What is a reward anyway?

I bet no one else experiences mental rumbles caused by all the stuff surrounding holidays. Reheard an old saying from my errant (lazy?) youth: Hard work is its own reward. Hmmm. I do not like sweating, or boredom. Hard work sounds like both.

One thought emerged from the morass, What is Reward/What is Pleasure? Are they the same, dressed in different clothes? I choose to ignore Work. For the moment.

Turns out Reward is rooted in old German meaning to regard or look at, watch over. Kind of like the word, tend; as in to tend a house or garden. Modern usage refers to Reward as a return or result from some behavior or action. It often infers monetary compensation for special services.

Let’s put all that in the word cauldron. Stir, while heating to a low boil. Simmer until a coherent idea glosses the top of the liquid. Pour into a shallow container and let sit until it congeals.

Wait, no, I’m mixing up images, again. One of these days, cooking will stay in cooking, knitting will stay in knitting and words, well, let’s just say, mental and oral vocalizations will Know Their Place. Or not. Rather like well rested toddlers, they imagine their place to be Out Here. See how they hijacked a perfectly reasonable discussion? Heavy, heavy sigh.

Back to the issue. It was here a moment ago, right in the middle of my desk. Once I move the Christmas cookies/candy/gift list…ah, ha. There it is.

Reward. A result of action. And most people see reward as a good thing. It gratifies, satisfies deeper than a momentary impulse. So the satisfaction I get from knitting a cap for a grandchild is a reward for me. Seeing the yarn go from a simple ball to something the kid desires is fun for both of us. And I get the pleasure of seeing him wear the cap.

Painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling had to be the biggest pain, physically and mentally for Michelangelo. But the end result, gratifying in a huge way. So even grand art, or composing or any of the art forms requires work. Hmmm.

What I think of as mundane, boring actions are only mundane in the moment or the result? I know that in knitting, reading, the stuff I enjoy but I learned to enjoy those things because I wanted the sweater or how the story ended or the information on how to do something.

Hmmm. There’s a funny little conflict arising. Sort of like raisins you thought were chocolate chips, in a cookie. Why does no one warn me of this? My tongue was set for chocolate and this was, aaauuuugggghhhhh, not chocolate!

So, work Can be its own reward? But, wait a minute, everything in my culture argues not so! Live for the weekend, do as little as possible, if it’s not fun, don’t do it. That other stuff isn’t my job anyway. I don’t do dishes or windows or vacuum. It’s boring.

Sorry. That last rant was a replay of an overheard conversation. Somewhere. Will have to chew on the Reward thing. Buried in this idea is how a Reward works internally so I feel good about myself. It nourishes rather than demands feeding. I feel a good bit of contemplation and experimentation coming on.

Or a nap. Whichever comes first.

 

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New day, new way. EEEEEKKKK

There ought to be a different word than anxious about the crazy discomfort of wonderful, desired new things. That feeling just before you finish your driving test, and you know you passed, you’ll have that license and you’ll be free to go where you want, when you want and yet…And yet, it’s kind of nice to relax in the passenger seat, not have to watch for traffic, other drivers, approaching weather conditions, that looney insisting on texting while driving on the freeway ahead of me, now beside me, now speeding to catch a slot to exit, but wait, no. Not exiting, simply charging along, texting.

Could I just have a chauffeur? A professional driver to take me on errands on my schedule? Is that too much to ask? Actually, yes. And expensive. Cabs are not cheap either plus you have wait for them.

Already had all that drama about driving, years ago. And survived. But at different junctures of life, new stuff emerges. New pathways into foreign unknowns. Heavy sigh. And still, no really good descriptor of that uggy, excited, wonderful, scary awareness of new levels in life.

I did use my handy-dandy on-line thesaurus (spell checker is not always helpful. Took me several letters erased, repeated, erased to get anything close of correct on how to spell thesaurus) and it had suggestions. None of which I liked.

