Who Says?

No dessert until you eat your vegetables.

No playing until you finish your chores.

Those messages, that mindset, are planted deep in my psyche and have the power to paralyze me.

I got some stuff delivered from Lands End recently.  Internally, I heard “Don’t open the box of new stuff until you finish putting away the clean laundry”.  And I didn’t.

Writing for this blog is playtime for me.  So of course I hear “You can’t write for fun until you finish your chores”.  And I don’t.

I feel guilty when my husband makes a comment about the dishes in the sink while I’m sitting and reading the paper.

No fun until you meet expectations.  Who says??

I’m not very good at silly and spontaneous.  No wonder.  I remember a therapist asked me years ago what I did for fun.  I didn’t have an answer.  I thought that was awfully sad.

My husband and I rode the bus downtown on New Year’s Eve, went in the View to get my glasses adjusted, ate lunch at Fincastle’s Diner (we had fried pickles–OMG–and Jaybird came over and sang “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to me!), then we rode the bus home.

That may not sound like a big deal to you, especially if you live someplace where everyone takes public transportation.  Here, that was kind of adventurous.  I don’t think Mike ever got over being surprised I went with him.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less concerned with what other people think.  And I take delight (sometimes)  in NOT following all the rules.

“Do not be too moral.  You may cheat yourself out of too much life.  Aim above morality.  Be not simply good; be good for something.”  (a quote from Henry David Thoreau)

You should…  Who says?

You must…  Who says?

No, you can’t…  Who says?

Published in: on January 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm  Comments (9)  
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Whimsy and Wonder

Where are whimsy and wonder this time of year?

I used to have a very hard time seeing anything but angst and grumpiness and things that made me sad.  Over the years it’s gotten better.

I like to go the mall in December.  Not to shop and not on the weekend! I go to look at the decorations and watch the children visit Santa.  We saw a rough-looking Santa at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh the other day–too many days outside without sunscreen or too many Jack Daniels, I think.  The harried parents get my sympathy.  The excited children feed my soul.

(One of my daughters was afraid of Santa.  The other asked me before she got to kindergarten if Santa was real.  I promised myself when she was born that I’d never lie to her.  I didn’t.  Sigh.)

I like Christmas music.  The classics, of course, but I have 2 country cd’s that make me smile every time I listen to them.  I even like “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer“.  It’s good to laugh and be silly.

Our church has a candlelight service at 11 pm on Christmas Eve.  It’s quiet and peaceful and reverent.  My brother and our grown children won’t stay up late enough to go, but Mike does.  Then we drive through the neighborhood that has these amazing light balls hanging from trees.  (Here’s are some pictures.) It’s magical.

This year we’ll have Adaline. She will be 10 months old on Christmas Day.  I think she’ll like the blinky tree lights.

Does your holiday include any whimsy and wonder?

Have you looked?


My friend, Lisa, asked me to write about gratitude for her blog. (Here’s the link: Lisa’s Cheap Therapy Blog. ) Please check out her website–Cheap Therapy–she makes really cool cards and posters and then gives away a good chunk of any money she makes.
Here’s what I wrote for her blog:

The Gratitude List comes up a lot at 12-step meetings in November. Enough to make me groan sometimes.

Listing the good stuff is easy:

1. my granddaughter laughing and flying in her swing

2. being a cancer survivor

3. a perfect fall day—sunshine, slight breeze, 68 degrees with low humidity, colorful leaves

4. lunch out with a group of smart, laughing women friends

5. a quiet awareness of God’s presence surrounding and protecting me.

What about the hard stuff, though?

1. Illness–mine or a loved one’s

2. Pain–physical and/or emotional

3. Powerlessness–my inability to make it all okay for other people

4. Letting go–not enabling and letting others learn from the consequences of their choices

I rage at God sometimes about the hard stuff. My spirit aches as I watch my adult children struggle with life’s challenges. I ask WHY?

Then I surrender. Trying to change or control people and situations takes too much energy. Because it is impossible.

So I learn:

1. to lean on God

2. to trust that those I love also have a God who loves them

3. to resist my urge to isolate and instead share my hurts and griefs and struggles.

When I was learning to throw pots on a pottery wheel, my hands could only make lopsided bowls. They were goofy-looking. My teacher explained that the beauty of handmade pottery lies in the imperfections that make each piece unique.

