I’m a 9. And a Turtle.

I’m a 9 on the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a model of human personality using nine interconnected personality types. (See more here: The Enneagram Institute.)

Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. (from the Enneagram Institute)

Years ago, in a day-long workshop led by my friends, Kim and Donna, I visualized my Totem Animal during a guided meditation. I’ve lived with rheumatoid arthritis in my body for almost 30 years so I hoped for something graceful and fast like a gazelle or a cheetah. I got Turtle.  (Here’s a blog post about this: Turtle or Gazelle.)

Turtle lives a slow and steady life of non-doing, one day at a time – not reacting, simply accepting and moving on in its natural rhythm. Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil. It does not need to learn the importance of this focusing inward, it naturally knows. (from whats-your-sign.com/animal-symbolism)

I had outpatient hernia surgery the end of August. Not such a big deal compared to some of my surgeries, but it still involved general anesthesia and an incision. I stopped taking the immune suppressant drug that keeps my arthritis under control because it makes me a very slow healer.

I was supposed to rest, right? I am really good at resting.

Inertia (Enneagram 9) +

Withdrawing into my shell when vulnerable (Turtle) +

Introvert +

Life-long Reader =

a rather happy camper, once the pain eased up.

The problem came when I got the okay to start my medicine again and resume normal activities.  Remember inertia from science class? It’s the resistance of any physical object to changes to its speed, direction or state of rest. In other words a body at rest tends to stay at rest. This body does. I enjoy doing nothing but reading and sipping on a cup of tea.

The retired man I live with and at least one of my daughters don’t have that gene. They got the one his mother passed on–always needing to be doing something.  Thank God.

Surely there are people who live somewhere in the middle of that continuum. Not in my house. The retired man I live with has 2 speeds–doing or dozing. I have one speed–slow, with rest stops.

I’m workin’ on it. (See this blog post: I’m Workin’ On It.)

I’ve made lunch dates with friends, enough that my checking account looks like I eat out all the time. I’ve gone back to water exercise. I’m writing this blog post.

I start in a 4-week small group at church tonight about white privilege. I’m president-elect of the Board of Directors for a local non-profit and I spent a long time on the phone this morning with our new Executive Director.

I live a quiet life, by choice. It works for me. I’ve learned the difference between isolation and solitude. Like most of us, I strive for balance. I want to choose to resist living inside my shell. Some days that’s easier than others.

Want to meet for coffee or lunch?

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on October 6, 2016 at 6:09 pm  Comments (7)  
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Angry Conversations with God:

A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir

Got your attention, huh?  Susan E. Isaacs wrote the book with that title. I had to explore her story so I got it from the library.

Summer reading lists appear everywhere this time of year. Oprah’s magazine, the newspaper, Parade (that slick section of the Sunday paper that hides in with the ads and comics), blogs I read online. The NPR website must have a list–I haven’t looked.

I don’t buy books much anymore. Partly because the retired man I live with and I have a fixed income these days instead of a refillable well of money.  Partly because I have so many books already that some live in a big Rubbermaid bin in the corner of my office behind the open door. They call to be released from their box every time I notice the blue bin in the corner.  Not so good feng shui for creativity.

I’ve rediscovered the library.  When a book on a list looks interesting, I add it to the Books list on the Notes app on my phone.  (Just writing that cracks me up.) Or I go to my computer and add it to my Wishlist on the Greensboro Public Library website.  Isn’t the internet great? I never remember what the books are about later so I just randomly pick one when I request a specific book be sent to the branch closest to me.  At least I don’t waste money on so-so books.

These days I allow myself not to finish a book that doesn’t interest or entertain me.  I couldn’t do that when I was younger.  (Why?) Now I figure I don’t have the time to waste.  I feel bad for the writer, even though I’m the only one who knows I didn’t finish.  Some books I slam shut astonished that some publisher gave the author a contract.

I’m almost halfway through Angry Conversations With God.  Susan E. Isaacs takes God to couples counseling with an ex-pastor therapist.  The book includes dialogue with God, Jesus, herself and the ex-pastor therapist.  The book is witty, a tad irreverent and funny.  It’s also thought-provoking. And as goofy as it sounds.

Isaacs is an actress/comedian, and participates in improv performances. She has plenty of reasons to be mad at God. She works on her relationship with God through role play.  I can’t decide if it’s just too cute.  I keep reading so I think it has something for me to ponder.

How is my relationship with God?

“What do you do for fun?” every counselor, therapist, minister, friend asks.  The question nags at me every time someone asks.

What do God and I do for fun?

I need to ponder that some more.

What do you and God do for fun?

(to be continued…)

Published in: on May 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm  Comments (7)  
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I Better Live a Long Time

I must possess at least 6-7 books about how to be organized.  If I ever purge, sort and organize my books into  categories, I’ll know for sure and be able to list the titles and authors.  Hasn’t happened yet.

