Blessings, It's About Living Better, Thoughts of the Day

Happy Birthday

This was mom’s Birthday week. Had she continued to walk on this earth she’d have celebrated 86 birthdays. She was 24 when I was born and 32 when the sixth child arrived. She could sing alto in the choir, work in the school cafeteria, dance in front of the TV, create feather flowers with the neighbors, drove the get-away car while we papered houses, and we could hear her calling at 9 pm, three blocks away. I’ve been thinking a lot about her this week.

I know my mom baked birthday cakes for us every year… I just don’t remember them. Not even one. She was a cook, when she worked and I’ve seen pictures of me with siblings standing around a cake or two.

I had two childhood parties for my birthday. The first, no one but my grandmother and family came (which was a crowd). I waited for friends, but honestly, I can’t remember if I invited them. Daddy had just poured a new sidewalk next to the porch and I took great care to draw a hopscotch game for the party. I found the flattest rocks in the backyard and smoothed them with water to use as a puck. I wore red shorts and played barefoot for hours hoping they’d come. It was thirteen days before Christmas and it was an unusually warm day in Texas. My sister told me to quit waiting because we ‘had built-in friends’ and we didn’t need them to have a party. I was 10.

Five years later, the second party was great! I had begged to have one at night.  I was a member of the drill team, student council and choir at school, youth choir, Sunday School, and the Girl’s Auxiliary at church.  I had close friends who lived near, or whose parents would drive them. Our home was tiny. Mom moved all the furniture around to give us a dance floor. My brother loaned me his black light posters and stereo. My sisters helped remove the pictures from the walls and hang the posters.  In retrospect, I can’t believe she let us go to such redecorating lengths. We bought records that I loved with the money Grandpa gave me and my friends brought some, too. We had chips, dips and rice treats, Dr Pepper and Birthday Cake… it was store bought and decorated. I thought it was the best! We danced, laughed and the crowd spilled out to the front yard where a few innocent kisses were stolen while we whispered secrets to each other.

After most of the kids left, mom took my two stay-over guests and I out to play a little more. We gathered the pink toilet paper and blessed some unsuspecting acquaintances with being popular! It was an honor to be ‘papered’, ya know. Mom had a great arm… she could throw that roll over the highest tree or roof. I can still hear Daddy now… ‘Peggy, you’re going to pay the fine if you get caught’.  She just smiled as we went out the door. We drove down the main city streets, vacant and inviting at midnight in the suburbs. She slows the car just enough to let the lights turn red. Someone yells ‘Chinese Fire Drill’ and everyone jumps out and must circle the car, and jump back in before the light changed. Giggles, trips and falls… after three or four of those, we were worn out and ready for sleep on the pallets prepared for us while we were gone. It was a wonderful Saturday night and Sunday morning was church day and we couldn’t possibly be late! First… off to our friends to help clean the yard! We wanted to stay friends … and we wanted their Dad to welcome us again! So up early… lots to do!

When I turned 40, Mom and Daddy drove 45 minutes to decorate the door of my downtown business with a big handmade sign (Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s Forty), placed a baby picture ad in my town’s weekly paper and delivered a home baked cake to my office. I arrived at work to find that sign and knew it was her doing. I was so glad they took time away from the daily fishing trip to join me for lunch. It was a great party.

Mom knew how to have a great party. Not the fancy kind with pretty glasses and silver, but the kind that touched you where it counted. In your heart.

My mother taught and lived this: everyone matters. It wasn’t some slogan, it was real.  All six of us knew we mattered. Everything is not perfect when the family is large and simple. What matters is that she and Daddy grew a family and it is beautiful. Mom was the heart of our family and taught us to remember that the heart matters when it’s about living better!

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Blessings, It's About Living Better, Thoughts of the Day

Mesmerizing Dreams

Chocolate, wine, fresh strawberries, long hot baths, walks by a quiet stream, and camp fires: mesmerizing.

Don’t you just get lost when you stare at a fire? It’s like you can see the future or hear a voice from the past, even see what the accomplished dream can look like!

What would your fire say to you?  Do you hear negative bits or do you hear “I think I can…” or do you silently plan for a successful project, meeting or birthday party?

 

the flames of the campfire can bring to light, the future!
Gathering around the campfire can be the start of something new!

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Mesmerizing moments are important to have as they allow you to dream a dream of future fulfillment.  Can you see yourself in the fire, dressed up in that special dress or successfully performing a cool yoga move?  Visualizing is a good way to grow.  Grow your dreams, find a path to your dreams, discover the next step to your dreams.

