A Lighthouse in the Storm

The Inspired Life

My mother used to say that there are only two things in this world you can be sure of: DEATH and TAXES.

As I have gone along the path of life, I have discovered that there is a third unflinching item that can be added into this small select group. CHANGE.

Change will happen. Good change, bad change, the pleasant surprises along life’s little way, the minor irritations that set you off course. Yet, for a lot of us, the idea of change fills us with a sense of dread and fear that compares to very little. We fear the unknown. We fear what we can’t visualize and what we can’t control.

Even when we know that we have reached the end of a path. Even when we know that we can no longer stay on the same road because it isn’t good for our well-being, our relationships, or our health or our finances, we hesitate to jump to the next step. Change is one of the major life stresses. Even the good ones. Psychology tells us that events such as getting married, taking on a new job, or moving to a new home rank in the top five major life stresses right up there with death and divorce.

So is it any wonder that when standing on the crossroads of a decision, any decision, that many times the natural response feels like FREEZE- DON’T DO ANYTHING!!!

My experience with that response is that if you tread water long enough, you may likely find yourself blown about in a nasty storm. When we don’t react, the world reacts for us and often we pay the bitter price for not have taken the wheel of our own course.

So how do you know what’s right? What helps you to make the decisions of when to act, which road to go down, how to behave, who to trust, or why you need to make a change in the first place? Do you take each decision as it comes or do you turn to a beacon of light that is constant, unwavering and steady to set your path straight?

Ships tossed and torn in the dark stormy sea don’t have the luxury of taking their time to thoughtfully think through each carefully laid out plan. They must react, and react quickly or risk being sunk or crashed into bits of driftwood against the jagged rocky shoreline. They depend on the beam from the lighthouse to show them the way to safety and shore. They trust the wisdom of the guiding light, grateful for its perseverance and ability to stand the test of time.

Where is your lighthouse? What is your lighthouse? Do you know? Have you thought about it? What are your guiding principles, your unwavering values that keep you focused through the darkest hours, through the fears of change? How do you set your course day after day, year after year, time after time?

Change is coming to Life’s Little Inspirations. With it will come our Lighthouse. Not the one in the post today, but a brand new one that will be our guiding light for all the promises of the future here. I am very excited. I can be excited because the vision and the principles and values of what I want this community to be have become very clear over the last four months. A lot of that has to do with all of you and the part that you play in building this community, adding to the conversations, sharing your stories, lifting up each other and supporting each other.

Over the next week or so, I will be posting less than usual as I work behind the scenes and get ready for some of these changes. Then the first week of August I will take a planned week of unplugged rest and vacation with family to the beaches of Michigan.

When we return we will embrace the sands of change and head into the future with the light to guide our way. I am so excited that you will all be a part of it.

Onward…into the future.

NOTE: Life’s Little Inspirations has moved off of this blog to our new address at http://lifeslittleinspirations.com/ There are new updated articles added there for your enjoyment. Please click on the link and come and join us there, we are waiting for you! If you are a subscriber here, please take a moment to re-subscribe at the new address so you don’t miss anything! Thank you for your support!

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Weeds

self improvement

Yesterday, I spent the entire day pulling weeds from the gardens. Great big piles of them. Some of those weeds had become larger than the flowers. I could feel them laughing at me as I tugged and pulled, as I muttered at myself, berating myself for letting things get so out of hand. Oh sure…we’ve been out playing, enjoying the summer sun, making every day count.

While we’ve been doing that, the weeds were raging a battle in the garden and doing a victory dance. Well not for long. The weeds are gone and today I pay the price as I gingerly walk about the house, muscles crying out for relief. “What were you thinking?” They would like to know. “Did you have to tackle every single weed on the same day?”

Well, um…once I got started….I wasn’t thinking about my aching muscles or the pain that would been be the price to pay. I was only thinking about weeds, the way you take your eye off of them for a moment and they take over. How you then have to fight back with a vengeance.

