Saturday, February 27, 2010

Someone Else's Words

One of the problems with being a regular blogger is the realization that so many other people can state your thoughts and dreams better than you can. As a blogger, I try to observe the world and then with introspection and sometimes struggle digest the information in a way that makes sense for my life, and, in this case, for my ongoing journey towards simplicity. What pieces of information have come across my field of vision that inspire me? What things have I read that have given me insight? What circumstances in my life have culminated in learning experiences that will nudge me, challenge me, or open me up to a whole new world of thinking? And, most importantly, how do I put that into words so that it solidifies its message for me and may in turn help others? Sometimes I can't. Sometimes I just have to pass on the words of someone else and just say, "Amen."

I keep an ongoing log of quotes that I find significant. Some make me smile and nod. Others just take my breath away with their discernment. Some I could read every week for the rest of my life and still not absorb all they have to offer. Obviously, I gather these from various sources, but this week I want to highlight two quotes that have stopped me in my tracks.

One of the pleasures of being a word-lover is the ability to subscribe to the "word-a-day" emails from It's always enlightening to learn a new word, of course, but sometimes an even greater serendipity is to read the thought-provoking quote at the end of each email. This week I had just had to share this one for all of us on the long to road to simplicity, peace, contentment:

"For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money." -Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

The second quote is from Oprah Magazine:

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act listen to stars and buds, to babes and sages, with open heart; await occasions, hurry never....this is my symphony." - William Henry Channing

Wow. I'm not going to take the time or space to try to paraphrase or explain or add to these beautiful words. I think they speak for themselves. They strike at the very heart of what I believe our lives are about. I offer them here in the hope that they will bring you the blessing they have brought me this week.

Friday, February 19, 2010


As I get older, mirrors seem to irritate me. Most of the time I avoid them. Sometimes their presence draws me in a magical sort of way, where I take some time to examine my face or body closely. On most of those occasions, I start the inevitable fault-finding; at other times, though, I try to keep my negative opinions out of the self conversation and instead approach my face with a kind of wonder. Who is this older lady, anyway? How many of those wrinkles came from worrying? How many from children? How many from worrying about children? How come makeup loses more of its efficacy with every birthday? How come hair leaves places it’s supposed to be and grows where it’s not supposed to be? It is too late for braces? No, Mr. DeMille, I’m certainly not ready for my close-up.

Mirrors aren’t pure evil, of course. They come in handy when you think you might have chocolate on your chin or broccoli in your teeth. They’ll confirm that you shouldn’t have applied lipstick while riding over a pothole-filled road or that you should have bought that waterproof mascara.

The picture above is Daddy holding me in front of a mirror that used to hang in our living room. I remember how special it felt when I was a little older and he would hoist me up to the mirror - something I couldn’t reach on my own at the time. Mirrors are fascinating objects to babies. Seeing yourself and others in a different way can be most entertaining. I think one of a parent’s first responsibilities is to introduce their children to mirrors and, ideally, to teach a child that the image she sees is a reflection of a person of value, deeply and unconditionally loved. My parents did pass this self-esteem lesson on to me, but alas, ensuing life experiences and the ubiquitous wounds of societal influence made considerable headway in tearing it down.

Ed says that prophetic preaching holds up mirrors to congregations - and for some, there’s no worse thing that can happen than looking in that spiritual mirror, for the image seen there can be quite distasteful. On the other hand, he says preachers tend to preach most vehemently about their own sins, so in essence, a preacher’s sermons are mirrors of shortcomings of the preacher’s own self, and a wise minister will take heed of that observation.

Every once in a while, a book or film will come along and function as a mirror for our society. Food, Inc is one of those films. The majority of this documentary is not pleasant to watch. It simultaneously vindicates, horrifies, nauseates, educates, and inspires. It gives us a mirror to watch how the food we eat is grown and made, processed, engineered, and in many cases genetically altered and in most cases unregulated as to its safety. It’s human nature to have no desire to see ourselves in a mirror such as this, but it is an important task, as this particular mirror has much to teach us. I highly recommend it. But wait until after you’ve eaten. It will spoil your dinner like no dessert ever could. If you like Food, Inc, you can go on and read Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma. Who needs Weight Watchers to lower your appetite? Just visit your neighborhood bookstore and start reading these best-sellers. I'll guarantee you that you will be smarter - and probably lose a few pounds in the bargain.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Boys to Men?

I've got babies on my mind. One of my coworkers just delivered her first, my friend Sally in California will welcome her first grandchild next month, and my own son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first baby (our third grandchild) this summer.