As a kid, I loved the excitement of Christmas morning, but I really loved the warm quiet of settling in with that long-wanted-new-smell book, surrounded by new clothes and other stuff I’ve long forgotten but so enjoyed then. The hustle, hustle was over and quiet appreciation covered everyone.

Quiet. Peace. Awareness and time to savor. That part I still love. And new routines usually work into good methods. Even as I write about how my insides wriggle and twist at new levels of life, I know the after time will slip in and it will be good. Writing about it works for me. And honestly, holds the anxiety at bay.

So new stuff on the horizon, I salute you. Welcome you. Anticipate the freshness you carry and look forward to a long and worthy partnership. It will be Good. After I stuff that last remaining fretting quiver back down in the back of the cabinet. Under the stairs. In the basement.

 

Horns of a Dilemma or Dilemma Horns?

The crazy thing about wanting to do something and having the time, so it’s less attractive to do, as opposed to wanting to do something and having absolutely no time to do it. Horns of a Dilemma.

Hmmm. Sounds like some dime novel title. Except it’s been used before and dime novels now cost $5.

Is this some kind of psychological mind game?

Naw, merely the realization that time, inclination and motivation don’t do algebra or even geometry very well.

Did you say Euclidian geometry?

Nope, simply geometry. Most of which is Euclidian. I repeated that word ‘cause it’s fun to say. And write. Actually, this runs into the field of psychology. Happily, with ribbons and streamers dancing in the sunlight of a quiet Sunday afternoon. And yes, I know full well that Monday will come charging up at sunrise, demanding I Get to Work.

Oh, so you anthropomorphize your inclinations?

Yes, I do. They are much more fun that way.

Oh, dear. The whips and chains have come out. And dogs. And torches. Which means I really have to get this blog started. The idea was a fun one, but I think it got left in the swamp of an interrupted afternoon nap, followed by a lack of caffeine.

You see what I have to work with, all these voices chittering away like squirrels too high in the tree to chase them away? And I did have a point with starting this thing. I’m dithering between 6 different projects, two of which are book length adventure/mystery, one non-fiction piece and a couple of short stories dangling in edit purgatory. That leaves the lone blog, defenseless  unable to run away from me. It limps and whimpers, afraid I’ll do something before it is prepared to face the world.

But I won’t. Once I get going, words will flow, images will gel into some kind of coherent structure and I’ll have a lovely, intelligent essay ready. It’s just that getting going part is rougher than usual today.

I’m attempting to get myself into a routine of writing Sunday afternoon, editing Monday morning while I do laundry, set some bread to rise, and seek out a few raging dust bunnies. Except by now they are more like treacherous tangled tigers, ravaging the chair legs in the kitchen. What? Too many T’s?

Whew! Almost lost my train of thought there, caught up with the disaster of the kitchen. I was talking about establishing a routine for writing while allowing for life to continue. Because I do write, a lot. And I do have goals, which every honest writer needs.

Don’t get me started on being dis-honest. I put the hyphen in there on purpose, to call attention to my own conflicts. Am I a writer or a dilettante? A teller of meaningful tales or a useless hack, beating my fingers bloody to feed the gaping maw of a demanding public?

Sorry, the purple prose police arrested me for over-use of adjectives. Had to pay the fine or no writing for a week. Stupid rules. Not like it’s a felony offense or anyth…Oh, did I write in my outside voice? Again? Sorry.

And I do sincerely apologize for saying the public is demanding or has a gaping maw. You, Gentle Reader, are the reason I  keep going. I want to writer for you. It’s simply that I’m a tiny, ittsy bit stuck. And Facebook is telling me to Write More of Something.

And I did. So there, Facebook, you and your snippy, rat-me-out Results page. Your 500 words, in your face.

Oh, sorry, must run now. I see the glow of torches, the clash of pitchforks and the high pitched caterwauling of critics. We will continue our lovely discussion of Writer Ethics at a later date. After I come out of hiding. Next week or perhaps Tuesday afternoon. After the battle of the vacuum cleaner and the window smucher. Ah, paper towels, ethics be damned.

