Eastern Standard, Daylight Saving, or Beagle

beagle time

My post from October 17 told the story of Your True Nature, the company that has cornered the market on products that share advice from nature. I found their story appealing because I personally believe that great wisdom is found in ordinary people, places, events, and well…dogs.

Consider Grace, my recently adopted beagle. She has three nuggets of wisdom to share with you today.

The first one is this: Consider living in beagle time. Stop being so obsessed with the concept of never having enough time. Please knock off the whining about “too much work and too little time” or weekends being too short. And by the way, no one else cares about how Daylight Saving Time affects you.

In beagle time there is no rushing around to get from place to place. There is only moseying around while sniffing the air, the leaves, the grass. If you go twenty paces and suddenly realize you missed a spot, why you just go back before moving forward. In beagle time we’re not embarrassed when the same runners have passed us three times on the circular path around the park. Beagle time can be quite calming.

Secondly, be courageous! Don’t be fearful about taking on something bigger than you think you can handle. While many dogs enjoy fetching and gnawing on sticks, Grace hunts for whole branches she can drag around. Or she finds the kind of logs that work well in fireplaces. This actually ties directly into beagle time since when you’re dragging around something three times your size, your ability to move quickly is diminished.

The third bone of wisdom is culled from something that just happened. No matter how far away you go, never lose sight of home.

Today we had to be out of town several hours so I hired a wonderful service (My Pet’s Friend) to come to our home to pick up Grace and take her for a walk down our country road. In our meet-and-greet initial meeting, I had warned Missy (the dog walker) about beagle time and advised that when her timed walk reached the midpoint, she would likely have to pick up Grace and literally turn her around. Otherwise, that twenty-minute walk could turn into two hours.

When we arrived home, I read Missy’s note about her visit. She advised that she had attempted to walk Grace down our road, but ended up instead making several loops around our property. You see, Grace wouldn’t go very far from home. In Missy’s words, “Grace didn’t want to lose sight of her house.”

Since we don’t know Grace’s back story of why she was surrendered to the SPCA, I would only be guessing at what was going through her little beagle brain.

But maybe it was that there really is no place like home.

 

Did Sister Hugs Nail It?

sister hugs

We see many worthy quotes on Facebook. Some inspire us to be kind not only to others but also to ourselves. There are those that remind us that we’re never too old to dream big. Some make us smile, some provide encouragement, and a few make us think.

One of my favorite Facebook sources for inspirational quotes is a site called Sister Hugs. They don’t write all their own material; sometimes they repost from other sites. For instance, on October 23 they shared from “Hippie Peace Freaks” a photo of brilliantly red autumn leaves with this statement: The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.

I do believe their October 27 post is my favorite. It packed a wallop of a message in eight one-syllable words: “One Day or Day One…it’s your choice.”

I know. Ouch, right? We all have these goals, dreams, projects, plans, and ideas floating in our heads. And one day, we will get to them. We hope.

Throughout my life, there have been countless times I’ve said, “One day I’m going to…” And yes, some of those plans and dreams have become realities. But because I said one day instead of day one, I missed out on the full range of enjoyment of the accomplishments. There is no making up for lost time. And the older we are, the truer that last statement seems.

Since I strive for honesty and transparency with my readers, I need to confess that there are plans and dreams still on my one day list. As in, one day I would like to create podcasts of my blog posts so my readers can listen to them in addition to reading them. And one day, I want to publish the two children’s books I wrote years ago.

What exactly changes our path from one day to day one? Is it commitment? Getting rid of excuses? Goal planning? Learning what you need to know to start? Having the time/energy/health/money to take action? Following Nike’s advice and just do it?

I never have all the answers and tonight is no exception. The 7 Steps link below has some good ideas, and I would love to have you comment on what has worked for you.

And then go hug your sister.

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Interesting Podcast Statistics

7 Steps to move forward with your dream

 

The Circle of Family

CIrcle of Family

A child dying before a parent is something that no mom or dad should ever face. Whether that child is six months, six years, or fifty-six years, the agonizing heartbreak is the same.

My nephew Greg died recently. He was born when I was fifteen. I left home at nineteen, and Greg also moved out of state as a young man. So my only recollection of him was as of a little boy.

Seeing my brother Gene’s son lying in a casket, no longer a little boy but a man of middle age, brought forth feelings of deep regret for not having kept in touch with him across the many years and miles.

