Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Whimsy and the Tall Pink and Turquoise Chinese Vahz

I have always wanted to be a writer.  For a long time I thought I would write fiction, and my English degree is actually in Creative Writing.  The one consistent critique of my professors was that  my writing was didactic.  I didn't need a moral, they said, and if I did have one, it needed to be less obvious.  

Alas, I lacked confidence in those days and perceived this advice as a fatal flaw in my writing after graduation.  

The thing is, I just couldn't fathom writing something without a point.  At  my core, I am a teacher, and everything I do is about teaching one thing or another.  There's always a lesson.  

And not just for other people.  I'm always trying to learn from my mistakes.  My experiences.  My relationships.  This is how I approach everything, parenting, writing, ministry, relationships.  

There's always more to know, and there's always more to understand.  

This isn't a bad thing, but sometimes my friends and family tire of my endless reflections, which can seem a little, well, preachy.  And it can really zap the joy out of life.  It means I see everything as a lesson, something to reflect on and learn about.  It also means I lose the awe and the wonder and mystery of life.  

I thought of that as I re-read yesterday's post, which was mindful of things I have learned but didn't reflect the joys and the wonders of the year.  
  • One of this wonderful things was that God provided for our family in unique ways financially.  At the end of 2011, Duane took a pay cut.  On top of that, I started the year with two classes instead of the five I had the previous semester.  On top of that, I learned my student loan repayment would begin in February.  
We took a deep breath, prayed, and waited for God to lead us.  
First, we cancelled our cable.  Good-bye HGTV.  
Then, I got two more classes.
Next, we got a check from a lawsuit related to Duane's dad's death.  
And finally, Duane had a stroke of genius, and we refinanced a loan, lowering a payment and enabling us to pay it off sooner.  

I got jobs for the summer.
I got jobs for the fall.  
I got jobs for this spring.  
Wow.  And I only panicked a few times.  That may be the bigger miracle.
  • Another lovely thing was watching my baby learn to lead worship for our little church and watching the congregation respond and worship with her. 
Those are big things, though, and it's easy to rejoice in the big things. I want to go farther than that in 2013.  I want to delight in little things and moments.  I want to make time for little things and moments so I can delight in them.

For the first time since starting grad school, I had two full months off, and I spent this time reading in the sun, looking out on the San Diego River nature preserve behind our house, watching yellow and black butterflies flit around the purple and white flowers, breathing in the scent of jasmine.  I went to coffee with friends.  I watched Downton Abbey, all two seasons of it.  I started cooking again and trying new recipes using new ingredients.  I took joy in the taste of pomegranate balsamic vinegar on spinach salad.  I cleaned the house.  

It was glorious.  

I wish I could remember all the wonderful and joyful moments of the year, and I wish I had taken note of them.  There were lots of them, and these moments always caught me by surprise.  Sometimes they made me smile.  Sometimes they made me laugh.  Sometimes they made me cry.

Sadly, I tend to forget those moments in favor of the ones when I have to learn something.  This year I want to recognize and celebrate the lighter moments.  I want to take myself less seriously.

I want to develop a sense of whimsy.  I want to do things just because they make me smile and not because there is any real point.

In honor of this new objective, I have talked Duane into adopting the giant Chinese vase (please pronounce vahz) that used to adorn his mother's house.  This four-foot tall vase is pink and turquoise and gold.  I think it has birds or butterflies or something else that I'm not particularly fond of.  It matches nothing in our house.  We tried to give it away, but we had no takers.

Nevertheless, I just couldn't stand to see this potentially valuable vase get sold for $10 at the estate sale, and so I sneaked it in the house.  Duane cracked a few jokes at my expense, and eventually the vase made its way on to the ledge above our front door.

I don't why Kay (Duane's mom) bought this vase, but she enjoyed buying beautiful things that had no practical value.  They brought her joy, and that was enough.  She had a sense of whimsy, although I'm not sure she thought about her eclectic tastes.  That's for people like me who reflect and evaluate everything.

I laughed when I saw the vase mounted above the door.  Caitlin asked how he got it up there, and he said he climbed over the ledge on the second story, stepped on the door to the garage, and then placed it there.  The real story is only marginally less precarious, and let's just say it's quite remarkable that the vase is still intact.

That vase reminds me not to take life so seriously.  It whispers that there's more to life than reflecting on the lessons of life.  It calls out to me to smile and celebrate friends and family.  It sings, "Look for beauty because it's everywhere!"  It shouts, "Slow down! Be thankful! Watch for wonderful, delightful things in your life because they are everywhere!"

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Saying Goodbye to 2012

I concede that it's much better to say goodbye to a year when the year is still present.  Once it's gone, well, saying goodbye is sort of anti-climatic.  Nevertheless, I am frequently late or at least barely on time.

I meant to write a nostalgic tribute earlier, but Duane and I went on vacation to Napa, and then I caught a cold, and then the cold got worse.  I felt well enough to write last night, but making a pot of soup seemed like a good plan.  And Duane and I watched A Little Bit of Heaven, a film about a woman diagnosed with terminal cancer and how she learns to say hello and goodbye at the same time.  Hello to love and the reality of her emotions, and goodbye to everything.  I cried, and we went to sleep.  Happy New Year to us.

2012 marked the multiple beginnings and endings, and I'm not quite ready to move on. It was a significant year for many reasons.  I started teaching at community colleges for the first time.  This consumed most of my time.  I watched my children grow and change, sometimes traumatically.   I couldn't rescue them from circumstances or choices, but I could love them and support them.  I said goodbye to Duane's mom and supported my family as they each navigated the grieving process.  I took on way too much work and tried to survive on four to five hours of sleep a night.  I walked away from what could have been a fatal car accident.

Through it all I've learned some important things.  One of the things I've learned is that to be emotionally healthy, I need to write.  

And so I will.

Major lessons I learned in 2012:

  • I learned that God provides.  In His own time and His own way.
  • I learned that life is short, and the things that matter are not things but people. 
  • I learned that I need to take care of myself (and Duane). 
  • I learned that to be emotionally I healthy, I need to read, write, and teach. 
  • I learned that it's okay to have limitations.