Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

I am learning in life to slow down.  When I first moved to the DC area, I was fighting crazy commutes from Springfield to the Navy Yard with 3 colors of metro lines in between.  Then after the long commute home, I’d trek up to McLean for an evening event, and I would find myself talking on speaker phone and painting my nails while sitting driving in traffic.  I would plan 2 social events in one afternoon and inevitably be late to both due to traffic and my inability to leave the house on time (always rushing – literally running from bathroom to bedroom to grab my things and get out the door).  I would have 35 minutes of “free time” before a choir rehearsal and decide that I could make it in and out of Tysons mall (parking alone takes 10 minutes) with a visit to the Ann Taylor Loft sale rack.  My record time was in and out of the store with a purchase in less than 7 minutes.  (Am I proud of this?!  Needless to say, I was late to rehearsal.)

Constantly rushing.  Running.  Apologizing for being late and doing nothing to change my habits.  Having important phone conversations in the grocery store check out line.  Making to-do lists during meetings.  You get the picture.

Even when we have interviews in the corporate world, we pride ourselves on multi-tasking.  I can have 10 documents open at once and keep my head on straight!  Well, maybe, but I bet I’m not being as efficient or productive as I could be if I just focused on one thing at a time.

Look!  I can paint my nails and drive!  (BAD IDEA – no explanation needed.)

I’m a good friend!  I can talk with you on the phone and grocery shop simultaneously!  Well, my friend hears beeps in the background and me saying “say that again?”…and my shopping takes 40 minutes instead of 15. (still working to get away from this habit…)

Even the Harvard Business Review understands the problems with this method of operating, as explained in the article “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time.”  The main trade offs to multi-tasking are that we are much less productive, we run out of steam, and we’re only partly engaged in everything, rather than being fully engaged in anything — not to mention that some multi-tasking can lead to physical danger!  (<cough>, like the time I completely changed clothes while driving down the highway because stopping for 3 minutes to change would have been a damper on my 2.5 hour drive.)

I really don’t want to be an inefficient worker!  And I really don’t want to be the friend who’s talking to you but looking around the room for the next person I need to grab (though I know I do at times).  I’ve improved my focus while driving, though I did drive with an apple and spoonful of peanutbutter in hand the other night…

One hidden blessing that has taken me a while to appreciate is how marriage has taught me more of how to slow down and focus.  Part of it stemmed from living much further from friends and having an introverted husband who cannot physically spend every waking moment with a group of friends, jumping from event to event.  I was resentful of these things at first and missed my overwhelmingly full social life;  now, however, I actually have time to rest. I have time to read.  When I see a friend, our time and conversation are intentional.  I’m more punctual (well, working on it).   At home, Jon and I sit down to watch a movie – and there is no simultaneous texting, emailing, half-doing.  We eat dinner at our table, even if it’s a mish-mash of leftovers, and there is no TV droning in the background.  We go on a walk and talk.  We have important conversations (usually) while looking at each other, not while typing on the computer or doing something else distracting.  It’s amazing the difference it makes!  I definitely have room to grow here, but the benefits of slowing down and taking one thing at a time have already been a blessing.

honeymoon in Dominican Republic

(Looking at the ocean is definitely one easy way to single-task; I could stand here forever and just look and think.)

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Recent Thanksgiving

Several influences over the past months have encouraged me to count blessings more and learn to live a life of thankfulness.

Probably the main influence is Ann Voskamp in her blog, where she writes so much of what it looks like to lead with gratitude.  Here are a few select posts on the topic.  Also, a few brief quotes…

How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Joy is the fruit of gratefulness.  ~ Ann Voskamp

No one receives the peace of God without giving thanks to God.

Thankfulness is the deep, contented breath of Peacefulness.  ~Ann Voskamp

I also was encouraged by a friend to keep a daily thankfulness journal, which not surprisingly has changed my perspective on how to be thankful, even when at first glance my day seems crummy.  God does not forsake us, and we can often see glimpses of His goodness, His teaching and humbling us, and the little bits of grace for the common good He provides.

Some of my recent thanksgivings:

– a medical scare with my mom that turned out to be okay

– my cute orange coffee mug that is sunshine in the morning

– an impromptu lunch with a friend at work on a crummy day and the comfort of being with a friend who allows you let your guard down

– celebrating with a friend in expectation of her and her husband’s adoption of their first child

– after busting my ear on the cab door and somehow ripping out my earring, finding my earring on the street before the honking cars behind me got too angry (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?)

– being thankful for my dad on his birthday and upcoming Father’s Day

– having a job where I can work on a team of spirited, bright, kind people

– an unexpected pause this morning for a nice conversation on the couch with Jon; specific answered prayers about our continual growth as individuals and a married unit

– not minding the metro delay yesterday because I had a good new book to read (Robinson Crusoe)

– teaching a little girl violin and her actually still wanting to have lessons, even after I laid the smack down for not practicing enough (to all my previous teachers out there: I’m so sorry!!  I probably drove you nuts.)

