Monday, April 30, 2012

Giving Way to May

How is it possible that it is already the last day of April?  From a little girl on, I have always looked forward to April, May and June, wishing that those three months would stretch themselves out to equal six months.  And now, one-third of those delightful three months will be over, as of tomorrow.  In a normal Wisconsin weather year, April is that first breath of warm fresh air.  It's the month when daffodils and tulips brighten yards.  It's that month when the bare trees begin to leaf out and there's just a haze of spring green on the landscape.  The grass turns real, true green.  The birds begin to wake me up again in the morning with their happy song.  How can I let go of April?  But, alas, that's when I'm reminded that each day is precious, each day holds beauty, each day is a time for renewal and hope.  So, as I release my clenched fists and let April fly out of my cupped hands, I realize that May is being placed there instead, with all of its virtues and blessings.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mouse Trap

As a child, I loved it when my mom would read me stories about cute, little mice wearing cute, little clothes who lived in hollowed out trees; their cute, little homes decorated with thread spools as tables and other cute, little things. To this day, I periodically use notecards featuring precious, smiling, little mice carrying strawberries on their backs or wearing dresses and horizontally striped knee socks. It's all so cute. However, it's another thing to find you have mice in your home. Larry and I recently discovered evidence that two mice (now dead, may they rest in peace) were sharing our condo with us and, despite the stories of my youth and my darling, little notepaper, I freaked out. I am tidy to the point of being fastidious (just ask my poor husband). I am not a collector of anything. I decorate in a plain and simple fashion with minimal "stuff" on display. I prefer gifts of experiences over gifts of things. Our larder is just about as empty as someone who is preparing to move -- I buy only what food we're going to eat that week. Despite the clean, spartan atmosphere, a mouse and spouse had found our home appealing. So, what to do? We hired a pest control service. We deep cleaned. We threw out. We recycled. We gave away.  And we plugged crevices outside that might be inviting to mice. And now we wait to see if we're the only tenants of our condo once again or if we still have "cute, little" friends trying to live rent-free with us.  Given that I don’t like to harm any living thing, my willingness to strike down our mice couple surprised – and somewhat saddened -- me.  I'll still reminisce about the mouse stories that Mom used to read to me and I'll likely still use notepaper featuring illustrations of anthropomorphic mice wearing human clothes, but I'll still hope that they stay outside or in their own home in the hollowed-out tree with the thread spool as their table.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Giving From the Heart

For most of my professional career, I've had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of people's boundless generosity.  For nearly 12 years now, I've been a fundraiser, but for the 15 years prior, I was a public relations director/volunteer coordinator.  In that previous position, I first learned just how generously people give from the heart, not expecting any remuneration or recognition, just the pure joy of giving so that our world will be a brighter place.  April is National Volunteer Month, and Larry and I attended a recent dinner to recognize our local hospital's volunteers.  One volunteer was recognized that evening for 49 years of service.  I know that woman, and our hospital is not the only place where she volunteers.  Ida is one busy woman, always giving to organizations that have meaning to her.  My mom was an active volunteer, particularly in her retirement years.  When I composed her obituary, it was almost mind-boggling just how many organizations I listed that had benefited from her time and talent.  We all have something precious to give for the betterment of our neighborhood, community or world.  I would challenge us all to find those organizations whose values resonate with our own and to give of our time, talent and treasure.  We will be better people for it and the world will be better, too.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lilac Loveliness

The French Lilac outside of our kitchen window has been blooming and I just couldn't resist.  I had to make some bouquets and bring them into our home.  Their beautiful purple color and heady fragrance were calling me.  The scent of lilacs takes me back to my childhood.  If I close my eyes and take a whiff, I'm a little girl once again at our home out in the country.  One sight of lilacs makes me recall my mom as a young woman, busy gathering white and purple lilac bouquets for our house.  Her bouquets would be placed in antique pitchers, while mine are in clear canning jars.  Mom's would be artfully arranged while mine appear casually plunked. Mom had that special way of making something exquisite out of the ordinary. She had a knack for decorating.  She brought beauty to every place she lived.  The lovely lilacs are blooming and with them are blooming memories of my lovely mom.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sylvan Quiet

