My momma always said, “the best sermon is a great example;” thus she and daddy (for better, or worse sometimes) taught us daily by their living example.  My sister and I know we “chose our parents wisely,” because in the midst of everyday life, there were daily lessons through their poignant example.

As I watch moms today in the grocery store, on a hiking trail in the park, and everywhere else in the community, it stuns me how moms must be as wise as Solomon, as smart as Socrates, as unconditionally loving as Mother Teresa, and as disciplined as an Olympic Athlete.  Momma was the same over half a century ago…she wasn’t our friend (until much later in life); she was our parent. “You didn’t come with instructions, so rule #1:  I’m never wrong, and rule #2, if I am wrong, then refer back to rule #1.”  🙂  Funny how those rules changed drastically when she became a grandmother. 🙂

Yes, my mom demonstrated daily who she was and lived by the legacy she created with witty southern sass, grit, humor, and backbone.  Even though she was a young mother who literally grew up with us, she firmly shaped our character with integrity while encouraging us to dream big for the future.  And because we also grew up in a progressive household where we were expected to “take care of ourselves in the real world,” finding our passion to help us independently support ourselves was non-negotiable.  “Get a grip and buck up” were heard daily in our household.  “You’re not lost and don’t need to go find yourself; I know right where you are.”  We also learned to control our attitude and effort because “those two things are in our constant control.”  And just like her classroom and school settings as a teacher and principal, mom set the bar extremely high, but she also provided a loving cushion when we stumbled along the way.  Our mom was our first and most important teacher, advocate, and disciplinarian; she set the rules and we followed them, well, mostly (except for riding the laundry basket down the stairs, dropping each other into the laundry hamper, that whole chandelier disaster…).

While mom’s physical voice is now silent, the echos of her lessons and expectations ring clearly inside my soul.  I’m humbly grateful and thankful for the example of my mom.  I was so busy growing up and then raising two little women of my own, I often forgot she was growing older.  Even in her final hours with us, Mom was showing us how  to hold on and then to bravely let go on her journey.  If she were with us during this most extraordinary life in the time of COVID-19, I have no doubt she would have much to contribute to the conversation.

Thanks, Momma, for demonstrating the courage, hope, JOY, and unconditional love so I could one day be a mom to the two extraordinary miracles who shower my world and Momma-soul in JOY!  I miss you so…

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms!

Limes

Yesterday, I cried over limes.  Limes.

After putting on my mask, my special pair of “outside-shoes-during-quarantine,” my gloves, and what’s left of my sanity, I ventured beyond our house.  Since pushing Day #60 of at-home quarantine around our house, heading into the community for necessary provisions was a considerable leap of faith.  I spoke sternly to myself on my way to the grocery store to retrieve our online order.  After last week’s verbal altercation inside the store with the creepy stalker guy who followed me with no mask, no gloves, and less than six-feet of distance from my personal space, ordering groceries online for pickup seemed the best choice this week.  Securing a time slot was an added bonus since home delivery is evidently not option where we live.  Choosing items online while giving up purchasing decisions was another step in tempering my control-freak-benevolent-overlord issue, but yes, I can and will be flexible too.  So, over the lake and through the woods to the grocery drive-up lane I went.

While loading everything into the back of my car, the very kind assistant shared the list of items missing from the order.  Mind you, I’m all about substitutions; after all, we must be bendable but not breakable in these challenging times (and will gladly accept ANY roll of toilet paper available).  As she rapidly ran through the substitution list, one item caught my attention…“No limes or lime juice available, but you do have extra lemons in the bag.”  No big deal.  Oh…wait.  No limes?  At all?  Lemons, again?  Who’s hoarding all the limes and do they have all the toilet paper as well?

There was one particular activity left on my agenda this week specifically involving limes.  You see, we were scheduled to leave with friends on a special vacation today, May 1, to explore Key West…the first non-working trip for St. M in a long time.  In the planning stages for the last three years, this trip was finally happening.  All our schedules coincided, reservations and tickets were purchased in advance, and everything came together beautifully…and then, a pandemic.  In a snap, the entire adventure evaporated.  My whole mantra of “plan your work, work your plan, and autograph your work with excellence” was out the window.  No vacation.  Stay home.  Be safe and well.  Adjust.  “No limes, but you do have extra lemons in the bag.”