I worked on my office this afternoon.  I emptied two big baskets (left from another attempt to organize) full of books and magazines and paper.  Don’t use baskets.  As my organizer-friend, Beth, pointed out one time, out of sight is out of mind.  But it’s still there.

I sorted and purged and filed.  I re-shelved books.  And I didn’t move from those baskets to sorting and purging my books.  I controlled my low-grade ADD.

In one of the baskets, I found this book:  Organizing From the Inside Out: The Foolproff System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern.  She had me at the title.  I flipped through it.  Page corners are turned down.  That means I was reading without a pen to underline with, probably in bed.  A bookmark stuck out of the middle–I guess I never finished studying it.

Believe me when I tell you, I already KNOW this stuff.  All the books come down to the same thing:

Get rid of the majority of my shit.

Find a place for things I love.

Don’t buy anything new unless I give something away.

Put my shit away in its designated place (labeled?) every day.

I get it.

And I also get that it feels good to see my cleaned out corner off to my right and all the paper in my recycling trashcan.  I stacked paper that was only printed on one side on top of my (broken) printer  to use for printing rough drafts.

The problem is what’s left.  I start an organizing project well.  I control my need to do the whole room straight through until it’s done.  I don’t have the desire or the stamina to work that hard anymore. anyway.

Today fear kicked me into gear.  Did those baskets hold something important that I should have taken care of weeks ago?  The paper breathed on me every time i sat down at my desk.  I couldn’t write.  I couldn’t work on a project for church.

Now, my desk is clear.  For me anyway.  The (very) few papers that need attention are in a nice wooden inbox behind my laptop.  So I know they are there, but they’re not breathing so loud anymore.  And I am writing.

I feel good.

The retired man I live with came upstairs,  looked around the room, and said “Doesn’t look any better to me.”

Did I ask?

I think I’ll have a Hershey’s kiss and go down to the basement where piles of laundry wait patiently.  You know, if got rid of some of my clothes, I wouldn’t be able to ignore laundry for so long because I would run out of clothes.  Instead I wear all the stuff I don’t love and then have to wash them before I can get rid of them.

I’ll never be finished.  I’m afraid that when I die my poor daughters will be left to deal with my clutter.  Because I’m damn sure not putting this house on the market and moving.

In July, 2010, I wrote a blog post titled “I’m Workin’ On It”  about my friend’s idea to make buttons for all of us to flash when questioned by others about progress on tasks.  In bright letters big enough to see easily my button would say “I’m workin’ on it.”

So, dear daughters–

I’m workin’ on it. Pray I live a long time.

Published in: on March 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm  Comments (11)  
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In and Out of the Car Was the Hard Part!

The retired man I live with suggested with great enthusiasm, “Let’s go to the Zoo!” to our daughter, her kids and me.

The NC Zoo, 30 minutes down the highway from us, houses animals from Africa and North America on over 600 acres of “natural habitat.”

I was the only one who hesitated.  The website  says to plan on 2-3 hours to see the Africa section.  That’s a whole lot of walking for me.  There’s a tram, but you can’t see the animals while riding it.

“What the hell,” I thought.  “I am not missing Adaline’s first visit to the big zoo.”   If I couldn’t walk the whole way, I’d figure out what to do next, even if I had to say “I can’t” and ask for help.

The retired man I live with drove the Camry.  I rode shotgun.  The other three got in the back–on one side the forward-facing car seat for the 2-3/4-year-old granddaughter, on the other side the backward-facing car seat and its base for the 6-month-old grandson.  Their mom, who was a zookeeper before children and very excited, perched in the middle after she climbed over the baby car seat base.

We had snacks for Adaline and water for all of us.  The high-end double stroller I found in a consignment store (best deal ever!) fit in the trunk, barely.  And we were off.

We parked far away from other cars.  We needed a lot of space to unload.  First out of the back was the baby, in his car seat, then his mom had to climb past the car seat base and almost planted her face in the asphalt beside the car.  Grandpa got Adaline out of her car-seat and her mother grabbed her hand before she could dart away.  My hands don’t work well enough to help so I stood guard by the baby car seat in an empty parking space.  A bee got caught between two of my finger and stung me while Grandpa wrestled the double stroller out of the trunk.  (Nothing was stopping us by then.)

Her mother put Adaline in the front seat of the stroller and lifted Atticus from his car seat to the back seat of the stroller.  Grandpa put Atticus’s empty car seat in the car.  We gathered purses, diaper bag, and camera bag, stuffed the diaper bag and a purse in the pullout basket under the stroller seats and hung the camera case and another purse over the stroller handle.  We headed to the entrance.