– conflicts that remind me to lean on Jesus all the time

I definitely cannot say my mind always goes to thankfulness first, but even attempting to go in this direction has been a blessing in itself.

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I made it through all of college without ever being addicted to caffeine.  Occasionally I’d have some hot tea on a late study night, and it would do the trick.  I was so caffeine averse that on sleepy car trips (seriously, I could doze at the wheel so easily on my 2.5hr drive home for holidays) I would drink half a cup of gas-station-cappuccino and be honking my horn to the music without even realizing it.

Here I am in Corporate America, and my caffeine intake is slowly but surely creeping up.  At first it was hot chocolate before long meetings.  Then hot tea every day.  Then ¼ a cup of coffee.  Now a little more than half a cup, and when it wears off after lunch I am a goner!

Must caffeine drinkers constantly increase the dosage?  This is a drug!  A nice high, but then the lows are lower…

I will say (though I’m against this dependency and want to break it), my quality of life commute is much better with some caffeine streaming through my veins.  I toss an ice cube in my cup and gulp it down before leaving home.
I say “goodbye” to Jon when leaving without being angry at him for getting more sleep than me.
I notice the pretty farm and neighborhood lake (often still as glass in the morning) as I drive to my bus stop.
I read without falling asleep and actually remember the book when I’m finished.
I don’t fall asleep on the shoulder of the commuter next to me (and believe me, that definitely brings on some bad looks and audible sighs from the person I keep falling over on).
I can say “good morning” to my coworkers, and sound actually comes out of my mouth.
I don’t feel angry at the world for taking my time with buses, lines, escalators a mile long, and crowded metros.  I can enjoy the time I wouldn’t otherwise take to read/think/meet a stranger.

Could I ever be this way naturally?  Who else struggles with this?  And is there a secret to getting off caffeine, or will you tell me the typical things like “get more sleep and exercise?”…because sometimes I don’t have time for that.  Open to suggestions. 🙂

(My orange cup is pretty cute, though!)

Title – Lyrics from “Java Jive” – best song we ever sang in high school choir!

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Sometimes when things don’t go as planned, words don’t come out the right way, my (too high) expectations are not met, etc, the frustration inside can just build and build.  You know how it works – you step away from the issue to collect yourself, cool down, but really you just start coming up with more and more good comebacks for your argument.  Yesterday wasn’t a great Monday morning – I sat on the bus weary and wondering how I’d focus on work because I had a lot swirling through my head.  Then several things forced me to look a bit outside myself, and it’s amazing how that can help pull me out of my downward spiral of “woe is me.”  Some of this inward soul-searching just becomes self-centered navel-gazing!

Some things that “brought me out of myself” yesterday:
1) A quick and muffled phone call with my cool big brother while I was on the bus (trying to talk quietly enough to not be “that girl”).
2) Some nice chats with coworkers in the morning that reminded me there are other people here besides myself.
3) Work that has to get done and needs my full attention.
4) Having a guest for dinner last night and being pulled out of my selfishness to be hospitable.
5) Not yesterday, but all the time: going on walks with Jon is so helpful.  When we’re disagreeing on something, and I have the tendency to turn into an emotional and unreasonable arguer, just going for a walk together and talking brings us out of ourselves, into God’s beautiful creation, and reminds us there are much bigger things going on in the world than me getting my way or proving I am right.  Then we usually have a much more civilized and graceful conversation as a result.

Photos taken at Skyline Drive last fall

I once had a seminar teacher who said “if you find yourself depressed about not having a husband (or fill in the blank with better job, well-behaved kids, resolution to a disagreement, the list goes on), get out and do something!  Serve!  Help someone!  Anything to draw you out of yourself and remind you of the big picture.”  It doesn’t mean that our troubles are insignificant; it just means that a lot of the way we handle our troubles is rather self-focused than others-focused.  When I look outward, towards others, towards the big picture and not just my narrow view of my wants and desires, things often seem to come much clearer into view.

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Reality Check

I am a verbal processor.  I say things and then think about them (sometimes to my detriment).  One thing I repeatedly hear myself saying and am now intrigued by the meaning behind it is my tendency to compare real-life things to man-made things, instead of the other way around.

At the Baltimore Aquarium, I walked up to this beautiful fish tank and said “wow, it’s like a screen saver!”

My first extended visit to the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania was my first real-life encounter with hilly farmland (I’m from the very flat mid-west), and I remember saying “It looks like a story book!”

I’ve been admiring the beautiful dogwoods and cherry blossoms this spring, but there’s one kind of tree I don’t know, and it is full of amazing pink puffballs of blooms (if you know the name, please tell me!).  The other night, I actually explained to Jon how they look like crepe paper flowers we made during craft time in pre-school (and now people even use them to decorate for weddings, though I’m sure theirs look better than mine did!).

