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.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Rites of Passage

The end of the school year. Perhaps it's the passing from one grade into another. Perhaps it's graduation from kindergarten, from eighth grade, from high school, from college, from grad school. The moving from one educational experience into another or into the work world or into summer vacation is a rite of passage, at least of sorts. 

The handing out of your final grades for the year, the shelving of your school supplies for the summer are all signs that you're moving from one chapter into another.

Report cards served as my final reminder that the school year was over and summer vacation was here.

I can recall the mixed emotions of ending a school year, for I loved school and I loved learning. To say goodbye to my beloved teachers and professors and to close another chapter in my life book was bittersweet, but the anticipation of a new time in my life, especially summer vacation during my elementary school years, was even more exciting.

Back in that day, summer was a seemingly endless experience. Each day brought relaxation and creative play. There were good books to read and some chores to do, such as helping my mom with housework or learning how to ride the tractor lawn mower. Our meals were prepared more often on the charcoal grill. The evenings were spent at The Panoramic Resort with a soft drink or swimming in the welcoming, cool waters of nearby Devil's Lake.

It was during the summer when I was introduced to Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie mysteries. It was during the summer when I learned about the Euphrates River in Vacation Bible School. It was during the summer when I took swimming lessons from lifeguards Mary Anne and Ginger. It was during the summer when we'd picnic with friends Vi and Glenn at their campsite. Glorious, endless, magnificent summer!

The end of the school year meant saying goodbye to my favorite books in the classroom's library
in exchange for new reading adventures of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie mysteries.

Perhaps it's not the end of a school year anymore for you, but the changes of season and those rites of passage will continue to enter your life. You just need to be open to receiving them and considering thoughtfully what you want to do with them. 

I read a lovely book a few months ago called Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman (Just the title drew me in.) (2012, Viking, ISBN #1-4104-5693-5). In the book, the main character identifies that we may each be "offered a rite of passage many times throughout our lives, if only we are awake to see it." 

Are you awake? Are you aware and ready for those rites of passage to enter your life?  How will you know when those rites of passage are there and that they are real?

Smiles and kisses around. My mom and me at my high school graduation.

At the same time that I was reading Looking for Me, I received my weekly email of wonderful words of wisdom from Maria Shriver, called Sunday Paper. In that weekly post, she wrote about the necessity for spiritual breaks, those times of our own design or that are thrust upon us when we can ponder the deeper, bigger questions about our purpose, our bliss. She writes of the wisdom of the mystic Rumi, a favorite of mine as well: "What you are looking for is looking for you."

Think about that for a moment. "What you are looking for is looking for you." How wonderful is that?! 

Be awake. Be aware. Identify with those passions and pursuits that keep tugging at you. Examine those epic moments in your life when your foundation shakes and you are called to see things with new eyes because the old no longer exists as you once thought it did. Think of the smaller nudges that call you to a new insight or direction.

The end of the school year is a wonderful reminder that rites of passage are brought into your life for good reason. They're doors opening for you. You can walk through those doors into a new time in your life.

What doors are opening for you right now?

What is your rite of passage right now? Are you being called to a new place, a new experience? Are you fulfilling what you believe to be your purpose? Are your passions pulling you to a new way? Look, and you might find that it's looking for you, too.

Sunday Sunshine: Listen with your Heart

We're constantly told that we're a divided country. The messaging we receive all around us seems to encourage that division rather than unity.

Divisions fade away when you actively listen with not only your ears, but also your heart. 

You become new when you open yourself to new perspectives.

What might you learn about yourself and others if you listened with your whole being? 

What might you learn about yourself and others if you listened with your heart? 

Our minds put all kinds of filters in front of us through which we tend to absorb new information. As our minds construct and reinforce those filters based on memory and judgment, we can lose grasp on opportunities right in front of us for greater understanding and loving responses. 

When you listen with your heart, the lens through which you feel the world becomes one of love.

