Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Plan, Plan, Plan

Plan, plan, plan. You have daily to-do lists, work goals, projects at home. It seems as if you're always in a state of planning, thinking ahead, preparing for the future.

Sometimes, however, your plans get derailed. 

It’s during those times of derailment when you would benefit from pressing "pause," considering your reality, and then redirecting your thoughts and actions. 

When you flow with the newness that's been thrust upon you (contrary to your best-laid plans!) —and the opportunities that can come from the unexpected, you can find blessing. Those blessings can lead to satisfying, new directions that weren't even on your radar when you were busy keeping your head down planning.

Today, this week: Make your plans, but also leave space for the unexpected that may take you into satisfying, new directions you could never have imagined.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Make a Harvest of Memories

Although I'm a self-proclaimed "spring" person, I have a deep appreciation for all four of the beautiful seasons we experience here in Wisconsin. Each season has its own distinctive characteristics. Autumn in Wisconsin is a treat to all of the senses, from the palette of fall colors splashing the countryside to the taste of crisp apples and acorn squash to the scent of dry leaves as they swish and crackle underfoot. 

As a little girl, I collected brightly colored maple leaves each fall, placing them between sheets of wax paper and then nesting them between the voluminous pages of Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward catalogs to flatten and preserve the leaves before they became brittle and curled. 

We lived in the country, so a Sunday drive to take in the fall color was never necessary. All we had to do was look out of our living room or kitchen windows to see breathtaking views of autumn's finery. I got to see that beauty every weekday on the school bus as we rode through valleys and up hills, picking up and dropping off child after child to and from school.

Recess time at our quaint, old elementary school was meant for building forts, homes and castles out of fallen leaves, letting our imaginations soar with the possibilities that piles of leaves could create. 

Fall was the time to walk up the hill behind our dear neighbor, Elsie's, big farm house and pick low-hanging pears off of the trees heavy with fruit. I recall indulging in too many of our pickings one year and getting a belly ache for my efforts. 

And speaking of fruit of the season, it wouldn't be autumn in our neighborhood when I was growing up without several trips to Ski Hi Fruit Farm up the road from where we lived. The orchard is located high on a hill overlooking the Baraboo Bluffs. The owners of the orchard, Art and Olga Bassett and their children, Betty and Phil, were wonderful neighbors and dear friends. The apples they grew were always a treat -- and they still are today. My mom favored Macouns, so our home always had an ample supply of them. When I eat a Macoun apple from Ski Hi these days, I'm immediately transported back in time to when I wore knee socks and dresses to school and my mom and I would make a treat of sliced Macoun apples and popcorn every Sunday night for dinner when my dad was away for his work.

As a child, going trick-or-treating on Halloween was a safe endeavor. We'd drive into town with our neighbors, stopping at the homes of several of their family members and our friends, for the annual adventure. I didn't need to receive lots of candy, only enough to consider it a treat. My Halloween costumes varied from homemade versions of cheerleader uniforms to store-bought versions of Cleopatra. 

October also meant carving pumpkins -- nothing fancy, just triangular eyes and nose and a toothy grin. Jack-o-lanterns with a candle stuck inside of them always created a happy pumpkin-face glow.

Now that October is here, I dedicate a little time to recalling fond memories of Octobers past. I also relish all that October in Wisconsin has to offer today. Autumn is at its peak. So spend some time outdoors savoring the season and this month of harvest and riotous color. Enjoy the many simple pleasures that October has to offer: Swish through dry leaves. Tuck a few of them between the pages of a book to save for later enjoyment. Visit an apple orchard. Try your hand at carving a pumpkin. Delight young trick-or-treaters by wearing a costume when you hand out Halloween candy. 

October is a celebration for children and for the child in each of us whose youth is in the rear-view mirror. Indulge and enjoy! Make a harvest of memories during this glorious, glorious month.

Sunday Sunshine: Where am I Being Called to Serve?

Your days can feel like a blur. You're pulled in a million directions. Everyone seems to need a "piece" of your energies and time. 

Are you really that busy or does it just seem that way?

Although you may feel as if your life is a fast treadmill only increasing speed, I would challenge you to spend some time in the quiet and ask, “Where am I being called to serve?” 

Listen carefully for the answer. 

We all have gifts and talents to give for the betterment of our neighborhood, community and world.

Do you have some time -- just a little bit of time -- to give to a cause greater than yourself, a cause that resonates with your interests and values, a cause that could use your abundant talents? If you say yes, you will feel the richness of the experience and others will benefit from your generosity.

Today, this week: Consider where you are being called to serve. Where can you say yes?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Share Happiness

I read a lovely quote recently, attributed to author John Harrigan: "Happiness held is the seed. Happiness shared is the flower." So true!

When we choose to embrace happiness in our lives, it's as if we invite the sun to shine on us and to warm our souls.

