Monday, March 31, 2014
While Larry has been experiencing March Madness, with one eye always focused on the televised basketball games of late, I've been having my own version of hoop dreams as I drive past area businesses setting up their hoop houses for spring plant sales. After a winter that has seemed to be harsher and longer than in recent years, I am relishing my own celebration of March Madness. To finally see bags of mulch being stacked outdoors is a moment for celebration in Wisconsin. Now, as I take my evening walks, I see people raking their yards, taking down Christmas lights and engaging in the annual ritual of preparing their lawns and homes for spring. Someone I spoke with recently told me that she had begun her spring cleaning by washing down walls and cleaning in the crevices, room by room. Another person I spoke with told me that she has seedlings growing indoors. On this last day of March, I celebrate that we're moving into the glorious month of April, filled with all of the hope and activity that spring brings with it.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
One recent Sunday, we prayed these words at church: "Oh God of peace, keep us from a mindless acceptance of things as they are. Let us all know that at the heart of change and turbulence there is an inner calm that comes from faith in you, and that from this central heart of peace, there may flow a creative compassion, a thirst for justice, a relentless proclamation of your love, and a willingness to give of ourselves in the Spirit of Christ...." It seems as if we can easily get caught up in the turbulence of change, the deep valley of worry or the loud din of drama. Yet, if we think about it, the better place is to be centered in a state of calmness. Only then, I believe, when we are free of agitation, distraction and disturbance can we truly feel blessed and open ourselves to being a blessing to others.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Our pastor spoke recently about the fact that God has called each of us to be and do something special. Each of us is gifted in some way with something that we are good at and that we enjoy immensely. During one portion of her sermon, she asked the congregation to take a few minutes and to share with those sitting in the pew next to us what we see as our passion and purpose. My good friend next to me told me that she loves to sing with a particular group and she likes to be part of something that contributes to the greater good. In turn, I voiced that I enjoy the creative pursuits of writing and video projects. In the pew ahead of me, I saw a woman sketching a beautifully detailed drawing in pencil on a small piece of paper. Obviously, her gift is art. Behind me was a woman whose lovely voice shone true and pure with each hymn we sang. I couldn't help but feel that one of her gifts is music. As I looked around me, I was no longer surrounded by people, but by gifts and passions. We are each called to be our very best and to utilize our talents and gifts for the greatest good. I was thankful to our pastor and her sermon as a reminder of this important message.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Spring has officially sprung today and I can't be happier. The birdsong seems louder. The snow seems to melt faster. The sky seems bluer. All seems right with the world now that spring has arrived. Spring is my favorite time of year, for it is a time of new beginnings, a time of renewal, a time when nature leaves its quiet mode and bursts forth with color. I can't be outside enough at this time of year. So, I am giving myself the gift of more time outdoors. As part of that gift, I am applauding the fact that winter is "officially" behind us with all of its relentless darkness, freezing cold, feet of snow and raw winds. Consequently, I will reduce the number of blog posts I'm writing to twice weekly, posting only on Mondays and Thursdays, until further notice. Instead of sitting in front of my laptop, I'll be outside taking walks, breathing in the fresh air and watching spring unfold with all of its beauty and new life. It's a new and glorious season, one to enjoy to the fullest!
