Monday, November 29, 2010

A WORD TO BE WISE




“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are” ~ C.S. Lewis

            Wisdom comes to us in many ways. Confucius says, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is the noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.”
            I think most learn wisdom by experience, and that experience is usually accomplished the hard way. I wish that didn’t have to be the case. How wonderful it would be for us to do as Mr. Lewis says and live in a circle of wisdom. To surround ourselves with people who love us and have no other motive in mind than to see us successful, fulfilled, and happy.
            There are such people you know.
Our ears should be trained on people who have learned by experience and by reflection. And when they come to us in the spirit of concern and love, we should listen to them.
            Unfortunately, when wisdom is given it often contradicts our desires, it interferes with our plans, it threatens to remove the blinders we have on and forces us to look at all aspects.
            Once, when I was laying tile in our home, I was advised to measure the room to determine if it was square. If not, I needed to make adjustments. But I didn’t want to take the time. I just wanted to get the job done. I convinced myself that if I were careful to make sure that every tile corner met and used the spacers everything would turn out fine. A certain smugness over my decision to do it my way settled in as I sat on the floor and looked over the grout lines.   They appeared straight—that is until I got to the far wall. My tile met the wall in the west corner, but was eight inches away from the wall on the east corner. When I stood and looked over the floor the grout lines were wavy. It made me sick! And even worse, I had to look at that floor every day. I covered it with rugs, but still, the poor tile job was there and I knew it.
            There are many advisers in our lives and some are not worth listening to, especially if they do not have our best in mind. But for those who do, for those who have nothing to gain if you listen to them or not—listen to them. Reflect on what they say. Don’t let your own will dictate foolish decisions and actions on your part.
A ship’s captain who is steering his vessel in a storm cannot have the same sense of direction as one who watches above the storm. In the tempest of our lives, we do not have the same understanding and perception as those standing on the outside looking in.
I like what the first century Roman author, Publilius Syrus, said, “Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.”
This week, be wise and listen to those who love you. Put down your will and take the blinders off. Honestly reflect on what they say. Then make your decision.
           

            

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MY CULINARY EPIPHANY


My mom, Freddie Diehl




In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I’m posting my story that appeared a few years ago in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Recipes for Busy Moms. Have a great celebration everyone!

