Adoption, Choices, Christianity, Communication, Courage, Emotional Health, Faith, Fall, Family, Freelancing, Grace, Gratitude, Hope, Introverts, Patience, Persistence, Recovery, Responsibility, Seasons, Sel-Esteem, Self-Acceptance, Spirituality, Uncategorized, What Can I Do, Work, Worth, Writing

Labor Day…

The air is thick with humidity this morning and ragweed season has begun. I’ll spend as much time on the porch as my allergies will allow, but it tends to be somewhat shorter in duration this time of year. It’s a little frustrating because Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year, and a perfect chance to enjoy the quiet of the porch. Spring is nice, everything coming back to life and all, but Fall beckons me to introspection and reflection on the past year. It begins slowly and reaches a crescendo by the Christmas holidays, just in time to look forward to the New Year.

Fall in North Texas may be different from others’ experience of the changing seasons. Fall officially begins on the autumnal equinox and occurs around September 22nd each year, although it may not feel like it until late October or November. Even then, it may only last a couple of days or weeks until the cold of Winter moves in. Now that the average temperature for each year seems to be one for the record books, the seasons can’t be forecast accurately anyway…

Fall, or at least the timing of it, brings a sense of urgency to living fully and enjoying the blessings in life on an even deeper level. Looking backwards, I can see missed opportunities and instead of regrets, I learn to be more vigilant. It’s easy to fall prey to tunnel vision and miss the doors that God has unlocked along the way, especially when it comes to family and friends. Fall brings clarity and renewed purpose to live life well.

I turned sixty a couple of weeks ago. It’s probably not as big a milestone as I’ve made it out to be, but it feels like it to me. Last year, I decided to step away from the contracting business, go back to school, and re-start my writing career. The last year hasn’t been easy, at least financially. Although I’ve stayed busy, starting a business is never easy. It takes a lot of grit, determination, and perseverance, especially for introverts like me. Although I’m far better at being social when business is involved, I still have difficulties, especially cold-calling and networking. Fortunately, most of my work is from home.

Most of stem from internal issues like believing I’m worthy. I’ve struggled with that for a very long time. I typically don’t like the word ‘self’ in front of things like esteem or worth. Not that healthy self-esteem or valuing one’s self is a bad thing, mind you. It’s just that I tend toward an inflated sense of self if I’m not careful. Holding myself in high regard tends to add the words ‘ish’ and centeredness after the hyphenated ‘self’. I begin to think of my own abilities rather than the gifts I’ve received from God. I forget where ego and pride have taken me in the past.

My friend Edgar often tells me that “I’m not a slow learner, I’m a fast forgetter”. I’ve always known I was reasonably intelligent. Given that it took so long to learn how valuable I am to God, I’d he nailed me down well. It’s easy to forget my successes are the direct result of plugging in to a far greater power than myself.

I may have issues when it comes to self-esteem, but I know without a doubt, that God sees me differently. When I remember who’s I am and how much He treasures me, I begin to accept myself for who I am a bit more and everything becomes easier. I treat myself a little better, forgive my failures a little more, and experience far less fear of the outside world. It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s sure gained speed as I progress further in life.

Remembering who I am makes me ‘right-sized’, as my dad used to say. I used to run from one extreme to the other: either I was the better than anyone else or I was a piece of crap. Today, I’m okay being human. I make mistakes, try to learn from them, and move on to the next thing in front of me. It also makes me far more capable of doing that both personally and professionally. I’m certainly not the best, but I do it well and perform in my own unique way.