When I am not so warm and fuzzy

You know how sometimes a specific event triggers a realization in your head? Had one of those things. I want to install a peephole in my front door. The realization was not about installing a peephole but more that I don’t have to open the door to anyone, if I don’t want to.

This matches the moment I realized I don’t have to answer the phone every time it rings. I’m not a doctor on call, nor do I hold office hours in my home. My front door is for my convenience, just like my phone. Nor do I need to sneak around, pretending I’m not home when the random person demands my attention.

Yeah, I know, it sounds and feels rude to ignore the bing-bong, the jangle or the snippet from a song bursting forth. The conversation or game, or fun moment I’m enjoying with my grandkids, husband or anyone I actually invited over is worth more than the imperious demand of whoever wonders by my house. And yet.

And yet, I fall for it most of the time. Did the other day and it still rankles me. Am I such a slave to other people I don’t even know that I let them jump into my life, hold my attention, and interrupt moments I will never regain? Apparently so.

It feels like I’m ignoring, dishonoring, thumbing my nose at that person on the other side of the door who just Might Need My Help. Ah ha. Not so much about them but more about me and that crazy savior button getting pushed, again. And again. And again.

Once upon a time, in the not so long ago, people did not lock their front doors. Ever. Neighbors knew who lived around them, making note of strangers walking around. Kids played in (gasp)the front yard. Along with drinking from the hose, climbing trees and generally running from yard to yard in a pack.

Now we mow our lawns for looks, not use, decorate the front path to impress instead of invite, ignoring the front porch wavers. And the idea is great, romantic and homey. Since I grew up in the country, outside of town my images of town life included all the stuff I watched on Leave It to Beaver. And other forgotten shows. But you know, the Cleavers were not front porch people either.

Hmmm.

Have to re-examine my childhood images more. June Cleaver did open her front door from time to time and she never seemed to be in the middle of anything important, family related or otherwise. Come to think of it, she probably ignored the front door bell all the time. It simply never made it into the script for us to see. And I just bet Ward installed a security camera right after Wally and the Beaver went off to college. In case Eddie Haskell dropped by.

 

 

Worship=Warfare.

I had an epiphany last night (I love fancy words. It’s like hanging pretty baubles on the conversation tree-ahem-back to topic) about what it means to worship. I realized what worship really is. It is to see God as He actually is, recognize Him, accept Him as He is.

Suddenly, all those verses about seeing God, working with Him, fully, completely aware of Him and living in that awareness; all those verses now make sense.

I’ve always (and I do mean always ‘cause I’m not talking in fancy, exaggeration terms) had trouble with the idea that God needs me to brag on Him, that I must laud Him all the time, no matter what.

Makes God out to be some needy, self-focused creature that has to have His ego stroked or there will be Hell to pay. Sort of a cosmic Caligula. And if He is that, then He is not God.

In one of those half-awake, half-asleep moments, while thinking about what it means to speak plain words, I caught a thought. Worship means being worthy of adoration, praise, in a clear sense, as to see into the truth of something and recognizing the fullness.

Deceit means to present a false image, cloud truth with conjecture or pretense. A deliberate act of prevarication. An active lie.

Wow.

So, if worship is to be worthy of recognized, being of extreme value, then it must reflect what really is. And if deceit is the clouding of truth, the question to Eve in Eden (did God really say…?) was meant to question the character, value and worth of God. Making it difficult, if not impossible, to worship God.

Hmmm.

Making it easier for all hell to break loose inside Eve. Touching into the very essence of her being. Tainting her self-image, her assurance of who and what she was. Character assignation at a personal level, shattering everything.

Wow.

Sounds like Cosmic war. Or more precisely, a first strike of universal magnitude.

The words ‘Do you not know that you are the pinnacle of creation, do you not know that God loves you, do you not know that He would die for you’ ring inside me as I think about this. I can hear the anguish of Paul of Tarsus in his letter to the Romans, the sorrow of Jesus as he looked at Jerusalem, the stricken voice of God when he asked Adam “Who told you that you were naked?”

