Monday, July 28, 2008

Motivation 911

OK—I signed up for my first ‘athlon event. It is a biathlon in Springfield in September. I hadn’t worked out in about a week—lost some motivation and quite frankly got a little scared, so I signed up for this event to get me motivated (peer pressure might have been involved as well). There is nothing consistent about my life than its lack of consistency. I began to enjoy swimming and biking (I tolerated running, but liked how I felt afterwards). So, what would make me simply stop exercising one day and then seven days later realize—hey, I haven’t been working out? It makes little sense.

Apparently, I need motivation and something more than just feeling better and having more energy (raise your hand if you think that is a good enough one on its own). I need to drop three dress sizes or win a medal or something to keep me on track and since that hasn’t happened yet, I am open to suggestions….motivation 911.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Answering the Challenge

My middle brother just began to blog again. I was glad to see him take the step back into the literary arena. He is a much better writer than he gives himself credit for, and the practice is good discipline. You can’t blog for long before you MUST write a blog—about—blogging. This week was his turn. Marc issued a challenge:

"So, here is my challenge – write in your Blog about why you do it. What are the 3 things that stand out when you ask yourself that question… I am curious to the different responses that will come out of this."

Here is my answer:

To hone my craft:
I am a teacher of writing and if I don’t do it myself I can’t imagine what I would teach. Many of the lessons for my students come from my own struggles and triumphs in writing this blog.

To share the journey:
Many titles define who I am (mother, daughter, sister, widow, wife, step-mother, teacher, Christian etc..). Each role is a fundamental component of my journey and the perspective by which I walk. I hope that through sharing the journey, I also connect with others along the way. I am thankful for my fellow travelers and the many ways they have, in turn, enriched my life.

To simply find discipline within my otherwise chaotic life
Anyone who knows me understands that I tend to live in the moment. I am passionate about whatever I do and tend to jump in with both feet without much forethought. Writing this blog, however is one of the basic disciplines in my life. I tend to write, re-write, revise, edit and re-write ad nauseam. I often go back to post made over a year ago and revise. No one, but me, would ever read them but I still amend.

I don’t believe it is essential that we have reasons for everything we do, but for those exercises in our life that matter---we should be aware of why. So, why do you----blog?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

…is rumored to be a short story by Ernest Hemingway. There are many legends concerning this story, but the most accepted one is that he wrote the piece to settle a bar bet for $10.00. Could be it was written as a challenge, but either way, it's a complete work of flash or micro fiction (a sudden, short-short, postcard etc.. story).

Smith, an online magazine conducted a reader contest that turned into a 500 submission per day fiasco. The most poignant have been compiled into a book titled, “Not Quite What I Was Planning”. What was the jest of the contest?

Your life story in six words.

Some from the famous:

“Former child star seeks love, employment.” (Justin Taylor)
“Well, I thought it was funny.” (Stephen Colbert)
“Brought it to a boil, often.” (Mario Batali)

Some from the ordinary:

Happy we couldn’t conceive our own. (KC Kerpatrick)
Learning to save money saved me. (Kenny Stapleton)
Couldn’t say it so I sang it. (Alli Gator)

My principal challenged 8th graders to create their own life story in six words. She told us that she had been working on hers for six months, yet the 13 year olds were given a few minutes and a piece of chalk (to write their story on the sidewalks of the school-cool idea anyway). They came up with some fairly adolescent ramblings, some goofy wordage, and on occasion some profound thoughts.

So I thought I would take my shot at my own life story in six words. Here are two of my attempts at posterity.

Faced darkest night. Activated hope, nevertheless.

25 years. Ended abruptly. Confidence renewed.

THE CHALLENGE: Create your own life story in six words and post it below.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Run and NOT Grow Weary!

While running, at times, it is impossible to find my “mojo”. Nothing seems to get me motivated, except music. I have several playlists for running on my ipod. They are categorized by genre, artist, even play-time. My favorite is “workout 2”, which is a compilation of Christian music. When I am to the point during my run when exhaustion set in, this song by Lincoln Brewster seems to find its way from the queue and into my headphones, giving me added motivation to finish.

I hate running. I like to ride my bicycle and I love to swim, but I really am not fond of running. Try as I may to acquire the “runner’s high” it eludes me…but running has become a matter of discipline. Not much in my life falls in that category—but running does…

When I run—I listen…

Isaiah 40:28-31
The Lord is the everlasting God,
The creator of all the Earth,
He never grows weak or weary,
No one can measure the depths of His understanding,
He gives power to the weak, and strength to the powerless,
Even youth will become weak and tired,
And young men will fall in exhaustion,
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength,
They will soar high on wings like eagles,
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not faint.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cause for Immediate Action

What earth shattering event could compel me to pause, take stock and then pursue IMMEDIATE action?

Five words:

Four bathrooms --
NO toilet paper!


Surely you weren't expecting something profound today?

Monday, July 14, 2008


This is a different post for me for it poses no answers, no self-discovery, no “aha’s”. It is an appeal for insights, of which I am finding elusive at the moment.

Chandler came back from camp this weekend. Along with stories of cliff jumping, tubing, and extreme sports tournaments came accounts of spiritual growth. I remember returning from summer camp when I was young—the amazing spiritual “high” from that week would bolster my spiritual walk for several months. What I remember most was the compulsion to change my life in “real” and remarkable ways. I would make lists of what I needed to change to become a more dynamic Christian. On the list would be things I needed to stop doing, start doing, and augment to fit my new aspiration. My life would begin to transform and real change would take place. I had a mission; a purpose and it seemed effortless to act on its behalf.

