acceptable, when it clearly is not.

    Don't get me wrong. I believe in the power of forgiveness, and if a wife chooses to forgive her husband, that's certainly her right. But for Heaven's sake, why do women believe that they owe it to anybody to stand there with him in the midst of a public scandal, pretending like everything is just fine when it so clearly is not? Where did this idea of wives falling on the sword for their cheating husbands come from? And how do we make it stop?

    That said, as a Christian woman, as a former wife, and as a mother, my heart goes out to Mrs. Spitzer. While I completely disagree with her decision to stand with her man today, it was her decision to make. I pray that she and her daughters will find comfort and healing. And I hope that there's a big fat settlement check waiting for her at the end of all this. She certainly deserves compensation for the job she performed today.

    Thursday, March 6, 2008

    If I'd known then

    I turned 49 earlier this week. Never before has the term "age is just a number" felt more true. I'm not at all stressed about approaching the big 5-0, but it's probably because I feel at least 10 years younger than my chronological age. The fact that I look much younger is an added bonus. Yet, regardless of how young I feel, the reality is that I've been an adult for 30 years and I've learned a lot during that time.

    My 19-year-old daughter planned her two-week trip home from being stationed in Iraq to coincide with my birthday which has been a wonderful present. Among many other things, the 30-year age difference between us crossed my mind as we reminisced over our years together. I marvel at how different her life at 19 is from the way mine was at 19. Times have certainly changed, but we're also very different people. I'd like to believe that she's learned a lot by living vicariously through my triumphs and my mistakes over the years, but only time will tell if the lessons that I've struggled so hard to impart with her have taken root.

    If I'm going to be honest, I must admit that my mother probably said the same thing 30 years ago when I was 19. And I now know as well as she knew then that 19-year-olds think they know everything, and hardly need the advice of an old, square, nerdy Mom to tell them about life. While my mother clearly wasn't able to prepare me for all of the particular situations I've faced in my adult life, she laid a very strong foundation which served me quite well in my professional life. She instilled in me a strong work ethic, a commitment to excellence and an understanding of the importance of balance.

    I've been thinking about the life lessons and values that I want to impart in my daughter. There are too many to count, but if I had to pick ten of the most important, I think they would be these (in no particular order):

    1. Make saving money a priority. Having a good-paying job is a blessing, not an entitlement, regardless of how hard you work or how smart you may be. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and there's no way to know if, or when, you'll experience a lay off, an extended illness, a major unexpected expenses, or any number of other challenges. Start saving money when you don't need it, so that you'll have it when you do. Establish a budget and stick to it. Use credit cards wisely, and as infrequently as possible. Enjoy driving a car that may be old, but that's paid for. Buy only what you absolutely need or love. Don't buy more house (or rent more apartment) than you can comfortably afford. Resist the temptation to by designer brands when generic alternatives work just as well. It makes no sense to spend years paying for things you no longer use, that you purchased with money you didn't have, that you bought to impress people that you don't even like.

    2. Remember that your job is what you do, not who you are. I doubt that anybody on their death bed looks back on their life and wishes they'd worked more hours or received more promotions. It may not seem like it now, but life is too short, and much too precious to spend it all working. Career success is important, but much more important than your title or your profession is your commitment to doing your best to live a full and satisfying life in whatever line of work you choose. That said, I hope you'll find work that you love, and if you do, you'll be incredibly lucky. But if not, at least find work that you enjoy - you'll spend too much time there not to like it. And remember that your worth is defined by how you live your life, not what's written on your business card. If you don't love your current job and can't find one that you do love, consider your job a means of paying the bills, not a value judgment on your worth as a person.

    3. Take vacations. It's a big, beautiful world out there and there's so much to see and do. Be adventurous, be spontaneous, and of course, be safe. Your life will be enriched beyond measure if you make the effort to expose yourself to different cultures, listen to different types of music, try different types of foods, and most importantly meet people from different walks of life than your own. Plan to make memories, and then go out and do it!

    4. Choose your battles wisely. Even the generals of the mightiest armies knew that it is foolish to fight every battle simply because you think you can. Some causes are definitely worth fighting for, others simply aren't. It may take a while, but if you pay attention, you'll discover how to tell the difference. If you must fight, remember that it's brains, not brawn, that wins the war.

    5. Plan carefully for your retirement. I know this is the last thing on your mind right now, but it is so very important to start planning early. Believe it or not, there will be a day when you're too old, too sick or too tired to work anymore, and that day is going to come a lot faster than you think. That doesn't have to be a scary prospect if you're prepared. But if you're not, the very thought of it will keep you awake at night with fear and worry. Find a good financial advisor and develop a plan. Stick with it, even if it's not fun.

    6. Understand that when it comes to friends, it's quality not quantity that counts. When you're young, it's cool to have a lot of "friends", and the term is defined quite loosely. But as you get older and wiser, your definition of true friendship will evolve and you may find that there are not as many people in your close circle of friends, which is probably as it should be. Pick your friends wisely and then honor and respect those friendships. Be slow to get angry and quick to forgive. Respect each other's privacy and guard each other's secrets. Make room in your heart for the spouses and eventually the children of your close friends, even if you were there first. Keep in mind that as you get older, people move away and lives get more complicated, you may not see your friends as often, but the bonds of true friendship run much deeper than that.

