Welcome! This site is an endeavor to spread an attitude of positive thinking and optimism. By searching for joy and beauty in all things - even the mundane, perhaps a smile will spread from my computer ... to you!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Christmas - the Afterglow"

Wow - a new year is coming! Time for new beginnings, new looks, bright ideas, fresh starts....and a "new" blog site! While doing my holiday baking, shopping, wrapping, and crafting, I was also designing and laying out plans for the new "look" and format you see here.
The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is actually a time that I personally cherish. While the major excitement of Christmas is over...the presents opened and put away, the traveling and visiting (pretty much) completed, the food eaten (and left-overs almost gone!), and the kids are still home on break enjoying their spoils from Santa, I've developed a habit over the years of using this week to reflect and re-direct.

While I've always known that I did this, it didn't really occur to me until a few days ago that it had become an annual "habit." I often find myself lost in thought and reflection - the "hulla-ba-loo" of Christmas preparations overwith, and the calendar not as busy! Without going through the actual motion of writing down New Year's resolutions, the week following Christmas finds many of us in not just a "let down" from all the Christmas festivities, but in a state of reflection and planning. I believe those of us who are old enough and mature enough, really understand the importance and gravity of what it means to have another opportunity to "start over" and begin again....in a new year.

This might be one reason I (personally) am not in any rush to remove all my Christmas decorations and trimmings. I almost always wait until the weekend after New Year's Eve to take everything down and put it away. The year isn't actually "over" yet, and I like to remember - just a little while longer, anyway - what Christmas is really about, and why I'm thankful for the holiday. I still feel the smiles, the excitement, the happiness, the love....the recent memory is a shining example of all that is right; of all that I have to be thankful for.

The world of retail is in a huge rush to tear any remnant of Christmas down. I actually witnessed this...I made the ridiculous attempt of returning an item the day after Christmas, and doing a little "bargain hunting." All the stores I entered were tearing down every bit of Christmas...one store even had a couple of aisles blocked off from customers while they stacked the shelves full of Valentine's Day items! How ironic that they can't wait to get the decor up (sometimes at Halloween!), and can't wait to get it down! It's all about moving from one holiday sale to the next....

This week, in the midst of all the left-overs, trash, and cleaning up, I'm continuing to remember
my blessings and "the reason for the season." I'm also re-directing and double-checking my priorities and personal goals - not in just the obvious areas that need improvement mind you, (like weight loss and leading a healthier life-style!); but those areas of spiritual growth and personal development where I might have come up "short" during the previous year. Determining where and how we need to make personal changes and improvements can take some time, and certainly a long, honest look into our inner selves. Taking time to slow down helps accomplish inner-reflection, and these few days - where many of us are still taking time off - are perfect for relaxing and reflecting, our calendars "in-between" holidays and empty of the usual schedules.

What better way to begin a new year than in a spirit of thankfulness, with a refreshed willingness to begin again? While the birth of Christ may be celebrated only once a year, the reason He came is cause for us to greet each New Year, each month, each week, each day...in Joy and thanksgiving. These few days leading up to "the next holiday" don't have to be boring or hectic - may you continue to bask in the warmth of family and friends this week, and in the "after-glow" of Christmas!

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Thanksgiving - Where's YOUR Bounty?"

Giving Thanks....you would think it to be a simple, easy task. However, each year I find myself wondering if our society has let the initial meaning of this national day of reflection fall into merely a "figure-head" of a holiday.

I know what you're thinking - given the opportunity, we could let ourselves get thoroughly depressed over the assumption that Thanksgiving has become just another day to get out of work or school. Hardly - as usual, I'm choosing to look at the brighter side of a holiday that carries a much deeper feeling.

What I have noticed is this: even though we get sucked into the mega-marketing schemes that bombard us via every form of media there is; even though we still take advantage of every sale opportunity the holiday brings; even though some of us fret when we're called to work part or all of the holiday; even though we get fed up with the early Christmas decorations and music (way before Thanksgiving even arrives!); even though we balk at getting out in the ever-increasing traffic around the grocery stores and malls; even though we stress over airport delays or making travel arrangements to visit family; even though we worry about fitting everyone we've invited to dinner around the perfectly-set table; having enough food, and serving "exactly" the perfect recipes; even though most of us have felt one or all of these emotions at Thanksgiving (at some point in our lives), we each - in our own way - continue to gather together to give thanks for the many blessings we tend to take for granted during a good portion of the year.

It's not the turkey that matters - the pumpkin pie, great table, big house, or who's on the "guest list." It's the effort we make to gather those that we love, and as family - or in community -recognize all that has been given to us while striving to share that bounty with others.

The definition of bounty, according to the Webster dictionary reads: 1) something that is given generously 2) liberality in giving, generosity 3) yield - especially of crop.

Some of us might assume that "bounty" means that someone has a "lot." Has a lot of money - has a large home, has power, wealth or prestige. On the contrary - it is the sharing of what we already possess.

My youngest son made a very profound statement at the dinner table tonight. He said "I think we shouldn't think about money, or bills, or things we have to buy tomorrow. I think for Thanksgiving we just need to enjoy being with the rest of the family again - and have fun."

That's a profound statement from a teenager. (yes, I'm very proud of him!) He's right....with our country's people currently experiencing so many different types of pain, heartbreak and sadness, it would be very easy to just have dinner and "get it over with." But my son is right - each of us has something or someone to be truly thankful for this Thanksgiving.

I may not have the biggest house on the block, my husband may not have the easiest or highest-paying job, my kids may not have designer clothes or cars without any issues, we may be delaying eye or dental appointments, we can't afford to really help our parents the way that we dream of.....but, I'm truly grateful. We love each other dearly and worship together as a family, we are surrounded by family and friends who love us, and in this great country, we still enjoy the freedom to do (or not do) all of the above.

As you continue your family traditions on Thanksgiving, may you recognize and cherish the bounty you already possess - may you find your glass half-full - and in your special way, offer it up with a grateful heart.

May God bless each of you and your loved ones on Thanksgiving, and every day. Thank you for stopping by and sharing my Joy -

Pay it forward - spread a smile!
(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Love Helps The Medicine Go Down!"

Yes - I know - I haven't been on top of my writing for several days now, and I sincerely apologize. I've been down with a pretty severe cold and let me tell you, it's almost impossible to think - let alone write - very clearly when your head is splitting, you're coughing constantly, and you just ache all over! Most of us have "been there - done that." I call this my annual early-winter cold. I'm not positive if it's started by an allergic reaction to the fall leaves or the subsequent dampness and mold that's associated with those leaves or what, but this happens almost every year at the same time!

