Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Look past the water stains

Here comes the sun!!!
Despite the streaked window, the sunrise was beautiful.  I would have missed it had not a co-worker said "Come see"  Another guy sitting there, who actually has the best view, looked up as we gathered and said "I am so used to it now, I sometimes don't even notice.  Yet, even through the water stains on the window, it is beautiful."

When I was walking back to my office I thought, isn't that true about life?  Despite those times when we travail more valleys than peaks, shed more tears than laughter, or feel we have lost more than we have managed to hold on to, we still have so much to be thankful for.

It is like the "other side of the coin".   And when the coin is "flipped" that is all we tend to focus on. is only when we become ill, that we fully appreciate how much good health means to us.  And after a serious health issue, the appreciation is often life changing.  A new way in which we view the world.  Because it definitely looks different when suffering. 

Grieving is the same way.  We physically feel empty.  The world is bleak...and lonely.  Yet when we grieve, it is only because we have first loved.  Not a lot of time is spent appreciating that during those initial dark days.  Our thoughts are consumed with the loss.  And we don't stop loving who is gone.

Those are the big things.   But every day there is something to be thankful for.

These past few weeks, the area my sister lives in (Hi Katy), has experienced severe storms.  Not only were these folks lamenting the loss of good weather, at times the storms were so severe, they might have experienced fear.  And then.....power loss....for days!  Nothing like losing electricity to remind us of how much we rely on it.

At work, for several days our break room had no water.  I was irritated every time I had to walk up a flight of stairs to fill my water glass.  Yet those steps are nothing compared to many countries who don't have access to clean water and may walk miles to get it.  If it is even available.

It is easy to take things for granted when everything is going well.  So, today I will remind myself; I enjoy all the creature comforts (food, clean water, housing, education, employment), I love (and am loved by) many people, my health is good and my faith is strong!  If we take a moment to think about it, our lists can get pretty long.   And I want to consciously remind myself of all these things on the good days, so I will remember them should my path go dark.

Some days (more than others) I miss those who have gone before me.  It is like a physical pain in my heart.  On those days, I will remind myself of the love and many good times we shared together.  Until we meet again.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Somebody....but not me.

I was talking to someone the other day (who will remain anonymous) and this person shared with me a story.  On the way to the store, a behavior was observed that the driver did not like.  It wasn't just an annoyance, but something that could be dangerous.  The driver said, "Somebody should call the police."  My person asked "if you feel that way, why don't you call?"  The answer was "no, somebody else, not me."

And it made me think.

How many times do we see something, and don't say something??  For a variety of reasons.  It doesn't have to be a behavior that is publicly dangerous, but how about a behavior that has personal repercussions.

We don't want to rock the boat.  We don't want to make someone mad.  So we turn a blind eye (or keep our mouth shut).  And the time will come when the consequence of the action arrives, and then we can say, "Ha.  I was afraid of something like this."  Or, "I knew that would happen."  And everyone nods in agreement.

But following those type of statements, the next question should be "did you share your concerns?"

Now that is not near as satisfying as saying "I knew it" but somewhere along the way, we need to take responsibility for perhaps choosing that road less traveled.  It doesn't have to be a confrontation, but a gentle observation.  This works well with kids and adults.  Sometimes we need to play the "what if" game to create awareness.  Talking through things can be an amazing thing!

I know I am guilty of this myself.  I would much rather avoid any potential of confrontation.  But that doesn't make it right.

Lord, please give me (and others) the direction and strength to say the hard things.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Take it off the mat

I am relatively new to the yoga practice.  Madison and I did a trial membership with a local Yoga studio last June and approached this new experience with cautious optimism.  I say cautious because we are both about as flexible as a giraffe.

Since our first whirlwind week of trying different styles, we continue to return regularly.  I usually make 2-3 one hour sessions every week and when Madison is home, she goes with me.

Can I pray for you?
While I am still nowhere near as flexible as I would like to be (or those around me), I am making progress.  And I have learned that yoga is NOT a competitive sport but that where ever we are, is where we should be.  I also appreciate the silence of the practice.  Entering the studio, we prepare in silence.  Our facilitator of the practice talks us through the different poses.  We are particularly fond of yin yoga which is an hour's worth of maybe six or seven poses, all held for 5 or more minutes each.  At the end of the session, we end in silence.  This is not a social hour but one dedicated to self reflection and just breathing.

