Psst! Smiles are contagious…pass one on.

 

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Recently a friend shared a story about an experience she had while driving home after a weekend away. She stopped to have lunch at a well known fast food restaurant where behind the counter there was only one woman taking orders and running the cash register.

The employee greeted the ‘next in line’, a family of six, with a friendly hello and warm smile. She waited patiently as the dad tried to place their large order while juggling his four small children.

As my friend waited in line, she said she was struck immediately by the woman’s positive and friendly attitude.

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When it was her turn, she too was greeted with the same enthusiasm and welcoming smile. As she sat in the dining area eating, she watched as customer after customer was treated in exactly the same manner. Each person receiving impeccable service and a genuine and friendly welcome.

Before she left, my friend went up to the woman and complimented her on her positive attitude, and infectious smile. She told her if everyone had her attitude, not only would they be happier, but so would all those around them. The woman beamed at the compliment. Then four young men, standing at the counter, spoke up and said how much they appreciated her friendly disposition as well. My friend relayed how wonderful that moment was and how we would all benefit from emulating her attitude in all we do. 

The story could have ended there but my friend went the extra mile.

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After she got home, she decided to try and look up the phone number for the restaurant. It took a little bit of effort but in the end she was able to locate the number and call the manager. She wanted them to know how great the service was and what a gem they had in this employee. The manager thanked her for the call and agreed they were very fortunate to have this individual working for them. She promised to pass along the positive feedback and knew the woman would be “over the moon” with joy.

So often we focus on the negative and are quick to criticize and pass judgement. This is a wonderful reminder of the power of positivity and also how important it is to compliment and praise.

I’m not at all surprised my friend took the time to lookup the number and call the manager. That’s the kind of person she is. And in this case, someone positive, friendly, warm and kind had made her day. She was simply returning the kindness.

 

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Refill please…

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Yep, it’s that kind of a day!

I’m now on my third cup and think I’m finally waking up. Anyone else feeling this way? So far, I’ve had to remind myself twice it’s Tuesday not Monday. This tends to happen to me when I fly home on a Monday.

While tired this morning…it’s a very happy tired. I just returned from a long weekend with my son, daughter-in-law and precious grandson.

Each time I return home I’m reminded why it’s good to be young when you have children. You forget, or perhaps block out, how much care and tending these precious little nuggets require. “The kids”, a.k.a the parents, have done an amazing job getting and keeping him on a schedule. One could set their watch by his eat/sleep pattern.

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It was a joy getting to visit and refill my tank with cuddles, feedings and giggles. Of course there were a few tears brought on by the pesky teeth trying to break through but nothing a little tylenol couldn’t fix. His tears touched my heart as much as his smiles. Just a reminder on how simple it can be. When we are happy and content we smile but when in pain or sad we cry. Opposite emotions in their most pure and honest form.

I am so grateful to the kids for always welcoming me and allowing me the privilege of lending a hand. I even got to have a “date night” of my own with him while mommy and daddy went out to celebrate their anniversary. He was the perfect date even if he was sound asleep by seven. Guess I’m not as interesting and exciting as I thought!

Getting to be a part of his life is the greatest blessing and an absolute privilege. Of course it’s different for me now. I’m more relaxed and when I’m holding him or feeding him I don’t think about anything else. There is no to-do list or future appointment on my mind. It’s just me and him. I am never more in the moment than when I’m holding him.

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Of course we more seasoned (notice I avoided saying older) folks are always telling the younger people to enjoy each minute. Life passes so quickly…a blink of the eye, etc., etc. Well, it’s true. It seems like only yesterday my boys were babies and I was bouncing them on my knee. They do grow quickly and now my youngest is turning twenty-five this week. Yikes.

So to the young people I say. Life is short. Enjoy the simple “little” moments. Surround yourself with people who bring you joy. And don’t forget to do what I just did…Refill your tank when it starts to feel a bit empty.

 

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The care and feeding of a traveling soul…

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After many years I’ve finally diagnosed myself. I am a nomadic homebody. Wait, that’s an oxymoron right?

One might think this means I feel at home wherever I go. And while I often do feel that way, it’s not exactly what I mean. It’s more I have both a love of travel and a love of being home…in my own house.

All of this probably stems from the fact that I’ve moved around quite a bit, both in my young and adult life. I’ve lived in eight states, three of them twice, and attended three high schools. Yes, I was ‘the new kid’ many times. I know for some people moving around is not always a wonderful experience. It’s hard leaving a place you love and difficult starting over. It wasn’t always easy for me but I am who I am today because of these experiences.

