A New Normal

For the past two weeks I have been taking care of either one or two sick kids. I’ve been asked numerous times if I got sick too. The big answer is a big yes… twice. Felt pretty bad some of those days. My thought process was they are sick and I am sick … so what the heck … we can be sick together. That comes from my new normal and Ken always saying “75% of the those working out in the world today do not feel well.”

I actually made a discovery this week. I have a new “normal.” My health is really not great … cancer side effects and lots of heart issues. I am never at 100% and feel somewhat bad every day. I get up early every day and get busy because it keeps me going. Kimbo fusses at me most days to find rest because she worries and worries and worries . But I do rest. I nap with my boys … and love their cuddles. They make anything feel good. Plus watching the boys is mostly sitting around rocking one or both. Did I say that Kimbo worries!

Ok … back to new normals and my discovery. I found that when I do get sick … which isn’t often … I dont feel any different than I do everyday. So I just “keep on keeping on” as a past friend used to tell me. I do believe if I ever stop, it might end everything… not in my plan. I also know that keeping yourself busy definitely fights off most types of depression or feeling sorry for yourself. You see, you don’t get old from age, you get old from inactivity, from not believing in something. I’m already old so I can’t risk inactivity. Nope … no couch, chips and tv for me!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that change comes to all of us … everyday. We also have to deal with sickness and other problems. Our attitude during that change either makes us happy or sad. Acceptance of change doesn’t mean giving up entirely on your former situation. I still have valuable memories, my skills and my relationships to carry forward, but the point is that I’m moving on to a wider life. I’m not giving up because I feel bad.

I always come back to my absolute favorite quote … it’s from Jeffrey Holland. You know it … I quote it all the time.

Quoting Stephen Covey – “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” It does not matter what has happened to you. What matters is what lies ahead of you and what that will look like is completely and entirely up to you. Do you have the faith, trust and hope to carry on?

Im not sure if I’m just boring you guys or not even getting my point across … but I’m trying! Make a difference. Just be kind to yourself and the people around you … we all are going through changes and new normals. When we do, little by little, you will find yourself having adjusted to the new normal because it’s just what we humans do. We can be happy and have a full life with new normals. I sure have been blessed to be able to cope with change. Yep … Heavenly Father loves me! He loves you too … but I think I’m His favorite.

Just saying …

Celebrate Life

“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.”
~Stuart Scott

I am so thankful!

Yesterday was my Ten-Year “Cancerversary!” It’s a strange anniversary or ‘Cancerversary’ as it’s often referred to in our circles … an elite group of special people whose bodies had turned into angry monsters and were trying to kill us from the inside out. My getting to year ten surviving Triple Negative Breast Cancer is a pretty big achievement.

Ten years ago yesterday, I was deemed cancer free …. Not cured but cancer free. I had been diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer about a month earlier… it’s considered not curable but treatable. My cancer surgery at Duke University Cancer Center was on June 19, 2012. Yesterday was ten years later and I am still alive and well and kicking – and passionate about giving hope that there is life after cancer.

I am grateful. I still watch. I still worry. I still hope. Nothing comes with a guarantee, especially in my body. But I am grateful! With cancer, there is no final, clear answer … I accept this. Cancer survivors are more aware of this than anyone else. The blinders have been stripped away. We know what we know and we know what we don’t know. We accept this, and move on day by day. What other choice do we have? We celebrate our victories. We move forward one day at a time … it is all the more reason to celebrate life every day.

You see … Cancer gave me a new perspective that I needed to learn. Cancer taught me many things, and it continues to do so … or should I say, I’ve learned things because of cancer. I do not necessarily think that cancer is the teacher though. God is the teacher. Life is the teacher. It just took cancer to get me to listen. It is sad that it would take cancer or my personal trials to do this – but by sharing my experiences perhaps someone else can learn from my observations. Now I try my best not to worry about the small things that consumed my life before cancer. It was my invitation to take stock and re-examine my life … to discover ways of leading a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

I try to make my family and friends more of a priority now. I want them to know how much I love them and want to help them in their lives in any way that I can. Most of all I prioritize fun. If there’s something I want to do, I want to do it now, and who knows what’s around the corner? Now … if I love you, I’m going to tell you. I’m also going to tell you if you’re pissing me off. I really don’t have time for energy draining, negative, unkind people in my life.

I now have a list of things I want to achieve and a list of things I have learned. I do believe that fighting cancer remains the hardest thing I have ever done. Let me share a few of my observations after being blessed with another ten years after diagnosis.

I am definitely stronger than I knew! People often tell me how brave I am. In the words of Ebenezer Scrooge … “ bah humbug!” I am not brave at all … I just take each day as they come. I now look at some of the mundane issues people face in their day-to-day lives and chuckle knowing that they too are stronger than words can say. I have a special knowledge that our Heavenly Father will always give us the inner strength to deal with our trials. I am a better person! It has definitely changed me for the better. I still have the stresses of everyday life but I never forget how lucky I am to have another day … another chance. I am trying to live my life … not my cancer

Why waste time? I sometimes feel that cancer killed my lazy gene. If I am awake, I just have to get up. I feel that I have wasted too much time and now I cannot waste another minute. I want to be of service to others and do what I can to help others. One of my favorite sayings is: “The decision to look forward, stay positive, and remain hopeful is a key that unlocks the door to possibilities, and, when shared, returns to renew the spirit.” I choose to move forward, and to stay positive and hopeful. I hope that I can forget myself and help those around me who need my help … because in helping others, I am helping myself. Life is as good as we make it.

Family and Friends are everything! Many outside activities consumed a lot of my time before my diagnosis. Now my family and friends always come before work or other activities. My amazing community has surprised me by their caring and compassion for me and my family so many times. Nothing is as vital as connections with others … not just your family and friends. Love and kindness — give and receive. I know this sounds obvious, so I make it my daily goal!

Material things do not matter! Remove all of the B.S. from your life! Cancer taught me not to sweat the small stuff. The financial and emotional things I used to worry about every month suddenly are not an issue – they will be sorted out. Remember the old saying: “Rule 1: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule 2: It is all small stuff. Rule 3: When in doubt, refer to rules 1&2.” I do not worry about the small things that consumed my life before cancer … instead, I work on my list of things to achieve. Life is about small pleasures! I am more grateful for things like a beautiful moon or an amazing sunrise. I appreciate the joy of hearing the waves while I sit along the beach. These things may have given me joy before but I now notice them more and have a new-found tendency to see the glass half-full. Live in the moment! As a cancer survivor, I now understand that we must really enjoy life.

Do not give up! That is my number one motto! If the medical community says it cannot be done, I am determined to prove them wrong. Having cancer showed me just how persistent I can be. I have learned that when a problem comes into my life that it is not “the end of the world,” and not allow it to defeat me. The less I let things bring me down, the more I can see the joy that is in my life! One of my very favorite quotes that remind me of seeking joy and beauty in my life came from Jimmy Valvano in what I call his “Don’t Ever Give Up” speech.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think! You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

-Jim Valvano

His words have always inspired me! I know that tomorrow is a blessing … it is not a guarantee! Never giving up is really up to my attitude!