    7. Pick your men wisely. This is a big one. Other than the decision to accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, I can't think of another decision that can have as much of a positive or negative impact on the quality of your life as the men you choose to become involved with, and most importantly, the man you choose to marry. This choice will affect your happiness, your home, your physical well-being, your finances, your children and just about every other aspect of your life. Know and love yourself first. Decide what you do and don't want in a relationship and set boundaries concerning what behaviors you will and will not accept. Strive to find someone who will accept and love you unconditionally, but at the same time will lovingly encourage you to be the best you can possibly be. Remember that looks and physique and salary are nice, but the character of a man's heart far outweighs how cute or cut he is, or even the size of his bank account. You're much better off with a man of modest means who loves you wholeheartedly than a millionaire who treats you badly. And most of all, remember that not every man who says he loves you does.

    8. Tithe. Make tithing a priority in your life, regardless of how much money you make. Tithing involves more than giving a tenth of your income, it also includes giving of your time and your talents. Help others when you can. Do volunteer work. Find a church family and become an active participant. Be a good friend and a good neighbor. Contribute to worthy charitable causes, or start one. And when you give of your time, talent and treasure, do so with a joyful and thankful heart.

    9. Laugh and love as much as you can. I believe that laughter and love are two of life's greatest medicines. No matter how bad things get, try to find something to laugh about, even if you have to laugh through your tears. Look for the best in all circumstances and in all people. Sometimes it's hard to see the blessings when we're in the midst of the storm, but I assure you that they are there. Aim for a life as full of laughter and love as your heart can hold. You'll be glad you did.

    10. And most importantly, put God first in all things.

    Love always,


    Friday, February 29, 2008

    Gratitude Journal: February 2008

    Here's this month's partial list of the simply abundant things that I'm thankful for that manifested during the month:

    • Got an oil change and regular maintenance on my car and they didn't find anything else that needed fixing.

    • A beautiful bouquet of tulips and balloons for Valentine's Day from my daughter, who arranged for them to be delivered to me here even though she was in Iraq.

    • My daughter is home from Iraq for almost 3-weeks and will be here to celebrate my birthday next week.

    • Even though I was laid off from my job with no notice, the process made me realize how much the people that I'd worked with (other than my boss and one colleague) appreciated me and the work I'd done for them.

    • Learned that I'm eligible for unemployment benefits. Although the checks aren't going to be much, every little bit helps.

    • Have enough money in savings to be able to spend my daughter's vacation time with her. If I had to have been laid off, this was the perfect time for it.

    • Got a 4-month contract position beginning the day after my daughter leaves to go back to Iraq - how's THAT for perfect timing?

    • The contract job doesn't pay a lot of money, but it'll be interesting and it's about a mile from my home, so I can save money on gas and lunch (I can come home each day). It's also bought me some time to conduct a proper job search.

    • Found a basic health care plan that should tide me over, it's affordable, and even if I'm not employed full-time with the temp agency after this initial contract, I can keep the coverage, which was a major concern.

    • Able to get all of my prescriptions refilled before my major health insurance policy expires tomorrow.

    • Two of my prescriptions, including one that I take every day, is available from Wal-Mart's $4 prescription drug program, saving me about $150/month on that one medication alone.

    • Since I started taking a medication to lower my cholesterol it's come down substantially in the first 6 weeks. I may even be able to stop taking it in a few months if the trend continues.

    • Celebrated the best Valentine's Day ever with my new guy.

    • The lead that led to my long-term temp job came from the guy I used to date. I guess there is something to be said for ending a relationship with style.

    • Participating in a wonderful 8-week women's support group that meets on Saturday mornings at my church.

    • Started knitting an awesome cable sweater with my #1 knitting buddy. We met at Starbucks on Sunday and knit for 3 hours. Time files when you're having fun.

    • Another wonderful month with my new guy. It just keeps getting better and better!

    It's been a great month.

    Thursday, February 28, 2008

    Still on the journey: Week 1

    Last week I started an 8-week women's support group at my church. I wasn't sure what to expect, but things got off to an awesome start and I am certain that my presence there was not by happenstance. The group is structured around a wonderful book, "Still on the Journey", which takes a Biblical and spirital approach to dealing with the challenges, both big and small, that women face along this journey called "life."

    We have homework assignments each week that will involve journaling. I decided to do my journaling here since the work we're doing is directly relevant to what's going on in my life. So, at some point each week, I'll post my thoughts on what we're learning here.

    Our first assignment was a reading in Genesis 16 about Hagar, who after being treated unjustly by her mistriss Sarah [sp], ran away into the desert. I doubt that Hagar intended to end up in the hot, dry, miserable desert, I suspect she simply wanted to get away from the people and the circumstances that had caused her so much pain. I know that feeling well. Been there... Done that.

    Of course, I never ran into the desert, but my "running" was quite literal. I moved to another city, sometimes to another state, when things got too difficult or too painful where I was. The problem is that once the excitement and the newness of moving to a new home, exploring a new city, making new friends and settling into a new job wore off, problems started to creep back into my life again. It took a long time, but I finally realized that no matter where I went, I was always there.

    While Hagar was in the desert, an angel found her, called her by name, and asked her two very important questions: Where have you come from and where are you going? While discussing Hagar's predicament in the group, I realized that I've been where Hagar was at that moment and I've spent the better part of the last two years finding answers to those very questions for myself.

