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?

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!