These recollections, and yesterday’s sermon, got me to thinking about “change” in general. Change is difficult and the older we get, the more difficult it becomes. I have always enjoyed the stimulus of change, yet as I age it becomes less and less enjoyable. Conceivably this could be because I don’t mind change, as long as it is of my design and control, but if it comes from some external source--I tend to recoil from it.

When change is crucial, I don’t believe that it can be mandated. It can’t be browbeaten into submission. It can’t be preached at, coerced or commanded and expect to be effective. Change must come from within us. We must somehow make a choice to become the conduit. I do believe we can be led to change; motivated to change, and even inspired to change (as often was the case at summer camp), but our hearts must be open first.

My question is--how do you initiate change? How do you become, as Mahatma Gandhi believed, “the change you want to see”? How do you reconstruct that “summer camp” experience to inspire spiritual change? How do you reclaim purpose and continue with the excitement and hope that should be found in the Christian community and most importantly whose responsibility is it?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Give Small

Monday’s blog sparked quite a discussion in the Cuttill-Price household. My oldest son and I engaged in a conversation about how difficult it would be to volunteer for a mission/humanitarian trip of some type, but agreed that it would certainly be a life-changing experience for our family. Chad then went on to convey an experience he had at work last week that left a lasting impression on his heart and mind.

Chad’s job is “courtesy patrol” and that usually means taking care of the carts in the parking lot, helping folks to their cars and at times working as a cashier. It was in the later role he found himself last week, when an obviously needy family of four pushed their cart laden with home repair necessities through Chad’s lane. As he rang up the items, it seemed to him that this purchase would be a strain on their already stretched budget. Upon informing the gentleman of the total, a stranger from the queue stepped forward and told the family, “I don’t know why, but I feel God has asked me to pay for your purchase today.” Observably taken aback, the family was gracious and grateful. Chad was stunned beyond words, as the purchase was well over $300.00. In addition, the stranger handed the man $50.00 with instructions to take the family out to dinner.

Pausing long enough to reflect following the retelling of this story, Chad articulated, “Mom, I just want to make enough money so that I can help people like that.” Which got me to think—perhaps this is why more folks don’t give. Seems we have this illusion that in order to make a difference, we have to do something on a grand scale--that we have to give excessively in order for it to “count”. Discouraged at the inability to “GIVE BIG”, we often do nothing. What would happen if we began to give where we are, what we can, with the goal of becoming more aware of those around us?

Our conversation ended with the supposition that we could all begin serving others in small ways. Chad could save a few dollars out of every check and when he had $20.00 or $30.00, go to Walmart—eye a person of need, and pay for part of their groceries. We decided that for some people, $20.00 could make a huge difference in a weekly budget. So, the message is to give—give small, give anything, but give. Live outside your own existence. Look for ways to share. Not because of anything you might “get” in return, but because your life has been blessed and you can’t wait to bless another.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Bucket List

You know how when you cry---I don’t mean a few tears—I mean bawl like a baby? I recently watched “The Bucket List”—and that was just what I did. I had one of those “ugly cries” that I haven’t had in a very long time. I am not sure where this came from; it was either a natural response to a movie about inevitable death or vent up emotion that I had not released in a long time, but either way—I was moved.

At this point in my journey, I rarely visit those moments of my life that were immediately pre- or postmortem with Don. I do this—on purpose as to not unduly disturb the reality my mind has created since his death; yet, I have momentary lapses that coerce me to once again face the demons of mortality. Watching this movie was one of those times.

Both of the men in the movie (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) have only been given a short time to live. Freeman remembers an exercises he had to do in college where each student was to create a “bucket-list”—a list of things they wish to accomplish before “kicking the bucket”, so these two men create such a list and set out to complete it before their imminent death. Of course there is no happy ending in such movies, or in life for that matter, but I continue…

After viewing the movie—I asked Kent, “What would be your ‘Bucket List’?” None of his answers were a big surprise, but I did learn something about him. He wants to see the world. He would like to tour the continents or SUBA-dive the entire universe. I have thought about this notion for a few days and have come up with this preliminary list.

Marsha’s Bucket List
1. Tour the Mediterranean – visit Italy, Greece, the Egyptian pyramids
2. SCUBA dive in someplace exotic. (Grand Cayman, Cozumel Mexico 7/09)
3. Learn to speak a foreign language well enough to converse with the locals.
4. Serve on a mission trip with my family.
5. Participate in a sprint triathlon or 1/2 marathon.
6. Read all 100 books on the National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read” list.
7. Write something lasting for each person I love.
8. Teach in the inner city.
9. Name a star.
10. Memorize poetry so I will have it to recite at appropriate times (rather a romantic notion)
11. Visit the rain forest.
12 Zip line somewhere warm.(Jamaica 7/2009)
13. Have something I have written published for real.

Some find this a morbid exercise. I find it a hopeful one. It makes me aware of what is left to do and the fact that finding joy in the journey is as important as the journey itself. George Bernard Shaw wrote the following that sums up the…

True Joy of Life

This is the true joy of life.
The being used for a purpose
Recognized by yourself as a mighty one.
The being a force of nature
Instead of a feverish, selfish
Little clod of ailments and grievances
Complaining that the world will not
Devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life
Belongs to the whole community
And as long as I live,
It is my privilege to do for it
Whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly
Used up when I die,
For the harder I work the more I live.
I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no brief candle to me.
It is a sort of splendid torch
Which I've got hold of
For the moment
And I want to make it burn
As brightly as possible before
Handling it on to future generations