Emotional energy is a finite commodity. Lately, there has been a lot going on in my life and I am feeling pretty drained.
It has not all been bad stuff. I spent a wonderful weekend participating in an Invite, Welcome, Connect workshop at my church presented by Mary Foster Parmer. Her workshop was a very welcome follow up to an initiative in which I was a key player last year. You can see information about Mary and her ministry at her website (Invite Welcome Connect), so I will not try to describe the entire concept and process here. Basically, the whole point of this ministry is to light a controlled burn fire under congregations that want to grow in size and vibrancy. It was joyful to see my parish family engage enthusiastically and commit to growth. I would say it was magical, but I know it was more miraculous than magical. The Holy Spirit certainly sparked that fire-lighting process!
The event excited and uplifted me, but the weekend was very, very people-y. My sweet little introverted self could barely keep her head above the surf. I ingested a certain amount of emotional saltwater from the effort. I love the people of my parish and I loved the event. It was just that the level of continual engagement took about all the fuel I had in my tank. I am pleased to report that I did not spend any more time than biologically necessary hiding in the bathroom. Yay, me! Let’s celebrate my successes. All in all, I am very proud of how I handled myself. I have hope for the church and I have hope for myself. At least, that is how I feel now after three days of rejuvenating solitude.
The thing is, I have also been dealing with some personal emotional issues that are older than dirt. For whatever reason, they have decided to crop up now. “Crop up” is not the right phrase. That sounds like growth and rejuvenation. In reality, these problems and pains are entrenched in the soil of my soul and it has taken some considerable fracking to break them loose. One might ask why I poked at them in the first place, especially since poking at them has not done me any good in the past. As I said, they are very old issues and I have had most of my life to poke at them. Somehow, now, though, I feel some compulsion to try to resolve them. Don’t ask me about them because I do not feel like sharing, but please do pray for me and send me good wishes.
The other thing I want to ask you for is your patience. My emotional yellow light is blinking. I’m not stopped in my tracks, but I am proceeding with intentional caution. It may be a few weeks before you hear from me again. In the meantime, I am sure I will be hurting, healing, and growing. This will ultimately be a very joyful thing, but it is likely going to take me some time to get there.
In the meantime, I will still be functional in real life because that is who I am. I will be embracing the resources that I know will accept, love, and nurture me even when they do not know or understand my issues.. my coach, my family of friends, my church, and my God. I think I have an excellent treatment plan!
Do you ever have a time when you wish you could find a way to be happier and healthier in body, mind, soul, and spirit? How have you managed those times? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com. I’d also like to invite any of you who have ever been curious about Christianity or the church to reach out to me on email about the opportunities for you to explore without pressure. I’d be happy to talk with you. Even if you do not live close to us, we have online services and other events that might help you get started on your journey.
Happiness can be an illusive prey. I think we all have times in our lives when we wonder if we will ever be happy again. Thankfully, we usually do become happy again. Sometimes, it takes a little more effort than usual to stabilize the muddy emotional ground and find our happy footing once more. I find that it is important to be proactive when I am down in the dumps and stuck in the mud.
Something that makes me happy is making other people happy. This can be a dangerous remedy for melancholia because it puts my emotional fate in the hands of somebody else. I try to remember that I can only be truly happy when I am the one making me happy. At times, I try to jump start the process by reaching out to others. This “selfish altruism” of mine has its detriments. I often feel like I have a tattoo on my forehead that proclaims “Ask Me” to the entire world. I always figured it did not cost anything to smile warmly at passersby and it is thrilling when they smile back. Sometimes, it does cost something. A colleague of mine used to say I could not leave our office to go to the bathroom without adopting some poor lost soul with a problem that needed fixing. And I, of course, would have to be the one to fix it. All in all, though, I’d say that it is almost always happy-making for me to see happiness exuding from others because of something I said or did.
Sometimes, I like to stop at Hardee’s (that’s Carl’s Jr to you folks west of the Mississippi) for a biscuit in the morning if I am out and about for some reason. There is something comforting about a hot, crispy, slightly salty biscuit. At my local Hardee’s, though, there is a challenge. One lady typically takes my order at the drive-thru speaker. She is warm and friendly and cheerful. She calls me “baby.” She is rather like a biscuit herself. The lady who actually hands me the “bag o’ biscuit” when I pull around to the window is more like a stale saltine cracker.
She has never done anything mean or rude exactly, but she always looks and sounds so miserable. I have no idea what her life is like. I am certainly not judging. I am sure she has problems that would make my troubles seem petty. Still, it makes me sad that she seems so sad. I really want to help her feel better. Not that I know for sure that she is sad, but it is hard to imagine that she is NOT gloomy. Her voice is monotone and gruff. Her shoulders sag as if she is carrying a very heavy yoke. I have never seen her close to anything like smiling. Thin lips and squinty eyes always sink towards the ground. She doesn’t even seem to see me. I know she is a real human and not a robot because I can feel pain radiating off her.
Recently, I have been on a mission. I have been challenging myself to imbue a little warmth and happiness in this lady’s workday. When I hand her the money and take my biscuit bag, I push charm out of my being with every cell in my body. I smile. I intentionally let my eyes sparkle. I speak clearly and gently. I move my head slightly to try to make eye contact. I make sure that I am facing her direction when conducting our transaction, rather than blindly grabbing from my side.
