Stat Counter

Monday, March 31, 2014

Thrive: Redefining Success

Dear Mom,

I spent Saturday reading a new book by Arianna Huffington:

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

I'm glad I read it, as it confirmed many things I already believe -- messages I think Dr. Howell does a fantastic job of preaching and writing about for the congregation at Myers Park UMC. A few years ago, Dr. Howell made me realize I'd always thought about the concept of Sabbath as a punishment for restless children ("You must sit still and honor me!"), but it's really a gift -- forcing us to take time every single week to stop, to reflect, to nourish our spirits and think about what really matters. Be still, and know that I am God.

It's kind of ironic, isn't it, that many of the things we force upon children -- daily naps or quiet time, a defined bedtime, eating your vegetables -- are the things we really need ourselves as adults! 

I'd watched Arianna on the Daily Show and some other programs talking about it, and think it's awesome to see a highly successful person out there evangelizing about the fact that professional success isn't going to fill you up. Or, as the summary says, "the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today's world." 

As more and more people are coming to realize, there is far more to living a truly successful life than just earning a bigger salary and capturing a corner office. Our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success -- money and power -- has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers. In being connected to the world 24/7, we're losing our connection to what truly matters.

The best quote in the book was probably the one I saw Melinda Gates post on Facebook: "...remember that while there will be plenty of signposts along your path directing you to make money and climb up the ladder, there will be almost no signposts reminding you to stay connected to the essence of who you are, to take care of yourself along the way, to reach out to others, to pause to wonder, and to connect to that place from which everything is possible."

It's something I've thought a lot about since you died. I know you knew on some level you were loved, and it was so sweet when all of the cards and letters started to pour in after you got sick. But I wonder if you truly realized just how successful you were. I'm still blown away by the touching and thoughtful things people wrote on Facebook when you died. Leigh Ann gave me your iPad last weekend, and I came across a few of the screen shots she'd captured on December 27 and 28: 

I wish you were here so I could tell you how proud I am of you and how awed I am by the impact you made with your life. I know it was tough to worry about money all those years when you sacrificed financially to teach at RFM. But I think teaching also offers some really lovely blessings too -- one of which is the opportunity to rest and recharge during spring break, summer vacation and Christmas holidays. 

Obviously I am incredibly fortunate to have a job that is challenging and pays me well. And one that lets me live comfortably in one of the world's most interesting cities! As many people have commented, Leigh Ann and I were both privileged to be able to work remotely from Quincy for extended stints while you were sick. But as I thought about what I wanted this year to be like, I realized my soul and my spirit are craving an longer stint of rest and recharge. My boss recognized I had an extraordinary year at work last year, even amid everything we were dealing with as a family. But I knew there was no way I could keep the wheels on the bus at work without taking a break. 

So, I've asked for and received an unpaid leave of absence for the summer. It took some negotiating! Part of that was assuring my boss that I'll be fully present and fully engaged during the nine months I am there this year...and that I will indeed return in September. I'm not really sure what the time will look like, but I know it will involve traveling, reading, writing, resting and catching up with friends. 

And...I'm excited about letting this time be a gift to some of our closest friends, so I'll be inviting them to stay in my apartment while I'm gone! It's a gift from you to them. Naturally teachers get first dibbs. ;) 

One of the best things about Thrive was the fact it included a lot of memorable quotes like this one: 

And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, "This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!"

And each day, it's up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, "No. This is what's important."
-- Ian Thomas

Thank you for teaching me what's important. 

I can't wait to see what my summer holds. Just wish you were going to be along for the ride. 



Sunday, March 30, 2014

The WC

Dear Mom,

Bird asked about this when I posted all of the old pics recently, including the ones in front of the Christmas tree.

So, here it is for her!

Leigh Ann let me have the ornaments, since I never started my own collection. Wonder when I will have my own tree? Maybe I can keep the collection going with my own travels this summer.



I'll Be Seeing You

Dear Mom,

This stuff got a lot of "likes" on Facebook last week, but I like to put it on here so Auntie D and others can enjoy... 

As Leigh Ann and I drove back from Tallahassee last Saturday night, where we'd met our Smith relatives for dinner, look what rolled by us on I-10! 
Leigh Ann's post tickled everybody, especially MaBet, who pointed out the truck was from Albany, Georgia, the home of your mutual cousins. 

Speaking of MB, look what she found in her yard on Tuesday! 

