Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Going Up?

Try as I may, I have never quite nailed down the 30 second elevator speech.

You know the one? 
That short, concise thirty second narrative about "who you are and what you do" delivered with energy and enthusiasm to a business prospect...or inquiring associate...or complete stranger you run into on an elevator. 
A speech that should last as long it takes to get from Floor 1 to Floor 10? 
Nah, never nailed it. 
Especially after I stopped singing and teaching and began writing. 
I did work on it. 
Wondered how it should sound. 
But more often than not, it would come out something like:

Stranger:  "What do you do?"
Me:  "Well, um, well, you see, I used to teach...teach singing, well, I sang first then once I had kids I taught singing....but last year, well, you see, my son's diabetes was a problem.  And well, they never figured out what was wrong but I lost my voice so now (internal thought: "even though I have no experience"), I'm a freelance writer."

So eloquent.
What do you think?
A ringing personal endorsement?
Can you believe I didn't get any contracts from this synopsis?

After a little more than a year of freelance writing under my belt, though, with a dozen or so contracts, I started gaining confidence about my new line of work and the speech began to evolve.  The only problem is, the work I've been offered of late has come from my "previous life" contacts. 
Production work. 
Directorial work. 
Master teaching work. 
I thought I had made the switch, but it seems God has different plans for me. 

So confusing.

Just when I thought I had my response  to the "who are you, what do you do?" question pinned down, the answer changed. 
Now what? 
How should I answer? 
I wish it didn't matter here on Earth so much, especially in the United States. 
But that's the corporate reality. 
"So what's the appropriate response, now, God?" I found myself asking one day.
"Who am I now?" 
Like a gust of wind, the answer blew at me.

"You are His."

Inhale this sweet peace.
"Say it again, God," I requested, just to be reassured.

"You are His."

Yes, that's the answer.
I'm His.
I'm His when He wants me to sing.
I'm His when He wants me to teach.
I'm His when He wants me to write something profound.
I'm His when He wants me to parent.
I'm His when He wants me to be quiet...thoughtful...prayerful.
I'm His when He wants me to laugh...shout (even though it's bad for my singing voice!)...encourage.
No matter what the task.
The career path.
The job or the goal.
I'm everything I need to be as long as I'm His.

Now, please excuse me...I'm off to write that 30 second elevator speech!

Photo credits:  Microsoft Word Images

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Got the Power

Before leaving for the UK and Ireland, I knew I would need a power adapter and converter in order to use my essentials.  And no, I'm not talking about my computer or iPhone.  These gadgets are handy, to be sure.  But the appliances with which I cannot do without...my true essentials...are my blowdryer and straightening iron.  Let's put things in perspective, people.
Travelon_ USB_Travel_Adapter_and_Converter

Drew dutifully fulfilled my request to purchase said adapter the day before my departure.  He came home with it in hand, along with the instructions for using it. 
He took it apart before my eyes. 
He put it back together. 
He gave me a short tutorial. 
Then he handed me the written instructions and asked if I wanted him to review it with me. 
I had packing on my mind at the time - specifically making a list to be sure I didn't leave my blowdryer or hair straightener at home - so I told him,
"No, thanks, I'll have hours and hours in the Newark airport to review the instructions." 
No sweat.

I proceeded to promptly put it out of my mind, trusting that when the time came, I would miraculously understand how to use the power supply.  I had watched Drew's demonstration after all, right?  I understood where to plug what and that my handy new contraption would even take a USB cable to charge my phone.  (For those of you who don't know what a USB cable is, it's the white cable that plugs in any number of iProducts and smart phones...computer input on one side, appliance input on the other.) 
I was ready to go!

What I didn't take into account?
All of those special little qualities that add up to disaster.

So, the second day after my arrival, in I plugged my adapter to the UK source.
In I plugged my hairdryer to my adapter.
On I flipped the wall switch that accompanied each Irish electrical supply mount.
Sparks flew, electricity sizzled momentarily accompanied by a "ZAP!"
then out blew my power adapter and my new hairdryer.


I hadn't read the instructions. 
Therefore, I didn't understand that I had too much of my power trying to be converted into their power supply. 
In other words, I wanted all the power without the guidance on how to properly use it.

Oh how many times in life had I done this very thing?
Wanting my power my way?
Wanting to skate by in the area of knowledge and wisdom while expecting my daily conveniences to be ever available?
Wanting to rely on information I thought I knew rather than to seek instruction on the true, the sacred?
And each time the result?
Momentary sizzle and sparks of excitement and success then...