Larry and I like to walk at a place called Steinke Basin.  The lovely wooded setting isn't as well-known as other parts of Devil's Lake State Park, so we don't usually run into a lot of people.  As we make the ascent up the gravel road to the top of the lake's east bluff, the tall grasses give way to forest.  The tree canopies on either side of us lean over our heads, nearly touching each other.  Occasionally, you hear the scurrying of a little animal or the gurgling of a thin stream of water or the call of a bird, but often, it is sylvan quiet, a wooded area filled with beauty and silence except for the sound of our feet scraping on the gravel.  We often walk at Steinke Basin without much conversation because there is such joy in being together in such a special place. As we reach the top of the trail, we spend a few moments sitting on a bench, lifting our heads to the sky to enjoy the view. We know a husband and wife who exchanged their marriage vows at Steinke Basin. We have a good friend who often hiked that area with her late husband.  And my own late mom loved walking through those woods with her best friend Lou.  Mom and Lou shared a love of nature that was so deep that they often took walks or drives in our Baraboo Hills.  When I think of spring, I think of their Sunday afternoon nature excursions. How fortunate I am to have a husband who shares that same love of beautiful outdoor places where silence is golden.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bend But Don't Break

I recently read a quote attributed to Hal Borland (1900-1978), the celebrated American author and journalist:  "The earth has its own pulse and rhythm, and the wise and fortunate man leans with the wind."  The evening before reading that sentence, I had had a conversation with an acquaintance about potentially changing circumstances in her work setting.  She stated calmly and with a smile that she would simply need to adapt, that she had found adaptability to be a necessity in both her personal and professional lives.  It was a brief conversation but her comments stuck with me. She had learned the invaluable ability to lean with the wind.  It got me to thinking about those times when I've adapted in a nearly effortless fashion, how other times I've had to really work at it, and yet other times I found that bending seemed harder than just simply breaking from the wind gusts.  Change requires adaptability and today's life is filled with escalating change.  How does one survive it all and perhaps even thrive?  I do believe that the answer's in the wind, leaning with it, that is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pen in Hand

My good friend Kitty told me about a letter she discovered from an ancestor and what amazing penmanship he had.  Her story made me think of a letter my late mom had received from her paternal grandfather when she was a small girl. She still had it among her keepsakes at the time of her passing.  Great-grandfather's handwriting was beautiful, too.  At one time, handwriting was so important, but today it is being quickly relegated to those "things we used to do," due to the advent of the keyboard.  I greatly admire the handwriting of my friends Donna and Julie.  As I have watched them write, their pens glide across the paper and what is left behind is consistently legible, artistic, creative and beautiful.  I, on the other hand, have handwriting that changes with the years and my moods.  I've written slanted backward and slanted forward, straight up and down, large and loopy, small and tense, strictly cursive and other times nearly printing.  Despite the convenience of email and texting, I love to receive and send hand-written notes.  So long as my handwriting remains legible and there's still notepaper to write on, I'll keep committing pen to paper.  And maybe, just maybe, someday through much practice, my handwriting will become as lovely as Donna and Julie's (but don't count on it!).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Comes with Attachments

