Tuesday, December 28, 2021

 “Allow Enough Prep Time”

You’ve likely heard or read those words. They often show up in the kitchen. They are indeed words of wisdom if you plan to bake homemade bread from scratch for dinner or serve a roasted turkey at Christmas or Thanksgiving. But those words are good reminders for other areas of life as well. 


As we come to the end of 2021, we begin to set new goals for the upcoming year. Goals are great. Perhaps you may want to lose a few pounds, organize the closet…or your life, or perhaps learn a new skill or language. Even goals that appear a bit lofty to some may be attainable if you plan them out and allow enough prep time. 


Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to lose twenty pounds. Some people will argue that is a lofty goal. But with planning and patience, you can map out a plan to lose two pounds a month between eating right and bumping up your physical activity. Two pounds is doable and in ten months you’ve reached your goal. 


Perhaps, like me, you want to complete a new novel this year. The planning (aka: prep time) includes carving out time to write, mapping out my storyline, assembling my main characters, and doing a bit of research about my subject.  If I pour myself into the prep time, I’ll be able to complete the task in the time allotted. Oh, sure, I’ll change things along the way and need to “spice” the story up a bit as I go. (See how I brought that back to the kitchen?)  I’ll continue my research and go through numerous rewrites, but the prep time I am doing now will serve me through my season of writing the book. 


Although it is well documented, I already know from life experiences that exercise and weight loss usually hit numbers 1 and 2 on the “goals for next year” list. Getting organized, learning something new, and money management also show up in the top ten. If any of these resonate with you, know you are not alone.


The point is simple. Any and every goal you set requires some prep time.

This is the time to do it. 




Think of your life as a garden. 

1) Clear the garden plot. Make room for your seeds to be planted. Clear your calendar or secure materials you need to reach your goal.

2) Plant the seeds. Start with a little self-talk about your goal and why you want to do it. Write it down and post it where you will see it on a regular basis. The dream is the seed. Nurture the dream.

3) Keep the weeds at bay. That is, push aside the negative talk you sometimes allow to cloud your thinking. Don’t become distracted with things that really don’t matter. You get the idea.

4) Water your dream garden frequently. Read, study, practice, whatever your dream needs to grow and produce fruit from your labor.

5) Get excited for small increments of growth/success. Those dreams, like the beans, take time to grow and produce. Celebrate the little victories along the way.


Those are my words of encouragement for this week. “Allow enough prep time”and by doing so, this time next year, you will likely have accomplished more than you can imagine without becoming discouraged.


Be sure to share your goals here or with others. Sharing your goals with others increases your chance of attaining them.


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

I Hope You Dance

Music. Music not only touches our heart, music tells the story of our lives.


Music has been a huge part of shaping me into the person I am today. I grew up with everything from hymns to show tunes. I gained knowledge and appreciation for all music. I learned to appreciate the richness of bluegrass as well as the nuances of classical music.


I cannot remember a single car trip from my childhood that wasn’t filled with singing. As a matter of fact, I’m sure my own three daughters will likely say the same thing about their growing up years. The autumn my husband died, we had planned to record a collection of the car songs for our children and grandchildren for Christmas. 


Music provides a way to connect with people across generations. And cultures.


My parents loved musicals. They enjoyed Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma so much they bought the album. I played it over and over. When I came into the Waters family, my mother-in-law delighted in my one-person rendition of the musical Oklahoma. She had me perform it more than once in her living room. 


My late husband sang in the choir. My oldest daughter took up the flute for marching band, my middle daughter plays the French horn, and my youngest still “fiddles around” with her violin.


The old hymns were at the core of my maternal grandmother’s being. They remained untouched by the dementia that stole so much of her memory. All we needed to do was to begin to sing one of those hymns and grandma would join in. 


Music is powerful.


This last week, friends and family gathered at my house for a Christmas caroling party. It is the way I have recognized my wedding anniversary these past seven years. This year would have marked my fiftieth anniversary of marriage to Tom Waters. 


The music filled my house. (Now I know why they are called cathedral ceilings. The sound was amazingly beautiful as we sang our way through the Christmas story.) The songs and story warmed my heart.


Only eight days earlier, we had buried my Uncle Noah. That day, as the story of his life unfolded both through words and song, I thought about the theme song of my own life. 


Many people who know me might think I would choose a beloved hymn or something I enjoy from the contemporary Christian music genre.


I like that music. I sing it all the time. I listen to it on my Alexa and in the car. It fills me up.


But the song I would choose to pass on to my loved ones may surprise you. It is Ronan Keating’s version of I Hope You Dance. I’m including the YouTube link below.


Here is a sample. I find myself in these verses.


I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean

Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…

I hope you dance.


I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,

Never settle for the path of least resistance,

Living life might mean taking chances, but they’re worth taking,

Loving might be a mistake, but it’s worth making.


Yeah…I hope you dance. And for the whole song, CLICK HERE.


What is the music of your life?

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Antidote for Despair

 Christmas Caroling... an Antidote for Despair


Through the years I have learned enough about myself to know when I need help. It isn’t always easy to ask others to step in and assist. Especially when you are a person who works hard to be self-sufficient. That would be me. Or at least it used to be.


When my husband died seven years ago, I had to lean on others to get me through the simple tasks of everyday life. Especially during those first several months. My mother and my children pitched in to help. I could count on my mom to buoy my spirits and keep me fed. My kiddos kept me busy and quite frankly became my first line of tech support. Tom had always done that sort of thing.


Those first few months were hard. The first few weeks, the hardest.


Seven weeks after Tom died was our anniversary. December 18th. Ours had been a beautiful Christmas wedding, but facing our 43rdanniversary alone was daunting. I knew this was not something I could hand over to someone else to bear. 


