Duty, Mission, Vocation, Work: Calling

It has been said before by others, and me that one of the greatest benefits to being single is the flexibility this lifestyle affords. However with all of that flexibility, comes another challenge, that of having too many options! Because there are so many options in life for career, schooling, and even places to live, from Vietnam to Venice Beach California, with Cedar Rapids Iowa in the middle. Our culture is such now that we don’t have to stay on the family farm and help milk the cows, raise the younger siblings, and pluck the chicken for dinner.

In our mobile world, we can sell all we own and travel the world, or move to the mountains of Montana and run an E-business. We can move to Silicon Valley to make our millions or become a commercial fisherman and sea boat captain in Maine.

With all of these choices and everything in between, it can lead to some confusion and wonder what they should do with their lives. Sometimes all of these choices can become overwhelming to the point we find an option and just stick with it – even if it is not the best choice for us. We can sometimes get “comfortable” in our selection, to the point where we stunt our growth and become stagnant in our lives.

Precious few it would seem come out of the womb “knowing what they want to do when they grow up” and lead their lives in pursuit of said knowledge. Others it would seem are “called” to their respective professions. Pastors for instance often recount the time when they were “called to preach”. Not everyone is so fortunate.

While I definitely do not feel called to preach, I do feel as though I have been called to write. It is an itch in the hand, a desire of the heart. At times, words seem to fall from my fingers as leaves from the old oak trees in autumn. At times, it is my hope that my words, like seeds in a garden, grow into memorial flowers in the lives of others. At times, it is just for me.

Recently, I had the opportunity to once again present for the Breathe Writers Conference Blog on the topic of “What it means to you to be called to write” so without further ado, if you feel so inclined, here is my “calling”:

“As the west wind blows – so is the rambling flow of verse from the heart of mine, to the gaze of you.

Perhaps, I was too young to understand, but I remember in elementary school our class was having a writing workshop and how badly I wanted to submit something (I don’t remember if there was a prize included or not.) Truth be told, I don’t even remember if I submitted anything for the exercise. But I am pretty sure that was my initial call to become a writer. Never before had I such a burning desire to do anything, besides of course, going to Disney World.

Later, astride my 10-speed bicycle, as I was practicing for the pursuit of my dream of becoming a professional cyclist, and despite my cluelessness on how to make that happen, I wrote what would become the first of many poems. I would later come to call them “cryptic, lyrical messages” as many were written as a tide of emotion rushing to fill a causeway. This, I believe, was the clarion call, the moment when I discovered I could write and at times the velocity at which I had to write in order to catch the thought before it disseminated, disintegrated into nothing. All the more shoring up any disbelief, this was something I must do.

My hope had always been that my poetry might appear in a high school literature textbook, finding a resting place with some of the younger generations. I was fairly certain that they might find identity, solace or perhaps consolation of not being alone in their feelings.

Now, I am the voice behind the WordPress blog “Single slice of cheese” hoping to find a lodging place in the hearts and minds of others like me who are of the single side of the coin. It is my aim here to share the anguish, joy and other array of emotions that come with this state of life. I share from my life thoughts and ideas on a variety of topics. I look at this as more than a cathartic exercise, I hope it provides comfort like a warm blanket or perhaps an insight or even an “aha moment”. I am looking to give a voice, to the often unspoken.

 

Little old ladies, clutter and minimalism

We’re about to embark upon the most harried shopping days of the year, and the question then becomes, why? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good gift, and I truly love giving them – mainly because I am usually really good at it! I did fail my sister recently, but she’s also known for being rather hard to please. Alas, brush the dust off and roll on.

Wouldn’t we be better off if we spent less money and time at the mall or on our computers and invested that same amount of time in each other? Having worked in retail, I saw the amount of money spent and the worn out and weary faces, the anger of not being able to find “Tickle Me Elmo” or a “Furby”.  Items that are now probably either in the landfill or the second hand store. But did they really make a difference in the other persons life?