I have a very good and wise female friend -- a retired teacher -- who never fails to teach me things.  Gloria is calm and level-headed and pragmatic.  Even in the face of stress and sorrow, I have never seen her flustered.  Gloria's a lifelong learner who continues to share her knowledge in and out of the classroom. So, it shouldn't surprise me that I would receive yet another valuable lesson recently from my teacher friend.  Gloria and her husband have a grown family and have decided to downsize.  They designed and built their home when they had a bustling house of sons.  After the boys moved out, they've graciously invited others to stay with them when they've been in need.  Their home has been the place for family celebrations and gatherings with friends.  It was there where Larry and I ate dinner the night following my mom's memorial service.  Yet, with all of the happy memories (and likely some sad ones, too), Gloria and her husband are ready to part with their home.  And Gloria is being practical about it.  She said that she doesn't get attached to the places where she lives.  I, on the other hand, cry when I trade in my car and I've wept horribly when leaving even a place I simply rented.  Although I'm not a materialistic person, I seem to grow attached to silly things like 10-year-old cars and my residences.  Gloria is teaching me an important lesson that home is not a place but, rather, what we do with where we live, how we welcome others into it, and how we make memories there.  Thanks, Gloria.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. And on this day, I think of my mom who embraced Native American wisdom about the sacred nature of our planet.  Among her cherished possessions was a bookmark with the following quote attributed to Chief Seattle in 1854:  "Mother Earth - The earth is our mother.  Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the children of the earth.  This we know.  The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.  All things are connected like the blood which unites one family.  We did not weave the web of life; we are merely strands in it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves."  At the time of Mom's death, I collected writings that I felt were significant to her and we included them in the written program handed out at her memorial service.  The Chief Seattle quote was among those included writings.  As we observe Earth Day today, I feel a closeness to my mom and her preserve-the-Earth values. And like Chief Seattle, I honor my role as a mere strand in the web of life.  Happy Earth Day.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


My husband would love to see us get a new television for our living room but I'm stubbornly hanging onto the one we have.  Purchased in the 1990s, its screen was at one time more than adequate for a typical living room.  But with the size of screens growing exponentially over recent years, our current TV now resembles more of the size of a computer monitor screen than the flat-screen TVs available today.  And this isn't the first such smaller screen TV we've had in recent years.  Just as our former TV set pooped out and Larry thought we could finally get a big-screen TV, we emptied my mom's apartment and ended up with her television.  My parents were products of the Great Depression when waste was considered a four-letter word.  Their values became my values.  Therefore, tossing away a perfectly good, though smaller-screen, television just doesn't agree with me.  When this TV does bite the dust, we're fortunate that there is at least one local business that takes old electronics for safe disposal and recycling and prevents us from tossing more junk into our landfills.

Friday, April 20, 2012

First Earth Day

I celebrated the first Earth Day as an 11-year-old in 1970. I was a sixth grade student at Gordon L. Willson Elementary School. Between my newly built school and the driver's education range connected to the adjacent high school was a small ravine that had sadly become a dumping ground. I was among a group of students from my school asked to clean up the trash that had accumulated in that ravine. That experience awakened my consciousness of the earth and brought about a realization for me of the degradation that was happening to the Earth due to human carelessness. That first Earth Day also empowered me to do my own small part to help save the planet. Reduce, reuse and recycle became part of my DNA. I began to question what I buy and why. That eventually led to embracing the notion of living more simply. Later, I adopted non-toxic cleaning methods. Still later, I began to examine what food choices I was making, which led to purchasing more organic and local foods. That first Earth Day 42 years ago was a gift in my life and it continues to shape how I live today.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Little Squirrel!

Little Squirrel!  Those two words pop out of my mouth repeatedly when in the car.  It seems as if squirrels are always contemplating running out in front of my vehicle and all I can think to say is, "Little Squirrel!"  I hit a squirrel once while driving to work many years ago and I cried the entire rest of the way to work.  I couldn't bear to think that I had killed a living thing with my car (I'm the same one who "saves" spiders and carries them outdoors to place in the grass).  So, since then, I cry out to the squirrels that fancy darting out in front of me.  Larry always laughs and says that the squirrels are smart enough to stop and dash back the other direction, but I still carry the sadness and guilt of having run over that poor squirrel so many years ago.  What if that squirrel was someone's mother, father, brother or sister and its presence was missed in the leafy nest high up in the tree that night?  I've always been anthropomorphic so I can imagine the sad little squirrel family without their loved one because I had hit it with my car.  So, to avoid any more squirrel casualties, I'll be that crazy lady in the car crying out, "Little Squirrel!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Best Friends with Baking Soda

