Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sweet Music of Life, 2009

I had hoped to end the year by reflecting on some of the sweet and memorable music of my life in 2009, but a sick computer likely will prevent that from happening. I'm posting this from work in hopes that I will return to the topic when I can. It doesn't have to be on New Year's Eve, right? Right!

I will say that it was a very good year, for lessons learned and how I handled things, as much as anything. Is it coincidental that it was also the year I turned 50? Or maybe it was because I read through the Bible in a year. Regardless, there is much to reflect on and continue to learn from even as I look forward into another year of promise.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Grateful and blessed

Wow! That week went nothing like planned. For the first time in years, I actually finished my Christmas shopping, getting something for everyone on my list (except one person) by 10:15 p.m. Dec. 23. (And I stumbled across the perfect gift for that person while dining together Christmas Eve and was able to make the purchase!)

As I was finishing up my shopping and growing in my sense of accomplishment, I was also growing anxious about the weather and whether these gifts would make it to their recipients. Was it possible I would have the gifts to give, but miss the best gift of all, which is seeing my family to whom I wanted to give gifts? Yes, it was highly possible, as it turned out.

I don't know how to adequately thank my boss and the people I work most closely with for making it possible for me not to have to try to drive 25 miles north from Norman to north Oklahoma City by myself in my Mustang in the sleet on Christmas Eve morning. I know it was a very busy day and difficult for all of them, workwise and travelwise. But I am convinced that, had I tried it, I would have been one of the many people stuck along the way who had to be rescued, either on the way to work (that's what I think) or on the way home. And if Gene and I would have waited any longer to head south to Texas, I don't think we would have made it. Even leaving at 12:30 p.m., those first 15 miles were treacherous enough that if I had been by myself, I would have tried to turn back. (And I probably would have ended up getting stuck in the process.)

As it turned out, we were finally able to make it to McKinney Thursday evening to spend Christmas Eve and much of Christmas Day with Gene's sister and her son. And then we were able to head to Mom and Dad's house west of Gainesville while my brother and his family from Arkansas were still there. Then we stayed with another sister west of Muenster, where more of the family arrived to celebrate on Saturday. I ended up getting to see everyone except one sister (who lives near the homeplace but had to work), a niece, a newlywed nephew and his wife, a newlywed niece and her husband and the fiancee of another nephew.

And although I didn't get to go to Christmas Eve worship, and I chose one more meal with family members over going to worship this morning, I went to Sunday school with Mom, and it's such a great class and lesson that I felt like I'd been to church.

Now we're back home in Norman. Our kitty was glad to see us; she was safe and sound. Gene shoveled the driveway and we ventured out again to Walmart, which surprisingly had not done a very good job of clearing its parking lot. I guess they saw no need to do better, since people were flocking in anyway!

There's so much more I could write, but I have things to do (including pet my kitty some more) before I head to work tomorrow. But I wanted to write this bit while it's fresh in my mind. I'm pretty sure I'll add to it and maybe even post some pictures.

I will add right now that even though, without the Christmas Eve service, some of the "reason for the season" focus of Christmas wasn't felt as clearly, I probably prayed more than I ever have during that drive from Norman to McKinney. And I'm really glad Mom went to Sunday school this morning and I could go, too. I just see more evidence every day that God wants me to put Him first -- to seek to know and do His will and NEVER to forget or ignore Him. It doesn't mean I have to spend all my time at church or reading the Bible or praying or forcing people to sing carols and read the Christmas story from the Bible when we're together. But it does mean that the time I spend in those ways will be rewarded and blessed, and that it will equip me to know how to live the rest of the moments to their fullest.

For all these reasons and so many more, I am grateful and blessed!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Joyous and blessed

I thought I had to write something, then I sat down to do it, and the words just .... jumbled? Scrambled? Froze? This still happens to me often. I am so overwhelemed with feelings and thoughts that I want to express, and I just cannot find the words.