Are you working on feeling fit and therefore, looking your best? Visualize the “you” you’re working to reveal. Eating right, exercising, spending positive moments with yourself is a step in the right direction.

I visualize myself playing with my youngest grandson. He’s almost old enough to pull in a tiny bream, like his mother did when she was about four. She got so excited she nearly fell in the stream and her alert auntie grabbed her by the pants waist just in time to help her fly back to the bank… fish still on the hook!

I have three years to make that dream come true.  I can see the little guy snapping the minnow on the hook, just the way my daddy showed me. I can see him wiping his hands on his shorts and standing impatiently on his short little legs while the minnow swims about fiercely trying to find somewhere to go. Poor minnow.

Hopefully, my grand boy won’t give up, but find a comfy spot to sit (not in the ants, mom, I promise) and watch the water. And listen to the birds. And take notice of the clouds and their shapes. And get excited when the bream grabs the hook and startles him to jump and yank the hook while it “sets” in the fish’s mouth for the ride in to the bank.  It may seem primitive, but children need to learn where the food comes from.  Fishing is a good start.  Cleaning can be a bit much, depending on the child.   We froze his mother’s first fish… in a plastic bag of water, and kept it in our freezer until she came home with a husband!

Once caught, the fish is no longer the pet in the bowl, but the animal that provides nutrition.  Who knows if he will even like to eat fish. I bet he will love to catch fish… most children do. And it’s a new skill to learn and enjoy. I’m hoping I’ll be the one to teach him. Just to hedge my dreams, I sent him a plastic play pole with a magnetic fish for the pool. He can practice.  As my visual continues,  I can see his smile in the fire. It’s a look of accomplishment!

Back to the fire.  I like to visualize new projects in order to find the next step. Or think about what the room might look like if I moved the furniture.  Watching the flames dance about and enjoying the warmth of a cozy fire gives magic to the dreams.  When we were younger, we added detergent boxes to the fire for color.   Dreams need color.

I love to sit in front of a fire with marshmallows, chocolate, a bit of wine and maybe even some strawberries on the side. I think I may have inherited that simple joy from my grandmother.  On the last family camping trip we all made together, Granny spent much of her day gathering small sticks and twigs to keep the fire tended.  She could sit for hours around the fire, stirring it, moving the kindling in and about.  I watched her and we noticed. It was her favorite place at the campground … when she wasn’t fishing!

Sitting outside under the stars, watching the dancing flames is a perfect scenario for dreaming alone or with a loved one and a good way to continue living better!

Blessings, It's About Living Better, Thoughts of the Day

Sunshine

 

Good Morning, Sunshine’s!

That was  my morning greeting for years.

I used it at work, often. As an office manager, when I arrived at work early in the mornings, as a part time bank teller, arriving early to unlock and check out the building so my partner and I could start the day, as a sales team  leader preparing to work a special event with my team… it was how I could express my enthusiasm for the day ahead.  natalia-luchanko-143031-unsplash

Photo by Natalia Luchanko on Unsplash

To me, the people I hang with are sunshine for my day.  Whether it’s at work, church, play or running mundane errands about town. I love hearing about their world. The new recipes, the trips to fun places, the reactions they received from something they shared, what they learned new and how they shared a bit of themselves to the world around them.  You know, like rays of light stretching into my soul to help create a better me!

It’s important to be sunshine.  I realize on someday’s the rays seem a little less fierce and a little more invisible… but they are there, just the same. Flooding the earth with light and warmth. Providing a way to see the path ahead, the trail left behind and the roads on each side ( the one’s that offer opportunity).

On the days my rays are a little dull, I find reading, jumping around on one foot or petting Trixie a good way to brighten up.  It doesn’t take a lot to get happy, if you are dreaming in that direction. Putting a smile on your face and thinking you are happy, usually works.  I like to make a list of things for which I am grateful and then expressing that gratitude. Looking up, toward the Son is a great way to start!

Here’s my list of things for which I’m grateful. Feel free to start your own, right here!

Sunshine is important in every phase of life.  We grow plants in the sun that provide food and beauty. We see the mirroring effects of the warmth hitting the cool water and feel it’s heat on our skin as we soak up every ray possible during our day out at the park or the lake. The warmth from the sun provides energy for power and physical fitness. Sunshine is our hope for a bright future.