We will all die one day! Every day we all get one day closer to our death. None of us knows for sure if we will have a tomorrow. This fact was again pounded into my brain when I suffered a heart attack in January of this year. This is not morbid or depressing … it is actually quite inspiring. If only we could live like this was our last day … every day. If you knew that today was your last day, what would you choose to do? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all live as if we were dying … to commit to live each day to the full.

This journey taught me how to look forward to each day with awe and amazement. It taught me how to live in the moment again. It taught me how to be kind to others – and to give them the opportunity to be kind to me. In short, it taught me how to live again. I have thought about this a lot. I never ever wanted cancer, but if I was given the opportunity to do a rewind and give it all back – and lose all I have gained in the process, I do not think I would. Sounds crazy, I know … Wow!

We all have trials in our lives … we can either allow things to worsen by thinking negatively, or we can be hopeful and positive. As the late Christopher Reeve said:

”Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”

Having hope gives you power over your life. Once you are able to hope, you are then able to see miracles happen in your life … it sure has in my life! The more and more you are able to hope… the more easily happiness will enter your life.

So my advice for you for today … Enjoy today! Wake up early to live an hour longer. Show love. Be strong. Go ahead … Dance. Laugh. Cry. Serve others. Celebrate every single minute. Have Hope! Life is really good! I am so lucky to celebrate another year … hopefully another ten at least …. Just saying!

Live Boldly and Face Fears

‘Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee…. ‘ Isaiah 41:10

I have a fear of heights and bridges. I can remember many years ago on my honeymoon getting upset at Ken for not listening to me as he parked in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to take photos. H took a very cute photo of me sitting in the car while he stood bravely on the edge. I was so young and stupid back then. Now I think nothing of driving across that new tall bridge to go onto Topsail Island! You just have to face fears. Several years ago I traveled to the J. W. Marriott Resort and Spa in Phoenix Arizona for a Pilot International Convention. One evening at dinner a group of us were approached to go on a sunrise breakfast hot air balloon ride the next morning. After much prodding, I said Ok … I would risk my life to have some fun with my friends. They picked us up very early the next morning to take us to the lift-off site. I was terrified … scared to death! But I hung onto my friend and crawled into that little basket. I must say the ride was fantastic … I will remember it as one of my favorite adventures. However, when we landed, I could hardly climb out of the basket. The thought that I had just hung out of a little basket, a mile high, taking photos hit me like a ton of bricks … almost to the point of hyperventilating. I could not believe I just did it … I faced my fears and it was amazing!

“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” ~Unknown

I don’t know about you, but too often I allow fear, worry, and doubt to dominate my actions or reactions. It is easy to allow them to steal our joy, sleep, and even our dreams. It would have been so easy to have declined that Arizona adventure … and then missed that amazing experience.

As a young woman I actually made up my mind that I would always try to face my fears no matter what. I can definitely say that in doing so it has blessed my life in so many ways.  Scary decisions are really hard to make … but usually those scary decisions are the right decision.  One of the hardest decisions I ever had to make was when I was only eighteen years of age … thankfully I made that decision … the right decision … and I have been blessed for doing it!  It was my first really big leap of faith!

My life has been filled with adventures … only because I decided to always let my motto be “Faith over Fear.” I have several tee-shirts with that written across the front. Last summer while visiting a friend and his family, I actually fought back the fear of water, and let him take me on a ride on his jet ski … it was so much fun … but I was terrified. I might even try that adventure again.

Lesson learned:  If you want to know happiness and realize your dreams, you have to be willing to take a leap of faith despite being afraid. Too many times we hold back and play it safe in order to avoid feeling embarrassed, looking silly, being hurt, and facing rejection or possible failure … all of which never would have happen. We tend to hang onto those fears we grew up with from our younger years.  We cling to the fears from our childhood, traumatic experiences, and the negative actions. Like how Linus clings to his security blanket in the cartoon strip “Peanuts!”

So what’s the answer … maybe that it’s my responsibility to admit, face, and get rid of my fears?  Now here’s the big question:  Am I willing to begin now … to find the courage to do all the things I was meant to do during my lifetime, but have not begun?  Are you ready to begin now too?  OK … then let’s figure this out!

So here goes … my thoughts on living boldly, facing fear and taking that leap of faith!

  • Did you know that fearful thoughts only bring on more fearful thoughts … it’s a merry-go-round!  Instead of expecting the worst, I’ve trained my mind to always expect the best.  Be positive … about everything! I can tell you truthfully that being as positive as possible during my cancer diagnosis had a huge impact on my health today.  I’m almost a nine-year survivor of the most aggressive breast cancer and came through surgery, chemo and radiation with laughter and tears … by being positive! It also helps to have positive reminders around. I love wearing this bracelet that my grand-kids gave me during cancer treatment. It’s words “Let your faith be bigger than your fear” is a great reminder. Doesn’t it look really great on my old wrinkly arm?
  • Don’t give up any of your energy to fear!  I find that when I fear something … I move toward it.  Sometimes just the action will give you the courage to face it.  If you don’t take action in overcoming your fear then many opportunities will just pass you right by … which doesn’t feel so good.  Remember how a hitch-hiker looks when you zoom right past him … well that will be your look if you miss out on something great because you feared stepping out of your comfort zone! Just think:  “This fear will pass!” Every time I overcome a fear my world expands.  OK here’s a silly example.  All of my life I have had a fear of someone touching my nose … really silly … right?  My kids love to see me panic when they try to grab my nose … and don’t you get any ideas when you see me next! Before COVID lockdowns, Edgecombe Community College offered Esthetics/Cosmetology services at a discounted price.  I love any type of massage so I knew that I would love a facial if I could get over the fear of someone touching my nose!  I am very happy to report that before COVID, I had a facial every week for the last ten years … and my nose hasn’t fallen off and I can still breathe!  Have the courage to face your fears. Because of facing that fear, I have found I can breathe with other treatments. This was last Wednesday, during a test at UNC Medical Center. I passed and didn’t pass out with that weird thingy on my nose. I did look a bit silly. Yes … face your fears!
  • Reflect on your life and every single success that you have experienced.  Reflect on all those fears that you have come face-to-face with and overcome.  Allow these successes to inspire and motivate you to develop the courage you need to face anything! Just thinking back … after Ken passed away I learned how to change toilet seats and start a lawn mower. These activities were huge successes.  Believe me when I say there were definite fears that I would never survive without him … but I’m here and thriving!
  • Many of my fears came with the death of my husband and then being diagnosed with cancer.  If it were not for my family and friends, my amazing support group, that provided inspiration, praise and encouragement every step of the way, I might not have come through it.  They continually reminded me of all the trials and triumphs that I had come through.  To help you … ask your loved ones to do the same for you!  Quoting Robert Fulghum: “When you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” Sticking together makes tough times easier and easier times more fun!

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”  Her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt also made a great statement about fear:  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”   If there is one thing that I have learned during the past few years is that life is way too short to let fear keep you from doing something you want to do ….. even if you know that it will take you way out of your comfort zone and perhaps make you look like a fool!

