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84 things

18 Comments 15 July 2010

  1. i am fiercely independent. (sometimes to a fault)
  2. i love my husband, even though he is the antithesis of who i am in almost every way.
  3. i hate to clean house, but have to constantly pick-up or i would be swallowed alive.
  4. i think music is medicinal.
  5. i love wine…lots of wine (just a vice, not an addiction, unless you ask my mother) pinot noirs from oregon rock!
  6. i will take you out if you hurt someone i love, but i HATE to return things or fight for myself.
  7. i love my kids.
  8. i am learning to use my voice.
  9. i would rather wear great jeans than ANYTHING else!
  10. i had a dirt bike and rode constantly when i was a teen; would love to have a bike again one day.
  11. i suffer from road rage, just ask my kids!  where do you think they’ve learned those words 😉 !
  12. women who are mean to other women make me wanna fight!
  13. i have fewer friends the older i get, but the ones i have are gold.
  14. i think we should ask ourselves why?  a lot.
  15. my kids do their homework, their projects and their own papers!
  16. i can be funny.
  17. i would rather travel than almost anything. (see #7)
  18. guilt and grief are constant companions of mine.
  19. sleep is overrated.
  20. money is something that i have never had much of and wish i had more of…
  21. i am generous, sometimes to my detriment.
  22. i yell easily at people, especially the people i love.
  23. i love to help people get where they need to be or want to go.
  24. i want to go to europe once a year for the rest of my life.
  25. i WILL go to new york city once a year for the rest of my life.
  26. i believe you spend your money on what matters to you.
  27. i can’t seem to get a hair-cut that doesn’t cover one eye.
  28. i used to do elaborate scrapbooks for my kids and family.
  29. i feel like i am constantly working.
  30. i want to affect change in my family, my community and my world.
  31. being the parent of a child with special needs can be very lonely.
  32. i love to give gifts to my kids and people i love!
  33. i believe that god loves me completely, in spite of my failures.
  34. i believe in jesus.
  35. i love to share what i learn with others.
  36. i am not obsessed with finding out why my daughter is special, i just know she is and that we must all live with it.
  37. i want my kids to go to great colleges and travel the world.
  38. i want mari-helen to learn to write and read. (she is 10 and can barely write her name!)
  39. i take enough medication to kill a horse, but without it i know i would be worthless to those i love.
  40. if i had money i would hire someone to help us care for mari-helen daily.
  41. i would have a housekeeper if i could afford it.
  42. i am getting more and more comfortable in my own skin.
  43. my life looks different than anyone else’s that i know and i am okay with that fact.
  44. my marriage is unique because of the challenges that we face and the experiences we’ve walked through.
  45. i am not a martha stewart, but i think i could give oprah a run for her money! 😉
  46. i want to write for a living.
  47. i would love to be able to pay for my kids to go to college.
  48. i do not envy those with money, never have, never will.
  49. i think being able to be happy for others when good things happen to them is the best indicator of whether or not we are happy with ourselves.
  50. i want my kids to love the underdog, because at some point, they will be the underdog.
  51. i think people who are mean to retarded people are shitty people!
  52. i think having a special needs child has changed me in huge ways.
  53. i think religious people can be some of the most hurtful people on earth.
  54. i think empathy is the basis for all good relationships.
  55. i love cream of wheat.
  56. i’m never going to have great abs and i will always have a double chin!  (see #5)
  57. i am an ice cream snob.
  58. i love my dogs, but i suck at training them.
  59. i am NOT a salesperson.
  60. my first two children were due on holidays, their birthdays are not on those holidays! (10 & 7 days late!)
  61. i hate details and directions.
  62. i am not a rebel, i just can’t let it be if it shouldn’t be.
  63. i regret not getting a phD in something i love. (and no, i am not going back to school now.)
  64. i don’t mind laundry.
  65. i used to be a runner.  i have run two half-marathons and now i just sit on my ass!
  66. i curse.
  67. i would like to lose ten pounds.
  68. community is a rare and beautiful thing.
  69. i can’t remember things like i used to.
  70. i think laughter is a gift.
  71. i cry.  a lot.
  72. my parents divorced when i was 21.
  73. i have been to ecuador, brazil, england, france & italy.
  74. i taught high-school english for two years.
  75. i hate that politics and faith are bedfellows.  it serves no one, not the state and certainly not the church.
  76. bigotry is one of the ugliest things on this planet.
  77. my first kiss was in 5th grade.  (sad, but true!)
  78. i make things happen.
  79. i am selfish.
  80. i think we should find a cure for diabetes NOW, not ten years from now.
  81. i have learned that i must determine, when i want to fight, if i am fighting to save myself or to save someone else.
  82. family is hard.
  83. marriage is harder.
  84. authenticity is the hardest.

Okay, enough.  Write down/type out 84 things about you.  Then tell the people you know and love.  Share yourself, your real, authentic self with those you care about and want to impact.

A Different Kind of Cinderella

3 Comments 14 July 2010

I watched Cinderella Man with Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti last night. It is a hard movie to watch as far as the actual boxing, but I loved the underdog theme!  James (Jimmy) J. Braddock was a real person and the story is inspiring.  I won’t go on and on with details, but you need to know this in order to stay with me here…Jimmy Braddock was boxer who won easily early in his career and made a good deal of money.  However, injuries soon limited his ability and caused a decline in his career.  That decline, coupled with the Great Depression landed him in utter ruin and poverty, unable to provide for his wife and three children.  Braddock was protrayed as a man of passion, kindness and honor.  But the most admirable and authentic part of Braddock’s life that was depicted in the movie was how his fighting career was revived, not for glory, but so that he might simply care for those he loved.

At one point in the movie, as Crowe’s character is about to fight for the title, he is quizzed at a press conference and among the questions came the every poignant, “What’s different now Jimmy?”  Braddock’s answer was simply, “Because now I know what I am fighting for.”  The reporter quipped back, “What’s that Jimmy?”  And with a beautiful humility, he answers, “Milk.”  The Braddocks had lost everything, had their power turned off, and were rationing food.  Jimmy Braddock had three small children and he had been to the bottom.  He had looked into the eyes of hungry children that he loved.  They say that Braddock was an inspiration to multitudes during that time of the Depression…right now, he is an inspiration to me.

Life looks a whole lot different when you are looking at it through the lens of an empty milk bottle.  A life that has never been tested by adversity, by pain, disappointment, failure, suffering…I think I can safely say, that is a life that has not been without milk.  And it is those moments, those tests and the pain that inevitably follows that change us.  And then the questions come…yes, more questions and not so many answers!

How can we allow those experiences to change us for the better?  What I am fighting for…do I know?  What am I living for?  Am I stronger and more passionate about pursuing my dreams because I know what it is to leave them behind?  Can I give hope to others that they can do the same?  Will I allow those moments to propel me toward a life that brings hope?

Have you ever seen life through the lens of an empty milk bottle?  Has it changed you?  How you see the world?  Do you know what you are fighting for?

Jimmy Braddock was a different man, he was changed, and his life brought about radical hope to others.

I wanna be a Jimmy Braddock.  I wanna be a different kind of Cinderella!

Return Address

14 Comments 12 July 2010

Two of my three kids are at camp right now.  Everyone has an opinion about sending their kid to camp and I am no exception.  I think it is the pinnacle of the childhood experience.  It is also the pinnacle of the emptying of the pocketbook experience!  However, poverty has its benefits.  Both of my kids have benefited by scholarships and for those scholarships I am eternally grateful.  For me, being away from home, with peers and counselors who love and enjoy campers is a life-changing experience.  So much of a child’s life is shaped by us, their parents, and I think camp gives them an opportunity to step out on their own and test their fledgling wings.  Granted, not all camps are created equally, and every parent must choose the best camp for their child, but all in all, being away from Mama & Daddy offers a wonderful moment in time to spread your own wings.

