Back to the beginning . . .

Oy vey… I have decided to become a blogger! It has taken me quite a while to take this first step. Why? Intimidation. I grew up in a world where writing meant putting pen or pencil to paper, writing a few rough drafts, typing it and correcting the old fashioned way. Do any of you remember how we did that? With a typing eraser and fudging to wriggle in a missed letter. I remember how ecstatic we typists were with “white out,” at least until we started working with it and discovered how messy it was, and how fast the bottle dried out, which was far faster than that which was applied to paper….That never dried and then it would gook up the typewriter keys. When home computers became ubiquitous, our children taught us how to use the things. They, my children, grew up with computers. I don’t think a one of them ever used a typewriter. When the kids were in the early elementary grades I returned to school to get my masters. I was so proud of myself because I was able to write my papers (many papers of great lenth!) on a Brother’s Word Processor! A huge step above the typewriter. I don’t know what ever happened to that processor. That went by the wayside years ago. Now I’ve been on the computer for many years. But this is my first attempt at blogging. So why start now? Actually, I decided to become a blogger for very selfish reasons. I’ve been unemployed for almost a full year (ugh) and the boredom has become tedious and obnoxious. My brain is going to mush with FarmVille and Farm Town being the most stimulating activity of my days…day in and day out. At one time I was a very good writer. One of the things I plan to do with this space is to revisit/rewrite some of my old sermons. This will also be a place to write “new” stuff. I need to keep my brain and creative juices flowing. One thing I’m learning in the few minutes of setting this page up is that I will have to learn a whole new language: tags, Post Tags, trackbacks and pingbacks, shortlink. What does “blog” mean, anyway? At any rate, I have a lot to learn and I look forward to the process.

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I wrote the above blog entry on November 12, 2009. It is now five years and a few days later and wow, is my life different! Reading the above entry sparked a flood of memories about the reasons I first began blogging. My expectation (hope? prayer? wish? last ditch effort???) was that this creative exercise would break the log-jam in my thinking that was keeping me stuck, unemployed, and depressed. I wasn’t sure where blogging would lead me, or if it would lead me anywhere. But writing was something I enjoyed, and this “new” way of communicating sounded intriguing. At worst, blogging was a way of mass communicating with my immediate family and close friends.

Another motive for charging into the blogging world was the fact that many of the places I applied to for work required recent writing samples. While I had numerous writing samples, none were recent. Blogging would not only allow me to hone my dormant writing skills, but would provide “recent” and ongoing samples that might help secure gainful employment. All I had to do was add a link on my resume. Or if requested, I could print out a blog entry that would fit the job in question and send it along with my application.

Within days of the first entry, as I was learning how to set up my “site,” and while still learning the jargon of the trade, I felt alive, creative, excited, and most importantly, hopeful about my future and endless possibilities awaiting exploration. My husband always believed in me but this new endeavor excited him, too. Creative juices were flowing and ideas were percolating!

In no time I found myself methodically evaluating my strengths and weaknesses, my interests and dreams for the future. I began to think proactively about how I envisioned living in my later years. Being proactive required taking a hard look at what I had to do to make that dream a reality. This exercise in combining dreaming and hard-core reality testing evolved into the notion that I could turn my strengths and passion into a career that would support me/us through the remainder of our years on this earth: counseling.

To make a long story short, I wrote my first blog on November 12, 2009, and began my first course in graduate school (second masters) the first week of July, 2010. In addition to beginning graduate school, I rediscovered a hobby that had fallen by the wayside during the years of raising kids and doing other life things. As academic writing superseded blogging, photography added another dimension for social communication and made my blogs more interesting for an increasing number of “blogging buddies”.

I completed my studies at Capella University on December 15, 2013, was conferred a masters degree on December 31, 2013, was called in for a job interview on January 3, 2014, and was offered a position as psychotherapist with Ohio Guidestone on January 7, 2014. And then on May 5, 2014 I was granted an Ohio license as a Professional Counselor. I am now working toward licensure as a Professional Clinical Counselor at which time I will be able to hang out my own shingle.

I often tell my clients that it only takes a small change to render profound results. Five years ago I was depressed, bored, and “unemployable” . . . or so I thought. Then I created a blog that I never expected to be read by more than a few family members and maybe a friend or two. Today my life is vibrant, happy, filled with hope . . . and yes, more dreams and reality testing for the next stage in my journey.

On this Thanksgiving Day, 2014, may you be blessed with a dream, the gumption to make the small change(s) that will open doors to realizing your dream, and the will to embrace hope and possibility.

Deja Vu

Spring and summer are my favorite seasons of the year.  The heat doesn’t bother me so much, probably because I grew up in a hot, humid southern climate.  Growing up in the small rural town of Greenwood, Louisiana, we had a Mimosa tree in our back yard.  One reason I love our present home so much is that we have a Mimosa tree here, too, and it is located in the same spot in our backyard as the tree in our yard in Greenwood.  That tree was a wonderful climbing tree, and all four of us kids spent hours up in the Mimosa.  For a few weeks each summer, pink fuzzy blossoms filled its branches.  Lovely.  Anyway, when summer arrives, I find myself watching our tree for its blossoms to appear.  Mimosa blossoms come late in the spring, not early like Cherry Blossoms or Dogwoods.  When the Mimosa blossoms appear, I am inevitably taken back to my childhood summers.  Big, fat bumble bees love the blossoms, and the bees were a common sight around the trees.  I noticed that about our present tree, and remembered.  Today, I shot pictures of our tree loaded with Mimosa blossoms.  I was a child again, excited about the summer that lay ahead.