Today is really the first day I've actually been able to get some real energy back and attempt any creativity. I began pondering this morning on what to write about after my absence, and my current circumstances pointed me in the obvious direction: while it is never any fun to be sick or feeling unwell in any way, I do think that being ill teaches us some important life-lessons.

Let me point out that I am not really speaking of life-threatening or permanently debilitating illnesses such as cancer....those circumstances require a whole different blog, for the implications and results of those diseases are much more severe.

What I do want to talk about today are those general, "run-of-the-mill" times where we just feel bad - due to colds, flu, migraines, minor surgeries, and the like. Not to make light of whenever someone is feeling low because of one of those - on the contrary - when it hits us personally, it throws our whole life-order out of whack! Especially us moms....we all know what it's like to have to remain in control of all the family functions, even when we're breaking out in a cold sweat from a fever or every muscle in our body aches. We just continue to do what we do - because we have to.

Sometimes, when it's "bad" enough, being laid up like that requires that we sit back and take it easy. Our bodies are trying to heal themselves, and they're telling us to treat ourselves accordingly. I sometimes have a hard time doing this - unless I'm feeling really bad - and these past few days I listened. I tried very hard not to start any "major" projects around the house or go anywhere. I laid on the couch, drank lots of tea, slept whenever I needed to, took my medicine, and just - rode it out.

Can there even be a "bright-side" to getting sick? How about letting another loved-one take care of you....letting them take over, take control, just take care of you. Many of us have a hard time succumbing to another persons care - our pride is usually in the way. But we owe it to those we love to be able to repay the "favor" of caring for us, when we would most certainly do the same for them.

He may not realize it when I say "thank you," but I really cherish my hubby making the trips to the store for cold medicines, soups, or ginger-ale for my throat, making dinner, running the youngest to swim practice at 5:15 am, or just covering me up on the couch with my favorite blanket! He seems to know - before I even do at times - when I'm not one hundred percent. My boys are pretty understanding as well when mom is sick, and take turns checking in on me or giving me "extra" hugs or pats on the head. What a blessing of comfort - it's humbling to know that they love you that much.

While I certainly don't wish any ailment upon my kids, husband, or family, I do "relish" the opportunity to really spoil them - take care of them - when they are sick or feeling low. I don't believe you have to be a "mom" to feel that level of love and concern for others. As we mature, we become much more aware of the needs of others - especially those close to us - and we understand the value and blessing in each of them.

Yes - it is good to let someone else take over - take care of you. Should you be feeling particularly lonely and feel that you have no one to take care of you, perhaps you're not looking hard enough. Caregivers sometimes come to us in hidden packages, and it's up to us to ask for help - or maybe even just a shoulder to cry on, when we're feeling low.

God never gives us more than we can handle - and assures us that we're never alone. He is with us, always. And here on earth, he places people in our midst who want to care for us in many different places....we just need to be open to them.

Are you thankful for someone special in your life - someone that has been there to care for you in times of sickness? Does their care and concern still effect you today? Have you been able to return that blessing? It sure isn't fun when you get sick - but on the bright-side, having someone you love around certainly "helps the medicine go down!"

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"I Promise Myself...."

Optimism, and the act of thinking positively is nothing new. Mankind has known for centuries what the power of positive thinking is capable of - but in these modern times we simply get too busy and too involved in the search for instant-gratification to remember that anything is possible!

How do we re-kindle the desire to remain positive and happy, when we are constantly bombarded with images of negativity, greed, hatred and evil? In a world torn not only internationally by war, starvation, and intolerance, how do we find a thread of Joy to hold on to?

It begins in our own "back-yards" - within our own hearts. By believing that God truly does want all that is good for us and for others, and by living in that belief each day, our example will eventually lead others to follow suit. I have mentioned it before - it's the attempt that matters. One small effort, one small example, one small affirmation of faith can create a domino effect of happiness.

It begins with believing in yourself, and believing that there is hope in all things. Following is an affirmation that I re-discovered and keep near my personal desk. It was written many, many years ago by Christian D. Larson, and is the official creed of The Optimist International Organization .... an organization dedicated to bringing out the best in children world-wide, serving these future citizens of the world community-by-community:

The Optimist Creed
I promise myself -

To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person I meet.

To make all my friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature I meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improving myself that I have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Optimist International - www.optimist.org
Imagine the possibilities if all peoples of the world acted to live in this regard.... I personally, need to read this creed each morning before leaving each day!

Those of you who have begun to follow this site might have additional quotes or snippets of inspiration to share. Can you think of some examples where another person shared a positive outlook or optimism with you? How did it affect you? Perhaps you shared a positive message of hope with someone else - how did it affect them? I sincerely welcome your suggestions and comments, and the blogging community at large welcomes community participation in this regard!

God Bless each of you today - believe in your possibilities!

Pay it forward - spread a smile!
(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Busy Hands, Happy Heart"

It occurred to me this afternoon why I enjoy knitting and crocheting so much - I can simultaneously feel productive and idle! Actually, it's been said before: "Busy hands, happy heart."

I learned to knit first - many years ago - from my aunt. I always wondered if she taught me this skill just to get me out of her hair, or because she knew I was actually excited to learn a hobby. She's only six years older than I, so I usually don't call her "aunt" until I'm introducing her to someone or explaining our family connection. She has always been more like an older sister to me, and to this day I remember all the small things she did with me that (at the time) may have seemed insignificant to her. Little did she know by patiently teaching me the basics of knitting all those years ago, that I would develop a craft and hobby that I cherish today. Her faith in my young ability was evident, for I still have a collection of knitting needles she gave me when I was about 12 or 13.

Around that same age, my maternal grandmother also tried to teach me to crochet and attempt a rare needlecraft: tatting. At that time I just didn't have the patience for either, and quickly lost interest. Many years later I made the attempt again with the aid of a "how-to" book, and eventually my grandmother (by then in her late eighties) helped me fine-tune my basic crochet skills.

Besides cherishing the knowledge and memories of two of my dearest relatives teaching me such a time-honored skill, I love the peace that needlework brings to my busy brain through it's repetition and motion. Although I have yet to attempt to make anything more difficult than blankets, scarves, or the like, I derive such pleasure in seeing a finished piece and presenting it to someone I love.

I've been working on an heirloom crib-blanket for my great-niece, born last month. Almost complete, it's been both a joy and a personal blessing for me to work on. While pouring a lot of love into those thousands of stitches, it's been a relaxing comfort and reliever of stress at the end of many a day! The joy in creating something for another loved one is definitely reciprocal - there is personal pleasure and pride in the physical creation of a hand-made item. I sincerely hope and pray that our society never looses the appreciation for things made by human hands. The loving attention to personal detail and art could never be experienced or matched by a machine or other technological advancement.