I loved camp as a kid.  I loved meeting new people and the comradery that being in a cabin with ten or so other girls offered.  But I think the greatest impact that I experienced was my relationship with my counselor.  Having someone, just a few years older than me step into my life and tell me I was special…that I was a great kid…that I could change the world, it changed me.  I am certain that my counselors said nothing that I had not heard from my parents, grandparents, aunts, or teachers, but it was different.  They were unique and the setting was unique.  They represented a person that I wanted to be, they were cool college girls that were fun and crazy and yet they had a genuine love for people and a genuine faith.

Camp for my kids has proven to be very similar.  They are living in a completely different world right now.  Days are full of activities that both challenge them and make them laugh their heads off.  My daughter has everything from synchronized swimming to pottery classes and sailing in between.  My son, whose camp is a bit more rustic, swims in a river, will go whitewater rafting and plays every type of “ball” imaginable.  They are making new friends and learning in the process how to be themselves in these new relationships.  I am encouraging them to listen well, to ask questions and to be kind to the underdogs.  I am constantly trying to remind them that who they are now is who they will become.  I have especially been encouraging my daughter to listen to that still small voice that is her heart and soul, to be okay with who she is and who she is not.  She is surrounded with a multitude of girls from very affluent backgrounds who have had opportunities that she has not had.  I am encouraging her to own who she is, her experiences, her passions, her gifts, her background and all that she brings to the table.  It has been lovely to hear that her counselor is encouraging the very same things, along with helping her learn to laugh at herself.

As I write my kids, I always try to put a name in the return address spot that makes them giggle.  This goes back to my college days and my friend from college.  She was always so clever to do this and it made me laugh my head off!.  I have done it ever since and now my best friend and I both do it with all of our kids who are away.  They love it…they see the silly name, the old crush, the political figure their grandmother hates, the teacher that gave them a hard time, the movie star they love, the music group they can’t stand…and the giggling ensues!  But just beneath the laugh is their home address and a reminder that I am here, here waiting for them to return to me.  Happy always for them to go and spread their wings, but happier still for them to come back to that return address!

Do you send your babies to camp?  Where?  How long are they gone?  Do you love/hate it?

My kids go to Camp Greystone (daughter) and Camp Laney (son).

Wide River to Cross…

2 Comments 08 July 2010

I am a lover of music, not in the sense of, oh damn, “I love this song! Cool!”  But in the sense that I believe that music is profound and that the lyrics of truly gifted songwriters are the poetry of the soul.  I will go to my grave struggling with being envious of those who can write songs, play music, and yes…sing.  There is a movement in the depths of the soul when the lyric, the music and the voice meld together and become one…it is magical and medicinal!

When you hear a song that grips you like that, that speaks to you in your guts, you want to consider why and for me…you want to write about it.  Back around December of last year, that song was Buddy Miller’s, Wide River To Cross, with its prolific lyrics and haunting tune.  Today, I am drawn back to that song as I consider yet another thoughtful comment by my friend Judy.  After I wrote the other day about College for 40-year-olds, Judy asked what had become of the underdog that I had talked about in my previous post “I’ve Always Loved the Underdog” from fifth grade to 33?  It was a fantastic question and one that is not easily answered in a blog post.  Really, to clarify, it would have been what happend between ages 18 and 33.  How did the underdog that was born in fifth grade who grew to have a fire in her belly for injustice through eighteen begin to lose her way and her voice in her twenties and early thirties?  The very existence of this blog is here to articulate the answer to that question, because what happened in those young adult years have shaped me forever.

Often times a song can communicate more than simple words, so until I can articulate an appropriate and thought through answer to Judy’s question…Buddy’s song will have to suffice.  The simplicity, the richness and the honesty of this song are what bring me back to it over and over again.  I feel very much like I have a wide, wide river to cross.  So much lies ahead of me and I am hopeful, yet I know there lies behind me great sorrow and failure and brokenness.  I don’t move forward thinking that I will be exempt from more sorrow, to the contrary, I know it travels right beside me, but I also know I am going home and that all that is broken here will be whole there.  It makes my journey here not only bearable, but beautiful.  I love this song.  I really do.  I love that even though we walk through seasons of  life in which we lose our voices and even betray our own souls, we can come through those seasons able to speak more clearly and know ourselves more definitively than we could have had we never failed.

I’ve got a wide, wide river to cross…so glad I’m only half way home!

there’s a sorrow in the wind
blowing’ down the road i’ve been
i can hear it cry while shadows steal the sun

but i can not look back now
i’ve come to far to turn around
and there’s still a race ahead that i must run

i’m only halfway home i gotta journey on
to where i’ll find the things that i have lost
i’ve come a long long road still i’ve got miles to go
i’ve got a wide wide river to cross

i have stumbled i have strayed
you can trace the tracks i made
all across the memories my heart recalls
but i’m just a refugee won’t you say a prayer for me
cause sometimes even the strongest soldier falls

Click here to hear Wide River to Cross by Buddy Miller & Emmylou Harris

College for 40-year-olds?

9 Comments 05 July 2010

“Wholly unprepared, they embark upon the second half of life. Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year-olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young people to a knowledge of the world and of life? No, there are none. Thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and ideas will serve as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.”  Carl Jung

This quote gets my attention.  When I read it in Sue Monk Kidd’s When the Heart Waits I was jarred, you know, like the cartoon kitty who gets hit on the head with a larger than life hammer and has stars and circles dancing around his head.  It made sense to me like few things make sense these days.  I don’t think it is a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” kind of statement.  And by that I mean that I do not believe that Jung is saying that everything that we have from the first forty years of our life is a lie, but instead, I personally believe that if we choose to stop learning, stop growing, stop developing who we are, then we live in the past.  We live within the confines of what we learned to be true in those early years and that can be a lie for the next forty years.

Why?  Well, I can only speak from personal experience and I lived a very different life from years 22 until 33 than I do now.  I lived in an extremely black and white world.  Things and problems, including suffering and difficulties were packaged neatly into categories and set on the shelves of my life.  I objectified people and their problems, their struggles, by laying down hard and fast the way things were and the way they should be.  My faith was a rigid and oppressive thing that held my life and my world in place.  If you questioned it, I would eat you alive.  I was the ‘truthslayer’ I would jokingly say to people.  I prided myself on telling the truth.  In reality, what I did was often crush people without entering into their pain or their mess.

The ‘programme of life’s morning’ for me was very clean, very neat and, I thought, very safe.  It made me feel secure to think that I knew all the answers and that God was on my side.  I quickly became a student in the program of life once again after Mari-Helen’s birth and then that was quickly followed by Drew’s diagnosis of Type I diabetes.  It was as if the library of my life, where I had worked tediously to place each and every volume in its place, tirelessly crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s, was all of a sudden, in a heap on the floor.

I realized at lightening speed that what had been ‘great in the morning’ would not suffice for my quickly approaching evening.  Not only did I see that it was a lie, but I saw that it was not at all safe.  It had not held me in place, it had held me in a very sterile and self-righteous place that allowed me to look down upon the suffering of those around me, but it was not a place that I belonged.  I quickly realized that I was made for the mess.  I was made, not for the safety of black and white, but for the mess and mire that is the gray.  I found that it was way down there, or now, way down here, where I live today, that the real human beings live.  In the sufferings and pain, with the compassion and empathy of each other…all here in the gray.  The air is much easier to breathe down here for real humans.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as ‘colleges for forty-year-olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands,’ but I feel as if I have been to a college like that…as if I have learned what is insufficient from my morning.  I may not yet know how to apply what I have learned to my evening, but I am certainly moving forward with a humility that I had no inkling of in my morning.  There are no ‘false presuppositions’ here, only questions and mysteries and wonderings.  The central truth, that God is real, that he cares for me particularly and that he knows my evening better than I do, that is what keeps me moving forward.  That part is not a lie, but how I apply that truth to my evening is far, far, far different that I ever applied it to my morning.