None of this seemed to make much of a difference. I enjoy my short tete a tete with the order-taking lady inside the drive-thru speaker. We exchange chipper. As I turn the corner to pull up to the window, my mood turns hopeful. I think, “today is the day she is going to smile.” It didn’t seem like it was ever going to happen.
The other day, FINALLY, we had a breakthrough. As I drove up to the window, I felt the resignation building. I tried to tap into my biscuit lady in the speaker to shield myself from disappointment. As I waited for my turn to pay, I pulled out money. I had exact change, which I took as a good omen. That day, as I took my biscuit bag from the sad lady, I slowed my movements. If one can be graceful in receiving a bag of take-out, then I was. I put the bag on the seat next to me deliberately. Then, I turned my head back to the takeout window and flashed the special smile I keep for people who look like they need it. I waited a beat or two and… I saw it! Not a smile, certainly, but the very beginning of a twinkle in her eye. Her body seemed to relax a little and she met my gaze.
It made my day.
What do you do to make yourself happy? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first time I visited Florida was about 40 years ago. I had an aunt and uncle who wintered in an obscure town in central Florida, about 50 miles from where I currently live. We visited the big-ticket attractions like Disney, Kennedy Space Center, and Daytona Beach. In those days, Disney World was only two parks- Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Universal Studios did not even exist in Orlando yet. Much has changed in tourism in central Florida theme parks over the past 40 years. However, on that first visit, we also went to less glitzy destinations. We visited Cypress Gardens, which is now Legoland. We went to Blue Springs to see the manatees. We took a glass bottom boat ride at Silver Springs. We took a boat ride through a wild section of Florida wetland. We visited many local native Florida venues. I certainly had the opportunity to appreciate the wild, primitive, naturalistic tangle of environment that is Florida.
Many people would look at the central Florida where I live today and marvel at how it has changed in the last 40 years. The citrus industry that gave birth to most of the area’s inhabitation is long gone. Glitzy theme parks multiply like rabbits around Orlando. The Villages, a monolithic luxury retirement community centered about 20 miles north of me expands ever southward. The number of banks, hospitals, and Walmarts per square inch is alarming. One might say that the old Florida I saw 40 years ago is a thing of the past.
On the other hand, maybe not that much has changed after all.
When my brother visited us before my mother’s stroke, his main comment was that “Florida looks like it needs a haircut.” I thought it was an incredibly poetic… and apt… way of describing the geography. You do not have to go far off the beaten track to find a little of the messy, raggedy, feral old Florida.
Awhile back, I took a boat ride through the Lake Dora canal system. It is amazing that, in no time, you can reach sections of natural waterways that pass areas you would swear no one has touched in centuries. On the same ride, you pass through multiple mobile home parks that have probably been there for at least 40 or 50 years. Many of the mobile homes there appear also to have been there for 40 or 50 years. We noticed a small island in the canal next to one of these parks. The island was populated by hundreds of gnome statues and accoutrements for their gnomey existence.
Just a short hop down Highway 48 from my house, you will find a yellow building with a sign almost as large as the entire front of the edifice. The sign announces that the building houses Southern Wildlife Taxidermy. I swear I can hear banjo music playing every time I pass by the location. When you shoot something… or run it over with a car… in Florida, you apparently have two choices. Eat it or stuff it. I have to say that I lived over 55 years of my life without seeing a single taxidermy shop. Now I have one as a backyard neighbor. I guess I know exactly where to take my pet possum for preservation when it croaks. Not that I have a pet possum, but you never know. I’ve lived in Florida for over eight years now.
The other day, I went to Silver Springs with a friend of mine. I had a vague memory of the glass bottom boat trip from 40 years ago. It was only about 35 miles away so I figured why not take a little day trip and see what had changed since my last visit.
What had changed? Absolutely nothing. It was delightful, but nothing had changed. The old school sign at the entryway was exactly the same as it was 40 years ago. The water was still stunningly clear. The boat ride and narration were still campy. I still did not see the monkeys that supposedly inhabit an island in the springs. The statues installed in one of the deep areas for an episode of Sea Hunt in 1959 were still there.
It is interesting to note that I was born in 1959. The statues have probably withstood the test of time better than my body has. Come to think of it, old Florida has weathered the changes of the last 40 years better than I have since the first time I visited!
Have you ever revisited a place many years after seeing it for the first time? What did you notice? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
Those of you who have been following along with my story know my obsession with Disney. There is a long family mythology that links me with Tinker Bell on many levels. I grew up three miles from Disneyland, watching the fireworks from my backyard in the summer. When Max and I decided to move out of California post-retirement, living within easy traveling distance to a Disney park was high on my list of priorities. I have a wardrobe that is the envy of four-year-old girls everywhere.
I may have hit a new high. Or a new low, depending on how you look at things.
This month, my chapter is hosting the general meeting of my church’s ECW (Episcopal Church Women) organization. The general ECW is made up of four small discussion groups or “chapters.” The whole general membership meets monthly, and each chapter also meets separately each month. The chapters take turns providing food and decorations for the larger general meetings. My chapter is handling the February festivities.
