Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring Cleaning

I started my spring cleaning this past weekend. During this manic phase of my housework, I take everything out of every closet and cabinet and drawer. The items I have decided to keep go back in some orderly fashion. The rest gets donated or thrown away.

It never ceases to amaze me how much 'stuff' I always manage to accumulate! I am not an avid shopper. Truthfully, I stay aways from malls as much as possible. I do a lot of my purchasing online, which helps keep the impulsivity factor at bay. There are no Point of Sale end caps when you're paying with Paypal. I also tend to be rather frugal. Frugal.. not cheap.. the difference being that I am willing to pay top dollar for a quality item that will enhance my life in some way. I always consider the trade off.

Other than my weekly trip to Walmart for groceries, I don't 'go shopping'. I know - the very thought of mall avoidance makes me anathema to many of my female friends....

So how it is that regardless of how frugal or conservative a shopper I have been, I always have stuff that needs to eliminated? I am looking forward to the day when money accumulates that quickly!

What it led me to think is how our minds are like those closets and cabinets. We accumulate stuff in our thought life that we don't need. Negative thoughts, anger, bitterness, worry, fear. Even though I try to be diligent and eliminate those things from my thoughts, they still take up residence. So I have determined that in addition to cleaning out the junk in my home, I will also clean out the junk in my thinking. I will examine what my mind ponders and only keep those thoughts that are positive and fruitful. Sounds easy doesn't it?

Have you ever started purging your closet and come across a dress that was once your favorite? It was expensive and you wore it often, but now it no longer fits you and is hopelessly dated. You haven't even worn it in four years. Yet, you decide to hold on to it because maybe someday you will lose the extra ten pounds, and hey! retro is in, isn't it? So instead of chucking it, you dust it off and put it back on the hanger.

Some of our thoughts are like that. We have become accustomed to having them. They may have once served a purpose. So we hold on to them. But they no longer fit our goals, and unless we shrink our goals, they never again will. They keep us bound to the past, and prevent us from pushing into the future. The longer we hold on to fruitless thinking, the harder it becomes to clear out the mind.

So I have determined to be ruthless in my spring cleaning. I will only keep those thoughts which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8).

Let the sun shine and the creativity and love flow!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Rose Colored Pen

I finally got a good night's sleep. I think I was only awakened by the phone ringing and the disembodied sound of my daughter telling me she was on her way home. I don't sleep very well. This has a huge impact on my brain, my creativity, my thoughts. I often feel as if they are shrouded in cotton, soft and smooth, yet smothering.
Maybe it's because today is Saturday and I didn't have to jump out of bed, responding to the immediate demands of the weekday: wake up the boys for school, let the dog out, make the coffee, let the dog back in, give her a treat for bringing in the paper, make breakfast, sign school note, take a shower, look for matching socks, and get out of the house in time to beat the school buses.
Most Saturdays I wake up when the sun starts to filter in my room. I have time to gather my thoughts. And today, this is what I was thinking:

I want to make $500,000. The only marketable legal skill that I have which I believe can make me anything close to that amount is writing. I also have cojones. For my Spanish challenged friends, that means I have guts but it sounds so much better in Spanish.
So I figured I would write a book. Many people have told me I should write a book. I have had some really unique experiences in my life, so I know I have something to say. The problem has been that I could not figure out what to say. Should I write about being a homeschooling mom? about raising an autistic child? about taking care of my father until the day he passed away. my faith? my family? living in a rainforest? in the city? in the south? Too many possibilities.
So I did some research and found that the majority of best sellers are instructional or motivational. I can do that, I thought. I am an encourager. It is one of my spiritual gifts. So I got a twitter account and began posting inspirational quotes. And I started this blog. I figured I would make it an inspirational blog. One that people would keep coming back to in search of a reason to keep on keeping on. But somewhere inside me was this nagging little voice that kept whispering something. Only my mind was too covered in cotton to hear. But this morning, I heard that voice loud and clear. I have to be me. I have to write about the things that occur to me. I have to stop simply regurgitating posi-speak.
I came to realize that no other person on this planet has been through exactly the same combination of experiences, challenges, shattered dreams that I have. We all have our own, for sure, but this is my story to tell.

So I have decided that I must put down the rose colored pen and write about life from the view God has given me. Will this lead me to the monied road? I don't know. Maybe there are others out there that will relate and find the truth refreshing. But at least I will know at the end of each day that I have spoken my own words, relayed my own thoughts, shared my own dreams with you.
I hope you stay tuned.
So who am I?
I am a mother, a daughter, an employee. A Christian, a dreamer, a motivator. A reader, a writer, an artist.
I am a Caribbean Yankee living in the south.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Birthday Card

In celebration of my last birthday, some of my co-workers took me to lunch. It is a tradition among us, and one that I enjoy, whether I am the celebrator or the celebratee. They chose thoughtful, not too personal, gifts as well as paying for my meal. Among the gift bags was a card that they had all signed. It was without a doubt, my favorite gift of all. It said:

Born to be wild,

born to be outrageous

Born to live your life out loud,

born to be courageous


Born to make some mischief,

born to rock ' n roll,

Born to spread your wings and fly,

born to bare your soul.

