Open Or Closed To Change?

As I write this the house is shaking, the walls are rumbling and there is abounding general organized chaos.  We are having some home maintenance projects done.  Currently there are two men standing on scaffolding outside my bedroom window, chipping and drilling around our fireplace chimney and another drilling and chipping away at an outside former garage door which would lead to my office if we hadn't permanently shut it. 

Our chimney and furnace flues need repair.  It is a question of safety.  We do not want any chimney fires nor carbon monoxide problems.  We are also having an unused and probably never to be used outside door bricked in.  In fact, from the inside, the door is covered over by book shelves and cannot be opened. We also will be redoing our basement space so that it will be a usable family room and redoing our outside deck so that the new deck footprint makes sense to our use of the space and will repair damaged wood.  In addition I plan to paint the living room and dining room this winter. 

Whew.  A lot of delayed projects and planning.  I am trying to be organized and smart with how we go about this set-up.  Should I move all the books from the office to this corner or will I have to get into that corner before the project is complete?  Where do I put the items from our basement?  In the dining room or living room?  Will I be painting those rooms before that basement project is finished? If possible I am trying to prevent moving boxes over and over again.

As you see, we are going through changes to some of the rooms and features in our house.  Some are quite necessary like the chimney and furnace flues.  We do not want fires or poisoning.  Our door project is necessary since the door frame is starting to rot.  We will never use that as a door, so why not make it one continual wall of brick and never have to worry about rot again. Our basement redo and our deck redo will help us when the time comes to sell our home.  In the meantime, we can enjoy the extra rooms and the redone projects.  The repainting of the living and dining room are ways for me to freshen up the space without having to do a major redecoration.  In some ways it is not a necessity but rather a want.  Again, it will be a good feature for selling but also allow us to enjoy the current fruits of our labor. 

All this disruption makes me think about change; the reasons and how I handle it.  

Sometimes change is necessary for our safety and wellbeing. We have to change our diet or increase exercise because if we don't, inevitable diseases might happen.  Change happens too when situations occur outside our control. We may experience a family death or chronic illness and we just have to go on and figure out how to move forward and live into the new "normal".  

Other change takes place because our circumstances no longer require what we used to do. Once our children were old enough to chew and swallow food, we no longer needed to give them pureed food. If we had continued to do so, they most likely would've developed significant mouth and digestive problems.  Like our no longer used door.  If we kept the door, there was potential for all sorts of problems- rot of the surrounding door frame or critters living inside.

Change also takes place for growth and development. In my tennis game, if I want to improve my serve I will have to make some changes to my grip, my stance, my ball toss and my contact with the ball. With a good serve, I can develop into a halfway decent player but I must change some things that I currently do.  It is not a necessity.  Currently I play and have an enjoyable time but if I want to play at a different level I need to make some changes. 

In whatever circumstance of change I find myself, I still have an option if I will be open or closed to that change. I find that if it is a change that I initiated, e.g. painting the room, I am more likely to embrace it than a change I feel has been thrust upon me, e.g. fixing the chimney.  Which is rather silly when you think about it:  just because I didn't initiate or think of it on my own, doesn't mean that it won't be beneficial to me.  I can think of people who have had to change their diets from unhealthy eating to healthy.  Most times they will grumble as they go through it, but once it becomes a part of who they are, the general consensus is that they feel so much better. 

Of course, when change happens without any warning, it is extremely difficult to be open to it.  And it would be insensitive of me to say that we should be.  I really do not have any answer for the type of change that occurs through sudden death and loss.

But I am wondering if we learn to be good with change in other situations, when those sudden ones occur, we can draw upon the knowledge of what has worked in the past. 

Reminds me of the time as a child I attended a music convention with my mom.  One of the workshops included a time for singing through the newly arranged/composed choral works that were available for ordering. I remember being flabbergasted that once the director raised her hands all the attendees sang in their respective parts and it sounded great.  No stopping for correction or wrong notes.  I asked my mother how could everyone sound so good?  To which she replied, "But we are all professionals and can read music."  Those in attendance had never seen the music but they had the foundational elements of reading music and singing techniques so that they could get through a choral piece without too much difficulty. 

I do feel that most of the time our call to change is not an overt situation but rather a series of subtle, little moments which add up. If we can try to be open to change, we are more resilient to whatever comes our way.   All of us can practice developing resiliency in our daily lives.  It is a skill that can be developed which can help us when we are faced with various types of change.  In his book Resilience: A Change for the Better, Daryl R. Conner outlines five characteristics of resilient people. They are positive, focused, flexible, organized, and proactive.   I thought we might want to explore those five areas in the next couple of postings.

