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!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"In The Blink of An Eye"

My boys have become young men.

It happens in the blink of an eye....and it's so easy to forget that God "gives" our children to us for only a short time.  It's our destiny as parents, for ultimately we must release each child into the world to fulfill their destinies. 

The "Empty Nest" syndrome is quickly approaching our household and believe me, I'm very aware of the impending transition.  Our eldest son has completed college, has a fantastic computer/I.T. position, and recently began house-hunting.  Actively searching through the numerous deals that exist in the housing market at present, he's attempting to take advantage of the federal tax credit for first-time buyers before April.  Our middle son completed culinary school, is a chef for an amazing company, and is hoping that it won't be much longer till he follows his brother out the door.  The youngest has one year of high school left, but knew in his heart several years ago that he would be beginning his career with the U.S. Navy after graduation.  In less than a couple years, they will all have flown the nest.

I've already known in my heart that this change in my life (and that of my husband) will be bittersweet.  It sounds cliche', but the two of us have already had fun and lengthy chats about what we'll see and do when the boys are gone.  Twenty years ago, I never would have thought that it might seem exciting.  After all - my kids are everything to me.

I've come to understand and cherish the idea that this will be an entirely new and exciting time in our life together as a couple.  Exciting because it will be un-chartered territory again.  However, unlike the very beginning of a marriage - where there is still so much to learn about each other - we'll now be able to get to know, understand and experience more of the world...together.

I'm writing of this today because I've been earnestly counting my blessings, and this morning my heart was touched with the thought that we can always begin with the gift of our families.  In good times and in bad, they are a constant. Even though we have difficulties in getting along with or understanding each other, live miles apart, or might still be getting to know each other, each member of our family has profoundly affected us.

I'm sure there are those in the world who would find it extremely hard to agree with this.  There are many who have led less than perfect childhoods or have faced extreme pain and hardship somewhere within their family structure.  While I certainly haven't felt their sadness, I can understand how it would seem impossible to give thanks for someone that may have left a scar upon their heart and soul.  Perhaps, in those instances, it might be possible to give thanks for what one might have learned, and appreciate that the past doesn't always have to determine our future and ultimate personality.

I'd be the first to tell you that my boys aren't perfect.  That I haven't been the perfect mother, perfect wife, perfect daughter.  Not one of us can say we've been a "perfect" brother, sister, father, aunt, uncle, step-parent, grand-parent.....perfect anything. Yet, while usually unspoken - family accepts this - warts and all, unconditionally. 

It usually takes many years for us to fully appreciate and understand how our families help shape us into special and unique individuals.  Watching my boys become men is allowing me at this point in my life to understand this cycle and the wisdom that comes only by witnessing the process of their maturity... an experience shared by my parents, and their parents before them.

I'm excited now, waiting on their next steps as they face adulthood head-on.  Full of hope and ambition, the possibilities for each of them is limitless.  Though we still worry at times about whether they might fall or stumble, what a thrill and blessing to watch each of them become an active, contributing, and caring member of our world.

I'll miss their presence within these walls that have watched them grow...seen them cry... heard them yell...felt their laughter...

But the thrill and pride of witnessing their first flight.....priceless.

Although mom will be crying, many of those tears will be of pride and Joy.  It's a perfect example of what bittersweet actually means - for joy and sadness sometimes really do occupy our hearts at the same moment. 

For now, I'm finding extreme Joy in the gift of being mom to three young men.  What a blessing to just be a part of that - learning to love them as adults - continuing to love them as my sons.

"Children are not things to be molded, but people to be unfolded."
- Jess Lair (Inspirational Author)

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Spiritual Battles..."

Have you ever begun a new project – particularly one that you sincerely hope will be of service or joy to others – only to be met with some sort of obstacle or negative energy?

I've actually experienced this several times throughout my life, and you would think by now that I would be tuned in to when I've let this enemy slip into my daily efforts and thoughts. I pose this problem as a person, because I firmly believe that he – "Satan," "the evil one," "the devil," "Beelzebub," "negative energy," "the dark force," (whatever you want to call it) – really exists, and in order to recognize and defend ourselves from the enemy, we must put a name to it and face it.

Surprisingly, it didn't occur to me until just this morning that my husband and I were facing this kind of “spiritual warfare” yet again. The devil has attempted numerous times to infiltrate our lives as a loving couple and tight-knit family unit. “Attacks” might seem like an extreme word to those who aren't familiar with wht the sneaky and furtive tactics of the devil can really mean, but I firmly believe that this is how he operates. Unless you are constantly on guard, feeding and nurturing the garden of your own faith, before you know it he has slipped into your life - interjecting negativity, hopelessness, anger and hatred into situations where you normally would stand strong in clear and proper judgment.

That's how he works. Personally, I don't believe the devil brings down plagues, earth-quakes, financial ruin or death. Because God has given us the gift of free will, the ability to make our own choices and decisions in dealing with what life hands us, we unfortunately have the ability to choose unwisely. And that's just what the “devil” is pushing us to do. While he probably didn't cause us to loose our job, wreck the car, or put someone else in a bad mood, he does try to “push the buttons” that cause us to react to these moments with negativity and without love. Then, he tries to keep us there – mired in the darkness of self-pity, doubt, fear, and hatred – away from the light and grace of love, peace and Joy.