All the way home I pondered.  Once home, I removed my shoes, washed my hands, and M helped unload the bags to the designated drop area while I wiped down and put everything away.  The tears started quietly flowing when the first lemon emerged, then quickly turned into my ugly, snot-sobbing meltdown (if you know me at all, this is rare, but when it occurs, brace yourself).  While limes are not a necessary staple of life, especially in a pandemic, this one time, when I had a specific purpose planned as a surprise treat, “no limes, but you do have extra lemons in the bag.”

Limes weren’t the real reason for my outburst.  I was crying about the overwhelming weight of this entire reality for ALL of us.  I was mourning our complete lack of control over this unbelievable situation.  I was snot-sobbing because I can’t physically be with my little women, my sister, my family, and my friends.  I was grieving for the crushing number of individual lives lost in this pandemic, the families losing these loved ones, the heroes serving daily on the relentless front lines, the essential workers who are exhausted and scared, the scientists and researchers desperate for answers and a plan, the insane loss of millions of jobs and financial stability, the school children missing their teachers and friends, the parents doing their personal best to educate their children while maintaining daily life and keeping food on the table, the high school and college students missing milestone activities and graduation ceremonies, the individuals living in complete isolation with no assistance, people experiencing food and housing insecurities, the persons who are dying completely alone, the stress, hurt, worry, and despair we are ALL experiencing at varying and alarming degrees…and so much more.  I was naming and working to process the powerful thoughts and feelings within this uncharted territory.  But limes?  Limes simply became the tipping point.

When calm prevailed, the words of Washington Irving once shared again resonated new meaning:  “There is a sacredness in tears…they are messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love…”

So today, I’m grateful and relieved St. M had a soft flannel shirt and loving arms securing me as I released all on my highest speed.  I’m grateful for a working washing machine and detergent to wash his beloved shirt.  I’m grateful for fresh hope to move forward in the most graceful way possible, finding small ways everyday to make some type of difference.  I’m grateful to acknowledge and express my anxiety, fears, uncertainty, and longing.  I’m grateful for our kind neighbor who left three limes and more of her home-grown lettuce on our front porch table.  I’m grateful there are little lime pies now waiting on the front porch of our travel friends to remind them we will head south some day to the land of endless beaches, six-toed cats, spectacular sunsets, and authentic key lime pie.  And specifically today, I’m grateful we’ll make some fresh lemonade to sip on our porch (with all these extra lemons) as we continue to stay put, stay safe, and create new ways to be gentle and kind to ourselves and others.  🙂

The Egg Tree

On a meandering walk for some fresh spring air this past week, I came across a most surprising sight to behold…an egg tree.  These beauties were hanging in various shapes, colors, sizes, and levels as a welcome sign in these most unusual of times.  I instantly recalled the sweet story my Granny B often told about The Egg Tree.  Written and illustrated in 1950 by Katherine Milhous, this Caldecott Medal winning book revealed a story based on the author’s family with a beloved Pennsylvania Dutch Easter tradition.  I vividly remember the ONE Easter time Granny and I carefully blew out a dozen eggs (what a chore!) and then dyed them in various colors to then paint scenes, just like the two children in the book.  It was a two-day process and one where her patience with my tedious perfectionism at various levels of artistic struggle was most likely stretched beyond standard limitation.  Did I mention it was the only time we did it?  🙂

This tradition in my classroom and in our home with similar versions of an egg tree in the springtime usually involved wooden or plastic decorated eggs.  Cascarones took it up another notch as brightly-colored, confetti-filled egg treats, although patience of Job comes-to-mind when creating these beauties.   Each version visually symbolized the simple, charming reminders of rebirth, renewal, hope, and growth.

What’s a Springtime tradition you fondly recall?  

In these uncertain times of living in, as my daddy says, “that hotel where you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave” (thank you, Don Henley and Glenn Fry), may we all find subtle ways to engage in creating, cultivating, and inviting beauty into our day…just like this blossoming little egg tree.  Stay safe, stay well, and stay strong, y’all!  🙂

Fill every day with thanks and giving…

This little poem by Karl Fuchs fell out of his book today:

The table is almost brimming with good eats;
We’re surrounded by family and friends; what a treat!
The feelings that fill us simply can’t be beat;
It’s Thanksgiving Day, and it all feels complete.

But other days, sometimes, things don’t seem so fine;
Those days are not polished and don’t seem to shine.
It’s then in our minds, we forget all the good,
And think of the things we would get, if we could.

On days when our thinking causes us dread,
If we could remember, it’s all in our head,
And not let our minds take our gratitude away,
Then we’d make every day like Thanksgiving Day.

