Saturday, February 25, 2012

1000 Awesome Things

I just found a new fun place on the web I really like. Shout out to Phaedra's Adventures for listing 1000 Awesome Things on her side bar. I took a quick cruise through some of the posts and found that yes, indeed, life truly is full of amazing, awesome things. I particularly liked the post on blankets.
I think I'll go wrap myself up in one right now!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Change in Directions

Over the past few years I have made 25 loans through the micro-credit program KIVA.
I am a strong supporter of the concept of micro-credit and I have felt good about knowing that I could reach out to help people in various parts of the world. I've assisted in the purchase of lots of pigs and sheep and cows. I've helps stock stores, buy building materials and repair broken down vehicles. Every time the money was repaid I'd loan it out again to some new borrower, allowing the same few dollars I had invested in the beginning to touch more and more lives.

And now I'm done.

I have nothing against Kiva. They have not offended me. I'm just done.

Here's why... I absolutely believe it makes sense to help people in other parts of the world. But I also believe it is important to help people right here where I live. I have found an organization that will do that. It operates on the same principles as Kiva - giving small micro loans to individuals who are trying to improve their lives and working with them to see that the follow through. Here. In Idaho.

I've met the gentleman who runs the program and have confidence in his integrity in managing the program well. So, as my outstanding loans through kiva get paid back I am pulling my money out and diverting it to META.

I will still give to some charities I believe in that have activities throughout the world. But for micro credit activities, I feel good about directing my funds closer to home. This is a good organization. I'm excited to support them!

I love my Kindle Fire!!!!

Anyone who knows me well at all knows that I am an avid reader. I read LOTS of fiction and a fair amount of non fiction. I read for learning, for entertainment, for distraction, for comfort, for inspiration. Since I was a child, reading a good book has been among my dearest pursuits.

As an anniversary gift my sweet husband bought me a Kindle Fire. It's absolutely delicious to be able to carry around 100 different books in my jacket pocket. As I have indicated in an earlier post, my tastes are rather eclectic so I tend to be somewhat fickle in going between various genres. With all these different books (and a few magazines) collected on my Fire I an find something yummy to suit any mood.

There are hundreds of books that are available for download for free or very low cost. Many of them are drivel. Some, however, are quite good.

I've recently download several collections - complete works by classic authors: Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells, and unbelievably - the whole collection from The Bronte Family (YES - all of them: Charlotte, Ann, Emily and Patrick). My brain has had enough of formula murder mysteries. I'm ready to dig deep into some of these time honored classic tales. Some I will be re-reading for the 3rd or 5th time since childhood. Some I will be discovering for the first time.

I know spring will come soon and then I'll have lots of yard work to get busy with. There is laundry to do and dinner to make. I do have a job - two of them actually. So I won't be able to just get lost in my books nearly as much as I would like. But all the more reason to choose carefully which sort of books I spend my limited discretionary time on.

Just as I think it makes sense to take care in what sort of people I choose to surround myself with in my social world, I want to be more judicious about my reading life in the coming months. I've recently finished one or two books that I wish I could delete from my brain. They convinced me it was time for a change.

So one of my goals for the coming year is to read a dozen or more classic stories and discuss them well with other people who care about serious literature.

For starters will be Persuasions by Jane Austen. (Click here for chapter summaries)My sweet blogger friend, Mimi, over on Bigger than a Breadbox is hosting a discussion of the book. I'm excited to join in!

What have you read lately??

Choose Ye This Day....

I've been thinking a lot lately about how quickly things can change in our lives. I've been reminded about the power and importance of individual choice in what we will notice and what we will focus on among all the many things occurring all around us. I've always said that each person's attitude was up to the person's choice more than a result of what happened to them. Here lately I've had some opportunities to really test how far I believed that to be true.

