Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sign, Sign, everywhere a sign...

...I love this one!

Is there any doubt how this small town feels about firewater? (Thanks to Amy Davenport for the photo.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Simple pleasures...and four little treasures

What is it about kids and pumpkins? Is there some mystical kinship there, some secret language that alleged grownups don't know that passes easily from the big orange balls to the ears and hearts of children?

I stopped for fresh produce Saturday and was about to leave with my purchase when I saw four tiny tots and two beaming women playing in the pumpkins. It was an instant smile-maker! Little arms wrapped around pumpkins bigger than their whole bodies; tiny feet toddling off in all directions. I spoke to one of the women who told me the babies were quadruplets, her grandchildren and the offspring of the younger woman, who at that moment was retrieving a particularly adventurous tot. Both women graciously agreed to let me photograph the babies for the blog, and I'm grateful. You're looking at two of the four, half of what was a very fun sight indeed.

Just wanted to share the photos and the fun, along with a shot of the colorful corn and gourds that made my eyes so happy. Here's wishing you and yours all the glorious colors of autumn and the wonder of a baby (or four) in a pumpkin patch.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The road to yes

I often have days when my mind flits from one topic to another all day. Today was one of them, and my mental transitions made a funky pattern of twists and turns that left me filled to the brim with gratitude and brought me back here to talk about it. Follow me for a bit and you'll see what I mean...

This morning, I left the house a little late but in enough time to get to work by 8:00 AM. For some reason, traffic was insane today and I ended up getting to work closer to 8:15. It made me think about how easy my morning commute usually is and how what I called "insane" this morning was nothing more than a slight slow-down. People in Atlanta, a mere hour and a half from here, would throw back their heads in maniacal laughter to hear me complain about traffic in Chattanooga on any day. Thoughts of Atlanta traffic removed any desire I had to complain about a little congestion on my way to work this morning.

As I was thinking these thoughts, I watched a driver playing dodge-and-dash, trying to get ahead of the car in front of him, to scoonch up just a little bit more, to get where he was going faster. He passed me on the right, one hand in a death grip on the wheel, the other clutching coffee and cell phone. We ended up stopped at the same red lights and I was right beside him as he made his exit...which is odd because I wasn't doing any of that dodging and dashing, just going with the flow, and I arrived at the same time. I was glad I didn't have to work that hard.

Thinking about working hard reminded me that I had a pretty full day ahead of me. When I got to work, the guy in the next cube greeted me with, "Hey, welcome back!" Not that I'd been away - I was in the office yesterday. He just always seems to have a cheerful good morning phrase at the ready and uses them freely. I appreciate the nice start he gives my day.

Nice...that reminded me of how nice it was to stop by the Election Comission yesterday to do my early voting and not have to wait in line. There were only four people ahead of me. Those four people were elderly; although they moved a little slower, needed a little more time and a bit of help, they were there, making their voices heard in the election process. I felt really happy to be there, taking part with them in an election of so much historical significance. I still remember quite clearly the "Whites Only" signs on the little cafes in town where my dad stopped for coffee. I remember the first time I had black classmates in my elementary school. I have friends my age who, as children, had their houses fire-bombed because their parents were active in the civil rights movement. If I remember that much, what did those beautiful old people remember? How different is our world from when they were young? Regardless of who you vote for, seeing Barack Obama's name on that ballot and knowing that it is entirely possible that he may be the next President of the United States...knowing that he had to fight a hard battle with a female candidate to get that far...has to make you think about how far we've come. We still have much work to do in combating racism, sexism, and all forms of discrimination, but I couldn't help pausing for a moment to just soak it in before I slipped my ballot in to be counted.

Counted...that reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. (Albert Einstein)

I can't help but think when I read those words of just how full and rich my life is with things that really count. I have all I need, much of what I want, and the means to get what I don't have if I'm willing to work for it. I have love, friendship, meaningful work, blue skies, rain, stars, sunshine, babies laughing...everything this beautiful world has to offer. I can slow down and go with the flow. I have a voice in my government and the means and will to exercise it. I have an active, agile mind and I can share my thoughts with you through the miracle of language and electricity and your own intelligent, inquiring mind reaching out, exploring. We may never meet, but you are inside my head and we are engaged and connected.