We met on Monday to decorate the parish hall in our be-blossomed Valentine’s Day theme. Now, there was a time when decorating meant laying out pink or red paper placemats and scattering a few cut out hearts on the tables. Those days are gone. Somewhere along the line, somebody upped the game. It was not me who upped it. It is fun to have everyone contributing creative ideas and working together to implement them, as long as it doesn’t become a competition and feelings don’t get hurt. Monday was actually great. Everyone seemed to be having fun decorating. We have several crafty women in our group and there were a lot of random fru-fruy supplies to play with in creating centerpieces and such. One of our talented artistic ladies designed some lovely heart shaped artificial flower topiaries for the tables. We found we needed one more. Somehow, the least artistic person in the room (me) got the job of crafting the final topiary.
I have been trying to embrace trying things outside my comfort zone, so I decided to play along. How badly could it possibly go? Attacking a Styrofoam heart with a glue gun and a truckload of fake flowers didn’t seem too hard. Even if it did go badly, what’s the real harm? After all, it is not like the fate of the nation was at stake.
Things started off reasonably well. I felt encouraged as I gunned glued blooms in place. However, as things progressed, I realized that a truckload of flowers was not going to be quite sufficient to completely cover the blasted heart. I started gluing anything sparkly to the Styrofoam to cover white spots. My topiary began to look like a Brownie troop project. Also, the glue gun started to get a bit awkward and tetchy. Manipulating the hot dripping glue was more difficult when trying to attach the glittery ribbon and hearts that when just reinforcing the fake flowers I punched into the Styrofoam. I ended up burning my fingers repeatedly, all the time struggling not to utter an expletive that would not have been appropriate for a church gathering.
I did not realize that I had actually blistered my skin until after I had peeled all the excess dried glue off my hands. Then, I saw it. I had branded myself with a perfect little hidden Mickey on the pad of my finger. I may or may not bleed pixie dust, but I certainly burn Disney.
What we do for love….
What is the silliest craft-related story? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think I am going through a growth spurt. I went to the doctor last week and I gained two pounds over the holidays. It appears that my girth, if nothing else, has gone through a growth spurt. I’d like to think it is much more than that.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been working on being more intentional about how I spend my time. I wanted to disentangle myself from being overcommitted. I wanted to decrease the amount of energy I spent of activities and relationships that I do not enjoy. Going forward, I wanted to focus on improving myself instead of busy-ness and “contributing.” I really wanted to trust myself and my own intrinsic worth instead of relying on the opinion of others or the quantity of my contribution to form my own opinion of myself. It proved to be harder than I anticipated.
I took a two-month participation vacation from an organization that was starting to consume me. I was starting to not like myself and the way I felt when working on tasks related to this organization. It was not that anyone did anything wrong or that I did not enjoy the organization. It was simply some my own tendencies that I had to tame. I tried to rein myself in and protect my feelings while continuing to participate in the organization’s activities. I found the unhealthy part of me was just too ingrained and I needed to disconnect myself completely for a couple of months.
I finally voiced my reluctance to continue with another activity that had been causing me angst over the past couple of years. I honestly did not have sufficient time to invest in the activity at the required level. Also, there were some interpersonal challenges and confusion as to roles, which sapped my energy.
I stopped trying to be the driver of all the many relationships I accumulated since COVID. In my attempt to help people feel connected and valued, I began reaching out to far more people than my sweet little introverted self could handle. I continued in my quest for connection long after most of the world abandoned the “virtual world” and started interacting in real life again. I was typically the one who was reaching out to my relationships. That fed a need in me, but it also critically drained my emotional battery. I began allowing time for other people- people with whom I had genuine relationships- to reach out to me.
I expected that my self-imposed hiatus from the wild world would be pleasant, relaxing, and satisfying. That did not turn out to be the case… at least, not initially. In fact, after just a couple of weeks, I felt isolated and lonely and discouraged. I felt kind of hopeless. Maybe I was not such good company for myself after all. I struggled through the holidays a bit. My brother, my last tie to my family of origin, died this year. I had given up, at least temporarily, my involvement with some of my affiliations. Many of the people with whom I have the closest, more authentic connections were off doing family stuff. Nothing felt right.
I think my feelings were the delirium tremors of the soul. I was detoxing from this need for validation of my worth- either from activities or from other people. Unfortunately, I did not recognize this right away. I embroiled myself in another major activity by which I was measuring my worthiness. It was something I did want to do for some excellent, valid reasons. However, I allowed myself to stop focusing on these great reasons. Instead, I got caught up with the idea of proving myself and being valuable in other people’s eyes. I did not react well.
Just in the past few days, I’ve realized that I have been holding on to some resentment and hurt left over from before my hiatus. I stopped the activities, but I did not stop the unhealthy thought patterns. Thanks to a frank conversation with a friend, I realized my problem. In that conversation, I allowed myself to feel all the negative emotions I was pushing to the back of my brain, in an attempt to convince myself that they didn’t matter and that I should just get over them. They did matter and I couldn’t get over them until I dived into them. My poor friend was completely unprepared for my reaction and I am sorry she had to see it, but I am so grateful to her for being the pilot light that ignited the bonfire. Now that I have burned at least some of that negative emotion, I might be better equipped to trust in myself and in my intrinsic worth. I am entitled to be me. What’s more- the world is better because I am me.
