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 …

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.”

Lifting up

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 ….

Baloney Sandwiches Again!

Baloney Sandwich

You can be wise and happy …. or stupid and miserableThe choice is yours!”   ~Gordon B. Hinckley

Let me start by relating a story I once heard … I do not know who wrote it or told it … but I love this story and it’s wisdom!  To begin … Yes, I love fried baloney sandwiches … especially at the beach … Thinking about them brings back memories of growing up and having to take my lunch to school each day! I actually hated baloney sandwiches then.

The Story:  Two construction workers were taking a lunch break and opened up their lunch boxes. One of them looked inside his box and said, “Not baloney sandwiches again! I can’t believe it. I hate baloney.  This is the third time this week I’ve had a baloney sandwich. I can’t stand baloney!”  The other construction worker looked at the co-worker and said, “Why don’t you just ask your wife to make you something different?”  He replied, “I don’t have a wife. I made these baloney sandwiches myself.”

Why is it that the very things that we complain about the most or don’t like about our lives are the things that we put there ourselves.  I know that I do.  I complain about having a messy over-loaded closet … when the remedy is to organize it myself. I complain about no snacks in the house … when I am free to go to the grocery store.  I complain about working every day …. oh … no … I don’t complain about that because I’m so thankful to have something that gets me up and out each day!  Really I love my job.  OK… back to baloney and complaining!  I complain about not seeing my kids enough … when I know it’s a two way street and I can get in my car and drive to visit them.  We complain about many things that we can control.  This is especially true about our attitudes … something that we also have the capacity to control, but so often choose not to.

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We all understand the need to be more positive and have a happier attitude … there are a gazillion books written on the subject.  We even have bible scriptures that teaches and encourages us “to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”  (Ephesians 4:23)  So why do we so often choose to carry around the same old attitudes that have let us down over the years. 

The solution really is simple … We CAN stop packing baloney sandwiches for ourselves and start the process of developing new attitudes that will assist us in our daily lives … to develop attitudes that do not hold us back.  Our attitude can either be our best friends or it can be our worst enemy. I believe my attitude is the biggest determinant to my quality of life … a happy life.  It’s about making the mental shift in attitude that will allow you to power through whatever life throws at you.  Think about it … if you are in a bad mood and something annoying happens … it puts you in what I call the “watch out explosion coming” category.  But if you try your best to be happy .. and something annoying happens … it’s much easier to deal with.  Check out this cartoon … It’s so true … look for the positive … sit in the good seats.

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I’m in no way trying to trivialize life’s tribulations. Let’s face it; some of us have a great deal of pain to deal with. I sure have had plenty to deal with in my short lifetime (yes I consider myself young).   However, it is essential for your well-being that you understand that these circumstances, events or situations are not the final word on your quality of life … no matter how bad it appears. It’s how you respond to them and the fear and other negative emotions they produce that make the difference. And more than anything, it’s about a shift in attitude that will allow you to power through whatever life throws at you. In fact, it’s all about attitude. It’s always been about attitude. And always will be about attitude.

Henry

I love this photo of my great-grandson Henry and the difference in what attitude means. These photos were taken about a minutes apart.  Some days I bet photos resembling these could be taken of me!  Unlike my Henry (who really doesn’t understand life yet) … we are in control of our attitude.

You know what kind of attitude I’m talking about? The kind that no matter the severity of the situation, you not only bounce back, but you thrive with a determination and confidence that defy the odds against you.

Do you want to know how to acquire that kind of attitude? Here’s an analogy that I read from a book by Steve Rizzo using cats as a teaching point.  Observe a cat, any cat. Our family has a cat … it’s actually belongs and lives with my granddaughter Maggie … but we all consider it our cat.  His name is Asha.  OK back to the cat story.  Go ahead observe your cat. Just watch them. They strut around the house, as if they’re God’s gift to the animal kingdom. I swear, if cats could talk, we would hear, “Meow! Meow! Ba-Da-Bing! Meow!”   Our Asha sleeps anywhere he wants and dares us to move him. Yep … Meow! Meow! Ba-Da-Bing! Meow! If you fold clothes on the bed and walk away for five minutes … when you go back Asha has made that nice pile of folded clothes his comfy bed.  Ba-Da-Bing!

