Monthly Archives: February 2014

Banana-Seat Bikes and Penny Candy

I know we tend to gloss over things in the past and make them better than they were. But this morning, I am finding tremendous joy in my memories of childhood. Come down memory lane with me!

Some of my favorite memories….

The Dollar:
Walking to the five and dime store with a dollar, and coming home with a bag full of candy.

Freedom Ride:
Riding double on a banana-seat bicycle with my sister who always ended up doing the pedaling because I was a wimp (no helmets required).

Live on Broadway or the Driveway:
Going to the library (yes, the library) to find plays which we could perform for the neighborhood moms. I even remember part of the name: “Strawberry Cake with Pink Lemonade Icing.”

All-Around Athletes:
Playing football, baseball, soccer, volleyball, softball, and hockey in your yard or the street with the neighborhood kids, and playing  any sport I wanted to try at any age because sports were only a 6-week commitment and no one expected you to pick your sport in Kindergarten. (Note: This required knowing your neighbors and that they actually decided to have children.)

Homemade Family Dinners:
Waiting for my Dad’s car to round the corner and racing him home for dinner which was always homemade from scratch.

Dial Phone with Chord:
Sitting on the very top stair with the long cord that one of my sisters convinced my parents to buy and talking with friends until the next sibling needed the phone. Never having to worry about carrying a phone or checking a phone or losing a phone.

I hope you found joy in this trip down memory lane. Please share if you have memories that bring you joy from this time, too!

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Tiny Teacups

It’s not every day you get invited to a tea party. One of my dearest friends spontaneously invited me to join her for tea. I love her tea parties because you never know what you will be served or who she will invite to join us.

When I arrived this time, I noticed a new tea set. I also quickly sized up the other guests: a well-loved but older gentleman whose clothing looked a bit rumpled, a younger blonde who appeared to have an unkempt appearance, and a very easy-going chap who had an interesting accent.

Once everyone was settled, the hostess began to serve. This time, she served banana-nut-raisin tea with “yummy” cookies. I learned that the honored guests’ names were Teddy, Dolly and Scooby Doo.

As you may have guessed by now, my hostess was a toddler. Don’t be fooled by her age. Within 10 minutes, she had taught me quite a few lessons:

When I asked for my tea, she reprimanded me, “We must say our prayers before we eat!” Thank you for the gift of gratitude.

When I slurped down my tea quickly and asked for more, she gently reminded me, “Let’s wait until everyone has had some before we ask for seconds.” Thank you for the gift of sharing.

When all was done and I made my excuses to leave, she looked at me with such sweet eyes and said, “You can have some more while we let the others finish.” Thank you for the gift of love.

It was hard to pull away from such a wonderful hostess and guests. My hostess even offered to let me make tea the next time! I just wonder who will be at the party and what they will be there to teach me.

Side-seat driver

I’ve been teaching my son how to drive these past few months. I definitely have let my husband do the lion’s share of the teaching. My husband is much more patient than me and can communicate clearly when it comes to immediate action needed. This is really helpful when our young driver is about to run a yellowish/red light! In these moments, I go into “soup” mode. That’s what I call it. I want to respond quickly, but feel like I am swimming in soup. What comes out of my mouth doesn’t even make sense.

All this driving got me to thinking about God. Okay, let me catch you up. When my son is driving, I’m focused on remaining calm and keeping my voice level and easy. I am blessed with a pretty cautious son, so things usually don’t get too challenging, until I insert myself. For example, I needed to mail a letter, and at the last minute said, “Turn here,” forgetting that he needs ample time and space to accomplish this. Yikes! Being a side-seat driver didn’t help him at all. Suddenly, I realized that I’m like that with God. I let Him drive most of the time. But right when things get going well, I insert myself and demand immediate turns, sometimes in the totally wrong direction.

Here’s the good news. I’ve learned a thing or two.  God used to only be my side-seat driver. I had the steering wheel and my own navigation system, although who knows where I was heading. He would just yank the wheel to avoid immediate danger. So, although I have plenty of room to improve, I am sure thankful I am no longer driving that car. But don’t let me fool you– it sure was hard letting go of that steering wheel!

You don’t have to be a navy seal to know what to do in choppy waters

When my brother-in-law was stationed in Hawaii with the navy, my husband and I had an affordable way to visit the islands. In a real, physical way, I learned on that trip that you don’t have to be a navy seal to know what to do in choppy waters.