What will you take into your evening from your morning?  Are you moving into your evening with false presuppositions?

Losing Your Voice

2 Comments 03 July 2010

Warning~Random Rant coming…I was just driving across our little neighborhood when I heard it.  The beat was contagious, the rhythm was right on, but then my brain kicked-in and I started listening to the words.  I felt like I was having a surreal experience.  Surely she didn’t just say that… I am talking about the lyrics to Rihanna’s song Rude Boy.  (I am not going to put the song title in a link because if you do buy it, I don’t want anything to do with your purchase.)  Look people, I am about as far from a book-burner or cd smasher as you could be…I love music, I love literature and I love the arts.  However, there is something I love more~empowering and protecting women and girls…girls like my almost sixteen year old daughter! And I can’t for my life understand why anyone, especially a woman, would choose to sing along to this song.

I am not getting all fuddy-duddy and old school.  Hey, I use the F-word when I find it absolutely necessary.  I would hardly be classified as a conservative any more (just ask my  old co-workers or my Republican mother, right mom!)  But I have a passion to help women find their voices…all women.  I want young women to learn to use their voices and I want older women (yes, that would be me and most of you!) to rediscover theirs.  In order to do that we have to draw a line in the sand on things like this song.

It objectifies women.  It makes us nothing more than a sexual object.  It allows young men like my thirteen year old son and his friends to entertain the idea that women are animals akin to horses…”giddy up!”  Women are lovely and brilliant and bring to the world a myriad of gifts.  Yes, they are sexy and sensual and they can rock it in the bedroom, but that is a tiny part of who they are as a gender.  They are not the sum of their parts, they are human beings who deserve dignity and honor.  This song rips the voice right out of the mouths of young girls and it is not what any woman, old or young should be promoting or buying.  We have to use our voices, our power, our pocketbooks and our influence with our daughters to say that this is just plain wrong for women.

The irony of course is that Rihanna escaped a brutally abusive relationship with Chris Brown.  He was abusive in every way and she certainly was not able to use her voice in that relationship.  Yet here she is singing to the masses lyrics that prance around a BDSM mentality as if it is tantalizing.  Money is a powerful motivator, but selling your voice is a dangerous thing.  I want my daughter and every other women to find and keep their voices!  Losing your voice is a devastating thing in this life.  Maybe it would be beneficial if Rihanna considered losing these lyrics instead of losing her voice!

Rude Boy – Rihanna

Come on rude boy, boy
Can you get it up
Come here rude boy, boy
Is you big enough
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
Come here rude boy, boy
Can you get it up
Come here rude boy, boy
Is you big enough
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
Tonight
I’mma let you be the captain
Tonight
I’mma let you do your thing, yeah
Tonight
I’mma let you be a rider
Giddy up
Giddy up
Giddy up, babe
Tonight
I’mma let it be fire
Tonight
I’mma let you take me higher
Tonight
Baby we can get it on, yeah
we can get it on, yeah
Do you like it boy
I wa-wa-want
What you wa-wa-want
Give it to me baby
Like boom, boom, boom
What I wa-wa-want
Is what you wa-wa-want
Na, na-aaaah
Come here rude boy, boy
Can you get it up
Come here rude boy, boy
You should Is you big enough
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
Come here rude boy, boy
Can you get it up
Come here rude boy, boy
Is you big enough
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
Tonight
I’mma give it to you harder
Tonight
I’mma turn your body out
Relax
Let me do it how I wanna
If you got it
I need it
And I’mma put it down
Buckle up
I’mma give it to you stronger
Hands up
We can go a little longer
Tonight
I’mma get a little crazy
Get a little crazy, baby
Do you like it boy
I wa-wa-want
What you wa-wa-want
Give it to me baby
Like boom, boom, boom
What I wa-wa-want
Is what you wa-wa-want
Na, na-aaaah
Come here rude boy, boy
Can you get it up
Come here rude boy, boy
Is you big enough
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
Come here rude boy, boy
Can you get it up
Come here rude boy, boy
Is you big enough
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
I like the way you touch me there
I like the way you pull my hair
Babe, if I don’t feel it I ain’t faking
No, no
I like when you tell me kiss it there
I like when you tell me move it there
So giddy up
Time to giddy up
You say you’re a rude boy
Show me what you got now
Come here right now
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
Come on rude boy, boy
Can you get it up
Come here rude boy, boy
Is you big enough
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
Come here rude boy, boy
Can you get it up
Come here rude boy, boy
Is you big enough
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
Love me
yeh yeh yeh ,
Take it, take it
Baby, baby
Take it, take it
Love me, love me

What’s Your Story?

7 Comments 01 July 2010

Facebook is a very odd phenomenon.  It connects us with people that in the normal run of life might never cross our paths.  Facebook picks pieces or people out of our story and zooms them to the front and center and we are once again face to face (virtually of course) with them again.  And with these people from our lives, people who have been a part of our story, come pieces of our story that remind us of our beginning.

I’ve said many times that I believe that the story of our lives is what makes us who we are today.  Thinking through my personal story is and has been, in my opinion, very instrumental in considering my future.  The first chapters of a book are necessary to understand the middle and the beginning and middle are imperative if you want to find your way to the end with any clarity.  Facebook gave me another little piece of my beginning today.  I “friended” my middle school basketball and track coach.

Today, she sent me this little note:

Hey again Jorja, I don’t have a real great memory with so many former OBMS students in my head… but after seeing you on facebook… here is my OBMS flashback: It was “Career Week” or something like that… and some of you were chosen to share your dreams at an assembly. You came dressed like the career of your choice that day at school. I remember you… your sassy, cute self in that adorable short haircut… prancing up to the microphone in your “designer” outfit to announce that you planned to be an architect. And from what I see on facebook… you have done just that with your beautiful family! I’d ” bet the farm” that you are an exceptional wife and mother!

Her comments made me remember wanting to be an architect and how much I loved building things.  I loved making and creating things.  I took Shop instead of Home Economics.  I loved the woodworking, the building, the leather crafts and all of that stuff!  I still love making things, building things, but I wrote her back and told her that I have found through the years that I am much better at “building” people.  Helping them see where the pieces fit and walking beside them while they figure out a plan.  I want to make things better, to put them in place, to create something lovely out of the pieces of my life and the lives of others.

I think I am an architect of sorts, of people, of relationships and of my own story.  It is good to think about my coach and the part that she played in my story.  It is good to ponder that little seventh grader who wanted to be an architect and consider the beginning of my story.  The middle is here now, the middle of my story, and it truly helps me decipher the present by going back to the beginning.

It is an excellent exercise to write out your story.  I don’t mean a full-blown novel, but who are you?  What do you think about when you consider the beginning of your story?  Who shaped you?  What pieces or people make up your foundation?  How do you think your middle reflects your beginning?  Where do you find yourself now?  What do you want to happen between the middle and the end?  Where are you headed?  I’d love to read your story.  Send it to me at livi[email protected] .  I would love to post a few stories…

The World Is A Book…

0 Comments 29 June 2010

St. Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.”  I think after writing a post about reading it is only fitting that I write about travel.  For some people travel is a frivolous thing that is reserved for the uber-wealthy, and for others it is a a vital part of life.  I belong in the later group as I have come to learn, from experience, that travel, for me, is a necessity.  I am in whole-hearted agreement with St. Augustine and I have many pages to read in the days that I have left on this earth.

I think that I can actually mark my days and move through my life with much more equilibrium if I know there is a trip coming in the future.  It doesn’t have to be a trip to some exotic place in a far off land.  As my friend Carol, who writes on her blog NewYorkCityMama.com about the most fabulous city on earth…NYC, says in her post about traveling, it really isn’t about where, it is about your perspective in the journey!  For me, it is about stepping out of the mundane, the repititious and the cycle of everyday life.  We see things differently, we breath differently, we allow ourselves the freedom to laugh and rest and think in ways we do not in our normal routines.