We saw giraffes with a baby, lions, chimpanzees, 2 mama gorillas with babies (!!) and ate pizza for lunch.  Adaline and her mom rode a carousel, we saw rhinos and ended at the elephant habitat where a big, dusty elephant with saggy wrinkled skin slowly strolled past the spectators as if on a red carpet in front of paparazzi.

I walked the whole way, with stops on benches by the animals.  I think maybe it took us more than 3 hours.  Then it was time to reload.

The retired man I live with got the car while the rest of us waited by the entrance.  Reloading began.  At one point, Adaline and her mom were in the car, Atticus was in his car seat on the ground beside the car and I was helping Grandpa remember how to collapse the stroller and wedge it into the trunk.  He headed for the driver’s seat and our daughter and I yelled “Get Atticus in!”  He did.

It was a beautiful day in every possible way.  Except for leaving the camera behind.  We might need more practice.

Published in: on October 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm  Comments (11)  
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Writer’s Block Is Real

Here’s how I got it:

1.  Joined a Writer’s Group of the Triad Memoir Group with real, published writers.

2.  Went to a 2-day writing retreat with some really good writers.  We wrote and then read out loud to the group of 15 writers.  Did I mention how well they wrote?

3.  Got a stomach virus that kept my family away on Mother’s Day.

4.  Got pneumonia right after the stomach virus.

(I may never see my grandchildren again!)

I’ve read the cure for writer’s block is to just write.

One of my early blog posts was titled “I’m Workin’ On It”–please click here to check it out.

I’m workin’ on it–writer’s block and good health.

Supposed To Be About Pain

I sat down at my desk early this morning to write a blog post about pain.  Since then I have:

downloaded and subscribed to podcasts for This American Life and On Being with Krista Tippett (at least I didn’t actually listen to them),

reconstructed my iGoogle homepage that I somehow cancelled (it had a bunch of blog feeds so I had to look for and download each one I could remember I liked and read the ones I missed),

checked 3 different email accounts ( and wondered again whether to transfer the contact list from a very old Earthlink email account to my yahoo email that was hacked by someone who deleted my contact list, including email addresses that are nowhere else),

checked Facebook (which of course is the major time-sucker I always thought it would be) and watched a 2 minute you tube video about a law in Michigan protecting bullies who go after gay kids (click here to see it),

went back to yahoo email and looked at the link to my pregnant daughter’s “dream diaper bag“,

considered reading some of the blogs that appear enticingly when I open wordpress.com to get to Amma Ponders (but I didn’t),

and then finally started typing this list of all my ways to procrastinate.

Oh, and I gave you links to my wanderings so that you, too, can have a relaxing, non-challenging hour or so.  Just click on any of the words that are red.

You’re welcome.

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm  Comments (4)  
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Skin of an Elephant

We are creatures who live in a single skin throughout our lives.  Our own consciousness is embodied in a skin that grows wrinkly over time.  Our aging is obvious, no matter how much we try to resist it.

Our nearest cousins in terms of mammalian skin are elephants.

Can we be at home in our own skins, our own bodies, adjusting to the changes the various seasons of life bring to us?                                      Dwight Judy

Elephant skin?  Really??

Remember playing with the loose skin on your grandmother’s hand?  Or her floppy, un-toned triceps?

I have the hand skin thing.  I say it’s due to medication but it’s probably age-related.  And the triceps?  My trainer keeps trying different ways to work on them.

I can’t hold onto hand weights because my arthritis has damaged my wrists and fingers.  She talked me into buying black suede weight-lifting gloves.  Do they go with grey hair and black crop pants?

I sat at the bank drive-through today watching a young woman’s hand go back and forth.  It was all smooth and tan.  I looked at my own hands.

I remembered.

How many cloth diapers did they dunk?  How many sticky faces and hands and dirty feet did they bathe? How many tears did they wipe?

My hands don’t care what they look like.  They just try to do what I ask.  And I’m grateful.

My Trainers

I changed gyms and paid for one-on-one hours with a trainer.  I got Jodi.  She’s 25 (sigh) and kind.  She challenges me, but she listens when I describe how my body works.

I’ve written before about having rheumatoid arthritis (click on Rheumatoid Arthritis in the cloud of words down below on the right).  Life can be a challenge some days.

So can an 18-month-old granddaughter.  Someone asked me yesterday if she’s walking.  I said, “No, she runs.”  She’s not chubby anymore, but she is solid.  And sometimes squirmy.

So Jodi helps me strengthen my upper body and core.  And we do cardio stuff.  Ever try an elliptical machine?  I am awed by people who do it for a long time.  An hour?? My goal is to move beyond 5 minutes.

Humility and a sense of humor go to the gym with me.  (There’s a fine line between humor and self-denigration.)  I am grateful for all my body can do.  Jodi pushes me past stopping just because I want to.