Recently, the pendulum swung between the two extremes, more and less. The less came as I was speaking with an elderly friend who had just moved, and the direction of conversation migrated towards minimalism.  She sounded absolutely tuckered out and emotionally exhausted after “simply” moving across town. She was downsizing from a two-bedroom apartment to a single room. She mentioned how much we seem to accumulate without realizing it over the course of time, and truly, I could not agree more. I have never been one to jump on the “green” bandwagon, but of late, I have been thinking more and more, “Wow, there is A LOT of junk in the world! SO much STUFF… I am not exempt from this world of want and junk… but I kinda want to be!

As I was wandering through Barnes and Nobel later in the day, the idea of consumerism slapped me (hard) in the face as the pendulum swung to the other side. I looked at more books than I could read in a lifetime; especially when one considers 1. How slow a reader I am and 2. Just before I started writing this, I was reading a book I bought some time ago and with it, got about 3 pages into it before I decided I HAD to write! (Writing is like breathing for me…) I know I need to read in order to become a better writer, but that’s more like eating – something I can take or leave until I get desperate!

Here is where it gets interesting, I am single and therefore my income can go for whatever, I deem “necessary”. With this being said, today, I could have bought the book I was reading; the notebook I coveted and a Thanksgiving card for a friend, just because. But then where would I be, besides about $45 dollars lighter and have more clutter to deal with?

As I was chatting with my friend, all I could think about was how the poor woman sounded as though she needed a hug after moving her life and belongings. Her “things” could not and would not provide any true comfort. In fact, they were causing her distress, to the point of tears, as she could not remember where various items were in the upheaval from the move.

Of late, I am finding the more stuff I have, the more I want to run away from it! Therefore, I think I am going to start by organizing my clothes into sections, one for sleepwear, one to give away, and then dress and casual clothes. I am thinking, I might even write each piece down per season, and then see what I actually wear and how many times, throughout the season. That way, the items which were not chosen to be worn, can be re-homed and hopefully put to good and practical use.  If nothing else, it would be an excellent exercise in inventory management – a.k.a. resume fodder; I’m a writer, I can make it work!

In the end, I think we should all hug more little old ladies, build stronger relationships with those we know and those we would like to know and spend less time shopping for more clutter!

Golden Contentment

IMG_4523Sometimes a word will be repeated in different contexts and conversations, to the point where it makes one perk up and take notice. Of late, that word has been contentment.

I think this word has been used in conjunction with, or in place of, complacent, or possibly even apathetic. Don’t look at me too funny, before reading what I mean by this!

Sometimes we come to a point in life that resembles contentment, a resignation can take place and we can convince ourselves that we are content with our situation whatever it may be. It can become dangerous, if we become content in something that is not good for us. Sometimes we get stuck in relationships or jobs that are not well suited for us, or us for them – and we think we’re content, when in reality; we’re either complacent or worse apathetic.

A true state of contentment is a desirous, not a disastrous thing. Sometimes, I think contentment gets a bad rap because we wrap it with the other adjectives above. We think that if we become content, we become “stagnant” or “stuck” that there is no longer any room for movement. We must remember a state of contentment is not a stairway to a pinnacle, or even a point of arrival.

Rather, I believe it to be a state of flux, one where we can say, despite what is going on in life, I am choosing this day to be okay with my state of being. For instance, I am single, and at times I would like to be married, only, I don’t want to be in a marriage that kills me slowly. I could as some have suggested, go online to any random dating site and find some desperate soul, hook up with them, and learn to be “content” with them as my life long choice. Wouldn’t it be better though, to make the best of where I am, to find a modicum of contentment in singledom, rather than bringing another into the mix and try to get them to conform to me?

Truly, I think contentment has a lot to do with being adaptable, able to swing and sway with whatever life throws our way…I know someone will be asking even death or disease? To which I would answer, no one should ever be content with death, as it was never intended for the human race, yet in the same breath, it is part of the “life cycle”. Same with disease, that was never part of the original plan, yet, despite hardships, much can be learned in times of trial.

Recently, I have been dealing with this very issue; I love and live with two late octogenarians, who sadly, are advancing closer towards the inevitable. As hard as it is to watch this slow progression, I have two choices. I can either be content with the time we have and make the most of it, or I can grow bitter at the perceived injustice of it all, and lose any strides towards the goal of contentment, and happiness of the moment.

