writing

I doubt I would have even gone to college at all if my parents had not insisted on it. I really did not know what to study. My first choice of college was a school one of my (I thought) best friends attended. They were not happy about my grades. So another classmate suggested I apply to her choice. It made sense– at the time I was a New Jersey transplant and she was headed to North Carolina, my home state. As it happened my application was swept up because 100% of applicants were accepted to keep the little Quaker school afloat. And it is still floating.

Not surprising my freshman roommate did not make it past first semester. Had the school offered majors in marijuana and live-in boyfriends she’d have aced. So my second semester I went from endless nights sleeping on the commons area sofa to a single room.

But I digress.

Having no clear idea what I wanted to do with my life I declared an English major. For a reader it made sense. The critical thinking part I had to tweak a bit.

Likely the most difficult class was Modern Lit– D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Pretty sure I didn’t read more than a chapter or 2 of Ulysses. Probably the most senseless novel I read. Ever. Not only no punctuation but pages with nothing but doodles… Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was also completely lost on me. Somehow I managed to write coherent papers on these “works” but I’d have liked to’ve been a fly on the wall in my professor’s office just to see her try to make sense of my words. Especially with Woolf’s To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway. None of these books made a lasting impression on me. Certainly not like C. G. Jung’s Man’s Search for Meaning did freshman year.

Meaning? Seriously? I’d been raised to see the world completely differently, from the perspective of what I had to offer, not what it owed me. I guess my professors could see I was thinking just not as they intended.

C. S. Lewis (someone who makes infinitely more sense to me) in Christian Reflections said:  “Great authors are innovators, pioneers, explorers; bad authors bunch in schools and follow models.”

Well, these authors noted certainly did break all the molds which was why they were called modern I suppose. They broke free from the late 19th-20th century to be… themselves??

A few years after my divorce life started bunching up. Bills, behavior, responsibilities, jobs, all the obligations and processes single parenthood requires, in my case with little to no support. So realizing I would not benefit from any sort of therapy I bought a small electric typewriter and reams of paper and I wrote.

It was as if I tapped whatever the emotional lobe of the brain is and the words just ran. I filled pages and pages until I had 5 binders’ full of raw emotion. I am amazed they did not spontaneously combust in their box I had so much anger poured into them

Annoyance at the musty stigma of divorce, single parenting, lack of family support, a woman in what was then still largely a man’s world. I never blamed anything or anyone but first I had to establish the parameters of what I was up against before I could methodically, systematically start to tackle whatever blocked my way.

And I started to see those complaints, emotions, thoughts, anger, whatever, were all cries for help. Help that I would never find from people but did from God. So those words became prayers. And everything that I had begun to hide from, close myself to, strike out at fell away.

My perspective changed. My focus was no longer on my life, problems, dead ends but Someone else. Someone who made sense. Someone who could, and did, help.

Lewis goes on to say “…. authors are always ‘breaking fetters’ and ‘breaking bonds’. They have personality, they ‘are themselves’….”

I have not had the nerve to go back and read those journals since I packed them away, but I probably had better. At least to decide if I really want them around for someone else to find.

They came from the heart.

Picture0318181122_1.jpg“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”    Zephaniah 3:17

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perchance to dream…..

I have been dreaming vivid dreams lately. Not like creative genius I should patent  this dreams. Dreams where I wake up and think, what does that mean?

So I bought a book that interprets dreams. I have no idea how they came up with these meanings and I read the definitions rather loosely. So far none has been bad though, at least not according to this book.

For instance I had a dream where something in a bathroom overflowed. In waking life this would be reason for panic! But apparently if you dream about clear water it means happiness, prosperity. And dreaming about bathrooms is a good omen. Go figure.

I had 2 dreams about driving. One where I was a passenger which indicates finding some way through difficulties. Good to know. Another where I was driving with my dogs in the car. This apparently foretells staunch friends and successful undertakings. Because of the dogs, I am guessing.

unnamed.jpg    now, where is that lizard…

I say I consider these meanings loosely because it seems how a person interprets these things themselves needs to be taken into account. Doesn’t it? I mean, are these things tested somehow? Some of these definitions make some sense like seeing muddy water in a dream, or standing in it is not a good thing. Problems arise. So some of these things are just common sense.

I know my son has very strange and convoluted dreams but then he is an extremely creative person. He is a graphic designer, working for a company that makes video games. So I can see why this might be reflected in dreams.

So even though I don’t remember dreams every day evidently people dream every night. I always thought dreams reflected waking life somehow but not always.

I don’t believe in fortune telling, horoscopes or divination. Dreams come from my mind. So it likely does have meaning. But even though I do not eat them, if I ever dream of a tortilla it means prosperity.

Better that than indigestion.

