Saturday, September 26, 2009

Get Lost.

Yeah, I admit it, I need to get some glasses. I should see an eye doctor and get something stronger than the dollar store reading specs that I use to read and use my computer. And I do tend to get turned around when I'm trying to find an unfamiliar place. But add up driving in the dark, not having a decent pair of glasses, and being late to a volunteer job early on a Saturday morning, and you have the perfect recipe for a real problem.

I've been to this location before, a few months ago. I was supposed to be there by 7:00 AM, and I got there a few minutes late because I got turned around. But I thought I remembered how to get there this time, and I had a printed set of directions from Map Quest. So, I wasn't in a hurry this morning, when I pulled out of the parking lot at 5:55 AM for what was supposed to be a 45 minute drive. You'd think I'd know better by now, considering my history, but once again I blithely set out on my way. Without pre-reading my printed directions. Big mistake.

So, I'm tooling along on I-40, and realize that I haven't made a mental note of my first exit number. So, I turn on my dome light (mistake #1), and pick up my directions to check the exit number (mistake #2). As usual, when the light is dim, small print is a bit of a blur, glasses or not. So, I'm driving, and trying to read my map, and of course, I misread the number. Is it 303? 306, 308? I thought it said 303, and made my exit, thinking I was making pretty good time. But several minutes later, I looked at the signs and started to see familiar road names. Wait a minute, what?

Much to my surprise, I had managed to get myself completely turned around! I was actually heading back toward the part of Raleigh I live in! And of course, time is ticking away, and I had to get turned around and try again. Which I did. And made the very same wrong exit.

By this time, I was thoroughly upset, and it was almost 6:30. Due at my volunteer work at 7. I was now driving very fast, though thankfully on a part of I-40 where the speed limit is 70 mph. When I turned around the second time, in a different place, I finally managed to find the proper exit, recognizing a landmark from my previous trip. And got to my work at 7:10.

Alrighty, boys and girls. What is the moral of the story here, other than the fact that I need to bite the bullet and buy new glasses?

Know, and plan for your flaws. I am a person that has a problem finding my way around without a map, or a guide. So, was I smart to try to make a 45 minute drive at 6 AM on a Saturday morning, without figuring out my route in advance? Nope. When all else fails, read the directions. Know what they say.

Let me repeat that last line again: READ THE DIRECTIONS. Whether it's a road map to a strange town, the steps on how to make a cake, or a manual on how to repair your car, reading the instructions tends to make your life easier. Read up. Ask others. Find out what you don't know from someone who does. Get a guide. A friend. A GPS. Why get lost if you don't have to?

And this applies to a lot of things in life. As a Christian, I know that I don't know everything about what I need to know in life. But God has supplied a lot of the information I need, if I'm willing to take the time to study, think, and ask for directions. I don't have to wander around the back roads, worried that I'm going to be late, and that I'm running low on gas, right?

And neither do you, believe me.

I really do think I'm going to get my eyesight checked. And I'm going to read my directions before I find myself on I-40 going in the opposite direction than the one I planned. How about you?

Your (somewhat confused, but finally found) sis,

Darcyjo

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To-do list.

It's Wednesday, I survived my three exams in my classes yesterday, and it's time to get a few more things done. But which ones? And where do I start?

The apartment is looking a bit of a mess. I live in a studio apartment here in graduate student housing at NC State, (I'm an undergrad, but being 49 does occasionally have its good points!), and it's just a wee bit small. In one room, I have a mini kitchen, my enormous desk, a twin-size bed, a love seat and a reading chair. And there's stuff on every flat surface right now. I need to do the dishes, clean the bathroom, run a load of laundry, and clear my desk before an avalanche of books and papers slides onto the keyboard. I need to vacuum, and I need to wipe dust off the bookshelves. In other words, I need to totally clean this place before one of my classmates shows up on Friday morning to work on an assignment with me. Sigh......

Then there's the class stuff. I need to read chapters in four of my five textbooks, taking notes as I go. I need to type out an assignment to be posted on a class website, go to the library website and start researching treatment methods for borderline personality disorder, and write out flashcards for this coming week's vocabulary words in espaƱol. That's actually a shorter list than usual, but it's still going to eat up some time.

Add to this my work over at my church. I'm one of the people who are working as staff for our current Alpha series, and Wednesday is the day we run it. So, I need to head over there this afternoon and set up tables, get prepared for serving dinner, set up the book table, and make sure that the volunteers know what they need to know and do. There's the band rehearsal on Saturday, some cleaning of the building to get done, and some volunteer work I've signed up for in Smithfield this weekend.

