Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Repairers of the Breach

We are 11 days into 2017 and I'm just now settling on my claim for the New Year. To be honest, I've spent the past week and a half just trying to catch up after the holidays. 2016 was such a looooong, disturbing year and I've needed a few extra days to "get over it."

So, here we are. 2017! I'm happy to have the past year behind me. It was so full of loss and heartbreak that  touched EVERYONE! Bowie seemed to be the catalyst, dying on this day one year ago and setting off 2016's year-long celebrity massacre.

I experienced loss in my personal life as well. My dearest aunt died quite suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving me and my family in shock. It was a tough blow to lose the woman who had been more than an aunt to me when I was a child. She had been a wish-giver, a secret play-mate and a source of love and laughter that I needed in those days.

On the day of my aunt's funeral I also said goodbye to my dear neighbor to whom I had grown very close, and who had become a motherly figure and mentor for me. Unable to live alone anymore. she moved hundreds of miles away to live with her daughter.

Just before Christmas I lost my former Sunday School teacher, fiercest prayer warrior and sweet confidant. She was a great lady who prayed me through my teenage years and taught me by example about how to live a godly life.

Now, as I'm a week and a half outside of that painful year, I have decided that 2017 is going to be the year of Redemption and Restoration. It's not really as serious and solemn as it sounds. If last year was a year of loss, this is the year that I will reclaim and restore what I can. Many things have already been set into motion and I eagerly await the chance to share them.
Return to Oz?

I will begin with myself. I want to restore my body and reclaim my long-dormant creativity. I want to exercise my body and mind. I miss the person I once was, full of energy and imagination. I will find her and reclaim her. I watched a video this morning about a man who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. In the midst of his pain and suffering, he began working on an old church, repainting and restoring it. Over the three years he worked on it, his body healed. His cancer went into remission. The restoration of the church brought restoration to his body and soul.

I'm tired of sitting around wishing I could do this or that. I want to reclaim my life and live it to the fullest. I have let my personal identity and dreams once again get buried beneath the day-to-day stuff. Responsibilities are important, but I have sacrificed a lot of who I am to things that won't really matter tomorrow. Sometimes I even use those responsibilities as an excuse and a place to hide, telling myself, "I can't write right now, I have to fold the towels."

No one will remember me for how neatly my towels were folded. If I want to make a difference in the world (and I certainly do) I need to stop hiding behind my "real job" and get out there and do things that matter. Not just for myself, but for society. I want to use my Art and creativity in ways that make things better. The world is hurting, and if I can create one moment of beauty out there somewhere, I will count myself a success.

So here's to 2017. Here's to hoping for a restoration of things lost, a healing of wounds and a reclaiming of peace. We've got a lot of work to do.
Isaiah 58:12

Monday, December 26, 2016

Caveman Facebook

I've been fascinated by cave paintings since I studied Lascaux in high school Art History. There's been a lot of speculation on what purpose the cave paintings served since the site was discovered in 1940. Were they drawn out plans? Storytelling? Graffiti? Art for Art's sake?

Perhaps they were the earliest form of social media.

A Prehistoric Facebook with...

 The earliest example of humble-bragging:
  Og kill 3 deer. Family feast. #blessed

The response from friends:
Ak-Ak and 57 others like this

Duk and Unga have sent you friend requests

Team rivalries: 
Og's team better than Ngu's team #nguteamhateweek

Life events:

Baby Oonga 6lbs 7oz
Vacation pics:
Spring Break 3156 BC

Vague Status Updates:


And even the occasional NSFW:

Maybe social media is not a new idea at all!

You are now friends with MyspaceTom.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

The 2016 Presidential Election is over and done. A lot of people are happy with the outcome. A lot of people are unhappy with the outcome. VERY unhappy.

So what happens now? 

I will tell you, but first let me make it very clear that my beliefs in this matter have very little to do with my own political opinions. I voted, as is my civic duty, even though I felt neither of the candidates were particularly ideal for the job of running the United States. Still, people have fought and died for my right to vote, so I went to the polls and made a choice. 

Now, no matter what my personal thoughts on the outcome, one thing remains true: It's time to pick up and prayerfully move on, accepting what has come to pass as the Will of the Almighty and the choice of the American people. 