Oh, Lord, help me read thoroughly Your instructions for my life.
Help me channel power in Your name and use it only for good.
Help me to spark electricity in others through Your Word and Your path.
Guide me as I adapt to Your ways in true conversion of my obstinate heart.

Photo:  www.corporatetravelsafety.com
"All-in-One, Adapter, Converter & USB Charger
Model #02042

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More Than Prince Charming

When thinking through this blog post, I really couldn't decide how to begin.
Should I tell you first about how I was left behind by the school bus in the 1st grade for what seemed like hours but was in actuality all of five minutes?
Or should I remind you about my post from last year when I told the story of walking the hall of shame at my elementary school, unable to get a grip, crying each day of first grade?
Then there's the tale of moving to Southern California at age 17 where, after the initial excitement wore off, I had a hard time leaving my apartment, finally refusing to get on the bus to attend my college classes...
No matter. 
Each of these short sentences serves my purpose. 
A purpose of illustrating to you a history of difficulty. 
Difficulty in trying new things and going new places,
unsure of how I should navigate the highway of life.

So, not surprisingly, when I embarked upon my recent adventure to Ireland, despite my heartfelt excitement, when I arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport and discovered I would not be able to use my phone to call my family over the next two weeks, I panicked.

I panicked big.

It was so bad that for the first time in the two years of knowing I had the safety net of an offer from my therapist, I caved and called her on her cell phone. 
On a Sunday. 
From the airport.  
(Okay, okay, don't judge me...I was pretty proud of myself for having the presence of mind to call her rather than just succumbing to a potential nervous breakdown!)

After she talked me off the proverbial ledge, I pulled myself up by my literal bootstraps, traversed the airport to Ruby's Diner to get a bite to eat, then called my mom for what I knew would be our last conversation until my return to American soil.  I felt much better after having that interaction and decided to take it in stride, later solving the problem of how to communicate with my family during my trip.  (More on those lessons in a later post...)

But above all else, once I had checked my fears along with my luggage,
I prayed. 
I prayed fervently. 
I prayed for God to take care of my family in my absence. 
I prayed for Him to give me strength without them. 
I prayed for His wisdom in all of my choices in a different country. 
I prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide my words - 
in every interaction, with every person I encountered. 
Most dearly, though, I prayed for my dad to be with me in his family's country. 
To share with others those precious life lessons he taught us girls growing up. 
To have a hand in all that I did. 
To guide me and be with me each step of the way.

Imagine my delight then when, straight out of the cab, that very prayer still dangling from my lips and filling my heart, I entered the door of my first homestay,
and there hanging on the wall, this verse greeted my eyes, an answered prayer...

"Daddy, someday I will find my Prince Charming, but you will always be my king."

Below it, in very "Daddy" fashion, his comforting, effervescent, spiritual language of love whispering to me, he sent a second sign, just to make sure I had no doubts,
certain that I knew it was him...

Yes, the symbol of the heart is his love for me outpoured.
His assurance that he is but a prayer away.
It matters not if I am in sunny California...
Or the lush, tangled backwoods of Alabama...
Or the hills and vales of Ireland...
Or, for that matter, the outer reaches of Timbuktu...
His heart embraces me with each step as we traverse the road of life together.

(If you missed out on the original tale of heart symbols after Daddy's passing, please click here, Part 2 & Part 3 to catch up.)  Thanks for reading...


Friday, February 15, 2013

By Design

About a year and a half ago, after my brief but significant stint with a deluded psyche, I finally felt ready to get back to living in work.  I called one of my nearest and dearest, Bill, and told him that if he ever needed a hand in the business of touring - conducting, stage directing and the like - that Drew and I had discussed it, and I would love to help out.

He called me a few weeks later and asked if I was really serious in my offer.
"Absolutely," I said enthusiastically though briefly wanting to throw up with anxiety. 
"How about Japan?" 
I jumped at the chance. 
I had spent two glorious, growing summers in Japan in 1989 and 1990. 
One on a seven city tour around the country performing a two hour concert;
the other at the base of Mount Fuji at an amusement park, Fujiku Highlands, entertaining the park crowds.

Try as I might, however, I could not get my family schedule to match Bill's need.  He finally called me to say he was so sorry, but he didn't think it was going to work out.  He had booked travel for another director. 

Honestly, I felt so called to do this, I just couldn't figure out why it wasn't working.  But for once, I decided to not question and just wait.  In a later conversation, he said to me, "You know, you could always go next year.  We have three tours going out and I know we'll need help.  What about Ireland next January?" 

I wanted to cry.