Finally, and just as important as everything else, there are things that I need to do for myself. I need to take a walk so I can get some exercise and blow the cobwebs out of my brain. I need to spend some time in the scriptures and prayer every day, and a lot of days I don't get there. I need to work on my applications for grad school. I need to cook some healthy food and get it in the freezer for those many nights when I'm exhausted and don't want to cook. And I need to spend time with my friends before I start turning into a hermit that just comes out of my hole to work!

God help me. I know I can do it, I've done it before. But there are times I feel somewhat overwhelmed by my chosen life. I can end up feeling sorry for myself, if I'm not careful. I can get tired and worried, if I'm not careful to remember why I'm doing this. I'm doing this for a reason: I am called to be a person who serves God by serving others. And it's not an easy road! But with God's help and strength, I can do whatever He asks me to do.

So, time to write out today's to-do list. And choose not to let it get to me. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, after all.

Your (persevering) sis,

Darcyjo


Monday, September 21, 2009

Ain't it grand?

There's a suitcase sitting open on a chair, slowly filling up with things for a certain baby girl. Pinks and greens and blues and yellows, blankets and onesies and bibs, with a yellow rubber ducky sitting on top of the stack. Soon, I'll make a quick trip to Denver to deliver them to my sweet J, eldest daughter and mother-to-be. Hey, did I mention I'm about to become a grandmother?

I started my family fairly young. I met my future husband when I was just nineteen, married right before my twenty-first birthday, and by the time I was twenty-three I was a mother twice over. It was a wonderful surprise, actually: I wasn't a girl who dreamed of getting married and having babies, but God had plans for me, and I'm happy with how it turned out. J and C are both now in their mid-twenties, through with their undergraduate work, and are beautiful, talented young women. If you've been around me for a while, you've probably heard me talking about them, and yes, I'm really proud of them both.

So, when I told my friends and family at my church about J becoming a mother, they decided to show how much they loved me (and my beloved J) by throwing a shower! And since J is in Denver and I'm in Raleigh, I got to be the proxy guest of honor. Cool! It's been a good number of years since I've been to a shower, and it was really fun to be inundated by beautiful and useful things for my future granddaughter. (Yes, it's a girl, name as yet to be revealed. I'll get back to you, I promise!)

Y'know what? I am very much loved. This is just another reminder of it.

It never ceases to amaze me, really. I grew up thinking that if I could work hard enough, be good enough, look pretty enough, be religious enough, that I could earn the love I needed. But no matter how hard I tried, it just didn't happen. There was always something I missed, something I didn't do well enough at, a standard beyond my reach. So, after a while, I pretty much gave up on the effort. I knew that I was a Christian, I knew that God had (for some strange reason) accepted me, but I felt like a second-class citizen. Never good enough.

It took Him years to get through to me that I was loved as-is. Not for what I might be someday, not for what I could do for Him, but just for being me. Quirks and all. Sometimes, I get angry, wondering what I did to deserve the bad things, the problems and stresses and griefs of life. But then I remember that I didn't do anything to deserve all the wonderful things I have, either. God is with me through all of it, and I am completely loved, no matter what. As the song says:

When we don't get what we deserve
it's a real good thing (real good thing)
When we get what we don't deserve

it's a real good thing (a real good thing)

Oh, yeah. We get love. Ain't it grand?

Your (well-loved) sis,

Darcyjo

Friday, September 18, 2009

Reprogramming

Y'know, there are days, and there are days. I don't think I need a new computer yet, but I'm starting to wonder....

I'm sure you know how it is. When you get a computer, you get the best you can afford, for what you need it for. I'm a student, so I need to be able to create papers and Powerpoint presentations, and I need to be able to search the internet for information for those very things. I spend time online talking to my friends, so I need to be able to load pages fast enough to keep up with conversations, and run my (everlasting) Scrabble games. I love books and music, so I shop for them online. I have an enormous external hard drive just for my music collection, so I need to be able to run iTunes while doing other things. In other words, I don't need a top-of-the-line rig, but it needs to move fast enough to keep up. And lately, well, I'm seeing that wonderful little icon that we Mac users jokingly call "the spinning beach ball of death". She's running slower and slower, and even though I've ran software on her that is supposed to do things like clean out my caches, she's still creeping on me. ARGH!