Alas, I truly think the only way we can find true contentment, is in surrender. That is not to say, “We throw up our hands and give up”, rather it is to give all our cares to the One who cares for us. Some who read this may not be of the Christian persuasion and thus would be looking for a state of “Zen” or “Nirvana” a state of being “in the bubble” or perhaps the “zone”.

Whatever you choose to call it, I think we’re all searching for this state. This place where we feel safe, happy, and hopefully loved too. So who wants to as one of my favorite songs says, “join the joyride”?

 

Choices…

fullsizeoutput_f65Living with the elderly, is not for the faint of heart…

One of my favorite movies, “Redwood Highway” deals in a small part with an adult child making a life altering decision for his mother. In the movie, the son put his aging mother into an assisted living community, she is NOT happy with his decision in the least. From the portrayal of her fitness in the film, one would have to agree, he made a rather hasty decision. While that is not the central theme, it bears reference as I feel I am wading into a new arena, making decisions for them who used to make mine.

It’s definitely an adjustment, trying to navigate from having decisions made for me, to being the one making the “adult” decisions.

Recently, I had to make such a decision; one that would indirectly affect me as it was regarding my father. He was scheduled to have a procedure done at the large University Hospital – one that might improve his quality of speech, or on the other hand, it might be of no value. My part in this was “do I voice my concerns, or do I stay silent?”

Here is where it got me…I had come home late in the afternoon from being out and he was still sitting at the dining room table – this was not terribly unusual, but what was, is that he had not finished his breakfast of two slices of toast. My mom had a nice dinner in the oven and our late lunch would soon be ready. He had been sounding “rough” over the last few days and perhaps this was the pinnacle, though one never really knows with another person how they’re truly feeling. He simply said he was feeling “blah”.

When dinner was served and he barely picked at something he normally eats with great gusto, I became more concerned. The procedure would have taken place in his throat, and as physically weak as he has been of late, I did not want to risk his not eating more than a bite or two because of pain, and thus growing weaker; with his already lackluster stamina.

Part of me wondered if I was being overly dramatic in this line of thinking, or if I was truly acting on the side of caution as I chose to voice my concerns. For reasons I cannot explain, both times, I was supposed to take him in the late fall and winter months, I was filled with apprehension about the trip; no matter how I much I tried to tell myself it would be okay. Both times something happened to prevent our travels. The first was a semi jackknifing in front of us taking out a pickup truck in its wake. The second was a fall or rather a slide onto the floor – a position from which he was not able to right himself.

For a while, I was questioning whether or not I had made the right choice in presenting my concerns regarding the upcoming trip to the University. Later as I was processing the events of the day, I realized it was not so much the decision I was questioning, rather, I was dealing more with the emotional side of the fact, all clocks wind down eventually. In large part, I think, in my limited capacity, I was trying to slow that inevitable winding down.  In the end, I know I made the right and best choice – but my question remains, does this ever get any easier?

Verde, Viridian: Green

Green is often associated with jealousy, money, and environmentalism, but what pray tell does it have to do with singledom? Not a lot, I suppose, although, it’s said to be a “calming color” and sometimes, I can get so wound up in my single track thinking that I could use a bit of natural calm.img_5765.jpg

One of the greatest struggles I find in my singledom is that of jealousy. At times, I feel jealous of my married friends as they virtually always have someone with whom to share the adventure of the day. They have someone to lean against when winds of life are blowing and tempests swell…

Yet, much strength can be found in independence.

I have an unusual fascination with green pond scum, I enjoy “shooting it” with my iPhone SE… as a young girl, my family would often visit my aunt’s home along the Grand River. On one side of the street is the river and on the other is swamp land. On those stagnant waters, would often grow a type of algae.  Since her road is gravel, I found much delight in throwing stones into those waters, poking holes in the green layer.

As a single adult, I too can grow a green layer if I become stagnant in my thinking, and then I need someone or even an internal check up to “throw some rocks” into the green and poke holes into my faulty thinking.

