Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Do You Say What You Think?

Or do you think what you say? And does it matter?

There is a lot in the news these days about who said what and how they said it. It is a time when we really need to pay attention  to what we say AND what we think. 

I often wonder if the people in the media, or elsewhere even, really think about what they say. I mean, when it seems ridiculous, when it doesn't really make sense, or when it is quite outrageous I have to wonder if they really believe what they are saying. Or do they even listen to themselves at all?

I've always been a lover of words. I like learning where they came from and what they mean. I was an English major in undergraduate school and have been a writer most of my adult life. So words are especially important to me. And I know that not everyone cares that much about our language. But language is a powerful thing.

Did you know there are 7000 languages around the world? 7000! And they don't all work the same way. It is often  difficult, if not impossible, to translate word for word. Words that are common in our language don't exist in other languages. Do you wonder how that is possible?

Well, it is because words are ideas, concepts. And if that concept doesn't exist in another language they don't have a word for it. Or something we have only one word for would, in another language, have several words for it - like snow. Eskimos have a variety of words for snow because snow is so much more important in their lives.

So maybe we should be more aware of exactly what we do think or believe and then choose more exact words to convey that. And let's also be aware that what words we use are shaping what we think. Listen to what others say and determine if they really think and believe what they say or are they just being careless with the language.

What do you think?

If you are really interested in this subject you might enjoy the TED talk below:

Sunday, May 27, 2018

What Do You Remember?

So this weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. My parents called it Decoration Day and planted flowers on graves of famiy members. And my dad marched in a parade with the American Legion color guard. I didn't really know much about why any of that happened.

Bing defines Memorial Day as: 
 "A day on which those who died in active military service are remembered, traditionally observed on May 30 but now officially observed on the last Monday in May. Also called (especially formerly) Decoration Day." 

  1. These days most people think of Memorial Day as a day off from work, a long weekend, a time for cook-outs, the end of the school year, etc. But do we really honor the brave warriors who gave their lives in the line of duty? I'll bet there are many people who don't think of them at all. When was the last time you attended a Memorial Day Parade?

  2. Even though we have been in countless wars and "conflicts", today's Americans have had very little personal sacrifice. Unless you have had a loved one die in the military, we don't even sacrifce as private citizens.

  3. In the World Wars, Americans felt the cost of war at home. There were conscripted fighters leaving families to fight in battles around the world. There were men who enlisted because they believed in the need to protect their homeland from enemies we could identify.There were so many men gone that women were trained to do men's jobs in manufacturing war machines. Products and resources were rationed. The nation was at war and everyone was touched by it.

  4. Since then, by the way the country functions at home, one could hardly tell we are at war, and have been for years. We have been fighting in the Middle East so long that it has become normal. And much of the time we don't even know why we are fighting. 
  5. Enlistments are down and fighters now serve multiple times, experiencing such trauma that they are not the same when they come home. PTSD is common and destroys lives and relationships. 

  6. If you ask most people why we have military personnel on active duty in places like Afghanistan, Irac, North Africa, Syria, etc., the explanation seldom seems worth the lives of our men and women at risk.

  7. None of the wars today make much sense to me. What are we fighting for? Oil? We can be indepent of foreign oil. To destroy terrorists? That doesn't seem to be working that well. 
  8. There must be better solutions, better ways to get along with other nations.

  9. It seems to me that the best way to honor those who have died in active military service is to spend more time making peace than making war. I know that seems too simplistic. But think about how much war costs us in lives, in money. What if we all worked for peace -  at home and around the world. 

  10. That would make the world a better place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wait A Minute!

For so many of us life is very fast-paced. There is so much you want to get done and you never seem to have enough time. So you rush, rush, rush.

But what are you missing? How often do you feel like you are living on a treadmill that never seems to slow down? Or do you feel you've lost your focus, you have not even time to think about anything but what's next?

Hurry! Hurry!