When my little Mac Mini was new, she ran like the wind. But I've had her for what, four years now? And web content takes more and more from a computer to run. Think of it like this: You want to fill up a jug with water, but it's coming out of a fire hydrant. So, you either need a big-mouthed jug, or something that will help you channel that water into your jug, like a funnel. Right now, the poor lil' mini is having trouble keeping up with the data flow! So, it's time to consider something important: do I take the Mini over to the Apple store to see if they can do what my software couldn't, and make it run faster again, or do I get another computer?

I've had work done on my previous Mac, a second generation iMac, one of those candy colored rigs that looked like retro TVs. And I've learned to respect the ability of a good technician to know what makes my 'puter tick. Unlike yours truly, they know what a computer is supposed to be able to do, and what to do when it decides that it doesn't want to do it anymore. I've watched my previous tech guy work a keyboard like a virtuoso pianist, and in minutes have it acting like it just came out of the box. A good tech guy knows computers. And whether it means clearing out the junk that has collected over the last several years, updating software to the latest version, or opening up the case to add more memory, the right tech guy's expertise means the difference between a computer that works poorly and a system that operates just the way the designer meant it to.

Funny, but that makes me think of how my life goes sometimes. Sometimes, I'm a little bit like my Mac. When all goes the way it's supposed to, I run very well, thank you. I can handle my schoolwork, my relationships with other people, my work, my music, and make it all look easy. But sometimes, I start to bog down. Earlier programming, things that I learned years ago, start to make me move slower and slower. I hear "you can't do that", and "are you sure you're smart enough?", and "nobody else has the time to help you". I start to feel like my load is impossible to carry, and stagger under the weight of it all. I can't do it anymore.

But that's not how my Maker put me together. I was created, designed, made for incredible things. And sometimes, I need to have the old programming deleted, the new programming put in its place. When I've bogged down to the point that I can't go on, the things that slow me down need to be removed. When I feel like I'm not able to handle the load, I need to allow myself to be helped to carry it.

This can be tough, sometimes. I want to think I can do it all on my own. But that's not how I was designed. I need help, and I need to admit it to God, my friends, and myself. And with the help of God and my friends, I can do this. I can be what I was made to be.

And I can hardly wait to see how it's going to turn out.

Your (work in progress) sister,

Darcyjo

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It doesn't take much...


Once, a friend of mine commented (after watching me crack up over something pretty juvenile) "It doesn't take much to amuse you, does it?" To be honest, actually, no. It doesn't take much to make me laugh, make me happy, make me smile. And it comes in pretty handy sometimes, know what I mean?

I have two days a week where I spend 10 hours on campus, either in class taking lecture notes, or between classes reading one of my five textbooks. One day out of the week, I have an evening Bible study at my church (currently we're doing the Alpha course, but more on that soon!), Saturday I have band rehearsal and my one and only cleaning job, and Sunday I'm at my church from 7:30 am till 12:30, either working in one of our services or helping set up/break down. So, what with that, studying, all the chores that a single person has, and anything else that just might come up and need doing, my time for fun can sometimes be somewhat limited.

Yet, I can, and do, find time for fun.

Example: I took Friday off this week, and spent the entire day reading. Not a textbook. Not something serious, but two unassigned books! Cover to cover! Utter joy! One was the third book in a fantasy trilogy, Toby Bishop's "Airs of Night and Sea", the other was Max Brooks' "World War Z". One, a somewhat "horse and her girl" young adult book, the other a fascinatingly gory look at a "zombie apocalypse". Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum, right? But, books are FUN! And I always have several books in progress, one tucked in my purse, one in my truck for odd moments of free time.

Sometimes, I go on day hikes. I put on my boots, pack a lunch and a couple of water bottles, and take one of our local trails for several hours, just to get away. Green trees, a rushing stream with a heron fishing in it, the sounds of birds and squirrels, and peace! Eventually, I hope to take another crack at a major route like the Appalachian Trail, but in the meantime there's always shorter alternatives like Company Creek just down the road from my apartment. Fun doesn't have to be loud or expensive, y'know?

Among the many things I do online, I play Scrabble with my friends at Facebook. Yes, I'm one of them, one of those middle-aged people that have invaded FB, and I not only use it to keep track of my friends, I use it to play. Of course, several of my opponents are incredibly good, and I get creamed on a regular basis, but it's still fun to me! I also spend time chatting with friends, reading blogs and interesting articles, and writing.

