No, this is not my new car. But Focus is a well-known member of the Ford Motor brand.
Drivers know that if they point their steering wheel in the right direction, four wheels will turn and the car will head toward a specific destination.
Announcing My Word for 2017: Focus
Focus is a Latinate word, which I don’t much like the sound of. It doesn’t have a pretty sound, like say, filigree or dulcé. But it does the job of describing my intention to complete my memoir writing this year.
Dictionary.com defines Focus – a central point, as of attraction, attention or activity; a target or point of convergence
In a way, “focus” complements last year’s choice, Wholehearted, a word which suggests passion and energy, all of which help fuel focus and concentration.
I am no longer young, but this lovely little girl is, pictured in one of Grandma Longenecker’s antique postcards (1912). Her body pulses with life and energy, just like this new year, my tabula rasa – a blank slate on which to write a fresh new story.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as thy soul prospereth. III John: 2
My Word Gift to YOU
I discovered this word on Rebecca White Body’s fine blog last year. Here’s what she says:
I recently learned the word “entelechy” from reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. As I understand it, it’s the force that drives things to become what they were meant to be, the spirit that makes the acorn into the oak–or, more relevantly to my case, a tiny handful of seeds into a welter of burdock.
May you be all you can be in the new year, my friend!
You are the beating heart ❤ of this blog, responding as you do by reading and commenting here. For this I am deeply grateful – thank you!
Vagabond poet Vachel Lindsay encountered the farm of John G. Longenecker, an ancestor who bucked Pennsylvania tradition geographically and moved to Kansas. Here is the poet’s impression of his experience with the Longeneckers, lifted from the pages of Pitchforks and Pitchpipes by Esther Longenecker Heistand:
What do you remember from 1912? (If you send an answer, I’m going to go hide!)
Did you make construction paper turkeys and buckled hats in elementary school? I know I did. We elementary school-ers dug our scissors into orange, red, brown, yellow to create Thanksgiving art. And then we looked at pretty framed pictures that have become American icons of gratitude.
These pleasant scenes may trick us into thinking the world was a more peaceful place than it is now. However, the celebration has often been shadowed by discord and world war.
Conflict Coexists with Celebration
* The pilgrims fled religious persecution to find freedom in the new world. Though the scene above looks peaceful and full of plenty in 1621, many immigrants did not survive the winter.
* President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November 1863 during the dark days of the Civil War as a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
* President Franklin D. Roosevelt, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the US into World War II, signed a congressional bill in December 26, 1941 moving the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November.
The True Story Behind Rockwell’s Painting
FDR was criticized for being too idealistic in his State of the Union address of January when he outlined his idea of the Four Freedoms: Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom from Want.
Two years later, The Saturday Evening Post published essays on each of FDR’s 4 freedoms, each paired with a Norman Rockwell painting (February – March 1943)
Take another look at this painting. Three generations circle the table, the all-white nuclear family considered the ideal in 1943.
As Bob Duggan points out in his article for Thanksgiving 2013, if Rockwell were painting in this decade, surely the skin color would be more racially diverse. And, instead of a gathering of biologically-linked people, family may extend to include friends and neighbors of many creeds.
What is the Young Man Asking?
See the young man looking out of the setting to you, the viewer? His smiling eyes may be asking you to join and share the bounty spread out on the table – lots of protein, plenty of vegetables, and pumpkin pie, no doubt.
But is that all he is asking? Perhaps he is inviting you as onlooker (and possible guest) to participate in another kind of freedom: to free one another from all kinds of want beyond the physical — emotional, social, and even spiritual.
No doubt you are looking forward to a Thanksgiving gathering, either at your house or somewhere else. How can you help others to have something to be thankful for, finding a way to include sharing in your practice of thanksgiving?
That’s one way to smile back at the young man at the table.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
– William Arthur Ward
Quote contributed by my friend Jenn, a Canadian blogger, who reminded me that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Happy (belated) Thanksgiving greetings to all.
For years, my young son Joel thought I had an eye on the back of my head. Why? I told him so.
To keep this mischief-making, dangerous pranking boy surviving beyond childhood, I kept alive the delusion of a third eye until he grew old enough to catch on to my trick. “God gave you a smart Mommy,” I declared. “I have to be ‘with it.’ Otherwise, you’d be dead!” And I meant every word.
What does “With It” Mean?
Malcolm Gladwell in “Most Likely to Succeed” from The New Yorker (Dec. 15, 2008) discusses the value of “withitness” in several fields: sports, education, and business. About teaching in particular, he notes: Educational researcher Jacob Kounin, used the term “withitness” to define that hard-to-pin-down quality of intuition and smarts which helps one sense the behaviors, intentions, and motivations of those around her/him and act accordingly.
