The ticking of the clock

Today’s post is by Debra Dickey, my friend and frequent contributor. 

Lately, I’ve begun to experience an unusual development of emotions that is difficult to describe.  When I tried to put a finger on it, the only thing I could come up with was the ticking of my ‘biological clock’, only in reverse.

With children who are now grown-ups, on their own for the most part, and in their first stages of getting established in jobs and careers and with lives of their own, a healthy marginalization has been aptly carved out.   Yet much more than classic separation has invaded my heart – a sudden perception of inevitable mortality has begun to creep its way into my psyche, lending itself to the reality that my time on earth, and therefore, with my children, is day by day, becoming more limited.

Clock 1The truth is, no matter how long I have, it will never be enough time to spend with my children.  From the very first moments of their lives, I have wanted to be a part of who they are and share in the known quantity of their lives. Because of the extraordinary people they both are, not just my children, our journey together has been one of joy and appreciation.

With the challenges and harsh trajectory that our lives have taken, the three of us had to become a unit.  Knowing what was at stake, I intentionally created a mindful environment to foster family connections that would ultimately lead to the homogenous family nucleus that, hopefully, will endure for the rest of our lives.  I was on the right track — it’s working!   So well that I cannot imagine it any other way and, never want to let it go!

Although I whole-heartedly loved my children the first 20 years of their lives, we were all so busy being  pretty overwhelmed and mostly in survival mode, our relationships were less symbiotic and more parent/child, as they only could have been.  But grown up children are real people–and mine are really wonderful people–people I absolutely love spending time with, am inspired having conversations with, thrill at sharing moments with, have trustingly created equality and affinity with, and simply enjoy laughing and planning and being with.

Petulant, my clock is on a nostalgic countdown.   How many more years can I possibly have with them?  Ten, fifteen??  That is not nearly enough!  Not nearly enough to cram all the love and fun and delight and heart songs that they bring, into my life.  Not nearly enough to make them understand how much they mean to me and how indelibly they have impacted everything that has ever had meaning.  Not nearly enough to see them smile, hear their voices and their laughter, to celebrate their successes, and to know them as they develop all their talents and become even more incredible people than they already are.  I don’t want to miss a thing!

Sentimental that it is, the ticking of the clock is the beating of my heart, with the message to make every minute count and to focus on the things that matter most – don’t ever take these two amazing gifts for granted.   I won’t.  I just hope that the Good Lord gives me exactly the right amount of time, perfectly synched, full of Grace, for all three of us.

Gifts

Today’s post is an essay written by one of my English Composition I students, Jessica Bacon. Jessica was a true blessing in my life this semester; she’s an ideal student, a loving mom, and a caring person. She is certainly a true elevator person to all those she encounters, lifting others up and not tearing them down. Not only that, but she also worked her tail off this semester and improved her writing skills by leaps and bounds. Merry Christmas, Jessica!

“The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value.” (Charles Dudley Warner)  Gifts come in many shapes and forms.  Some may only consider presents that can be unwrapped or objects that can be associated with a monetary value as gifts.  Others can see the gift in things they cannot physically hold.  I like presents just as much as anybody else, but the best gifts are those I cannot put a dollar sign on.  Reflecting on this year, I know I have so much to be thankful for, but the gifts that stand out are the ones with sentimental value that will leave a lifetime of memories.

Jessica Bacon fam picConsidering that there are 2,129 miles between my home in Evening Shade, Arkansas, and my mom’s house in Vancouver, Washington, we do not see each other often.  In June, my mom flew out to visit.  As she walked through the airport terminal, I could see her smiling from ear to ear with tears streaming down her cheeks.  I could feel the love radiating through her when she hugged me.  During the week she was here, we watched my girls’ softball games, shopped, swam, cooked, and laughed until our bellies hurt.  Our housed smelled like a Bath and Body Works store from the array of candles and body products she bought for us.  My mom made us her Puerto Rican rice, chicken, and beans.  The garlic, green olives, and tomato sauce in the rice made an interesting combination of flavors.  Because Mom was recovering from shoulder surgery, she had to do her physical therapy exercises while she was here.  I loved watching my youngest daughter Carly running around her yelling, “Can’t shit (how she said catch) me, Gamma!!” while Mom did her exercises.  We will forever cherish the memories we made with her.  The real gift was Mom’s presence rather than the presents that she bought us.