I so look forward to spending time with this hobby each evening...it truly helps me begin the process of unwinding at the end of a busy day, preparing my mind for peace. In the process, I create another personal work of art - left behind to be hopefully passed on to another generation.

The act of creating something - anything - for another person is such a gratifying and emotional experience. Once you've carefully and lovingly made something with your own two hands, you begin to appreciate and understand the love that other craftsmen and artists instill into their work. All the computer games, television shows, and new technology in the world can't hold a candle to that!

It is true that not all of us are gifted at the same things. However, we each have at least one ability special only to us. Sharing that ability and taking the time to create something for another is a special blessing. Whether it be knitting, sewing, baking, cooking, writing music, poetry, woodworking, candle-making, gardening, or one of the countless other possibilities, those we love will appreciate and cherish the work our hands and hearts put into that which we created.

May your hearts and hands be satisfied and happy today, and may you pass that appreciation on to others. (Thank you, Grandmother and "Aunt" Vickie!)

Pay it forward - spread a smile!
(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"God Bless Pumpkin & Cheesecake Muffins!"

I have to confess, I've had "writer's block" for a couple days now! Call it a curse for this beginning blogger, or whatever...but know that I have truly been at a "loss for words!"

I realized this afternoon that I'm going to have days like these - for years to come. And we all do. Today it started raining here again in north Georgia. The previously saturated ground, over-flowing streams, and lakes already at capacity can no longer contain the continuous downpour... six weeks ago the state had unprecedented flooding, and still the rains keep coming!

Therefore, with the skies dark once again and my mind filled with the responsibilities and worries that only a mother can understand, I've found myself suffering a little bit of the blues and grumpies today. With all this stuff going on in my life at the moment, I've had difficulty finding something positive to write about.

This evening, driving home in the rain in my little car from yet another school-related function (while inwardly cursing the wet, gloomy darkness and my growing inability to see well in those conditions!), my heart was blessed with an old piece of advice. Where I might have heard this originally, I don't remember - but I have heard it many times for many years, as I'm sure you have....when you're having a bad day, and you're having trouble finding anything good about it, just start by giving thanks.

That's it....you just begin listing all the things in your life that you have been blessed with. Anything. No matter how insignificant it might be. And before you know it, you're feeling better.

As I pulled into the garage tonight I was feeling a little bit better - yet my mind was still "swimming" in self-doubt and apathy (ha - pardon the pun!) I opened the back door, and was welcomed by the aroma of something wonderful coming out of the oven...and my husband standing in the kitchen preparing another batch of his amazing Pumpkin and Cheesecake muffins. Gluten-free....just for me. (actually, we all love them!) Perfect timing, honey! How special is that?

I knew my earlier thought was correct - to just be thankful. It really does help. Even in our darkest moments, we can usually find something or someone to be thankful for. The act of remembering these blessings may not actually solve any of our immediate issues, worries or broken hearts, but it helps. It's a start. And sometimes, that's all we might need - a start.
Many people have implemented the use of "Gratitude Journals" in order to remember and reflect on the blessings in their lives. While it's not necessary to acquire a fancy journal, notebook or even paper to keep track of those things, I do highly recommend the practice. It can be as simple as laying our heads to our pillows at night, closing our eyes, and letting our final thoughts of the day be those of gratitude and remembrance of those we love or had the privilege to love, and all that IS good in our life.

Simple, but effective. I can always find at least one thing or person to be thankful for at the end of my day - even though.

I'm grateful tonight for Pumpkin-Cheesecake muffins...and the man who loves making them for his family. Go ahead - pick one thing you're grateful for tonight - I guarantee it will bring a smile (even if it's a small one) to your heart. Perhaps you'll be grateful for the following recipe:
Pumpkin & Cheesecake Muffins

These delicious muffins are very close to the kind you can get at Starbucks! If you want to cut back on the fat, substitute some or all of the oil with natural unsweetened applesauce. I have also used Gluten-Free flour mix and Splenda in these muffins, and they’re STILL amazing!

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 pinch cardamom (optional)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
8 oz. cream cheese
Optional: chopped pumpkin seeds, walnuts, or pecans.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put the entire brick of cream cheese on a piece of wax paper, and shape it into a long log.
3. Put it in the freezer while you mix and fill the muffin pans, up to an hour.
4. Unwrap and cut the cream cheese log with a sharp knife so each cream cheese disk equals 1-2 tsp. If the cream cheese disks are too big around, cut thick slices and then cut them in half. This lets you push it down into the batter easier.
5. Mix all ingredients together (except cream cheese and nuts.)
6. Fill muffin tins (greased or paper cups) ½ full.
7. Put one cream cheese disk in the middle of each muffin, pressing down.
Bake at 350 for 50 minutes, best served warm!

recipe courtesy of: www.recipezaar.com
Pay it forward - spread a smile!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Please Forward..."

We all know that we receive emails that we just get tired of opening...you know which ones I'm speaking of...the ones that have been forwarded, and forwarded (and forwarded). Many of us (and you know who you are!) have just given up on opening anything that even remotely looks like a "cutesy," "flowery," full-of-teddy-bears and kittens (and way too corny for even Hallmark!) kind of message. I personally must receive at least five or six of these emails every day!

A good many of these well-wishes from friends and family are just that - well-wishes and blessings - I can understand how they might become monotonous and "generic" looking (especially when they've been around in the world-wide-web for quite some time, and you find yourself receiving the same thing within a year - or less!) While I too, have found myself not taking the time to open each and every one of these friendly Internet notes, I do try to take note of who sent me the message, and remember that the person who took the time to send it to me (even though it was another forward) was thinking of me at that particular moment.

Today there are many blogs, forums, and chat rooms out there in cyber-space where people around the world continue to discuss the pros-and-cons, good-vs-evil attributes of how this kind of technology and connectivity has (or has not) affected the world. Since my site is not designed to be an open forum for "heated discussion," (however, I always welcome comments!) I offer you the following perspective: occasionally, we all run across a message or two that just "happens" to arrive in our cyber mailbox at just the right moment, which lifts our spirits or reminds us of the world around us.

In that regard, today I'm reprinting a chain-letter/email message that I have actually received several times. This well-known forward has probably been "tweaked" and changed over the course of it's many trips around the world. Should you take the time to read it (even though you, too, may have already received it), I'm sure you'll agree that the following sentiment will continue to journey from desk-to-desk, computer-to-computer for many years. It's origin is unknown, but I believe the messages it contains are timeless and poignant, no matter your age, race, creed or gender:


I love the rain.

I’ve learned that I like my teacher because she cries when we sing “Silent Night.” Age 6

I’ve learned that you can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. Age 7

I’ve learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what they are doing and wave back. Age 9

I’ve learned that just when I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes me clean it up. Age 13

I’ve learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering someone else up.