“Test scores, graduate degrees, and certifications—as much as they appear related to teaching prowess—turn out to be about as useful in predicting success as having a quarterback throw footballs into a bunch of garbage cans.”
Perhaps no profession has taken the implications of the quarterback problem more seriously than the financial-advice field, and the experience of financial advisers is a useful guide to what could happen in teaching as well. There are no formal qualifications for entering the field except a college degree. Financial-services firms don’t look for only the best students, or require graduate degrees or specify a list of prerequisites. No one knows beforehand what makes a high-performing financial adviser different from a low-performing one, so the field throws the door wide open.
In the last six months we’ve had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a few bankers, realtors, and multiple tradespeople who did home repairs or renovation during our move.
Here in a nutshell:
Mr. Painter: His eyes surveyed the kitchen walls as he spoke, “I can do this in two hours and include your paint in the price. I’ll even leave some paint for touch-ups.” He fulfilled his promises. We were pleased.
Ms. Realtor: “I’ll call you in two hours with an update.” She did and we felt confident.
Mrs. Banker: “I’ll be right on it.” She wasn’t though, and we spent days and weeks feeling frustrated. Later, however, we found she was covering for the ineptitude of support people in the business.
Mr. Realtor: “Look at my credentials! I have a 5-Star rating . . . yadayadayada . . . !
However, credentials don’t always translate into performance. We frequently had to prompt him to act in our favor. Why can’t he be “with-it”? we wondered.
* We had lunch recently at Mimi’s restaurant. Our server Kristie performed perfectly without hovering. Before we left, she boxed up an un-eaten blueberry muffin and left-over dinner rolls in separate containers. Without prompting, she labeled each box.
Item + Date + merci on the lid . . .certainly appropriate in a French restaurant á la New Orleans style. This server was definitely a “with it” woman!
* Ruth Garber Rohrer, a 93-year-old subscriber to The Mennonite magazine, read my September 2016 article in tribute to my Grandma Fannie Longenecker printed in this post.
Then I found Ruth’s editorial comment in the October issue.
Serendipitously, I had discovered a link to my Grandma through one of her pupils in Sunday School at Bossler Mennonite Church, one I never knew existed. Ruth Garber Rohrer also has a presence on Facebook and socializes in the digital world.
Ruth is “with it” indeed!
How I Define “With It”
* Keen perception through the senses: Seeing, hearing, “reading” a situation beyond mere facts.
* Ability to evaluate situations and/or scan people’s expressions and connect with them personally in a significant way.
* Ability to follow-through when action is needed.
What is your definition of “With It”? What qualities would you add to the list?
Did examples from your own life pop into your mind as you read this post. Here’s where to reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly or – the best!
These are the words author/researcher Ann Malaspina uses to describe the legal practice of denying women the right to vote in 1872. Even though women could own property, pay taxes, hold a job, and raise children they could not participate in elections.
When Susan B. Anthony challenged this practice, she also used three profound words to state her intent: “Failure is impossible.”
In a juvenile book with gorgeous illustrations by Steve James, Malaspina details the amazing life of the founder of the women’s voting rights, Susan B. Anthony:
* Because of a new law, the 14th Amendment to the constitution, all persons born in the United States have the same right as citizens. She told the men at the registration table she is a person and citizen. Therefore, she should have the right to vote.
* After arguments with inspectors, she finally registered to vote.
An energetic, self-disciplined teacher, she was refused permission to speak at a teachers’ convention and at a temperance convention, prompting her to focus on women’s rights. Early on, social injustice galvanized her to action.
In 1890, she led the National Women’s Suffrage Movement.
Determined and focused, she traveled far and wide to champion voting rights for women: Kansas, Louisiana, Georgia and as far west as Oregon and California.
Popular in the USA in the 1960s this cool summer fabric originated in Madras, India. Loosely woven cotton threads created a plaid patchwork of soft fabric that didn’t cling to the body during sweltering summer days. Some madras was made with dyes that “ran” when the fabric was washed, creating a trendy washed-out look, known as bleeding madras, according to this article in the Chicago Tribune.
I bought into the fad then with a blue madras dress, smocked, sleeveless and zippered down the back. With no cinched belt, the dress felt light and airy – cool. After it was no longer in vogue and looked worn, I used it for home painting jobs.
Before we move into our next home, we want to do some interior painting. Whether I will wield the brush or ask/hire someone else to do the job remains to be seen.
Soon the paint-spattered madras dress will fade into history. I will recycle it.