MY CULINARY EPIPHANY
                                                     
         There are many important “firsts” in live—first step, first word, first kiss and first turkey—the Thanksgiving kind.
         As a child I remembered waking up Thanksgiving morning to the aroma of roasting turkey. I bounded down the hall to the beat of the Macy’s Day Parade on the television. Mom was always in the kitchen and Dad was in the recliner. I’d pile on him and watch the parade till all the relatives arrived and lunch was served.
My husband, Neal, and I continued the tradition of going to Mom’s for Thanksgiving. We brought the green bean casserole and the kids. Mom did everything else. But the holiday cooking mantle was passed on to me when Neal’s job transferred us to another city.
         This new responsibility didn’t concern me. Mom didn’t seem to mind cooking such an extensive meal, why should I? Her face always had a rosy glow when she cooked. From enthusiasm I supposed. Besides, she wrote clear, step-by-step instructions for me to follow. Hey, this was going to be a cinch!
         Thanksgiving week finally arrived and I pulled out my instructions. First I had to find the perfect turkey—one that would feed our family of seven, plus provide ample leftovers for all the fantastic, delicious, dishes I could dream up. So, I purchased a twenty-eight pounder.
         Next on the “to do” list—thaw him. Naively, I thought that would only take a few hours on the counter, till my food-safety husband nixed my plan, exclaiming, “It will take a week to thaw a bird that big in the refrigerator.”
         I panicked! Thanksgiving was in two days. I needed a quick defrost method. Then Neal remembered how his granny put her turkey in a bathtub full of cold water. Quick as a wink our bathtub was full and Mr. T as we fondly dubbed him, contentedly floated around.
         Later that afternoon we heard strange noises coming from the bathroom.
Thud, splash, thud.
Neal and I raced to the bathroom. As soon as our feet hit the hall carpet it squished with water. On the flooded bathroom floor a diaper floated by. Alarmed, I shoved back the shower curtain to find out two-year-old son, William, laying on top of the frozen turkey pushing himself from one end of the tub to the other like a bucking bird rodeo. I grabbed him off the main course. All cheeks were pink and shiny. I handed him to Neal and went to work in the kitchen.
The rest of the day and into the night I chopped, diced, sliced, mixed, rolled, sautéed, simmered, boiled, and baked. It didn’t take me long to realize that my mom’s rosy glow wasn’t excitement. It was heat exhaustion!
The alarm sounded unusually loud at 5 A.M. Thanksgiving morning. I crawled out of bed and felt my way down the hall to the bathroom. In my sleep-deprived stupor, I grabbed Mr. T from the tub and hoisted him to my hip. Glacier water spilled down my nylon gown. It clung to me like a second skin. Every nerve in my body shrieked red alert! I won’t repeat the words that silently formed on my lips.
In the kitchen I peeled off the wrappers and stared, shocked at the sight of a naked turkey. The only ones I’d ever had the pleasure to know wore a nice, crispy, brown skin. This cold, clammy thing was pale and pimply.
Everything in me revolted.
Glancing at the recipe, it called for the giblets to be removed from the cavity.
Only one problem. I couldn’t get the stupid legs apart! Some kind of bar held them together. What was the purpose of this thing? Some kind of chastity belt for birds? 
I tugged, yanked and jerked for fifteen minutes. Finally the dark greasy cavern yawned open—and I was supposed to put my hands in that?
My mother’s instructions said to stuff celery and onion in the carcass, so I obediently acquiesced. After thoroughly stuffing him I shoved that bad boy in the oven, slammed the door shut and leaned against the wall.
This wasn’t the way I remembered Thanksgiving. 
Later that morning, the savory aroma of roasting turkey and lively music from the marching bands filled the house. The kids woke up, bounded down the hall and piled on Neal to watdch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  I worked feverishly in the kitchen wearing that blasted rosy glow.
Finally, dinner was served.
Neal said grace and in less than thirty minutes we consumed over a hundred dollars worth of food that took over two days to prepare. After dinner Neal reclined in his chair and the kids went outside to play.
And me?
I was left to clean up a kitchen that looked like Bourbon Street the morning after Mardi Gras.
So this is what my mother did every year????
My hands were chapped. My fingers were cut and burned. Every muscle in my body begged for a glass of wine and a hot bubble bath.
My mother deserved sainthood!
Glancing out the window I watched the children jump into a pile of leaves, just like I did when I was a child. Neal snored in his chair, just like Dad. And I began the arduous task of cleaning, just like Mom.
Indulging in a little self-pity, I grumbled under my breath. Nobody in my family had a clue how hard it was cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
Come to think of it, neither had I till that day.
Immediately I got off my self-righteous perch and practiced the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
         I called my mother.
When she answered I said, “Mom? Thank you for your hard work all those years of cooking our holiday meals. We are not worthy of you!”

I hope you enjoyed my true story! This year, don’t forget to thank those who made it special for you. If you are the one wearing the “rosy glow” let me say in advance, THANK YOU for your dedication to those for whom you are creating this special memory!


         

Monday, November 15, 2010

ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH HOPE


Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.” ~ Unknown Author

I’m reading a book about the early immigrants who came to the shores of the USA seeking a better life, a life free of the religious and social constraints that made them less than others. These men, women, and children worked hard. They came here poor and remained poor a long time after arriving. Some farmed and fought the elements to bring in the crops. Others indentured themselves, cooking and cleaning for those who had found their fortunes.

Not all came here on their own volition. Millions of men, women, and children were brought here against their will and suffered inhumane treatment, being separated from their families, watching their children auctioned off, backbreaking work and death.

I can see how easily it could have been for these heroes of history to have given up. How they could have lost hope. Some did, but most kept working. Today we are enjoying the fruits from their labor.

Today, we work and fight the elements. However, our battles are very different from those of our forefathers and foremothers, but they are battles all the same. We may be tired and discouraged, but we must continue and not give up.

The meaning of hope isn’t “wishful thinking.” It means “confident expectation.” I’m learning-on a daily basis-that I cannot trust circumstances. For instance, I have certain things that weigh heavy on my heart. One day I may feel all is lost. The next I may get good news and think, “finally, a step forward!” I walk on air the rest of the day. The next morning I get slammed with bad news. Instead of a step forward, now I’ve taken six steps backwards.

In situations like this, I feel lost. But I don’t have the full picture. It is easy to lose perspective, to lose confidence, to lose hope. However, the worst thing I could do is quit. And believe me, I’ve threatened to many times.

But I can’t.

You can’t either. Whatever is going on in your life right now, keep on keeping on. Don’t give up hope. You will achieve if you do not give up.