I am no stranger to the use of breathing.  It is my "go-to" whenever I am experiencing anxiety.  I also use mantras (in my head...I am not chanting out loud) that go with the breathing.  So it seems only natural that many times, in the quiet of the pose, I find myself praying.  I pray thankfully to God for the many blessings I have been given; I pray for those grieving, those sick, those suffering; I pray for all those in servant roles and I pray to be a better servant.  I pray for all my kids, my grand kids, my siblings, nieces, nephews and mother. My friends, (so many who are like family), my co-workers and those with specific needs I have been made aware of.  The messy world we live in.  The hour is hardly enough.

When people ask me to pray for them, I always do.  Sometimes immediately and sometimes continually.  And some of the most powerful moments in my life have been when others have prayed for me.  When the situation is particularly difficult, I pray the prayer that never fails..."Thy will be done".

Sometimes I actually fall asleep at the end of the session.  The first time it happened, I was embarrassed.  Some noise startled me out of my slumber and I realized I had missed the shift to the last pose AND the last person was leaving the room.  But beyond the embarrassment, I felt such peace.  I thought it was just a "one-off" until the next time we came.  Luckily Madison was with me to wake me up.

I received a daily "yoga" calendar for Christmas and I want to share some words of wisdom recently found on my calendar by Sean Johnson, a Yoga teacher, artist and founder of Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band."I ask myself daily: 'What is worth my time, attention, prana (life energy), love?' The insight that comes from this inquiry is like a torch leading me through the dark."

Until next time,
#What is worth your time?

your pal,

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Do not be afraid

We live in a scary world and everyone has fears.  It starts out when we are very young, with fear of strangers (who end up being family members), the dark and being away from our parents.  And about the time we recognize that the dark can't harm us and we can survive apart from our parents, new fears emerge.

Most common theme in Bible
Is it any surprise that the most common theme in the Bible centers around fear..."Fear Not", "Do not be Afraid", etc.

Yet we are afraid.  Of so many things.  Fear is not a rational presence in our life.  And my fear is not your fear.

Growing up I was afraid of storms, new situations and strange dogs.  There was a neighborhood bully that I crossed streets and cut through yards to avoid.  I was afraid of being alone in the house.

As I got older, I "out grew" some of the fears....and some I did not.  But as many times as I conquered fear, a new fear would arise.

Until I moved to Texas I was afraid to fly.  For many years I could manage this fear by recognizing it and committing to not letting my fear interfere with my life.  I would white-knuckle the trip and breath a sigh of relief when we were back on the ground  But I reached a point where it was threatening to overpower me.  I began postponing trips or driving long distances instead of flying.  Marissa was in high school then and I remember she gave me three pages of hand-written bible verses to carry with me (which I still have) and refer to when I began to feel anxious. 

And by the way, there was nothing magical about my move to Texas that first diminished and then removed my fear of flying, it was the frequency in which I had to fly (weekly and sometimes more than weekly) that eventually wore my fear down.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a healthy fear and I still have fears.  They are different and every evolving.  But now I just deal with them differently.

A little education and a lot of prayer, go a long way.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Salary, Commission or Contribution

Every day when I come to work, I know almost down to the penny how I will be compensated for my services.  I know what taxes are being withheld and I know where my voluntary contributions are going.  Regardless of any type of decision I make throughout the day, my income remains unaffected (unless I go psycho mad and am "asked to leave").  Can you imagine what this world look like if we all relied on a salary only?

Specifically, I am thinking of those jobs (some with considerable power) where the emphasis is not placed on the base salary.  The options that readily come to mind are tips, commissions and contributions.

It is an interesting dichotomy.  Referencing tips, we have many food service workers who rely on a small base wage, with the majority of their income held at the mercy of an unforgiving (and sometimes cheap) public.  These workers are the "face" of the establishment being visited, and will be held accountable for slow seating, kitchen errors and missed opportunities of the refilled water glass.

Then we have marketers (sales).  Again, a smaller base wage with promises of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if they can CLOSE THE DEAL.  A lot of work and much like the food service worker, no guarantee of a great payday, regardless of quality of work.

Every vote may count but $$ add up!
Finally, think of all the politicians who rely on campaign contributions from the constituents they serve.  And not 100% of the constituents.  Generally, just those who have deep pockets or a vested interest in the outcome of regulations, laws and policies.  I don't know why we have anything called "special interest" groups, since I would think anyone who makes a significant contribution in effect, becomes the next "special interest" group.

When it comes time to make hard choices on rules, regulations, much thought do you suppose is given to avoidance of offending a current contributor, at all costs?

I think we all know the answer to that.  Public service can quickly morph into "self-serving" when push comes to shove.  It is depressing.  And we haven't even discussed the "petty issue" factor that I have been told comes into play on a regular basis (and my sources are the same people who have worked for some of the highest offices).

