Life Without Facebook Part I

“Time has no meaning in itself unless we choose to give it significance” -Leo Buscaglia-

I have survived almost two weeks without Facebook. I haven’t checked my status, your status, your photos, my news feed–you get the idea. Guess what I have found? TIME! Yes, I have an unexpected amount of extra time on my hands. I do miss “socially networking” with friends and family, but the residual blessings have been worth it.

When I exited Facebook I did so with wordage similar to “now you will have to contact me in the old-fashioned way: phone me, email me or text me”. Who would think “texting” is old-fashioned (chuckle)? I had no idea that so many would take me up on my request. I have had more folks call to “check-in”, email to share a story or simply connect, of all things, in person. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Part of the decision I made when giving up Facebook was the promise that with the time I normally spent “networking”, I would use more constructively – writing, praying, reflecting etc… I had no understanding of what this change would entail or look like in reality.

On my first day without Facebook, I walked into the house, plopped my book bag on the kitchen counter and thought to myself, “Now, what are you going to do?” Seems that I normally spend a good deal of my initial “down time” after work networking on Facebook. Only a moment passed before a friend came to mind – one who lives far from me, but who is going through an amazingly trying time. I sat down to write her a note. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a handwritten letter to someone.  A few days later, a friend called with grave health news. She needed someone to just listen and asked if she could stop by. I not only had the time to spend with her, I had the energy and focus to lend an ear. Just yesterday, another friend called to say, “I miss you on Facebook (I had to smile) and want you to know about this great decision I am making for my life (extra big smile), so I decided to call.”

I wonder if I would I have made these same decisions even without the Facebook “fast”? I would like to think so, but I am not sure if that is the case. This act of self-denial has not only provided the time to contemplate, it has caused me to become more intentional in the use of my time. My aspiration is to live more in the present, to find a way to reach beyond the “noise” of life, and to learn to tame the “hurry”.

I just finished a book by Ann Voskamp entitled One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. The entire book was a blessing, but her words particularly resonate when she articulates the frenzied life we sometimes live.

Hurry always empties the soul….I speak it to God; I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven or wild to get it done– yesterday.”

This is where I often reside–robbed of my joy and strength because my life is too hurried. I understand that Facebook is not the reason I feel drained of time, it is simply one of the many diversions which exhausts my energy each day. Only by reducing the life “noise” am I able to hear, enjoy and experience the now. I am learning to live fully in these moments of life when God is ever near–these moments that allow me to slow down the pace, get my breath and live fully with thanksgiving (eucharisteo).

As a disclaimer:  My blog is set to automatically post to Facebook (even though I am not on it right now)–ironic isn’t it? So if you wish to make a comment on this post that you would like for ME to see–then you will have to view it from my blog and comment there.

Well Read? What Does That Really Mean?

How many of these 100 books have you read? Copy and paste the list on your blog, highlight the books you have read and then post a link here to your blog.

I am not sure what criteria was used to compile this list, but it seems fairly complete (with the exception of The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Bridget Jones Diary)
The BBC says the average person has only read 6 books on the list.  Looks like I better get reading…

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – read some, but not others…
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell 
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy.
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth.
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold 
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson  – No but I just finished his new book AT HOME and loved it.
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt.
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery 
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

The Search is On!

I am an avid reader. I enjoy every aspect of reading and especially enjoy the way what I read affects what and how I write. I pride myself on viewing the world through a writer’s eye—not that I am an accomplished writer, but I have this egocentric need for validation in this area. This fact was significant in my decision to begin to blog. 

Though I enjoy the process of writing, I have come to the realization this practice of blogging has NOTHING to do with good writing and everything to do with searching for some meaning to what has happened in my life. With every stroke of the keyboard I find a new piece to the puzzle.

Words appear to have a universal connection. You see, pain is not exclusive to young widows. Working through life’s heartache is not limited to those who have lost a spouse.

So as I search for meaning through writing this blog, I drag the lot of you around with me. We climb to the heights of enlightenment and plunge to the depths of despair – collectively. I may not even know you, but we share the same journey to find meaning to the life we lead.

This I know for sure….

When I Don’t Know for Sure!

So how long can one keep up the charade of having it all together? How long can one pretend to know things for sure? Because tonight—-I don’t know much. I have little together and life seem to be in several stages of disarray. I am pulled in more directions than Gumby. Overwhelmed would be a gross understatement of how I feel as I sit here at my computer. It is in these times when I cry out—where I am the most vulnerable. 

Sometimes I cry out and all I hear—is silence. Sometimes I cry out and I have unbelievable support—that I am unable to acknowledge and sometimes I cry out and find the hand of the Father where it has been all along – steadying my walk caressing my face and calming my spirit. 

That “hand” can come in many forms. It can be a song, a poem, a phone call even a thought. It can be a friend stopping by on her way for a walk or an earthy father calling simply to say that he loves you. In order to experience the “hand of the Father” you must reach for it and embrace it. Action is required on your part.

I don’t know who Willerd A. Petterson is. I have actually never heard of him, but a fellow widower posted this beautiful poem on a website tonight and it became the “hand of the Father” in my life.