Worship. To be worthy, the state of worth above all worth. The beyond of the beyond.

To suddenly realize deceit meant to steal that awareness from me. Personally. To strike me at the core of myself so that I would be blind, cut off, incapable.

But God…

But God trains my hands for war, teaches me to bend the bow of bronze, and He delights in me. Because He is God and I am me.

And we win. Always. Can you hear my sword singing?

Details and ingredients

Working on a new short story right now and it’s providing me a chance to dig deeper in character development. Yeah, yeah, talking about all that writer stuff again. It keeps rising like yeast in a warm kitchen, so I best pat this dough down so I can get on with setting the loaf in the oven.

Small tee-hee at my baking analogy. I promise, it is the last one. For a few minutes any way.

Heard or read somewhere that every villain is the hero of his/her own story. Considering that perspective gives me a chance to develop villains with more flavor. Short stories, my personal fav, make every word count. The scenes, lines, set-ups are all truncated so that only the necessary is left. They can and should surprise but the result must satisfy the reader.

Life is kinda like that. Details matter but it’s all in the perspective. Some details aren’t really details, merely spurious data while some details reveal the heart.

Still patting.

 

What was I born to do?

Ever wonder what you were born for? I did and sometimes still do. All the whining about not knowing, all the grousing. What is God’s will from me?!

Wasting all that time being jealous of the apostle Paul.

Sure, God, you told him he was the apostle to the Gentiles. He could ignore other stuff and focus. What about me?

Well, turns out, once I shut up and stopped pouting, I noticed some details that eluded me. Naw, not eluded, more like honking, flashing big road signs I chose to overlook.

Stuff that sure didn’t seem like what I thought a call from God would look like. Like reading. Everything. All kinds of topics about all kinds of things. Biology, biographies, history and science/quasi-science. Finding out the difference and why it matters.

Asking questions, about everything. When was knitting developed, why human behavior is tied to culture, what kind of organizational patterns emerge in start-ups and why do they peter out? Wondering why I think in a particular way, and discovering other people don’t think like me. And that it’s okay that they don’t. Why music impacts thought patterns and color choices in décor. That general health is more than body function. The difference between people and objects.

The list goes on and on. I think about stuff all the time. I like it.

And God enjoys that. He called me to do that. What?!?

A person can be called to ask questions? Check out Proverbs 25:2.

Go figure.

But what about my husband, kids, grandkids, friends, Romans, countrymen? Sorry, extraneous details fly past my mental eyes. Where I have no windshield wipers. Forget the Romans, countrymen stuff. Shakespearian lines emerge at the craziest moments.

But shouldn’t the people in my life be part of my call?

Yeah, and they are because God put them in my life. And He, God, guards all that He gives me. (Ps 16:5) My job is to steward all that He gives me. No concerns about keeping things (or people) safe, that’s His job. And developing plans, procedures that grow, develop and prosper all He puts in front of me is my job. Knowing my office and my gifting helps me keep my attention on my responsibilities to share what I know to the best of my ability.

Kind of a nice delineation of tasks. With no worry about stuff I can’t control anyway. Hmmm.

Turns out I function as a Teacher. Not in a classroom, but in life. I ask questions, cast idea seeds, pray for rain and move on. God uses what I thought were distractions to show people mysteries and delights. And because I am all about Fulfillment, especially in people, I ask people questions. For their benefit. And sometimes puts wrinkles in their socks.

Part of the job is developing a sense of what to ask when, then shut up so other people can process what is going on. Kindness goes a long way.

I don’t guard the questions or protect the ideas. God does that. Part of what I have to learn is to trust His husbanding of people, His direction of what ideas to present and nurture, as well as which rabbits to chase another day. He knows what He’s doing. Kind been at it a long time. Me, I’m the new kid to this. It’s gonna be fun. Kind of scary, but fun.

 

 

 

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Pleasure? Reward?

