My favorite WhINES

*Today’s humorous post about that terrible tendency to whine comes from one of our regular and beloved guest writers, Debra Dickey-Liang. Thanks for the post, Debra, and for reminding me to appreciate the finer things in life (all the blessings) rather than critique the things that bother me.*

Did a double-take, didn’t you?

Yes, I’ve determined that I indubitably do have a strong selection of favorite, personal, and very timeless WhINES!  A connoisseur, if you will.

Lamentable for me is Daylight Savings Time – changing the time, and rising an hour earlier for work doesn’t seem to tax anyone else that I’ve had a conversation with, but for some reason, my body, mind and stomach struggle, at the very minimum of two weeks, attempting to make this transition, while in the meantime, my appetite, as well as my animals, are completely confused.  Great!  One more hour during which I’m expected to be productive. ( :   Truly, a remarkable little WhINE, don’t you think?

And recently after working outside for three days of my vacation, in the beautiful weather, pulling weeds, raking leaves, re-potting, cleaning, and hauling debris, I was reminded of one of the more timid, yet notable WhINEs that I tend to keep in stock– the huge amount of yard work, weed-eating, and water maintenance that will be required during the months of tormenting heat, just to attempt to keep up with what I finally did get accomplished — for the whole summer long.  The first time around is manageable and rewarding, but I’m surely not looking forward to the continued aesthetic demands – why can’t it just stay that way!?  Would that classify as a blush, maybe a rose?

Another fine, yet robust WhINE in my depository is a specialty that I acquire only during this point in the semester with regard to my summer tasks.  As May approaches, faster rather than slower now, June, July, and August become an apprehensive anticipation at my desk.  Contrary to the vacation plans that most folks schedule for some R & R during the summer, those months are actually the busiest and the most potentially overwhelming days that I experience, with reference to the persistent challenges and perpetual changes of incoming freshman students!  Housing, letters, orientation, certificates, handbooks and more, all culminating with an event for over 250 students, the biggie, the ceremony….. all that is Matriculation!  Somehow, some way, it all gets done, and to my relief, astonishingly well, but frankly, reviewing my task lists always dampens the enthusiasm for what others refer to as ‘enjoying the summer break.’  Bon aperitif, coming up —

Genie-BottleAnd then there is the universally known brand that I always have on hand, a most illustrious renowned WhINE , one which I am sure that you are all familiar with — housework.  Ugh.  ( :  These days, I admit to that being one of the least favorite chores in my quiver. Because my trusty genie has apparently escaped – and who could blame her – cleaning continually gets lower and lower on the totem pole, whilst I watch the dust accumulating and longingly wish for a self-cleaning abode!  Vintage, yes?   

Too cold, too hot, too dark, too something— seems all these are just a few of the more preeminent WhINEs from my personal collection that are decanted with a carousel theme, week after week, year after year.  Quite distinguished, and completely predictable little WhINEs they are, actually!    I am certain that ‘gifting’ these WhINEs to anyone reading this would be inappropriate, so it is needful to just make fun of myself and admit that I have a WhINE penchant. . . .   Famous Grouse?  Yes, that’s me.  Too often, I moan and groan, benignly of course, but certainly not the right attitude or a model trait for one who so desires the presence of, and to be filled with, the Spirit of God!

So let me remember:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13)

Okay I’ll work on giving up WhINEs , and focus on, uh-oh, what’s that, an empty genie bottle . . . it just might work for it – yes!  . . . . plain ole W INE!    Oh man, I’ve got so much stuff to do . . .

Gifts

*Special thanks to Debra Dickey-Liang for serving as today’s guest contributor!*

My Mom and Dad were always two of the hardest working people that I have ever known, and they taught their children those same work ethics. They also taught us honesty, integrity, strength of character, and what it means to be part of a family. They passed on their many gifts to us as their children. Yes, I was very lucky!

I recently came across this aphorism:  “The purpose of life is to discover your gift.  The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”  Wow!  That particular truth is mind-boggling.  Hey!  My parents did a great job!

ImageBecause our livelihood was farming, we didn’t take vacations.  But one summer when we were teenagers, my Dad surprisingly bought a boat and water skis!  Now, you would have to know my Dad to understand how completely out of character that was for him, (not to mention the expense) but let me tell you, we packed up the back of the truck many times with camping gear and cooking supplies, drove to the lake, and had a BLAST.  Only years later did I learn from my Mom that my Dad had just decided that that would be a great way for us as a family to do something fun together. Isn’t that amazing?  Gifts. 

As the oldest in a large enough brood, I helped look after, take care of, and was counted on for almost every aspect of our family life.  So whether by nature or nurture, my “gift” turned out to be caretaker.  (Look that up in your thesaurus sometime – the definitions are boundless!)  So yaaay!  I know what my gift is!  But wait!  I have only discovered half of the lesson . . . .

Hmm….a caretaker.  These are just a few of the interesting synonyms that my thesaurus mentions:  a person who maintains something, an interim, a guardian, an observer, a watch-keeper, a guide, a good listener (I just threw that one in there because it should be on the list).  Yes, those all fit nicely into what my life has been all about!  I like it.  But how do I, or have I, gone about giving my gift away?