* * *
In July 1992 daughter Crista took a time-delay shot of herself wearing my blue madras dress to complete an assignment for her Photography 101 course. “Make sure you are in the picture,” the professor had said. So, with a 35 mm camera poised on a tripod, she snapped a black and white self-portrait in our back yard. Obviously, she didn’t need my assistance, and I didn’t know about the photo until she had it developed in the photo lab dark-room. A selfie before the era of smart phone selfies.
I made one of the prints into a book mark shown here. On the reverse side, I printed a verse from III John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
It’s no secret that I have paraded a lot of (treasured) stuff on the pages of these posts, evidence that I keep things. With a move imminent, I’m in the mood now though to discard, digitize, or recycle.
When it comes to STUFF, are you a hoarder or a “throw-away-er”? Maybe you fit a different category? Do you have a dress with secrets?
Your opinions are always welcome here. So are your stories.
The photo of a pair of transitions eye glasses attached to a scarlet lanyard is still posted on my Facebook page dated April 14, 2016. “Hubby makes a lanyard for my glasses today. He is not being kind. He just doesn’t want to look for my glasses anymore! . . . well, yes, he is being kind.” Those were my words.
“The accompanying script in red and black reads “Forsake not the assembling of your glasses with your body.” St. Cliff 1:1 with date 4.14.16
Comments came from sympathizers and a naysayer: “Funny that I got a store bought one in my Christmas stocking.” “Doesn’t look very practical. I predict you don’t use it much.” ” I can absolutely relate!”
Reading over my Facebook heading again now I sense myself thinking at the time, “I won’t lose my glasses again.” A trace of boastfulness? Perhaps. Presumption? Probably.
Here’s how the glasses story subsequently unfolded: On Friday, April 29, I went to my power-pump class at the gym. Obviously I wore glasses to drive there and back. I’m nearsighted without them. Why, without glasses I might have a wreck.
That evening, we saw a scary Netflix movie, a British gothic flick “The Making of a Lady.” I must have worn my glasses then. I don’t remember squinting or sitting up close cross-legged to see the screen. I also don’t remember whether my lanyard was around my neck or somewhere else at the time.
The next morning I planned to drive to Curtis’ soccer game at 8:30 a.m. At 8:10 I grabbed my keys and and my glasses. My g – g – g l a s s s e e s s s; where are they? Too embarrassed to ask Cliff for help right away, I scoured the usual places: My computer desk, my dresser, the coffee-table, the kitchen counter. I couldn’t even find my back-up pair usually sitting snugly in the console by the driver’s seat.
Then, I go into full-out search mode. With and without Mr. Red Lanyard Maker, I . . .
Look on every surface without a flashlight.
Check every surface with a flashlight, lifting seat cushions.
Walk outside and check the patio furniture, flower-bed containers.
Re-visit the front porch table.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 at night. I hoped I’d catch a gleam with my flashlight, after five hours of searching all told.
I awoke with a jolt at 2:00 a.m, with the strong image that my glasses had fallen off my lanyard and into a garbage bag. So I cull through two plastic bags of trash to no avail.
I prayed ardently. After alI, I do remember the story of the Woman with the Lost Coin in Luke 15, a woman who lost one of her pieces of silver, lit a candle, swept the house, found it, and called her friends together to celebrate. I was ready for celebration!
Catholics would appeal to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost items. One online source printed a prayer: “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around: Something is lost and needs to be found!” A woman named Madeleine suggested that one call off the hunt as a sign of faith, claiming that “once you say the prayer stop looking for whatever it is you lost.”
Well, I did call off the hunt on Sunday, yet kept an eye out. There is always a chance for a miracle. Maybe those two shiny lenses would spontaneously appear.
Apparently, I am not alone. Hunting for lost or misplaced items is common. According to one source, the average person spends one year of life looking for keys, wallet — glasses. Among the more distressing losses are diamond rings (Oh, I lost one of those too!) and honeymoon tickets (We didn’t need tickets for air travel – just a pickup with a topper.)
Websites about lost items are usually accompanied by blatant suggestions to get more organized and be more mindful going about one’s daily tasks.
Sunday afternoon, the highly-motivated Red Lanyard Maker drove me to LensCrafter’s to fix the problem. After all, Mr. RLM can’t be my chauffeur for the foreseeable future.
At the office, I got an eye examination, another prescription, and new glasses with identical frames promised in a fortnight.
As I write now, my lanyard is securely hugging my neck with glasses attached. More mindful? Yes, I believe so.