    I've come from a place of unresolved pain, anger and bitterness. As a long-term survivor of a violent assault, I felt helpless, hopeless, afraid and ashamed. In my rush to put it behind me and move on with my life, I never dealt with the source of my pain and instead pushed it deep down inside. While I temporarily plugged a gaping hole in the dam, I failed to realize that the water was still rushing on the other side, building force, only to create cracks in other parts of the carefully-erected wall I'd built. Failed relationships, stress-induced illnesses, severe and chronic insomnia, job-hopping, spiritual isolation and countless other "holes" started appearing in my life until finally the dam burst.

    It certainly hasn't been easy, and it hasn't been quick, but by God's grace, I am recovering. I am healing, one challenge at a time. With God's help, I've figured out where I'm going, ultimately. By that I don't mean that I know what city I'll ultimately live in or what job I'll have, but I have a very clear understanding of what's important in my life. I'm able to say "No" to things and people that are not good for me, I'm able to love myself - warts and all, and most importantly, I'm able to recognize and be thankful for God's blessings, even in the midst of a storm. I don't know the particulars of what God has in store for me, but I finally know in my heart that He does have a plan for my life and that as long as He is my guide and my compass, that I'll always be exactly where He wants me to be.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Astrology: a guilty pleasure

    OK. I admit it. I've been known to check out my horoscope every now and then. I'm a by-the-book Pisces woman. When the news is good, I smile and when it's not, I forget about it and move on.

    Let me say right here that I am a Christian and I do not consider astrology to be a religion. I think of it like a science. To me it's not that much different from predicting weather patterns in the Farmer's Almanac. I don't pretend to understand either, and I don't really care. Sometimes I just think it's a fun diversion.

    Since I have some free time on my hands now, I decided to do some long-overdue filing this morning. I found a detailed horoscope for people born on my birthday, March 3rd, that I printed out on March 3, 2007. The horoscope was a forecast from March 2007 to March 2008. For something that I don't put a lot of serious stock into, in retrospect, it was amazingly accurate.

    The year promises to be a busy period in your life when you might make dramatic changes to your nutrition or health regime.
    I finally found the right health care team who collectively got a handle on my sleep apnea, insomnia and depression. I've changed my diet, gotten on the right meds at the right dose, and I'm feeling great.

    Keeping "on top" of things in terms of staying organized is likely to be a focus, although you may not always succeed at doing so!
    One of the best things I did during this period was hire a team of personal organizers to re-organize my home office. The results were so profound that I did the rest of my house utilizing the techniques I learned. As my horoscope suggested, my compliance rate in keeping everything in order hasn't always been 100% since then, but I have met my "15 minute" rule, meaning my home is always no more than 15 minutes away from being ready for unexpected visitors.

    A healthy dose of introspection is encouraged.
    I think this blog speaks is the best evidence that this was true. I started it at the end of March 2007.

    This is an ideal year in which to do editing or research of any kind, and to put finishing touches on projects you may have initiated last year.
    My book is finally finished and is going off to the printer this week! I feel like I'm in the final stages of a very long pregnancy.

    Past errors may come to light... You're taking on a whole new perspective with regards to your life.
    Again, that's what this blog is about.

    This period in your life is the culmination of a stage of personal growth and development. Events at this time may bring to a head various developments in your emotional, psychological, or spiritual life over the past several years.
    This is the most stunningly accurate assessment of the entire horoscope. Everyone who's known me for years knows this to be 100% true. Some have gone so far as to say that I've ended my season of trials and have entered a season of abundance. And for that, I sincerely and humbling thank God.

    It's easier than ever to express your unique individuality, and if this involves changing careers or jobs, a new love affair, or an entirely new hobby, it's something that takes you forward into unexplored territory.
    I did make a major job change in May. Because of that job, even though it was short-lived, I was blessed to meet some wonerful people and some great professional connections. Also because of that job, I am now in a wonderful new relationship with an amazing man. And, I've developed an interest in an entirely new hobby - photography

    Your personality is sparkling this year, which is sure to attract new circumstances and people into your life.
    It already has. :)

    You might fight that you become more goal-oriented, as superficial goals no longer satisfy you. You want your life path and your objectives to reflect what you're really about, and your likely to rid yourself of unsatisfying goals this year.
    Absolutely true. I wrote about this recently here.

    You are inclined to do a lot of "digging", researching, analyzing, investigating, and getting to the bottom of things. Increased psychological awareness of yourself and others can benefit you greatly, and employing strategy in your decision-making is easier than usual this year.
    Again I point to this blog.

    You'll have a chance to heal old wounds with regards to love. You are especially open to love and romantic feelings and more willing to act upon them.

    Amen. :)

    So, this astrology thing may be a sham, but I'm not complaining.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    Now faith is REALLY a verb

    I was terminated from my job today. I should have seen it coming, but I must admit that it caught me off guard - especially the part where I found myself being watched while I gathered my things, as if I was a common thief. My employer and I have had irreconcilable differences in our philosophy on how to run a business and how to treat customers and employees, so this point in time was inevitable. But I thought I'd at least get a week's notice. Don't ask me why I thought that given everything else I know about my former boss. Call me stupid, but I just have this terrible habit of assuming that people will do the right thing.

    Ironically, she tried to blame it on me, but when I asked for examples of performance issues, deadlines that were missed, or a single example of an instance in which I didn't do at least 110% of what was asked of me, she couldn't provide a single one. Instead, she told me that she was "restructuring" her business, that she needed to take a more proactive role, and that essentially she was going to be doing my job AND getting her business back on track. She said that she'd been planning to let me go on Friday, but after I pushed back on her refusal to allow me to use comp time to leave a bit early on Valentine's Day (insisting that I had to use vacation time), she decided to do it today. Sadly, if I hadn't pushed back on the performance non-issue, I honestly think she would have let me leave thinking that I could have done something to avoid this.

