Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Give of Yourself

Think about those times when you gave of yourself to a charitable cause or to a neighbor, to a fundraising event or to a friend. Perhaps you made a cash contribution. Perhaps you volunteered for an event. Perhaps you offered someone a ride, took a grieving family a casserole, donated a winter coat to a clothing drive, or held a person's hand when he or she was sad and hurting. 

When we look outside of ourselves and reach out to someone else with compassion, love and generosity, there is often a feeling of deep satisfaction and connection. 

And the amazing thing is that when we are generous, that generosity often has a way of coming back to us when we least expect it or in ways that surprise us. The circle of love keeps going around and around.

Look for opportunities to give of yourself every single day. If you can, do so under the radar so that your gift is anonymous. You don't need a pat on the back or to receive credit for your generosity in order for your gift to have meaning. 

Be generous without expecting anything in return. The act of giving is all that's needed to fill your heart. 

Today, this week: Give of yourself. Reach out with love. Have a generous heart.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Fireflies, Fairs and Fireworks - It Must be July

It's July -- that lovely month of long days, hot temperatures and a calendar jam-packed with activities and celebrations. In the rural area where I live, the month's arrival means 4th of July parades and fireworks, outdoor concerts, the county fair and even a parade that celebrates our community's circus heritage. July is simply one party after another!

The Cole Bros. "America" Steam Calliope, an antique circus wagon
preserved by Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
The American circus is a rich part of our country's cultural history.
A parade to celebrate Baraboo's circus heritage takes place in the city each July.

The 4th of July is a red, white and blue day of celebrations, both large and small, of our country's independence. On that day, we remember with gratitude our many freedoms and we celebrate our country and what it stands for through concerts, parades, family reunions and gatherings, fireworks and more. 

As a child, my family's 4th of July celebrations included eating food prepared on the barbecue grill, lighting a few sparklers and watching the little silver wands sizzle like miniature fireworks, and then driving into town to witness the community's big fireworks display, either from the grandstand in the county fairgrounds or high upon a hill in the city hospital's parking lot where we could avoid the crowds and traffic, but enjoy the elaborate light display. At the end of the evening, we might sit in webbed aluminum lawn chairs in our spacious country backyard and watch the fireflies dart around us.

The unincorporated community of Witwen, Wisconsin grows by the thousands on July 4 each year
when a parade lasting more than an hour takes to the main street.
The annual Witwen parade is rural America at its finest.
Following the parade is a bountiful chicken barbecue.

Some of my favorite childhood July memories have to do with the county fair. The fairgrounds are located within the city limits of my hometown, a large green space surrounded by residential neighborhoods and businesses on the community's east side. The fairgrounds' old-time grandstand and white clapboard display buildings harken back to an earlier, simpler time. I love those old structures. 

As a 4-H student, I entered everything from table place settings to posters to centerpieces for judging. I ended up with a rainbow of ribbons, surely not a blue ribbon every time. I learned valuable lessons in responsibility and creativity at a young age, thanks to my 4-H years. 

As a young teen, I even had a vendor booth at the fair where I sold decorative banners, my own creations made of burlap, felt and Naugahyde, as a way to raise funds for a French class trip I was taking to Europe. 

The child in me has always loved amusement rides. My favorite remains the Tilt-a-Whirl. Any ride that scrambles me around (including the Scrambler) suits me well. Roller coasters, not so much. 

The rides, the displays, the animals, the concerts, the ice cream cones and corn dogs, and the fun with family and friends all come together at our county fair -- just like a blue ribbon-winning recipe.

Ride an amusement park ride, check out the 4-H winners,
see the farm animals on display, eat pie and ice cream, hear a concert or watch the tractor pull
at the Sauk County (Wisconsin) Fair each mid-July. 

July is here! How will you relish each of its 31 days? How will you celebrate this glorious summer month and its many events and activities? 

Make memories that will last you through the long winter months ahead and for years and years to come. 

Sunday Sunshine: Build a Bridge, Be a Bridge

While hiking in a verdant, natural area, we suddenly encountered a bright yellow sign emblazoned with the word "bridge" in bold, black capital letters.

Surely, the sign informed hikers and cross-country skiers of an upcoming bridge, but the sign also made me think about the ways we can be bridges, too.

When we choose to be a bridge of love and understanding, we create a safe place for respectful conversation. We serve as a sign to others of a safe crossing for differing ideas and perspectives. We invite others who may think, speak or live differently than we do to be our teachers. We encourage the expansion of our own knowledge and understanding.

Choose to listen with an open mind and heart and invite others to respectfully share their thoughts, their perspectives, their experiences and their talents. Soon the chasms of misunderstanding and fear will be gone. In their place, we will find bridges forming in all directions.

Today, this week: Listen with an open mind and heart. Build bridges of love, respect and understanding. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Clear the Clutter

When you shed yourself of unwanted belongings, obligations and toxic relationships, you lighten your life load. It's as if you instantly lose weight -- the weight of excess in your life. 

A clean closet, a clean mind and a clean calendar give you the combined blessing of more space and the invitation for something new to enter into your life.

Today, this week: Remove the tangible and intangible clutter from your life.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Make Time for You

As caring human beings, we tend to nurture those around us. As employees, employers, parents, partners and adult children squeezed into the sandwich generation, we focus our attentions on others' needs. 

Sometimes, the well from which you draw that energy feels pretty dry, doesn't it?

How much time do you spend caring for yourself? 

Now, don't feel guilty. Don't think of it as being selfish. Think of it as being self-love and maybe even self-preservation.

Carve out some time each day -- no matter how short -- to do something just for you. 

Maybe it's time for a walk, a cup of coffee, a good read or listening to some music.

That precious time spent nurturing yourself is a necessity for a quality, joyful life. When your energy well is filled, you will be in a better place to serve those you care about.

Today, this week: Make time for you. It's an investment well worth your while.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Choose Kindness

How many times have you said something and wished you could scoop those words back up and swallow them? 

How many times have you done something (or not done something) and thought afterward that you could have acted differently and made the day better for someone else?

Our days are made up of myriad moments that present possibilities for our thoughtful words and actions.

No matter how difficult those moments, no matter how badly our patience is tested, there is always room for kindness.

When you choose to be kind, your kindness serves as a magnet. It finds ways to come back to you multi-fold. 

Kindness is an energy that our world so badly needs.

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't create healthy boundaries for yourself. It means that when you have an opportunity to lift up or tear down, always choose to lift up. Always.

Today, this week: In your every encounter, choose to be kind.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Stay Grounded

Just when you get used to something, it seems to change! Small things. Big things. It's easy to slip and slide as the sands of change shift underfoot.

In the whirling, twirling experience of change, stay grounded.

Be resilient in a changing world by always living your values, always listening to your heart, and always looking for the good.

Change loses its fear-inducing sting when you hang tight to your values, when you listen to the wisdom you hold within, and when you keep an open mind and look for the good things that can come out of change.

You can't stop change. It's going to happen, but you can control your response.

Today, this week: Roll with the waves of change by staying grounded to what's truly important to you.