I think weeds are a cousin to laundry. Weeds and laundry and the mail. Insidious nasty things that look soooooo innocent. You skip doing the laundry just one day. The next thing you know you are out of underwear and there is a mountain of dirty clothes in your room and you carpet has disappeared. Drop the mail on your desk for just one day without sorting it and shebang…the top of your desk will disappear without a trace. Take you eyes off of your garden and wallah the weeds will gobble up your flowers faster than you can blink.

I am pretty good about laundry most of the time. Flylady sends me these wonderful little e-mails that say “Time to reboot the laundry” and it’s just enough of a reminder to click my brain into action to go throw in a load and go put away the last one. She doesn’t remind me to toss my junk mail but I have set up a system for that and frankly most of the time I will open the mail right in front of the recycle bin, so I give myself better than 50/50 on that one.

But I am going to have to admit to a miserable grade this year so far on weeds. Someone is going to come along and take away my gardening hobby status. You would never guess that I love to garden from the look of things. Its a case of having so many hobbies and things that I enjoy that I just can’t do them ALL well. The garden is suffering. So…that area gets a little more attention for awhile.

Awhile back I wrote a post about Balancing Balloons and keeping them all up in the air at once. Even within my Hobby balloon, I can’t keep all my hobbies up at once! Sometimes I have to make choices or juggle them back and forth for awhile. Time to put the garden back on the front burner so I can enjoy its beauty and not battle the weeds.

As I was pulling the giant weeds yesterday, I was reminded yet again, how much simpler it would have been if I had just taken a few minutes each day, to pull the tiny weeds from the garden instead of ignoring it altogether and having to spend a gorgeous Sunday pulling Monster weeds and paying the price on a Monday in pain. I know this. Yet… it’s a lesson that comes back to haunt me over and over and over. With weeds, and with life.

Don’t ignore the small things. Don’t procrastinate. Be diligent and daily maintain what needs upkeep. Weeds have an amazing ability to grow and they grow really deep roots if you let them. Catch them while they are little and yank them out by the roots.

I am going to do better. I promise my aching back. I really am.

Big Erasers

Writing

Last night, my youngest daughter came to me frustrated by something she was trying to draw. Irritated, she handed me the blue pen and the paper she had been working with. “fix it.” She cried. ” It isn’t working.” She had toiled with it past the point of polite requests or wanting an art lesson. She just wanted a magic wand waved over her picture and have it miraculously turn into the image of the raft floating on the lake that she saw so clearly in her mind.

I looked up at her from my writing. “You did it in pen, we can’t change it.” I stated.

“Go bring me the art pencils and we can do one together, one we can work out the details, fix the mistakes.” She went off, unhappy about it, but returned a moment later, pencils in hand.

“I don’t see why I need to use a pencil.” She grumbled. As we began to work, the problem became very clear. I sketched and asked questions, drawing out from her mind what it was she was trying to achieve. I put a mark down on the paper. “Nooo, that’s wrong…it wasn’t like that.”

“Honey, that’s what we have the eraser for.” I patiently erased the mark, ready to put down a new one a little farther over.

“But I don’t want to have to ERASE, I want it to be PERFECT.” She was getting distressed. “It will be wrong!!”

“Honey, ” I glanced over at the clock, knowing bed time needed to happen very soon. “That’s what they MADE erasers for. NOTHING is perfect right away. You have to work on it. You have to be willing to make mistakes or you aren’t going to get anywhere.” I blew out a breath of exasperation.

We ended the drawing session. She was too tired, I was too impatient. Some things are better left for other times.

I tried to go back to my writing but the moment had been broken. I thought about all the times in my life I had been just as frustrated because I couldn’t do it perfect the first time. How many times I had given in to irritation because I couldn’t *start in pen* and never have to worry about making a mistake. How many times I felt less than talented if I had to take out the eraser and start over or go back and redo something.

My daughter doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

This morning, in my quiet reading time, I opened randomly to a page from The Sound of Paper, by Julia Cameron. My eyes lit on to the following words.

