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"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." I lived on the banks of a river . . . and it captured my attention. These are my observations about the parallels between my life...and the river.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The River rushes on

Wow, I just reread my last post -- dang, I am LONG-WINDED! Sorry about that. Congrats to any of you that made it through the whole thing!

Anyway...I am off -- leaving on a jet plane, as the song goes. However, I do know when I'll be back, and that is Sunday evening!

My, how time flies. My little sister is getting married. Makes me feel old. Not discontented, just old. Actually, it has put me in a sentimental sort of mood. I feel like I'm about to write the sister version of Bob Carlisle's 'Butterfly Kisses'. I'd have to call it 'Quesadillas and Brownie Sundaes'. Our trademark tradition for years. And only at Friendly's!

I also remember when she was little. I did a lot of babysitting in my family. I love kids. I love my sisters and my brother! But she was the challenge. Actually, that doesn't even begin to describe what she was! And I can say this because she does know it. :-) We've had many a laugh over it since.

Let's just say that God blessed her with a very healthy set of vocal cords (which she was not afraid to use to their maximum volume!!) and a very strong-willed personality!! Both are good attributes, but as a child, they did present me with a few difficult babysitting situations. :-)

But we made it through, and now she's all growed up. (Yes, I did intend to say "growed") And as much as I love her, I hope she has a kid just like her. [wicked little smile]

'Twill be too much fun to sit on the sidelines and watch that unfold!

So I raise my glass of seltzer to my sister -- just to her for now. He'll get his attention tomorrow.

To a precious little girl with curly hair and a fiesty little personality!
And to the beautiful young woman she has become --
still with curly hair, and a great personality,
but with a few of the rough edges smoothed out.

I love you.
And I'll always be here for you.
I'm so very proud of you,
and it is with great joy that I celebrate this "special-est"
of occasions with you!

To you! And to many happy years to come.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Prison break

Have you ever been incarcerated?

I have. Pretty recently, in fact.

Now before you get all shook up, I haven't been to state, or federal prison, or even the county jail. No, my prison was of my own making. And the funny thing is, I didn't even realize that I was no longer free.

Before you completely blow me off and think me crazy, let me explain a little.

You see, I can't take it when people disrespect me. Or when they lie. Or when they have no regard for anyone else's feelings or opinions, and instead do whatever the hell they feel like. And I ESPECIALLY hate it when they go along with you verbally, agree, "yes, yes, yes, OK, we'll do it that way", and then go and do it the way they want anyway.

I know I'm not alone in this. Any woman that has been taken advantage of by a man she trusted would tell you that they feel the same way. Or at least, that they felt that way for a while.

This is such a struggle for me. Last night someone did the same thing I just described. Went along with the group, was agreeing about how to do something, then went and did it his own way anyway. And no one could say anything because it was too late. But it affected all of us.

And I was mad. No, actually, more than that. I was livid. Red hot with rage.

It stayed with me all evening. It stayed with me while I slept. I felt it when I woke up this morning.

And I was miserable. I got an email from someone else saying that they had learned to not let it bother them, and they wished I could get to that point too. No, this is not the first time this has happened. You'd think that I could grow up a little and learn to let go when people are so self centered.

But I couldn't.

I stayed in bed for a while this morning. Feeling sorry for myself and nursing my anger. Rehashing in my head how much men just take advantage and are self centered and stubborn.

(not all men, mind you, just a few in particular)

Not only was I miserable this morning, I was achy and uncomfortable too. Sore muscles, headache, all sorts of symptoms. Even my cat was avoiding me. And I just wanted him to snuggle with me! I wasn't even taking my frustration out on him. I knew I had to get up and get going because I have to be somewhere this morning, so I finally decided that if there was any chance of it being a good day, it would certainly help if I got up and ran for a little while. Fresh air is always good for your mood, and your body.

So I dragged myself out of bed and went. I ran for a little while, then when I got to the river I stopped. I leaned on the fence in the park and watched the water. It was so beautiful this morning. I prayed for a while.

"God, I'm so mad at him, why does he have to be so stubborn and get away with it all the time?! " I prayed that God would teach him a lesson. That God would get ahold of him and change his heart.

I prayed for a while. But I didn't feel any better. In fact, I was getting more and more angry because it didn't seem like God was agreeing with me, or even hearing my prayer.

I was so frustrated. So angry. So hurt. Everytime something like this happens it brings up all the old feelings from past situations. And it just adds fuel to the fire.

I sat down on the ground, tired, angry, feeling so very alone. God wasn't listening. I felt like evil was getting its way.

As I sat on the ground and looked out at the river again, I had a shocking realization. God was no longer silent.

