155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Twenty-One: Give

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Give

This exchange was extremely typical while Dad lived with us:

Him: Will you get me a [insert name of item, let’s say coffee]?

Me: Give me just a minute.

Him: Oh forget it then.

You would think over three years i would have anticipated how these conversations would go and either a) adjusted my approach or b) learned to modulate my frustration about them.

I’m not beating myself up about this (much) but hoping (I suppose) that if you’re in this position with an elder (or anyone with a brain impairment) in your life, you figure it out sooner than I did.

The irony was never lost on me that a man who seemingly had ALL the time in the world (from the perspective of his daily schedule — he almost always had literally nothing on his agenda for the day except for watching more tennis) …….. didn’t have the cognitive ability to wait for even the briefest period of time.

And then there was me in contrast: always trying to fit in one more moment of work (I work from home) or one of the kazillion things I am always doing because I either have to or want to.

The other irony? On a bigger perspective, he didn’t have all the time in the world. He was 85 when he came to our home (already suffering from the short-term memory issues due to  mini-strokes (and I always say — there’s nothing very “mini” about any stroke)) at 85 and had two bouts of cancer while he was here, one of them ultimately ending his life.

We often demand to be given time — we demand that of ourselves, of God, of others.

Maybe the biggest gift we can give ourselves is a different perspective about it all.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Twenty: Discover

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.

Today’s prompt: Discover

We have lost something in our country.

We have lost the willingness to discover people’s nuances.

Obviously it’s an enormous overgeneralization to say that, and I do know many people who take the time and effort to see nuance, to listen endlessly, to respect, encourage and keep seeking.

I got on this train of thought because “discover” led me to think of the recent day in October on which Columbus Day had been traditionally celebrated.

There was widespread acknowledgement that the lands Columbus “discovered” were someone else’s lands first.

One discussion I heard was of a possible removal of a Columbus statue (and history aside I am not sure I can envision a NYC without a Columbus Circle but that’s a post for a different day!). Then the Italian-Americans (some Italian-Americans at least) were upset that removing it would offend their heritage.

I am not sure how the Columbus issues are going to resolve but I was happy to see indigenous people recognized.

In the meantime, I wonder what each of us (me included) is doing to discover something in our communities or our world that we may be misunderstanding or minimizing.

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155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Nineteen: Brave

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.

Credit: Pinterest

Today’s prompt: Brave

When I saw this article about Amy Cuddy early yesterday morning, it caught my eye.

Although the title made it clear that there had been some type of shift in her life, this is what came to mind upon seeing her name:

  • beautiful
  • intelligent
  • gave a TED talk (the 2nd most watched one ever)
  • power poses
  • NY Times best seller
  • has it all together/has achieved things I want to do

Apparently, things have changed over the past year or two for Amy Cuddy.

In short, the research that brought her so much notoriety, in essence research that says “if you physically manifest power (as in doing a power pose in the wings before giving a speech), it will lend you confidence and help you perform better,” was intensely questioned by her peers in a very public way.

When I was searching for this article last  night, my email brought up David Burkus’ email series from a year or two ago. Amy Cuddy had written the “New Year’s message.” It was full of what we can do, positivity and optimism.

I had to look up her Twitter handle to help publicize the Burkus series in my freelance capacity at the time. I put her on a pedestal (for all the bulleted reasons above).

That was then.

Now she is writing a book called, “Bullies, Bystanders, and Bravehearts.” I am reminded that bravery exists most when we are standing in the wings of our own life, away from the lit stage, looking at ourselves in the mirror and finding the strength to be our best selves.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Eighteen: Share

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I can’t resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Share

There is someone I have shared time with that I owe a letter to, and I’m fixing that today (raw materials all laid out in the pic above).

I met Susan, who is an inmate at a local women’s prison, during one of my visits there with Gulf Winds Track Club as a volunteer with their running group. Over the years (five-ish), we have exchanged letters.

I have fallen way behind on my letter-writing, even though I think about her so often.

I checked the Department of Corrections database (that’s a thing) to see if she is still at that institution (people get moved for various reasons, or released in general) and saw that she is scheduled to be released December 1.

And I remember thinking back when we first started talking, about how extremely far off the release date seemed. And now here it is (almost).

I thought “is it necessary to send a letter when she’ll be getting out so soon?” and then immediately thought “the time must slow to a true crawl when you are THAT. CLOSE. to being done, to seeing your children outside of a constrained visiting room again, to waking up when you want, eating what you want, enjoying the taste of freedom.”

That is why a letter is being written today.

I actually owe quite a few letters and there are some I don’t exactly owe but feel compelled to write.

Time to get the green pen busy!

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Seventeen: Grow

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I can’t resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Grow

The Spanish word for “grow” is “crecer.”

