Friday, June 29, 2018

Why Don't You Sit A Spell and Talk?

A few days ago, I, along with my aunts and uncle and a couple of cousins, sat on a front porch and visited for a few hours. It wasn’t any front porch- it was my aunt’s and, also the home of my Great-Grandmother and Grandfather Hines.

From the road the house looks very similar to the memories I have of it as a child, with huge oak trees on both sides of the drive offering a shady break from the summer sun. Inside the home, my aunt has worked very hard to make the house her own. Her sweat and effort would impress the producers of ‘This Old House’ with everything from replacing the wiring to tiling the shower and floors. Her ability to do almost anything she sets her mind to has always inspired and impressed me.

After touring the finished product and enjoying a piece of homemade cake, we all went outside to sit a spell, as our ancestors might have said. I couldn’t help but think how the conversations of our predecessors would have been vastly different than ours. I’m sure they would have gathered there and talked of things like the weather with speculations of how long the summer showers might continue and their effect on their crops growing in the fields (they didn’t have weather radar and forecasters). They would have at times talked about the great wars and their concern for those fighting. They may have even shared about the struggles of living through the depression- All things we would never fully understand.

Yet, there are some things that both groups shared such as: we all spoke of family and neighbors, the birth of children, the health of the elderly, and upcoming marriages. It is that common ground that continues to connect the future generations with the past. It is the reason why it is important to stop and take a few hours to talk with those older than you. When I think back to those who have gone on before me, I never regret times taken to really listen to them. What I regret are the times that I missed because I was too busy and didn’t dare stop and sit a spell.

As I get older, I am trying to remember the importance of connecting and listening. One thing I have learned is that each day rolls into another and before long that thing that you have been meaning to do, like talk to grandma, goes away until one day you can’t; so take some time, pick up your phone or make time to visit with someone you love today. I wish I could talk to mine today!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Universal Issue- Women's Body Image Made Real

I’ve always known that some things are universal and experienced by all people, like love, loss, and happiness. I guess I just didn’t realize that a struggle I have dealt with my whole life affects women the world over. I can’t remember a time, after the age of ten, that I didn’t feel as if I had at least ten pounds that I needed to lose in-order-to look my best.

I guess the most dangerous time came at the end of my seventh-grade year when I stared at my seventy-seven-pound body and still saw inches that needed to come off. Anorexia had convinced my mind that I could not exercise enough or eat almost anything. Even though I was divinely healed from anorexia through a photograph, a story for another day, one thing remained. I always see myself needing to lose a few pounds, no manner how fit or thin I am.

I think we all have the illusion that we are alone in our struggles. That is what makes them so difficult to break free from. The silence of our minds tells us to hide in shame when the truth is that if we dared to share, we would find the common ground that would encourage us to overcome.

Last Wednesday, I was able to do something I have always wanted to do- see the Grand Canyon. As we explored the expansiveness of this natural wonder, we stopped at every viewpoint along the way to see it from a slightly different perspective.

At one of our stops we decided to ask a couple to trade shooting photos in order to get a good picture of the two of us without resorting to a selfie. We began chatting a bit with a couple of similar age from Denmark. They had rented an RV and were taking a month and a half to see some of the sights of the western United States. After we finished talking, I offered to take a photo of them in exchange for their taking ours.

The lady immediately said no and proceeded to explain to me in her limited English and with hand motions that she didn’t want a picture. She put her hands at her side and moved them outward in explanation. I immediately knew she was telling me that she was too fat for a photo. I told her that no, she looked fine, and should take a photo. I know your mind is wondering how fat she might have been, conjuring of images from the television show ‘My Six-Hundred-Pound Life.’ The sad, but true, fact was that she might have been twenty pounds overweight, but those pounds visibly weighed her down.

In that transcendent moment, the two of us from a half a world apart connected soul to soul. I have spent about forty years with that ‘you need to lose weight’ voice whispering in my ear and have learned to not let it limit my experiences. As I posed for her husband to take our picture, I believe she thought about my telling her she should get her picture made. As we finished, she looked at me and smiled, handed me their cell phone, and posed for a Grand Canyon memory.

