Who’s The Genius?

Tonight the Haywood’s played a little game called “Who’s the Genius?”

When our paths finally converged this afternoon, Jeff and I met at a building where he needed to do an electrical job after the business closed. When he was finished, we planned to do some Christmas shopping for three little girls who have wrapped themselves firmly around our hearts. 

As we walked out to leave, Jeff said, “Follow me.” Sure. That sounded simple enough. The parking area behind the building was like a dirt bowling alley – long and very skinny. We had to drive all the way to the far end, turn around, then head back out the way that we had come in. I didn’t quite understand the logic of that, but Jeff said to follow. So I followed. When he reached the back of the lot and made his turn, it occurred to me that my car needs considerably less space to corner than his truck. I went ahead and made my left turn – right into a giant mud pit. I never saw the gaping expanse until the moment I sank into it. I quickly noticed that I was indeed not the first to slide into its soggy depths. This was no consolation. The hole was about a foot deep, black mud was up to my bumper, and I just so happened to be wearing the single most expensive pair of shoes I own. Face palm. Actually several face palms. 

I wanted to cry. I wanted to laugh. 

Completely unfazed, Jeff went straight to work. He removed a tiny circle from my front bumper (which I never even knew was there), attached a short bar from the jack, then stretched out the chain that he ever so conveniently had in his truck. With a brilliant rooster tail of black mud, he pulled me right out. Christmas (shopping) was saved!

Some observations:

1. My husband is an amazing man in both attitude and abilities. 

2. The car extraction plan my brain feverishly conjured up would surely have ripped the bumper right off the car. And I’d probably still be stuck. 

3. I am convinced that southern men with pickup trucks secretly long for the day when they can pull out a big ole chain or a set of jumper cables and rescue people like me who accidentally do stupid things at inopportune times. 

4. Sometimes when you are given directions it is sufficient to follow the general spirit of the instructions. Other times it is imperative to observe the full letter of the law.

Cutting & Rolling: Lessons From a Paintbrush 

Truth be told, I really hate painting. Not the fancy kind that people display in art museums and dentist offices. The kind where your living room looks dingy or dated and the obvious cure is a fresh coat of paint. That’s the one I’m not so fond of.  

I think it all started when we were building our house. My husband told me that as soon as we were done painting, we could move in. I thought, “YES!!! We will be in by the weekend!” HA! Or not. We painted for a month. One long, hot, thought-it-would-never-ever-end month. We both worked full-time jobs, came home, consumed some manner of edible substance, grabbed our brushes, and picked up wherever we’d left off at midnight the night before. It was not my favorite aspect of the house-building process. 

My first job was putty-er. Jeff would nail the trim down with an air hammer, then I would come along and putty each and every individual hole with caulk. I used a caulk gun, popsicle sticks, my bare fingers, damp cloths, anything to make the job go easier and faster. Then I had to sand the trim to a smooth texture. By the time this was completed, my fingertips were raw and swollen, my back ached all the time, and my attitude was slightly south of chipper. Then…and only then…was I given a paintbrush. Finally, we’ll make some progress, I thought. Or not.  

While Jeff and some friends who were kind enough to come bail us out on occasion were wielding paint rollers and even this awesome electric air sprayer for the cathedral ceilings, I had a brush. A stinking, hand-operated brush. I may have contemplated bopping them in the head with their fancy equipment. Maybe. One thing is for sure, I was exhausted, and I was grumpy. It’s a wonder that people who were around during this season of life still spoke to me without an armed guard and a pound of chocolate present. 

I’ve matured a little bit in the last twenty years. Painting is still my least favorite construction activity and I will do just about anything to avoid it. While on mission trips with my church, this has led to me developing other skills, like operating a skill saw, running a weed eater, and even using a bit of feng shui to build a pretty amazing rock-lined ditch.  

Recently my friend asked me to help paint the stage at church. I still hate painting, but I love both my friend and my church. Of course, I said yes. As is so often the case when there is painting to be done, I found myself in command of a hand-operated brush. I got a little pan of paint and set to work. Rather than being resentful of this particular duty as I have in the past, I found myself waxing philosophical as I began tracing around the edges of the trim. 

When it comes to painting a wall, there are two primary roles: roller and cutter. Rolling creates the more noticeable end product. Great masses of wall can be covered in a very short time. The results are obvious, and the room looks better almost instantly. Rolling is showy. Rolling is glam.  

Cutting-in, by contrast, is slow. It is tedious. It takes time and precision, and often brings tired knees and aching backs from sitting in the floor to carefully trace over electrical outlets and along baseboards, window casings and door jambs. Cutting-in requires a steady hand; rushing can be disastrous.  There is little to show for your work. Certainly it lacks the “ooooh” factor of rolling an entire wall in five minutes.  

But is one better than the other? Absolutely not. If the wall were to be painted using only a roller, the outer perimeter would look sloppy and highly distracting, in a word, awful. Of course walls can be painted using only a regular brush, but the time and effort involved would most likely outweigh the benefits. Your list of available friends would diminish quickly if that were the proposed painting plan.Each method of painting has its strengths and weaknesses. Rolling gets the job done quickly and thoroughly, and and cutting-in provides the pop, the attention to detail, that sets the room off properly. Cutting makes rolling “work”. 

