Monthly Archives: October 2018

Well-rounded advice…

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere…

As my paternal grandfather would say, “It’s All Hallow’s Eve, Bethy!”  While I have few memories of him, the ones I do have are powerfully strong.  I fondly remember growing pumpkins with my Pop Sam (Sr.) in his backyard and then, in turn, growing some with my daughters.  Our family’s annual harvest of pumpkins is usually the fruits of labor from my sweet husband’s favorite late autumn activity:  pumpkin smashing day (more on this later in the season).  It was my grandfather who first shared with me the life advice from a pumpkin’s point of view:

Be well-ROUNDED.  Enjoy the SONshine.  Grow a THICK skin.  ROLL with it. Be grateful for the HARVEST.  Always PATCH things up.  CARVE out your goals.  Stand out in your FIELD.  Learn when to hold onto the VINE and when to let go.  Add SPICE to your life.  Always dream BIG.  

Ironically, he found something profoundly spiritual in the ritual of preparing a pumpkin for each Halloween.  From washing off the dirt and opening the pumpkin up to scoop out the inside “goop” to carving on a smile and filling the inside with a warm, glowing light… Pop Sam felt the pumpkin represented each of us from God’s unique perspective.  He told me, “we all need to occasionally wash off the dirt in our lives and then open ourselves up regularly to scoop out the yucky seeds of doubt, greed, hate, and more in order to allow our inner light to shine.”  While I seriously wonder what he would say about our world today, I’m grateful for his nuggets of practical advice in my memory bank.  And indeed, it begs the question today:

What “pumpkin” advice will others gratefully receive from you?

Happy Halloween, y’all…may the glow be with you!

Bearing fruit

During a recent conversation with a dear friend, this profound question was posed to me:  “Beth, what fruits are you bearing these days in your new environment?”  WOW…what a way to start a powerful conversation!

My voice (literally and figuratively) has been somewhat silent this past year as I process, ponder, adjust, and adapt to new pathways for the future.  Settling into a new community, unpacking and purging bins and boxes, and organizing my dad’s daily world with his growing needs have consumed much of my time.  Some volunteer opportunities and a couple of short travel experiences have brought JOY to my days as well.  Re-consumption of favorite books, movies, music, and more have pushed the nostalgic buttons into therapeutic overdrive.  But ‘fruits?’  Then it dawned on me…”the ‘fruits’ of the spirit…” Ahhh…

This particular cross-stitch piece was one of the first I completed years ago under the watchful eye of my mom.  She started the project about the time I was carrying our youngest daughter; I finished it three years later. 🙂  For years the piece hung in a quiet corner of our kitchen as a daily reminder to bear fruit in the best possible ways.  These nine succulent “fruits” allow us to gratefully grow, nurture, and serve others from the heart and soul.  In these uncertain times, these “fruits” are the ones I strongly cling to and gratefully garden each day…

So, the question today:  How are you gratefully bearing fruit in your life?

Silent and Listen

SILENT and LISTEN…the same six letters spell these two words.  Stop for a moment to just be silent and listen.  Really, just stop!  Be silent and listen…

Most days I’m grateful to have the opportunity to stay aware of current events, but lately I find myself filled with profound sadness, grief, anger, and disappoint to watch or listen to news.  On the other hand, my dad (who lives with us) spends most of his waking hours watching and listening to news, regardless of what’s being shared.  While watching a national newscast just this morning the reporter was updating events and speaking with survivors from the Synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh when our local news interrupted with “shots fired at local high school.”  I froze; as a recently retired 34-year educator, my heart stopped and breath escaped my body. Silence and intense listening occurred.

As an example, during my tenure I lived through numerous “newsworthy” events–some staged drills and others real-life events. Until retirement, I was truthfully on edge, constantly waiting for “when, not if.”  Educators and learners must train for events (shelter-in-place, evacuation, and lockdown), but until the situation calls for REAL action, there is no way to predict how anyone will respond in the moment.  I’ve been the teacher in the classroom with students in lockdown for four+ hours AND the administrator in charge at the command center until first-responders take command.  I was one of the fortunate ones, thankfully surviving real tornadoes, massive hail storms, torrential rains with a roof collapsing, gas leaks, a building fire, lightening strikes, and multiple active shooter DRILLS, but never a real shooter on campus. After any drill or real event, we did what’s called a “hotwash.”  It was my opportunity to learn…to gratefully be silent and really listen.