Baking soda, how do I use thee?  Let me count the ways:  Use it to clean the bathtub instead of scouring powder.  Mix with a little water into a thick paste to clean the inside of the oven.  Mix with more water to make an all-purpose cleaner. Combine with white vinegar and clean a drain.  Sprinkle in the bottom of trash cans to reduce odors.  Shake onto carpets and vacuum to freshen the room.  Remove grease from kitchen surfaces and from clothing.  Get rid of countertop stains.  Boost detergent and freshen the laundry.  One could lose count of baking soda's many possible uses, aside from baking.  In my continuous effort to use non-toxic cleaning solutions, baking soda has become a staple. Many cleaning products contain dangerous, corrosive ingredients.  Baking soda is a great alternative:  It's versatile, it's cheap, it's natural, and it's right on the grocer's shelf.  So, as another Earth Day rolls around and I take stock of what eco-friendly decisions I can make, I'm grateful for the many ways that baking soda freshens my world without harming it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Totally Awesome

One of my friends asked me recently to write a blog post about everyday words that have become so overused that they're annoying.  The word that irritated her the most during our conversation was "awesome." A word that at one time meant inspiring awe has now turned into a slang term meaning  impressive.   So, it's not unusual these days to hear someone say that something very impressive is totally awesome.  Another everyday word that seems to get overused lately is "sweet."  And guess what?  If you look up the slang definition of that word online, it means "awesome!"  Is everything in our life these days so incredibly impressive that we can't find other words to describe our experience?  What about saying something is beautiful or brilliant or magnificent or amazing or unbelievable or even great?  If we could just expand our vocabularies, even a bit, it'd be really sweet.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Just Dandy

I love dandelions.  I was thrilled to see them blooming already in March this year.  They have such happy, little yellow faces and they bloom from spring all the way until fall.  It makes me sad to think that these perennials have been given the maligned distinction of weeds.  When did we decide that dandelions were no longer flowers?  Why did we determine that these pops of color were no longer welcome in the expanse of our lawns?  In our quest for that elusive and endless green carpet, we've lost sight of the beauty of dandelions.  As a little girl growing up in the country, we weren't concerned about weeds in our big yard.  Consequently, I had a lot of opportunity to pick dandelions to make a bouquet for our home.  Fortunately, Mom never told me that dandelions were undesirables.  Instead, we celebrated their beauty and when their blossoms turned to cottony seed heads, we blew their seeds to the wind, only to bring about even more dandelions.  We humans eat dandelion greens and drink dandelion wine.  Let's celebrate the yellow sunshine of blooming dandelions in the grass while we're at it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fairy Tales

When I was a little girl of about six or seven years of age, I fell in love with some little paper dolls that came out of a Jack and Jill children's magazine.  I always loved it when Mom bought Jack and Jill for me.  We'd read every story together and do all of the puzzles.  One particular issue featured paper dolls of little fairies dressed in clothing made of flowers.  My favorite was a sweet little fairy with a dress made out of a violet blossom, with an even tinier violet blossom perched on her head like a hat.  I played and played and played with those paper dolls, fascinated by the fairy world I was imagining for them.  In fact, I played with them until the paper clothing tabs ripped off and the dolls themselves got bent up and finally had to be tossed. At this time of year, as I walk past front yard after front yard with violets carpets, I think back to my favorite paper dolls and wonder, just wonder if any of those violets in the yards I pass are the wardrobe of some little spring fairies.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ladybugs, Nightcrawlers and Spring Green

These early spring days have been sublime and the signs of the season are everywhere.  The nightcrawlers have been out on the sidewalks in the morning. I have to tiptoe around them so as not to squish them.  After all, the robins need their nourishment and they may not find a squished bit of nourishment quite as appealing.  The flowering crab apples are in full bloom and the air has that fragrant, spicy spring scent.  An honest-to-goodness ladybug (not to be confused with the Asian Lady Beetle) was on my car door the other day. I caught myself standing outside of my car talking to it.  And then there's the color, that heavenly array of light shades of spring green in the landscape, revealing the budding of trees in various stages of leafing out.  Who couldn't love spring with all of its daily surprises?  Each spring day is like a gift of hope, renewal and life, wrapped in a spring-green package, tied with a bow of forsythia and flowering crab blossoms.  Ah, bliss!