Today, this week: Listen with your heart.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Happy Memorial Day

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, always observed in the United States on the last Monday in May. Tomorrow, Americans will honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives while serving our country in military service.

It is because of them and those who continue to serve in our military today that Americans can enjoy the many freedoms and the peace that we are so fortunate to have.

As we reflect on the meaning behind tomorrow's national holiday, may we not only respect the memory of those who have given so much for us--many doing so in the name of peace, but may we also be instruments of peace in our own daily living.

When we focus our energies by breathing in peace and breathing out peace, we change how we think about the people, the things and the circumstances in our lives. Our responses change.

Today, tomorrow, this week: Remember the meaning of Memorial Day by respecting those who have served our country with honor and who have given everything to preserve our freedoms and peace. And remember to be an instrument of peace yourself. 

Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: There's Beauty Everywhere

For years, I walked by that short row of arbor vitae evergreens, not paying much attention to them. They were located on my way to the building where I worked. I paid little attention to them because my thoughts were focused on my work day.

Then, one day after I had undergone some profound challenges in my life--my own illness and the passing of my mother, that same row of arbor vitae became new to me. It was then, finally, that I noticed the birds who lived in those arbor vitae. Every morning and every evening when I walked past them, the birds would sing and sing and sing to me. I had finally awakened. I was finally paying attention to the beauty that was around me.

As my eyes and ears became more aware, I started noticing the brilliant setting sun as I left work each evening. I stood, transfixed, looking out the window before an early-morning work meeting, watching the magnificent sunrise.

It was as if everything was new to me and it was beautiful. The challenges and sorrows that I had experienced in my life had given me the gift of opening my eyes, my ears and my heart to the beauty that was all around me.

At times, we admittedly have tunnel vision. We see what we think we need to see. We hear what we think we need to hear. 

Wake up! Look up! Listen up! There's beauty up and down and all around!

Today, this week: Pay attention to what's around you. Experience its beauty with gratitude and awe.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Cultivate Joy

It's that glorious time of year when we till the soil, sow the seeds, and plant what will in just a few weeks become a bountiful harvest of flowers, vegetables and more. 

Whether you sport a green thumb or not, you have the opportunity each and every day to be a gardener, a sower, a cultivator. You have the opportunity to cultivate joy.

Fortunately, cultivating joy is easy. When you view your life as blessing, abundance, grace and love, you tend to feel happier, to feel more joyful. 

Happiness and joy don't just stay within you. Their good energy exudes from you and spreads to others. You cultivate joy, which in turn, gives others joy to cultivate, too.

The great thing is you don't need lots of money, a new car, a fancy house, fashionable clothes or the latest gadget. Most often, our greatest joys come from our ordinary moments. Look for those moments and begin sowing "joy" seeds.

Today, this week: Cultivate joy.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Celebrate Every Day

My five-year-old mind whirled with delight as Miss Rothenbach regaled my kindergarten classmates and me with exciting tales of floral leis, luaus, sugar cane, blue ocean waters and palm trees. Although I had been to as many continental states as I could count on my fingers and toes by that point, I had never heard of a place as exotic as Hawaii. For the next year, it seemed that all I could talk about was Hawaii and how I was going to live there one day. 

By the next year, my parents decided to indulge my continued interest in Hawaii by hosting a Hawaiian-theme birthday party for me. Mom, a prolific note taker, wrote this in a book she kept to record my first seven years: "Birthday party after school. All girls in 1st grade invited. Daddy brought girls out from school. Games in front yard, a supper and then outside to play until 6:00 when Daddy took girls home. Hawaiian theme. Varied colored paper leis and flowers for their hair. Margaret Wilhelm (a dear neighbor and talented friend) brought over her Hawaiian village set up for the table. Keri was a very excited little girl." I can still remember the pastel tissue paper flowers and the fun of pretending that I was in Hawaii, even though I was in our front yard in Wisconsin.

Turning seven years old at my Hawaiian-theme birthday party.