But deep-seated feelings of contentment and peace outweighed my regret. Because from his mother’s side of the family, Greg’s brother, many cousins, aunts and uncles and friends came and stayed for the two viewings and the funeral service in Pennsylvania. Greg’s two grown daughters drove from Ohio to attend as well. The girls, now with young families of their own, cried when they saw the outpouring of love for their dad.

His daughters hadn’t even known about their aunts, uncles, and cousins from their paternal grandfather’s side of the family. When I held open my arms and said, “I’m your Aunt Norma,” together they fell into my embrace. My sisters and others shared that they had similar encounters over the two days.

Yes, I know there are schmaltzy Hallmark movies about “instant families,” but this was the real deal! It was a perfectly lovely experience shared by many in the midst of a tragedy.

The day I returned home I took the dog for a walk at a local park. I happened upon this view of three trees in a triangle shape about twenty feet from each other. As you can see, one tree branched into two trunks, another into three, and the third into many. I knew it was a perfect metaphor for the funeral experience.

The trees are separate, yes, but joining them together are their roots which have reached out across the expanse almost like hands extending out to reach another’s hands. At first glance, they may appear gnarly. But look closely and admire the beauty of their endurance.

Our individual families may consist of a few members or many. But joining our individual families together are our roots…our family ties. Our family roots run so deep. Sometimes they are deep underground. Other times they reach the surface for all to see. Our roots are strong. They are resilient, withstanding neglect, and years, and miles. Our family roots help us carry one another through sorrowful times.

There is a print that hangs over my son’s bed that says this:

Our family is a circle of strength and love.

With every birth and every union, the circle grows.

Every joy shared adds more love.

Every crisis faced together makes the circle stronger.

 

 

Advice From An Unlikely Source

advice from nature

My guess is that at some time in your life you have read something written by a company called Your True Nature. I gave one of their bookmarks to my son-in-law a few years ago, and my best friend sent me one of their cards that currently is displayed on my bulletin board. But I had no idea the items were from the same company until today.

Your True Nature believes that all of nature gives the best advice to humans. The company creates clever wording to create sage adages that might be provided by various aspects of nature to help us through life. Here’s a partial list (they have over 100) of one snippet from fourteen of them.

Advice from…

Trail – Find inspiration at every turn.

Owl – Be observant.

Pumpkin – Be well rounded.

Lilac – Be scent-sational.

Osprey – Dive in.

Huckleberry – It’s ok to be a little wild.

Mermaid – Don’t get your seaweed in a bunch!

Coffee bean – Break out of the daily grind.

Elephant – Look after your herd.

The forest – Breathe deeply.

The night sky – Expand your horizons.

Lizard – Appreciate stillness.

A sled dog – Mush on!

And my personal favorite from Sasquatch: Live a legendary life!

The founder of the company was originally named Scott Alyn but in 1992 he legally changed his name to Ilan Shamir which means protector of the trees. He had nearly always had a deep love of nature. It was truly bonded when, at the age of 11, he received a magnolia tree from a favorite aunt and uncle. He planted it and cared for it for as long as his family lived at that house.

His nature connection was nourished by spending eight formative summers at camp, both as a camper and later a leader. Ilan was a guide and photographer in the Swiss Alps for some time, and he also spent a month alone in Iceland. His career decisions have always been slanted to “do what you love” and not “do what will earn you the most money.”

Ilan shares the story of how Your True Nature came about. In 1992 in the midst of some difficult times, he leaned against an old cottonwood tree and wondered about what advice the tree might give. Thoughts came to him: Stand tall. Go out on a limb. He wrote down the thoughts into a poem. From that he created a bookmark and then a postcard Advice from a tree. The first store that sold his work reordered within a week.

And the business branched out, just like that tree. In addition to the bookmarks and postcards, the company sells magnets, books, T-shirts, journals, wooden signs, and other related products.

The company appears to be quite mindful of the earth and its resources. They are active in planting trees (over a hundred thousand) and intentionally leave a small footprint by making sure their company is environmentally friendly and has sustainable practices such as printing only on recycled paper.

You know, I just might need to buy that Sasquatch t-shirt.

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Your True Nature’s site

The Soft Skill of Writing Thanks

My sister Barbara told me today that it’s up to her and me to save the lost art of writing thank-you notes. Although our other sister Beverly and my best friend Betsy are just as diligent at sending hand-written thank-you notes. And I know there are well-mannered others out there, but let me ask you something: When is the last time you received an honest-to-goodness real thank-you card in the mail?