Need I say more?
Let's do a scenario.  If  I was a doctor (set income currently), which patients do you suppose I would see first?   If I was a trash collector, which homes would I make sure I never missed?  If I delivered a newspaper.....wait, bad example.  At least here in Austin, even on a good day, they are hit or miss (or miss, or miss).   It's probably in their best interest to continue to collect up front.  But for the first two scenarios, the correct answer is big tippers and regular contributors!

In summary, when dining out, remember, if you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out.  Don't begrudge a marketer their commission (they are few and far between) and finally remember your vote could go farther with a handsome contribution.

your pal,


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Read'em and Weep

Throughout the years when my kids were growing up (and remember, that spanned a period of 38 years given the ages of my girls). we have read many books together.  One of my favorites that I remembered as a child was "Are You My Mother?"  I loved that book so it was no surprise when each of my girls received their own copy.  There was never a shortage of Dr. Seuss books and of course, any seasonal book (Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas) were always included.

Does not come with tissues
There were some books (really good books) that I always dreaded reading.  These books always had a meaningful message as opposed to the rhyming books or animal stories.

The first one I remember with significance was "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein.  This was a book that Megan loved and I could NEVER get through it without my throat closing around the words I was trying to read.  Megan would look at me and say "Are you crying?"  Truth was yes....answer was NO!  I believe she cries now when she reads it.

The next book that just about broke me was "Love You Forever".  Who writes this stuff??  This book was published on Marissa's second birthday and soon became a part of our repertoire.  It is about the evolving relationship between parent and child.  Every time it was handed to me to read (past tense since I just refuse now), I could not get through it without wavering (kind word for weeping).

Finally, have you read "The Next Place"?  Not without tissues on hand, I would wager.  The wonderfully written book is 36 pages of necessity for anyone who has endured a lose.  I love how it is written...I love the message....yet I cannot read it without bitterly weeping.  I used this book when I was doing grief counseling with kids, and quickly realized this was a book to GIVE versus trying to choke my way through.  Madison had (has) her own copy and liked to read it....and while I wept she subtly patted my arm.  No verbal acknowledgement necessary.  Just the comfort.

So, what books bring you to an emotional standstill?  I invite you to share them (mainly so I can avoid them).  I also have a number of movies I will NOT EVER WATCH again (at least in mixed company).  But that is for another blog, another day.

Okay - sneak preview "Terms of Endearment"  NEVER. AGAIN.

until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I don't have to know who you are, to know who you are

Good, bad or indifferent-what do you represent
Have you ever noticed how we label people?  When making introductions, someone might say, "This is Mary.  She is a nurse.  End of introduction.  As if that is all there is to know about them.  Not that there is anything wrong with including vocation as a part of the introduction but is that all a person is?  Seriously, in conversation about others, someone might say "Do you know John?  He is an engineer".  And that is how we are supposed to determine (remember) if we know him.  Replace vocation with any one word label and you can see how ineffective it really is.

There is so much more.  In fact, I would wager that we know much about people we don't really know.  And their name is optional.

My blog's title came from a book written by Dean Koontz and a man was saying this to a woman who identified herself with an alias.  All he knew about her was what she portrayed during their time together.  This is what I took from that particular reading and in life generally.

I don't have to know who you are, to know who you are when  -you hold the door, when you smile, when you are running to the grocery store for your neighbor, when you give blood, when you volunteer at the food bank, when you are respectful, when you read to your kids, when you check in with a call.

I don't have to know who you are, to know who you are when - you say unkind things, issue harsh judgments, declare all or nothing, black or white (no gray allowed),  whine, complain, lie, cheat, and/or steal.

I don't have to know who you are, to know who you are when -you pray for others, when you sew caps for cancer patients, knit scarves for Special Olympics, plan showers to honor your family/friends who are getting married, or having a baby.

I don't have to know who you are, to know who you are when - you send birthday greetings, say please and thank you, go vote, advocate for a clean environment, volunteer in orphanages in Haiti, drive Seniors to their appointments, apologize, hold a hand, laugh, weep.

We are all so many things.  Made up of many actions - some we only do once and others become a way of life.

I don't know about you but I want to focus on all things positive and all good intentions (not just for what I hope to accomplish) but on how I think about people.  We are all so much more than the worst thing (or even the best thing) we ever do.

Until next time,

your pal,

Look past the water stains

Here comes the sun!!! Despite the streaked window, the sunrise was beautiful.  I would have missed it had not a co-worker said "Com...