Camera Bait 2008

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So thankful.

Take the Automatic 7

This idea is from the blogroll of a friend http://theroost.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/12/-my-top-10-photos-of-2008.html of a friend, www.caprik.wordpress.com.  In no specific order, let’s just call it stream of consciousness and picture browsing (be warned, there are a few more than 10…just a few):

coosaw

I just took this picture on Friday on Coosaw Island, SC with my new Christmas-present camera.  It makes up for the fact that I am in 0% of this year’s Christmas morning pictures.  I spent every Christmas at this place from 1968 to 1998 then had a 4-kids-in-Michigan hiatus for a while or 10 years.  It was SOOOO good to be back.  I can’t stop gazing at that shot.

bethy This was taken the first week we lived in Virginia Beach.  Instead of unpacking or sleeping in that long-awaited First Week of Summer, my kids all agreed to work at VBS at our new church.  Rising 5th grader was delighted to have a job instead…

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Reunion Time

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A whole bunch of friends, many who have known each other since kindergarten, reunited with music & talking & the minute I walked in, someone bee-lined over for a hug and planted a kiss on my cheek & held it there until someone could snap the picture.

Someone I didn’t know very well asked me something confusing which I didn’t know how to answer and eventually I was told they thought I was someone else–which I took as a grand compliment–so we all just rolled with it.

There were times when I kept looking around for the person I wanted to talk to just to make sure they didn’t leave yet & meanwhile turbo-texting pictures to others who couldn’t make it but not wanting to miss a thing.

The call was made for the classmates to squad up for a group picture and it initially looked like 3-4 people but they keep coming out of the woodwork then everyone stood around catching up for 30 minutes chatting and laughing after the photo was taken.

The realization occurs that now we are mature adults who actually look forward to meeting our prom date’s spouse because she’s pretty and seems cool and “good for you.” The appropriate level of awkward is attained and then we move on.

Then the moment comes when someone has to break down and use the porta potty because beer but then somehow manage to drop a Yeti tumbler down there so all that can be done is to just shrug & say “Goodbye Yeti.”

Then you hug someone and they smell so good and so you tell all your girlfriends so then they all want to go smell him too & also wow, there’s your other prom date and he has AGED VERY WELL & you realize it’s a good thing he wasn’t that fit at the prom or one might have forgotten their boundaries.

Treasure abounds in the scattered souls throughout the meadow. Together we faced so many First Days of School, class pictures, dodgeball mishaps, lunchroom shenanigans, practices, games, assemblies, field trips, graduation parties and now another reunion. These are the ones who were beside me on my maiden voyage into the world outside the family and many have been around ever since.

We all belt HOW DO I GET YOU ALONE with the keyboard player from Little River Band who is a local & you are so glad you carpooled because it is like cruising again but this time in a nicer car with no curfew.

Next comes gushing over the friends’ kids who look just like their parents used to look and maybe even act a little like their parents used to act but also lets take a moment to forget everybody’s kids and let’s somehow mysteriously become teenagers again ourselves because being together in a field with tunes is like a magic time machine that takes you right back to 1986.

So then we trade shoes in the bathroom because her shoes match your dress PERFECTLY & then we have conversations with the spouses and Plus Ones of our classmates who have graciously volunteered to participate in the events of the evening and hear all the same stories again and again. Eventually, all those courageous enough to share or listen to the hard situations begin to discover how every single person has veiled misery lurking just under the surface and when it bravely peeks out into the light we receive the unique opportunity to love and support one another and be sad together even in the midst of a party.

As the night winds down, the people who work there begin to clean up and they graciously point out chairs and couches in the lobby where we can sit but instead we just stand around for HOURS laughing and remembering and chiming in on each other’s stories. Couples tell hilarious stories that suddenly make you thankful for your own spouse. We all experience the type of laughter that starts well before the punchline simply because of such overwhelming fondness for the person telling the story. We realize how elated we are just to be watching the expressions & mannerisms of our pals, listening to their voices, surrounded by other childhood friends who are all doubled over laughing at the content and memory of each tale.

Then your 5th grade crush takes a swig of the growler you brought so then you take a swig after they walk away & it’s a little bit like a smooch only less fun and you ask the famous couple at midnight where their young child is and they dryly say “in the car” and several don’t realize it’s a joke.

Then comes the stalling when keys are slowly coming out and time is regretfully being checked & everyone mournfully realizes “I guess it’s time to go.”  Finally comes the dreaded task of tearing ourselves away from such authentic joy & so we soften the blow with one last affectionate hug & encourage one another to be safe going home. We are left now to revel and remember each story, process each interaction, scroll & refresh & like all the pictures & promise to keep in touch & share thoughts and plans for the next time we are together. We glow & giggle & gush with immense gratitude, thoroughly charmed, awash with wistful fondness. So much everything.