What about you? How are you with change in your life?   Are you embracing change or are you kicking and screaming wanting things the way they were? What types of changes are you experiencing?  A necessity?  A want or desire? A "have-to"?  A thrust-upon-you, didn't-ask-for-this type? Do you want to change?  

Before we go any further with exploring change and resiliency, think about your past- were you open or closed to change? 

 

 

 

In A Single Day

My dearest friend once gave me a book, " 642 Things To Write About".  I've pulled out the book in preparation for a mini, personal writer's workshop.  I am planning on using these ideas for a jumping off point for daily writing exercises.

I love the introduction in the beginning- "This book was written in a single day."  It goes on to explain how one writer was asked by his editor to write a book called- 642 Things To Write About.  The editor was adamant that the amount should be 642 of ideas so the writer emailed his writing friends for contributions. He thought that it might take a month to compile.  Within twenty-four hours he had all the items he needed.  As he writes,

"I tell this story because it's a lesson in hidden potential. You never know what might happen.  In a single day, if you hit the right nerve, you could have something-maybe it's the start of something, maybe it's the whole thing.  And it doesn't even have to begin with your own idea.  You just have to get creative and plunge in." 

On one hand, when you think of one day or twenty-four hours it doesn't seem that long. Definitely twenty-four hours of vacation or a holiday seems to blink by. But on the other hand, I imagine that you can think of days when the twenty-four hours seem to drag on.  I know that when I cannot sleep, just one hour of tossing and turning seems unbearably long. 

For the most part of our lives are days are compiled of twenty-four hours of monotony and that is okay.  I enjoy Jennifer L. Scott's blog, "The Daily Connoisseur".  This past week she writes that even though she is enjoying her family holiday in Europe, she misses the mundane and routine of home; cooking, cleaning, daily schedule.  I can relate to that.  As much as I enjoyed our vacation this past summer, I was ready to get back to that which I knew- my schedule. 

I love the idea of hidden potential. To think, when we get up in the morning, we really do not have any idea of how our day will go.  We can plan.  We can arrange and rearrange our schedule. We can imagine how an event or activity will go. But we really do not know when or if we will get that phone call- the one that can give us joy or sorrow. We do not know what will come in the mail or unfold in our news or physically happen to us.  

We also do not know if and when an idea or cure or item might be discovered or invented.  As Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin writes, "When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928 I certainly didn't plan to revolutionize all medicine by  discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer.  But I guess that is exactly what I did." 

What about you?  What is your single day looking like?  Do you awaken in the morning with the thrill of hidden potential?  Or the dread of another mundane existence?  What could you do differently to look for hidden potential?  Explore something new?  Re-evaluate what you already have? Try something creative? Collaborate with others?  Or, can you look at your "mundane" with new eyes?  Discover the hidden potential in the familiar? 

When you think about it, we really only have a single day of life.  The past is past and there is no guarantee for the future.  We are called to enjoy, explore, and seek the hidden potential of a single day.

When Shadows Fall

Yesterday I noticed a movement on the floor;  a large black entity was creeping closer and closer to me.  As it moved it seemed to spread out and get larger.  If I didn't know any better, I would've been worried that some big black cloud was going to obliterate me.  From where I was sitting I couldn't see exactly what was causing the strange darkness. 

Turns out it was a shadow of a spider.  Sunlight was streaming through the back door and a spider was building a web across the door frame.  As it moved across, it would block a stream of sunlight causing a shadow.  If it moved across that beam of light, the shadow got bigger and bigger. 

From my perspective the shadow/dark spot/spider seemed huge but on closer inspection it was quite small.  

It made me think.

How many times do problems or situations in our lives seem huge.  They seem to creep up on us from no where, getting closer and closer and bigger and bigger.  Before we know it, the problem obliterates everything else.  We can't see clearly. We can't move.  We just huddle in fear in a corner. 

But is the problem really that big? Was it magnified by our perspective?

Once I changed my point of view- moved directly in front of the door- I was able to see things how they really were.  I could see what was the cause of the shadow and why it looked so large and ominous.

When we let things become bigger than they really are, we become powerless and fearful- that which we think is huge will overtake us.  Like the classic past time of making shadow pictures: holding our hands in certain positions in front of a light which can produce a different image than the original. 

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell

 

I know that some problems in life are huge.  They are constantly pursuing us in the hopes to disarm and destroy us. The problems can be physical, financial, social, spiritual, or emotional. We feel that we are going along in life only to constantly be looking over our shoulder for the next attack.

But I know in my own life, I have made situations worse by not checking out the source of the problem.  It might be a health issue that I have refused to acknowledge or even get more information via testing because I have already determined that what I must have is terrible.  Or, I may write someone off because I felt that what she said or did was offensive to me. 