Age 14

I’ve learned that although it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my parents are strict with me. Age 15

I’ve learned that silent company is often more healing than words of advice. Age 24

I’ve learned that brushing my child’s hair is one of life’s great pleasures. Age 26

I’ve learned that wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers have followed me there. Age 29

I’ve learned…that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it. Age 39

I’ve learned that the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his need to cast blame on others. Age 46

I’ve learned that motel mattresses are better on the side away from the phone. Age 50

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. Age 52

I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die. Age 53

I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. Age 58

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
Age 62

I’ve learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back. Age 64

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, the needs of others, your work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will
find you. Age 65

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision. Age 66

I’ve learned that everyone can use a prayer. Age 72

I’ve learned that it pays to believe in miracles. And to tell the truth, I’ve seen several. Age 73

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. Age 82

I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch-holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. Age 85

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. Age 92

Please pass this on to someone you care about. Sometimes they
just need a little something to make them smile….

It's just as I continue to suggest daily....
Pay it forward - spread a smile!
(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Unexpected Winnings"

Don't you just LOVE receiving a little piece of unexpected Joy?

I was looking forward to a district meeting of catholic women this morning, held at our parish. After several invitations over the last couple of years I finally accepted, and joined this wonderful organization who support each other in the continuation of their spiritual growth as catholic women, while serving the church and their community. The meeting was to begin at 9:30 a.m. this morning, and I decided to make myself some breakfast before leaving so that I wouldn't be caught at the meeting without having something to eat.

I have Celiac Disease - an intolerance to anything containing gluten. I was actually diagnosed quite a few years ago, but up until two years ago, had not received a definitive diagnosis, or complete and accurate information on exactly what this disease actually was and how to deal with it. I have since tried to remain on a gluten-free diet for a little over a year, and am on the road to healing my damaged intestinal tract. I could (almost) write a daily blog on this subject alone. The emotional ups-and-downs of dealing with such an "inconvenient" disease can be overwhelming to say the least (gluten is found in just about everything), and becoming totally "gluten-free" is quite the challenge in today's world of processed and "fast" foods. Needless to say, I was trying to avoid being stuck at the meeting without breakfast.
I arrived at the church, signed in, grabbed a cup of coffee and took my seat at one of the tables. It promised to be a good meeting and I wasn't disappointed. Not only would I get to learn even more about this organization's presence within the archdiocese, as well as how each women's council at each parish contributed to their church and their community, we would also be listening to a presentation from an interesting and inspiring speaker. I was blessed to be seated at a table with several women that I knew from our church but for various reasons, never had the opportunity to really get to know. We chatted a little prior to the meeting actually starting, and after learning that lunch would also be served, I looked forward to talking with them later.

I'm not sure why I didn't consider the possibility that lunch might be served today...I suppose it just slipped my mind. However, when the time came for us to process to the buffet line, I immediately started to worry about what might be served...sure enough, after checking with one of my friends who helped to prepare the meal, the delicious-looking casserole was indeed not a dish that would be "safe" for me to consume. Neither were the enticing rolls or fresh strawberry shortcake. I quietly served myself a portion of the green salad with some Italian dressing, and returned to my table.

It occurred to me while I was sitting there, that I was finally learning to cope with the reality of this disease. I've been in denial with this battle for quite some time. While it did bother me just a little at first, I found that it really wasn't all that bad (of course, I made plans to stop and pick up a little something that I could eat on the way home!) What really helped were the wonderful conversations I had with the other ladies at my table, and the connections made during that time. Really and trully, for the first time, I was still happy and glad to be there - I wasn't upset or pouting any more about what I couldn't have to eat. The reasons that I was there were enough. It felt great, and I was proud of myself.

Immediately following our luncheon, we drew tickets for a raffle. Like most of the other women present, I too had purchased three tickets for this fund-raiser. The prize was a beautiful, very large basket of toiletries and and "spa" products. They actually called the number a couple times before I realized that I was the lucky winner! I couldn't believe it - I don't win raffles and the like very often at all, but there I was, shouting "It's ME!!"

To add even more excitement to my already memorable morning, I won another small door-prize. It was then - as I was walking back to the table with my second raffle win of the morning, that I considered my earlier "inconvenience" of not being able to eat lunch now "worth it." Even though the prizes were small yet sweet little luxuries, my disease and the problems associated with it seemed so much more insignificant now.

It was one of those moments that Oprah Winfrey calls a "light bulb" moment....it wasn't just winning the door-prize that caught my attention. I was still able to experience a moment of Joy in what could have been a depressing experience for me - had I let it! I personally feel that God was (once again) giving me a little tap on the shoulder and saying - "see it's not so bad - there are plenty of other things that make you happy besides food!"

I left that meeting today in such a good mood - and found myself feeling grateful - not for the prizes, but for the experience of just being in the company of such amazing women, and creating new friendships. How much more special than food is that?!

I mentioned this experience to my amazing friend and sister-in-law tonight, and she pushed me to share today's little piece of Joy. I'm eternally grateful to her for continuing to be there for me, and sharing her encouragement and support. We may not always win a raffle or lottery, or see an immediate benefit, but somewhere in the mix there is always going to be something positive gained from our daily challenges. By choosing to remain positive and relishing the friendship that surrounded me, I chose Joy - before even winning those raffle prizes.

While the choice is not always clearly marked and not always easy, the possibilities are ours for the taking. A minor set-back or disappointment can be just that - a minor inconvenience. We can choose Joy!

Pay it forward - spread a smile!
(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Goin' Junkin' "

Ever heard the phrase "one man's junk is another man's treasure?" I grew up in a household where we were taught to really take care of our personal belongings - no matter what we paid for them - and that anything useful should never be just "thrown out." Unless it was something that had been used up, busted up, or totally destroyed, you kept it - or gave it (or sold it) to someone who could use it. I remember my mother repeating this sentiment for years while growing up in a small rural town of southwestern Michigan. Called by different terms in different parts of the country - Rummage Sales, Yard Sales, Garage Sales, Estate Sales, Moving Sales, or Jumble Sales - make it possible for many of us to obtain things that might be financially out of our reach at "regular prices. (There's also flea markets, antique shops, junk shops, second-hand stores, etc.) Even though we lived in a small development that was literally in the middle of a farming community, when my mother had a rummage sale, people would come from miles around (and she always made some good money in the process!)

I remember my mother taking us to a few rummage sales, but it was so long ago I couldn't really tell you what we'd buy. My father was an avid antique bottle collector for years, and the family was always on the lookout for old and interesting bottles to add to his collection. We attended several auctions as well, and again, though I can't remember what my parents might have bid on, I remember listening to the auctioneer with fascination while studying the adults who would raise their hands or yell out a price. (I always secretly wished that I could bid on something back then - just because it seemed like those people were so excited when they won a bid!)