A Different Kind of Freedom

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Today is the 4th of July. I’m grateful for the Land that I Love, Home of the Free because of the Brave and My Country Tis of Thee, but today I am considering a different kind of Freedom.

To My Friend I Haven’t Seen In A Long Time Who Gained Some Weight,

It was a delight to bump into you yesterday at the mall. I am excited for you to come back to the place where I usually see you every day. I know you are ready, but when you said, “I don’t want people to see me like this,” it made you tear up a little.  My heart broke with yours hearing you bravely share those thoughts but I also have insight on the matter, seeing that I am 20+ years your senior—and I have too much to say for a text.

  • It doesn’t even matter that it was from the medicine. I know you may prefer to wear a nametag or a T-shirt or perhaps a large sandwich board that advertises “I HAVEN’T BEEN EATING THAT MUCH—IT’S FROM THE MEDICINE.” That might make you feel less self-conscious, but why? Why does it matter HOW people get bigger? That is a conversation to have within your own mind and you’ll know when you get to the end because the finish line sounds like this: People of all sizes are important and brilliant and special and loveable and attractive. By the same token, some jerks and jack-wagons are skinny so….there’s that. You are still super cute and adorable and loveable and fancy and a goddess. Learn it. Know it. Live it.

Oh You Fancy

  • Retail lies. That includes the store where you saw me, stores where you can get a scarf and a 6 pack, ESPECIALLY Stores with a Secret, and the store you used to manage. Combat lies with the truth. ESPECIALLY when shopping for bras & undies & bathing suits and Spanx. If it doesn’t fit, go up a size. Do like Jerry Seinfeld did and use a sharpie to change the number/letter when you get home if you have to. Clothes are not the measurement of Your Awesome Self. You are worthy of nice things that look good and FIT WELL– even if you have to choose a different section of the rack. Or a whole different store.

Hey Girl

  • People really really like the You that snorts when you laugh, gets irritated at the small things, shows vulnerability and capability and grace and charm and style. People will really really continue to like the You behind those beautiful watercolor eyes, no matter what you’re wearing and whatever dumb and possibly temporary numbers are associated with the skin-covered residence of your soul.
  • Repeat after me: “I’m not that big of a deal.” Listen, the world didn’t rotate around it’s axis and the sun because you were a svelte & leggy size 6 (or 4) ((or whatever size you were at age 22)) and it is not going to come to a screeching halt with people grabbing their hats and clutching their pearls with a loud gasp and a vinyl record scratch just because you walk in the room taking up 3 or 6 or 11 more inches than you used to. You are still you. You are still fabulous. You kind of ARE a big deal, just in a good way. And so is everyone else, no matter what size they are.

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And here are a few wise words from my writing hero that shaped and cemented my perspective a while ago. You do not yet have the benefit of membership in the “F-you 40s” club but until you get in, try these thoughts on for size (haha! Size!!  See what I did there?):

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.”

“I was not wearing a cover-up, not even a T-shirt. I had decided I was going to take my thighs and butt with me proudly wherever I went. I decided to treat them as if they were beloved elderly aunties, who did embarrassing things like roll their stockings into tubes around their ankles at the beach, but who I was proud of because they were so great in every important way. We walked along, the aunties and me, to meet Sam and our friends on the beach. I could feel the aunties beaming. They had been in the dark too long. It did not trouble me that parts of my body – the auntie parts—kept moving even after I had come to a full halt. Who cares? People just need to be soft and clean.” Anne Lamott

I hope that this helps, Sweetie. I’m sorry you are troubled. I understand because I’ve been there and I am there. Please don’t keep your wonderful self from us any longer than necessary. Life needs you and your people love you, support you, respect you and cherish you right now today. If you need time and space, by all means, take it. Please, though, do not rob joy from yourself because you aren’t who you were. YOU ARE NOT WHO YOU WERE!  CONGRATULATIONS!! None of us are! Don’t you dare punish yourself for adapting to the harsh realities of this stressful, chaotic, demanding unrelenting world. You have added experience and trials and victory to the self that you were. You are changed, that’s true. GOOD. FOR. YOU! Now on this Independence Day, let’s declare ourselves separate and complete from the lies that we hear about ourselves not being “enough” or being “too much” or “not there yet.” Commence your freedom celebration. The world needs your sparkle!

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Graduation Blessing 2016

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On Sunday night, several of our Coastal Community Church families gathered to celebrate the graduation of three special Virginia Beach seniors.  They go to different schools, vary wildly in their hobbies and interests, and the main thing they have in common is their parents have studied the Bible together every other Sunday for several years.

graduation Sarah Beth Matt

Clearly, they are thrilled we are making them participate.