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
It'll be a few months before we see dragonflies once again at Devil's Lake, but last Sunday, a good friend surprised me with the gift of a whimsical, colorful dragonfly to hang on the wall. Just looking at its brightly colored wings and body makes me smile. This particular generous friend periodically surprises me with a card or gift depicting dragonflies, and I so appreciate her kindness. The dragonfly is supposedly symbolic of many things, including maturity, poise, adaptability and depth of character, even the ability to see things clearly. My favorite meaning of the dragonfly, however, is the focus on living in the moment and to the fullest. As I look at my new colorful dragonfly hanging on the wall of my home office, I reflect on the blessings of living in the moment, even when the moment is difficult. It is only when I give full attention to the now that I recognize all of the good that is in it.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
It's funny how we so willingly part with a dollar and don't think much of it most of the time. Yet, when I found a dollar in the snow the other day, I was simply overjoyed. You would have thought I'd found a hundred-dollar bill the way I reacted. Larry got into the excitement, too, looking to see if any other stray dollar bills happened to have been buried at that spot. Alas, no such luck. However, he and I talked for a couple of hours about what a coup it was to have found that dollar. Once, many years ago, I found a twenty-dollar bill on the ground. More often, however, I find stray pennies. Not too long ago, I found three such stray cents. Instead of pocketing them, I left them stacked up for someone else to find as a treasure. So, what did we do with our found dollar bill? We spent it on the flavor of the day at Culver's! Somehow, it made our find and our custard just that much more delicious.
Monday, March 17, 2014
With St. Patrick's Day upon us, my thoughts went to shamrocks. Not knowing the difference between shamrocks and clover, I decided to do a little online research. Although my findings are far from definitive and I will never proclaim to be an expert on either, I did find the reading to be enlightening. For instance, my mom always had an Oxalis around our house, a shamrock-looking type of houseplant that bears little white flowers. She also carried a four-leaf clover in her wallet that she had found as a young woman and preserved with adhesive. From some of my online reading, I learned that the shamrock, known for its three leaves (as opposed to a four-leaf clover), has some Christian significance, with the trifoliate leaves representing the Trinity. What we consider to be clover plants today all have a lineage to the pea family. It's no wonder that the pea shoots I get at our farmer's market resemble young clovers. With so much German and Bohemian heritage in my veins, I can only wish for a little luck of the Irish. My late maternal grandfather, however, used to claim that we had some Irish ancestry in us. His proclamations used to make the rest of the family chuckle a bit, but made his eyes dance. Perhaps his Irish eyes are smiling on us today.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
My church friend Mike and I are creating a video that will be shown at our church in a few weeks during a tour of downtown Baraboo historic churches. It has been fun to look through old photographs of the church building, but it is even more enjoyable looking at the old photographs featuring people. Perhaps it's the romantic in me, but I like to look into their faces, connect with their eyes and wonder what their lives were like at that very moment when the photograph was taken. Some of the pictures date back some 150 years ago, others 50 years ago. The trappings of life may have changed over the past decades, but the hopes, dreams, desires, and perhaps the triumphs and tribulations, too, may very well be the same as we experience today. In the end, I believe we all simply want to be safe, loved and happy and we wish the same for our loved ones. I enjoy looking back into those faces through time, for they remind me of what's important today.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Today has been a day for friendship. It began with getting together with my lovely friend Kitty who brings me joy every time we get together. She has the passionate heart of an artist. Everything she touches turns into something beautiful. My times with her calm and feed my soul at the same time. Larry and I have also been invited to a party this evening. It was to begin as a going-away party of sorts, but due to various circumstances, has turned into a party to celebrate spring with friends. I'm grateful for any reason to get together with these wonderful friends, for we have been close for many years. Their invitation made me think of how important friends are to my happiness. We can be individuals, we can be independent, but there is nothing like the blessing of friends to share the good times with you and buoy you up during the not-so-good times. All of these friends with whom I will have spent my day and evening have been just that in my life. As Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet said in A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, "We'll be friends forever, won't we, Pooh?" asked Piglet. "Even longer," Pooh answered. To all of my Even Longer friends, thank you.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Our pastor preached about unconditional love last Sunday. As part of her sermon, she incorporated Biblical scripture pertaining to loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. It seemed ironic that when watching the news that very same evening, there was story after story about war-torn areas around the globe and people fighting and demonstrating for human rights. How mind-boggling it is for me to realize that people who suffer so much can possibly love their enemies or pray for their persecutors. Yet, there are those of strong faith and belief who seem to be able to rise above some of the worst hurts and atrocities that one can possibly imagine. I learn the vital lesson from them and from our pastor that love truly abides. Even when things are difficult, the way challenging or the responses of others hurtful, one can work through those things, rise above them and find that between faith, hope and love, the greatest of these truly is to love.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