Born to be a dreamer,

born to dare and do,

Born to make the world a better place

because you're you.

I was taken aback by this view my colleagues have of me. At my professional job, I tend to be a private person. I don't engage in office gossip, and for the most part keep to myself. I do my job with joy and I am always willing to help out with tasks that need to be done, even if they are not in my job description. Other than the occasional family update, most of them do not know much about my writing or other activites I engage in. I am sure none of
them know that my bucket list contains things like 'own goats' and 'go zorbing' .

And yet, I am pleased beyond measure that this is how they see me, because this is how I see myself.

I have always believed in living life, not just enduring it. Embracing it, come what may. I have had as many hard knocks and heartaches as the next person, maybe more. But I believe that out of every adversity comes a seed of equal or greater benefit, to paraphrase Napoleon Hill. So I look for those. I look for seeds I can plant and nurture and grow. I look for the next adventure, the next journey, all while enjoying the one I am on. Apparently my zest for life shows through my professional demeanor. Trust me, I don't wear a fuzzy pink hat to work...ever! Goes to show that what we think about creates what we become on the inside. If it is radiant, it will shine through.
So my message today is - Shine!. Let what you were born to be become a light for others.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Marking Memories

There are specific events in our lives that we consider memorable. Our first kiss, the birth of our children, our wedding day or the day a loved one passed away. But often we forget the moments or events that have led us to the place we are now. We not only forgot who we were, but we forgot how we got here.

In the book of Joshua, a story is told of an amazing journey. The Israelites had spent 40 years wandering in the desert, and they were finally going to enter their promised land. Led by Joshua, they were going to live in the land of milk and honey. But there was a river to cross before they got there.

God held back the waters of the Jordan river until all the people of Israel, probably over 2 million in number, were safe on the other side.He then told their leader Joshua to take up 12 stones from the river. Inevitably, these were stones that had been made smooth by the passage of time and water. What follows is the rest of the story:

"So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever." Joshua 4:5-7

I believe God commanded Joshua to do this because He knows how easily we forget. If you doubt this, ask your spouse or a close friend to recount the details of a particular event. See how they differ from yours.

Remembering helps keep us grateful. It helps us put things in perspective. When we can remember good things, it is easier to hold on to the belief that whatever trial we are facing may only be temporary. We remember joys and can face sorrow. We remember peace and have hope that wars will end.

Our minds get easily cluttered with so many things. So how can we remember? Set your own stones. There are many ways of doing this, including:

Physical markers
Memory chest
Special collections

Take time to think of a recent event that was pivotal in bringing you to where you are now. Hold it in your mind and find a way to set a stone.

“When suffering comes, we yearn for some sign from God, forgetting we have just had one.”
Mignon McLaughlin (American Journalist and Author, 1913-1983)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Robert Fulghum

The combination and intertwining of body, mind and soul or spirit is what makes us uniquely human. It is also what makes us, more than any other creature, susceptible to being out of balance. Being out of balance is often the trigger and cause of physical and mental disease. While we may not be able to fulfill Robert Fulghum's model of balance every day, we can find ways to consistently reach the middle ground.

1. Get enough rest : Sleep is important. Naps are great. Taking a vacation, even if it is only to your backyard, should not be considered a luxury, but a necessity. Our body recharges and rebalances itself when we rest.
2. Eat well : This cannot be overstated. We literally are what we eat, so find time to nourish your body properly
3. Exercise: Run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk then do stretches in your seat. Get the blood flowing. Move those bones. This not only will benefit your physical body, but your mind and soul as well.
4. Slow down and do what you are doing: When you are eating, then just eat. Smell the food, look at it and capture the feeling of it on your tongue. When you are reading then read. Stop multitasking. You will make less mistakes and be more efficient.
5. Train your brain: Read good books. Learn a new skill. Take a class in something completely foreign to you. Find a mentor. Redirect negative thinking. Your brain is a muscle. Don’t let it atrophy.
6. Share your life and your love: A wife, a husband, girlfriend, lover, best friend, your neighbor, your dog, a stray cat. Find a living breathing being to spend time with and embrace them with the love that resides in your heart.
7. Laugh a lot …and don’t be afraid to cry: Learn to laugh. Not the self conscious, half hearted chuckle kind of laughter, but the “Oh God, I think I am going to pee on my pants” kind. Do it often. But also allow yourself to cry and grieve. Preventing yourself from grieving is like forcing yourself into make-believe happiness. When you prevent one, you stifle the other as well.
8. Be honest : First with yourself. Be honest about your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Both are visible to the world anyway. Be honest with others. Not the kind of brutal honesty also known as criticism, but the kind that will allow you to be who you really are. You’ll sleep better at night, knowing you don’t have to remember to keep up with your lies.
9. Apologize: Admit your mistakes and say sorry. You earn a great deal of respect when you can admit that you were wrong.
10. Finally…Respect everyone, including yourself: Your respect for people is a reflection of your respect for life. Disrespect life and you will always be unhappy and unbalanced.
Have any other ideas for living a balanced life? I’d love to hear them!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

50 Ways to Bless Others

Ever think your life is unremarkable? It is not always the big things that create the largest impact in our lives, and the lives of others. Here are 50 ways to bless someone else. In the process of blessing others, you'll find that you are blessed as well. Choose one to do today and start on the path to a remarkable life!

