Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday Tales: The Mirror

Morning came into the room slowly. As it did, the memories of the night before came creeping back.  "Maybe we're over, then."  Had he really said those words?  Had I imagined them?  Had I dreamed them? I reached a hand to the place beside me where his sleeping body should be, but there was nothing.  His side of the bed was  empty, completely untouched.

I sat up, twisting the ring on my finger slowly. It hadn't been a dream.  The bed was empty. He was gone. The shards of glass from the vase I'd thrown at the wall after his retreat were still strewn about the floor. It had all happened.  The clothes thrown in a suitcase. The car revving up and roaring away down the street. The crying and the throwing things and the wine.

I got out of bed, gingerly jumping over the glass, and pulled a ratty old sweatshirt out of my closet.  It was the kind of thing you love because it's comfortable and homey and warm, but your mother always threatens to throw away.  Padding downstairs, I made a cup of coffee and wandered around our living room.

First, the pink rose on the mantel.  Made of fine glass, he had brought it home from a business trip to Vienna. "It reminded me of you," was what he had said. "Delicate and beautiful and just waiting to be opened."

Turning, I met the my eyes in the mirror hanging on the wall.  On the day we bought it, we had strolled through the antique shop, our fingers entwined. "Oh, that is beautiful," I had whispered when I saw it.  As we admired the craftsmanship, he had murmured his agreement.  As he spoke, he stood behind me, sweeping my hair away from my neck, and trailed kisses down my skin.  I was pretty sure that he hadn't meant the mirror.

Even while I shushed him under the stern gaze of the shop's owner, I had turned in his embrace, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him closer.  After the mirror's delivery, we'd propped it against a wall in our bedroom and made love in front of it every night for a week before eventually finding it a place in the living room. I stood on the chair in front of it now, my fingers trailing along its frame.  Were those people gone now?

My heart stilled when I heard the key turn in the lock. Maybe he'd come back to retrieve more clothes.  The door closed, and I turned to meet his gaze.  The rain outside had soaked through his clothes. Had he walked home?  His shirt clung to his chest, and the water ran down his face from his hair.  But, he didn't seem to notice any of it.  He spoke just two words.  "I'm sorry."

I nodded.  In two steps, he pulled me from the chair.  His arms held me tight, his lips found mine.  And in that that moment, I knew. There would be forgiveness and there would be renewed faith and there would be trust. And always there would be love.

That's what it was.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Word of the Day: Look

"Have you seen my shoes?" My husband yelled up the stairs, trying to get ready for work.

I called back. "Did you check the shoe drawer?" We have this giant drawer built into the wall under the stairs where all the shoes get thrown, jumbled together but out of the way.

"No," came the answer.

I rolled my eyes.  "Honey," I began, my tone dripping with syrup.  "I'm not helping until you've actually looked where they're--"

"Oh!  Here they are!"

To be fair, we have the same conversation in reverse when it comes to my ever-lost carkeys.

It's hard to find things when we're not even bothering to look for them. Maybe it's our carkeys or our shoes.  Maybe it's friendship or love.  Maybe it's the fulfillment of our dreams that we hope will just fall in our laps, a present of success wrapped up in a shiny silver bow.

We don't find what we don't look for.  We DO find what we DO look for.

Are we looking for goodness and kindness in the world?  Look for it. Expect it...  I think we'll find it.  But, when we live our lives expecting people to disappoint us, expecting people to break our trust, expecting to be hurt...  we will be.  If we don't ever look for good in people and in the world around us, I guarantee that we won't find it.

But when we do look for it?  When we do, I think we'll find it in so many unexpected places.

In a kind look from a stranger.
In shared laughter with the lady in front of you at the grocery store.
In the companionship of your friends, in the faith of your children.
In the love of your spouse, and the concern of your mother.

I'm not entirely naive...  Looking for good, expecting the good, allowing ourselves to hope for the good...  maybe it does set us up for disappointment. Maybe we will encounter times where our hopes are dashed and our trust is violated.  We will.  People will take advantage of our hearts. But, not everyone will.  Some people will come through, and they're worth it.  They're worth the hope.

