Tuesday, May 25, 2010

ENEMIES-R-US?


“We have met the enemy and he is us.” ~ Walt Kelly

Three years ago we built our home in the country and named it “Selah, ” an ancient Hebrew term found in the Psalms. It is believed to mean: “a pause” in the music, to “reflect & meditate” on the message, or a “transition” in the song.

That was exactly what Neal and I desired for all who visited our home. We wanted our guests to pause from their busy lives, transition from their hectic schedule in order to relax, reflect and meditate.

That said, every spring the peace of Selah comes under assault when a male and female cardinal starts attacking the windows in our house. All day long they fly into the glass and peck as they slide down. Feathers fly everywhere. Sometimes they take turns, other times they fight the windows together.

It isn’t our windows that have them worked up; it is the bird they see in the window. A bird they perceive as a trespasser in their territory. They nearly knock themselves silly, but are determined to drive the intruders away.

From morning till night Selah’s windows reverberate with thuds from bird body slams and Tommy gun “rat-a-tat-tats” from resolute beaks. The problem? The birds they are fighting are their own reflections. They are fighting themselves! All that energy, all that time—wasted! Silly birds . . .

But wait? Don’t we do that?  Sometimes we perceive an enemy intruding into our lives, keeping us from success or putting stumbling blocks in our way. But what we often fail to recognize is that the enemy is actually . . . well . . . us.

I am my own worst enemy when it comes to time management. Not only am I guilty of over committing, I also procrastinate. NOT a good combination!

There are those who focus on the negative. It could be on their past experiences—missed opportunities, failures, unmet expectations—or on their self-perceived imperfections due to comparing themselves with others. Along with a negative focus is negative self-talk, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Most of us have a “bird in the window” episode at one time or another. What’s the solution? Recognize our self-sabotaging habits and do something about them. For instance, I keep careful tabs on my calendar and stay mindful of my commitments. I also write down a daily schedule that I follow even if I don’t feel like it. This habit was hard for me to develop, as most good habits are, but I can attest it was worth it!

Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal will wear out, give up and build their nest. Peace will finally return to Selah.

May peace return to you this week! 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE


“Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses and disappointments; but let us have patience and we soon shall see them in their proper figures.” ~ Joseph Addison

On Selah farm (our little piece of heaven on earth) we have two cows, T-Bone and Lulu. Lulu is a drama queen.

Right away, Lulu and I got off on the wrong hoof when she first came to live with us because she cleared the fence to my butterbean patch and helped herself. I was so angry! But after a few weeks had passed and I could actually laugh about it, I wrote a humor article regarding the incident and sold it to a magazine.

Now Lulu has another drama in her life—she doesn’t think life is fair. How do I know? Well, I’ve sorta learned her language. You see, T-Bone has been named that for a reason.

(I’ll let you figure that out)

He is at the “graining-off” portion of his life. In the evening he gets to go into a special pen and eat special food—food that Lulu likes. It is a mixture of corn and sweet feed. While he takes his time noshing the special food, she stands on the other side of the pen and bawls like a T-Rex. I can tell she is saying, “Not fair! Not fair! Not fair!” T-Bone never looks up from his trough. She doesn’t need “fattening up” if you know what I mean, but I give her a scoop to help ease her emotional pain.

Soon she will be in the pen for an entirely different reason. We want Lulu to be a mother.

(I’ll let you figure that one out, too!)

Lulu’s problem is that she doesn’t have perspective. She has no idea what awaits T-Bone. She only sees things as they appear. And as we know, life isn’t always as it appears.

Years ago, when Neal worked for the Arkansas State Lab, his job was changed from diagnostics to avian serology (chicken blood). I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so disappointed, or frustrated. However, from this change led to his getting a Ph.D and today he is one of the VP’s at Tyson Foods.

Life is a matter of perspective. We have to tell ourselves the truth about our situation, not play on the bars of our mental jungle gym with the what if’s or might be’s, if only’s or could have’s.

When my mind turns into a monkey and starts swinging around my head, I grab a tablet and list all the things I know to be true. I count my blessings. This helps improve my perspective and I get a better idea of the direction I should go.

This week, don’t be like Lulu, bawling on the other side of the fence when it appears life is unfair. Take a moment to count your blessings. Write them down and put them where you can refer to them when your mind tries to begin its mental gymnastics.