    Again, call me stupid, but I didn't think that requesting 90 minutes of comp time was such a horrible crime, especially since I'd started work 45 minutes early on the day I made the request and I volunteered to work through lunch on Valentine's Day to make up the difference. Ironically, the thing I'm most angry about at this moment is the fact that she was going to make me use vacation time tomorrow, knowing that she was planning to fire me the very next day! The word "character" comes to mind.

    God has been so good to me these past few months, despite all my troubles at work. In every other area of my life He has blessed me beyond measure and I am so grateful. That's why I'm convinced that this too is part of a bigger plan that He has for me. As awful as this afternoon has been, I'm confident that He's already opening doors to something much bigger and better, even though I can't see it at the moment. I just need to remain faithful, and thankful, and prayerful. I don't know what the next job will look like, where it'll come from, or how long I'll be unemployed, but I know it'll be better than the place I left.

    I know I need to start planning my job search, sending out resumes, letting friends and others know that I'm looking for work, and I'll do all that. Just not tomorrow... or the next day. I have a wonderful Valentine's Day celebration planned for tomorrow night, so tomorrow I think I'll sleep in and then give myself the "home spa" treatment so I'll be relaxed and ready to have a great time. Then, after a wonderful evening tomorrow night, I'll sleep in on Friday and find something fun to do. And then of course, there's the weekend. I'll treat my job search like a job and start the process on Monday, after I've had a chance to rest and recover.

    Faith is indeed a verb.

    Image available at www.bigfoto.com

    Saturday, February 9, 2008

    January blessings

    I promised myself that this year I was going to keep my Gratitude Journal updated. I know, it's the same thing I promised myself last year too, but this year I'm really trying to do it. To hold myself accountable, I decided to post a short-list of blessings at the end of each month that demonstrate that I am indeed living a life of what I call "creative abundance. " I'm a bit late with January's list, but here it is:

    • Had the best New Year's Eve ever (honestly). When the ball dropped, I was in the middle of my living room dancing cheek-to-cheek with my new guy. I couldn't have been happier and it didn't cost us a dime!
    • Saved hundreds of dollars by visiting a new eye doctor who prescribed a less expensive type of contact lenses that are also extended-wear, thereby saving me lots on the lenses themselves, not having to replace them as frequently, needing less saline and cleaning solutions, and perhaps most importantly, not having to buy a new pair of prescription glasses for back-up.
    • Got great tickets (3rd row center) to an awesome Valentine's Day concert at a substantial discount through work. I got a similar deal on tickets to take my dad to see his favorite artist of all time - B.B. King in May.
    • Got lots of yarn donations (as well as new volunteers) for my knitting ministry when I spoke at a women's knitting retreat.
    • Filled my 5 Fave's plan with T-mobile, so now I can talk to my favorite people any time, any where, at no additional cost and without having to worry about minutes.
    • Found some awesome bargains at the designer consignment shop that I visit on occassion.
    • Started making my own sugar scrub for pennies compared to the $19.99 per jar that I used to spend to buy virtually the same thing from Bath & Body Works.
    • Received a $25 gift card from CVS for filling a new prescription there. How easy was that?
    • Got six week's worth of samples of my new medication for FREE.

    Note: Image available at www.bigfoto.com

    Friday, February 8, 2008


    I detest liars. I know that we all tell a "white lie" every now and then... taking a sick day when we're not really THAT sick, saying "no" when a girlfriend asks "do these pants make me look fat?", or saying that you had a nice time when the date really wasn't all that great. I guess technically a lie is a lie is a lie, but that's not what I'm on my soap box about today. I'm talking about lies that are truly unethical. Lies like when the boss says "I'm working on that raise, just give me a little more time" when it's absolutely not true, or when a prospective employer says "Race (or gender) didn't have anything to do with why you didn't get the job" when you know that's EXACTLY why you didn't get it, or when a guy says "I love you", when you know that's guy-speak for "can we just have sex?"

    If there's one thing that is almost always certain to send me off into a state of sheer disgust, it's when someone lies to me. Yes, I take it "personally" even when I know that the person is a pathological liar who lies to everyone, even him or herself. Why? Because for me, being lied to represents more than merely a character flaw on the other person's part. It is an insult that they think I'm too stupid to be able to see through the lies. The fact that I don't always challenge someone when I catch them in a lie doesn't mean that the lie was lost on me. But it changes everything about my view of that person and my perception of our interaction. Sadly, once I know that someone has lied to me, I'm much less likely to believe anything else they say, even if it's true. And what's really ironic is the fact that the very people who lie the most, are the ones who most often believe that everyone else is lying to them! As George Bernard Shaw said, "The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else."

    I think lying is about control... attempting to control another person (their behavior, their perceptions, their reactions), attempting to control a situation, attempting to control the consequences of one's actions (or lack of them), and even attempting to control our fears, be they real or imagined. I don't know who Tad Williams is/was, but I agree with him we he said that "We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger."

