All, Culture/Life, Faith

Friendship and the ‘Whys?’ of Life

You know those seemingly random encounters that just really leave an impression? Conversations with strangers waiting in line somewhere or sitting next to you on a plane? Meeting someone at a party or other event?

You’re with these people for a minuscule amount of time–minutes or hours–yet there seems to be a genuine connection … and then you part ways.

Have you ever wondered about these meetings of happenstance? What was the reason? Why this person at this time?

Do you ever think that if life circumstances were different a real friendship could have developed? That if this were the movies a real friendship would have developed?

What are we supposed to make of these meetings?

I wish I had an answer, but the truth is that we may never know the why or wherefore in this life.

However, if the encounter seemed more than coincidental, it probably was more, and we should first just be grateful to God because “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).

If the experience made such a mark on your heart and mind, who’s to say that it didn’t resonate with the other person as well? Maybe there’s a lesson that can be learned from the other person or maybe it was simply supposed to be an experience of pleasure and cheer conversing with a fellow human being.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

-Fred Rogers a.k.a. Mister Rogers

Or have you ever wondered why some friendships last a lifetime and other friendships, so important for a period of time, seem to fade?  Again, there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason.

The Thinker-Rodin
Rodin’s “The Thinker” Source: openclipart.org

Sometimes, the years lend perspective, and we can look back and see how God allowed those friends to be in our lives for a reason — for mutual need or help.  “Some people come into your life for a reason; others only for a season.”

I also believe that if the friendship was true, you can pick up where you left off should your paths cross again.

Yet all of these meetings and partings with strangers, acquaintances, friends — they have the capability of leaving behind a yearning ache in your heart.  Humans are by nature social and relational.  We are made for fellowship and for communion with God and with one another.

Sadly, in a sinful, broken world, “good-byes” and “what ifs” can leave their painful, wistful imprint.  Because we can’t see the future and we don’t know when or if we will be re-united.

But we must hold on to hope and to trust in God’s goodness.

Though only in my twenties, I have lived long enough to know that sometimes those people who you thought you’d never see again re-emerge in unexpected times and places.  So say “see ya later” instead of “good-bye.”

Pray for your friends, acquaintances, and those “could-of-been” friends you randomly meet.  If someone is on your heart, reach out in a tangible way — call or write that person.  Heed the old saying, “If you want a friend, be a friend.”

If the circumstances surrounding that incidental encounter are such that it would be appropriate to try and strike up a true friendship, be courageous enough to do so.  You never know until you try.

Finally, I strive to hold on to the consoling hope of heaven.  If we cooperate with God’s grace and mercy, we can hope to be re-united with those for whom we’ve cared and those we’ve loved, however briefly, on earth.  In heaven, we will have an eternity to love God and love one another.

“Friendships begun  in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off.”

-attributed to St. Francis de Sales

 

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All, Culture/Life, Family

Supporting the Troops

Summer is a time filled with patriotic holidays.  Memorial Day, Flag Day on June 14th (which I just learned is also the U.S. Army’s birthday), and, of course, Independence Day/4th of July.

I was raised in a patriotic household.  We were taught to show respect for the flag.  Stand up and place our hand over our heart for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.  Never let an American flag drag on the ground.  I always loved learning about American history, especially the colonial and Revolutionary War era.

We were taught to honor the military. Many of my family members served in World War II.  This blog is named for my great-uncle George, who was so convicted of the need to fight that he went to Canada and joined the Royal Air Force before the United States even entered the Second World War.  My mom is proud to share a birthday with the U.S. Marine Corps. (November 10th, in case you were wondering.)

My interest in history and my involvement in performing arts came together in the selection of a topic for my senior thesis in college.  I wrote about the founding and the importance of the USO in World War II.  For those of you who may not be familiar, the USO stands for the United Service Organizations.

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Image credit to the USO.