2011 was a great year for me. SO many blessing came my way. November and December in particular were a giddy blur of peak experiences. I had found my new job which was a great fit after a long period of struggle in a difficult work environment. I celebrated my 30th anniversary with the man I love, and truly felt bowled over by the depth of the kindness and intimacy we have developed over the years. I had several key spiritual experiences that strengthened me in ways so sacred I hold them close to my heart. In nearly every area of my life, I had so much bliss it was astonishing. This was way beyond happy. I felt a rich sense of purpose and meaning in my life far beyond any I had known before.

Then the new year came and much of that seemed to flip. My job is still great. My man is still my hero. My testimony still is strong and sustaining. But it would have been easy to lose site of all that in the face of some dark things that at times seemed to overshadow everything else.

January was a tough month at our house. It was a time of funerals and condolences. We lost six different people we were close to. Most were folks who lived in other states, but who had been an important part of our lives over the years. Two were from our current congregation - bookending life with one being way too young (just 15) and the other having known many years. While the circumstances around each of these deaths was different - cancer, old age, accident, suicide, heart disease - in every single one of these cases we were reminded of the uncertainties of life and why it really does matter to say what needs said to the people we love NOW rather than waiting for just the right time. You just never know when a conversation will be your last.

Then right along side all those griefs, came the health challenges. My sweet husband had been having lots of problems with his right shoulder - pain and loss of mobility. It turned out he had a torn rotator cuff that needed surgery. What was supposed to be a very straightforward operation got more complicated when they found the damage to his shoulder was far more extensive than the ultra-sound had indicated. It was not just torn. His ligament was completely unattached from the bone. So instead of a simple arthroscopic repair the surgeon had to cut through the muscle which will require a much longer and more painful recovery time.

For several days after the operation it was quite a struggle for him to deal with the pain and nausea. There were two days in particular that were hell on toast. We were both feeling pretty bleak. Even after the worst of that passed, the frustration for both my beloved and me was pretty high as we coped with him not being able to bathe or dress himself without help. He couldn't get good sleep and was just never very comfortable.

Finally the staples came out and the sling came off so now he is feeling a lot better. Best of all is that he can drive again, so he won't feel so trapped being home unable to get anywhere. Still, it will be several months and much difficult physical therapy before he will have full use of his arm again.

Add to this mix that one of our grown up kids was having some major struggles. I won't go into the details here as that is his private business - but suffice it to say that we spent more than a few sleepless nights of worry about the problems that our boy was having to cope with. Our kids are all adults and as such we hope that they will be able to manage whatever challenges they come up against in their lives. But in my heart my boys will always be my babies, no matter how grown up they are, so it HURTS when I see them having an especially hard time.

Put all of this together and what it adds up to is that the start of 2012 has been a season of coping with adversity in one fashion or another.

It has given me a chance to reflect on how I look at life when things are shining and how I look at things when dark clouds come calling. There were times during the happy days when I reveled in peak experiences and knew absolutely how very well blessed I was. There were also, I'm sorry to say, times when all was good that I pretty much took it for granted and just got caught up without noticing or giving thanks for how sweet it all was. Similarly, there have been times during our recent difficulties and sorrows that I have REMAINED grateful for the tender mercies that abound, even in the face of hardships, times when I've felt genuine joy despite some terribly painful things crashing all around us. And there have been times when I've crumbled in a heap of overwhelm and hurting when all I could see were the losses, the pain, the distance between current reality and what I would wish for instead.

Because the contrast in our circumstances have been so absolute in a very short period of time it has been a pretty dramatic lesson -

Happiness, contentment and joy are certainly easier to find when experiencing pleasant and supportive events or environment. But good weather, good food, solid tires, and fine health will not in and of themselves make me feel like all is right with the world. I've known plenty of people who focus on whatever is not immediately perfect no matter how many blessings they have.

And in the same fashion, grief, loss, hard times will not by themselves make me be miserable. It is certainly more of a challenge to keep my optimistic outlook when everything I care about seems to be crashing down around me. But it is not impossible. I have truly known some moments of sweet peace and joy during some of these darkest days.

Life is a complicated mix of good and bad, painful and pleasant. Through it all I decide which I will focus on .....what I have to be grateful for or what I have to sorrow about. I pick. I hope I can choose well.

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