I love to watch the early morning sky. When all is still and the day is unfolding, there is nothing so lovely as the dawn. One recent morning, I found myself unable to move away from the kitchen windows, for the sky was a radiant shade of pink. How could one have a bad day when it starts out with such majesty, beauty and tranquility? Now that Daylight Savings Time has returned, I have to stand at the window a little later than normal in order to take in daybreak, which interferes some with my preparations for my workday. However, whenever I can, I will breathe in every moment of the break of dawn, for it holds promise, hope, joy and new beginnings. Some may sing of "Blue Skies," but these days, my song is about those amazing, beautiful and life-giving pink skies.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
It is that joyful time of year when every sign, no matter how subtle, of spring seems to make my heart sing. Although I haven't seen one yet myself, I've heard of numerous sightings of robins that have bravely returned to Wisconsin, harbingers of spring. I took a walk on Sunday afternoon and almost didn't want to come back inside. For the first time in what felt like eons, I was able to walk at a fast clip, dodging puddles, feeling the breeze on my face and finding myself practically ready to dance around like Gene Kelly in "Singing in the Rain" (but without the rain). We northerners are a courageous group of souls, weathering all that the weather has to dish out each winter. Yet, in our resiliency, we're also people of hope, for we withstand stoically the winter, hopeful of the warmer seasons to come. So, here we are, on the cusp of spring, survivors once again of a rough, raw winter. There's something to dance about!
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Our pastor spoke about grace one recent Sunday, which in the Christian faith is the unmerited receipt of God's love. I think of the many blessings I have received undeservedly, blessings that have come about through God's love. I have been given a most loving and supportive husband. I have survived countless serious and life-threatening illnesses. I had a wonderful mother and father. I have a warm and comfortable home in a safe and pleasant neighborhood. I have plenty of food in the kitchen so that I will never go hungry. I have loving friends who bring me quality of life. I have a job that challenges me, excites me and enriches me and I am surrounded in the workplace by good people. I have no needs and, I daresay, no wants. I am truly, truly blessed. I didn't earn any of those things. They were and are gifts. So, as I begin and end each day listing three things for which I am grateful, I focus today on the many blessings for which I played no part in their making. They simply are and for that I say grace.
Monday, March 10, 2014
I'm not one to pamper myself, but one recent Saturday morning, I decided to deviate from the norm. It had been a long week that required my rising every day one hour earlier than I usually do. So, when Saturday rolled around, I let myself sleep and sleep and sleep. I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided not to get out of bed right away. Instead, I propped some pillows up behind me and I read the newspaper, then a book, stretched out in bed. Still enjoying the experience immensely, I decided to get up long enough to make my breakfast and cart it back to bed with me. Breakfast in bed? Never! My to-do list, long as my arm, was waiting for me. What in the world was I doing lounging in bed, propped up by pillows, the newspaper and a book at the ready, and my faithful bowl of oatmeal within easy reaching distance on the bedside table? What I was doing was just what I needed to do -- pamper myself. It's fine for me not to make a regular practice of it, for it would lose its luster quickly, but on that particular Saturday morning, my to-do list stayed right where it belonged, outside of the reach of my mind, body and spirit so I could live (but for a while) in the lap of luxury.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
You wouldn't know it by the temperature or the mounds of snow outside our window, but we've taken a step forward today. It's Daylight Savings Time again. And oh, how we need a sign of spring! To be able to turn the clocks forward by one hour gives us that precious added daylight at the end of the work day. We'll begin our evening walks again, just as soon as it isn't too icy. I have only one walking pace and it's at a fast clip. I need ice-free sidewalks or I'll simply wait until I get them. Two years ago, March was so balmy that I recall wearing a denim skirt without pantyhose to a St. Patrick's Day concert. I knew it was dreadfully wrong to have such warm weather so soon, but I couldn't help but love every moment. This year, given the interminable nature of our winter, I'll take any sign I can get. And signs there are. Looking out of our kitchen window the other day, I could see buds on a tree in the distance. Even when it's been cold and snowing, the birds have been singing gaily. The sky has a different look, now that we're moving toward the vernal equinox. Spring is really coming. The clock has told me so.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
I love, love to read and I love to have at least one book around me in any room of the house at any given time. So when I read recently that a fictional character shared my love of books and saw them as "furniture of the mind," I agreed. The character surrounded himself with books and saw them more important than furniture. I wouldn't replace my comfy bed or equally comfy leather reading chair and ottoman, but I do surround myself with books and even decorate with them. My late mom's collection of Gladys Taber books seems to find a space in every room of our home. Seeing them brings me comfort and reminds me of Mom's gentle spirit, as mirrored in the words of Mrs. Taber. People post photos on Facebook of furniture cleverly made from books, including shelves and coat racks. I probably won't make furniture from my books, but I will surround myself with them, relishing them as furniture of the mind.