Teachers are everywhere when we are open to them.

But we cannot learn everything at once. We must first learn progress not perfection. Too often, we measure our early creative attempts against the masterworks of accomplished artists. Falling short, we become discouraged. We have not witnessed their learning curve. We have seen the Godfather trilogy, not Coppola’s beginning films. In our imagination, the early works of accomplished artists must be marked by genius. It isn’t always so. Art is a combination of talent and character, and many times the artists who win do so because of their stubbornness. They refuse to take no for an answer.

Talent, character, stubbornness and…I would add- a willingness to fail, be wrong, learn from mistakes and go on. Make the next mark better, the next words brighter, the next experience more brilliant. What is true in art is true in life as well.

Thank God for big erasers. Thank God I don’t have to live my life in pen.

NOTE: Life’s Little Inspirations has moved off of this blog to our new address at http://lifeslittleinspirations.com/ There are new updated articles added there for your enjoyment. PLease click on the link and come and join us there, we are waiting for you! If you are a subscriber here, please take a moment to re-subscribe at the new address so you don’t miss anything! Thank you for your support!

Feet in the Sand

family

Yesterday marked the middle of summer. How quickly the time is rushing by. If I had an hourglass of sand it would be draining down and I would be fighting the urge to turn it back over and begin again, making the sands last as long as possible before the dreaded days of Back to School are marching in with autumn winds.

We are playing and enjoying the summer beauty as much as we can. The children enjoy lazy afternoons at the pool and time with their cousins and friends. The dining room dinner table has been set aside for outdoor meals in the backyard by the grill and fire pit. The garden awards us with colorful produce for our evening meals.  John and I have had a wonderful time canoeing, biking, going for long walks, and even taking a long day at the Renaissance Faire going back into time and history to visit the Lords and Ladies of Queen Elizabeth’s day.

This last weekend, a most enjoyable evening was had cooking out with best friends and chatting over a crackling fire until wee into the night. It doesn’t get any better than this. May and June’s frightening storms have given way to blue skies and warm days and evenings. We are treasuring every day. Yet still it flies.

Yesterday, to mark the middle of summer, I scooped the children into the car and drove the 30 minutes to the State park where we can walk along the beach of Lake Michigan. The weather was a hot 90 degrees, not a cloud in the sky but the water was chilly and the waves felt like ice smacking at our feet as we walked along the rocky shore. That didn’t stop us from wading out into the frigid water and letting the white frothy waves lap at our legs. The children picked up interesting rocks and skipped them across the water’s edge. They competed to see who could skip rocks the best. They compete over everything. Even rocks. After a bit, one of them sat for a few minutes and dug around in the sand playing and I wished for all the days in my childhood that I had sand buckets and sand castles. We hadn’t brought one. Next time, I thought lazily. But then realized- It had been almost five years since the last time I had driven a whole 30 minutes to see the beach.

In five more years my son could be a sophomore in college, my daughter will be close to graduating High School. The time for sand castles and buckets will have passed us by. I had a sudden urge to dig my feet deep in the sand and not let go. Hang on to the icy lapping water of the shore line, fix my eyes on the horizon and stay there in that moment with them. I looked at both of them, completely unaware of my rushing emotions; they played with the water, the pebbles, and the sand, each other. I dug my feet farther into the wet sand and let the water rush over my cold toes. Freeze frame. Life is moving too fast. I didn’t want to let go of the moment.

I sighed.

I looked at the time. It was time to go. Deadlines and places to be and the next place on the day’s schedule were calling. But we had managed to carve out an hour or so of time in the sand that I know I will hang on to for a lifetime.

 

NOTE: Life’s Little Inspirations has moved off of this blog to our new address at http://lifeslittleinspirations.com/ There are new updated articles added there for your enjoyment. Please click on the link and come and join us there, we are waiting for you! If you are a subscriber here, please take a moment to re-subscribe at the new address so you don’t miss anything! Thank you for your support!

