Friday, February 19, 2016

Catching Up . . . A Little

I have not been posting my thoughts on the 40 Things To Give Up For Lent as they have come to my inbox.  I have been reading them and ruminating on them, though. 

Right now is a very busy time for me.  Just about everything that I've said "yes" to is culminating in an event NEXT WEEK.  No, not just one event - three events in successive days.  Busy may be an understatement.  I'm having a good time, learning a lot, and (hopefully) making a difference, so I do not begrudge the time I'm spending.  I just wish that I had had all the dates in front of me when I said yes!

The events are on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Sunday will find me in my pajamas on the couch watching the Oscars.  A perfect end for a busy and arts-filled weekend!

So the aspects of the list that I was presented with the past few days are:

People Pleasing - I'm better at giving this up than I used to be.  With age maturity comes at least SOME perks!  I'm blessed to have a family that is pretty happy and easy going so this is not an issue on the personal front.  It's been more of a challenge in the professional front.  I think the key thing I learned here is to fulfill my obligations.  If I do what I need to do with integrity and with a good attitude, I have done what I need to do.  A supervisor (or even a student) still might not be a happy person, but my job is done.  I have done what was expected (sometimes more) and that's all I need to do.  I have more to say about this because I have run into this during a school year, but I can't spend that kind of time on a post right now.  But oh, yes, I have a lot to say.

Comparison - This can be difficult in the performing arts.  Every time I go for an audition, I have to compare myself to the others in the room.  I pick apart their abilities, their looks, the way they walk . . . everything!  And I do the same to myself.  I try to convince myself that I am what the director wants for that role.  I list all the ways that I can bring that role to life.  And then, as the dice rolls, when I don't get the role . . . well, again, age maturity has its perks. 

Yes, I am still disappointed when I don't get a particular role.  But I have been around long enough now - and been on both sides of the casting process - to know that it's (almost) never personal.  There are things at work that are seriously beyond my control - height, age, vocal range, etc.  And the roles that I've lost in the last couple of years since I've been back in the game . . . well, they weren't for me anyway.  The person who got the role did a much better job than I could have.  I fulfilled my obligation in the role in which I was cast and had an utter blast doing it!  I would not have had it any other way. 

Again, I have more to say about comparison in relation to parenting, but I can't spend that kind of time on a post right now.  But oh, yes, I have a lot to say.

Blame - A lot of times blame is my go-to.  Well, I could have had this done if "x" hadn't happened.  Or I wouldn't have been late if "y" had gone well.  It's SO hard to take ownership of my own shortcomings.  As one of Negan's henchmen said last week on The Walking Dead "Bite, chew, swallow, repeat."  Yep.

I have more to say about blame in relation to parenting, but I can't spend that kind of time on a post right now.  But oh, yes, I have a lot to say.

Guilt - I'll just leave you with this: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."  2 Corinthians 5:17  That's what sustains me when that condemning voice starts in my head.  I messed up in the past.  A LOT.  I mess up every day.  A LOT.  But I keep coming back to Christ.  His forgiveness and grace is big enough for my old and new mistakes.  And they are big enough for everything that I will do in the future. 

So . . . those are my quick responses to the past few days.

I notice in the list that tomorrow's aspect is Giving Up Overcommitment.  Hmmm.  Timely.  Well played, Lord.  Well played.     

Monday, February 15, 2016

Days 4 and 5 - Giving Up Impatience and Retirement

Saturday's aspect to give up was impatience.  So I resisted the temptation to fire off a quick post and decided to ruminate on it.  (See what I did there?  Sometimes I crack myself up.) 

God is always working on my patience.  Always.  I have kids.  I have a spouse.  I encounter people.  I need patience!  (For the record, I HATE lessons in patience.  I don't know anyone who does. It means that you are called upon to exercise patience.  It's maddening.  It's painful.  And it's just not fun.) 