I went snorkeling for the first time in Hanauma Bay. Once I got over the awkwardness of the snorkeling equipment, I was in awe of what was swimming all around me. The view of the exotic fish along with the undulations of the coral reef was intoxicating. I could not pull myself away from the beauty of this indescribable scene. I have no idea how long I was snorkeling, when giant waves seemed to appear out of nowhere. (If any islanders are reading this, they are probably laughing at that idea, but to a “haole,” it seemed true.)

I was in no position to deal with these waves. Less than a foot below me was the beautiful, but razor-sharp, coral reef. I thought to myself, “If only I could go deep…” Instead, I frantically swam against the waves, scraping myself to get to a clearer section of water and to the safety of the beach.

This situation came to mind recently when I was talking with a wise friend of mine. I was sharing that I had been struggling with many things in my life that all seem to be coming at me at once. (If a wise person is reading this, he/she is probably laughing at this idea, but to me, a fool with little faith, it seemed true. ) My wise friend shared this analogy:

Ask anyone who has served on a naval submarine when do the most sailors get seasick? They will tell you that it’s when the sub is at the surface and the water starts getting choppy. Thankfully, they are on a sub, and they can decide to “go deep.” They just head downwards into the deep sea where the water is calm.

He suggested  to me that there are times in life when we are in choppy waters. It’s for these moments that we should develop a strong prayer life and already practice virtues like patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. When we recognize choppy waters, we need to “go deep” and rely on these things. Down deep, the waters are smooth and calm and peaceful. When he told me this, I visualized a submarine blowing its horn from the old movies. Now, when the waters get choppy in my life, I hear that sound in my head and “go deep.” And boy what a difference it makes.

Which Wolf Do You Feed?

Because I try to be honest to a fault, I want to be clear. I read and listen to an enormous amount of material every day. I also have friends and mentors who share ideas and stories with me on a daily basis in conversation. One mentor of mine has written so many books that I am struggling to read them all! So, I feel like I have no original thoughts. As the old adage goes, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” So, if you recognize something on my blog, and you know its original creator, please comment and let me know who it is! I want everyone to get credit for their work.

Now that I have clarified my concerns, I have a story to share:

Once there was a grandpa who loved his grandson terribly much. He liked to take him for ice cream and have one-on-one talks. This grandpa had grown old and wise, which don’t always come together. He wanted to share with his grandson the most important things in life. He told him this story: “Inside each of us are two wolves. One is greedy, full of pride, angry, resentful, jealous and mean. The other is honest, respectful, good, kind, patient and compassionate.” The little boy asked, “But gwampa, which one will win?” His grandpa simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Today, I will be intentional on feeding the right wolf! 

 

Peanuts in a Jar

Sometimes in life we face situations that feel like the rug has been pulled from underneath us. Often times, by the people we least expect. These situations require prayer and advice to know what is the best course of action. My husband and I are lucky to have older and wiser people in our lives to turn to for this type of advice. One of them shared this story with me:

A monkey sat in front of a jar full of peanuts. The peanuts were still in the shell, the kind you buy at the baseball game. The jar was broad at the bottom, but had a narrow neck. Just narrow enough that the little monkey could fit his hand and arm down into the bottom to grab the peanuts. Now, the monkey, being a monkey, was greedy. He wanted as many peanuts as he could possibly grab. So he slipped his hand and arm into the jar and tightly grabbed lots of peanuts from the bottom of the jar. His tight fist was full of peanuts and he felt happy! Of course, now, his hand was stuck because his fist was quite large and he could not bring his hand out of the jar. This infuriated the little monkey who began to scream and jump around. He felt trapped and didn’t know what to do. Finally, he LET GO of the peanuts and was free of the jar.

Three lessons I learned from this story:

1) Sometimes in life, it is hardest to know when we have to let go. It is in our nature to hold tightly, but that doesn’t always serve us or others around us well.

2) Being greedy can lead to other bigger problems.

3) If you stop and ask wise counselors for advice, they may show you a whole new way of looking at the problem. The monkey could have easily taken the jar and turned it upside down, thereby getting a peanut, just one peanut at a time.

How to be happy like a bubble

A thought bubble popped into my head this morning. Simply put: there is definitely power in the spoken word. If you disagree, please let me know why. For most of us, unfortunately, the easiest way to recognize this truth is through a negative example, such as put-downs, name-calling, and sarcasm. You can have a room full of very upbeat, positive people making plans together, but one person saying a negative comment at just the wrong time can deflate the room of all its energy.

I have a confession to make. One of my biggest faults is sarcasm. Sarcasm is my way of responding when I am hurt and I do not want to directly confront the painful problem that myself or other has created. I recently discovered the root of the word sarcasm means “to eat flesh” – Ouch! So although I am never physical in my attacks, my words can do as much or more damage.