Here's the turtle last year, when he was first spotted and "monogrammed."

And there was this one from your buddy Sara:

When we were unloading at Leigh Ann's house on Tuesday morning, I got a kick out of something the movers said. Ranie is so clever about finding funny ways to work your signature phrases into conversation. I can't remember what we were laughing about last week when she said, "Ya either get it or ya don't."



Friday, March 28, 2014

Theatrical Therapy

Dear Mom, 

One of the many things you taught us early on was how to take advantage of resources to promote mental health. Although it was a bit odd to talk to a shrink while in middle school (I think I used to tell my friends I was going to the podiatrist again -- as if that were less bizarre -- ha!), I'm really grateful you showed us that therapists were available to help us. 

While I've gotten a lot out of my past sessions, it's not something I'm feeling compelled to do right now, but perhaps it will be again. These days, I'm mostly seeing Dr. Babs. Her rates are reasonable, and her schedule is flexible! 

However, I did have a chance to partake in what ended up being some "theatrical therapy" a couple of weeks ago, when "the Bops" were in town. 

They were going to see the Lion King and asked if they could treat me to a ticket. How sweet!!! 
I'd never seen it and can't imagine a better way to experience the show than sitting by Ainsley and listening to her ooh and aah. At one point, she leaned over to me when the hyenas were on stage and whispered, "They're BAD guys, but they're GOOD singers!" 
Oh, boy. I could give her an earful on that one. If there is anything that marks the transition from childhood to adulthood, it might be the realization that the line between the good guys and the bad guys isn't as clear as you were led to believe. Bad guys CAN indeed be good singers, can't they?! But I digress. Back to the show... 
I knew it would be good, but I didn't realize how much the "Circle of Life" theme would resonate with me right now. Everything that happens -- losing a parent too soon, running away from one's roots, growing up to honor and continue a parent's legacy, returning to your tribe as an adult -- really hit home. 

Mufasa: Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars.
Young Simba: Really?
Mufasa: Yes. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.
Adult Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back means I'll have to face my past. I've been running from it for so long.
[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]
Adult Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn't matter. It's in the past.
Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or... learn from it.
Adult Simba: [Catching up] You knew my father?
Rafiki: Correction. I know your father.
Adult Simba: I hate to tell you this but he died. A long time ago.
Rafiki: Nope! wrong again! He's alive and I will show him to you! You follow old Rafiki. He knows the way!
Rafiki: [after guiding Simba to a spot where he says will show him Mufasa] Look down there.
Adult Simba: [looks into a pool of water] That's not my father. That's just my reflection.
Rafiki: No, look harder.
[touches the water, as it ripples Simba's reflection changes to that of his father]
Rafiki: You see? He lives in you.
Mufasa's ghost: [from above] Simba.
Adult Simba: Father?
Mufasa's ghost: [apears among the stars] Simba, you have forgotten me.
Adult Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa's ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Adult Simba: How can I go back? I'm not who I used to be.
Mufasa's Ghost: [Now fully formed in the sky] Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are.

Now, obviously I don't think I'm The Lion King! But that idea of growing into our parents' legacy is so rich and so ripe, no matter what your "place" is in the kingdom.  

A few days later, Page happened to post on Facebook a quote from Rosanne Cash on her new album, "What you seek is seeking you." 

It reminded me that I'd seen a lovely segment on CBS Sunday Morning in which correspondent Anthony Mason took a road trip with Rosanne back to her father's roots in Arkansas, Tennessee, and the Mississippi Delta. The experience provided the content for her new album, The River and The Thread.
"I didn't know how deeply I felt about the South until I started writing the songs, or how connected I felt, or the people I loved," she says in the piece, placing a guitar pick on the grave of Robert Johnson. 
Mason ends the piece with this: 

Nearly 25 years ago, Rosanne Cash rode out of Dixie. But the road she left on has now brought her all the way back.
"In the same way you push away your parents -- you push away a lot of things, your parents' habits, the things they treasure. You go, 'Well, that's not me. I'm original.' We all think we're original! But discovering those things that really connect you to the past and your parents and where they came from . . . I feel stronger for it. I feel whole for it."

"You thought you'd left it all behind
You thought you'd up and gone
But all did was figure out
How to take the long way home."
Well, now! Isn't that right in line with all of my bellybutton analysis these days? I decided I MUST see if Rosanne would be performing this album in NYC any time soon. 

