Category Archives: Gratefulness

Take five…day four

As a retired public educator, the unwritten rule to the start of class was always how the first five minutes could make or break the outcome for all involved.  While we never knew what occurred before a child entered the building or classroom, it was our job as educators to create a safe, nurturing, encouraging, and supportive learning community.  As the final morning bell rang, my voice enthusiastically welcomed one and all to another day of learning with Morning Message.  Whether in my own classroom or as the building principal, those first five minutes of the day created a unique opportunity allowing us to share brief moments together as we began the important work of learning.  From a funny story or joke to quotes, poems, and cheers, it was a special time to engage our attitude and effort (the two things we all control) in a positive, can-do mindset for the day.  Breathing deeply, moving body and mind, and making a commitment to be our personal best were the focus.  And as my educator Mom reminded me before my first day of student teaching, “Children are a living message we send to a future time we may not see; be mindful of the messages you share with them, especially during the first five minutes of each school day.”

Case-in-point…I recently visited with a former student who successfully completed three years with me as his teacher in three different grade levels. (I know; three years with me.  WHEW!)  He talked and laughed with me at length about the lessons he remembered most.  You know what?  Not one of the examples he mentioned involved subject matter, tests, or presentations.  More to the point, he marveled at how we worked together during each of those three years to create a class family, a supportive and safe community for all while learning the required curriculum.  He specifically mentioned Morning Message and how it continued to impact the start of his day, even with his own children.

Reflect on the first five minutes of your day today.  What do you wish they looked like?

Morning Message remains my personal reflection and quiet mindset time.  Passages, verses, prayers, poetry, and more help my mind focus and celebrate the abundance of my gratefulness as the day begins.  It’s a positive launching pad into the day by inviting gratefulness inside right away!  🙂

Journey or destination…day three

No matter the weather, St. M and I love a strong, solid walk each day.  Living in an area with four complete seasons, stunning trails, and more, it’s truly a breath of fresh air we both crave daily.  In fact, he often teases me with “it’s time to walk you now.”  This is one way we stop to gratefully process, release, and regenerate ourselves.

Many of you know St. M spent years running full marathons; 49 of them in fact.  While his overall health doesn’t lend itself well to this type of strenuous daily training now, his mindset of pacing and endurance are drilled into his being.  Years of cultivated habits are deeply ingrained (but, y’all know, though, if you see me running, you should run too because something is chasing both of us!).

You may have heard the phrase, “It’s the journey, not the destination.”  St. M says it this way: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”  They mean the same to me…let me explain.

His sporty-sentiment is directly related to gracefulness, gratitude, and thankfulness.  Picture both of us on the same walking course with the finish line being our successful return home.  Our walk time together is important, even if St. M’s natural competitiveness is to always be a step or so ahead.  As he walks, he focuses on the road or path, the next marker on the trail, the next mile, which giant hills to tackle, and such.  He is efficient and purposeful in his walking; he has a plan he must complete.  Me?  I walk with purpose while focusing on the brilliant blue sky, the trees, the flowering plants, the breeze in my face, waving at someone arriving or leaving, bird songs, SQUIRRELS!, and before I know it, we’ve completed our walking journey for the day.  We both are present, thankful, and grateful to be walking even if we’re focused on different incentives.  So…  Which walker do you relate to the most and why? 

Neither is right or wrong.  The real point is to gratefully be present and experience the opportunity.  We may have a destination/sprint in mind, but what a JOY it is to experience the walking journey/marathon along the way…even if St. M has to win by a step most of the time.  🙂

Show up…day two

When you’re traveling the path of Alzheimer’s with a parent 24/7, you can expect daily kinks in the routine.  Some days are relatively smooth and fall easily into the “I got this” category while others…well, I can’t say it very nicely so I won’t say it all (but you get the idea).  For example, most mornings dad verbally grumbles about getting up even though I present him bedside with a hot cup of amazing coffee, a smile, and cheerful greeting.  I remind him to shower, help lay out his clothing (because he will choose a sweater on a hot day or a light t-shirt on a cold one), and leave him to his personal hygiene rituals. Once he presents himself in the main part of our home, he usually smiles and notes, “I’m here; I’m  ready.”  We all clap and get his day going; it’s the same each day.

Dad requires lots of assistance with specific daily tasks, especially those involving medications, inhalers, etc.  He easily confuses things or chooses to just skip them.  Some days while gently reminding or assisting him through a specific task, he looks at me as though I’m 12 once again and “bossing” him into submission.  Sidebar:  Yes, I’m a natural red-headed benevolent overlord; always have been and always will be (those of you who’ve known and loved me most of my life, including St. M, will verify this fact, huh?!).  To dad though, I’m 12 again and by golly, no daughter of his will tell him what to do.  The second St. M opens his mouth to repeat what I just said, dad immediately complies.  WHAT?!?  It’s the power of what I call “show up.”