 

Finding Friends

The Inspired Life

The very first friend I ever remember having was a charming girl named Melissa in first grade. She had bright blue eyes and yellow hair cut in a chin length bob that bounced and swung when she moved her  head. Her laugh was more of a giggle and she found everything to be the funniest thing she had ever heard. I followed her all through the first grade, her humor sweet ambrosia to my serious nature. I still remember the time that she got the Mumps and missed school for a few weeks. It was as if someone had turned out the lights, leaving the school dim and dull. Her sunny presence made everything a joy.

We moved after first grade, out to the country for several years and I lost track of her. For those years that I lived there I never found a new best friend, or even any true friends at all. I played with my siblings, hung out with my books and writings and spent my time playing in the fields. When we moved, yet again the summer before fifth grade, I never looked back, I had no one to leave behind.

By the time I reached 8th grade, I still hadn’t found a social group of kids or one best friend to call my own. I hovered on the sidelines, being friendly but had no social network, no one sharing sleep overs or long conversations. I was lonely and I wanted friends. I made a genuine decision to actively make some new friends. Unfortunately, the friends I found were not any mother’s dream for their daughter. Over the course of the next three years I got into a lot of trouble with my new friends and made some poor choices that had life-altering consequences. It was time to grow up. It was time to make changes. I couldn’t go in a new direction and keep the same friends. I didn’t want to go back to a life with no friends at all.

But I did. Sixteen years old and alone with a child, my *old* friends suddenly had nothing in common with me anymore. They wanted to party and play and have fun. I had jobs and money to earn and a child to take care of and an education to figure out. There was no place to meet in the middle. We went our seperate ways.

I met a few new people. One was a woman who needed a roommate because she was down on her luck. I thought we would be friends. She forged a check out of my checkbook. I asked her to move out. There were more after that…too many to mention…It would be a long post. What I began to learn was that while I thought I was picking friends that cared about me, they were picking me because they wanted something from me. Money, help, babysitting, favors, an hour or so of listening to their troubles, every day… It was tiring, exhausting. New baby, too much work and friends who were freeloaders and users.

I needed new friends. Again.

Why was I so bad at this? I gave and gave and gave my friends everything they wanted. I was there for them. I helped them. I listened. They were never there for me when I had troubles. They never listened to me if I had a problem, We never did things that interested me, it was always things that interested them. And these were ALWAYS the kind of friends I had.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got.

The definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It was time to look in the mirror. It was time to realize that the problem wasn’t the friends I was picking, the problem was me. Something I was doing, choices I was making, words said or not said. It was happening to me year after year with different people. No one is THAT unlucky. The problem was me.

I confessed my concern to a friend that seemed to be different than the rest. I had been going through a particularly rough time with a personal relationship and she asked me about it. I clammed up. She called me on it. “Listen, ” she said, “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t complain that nobody listens to you if you aren’t willing to talk. If you always have to act like everything is fine. If you are never willing to admit that you have a problem or that you need something. You have to be willing to ask. Let a person know how you feel once in awhile.” I was shocked. She was exasperated with me.

I started journaling about it. As a life time journaler and writer I realized that I had been using my journal as a friend to tell my troubles to. I listened to my friends but my journal listened to me. There was no two-way street in any of my friendships. And it was my fault. I never spoke up. I never let out my true feelings. I wasn’t being honest or authentic, I just let everyone go about their merry way, and did whatever they wanted. They had no idea I wasn’t having fun, wasn’t happy, wasn’t feeling I was an equal…because I had never told them.

My friends weren’t mind readers. I wasn’t talking. We were at an impasse. But there was an even bigger problem. Before I could tell them what I wanted, what I needed, I had to figure it out. I had spent so long stuffing my thoughts and feelings down that I couldn’t just draw them up on command. It took practice. Hard work. Sometimes I would have to think of it ahead of time and practice saying it out loud. It sounds silly now, all these years later but it’s true. I had to learn how to be an authentic friend.