So today, I see the sun peeking out as it’s almost daylight. The energy of the sunshine is contagious as I hear the birds begin to sing, the dog is stretching and preparing to hit the door to request permission to exit to the sun.  The morning glories are preparing to “glory” and the coffee is hot.

“Good Morning, Sunshine’!”  It’s a day to enjoy the benefits of the sun. Grab your SPF, (helps to pay my way) drink up some water and come join me on the patio.

It’s all about living better and it’s going to be a warm and beautiful day. Don’t forget to spread some sunshine.

Blessings, It's About Living Better, Thoughts of the Day

By Heart

He called.  The mailman that was introduced to me today, called. 

That’s what I wrote in my journal on May 30, 1986.

We talked for hours.

I put the little’s to bed and enjoyed a real conversation with a man – for hours! Not flirty, but real live and meaningful conversing.  We talked about cuts and scrapes and the garden and fishing and dancing and who knows what else.  We talked about his daughters and my two little ones. We talked about our small town, the cars, the churches. You name it, I think we covered it.  It was a heart centered conversation.

Fast forward 30+ years later and we just finished talking about the yard and maybe going fishing and we enjoyed a short dance after dinner.  I love dancing in the kitchen, don’t you?

We married in 1988.  Our first Christmas we started our first tradition. Dancing in the kitchen to music from the Victrola.  He received it as a birthday gift when he was 9 and through the years, we’ve acquired a few more records and a whole cup of needles.  Some people don’t appreciate them anymore. No electricity required, they are loud and scratchy. The voices of those recordings are innocent, some untrained, but delightful.   We play the records on Christmas eve after service and dance in the kitchen.  We’ve done it for 30 years now.

dancing in the kitchn
Home in the kitchen is the very best place to dance.
Photo by Claire Brear on Unsplash (thanks Claire!)

We know each others steps by heart. Really, by heart.  I can sense his movement and feel his breath as he holds me close and takes the lead. He securely holds my hand in his. He’s been doing it for years.  I trust his steps. When he spins me out and under his arm, I land in the perfect place to take the next step.  He smiles, I hum.  Sometimes we laugh out loud or bump into the counter or frig. Always holding on to each other.  Really, it’s by heart.

Sometimes, it’s hard for him to lead now.  Sometimes he needs me to lead a conversation or make a decision or drive the car in traffic.

He never needs me to lead the dance. We’ve got this heart stuff down pat. It’s how we live better.  And I love it that way.

Blessings, It's About Living Better, Thoughts of the Day

Morning Retreat

I love the new routine! (Previously posted in July 2017)

Wake when I choose, go through the usual morning stuff on the way to the kitchen and grab that glistening bottle of water I left on the cabinet last night.  I set it out at night to let it warm to room temperature. The rest of the day, I LOVE a cold bottle… but first… it needs to be room temperature.

Tear open some green nutrition and head for the great outdoor retreat (my office). Yes, the “office” has become the retreat instead of the cave I once enjoyed. Can you believe that?

I actually ENJOYED the cave.  It was a place of quiet contemplation, pouring over numbers and opportunities (they call it) for improvement. THAT desk was piled high in notes, books, reports and half-filled bottles of water.  I answered every issue and opportunity with positive encouragement and recommendations, and some guidance.

Trees in East Texas
I snapped this picture with my cell phone, sitting on the patio – working.

Today’s retreat is a little different.  Green all around me.  Crickets and locusts singing and an occasional helicopter taking someone for much needed care.  The sun is gentle from this point of view thanks to the shade of the beautiful trees!  They lock branches to keep the sun filtered and the air cool. The grass needs mowing, as we’ve been blessed with an abundant amount of rain this season.  God’s blessings are right in front of me. I don’t even have to look for them or imagine what He may have meant for me to see. This miracle of nature that I call my office is provided, just for me!

Sometime before I go in, I’ll answer emails, send a few messages and check my blog for private messages. I’ll finish writing this and pack up the car for tomorrow’s event.  Two more people to check on and I’m done.   The rest of the day belongs to me.

My morning simplicity makes the day go well. As a friend shared … “doing the things that makes her heart sing!”

Off to the piano… work is done for the day!   What makes your heart sing?  This day is all about living better!

Blessings, It's About Living Better, Thoughts of the Day

Lunch

The last two days have been a tad unusual, and totally joyful.  Lots of driving to accomplish this joy, and I like that, too.

On these days, I met girlfriends for lunch.

Before leaving, I chose my outfit carefully, applied by longest lasting lip stain and looked for any jewelry that would pay homage to our past.