I feel that I have made great strides in my education in the field of patience.  Being on this side of the lesson in several areas of my life, I can see how He worked even when I felt that He was being silent and idle.  I see where He was working and guiding me and I can see how I was fighting tooth and nail, not listening and . . . well, generally being a brat.

We own our own business.  We started that business in November of 2006.  Yep, just about a year shy of the Great Recession.  I will spare you the gory details, but it has not been the best ten years for us financially.  My prayer journal is FULL of prayers asking for relief.  But you know what, MY idea of relief is not God's idea.  My idea came with abundance in the checking and savings account.  It came with shopping for pleasure, pedicures and weekly dates nights.  God's idea of "relief" was that we never missed any payments on anything and we always had something to eat, something to wear, transportation and a beautiful house in which to celebrate our wonderful marriage and raise our healthy children.  God's provision was to strip us down to the basics - and continue to provide those basics in abundance - and have us (me!) rejoice in those provisions.   

A couple of years ago I finally started learning this lesson.  I finally started to loosen my white knuckle grip over the financial things I have no control of anyway.  Ten years into this journey, I now have ten years of hindsight.  And in ten years we've had some close calls, but God has been faithful and our business has thrived. 

Yes, we have debt, but we did not take on any debt that we felt we could not pay.  We prayed over any debt that we chose to take and we ran the numbers to make sure that we could fulfill those obligations.  Again, God is faithful and we are now in a position where we have been able to continually make payments toward that debt for a long time now. 

I'm not saying that I have arrived.  I'm not saying that I have completely let go of impatience and, woo hoo, I'm free!  Nope.  It's just that God has been so faithful in the big, huge picture these past ten years that it's MUCH easier to let go (well, at least to loosen my grip a little) now.

Today's aspect - retirement - I don't think we have to worry about that.  First of all, we're YEARS away from even thinking about that.  Secondly, read this post again about owning our own business.  I'm praying that we can save enough to someday retire, but I am certainly not sure about that.  And, thirdly, neither my husband nor I are idlers.  We can't NOT do something.  We'll be meddling about in something until we can no longer meddle in anything, I can assure you of that!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Day 3 - Giving Up Your Feeling of Unworthiness

Today's message was not a difficult one for me.  I am very confident in my identity in Christ - that He died for me not because of any action of my own, but because of the Father's love for me.  For some reason, that isn't difficult for me to accept.   I know that there's nothing that I can do to earn that love.  I know that I will never be perfect and that I can only do what I can do and do it with the right heart. 

I think that one of the reasons that it's easy for me, is that I had a lot of affirmation from my parents as I grew up.  Approval and love were not conditional in my house.  When I screwed up, I got consequences, but I never doubted my parents' love for me.  They accepted me and they continually made me a part of their lives.  If Mom or Dad had a rehearsal or a meeting or something to go to, it was always an option for me and/or my brother to go along.  We knew we had to behave and that we had to occupy ourselves and not ask for attention or cause a distraction.  But we knew that our company was always welcome. 

So today is an easy one! 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Day 2 - Giving Up Your Comfort Zones

Have you ever had a friend or family member who continually complained about something, yet when a solution was offered, they rejected it?  They found all the reasons that the solution wouldn't work - and maybe they made up some reasons along the way.  They could just be difficult people.  But they could also be afraid.  Afraid of failure (see yesterday's post), but also afraid of change.  Afraid to get out of their comfort zone and find a new path.

Sometimes our comfort zone is uncomfortable and we're so comfortable with that, we resist the change.  I'm guilty of this sometimes.  Even if an outcome is painful or uncomfortable or annoying or whatever, I KNOW what that outcome is going to be.  I can prepare for it.  I can see it coming.  I know what to expect and how to deal with it.

BUT . . . if I choose a different course, take a different path, change one little thing . . . the outcome is not assured.  I won't know what's coming and I won't have time to prepare. 

The website today asks if there is anything in my life that I want to change and what is keeping me from making that change.