Imagine my surprise and delight when I realized she would indeed be performing it ON MY STREET THE VERY NEXT NIGHT!!! The venue Town Hall is on 43rd street between 6th and 7th Avenues. I'd been there once before to see Garrison Keilor host a storytelling event for The Moth. Funny enough, Rosanne has a story in her memoir about seeing her now-husband there years ago. 

Anyway, Travis joined me, and we both loved every minute of it! He downloaded the album the next morning and listened to it as he walked to work. I was wishing we had a set list, but Page shared the NYT review the next day, and it came pretty close. 
Page suggested I read Rosanne's memoir "Composed," which I am doing. There's a sweet section where she mentions a metaphor she crafted as a seventh-grader ("a lonely road is a bodyguard") , which she ended up putting into one of her songs, "Sleeping in Paris."

That song ended up on The Wheel, and whenever I hear it now, or think it, or sing it,  I nod to my little girl self, and she, in the wisdom of her great distance and perspective, looks on with pleasure and the patience of one who has waited a long time to be noticed. This one line, in this one song, is how I know who I am, and how I know I survived.
-- Rosanne Cash, Composed: A Memoir

Funny enough, when Page posted Rosanne's "seeking" quote, I googled it and saw a version of it is attributed to Rumi, who also penned this little gem:

Not to get off on a tangent of moral relativism, but I am really fascinated by the idea that none of us are as bad or as good as it sometimes seems. We all delight some people and disappoint others at times, don't we? I think a lot about how things that seemed so simple as a child were actually far more complex than I realized.

I spent Tuesday's flight from Charlotte to New York reading some of my old journals and realizing how much I've changed, in really wonderful ways. It almost made me treasure my grey hair! We kvetch so much about getting older, but what a gift to gain the perspective and the experiences that the years bring.

Maybe I'll be able to pull out one of my middle-school "gems" from a journal and let it shape and inform my adult creativity, as Rosanne did. Good things do come from bad things. The experience with selling the house to "the girls" really showed me that. Our loss is their gain, in a lovely, healing way. I feel so profoundly that God is with us, and God is at work, restoring and making things new.

I just wish my favorite "master in analysis" was here to talk about all of this with me. You are dearly loved and deeply missed.

Here's one last quote from Rumi:
"The wound is the place where the light enters you."



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Welcome Home, Girls!

Dear Mom,

I am back in my little nest and woke up at 5:30. Guess Miss Betty is still with me in spirit!!

This weekend was bittersweet, but mostly sweet, as we LOVE your buyers, Debra and Becky. They are hilarious and wanted to meet us just as badly as we wanted to meet them.

Cookie and Matt came over to help us finish packing on Saturday morning and to see if they could find any treasures in what we were not taking.
You would have been tickled listening to them divide up the kitchen stuff. Mattie got the red pots and pans I sent you with my Bank of America "spirit points." They both loved Grandmama's spoon collection, so it worked out just right that there was one for each of them! 
Over the past few months, we had a wonderful time letting friends take a look at the furniture. It was truly a "God thing," as almost no one wanted the same pieces. I should do a separate post about it, but the bottom line was it was really special and would have made you so happy.

Mattie got your dresser, and Cookie got the big entertainment center and Uncle Howard's handmade coffee table bench. You should have seen the movers carrying that ginormous entertainment center down the steps. Yowzers! Leigh Ann thinks I have jacked up the pay scale in Gadsden County with the NYC rates I insisted we should pay them, but I think they earned every nickel. (And remember when Eddie moved that piece from north Alabama for me? What a doll he is!)

We picked up the truck at what may be the most unattractive Uhaul franchise in the U.S. While Leigh Ann found her way to the office, I amused myself outside...

The man was really sweet, and when we saw all of his used appliances, we told him to mosey on over on Monday and help himself to that second fridge out of the laundry room. Somehow it just stopped working in February. Maybe he can use it for spare parts.

It was around 11 when "the girls" came by. We were tickled that it seemed they were equally eager to meet us. I think they're going to be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. They are sweet and delightful. Becky cracked us up. She said Deb will handle all the decorating, but she does need a place to put her Batman collection! We suggested the downstairs "outhouse." It will be fun to see what they do with the place. Seeing this as a new chapter for them was a big help in feeling less sad about our loss. Just feels like the universe is at work healing and making things new.
Their families said that since they will have double ovens, maybe they should host Thanksgiving this year! They told us to stop by any time and check in. 