So, keep looking.  Keep hoping. Keep trusting.  We'll find what we're looking for.

If we keep looking for it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

12 Things: Treat Them Well

8. I am good to those I care about.

I would like to be better at this.

I was at a school meeting for one of my children earlier in the week.  After I made a passing reference to her getting mad about something, they asked me what she does when she gets angry.  So I described a typical tantrum.  Her teacher laughed and said, "Well, she definitely doesn't do that here."  Which is good.  I would much rather have her act like a 3 year old at home than at school, and I don't think that's terribly uncommon either.  We act up where we are most comfortable.

On the one hand, maybe there is some value in that. When we are around people we love, and who we know love us back, we relax our guards.  We bring down our walls, and we let them see us for who we really are.  We know they will love us, anyway, so there is less need to keep ourselves in our protective stances.
But... on the other... We stop controlling ourselves, too.  "They'll love me, anyway."  So we work a little less hard to hold our tongues. We let that eyeroll roll on. We exert a little less effort to rein in our impatience.

And we're right.  For the most part, they will love us, anyway. But don't they deserve better?  We're good and kind and friendly to the people we don't know, but then treat those closest to us with less?

So, I want to be better at this...  The people I love deserve that.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday Tales: Summer in Scotland

It was almost a castle.  A castle in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the wilds of Scotland.  And my parents had rented it for the entire summer. Mom had prattled on about how it was "educational" and "romantic", the opportunity of a lifetime!  All I knew was that we would be miles from the nearest shopping mecca, electricity was minimal, the internet was spotty, and the cell phone reception non-existent. It sounded terrible.  But, my opinions were deemed unimportant, so off the three of us went to our vacation.

So far, we'd been here a week, and I hadn't seen a single person within 20 years of my age. To be fair, the castle was not as rustic as I had been expecting.  My visions of stone beds and windy hallways had been replaced with the realities of fluffy down mattresses and glassed-in windows. Every room had its own fireplace, but so far, the weather had been kind, and none had been needed. I'd been dead-on about the internet and cell phone, though

I sat at the window seat in the front room and sighed audibly for the millionth time. Glancing up from his book with either amusement or annoyance, Dad suggested, "Maddie, it's a nice day out there.  Why don't you go take a walk and see who can sigh louder?  You or the wind?"

"Very funny, Dad." I made a face at him.  But maybe a walk wouldn't be so bad.  It was better than being cooped up in the castle with nothing to do.

Wandering out the front door, I meandered down to the little lake below the castle. Tall blades of grass grew up around it, and vegetation that bore a resemblance to lily pads floated along the surface of the water. The surface of the water was somehow clear.  Last year, we'd summered in the Caribbean, and that water had been clear and warm.  No matter how deep, it seemed that you could always see straight through to the coral reefs that lined the bottom.  This wasn't that kind of clear.  You could see through it. You could see the fish swimming below, but there was a darkness to it, too.

I peered in to watch the fish swim around, and paused to look at my own reflection. A lock of blond hair had fallen out of the braids I had plaited that morning, and I tucked it behind my ear.  There was something off about that reflection.  I turned my head to the left, and the reflection followed. I turned my head to the right, and the reflection followed.  I turned my head back to the left, but quickly snapped it back right... and the reflection just kept turning left.

"HA!" I yelled, pointing at my reflection.  "I got you!"  At that moment, I realized I was talking to myself.  Or, to myself in the water.  And that "myself in the water" had definitely not behaved as she was expected to behave. "What-  Who?"

"Hello, Madison," came the cool voice.  That's the way I always remembered the sound later.  It was like a cool breeze that tickled your skin and set all the hairs on your arms standing straight up. Reflections aren't supposed to talk, but this one did.

I sat on the bank of the water. "Who are you?  What are you doing in there?  Why do you look like me?"