Friday, March 7, 2014
As hard as I looked, I couldn't find the pirates or the ship, but a crow high in a tree on the historic courthouse lawn was busy calling "Argh!" at me as I walked underneath the other day. He (I say "he," but "he" may have been a "she") sounded a bit like a pirate and he wouldn't stop calling at me. I wondered if the big black bird was lost and looking for the crow's nest of a pirate ship or perhaps he thought I looked like a character from "Pirates of the Caribbean." Whatever his issue, he was certainly letting me know about it. I've heard crows hundreds of time. Their characteristic "caw" sound is something I can hear and kind of ignore, even though it's usually rather piercing and irritating to the ear. But when a crow makes pirate sounds, it gets my attention. I decided to study the matter and checked out a website called www.allaboutbirds.org. The site offered several audio files that featured the diversity, though not very pretty calls, of crows. Some of the sounds were reminiscent of what I'd heard that day on the courthouse lawn, but nothing with so much of the "r" sound. I may never know the reason behind that crow's call, but it certainly got my imagination to stirring! Argh, matey!
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Without fail, I prepare the same breakfast for myself every morning. I love a big bowl of rolled oats, prepared with plump blueberries, ground flax seed and a heavy powdering of cinnamon. That breakfast keeps my batteries charged until early afternoon when I finally have the time to take a lunch break. One recent morning, however, I wasn't in the mood for my regular breakfast. Instead, I wanted slices of sprouted-grain bread with a drizzle of honey. As I was eating my slices of bread and honey, I started humming the children's nursery rhyme song, "Sing a Song of Sixpence," for I was eating like the queen! I wasn't in my parlour, however, but at our dining room table. As I drove to work that day, I thought some more about the lyrics of that song and wondered just what they meant. Why would someone want a pocketful of rye (other than to sow the seeds)? For what reason would someone bake four and twenty live blackbirds in a pie? Doesn't that seem barbaric? And what kind of a children's song is it that requires a doctor to sew back on the maid's nose after it was pecked off by a blackbird (perhaps one that had flown off and missed being baked in the pie)? I read several interpretations of the poem online and found that there may be a lot of symbolism in it that could only have been understood and laughed at some 300 years ago. I guess I won't worry about. Instead, I'll feel quite like a queen the next time I sit down to bread and honey.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
It had been a hectic work week with long hours, many meetings and several evenings of additional obligations, so it was doubly nice last Friday night when Larry and I had the opportunity to sit still for a couple of hours and take in some beautiful music provided by the Pro Arte Quartet. The program included the works of Franz Joseph Haydn and Anton Bruckner, as well as a contemporary piece by Benoit Mernier that was commissioned in celebration of the Pro Arte Quartet's centennial. On such occasions, I find that I enjoy the music even more when I close my eyes and let the loveliness wash over me. Such was the case last Friday evening. As I closed my eyes and welcomed the music into my soul, the busyness of the week departed and I was soon quiet, calm and filled with a sense of profound blessing and peace. Such are the benefits of a little night music.