 

It was originally a conglomeration of six religious and charitable organizations that joined together to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support for the military.  There were USO canteens and centers, mostly at transportation sites where service members could write letters, take a shower, nap, drink coffee or have a conversation with a USO hostess.  These centers also hosted dances and social events for the military.

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Bob Hope entertains troops in WWII. Source: Wikipedia.
There was also the Camp Show side of the USO that performed for the soldiers both domestically and overseas.  Some of the performers included Hollywood luminaries like comedian/actor Bob Hope and the singing group, The Andrews Sisters.  The USO still provides support and entertainment for our military to this day.

 

I had just turned 11 years old when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 took place.  Growing up in a post-September 11th world amidst ensuing security concerns and the subsequent and on-going war on terror, I think awareness of what it means to be an American and respect for our troops have definitely played more prominent roles in my life than they possibly would have otherwise.

One of the main post office buildings in my hometown is named in memory of a school classmate of my brother’s.  This friend was a Marine who died fighting in Iraq in 2004.  He was a faith-filled, honorable young man.

As a I grow older, my support and gratitude for the military only continues to deepen and become more personal.

As we all know, summer is also wedding season.  This June, I was honored to be a bridesmaid in two weddings of very close friends.  One of my friends married a former Marine and the other married an active-duty member of the Navy.

The latter friend’s wedding included all the pomp and circumstance of the military, such as the sabre arch under which the newly married couple walked upon exiting the church as well as the ceremonial cake cutting with a sword.

Let me tell you: the patriotic, hopeless romantic in me was eating all of this up.  I challenge any red-blooded American woman not to feel at least a twinge of a heart-flutter when she first sees a man in uniform.  They just look so dang sharp.

But I digress…

On a more serious note, meeting, celebrating, and dancing with these guys at the wedding and knowing they are all serving our nation made things more real, more personal. I consider my friend’s now husband also one of my friends.

My friend is now a military wife.  She will be experiencing all the unique challenges, joys, and fears of that role.

I half-jokingly told one of my friends/fellow bridesmaids that now all these guys  are on my worry list and prayer list.

But seriously…

Do we really stop and think about the sacrifices of the military and their families?  We cannot and must not be indifferent.

They are volunteering to go fight, knowing the life-threatening dangers they will be facing, while many of their peers are clamoring for “safe spaces” on college campuses in order to hide from anyone or anything that might offend them or challenge their opinions.  Quite the dichotomy.

Yet they can protest and call for safe spaces because of our military-protected freedom.

“Land of the free because of the brave.” Some may think it sounds cheesy but it is true.

And how are we using that hard-won freedom?  Are we using it responsibly, working for the common good? Do we engage with our political opponents respectfully or do we resort to mean-spirited, personal attacks?

Do we show respect when the National Anthem is played?  Do we proudly display the American flag? Do we learn the true history of our country, warts and all, appreciating the good while learning from the mistakes? Do we remember our troops and their loved ones in our prayers?

Do we thoughtfully and actively participate in the voting process?  Could we perhaps donate our time or our money to a worthy organization that supports the military?  Do we thank service members when the opportunity presents itself?

How can we be more patriotic and self-sacrificial Americans?

To all veterans and active-duty service members and to your families and loved ones: THANK YOU!!!  Americans can never adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe to you.  God bless and protect you all!

American soldiers
Photo credit unknown.
All, Art, Culture/Life, Faith, Tales from the Tutu Side

The Gift of Dance

In the words of Porky Pig, “That’s all, folks!”

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The final curtain has fallen on the 2016-2017 ballet season in my neck of the woods. As I think back over the past months, one of the outstanding take-aways for me is gratitude for the opportunity that ballet affords me to encounter other people and, hopefully, to have a positive impact on them.  This interaction happens primarily through the performances themselves.

After one show, an audience member told one of the company’s directors that watching one of the pieces was the first time she had felt joy in two weeks!  What a blessing that we as dancers and artists have a platform to uplift others!

In addition to regular ticketed shows, I’ve also had the chance to dance in numerous outreach performances at elementary schools and at senior living communities/assisted living facilities.