I have good friends now. Great ones. Married my best guy friend one year ago this coming up August and my best girl friend and I are going on ten years this August. Happy Anniverary to both of the JK’s in my life.

I have other friends too.  Off-line and On-line. I have lots of friends but at the same time I am pickier now then ever before. Pickier because I choose friends according to my values and interests, not by who’s around or who will give me the time of day or who seems to *need* something. Time is valuable and I have to make choices to spend my time with the people who are going to value the same things that I value. I choose to value hanging with *Like-minded* people that have things in common.

Sometimes friendships are for a time. People come into your lives and then they pass through. There was a purpose to it, a lesson, a message  or maybe just a little comfort to be shared at that point in the journey. There is no guilt in letting go of a friendship that has drifted out of its prime. But at the same time, there is nothing in the world more valuable than the honest to goodness love of true friendship and doing what it takes to keep it together.

What is a Warrior

The Inspired Life

Being a Warrior doesn’t mean winning or even succeeding. It means risking and failing and risking again, as long as you live…”
~Richard Heckler, In Search of the Warrior Spirit

Are you a Warrior?  What comes to your mind when you think of that word? Is it the battle cry of noble men racing into battle for causes greater than their own lives? Is it mighty sacrifice, the greatest of all love laid on the line for the needs and lives of others? Is it the ability to overcome the odds, continue on in the face of defeat, never say die, never say quit?

When pushed to action, where is the warrior within you? What does it take to sound your battle cry? Does it have to be a last straw that gets you going or are you marching on every day, battling the villains that would keep you from victory?

What is the mindset of the Warrior? What makes him different from the pack? What sets him in front, when others would fall behind and lose ground?

 Is being a warrior different than being a leader? While there is just one leader, one commander heading the charge, there can still be an army of warriors battling together, banding arm and arm, teams of them linked by loyalty and commitment to a noble cause.

I think about this concept, this word and I don’t have all of the answers. But I can sense the idea of it. A strength. A tenacity. Indomindable Spirit. Honor. Formidable Bravery. Getting back up when others would have stayed down and quit fighting.

We all face battles in life. None of us are exempt. To wish for a charmed life without problems or battles to face is as silly as spitting in the wind. It will get you nothing but spit on your face and nothing learned, nothing gained. How  you face your battles in life, how  you choose to battle is the mark of a good man or woman. Not whether  you have them. How  you manage them.

So…do you face life’s battles like a warrior or do you run and hide, wishing them away?

I have heard five different stories about cancer this week. Three about women who are battling breast cancer and yet are spending their time being committed to reaching out to others to make their world a brighter better place. One about a very brave woman fighting back from cancer, her second time in remission from a type of cancer that she should have had a very low chance of surviving. She is one tough cookie. The fifth one passed away this week after a very brave and hard battle. She left behind family and friends who’s world is forever changed by her example of love and courage.

These women remind me that how  we face life’s battle is the true test of our honor, courage and love. Even the little day to day ones. The cloudy days, the headache days, the crabby days. People like this inspire me, sometimes shame me, always make me proud, always make me humble and remember my priorities. If they can fight the BEAST of Cancer, we can fight the beast of mundane life.

Like warriors. With honor, patience, love, commitment to each other. Never giving up. When we fall, getting back up quicker and doing it some more.

No one said it is easy, this thing called life. It’s easier  when we do it together. It’s easier still when we remember to stand tall, arm and arm and fight for the important things in life.

 Like Warriors

Searching for the Stars

The Inspired Life

Note: This is the second part of the Sneetches video from Monday’s post Wanting to Belong and this post follows up on the thoughts and comments from that post. If you missed that, you may want to start there and come back after. We will wait right here for you. 🙂

 

I have always loved the story of the Sneetches. As a child it was my very favorite story. Silly, silly Sneetches thinking that a star on or off of their belly would make them more popular or fit in with the crowd or get them invited to marshmallow roasts. When my mother would read the story to me at night as I lay all cuddled in bed, I would laugh and giggle and snicker at those foolish yellow goofs. I never in my wildest imagination believed that real life human beings would actually treat each other the way Sneetches did.