People always say that there is no growth in comfort and no comfort in growth. I say that I see nothing wrong with comfort. People also say that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I say that I don’t see why I have to be so frickin’ strong. God often has to drag me kicking and screaming into the next phase of my development.
Still, it is pretty cool when I do see the growth that comes after the pain.
What have you learned after experiencing some “growing pains?” Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
I recently saw a meme on Facebook showing a bunch of shocked-looking women, with the caption “When people are talking about caring for the elderly and you realize YOU are the elderly.” I posted a small picture of a lady vigorously shaking her head in the negative.
The idea that I have become elderly is incongruous to me. I was usually the youngest person at the table in my career days. I am used to be thought of as the young’un. While never being what you would call pretty, I believe I have always looked younger than my actual age. I am certainly young at heart. I think I am so young at heart that I make some people uncomfortable. After all, wearing a Tinker Bell wardrobe worthy of a four-year-old girl and sleeping with one of dozens of stuffed animals (in a rotation so as not to hurt any of their feelings) is a bit weird for a 63-year-old woman. Sometimes, I think the way I talk and express myself in my more whimsical visits with my inner child makes people wonder if I am serious or developmentally delayed. All in all, I do not feel old.
I have had this conversation with many friends in the years since my retirement. None of us feel elderly. We feel the same way we have always felt. We enjoy the same things we have always enjoyed. Our sense of style and taste is the same as it always was. We plan and schedule as we did during our younger career days.
It is always disconcerting, as we live our non-elderly visions of ourselves, when something happens to contradict that non-elderly vision. I’ll pack my days with activities and am nonplussed when I realize that I am totally exhausted after a week or so without “do nothing” time. When I was working, I would typically work ten hours a day, commute three hours a day, manage my life, and fit in personal relationships. Sleep was the first casualty of that pace, but I am proud of the rich life I was able to create. I almost never had ”do nothing” time. I wouldn’t even have wanted “do nothing” time.
Today, I’ll get a pedicure at a local nail salon and find that there are sharp, needle-like pains in my feet that I never noticed in my younger days. A friend of mine lumbered cheerfully into his car to embark on a lengthy road trip, as he has for years. A couple of days later, he realized he needed to turn around and come home because the pesky pain in his back was throwing a temper tantrum about the number of hours seated behind the steering wheel. Other friends who have been treating various physical ailments for years are finding that the medications that used to manage their conditions so that they continued to live life as they wished without impediment no longer do the trick. They are having to curtail their activities or do them in different ways to accommodate their medical conditions. One friend of mine swears that he was just fine, with no issues or age-related problems until age 75. Then, the changes started storming down on him like the flood was coming.
As to me, I can’t imagine what 75+ will be like because I have been feeling the decline since about age 60. It is a humbling process. Not only are the actual age-related changes demoralizing in themselves, but the fact that they seem to come out of nowhere makes the whole situation worse. Every time I have an experience that shows me that I am crumbling, I feel quite affronted.
Let me tell you about the last time Nature put me in my place.
Each year since we’ve moved to Florida, Max and I have treated ourselves to a little mini vacation at Disney World at the holiday season. The big highlight of the trip has always been the beautiful, stirring, breathtaking Candlelight Processional at EPCOT. We used to spend two nights at a luxury resort on property within walking distance to EPCOT. That way, we could stay and see the Candlelight Processional one night and the Magic Kingdom Christmas nighttime celebration without me having to worry about driving the exhausting 40 miles home in the dark after a long day. Please, nobody point out to me that this mindset in itself is pretty convincing evidence of my elderliness. At some level, I know that. My brain is just trying to play hide and seek with that fun fact.
During our 2021 trip, we realized that we could no longer justify the absolutely exorbitant cost of this little extravagance. We even talked about cutting out the trip altogether. After living in central Florida for seven years, I thought maybe I could manage to find my way home in the dark without crashing. The sticking point was our evening at Magic Kingdom. I wanted to go to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. While I was pretty confident that I could make it home safely leaving EPCOT after the first Candlelight Processional show, I was less enthusiastic about driving home at midnight from the Magic Kingdom party. Finally, we decided to split the difference. We would stay one night and would try staying at a different, less costly on property resort.
Day one was wonderful. The “moderate” resort was okay. We could definitely see many reasons why it did not measure up to the hotels in our previous stays, but we could also definitely see why the sacrifices were worth it for the value. We went to Magic Kingdom and had a wonderful day and night. The party was super fun. The place reeked Christmas. We partied until nearly eleven before hopping a bus back to the resort. We were tired, but it was a good, happy kind of tired. Unfortunately, as tired as we were, neither of us slept more than a few hours. It was not the fault of the resort. Nothing was wrong. It is just that we typically do not sleep well away from home, especially if we are sharing the same sleeping area. We probably would not have slept well in the more expensive room either.