Often in today’s electronic communications, we don’t even see the word thanks but rather just TY. What, our fingers are so tired we can type just two characters instead of six?

Last year a business friend attended his younger cousin’s wedding. The cousin couldn’t afford a videographer for the event so my friend (who is very good at filming videos) recorded the event as well as many highlights of the reception. He then spent much time editing to produce a lovely memory of the special day. My friend mailed it with a card saying he hoped his cousin and her new husband enjoyed the special gift.

He never heard one word back.

When I managed a department and interviewed applicants for an open position, those who sent me a follow-up sincere note of thanks citing some portion of our conversation earned two bonus points. Those who emailed me a run-of-the-mill “thanks” got half a point. And those who sent nothing? Well, how much stock could I put into their resume claim of “excellent written and verbal communication skills”?

In January the site FrugalFun4Boys.com posted a list of “40 Old-fashioned Skills for Kids Today.” The list of “how-to” items included: find a book at the library, ask questions to get to know someone better, sew on a button, balance a checkbook, read a map, and yes…write a thank-you note. A link to the complete list is below.

A heartfelt thank-you note means so much. I encourage you to join the sisterhood/brotherhood/personhood of thank-you note writers and help recapture this art form.

Oh and thank you very much.

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Forty “Old-Fashioned” Skills for today’s children

The Sisterhood of thank-you-note writers

A teacher’s perspective on hand-written thank-you notes

Writing is a soft skill that can help you professionally

 

The Luminosity of Friendship

luminosity

One of the many issues I studied while we were building our own house was that of interior lighting; how will the home be illuminated at the dimming of the day?

Like most knowledge learned for a limited slot of time for a specific purpose, I’ve forgotten most of what I took in. What I do recall is the recommendation of having various types of lighting; mix it up. For instance, instead of limiting lighting choices to downlights, use some wall sconces for uplighting to create a softer glow. You can also let a spotlight highlight a focal point.

And think creatively about the intensity of your wattage and bulbs. Interior lighting strength is one aspect that should be varied to create interest.

I was reminded of the “mix it up” advice at a craft show last week. A crafter had the most unusual lampshades on display. The shades, done up in various lovely designs such as flowers and leaves, had pinpricks applied strategically to enable tiny points of light to shine through.

Even though I’d never seen this type of work before, apparently it’s an older art form called picotage.

Look at the photo at the top of this post to view the shade I purchased. As you can see, those pinpricks provide the illusion of raindrops or ice crystals on the evergreen bough. For whatever reason, I feel a sense of peaceful well-being looking at this shade that’s lit with a “soft” lightbulb.

It’s all very Zen.

And I got to thinking about how some of my friends are bright spotlights. They’re intense and you know the moment they enter a room. Then some of my friends are the wall sconces in my life; they never draw attention to themselves but instead cast a soft glow on others.

And a few special friends are like my new lampshade. These ladies are quietly beautiful, seemingly lit from within with a certain warmth and radiance. And yes, I feel that same sense of peaceful well-being just knowing they’re in my life.

If asked to give advice on choosing friends, I’d say do the same as in choosing lighting. Mix it up. How boring life would be if we chose to surround ourselves with just one type. Trust me…I know that my life would not be as full and fun without those spotlight and wall sconce friends. And I hope you are blessed to have a few tiny-points-of-light friends in your mix.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Forbes.com article on lighting your house

New York Times piece on picotage

 

Stinking Cute Really Is The Best Description

Stinking Cute

If you’re a regular reader you’ll recall that my dog Riley was diagnosed with an oral mast cell tumor the day after Christmas last year. I was devastated not just because of the highly probable outcome of death but also because we had subjected him to two unnecessary surgeries based on a misdiagnosis from multiple veterinarians.

When Riley died in January, I gave everything dog-related to the local animal shelter; my car was packed full. I swore I would never own another dog because the loss was just too overwhelming.

Seven months later a dog with the royal-sounding name Tatiana showed up at the SPCA shelter where I had begun volunteering. She had just been surrendered a few days before the hot August day my daughter Laura and I stopped by to walk and socialize some of the shelter dogs.

A little beagle mix of three, she acted more like a puppy. I could feel the little tugs on my heart as this full-of-life dog ran to fetch the ball as often as Laura would throw it. But I tried to stand firm since I didn’t want to take another chance of loving a dog.

