February 15, 2016

To Err is Human

This has been a humbling, learning, exhaustive week for me on a personal level. Have you ever said or done something in all innocence just to have it turn around and bite you in the butt? Yeah, me too. My tale of woe concerned a job I was doing and social media. Social media, aka, "Facebook" can bite us big time and leave a bruise if we don't watch out. (I have since given up Facebook for the season of Lent.)

Without going into too much detail, thus making matters worse, I inadvertently posted comments on social media resulting in negative reactions by the powers that be. They wasted no time informing me of my mistake. Immediately, I attempted to set things right by removing any/all check-in, comment or picture of offense from the Internet. My superior and friend summoned me to discuss the matter. Going into the meeting, I felt like a little kid called to the principal expecting a reprimand. I realized the certain possibility of being dismissed from my duties. That concern became a reality by the end of our meeting. Gratefully, my colleague tasked with speaking to me, handled it with grace and kindness showing respect toward the situation. Although the job did end prematurely, I left with only my personal regrets and no ill feelings toward those making the decisions. As wind suddenly sucked from a boat's sails, my day lost momentum and I ceased to dwell on much else than what had just happened.

This whole week I have reflected on the lesson learned by such an unfortunate blunder. Determined not to allow this incident to defeat me, I worked to put it out of my mind and move on. When negative thoughts or anxiety crept into my mind, I shook my head and said outloud to myself, "Stop thinking about it. It is over." Getting on after such happenings comes only when one presses on toward a more honorable goal. Thank you, Lord, for teaching me these lessons.

God as my Holy Father, my high priest and arbiter of life's struggles challenged me to give Him the glory in all circumstances. Humans have been the reason for life's messes since Adam met Eve and Eve met the Evil One. Just think of the struggle God has endured with us! 

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:14 - New International Version (NIV)

January 6, 2016

Meaningful Connections in 2016

The writing of this blog has slowed considerably over the past several years since my retirement. Not that I have not attempted to write a piece from time to time, I have. Many pieces got deleted when I realized I was writing about a lack of something in general or it resembled complaining about my life. That was when I clicked delete, abandoned what I'd written and moved on. Sometimes I would have completed a whole article, having given up an entire morning to writing only to abort in the last seconds before hitting 'publish'. Although, my blog doesn't have much of a public following, I occasionally notice through sitemeter.com, that a reader or two has stopped in on etxgirl.blogspot.com. It doesn't really mean anything except that I don't post often enough to my blog to keep an audience of readers. However, for the few who read, I hope to report something of interest and not just my personal angst.

For the most part, my writings are therapeutic. I am able to unleash feelings and emotions onto the written page, as it were. Although, there are times I find out someone I know has read my blog and reacted to my words in a concerned manner. The reader might leave a comment, send an email or ask to talk to me...in person. Yikes! A personal meeting means a problem of sorts. Those times when well meaning people let you know what you wrote has upset others or lead them to think I had a problem. Back then, I usually caved and took down the piece that brought about the controversy. Looking back, I realize there was no real reason to take down the post. They were my words, my feelings and as the author I had every right to publish to my blog. That being said, or written as it were, I might write a piece you do not agree with or think the worse of me personally. For that I'm sorry, but I can not control how you react to what I write. Although, you will find if you read my blog, that I am a mild-mannered writer for the most part. (Except, don't get me started on Donald Trump!)

Since my retirement back in 2007, I no longer see the same groups of people everyday. As a teacher, I had teaching partners with whom I'd bond. We talked everyday about our lives, our families, our jobs and of course, some complaining was involved. We were going through the same trials and it was a relief to know others could relate to our issues. Also, our conversations cost less than counseling groups or therapy sessions. Even before retirement, when we still had children at home, my family kept me so busy that I didn't need this vehicle to express my thoughts. Now, eight years after retirement several friends I once had intimate conversations with have moved away, some still work and most are "friends" on Facebook. (Not exactly able to give hugs.) Meeting up to talk long hours face-to-face over coffee isn't going to happen too often anymore. 

My husband is a theater instructor at a local community college and his evenings are often spent in rehearsals for upcoming productions. Even though I do a small amount of work with the school district, it is sporadic and I'm often home alone with my two adorable cats, the Internet and HGTV.  When my husband finally gets home, I attempt conversations with him and he tries to listen. But let's face it, men simply do not listen the same as other women. No offense to my loving, vigilent, intelligent husband, who I love to the moon and back, but talking to my cats is almost the same as talking to a man. They both look, listen and leave with no comment. So, I will continue to write it out. I can revise, edit, get it out of my system, save it and revisit it another day.

I am thankful for the delete key. The Internet is a wonderful tool to get messages out to the masses in a millisecond. Although, once it is out there, you might not be able to reign it back in as is the case with email, text messaging or in-person chats. Words can get us into trouble and I have gotten myself into embarrassing situations because I was too quick to hit "send". Fortunately, for me, I am the author of my words, the user of my blogspot account and therefore, can delete any of the pieces I have written. Sometimes being upset over an issue and venting my emotions to my blog can clear my thoughts, even if I have to hit "delete" by the end of a writing session, saving my readers from whatever current dilemma is on my mind.

Obviously, I did not delete this piece. The purpose of this post was simply to let you know I'm still writing and a small explanation as to why I write in the first place. My writing style resembles chats with friends. If you are in my small world of readers, thank you, but I must confess that my writing is mostly for myself. I am flattered, even shocked with a twinge of worry when someone comments or mentions reading my blog. "Yikes! What did I write?", I think to myself. Then, on the other hand, I love feedback because it shows me there are still people, some I even know, who are interested in what I have to say. 

God bless us all in 2016. May we make meaningful connections with real people who will help us carry out the plans of our Maker. 
ML

November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks

As a Christian, I am mindful of being thankful for all I have, the way things were, they way they might have been and a forgiving God.