To this day, I haven’t found my glasses. Nor have the back-up pair appeared either. How had some genie or sprite spirited away both sets of glasses? Odd and distressing! If the originals make their appearance, I’ll be thrilled to use them as my spare.
* * *
From my experience, our possessions seem to disappear in direct proportion to their degree of importance in our lives.
How about you? Tales of woe – or discovery are welcome here!
No driver wants to hear this coming from under her car hood, even if it is my aging Infiniti. When I reported these scary noises to my husband Cliff, he immediately went into Investigator Mode. His problem-solving scenario proceeded like this: visiting a neighbor who restores antique cars, checking with an auto shop we’ve used before, and then contacting the dealership, the most expensive option. He wrote down notes for each, notes with names, dates, schematics, and most importantly, dollar signs.
He handles plumbing problems at home or HVAC hang-ups the same thorough way. Whether buying a new lawnmower, computer equipment or making travel plans, my husband Cliff is a comparison shopper supreme.
Once upon a time, Cliff used this same methodical system to find suitable dates. During college he had a little black book in which he entered names of girls to date. After they passed the sensational-physical-attributes test, their names and interests were entered into this book. Some girls’ names were crossed off the list because they were too giggly, walked like a duck, or were unable to sing on key.
Cliff went into serious search mode to find a mate after an unofficial engagement fell apart. Then his college roommate suggested he meet his next-door neighbor, a teacher and a Mennonite, during Christmas vacation. We met on a blind date In December 1965. I say blind because the normal-looking Mennonites he had known from the West were very unlike the girl standing in front of him, plain with hair coiled up under a prayer cap – me.
Maybe because of the mystique of our differences or because we had similar interests, ours was a whirlwind romance sustained by letters for months after Cliff returned to post-graduate work and me to teaching. Then his letters dwindled, probably because of his hesitation about dating a girl like me from such a strange background.
He went into comparison shopping mode again as he began his first year teaching, dating a nurse from a fine family. Later, he said after he had come to his senses, “I couldn’t get you out of my mind. I thought I would miss something if I said goodbye to you forever.”
According to Cliff, two things I did sealed the deal for him.
I made him a monogrammed bath robe for Valentine’s which kept him from freezing on off-campus housing his last few months in college
I called various hospitals to try to figure out in which hospital he was a patient when he had pneumonia and was too sick to contact me.
Fortunately our friendship was rekindled when we both attended the August 1966 wedding of the couple who introduced us. Now it was Christmas 1966, and Cliff drove from Jacksonville Florida to pick me up in Charlotte, North Carolina where I was teaching. From there we headed to my hometown, in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania in his white Plymouth Savoy.
There one snowy evening before Christmas Cliff said, “Let’s take a drive.” So we bundled up and headed out, crunching footprints in the new fallen snow. Fat flakes were falling from the sky even thicker as we slid into the car, the plastic seats crackling from the cold. Memories of the evening have become a movie in my mind.
“Where are we going?” I quizzed.
“Oh, I don’t know. We’ll just take a drive in this beautiful snow,” Cliff replied rather lamely.
As he tried hard to urge the heater to warm us up, we reminisced about our first dates the Christmas before. “Do you remember how deep the snow was when we went to see the Sound of Music?”
“Of course I do!” The car’s windshield wipers were swishing away mini-cotton balls of snow now.
In the back of his mind, Cliff wondered, “What will she say if I ask her to marry me?”
As we approached the archway between Rheems and Mount Joy, I exclaimed, “The road hasn’t been plowed any farther. We’re at a standstill!” We had come to a crossroads.
Then he said, “If you thought it was God’s will, would you marry me?”
Quickly I responded, “Of course I would.” But in an instant I recognized this as a marriage proposal encased in a tricky question, a snowy fleece.
“Well, then, will you marry me?”
With a “Yes,” the camera dissolved into hugs and kisses.
And yes, the little black book has been destroyed long ago.
Is there a comparison shopper in your family? Are you such a shopper?
You are invited to share your marriage proposal story here too.
Have you started a diet? Renewed your gym membership or decided to walk more? Maybe you have resolved to cut down on Facebook time this year . . .
Along with such New Year’s resolutions, some of my friends each year choose a guide word to help navigate the unknown paths of the next twelve months. Last year I began my own tradition with the word Advance. You can read about why I chose it here.
My Special Word
This year my word is Whole-hearted!
A few months ago I heard Brené Brown’s TEDx talk on expressing vulnerability. Though I’m generally not a fan of self-help books, her presentation piqued my interest enough to read The Gifts of Imperfection, her short book (130 pages) labeled “Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life.”