We always celebrated birthdays enthusiastically in our household when I was growing up. My late mom and I often shared those birthday celebrations, especially as I grew older, because our mid-May birthdays were only four days apart.

Our birthday celebrations, however, weren't fancy, lavish or expensive nor were they often filled with big parties. Birthdays for our family were celebrations of life, of blessing and of being together. They were celebrations of the opportunity to experience another year. 

Dad and I both seemed to approve of my birthday cake, showcased on a little table that Dad built for me.
It was a great day to turn two years old.

Now that I have traveled through several decades of birthdays, I have a generous share of memories to reflect upon and I look to future birthdays with gratitude. 

The reality, though, is that every day is cause for celebration, whether a birthday or not. It isn't the cake, the presents or the parties. It's the gift of the new day. 

What would our lives be like if we celebrated each day with the same jubilation we experienced as children when our birthdays rolled around? Think about that one for a little while.

How will you celebrate the blessing of this precious day?

Celebrate each and every day. There you will find the gift.

Sunday Sunshine: Hang onto Hope

It's easy to become disillusioned. Our society seems to be trending more and more toward the uncivil, the thoughtless and the rude. It's natural to ask just what's happening to humanity. Why aren't we nice to each other anymore?

Rather than lose faith in the human spirit, however, hang onto hope. And do something about it. Be the one who extends a hand, who offers a shoulder, who gives a kind word. 

If we want to change the world, that change has to begin with us, even--and especially--when things seem difficult. 

In our every encounter, we can choose to be civil, thoughtful and respectful. We can choose to be loving. We can choose to be kind. Start the trend today.

Today, this week: Hang onto hope. Have faith in the human spirit. Be kind.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Celebrate Your Inner Child

We're so grown up. We have adult responsibilities, adult worries, adult concerns, adult plans. All of those responsibilities, worries, concerns and plans can weigh you down. How often do you catch yourself smiling or laughing or relaxing during those tense adult moments?

It's time to lighten up and celebrate your inner child.

Be silly. Be playful. Laugh hard and joyfully. Let yourself relax in healthy, restorative ways.

Try this: Take 15 minutes -- just 15 minutes -- to lie on your back in the grass (or in a lawn chair!) and watch the clouds float above you against the bright blue sky. Let your mind drift. Let your imagination take over. Can you see shapes in those clouds? 

You can also try this: Stand in front of the bathroom mirror and smile. Make it a genuine, happy smile. Then, laugh out loud - a really deep belly laugh. How does it make you feel?

We all need fun and relaxation. It’s good for the mind, body and spirit.

Today, this week: Reserve time in your datebook for play and relaxation. Celebrate your inner child.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Embrace your Inner Wisdom

We human beings tend to rely on our wonderful brains. We were blessed to be given them, but our brains aren't the only source of our understanding or our wisdom.

Go a little deeper to find the source of your truth. Look to your heart. There is the source of your inner wisdom.

When you feel something in your heart, it's different from when you think with your brain. Your brain will filter information, use your memory to paint a picture of your today and even project judgments on your tomorrows.

When you listen to the subtle messages of your heart, you can trust that it won't lead you astray or betray your best interests with its filters and its file drawers of information from the past.

Today, this week: Embrace your inner wisdom. Trust its wise messages meant just for you.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Focus on the Good

For Christians, this is Holy Week, the week that will conclude with Easter next Sunday. 

Whether Christianity is your tradition or not, you may resonate in other ways with this season of rebirth and renewal, this time for greening and growing, this opportunity for planting seeds and watching the natural world burst with color and spring beauty.

There is so much goodness for us to enjoy this day, this week and during this season of spring. There is so much beauty for us to witness all around us and to emanate from inside of us. 

When we focus on the good, more of it seems to become visible to us.

Today, this week: Focus on the good things and they will grow in abundance.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spring Bouquet

Spring arrives with the same exhilaration I feel when I receive a gift of flowers. I have said time and again in this blog how much I love spring and how it is my favorite of the seasons. I particularly love the hopeful, spring-green color that emerges in the hillsides when everything starts to wake up and come back to life for another season of growing and blooming.