Turns out, it was simple!  I became a Mom.  Yep, that’s all it took!  Not that my own children are the only beneficiaries of my gift, because I was already a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an employee, and a responsible person, so interestingly enough, you will very often see me with a little buddy, seemingly drawn to me by some sort of predestined magnetism which I have learned to value and appreciate.  Mine truly is a gift, my gift, a gift that I wish to use wisely, remembering to cherish its meaningfulness and its worth from The Giver of All Gifts who saw fit to bestow it and grant me the opportunity of Service within it. 

*I’m grateful for my friend Debra for sharing her gifts with me as her friend–and thanks, Debra, for sharing your gift of writing with us.*

Washed away

On our first day of vacation at Gulf Shores, we decided to hit the beach, take pictures, and cool off. James is always more adventurous than I am, and he jumped into the water and started swimming out into the ocean past the breakers right away. I timidly stood at the shore and slowly moved further out.

He grabbed my hand and told me to follow him past the breakers into calmer water. I didn’t really want to, but I decided to give it a chance, so I followed him. A few minutes passed, and a gigantic wave crashed into me, submerging me for a moment and knocking my very expensive prescription sunglasses off my head.

“Where are your sunglasses?” James asked, frantically looking around in the water.

“Gone,” I said. “That’s several hundred dollars just gone.”

I headed back to shore.

“Why don’t you stay out here? There’s nothing we can do about it. They’re gone. We’ll just get you some new ones,” he said.

“I know there’s nothing I can do about it, but it makes me sick to lose something so expensive. And I don’t feel like swimming when I’m upset. That’s not fun to me,” exclaimed an emotional, water-logged, pregnant wife.

I headed to the beach and laid on my towel, contemplating how to get a copy of my prescription while two states away and get prescription sunglasses made in a timely fashion. James came to join me and comfort me.

“Babe, really it’s okay. It’s just money. And luckily we can afford to replace them, so we will just do that. Let’s go back and take care of it right now,” he said.

So we did. And of course, it all worked out fine. Sure, we had to alter our plans that day and the following day to accommodate my lack of sunglasses and the time it took to make new ones. But we found other fun things to enjoy and used the time to shop and rest together. Everything was fine.

I’m not sure how James maintains such composure most of the time, or how he can almost always see the horizon in spite of the crashing waves in front of him, but I’m grateful he does.

And I’m grateful I lost my sunglasses that day. Maybe every time I put my new sunglasses on, I’ll remember that things are only as big a deal as I let them be.

It’s about time!

Photo by Sarah Crowder of Phoopla Photography

For the first time in four years, I’m going on vacation.

Four years is considerably too long for a person to go without taking a real break from real life for a really long time (well, at least for a week). But life happens–at least, my life happened to me, and I found myself pinching pennies, getting divorced, and working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Thankfully, when James and I moved in together, he decided that I’d spent way too long taking care of other people and working myself into a tailspin. When I searched for a job after relocating back to my hometown, he suggested that I look for something that would give me flexibility, a lower level of stress, and bring me some level of happiness.

It took me a while to climb aboard the S.S. Wallace, kick up my heels, and hold onto a tall glass of lemonade (or a nice cold beer) and let go of the ingrained notion that if I weren’t making more and more and more money, I must be doing something wrong. Choosing to make less money–by choosing a job which brought me happiness and plenty of flexibility–proved to be the right decision for me at the time. Later, when I started working part-time instead of full-time, I decided to spend the extra time going back to graduate school.

Now, having just finished my first semester of school and feeling pretty darn proud of myself for pulling excellent grades, I’m heading off to the beach with my new handsome husband to kick up my heels and grab a glass of lemonade (hold the beer. . .  I’m pregnant :).

I couldn’t be more grateful.

P.S. Please forgive the temporary lack of posts while I build sandcastles, fish right along the beach, and consume as much delicious seafood as possible.

Where your hands are

“Be where your hands are.”

Sure, that’s easy to do when you’re in one of those life-couldn’t-get-any-better-than-this moments. Or when you’re just doing something you enjoy, like hiking, canoeing, fishing, reading, or taking a nap.  Or when spending time with  people you really like.  Or when you’re about to vomit and can’t think of anything to eat that sounds appetizing but have to eat to avoid getting more nauseous.

Wait a minute.

Scratch that last one.

During those times, it is not easy to be where my hands are. I’d rather be somewhere pleasant, even if it’s just by taking a brain vacation to someplace peaceful, quiet, and beautiful. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a mental breather once in a while or even a literal vacation, I have to be careful to stay where my hands are. That’s where my life is happening. If I’m constantly mind-hopping into the best moments of my past or the potential best moments of my future, I’m missing out on living my own life.

Granted, there have been and still are moments in my life I’d prefer to fast forward. Feeling nauseous 90% of the time as a newly pregnant person. Going through a rocky divorce. Filing bankruptcy. Undergoing counseling to gain healing from trauma in my past. These times were “the worst of times” for me, but at the same time, they were MY times. Those moments are parts of my life, whether I like it or not. Sometimes escaping the bad times isn’t even an option since the only way out is often through. And I suppose I could have stuck my head in the sand rather than face the reality of a failing marriage or pretended everything was okay and refused to seek counseling, but where would I be right now? And who would I be right now?

I’ve chosen to be where my hands are today. It’s proof that I’m alive, and that no one else is living my life but me.

And that’s something to be grateful for.