Author Archives: automatic7

About automatic7

Learning to be a writer. Struggle with consistency but every now and then I get inspired. I like to laugh at myself and other funny things.

Final Thoughts on FORWARD 2017

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I was inspired by a paddleboard and WW2 airplanes to find my word for 2017 “FORWARD.” As usual, the meaning of the word and its relevance to my life has shifted through the seasons of 2017.

I began the year thinking about forward movement, mostly as it related to my career.   One particularly difficult week this year I had a significant blunder and my word served me well; as I was challenged to keep my chin up, continue doing my best and move forward through the difficulty.

As last winter turned into spring, I recognized one meaning of the word as it related to boldness. I began to be more forward in asking for what I want and assert myself more,  clarifying my expectations.  Since 2017 is the last year for me in my 40s, I have truly embraced learning how to be more specific and vocal in solidifying and sharing my hopes, dreams and desires.  This version of the word was a new revelation that was a delight to uncover.

The summer brought two graduations in our family.  I suspect there may not be anything that causes someone to ask “what’s next” more than the strains of Pomp & Circumstance booming throughout a college campus while posing with pride and parchment. My two oldest are most certainly moving forward at a breakneck speed into adulthood.  Therefore, I must adapt my parenting.  This has been a fun and interesting transition! I find it much easier to look forward to what lies ahead for them than I was able to do for myself when I was age (21-23). This, I believe, is one of the benefits of aging.  Age and experience bring serenity and acceptance.

Funny story: my daughter was the first child to move out in October.  She became adamant that her long-standing bank account be altered to remove my name from it.  I jokingly reminded her that I would not be able to make any more deposits to which she retorted “…but you never did though…” Touche.

As we sat at the desk and signed the proper forms, the bank employee explained that my daughter could avoid service charges by using her ATM card a certain number of times per month for purchases or withdrawals. My daughter’s jaw dropped. “Service charge?”  She was confounded.  “You are going to CHARGE me? For keeping MY MONEY??” I had to stifle a chuckle as the bank representative explained that the fee was waived for youth accounts but subject to the service charge now that we were removing mom’s name from the account. Ah, the joys of adulting.

Late Summer and early Fall also ushered in hurricane season and with it some long working hours for property claims. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other during the 10 weeks of 12 hour days assisting with properties affected by Harvey, Irma and then the California wildfires. Image result for irmagerd

Forward was the battle cry each day to push claims toward completion and help our members in need. It felt good to return to my normal schedule in early November, just in time for the holidays.

Two exciting trips to NYC came our way – on the second trip walking from our hotel to the river, we stumbled on a large building with my word in mosaic on the side. Image result for forward building new york

Just as I thought I couldn’t walk another step, my word encouraged me to take in the moment, keep moving, enjoy the stroll and count the blessings of 2017. It has been a difficult year to say the least. I have been frustrated, embarrassed, shocked and saddened, I have felt uncomfortable and stretched and rushed and powerless. Through it all, the one thing that always stays the same is change. Best to keep moving forward through the tough times to better days and recognize when you are in the midst of them.

The earlier trip to NYC provided me with a lot of solitude – more than I usually like – and the word that kept popping up at every turn was BEAUTY. I recognized this as my 2018 One Word.  I look FORWARD to seeing all the expressions of beauty coming my way in the next 12 months!  What’s your word for 2018?  I hope its a great one!

 

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Virtual Church

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Sunday morning church is a weekly source of inspiration and fuel for my spirit & soul.  This is the first time in a long time that I won’t be able to attend or serve at my church for a month…maybe more. I was selected to work on the property insurance VCT or “Virtual Catastrophe Team” to assist those families affected by Hurricane Harvey.  Just like field adjusters who get deployed to storm damaged areas, the four of us on VCT will work 12 hour days, Monday through Sunday for the next 30+ days to get our insureds the assistance they need.  The V part means that we are in the office doing the behind the scenes collaborating, estimating, and allocating  to make sure people get paid.