Don’t get me wrong, of course the far off places are to be dreamt of and sought after, with pennies being saved.  But for many, there are a multitude of excuses for why we cannot travel and the expense of travel is the primary culprit.  However, travel need not be expensive; indeed, even the poor find a way to travel.  I am certainly an example of this reality.  I have never had a pocket full of gold, but I have sold things, saved things, used points, bartered, borrowed and possibly swindled 😉 to make my way around the world or across the country!  I have said it before and I will say it again, we spend our money on what is important to us!  If we value travel, we will choose to travel!

Regardless of where we travel, be it across town or around the world, there is beauty to be taken in and much to be learned.  G.K. Chesterton said it well when he said, “The ‘traveler’ sees what he sees.  The ‘tourist’ sees what he has come to see.”  We either enter a new environment with a spirit of superiority, coming to observe what we see as worthy of our time or we come with a heart and eyes of humility, open to take in what a new place can teach us.  Travel gives us a new view of life.  It gives us a lovely picture of how people live life and that broadens our perspective on all of humanity.  It connects us to the world.  It may be at the hot dog stand at the park across town or on a gondola around the world, but it incites in us the same curiosity, the same calling…to see what we see…that we are part of an amazing world!  What a fabulous book to read…what page would you like to read?  Where would you travel if you could go anywhere?

More Friendly with Two

1 Comment 27 June 2010

Reading a book all the way through is hard for me.  I am a big starter.  I am a poor finisher.  I have so many books that I want to read right now and I will still walk in Target and buy a book or search for something on my Kindle and download it.  I think reading can be an enriching experience.  It allows the mind to leave the present and travel mentally to a totally different world.  It may be a world that challenges you intellectually, or a world that stretches your imagination and has you living vicariously through some character.

It takes discipline to shut out all that is streaming in from the world around me and to sit and focus on a book.  Yet it is imperative for growth, for development and for keeping me moving mentally.  I want to read far more than I presently do.  My friend likes to read as well and yet she finds herself falling asleep. That is if she can actually find a few moments that are not dominated by her four children.  It can seem as if we are doomed to never finish a book unless we are alone at the beach with stretches of uninterupted time.  However, just recently, we have stumbled upon a new idea and I think it is fabulous…at least it has been for us.

We did have a little help from the great philosopher, Pooh, who says, “It’s so much more friendly with two,” we decided that we would choose a book and read it out loud together.  So, as we drove to the beach one weekend we took turns reading Theo Pauline Nestor’s How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over.  It is a memoir about going through divorce and had been recommended to my best friend.  It was a fantastic book that kept us moving from laughter to melancholy.  The author is also a child of divorce, as am I and she speaks frankly about delving into how the demise of her parent’s marriage has affected her as an adult.  I would encourage anyone who is going through or has gone through divorce to grab a copy of Theo’s book and read it with a friend.  We loved it!

The best part of reading the book together for me was listening to another voice describe what my friend was walking through.  It gave me a better perspective on her grief, her struggles as a new single mother and her fears about her future.  For my friend, it gave her a sounding board as the issues that surfaced in the book gave her the words to express things she had been experiencing in her heart.  All in all, it was a great way to both read a book and grow in empathy for my friend.

Thoreau said, “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.”  I want to always be reading, always be learning and if reading with a friend keeps me reading…then I agree with Pooh and Piglet…definitely more friendly with two!  Who can you read a book with?

Sail Away from the Safe Harbor

0 Comments 26 June 2010

Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.” It is a powerful statement.  There are few of us who can look back over the last twenty years and know that we chose to sail away from the safe harbor and catch the trade winds in our sails.  I am always inspired when I read about someone who has done just that…someone who has left what would have been the safe and expected route for the path of a dream.

I was reading a post the other day on a blog called The Middle Finger Project.  The post was about the reality that one must have more than passion to make things happen.  Conviction must accompany passion in order for there to be real change.  I loved what I read and let Ashley, the author of TMFP know it.  Passion, if that is all we have, can cause us to burn and burn and leave us in a heap of ashes, but put it together with conviction and we can get off our ass.  Ashley wrote in her post about Sarah, a lovely gal who is an excellent example of passion and conviction.

I was very moved by Sarah’s story and have not been able to stop thinking about it.  Sarah was headed to law school when she changed her plans and instead headed to Uganda.  She fell head over heals in love with the people that she encountered.  Sarah knew in her deepest heart that she must “throw off the bowlines.” She knew that what her soul longed for was not in the classroom of the law school where she was headed.  I am certain it was not an easy decision or one that garnered her a plethora of support along the way.  Choosing to “sail away from the safe harbor” rarely does begin with a ticker-tape parade.  However, if we allow ourselves the opportunity to listen to that voice, that small and powerful voice that resides in our deepest parts, we will not look back in twenty years and be disappointed.  I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Twain on that count.

Sarah’s courage lead to a vision of empowering the women of Uganda and the non-profit organization called Sis-Hope.  She does that in a very practical and beautiful way.  I want you to read about her story and the hope that she gives directly to the young women that she serves.  I believe it is a perfect representation of Living Beyond the Pale!  Stepping outside of the boundaries that have been set for us can seem, oh, so scandalous, at the outset, but in doing so, we can bring life and love to those who need it most!

I bought a few of Sarah’s bags today and I couldn’t have felt better about buying something.  It is as Mother Teresa said, “In this life we cannot do great things.  We can only do small things with great love.”  Thanks Sarah for giving me an opportunity to do something small, with great love, for the young women of Uganda!  And thanks for choosing to live beyond the pale…you inspire me!

Humpty Dumpty as a Mosaic?

3 Comments 24 June 2010

One of the many mosaics I saw at Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily

My friend Judy commented that I might want to consider pulling all of these ideas that are floating around in my heart and head into a quilt instead of a mosaic.  Judy said, “I understand what you are saying, but instead of making a mosaic (which I think of as being rigid, with fixed dimensions and breakable) why not gather the ideas and put them in one place like a comfortable and comforting quilt?”  I was taken by Judy’s comment, as I am ALWAYS taken by her comments.  She is a wealth of wisdom and she is a beautiful storyteller.  I love stories, have I mentioned that I loved stories? 😉

I have pondered the mosaic or quilt question, probably more than most, but hey, that is just who I am, so deal with it people!  Judy is correct, a mosaic can be rigid, with fixed dimensions and breakable, but I think I view it from a different spot.

I think all of life is broken.  I don’t say that with cynicism, I am simply looking around at the restaurant in which I am currently sitting and I see beauty amongst brokenness.  I see the big group of women, ages 5 to 65 all celebrating a birthday and they are lovely.  I love to see women celebrating life, and yet there in the middle of the celebration is an adorable little one who is obviously in the midst of chemotherapy.  She has a smile as wide as a canyon and brown eyes like her beautiful mommy and sister (both with amazing black hair!) and her little head is as clean, as…MR. CLEAN!  She pranced right in front of my table in her pink tu-tu and grinned ear to ear.  (I think she liked my computer!)  But to me, she is the part of that picture that reveals we live in the midst of brokenness.  Even our most lovely and beautiful moments here are full of little broken pieces, inside and out.

I don’t remember reading nursery rhymes when I was a child and the particular religious phase I was in when I had young kids kept me from reading them to my kids back then.  I am sorry that I did not enjoy the whimsical and fabulous tales that have stood the test of time with my kids when they were babies.  But hey, MH will always, to an extent, be a baby, so it’s never too late, right?  AnyHoo, as an adult I am very drawn to the tale of Humpty Dumpty.  I just plain love ol’ Humpty and feel as if his story is my story.  All of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men can not put me together as I was meant to be.  I think we are all broken, all in pieces, but pieces are great for mosaics.

