Invisible Hugs

In my last post I mentioned that at a very difficult time in my life I had prayed for God to let my life be useful to others. It’s still a prayer I say every night and it sustains me daily. Every time an opportunity appears for that to happen, it’s almost like I’m receiving a special invisible hug from God. It really can transform the way you experience your daily life.

It reminds me of an experiment I once tried that was so successful that I have just adopted it as my modus operandi. Pick a person in your life, or it can be a random colleague or co-worker. Preferably this would be someone who you find challenging to get along with. Now, the experiment is to find one thing a day to sincerely admire about that person and then find a way to mention it or compliment them about it. I know! It’s REALLY hard at first. Especially if you are angry and resentful at that person, or if they have hurt you.

You have to force yourself to drop that stuff for a bit, step back and look at them with open eyes. At first just find something easy. Maybe notice some task they are good at, or their vocabulary, or attention to detail! Maybe they notice what you do or don’t do all the time, darn them! Well, that can also be a strength. Think about that until you believe it’s one. Then let them know how you’ve been meaning to tell them that you really admire that attention to detail. It’ll be awkward as heck at first. They will be suspicious. They will think you are being insincere, flattering them, trying to get something from them. Just keep your cool, mean it and leave it at that. Then do it again the next day. Find something else, mention it and move on. It’s a discipline, like any exercise it requires effort and practice.

After a few weeks, don’t be surprised if they confront you and ask you why you are acting so nice to them. They might accuse you of secretly hating them and want to know what you are after. Just tell them the truth. Tell them you realized you hadn’t really taken a good look at who they were, and the more you got to know them, the more the “real them” began to shine through. Be sincere. What you will discover is that being honest, sincere, and vulnerable with people and just making yourself look into them and then talking about their positive traits will change everything in the way you see them, the world and the people around you. Try it. I dare you.

Switching gears a bit, I am going to talk about some kind of mundane stuff for a change now. At my consulting job a couple of the gentlemen I work with have started calling me by a nickname which I confess totally delights me. I just LOVE nicknames. My name is so unusual and I am fond of it and I guess it really suits me so people don’t generally give me nicknames. A couple of my best boyfriends figured this out about me and gave me sweet endearing ones and I was total goo. I especially liked the ones that liken me to cute animals. Who doesn’t right? I am fond of Otters for example. They live in the water half the time and so would I if I had the chance and who doesn’t want to be considered as adorable as one? Then there’s variations on the term Smidge because I’m kind of little. So nicknames are cool. They call me Cinnamon at the office here …which is great because it’s my favorite spice, I’m a total cinnamon junkie and because it sounds a bit like my name sounds:  Cinnamon= /SinJun/ So Yay Nicknames!

I got sent a few of those “greatest proposal ever” videos with these big elaborate dance numbers or intricately choreographed moments with family participation and it seems sweet and overwhelming and everything. Then I was nearby when my Mom was watching a show she follows called “The Glades.” In it, the main character is struggling with his feelings for his girlfriend in the season finale. She is in Atlanta studying while he is in Miami working. They are dealing with long distance relationship issues. Other women are hitting on him. She is guilty for taking this time to go to school for herself. But they love each other. She finally passes this big test and she is out celebrating with the women who have been training her. She decides not to call and tell him, but to drive home and tell him in person the next day as a surprise. She doesn’t have to though because he walks into the bar they are at, smiles, congratulates her and asks her to come outside. He tells her they need to talk and starts to explain that he can’t do this anymore. She objects and says she loves him, she knows they can figure out a way to work things out. She has this horrible he’s breaking up with me look on her face. He shakes his head and says he doesn’t know how they’ll work it out, but he does know he can’t do this anymore. He looks down, then he gets on one knee, pulls out a ring and proposes!

