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A piping plover photographed at another beach (National Park Service photo)

National Park Service photo

Here in New Jersey, we never say we’re going to the beach. We say we’re going “down the shore.” Not down to the shore, mind you. Just “down the shore.”

An endangered bird was found on a beach in our state recently, so officials canceled a free summer concert series. The bird in question, the Piping Plover,  is a beach-cleaner, controlling the population of insects and small crustaceans down the shore. Apparently, they don’t like noise, especially during nesting season. I can relate to that!

I was impressed that the National Park Service took steps to protect this endangered bird. Some may complain that the concert series was canceled, but the silver lining is that we’re doing something positive for the planet. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we took care of each other in the same way? Let’s form a Silver Lining Committee to focus on the positive in unpleasant situations.

There’s a neighbor who has taken to riding a very loud motorcycle at 3 AM lately. The Silver Lining Committee reminds us that his sudden revving, which extricates us from REM sleep, is actually an opportunity to take a bathroom break. Very considerate! 

A few blocks over, a family has a pet rooster. I assumed that roosters only crow at the crack of dawn, but apparently, they crow at any time, day or night. So, one might say, I learned something. The Silver Lining Committee reminds us that one is never too old to learn.

It’s encouraging that someone remembered that we have a moral obligation to protect endangered species. That must mean we still have the capacity to extend compassion to one another. The Silver Lining Committee reminds us that that’s reason enough to have hope for the future. 

Yesterday, this image popped up in my feed.  Something beautiful coming out of darkness?  I just wasn’t feeling it.  Then I read Lori’s “Don’t Look Away.”

From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, Native American children were removed from their families.  They were put into boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their languages.  The purpose was the exterminate entire groups of people.

During World War II, Japanese American were herded into internment camps.  They were forced to live in dirty, substandard conditions.  Many lost the farms they had built on the West Coast.

Now we have children huddled in kennels.  If dogs were found in conditions like this, the Humane Society would come and get them.

Again, we are in darkness.  How can something beautiful come of it?

That’s up to me and to you.  We can decide that never again will the color of a person’s skin dictate their humanity.  We will look for that spark of Christ’s light in every person we see whether their eyes are blue, green or brown.  Like the Samaritan, we will decide that there are risks but the need to do right is so much greater.

The choice is ours, yours and mine.

–SueBE

We designed this blog as a sunny, positive place to reflect and pray. That does not mean that we turn a blind eye to the darker things of this world. Take the situation at the border: Children are being torn from their parents’ arms, placed in overcrowded “shelters,” sleeping on concrete, not being provided with even the most basic care. They are getting sick. They are dying. Have no doubt — we will be judged on our response to this crisis. And that judgment will come sooner than we think.

Be warned:
We are writing on the most fragile of pages
in ink that breaches the veins, burning
blood, leaching poison. They will remember us
as the stuff of childhood nightmares,
as the monsters their mamas swore
did not exist. (Sometimes parents are wrong,
and monsters wear a human mask.)
We are imprinting a world on their skins,
a world of screaming terror, filth and misery.
We may forget, but they will not. Not ever.
The dark thing we’ve unleashed will come
to roost in our own pretty homes,
soon, soon. It will swoop and smother.
No nation can stand with a millstone
round its neck. Judgment is coming.
Do not look away.

Yesterday afternoon, I made it to church as a thunderstorm rolled up.  Three of us quickly harvested kale before the the rumbles began.  We didn’t have time to do more because, obviously, we can’t slow down an incoming storm.  But we could deal with our jangled nerves and the stress of daily living.

In the fellowship hall, we walked the labyrinth.  It isn’t anything fancy.  This is a pattern and position we are testing out so my husband and I taped it out on the floor.

Among the three garden workers was an intense young adult.  She’s a chronic worrier who has problems making decisions.  Honestly, we are two peas in a pod (garden symbolism!).  I explained to her that when she walks the labyrinth, she can walk in taking stock of the troubles she carries with her.  Stop at each turn.  Breathe.  Contemplate God.  When she reaches the center, it she can make a longer pause and leave the problem with God.  Sure, she might still think about it but she no longer has to wrestle with it.  Then it is time to retrace the path and reenter the world.

Walking the twisting turning path of the labyrinth helps to slow you down.  It gives you time to contemplate and to listen not to your own shouting thoughts but for that quiet voice of God.  If you have a labyrinth in your area, make time to visit it.  It is an amazing tool.

–SueBE

 

Earhart kind action

Acts of kindness.  Recently I took an online class through Yale. The focus was on rewiring your behavior to elevate your mood.  Basically what habits can we each build that rewire us, replacing anxious feelings with happiness.

Each week, we were given a challenge, a behavior to engage in throughout the week.  One week was random acts of kindness.  It could be as simple as thanking a clerk by name or paying for someone else’s coffee.

I thought it was simply that my father was in one hospital that week and my brother-in-law in another.  I was ragged and worried and this was just too much.  Too much!

But as we finished up the class earlier this week, I read other peoples comments.  This seemed to be one of the hardest habits to build.  “When I stalked through my day thinking ‘I have to find one person to be nice to,’ it really stressed me out. When I loosened up and noted whenever I was nice, it was much easier and I actually did it.”

Observe and engage in kind acts vs treating them like a duty.  One way worked.  The other didn’t.

Maybe this is just another facet of actually seeing those around us and following the Golden Rule?

–SueBE

Photo: Tom Slemmons

Regret is just another word for that thing in life we feel needs fixing. I could be happy, if only I weren’t ______ fill in the blank. Sick. Broke. Too tall. Too short. Too heavy. Too thin. From the wrong side of the tracks. I’ve always wondered where that is, geographically. I know it’s supposed to be figurative, but so many of us have spent time there in our lives, it must actually exist somewhere. Sometimes the wrong side of the tracks is a powerful temptation.