I think the smile Water Me gave me was supposed to be reassuring, but there was something in it I wasn't sure I liked... like she knew something I didn't know, but damn if she was ever going to tell me. "You're in Scotland, Maddie.  Here, there is magic." Suddenly, the water parted. A slender hand broke through and beckoned.  "Come see."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

12 Things: Being Honest With Yourself

7. I am honest with myself.

journeyBeing honest with yourself.  I feel like this is often a never-ending road of discovery, but I don't think that's a bad thing. I am more honest with myself today than I was a year ago. And I hope that I am less honest with myself now than I will be next year. Every week, I'm able to peel off a little more of the shell I keep around myself, not just to protect me from others, but to protect me from me. Sometimes, it's the very thinnest of layers and someone on the outside would barely be able to see it. But, every miniscule layer gets me closer to the truth, closer to the real me.

Sometimes those layers reveal good things.  For a long time, I couldn't see the strengths and talents and positive characteristics that lay dormant inside.  So, peeling off layers has meant opening my eyes to the good qualities that exist in me, and learning to give them expression and wings, instead of hiding them.

Sometimes those layers reveal things that are not so good. I have been brought face-to-face with qualities that I don't like, things I'd like to change. I've had success with some of those, I've had a giant vat of not-success with others. But peeling back the layers, even when I've not liked what I've seen... it's been good.  Hard sometimes, but good.

Sometimes those layers have revealed relationships that were unhealthy and needed either adjustments or abandonment. Sometimes those layers revealed relationships I'd been neglecting that sorely needed a giant shot of attention. Sometimes those layers revealed relationships that I could do nothing but get down on my knees and be grateful for.

Do I think I'm fully honest with myself right now?  Probably not. But, slowly, I am getting there.  Every step I take down the road of discovery brings me one step closer to where I eventually want to be.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday Tales: The Masked Ball


"Would you stop doing that?" Emily narrowed her eyes in annoyance as I tugged at the bodice of my dress for the umpteenth time. "They aren't going to fall out!"

"I'm just not used to wearing anything this low-cut.  I don't know why you talked me into coming to this party.  Who throws a masquerade ball anymore?"

"I talked you into this party because I'm tired of hearing you mope about Daniel, your pajamas were starting to smell, and the mini-mart is completely out of rocky road ice cream." She turned to me, and adjusted the glittery mask that obstructed half my face. Her tone gentled. "Jess, you need a change of pace.  He wasn't any good for you. Besides, you look gorgeous in that thing. I wish I could pull off red."

I had to admit that I'd felt a little like a courtesan at a London soiree when I shimmied into the dress that evening. The silk had slid tantalizingly over my skin, and the gauze that skimmed over it made me feel like a princess.  I looked down at the alarming amount of skin it exposed.  A moderately illicit princess, but still. She was probably right. I needed to get out of our apartment. I'd done nothing but binge on ice cream, cry, and watch terrible romantic comedies ever since I'd caught Daniel with that woman from work.

Emily snagged two glasses of champagne from a passing waiter, and put one into my hand.  "Drink this.  You'll feel less nervous, and for heaven's sake, stop pulling on your dress!"  Her smile deepened. "And look, here comes a masked man our way!"

Sure enough, a not-very-tall man stood before us.  He was dressed in a blue suit that looked like it had been pulled from his father's closet, and his blond hair standing up from his head left the general impression of a chicken. "Hi," I offered weakly after draining the glass of champagne.  Emily nudged me with her elbow. "Nice party, huh?" I asked in an attempt at conversation.  What was I supposed to say?

"Are you hurt?" he asked with concern.  Did I look hurt? I opened my mouth to answer when he added, gesturing to the dance floor, "Because you look like an angel fallen from heaven."

Really? I mouthed to Emily, but she only laughed. "Go on," she whispered, taking the empty glass from my hand. "They say good things come in small packages."

Chickenman introduced himself as Ted before pulling me toward him in an embrace on the dance floor.  As the music played and I attempted small talk, Ted busied himself with staring down the top of my dress.  Honestly. His hands kept sliding down my waist to rest on my rear end, and I kept putting them back.  His breath was hot in my face and I wrinkled my nose in distaste.  The smell of beer was heavy.  How much had this guy had to drink? I tried to step out of his grasp, but he was a lot stronger than he looked.

"Let me go, please," I murmured.  But he just bent his head to nuzzle at my neck.  Quite unwanted, I assure you. Struggling to loosen his grip, I was surprised when I saw a large hand grasp Ted's arm and wrench it away from my waist.

