The gift of being older…

Daddy awoke with a smile as I presented him the steaming cup of coffee.  He told a joke, chuckling out loud cracking himself up, and all before getting out of bed this morning!  Who is this person and what did he do with my father?  Such is Alzheimer’s, but I’ll gratefully take this comical start anytime.  You see, daddy blissfully lives in “his present,” almost literally moment-to-moment.  He has no worries because he can’t remember what to worry about…and he’ll tell you it’s my job now.  🙂  Money, bills, Medicare choices, appointments, correspondence…none are his concern.  He gratefully savors simple pleasures with quiet JOY.  Period.

Momma always told me, “Rich experience and understanding can only come with age, and Bethy, you’re not there yet…”  🙂  Daddy is still teaching me though how to calmly appreciate daily activities for the rich experiences they are.  He’s showing me through his daily ALZ struggle how to gracefully take each situation for what it is, even when we don’t fully understand the situation.  His age and his illness make little difference in the way he chooses to live; he’s simply allowing the gift of being older to speak for him.  Later in life and under completely bizarre circumstances, daddy simply demonstrates, “There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet JOY.”   ~Ralph Blum ~

Please take a moment to ponder:  When you hear the word “elderly,” what comes to mind?  What have you gratefully learned from an elderly person in your life recently? 

Here’s hoping we all seek and find gratefulness in the calm and quiet JOY of daily living, my friends!

Beholding in gratefulness…

Wordsworth meticulously observed, “All that we behold is full of blessings.”  To behold literally means “to perceive through sight or apprehension; to call attention…”

I’ve mentioned before how my daily mantra sets my mind first thing each day:  show up, pay attention, speak my truth, let go, and not be wedded to the outcome.  Today in particular, the word observant kept surfacing in the most unusual of ways…Addie’s serene expression when she approached me for her morning rub; the sound (and smell) of coffee dripping into the carafe; the breeze upon my face while walking; the taste of cranberry/orange scones with butter…  The sights, smells, sounds, touches, and tastes of this day allowed for observation overload at times, yet the grateful feeling of truly taking time to appreciate simple blessings is the real gift.

How do you challenge yourself to stop and take a moment each day to behold the blessings surrounding you?  

As we prepare to gather in the coming week for the feast-of-feasts, may we all take precious moments each day to simply and gratefully behold our blessings.

Grateful greetings…day #18

Trudging through the dreary, rainy Monday weather to the mailbox today in my yard Wellies, a ray of sunshine emerged in the form of a handwritten card…a Thanksgiving card…with glitter and sparkle to boot!

Since I could write my own name, I’ve traditionally sent greeting cards, notes, and letters to family and friends.  With close friends, we send “just because” notes or funny cards because all of us can use a surprising boost now and then.  Even as a classroom teacher, my students and I wrote individuals letters each week to mail to family, friends, legislators, and others to not only practice letter writing, but work together in keeping alive a dying art form (and yes, St. M., we always paid the postage on these…not sorry).  Several of my students still correspond with me in writing all these years later too!

I know; I know…social media, texting, and emails should suffice and have become acceptable norms.  I’m guilty of this too. My momma and both grandmothers are most likely rolling over in their eternal resting places just thinking about “social media” as an acceptable form of anything, especially in place of “the luxury of a handwritten note or letter to someone you love, respect, or admire…”  ~Granny B and Brenda B Folsom~  The southern steel magnolias in my family were correct:  “a handwritten treasure is a gift in itself.”  I’m not just talking about writing those important thank-you notes either.  Precious time and written thoughts simply shared from the heart helps make new friends or tend to long-time friends while gratefully sending a jolt of JOY into another person’s world.  Let’s face it, our mailboxes are depressingly full of bills, ads, political endorsements, and more.  Spying a handwritten card or letter is the FIRST thing to tear open and savor when found! What a quick way to turn a frown upside down!  🙂

So…who will you choose to share a handwritten card, note, or letter with during the next week?  

Here’s hoping the mailbox you choose to overflow with personal flair fills yours in kind in the coming week.  🙂

Gratefully bogged down…Days 16 & 17

I’ve been a little bogged down a little this weekend, specifically in cranberries.  A couple of months ago, I toured an authentic certified organic cranberry farm on Cape Cod outside Harwich, MA.  Leo and Andrea were our hosts on their family farm, the largest organic cranberry bog on Cape Cod.  As you most likely know, this native North American fruit was actually introduced to the Pilgrims by American Indians and served at the first Thanksgiving feast.  So naturally, Cape Cod is THE place to see all the action from the original source.

