Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Out of the darkness

I have just returned from 2 weeks in South Africa, what a wonderful time, as you may be able to tell from my previous posts. It was fun celebrating the purely American holiday of Thanksgiving on the other side of the earth, but returning home the first week of December I launched headlong into the “Christmas Season.”  Thankfully, I accomplished purchasing most all of my gifts while there. However, shopping is not what is on my heart at this time. Rather I have been pondering the grayer side of Christmas, the side hidden from the lights and stores, but something I dare say most people experience.

Isaiah 9:2 “The people who dwell in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” With these words, Isaiah begins his description of the coming messiah. Many people know this verse as it is often referenced during Christmas. “For unto us a child is born…” another verse from Isaiah 9, known by many because of Handel’s Messiah. The Christmas story is filled with the physical darkness of night. The angels appeared to the shepherds at night; the wise men followed a star, something only seen usually at night. In each case, a great light split the night.

Each year during this time bell ringers from the Salvation Army greet us at the stores; there are many requests to assist those in greater need. I don’t know about you, but each year it seems to get increasingly more difficult to make ends meet at Christmas. It is a time when families gather, that is if you have a family to gather with or a family you get along with. It is a time when we are pressured to do more, more parties, more gifts to give, cards to send…etc.  As most know, I am un-apologetically Christian in my beliefs and views. This stance however is not without its challenges for me. I attempt to ostracize myself from the world and pressures, attempting to ignore the news only listening to the weather (which in and of itself is a challenge.) Regardless of my efforts I am still affected by the looming “fiscal cliff”, the wars and turmoil in other parts of the world and the overall despair permeating our society. I must believe there is a bigger, better plan working out in the world or I would fold into myself, withering and whimpering through life. I must believe in the light splitting my darkness with “glad tidings of great joy”, in a star shining in the east, which I can follow and rejoice with “exceeding great joy.” I gain a bit of perspective on life at Christmas when I reflect on the shepherds who didn’t have a great deal of earthly wealth, on the political oppression in the land under Roman rule; Joseph having to take his very pregnant wife to register for taxation. I can take comfort in knowing the darkness, which overwhelms me today, is the same darkness that overshadowed the birth of Jesus Christ. I am blessed to have a family and close friends I can share this season with, but am still mindful of those who do not. I am choosing to look for HIS star in the east; to listen to the angel’s glad tidings and join with the heavenly host singing Glory to God in the highest, Peace on earth and not allow myself to be swept into the maelstrom of darkness so prevalent at this time. It is a hard choice, but one I believe I must make.

As always, this is my opinion and that and $2.50 may get you a hot cocoa on a cold winter’s night, blessings to everyone during this holy season.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reflections of South Africa 12-1-12

Madela Capture Site, Howick
I have been in South Africa for just under two weeks now and am within the last few days of the second “trip of a lifetime.”  My mom will be happy to read this!  The plan was to post more often, but time has a way of slipping past and, the adage of “time flies when having fun” certainly applies here.  This will probably be my last post until I get home, but certainly not my last commentary on what I’ve experienced while here. I decided to write some reflections of South Africa, with the focus being on the Natal Province since this is where I have spent my time.  I have been told the other provinces, like other states in America have their own personalities.
The Midlands
I have been awakened each morning by the musical offering of the Hadeda and other bird life, the hoots and cooing of birds whose calls are foreign to me. Last weekend found me in a beautiful part of South Africa where I experienced the “un-expected familiar” for there were maple and pine trees mingled with spider plants and Eucalyptus trees spotting the rolling green hills of the Midlands, reminding me of the rolling hills of Vermont.  Then within an hour I was in the “bushveld” observing Zebra, Giraffe, hippos and rhinoceros in their native habitat.

I-Care with boys from the street
But it is in the people some of the greatest joys and interest have been found. I have had the privilege of interacting with a variety of people: the everyday working person, the homeless, the elderly, and the orphan. Each offering a special view into life here. A common thread through all has been a love of song and music. Regardless of language, financial status, or living situation everyone enjoyed a song from the women from America. The children were fascinated with the guitar and like a pied piper I drew a crowd as soon as the case opened; the first chord strummed. I was blessed with the sound of older voices singing Christmas carols and seeing smiles appearing on otherwise sober faces. Surprised by the influence of American music when asked to play Crosby, Steels and Nash, Eagles, Peter, Paul & Mary and other distinctly U.S. music groups.