Asha

Have you ever wondered why it is said that cats have nine lives? Because they have resilience; they bounce back. Nothing seems to affect them. Once I was brushing Asha (he didn’t like it) and he actually fell off the counter trying to avoid me.  He land on his feet and look at me as if to say, “What? I meant to do that!” and then walk away. “Ba-Da-Bing! Meow!”  Resilience!  Bounced back!

View album “Dogs”

My family are definitely dog lovers … we have about eight dogs between all family members.  Of course my favorite is my dog “Captain Jack” (he will be 15 years old this year) … he definitely has my heart.  Think about it … have you ever told a cat to go fetch something? It just sits there and gives you another one of those looks. “Hey, let’s get something straight. I don’t do fetch. You want something, you tell your best friend Jack (my dog) to get it. I’m busy. The bottom line is this: Cats live on their own terms. Nobody tells them what to do. They defy the odds. All of us could use that same kind of attitude!  Resilience!  Bouncing back!

There’s a story about two brothers who appeared on a talk show. Again I don’t know what show or when … just read it on the internet.  The first brother came out and told his story. He was divorced, broke, unemployed, angry about life, unable to control his emotions and had problems with alcohol abuse. When asked why he thought he was this way he responded, “What choice do I have?  My father was an abusive alcoholic and I was destined to turn out like this, it’s all his fault!”

Then the second brother came out. He was a successful businessman with a happy marriage and smiling kids.  He lived in a beautiful house, was well-respected in his local church and was a fun guy to be around. When asked why he thought he was this way he responded, “What choice do I have?  My father was an abusive alcoholic and I didn’t want to turn out like him, so I focused on improving myself and becoming the best person I could be.”

I grew up with a very dysfunctional family.  My father committed suicide when I was 11 years old … which turned my family upside down.  After that my family had so many ups and downs.  Many extended family considered us not family anymore.  At some point in my growing up I decided that my family would not define me, my future family, or the choices I made.  I wanted better than I had.  I began to understand that we were not meant to be defined by our circumstances but by our choices regarding these circumstances.  No matter how hard we try, we can’t control what happens to us, but we can choose our attitude and our emotions.  We’ve always have the power to choose, we just need to exercise that choice.  Sometimes those choices are hard … but so worthwhile!

Life is difficult … I can’t lie about that. But if you are like me, sometimes you make it more difficult by focusing only on the burdens.  But life is not all sorrow.  We just need to focus on all of life’s blessings that surround us.  I have found so many blessings to be thankful even in the worst parts of my life.  Remember that with every burden comes the hope of happiness. If we realize that life includes the good and the bad, enjoyment and heartache, pleasure and pain, we might be less likely to feel disheartened when all is not ideal.

View album “Phyllis Talbot”

Every morning I remind myself of how blessed I am … to pull my head out of my behind and look around at the beauty that this world has to offer me. Things are never perfect. I accept that.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t find joy and appreciate what I do have. I do have plenty to be thankful for.  As I struggle to carry my own burdens, I try to focus on living with hope … which is a very powerful trait. Realizing that our loving Heavenly Father will not send us more than we can handle.  Life if a test!  It is accepting the fact that all is not perfect but having the strength to show the world that it will not rob me of my joy or my happiness.  No more baloney sandwiches for me!

Just saying …

 

Charlie Brown Inspired

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“Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker!” … Charlie Brown  

Several weeks ago during one of our church services, a tidbit of wisdom struck my thoughts. OK, maybe I wasn’t paying attention as I should have been.  But it occurred to me that if we were to slow down our lives, we would be able see Heavenly Father’s purpose for our life more clearly. I don’t know about you, but many time I find myself speeding through life only trying to “eat, drink and be merry”! My true belief is that the purpose of my life is not just to be happy (which sometimes can in itself be hard)  … life is to be useful, to be compassionate, to be honorable and to be of service to other. The scriptures tell me and my Savior instructs me to strive for a life that makes a difference in not only my life but others as well … that I lived and lived well according to his words!