Jim Longworth Proposes to Callie Cargill on the TV show "The Glades" on A&E

Jim Longworth Proposes to Callie Cargill on the TV show “The Glades” on A&E

He says, I need to know that however we work it out, we know we are going to be working it out together. Will you marry me? She is stunned and that’s how they end the show/season.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I think this is one of the more romantic proposals I’ve seen. That may sound crazy, but here’s why. He is full of anxiety about this relationship but he finally has an epiphany that what is bothering him is that he doesn’t ever want to lose her. So what does he do? He doesn’t waste a minute, he drops everything, he goes right then to a store, buys a ring, flies to Atlanta, tracks her down and basically falls at her feet to beg her to marry him. I mean…that is ROMANTIC. That’s what I want. I don’t need or want elaborate, fancy or prepared. I want someone who is crazy in love and desperate for me to say yes and can’t wait to get to me and ask for me to be his for the rest of his life. No dance, lip sync, art gallery opening or trick will ever top that. Do you agree?

Moving on to my next mundane topic…the show Political Animals: If you missed it, get ye hence and go watch it. Especially if you are a lady. Sigourney Weaver is amazing as always.

Lastly I have noticed that since I have moved back down to Alabama my total crush on big trucks has come back. Plenty of them around here too. Sikorsky, the helicopter plant is here and there are lots of truck driving men around here. They take good care of them too. A very entertaining young lady who works at the plant where I am consulting drives her boyfriend’s massive Dodge truck to work every day with its Hemi and shiny rims. It’s very intimidating when I park next to it. I think I am just feeling bad because my beat up little Nissan is really starting to sputter a bit. I’m afraid it may not last much longer. I do coax it and talk to it daily. It does its best. I miss my Audi. I really shouldn’t though. I am afraid the car buff and technology junkie in me are the pieces that cling the hardest to the materialistic mindset. Of course the girly girl within whines about my formerly frequent mani-pedis, the fancy salon and my shoe budget but I am quite the frugal fashionista now and proud of it so I can shrug that stuff off. Easy to beat that back simply by thinking of other things that money could go to, charitable stuff!

But the part of me that lusts after a nicer car with a powerful engine and smooth suspension, along with a jack for my phone so I can play Spotify through the speakers? The eternal whisper of the need for a faster, stronger laptop, an upgraded phone soon…oh and how am I even living without an iPad? Those are the hardest to ignore.

I prefer to leave such acquisitions in the hands of God now, I would rather let him provide. Not at my pace, but his. It helps me practice another discipline I mentioned not long ago, that of patience. Practice as you know, is the only way to improve.

Speaking of improving, I had my tutoring orientation for church today and it was super exciting. I met new people, I got this book

Tutoring Your Elementary Child with TLC

Tutoring Your Elementary Child with TLC

I volunteered to maintain a Facebook group. I already got assigned a student! We get to have dinner with them and then spend about an hour helping them with homework. How awesome is that? See? Another invisible hug from God.  How can an iPad compete with that? 🙂

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Let my life be useful to others…

I got excellent news today, the artist who is designing the cover art for my upcoming book sent me the comp today and it is GORGEOUS! I am so thrilled. I did a little happy dance and promptly began showing it off to everyone in my immediate vicinity. We all agreed that fans will be tattooing it on their bodies in no time. Well, we thought it would not be at all surprising if they did.

The big news where I am is Tropical Storm, sure to be upgraded at any moment to Hurricane Isaac. Accuweather.com which is my preferred weather source is much calmer than the others so I recommend their site in the event of Weather emergencies. I can hear the wind blustering outside even though he’s just brushing by us. My sister and aunt came to stay with us to get out of harm’s way in Mobile where there’s more likely to be unpleasant power outages and wind and water damage. We might get some power outages here in Troy but they will likely be brief and a few squally storms and blown down limbs isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s nice to have them visit. I’ve missed them.

Meanwhile in other projects: I’m doing a little something to make me happy called OperationPAL through MarineParents which aims to send support and encouragement to wounded Marines. Here are the first two cards I am sending. I plan on picking up a couple more tomorrow to mail.

Letters to OperationPAL

My first two letters to OperationPAL

I included my new Personal Cards from Moo.com so they would know who the card came from. I recently printed both business cards from VistaPrint and Personal Cards from Moo.com and they both arrived today. The difference in quality was really stunning. VistaPrint’s were on thin shoddy paper with weak inks. Moo.com’s were on thick over sized card stock with vibrant colors on both sides. No contest really.