I think about how grateful I am for all of this and more...and I remember two more quotes by men who must have felt the same welling of gratitude and wonder, and who left their words behind as a gift, a reminder:

You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might also pray in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance. - Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes. - Dag Hammarskjold (1905 - 1961)


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The death of the Perfect Parent Plan

Watching my friend help her daughter with her homework takes me back to my own days as a young parent. What an eye-opener that was! I found that my knowledge of parenting was far greater before I had a child. Something about childbirth shook the Etch-a-Sketch on which I had drawn my Perfect Parent Plan.

Yes, I had a Perfect Parent Plan. Doesn’t everyone? I didn’t take it lightly, either. I spent much of my young life observing – no, experiencing – my own parents and making copious mental notes about what I would and wouldn’t do to my children. I conferred with my friends and swapped horror stories of parenting gone awry, adding to my list of pitfalls to avoid. We all agreed that if we could just manage to not do the stupid, mean, insensitive, clueless things our parents did to us, we should be in great shape, raising perfect, happy kids, and sailing into the sunset of parental bliss.

Of course, what we didn’t know at that point is that while we may avoid the major mistakes of our parents (and they really did make some lulus), we would counter with our own original blunders. We could not predict in our teens that in our 20’s or 30’s we would be blindsided by moments of incomprehensible thickheadedness which we would stubbornly insist were the result of our progeny’s shortcomings. We would confer with the same friends we consulted a decade before and reach the same conclusions – it’s not our fault.

My daughter, now 27, is constantly editing and revising her own Perfect Parent Plan. She’s been working on it for at least as long as she could speak. I know this because she’s been telling me about it all along. Unlike some children, my beautiful girlchild was never one to suffer in silence. She made sure I knew what I was doing wrong at every turn. One of her favorite pretend games was the one about having been mysteriously separated from her real parents, the good ones, from upstate New York, and adopted by these misfits from Tennessee. On particularly bad days, she would dramatically rock back and forth, her arms folded protectively (almost psychotically) around her, chanting, “My real parents will come…my real parents will come.” Her friends’ parents fell under her scrutiny, too, and it affords me some small comfort that I was, in general, considered by herself to be somewhat less clueless than most....but not enough to brag about.

Nowadays, she’s in a serious relationship and the noises she makes about having children of her own have taken slightly more serious tones. And as I anticipate becoming a grandparent, I am resisting the urge to create a Perfect Grandparent Plan. It’s liberating to realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent or grandparent.. My daughter hasn’t come to that conclusion yet, and the entertainment value of the days ahead is promising. It still stings a bit when she tells me, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother!” but not so much that I can’t smile and bide my time, sure in the knowledge that her children will eventually sting her with their own clever catch phrases. When they do, I’ll have the tea ready, speak a comforting word or two, and try hard not to gloat.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Time to pay the piper...

...and it's a bill I'm more than happy to pay!

Thanks to everyone who took me up on my money-for-comments challenge. I've gotten about 15 new comments (some of which were my own replies but I'm counting them anyway!) and will be making a donation to the food pantry of at least $15. Thank you for participating with me!

If you liked anything you read, please come back often. If you didn't like something, come back and tell me about it. The best conversations have a nice balance of, "Yes!" and, "Yes, but...", with a dash of, "You've got to be kidding!" and a sprinkle of, "What? Are you nuts?" Bring it on!

Finally, I leave you today with something beautiful. From Maine to Tennessee, Autumn's showing her colors beautifully. Thanks to my friend Cathy Wardwell for the photo from Maine; the Tennessee shot is from my back yard yesterday morning.

Blessings to all!