Since I will miss worship I decided to write a short devotion each Sunday to carry me through.  Here’s the first one:

Working in property claims we know that our jobs change with the weather and never more than with Hurricane Harvey. We are taking call after devastating call from people who are living their worst nightmare–total losses, uncertainty, and a future that has been drastically rearranged like so much floating furniture in a flooded living room. Story after tragic story it begins to take a toll and it’s easy to wonder: if God really is all-powerful, where is He in the storm and its aftermath? This is the best time to ask Him directly to show us personally where to find Him at work. As we scope the damages, let’s listen too for the members who show compassion for their neighbors and gratitude for the help they have received thus far. That is God at work. Notice those co-workers assisting you and the new bonds of teamwork knitting us together. That is God showing up. Realize the leadership and behind the scenes organization is causing the best possible outcome under the circumstances thrust upon us. And finally, realize that our past experiences, skill set and personality have brought us here for such a time as this. Stay strong!  Use ALL your resources. Keep mind, body & soul rested, ready and storm prepared.

Today, Lord help me to see you at work.
Psalm 23:2-4
Isaiah 35:3-4
Isaiah 41:10
Prob 29:25

 

Wait. What? You are HOW OLD today?

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OK, let me get this straight. You go to the hospital and they give you this tiny infant boy child. You bring him home and shield him from the toddler/preschooler siblings, feed him cereal and chicken nuggets and taquitos, take him to camp, pick him up at practice and in an old-school Wonder Woman slow-mo spin, he is suddenly a responsible, good looking, kind-hearted, fun loving 18-year old with a job and a car and a tattoo and a bank account? I don’t think I have been adequately prepared for this.

Do you know what this means? This means that our family has gone from 2 adults with 4 kids to 2 adults and FOUR. ADULT. KIDS. It is impossible to comprehend. My brain is exploding with joy and nostalgia and complete baffle-mania.

I mean, I was a little shocked when he went to kindergarten and then immediately was finished with elementary school. Then when he got his first skateboard, and the next thing you know the great state of Virginia was all, “Sure…he can drive a car.” I raised my eyebrows and shook my head, racheted the prayer life up to 11 and handed over the keys.

And you know what? This youngest tiny baby of mine? He is a great, safe driver. He doesn’t “act” for me. I complimented him recently on his caution behind the wheel and his reply was, “My friends say that all the time.” I mean, he is actually a safer driver than me. And I’ve been to Safe Driving School at least three times!

This 4th child of mine has goals.
This young man makes good choices.
This glimpse of the future–he is polite and thoughtful and makes me relax a little bit about politics and the state of the world today. He helps me see the next generation has good ideas and lots of energy, and can formulate a good plan and rally support for a group project. He is diligent and hard-working and well-liked and compassionate and creative and did I mention funny? I couldn’t be more proud.

Happy Birthday Christopher Bowman Hendrix.
You are a great man.
I just didn’t see it coming so quickly.

Dodgeball Underdog

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The rules of Dodge Ball are straightforward and widely known. Players on two teams try to throw balls at each other while avoiding being hit themselves. The main objective is to eliminate all members of the opposing team by hitting them through varying levels of intensity with thrown balls, or catching a ball thrown by a member of the opposing team, or forcing them to move outside the court boundaries.

The strategies of dodge ball fall into three possible categories:

Attack – offensive stance where the player obtains a ball, races forward and pegs a player, preferably below the face.

Avoid—hence the name of the game – to have situational awareness to the extent that you see and prepare for incoming attacks, moving your body to dodge each hurled sphere

Absorb—the most impressive move is when the attackee faces their attacker and instead of dodging, bravely catches the ball, therefore effectively eliminating their attacker.

The year was nineteen hundred and seventy-eight. The place: Jefferson Elementary School, in Jefferson City, Tennessee—22 miles east of Knoxville, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. It was time for Physical Education with Coach Ogburn. I can still smell the freshly waxed gymnasium floor and feel the hard wooden bleachers.   I knew the moment we walked in and saw the round red rubber balls that there would be only one winner, and many, many losers–possibly with the visible welts to prove it.

As the class filed in and completed warm ups, I sized up my other classmates. There were always a few you hoped were absent on Dodge Ball day.

dodgeballface

That’s gonna leave a mark.

Coach Ogburn was not the stereotypical elementary school coach. Yes, he wore a whistle and usually a baseball cap. He alternated between blue and red Champion shorts and his tennis shoes and crew socks were impossibly white. I know this from sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor as he roamed between the students counting our arm circles out loud. He wasn’t the yelling kind of PE teacher. He was kind and soft-spoken and he frequently turned down the 4th grade boys constant and repeated pleas to divide the class into “boys vs girls” on Dodge Ball days. Unless.