Feeding the men who live at the Taxi Station
Three phrases seem to have assisted in defining this trip for me.  “Looks are deceiving” defined the first few days, the “un-expected familiar” applied to the weekend in the Midlands.  This last week has had a focus of “the appearance of things that should work.” Whenever the wind blew and the Internet went down or you had to turn a faucet handle three times to turn on the water we would say “the appearance of things that should work,” followed by “this is Africa.” As western as this country appears, I have learned it is the “appearance of things that should work,” which applies to much of life here. I can see how it could be frustrating on many levels as an American living abroad.
Leopard's spots orphanage
I’m certain I will be “chewing” over my memories for months to come, like a piece of Kudu Biltong.  I know that as I fly home to my comfortable little house in the woods of Maine the sights, sounds, faces and people will stay with me as I pray for the ministries my friends are involved with.  I will remember Violet from the Nursing Home, The men who live at the library and taxi stop, Eric & Tracy and the children from Leopard Spots orphanage, the boys and workers at I-Care, as well as all of my new friends from Life Group and One Heart International.
Market in Kwa-Mashu

I pray I return with greater patience, appreciative of the conveniences I have and not frustrated when they don’t work, as I would like. I pray I remain thankful for what I have and don’t have in my life; remembering there are those in the world who have much less.  As I was 12 years ago, I return from South Africa with a different perspective, for which I am most grateful.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cheeky and Dodgy, education continued 11-23-12

A cheeky monkey

I am now into the fourth day of my South African experience and my education of this country continues.  In the past two days I have learned two new words and how to use them: “Cheeky” and “Dodgy.”  These are very interesting words, which require a bit of instruction to understand.  Monkeys are “cheeky” and a person can be “cheeky.”  Certain parts of town are “dodgy” or a person can be “dodgy.”  The closest I can come to American words are “mischievous” for cheeky and “sketchy” for dodgy.  Other terms I have learned and practicing are: torches, tackies and biscuits.  Flashlights are torches, sneakers are tackies and cookies are biscuits.  Boots and bonnets are the trunk and hood of a car, respectfully. I almost forgot some of my favorite new words, Braai, biltong and voers.  Translation: barbeque, jerky and sausage!  They do not have potluck suppers here, nope, they have bring & braai or bring & share. Pies can be either sweet or savory, but to a South African pie means a meat pie and Guinness is not just for drinking but a flavorful part of a lamb or steak pie.  You will often see me use the word “lekker” in facebook pages; this is a term meaning “awesome” or "very nice" or "great." 
Last night was the first time I flinched while driving around town.  It was after dark and as we turned left out of the driveway I observed a set of headlights coming toward us on the right.  For a split second my heart went to my throat as my brain connected with where I was.  The fun part of riding on the other side of the road as an American is I continue to want to lean the wrong way when we are taking a corner.  When sitting in the middle of the back seat, I simply hold onto both grab bars and swing like a cheeky monkey in the back seat.
Momma & baby with another young monkey
I have not had a problem with accents and understanding people for the most part.  I was challenged the other night when there were around 100 or more people at pie night; all talking at once.  Listening closely was virtually impossible and some folks spoke so quickly I resorted to smiling and nodding as we conversed.  I am learning to identify a person’s ethnic background by their accent.  British South Africans sound British, Afrikaans has a German or Dutch sound, and American, you can tell us a mile away; all we have to say is “hello.”
I am very much enjoying the opportunity to meet and interact with “the natives” here.  Everyone has an interesting story and loves to talk with someone from America.  At pie night people would come in smile, say hello, extend their hand and say, “you must be one of the Americans, nice to meet you.” I am eager to continue to interact with others and learn more about this beautiful country.  I am heading into the Natal “Midlands,” which everyone tells me I will love as it is so beautiful.” I’m not certain when I will be able to post again, but will try again soon. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looks are deceiving 11-21-12

the "Hadeda"