    I constantly struggle with how to react to liars. In some instances, the solution is clear - simply stay away from them. Unfortunately, it's not always that easy. When the liar is a co-worker, or an employer, or even a relative, it's not that easy to walk away, although sometimes it's absolutely necessary. But it's that frequent, and necessary interaction that also makes it hard to consistently turn the other cheek. While not challenging a liar may make life a little easier in the short run, it quietly erodes away at the very fabric of the relationship, destroying trust and leaving bitterness and resentment instead. And, I often fear that not challenging a liar enables and emboldens them to lie even more. Does that somehow make me complicit in their lies? Probably. That sucks.

    Thursday, January 31, 2008

    Gratitude Journal: January 2008

    It's easy to express thanks for the "big things" in our lives - a new job, a new partner or spouse, a raise, a baby or a new car. It's harder to remember that it's just as important to express our gratitude for the smaller things, the things that we often take for granted.

    An attitude of gratitude is crucial to our emotional and spiritual well-being for a number of reasons: (1) it reminds us of how blessed we are - always and in all ways; (2) it helps us maintain perspective on our lives by focusing on our "haves" rather than our "have nots"; (3) it supports the universal Law of Attraction that says that we create what we think about, whether it's abundance or lack; and (4) and last but not least, spiritually, it's simply the right thing to do - a grateful heart pleases God.

    I've already started a gratitude/abundance journal for 2008. In it, I'm keeping track of the things - both big and small - that I am grateful for on a daily basis. I am trying to pay particular attention to those things that remind me that I'm living a life of simple abundance. I finally realize that abundance is not measured by the size of my bank account or the square footage of my house. It's measured by the peace, joy, contentment and love that exists in my life on a daily basis. It's evidenced when I find a great sale on an item I really needed or wanted, or when I'm invited to a friend's for dinner or when I resist the urge to buy something that I don't need for all the wrong reasons.

    The more I focus on living abudantly, and being grateful for that, the more abundance I find in my life. For example, in 2007 I earned less than I've made in years, yet I had more disposable income than I've had in years. I can honestly say that there isn't a single thing last year that I really needed that I didn't have the resources to purchase. In fact, I was even able to buy a few things that I didn't need, but really wanted. And what's even nicer is that I did not use a credit card or take money from my savings account to do it. Now THAT'S something to be thankful for!

    So, starting now, at the end of each month I'll post a partial list of the simply abundant things that I'm thankful for that manifested during the month:

    1. Saved hundreds at the eye doctor (switched from special daily contacts to much less expensive contacts that I can sleep in and use for a month, eliminating the need for another expensive pair of glasses!)

    2. Able to exchange 2 boxes of contact lenses that I'd bought before my Rx changed for more of the newer, less expensive lenses, even though I was well past the return period.

    3. Purchased the $70 set of circular knitting needles that I've been looking at for months for only $6 after catching a 30% off sale AND using a $45 gift card from the students in my knitting class at work.

    4. Got a sound machine (ocean noises to help me sleep) for $0.02 after returning 2 boxes of coffee pods that my mother had purchased, which were for the wrong machine.

    5. Got the correct coffee pods for my new coffee maker from an online liquidator - instead of $4.99 for a box of 18, I got 162 coffee and tea bods for only $19.99!

    6. Found a beautiful black leather coat in perfect condition at the local thrift store for $24.99.

    7. Celebrated the best New Year's Eve ever at home, dancing by candlelight with my new man.

    8. Found the perfect Christmas gift for my knitting friend (a page-a-day knitting calendar) at half-price because I bought it the day after Christmas.

    9. Found out that my new favorite artist, Kem, is going to be performing in my town on Valentine's Day!

    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    I'm not mad at 'em

    Sometimes it just doesn't pay to share good news. I have a friend who insists on setting me up each time we get together. I made the mistake once of telling her about how painfully my last relationship ended and in doing so, I opened a door that I haven't been able to close. She has a very low opinion of men, and collects anecdotes about men behaving badly like stamp collectors collect stamps.

    Every time we talk, she asks how things are going with my new guy. Despite the fact that I always joyfully say that things are great (because they are), she warns me to "be careful", "watch my back", "remember that men only want one thing", "don't believe anything they say because they all lie," blah... blah...blah. I know she means well, she doesn't want me to be hurt again - again. But asking me about my relationship only to then tear it down would be hurtful too if I were inclined to allow her comments to steal my joy.

    Yes, I've been hurt. A lot. But over time I've come to understand that no situation, and no relationship, is without purpose. People are brought into our lives to teach us things, and for us to teach them things, and because some of us learn some things slower than others, lessons sometimes have to be repeated over and over until we figure it out.

    There is an exercise called "clarity through contrast" that I read about in a book on the Law of Attraction. It involves reflecting on past relationships, specifically the things that we do not want, in order to become clearer on what we do want. Once I was able to release the anger and the embarrassment of my failed relationships, I was able to see the value in them. Just as cold, dreary days make me appreciate the warmth of the sun, all those relationships with Mr. Wrong have helped me be clear about Mr. Right.

    So, if I were to write an open letter to my exes, the theme would be one of gratitude. I'd simply say "thank you" to each of them.

    Thank you for teaching me about the power of forgiveness when I was able to forgive my best friend in college for sleeping with you.

    Thank you for realizing that you "weren't man enough" to stay and watch me die when I was diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness. That was 15 years ago. I was misdiagnosed, but you clearly weren't ready for a real relationship.

    Thank you for not adopting my daughter, even though I wanted you to at the time. She's better off without a father at all, than a father in name only.

    Thank you for making me realize that there isn't enough love, compassion or patience to heal a heart that isn't ready or willing to be healed. The more I tried to heal your heart, the more I broke my own.