There were less than 10 boys.

Something about 9 boys to 15 girls caused Coach Ogburn to relent on this particular historic day and we had the first and only battle of the sexes that gymnasium had ever seen. And quite possibly the last…for reasons that shall unfold.

The boys high fived each other and lined up across their side of the gym. The girls looked at each other sheepishly. Without benefit of Beyonce, Katy Perry, or Lady Gaga we attempted to rally our girl power. Our main mojo in those days came from The Bee Gees, Barry Manilow and Olivia Newton-John, so you know the cards were stacked against us.

Imagine if you will, the shock and awe that ensued as one by one, we began to methodically strike out the boys –just as efficiently as they were eliminating us. Of course the main strategy of at least half of our young lady squad was to congregate along the back wall, safely out of range. The band of brave sisters coordinated efforts along with the front line. Using a series of facial expressions, imperceptible nods and the American Sign Language we usually saved for silent classroom gossip, we were able to identify a plan of attack that brought us closer and closer to the seemingly impossible victory.

We bided our time, with a heightened awareness of incoming attacks, mournfully sending off our fallen, and swiftly reconvening to slowly and methodically take out the boys. One of ours, one of theirs. One of ours, two of theirs.   Soon we were down to – you guessed it – one brave girl.

She was not yet known for her athletic ability and she had gone as far as she could go with the avoidance strategy. The boys had finally begun working together as a team, and they nodded to each other, smiling because they knew this victory would be swift and sweet. On cue, the boys strutted toward center court and fired. Time seemed to stand still as the next few moments played out in slow-motion. The boys knew better than to aim for her head or they would surely be eliminated for foul play. Ricky Thomas fired ball one directly toward her left hip – and she bravely caught it. Groans erupted from the other boys on the sidelines as their eliminated number grew by one. How can this be happening?

The rules state a caught ball must stay in possession for at least two seconds so there was no time for her to drop ball one before WHOOSH Randy Miller fired ball two at her right shoulder—with cat like reflexes, she caught it ONE HANDED against all odds. ALL the girls cheered wildly and the entire gym was on their feet! Coach Ogburn’s whistle dropped from his lips, his mouth fell open in disbelief and his eyes followed as Eddie Massey hurled ball three WHOOSH across the center court line towards her knees. This would be the fatal blow. If she dropped either ball, the boys would win. If ball three hit her, the boys would win.

The vertically challenged 10 year old mustered up her strength, heart pounding, and dropped to one knee. With every fiber of her being she securely gripped the other two balls under her forearms, holding out her small, cursive-writing hands, and epically caught the third and final ball with her glorious fingertips .

It was a banner day for girls everywhere. Well, at least for the girls of Jefferson Elementary School in the foothills of the East Tennessee Smoky Mountains. I have treasured that memory over the years. It sometimes comes back to me when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed. I like to recall how good it felt to win one for the girls that day. And how proud I was….of my good friend Carey Woodard. How much I admired her for her bravery and perseverance. Oh, you thought it was me? Gosh no. I was out at least ten minutes before when I tripped over my untied shoelace and fell out of bounds.

But I did cheer though. I cheered my butt off.

 

Saturday Snow Snickers

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Much of the south is blanketed in snow this weekend and I spent a delightful Saturday in my pajamas with my new Keurig, Kindle, and social media.  I have several friends who are talented photographers, so I anticipated some great captures and I was not disappointed.  A family friend posted some spectacular bird photos and I couldn’t help but give them voice:

birds-on-a-hook

Bird 1:  This snow is off the…. Bird 2:  Don’t say it.  Bird 1:  HOOK!  Bird 3:  Why did you invite him.

 

birds-on-stick

Brown Bird:  I think I see a worm!   Bird on L:  That’s a stick, bro.

 

 

bird-francine

“NO RUSH FRANCINE.  WE’RE NOT AT THE CORN YET.”

bird-on-roof

*hums* When this old world starts getting me down/and people are just too much…

**Here’s the musical clue to go with this for those uninitiated to the Drifters**

 

bird-landing

Stuck the landing.

 

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Waiting for the judges’ scores…

 

bird-last-one

This is my LAST.  ONE.  I swear.

 

Thanks to John Zirkle for sharing your gift!