I like this quote from Abraham Lincoln:
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away."



Monday, May 10, 2010

KINDRED FRIENDSHIP


Friendship isn't a big thing - it's a million little things. ~Author Unknown

Back in the days before there were tiny cell phones in every pocket and purse, before Facebook, and when the Internet was in its adolescence, Neal and I had a unique network that came to our rescue during a most dire time of need – our friends.

William, our thirteen-year-old son, had suffered a subdural brain empyema that stemmed from a sinus infection and was flown to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. We lived in Northwest Arkansas, three and a half hours away. While driving to Little Rock, we didn’t know if William would be alive when we arrived there. Thankfully, he was, but the news wasn’t good. He would need extensive surgery and the doctor only gave him a 50/50 chance of survival. It was an out-of-body experience.

Because we had lived in the Little Rock for most of our lives, many close and dear friends lived nearby. Having been gone for twelve years, our contact with them had been rare, at best. However, the day of William’s surgery the waiting room was filled with our friends. I’ll never forget the power of their presence. Instinctively, they knew words were not necessary. Some just sat beside me and occasionally patted my hand. Others prayed quietly. They listened to me babble my incredulity that this could come from a sinus infection. In my swirling world of fear and emotional torment, my friends were an island of peace and strength.

Later that day and all the next day, friends from Northwest Arkansas came to check on us. As we stayed at the hospital, our friends brought practical gifts like phone cards, magazines, soft drinks and of all things, paper towels! I would never have thought how much we would need them, but the person who brought them had also experienced an extended stay in a hospital.

Why am I writing this? Because true friends are a treasure and they should be cherished.

The term friendship is a loosely coined word these days. We call people friends just a few minutes after meeting them, and that’s okay. There are all different levels of friends. Some are friends for a season, either they need us or we need them. After the season, we move on. Then there are our acquaintance friends. We may spend time together at work or in a mutual interest group, but outside of those boundaries a relationship doesn’t exist. Our kindred-spirit friends are the best. Time and distance do nothing to weaken our bonds. These relationships are forged by and for life.

I’ve heard many people say that they’ve no time for Facebook. Some call it “Wastebook” because they feel it is a waste of time. I wholeheartedly disagree. It is a wonderful tool to keep up with my friends, and reconnect with kindred friends of years ago.

This week, contact some of your kindred friends. Let them know how important they are to you and that you appreciate them. Let this be one of the “million little things” you do!





Monday, May 03, 2010

MAKING GOOD MEMORIES

We do not remember days; we remember moments.  ~Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand

On a rare lazy Saturday afternoon, Neal and I decided to picnic at a nearby lake. I packed wine, cheese, and fruit, and Neal found an old blanket. We drove the short distance and found a spot under a shade tree on the water’s edge. We sat there for a couple of hours. While nibbling Brie, spread on Fuji apples and sipping merlot, we talked about life—our life— where we’d come from and where we hoped to go. I remember laughing and relaxing with the man who shared life with me. When I think about that day—that moment— I can still feel the breeze and see the “sun-diamonds” dancing on the lake.

Good memories are made in many ways. Some just happen like the lake picnic and then there are those we intentionally create. For example, Neal and I wanted our children to have some fun memories of their childhood. We enjoyed surprising them. When they were small, we’d get them ready for bed, read them a bedtime story, and tuck them in. Seconds after the lights were turned off, we’d yell for them to “hurry to the living room.” As soon as they came, we piled them in the car and went to get root beer floats at the local A&W.  Another fun thing was a secret trip to their grandmother’s on school days. The day before I called the school to inform the office of their absence and packed their clothes in the car. The next day we drove toward the school, only to pass it and keep driving. They were delirious with excitement!

It is the “moments” that we carry in our hearts all of our lives. My grandchildren will remember gardening with Nonni and driving the tractor with Poppa. I’ll remember sitting on the beach with Neal at night when it was so dark we could not see the water, only hear it. We could taste the salt air as we talked. The memory of a white coffee cup with tiny yellow rosebuds that held an encouraging note still sweetens my day. During stressful days, I close my eyes and think back to walking wooded trails alone, breathing the cool herbal air.

Good memories come in all size packages. Some just happen, some are created, but all have that special ingredient—the giving of time to others, to life, and to ourselves.

This week, be kind to yourself, and give yourself a moment. Think of something to do for someone else. Give the priceless gift of good memories.