I can live fearless and boldly … I really can!  While I was going through cancer treatment I was able to travel to Wilmington to attend the play “Annie” that my granddaughter Abby had a role in …. she was Mollie!  Before the play started the director came out on the stage to welcome the crowd.  Then she stated that she had a gift card to “Learning Express” to anyone who would be willing to come up here and sing a few lines of the song “Tomorrow.”  Everyone in the audience just sat there.  Like a fool I raised my hand and of course was chosen.  So bald head, pale and all … I marched down the aisles to the stage and tried to sing “Tomorrow” … with the help of the director on a few lines …. Remember I do have chemo brain.  Not only did I forget a few lines …. But I forgot that I didn’t know how to sing either!!!  But the audience was really nice and clapped anyway …. Probably to get me off stage!  Yep …. I had completely lost my mind …. But I sure had fun doing it …. And I received a gift card for Abby to boot!  Too bad no one wanted an encore …. I was getting ready to belt out a few bars of “It’s a Hard Knock Life” ….. I know that song word for word after my life’s roller coast ride!  OK … my life has really been pretty darn good and blessed with all of its ups and downs!

So in the words of singer Taylor Swift … “Live Fearless …. Live in spite of those things that scare you to death.”  So during that play opening I lived fearless … and I remember that it really felt good … and it really made me laugh … which felt even better!  Life is so beautiful when you step out of your comfort zone, face fear, and really have fun!

Well those are my thoughts on living boldly and facing fears.  We have the power to do what it takes to break through any fear or obstacles that stand in the way of our goals, our dreams, and our happiness.  All we need to do is step out of that fear and dream really big!

Just saying …

Life is a Gift … So let’s be Thankful!

I have always relabeled the end of year holiday season as my “Thankful Season.” I love this time of the year! I love the opportunity it gives me to show my thankfulness … that should be shown all year round. I do try my best to be appreciative and thankful every single day.

I am certainly aware of the fact that my life is much better than I deserve.  I look around and see a world full of pain, suffering, and hardship. I have plenty of that pain and hardships myself. So the fact that I can be thankful and really mean it, is in its own way a small miracle.

Life in Covid Prison … our family is quarantined with most of them coming down with Covid … has been lonely, boring, and lazy. The days haven’t really been great days!  Some days it was hard to be thankful.

As many of you are aware since taking the chemo I have nerve damage (neuropathy) in my feet and legs … The change of the weather from warm to cooler to warmer to cooler played havoc on my feet.  That’s been our North Carolina weather lately. As I walked out on our deck recently I remarked to myself “I sure didn’t appreciate good feet when I had them!”  WOW … what a thought and so true with many things in my life.  Being grateful is a choice … just like our attitude is our choice! Being truly thankful means during good and bad times.

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”     ~Melody Beattie

I read lots of motivational books. There is a story I love that I found in the book “I Once Was Blind But Now I Squint” written by Kent Crockett.  Kent tells a story about his father undergoing radiation for throat cancer which damaged his taste buds so that he couldn’t taste food.  I guess I could relate because I too lost taste for good food.  OK … back to the story.  He said that his father’s inability to enjoy a meal became a dreaded duty that he had to do to recover.  After his treatment ended he waited for his taste to return.  He said that every meal became a forced feeding to keep his father alive.  Finally after one year, his father sat down to a meal and as he put the fork to his mouth he discovered taste.  What many would consider a bland dinner became the best meal he had ever eaten.  Kent stated that after his father had lost and recovered his taste it became a reference point to his being thankful. I remember this story as all my family currently has lost their taste due to the covid virus. Kimbo was so happy tonight to be able to faintly taste the soup I had made. Ok … back again to my blog.

Likewise with me … having nerve damage in my feet and the many other side effects have given me reference points to what I had and what I now have to be thankful for.  But you don’t even have to lose something in order to be thankful.  You can develop a thankful attitude for all of your blessings that you have by simply realizing what life would be like without them.  Think about them and then losing them and see if that doesn’t scare the heck out of you!  As Jose Ruiz said: “Live by one life motto: don’t take anything for granted because one day it’ll be everything you wish you had back.”

We are all more fortunate than we give ourselves credit for … maybe it’s because we are pre-occupied with thoughts of things we don’t have or things we think we are missing out on.  Stop for a moment and look around, there are endless things we have that others are not as fortunate to have. We should just be grateful for the things we have in the first place.  

Like the picture above, no matter how you say it … Being thankful and being grateful unlocks happiness.  I will say that this knowledge has come later in my life and I wish I had discovered it earlier so the folks around me would have known just how much I appreciate them!  Being thankful turns what we have into enough and sometimes even more.  Like the quote I stated above … It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a beautiful home and a stranger into a valued friend.  Being thankful makes sense of our past, brings us peace for today, and gives us hope for a better tomorrow.

Each of us has life altering things happen. I have so many family and friends who have lost someone this past year or have had devastating events happen in their lives. They had no idea their lives were about to change forever.  If you take something for granted, you don’t worry about it because you assume you will always have it.  Shouldn’t we just be happy if we can walk, eat, live safely?  So many others around us do not have these … and yet we still complain every day that we do not have enough. When you make yourself aware of how blessed you really are, that is when you learn to appreciate the “little” things in life and you become happier.

We also make the biggest mistake of assuming that the family and friends we love will be here for us forever.  I deal with this every day … I really miss my husband, my mother and especially my sister!  I hope they know just how much I did love and appreciate them … I don’t think I told them enough!  It’s more important to let those around me now know how much I love and appreciate them!  Yes … message to my brain … learn to appreciate what I have now before time makes me appreciate what I had! Yes … that means telling them over and over and over.

That reminds me of another little story I read somewhere … can’t remember where so I can’t give the author credit.  A little girl sat down to eat dinner with her family.  Her father asked if she would bless the food.  She looked at the table and discovered that they were having leftovers from the night before.  The little girl said “But we already thanked God for this food last night!”  Her father replied … “just because we’ve thanked God once for something doesn’t mean we can’t thank Him again.”  The same goes for our family and special friends … tell them and tell them often.

“Never take someone you love for granted. Hold every person close to your heart because you might wake up one day and realize that you lost a diamond while you were too busy collecting pretty stones.”     ~Author Unknown

Life is too short to waste our time thinking about what we do not have while we deal with this pandemic … while we isolate ourselves. We obviously can survive without them and things. We … you and I … have made it this far haven’t we. As my mother used to tell me all the time … “things do not make you happy, it is how we feel that really matters.” Yep … I now realize that what I get out of life depends entirely upon my attitude. The things that provide for my happiness are right in front of my face … my family, my extended family, my friends, and my community. Don’t waste another minute … be thankful and be happy.

Here’s my new challenge to you: Take some time today, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, to come up with a thankful list. Even if you can’t seem to think of anything, don’t let that stop you from still giving thanks. There is still much to be thankful for, if we only have eyes to see. I actually keep a journal that I write events and things that I am thankful for. Some days its hard to write … days that are lonely or disappointing … but I still try to write. Later when I read about these trying events I see the blessings that still came to me! I believe that the hardest times in our lives often lead to the greatest moments in our lives.