Bogs are one of North America’s most distinctive types of wetlands, thus, it’s truly amazing these hardy little powerhouses actually thrive to harvest.  Seeing the berries in all their ripened glory between the dry harvest (fresh fruit berries like we purchase in the store) and the final wet harvest (juice and jelly berries like what you see floating in bogs on TV commercials for Ocean Spray) was a surprising thrill.  And although quite bitter, raw cranberries in their natural state pack a punch of nutrients, fiber, and rich antioxidants with serious health benefits to promote digestion, control blood sugar, and protect the body from illness.  Fun fact:  Mr. Fred Rogers drank a hot cup of cranberry juice every morning upon rising.  Hmmm…

So…why cranberries?  What do they have to do with my gratefulness journey anyway?  Quite simply, cranberries have been a critical part of my health journey the last decade, especially during cancer treatments.  Visiting a cranberry bog and learning firsthand about the growing and harvesting of this miracle berry allowed me the opportunity to thank these farmers (and, of course, the berries).

Think of a helpful food you are grateful to have access to each day.

I’m currently experimenting with homemade cranberry sauce and other recipes for the upcoming holidays with the harvest gleaned at the farm.  But more than anything, I’m simply grateful for the capacity, the ability, and the willingness to learn about a plucky red berry on a vine in a bog down at the Cape…  🙂

Mothering…day #15

Someone noted:  “In mothering, if you do it right, you work yourself out of a job.”  Thanks to social media, I was blatantly reminded of this fact early this morning, and while I never claim to do anything right, I evidently did this “well enough” to find myself jobless.  I did it “well enough” for us to have a daughter on each coast in fact, creating interesting and fun travel to say the least.

You see, once they hand you the little bundle of JOY you miraculously nurtured in your womb, they never tell you how long the days of raising are or how fast the years fly past.  No instruction manual to read either.  Time, the constant companion on this journey of life, reminds us to cherish each moment because it never comes again.  It’s so challenging to do during the “raising” part of parenting.  In hindsight, we do the best we can in each moment; some are stellar and others, not so much.

As anticipated during this time of year, I quietly ponder and reflect on our family traditions.  Our traditions are those precious family stories we write together.  Although the collection is impressive and unique to each family, everyone can relate in our own way.  Think about your family stories.  What’s one in particular gratefully bringing JOY to you today?   

And to my extraordinary and beloved “little women”… It’s not what you’ve achieved or accomplished so much (though your individual lists ARE impressive), it’s who you’ve become with what’s in your heart and soul.  Our background and circumstances may sometimes influence who we are, but we are responsible for the person we become, and I couldn’t be more proud of you two.  You continue to think deeply, speak gently, laugh lots, work smart, give freely, show kindness, and love much.  As always, you remain my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye.  I’m simply excited to know we are still writing our family story, using new traditions mixed-in with some old ones, while humbly and gratefully being simply, your “ma.”   🙂

Simple, just not easy…

“‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free. ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be; and when we find ourselves in the place just right, ’twill be in the valley of love and delight. (Chorus:) When true simplicity is gain’d, to bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d, to turn, turn will be our delight; till by turning, turning we come ’round right.”

You’re humming it now, aren’t you?  Penned by Elder Joseph Brackett (1848) while he lived in the Shaker community of Alfred, Maine, these original lyrics were a one-verse song with chorus.  Multiple versions, from Sydney Carter’s hymn entitled “Lord of the Dance” in 1963 (also used in Michael Flatley’s dance musical of the same name) to Aaron Copeland’s adaption of the melody in the music for the ballet Appalachian Spring, have popularized the tune and lyrics through generations.  Many songwriters, recording artists, instrumentalists, and poets share versions and interpretations as well.  But to me, this piece powerfully speaks to the gift of gratefulness…helping to grow our soul, become less trivial and more loving, kind, fearless, peaceful, gracious, and hopeful.  Living with an open, grateful heart creates a spirit of JOYfilled expectation in everyday life because gratefulness is a stunningly simple gift…

Simple, just not easy!  It’s NEVER easy!  What I do know from brain research is how gratefulness creates positive feelings and emotions.  Gratefulness gives birth to the positive around and within us.  Negativity simply cannot occur in the brain at the same time as gratefulness.  I test this theory daily with daddy; my research is overwhelmingly positive (even if my statistics are not).  So…

What are ways we can help each other practice and cultivate gratefulness in simple ways each day?

Simple, just not easy!  My sincere hope in sharing personal reflections is for us to help each other continue seeking real, meaningful inspiration in the practice of living from a simple, grateful heart.  Yes…simple, just not easy, my friends! 🙂

KINDNESS…sprinkle it everywhere!

Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

What will you do each day to spread kindness?

There is power in kindness because, I believe, kindness is a personal choice gratefully coming from incredible strength.  Kindness is a gift we can easily afford to give daily.  So on this World Kindness Day (as I wear my version of a “Mr. Rogers” cardigan), let’s overwhelm each other in the two things never wasted in this lifetime…love and KINDNESS!