Picture0504180905_1.jpgdreams and reflections

“For in the multitudes of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.”   —Ecclesiastes 5:7

favorite quotes: last day

The year my dad’s company transferred our family up north was the hardest year of my life to leave. I had great friends, I had made the jv basketball team (likely because I was leaving). It was truly the happiest year.

The year before I’d been suspended from school. For 3 months. Doesn’t matter why, especially since classmates later came and said they’d done the same, just got away with it. Little consolation. But that suspension changed my life.

Public schools were not the moral soapboxes they are today. They actually taught Latin. But people, though maybe not rough around the edges behaved rougher. There was definite lack of restraint.

Yet even so this was where I met a girl my age who to this day is likely the best friend I ever had. She and I were so much alike. We laughed at the same things, got mad about the same things, hated snobs of all kinds, we were total free spirits. She accepted me despite my tarnished reason for being at her school. Even though I’d never said why gossip in middle school is like wildfire. I was tough and Betsy didn’t care why I was there. We were friends. Basically the only difference between us, I smoked back then and she did not. So I didn’t, either while we were friends.

Anyways, even after my suspension and I’d resumed my academic pursuits at the school that threw me out we remained friends. Short-lived because the following winter my family moved away. My heart broke, not just because I would lose my first real, true friend but my life would change. There was an event horizon I could not avoid, like a black hole and I was going to reach a point of no return.

Betsy gave me a small soft-cover gift book before I left, “Friendship Is…”, compiled by Gilbert Hay. I practically memorized every poem or quote in that book. The quote from this book, my last in the challenge–

“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.   –Walter Winchell

It did not matter to her what happened, why I’d been tossed out of school, what I’d done. She was the only person I met who could genuinely see past a mistake to the person. Oh I made other friends while I was there, mostly people who enjoyed the thrill of association with a renegade. But Betsy showed me that real friendship sees past everything and only sees what’s real.

We did lose touch. We wrote for a few months but in the maelstrom of transitioning from pre-adolescence to becoming driving teenagers, high school, dating, college we lost touch. The last I’d heard she’d achieved popularity status sufficient to being elected mayor of the town we grew up in but before she could be pigeon-holed she was whisked away by her knight in shining armor after a whirlwind wedding to Pennsylvania.

And this time I was the one left behind.

“It is not how many friends you’ve won in life that counts, but how many you have left. That is the acid test. For it is easy to make them, harder to hold them.”                                                          — Unknown

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A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”   –Proverbs 18:24

 

favorite quotes: Day 2 of 3

3-day Quote Challenge, continued

“To thine own self be true….. ”      –Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3: William Shakespeare

I don’t think there is much of anything more basic than this. I know my growing-up years were complete turbulence. I was the first-born of 3, the screw-up, not a mistake so much as mistake-maker. I learned everything the hard way. Sometimes those lessons took more than one pass. Eventually I learned in order to not keep everybody mad I could do and say funny stuff. Make them laugh, usually at me. This worked as long as I didn’t look too hard on the inside. Because people pleasers sometimes make others happy, or avert the argument or throw the barbs off. But even if we do, our lives, while doing all this performing are so hollow inside.

So this was my truth for years. My valley of darkness. It became such a conditioned activity I had no idea that it was within my power to stop. But just like Dorothy I had the power all along.

Just stop. I didn’t even need those ruby slippers to get back “home”.

It made a lot of people angry. I was called all sorts of horrid things– cold, selfish, thoughtless. And those words hurt. But then I remembered they were as much talking about themselves as they were about me.

It took practice. My valley of darkness became a valley of decision…. up until then I did my best at second-guessing, perceiving feelings, fortune-telling outcomes. I doubted, restructured, doubted again.
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Basically unanchored, so other-focused I had no perspective of my own.

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6 NKJV)

And here I began to find my real truth. For someone who’d become so strong-willed, independent, self-reliant it took a long time and many losses. A marriage ended, parents passed away, yet one Constant helped me, each day, each moment become stronger,th.jpg more discerning, more faithful. He has never disappointed me. He always hears  my prayers. He has proven Himself true over and over. And I know without doubt that He is the only way, truth, life. (John 14:6)

I am nowhere close to finished. But without losing compassion, empathy or kindness my perspective has strengthened and become more realistic, more self-controlled. I take more time to listen. Life is less frenetic. Yes, I am much older now but wisdom is far more valuable.And thankfully more available. Or at least wisdom’s voice is clearer.

 

favorite quote: Day 1

Normally something like this would reduce me to quivering puddles of sweat but I so enjoy the blog written by *Not Easily Broken* (aka unbreakableyetfragile.com) that I am honored by the invitation. The rules are as follows:

THE RULES & MY NOMINEES

My Quote for today, Day 1:

Consider occasionally the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.                          —Albert Schweitzer

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I always attributed this quote primarily to the treatment of animals. Even before I knew who said it. Schweitzer, theologian, prolific author (The Quest of the Historical Jesus, Civilization and Ethics among many others) was a medical missionary in Africa founding a hospital in French equatorial Africa and later being sent with his wife to a French internment camp in 1917. Upon release he returned to Africa and expanded the hospital and lived the remainder of his life there.