As voting is our civic duty, supporting and respecting our elected officials is our Christian duty. 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

God's word commands us to pray for, respect and obey our leaders. I haven't always agreed with those in positions of authority, and that's ok. We are fortunate enough to live in a country where we can complain, speak out and peacefully protest against our leadership without fear of punishment. However, often our most powerful form of protest is a prayer that those in authority make godly decisions. 

When it comes right down to it, God is in control. Anyone in power is in that position because God allowed it. Sometimes He allows it for our good, but sometimes He allows it in order to teach us a lesson and bring us back to Him. God's own chosen people suffered under many evil kings because of their disobedience. 

So, is Donald Trump going to lead us back to God or down a path of destruction because of our falling away? Only time will tell. Until then, we must prayerfully move ahead and try to heal up the hurts of those around us. People are scared and angry, and rather that acting like ugly football fans who taunt the losing team, we need to show compassion and kindness to those who feel let down and betrayed. Now is not the time to be stirring up trouble and adding further division to an already severely divided nation. We should aim for unity through Christian love and kindness. 

God is the answer to our troubles, not any politician. Donald Trump cannot save our nation. Hillary Clinton can't either. However, we CAN find true salvation when we come together and turn our hearts back to Jesus Christ. 

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Leave the Gun, Take the Euphonium

*As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a...

**Band Mom.

You thought I was going to say gangster, right? Well, we do carry a lot of large black cases, but they usually contain instruments and not machine guns. Usually.

I think it started back in high school when I visited the concession stand during half-time and saw all the band parents busily buzzing around filling orders and taking money. They laughed and chatted and seemed to be having a great time even though they were manning the windows at a furious pace. There was a sense of community and camaraderie about them that was very appealing.

Fast-forward about 15 years to the day my older son came home from 6th grade and announced he was in Band class. He had never been musically inclined, so I didn't think much of it at the time.

Fast-forward 5 more years and not only is he an accomplished trumpet player, but he's also Brass Captain and Band Captain.

I am fully immersed in my role as Band Mom and I have the t-shirts to prove it.
I'm not proud or anything...

As an experienced Band Mom, I have learned a lot throughout the years and I feel it is my duty to inform those new to the ranks. There are things that will always be true no matter where you live or how big or small your band may be. 

1. You are everyone's mom.
     From the moment the music store rep hands you that big black case and says, "Congratulations, it's a saxophone," you are no longer just Johnny or Suzie's mom. You are every band student's mom. This goes double if you are a Band Booster and triple if you are a Band Booster officer. You will not only see to the needs of your child, but every kid in the bus or on the field. You will find yourself holding someone's piccolo or flag or flaming baton while they run to the restroom. You will bring an extra pair of long, black socks because someone always forgets theirs. You will walk the stands asking if anyone needs water. And when your child comes to you and asks you to spot a friend some cash for lunch because he or she doesn't have enough, you'll do it without a second thought. Because these are your kids and that's what moms do. Besides, you know that kid can't possibly lug that tuba around the field on an empty stomach.

2. You will never have another free Saturday.
     Forget sleeping in on the weekend if you are a Band Mom. At least through marching season. From September until Christmas break, Saturdays will be filled with competitions, sectionals, Band Days, and parades. Just mark Saturdays off your schedule. Tell your friends in advance that you cannot make it to weddings, birthday parties, reunions, etc. because you'll be tagging along after your child with a bag full of safety pins, fresh socks and water bottles.
"Sorry I can't help you move. My kid is marching in the Sweet Potato Parade."

3. You will have to be prepared for any weather condition on competition days.
     It doesn't matter if the weather man said it's going to be clear and sunny. At the competition site it will be one of three things: blazing hot, freezing cold or pouring rain. Here in the South, it's likely to be all three in one day. On competition days it's highly advisable to bring sunscreen, a rain jacket and a fur-lined parka because, as Forrest Gump said, "You never know what you're gonna get." There will never be a nice, sunny clear day for Band Competition. The Band gods will not allow it. It's part of the testament of the instrumentalists to be able to march on foot-searing AstroTurf, slog through ankle deep mud, or crunch over frozen tundra. And you as a Band Mom will sit on bum-scorching or tush-freezing or seat-soaking bleachers to watch all of this take place.