In all these situations I have seen and allowed something to grow larger in my mind when in actuality the original problem or situation was quite small.   I just see the enlarged shadow.  I don't recognize the person creating it. I allow my perspective of only seeing the shadow, paralyze me.  If I would see my doctor, or get to know the person better, or plan to explore the source of the problem, I might discover that it is just a manipulation of hands or a very small bug.

What about you?  Do you ever feel that something is creeping up on you?  Something larger, scarier with the potential for trouble?  What is the real situation?  Do you need to talk to someone who can give you perspective?  Someone who can say, turn off the light- it is causing the shadows.  Someone who can show their hands and demonstrate  how the shadow/problem was made.  Someone who can make the shadows fall...away.  

 

 

Fun

"What do you do for fun?"

Recently I was asked that by a new acquaintance.  The question took me by surprise.  For starters, usually I am the one who asks others loads of questions because I am curious and interested in people.  

One time we were staying at a bed and breakfast.  During the complimentary wine and cheese get-together we were mingling with the other guests.  I was asking this one couple different questions based on their previous responses.  Finally the husband turned to me and asked, "What do you do?  Are you a news reporter?"   He wasn't upset but rather was amazed that someone would ask in-depth questions to get to know another without the ulterior motive of "getting a story". 

So, when this new acquaintance asked my about my fun, I first thought, "That's one of my questions for you".  Then I had to really think about it for myself.

What determines fun?  A fun activity for one might not be that much fun for another.  My sister likes skiing.  I do not.  The thought of choosing to be in the cold weather, hurling down a snowy slope with out any brakes or form of control does not excite me.   I know that there is a "just relax and go with it" attitude but that doesn't happen with me. 

Part of what makes something fun for me is an activity that helps me "get in the zone".  An activity in which time doesn't have any part:  I have no recollection if I am spending ten minutes or ten hours doing the activity. 

I also find things fun that enlighten me or provides physical activity (just as long as I don't have to be too cold and give up control- like skiing!).  It is also enjoyable to complete creative projects, like my recent re-painting of the guest room. 

Recently I just heard someone talking about the word, "amuse".  In Latin, "a" means non or not.  For example, amoral- no morals, complete lack of morals.  "Muse" is to think, to ponder.   So "a" + 
"muse" is to not think.  In the strict sense of the word, to be amused is to not think at all.  To turn off the brain.  Which is what we sometimes want to do when we are entertained via movies, books, or videos.  ( I wasn't thinking Latin etymon when I would get annoyed at our boys that, after watching television, they would seem so dulled. "Huh" would be the common refrain to any question asked after the show.) 

So, for me something that which is fun doesn't have to be amusing.  Although at times it can be. 

What we do for fun can mean, "What do we do outside of our work?"  The implication is that our work isn't fun. Generally most people see work and fun as polar opposites.  Certainly that can be true.  Some work isn't fun although there might be aspects that can be fun.  We can be serious about what we do but still have a sense of fun.

I think the word "play" should be asked when thinking about fun.  Children have a wonderful sense of play even if they are doing a task. This past weekend our next door neighbor's five-year-old was helping raking the leaves.  He was having a great time, balancing one leaf on the back of his rake and flipping it over onto the pile.  Of course, not many leaves were raked but he sure had fun. 

What about you?  What do you do for fun?  For amusement?  For work?  Can you bring in a sense of play to your work? 

It reminds me of the Fish! Philosophy.  The employee practices at the Pikes Peak Fish Market. click here to see a video.  When I was working with employers to implement wellness programs, the Fish!Philosophy is a great employee management style for having work/life balance.  It is more than just for employers/employees.  It is a way of viewing life. 

The four foundations of the Fish! Philosophy:

#1-- Be There
 Be there mentally and physically, so you can seize opportunities and maximize your performance.
#2-- Make Their Day
Genuinely connect with customers and colleagues alike. Daily create an engaging work environment or delightful customer experience -- the kind that builds loyalty and repeat business.
#3-- Play
Embrace a playful state of mind that makes you more energetic, enthusiastic and creative. Result: enhanced customer relations and elevated productivity.
#4-- Choose Your Attitude
Cultivate self-sufficiency and control in consistently making smarter business decisions. A mental state optimized to "be there" with an attitude that ignites success.
 

What happens in Vegas... happens every where else.

Another shooting this morning.  From the time I started writing this post, the numbers and facts have changed.  Probably by tomorrow, there will be more information. 