On the first page appears her definition for such a life:
“Wholehearted living . . . means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
Dr. Brene Brown, author/researcher/professor, has collected thousands of stories in the course of her qualitative study on authenticity and wholehearted living, which she describes as an act of faith that “requires believing without seeing.” (91)
This description sounds very much like my definition of faith, fueled by grace and joy, a faith I tasted first as a child hearing the blessed words of an old hymn at Bossler Mennonite Church: True-hearted, Whole-hearted, in which the men and women in the chorus belted out antiphonally: “Peal out the watchword, silence it never / Song of our Spirit, Rejoicing and Free . . . King of my life, my Savior will be.”
Quotes on Wholeheartedness
Maybe stories are just data with a soul. ~ Brené Brown
Never shy away from opportunity and wholehearted living. Never be fearful of putting yourself out there. The courageous may encounter many disappointments, experience profound disillusionment, gather many wounds; but cherish your scars for they are the proud emblems of a truly phenomenal life. The fearful, cautious, cynical and self-repressed do not live at all. And that is simply no way to be in this world.”
~ Anthon St. Maarten
Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby. ~ Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. Deuteronomy 6:5, King James Version
A Look in the Mirror
Last year, my good friend Sandra Cornelius gave me a mirror for my birthday. A survivor of many serious health challenges, Sandra took up the practice of placing mirrors in various rooms of her home during her recuperation, declaring with an inscription that she is beautiful even though she may have felt otherwise at the time.
With this object, granddaughter Jenna is learning the concept of self-acceptance, which is vastly different from pride or self-importance. Just as Aibileen, the maid, praised Elizabeth’s young daughter Mae in the novel The Help, Jenna is also hearing that she is kind, smart, and important.
In the month of January, named for the ancient Roman god Janus, we look two ways, with gratitude and perhaps a sense of relief for having survived 2015, and with anticipation and hope for the new year ahead.
Thank you for being my companion this year. I hope 2016 will be your best ever.
Happy New Year!
Have you made a resolution or chosen a special guide word for 2016? Looking back, what are you particularly thankful for this past year?
Coming next: Moments of Discovery, Keys to a Riddle
Have you heard? Coloring books for adults are all the rage right now.
According to Parade magazine (July 12, 2015), apparently hundreds of coloring books are available now to help you “cheer up, chill out, and get your creative juices flowing.”
50 Shades of Happy: The New Joy of Coloring is the catchy title of one of the books in the coloring book gallery.
Recently, I’ve spotted this trend in some posts on Facebook. And then last week my good writer friend and blog buddy Marylin Warner devoted a whole piece to the enchantment of coloring pages for adults, citing the magazine above. Because she included some links to free downloadable pages, I decided to take the challenge and print a page. After all, who doesn’t want to
Be in the moment
Engage both sides of the brain, the creative and tactile
Go back and enjoy a simpler time
Here’s how I played with color:
Technically, it’s unfinished, but that was not really the point. Choosing the colors and applying them to paper put me in a different world. As I filled in the curly spaces, I felt both relaxed and focused. It put in touch with the girl and the box of 48 pointy Crayolas.
* * *
In June I met a new friend, Julie Sisco, who introduced me to Praying in Color, another way for both youth and adults to use color creatively. And, yes, the author, Sybil MacBeth, suggested using supplies you may already have at home: colored pens, pencils, markers, even crayons.
Sybil MacBeth has created an active, visual, and meditative way to pray: Active because you draw your prayers, visual because you see your prayers, and meditative because you revisit your prayers throughout the day.
Author Sybil MacBeth is a dancer, a doodler, and a former community college mathematics professor. As the author of Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God (2007), she combines her experience in the mathematics classroom with her lifelong love of prayer to offer workshops and retreats that engage differing learning styles. Praying in Color has been translated into Korean, Spanish, and Italian. (blurb from back cover)
She invites a variety of personality types to think of prayer in a new way:
Visual or kinesthetic learner
Distractible or impatient soul
Restless body type
Tendency to live in one’s head
MacBeth includes some examples of what a prayer map may look like and the instructions are simple.
Write the name of someone you want to encircle in love and concern. In a curvilinear model, draw colored designs around the name. Add more names and loops easily as you go along.
Or use a square style and a different color palette
Your sketches could also be adapted to illustrate verses of scripture
(All examples from Sybil’s book.)
Author MacBeth is quick to mention that “Praying in color does not presume a particular religious belief” though she is a Christian.
“It is a way of preparing the soil of my heart for possibly receiving the touch of a power greater than myself.” (87)
What do you think of adult coloring books? The idea of praying in color?
How do you use color creatively? Join the discussion here.
Up next: Moments of Extreme Emotion – A Lunatic in London