Maybe it becomes a little stronger with "age," but I absolutely LOVE finding a great bargain, "steal," or used treasure. It's not just because times have gotten "tougher" either - I've always enjoyed finding a quality, gently-used piece of clothing or merchandise at a great price. Call me a shop-a-holic, but I believe it's exciting to just "stumble" across something special and pay very little to take it home!

I've had several friends who've enjoyed going on these jaunts with me, and it's very poignant how my "treasure-seeking" has changed over the years. When my children were little, the focus was typically on finding bargains in baby and toddler clothing, toys, furniture and other useful items for children. I find myself still greatly enjoying the trips to rummage sales, flea markets and junk stores, only now I'm not usually searching for anything in particular. I'm really just enjoying the "thrill" of coming across something we could use, for next to "nothing!"

Case in point: this past Sunday afternoon after church, my husband and I noticed that a "new" antique and junk store opened at a nearby intersection...what caught our eye was that sitting outside the open door was an old, upright string Bass. Our middle son owns and plays several types of instruments, and has always wanted a Bass. Naturally, we had to check it out "just in case" it turned out to be a great deal. Although it was a good price, it's not in our budget at the moment. However, we did go inside and found a bargain we could afford - a used, stainless steel, Cuisinart Blender for $25.00. After plugging it in at the shop and discovering it worked like a charm, I declared to the owner it was sold! We brought it home and sprayed some cleanser on that baby - it sparkles like new and now sits on our kitchen counter. Knowing that this blender originally cost around $80, I felt like I'd discovered a rare vein of gold in the mountains! A couple days later I was roaming around our local Goodwill, (another favorite "haunt" of ours!) and uncovered a Longaberger basket for only $2.50.....some people just don't know what they're donating or giving away!

My point is this...we don't have to spend a lot to find a treasure. Sometimes the deals are right under our noses, while other times the search is the best part of the purchase. It's immensely satisfying to know that while you got an item you really wanted or needed, you also helped out a small-business owner in their endeavor. With all the hi-tech, in-your-face, marketing tactics of department stores, malls, huge discount shopping centers and even on-line sales, I think it's a welcome return to old-fashioned values when we buy used and recycled products.

Our family is much more careful about disposing of our old clothing and household items now...even the boys automatically think about whether someone else might be able to use an article they no longer want. We started that practice when they were very young, usually around birthdays or Christmas - we would sit and go through their toys and other collectibles to determine if they really needed it anymore. Not only did they begin an early understanding of what it means to appreciate what they own, they began to think outside of their little world and contemplate on what others might not have.

The gentlemen that owned the antique and junk shop mentioned something to me that I hadn't heard yet, even though I've lived in the south now for over 25 years...he told me to enjoy the rest of my day "goin' junkin." I couldn't help but chuckle that I wasn't familiar with that term, but that it perfectly described our afternoon's activity. I will most likely never meet the person who got rid of that blender and that little basket, but I'm certain that their intentions were for someone to get it who wanted and needed it.

Next time you find yourself cleaning closets, going through the basement, attic or garage, and are ready to just "ditch" a bunch of junk - think twice....someone (like me!) might be goin' junkin. Your junk could be another's treasure!
Pay it forward - spread a smile!
(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Lavender Dreams"

Yep, I'm thinking tonight is definitely a hot bubble bath kind of night!

A good many people don't really consider relaxation an "art," but I'm personally beginning to understand why the old phrase "the art of relaxation" was even coined. While a trip to some crystal-blue shore with my feet in fine, soft sand and an exotic drink close by is never too far from my day-dreams, my current state of reality reminds me this might not be possible for a while!

This is where the "art" of relaxation comes in. Even if you're lucky enough to own an elaborate hot-tub, spa, or whirlpool tub, sometimes you need to look for creative, new ways to bring a little "down time" into your day! I could list tips and simple ideas here forever....but I think we all know that it's not really all that difficult to find a "little slice of heaven" for just a few minutes!

It can be as simple as buying a candle in your favorite scent (I adore lavender) - or trying a new smell that just soothes your senses. Even taking a few minutes to just close our eyes and assuming a comfortable position (while listening to our breathing) can be done just about anywhere. Even sitting outside under a tree, or in a spot of sunshine - letting the warmth radiate through us can soothe our "aching" bones and mind.

Relaxing means different things to different people - my husband, for instance, is not very good at sitting still (unless he's watching a favorite T.V. show - even then, he's got his laptop in front of him!). His favorite way to "unwind" at the end of the day is to cook...and believe me, I don't mind letting him! Many people consider their favorite hobbies or past-times a special way to relax - whether it be reading, playing the piano (one of my favorites) or other instrument, listening to music, needlework, woodworking, playing solitaire, etc., etc., etc.... the list is endless.

However, when we really need to relax - when our bodies are over-worked and our minds can no longer absorb another stressful worry, those are the times we really need to listen to our bodies and literally just "kick back" and do...NOTHING. Some people just aren't "in" to taking hot baths - but the possibilities for uncovering a special, personal way to relax are endless.

So many of us are feeling the stress of current times....and are forced into being creative in LOTS of ways at home. Rather than taking just a few moments to find a little time for some peace, too many of us just don't bother - "it's not worth the trouble;" "I don't have time;" "I have more important things to do" - these are just some of the small, yet negative responses we continue to guilt ourselves with.

It's important that we take a break from even our hobbies, and just...sit. How many of us have lost the ability to just sit, and do absolutely nothing for at least five minutes? Whether it be in prayer, meditation, or total silence, our minds need to take a break from all the "stuff" that fills every second, every minute of our daily lives. It's not just an indulgence or special treat. (which many of us moms fall into believing!) Our emotional (and physical) health deserve the opportunity to let go of all that commotion!

We may not have the money for a weekly or monthly massage, trip to the spa, or even a pedicure with an automatic massage-chair....but some wonderful relaxation can start at home. It can be as simple as a candle, a glass of wine (or favorite beverage), a dark quiet room, sitting in the garden, or filling up your tub with good ol' fashioned bubble-bath.

Do yourself a little favor - take the time to unwind. Don't take on another "hobby," or worry about affording a vacation, or signing up for the latest yoga class...start by giving yourself some time, every day. Not only will you appreciate the results, but your family and those around you will notice the difference. In order to be of benefit to others, you need to be good to yourself!
That bathtub is calling my name....

Pay it forward - spread a smile!
(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Doggie Hugs"

MAN I had a difficult time waking up this morning! Well, at least the second time I tried to wake up!

Our youngest son is on the high school swim team, and this year their team elected to train each morning before school... they're in the water between 6:00 and 6:15 a.m., which means we have to leave the house to pick up the other two team-mates we carpool with no later than 5:15 a.m. Even though we're only required to drive two days per week and my husband and I take turns, getting up and moving at this hour has been quite an experience for me.