So it is with us, I think. We are the clay and God is the potter. It is our imperfections and cracks that make us real. That’s where God’s light gets through to our hearts and where love and compassion flow out from us to others.

Joy and beauty are in the good stuff. Gifts are in the hard stuff.

And so I am grateful.

The Pleasures of an Ordinary Life by Judith Viorst

I’ve had my share of necessary losses,

Of dreams I know no longer can come true.

I’m done now with the whys and the becauses.

It’s time to make things good, not just make do.

It’s time to stop complaining and pursue

The pleasures of an ordinary life.


I used to rail against my compromises.

I yearned for the wild music, the swift race.

But happiness arrived in new disguises:

Sun lighting a child’s hair. A friend’s embrace.

Slow dancing in a safe and quiet place.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.


I’ll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.

It seems the woman I’ve turned out to be

Is not the heroine of some grand story.

But I have learned to find the poetry

In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.


Young fantasies of magic and of mystery

Are over. But they really can’t compete

With all we’ve built together: A long history.

Connections that help render us complete.

Ties that hold and heal us. And the sweet,

Sweet pleasures of an ordinary life.

Sledgehammer Therapy

My husband destroyed an expensive new Cuisinart coffee maker with a built-in bean-grinder.

He used a sledgehammer.

In the driveway.

(He said I could write about it.)

Afterward, he said he felt great–better than he’d felt in weeks.  No wonder he says counseling is a waste of time.  Sledgehammers work much faster.

I had several options for responding.  I could have gotten really angry.  I could have been scared.  I could have laughed.  I chose to say very little and keep on with my day.  I knew something else was bothering him, although the fancy, complicated coffee maker didn’t work right.  (I suggested operator error…once.)

I know my husband.  We’ve been married 36 years.  I am not afraid of him.  He is a gentle, caring man who only wants to love his family and protect us from any distress.  Nobody gets to do that.  And it frustrates him.

I’ve learned to look at HALT ( Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) when life is making me crazy. 

Hungry?  I am rarely hungry, but sometimes I don’t choose healthy foods.  That doesn’t help me cope.

Angry?  I usually stuff anger, so it’s important for me to dig around a bit in my feelings.  For my husband, anger sometimes masks other feelings like fear and sadness.

Lonely?  I need a lot of alone time, so I don’t get lonely much.  I turn this question upside down and ask, have I been around people too much?

Tired?  I need a lot of sleep.  I’m at my best after 8-9 hours.  (That means I don’t get much accomplished after dinner.)

I’m kind of jealous of my husband’s sledge hammer episode.  He got rid of a lot of intense feelings, I think.

Anyone need to borrow the sledgehammer?

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil (Part II)

They came. They really, really hugged us.  Adaline made them smile and laugh and they were captivated.

We had two evenings and one whole day of joy and love and laughter. Then Uncle Phil got sick and died.

They had planned to leave Friday to drive home. Aunt Nadine and her son left Friday, instead, and they flew. Uncle Phil didn’t like to fly.

That’s the short version of this story. Of course there’s much more:

They came Monday evening and were fine when we went to bed Tuesday night.  Wednesday morning my aunt couldn’t wake my uncle so we called 911. After a long time in the ER, he went to ICU on a ventilator.  They said it was pneumonia and septic shock.  We took my aunt back to our house to sleep.

The ICU nurse called us at 2:30 Thursday morning to come in immediately. The nurse asked about whether to start CPR if he needed it because they thought his heart would stop soon.  My aunt said no and said it was okay to disconnect everything.  After a couple of breaths, he died.  He was 89 and she is 88.

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil met in kindergarten.  They were married 68 years and still really liked and loved each other.  Every time I think about her walking into the house they lived in for more than 50 years and sleeping in their bed alone, my heart hurts for her.

Aunt Nadine  doesn’t believe in asking God for specific things, so I ask that you pray for her to feel God’s presence. I hope that will lessen her pain.

Life for Dummies

I am a grumpy, impatient beginner.  I need to feel competent. I don’t like when someone tries to help me.

I love those gaudy yellow and black Dummies books.  They have titles like Baseball for Dummies.  Slightly insulting, yes, but beginner-level information that I can study privately and at my own pace.

I looked months ago for Grandparenting for Dummies. I don’t think there is one, but Amazon has The Idiot’s Guide to Grandparenting.  I refuse to buy any Idiots books–they are an ugly orange and “Idiot” is just rude.