Finally, and best of all, my friends make me smile. Between my online buddies (and you know who you are!) and my North Carolina crew, I have the best friends I could ever hope for! I've known some of the online gang for many years now, and we've shared both hard times and good ones together. Some, like my friend Denny, have become face-to-face friends. And no matter how far apart we may be, whether it be England or Australia, we share our joys with each other, God bless 'em all!

My friends here, well, are one of my very best blessings, as well as my biggest source of fun. We chat about almost anything you can imagine, play everlasting games of Scrabble, sing together, go out for occasional dinners, and share all the amazing hopes and dreams that God has sent our way. They know my quirks (most of 'em, anyway!), and I know theirs. I can be me, and they can be who they are. I love it!

So, my friends, what makes you happy? What makes you laugh? What do you do for fun, and who do you love to be with? Today, look at all your joys, and thank God for 'em!

Your (easily amused) sister,

Darcyjo




Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Only you, kid, ONLY you...


The entrance is still a bit sticky, and my tiny studio apartment smells like laundry detergent. But I think I managed to get it all off the floor. I hope.

Yep, it's another "only you" moment. I had just finished two week's worth of laundry, after running short on socks. I was putting some cleaning rags into my little storage closet, accidentally nudged the bag with the Wisk in it, and it fell. Upside down. Shattering the top, shoving the remains into the inside of the bottle, and allowing it to pour all over my vacuum cleaner. I stood there for a moment, stunned, as the blue goo oozed all over the tile......then frantically took all of my freshly washed cleaning rags and mopped it up, while trying not to get stabbed by the fragments of plastic in the mess. I think I managed to keep from muttering anything I wouldn't want overheard.

This, ladies and gents, is my life in a nutshell. I am, for the most part, a reasonably happy woman. Lots of good things happen in my life, no doubt about it. But I attract moments like this like a dog attracts fleas. Never anything that would really get me hurt, never anything that would cause real problems, but I have had more than my share of moments that look like reruns of "I Love Lucy". And I've managed to provide my friends and relations with many a laugh over the years. (See, I knew there had to be a good reason for all this!)

When I drop something important, it goes in the one spot I can't reach without heavy equipment. (My one and only pancake turner is currently behind my immovable stove.) I have been sprayed by innumerable bottles and cans, mostly when I'm wearing white. If I'm carrying something heavy, stand back, you don't want it to be your foot. (Mine? I'm used to it at this point!) I attract poison ivy, fire ants, stray dogs, rolling shopping carts in parking lots, and an inebriated guy on Hillsborough Street that thought I needed a hug! And when I have problems with my truck, well, it's the interesting kind. My engine likes to rev up all by itself. I have windshield wipers that turn on and off on hot days. And I managed to freeze my TIRES to a parking spot on the day I needed to go see a foot doctor....twenty minute walk on an injured foot, anyone?

I can't even manage to get mad properly! Once, when I was thoroughly annoyed with my family for not noticing something nice I had done, I was stomping through the snow. You guessed it, I hit a patch of ice with my left foot and down I went....feeling my ankle twist backwards and sideways at the same time! After a good six weeks with my sprained ankle in an air cast while trying to continue my housecleaning job, I came to the conclusion that it was a bad idea to get that mad.

But if this little talent of mine has a good side, it's that it has helped me to develop a sense of humor. Let me illustrate for you.

Last summer, I spent a week on my very first major hike: fifty miles on the Appalachian Trail. As an adult staffer for a youth group, yet. It was an incredible week, even though I am a tremendously slow hiker and was outdistanced every day by most of the group. I managed to get bug bitten, sunburned, exhausted, and lost five toenails. (No, not immediately, it took several months...oh, never mind, I'll explain some other time!) But the most interesting things was (you guessed it) falling off the trail. Yep.

I was on a narrow stretch of switchbacks with a young lady hiker, using a hiking staff to keep my balance, and making good time. Since we were in heavy tree cover, there were a lot of leaves on the ground, and sometimes it was hard to see what was firm trail and what was a pile of leaves. And yes, I didn't see it coming. I put the tip of my staff on the edge of the trail thinking it was firm ground.....and lost my balance. Down I went. (I can remember, as I fell, thinking something like "ooops.") I rolled, pack and all, about 15 feet till I hit a tree. With my pack, not my head, thank the dear Lord! Didn't even hurt, with all the leaves.

