Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I am usually a fairly even-tempered person. Lately though, my emotions have been very unpredictable. Yesterday for instance, I rode a couple of emotional highs, actually grinning inanely at how happy I felt. And then a song came on the CD player, or a letter came from the Food Bank, something fairly innocuous, and I found myself in tears.

I'm fighting fear about the state of the world, constantly assuring myself that things are going to be fine. I'm embracing elation over a couple of back-to-back good short stories. I'm making myself available to friends who are suffering: one with the loss of her brother, another whose husband has cancer. My dreams have been full of nostalgia about my children when they were younger. I'm beginning to make yet another lifestyle change by going to the gym. I'm also angry, so angry every time I pick up the newspaper and read that another careless corporation is being given my money to fix things. Up and down, up and down.

Are any of you experiencing these waves of emotion? If so, how are you handling it?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A weekend in pictures

My husband's band played Friday night, and our plan was to get up Saturday and go to Bald Head. It was very cold and windy, not ideal riding the ferry weather.

But it was sunny and cozy inside.

Two of us in particular were happy to hang around the house:

We had dinner with friends last night, and today I am reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist, doing laundry, and putting off going to the gym.

An excellent weekend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Teacher Gifts

I haven't had much to say lately, so I'll send you to look at beautiful gift books again.

I'm getting one for my teacher, and I think it's just the right gift.

And also, just so you realize how badly your teachers need gifts, read this.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Much more than a Proposition

I don't usually draw your attention to youtube, preferring to inflict my own inept attempts at video (!), but I really want to share this Keith Olbermann editorial. It is about Prop 8, yes, but it is also about happiness, love, and doing what is right by your fellow man.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Normally I give you short and to the point posts, but I'm going to go on a little tonight because today I went to the funeral of a man named Joe.

Joe was a 51-year-old third grade teacher who died of ALS. In the church we heard from his childhood friends who called Joe a hero. We heard from a teacher who told how tough it was to be the fourth grade teacher because all Mr. B's kids thought he had already taught them everything they needed to know. We heard from a principal who is bereft at losing him from her staff. A friend stood up and talked about how, once Joe was paralyzed, he still insisted on wearing starched shirts and ties, even though he could no longer dress himself. We heard from his cousin who tried to take cupcakes to the students on Joe's birthday and Joe said they couldn't do it because they didn't have time. Elementary students, high school students and college students told of how strict Mr. B was but that he made a difference in their lives.

Leigh Standley wrote, "There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains." I'm sure she knew someone like Joe.

After the church service, over one hundred cars made their way down the busiest street in Greensboro. We went through red lights and every car we passed was pulled over to the side of the road, just like people used to do. Out of respect. It had been so long since I'd seen that kind of honor given to a funeral procession, and I like to think that they had all heard that Joe had died. That they all sat on the side of the road thinking that we can't afford to lose people like him. That they wanted to stop in the middle of their day and pay respects to him.

Joe's death was not pretty. On the fourth of July, I sat with him an hour or so. He could not use his hands or walk, and his speech was very hard to understand, but we had a good conversation. And the thing that he said that stays with me now was this: "I'm still Joe." Simple words that carried a huge amount of meaning.

His friends were phenomenal. As long as he continued teaching they came every morning and dressed him and took him to work. They spent hours and hours and hours with him--not for him, but for them. His sister and two friends took him to Paris early this year and that was not easy, but Joe wanted to go and they were determined to get him there.

The minister was a friend from childhood too, I think. He said that funerals are usually about saying goodbye, but that he didn't want to say goodbye. He wanted to say, "See you later, Joe."

The last words of the service were sung by Chris Rice (a recording). I don't know how to put a song on my blog, but here are the words and I urge you listen to it on Itunes:

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

I hope I see you later, Joe, but I know I'm going to have to stand in line.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


In looking at yesterday's post, I realize that a couple of those little balls have eyes. Just like those that I found a few months ago. And I didn't notice until I went on to post tonight. Creepy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I lead a Religion and Ethics discussion group at Quail Ridge Books. It is the longest running discussion group at the store; we've been meeting once a month for over ten years.