The art of creating a mosaic is intriguing to me.  I spent about ten days in Sicily, Italy for my 40th birthday with my best friend who is an artist, so we took in a lot of art.  One of the multiple places that we took in was the Villa Romana del Casale and it was full of amazing mosaics that have been preserved because they were covered in a landslide in the 12th Century A.D.  It was other-worldly to see these masterpieces, centuries old, still in beautiful condition.  All of the millions of pieces put together in the perfect pattern to create beauty, to tell a story.

And that is the art of making mosaics, taking broken pieces and putting them together to create a masterpiece, a story, a picture, a glimpse of what could be.  My life is a mosaic.  I am Humpty Dumpty. But the crafting of the mosaic takes time and it doesn’t just happen over night.  I feel very, very broken.  I feel that I am in pieces most of the time, but that does not drive me to despair.  It only gives me hope that my pieces are being made into a vision.  I truly believe that there is a divine artist at work, picking up piece by piece to make beauty out of chaos and brokenness.

I do love quilts.  I love the comfort and the warmth that they bring and I have decided I will see my mosaic not as a fixed and rigid thing, but a fluid and comforting thing, like a quilt.  I want my life to be wrapped in it and I want to wrap those I love and those I meet with my mosaic.  Either way, I am in pieces and I am being put together again.  I hope my Humpty Dumpty will be a lovely mosaic.

Pinot Noir or Cabernet?

12 Comments 22 June 2010

I think I have lived my life, even from childhood with the rhythm and words of Gloria Gaynor’s song, I Will Survive playing in my head.  My friend, J, who used to be my counselor has even said to me, “You are a survivor, a fighter, and that’s not a bad thing.”  But being a survivor hasn’t always yielded the best of who I am to the world around me.  Survivors manage.  We make it.  We get through, but we don’t necessarily thrive.  As a I read Sue Monk Kidd’s book, When the Heart Waits again these past couple of days (yes, finished the whole stinkin’ thing 😉 ) I was reminded why I enjoyed it so much the first time.

Kidd talks about the importance of differentiating the True Self from the various false selves that we have created over the first half of our life.  She is very clever in naming her false selves, most of them are compared to fairy tale characters.  I am finding it a very useful and demanding process to consider what my false selves might be, but one that comes to mind readily is one I will call “The Survivor.”  She (I am not sure why I am speaking in third-person, but go with it!) is the girl who even when she is overlooked, wounded, misunderstood or alienated, will seem aloof and unaffected, although in reality, her heart is as tender as can be and easily broken.  She has learned that you must take care of yourself, defend yourself and make a way for yourself or no one else will.  She does not want to be a burden to anyone for fear that they might find her needy and leave her.  She looks very strong and very capable, yet she has a frailty that few know about.  She sees this frailty as her kryptonite, the secret source of her weakness, that if discovered, will destroy her.

Okay, so I am being a bit cartoonish, but that is a false self that I do believe that I have put out there to the world at large and in my relationships for my entire forty-two years.  I don’t want to be a bother or a burden, I am a survivor.  I will be fine.  This type of thinking can land you in some lonely spots and create a world around you that assumes you are, well…fine!  For me, it is also a false self that has kept me from flourishing, from thriving and growing into a fuller expression of my True Self.  It feeds the idea that I can take care of the world, bear the burdens of the world and I need little care-taking myself.  I know all of the “self” talk can make some people get all eye-rolly (I am making this a word!), but it is a great exercise nonetheless.

I have mentioned that I love movies and especially ones in which I find meaningful quotes I can tie to a greater mosaic of ideas that I am churning around in my head.  One of those movies is Sideways, it was a surprise hit a few years ago and brought my favorite wine, Pinot Noir into the spotlight.  The movie itself had some themes worth considering, but if you have a hard time with language or adult themes, you better skip it.  In the movie, the main character loves Pinot Noir, he is obsessed with it and when asked about his affection for this particular grape, this is the exhange:

“Why are you so into Pinot? It’s like a thing with you.”

“Um…I don’t know…I don’t know. It’s a hard grape to grow.  As you know, right? It’s uh – It’s thin-skinned – temperamental, ripens early.  It’s – you know, it’s not a survivor…like a cabernet, which can grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected.  No, pinot needs constant care and attention, you know?  And in fact, it can only grow in these specific, little tucked-away corners of the world.  And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it really.  Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.  And then…I mean…oh, it’s flavors they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet.  No, I mean, you know, cabernets can be powerful and exalting too, but they seem prosaic to me for some reason, by comparison…I don’t know…I don’t know.”

When I heard this in the movie it got me, you know…it stuck with me.  I of course went back later and found it.  So today, I am pulling it out again.  I am looking at my false selves and I am declaring to the world that I am not a Cabernet, I am a Pinot Noir.  There is no glory in being tougher than I really am, nothing special about pretending to be stronger than I really am.  Kidd doesn’t advocate trying to throw out these false selves, but instead to embrace and integrate them into our True Self.  I think it has been a good thing for me to consider these last couple of days that my kryptonite does not have to bring about my demise.  I believe that God is my caretaker and he made me a Pinot Noir.  I must be patient and nurturing with my own soul.  Frailty, tenderness, the need to be cared for and given attention are not altogether negative things.

All of us are Pinots to some degree, even if we pretend to be Cabs, yet so many women spend their lives neglecting their souls as if it is the noble and honorable thing to do.  I want to find my corner of the world.  The corner in which I grow best and yield my most haunting, brilliant, thrilling, subtle and ancient flavors!  If that means that I must embrace my Survivor and expose my kryptonite, so be it.  So I ask you, Pinot Noir or Cabernet?


The Value of Doing Nothing

5 Comments 20 June 2010

I am not one to gravitate towards the contemplative.  It takes discipline for me to bring my whirling brain to a halt and give it time to ponder things.  I have started reading When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions again and I could possibly be finished in the next day or so.  How you ask?  Because I have run away from home!  Not really, but kind of…  I have mentioned that I am a much better wife and mother, not to mention person when I am able to step out of my Big Life and breath and rest.  So, my sweet friend Kat sent me to her condo, at the beach to get away. (yes, it is the beach that has oil, but it isn’t too bad!)

Anywho, back to being contemplative…I am reading two books while I am here, When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions and My Life So Far, which is Jane Fonda’s autobiography. Crazy, huh? I am finding them both fascinating and at the same time I am amazed at the similar themes that are woven throughout both.  I think when you allow yourself to truly be contemplative about your own soul, your own life and where you are along this great continuum that we travel, then you begin to see the truth that you are learning in multiple places.  It is that same way with learning a new word, you know, all of a sudden you hear that word every where you go.

It is that way with this idea of waiting, of being contemplative, and of considering really where I am headed on this “dark and twisty” path that I am traversing.  I hear about it and read things and see these ideas that seem to be floating about me and I just want to reach out and grab them and put them all in one place, like a mosaic and try to make sense of them all.

One of the hardest things for me is that I am a teacher by nature.  When I learn something I can hardly begin to apply it to my life or begin to absorb it before I am compelled to turn around and tell someone.  That can be the danger of this bloggity blog thing here.  I want to learn myself.  I want to think myself.  I need to contemplate myself.  This takes me to the grand and fabulous wisdom of our Sunday philosopher…Pooh!  Well, today, it is actually the great friend of Pooh, Christopher Robin, giving our dear Pooh some wonderful advice.  What does he have to say to me today.  He says, stop trying to figure out what you need to say to someone else Jorja dear, and just do nothing.

“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh.
“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, `What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, `Oh, nothing’ and then you go and do it. It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

So, I am at the beach and I am going off to do nothing, going off to listen to all the things I can’t hear.  I think that means being contemplative…either way, I just can’t bother about it now.  Have a great Sunday.