4. You will learn to refrain from shouting at all the people talking through the half-time show.
     It never fails that some former football star will be seated near you and will spend all of half-time recounting his glory days with the team. It doesn't matter that your kid is totally rocking his trumpet solo. Jimbo simply has to loudly regale everyone in the stands with the story of his game-winning Pick 6 or of how the team was totally cheated out of the state championship win by crooked game officials. You may be tempted to hurl a music stand at him, but don't do that. It's highly frowned upon. And yelling at him to shut his pie-hole probably won't help either. 
"I've had to watch your kid roll all over the ground for almost two hours. You can watch mine for 30 seconds!!!"

Instead of getting into an ugly confrontation, just do your best to ignore the idiot who peaked in high school. Take comfort in knowing that competition day is coming and for the most part, other Band Moms are gracious in regards to paying attention and giving respect to whoever is on the field. You can bask in the glow of your child's sweet solo while the sun scorches the hair off your head, your nose freezes off, you get soaked through to your bones, or all three. 

5. You wouldn't change a thing.
     When those Band babies take the field and horns are blaring and flags are flying and batons are twirling, it becomes clear that it's all worth it. Every moment. Every expense. Every long drive to this game or that parade. The smiles under those plumed hats are worth it. They know the value of what they are doing. They're learning more than how to play instruments. They are learning how to work and live together and cooperate on a large scale. And they know they are much more than Band members. Even more than friends. They are family. And as Michael Corleone's mother said, "...You can never lose your family."

*One of the first lines from the movie Goodfellas, in case you were wondering.
**I use the term Band Mom, but this could be Band Dad, Band Grandparent, Step-parent, etc. They're all equally important!

Friday, May 06, 2016

Burning the Bridge

I am a people-pleaser. Always have been. I want to make people happy and I absolutely hate to feel as if I have disappointed someone. While this is not really a bad thing, at times it has left me exhausted and frustrated. There is no pleasing everyone. Someone is going to be disappointed no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Yet, I still try very hard.

Unfortunately there are people in this world who feed off people-pleasers. They see them as an easy energy source. They take and use and drain and know that they will not be told no because their unassuming host is "too nice." 

My friends, there comes a time when we have to put a stop to such behavior, no matter who it is from. Being kind is a good thing, a godly thing. But being a doormat is not. We are of no use to anyone if we constantly have our energy and emotions drained by people who don't give anything in return and don't care. When you come to the realization that you are in this type of situation there is only one thing to do; burn that bridge and walk away.

It's a difficult thing to do, especially if the bridge you must burn is one you carefully built all by yourself. Perhaps you reached out to someone and over time developed a relationship with them. You gave them your time and energy and were happy to do so. However, the other person never met you half-way. You labored over your bridge only to have it met with utter disregard and ingratitude. And even worse, your hard work is seen as something they deserved, rather than the labor of love that is truly was. 

How do you put a match to something you have so diligently and lovingly put together? It's painful, heart-wrenching, but it must be done sometimes in order to move on. When the stress of holding a friendship together all on your own is too much, it becomes necessary to let it go. When a relationship brings more worry and stress than joy, it's time to carefully examine the nature of it. Are you the one doing all the caring? Are you getting buried under the weight of the other person's demands? Are your feelings being consistently disregarded?

If the answer is yes, burn the bridge and don't look back. Don't do it out of spite or revenge, but do it out of love and respect for yourself. You deserve to have your feelings considered, your thoughts appreciated, your efforts regarded with gratitude. 

As people-pleasers, we don't do anything for applause or recognition. We do it because making other people happy makes us happy. But for some people, your efforts will never be enough. They will continue to use you as long as you allow it. They will take and take and take until you are empty. 

If you do decide to burn the bridge, be prepared for a tirade on how selfish you are. You will be accused of being unfair and of "not being who you used to be." Don't take it to heart. 
If there are not accusations, there may be an apology of sorts. Tread carefully. Users know how to get to our soft hearts with tears and promises to change and be better. They say the right things and even may show a momentary display of gratitude. However, if the pattern holds true, once they're back in your good graces their original behavior will resurface and the cycle will start over.

