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What a difference 7 days can make!

Last week we visited family in the Adirondacks to celebrate my grandson’s graduation – how this sweet baby grew up so fast is beyond me – but I digress. The mountains are known for delayed springs. I expected chilly weather and was not disappointed, yet when the spring snow came, however, it provided impetus to complain. Even the locals expressed their dismay. It was time for warm weather. This week, I am home in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the temperature is 84, and people are complaining that they are hot and uncomfortable because of the heat and elevated humidity. Isn’t there a better way to take action and expend our energy? Why, I wonder, are we humans so prone to complain about the weather and think it is okay?

ComplaintsAccording to Wikipedia’s Free Dictionary, the word complain is an action verb meaning to express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event and includes synonyms repine, grumble, lament and moan.

Although I have heard that several governments, including the US, are trying to control the weather by various means, obviously they have not succeeded to the point where everyone is satisfied. We still complain and regardless if we prefer cool or warm temperatures, we complain. It’s second nature to us. Yet it seems to me we are wasting our time. (Notice I’m including myself in these statements because I’m as guilty as anyone else.)

Wouldn’t it be more productive to complain about something we can change? What if we complained instead about the dirty windows in our house? We could get out the cleaning solution and rags and make them shine. Then we would have something to rejoice about. We could send out positive messages about shiny windows and invite our friends to rejoice with us. We could throw a party. If the windows were really bad to start with and obvious to passersby, we’d have no problem getting people to come. But no, we complain about something that it is impossible to change.

Perhaps we use the weather as a level playing field, a point of commonality, to initiate conversations – you know, break the ice. It does work because everyone will join in, yet grumbling and complaining are negative characteristics and instead of building people up, it drags people down. Who needs more of that?

It seems to me it will take an intentional effort to change my thoughts and expressions about the weather, but I’m going to give it a try. After all, it takes intentionality to do anything worthwhile. So here’s the deal. You have my permission to remind me the next time I complain about the weather that there is a positive aspect that I am missing. Who knows, it may filter down to other areas where I struggle to do better.

What can a shirt do?

You may have never thought much about the shirts hanging in your closet or those neatly folded in your dresser drawers. Likely you knew that shirts have personalities and can influence your behavior through their style and color, yet were you aware how controlling some of them are?

spaghetti_babySome shirts like to eat … a lot. Have you ever noticed how neatly you can consume most foods, but when you have a plate of spaghetti, some of it always ends up on the shirt? That’s because shirts, especially white ones, love, love, love pasta covered in tomato sauce. It’s their favorite meal, and they can’t seem to get enough. And you thought you were just messy.

Some shirts will take you places you don’t want to go. I recall the days when schools had detailed dress codes and they were explicitly enforced. For example, if you wore a T-shirt deemed inappropriate, that shirt took you on a trip to the principal’s office, just for a little chat – guess he didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes you even got to spend some extended quality time with another teacher after school – all because of a shirt.

But who knew a shirt could lead you out of your comfort zone, around the learning curve to mastery of something new? Sounds like a good thing, right? Actually in the long run it is, but that short run is a killer.

I have a beautiful embroidery machine, a Brother Quattro 6000, but have been so busy with other projects, family events and life in general that I have not had the time to learn what commands would make it perform its magic. Once you master the commands and know which button does what, it’s all good, but until you get there, it can be intimidating.

Recently I was tasked with embroidering the name of a certain organization on 17 shirts. Of course the shirts were not of the inexpensive variety, so you couldn’t make a mistake – or if you did, you had to know how to fix it. After stewing about it for quite a while, the deadline for delivery loomed so close I could feel its hot breath down the back of my neck. I had to do it. Those shirts were causing sleepless nights and butterflies in my stomach. Would I ever survive? I prayed about it a lot, visited the store where I purchased the machine for moral support and further instructions, and then prayed again. (The shirts didn’t know that God cares and can sew.) One by one, I measured, marked and machine stitched each shirt until finally they were finished. Hooray!