Just in case you were wondering, here are my top 5 reasons to give thanks today … (but there are many more things):

  1. I am thankful for my family … especially my six awesome grandchildren and my precious Henry… who take care of me and love me as I am. Each of you inspires me to be a better person.
  2. I am thankful for my new type of health … for being able to still do the things I want and need to do to provide for myself.
  3. I am thankful for the talents and the ability to share them with others … whether it’s homemade Christmas gifts this year, to repair a bridesmaid dresses or teaching others the art of making t-shirt quilts or painting a picture for a dear friend.
  4. I am thankful for music — music like the “Paul Cardall – Piano Guys – Gentri – Nathan Pacheco – One Voice Children’s choir.” Just in case Steven Sharpe Nelson or Paul Cardall reads this blog … your music inspires me spiritually and makes me want to be a better person.
  5. Lastly, and most importantly, I am thankful for my loving Heavenly Father —for the purpose that knowledge gives to my measly life and the knowledge that “Families are Forever!” He gives me hope that there is more to my story than I can see.

I close my blog today with a quote from Buddha: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us be thankful.”     Oh I do love that wise old man!

Please remember … No matter the situation, you can always find something to be thankful for!   Give every day the chance to be the most beautiful day ever!  Be thankful and be happy! Just be positive and keep the faith … it’s all worth it!

Just saying …

Quack Quack … I’m A Duck

I think that I am a DUCK!

Stress is an everyday part of my life! I’m sure it is for many of you too.  We all experience stress to some degree … some more than others. How you handle stress inwardly reflects outwardly.  This brings me to today’s blog subject … I am a DUCK!

Have you ever noticed that some people look calm on the outside and yet they talk about how stressed they are?  Sometimes it’s hard to believe what they are saying because they appear to have it all.  That’s because they are ducks.  I remember going out to Weeks Pond with Ken and our two oldest granddaughters Morgan & Maggie, to feed the ducks.  That was actually one of the last outings Ken had with the girls.  It was a really cold day in February and he was afraid there wouldn’t be any ducks out there … but there were!  I remember standing beside the water all bundled up as the girls threw out the old bread Ken had brought.  The ducks all gracefully swam across the water to our side of the pond as if they were gliding effortlessly, or so it seemed. I had no idea then, but now know, that under the water is an entirely different scenario.  Check out this image that demonstrate two very different perspectives:

To borrow a favorite quote from the movie The Replacements:  “Like a duck on the pond. On the surface everything looks calm, but beneath the water those little feet are churning a mile a minute”. So if we were to have poked our heads underneath the cold water that day, we would have seen a very different scenario.  Their little webbed feet were paddling so fast and furious to reach their new destination of where our granddaughters were dishing out vittles of bread.  But we couldn’t see underneath the surface, only what was visible above the surface where they appeared to be sailing smoothly along.

That’s me some days …just another duck on the pond … a duck paddling with all my might to get through my everyday stresses, twists and turns.  I bet many of you can relate.  You too might be someone who is stressed out but doesn’t show it.  On the outside we are Mr. or Mrs. Calm, but on the inside we are stirring up a storm that only we and others who can see beneath us are aware.  Now don’t get me wrong … in some cases stress can be a good thing when it serves as a motivational tool.  

Even though I retired from work last month, I’ve been so busy lately.  I looked at the calendar the other day and thought “Where in the world did this year go??”  It seems like life and living have been getting in my way even though most of it has been in quarantine due to COVID19!  I have been busy:  family activities, working part time, church activities, trying to get my house on the market to sell, being sick, taking care of Henry, yada, yada, yada. Sometimes it seems as if my head is at least a month behind reality and I’m playing a big game of catch-up (and losing!).

I initially had big plans for 2020.  It was going to be so different … I was going to be so organized and be on top of everything.  But life doesn’t stop for anything!  Yep. I’m really a duck … not even a swan … just another duck trying to survive in a world full of ducks!

This past weekend I was watching one of those sappy happy-ever-after “Hallmark” channel movies that I recorded on the DVR last week … what can I say … I love them!   All of a sudden my TV went blank and then cut off.  The movie was at a really good part so I jumped up and immediately turned it on again only to find that the movie reverted back to the beginning.  Oh no! … I had to fast forward it to where I was when the TV turned off.

Have you ever watched a movie in fast forward … it’s quite interesting.  So here was my thought process … WOW … that’s how I live my life … in fast forward mode. While watching the movie in fast forward mode, I saw people running around like maniacs, cars moving as if on a high-speed chase, mouths moving without sound!  The thought came to my mind — stop … slow down … and smell the roses!  My family tells me all the time to slow down. 

Life lived at a fast pace is so hectic … at least mine is. My life is full of events that require my attendance and attention.  It’s a “you better move it along” life!  It’s like what Katie wants the golfer in front of her to do … “play or just move out of the way please!”  Even my fingers are in fast-forward mode by always trying to type faster than my brain can think!  Of course there are times I would like to have a real fast-forward button. Like when it’s Monday, and I can’t wait until Friday afternoon so I could perhaps leave for Topsail Beach … now that sounds like a good plan!

I can’t tell you why I have always made my life into such a race … other than that’s my normal pace!  It could be that my mother used to preach to us girls “idle hands are the devil’s workshop!” I heard those words from her so many times!  Living life in a rush can make life a blur!  It’s a life where we are always headed somewhere, trying to complete something, making our never-ending to-do lists and then trying to check things off.  Then there are the ways that we try to avoid that dreaded boredom so we find ourselves constantly on our smart phones googling random thoughts or checking out our calendars so we don’t forget anything that we have scheduled.  This must be a universal problem because even Kenny Chesney sang a song titled “Living in Fast Forward.”  Maybe we need to follow the advice of Lily Tomlin: “For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”

Another thing that I learned about myself is that my ability to stay afloat isn’t all about paddling my feet … that just propels me along.  You see if the Duck didn’t spend time preparing its feathers, its body wouldn’t be the watertight body that you see on top.  So it is with life… We need to prepare to not only weather the waves around us but to also stay afloat. We have to learn how to “prepare our feathers”.  I am a big believer in the power of gratitude and how it creates positive changes. Being constantly aware of your many blessings and feeling grateful for them can have a huge impact on the quality of your life. When you are filled with appreciation, it quite literally changes the forces of your life. For me, quite simply it’s my belief in a loving Heavenly Father and that “Families are Forever”.  It is realizing how truly blessed I have been all my life … even with its many trials. It’s also important to show my appreciation by trying to serve others the best I can. It’s having hope and dreams of a better tomorrow …It’s knowing that there is a greater plan for my life than just getting through the day! Take nothing for granted, and believe!  There’s no doubt in my mind that the simple act of gratitude will change your perception in positive ways and help you cope with any stress or trial.

So my newest goal is to ditch the Duck in me. How?  It took me a while today to think of what exactly I want to be (in an analogous way). I know … I want to be a boat! … a sail boat!  They are beautiful and appear so relaxing.  As a sail boat I’ll just pray for the right amount of wind, set my sail and glide through the water, feeling free.  By letting the wind carry me, it will be like letting go of some of the things that control my life … dealing with my stress as it passes by and knowing that everything really will be OK. 

Now don’t get me wrong … a sailboat can be busy and stressful.  But it’s also organized and aware of its many courses and the factors that direct them.  I can do this … I will switch from a duck to a sailboat.  If I can organize my thoughts, beliefs and hopes, then I can focus my intentions on smooth sailing … relaxing on the water … and watching all those ducks bobbing by.  I want to toss out my anchor (sail boats do have anchors … right?) and enjoy every moment I have left in my beautiful life!  No more frantically paddling underneath the surface!

