Meeting Jane Green

People that know me already understand that I have a wonderful passion for books. I love reading therefore purchasing a new book is a simple pleasure that brings me such joy. It is such a treat to shuffle around bookstores and find that secret gem. I had this experience a year ago shopping at the Yale Bookstore. I am not at a loss for books because I have been studying off and on for a decade and I have collected a number of books within different genres. However, on this particular day as I browsed the stacks I came across a book called Swapping Lives. It had a very busy cover that was intentionally girlie (I love pink). I was also impressed by the cover of the book underneath the jacket. When I say I love books I mean I really love books; binding, paper and font. If there is a wrong combination of either then I am turned off completely. This particular book had the right combination so I purchased it. It was the perfect book to keep my mind busy yet it wasn’t what I was supposed to be reading: boring nonfiction theology. The content of the book was engaging and I could not put it down. I finished the book in 48 hrs and I was starving for more. Over the past year I have read four more of her novels. I was drawn to the fictional town of Highfield, CT which is similar to Fairfield, CT. I am drawn to all things New England, including their small quaint towns. The tradition, history and charm of New England draws me in every time.

Meeting Jane Green was a fabulous experience! Jane spoke about how she wrote her books and how important consistency in your writing is. “Don’t waste time going to writing conferences,” she said, “just write and finish your book.” She was charming, sophisticated and funny! She was everything I had imagined her to be from the tone of her books. It was truly pleasure meeting her and I am inspired to write. Write on!

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow…”
Lawrence Clark Powell

Lil’ bit of good

A few months ago I was having an especially hard time coping with the fact that I had something good going and suddenly that something good was over. I immediately raced over to a friend and explained to her the pain I was feeling. “Why are you so sad?” she said. “Actually, I am more disappointed because this thing was my lil’ bit of good.” “Your lil bit of what?” she asked. “My lil’ bit of good.” I repeated. I then went on to explain that because of my hectic life, I had carved out space for something that was only for me. This something good was reserved especially for me and it was simple and easy. It is no secret that I have a somewhat difficult life. A life more emotionally demanding than the average single parent. As the parent of an autistic pre-teen with severe hearing loss my day to day is challenging. At the time it was compounded by deadlines, papers and other academic pursuits. I was stretched very thin. But amid all the hustle and bustle, there was something special. This something good was reserved only for me, and suddenly it was gone. I couldn’t help but mourn the loss of that lil’ bit of good because it made my hectic life a bit more bearable. I was not in love, nor was I infatuated, but I was content and happy with that lil bit of good that made my days easier because I had that lil’ special thing to look forward to. That temporary thing was not anything sexual, just time well spent with someone special. When it was taken away I was devastated and overwhelmed once again with the idea that without that lil’ bit of good I would feel the pang of those long days. Ironically, I have been faced with the same loss of a different lil’ bit again. I can’t help but wonder that in my quest for the good life, will I ever find that thing that is a lot of good?

However, I remain slightly optimistic that if I stay spiritually grounded a lot of good will come my way. I continue to believe that soon, I will have a large portion of good rather than a lil’ bit because God normally delivers large portions.

Finally Brothers, whatsoever is true, whatsoever is noble, whatsoever is right, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is admirable-if anything is excellent and praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatsoever you have seen or heard in me put into practice. And the God of piece will be with you. Philipians 4:8-10 (NIV)

Do You Remember?

As of late, within the academic community, I hear numerous discussions about memory. How are memories validated and verified, and should they be? Have you ever had a specific memory that is remembered totally different by someone else? For example, growing up I remember having the best meals at my grandmother’s house. Those Sunday afternoons were filled with good food and love. I remember her cooking and especially the dessert table that included yummy cakes and pies that were freshly baked. Food and family are a wonderful combination and though our family was small in number, we had plenty of food and good times. I miss those Sunday afternoons because grandma always finished dinner at 3:00pm. That was just early enough for us to have leftovers and savor the tasty dessert that followed. The beautiful thing about memory is that no one can take them away from you. The good memories are especially heartwarming and comforting when you have very few family members in close proximity. The interesting thing however is that not all of my family members would remember those Sundays exactly the same way. In fact when asked, another family member corrected my nostalgic flashback. “Grandma never baked those pies,” they corrected. “I was always sent to the local store to get those pies.” “Really,” I said surprisingly,”mmm, well maybe I forgot that she never actually baked the desserts.” “And,” they continued,”She never started dinner and 3:00 pm, it was always 4:30pm, because I always ate in a rush in order to watch the pregame football coverage.” The way they remembered the memory is a direct reflection on their own interpretation of the experience. Though they may also remember the experiences as positive, their interpretation is specific to their personality.
This idea that memories are subjective allows for more understanding around the life experiences of others. It also allows us to have a deeper understanding of the impact that certain memories have on the human brain; thus dictating our life experiences.
Person: “Remember when………?
Me: “No actually I don’t, but tell me more what happened.”
Me: “Hold on and let me grab a seat and my latte.”
“The memory of the righteous is blessed…..”
Proverbs 10:7 NIV

