Kermit Was Right; It Isn’t Easy Being Green

It isn't easy being green

Our mini Shrek collection

In keeping with the concept of giving an experience instead of a material gift, my husband and I attended our local community theater’s presentation of Shrek the Musical last night.

You might find it odd that a ticket to the show was an early Father’s Day present for my husband. But, well, I’m just going to come out and say it: My husband loves Shrek. He has seen all the Shrek movies numerous times. And just like anyone who is crazy about a movie, he knows most of the lines. And inserts them into a conversation when he feels it’s appropriate.

“That’ll do, donkey.”

As we walked from our car to the theater, my husband asked, “Are you SURE this isn’t just for kids?” Because there were a lot of children in the line. And this particular production was performed by Fauquier Community Theater’s Youth Theater. Shrek himself begins college in the fall, while Fiona and Donkey are still in high school.

Is small-town community theater perfect? No, and that is part of the charm. For example, as one Shrek solo was timed to start, the music failed to play. Shrek waited maybe two seconds and then sang it acapella. The audience vigorously applauded our approval as he belted out the final note.

The girl sitting to my left was around twelve. She appeared mesmerized by the entire production. Sitting on the edge of her seat, face uplifted toward the stage, eyes wide, a huge smile plastered across her face—her obvious joy filled my soul.

Today I watched a couple of clips from the 2009 Broadway version of Shrek the Musical. It seemed a little fake to me. Yes, I know it’s the story of a green ogre, a talking donkey who falls in love with a dragon, and (!SPOILER ALERT!) a princess who turns into an ogre at night. So of course it’s not real.

But the pour-out-your-heart enthusiasm of those young actors last night let me shelve my rational beliefs for a couple of hours. I’m hoping that I looked just as bedazzled as the young girl next to me.

And after all, who wouldn’t enjoy having a talking donkey for a best friend?

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“That’ll do, donkey” clip

“Do you know the muffin man?” clip

A Legacy Revisited

legacy

Image courtesy of David Zydd on Pixabay.com

I often hear people talk about “leaving a legacy.”  And I believe they mean what important accomplishment of theirs will stand the test of time. In other words, they want to identify what individual success they will be remembered for long after they’re gone.

The word didn’t start out with that meaning. The legal meaning is property or money bequeathed to someone in a will. Another meaning is that of heritage which is defined on Wiktionary as “a tradition; a practice or set of values that is passed down from preceding generations through families or through institutional memory. ” And in university-speak, legacy means a person who is the descendant of an alumnus.

I’m surprised that the more contemporary definition of individual legacy hasn’t been officially accepted since it’s so widely used.

Oprah Winfrey tells the story of the time she was reprimanded by her long-time friend and mentor Maya Angelou. Oprah was over-the-top ecstatic about having established a girls’ school in South Africa. She was enthusiastically sharing the details with Maya and concluded with, “This school will be my greatest legacy.”

But Oprah said that Maya stopped her right there and said: You have no idea what your legacy will be. Because your legacy is every life you touch. It’s not one thing; it’s everything.

When we are feeling less than (and I believe we each go through times like that), we need to remember Maya Angelou’s words. We may not be rich or famous or have a world-class education or run international companies, but my gosh, think for just a moment. Really, I want you to think about the lives you yourself have touched with kindness or encouragement or gratitude or generosity or any of the dozens of other positive traits that exist.

Trust me on this: Your legacy will be absolutely amazing.

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Oprah’s commencement speech on legacy

Oprah Winfrey sharing the legacy story

Pick A Card But Not Just Any Card

postcard

Image by Pezibear on Pixabay.com

When my children were young, my sister Beverly traveled extensively with her husband as he performed custom brick-laying across the country. She usually mailed my kids postcards from each new town.

And before cell phones changed everyday life, when we vacationed at the beach we’d troop to the closest store to buy postcards to mail to family and friends.

When’s the last time you bought a postcard? And did you actually mail it to someone or did you purchase it as a souvenir?

Why would I need to send postcards of the amazing place I’m visiting via the US Postal Service when I can post 37 photos on Facebook or Instagram and/or email and text the photos directly to the recipients within seconds of the shots being taken? And all for free.

There is no need, of course. But a recent story in the June Real Simple magazine caused me to rethink postcards.