 

Excerpted: (https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1952/schweitzer-bio.html)

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Nominees: Angelagriffin.wordpress.com, unshakeablehope.wordpress.com, Uncletreeshouse.com

weeds

So the past couple of weeks I have been happily tearing out shrubs and nondescript bushes around my house and replacing them with plants that I feel have real character… native plants. Plants that will do well here once established because, well because they grow here.

I do not understand why nurseries and big-box garden centers persist in stocking (and selling) flowers and plants that grow well in zones where there is no humidity (that’s not here), or the night temperatures never exceed 60* (not here, either). I fell for that. I’d see an exotic or beautiful plant and snatch it up, carefully reading its little happiness parameters– whether it liked sun or shade, dry or damp soil, but completely ignored that it could not survive in sandy soil (definitely here). I would be deeply saddened as I watched this lovely flower slowly succumb to its inevitable demise.

So I planted many things, tiny presently but which will, in only a few years, I hope grow into their natural mature states. Carolina allspice (sweetshrub), clethra (I cannot find a common name for this fragrant little shrub). Elderberry, sweet bay and red buckeye which are all understory trees, or trees that do not grow much more than 10 feet or so.

Then I planted native flowers– echinacea, blackeyed susan, butterfly weed (aesclepias), fennel which swallowtail butterflies lovcaterpillar-562104_640.jpge. That’s the wonderful thing about native plants. There are often insects or caterpillars that have a symbiotic relationship with them. A milkweed (aesclepias) plant can be completely denuded of leaves and blooms by a monarch caterpillar.

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After it has eaten its fill it happily goes away to make its cocoon and become its beautiful butterfly self gran-canaria-171555_640.jpg (also not my picture) while the host plant grows back.

I planted gaillardia (blanketflower) because I love its warm orange and yellow and red colors and because it is probably the most native of all coastal flowers here. And it spreads (hence its name)  images.duckduckgo.jpg(public domain image)

I also planted some hibiscus which you never know what color their flowers are until they actually bloom for the first time. Anything from pink to red to white, purple or blue. And oxeye daisies. I recently learned these are considered weeds. How anyone could call a daisy a weed I’ll never know. But there they are, nestled among the hydrangea and wildflower seeds I scattered- zinnias, among other annuals.

So we’ll see. I live in a neighborhood that prides itself on its homeowner’s association’s perfection. Well, they can have their perfection in my front yard. But the backyard is mine.

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Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”   –Matthew 6:28

inspections

So this week my car’s annual inspection was due. This never takes long and I brought a good book for my wait. I’d not read a full chapter when I heard someone whispering my name which was strange because whenever my car is serviced they holler my name like an assembly line. So I turned and said “That’s me,” and a young man turned and gingerly walked toward me.

Uh oh. Car failure? No. He smiled sweetly, leaning in very close like they do at nursing homes when they ask the residents what they want for lunch and said quietly, ” I understand you’d like to discuss a new car?”

“No.”

I remembered someone calling the day before to let me know I’d be given some literature and they’d like to discuss this even though I’d declined this offer then, too. “I think I’ll keep this one a while longer.”

He smiled, nodded and disappeared.

Somehow when there is an apparent vast age difference the older person is either treated as though they might break or are impossibly hard of hearing and difficult to deal with. I remember my dad, well into his 80s, ordering a pizza for my son when we visited one day.

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I have no idea what the delivery guy said to Dad but it threw him into a rage and I came running when I heard my father yelling at this kid who was totally unaware of what he’d done or said to set Dad off like that.

So I begin to understand why that happened. We are not old! Our bodies do not in any way reflect who we are. I understand there are many who, though young at heart and mind do not appreciate who they see when they look in a mirror. Looks change. Metabolism changes. Science tells us incessantly how our bodies stop or start doing certain things “due to advancing years”. Botox, body sculpting, face lifts, plastic surgery. Who wants to look like a Barbie doll at the age of 63?

Yet we have younger people who see old people, not who our minds are or our hearts, but the effects of aging. They see grey hair, wrinkled brows, thin, dry skin on arms

th.jpgand hands, age spots. They see watery eyes, baggy necks, slower pace.

 

 

But they don’t see wisdom. Understanding. Grace and patience that come from pushing hard through life, hitting walls, breaking them down, productive, fruitful years.

So rather than go off like a cannon as my Dad did I smile. I thank God that I have made it to a point in life I only saw before from the outside. I understand one day this young man will see through the looking glass from the other side.

I only hope he can appreciate what it took to get there.

 

Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.”    –Psalm 39:4