My hiking partner was a bit perturbed, of course. I managed to calm her down, then crawl back up the incline to the trail, all the while laughing at myself. All I got out of it was a small scratch on my left shoulder, and leaves in my hair. Oh, and another story to tell, of course

Y'know, God is good. I'm still in one piece after all these years. But I do tend to have days where one of my friends, after witnessing another of my little incidents, will roll their eyes and say "only you, Darcy, only you."

Anyone else have a story to tell? I'd love to hear it, if you'd like to share a laugh with me!

Your (bruised but amused) sis,

Darcyjo

Friday, September 4, 2009

You know it just ain't easy...


¿Hablas espaƱol?

With those two words, you now know what my most difficult subject in school is. Right now, anyway. Spanish is a lot of hard, continuous work, and for some reason that bothers me.

Why, you might ask? After all, I'm taking four, count 'em, FOUR psychology courses, two of them 400 level (read "senior", all of you who haven't been here yet), and I'm not whining about them even though I'm reading and writing like mad to get through them with good grades. Yet, Spanish is the one subject that makes me start sweating at the very word "examen". Yep, yesterday was my first chapter exam, on chapter 10 of my brand-new book.

But why does Spanish worry me so? One simple reason: I have to really work hard at it.

I know some of you are laughing now. I'd be laughing too, it it was someone else. But here's the deal: when I first went back to school, several years ago, I was worried sick about being able to handle it. I didn't know how to write a paper, I didn't know how to use a lot of the functions on a computer, I hadn't taken a class since I had graduated from high school in 1977! And yet, once I got started, I learned how to handle it all. As a matter of fact, much to my surprise, I was actually pretty good at it! So, I got pretty decent grades, and held down a full-time job while going to school part-time. I found that I could write fairly well, understand the reading I was having to do, and really enjoy my classes. Wonderful!

Then I found out that I would have to pass the intermediate level of a foreign language to graduate from any university in the UNC system, so I chose Spanish. Easy, right? It's a language spoken by quite a number of people in this part of the country, and I didn't have to learn a new alphabet. Yeah, easy. Till the first day of my first class, when I realized that everyone else in my beginning class had taken at least one other class before that one. And I started to have to struggle to keep up.

So, here I am, in intermediate Spanish, a class I will have to pass to graduate, and I'm already working hard to keep up with my (half my age) classmates. And sweating it out. WHY? Because I'm having to WORK at it! Instead of having fun writing interesting papers and getting into cool discussions in my class (like the vast majority of my classes since I went back to school), I am writing notes as fast as I can, and trying to understand a textbook that might as well be in Greek. ¡Ay, Dios mio!

And yet, as much as I'd rather be in a class that I can have fun in, I need to do this one. This is part of my requirement to graduate, and I need to just go ahead on and study. Sometimes, I'm a bit spoiled by the fact that I can get decent grades in a lot of subjects without spending every spare moment curled up with a textbook. Sometimes, I have to remember that good things don't always come easy.

A couple of weeks ago, I was again reminded of that very fact. I received a note from someone I knew a long time ago, when I was a teenager.

I was a pretty awkward kid back then. I liked books better than I did people, but I hated school because I didn't fit in, and everybody knew it. Like a lot of kids, I endured a lot of bullying, a lot of pain. Without going into unnecessary details, I'll just say that it was the grace of God that brought me through those years, and into a happy life as an adult. It's not a time that I've spent a lot of time thinking about in the last couple of decades, by my own choice.

So when this note showed up, I was more than a little surprised at the fact that she wanted to say she was sorry for her part in those years. And even more surprised by the fact that I was feeling upset. In all those years, I had never honestly realized that I hadn't forgiven the kids who had made my life so unhappy, I had just managed to stuff it down and forget about it. But it was still there, deep inside me, waiting for a chance to reemerge over thirty years later.

So, it's time for me to do another hard thing: forgive people who wronged me, even though we have been separated by an entire continent and thirty years. Yeah, this is tough. It is hard work for me to let this pain go, to forgive, and to let the wounds heal that shaped a portion of what I became as an adult. But if I run away from it, as I have many times before and with many other people, I will only harm myself. When God commands that we forgive, it's for our own good, so that we can heal and grow towards what we have been created to be, and not be mired down by anger and grief over our past. I can't pretend that it doesn't need to be done, just because it's tough. It is necessary, that's all I really need to know.

So, folks, it's back to work. With the help of God, my friends and my family, I can do hard things. Whether they involve a textbook or not.

¡Gracias a Dios!

Your hardworking sister,

Darcyjo