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My post today comes from the daily comic strip ‘Peanuts’ … which if we pay attention to, can often teach us. Every day, the whole Charlie Brown gang provides laugh-out-loud moments while at the same time offering daily inspiration and lessons on life. Let me share today with you two of the leadership lessons I have found from Good Ole Charlie.

  1. Persistence wins out. Charlie Brown often loses … he fails at much, but he never gives up. For instances, even though he knew Lucy was going to pull the football away before he could kick it…. Even though he knew the tree was going to eat his kite… Even though he knew his team would lose the ball game … he always kept on trying. I know it’s hard to be rejected … it’s hard to feel you don’t matter. We MUST keep knocking on doors of opportunity no matter how many are slammed shut.

Fallen tree

I love this photo.  Even though the tree had fallen … it persisted and continued to thrive!  We too can do this!

I know that I have mentioned this several times over the years, but Jeffrey R. Holland’s short video gives me more hope on NOT giving up.  Here’s part of his words.  “Don’t give up … Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”  When I feeling a bit down or out of sorts, I always go to this video … it gives me hope and peace.  In case you want to watch it, you can find it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nczw6xHJ0I   It’s worth the 4 plus minutes of your time.

Jim V

I can’t leave my persistence part without mentioning past N.C. State Coach Jim Valvano! That’s me standing by his statue on NC State’s Campus.  I will never forget the speech he gave at the ESPY awards ceremony when he was honored by being awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on March 4, 1993.  Quoting Coach Valvano:  “There are 86,400 seconds in a day. It’s up to you to decide what to do with them. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. Never give up! Failure and rejection are only the first step to succeeding.”

If you give up on your hopes and dreams, you will not live the unique life you were meant to live … a life that Heavenly Father created you for. If you believe that you can succeed, and do not listen to those who says otherwise, with persistence, discipline and faith in yourself you will reach and travel far in this life. Quoting Dr. Seuss: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”  Let try to be more like Charlie Brown!

  1. It’s what you think of yourself that matters most. You know that Linus has carried a security blanket for years and his friends laugh at him. They also laugh at him because he believed in the ‘Great Pumpkin.’ Pigpen was a walking cloud of dust and dirt and was often regarded as unkindly. Both characters, however, were always proud of themselves and believed they were as good as anybody else — and they were right.

Lucille Ball said it best:  “Love yourself and everything falls in line.”  So how do we accomplish this?  The first thing we need to do is let go of what we can’t control.  That’s a mouthful and is really hard to do.  Everyone wants everyone to like us.  Too many times we fall into the trap of believing that if I could just do and say all the right things, then people would like me.  Why do we put this pressure on ourselves?  The thing is, we can’t control what others think of us or how they experience life.  We … I repeat … we are responsible for our own actions and intentions.  I myself am trying really hard to focus more of my time and energy on living in a way that reflects my own personal values instead of trying to control what other people think of me.  The only person we really should be trying to impress is our Heavenly Father and he has given us plenty of instructions on how to live!

Heart

Quoting Diane Von Furstenberg:  “You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company.”  Loving our self and taking care of our self, can bring miracles into our lives!  Let’s learn to love our self. Let’s think of our self enough to take the actions required for our happiness. Who in the world needs our drama-filled past? Let’s love our self enough to move on, remember that we too matter, and be happy. Have an unshakable faith in yourself to become everything you want to be.”  In other words:  Stand tall, walk tall … you are a child of a loving Heavenly Father! You are meant to be right where you are at this moment in time!

I follow the blog of Greg Trimble, from California … he is one of my favorite bloggers.  In his latest blog posting he said: “The only thing we can do is try to be our best selves and let others think what they may. But… when we’re being our best self, we need to be our best self for ourselves and not because we want others to be impressed by our best self.”  Very profound statement!

I have a wonderful idea … Let’s be more like Charlie Brown …being persistent and loving our self!

Just saying ….