On a quick trip to various bookcases in my house I saw these Dummies books:  Ebay, New York City, Yoga, Chicago, Paris, Feng Shui, Cancun and the Yucatan, Blogging, Pregnancy, Blackberry, iTunes, and Excel.  I keep saying I’m going to put them all in one bookcase so I can find one when I need it, but I haven’t done it yet.

Study —–>Knowledge—–>Control.


Feeling in control is the opposite of feeling powerless.  But then what about risk and adventure?  Going with the flow?  Being in the moment?  Being lost, on purpose?

Can we really control the unknown?  Or is being in the unknowing our Life’s task?

Sometimes I do need to know how to do something, especially computer/technology stuff.  Online manuals don’t help me much.  But I’m learning to have faith that I will be able to handle Life as it comes to me.  If I don’t over-think, over-plan, and over-analyze, I can be amazed and astonished.  That’s why I want to learn new skills and go to new places.

Faith allows me to be comfortable in the unknowing and uncertainty of Life.  That belief takes daily maintenance and awareness of God’s presence.

I am grateful for my faith.  I don’t take it for granted.


I was bad last night.  This morning I was hung over.  And it’s Paul Newman’s fault.

I didn’t drink any alcohol or do any drugs.  Thank God.  It was cookies.  Newman-0’s, like Oreos, but made with organic flour and organic sugar.  I really don’t know how many I ate (bad sign, huh?), but I do remember at one point thinking I had crossed the line between eating and bingeing.  I didn’t stop until they were all gone.  (Mike ate some.)

I didn’t feel good when I went to bed.  I was afraid the chocolate would keep me from falling asleep.  And I forgot (!?!) what sugar can do to me.

My body and I live with rheumatoid arthritis.  The disease causes inflammation in my joints.  Inflammation causes pain.  Sugar increases inflammation. And so increases pain in my body.  Which I remembered when I got out of bed this morning.

Sugar hangover.  Will I never learn?

I’ve read books and articles about the mind/body/spirit connection.  I’ve even read a book about chronic illness as a spiritual practice.  I know my attitude and behavior influence how my body feels.  I resisted the sugar/inflammation/pain idea for a long time, but it’s true.

Here’s what else I know is true, for me:

1.  My body is the container of my soul.  I am an embodied Spirit.

2.  My body deserves reverence, respect, and gratitude.

3.  Exercise can be a spiritual practice.

4.  Nourishing my body with healthy food feeds my soul.

5.  Living in my body is a spiritual practice that teaches me patience and acceptance.   I’ve learned how to feel anger, how to love imperfection, how to grieve.  I now understand joy and awe.

6.  I am a child of God.  I was made in God’s image.

7.  My body and soul deserve fresh, local peaches and Goat Lady Dairy cheese, not cookies.  Not even organic ones with Paul Newman’s picture (those eyes!) on the package.

Words on the blackboard behind my eyes

Acceptance            Approval           Compassion         Boundaries

Permission         Pity              Blame          Anger

Forgiveness          Empathy        Mercy          Grace         Faith

My granddaughter’s extended family gathered last Sunday to celebrate her baptism.   At lunch were 15 adoring adults and one 5-month-old baby.  Each of has our own story of love and angst and worry and joy in relation to each other.

Do love and compassion help with unacceptable behavior?  Or do they simply enable and excuse?  When is confrontation appropriate and when are surrender and acceptance the only real answer?  Where do I find empathy when I can’t imagine myself in his shoes?  Who gave her permission to act this way?

Last spring, I joined a Lenten study group on forgiveness. We didn’t come up with any easy answers for these very difficult questions.  We talked about pride, sisters and brothers, God’s mercy and grace, parents and children, drugs and alcohol, mental illness, and anger.  We wondered about personal responsibility and setting boundaries to protect our own souls.

“Would you rather be right or happy?” ask my wise friends.  “Can’t I be both?” I ask.

Peace comes with acceptance for me.  Acceptance doesn’t usually come easily.  I don’t often surrender to reality gracefully, not at first.  Anger and frustration no longer energize me.  They make me tired.  And not like myself much.  So I pray for willingness. Sometimes I pray for the willingness to be willing (think about that–it will make sense).

One of my life goals is to live as the child of God I was created to be.  I wish it could be easier.  But “I’m workin’ on it“.