I want to write more.  I compose blog entries all the time in my head, but when I sit down . . . nuttin.  I find other things to do - some legit like making dinner and doing laundry, but some not legit like playing a game on my phone or feeling that I'm wasting my time.

I want to read more.  But sitting down to read for pleasure makes me feel guilty for not doing something "legit".  (See above paragraph.)

I want to see more art - more stage, more films, more installations.  But don't I have other things to do?  (See above.)

My comfort zone is normalcy - taking care of what needs to be done, keeping up with friends on Facebook, filling the interim time with texts and getting to a new level on Paint Monsters.  I know how to do that.  And when asked (IF asked) why I don't read/write/view more, it's because I have so many other obligations.  I don't have time.  And pick up the foot and move it forward . . .    

Two years ago I took a step out of my comfort zone.  I auditioned for a production of Fiddler on the Roof.  That step has led to more steps.  I've now done three productions with Austin Jewish Repertory Theatre (the company that produced Fiddler) and I serve on their executive committee.  The invitation to serve there nudged me to apply to the Board of Directors for the kidsActing Foundation.  They accepted my application and I've been on the board for over a year.  I now have ties with several theatre companies in Austin and go to see at least one play a month.

I have a history of success with stepping out of my comfort zone.  Well, with one comfort zone.  I know I have others.  I need to be prayerful and look to see which ones are in the crosshairs now.

Day 1 - Fear of Failure

Today I've got a two-fer because I signed up so late yesterday for "40 Things To Give Up For Lent"

Yesterday - Day 1 - was Fear of Failure

So why do I say that I'm "making myself" blog (or at least journal) about each of these aspects I'm challenged to give up?  Because I haven't blogged or journaled consistently for at least three years.  And it's not necessarily fear of failure (but that is some of it), but it's just fear of what will come. 

THIS POST still kind of stands as my norm.  But boiling it all down, I think that my lack of writing is rooted in fear.  Fear of what I will uncover - pain, anger, numbness, anxiety, truth, lies.  Also there is a fear that if I put myself out there in a blog . . . will anyone care?  Will my experience, my words, my point of view about anything resonate with anyone or am I . . . insignificant? 

Artists constantly struggle with this fear.  Will people want to hear/see/experience what I have to share?  Will it be worth the time for someone to invest in my words/music/painting/whatever?  And then there is the fear of trolls.  (Not that I have enough readership of my little blogs to attract trolls!  But . . . what if I did?) 

The verse associated with today's aspect is Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

God is walking with me all the time - not just when I'm doing things that I feel are safe.  Psalm 23:4 confirms that:   
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. "

So I shouldn't be afraid.  But I still am.  But I'm ignoring the fear and walking on ahead.  Soon, I will click on "Publish" and then . . . one step at a time.

What About Lent?

I'm not Catholic.  Growing up I had a brush with Catholicism because my mom converted when I was about 5 or 6.  My dad and brother and I continued in the Presbyterian church while Mom went to mass.

I never learned much about what being Catholic means.  I remember Mom making the sign of the cross after we'd bless our dinner.  She volunteered at the soup kitchen at the church some holidays when we were in town.  One Thanksgiving she had to get stitches because she cut her finger while slicing turkey! 

One time we went to a huge church with a beautiful garden to drop something off (a meal?).   I was running around the garden smelling all the roses and I saw one of those huge "locust killer" wasps flying around.  I was terrified of those things and reacted as such.  The young priest who greeted us reassured me that it would leave me alone and that I had nothing to worry about and he kind of waved it away.  This was a Man Of God with a White Collar and Priest Stuff . . . he was in the KNOW about things like that.  I had a feeling of peace and protection and after that day I was only mildly concerned when one would fly near me.

One day a year my mom would come home with a big black smudge on her forehead and that meant that until Easter all Catholics ate fish on Fridays.  That's all I really knew of Lent.  I think I had an idea that she gave something up, but I'm not sure.