So that’s all well and good if you happen to be standing there with a gallon of semi-gloss and a natural bristle brush in your hand. But what does this have to do with real life, you may well ask. Quite simply, everything. We all have our own fair share of both strengths and weaknesses. There are things that we do well and things that we wish we were better at. In the Bible, Paul speaks to this very issue in 1 Corinthians 12. Using the analogy of the human body and its many parts, he says that while some are more prominent than others, the contributions of all are essential to the proper functioning of the whole body. Ever broken a finger or had a toothache? It impacts the efficiency of the entire body. This is true of our physical bodies, our churches, our businesses, our families, and of our society as a whole.  

We each have different roles to play. Some are more flashy, more noticeable. Some are more subtle and occur quietly, behind the scenes. Each has great value. Every individual part matters to the proper functioning of the whole. So we all need to figure out what we are wired to do. What is your passion? What are you doing when you feel most alive? Writing news stories? Cooking? Building houses? Balancing budgets? Organizing gala events? Designing spacecraft? Teaching a toddler to use a spoon? All of these things matter. Learn your role and do it with excellence. Even if you are one of those wacky, amazing people who just so happens to love painting. Whether you are the roller or the cutter or the kid who stirs the paint, give it all you’ve got. Our businesses and families and nation and world need you to get out there and be you! 

You are the only one who can. 

(On a side note, in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 12 is followed by Chapter 13. I’m pretty clever, huh? This famous passage is known as “The Love Chapter”. I don’t think this progression is an accident. Once you figure out your passion, consider how you might use it to love the people around you, and maybe even those on the other side of the globe. Goodness knows, genuine love and compassion can be hard to find these days. But we can be the generation that turns that around. You hold in your hands an incredible amount of power. You possess the ability to impact the world …..beginning by being nice to the people you come into contact with. Think about that.) 

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Quite often these days I am asked how I am enjoying retirement. Technically, I resigned my teaching job. Retiring would have brought with it a pension and perhaps an AARP card. I have neither enough years of age nor service for retirement. Right now, I’m fine with that.

But to get back to the matter at hand, people often ask this question with a slightly envious gleam in their eyes. They want to hear how utterly fantastic it is to do nothing all day, how I’ve already written that book, and how I spend my days rescuing starving orphans all around the globe. Okay. Perhaps that’s me projecting just a little. I have found myself tossing off the chit-chat reply, “Man, it’s great!” and leaving it there. Thing is, this is a tough question to answer authentically in the time that whirlwind greetings typically allow. As we have learned from every telling of Aladin, when you get what you wish for, you also get what comes along with that wish. Many times these are challenging consequences, or at least by-products, you had not considered.

With this in mind, I have compiled a list of the pros (+) and cons (-) of leaving the incredibly lucrative career (HA!) of teaching to become a professional writer.

(+) Each day presents me with 24 hours. I can invest or squander them however I wish.

(-) The majority of my friends have regular jobs during the day, so I have no one to hang out with. Some days I tire of my own jokes.


(+) No one tells me how I should spend my day.

(-) I miss the camaraderie of a team in a work setting. Occasionally I feel isolated and alone. I enjoy collaborating with others and bouncing ideas off them.

(+) Thankfully, there are people I can email or text or IM on Facebook. They help me talk my way through the fog and come up with a workable premise. They also help me gain perspective during those times when throwing my body under a bus starts to sound like a fantastic idea. These conversations are not as quick or as personal as walking across the hall, but technology certainly makes this a viable option.


(-) I have started sleeping later. Some days, embarrassingly late. Two or three hours of productivity can easily be lost.

(+) The last two years of my life have been exceptionally stressful. It is nice to Be Still and REST! Restoring my soul now will help me to be more productive in the days to come.


(+) I have time to exercise and run. This challenges me. This makes me stronger. When I am physically fit, my mind works better.

(-) This can quickly turn into an excuse to procrastinate in other areas: “Oh, hey, It’s already 11:00. I’ll start on that project/laundry/article after lunch.”


(-) I have no money. I know this will improve in time, but as of today, this is a grim reality.

(+) Since I don’t have a regular job, I am able to participate in ministries that I love and believe in, such as teaching English to refugee women. Their individual stories and cultures are varied, but their needs – language, help understanding life in a new land, and friendship – are universal. And there is a whole melanin rainbow of babies who need my kisses!


(+) I have time to write!

(-) It is time to get serious. That whole “I am going to write a book” thing has passed from One Day to NOW. I have done enough talking; it is time for action. And one thing I’ve learned – this is pretty profound; you may want to jot this down – is that words do not write themselves. They require your time and attention and effort. And effort. And effort.


(-) Writing requires a great deal of discipline and self-motivation.

(+) I have given myself the luxury of flying by the seat of my pants for several weeks. That’s new territory, but I have enjoyed it. However, now my OCD nature longs for structure. I get more done when I have a definite plan. I feel better when I get more done. That’s a nice loop. This week I am working on establishing “office hours” to bring some order to my day. I love to set goals then cross them off the list once they are accomplished. Even if they are baby steps, each one taken is forward momentum.

So, the honest answer to how I am enjoying this new season of life is that, while it is not perfect, it truly is good. Very, very good. I am struggling with redefining Normal and with choosing the best use of my time on a daily basis. Still, I know that God has entrusted me with Words. This amazing gift is not just for myself, but to strengthen and inform and encourage others. There is much to learn as I hone my skills, and I have no idea where this writer girl journey will lead, but I am excited to find out.