When I was a child, my father used to tell me how special I was. I was adopted – a chosen baby. As I ventured out into the world I found out that no one else thought I was that special, and that proved to be a disappointment. I was well into my adult years before I knew what he meant. I was just like everyone else, but I was special to my father, whether it was my adopted father or my heavenly one…

So, as Fall approaches I have the opportunity for another season of introspection and reflection, not that it’s seasonal, mind you. My friend Jim (I really miss him…) always told me that’ “Self-examination, coupled with prayer and meditation, followed by vigorous action, produces favorable results”. I’ve learned just how right he was. I’m ready for Fall…

Activism, Awe, Christianity, Climate Change, Community, Conservation, Creation, Environment, Faith, Fighting Poverty, Food Deserts, Food Insecurity, Gardening, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Health, Neighbors, Non-Profits, Positive Thinking, Prayer, Responsibility, Service Organizations, Simplicity, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Unity Unlimited, Inc., What Can I Do, Writing

Ms. Opal’s Dream and the Best Birthday Ever

I sat on the porch this morning, thinking about yesterday and making a mental list of today’s lengthy ‘to-do’ list. I turned sixty years old yesterday and it was the best birthday ever! I spent it with some incredible people. The new project I’ve mentioned in previous posts has become a reality. I’ve been looking forward to the day I could tell you all about it and that day has arrived.

To understand the importance of yesterday’s events, you need to know what ‘food insecurity’ is. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. … Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household. In Tarrant County, one in four children, and one in three if they are African-American or Hispanic, go to bed hungry or face food insecurity. One does not have to live under the Federal Poverty Threshold of $24,858 per year to experience food insecurity. Over 25 % of households facing food insecurity live at or just above the poverty guidelines and fully 36% receive no federal or state benefits. (further information is available through the Tarrant Area Food Bank and Feeding America websites)

The bottom line is that there’s a problem with hunger and the myriad of health problems that are a consequence of food insecurity. It’s not just an economic issue, but an availability issue as well. Food Deserts, which the USDA defines as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”, which  mean that there’s no local grocer or farmers market within one mile of an urban neighborhood. Tarrant County alone has over forty food deserts according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Often the only food available is at local convenience stores and is often of little nutritional value. Processed, convenience foods are one of the largest contributors to childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The magnitude of the problem can be overwhelming. What can I do? My friend Edgar once asked how would I eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course. Yesterday, a meeting with some fantastic people took a bite of the proverbial elephant. Sometime back, Ms. Opal Lee, a long-time activist from Fort Worth and founder of Unity Unlimited, Inc. (a 501(c)(3) non-profit) was granted use of vacant acreage in Fort Worth by the Trinity River Water District for the express purpose of creating an urban farm. Yesterday, that first bite, her dream of building an urban farm providing farm-fresh, nutritious food for residents of the community, moved into action.

I am blessed and unbelievably excited to be a part of Ms. Opal’s dream. I was familiar with Ms. Opal some time back, particularly because of her “Walk to Washington” and lobbying to make Juneteenth a Federal holiday. Although I was formally introduced to her only a few months ago, she has quickly become one of my heroes. At 92 years young, Ms. Opal’s energy and selfless-spirit is contagious.

The farm will initially encompass five of the sixteen acres available and preparation for planting will begin shortly. The farm uses the model provided by Bonton Farms in Dallas: an agricultural intervention as a means of eliminating the local food desert and contributing to the health and overall, both physical and spiritual, well-being of the community. The farm will be 100% organic. Planting will be based on the needs of customers and the community. Long-term plans include goats, chickens, and beekeeping as well. Above all else we want the farm to provide local jobs, job training and new entrepreneurs and neighborhood Fort Worth.

The meeting yesterday started the wheels turning and I’m so blessed to be a part of it all. This has been not only Ms. Opal’s dream, but mine as well. I’ve always wanted to be a ‘farmer’. I’ve prayed often that God would open the doors of service to others. Yesterday was simply another of God’s answered prayers. We could use yours as well.

I’m looking forward to sharing the progress of our urban farm with you as we move forward. We plan for development to proceed quickly enough to have the initial planting later this year with a winter crop. If we have any doubt about our success, we need to remember that Ms. Opal’s already prayed about it and that’s pretty good assurance….