I have arrived in South Africa safe & sound and am spending my second full day here.  In the past 48 hours I have already learned “looks are deceiving.”  The South African morning has been greeted with the familiar cawing of birds; not crows but rather something called a “Hadeda” (pronounced Ha-dee-da) an Ibis with a crooked bill and raucous call.  My original impression of here was it was quite modernized and similar to the U.S. with a European flare.  Other than driving on the other side of the road all appeared to be familiar.  The grocery store has similar items, fresh fruit & vegetables, electronics abound, and everyone has a cell phone.  Traffic is heavy in the city and pedestrians cross anywhere they want.  But it is in the unseen the deception exists.  I was going to originally write about how people are the same all over the world and for the most part I believe we are.  It is in how life is lived out there is a difference. 
Unemployment is 25%, white people make up 8% of the population, and while discussing wages many figures were tossed around, but suffice it to say many South Africans make in a day what many Americans make an hour, while the cost of living (rents, food) is similar to the U.S.   Many houses have security systems, gates and bars on doors and windows; however I have seen this in parts of the U.S.  The difference is in the % of people who within their lifetimes have experienced some form of trauma from violence, which is considerably higher than America. South Africa has the distinction of having the worse drivers around, a fact I can attest to having driven in Pinetown with my friend. I learned that some newborns do not have receiving blankets and are wrapped in newspaper when first born.  I have been told that over the next week I will witness living conditions totally unknown to me, worse than the worst in America.
South Africa is known as the “rainbow nation” due to the multi-national make up of the population.  Here in the Natal province, British culture is pre-dominant, but there is a large Indian (people from India) population.  I was incorrect in thinking Afrikaans was synonymous with white South African.  Correction, Afrikaans is someone of Dutch South African decent while there is British South African, and other African tribal associations all living together in the same area. What is interesting is most people maintain their cultural heritage separate from others, where in America everyone assumes bits and pieces of American culture.  There are 11 official languages with English, Afrikaans and Zulu being foremost. The evening news broadcast extends for hours on end to accommodate the most common of those 11.
I still maintain, every American should travel to a foreign land and learn about the culture in order to truly appreciate what we have.  For the most part we can move in society without fear of personal harm, we make live-able wages, we have good medical care with competent healthcare providers readily available.  It is trips like this one that make me appreciate what I have. 
As I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in South Africa, I choose to be thankful for what I have, what I don’t have (violence and squalor) and especially for a wonderful family and close friends. I am thankful for the ability to travel to a foreign land and meet wonderful people, who when it comes right down to it are the same as I am; similar hopes, wants and needs. 

Where I am staying in Pinetown, KZN, South Africa

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reality setting in

October 2000, returning from Lesotho

I’m not certain how many people believe me to be an “adventurous” person.  I sometimes think I come across with bravado that disguises my real persona.  I am quite a home body when it comes right down to it and if it weren’t for others I would probably be happy as a hermit (at least for a while.)  Fact is reality is setting in, next week at this time I will have landed in Durban, South Africa, ending a 25 hour trip half way around the world.

Many people have been saying to me “you must be getting excited.” Yeah, I guess I am, however I think my excitement will truly hit when my house is locked, my bags are packed and I am sitting in the airport in Boston. The proverbial phrase “the devil is in the details” rings in my ears.  Although my tickets have been purchased for many months and I have been packing in my head, making a mental list of those things I need to remember, this past weekend brought to a head all of the little details I needed to accomplish before I leave.  I was struck by the imminence of my departure when I remembered I must go to the post office and stop my mail.  I had been laying out my clothes, and purchased my travel money card but those had not struck me, no….it was when I remembered having to stop the mail!

"My Giraffe" here's the proof!
I think if I did not have to worry about the little details I would be very excited.  I am trying to take joy in preparing to go but having that joy interrupted by the details.  Oh that I didn’t have to worry about the little things, but its part of the fun now isn’t it?  My intent is to journal here in this blog as well as my Face book page my adventures in South Africa.  I hope to be able to post pictures and write some commentary.  But there again, I’m not real good at details.  I covet everyone’s prayers for the journey there and home again as well as the time I spend with my dear friends.  I am looking forward to enjoying a different culture, rubbing elbows with people of a different land, hearing different languages and partaking of the different cuisine.  Hmmmm, come to think of it, I am getting excited! Given the exchange rate….maybe this and $2.50 will get me a larger cup of something yummy from the Dark Continent.

The pictures included here were taken during my trip to South Africa in 2000.  New ones will be posted as I can!