The precursor of postcards occurred between 1848 and 1870 when envelopes with pictures on them were popular. Then in 1873 the federal government produced postal cards without envelopes that could be mailed for one cent of postage. Private producers of similar cards could not use that designation, and the postage for non-government cards was two cents.

In 1901 the two-word term post card was allowed, with an image on one side and room for the address on the other. Personal message writing was not permitted. Then in 1907 the divided back came into existence so that a person could write a short note on half the back with room for the name and address on the other half.

Postcards currently cost 35 cents in postage and to be officially considered a postcard, the size must range from 3 ½ x 5 up to 4 ¼ x 6 inches. They have to be .007” thick which is about the thickness of an index card.

Many businesses that still do direct mail advertising use postcards. And custom printed postcards have come into vogue for use as invitations and announcements.

But Jeff Gordinier, author of the noted magazine article titled Postcards: A Love Story, was talking about actual, honest-to-goodness postcards. He had used postcards earlier in his life as a way of keeping in touch with friends after college.

So years later when he realized he’d fallen in love with Lauren just as she was moving across the country, he worried about the problems inherent in a long-distance relationship. His job was keeping him in New York. Yes, of course, they could be in constant contact via calls, texts, emails, and FaceTime, but where is that romance in that?

So he fell back on the practice of sending postcards. Lots of them. And every single one was different. Lauren received at least one postcard a day. Jeff traveled all over the world as a food writer and he said he hoarded local souvenir cards by the dozen.

He chose randomness as his personal messages as well; he wanted to “keep the element of surprise alive.” So sometimes he’d write an observation of something he’d seen, a few lines of remembered poetry, memories from childhood, a favorite short recipe, a quote, something he’d overheard, a sampling of song lyrics, and so on.

To quote from the article, “The point wasn’t to say anything profound. The point was to express, in a form so compressed that it flirted with haiku, the very core of connectivity.”

Isn’t that deeply romantic? Forget the flowers. Give me a man who speaks to my soul.

So did the postcards keep their long-distance relationship alive?

I’ve included a link to the online article. You can read it for yourself to find out!

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Here’s the Real Simple article in full

 

Beautiful Sounds Are In The Ears of the Hearer

Ears

Image by Skeeze on Pixabay.com

To paraphrase a favorite line of poetry, “Even after all this time, I can still hear the sounds of him not being here.”

When a family member, a favorite someone, or even a beloved pet dies we remember him or her in countless ways.

Many people believe that sight is the strongest sense. And considering the studies of learning styles that indicate over half of us are visual learners (65%), I lean toward believing that sight does indeed play a huge role in how we remember people, events, places, and things.

We look at photographs or view videos of the people we miss. We continue to scan their Facebook page or other social media accounts, recalling what it was they posted while alive. We stare at the “things” they left behind, wanting to remember always the significance of each object.

Yes, the sense of sight plays a huge role in our remembering someone who has passed from this earth.

And even though I am part of that 65% group who leans heavily on vision skills for learning and remembering, sound is also pivotal to my recalling the essence of the person.

My son Tim’s joyous laughter and the way he would draw out the greeting, “Hello, Mama!” as he bounced through the door…

The harmony of noise my mom Bertie made as she worked in the kitchen whipping up simple but delicious meals and baked goods…

Beautifully sincere conversations my aged mother-in-law Rosalie had with God as she lay in our guest room bed…

The sound of a spoon hitting an empty peanut butter jar as my brother Bud finished that last tasty bite of his favorite treat…

My elderly Aunt Gerri opening her door and announcing to my sister and me, “I don’t know why you girls keep wanting to visit an old lady, but I’m so glad you do!”…

And yes, even the sound of Riley’s tags as they jangled together when he trotted along and the snuffling sounds he made as he scavenged the ground for early morning smells…

All these might seem like ordinary sounds but to me, they tie together precious memories.

And then I started wondering what sounds people will remember about me after I’m gone. That’s probably a good exercise for everyone to consider. Because I sure as heck don’t want anyone to recall me as constantly complaining or as someone who spewed negative words about others.

I’m pretty sure that keeping this idea about the sounds I’ll leave behind will help me be a better human being.

How does that sound to you?

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Inc.com article on learning styles

An interesting concept that Researchers found out that different music frequencies stimulate the human brain and the outcomes are incredible. In this video, the frequency of 48 Hz might stimulate far memories and also crying.”