The inspiration for this latest ... what is the word I'm looking for? ... sense of blessings overflowing is two services of worship with my church family. The fairly few faithful of the early morning service, with the heartfelt singing of the Singing Seniors and our beloved Ben, and then the later service overflowing with people there for the children's program. We are blessed to have spirited singers of all ages, whose souls shine through the words and melodies of Christmas.

And my heart soars at the opportunity to be able to offer my little bit. The last verse of "In the Bleak Midwinter" shares my longing:
What can I give him, poor as I am
If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
What I can, I give him -- give my heart!

One of my Scripture readings (or, more likely, the accompanying devotional) this week reminded me that I believe God gives each of us specific gifts. And surely one of mine is singing. And the interesting thing about it is, that doesn't mean he made me the most wonderful singer in the world or even the best singer in my church or family or circle of friends. It just means that he gave me that gift, and he wants me to find ways to use it to His glory. And when I do that, I am blessed, and others are blessed.

Another interesting thing about it, though, is that if EVER I try to sing because I want some glory or attention, IT DOESN'T WORK!!!!! Others may or may not like what they hear, but it rings hollow within me.

Today, I am joyous and blessed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Target practice

This is one of those nights I needed to just sit down and write. I got home early, because the latest haircut appointment I could get was 5:30. Taking off early today offset some of last week's long days. I was glad to be able to do it, even though I'd forgotten how bad traffic is between north Oklahoma City and Norman at 5 p.m. on a weekday. I was 10 minutes late, but it didn't seem to be a problem. I'm grateful for that.

I stopped at Target afterward, trying to decide what to take for my department's Christmas lunch tomorrow. I'd decided to make my own variation of festive Christmas Tree Appetizers (the recipe will be in the newspaper tomorrow, but I know it already, because I edited it!). But I talked myself out of it. And that brings me to why I'm writing tonight.

I'm trying to peel back some of the layers of whatever it is I get hung up in or covered up by each December. I don't expect to get it all sorted through this year. I have no expectations regarding results.

At times in my life, I've called this exercise verbal vomit. But that was when the confusion in my head seemed hopeless, sick and nothing but negative. That's not the case now. I still don't understand why I think and act the way I do -- and why I can't just change those many, many things I don't like about how I think and act -- but most of the time I don't feel hopeless or depressed about these things now. I'm able to say a prayer, count some blessings and find a positive step. (It may sound trite or cliche, but simply saying a prayer and finding something to be grateful for has changed every situation I've ever allowed it to touch.)

Anyway, what I faced tonight at Target was something I seem to have done all of my adult life. It's Christmastime, and I'm shopping -- and I have no idea what to buy. I can't decide what to buy for presents, for food to take to parties, for decorations. Sometimes I think I've decided (see the Christmas Tree Appetizers, above), and then I talk myself out of it. My arguments against are always sound and typically are born of experience. In the food situation, I know if I take food, I will want to eat food. And if I start eating party food at work, I'll eat too much and feel miserable. (That's not even considering that I'd probably start eating too much while I was preparing the food.) Most people may be able to eat too much and not feel miserable or at least not let it ruin their day, but I'm not those people. So I bought a bag of healthy chips and will just take that. I'm going to try to socialize without eating the goodies. I don't know if I can. But today I declined one of my most favorite snacks -- Chex mix made just right (just the right amount of extra butter, nuts and seasoning) -- and don't feel deprived. So I know it's possible.

That's all I'm going to write about tonight. Maybe I'll explore more of these later, such as why it's so hard to even figure out which GIFT CARDS to buy family members.

I wish I could think of a better ending. Oh well. Time to go wash clothes, pedal or something. Gratefully and smiling.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Not that person (preview)

When I see what other people write on blogs and in columns and see their paintings and sketches and photographs and hear their singing and read about their cooking or acting or dancing or parenting or shopping or organization or housecleaning, it's all I can do not to wonder WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME????? I have so little to do and can't seem to get any of it done!

Sometimes I think the older I get, the more mundane and mediocre I get, while all those around me seem to be finding their voice and gaining confidence in their expression and individuality.