As the reporters headline with the deadliest mass shooting in America, it makes me sick to my stomach. I know why the reporters categorize like that and certainly it is true, but when they compare the quantity of fatalities and injuries to other shootings in the country it makes it seem as if the others don’t matter.  That those other shootings are too small.

The mystery author- P.D. James was once asked why her descriptions of the murder, when the victim is first discovered, were so gruesome. She said that it should be shocking to the character and consequently to the reader.  As she described, murder is shocking and is horrible and it should shock every time it is witnessed. 

This shooting in Las Vegas is horrible, but what is more horrible is according to the CDC, "on an average day, 93 Americans are killed with guns."  The act that any one person is even injured by guns is horrible much less killed.  We should be shocked. 

What gets me is that as a society, there is all the commentary about, “How did this happen?  What can we do to prevent this from occurring again?”   

If we can find there is a reason; mental illness, disgruntled, etc. then we feel a little bit better- “Whew," we think, "This is a problem that doesn’t relate to us.

Or does it? 

How we deceive ourselves.  Do we think that we are innocent in this evil of one to another? Do we think that our societal love of violence and guns doesn’t impact everyone?  We can see it with our violent movies, video guns and web images.  By the grace of God we were not the ones on the news tonight. 

Every time we talk about our violent society we will tsk, tsk and say it is a shame.  But do we do anything about it?  We may, for a couple of days, hug our loved ones a little tighter, hesitate about going in crowded venues, and maybe decide not to go to the latest blow 'em up movie.  But, after a week or so, we go about life as we always have.  What if we decide not to monetarily support violent movies or games?  What would that say to those who feed into societal's appetite for those things? What if we got really serious about gun control? 

Many years ago I attended a young mothers'  group that had a variety of speakers.  Once there was a psychologist speaking about the effects of television,  especially violent television on children.  While the studies were conclusive that yes, viewing violence causes more violence, the reaction to the problem was, "let's do another study."  I sat there in bewilderment.  

Just turn off the television.

Violent television programs conclusively demonstrated violence in children, yet no one wanted to acknowledge that fact.  I guess there would have to be an accountability that many parents didn't want to take and so, the response was, let's get more information rather than do something now.

I know that the gun issue is very complicated and I am not condemning guns. But I am wondering what can we do about it because we are the problem and the solution.

I think we should be horrified when we hear of attacks like we did this morning. We should take notice and have dialogue about it.  We should work toward some type of solution.  We should be a society that is not complacent about anyone's murder. We should not forget.

The thing is... 

What happens in Vegas..... will happen everywhere else if we are not vigilant and start being accountable for the society we have created.  We need to recognize our insatiable appetite for violence and our greed.  The types of weapons that are available to consumers goes way beyond having a rifle to harm the weasel or fox who is killing one's livelihood.  Someone is making quite a hefty profit. 

I know that I am thinking about how I contribute to society.  I have been known to watch violent movies.  How violent is violent? How do I interact with the person on the fringe of society? What can I do when I hear about violent things?  How do/should I respond?  

My nephew has an interesting blog about today's shooting.   Click here to read.

What about you?  What is your reaction to the shooting?   

 

Community Connections

"Navy Returns to Compasses and Pencils to Help Avoid Collisions at Sea"

The above is a headline in today's The New York Times.  Basically, the Navy is going back to, well, basics: sailors getting more sleep, spending more time on ship maintenance, employing basic seamanship.

It seems that all professions have the tension between the use of technology and the basic, common skills that have been used over time.   

When I was employed at a well-known teaching hospital, I was in a training program for working with critically ill patients. During one of the classes, the instructor gave wise words: "Always check the patient."  

She went on to tell us the story: When she was a newly trained critical care nurse she was very enthusiastic and diligent to do exactly as she was instructed.  On one of her rounds she dutifully kept an eye on the cardiac monitor.  To her shock, she witnessed the monitor showing that the patient was experiencing ventricular tachycardia- extremely fast heart rhythm.  The first response to that problem is to shock the heart back into regular rhythm and can be done so by a whack on the chest.  The nurse ran into the room, went to the patient's side and "thumped" a hard fist in the middle of the man's chest.  He sat bolt upright,  "What the [expletive} do you think you are doing?"  

Turns out he had been sleeping.

As she reminded us, technology is a great tool but never forget your basic assessment of patients.

I have felt that our culture needs to remember the basics of human interaction. We are all too quick to allow technology to overshadow or replace our role as social beings.

Over the last couple of days I have been able to use my bicycle to accomplish some errands.  It has been beautiful fall weather and peddling through the streets noticing the mums, pumpkins and turning leaves has been a treat.

