DEEP (FMF31 2019 Day 11)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: DEEP

There are so many “commemorative days” lately. Apple pie day, selfie day, best friends day … the list is endless.

Today is #DayOfTheGirl and #NationalComingOutDay. It’s probably many other “special” days as well, but these two are on my personal and professional radar screen at a prominent place.

I posted a picture taken in 2011 when my daughter, Tenley, and I went to Guatemala with Unbound (with was Christian Foundation for Children and Aging at the time). We first met Estela there. She’s a girl (a young woman now all these years later) who we sponsor. Our monthly contribution helps her large family with expenses related to food, clothing, education — whatever they need in a country where work and sustenance are inconsistent.

Our relationship with Estela is proof that you can deeply love someone you’ve only met once (and we would love her if we had only ever seen a picture — it is a true blessing that we got to meet her and her family in person.

For National Coming Out Day, I’m reading account after account among my friends about the deep self-evaluation they did before deciding to talk with their friends and family about being gay. (Or about the deep self-evaluation they’re still doing as they try to decide what to do.) I feel strongly about supporting these people in their walk. If life has taught me anything, it is that their orientation is not about me.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

SCARED (FMF31 2019 Day 10)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: SCARED

How often was Sandeep Dhaliwal scared during his service as a deputy with Houston’s Sheriff’s Department?

Dhaliwal was killed in the line of duty last month, shot in the back.

He joined the department after there had been tension between the Sikh community in Houston and law enforcement. A speaker came to their place of worship and essentially said, “the best way to change things is from the inside.”

Dhaliwal left behind a career as a truck driver and, I think, a pizza store owner, to answer what he felt was his call: to change things from the inside.

I also heard that at first he didn’t wear his turban or beard. When the rules were changed that made it possible, his superior officer said he didn’t have to do it — that it would single him out.

But Dhaliwal wanted the Sikh community to know they had a friend in law enforcement.

Everything I read and watched reflected what a great man he was — helpful to his community and his peers, generous, patient. His sister talks more about him here:

I try to imagine what it must be like to be a law enforcement officer these days, even without the added burden of being a trailblazer for an entire group of people. I don’t imagine Houston is the easiest place to look so different.

I know I would be scared every. single. day.

Whatever Sandeep Dhaliwal felt, he served us all. I am grateful for his example.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

JOIN (FMF31 2019 Day 9)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: JOIN

I am a joiner. This has become more and more apparent the older I have gotten.

I know this may sound contradictory, since I recharge best by being alone, but having an affiliation with a group matters deeply to me.

I realize, now that I work full-time for one place again (instead of freelancing for multiple places at once), that my psyche is so much more geared toward belonging.

That’s not to say that the places where I freelanced (including the place where I now work full-time) went out of their way to alienate me. Not at all.

But as a freelancer, there is always, by nature of the arrangement, a sense of being on the outside looking in.

I kind of joke around with my current employer that the main reason I wanted to be full-time was so I could hear what was going on in the “random” channel on Slack. (That’s where people chat about whatever they want to talk about (within reason) rather than work topics). As a freelancer, you were limited to the “general” channel. OH THE FOMO. (But I am kidding — I wanted to work full-time because I love the work we do and needed the income — by the time the full-time opening was available, I no longer was obligated to deal with my father-in-law’s needs as he had passed away, so I could turn myself to working more hours.)

The act of joining was anything but random for me.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

GATHER (FMF31 2019 Day 8)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: GATHER

This word brings up memories of hymns from my childhood.

Shall we gather at the river?

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing…

I have been particularly remiss in the “gathering” part of my faith walk lately.

While I do “get” the fact that it can be worshipful to be alone at a sunrise, communing with your higher power or on a mountaintop (OK, I don’t personally KNOW about the mountaintop part) reveling in the majesty of nature, I also believe it’s important to gather with others to worship.

I’ve always said worship is the one hour out of my week that I take to make myself sit down and think about others, while reflecting on how I am living out my faith as I see it.