I've previously written that our family has experienced some major hardships this past year. In a nutshell, over the last week our situation has continued and become worse. I admit this to you only to support and explain my recent absence from the page; it truly has become a battle for me and my family, and I apologize. While I can't read the future and still don't have all the answers, I have made additional discoveries and insight into why I've reacted to recent situations the way I have, and why my family continues to suffer.

Over the last several years, I've found that I am getting really good at directing my anger towards dirt. I'm not sure if my boys have really figured this out yet, but when I've been hit with yet another piece of bad news or situation beyond my control, I start to clean. Rather than screaming, I try very hard to just “get mad at the dirt,” and go around the house taking care of items that may not have been tidied up in a while. Not only is this kind of simple work therapeutic, I've realized it's one thing that I have “control” over. Usually after several minutes of vacuuming or dusting, my heart will start speaking to God, and I'll use that time to converse with Him about how I'm feeling.

My house is very tidy at the moment.

However, I've (we've) been bombarded with so much lately, that the cleaning hasn't totally eased the unrest and nervousness within my soul, and I let myself slip into a bit of depression. I literally haven't been able to focus, let alone write about anything “positive.”

It's become obvious to me that I've let Satan enter into these moments, and have let my “guard” down. We all used to come together pretty frequently for family prayer – particularly when we'd had disagreements or were concerned for other family members, etc. We also took time to give thanks for the joys and blessings we received.

You see, the devil doesn't want us to spend time in God's presence. When we choose to give thanks in all things, when we choose to focus on love and what's right in the world, Satan has no entry. It can be so easy to let ourselves slip into despair and apathy – we've all experienced these moments – after all, we're only human.

Upon the celebration of Ash Wednesday last week, our family signed up to participate in several activities during the Lenten season, designed to strengthen our devotion and faith during this time of preparation before Easter. Because of recent events, our desire to take part in anything has been very low, to say the least. Being very active in our faith community, we've encountered the devil's obstacles and attacks each time we've begun a service project or joined in any kind of activity meant to increase and strengthen our faith in God. I now see that Satan has tried to use this opportunity to break us, and keep us from fully experiencing God's love and mercy.

My positive message today? I'm not going to let it happen - I won't let Satan win. I'm not saying it's going to be a piece of cake, but it's possible. Life can and must continue. I can choose to continue to see God's Blessings around me each and every day.

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase."
 ~Martin Luther King Jr.

Even amidst great tragedy, we can continue putting one foot in front of the other, day-by-day, week-by-week, year-by-year. By doing so life brightens before us, most times without us even realizing it. I was struck by a report on the early news this morning as I got ready to head out to work. Joannie Rochette, an Olympic figure-skater for Canada (their national champion as a matter of fact), found out only 2 days ago that her mother had died of a massive heart attack after arriving in Vancouver. This young lady has made the courageous decision to compete tonight, in spite of her tragedy and loss, knowing that her mother had been her biggest fan and supporter. It's not just a matter of willpower (although it helps). We have to continually practice trusting in God – His light is there to surround each step of our difficult journeys – all we have to do is ask Him to join us. We can find Joy in the fact that he will never leave us.

Though our options might not always seem clear, we always have a choice. Sometimes it seems so much easier to take the easy way out, by not doing "anything." Letting things be while we sit and stew about what we've done wrong, or who's wronged us, or the blows that life has dealt us won't carry us forward. While a good cry, cleaning the house from top to bottom, or maybe pounding out our frustrations on a construction project will help release the tension and stress we're feeling, eventually, we must continue on.

We can always find light and love in moving forward. By allowing Satan and his negative forces to creep in, we are slated to remain in the dark.

Asking the angels, saints, and those that I love to pray for me, I will strive to continue to live as though each day were my last. Surrounded by that much love, how can I go wrong?

Oh, and something else the devil doesn't like?

Paying it forward.

Pay it forward – spread a smile!

Image courtesy of Google Images.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Only God Can Make A Tree"

I've been staring at trees again. At first it was because I was missing their summer fullness – their green, warm-weather foliage blowing softly in spring and summer breezes. I love trees...the different shapes, heights, variety of leaves, those that flower – those that don't.

Recently driving through the local countryside on a wet, gloomy day – and we've had a lot of wet, gloomy days this winter – I realized how much I still enjoyed those same trees without their covering of green.

Without the thousands of individual leaves covering each branch, each tree reveals another side to it's personality. Bare of any covering, we are allowed to view the form and structure of each branch, each limb, each trunk...as they taper off into differing directions towards the sky.

Some trees are massive – those who have weathered decades of changing seasons - their bark showing signs of age their limbs curling in every direction as they continue to mature. Others are young and strong, their trunks straight – the bark still unmarked by time and nature.