I don’t honestly know the derivation of “crecer” but I suspect maybe it has its roots in “increase” or “incremental.” Whatever the case, it seems to me a more logical set of roots than whatever led to “grow.”

I like the logical …… the linear …… and this does not always work out well for me!

In school, a teacher told us to do a timeline of some period in history. I spent hours creating a physical timeline — the thing was HUGE — sheets of paper that took up lots of room …

… when I walked in to class the next day, I was the only person with a PHYSICAL timeline. I watched all my classmates turn in their typed timelines, realizing the teacher hadn’t meant a LITERAL timeline.

Most days, I’m happy that we can still keep growing and changing no matter our age, but other days, I just want to “be” — and take a break from all the self-questioning and challenges that are more difficult to surmount.

The timeline of life doesn’t seem to lay itself it very logically either. Maybe, in the background, that’s where the growth is occurring.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Sixteen: Read

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I can’t resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Read

I worry about myself and reading.

I *adore* reading and am a tireless advocate for reading and readers … especially freedom to read. Banned Books Week is one of my favorite advocacy events of the year (just sad it has to be a thing).

But it takes me forever to get through a traditional book on paper (not the case with audiobooks).

I remember reading a Harvard Business Review article years ago, long before I had a smartphone, by a man who said his brain had been scrambled by his device ….. meaning he had gotten so addicted to taking “digital sips” of information that he had become utterly unable of paying attention to the traditional form of books/information.

Has that become me?

If so, what can I do about it?

When I did my six-hour silent retreat last year, I took a book and made it through the whole thing (granted, it wasn’t an extremely LONG book, but I read it cover to cover over the course of the retreat (shout out to Fr. James Martin SJ for a great book).

I keep thinking I need to detach in that same way (as I did at the retreat), just me and a book (no phone, no interruptions) … but for longer than six hours … to rewire my brain.

I think writing is the lifeline between my brain and the word — thank goodness for writing.

Maybe the next thing I need to read is a directory of retreat centers (although given the way our lives go these days, I may need to find an alternative way to rewire my brain ….. right here at home.)

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Fifteen: Remain

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Remain

Meet Spike (above). Spike is a rhino Beanie Baby still wrapped in the protective packaging he came in.

When my son (now 18) was little, his security objects tended to be gray fluffy things — I remember an elephant, a dolphin (Dolphin was a legend in our family!), and Spike. I was very happy when Spike became a thing specifically because he was a standard Beanie Baby that could be easily replaced if Spike #1, 2 or 3 went missing (as was likely to happen).

I still find replacement Spikes here and there around the house (but I think the one pictured is the last one I bought). I found this Spike when I was cleaning out my closet (a very long overdue task) during Hurricane Irma in mid-September. I’m still working on it (although my forward momentum really took a hit once the power came back on and I could get back to the Internet and the rest of my life.)

It’s so interesting to me how the security objects remain physically in my life long after my son’s need for them has moved on.

My children are so different from one another, and now that I see him taking on his freshman year of college, in a new town, I really wonder if I knew him that well at all.

We often second-guess our parenting choices, I know — and I know ultimately I can be confident that the choices I made – the “right” ones and the “wrong” ones – were done from a deep well of love.

But with an empty nest, it’s difficult not to reflect on what could have been different from the perspective of seeing them function independently in the world.

What remains is the fact that as a mom, I still make an effort to provide security and help him develop his own sense of emotional security, even though it’s a lot harder than having a backup Beanie Baby in the closet.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Thirteen: Invite

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Invite

When I invited my friend Mary Jane to be my entire bridesmaid party of one, I walked down to her office, said “will you stand up for me at my wedding?” and that was that.

Wow, how things have changed. Many of the brides I know these days prepare elaborate “bridesmaid proposals” (here’s an entire Pinterest board full of them!).

Fun, right?

I definitely think brides should have fun with their bridesmaid invites, but I am personally a bit more basic. (I also probably belong in the “my unpopular opinion camp” for not being a HUGE fan of over-the-top gender reveals, but again — it’s not my baby (or money).

When it comes to our spiritual lives, it’s easy to be casual about how we give God access to our hearts, minds and spirits. I will admit lately it’s been a bit of an afterthought.

But if a prospective bride can put together an entire gift box with cute wording, a monogrammed wine glass, and a coordinated ensemble of goodies, along with the love for a friend that comes with the invitation, maybe I have in that a blueprint for how I should invite more divine moments, and more honesty with God, into MY life.

(I also must admit the “invite” prompt has now inserted “Just as I Am” as an earworm into my head. Thanks, Southern Baptist upbringing!)

