a Facebook post the other day that said, “A mother’s hug lasts long after she
lets go.” So true.
mother died almost two years ago. She
wasn’t able to physically hug long before that. I can still feel her hugging
me. There is no other feeling like
it. It might be the most powerful energy
force in this world. I think, when God
wanted to give us a little taste of how it feels to be loved by Him, he
invented the mother’s hug.
realized something about physical interaction between a mother and child when
my mom was in the various care facilities. Because of her frailty and
cumbersome mobility assistance devices, it had been many years since I could
easily hug or kiss her. I was always
afraid that I’d fall into her if I leaned over and around enough to get to
her. We talked about loving each other
and demonstrated it, certainly. Still,
physical affection, like many other aspects of her physical life, deteriorated
more and more as she became more and more infirm.
she was in the care facilities, it was much easier for me to reach out to hug her
and kiss her and hold her. The barriers that helped her balance and move were
not necessary anymore because she wasn’t balancing or moving. There was no need for me to lean awkwardly or
worry about falling. That ability to connect physically was very
nice for me and I think it was for her, too.
Being able to reclaim physical affection was a gift we received during
her final months.
don’t think either of us realized how much we had been missing touch. One time, I was sitting by her bed, holding
her hand, when I decided to leave because her roommate had a whole army of
people visiting. I had difficulty
loosening my hand from hers. Although she could no longer express herself well
enough verbally to let me know how much she was loving my touch, she was
communicating that message by clutching my hand. Now, I wish I had stayed right there holding
her hand; army of visitors be damned.
see, a daughter’s hug lasts long after she lets go, too. I hope my mom can still feel me hugging her
now, even in Heaven.
Happy Mother’s Day! How are you celebrating? Please share your perspective by leaving a
comment. In the alternative, you can
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
recently performed in a play at church about women in the New Testament. I played The Woman Caught In Adultery. There were no auditions or anything like
that. Basically, the very talented lady
who authored the play just asked for volunteers. Many of the volunteers said they would be
happy to play any part… except The Woman Caught In Adultery. People even cheerfully volunteered to play
Mary Magdalene…just not The Woman Caught In Adultery. Maybe they had a certain amount of respect for
someone who, at least, demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit in a time when there
weren’t a lot of career options for women.
The Woman Caught In Adultery seems to have abandoned her moral
principles simply for the sake of giving the milk away for free.
I was cast as The Woman Caught In Adultery not based on talent but on my general
guppiness. I’m pretty much willing to do whatever anyone asks me to do to help
(well, maybe not actually commit adultery), with or without the scarlet letter.
In this case, there was no scarlet letter… just a vibrant banana-yellow head
scarf. It is safe to assume that the
respectable women in the community would be able to see me coming.
kind of fun preparing for the play. We
rehearsed each Thursday night for about a month. I enjoyed working with the other women. I juggled inflection and volume with my lines,
trying to ascertain what combination of emoting produced the most effective
result. I liked experimenting with makeup. We thought it likely that women in
Biblical times would be too busy to just sit around and talk. The director asked us to each find some sort
of hand work we could do while we reminisced about our experiences with Jesus.
I taught myself to knit using a YouTube tutorial. Mind you, I didn’t learn how to FINISH
knitting, but I did manage a rather mangled stretch of congealed blue yarn. I felt quite accomplished.
wasn’t even particularly nervous about the play. At least, I wasn’t even particularly nervous about
the play until the day before the performance.
Then, the goblins in my gut started dancing around with torches. My insides felt skittish. I had a couple of dizzy spells the night
before and the day of the play. None of
this is surprising. What is surprising
is that it took so long for the stage fright to set in. I tend to experience a pretty high level of
anxiety just living normal life. The
other surprise is that the show went on and everything went well. Nobody died.
There was no blood on the floor.
Contrary to all the good wishes I received, I did not break any actual
body parts. I’m not joking. Between my long robe, ascending a couple of
steps, and doffing my glasses (apparently, no one wore glasses in Biblical
times…. although, it seems they did wear a rather alarming amount of makeup), I
was kind of a danger to myself and others.
experience led to me to think about the concept of stage fright. Can you still have stage fright, even when
there is no stage? I wonder how often in
my life I have resisted doing something because of anxiety or fear of
failure. As I mentioned, I live right on
the edge of manageable anxiety most of the time. I can remember times, especially as a
younger woman, where I talked myself out of activities and experiences because
of that anxiety. The anxiety meter
slipped over the line into the red and I shut down. I missed out on meeting new people because I
was always sure that I was a waste of their time. There
were times I drove to events and then could not go inside. There were times when going to school on a
given day was impossible for me. I
missed a free trip to Ireland because I couldn’t get past the idea of traveling
with people I didn’t know very well. I
am sure my career progression was slower and more painful than it would have
been if I had been able to check my anxiety at the door.
not sure what has changed over the past few years. Maybe it is retirement. Maybe it is maturity. Maybe it is figuring out that EVERYONE (even
me) has a right to pursue happiness.