Had it not been for Laura’s insistence to go back a second day to play with Tatiana, as well as her urging me to take a set of adoption papers with me, I do believe our home would still be dogless.

I’ve heard stories through the years of people whose dogs have died who then go out and replace their pet with as close to the original as can be found. And others have told stories that their new dog was as different as possible from the dog they had lost.

We renamed her Grace, and she is quite different from Riley. While he was quiet and aloof, she is rambunctious.  A friend kept her today while my husband and I took a day trip. The friend texted me shortly after we dropped her off. “She is so stinking cute!” That made me smile since it’s my own catchphrase for Grace.

This dog has an inexhaustible exuberance for life. I believe that’s the quality I admire most in Grace. Like most other humans, I can slip into a physical and mental laziness without even realizing it’s happening.

But when I see Grace make her own fun by tossing a stuffed animal from the bed and then pouncing on it, or throwing her head back to release a ball from her jaws so she can chase it, that reminds me that it’s good to move and play and have fun.

Loving is a risk. People can disappoint us, betray us. Our children are supposed to outlive us and pets are not. Sometimes the ones we love (human and animals) get too sick or injured to recover and leave us before we’re ready to let them go.

But love outlasts death. Love helps us find our way back to discover joy in a changed life.

Love is definitely worth the risk.

~~~~~~

Article on why owning a dog is beneficial to your health

Article on loving your dog more than you love other humans

 

Life Changes In A Hurry

Life changes in a hurry

My friend Marlene came back from running errands yesterday to find her husband unresponsive in their front hall. As a nurse she was able to administer CPR, but neither she nor the paramedics were able to save his life. Stunned beyond measure, she wanted to let her wide circle of friends know. Her post began, “Life changes in a hurry…”

And of course, we all know that truth. This past Wednesday we remembered that horrific September 11 eighteen years ago which was a nationwide notice that life changes in a hurry. Two days ago, returning to Virginia from a visit to see family and friends in western Pennsylvania, I passed by the Flight 93 memorial near Shanksville close to the original time that the United flight crashed into the ground at approximately 570 miles per hour. So 9/11 has been heavy on my mind.

Unlike the victims of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon strikes, the passengers on Flight 93 were not locals to the state where they died. Just one of the passengers, Louis J. Nacke, II, was a Pennsylvanian but from near Philadelphia.  As can be expected for a flight originating in New Jersey bound for San Francisco, some of the passengers were from New Jersey headed for business or fun times in California. Others were from California who had made their way to the east coast for the same types of reasons and were returning home.

One passenger was returning home after attending his grandmother’s 100th birthday. Another, John Talignani, was on his way to California to claim the body of his stepson who had recently died in a car accident. Jean and Donald Peterson, the only married couple on the flight, were excited to be on their way to a family reunion in Yosemite National Park. All forty victims on Flight 93 boarded the plane that morning with plans for the day. No one was envisioning how their lives would change in a hurry.

Most of the focus of 9-11 is on New York City, and I can understand why since the majority of the casualties, 2753, happened there. 184 people died in the Pentagon attacks.

Sometimes I feel that the 40 people on Flight 93 are an afterthought to many Americans. But from most accounts, those brave souls who took on the hijackers likely saved many more lives in our country. We need to remember them just as fervently as we do for those in New York and Washington. And we need to offer up our thanks.

~~~~

The crew and passengers of Flight 93

The Story of Flight 93

National Park Service, Flight 93 memorial

Give Me Time to Adjust, OK?

change

Sedum image by Mabel Amber on Pixabay

Tomorrow is September 1st. Although we’re back to rather warm weather right now in northern Virginia, fall is not far behind. If you don’t believe me, just pop in to any store and you’ll find sugary-to-a-fault candy corn, costumes scary enough to make grown men wet their pants, and hideous spider-related decorations for your home.

I’ve written before about transitions being helpful when designing a home (see link below). And audiences are more able to follow and understand a speaker who gently leads them from one topic to another by using transitional words and phrases. Similarly, the mid-Atlantic area weather helps us prepare for what’s coming next by gradually lowering the temperature.  We gradually become used to shorter days since the amount of daylight has been decreasing by about a minute a day since June 21. The flowers that flourished in the summer heat have now waned, while the sedum that blooms late summer through fall has begun to strut its stuff.

Yes, autumn is on the way.

A transitional season is a wonderful time to reflect on personal changes as well.

