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In SueBE’s post on her writing blog, One Writer’s Journey, she writes about finding a creative outlet for her downtime. What does this busy author with deadlines, family obligations, church work, bills to pay, etc., do to recharge her batteries? More work, of course! She takes an online course. But it’s work she loves to do, so it’s not work at all.

It would be more work for her to sit on a beach and do nothing. Suppose you said, “You’re now mandated to sit here and sip a drink under an umbrella and look out at the ocean. It’s for your own good!” I don’t presume to speak for her, but I do believe she’d hate that. Hate! I think her brain would still be formulating ideas, and she’d secretly use a lipstick and a coaster to jot them down when no one was looking. Idea for picture book: marathon runner trapped in starting gate, unable to run her race, teleports herself to the finish line. It’s something inside.

It would be like saying to Lori, “Don’t find the poetry in all that you see. Today, for twenty-four hours, you must think in a linear, black-and-white fashion. We’re re-training your brain to improve your overall health.” I believe she’d hate that. Hate! Even if you put shutters on the windows so she couldn’t see the clouds, trees and birds and be inspired to write a poem, she’d find a haiku in a dust bunny. A whole world would magically appear in her imagination and that poem would spontaneously create itself. It’s something inside.

When it comes time to recharge your batteries, plug into what works for you. Maybe knitting isn’t your thing, so how about painting or photography? Find the thing you enjoy. It’ll do you a world of good.

My friend Maria, who hails from Taiwan, tells me that in her culture it is believed that friends are souls who find one another, lifetime after lifetime. Though I’m not a fan of reincarnation (it sounds terribly tiring), I like the sound of this conjecture. After Ruth opined that she thought the three of us really ought to get tattoos so that we can find one another in the next life, it all clicked together.

The sky appears daunting, swarming
as it is with bright and twinkling things,
still: We will find each other,
unerringly, though lifetimes,
on this or any astral plane.
We will coalesce into constellation—
The Sisters, they will call us, or something Latinate —
we will laugh, knowing we are we, not stars but souls,
bound by something more grave than gravity,
beats of light that blink out occasionally,
only to reappear, newborn but ancient,
in yet another freckled sky.

Living on the sunny side of the street, you realize that a positive frame of mind is portable. Even when I was in the hospital, I was so pleasant to be around that my doctor actually put it into my medical record that I was a “delightful patient.” Now, I’m not bragging. Just saying it really doesn’t cost anything to treat people well…although that hospital stay? It did cost an arm and a leg.

Still, I wonder if there’s another version of me out there in the ether, on some astral plane, who’s my opposite. Perhaps she’s named “Htur” (my name backwards.) Since I don’t get out much, am not rich, and have health issues, she must be the flip-side. She must be filthy rich, hale and hardy, and jet-setting all over the globe, living the heck out of life!

But it occurred to me that to really be the Bizarro version of me, she’d have to be awful to be around. Nasty to people. Entitled and belittling. So I got the good mood. She got the good life.

It also means she would have never met Lori and SueBE and all of you dear readers of our humble bloggie. Who really got the better end of that deal? I’m betting on the home team. In this era of negative news, we need all the positive energy we can find.

Currently, I am taking a Yale class on happiness called “The Science of Well-Being.”  This is my first psychology class and the professor is discussing what we think makes us happy vs what really makes us happy.  One of the first things that we did was take a character survey to find out which traits are strongest in each of our personalities.

When I saw this quote, it really rang true for me. But then again I just found out that it is official.  Among my top five traits are judgement and bravery.  I wasn’t really happy when I saw the term “judgement” but then I read what it means.  This isn’t about being judgmental.  Instead it is about being able to look at all sides of an issue. Bravery is described as a willingness to act or speak up about something even if your take on things is unpopular.

The quote above pretty well summarizes the last few weeks for me.  The only Planned Parenthood clinic in Missouri is on the verge of being closed down.  Ooooo, Planned Parenthood!  I can feel hackles going up across the blog-osphere.

When you say Planned Parenthood, many people think abortion but not all of their clinics perform abortions.  They also provide medical exams for women who don’t have insurance and can’t afford to pay the bill at your typical OB/GYN’s office.  There are college students and young working women who get their PAP smears and well-woman exams at Planned Parenthood.  That’s right.  They go there for cancer screenings not to get rid of unwanted fetuses.

If you don’t approve of abortion, I get it.  But I also see the much larger part of what Planned Parenthood does which includes saving lives through early diagnosis. And if not condemning this organization is an unpopular stance among Christians?  See Bravery, trait #5 on my list.

I hope we can be civil to each other even when we disagree, but even if we disagree, I’m willing to take a stand for women who need the health care Planned Parenthood provides.

–SueBE

Every other article you see on the web offers information in the form of a list. Top ten ways to clean out your closet. Five things I’ve learned from going on a cruise. So annoying!

Then again, lists have their good qualities as well. Here are a few:

  • Lists are neat
  • They’re usually short
  • Ideas might be helpful
  • Good for those with short attention spans

Oh look! My favorite show is on now. Be right back.

As I was saying, on the other hand, lists can:

  • Give short shrift to important topics
  • Have unreliable sources
  • Make you believe any random broad from New Jersey (Yo.) is an expert on everything

Lists can be useful as a means of encouraging yourself. 

Today, I felt gratitude for so many things:

  • My humble home
  • My wonderful son, who’s my heart, walking
  • My smart phone, which I got reluctantly at 50 and became a true believer

And for minor miracles:

  • Second chances
  • “Coincidences” (AKA colliding with Providence) that work in your favor
  • Detours that lead to the right road after all

Not to mention all the creature comforts that add to my quality of life:

  • Light cream for my coffee
  • Leftovers (especially if it’s pizza) and of course
  • Lists

What are you grateful for today? Write it all down in the form of a list and life will look a whole lot brighter.