Maybe it is my ever-increasing awareness that the clock is ticking and I
want to make the most of all the time I have left. Maybe it is the Holy Spirit. Maybe it is a combination of all those
things. I still wrestle with the
anxiety and insecurity, but it is no longer the battle royale that it used to
be. Most of the time, I win the battle.
My “play” is going pretty well, despite the stage fright.
I am learning
that, despite the jitters, everything will probably be fine if I step out of
the shadows. Everything might even be
BETTER than fine. In general, nobody
cares what I look like or how badly I perform when I try something new. I’ll either get better or I won’t. I’ll either enjoy something or I won’t. I’ll either be a blessing for someone or I
won’t. God will still keep the earth
turning on its axis.
Shakespeare was right and all the world’s a stage. If so, that might explain my anxiety. Stage
fright is normal, but it doesn’t have to cripple me.
Have you missed out on things because of “stage
fright?” How do you manage anxiety? Do
you find it gets easier or harder to overcome as you get older? Please share your perspective by leaving a
comment. In the alternative, you can email
me at email@example.com.
other day, I attended a Good Friday service at church and washed the tile
floors in my house. All in the same
day. Without a nap. This may not seem like a huge achievement. However, it had been a week since I had been
able to manage more than one or two tasks a day, including taking a shower,
without spending an hour or two in bed afterwards.
see, I flew home from California the preceding Friday. I also flu home from California the preceding
Friday. After a delightful trip (more
about the trip itself in the coming weeks), I came home with the flu.
retrospect, maybe I was coming down with it even sooner. Around Wednesday afternoon during our trip, I
lost my appetite. Losing my appetite is
not something that happens to me very often, unfortunately. I didn’t stop eating or feel nauseous
exactly. I just didn’t feel hungry and
nothing sounded appealing. I put it down
to the fact that I had been eating everything in sight since we got to
California on Saturday. I’d eaten more
red meat in the first five days we were there, thanks to the accessibility of
In and Out Burger, than I typically eat in five months put together. I figured my body was just politely advising
me that it was satisfied, thank you very much.
On the way home on the plane, I felt bone-weary. I don’t think I read much or did anything to
stave off boredom on either of the two legs of the trip. I kind of just stared into space mindlessly,
too exhausted to form an idea. Oh, I did
form the idea that I hated the fact that I had to drive home from the airport
through the dark and rain when we finally landed in Orlando. Again, it didn’t occur to me that I was sick.
I figured it was just the travel and not sleeping well on vacation that was
creating my lethargy. When we finally
reached Orlando and got the car out of valet hock, I sucked it up and got us
into bed and slept for about twelve straight hours. The next day, I felt okay but still tired and
without an appetite. Saturday night, I
didn’t sleep. At first, I thought it was
because I slept so much the night before, but I realized aches in my body were keeping
me awake. I went to the Palm Sunday
service that morning, but I was definitely off.
The weather inside my body seemed very unstable and bore no resemblance
to the temperature experienced by the rest of the world. I felt exceptionally
confused. I am not the brightest bulb in
the chandelier, but I can usually find my way to church and recognize people I know. Not so much on Palm Sunday. I felt like I had somehow entered a novel or
movie in mid-chapter. Nothing looked or felt familiar. Yes, I did recognize people at church I know
well, but there were people I see all the time that just baffled me.
afternoon, the chills and aches started the battle cries. I faced the fact. I was sick.
sleeping the sleep of the dead again on Sunday night, I dragged myself out of
bed long enough to call the doctor on Monday morning. Max drove me to the doctor’s office since it
finally sunk in that I probably should not be driving. I was too sick to even
get giddy over the fact I had lost five pounds since before I left on vacation
(loss of appetite has some benefits!).
The doctor took one look at me and asked, “didn’t you get a flu shot?”
When I responded that I had not, she conducted a brief examination. I left with a diagnosis- the flu, a
prescription for Tamiflu, a warning that I was probably too far along in to the
flu infection for the drug to do much good, orders to rest, and advice to eat
whatever I wanted. Never, ever in my
life has anyone advised me to eat anything I wanted. It would happen at a time when I didn’t want
to eat anything.
spent the next several days in a fevered haze of sleep, trashy tv, and not much
else that I recall. I remember telling
my brother I had the flu and he mocked me for not getting a flu shot, at my
never had a flu shot in my life. I have not had the flu since I was 14 years
old. It isn’t that I have any
philosophical objections to vaccines or anything. I just have a philosophical objection to
needles. As a diabetic, I punch holes in
myself several times a day to test my blood sugar. I think I do my duty in the needle
department. I did flirt with the idea of
getting a flu shot when my mom was in the skilled living facility because I didn’t
want to infect the residents and staff if I got the flu. I looked at my past history and decided, if
it isn’t broken…. Don’t break it.