Slow Me Down, Lord

Slow me down, Lord
Ease the pounding of my heart
by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision
of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day,
the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves
and muscles with the soothing;
music of the singing streams
that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical,
restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking
minute vacations—
of slowing down to look at a flower,
to chat with a friend,
to pat a dog,
to read a few lines from a good book.
Slow me down, Lord,
and inspire me to send my roots deep
into the soil of life’s enduring values
that I may grow toward the stars
of my greater destiny.

At a moment in time when there is little I know for sure, the one thing I DO know is that the hand of the Father waits to be clasped within mine.

This I know for sure….

Dateline—-MY LIFE!!

I just watched Dateline and the special “Football Wives” (see: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/ ) Now, I am not usually condescending or even sarcastic (ok, I am sarcastic but…), PLEASE GIVE ME A BREAK. As I watched these women with their husbands, I found myself yelling at the television and thinking “WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM???” I know I come at this topic from a totally different viewpoint, but let me put things into perspective for you. LADIES, IS YOUR HUSBAND BREATHING IN AND OUT—IS HE LIEING IN BED WITH YOU IN THE EVENING???? THEN PLEASE STOP YOUR SNIVILING ABOUT A STINKING BALLGAME AND GROW UP!!!!

Now granted, I never had a husband who was so into sports that he had a room dedicated to the Fighting Illini—HOWEVER, I did have a husband, who like many in this report, worked hard during the week and was a fabulous father and husband, but when the Illini came on, he was lost in the moment. OK—for 2 to 3 hours a week he was unavailable to me—SO WHAT???? 

I found these women to be—well—whimpy. I would venture to guess, if the truth were told; these men, for the most part, take care of the kids while the wife ventures to the latest Talbot’s sale or Ann Taylor Loft promotion. These wives should be thanking their lucky stars that they #1 have husbands at all and #2 have husbands who OBVIOUSLY love and adore them. Have these ungrateful women give me a call. I am sure that within a few minutes I can put things into perspective for them. Do I sound a bit bitter—well of course I do, I would give my right arm to have my husband sitting in my living room—cheering on his sports team and paying little attention to me—knowing that within a few hours he would be sharing life with me again.

I guess my point is that LIFE IS SHORT. Make sure what you think is important—really is….

This I know for sure….

Flowers on His Grave….and Healing

Wednesday of this week was incredibly busy for me. It is on these days I tend to add tasks to my “to do list” because I just work better under pressure. I know it sounds crazy, but I become more focused and I seem to accomplish more. So, after school, along with the five other errands I needed to complete, I went to the cemetery to replace the flowers on Don’s grave. I drove up to his stone, got out of the car, glanced at my father-in-law’s monument (who died less than a year after Don), I said a prayer then grabbed the flower containers from both stones to take to the florist to be refilled. When I arrived at the florist, I told the designer what I wanted in each container. It was as if I were picking out a new centerpiece for my dining room table. I was very “matter of fact” – devoid of much emotion; yet, I seemed compelled to complete the task perfectly.

When I got back in my car, I realized that I had just accomplished an undertaking that a few months ago was so emotionally ridden that I was unable to drive out of the parking lot for 20 minutes until I finished weeping. It was in that moment I realized I was experiencing healing. I actually smiled on the inside on my way home, knowing that Don would be very proud of the progress I have made. He would love the fact that I have been able to move to a new home, keep my church commitments, be a mother to the boys, maintain a semblance of dignity and begin to live again. He would be proud that the boys are excelling in their pursuits and that they are content and even happy.

Next week, I will go pick up the finished arrangements and take them back to adorn the monument marking the life of a great man. The actual physical stone deserves to be maintained in his honor, but the stone in the cemetery is not my husband’s legacy. The heritage of love and integrity he left for his family is a more appropriate monument to Don’s life.

The Real Me!

Ever look into the mirror and wonder whom the stranger is staring back at you? Usually this is after a major life event or traumatic experience. Life seems to create in us this quandary as to who we are and what our purpose should become. 

I have always been an independent, stable woman with a career I love and a zest for life and living. However, when I look in the mirror I no longer see that woman. Oh I get glimpses of her here and there, but the general essence of who I was is veiled. It isn’t that I am a totally different person; it is that those aspects of who I am, which I found familiar, seem absent. I find this disheartening, or should I?

Just because the person staring back at me in the mirror is unfamiliar, doesn’t mean she is unwelcome. It simply means I need to become comfortable with her again. I need to explore what makes her tick—how she lives, makes decisions—how she loves and how she takes on life. 

We evolve and change constantly. Life events and circumstances influence this change. I am not the same person I was before I was a mother.That experience molded me. I am not the same person I was before I experienced great loss, that event has shaped who I have become. 

As I work through this process of re-acquaintance, I am not sure if I become more content with who I am or if it is that I begin to understand myself better and thus begin to accept and even become fond of this “new me”. I believe it becomes a choice. 