While I know that spring officially arrives in March, in our cold climate, spring doesn’t start to make itself obvious until sometime in April.

My love of spring began when I was a child, perhaps because my late mother and I enjoyed spring birthdays. More likely, however, I love spring because my mom embraced the season fully with a joy that could only rub off on those around her.

My late mother, Barb Naidl (right), and me, posing in front of one of the lilac bushes in our backyard.

Spring meant an ever-cascading array of flowers in our home—lilacs, lilies of the valley, branches of forsythia and flowering current, and stems of iris, some dark purple and white and others brown and yellow. All of these flowering beauties grew without much assistance in our spacious backyard. They seemed to know they were welcome there, so they flourished pretty much on their own.

Me, lounging in our backyard. The beds of iris are visible behind me.

Beginning in April all the way through May, Mom would fill antique pitchers of all sizes with flowers, including one really large white porcelain pitcher that nestled perfectly into a large porcelain bowl, even though the bowl was not its original mate. That pitcher was so heavy that it required two hands to carry it safely.

This heavy bowl and pitcher held sprays of beauty during all seasons.

My favorite spring flowers were the lilacs and the lilies of the valley because of their heady scent. Mom would carefully cut, trim and then arrange small branches heavy with lavender and white lilacs in her precious pitcher collection and then place them strategically in nearly every room in our house, thus filling each space with fragrance.

There would be delicate milk glass vases filled with lilies of the valley, offering a lovely white-on-white contrast to the dark walnut antique commode chests on which they would be featured in our home’s living room. My mother loved antiques, so our home was rich with them.

Spring also meant the early budding of our yard’s three willow trees. Although they tend to be messy, I’ve always loved weeping willows. In the spring, they are among the first trees to hint that the seasons are changing, with their delicate yellow hue. 

The weeping willows in our yard provided a place for me to play and imagine.
In the early spring, they were among the first trees to hint at spring when they
turned a gentle shade of yellow-green while everything else was still brown.

Violets played a big part in my childhood springs and they still do today. As if overnight, our backyard would transform into a sea of white and purple as the violets began to bloom. Our family would wait to mow the lawn for the first time in the spring until the violets had had their time to shine.

Aside from nature’s welcoming changes, spring also meant a change in wardrobe, particularly represented by a new dress to wear to church on Easter. I can still remember how special I felt in one particular Easter outfit. The dress was made of a linen blend, the top portion of it white splashed with large, navy blue polka dots and the skirt portion plain navy. Over the dress was a matching navy linen blend coat. I wore a white hat decorated with a wide, navy blue grosgrain ribbon. The outfit was topped off with white anklets, white shoes and white gloves. I felt snazzy!

One of my favorite new Easter outfits from my childhood.
I felt so dressed up with my hat and matching dress and coat.

Despite my fond memories of new Easter clothes and the remembrances of how special I felt in them, when I reflect on springs past, it’s the flowers I recall most vividly and how my mom would bring them inside to transform our home into a special, fragrant and lovely place.

There are signs of spring sprouting everywhere now. Spend some time in nature, watching the changes unfold, the flowers bloom and the increasing signs of earth’s reawakening.

And as the earth transforms, contemplate what that reawakening of spring might mean for you.

Sunday Sunshine: Spring Clean Your Internal House

The chatter can feel deafening. We are constantly bombarded by messages, both positive and negative. It seems, though, that we tend to dwell most on the negative messages. 

It's spring, the perfect season to clean your internal house. Remove the gossip, the mean-spirited words and the stressful news from your life as much as possible. 

Fill that newly cleaned space with kindness, love, joy, and positive energy and activities. Then, share that love, kindness and joy with others around you. 

Let the good energy flow out of you like unfurling petals of a bright spring flower. You have the power to bring such beauty to yourself and to the world.