I even remember my favorite Christmas book as a kid was The Sweet Smells of Christmas (scratch and sniff); sometimes I smell real pine needles and think of that book, rather than the other way around!

Is my frame of reference for senses really drawn from man-made things, rather than man-made things being nice reminders or imitations of what truly is Real?  I should actually stop and smell the roses more and take in the real thing!  All of these things are mere glimpses of God’s real creation.  That said, I guess illustrators, graphic designers, and other artists have done a decent job of capturing the beauty and intricacies of God’s creation, but the books and photos just don’t beat the real thing.  I have yet to see a dress or bedspread the true color of grass in the spring, when it’s a million shades of green, and the sunlight makes it brilliantly shine – some things just cannot be captured.

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Meet My Pen-Friend

During my sophomore year of college, I unknowingly kindled a pen-friend friendship (I like that better than pen-pal) that I never thought would last years down the road and be such a delight in my life.  About 8 years ago, something sparked my memory of the sheer coolness of my childhood best friend’s grandma, so I decided to write her a letter.  It sounds random, but I spent almost every afternoon and many weekend nights at my friend’s house, and her cool grandma would take care of the kids during the afternoon, while parents were still at work.  This lady was probably in her 70s and was still fit enough to play skip-it with us.  (Refresh your memory here if you can’t remember.  Awesome.)  Anyway, I spent so much of my childhood with this family and loved every minute of it.  Marnie was a neat part of that.

I had no idea that she loved to write letters and would continue our correspondence faithfully for the next 7 years of my life.  I will say that I did more emailing and calling over the years than writing, and the pen-friend aspect was mostly maintained by her – it just takes me too long to write by hand!  (I do think it’s a lost art form, though, and I’m trying to get back into it.)

I will write several installments on this, but one of the first neat things I’d like to highlight about her letters is her vibrant zest for life.  You can see in the letter below her delight in the tiny creatures that live in her garden.  She also comments at the beginning of some photos I had sent her during my summer in Brevard, NC when I performed small roles in the Janiec Opera Co. (here as a grisette can-can dancer in The Merry Widow and then a nun and choreographer for The Sound of Music).  Maybe this is my selfish side, but I’m not sure anyone else I know was ever as excited to hear about my performances, except for maybe my late, sweet uncle Herbie (Marnie and her husband even came to one of my shows in Nashville!).  When I look through Marnie’s letters, many of them paint a timeline of some of my life’s highlights, as she responds and remarks about things I had told her or photos she had seen.  What a gift!

(click on the letter if it’s too small to read) 

What a blessing. 

More to come.

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DC: Could It Be Love?

In pre-marital counseling and books Jon and I have read as newlyweds, there is a prevalent theme on commitment love – the kind of love where love is a verb; you act lovingly even when perhaps you don’t feel too loving, and the majority of the time feelings will follow.  It’s not that I don’t have a deep love for my husband, but we all go through days where we’re selfish, frustrated, and probably years down the road will not always feel the hot flame of love.  That’s when we choose to love (as a verb), and much deeper feelings will follow. 

My friend Amy wrote a fabulous post a few years ago called DC is a Dude – he (DC) is great for a quick fling, fun for a time, but definitely not the one you want to commit to forever – you have to read this!  (Amazing how dating metaphors work in so many situations!  Well, my 2nd favorite is the “everything in life is like sorority rush” metaphor – I’ll save that for a later post.)  Anyway, when I first moved here, I was overwhelmed by the traffic, the pace of life, the people.  I hear often hear myself say, “everything here is just hard.”  Tiring.  Busy.

After some time and commitment to the DC/NoVa area, however, I am starting to wonder: has my commitment love actually started to produce feelings?  Even feelings of admiration…or…love?

A few things that have helped me love this place:

1)  Committing to my lonnng commute and making the best of it with good books, finding humor and meaning in my interactions with and observations of strangers, and taking advantage of  forced quiet/thoughtful time while crowded in a tiny metro car.
2)  Adapting to hectic life pace here and the need to plan ahead for everything (even simple errands have to be strategically planned to avoid traffic!); hopefully we won’t live this way forever, but for now it’s the new normal.
3)  Getting involved in the Lay Counseling Institute of Washington by attending classes and being counseled; this has been a gift to us and is a wonderful ministry!  I realize LCI is unique to this area, but hopefully if we move away some day we can carry some of it with us!
4)  Submitting to the crowds and traffic to enjoy beautiful DC, the Cherry Blossom Festival (coming soon – can’t wait!!), Great Falls National Park on pretty days, Skyline Drive…

This is a busy city.  A crowded city.  One of pressure and power struggles and frustrated people.  But the Northern Virginia/DC area does offer some really wonderful things.  We need to take more advantage of them while we’re here! 

What is your favorite thing about NoVa/DC?

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