Let me tell you that these are special audiences, and they make these performances some of the most meaningful.

I could write a whole separate blog post about the exuberance, hilarity, and joy of the shows for kids.  They really do say the darndest things!

But dancing for the elderly has been truly moving.  Their faces brighten when we simply walk into the room.

Occasionally, we have been able to chat with the residents of the assisted livings and retirement communities after we’ve performed.  Invariably, we receive nothing but love and encouragement from these lovely souls.  In return, we are able to listen to their stories, such as tales of their own involvement with dance, or we simply offer a friendly smile and a warm hand-shake.

It is such a humbling and beautiful experience to be able to put dance at the service of others in this way.  Like other careers, the dance world can sometimes lead a person to be self-absorbed and to focus on self-aggrandizement in a demanding and competitive environment.  These outreach shows can be a good check on that attitude and a reminder that dance, like all talents, is meant to be shared and to benefit others.

Often in these facilities, we are dancing on carpet or on parquet or a combination of the two.  Sometimes we have to dodge low-hanging chandeliers (a particularly humorous situation for an above-average-height dancer like me).  In any case, definitely not ideal surfaces or conditions for a performance.

But that is not the point.

Of course, from a business angle, we are there to promote our company and our upcoming shows.  However, from a human and personal angle, I’ve come to realize that the purpose of these shows is not flawless technique or mistake-free dances. Naturally, I want to do my best, but the reason for these shows, especially the ones at retirement homes, is to uplift hearts and to spread joy.

Particularly in some of the facilities caring for lower-income senior citizens, our dancing, and simply our presence, is needed and appreciated.  One of the most memorable shows for me was at an organization that cares for children, elderly as well as mentally-challenged adults.  Some of the audience actually had tears in their eyes while we danced.

Even in places where the residents are more well-off financially and physically, our shows can be a morale boost.  One woman, whose granddaughter happens to be a professional dancer, explained to us that she had decided to wear a skirt that evening because she “was going to the ballet.”  She also repeatedly said that she was tired of “only looking at old people!”  Clearly, she was excited to see some youthful faces!

These authentic interactions, whether while dancing or in post-performance conversations, are an affirmation of the dignity of every person.  They are an opportunity for us as dancers to partake in an act of mercy for a group of people that is all too often disrespected and neglected.

I am so deeply grateful that our visits to these various places put a little more love into the world and, hopefully, a ray of sunshine into others’ lives.

“Whatever you did for these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

These shows are truly a gift for both givers and receivers.

 

Beautiful Ballet Pic
Image credit to Musetouch Visual Arts Magazine

 

All, Culture/Life, Family

“Off to the Fair!”

Now that we’re in the “bleak midwinter” (even though winter has felt very spring-like in my neck of the woods), I thought it’d be fun to do a #throwback blog post of sorts about visiting my local county fair this past summer with my brother.

Going to the county fair was an annual event growing up in my house.  My mother’s grandmother lived in the country, and my mom has many sweet memories of visiting and playing on the family farm with her cousins.  My father also lived on a farm when he was a small boy.  Consequently, both of my parents wanted my brother and me to experience even a taste of what they knew as children.  Though never huge, our county fair used to be much larger than now with numerous rides and games and live musical acts. I remember always listening for the screams of the people riding one particular ride that would swing them back-and-forth to an almost vertical line.  It was one of the tallest rides and looking and listening for it was a staple part of our fair experience.  Of course, every year had its own special memories and moments. One year, we even were able to watch a lady being shot out of a cannon!  Pretty dang amazing. One of the funniest memories I have of the fair is a cow sneezing on my brother.

Sprawled out in wide, expansive green fields beneath the grand Blue Ridge Mountains, the tents and rides were truly in a picturesque setting.  The earthy animal smells and sweat only added to the whole exhausting, exhilarating experience.