 

 

FORWARD 2017

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Two events this year sparked inspiration for my 2017 One Word. The first was during the summer on a day that Chris and I learned how to stand up paddleboard. We had a 5 minute lesson in a shady spot (on land) near the Virginia Aquarium. The lesson was brief and direct: hold the paddle the correct way, stay balanced, keep your eyes focused on where you want to go, not down at your feet, and keep moving forward. The instructor advised us, “The board is designed to use forward momentum, and that’s when it has the most stability. When you come to a stop, you have to work twice as hard to stay balanced and to begin moving forward again.” I tucked this life lesson away to ponder more deeply, but those wise words got us through a fun day on Rudee’s Inlet.

sup-dat-me

Dat me.

The second event happened just a few weeks ago at the Military Aviation Museum.

 

This museum is home to a huge private collection of historical military aircraft. Each has been painstakingly restored to its prior military condition, using original parts whenever possible. Most of the planes are airworthy and flown at the museum during flight demonstrations and at air shows throughout the year.

airplane-2-forward

As we toured the hangars, I could not stop admiring the lines and features of each aircraft and the awe-inspiring designs of these machines from WWI and WWII. The thought and dedication that goes into not just flying them but designing, building and maintaining them is a new area of fascination to me. Even better is the fact that they are all still airworthy and flown on a regular basis.

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While walking through the museum I landed (ha!) on my word for 2017—FORWARD. Up is essential and the destination is important, but forward motion is the focus for me right now. As I look toward my future, I am uncertain how high I will rise in authority or prestige. I simply desire to move forward,

airplane-4

increasing in knowledge and favor, and to perform better than I have ever done before. Holding on to the lessons I have learned from previous years where I found PEACE, narrowed my FOCUS, appreciated TRUTH, took time to LISTEN, and reveled in WONDER, now I elect to move FORWARD into the great unknown. I remain hopeful and confident that I have what I need to do what needs to be done.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON WONDER

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My intention was for this year to be one of openness and rest. I love getting creative, trying new things & finding fun projects but often get stressed by deadlines and discipline, so I took this year to appreciate, revel and wonder.

wonder-wisdom

I wondered this year as I watched people learn, grow, compete and conquer, what makes them tick. I wondered about the group dynamics of any given subset of culture. I found many things interesting and always tend to look forward with optimism, even as I trust the challenges ahead will be met and overcome.

I was able to take several “Artist Dates” this year, although I never made it to the Smithsonian to see the Wonder Exhibit, we had a breathtaking display of paper and light at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens with “Lanternasia.”

wonder-lanternasia-tulips wonder-plates-building

wonder-lanternasia-lady

Beauty and nature are always a rich source of wonder.
It was a graduation year for both my girls—that was a high point of pride as well as a large focus during this year of wonder.

christmaswhitney christmasbethy

I wonder how but also somehow KNOW with absolute certainty that they are going to make this world a beautiful & more caring place as they launch into adulthood.

I do wonder what their future holds, but I am convinced they are both going to accomplish all they dream about and more than they ever considered possible.

I am filled with joy and anticipation as I look forward to the mark they will be forging on this world.

My boys are also a source of inspiration and wonder.

christmasdaviselkins christmasbo
Every time I have watched a soccer game or video-taped skateboard tricks, I am in awe of their human bodies, their strength and bravery and dedication.

They are gentlemen who know how to laugh, pray, and step up. I often wonder how they got to be so great because so much of who they are and what they can do did not come from me.

I have my someone else to thank for that.

wonder-prince
My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage on June 22 at the Magic Kingdom.  I look back with nostalgia at all we held dear in 1991 and my sense of wonder exponentially explodes. I realize there is no way we could have fathomed what life would bring over a quarter of a decade. Our path has been rocky and dirty and challenging and at times threadbare but we have made it thus far and are making it still. I wonder sometimes how he puts up with me and I wonder why he continues to have such an endless amount of grace instead of a constant barrage of helpful advice for improvement. I’m so thankful he chooses grace instead of correction.

As 2016 draws to a close, many people are characterizing this as a terrible year – a year of a dramatic election and the loss of several iconic heroes and legends.

I am also touched by these events but grateful for the blessing of my one word WONDER and the optimism, gratitude and sparkle that it brings as a filter for this year.

forward-with-wonder

Goodbye 2016, the year of Wonder, time to move FORWARD into 2017!