You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘encouragement’ tag.

Let’s see. What did I do this weekend?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Well, I built a soapbox for the annoying schmoe in my life, so he can really annoy me in style.

Next, I created a showcase for the pesky things that bother me, so as to really accentuate them.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

By pouring all of our energies into the things we stand against or get irritated by or just can’t even!, without realizing it, we’re tacitly saying: I don’t want this thing in my life, so I’m going to take a selfie with it and put it into a picture frame.

Stuff happens.

Don’t give it life.

Don’t say, this is my problem or my circumstance that can’t be overcome or my Achilles’ Heel.

Don’t put that pronoun on it. It’s not yours. It’s just a thing that happened.

Don’t invest in it in that way, because when you do, you’re crowdfunding the crud.

If gum gets stuck to your shoe, you don’t build it a shrine. You scrape it off.

Here’s what it really is: A moment in time. A thing that was. A speed bump on the road.

Of course, that’s not to diminish the trauma of things that really do set into the psyche and echo, even decades later. But not everything is of that magnitude. Sometimes it’s a matter of not getting out the Dymo Label maker (dating myself there!) and putting a name tag on it.

Letting go of all of that pain clears the way for what doesn’t cause pain. For the good stuff ready to come your way.

So, unplug from that source of “disempower” and get back to your good life. Dear readers, that’s a good place to park your pronoun.

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The other day, I watched a church service live-stream on Facebook. It occurred to me that I was seeing the exact moment of the lie taking place – yet no one was lying on purpose. The pastor asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ, and many came forward to pray. At the end, he said, “Congratulations! Now you’re born again! All things are made new!”

The lie is in the mood music they’re playing. The warm, welcoming church workers guiding people into their religion. The parishioners nodding as if you’re doing a great thing, this is a big step, your life is about to completely transform!

But that’s the lie of it. That’s the production. The musical number of it.

We expect all vestiges of our former life to just fall away. For all of our insecurities and problems to disappear. Poof! For this encouraging crowd of fellow believers to be there for us always, patting us on the back and giving us a high-five.

Not that anybody’s lying about what faith can do for you. It truly can change your life completely. But that’s the heart-work. That’s work you and God do together, and it happens over time, like a scroll unfurling. No one else can do it for you, and there is no magic prayer to make it happen instantly.

When I took the altar call years ago, in my mind it was more like the “alter call,” as if it would completely change my life instantly. What I came to conclude is that you walk the path with God and maybe alchemizes into of course. Is that you, God? solidifies into a firm foundation of faith.

It’s like that “Just Say No to Drugs” commercial from years ago, that showed an egg frying in a pan, with the voiceover, “this is your brain on drugs.”

In our version, we’ll show the sun rising, flowers blooming, and the earth turning. Massive, mystical, magical happenings – the only common denominator is the One holding it all together.

Good people, This is your soul on God.

Everybody’s trying to be heard. They’re making a point, even if nothing’s being said.

Like the way my cat stalks elegantly into the kitchen, gliding over to his bowl and waiting, back foot out, tail up, as if he’s still in motion. He’s conveying, I’m moving toward this bowl, and as you can see, for some inexplicable reason, it’s not filled to overflowing. It’s only half full. Is there… some…reason for this, hooman?

When I fold laundry, I have to remember that in KitKat’s language, a folded towel reminds him of his early days when he was still getting used to being in a house for the first time. I’d fold an old towel, put it onto the floor, then the couch, then the bed, so he’d realize he could sit anywhere he liked. He was welcome here.

So one time I was folding towels near where KitKat was resting on the bed. I put one down, ready to fold the next one. He immediately got up and came over to the towel, carefully putting one foot on it, looking at me as if to say, Is this okay? Cuz I’m going to sit on this towel you put here for me. Gingerly, the next foot went on, and he looked at me, then the next, until he was sitting in a circle, purring. So nice of you to fold this fresh, clean towel for me! It’s soft and comfy. Even warm! Guess I’ll take an eighteen-hour nap now!

He looked so comfortable there that I just patted his head and went on with the laundry. In his language, he’d heard me say, Sit here, beloved feline friend. It really was a nice gesture. I wish I’d thought of it!

Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated when I pray and it seems no answer is forthcoming. But I look around and realize we’ve got a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a peaceful place to call home.

Just like a slow-blink from my KitKat. Seems to me that God sends his love without even saying a word.

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Despite my beloved mother’s best efforts (God rest) and the hours she put in playing Bach on the piano, I’m still nowhere near as cultured and refined as she was. She’d quote Chaucer for me, in middle English. She’d school me on the origin of words.

Still, I’m just an easily-distracted, uncultured, good-natured gal from New Jersey.

Doesn’t matter if I’m looking right at you as you tell me your long-winded spiel. In my mind, I’ve gone to Carolina.

Watching this video of Hilary Hahn, I was reminded of my mother playing Bach on the piano.

I’m amazed at how beautiful even one note can sound in the right hands. At the same time, I’m also utterly distracted by the fact that her producer looks like a combination of Fred Mertz (of I Love Lucy) and Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong).