The Good Life

I want a good life. I repeat this phrase to myself often. I.want.a.good.life. I recognize that asking for a perfect life is somewhat unrealistic. A perfect life would mean that everything is flawless and free from error. Even though I use the word often, nothing is perfect. Therefore, it is an unrealistic request to ask for a PERFECT life, so a good life will suffice. With that in mind, what is the ideal recipe for a good life? By that I mean a really savory experience that makes you grateful to be alive. I remember Whitney Houston’s song “You Were Loved.” I agree most with the part of the song that says: you can looked back and say, you did ok, you were loved. This song reiterates the idea that love is an important ingredient for creating a good life. Lets assume then that love is the number one ingredient. Since theologically I believe that God is love, lets assume that God is the most important ingredient in creating a good life. (I John 4:8)
I feel that money is also a key ingredient for a good life. Though I do not think that money is more important than love, I will suggest that money=comfort and allows one a certain peace of mind. I will add a dash of money or financial stability to the recipe. Next, I would add people to the mix. Perhaps I should be more specific: “good people”. I have heard this phrase used many times to refer to certain individuals that we deem safe, and positive. “Oh______, he or she is good people.” Though grammatically the phrase sounds awkward it is one those phrases that extends beyond the vault of basic black vernacular; the term ‘good people’ is universal. We are all, no matter what our background, in need of good people. Though the word people refers to more than one person, when used in that instance it means a single person. For the sake of this recipe however we will assume that good people means a group of positive people that also desire a good life. Since good people also want a good life then most likely they are like minded and hold some of the same good values.
Lastly, I think that good times are in order. By good times I mean the moments and occasions that you share with those good people, and that good love that I included at the beginning of the recipe. Those special (sometimes manufactured) occasions that you have with the people that you care about, and create good memories that are helpful in maintaining a good life. I have a built in schema for the phrase “good times” because of the famous television show from the seventies. The Evans family never had the ingredient of financial stability but they had love, good times, and good people. If I reflect hard enough, and you catch me on a good day, I must admit that I already have the good life. However, it is my responsibility to sustain it. I must fill it with more love, good people, and of course more good times *deep sigh*. Oh the good times… Ain’t we lucky got em’

Brand Me

Everything has a brand. A fellow colleague once asked me about my long term goals. She wanted to know why I wanted to pursue doctoral studies. “Why would anyone want to read and write all day?” she said.”I don’t believe in the idea of branding yourself as an academic,” she confessed. I reverberated the question back to her and asked why she wanted to become a sociologist. “What is your motive for wanting to study people?” I asked.
“It is simple,” she said. “I want to help people.” Interesting I thought. What I was most curious about however was how she expected to market that talent. She would need to market or “brand” her counseling skills in order to gain a significant number of clients.
In almost any vocation or career it is helpful to view yourself as a brand. Custodial engineers or janitors have some skills that make them exceptional. If they market those skills outside the workplace, they may be able to start a business that specializes in that particular skill.

We all are label whores; addicted to some kind of brand or label. Our lives are surrounded by labels and brands that draw us into monogramming ourselves in some way or another. We can blame it on a capitalist society or we can take responsibility for our own part in establishing and validating ourselves through brands and labels. Subconsciously these labels allow us to gain a certain type of validation.

As a teenager I loved the name brand GUESS JEANS. I bought a pillow that was shaped like the back of guess jeans and slept with that pillow nightly. I was a crazed fanatic; buying everything from notebooks to key chains that included that upside down triangle. Now teenagers love JUICY and COACH. They have been sucked in by the capitalist monster that fuels label addiction.

The brands and labels do not just stop at clothes however, it is also applicable to brand yourself with a certain lifestyle or certain types of educational achievements. So what brand are you? How have you chosen to brand your career and or lifestyle? Or are you still denial that you too are a brand?

Big Companies understand the importance of brands. Today in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand.
Tom Peters, FAST COMPANY MAGAZINE

August 31, 1997

The Dreamers

I was recently called a dreamer by a very special friend. “We are dreamers,” he said.

You can tell a dreamer because they have a simple formula for their success: impossible outcomes + difficult odds -doubt= success. It is tempting to find yourself thinking of a brighter day filled with better circumstances that include much simpler goals. However, when you find yourself doing the bare minimum rather than a challenge, that often leads to a state of mediocrity. If we could achieve success using our own power there would not be a reason to dream.
Dreamers are actually made as a result of their difficult circumstances and insurmountable odds. They are sculpted into powerful vessels of hope despite the challenges they encounter. Using a winning mindset, a true “dreamer” can sustain those implanted ideas and visions placed upon them by God for just the right amount of time; then they must act on them. Through hard work, dedication and planning we can accomplish our dreams one step at a time. Dreaming is divine in nature because there could be no other explanation for the premonitions and visions that we have in our youth.
If you ask the dreamers you know, the ones that have been able to accomplish at least a fraction of their dream, they will most likely tell you that to others their dreams appeared impossible. If you ask the queen from Alice and Wonderland she would tell you that the key is to BELIEVE in those dreams that you are dreaming.