I was definitely ready to go to bed last night after a long day of shopping, running household errands, looking at the budget, computer work, attending the swim team's booster club meeting, etc., etc., so I didn't think I'd have any trouble getting to sleep! However, several times since the swim season began I've found myself waking up almost every hour (after about one in the morning) to see what time it is, and last night I experienced this again. I don't know if I'm worried that the alarm won't go off, or if I'm just having some issues with sleep patterns and the "menopause thing." (which might very well be the case!)

On the mornings it's my turn to drive, I've developed a little routine - if I'm just not tired enough to return to bed after dropping the kids off, (at that time it's still only about 5:45 a.m.!) I'll curl up on the couch in the living room until I have to get up the "second" time. What's cool about this is I'm not alone....I grab my favorite afghan and my favorite pooch - Lizzie - who's always ready to jump up onto the couch and curl up with me (especially since we don't allow her on the bed!)

Living in this den of testosterone (where even three of the four dogs are males), Lizzie is my "token" girl. I picked her out at one of those adoption days at a local pet store...we literally locked eyes across the store. I knew immediately she was mine - and she still is, "mom's dog." While she's developed the habit of following dad and the boys around, it's me she's always with if I'm home. She loves to be with me when we're outside gardening or doing any yard work, and also sits patiently with me while I'm even on the treadmill.

Whenever I'm having a bad day, feeling sick, or even just tired, I know I can always count on her to cuddle with me. Dogs are great about that....they can't tell you how much they feel for you, they know they can't take your pain or hurt away, but they're always willing to just be there to let you pet, hug, and hold. We humans are very tactile creatures - we need to touch and be touched. I like to think that's one reason man domesticated these amazing animals - not just to be companions, but to also hold when we're alone.

To me, there's (almost) nothing better than owning a dog who loves to be cuddled and hugged. We're very fortunate in this family, in that we have four such dogs - all of which were rescued from various adoption agencies. Each of the boys has "his" little buddy, and it's truly heartwarming to see how the personalities of each of those dogs fits "their" boy!

So this morning after returning from the carpool, I laid on the couch...but didn't have Lizzie with me...she was still up in her little bed in our bedroom, fast asleep (along with dad!) I didn't want to disturb them that early, so I waited for my husband to wake up and let her out. Sure enough, as soon as he cracked the bedroom door, she was down the stairs looking for me. She came to the edge of the couch like she always does and pushed her little nose near my arm - she always waits till I give her "permission" to jump up next to me.

We snuggled down together under the blanket - Lizzie curled under my arm, the sun still not risen - and went back to sleep. It's a special feeling when you're warm, cozy, and holding something (or someone!) Whether it's a little fuzzy dog, a purring kitty, or even a BIG (yet loving softy) of a dog, those unspoken emotions of love, understanding and devotion are impossible to ignore.

I woke up still not fully-rested this morning, but felt at peace. I can always count on her to be there for me, even when she's done a "boo-boo," and I've been cross with her! Isn't that what unconditional love is all about? We continue to love each other, even though we realize and recognize the imperfections in each other. My husband and I have said this for years - mankind continues to learn a lot from dogs and their "simple" canine faith and devotion. Our furry little family proves it to us every day.

Maybe you don't own a dog or kitty, but I'm sure that you can relate to this feeling of peace and companionship. Whether it's your favorite blanket, fuzzy robe, stuffed animal, or pillow (even your favorite human!), next time you grab it, snuggle down and relish the peace.
Sweet dreams.....
Pay it forward - spread a smile!

Monday, November 2, 2009

"Smiles...at a bargain!"

Anyone out there really like finding a good bargain? With most people in this country experiencing the recession in some way, I'm sure we all understand the importance of being frugal and "penny wise!"

Like many others, our family's income has suffered some major blows over the last year or so, and I find myself cutting corners in any way that I can when doing the household shopping. We have three sons, all of whom are still living at home: the eldest, age 24, received two Associates Degrees in computer science last month, works full-time and will be continuing his education and certifications this coming year; our middle child - age 21, has almost completed Culinary School and just landed a job as a full-time Chef for an organic and gourmet food chain; and the youngest - who will be 17 this December, is a swimmer and Junior in high school. My husband and I are very blessed - all three of them continue to pitch in with household chores and responsibilities (usually without too much complaint!) The two eldest, though not quite done with their schooling, contribute financially as much as their "in-college" incomes will allow!

I'm sure - even if you've never had a son - that you can appreciate just how much food this family can go through (not to mention all those "little" things like soap, laundry detergent, deodorant and shaving cream!) Let me tell you, I've had these boys around for some time, and it STILL amazes me! The youngest one - the swimmer - even amazes his older brothers in his ability for mass consumption. When all three are actually present at the dinner table (yes, we still manage to do that several evenings a week!) it's basically a "free-for-all" ....you snooze, you loose!

SO - with all the shopping I still have to accomplish each month, I've found myself frequenting some discount establishments that (years ago) I would never have thought would now be a regular stop on my bi-weekly excursions. I've given up the need for the "expensive" shampoos, body washes and facial care products, have opted for off-brand cleaning and paper products, and continue to select "store-brands" whenever possible. Usually shopping at our local grocery store for most everything (with coupons in hand) I recently discovered that I can save even more money on some of my monthly necessities at a small discount store. I stop at this store before making the trip to the grocery store, and I always manage to cut quite a bit off my shopping budget for the month.

Yesterday being the end of the month, today was most definitely the day to refill the pantry, so once again I stopped at that little discount center first. Because I had balanced the checkbook before leaving (and took a peek at the bills I would have to pay later in the day) I wasn't in the cheeriest of moods this morning as I wandered around gathering the usual specials. I finally got to the aisle where I always buy this store's brand of facial products...and felt myself giving in to an immediate self pity party. "Why do I have to scrimp on my beauty products - at this age (when I need them the most!)" After all, it wasn't like I was buying those expensive department-store brands ...now I'm buying copies of the COPIES!! (I wasn't raging mad, mind you - but the internal pouting I was doing would have shamed a two-year-old.)

I made my way over to the tiny check-out area, which is just crammed with all kinds of candy, lighters, trinkets and dollar-items...there's barely enough room there to lay out your purchases. They usually keep only one register open in this place, and I waited behind one other person as they placed their items on the counter one-at-a-time for the clerk to ring up. It was getting a little annoying as she methodically picked up one thing at a time out of her cart. However, she finally completed the process and paid her bill. Just as she was finishing, I turned to look behind me and standing there was the tinniest little old woman - I mean little! (I kept wondering later if she actually drove herself to the store, and "could she see over the steering-wheel?") She wasn't terribly old, but a good bit older than my mom. She was holding a bottle of Mr. Clean and a box of something (I couldn't see) in front of her, along with a handbag almost as big as she was.