Having four kids and multiple crazy schedules to work around, date nights and alone time are far and few between for my husband and I.  In August, our friend Robyn offered to watch our four girls so we could go out for our eleventh anniversary.  I knew that my babies were in good hands, so I was able to relax and enjoy my childless evening.  We went to Patio Lino Latin Restaurant for dinner.  When we walked into the crowded building the aroma of the food tantalized my nostrils, and the buffet in the corner caught my eye.  The flavor of the shrimp was so amazing that I could not stop eating it despite the intense heat.  My mouth and lips were on fire, and it made my nose run.  After dinner we went to Wal-Mart and bought season six of Sons of Anarchy to watch at home.  I fell asleep on the couch snuggled up to my husband with the feeling of his heart beating against my back while listening to the story of Jax Teller and the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club.

I attended my first semester of college this fall.  On my first day, I was so nervous and worried that I would be the oldest one in my classes.  When I entered my first class I saw students of all ages and several who appeared old enough to be my parents.  At first Intermediate Algebra was a struggle.  I spent many hours in the Student Success Center where there was a constant bustle of students, the strong scent of coffee, and varying tutoring sessions could be overheard.

Knowledge is a gift, and my first semester was successful.

Daily grind tip

*Big thanks to my friend Henry Petty for sharing his thoughts with us in today’s post.*

timeDuring the daily grind, we seldom find time for ourselves or a chance to really focus on “me”.  This is a great technique to cope with the daily life, to break it up a bit, to focus on yourself and to care for yourself.  If you’re finding yourself wondering where the day has gone and going to bed feeling empty and unfulfilled, this is for you.

Get an app on your smartphone that will go off every 2 hours during the day (there are lots out there).  When that timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and think to yourself, “How do I feel?  What do I need right now?”

copingcards.jpg (2)Take a few really deep breaths, scan your body and see what kind of pain is there, what it is that you need in the moment, and how you are feeling.Then try some techniques to relieve that feeling or to make yourself feel better.  It could be going for a brisk walk, doing some deep breaths, stretching, maybe listening to some stand-up comedy on YouTube, or listening to your favorite song.  Whatever that is, write it down on an index card.

This coping technique will not only break up your day, but will also make you feel good about doing something…for you!  It will show how grateful you are to be here, to be doing something loving and kind for yourself.

When you have made a stack of index cards, punch a little hole in them and put a keyring or something in them so you can refer to them every day.

Accurate to within 11,000 years

*Big thanks to my friend Debra Dickey-Liang for writing today’s post and taking some of the stress of life away in such a humorous way.*

While reading some interesting news articles the other day about the most recent pyramid discoveries in Sedeinga, Sudan, and, ‘New evidence suggests comet or asteroid impact was last straw for dinosaurs’, it was noted (within the asteroid information) that the BGT scientists were “dating tektites from Haiti, analyzing them using a calibrated argon-argon technique to determine how long ago the impact occurred.  The tektite results agreed with recalibrated previous data but were more precise”  [UC Berkley study].  Now all that is somewhat technically comprehensive; however, the sentence following that is the one that grabbed my attention:  The new extinction data is precise to within 11,000 years.”  Can that be??  I love it!

timeHmm… a ‘grace period’ of 11,000 years!  Wow!  As one who lives during the days of ‘being on time’, ‘everything down to the wire’, ‘the eleventh hour’, ‘not enough time in the day’, ‘programmed to the minute, ‘statistics and data’, ‘accuracy counts’, etc. etc. etc., . . . .  what’s 11,000 years, right?!?

We are compelled to predicate our lives by minutes, hours, days, weeks and months — go to work, pay our bills, plan for college, raise our children, balance the budget, add columns of numbers, execute events….. so how nice would it be to get it almost right, say, I don’t know, within 11,000 years?   I must have been having ‘one of those days’, because for some reason, it just tickled my funny bone!