I, of course, love babies. I love their smooth skin, their baby smell, their tiny lips, their long eyelashes, and their fuzzy heads. I've had two babies myself - only they aren't babies anymore.

And that's the rub. As families, we're so wrapped up in having a "baby" that we don't realize we are giving birth to a toddler, an adolescent, a teenager, and a full grown human being. That's the journey we are beginning at delivery. I know it can sound scary to new parents, but it's actually an exciting thing to think about.

When I was in junior high, my teacher made us memorize poems. There are two I remember quite distinctly. One was The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. "And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding...the highwayman came riding up to the old inn door." Such a classic - but very long to memorize. The second poem that still beats in my brain was by William Wordsworth. It's very short:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
Although we had extensive discussion in Mrs. Regan's class about the meaning of this poem, I never did understand most of it. I'm reflecting today, though, on one line: "The Child is father of the Man." That's what will happening to us this summer - Our Child will be father of the Man (or Woman).

Some people have a knack for looking beyond the present into the future. A family friend bought savings bonds for our babies, for instance. I myself have bought diapers for new parents that were a few sizes bigger than newborn size, knowing they would need them eventually. When Rachel had Caroline, a teacher friend of hers gave her a pink frilly ballerina-style dress that Caroline would not be big enough to wear, of course, for several years. I remember visiting that hospital room and seeing that costume hanging on a door. That's when it hit me. We aren't just having a baby. We're having a little girl - and some day a grown woman. The picture above shows Caroline when she was finally big enough to enjoy the dress. How much pleasure that brought her! All her other baby gifts were forgotten, but that dress was still enchanting.

It is a blessing to be a parent or a grandparent or innumerable other "titles" - and to be able to see a child born into this world and to participate in their journey toward adulthood. There is happiness and sorrow, but most of the time, the joys far outweigh the disappointments. At least, that is my story.

Welcome, babies (going-on-adults) of the world! Your future awaits!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Road Less Traveled can be isolated

I've always been, well, different. I have always been aware of this, and many times I have wished that I could fit in here or there, but alas, most of my life I've felt like a fish out of water - or at least one dumped in the wrong aquarium.

Don't get me wrong - I've had a remarkably happy life. Thank goodness one can be different and still be content.

I am different because, for one, my interests are not conventional. I can't even read People magazine anymore because I have no idea whose these "celebrities" are. I would rather listen to Mozart or big band tunes from the 1940s than what is considered "popular" music. I'd rather enjoy a black-and-white movie from 1935 than see Avatar. As a girl, when my classmates had posters of the latest male teen idol on their bedroom walls, I had a giant poster of Abraham Lincoln. When others were bemoaning English class, I got my kicks by diagramming sentences.

It's that latter part of my personality that keeps me out of the mainstream of society. You see, I love anything to do with words - spelling, grammar, construction, punctuation - the whole lot. I migrated to a medical transcription career due in part to my love of language. I have my favorite words (cream is one) and words I can't stand (puce is one). I have favorite authors (Agatha Christie) and authors whose writing put me to sleep (Thoreau).

See? Just imagine it - all of my favorite composers and authors are dead. Does this mean I'm an old fogey at 55, or does this just mean I've been out of the loop for a long time? Does this mean I am self-righteous about what I consider to be good music or good writing, or does this just mean I started stagnating at about age 14? Considering the fact that I wasn't a typical 14-year-old, that wouldn't explain it either.

This feeling of my being outside the mainstream culminated this week with some dire news: SPELL is going out of business. SPELL will be no more within the year.

Now, because you readers are probably popular and good-looking and wealthy and all the things I'm not, I'm sure you don't know what SPELL is. If you did, you would be weird like me, and, man, in that case, I'd feel sorry for you.

SPELL is the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature. They send out a newsletter every couple of months for us word junkies. They have clever articles on puns and word origins, and invite members to send in their language pet peeves. In the middle of the newsletter, there are two full pages of items that members have submitted showing grammatical and punctuation errors from all sorts of signs, magazines, newspapers, and other media. Yes, we SPELL members laugh and roll our eyes and make fun of all the mistakes. My husband Ed thinks we're all judgmental and quite insane. But in that SPELL group, I feel that I belong. Why, I've discovered folks just like me! Folks who care whether it's peaked or piqued! People who double over in agony at a "tomatoe" for sale! Individuals who realize there is a time and place - and not - for an apostrophe! I basked in acceptance.

But the latest SPELL newsletter said they would have to stop publication. Why? The number of subscribers had dwindled too much to make SPELL financially viable. Which, of course, puts me smack in the minority - again.

I can't say I would want to change, even if I could. It can be quite pleasant in my little world. But it seems as if it is getting lonelier every year.