A few posts ago I started talking about the distinction between reward and pleasure. BORING.

I heard that, or rather sensed the disruption in the force. Truth is, words and assumptions get all snarled up together. Result? That crazy tangled web Shakespeare mentioned in a sonnet, or a play, can’t remember which.

Pleasure is not reward and reward is not pleasure, although both of them smush together a lot. Both feel good. And I love to feel good. Oh, you too? Okay then, we are on the same page.

The big deal between pleasure and reward? Lasting impact. In my not so humble opinion. Both are positive, good results. No problem with pleasure or reward. That warm fuzzy that fills your brain when you smell your favorite perfume, being snuggy after a hot bath while you listen to great music, relishing the quiet after a noisy party.

Or that wonderful camaraderie surrounded by a dozen of your best friends, watching your favorite team win the Super Bowl. Sitting in the stands at Nascar, whooping with everyone as the cars scream past you. Great conversations going on around you at a fun party, where everyone is laughing, as you bring in more food and drinks.

Pleasure. Pure and simple. Good. And it’s fantastic while it happens.

Reward? It is rewarding to feel that sensation, while it lasts. But simple pleasure is momentary. It dissipates, fading to a pleasant memory.

The thing we call reward has much longer threads, more legs to journey into the future. Reward is something earned, a return on action. I must do something to achieve it. The crazy thing about it? Reward causes me to feel good about myself. I did something that rewarded me with the pleasure of my own company. And I want to feel good about myself much more than enjoy a fleeting moment of a-a-a-h-h.

Pleasure occurs. Reward results.

Why in the world am I talking about this? Rhetorical question, but a good one.

My grandkids. The three older ones perch in mid-teen years, and our conversations tell me they have the tiniest sense of self-happiness. And of course, like any good grandma, I want them strong in who they are, what they are and how to achieve their own sense of value.

Yeah, the let-me-leave-a-legacy thing. Which is a reward I want. And a pleasure to see it begin at the incremental level. ( I do so love big honkin’ words. As if you didn’t know.)

This whole reward thing came about when I began developing a character for a manuscript. He needed depth, pathos, resolution in the middle of a run of the mill mystery adventure. Wound up scraping the story, but kept the character because he became more fun as he dug into what made him feel good about himself as opposed to what made him feel good. It turned the story into something stronger and I realized this element of reward versus pleasure worked in real people too. Especially me.

When I find an acorn in the forest, I tell absolutely everyone. Ad nauseam.

Lucky you.

The cool thing is, when I say Pleasure? Reward? to one grandchild, he raises an eyebrow. The other two, not so sure they get it. Yet.

But I will keep talking, ‘cause I am the grandma.

Words are wild and crazy things.

They sound like one thing, mean another and often have different original meanings from how we use them today. I see you two passing knowing glances in the back ground. If what you’re communicating to each other is so important, why don’t you tell everyone else?

What? It’s not relevant?

Let us be the judge of that. After all, we all speak the same language here. Except when we speak Texan, which is not necessarily American English, at all. All of which raises the question, what is judging?

No. No. Not the topic for today. You can’t get me sidetracked. I’m unto you and your tricks.

See what I mean.

I bet everyone followed that little diatribe, before some of you fell asleep and hit the delete button. Yeah, yeah, yeah, me too. More coffee, please.

After reading over of my past blog posts, I saw a tragic but common grammar error. So all those hours spent watching Perry Mason was wasted?

AAArrrggghhhhh! Was and were, my own personal bugaboo. Should have been were wasted. Now posted for all the world to see. Or not. I’m really not all that popular. Thank goodness.

The truth is, I put something out there without going through editing. Please wait while I beat myself. I shall return momentarily. Or long-a-tarily if necessary. Basic grammar and I do not always meet in the same sentence.

Time to pay the piper.

What’s that mean anyway? Who pays pipers, whatever they are? Turns out, that phrase has been updated to the Texan saying of: Gotta to dance with them what brung ya. Also ungrammatical but oh so colorful. Several similar sayings cover the same territory.