Among the things that keep me from sinking into depression:
-- Faith and prayer.
-- Unconditional love of family and friends (and God).
-- Zoloft (you decide whether I'm kidding).
-- Remembering to count my blessings. They are there if I look.
-- Offering encouragement to others.

And I have to remember:
I'm not any of those people. I'm not that person. I am this person. Can I believe that God created me to be just the way I am? Maybe the hardest part is having faith in a God who would create me to be just the way I am. What kind of a trick was that?

And still, I know, God is great. I am blessed. And the journey of the spirit continues .....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Following through

It's been a week since I last wrote anything here, and one of my most basic goals was to write something at least once a week. So here I am, even though I feel tired and probably have more important things to be doing.

I'm trying to become more disciplined, and maybe this is another small step. But in so doing, will I skip my daily discipline of reading three devotionals and some Scripture while pedaling my exercise bike? Unfortunately, if I skip the bike, I don't seem to sleep or digest as well. (And it's not as if I'm over-exercising; I go 30 minutes at the most, with virtually no tension!) So I'll probably go ahead and read at least a little while pedaling some, and praying.

While trying to decide whether I would actually write anything tonight, I thought of several topics and talked myself out of all except this. But now some of them are trying to fight their way into expression. I want to save them for another day, but fear I won't get to them. (Now I've spent about 15 minutes trying to write about them, and I just can't do it. So I guess there's my answer for tonight. I'll save that writing for another day and just keep praying about the issues for now.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beyond words

I can't seem to find the words to describe how grateful I am for so many blessings, but I know that I must try. It's mostly for me, out of some sense of faithfulness to God and what I feel he's calling me to do. It's part of how I'm trying to find out whether I still am a writer, or just a dreamer.

I need to not be on the computer tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day 2009. I need to be traveling to see family and then helping Gene work around the farm and of course also watch (or at least listen to) a football game or two. (It will be interesting to see whether I can stay away from FaceBook. UPDATE: I DID NOT STAY AWAY!)

The dream is to write brilliant, flowing, inspiring, descriptive, powerful prose. But the reality will be a list. A simple list. Not even a complete list. Definitely not listed in order of importance. Just a list of things I'm grateful for, as they come to mind.

For some reason, the first is my job. Two months ago, I desperately wanted to quit. I thought it would be miserable and dreadful forever after some changes that occurred. But it's not. Amazing. It may not seem like a miracle to others. But I prayed and prayed to know how to adjust to the changes, and what seemed impossible happened. The situation didn't change. I changed. I let God change me. I let God help me find the good in each day and ways to help rather than complain and focus on the bad. Thank you, God!!!!!

My husband. My parents. My sisters and brother and their families. My precious nieces and nephews. My aunts and uncles and extended family -- including the ones I don't stay in touch with as I should.

My church. (Maybe I should say churches, because I claim Mom and Dad's church, too). The pastors, leaders and the good people there. The choir directors, accompanists, musicians and vocalists. ALl who pray and give thanks and service.

Friends and guides along the path to recovery.

Friends in general. They are everywhere, and they sustain me!

My health. Yes, even at 50. Even as it seems sometimes that I'm feeling every ache and pain and seeing every line, wrinkle, bump and bulge. And I still can't remember the names and faces of so many people I should know by now.

Accumulating steps of progress.

Hope that springs eternal.

Of course there's more. But do I stay at the computer, or do I go talk to my husband, pet the kitty and then read some devotions and Scripture while pedaling my exercise bike? Sometimes the answers are easy.

So, that's all for now.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Blessed are you" (for an Advent devotional booklet)

And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28)

(The angel said to Mary), “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to Your word.”
(Luke 1:37-38)

I've never had a baby, and I certainly wasn't called to be the Messiah's mother.
But I am blessed by Mary's faithfulness as Christ's mother. And I am blessed by God's gift of His Son.