My parents weren’t able to join my brother and me this year; nevertheless, I was so glad to return to the fair as we hadn’t gone in several years. It was a steaming hot and humid August day, the kind where you just surrender yourself to the heat and feel your clothes slowly dampen with streams of sweat, when my older brother and I set off.  Due to a change of location, our fair had been greatly downsized, but some of our favorites were still there–the animals, the local art and photography exhibit, the farm-grown vegetables exhibit, the massive John Deere tractors with tires as tall as I am. We saw pigs being hosed down -did I mention it was hot?-fluffy baby chicks, and adorable miniature therapy horses, among other farm denizens.  The day we went there was even a blacksmith demonstration taking place.

Although my brother and I both agreed that we are glad we grew up with the fair as it used to be, going back lifted my spirits.  I am finding more and more that I love being out in the country and surrounded by nature, its simplicity and its bigness.  To borrow a phrase from Fulton Sheen, “the fecundity of life” is everywhere.  That day at the fair, I found myself feeling friendlier toward people and more confident–no expectations or pretensions of mankind.  It seems to me that man can be more himself and yet be drawn out of himself more readily in the country.  I loved seeing the 4-H club kids tending their animals and the sweaty, rosy-cheeked babies reaching out to pet their furry friends.  I was ready to move to a farm and enroll my non-existent, future children in 4-H.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, that day I felt the country stir my soul and speak to my heart.  Out in God’s country, it’s not as if one’s problems or worries vanish, but suddenly, it’s like the weight of them is lifted.  One knows that they will be solved and that one will have the strength to handle them.  There is more freedom and space to breathe.

I would love to live in a more rural setting one day and when I am hopefully blessed with children, I would not completely disregard the idea of them participating in 4-H.

Man today is so deracinated (to use a fancy, college word), meaning he has lost his connection to the soil, to nature and its rhythms, to nature’s Creator and as a result, he is losing touch with himself and those around him.  Of course, both country and city-living have their pros and cons and one shouldn’t idealize or romanticize either one, but I think it would do this stressed-out, over-technological, consumerist society a world of good to return a bit more to the serene glories as well as the raw realities of the country.

In the meantime, please enjoy some photos from my brother’s and my excursion to our county fair!

 

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A beautiful summer crepe myrtle!
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A soft sheep sans his wooly fleece!
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A ribbon-winning rooster named Frank!
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Adorable baby chicks, which we were not allowed to touch.
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A fluffy rabbit!
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This picture may be my favorite!  This little piglet decided to rest in the water dish.  I guess the heat was too much for him!

 

P.S. The title for this post is the name of a chapter in the children’s literature classic Charlotte’s Web, one of my favorite books!

 

All, Culture/Life, Faith, Family

Fighting for Life

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (emphasis added).  These immortal words are proclaimed in one of America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, yet they are still not wholly lived out in our country due to such tragedies as abortion.

The topics of abortion and the pro-life cause are, undoubtedly,  multi-faceted, sensitive, and complex subjects, which encompass science, religion, philosophy, morality, economics, and politics.  There are so many angles from which one can look at these issues, and they are obviously much too big and important to begin to cover sufficiently in one blog post.  All that being said, I would like to endeavor to put in my two cents and write a bit about what has resonated with me most of late regarding these topics.

Firstly, I know many of you reading this may not agree with the pro-life position.  All I ask is that you consider some ideas behind a differing point of view.

Secondly, this post is not at all meant to be a condemnation of those who are suffering from their past decisions regarding a pregnancy.  If you or someone you know is need of information regarding resources for post-abortive women as well as men, you can find them, here. on the website of the organization, Silent No More.  Please know that you can find healing and restoration.

Though I was not personally present, I was so heartened and energized by the recent witness of the 44th annual March for Life on Jan. 27 in Washington, D.C.  For those who might not be familiar, this massive pro-life rally is held each year on or around the anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.  People from all over the country gather, no matter the weather or inconvenience, in order to protest peacefully this ruling that has since resulted in millions of deaths through abortion.

Have you ever wondered what all those babies would be doing right now?  What would they be contributing to society?  In our own lives, what cherished loved ones are we missing because they were aborted?