Those shirts thought they were going to get the best of me, but instead they helped me to master the machine. Now I can’t wait to start another project.

Roller Coaster Rides

Can you remember your favorite ride at the amusement park or carnival? Mine was the roller coaster. I can remember bubbling with excitement as I’d get into the car and finding it difficult to contain my anticipation as I waited for the other cars to fill so the ride could begin. I could hardly sit still, yet I had to wait until the ride operator made his rounds checking to see everyone had fastened their seat belts. In the meantime, I pictured myself flying at break-neck speeds with the wind blasting in my face. I focused on the fun I’d experience and certainly gave no thought to the seatbelt. Surely I wouldn’t need it.  Seatbelts? They were merely a proactive measure to avoid liability, something you were supposed to do, a necessary evil.

roller coaster maverick_airtime1Finally our cavalcade began to move, slowly at first and then increasing to gain momentum to climb. By the time I reached the top of the steep incline, I had no time to do anything but hold on tight and scream with emotions racing between fear and delight. It was so much fun. Even after experiencing several episodes of these peaks and valleys eventually leading back to the starting point, I lacked appreciation for the protection my seatbelt provided. It never crossed my mind. I took it for granted, yet had it not been securely in place, I’d have been flying through the air, all right, but not with the greatest of ease.

Don’t you sometimes feel like life is like a roller coaster ride? You start out at the bottom, learn a few things, gain momentum then all of a sudden you’re going in a different direction, and it feels like that path is headed down. Change is like that. It hits you smack in the face – sometimes without warning and the cycle is often repeated many times before the ride is over. The ups and downs aren’t much fun, and you begin to ask yourself, “What measures have I put into place to keep me secure as I hang on for dear life?”

If you have made wise choices along the way, especially placing your faith in the Lord, you will have the security and perspective you need to focus on the voyage and not the ups and downs. Reflecting on your selections and making adjustments to compensate for the change will help you to have joy in the journey like I did on the roller coaster ride.

Happy Valentine’s Day

tullips t11z104aNo doubt Hallmark, FTD Florist and Hershey Chocolate stocks are up today as millions of men and women seek to honor their special someone with a Valentine. Other retailers and restaurants will also increase their business, yet these displays of affection beg the question, will my significant other feel loved as a result? In other words, does the gift given match the person’s personality and help them to feel loved?

My husband loves roses and though I don’t send him flowers for Valentine’s Day, he knows that I enjoy them, and he lovingly sent me some (Thanks, Honey! J). Valentine tradition says roses are the perfect flower to say, “I love you” and spark romance. Although I too adore their beauty, this time of year I’m looking for spring, and a bouquet of tulips perk me up. My dear husband looked at what I liked rather than what he liked and selected an appropriate gift. And, he chose my favorite color.

Dr. Gary D. Chapman contends that each person has a predominant love language that speaks volumes to his/her heart and when another person speaks their language, they feel totally satisfied. It’s like their gas tank is full and their engine is purring like a kitten. It makes sense. If someone tried to speak to you in Portuguese or Russian, you’d have little idea what they were trying to say, even if the message were critically important. Chapman lists the five languages as

  • 5 love languages communication04Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Although each person has a combination of preferences, usually they have two that stand out. If the needs in these areas are met, the person flourishes and grows. Chapman has provided a free online assessment so that you can discover your own love language or that of your spouse or children. It’s especially crucial for teens. Check it out to see if you can find your spouse, kids as well as your own special love language. Be sure to let others know what it is so that they can fill your love tank appropriately.

By the way, have a super Happy Valentine’s Day!

Don’t sign up for that class

Mean teacher 17607What do a teacher and a headache have in common?

If you return to your school days, regardless of level of education, you’ll likely find one or two teachers you deemed a headache because they were either unrealistic in their expectations or ambiguous in their approach. Those aren’t the ones I mean. I’m talking about learning from a real, physical headache.