Friday, April 13, 2012

It Just Clicks

While talking with an out-of-state relative recently, I mentioned something about our TV clicker and found that the other person didn't have the vaguest idea of what I was talking about.  When we finally resolved that I was referring to the remote control, we both laughed and I chalked up my use of "clicker" as something unique to our household.  My faith in my use of the English language -- even with its regional slang -- was restored when attending a conference a week later.  The speaker had to stop his presentation mid-sentence in order to ask for, you guessed it, the "clicker" so that he could advance his PowerPoint presentation.  And, amazingly, everyone in the room knew what he meant!  So perhaps "clicker" is another one of those words unique to Wisconsin, like "bubbler" (for drinking fountain).  Whatever the case may be, referring to our remote control as a "clicker", well, it just clicks!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

1,500 Miles

I learned recently that the food we eat travels an average of 1,500 miles before it arrives on our plate.  The speaker who related this startling statistic suggested that, ideally, our purchases should include 25% or more food that comes from our region.  But the reality is that we likely consume less than 2%.  Our food system is broken, according to the speaker.  Junk food is cheaper.  There are food "deserts" where urban and rural people aren't able to find healthy, fresh food choices.  The water tables are falling, which makes it more difficult to irrigate large industrial farms. An average of 775 farms was lost per year between 1975 and 2006.  The good news, however, is that more and more small farms are being started by young people.  The demand for fresh food is growing. And my state, Wisconsin, has been identified as a national leader in local food, ranking #2  in the number of organic farms.  Farmer's markets and community shared agriculture (CSA) farms are flourishing. But because of that growing interest in fresh food, the demand is actually outpacing the supply.  The old adage is true:  We are what we eat.  With some planning, conscious behavior and cooperative effort to increase accessibility to healthy food, "what we are" will look even better in the future.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I've been re-reading many of "The Cat Who..." mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun lately.  They're a quick, fun read, and it's been a bit since I last indulged in them.  The protagonist of the series is a journalist who inherits unimaginable wealth.  This causes him to move with his two Siamese, Koko and Yum Yum, to a community "up north" to collect and deal with his windfall.  In the latest book I've been reading, the author refers to "cater-corner," meaning something diagonal to something else.  A new word for me!  I've always said kitty-corner and I've heard catty-corner, but never cater-corner.  Of course, I had to consult the dictionary and then seek some online sources to try to find the origins of the word. You'd think I would've been able to leap to its etymology after having earned a minor in French in college.  Cater-corner reportedly comes from a four-spot dice, with "cater" having been derived from the French word for "four" - quatre.  The assumption is made that "cater" meant the opposite side of a square.  I wasn't able to find a definitive origin of the word but it was fun to do the research.  My late father always urged me to consult a dictionary when encountering a new word.  So, Dad, I followed your advice and can now add "cater-corner" to my vocabulary!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


It seems that the three words I've been saying the most lately are "God bless you."  Everywhere I go, people are sneezing.  Recent television news programs and newspapers have been reporting on this year's increase in seasonal allergy sufferers, attributing the trend to our early spring.  Itchy eyes and incessant sneezing seem to be in season right now, along with the leafing maples and spring flowers.  I used to suffer from seasonal allergies more severely than I do these days and I attribute some of my relief to flaxseed.  I read a year ago that adding flaxseed to your diet can help relieve inflammation and that inflammation is at the heart of seasonal allergies.  I suddenly realized that, correlation or not, my seasonal allergies had improved dramatically and I had been eating more flaxseed.  So far (knock on wood), I've managed to get through this first phase of allergy season with barely a sneeze. Whether the flaxseed is the reason or not, it's nutritious and tasty, so I'll keep eating it. Meanwhile, I'll keep wishing those around me "God bless you."