Autumn Reflections in Maine

Autumn Morning in Tennessee

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Money, Meet Mouth

In honor of Blog Action Day and in the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, I've got a proposition for you. I'll donate $1 to a local food bank (one where I know personally the people running it and the important work they do) for every person who comments on this blog today. Bring it...I've got my checkbook ready. Make me smile!

I am so rich - are you?

Good morning! I don't have a lot of time to write this morning. It's 6:47 am and I'm running behind, trying to get ready for work. You know the drill...get up in the morning, bathe, dress, find all your stuff, grab some breakfast, commute for 45 minutes to an hour, work at least eight hours, maybe through lunch, commute back, look at all the stuff you didn't do before you left that morning, push it aside, start dinner... Yeah, you know the drill.

Wow! I am SO rich!

There are so many people who don't have a reason to set a clock in the morning, no job to go to...or maybe they have a job that's mind-numbingly dull or back-breaking hard...or one where no one appreciates them...or that doesn't pay them enough. There are parents who work sick and who can't afford to buy medicine...children who go to school hungry...people without health insurance who just don't go to the doctor because there's no way they can afford to pay for it. And there are people for whom all of this is a foreign language because they can't even imagine a world where everyone's work isn't back breaking and where the best you can hope for is enough to eat today...maybe.

Yes, I am rich...so rich I can't count it all. And I feel like a schmuck when I think of all the times I complain about something I don't have. Because let's face it...I don't need anything I don't already have. I'm clothed, sheltered, fed, employed, medicated as needed, and loved. Wealthy beyond my wildest dreams, I tell you, and grateful beyond words.

I registered my blog with Blog Action Day and the topic is poverty. I know poverty intimately; I've been there...not so much financial poverty (although I've seen my share of days with less-than-abundant resources), but poverty of the spirit, the kind that keeps you poor, destitute, and broken no matter how much money you have. And I know that, as odd as it may seem, one of the best ways to break the cycle of spiritual poverty is to act rich...to give away what you think you don't have. Tired? No energy? Do something for someone. No money? Give some away...even a nickle in someone's expired parking meter. Running low on food? Invite a friend to share your sandwich at lunch. For those of us who have so much - and that's just about everyone reading this blog - we have opportunities every day to enrich the lives of others while feeding our own sense of wealth, of gratitude, of enough.

I'm going to hustle my butt up from here and go to work now. We're having a food drive at work and I'm going to take some canned goods to work with me. As I pack each can into the box, I'll add a little blessing. "May you be blessed with riches beyond your wildest dreams."

Just like me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

All is right with the world

As I type the title of this post, I'm aware that all is so not right with the world. There's so much suffering, so much uncertainty, so much pain. How could I possibly say all is right with this world?

And yet...

When I step onto my deck...walk down the steps...feel the dew-wet grass under my bare feet...step into the yard bathed in the glow of an all but full moon shining like a silver coin...when I close my eyes and lift my head and can almost feel the cool, silvery light on my face...when I kiss my hand three times to the Lady and she smiles at me...when I breathe in the night sounds and the darkness and know...know without doubt or hesitation...that I am part of it all...an integral part no less important or perfect than the moon or the stars or the dew under my feet...doing my part as best I can...feeling gratitude bubbling up from my heart to form a lump in my throat...so happy to be alive and awake and aware and at peace...every cell of my body crying, "Yes!"

In this moment...for now...all is truly right with the world.

Filling my days to overflowing...

...and no one to blame (or thank) but me!

Once again, weekend plans are already shaping up to encompass the entire weekend. Dear friends are getting married on Saturday so there's wedding gift wrapping, dressing up, the ceremony to attend, and the reception to enjoy. Sunday, we're hosting another dear friend - maybe two if we're lucky - for early afternoon socializing and dinner. That means spiffying up the house, shopping, cooking...all the good stuff.

And I'm not complaining...really. I guess I'm just ruing the lack of additional hours each week to leave unplanned. Ah, but who am I kidding? There's no shortage of plans waiting for good hours to call their own. More time would just mean more to do.