Those of you who have followed this blog for the short time it’s been in existence know how I love my ‘sayings’ as did my mother and she of course had one for when we moved. “Bloom where you are planted” which my brothers and I always tried to do as did my boys when they found themselves uprooted and in a new environment. My parents also had a knack for turning a house into a home quickly which is something I’ve tried to emulate.

What I noticed over the years is it didn’t matter if we were somewhere three years or eight, we were always sad to leave, but excited for the next adventure. While we may have missed a particular house or town for a short period of time, in the end it was always the people we missed the most. The highlight of every move has always been the people met along the way. The older I got the more I realized I didn’t have to lose these relationships. It has taken some effort but I’ve been blessed to maintain many treasured friendships over the years.

 

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The longest I’ve ever lived anywhere has been the last fourteen years spent here in my current home. I’m in a state I lived the longest in as a kid, my parents retired to and my boys and I moved back to after my divorce, so in a way it feels I’ve come full circle. There are memories from long ago as well as new ones. This is home.

The desire to explore new places, and meet new people, hasn’t left me though. Obviously, I don’t want to move, but I’ve found traveling to be the perfect solution.

Travel feeds the soul.

Most of our trips as kids involved cramming into the station wagon and driving to our destinations. Fighting over who got to sit where. The station wagon was easy. My older brother and I took the middle seat leaving the ‘way back’ for the two youngest. Hard to believe they made seats which faced each other and I’m pretty sure we didn’t always have a seat belt on or when we did it was only a lap belt. Aww…the good old days.

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After the station wagon was retired, we would cram into the Oldsmobile 98. My older brother and I usually won the coveted window seats. My parents smoked when we were younger and I can remember many a car trip with my nose out the window complaining I couldn’t breathe. Recently my younger brother admitted the reason he took the front middle was so he could position all the air-conditioning vents towards himself. Meaning very little air made it’s way to the back. I guess you’d have to feel most sorry for my youngest brother stuck in the middle of the back seat. But somehow we all survived and had many fun and memorable road trips.

I’d say it was my junior year abroad when I discovered my deep passion for traveling. My college roommate and I lived with a family in London and after finding out we didn’t have class of Fridays we started to travel every weekend. We had Eurail passes and found out quickly they would take us just about anywhere we wanted to go. We were more limited on the regular three day weekends but on two separate occasions we were able to take a week and we made those count. I remember one week we traveled from London to Brindisi, Italy to catch the boat over to Greece. In those days our travel involved trains and boats. We were not catching planes nor did we have a car. The memory of these adventures and the people we met along the way stay with us to this day. My roommate and I got together not too long ago and still laugh at all the stories.

I just returned from a long weekend up in Connecticut. Visiting one of my closest friends, and her family, who I met during one of my adulthood moves. She stopped by shortly after we had moved in with some of our mail which had been placed in their box by mistake. We quickly discovered we each had a son the same age, became fast friends, as did the boys, and despite the fact I’ve moved three times since then have remained close.

So once again, I’m a happy homebody. The traveling soul has been fed and should remain full for at least a week or two. Nevertheless, rest assured…I’ll be ready and waiting to go when the hunger pains return.

 

 

 

 

Rainy Days and Mondays?

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I realize I might be alone in this but with all due respect to the Carpenters who sang the tune “Rainy Days and Mondays…always get me down” and Paul Williams and Roger Nichols who wrote the lyrics, I say, I disagree. I love them both. And when they coincide? Even better!

Monday is usually a day I get much accomplished. Normally it’s a stay put, catch up on paperwork and correspondence, organize files, and pay bills, kind of day. In other words, do everything I didn’t do last week, or over the weekend because I was too busy or procrastinating. And who could get anything done this past weekend with St. Patrick’s Day and all the basketball games on?

Speaking of March Madness. I guess the first thing I should do is vacuum up all the shredded remnants of the left side of my bracket. There was no green left on that side so I didn’t see any point in keeping it around. Just a sad reminder of my poor picking ability because after all I should have known the number one and two seeds in both the south and west wouldn’t make it past round two. Right?

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But alas, there is still a ray of hope. A chance the right side will come through…but I’m not holding my breath. Thankfully the pool I’m in doesn’t believe in high stakes betting. No one will need to sell the farm and the “winner” will enjoy bragging rights for a few minutes.

So, how’s your bracket holding up? Right. I agree. Let’s change the subject.

Back to rainy Mondays. I haven’t shared my favorite thing to do on a rainy Monday or any rainy day for that matter. Not that I feel the need to wait for a rainy day. It’s just I don’t feel as guilty spending a good chunk of time doing this if the weather is bad outside.

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Yes it is!