I refuse to lose my sense of self. I refuse to allow this unfamiliarity to create within me insecurities that are cause for rash decisions or a sense of uncertainty. On the contrary, I embrace this new person and realize she is a collection of her experiences both past and present and is being fashioned to move forward into the “chapter two” of her life with a newfound appreciation for the outcome of life’s experiences.

This I know for sure…..mostly!

Snow Day and a Confession!

I may be telling stories out of the “teacher’s lounge”, but it is a little known fact that teachers love snow days as much as, perhaps more than, the students. It is the one time I sit, eyes glued to the bottom of the television screen hoping to see my school name scroll across. When it finally does, I find myself doing one big happy dance (on the inside of course as to not scare the children). I grab the phone; make the call to the next teacher on the phone tree, grinning at the giddy sounds on the other end of the phone. I feel like the florists delivery boy on Valentine’s Day.

I always have great plans for the snow day. I am determined to clean out the study, get my tax information together, launder the sheets on all the beds, work on the storage room and….well, you get the idea. I make lists and have the best intentions. 

Then, I sit at the computer to “quickly” check my email. As I look over at the nearby comfortable couch, I eye the remote control which seems to call to me. I hear it say, “What about all those television shows you have TIVO’d and what about the Lifetime movies you never get to watch? Are you sure you want to be productive today. I have much more fun things planned for us.” So, my determination disappears and I grasp the remote control sternly in my hand, sit myself on the couch and—I am not sure where time goes from there.

The next thing I know it is 3:30—the regular time I get home from work. That is a benchmark time for me. There is certain melancholy when I discover it is already 3:30 and I haven’t accomplished—ANYTHING. Wait one minute; I HAVE completed five Sudoku puzzles, read five magazines and watched hours of meaningless television.

What have I gained? Perhaps nothing except that I have REGAINED my sense of wasting time, an art many “grown ups” have abdicated to their teenagers. I have come to the realization that I am capable of frittering away time and have absolutely nothing worthwhile to show for it. I will admit, I am proud of myself. There are not many adults who can boldly stand and say “I wasted a whole, entire day”. There you have it – my confession. They say it is good for the soul.

This I know for sure….

Joy from Sorrow

I know you might get tired of me bringing up Henri Nouwen, but I simply can’t believe how much his words resonate to where I am on a daily basis. I receive his Daily Meditations and they are always inspirational or cause me to think or, well, both. If you are interested you can also sign up to receive them: http://www.henrinouwen.org/home/free_eletters/?m=1011221485028&p=oi They are taciturn (Rosanne will appreciate that-since she is the queen of verbosity) for those of us with a bit of an attention problem (like my entire family and most of my friends—LOL).

I was in the middle of composing a blog about the close relationship between joy and sorrow. The basic premise was that in order to experience true joy, you would have to also understand sorrow. I remembered that this topic was addressed in an early January Daily Meditation and sure enough—I found it. Nothing I have ever written has come close to explaining my feelings on this topic than the words from Henri Nauwen as follows:

“Joy and sorrow are never separated. When our hearts rejoice at a spectacular view, we may miss our friends who cannot see it, and when we are overwhelmed with grief, we may discover what true friendship is all about. Joy is hidden in sorrow and sorrow in joy. If we try to avoid sorrow at all costs, we may never taste joy, and if we are suspicious of ecstasy, agony can never reach us either. Joy and sorrow are the parents of our spiritual growth.” –Henri Nouwen-

Now, do I long to feel sorrow so I can also experience joy? NO! of course not, but I do acknowledge the connection. It is said that love is the universal language, but I am not sure that is the case. Unfortunately, there are people who may never experience true, undying love in their lifetime, but everyone will experience sorrow and pain. Perhaps these emotions are more universal then we would like to admit. The other side of this coin is that, the greater your capacity to feel the pain and work through it, the greater your capacity to absolutely experience joy. Though pain is not something I desire to experience, I concede that through sorrow I have the ability to recognize and experience joy more completely for I have endured the opposite.

This I know for sure….

What Defines Me?

I am so different than I was even 10 years ago. I am not the reactionary—I don’t jump to conclusions (as much)—I also lack a bit of the passion those traits encompass, but have gained a sense of discernment. Different qualities define who I am now. I have grown and hopefully learned. 

What defines me?

I am first and foremost a mother. 
My children define me—
not by what they do, but when they think for themselves, come into their faith or simply say “I love you mom”. 

I am a daughter.
Family defines me–
not necessarily by birth, but by the heritage I embrace with such pride.

I am a friend. 
My friendships define me—
not because they chose to share life with me, but because the character they exude reflects my uncanny ability to surround myself with exceptional friends. 

I am an educator. 
My students define me—
not by getting good grades, but by thinking outside the box, creating a beautiful piece of writing or simply being better members of our community. 

I am a Christian. 
My faith defines me—
not because of what tenants of my religion dictate, but the day in and day out walk which causes this world to hold the hope I long for

I am a widow.
Loss has defined me–
not because of mourning, but because of the strength gained, the capacity to empathize and the assurance that there is more.

I am a woman.
Life defines me—
not because I live it perfectly, but because I long to live it fearlessly.

This I know for sure….