There comes a time when we have to just stop, think and ask ourselves what we are really striving for … what is the purpose of this life? What can truly make us happy?  What can bring us joy? How can we relax and stop stressing?

The bad news is that time flies … but the good news is that I am the pilot!  I believe the time has come for me to head to the shore … to slow down the pace of my life … to be still.  I’m going to take a few deep breaths and look around and see all the wonderful, amazing, and beautiful things that I have in my life now.  I’m not even going to make a list of my next steps until I really see the beauty around me right now.  I know that life is short and in the blink of an eye, it can all be gone! I know this first hand! Quoting and agreeing with Diane Ackerman:  “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it.  I want to have lived the width of it too!

So my advice for this week:  Make a daily ritual to stop paddling for one minute each morning … long enough to think of all the people and things in your life that you are grateful for. You won’t have time enough to think of everything in that one minute, but it will be enough to get you thinking in the right direction. It will instantly set the tone for the rest of your day and help to steer your attention on things to appreciate about your life.

Can you think of a better use of that one minute of your time? … It’s definitely better than paddling! Remember … as the old saying goes … “the happiest people are not the ones who have the best of everything … they are the ones who are grateful for everything they have.”

Just saying …

The Choice is Always Yours

Yesterday was my birthday … September 2 … I’m 74 years old.  What an amazing life I have experienced.  I began my life with Plan One … everything awesome and happy.  Now I’m on Plan Six … and still everything is awesome and happy.  Why?  The only difference between a good life and a bad life is your attitude.  The choice is always yours.  One thing I do know is that I’m truly blessed and thankful for the time I have been given to enjoy a full life. 

The Hispano-Roman Philosopher Seneca once wrote:  “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”

WOW … What a profound statement. The more I read it, the more I am inspired by it.

The phrases that stick out the most to me are:  “It is not that we have a short time to live… but that we waste a lot of it…” “Life is long enough for the highest achievements if it were all well invested…” “It is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity…” “We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it…”

I believe that we have a loving Heavenly Father who designed each of us to achieve great things.  We are each unique in who we are, our abilities, and our talents.  There is also no one else on earth that can live our life and accomplish the good that we can.  You are enough! That’s important … do not forget it.  You are designed to bring some good into this world.  And there are people in your life that you can serve and love better than anyone else.

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It is up to us to decide every day to focus all of our energy on important things with the one life we have been given.  We must let go of all the inessential things in our lives and remove the distractions.  This is not an easy task living in today’s world. 

Your life is too short to be offended all the time. Your life is too short to compare it to others. Your life is too short to not believe in yourself. Your life is too short to not forgive. Your life is too short to regret the past. Your life is too short to live in fear. Your life is too short to be unhappy. Your life is too short to waste time on trivial matters.

I love this quote by Alan Watts:  “Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.”

I Am Enough

I don’t think Mr. Watts was referring to waking up from physical sleep … I believe he is talking about accepting who you are and accepting that it is enough … which leads to a happy life!  I struggled with this many times throughout in my life … Am I Enough? I grew up with this “perfect idea” of who I should be (at least what my mother thought I should be)! Yes … that was my Plan One!   You know those thoughts … the perfect daughter, the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect homemaker, the perfect church member … and the list goes on and on in my head.  In reality too many of us have those feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.  We get discouraged with the things that we haven’t accomplished in life, the lack of education, the family members we feel that we let down, or the situations that we find ourselves in.  We all have this “perfect idea” of who we ought to be.

Why do we treat ourselves so terrible and relentlessly by comparing our life to other people … no matter how many times someone tells us how good enough or lovable we are? I don’t know about you, but I continue to look for evidence that I am not a nobody, or that I’m living up to my full potential.  I’m sure these feeling come from the pressure our society puts on each of us to “stack up to others.” 

We tend to think that our lives would be better if we had done things differently along the way.  I love the quote from the movie “Clouds of Sils Maria” when the character Christopher Giles says:  “We’re not allowed to regret anything.  If we’re sincere in our actions, then we’re the sum total of our experiences – no exceptions – and that is enough!”  You see … changing the past would change who we are … not make us something better or happier … just different.

Changing our circumstances is not the key to true happiness … It’s embracing who we are and knowing that we are enough that brings happiness.  I remember a great quote from the movie “Jurassic World” … “The key to a happy life is to accept you are never actually in control.”  We aren’t in control of the things that happen to us, or many times the circumstances that surround us … but we are in control of our attitude.

How long could the hare sleep and still win the race against the tortoise?  | by Krist Wongsuphasawat | Medium

Recently I read a short internet article about the story of the “Tortoise and the Hare.” It pointed out that living from one milestone to the next often leads us to miss the most important and enjoyable parts of our lives today. You know the story … the slow and steady tortoise won the race.  But this article pointed out that we don’t focus enough on what the tortoise actually gained from the race.  The hare focused solely on his next destination point and he missed everything along the way.  However the tortoise was able to enjoy his journey and everything around his adventure.  Even if the hare had won, the tortoise still would have found joy in his race because he took his time and “stopped to smell the roses” so to speak!

I need to apply this lesson to my own life. I know that my biggest goal in this life is to live a worthy life and return to live with my Heavenly Father and with my family … but I also must have the goal of enjoying the life I have been given … here and now.  I need to realize that “I Am Enough!”  In Thomas Monson’s book “Finding Joy in the Journey” he admonishes us to “relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family.”

Oprah Winfrey said it better than I could ever say it:  “If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

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So if we’re in this “I’m not enough” rut, how can we dig ourselves out? How can we live our lives and be more present to ourselves? How can we realize that we are enough?  I’ve developed a short list that I try to follow, and it just may help you too:

  • Be thankful for all you have and are. Gratitude is powerful because it helps us recognize all the good things around instead of dwelling on all the good things we think we need to be happy.
  • Read inspiring spiritual messages and blogs. I have several blogs that I follow that uplift me and put me in a thankful state of mind. Sometimes it takes someone else’s words to help you see what you actually have to be thankful for.
  • Remember that there is more right with you than wrong with you. This powerful reminder is inspired by one of my favorite quotes from Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Until you stop breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you.”  Remind yourself that you are alive and breathing and able to walk new paths whenever you choose.
  • Enjoy the present! Being present means noticing the thousands of things around us that make life interesting. It also means making time for fun.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the person you are right now, exactly as you are!

As Seneca said: “Life is long if you know how to use it.” … and a key to using it is to realize you are enough! … Who you are right now, flaws and all!  Not only are you enough, your Heavenly Father loves you exactly as you are.  No conditions. No boundaries. Unconditionally!  Our Heavenly Father has a plan for all of us … and we will never be who He wants us to be if we are constantly trying to become what others want us to be!

Yes … I am enough … and so are you!

Just Saying …

I Used To Say “I'm Blessed” Until I Asked These 2 Questions | by Josh  Bocanegra | Josh Bocanegra | Medium

Kindness is Free

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Have you ever heard the phrase “kindness is free?”  I actually have 2 tee-shirts, one short sleeve and one long sleeve, which have the phrase written across the front.  They are my favorite tee-shirts, that’s why I have two of them … so I can wear the phrase year-round.  However, my son Paul disagrees with this phrase.  I love to wear it when I know he’s going to be around … just to share words of disagreement … I didn’t want to say argue.