When I was a teen, I despised my grandmother’s Southern manners.  My mother’s Leave-It-to-Beaver simpering smile.  How could they let people say such rotten things and not respond?  It was like being a door mat.

Flash forward to today.  One die-hard liberal in the family picked a fight by calling the Republicans “the enemy.”  Maybe a few more of them would have been willing to let it go, but Memorial Day weekend.  Ka-blam!  The battle was on.

Today, an urban teacher friend panned Missouri legislation that would change various elements in the school year calendar state wide.  Apparently, I haven’t researched this, the goal is to improve state tourism by not starting school until later in August.  But could my friend simply say “this legislation is a bad idea?  Oh, no.  He had to call the tourist area Lake of the Go-Karts.  Rural friends may be rural but they know when they are being called unsophisticated hicks.

Tolerance. It isn’t about being a door mat although it does sometimes mean letting something slide when you would rather tell someone to mind their manners, God Bless Their Pointy Little Heads.  For those of you who, sadly, are not southern, that is not strickly speaking a blessing.  It is more of an acknowledgement that sometimes only God can love our loud mouthed flawed selves.  Hopefully, everyone else will be tolerant.

–SueBE

In college, among other things, I studied Asian history.  One of the professors described how when a government department in imperial China ceased to be effective, a new department was created.  It would do the work of the old department which was left in place.  In my twenties, I didn’t understand this.  Wouldn’t it be easier to FIX the old department?

As part of the sandwich generation, I truly understand how difficult it is to get one group to change their ways while satisfying the younger groups need to do something new.   Trying to convince someone to try something new when they are being misty-eyed about something old is almost impossible. Do not even get me going about the “good old days.”  I’m a historian.  I know about the pre-civil rights, pre-antibiotic, pre-EPA good old days.  Thanks, but no.

I’ve quit arguing, but I haven’t given up.  And fortunately I’ve found a group of likeminded individuals, all the parents of young adults.  Coincidence?  I think not.  We formed our church’s green committee.   When the Presbytery challenged congregations to feed their local poor, we expanded the garden, handing shovels, hoes and rakes to the teens and challenging them to put some sweat behind those lofty words.

But we didn’t just dare them.  We were literally out in the field with them, leading by example.  We could have told them to quit bad mouthing their elders.  We could have told them to pick up a hoe and get to work.  Instead we picked up our own tools and led them out to feed the poor.

I thought that I would rue my time in the field with an achy back and blistered hands.  But no one in my immediate family was a gardener and I’m enjoying learning about growing food.  Lead and learn new ways.  Not a bad combination.

–SueBE

 

As SueBE said in her post this morning, today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day of remembrance for everyone who has died while serving in the armed forces.

In 1868, future president, James Garfield, spoke eloquently about the importance of the holiday at Arlington National Cemetery.

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion,” he said. “If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of fifteen-thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung.”

Today I learned that Arlington is on the grounds of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee’s, former home. When I read that, it gave me hope that negative situations can be re-purposed into something deeply meaningful. Maybe someday, this contentious time in our history will be transformed into a learning experience and we can find our way back to civility again.

“When I’m out here in the country, I tend to be among people who think differently than I do,” SueBE said in her post. Even though they might be on different ends of the political spectrum, everyone walking through the woods is a human being. What values are worth fighting and dying for? The freedom to express yourself, even if not everyone agrees with you.

Let’s take a moment to honor the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.

I know.  I know.  One Memorial Day we should be thinking about the sacrifices of our military.  Me?  I tend to think about what they made those sacrifices for.  First and foremost – freedom.

My family celebrates Memorial Day by making a three hour trek into southern Missouri.  We walk gravel roads beneath towering trees.  This weekend I even got to see a bald eagle in flight along the edge of a lake.

When I’m out here in the country, I tend to be among people who think differently than I do.  This is a very conservative area.  You see a lot of Confederate flags but you also see Bible verses on yard signs.  When he was small, my son was pulled from the river by a man whose name we never learned.

The men in this part of the state are tanned but it isn’t a swimming pool tan. It is a farmer’s tan.  They work the land.  They work on vehicles.  And some of them drive hours every day to reach the only jobs they can find.

It is also an area with spotty cell service so when you are out an about and among people, you interact.  People aren’t looking at their phones.  They are snapping selfies or checking Snapchat.

There’s a freedom down here that I don’t experience in many other places.  A freedom from being constantly on top of my electronic task masters.  A freedom to experience sun and sky, trees and fields, and red gravel roads.

–SueBE

 

Oh, how I wish I’d kept the schematics for teleportation that I drafted when I was younger! I’d be sitting pretty right now. Yep. I’d be gliding through the ages, picking up tchotchkes here and there. A bust of Nefertiti for the sunroom. A Roman column for the front of my house. An actual Dead Sea Scroll for my reading area.

Time travel was one of the things I conquered in my mind as a kid. It was obvious to me that it was merely a matter of timing and geography. I’d read that mystics believed that the time when otherwordly wisdom is accessible is from 3 to 4 AM. Got it. Put that on my blueprint. Once I read about the “thin places” in Ireland, where legend has it that the veil between heaven and earth is thin, I had my formula.

All we had to do was set up shop at 3:33 AM (that just sounds like the most mystical time to me) one early morning somewhere in the pretty Irish countryside, and — presto! — we’d be flying through time. Simple!

These are all fanciful notions, but I invented whole worlds in my head as a child. Doesn’t it seem as though we leave imagination behind as we become adults? We forget how to play, and playing is the beginning of creating your own world.

Give yourself permission to paint or dance or make Lego sculptures. It’s a form of stress relief, and a way to express yourself. You’re never too old to be a kid again.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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