I got a little cocky. I did my food
delivery route, went to the grocery store, cleaned the kitchen, and went to the
Maundy Thursday evening church service.
I did not take my requisite nap between activities. I ended up having to
leave the church in the middle of the service, convinced that I would not make
it home in one piece if I did not act quickly to get to a bed. I did make it to the bed and once more set a
new personal best for sleeping.
better now. I am starting to feel hungry
again. I am still sleeping rather a lot,
but I am making it out of bed before the clock strikes “pm.” I think I may live.
sick on vacation is no fun and is major inconvenient. It does happen, however. So far, I’ve been pretty lucky and have
managed to get through most of my travels unscathed. Unfortunately, not this time. Oh, phlooey!
Do you get a flu shot? How long has it been since you got the
flu? Do you think vacation has a way of opening
you up to sickness? Please share your
perspective by leaving a comment. In the
alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS Now that I have returned to the land of the living, I have a lot to share about my trip. I will be blogging more about it over the next couple of weeks.
don’t like to brag, but sometimes you just have to stop and celebrate
successes. I’ve conquered my fear of tablecloth origami.
right. We’ve concluded the Alpha program
at our church and I’ve managed to fold and hang the ten tablecloths we’ve been
using for our weekly dinners since January.
You may remember that I’ve been taking them home to launder each week,
but I’ve steered well clear of attempting the intricate process by which the
tablecloths are supposed to be folded and hung in the linen cabinet because I
was paralyzed by fear. The other day, I took a deep breathe and faced my
fear. Now, seven round and three
rectangular tablecloths are hanging, relatively neatly, in the parish center
linen closet. I may not have done the
task perfectly, but the end product is a reasonable facsimile of what it is
supposed to be. I call that a
victory. I’ve vanquished my tablecloth demons!
think it is important to not let our fears cripple us. On the other hand, nobody has to run around
doing everything just to prove a point.
never been what you would call a thrillseeker.
I’m not going to lie. I am afraid
of stuff. I have avoided doing some
things because I was afraid. I believe
most of my fears are rational. I admit
that some are not. The thing is- I
really don’t have that much FOMO. I’ve
never felt the need to do things like skydive or wrestle crocodiles or stick my
hand in a badger’s den just for the sake of it.
I understand that some people like the adrenaline rush they get from
doing such things, but I just never saw the point. I think my body makes quite enough adrenaline
on its own without me priming the pump.
don’t really think there is any need to do stuff just to do it. I never got that whole concept of “climbing
the mountain because it is there.” I
think opting out of doing something is a perfectly reasonable decision. I
remember a conversation I had once with my mother about six months after my
father died. She called me and, in a
strained and sob-sodden voice, told me that she was going to a play with a
friend of hers. I knew immediately from
her voice that the play was Guys and Dolls. My parents attended a
performance of this musical on their first date. When I asked her about it, she confirmed my
suspicion and started crying in earnest.
I asked, since it was obviously upsetting her so much, why she was
going. She haltingly said, “I have to go
sometime.” I pointed out that, in fact,
she did not have to go. It was
my humble opinion that she could easily go the rest of her life without ever
seeing Guys and Dolls again.
our conversation, my mother started to realize that she actually wanted to go
see the play. She wanted to have a fun
night out with her friend and she wanted to feel normal. On some level, she believed that she was
missing out on a certain joy in her life because she was afraid to do something
that might increase her grief. For her,
I don’t think it was so much the play itself that she was afraid of
missing. She was afraid that her life
would be consumed by grief if she allowed herself to hide from doing normal
things that she would have done without hesitation if my father was still
alive. Her FOMO over what she might miss
in her life because she was afraid of her grief was much bigger and scarier
than her fear of facing her grief. She
saw value in facing a risk. Unlike the hand-in-a-badger-den thing, she saw a
chance of reward.
So, I guess facing fears is a good thing. I’m not sure my life is any better because I have slayed the tablecloth dragons. I’m not sure I’ll ever decide to fold tablecloths again. I may opt out of tablecloth folding. But I’ll decide not to do it on my own terms. I’ll decide not to do it based on my own desire and inclination, not based on fear.
P.S. After my foray into the world of tablecloth origami, another lady suggested in the nicest possible way that I was doing it all wrong and taught me another way to fold the tablecloths. It seems I was correct in thinking my natural talents do not lie in this direction. Still, I did my best and did not allow my fear to prevent me from trying something new. That’s what is important, right? Anybody? Help me out here!
What fears have you faced and what was the benefit? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
You know how people always talk about “finding themselves?” This week, I am off doing exactly the opposite. I am on a quest to lose myself. That’s right. For a few days, I am hoping to lose myself in different surroundings, different activities, and different dining experiences (I’m talking about YOU, In-And-Out Burger!) I am also hoping that, in the process of losing myself, I will find a decent pizza.