Here’s the thing: I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. My 69th birthday isn’t far off, and so you’d think I would be pretty settled by now. But I have all these ideas in my head about what I want to do with the rest of my life, and I’m having difficulty in fitting them all into a seven-day week.

The biggest “for instance” is named Grace. We just adopted her, a sweet beagle mix, from the SPCA.  Just having this three-year-old added to the household is taking up a lot of time because she acts like a puppy when it comes to playtime demands. Well, also she is cute as a button and I can’t resist spending time with her. One of the reasons I chose her is because I recognized she would be perfect as a Pet Therapy dog. Our hospital’s program is in dire need of more therapy dogs to visit patients. Getting Grace certified will take some intensive training time for both of us.

Meanwhile, I have been seriously considering closing down my speaking business at the end of this year. If I close the business then I shut down my website which means I don’t have a home for this blog. Then earlier this month I heard from two business professionals who engaged my services. The calls came within days of each other. God, is that you saying not yet?

Here is my compromise for the short-term: Instead of two posts a week, you’ll be hearing from me just once on Fridays. I do love writing and keeping the connections open with all of you. And I am so grateful for all of you, my readers. I enjoy reading your comments and hearing in-person feedback.

Change is good. It builds new neural pathways as well as character. Change brings new people and ideas into your life. Thanks for traveling with me as I embrace some life changes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Leaving the Outside, a 2016 post about my home’s transitions

Article on building new neural pathways

Thoughts on Prayers

Thoughts on Prayers

image by Coco Parisienne on Pixabay

During my final year of commuting to work, I passed by the same young teen waiting for his school bus. He was a lone soul at that bus stop. The thought that I should pray for him popped into my head one day. So I did, calling him Bus Stop Boy in my mind since I didn’t know him.

It became a habit for me to offer a short prayer for him as I drove by. And then I wondered, “What if I am the only person on earth praying for this child?”

Most often I don’t feel as if I am good at praying. I feel I am lacking; that there are others who pray more fervently or more genuinely. I suffer from Imposter Syndrome in my prayer life.

It likely won’t surprise you that among the many books on “how to pray,” there is one in the “dummies” series called appropriately enough, “Christian Prayer for Dummies.”

The author offers an acronym so readers can remember the four parts of an effective prayer:

ACTS

Adoration Praising God the Almighty
Confession Verbalizing and asking forgiveness for the sins we have committed
Thanksgiving Remembering to be grateful for all we have
Supplication Asking God to watch over us and care for our needs and the needs of others that we name; seeking God’s healing grace for those who are ill in body, mind, or spirit

While I poked gentle fun at Prayers for Dummies, I actually like the ACTS reminder. Although I feel more in touch with God when I follow the acronym loosely and not as if I’m at the grocery store checking items off my list.

One of my favorite true stories about prayer concerns my friend Sherry. She had been having horrendous headaches for months. One day while shopping, she saw a man who, from the rear, bore an uncanny resemblance to her dad.

When the man turned, however, he looked nothing like Sherry’s father. The two exchanged pleasantries, and then the man asked if he could pray for her because she seemed upset. Sherry agreed and bowed her head as the man touched the exact area on her head where a brain tumor would successfully be removed one month later.

She said the touch brought her chills (good ones) from her head to her toes. A prayer from a complete stranger—and how she needed the prayer at just that moment.

After my friend Linda was diagnosed this spring with stage IV ovarian cancer, I found a prayer by Rabbi Naomi Levy. I amended it to include Linda’s name and sent it to mutual friends and other prayer warriors I know. I’m sharing it here and asking you to not only include Linda in your own prayers but forward it on to others.

May God heal Linda, body and soul. May Linda’s pain cease. May Linda’s strength increase. May Linda’s fears be released. May blessings, love, and joy surround Linda. Amen.    

Here’s the tough question: What about when our prayers aren’t answered the way we want? When the child doesn’t recover from the disease, when the elderly parent’s first slip into dementia rolls into an avalanche, when car wrecks, freak accidents, and people with weapons take our loved ones from us… what then? Why were our prayers to watch over those we love not fulfilled?

Life isn’t easily understandable. And I don’t have the answers. Certainly, I have questioned God’s wisdom myself.

But I do know that it’s at those very worst times in our lives that we need the prayers of others. Because in tragedy, we need to be lifted up in love and empathy, to know that no matter what, we are not alone and that we are indeed loved.

~~~~~

Please take two minutes and listen to Sarah McLachlan’s lovely rendition of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

The prayer of St. Francis