Nope; it’s not November; it’s not even officially spring at this point.  It IS an unprecedented time in our world history filled to the brim with ever-changing news, updates, instructions, guidelines, hand-washing, anxiety, cabin-fever, toilet-paper hoarding (why?), information overload, and so much more.  In a word…overwhelming.  But as dad and I sat together at the table this morning drinking coffee and talking about the book he’s “reading,” he quietly reminded me how his generation, and especially the one before him, “went off to war, fighting for the ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ we likely take for granted each day.  Why can’t everyone just keep things in perspective now?  This too, shall pass, Beth.”  It was truly a beautiful moment of pure clarity…

Dad doesn’t understand COVID-19, or why he needs to incessantly wash his hands (when he “took a shower today, didn’t I?”), or what it means to medically self-isolate and be socially-distant in our home due to his high-risk status.  He  can’t remember why he’s even high risk.  He doesn’t care about stocking up on pantry items so we have a meal each day, whether we have gas in the car, or why everyone is working remotely from home.  Instead, dad focuses on the present because it’s all he knows in that moment.  Sometimes he looks at me and clearly states, “I don’t know what I don’t know, but I’m good just not knowing.  I don’t forget things; I just can’t remember them.”  🙂

Dad has structure each day mixed with relaxed freedom.  He’s not afraid to be alone, even though he never is.  He’s teaching me yet again how it’s okay to not be rushed, to stop and just be still a while.  And without knowing it, he’s reminding me how everyday is a present, a gift of new beginnings in boundless hope and endless possibilities.  It’s important not to allow my own mind to take away my gratitude.   So in these uncertain times when anxiety and irrational thoughts begin to take hold, may we all remember to take those deep cleansing breaths, set our minds, and keep moving forward in kindness, grace, hope, and love, while finding ways to fill each day with thanks and giving…even if it’s just the middle of March.  🙂

A Living Legacy…

We often attempt to live our lives backwards…wanting more things, more education, more money, more order in an attempt to do more of what makes us hapLaRue Miller017 01py in this life.  The way it actually works is the reverse.

“You must first be who you really are and then do what you need to do in order to have what you need and want in life…smiles and trials will come and go; your true self should always shine.”  ~ LaRue Miller

For as long as I’ve known her (all my life, so, several decades now 🙂 ), LaRue Miller chooses to embrace and actively live this pearl of wisdom with grace and unconditional love.  And while she shares and remains as sharp as my Wusthof knives, she chooses to do so more comfortably from her favorite chair at home most days.  I gratefully had the opportunity to sit and visit with her in person this past week; what a treasured time indeed.

It is interesting to note how Mrs. Miller’s personal philosophy lives on in the generations of lives she has touched throughout her teaching and volunteer work in the very town where she grew up and stayed to give back.  To hear her talk is to participate in a master class of communication and collaboration from deep within her soul.   Her obvious passion for learning and teaching, her quiet strength, her pearls of wisdom discreetly dropped into conversation, and her determined ability to see and bring out the personal best in each soul…these are all touchpoints in the powerful legacy she continues to create.  And while she would never admit it, she remains a critical part of something profoundly extraordinary because she is a catalyst.

Mrs. Miller will tell you she is humbled and honored to have her legacy carried forth in the classrooms of the school bearing her name.  When you visit or volunteer on her campus, you will still find telltale signs of her subtle influence:  a picture or book here, a quote there…all small reminders of her majestic influence and continuing inspiration.  She deeply loves her community, her namesake school, her church, and her family and friends.  As the first principal of her namesake school for the last eight years of my educational career, I remain forever grateful for her wisdom, enthusiasm, stories (especially when she taught with my mom), collaborations, and hugs; she is so generous with those hugs!  🙂  She knows her story, she communicates her story so incredibly well, and she continues to lead with her story every single day!