At any rate, I’ll be back next week with new content. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. Better yet… if you are pining for me, consider toddling on over to your favorite online bookseller and ordering a copy of my book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.
Have a purposeful day! It is always good to have a goal, even if that goal is losing yourself.
and I went to the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot the other day. I love Epcot and I particularly love this
event. There are huge topiaries of Disney characters. There are spectacular floral designs
carpeting the grounds. There are
creative and unusual playground gardens where children burn energy. There is a butterfly garden, filled with
light, lazy aerial ballerinas dancing nonstop through the air. There are different sights and smells all
over the park to entrance the senses. It
is no coincidence that we think of Paradise as the Garden of Eden and Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival
definitely evokes paradise.
that spring is here, the Flower and Garden Festival got me thinking about
blooming. There was a lot of blooming
going on in Epcot. I’m thinking of
another kind of blooming, though.
think we all go through spurts of spontaneous creative energy periodically in
our lives. We all experience times when
the momentum of our lives become sweet and fertile. We seem to experience one amazing epiphany
after another, each feeding on the one before it. The pieces are clicking together almost
automatically. It seems as though our
lives are enrichening moment by moment.
We may or may not experience success in all our endeavors and I don’t
mean to suggest that it doesn’t take hard work to make something wonderful out
of all this impetus. However, even in
our failures during these times, we are usually happy and satisfied and
confident. There is an excitement and
lushness about living that is completely independent of traditional
success. We are luxuriating in the
moment, thankful for all the unique miracles in our lives.
spurs these periods of renaissance in our lives? I’ve seen it happen when people fall into a
healthy love relationship. It can also
happen when people become parents.
Sometimes it happens when people have careers that reflect their intellectual
passions and work with colleagues who are likeminded. Maybe it boils down to love. When love is in the mix, whether it be love
for a significant other or love for a child or love for an idea, people may feel
safer pushing their boundaries and believing the dreams they normally wouldn’t
even dare to dream.
it seems that loss can also be a catalyst for these periods of exploration and
awakening. Since my mother’s death, I have been experiencing my own personal
renaissance. I’ve changed so much. I am so much more engaged with people and
with the world. I am much more confident
and secure than I’ve been in my life. My spiritual life is more exquisite. I
feel physically healthier than I can ever remember being. I feel like that health shines from the
inside out and makes me a more attractive person. I’m still not traditionally pretty, but I
just don’t care anymore. I no longer
worry about being attractive enough or good enough or anything enough to be
“worth” other people’s attention and approval.
I am just me and I trust that is enough to attract the right people in
my life. There is a sort of centeredness
and peace in my spirit. I try things
that I never would have in the past- publishing the book, singing in the choir,
acting in a play, reigning as Alpha Hospitality Princess, creating art, and
many other activities. I am blooming.
am honest, I think I have to say that some of this blossoming is the result of
the crushingly sad journey I took with my mother during her illness and
death. During that time, I found out
that I am much more complex and multi-faceted than the “me” I always thought I
knew. I also had to learn, through the
grieving process, how to let go of parts of my life that were no longer
you all know how much I loved my mother.
I still miss her sharply and deeply every single day. I would give up every blossom I have gathered
in the past year and a half if it could bring her back- healthy, happy, and living
life with me. Since I can’t bring her back,
I know she is happy that I am using the life and love she gave me to create
something wonderful in my spirit.
painful as it is, maybe sometimes you have to prune to bloom. Especially if the pruning is accompanied by
Have you experienced a period of personal renaissance?
Tell us about it! Please share your
perspective by leaving a comment. In the
alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
week, I whined about all the difficulties roots have been causing in my life
lately. Removing them seems to have been
the solution to all kinds of problems.
My experiences led me to opine that perhaps roots are the problem.
mother died about eighteen months ago.
She was my rock and my root in this life. She grounded me and helped me grow. Since she died, I have definitely felt a
certain rootlessness. Somehow, I have
not been sure how to be me now that she is no longer around. I have been processing my emotions fairly
efficiently, but this is one feeling I have been avoiding.
essence, I have been avoiding my own roots.
It has been too painful to go down that particular hole. When I do certain activities, I desperately
distract myself from thinking of my mother.
I don’t often reminisce much about our lives together when she was
well. There are some items of hers that
she had with her at the skilled nursing facility which I hid away in a
box. I could not bear the thought of
looking at them. It is a strange
sensation to avoid any aspect of my mother because I was so rooted to her. I would think that it would always be better
to remember than not, even when the memories fill me with an adrift sort of sadness
and purposelessness. Still, there are
certain experiences that I avoid because they remind me that I don’t know how
to grow without my roots. And my roots
fill me with pain when I dig too deeply into them.
how “well” I have been mourning my mother, there is one part of me that just
seems stuck in mid-air by grief. I think
it has to do with permanence. If I can
avoid thinking about this last vestige… this last root… of sorrow, it feels
like my mother could still come back to me.