St. M carries compassion in abundance and uses the super power of show up to his advantage with dad.  In his easy-going way, he coaxes daddy to do what’s in dad’s best interest–drink the entire glass of water with the medication, take the inhaler because of non-stop wheezing, wear the jacket because it’s cold outside, etc.  It may incense me inside at times because I failed to produce results in that moment, but in reality, it’ a grateful outcome because someone other than me took the time to show up.

So, on day two:  What’s a super power you gratefully use to help others?

Some dear friends gently remind me on this journey of these powerful words:  show up…pay attention…let go…speak your truth…don’t be wedded to the outcome…”  This is my morning mantra and sets my mind as I choose to once again show up in gratefulness for the opportunity to start another day with dad.

Grateful to reboot…day one

Yes, it’s been a few weeks since the last post. So much life, yet we all know everything will work again if it’s unplugged for just a bit…

While I missed my usual 40 days before my personal favorite holiday of the year, the next 30 days until Thanksgiving will certainly suffice.  In an effort to jump start this focused season of thanks and giving, these next 30 days are once again about GRATEFULNESS.  As a way to express appreciation, share kindness, and reflectively narrate on the gratitudes of gratefulness, there will once again be one question posted each day, and your participation is encouraged as we reflect together during the Grateful Game.

Personally, being grateful is a feeling of appreciation for a kindness, a welcome experience of gratitude and of thankfulness.  Being authentically grateful brings pleasure and contentment on a level everyone could genuinely use in daily life.  The word itself comes from the Latin derivative, gratus, “showing grace, blessing, and JOY…” Just like daily physical exercise, we must create and cultivate mindful ways to powerfully practice daily gratitude in an effort to recharge and reboot mind, body, and soul.

Day One:   What is ONE thing you are grateful for today, only today?

Me?  REBOOT.  Waking up to a beautifully blue, crystal crisp fall morn following the torrential rains and high winds from the storms of last night, the air is quiet and clean.  The woods have regenerated to start a new day, a new beginning.  My personal battery is recharged and the multitude of worries from yesterday are gone because the blank page in the journal of life is clean, crisp, and ready to unfold a fresh story!

More patience, forgiveness, kindness, understanding, and generosity are the focus.  Perhaps we work to right wrongs, learn from yesterday’s mistakes, listen more, talk less, or put down our phones.  Hope is not lost and mercies are abundant.  Gratefully, another day comes and reboots my sagging spirit, as many times as needed!  And as my favorite Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau observed, “I am grateful for what I am and have…my Thanksgiving is perpetual.”   Go ahead; what’s your ONE grateful thing for just today?  🙂

Peaks and Valleys…

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings; nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn…”  ~John Muir~

Ahhh…the mountains.  As many times as my sis and I have hiked various pathways throughout the majesty of various mountain ranges, our most recent and brief trip into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park strongly illustrated Mr. Muir’s point.  Inclining to the top of Clingman’s Dome was my first solid hike since my heart episode in March.  The altitude and the steep climb were a test of my slow but steady determination to move forward in my journey.  While Pop happily sat below with his coffee, snacks, and people-watching in the early morning mist, we trudged straight up to the view.  Although covered mostly in clouds and smoky mist (as expected in the GSMNP), this was the start to a glorious day and what a way to begin!

There were other paths we explored along our meandering drive throughout the Park.  We took roads less traveled (momma would have loved it); stopped along any place catching our eye, and gleefully explored.  One particular surprise was a glorious chapel in the middle of a secluded section of dense trees; we literally stumbled upon it.  Going inside, I captured a view through the original glass window.  Wilderness through a window…WOW!  If you’ve been in the mountains long enough, you’ve likely experienced the same overwhelming moment while looking out upon nature, smiling, at peace; sublime in the stillness of the soul.  Nothing more is needed.

As the seasons begin to shift and 2019 descends into various holidays and celebrations, may we all take precious moments to simply savor the lessons of mountain peaks and valleys:  expand horizons, reach new heights, keep a sense of wonder, inspire, cherish, and seek the beauty in this journey called life… because it’s true, the best view always comes after a challenging climb.

 

Flying high…

It’s no secret my dad loves flying.  He was a pilot of his own plane for many years, flying various locations to work sites on business or on adventures with family and friends.  He also proudly served in the Texas Civil Air Patrol, piloting multiple search-and-rescue missions through the years before turning in his wings (and boasts even today he can still fit into his required uniform).

Not long after his official Alzheimer’s diagnosis, he asked me one evening to take him once again to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, specifically the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport, a companion facility to the original museum on the National Mall.  These days, what daddy wants (when he remembers), daddy gets, so we headed north to visit and stay with family outside the beltway, spending an entire day at the museum.  While you were not with us to experience this day through his eyes firsthand, some others unexpectedly were…and what a treasured flying-high memory for all.

These two ginormous hangars at the Udvar-Hazy are filled to capacity with thousands of aviation and space artifacts, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the Space Shuttle, Discovery (I know you’re impressed; I was paying attention, huh?!).  As we entered through security, Pop insisted on navigating the museum chronologically so he could share his knowledge and insight as an aviation history lesson; he was the teacher and I was his sole pupil…for about 5 minutes.