Zebras in the game preserve, they were illusive little buggers

Monday, October 15, 2012

Back again

I’m ba-a-a-a-ck!  After a very quick summer, I have returned to my computer to start blogging again.  I had every intention of posting regularly throughout the summer, but time seemed to fly.  At the end of spring I had written a post, and then promptly lost my data sticks until a month ago, needless to say the post never got posted.  I knew early on, this summer was going to be challenging and anticipated it flying by, which it did. But now I am back and hope to make up for some of the lost time by posting more than before.  I believe it was Einstein who theorized the hands on a clock spin faster when it is not watched.  And the old adage of “time flies when you’re having fun comes to mind when I think of this year, not simply the summer.  I sit here now on the second of October and wonder where the time went.  Others I have spoken to intone the same feelings.  My plan is to post some of my older writings intertwining new with them through the end of the year; we’ll see how well I do.  For the moment, let me share some thoughts with you in reflection of what I have been up to.

In January my singing partner and I made a goal to sing on average once a month or more.  I am happy to say, this goal is on track to be met, which explains where part of the summer went.  We recently returned from a trip to the Mid-Atlantic where we gave a Sunday evening concert.  It was a mid-sized church, but attendance to the concert was only a small percentage of the congregation.  It was a long trip from just outside of Philadelphia to central Maine leaving us plenty of time to reflect upon “was it worth it.”  Perspective is an important piece to consider when answering questions along these lines.  A person’s attitude toward what they are called to do determines whether something is worth the effort.  The same is true of this blog, it takes time to write, and it takes effort, it means deciding not to do something else while I spend the time at the computer.  I don’t have a large following, I would like to think it would grow (if I posted regularly) but I don’t write to be famous.  We had another concert this summer this time at a much smaller church, one might say it was “struggling.”  We drove for two hours for a one-hour concert for a handful of people.  Another time this summer the same happened, in fact reflecting in hindsight, the majority of our concerts were lightly attended.  This is where perspective comes in.

I can chose to be disheartened by the amount of people I sing to, or the small financial reimbursement I receive or I can chose to be encouraged by having reached those who I did.  GOD brings to concerts those whom HE wants to be there; I should not blame lack of advertising or poor planning for low attendance, this would mean I would be striving in my own strength.  This does not mean we shouldn’t advertise or plan well, but it does mean, “Having done all, we stand.” (See Ephesians for this one.)

Years ago I heard a pastor say “GOD delights to use the insignificant.”  As I look back over the summer I will chose to believe there are those in the world GOD has reached through what might be perceived as “small” and possibly “insignificant.”  You never know who is watching or who you will reach with the gospel by simply living your life in the most faithful way possible, knowing we are still fallen creatures.  Keep watch for new posts, be encouraged regardless of how small you may feel, God delights to use you!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Toxic clean-up

Back a year or so ago I wrote a post called “re-building walls” in which I told of how GOD used my co-workers as “Nehemiah” for me.  Well, I have had further experiences, one most recent of which have come to show me the heavy construction that is taking place in my life in “Toxic Clean-up.”

Just as white eggs change color when dipped in food dye, so I change color when immersed in certain environments.  The longer the egg sits in the dye the deeper the color gets.  If there is a crack in the shell of a hard-boiled egg the white of the egg will show where the dye seeped through the crack, leaving a colored jagged line.  Anyone my age or older will remember “Love Canal” and the emphasis put on cleaning up the Toxic Waste that had been dumped into the water.  Here in Maine there are warnings about eating fresh water fish due to Mercury contents in the water.  Maybe you’ve drawn the parallel and know where I’m going with this, but here are my thoughts.

My life is like the egg, I am colored by what I am immersed in.  I am like the fish ingesting toxic materials from the water around me.  Love Canal was contaminated by what others put into the water.  But GOD has been using others to remove the toxic waste from me like the EPA did to the “Love Canal.”  How does this happen since I have to live, work and interact with a variety of people everyday and if you haven’t noticed the world can be a pretty toxic place.

I remember as a kid coloring eggs for Easter.  Inside the package was a clear wax crayon.  If you drew a design with the crayon on the eggshell prior to dipping, the dye would not adhere to the design.  I would write my name on the egg, draw flowers for spring and in later years I might draw a cross to signify Easter.  My point here is I am marked with a holy crayon, so no matter how many different dyes I’m dipped in, the design placed upon me shows through.

Like the fish and the Love Canal, I can be purged of the toxins by not allowing others to dump into my life, and when they do I flush out my life with healthy, cleaner water.  Sometimes the toxins are so deep in the soil, it takes an excavator to remove them and sometimes it just takes time and persistence to cleanse.  This past weekend was a purging time.  I met with new friends, went to play with old friends and went to church.  Sometime on Saturday I came to sense the toxins leaving my system.  Years of sitting in the same dye, breathing the same contaminated water and allowing other’s toxicity to permeate my soil was being purged!