So I’ve mentioned the other projects I am actively working on: The book, the consulting, the Veterans project. While researching the Veterans project I came across another thing I can do now so I will be rolling that out in a day or two. It will involve sending care packages to Marines in Afghanistan. My first contact represents a small group and my second represents a battalion, both from North Carolina that is hoping for some support. The small group is of 50 males and his description says:

Their electricity is provided 220 generators, they live in tents and have very few supplies to cook. They do not have electric stove tops.

The other contact represents a battalion also from North Carolina and they have over 500 males and 40 females and the contacts descriptions says:

75% live in cans (I investigated and this is some kind of hut or could be just cargo containers retrofitted to sleep in) / 25% live in tents and sleep on cots. They have 110 electricity in 90% of the areas their power source is generator. They have no cooking ability. 25% have refrigerators. They have no microwaves.

I will be creating a new page on my blog about this and providing a list of things I will be collecting as well as providing a link if you can pitch in a few bucks to help buy stuff to add to the boxes. You can help with money, or you can pick up or collect the stuff I am accumulating and send it to me… that would be awesome as well. I will make sure it gets packed correctly with the right customs forms and that nothing illegal gets sent. I will also be soliciting donations in my local community. One thing they hope to get are things like Magazines. I know I can collect those at my fitness center and it’s likely some of the other items they want might come in through there too.  So look for the new page with all the details on my blog to go live soon, I’ll be taking pictures of the packages and posting them as I send them! It should be fun.

While continuing to research the *big* Veterans project, I discovered that my regional VA office has an interesting training program and I have inquired into it. Hopefully I will be able to share more details soon but it’s one of those discoveries where you are like, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?! because it is so right up your alley and everything you want to do.

I also heard from the church I’ve been attending in Montgomery about transferring my membership there, so I went ahead and got the paperwork together today…I was hoping to go to a tutoring volunteer orientation there on Wednesday anyway so the call was serendipitous. It allowed me to sign up for that.

Lots of very meaningful stuff! Thank God for answering my deepest prayer, let my life be useful to others.

When a heart breaks, it don’t break even

The title of this post is from a great song by a new Irish band called the Script.

I find myself singing it a lot lately. Not only is a catchy song, but it’s so true that when a relationship breaks one party always hurts more.  All kinds of relationships get broken and changed when endings and beginnings come around. It’s a chance to start over, let go of some things, embrace others. Redefine who you are and start with a blank slate. I’ve read that the Methodist faith has a requirement that its pastors move often… it seems I’ve been doing that my whole life. I’ve kind of got that down pat. Truthfully I would like nothing more that to find a nice place to call home and settle there for the rest of my life.  Though I know I will never truly get home until I meet my creator when all the work he asks of me is done.  I’d like travel to be something I did for recreation, not as a requirement from year to year. Somehow I think God probably has other plans. But then again, he is the master of surprises!

It is so hard to believe but my journey through undergraduate school is completed, and a brand new road to Divinity School at Duke is opening up before me. Graduation was everything I hoped it would be. Exciting, scary, inspiring, hot, a little boring in places but exhilarating and triumphant. Especially the part where I opened my degree and saw the little gold sticker that read cum laude. It made me feel extra happy. It has been a tumultuous six months. So many highs and lows. There were moments when I was certain I wouldn’t complete my final work. I stared at a stack of books 20 volumes high and realized that there was just no way to condense all that I had gleaned from them and my hours of online field ethnography into a twenty page final project. Luckily my professor didn’t penalize me for going over.