    Thank you for being so impossible to please. The more I tried to change myself to be the person I thought you wanted me to be, the less I liked the person I'd become. Apparently you didn't like her either, so what was the point?

    Thank you for breaking up with me so ruthlessly. It was a clean break so there were no jagged edges to get in the way of my healing. Had you not ended things so completely, I might not have been over you when someone new came into my life.

    Where did we get the notion that our hearts were never to be broken? Why are we so afraid of being hurt that we're afraid to open our hearts and souls to another? If all of the painful lessons of the past are practice to prepare me for the blessings that God has in store for me, then they were worth it.

    So, yes, I've been hurt by men before. Many times, but you know what? I'm not mad at 'em.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    My Bucket List

    I wrote recently that I was going to post my Bucket List. Now that WillThink4Wine says that I inspired her to post hers, it's only fitting that I should follow through with mine. We've already decided that we must be kindred spirits, but I think that was confirmed today when I saw several items from my mental bucket list that made it onto her posted one.

    So here goes...
    1. Fall in love with the man I've waited my entire life to meet and live as close to happily-ever-after as possible.

    2. Vacation at Grace Bay Beach in the Turks and Caicos Islands, exploring the beauty of what has consistently been rated one of the world's most beautiful beaches.

    3. Publish and successfully sell at least 6 books.

    4. Tour the Greek Islands.

    5. Spend an entire night salsa dancing.

    6. Help plan a hugely successful black-tie silent auction for a worthy cause.
    7. Serve on the Board of Directors for a charitable organization.

    8. Make love under the stars on a tropical beach.

    9. Own a home with a water view (debt-free, of course).

    10. Play the piano again, well.

    11. Visit at least 5 of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the United States.

    12. Visit at least 5 of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.

    13. Own a piece of silver jewelry designed by John Hardy.

    14. Visit the Grand Canyon.

    15. See a movie being filmed.

    16. Custom design and decorate a home.

    17. Win an award.

    18. Help plan my daughter's wedding.

    19. Witness the birth of my grandchildren.

    20. Find a church and church family that I love and become an active member.

    21. Truly make a difference in someone's life.

    22. Find a job that I love.

    23. Allow people to see the light and the grace of God through me.

    24. Become more confident at public speaking, and perhaps do a series of motivational speaking engagements.

    25. Host a fabulous party for friends.

    26. Visit at least a dozen different islands in the Caribbean.

    27. Have a library in my home filled with books I love.
    28. Host a photography exhibit at a small art gallery.

    29. Go on an Alaskan cruise and wear sweaters that I've knit the entire time.

    30. Drive through Skyline Drive at the height of the fall leaf color season.

    31. Rent a villa in the Caribbean for at least a week.

    32. Save at least 6 months' income in a "rainy day" fund.

    33. Go to an exclusive spa for at least 3 days.

    34. Visit my favorite e-mail pals, regardless of where they live.

    35. Take 3 girlfriends on a cruise - all expenses paid.

    36. Attend a Jonathan Butler concert in South Africa.

    Sunday, January 13, 2008

    Change is good

    I've written a lot about how much I've changed in the past year or so, probably more so than any other period during my entire adult life. But only recently have I truly begun to comprehend the magnitude of the change and it's spiritual significance.

    In the message at church yesterday morning, the pastor talked about caterpillars, those slinky, furry little creatures who crawl around just below the radar, serving no particular purpose other than eating every leaf in sight. They have very poor vision and I'm guessing that everything looks pretty much the same. Day in and day out, life must seem boring at best and utterly hopeless at worst. I know a lot of people who live life like that. In fact, I used to be one of them.

    But, unlike a lot of humans, caterpillars somehow know that they have an appointment with destiny. They carry on, day after day, and when the time is right, they crawl inside a cocoon to begin the hard work of transformation.

    I don't know how long they stay in there, but I can only imagine how dark, lonely, painful and scary it must be. They are isolated and singularly focused on the internal and external struggle that they were born to embrace. Yet, we all know how this story ends, the struggle was worth it, because what crawled into that cocoon as a yucky little caterpillar emerged victoriously as an entirely new creature, a beautiful butterfly with wings to soar and beauty to behold.

    While listening to the message, I realized that the pastor was describing another metamorphisis - my own. I'd been praying for spiritual and emotional growth for years, and while I did grow in spurts, my life wasn't changing in any substantive ways. Although there were bright days, I was circling the same mountain again and again. But in the past several months, I've been blessed with some new friends. And as part of the process of getting to know them and allowing myself to be known by them, I've sensed a strange disconnect between the person that I describe when I talk truthfully about my past and the person that they've come to know and care about.

    It wasn't until yesterday that I realized that the reason I feel, and they sense, a disconnect is because I'm not talking about the same person. Yes, I look the same (other than the obvious signs of aging), but in God's infinite wisdom, He gave me more than I prayed for. He didn't enable me to grow, He empowered me to change. I too started out as a caterpillar, and I spent years in the cocoon. It was dark, it was frightening, and despite the support that I had from loving family and friends, when it came down to it, I had to do the hard work alone.

    But I'm here to tell you, there is life on the other side... and the view is absolutely spectactular!

    Saturday, January 12, 2008

    My Zen of Praise

    Music has always been an important part of my life. When it was younger, I enjoyed music purely for it's entertainment value. But over the years I've learned that it's so much more. Music lifts me up, calms me down, energizes me, brings back memories and helps me visualize making new ones.