You've done it, haven't you? You have a shopping cart full - and even though you're worn out, completely "over" the whole shopping, saving money, and comparing prices thing and want to get home - you've let someone holding only one or two items check out ahead of you. Thing is, today it made me feel better. That little old lady asked me twice if I was sure I didn't mind (probably because we'd both been waiting behind "Ms. Poky!") She couldn't believe it, and I reassured her it was absolutely fine...she only had 2 items!

My pity party was over. By doing a small, random act of kindness I felt better. Maybe it made her feel good too, I may never know. What I do know is this...even though some people might say the "random act of kindness" and "pay-it-forward" thing has been over-done, it ultimately does matter to us - on a personal level. It's not always about making another person feel good or making their day....it's also about reminding ourselves how it feels to be kind, while possibly healing a little something that might have been missing within ourselves for awhile.

I still had to complete the major portion of my grocery shopping after that, and I didn't relish the thought of spending even more money. Taking a moment to let the little favor I just granted to a stranger sink in, I walked to the car with a smile on my face - knowing that I had just put a smile on hers.

Pay it forward - spread a smile!
(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Written With Love"

I think I'm officially addicted to my computer. Whether it's watching items I'm buying or selling on EBay, composing and sending messages via email to family and friends, or scanning Face Book to stay up-to-date with almost everyone I know, I am spending many more hours each day with my face in front of a glowing screen!

We could spend hours debating the pros and cons of the Internet and the thousands of uses our computers perform each and every day. But there is one time-honored practice I still consider very special - almost sacred. The act (and some would say, art) of letter-writing. Don't know about you, but I'm always extremely excited when I've walked to my mailbox, open the lid, and spy a hand-written card or letter lying there. Especially the letters....I don't even remember the last time I received a hand-written letter from anyone!

While I will certainly be the very first to admit how easy and accessible the computer is to "jot" off a note to someone, I also have to admit that I still love writing a hand-written note to someone special. Thank you notes or cards of sympathy in particular .... a genuine, personally hand-written note is one of the best gifts you can bestow to someone - particularly in today's fast-paced way of life! When I receive a hand-written thank you or note of friendship, to me, it conveys all the love, respect, or compassion the composer was feeling for me at the moment they wrote it....for I know my circumstances were felt deep within, and "important enough" to take the time - even if only a few short minutes - to write to me in their own hand.

I've known many people who've used the well-known excuse that their hand-writing was "just terrible," and felt it kinder to send a typed or computer-generated message so that the recipient could actually read it. As for me, it's of no importance if their hand-writing doesn't resemble a professional calligrapher's artwork....what matters is that they cared enough to scrawl a note to me!

Current economical circumstances are making the decision for me to write and send personal greeting cards this Christmas very difficult....while the cards can be found at some great discounts, the postage can not. This makes me a little blue, for one of my personally cherished holiday activities is either selecting the perfect Christmas card, or creating my own letter or picture-card to send to family and friends. Last year (for obvious budget reasons!) I did both - I sent cards to those friends and family far away that I don't have an opportunity to see on a regular basis, and emailed greetings to those close by.

Many of us still treasure selecting beautiful stationery papers and note cards, and writing with a favorite pen - one that feels and fits just right in your hand. I'd like to think that in the future our society might be able to "mix" the best of both worlds...using our computers and our technical abilities to connect with others all over the world when necessary, yet continuing to hand-craft a personal message to someone when we really need to convey a very special sentiment!

While I know how special my loved ones feel to receive those beautiful Christmas cards each year, I guess they'll understand that my creativity might have to be on the "technical side" again this year. The bright side is, either way, they'll know that I was thinking of each and every one of them - if I strive to continue adding a personal message to each card - even if digitally created! Are any of you faced with the same dilemma this coming holiday season? Will you continue a tradition of sending letters or cards, or will your family and friends welcome your email messages just the same?

Ah - the feel of the weight of a beautiful pen in my hand....then again - I wouldn't be able to deliver my little messages of Joy to each of you! May you find today's note a little ray of sunshine....even if it didn't arrive in your mail box via "snail-mail!"

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Candy Corn, Wax Lips, and Pixie-Sticks" (original publish date: Oct. 31, 2009)

Ah, the memories: Trick-Or-Treating in the neighborhoods we grew up in; costumes we bought - or costumes we made (usually at the last minute!); parties and Fall festivals; visiting our first "haunted" house; begging our moms to buy our favorite candy to hand out to our friends, but finding out later that the begging didn't do any good - our parents always bought their favorite!

What I find extremely funny is that now I'm doing the same thing! This morning while doing a little grocery-shopping, I found myself in the just-for-Halloween-candy-aisle, searching through what was left of all the sugar-coated, chocolate-coated, individually wrapped, bags of goodies. Of course I wasn't alone, and peeking out of the corner of my eye I happened to notice that the other three or four adults standing in that section were all middle-aged (like me). Surprised that none of us standing there had any kids roaming about, I could only assume that those parents of younger children had already prepared and purchased their treats and were (wisely) at home making their final preparations for an evening of fun with their families.

Did you ever notice how just standing in a candy aisle, with your mouth watering over all those sweet, gooey, delicious selections could bring back a host of childhood memories? I still enjoy sitting around with friends and family comparing the favorites we loved as kids: fake candy cigarettes (which our mother's abhorred), Pixie-Sticks, wax soda-bottles, wax lips, wax teeth, the (nasty) gum that came with the baseball cards, Zotz, Pop-Rocks, various bubble-gum and candy-bars...I'm sure we can all add to the list! It's really no coincidence when you think about it, how so many of our fondest memories (especially those of our childhood) contain a thought or two centering around candy. Whether it's digging through the trick-or-treat bags, pulling out our favorites and hiding them for later so that no-one else (or the kids!) can swipe it, or just having enough change in our pocket for that favorite candy-bar in the check-out line, candy holds a very special place in every one's heart.

A dentist's worst night-mare and a mother's last resort for bribery, a small piece of candy or chocolate can be an intense instrument of persuasion or "drug" (if you will). Depending on your "flavor" of choice, that first bite can totally transform a person's current state of mind. Taste and smell are amazingly powerful senses - when triggered, those senses have the ability to take us back in time, completely change our mood, even emote feelings of pure pleasure!

Sometimes those cravings for candy or chocolate are just that - our taste buds are screaming for something sweet, something to satisfy a hunger, or even cure a "bad taste" left over from perhaps a too-spicy meal. Personally I find that I derive the most from chocolate when eating it only for the sheer pleasure of it!