As another example, as one who sits in the choir loft looking into the congregation on any given Sunday morning, I’m constantly scanning the back of the church, watching anyone entering or exiting, and waiting for “the event.”  In fact, every time I enter any building, form of transportation, or anyplace other than my home, I’m scanning for the nearest exit and creating a quick plan for safety purposes.  SOOO much training!  My family has come to appreciate this about me because they’ve learned to just be silent and listen.

In the unfortunate age of mass shootings in the country I call home, it somehow still stuns me to face a constant barrage of talking heads on social media, TV news, radio waves, and other forms of modern communication.  They talk and act like they know and understand.  Unless you’ve lived through an actual situation, you do not know and understand.  You can appreciate the seriousness of the situation, but placing words into others’ mouths, speculating, wool-gathering, and more will not bring back human loss.  Just be silent and listen!

Love, encourage, uplift, and strengthen one another…these are words I gratefully grew up hearing from the adults in my life.  In these troubling times of more questions and few answers, it is more important than ever to respectfully be silent and listen.  There’s a time for talking, asking questions, building others up, problem solving, and finding solutions, but learning the fine art of being silent and listening first is critical.  After all, most of us have two ears and only one mouth. We are ALL part of the problem; we can ALL be part of the solutions and actions needed in moving forward  First, we must be silent and listen.

So…on Day #16:   What’s your personal plan to be silent and listen? 

I’m gratefully and lovingly continuing to work on this daily.

#ChoosingLove

My hurting heart is finding it difficult to concentrate on anything today, especially gratefulness.  In the aftermath of yet another horrific week of crimes motivated by purest evil and hate…bombs in the mail, accusatory rhetoric by leaders of our communities and country running for political offices during the mid-term elections, and yet another mass shooting during a Sabbath worship service…it screams the question of when will we learn how to be fully alive, loving human beings with common respect and reverence for human life?  Regardless of faith, beliefs, opinions, differences, personal or protected rights, political affiliations, and or anything else, all human life matters.

Dr. King reminded us:  “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love.  And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.  LOVE is the only way…” 

Gratefully, I choose love.  I choose love even when others mock, ridicule, throw stones, or work to defeat purpose.  I choose love in the rawness of the terror surrounding us in our daily lives.  I choose love until my life ends on this planet.  Even on these darkest days, I’m grateful there are others who choose love and step in to turn on the lights.  The powerful lyrics of Lindy Thompson’s anthem resonate the importance:

“In the midst of pain, I choose love.  In the midst of pain, sorrow falling down like rain, I await the sun again; I choose love… In the midst of  war, I choose peace. In the midst of war, hate and anger keeping score, I will seek the Good once more; I choose peace…When my world falls down, I will rise. When my world falls down, explanation can’t be found; I will climb to holy ground, I will rise…In the midst of pain, I choose love.” 

On this 15th day of grateful reflection, what will you choose?

Walk on…

It’s a fact (according to my internist)…I’m not the skinny freckled-face ginger-haired short little imp I once was. What?!? While this is not breaking news, it’s a definite reality I choose to ignore. Unfortunately, gravity has taken over parts of my body I didn’t know still existed and if certain parts sag much more, my support undergarments will need to file for medical assistance.  I’ll also be truly impressed when science figures out a way to make a body thermostat pre-programmed for hot flashes.  And Mother Nature, as far as I’m concerned, you can just keep the change. 🙂

DNA, lifestyle, eating habits, exercise, environment, stress, sleep patterns, and such literally weigh into our overall health and well-being.

Eat less and move more to even the score.

This is my daily mantra.  One of my favorite and easiest forms of exercise I gratefully embrace is walking.  Even during my toughest days of treatments and surgical recoveries, I was always allowed to simply walk (even slowly while pulling an IV pole with me; just ask my sister).  From taking dad’s little dog each morning (whom I call Princess Sassypants) for a daily stroll in the neighborhood to traversing the various trails and marked paths near our wooded home and nearby lake, simple walking refreshes, rejuvenates, and regenerates my body, mind, spirit, and soul.  Long after I’ve left the trail, the positive effects remain.