Wait a minute! Really. Practice taking sixty seconds before you rush into the next thing, before you make a decision, before you speak. Sixty seconds. You might find that what you are about to do really doesn't fit with who you are or want to be. And when you take that time to consider what other choices you have, you might come up with an even better way to do things, a better way to express yourself.

All too often we speak before we think what we really want to say. Especially in close relationships it is vital that we think before we speak. What do we really want to say and what is the best way to say it?

Are your responses to others defensive? Aggressive? Do you rush to get your side heard before listening to the other?

Take a minute to think, to listen, to be aware of who you are.

Sixty seconds taken several times a day could just turn your life around. And it can certainly make your world a better place.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Those Moments

There are moments when everything feels overwhelmingly heavy, when there is too much negative energy, too much anger, too much death, too much responsibility, too much to do to make some little space good and right and pleasant. Peaceful. Calm.

I have those moments often when I've spent too much time watching the news and reading FaceBook. It happens when I'm weary and feeling weak. It happens when there is more to be done than I can imagine doing.

And I wonder sometimes how younger people cope these days. I'm in my seventies, retired. I don't have to juggle a job with the other parts of my life. And if it feels like too much to me, how much harder must it be for younger folks with jobs and kids and responsibilities I've outgrown.

I've read that depression in the western world is epidemic. I can easily see how it could be. War, terrorism, school shootings, murder, violence of every kind is in the news constantly. The middle class has less and less financial security. Racial tensions are extremely high. And just about every     "-ism" is alive and well.

And yet, we go on with our lives doing the best we can. And in the darkness of all this we still find hope. Flowers still bloom, the stars still shine, and babies make us smile.

Yes, there are babies being born that will change the world. And we have every hope that they will do better than all of us have done to make the world better.

Nothing is more emotionally healing than holding and infant and watch them smile when you talk to them, when you gently touch their cheek and simply say "Hello, there."

We can find hope in the face of an infant and in the return of the spring blossoms. We can look for positives and make them part of our life-view. We can create hope for ourselves and for other if we live it.

I read today that the hole in the ozone is getting smaller as we live ecologically. I took this to remind me that we can make a positive difference by how we live.

And, you know what? We find what we look for! I remind myself when I feel overwhelmed and seemingly without hope that it is time for me to start looking for positives and to creating positives.

Doing for others give them hope. This in turn somehow gives me hope. It says that I can make a difference, a positive difference.

And so can you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Little Things DO mean a lot!

There are lots of little things we can do for others that we may not believe matter in the scheme of things. But the person receiving that act of kindness may find it so improves their day, their spirits, their persective on the world.

Last week, when I cam out of art class with my wheeled cart of art supplies, I had stopped and opened the hatch back. A young man was passing by and asked if he could help. I was thrilled to have him pick the cart up and place it in my car. Many days that is the hardest part of class for me because my old and arthritic back screams when I lift anything over 2 pounds! It felt really good to have someone volunteer without being asked.

I mentioned it in a group I was in and another person related her experience receiving an act of kindness. She said she had been working at something all day and was really tired. She went to a Waffle House and asked the waitress what she could get for $6 and still include a tip. So she took the waitress' advice and ordered waffles. And she struck up a conversation with the young man next to her at the counter. When she was ready to leave she looked for her bill. She asked the waitress where her bill was. She was told that the man that had been behind her, with whom she hadn't even spoken, paid it! She was shocked and very grateful. She really was short of money and it helped a lot. She felt lighter and more hopeful.

Then another person in the group said something similar had happed to her at McDonalds. She was standing in line at the counter when the person in front of her said, "I have this coupon to buy one sandwich and get the second one free. But I can't eat two of them. Can I give one to you?" She said "sure" and thanked her. She then only needed to buy a drink. When she was done eating and was ready to leave, she went over to the table where her benefactor was sitting with friends to thank her again. She struck up a conversation with them and discovered that one of them was from her home town and knew a couple of people she knew there. She had a great conversation with them and felt so much better when she left than when she we in to eat lunch alone.