Then I went to this bizarre place called school. And met human Sneetches. The higher up the grades I went, the more Sneetches I found and the more puzzled I became. Instead of stars it was labels. In order to fit in there had to be the right person’s name scrawled across the butt of the jeans I wore or I was an OUT Sneetch. After awhile I couldn’t keep up with all the different rules of what was in and out and who was in or out and what was up or down or YIKES!! It was too exhausting and I felt like Mc Bean had a machine that the entire school world was running in and out of while I stood on the sidelines not even knowing how to play.

Not even wanting to.

In Junior High, I didn’t fit in so much that I used to take my lunch off the lunch line and go out of the lunch room, down the hall and go eat with the isolated ( back then) mentally and physically handicapped kids in the other wing of the building. They weren’t Sneetches. They had no social rules except be nice and get along. I knew how to do that so that’s where I ate my lunch. We would play Tic Tac Toe and checkers and I could just relax and have fun and not worry if I was *doing IT right or wrong* or being embarrassing or popular or anything at all.

By high school I started to get a little angry at the sneetches but I was lonely too. I did want to belong. I didn’t like being the lone ranger all the time. So for a short time I tried to play by their rules. I tried to walk the walk, talk the talk, dress the dress. I was miserable. I felt fake and foolish and like a fraud. Like any moment they were going to be able to look under the hood and see that I wasn’t really one of them and kick me out. I just didn’t have the stomach for it and I couldn’t stand the exclusion of others. I wanted the world to be a big place where everyone was welcome and we could all get along. I decided that hanging out with the popular gang wasn’t what I wanted after all. I went back to being the lone ranger.

I really believed that when I left school I would leave the world of Sneetches behind as well. That this was a school-age problem that I could dust off my feet and never deal with again.

No such luck. Life has a way of circling back all of your issues over and over again in different packaging until you figure it out. The lesson of Sneetches wasn’t going anywhere and would haunt me for years until I quit running from it and faced it down.

I struggled for a long time. Wanting to be liked, wanting approval. Bending myself backward, inside out and doing things I didn’t even really like just to be part of a social group, and at times a work group. I found myself striving for approval from a particular person who barely even noticed my achievements. I could have stood on a building with a flag and waved them at this person. They would have gone unnoticed but that only spurred me on to try harder, do more. To no avail. Why? After a long while, It dawned on my one day, I didn’t even really respect or care about this person so much after all this time. It had just become a senseless craving. As silly as on again off again stars. Who was I doing it all for?

I stopped.

It isn’t wrong to want to belong. It isn’t wrong to want to be part of something bigger than yourself and have the approval, communion and companionship of society and people. I don’t believe we as humans were intended to be here as isolated creatures. We are more like pack animals. We hang in groups. That’s OK.

Where I was running into trouble over and over in my life was in the choices I was making about WHO I was choosing to want to belong with. About WHO  and WHERE I allowed my self worth to come from. Because I hadn’t FIRST taken the time to examine my own wants, my own needs, my own priorities, my own beliefs, core values…then I was left no choice but to be a follower of other peoples choices and their belief system. I was blown around like a leaf in the wind. Or a Sneetch with on again off again stars so long I couldn’t even remember what I was doing it for.

When your map is clear the journey is easy. When your core values are set and you know your mission and purpose, the people and things that you need to have on that journey will be there with you. You WILL belong because you will BE in your own element. You will be home and comfortable in your own skin and space and others who also belong-will be belonging with you.

The need to fill up your life with material possessions and false promises from the Fix it Chappy Mc Beans of life will evaporate when you have the confidence and assurance of knowing your core values, path and goals are clear. The Mc Beans’ prey on a world adrift, lost and frightened looking for any safety net in the storm. You don’t have to be a part of that.