An Argument Worth Rehearsing

2 Comments 19 June 2010

I went to Santa Monica, California after Christmas.  A friend of mine was visiting a mentor and they talked art and painted all week while I read and wrote, and tried to figure out if I was, after all, a writer.  I do love California and think  I could move there tomorrow.  It is absolutely beautiful.

While I was there, my friend and I saw an indie film called An Education.  It was fantastic.  I had heard nothing of it back in the South and went home to still hear or see nothing more until the Oscar buzz began and the film was nominated for Best Actress, Best Adapted Screen Play and Best Picture.  I watched it again a few nights ago, only this time, I watched it with my teenage daughter and once again,  it left me thinking.

In the film, Carey Mulligan, the lead actress plays a young British girl coming of age in the 1950’s.  I won’t go into the storyline, you can get that from the link above.  However, the themes are as timeless as they are in most coming of age tales, but the beauty and simplicity with which they are told are magnificent.  The story was poignant for me, not only because of my almost sixteen-year-old daughter, but because of the issues addressed throughout the film that relate to women of any age.

One of those issues, the underlying issue itself, is Jenny’s (Mulligan’s character) disillusionment with the life that seems inevitable for all women.  She has given her young life, literally, to pursuing all of the correct things and working diligently towards an education that will land her an Oxford scholarship, yet this all seems but a means to an end that she finds empty and meaningless.  The only promise that all of this holds is but a life of subservience and monotony.  Jenny longs for culture, learning, the arts and to see a world full of beauty and be a part of it all.

Those who are the authorities in Jenny’s life, her parents, her teachers and her administrators have no room for her questions, her wondering and they simply want Jenny to follow the status-quo.  There is no room for being unique, no room for dreams or for passions.  It is this shutting down of who Jenny longs to be that makes her ripe for the deception of the antagonist in the movie, an older man who leads her astray, promising her all that she longs for and does not have.

In 0ne of my favorite scenes of the movie, Mulligan is called in to see the forboding Headmistress, played by the intimidable Emma Thompson, the scenario plays like this:

HEADMISTRESS:  Nobody does anything worth doing without a degree.

JENNY:  And nobody does anything worth doing with one, either. No woman, anyway.

HEADMISTRESS:  So what I do isn’t worth doing.Or what Miss Stubbs does, or Mrs Wilson, or any of us here.
Jenny doesn’t say anything. The headmistress takes her silence as an admission of defeat.
HEADMISTRESS:  Because none of us would be here without our degrees, you realise that, don’t you? And yes, of course studying is hard, and boring, and…
Jenny can’t contain herself any longer.
JENNY:  Boring!
HEADMISTRESS:  I’m sorry?
JENNY:  Studying is hard and boring. Teaching is hard and boring. So you’re telling me to be bored, and then bored, and then finally bored again, this time for the rest of my life. This whole stupid country is bored. There’s no life in it, or colour in it, or fun in it. It’s probably just as well that the Russians are going to drop a nuclear bomb on us any day now. So my choice is either to do something hard and boring, OR to marry my… my Jew, and go to Paris and Rome and listen to jazz and read and eat good food in nice restaurants and have fun. It’s not enough to educate us any more, Mrs Walters. You’ve got to tell us why you’re doing it. (italics mine)
Jenny stands up.
JENNY: I don’t wish to be impertinent, Mrs Walters. But it is an argument worth rehearsing. You never know. Someone else might want to know what the point of it all is, one day.
She leaves the office.

As I said, the film is rich with topics to discuss, but from this scenario imparticular I found myself asking these questions:  Do I know why I do what I do?  Do I know why I encourage my daughter towards “An Education?”   What is the point of it all?  How much of what we do and push our children to do is about us fulfilling our dreams?  How much of what we expect of them is about cultural expectations and has nothing to do with who they are, their gifts and their passions?  Are we considering whether or not their education promotes who they are and what they will do for the rest of their lives or is it a means to an end that will leave them disillusioned?

I’m just sayin’…it’s an argument worth reheasing because they may want to know the point of it all.  Go rent or buy An Educationand watch it with your daughter or son if you have one. I would love to know what you think.

Questions, not answers…

29 Comments 17 June 2010

MH at VSA Arts of Alabama

I don’t understand my life.  I have alluded to that in a couple of posts these past few days and I am sure most of us have aspects of our lives that we simply can’t wrap our heads around.  Life just simply isn’t as it should be.  For me, of course, that part of my life, or at least at the top of the list of “Things that Shouldn’t Be” is my daughter and her struggles.  She is a ball of complexity, one moment she can have me laughing and the next moment she can have me wishing I could run away forever.

Most people don’t really know my daughter.  They get her in little increments and those short spurts are her most medicated and structured times, therefore, she is at her best.  So, when they tell me how sweet and delightful she is, I don’t want to disagree, because she can be those things, but it is only a smidgen of what it is really like to live with her day in and day out.  At the same time, there is this compulsion to tell them that they don’t know the half of it, not to bash my precious baby, but to bring them into this lonely world of mine, to help them understand the weight of it all.  Usually the moment passes, I make some silly comment about how she can be a “real angel” and we move on.

People also want you to feel better about your circumstances so they say things like, “all kids are like that” or “my kid is JUST like that” and they are truly trying to sympathize.  Their comments aren’t bad, it is just that they are comparing apples to oranges as my mom would say.  And truly, most people don’t want to dive into the mess that is my life.  It is painful and awkward to really hear how devastating it is to have a child that is mentally retarded.  How it changes everything, how you feel the weight of it every single minute of every single day.  How your marriage is changed irrevocably because you never feel sympathy for your spouse.  You both approach this devastating loss with a different lens and inevitably, one of you ends up bearing the weight of it more than the other.  Few marriages survive the birth of a special needs child, and the ones that do are never what they were before.

Then there is the impact on the other children in the family.  For us, having MH takes most of our energy, most of the time.  She has to be constantly monitored and attended to…there is rarely a moment when there is not someone answering her rapid-fire, repeat barrage of questions.  She is on the move, from room to room, like a Tasmanian devil of sorts, aggravating, instigating and agitating.  Our kids are troopers and they handler her with greater ease than I could have ever hoped, but tempers flare and patience runs thin at times.  MH doesn’t really have the capacity to know when she hurts your feelings, but it is hard to remind yourself of that all the time, so inevitably the other kids take her assaults personally from time to time.

Her impulsively and her destructiveness doesn’t land us a lot of vacation invites or dinner invitations to say the least.  We have few family friends who really get her and are willing to endure the true reality of life with MH.  My best friend and I became friends because of her empathy both for me, as a mother of a special needs child and for MH.  She has a brother with Williams’ Syndrome and knows what it is like to grow-up with a special needs child.  She has seen it first hand.  Interestingly enough, she is a single mother, so the help goes both ways with us.

I really hate summers.  MH loves school and her teachers are truly saints in my book.  They know her as well as we do (almost) and love her well.  When she is out of her routine, she is mean and frustrated and this makes our home a very difficult place.  The weight of being her mom feels heavier as my weaknesses are more glaring.  I am very independent and I am a much better mom when I have opportunity to have time to work and relax away from my house.  Summer has not afforded me that opportunity as of yet and I feel like I am losing my mind today.

This all was exacerbated when our air conditioning went out this past weekend.  MH is very OCD and has severe sleep disorders.  She takes medication for both, but really needs to sleep in her own bed if at all possible.  Our house was around 87 degrees and I attempted to get her to sleep at my best friend’s house.  She loves my friend’s house, she loves her family, they are family to MH, but her anxiety was too high and she just could not shut her brain activity down.  I was growing more and more frustrated, knowing that our house offered a night of fitful sleep if I took her home, but nothing I did seemed to help her settle down.  It is in moments like these that I feel the future closing in on me.  I feel the weight of the reality that MH will always be with me and as horrible as I know it makes me sound, that terrifies me.