Monday, April 9, 2012


At my workplace, we are being encouraged to take part in several wellness challenges this year.  My first challenge is to drink more water.  Throughout my adulthood, I've been poor at drinking enough fluids.  But, I'm changing my ways.  My specific challenge is to drink at least 48 ounces of water in a 24-hour period for 21 days.  That's reportedly the period of time it takes to develop or change a habit.  Drinking more water takes some effort on my part but it's amazing how much better I feel now that I'm doing so.  The human body is reported to be made chiefly of water.  Replenishing that all-important water supply in our bodies is a gift to our brains, organs, tissues, vessels and more.  You feel sated and less inclined to snack when you drink enough water.  Your pores plump up, making those of us with crow's feet and "fine lines" possibly look a tad younger.  Granted, I feel a bit buoyant drinking so much water and I sometimes wonder if the whites of my eyes have visible waves, like a 1960s cartoon character, or if I run, you'll hear me slosh.  But, I'm up to the challenge for these 21 days, and I plan to keep adding days until drinking my eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day is something I do without giving it a second thought.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Song

I've noted before in this blog one of my favorite hymns, "Hymn of Promise," by Natalie Sleeth.  That lovely piece of music has been going through my head recently. The beautifully written lyrics tell of nature's spring awakening, reflections about our own endings and beginnings, and the magnificent mysteries that surround us. "Hymn of Promise" seems to be such an appropriate hymn for Easter and for spring, when all is about hope and promise.  I celebrate this Christian holiday today but I also see this day as one to think about my own renewal, my own endings and beginnings, the beauty of nature all around me, and the mysteries that I continue to encounter and embrace.  There is much to celebrate on this special day.  Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Seeing Spring

The other day, my friend and work colleague Cathy forwarded to a few women from the office a lovely poem by Su Tung-p'o.  Written in 1077, the author examined the many beautiful elements of spring, from flowering pear tree blossoms to the greening of the willows, ending with the question, "In a lifetime how many springs do we see?"  As I have been enjoying our long spring this year and the subtly ever-changing landscape, I, too, wonder how many times I have truly paid attention to the beauty of spring.  Examining the author's question more deeply and assigning my own interpretation to it, I think of how there is always something beautiful to find in life, there is always a spring somewhere, something of which to be keenly aware and for which to be deeply grateful.  As a little girl in our church's children's choir, the other children and I sang a song called Summer in My Heart that contained the lyrics, "Ev'n in winter time, it's summer in my heart."  So, I challenge myself to see as many springs as I can around me in each and every day and to remember that regardless of the seasons, it's summer in my heart.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nothing Wrong Here

These days, we're becoming more and more acquainted with writers who conserve words and time by texting acronyms, such as LOL, Internet slang for Laugh (or Laughing) Out Loud.  I thought such abbreviated communication was a current-day invention.  However, I recently learned that the British author Beverley Nichols (1898-1983) reportedly was using his own texting-style slang as long as a century ago.  Specifically, he reportedly used the letters N.W.H., which stand for Nothing Wrong Here.  Supposedly, Mr. Nichols wrote those initials in the upper left-hand corner of envelopes when writing to friends.  Just seeing those initials must have told the reader that things were alright.  How often do we humans prefer to share bad news instead of good (perhaps that's why gossip is so tantalizing)? How much is "the news" that we hear, see and read really a litany of the myriad bad and sad things happening in our world?  What would happen if there was an "N.W.H." news show where only good news could be told? Would the show capture people's attention and survive the ratings wars?  In our everyday lives, what if we made it a practice to share only positive thoughts and news with others, refraining from the dreary and potentially hurtful?  How would all of that affect the collective psyche of our world?  I daresay I'd like to experience it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In the Thick of It