“There is no use in trying,” said Alice, “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.

“When I was your age I did it for half an hour each day.”

“Why sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast..”

Alice and Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Something New

I love the smell, and touch of new things. I have always been a shopper but I am especially excited when I purchase something new. A new book, dress, shoes, and especially totes are joyful purchases. The issue with new items however is that they must be cared for and treated delicately. Though I love things, and special purchases that are new I am even more ecstatic about new friendships and relationships. Not just romantic relationships but new encounters with special people that cross your path. It is a feeling that surpasses other emotions that are associated with new material items. When my new tote or dress gets worn I cannot necessarily restore it to the same condition. Though the idea of that a worn item now has “character”, it is not always visually pleasing. The same goes for new relationships with people; when they become less new sometimes it is not as pleasing as that first encounter. However, there is a satisfaction in maintaining and restoring that newness; nurturing and caring for that new “item” brings about a certain measure of gratification and pleasure. The key however is to work at restoring that newness and remembering why you chose that new thing in the first place.

“If I nurture newness while I have it, perhaps I won’t lose it~at least not for something less. And if I nurture what I keep, perhaps I won’t miss what I lost. “
Jan Denise (American Columnist, Author, Speaker)

Suffering

I am convinced that true victory cannot come unless there is a period of difficulty. I am not especially hard pressed at the moment, however as I meditate on the idea of success it seems that the most successful people have endured suffering. During an interview several months ago I was asked about the idea of suffering. “How have you suffered the most,” they asked, “and how has that suffering impacted you?” The idea of suffering is relative depending on the people involved and the situation. For many people, the “suffering” that I have endured is minor; mere child’s play. In fact, some may say that I cannot begin to understand the idea of suffering. I am not writing for that audience, however I welcome an educated debate regarding their opinions on suffering.

Those who know me personally understand my daily battle; an endless battle for sleep, respite and time, that I have endured for over a decade. A friend of mine who is also a single parent of a special needs child told me about five years back that she was reading a book on suffering. Five years ago at what could be considered a lull in my plight I questioned the severity of the word. Perhaps I was in denial that we were indeed in a state of perpetual suffering and difficulty. In fact, I know I was in denial and it was not until as of late that now I understand. She was trying to make sense of the situation. She was probably questioning the same God and asking the same questions.

Beauty for ashes. We would sing a song that talked about beauty for ashes in my church in Boston. I must admit that since then God has given me beauty for ashes in so many different ways. He shows me His grace and wraps me tight in His arms just when I need Him the most.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

BE WEAK

Moving. I am tired of moving. I am forced to admit that though I have moved three times to three different states within the last seven years, I am now forced to stay in this place and change my state of mind. Staying put is difficult for me. It is EASY for me to leave. Perhaps it is because I worked so hard to get to this place that God is requiring me to sweat it out for a bit. Maybe it is because I was forced and had little choice in the matter. Whatever the case, I am moving only a few miles away in the same town. Sometimes it is difficult to stay in the same physical location but change your mindset. Hopefully, I will perfect this over the next year and gain new insight on what it means to BE STILL. If I do, perhaps He will let me move again LOL.

In the book of Psalms, God commands the people of Israel to BE STILL. The word translated “be still” comes from the Hebrew term raphah. Ironically, the term raphah actually means to “be weak.” Why would God command one to “be weak”? The act of “Being Still”, or not moving requires one to “be weak”, or resign thyself to God’s will. It requires submission; true submission. Such submission cannot take place when you (I) are in the process of moving. “BE WEAK and know that I am God.” Let the church say Amen.

Resignation

“For I know the plans that I have towards you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Dear God,

Thank you for the future that you have planned for me. It is even better than the one that I have imagined for myself. I am grateful and overwhelmed by your love and grace towards me. I cannot write the script that you have for my life. Therefore I resign myself from the position. This change is effective immediately.

Best Regards,

Eraina

Technically the definition of resignation is to give up one’s position. For some, resigning your will to God’s will is a declaration of defeat. In regards to the above scripture however it appears that one gains a future and a hope. When you resign your personal position, you gain prosperity and safety from God. It appears to be a winning formula: resignation = success. This however is easier said then done. Giving God your resignation letter is difficult and requires a full commitment. However, the rewards are endless. There is no other resignation that would offer such benefits: Health, financial freedom, and security.

I think I will draft the above resignation and turn it in ASAP.