Believe me, in no way am I minimizing the breakthroughs that those scientists are making; however, on this particular day it just so happened that that the timing statement struck me as hilarious and inspired a comical moment for me.  In these days of deadlines, coming in early/working late, trying to do four and five things at once to get it all done, juggling work, family, and personal responsibilities every day, I just thought to myself, “How fun would it be to not worry if you got everything necessary accomplished, today, or this week, this month, or even this year.  Heck, I have the luxury of 10,999 years to figure that out and get it right — plenty of time, no problem!  Your appointment?  Why, I have you on the schedule in 5,681 years– did you need something today??  ( :

As a facilitator myself, I will admit that there are days when I have surely felt “off my game” by about 11,000 years! So I am one of the most grateful of folks when I can communicate and coordinate with those able persons who are precise and able to keep me on track!  I truly, truly appreciate them and their competence!  The other reason I am most grateful for them is because I thoroughly comprehend the hours and days that have been invested in order to do their job well, with character, and to such a degree and element of quality.  Because I, too, am that daily ‘voice’ of assistance. I regularly recognize it in others.  Therefore I take this opportunity to extend my especial gratitude and profound thanks for everyday encounters with those extraordinary artisans, who perform chivalrous, benevolent, and meaningful roles which add value to the lives of the people they interact with, on time and precise, most certainly without the benefit or advantage of an 11,000 year margin for error!

I need to work on that!   “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  [II Peter 3:8]    Maybe that’s it.  I like it!

 

 

Keeping it simple

I have not read The Hunger Games, and I don’t intend to see the movie, either.

I don’t clip coupons, hunt for them online, or keep up with which business is offering freebies.

I don’t make my own laundry detergent, and  would not concern myself with properly sewing on a button unless my life depended on it.

I don’t have a Pinterest or Twitter account.

I’ve never been to a Zumba or spin class.

What in the world DO I do?

Only things I love.

Today is the only May 4, 2012, that will ever exist. Even as I type, seconds slip by that I can never regain. My itty bitty life will only last for a short period of time. I plan on spending that time doing only the things I love.

Unfortunately, part of living in reality is realizing that not everything I do will thrill my soul. In order to earn an income, maintain a sanitary and tidy living environment, and complete the never-ending list of other duties and chores necessary to function well, I know that sometimes, I will have to spend my time on less-than-thrilling subject matter. I must manage my bank account online. Occasionally, I am required to wait in line at the grocery store. I also have to scrub scum out of the bathtub periodically. During those times, I do my best to focus on the positive and maintain gratitude for the fact that I’m breathing and able to do those very things I tend to despise.

Aside from the necessary evils of life, I want to spend my time doing only what I love.

I love helping other people and find fulfillment in encouraging, serving, teaching, and sharing with others.

I love learning about things that interest me.

I love being outdoors regardless of what activity I’m engaged in.

I love God, and I love spending time learning about Him and getting closer to Him.

I love my family and friends. The more time I can spend with them, the better.

I’m really not a grumposaurus who hates all fads, trends, and fun things. I just don’t have time to do every single halfway appealing thing that comes my way. If I keep it simple, I’m able to devote myself to what matters to me. And if I’m focused on what matters, I’m one happy camper.

 

Timing

For me, life’s all about timing.

I could list multiple examples of moments when I made poor decisions, or when the decision wasn’t necessary bad, but the timing was off. That trend seems to be more prevalent when I’m doing my own thing and not really open to listening to what God has to say about my life.

But I’d rather focus on what I’m grateful for–the times when I’ve let God hold the stopwatch and determine the right time for changes, decisions, and big moments. I learned a valuable lesson a few years ago from a wise person I know. She told me that the best prayer in any situation is “God’s will be done.” I honestly did not like hearing that. I fancied myself as a master puppeteer of my own life and the lives of those I loved, able to pull the strings, move the little characters around on stage, and begin and end the play at any point in time.

And I did that for a long time.

It just didn’t work that well for me. It also left me feeling guilty, depressed, and strangely helpless and out of control despite all my best efforts to be in charge.

Oddly enough, when I stop watching the clock and pray for God’s will, and for God to open the right doors and close the wrong ones, He does exactly that. It is rarely in line with my schedule or agenda. It’s typically not at what I’d consider to be “the right time.” But it always works out beautifully when I pray, wait, and watch what happens.

There’s a lot of life to be lived while I’m waiting, too.