I led a writing group at a drop-in center for people who are HIV-positive yesterday.  The prompt was a quote from an article by Nancy Copeland-Payton in Presence (the journal of Spiritual Directors International.)

It’s a roller coaster.  I didn’t buy a ticket, never wanted a ride…the illness will keep recurring and I will die of it.

Who am I…?  I’m no longer the person who used to be in control, who had energy to take care of tasks and other people.  Rather, I’m the one who needs care.  I’m the one who is vulnerable.  This is not an identity I choose.  Buried inside are losses that need to be cried out.  This is a long mourning process.

I finally let go of my control and let myself be vulnerable and cared for by others.  When I learn to receive their care with profound gratitude, I receive the greatest gift.  I realize how much I am loved.  It’s extraordinary.  This love lets me be even more vulnerable.

While we wrote I played a Kenny G CD (they like soft jazz).  As we finished, we listened to the music and rested.

I wrote a whiny page about not liking roller coasters and not wanting to be vulnerable.  They wrote and shared about God’s love and how their disease saved them from drugs and a wasted life and changed them for the better.  I didn’t want to share mine.

The last song we listened to (not planned by me) was Louis Armstrong singing “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  They sang along and smiled when it ended.

Amazing grace, again.

“Always do your best,” they said.

I read this chapter-title in a book this morning:

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I ate lunch downtown with a friend today. When I got home, I moved my laptop to my office to write.  I spent the next hour checking email, catching up on the other blogs I read, and trying to figure out if I’ve already written about procrastination.  I don’t think so.

I have lists of things I want to do. Where and how to start is the easy part. At least 7 “How To Organize” books sit in random bookcases in my house.  I’ve read them all.  I even have one called Making Room for God, Clearing Out the Clutter.  It lives in the pile of books beside my bed, I think.

I know about purging and sorting and donating and “when did you last wear/use this?”.  I pulled clothes off hangers and out of drawers.    Should I take them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, the Disabled Vietnam Vets’ thrift store or the halfway house for moms with addictions?  What’s the best thing to do?  They’re still on the floor of a closet in my bedroom.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I explored The Container Store in Raleigh for the 1st time in April.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I drooled over the elfa (“Everything Can Be Organized”) Storage System.  It can be custom-designed for closets, pantries, drawers, and offices.  I bought a few (cheap, not elfa) boxes and containers for my office shelves and drawers.  What’s the best way to use them?  Some (not all) are still in the bag behind the closet door.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

My husband has very little patience with people who put things off.  That’s not his way.  One way he deals with stress is to reorganize the garage.  He used to do the same thing to his office.  He retired 2 years ago.

Now it’s my kitchen.  I organized my kitchen 20 years ago.  Cooking tools always lived in the same place and I didn’t have to think much to cook.  Now, like a stupid cartoon, we fight over where my casseroles and pot lids are and whether I ever actually use loaf pans (“I might”, I say.)  Random items completely vanish.  I am not in control.

I’m really afraid he will go to my office next.

Today is World AIDS Day

Did you know that?

There is a giant red ribbon hanging on the front porch of the White House today.

December 1 is still World AIDS Day.  There still is no cure.  People still get sick and die because of AIDS.

People are also living much longer and are taking medicines that really do help slow the progress of the disease.

The drugs that work are very expensive and state and federal programs that help pay for them are in danger of being cut.

Sometimes the side effects and the dosing schedule are so difficult and intolerable that folks stop taking the drugs.

I spend a lot of time helping out at Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.   It is a free-standing program of Triad Health Project, the local AIDS service organization.  Three days a week, every week, local churches and other groups provide lunch for 25-40 hungry clients and volunteers and the one paid staff person who tends the souls and cleans the toilets for all who come through the doors.

Higher Ground is a place of acceptance for many who have been turned away by family, churches, and friends.  Believe me when I say, God is in this place and miracles do happen here.  Like crack addicts who are able to stay clean and have their own apartments for the first time in their adult lives thanks to case managers at Triad Health Project and the support and love of peers at Higher Ground.  Or men like my friend Bill who has been HIV positive since the 1980’s.  He had a leg amputated above the knee a while back because of HIV complications and was back at “The House” a few weeks later, smiling.  Many volunteers over the years, from high school students to those of us with gray hair, have been profoundly touched by the courage and faith of the men and women who pass through Higher Ground.

Did you know all this was still happening?

Today, there is much more hope.  But AIDS is not gone.  If you can, please donate your time and/or money to a local AIDS service organization.  They still need you.

Triad Health Project’s vision statement:

We will stand together for as long as it takes until HIV/AIDS is no more, promoting enlightenment, dignity, acceptance, understanding, and love; demonstrating that we are not only enduring this epidemic, but also prevailing over it.

Still.