Yep, I drove 60 miles on one day and 80 miles the next… one way. To have lunch. It’s not really about lunch. It’s about the girlfriends. The laughs, the reminiscing, the fun and laughter at each others expense.  Each “lunch” lasted 2 to 4 hours. Can you imagine if we all took long lunches everyday?  Again, it’s not about the food. It’s about the girlfriends.

I am reminded how I used to love to be with them on a regular basis.  I know them all from different places and different circumstances. We have lots of things in common. All of have a  firm belief in God and feel free identifying that belief by name-unapologetically.

We all love music, either listening, making it or moving to it.  We all love food… it appears we love it a lot!  We all like wine, mostly red.  And, we all love to talk at the same time, sometimes lovingly across each other.  Fun!

Girlfriend picture
Photo by: Vonecia Carswell, it’s the girlfriends that make the drive worth the effort.

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash  (thanks!)

I get to spend time driving to and from these events because I live further from Dallas. It’s a quiet time of a sort. Time to think about the coming meet up and the past days together. The future, the questions and their opinions I need.  Drive time is also talk to God time…for everyone’s travels, their needs and my guidance.

The trip home is best. Letting it sink in and taking time to savor the laughs, the concerns, the prayer requests, the grins and the plans for the next time.

I love having girlfriends. It’s fun to share and touching moments inspire a trust that only girlfriends can claim.  Who has time to eat?  It’s about the relationships. It’s about the love.

I can’t wait for the next one. Let me think… who is 60 miles away?   I need a decent drive. Chica, I’m headed your way!

Blessings, It's About Living Better

It’s Grandma and Poppie Night!

Thursdays are Grandma and Poppie Night at our home in Texas.

The two youngest grands use the IPhone (better than us) to call and share their week with us.  It’s truly a blessing to watch them grow, even when we can’t be in the same location. They are so funny and we truly enjoy their laughter over the phone.  I wish I could have stayed in touch with my grandma like that.

 

diego-passadori-641501-unsplash

 

Photo by Diego Passadori on Unsplash

Our princess told us about Elon Musk last week. She’s fascinated.  She has real books that are read at her request and after she hears the story, she absorbs the info like a super thirsty sponge.

You should see her eyes twinkle as she thinks of questions to ask. She can tell you when he built his first rocket, the consequences of that take off and his goals for the future, among other things. Then with a bound, she’s on top of the “stage” tapping away and demonstrating the new steps from dance class.

She’s 3!

Isn’t it a great thing that little girls can be princesses in pink tulle, interested in science and get excited about going to dance class in the same day? I’m thrilled for her future.

She and her brother are close… like the sun and the sky. They are brilliantly being challenged by their parents and intentionally led to explore this world of ours.

Times have changed.  I remember my mom saying that same thing: times have changed! Times change, thank goodness. What a boring world this would be if time stood still.

While I question many millennials attitudes about politics and religion, the young parents of today have new obstacles and great opportunities to give their children the future they deserve -just like we did. The challenges are similar, but move faster. The roles are no longer defined, but blended – as it should be.

Both women and men can work for themselves, work for someone else, create their own earning opportunity and write about it! Equally, life is available to be lived. No defining categories needed – just life.  And balance.  Balancing independence and togetherness is just as important as work and home balance.

My own millennials are doing an exceptional job of building our future! I hope they continue calling on Thursdays, after the grands are too busy and I have to resort to texting (will we still text?).

Family is forever and always important – funny how that never changes.

 

Blessings, Thoughts of the Day

Step Right In

1986.  The house was quiet when I arrived home. I opened a little Coors light and flipped on the TV. Then, the mailman called. We talked about the weather (it was hot) and the rain (it was muggy) and about mowing the yard.  That phone call lasted for two hours and two minutes, but it seemed like two minutes.  He asked me out, and to make a long story, short…  we REALLY liked one another.

Here’s the tricky part.  Children. Children of a previous marriage. Children of a previous marriage – on both sides.  And, a couple that fell head-over-heels in love and fascination — all in two weeks!

What fun we had trying to plan “dates” around “kid-weekends” (they were opposite weekends).

Most of the “dates” consisted of picnics, fishing trips, dinners at McDonalds – you know the kind of things kids love to do.  A few dates were actually in adult venue’s… but not many. With two full time jobs and 4 step children, we had a great adventure!

I hope you’ll enjoy the visit. Ask some questions-cause we’ve been there. I hope to share our family with you and want you to share your “step” adventures with me. So, Step In, and join the fun!