It is funny how we've all called them "the girls" even though they are in their 40s. I love the fact that's the way people in Quincy still refer to us. Mr. Billy said we will always be "the girls," no matter how old we get! 

He and Mr. Phillip really saved the day for us when a tree fell last week before we got there...they chopped it up and repaired the fence. So sweet and so special. Just unbelievable, really. Only in the Q.

We had the truck loaded by about 3 p.m., and it really wasn't as bad as we expected. So, we had time to shower and walk over to Hillcrest with Miss Betty, where we checked on Grandmama and Paw Paw, and we did the first of six ash sprinkling ceremonies. Miss Betty made it really special with something she had saved to read.

I still think one of the neatest things about Quincy is the fact the cemetery functions sorta like a park.

Saturday night, we went out to dinner with the Smith family. Aunt Tillie was in town and treated everyone to Bonefish Grill.

Since Saturday was our "Martha day," Sunday was our "Mary day." We went to Centenary, where it was United Methodist Women's Sunday. They had a special speaker from Birmingham, Paulette West. Her husband went to college with Dick Reddick, and she runs United Methodist Volunteers in Mission for the Southeast. Leigh Ann and I played the name game with her and came up with lots of mutual connections via our work leading mission teams in Brazil, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

Miss Patsy made us a salad plate for lunch, which was just perfect, as we'd eaten Hardee's twice in 24 hours the day before. ("You might be in Quincy if...")

We made a few drop-in visits, and then the Subers hosted a little open house for us to get our hugs in. It was just perfect. The Colombos came over from Tallahassee, and it was adorable to watch Julia play with Maxwell and Page.
Jeff and Ainsley dropped by with a hilarious gift for us. Right after we had our dinner conversation about Sheryl Sandberg's effort to "ban bossy," they saw these tote bags at the Girl Scout headquarters! (Anyone who doesn't know about this campaign can read more about it here.)
Ainsley asked if we could take a "silly picture" too...
Mr. Bill earned both the "best dressed" and "best belly laugh" awards.
Monday morning, we had one last errand to run with our angel Cookie Girl.
Then, MaBet and Grandpa sent us off, and we hit the road in our sweet ride.
Remember when you gave extra credit for Uhaul spotting with the state trivia? What are the chances we would have gotten one with our destination right on it?! (Hmm, one in 50, I guess?!)
We signed the closing papers at the attorney's office in Tallahassee and headed north. Outside of Thomasville, an SUV with 30-A and Sewannee stickers passed us. Leigh Ann said, "That was Mr. Mark!!"
We took a different route, which I loved, as it went through a lot of small towns. We stopped in Eatonville at the Uncle Remus museum, and I bought a book for Barb to read Maggie and J.B., as she'd mentioned those books are hard to find these days.

We can report Nina has gone into the fashion and beauty supply business, but we did not have time to stop and check out her weaves. Leigh Ann was on conference calls for half of the afternoon. It was delightful!
Miss Betty sent us a photo of Mr. Billy enjoying his little birthday cheesecake from Carnegie Deli... 
On Tuesday morning, the movers came and unloaded the truck. They got everything into the attic except your iron bed frame, which was too tall and had to go outside. Yes, we kept that! I know it would make you happy.
I went to see Daddy Dave and Barbara, and then I met Anne, Darcy and Bridget for lunch at Flying Biscuit. Darcy was such a good girl, Anne "treated" her to a hair cut at the coolest kids' salon ever! She was hilarious and such a love bug. Her favorite foods are hot dogs and proscuitto rolls. Yep, she's Anne's!

I spent the afternoon going through photo albums and organizing some of the stuff I'd left in LA's attic when I moved three years ago. When I'm back over Easter, there will be some runs to Goodwill! Need to do a separate blog post on some of the stuff in your wedding scrapbook...

On Sunday, the sermon was about the Body of Christ -- the way we all contribute something unique to the building of God's kingdom. That could have been sad, as you were a big part of that body for me -- and for many other people. But I think Christ's body is one of magical and mystical regeneration, constantly growing new parts to replace those that die and fall away. I knew I was on the right track when Miss Kay read this benediction:

New every morning is your love, great God of light.
All day long you work for good in the world.
Stir up in us desire to serve you,
to live peacefully with our neighbors,
to devote each day to your Son,
for each day you make things New for us.
Through our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.  AMEN.

Welcome home, Debbie and Becky! May your years at 415 Highland Avenue be as rich in laughter and friendship as ours were.