I was still okay. I was looking forward to my highlight of the pre-Christmas season- the Candlelight Processional. Normally, we have reservations for a dinner package, which guarantees us a seat at the show and relieves us on standing in the huge line hoping for stand-by seats. This year, we were not able to get a dinner package reservation, so I decided not to stress about the matter. I decided that we would just go about our day and hope for the best. We would arrive at the show location 40 minutes or so before the first show and see if we could get a seat. If not, we could stand outside the amphitheater and enjoy. I have grown so much. I was sure my life coach would be proud of me.
As the day progressed, Max and I wandered all over the park. We had a great time. We ate a pretty big breakfast before we got to EPCOT, so were not very hungry for lunch. What I was hungry for, though, was gingerbread ice cream in the French pavilion. That was my lunch. About two hours before the first Candlelight Processional of the evening, my body protested the lack of protein and we decided to grab a quick service dinner at the food court in the front portion of the park, then wander back to the amphitheater for the show. We hiked our way to the food court and ate dinner.
This is when “old” hit me. As we sat at our table at the food court, I realized my body was tired, my muscles ached, and I was sleepy. I began calculating how much more mileage I would have to put in and how many more minutes I would have to remain upright to haul my body back to the amphitheater and watch the show (possibly while remaining standing.) The math didn’t math. We had already logged nearly eight miles. Seeing the show would require at least another mile and a half further than just leaving the park from where we were. What a dilemma! I had to choose between my absolute my favorite thing at Disney World and punishing my body… apparently beyond its limits because I ultimately chose to go home without seeing the Candlelight Processional. It was the right decision because we were both pretty tired and I still had to drive home without running us off the Florida Turnpike. Still, I did some regrets about my decision. I also had a lot of shame about the decision, too. I called myself some unkind names.
The unkindest name of all? Old.
What experiences have you had that made you realize you were not as young as you used to be? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although 2022 was a difficult year, I still have a lot for which to be thankful. Even the very heart-cracking episodes of the past twelve months have generated abundant blessings. I am not advocating that the experiences I encountered in 2022 are for everyone. In fact, I do not think I am even advocating that they are for me. Make no mistake, change is hard. It is especially hard on this gal’s heart.
I am a paradox tangled in a coverlet of fragile positivity. On some intellectual level, I have always acknowledged that God can use the worst experiences in life to bring about great growth. I have experienced that phenomenon. It is just difficult to have faith in that notion when one is right smack in the middle of the worst experiences. Growth means change and change is hard, especially when you are trying to grow and change while still navigating through the life one has always known. Over the past couple of years, I have massively transformed my outlook on life and on myself. As exciting and triumphant as that feels, it has been a painful process at times. Most times, if I am truly honest. I find myself running towards this new, healthier, more beautiful version of myself while all the time terrified that I am going to trip and break a hip.
I’ve talked about some of the circumstances that have created this crucible of discovery and self-development. The life coaching process I’ve been working through has played a big part. The life coaching is a microcosm of what I mean by a paradox tangled in a coverlet of fragile positivity. The thoughts and feelings that I’ve found inside me during the life coaching process have often been painful- even heart-fracturing. At the same time, I crave them because I have learned the tremendous release, joy, and wholeness they can bring.
The illnesses and death of my brother has been much harder than I would have thought. I miss my brother. I miss the feeling of family I had when he was still in the world, even though we did not often have satisfying communications. I miss my memories and vision of what my past was like.
I have backed off relationships that do not serve me… or anyone else. It has been hard to let connections sever. I have faced guilt and shame and some bruising of my ego (I’m not indispensable to ANYBODY.. who knew?) On the other hand, I feel excitement rise in me when I realize that I have time and energy to invest in other, more excellent relationships. The same has been true of activities. In the past, I have concentrated more on what others needed rather than what I had to give when I said “yes” to a request. I enveloped myself in a lot of thankless, tedious, non-productive busy-ness instead of using the same internal resources to find service that feeds me as well as the recipient.
The biggest change in the past year is how I’m starting to think of myself. I think 2022 was one of the most significant years in my life in terms of learning. This is a powerful statement for me to make and I do hesitate in making it. I do not know that I have completely learned all the things that 2022 has started to teach me, but I can definitely feel them incubating in my psyche. The experience has often been challenging and painful, but I have grown so much, I cannot regret a moment of it. Here are some of the most important things 2022 has shown me:
I learned that two-thirds of American women wear a size 16 or above. I wear a size 16. I am not a freak of nature.
I learned that the standard of beauty that we see glorified in our society is not a universal preference- only about a third of people are attracted to a type that we typically picture as traditional beauty.
I learned that my needs and even my wants are sometimes more important than other people’s.
I learned that, just because someone doesn’t value what I want to give does not mean that what I want to give is without value.
I learned that I may be quirky and weird, but for many people, my authentic quirkiness and weirdness make me appealing, rather than undesirable.
I leaned that I am the center of only my own universe.
I learned that it is possible to change the way I experience and react to life.
I learned that I am far stronger and more resilient than I ever imagined.
My wish for 2023 is that these concepts will take root in my soul. I want them to flourish to enrich my life and what I can give the world. I ask you all to pray for that for me. I pray for all of you that 2023 will bring you satisfaction, love, and joy in being the person you were always meant to be.