Of course, the flip-side to this is that my words can also lift and inspire. Since I am trying not to repeat my sarcasm pattern in my family, I decided to ask all of my children to tell me any positive and uplifting idea that they might have. When I asked this, my children ranged in age from 8 to 2 years old. What they shared was profound. I told them if they would just say and believe each of these statements every single day of their lives, they would be tremedously joy-filled. Please let me know if you disagree after reading their affirmations:

God loves me.

God is always with me.

God is my helper.

I will always trust God.

Thank you, God, for all the animals.

Thank you for making my life a good one.

I am a good friend.

I am loving and cute.

I am happy like a bubble.

You Will Win the Gratitude Game

Someone challenged me to write a “gratitude” journal for 30 days. I love challenges! So, I got out a super fancy, spiral-bound children’s grade school notebook and started my journal.  I decided that I had to fill an entire page for each day. I also decided that I couldn’t just repeat the same things over and over. I had to try and discover new things for which I was grateful each day. I made the rule that if I had already mentioned someone or something, I could mention them again if there was a new “outstanding” reason for thankfulness.  I challenge whoever is reading this to try this for 30 solid days. But before you do, take note of your level of “happiness” before you start, and then take note of your level of “happiness” when you finish. I think you will be surprised to discover just what gratitude brings to your life.

Here are my 100 things for which I am thankful today:

  1. A warm house
  2. Healthy children
  3. A devoted husband
  4. A break from  ice and snow on the ground
  5. Fresh baked cinnamon rolls
  6. Being able to wish my dad Happy Birthday this week
  7. Having a strong faith in God
  8. A sister who texts me just the right words of encouragement
  9. Another sister who listens to my heart
  10. Another sister who reminded me of how I helped her change and grow during childhood
  11. A friend who shows me how to love
  12. Three teens who understand their call to purity
  13. A dog who wants me to play fetch
  14. My eyesight
  15. A brain overflowing with ideas
  16. Forgiveness
  17. Adoration
  18. My spiritual director
  19. Sunshine
  20. Comfortable shoes
  21. A sister-in-law who offers support and understanding
  22. Discovering a frozen pizza hidden in the freezer
  23. Good neighbors
  24. A wacky back massage from my daughter
  25. Watching my daughter practice her ballet
  26. Reading my other daughter’s essay
  27. Laughing at my son’s funny antics
  28. The Winter Olympics
  29. Two working vehicles
  30. Room for guests
  31. Functional internet access
  32. Marketing ideas that just keep pouring into my brain
  33. A creative and fun and energetic peer who likes to work with me
  34. Fancy wedding gift ideas that I don’t have to think of
  35. Birthdays
  36. Baptism days
  37. All my nieces and nephews
  38. Finding my hairdresser
  39. Learning how to make laundry soap
  40. Having access to recipes online
  41. My apron
  42. Clever ideas for mud rooms I found on Pinterest
  43. Two working washing machines
  44. Two working dryers
  45. Polite children
  46. Hardworking children
  47. Peace in my family
  48. Friday rosary
  49. Friends who help remodel
  50. Friends who have cheap remodeling ideas
  51. Real estate investors and realtors who really want to help and have virtue
  52. A great accountant
  53. Wisdom
  54. Understanding
  55. Counsel
  56. Knowledge
  57. Piety
  58. Fear of the Lord
  59. Fortitude
  60. A great roofing company
  61. Fun paint colors
  62. My grandparents – may they rest in peace
  63. Fun crafts that keep kids busy
  64. Wild hairdos
  65. Funny jokes
  66. Bad jokes told by cute kids
  67. Honesty
  68. Understanding how God loves us
  69. Realizing how much I need to work on me
  70. Letting go of what’s not important
  71. Knowing who you can rely on
  72. A clean house
  73. A simple life
  74. An ordered life
  75. Trust
  76. Moving forward
  77. Meeting problems head on
  78. Giving a hand to others
  79. Apologizing when I am wrong
  80. Letting go of regret
  81. My fuzzy socks
  82. A pantry full of food
  83. A quiet night
  84. Greek yogurt
  85. Our piano teacher
  86. Our dance studio
  87. Good soccer coaches
  88. Resolution
  89. Learning Latin
  90. Understanding my call to holiness
  91. Diet Coke with Fresh Lime
  92. Chunky Monkey Ice Cream
  93. A surprise gift
  94. Relief
  95. Cell phones
  96. Staying centered on God
  97. Joy
  98. Baking soda
  99. Being able to drive
  100. Waking up this morning