I often hear people say (with good reason) “but organized religion has gotten so hypocritical.” And it’s true. No congregation I am going to walk into will be populated by people who demonstrate their beliefs flawlessly 100% of the time. Likewise, I present myself to them (and God) just as I am (I know — another hymn reference ha ha), willing to see how I could have behaved differently and learn how to be better to my fellow human beings in the week ahead.

I used to sit in the back of the church, there “just for the worship.” Once I had kids, by nature of children being more gregarious than I am, I had to mix with people when I gathered.

Turns out maybe God had something in mind when he gave me two outgoing children.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

SAME (FMF31 2019 Day 7)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: SAME

I know this sounds ticky, but … where have all the words gone?

I have gotten into this habit, so I am pointing the finger at myself as much as anyone else, but we are definitely embracing word shortcuts more than ever.

Maybe it’s social media; maybe we’re just all busy. Maybe I should practice what I preach and remind myself that “language evolves.”

When I agree with someone else, whether it is in writing a response on Facebook or chatting in person, I am just as likely to say “SAME” as I am to say, “I agree with you” or “I feel the same way.”

Hashtags strike me this way also. I know we only have a limited amount of characters to play with on Twitter (it used to be 140 in the old days; now it’s 280). We may tweet, “I ran 4 miles today. #Exhausted” when we mean, “I ran 4 miles today. I am exhausted now and plan to eat pancakes.”

Hashtags do away with all kinds of parts of speech. Goodbye subject, verb, conjunctions and more. #Exhausted.

Everyone gets the point (usually), and time is saved along with keystrokes.

But the use of hashtags and the omission of everything but the most sparse expressions leave me yearning for a sentence diagram or two.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

NOTICE (FMF31 2019 Day 6)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: NOTICE

My daughter is 23. I still think frequently about a daycare I went to when I was trying to decide on childcare options for her.

Each time one of the workers would step away from her class (to go to the restroom, attend to some issue, or whatever), she would look at one of her fellow teachers and say, “notice them for me.” (It was sort of an open layout, so her students were in the line of sight of the other teacher.)

This occurred several times during a relatively short visit.

I know “notice them” was really just a particular way this teacher had of asking her fellow teachers to take over the responsibility for making sure her kids were safe when she walked away, but the word lover in me bristled.

There are times in our lives when we “notice” something that we should do so much more. We should speak up. We should ask what is happening. We should see past the images, sounds and general emotion of the space to find out if there is a bigger issue.

We should act.

There’s a video used in a lot of trainings that depicts kids playing basketball. When played again, the trainer points out the gorilla that walked through the scene, that inevitably very few first-time watchers saw.

The point is to be observant, to not be distracted by a flurry of activity, to attune ourselves to seeing more.

If we do that, we may notice more areas where we can help a fellow human or learn something more about ourselves.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

OTHER (FMF31 2019 Day 5)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: OTHER

Oh the places volunteering to write (and loving to write) will take you.

I have always loved live theater. All of it. Always. I wasn’t, however, a traditional “theater kid.” I don’t have much acting experience besides being Rudolph in a high school Christmas play, taking a few months’ worth of acting lessons from the wonderful Naomi Rose-Mock and being an extra in FSU Film Productions.

Yet, when Broadway World was looking for Tallahassee reviewers, I volunteered. Eventually, I got on the list for being a community reviewer for the Tallahassee Democrat when their structure changed to allow a group of community reviewers rather than a staff reviewer.

That’s what found me at a rehearsal of a local production of “Godspell,” preparing to write a review for the Democrat.

I watched the scene based on Matthew 38:39: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

I have now seen that part of the play twice (because I went back as a paying audience member to see the production in its final form).

Is it bad that I struggled to comprehend this play? (I mean, as a reviewer yes it is!) Something like “turn the other cheek” is such a basic part of the faith upbringing I grew up with, but having it occur right smack in the middle of a melange of beatitudes, parables, soft shoe dance and other theatrical activity was somehow disorienting.

