Being in this lockdown mode has taken quite a toll
On, not just my activities, but on my soul.
I’ve found that although at the start, I chafed and whined,
Now, after many months, I’ve become self-inclined.
Where I was once outgoing and with people pleased,
I now am focused on myself, and I’ve perceived
That my self-world is very small and incomplete;
I can’t connect in person; no more meet and greet,
And even online friends, I’ve gradually set aside,
And drifted from the fellowship they did provide.
I wonder if these extreme efforts to stay “safe”
Are costing more than we should be willing to pay.
For while it’s true a little time alone is good,
Still too much time alone, it must be understood,
Can shrivel and dry up even gregarious souls;
We must have real-life fellowship to keep us whole.
Well, as all my regular visitors know, I do love coffee. But I’ve noticed that during this past couple months — with life a little topsy-turvey — I’ve needed a lot more coffee than usual. So I figured it’s time for another coffee series right here on my online home. I’ve done three other series on this subject over the years, and you’ll find links to those posts in my navigation bar. Now I invite you to join me for the next 7 days as I once again focus on the elixir of life itself: COFFEE!
I really, really — make that really, really, really — miss having coffee with friends. Most of my friends love coffee as much as I do, so when we have a chance to stop the world for an hour or two and sit and share our lives with each other, one of the first ways we think about is meeting for coffee.
It does’t seem to matter a whole lot where we meet. We’ve had a great cup of coffee at any number of Denny’s, McDonald’s, Cracker Barrels, IHOP Pancake Houses, and Local Corner Cafes. But, oddly enough, we don’t generally frequent actual coffee houses. Most of the time when I’ve had coffee at a place that is supposed to be specializing in a variety of coffees — or their own iconic coffee, such as Starbucks — I find their offerings too strong and harsh, and so do most of the people who make up my friends group. It’s almost as if those coffee houses are trying too hard to make their coffee “special” when the truth is that coffee is already special just being itself.
Now I mean no disrespect to coffee houses in general — or to any specific coffee icon either. And if any of my readers really enjoy those coffees, please don’t let me sway you at all. Keep enjoying your own choice.
I think I’m probably a person who likes drip coffee best. I grew up with my family making coffee in an electric percolator, and I did enjoy that. My grandmother and my mother-in-law both used a glass stove-top percolator, and I enjoyed that as well. But when the home versions of the drip coffee makers became really popular, I found that they made coffee every bit s good as those percolators, and since electric percolators are priced close to $70.00 these days, I’ve cast my lot with the drippers.
Of course, coffee is so great, not just because it smells amazing as it brews and tastes delicious– when made from the right kind of pot — but because it has all kinds of comfort connotations attached to it. I’ve mentioned this fact before, and it still holds true. All during my growing up and young adult years, my parents brewed a pot of coffee for each meal — and if we had friends over for an evening, coffee was part of the event. I also realized at an early age that when there was something going on in the family that was especially stressful or required lengthy discussions and decision making, we generally relied on a pot of coffee to help us along in dealing with those events as well.
So, undoubtedly, my love of coffee comes from some pretty deep roots. But regardless of where it came from, the wonderful thing is that it’s still an important part of my life. I do enjoy just sitting alone at times and savoring a great cup of coffee — and maybe a book — or my art journal — or sometimes just the silence of aloneness. But then there are those truly special times when I get to enjoy coffee with friends. And right now, it’s those get-togethers that I miss so much.
But it’s nice to know that we’re still living in a world where two ordinary things — a simple cup of coffee and a visit with a friend — become quite extraordinary when coupled together. And they go a long way toward making life worth living. So right now I’m lifting my coffee cup in a toast to those special occasions and the hope that it won’t be long before they are a regular part of life again.
Two years ago today, I lost my very best friend of many years when attorney and civic leader Kent Bartholomew Mann was killed while riding his bicycle. It’s been a very sad two years for me. Kent was much more than just a friend. He was also my best-ever book editor. Although a lawyer by profession, he had a most amazing and creative gift for writing and editing, and many were the times I sat with him, or called him, and said, “Hey, I’ve got this scene that really needs so-and-so, but I’m stuck.” His creativity would go to work on the problem and almost always come up with an idea that was just right. He helped me so very much in my writing, my business, and my ministry.