Then I realized that her conductor looks like Art Garfunkel (of Simon and Garfunkel). 😎

So whilst (little faux fanciness for ya) I try to be good at culcha, alls I can really do is appreciate it in my own New Jersey way. I’ll never have tea with the queen, p’raps, but I like to spin a yarn and have a good laugh.

I noticed that when Hahn plays, her whole body moves in a particular choreography. It’s as if she knows that she can’t reach the notes with her hands unless her feet move in a certain way at the same time.

Her whole body is her instrument.

In the same way, your whole life is your testament.

Most of the people you meet would never stand still and let you convert them to your beliefs.

All of the people you meet are seeing, hearing and feeling your beliefs every time you speak.

With all that’s going on in the world, all I can do is offer you this cozy corner where you’ll always be welcomed like a friend and we can share our stories. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, kind people. You’re okay with me.

Photo by Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash

I’m ready, God, so ready, ready from head to toe! Ready to sing; ready to raise a tune: “Wake up, soul! Wake up, harp! Wake up, lute! Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!”

From Psalm 57:8, (The Message)

A few years ago, I was one of the administrators of the Facebook page for a prayer site SueBE, Lori and I wrote for at the time called Prayables. It was nice to connect with readers who enjoyed our prayers, and for a time, I found it a positive experience. But one day, some of our followers made awful comments about immigrants. One man thought it was terrible that “these types” were sneaking into “his country.” Where did such hatred come from? Is it so hard to get along with people just trying to make a better life for themselves?

I decided I didn’t need that negativity, so I left Facebook. But recently, I realized that some of my town’s important information is only disseminated on Facebook, so I got back on reluctantly, keeping all my settings on private.

Right away, I searched for prayers and was surprised to find my own prayers posted by a wonderful organization in Oklahoma that helps families in need called Skyline Urban Ministry. Oh! And there’s a prayer from Lori. And one from SueBE. Wow. It was nice to see this blast from the past.

The Bible passage above was posted by Skyline a couple of days ago. It was my birthday, and I needed that specific word from God on that particular day. My teen-age son has been battling extreme fatigue from a medical condition, so every morning, I struggle to wake up my “sleepyhead son.”

Ready to raise a tune? That’s right on target. Cole has a set-up in his room with a mixing board and headset, as well as a guitar and keyboard. He writes and records songs, and plans to have a career in music production.

It was as if a hand extended from Oklahoma to New Jersey, from kind people I’ve never met, but who somehow had a word of healing just for me. God always shows up right on time, but sometimes? He takes the scenic route.

Here’s a picture of the singer, Pink, cooking in her home, carrying her baby in a sling in front of her. When I saw it, I was concerned that the infant was too close to the frying pan and might get splattered with grease. I also noticed that the child in the back, climbing on the counter, looks distracted and may fall.

Now, is having this opinion actually another way of saying that I’m “Mommy-shaming” the singer? I don’t mean it to be. I suppose it’s all about intention and tact. She’s obviously doing her best to take care of her kids, as we all do. It’s hard to know how much you should say to or about another parent.

Once when my son was three years old, we stopped at a local donut shop. I kept him right in front of me, pressed against the counter so that no one would snatch him. A lady nearby was just paying for her coffee and said quietly into my ear, “They put the coffee right there on the counter near your child…just saying the coffee is really hot.” And she left.

Of course, I was offended and shrugged her off with the body language equivalent of “Well! I never!” But you know what? She was right. There was a definite danger that my son could be scalded by the cups of coffee that were being placed inches away from where I was vigilantly keeping him safe from child abductors. Sometimes we’re so hard-wired to watch for large, looming boogeymen that we don’t see the small vipers in the garden in front of us.

If conversation is constructive and considerate, there’s nothing wrong with respectfully disagreeing. Pink is doing fine. Her kids will be fine. Trolls will live under bridges, as well as in the shadows of cyberspace. Life will go on, not to worry. I look at it this way. It’s better to be kind than right. It’s better to be blessed than to be a budinsky. For our younger readers, a “budinsky” is just an old-school way of saying “troll.”

So indulge me in a bit of reverie. Picture me one thousand years in the future, after science has unlocked the key to longevity, so that everyone in the world now has long life, prosperity and an uncanny knack for sassy accessorizing. Acc-sass-orizing, if you will.

This would be after science discovers that people like me with eyes that may be considered green or blue (depending on the comfy sweater we’re wearing) can actually see into the future, so we’re given government jobs sitting at the computer all day, surfing, and predicting stuff (sometimes correctly, sometimes not so much – but, like meteorologists, we still get paid.)

This would be far, far in the future, when I’ve finally learned that just because my Cosmic Cat is sitting at the back door of my mansion on Mercury, facing me with those big moon-pie eyes as if he wants to come back inside, he’s just window-shopping. I’ll ask my inventors to build an auto-cat door that scans his hologram retinas so he can open the door his dang self.

Maybe then my son will read my blog posts! This humble blog has become a time capsule of sorts, a snapshot of my life through the years. What’s important to me at the time. What’s in the news. What I hope for my son as he wends his way down the road of life.

Every so often, I’ll tell him I mentioned him in a blog post. Read it, would you, so I can be sure I’m not saying anything a teen-ager wouldn’t want his mom to mention. Of course, I do realize… That covers just about everything!

