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!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Ah, The Wearin O' the Green..."

Did you ever notice how so many people thoroughly enjoy getting into the spirit of this popular holiday? At school today I was amused and cheered to see how many high-schoolers were wearing green, quite a few of them really getting into out-doing each other with crazy leprechaun outfits or died hair!

Personally, I think part of the appeal of our “Americanized” St. Patrick's celebration is where it falls within the seasonal calendar. Temperatures are beginning to warm up (pretty much throughout the continental U.S.), and everyone is more than ready to shed the dark colors and heavy sweaters of winter. With Easter only a few short weeks away “spring fever” is taking hold, and it seems that everyone is looking for an excuse to celebrate the end of winter and just – break out.

Originally a feast day for a beloved Catholic saint, St. Patrick's Day brings a whole lot more to the American Public these days than just the “wearin o' the green.” Numerous cities and towns across the U.S. host parades and festivals, with most local bars and taverns offering some form of Irish beer (or beer died to various shades of green). With so many opportunities to party, who can't love St. Patty's Day?

America has been touched heavily by the Irish, with many relocating here in the seventeen and eighteen-hundreds, slowly migrating across the continental United States by wagon train. Many families can today trace their heritage back to at least one Irish ancestor, and those of us who can't still like to think they're just “a little bit” Irish!

Indulging in the customs and traditions of the holiday, anyone can be Irish for the day. Dreaming of green hills, thatched-roof cottages with flowers at the window, and the commraderie of a small village at a local pub, we imagine a land of eternal spring as our snow melts and seasonal rain showers begin.

Some might consider the holiday useless and frivilous, but the fact remains that St. Patrick's Day brings a smile to many a face as we anticipate the burst of color and renewal brought with the return of Spring.  

When Irish eyes are smiling,

Tis like a morn in spring.

With a lilt of Irish laughter

You can hear the angels sing

When Irish hearts are happy

All the world is bright and gay

When Irish eyes are smiling

Sure, they steal your heart away.
Irish Eyes

- Song, by Chaucey Olcott and George Graff, Jr.

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

Photos property of Google Images

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Dirt Therapy"

I'm ready to go back outside! The beginning of this week brought Spring into North Georgia with warmer temperatures and clear, blue, sunny skies.

We immediately headed outdoors to begin the annual “Spring clean-up” around our house, raking leaves and generally clearing away the debris and muck left over from a late winter snow.

While my husband started the cutting and treatment of the lawn for it's new Spring growth, I began the arduous task of raking the dead leaves and over-growth from around the walls of the house and from under the trees and bushes surrounding our large and partially-wooded lot. It took us almost all day to complete these projects, but we enjoyed the fresh air and the sun on our skin as we plugged away with a common purpose.

The last few weeks of winter being rather gray and gloomy, it was a particularly beautiful day. The smell of damp and freshly-raked earth brought through open windows on a sunny breeze was intoxicating and tempting. It was evident that many in our community were experiencing the thrill of finally leaving their dark interiors to herald the new season. Amid the birds were the sounds of mowers, tractors, clippers and saws; dogs barking; children calling and laughing. Greetings were shouted across neighboring yards with smiling faces in a spirit of vitality and good-will.

After transporting all the leaves and brush to a clearing prepared for burning - and putting the tractor and tools away – I stood on our back deck to survey our handiwork. Sore, filthy and tired, I still felt energized and happy. Some people may not be able to truly appreciate the joy and satisfaction that comes from working amid dirt and plants, and I understand that it's probably just “not their thing.” I, however, thrive in this environment and always feel better when I've had time to spend digging in the dirt again.

I've discovered over the years that while home-ownership demands a good deal of responsibility, I really don't mind the work required in maintaining the outdoor portion of our home. For no matter where we live – whether it be a ranch consisting of hundreds of acres, a home in the middle of suburbia, or a small brownstone within city limits - the area surrounding and entering our home is an extension of our personality and the life within.

Physical work of any kind permits us an opportunity to clear our minds and bodies of stress and fatigue, the oxygen clearing away the cobwebs in our brain. Though energizing, I always find myself more relaxed and in better spirits when working outside in the yard or flower beds. Yes, it can be a real hassle to try and keep up with weeds, over-grown shrubs and grass. But if we take the time to enjoy the personal solitude incurred while performing these tasks, those moments become a time of reflection, meditation, or prayer … all in the midst of nature.