My kids gave me a stuffed animal for Christmas last year. A big, bright yellow Star-bellied Sneetch. He sits on my dresser now in my room greeting me each morning when I wake up. A reminder that core values keep my path straight and out of the way of Sneetch following.

My mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of everyone I know and meet. To help others and impact positive change. When that guides my steps I know I’m on the right path and with the right group of people.

That’s my bright star I search for when deciding what to do, who to be with or where to cut things out. How is it affecting positive change? Am I helping? Am I inspiring others to be their best? Am I making a difference? Is this valuable?

What about you? How do you decide? How do you determine when you should spend the energy (or money even) to belong or walk away?

Wanting to Belong

The Inspired Life

Popularity. Acceptance. Fitting in. Wanting to be liked and part of the gang. The IN crowd. We all want it in varying degrees. We want it from different people. For some, it begins with the popular kids on the playground and never ends. Or it’s the parent that didn’t have time, or never knew how to say the words, “I’m proud of you, I love you, you are so special to me.”

Acceptance and approval are strong motivators. The desire for approval and the nod of pride from someone you respect can keep you at work longer than a high paying check. Job satisfaction and company moral is much higher based on how a person feels about how they are doing and how they are being perceived more than how much they are getting paid.

In social situations as well, the need for belonging and feeling needed are strong enough motivators to inspire mediocre attitudes to rise to the occasion. Shine the light on them, make them feel included and part of the group and you will inspire loyalty, kindness and bonds of friendship. In our day and age of the E-world, people who can span the distance by virtue of the net are not spending quality time in the real world with friends, family and the people who are important to them. They crave companionship. They crave fun, social bonding. They want to play.

The world is in a financial stuggle. The cost of gasoline has us scrambling to find new ways to budget our cash yet we buy Iphones, video games, the latest “WE” -toys for grown ups. What ever one of “us” have, the rest must head out to purchase and the dominoes fall until the rest catch up.  Hey, the *Jones* of our parents day wouldn’t stand a chance trying to keep up with us now.

Bigger and better and funner and finer. Until we hit the wall. Then we yearn for simpler and easier and quieter and cheaper. But we still want to belong. We don’t want to be simple and quiet all alone.

What’s a Sneech to do?

We will chat more about this complex problem in part two.  In the mean time…

How do you find the balance? Do you find yourself more on the simplicity side or the keeping up with the crowd side? Do you experience the feeling of being left out in the cold, of wanting to belong but watching from the sidelines? Do you feel like you need to buy your way in? Or have you just walked away from it all?

The American Girl

The Inspired Life

I love fireworks. The brilliant colors shooting through the sky are dazzling visions of art to my wondrous eye. I have no sense of the science behind how little sticks of dynamite can be transformed into various shapes and patterns and swirls of glitter, sparkle and light. I don’t want to know either. I am a true believer in the magic of it all. I ooh and ah and clap my hands and pick my favorite ones right along side all of the other children spread out on the Fourth of July blanket. Because I’m one of them. At the Fourth of July Fireworks, I am transformed by the fairy of lights back to the magic and wonder of it all. It brings out the little girl in me.

The first fireworks I can remember were in my childhood town of Akron, Ohio. I must have been just out of kindergarten and recall being very excited that my mother was packing a wicker picnic basket for us to take to the big park up on the hill. In my mother’s world, and now my own, important occasions are celebrated with tasty morsels of food and I remember that particular fireworks all these years later as cold fried chicken, her very own potato salad recipe, baked beans and watermelon. Icy cold lemonade that she squeezed herself was poured out of a red jug into tiny paper cups that were empty too fast. I can recall even the blanket as being a worn-down yellow quilt, faded with age. Funny how even the scent of it lingers, the picnic blanket, smelling like a mixture of clover and cut grass.