A deep voice sounded from behind me, "I don't think the lady is interested."

A sneer came over Chickenman's face. "What, so you can have her?  I saw her first."

Before he could reach toward me, I stepped behind my hero's body. "I think the dance is over actually."

"There's more than you here, anyway," he returned, stalking off to find another unsuspecting target.

"Thank you." I turned to the man who had come to my rescue. He seemed very tall, dressed in black slacks and  a white shirt open at the collar, with a black velvet cape sweeping down his back.  He could have passed for Prince Charming, were it not for the mask that gave his costume character. "It was very kind of you to step in, but I really could have handled him."

He laughed. "Oh yes. You were doing a fine job of that, Miss." He bowed with a practiced flourish. "I do believe that, as your knight in shining armor, I am entitled to one dance in repayment. However, I give you my word to act the part of the gentleman."

I curtsied with equal exaggeration. "I'd be delighted to repay your gallantry... do you happen to have a name?"

masked man
"Let's just stick with Zorro for now," he winked, his green eyes crinkled in humor behind his mask.

As I put my hands on his shoulders, I cocked my head toward the rapier at his side and smiled.  "The sword's a nice touch." I studied him a little more closely. His square jaw wasn't quite clean-shaven, but more like fine sandpaper that would give just the barest of sensation against your skin if you ran your hand over it. Where his shirt lay open against his chest, the skin underneath was tan-- a light brown, but nowhere near orange.

Mostly, I closed my eyes and felt. It seemed like a long time since I'd been in male arms. His were hard and strong and warm where they rested at my waist.  He spun me around the dance floor, and the cologne that wafted through my senses smelled so good.  I opened my eyes to find him looking down at me with amusement before catching him glance down to my dress.

I glared at him accusingly. "I thought you were going to be a gentleman."

"I'm just a man, Red.  I can only be so strong." He made a visible effort to pull his eyes back to mine, and I laughed.  He was alright.

The music came to an end, and I sighed inwardly.  It had felt nice to dance in this man's arms.  I made a move to return to Emily's side, but Zorro stopped me. "Wait," he said, his eyes serious for the first time. "Would you-- It feels a bit warm in here. You wouldn't be willing to step out on the balcony with me, would you?"

I hesitated, but what would it hurt?  He seemed nice, and it was a masked ball, after all.  He'd never even know who I was.  I nodded, and let him lead me outside. At the edge of the balcony, I stopped at the stone ledge and looked out.  From this high, we could see far into the night across the river.  The stars seemed to shine like diamonds.

"It's beautiful up here," I said quietly.

He stood behind me and I felt his hand stroke slowly through my hair, sending a shiver down my back. "Yes, it most definitely is," he agreed, but a husky tone had crept into his voice. "I'm really sorry, Red."

I glanced back at him, "For what?"

"I promised you I'd be a gentleman." With that, he bent his head and pressed his lips against the skin at my shoulder.

I probably should have been offended. I probably should have stopped him.  But he was tall and big and strong, and warm.  I'd had champagne.  I'd just been mauled by Chickenman.  Did I mention Zorro was strong and wow?  So I didn't stop him.  No, I closed my eyes and I leaned against him, his hands sliding down my arms.

Turning to face him, I rubbed my hand along the side of his jaw.  Just like I'd thought, it felt like the finest sandpaper. His eyes locked onto mine and he slowly pressed his lips against mine. They were soft. Our mouths parted and the kiss just kept going.

"Masked balls are stupid, anyway," he whispered between kisses and reached up to untie the mask that covered his eyes.  He reached for me to remove mine as well, but then my vision cleared and I really saw him.

"Oh god," I whispered, backing toward the door to the party.

dressed up in cityConfused, he asked, "I don't understand... is there something wrong?"

"N-No," I stammered. "I'm so sorry, but I have to go!"  I rushed through the party, grabbing Emily who was happily dancing with some seemingly-goodlooking guy.  "Come on.  We have to go.  Now."

"What-?" she asked, but I didn't even stop to explain.  We ran outside and flagged the first cab in sight.  Only when we were safely inside did she demand an explanation. "WHAT is wrong with you?? The last time I saw you, you were all dreamy with that Zorro guy."  She looked closely at me. "Did he hurt you?"