NOTE: I had a better experience just listening to it rather than watching the letters float by on the screen since typos got in the way of my just releasing myself to it. Yes, I am that person.

Do The Hustle

Hustle

image courtesy of Tnarg on Pexels

Hustle is one of those words whose meaning has evolved from a negative one to a positive one in the business world.

The original meaning implied a fraud or a swindler or forcing someone to move fast and unceremoniously in a direction they may not have wanted to go.

In a new comedy currently playing called The Hustle, Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star as female scam artists.

In the mid-70s, the hustle was a term that collectively covered numerous disco dance moves. And of course, Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony’s song Do the Hustle topped the Billboard Pop Singles chart in July 1975.

But in today’s business world hustle is viewed as a must-have attribute. Various experts have their own favorite meanings of the word. Here are some I found: tenacity, high energy, being an effective self-promoter, do whatever work it takes to create value, an ability to solve problems faster and better than anyone else, dream big and make it happen, risk takers, serve others, eliminate distractions, think way outside the box, be authentic, improve in some way every day.

I saw a hustler this week. I was standing in the meal pick-up line at Panera during a tremendously busy time. Over the medium-high counter where completed orders are placed, I could watch a few of the employees getting the orders together.

One young woman was simply amazing. Clearly, she was juggling getting the components of half a dozen orders just right. Looking up, down, sideways, requesting various people to pull this or that, she was a model of hustling efficiency.

I know I would never want that job because I could tell the work would stress me out after about two minutes. But that young woman seemed to be enjoying herself.

When my order was ready, I stepped forward to grab it and got the woman’s attention. I told her, “If my company was hiring, I would steal you from Panera because of the way you hustle.”

She beamed at me for about a second and a half and then went back to hustling and getting orders pulled together correctly.

So maybe we should each develop our own positive definition of hustle. No matter whether we work at a job or career or do volunteer work or take care of our grandchildren or pets…whatever our daily “work” is, let’s do it with joy and enthusiasm and pride.

Do the hustle.

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Medium.com article on why being a hustler is imperative to succeed in business today

Jon Acuff’s take on those who use hustle incorrectly

Van McCoy and Do the Hustle

 

Deserve To Win

deserve to win

Image by analogicus from Pixabay

For nearly a decade when I was in my 40s, I was involved in the Virginia segment of Business and Professional Women Clubs, Inc. (BPW). Unbelievably, the group was founded way back in 1919. The tagline of the current iteration of the group is, “Developing the business, professional and leadership potential of women.”

Back then to me, our mission was simply this: women helping women. We taught classes in finance, public speaking, networking, mentoring, professional image, and leadership. Working tirelessly in fundraising, we established scholarships for high school senior girls.

While I was active in the group, my best friend Betsy (likewise in her 40s) was enrolled in a community college in Pennsylvania. She saw a flyer announcing that the local Pennsylvania affiliate of BPW was offering a $500 scholarship for a winning essay on being an older student in continuing education.

Betsy wrote her essay and was the oldest of three winners. She was invited to accept her prize at the club’s next meeting, and the instruction was this: Be prepared to give a speech. So my friend considered carefully what she wanted to convey.

As you may recall from Saturday’s post, an acceptance speech graciously thanks the giver and helps the audience feel good about having this person chosen as the winner.

Speaking as the first of the three winners, Betsy spoke from the heart. She told them that the prize money was important to her as the coal mines had recently closed down and her husband was temporarily out of work. But more importantly, winning was good for her ego. She hadn’t worked outside the home for twenty years except for volunteer and church work. Living in a small town, she hadn’t had a lot of exposure to the world at large. As she offered her sincere thanks, Betsy shared that knowing her words in the essay moved the committee to choose her as a winner really pumped her up.

As Betsy returned to her seat while the audience applauded, a woman leaned over and whispered to her, “That was wonderful. But I would hate to be one of the other winners following you!”

And unfortunately for them, the other two winners had NOT come prepared and simply offered some sort of generic thank you.

Most of us were brought up to say a proper thank you. I want you to remember that the next time you accept an award or prize.