Payin’ for yer raisin’. How you were taught to act will have future consequences, no matter how you try to escape. Similar to the mother’s curse: May you have children just like you. That one is only funny to grandparents, or people who plan to be grandparents. Kids do not find it quaint or charming, because they know it just might come true. Usually does.

I heard you judging me. Or rather I caught that eye-roll.

See?

Again. You did it again. And yes, I am talking about judging. Because I did get sidetracked.

Again.

What does sidetracked mean? It’s an old railroad term, meaning to be diverted from the main line or railroad track. But as we all know, the hero perseveres by stick-to-itiveness and courage, and because the scriptwriters arrange the details. Since I am the scriptwriter, I plot.

All these words, scribbling across the page. Or actually, appearing with each key stroke. Computers are magic. And words do mean something or I wouldn’t write them. I use words to explore my own ideas, investigate concepts, play inside the sense of humor that filters my experiences.

So words are wild and crazy. Fun and tricky. Makes life complicated sometimes, easy sometimes. One of these days I’ll take you on a side trip to where I think words appeared.

But not today. There’s this knitting thing that keeps tapping on my window. Wants me to come out and play. If I lift the latch on the window, no one will even know I’ve gone…

About Me, really?

Ever wonder what you were born for? I did and sometimes still do. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All the whining about not knowing, all the grousing, complaining. Just bet you know the drill too. What is God’s will from me?!

Wasting all that time being jealous of the apostle Paul.

Sure, God, you told him he was the apostle to the Gentiles. He could ignore other stuff and focus. What about me?

Well, turns out, once I shut up and stopped pouting, I noticed some details that eluded me. Naw, not eluded, more like honking, flashing big road signs I chose to overlook.

Stuff that sure didn’t seem like what I thought a call from God would look like. Like reading. Everything. All kinds of topics about all kinds of things. Biology, biographies, history and science/quasi-science. Finding out the difference and why it matters.

Asking questions, about everything. When was knitting developed, why human behavior is tied to culture, what kind of organizational patterns emerge in start-ups and why do they peter out? Wondering why I think in a particular way, and discovering other people don’t think like me. And that it’s okay that they don’t. Why music impacts thought patterns and color choices in décor. That general health is more than body function. The difference between people and objects.

The list goes on and on. I think about stuff all the time. I like it.

And God enjoys that. He called me to do that. What?!?

A person can be called to ask questions? Check out Proverbs 25:2.

Go figure.

But what about my husband, kids, grandkids, friends, Romans, countrymen? Sorry, extraneous details fly past my mental eyes. And I have no windshield wipers. Forget the Romans, countrymen stuff. Shakespearian lines emerge at the craziest moments.

But shouldn’t the people in my life be part of my call?

Yeah, and they are because God put them in my life. And He, God, guards all that He gives me. (Ps 16:5) My job is to steward all that He gives me. No concerns about keeping things (or people) safe, that’s His job. And developing plans, procedures that grow, develop and prosper all He puts in front of me is my job. Knowing my office and my gifting helps me keep my attention on my responsibilities to share what I know to the best of my ability.

Kind of a nice delineation of tasks. With no worry about stuff I can’t control anyway. Hmmm.

Turns out I function as a Teacher. Not in a classroom, but in life. I ask questions, cast idea seeds, pray for rain and move on. God uses what I thought were distractions to show people mysteries and delights. And because I am all about Fulfillment, especially in people, I ask people questions. For their benefit. And sometimes puts wrinkles in their socks.

Part of the job is developing a sense of what to ask when, then shut up so other people can process what is going on. Kindness goes a long way.

I don’t guard the questions or protect the ideas. God does that. Part of what I have to learn is to trust His husbanding of people, His direction of what ideas to present and nurture, as well as which rabbits to chase another day. He knows what He’s doing. Kind been at it a long time. Me, I’m the new kid to this. It’s gonna be fun. Kind of scary, but fun.