You see, as we stood in front of a Wright Brothers glider and Pop waxed eloquently on the profound contributions this team made in 1903 and beyond, I noticed a mom and her four children scooching closer to listen and absorb.  This little group continued to follow his path along all the early flight experiments and exhibits while dad talked about “how failure forces us revisit, reflect, and improve on our hunches.” 

As we entered the age of WWI and WWII (and picked up dad with a group of five elementary-age girls), the aircraft were divided among the various service organizations, their important missions, and successes.  We stopped at length in front of the Enola Gay, when the world entered into the atomic age in August of 1945.  This B-29 Superfortress bomber flew some 1,500 miles from the island of Tinian to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, thus forever changing the course of world history.  POP KNOWS ALL ABOUT THIS PLANE and he left no detail to chance!  You see, dad grew up across the street from the sister of Colonel Paul W. Tibbets (later Brigadier General), the pilot of this infamous mission.  Pop spent many childhood hours visiting, questioning, and listening to Tibbets’ stories, later talking with him at airshows around the country…but back to the museum.  It was about this time I noticed an even larger group gathered around us…a museum docent with a senior citizen group of six and then nine middle-school-age guys.  Dad continued sharing vast knowledge, answering questions presented to him on aviation, and talking like the flying expert he is.  About four hours later, Pop stopped, looked at me, and asked if we could sit down for a snack.  The docent gave him a museum hat and said, “you’re hired.”  The mom, dad, and children cheered in thanks.  The middle school guys each shook his hand and thanked him personally with one commenting, “you’re the BEST part of this trip today, and by the way, you look great to obviously be 90-something!” (Pop’s not even 80 yet 🙂 )

After so much complex medical news, decisions, changes, and more in recent weeks, this day was balm for both our souls, a truly JOYfilled experience where daddy’s older more powerful memories allowed him to share his wealth of expertise with others.  The pictures portray his passion and purpose along with his will to positively carry on in spite of deepening memory loss.

Pop miraculously understands how little things in life are to be celebrated, and for just a few hours on this random day, he bravely once again stood out among the stars.  As daddy himself often says, “eras have a way of ending all over the place.” Here’s hoping we find more ways to continue sparking his powerful memories and take what we’re given with grace and dignity “as off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high, into the sun…”     

 

Coloring hope in purple…

The doctor’s words resonated flat within the sparse conference room once they were spoken aloud:  “The results confirm ALZHEIMER’S.”  Pop was silent, holding my hand, staring off outside the window, and processing all we were rapidly being told.  “Probably stage 4, moving into stage 5 and definitely beyond moderate at this point.”  Alzheimer’s, this dreaded, debilitating disease we previously experienced, daily lived, and unfortunately understood too well with momma.  While not shocking in light of everything we’ve experienced these past 18 months, the immediate sting of this label is potent.

As we exited outside from this meeting, the color purple vibrantly surfaced in various ways–a poster of information, a sign of instructions, blossoming violets and phlox growing in the landscaped beds along the medical building.  A regal jewel-toned color, purple often signifies enlightenment, transformation, royalty, power, creativity, wisdom, dignity, devotion, grandeur, pride, mystery, and independence.  Purple is considered a rare occurrence in nature, symbolizing delicate, precious, and often sacred meanings (much like dad’s remaining memories and brain function).  Herbalists and horticulturalists believe lavender, orchid, lilac, and violet flowers along with plum, thistle, pomegranate, eggplant, and grapes increase imagination, calm confrontation, and re-energize the learning of new things.  How ironic is it the color purple also has come to symbolize hope and awareness for one of the longest family goodbyes in modern medical history?

Today, however, as Pop and I walked around the medical facility path from another appointment, these plastic beauties caught us off guard with their collective colors, fluttering leaves, and powerful messages written on petals gently swirling in the pre-rain breeze.  We stopped in awe to read the names, sentiments, and messages of hope, silently wondering where and how hope will emerge in the stark reality of Alzheimer’s disease.

Thankfully, even in our darkest moments, someone gratefully steps in to turn on the lights for us; today, ironically, it was daddy himself.  He announced in that particular moment he wanted to plant a purple garden.  So, yes, we’re planting a purple garden together in the next week…a place where nature, our existing imagination, and precious memories can grow even as they dim inside dad’s mind.  Somehow, daddy finds hope in growing something purple and knowing our time is limited, so we need not waste it.  Somehow, daddy finds hope in taking life day-by-day and being grateful for the little things, like a purple garden in our yard.  Somehow, daddy finds hope in talking, reflecting, sharing, and laughing as daily priorities.  And somehow, daddy finds hope in profoundly reminding me, “A secret in life is letting every situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be.  Take what you’re handed with grace and dignity and move on; let’s just make the best of this thing.” Consider it done, daddy…and here’s to coloring our hope in a glorious garden of purple.