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Life Without Weeds

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Ken and I used to have a big garden behind my mother’s home.  We raised plenty of vegetables for our little family to either eat immediately or to can for later enjoyment.  The part about gardening I disliked the most was definitely weeding.  Weeds grow pretty fast in our North Carolina climate.  Weeding always made me feel a little discouraged as we had invested our time and attention into something that was easily overgrown if full attention was given … I also felt a little frustrated.

I can hear Ken’s words telling me to be sure and dig down to the root otherwise the weeds would just come back and he would have to pull it again later. One of my mother’s favorite sayings when I was growing up was “a job worth doing is worth doing right the first time.”  I guess these wise words are for weeding too.  I sure didn’t want Ken to catch me hastily pulling what was visible so that I could give him the appearance of a job well-done … hurrying so I could go do things that I thought was more important.

I could also sense a little bit of pride and hope as I did pull those large weeds free from the soil. I knew our little garden would be so much better off without these large weed stealing valuable nutrients and water from the veggies we were trying to grow … veggies we had watered and weeded continually.

I still remember a couple of things about gardening with Ken. First, weeds always start out small, but if ignored they grow into something huge and hard to uproot.  Take Kudzu for an example.  Like most invasive species, the Kudzu has no natural enemies, which allows it to grow relatively unhindered. This is particularly bad because the Kudzu vine is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, sometimes averaging feet a day. In fact, the Kudzu has devoured so many forests in the southern United States that it’s been given the nickname “The Vine That Ate the South”. Ken hated Kudzu … it hindered plenty of his surveying work.  He always said it was one gigantic super-weed.  But it does start out small like all weeds if left unattended.  Secondly, and importantly, weeds will always grow back.

Jimmie has been getting his and Kimbo’s garden ready.  This has brought back these memories of my gardening days.  I immediately remembered how I hated pulling out weeds. There is this thing that Kimbo and I always try to do … look for a spiritual analogy by searching for positive thoughts and any learning principles I could gather.  I began to think of spiritual analogies of pulling weeds and weeding my life.

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This led to my asking myself:  How many weeds have taken root in my life? How many things have I let slide or not given my time and attention into that are choking out the Spiritual plants I am trying to grow? How can I tell the difference between a weed and plant when it is so easy to mistake one for the other? Am I watering weeds as I water my plants?

We can choose what seeds we plant in our garden.  We can plant seeds of being positive, of love and abundance.  We also can plant seeds of negativity, fear and lack.  Some of us will even spend time trying to take care of everyone else’s garden.  We need to let our work be on making ours garden beautiful and attract other beautiful people.

I love the words from President Gordon B. Hinckley:  “Without hard work .. nothing grows but weeds!”

If what we are investing our time and energy into isn’t growing crops of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then we definitely need to look closely to be sure it isn’t a bunch of overgrown weeds we have grown. If it is a weed, we have to be willing to reach down into the dirt and pull it out before it grows and starts choking out the important things we are working so hard to grow.

Just like the weeds that I ended up watering along with my plants, the weeds we let grow will begin to choke out the crops in our garden that we want to grow in our lives. I have let some weeds grow in my garden and in my life that need to be effectively dealt with … immediately.

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Spiritual weeds don’t start out looking like weeds! When they begin stealing the time and attention away from the Plan of Happiness that our Heavenly Father has for our lives, it becomes easier to see them for the weeds that they are. Sadly, it doesn’t take much for Satan to plant his weeds in our minds. He knows our weaknesses and sends out small thoughts or attitudes for us to deal with.  I think we all could benefit from being a little more aware of what we are watering and tending in our lives.

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells his disciples the Parable of the Sower, and uses the image of weeds to explain how daily life can interrupt our faith.

“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” – Matthew 13:22

If we let daily weed problems overwhelm us, our faith will wither and die, or if we allow ourselves to get too comfortable in our faith, we’ll end up stunting our growth.

So this week I challenge you to do two things: First take an inventory of the weeds in your lives. Secondly, you must perform a “weedectomy” on them. No two of us have exactly the same weeds. For some people, things are weeds that barely bother others. However, we all have weeds in the garden of our heart that can and will crush out faith and spiritual welfare if we let them grow. If we want to be the disciples Heavenly Father calls us to be, one of the first things we must do is cut the weeds out of our lives or burn them to the ground so that they no longer choke our faith.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have some weeding and watering that I need to do in my own garden. I waste my time on too many unimportant things and have many different kind and size weeds.  I want a good harvest.  Would you like to join me?

