Posted in Random Writers

Why? And Why? And Why Not?

Random Writers Topic: Write about whether I ask enough questions or if I settle for what I know.

This week’s topic is to write about whether I ask enough questions or if I settle for what I know. I laughed out loud when I read this topic. Anyone who knows me is laughing right now, too. Not only do I ask enough questions, I can be quite obnoxious to those who happen to be the target of my inquisitive nature. As it turns out, I actually had an experience just this week which proves my point.

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You can read the rest of this post at Random Writers. I invite you to join me there for more blog posts like this one and so much more.

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Posted in Random Writers

Here We Go Again

By Lee Sullivan

Random Writers Topic: Write about achieving a personal goal or realizing a dream come true?

Several years ago I had finally reached the breaking point with my weight. I simply became disgusted with what I saw in the mirror and decided to take action. I needed to lose some weight – a lot of weight – and I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I did what needed to be done, I dropped about 50 pounds, and I had never looked better in my adult life. Sounds great, right? I set a goal and I achieved it. For the first time since middle school, I wore a size 7. I felt great about myself.

I felt great about myself right up to the point where I started gaining the weight back at a rapid pace.

Now, take this exact story and repeat it every few years since I was about 20 years old.

I am the queen of setting my sights on a skinnier version of myself, achieving it, and then quickly reverting back to a much heavier me.

So here I am again, about to repeat this cycle one more time. However, this time I’m doing things a bit differently.

This time I will not visit a doctor for a prescription for legal amphetamines. This time I will not chemically suppress my appetite to the point that I go days without food and nourishment. This time I am not motivated to lose weight so that boys will like me more.  This time I will not choose a four cigarette lunch nor an evening of chain smoking to dull the taste buds and kill the desire for food.

This time I am turning to God first. This time I will exercise and make more healthful food choices. This time I am motivated by my desire to just feel better. This time I will work on myself from the inside out, beginning with the things I say to myself. This time I have set a goal related to physical fitness, rather than a number on the scales.

This approach is unlike any I’ve tried before. For one thing, I’ve never asked God to help me with this. I have come to realize, however, that I cannot do it without Him. I will need His grace to shine down on me when I’m feeling tired and weak. I’ve tried exercising before but I’ve never exercised with a goal in mind. There is a number on the scale I would like to reach, but I’m not going to freak out and throw my hands in the air if I don’t ever see it. I’ve never used my thoughts as a way to control my appetite in the way that I hope to do in the coming weeks.

I’ve also never asked so many people to hold me accountable. If you see me out and about and I’m about to order French fries or cheesecake, come and ask me if I’m sure I want to do that. Really, do it.

Oh, and one more thing. Can you say a prayer for me? I know God listens, and maybe if a whole bunch of us ask him to help me, I might just reach this goal without finding failure on the other side of it.

 

 


 

Posted in Random Writers

Fear Kept Me From This

By Lee Sullivan

Random Writers Topic: Write about overcoming adversity?

I’m in the middle of one of the worst adversarial periods I can remember going through in a really long time. I think it’s for this reason that I’ve been sitting here for hours staring at this blank white page on my laptop. I want to write about overcoming adversity, but right now, adversity is kicking my ass. I’m just not really feeling it and I am completely stressing about the fact that I have this blog post due for Random Writers. Of course, the more I stress about it, the less likely the words will come.

Wait!

What did I just say?

“I am completely stressing about the fact that I have this blog post due for Random Writers.”

Wow, if someone had told me 13 months ago that in a year, I would be stressing about having to produce a blog post- on a schedule- I would have completely dismissed them as insane.

But look at me.  Exactly 385 days ago, I posted my first entry on Purrfectlee.com, and now I also contribute to Random Writers.net on a weekly schedule. I’m blogging and I love it.

I have to admit that I have not gone through my life wanting to write. It has NEVER been a dream of mine.  As a matter of fact, when I’m given any kind of assignment to produce the written word, I freak out inside. I can’t even write a note in a birthday card without breaking out in a cold sweat. If I’m asked to provide a blurb for a brochure or piece of publically shared material, I’m paralyzed. Even producing a simple tweet or FB status where I want to provide content to others causes extreme anxiety from the fear that I’ll make a mistake in grammar or spelling.  

You see, I’m a self proclaimed spelling nazi and grammar queen wannabe. There is something in my brain that completely short circuits when I see the word your where you’re should be used, their instead of there, and than in place of then, just to name a few. I literally cringe when I see blatant misspellings that could have easily been corrected with a click of the spell check feature in most word processing and email software. I can hold my own with written grammar (even though my spoken words often betray me (thank you to the Alabama public school system), but I do freely acknowledge that I often have to research the rules to determine the right way to write (see how I used right and write correctly there?). Let’s just say that GrammarGirl is my best friend.

I’ve been a blog reader for years now, but something happened about a year and a half ago. I started to notice that there are some great bloggers out there who provide beautiful and important content, and they have the occasional typo and misplaced comma. There are others who seem to write only in run-on sentences, and still others that appear to just make up the rules of grammar as they go. I began to notice that I didn’t care. At first these errors were terribly distracting to me, but once I looked past the letters and punctuation and started looking at the message instead, I began to ‘get it’.

A light turned on for me and I realized that not everyone out there cares how the information is presented – just that it is. I started to realize that I was letting my fear of making a mistake, and being judged by that mistake, keep me from doing something I felt a strong urge to do.

For months I had been daydreaming about starting a blog. I had things floating around in my head and thought that if I could just get them out, I would feel better. I imagined using words as a form of therapy to deal with memories from my past, celebrate my present, and even as a form of accountability for my future dreams. I allowed a fantasy to evolve that by writing about my wrong choices, maybe others would make a right choice. I simply wanted to share what life had taught me.

My experiences with my blog have been incredible. I’ve received so much feedback and love from you guys that my heart has been full with joy. I’ve made discoveries about myself that I never saw coming and feel that even my relationship with Gil has grown tremendously because of this blogging thing. 

I look back at how those negative thoughts of fear and self-doubt almost kept me from doing something that has become a way of life for me now. Everyday I force myself to stop, think and create something – whether it’s 1000 words or a photo that needs no words – I’m forcing my brain into action and I’m telling a story.  And it feels so good. Even when my paragraph structure makes no sense and I scatter random commas in all the wrong places, it still feels good.

This is exactly why Random Writers was born. Gil has always said that anyone can write. I have always argued that his statement is true, but not everyone can write well, and this holds people back. It did for me.  We wanted to provide a place for ANYONE to share their thoughts, dreams, fears and wishes and not feel that perfection was a requirement. We hope to give a safe haven to those who have stories to tell but no place to tell them without fear of being judged or ridiculed. I wanted to provide an outlet for others who, like me, have allowed fear to hold them back.

Do you have a story to tell? Are you afraid your words aren’t good enough and in the right order? Then come join me and my friends at Random Writers and let’s make fear our bitch.

Posted in Childhood Memories, Random Writers

A Light Dinner

Random Writers Week 12 Topic: What is your most memorable meal?

I come from a long line of farmers, harvesters both of crops and of animals. In addition to the cows, pigs, chickens, corn, peanuts and fresh vegetables that were grown to sell to others and to markets, my family always had well stocked pantries and freezers with the gathering of these ‘fruits’ of their labors.

Growing up in the south afforded me many opportunities to eat foods that may seem a bit odd to most, especially you Yankees out there. If you know anything at all about southerners, you know they don’t waste anything when it comes time to take an animal to slaughter. Very few ‘pieces and parts’ went unused, so in addition to the regular supply of bacon, pork chops, ground beef, sausages and steaks, there were always other miscellaneous meats to be found. It wasn’t at all uncommon to open the freezer and find some eerily recognizable shaped parcels wrapped in white butcher’s paper and sealed with masking tape. Each package’s contents would be identified with stamped block letters in purple ink.  The largest of these packages usually a contained a head and the oblong skinny packages probably held feet or hooves of some kind.  With or without the stamped words, you just knew what these were.

I could handle the white packages all wrapped up in the freezer but I found it pretty unnerving when I would open a big, boiling pot on the stove to find the snout of a pig staring back at me. I wouldn’t have eaten it if my life depended on it, but I knew my grandpa was just a day away from a new batch of his beloved Hog’s Head Cheese, or Souse, as it was called in our house. To say that most of these southern delicacies grossed me out would be an understatement. I was a super picky eater as a child and I did tend to stick to the more traditional meats that you can find in any grocery store today.

However, there was one dish that I remember with the fondest of memories. It was prepared and served every New Year’s Day by my Granny Walker. It was my grandmother’s world famous Hog Hashlet. Okay, maybe it was only famous to our little immediate family of nine but that doesn’t matter. This meal and this day each year was very special and memorable to me.

I would look forward to this gathering and dinner (that’s what we called the meal at noon) all year long. Not only did my grandmother prepare this dish I loved so much, she would spend hours in the kitchen cooking up all kinds of nom noms for us to enjoy. For my father, she cooked a coconut pie using coconut flavoring because he didn’t like the coconut pieces. For the rest of the family, a coconut pie with the coconut pieces. This was in addition to other desserts like pecan pie and banana pudding. She would make rice to go with the hash and we could always count on some kind of greens being served. We had the customary black eyed peas and she was a tyrant about the fact that everyone had to have at least a spoon of them or else their year would completely go to shit. That may not have been the way she phrased it but we knew that’s what she meant so we devoured our peas, but only after saturating them with homemade pepper sauce.

So, let’s get back to the Hashlet. As a child, I can remember asking what was in this delicious soup and being told it was mostly made with ribs, liver and lights. The meats were boiled in water with seasonings and a few hot peppers. It was mostly just a broth, but when poured over pieces of thinly fried cornbread, it became one of the most heavenly things I have ever eaten. The meat was cut up into bite size pieces. The hog liver was a very course meat that seemed to be served in crumbles more than slices. The lights. Oh the lights. This was my favorite part. I could not wait to shove forkfuls of this spongy, soft, porous meat in my mouth. It wasn’t at all chewy and seemed to just melt when you started eating it.

I did some research before writing this blog post because I wasn’t sure if what we called Hog Hashlet was actually a real dish or just something my grandmother made up so she could use the last of the hog parts. Turns out, this is a very real dish dating back long before my grandmother. I found versions of granny’s recipe in collections from all over the world. As it turns out, one of the dishes I found was called Hasslet. I’m assuming my grandmother’s Hashlet was simply a bastardized renaming of a centuries old dish. I have to admit that little tidbit made me feel less like a pieces and parts eating country bumpkin and more like an international food connoisseur.

I’m not sure at what age I realized I didn’t know what lights were. By the time I found out the more scientific term I was already hooked.  There was no looking back or thinking about the grossness of the idea of eating what I found out was simply the lungs of a pig.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil and Lindsey‘s posts on their ideas of success.

Posted in Random Writers

I Trust You

Random Writers Week 12 Topic: What is your definition of success?

I was recently reminded of a comment I made to a blog post back in December, 2010.  The post was all about being useful and it’s one of my all time favorite blog posts ever by one of my favorite bloggers ever. I highly recommend you take a moment to read it. After I read the post I wanted to jump up and down because an epiphany hit me like a ton of bricks. After I was finished with my little epiphany moment, I took a few minutes to very mindfully post a comment. Here’s what I said:

During a recent workshop I was asked three questions. What do I want to BE? What do I want to DO? What do I want to HAVE? In one single blog post you have given me the answer that was so hard to come up with during that workshop.

I want to BE useful. What better feeling can one get than helping others, whether it’s providing a copy of a lost email (I never delete anything and everyone knows this about me) or hosting a fundraiser to change someone’s life. Both acts provide such a feeling of grace.

I want to DO useful acts. (see BE useful)

I want to HAVE trust. To have people trust you, to know they can count on you for not only the little things but for the big stuff, too, THAT is the ultimate reward. To know that my friends can turn to me when they need an ear, to know my boss can turn to me when he needs an important project completed on time, to know my coworkers can come to me for advice or assistance with a task, to know these people have trust that I’ll be there, that is the thing I most desire.

My dad was a big stickler about trust. It was something you had to earn and if you ever lost it, it would not be easily granted again. I can remember a few times when I betrayed my father’s trust and he did not forgive that betrayal quickly. Earning his trust again took a really long time and a lot of hard work. My father’s thoughts on this were so instilled in me that I’ve carried them with me my whole life.

I strive every day to do those things which inspire trust in me. However, I’m an over-committer. This means that I have a tendency to agree to do more than I have the time, energy or financial means to do. In most cases I can make it work but there are still times when I fall short of my commitments. I know that this may cause someone to trust me less and when that happens, it tends to eat away at me. Even when my failures to follow through aren’t significant, I really beat myself up for it.

People’s definition of success can be so varied. Some people define success in terms of financial stability or by their children’s happiness. For others, success can be making it through the day without a drink or a cigarette. For me, it’s hearing three little words – “I trust you.” I’ve always valued other people’s trust in me and my actions, and this is something by which I define my success as a human being. After all, if my word doesn’t mean anything, then I’ve failed others and I’ve failed myself.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil, Jeff and Lindsey‘s posts on their ideas of success.

Posted in Childhood Memories, Random Writers

Front Porches and Supper Tables

Random Writers Week 11 Topic: What is one thing you miss from your childhood?

This has been a really tough week for me. I had to travel back home to Alabama to be with my family during a very difficult ordeal. My 20 year old cousin was killed five years ago, and the man responsible for her death finally faced a jury this week. The trial was not easy and sometimes brutal in its honesty, but we endured because we had to.  That’s what families do for each other. We are there. No questions, no regrets.

While I sat in that courtroom, surrounded by only three and sometimes only two family members, it got me to thinking. I realized just how alone I felt, and I began to reminisce about the times when I felt the least lonely. I recognized those times were during my childhood when I was surrounded by my family. There was a sense of invincibility that being surrounded by family provided back then, and I realized how much I missed that feeling that nothing or no one can penetrate a wall created by kin folk.

I wondered in that courtroom what it would have looked like 20, 30, or 40 years ago. I wondered if all of the grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles would have come to lend their support and strength to those who needed it. I pictured a room filled with overalls and work boots and maybe even an apron or two as supporters left their tractors, cows, domino games, fishing poles, sewing machines, and kitchens to come hold a hand or wipe a tear. I’m a realist and I know that people have obligations such as jobs, children, and parents to take care of. I know times are so different now and that anyone who could have been there with us would have. I hope that my words don’t come across as judgmental or bitter because that is not my intention. I don’t hold any hard feelings for those who couldn’t be there. Those three days were filled with disturbing testimony, and I wouldn’t have wished anyone the pain we felt as we listened on.

When I was a kid, I lived for family get-togethers. I lived in a pretty secluded part of the country, so there were no other children except my cousin and my sister to play with. Sleepovers with classmates were a rarity. Play dates with other children just didn’t happen. This left me craving the times when our family would gather on a front porch, around a kitchen table, or on a fish pond. For me, these times were the best of times.

I fondly remember the New Year’s Eve parties at the Baileys each year. This was by far the highlight of my social life. There was also the annual Easter gathering and Egg Hunt at the Walker pond.  Any time someone had a long lost child come for a visit, we got together. When someone had a wedding or a baby, we held showers. When someone had a birthday, we gathered to celebrate it. If there was a holiday, there was a supper table filled with food for aunts and uncles and cousins to enjoy. As bedtime came around, the blankets and extra pillows were pulled from closets and pallets of children covered floors and hallways. When someone had a tragedy or a death in the family, we circled the wagons and made sure that family in need was taken care of through whatever hardship they were suffering.

I was brought up to believe that nothing was more important than family and spending time with them. I miss that sense of comfort in knowing that no matter what we did, these people would love and care for us our whole lives. And then I grew up. Other things became more important to me. There were boys and friends and jobs and school and ultimately, distance.  I have aunts and uncles I haven’t seen or spoken to in years. If you had told me as a kid that I would not see these people for so long, I would have insisted that you didn’t know MY family. My family would never allow so much time to pass between visits. It just wouldn’t happen. Except, it has.

I know times are different. All of us have grown up and have gone on to create our own families with new ties in new cities, not to mention new relationships and traditions. I have friends whom I cherish as much as if we shared the same DNA. These new families and friends are what make up my family structure now, but I will never forget those childhood memories.

I know that I am the most guilty of letting those early family ties just unravel around me. I have found that in my darkest times, my family has not been the people I’ve turned to. I don’t know why that came to be, but I vow today to make a change in my life. I may not live in the same city as the family by whom I was surrounded as a child, but I will let them know I think about them, that I pray for them, that I miss them.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil, Jeff and Lindsey‘s posts on the things they miss most from their childhood.

Posted in Random Writers

Hero of Hope

Random Writers Week 8 Topic: Write about someone you consider to be a hero.