It’s been an appealing adventure for generations, hasn’t it? Taking a walk on the wild side. We all seem to grow out of it and disavow it. Many claim that they just “fell in with the wrong crowd.” Wouldn’t it be refreshing if just one person admitted that they actually were the wrong crowd? That doing all those ill-advised and often illegal things were actually their own idea?

All of those choices, good and bad, led us to the place we are today.

We’ve all invested a lot of time being mad at some part of who we are, and those messages eventually seep into the psyche. It’s like an internal speed bump. You don’t know what it is exactly, you just know you can’t get over it.

There’s a life lesson in the Japanese art of Kintsugi. When a piece of porcelain is broken, it is repaired using gold and becomes more precious afterward. Maybe those broken places are intersections. One part of life ends and a new one begins. Every experience imbues and enriches you with new ways of being. Breaking down can break you open, and that’s not always a bad thing. It might even lead to a breakthrough.

Not long ago, Lori, Ruth and I were discussing how people in our various parts of the country treat wait staff, store clerks and other people in the service sector.

I grew up thinking that everyone was polite and chatty when dealing with these kinds of people.  After all, Bumpa, my maternal grandfather, was an extremely extroverted salesman.  He talked to everybody including the man filling his gas tank, the woman who rang up our sale at the Italian bakery, and more.

Then in college, my husband and I went out for dinner with friends.  I’m honestly not certain how some of these people thought there food arrived at the table because they were cold, verging on rude.  How painful is it to thank someone who has just settled a meal before you?  “Give me. . . I want . . . Why don’t I have . . . ”  There were points in the meal when I suspected we were dining with royalty or at the various least royal pains.

I know not everyone in my area acknowledges the people who are clerks and wait staff, but my son definitely does.  He remembers even at those times that I forget, when I’m looking for my car keys or juggling too many bags.

But an older friend of mine pointed out something I hadn’t noticed.  People wish each other a Blessed Day.  Or “thank you and God Bless You.”  That isn’t something you used to hear in the St. Louis suburbs. I still haven’t heard anyone say this, but I’m listening for it.

And every now and again, I say it.

May God Bless you all on this beautiful day.

–SueBE

This past weekend I had my 35th high school reunion.

I had completely forgotten how many people called me Beth.  How do you get Beth from Sue?  You don’t.  Beth, Marini and I ran around together.  We had gone to gradeschool together.   Beth and I were both quiet strawberry-blondes with fair skin.

I quickly learned that the sun is not your friend.  My husband jokingly calls my sunscreen SPF 2000.

But I was standing talking to two women and one of them patted my arm.  “Your skin is so nice.  Isn’t her skin nice?”

Um, thank you?

Taking a compliment has never been my strength.  Instead of just accepting it, I want to downplay it.  Freckles, ugh!

But these women were being genuinely sweet.  They wanted to say something nice and all I had to do to make them feel appreciated was say thank you.  Sure it had taken them a moment to realize that I’m still not Beth . . . oh, we should have switched name tags!  That would have been so funny . . .

–SueBE

 

When I was driving my son and his friends everywhere during his school years, I couldn’t wait for him to reach driving age so I wouldn’t have to be their chauffeur anymore. As it happened, soon after he got his license, I had to take myself off the road due to my visual impairment. It turned out to be a tough decision, though, since not being able to drive anymore really limits your — wait for it — autonomy.

As I thought about all of the things taken from me by my MS, I’ve come up with a theory. Instead of calling them deficits, I’m wondering if it isn’t really just the unorthodox method by which my psyche has tried valiantly to protect me.

Trauma from the past we’d just as soon forget getting us down? Inner me waves a wand. Poof! Don’t remember things anymore! Have some memory issues!

Don’t want to feel this bad ever again? Poof! Don’t feel things. Have some neuropathy!

So what if I have to Google “how to hard boil an egg” every time I want to make an egg salad sandwich. I’ve let go of the guilt of not being able. Everyone else can do X. I can’t. Okay, I’ll focus on doing Y. What I can do is tell you my stories and offer encouragement to get through your own hardships. When I’m not sure if my thoughts make sense on the page, I can always rely on Lori and SueBE to proofread for me. Find your team and you’ll find your way. I focus on what I can do, and do it.

We’ve all got our share of dark clouds in life, but the silver lining is this: you’re still you. You’re still here. You’ve got the chance every day to carry on.

Color me befuddled. I could have sworn the voiceover in the commercial said that patients with “Twerkulosis” were advised not to take this medication.

Pause.

Twerkulosis? Is that something you’d see in a viral dance video? Viral in a good way, I suppose. Not like a contagion, or something. Of course, twerking at my age could throw a hitch in my gitalong. A twist in my pretzel.

Of course, what he said was: “Tuberculosis.”

Then I could have sworn a man in a conversation with friends spoke of being a “nocturnal octopus.” What might that be? A man who gets all handsy in the evening? That’s a bad thing, I would guess.

Oh. Wait. He said “eternal optimist.”

Mercy. This is why people get cranky as they get older. We start to have trouble with the senses we’ve counted on our entire lives. Hearing gets hinky. Vision gets blurry. And, of course, most people don’t project when they speak, so it can all lead to frustration.

It’s like a real-life game of Mad Libs. What random word will my ears hear? What is actually being said? Maybe this part of our lives is intended to teach us humility and those around us patience. Now, more than ever, the Golden Rule is a godsend.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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