Since then I've obviously become more informed about what the season of Lent means to Catholics and how it ties in with Protestant Christianity as well.

For the past few years I've made a conscious choice to observe the "fasting" that Lent encourages.  I have given up something that I enjoy as a small token of worship to the One who gave up everything for me.  In the past it's been things like chocolate (probably in the top 5 of what people give up), Diet Coke (the three day headache was a sacrifice!), chips, etc.  Small things, but things that I enjoyed on a daily basis to remind me of for Whom I am living my life.

This year I contemplated what to give up.  Chocolate?  Chips?   Chocolate chips?  I don't drink diet sodas any more so that's out.  Coffee?  I even toyed with weird things like giving up mascara or driving (that would actually kind of be a blessing . . . "Nope, Mom can't take you to yet another practice/get together/game/etc.  I gave up driving for Lent").  Should I give up something intangible like time or something that would seriously impact my life like giving up the internet?  It just all seemed empty or ridiculous or, worse yet, stretching.  I prayed about what God wanted me to gain from fasting.  What is it that would make Him happy and bring me closer to Him? 

Yesterday - Ash Wednesday, the start of the season - a friend posted a link on Facebook "40 Things to Give up For Lent".  I think that's my answer.  I read the list and it contained things like "negativity" and "distractions" and "over-commitment".  Now THIS is something that I can get behind.  This list is something that I think God has been working on in me for a while.

I subscribed to the emails.  Each day I'm going to get an aspect of myself to give up.  And I'm going to make myself blog about it - or at least journal about it.  I say "make myself" . . . and that ties in to the aspect from yesterday:

Fear of Failure


Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas!  Thanks for coming back for the 2015 edition of Falk Talk.  This year has been a great year full of family, friends and all around good times.

This summer we took a trip to Estes Park, Colorado with Milaka's brother and his family in June.  We hiked, rode horses, walked around Estes Park and just chilled out.  It was so much fun!

The Falk family and the Myers family in Estes Park, CO.

Hubs and me in Colorado.

Smiling even though we see a storm rolling in over the mountains!

Taken on our favorite hike, Emerald Lake.
We also had a new addition to the family.  Milaka's sister-in-law's sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  We all instantly fell in love and she's going to be the most spoiled baby ever!

Hazel contemplates the goggles. 
With my new niece-in-law, Hazel. 

Princess and Hazel love to cuddle. 

Once again we spent a wonderful Thanksgiving week in Michigan with Gordon's family.  We missed his sister, Maggie, but we got to hang out and bond with everyone else. 

Hubby and three of his four siblings at Thanksgiving.

Buddy and I commiserate after the big Michigan game.
Buddy, Luke and Princess at the sundae bar!
Finally Grace was still enough to get a picture with Princess!

Princess and I take a selfie after Thanksgiving dinner.
Buddy is deadly with a crossbow!  Thanks to Uncle Walt for letting us try it out!
Aunt Bec and Princess after yet another wonderful meal!

The next picture needs nothing more than the caption.

Princess got her permit!

In other news . . . having Milaka's parents in town has been such a blessing.  We've enjoyed many great family times and Milaka and her mom have gotten to have several girls' nights!  Neil Gaiman in November and Dracula in December!

In November Milaka and her mother got to meet one of Milaka's
favorite authors, Neil Gaiman!

Speaking of theatre . . .

Milaka was in two musicals this year - both directed by Adam Roberts.  The first (top) was a musical review called "Stars of David" and the second (bottom) was a production of "Into the Woods".  

Another photo that needs little introduction:

Our goofy pup, Ruby Soo, in her Halloween hat.


Princess is having a blast as a sophomore.  She's the manager of the soccer team (state champions for 2014-2015 and well on their way to another title).  She's also played on the volleyball team and is looking to run track again in the spring.  She's on the Blu Cru - the spirit club that makes all the signs and run-throughs for the sports teams.  She sometimes spends time at home. 

