Saturday, March 26, 2011

Throw Open the Drapes!

Oh. My. Stars. I've just had an epiphany. A revelation. A break-through in understanding my oh-so-strange self.

Early this morning I posted a funny piece about being recognized this week by a reader solely because of the crazy hat I was wearing (see my writer's blog: I closed by asking my three readers if they thought my hats could possibly be my brand, since the buzz these days from my editor is that every writer needs a brand (something to set him/her apart from the herd).

I got some great responses but one in particular made my jaw drop, my heart pound and my wide-open eyes finally see something I haven't been able to see for 40 years. No kidding. I felt like somebody pulled up the shades of my brain and light finally beamed into a corner that's been dark most of my life.

Okay. Here's what happened.

A childhood school chum, Vicki, responded to my hat question with a question of her own: "Just curious - are you the daughter that didn't remember to brush her hair? I started carrying a brush in my purse after your mom (my teacher at the time) told our health class how important it was to keep your hair brushed. She said she had a daughter that she always had to remind of this ... was it you?"

I was suddenly transported back to middle school and relived in writhing agony a memory I had apparently blocked soon after it happened. I was a gorky sixth grader at the time and was quietly slipping into Mama's classroom to stick something - I don't remember what - in her purse. I was tip-toeing and holding my breath, trying so hard not to draw attention to myself while she was up front teaching.

Suddenly, she stopped her hygiene lecture cold and told everyone to turn around and look at my hair as an example of "poor grooming habits." They were 7th graders - a whole year older than me - and of course I didn't know any of them, so I was absolutely mortified. And horror of all horrors, there were at least ten boys in that room. I ducked my head and dashed out the door just as the first giggles began to titter around the room.

Forty years later, sitting in my computer chair reliving this long-oppressed memory, my face flushed and I wanted to crawl beneath my desk. Another niggling thought made me cringe: That wasn't Vicki's class, so Mama must have told more than one of her classes. Gulp. 

But then all of a sudden the angels began singing that full-bodied, eight-note "Ahhhh" chord that means something important just happened and the light bulb popped on in my head. THAT's why I have a hat fetish! Now I get it! I've never been able to explain to my family why I keep wearing those confounded " embarrassing" hats that my kids used to beg me to hide when their friends were around. Why I just have to buy every cute and perky hat I see. Why my closet looks like the Cat in the Hat exploded.

What an "Ah-ha" moment!

One of my deepest mysteries is now uncovered. Revealed. Divulged. And it makes me wonder how many more of my quirky behaviors result from some squirreled away childhood incident.

Righty then. Now that I've spilled my guts, I want to sift through some of your guts too! How about it? Are you brave enough to go there? What odd little behaviors can you trace back to your past? Maybe something you remember your grandmother doing or a comment your dad made that changed the way you look at things. C'mon, dig deep.

Don't fret - I'll keep thinking too. The next goofy behavior I want to understand is why I put salt on my watermelon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Activating Change

We continuously hear the term "political activist" batted around the media, sometimes as an accolade, sometimes with a distinct sneer (depending upon who's reporting and what side they're on).

Recently, I've become aware of a different kind of activist; someone whose goal is not only to change their city and country, but to change the whole world one heart at a time.

A spiritual activist.

This kind of activist is not motivated by political gain or partisan power, but by a deep, visceral drive to help others in the single most important way a person can. By saving their eternal lives. By introducing them to peace and joy and hope that can't be found anywhere else on this earth.

I recently attended the funeral of one of these spiritual activists. His name to us was affectionately, "Rev." David Nicholas was the cool/hip/rad minister of a (at the time) small church in Boca Raton, when my husband Chuck attended high school in the early 70s. Rev led Chuck and then his entire family to the Lord, and went on to grow a mighty evangelistic church and make a huge spiritual difference in the lives of many generations.

Another spiritual activist is Cookie Gray, a gracious woman who has touched the hearts of thousands of women through her ministry at Brandon Florida's LifeCare Center. Cookie, a polio survivor, selflessly councils women in the throes of devastation due to unexpected pregnancy, STD's, financial ruin, and a host of other life-altering problems. She does it from her wheelchair. And always with a sweet spirit, open heart and kind smile.

I look at these awesome people - Rev and Cookie - and become at first humbled and then motivated to become a spiritual activist myself. Some might say, "Aw, they're just doing their jobs," but in truth, activism became their jobs because of the conviction of their hearts.

We can all be spiritual activists - ministers, really - regardless of our profession. There are no greater evangelists than garbage collectors, store clerks and bank tellers whose actions profess their faith louder than words on an everyday, every hour basis. In faith, like in writing, showing is always more effective than simply telling.

I look at my role as a hand therapist and author, and my mind is flooded with memories of times I wasn't much of a minister. In fact, I'd categorize my inner thoughts and outward responses as more like Rambo than Mother Teresa.

But I can do better. And I will.

(That's one of the best things I learned from years of tennis lessons: Instead of beating myself up over past mistakes, adopt the positive manta, "I can and will  do better." It's much more productive!)

How about you? Can you do better? Who's your spiritual activist role model?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rip Off

Thou shalt not steal.

Those four simple words echoed through my brain recently when my brand new website was kidnapped and held for ransom.

No kidding.

Naively, I never knew such a thing existed until my longsuffering husband Chuck woke up at 7 a.m. (after working on the website until 2:30 the night before) and logged on to add a few finishing touches.

Instead of his wife's intricate website he'd spent more than sixty hours pouring his time and energies into, he found a blank screen. Letter by eerie letter, a profanity-laced message appeared stating that the site had been heisted by "Hacker Ali." If we ever wanted to see it again, we must arrange payment through the French e-dress listed.

Intellectual Property Theft. A shattered sense of security.

It happens more often than many of us realize. Just ask those who've had their identity stolen and have been forced, through no fault of their own, to forfeit scads of precious time and money attempting to regain what was rightfully theirs in the first place.

In many cases authorities have no recourse. Our policing technology of online theft has not kept pace with the ingenuity of the bad guys, such as Hacker Ali, who hide behind layers of protective screens and cleverly leave no discernible trail.

Stealing. Taking what is not ours. Why is the eight commandment so widely ignored in our society? Scripture forbidding stealing includes not only Exodus 20:15, but also Leviticus 10:11. And Exodus 22:3 goes even further to say that if thievery occurs, restitution must be made to the extreme of the thief being sold into slavery if redemption of property is not possible.

God takes stealing seriously. And so should we. Even seemingly innocuous, everyone-does-it transgressions like pocketing the extra dollar the clerk mistakenly gave in change, taking office supplies home from work, or fudging on income tax.

Why is it such a big deal? Because stealing dishonors the name of our God (Proverbs 30:9).

Not only is He watching, but often little eyes are soaking up our example of living out real Christianity regardless of social mores that diss integrity and idolize pirates, cool criminals and "gangstas."

If we don't live our faith, they won't.

And that would be the most tragic rip off of all.