I find them extremely moving and emotional. Even in the bleakness of winter each tree reveals an inner view of it's growth, maturity and wisdom to me. I find myself wondering what these trees have witnessed of humanity.... Forests that have come and gone; children playing and growing beneath them; perhaps travelers on foot, stopping for a rest in the shade of their branches. Growing weary of the browns, grays, and muddy colors of the winter, I have found a new way to appreciate their stark and unusual beauty.

Reviewing what I've just written, it seems as though I might be describing people. When stripped of all foliage - whether full and colorful or sparse and dull – we're all pretty much the same underneath. A straight or stooping posture, smooth or furrowed brow, and number of gray hairs permits us a glimpse of the wisdom and experience of another soul.

Like trees our roots grow wider and deeper with time – strengthened during periods of balmy weather, we are empowered to withstand the storms life surely will bring. Each experience, each encounter we make is an opportunity to put down another root.

Call me a “tree-hugger,” but trees make me smile. Even on the gloomiest of days I can look at a tree and witness its beauty, as it reaches toward heaven reminding me of the strength and power that lies within.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

"Trees" - Alfred Joyce Kilmer, 1913

(Pictures property of Pamela Bousquet)

(posting originally appears on "Writer's Rising")

Pay it foward - spread a smile!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"If You Just.....Smile"

Yes – I know...it is rather obvious that I haven't been here of late, isn't it? I have a confession to make...I have not been in a very positive frame of mind.

The reasons why are really not important, and if I listed them here they would only come through as excuses for not putting any thoughts to pen ( or “computer!”) Suffice it to say that I have been dealing with the blues, feeling a little poorly due to health, and just generally suffering from the “winter doldrums.”

I've already told myself that it's normal to experience periods like this. For me, this is particularly true during the winter months, when I am forced to wait out the cold weather indoors, cloistered away from the sunshine and fresh air. We get a lot of rain here in the south during this time of year, but on “the bright side” it sure beats snow and ice!

Pulling ourselves out of any sort of depression can truly be a test of willpower and spirit. Most of us have and will continue to struggle with moments such as this throughout our lives and I would be lying (at this site devoted to positivity!) if I didn't admit that I, too, have moments of sadness and self-doubt. The trick is knowing when that sadness or a period of the blues is more than we can handle alone. If we find that changing our surroundings, eating habits, exercise routines, or other crucial needs aren't enough to break the cycle of darkness we're feeling, then it's time to seek outside help and assistance. Doesn't necessarily mean that you have to immediately enlist the aide of a licensed psychiatrist – it can start with a simple visit to your regular doctor, where they can help you decide if additional medical treatment is warranted.

I have continued to attend the aerobics class I began in January, and have discovered that I'm really starting to feel better after each class. Just the proper breathing – getting that oxygen to move throughout my body – is probably working wonders for me. (not to mention, I'm beginning to notice the tiniest little bit of room again in my jeans!)

Aside from the exercise and asking God daily to remind me that He's always by my side, I made another decision of self-help this morning - to smile. While I may not actually be using my facial muscles to form this expression on my face continuously (that would be impossible), I made a decision to try and “wear” my smile internally - even though I might not be feeling particularly happy at the moment.

It's worked.

Even though I felt that I was “pretending” to be cheerful (in the beginning), I found as the day moved on that because other people reacted so kindly to my attitude, that my attitude changed. I really began to feel better. I've attempted to practice this “theory” several times before in my life – and have noticed great results each time. However, today was the first time I made myself remain completely aware (all day) of what I was doing to extend a cheerful and positive front. Even though I definitely didn't feel like it when I first got up this morning, by the end of the day, I felt better.

By choosing to be cheerful and kind to those I met and worked with today, they reacted in kind. It transfers so easily: On my way in to work this morning, I was stopped at a particularly busy intersection, waiting to make a left-hand turn. Another driver, in on-coming traffic was also preparing to make a left-hand turn. Rather than continuing on, he stopped and flashed his lights at me in order to let me turn into traffic. As I passed in front of him I smiled and waved in thanks...and he smiled and waved back. Before I knew it, I really was in a much better mood and state of mind. Even at our low moments we have a choice – an opportunity – to be happy.

Thinking back over my day of changing outlooks, a particular song popped into my head (which often happens to me....tunes are forever “popping” into my head!). This piece was written in 1936 as a theme song for a now-famous silent movie. Not too much information is available on exactly how the composer was feeling when these words and music flowed from his heart, but the lyrics are still timeless, and pretty much sum up those sentiments I've shared with you today:

Smile, though your heart is aching,
Smile, even though it's breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky-
You'll get by.

If you smile through your fear and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through
For you.

Light up your face with gladness,
Hide ev'ry trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near,
That's the time you must keep on trying,

Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just smile.


- music & lyrics attributed to Charlie Chaplin

1936 - "Modern Times"

Sometimes, a little smile is all it takes – to not only lift the spirits of those around us, but to lift ourselves from an otherwise dark and lonely place.

I hope the smile I found today makes it's way to you!

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

Image courtesy of Comments Yard.com