There's an old advertisement for Tootsie-Roll Pops that I've disagreed with my husband over for years....remember that old owl who was always wondering "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie-Roll Pop?" I believe that old owl had it completely wrong. Commercial after commercial, that owl could NEVER wait and just savor that lollipop (which my crunch-happy hubby is in total agreement with - he can't even suck on a mint or cough drop properly!) Me - I believe it's all about the enjoyment...with everything us working moms tend to be involved in these days, why do you think we "crave" chocolate so much? (Gentlemen, it DOESN'T always have to do with hormones!)

Simple pleasures....some might say "guilty" pleasures, but a pleasure all the same. The next time you indulge in your favorite sweet - be it a form of chocolate, gum-drop, jelly-bean, taffy or gum - try savoring that first taste. Let it linger on your tongue...for just a moment. Close your eyes and let your senses take over. It's really only seconds out of your day, but those few seconds can immediately transport you elsewhere and perhaps even ease a weary mind and body. A bit of Joy from one little piece of candy...no wonder these kids are so excited at my door tonight...they've already got BAGS full of the stuff!

There goes the doorbell again - have a treat - and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

(photo courtesy of Google images.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Gone with the wind..."


So, I'm leaving work early today (I substitute teach at a couple of our local high schools), and it's another GORGEOUS fall afternoon. I have a sweet little red Mini Cooper convertible, and after looking up at the sky and noting one more time what a perfectly blue, cloudless sky it was, I decided to open the top. However, just after I sat down in the driver's seat and made ready to push the button that lowers the rag top, I experienced a fleeting moment of indecision...did I really want to totally screw up my hair - that's in dire need of a haircut, and therefore, extremely difficult to manage right now? After all, I had a get-together with my girlfriends tonight, and I didn't want to have spend too much time re-doing my hair. Furthermore, I didn't have my sunglasses with me, and wouldn't it be too difficult to drive with the sun shining directly into my dry and sensitive eyes?

It was at that moment that I heard the bell to change classes ring. Students came pouring out of the school campus from various doors, meandering this way and that, across the parking lot and common area. While everyone was most decidedly in a hurry to get to their next class, you could still sense an air of happiness and freedom that only being young - and outdoors - can bring. Some students cross this portion of campus simply to cut their walking time in half, but there were a lot of students outside, and I could tell that many of them simply wanted to enjoy being outside in the sunshine - if only for a few short minutes.

I pushed the button - and lowered the rag top. What the heck - it's only hair! A memory returned to me of a much younger woman - at one time in her life MUCH more concerned with never messing her hair or makeup just in case I ran into someone I knew, or someone I didn't know (but that might be important), or better still - a good-looking, eligible bachelor! Now, I'm still a little old-school when it comes to looking "presentable," even when running to the grocery store or the gas station...I may not always wear a full face of makeup on those occasions, but I hardly ever go without mascara and a little lipstick. However, even though a small part of that younger woman will always be with me, I've learned that sometimes we can miss the small, carefree moments of "letting our hair down" - or in this case, letting it be blown completely crazy in the wind!

What did I get a convertible for, anyway? Am I too "old," too "stuffy," or too wrapped-up in self-pride to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, the smell of fresh air and autumn leaves, or the rush of freedom and joy you feel when driving alone in an open vehicle? Never. Perhaps this is why many of us mid-lifers are drawn to finally purchasing convertibles, motorcycles, or even boats; even if those items aren't expensive top-of-the-line models.

It's not just because we're approaching our later years and worried that "we might not ever get the chance if we don't do it now," or that "we've paid our dues, we finally deserve it!" I like to think it's because we've also learned that no matter how old we get, no matter how far up the social ladder we've climbed, and no matter how classy we dress, it can still feel good to let our hair blow in the wind and not care about who might "see" us doing so!

When is the last time you opened all the windows, the sun-roof or the top of your car; sat at the bow of a cruising boat on the water; rode a motorcycle, bicycle or even a horse, and just...breathed? Open a little window in your life - it's o.k. - I won't tell anyone your hair's a mess! Even if it's pouring rain outside.....it's only hair!!

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"The beginning - a search for Joy"

I always find it amazing how very simple things can lift our spirits and make a "so-so," hum-drum, kind of day (or even a week) into something SO much better...even memorable:

Taking a walk outdoors with family or friends (like I did this past weekend!)- not spending any money to drive great distances but enjoying the day for what it is - perfect sunshine, leaves beginning to turn color, the joy of taking pictures in nature's perfect lighting. The cat - who normally favors everyone else in the family with her affections but you, - yet suddenly and lovingly jumps in your lap with a purrful rub of her little pink nose and curls sweetly in the crook of your arm. Your teenager - who's on the brink of manhood, and usually too engrossed in his own thoughts at warp-speed to pay attention - that catches you at just the right moment and squeezes you in a bear-hug that takes your breath away. A wave or thumbs-up from a passing driver, who's flashing a broad smile because you're driving the same make car, knowing we're in a special, yet un-spoken "club." The familiar tune of your favorite song coming on the radio - and the pleasure you feel knowing that you know all the words!

Devoted to uncovering the joy and positivity in all things, I hope to help others who happen across this site to seek out "the brighter side" of whatever life might throw at us. An easy task it's not always going to be. I confess, my desires and goals are not completely unselfish...for by developing a motivation to face the blank page and write daily on a belief so dear to me, I know that I will continue to grow and experience life on a whole different plane than what I do currently.

For those of us whom others have called perpetual "optimists," we instinctively know why an attitude of Joy is important - and it's usually a way of life. A positive attitude can effect everything we do. Proven by scientists and doctors, a positive attitude and outlook literally affects our health - and those around us. Most of us have had several experiences in our lifetimes where we have been in the presence of someone who exuded feelings of negativity and sadness. Emitted in forms of complaint, criticism, or even abuse, we've all felt an immediate change in our own spirit and energies when we've been on the receiving end (or even just witnessed) these negative thoughts and emotions. It can be very easy to loose ourselves in that darkness.

While I by no means claim to have any "magic pill" or solution for some of life's most devastating and heart-breaking periods (and let's face it - we will have them), I do hope to place in your path at least one little thought or treasure of Joy each day. There is no substitution for those who need serious medical attention and intervention in the case of severe depression or anxiety, and I know from personal experience that clinical depression requires more attention and help than just reading a small blog each day!

I might not be able to "move mountains" with this blog site....but I do understand how powerful positive, happy thoughts can be. Even Peter Pan discovered that he couldn't fly without them.....Tinker Bell would've sprinkled all the fairy dust in Never-Never Land on Peter, and he still wouldn't have been able to fly.....he had to think happy thoughts in order for it to work!

I hope this was one little ray of sunshine in your day....pay it forward, and spread a smile!