I suppose the only answer is to consider unplanned time a "thing" in its own right and start planning for it. Sounds a bit convoluted, but I think it just might work. Scheduling some unstructured time every now and then goes on my list of things to do.

I'll have to look into that next weekend. This one's full.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sufi saying - transforming pain

Sufi saying

Overcome any bitterness that may have come because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain that was entrusted to you.

Like the mother of the world who carries the pain of the world in her heart, each of us is part of her heart and is, therefore, endowed with a certain measure of cosmic pain.

You are sharing in the totality of that pain. You are called upon to meet it in joy instead of self-pity. The secret: offer your heart as a vehicle to transform cosmic suffering into joy.

I saw this on Luminous Inspirations, a great blog I stumbled on today. I love the last line, "...offer your heart as a vehicle to transform cosmic suffering into joy.

What a great concept - offering your heart to transformation. If you believe, as I do, that we are all connected...not just connected, really part of the same whole...then the work I do toward transforming pain into joy affects more than just me. As part of the whole, I affect everyone and everything with my actions. And to offer my heart is an act of will and intent, a conscious choice, and an invitation to the Universe to use me, to take my heart and make it more than what it has been, for the good of All.

I like that.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Waiting for the Happiness Bus

A cross posted bloggerie from Happy By Nature:

Are you waiting for the bus?

Seems there are a lot of folks waiting for the happiness bus to pull up and let them on, for the driver to slow to a stop, open the door, lower the step, waive the fare, and show them to a prime seat. That stop is always crowded with people just waiting for the happiness bus.

Attention, Bus Stop People: Happiness is not a bus. It's a walking trail and it goes uphill, and the only way to get to the top is one step at a time, one after another. Oh, but once you get there the view is unbe-freakin-lieveable! Even better, make the climb all the way to the top and you'll realize that the only thing you left behind is unhappiness...that all you really need is still with you...only it's lighter, easier to carry, great tasting, less filling, 52% more free, and all natural with no unpleasant aftertaste. Drink it up!

I'm happy. I wasn't always, and I remember that misery all too well. I also remember how I got here and I want to share the map with you. If there's a Churh of Holy Happiness, I'm a loud, proud, evangelical member and I can't wait to share this joy I've found!

Am I frightening you? It's ok. Apparently that's normal. I've noticed that among the folks waiting at the bus stop, there's this strange notion that making the decision to be happy means giving up their intelligence, their air of cynical sophistication, their awareness of the crap floating in the world bowl. Some people seem to believe that happiness is just a sweet little euphemism for clueless, that happy people are annoyingly out of touch with reality and anyone who walks comfortably and at peace with this world is obviously unstable.

If you decide to walk this path with me, some of your friends back at the bus stop will talk about you...and they may stop talking to you.

It takes courage to be happy.

You have to find that courage on your own, but I can tell you this: I've never met a truly happy person who was out of touch. They're not always the most educated, but they are the most aware people I've even known. They know themselves, they're aware of what's happening around them, and they're aware that they always have choices - choices in action, in attitude, in belief. They are more in control of themselves and their own walk through the world because they accept responsibility and take control, not of other people or events outside their reach, but of the things and events that are theirs to determine.

I was having this same conversation with one of my brothers last night when he reminded me of "The Serenity Prayer" (actually a shortened version of the original). Remember that little gem?

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

In spite of showing up on countless bad greeting cards, that little triad remains one of the most valuable tools in life's utility belt. I'm going to be talking in more detail about the tools that help us make the climb to happiness, and this one is the big-daddy-if-you-don't-have-anything-else-reach-for-this-one super tool, the one that does it all.

Throw away the bus pass. Get up off the bench. Take the first steps toward a happy life. Walk with me and let's talk along the way. You're going to love the view!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mr. Bill as Spiritual Guru

A series of commercials airing on TV here in the States has brought one of my favorite characters from the old Saturday Night Live series back into the spotlight. Mr. Bill, a hapless pile of clay with a talent for getting himself tossed about, is once again flying out of windows and onto windshields, his trademark, "Oh, noooooooo!" ringing across the airwaves.