I love my children.  I love being their mother.  I see being their mother as the highest calling of my life.  But, it is only one calling.  I want to travel, I want to write, I want to study, I want to live in New York City, I want to be gone for months at a time and not have to worry.  All of that seems impossible when I think about the fact that my baby girl…will always be a baby girl.  And so there it is…guilt.  My constant companion.  There, I said it, now you, my new online friends and my old friends who have known me for decades.  I have put it out there in plain sight.

I will be crucified by some as they will see my baby girl as God’s calling for my life and I will be told by others not to let her hold me back.  But all I know right now is that i have questions…no answers.  I do believe in God.  I do believe that God is an active force in this life of mine, even daily.  So, for now, I choose to live in the mystery of not knowing the answers to my questions.  I live in the giant smile of MH, who says “Mooommmy” with the cutest intonation you have ever heard in your life and I beg God to help me lay down my guilt, knowing that I was created just as I am, my independence and my dreams.  And again, I cling to MH’s phrase, “Oh well, we’ll see…”

One of the best things about this blog has been hearing from some of the people from my past that I would love to live next door to…one of those people is my friend Lori who lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband Jud.  I wish she lived next door and we could have a glass of wine on my deck every afternoon.  I would like that.  I was cruising over her husband’s multiple websites this morning and saw that he too likes Rainer Maria Rilke.  He seems to like questions a lot too!  Thanks Jud for reminding me of this quote!  Cheers Lori!

Here is a favorite quote from Rilke that we both seem to enjoy.  I long to “live the questions” now in the hope that I might live my “way into the answer.”

“…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”  – Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

Chasin’ Dreams

2 Comments 16 June 2010

I love my friends and I am motivated beyond measure when they act on their dreams and move out “beyond the pale” and pursue the things they love.  My friend Karen has been doing just that, chasin’ her dream, for as long as I can remember.  We went to Samford together from 1986 until 1990 and then we lived together with two other friends in a two bedroom apartment here in Birmingham.

She then began singing for a living.  She began working with one music group right out of college and basically lived on a bus.  Her life has been lived out of a suitcase since then.  I remember giving her grief when she would come home from a trip and just leave her bag on the floor of our bedroom, everything inside, and just live out of it for days…sometimes until she left again.  You see, I am an unpacker.  I love to travel, but when I get home, I am unpacked in a matter of minutes.  The reality is, my home is staying put and that is really hard for me sometimes.  Not so for Karen, her home is on the go.

Karen is home on the road.  She is home with those that she collaborates with every single day to bring the beautiful gift of music to those of us who have no ability to create music, but have a deep appreciation for it.  And for the last decade plus she has been making that beautiful music with her husband Jimi and her dear friends Kimberly & Phillip.  The foursome have walked through valleys together and they have scaled some peaks as well, but all the while, along the “dark and twisty” path, they have continued to pursue their passion.

When I hear Karen’s voice, and the four of them sing in harmony, it is like hearing all that is good and right in the world.  Their group is called Little Big Town and they have four albums, the most recent will be released on August 24th (my 19th anniversary!).  It is called The Reason Why and the first single is so much fun!  It was released in March, just days after Karen and Jimi had their baby!  (She is a mult-tasker…definitely has a tiara and a crown!)  Listen and watch the Little White Church (Video).  The song is top of the video charts and already #19 on Billboard Country chart.

This summer, new baby boy in tow, Karen and the gang are zippin’ around the country on the Country Throwdown Tour and then they will be on the road with Sugarland on their new Incredible Machine tour.  Life is crazy, but life is good.  One of my favorite songs that Karen, Jimi, Kimberly & Phillip have written is I’m With The Band from their album A Place to Land.  It talks about their journey on the road, of music and life.

I’m With the Band – Little Big Town

Last night in memphis
Tonight in new orleans
Tomorrow i’ll be miles from here
Ain’t nothing to me nothing to me
Sweet gypsie highway
Won’t you let me chase my dream
I gotta song to take me there
And it’s something to see something to see

Lord I was born with a suitcase in my hand
Living in a life that few could understand
Sometimes it gets so confusing
That I don’t know where I am
But I always know who i’m with
I’m with the band

Cheap whiskey midnight
Another round with my friends
Watching the world trough the windsheild
And were rolling again rolling again

Last night in memphis
Tonight in new orleans
Tomorrow i’ll be miles from here
Ain’t nothing to me nothing to me

All the talk this past week about winding roads, peaks, valleys and whatnot…I just wanted to write about one of my favorite people who is a road-warrior, all because she is out there chasing her dreams, even through valleys.

Selfless or Less of Self?

2 Comments 15 June 2010

As I said early this week, my post on Peaking Early provided me with great feedback from several readers and I have enjoyed ruminating over their ideas and reactions a great deal.  One in particular that I think speaks to so many issues came from yet another friend of mine from college.  Her comment is below:

Jorja, you are living the real life, your Big Life, is the impact you are making on those that live in your home every day. You were the star at SU, my hero and someone who seemed to understand folks and their struggles, even before a word was spoken. You are still that today and I sit in awe of what you handle daily. I think all of us who are stay at home mom’s, think we could have done more, but at what price? I would love to open a children’s book store some day, will it happen? Maybe, maybe not. What will my children remember, when I am gone? I hope that I helped them be all that and will keep them out of the therapist chair. You rock.

This was my response:

The risk of a blog like this is of course that you can’t say it all. I am well aware of my impact on my children, it is by far my highest and greatest joy. However, when I am writing about my experience, and it is uniquely that, mine…I am writing about how I laid down my passions and pursuing my gifts even in the midst of the early years of raising my children. I am a firm believer that having a life that nurtures my soul is not mutually exclusive to being fully committed to my family. What I have seen over the last two decades in my own life and the lives of countless women is the idea that being self-less has been confused with the equivalent of being less of self. I have come to a different point of view and attempted to express that view with this blog. I know my children, now 15, 13 and 10 have seen me give my life to them, but I also want them to see a mother who has a life outside of being a mother. A woman that God created uniquely with gifts and talents to reflect Him and His glory to a world in and outside of her home. I especially want this for my daughter. Life is not always what we expect it to be and there a many women who wanted nothing more than to be married, raise children and have lives in their homes. However, many of them, my dear friends, have found themselves in mid-life without a spouse to support them due to a painful divorce or unexpected death and the lack of a life outside of motherhood has left them wondering. So, don’t misread my comments about my “Big Life” to mean that I don’t value it, life has just lead me to believe that it is not the sum of all that I am. Love you girl! (& p.s. – I am pretty sure that therapy is inevitable for mine…I just hope that I am not scarring them too badly! ;) )

I wanted to put these two comments front and center today because I think there is a true struggle here for women.  I am not so naive as to think that women can “have it all.”  There are few women left today who would argue that a full-time career can be had while raising a family without tremendous sacrifice.  That is not the issue I am tackling here…I am talking about the propensity of women to lay down everything, all of who they are and be absorbed…to disappear…into their spouse’s and/or their kid’s lives.

Just ask yourself, is this about being selfless or is it just easier to be less of myself and get my identity from being a wife and mother?  That may all be well and good until something unforeseen happens and those roles either change or disappear altogether.  I fully believe that women not only need to have a life outside of their roles of wife and mother, or job and career for that matter, for their own health and sanity, but I believe they need to for the health and sanity of their children.

I have really enjoyed reading Sue Monk Kidd .  I know a lot of people know her for her works of fiction, especially The Secret Life of Bees, but I have found much to ponder from reading another book of hers. When the Heart Waits is a non-fiction book that considers the spiritual life and the questions that we must struggle through in the midst of mid-life.

I found When the Heart Waits to be particularly helpful and I am getting ready to read it for the second time. Kidd writes about her own spiritual journey and since I am a huge fan of personal stories and how we see so much of ourselves in the stories of others, I can’t wait to start again.

