Friday, December 11, 2009

Loosing Control

I knew I had to get back into an exercise routine when I decided to leave the workforce. I wish I could say it was because I value the discipline of it or something notable and noble. But, sadly, it’s because my middle age spread is quickly gaining ground! If I plan to live another 50 years, I better get this body back in shape for the ride, or at least keep it up and running.

I muddle through deciding what to wear, what to do and how long I should do it. I finally arrive at the gym ready to go. One of the decisions I make for this new beginning is to get back into my Tony Robbins “Get the Edge” and “Personal Power” CDs. Tony will help me overcome any fears I have concerning leaving my regular paycheck and dealing with the uncertainties that lie ahead.

I fumble through the buttons and answer all the questions on the treadmill.

Speed? Dunno, 3.5, I guess.
Incline? Sure. 6 sounds like a good round number. Not too little, not too much.
Age? Now, hold on a minute. When did these machines start needing that? Okay. I’ll play. 48. (Yes, that’s my real age!)
Weight? No way! This has gone too far. I’m not opposed to entering my real age, but my real weight is something all together, well, um . . . sacred. I look around to see if anyone is watching (I truly doubt anyone is really interested, but I look anyway just to make sure). I’m not brave enough to post it here either. Just suffice it to say that I entered the correct amount! Really.
I begin warming up the conveyor belt and I listen to Tony’s voice encouraging me to get going, telling me that “All I need is within me now!” All the faith, certainty, love, joy, passion and happiness are within me NOW! But there is one phrase that suddenly strikes me as profound. “What’s wrong is always available . . . and so is what’s right.”

Tony has told me this over an over before, but today I stop in my tracks right then and there on the treadmill and let it sink in. “What’s wrong is always available . . . and so is what’s right.”

Hmmmmmmm. I have focused on what’s wrong for so long, would I recognize what is right if I saw it? Am I doing the right thing by going home? Am I really going home to write? Am I really going home to take care of my family? Am I really going to be okay with that?

I struggle with the concept of everything being within me and wonder if I have made the right decision to quit work. Why do I re-visit this decision so often? I know the answer. I am where I am supposed to be. Yet, my mind questions this decision without hesitation and thoughts quickly try to undermine and undo everything I've accomplished so far.

Accomplishments. I’ve come to realize that there are no accomplishments I have achieved on my own. I didn’t do any of it by myself (no matter how much of the 60s and 70s women’s lib brainwashing I succumbed to in my youth – Let the old Enjoli commercial play in the background here – “I can bring home the bacon, . . .  fry it up in a pan, . . . and never, never, never let you forget you're a man! 'Cause I'm a woman! . . . ).

God has been right there all along -- lifting me up, holding my hand and many times literally holding me up and holding me together, in spite of myself and in spite of decisions I have made along the way.

So many times, though, I see God as this external, unreachable force and He’s there only to help me out when I’m in a jam. Kinda like the “God is my co-pilot” story. I read a bumper sticker somewhere or heard it in Sunday School as a kid, that went something like: “God is my co-pilot.” I thought it was a pretty clever concept, but later I learned that putting God in the co-pilot's seat is dangerous business.

If I consider God as my co-pilot, that means I am in control and God is there to “fill in” or to take the wheel when I’m not available. I have considered God my co-pilot most of my life. I’ve put Him in a position to approve my decisions, and of course, to rescue me when I take the wrong turn, or when I land in the ditch or run out of gas.

I am all-too-familiar with sitting in the passenger seat right now while my 15-year-old son is learning to drive. I know first hand now, that the co-pilot seat doesn’t allow me much control or ability to affect much on the driver! My son is in control of that vehicle – for better or worse – and many times I am terrified as he comes close to the edge of the road or doesn’t slow down for the curve coming up. My life flashes before me 3 times before we even get a mile down the road!

