155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Twelve: Write

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!)

(Since it’s a little hard to read, here’s the info about Peninnah from Kenya: “Peninnah was orphaned at a young age and couldn’t afford to continue with her education. To support herself, she got married and later had a child—but she was determined to return to school. After qualifying for a scholarship from the Forum for African Women Educationalists, Peninnah returned to the classroom. Your count is a stand for every girl who defies obstacles to education.”)

Today’s prompt: Write

Yesterday was the International Day of the Girl. Late last night, I finally read an email I had received earlier in the day asking me to participate in the One Campaign’s Count, in which participants each take a number of the millions of girls who don’t have access to education and try to give them a voice. I wasn’t made up and my hair was a mess, but I threw a cap on and did it.

I remembered doing the same thing last year when I was in Washington, D.C. with friends and fellow advocates from Shot at Life. (That was a lot of fun for a variety of reasons — we may have been a bit silly in how we helped each other get the courage up to do this on no notice.)

But mainly, as I wrote down number 16,419 and prepared to speak, I thought about the power of education for girls and young women.

To help them have better opportunities to earn a livable wage.

To help them avoid early marriage, early pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases.

To help them be everything they can possibly be, without someone else telling them what to do, how to do it, or where to exist.

I am hoping to write myself out of the current financial challenges our family is dealing with, having two kids in college and a variety of other issues to overcome.

Whatever the case, just like learning to write will give these girls and women power, I know it is putting me back in touch with my own power to solve the problems in my life I’ve contributed to.

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

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Eight: Truth

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: Truth

I would be a horrible poker player. If I am holding the wrong cards but don’t want my fellow players to know, I am likely to give myself away. I am a horrible liar, white lie, big lie — any lie.

BUT —- being a caregiver of someone with severe short-term memory loss helped me hone my skills in the “white lie” department. Over the three years, I came to see that as a compassionate thing (and a sanity saver for me).

One of my fears as I weigh out whether or not to write a book about my caregiving experience is the concern that I am rapidly losing the details. I wish I had kept a journal. It all seemed so  fraught at the time — emotionally, from a time management perspective, etc.

But white lies, they happened. Before the first bout of cancer, Dad was still determined to get to the bar every day (he had a habit of going at 4 p.m.). A day’s level of “pleasant” was made or broken on whether we went or not. I don’t recall that I ever downright said it was “closed” BUT I definitely said my husband was “still at work” when I knew he was at the bar (he goes there every day after work himself).

He lived for his son to get home (second, I guess to living to go to the bar every day). It wouldn’t do for him to know Wayne was there but I had not taken Dad.

The truth is, we have to be creative sometimes to provide the most loving environment for the people in our lives.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Seven: Hold

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!)

But as for you, return to your God, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God. (Hosea 12:6)

Today’s prompt: Hold

Hosea 12:6, depending on what version you read, says “hold fast to love and justice.” The context involves directing someone who has strayed from God.

It seems to me this is a critical directive for our times. In my morning job, I summarize news stories about legal matters. Given the current political environment, many of the stories involve a judge or legislator who has taken it upon themselves to make a decision about another person based on them being different, or them having some quality/life situation they don’t understand, that they don’t think is “right for our country.”

I think what bothers me about these decisions (sending someone back to a country they left as a baby, where they know no one and have no means to support themselves, for example), is that they do hew to a strict legal line but seem to reflect absolutely zero mercy or love.

Our daily lives need to reflect this too (and that’s really what struck me and what I intended to write about before the paragraph above manifested itself in my thinking).

How am I, in my daily walk, being merciful? In a national time that is characterized by meanness and anger, how do I balance the fact that we have to uphold laws in order for our nation and world to not totally deteriorate yet humans at their core need love and mercy?

I’m not sure if “straying” from a faith we love comes FROM losing sight of love and justice or causes us to become distant from love and justice.

Something tells me being mindful of both love and justice will align us more closely with faith, no matter how or when we strayed.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Six: Story

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: Story

I have a story to tell you. I’m not proud of it, but there’s a moral, for sure.

My husband’s 90-year-old Aunt flew from south Florida to Tallahassee/Thomasville this weekend to attend my niece’s beautiful wedding.

Wayne picked her up at the Tallahassee airport and we delivered her to her hotel in Thomasville. Mistake number one (assumption number one) was that the family members staying at the hotel would transport her to the wedding, since they were all at the same hotel and we would be traveling up from Tallahassee.