To me, it defies logic for a society to mourn with a woman who suffers a miscarriage and yet still say that a woman has the right to terminate her own pregnancy.  The objective value and worth of the unborn child did not change, only the subjective desires surrounding the pregnancy.

To paraphrase a quote I once read, let’s remove the crisis from the crisis pregnancy not the pregnancy itself. Shouldn’t we be working to alleviate the circumstances that lead a woman to consider abortion instead of just pushing abortion as the way out of a difficult situation?  Shouldn’t we be working to support those facing unplanned pregnancies in adverse circumstances, helping them to have the resources they need to choose life?  Shouldn’t we be advocating adoption?  So many post-abortive women testify to the fact that they felt they had no choice; they were coerced into abortion by boyfriends, husbands, parents, etc.  They did not have a support system and they did not want to do what they did.

Shouldn’t we be working to dismantle the diabolical lie that abortion is somehow a “right”? The truth is that a woman, indeed no person, is empowered or liberated through the degradation or demise of another person and certainly not through the purposeful death of an innocent child in the womb.  Women are not empowered when their unique and life-giving ability to carry a child is treated as a problem or a weakness or a hindrance to their supposed success in life.  The truth is that abortion hurts women.  Again, many women attest to the fact that they suffered emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually for years following an abortion. Often, it took a long time for them to make the connection that their difficulties were connected to their abortions.

Perhaps it is time that we remember that early suffragettes, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who fought for true women’s rights, were themselves against abortion.  And that a main catalyst in the work of Margaret Sanger, the founder of abortion giant Planned Parenthood, was racist eugenics.

The pro-life movement is not perfect, but despite its flaws, its work is crucial.  I think Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the March for Life was particularly encouraging to those devoted to the cause of life.

He said,

“…life is winning in America.  And today is a celebration of that progress that we  have made. You know I’ve long believed that a society can be judged by how we care for its most vulnerable, the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn.

We have come to an historic moment in the cause for life.  And we must meet this moment with respect and compassion for every American.

Life is winning in America for many reasons.

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life begins, more and more, every day.  Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families to open their hearts and homes to children in need.  Life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations who minister to women in towns across this country.

Life is winning through the quiet counsels between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, between friends across kitchen tables, and over coffee at college campuses.  The truth is being told.  Compassion is overcoming convenience.  And hope is defeating despair. …

So I urge you to press on.  But as it is written, ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all.’ Let this movement be known for love, not anger.  Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation.  When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness.

I believe that we will continue to win the hearts and minds of the rising generation if our hearts first break for young mothers and their unborn children, and if we each of us do all we can to meet them where they are, with generosity, not judgment.”

This blog is named after my Great-Uncle George, who held so strongly to his convictions that he joined the Royal Air Force in Canada in order to fight in World War II even before the United States entered the fray.  He was bold enough to act upon his beliefs.  Those who believe in the pro-life cause do so with conviction and with passion.  It is something very near and dear to their hearts.  Let us follow the example of Uncle George who courageously fought for what was right even when others around him were not yet doing so.

And let us be encouraged by the words of Jesus, “Whoever accepts a little child in my name, accepts me.” (Matthew 18:5).

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All, Culture/Life, Faith

“Bid our sad divisions cease”

Pope St. John Paul II was known to speak about advancing the “culture of life” over the “culture of death.”  There are many perspectives from which one can view these phrases.  The “culture of death” can refer to the acceptance of abortion, assisted suicide, and the death penalty.  Whether you agree or disagree with these practices as political and social issues, I hope most people would concur that it is tragic when death is imposed as the solution to a situation.

Besides physical death, however, there are other ways in which this culture of death is pervasive, namely, through the destruction of people’s dignity.  Human trafficking and pornography are just two examples.  In both of these cases, human beings are reduced to objects to be used for other people’s pleasure.