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I recently read a Forbes magazine article, "7 Habits of Insanely Productive People," by Ekaterina Walter in which she addresses infobesity, a new chronic disorder stemming from our being bombarded with so much information that we can't consume it, store it or use it properly. We live in a time when we can barely leave our desktops without coming back to 20 emails or more, many of which requiring our attention. To make matters worse (or better, depending on your perspective), we carry devices with us around the clock that allow us to access this deluge of information, requests and demands at all times. There is little opportunity to turn away from the barrage of messages. Or is there? I have made it a habit of turning off my cell phone more than I have it turned on. I watch less television than I used to. I am selective in my reading material. I drive in the car without the radio on, just to enjoy the silence or to sort out things that have been weighing on my mind. For those who thrive on the rapid flow of information coming to us around the clock, they may say that there's a fat chance that it will get any slower. But as Ms. Walter suggests, infobesity is cutting into our productivity. I would add that it is cutting into our peace of mind. At some point, we need to give ourselves a break, if only for a bit, to enjoy a time to be quiet, time to think, time to be present to others without distraction, and oh yes, time to be.
Monday, March 3, 2014
While doing some reading recently, I learned that Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was even more fascinating than I'd originally thought. Dr. Bob Dewel, a retired dentist, prolific writer and local historian, has portrayed Benjamin Franklin on numerous occasions, but I have never had the pleasure of seeing his presentation. Instead, Ben Franklin has been someone I just occasionally read about in history books. My recent reading, however, told me more about Franklin the good citizen, Franklin the conscience of our society, Franklin the inventor and Franklin the sage. Ben Franklin believed in “good citizenship” and contributing to the greater good. He saw volunteerism as each citizen’s civic duty. Among his many amazing feats, Benjamin Franklin reportedly helped organize the first lending library in this country, a predecessor of today’s public libraries. He believed in environmental cleanup. His inventions ran from head to toe, from bifocals to swim fins. Perhaps what I enjoy most about Franklin was his keen wit and his ability to say so much in so few words. I should imagine that if Ben Franklin lived today, he would be the most entertaining and successful users of Twitter.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Ah, bliss! March has finally arrived. And while it may still be a topsy-turvy month weather-wise, at least we can take heart that our wintery weather will finally give way to spring -- and hopefully this month. Such a raw, harsh winter it has been. I had to laugh at a conversation I had with a group of people last week who said that they had become conditioned to hearing meteorologists forecast bleak, below-zero high temperatures day after day. It was almost as if we had become so used to such freezing conditions that the depth of the cold couldn't even faze us anymore. This is the month of transition into spring. March can come in like a lion or a lamb and exit whichever way it wants, as well. But, we know that this month brings about the return of Daylight Savings Time and the vernal equinox will quickly follow. We should start feeling more moderate temperatures and even see our snow begin to melt. March is really a marvelous month.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Yesterday, I was invited to speak at the first annual Baraboo Public Library volunteer appreciation luncheon. It was a joy to prepare my remarks about volunteerism, for I treasured my nearly 30 years of working professionally with volunteers, as well as the many years I've been a volunteer myself. As I researched and reflected on the topic, I recalled the many wonderful people I've gotten to know throughout the years because of the career path I had chosen that would lead me into meaningful working relationships with a bounty of selfless, hard-working volunteers. According to volunteeringinamerica.gov, 64.5 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.9 billion hours last year. Their combined estimated service was worth nearly $175 billion nationwide. While I have always been fascinated by such numbers, I don't believe the true value of volunteerism can be quantified. There is so much benefit to the one giving of time and talent, as well as to the organization receiving it that I believe volunteering defies the application of dollars and cents. Rather, from my experience, volunteering is the application of hands and hearts.