Let me go back several months.  Back before Convid-19, Paul asked if I would be available to house sit for the family while they went on vacation to Cedar Point, Ohio.  The trip was to celebrate my granddaughter Abby’s 16th birthday.  Of course I said yes! I love being kind and helping others … especially my family.  Now fast forward to August 3rd when I traveled to Wilmington to house sit.  This was not your normal house sitting.  It involved not only the home, but a dog named Millie, a cat named Peaches, a dragon lizard named Elliot, a gecko named Leo and seven unnamed chickens.

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The dog and cat were easy to care for.  The lizard and gecko were different.  I hate worms … and I had to gather worms from a large box and feed them both daily.  Yuck … I absolutely hated this part of the job.  Each day I also had to go into the pen to feed the chickens and then collect the eggs.  Not too bad of a job, right?  Well, the night that they left for Ohio happened to be the night that Hurricane Isaias decided to visit Wilmington.  Sitting alone in a dark hallway, with no electricity, was quite scary.  Listening to tree limbs hit the house was very unnerving.  I survived the night only to endure the next two days without power.  No electricity at Paul’s also means no water … which means no toilets.  Sure brought back memories of Hurricane Floyd.  The morning after the storm I also found a dead chicken in the pen.  Thank goodness for Morgan’s hubby coming to my rescue and bagging it up and disposing of it.

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So, what did I learn from this? Kindness might be free of money but definitely not free of time, patience, and inconvenience.  Maybe Paul could be a bit right in his argument.  However, I still believe that kindness can be given freely.  Maybe that’s the idea behind the phrase.

I have been thinking about my life and how many blessings I have enjoyed and all the kindness from others that has enriched my life!  Yes … there are many!  Let me share a story  …  It’s a story about Fiorello LaGuardia who was once the mayor of New York City during the time of the Great Depression. One winter day as he presided at police court, an officer brought in a shabbily dressed man charged with stealing a loaf of bread. The defendant explained that his family was starving. LaGuardia stated that his hands were tied and that he had to punish the man.  He fined the man 10 dollars. The mayor then reached into his pocket, pulled out 10 dollars and paid the fine for the man. Then, looking around the courtroom, he stated that he was fining everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a town where a man had to steal bread to eat. He ordered the bailiff to collect from everyone and to give the money to the defendant. The stunned man left the courtroom with $47.50. That certainly is not much by today’s standards, but the mayor was not just asking for money … he was asking for kindness, compassion and encouragement for the man and his family.

I find that acts of kindness motivate me to pay it forward as best I can, every single day! We ALL can give compassion, encouragement and hope. We can lift and bless others with our smiles, our hugs, compliments, and kindness. We can be generous with our time, treat others like they really do matter, and be sensitive to their feelings and their needs.   More often than not, these are things that do not cost money … they are free.  Rather, they are gifts of our love, and time. Through these simple actions we can ease the difficulties of our neighbors.

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Let’s think about how kindness from others has helped us.  I love using metaphors! Forrest Gump told us that “Life is like a box of chocolates!”   I like to think of “Life as a Puzzle.” My life is one of those tricky 1,000 piece puzzles. When I began my puzzle I came up with a plan on how to put it together and then started on my journey. The pieces were all very small and looked somewhat alike. So at first, I found myself trying to force certain pieces into the wrong position or place. Even though they appeared as if they should fit, they just weren’t meant for that space. It would be so easy to just pick up a pair of scissors and snip – snip – snip in order to make it fit. But life doesn’t work that way.

Several times in my life when I thought things were looking great and things were fitting together beautifully …suddenly I would come to a piece of the puzzle that I didn’t like or that I didn’t want to fill in the space in which it was intended for.  Pieces such as my husband’s untimely death, or my Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis and treatment, and the death of my sister Cathy. That’s just three of many pieces that I was not at all fond of! For some of you it might be pieces representing poor health, loss of a friend or family member, loss of employment, or a family or economic crisis. We all have unattractive and unwanted pieces in our life’s puzzle. We may be sad, frustrated, over-whelmed, or feel as though we would rather give up. We mustn’t do that! That’s when kindness from others enters our lives.  We must simply keep putting those pieces together, along with kindness from others, until we see the bigger picture appear before our eyes.

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During our annual family beach retreat to Topsail Island, we gather around the dining room table and work on a puzzle together. It’s so much fun. Family or friends passing by would jump right in to help! Together we learned a great lesson about patience and persistence and the power of teamwork. The puzzle fell into place much quicker with help from family and friends! Smiles, high-fives and jumps for joy were expressed when one of us located and solved a missing piece that was difficult to find. Someone would stop by to help, looking at the puzzle from a fresh perspective or different angle, or just offering help and encouragement. Isn’t this the way life should be? Others passing by and stopping to help or offer kindness and encouragement.  Remember it goes both ways; we must offer help, kindness and encouragement for others who are solving their own puzzles!

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In my journal I have written several times about showing kindness and how important it is in creating happiness.  My notes remind me of the things I should be doing each day. It’s what I will refer to as puzzle pieces that make other pieces fall into place. It’s a list of five things … Sort of like kindness goals! They are things I believe make my life happier and help others too. Here they are:

  • Make every hug last at least 10 seconds longer! Make them feel loved!
  • Give out at least 3 compliments a day! It makes you feel better and definitely makes them feel better!
  • Serve others daily! “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these” …
  • Accept help and always remember to show your appreciation! Makes life so much easier!
  • Never … ever … give up! Jim Valvano was so right!

Abraham Lincoln … “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.” To live life to its fullest, you must follow the Savior’s teachings … love one another, service others, and be kind!

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We are all in this together! …So let’s see what we can do! Look around you right now and find someone that needs support, encouragement, hope and above all KINDNESS.  You have it within yourself to give.   If you want to be happy and get your mind off your own problems, do something for someone else!   Real happiness doesn’t come from being selfish, but by being selfless.  Everything you do comes back around.  In life, you get out what you put in.  When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life.  Kindness is free … share it often!

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”  Remember life is a puzzle and you really do have the very last piece in your possession to bring you happiness! That piece just might be kindness! …

Just saying …

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This Too Shall Pass

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“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be … it’s the way it is.  The way you cope is what makes the difference.”   `Virginia Satir

Each morning I wake up, I have a choice to determine the direction that I want that day to take.  I can go into default mode and wake up worried and fearful about the things I have no control over … or I can make the conscious decision to choose the kind of day I want to experience.  Many times the events of the day happen so quickly that, we get caught up in the drama and feel that we don’t have a choice.  Things just happen.  Bad things do happen to good people.  No one gets through this life without struggles!  Everybody has battles to fight … everybody!  No one’s life is perfect!

But, even in the midst of confusion … we do have a choice in how we react to our circumstances.  No matter what happens, I get to choose how I react to it.  I will admit that this is very difficult to do when life smacks you right in the face. But if we intentionally set the tone for our day BEFORE we jump into it … it will be a heck of a lot better.  Really … that’s the truth.  Personally I find that the first 15 minutes of the day are the most important for me.  It’s sort of like putting the train on the right track at the beginning of the day … rather than trying to clean up a derailed train later in the day.  It’s so easy to get sucked into being negative … remember that fact!