There are so many small acts of kindness you can perform than may have the potential of turning someone's day from grey to sunny, from weighted down to feeling lighter, from pesimistic to optimistic.

Plant them like grass seed. Spred them around and hope that they grow in a way that makes the world a better place for you, for the recipient, for the moment at least.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Woman Who Raised You

For most of us, our biological mother raised us. But there are other women who have filled the role of mother. Some were aunts or grandmothers or older sisters. And there are adoptive mothers who have taken that role to mother children not born by them. Then, of course, there are foster mothers who have children in their lives that come and go. All of these women have sacrificed in some way for children.

And there are women in our lives who have been "like a mother" to us, women who have cared for us in ways that don't include living with us. Often as adults we have older women who have taken us under their wing to guide and comfort us.

So today, Mothers Day, is to honor all of these women. Thank them for their caring. We often don't fully appreciate what women give up to care for others. We kind of figure that is just what women do and don't give them the recognition and appreciation they deserve.

Think of what mothering might involve: lots of time - LOTS of time; bearing a child inside their body for months and then the excruciating pain of childbirth; heartache when letting go of a child; the frustration of dealing with obstinate children; the need for patience - LOTS of patience; putting the child's needs above their own; putting their life on hold for periods of time; often giving up their dreams to care for a child. The list could go on and on.,

So celebrate women who mother. And actively support them in any way you can. It is a hard job!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

My Mother Called Them Earth Angels

My mother was very independent. She was in charge of her life and made that perfectly clear. Even as she aged and became less able to do everything for herself, she hated to ask anyone for help. And her mind was sharp even to the end of her life. So she made her own decisions about nearly everything.

She had very advanced osteoporosis, having lived through financially stressed times as a child and then during the Depression when milk and dairy were less available. The doctor said her bones looked like Swiss cheese. So over the last decade of her life she frequently broke bones and had to be hospitalized. This also required time in rehabilitation facilities, some good and some bad. In one such place she was transferred from the hospital to the facility in the afternoon on a Friday after surgery for a broken hip. We got her settled and left her for the night. It looked like a nice enough place and I was relieved that she would be getting the care she needed to mend.

I got a phonecall from her the next day. She said I should come and get her and take her home because she couldn't stay in that place another night. They did not have her pain medication and she had yet to see their doctor. They had failed to take her to supper or bring her any food. Her roommate was senile and cried all night for her mama. She hadn't slept, eaten, or had medication for nearly 24 hours and she was going home.

We went to see her an hour or so later in order to resolve the situation and to convince her it was not feasible for her to go home where she lived alone in a two-story condo. It was winter and the apartment heat had been turned down while she was in the hospital, and there was little food there since she'd not been expected for at least a month. 

She was determined to leave. She said she was going to check herself out of there and if I didn't take her home she would call an ambulance to take her! And so we packed up her few clothes, put her in a wheelchair, and she signed herself out against doctor's advice, a doctor she had yet to meet. As we were going through the paperwork to check her out the nurse asked us who was responsible for her and would sign the forms. My mother grabbed the paper and said, "I'm responsible for myself!" She did indeed sign herself out.

We got her into my car and headed for her condo. Her back patio opened onto the parking lot, so I was able to park close by. But getting her from the car to the house with no wheelchair was a challenge. My spouse and I basically held her up on each side to walk her to the door. Half way there she said she couldn't go any further. "Now what?" I thought.

One of us held her up while the other went in to bring out a kitchen chair so whe could "rest". It was freezing cold out and she had on my spouse's coat. So one of us would have to wait inside until we could get her going again. I knocked on every door in the building but no one was home to help us. Finally we walked her the rest of the way to the house. She was installed in the diningroom while we tried to figure out what to do next.

She had figured out how to survive in her bedroom upstairs. Coffee pot, toaster, pitcher of water, coffee, bread, butter, peanutbutter. A friend would come by every afternoon to unlock the door so the Meals on Wheels people could bring in a meal, and between her friend and me she would get food and medicines, etc., after work each evening. And we would lock up when we left. It certainly wasn't an ideal situation, but she was determined to make it work.