When I reread the verses in Luke 1 just now, I was amazed at Mary’s poise. Yes, she “was troubled” at the angel’s words, but before she could say anything, the angel continued, telling her she, a virgin, would conceive a child Whose father would be God. Mary didn’t interrupt the angel, and by the time the angel finished speaking (“for with God nothing will be impossible”), she humbly accepted her calling.

But it seems to me this isn’t just Mary's story. God is calling each of us. What will my response be? Will I believe that nothing is impossible with God? Will I live with that kind of faith?

I pray that I will follow Mary’s example and humbly submit to God’s calling and that my spirit continually will rejoice in God my Savior, Who because of His great love, sent His Son so that I and all of His people could be forgiven of our sins and spend eternity with Him!

(Submitted Nov. 22 for the church's Advent devotional booklet)

I had many more thoughts that didn't make it into my little piece, because I wanted to keep it as short as possible and couldn't quite frame all my thoughts. I also ran into the deadline and had to trust God that what was written when it was time to let go was what it was supposed to be. That's so hard for me!!!!!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why I no longer write for a living. Sigh.

Slowly rebuilding.
This is why ...
Too many thoughts; unable to focus ...
The paralysis that occurs when hopes get tangled with expectations.
I can't even think of a lead.
I hope and pray that maybe this continuing exercise of writing -- and publishing, so to speak -- even when I can't figure out what I'm trying to say will help me get past the writer's block that in reality was with me even when I was paid to write.

Among the things I wanted to say about the past week:

I wrote something for the newspaper or its Web site about being an Aggie in Oklahoma for OU/A&M football game week, but there was no place for it. That was fine. I did it for me. It was harder than I would have thought to take some of those blog thoughts and try to shape them into something that might be acceptable for the paper.

I won a newsroom award for a headline. That was positive affirmation (and timely) as I go through this time of struggling with being a copy editor instead of a writer.
"Racy for the Cure?
AWARENESS / Opinions mixed on suggestive images to fight cancer”

As for the process of deciding to go to the OU/A&M game, looking for tickets and trying to find someone to go with me, it turned out to be very positive and rewarding for me. I definitely spent some time outside my comfort zone. Even though it wasn't a noble pursuit in the scheme of life's important matters, it was good practice for me in deciding something, following through (not giving up) and finding good in the results when so many aspects looked like failures on the surface.
After all:
-- I couldn't even give away a great ticket to get someone to go with me. (Positives: I went anyway. The people around me were nice.)
-- The score was brutal, 65-10, not a win for the good guys. (Positives: Can't say I saw any from the A&M football team on the field; I almost left during the third quarter, but after some serious soul-searching I found a reason to stay, moving closer to the A&M band and standing in solidarity with them; they have to stay to the end of every game. It felt good to do the same! I was surprised at how few Sooners stayed to watch their team win.)

Before I decided to spend money for a ticket, and realizing the time it takes to go to a game, I wrestled a bit with priorities for spending time and money. At the same time I was deciding to buy a ticket and attend the game, I was deciding against filling a shoebox with toys and gifts for a child's Christmas present in a program the church participated in. I'm still wrestling with that. Gave some money; will give some more. I also ended up not helping out with Angel Food Saturday morning. How can I justify that? Sure, nobody's perfect, but that was pretty lame.
One thing I had decided and followed through with was that, since I did make the decision to attend the game, I would be cheerful and upbeat, no matter what. And I was. When I think about it, that's pretty amazing. Because it was cold, I wasn't there with anyone I knew, and the team performed miserably. And still I had a great time and no regrets about attending.

And still -- When the Aggies come back to Norman in two years, if I'm still here, I'm determined that I will attend with friends, whether Aggies or Sooners. I'll start working on it now, taking steps to make sure I have friends and that I'm not afraid to do things with them.

(possibly more to come; gotta go pet the kitty now!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Social dilemma

I've lived in the same town for 27 years. Why is it I still don't feel comfortable asking anyone to go places with me? Of course that's a rhetorical question. I know the answer is fear of rejection. I think it's based on experiences of being turned down, but it's also possible the fear has kept me from ever asking anyone.