 “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Welcoming the Sun

welcome the sun

Woman Welcoming The Sun (stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany)

One of my favorite wall calendars of all time featured photos of some of the stained glass works of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933). As Macklow Gallery eloquently states on their website, Tiffany “forged a unique style that combined superb craftsmanship with a love of natural forms and brilliant color. His luminous glass designs combined technical innovations with the highest artistry, infusing everyday objects with beauty inspired by nature.”

I am most fond of the Tiffany work called Woman Welcomes the Sun, pictured above.  A few years ago, in going through some old files, I came across a beautiful piece of writing about welcoming the sun. I immediately knew I had to combine the two. The framed combo hangs directly above my writing desk.

Being unable to cite the source of the writing, I have hesitated about sharing it with you. If you’ve been a reader very long, you know I go to great lengths to avoid plagiarism. I have no idea where I first read the passage because it’s been many years.

I have searched online using the first line, bits of its phrasing, and even the word “verities” because how many times do you come across that word in a year? Note: Grammarly refuses to recognize it as a word. I even searched a quartet of words (verities, solace, realities, serenity) that are contained within the writing. And no, it didn’t even pop up on “Quote Investigator.”

(By the way, according to an online dictionary, a verity is “a true principle or belief, especially one of fundamental importance.” The peak period for the word being used was between 1850-1950, so perhaps the quote or essay is beyond the copyright period anyhow.)

So with those acknowledgments of my efforts and my statement that I am NOT the author, here is the bit of literary inspiration I read every day.

As the sun is rising on this new day, look to it well.

Today alone is life.

In its brief course lie all the verities and realities of existence…

the stimulus of thought, the glory of action, the awareness of beauty,

the serenity of meditation, the impulse to achieve,

the healing power of laughter, the warmth of gratitude,

the solace of loving and being loved.

Yesterday has passed on and is now but a memory.

Tomorrow has yet to be born and is only a formless vision.

But today, lived to its fullest in our relationship to our faith, makes yesterday a memory of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope.

I hope you have a magnificent tomorrow.

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Macklowe Gallery biographical information on Tiffany

 

Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine

Photo by Norma Thatcher

Non-English speakers learning our language face a common hurdle: idioms.

A strange word in and of itself, an idiom is defined as “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.”

So cats and dogs are not literally falling from the sky with the raindrops, when I want you to wait you don’t actually have to hold the reins of horses, and great-aunt Matilda didn’t physically kick any bucket as she took her last breath.

Growing up hearing these phrases, we understand what they mean, but we don’t usually stop to think about how these odd phrasings came to be an accepted part of our language.

One of my personal favorites is rise and shine. In researching its origin, I discovered several theories. One source says it originated as a military order in the late 1800s and was considered an order to soldiers to get out of bed quickly and shine their boots; in other words, get up and get ready! Or as Dictionary.com says, shine here means “act lively, do well.”

Bloomsbury International figures the origin is from “18th-century sailor speak.” Back then, the life of a sailor could be harrowing. Besides dealing with hard-to-maneuver equipment, they often faced life-threatening weather, a lack of food supplies, and unsanitary living conditions. The sailors no sooner got to bed than it was time to get up. So the captain coined the phrase rise and shine to “inject positivity and cheer” upon waking.

I wonder how well that worked.

On The Phrase Finder, the experts believe that the phrase alludes to the Biblical reference in the 60th chapter of Isaiah, verse 1. We often hear this verse used at Christmas: Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Since that verse from Isaiah has always been one of my favorites, I’m voting for this version of the origin.

And as recommended on KingsEnglish.Info:  So in the morning, just as you let the sun rise and shine upon you to brighten your face and give you warmth, so let Christ rise and shine upon you to give you hope and peace.

Stay tuned for Saturday’s post which is a follow-up to this one.

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It turns out other languages use idioms as well. Check it out here.

 

Transformation Gameplan

Transformation

Photo by Foundry on Pixabay.com

Someone had posted this quotation without attribution on Facebook last week.

Inspiration and information without personal application will never amount to transformation.

The quotation resonated with me in a powerful way so I researched it.

Embarrassingly enough, it was from a book I had already read. I say embarrassingly because not only had I read the book within the past two years but also I had written about it in this post from June 24, 2017.

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst contains many gems of wisdom. In my mind, the Inspiration / Information / Application / Transformation quote has to be one of the most universally applicable pieces of advice ever.