One thing that I have always noticed when I cycle, is how connected I feel to my fellow pedestrians and those who are out and about sans l'automobile.  In a car, I am so isolated. I barrel down the road and don't really get a chance to interact with anybody.  Yet on my bicycle as I meander through town I can aid the woman confused over a street address or buy a sandwich for the man down on his luck or smile and wave at the toddler tentatively waving in her stroller.

My interactions aren't earth shattering.  Just a connectedness with other human beings. Yet I am back to basics- communing with people as we were traveling around. 

One of my stops was at a local coffee shop to enjoy a cup of joe and to soak up the ambiance. As I sat there, I overheard a couple of conversations. In each grouping the dialogue may have been different but the theme was the same: community, spending quality time with one another and being authentic in our relationships. 

It seems as if  I hear more and more people expressing their tiredness with being a faceless entity- an initial or first name post among many other faceless posts. They want to be known for their individuality.  They want to go back to the way people use to interact. They want to be known.

On one hand, the computer and the global network has connected us with long-lost friends and family and has connected us with new friends in different cultures.  But the technology era has also ushered in more isolation and with that, despair and depression.  Try as we might to avoid it, we are designed to live in community. 

I certainly have had my fair share of not wanting community.  I have been known to duck down another aisle in the grocery store just to avoid talking to someone I know.  If I had my druthers, I would probably sit in isolation and only communicate by banging out texts and notes to people.  Yet, I also know that when I don't engage with others, I miss out.  I miss their immediate reactions to statements.  I miss out on immediate feedback.  I miss out on perspective, where do my thoughts fit into the big scheme of things? 

My bicycle jaunts have me engage more with my surroundings.  I find that I like it.  My community engagements are not long encounters.  They are not overly deep. At least for now.  Yet there is always something I get out of the encounters, some new idea or thought or outlook. I hope that is true too for the person encountering me.

I feel that I am getting back to basics, employing the foundational elements that connect us as humans:  building community.

What about you?  Do you ever feel the need to get back to basics?  To spend some time with the people around you?  Do you have the opportunity to interact with strangers?  To share a small greeting?  What is preventing you? Do you have time in your life to occasionally slow down when you do your errands? To bike or walk to get groceries, coffee or milk? Could you try it once a week, once a month, once a quarter?  If you did get back to basics, what would be your headline? 

"Cyclist Returns to Interacting With Previously Unknown Individuals to Build Community." 

 

Civilized Recycling

When we were in Italy and Austria this summer I was in awe of the recycling and multiple use of items. No waste for them (or so it seemed to me through my rose-colored sun glasses).  Restaurant orders on the backs of old receipts. Bring your own bags/containers/baskets for purchased store items.  Container gardens in all sorts of items- bins, boxes, baskets, old tires. 

I really liked Florence's organized street trash cans.  They had containers for specific items: organic matter, paper, glass, plastic.  The containers were solar compactors.  On trash day a truck with a large claw like arm, lifted the individual containers from the sidewalk and opened the bottom to dump the contents into separated trash compartments on the truck.   It makes such sense.  From the users standpoint, there didn't seem to be too much difficulty figuring out what went in what container. One can feel good about recycling. The city remained relatively clean because all items have a place to go.  The trash that can be recycled is and that which can be composted, does. 

Trash cans lined up on the street.

Trash cans lined up on the street.

Trash day. Truck's arm lifts the entire unit and empties into the appropriate collection container.

Trash day. Truck's arm lifts the entire unit and empties into the appropriate collection container.

In our hotel in Florence, there was all sorts of artwork. What was so interesting was that all of the artwork was from recycled material.  Some of it was purely decorative and others were useful.  

The "chandelier" in our room.  Look closely- see the water bottles, tops and metal bottom of cans? (I apologize, I couldn't edit the size of this picture.)

The "chandelier" in our room.  Look closely- see the water bottles, tops and metal bottom of cans? (I apologize, I couldn't edit the size of this picture.)

It makes me look at my space differently.  It makes me think-  how can I re-use what I am currently using?

Usually I am pretty good with the re-using of things.  From old handkerchiefs becoming bathroom curtains to cracked mixing bowls becoming flower containers, I like to be able to use something in two, possibly three incarnations.  Though, there are times when I am just ruthless and wasteful. I have been known to just "throw it out".  When I am tired of having too many in my cupboard, or in having to move and pack up items,  I get rid of it all. To the dump.  I just don't want to "deal with figuring things out".

I think for me, it comes down to excess.  When I have excessive amount of things it is easier to be cavalier and just toss.  No wonder that Americans waste approximately 219 pounds of food waste/year.  Who knows how much of our landfills are filled with plastic China made junk from the dollar store?  Certainly we have plastic and trash floating in the oceans, and with wind and currents, converge into "islands". While there is debate over the actual size, all can agree that those items shouldn't be there in the first place.  Click here for the facts from NOAA.