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Case in point:  This morning I got up, read through my emails, send out a few “how are you” and “thinking of you” emails before even getting out of bed. I love letting people know how important they are in my life.  I was feeling pretty happy while getting ready for work because they were were giving me a good-bye luncheon at work today and I was also feeling grateful that tomorrow is my last day of working at Edgecombe Community College.  I will miss them, but the prospects of new adventures is pretty exciting.  When I got to work, I received a terrible disheartening phone call.  I have been completing some major repairs to the home I own, getting it ready to sell.  The repairman informed me that last night’s storm took off shingles from the end of my house and, flooded the ceilings, causing the ceilings and insulation to fall into the floor in two of the  bedrooms.  Sheetrock, insulation and rain water all over the two bedroom floors.  I will not lie … this really knocked me for a gigantic loop.  I was three weeks from having it ready to sell.  I am not going to lie … I cried a few tears.

7Immediately a phrase that my Ken used to quote came to my mind.  “Remember Phyllis, this too shall pass.  It’s not going to affect your eternal salvation.”   Then I thought crossed my mind that it might, if I don’t stop swearing at this moment!

All things come and go.  Actually … change is the only thing that is constant in our lives. … And I have had to deal with plenty of change!  I know that what may appear to be a mountain in front of me, will soon be a molehill behind me.  It always does.  Knowing that “this too shall pass” does enable me to get through anything.  This knowledge has gotten me through so many things in my life.  I have been blessed.

I just have to keep the faith.  When scary things happen to me, I remember the faith I have in my loving Heavenly Father and my Savior, and that everything will unfold as it should.  I am a child of God.  My challenge is not to deal with what may appear as a humongous problem … my challenge is to find the blessing in the situation.  If you look hard enough you might just find a gift in what’s happening around you.

There are two things that I have going for me: 1) I am surrounded by people who support me.  2) and I realize that I am not alone.

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Contrary to popular belief it does not work to just put on a brave face and soldier on.  I speak from experience with that statement.  I’m very stubborn … just ask Kimbo!  Sometimes we (talking to myself) have a false idea in our heads of what it means to be strong. Accepting help and allowing our family and friends in to help is not a sign of weakness!  It takes courage to let people in … it is humbling.  I love the quote by Lea McEwan:  “Generosity is not just a gift to be given but a gift to be received.”

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This is my support group … and they are amazing.  Today they hit me full force with love and support when I was having that mini pity party.  They reminded me of how tough I am, what I’ve already gone through and just how blessed I am.  They helped me see the beauty and possibilities of life.  They will be there for me with their “you got this attitude” … pushing me to the top of this big mountain.   I will not be on this climb alone.  Not only do I have an awesome support group, but I have the knowledge that I have a loving Heavenly Father and

Savior walking beside me … sometimes even carrying me!  I could not have functioned during so many difficult times in my life without that knowledge.  I am so thankful … and I am so blessed.

My suggestion to you … those of you who are going through your own trials … is to put these ideas into action in your own life.  Let me know how it works for you.  You and I are walking the same path here in mortality.  We are all just trying to get back home to Heavenly Father.  We have to support each other.  That’s definitely what it’s all about.  The difficult times we go through will start to seem less significant when we compare it to everything that is going right in our lives.  If you need me … just give me a call … hopefully will not be in the midst of my own personal rough day..

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By now I bet that you have figured out that this blog posting is aimed straight for my heart, mind and soul … pointing my finger at myself and reminding myself that my attitude will either lift me up … or bury me in a pit of despair!  I know that when I take the time to stop and count my blessings … my problems seem not as severe as I originally thought.  Believe me when I say … being GRATEFUL helps tremendously.  Remember that when you count your blessings a world of abundance opens up to you.  Gratitude is the quickest path to happiness and peace of mind.  If what you focus on grows … then please let it be gratitude.

Just focus on moving forward.  Even if you are still a long way from where you want to be … you are further down the road from where you were.

Just saying …

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Stand Up Scout

ACC Docket on Twitter: "Why helping others makes you a more ...

“Having influence is not about elevating self, but about lifting others!”  ~Sheri Dew

In our lives, we meet new and interesting people every day … of course not lately with this “Stay at Home” order. I believe, there are certain people who make an impact on us, affecting us for the rest of our lives. Every one of you has by now encountered at least one person who has impacted your life.  This would be someone who is outside of your family who made a difference.  I have a specific person who made a difference in my life along time ago when I was going through a very difficult time.  As a nineteen year old, a gentleman from my church, who lived about an hour away, was there for me when I had left home for a few months.  Knowing that I was extremely lonely and emotionally suffering, he visited me weekly to let me know that I was a “Child of God” with so much potential.  He built me up in so many ways, not because of any church assignment he had, but because he cared about people around him.  He moved from North Carolina many years ago and I never got to tell him thank you … but he changed my life.  I can look at my children and grandchildren and can name a coach or mentor that had a major impact on who they became.  My son Paul’s swim coach, John Richards, was not only a coach but a friend and mentor.  My granddaughter Katie’s soccer coach, Coach Leshaun Jenkins, was also a mentor and friend … teaching her about life off the soccer field.

Bob J's – To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - STACK | JB Hi-Fi

Of all the characters that I’ve “met” through books and movies, one character always stands out as someone that I want to be like. That is Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird” … one of my very favorite books! He was just an ordinary man from a very small town, like mine, who had a positive effect on those around them. I cry every time I read or watch the minister in the balcony say “Stand up Scout … Mr. Finch is passing.”   Everyone should want to be like Atticus!  He is a symbol of what is good, honest, and wise. When the story of our town is written, wouldn’t it be great if each of us were included as someone who symbolized those things? I’m quite sure if the story included Atticus’ childhood, it would read that he probably emulated someone who had been an influence in his life. It is simply amazing how everything around us shapes and carves our character. One person can make a huge difference in your life whereas ten people altogether might never change you.

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This photo is from one of the times I have tried to “be the one” … to help my community.  At Thanksgiving my family and I work the first half of the day at our local Community Homeless Outreach Shelter.  It is one of my most cherished times during the year … serving meals to others.  I do this to not only serve, but to Honor Sister Mary Anne, an example to our community on helping others. So, what’s my point today.  Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer once said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others… It is the only thing.” People look at what you do, more than listen to what you say. To be a positive influence, you must live the life you’d like to see others live.   Bottom line … You never know who you are influencing for good!  I bet each of you are someone’s shining example and influence right now!  I had a shining example to follow … my good friend Kathy Munday, who fought cancer for 13 years, after being given 6 months to live. She never gave up … and lived a full life of service while extremely ill and not feeling well. I never got to tell her that she became my shining example. She passed away several years before I was diagnosed with cancer. I followed her example and continue today. Whether we know it or not, we are all making a difference.  But during this specific time in our lives right now, being ordered to shelter at home, how can we make a difference?