Burn the bridge. Torch your precious handiwork and use the light of the flames to lead you to a better path. You tried. You made a beautiful thing. It led nowhere, so now it's a bonfire. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm not totally disillusioned. I think there are still a lot of wonderful, appreciative people out there. I believe in true love and friendship. I have lots of loyal, loving people in my life. Having those people makes it easier to give myself permission to walk away from those who are not loyal and loving. I will continue to give of myself and try to make the world a brighter, happier place, but I will not allow myself to be drained dry. 

I have no anger or malice toward anyone. I wish only the best to all the people I have known and loved. But I and every other people-pleaser must learn to set boundaries. Not limits on our love and devotion, but on how far we are willing to allow ourselves to be pushed. It's okay to say no. It's okay to speak up and say, "I will not allow you to treat me with disrespect." If they cannot comply, torch that bridge. Don't linger over the flames and don't let a single tear douse it. Toss a match over your shoulder and walk away. 

It's okay. You're not a bad person. Repeat that to yourself. I am not a bad person. 
But you are a person and you deserve more than toxic relationships that leave you depleted. There are good relationships out there. Keep looking. Build more bridges, but don't be afraid to burn those too if necessary. You'll know the right ones. In those, you'll be met halfway by a friendly smile and a voice that says, "Hey, nice bridge!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kinda Makes Me Want to Play "Free Bird"

Last week I did something drastic, something daring, something a little crazy. I deleted almost every one of my Facebook contacts. I deleted my best girlfriend. I deleted my pastor. I deleted everyone except my husband, my sister, and my mom.

Why? Because I was a Facebook junkie and I seriously needed help. This wasn't some spur-of-the-moment decision either. I wasn't that one person who gets mad because not enough people wished him/her a happy birthday so they "leave Facebook" in a fit of rage only to show back up a few days later with more drama. I have been systematically whittling down my Facebook activity for months. At first I used an app designed to give you more control over what content you see in your timeline. I had also "unfollowed" a large number of people who were clogging up my news feed. Last Tuesday I decided to go full-on Cyberman and delete almost everyone. I don't regret it at all.
"I have not spoken to you since 10th grade. You will be deleted."

I know what you're thinking. Why didn't I just deactivate my Facebook page? Because although that is an option, technically the page doesn't go anywhere. It's always there and I'm always connected to all those people. Facebook is like the "Hotel California" of cyberspace. "You can check out (log out) any time you like, but you can never leave..."

No, if I wanted to be free from endless scrolling, obligatory birthday wishes and invites to try essential oils, weight-loss shakes or monogrammed knapsacks, I had to purge my friends list. In truth, very few of those people were actual friends. Most were casual acquaintances, people I knew in middle school, people I had performed with in shows, etc. But even my true, close friends had to go. I didn't want the temptation.

So how has it been? In a word, unbelievable. I kind of wish I had done it sooner. I no longer spend an hour every morning scrolling through and looking for something to "like."  I see only the few pages I follow, some news and weather sites, some inspirational pages, and of course, all my soccer stuff.
"Don't worry, man. We're safe."

Since I had deleted all my contacts, I took things even further and... *gulp!* I uninstalled Facebook on my phone. I left Messenger so I can still get instant messages, but Facebook is no longer on my phone at all. That's crazy since I pretty much only got a smart phone so I could get on Facebook from anywhere. But here's the deal, I don't miss it! I went out last weekend and had no need to "check in" at the restaurant, or post a photo of my meal to my Facebook page, or scroll through my news feed instead of enjoying my surroundings. My phone stayed in my purse unless I needed to check the time. 

A week in, this is been a mostly positive experience. I sent out a lot of personal messages prior to the purge to let my friends know what was going on. Most of them were very supportive. Of course, a few just did not understand and one even accused me of being selfish and unfair (another good reason to ditch.) However, I'm letting that roll off. I need more in my life than a bunch of contacts. I want real friends and a life that I am fully invested in. I don't want a series of picture-perfect posts. I want to enjoy every day and every moment to the fullest. 