It seems when we don't have an excess of things, we tend to "use up" the items or reuse in another way and even discard it appropriately.  We become more in tune with the items, "Can it be recycled or totally reused?  If I cannot use it, maybe someone else can?"  I know that I don't always dispose of things properly. You would certainly ascertain that if you looked at the contents of my trash can.  But I do want to be creative in the way I use and reuse the items in my home.  Not only does it give me a sense that I am being a good steward of the environment, but it is just plain fun to be creative. Whatever I have "created" doesn't have to be forever;  some of those handkerchief valances have been replaced, but I was able to get a couple of years of extra enjoyment with them. 

What about you?  Have you ever thought about the trash you throw out?  Do you have many trashcans out on trash day?  Do you recycle?  Can you recycle?  Does your town, jurisdiction, county, village, province offer recycling centers?  Before something goes to the trash heap, have you looked at it with new eyes?  Can it be re-purposed? 

Archeologists find many clues in the trash heaps of previous societies. I think societies will be judged by the way they leave their trash. How will we be known?  Will our trash labels us as wasteful?  As careless? Or will we be seen as organized and showing a good usage of what we have? Will we be considered civilized? 

Before and after... We have owned those 2 black lamps for years (30+). In redoing the guest room, we needed another lamp.  I painted one of them white so that it would fit into the decor better.  I liked the white so much, since this photo I repainted the second black one so that in my office we now have a white one too.  (I apologize but couldn't edit the size of this picture)

Before and after... We have owned those 2 black lamps for years (30+). In redoing the guest room, we needed another lamp.  I painted one of them white so that it would fit into the decor better.  I liked the white so much, since this photo I repainted the second black one so that in my office we now have a white one too.  (I apologize but couldn't edit the size of this picture)

Creative Details

I am sure you have seen or heard the comic sketch where the returning college student or college graduate finds the key to his parents' home doesn't work.  In some cases, not only have they changed the locks, they have moved without telling him.  My husband had a college friend whose parents did just that.

I haven't had quite that experience but my parents did move out of state in less than twenty-fours after my high school graduation.  Fortunately they did apprise me of the move and took me with them. 

I feel that I am living that cliche: I am in the middle of painting our boys' bedroom with the plan to convert it into a guest room.  Our younger son has moved out, embarking on a graduate school education complete with his own apartment.  It has been less than two months and I have started immediately with repainting and redecorating the space.**

As I was painting one of the bed frames, I was in awe of the smoothness of the wood and the carved detail of the foot board.  I probably have dusted, passed by and glanced at this bed for over thirty years, yet I never noticed the small details.   

I have a friend who was trained as an artist.  I love going shopping with her, especially looking at decorative items.  She has such an experienced eye to know how well made something might be. It educates me to take a second glance and closer inspection of something that I might overlook.

The close inspection of my painted furniture, reminds me that if I have ownership of creating something I probably am more likely to be invested in its care.  I can see its possibilities.  If I have an understanding of how things work, I also am more likely to oversee its future. When I have ownership of a relationship, creating something healthy between two people, I am more likely to understand their decisions and  encourage them on their journey.  In any situation, I am more likely to be involved when I know how it is made or what it is all about, what needs to maintain it and how to use it to its fullest potential. 

I thought of how often I overlook things, situations, or people.  I will make assumptions, jump to conclusions or formulate hasty decisions.  I generally rush through activities with the goal of getting to the next thing. If only I would take the time -either to know more information before coming to those conclusions, to spend quality work time (so I do not have to redo, touching up missed paint spots,for instance) or to invest time in the person before I form a judgement. 

How different is God's dealing with us.  He, who created us, is so invested in each one of us. He sees our possibilities and understands how we work. He notices the smallest details in our lives. The only thing He asks is that we have a relationship with Him.  He is always available.  He takes the time that we give Him.  He wants nothing better than to be with us. He doesn't overlook us. He already knows about our possibilities, our flaws, and our lives.  He doesn't move without telling us.  His door is always unlocked. 

What about you?  Do you rush through life, never stopping to notice the details of people, items, or situations around you?  What would it take to appreciate your surroundings?  Or appreciate the people around you?  Do you have a friend, spouse, or loved one who takes time for you? What does that feel like?  Do you feel that God knows you?  If not, do you know Him?

What can you do today to notice the smallest details of your life? 