[My parents, Louise & Elton Ritchey]

From the time Mama came to my bedroom in the morning announcing, Time to get up! until I fell alseep on our couch and heard, Go to bed, Mary Lou, my days as a child were safe and warm with no added stress, except for school studies. It wasn't like I had any regular chores to do (I did have to keep my room cleaned up.) or places to be, except for school or church. My mom simply thought a person should not sleep their days away. I wasn't enrolled in other activities like dance or gymnastics to occupy my time. I made up games to play by myself or went outside and found other friends to play with. I led a rather carefree existance with no regularly scheduled activites other than being a kid. I am thankful for my mother who, daily, made sure I got up, dressed and encouraged me to find activites to do on my own.

My daddy had already lit the space heater in my bedroom by the time I woke up on cold days. As I placed my feet on the area rug next to my bed, the room and wood floor felt warm. (I would love to have those wood floors in my house today. There was not enough appreciation of those floors on my part back then. ) Putting on a robe, I'd go into the warm, cozy kitchen. If I didn't have anything on my feet, mom scowled and said, you go get some socks on those feet. This floor is cold, for she thought a child could catch a cold from walking barefoot on winter cold floors. One was never to argue with Mama either, because...well, it just never crossed my mind to argue with her. She was right and that as that. My daddy did his best to make all of us comfortable on chilly mornings adjusting heaters. He made sure all the space heaters were lit and warming the rooms even before we got out of bed. I am thankful my mama and daddy loved and cared enough for me and my brothers to get up earlier than anyone to warm up our house. 

As I grew up, mornings at my house were always spent in the kitchen at the breakfast table. Only on Saturday mornings could my brother and I turn on the TV in the living room before breakfast. Not on school days or church mornings were we allowed to watch TV because my mother implied that we didn't need to be distracted. Now, I think it was a brilliant plan for our family's day to start off together around the breakfast table. There was not a time I can recall eating breakfast in front of the television in our living room. At my house, one always ate breakfast, every morning, in the dining room. That was an unspoken rule and not the exception. Some of my favorite memories are sitting around the table, with my brothers and daddy, enjoying a hot breakfast on cold winter mornings. Mama, wearing her apron over her houserobe, was typically in the kitchen cooking breakfast and serving her family.  We'd sit down to either eggs with bacon or sausage, perhaps hotcakes (as we called them) or oatmeal with toast. If we had biscuits, they were PIllsbury canned bisuits from the grocery store. Most of the time there was orange juice, not freshly squeezed, but like the bisuits from the grocery store, the juice was canned Texsun brand or a frozen tube of orange concentrate Mom mixed with water. The tartness of that orange juice made my cheeks cave in.  Sometimes, I'd get to have hot chocolate with my breakfast, but if I had a score throat, Mom let me sip a little cup of coffee. Such a funny thought to let a child sip hot coffee for a sore throat, not because she thought it would bring healing, but for the warmth and soothing powers the hot coffee offered at the moment. That's a good memory! I feel safe and warm just reminiscing about that little dining room on a brisk, chilly moring. My mom was an unintentional role model for me to observe serving the needs of family or guests in our home. She simply did what came naturally to her. I am so thankful for those mornings spent around the breakfast table and the love my mother gave me.

My daddy did a lot of renovating to that old 1940's house from the time we moved in, around 1957, until I went off to college in 1970 and probably some after that. Basically a two-bedroom house, with one small bath (with a wonderful claw-foot tub), a nice sized kitchen with only a breakfast booth to eat our meals and a screened-in back porch with a little room off to side was what our family of 5 shared. I can remember moving during the summer to our new home. We loved it! It was old and needed a lot of work, but my daddy was an expert in carpentry, house painting and anything else it took to make our house more functional for our family. The kitchen table was moved out to the screened back porch as there was no other place for it inside of the house. The kitchen had a booth much like a diner and we had to add an extra chair at the end to fit us all around it. So, most of our meals were eaten at the table on the back porch. However, that meant every bowl of food or dish had to be taken from the kitchen around through the back door and out on the porch. Most of the time we filled our plates from the pots on the stove and it accomplished the need for a place to eat. But Mama wanted a place inside of the house to eat our meals. Daddy removed the breakfast nook, cut a door to the porch for our new dining room and replaced the porch screens with walls and windows in no time. Our dining room would serve to be the hub of our home for many years to come. Daddy also remodeled the extra little room on the back porch to be a third bedroom complete with a window, closet and interior door. It became one of my two brothers' bedroom at different times and later a place where my children would sleep in the baby crib Mama put in just for them.

One summer, while Mama and I were at the church camp, Daddy took vacation days to tear out the old fireplace which was of no use anymore. He also took off the cool front porch I would use as my stage or doll house when I was younger. The living room was extended out several feet, a new front porch with ground-level cement sidewalks were also added to the front of the house.  My daddy did all the work himself except for some help from his buddies with the fireplace demo. There wasn't a room inside or out of that house my daddy didn't work on. He was our plumber, painter, carpenter, roofer and car mechanic. My daddy was not shy to show his affection for us and often, I was kissed good bye before I left for school with goodnight hugs at bedtime. He also showed his love for us by providing and maintaining our house. I am thankful that my daddy had the talent and skills to make our house a comfortable home not just because he could, but because he loved us.

As I remember my childhood, my parents, our old house, their sacrifices and work done just so my brothers and I would have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, I am very thankful.  I am thankful for God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who have been with me from the day I was born caring, loving and making the ultimate sacrifice for my sins. I am thankful that God chose to place me in such a loving enviornment with parents who worked hard and raised us to love Jesus. I am thankful to give thanks for all of this and much, much more this Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving! 2015