I sighed. "No, no, he didn't hurt me.  He was wonderful and handsome and warm and strong. And he kissed me and he smelled like... like... MAN."

Emily raised an eyebrow at me.  "And this is why we had to escape?  I'm not following."

I stared miserably at the skirt of my dress.  "No.  He took off his mask.  Em...  it was SETH."

She stared at me and and then dissolved into laughter.  "Oh Jessica... come on, you have to admit that's a little funny."

It most definitely was not.  Seth Chambers.  The most beautiful man I've ever seen. A man who has never even spoken a word to me.

And a man who lives two floors above us in our very own apartment building.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Does Your Past Define You?

How much are we products of our pasts? Are we forever bound by the things that have happened to us? Is there no hope when we're thrown into situations not of our choosing which shape us?

The "oh yes, I do TOO have free will, Mr Hull" part of me wants to stand up with an emphatic "I choose who I am."  Maybe not well, but I choose. But, I don't know if that's entirely true and honest. The past at least affects us, if it doesn't control us.  It has an influence on who we become, on what bothers us, on what keeps us up at night.  But, too, it has an influence on the good things that develop in us. Our strengths and talents and passions. It doesn't have to be all bad.

little girl What we experience does shape us. When I was a little girl, my parents divorced, a common story nowadays.  But I was young, and rarely do grown-ups ever tell the real story to little ones, and I'm not saying they should.  But, in my 8-year-old-view, my dad left because I wasn't enough to stay for. I was sure that if I had just been better-behaved, or smarter, or more outgoing, or more exciting, or less in the way, well then-- then I would have been enough.  But I wasn't any of those things, and so he left.

Sure, as I got older and understood more of the actual story, I knew it wasn't about me.  It was about them, and their problems. It wasn't about me not being enough... but I think the damage had been done. That fear of "not being enough" stays with me always. Every time a friendship has run its course, I believe it's because I wasn't enough.  Maybe that doesn't have anything to do with the real reason, and usually it doesn't.  But that doesn't stop the voice in my head from telling me, "If only you'd been enough."

So I can't tell you that our past doesn't shape us.  It does.  But, I don't think it has to define us, either. We still get to choose how we respond to the effects our pasts have on us. We are more than the things done to us, we are more than the trials we've gone through in our lives. We do... we get to stand up and say "I am bigger than what I've lived through." We get to be strong enough to punch the past in the face and say "No."

And sometimes you get strong enough that when a relationship does reach its end, you can look at it and understand that it wasn't about you not being enough.  It wasn't even about you at all.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Accidental Confessions of a Celtic Thunder Fan

Getting to know new people is delicate.  You gently tiptoe around each other, slowly sharing little bits of yourself.  You share one thing, and then sort of sit back and see how it's taken. Do you think the same way? Do they think you're weird, do they think you're cool?  The first bit seems to go alright, so you share another, and another, and another.

Maybe you'll start off with how many kids you have, how long you've been married.  Go on to where you live and what you studied in school.  Bit by bit, you reveal a little more of yourself... that you like the color blue, that you can't stand roller coasters.  Maybe then you share what your hobbies are...  a little reading, a little writing, maybe that you like football.

That you dabble in the occasional stalking of Irish manbands.

Wait, what?  You didn't seriously tell people that, did you?

Yes.  Yes, I did.  I didn't mean to!

If you're new around here, I have a confession.  I like Celtic Thunder, a PBS-pushed Irish lovechild that melds really cute boys with really pretty singing. (Ironically, this is also why I liked Newsies when I was 14.)  I like Celtic Thunder a lot.  I'm a fan.  And when I say "fan," I don't mean "and I buy some of their CDs."  No.  I mean "I've flown to Canada, Texas, and Arkansas to see them."

ARKANSAS, kids. For some reason, this seems more drastic than Canada. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

So, it came up.  I've joined this small Facebook group for bloggers, and we're just getting to know each other. They didn't know I was crazy yet! We were discussing the pro's and con's of maintaining a separate fanpage, when I made a passing reference to my experiences with Celtic Thunder.