But when we go one step further and share our happiness with others, it's magic! We transfer that sunshine to others and brighten the world.

And as we intentionally choose happiness and then generously share it with others, those recipients have the opportunity to share happiness, too.

Today, this week: Lift your day and that of another. Choose happiness and generously share it.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Fall's Here!

Tomorrow marks the first day of fall.

Just as the landscape changes during this season, moving from green to a brilliant palette of red, yellow, orange and russet, we, too, have an opportunity to make positive changes in our lives. 

What opportunities do the change of seasons bring to you?

Now's a perfect time to look at the circumstances of your life with new eyes and, after careful examination and consideration, change course, if needed.

Autumn will soon show its brilliant colors. Are you living your own true life, honoring your priorities and values so that your "real colors" show through?

Today, tomorrow, this week, this autumn season: Look to the change of seasons to evaluate your life and then make adjustments that honor your "true colors" -- your real, best self.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Kindness is Always in Season

Our day-to-day lives are packed with tasks. Our datebooks are filled with obligations. Every piece of paper found lying around seems to be ripe for a to-do list. 

Sure, you're in a hurry. You have a lot to do. It's easy to just put your head down and keep on keepin' on.

In your busy life, however, how often do you go out of your way to be kind, especially to a stranger?

Being kind doesn't have to be something big. It can be as simple as holding the door open for someone else. It can be sharing your smile with others as you walk by. It can be allowing someone behind you in the grocery check-out lane to go ahead of you because they have fewer items. It can be a pat on the back that you give your co-worker for a job well done. It can be a high-five you give your child. It can be making yourself totally present to someone who needs a moment of your time.

You may be busy, but you're never too busy to be kind. When you're kind to others, kindness has a lovely way of coming back to you.

Today, this week: Make room each day to be kind. Kindness is always in season. Kindness matters.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Be Positive

When things go contrary to your plans or when you're given news that you'd rather not hear, pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Take another deep breath. Then, try to look for the opportunity amidst the clouds and storms that seem to have entered your life. There's always opportunity during a difficult time.

If you look for the positive aspects in a situation, you increase your chances of seeing the possibilities there. You may have to look a little harder, but they're there.

Embrace the good. Honor the moment in which you are living. As a bonus, your positive energy will attract more positive energy to you.

When your world feels like a rainstorm, lift your face. The sunshine will find you.

Today, this week: Look for the positive. See the possibilities. Lift your face to the sun.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Back to School!

It's the beginning of another school year. Based on all that I hear from those who teach or who have school-age children, the learning experience is far more than the "reading, writing and arithmetic" that dominated my elementary school days. Yet, the joyful anticipation of the new school year is timeless.

All dressed up, loving my kindergarten school year.

I can still recall my excitement in getting a new plastic pencil case, a new box of crayons--perhaps a little bigger with more color choices than the previous year, sharp new pencils and a jar of paste. And speaking of paste, living in the country, I rode the school bus to my elementary school. On the bus was an older boy who had the wonderful first name of Pace. However, from my first-grade perspective, I thought for the longest time that his name was Paste!

The first days of school also meant a new dress. I recall my parents buying me two new dresses for the start of my third-grade school year. They were of an identical sailor design, with a wide collar and bow in front. One was sewn of olive paisley fabric and had a matching little purse, as well as olive green knee socks, while the other was made of light blue and white gingham. 

I can be seen wearing the light blue and white gingham sailor-collar dress in this photo taken during one of the first days of my third-grade school year. (To gain a better understanding as to why I am holding two Eastern Fox Snakes, see my blog post, dated August 21, 2018, My Dad, the Snake Man - Part Two.)

One year, I saved enough of my summer allowance earned from doing daily and weekly chores to help my parents to buy my own skirt and sweater. I'll never forget that outfit or the circumstances behind my buying it. Our downtown business community held an annual event on the last Saturday in July called Old Fashioned Day, when all of the downtown merchants would display discounted merchandise on the sidewalk. There were always huge savings to be had on Old Fashioned Day. With my hard-earned money in hand, we headed to Kiddie Kastle, a popular local children's clothing store on Oak Street next to the First National Bank. There I found a bright turquoise, cream and magenta plaid skirt. Then, lo and behold, on another rack, I found a turquoise turtleneck sweater that perfectly matched the skirt. Although not designed to be a matching outfit, I was able to piece the two discounted items together to create my own matching sweater and skirt set. 

