Kindness Doesn’t Cost

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Tomorrow, November 13th, is World Kindness Day. The person associated with this concept is Mr. Fred Rogers, and so we are being asked to wear a cardigan to celebrate kindness and to honor the gentle soul of Mr. Rogers.

My son grew up watching Mr. Rogers with me and I loved his show for a couple of reasons. First, it was calm. There were no loud noises to startle us, people spoke to one another in a pleasant tone, and there was a simplicity to it that I found comforting. Mr. Rogers taught values, decency and understanding. I suspect that Fred Rogers would be pretty disheartened were he to spend about an our on any one of our social media platforms.

Promoting kindness is not a new idea. Buddha is quoted as saying, “When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.” Sadly, the lack of civility has run so rampant in our world today that we have to declare a day for kindness. Really? We need to put a day in our calendar to remind us to be kind? That in itself is concerning.

I am a strong believer that the Universe gives back to us what we focus upon; I try to keep my focus on gratitude and the goodness in the world. So, here’s my bottom line. I will wear a cardigan tomorrow to honor my respect for Fred Rogers. I will NOT wear it to remind myself to be kind. Tomorrow and every day I try to practice kindness.

Now, kindness isn’t just a social thing, kindness is a physical thing too! Researchers have determined that acts of kindness release hormones that make us feel good, reduce anxiety, and lower stress. People report that being kind increases happiness and the doctors tell us that increased happiness can actually lead to a healthier heart. Apparently, people who are consistently kind age more slowly, have better relationships, and stronger connections with friends and family.

My father used to tell me that people can’t help the face they are born with, but they earn the face they die with. Have you noticed that the face of a person who lives angry and bitter is noticeably different from the face of a person who spends life smiling, loving, and laughing? Look around…I promise, it’s true!

As Mr. Rogers said, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” Think about it, kindness doesn’t cost a thing and it is a lot less painful than a facelift!

Golden Globes + Black Dress = Big Deal?

I have been reading and seeing on the news that several high powered Hollywood actresses, the movers and shakers, are planning to wear black dresses to awards events such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Their purpose is to draw attention to the ME TOO movement that is sweeping the nation. Keep reading to find out why I think the black dress protest is definitely NOT a big deal.

The Facts:

  1.  I definitely want the men and women of Hollywood to use their fame in positive ways that support needed social and environmental changes. Today, an important issue is that of female empowerment!
  2. I am a 69 year old female, a retired teacher, and certainly not an expert on life in Hollywood.
  3. I was a young woman who fought for women’s rights throughout the 1960s.  During summer breaks from college I worked as an office temp; I remember the “girls” at my first office job had to threaten a walk-out to be allowed to wear a PANTS SUIT to work!
  4. I support the “ME TOO” initiative; no one should be forced to compromise her/his dignity in order to get or keep a job.

The Problem:

The women of Hollywood are beautiful.  We all love seeing them close up on the big screen; they are who many young girls aspire to become.  Female empowerment is a serious issue, not just for women of Hollywood, but across our country. Serious issues need serious solutions.  Now is the perfect time to take a stand for this issue, while it is in the public eye.

My Questions:

Many of us watch the pre-show and the Awards ceremony because we want to see what everyone is wearing.  The  iconic Red Carpet question is always: “Who are you wearing?” Does it matter that the gorgeous, incredibly expensive dress being worn is black instead of red or blue? Is wearing a black dress to a glamorous awards ceremony a SERIOUS SOLUTION?

My Answer:  No!

My Solution:  

As I said, Hollywood actresses are beautiful!  They would be beautiful if they showed up in a burlap sack.  So, instead of wearing a $75,000 black dress to the ceremony, wear a $1,000 dress and donate the other $74,000 to a program that supports women’s shelters.  When asked “Who are you wearing?”, I would love the answer to be Kohl’s or Belk’s, or any average department store in the area.

OR, how about wearing the same dress you wore last year and donate the entire $75,000 you would have spent to women’s shelters. We need to make it less frightening for women and their children to escape from abusive situations.

Not interested in women’s shelters?  There are plenty of single mothers and their children living in homeless shelters or on the streets.  All I am saying is that women need to stand up for women in a meaningful way. Change is a possibility that resides within each of us.

 

Holiday Lights: More than just Twinkle!

Screen Shot 2017-12-19 at 4.37.56 PMWhat is it about the lights? At this time of year, I love driving around the streets to see the holiday light displays.  The minute I wake up in the morning, I turn on the Christmas tree lights and the lights across the mantle above the fireplace.  My house is filled with candles that flicker during these long winter nights. I can sit in a trance for hours in front of the fireplace watching until the last ember dies. Yes, I admit it; I am a light junkie.

Lights can brighten even the darkest times in our lives; they have always figured into human history. Our ancestors lit candles and fires to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Today, candles and lights play an important role in Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa celebrations. Lights, twinkling like stars, remind us that we are part of the Universal Spirit; they remind us to find ways to light the world around us, bringing joy to others.