The thing about Mr. Bill that kept us all laughing (besides the sheer slapstick genius of throwing a humanoid blog of playdough off a 30 story building, into a blender, under a bus...) is that, no matter how dire his situation, he always had a positive spin on it. No one is more cheerful, hopeful, and pragmatic than Mr. Bill! In the recent TV ads, Mr. Bill flies out a window and is splatted against a bus windshield. Does he cry? scream? rant? Nope! His "Oh, nooooooooooo!" is followed quickly by, "Hey, the bus is right on time!"

And that, my friends, is why I'm making Mr. Bill one of my personal spiritual gurus. You see, Mr. Bill has figured out that one of the keys to happiness is assessing your situation and making the most of it...and sometimes that means just being happy that the bus is on time.

S*it happens to all of us, and if personal crappy events aren't enough, there's plenty of global crap to go around. Happiness doesn't mean you aren't aware of the puddle of yuck we're all wading through. Mr. Bill is well aware he's flying out a window and more than aware he's just hit the windshield of a moving bus. But he keeps finding ways to be happy.

Bill knows that the key is not just knowing what's happening, but knowing what you can do about it and what you can't. More importantly, he knows that he has choices - not necessarily about what's happening around or to him, but always about how he chooses to react. So you're face down on the windshield? That sucks. What can you do about it? Not much...except decide how you will react. Cry, moan, declare it unfair... or check the time and be glad the bus is on schedule.

Yes, I know life is not an SNL skit (though, gads, sometimes the skits are truer than life)...and I know that the windshields we hit as we fly through this life are bigger, badder, and bloodier than Mr. Bill's moving bus...and I still stand by the principle. Whatever is happening to me, my course of action is clear:
1. Assess the situation - face what's happening full-on, no denial allowed;
2. Assess my options - what can I do about what's happening? No shirking and no fantasy...just the facts.
3. ACT! If there is something I can do to make my situation better, get the lead out (or the fear, the stubborness, or anything else that's holding me back) and do it.
4. Choose my reaction - Decide if I want to wallow in self-pity, writhe in agony, burn with resentment, poison myself with anger...or choose to focus on what is actually good for me, not because I don't know bad s*it has happened, but because I don't want to wallow, writhe, burn, or die a slow death from toxic rage.

It's that simple. Like Mr. Bill, I choose to be happy. There's more to happiness, of course...but Mr. Bill is an excellent guide to one of the key components of a happy life. Am I going to waste a lesson like that? Oh, noooooooooooo!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Yes, Mark Morford...Yes!

My favorite sarcastic, funny, run-on-sentence-of-death journalist, Mark Morford, has done it again and this time, he's done it beautifully!

On the heels of the viral proliferation on YouTube of Sarah Palin being annointed as a witch hunter by Kenyan priest Thomas Muthee, Mark's latest includes a fond recollection of being scared poo-less as a child by stories of witches. More importantly, his article reveals how his life now is enriched by the real witches he knows and loves. And even though he's no fan of Sarah Palin (or John McCain, but let's not digress), he manages to feel true empathy - maybe even sympathy - that she has now been protected from and annointed to fight this beautiful path and thus will probably never know the true joys thereof.

I'm always amazed at the number of people who, on learning what witches really are and what they most certainly are not, prefer to cling to their childhood fantasies of evil old hags and wicked, baby-roasting, orgy-wallowing, depraved madness. Why, when faced with, A) a true depiction of normal people pursuing timeless knowledge on a spiritual path of personal accountability and responsibility, or B) a false but miserable, scary something that gives you the creeps just to think about, would anyone want to believe option B? That's kind of creepy in itself, don't you think?

So...check out Mark's article. If you're a witch, read it with glee and do a happy dance. If you're not a witch but you know and love one (or more), send them the article and a, "Go, you!" note. If witches scare you or piss you off, read it and learn something.

I'm going back to my happy dancing now.