Today, this week: Rise above the fray in this world. Bloom with love and kindness to everyone around you. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Out Like A ______?

The blustery month of March is nearly behind us. Will it go out like a lion or a lamb? Thankfully, it appears to be the latter this year.

Whatever the weather ultimately decides to do, think of this day as one of transition.

What does the end of the month mean to you? What does the eve of a new month represent in your life?

Review the blessings you’ve experienced in the past month. Name them. Spend time breathing in their life-affirming properties so that you experience those blessings for a second time.

Now, look to your hopes, dreams and wishes for the new month to come. Name them. Spend time examining how you will make those desires a reality, what first steps you will take.

When you move beyond your distractions to a place of complete presence, you begin to see the blessing and the opportunity in each new day.

Today, this week: Be present to the moments in each of your days. Breathe in your blessings and opportunities with gratitude.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Smile and Be Glad!

When Sunday night rolls around, our minds start to get ready for the week ahead. By the time Monday morning arrives, we may feel sad that the precious weekend has ended and we have to face the chore of getting up out of bed and getting into the groove of the work week. 

You have a choice!

You can decide to feel energized when the Monday morning alarm clock chimes. You can jump out of bed, ready to take on the new week with a spirit of adventure, curiosity and blessing.

You have been given the gift of this new day and this new week!

How do you want to enter that week? Regretting that the weekend is done? Or in anticipation that the new day and week will bring possibilities to you and opportunities for you to serve?

You have a choice.

Today, this week: Smile and Be Glad!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Time for Change

Change is in the air. A new season is about to begin. Spring is on its way!

As much as we may believe that some things are unchanging, we truly live in a state of impermanence. Things are always changing (including us), even if that change takes place slowly.

At other times, change comes suddenly and rapidly and feels as turbulent as a spring storm.

Using nature as our guide and the advent of spring coming upon us just days away, consider how you might be changing. Consider what you'd like to change in your life.

Change can reveal beautiful, new opportunities--whether it happens slowly or swiftly. A new season invites new ways of thinking and new opportunities. 

Today, this week: Embrace change with anticipation.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Shine On!

Some March days are rainy and dreary. Some March days might even be snowy and stormy. 

Seeing as you can't control the weather, you may as well focus on what you can control and that would be your attitude.

Even when things seem difficult or challenging or rainy or dreary or snowy or stormy, you have the power to carry sunshine in your heart and allow its bright rays to cast out to others wherever you go. 

Choose sunshine today, no matter the March weather. Shine on!

Today, this week: Bring sunshine wherever you go.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Good Hair Day

I was in the beauty salon chair recently, getting my hair trimmed, when the scent of a permanent wafted by the chair in which I was sitting. The smell of that perm took me back to when I was a little girl. 

My mom always gave herself home perms back in that era. I can recall her dividing her hair into sections, then wrapping each section meticulously around little rods, securing them into place and then dripping permanent solution from a squeeze bottle horizontally over each of the rods. The scent of a home perm was unmistakable in that era. When she was done and her hair was dried and brushed through, Mom would emerge with lovely curly locks. Like me, her hair wasn't naturally curly, yet she wanted that look, so permed hair it was.

My mom with her pretty head of permed curls and me with a bullfrog (but that's a story for another day - If you're intrigued, see my August 21, 2018 blog post: My Dad, the Snake Man - Part Two).
As a little girl, I was fascinated by Mom's hair. Sometimes, she grew it out slightly to form a French twist in the back of her head, which I always told her made her look like the female lead television star from The Honeymooners, Audrey Meadows. 

Sometimes, Mom's hair would be short and permed. Sometimes it would be dyed one color, at other times another color. My dad, who traveled for his work, would wait for us to join him during one of my school breaks. He would always joke that as we got off of the plane, he'd have to watch for me first because he wasn't sure he'd recognize my mom. He'd laugh that he didn't know what color or style her hair would be in when we arrived. Until her hair turned a beautiful white when in her 50s, Mom colored her hair because she didn't care for its natural shade, which she often referred to as an unattractive "dishwater blonde." No matter what color her hair was, natural or chosen, I always saw my mom as the most beautiful woman in the world.