Several months ago, News and Observer columnist, Peder Zane, came to store owner Nancy Olson with the idea of having a panel discussion on the topic of happiness. Last night he moderated the discussion with two panelists: author Eric Wilson and UNC professor Ben O'Neal.

Over one hundred people came--it was standing room only. At the beginning, Peder asked those who considered themselves "very happy" to raise their hands. Then he asked those who considered themselves "happy" to do the same. A total of approximately half raised their hand.

Peder did a fabulous job, and Ben and Eric were very knowledgeable on the topic, both personally and professionally. The diverse audience was engaged and raised many interesting questions.

Peder asked Ben and Eric about the future of a happiness pill and the effect it would have on society. This brought up an intriguing question for me: I had raised my hand as "very happy" but given the chance to take a happy pill? I would, without a second thought. I asked the question if we ever thought we were "happy enough." I'm still thinking about that and how we already use artificial means to make ourselves happy: legal and illegal drugs, alcohol, food.

Toward the end of the program, Ben provided ten things that have the capacity to make us happier:

1. At the end and/or beginning of each day, recall three blessings in your life. These can be immediate or past blessings.
2. Take risks.
3. Give yourself permission to be fully human.
4. Be a "merit finder" not a "fault finder."
5. Exercise.
6. Meditate.
7. Culivate strong, healthy relationships.
8. Practice self-disclosure in those relationships.
9. Practice being present and mindful. Do not live in the past or future.
10. Practice forgiveness of yourself and others.

It was a great night.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I am resisting pessimism with every tool I have. It's not at all hard for me, but my husband seems to be sinking into it. Underneath all of his worry is this attitude that he has had to carry the finances of the household all these years.

This way of thinking assumes that I don't understand what it means to "carry the family" or that I'm willing to just sit back and let him do all the work of keeping things going. And it assumes that being responsible for the finances of the family is the heaviest, most important job a person can do. Is it?

When my children were young, three in three and a half years, I stayed home with them. One might say that I carried the emotional and physical work of keeping things going at home. When my youngest started preschool, I went to work there; when she started elementary school, I went to work with my husband. I have worked there since. I do the accounting for our household and three companies. I do all the housework (I do have help with this) and grocery shopping; any cooking that is done is done by me. I emotionally support my children and my father. I am on the church board and library board at my college, lead two discussion groups, and take creative writing which involves a good deal of both writing and editing. I'm busy.

For all that I do, I do not have the burden of carrying the family financially. And with all the emphasis these days on what's going on in our country and the world, it would be hard for someone to ignore that things could get very bad before they get any better.

I refuse to let that kind of worry dominate my daily thoughts. I do not think I'm naive or in denial. I know that having to get clients to build houses and use our company, hold their hands during the process while dealing with flighty and unreliable subcontractors, talking concept vs. reality with architects and designers is a very large task. I know that people are backing out of the process left and right and are afraid to commit.

So what's the difference between us? Why does he worry and I don't? I think it simply boils down to the fact that I do things that I love and they never (or hardly ever) seem like a burden, and for the most part this is not true for him.

I don't know how to change his way of thinking about his work. I am not willing to start getting clients or building the houses in order to make his job less stressful. And I don't know how to console someone whose life's work is threatened by circumstances beyond his control.

But I do know this: We have a house and two cars. We have three beautiful children. We go to work each day and right now we put a paycheck in the bank every few weeks. Our debt is minimal. Our parents, though definitely aging, are able to take care of themselves for the most part. We're healthy.

I refuse to give in to fear and confusion. I am determined to keep plugging along, loving the things that make up my day, and supporting him as best I can. Attitude is everything. And hopefully contagious.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My retreat

This weekend I decided to set up a retreat for myself. My husband was going to be away today, so last night I made a schedule. I felt very motivated by the flow of it.