If a teacher is someone or something from which you learn, then my headache qualifies. But before I tell you how I learned, I need to clarify that this is not just head knowledge – no pun intended. I’m talking about the information that you obtain, process, and act upon as opposed to the kind of information you understand but park away in the recesses of your mind rather than apply it.

For years I’ve heard that I should drink water. “It’s good for you,” said both my parents and doctor. But in my younger years, I thought it worked better as cleansing agent for dirty feet. It had no flavor. As I grew older and understood the health benefits, I tried to incorporate more of the liquid into my diet, and it ever so slowly moved from tolerable to refreshing. That said it was still not a priority if coffee, tea or some other flavored beverage were available.

Benefits-of-Drinking-Water-Mind-MapNext I had to overcome my frugal nature – nice way to say cheap. I began purchasing bottled water but more for my husband than for me personally, until, that is, we had a real cold spell where we had to crank up the heat in the house. That’s when the headaches started. I tried all of the normal over0the-counter pain remedies, but they failed. Thanks to the internet, I discovered I was dehydrated. With only a couple of bottles of water, the headaches disappeared and did not return.

So the moral of the story is this. Make drinking water a priority in your life. Don’t wait until you are thirsty or have headaches.  Headaches can be very effective teachers, but I recommend you don’t sign up for that class.

February’s Facination with Phil

Groundhog Day 2013It’s really quite clever when you stop to think about it – taking an otherwise common nuisance and transforming him into a local hero with a win-win message. Not only does he promote goodwill but he also brings people to a place where without him, they would never go! I’m talking about Punxsutawney Phil, the hero of Groundhog Day.

Each February 2, folks come from all over to see the Punxsutawney, PA dignitaries don their top hats and with ceremonious accord, drag this otherwise vile creature from his winter’s nap in the old oak on Gobblers Knob. If he sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter will remain, but if not, spring will follow right around the corner. Either way, you can’t lose as the time frame between the two is negligible. (Actually, Phil’s prognostications have only been correct 39% of the time.)

To view the 2013 event, click here. Caution: You’ll have to bear with a TV ad for just a few seconds prior to watching Phil make his debut.)

Whoever thought about capitalizing on this local tradition put a rural Pennsylvania town on the map. Yet, when you think about it, isn’t that what God does to us? We’re just like this ignoble woodchuck. When left to his own resources, his deeds are far from wholesome as he forages a destructive path through farmers’ fields and wreaks havoc in homeowners’ gardens. We are all sinners, both by birth and by choice. Though the level of damage each of us makes will vary, we cannot escape this fact that makes it impossible for us to enter heaven.

Punxsutawney Phil’s transformation from an ugly despised creature to the town hero results from a strong hope for resurrection from the desolation of winter. We also, when we take God’s message of redemption that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection come as payment for our sin, are saved, and in accepting this truth for ourselves, we are permitted to enter His glorious Heaven. We become new creatures in Christ and a harbinger of the true Gospel message that does not change from year to year but remains unchanging for eternity.

I wonder if whoever came up with Groundhog Day knew he had copied God’s plan and message.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. I Corinthians 15:3 – 4

Which do I want — a donut or a radish?

I have always found teens to be fantastic people, which is one of the reasons I so loved teaching in our local Christian high school. Of course these students still struggled with growing pains in lots of areas, but I loved to listen to their ideas and offer resources to help them reach their potential. Yet there ensued a problem in these conversations.  The students came to know me as well, maybe too well.

Donuts anyone?

jelly-donuts-11299689394INgFrom our more light-hearted conversations, it did not take long for them to discover I had a penchant for donuts, especially cream or jelly filled ones. On holidays, they’d often bring me a whole box of these fried and sugared cakes oozing with various jellies to take home. I remember my mouth watering at the thought of devouring these delicacies. I could not wait to dive into them. They were that good. Fortunately for my figure, I had teenagers of my own at home who helped to polish them off.