    While all those things are great, though, the most important way that music moves me is spiritually. Now matter how sad or depressed I may be feeling, listening to praise and worship music is a healing balm for my soul. And, it's one of the most effective ways that I communicate with God and that He communicates with me.

    This week, I purchased an MP3 player, a Zen by Creative Media Source. It doesn't look like much, and cost much less than the popular iPod (less than $40 at WalMart), but after just a few days, I can't imagine how I lived with out it. The night I bought it, I spent a few hours downloading my favorite jazz/latin/contemporary praise and worship songs. So far, I have 98 songs by artists such as Donnie McClurkin, Salvador, Jonathan Butler, Ramsey Lewis, Yolanda Adams and many more.

    My BOSE stereo system in my car died a horrible death nearly a year ago and the cost to replace it is more than my car is worth, but that was probably a blessing because now when I'm in the car, I'm listening to my new playlist. Now when I'm walking, my Zen and my camera inspiring to find God in unexpected places on my travels and try to capture some of that with film. This morning I realized that I could copy the same playlist to my PC, so I'm listening to it as I blog. Some may consider this the "lazy woman's way to pray", and perhaps they're right. But for me, it works. I can't help my thank God and praise Him when I'm listening to this music.

    My daughter is coming on for 2 weeks next month for my birthday - she's stationed in Iraq. We decided to wait and exchange Christmas presents when she comes. She doesn't need much, and certainly can't drag around a lot of stuff given where she is. When I created my Zen of Praise, I realized that it would be the PERFECT gift for her. It's much smaller than a credit card and easily fits in the palm of a hand. My version (the least expensive one) holds approximately 250 songs, and will play for 10 hours on a built-in battery that recharges in 2 hrs from a PC. And thankfully for me, I introduced her to all these artists when she was growing up so I know she's love my playist. So, for Christmas in March, she's getting a Zen of Praise of her very own, complete with her Mom's playlist. Just listening to it as she sits on lonely guard duty for 4 hours each evening will uplift her, encourage her, reminder her that her mother loves her, and most importantly, remind her that God loves her even more.

    Wednesday, January 9, 2008

    100 things about me

    I did this about 2 years ago when I first started blogging (on another blog), and I've thought many times about updating it, especially since Marja has given up on asking me to post more about myself. So today when I realized how much I enjoyed reading a list like this one at WillThink4Wine, I decided to go for it:

    1. I was born in 1959 and grew up in Washington, DC.
    2. I'm now an only child. My brother died in 1989 when he was 22 years old.

    3. I adopted my daughter when she was 8 months old. She's now 19 and proudly serving in the US Armed Forces. I'm so proud of her.

    4. I took classical piano lessons for 12 years, but stopped playing when I left for college.

    5. I bought a piano a few years ago, but haven't started playing again yet.

    6. I love to write and will be publishing my first book very soon.

    7. I love to knit.

    8. I graduated from high school a year early in 1976.

    9. I went to Ga Tech for grad school and got a Masters degree in 1982.

    10. I've owned my own business since 2001. I have a great boss.

    11. I love to be near the water, particularly if the weather is warm.

    12. I love to vacation in the Caribbean.

    13. My most fun vacation (so far) was 10 days in Jamaica in 1995. I hope to break that record this year.

    14. I wish I could sing, but I can't.

    15. I learned to dance salsa in 2007. I'm not great at it, but I LOVE it!

    16. I voted for Clinton twice and Bush twice. Thank Heaven for term limits.

    17. I love country music, partly because I can understand the words, but also because they actually tell a story.

    18. Beautiful music often makes me cry.

    19. My favorite TV shows of all time are: 24, The Carol Burnett Show, and La Femme Nikita. My favorite new shows are Grey's Anatomy and Cane.

    20. I used to be a die-hard Redskin fan, but football doesn't excite me any more the way it used to.

    21. Not including college, I've lived in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ontario Canada. St. Petersburg, FL was my absolute favorite.

    22. I've been married and divorced more than once and recently realized that I'd never truly been *in love*, but I haven't given up home that it'll happen.

    23. I'm an eternal optimist and a hopeless romantic. (see #23) :)

    24. I'm still in contact with my best friend from middle school, after more than 30 years.

    25. I hate watching local news but am addicted to cable news - particularly political news... go figure!

    26. I love fresh cut flowers. I want my home to be full of them.

    27. I have dozens of books that I've been "dying to read" for years, but I keep buying more before I can get to them.

    28. I never really believed in "soul mates", but if they exist, I think I may have found mine. I hope so!

    29. My first car was a yellow and white '75 Chevy Monza.

    30. My current car, a '96 Nissan Maxima has been paid for since 2003. It has 173,000 miles and I hope to get to at least 250,000.

    31. Sometimes TV commercials make me cry.

    32. I used to suffer from a severe case of CHAOS (Can't Have Anybody Over Syndrome), but now I only need 15 minutes advance notice and I'm ready to throw a party!

    33. One of my best investments was paying to have personal organizers re-do my home office. I was so inspired that I did the rest of my home!

    34. I've had chronic insomnia since 1994. It sucks, except when I'm hypomanic!

    35. I had a boyfriend break up with me because I'd been diagnosed with lupus and he thought I was going to die soon. That was almost 15 years ago - I was misdiagnosed.