Monday, November 08, 2010

SEEDS OF GRATITUDE



“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

How I love this time of year! It is a time when we think, “harvest,” but it is also a time to plant. However, unlike planting in the spring, fall planting is delayed gratification. My Tiger Lily bulbs, Daffodils, and Tulips are all snuggled in their earthen beds for the winter. In the spring they will wake up and grow into graceful shapes with brilliant colors, delighting me as well as all who visit Selah. It is worth the wait.

Planting seeds of gratitude in our hearts accomplishes the same thing. Our lives may be filled with problems, heartaches, and disappointments. We may have irritating  people in our faces whose goal in life, it seems, is to make us miserable. When this is the case, it is so easy to focus on the negative. After all, this is our reality.

But . . . does it have to be?

No.

We need to plant the bulbs of gratitude in the garden of our hearts. We may not see an immediate change. But gratitude will work its magic in us while our souls are in winter. Then, one day, gratitude will break through in our soul and we realize that we are more positive, our vision is clear, and we have hope even in the darkest tempest.

While searching for quotes this one by H. U. Westermayer hit me hard: “The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. We can learn from these brave people that while we may feel we have nothing to be thankful for, we really do!

Reasons to be grateful are all around us, but we overlook them because they are so small or taken for granted. Think about something you would hate to be without and then be thankful that you have it. I’m thankful for warm, drinking-quality water to bathe in and the hours I’ve spent the last few days laughing with my family and friends.  

I plant the seeds of gratitude by reviewing my day, making a list of the things I’m grateful for, and writing them down. There is something about writing (or typing) that buries them deep in our souls.

This week, in the month set aside for thanksgiving, start planting seeds and bulbs of gratitude in your heart. Add to your list every night.

Spring will come, gratitude will bloom, making our lives beautiful.







  

Monday, November 01, 2010

THE FOLLY OF FEAR



Fear is an acronym in the English language for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Last weekend many celebrated a holiday that has its roots in fear. A lot of us enjoy a good fright, whether it comes from movies or a scary tale. We like to jump out and startle people and have a good laugh afterwards. My normally quiet husband, Neal, enjoys sneaking up behind unsuspecting victims and making an ear-splitting chicken cackle noise, scaring them witless. This behavior, I suppose, developed from the many years he’s worked for Tyson Foods.

True fear is an emotion aroused by impending danger or pain. It is a protective behavior that keeps us alive. It brings to mind the deer on our property. I like to watch them from my deck. As they graze the constantly look up and survey their surroundings. They twitch their ears and listen. After a while they graze a little longer. If I snap my fingers, they look up immediately, wait, listen, and then go back to eating. However, if I should walk toward them, they flag their little white tails and leap into the woods.

Fear can also be debilitating when it “crosses” the barrier of truth and enters our imaginations. Irrational beliefs and dread for what could happen, what might happen, eat at our souls with negative attitudes resulting in self-destructive actions. While searching for quotes, I found this: “Fear is the darkroom where negatives develop.” How true. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in the dark weeping when my teenagers broke curfew. I had them bleeding to death in a ditch until I saw those blessed headlights in the driveway. However, after I hugged them, I wanted to kill them!

Many things—poor self-image, hurtful experiences from childhood, emotional distress, past failures, even the painful experiences of others—feed the fear that haunts our minds. We believe the lie and react in bizarre ways. I once heard someone ask a person who was deathly afraid of spiders, “What’s worse, the fear of spiders or the broken leg you get from trying to get away from it?

Living life in fear is a miserable way to live. Most of us can overcome it by identifying the fear, its origin, and telling ourselves the truth. For instance, the fear of spiders:

·      Some spiders are poisonous – true.
·      My foot is bigger than the spider - true.
·      I can use a fly swatter on the spider – true.
·      The spider will overpower my foot, my fly swatter, and fill me full of venom before swallowing me whole – false.

Fear is destructive. It robs us of our dreams and cripples our future. Mary Manin Morrissey rightly said, “You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.”

If you are living in the dark shadow of fear, I encourage you to master and retrain your mind. If you cannot do it alone, get help. There is absolutely NO SHAME in getting professional help.

Overcoming fear is gradual process in faith. I depend on my faith everyday in regards to the fear that often sneaks up on me—the well being of my children. I have to let go of what I cannot control and turn to the One who loves them more than I do. I never dreamed that much love was possible, but it is.

Life is good, live it to the fullest, free from dread and worry—free from fear.