I toured seminaries in Alexandria, VA and in Austin, TX and Divinity School at Yale. After not really feeling any of them and at the recommendation of a classmate, I checked out Duke during their Women in Ministry conference and the differences were startling. From the beginning when I assembled in front of the modern R. David Thomas Executive Center with a group of other women exploring their calls, I felt at home. When we arrived at our welcome dinner, the admissions director began with prayer. The way that each and every person spoke about God, Jesus and relationship was immediate and personal and absolutely true to my experience. All of this had been absent from my other tours, where God was discussed in theoretical terms. There were lots of signs, small and large that were personal to me and my ongoing conversations with God. When I walked into Duke chapel before catching the van back to the hotel, it was almost completely empty, the twilight filtered in through the many, many stunning stained glass windows. I stared up at the vaulted ceiling and was filled with that almost painful feeling of joy at beauty. That was when the choir began to sing “What wondrous love is this?” at the altar. In my daze I had not even realized they were in the chapel practicing. As the sound swelled over me, I felt my skin prickle all over with goosebumps and shivered at how present I felt God was. It had been a while since I had been given such clear direction on my next steps so what an amazing weekend it turned out to be. I wasn’t sure how all of it would happen, but I knew that it would. Somehow, despite the fact that I am Episcopalian and its a Methodist seminary, that I am broke and its expensive, I just knew God would make it happen. He would provide.

And so he did. I was accepted and received a grant from the annual fund, work study and (un?)fortunately some more loans. However, I’ll take em’ for now. I’ll apply myself and hopefully kick enough academic butt to get scholarship money next year.

I am leaving a safe haven and venturing through a rocky pass into the next valley. In my moments of communion with God I am tantalized with momentary glimpses of the beauty and possibility that await. Still, the people I have shared my days and nights with, the lessons I have learned about finding and building a home and living in community have been precious beyond measure.

There is still so much to come. I discovered that I can participate in up to 5 field education experiences, 3 of them funded by Duke. (So in my case, that probably means 3!) Still, three is awesome! They have a Parish based CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program that is partnered with Duke Hospital that lasts a year. I can do a mission overseas. I can also do a summer internship in a church! So three wonderful experiences.

There’s the fact that I will be moving into a new place, maybe even a house with wood floors and my own backyard where I can plant my favorite flower, gardenias, under my bedroom window. Nothing like sleeping with the window open and smelling the gardenias blooming while listening to the frogs and cicadas sing. Maybe even a garden. Haven’t had one of those since I left Alabama.

So many adventures await. So much new information. New experiences, new faces and friends, new opportunities to grow and fail too of course! 🙂

Twilight is on cable and I am struck by how romantic it is. When Edward dances with Bella at the end they play one of my favorite songs by Iron and Wine,and you can tell he is absolutely committed and in love with her. Earlier in the film they play Clair de Lune and not only is it such a beautiful composition, it’s one of the best classical compositions ever written in my opinion, and the one thing I would love to learn to play on the piano before I die.

The summer holds its own adventures. I will take care of my mom during and after a hard surgery in Richmond. I hope to get some actual vacation-y time. See my daughter and grandson. Go camping, maybe kayaking and rafting. Definitely revamp my workout routine and my wardrobe!

It’s going to be an exciting year. I can just feel it. 🙂

Monday is a Fencing Day

Even though I am very sore from my Tango with the storm door, I truly enjoyed my fencing class tonight. There is something incredibly empowering about suiting up in the breastplate, glove and fencing jacket, taking foil in hand and lunging at a target. The satisfying feel of the tip making contact when you strike, the successful execution of complicated patterns of form and function as you learn them… these things combine to make my body feel young, lean and strong.

I am older than anyone in the class, even today’s instructor, but I felt more powerful and agile. Exercise is good for me. My body is really built for it and I get that runner’s high quicker than anyone I know. When all cylinder’s are firing, I can’t believe that 6 years ago I weighed a hundred pounds more than I do now. My mind is so centered and focused, the target and then the coach and his voice become my world. Later, I envision hours of effortless practice and someday competing at this sport. It could happen.