I considered several options. For example, I thought about spending the day in bed eating chocolates. That idea, like many others, didn’t appear to be a healthy choice. I thought about fixing one of Tom’s favorite meals and lighting our wedding candle. Eat alone? No, that didn’t work either. 


I knew my family would do whatever was needed. I simply didn’t know what that looked like. 


So I prayed about it.


A plan took shape. I called members of my family first and asked them to join me for Christmas caroling at my house the evening of the eighteenth. I then called several of our closest friends and asked them to come as well. My children readily recognized the date and understood the purpose. It didn’t hit my friends until the evening arrived. 


Everyone brought finger foods. I ran the vacuum and made a pot of coffee.


Tom loved to sing. He loved to go caroling. The evening was a perfect way to recognize our anniversary. My family and friends rescued me through song and love and care.


I have continued that tradition. It looked a bit different the year I lived in Kosovo, but there, too, friends came to my apartment. We sang Christmas carols and celebrated the birth of Jesus and my anniversary all in one.


Last year, due to COVID, my mother, children, and grandchildren walked through my neighborhood singing carols with me. Though I usually hand out poinsettias, that year I made little cakes instead. We even caroled one song in French for the sweet family from Paris down the street.


I started the tradition to keep me from falling down a deep hole of despair. Now I find the event one of showing others how much they are loved. 


It has been seven years now. December 18, 2021 is the 50thanniversary of my marriage to Tom Waters. Friends gather. We share stories and food and song. I don’t know if I will continue the caroling party next year. At least not for the reason I started it.


But I will continue to sing and shout that God loved me so much, he came to earth as a human and suffered the same sorts of difficulties I often face. 


And when the time was complete, he suffered a death so horrific I cannot imagine it. But he then did what only he could do…he came back to life. 


Heaven is real. And somewhere in its realms, I trust Tom is singing right there with me. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The BB Gun

Uncle Noah and the BB Gun

It was a BB gun. I was sure. It was in a long slender package wrapped in red paper with my name on it. If I tilted it on end, I could actually hear the BB’s roll from one end to the other. 

My grandparent’s house was in a hollow nestled between the mountains in rural Kentucky. We lived in Ohio. It took us hours to drive down Old 25 and through the southern Kentucky town of Barbourville. Several miles outside of town we turned onto a narrow, rutted dirt road that hugged the side of the mountains as it wound its way through the hollow to their house.

We didn’t often travel in the winter to see them. That is part of what made this Christmas so special. That and the fact that a box in the trunk of our car held an assortment of brightly wrapped presents, including the one I had already concluded was my very own BB gun.

The hour was late by the time we turned on the dark, snow covered, dirt road. My dad drove carefully, his way lit only by the lights on our car. We reached the midpoint of the Stony Fork road at a place my aunt called “the deep holler.” Suddenly we came to a complete stop, stuck in the heavy snow. We had passed a few houses, lit only by the kerosene lamps within. There was no telephone service in the area at the time, so how help arrived, how anyone knew of our plight, I still don’t know. All I know is that soon one neighbor and then another came to help my dad get the car out of the snow. And more important to me, my uncle, ten years my senior, arrived on my grandfather’s mule. 
Uncle Noah and my dad
 the summer before my BB gun.
Yep, that's me between them. 
Ten years older, but my uncle was
 always a giant in my eyes.

Uncle Noah reached down from his perch on the animal and lifted me up to sit in front of him. He turned the mule around and we started plodding through the deep snow toward the safety and warmth of my grandparent’s farmhouse. Along the way, Uncle Noah talked with me as if I were a grown-up. He taught me how to guide the mule. “Gee for turning right and haw to turn left,” he instructed. I told him about my secret desire for a BB gun. He didn’t laugh at me. He acted as though a five-year-old girl wanting a BB gun for Christmas was the most natural thing in the world. 

The journey on the mule was long, but the animal was warm.
Uncle Noah’s stories and conversation made the time pass quickly. 
Grandma and Grandpa welcomed me with hugs and kisses. I was happy to see my parents arrive later, the car and its cargo intact.  Soon I was snuggled under the colorful quilt my grandmother had made, sinking deep in the warmth of the feather bed.
The smell of the wood burning in the stove, warm biscuits, hot coffee, and bacon sizzling in the pan ushered in my Christmas morning.

“Presents can wait until after breakfast,” my mother said. Soon though, I was  excited to help in the handing out of gifts to each member of the family. Happy to open the packages with my name on them. There was a coloring book, a Cinderella doll, and finally, the mysterious long slender package with the rattling sound when turned on its end.
I opened the package with great care so as not to shoot anyone. I don’t think my parents recognized the initial disappointment on my face when I pulled out the blue baton. Only Uncle Noah knew I harbored the wish for a BB gun. He didn’t laugh or make me regret taking him into my confidence.

The day turned out fine as I played with my doll and colored several pictures. I managed to not break anything in the house as I attempted to twirl the shiny blue baton.
That was over sixty Christmases ago and the only one I ever spent with my grandparents in Kentucky. I realize now that on that ride through the snow, my uncle gave me gifts greater than my much hoped for BB gun.

He taught me to be available to help people in need,
     share with others what you have learned, and
            treat people with respect no matter their age. 

On Friday, December 3, 2021, my Uncle Noah left this earth for a heavenly home prepared ahead of time for him. He lived his life serving others. He was a highly decorated Marine who served in the Vietnam War. He loved people and did anything he could to help others. He was talented musically and had a great eye for design. He was a good and caring man to the end. 
Rest in peace, Uncle Noah.