The rest of the day I pondered the fact that body image effects not just us self-centered, vain Americans, but it a world-wide issue for women. I thought about how men never forgo a picture of a memorable event because they carry extra pounds or lack muscle-tone. I thought about how those whispers of ‘you are not enough’ trap us and hold us captive. Most of all, I thought about how important it is for us to unite in encouragement, not hide in our silent shame listening to the accusing voices in our head. The smile from a woman I briefly met as she handed me a cell phone for a photo will be a memory I carry forever. May we share our fears with others so that we can overcome.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hope is a Thing With Feathers

Have you ever yearned for something for fifteen years? I mean earnestly begged God, and yet heaven seems silent. Maintaining a desire for a long period of time against all odds becomes more difficult with every moment that desire is denied. Langston Hughes puts it this way, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”

Even though my dream withered in the dryness there was always a hope that waited in the midst ready to encourage my soul to go on. Another famous poet, Emily Dickinson said, “ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers- That perches in the soul.”  I can picture a little bird, hope, perching or nesting in my soul. Taking up residence and refusing to move on even when conditions are the worst. That hope, that things would one day be different, kept me going.

Years further down the road, with those differences complete, it would be easy to forget- to just go on. Some would say that is the thing to do. I would differ with them. Even those who trudge on must admit that an undealt with past keeps pulling you back as if swimming in rip-tide. Sense must be made of our journey- at least to the point where we reflect and see it for what it truly was.

My writing Leave Him? has allowed me to do that necessary looking back, making sense of things without getting stuck in the past. This excerpt explains:


Dear Younger Me
Sometimes it felt funny to be free. The chains that were now gone still refused to release their invisible hold, then all of the sudden they let loose.
I remembered breaking my arm when I was in seventh grade. I had to wear an itchy, at times stinky, cast to repair the fracture. The weight of that cast followed me everywhere—playing tennis, attending school, even sleeping in my bed. At first it was quite burdensome, then, at the end of the month and a half, it became an accepted heaviness. Burdens and hardships are like that. They weigh us down, and we get used to them, not even remembering a different way. The day had come for my cast to be removed. A simple cut along the edge of the plaster and my arm was free. Free and oh so light—too light. It felt uncertain, fragile in its newfound freedom. It took some time to adjust—to feel right again.
    For me, that time to adjust to freedom had been lengthy. A long string of what if I’s kept running through my thoughts in my attempt to feel right. If you think of life as a linear progression, a process of traveling down a fated path, it would be entirely possible at mid-life to look back for a place where a wrong turn was made. Instead, I began to see life may be more like a meandering walk, instead of a train ride. A trail with no predestined end and many things to behold along the way. Some beautiful, some painfully disturbing. The freedom of walking down my meandering path of life brought an unsettling feeling of freedom—one I must get used to.
    I held a vaguely familiar, yet different seven-month-old boy in front of me. His eyes, a deep blue like his daddy’s, his little build, thick and muscular like his daddy, his humor pleasant like his daddy, yet he was an unique creation. Somewhere in his squirmy, joyful movements I saw a glimmer of something more. Holding him in my arms I felt a connection, a finishing touch, maybe even a fruit of some of my meandering path.
Thirty-three years before his grandfather and I started what would be his legacy. I thought about how I wished his grandfather had seen him, the real Mark, the father of James, then I realized that he had seen him. He sees him more than I ever will. The train-ride mentality would say that Mark didn’t make it to the destination, and that maybe I got off-track leaving him. Life being a winding path with varying destinations available says that I still had choices to make, experiences to gather.
As I held the chubby little hand, his fingers closed around mine, I hoped and prayed that he would not have to wait until he was as old as me to know that the heavenly father loved him, not based on the choices that he made or the things that he does, but just because he is his, as he is mine. As I continue to explore this life of mine, taking turns and side-trips along the way, I must remember that when my freedom feels too light, like I’m not quite grounded enough, that God is waiting, wanting to hold my not so tiny, little hand in the same acceptance that I feel with this child.

Need to Unplug?

Have you ever thought about unplugging for a bit? I felt the need to do a modified period of unplugging. Since the school year ended at th...