Of course I know she will not, but part of me unconsciously pretends she
is just on a trip or something and will return to the relationship we had
before her stroke.
other night, I had a dream. I was in the
middle of a large room, filled with many people. I think it was some sort of celebration. I seemed to be in the thick of whatever was
going on in the room. I was cooking and
answering questions for people who needed help.
Everyone seemed to be coming to me for direction. I kept asking people, “is my mother here
yet?” They always replied she was not
there and I kept going with my tasks. I
felt like I was in a whirlwind of mental and physical activity, but I still
seemed to slow down periodically to ask, “is my mother here yet?” Finally, I stopped what I was doing. The whole room seemed to get quiet and
everyone turned to me. I stared straight
ahead, at no one and everyone, and said, “She’s never going to be here again,
is she?” That is the last thing I
remember about the dream, except that I woke up crying deeply and
viscerally. I’ve been exhausted ever
next day, I opened the box of items I brought home from the skilled nursing
facility. I had forgotten what was in
there. Mostly, they were photos that
were on the wall by her bed. It was a
weird sensation to look at them and remember our roots. I remembered the very different people we
were when those pictures were taken, both before and after my mom got
sick. I felt cracked… but not
catastrophic. Even thinking about it
now, I feel my gut sinking and my spirit sliding through a dark, heavy
place. Still, I do have a spirit and it
the pictures I found was particularly poignant.
It was a wonderful photo of me, my mother, and Tinker Bell at the Magic
Kingdom soon after we moved to Florida.
Looking at that photo, I remembered the day. I remembered the fun we had. I remembered laughing and loving. I remembered that I was my mother’s Tinker
Bell always. I remembered the
roots. Right after she died, I could not
look at that picture. Today, I bought a
frame and hung it on the wall.
episode caused me to reflect on the rootlessness I have been feeling. In some ways, I think not knowing how to grow
into me without my mother here is all in my mind. If I am honest, even though exploring the
roots has been painful, I have been growing.
My life is bigger than it used to be.
My life is richer than ever and my heart is expanding all the time. There are lots of reasons for that. One of those reasons is that helping me grow
joyously is my mother’s legacy to me. I
may have been avoiding thinking of those roots, but they have always been
started out this post with the premise that the roots are the problem. I don’t think that is right, after all. Roots may be messy and may need management,
but they are miraculous as long as they keep growing.
What part have your “roots” played in your
life? Are you a stronger person because your
roots are strong or are you a stronger person because you had to overcome your
roots? Please share your perspective by
leaving a comment. In the alternative,
you can email me at email@example.com.
I’ve been rootless. At least, it feels
that way. One would think, at almost 60
years old, my roots would be getting deeper. On the contrary, I seem to be losing
roots right and left recently.
started in January when I went for my dental cleaning. A few days before my scheduled appointment, I
developed a slight toothache in one of my upper molars. It wasn’t a big deal, really. I kept brushing and flossing, thinking I
might have a bit of something caught between my teeth or sticking into my
gum. I took some ibuprofen, but it
wasn’t too bad. When we first moved to Florida, I had a pain in the same area
but it went away after the dentist prescribed a course of antibiotics.
went for my January cleaning, I mentioned my pesky tooth. The dentist concluded
that I had another infection in the same area. He was pretty convinced that the
time had come for the endodontist to go spelunking down the roots of that
particular tooth. I reluctantly made an
appointment with the endodontist.
endodontist took one look at the x-ray and immediately saw that I had a root
canal on the same tooth in the past. I
had all but forgotten about it, but I remembered the experience when he asked
me about prior work on the tooth. It was
35 years ago, so I don’t think anyone can fault me for not remembering the
details. At first, the endodontist
thought the tooth must have a crack in the root. That would mean a root canal would not
work. I would need an extraction and
related tooth replacement work. If there
was any news less happy than the fact that I needed a root canal, it would
probably be I didn’t need a root canal in these circumstances.
confirm his analysis, he sent me for a cat-scan of my face. It turned out that I had badly infected,
drowning sinuses. Oh… and my constantly freakish anatomy had
been playing tricks on me for 35 years. It seems I had a sneaky mutant extra
root which managed to escape notice when the original dentist roto-rootered the
infected tooth. That rogue root had been
playing hide and seek all this time. In
short, my tooth had been abscessed for 35 years. It just flared up from time to
time. Wow. Great news.
I could have a root canal after all.
the root canal, I felt fine. For about 30 hours, there was no tenderness or
pain or really any discomfort at all.