Consider these three scenarios:

You’ve been stuck in a horrible work environment for several years. A friend gives you some great advice about a new job-hunting website. He also gives you a pep talk about your many outstanding characteristics. So you have the information and you’ve been inspired. BUT unless you apply yourself and actually go to the site and do the work of finding new employment, you’ll still be in that life-sucking job this time next year.

You read an article about getting back into shape after the age of ___ (fill in the blank). The article is saturated with easy-to-understand information about the many benefits of exercise at any age. Not only that, but there are links to free online videos to help you perform the movements correctly. “I can do this!” you shout. But neither your body nor your health will be transformed unless you do the work.

You’re interested in deepening your faith and/or spirituality so you sign up for a study group at church. The group is amazingly supportive and the book being used is rich in fascinating information. But life happens. You skip a homework assignment, then you don’t find the time to read the next chapter, and decide to drop out. No application = no transformation.

We watch TED talks, read books, research online, and attend classes and seminars that inspire us and provide the information needed to take whatever step we’re considering taking. But when we just let that information seep out of our brains and allow the inspiration to languish, it’s as if it never even happened.

Lest you think I’m pointing fingers and holding up myself as a sterling example of accomplishment, uh, no. Sorry to disappoint you.

In the past, I’ve stayed too long in a joyless job. I’ve worked my way into shape and lazily watched it slip away several times. I purchased the book Crafting a Rule of Life two years ago and haven’t gotten farther than Chapter 3.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” (Attributed to various people including Buddha.)

And Richard Bach said, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

In my case, often I WRITE best what I most need to learn.

So thanks, Lysa TerKeurst, for the words of wisdom. I promise this time I’ll remember them.

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About the book Uninvited

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

Afraid of the dark

Photo by DhivakaranS on Pexels.com

Fictional character Jack Reacher said something like this when looking out into the dark: It’s what everyone fears, whether they realize it or not…that thought that just maybe there’s something out there that’s going to get them.

Being afraid of the dark is usually a childhood manifestation that appears around the age of two and usually departs by the age of ten.

But sometimes it never goes away.

A 2016 British study showed that 64% of the country’s adults admitted to being afraid of the dark. 36% of the participants said they sense someone or something in the room with them. Many cited fearing something was hiding under their beds. Others said they never left their feet uncovered for fear that something would grab them.

It appears Brits are more afraid of the dark than are Americans; a study noted by Dr. John Mayer indicated around 11% of American adults admit to being afraid of the dark.

Still, that’s a lot of grown-ups sleeping with the lights on and their toes covered.

Although some people use the terms interchangeably, Nyctophobia is the psychological term for having an extreme fear of the night, and Achluophobia is the term for fearing darkness. The differentiation in my brain is that there can be darkness without night. Think of a trunk, a closet, or a basement without windows. Scared yet?

Why ARE we afraid of the dark? It goes back to our earliest beginnings. When the caveman poked out his head by dawn’s early light, he could see if any danger was lurking. During the day he could answer the Big Question: “Is that something I can eat or is it something that can eat me?”

So evolutionarily-wise, fear of the dark was an advantage in that it helped us stay alive for another day.

Even today the oldest part of our brain (referred to as the lizard brain or reptilian brain) assigns a negative connotation to something new or unfamiliar. THAT is why so many of us are uncomfortable with trying something new, whether it’s tasting something we’ve not had before, or taking a class where we don’t know anyone, or interviewing for a different job.

So darkness represents a terrifying unknown because, well, who knows what’s out there? There is very likely nothing, but we may imagine unlimited frightening possibilities.

Sometimes the darkness is in our heads and our hearts. We may have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one or a terrible blow to our self-esteem by a cheating spouse or from losing a job. A debilitating illness of our own or a family member may send us into a downward spiral. We’re frightened of this dark, terrifying unknown and we are fearful of what may be coming after us next.

Just as in actual darkness, we need a spark of light to help us see. The spark may be small, even perhaps short-lived, lasting long enough for us to venture one first step.

That spark is named hope.

Heart-and-head darkness is a prime breeding ground for despair and powerlessness. We simply can’t see any way for our situation to improve. We’re afraid to move for fear of making things worse. We don’t even try to feel our way to safer ground.

But someone sharing a spark of hope can be a lifeline in the darkness.

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A former post of mine on the Lizard Brain

Article on childhood fears sticking with us

CNN Health article on hope