** Once the room is complete, I will post pictures.

 

Notes to Older Self

"What would you tell your younger self?"   There is an anthology by Ellyn Spragins, What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self.   It includes stories and vignettes from Maya Angelou, Madeleine Albright, Queen Nor and a host of other remarkable women.

I have seen self-help books that are in essence, "notes to my younger self".  Mostly it is "non-preachy" way for someone to give another advice:  "These are the lessons learned from my rash younger self and I need to pass along these words of wisdom to you, foolish young person."  Definitely there is some truth in these type of books and it would be wise to heed or to at least consider the words given.

The idea of writing about the past is not a bad idea.  It is probably good to lay to rest any of the demons, troubles, regrets, guilts and pleasures of what might trip us up in our current journey.

 Although, I am in a place in life where I want to write notes to my older self.  Things I vow that I will and will not do as I age:

  • Remain curious about my surroundings and the people around me
  • Be considerate of others
  • Go with the flow
  • Continue to exercise or at least just move
  • Focus on what I can do rather than what I cannot
  • Allow my loved ones to make their own mistakes
  • Don't offer advice (even through a carefully worded, "Notes to Younger Self") without having been asked

What about you?  Have you ever thought about writing a note to your younger self?  What advice would you give him/her?  What about writing a note to your older self?  What things do you want to ensure that you do as you age?  What things do you not want to do? 

One Hand

This week I committed the cardinal sin of kitchens. I placed a sharp cutting knife in the soapy dishwater and forgot about it.  Only when I was washing the dishes did I come upon it- by slicing the tip of my left-hand, middle finger.  

Yikes.  Talk about blood. God love my "faint upon seeing blood" husband. (He now has a sticker in his medical chart.  He must lie down with his feet preventively above his head when he gets labs drawn.  Too many times when he passed out giving a small vial to check his hemoglobin,etc.) 

Once I got the bleeding somewhat under control, he helped me put a butterfly bandage on it. He always amazes me.  He knows just what to do and does it.  Part of it comes from his first aid training in Boy Scouts.  In fact, he was the one who taught the class at Boy Scout camp.  I always wondered how did that work?  Didn't he faint as he taught the class?  "Purely theoretical", he replies.  (It is after the crisis is over, will he have to lie down and let the color return to his face.) 

I now have 2 butterfly bandages on my finger, plus a flexible fabric bandage to contain the antibiotic ointment and another knuckle bandage over top of it all.  It really extends my middle finger so that when I move my hand, I look like I am perpetually ticked off at everyone. (which some days describes my mood)

The thing is, having limited use of my left hand is a big annoyance.  It is just a small appendage, but I have to rethink what I am doing.  I don't want to get that hand wet because the soggy bandages have to be continually changed. I don't want to use it when I garden because I don't want dirt in my cut.  So many things I do, require that I use both hands and for the time being I can't.

"Two hands are better than one".  That is certainly an apropos adage. Two hands can provide strength, support, and symmetry. For us as individuals we need to have the balance of both sides.

It makes me thing that in the global sense, we need two hands;  we need the balance of both sides.  We need the strength, support and symmetry that comes when there is more than just one idea, one way of doing something, or one solution.

With my one handedness, I have to ask my husband to help.  I find that it is quite a bother because I am, as I have mentioned before, an independent cuss.  It is humbling to have someone else button a button or fix a clasp. 

But isn't that what we are asked to do?  Help others?  Give support?  Provide strength? Be humble? 

Just like we need two hands, we need one another. 

What about you?  Ever have trouble with your appendages?  Temporarily or permanently?  What did you learn with that experience?  

Doing the Right Thing

I don't know about you, but the protesting from the last couple of weeks has really gotten to me.  I am distressed that people will speak and act so violently against other people. It seems as if both parties can incite their own and each other.

I wonder if I were part of a protest, would I get carried away? The log is in my own eye because there is a part of me that just wants those with whom I don't agree to just shut the heck up.  Hopefully I would never resort to violence to have them be quiet.  But are those who protest seemingly reasonable any other time?

I am a firm believer for freedom of speech so I would hope that my desire for that universal freedom would override any "mob" mentality.  If I start picking and choosing who may speak, based on my preferences, then I am no better than the dictators or absolute rulers of this world.  I hope that I would choose and do the right thing when it comes to dealing with individuals whom I may not agree.

Last week there was a story that exemplified someone who was choosing and doing the right thing.  A news reporter, Al Letson was in Berkeley California, reporting on a protest of white supremacists and its counter protest of anti-fascists or antifa. As Mr. Letson was watching things unfold, he saw a white supremacist fall to the ground and an angry group of antifa approach the fallen man with what appeared to the journalist intent to harm or possible kill the fallen white supremist.  So the journalist broke the journalist code of "not becoming part of the story" and lay on the man, covering him with his own body so that the left-wing, antifa protesters would stop.  The journalist was hoping that the anti-protesters would see him, a black man on the ground and not harm him or the gentleman underneath him. 