A more everyday example is in the increasing divisiveness we are witnessing in families and in the culture at large–the “us vs. them” mentality that has people demonizing and demeaning those who disagree with them, sometimes in very cruel and defamatory ways.  People so often fail to truly try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes or to try to understand the other person’s vantage point.

There is a way to disagree with someone, even about contentious topics like the ones mentioned above, without being disrespectful or assuming the worst in the other person.  Discussion is important and disagreements are inevitable, especially as some of the issues the culture is facing go to the very heart of even what it is means to be a man or a woman.  But it is also crucial to develop prudence, to know the time and the place in which it is best to speak one’s mind.  Moreover, it is sometimes better to remember the old adage, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  One’s beliefs may very well be closer aligned with truth and virtue than those of the person with whom one is speaking but acting like a sanctimonious know-it-all will never influence anyone positively.  No one as an individual person, no matter how correct his beliefs, has a monopoly on goodness.  We all sin; we all make mistakes; we all have bad habits, and something we may easily forget, we can all learn from each other.

On the other hand, political correctness and attempting to sugar coat the realities of life are also a discredit to people. Common sense cannot be lost.

If we can speak with humility and love and try to understand the other person then maybe some of this awful divisiveness can be overcome, and a culture of life can begin to be built little by little.

One of the last verses of the Christian Advent hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel” states, “O come, O King of Nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind. Bid all our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace!”  These words, which will always be applicable to the human condition, seemed this year to be even more like a prayer fitting our day and age.

Let us pray and let us work to make 2017 a more peaceful, respectful, loving year, despite our differences.

candles

 

 

All, Culture/Life, Tales from the Tutu Side

The Nostalgia of Nutcracker

bishops-wifeIn the 1947 Christmas film The Bishop’s Wife (which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it), one of the characters, a college professor, suggests that the holidays are a good time for looking backward. Nostalgia and memories certainly seem to be an integral part of this season.  Emotions, both joyful and painful, can flood one’s heart and mind alongside these memories.  Images of lost loved ones, remembrances of past friendships, family traditions, funny stories, and everything in between.

A large part of my nostalgic reminiscences this year has involved dance and “The Nutcracker,” undoubtedly, because I recently performed in this ballet for the first time in many years. It was truly a joyous experience to be a part of it all again.  Nutcracker, as with all shows, can bond people together and facilitate camaraderie.  Carpooling to and from theaters in and out of town, hours-long rehearsals, waiting around in dressing rooms, cheering on friends and colleagues from the stage wings, enduring and laughing at all the random mishaps, mistakes, and bloopers that inevitably occur when all the various dance, stage production, and musical elements are combined.  And, of course, the unpredictability, nerves, and exhilaration of performances.  All of this can come together to produce memorable moments.

Naturally, performing in a Nutcracker again evoked memories of the people and places connected with my past Nutcracker experiences.  So many people who were my best friends, my teachers, so much excitement, laughter, hard work, tears, so much of what my life and my family’s life was like at that point. Looking back through the lens of intervening years and experiences, I can now appreciate even more the sweetness of those times.  It would be fun to have a time machine to transport me back if just for a day.

But I am also reminded of this Lewis Carroll quote: “It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” My friends and I were still kids, dreaming about what we would all be and do. We were different people back then–not just age-wise but emotionally, spiritually.  Nevertheless, I believe the heart of those friendships is still there.   I still truly care about all those people, even though I have lost touch with some of them, and I would welcome the serendipitous crossing of our paths once again.

“Some people come into your life for a reason, others only for a season.”  And some, I have learned, may enter, exit, and then re-enter one’s life when one isn’t expecting it…just like a dancer on a stage.  It is cool to be old enough to have gained the perspective to see how God can intertwine various aspects, experiences, and people in one’s life.  Some people that I danced with years ago and but with whom I lost touch, are now back by my side in the studio on a daily basis.  I consider it a providential gift and a happy surprise when occurrences such as that happen.