So tonight I posted a general plea to my FaceBook friends, asking whether anyone would like to attend a big event with me this weekend. I'll even pay for their ticket! How desperate that must sound! I think it's actually progress for me, but as with so many things, I'm not sure. Time will tell.

An interesting related factor: My husband is NOT interested in attending this event, but he's very supportive of me going and having a good time. I'm grateful for that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Responding to Criticism (LOL!)

Well, I know I have at least one reader, because that person asked whether it is my intent to turn this into a football/sports blog!!!!!!

Noooooooooooooo! I don't intend to do that.

However, I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn't compose these few (or perhaps many) thoughts, sentences and even essays on something that really does stir my spirit every now and then, as is the case with the Texas A&M football team and band headed to my town for a rendezvous with University of Oklahoma.

Be assured: The coming weekend's events do more than stir my school spirit and fuel my football fanaticism. They also force me to deal with some spiritual, moral, intellectual and social issues that cause me to struggle. I'm trying to deal with them in healthier, more positive ways now. One of those ways is by writing about them; trying to define the issues and come up with better responses.

So, it's unlikely I'm done with this subject. But that's all for now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A matter of perspective

Who would have ever thought going into the 2009 college football season that Texas A&M and the University of Oklahoma would be playing each other FOR BOWL ELIGIBILITY on the second Saturday of November? What a crazy year. And what fun!

Isn't it more fun having to play games to find out who's going to win and having to keep a list of the winners and losers to figure out at the end who's the champ? Isn't that more fun than for some teams to always be the winners and others always to be the losers? Doesn't a more competitive field seem more sporting?

As I was reminded at church, it's definitely a matter of perspective. For those whose team is traditionally a winner, I guess there's not much good to be found in a down year.

Fortunately for me, especially since I am a graduate of Texas A&M (having attended during years when the football team typically started strong and lost the big games at the end, never winning a championship and always having to say 'Wait 'til next year!'), I do find many bright spots in not winning. In fact, it is harder for me to be a fan of a winning team than a losing team. That may sound defeatist, but that's not the point. Although I don't have much experience being a fan of a winning team, I do know that when it happens, I usually find myself starting to gloat or feel superior. And that just doesn't pay off for me in the long run. (On the other hand, maybe I just need more practice!)

Anyway, here's to competition. The spirit of competition. The spirit of fanship. The spirit of sportsmanship.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

... of Aggieland!

There's a spirit can ne'er be told.
It's the Spirit of Aggieland.

All I can add right now is: Is it any wonder I went to Texas A&M?

(OK, now I'm adding more .... sigh) So, the Fightin' Texas Aggie football team was outscored by 1 point at Colorado today. If message boards are an indication (and I hope they are not), even Aggie fans can't just enjoy the game anymore. "If you can't win, why play the game?" seems to be the attitude.

Yes, winning is great fun. Winning is much more fun than not winning. But what I hate most about not winning is how fans turn against teams and coaches.

(UPDATE: After I first posted this, I thought more about how fans are now. It's not just because there's more media and more forums for people to comment, I don't think. I think it's also because some teams are so good, there's more jealously. A&M wants to be Texas or OU (you mean even those teams can have off years?)-- seemingly competing for Big 12 and national championships every year. Maybe there was a time when fans knew their team would win some and lose some, and they'd wait to see how it turns out at the end. But now, some teams are so dominant, that many fans seem to think their team is no good or not worth watching unless they win every game.)

Let this be a reminder to me not to do that .... and to find a ticket for next week's game against OU! I mustn't let the possibility of a gridiron beatdown and a chilly night keep me from showing up to support the team that supposedly represents a school that embraces and promotes loyalty, character, intergrity and all those good things that resonate with me. After all, they're coming to MY TOWN. Whoop!

Gig'em Aggies. (That's the Spirit!)

"The Spirit"

As I turned the page to November
I was grateful to take time to remember
Rich blessings of family, friendship and spirit
Sweet music of life: To hear it! To share it!