    36. I'm terribly afraid of heights. Driving through the mountains causes me to have panic attacks.

    37. I once was hospitalized for IV sedation because my insomnia was so bad. I spent the first night pacing the halls pushing my IV pole.

    38. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2006. I hate sleeping with my mask, but it sure beats dying in my sleep.

    39. I agree completely with WillThink4Wine, who said "I have a love/hate relationship with flying; I hate it, but I love that it can transport me so quickly to someone that I wish to spend time with."

    40. I believe that everything happens for a reason, even the bad stuff, and that it's up to us to learn the lesson and move forward.

    41. I believe in the Law of Attraction. and have experienced it in my own life.

    42. I don't like large crowds, they make me nervous.

    43. I hate rude drivers, especially ones that don't wave "thank you" when I let them into traffic.

    44. I love Twizzlers.

    45. I'm mesmerized by fireworks, especially over the water.

    46. My dream is to retire to an island in the Caribbean and spend the rest of my days enjoying the scenery and the rest of my nights dancing under the stars with the man I love.

    47. With the exception of my daughter, my mother and my aunt, I'm not close to my family, although they live in denial about why that is.

    48. I've taught dozens of women how to knit.

    49. I love to watch good movies, although my definition of "good" depends on the mood I'm in.

    50. I've ridden muleback (not to be confused with horseback) through a foot of snow in the Poconos Mountains

    51. I LOVED being pregnant, but my daughter was born prematurely and died. She would have been 26 this year and I still miss her.

    52. I believe that love is a choice.

    53. I am so thankful to be a Christian.

    54. I do my best praying when I'm listening to Christian music.

    55. As painful as divorce was for me, it was a wonderful opportunity to reinvent myself.

    56. I love to laugh.

    57. One of the best things in the world is the laughter of a child.

    58. I love to see professional photographs of childrens' feet (I know, that sounds weird).

    59. I love a man with a beautiful smile who's not afraid to use it.

    60. The older I get, the sexier I feel.

    61. Having a hysterectomy was the best medical decision I've ever made. I just wish I'd done it 10 years earlier.

    62. I hope I never have to fake another orgasm.

    63. I enjoy going on a scavenger hunt in a nearby thrift store looking for designer clothes that still have the original store tags. I've found some incredible deals there.

    64. I recently bought the perfect black ball gown. I have no idea where I'm going to where it, but I'm going to wear it.

    65. I love to play Scrabble, but only with someone who's at least as good at is as I am.

    66. I detest rude drivers.

    67. I once played the piano with the D.C. Youth Orchestra at The Kennedy Center.

    68. I've never served on jury duty and I don't know why. I think I'd like to.

    69. If I could chose my career again knowing what I do now, I'd either be a pediatric nurse or an architect.

    70. I bought a new camera in 2007 and I love taking pictures. I hope to become a good photographer.

    71. I spent a summer in Spain between 7th and 8th grade.

    72. My first boyfriend was a cute as could be, but he was the ganster-child from hell. I wonder what ever happened to him.

    73. If I ever get married again, I want to be barefoot on the beach on a tropical island.

    74. I've always wanted to be a stepmother.

    75. I'm looking forward to being a grandmother, but no time soon.

    76. For a while I had a housekeeper come once a month to clean and do laundry. I loved it, except for when I cleaned up the night before I knew she was coming to clean up.

    77. I'd love to have a housekeeper again. I love a clean house but I hate cleaning it. I hate doing laundry even more.

    78. I once got to meet a real-life bush doctor in Jamaica.

    79. I lived in a small town in Ontario Canada for 6 months. I hate cold weather.

    80. I'm not at all anxious about turning 50 next year. I believe that 50 is the new 40 and people never guess my age correctly (thanks Mom for great genes).

    81. If I could have chosen my mother, I would have picked the same one that God chose for me.

    82. I wish all my exes could see me now. Happiness is the best revenge!

    83. I wonder if any of my exes ever think about me, and if so, what they think.

    84. If I can ask God three questions when I get to Heaven, one of them will be why black girls didn't get wash-and-wear hair like white girls.

    85. I'm addicted to romance but I hate reading romance novels.

    86. I prefer making gifts for the people I care most about, rather than giving store-bought gifts.

    87. I legally changed my name in 2006 when my divorce was final... not just my last name, my ENTIRE name and I'm so glad I did.

    88. I reached the District finals of the National Spelling Bee when I was in the 5th grade.

    89. I regret that I wasn't wiser with my money when I was earning a lot of it.

    90. I wish my father and I had been closer. I always wanted to be "Daddy's Girl".

    91. I hate paperwork, especially having to file it.

    92. I'm a morning person. When I'm feeling well, I usually get more done by 10 on Saturday mornings that most people do all day. But after mid-day, my energy level drops like a lead balloon.

    93. I love hot weather. Give me 90 degrees in the shade and I'd be perfectly happy.

    94. I truly appreicate the fine art of kissing.

    95. "Pretty Woman" is my favorite fairy tale.

    96. My comfort foods are Breyer's ice cream, shrimp fried rice and blackberry cobbler.

    97. I have a pretty bad memory. The bad news is that I can't lie even if I want to because I wouldn't remember what I said. The good news is that a secret is safe with me because I'll forget it.

    98. When I die, I don't want a funeral. I want my closest friends to eat, drink and be merry and share what I hope will be lots of happy memories of times we shared. Then I want my ashes to be spread at sea.

    99. I'm going to make a Bucket List and post it here.

    100. This was actually a lot of fun.