What did you learn in 2022? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email to email@example.com.
Despite my reputation as the Anti-Santy, I must have landed on the nice list. I got a new car for Christmas.
Nobody actually gifted me the car. My decreased bank balance and the fact that I now have a car payment for the first time in about 10 years testify to the fact that I paid for this vehicle myself. However, the circumstances surrounding its acquisition are magical enough to qualify as a gift.
When Max and I planned our move from California to Florida, we discussed what to do about our cars. We had no intention of driving across the country, so the choices seemed to be to either hiring a car transport company or selling our cars in California and buying new ones in Florida. Max’s car was fairly new, so it clearly made sense to invest in a car carrier for his. My car was in a bit of a twilight zone. It was a long way from being new, with about 75,000 miles rolling through the odometer. On the other hand, I would not have considered replacing the car if I were staying in California. Finally, I decided to go ahead and transport the car. I took a chance on longevity because the idea of selling a car as we prepared to make a life-changing move and then trying to buy a new car while simultaneously settling into a whole new world kinda sucked. The car carrier guy loaded two Hyundai sonatas on the truck in California and set off across the country to meet us in our local Florida Lowe’s parking lot to deliver our California cars.
Everything was fine for the first ten months we were in Florida. My car was in good condition and showed no signs of needing major repair or replacement. I was feeling pretty spiffy about my decision to transport it.
Then, I went into the dealer for a routine oil change service. They found a couple of things that needed fixing and the whole bill was about $400. Not great, but no big deal for a car with over 90,000 miles on it. However, what happened after the service guy gave me the news about the repairs was a big deal. Another guy asked me to come to his desk to chat. I did not realize it at the time, but he was a salesman. His job was to convince me to buy a new car rather than repair the old one. He told me that it was important to trade my old car in now while it still had less than 100,000 miles. In retrospect, I am not sure that having 92,000 miles on a car rather than 100,000 miles was going to make an enormous difference to anyone. I told the guy I was not in the market yet… that I was targeting another six months or so on that sonata. He argued that, if I were going to make a change in six months anyway, why wait when I could avoid paying for the necessary repairs on the sonata and could get a higher trade-in price. I kept saying no- I was not ready to give up my old sonata and I was not prepared to decide on a car in that moment. The sales guy kept pressuring and I finally caved. I agreed to buy a new sonata.
After the sales agreement, of course, came an equally high-pressure pitch from the accessories guy. I ended up spending even more money on extras that I was not convinced I needed. By this point, I was feeling aggravated and hangry. I had been at the dealership all morning and it was long past time for a snack. Instead of feeling happy and excited about getting a new car, I felt a hot, seething resentment over a sense I was getting duped.
But wait… there’s more. After all that, they sent me to the finance guy. I balked at this because I was paying cash for the vehicle. I did not understand why I had to see the finance guy. Turns out the finance guy is also the warranty guy. One aspect of the whole experience was the salespeople trying to “blind me with numbers.” They produced inexplicable numbers that would demonstrate why I should buy what they were selling. I could not back into these numbers, no matter how I worked my calculator. The warranty guy was the worst of a bad bunch. He kept trying to tell me how much money I would save by purchasing different warranty packages. I could not, for the life of me, understand where he was getting his figures.
By that time, I was digging my heels in and kept saying “no” to every option he produced. He became increasingly belligerent and demeaning. I kept telling him that I was going to leave, but that was an empty threat because the service department still had my old car. He kept coming back with how illogical and short-sighted I was for not agreeing to “protect my investment.” He kept saying that I must not understand because if I understood the benefits, I would absolutely agree to add a few thousand dollars to my rapidly expanding total. I kept saying that, if the cars at this dealership were so unreliable that I was going to truly need the extent of repairs he was proposing, then maybe I should not be buying one. I could not get him to just shut up and stop badgering me. The phrase “held against my will” occurred to me more than once. My blood sugar was low, this guy was belittling me, I could not easily escape, and I knew I was being bamboozled.
Still, I finally succumbed and bought the cheapest package he was pushing because I could not stand the pressure anymore. I was almost in tears and saw no other way out of that little room except to sign on the dotted line. I left with a new red sonata, but also with a heavy load of resentment. I could never quite warm up to that car. It was a fine car and served me well, but I just never enjoyed it because of the sour experience I had purchasing it.
That resentment kicked up a notch when the next model year rolled around. That year, Hyundai introduced the Kona- a compact SUV that came in many vibrant colors. It was a cute, kicky little vehicle that appealed to me. What appealed to me the most was that the highest “trim” level of the Kona (read, most expensive, extra-loaded version) came in a lime green color that radiated Tinker Bell vibes. I have never bought a car that was anything but a stripped-down base model. I would have ponied up the extra money and bought this “limited edition” trim model just to get that color. However, I wasn’t getting anything because that sales guy pushed me into buying a car before I was ready. With a sonata that was eight months old, I was certainly not in the market for a new vehicle.
I lived in hope that, by the time I was ready to buy a new car, Hyundai would still be offering that Tinker Bell green Kona. Every time I saw one on the road or in a parking lot, I would make a mental note. I planned to buy a new car in 2022, so I kept my fingers crossed.