A well-known chain of landscaping nurseries in the southeast has a slogan that I have loved for years: “Come play in the dirt again!” Like a child, I need not worry about what clothes I'm wearing, whether my hair is messy, or how dirty I get when working outside. Focusing on nothing but the task at hand – whether pulling weeds or the repetition of hoeing or raking – I totally let go of any stress or worries plaguing me at the moment. As my mind becomes clearer I begin to commute with God, the conversation progressing as though He's standing and working right beside me. I almost always find myself singing (in my head, or sometimes out loud!), offering my notes to heaven.

It really is the best of two worlds for I gain valuable prayer, meditation, and alone time while accomplishing an important job. No spa or retreat-center required. (although, occasionally my muscles might be screaming for a massage afterwards!)

I'm looking forward to Spring kicking into high-gear. I can't wait to get back out there and do some more cleaning and planting. Far from finished, we have a small garden to prepare and more to clear away.

The kiss of the sun for pardon,

The song of the birds for mirth,

One is nearer God's heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth.

~Dorothy Frances Gurney, "Garden Thoughts"

It's not just the work and the end-result I'm looking forward to... it's the therapy!

Pay it forward this Spring – maybe by taking care of the small piece of earth around you - in return, you'll receive so much more than beautiful blooms!

Photos property of Google Images, Washington Post & Stock Photo

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"How To Be An Angel..."

I love modern technology. We added the “TEVO” service to our satellite/cable service last year, and simply put - it's amazing!

Since my husband and I don't watch a huge amount of television, this handy little service allows us to record the programs we do watch, and save them until a time when we can view them. (without having to deal with tapes or discs.) With the boys still at home, it's really handy when mom and dad are forced to watch something later on!

The other day I noticed that Oprah had a special guest on that my husband and I had recently been reading about. He wasn't quite ready to leave his home-office for the day, so I recorded the show so that we could watch it together. Oprah's guest that day was Mr. Roger Ebert, the famous movie critic (most notably of  At The Movies - with Siskel and Ebert) who has been battling Thyroid cancer since about 2005. Even though the majority of her show that day was to be on the upcoming Oscars, I was so glad that we had the opportunity to watch this particular piece together, because Roger Ebert's appearance was extremely inspirational, and it couldn't have come at a better time for us.

Because of the degree of Mr. Ebert's cancer, the entire lower portion of his jaw was removed. Many of you might remember what this gentleman previously looked like during the high-point of his career.  The numerous surgeries he has had to endure have dramatically changed his appearance. What deeply impressed us was that his appearance is no longer as important to him, and Roger had no issues with being on television in front of millions of people, speaking through his wife and the latest in computer/voice technology.

His entire career being the sharing of thoughts and opinions to millions of people, Roger can no longer communicate with his own voice, and no longer eat or drink. Accompanied by his wife Chaz, Oprah asked if Roger missed "eating." Chaz responded that he actually missed the bonding and camaraderie that occurs when sharing meals with friends and family. He now often watches his wife eat, vicariously experiencing the meal through her.

Even in the face of such hardship (which honestly, would crush the best of us) Roger Ebert exudes courage, strength, and peace. He has continued to find meaning and purpose in his life, not letting his unfortunate medical past and ensuing physical handicaps prevent him from taking part in life's special events – he's even attending this year's Academy Awards show. He continues to write movie reviews and news, as well as his personal journal and blog (see the links below).  More importantly, Roger is determined to live his life in an attitude of Joy:

"I believe that if - at the end of it all - according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do.  To make others less happy is a crime; to make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts.  We must try to contribute Joy to the world.  That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances - we must try.  I didn't always know this, and I am happy that I have lived long enough to find it out."   

(Passage read from Roger Ebert's journal by his wife Chaz on Oprah, Wednesday, March 3, 2010.)

Roger had written this testimony down prior to the show, and as his wife read it aloud to the audience and viewers, it was obvious that it had deeply moved Oprah Winfrey. My husband and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes. This is a man who clearly knows why he is still here, and continues to courageously walk forward in that belief.

Even though their presence might come to us via the television, internet, mail or other form of communication, I firmly believe that God “places” certain people in our paths at specific moments in our lives. There are many definitions of what an angel is, but I personally believe it is a being(s) sent or placed to be near us at crucial times in our lives. My husband and I were immediately uplifted upon witnessing Roger Ebert's cheerful and poignant message, and I knew deep within that the two of us were meant to hear it together at that particular moment. For this reason, I not only believe that angels exist in the spiritual realm, but here on earth as well.

We might not actually consider a particular person an “angel,” but perhaps their presence or the manner in which they were introduced into our lives was indeed an angelic moment. Many would call this divine providence, and it's not uncommon for this to happen when we least expect it, often not even noticing that we've made a deep, spiritual connection with another. I'm quite certain that at some point in my life, I may have personally missed the signs that I had crossed paths with someone that touched me in this regard - or that I might have touched theirs.