Without question, Kent was my toughest critic, and my strongest and most faithful champion. He constantly challenged me to my highest and my best in every area of my life. More than once, when a situation just got too hard to deal with and I was ready to throw in the towel, he absolutely refused to let me quit. [And it’s hard to argue with a guy who stands at 6′ 7″ and weighs over 200 pounds. :)]
I was not the only person he touched with his kindness and encouragement. I have realized over this past two years that there is hardly any sector of my home town to which I can go where I am not reminded of how he did something in that place that helped someone – sometimes an individual, and sometimes an entire group of people. Was he perfect? Certainly not. But he was the truest kind of friend.
We spent hours working on one of my inspirational novels on the afternoon of the day he died. When we stopped for the day, I walked out the door with our plans made to pick up the work again the following morning. Three hours later, he was gone from this life.
I’m sharing all of this information simply to make this point: In the world we’re living in right now, true, trustworthy friendships are rare. If you have been blessed with that kind of friendship, value it as gold. Cherish it, nourish it, and guard it with your whole heart. These words offer the most sincere wish I can make for you in honor of my beloved friend.
Kent Bartholomew Mann is gone from this world, and it’s a darker place as a result. But he is still very much alive in my heart, and his legacy of love and friendship still lightens the shadows.
Good Coffee + Good Friends = One of Life’s Happiest Experiences
Well, ‘Coffee Thursday’ has rolled around again already. Time really does fly when you’re having fun. And I do have fun with my ‘Coffee Thursday’ posts. I wish more of my readers would share their own coffee experiences or thoughts with a post on their blogs and then hop over and give us the link. I know for sure many of you out there have particular thoughts concerning your coffee, and, undoubtedly, some of you have some experiences worth sharing — whether they be funny, happy, sad, or touching.
Most of the time, I like my coffee hot, rich, and mellow. But occasionally I enjoy a glass of iced coffee. But I’m pretty particular about it. If I do my own, I get the best, but second to my own, McDonald’s Vanilla Iced Coffee is my favorite. The one thing I can’t stand, though is lukewarm coffee. Make it hot or cold, but if it’s room temperature, I run for a microwave — fast!
This week’s challenge calls for focus on people, places, or things that are resilient. I chose people.
Two gentlemen in their eighties who personify resiliency in so many ways. To live well into the 80th decade of life having focused — and still focusing — on loving and giving to others above all else leads to the kind of happy faces these two shared when I snapped this picture. These two friends are both authors/song writers/teachers/fathers/grandfathers/courageous veterans on the battlefield of life. They are very special people.
VisitCee’s siteto find out how to participate in ‘Share Your World.’
Question # 1: What do you value most in a friendship?
The only TRUE friends are those people who continually draw out the highest and the best in me. They value me for the good they see in me — in spite of my flaws — and my interacting with them helps me focus on and grow in what is good. I try to be that same kind of friend to those I care about.
Question # 2: Do you prefer eating the frosting of the cake or cupcake first? Do you have a favorite flavor?
HECK NO! Who would want to eat just the frosting first? What makes a cake delicious is the combination of cake and frosting together. In fact, I try to eat so that I get some frosting with every single bite of cake. Favorites? I naturally prefer chocolate, but orange and buttercream are close seconds. And I have to admit that as long as it’s smooth and full of sugar, I like any frosting.
Question # 3: Have you ever been in a submarine? If you haven’t, would you want to?
No. And NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! There — that should be clear enough.
Question # 4: If 100 people your age were chosen at random, how many do you think you’d find leading a more satisfying life than yours?
Very few — if any.
I don’t have a perfect life, but I spend most of my time using my God-given abilities and gifts doing things that make other people’s lives better, healthier, and happier. I can’t imagine anything being more satisfying.
Well, I thought I’d give you a little update concerning my going round and round with WordPress over the lack of control I now have with the look of my blog. After communicating with several different technicians — most of whom told me something that conflicted with what others told me — I have come to this conclusion. I can still change the background color of my blog — but only if I go through the round-about way of doing so. But we can’t have any changes that make sense or that are simple and easy, now can we?
