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?

Sunday Sunshine: Connect with Your Heart

There are times when the path seems shrouded in fog, a needed decision just out of reach. What to do? What direction is the right direction?

Take a moment to grow silent, to grow still. When you intentionally empty the din from your head and allow yourself to relax, the answers come. The more you apply pressure and add to your stress by hearing only the chatter in your head, the harder it is to hear the answer that is right for you, the one that is based on possibility instead of fear.

Short-circuit that judgmental, fear-based chatter in your head and listen more deeply to the wisdom of your heart. 

Today, this week: When the way seems unclear, grow silent and still, and connect with the messages from the heart.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Always Be Kind

Last spring, I had the occasion to sit on a bench in a beautiful botanical garden. Carved into the bench's backrest were these words attributed to J. M. Barrie: "Always be a little kinder than necessary."

There is always an opportunity to be kind and to be kinder than necessary. 

Admittedly, there are times when being kind stretches our very being. It takes all of our might not to lash out. The other person might be in a bad mood or might have said or done something rude or might have been inconsiderate of our feelings.

But kindness changes things. It stops a negative energy cycle in its place. Kindness brightens the day for you and it might even change the behavior of others. 

When you choose to be kind, even more so than necessary, you bring sunshine through your words, thoughts and deeds.

Today, this week: Be kind, always.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: See the Good Everywhere

There will be times in our lives when we experience rainy days, dark nights, shadows and storms. Those difficult times provide the opportunity to break us or to make us into better people. 

When my mother was within the last hours of her life, a friend gave me a small brass leaf on which was inscribed the words "Give Thanks." Her thoughtful gesture, with its simple, yet profound message, changed my perspective. 

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, sadness and fear as Mom and I said our final goodbye, I began to start counting my blessings for having had such a wonderful mother, for having had such a delightful relationship with her and for having had the opportunity to walk her final journey with her. 

Soon, that difficult moment, though still filled with sadness, was equally filled with blessing and goodness.

There is indeed blessing everywhere, even when it appears hidden from view. Make time to change your perspective, to find blessing and the good will emerge.

Today, this week: See the good, even in the difficult moments. There is blessing, there is beauty everywhere, even when it seems hidden.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Expand Your Horizons

If you live somewhere in the north, chances are you may be seeing at least some snow right now. There can be vast expanses of pristine, white snow at times during the winter months. Whenever I encounter one of those beautiful landscapes where snow seems to go forever, uninterrupted and beautiful, I think about my own horizons. 

A new year represents a clean slate, a fresh start. You, too, are a clean slate. You, too, can make a fresh start. 

Perhaps it's a new way of taking care of yourself -- a healthier diet, integrating more exercise into your day or turning off the technology in the evening so you can get a good night's rest. 

Perhaps you want to learn a new skill or study a new subject or meet new friends or try a new recipe. 

Perhaps there are new roads to be traveled, new places to visit.

Today, this week: Expand your horizons. Spend time learning something new about yourself and the world.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Feel the Adventure, See the Possibility

It's January! In the northern climes, that means short days, cold nights, and lots and lots of snow (perhaps not this year just yet, but we've just begun the month). I sometimes dream of being a "snow bird," one of those adults who fly south to avoid what January has to dish out in Wisconsin.

But then I think of my childhood and how snow meant only one thing: Play! As a little girl, I loved snow and I loved to play in the snow. There were snow forts to be built, snow angels to be formed, snow-topped hills for sledding (and hot cocoa to follow, complete with marshmallows!), and big expanses of our home's backyard for tromping around. Every snowy day was filled with the possibility for adventure, even when snow crept into my hand-knit mittens, forming an icy crust and turning my wrists pink from exposure.

Snowy Days were meant for playing when I was a child.
When I reached school age, snow was still exciting because there might be an occasional Snow Day when the school buses didn't run and school was called off for the day due to a storm. Our home was set back from the busy highway. Digging out our driveway was a task unto itself. There was adventure everywhere, even in the tougher snow-removal jobs. If we weren't completely dug or plowed out, I would trek through the snowy depths to wait for the school bus, my puffy snow pants making that characteristic swishing sound as I walked.

My mom was still smiling after helping my dad shovel snow from our front door.
These days, I tend to look at snow as less of an adventure and more as an irritant. Snow gets in the way of my going out and about when I want to go out and about. It means loading on extra layers of clothes that make moving more of a chore. It means black ice and slippery sidewalks. It means making winter boots part of my everyday fashion statement. It means mounds of snow in the street that require special navigational skills.

Snow is a novelty in November. It's Currier-and-Ives-Christmas-Card-Beautiful in December. By January, however, I'm already tiring of snow (and you don't even want to know what I think when it's still snowing in March -- or mid-April when we experienced not one, but two snowstorms last year!).

If we didn't have the snow, though, would I love each subtle sign, each increasing minute of daylight, each blade of green grass and each burst of spring? Probably not. I would likely take that loveliness for granted.

So as I contemplate the prospect of snowstorms and blizzards during this rather long, 31-day month, I know deep in my heart that the snow still offers opportunity to me. It might not be in the form of a snow day or a snow fort, but it does offer time for reflection. There is something peaceful about sitting in the silence and watching the black, gray and white world around me where the occasional bright red cardinal darts into the depths of the evergreens outside of our kitchen window.

The snow also offers possibility for recreation. I keep saying I'd like to try snowshoeing, so if and when more snow comes, this might be the year!

It's all about our perspectives, be it a snowy day or something else we perceive as an obstacle or unwelcome experience. How we choose to see our experiences is what they will be to us. When we choose to see the opportunity in our every encounter, the burden of placing a value of good or bad on that encounter fades. Instead, it becomes filled with possibility. 

See the possibilities in your life today.

Every day is filled with possibility!

Sunday Sunshine: Shine!

After conducting an informal survey on social media, I learned that a brief, positive, pick-me-up post on Sunday mornings would potentially be more beneficial to readers of this blog than a Monday morning post. Monday mornings tend to be hectic for many of us, leaving little time to read a blog post while racing around to get ready for the work and school week. So, beginning today, Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday officially ends and will be replaced by Sunday Sunshine. Each Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m. Central Time this year, you’ll find a brief post on this blog designed to give you encouraging, affirming, positive thoughts to end your weekend and jump-start your week. So, here’s the first Sunday Sunshine post for 2019:

You've likely heard that biblical passage about not allowing your light to be hidden under a bushel basket. Don't conceal your talents, your abilities and those things that make you uniquely you. The light that is you is meant to be brightly lit and cast out in the open where it can be appreciated.

Perhaps it's shyness that keeps your light flickering. It might be not wanting to stand out for fear that someone will find fault. It might be that you equate shining with showing off. Maybe you're afraid of what your light might do for you -- in positive ways! 

Don't let your negative "head" messages keep you from being your unique and beautiful self. You have so much to offer. Release the shackles of your shyness. Sweep away those inhibitions. Come out from under that bushel basket and shine on!

Today, this week: Let your light shine!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Affirming Words: A New Year! A Clean Slate!

Consider adopting these Affirming Words for this month. Say them often to yourself -- whenever you see yourself in a mirror, when you get out of bed to start the day, whenever you need a little pick-me-up:

I look at this new year as a clean slate and an opportunity for new experiences, new adventures and new ways of being and thinking. I welcome this new year!