As I enjoy the Christmas lights scattered across my community and throughout my home, I realize that each light flickers to remind me of treasured past memories, but also with the promise of precious memories still to come. And so today, as I sit sipping hot chocolate by the fire, I can’t help glancing at the twinking Christmas tree lights. They remind me to think about those who are gone, of their love for me and mine for them. But I am also mindful of how blessed I am to be surrounded by loving family and friends and of the wonderful memories we will continue to make together.  So thank you all for being the light in my life; my days are brighter because of you. Merry Christmas! I love you.

Words of Praise

Our children remember two things…the most caring and the most cruel words directed at them. As a parent and teacher, I want my children to be surrounded by words that make them feel loved, valued, and appreciated. But sometimes, “good job” feels old, tired, inadequate.  Here are some new ways to let your children know how truly proud you are and how special they are!

That’s Incredible! * How Extraordinary! * Far Out! * Outstanding! * I Can’t Get Over It! * Great! 

Amazing Effort! * Unbelievable Work! * Wonderful! * Marvelous! * Phenomenal! * You’ve Got It!

Superb! * Cool! * Excellent! * You’re Special! * Out Of Sight! * First Rate! * You’ve Outdone Yourself!

 Way To Go! * Thumbs Up! * You’re The Best! * You Came Through! * Terrific! * You Tried Hard! 

Your Help Counts! * You Made It Happen! * It Couldn’t Be Better! * Fantastic Work! 
You’re a Real Trooper! * Fabulous! * Bravo! * Exceptional!  * You’re Unique! * Awesome! 

Breathtaking! * The Time You Put In Really Shows! *  You’re A Great Example For Others!

Keep Up The Good Work! * I Knew You Had It In You! * Dynamite! * It’s Everything I Hoped For!

You Should Be Proud Of Yourself! * What An Imagination! * You Made The Difference! * Stupendous! 

You’re Sensational! * Very Good! * A+ Work! * Super Job!* Good For You! * Take A Bow! *Nice Going 

Well Done! *Class Act! * You’re Inspiring! *How Artistic! * Hooray For You! * You’re A Joy! 

How Thoughtful Of You! * You’re Amazing! * You Go The Extra Mile! * What A Great Idea!

You Deserve A Hug! * Extra Special Work! * You’re Appreciated! * Thoughtful! * You’re Tops!

Great Role Model! * You’re Neat! * You’ve Got What It Takes! * You’re #1! * You’re A Shining Star!

Outstanding! * Wow! *  Remarkable! * Beautiful! * You’ve Got Know How! * Very Impressive!

You’re Sharp! * You’re A Winner! *  Hot Dog! * Spectacular Work! * You’re So Kind! *Hard Worker!

Totally Involved! * Thanks For Helping!  * Great Discovery! * You’ve Earned My Respect! 

Thanks For Caring! * You’re A-Okay! * Congratulations! *  How Original! * You’re A Champ!

You’re A Pleasure To Know! * Very Brave! * What A Genius! * You’re Very Talented! You’re The Greatest!

You’re Super! * You’re On Target! *

If you don’t like any of these words, try three simple words…   “I LOVE YOU!”

Kindess Lives!

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 3.15.24 PM

Today we are still evacuated from our coastal homes in Savannah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida.  Sitting in a small hotel room in a small town in Alabama has allowed me lots of time to reflect.  Today people are struggling to make sense of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma.  Today is also the anniversary of the horrific attack of September 11, 2001.  How are these two events so closely intertwined?

Lately the news has been so overwhelmingly negative.  Social media is filled with images of police using excessive force, vengeful attacks on police, angry mobs carrying torches and screaming epithets of hatred.  I read about frightening incidents of road rage, people purposefully driving vehicles into innocent groups of people, bombs being set off at concerts.  It is easy to sink into feelings of depression and despair.

But, what IS real? Can I allow the media to shape my vision of the world I live in?   Let’s take a moment and think back to 9/11.  Yes, this was a hideous act of terrorism. However, out of this act emerged tremendous human kindness and selflessness. People, complete strangers, reached out helping one another with no expectation of anything in return. The news was filled with images of men and women committing amazing acts of courage and kindness. The lesson I learned from 9/11 was that the light of humanity in all of us is not easily extinguished.  Good Samaritans are everywhere.  Instead of diminishing our country, it was strengthened. There was a resurgence of pride in being an American. Flags flew proudly across our nation.

Look at the human response to Hurricane Harvey in Houston. There were countless examples of people risking their own safety to rescue a complete stranger.  People from all over the country mobilized to help in any way possible. Today, people are already reaching out to see how they can help in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. We are strong. We are resilient. We are America.

Will bad people still do bad things? Sadly, yes.  But I prefer to see the good in people.  One of the elementary schools in my Georgia community is challenging students to perform daily Random Acts of Kindness.  We are instilling in our youngest citizens the importance of doing good, showing compassion, being kind.