 

As parents, members of a church small group, and fellow Christ-followers, we wanted to provide a Rite of Passage to express our pride in them, our hopes for their future, and to mark the occasion of their arrival into adulthood.  Although they have different birth orders, talents, interests and circles of friends, we wanted to provide an intentional memory for them–no matter how awkward– where they would see there are more people who have their back than they even know.

After a yummy buffet of barbeque & fixin’s, our host gave them “Seats of Honor” and the parents said a few words.  Here is what I read to Beth:

Elisabeth Dansby

Before you were born, you kept changing directions. This is normal early on when a baby isn’t taking up much room, but once the time draws closer to birth, there is an optimal way for the baby to take position. You had other plans. In other words, it wasn’t easy but you made it out okay.

Watching you grow through the years has been a delight and at times an exhausting adventure. You bring joy and humor to our family and you are a great example of diligence, attention to detail, and a strong work ethic. You have had to grow up early in many ways and you have made some difficult yet wise decisions that will bear fruit in the years to come.

We named you Elisabeth taking your Aunt Laura’s middle name –with an “S” instead of a “Z” because you are a unique individual who does not fit into a mold.

graduation Laura Beth

Whitney, Aunt Laura and Beth in 2010

 

Dansby we chose for your middle name to honor your great grandmother “Mimi” who was a lighthouse to her family and community, a hard worker, and a somewhat irreverent but faithful and loving woman who highly valued her family.

graduation Mimi family

Mimi’s 90th birthday –Beth is the baby “in arms” over Mimi’s R shoulder.

 

You were born the week that both Mother Teresa and Lady Diana, the Princess of Wales passed away. It struck me then as it does now that the celebration of your arrival brought hope for our world upon the departure of these two amazing ladies.

I want to share a quote from each of these ladies, one very rich, and one very poor, but both with many characteristics worth emulating:

“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. “ ~Lady Diana Spencer

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” Mother Teresa

The verse that I want to share with you is a tutorial about love from 1st Corinthians:

“Love is patient. Love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast,

It is not proud, it is not rude.

It is not self-seeking, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things endures all things.

Love never fails.

Now these three things remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”

Now that you are a young lady, an official adult, and a high school graduate-to-be, you have much more control over your “birth” into the world than you did as an infant. You are focused, practical, and wise beyond your years. You may change directions, as you did in the womb, or you may know exactly what you want to do and move towards that goal with lightning speed. It is up to you. We have done our best to shelter you, teach you and bring you safely to this point. We now believe your future is in your hands. We will always be here to support you, cheer you on, and love you. You have experienced heartache that many will never comprehend, and your victories have mostly been silent ones without a crowd of cheering onlookers.

graduation Hendrix

This is what brings me to today. There may not be an auditorium filled with peers hanging on your every word, or thousands of Instagram followers loving your every selfie, but please never doubt and always remember, you have influence. You have power. You are irreplaceable. You are a dangerous woman, with a pack of supportive fans praying you forward.

Walking in the Light

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March and April have passed in a blur of pollen and procrastination, but one thing I was able to accomplish was a tour of LanternAsia at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

I was insistent we get there before dark so we could see the “Art by Day” as well as the “Magic by Night.”  This exhibit is made up of 36 handcrafted silk & steel displays highlighting traditional Asian themes replicated from China, Japan, India, Thailand, Korea, Burma and Singapore.

As we walked through the mile-long path, I was awe-struck at the handiwork, thoughtful planning and intricate execution required by such a project.  This type of exhibit dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) **thanks Google** and is the largest of its kind in the U.S. and will only happen this spring in Norfolk.

I may never be as excited about the Garden Christmas lights ever again.

Lanternasia peacock fanlanternasia peacock

As the sun went down, the garden transformed.

Awe-inspiring craftsmanship was evident at every spot…

…and the night was filled with WONDER.

 

Toastmasters Icebreaker

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I recently joined a public speaking club at work called “Toastmasters.”  We work together in a supportive environment to help each other become better communicators.  Last week I gave my first speech, called an Icebreaker.  I mined previous blogposts for information that would help me introduce myself in 4-6 minutes.  Afterwards I got some great feedback and enough encouragement to be excited about next time!   Here is my first speech:

Listen. Focus.  Wonder.

These three verbs hold special meaning for me. Several years ago a friend gave me the book “My One Word” and challenged me to choose one word of intention for that year instead of an overwhelming list of resolutions and I have done so ever since.   I will be introducing myself using three of my recently chosen Words:  LISTEN FOCUS & WONDER.