I will not lie and tell you I will never fall into toxicity again, but I am learning tools to use to change my environment for the better.  God forgive me, if I contaminate another, I would prefer to be fresh water or brightly colored dye enhancing someone’s egg.  Oh and my EPA stands for “EVER PRAYING AGAINST.”  Stay healthy my friends!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lessons from the weekend 4-21-12

I just returned from four days away with my family and friends.  I spent two days with my mother and the other two days at my camper beside the river for it was opening of fishing season.  I love this weekend in April not simply for the good memories of fishing with my father on opening day, but for the celebration of new life, which is so abundant this time of year.  As I reflect on the weekend I find some lessons I learned from it.

From the front of my camper on Saturday I had the pleasure of watching a father fishing with his daughter.  It reminded me greatly of the times I went with my dad.  Reflecting on this I discover, my heavenly Father wants to go fishing with me even more so than my earthly father did.  There are many lessons to be learned when sitting beside a stream fishing, but that dissertation is for another time.  But knowing the Father wants to fish with me and teach me is some thing I want to make time for, HE provides the bait and tackle; I need to give HIM the time.

Secondly, in church the sermon was on feeding the five thousand in Luke 9 and John 6.  The preacher wondered (paraphrased) if the disciples, who were simply living their lives, had any idea that two thousand years later the church would look like it does today?  What struck me was of does anyone ever know what one action will yield in the future?  I am guilty of looking simply at the impact my life makes in my lifetime, but GOD sees way beyond my short span of time on earth.  The actions I take now, the way I live my life now will have impact beyond the here and now.  On Saturday evening my entire family gathered at a benefit dinner to assist sending a teenager from my mother’s church to Haiti on a short-term mission trip.  As we sat at the table all 12 of us, with our mother at the end it was impressive to see 4 generations gathered in support.  I only pray the younger children will be as impacted as much as I was with this. 

Lastly, as many know I just bought a new Android phone.  This weekend I was able to download two very cool applications, the first was three versions of the Bible and the second was a “Google Sky Map.”  As I was in awe with both (and tickled like a kid) I realized on my phone were the words of THE ONE who named the stars I was able to now look at and identify.

I think, if I were to summarize this post I would have to say, take time with those you love and who love you for you never know what seemingly insignificant occasion (fishing with your children or gathering for a meal) will spur something much larger in the future, which you may never see.  Take time to look in awe at the stars and be with the one who calls them by name.  As spring flows into summer I hope to spend time fishing and looking at the stars; honoring both my earthly parents and my Heavenly Father.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Breaking fallow ground

I don’t even really know how to start this post.  I have been challenged this weekend by what I can only call a consistent message.  Have you ever had those times when you perceive almost everything you hear as a consistent message including the secular?  As many know and will attest to I struggle with writing; songwriting and literary.  When something stirs me, I write; when not stirred I go about life as normal.  But I struggle with consistency and discipline when it comes to this craft. 

I attended a Christian writer’s group on Saturday.  A wonderful time of meeting with others who have a penchant toward writing.  The lesson for the day was on character development, which started with a review of personality types.  Oh was I conflicted when trying to “nail down” what my personality type was.  The teacher spoke about what comes naturally to you as being the litmus test for your personality.  I shared a piece of my writing, which was well received as evidenced by comments from others.  Move to Sunday service.  At one point in the sermon the pastor told a story of a man who went to buy property.  The realtor told him the house on the property needed work, but it would make a good home.  To which the man seeking to buy the property said he was not interested in the house, but the site (my interpretation…the land.)  The pastor then went on to relate how God does not want the house, but the site, which I interpreted as God does not want what I have built, but me.  Move to Sunday afternoon, I happened to turn on a movie just in time to hear the father tell the daughter “you’re the one who’s the writer, you need to write.”  I shut the TV down and booted up my computer!

I have never been a risk taker, not given to riding roller coasters, not an “adrenaline junky” by any stretch of the imagination, however the dreams I dream of my future involve stretching beyond my comfort zone and engaging in activities I consider “risky.”  No, I’m not going sky diving, not quitting my day job, not going off the deep end somewhere; I find those activities a bit ignorant for me.  My definition of risky involves accepting who I am, who God made me to be; not whom others or I think I should be. 