Personally, I haven't felt the need to color my hair. Mine is naturally a brunette shade, just like my Dad's was. He didn't begin to show real signs of gray until he was in his 60s. I am following in his footsteps.

Only once did I let a friend "paint" some highlights in my hair when I was in college and that ended up producing some interesting red-colored results. Once was enough.

In addition to perming, my Mom was adept at pin-curling my hair when I was a little girl. She used either some little silver metal clips or bobby pins, as well as a slather of pastel-colored Dippity-Do hair-styling gel. This process created little "spit curls" (such an attractive name for them) over each ear.

Mom also trimmed my bangs, usually by placing tape across my forehead to secure my hair in place and then snipping right under the tape line using her sewing scissors. That exercise resulted in straight bangs--most of the time.

That's not to say I didn't get my hair cut at a salon, too. In fact, in some of my more independent moments, I was able to walk the few blocks from elementary school to Betty's Beauty Bar where I would meet my mom to get my hair trimmed. I always felt grown up stepping foot into that beauty parlor, as we called it back then.

Here I am at about seven or eight years old, a salon of choices on one head:
spit curls, a ponytail and home-trimmed bangs.

As a little girl and then as a teenager, I liked fiddling with my hair, trying new styles and using the latest gadgets that my Mom found useful. I was particularly thrilled when my Dad came home one day with a portable hair dryer, the kind that made me feel like a movie star. I can still remember the feeling of the elastic from the plastic cap on my head, the warm air blowing my hair around underneath. There was very little assembly required with these contraptions other than to put one end of the hose into the base of the cap. It all fit neatly into a little round suitcase. There was even a little mirror in the tufted lid to make sure you looked beautiful when you came out from under the cap.
Here I am at age four, all smiles as I sit under our fancy, new portable hairdryer.
I must have felt the need to entertain myself while under the dryer
 by playing music on my little, red plastic melodica.

As I got older, my hair went from pixie cut to long tresses parted on the side or, as was popular in the 1970s, parted in the middle, which actually made me look quite dreadful (but at least I fit in with all of the other girls who wore their hair the same way and surely looked more attractive than I).

When my junior high school French class spent a month in Europe, I came home with a shorter hairdo, a souvenir of my travel experience. From then on, I seemed to need a series of implements, gadgets and goop to keep my hair in place--everything from blow dryers to curling brushes and irons to hair sprays and gels. I was a walking salon.

Things changed, however, when I underwent chemotherapy for cancer treatment two times while in my 30s. It was strange to lose all of the hair on my head, as well as my eyelashes. After being used to seeing dark hair around my face, I suddenly looked like a foreign being anytime I glanced in the mirror. I finally had my head shaved so I didn't have to deal with the stress of having my hair fall out in clumps when I washed it, risking that it would clog the drain, or as I slept at night, causing my pillowcase to look like it had grown a layer of fur. I wore wigs each time I became bald, and although they were nice, neither felt like me.

When my hair grew back in, I realized that simply having hair made every day a "good hair day." The regrowth of my hair reminded me to be thankful of my blessings every day. After the second bout with chemo, my hair even came back in curly for a little bit-- my "chemo perm," as I used to call it.

As a result of my chemotherapy-induced hair loss twice in my adult life, I decided to wear a no-fuss hairdo going forward, one I could simply wash, comb and go. Long gone now are the implements, doodads and products I used to use to style my hair. I am simply happy just to have hair and to look like myself, even with a little gray peeking out or streaking here and there. 

Sporting my "chemo perm" and a grateful heart just to have hair again, I jumped for joy.

So, the message here is that if you have lots of hair, no hair, permed hair, straight hair, long hair, short hair, thick hair, thin hair, whatever kind of hair, remember that when you look in the mirror, every day is a "good hair day." Indeed, every day is a good day when you choose to make it that way.