The sweetest invitations in our lives do warrant a little extra prep time and bells and whistles. Once they are accepted, it’s a long-term deal.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Eleven: Remember

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Remember

I remember what was going on in this picture, taken in February of this year.

Jim, our incredible hospice volunteer, had asked me, “Do you think your FIL would want to ‘golf’?”

I really was at the point that I barely thought he could walk to the bathroom, much less “golf,” but I knew better than to throw out a negative. Therefore, I said, “you can try….”

Next visit, he showed up, club in hand. He patiently set up the scenario pictured here. He took Dad’s chair outside so he could sit when he got tired. He patiently walked him outside, down a set of stairs he never navigated anymore, and they “golfed.”

This is a picture I snuck from my bedroom to send to our family members so they could see (Dad was a HUGE golfer in his prime).

Here’s the thing — I have not called Jim, the stalwart of our Hospice experience as far as volunteers go — since Dad died on July 2.

I kept meaning to, then kept putting it off. And now I can’t find his phone number.

The last day we talked, he was leaving for a trip and I think we both knew in our intuitions that Dad would not be around when he returned from his trip.

But I want him to know:

I remember his incredible kindness.

I remember the mid-day naps I could take, knowing he was here — even the days he literally just sat in our living room because Dad was in bed — but it gave me the space to relax for a few minutes.

I remember how kind he was to the cats, giving them time to sniff him every time he walked in the door.

I remember how, when Dad asked if he had a yellow DNR form too, he said “yes.” (It was the only answer that would have worked, true or not.

I remember you Jim, and how you helped Dad take a “shot” at having a glimpse of normalcy and compassion every time you walked in the door.

(Editor’s note: I am going to make sure Jim receives this …..)

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Ten: Listen

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Editor’s note: I decided to do something different today and present my post via Facebook live (and then transcribe it). Here’s the link if you want to hear/see.

Today’s prompt: Listen

Today we’re talking about the word listen which is an act that touches on every part of our lives.

Several things have come to mind as I’ve thought about how I might address this topic. The thing that most comes to mind is the book that I am listening to right now. It’s called AWOL on the Appalachian trail and it’s one man’s account of his trip as a through hiker up the AT.

He quit his job, was tired of sitting at a desk and had talked with his wife about the two of them doing the trail when they retired, but one day he said “what if I did it now?” and she said “go for it.”

SHE is a saint because they had at the time three young daughters. But I also think it’s a very loving thing to do to recognize when someone needs to achieve a particular goal and say “go for it” — to deal with the financial part of him not working, with him being away for — I don’t know how long — I’m still in the middle of the book. Nine months let’s say — to complete the trail.

But he did it.

One of the things that he commented on was how he chose specifically not to take any kind of iPod — or things to listen to.

He. is. on. the. trial.

He listens to nature, to his fellow hikers, and he talks occasionally about that choice, the fact that he gets passed by people who totally ignore him because they’re lost in their own world — they’re listening to music or a book or whatever and they’re not interacting with him.

Not that that’s a bad thing, but he, I think, seems to appreciate for himself the fact that he is that attuned to nature. It also matters because it enables him to listen to things like .. BEAR .. bears approaching… and wildlife.

There definitely takes a certain amount of situational awareness on the trail that it seems to me that having earbuds in would detract from … and those of us who have been runners know all about situational awareness. And I was terrible about that because I was always listening to music or a book.

But the other things that to me ties into that choice not to always have something in  your ears is…it gives….he’s got nine months to process his life without that kind of flow of someone else’s music or ideas or thoughts into his head.

And there’s a Bible verse that I grabbed five minutes ago (because I wanted to have something in case I couldn’t think of anything to say!). But it really does apply. It’s from Jeremiah. And it says, “Then you will call on me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

People who are on the Appalachian Trail — I don’t know this because I have never set foot on the Appalachian Trail sadly — but I have a very good friend who has spent excessive time there and I have read several books. And I think it’s safe to say there’s a degree of searching that is going on among people who have chosen to do a through hike especially.

This author talks about the fact that people are going through divorces, they’re going through job loss. They’re going through some transition.

OR they just got out of high school or college and they’re searching for what’s next, so choose to do the trail as a way of finding that or getting in touch with what it is they want.

But I think when you choose to listen to someone else’s words or music — which I love — I’m definitely not advocating against that. But I know it’s hard for me to just go out and walk without putting in my earbuds. And I think that maybe there’s something about the process of walking without music that enables that search to happen, that enables your brain to process things differently.

I have frankly — I know there are all kinds of issues with the trail — it’s not just communing with nature. It’s difficult, there are rats (editor’s note: they were mice to be specific!) in the cabins, there are all kinds of things.

But I’m envious of his opportunity to, to be with his head, to be with his heart, and to do that searching.

I think it’s something we could all afford to do.

Writing Challenge