Working in a call center was a large part of the motivation to choose the word LISTEN for 2015.  It was just over a year ago in mid-December that I became employed by USAA—my first full time job in 20 years. LISTEN was a great stretch word for me vocationally as I spent 3 months in training.  We all know how important it is to LISTEN to our members, their challenges, timelines, preferences and concerns.  The word LISTEN also benefitted me at home with Chris my husband of 25 years, and our four—you heard that right– FOUR teenagers.  Before choosing the word LISTEN I frequently offered what I considered the “helpful service” of finishing people’s sentences for them.  What can I say?  I’m a giver.  As it turns out, that particular gift is not always appropriate, appreciated, or even accurate.  Instead of “reading” people and jumping in to validate their feelings and offer an empathetic example of my own, I am newly challenged to offer my full attention and the gift of processing to the speaker.  To LISTEN shows value and respect, allowing the speaker to fully express themselves and clarify their thoughts. I also discovered the difference between “hearing” and “listening.”

Webster’s Dictionary provides this definition for listen:

“To pay attention and take something into account.” (repeat)

Did you hear that? Are you still listening?

Before LISTEN my word had been FOCUS.

As a creative, spontaneous, impulsive, social multitasker, I have a lot of fun most days. The frustrating downside comes with my tendency to   lose things, forget important details, and speak or act without thinking.   My initial motivation to choose the word FOCUS was to become more organized.  While that is still happening (gradually), I also recognized my sometimes spastic behavior was largely fueled by fear—fear of forgetting a great idea, or losing the opportunity to have an important conversation.   FOCUS could indeed help me become more organized in my thoughts and behaviors as well as my environment.

One of the definitions I found for FOCUS was

“selectively concentrating on one thing while ignoring other things.”   (repeat)

Focus led me to prioritize which led me to the reality that I cannot do it all and am wasting a lot of time trying to. I still have a front seat on the FOMO struggle bus (fear of missing out) but I focus on what I am supposed to be doing and experience relief that the rest is not my circus, not my monkeys.  There is freedom in focus!

For 2016 I chose the word WONDER. With LISTENING and FOCUS there was a heavy need for discipline.  With the demands of work and now 3 of our 4 children in college, the empty nest is staring me in the face.  I determined it was time to spend some intentional time recovering what brings me joy and inspiration.  I love to create, write & doodle but as Teen Angel sang to Frenchie in Grease “I’ve got the dream but not the drive.”  My inspiration tank is tapped and in need of refueling.  Seeking and experiencing WONDER provides a space to enjoy an intriguing moment with no immediate expectation of performance or application.  No action is required, there is nothing to emulate or capture, share or explain.  My goal for 2016 is to marinate in delight and admire the incomprehensible.  I want to be swept away in amazement.  I’d like to linger in the strange.  I hope for moments of content confusion. On many days, I’m sure WONDER may mean “I wonder where I left my keys,” but I am primed to be, as E.B. White once said, “always on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”  I encourage you to pick one word to inspire, delight or challenge yourself this year!

 

WONDER 2016

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I came across this word on the whimsical Christmas cards I purchased this year but never sent.

Merry wonder Joy

 

“Wonder” to me means inspiration without responsibility.

When elusive inspiration finally finds me and pushes me to write, create, or speak, it is usually attached to a crackling lit fuse with a demanding countdown clock urging me to ACT! SAY!  DO!  FINISH!

Like the hour-hand on a  clock,  almost imperceptively I am learning to be disciplined.  This means I must find time to create/write/sing/dance on the regular and not wait for inspiration to move me.

Wonder is different.

Wonder provides a space to enjoy an intriguing moment with no expectation. No action required, nothing to memorize or capture, nothing to even share or explain.   I’m sure wonder can result in productive activity, but for me right now in the middle of this decade, peering into 2016, WONDER means to simply experience delight and admire the incomprehensible.

I want to be swept away in amazement.

I’d like to linger in the strange.

I hope for moments of content confusion.

I revel in surprise and bewilderment.

These longings do not mix well with most essential tasks. If healthy dinners and sparkling bathrooms and clean/folded/put-away laundry could somehow be produced spontaneously, I would be crushing adulthood.

wonder minion

Alas, details and repetitive tasks drain me, turning my sparkles into gray mud and making me want to punch kittens. So I am in search of WONDER. If I could figure out a way to experience WONDER in the monotonous moments of my life, I would need no other wish.

EBwhite Wonder

I am revisiting The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron this year which encourages the “Artist Date.”

In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion ,

a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. 

You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist.

I think this is going to be my pathway to WONDER in 2016.

Cheers to 2016 — THE YEAR OF WONDER!