So here’s the question on Day #14:

What form of daily physical activity are you most grateful to do?

Here’s hoping you gratefully embrace your ability for physical activity each day as part of your own well-being; you deserve it!

 

Lyrical musing

It’s no secret how I purposefully listen to the lyrics; they are, after all, the unique poetry within a song.  We sing them, quote them, use them in stories, and more.  Being a complete word nerd and ponderer, lyrics speak to my soul.  I often joke how when JOY fills my world, I appreciate the music, but when sadness visits me, I better understand the lyrics. 🙂

This was no exception earlier today when the American rock band, Alternate Routes, came on the radio singing their 2013 release, Nothing More, during a guest spot on SiriusXM’s “Pulse Hour” (my musical tastes run a complete gamut, especially when I’m stuck in traffic).  Ironically, I remember first hearing the song during the Winter Olympics in 2014; the lyrics resonated in a powerful way…and still do today…

To be humble
To be kind
It is a giving of the peace in your mind
To a stranger
To a friend
To give in such a way that has no end

We are love
We are one
We are how we treat each other when the day is done
We are peace
We are war
We are how we treat each other and nothing more

And to be bold
To be brave
It is the thinking that the heart can still be saved
And the darkness can come quick
The danger’s in the anger and in the hanging on to it

We are love
We are one
We are how we treat each other when the day is done
We are peace
We are war
We are how we treat each other and nothing more

And tell me what it is that you see
A world that’s full of endless possibilities
And heroes don’t look like they used to
They look like you do

We are love
We are one
We are how we treat each other when the day is done
We are peace
We are war
We are how we treat each other and nothing more

(Read more: The Alternate Routes – Nothing More Lyrics | MetroLyrics )

There are so many profound lyrics in our favorite songs!  So here’s your question on Day #12:

What song lyric gratefully sings a powerful message to you? 

Sing your heart out today; it’s great for your soul, my friend!

Notes from a grateful heart…

With only two months left until Christmas (being reminded of this fact by St. M as he rolled over first thing this morning), I started thinking about greeting cards before meditating once again on gratefulness.

Since I could write my own name, I’ve traditionally sent a greeting card, note, letter, or such each year to family and friends, sharing the year’s highlights, JOYs, sorrow, newsy tidbits, and best wishes along with hope, good will, love, and blessings for the coming year.  With close friends, I send cards or notes “just because” throughout the year, especially because all of us can use a surprising boost now and then.  A couple of us exchange funny, sarcastic cards in hopes of garnering the biggest laugh (then the real competition is on).  Even as a classroom teacher, my students and I wrote individuals letters each week to mail to family, friends, legislators, and more to not only practice letter writing, but work together in keeping alive a dying art form (yes, I paid the postage).  Several of my students still correspond with me even 36 years later!  One precious church friend sends a card that arrives every Wednesday in the mailbox (68 straight weeks now); this is dedicated tending, y’all! (Thank, CK!)

I know; I know…social media, texting, and emails should suffice and have become acceptable norms; I’m guilty of this too. My mother 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, and 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 eloquently shared from the heart helps to make new friends, tend to old friends, and simply sends a jolt of JOY into another person’s world.  The mailbox is 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 here’s a grateful challenge to us on Day #11:

Who will you choose to gratefully share a handwritten card, note, or letter with during the next week?  

Here’s hoping the mailbox you choose to overflow with love fills yours in kind!

Attention, please…

As my daddy reminds me even now, “If you don’t exercise your voting right, you have no reason at all to gripe!”

He proudly stood in line this morning with his new voter registration card, following the directions given to him by the election officials on duty.  He carefully completed his ballot and submitted the paper into the machine, listening and watching for its final validation.  He quickly affixed his “I Voted” sticker to his sweater and made his way outside, shaking hands, enjoying the attention, and thanking everyone in our path back to the car (including candidates outside the polls).  He told the gals at one of our favorite local lunch spots to “be sure and vote; your vote is needed.”  He talked during lunch about times he remembered going to the polls with mom, taking me and my sis with them so we could participate as bystanders until the first time we each officially voted.  You see, even in his compromised cognitive state, the need to vote is deeply ingrained in dad.  His parents were part of the greatest generation who lived through the great depression and two world wars, raising and teaching him by example how important it is to invest in the community, the state, the country, and our world.  Voting is an important part of that investment; I’m grateful dad continues to actively demonstrated this at each opportunity.  More importantly, he was given several minutes of attention today to encourage those around him to exercise their own chance to vote. 🙂

Day #11 Question (dedicated on dad’s behalf):  If you had the attention of the world around you for 30 seconds, what would you choose to say?