Today was also my first Chaplaincy studies class this term. Getting things back on track for Spring semester is all about starting the world’s biggest To Do list:
-Start organizing my new club: The Canterbury Society to fall under SRLA
-Organize the launch of the club by arranging an event featuring a speaker and music
-Come up with a giveaway for next Tuesday’s Spritual Fair…OH yeah, and have all your club materials and the date for the event nailed down by THEN
-Tomorrow evening is the Ghana mission trip info meeting @ church
-Schedule a meeting in DC at the National Cathedral with the Vicar to finalize the new Internship for Hollins students that I negotiated LAST term
-Read, read, read…for Film class tomorrow, for Sp. Top. Leadership in Africa

I also am thinking about where I should have my Birthday party. I want it to be cool, involve good food, drinks and kickass entertainment. I hope people WANT to come. It’ll either have to be on March 8 or 15th. I wonder when Spring break is…aha…Spring Break is the week after the 15th! It’ll have to be on the 8th. My actual Birthday is the 12th so the party will have to be early and not late. Everyone will be gone during Spring Break.

Last year I did it at the Children’s Museum in Mobile,AL and we did a Mummy Exhibit and Imax and then we had cake and punch and a craft and we all played like we were kids again. But there are a lot more adults this year and tons of college kids. Different audience.

Hrmmm. I must think on this.

“I really shouldn’t be doing this…”

To paraphrase a song by George Strait…but in this case I am simply referring to staying up way past my bedtime and posting. I have a lot to review in my mind though, and writing it down seems to help. I still haven’t come up with a really good second story to match the quality of the first movie idea I had. I have three small ideas and am trying to decide which one would has the greatest chance of working. Tomorrow I will try and put together a shot list for each and see if that directs me.

Today in Film as Narrative Art we watched El Mariachi. I enjoyed it. I have seen all the others in the Rodriguez series, so I was glad to see the first. Neat to see his humble beginnings and also to see how Antonio Banderas grew the character.

In Creating the American Nation we watched part of a documentary about slavery that I found very disturbing. I just am having such a hard time with this part of the class. I always have trouble forcing myself to witness man’s inhumanity to man, but this is just emotional to me. Maybe because its first thing in the morning, or its the sheer helplessness of it, or the fact that I have been surrounded by the effects of this issue since my birth in Mobile, AL that it just grieves me so. I was moved to tears and hoped no one saw me during parts of the film. Just horrible. 🙂

I did some test shooting with the Bolex today and that was exciting. I have conquered my fear of loading and using it. Hurrah! In Film Production we learned how to set up a light kit in case we need to film inside.

The busiest part of the day was supporting the club SRLA (Spiritual and Religious Life Association) in their fundraiser. They sell carnation bouquets to the parents of freshman and then assemble and deliver them to dorms. So I worked with them to rustle up some volunteers and do some delivery. It was a lot of fun, though time consuming. I ended up getting home quite late.

I completed my first article for Columns. I will have to type up the second in the morning. I also need to take my quantitative reasoning test if I can then, to just get it out of the way. I was able to drop piano, so no prob there. Oh and my migraine seems to have abated somewhat.

I spoke to Dean O’Toole about the technology platform on which to publish the online version of the paper and she agreed with me that it is really a President Gray call. She asked for a couple of days to figure out the best way to handle that. I pointed out what I thought were the pros/cons of using a hosted tool. The biggest con is that we will sacrifice some advertising control at the national level, but I think we can make editorial calls to combat that. (If they run ads for credit cards, we can add a column about managing your finances/debt responsibly.) The benefit of letting the staff learn how to use a tool like CollegePublisher.com to produce, market and traffic a paper and its advertising is enormous from a “on the job” training perspective. Those are skills that are worth money in the marketplace right now. There are jobs in Roanoke for those types of skills. There are even more lucrative jobs in major cities all over the country. They are also somewhat technical in nature jobs even though they are relatively “soft” tech. So they are WELL PAID. Women need the kinds of opportunities these skills would provide them. I think a little compromise on the college’s part would be wise in this instance, not only for the girl’s sake, but for the enrichment of the overall journalism program.

Well, I’ll get off my soapbox now. I am actually getting sleepy so I will go say my prayers and get some rest.

To end on another quote, quite out of place…

“Tomorrow is another day.”

-Scarlett O’Hara- “Gone With The Wind”