Sunday Sunshine: Look for the Similarities

I read about something called The Three Sisters, meaning corn, beans and squash. When The Three Sisters are planted together, they provide support to each other's growth. 

Instead of competing and crowding each other out, they use their diversity and their differences wisely so that all three can flourish.

What a lesson! We humans could learn from The Three Sisters and from nature, in general. When we first seek to find common ground, we can then appreciate our diversity and wisely address our differences.

Where might you benefit from finding common ground?

Today, this week: Look for the similarities before the differences. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Speak Your Truth

How many times have you said yes when you wanted to say no? There are times when it's hard to find your true voice, the voice that represents your deepest-held values. Perhaps you don't want to be seen as contrary or difficult or, heaven forbid, to stand alone in your opinion.

Yes, there's risk when you say what you believe. But there is also risk if you keep those thoughts to yourself.

Be strong. Be brave. Be true to yourself and your values. Speak your truth. 

Do so respectfully. 

Do so quietly. 

Live your values through your carefully considered words and respectful actions.

The words you have to say are important. Give voice to them.

Today, this week: Be true to you. Have the courage to speak your truth.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Smile!

It's been said that when you smile, your brain registers happiness. Your heart rate and blood pressure lower. You automatically feel more optimistic and positive. Smiling is like a magic pill!

How often do you smile during the day? As children, we smile and laugh often. As adults, with our myriad distractions and concerns, most of us likely don't smile and laugh as often as our younger selves once did.

You can change that!

Smile! Bring the gifts of joy and laughter to each of your days. There is so much to enjoy.

Today, this week: Smile! Cultivate your own happiness!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Draw from a Place of Love

It's easy in this age of 24/7 news and polarizing perspectives to believe that we can do nothing to positively affect the world. We can easily forget that one of the most powerful things we can do every single day is to spread love. What better way to build a bridge during a time of so many great divides?

When we step back a moment from the things that appear to separate us and focus instead on how we might be kind, respectful, compassionate and loving, we take positive action that sends ripples of positivity in all directions. 

We benefit when we live with our whole hearts -- hearts of love, kindness and decency.

Today, this week: Draw from a place of love in all you think, say and do.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Paper Boxes, Paper Hearts

The lovely, old elementary school I attended

As an elementary school student, I rode the school bus to a lovely, old two-story, brick school with a belfry. Children from throughout our rural neighborhood, as well as those from within walking distance, formed the small student body in that lovely old building. 

The school stood on a lot the size of a city block. There was a big field for running, a playground for swinging, an asphalt area for jump roping or playing hopscotch, and a big sledding hill. The grounds were plentiful with trees, ideal for incorporating into our imaginative recess games or for scooping up autumn leaves to make into leaf forts or houses.

Among my favorite elementary school memories from those simpler times was the making of Valentines for our parents and the decorating of shoe boxes to hold the Valentines we would receive from our classmates. 

Valentines for our mommies and daddies were usually fashioned of red construction paper carefully traced and cut into heart shapes with little scissors. A heart-shaped paper doily would often be glued to the construction paper as the next step. Then, we would select small squares of tissue paper in various pastel hues and, using the blunt eraser end of our pencils, carefully wrap the tissue squares around the end of the pencil to form little flowers. The flowers would be glued into place with a spreader dipped into school paste. Sometimes, those little tissue flowers would form yet another heart on top of the doily. A "Happy Valentine's Day" message spelled to the best of our abilities in crayon would finish off our creations. 

Decorating a shoe box to hold the Valentines from our classmates was another enjoyable and much-anticipated classroom art project. Using wrapping paper and construction paper, along with more doilies and tissue paper flowers, we created vessels to hold those precious Valentines selected for us by our little friends. Sometimes, the Valentines would be handmade, while at other times they were purchased in a store. The handmade ones were always a favorite.

When was the last time you made a Valentine? Might this be the year to make such a gift from the heart?