Oh Jo... I know. I know.

Well, one of the ever-so-nice girls asked me about it, and I gave the short version of how I got involved.  The short version is good. The short version makes me look less insane.  The short version is almost normal.  Not actually normal, but almost normal.

"Oh, that isn't pathetic at all!" came the response.  (Clearly, it was the REALLY short version.) But, it was like I just. couldn't. leave. it. Oh no...  I had to PROVE that my fanaticism was pathetic and absurd.

I posted a picture.  Not just one picture.  But a picture of a whole bunch of pictures, chronicling some of the meets and meetings that have occurred over the past few years. I would post it here but then YOU would know the depth of pathetic, too.  And we're just going to pretend I'm cool for now.

My friend of many years who started the group just laughed at me. "Oh Jo... I can't believe you made a collage!" I cocked my head at this and realized... Yes. That is a very strange thing to do.  And now everyone knows it.

You can't come back from that, guys! I could be 100% cool from now on, but they can always say, "Yeah... but there's that whole crazy boyband thing."  There is no cool after this.  None.

So, the moral of the story...

If you have a hobby that makes you look a little insane, for heaven's sake, don't tell anyone about it!!  Or at least save it for after you've told them you don't like cheese.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday Tales: Not Today


The water lapped against the side of the boat as I came to the dock on the island. It was quiet this morning. Fishing season was over, and it was still early.  The only one stirring was me, and perhaps the lone seabird that flew overhead. I tied the boat to the dock, picked up the box and leapt onto the dock.  My girl scout days were long over, but it would hold. Probably.

canoe tied upWalking up the path toward the bluffs, I shivered when the morning sea air whipped through the sweater I'd thrown on.  Something I'd found in the attic. The trees seemed to whisper to me, "Go back. Not here. Not today." Didn't they know it had to be here, had to be today? I was to leave tomorrow. It had to be today.

As I topped the crest of the hill, my breath caught as it did every time. From the top, you could look across the sea.  On a clear day, the horizon seemed to go on and on and I understood why they used to think the land was flat. Just maybe, in the right boat, I could sail off the edge of it one day. Right off the edge into... something.  Whatever it was that waited beyond.

I remembered the first day my mother brought me here.  It was a Sunday late in the spring and I was only five years old.  The sun was shining, the breeze blowing so lightly it seemed to leave kisses on our skin. She held my hand as we sat at the edge of the cliff, our feet dangling over the water, and she told me so many stories.  Princes and princesses, dragons and knights, stories of adventure and excitement and promise.

I thought of those stories now. I thought of that day, and all the days after. I thought of the afternoons spent in the grass, making pictures out of the clouds. I thought of the smell of the sea, and how it always makes me think of her, and I knew the trees were wrong. It was here. And it was today. It was wrong, but it was also right

I stepped to the edge of the cliff, my feet so close that I'd fall in if I ever slipped.  Opening the box, I lifted it into the air, letting the wind take the ashes where it would.

"Goodbye, Mama. I miss you."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Becoming Is Hard

Becoming is hard. It hurts.
Becoming requires stretching and pushing and pulling.
It's being put into the fire and hit with the blacksmith's hammer.
And there is pain and there is struggle.
There is a desire to go back. Go back to where you where, what you were.
What it all was when it didn't hurt.
Because becoming is hard and it hurts.

But when you are done becoming, you are such a beautiful creature. 
You are beautiful in your pain now, my little friend.
But, oh the beauty that is to come if you just hang on a few moments longer.
Push through your pain. 
Hang on while they stretch you into things that you didn't know you could be.
Cling to whatever you can to make it just one moment longer.
Because when you are done, when the stretching is over,
When the blacksmith has finished, and your iron is cool
Oh you are beautiful.

Look at what you've become.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

12 Things: Making a Difference

3. I am making a difference.

It is a lie we tell ourselves, and teach our children, that only the big things matter.  And how could they not believe it? We fill our newspapers, news programs, tabloids, internet feeds with all the big things. You want to be important? Become an actress, a musician, a sports star.  Feed 2000. Get a Nobel Peace Prize.  Why, it's only on the "slow news days" that I remember the human interest stories ever reaching the airwaves when I was a child, and with the globalization of information, it's even worse today.  That fact teaches us something. "Small stories are unimportant."