Buddy is a 7th grader and just made the basketball team at his middle school.   He fills his time learning skateboard tricks and honing his basketball skills.  

Hubs is hard at work growing our business, GradePower Learning.  We've had a fantastic year and have helped many, many students reach their scholastic potential.  Milaka worked as an academic coach during the summer and had a great time helping kids.

Milaka has had a full year as a wife, mom, middle school drama teacher, high school academic coach, as well as being asked to be on the board of directors for two non-profit theatre companies.  She sometimes sleeps.
We certainly hope that this blog post finds you happy and healthy and looking forward to 2016.  Please drop us a line and let us know how you are doing!

Many blessings and Merry Christmas

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Go Set a Watchman - Part III

For the past two nights I have had dreams of death.  I looked up what that means - the theme of death means the end of something or the beginning of profound change.  When I shared this with Hubby this morning, we both said, "(I'm/You're) killing Atticus!"  I was.  I did. 

I just finished the book.

I read that this draft is just that - it's another draft.  This article fleshes that theory out:

But I must say that a Harper Lee draft is still head and shoulders above many novels that have made it to the publishing stage.  The book is very well written.  The characters are believable.  The story flows.  It's very, very good.  It's not To Kill a Mockingbird good in terms of prose and flow, but it's very good.  I was not disappointed.

Nor was I disappointed in the story or the character arcs.  The characters are true.  They are true to themselves and to the times, I believe.  As difficult as it is to reconcile some of the choices made, I am not surprised nor am I as dismayed as I thought I would be.   

It's interesting that it's come to light at this point in history - at another crossroads in racial relations.  I hope that it will spark many, many conversations.  Honest conversations.  We have way too few of those.

The book takes place in the 1950s when race relations and civil rights were SO new, SO raw.  It takes place when people were still figuring out where they stood and where they were going to stand.  It asks of its characters, "Who are you?" and "What do you want your world to be?"  These are incredibly difficult themes.  These are themes that we are still wrestling with today.

I will read this again.  I will study it.  I think it is difficult and important and relevant.

And to Atticus, I will say, "I think I love you very much."  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Go Set a Watchman - Part II


I am now on page 168 - over halfway through the novel.  I have been weeping off and on for the last 60 pages.

It's my own baggage.  It really is.  Or is it?  My reaction to the revelation that Atticus is . . . not what I thought him to be (I can't type it, I just can't), is very similar to Jean Louise's.  My stomach turned.  I didn't throw up, but I was rattled to my core.  I wept.  My mascara actually ran.  And I had another revelation that we should all consider. 

To Kill a Mockingbird is told from Scout's point of view.  During the course of the book, she only ages from six years old to nine years old.  Those are still the ages at which we are idolizing our elders.  So . . . Atticus defending Tom Robinson is the noble act of a flawless man who is ahead of his time - to the Scout who is in grammar school.  We all know that real people are more complex.  Should I be surprised that Atticus has flaws?  No.  Am I?  I'm as surprised (and scarred) as I was when I found out that my own parents had/have flaws.  It sucks. 

But it's real. 

I'm going to wipe my eyes, wash my face and go to bed.  I'll settle in with Jean Louise again tomorrow evening. 

Go Set a Watchman - Part I

I didn't realize that I'd be this emotional about a book.  Yes, I've cried as I've read pieces of literature, felt invested in the lives of fictional characters, had my day made or broken by the fate of a hero/heroine.  But this goes deeper.  It's a little unsettling.

There are many articles bemoaning the fact that Atticus is a racist in this book.  I have barely gotten to the part in the book when that starts to surface.  I'm worried that I won't like Atticus anymore.  I'm worried that the grown-up Jean Louise will not be Scout.  I'm worried that this book - this story of these characters - will cast a shadow over To Kill a Mockingbird and all I feel toward that book.