Alas, when the 2021 model year arrived, Hyundai discontinued my Tinker Bell green color. I began mourning the death of my dream. I consoled myself with a reminder that I had never actually driven the Kona. Maybe I would have hated it. Maybe not.
When 2022 arrived, the world looked vastly different than it had in 2015. We had survived a worldwide pandemic. Russia and Ukraine were at war. Supply chains which had functioned effectively for years suddenly fell apart. Car prices, both new and used, escalated. I decided it was not the best time to buy a car, especially since the car color of my dreams was no longer available. I thought I’d wait at least for the 2023s to come out before I took the plunge. I believed that, if I clapped hard enough, Tinker Bell green might come back to life.
When the 2023s came in, there were still no green Konas. To pile on the disappointments, the problematic supply chain issues had prompted Hyundai to limit the number of color choices on the sonatas to boring black, lackluster white, ghostly grey, and rerun red. The car I purchased (uh… had forced upon me) was still going strong and I decided I’d keep waiting.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, as I was driving past the dealership, I noticed a lime green Kona on the lot. I felt wistful but dismissed the idea of purchasing it because I knew it could not be newer than a 2020 model and I didn’t life the idea of taking on the potential pitfalls of a used car. A couple of days later, I saw it again. After spotting it several times, I finally decided to check the dealer’s inventory to see what was up.
It was a 2020 model…. BUT… it had only 3200 miles on it. Yes, thirty-two HUNDRED. Suddenly, a door opened in my mind, and it was a Tinker Bell green door. I called John, the sales guy who sold Max his last car, which was a much better experience than mine. I explained my story to him, and he felt this car would be a good fit for me. Not wanting to waste my time (well, that’s refreshing!), he told me he would check with the lot manager just to make sure the car had not sold yet. He called me back a little bit later to tell me that, sadly, the Tinker Bell green Kona had sold. He even walked the lot himself to make sure. I was sad, but we agreed to keep in touch as I would eventually have to buy a car, even if it was a car the color of doldrums.
The next day, Max and I passed the car dealership again. There, in the second row from the street, was a Tinker Bell green car. I knew it might not be the same car. Still, I could not get it out of my head. When we finished running our errand, I stopped at the dealership and pulled up behind the car. It was the 2020 Kona. I looked at the invoice in the window and it showed 3200 miles! I called John and explained I was standing right behind the Tinker Bell green Kona.
John came out to meet us. He was extremely apologetic and embarrassed that he had missed the car. He had walked the back lot but had not thought about the cars right in full view. I drove the Kona. I loved it. There was a bonus. The interior was black leather, with TINKER BELL GREEN TRIM! It was all extremely exciting. I did not get a greatly reduced price compared to a new sonata or basic Kona, even though it was technically a used car, because it was that extra-laden special limited trim. Although the practical part of me (and I do have one) objected, I have to say I didn’t even mind. I decided that I get to be extra-laden this time. There are people who say I am pretty extra most of the time.
I went home with my dream car. I get happy every time I walk out into the garage and see it in all its shiny greenness. There was definitely some pixie dusting going on to get me that car.
Sometimes, a gift is not a thing. Sometimes, the gift is just an opportunity.
What was your favorite gift this holiday? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a rumor going around town that I am opposed to Santy Claus. I am the Anti-Claus if you believe the hot gossip. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people who believe this rumor clearly do not know me. As I have said in the past, I forced myself to believe that Santa visited on Christmas Eve with a sleigh full of presents until I was at least eleven. Few 63-year-olds play Elf on the Shelf every morning in December. I do. If there is no Santa Claus, is there really any point in hunting for an elf? I mean, if there is no Santa, from whenst would the elf have come? My personal elf, Kringle, knows his stuff and he tells me that he has a direct line to Santa, so I had better be good.
There is a story behind why some people think I am anti-Santa, but the why is somewhat irrelevant. The point is that the episode that gave rise to this mistaken belief has caused me to consider my own position on the matter.
I shared in prior Christmas-related blogs that I have a bifurcated view of Christmas. There is the sacred, faith-centered celebration of the incarnation when God entered the world fully human as well as fully divine in order to reconcile His people to Himself. While we recognize that Jesus probably was not born on the date we celebrate Christmas, we have identified the date to celebrate that He was, indeed, born to save us. The date is not important; the celebration and worship of Christ is.
There is also a secular celebration of Christmas that has a loose, diaphanous connection with the faith-centered celebration. It is a celebration of love and family and giving and magical story-telling that happened to intersect with the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We certainly see these lovely, sweet concepts in Christianity, but we believe that Jesus’ incarnation means something much, much more important. The notions of love, family, giving, the magic of storytelling also exist in the humanist world. Whatever a person’s world view, whatever their faith, whatever their philosophy- that person probably embraces the benefits of these notions.
The secular celebration evolved and endured even after the world culture started to grow away from Christianity. Some people who do not identify as Christians or churchgoers may still somewhat vaguely accept that the “true meaning of Christmas” is that the baby Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem. For other people, the connection between their secular Christmas tradition with Jesus may be as tentative as believing that the birth of Jesus is simply the origin story of a probable myth. Other people who do not believe in Jesus at all may also embrace the secular tradition of Christmas.