There is a beautiful book in every classroom on her campus called The LaRue Miller Legacy, written by students and staff about her incredible story.  It is heartwarming to know her legacy project continues today to assist young leaders in practicing speaking skills as they develop language and communication skills through shared conversations while documenting for future generations the life and legacy of the school’s namesake.   Thank you, Mrs. Miller, for honoring us with your legacy and this important generational project.  Thank you for being a personable living legend with so much grace and unconditional love.  As you always remind me, “the goal is simple…to help you achieve yours!”  🙂

A Star is chosen…

“We ARE the Magi, searching, resplendent in this world’s accouterments of knowledge and wealth and achievement…but we search and seek something more.”  ~Ann Weems~

Epiphany. Three Kings. The gifts of the Magi. Star Sunday.  I had the privilege to worship this morning from an colonial pew in my sister’s church, a blessing since she continues to recuperate from a recent major surgery.  Today is Epiphany, and affectionately known in this church as Star Sunday, where everyone is given the opportunity to choose a “star gift” to guide them through the coming year.  Each “star gift” is a cut-out star with one word printed on it.  Words like creativity, caring, imagine, healing, grace, patience, acceptance (and so many others) are prepared in anticipation of this annual opportunity.  As you leave the worship service, you prayerfully close your eyes and select a star (without seeing the word printed on it).  Like the Magi who chose to follow a Star without truly understanding where it would lead, we take a leap of faith to use the “star gift” in guiding our journey through the year ahead.

For the past three years, my “star gift” has profoundly complemented my personal “one word” for the year.  While my annual “one word” comes to me gingerly over a period of reflection in preparation and anticipation for the new year, the “star gift” word chooses me at random.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Each new year presents new challenges, new hopes, new opportunities; suddenly it’s time to actually embrace all this new.  With the gift of new beginnings (and new words) in a new year, we need opportunities to ponder them in our hearts and to take action as well.  Exactly how my “one word” and now my “star gift” interact and help guide my journey in 2020 remain to be seen, but I accept the clarity and purpose of each.

So may we all carry the faith to gratefully accept the star we are given this year and the courage to follow where it leads…and may grace and peace be yours in 2020.  🙂

20/20 in 2020

In just a couple of hours, we set our sights on new beginnings for a new year and new decade…the 20s!  WOW; truly remarkable!  While the “auld lang syne” literally offers “old long since” for “old time’s sake,” this new year and decade offer sacred opportunities.  The changes, growth, triumphs, missteps, JOYs, and sorrows of prior experiences bring a fresh and clearer perspective to forgive, to do better, to do more, to give more, and to love more.  As we observe, our traditions are the stories we narrate and write together as family and friends; gratefully, we all begin another year of building on those traditions while continuing our stories.  After all, it is said no gift is too small or simple to receive when wrapped in thoughtfulness and tied in love.  So…I offer this hopeful challenge to us all in 2020 to:  BE in the moment, breathe deep and fortifying breaths, forgive with grace, share softer answers, encourage one another, keep promises, forgo grudges, apologize, work to understanding, walk more, seek adventure, smile at strangers, examine personal demands (this is me preaching to me), think first of others, be gentle and kind, laugh more, learn a new skill, observe the beauty and wonder of the world, ask questions, explore nature, express thanks, welcome others, and speak your love over and over and over and over again and again and again and again!  The spiritual gift of actively living this challenge with grace and gratitude fills my soul with hope as time marches onward, and hope, my friends, constantly prevails in all our daily humanness.

May this new year and new decade bring to you and yours bountiful blessings filled to overflowing with hope, peace, JOY, and love.  Happy New Year 2020!

I’m so gratefully glad we had this time together…

(I know I’ve shared portions of this before, but it bears repeating again…)

One of my all-time favorite performers is the iconic legend, Carol Burnett.  My family would eagerly gather around our TV every Saturday evening to marvel, laugh, and share memorable moments reveling in the sublime work of a talented group who weekly created the famous comedy hour known as The Carol Burnett Show.  She always did a thoughtful gesture at the end of each show in tribute to her beloved grandmother while she sang the closing song each week.  In several interviews, she remarked it was her unwritten, non-verbal way of sending love and a huge THANK YOU note each week to the one who never gave up on her.

Shakespeare famously noted:  “I can no other answer make but thanks, thanks, and ever thanks…”  In the spirit of my gratefulness for your part in my journey these past 30 days, please allow me a little poetic license to offer these two simple words:  THANK YOU.

A THANK YOU has the power to transform our health, happiness, performance, personal excellence, and ultimate success.  Researchers note how grateful people are happier and more likely to maintain strong friendships.  An attitude of gratitude is shown to improve the heart’s rhythmic functioning, which helps us to reduce stress, think more clearly under pressure, and heal faster physically.  My own cardiologist tells me it is actually physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time!  When you are grateful you flood your body and brain with positive reactions (and those important endorphins) to uplift and energize rather than drain you.