Unfortunately, the one thing all the techs agree on is that I can never change the color of my header text again. Now, being a ‘picture person,’ I like to change my header picture frequently, and I generally change my header text color and my background to compliment each picture (as all of you know). That being the case, I changed my text on here to white the last time (almost two weeks ago.) Now I’ve learned that I can never change it again unless I buy an upgrade. Of course, some of the free themes still say that changing that header color is still a free option. But — according to the techs — that is not true.
Here’s what’s happened. Without giving us any advance notice that I can find anywhere, WP decided to drop the option of changing the header color for free. Now they insist on making us buy an upgrade for that option, and now – with no warning – I’m stuck with this dilemma: On this site (“In Love With Words”) I can never again change my background to white, or no one will be able to see the title of my blog. On my “Happy Patriot” site, I will have to always use a picture and background that blends with bright red, because the title is currently bright red and there’s no way to change it back to black. And I have the same problem on my other two sites. Honestly, if I weren’t so aggravated, I’d roll in the floor laughing at such ridiculousness.
I have two blogs on Blogger, but I had decided a couple years ago to focus only on my WordPress sites — and there are 4 of them. After all this mess — along with several other changes that have taken place recently that have made my blogging experience unhappy — I seriously thought about giving up on WP and just moving all my stuff to the Blogger sites.
The only thing that stopped me was thinking about all of you — the sweet people I’ve come to know and love over these four years. I know that a handful of you would follow me to Blogger and continue to stay in touch. But most of you wouldn’t bother. And I understand why. All of us are so busy these days that the only way we can actually stay connected on a regular basis is if it’s quick and easy to do so. With the majority of my followers being WordPress bloggers, it’s easy for all of us to stay close. If I move, that connection with most of you will be lost.
So —- I have taken a deep — deep — deep — deep breath, and decided to stick it out for now. I’ll do some experimenting and see what I can find that will let me come as close as possible to making my sites look like I want them to look. Besides, it’s true for blogs the same as it is true for human beings: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when you love someone, she looks good to you, no matter what her hair, clothes, or make-up looks like. And I know that so many of you love me — even as I do you — so you won’t really care even if I have a lavender picture posted onto a bright orange background. Ewwwww!!!
Mostly, though, I just feel sort of sorry for the WordPress “happiness engineers.” They have a rather thankless, almost impossible job trying to explain why all these changes should make us happy.
I’ve always insisted that words have great power. They can move people to action; they can stop people dead in their tracks; they can hurt and destroy; they can give life and health. Words have power.
That truth came home to me anew when I had lunch in a Mexican restaurant today. Another friend and I were giving a treat to a lady whom we love dearly — and who has been dealing with dementia problems for the past couple of years. It was our small way of letting her know how much we love her and of giving her one more opportunity to feel normal again. My focus was on her, of course, and seeing her delight and enjoyment of the experience was all the return I needed.
However, something else happened that gave me an added lift, and it came from a direction that I would never have expected. Our waiter — a young man who was very intense about getting our orders exactly right — especially since our friend had to have specific kinds of food — came back to our table several times to check on us. Every time he did so, he addressed us a “Senoritas.” Now, on the surface, that may not seem so very unusual. But when you consider that I have eaten in lots of Mexican restaurants during my lifetime — in a number of different states — many of which were staffed by Mexican people who could barely speak English — yet not one time in all those experiences have I ever been addressed as a “Senorita” — then the event is unusual. But the most unusual thing about it was that every time this young waiter called me “Senorita,” it made me light up inside because it made me feel young and pretty.
Why? I’m not sure. But you know something? I don’t care why! All I care about is that he used that title for me very naturally — and repeatedly — and it resulted in giving my personal outlook on myself a happy lift that lasted all day and is still with me as I write these words late tonight.
So — tomorrow — I’m going to make an extra effort to say some happy, positive, lifting words to the people I come in contact with. I usually try to speak to people in a positive manner anyway, but now I’m going to work even harder at it. This Senorita is going to pass on the happiness.
Several years ago, a dear friend gave me a gift on St. Patrick’s Day. It was simply a slip of paper on which was printed one of the most delightful and endearing blessings I have ever received. He explained that it is one of many Irish blessings, and he wanted me to be the recipient of all that it entailed.