You know it's bad when Jesus face-palms you.

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, I do not think I'm better than anyone else, nor do I think Facebook is the problem. Facebook, like gelato, sunbathing, and Celine Dion, is fine in moderation. However, when you are chained to your electronic device in order to stay connected to social media, it becomes a problem. I had a problem. I was all media and no social. Unfortunately, my friends list was the collateral damage in this detox process, but I think all my former contacts will be just fine without my constant stream of owl pictures, Josh Groban videos and soccer updates. Besides, that's one less obligatory birthday wish they have to send out.

"I spent two whole minutes looking for the perfect e-card!"

Friday, January 15, 2016

The One About David Bowie

I have hesitated to post a blog about David Bowie for a number of reasons:

Reason #1- I was afraid of shorting out my keyboard with my blubbering.

Reason #2- I needed to process the reality of his loss.

Reason #3- I didn't want to post a hastily written "tribute" that said little of why I was and still am inspired by him.

Several days have passed now since he took his place among the stars and I feel I can at last write about him and his incredible influence on me.


I suppose I always knew who he was. At least, I could always identify him: weird, skinny guy, sometimes made-up, sometimes not, maybe bisexual, possibly an alien... David Bowie. He was just kind of there somewhere on the edges of my consciousness, inhabiting a space I didn't often visit. Then, for some reason, I began to see him everywhere. He was online, in odd references, on television, even on an episode of Spongebob Squarepants (It's Atlantis Squarepantis, btw.)

Lord Royal Highness has two different colored eyes.

I've come to recognize this phenomenon as an important clue to something significant. It often happens when I'm on the brink of some sort of personal discovery, breakthrough or transition.  I decided to give that sparkly, strange man a chance and see what he was all about. I found myself utterly intrigued, but it took a while longer to figure out why. Oh sure, he was pretty to look at and he was great to watch and listen to, but there was one thing that stood out above all that for me. He seemed absolutely fearless.

Maybe fearless was all part of the act, but from what I've read and seen and listened to, I get a sense that Bowie did what he did without explanation or apology. He never seemed too hung up on the critics. He wrote and sang and shocked and amazed in his strange clothes and wild antics, putting himself out there, not for anyone's approval, but because that was what he did. 

When I "discovered" David Bowie, I was in a period of upheaval and transition. For many years before that time I had held back from artistic expression out of fear: fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of rejection, etc. I had not put myself out there in order to spare myself the pain of disappointment. I saw in Bowie a personal bravery that I wanted to claim. I wasn't ready for balloon pants or sequined platform boots, but I was ready to let go of my fear and put my work, myself, my heart on the line. And best of all, I wanted to do it for ME. I heard a wonderful quote from him in an interview that perfectly summed up what I wanted to accomplish:

"...An audience's appreciation is only going to be periodic at the best of times; you fall in and out of favor continually. I don't think it should be something one should be looking for. I think you should turn 'round at the end of the day and say "I really liked that piece of work," or "That piece of work sucked." Not, "Was that popular or wasn't it popular?'"

~David Bowie~
1988 Interview with Joe Smith

I decided to stop worrying about what everyone else thought of me and my work and just do what I do and enjoy it. That time opened up into one of the most energetic and creatively productive times in my life so far. I wrote more than I had written in years. I sang, I sketched, I painted, I played. It was incredibly fulfilling and I felt a deep sense of gratitude toward David Bowie for sparking it.

Last Friday, Bowie's 69th birthday, my husband and I went out for dinner and rambling downtown. We found ourselves on a comfy leather couch in front of a big screen television and one of the music channels was playing the footage from the 1973 Odeon Concert (the Retirement Gig.) We sat and watched and marveled at the spectacle that was David Bowie. I'm so glad now that we shared that time; that we were able to appreciate him while he was alive. By Monday, he was gone.

I'm still coming to grips with the reality that he has departed forever, but I am so grateful to have access to the enormous body of work he left behind. He was a creative genius, a brilliant performer, and an innovative thinker who was way ahead of his time in many ways. He'll never be forgotten. 

"It's only forever..."