After the 30-hour mark, however, a small war broke out in my mouth. For about five days, I was miserable. My sinuses drained constantly. My gum throbbed. I had numbness and extreme swelling on the
right side of my mouth and face. I
couldn’t eat anything solid. There were
times I looked like a stroke victim. I
took the antibiotics and iced my face compulsively. I counted the hours until I could take more
ibuprofen. It baffled me because I have had a couple root canals before and I
didn’t remember them hurting like this.
after four or five days, I began to get better.
I still wasn’t good, but I was a lot better. By the time I saw the endodontist for the
completion of Root Canal 2.0, the tooth was back to normal. Normal as in the way it had been for 35
years…. sketchy and skittish, but not causing me any consistent problems. A few weeks of misery and a couple of
thousand dollars later and my tooth felt the same as it had before the root
endodontist, to his credit, did not declare victory. He saw that the gum was still slightly
swollen. He took another x-ray and saw
that a pocket of infection still existed.
He ended up doing a small surgical procedure to open up my gum and
remove part of the root, along with the rest of the infection.
sounds horrible, but it was actually much better than the first visit. After the root-ectomy or whatever you call it,
I had no pain at all. I waited through
the first 30 hours in dread, remembering the previous experience when I was all
hoity-toity over breezing my way through the root canal. Then it happened…. Nothing. Picture me… rootless and loving it!
isn’t just my dental roots that have been acting out. An oak tree in my front yard was attacking my
house. The first day we moved into the house, we took a break from unpacking to
go to the local home repair store for something. When we returned, we saw a garbage truck in
front of our house, along with a huge pile of amputated tree limbs. A neighbor explained. While we were gone, the garbage truck got a
little too close to our yard and accidentally sheared off a large portion of the
tree. I should have known then that the tree was not to be trusted.
entire time we have lived in Florida, that tree continued to be a
malcontent. Everybody else has clean
driveways. Not us. Less than an hour
after sweeping the driveway, we’d find it covered in leaves. Northerners may
talk about the leaves falling in the autumn.
In Florida, there is no such thing as weather and Mother Nature can’t
seem to keep her seasons straight. The leaves fall ALL FREAKIN’ YEAR.
the hurricane, we surveyed our front yard with dismay. Yes, everyone on our street had some mess to
clean up. We had our own private natural disaster area on the front lawn. The tree was still standing, but everything
that used to be on the tree seemed to be covering the yard. I’m not sure we ever really recovered. The fallen leaves and branches seemed to
expand geometrically over time. We’d
work on the mess for a couple of hours and then take a break. Improbably, there seemed to be even more dead
tree vomit to clean up when we started up again. It defies all laws of nature the way that
dead tree matter multiplied.
was a bigger problem, too. Little by
little, the roots from that tree have been expanding and pushing up through the
ground…. And the driveway. We were the
only ones on our block with a split-level driveway. If the tree had its way, that split-level was
going to turn into a two-story model very soon. This all begged the question…
if the tree roots were forcing our driveway ever higher into the stratosphere,
what were they doing to the foundation of the house? It truly was time to take steps.
hired our lawn guy to remove the Tree That Took Over The World. He cut it down and we learned that there is
sometimes sun in our front yard.
Apparently, our tree was causing a total eclipse. He recommended a guy to grind down the stump
to further thwart the root force. The
stump guy ground the stump down to a pile of sawdust. He told us ahead of time that we would have
to get rid of the sawdust ourselves. He
estimated we would have to shovel two to three large garbage bags of
sawdust. Fifteen bags of sawdust and
many sore muscles later, we placed the last of our tree on the curb for the
recycle people. It still seems odd to
look out the window and not see the tree, but I am hoping our efforts will
result in our house remaining affixed to the ground.
think when people say they are trying to get to the root of a problem, they are
barking up the wrong tree. The root IS
more on that subject next week….
Am I the only one who is fighting with her
roots? What are your experiences? Please share your perspective by leaving a
comment. In the alternative, you can
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
with the Alpha program at church reminds me again how valuable everyone is. It is a huge undertaking, with many moving
parts and many needs. We should notice and thank the people who step up and
meet those needs. It is easy to see and
appreciate good leaders. They are the
face of the effort. They are easy to
spot. They contribute unique and
wonderful skills. They orchestrate the
whole project with an artistry that merits gratitude. But there are other people who are a bit
harder to see who also merit gratitude.
instance, I have two tall male friends that hang decorations for our Alpha
evenings. Part of my décor is colorful
signs hanging from the ceiling, proclaiming thought-provoking quotations. There is no way that I could hang those signs
myself without a lot of effort and possible bodily harm. My friends are comfortable with ladders. They are both engineer types. They skillfully figure out how to do this job
efficiently and gracefully. They
actually seem to enjoy the process of deciding where and how to place the
signs. These tall guys do a lot of other
things for me, including moving furniture and setting tables, also.