Buying my own school clothing at that time wasn't the only focus of my allowance purchases. When I was 11 years old, I decided to use some of my allowance to buy my mother a new dress for her own back-to-school experience--her 25th year high school reunion in Charles City, Iowa. Once I explained what I wanted to do with some of my allowance, my parents and I headed to Reinking's, a popular store in our downtown that featured women's clothing, lingerie, fabric, sewing patterns and notions. The store had delightfully creaky wood floors, an elaborate black metal grate on the floor that led to the furnace below, dressing rooms in the back, high windows to the north, two side-by-side doors at the front entry, a display window that wrapped around the front and to the side, and an elevated platform where purchases were rung up on an old-fashioned cash register. I loved that store! What Mom ended up selecting there that day was a white linen shift, complete with a brightly colored belt and a matching hot pink, white, bright orange and lime green striped linen jacket--colors that were in vogue at that time. I was so proud to be able to purchase her special outfit for her. I even had enough money left over to buy her one of those big bright daisy pins and matching clip earrings that were popular back then.

My late mother, Barb Naidl, at her class reunion, standing at right.

My mom, second from left, in her new dress at her high school class reunion.

My back-to-school dresses didn't always have to be brand new or from a store. My mother was a wonderful seamstress who made clothes for me all the way through my junior high years, including a favorite sailor dress for my second-grade year. We even had matching mother-and-daughter, red plaid jumpers that we wore with white, long-sleeved blouses that had big loopy bows at the neckline. One year, Mom made me plaid pants with a matching jacket. She transformed her old nursing uniform cape by making a matching cape for my plaid outfit. I also often received lovely hand-me-downs from my older cousin, including dresses for all occasions.

My mom made this sailor dress for my second-grade year.

I attended elementary school in a lovely, old two-story building, called Lyons School. Those enrolled there primarily came from the surrounding neighborhood and were bused in from rural areas. Ours was a small enrollment, with class sizes that averaged no more than 15 students, so we were more like family than schoolmates. Due to the size of the geographical area that the school served and the class sizes, two classes were often housed in the same classroom and taught by the same teacher.

Lyons Elementary School

Lyons School's third and fourth grade classes.
I was in the third grade. I'm seated in the front row, third from the right.
The class sizes were so small that we often paired two classes together in one classroom.
Miss Dorothy Schoonover was our teacher that year. She was busy with two grade levels to teach at once.

Riding the school bus was also a joyful adventure. Our driver, Harold Martin, was a gentle soul who always had a ready smile and kind word. My friend, Chris, and I would often sit together on the bus and sing songs all the way to and from our school day.

Gone might be the simple pleasures and experiences of my school days, but I still feel that same excitement I did more than 50 years ago when a new pencil case, a "new" dress and an apple for the teacher were all I needed to give my school year a report card of straight As.

Wishing you a happy new school year!

Sunday Sunshine: Do Your Best

On this Labor Day weekend, we think about work: our own work and the work of others. Tomorrow, we have an entire day in which to rest, relax and appreciate these 24 hours off from our labors. Perhaps you'll enjoy the day traveling or on a picnic or with family. Perhaps you'll kick back and enjoy the luxury of a good read or a nap.

As you reflect on your work (which can include housework and volunteer work), do you enter into it with enthusiasm and a desire to give your best to the task, to the job?

When we put our whole selves into our labors, we honor the job before us. Each one of us has important work to do, whether it is in the home, in the workplace, in a volunteer setting or elsewhere.

Today, tomorrow, this week: Do your best. Give your work your best effort. Let the fruits of your labors speak for themselves.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Look Deeper

You've probably heard the adage that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. It's often true that what we see on the surface isn't the total picture. 

First impressions of people often don't give us a complete understanding of them.

When we encounter a difficult situation in our lives, it's easy to think it's all bad or all good. It's only when we look deeper that we see that our initial assessment was incomplete. Even the most difficult situation can hold a gift, something beautiful to take away from the experience.

Whether it's the first impression of a situation or of a person you meet, stop yourself before judging and making a sweeping decision. Instead, give yourself the time to look at the person or situation from a deeper, more complete perspective. 

By scratching below the surface, the beauty will reveal itself.

Today, this week: Look deeper. Allow yourself to see the beauty hidden where you may least expect it.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Be Still and Listen

We're bombarded with information these days -- coming to us from all directions, all hours of the day, mostly thanks to the technology that is as accessible as in our hands.

While it's great to receive information and to readily connect with others, such constant communication doesn't leave much time for stillness, for silence, for introspection.

When you feel overwhelmed, your head will start taking over anyway, trying to rationalize things based on information and your previous experience. That's worry, fear and doubt reside.

Rather than rely on the information overload and the head-centered thinking, step away from the technology and step away from your "talking head."

Instead, become still. Become silent. Sit for a while or perhaps take a walk. When we allow ourselves to disconnect, we actually connect. We connect to that inner wisdom that has the answers.

In the stillness, in the silence, the answers come.

Today, this week: Make time to be still and silent. Listen to your inner wisdom. The answers are there.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: State of Gratitude

How do you normally begin your day? Is it a struggle to get out of bed? Or do you leap out of bed, ready for whatever the new day brings? 