Kidd mentions Carl Jung in the book and I came across this Jung quote in another one of his writings.  I believe that Jung hits a nerve on this very topic that I am rambling about today.  (While I do not espouse all that Jung wrote or thought, I do believe we can learn great things from great minds, of which Jung was one.)  Jung wrote, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”  This idea of an “unlived” life of a parent is worth considering.

I don’t profess to have any answers here, and I don’t want us to get lost in semantics.  Let’s just consider this the beginning of a discussion.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  I can be a loving and selfless mother and still have a self, can’t I?  What do you think?

Thingish Things

6 Comments 13 June 2010

There are so many things that I would like to say, but I do find that when I sit down in front of the screen of my computer that I grow frustrated with getting it all out in the proper order or in a way that makes the kind of sense it did up in my head.  Things that seemed to have great meaning as they danced around in my head, once in front of me, glowing on my Mac screen, fall flat and offer far less brilliance (if any) than expected.

Part of the frustration of writing a blog is the brevity of it.  Anyone who knows me, or at least knows me well, knows that I generally live by the motto that, “If a little is good, then a lot is better!”  And this can spill over into my writing.  I recognize that I would get my typing hand slapped by any good editor, but that of course would mean that I would have to have an editor, and…well, I don’t.  So, for now, I will have to attempt to rein myself in as best as I can.  Oh yeah, back to what I was saying…brevity.  It can be difficult to really go deep with a topic, really explain what you are talking about in 500 words or less.

I do know that the best of writers can do it though and thus proves the point that I am probably not one of them ;).  However, it is a very healthy exercise to at least try and get these ideas, these thoughts out there, even if they cannot be fully fleshed out.  I do believe we learn a great deal about ourselves as we write our thoughts out.  There is nothing like going back and reading your thoughts from a week, month or even a year ago.  So, even if things don’t look or sound that great when you get them out on paper (or the screen), keep typing or writing away.

Pooh says it like this, “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”  Pooh knows that not all of our Thingish Things make sense outside of our heads like they did when they were inside of our heads, but I think we should still practice getting them out and letting people look at them.

I sincerely appreciate all of you who take the time to read my Thingish Things on this blog!

You’re A Valley Girl “For Sure”

3 Comments 12 June 2010

Wow, that post yesterday sure stirred the pot!  I was just thinking out loud, as usual and I have heard quite a bit from you girls out there.  I love it when that happens.  The whole idea of the Big Life and peaking early seems to have touched a nerve.  I will probably be writing about some of the responses for a few days, but today I want to talk about my friend Judy (Judy’s Op-Ed Page) and one of the things that she said in her response to me.  She is very thoughtful and always has great insight and today was no exception.

Here is a part of what Judy had to say in response to Did I Peak Early?:

You like to talk about peaking and climbing peaks…since I gave up backpacking years ago, I prefer to just talk about paths and roads. Sometimes they are winding roads and sometimes we choose or have to take detours, but the interesting thing about life is that you can be like a perennial, blossoming slightly different each spring.

Hopefully, along the way you leave trail markers (cairns) for your children, your friends, your readers…and remember the best view is not always from the top of the mountain. I know this because most of my life I have lived in valleys: Sweetwater Valley, San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley, Mt Washington Valley, and Tucson (completely surrounded by mountain ranges).

Mountains may inspire us, but the valleys are created by rivers and streams…they give us life.

Judy’s thoughts were lovely and I was sharing them with my friend, who remarked with a big smile, “Well, you’d know all about that, you’re a valley girl for sure!”  We both laughed for a good while and then I told her that I get my best stuff from her!  While Judy was discussing literal valleys, my years have been full of emotional ones and I have been given life in abundance as a result.  Valleys, like everything in this life, have their paradoxes.  They can be barren and painful times in our lives and yet from that time can be born the most amazing results, things that we could have never imagined possible.  The difficult times in our lives can bear the most beautiful fruit.

Of course there are rivers and streams in the valleys, but the light can be dim and the rocks craggy; the going can be slow and and exhausting when you seldom know what is around the next bend.  I have often said in the last couple of  years that I just keep thinking that we (our family) are going to round the corner, but we can’t find that damn corner.  As we move along, looking for those corners, I do feel as if our lives are very “perennial” in nature with cycles of growth and blooming.  That is a beautiful picture that Judy mentioned.  And I hope that I have left trail markers along the way, even on the trails that I feel were detours of sorts.

I have been a valley girl, “for sure,” and I know that all that I have walked through, even the disappointments that I look back on in my Big Life and question, have all served a purpose.  As Judy so wisely pointed out, even the paths that seem to us as detours have lead us to where we find ourselves today.  I love the idea of a road with twists and turns, , winding through my life.  I have no idea what is around the bend, as usual, but I fully intend to keep moving.  I hope there are peaks and mountain tops in my future, simply because I believe the valleys can not be fully appreciated without them.  However, I would never, ever, discount my personal valleys…they have and continue to give me the hope to keep moving forward and the belief that that I have miles to go before I sleep.

Thanks Judy for the insight on the valleys and to my friend for reminding me that, “Like, whatever, I’m a valley girl” and better because of it! Love you!

Did I Peak Early?

19 Comments 11 June 2010

Me & a Friend in college

I was at the pool today living what I like to refer to as my “Big Life” (the one with adult responsibilities!)  That is the life that my best friend and I speak of when we speak of our children, our house cleaning (or in my case, the lack of!), my marriage, her divorce, my job (I work as a Private Investigator in my Big Life), and all of the other things that consume the twenty-four hours and thirty-two minutes of every day of my life.

While I was there, swimming with MH, my youngest daughter, I ran into an old college girlfriend.  She is a couple of years younger than me and we began talking about our Big Lives and catching up on all that has transpired in the last two decades.  As she was introducing me to her friend she began by telling the gal that “Jorja was our sorority president back in college.”  I had a good chuckle and told her that I had recently been told that my pinnacle of leadership, President of Alpha Delta Pi at Samford University, 1989, was just that, my pinnacle.

I was having coffee, yes, in my Starbucks, and I was lamenting the fact that a girl who had been my peer back in college and served as my treasurer was now the story of modern day success.  She is brilliant, beautiful, married, the picture of motherhood and has not only one, but a couple of highly visible and successful jobs.  As I was bemoaning the fact that I was the one who had run the place back in the day and now she is the queen of it all, a friend shot a little snarky remark and said, “It’s okay, you peaked early!”

You peaked early.  Not exactly what a forty-something woman wants to hear, but definitely something to think through.  I have thought about that phrase so many times since then and it came racing back to mind today as I was introduced as the ADPi President of old.  Did I really reach any and all potential that I had back in college?  Had all of the hopes and dreams that I had ended in my youth?

As I look back over the last couple of decades and am honest about my Big Life, there are great disappointments.  I didn’t go to law school as I had planned, I got married and became a minister’s wife instead.  Plan B was to pursue a Master’s of Education at the university where my husband worked with college students.  However, the longer I pursued education the greater the pressure around me grew from other wives in the ministry to participate more fully in the ministry that they were giving all of their Big Lives to, all of the time.  I quit just 18 hours shy of my degree.  I started my own niche business and grew it to tremendous success.  However, eventually it complicated my Big Life and I sold it.  The profit was good, however, I wonder what would have happened had I franchised the idea instead of sold it.  The list goes on and on.

These are the things that have pushed me to where I stand today.  I love my Big Life and everyone in it, but I have peaks to climb and I am sure they will love to climb them with me.  So, here I sit in front of this computer because I am a writer.  I did not peak early.  I may have had a brief, pre-peak, but I am putting it in writing today, right now…right here in the middle of my Big Life…I have not peaked…the peak is yet to come and I can’t wait to see the world from the top.

things to make you wonder~

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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