Gratefulness is similar to a muscle in the body though—the more we use it, the stronger it gets.  In the spirit of our 30 Days of Gratefulness, here are 3 simple (but not always easy) suggestions to practice daily in order to assist us in strengthening gratefulness beyond today…

  1. Keep a Gratefulness Journal:  Take a walk/talk/squawk opportunity to write down, say out loud, pray, meditate, and more exactly what you are grateful for that day; it’s a mindset for choosing to focus on gratefulness in a purposeful way.
  2. Take a Gratefulness Tour:  Write and send a letter or card each week expressing your gratitude to others in your life – or – visit them to share your gratefulness in person.
  3. Purposefully say “THANK YOU” to someone every single day: When we take time to sincerely and authentically express our appreciation to someone, we definitely help ourselves in the process.

While these work best for me, please do what works best for you!

So on Day #30:  What one thing will you commit to do in developing your own personal plan to practice gratefulness each day?

THANK YOU for walking this gratefulness journey with me these past 30 days.  THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts verbally and in writing, reflecting with me and each other, while sharing JOY in simply being grateful together!  Let’s find ways to continue encouraging and uplifting each other while keeping the importance of daily gratitude, gratefulness and grace alive and well each day, my friends! 🙂

Do we have enough?

“Gratitude can turn common days into Thanksgivings…”  ~William Arthur Ward

Days like today fill me to the brim with memories, sacred moments, and the bittersweet recollections of those going before me, yet I’m  humbly reminded how living in a mindset of gratefulness allows each of us to see we have enough…

  • happiness to keep us sweet,
  • trials to keep us strong,
  • sorrows to keep us human,
  • hope to keep us JOYful,
  • failure to keep us humble,
  • success to make us eager,
  • family/friends to give us comfort,
  • wealth to meet our needs,
  • enthusiasm to look for tomorrow,
  • faith to banish worry, and
  • determination to make each day better than before! 

(These specific words were written in Granny B’s penmanship on the back of a Thanksgiving card from 1939; no indication if she wrote them or someone else should have this intellectual credit.)

It’s a struggle some days to feel we have enough; we are human after all.  Focusing on the blessings and placing the challenges aside is simple, just not easy.  Living in gratefulness and gratitude challenges us to ponder the fact we really do have enough.  Again I say, gratefulness is a mindful place–perhaps THE place–we find our truest and best selves.

On Day #28 of our journey:  If you created your own “have enough” list to share with those gathered around the table, what would you gratefully include on it?

As we gather and feast at our tables of thankfulness, may we all celebrate the gifts we pass and receive to and from one another with profound gratefulness.  Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!  🙂

Saluting the Apron

The day before Thanksgiving is typically celebrated as Apron Day; most appropriate in light of the ovens and stove tops burning at full speed.

I have an eclectic set of aprons hanging in my pantry.  A couple are vintage oldies from Granny and Nanny, some I stitched by hand, and the “grateful” one was a gift from a friend (notice grandma kitty, Addie, posing for this pic?).  While I don’t always a wear an apron (I prefer a large flour-sack towel on my shoulder most days), there are times it just feels right to wear one, like today, when prepping several family recipes at once.  Donning an apron brings powerful memories to the forefront of previous times shared in the kitchen with momma, family, friends, and most especially, my daughters.  Yes, food is definitely a love-language in our family…

In honor of this day, the following poem beautifully sums up my grateful appreciation for the little piece of well-loved cloth worn in honor of those before me (male and female) who courageously and lovingly conquered the “beast-of-a-feast” through the generations in our family:

Grandma’s Apron

A poem by Tina Trivett

The strings were tied, it was freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.

She may have used it to hold some wildflowers that she’d found.
Or to hide a crying child’s face when a stranger came around.
Imagine all the little tears that were wiped with just that cloth.
Or it became a potholder to serve some chicken broth.

She probably carried kindling to stoke the kitchen fire.
To hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
When canning all her vegetables, it was used to wipe her brow.
You never know, she might have used it to shoo flies from the cow.

She might have carried eggs in from the chicken coop outside.
Whatever chore she used it for, she did them all with pride.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I’m sure the apron that she chose, was her Sunday best.

So on Day #27:  What memories do you gratefully treasure of your family members wearing aprons? 

Just know I’m waving my rick-rack-and-gingham in salute to all you cooks and bakers galore who are preparing to serve the bounty of edible blessings we celebrate as Thanksgiving tomorrow!  And secretly, I’m also thanking each apron for the blessings of precious memories.  Feast on and remember to set your scales back five pounds.  May extraordinary thanks and giving shower you and yours in grateful blessings, my friends    🙂