On average, my city enjoys 209 sunny days per year. Leaving plenty of days for rain however the statistics show the number of days with any measurable precipitation is only 73. Not too many all day soakers, meaning on those other days, we might only have a rain shower or passing thunderstorm. Those are great too but there is nothing like a wrap yourself in a blanket, sip your coffee, read your book, kind of day. Which is why, when the opportunity presents itself, I say you should grab it!

As I type this I see the sun trying to peak through. How dare it when I haven’t had a chance to pull out my book yet. Oh well, guess I’ll just continue working and wait for the next rainy day. Or maybe think about moving to Seattle?

Hmm…

On…second thought. Think I’ll just grab a book, pull the shades down and pretend it’s still a rainy Monday.

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photo credit: march madness live

photo credit: Amy Miles via quotes hunter

photo credit: Maya Angelou via quotes hunter

Got clutter?

 

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Hold your horses…I know what you’re thinking. It’s International Women’s Day. Why is she posting a piece on clutter? Just bear with me a minute. I’ll connect the two…eventually.

 

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Each morning I read from the book shown in the picture above; “everyday mindfulness.” Both messages from yesterday and today referenced clutter. Actually, yesterday’s passage was titled DECLUTTER and encouraged the reader to set some time aside to declutter an area of their home or workspace. “Although it may seem overwhelming at first, doing this can actually be as peaceful as a meditation. Clutter is a way of holding onto the past, or fearing the future. Letting go of clutter is a way to live more mindfully and in the present.”

Yes, I agree!

So, yesterday as I was searching for all the papers I need to complete my taxes. Or more accurately all the papers my accountant will need to do my taxes. I came across a large box containing old documents from my divorce. Why in the world would I still need these? I’ve got the divorce decree. My kids are grown. It’s been years and my life is full of joy and blessings; why keep unnecessary reminders of a painful event or period? The only thing this box is doing now is taking up space and collecting dust. My chance to declutter a space. Yay! So I brought out the shredder. Wow…that felt good!

 

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When I was younger my claim of needing a clean space in which to study or work was probably more of a procrastinator’s tool than that of a sophisticated mindful thinker. Once I got to college though, I had gained a better understanding of the concept and found I absolutely needed a tidy work space in order to get anything accomplished.

I’m still that way today. I write at the kitchen table. Which means I often have to move my things off the table in the evening when it’s time for dinner. But, I’ve found having a portable office space has only served to help me be more organized. I don’t like to have too many items around me, usually just my laptop, notebook and a pencil. All easy to move around. Oh and my coffee cup. That’s a must.

My efforts to declutter my home, and life for that matter, is an ongoing process. It will take time which is another reason I like working at my kitchen table. I sit facing the window looking out towards my backyard where there is a golf course just beyond. Open space and no clutter in sight. As I sit here typing this I am oblivious to the dishes which may, or may not, be sitting in the sink waiting patiently for me to notice. For at this moment I am blind to any bit of clutter stacked up behind me. All I see is this screen and the green grass beyond.

Now, what does any of this have to do with International Women’s Day.

I’ll admit I didn’t know it was today before logging in and checking out Facebook. That’s usually my first stop after checking my emails and my go-to for reminders about holidays and birthdays.

So, today is not only a day for honoring the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world but a chance to recognize and honor the inspirational and incredible women in our own lives. Of course there have been many women I have admired and looked up to but the most influential and inspiring woman in my life was and always will be my Mother.

I say, was, because my mother is no longer living. She died when I was twenty nine, too young for both her age and mine. Her spirit lives on and not a day goes by when I don’t think of her and recognize and appreciate all she taught me. I am who I am today because of her.

 

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My mother had many sayings. Like mother like daughter I suppose. One thing she told my brothers and me often, especially when we were feeling a bit out of sorts, stuck in our heads or perhaps less thankful than she knew we should be, was to go do something for someone else. Go volunteer, shovel the neighbor’s walkway, anything/something. If that wasn’t feasible at the moment. She told us to go clean something out, organize a closet, or straighten out a drawer.

At the time I’m sure we probably thought she was just trying to get us out of the house or trick us in to cleaning our rooms but as I grew older and wiser I gained understanding as to why she encouraged us to do these things. I’ll save volunteering and doing for others for another day. But by encouraging us to go clean something out she knew we would not only feel a sense of accomplishment once the task was completed but the chore would probably have taken our minds off whatever was bothering us. Clearing not only the clutter from the physical space but also the clutter from our minds…a win-win.

If letting go of clutter truly is a way to live more mindfully, and in the present, then all the kudos, with regard to my journey, go to my mom. She was, after all, the first one to introduce me to the “art of decluttering.”