As family member after family member filed into the wedding venue, we thought “hmm…guess Aunt Mary will be with the next family member.”

Eventually, we realized that we were out of family members and there was no Aunt Mary to be found.

That is because she was (wait for it) still in the lobby at the hotel waiting for a ride.

After considerable scrambling around and the very generous services of a family friend who was not at the wedding, she was delivered to the wedding venue ….. just as the bride and groom walked down the aisle for the first time as husband and wife.

This is not a story I am proud of …. not our lack of communication …. not our inability to somehow teleport her there in time to see the nuptials she had gone to considerable expense to see. It was a “family fail” in every way.

There’s no epilogue — just maybe a new book to be written: How to get “married” with making sure “Mary” is merry (not to mention actually there….)

The moral is not novel or earthshattering, but after our experience it bears repeating: never assume.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Four: Hope

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: HOPE

It seems presumptuous to write about hope (and my struggle to muster it) in the face of the true tragedy of this week, as people are still reeling from the situation in Las Vegas. I don’t minimize their grief at all. (Side note: the off-duty police officer that was killed wrote a book about being a police officer — I have that on my list and think it should be on the lists of many readers as a show of support.)

There was a consultant who worked with our project at Healthy Kids who often said “hope is not a strategy.” I know he meant that in the business world you have to have specific plans and measurable goals.

That’s where I’m struggling personally — in the “specific plans and measurable goals” category.

With two kids in college and way too much house, and being almost 3.5 years out from leaving my full-time job, the financial puzzle is …… puzzling.

I have chosen to (had to?) depend on help from my family more than I would, um, “hope.” I keep thinking, “if I could squeeze in one more project, one more gig, or overturn the whole current situation, this could be solved.”

It is a time when it would be tempting to wallow.

Nevertheless, I have reason to hope. Now it’s time to put feet, a brain, and my heart into surrounding that hope with a plan.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Three: CREATE

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: CREATE

Apparently there is something deep (very deep) in our brains that leads us to create, even when many  of our other senses are turned off/disabled.

Our hospice music therapist, Maurisa (sp?), sat down with her guitar and her talent in February, and sang to/with my father-in-law (if you listen VERY closely, you can hear him chiming in here).

This is a man who, in his entire lifetime when he was fully able, did not to my knowledge spontaneously sing. I sat through many masses with him and I’m sure he sang “along,” but he was not the kind of guy to break out in song. Not the kind of guy to be demonstrative.Creating isn’t always a huge masterpiece hung on the wall to be admired by throngs of people.

Sometimes, it is born of one person (in this case, the music therapist) who takes the time to learn how to reach deeper, to take the risk that another person may or may not sing along.

It takes someone compassionate enough to create a space and a moment of joy for a person who others have decided doesn’t want (or isn’t able) to chime in anymore.

The act of creating can surprise you.

Music reaches something very far back in the brain, clearly.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day One: WORSHIP

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: WORSHIP

I have been thinking ahead to today’s prompt for the week or so that I knew it was the day one prompt for this challenge.

Mainly, I will admit I was looking ahead to it because I was going to force myself to stop making excuses to worship.

I had an idea of going to 8 am services at Holy Comforter (my home church) this morning, but the 3 am bedtime after last nights’ fun wedding festivities put a crimp into that plan.

Instead, I went to the 5:30 service at St. John’s, another Episcopal church I attend sometimes.

It was important to me to go to a HOUSE of worship, because I have been letting attendance slip to a low place on my Sunday priority lists, below blogging, my freelance worklife (some of which involves work on Sundays), and many other things.

I know people say you can “have a worshipful experience in nature,” and I agree.

However, there is something powerful about forcing yourself to prepare. Forcing yourself to SIT. Forcing yourself to be with other believers and taking part in the community. Mother Abi’s message was about “Crockpot Christians.” I can’t summarize in one five minute blog post, but essentially, the point was that taking ordinary ingredients, and applying time along with intention can turn those ordinary ingredients into the divine.

I needed the reminder to see the divine in the ordinary, to remember to trust, to recognize in the areas of my life that seem totally unrelated to one another that there is a plan.

Worship is a way of letting those ordinary ingredients coalesce into something divine. For my approach to spirituality, worship is a way to blend all the areas of my life that occurred that week, let them simmer, and taste the beautiful outcome.

Writing Challenge