Maybe that’s how it is most like life, though. The opportunities when we are called upon to turn the other cheek don’t come with advance notice (“heads up — you’re going to be confronted and want to fight back”).

Rather, these moments in our lives require us to have a plan in advance for how we will deal with provocation. We can’t expect to be our best if we haven’t mentally prepared and practiced.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

LISTEN (FMF31 2019 Day 4)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: LISTEN

“Listen, you need to think about that decision really hard.”

There’s a figure of speech where we use “listen” in that way. It’s the first word of the sentence, a direction, a command. It’s the kind of thing we say when we are positive the other person should see things our way.

Consider a situation after a public hazard caused an accident.

“Listen, that intersection has been a problem for years. The police department documented a 50% higher rate of accidents there. Obviously there would be a fatality sooner or later.”

This is a situation where a word has evolved to mean something else than is intended (in my opinion). We want the person’s attention. While we do want them to listen, it’s more for informational purposes (and to reinforce the fact that we are right).

True listening, at least the way I see it, is an act that requires discipline, compassion and patience.

Also, in this world of electronic communication, that discipline, compassion and patience need to extend to our screens and keyboards.

Truly taking the time to let someone lay out their concerns and challenges and fears is a rare gift we should give one another more often. As I learned in years of telephone counseling, it also requires opening our mouths at points in the conversation to help things along by asking open-ended questions that will elicit more than a “yes” or “no.”

Listen, being available for someone else is as good for us as it is for them.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

PROBLEM (FMF31 2019 Day 3)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: PROBLEM

I believe in keeping it real, so here’s the problem I’m facing, community. It’s a problem that falls squarely on my shoulders (and my spouse’s, I guess).

Despite promising myself I wouldn’t wait until the last minute, I have, indeed, waited until (almost) the last minute to do my 2018 taxes. I sent in the six-month extension form on April 15, promising myself I would be proactive (as proactive as you can be when you’re asking for an extension) and not live through an entire summer with the prospect of getting this done dogging me.

Not to get too far into the personal weeds, but I know I am going to owe (again). Until I got my full-time job (which I love!) in September 2018, I had freelanced ever since leaving my long-time job at Healthy Kids back in May 2014. Never once in that whole period did I sufficiently pay my self-employment taxes. Many of those years, I took premature withdrawals from my 401(K) because of the nature of our lives (my lesser income due to freelancing, two kids in college, life), which made the problem worse.

I dread everything about it. Finding out what I owe (again). Negotiating with the IRS to amend my installment agreement (again).

This situation flies in the face of my favorite mantra, “Every problem has a solution.”

The solution, of course, would have been to lock myself in a room on April 16 and do it. Just do it.

I’m reminding myself, though, that I’m clawing myself out of the situation. Having a full-time job has made me pay Uncle Sam more consistently. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

A few hours between now and October 15 to prepare my taxes, a phone call or two then life will move on. The problem will be in my rearview mirror.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

GIFT (FMF31 2019 Day 2)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: GIFT

I *love* giving gifts. I love pretty much everything about the process. Picking just the right thing, trying to get the wrapping right (I’ll never be a professional wrapper), the anticipation of presenting the item to the recipient.

There are other types of gifts we can give that don’t require fancy bows, glossy paper, or finding the tape (why is it always missing when we need it anyway?)

I’m a bit at max capacity for new things to take on. Between work, my blogging/social media life, volunteer obligations, some help my dad needs and other obligations, my free hours are few and far between.

When an acquaintance asked me to look at some of their writing recently, I rather immediately (internally) went into “how on earth can I do one more thing?” mode. I pictured reams of manuscript such as the ones proofreading clients give me when they turn their books over to me.

I pictured all the social media advice floating around in PR circles that generally have the theme “letting someone pick your brain costs you money because it’s time you could be making money — gently tell them no.”

I stopped catastrophizing for one flat second and asked my friend if it was 400 pages or 400 words?


I can do this. So many people have given me the gift of their time to provide (unpaid) feedback on my writing.

It’s my turn. And I don’t need to find the tape to give this gift.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes