The Dash

Birthday girl. Vintage 1965 here.

As of today, I’ve taken 53 trips around the sun, and I’m pretty pumped for this next one. ‘Cause it’s a bonus trip!

(More on that here.)

Not sure why some people choose to keep their birthdays hush-hush. Not me. I’m all like…

IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m kind of a party girl. Not the lampshade-as-fascinator type; more the confetti-and-cupcakes variety. If there’s something to celebrate – birthday, half birthday, dog birthday, holy day, holiday or Hallmark holiday – count me in. There’s so much hard and bitter in life, I’m darn sure gonna relish/revel/rejoice over anything happy, sacred or sweet.

Yep, I’m pretty much all in for anything that involves balloons, bouquets or buttercream. I will savor every single birthday treat/text/call/card I get today. And I will be using French words like “fete” and “soiree” to describe my little dinner party this evening… rather than “crockpot tacos.” (Because birthday girls get to be all sorts of fancy for a day.)

Though I fretted a bit about turning 30 (full-fledged adult, married with two kids, unrelenting responsibilities and piles of laundry, a perpetual state of sleep deprivation and the unfortunate appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while still sporting the occasional pimple), 40 was a breeze. And 50 felt all kinds of fine.

I have very little angst about getting old. Heck, I’m already there. And the view’s pretty good. See?

IMG_1060

Note to all you young ‘uns: Over the hill has some pretty spectacular views. (This one’s in Ojai.)

Yes, I’m a bit saggy/raggedy/wrinkly and all that. But I’ve tried a bunch of anti-aging creams, cleansers and concentrates, and here’s what I’ve concluded:

  1. They are pricey.
  2. They do not prevent aging.

Bummer.

Despite that disappointing discovery, I’m not planning to have anything lasered, peeled or injected either. That all sounds rather unpleasant. (And if a birthday is anything at all, it ought to be pleasant.) Why would I choose pain and suffering when there’s already plenty thrown my direction by… well… life?

Plus, I try to avoid things that are poisonous. Even those little packets that come inside shoe boxes and bags of beef jerky freak me out. I don’t want to keep them… but I don’t want to throw them in the garbage either, for fear of a deadly dumpster-diving incident involving a lost dog, city mouse, night owl or alley cat. (Or a bar-hopper with a bad case of the munchies.)

I’m the girl that buys Clorox Surface Sanitizing Spray in bulk. Because it kills 99.9% of bacteria, that’s why.

Including – wait for it – botulism.

So I’m not gonna let someone inject it into my face. (Duh.)

Physicality is overrated anyway.

And aging is inevitable. However, aging “gracefully” isn’t a concept I fully understand. Don’t get me wrong; I have no interest in fighting it. It’s unavoidable. But I do want a say in how I “reel in the years.” Personally, I like Hunter Thompson’s approach:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

It’s now how we look that matters. It’s how we live.

It’s all about the dash.

1965 — 20??

(Only God knows my expiration date. And His timing – even when He seems terribly late or startlingly abrupt – is always impeccable.)

The dash is the thing.

I want my dash to be brimming with beauty, mercy, goodness and grace. I want to devote my entire dash to loving God and the people He’s given me… with gusto.

I’d like my dash to look a whole lot like this:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it…

The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him…

Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. 

~ Romans 12, The Message

That’s my itinerary for this next trip around the sun – offering and embracing, helping and holding, giving and forgiving, smiling and celebrating. (Every chance I get.)

Because from any view, that looks simply… dashing. Don’t you think?

Cheers!

The Birthday Girl

P.S. I suppose some people would say I’m just one year closer to dying. But I know – perhaps more than I’ve ever known anything – that I’m one year closer to really living.

Because heaven’s ahead!

“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” ~ C.S. Lewis

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Pencil Pusher

My dear reader,

Today is National Pencil Day. And I insist that we celebrate this humble, hardworking item and honor its steadfast service. Especially because it may soon become an endangered instrument. Think about it. Since we spend a good part of each day texting messages and tapping keyboards and signing keypads with our index fingers, I fear that the lowly Ticonderoga #2 may become a thing of the past. And I simply cannot bear the thought.

Once upon a time, when I was still single digits and sporting Garanimals and bouncing from school to school (Mill Street School to Mattie B. Luhr to Prestonia to Maplebrook Elementary, all in four years), my pencil box was kind of like a security blanket. And its contents were familiar and, in my mind, friendly. Bright and yellow and sunshine-y. When you’re the New Girl every year, it’s a good idea to focus on what you have – pencils and pocket folders and paste (in the primeval, pre-purple-glue-stick era) – rather than what you don’t have. Friends.

All I needed was a decent wall-mounted pencil sharpener and some wide-lined newsprint paper, and I was all set – no matter what classroom or grade or school district. Me and my pencils, we were ready for action. I approached my elementary education with ample school supplies and all the bravado that my 4-foot-3-inch frame could muster:

“All right, Miss Stone… Bring it!”

In my seventeen years of full-time studies, I don’t recall ever saying that I hated school. Well, except perhaps during the second semester of Mrs. Witte’s math class at Lincoln Junior High. I distinctly remember spending a dazzlingly sunny afternoon stuck in a kitchen chair at my friend Kimberly’s, laboring over algebraic equations. The fresh air and blue skies beckoned, but alas, we were doomed to spend every last daylight hour wrangling pesky polynomials. At some point in our quadratic delirium, I recall a fit of calculation-frustration wherein Kim and I were snapping pencils over our knees. (We wanted to rip/tear/shred pages from our math workbooks, but we wisely concluded that would be counterproductive.)

Honest and truly, though, that is the only time I remember “hating” school. Or wrongfully destroying any type of writing implement.

(Give peace a chance. That’s my motto.)

Pencils are ordinary, inexpensive, everyday objects that almost entirely escape our notice. Likely, at this very moment, you have a surplus of pencils in your desk, junk drawer, briefcase/backpack/handbag. You may also find stray pencils under beds, behind dressers, between couch cushions, inside your car console or carry-on bag or toolbox, and amongst hardware supplies and garden tools and sports equipment in the garage. Or perhaps, like me, you may one day find a pencil in your undergarment drawer.  Wait… what?! Never mind. Let’s move on, shall we?

Pencils can be found nearly anywhere, anytime. Except five minutes before your high school junior is leaving to take his college entrance exam. Then there is nary a Number 2 to be found. (This can cause mild to moderate irritation for parents of said junior. Or so I’m told.)

In my book, pencils are vastly undervalued.

Pencils can be used to write, doodle, draw, scribble, sketch, shade, trace. They can be used to convey ideas and capture images and crunch numbers. And they’re also pretty handy as window props and plant stakes and finger splints and back-scratchers and bookmarks and muddy-shoe-cleaners and hair-sticks-for-messy-buns.

So in recognition of National Pencil Day, I’d like to make a point. Several, actually. Here’s the first:

Take a cue from your #2.

Be humble, hardworking, helpful.

Make a point. With your words. With your life. What defines you? What or whom do you live for? What’s your passion, your perspective, your purpose? Let’s live pointedly, people. Otherwise, we’re just wasting our time on this planet. Draining resources and sucking air and taking up space.

Add some color. Pencils don’t have to be strictly HB2 (that’s hard/black/#2 for you pencil rookies.) In addition to the standard variety graphite pencils, there are charcoal, carbon, underglaze, and grease pencils. And my personal favorite: colored pencils!!! Like crayons, but a little more slender and sophisticated. (Think Grace Kelly or Cate Blanchett, as opposed to, say, Miss Piggy… or Violet Beauregarde.) Life is beautiful, oftentimes simply because it’s so brilliantly colorful. So add your own hue or two (or twelve!) to your little corner of the world… and pretty it up.

Erase and start again. Mistakes happen. That’s why H.L. Lipman invented and patented the pencil-with-an-eraser-attachment in 1858. And that’s why we need to say “sorry” and start over sometimes. If you mess up, don’t rip up your entire paper/project/personal life. Ask forgiveness (God offers an abundant supply) and begin again.

Be creative. Draw freehand. Color outside the lines. Scribble notes. Make plans. Imagine your life as a blank page… The possibilities are endless. Yes, even now.

Tell your story. We all have one. What’s yours? Where did it begin? When did the story turn? Who was there? What chapter is your favorite? Why? How do you hope it’ll turn out? Grab a pencil – mechanical, manual, maroon or mauve – and write it all down someplace. A napkin or a notebook. A diary or journal or fill-in-the-blank autobiography. (Yep, this is a real thing. Currently on sale at Barnes and Noble. You’re welcome.)

Sharpen a pencil. Any kind or color. And…

Write on,

Wendy

P.S. My favorite pencils of all time are the Mirado Black Warriors. They’re sharp, sleek, and strong. And they go with everything. (Even Mondays.)