Category Archives: Relationships

14 Day Writing Challenge: Day 13 (or, The Inspiration)

Today’s prompt: Write about someone who inspires you.

When I first saw this list a few weeks ago, I immediately knew who I had to write about: my mom. It might seem a bit cliché, but I couldn’t imagine writing about anyone else.

Here’s why:

  • She taught me what it is to be a woman — strong and capable (we both have plenty of roof shingling experience) but still gentle
  • She taught me how to think for myself
  • She taught me how to prioritize
  • She taught me boundaries and how to stick to them
  • She taught me how to cook and sew from directions and also freestyle
  • She taught me — I was homeschooled from third grade on, and she was without a doubt my favorite teacher
  • She taught me about those small things in history that most people would miss: the Visigoths, the Anasazi, and the Osage, to name a few
  • She taught me to love culture — my heritage, literature, and proper manners
  • She taught me how to stand up for what I believe in
  • She taught me how to write — she bought countless books to help me cultivate budding skills
  • She taught me how to research, because what people tell you isn’t always the whole story
  • She taught me that I could do anything I want to, if I just put my mind to it

Who is someone that inspires you?


The Lost Art of Listening

Throughout life, I’ve noticed something different about my family. We end up in unexpected situations. During a childhood trip through Pennsylvania’s Amish country, we went from buying a piece of handmade furniture to spending an hour listening to an old Amish man’s reflections on life. When we visited Utah during my teens, we were invited to a Navajo youth rally… by the chief himself, as it turned out. One day at the grocery store, the man at the fish counter told me his life story when I just meant to order tilapia.

It’s become a regular part of life. When I first moved out and found that it continued to happen to me even when I was alone, I tried to figure out what was so different about us. It took a few months of reflecting before I finally figured it out. It’s the art of listening.

In a world in which so many people are busy and have appointments to keep, it’s sometimes hard to find people who just like to listen. Keep the cell phone tucked in a pocket. Look with interest at the other person. Let them say what it is that they need to say without interrupting.

When that happens, sometimes the most remarkable stories come out.

During our early summer adventure, my husband and I visited the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. When we found out that there are guided tours through the museum, we rushed to get there in time. One had just started when we arrived, so we hurried to catch up to the crowd of 40 people and the elderly guide wearing a portable microphone and speaker. Like all of the other tour guides there, he’s retired navy and glad to share their amazing history.

DSC_5015 (Medium)

For the first two exhibits, the crowd stayed intact, but before long, it was obvious that it wouldn’t stay that way. Our guide frequently paused for ten to twenty seconds in mid-sentence, seemingly for a moment to think before continuing with his thought.

Evidently, the pauses were too much for most of the people. While we stood at the second exhibit, people started trailing off. About fifteen remained. At the third, more wandered away. We ended up with six. By the time we finished with the fourth, it was just my husband and me.

Our guide didn’t seem surprised. He told us that we weren’t obligated to stay with him, but we couldn’t dream of leaving. His stories about the historical planes were incredible and had far more detail than any of the plaques. Besides, we wanted to listen to him. We enjoyed it.

For the next twenty minutes, we had a personal tour around the museum. He turned off the microphone, encouraged us to touch the exhibits, told us all about the history. Every once in a while, he asked if we were done. We said only if the tour was. He kept going.

Finally, he checked his watch. It was fifteen minutes to the next tour, so he had to go. But instead of leave immediately, he lingered and talked about his life. He was a commander in the reserves for 20+ years. He was a retired history professor. His family lived nearby and visited often. He encouraged us to enjoy life and each other. Then, when he finally had to go, he shook my husband’s hand and gave me a grandfatherly hug, like he had known us for years. It was wonderful.

And it’s a moment we never would have experienced if without being willing to just listen.


The Beauty of Introversion

Some of my friends on Facebook are the type who enjoy quizzes… and sometimes I hop into the fun, but most of the time, I prefer to just stay on the sidelines. However, one that a friend posted a couple of days ago caught my eye. It was one on introversion.

Last year, I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, so when I saw the quiz she developed to help people understand their level of introversion, I couldn’t help seeing how I rank. (See how you rank in terms of introversion here.)

Let’s just say, total introvert. (41 points worth, to be exact.) No surprise there.

But make no mistake; it’s a badge of honor. Even before I read Susan Cain’s book (which is excellent, by the way, regardless your score), I valued introversion. I’m sure it stems from my mom, who scored just as high as I did. Growing up, she was my ideal of a well-rounded woman: beautiful, brilliant, nurturing, well-read and well-educated, and able to shingle a roof along with my dad or change a tire in her Sunday best. As I grew up and realized I was naturally as introverted as she was, I worked to find the same balance she did: the ability to be friendly but not to abandon the appreciation and need for quiet.

While it’s not usually in the limelight, introversion is filled with strength — strengths that Susan Cain expresses beautifully. We think and feel deeply. We see things other people don’t. We listen well and create deep relationships. We tend to be very creative. We’re the other side of the coin, and we’re just as important as extroverts (even though they make themselves more noticeable).

So even though society trains us to feel bad about being shy, having only a handful of close friends, or preferring to stay home and watch a movie, don’t. Instead, enjoy the beauty of being an introvert and know there is strength to it. (And if you’re looking for a summer read, seriously, grab Quiet. Just talking about it makes me want to read it over again.)

How did you score on the quiz? What do you think of you intro/extroversion?