I had been leaning on a wrought iron fence. When I sat down on the ground and looked out at the river again, all I could see were the bars. The brim of my hat kept me from being able to see the top of the fence. I was sitting in a corner of the fence, so it really felt like it was surrounding me. It was all I could see.

I was in prison.

And it was because of my own stubbornness. You see, if I would just forgive and let go, then other people's selfishness and stubbornness would not affect me this way. But holding on like I always do, wishing for vengeance, rehashing in my mind everything that they've done to hurt me, this is a prison sentance. And I impose it upon myself.

It was as if God was saying to me in that moment, "You alone have the ability to release yourself. You must forgive and allow me to work. You hold his stubborrnness and selfishness against him, yet you sit there with the same attitudes yourself. You will never be free until you learn to forgive."

WOW, those are tough words. Words I did NOT want to hear. And I sat there struggling and arguing in my mind.

I finally made the decision to let it go and forgive -- and ya know, it DID bring freedom. It lifted a weight from my chest. The difficult part is, I know it's not over. I know it's gonna happen again. And I know that I will probably initially hold on to my resentment rather than let it go. But the bars of that fence were such a perfectly timed picture. That image will stay in my mind for a while. And hopefully, I will not be too stubborn to learn the lesson again if needed.

There are other people that I still hold resentment against. People that come to mind even now. And I can see the bars I've created for myself there too. I'm not completely free yet. But I've had a taste of freedom this morning, on the banks of the river, and I want to do whatever it takes to release the other prison doors as well.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My dream house now belongs to...

Someone else.

Funny thing -- as you grow up you start to think about more grown up things. Like owning property. Like how nice it would be to be able to paint your living room deep shades of green without your landlord going nuts.

If you're me, you dream of a timeless brick exterior, and beautiful hardwood floors. Cedar lined closets and lots of windows. Manageable size, not too big. Not too much fixing up needed, but enough cosmetic changes needed so that you can make it your own. Small yard ~ big enough for a BBQ with a few friends, enough space for the cat to establish his own territory, but not so much that the upkeep would be a full time job.

Yes. I dream. And for a little while, there was a slight possibility that that dream might be on its way to becoming reality!

But no longer.

Alas, the house has been sold.

As much as I really didn't imagine that it would be possible at this time in my life to own that piece of property and home, it really did strike a very sad chord in my heart to hear that it was sold.

One thing the house did not have is a river. I guess at this time in my life I am to continue to live here, on the river, and watch my life ebb and flow over boulders and under bridges until a more settled time.

There will be other brick houses with hardwood floors.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The teacher becomes the student

They say that in life you never stop learning. Or should never stop learning. Or maybe it's that you should never lose your child-like thirst for knowledge.

Well, I never claimed to be good at quoting "them". Who are "they" anyway?! Nameless people that act as authorities on life and how to live it. :-) And we give them so much credit, these nameless, faceless people! "Well, you know what they say..." And we LIVE by that!

Too funny.

But back to learning. Sorry for the tangent!

I did something last night that I haven't done in close to 13 years. I had a piano lesson -- but as the student, not the teacher! Talk about scary! It's hard to go back to being a student after you've done things independently, and even been paid to teach others what you know!

But learning is good. I get stuck in a rut. I've been stuck in the same rut for 13 years. Getting better at it for sure, but it's the same old rut. My goal is to take lessons for a few months and really branch out. Learn some new styles, some new techniques, and expand my abilities!! Be more creative.

But the downside... wow that's the hard part! I have to actually practice now! Just sitting down and playing whatever is in my heart to play doesn't cut it when you're reporting to someone each week! It's back to scales and boring exercises.

(ugh, gag me)

And the worst part of all?! I had to cut my fingernails!! My teacher really harped (nicely, but still harped!) on my technique! Apparently my relaxed fingering is part of what is holding me back from fancier styles and improvisation. My wrists are good, my posture is good, but my fingers are too relaxed. It's great for the ballad-y type stuff I play now, but not for the stuff I want to learn.

I watched him play, and WOW. I vowed to do whatever it takes to try to learn how to play more like him. So tonight I had a little ceremony with my nail clippers and a garbage can---

OK, not really. No ceremony. :-) I just cut my nails and went to find a piano to practice on. I practiced for a while, realized how F A R I have to go to get where I want to be, and promptly got discouraged!!!

But then I remembered that Rome was not built in a day, and then I reminded myself that I've learned a lot of new things lately, and it just takes time and effort -- and then I wasn't so discouraged.

So...there's a lot to learn. A lot of hard work. But I'm excited!! I feel like I'm on the verge of a whole new world musically. And THAT, my friends, just thrills me to the very core of my being!

Too bad I can't take my piano to the banks of the river and play there!! Maybe I'd better dust off my guitar too...