During those years, we lived in a rural area with no Yum Yum or Dunkin Donut shops within a 45 mile radius so when you got a real donut, it truly was a treat. Later when we moved to the suburbs of a larger metropolitan area, you could find a donut den on almost every corner. Now I could indulge more frequently. Alas, you know what happens to those sweet snacks that are so delicious on the lips. Yes, they end up on your hips. So as I dieted to try to lose weight and even as I strove to eat healthier – reduced sugar, natural fruits and vegetables, just because I should – I gave them up but the donuts still called my name. More times than not, I could pass them by, but they had not lost their appeal until just the other day.

What’s up with the radish?

bunch-of-radishesThat day I ran into the grocery store on a mission – trying to find the soursop fruit.  As I headed to the produce aisle, a bunch of the largest, most beautiful radishes caught my eye. And whoa! They called my name, just like the donuts used to, and I REALLY wanted those radishes. You will be proud of me as I did wait until I purchased them and returned home before eating them, but they really were GOOD and not just something good for me.

Moral of the story

This experience was really strange, but I think I can find a moral to this story. The more I focused my eyes on the right foods and chose them over the sugary unhealthy ones, the less attractive the empty calorie items became until I really desired the good ones. Can you imagine the transformation in my life if I fix my eyes on Jesus? Wow.

Is it cold enough for you?

beach-1280x960

Baby, it really is cold outside. If you’re like me, you’ve had enough of this recent cold snap that’s hitting Pennsylvania and other parts of the country – where is global warming when you need it? Even though Florida is experiencing cooler days than usual, a trip there sounds inviting. Yet if you’re like me and unable to travel to escape the frigid temperatures, you might benefit from some of these tips.

Dress for it

The other day, I saw a store customer wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Just looking at him made my teeth chatter. Most people, however, have common sense sufficient to know you need to dress appropriately in cold weather. Layers are better than bulky outer wear. A hat offers more protection than you might think, so if you’re going to be outdoors for even a short length of time – you can get frostbite in 30 minutes – make sure you have one. Here’s something I learned that will explain Mama Cat’s consternation at her naughty kitten. Mittens provide more warmth than gloves. This makes sense as your fingers are aligned close to one another and keep each other warm with body heat rather than being separated by a layer of cloth.

Drink lots

Hydration is particularly important when it is cold. Those layers of clothes you just added will cause you to perspire, and that fluid needs to be replaced. While warm liquids like coffee, tea and hot chocolate may tempt you, they’re really not the best choices as their caffeine acts as a diuretic prompting more loss of fluid.  Good, old fashioned water is best, and if you’ve just pulled it from the fridge, they say it will force your body to generate more heat. If you really are interested in a warm beverage, try heating up some apple cider, sugar water or an energy drink.

Define activities

Common sense says, “Stay indoors if you can,” and this is wise. Why go out if you don’t have to? But you live in a real world where you may have to walk to a bus, work or store from your car or a train. You may even have to work outside during bitter cold weather. If so, take precautions with frequent breaks to get warm and dry and time your activities to the warmest parts of the day. Keep this in mind for the kids playing outdoors as well.

If you’re staying indoors, add some moisture to the air. Hot air and heating systems can dry out your skin, hair, sinuses, nails, furniture, walls, floors and more. And as I have discovered, lack of humidity can even cause headaches. Placing open containers of water on a wood stove, heat registers or on the range will add a measure of moisture to your home. If you don’t mind seeing clothes hanging around the house, using a clothes rack instead of your dryer will also increase the indoor humidity without the additional purchase of a humidifier.

If Aruba or some other tropical paradise is not in your immediate plans, try some of the above tips and stay warm.

Reflection … a day late?

Martin Luther KingSince yesterday (January 21) actually served as only an observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday and did not reflect the true day of his birth (January 15, 1929), I figured I could be late as well in mentioning one of his quotes.