Being able to admit I am a creative writer is very hard for me to do.  I am discovering however it is hard to do what you are called to do when you don’t admit it.  When you are called to do a task, you need to commit to it, practice it, work at it, be disciplined; I am not naturally inclined that way.  But as evidenced by the greater number of posts to this blog I am starting to work at it more.  My dream for the future would be to sit on the porch of my home overlooking the ocean (Lubec in the summer, some where in the Caribbean in the winter) with a laptop or guitar and beverage of choice engaging in creative writing activities.  The older I get, the stronger this dream calls.

I called this post “breaking up fallow ground” because just as a farmer takes a plow to the earth in the spring, so God has once again taken HIS plow to my field, disrupting my dormancy, preparing the ground to receive seed and produce fruit for HIS kingdom.  One other thought in this vein.  Any profitable farmer will tell you it is important to let a field lay dormant for a period of time and also rotate the crops.  I recognize the field that God is currently plowing is having a different seed sown into it and the fruit will be better and stronger.

I leave you with a similar challenge, are you who you were made to be or are you trying to be some one else?  Some one you feel is better than who you are?  As for the house and the site, God is not interested in the house I have built HE just wants the property.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Thoughts about Easter 2012

I had a wonderful Easter holiday weekend this year.  On Friday night I attended a Tennebrae service and then on Sunday attended an Easter breakfast and service with my best friend.  As I talked with my friend about Easter and Easter celebrations a couple of random thoughts flitted through my mind.  Well, the flitting birds will come and nest here for now.
First thought, a bit more spiritual than the second is, Easter is a remembrance of three gardens.  I heard at Easter service about how the power of sin began in a garden (Eden) and ended in a garden (the resurrection.) But as I pondered this thought further I saw a third garden come into play, the garden of Gethsemane. I began to think of the three gardens like this – Eden/Tragedy; Gethsemane/Turmoil; and Garden Tomb/Triumph.  I also like how when you juxtapose these three you see Eden ends at sunset, Gethsemane takes place in the dark, and the Garden Tomb begins at Sunrise.  I know there is much more to be gained from the study of the gardens, but for today I’ll leave this as is.
My second thought about Easter is un-deniably strange, I’m just warning you.  Why is it on the two most significant Christian holidays (Christmas and Easter) during which time we celebrate the birth, death and resurrection of the “King of the Jews” do we eat PORK???  I began to wonder this as I was filling my Easter Breakfast plate with sausage and bacon.  I returned to the question as I was eating bacon wrapped asparagus for lunch, and once again in the evening talking with my mother about her Easter Ham dinner.  I know some families (here and abroad) eat Lamb, which makes a bit more sense to me.  The Passover Seder often has chicken or lamb as its main course, so why is ham the choice of many Americans?  See, I told you this was strange.  But this contradiction spurred one other thought.  U.S. History tells me, Benjamin Franklin proposed the Turkey to be the American national bird (not the Bald Eagle.)  I find it interesting that we eat the bird at Thanksgiving, which could have been our National Bird and symbol. 
Maybe I should call this post “Antithesis” since both subjects point out contrasting differences.  I will probably be returning to the garden topic in the future.  As for the food topic, well….I’ll probably stick with family tradition eating Turkey at Thanksgiving and celebrate my Christian freedom from the Jewish law indulging in all forms of pork at Christmas and Easter.  Hope you had a wonderful Easter and always remember, Jesus is the reason for the season – He is risen indeed!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Personal responsibility