  1. Pay for the meal of the car behind you at the fast food drive through
  2. Volunteer to read to children at your local library
  3. Bring a family meal to a sick friend
  4. Serve the family! (and if you can stay for clean up, that's a plus!)
  5. Leave an extra large tip for a waiter or waitress
  6. Mow your neighbor's yard
  7. Or shovel it, depending on the season!
  8. Bring some goodies to share at work
  9. Send a thank you note to your child's teacher
  10. Drive an elderly or handicapped person to the gorcery store.
  11. Leave a bouquet of flowers on someone's doorstep
  12. Pay for a soldier's mealPick up litter
  13. Offer to help a parent load their groceries in their car while they load up their kids
  14. Offer a genuine compliment to a stranger
  15. Give up your seat for someone
  16. Give up that great parking space!
  17. Clean up the dishes in the breakroom at work
  18. Give your pizza delivery guy a gas card with his tip
  19. Host a kids movie night and give the parents some much needed time slone together
  20. Send a thank you note to your local police office
  21. Leave your magazines at a doctor's office once you've read them
  22. Cut out a comic strip or article of interest for a friend
  23. Visit your local animal shelter and offer to walk some of the dogs
  24. Hold the door open or someone
  25. Smile and thank a cashier
  26. Pay for someone's toll
  27. Donate your gently used professional clothes to an orgaization that helps people get back into the workforce
  28. Listen to someone who is going through a tough time
  29. Give an inspiring book to a friend in need
  30. Share your umbrella with someone who doesn't have one
  31. Leave enough change in the vending machine for the next person to get a snack
  32. Maintain waterbowls and birdeed for migrating birds
  33. Surprise your spouse with breakfast in bed
  34. Write a note to a family member telling them why they are special
  35. Have a food or clothing drive for a local shelter
  36. Donate blood
  37. Print an inspiring story and post it on your work bulletin board
  38. Buy books for a day care center
  39. Donate art supplies you no loner use to a classroom
  40. Volunteer at a senior center
  41. Fill your spouse's car with fuel
  42. Donate your cut hair to Locks of Love
  43. Cut coupons and leave them by the items at the store
  44. Leave comments on a blog page you like
  45. Drop off a toy or game at the hospital
  46. Give your friends photos you have taken that include them
  47. Invite someone who lives alone over for dinner
  48. Put a quarter in an expired parking meter
  49. Tell someone special in your life that you love them.
  50. Give your significant other foot rub, with no strings attached

Friday, March 13, 2009

Only You

The great Spanish Cellist, Pablo Casals once said:

"Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here."

I love that saying. It reminds me that no matter how tired I am, how frustrated or defeated I may feel, there is still something I am here to do. When God created me - and you- He had a purpose in mind. We are not here by casual accident, but rather by primary intent. There are things that can only be done by you. If you don't do it, it will go undone, and the world will be emptier for its absence. You might think you have nothing great to contribute. Perhaps your life is filled with mundane activities. Laundy, dishes, cooking, filing papers, entering data. I have those things in my life too. Those are not the things that make the difference. They may pay the bills and literally put food on our table, but they can be done by someone else."But I am not an artist, musician or writer. I have nothing of lasting value to contribute."That is an absolute lie.

Let me share a story with you.When I was in Kindergarten, we had a snack time. Usually it was juice and cookies or chips. One day there was no fruit juice available. There was only root beer. No offense, but I cannot tolerate even the smell of root beer. I would have to be half way through the desert with no end in sight before I would think of trying to consume it. Blech! and yuck! are the two words that come to mind when I think of root beer. Got the picture? Problem was, there was nothing available but root beer for the Kindergarten class. My momma taught me right, so when I was served a cup of this vile liquid (sorry) I refused it with a polite, if very unhappy "No, thank you." The teacher's assistant asked why I didn't want it, and I told her, that I just could not drink it. I didn't ask for anything else. I don't know where she got it from, but that sweet lady brought me a cup of fruit juice and quietly whispered in my ear not to let any of the other children know I had it.

I don't remember her name, but I can still remember what she made me feel like. She probably never had her fifteen minutes of fame, but her kindness has been indelibly recorded in my heart. She made me feel important, unique and worthy of a kindness. No one else could have one that for me the way she did that day.So what can you contribute? How about a smile? Everyone's got one of those to share. Maybe you can compliment an overworked cashier, read to a child, pay for a stranger's lunch, let your husband know how much you admire him, tell your wife she is the best thing since sliced bread. Sing in the church choir, take photos, record your family history, donate blood.Most of all, find out what it is only you can contribute to the world. Then do it.