The fog was dense yesterday morning, so dense that you could only see a few yards ahead of you.  So dense that the thick, gray sky entirely cloaked buildings, leaving only a view of the outlines of trees that were right in front of you.  People walking across the street seemed to come out of nowhere.  Everything looked eerie and strange and unfamiliar -- and dark.  It didn't take long for the shroud to be lifted. The sun came up and burned off the fog, turning the morning into a bright and brilliant spectacle.  But until then, the day was moody and I have to say that I liked it.  Fog is mysterious and it always feeds my imagination. On such days, if I had my choice, I'd stay tucked inside curled up in my easy chair with a good read.  Foggy days remind me of vintage British mysteries where the fog seems to always roll in to London right at the moment when someone is walking alone, looking over his or her shoulder for the source of suspicious noises.  Alas, I wasn't home reading a mystery yesterday.  I was driving through it instead on my brief commute to a new work day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Building Muscle

I recently read that imagination is like a muscle -- it needs exercise.  I'd never thought about it in that way, but it makes sense to me. The older I get, the more I feel shackled by all of my planning and organizing.  I realize that in the work setting, in particular, goal-setting and planning are necessary to holding everyone accountable, achieving results and keeping an organization on track.  However, there are times when I just want to burst outside of my sterile and staid planner/organizer-self, where things feel predictable and prescribed, and simply let my imagination fly.  As much as I don't always like to embrace change, there are times when I'm compelled to leap outside of the constraints of status quo and do some visioning, letting my imagination soar beyond anyplace that has boundaries or is even comfortable for me.  I've been doing a lot of that type of thinking over the past year -- private visioning, I guess you'd call it, where I allow myself time to contemplate, stretch my thinking to its farthest horizons and determine how that bigger vision might be of benefit to me and hopefully to others.  I may not achieve the status of a Mr. (Ms.!) Universe, but I am really enjoying the time I've been spending on building my imagination "muscles."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Generally Speaking

Nowadays, everyone has a specialty, if they're someone.  Not me.  My so-called specialty is being a generalist.  I know a little about a few things but not particularly a lot about any one thing.  My brain just isn't wired that way.  I like the idea of embracing something new, then eventually moving on to learn or experience something else.  I greatly value those who are specialists because they are often experts who have the capacity to make the world a better place with their expertise.  Both my father and mother were specialists in that they had lifelong careers in their particular fields of choice. They were known for their specialties, my mom a nurse and my dad an expert in reptiles.  How in the world did they hatch me?  Rather than force me to be something I wasn't, my parents accepted and encouraged my liberal arts interests.  Despite the increasing emphasis on specializing these days, I'm becoming more and more pleased with floating around in my interests, dabbling a little in this and then a little in that.  The next time someone asks me about my specialty, I'll proudly say Generalism.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Eating At Me

There's been a lot of buzz lately about a new book by Tracie McMillan called The American Way of Eating (Scribner).  I heard an interview with the author and have read a couple of reviews, but haven't read the book yet.  From what I've read and heard, however, Ms. McMillan embedded herself in places where people grow crops, purchase groceries and dine out, researching how people in America eat and the factors that prevent them from always having access to healthy food.  Food insecurity, food hardship and hunger are all around us.  I read in a University of Wisconsin-Extension report that in my own state, the number of people who were uncertain if they would have enough food rose to 11.8% within the past couple of years.  In my own county during that same period, between 12.7% and 13.8% of the population suffered from food hardship --when people don't always have money to buy the food they need.  Thankfully, there are great people seeking powerful solutions to hunger, from dedicated food pantry volunteers to those who teach families about gardening and canning, and more.  My late mother had been very involved with our local food pantry for many years.  I'm grateful to people like my mom who are using their energies to lift others up and see that they have a good meal.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No Foolin'

Call me silly (or even foolish on this April Fool's Day), but the older I get, the more I embrace the mysteries of life, including a deepening connection to loved ones from my past.  Recently, I so needed a conversation with my late mom.  Her advice always made things right again.  So, I tossed my intentions out into the universe and they were answered.  My "conversation" with Mom came through a book by Gladys Taber, Mom's favorite author.  There, in lightly penciled notations in margins and brackets around passages, I was able to find the quiet counsel I was needing -- gentle, loving advice that sounded as if it was coming from Mom's lips to my ear.  Anymore, I believe that angels come to us often and in a variety of ways.  That evening, I was grateful to have connected with one of my most precious angels for a conversation that I needed so badly.