So in a thousand years, I’ll ask my son, About reading that blog, honey… How ‘bout now?

Sure Mom, I’ll get around to it. Just about to catch the shuttle to Saturn!

Oh well. If you only read this, Cole, just remember. I love you like nobody’s business. Wherever I am – New Jersey or some nebula in the night-sky – I’ve got your back. And if you call from Jupiter again, don’t call collect. It’s long distance!

Anybody remember Weebles? That little egg-shaped toy that would wobble back and forth but land upright? I felt like that two days ago, when I woke up leaning to the left. It’s one of the symptoms of MS that happens only rarely for me, but when it does, I focus on a fixed object, sit upright and wait for the dizziness to pass. The key is never to lie down; that’s when things really start spinning. I know it has to do with brain function, but I don’t quite understand the whole process.

The mind is a mysterious thing, isn’t it? Just yesterday, I thought of some terrible social faux pas I made in third grade, of all things, and it brought me down.

What’s the name of the ocean on the east coast? “Atlantic,” I wrote.

As I looked at it, I remembered that I’d gotten a simple answer wrong on another test the previous day and started to doubt myself. I crossed it out and wrote, “Pacific.” The teacher told the class I got it wrong and the other kids looked at me, shaking their heads and snickering.

And I wondered why something from so many years ago still echoes in my mind.

Balance is so important in life, isn’t it? Not just physical balance, but emotional balance as well.

As I went about making my coffee this morning I had an epiphany. If it were someone else, I’d say, Give yourself a break. You were just a kid. It’s nothing to beat yourself up about. I’m completely supportive of everyone else when they make mistakes, even complete strangers. But myself? Not so much.

So I’d like to propose that we think of ourselves in the past as another person entirely. Someone else, in a different era. That way, you’re more likely to regard yourself with compassion.

Maybe that’s the lesson of those days. Perhaps in releasing the need to have done everything perfectly correctly and within the bounds of social decorum, you’ll unclench and be less likely to make the same mistakes. And even if you do make mistakes, maybe you won’t see them that way. Maybe instead of mistakes we’ll call them human foibles. It sounds less painful. Almost cuddly!

Foibles. They could be the distant cousin of Weebles! They wobble, but they don’t fall down. This could be our motto: Foibles. We fumble but we don’t fall down. 😉

So, I’ve written before about my health issues, and while I don’t want to bring anyone down, I do like to share what I’ve learned from having MS.

Like the time I took my son, Cole, and his friends, Luke and Nick, to the movies a few years back. On the way out, I asked if they’d seen another movie that was out at the time. “So did you guys see Thor?” Without batting an eye, Luke replied, “Yes, we saw it last week. You took us. Remember?”

But he knew I didn’t. The upside is that these kids are like family, and they’re used to my sieve-like memory. It didn’t phase them. When people are understanding of your limitations, it makes you feel supported.

That’s why I was so thrilled to come across this article about a cafe that employs dementia patients, called “The Restaurant of Order Mistakes.” So you ordered a hamburger? Well, how about some dumplings instead! This shows that if people are aware of your story, they give you more latitude.

It goes back to my theory that there’s always a story, and everyone is dealing with something, often something that’s not visible to the naked eye.

People have taken the challenges of their own pasts and turned them into positive action.

These men took the pain of coming to another country penniless and hungry, and turned it into a kind deed, offering people a free meal if they have no money.

Sometimes a small act of compassion can restore one’s faith in humanity. This hairdresser with a posh client list reaches out to people on the street with his “Do Something for Nothing” campaign, offering haircuts to the homeless. It’s amazing to see what this simple kindness can do for a person who often feels invisible. One gentlemen looked at himself after his haircut and asked, “Why did you do that for me? It’s not an everyday thing.” The hairdresser’s answer was, “I loved hearing your story.”

It’s nice to know we can write the story as we go, and we’re all in it together.

Roxane Gay recently released her memoir, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” and it’s interesting to see how such an accomplished author can be defined – by some – solely by the number on the scale. I came across a quote of hers once that stayed with me: “When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.” The same can be said of politics and religion.

As the world seems to be more and more a constant headline of Us vs. Them, I found the author’s insights to be timely and true. There’s always a story, isn’t there? Something led a person to this place. Sometimes that place is one of accolades and applause. Sometimes it’s to impulsive actions based on flawed perceptions.

After the Manchester attacks, mosques in my home state of New Jersey opened their doors to the public. “We want to tell them we are against extremism, we are against terrorism, we are against violence, and we are against discrimination of any type against anyone,” said Imam Mohammad Moutaz Charaf, spiritual leader of the El-Zahra Islamic Center in Midland Park.

The fact that the we need reminders that not every Muslim is a terrorist is astounding. It always amazes me that people online feel they have some kind of birthright to make evil comments about people they don’t even know. Sometimes whole groups. You may not agree with a person’s ideology, or faith, or even their hairstyle, but how does it really affect your life, anyway?

Someday your story will be told. It can be a tale of compassion and courage, or of blame and bigotry. How that story unfolds is really up to you.

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