Communication, Emotional Health, Faith, Grace, Gratitude, Persistence, Positive Thinking, Practice, Simplicity, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Work, Writing

Fake it ’til you make it…

Not only is rain predicted for Monday, but the weather gurus say we’ll actually have below normal temperatures for a few days. I’m so ready. The oppressive heat has worn me down: physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. I normally strive to be positive in my writing. There’s enough negativity and complaining in the world. I’ll be the first to tell you how blessed and grateful I am, but it’s become increasingly difficult to write over the last couple of weeks. I keep visualizing the old “Drug-Free America’ commercial with the eggs in the frying pan – “this is your brain on drugs”. I haven’t partaken of any mood-altering substances, but my brain is definitely fried…

When I was a young person living in Denver, we used to have these unbelievably strong winds that blew down off the Rockies and across the front range every Spring. They were such a force that Denver named its then minor league baseball team, the Zephyrs, after them. I recall a story about the effects of continual strong wind on people and the resulting depression. I guess our heat wave has the same results, for me at least. Perhaps there’s a government grant to conduct multimillion dollar research on my hypothesis…

I’m a firm believer in the old saying, “fake it, ‘til you make it”. I don’t want to be a fake person. God knows I’ve been there. Sometimes I just need to act as if it’s okay until it is. I guess this is one of those times. I must do the right thing, whatever it may be, whether I want to or not, until everything is okay (or the heat wave breaks).

My friend Edgar always tells me that ‘I can’t think my way into right acting, but I can act my way into right thinking’. I used to have that backwards and it didn’t work out so well. No matter how many positive thinking books I read or speakers I listened to, I never became a regular ‘Norman Vincent Peale’ kind of guy. It wasn’t until I changed my actions that my thought processes, and likewise, my attitude, began to change.

One of the blogs I follow asked the question, “What does it take to be a good writer?”. ‘Timing is everything’, as that was the same question I was asking myself on the porch this morning. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last couple of weeks. Work has been slow, and I’ve been frustrated. I question myself constantly.

When I started my blog, it followed my return to writing professionally as a copywriter. As with anything one seeks to perform well in, whether it be sports or the arts, one needs to practice. “Practice makes perfect”, as my Dad would say. The only way to practice is to, as the Nike ad says, “Just do it”. My blog seemed like a good way to develop the proper muscles to excel in my chosen craft…

That being said… I’m often filled with self-doubt as to my writing abilities, especially professionally. Although I have extensive experience in ‘business’ writing, I still question if I can create anything worthwhile for my clients. However, I generally ignore the committee inside my head and produce good work (and on time I might add).

In many ways this blog, which helps me immensely to grow on a personal level, has probably been professional suicide. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less willing to deny who I am and the experiences that made me who I am today. Honesty has its drawbacks in the work arena, even though the life experience of someone ‘saved’ by grace is of immeasurable value. That, however, is another story…

I remember my freshman English professor telling a story about Ernest Hemingway (and that’s about all I remember…) and writer’s block. He was asked what he does when that happens. His reply was, “I tell the truth”. I don’t claim to have any corner on “the” truth, but I know what’s true for me. I can’t be something I’m not. Like my father used to say, “If it walks like a duck…”

So, the answer to the question, “What makes a good writer?” is one of honesty and practice. It doesn’t matter if it’s personally or professionally. Writing and honesty both take practice and sometimes practice is hard work.  I need to push through the periods of constant rewrites, frustration, and self-doubt that inevitably come around, whatever the reason. I don’t know if others will think of me as a ‘good’ writer, but I pray they’ll at least deem me honest, despite my shortcomings.

I’m a writer. That’s what I do. I trust I’ll get better with practice. Practice I will. One of my favorite suggestions is from Jack Kerouac’s, On the Road. He says something like, “you have to write with the energy of a Benzedrine addict”. I can get with that. I’ll leave the substances to others better fit to handle them and keep on writing…