Only they're not, and it's time we start remembering that.  Your small story plus my small story plus the small stories of all the people around us?  They add up to something big and amazing and beautiful. We should be proud of small stories.

If you asked me if I'm making a difference, my instinct might be to say "No." There are writers who have far more impact than I do... authors with best-seller books, bloggers with far larger subscriber bases. Mothers with more children involved in more activities. Women with a wider reach of friendships.  It is easy to look at them and the impact they have... and then look at myself, and think "I'm not making a difference at all."

Only that's a lie.

Different people have different spheres of influence.  Some people have bigger spheres than others...  but for the people who are inside those spheres, does it really matter which one is bigger or smaller?  To those people impacted by the person with the smaller one, it doesn't matter that the impacter has a smaller sphere.  To those people, it only matters that they are IN it.  What would happen if that impacting person said, "You know what... I am not as big as So-and-So.  What I can do isn't as important or worthy, so I'm just going to stop doing it."

Be proud of where you are right now. Be proud of what you can do and who you can touch.  Maybe you can't touch 5000 people.  But, today, you can touch at least one.  It's the starfish story, I suppose.  Maybe you can't make a difference in everyone's life.  But you can make a difference in ONE's life.  And isn't that important?

So, ask me again.  "Are you making a difference?"

Yes.  A billion times, yes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

12 Things: Proud of Myself

A series of thoughts in response to 12 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Yourself

2. I am proud of myself.
"Being proud isn’t bragging about how great you are; it’s more like quietly knowing that you’re worth a lot."

It would not surprise me a bit to hear that there are people who think I'm full of myself. I am deliberate about being vocal about the areas in which I think I'm okay.  Fewer people know how I got there and that I only believe a quarter of it. Looking back, there were two major points in my life where I was involved in some pretty unhealthy friendship sets.  During those times, I could only see what was bad about me.  I became hyper-aware of my faults, and even saw things that were wrong with me that weren't wrong at all... but I began to view them that way.  It got to a point where I couldn't see any of the good things that were in me, only what I needed to change to be okay. I was constantly focused on where I sucked, and never ever on where I excelled.

Eventually, I got out of those relationships and into friendships that were healthier.  Friendships where we focused on what was good about each other, friendships where support for each other was the status quo, not the occasional exception. It was during these times that I was able to slowly step away from seeing everything that needed to change, and began to see the things that were good, the things that were my strengths.  We also encouraged each other to build character away from the areas in which we were weak, for sure we all have those.  But we could do that because we also built each other up.

It always surprises me, when I admit to someone how self-conscious I am, how afraid of being judged I am, and they express amazement that I'm like that on the inside. "You always seem so assured!" And I think, "Are you serious??"  I don't feel that way on the inside at all, and I wonder if they know they're talking to me.

All that to say...  it's hard for me sometimes to find things about myself that I'm proud of.  The real things. Harder still to tell you what those are because I don't know if you'll laugh at me for being proud of them. I don't know if you'll understand why they are things to be proud of, and how hard I've worked for them.

And so with trepidation...

5 Things I'm Currently Proud Of

  1. Not being a doormat. I have been one.  I have been one to absurd levels. But I have also taken steps in the last year to KNOCK IT OFF.  I probably can't say that I've totally put this tendency behind me... but I've made some significant (to me) steps forward.
  2. Being more assertive. I have hidden behind a lot of fear in some of my relationships in the past, afraid that full honesty would equal relationship ruin. Of late, I've tried to push past the fear more, to say the things I need to say, even if it ends up badly. And you know what?  That's been a good thing, and so far, hasn't ended up in the ways I'd feared.
  3. Knowing what I want and going for it. For a long time, I've sort of floated in this void of not knowing what I wanted to do, somewhere in between raising my kids and "maybe lightning will strike and the way will be clear."  Lightning didn't strike. I had to go out and figure out what it was that made my heart go "Yes, that!" I'm no longer floating.  Not floating is good.  Purpose is good. Plans are good. Dreams are good. A direction is good.
  4. Putting my family back where they belong. At some point, they'd gotten shoved down the list of priorities for awhile.  There was a point this year that I shook everything out of my life, and then put back what was important.  I put back a lot less than was there to begin with.  But I found the things that were important, and I reordered those things and how I spend my time and my money and my energy.  Family's back up top.  My husband is back up top. My children are back up top.  This is as it should be.
  5. Hitting blogging goals. This is far less vague. :)  I hit a lot of blogging goals.  I am super proud of this.  Does this make me Super Blogging Guru?  Dear lord no, there are soooo many people out there who are far more successful than I am, and I have so far to go. But I have improved in every area that I have wanted to improve in, and that makes me very proud of myself and excited to keep that going.