Perhaps when we are at our lowest moments - when we are searching for guidance and any form of hope – our hearts are more open to recognizing those that come to us with angelic aid. It can be quite easy to ignore the fact that “someone” else might have played a part in our lives when things are going smoothly.

While it's very important, taking time to “stop and smell the roses” doesn't necessarily mean that we should take time to relax and just enjoy being where we are. It can also mean taking time to notice those around us – even though they may have come into our lives only briefly – and appreciating their presence and connection to us at that moment.

Since I began this blog, I've found myself becoming even more attuned to those around me – even those that I “meet” on television or the internet. While writing, I'm opening my heart and soul to the page. Prior to putting a particular thought or idea to pen, I've almost always been struck with the realization that someone else has played an integral part in my feelings or experiences.

I'm certain that Roger Ebert has no idea that he touched our hearts so deeply yesterday, as well as hundreds of thousands of others.  Sometimes the Lord places an angel in the path of many...  it's up to us to notice and take heed of their message.

Sometimes God uses us, without us even knowing. 

Perhaps you will be an angel today - bringing your own, very special gift of Joy to another who needs it - at just the right moment.

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

For addtional information on Roger Ebert:

Roger's Journal / reviews:

Guest appearance on Oprah:

Esquire Magazine's Profile on Roger Ebert:

Photos property of Google Images & Esquire Magazine

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Just Doing It"

Walking – it “does a body good” - so why am I not doing it more often?

We've all been told of the numerous health benefits of walking for at least 20 minutes every day. Whether we choose to take a stroll indoors or out, the activity not only rejuvenates our body, but our mind.

I've been giving myself a lot of excuses lately on why I don't want to get on my treadmill. Even though I've started this new aerobics class and attend two to three times per week, I know that I should be filling in the days I don't attend with a walk.

“I'm not a morning person” (therefore, I “can't” wake up earlier to squeeze in 20 minutes); “I'm tired and brain-dead after work” (therefore, I “deserve” to relax when I get home); “I'm still tired and now full” (after eating dinner – therefore, why start now?)...can you tell where I'm heading here?

We've all fallen victim to this kind of habit – where we talk ourselves into (and out of) things or situations we just don't feel like dealing with at the moment. Truth is, most of the time the final “outcome” of what we're trying to accomplish is something that will ultimately be GOOD for us!

I know that I will feel energized and more clear-headed if I walk. I know that I will drop those extra pounds much faster (and my jeans will fit even better!) if I walk each day. I know what all the benefits are and can be, so why do I choose to ignore them?

I finally bit the bullet and signed up for the low-impact aerobics class, and while it's broken the ice and gotten me out of the house with a good friend, I haven't completely bought into the idea of making this concentrated activity a good habit. For that's what it needs to become – a habit. Thinking that I was just “lazy” I would berate myself again and again each time another week without exercise went by. Now that I've started doing something – taking the class for instance, I know that what I really needed to do – to get out of the rut - was take the first step.

How many of us (particularly during bad weather!) fall into those ruts? Before you know it, just the decision we make to remain there has become a bad habit! This is why so many self-help gurus have suggested that taking the first step is always the hardest. While the decision to change many not be difficult, the action required to actually DO something requires effort. Once we've taken that first step – performed the necessary EFFORT to break a current cycle – the rest becomes easier.

Deep inside, I'm desperately waiting for warmer weather. So many of us get caught up in the winter and bad-weather "blues."  The perpetually gray and wet scenery doesn't do much for any persons' mood.  I long to don my I-pod and venture out into clear skies and sunshine....but what's stopping me from listening to great music now, and visualizing sunny skies and warm beaches? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It occurs to me that often times the biggest step in undertaking any sort of change is changing our attitude. If my attitude going into a new decision or endeavor is in any way negative, change will just not happen.

My "state of mind" has improved greatly over the last several days, which has helped me physically feel much better (read my previous post "Spiritual Battles") I'll be heading out to aerobics class shortly, so I'm looking forward to regaining some energy and momentum. Georgia is slated to (possibly) get rain and sleet again late this evening and tomorrow morning, so I'm hoping the sunny skies we just enjoyed, and my re-newed sunny disposition can stand firm!

NOW I understand where Nike got their slogan: “Just Do It”

Here's hoping that we all can take a first step at something today.

Whether it be to exercise, change a habit, take a new class...
try something new and pay it forward!