The  question keeps arising, can faulty thinking be beneficial? Meaning, my thick green algae layer that needs to have holes poked into it from time to time – can it be of benefit? In part, I think it can. When we have the courage to be vulnerable, to express what we’re thinking, how we’re feeling, this can help to forge a greater, deeper bond with another. A trusted friend or advisor. The trouble is when this becomes an invasive and pervasive species on the pond of life, chocking out other forms of life and eventually our lives as well.

What we need is balance; standing in the middle of the teeter totter, barrel or log running down the river, break dancing without breaking any bones. Still waters may run deep, but they also tend to turn green…and not into magical bean stalks that reach the sky, rather the bottom feeders and the bottom of life leading to strife. May this lovely color not lead us thusly, rather let it lead us to the rich promised land of feeding others a rich, healthy dose of magnesium and other healing minerals.

(Fun fact, chlorophyll and hemoglobin (blood) are of the same make up – only one requires magnesium and the other iron for optimum health) so our “greens” can be healthy – in moderation! Let’s go eat a salad!

Azure, Cerulean, Cyan, Indigo: Blue(s)

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To this list, I would add no “blues” about being single!

The “bad blues” are a stealer and a thief of joy.  Though, like horses, they are sometimes difficult to keep at bay and they may sneak up on us like a Prius that didn’t see us… HAHAHAHA, sorry, bad rhyme…

Life is an interesting pendulum…

One of the greatest benefits and potential disappointments of singledom, is being unattached. That is not to say we don’t have great relationships, friendships or other ties in life, rather, we are as they say “footloose and fancy free”. We can travel at the drop of a hat, quit a job and pick up another without the common worries of having to provide beyond our own means. At current, I am in such a state of flux. I do not have a full time job anymore, which in many ways limits how far I can spread my wings, but it then provides other opportunities as well.

Today for instance, I went on a “wild goose chase” of an interview – I will spare you the details, but the upshot was when I walked into the recruiting office, I knew something was amiss and it was not the place for me. I walked back out without a word and proceeded to have the most GLORIOUS morning! I drove from Allendale, which is in the middle of nowhere – actually, it’s about half way between the Great Lake Michigan and the “big city” of Grand Rapids.  Since it’s of little relevance unless you’re a student at GVSU, I am going to bid it adieu, and proceed with my original tale for you.

Along my winding trail is where this tale of singledom was borne out. First, I was simply going to take the road, that if taken to it’s logical end, would lead to the Grand River; and head back west again on another winding road to Grand Haven proper. Once there, I was planning on a “boring” day of finding breakfast and probably walking the shores of Lake Michigan, taking a picture or two of the lighthouse etc.

Instead, I continued north, to the end and turned left. There, I was greeted by the most beautiful, still, serene, Great Blue Heron blending majestically against the swamp scum, reeds and branches. (I “shot” him with my iphone SE). From there, I wandered a bit more past a home I once considered haven of interesting treasures and its sand pile that once served for endless hours of entertainment. Sadly, it has long succumbed to the force of wind and weeds.  Now, the once haven has become a clutter castle, it’s once fine maiden, now IMG_5684a lonely spinster and spinner of tales. A little further up the road, the serenity continued in a marina bedding down for the winter.

My day continued in a wonderful fashion of finding interesting scenes along the way. A bright blue bicycle tied to a pole, behind a tenement, along a railroad

Beautiful Blu

track, a cafe worth writing home about, time and peace in a library, time to enjoy all that life has to bring. Time, as my 7th grade geography teacher once told me, “to smell the roses”.

I just noted, how “blue” a day this was, not blue in the boo hoo sort of way, rather, blue as in beautiful blue bird, blue sky, blue bicycle. Too bad the only blue roses are those of the artificial variety.  Alas, what is one to do? I suppose artificial blue roses are like the moments of life when the sugar melts and you’re left with a mess… Until the next mess, I am off to roam, wander and see what color I can expound upon next! In the interim, be swell, y’all…don’t let the sugar melt without good reason and don’t get caught up in the treasonous thoughts of I am less because of my singleness… (Preachin’ to the choir here!)
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Thanksgiving – Part 1

DISCLAIMER! I am not sure this post will have much to do with the general topic of “Singledom” yet, it’s still a day we all have the choice to either, enjoy, endure, or otherwise survive! (Or perhaps even a combination of all the above?)