While driving to work this morning I was struck with the realization that many of the driver’s around me were driving quite fast for the road conditions.  This thought led me to thinking about how many times I and others abdicate their personal responsibility.  This morning on the highway, the speed limit warning lights were not on, which could led people to believe the highway conditions were fine to go the normal speed (or above.)  My personal opinion was, the roads were not safe to drive 65 on, so I slowed down allowing others to pass me.
In this electronic age where we have alarms and reminders to tell us just about everything we need to know, the tendency to rely on something other than ourselves is a huge temptation.  It is easy for me to “blame” something or someone else for not “reminding” or “prompting” me to action.  This is not to say for time and millennia people have relied on alarm clocks to wake them in the morning, but what I am saying is we have become too reliant upon others making decisions regarding our personal safety.  My parents always taught me to watch out for the other driver when behind the wheel, to pay attention to the side of the road, not just what was directly in front of me.  As people sped past me I thought about how I did not feel safe at the higher speed and did not need a blinking speed limit sign to slow me down, I was taking personal responsibility.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate having alarms, reminders, blinking lights and buzzers warning me of impending danger, but I am making a decision to not abdicate my personal responsibility to taking care of myself.  Over the past few years I have tried to live conscientiously.  Meaning I try to make certain I have made a conscious decision about each of my actions, even if that decision is “I’m not deciding, just doing as I feel.”  By living in this manner, I cannot blame anyone but myself for most of life situations.  If I remain overweight, then it is a result of a conscious decision to not eat well or exercise.  If I choose to blow my money on “wishful” things leaving me short for necessities, then such is my fate.
I guess what this boils down to for me, is once again living life with purpose.  Notice I did not say living life with “A Purpose,” but rather “with purpose” or “on purpose.”  I see a difference, subtle though it may be.  I want to be able to take the twists and turns I encounter with a sense of joy and perseverance, but not be so purpose driven I miss the fun offered on a short detour.  If I detour or caused to be detoured, I want to do this with my eyes wide open and my brain engaged.  I want to be conscious of my surroundings and take responsibility for myself, even when subjected to situations caused by others; I still have control of my reactions.
As always, this and $2.50 will get you whatever you want, that is if you choose to spend the money!

Friday, February 10, 2012


I came to the conclusion many years ago there is no such thing as a mistake when it comes to humans.  Humans make mistakes, plenty of them, but when it comes to a human being, no being is a mistake.  Regardless of how inauspicious our creation and beginning in this world, no one has been or ever will be a mistake.

Family Genealogy is one of my favorite past times.  I love listening to my mother tell of her life, I enjoy looking at old pictures from my grandmother’s scrapbook.  I have researched back many generations on both my mother and father’s sides.  When I look at my “pedigree” chart, my uniqueness in the universe is confirmed.  There is only one of me (many are happy about that,) and there will ever only be one of me.  Decisions were made over the past hundreds and thousands of years, which led to the specific moment in time I was conceived.  I would not have been me if any one of the previous combinations changed.

The “what ifs” come to play in this picture; what if my grandfather Scott did not go to Worcester, did not take the job at the Press Steel, never met my grandmother?  What if my great, great grandfather was not hurt in the war in Austria, and did not come to America with his family for treatment?  What if my great, great, great grandfather (father’s side) stayed in London, England, never traveled to New York; never met his wife from County Cork, Ireland, who also traveled to New York?  You can see how a person’s uniqueness can unravel with the change of one decision.

There are so many other life-altering decisions this applies to, but this is not what my focus is.  The title of this post is “deserving.”  I am not trying to build a case of me being “deserving” of anything special, but rather I wish to assert all are deserving of respect and honor, regardless of status in life, due simply to being the only one of their kind.  Each person has a part to play in history, a part, which cannot be played by another.  Each person deserves a smile, a glance, encouragement and support, a thank you or you’re welcome, a hello, just because.  I like to acknowledge birthdays by telling people how much I appreciate the fact they were born.  By their very existence, my world and in many cases I have been changed by who they are.

As I celebrate another year of life, I can only hope I make a positive difference in other’s lives.  I also wish to “tip my hat” in thanks to my ancestors, who made some “right” decisions about who to have children with.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Commitment - 7/17/11

I read this last night when digging around in my archives, notice the date.  I decided this was pretty appropriate to post now since this encompasses my goals for 2012. Hope you enjoy!


I feel the need to write again if for no other reason than to chastise myself for a lack of commitment.  For my entire life (so it seems) I have had a vision for what I would like to do.  I have been drawn to be creative in writing music and in writing short stories or blogs as they are called now.  I have sought and desired to live a life that was consumed with the creative arts, but in this process have had to “make a living.”  There are plenty of people out there who pursue their passions while still making a living and I have come to the conclusion (many years ago) that what I lack, what makes the difference between them and me is commitment.  I am plagued with two deadly traits, one is perfectionism, which often stops me before I even start and the second is “if it don’t come easy I give up.” 

Sacrifice would be another word that would come to mind while pondering this subject.  People who are driven in a certain direction often sacrifice their own personal immediate gratification for a greater satisfaction in the future.  This concept speaks to me of the Christian life, sacrificing immediate gratification for the greater satisfaction in the future that which is just out of sight of our current situation. 