are also people who could not commit to providing a whole dinner for an Alpha
evening, but contribute a bit of this and a bit of that so the person cooking
the meal can concentrate on just the entrée and maybe one side dish. Everybody
sees the cook du jour dishing up the entrée, but not everybody sees the person
who brought the salad or made sure there was plenty of bread and butter.
are so many unsung people who help with clean-up ever week. These angels stay out of the spotlight
washing dishes, putting leftovers away, and cleaning countertops. They may not have glass slippers, but they
are Cinderellas, for sure.
adults volunteer to staff the nursery room so that parents can attend the
sessions. These teen angels regularly
ride herd on several small, squirmy bundles of kinetic energy during the two
hours the Alpha course meets. They feed
them dinner and prevent all manner of disasters. So far, the same number of children
who go into the nursery have left in one piece every week. I think that is quite an achievement, but I
am guessing that most of the Alpha participants don’t even realize they are
there. Out of sight, out of mind.
friends Laura and Kari help with any number of smaller tasks, week after
week. One major contribution has been
their skill and patience with folding. It may not sound like a talent, but I
have to tell you that their penchant for folding laundry has helped me kept
what little sanity I have. I don’t mind washing and drying table linens,
but those linens are supposed to be folded in a strange and wondrous way that
is completely beyond me. Laura and Kari
patiently lay them out and follow the established protocol so that they end up
neatly hanging in the linen closet.
people pray for us. They quietly beseech
God to surround us with His grace and He always does. I know that cadre of people generating
powerful prayer is helping to fuel our efforts.
strikes me that there are unsung providing the backbeat, not just in my Alpha program,
but in a good many life experiences. It
seems to me that almost every undertaking is supported by an army of people who
are quietly contributing without anyone really noticing. In fact, their job is often to make sure no
one notices. After all, if the
tablecloths are clean and tidy, no one pays attention. If they are a mass of wrinkles covered in
stains, everyone notices…. And that isn’t a good thing.
going to make an effort to seek out the unsung and sing their beautiful melody
to the whole world. It may be quietly
and to one or two people at a time, because sometimes the unsung truly don’t
like a fuss or a lot of attention. But
I’m going to make sure their music is heard…. because, even if a person doesn’t
like a fuss, everyone needs to know he or she is valuable. If you agree, I hope
you will find ways to spread the music of the unsung people in your life and
suggest that we might consider joining the unsung choir ourselves sometimes. I’ve found that there is always a myriad of
tasks that need to be done in any project… often tasks that no one ever even
anticipates. Being able to complete
these tasks may not seem to be much of a talent or God-given gift…. Until you
are the one on the receiving end. Then,
it is clear that, as quiet as those unsung musicians are, they are extremely
talented and I am gifted when they show up for the concert!
Who are the unsung in your life? Please leave a comment to share their music! In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
I am not artsy-crafty. I don’t really cook. I don’t believe in ironing. I am about as far from extroverted as you can get.
how did I ever get to be Hospitality Princess for my church’s Alpha course?
Alpha is an international program of
interactive sessions designed to explore the big questions of life and
faith. It was originally intended to
minister to people who would not necessarily identify themselves as churchgoers
or Christians. The target audience has
expanded to include anyone who wants to feel more connected, passionate, and
intimate about the Christian faith. The
program lasts for twelve weeks, meeting once a week. Every session includes a shared meal, a video
about basic concepts of Christianity, and small group discussions. One of the significant hallmarks of the
program is that it should provide a welcoming, low-pressure environment that
organically encourages comfort, trust, introspection, and searching.
The Hospitality Princess is responsible
for making sure the room where the sessions take place is warm and
welcoming. This includes décor and table
arrangement and all things environment.
She is also responsible for either cooking a meal for the Alpha guests
each week or cajoling friends, relations, and people who owe her money to
provide a meal. There is also the small matter of clean-up and laundering table
linens after each session. Then, there
is the hospitality princess’ most important royal duty of all- welcoming
guests, bonding with them, genuinely loving them, and allowing that love to be
When I heard about Alpha at our church’s
ministry fair, I was interested. I read
somewhere that ministry is the place where a person’s skill and passion
intersect with a need of the people of God.
When I was working, I taught leadership classes on a fairly regular
basis. I loved it and I was quite good
at it, if I do say so myself. From what
I understood of Alpha, the approach and techniques sounded very similar to what
I employed in my leadership classes. The
content and objectives were different, but the overall strategy seemed similar. In both situations, the idea is to help
people explore important questions. Both
experiences try to grow understanding and confidence in an environment that
encourages trust, openness, and experimentation. I volunteered to help with Alpha. I thought I could assist with facilitating small
group discussions or something like that.