One shouldn’t live in the past because doing so blinds one to the blessings and lessons of the present moment.  However, now and then, perhaps during the holidays, it is good for one’s spirit to indulge in nostalgia and to travel down memory lane, to cherish what one had because it most certainly contributed to the person one is today.

Cheers to you, Nutcracker, and to all my friends, old and new, who are ineffably a part of those oh so memorable days!

 

nutcrackers

 

 

All, Culture/Life

Avoiding the Tyranny of Technology

It’s ubiquitous–ever encroaching into new aspects of our lives.  No, I’m not talking about politics and the presidential election.  I’m talking about technology, that blessing and scourge of modern society.  And yes, I realize the irony of using a computer and the internet to critique technology.  Clearly, I am not totally opposed to technology; one would be foolish not to recognize the benefits that it has brought to mankind.

However, so much of it nowadays truly seems to beg the question: “even though we can, should we?”  This question can refer to ethical dilemmas in medical technology or to the use of drones to deliver people’s packages.  Moreover, people’s lives seem to be increasingly revolving around screens–TV, phone, computer, iPad, etc., etc.  Obviously, many of these things are useful and one needs to make use of them, but it makes me sad when a back-to-school commercial has a mother talking about how her daughter spent the summer “binge-watching” TV or when a car commercial proudly displays kids being kept quiet by TV screens in the back of their parents’ seats.  Shoot, when I was a kid, we would read, play games, and sing to the radio or our cassette tapes and CDs on road trips.

Don’t get me wrong.  Everyone needs a good movie marathon now and again, and social media is a useful way to keep up-to-date with friends and family.  Nevertheless, I think if one stops for a moment and reflects, it becomes fairly clear that society is relying more and more on technology to think, communicate, entertain, and work for us and instead of us.

As technological “progress” appears to be interminable, we will have to make a concerted and purposeful effort to be in control of our use of technology and not let it control us.  Real reality, the people and places around us, will always be more interesting, challenging, lovable, and wonder-inspiring than virtual reality.

So while acknowledging technology’s place in our lives, here is a list of 11 activities that involve minimal or no technology.

1.) Write an old-fashioned snail mail letter to someone.   It’s more personal than an email or a text and you know that receiving something in the mail is always fun.  Plus, it gives a person a chance to work on his/her handwriting (another thing that has been lost thanks, in part, to technology).

air-mail-envelope-eiffel-tower

2.) Experiment in the kitchen.  Dig out an old family recipe or try a new recipe or come up with your own culinary concoction.  Try to avoid looking up directions online.

apple-pie

3.)  Read–NOT on a kindle. Snuggle up under a blanket or lay outside in a hammock and get transported to another time and place.

old-books

4.) Play a  game.  Cards and Monopoly didn’t stop being fun just because you’re not a child anymore.

cards

5.) Outdoor activities. Go for a nature walk; go for a bike ride; play sports with friends.  It’s good for the body and the spirit.

forest-trail

6.) Explore your community. Visit a nearby museum or an historical landmark.  Go to an apple orchard or a farmers’ market.  It’s never a bad life decision to understand more fully the place you call home.

apple-orchard

7.) Take up a new hobby. Try your hand at gardening.  Learn a musical instrument.  Learn how to sew.  Make an attempt at painting or writing poetry.  In the words of C.S. Lewis:

c-s-lewis-quote-another-goal

8.)  Support live local theater. Go watch a play or a ballet or see a touring Broadway musical and be reminded of the beauty of the performing arts.

ballet

9.)  Listen to music.  Don’t just have it on in the background but really be still and listen, or put on music and have a spontaneous dance party with friends or by yourself. Attend a live concert and make memories with friends. (This does involve some use of technology, but the main point is that you are not staring at a screen).

turn-table

10.)  Truly be present to those around you. Converse with family and friends without obsessively checking your phone.  Or just simply be silent and enjoy each other’s company.

no-cell-phone

11.) Pray – because the Good Lord would love to hear from you!!!

What are some of your favorite non-technological activities?

 

NOTE: pictures found through Bing Images.  They are either public domain or “free to share and use.”