I also don’t know if it will have more parts than this or not – but you have been warned!

It’s true, I am not a fan of Halloween, yet, I find it appropriate (in a way) that it kicks off the “Holiday Season” as we now call it.  I think it’s good we get used to the idea of being scared as we enter the weeks before Thanksgiving.  Truly, we all have “those” relatives who we would prefer to stay relatively far away from…We all have an “Aunt Batty” who has a few bats in her belfry.  Then we have the endless varieties of cranberry sauce, jello, relish or salad, how do you which one you have? Some of which can be quite tart in their presentation.

Alas, I am trying to be a little tart in my presentation above, as I ran across something today as I was trying to decide what on earth to do with an old journal. The one in question had about 35 of the 180 +/- pages written on and one of the earlier entries was based on two people embroiled in complaining about food. Ironically enough, the food in question was that from a Thanksgiving dinner presented by a local church.

The journal entry was never finished, but I think it holds some truth and “interesting” points…without further ado, here is the entry entitled,  “The longest two miles” (November 2009)

“Recently, I attended a dinner at a local church. Mind you, those who ran the dinner had no culinary background & had a limited budget to boot.

The trouble with living in the land of plenty, is that it leaves plenty of room for complaint. We are very spoiled here, I can go to the cupboard & choose from 16 varieties of cereal; never mind that I don’t like 1/2 of them.

It’s quite possible all 16 varieties have been opened and sampled and are now ever closer to their expiration date. Which brings me to my next point, the church dinner, while not the greatest, definitely had the main ingredient – Love.

Those who comprised the complaints during the longest two miles were those closest to their natural expiration dates.”

Thankfully, the complainants have not reached their “natural expiration dates” and looking back, I am not sure what that sentence really had to do with anything I had written previously. Other than perhaps, that they should have known better than to complain about a “free meal”, one they did not have to prepare…I know my motivation for having them attend the dinner was more than just a night out.  It was their focus afterwards which saddened me; I was hoping they would have picked up on more than the mashed potatoes were packaged and thus not “real”.

I think, my motivation for writing that was how “un-thankful” we can be, especially around a day we have specifically set aside for that purpose, in addition to where is our focus? Is it only on what we can see in front of us? Is it on some future event or days of yore? I was hoping they would set their focus off from the food and onto the call of Christ that night, as there is more to this life than analyzing potatoes.

I cannot force, cajole, or otherwise persuade others to receive Christ, or to be thankful, grateful, or otherwise happy, in our dower, materialistically consumed culture. But as a single, solitary person, I am going to make an effort of being “thankful” not only in the weeks to come leading up to Thanksgiving, but until my ‘natural expiration date’.

Perhaps I will keep a running list starting today with one thing I am thankful for and see if I can keep it up for 365 days – until November 4, 2018. I would like to challenge you, my “39 readers” to do the same, and let us make a date to come together on Sunday, November 4. 2018 and compare lists!

Until then, be well, be thankful and don’t expire. Rather INSPIRE others to be thankful!

November Already!?

Wow, where did this year go!?  I think I am ready to say goodbye to 2017, it’s definitely been a wonky year! I am not sure if I am looking forward to Thanksgiving or not…It used to be one of my favorite holidays as my siblings would come home, we would have the aunties and cousins over and it was a great time of family togetherness.

In more recent years though, it seems to becoming a polarizing holiday. Stores are opening on this once traditionally family day to entice us to get our Christmas shopping done before the crowds hit – Black Friday! Our family too, is very scattered and we don’t always make the effort to be together.

The other challenge I find with this day is if seems to be the gateway into the days celebrating coupledom. As an older single adult, this becomes an emotional time. I don’t have children or significant to buy gifts for and while some of my friends and I exchange gifts, it’s not an engrained tradition. I also find this time of year to be the tunnel of togetherness holidays culminating at the ultimate one “Valentines Day”.  To be frank, it’s a very emotional time of year. It seems during the “dark” days of winter, these togetherness days can really take their toll.