In his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Andrew Carnegie notes that one of the most powerful ways to influence another person is to make them feel important, and show that you care. During the last year, my church began what we call a ministering program.  Each member began to do as the Savior did in ministering to all.   Ministering is Christlike caring for others and helping meet their spiritual and temporal needs.  We are  the Savior’s other “good Samaritans” on earth.  Even though we are in our own homes, we can still reach out to others and check on our friends.  During the last week I have enjoyed calling friends and asking how their toilet paper supply is holding up.  It’s a good way to start a conversation.  A call can really cheer someone up that is at home dealing with all sorts of new problems.  You don’t even have to call … send them a special message on your computer.  We all need each other to get us through this horrible pandemic that is taking its toil on so many.  We don’t have to be sick with the corona-virus because it is affecting all parts of our lives … work … food … protective gear … and yes, even toilet paper!

The Good Samaritan

So, my challenge to you this week is: Pay attention to those around you.  Deliver sincere messages  of cheer to others who need encouraging words. By focusing on this, you are sure to bring out the best in those around you, including yourself! Now more than ever the world really needs caring, positive influences to make it a better place for each of us to live … to make each day brighter.  This “stay at home” directive is really hard on seniors … they miss their families. It’s hard on caregivers … having to be home without help 24/7. It’s hard on parents having to occupy their children’s mind and energy all day … and provide education too. It’s hard on families having to live without steady income … stuck at home not knowing where to look for help. Be someone that makes a positive difference! Call, email, write notes … listen to their words and tones. Let’s not just settle on spreading light … let’s be the mirror that reflects it too! Be the one!

Just Saying …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Barefoot and Unprepared

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These past few weeks has been a bit interesting … this coronavirus is scary.  Everyone is asking “Are you prepared?”

To start off I’m going to tell you one of my sister Cathy’s favorite story.  She was a lover of sports.  She would not be happy today with all the canceled sporting events  … especially the basketball tournaments.  When she heard this story given by Howard W. Hunter at a conference … she fell in love with it and told it often.  The story tells of a quarterback on the football team of a small, rural high school. This young man managed to make the team, but it was clear that he was not going to be all-state or all-American. In fact, he was the fourth of four quarterbacks.  By the last game of the season, he had never been called into a game, and he had given up all hope of playing. During the final game of the year he decided to relax and enjoy himself, so he pulled off his shoes, wrapped himself in a blanket, and settled down on the bench to watch his buddies play.

Midway through the game he heard the coach shout his name. He was startled and wondered if he had been mistaken. Then the coach called again, “Hey, you! Get in there and move the ball!”  What should he do? He wanted to say, “Wait, coach, while I put on my shoes.” But instead, he made straight for the huddle, his stocking feet conspicuous to the players, the spectators, and the coach.

Being called into the game made him very nervous and he was confused as he called his first play, and by the time he took the snap from center, he had forgotten which play he had called. While his teammates moved to the right, he went left, where he was swallowed up in the snarl of onrushing linemen.  No one expected him to make a touchdown. Even running the wrong way was understandable. But there was no excuse for a quarterback without shoes. No excuse for a quarterback not ready to help his team to success!

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Are you prepared?  Are you prepared to help yourself? But the bigger question is:  Are you prepared to help others?  Are you ready to pass the ball of life and make a difference?  Recently I have been thinking about my life and the things I have done, things I have not done, things I’m prepared for and the things I am not prepared for.  Am I prepared?  I have decided that when I finally depart from this life and I arrive at the pearly gates that  I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautiful tailored clothes with my hair expertly set and with long perfectly manicured fingernails. That is definitely NOT me!  I want to pedal up to the pearly gates on a beat up three-wheel old bicycle (not sure I can balance myself on two wheels anymore), with a basket of things to share with others.  I want to be wearing a pair of grass stained worn-out shoes from playing with my great-grand kids on their swing set.  I want there to be a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children.  I want there to be a little dirt under my fingernails from helping my family plant a garden.  I want there to be children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of family and friends on my shoulders.  I want my Heavenly Father to know that I was really here and that I really lived. I want to be wearing my life’s shoes! Each one of us has to realize that if we are going to really be here and make a different in this world and really live, it is absolute essential that we do not lose hope and we look to our Heavenly Father for support, guidance and love.  That means … Not losing hope…. Not getting discouraged…. Not giving up!  Keeping our shoes on so we are prepared! And … Serving others!

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This is one of my favorite paintings. The artist is James Christensen who titled this painting “Hold to the Rod.”  The man in this painting is trying to hold onto so many worldly possessions that he cannot let go and grab hold of the rod for fear of losing something. The rod represents divine guidance. He is looking at the rod, but doesn’t have the belief and faith to let go of those material things and be guided to the more important things.

I have found that while riding on the bike that we call life, we tend to collect things that make us feel safer and better about ourselves … comfortable enough that we walk around barefooted.  Even though these things are mere material possessions, they tend to give us a superficial sense of security.  It is only by holding fast to our own beliefs that we can navigate our life with confidence and be prepared for whatever is placed before us.

I am reminded of a speech that I heard presented by Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He began the speech recounting an experience he once had moving a grand piano from one room to another.  He related how a group of men were trying to move a grand piano from a church chapel to an adjoining cultural hall for a musical event. None were professional movers and the task of getting that very heavy piano through the chapel and into the cultural hall seemed nearly impossible. Everybody knew that this task required not only physical strength but also careful coordination. Each man had his own idea of how the piano should be move, but not one could keep the piano balanced correctly. They re-positioned the men several times by strength, height, and age — but nothing worked.  As they stood around the piano, uncertain of what to do next, one of the men spoke up. He said, “Stand close together and lift where you stand.” Together they lifted that piano and moved it successfully. The dictionary defines the word “lift” as “to raise to a higher position or level.”

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At the present, we live in a world full of scary things.  I’m terrified about getting this coronavirus … I am definitely a prime candidate to die from this virus.  I keep asking myself if I have prepared enough.  Thankfully I belong to a church that has all ways taught its members to be prepared.  Yes … I have plenty of “toilet paper”, meds and food! I even have a supply of hospital masks left over from chemo.   In Dexter (my Tahoe) I have my 72 hour backpack that has 50 items to help in any type of emergency.  I use items from it all the time to help myself or others. Need a band-aid … I got it!  Need a rope … I got it!  Need a flashlight … I got it!  Need a hatchet … yep … got that too!  There was this Pilot Club member from the western part of the state who also had a 72 hour pack in her car.  We used to sit with each other and try to out-do each other with new items.  I learned a lot from her … a real survivalist.

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I love this photo … even very strong sturdy trees help each other!  So let me ask:  Are you prepared to help yourself and to help others.  Can you lift yourself and then lift others.  Life is what we make of it and it sure is better with “lifters” around to pitch in and help!  Lifters with shoes on … ready to help our team of family and friends.  I challenge you to take the “7 Minutes to Lift 7 People up This Week” challenge.  You may have to let go of some of those things holding you back … but it will bless you and give you so much happiness this week.  Each day this week, reach out to someone you know who needs a little lift to win this game of life … family, friends, co-workers, peers.  Make the commitment with me to make a difference in someone else’s life and then watch what happens in your own life.  You and whomever you reach out to will feel much better and be lifted up!

Remember “be prepared, keep those shoes on” so you will be ready to “lift where you stand!”

Just saying ….