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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sharing Scares Me

Recently I've had the unpleasant pleasure (stick with me for a minute on this) of sharing my thoughts and feelings with people who don't have an obligation to love me no matter what forever and ever. Namely, people who are not my family or my devoted husband. Who is family, come to think of it, now that we share the same last name and all. (He wanted me to write "my family and my husband" in an e-mail this week, and I argued it was redundant.) Anyway, this week has been a growing experience for me, and I figured I would share it with the world via my invisible soapbox on the good ole internets.

For the first time since high school, I'm in a small group that I really feel compatible with. From college onward, I tried several "false starts" with other groups, but nothing really stuck. It either felt artificial and forced (kinda like when you have to share a car ride with your weird cousin and his goth girlfriend and your only shared interest is the movie Braveheart), or more like a quilting bee (but one where everyone brings a Bible prop but really just wants to discuss the latest gossip in the guise of prayer requests). This group isn't like either of those uncomfortable extremes. This group is uncomfortable in a good way, in the way a snake feels tight and full just before he sheds his skin. This group is real... and a welcome change from my lack of deeper spiritual sharing over the past few years.

There's something powerful and humbling about voicing your struggles and knowing that the people listening will be praying for you, while you're also asking God to help them with their struggles. My new small group has only been meeting for a few weeks, but already I sense a warm kinship with these people and (oddly, for me) a desire to open up and tell them what I'm dealing with. Not all of it, of course, because that would just be cruel and frankly rather depressing for everyone. But sharing some of it, that seems doable and, yes, even healthy. Bonus: it's cheaper than therapy.

In addition to this awesome new small group, I've also joined (I know, I'm a regular sign-me-up Sally lately) a writing group started by some coworkers. It's a low-key way to get feedback on our personal writing and rekindle the lost scholastic art of how to give and receive constructive criticism. So far we've had members share a blog post, a short story, a children's story, and a poem. Fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, varying lengths and depths and shapes and styles, each piece as unique as its author because it's a piece of him or her put to words.

If I may, I would like to dub this group effort a resounding success, as thus far I have been challenged, encouraged, surprised, and awed by the range of voices in our group and the generosity of each member, both in sharing their writing and in giving useful comments to each author. I feel very lucky to be a part of this group at its inception and look forward to many meetings to come.

So what do these two things have in common? Both lovely groups of people expect me to (gulp) share myself with them, just as they share themselves with me. Needless to say, sharing scares me. What if they learn more about my background and don't like me anymore? What if they think I'm a self-centered jerk? (Which, y'know, I frequently am. But somehow it's worse if other people agree with me on that.) What if I hurt somebody's feelings? What if I say something stupid? What if my poem... sucks?

Forget the hypotheticals. Throw away the fear. Take a chance and see what happens. That's the kind of counsel I would previously have given to others, while conveniently ignoring it myself. But this time, I'm taking my own advice.

Sharing scares me. Always has, always will.

But it's also totally worth it. Kinda like getting married. Carpe diem.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I raked the leaves in my yard today.

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

I raked the leaves in my yard today. It's funny, I didn't think I had a big yard until I decided to rake the whole thing—front and back—in one shot. (Confession: I only made it through 2/3 of the backyard before it got dark and I got tired.) This really should be used as a trick by savvy real estate agents. Wife: "Oh, honey, the house is lovely. But the yard's a little small, don't you think?" Husband: "Why, yes, dear. Not much land at all." "Um, sir," says the savvy real estate lady, holding out a rake. "Why don't you rake the leaves in that corner of the yard there." [elapsed time 10 minutes] "Doesn't seem so small now, does it, Mr. Jones?" And then she would make the sale and treat herself to a double-mocha latte or somesuch on her way home that night... Ok, back to my yard. Raking it really gave me a fresh appreciation for the size of our place. And it isn't really that big, but boy, when you're raking the leaves (or mowing the grass, or shoveling the snow), the yard sure seems to get a little bigger. And I'm grateful for that little eye opener.

I raked the leaves in my yard today. Alone. I did this chore alone because my darling husband was (and still is) asleep upstairs, having worked some 13 hours yesterday and 11 hours today, with nothing near 8 hours of sleep in between. When he sees tomorrow that I've raked the whole yard without him, he'll probably protest and say he feels bad and that he owes me one. Which is hilarious, given the number of sometimes vicious/sometimes pathetic meltdowns he deals with on a weekly basis from me, his loyal but emotionally unstable wife. Also, when I'm sitting downstairs with a kitten on half my lap and my computer on the other half, he'll be the first to answer my entreaty for a fresh diet Pepsi with a smile and a "yes, dear." In other words, he doesn't owe me anything. And really, I suppose I don't owe him either. Husbands and wives shouldn't keep score. Besides, we are both in debt only to Jesus, to whom we owe everything—including the joy of finding and marrying each other.

I raked the leaves in my yard today. My yard. This is now the second fall that we've lived in our house. *cue "Our House" by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young* But just last week, while pulling in the driveway, I had another one of those wait-do-I-really-live-here? moments. The first six months we lived here, I felt like I was continually housesitting for somebody else. Now that it's been well over a year, I'm finally settling in more, gradually feeling comfortable, relaxed, content... at home. I've gained a possessiveness that is less selfish than it might sound. I'm taking ownership, and taking pride in maintaining what the good Lord has given me. My kitchen. My basement. My yard. And yes, my leaves to rake. The joys of home ownership, indeed. With two cats to boot (though, not "in the yard" as the song goes, since the great outdoors are verboten to my declawed felines).

I raked the leaves in my yard today. A simple job. A satisfying bit of exercise, out in the warm(ish) fall breeze. But the best part... the smell! Oh my word, if you haven't raked leaves in a while, if you've forgotten what this amazing and all too brief season before winter can do to your nostrils and your lungs, go grab a rake (yes, I mean you!) and forge a giant leaf pile. Then dive in, cover yourself up, and wallow in it, just so you can inhale and absorb the delicious aroma that emanates from those crunchy orange and yellow slices of autumn. Nothin' like it...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Review: What Language Is

My latest book review is now posted online at the Englewood Review of Books. Let me know what you think!

In this review, I give high praise to renowned linguist John McWhorter's insightful new book, What Language Is: And What It Isn't and What It Could Be.


If you're into linguistics, words, etc.... or if you're a self-confessed word nerd (like moi)...  or if you simply enjoy reading intelligent books written by people who are both really smart and really funny, you'll appreciate this gem. McWhorter is something of a genius when it comes to making linguistic studies accessible and entertaining. I highly recommend his latest, What Language Is.

You can order What Language Is online for $15 at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It would make a great Christmas present for the English professor/avid reader in your life. (And no, I'm not getting paid to pitch this book. I just really like it.)

Incidentally, McWhorter was recently quoted in this story about the AP transcribing Obama's speech with informal/vernacular spelling (complainin' ) instead of formal spelling (complaining). In Obama's defense, as McWhorter puts it, the president was simply speaking with a "blaccent."