Friendship

An hour and a half ago, I logged in to start another week of blogging. (That A-Z Challenge has done a world of good for my blogging regularity. I feel bad when I’m not on at least every other day.)

Writing requires just the right environment. Thanks to NaNoWriMo and other writing challenges, it just takes a drink (today, water), instrumental music, a blinking cursor, and perhaps a snack (like pretzels or a piece of chocolate) to set my imagination in a rhythm for writing. All I needed was an idea, but that would come once the blank post was waiting for a title.

Then the phone rang. A dear friend who lives literally on the other side of the country. We couldn’t be much further apart in the continental US. But the miles and the four years haven’t been able to pry us apart.

Whenever we get on the phone, our conversation is like a deluge. I ask her about college, she asks me about old friends, and we both laugh about our common, nerdy interests. For a moment, it’s like sitting across the table from her the last time she came down to visit. So much to talk about.

Time vanishes. Before I know it, it’s been an hour. I really need to write, but not as much as I need to talk to her. After all, it’s been too long since our last conversation. She’s young. She looks up to me. And I treasure our friendship as much as she does.

When it’s finally time to go, goodbyes are said three or four times before the phones are hung up. Reluctantly.

It might be a couple of weeks before we end up talking again, thanks to our busy schedules, but when we do, it’ll be another deluge that leaves me feeling warm, happy, loved.

 


Sacrifice

Over the years, I’ve realized that many of the stories I love (and tell) have a few things in common. Courage. Heroism. The longing for adventure. And, more often than not, sacrifice.

In the Disney fairy tales I watched as a child, sacrifice was portrayed as a one time decision. Ariel chooses to leave her whole world behind for Eric, and it only takes some minor wrestling with the idea to decide that it’s worth giving up. After all, she loves him, so why would it be a hard choice?

As I grew up, so did the stories. The sacrifices were harder to make. Spock dies of radiation poisoning to save the ship and its crew. A man gives the longest and best sales pitch to Death to keep him from the appointment with the little girl upstairs and then the man gives himself up in her place. Arwen gives up immortality to be with Aragorn.

But it wasn’t until I was older that I came to truly understand sacrifice. Real sacrifice is difficult. The initial decision might be easy, but it’s not a one-time decision. In many cases, it’s a choice that has to be made daily. Sometimes it feels good and right and you know that it’s the best thing to do. But other times, it’s easy to question it, to think that maybe the cost is too great, to wonder why you even had to make the choice in the first place.

Sacrifice hurts. Sometimes it hurts more than other times.

But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about sacrifice, it’s that it’s worthwhile. Sometimes the bittersweet parts of life are the most beautiful. Joy is intermixed in the sorrow, and joy comes out on top in the end.


Fifteen Years

It all started fifteen years ago with a Coke in the back of the church van. My best friend hadn’t come, so I sat next to a boy. I had known him for months and admired him from afar because he seemed so much better at everything than me. So when he asked me to sit next to him, what was a girl to do? And when there weren’t enough cans of Coke for everyone… well, what did it matter if we shared one? He was cute. And I liked that smile dotted with turquoise braces. And, as I noted in my diary, I figured it was the beginning of a nice friendship.

Fifteen years later, we’re still together and shared a Coke in honor of that afternoon in the van. I wonder if my eleven-year-old self could have imagined spending the day running around the city with him then dressing up for a nerdy symphony in the evening. Or that, after noticing it in my diary a few years later, we would quietly acknowledge it thereafter and purposely choose a nearby wedding date.

No, she was more concerned with her mild butterflies and his freckles and how happy they were smiling at each other in the back of the van.

A shared Coke on a special day

A shared Coke on a special day


Treasures from a Grandmother’s Attic

At this point, I’ve known my husband and his family for most of my life. Yesterday, though, I met a side of one of his grandmother’s that I’ve never known before.

She’s downsizing to a small apartment, which means that the vast majority of her furniture and trinkets are being divvied out now. Usually, a trip to her home is marked by the typical offerings of refreshments (which I’m used to with my Italian grandmother who must only be visited on an empty stomach) and casual conversation. Unfortunately, she’s never been particularly close to my husband’s nuclear family, so it’s never more than casual chitchat.

Yesterday, I was invited to look through her things for anything that we would want to keep. But instead of gathering a few antiques for my china cabinet, I met a different side of her.

Every piece of china that I touched had a story behind it. That pitcher was a wedding present from her parents. That serving dish belonged to another relative’s grandmother. That mirror hung in the entryway of her home when her children were little… and she just wasn’t quite sure that she could part with it yet.

With every short story and musing smile, I finally saw the person I’d been hoping to meet for these past six years. And that person was more like me than I ever had imagined. She’s always been a lover of collecting things, too. If there’s sentimental value to it, if it belonged to a relative, if it smells like years gone by, then she treasured it. And she knew that I would treasure those things too.

Here are my favorites:

This milk glass pitcher and cups were a wedding present from her parents.

This milk glass pitcher and cups were a wedding present from her parents.

Milk Glass - Great-Grandmother's Candy Dish

This candy bowl belonged to her mother.

Cinderella's Castle Goblet

During the short time that she worked at Disney in the 80’s, she bought a set of goblets that had been used in the restaurant in Cinderella’s Castle. I wonder if they’re the same ones I used during my first visit to Cinderella’s Castle when I was four…

But my absolute favorite thing from yesterday is knowing more about her.