During our initial Alpha team
organization meeting, our administrator mentioned that we needed someone to
take care of the hospitality aspects of the program (Hospitality Princess is my
self-proclaimed title). When he
described the less tangible needs, like transforming an institutional parish
hall to evoke comfort and coziness, my mind harkened back to more of the
techniques I used when teaching the leadership classes. He also described some
of the more tangible needs, like providing meals. The closest thing to providing a meal I ever
did when teaching leadership courses was supplying the occasional box of
donuts. I didn’t want to subject our
guests to my weaknesses, especially one as profound as cookery. On the other hand, I didn’t want to avoid
volunteering if I was the only one willing.
I said I would coordinate the hospitality elements, if no one else
wanted to do so. I explained the limited
skills I brought to the table, and disclosed the areas in which my talents were
No one else volunteered.
Fast forward several weeks and I am in
the midst of the Hospitality Princess revelries. Despite my many deficiencies, things are
going well. Let me tell you about it.
I am not artsy-crafty.
While I will never be artistic, I relied
on my prior experience to create what I believe is an appropriate
environment. When I was working, I had
this theory about décor for classes and celebrations. I called it The “Essence Of” Theory. Instead
of obsessing and spending a lot of money trying to create specific effects, I
made do with the “essence of.”
Hospitality didn’t have to look like what I had in mind, it just had to
evoke that idea. For instance, if you
can’t have champagne in a federal government workplace, you can have sparkling
cider to make people think “champagne” and “celebration.” If you want to decorate a room to suggest a
beach theme, it might not be practical to import sand, but you can place
buckets and shovels strategically on a beige bedsheet in a corner of the room. I once taught a lesson about the qualities of
a good leader. Part of that lesson
involved an analogy from the Wizard of Oz.
My colleagues and I acted out part of the story. I played Toto. I did not wear a dog suit, but I arranged my
hair into two scruffy ponytails sticking up out of my head. I didn’t look like a dog, but I was the “essence
of” Toto and I evoked the associations people had with The Wizard Of Oz.
I don’t really cook.
During session three of Alpha, I cooked
dinner for over 50 people and no one needed a trip to the emergency room. Not even me.
I have another dinner planned in a couple of weeks. My bar for success for that meal is that I
once again avoid poisoning anyone. I
have reasonable confidence that I will meet that admittedly low standard. I do
intend to declare victory. I have
individuals or groups signed up to handle the other ten nights of dinners. I am certain that these meals will prove much
more satisfying to everyone involved. My role will simply be to support these
folks in their food preparation efforts and applaud.
I don’t believe in ironing.
I found out, to my relief, that the
tablecloths beneath my non-poisonous dinners are permanent press. I’ve laundered the tablecloths several
times. They seem to come out of the
dryer clean. There might be a few
suspicious wrinkles, but they smooth out when I put the cloths back on the
tables for the next session. One could
argue that I really don’t need to launder all the tablecloths every week. However, if I didn’t bring the tablecloths
home to wash, I’d have to hang them in the linen cupboard of our parish
hall. There is a specific,
origami-inspired technique for folding the tablecloths over hangers. It terrifies me.
I am about as far from extroverted as
you can get.
Here we have it. Nothing has changed on that front. I am still about as far from extroverted as
you can get. I do have an overactive
sense of duty and a genuine heart for people.
As a result, my extreme introversion sometimes takes a back seat to
showing people how much I value them. I
am still incredibly introverted, but I see it as my job to make our guests feel
welcome and comfortable. I am still
incredibly introverted, but I honestly want our guests to feel loved and
wanted…wherever they are in their journey.
If I do not engage with them, they will never know what is in my
heart. Such engagement is sweet, but
also takes a lot of energy out of an introvert.
I am still incredibly introverted, which means I am incredibly
tired. On the other hand, things seem to
be going incredibly well.
I’ll ask again. How did I ever get to be
Hospitality Princess? All other
considerations aside, how did the person with the highest level of introversion
get to be the person whose most important task requires the highest level of
I still didn’t get it. Then, our rector’s wife and my friend, Sunny
(some of you might remember her from my post at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/05/growing-grown-ups/)
told me about something she experienced months before Alpha started. She said
she had been praying about the program and wondering who would be willing to
coordinate the hospitality elements. It had
been on her mind and on her heart for days.
Then, one night, she felt that God was just telling her “Terri will do
it.” She knew nothing about my
background. She didn’t even know me very
well. She just felt that God had the
whole thing sorted. I would be the
Hospitality Princess, no matter how unlikely. No one ever mentioned this to me
until several weeks into the program.
did I ever get to be Hospitality Princess?
I think I am beginning to
understand. Something our rector said in
his sermon last week seems to apply. God
does not call the qualified. He
qualifies the called. It seems that God
is qualifying me- turning me inside-out, upside down, and sideways. And so, the reinvention continues….
you ever had an experience that you believe is God “qualifying” you? Tell us about it! Please leave a comment to
share your perspective. In the
alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a hospitable day! And be a princess (or prince) if you are so