I believe in blessings. I believe in the power of words, and I know for certain that when we speak words of cursing or words of blessing from our hearts, those words can have a real effect on the people to whom we speak them. So I would like to pass this blessing on to all of you, my readers, with my most earnest heartfelt wish that it come into manifestation in your lives:
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” (Marcel Proust).
During the last six months, I lost my father, my closest uncle, and three wonderful friends. During these experiences, I have found myself thinking of several others I’m close to who have also recently gone on from this world to be with the Lord. Each of those people were truly “charming gardeners” in my life. They added so much richness to my life and so much joy that it is impossible to adequately describe the effect of their lives upon mine.
Some of them I saw virtually every day, some every month or two, and a few only a couple times a year. But our love and our relationship was a living, active reality that I was constantly aware of possessing. It’s only natural then, I suppose, that I am still a little overwhelmed, from time to time, at the void I experience just knowing they are not here with me any longer. Just yesterday, I was driving along in my car, and suddenly a new realization of the void each of them has left rose up in me, and I found myself saying, “My life is getting so empty.”
I am thrilled to be able to say that each of those individuals knew the Lord Jesus, and I have no doubts that we will be reunited in Heaven in the future. But the interim – the time of my living out this earthly struggle without them – weighs heavily on me.
Now, I would hasten to add that I do still have a few family members and several other wonderful friends alive and active in my life, and they still add to my joy. So, in truth, my life is not technically “empty.” But it’s still true that the presence of those lost – and the effect of their presence on me – has left an empty place that nothing else, and no one else can fill.
However, I have also realized that this “garden” I call my life still bears the fruit of their influence upon it. They have tilled the soil of my life, and they have enriched it with the nutrients of their love, their grace, and their personal gifts. They have planted seeds of themselves in that garden. And they have indeed caused my soul to “blossom.” So I have the joy of knowing that I will continue to produce those “blossoms.” I will continue to bear the fruit of their plantings in my life, so I still have a very real part of them with me.
I’m so grateful for those “blossoms.” And I count them very dear. I find that I also count more dear than ever before the presence and influence of those who are still a physical part of my life. I find myself wanting to spend more time with those loved ones and to be sweeter and kinder to them than ever before. And I understand more every day that nothing else in this world – no physical wealth, no fame, no prestige or power – can compare in value to the personal relationships we have with the people who love us and depend on our love.
One of the greatest treasures I could wish for those of you reading these words is that you have the blessing of such “charming gardeners” in your own life, that you bear the fruit of their planting, and that you become a “charming gardener” in the lives of all those you have relationship with.
Hey, I’m in the mood for some fun today, so I’m issuing a new poetry challenge. The picture below is of a stained glass creation by a very dear friend of mine, Dorothy Mercer, who is now 92 years old.
She has led a most interesting and happy life, traveling the world and serving her hometown community in many beneficial roles. Making stained glass ornaments was a favorite hobby of hers for many years, and she has made pounds of it for family and friends. This piece is very dear to me, and I thought to capture it in a photo the other day as it hung on my kitchen wall.
But today, because I’m in a playful mood, I’ve decided to work at creating a poem about this piece. With that decision came this thought: why not invite everyone else to come over and play as well? So I’m inviting all my readers to jump in and have some fun with me.
Here’s the challenge:
Write a rhyming, metered poem based on this stained glass ornament. It can be about the piece itself or about some idea, dream, memory, or event that it brings to your mind. You may use any meter and rhyme scheme that you wish – but – IT MUST HAVE BOTH A DEFINITE METER AND RHYME. No blank verse allowed.
Once you’ve written your poem and posted it on your blog, hop over here and leave your link in the comments section — along with any comments you want to make. I’ll share them all with Dorothy next time I get to visit her.
Feel free to download the picture and use it with your poem on your own site.
This challenge will close on November 28th.
(Now that I’ve issued this challenge, I hope I can come up with a poem. When I do, I’ll give it its own post and come back here and put the link in the comments section with the rest of them.)
“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” (Ulysses S. Grant)
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth,and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.” (George Washington)