We had a red racer wagon, a wagon I have no memories of ever riding in. I do remember that wagon being piled with the basket and the blanket and the red lemonade jug and being pulled up that hill to the fireworks display and the Fourth of July picnic. My mother pulled the wagon, my father way up ahead, my sister and I wanting to take our turns at pulling and being dismayed that it was too heavy. My brother, too little to be any help at all, was jumping in and out of the wagon alternating between walking and catching a ride.

I remember the blanket being spread out, the feast being set, the plates filled. I remember the excitement of anticipation, the food going down, and the darkness setting in.

The first whiz screaming though the dark and then a blast of color filling the night air. I was enchanted. Breathless. A love affair born.

A band began to play Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountains…

The words filled me up with my first taste of American pride as reds and golds, blues and orange continued to light up the evening sky. I held a tiny flag in my little girl hand and caught a glimpse of what the day was all about. I thought I would burst from the thrill of being an American Girl.

It’s never been quite the same. But I carry a piece of that first memory with me every time I watch fireworks splash across the sky. Every time I think of the Fourth of July.  It was my first truly inspired patriotic moment.  And it’s never worn off.

Spending as much time as I do in a blogging and writing community, I live now in an international world just as much as an American world. I am meeting and making friends in different countries, learning new customs, finding out about new holidays and ways of doing things that I had no idea about even a year ago. I am not always proud of our country’s policies, politicians or choices, but I’m proud of us. I’m proud of our people as a whole. I’m proud of our men and women in the service and it seems like a good day to say thank you to them, and to say Happy Fourth of July, America.

You are still beautiful.

Loving Laughter

The Inspired Life

Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained.
~John Powell

Being a shy girl growing up, I wasn’t known for my sense of humor. For that matter, I wasn’t raised in a family that sat around and told jokes. Stories yes. Jokes…not so much. We were hard working, not so much hard playing. Playing was playing cards and then we played hard to win.

So it always amazed me later on when I would sit around a group of friends who would tease each other, poke around and then burst into a fit of laughter. It was an alien concept. OR maybe I was the alien.

The good news is that I didn’t laugh at other people and their misfortune. The bad news is that I didn’t know how to laugh at mine either. Every mishap was a huge embarrassment and I was sure that everyone else was staring at me through a giant magnifying glass examining my mistake. It was the breeding ground for my future perfectionism complex.

I needed to lighten up. Enter my childhood friend that I shall call *Karen.* Karen was one of those people that took nothing in life seriously including herself. She could laugh off the most embarrassing disaster. I would sit in complete amazement as we would whisk out of a room after a pickle she had gotten us into, me beet red, her in a fit of giggles. I won’t tell you she was the best thing that ever happened to my childhood. She wasn’t. In fact the litany of trouble she got me into could fill a book. But I learned that nothing in life was that serious, or that worth beating myself up over. I learned to have a little fun. To let go. To laugh at myself for getting it wrong. To just laugh period. She was fun to be around. Most of the time.

Over the years, I’ve landed myself in more than my share of puddles. Without anyone to blame but myself. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and more importantly with myself as I have journeyed about, learning the lessons along the way. I am afraid to think about where I might have ended up, had I not learned to just shrug it off, let it go and move on to the next one. It has been a saving grace for me.

I am still not known for my sense of humor. I know I have one, but it’s discriminatory I guess. I don’t think the Simpsons are funny. I leave the room when it comes on. I think the Friar is hilarious. My kids are funny too. I have no idea how they got that way.  My husband is also funny. He has the same sense of humor as the Friar. I guess someone in the family has to be the straight man…um-woman… so that is my place in the family line-up, but I have learned to surround myself with funny people!

Laughing is good for the soul. Summer is here and it time to relax, kick back, take yourself less seriously, take life a little less seriously and find some ways to get some humor and laughter in your life.

I probably won’t ever be the one to tell you a joke. I’m not even sure I know any. But I hang out with a lot of folks who will. Because I know the value of laughter. With myself and with others.

How about you? Done or seen anything funny lately? Have a joke to tell? Feel free to share it here!