Month of Thanks Giving: Day 22 (Imperfection)

wabi sabiWabi-sabi–the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection. Simple, slow, and uncluttered, it reveres authenticity above all.

There’s a story behind the cracks and imperfections you see in picture of the vessel above. I bought this vase because of the bee on it. A bee symbolizes rebirth and personal growth. Strangely, the day I bought the vase, I learned some things that would change my life forever.

Two months later, I left my marriage and moved to an apartment. A year after that, I was talking to a dear friend on speakerphone as I wrapped dishes in the kitchen, packing everything up for my move to Dallas. Apparently not able to effectively do two things at once, I dropped the vase, and it broke into seven pieces.

“Oh no!” I cried, disappointed at the loss of a vase that held symbolic meaning to me. Then, I remembered wabi sabi–beauty in imperfection–and I decided I would do the best I could to glue it together again. The cracks, and the story behind them would make the vase even more beautiful to me–especially after my friend committed suicide 18 months later. I still don’t know why he took his life, but maybe part of the reason was because he couldn’t accept his own cracks and imperfections.

But I believe that in the stories behind each of our imperfections, there is the beauty of what makes us human.

I also believe that it’s in sharing our weaknesses and imperfections that we make some of our strongest bonds, as discussed in the book, The Spirituality of Imperfection (Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham):

Shared weakness: the shared honesty of mutual vulnerability openly acknowledged. That’s where we connect at the most fundamental level of our very humanness, it is our weakness that makes us alike; it is our strengths that make us different. Acknowledging shared weakness thus creates a rooted connectedness, a sense of common beginnings. We will grow in our different directions with our different strengths, but our roots remain in the same soil as everyone else’s–the earthy humus of our own imperfection.

This weekend, I experienced this kind of sharing and openness when I had the pleasure of driving agent, Jeanie Loiacono and author, Kathleen M. Rodgers to the Ozarks Writers League Conference in Branson.

Kathleen’s courage to write and talk about her past bulimia, as well as the open, honest sharing back and forth of our life stories that took place during the 14-hours of driving time that occurred over the two-day period, gave me the “safety” to be open, to feel a sense of connectedness.

It’s the same with my sisterhood of friends. When I finally found a group of women with whom I didn’t feel I had to live up to any expectations, I felt true connectedness.

One of my sister friends, Linda Apple, this morning, shared on Facebook:

Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps. ― Brennan Manning

I’m grateful for imperfection and for the connectedness it can bring, if we open ourselves to it.

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Month of Thanks Giving: Day 16 (Prayer and the Freedom to Choose)

I remember two prayers from my childhood. My father taught me the first one, and I recited it every night before I went to bed. As a small child, I got down on my knees at the side of my bed. As a teen, I said it to myself:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take

Admittedly, the last two lines left me a little frightened as I climbed into bed following the prayer. What if I died in the middle of the night?

I’ve since seen a gentler version:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
Angels watch me through the night
and wake me with the morning light

The second prayer was taught to us by my grandmother, the grace we said before eating dinner every night:

graceThis prayer was always followed by a chorus of “itadakimasu,” a word my mother taught us, which is a Japanese form of giving thanks for the meal, all who prepared it, and all that was sacrificed for it.

This is only one example of how my parents gave us the freedom to choose how we would pray, how we would worship. We attended many churches growing up, including Baptist (my father’s religion) and Buddhist (my mother’s religion) and many in between–Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist.

Today, I’m thankful for parents who taught me to pray, who gave me the freedom to choose.

Only when I tried to do the same with my kids did I realize the “letting go” it took for my parents to take the risk I might go in a direction that was not in line with their beliefs. After all, my dad was Baptist, and my mom was Buddhist.

Challenging as it must have been, I’m grateful they gave me this freedom. What they also taught me was acceptance that every person is entitled to believe what they want to believe, regardless of what my wishes may be otherwise.