This champion for African-American civil rights and Nobel Prize winner said many outstanding things throughout his life and nonviolent campaigns for freedom, but in review, this one popped out at me. He had to have said it at least 45 years ago (could have been longer), but see if you don’t think it still speaks volumes.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As one who gained my college degree later in life, I saw a new philosophy propagated that emphasized telling students what to think as opposed to teaching them how to think and evaluate situations in order to come up with a viable plan of action. Mirroring King’s description, many of the  students settled for the easy answers and half-baked solutions, i.e. what was the teacher looking for. And this to me is scary as young people, enamored with their professors credentials, listened attentively and soaked in some of the most illogical and irresponsible philosophies this country has ever heard. They engaged quickly and employed their boundless energies without considering the impact or influence on the future. With their lack of knowledge and real-life experience, these teachers could easily lead the next generation down a path to bondage and destruction both personally and nationally.

But rather than end on a negative note … Check it out for yourself and look at the verbiage below taken from posted signs and headlines. You’ll see just how the quality of thought (or at least proofreading skills) has deteriorated. If you take these words at face value and don’t engage in hard solid thinking, you’ll likely find your reflection will cause a chuckle and brighten your day. (Thanks to my son for sharing.)

Outside a restroom:

TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW — yuk, what a mess

In a Laundromat:

AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT — I hope the heat stays on, it could get chilly

Message on a leaflet:

IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS — wonder if it is like the audio greeting cards

On a repair shop door:

WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR – THE BELL DOESN’T WORK) — anything except doorbells

And these published headlines:

MAN KILLS SELF BEFORE SHOOTING WIFE AND DAUGHTER – This guy had talent he did not know about.

SOMETHING WENT WRONG IN JET CRASH, EXPERT SAYS – Really?

POLICE BEGIN CAMPAIGN TO RUN DOWN JAYWALKERS – Sounds like King nailed it here – a half-baked solution.

What wasn’t I thinking?

What wasn’t I thinking? No, this title question does not contain a typo, though I will admit the sentence structure is a bit awkward. I could have just as easily asked what was I thinking, but unfortunately I was not thinking at all. And the fact of the matter is I missed out on something that is really good for me because I never really took the time to “get it.” I’m not talking about a pot of gold under the rainbow or a get-rich-quick formula, so don’t run the other way. Let me explain about what I neglected. It’s so simple that it is embarrassing, but perhaps it could help you as well.

bottled-water1Of course I know about the value of drinking water, and I agree wholeheartedly. I see the health benefits. I understand the science. So why am I not drinking more of this healthy liquid? Am I just too lazy? Perhaps that’s a factor, but the bottom line to my discovery is that I’m just too cheap. Here’s what I found.

I buy bottled water to pack in my husband’s lunch. I did not purchase it for my consumption because why should I pay extra when I have water running from my tap? But the convenience of the bottled water appealed to me when I was recovering from a bad cold and truly felt dehydrated. I grabbed one of the bottles from the fridge and in no time at all had emptied it. No effort involved, and I was truly refreshed. Yet this is not the part where I “get it.”

While getting ready for the day, my thoughts turned to water – who knows why I’m thinking about bottled water? I really do have blonde roots, but I digress … again. Anyway, as I was thinking about drinking more water, I thought about how much I enjoyed being able to grab a bottle rather than getting a glass and filling it from the fridge. I considered that I would do it more if it weren’t for the cost. – Drum roll, please. This is where the light bulb went on. I could buy a whole case of water for the price of a package of cookies.

This led me to the web to see if this were really true, and guess what I found. You can buy 35, 16.9 ounce bottles of water this week at Giant for $3.99. This breaks down to a total of 591.5 ounces for $3.99.  Also this week, Giant is offering a sale on Chips Ahoy cookies. For $5.00, you can get 2 packages weighing 15.25 ounces each or a total of 30.5 ounces for your $5 bill. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover which purchase makes a better financial investment – I already knew the water was better for me than the cookies.

I can’t be the only one who makes obvious discoveries so late in life, but you have to admit, the awkward title of this blog is right on target.