I voiced my fears to my husband who had some very wise thoughts.  This book was written BEFORE To Kill a Mockingbird.  Harper Lee knew where it was all going to wind up.  She had the character arcs cemented.  None of this is new.  We can certainly take To Kill a Mockingbird and set it alone.  We can block out Go Set a Watchman and pretend that it has never been found.  But it has.  And now we know what Harper Lee has known for these past 55 years - for better or for worse.  She knows how life has treated Atticus and Macomb.  She knows what Jean Loise is been up to.  She went back and filled in the story and THAT was Mockingbird.  The original story was Watchman.  

This whole experience is unique and almost surreal.  For 55 years, To Kill a Mockingbird has stood head and shoulders above most other literature.  Most of the reason for that is because it's just THAT good.  But also because it is an only child.  There is nothing else to which you can compare it.  It was Harper Lee's only baby.

Now we've found a long lost sibling - a fraternal twin, even.  NOW what do we do?  For an entire lifetime we've had a stand alone work and now . . . it's not an "only" any more.  Cue the sibling rivalry!

I know there will now be camps - Team Mockingbird and Team Watchman.  TM will be purists and want to forget that TW even exists.  But TW does exist.  And I'm so conflicted.  I don't want to like TW.  I don't want to even admit that there is a TW.  But I love and trust Harper Lee enough to try - to give it a chance.

I am now on page 107.  So far my favorite part has been a flashback to the days when Jem, Scout and Dill were terrorizing the neighborhood.  There is a charming account of a boring summer day that ends with Dill in a sheet, Scout completely naked and all three of them in Ms. Rachel's pond.  I laughed out loud and embraced my friends again. 

I can understand why Harper Lee's editor requested more flashbacks.  The rest of the story is written well.  Jean Louise is a complex and likable woman.  Henry is charming and the two have chemistry.  The "modern" Macomb is written lovingly, but with a tinge of bittersweet loss of the old ways.  It's nice.  It's engaging.  I want to continue reading and know more.  But the flashbacks really come alive.  They are written with heart.  With vibrancy.  It feels as if the words flowed from Ms. Lee effortlessly.  For that portion of the book (so far), I was home.       

To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book.  I go back and read it every few years - whether I need to or not!  I feel like I grew up with Scout, Jem and Dill.  In a way, I did.  As a child, summers at Cabin 77 shaped my character.  I spent the months between grades roaming the dusty dirt roads of White River Lake, catching minnows and tadpoles, jumping off the dock when we got too hot, and worrying the adults by wandering too far.  I could identify with Scout on more than a few levels. 

My Bigdaddy was my Atticus.  Bigdaddy was my moral compass, in a way.  He taught me that family was the most important thing on this earth.  He taught me that silence is as important as a well timed word of wisdom.  He taught me practical things like how to bait my own fishing hook and take a fish off the line.  And he taught me the value of a good practical joke. 

But . . . Bigdaddy grew up in a time when racism was the norm.  And Bigdaddy was not immune to that mindset.  I don't believe that I ever heard him speak hate (if I did, I must have blocked it out), but I did hear him speak to the inferiority of other races.  He used the "n" word freely, but it was cultural, not a moniker loaded with ire.*  As the times changed, his use of that word diminished.  I'm not sure that he ever accepted full racial equality, but I know that he did mellow with age and with the times.  Or, at least he did around me.

I haven't reached the point in the story where it's evident that Atticus is racist.  As I have titled this post "Part I", I shall promise to address my emotions surrounding that revelation when it arises.

Now, it's late and I have to get up and read more tomorrow!   

*I'm not defending the use of that word.  Nor am I defending the mindset of white superiority.  I am trying to make a distinction between ignorantly following the culture and taking the racial divide to a violent and hate filled level.  Bigdaddy was racist.  That hurts me to write, but he was.  However, he was a cultural racist and as the times changed and he became at least a little more educated, he tempered his view.  I never saw him be mean to anyone nor treat anyone rudely or with disrespect - black or white.