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Month of Thanks Giving: Day 14 (Courage)


I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. ~~Nelson Mandela

Yesterday, as I drove home from work and listened to the news about the terrorist attacks in Paris, I couldn’t help but feel it would somehow be inappropriate to write about gratitude in the middle of such a horrific event.

Then, I heard about displays of courage in the midst of terror:

Watch Thousands of Parisians Respond to the Terrorist Attacks in the Best Way Possible – Soccer fans joined in unison, singing the French national anthem as they were ordered to exit the stadium after explosions erupted.

“Open Door” Invitation Spreads on Social Media Amid the Attacks – Parisians opened the doors of their homes to people on the streets who were in need of shelter after the attacks.

The world has changed in frightening ways. I’ll admit, when I hear stories about the inhumanity of terrorism, it feels petty to think about blessings and gratitude. But I’m thankful for the courage of the people in the above stories.

I pray for the people of Paris, for their continued courage, and for the ability of all of us to push past our fears in the face of terror.

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Month of Thanks Giving: Day 13 (Snooze Button et al)

This morning, I’m grateful for my snooze button. And, because I used it and need to be at work early to prepare for a day I know will make me think “TGIF, TGIF” many times, I’m also grateful for the “search” function on my blog. I used keywords thankful, Thanksgiving and gratitude and found the following posts from the past:

One Last Thought – This was my last blog post of 2014. I talked about my gratefulness for the year, and my hopes for the following year. 2014 was a year of changes and challenges, and I had no idea when I wrote this post that 2015 would be the year I’d lose my mother and other loved ones.

Sunrise, Sunset – In 2011, I was grateful I still had both of my parents–that I could still hear the sounds of their voices. Having lost my mom this year, I’m especially grateful to still have my dad.

God Winked – In this 2010 post, I reflected on Thanksgiving and a change of perspective brought by Maya Angelou.

Ordinary – Re-reading this entry from earlier this year, I remember trying to adjust to quiet days at home, when there wasn’t much going on. I smile fondly at that memory. :)

Going back and reading these posts, I’m grateful for memories. And, I’m training myself to be grateful for the present moment, too. Because you never know what’s coming down the road.


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Month of Thanks Giving: Day 12 (Smartphones)

Is it possible to be thankful something exists on one hand, and on the other hand wish it didn’t exist? I’m really thankful it didn’t exist when my kids were teenagers.

That’s how I feel about smartphones. (As I typed the title, I wondered what we would have thought about the word “smartphone” in the 1970s.)

There’s no denying I love my smartphone. It’s my link to family and friends. It’s a camera. It’s a writing tablet. It’s a library. It’s a map. It’s an encyclopedia. It’s a movie theater.

I’m pretty much ashamed to admit it’s practically a part of my body. In other words, when I don’t have it, I feel like a limb is missing.

And that’s the reason I wish it didn’t exist. I don’t like seeing groups of people sitting together, all looking at their cell phones. It’s worse when it’s a couple basking in the glow of their cell phones rather than candlelight. Worst of all is when I see toddlers mesmerized by a smartphone or iPad as a babysitter.

I don’t mean to judge. I may have done the same thing had these “toys” been available when my kids were little, but I hope not. I’ve certainly been guilty of paying too much attention to my cell phone when I’m with friends or family, though I’ve been making a conscious effort to ignore my phone when I’m with people and pay attention to real communication and not virtual communication.

Thank goodness smartphones didn’t exist when my kids were teenagers. In a discussion of the recent story on teen sexting, I heard the following quote on CNN. (Sorry, I didn’t catch the person’s name.)

Teens are going to self expose before they self reflect.

We’ve all done stupid things in our lives. Thankfully, smartphones and social media didn’t exist when my kids were at an age where they didn’t understand the consequences of sharing too much.

But, to close on a positive note, here are a few photos I’ve taken with my smartphone. I love having it with me to capture moments–what an amazing device it is!



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It’s a great way for me to capture ideas for art and writing, too!

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