I don't know when I first wrote that (possibly mid-1990s, in a journal) or when I first used it in a published piece (I've used variations in at least 2 and maybe three or more columns in the newspaper, and once in a tribute to my parents), but it encapsulates things I'd come to recognize as driving forces to the goodness in my life.

It continues to resonate.

* The spirit is definitely God: God's love; His mercy, love, grace, graciousness, creativity, compassion, omnipotence and so many more things than I could ever write.
* It is definitely the spirit of Christ, Who gave all that I may be in relationship with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and all of creation.
* The spirit is family: My parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters and extended family of other relatives as well as church. It seems as if more each day, I see how their lives -- breathing (spirit) on Earth and beyond -- help me look for and find the good in my life and the lives of others.
* The spirit is friendship. I've been blessed with some great ones. (Perhaps more will be written about this later!)
* The spirit is fellowship. As hard as it is sometimes for me to write, it's usually easier for me to write than to relate directly with people. Awkward is me! And still I am loved and accepted. I need not be afraid to spend time relating with people.
* The spirit is love.
* The spirit is compassion.
* The spirit is music.
* The spirit is gratitude.

There is so much more. This post is a work in progress. (In a future post, I may touch on what "the spirit" is not, at least for me.)

Like I've said, the thing I have to remember is it doesn't even matter if I have anything worth posting. That's not the point for me, at least not for now. Maybe this will evolve into something of substance, but it doesn't matter. If people are reading this, they may think they are getting to know someone (some readers would know who I am; to others I'd just be Patricia). But it's really about a writer getting to know herself and not being afraid to let others see what she finds.

Rich blessings of family, friendship and spirit
Sweet music of life:
To hear it!
To share it!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Something for nothing?

Tell me this: How can I be a part of FaceBook and now the blogosphere without paying for the privilege?
It seems like something for nothing. Surely there's a catch. Are the host sites secretly sucking away my identity??? I haven't seen evidence of that.
One thing I've already discovered about blogging is that I don't feel as if I have to find all the answers before I post something. As a newspaper writer (and even an editor), I hated to let anything go until I felt as much research as possible had been done and the information or stories were being presented as accurately and completely as possible.
Here, I feel more free to muse and wonder. But I won't be surprised if it also inspires me to search for answers to some of the questions I raise.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Welcome to my world

Tentative. Probing. Testing.

It started with FaceBook. No, it started long before that. For as long as I can remember, I've been filled with feelings and thoughts. For many years, they were bottled inside. I guess over these past 50 years, I've realized it is important for me to SHARE and EXPRESS my thoughts and feelings. I chose journalism as a major in college by default. (I was good with words and didn't really want to be a teacher.) Largely due to my fear of change, writing and editing have become my lifelong career. They are also a passion.

Trying to meet deadlines -- and keep it short -- derailed the writing part of the career. So now the paycheck comes for copyediting, headline writing and a limited amount of page design. Even as an editor, my favorite part of the process is working on stories, talking to the people (in this case the reporter or another editor) to consider ways to make the stories the best they can be.

The urge to write never leaves. Neither does the inability to deal with deadlines and the myriad story possibilities and angles a reporter faces. That reality is confirmed every time I give in to temptation and volunteer to write a review or some other piece for the paper.

When I joined FaceBook recently to help stay in touch with family members, something about the power of written expression was rekindled within me. Framing thoughts into phrases or sentences and then posting them -- publishing them -- invigorated me. And when FaceBook friends commented .... wow!

I've had to ask myself: Is this a blessing or a curse? I've asked the question prayerfully, and so far, the answer is that it's a blessing. And so I've started what is a new adventure for me.

It's possible nothing will show up on this blog that will be of interest to anyone other than the writer.

But it's also possible something will emerge that is worth the time and thought of a reader.

I look forward to finding out.

Simple goals:
Post at least one thing each week.
Feel free to go back in and edit. (That's what I love about this so far!)
See where it leads.
Give the glory to God.