Do you first think about your worries when you awaken? Or do you start the day with a happy heart?

Begin your day in a state of gratitude. When you are thankful, you set the tone for more good things to happen.

It's as if gratitude is a magnet. The more grateful you are for what you already have, the more reasons to be grateful appear in your life. It's all about your perspective. 

There's always, always, always something to be thankful for. Start your day thinking about those blessings. It changes everything.

Today, this week: Begin your day in a state of gratitude and watch your blessings multiply.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Feeling Mellow by the Yellow

When I think of August, I think of the color yellow and I start to feel a tad mellow and even melancholy. Summer is waning. 

In May, June and July, the landscape is a vivid shade of green. Once the calendar turns to August, however, and we move through the month, that same landscape begins to turn a yellowish-green, as if it's tiring out and is tossing us some hints that autumn is coming and we'd better get ready.

August's hallmark feverish heat and brilliant sunshine are often accompanied by a dreamy haze of humid weather, including early morning fog and early evening mist. We hurry to get in some more lazy afternoons in the hammock reading a book. Or perhaps we pack up the kids and head to the water with a beach umbrella and a heavy picnic basket. 

The small garden patch's late summer produce is at its most abundant, including enough zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers to feed an entire neighborhood. Among my favorite late summer yellow food is corn on the cob nestled in its brown-tasseled husk. In our household, we make a dinner of it, usually with juicy, thick slices of tomato. By month's end, pears and early apples are available at orchards and farmer's markets.

The flowers boast their yellow color, as well: Sunflowers with their big, cheery faces, black-eyed susans in rich abundance, goldenrod peeking through the tall grasses, sunshiny gladioli and more. 

The weeds seem to relax a bit in August - a gift to any gardener. 

The sunrises and sunsets are yellow and other sherbet colors splashing across the horizon. The sun pokes its head up in the morning a little later than a month ago and it decides to go to bed for the night earlier, too. As the sun sets, we open the windows to escape from the air conditioning and invite the cool breeze and the night sounds in. The sky somehow appears thicker with stars. August is an ideal month of star gazing.

The cicadas sing to us during the day and the crickets take over in the cloak of darkness. The butterflies dance around us.

School will start soon and summer will end, all the more reason to relish every single one of the precious days of August while we can.

How do you plan to enjoy these magnificent August days and evenings?

Sunday Sunshine: Let Your Light Shine!

There are days when I've felt as if nothing I've done is right. No matter how hard I tried, some things just didn't work out. 

My efforts have been ignored or at least not acknowledged. Others have received accolades for work I've done.

It's easy to grow disheartened if your efforts don't appear to be appreciated or those you do make still don't seem to be enough or don't turn out the way you intended for them.

Take heart. Don't become discouraged. Don't be hard on yourself. Let your hurts, your self-doubts and your discouragements roll off your back. 

Keep persevering. Do your best. Be positive. Let your light shine! You have it in YOU to do great things!

As you build confidence and give it your best, you'll release the hurt and self-doubt you carry. 

Soon, circumstances will have an amazing, unanticipated way of working themselves out. New doors will open, new relationships will be formed, new ways of seeing yourself will be revealed, and new opportunities will present themselves.

Today, this week: Do your best! Be confident! Let your light shine! 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Flow with the Winds of Change

Change - that annoying, exhilarating thing that always seems to be present in our lives. Even when we think that nothing much is new or is changing very much, change is still happening--be it slow, subtle or even outside of our direct notice. 

Sometimes change is fun. We've instigated it so we feel the fruits of our labors when things happen. 

At other times, change is exciting because it comes as a pleasant, unexpected surprise--a gift to disrupt the humdrum predictability of life.

And then, there are those times when change is so unwelcome that we'd like to swiftly close the door on it and prevent it from happening.

It's during those rough spots with change that we need to re-frame our thinking. When we flow with the winds of change, even those winds that feel like a gale or a tornado or a hurricane, we can maneuver the change with greater ease. You may end up somewhere new--perhaps not geographically, but through the way you see things or through the people you meet.

Think about how you respond to change and how you might alter your ways to navigate change's winds more positively.

Today, this week: Flow with the winds of change. They may very well take you to great, new places.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Pursue Your Dreams

We all have hopes and dreams. 

Sometimes, the reality of our lives causes for our dreams to be postponed, cast aside or ignored altogether.

Perhaps you want to write a novel, backpack through Europe, go back to school, take up the piano, move to a big city or to a country retreat, or start a business.

What dreams do you have that are burning to become reality? What step might you take today to help make one of those dreams come true? 

Just one small step will help set you on the path. You can do it! You'll be so glad you did!

Don't look back one day with regret that you didn't give your dreams priority.

Today, this week: Think about the dreams you have for your life. Then, take that crucial first step.

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.