But why is so hard for me to allow God to drive? I’ve only been practicing being the co-pilot for about 10 years. (I know, you’ve done the math: I’m 48, I grew up knowing who God is from the time I was practically born and I’ve only been trying to let God drive for 10 years!) I’m a hard-headed East Texas girl and I’ve always thought that God could do amazing things with me if I’d just get out of the way. Somehow I keep mucking up His plans, yet He keeps trying! I still don’t always get out of the way these days, but I recognize my need for control and try to give it up sooner, at least!

Nonetheless, I am working on turning loose of control and l have been letting God drive since 1999, a time when my faith brought me to a place where I would serve Him out of joy, rather than duty. So that brings me to my dilemma. If God is driving, how do I reconcile “All that I need is within me?” I’m working on letting go of the control and let God drive. “All that I need is within me” sounds like taking control back and sitting in the driver’s seat again.

I have to search, but find where John tells us in 1 John 3:34b that the Holy Spirit dwells within us. “And by this we know that He [Christ] abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (NKJV).

Oh yeah. God dwells within me, not somewhere up in heaven trillions of miles away as I mentally imagine Him. Not some place far away that takes time to transcend time and space, but within. Within reach. Within me.

As a believer, God is within me, and provides all the love I need now! All the faith, certainty, joy, passion and happiness, is right there, waiting. Not because of me, but because of Him and who He is. And not just for someone else. Not for someone who might be better. Not for me when I get it together. Not when I make enough money. Not when I get my house all together. Now. Right here as I stand here in sweats, struggling to put that middle age spread farther behind me. Right here as I try to remain calm in the passenger seat of life and with a 15-year-old learning to drive. Right here as I approach 50 at the speed of light. Right here as I begin making my home my dwelling for my family. Now.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Breakfast at Cartier's

A scene from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s:”

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
Paul Varjak: Sure.
Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that'd make me feel like Tiffany's, then - then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name!

A scene from Breakfast at Cartier's:

It’s the first time I’ve gotten up and cooked breakfast in a very long time. My 15-year-old son Alex, requests “pigs-in-a-blanket” as his first hot breakfast.

Well, who knew he liked those? I don’t recall that I’ve ever witnessed him eating one -- anywhere. The request caught me off guard. I was expecting eggs, bacon and toast or something of that nature. But like Paul Varjak never had champagne before breakfast, and Holly Golightly had never walked the streets of New York in the morning, I’d never made pigs-in-a-blanket for breakfast. I’d never made pigs-in-a-blanket, ever!

Since this was my maiden flight into the permanent housewife arena, I spent the weekend shopping for ingredients to make sure I had breakfast covered anyway. In addition to pigs-in-a-blanket, I bought pancake mix, milk and eggs. Oh, yeah and bacon. What breakfast wouldn’t be complete without bacon?

I remember waking up as a child to the sound of bacon sizzling on the griddle and the smell wafting through the air as it beckoned me into the kitchen. The smell of coffee brewing is right on its heels, and it reminds me that it’s morning and something good awaits. Even though I didn’t really acquire the habit of drinking coffee every morning, I still love the smell of it as it calls to me from the kitchen. Of course, on the condition that someone else has already started brewing it before I pop one eyelid open is the key factor here!

I digress. I’d never made pigs-in-a-blanket before, so I thought through all my options. Regular hotdog wieners or Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies? Lit’l Smokies are cuter, so Lit’l Smokies it is. “Well, lo and behold,” as my Nannie would say, who knew there’d be choices? Beef ones, sausage ones, ones that didn’t specify (I assume chicken and pork of some combination) and some with cheese. I opted for beef. Alphabetically, beef came before all the others in my head. Besides, it was the first in the row. If that doesn’t work, we’ll just go right down the line until we find one that works. Even if I have to make pigs-in-a-blanket every day until I figure it out. Did I mention I’m a tad CDO?

CDO stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for those of you who tend to call it OCD. CDO is the correct acronym for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder because it is alphabetized -- as it should be.