Blessings, Thoughts of the Day

Oatmeal Memories

After a recent post where I mentioned the missing oatmeal, I received an email inquiring about the cookies.

Sometimes an event perceived as awful at the time can bring great, lasting humor to a family. The entire family can repeat the incident, but not without tear jerking laughter.

I think it’s amazing the choice of lifetime events we can access from our memories.  The feelings of frustrated embarrassment and the hilarious reactions of the teens present on that particular morning bring me such joy .

Parents spend a ton of thoughtful energy trying to choose the activities that shape and mold or at least provide distraction.Slide44

The outdoor activities – those involving water, sun and sky are the ones that have lasted with my family, the holiday fun – and the kitchen adventures.

Once, after arriving home following a business trip Thanksgiving eve, with 16 or so coming to lunch, I grabbed my recipes and journeyed the seven miles to town to buy groceries.  Well, just imagine what products the store may have been running low on and you can guess the adaptation EVERY recipe would require! It was a catastrophe.  One of the ‘issues’ was the broth for dressing.  So my non-cook brain settled on soup.

Just let me end this quickly for you. Imagine dressing from a meatloaf pan, thick enough to be SLICED, and gray enough to scare anyone off!  To this day, no one even thinks of me when dressing is on the menu.

But, they all remember the day, the laughter and my personal decision to never cook dressing again!!

See, that activity shaped and molded some of the best cooks. I know them all… my children, nieces, husband, brother and in laws. They all have specialties and they all love to cook.  I have to say, the hubs probably became great at cooking out of necessity.

Aren’t I the lucky one?

Blessings, Thoughts of the Day

Targeted

What time do I need to wake?
Answer: I don’t NEED to wake!  
Change the sentence, please.  
What time do I want to wake?  
Answer: When I’m needed.

 

It seems that years spent multi-tasking for someone else has taught me to live my life around the NEEDS of the ______  (you can fill it in).  Moving from one topic or project to the next by spinning quickly was the way to control my surroundings. Staying in control was the point, after all.  Make yourself valuable and you’ll always work, I’ve learned.

Now, no one NEEDS me to do anything.  The children are grown, the hubs is really independent and I have no job.  In this new world, I often just sit and think about my next move, because I’m the only one who needs me today.

Before, the deadlines dictated the speed in which I made decisions.  Now, before I know it, I’ve “thought about it” for several hours and imagined many different scenarios, not reaching any destination on that map.

This morning, for instance. I headed to the laundry room to start a load and out of the corner of my eye I saw the beautiful handcrafted pantry shelf by the back door.  Now, I’ve not been one to really care about the pantry… except that the shelves were functional and available. My sweet husband painstakingly built the pantry to my perfect specs. The shelves had to be narrow to fit in a hallway, and I needed it to be sealed so I could clean it properly.  The shelves are a perfect compliment to the kitchen cabinets in the adjoining room.

I spent years cooking meals for the family, until he retired.  He always cooked some along the way, after I planned it, did the dreaded shopping and always cleaned up afterward.   After he retired, he took over all the cooking responsibilities and that was perfect for me!

No more oatmeal raisin cookies  for me!

Today, in my new life… learning to NOT WORK outside our home, I am compelled to move that can of beans further back on the shelf so it won’t fall.

BAD MISTAKE! There goes my focus.

Well, just suffice it to say, the cans are all sorted, dusted and neatly placed on those handcrafted, beautiful shelves.  The boxes are all faced to the front and the bags are secure in plastic containers.  The wood has been dusted and

Pantry Shelves, a distraction for a time

little “gifts” left in the corners (screws, nuts, light bulbs, non-working batteries) have all found another home and the beautiful pantry is well organized.  I’ve swept the floor, the cob webs from the corner and even the ceiling. I cleaned the windows in the door and as my eyes wander away from my project, out the windows to the dusty car… but first!

What’s the target for today, I remind myself. 

From the book, Intentional Living, by John Maxwell,  I learned that it’s ok to do new things badly the first time.  I’ll do them again, and next time I’ll do it better — keeping my eyes on the target, completing at least one task at hand, on time without getting sidetracked.

An hour later and once again, I’m headed toward the filled washer (now with cool, no suds-water) to start the load.  If I just hadn’t glanced away. If I just had kept my eyes forward, focused on the task at hand, the load would be done!

One step in front of the other, then check back to see what I missed! That’s the plan!