What are you proud of?

Original Thought Credit: Marc and Angel Hack Life's 12 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Yourself
Photo Credit:  © Sixtyforty |

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday Tales: 4:20



The door shut with an audible click that echoed through the room, and 12 pairs of eyes glared accusingly at me. I held my palms out in front of me in apology and made my way through the library to my table. As I sank into the chair, my eyes flicked up to the clock.

4:16. I had exactly four minutes to make myself look occupied.  I dumped books, notebooks and pencils out of my bag, tossing it onto the floor beneath the table, and arranged everything so it looked like I'd been there for hours, studying my brains out for finals. 4:18. I rearranged my clothes, took my hair down out of its ponytail in what I hoped was a Pantene-esque mane of shiny beauty, and stared fixedly at the book open in front of me.  Was it history? Chemistry?

library shelves
4:20. The door opened and clicked shut again.  This time, 13 pairs of eyes lifted to mark the patron's arrival. 12 pairs glared. One pair, my own, smiled hesitantly into the eyes of the newcomer. Jason Amesbury. He was tall, almost but not quite having to duck his head when he came in the door.  His hair was the color of caramel, his nose had the most adorable crook in the middle, and his brown eyes melted my heart every time I saw him. He found his way to his own table, one over and three down from mine.

I picked up my pencil and began writing notes in my notebook. Glancing up at him through my eyelashes, I caught him watching me and I dropped my pencil in surprise.  With a chuckle, he winked and returned his attention to his books.

I grabbed a scrap paper with call numbers scribbled on it and lost myself in a row of books. Sarabeth, stop it this instant, I thought as I paced up and down. You're here to study, not to meet boys.  So what if he's the best-looking guy you've ever laid eyes on and he's smart and has arms you want to snuggle in and hair you want to touch?  Study, study, study! By now, he thinks you're crazy, anyway!  Now get back out there and do your work! Satisfied I'd berated myself enough, I started for the beginning of the row to return to my table when HE rounded the corner and headed toward me.

Quickly, I turned toward a shelf of books and ran my fingers along the spines.  When he came close, I looked up in feigned surprise like I didn't know he was there. "Oh!  Sorry, I'm just looking for a book on the Civil War," I explained. "Am I in your way?" His cologne wafted over me and I closed my eyes briefly, inhaling it in.

"No," Jason smiled, the heart-melting begun afresh, and held out the paper I'd grabbed from my table. "You dropped this, and I thought you might..."

I couldn't keep the nerves from shaking my voice.  We were talking. Right? We were talking? "Thanks.  That would probably be helpful."

"Well, I guess I should get back..." he trailed off.  "Hey, Sarabeth? You wouldn't want to go get some coffee or something later, would you?"

I blinked at him in surprise. Was he seriously asking me out? "Oh- Oh," I stammered.  "Well sure, that would be nice.  Maybe tomorrow?"

Jason grinned. "Tomorrow would be great... I'll see you tomorrow."

When he cleared the row of books to head back to his studies, I clapped a hand over my mouth to stifle a squeal of excitement but couldn't stop the leap of joy.

"Oh, and Sarabeth?" He poked his head back around the corner.

I quickly pulled myself out of the air and leaned in attempted nonchalance against the bookshelves, one eyebrow lifted in inquiry.

He crooked a thumb over his shoulder to the other side of the library and his eyes sparkled in humor.  "The Civil War's on that side.  You're in biology."

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...