Anyhoo, after making my meat selection, crescent rolls were the next ingredient I knew I needed for the “blanket.” Pillsbury Crescent Rolls at that. I’m not sure my mom bought any other brand while I was growing up. Oh, she may have tried something else, but we always came back to Pillsbury. I can’t seem to make the switch to buy something else either. Seems like it would be right up there with being un-American or something. I like the way Pillsbury makes their biscuits and crescent rolls. So this was a no-brainer. Exactly what I needed.

So Monday morning finally dawns and I’m up and at ‘em in the kitchen. Aware that I do not have to go to work, I smile. That’s funny. I’ve never smiled about having to cook or get up at the crack of dawn before! (Not to mention that I’ve been awake since 3:32 a.m. either!). But I am pleasantly aware that I am humming too. Today, this is fun. I’ll take that, I literally mutter under my breath.

I pre-heat the oven just as the crescent roll label suggests, but then it occurs to me as I unroll the dough. A single Lit’l Smokie is going to be lost in all that dough. Oh, no! Well, good thing I got that MBA. I figure out pretty quickly that two Lit’l Smokies fit right into the wide end of the crescent roll and I don’t need to download any data into a spreadsheet for analysis. And voila!

Ten minutes later, my sleepy-eyed son wanders into the kitchen and says, “What’s for breakfast?”

“Pigs-in-a-blanket,” I reply, secretly feeling very smug because I had made what he wanted.

“It smells good,” he continues and I smile more on the outside.

I pour him a glass of orange juice and make a mental note that this is definitely better than Pop Tarts and scurrying off to work. Don’t get me wrong, Pop Tarts are wonderful and we both like them (I had a healthy dose of ‘em growing up too!). But this cozy repartee in the kitchen is awesome and I know instantly that I like it. I like it a lot!

“Needs cheese,” he quips. “What kind of meat is this?”

“Beef Lit’l Smokies,” I say.

“Beef is not a breakfast meat, Mom” he reminds me matter-of-factly. “Pigs should be breakfast meat -- like sausage or ham or bacon.”

Everyone’s a critic.

Breakfast at Cartier’s. I don’t need a cab, but it's definitely a place where nothing very bad could happen to you – I think.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It Begins -- Accidentally on Purpose!

Most women become housewives when their kids are infants and their husbands are building their professional careers. But not me! Today is Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009, and it is my first day as a housewife. Yikes!

Our son is 15 and my husband is overseas with his job and I’ve been employed most of my adult life as a professional this or that. (I spent a lot of years getting an undergraduate degree, majoring in Journalism and later an MBA, so I’ve been a reporter, stockbroker, marketer, and financial analyst to name a few. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m quickly approaching 50, and am feeling some pressure to figure it out!)

The daily pressures of a fast-paced financial analyst profession with a kazillion never-ending deadlines, a husband overseas, a teenager learning to drive and parents who are needing increasingly more care is just more than I can handle at the same time. Not to mention that the house and yard are severely neglected, as are my friendships and most importantly, my time spent with God.

My husband and I agreed we are at a place where we can live solely on his income and I can tend to the matters at home. Home matters – wait, I didn’t get a degree in this! I’ve not spent that much time learning how to do “homey” things. Working most of my married life meant that a lot of homey things went undone, like cooking and decorating and dishes and . . . well, the sad thing is, we are pleasantly accustomed to that lifestyle!

But here I am. Suddenly faced with being a housewife. Accidentally, really because I never “planned” to be a housewife. But I know that God has been leading me here for a long time.

Nearly 20 years ago, we moved away from the city life in Dallas-Ft. Worth, to a small rural town 30 minutes away. Close enough to get back to the “city conveniences” if needed, but far enough away, to enjoy small town America. But the move meant that my first love (a.k.a. writing passion) and budding writing career came to a halt. Back then, personal computers, the Internet and cell phones weren’t quite mainstream (maybe not even invented yet! Oh, my!). Small town America didn’t employ writers, so my career turned to the business side of my brain, which was more plentiful in the job markets surrounding us.

So here I am accidentally in a place where I believe God is calling me. A place where I can nurture and take care of my family, my home – and write. Accidentally on purpose!

I am where I am supposed to be.

But what do I do first? I look around me. There is much to do!