Morning Rituals

For as long as I can remember, Mom would get up long before daybreak to begin her day.  She would brew a pot of coffee, pour a cup for herself and one for Dad, add two teaspoons of sugar per cup, then return to bed, coffee in hand, where she and Dad would sit quietly talking for a bit.  We kids were not allowed to bombard them with our demands until they had some time alone together.  This was their daily ritual, one that never changed in all the years I was growing up (except when camping, then the roles reversed.)  It is a most wonderful and intimate way to start one’s day, I imagine.  I remember being on the other side of their bedroom door and hearing their muffled voices.  We never knew what they were talking about, and at times wondered how two people could always have something to discuss every morning, day in and day out. But, they did, and to us this seemed perfectly normal.   I was in high school before learning that this morning ritual was an uncommon habit not practiced in the homes of my friends.     

 Another morning ritual–winter morning ritual– from when I was very young also brings fond memories…now.  Although we lived in Louisiana, winter could (once or twice a year at least) produce a “cold snap,“ with temperatures plummeting into the 20’s.  Central air was a rarity found in few homes at that time.  Rather, we had open flame gas heaters in every room.  That way we could heat the rooms in use, and close off the rooms not in use. At night we slept with no heat in our bedrooms because Mom was too fearful of blankets accidentally being tossed onto the flame. That meant that when bedtime came, we would have to crawl in between marble cold sheets. To say that this was no fun is an understatement, but once I crawled in and made a little cocoon for myself, the chill would quickly dissipate.  It helped that the bed was piled high with Momma Futch’s (Grandma) or Mom’s home-made quilts.  The next morning while it was still dark, after Mom put the coffee on to brew, she would come around to each of our rooms to light the heaters while we were still in bed.  When we arose, the room would still be chilly but not frigid.  Just as bad as crawling into bed at night between cold sheets is stepping into icy clothes in the morning when dressing for school.  So, time permitting, we would warm our clothes before putting them on by standing in front of the heater and literally holding our garments over the flame.   My three brothers and I would each claim a heater for this purpose while Mom was in the kitchen preparing breakfast.  It’s a wonder we didn’t burn the house down!  Speaking of breakfast, we had a variety of choices the entire time I lived at home: Quaker Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Ralston. Add to that  a piece of toast (no one makes toast as good as Mom does.  Ask my kids.  She takes a piece of bread, dots it with dollops of butter, sticks it in the oven to toast, then slathers it with plenty of homemade jelly) and a glass of powder milk and we were set for the day! There you have it; our winter morning ritual on cold Louisiana mornings!     

my piano
My Piano

 

Our move to Kentucky when I was fifteen years old changed some of our rituals.  No longer did we have the open flame heaters.  Now we had central air. Mom was no longer the “alarm clock” who woke us up and started us on our days.  I missed that.  But we still had an alarm clock to get the family up and going in the mornings.  Me.  I played piano, but as I began high school, finding practice time proved to be quite challenging.  Mom’s solution?  Practice first thing in the morning before going to school.  So, each morning around 5:00 (or 5:30 if I overslept) I would get up and practice the piano.  Since I had to do this, it wasn’t like this was my choice, I would begin by practicing a few scales–in fortissimo!  I am told (by my brothers, and a couple of cousins who lived with us for a few months) that I played so loudly the walls would shake.  A bit of an exaggeration, I assure you, but practice I must, and if that was the only time available, then the family had to endure this with me.  The truth of the matter is that playing the piano was seriously important to me. Throughout high school I found ways and places to practice (the school‘s chorus room during study hall, the church piano when no one else was around, etc.)  At one time in my life I was pretty good, good enough to win a small scholarship to begin college.  After a couple of years, however, I forfeited my scholarship by changing my academic major.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had continued with music.  Today my piano is a living room ornament, a dust collector, but from time to time I still enjoy sitting down and plunking out a tune.  Much to Richard’s relief, I gave up those early morning practice sessions long before I met him.    

negel vasser
negel vasser

 

My rituals have changed over the years to reflect the changes I have gone through.   When I chose to become Jewish, I took on the rituals of the Jewish people.  Even so, some things don’t change.  Much like Mom, I, too, am an early riser.  Once awake, I find it impossible to stay in bed (most of the time…there are exceptions.)  When the last of the kids left home, my mornings became my quiet time.  For the past decade, my ritual has included more “thank you” time, more prayer time.  Before my feet touch the ground, I thank G-d for having kept me through the night, and giving me another day.  I then wash my hands, pouring cold water over one hand then the other a few times.  This is followed with blessings, prayer and thanksgiving.  Only then do I make myself a cup of coffee as I ease into my day.  Unlike me, my husband the scientist wakes up immediately ready to discuss some deep complicated physics problem, or a burning world issue, and he wants my opinion, even if it’s four o’clock  in the morning.  Fortunately, however, over the years he has learned that trying to engage me in anything resembling deep animated discussion before I’ve had my first cup of coffee is a dangerous proposition.    

Morning rituals create fond memories and foster feelings of security.  But they do more than that.  Rituals are the glue binding families together, and oftentimes bring us back together for various events and holidays throughout our lives. How often do you and your family fondly reminisce about some ritualized activity when gathered together for some event?  Rituals identify who we are and Whose we are.  Rituals mark momentous events reminding us that we are part of a bigger world. They help instill in us our value as individuals within a community, be it religious, familial, cultural or ethnic.  Our days are filled with rituals from arising in the morning to reclining at night.  They are important, for the seemingly small, insignificant rituals become the fiber of our lives.  For me, not only do these rituals provide mooring for my soul, but in addition to everything else I have written here, they create that connection which strengthen my relationship with G-d, and provide markers along the path to holy living.    

Memories of morning rituals from my youth are strong and vivid indicating their importance to me.  Morning rituals continue to be vital  to my spiritual, mental and emotional well-being.     

What are some memories of your morning rituals? What feelings do you have about those rituals (then and now)?  How have your rituals changed over the years?