I must say…the little bit I accomplished yesterday did bring me peace. Thanks mom!

 

 

 

W.I.P.

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When writers ask each other “How’s your W.I.P?” they are inquiring about a work in progress. Whatever current project you happen to be working on at that moment; novel, script, short story, blog, etc.

While I do have something I’m working on, other than this blog, it’s not the W.I.P. I’m referring to in this piece. Today I am looking at my progress in my ongoing quest, to live a more mindful life. One only has to google ‘mindfulness’ and you will come upon many articles describing what it is, with each author giving their own tips and examples of how to live more mindfully.

I’m not going to lie. This week has been a struggle. There seems to have been a battle raging in my head.

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My mind seemed overrun by my list of  “have to’s” leading me to operate more on automatic pilot than in a deliberate, mindful way.

I’m sure you have experienced this. The end of the day comes and you wonder where did the day go? What did I accomplish? Did I have lunch?

Since committing myself to living more mindfully. I will say the one thing I am better about doing is realizing when I’m in this state. I no longer let days, or even weeks, go by before I recognize what is happening and take hold of the situation.

One of the best indicators I’ve found in helping me to recognize when I’m being more reactive, than proactive, in my day-to-day living, is my breathing.

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Mindful living experts will tell you…Pay attention to your breathing. Calm breath = Calm mind. I was so crazed the other day I actually couldn’t tell you if I was breathing or not. I mean, obviously I was because I’m still here typing this but I wasn’t cognizant of my breathing at all. My breaths were more shallow and not the deep mind clearing, relaxing, breaths of someone living in the present moment.

Many mindful living experts write about the benefits of meditation. Many agree a regular practice can help reduce stress, improve cognitive function and boost well-being. I have personally experienced many positive benefits but it was through meditating that I became more  cognizant of my breathing. Now when I am feeling stressed, all I need to do is take several deep breaths, and I instantly feel calmer.

I’ve also read mindfulness isn’t about being ‘happy’ all the time. I believe we all know that’s impossible; at least I hope we all know that. I think it’s about accepting whatever feeling you’re experiencing at the moment, truly feeling it without trying to ignore or control it, then moving on from it.

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My family members and friends know I am the queen of one line sayings and “deal now or deal later” is a favorite of mine. Think about it…isn’t it much easier to deal in the present moment than later on, after some thought, feeling or emotion has had time to grow some roots?

Well, I need to run. One of my “must do’s” is calling. But first…a few deep breaths!

How many more?

It’s been over a week since the shooting at the high school in Florida. I watched the coverage as it unfolded and each time I saw a photo of one of the victims, or heard a heartbroken family member speak out, my eyes filled with tears and a piece of my heart broke right along with theirs.

How many more innocent lives will be lost before we do something?

As I was watching my mind went to Mothers against drunk driving (M.A.D.D.). I don’t claim to be an expert on the organization, nor do I have any affiliation with them. I just know they have been instrumental in rallying for many of the changes in the laws over the past thirty plus years. Their tagline on the site states…No More Victims. https://www.madd.org

Founded in 1980. This movement was started by one mom, around her kitchen table, after her thirteen year old daughter was struck and killed by a drunk driver.

An example of turning heartbreak (and I’m sure anger) into activism.

We have now witnessed several shootings in schools and other public places over the past years. One of which took place here in my hometown of Charleston, SC in June of 2015.

I’ve been away for a few days. Got to spend some time with my oldest son, daughter-in-law and grandson. As I held my grandson in my arms, I couldn’t help but worry about what the future holds for him. Will he feel safe at school? Will he fear being in public spaces?

I love my country and the freedoms we are privileged to enjoy. I don’t want that to ever change but in my mind an important component of that freedom is being free to live our day to day lives without fear.

I am in awe of the movement the young people are initiating and their plans for a rally against school and gun violence in Washington, D.C. on March 24th. Another example of turning heartbreak and anger into activism.

When I started this blog I didn’t know exactly where it would lead me. In fact if I am perfectly honest I wasn’t convinced I would have anything to say. I did hope to do two things though; to write fearlessly from my heart and be true to myself. Like most of the reflection pieces I have written in the past, a thought usually strikes me and percolates until I just can’t take it any longer and must get it out on paper.

There is a saying…Actions speak louder than words. While I am a writer and have an affinity towards words, I do believe wholeheartedly in this saying. I’ve repeated it plenty of times while raising my boys. So this is where I get to practice what I have preached.

Please know I am not looking to start a political debate. We all have and are entitled to our own opinions and beliefs.

But for me, and something I plan on sharing with my representatives…

When asked “How many more?”

I’d like the answer to be “No More!”