However, I would really rather they not take me out completely. I think I am going to try to make a point of calling on people who I know are in a similar boat, trying to add some love and cheer back into the community – rather than getting sucked into the vacuum of loneliness. With that, I am going to start today by making a phone call to someone who can at times, be a bit dower. Here is to being a light at the end of the tunnel!

BREATHE Christian Writers Conference

Hello there! I absolutely love the Breathe Christian Writers Conference, it is a solace to my soul. It is a safe haven for the novice to the novelist in terms of a writing conference. Below is my submission that was very graciously accepted to be featured on their blog, I am BEYOND EXCITED!! To top it all off, I had a wonderful headshot done by a friend of mine, someone whose work and life I admire. She is also a wonderful photographer here in lovely Allegan Michigan. So, should you have a desire to have photos taken for any reason, I would highly recommend my friend Becky Martin! https://www.facebook.com/PhotosByBeckyMartin/

Real Headshot

Alas, here is my submission to the “Breathe CWC!” http://breatheconference.com/home/

Breathe in, breathe out, you are my oxygen…writing; you are life giving to me.

The Breathe conference is almost otherworldly in its provision of sanctuary for the tender writers soul. It’s a time when we come together to share our inmost parts and learn how to present ourselves to the world beyond.

However, for me, something was amiss in the atmosphere this year; the theme “connect to create” was not resonating… You see, connection is a challenge for me; thus I have begun to explore the science of approachability. I have been reading on the topic of making friends and the challenges thereof. One would think at a safe haven such as Breathe, making friends would be as simple as – breathing…?

As I related my reading to my experience at Breathe this year, I could not help but wonder what it was that caused things to feel “amiss” in the atmosphere. Was it because I was too casual? I noted others were more a tad more formal to my wandering around in jeans and a hoodie. Was it as I first noticed, while walking to dinner, because I was wearing two amazingly similar, yet different shoes? (Same style, same fit, different colors!) OOPS!

However, all hope was not lost! Despite not making new outward connections, I did see many familiar faces and I was able to reconnect with the dear friend who first introduced me to the wonders of the Breathe Writers Conference. In spite of what may seem like a “down” time, I made perhaps, the most important connection of all. I truly connected with my inner writer, bringing her to the front, displaying for all the world to see, her hidden works, words and wisdom.

Till next time, keep on “breathing”!

Halloween – BOO!

Hello and thank you for coming back to the “Single Slice of Cheese” blog! I am glad you have decided to return! Tomorrow is the most interesting day of Halloween. Frankly, the allure of this day has worn off for me. When I was younger, I loved going door to door begging for candy by yelling “TRICK OR TREAT” and then adding under my breath “smell my feet, give me something good to eat!”

Much to my dismay, my mother did not subscribe to the idea of buying a cheap vinyl costume and mask to be worn one night during the last week of October. BOO to her is what I thought!

Later, in my teen years, I had MUCH fun filling up my “Super Soaker” squirt gun and knocking on a few choice doors and soaking the (teacher) person who opened their door to my demand for candy.  Oh what fun it was…

I know, I know, that really does not have much to do with being a single adult in 2017, however, it did in part help to create who I am today. I am not going to say that my mothers refusal to spend good money on a costume that would be of little relevance the next year scarred me for life and that I am now “blaming” her for all of my issues of life! Rather, I think it was that lack of a “big deal” over a night of indulgence that has helped to shape my current views on the day and a lot of other much bigger decisions in life.

Interestingly, as an adult, I have zero desire to “celebrate” the day of Halloween, I would much rather pay 1/2 price for all of my candy anyway! Alas, I know many people find this time of year a great time to have Halloween, harvest, or other assorted parties. Do we really need a reason to have a party?

I reckon on one hand singledom could be looked at as a non stop party for one as technically, we’re the only person we’re responsible for! Sorry single parents, that was not meant as a slight to y’all! Alas…

Fellow singles, have fun, be safe and be sure to inspect all your candy accepted from strangers!