What a hero and a testament that as humans, we can show compassion, understanding and empathy even if we do not agree.  

But, I wonder- would I be as brave as the journalist?  Would I stand up for someone even if I did not agree with the other person? 

I haven't been part of any protests, nor have I been put in a split second decision to offer my life for someone else, but I have had opportunities to sign petitions or statements for various groups.  Most of the requests I would say I agree with the sentiments but there is generally some statement or statements that I cannot completely agree.  I find that almost every issue has nuances and is not so cut and dry.  Some of the sentiments are quite true but once "on board", I find that there are other sentiments that are not quite in keeping with the intention.  

And so I struggle.  How do we know what to believe?  How do we, as Americans, get out of this negative, all or nothing, vile hatred of other's beliefs and in turn of others?  How do we protest without being violent?  How do we agree to disagree?  How do we get the other side to listen to us?  How do we get institutions to revoke policies and practices that are not equal to all Americans? How do we not remain bitter when that happens? 

I was thinking that I need to look back.  I am wanting to read about forgiveness and grace.  How did South Africa turn the tide of apartheid?  Certainly there was blood shed and much hardship.  But how did Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu work with the same people who imprisoned and hurt them?   How do we work, live, play beside the people whom we do not agree?  How can reconciliation occur? 

What about you?  Have you thought about the protests happening in our nation?  Have you participated in any?  What was the feeling of the crowd?  Would you be as quick thinking as the journalist to protect someone whom you disagree? 

Have you had the opportunity to do the right thing?  Or, by my using the action word, "doing", are you in the process of exploring the right thing? 

Click here to read the story of the journalist doing the right thing.  

Rotten Potatoes

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For the last two weeks, every time I would enter our back basement I smelled something unpleasant.   At first I thought it was the remnant smell of some wet wool carpets I had been cleaning and drying.  Then I wondered if the dogs had “done something”.  Next I was convinced that the sump pump was emitting an unused odor.  I even added some bleach water to pump it through and freshen it up.  

Still the smell remained.

It was only when I was getting some food out of our small basement freezer that I discovered the problem- there were rotting potatoes in our “root cellar” basket.  I keep the extra potatoes and onions in a basket in our back cellar.  It is cool enough there to keep the items for a while.

When I looked through the basket I found the source- a small rotting area on one of the potatoes. What is amazing to me it that something so small could be so odiferous. One would have thought the entire basket was rotting. 

It is another reminder of how small things in our lives can matter: how a mean comment in our youth can dictate our views of ourselves or how a small decision may change the trajectory of our life.  

They say "don't sweat the small stuff", but most of life is made up of small stuff- the day to day grind or the proverbial rat race.  For me it is the little stuff that trips me up and makes the air around me unpleasant.  It is my lack of discipline (Why did I spend thirty minutes watching something useless on youtube?) or hesitation (All I needed to do was to introduce myself to that new member at the club) or laziness (I just don't feel like updating my linked in page)  that creates and spreads further problems.  First of all I berate myself for not doing a simple task.  Then the more I don't do it, the more it becomes a problem and the more self-loathing I experience.  

The basket of rotting potatoes is also an example of how even a small sin, that which keeps us from God, can permeate the life around us.  If I had left the rotting potato in the basket, it would have completely spread the rot to the others and the whole basket would've been ruined.

My heart breaks when I hear someone feel distant from God because of some small issue- may have been a choice of the person's own doing or one that happened to him/her.  Either way, it has continued to grow and spread so that his/her life now has become so distanced from God that there is feeling of hopelessness and never getting things right.  There even  becomes an adjustment in one's thinking that this distance is normal and will always be this way.

The thing is- you can always clean the basket.  In getting rid of the basement odor, I had to identify its source.  Some times we need a good self examination of what is going on in our lives.  David in the Psalms asks that God examine his heart.  That is a good place for all of us to start when we cannot locate the unpleasantness in our own lives- asking God to show where we have fallen short.  Then clean the basket: ask for forgiveness from God, or in the case of negative attributes (like my laziness) plan to be proactive with positive attributes.  Finally, proceed on the new path.  Start behaving or living your life in this clean environment.  It doesn't have to be a big production.  Just like small negative things add up, so do small positive things. 

What about you?  Any rotten potatoes in your life?  Do you even smell anything bad?  Or, have you lived with the smell so long you don't even notice it?  What steps can you do to "clean that basket"?