Since the official part of the day didn't start until 9:00, I stayed in bed this morning until 8:30. And because it was a retreat, there wasn't much in the way of getting ready: sweat pants and sweat shirt, loose clothing being perfect for such a day.

My goal was to get my short story done for Tuesday's class (the one I was having trouble starting). I gave myself forty-five minutes for breakfast, and made eggs and bacon, orange juice and coffee. I read the news part of the newspaper, saving the puzzles for lunch.

I had planned to go for a walk to get my juices flowing but it was raining. So I put on disco music and danced for twenty minutes.

Then I sat down at the computer for two hours.

At the end of the two hours I was a good way into my story. So I fixed myself some lunch. As though I were on a real retreat, I put out a placemat, used a cloth napkin and wine glass for my drink. This is a first class center! I worked the crossword puzzle, cryptoquote, and jumble and read my horoscope while I enjoyed the meal.

At any working retreat, you get some free time. I spent mine at the flea market taking pictures. I love those bins of doodads and geegaws.

After the free time, I sat back down at the computer and finished the story. I printed it out and read it out loud. I feel very good about it.

I had allotted one hour for dinner, but I ended up meeting someone at the last minute at Tripp's and we took a little longer. It was worth it though, because I had been wanting to get to know this person better, and did.

At the end of the day I planned to reward myself by watching a movie, something I rarely do, but I'm too tired (my brain is VERY tired) so I think I'll just channel flip until I fall asleep.

I could get used to this.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thematic Photography: Fall

As the election ends and our spirits are lifted, Carmi has chosen Fall as the week's theme.

Every year when fall comes around, I am reminded of the first year my daughter left home for Chicago to go to art school. Around the middle of October she asked for pictures of the trees changing color, and I knew she might be feeling a little homesick.

I left my to-do list on the counter and went out today with my camera because the leaves are at their peak at this very moment. I haven't had time to upload them from the camera so I'm showing some from my archives.

We do quite a bit of our traveling in the fall so I've taken pictures of leaves in many different places. These photos are from Paris, Central Park in New York, and North Carolina.

Be sure to go see Carmi's picture. It's a beauty, just as fall is.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I have the most adaptable cat in the world. When people talk about finicky pets, I just laugh. Chippy will eat anything anywhere, sleep anywhere, loves being at the vet's (they love him too - they let him lie on the counter while he waits to be seen), and there isn't a mean bone in his body. He is even friends with the possum who sneaks in the garage every night, eats the cat food, and sticks his nasty face in the water.

Mostly he's an outdoor cat. He does come in at night and has his own bed in his own bedroom. Well, really it's my daughter's bedroom where he slept when she lived at home. Here he is sleeping during the day:

We used to go to a friend's house in the mountains. He raised and boarded horses and had lots of barn cats. My girls had been begging for a cat so we let them pick one out. Our friend told us that the one they chose, the one we call Chippy, had gotten his head stuck between two boards in the barn and had a steel plate in his head. We're not at all sure this is true - our friend is a tall tale teller.

But one interesting thing is that a week or so ago we re-seeded our yard. There was hay all over the ground and Chippy took to sleeping in it. I think he was getting back to his roots!

My husband is allergic to Chippy, but that doesn't stop the two of them from lying around at night watching television. I sure will be glad when the election is over and they go back to watching shoot 'em ups!

So that's my cat. Isn't he sweet?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Day in Pictures

Today we moved our boat from Wrightsville Beach to Bald Head Island. I always say goodbye to Wrightsville with some sadness, but we have spent so much time at Bald Head that we think this will be a good place to be for a while.

It was an incredibly warm and beautiful day for November first. There was a sailboat regatta out of Southport.

Here is where we will be for the winter months:

Without wasting time on chores, we got a golf cart and rode to our favorite places on the island. We stopped often for pictures.

I love the view from the windows of the island chapel.

And of course, I had to get a picture of Old Baldy.

We went to Ebb and Flow's for low country boil for two. Yum yum!

The sun had already set when we left the restaurant, leaving this blood red rim to the sky.

Glad to be here. Good night!