 

Hope Makes a Difference

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I have been told over and over in my life that “information is power” … maybe so, but I firmly believe that there is power in Hope!

Let’s go back in history for a moment.  On December 17, 1927, the USS S-4 submarine was conducting routine drills off the coast of Massachusetts and attempting to resurface when it smashed into a U.S. Coast Guard destroyer. According to Wikipedia: The sub sank immediately, and drowned 34 of the 40 men on board. Six men in the forward torpedo room survived and communicated with divers by tapping in Morse code on the sub’s hull, but severe weather delayed the rescue and the trapped survivors died after three days.

From this torpedo room the trapped men did their best to communicate with anyone that would be able to help them.  While crews worked diligently on the surface to free the sailors from their underwater prison, divers were sent into the water to see what options they had.  While underwater, one of the divers heard tapping that was determined to be Morse code.  The sailors inside the torpedo room kept repeating the same question, “Is… there… any…hope…?”

For the men in that torpedo room on that submarine, hope was the difference between life and death.  They hoped to be rescued.  Hope is the only thing that is stronger than fear!  Quoting Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “Hope is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances.  It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn.”

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Throughout my life Hope has given me the power to keep moving, to fight another day, and to put one foot in front of the other.  Hope has always given me a quiet assurance that my circumstances can and will change.  We need to be positive and remember that anyone without hope lives in defeat.

Look at your life … I look at my life quite often!  By looking we will see that hope has the power to change everything.  It may not be the difference between life and death, as it was for the sailors on the submarine, but the outcomes of our decisions drastically alter our future.

When I think about hope I always think of the words from Jim Valvano at the very first ESPYs in 1993, when he received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.  Last month as my family was leaving NC Special Olympic Village on NC State’s Campus, in the dark I walked past a life size statue of Jim Valvano.  I immediately asked my son to take a photo of me and Jim.  It was a good teaching moment for two of my grandchildren when they me asked who was “that man.”

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I have never been a NC State fan … but I am definitely a Jim Valvano fan.  His words of Hope carried me through my Triple Negative Breast Cancer treatments six years ago.  I know I have recited this to you many times … but it is definitely worth repeating:

“When people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it’s the same thing. 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. 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. ….. It’s so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. You have to be willing to work for it. ….. I urge all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get your emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm,” to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality. ….. My motto is, “Don’t give up . . . don’t ever give up.” And that’s what I’m going to try to do every minute that I have left. I will thank God for the day and the moment I have. If you see me, smile and maybe give me a hug. That’s important to me too. … I know, I gotta go, I gotta go; and I got one last thing, and I said it before, and I’m gonna say it again. ….. Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”

No wiser nor profound words ever spoken.  When we have hope we see a different future for ourselves … one where our problems, issues and failings are not the leading headlines in our lives.  But we must remember that hope requires us to be patient and let our loving Heavenly Father work out the details of our circumstances.

I love the words of President Russell M. Nelson from a devotion he gave at BYU.  He said: “If we will cling to the anchor of hope, it will be our safeguard forever.”  I love that word: FOREVER!

So, let me ask the question:  What can having hope do for you? From my years of experience, I believe I have the answer!  Hope shines its brightest when you are looking for the light at the end of a tunnel of despair. 

Hope will motivate you when you are discouraged and feel lost.  Hope helps you endure hardship when you feel that no one cares.  Hope helps you climb the mountains of adversity when no one seems to be helping. Hope will energize you when you are tired and feel you can’t go on.  I am so thankful that I have allowed hope to guide me each day of my journey here on earth. I can never thank those in my life who shared their hope with me and kept me optimistic. Now it’s time for you to give Hope a place in your life.  It’s worth it!

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Hope is a force that’s wild and free. It can’t be contained; it can’t be explained. When things are at their darkest, remember that hope is at its strongest. Never underestimate the power of hope.

Just saying …

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