We may each be just one voice, but in the USA, we are given the opportunity at each election to make our voice heard.  Regardless of your politics, your stance, or your opinion, voting is a response dad and I both gratefully embrace.  Here’s hoping you exercise your opportunity to VOTE, too!

Challenges and gratefulness…Day #10

Today is our first year home-iversary in our newly adopted state of North Carolina.  As lifelong Texans , the saying holds true:  You can take the gal outta Texas, but not the Texas outta the gal!  Understandably, there were several adjustments and multiple challenges to a move across country.  Establishing residency in a new state, new/old home with unique systems to operate, new state legal documents, new state laws, new relationships to grow, new community to explore and serve, new traditions to create…new everything…takes patience, determination, and persistence to say the least.  A challenge is, after all, a test, a strain, a stretch…and yes, even a gift of gratefulness (when choosing the right attitude and effort).  🙂

As we reflected on the past year during a recent conversation, the question was posed, “What is one challenge you have overcome in the past year?”  Really?  Where do I start?!?

All cards on the table…if I had to choose just ONE challenge to overcome this past year, it’s simply reminding myself daily about self-care.  This life is a marathon and not a quick sprint.  I’m my own biggest obstacle at least 90% of the time (and will never reveal where I attribute the other 10%), especially when it comes to caring for myself.  Sure; I do medical appointments, personal maintenance, etc.  I’m talking about simply pacing and being kinder to myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually while still nurturing everyone and everything around me.  Until now, I never consciously concentrated on this critical need; keeping everyone alive WAS the critical need.  I’m grateful to daily experience gentle ways in the art and science of self-care; it’s also paying off medically too!  So, here’s the same question for you to ponder:

Day #10:  What is ONE challenge you have overcome this year?  

Mindset is a powerful personal tool.  Facing a personal challenge head-on requires attitude and effort from deep within our well.  Focusing on gratefulness allows our well to fill to overflowing in miraculous ways, thus the well never runs dry.  Just remember I’m gratefully working alongside you daily as we overcome our challenges together!

 

JOY Jar on Day #9!

There was a beautiful glass container sitting inconspicuously in our home for many years filled with ideas, thoughts, gratitudes, dreams, and moments of personal JOY.  The original container and unique idea was a precious gift from a soulful friend and colleague who challenged me during my first (of several) cancer treatments to write down ONE grateful thing each day while on the medical journey.  That first year it filled to overflowing in spite of the Big C swirling around us.  I ceremoniously emptied it the final day of treatment after year one, burning the bits of paper to send to another place and time in the great hope my path on that journey was shifting.  Even though it’s a continuous lifelong medical journey going forward (and gratefully dormant as of this writing), I choose to continue filling the jar with new ideas, hopes, thoughts, gratitudes, dreams, and moments of JOY from my experiences.  Interestingly enough, the original jar broke during our move east last year, so I have what could safely be collected back inside a leather journal, a moving gift from the same friend who originally challenged me.

It’s not the container or collection agent so much as what is written or placed inside.  I’m willing to bet it’s been scientifically proven time and again how gratitude and gratefulness help us feel better with less stress and a more positive outlook in all aspects of our lives.  Furthermore, I’d venture to guess when we actually take a moment to write one down, the “cream gravy of awareness is allowed to powerfully soak inside” (as Granny would say) and take over in extraordinary ways.  So here’s your challenge (more than a question) today:

Day #9:  How will you create a way to record your gratefulness for the next 30 days (until Thanksgiving)?

Start easy and small; just start!  Pondering in our heart is important, but writing and seeing something on paper is magical, especially when you go back through them later.  Here’s hoping you create your own jar filled with JOY  in the coming days!  🙂