The land of my ancestors, both McGonagles & Kerrigans...
The Emerald Isle...
County Donegal where my grandmother, Margaret, was raised on Lach Foil "twixt Foil and Swilly, with the mountains behind her and the lake at her feet"...
The country where Daddy's anthem, Oh Danny Boy, was born...
The country he had never gotten the chance to visit.

"Yes, Ireland.  Yes, I will go there," I said.

I am just back from Margaret's homeland.
A country where it rains most days but is never dreary...
A country where it is said that 40 shades of green are found among the fields and vales....

Forest & fern, Laurel & light,
Myrtle & moss, Emerald & bright...
Darkness and glow mingling with the blue of the sea and lakes, the whitecaps of the ocean.

Yes, this trip was predestined and the timing designed.
Last May, according to my plan, I would have been half a world away in Japan.
Last May, according to His plan, my dad went into hospice care.
I likely couldn't have gotten back to say goodbye...
to share the sacred rite of death into new life with my family...
to experience Heaven through Daddy's eyes.

Yes, Ireland was by design.
The sites and the sounds;
The relationships and the lessons;
The music and the mirth;
The bounty and the blessings.
Knowing each moment that my dad was there, guiding me and leading me, experiencing each precious moment with me.

Oh, how grateful I am that my plans are fleeting, but His arranged.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

No Greater Love

Finally back at my desk after a month of travel, just in time to spend two very special days with my family, basking in the warmth of hearth and heart.  Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day, one a day of sacrifice and the other of love, yet intertwined in meaning as one can't survive without the other.  So as I reflect on Jesus's sacrifice for us on the tree while also thanking and praising Him for the loves of my life, I am reminded of a man who embodied both of those traits for me personally.  My dad.

I'm revisiting this entry from one year ago, the last gorgeous, poignant memory I shared with Daddy before his passing three months later.  The epitome of love and sacrifice for his family, Daddy gave me a lasting Valentine's gift I will forever cherish.

Thanks for waiting with me as I traveled about all of this time...but mostly, thanks for reading.  I'm so grateful to be back.  Happy Valentine's Day...Cynthia


My dad was never a really demonstrative kind of guy. He told us he loved us often; said he was proud of us frequently; asked how he could help us occasionally. However, like most men raised in the 1930's and 40's, he wasn't terribly generous with physical affection. One unexpected look of merry amusement or heartbreaking pride in his beautiful, blue, knowing eyes along with a hug, then, could bring you to your knees.

As in matters of affection, the same held true for gift giving. Mama usually took care of us kids in that department. But every now and then, Daddy would surprise each of us girls with a small remembrance. One such time was a Valentines Day when I was about 11. Daddy came up to our rooms and gave us five girls a handwritten Valentine and a plastic, pink, puffy Ziggy Valentines pin. (Both Ziggy and Garfield always slayed my dad with their dry wit.) I'll never forget how excited I was about this unexpected treat, made so much more valuable by the rarity of it's predecessors. The card was signed, "love, love and love again....Daddy," in the gorgeous, messy, artistic scroll that was my fathers' handwriting. I was struck, even at 11 years old, by the repetition of the three "loves" in his signature. It was as if he was trying to express, since he didn't often physically, the depth of his feelings for us...triple what we might suspect. Oh, how I loved that card and gift.

This past Sunday, Daddy had a rough morning. He rallied beautifully for the first two days of my mothers trip. But the toll of the effort required in mentally processing without Mama, his touchstone, was exhausting. It broke my heart...his frail humanity, his wish to keep his dignity intact, his inability to recognize me as his daughter rather than "this nice young lady." (Though my dark humor kicks in here and is grateful he wasn't calling me "this old hag" or "this terrible taskmaster.")

Thankfully we made it to church, another source of comfort for him, and the tide turned. Suddenly it was Communion and Daddy's throaty Irish brogue swelled with the music: "Here I am, Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord if You lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." He and I sang with abandon, side by side, just like old times. I felt I had been given a gift.

Little did I know that the true gift would come moments later as we exited the church, walking to the car. I asked, "May I take your arm?" then impulsively leaned my head on his shoulder and whispered, "My Daddy." He squeezed my arm, leaned his head on my head and said, "My little girl." And for that brief moment, his memory jogged by our voices raised together in song, he remembered who I was. Like the Ziggy pin, it was an unexpected gift I will forever cherish.

So on this Valentine's Day, as people all over the country are celebrating their love for one another, I celebrate the beautiful gift of grace given with "love, love and love again" from my father here on earth and my Father in Heaven.