The challenge, however, was how to get her upstairs! Finally we phoned her pastor and explained the situation. He and his teenaged son came to help. They carried her, in the chair, up the stairs and deposited her in her bedroom. Once we had her settled for the night we went home to try to get some rest ourselves. By this time it was night and we were all exhausted.

The next few weeks were challenging, but we made it work. She was finally able to slide step by step downstairs to go to a doctor's appointment and be cleared for doing more activity.

Now all of this story is an illustration of how independent, and stubborn, my mom could be, even when she needed help. And this is when she tagged us and her friends who volunteered to do for her as her "Earth Angels."  Over the following several years she had many situations when she needed help. She moved to an independent living apartment complex for seniors and handicapped. She was still able to take care of herself quite well and often was helping others. (Actually, I think she took on the role of Earth Angel when she could.) But near the end of her life, the last couple of years, there was one episode after another that left her with less and less mobility, strength, and independence.  She was in and out of hospital and rehab facilities, finally contracted a virus called C-dif that took her life.

So I challenge you to be someone's Earth Angel. Do you know someone who needs help, even if they don't ask for it? There are countless folk who need assistance with any number of things. Is there some way you can ease life a bit for someone else? What can you do, and for whom, that is a great kindness?

Share in the comments how you have been an Earth Angel, or how you plan to be.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

7 Ways to Be a Hero

Heroes do what needs to be done to protect or provide for someone else, even if it is difficult. So what are some things you can do that are heroic? How can you positively impact another life?

1. Take a homeless person to lunch/dinner. Don't just give them a meal. Sit with them, eat with them, and chat while they eat. Give someone the privilege of your time and presence. That is how you become SOMEONE.

2. Make a habit of doing some task for a neighbor or even a stranger that they aren't able to do, like cut the grass or shovel snow or help them paint inside or outside. Devote some time and effort into making someone else's life easier.

3. Provide transportation for someone who doesn't drive and can't afford a taxi. Maybe volunteer with the Red Cross to take people to doctor appointments. Or provide transport for people to vote. Ask at a senior living facility to see if someone there wants to go vote. Contact a political party's campain office and offer to get people to the polls.

4. If you can, foster a child in an organization like Plan International ( For a small monthly donation you can be paired with a child in need. Be sure to write letters and send cards to the child to let them know a little about you. Encourage them to do well in school and set goals for themselves.

5. Set aside $25 and make a loan through KIVA. You can choose from lots of possible folks to help with your loan. They will pay it back and you can then loan it to someone else through KIVA. It is an incredibly affordable way to change someone's life. Check it out.

6. Volunteer to help children read. For a child to have undivided attention on a regular basis as they struggle with learning to read can make a big difference in a child's future.

7. Work with Habitat For Humanity ( helping to provide homes for people who have never had a home of their own because of their financial situation. Habitat has all kinds of tasks folks can volunteer for, even on weekends. If you can pound a nail you can help build. If you can do clerical work there are tasks in the office.

There are so many ways that one person can do great things. What are some that you can think of? Would you add them in the comments?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Who's Your Hero?

There are heroes everywhere. They are all different kinds of people, every race, gender, age. They are the people who have integrity, who do the right thing to help others, even when it might be really difficult to do. Heroes stand up for what they believe in because they know it is the right thing to do.

Who is your hero? Who was your hero when you were a kid? How have your views about heroes changed?  Did you used to think they had to have superpowers to be a hero? Check out this short video.

From that perspective, who is your hero today?

And for whom have you been a hero? What would you have to do to be a hero? What are you willing to stand up for? 

More often than not parents have to be heroes for their children. And more often than not the children don't appreciate their heroism until they themselves are parents. You see, heores don't do what needs to be done for the appreciation or honor. They do it because they care about what is right, what needs to be done to protect or provide for someone else.

You probably have been a hero at some points in your life. Think back on those times and ask yourself how you can be a hero in the life of someone now.