My original plan for this topic was to write about a woman who has been a huge inspiration to me for over a year now. That woman is Stacey Monk, and I’m pretty sure I would follow her to the ends of the earth if she asked me to. The goodness and beauty and love in her heart is surpassed only by the light that she radiates to those around her. She is a bright, shining soul that I’m honored to call friend.

When I first met Stacey and her now fiancé, Sanjay, in early 2010, I was taken aback a little. I’m not a person who sees auras and I’m not even sure I fully believe in the idea of auras, but for that day, I did. I’m not sure what it was but I came home that night and told Gil I thought our lives might be different because of this woman I just met. That night I learned a little of the story of Stacey and how she and Sanjay started the non-profit Epic Change a few years earlier. I had no idea that night just how impacted my life would be.

Over the next 18-20 months, I would work with Stacey and support her dream to build a school in Tanzania. I would devote time and money and crazy amounts of love into a project that meant nothing more to me than the fact that it meant something to Stacey. It was also during this time that I began to understand just why this school was so important to her. For Stacey, she had found hope after a devastating tragedy, all because of one woman and her dream. While in Africa, Stacey had found Mama Lucy, and in doing so, found hope in her life and her world.

Mama Lucy Kamptoni is a mom who had to take her children to neighboring Kenya in order for them to get an education. After leaving three children in the care of strangers, she knew something needed to change so that other mothers and fathers did not have to do this for their children. In 2003, Mama Lucy told her husband she was going to take the money from her small chicken business to rent the house next door, and that she was going to start a school. And that’s exactly what she did. After hiring a teacher, she posted notes throughout her town and in churches that she was starting a school; and the children came. Six showed up on the first day. By the end of the week, there were 10. The children came and came and came.

Mama Lucy continued to educate as many children as she could in that rented house until one day she was told the house and land would be sold and she would need to find a different place to teach the children. This news came shortly after Stacey and Sanjay had visited and volunteered at Shepherds Junior School. When Stacey and Sanjay heard this news, they knew they had to help. Oh, and help they did. Through some of the most successful social media fundraising campaigns ever, Mama Lucy got her new land and a new classroom. Soon, more new classrooms were built. When the need for a dormitory to house some of the children was announced, more funding was found.

Mama Lucy had a dream of educating the children of her country, and what began with six children is now 503. What was a small rented house is now a Pre and Primary school with multiple classrooms, a computer lab, a dormitory and a staff of 47 educators and administrative support.

I asked Mama Lucy if she found that people told her she couldn’t do this? She responded with an emphatic “Ohhhhh YES. How did you know?” I knew because it’s often our first reaction when someone throws some farfetched idea out there. I can only imagine people’s reactions to her dream. “Who is this chicken farmer to think she can build a school?” I never got a chance to elaborate with her, but in my next face to face conversation with Mama Lucy, I firmly intend to find out what her responses have been to those people. She obviously didn’t let any of those Negative Nellie’s slow her down in pursuing her dream. Throughout all of this, Mama Lucy has never given up. She’s had her struggles and each time, she has found a way, either through her own hard work or through the sharing of love from around the globe or from some ginormous combination of both.

I met Mama Lucy on Tuesday. I also met two of her amazing students, Leah Albert and Gideon Gidori. Earlier in the day I had posted a blog about how I felt a darkness creeping into my life. It was just one of those bad mood feelings that I couldn’t shake.  Within moments of meeting these three people, the bright light shining from their souls left me blinded. I was no longer consumed with my own feelings of hopelessness. I had been filled to the brim with two four letter words: HOPE and LOVE. You can see both so clearly in Mama Lucy and in these kids. I have no doubt the hope Leah and Gideon have is a direct result of Mama Lucy’s perseverance and unwavering dedication to love these children and provide an  education so that they can grow up to be pediatricians, astronauts, or anything their beautiful hearts hope to be.

Mama Lucy is my hero. She had a dream and she made it come true. Now, because of that, 503 children can also hope for their dreams to come true as well. The thing with Mama Lucy is, not only does she channel the ability to hope into these children’s lives, she also showers them with unconditional love. By doing that, she has also flooded my world with love. For this reason, I can’t help but put that love right back out into this majestic universe we live in. How amazing is it to be filled with so much love that you HAVE to share it with others?

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil, Jeff and Lindsey‘s posts on the changes they wish to see in the world.