In Philippians, Paul tells the church to press toward the goal as a runner in a race.  Athletes make a commitment to their sport.  They train their bodies and minds in preparation for the race.  They run daily, they practice, they sacrifice, they make a commitment to a future glory, and take pleasure in the work they do now.  This is where I fall short, I do not work daily at my passion, I do not sacrifice for it; I don’t break a sweat over it that is not good.  I am disgusted with my lack of drive and false thought that it’s okay to do something when the mood strikes.  I know that in order for me to ultimately do what I want to do with my life; I need to make some commitments, which means sacrifice of my immediate comfort.

I have fought against discipline for years, not the punitive meaning of discipline for that comes regardless, but again the discipline of daily routine and practice of things that don’t come easy.  I need to be “up and doing” as Longfellow writes in “A Psalm of Life” “act in the Living present, Heart within, and God o’erhead.”

As I prepare for an upcoming concert, I need to train as an athlete.  I need to commitment myself to that preparation and to also focus on the other creative areas of my life.  It is time for me to make some sacrifices and work, train and practice my art.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

“Winter blahs, a whining Mainer”

I have come to better understand the phrase “the winter of my discontent.”  As I stumbled on the ice with an old yogurt container of sand in one hand, mail in the other (I was returning from getting my mail,) I decided this blog might end up being a whine session.  So, if you would like to get some cheese and crackers to go along with my whine before proceeding, please feel free. 

I am tired, tired of being cold, tired of expending great amounts of energy to complete the simplest of tasks.  Every August, maybe September I get these idealized visions in my head of how wonderful it will be to wear heavier clothing, eat hearty food, curl up under blankets and read a book.  Lest you think I just dream of indoor activities I promise myself, every fall, I will snow shoe or learn to snowboard; I will make the most of this “wonderful” season.  But, here I sit and reality is I am tired! All I want to do is hibernate like bats and bears, curled up sleeping in nice dens, eating off the fat I put on over the holidays!  But I cannot do that, I must go to work, I must pay the bills, I must go out in the snow to walk the dog and get the mail.

Oh, the dog…yes well he gets very excited when the snow arrives (at least one of us does!) However, now it is the dead of winter, he goes out, does his business and comes right back in, so much for him being part Newfoundland!

I have felt recently like I am fighting everything. Fighting to get my clothes on, fighting to open jars, fighting with the blankets on my bed, urf.  I have taken to singing my discontent, I sing at drivers, I sing at inanimate objects in my way.  Whine, whine, whine this is what I am doing at the moment.  I know I have chosen to live in Maine; I have often said I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else for I love the change of seasons and the north Atlantic, but here in this moment I would be willing for a week of warm, white sand and aquamarine colored ocean.

As always I am pulled back to reality by the thought of my mother who grew up in Downeast Maine during the 30’s.  She tells me of waking up in the morning and having snow on floor of her bedroom due to the windows being loose and the wind blowing the snow in.  She had to walk to school; rarely having snow days and heated her soup over a wood stove in the corner of the schoolroom.  My grandmother used to go out to for water and had to chop the ice in the well before drawing.

Life was considerably harder during those years, but maybe all things are relative.  I try to talk myself into believing I come from hearty stock and should not whine like I do.  Maybe I am soft, yeah, I am soft; I have a furnace, running water, hot even.  I have a stove to heat food on and a car to drive to work with.  I am trying to be “radically thankful” (see former blog.)  More than that I am trying to motivate myself into action, I am writing this blog, I made interesting food to eat tonight.  Maybe I am not so discontented now that I let my whine out on paper.  Thanks for reading my whine, hope your cheese and crackers were good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Have to start somewhere

I have had a number of people ask me "when are you going to update your blog?????"  I sheepishly grin and tell them "soon."  So for you who have asked, here is a quick blog, and for those who read this and didn't ask...well you get it too.

In the past three weeks, I have started three blogs and one song.  I have not finished any of them at this time!  The first week of January I began to set some goals, one of which was to publish a blog at least once a month, preferrable twice.  I decided I need to start somewhere, and was inspired by other blogs I have read that are simply one or two paragraphs.  To my reader's I make this resolution: In 2012 I will make a concerted effort to publish at least once a month.  It may not be the best of what I feel it should be, but I am going to prime the pump and keep writing.  I am going to try and share those passing thoughts (that I have daily) and hopefully a couple of these will inspire a smile, a chuckle or a hmmm from the reader's.

I would ask one thing of my reader's...continue to ask "when you gonna post?"  Thanks for hanging with me people, 2012 the year I work on being consistently creative.