Many Christians try to amalgamate the sacred and secular views of Christmas into one, big, eclectic “Santa Claus kneeling beside the baby Jesus in the manger.” There is nothing wrong with that, but I find I cannot quite reconcile the two types of Christmases enough to combine them in my brain. I find it easier to honor the true meaning of Christmas for me if I focus on the fact that there are actually two celebrations on December 25- the celebration of the Incarnation and the celebration of a cultural Christmas.
People tell me that Santa Claus is an effective way to introduce children to the concept of giving. They say that we have Santa who gives gifts because the Three Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, who brought us the greatest gift of all- salvation. They say children relate to Santa.
I do not argue against that notion. There are plenty of opportunities for children to relate to Santa and for parents to teach the lesson of Christmas giving. I can even understand that we can get to Jesus using Santa as a starting place. I certainly do not argue against the fact that children relate to Santa.
I simply suggest that, in a Christian church, it makes sense that children also relate to Jesus. If there is anywhere where Santa should step aside for Jesus, it would be at church activities.
In my household, you will find three smiling Santa Claus figures. There are, however, at least 10 Nativity sets. While one Santa and one Nativity is probably sufficient for a 1500 square foot house, I like to think that my ratio of Santa and Nativity sets represents the focus of the relative celebrations. I relish hunting for Kringle each morning. I have been known to sit on Santa’s lap as an adult. I enjoy the beautiful lights and secular decorations. I like the funny Christmas t-shirts. I rock around the Christmas tree with the best of them. However, nothing can match the sheer joy and peace I get out of celebrating Jesus’ birth. My favorite Christmas songs are hymns. I light the candles on my Advent wreath every night and pray our daily devotional. My favorite holiday activities revolve around worshiping with my brothers and sisters in the faith.
Yes, I definitely enjoy the secular celebration- the term “giddy” comes to mind when I think about describing my cultural Christmas experience. So, I am not anti-Santa. However, as lovely as giddy is, I would rather feel joy and peace than giddy.
I have more Nativity sets than Santas beclaus Santa is with us for a season and Jesus is with us forever. I have more Nativity sets than Santas beclaus I think the story should start with Jesus and only then continue with the Santa tradition rather than starting with Santa and working our way back to Jesus. I have more Nativity sets than Santas beclaus Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, while Santa is just something fun to brighten the time in between, like Yahtzee and golf. I have more Nativity sets than Santas because Santa makes me jolly, and Jesus makes my joyful.
I have more Nativity sets than Santas just beclaus.
Those of you who follow along with my journey know that it is unusual for me to skip posting for two weeks in a row. I have been missing in action from the blogosphere the last couple of Wednesdays. I have been working on this piece for several weeks and have been a bit stuck. Even in reading it now, I am not sure about it. Maybe I am just an old curmudgeon. I’d love your feedback. Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
My church women’s group has been holding an annual holiday bazaar since the beginning of time. It may be that the creation story in Genesis stops just short of proclaiming, “On the eighth day, God created the ECW bazaar.” The bazaar is, according to those parishioners who come from a long, multi-generational line of St. James Episcopal attendees, iconic. There have been some minor changes over the years, but the bazaar is a Leesburg institution. The pillars of the church would come tumbling down without the bazaar. The only year we missed was 2020 when a worldwide pandemic rendered hosting a group of people breathing on each other inadvisable. After the usual bazaar time, I checked the church’s foundation and I think there may have been some cracks.
There are a lot of benefits to the bazaar. The money we earn goes to support local, national, and global charities. Pretty much every dime goes directly out of the till into the coffers of worthy organizations. It is also a chance for our church to be more visible in the community. During the bazaar, we give tours of the beautiful stained-glass windows in our church. Our parishioners work together to produce the event. We try to involve as many sub-groups of our congregation as possible, even if doing so may mean we take in slightly less money.
The bazaar is not easy, though. While everyone does work towards the same main goals, not everyone is going to agree all the time on how to pursue those goals or when auxiliary goals should take precedence. Not everyone works the same way. Some people like to plan and schedule. Others like to embrace the serendipity. Some people like to stick with tradition. Others like to experiment and try new things. Some people enjoy working with new technology. Others find it a bit intimidating. Even when everyone agrees, it is a whole lot of work to produce this epic adventure each year.
I was co-chair of the bazaar this year. How exactly I ended up in this august role is a long, bewildering story, which I will spare you. Such a job is definitely outside my wheelhouse. Ironically, one of the reasons I agreed to take on the job is because I thought the skills that DO reside within my wheelhouse might be helpful. It turns out that I greatly overestimated said skills and their value in producing a bazaar. I was not very good at it. In fact, it might be said that I was spectacularly bad at it. In addition to my incompetence, I found that being bazaar co-chairperson brought out the absolute worst qualities in me that I like to pretend are not there.
The results of this year’s bazaar are a testament to God’s ability to use even very poor efforts to the benefit of his people and the glory of His name. I find the whole endeavor to be proof that there is indeed a Holy Spirit. We earned over $10,500 for the charitable organizations we support. This total is about $2000 more than last year.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for these results and the good that the money will do to help people. I am even more thankful that the bazaar is over!