When the news reporters interviewed the everyday heroes of 9/11, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, they all had one common response.  When asked, “How does it feel to be a hero?” every one of them said, “I am not a hero. I was just doing what anyone would. I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing; I just did it.”

These folks are right. Yes, what they did was heroic, but I believe that within all of us lives a hero.  Too often the media focuses on the negative, the frightening, and the violent.  These isolated incidents sell news, but they are not representative of who we are as Americans. Kindness, in its every day form ~ quiet, gentle, subtle ~ doesn’t attract attention and so, often goes unnoticed.

What is the lesson here? I have been reminded today that it is human nature to care, to protect, to love. I choose to believe that this is the true picture of who we are as a human race and as American citizens.  I am actually grateful for this day of reflection.  I am happy in my restored belief that Kindness Lives.

I Keep Tripping Over Gratitude

Let me share a few examples…
First, there was the stand up comedian I spotted while flipping through the channels one evening. It is a nightly ritual. I pay a lot of money to have about a gazillion channels and then complain every night that I can’t find anything on TV to watch. Well, I paused my channel surfing routine when I spotted this comedian. He was one of those chubby, overweight Southern boys who can usually get a laugh out of me. Here’s the part of his monologue that I caught. It went something like this…
My buddy Bubba was told by his doctor that he had only six months to live. In shock, he asked if there was anything that could be done. He was still a young man and had many things left to do in life. The doctor thought about his question for a bit, and then finally gave him a solution. The doctor told him to go out and find the ugliest, most cantankerous woman he could find and marry her. He told Bubba to be sure that he found a woman who would nag him constantly, and complain about everything he said or did. Next, he had to go out and buy the most beat-up old pickup truck he could find, preferably one that would spend most of its time broken down in the yard. Then he needed to buy a run down old trailer and a dog that wouldn’t come to him even if he hung a pork chop around his neck. Well, my friend Bubba was real skeptical; he said, “Doc, are you sure that this will help me to live longer?” “Not at all,” replied the doctor, “but it sure will make six months seem a lot longer!”



I was laughing, but it dawned on me that our human nature just loves to complain. In fact, I’d just been enjoying my nightly ritual of complaining about the choices on TV. A few days later I was surfing the internet looking for something I needed to buy for my cousin’s wedding. As I clicked here and there, somehow I landed on an advertisement for Gratitude Rocks. Yes, you heard me, rocks. People are making money selling rocks. But, it was the idea that struck me. Put a gratitude rock in your pocket, each time you touch it you are reminded to take a moment to thank God for your blessings.
I was cleaning my home office and came across a book of poetry by e.e.cummings. In it he wrote, “I thank You God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirit of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”
Finally, my Oprah magazine arrived in the mailbox. There was a little blurb about how Oprah keeps a gratitude journal. Well, I knew this was true because she had inspired me to do the same thing. I have been journaling my gratitude for a few years now. Do you remember being little and having your mother lean down and whisper, “What do you say”? You knew you were expected to say, “Thank you”. My gratitude journal is my way of reminding myself to say “Thank you” for the blessings in my life. I was feeling pretty smug; yup, I had gratitude covered with my journal. In fact, I picked up my journal to read some of my entries so that I could pat myself on the back for what a really fine and grateful person I am. I flipped through the pages and began to read some of what I have written. Well, I wish I could report to you that what I found reinforced my belief that I had gratitude all taken care of, but unfortunately I can’t.
I’m so old that when I was in elementary school we could actually pray. I remember the “Johnny Appleseed” prayer we used to recite daily before we ate our lunch: “Oh the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed.The Lord is good to me.” Did you have a prayer like that? Sort of the “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food.” plain brown wrapper kind of prayer that you recited without ever really thinking about it? Well, when I looked at my supposedly marvelous gratitude journal, that is pretty much what I saw.  My entries were basically, “I am thankful for my home, my family, my friends, and my health.” And I just sort of recycled those themes over and over again in one form or another over the years.
So, okay, this had all gotten my attention, but I was still questioning: Is gratitude just some New Age, touchy-feely thing, or am I really supposed to remember to say “Thank you”? My answer is that I believe that a purposeful act of gratitude will enrich our lives, make us more connected to each other and to God. Now, the question becomes, “How do I take this and apply it to my day to day life?” Dr. Wayne Dyer is quoted as saying, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”
Wow! That is an aha! moment for me. I have the power to choose. If I let my human nature control my thoughts, I may choose to be grumpy rather than grateful. Yes, it is our nature. People like to complain and they like to listen to others complain. I can’t remember seeing people at work sitting in the break room talking about all the things they are grateful for, I usually hear them complaining and griping. It is up to me to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. I hear people just like me saying things like:
“Why me?”

“My husband doesn’t listen!”

“My wife never shuts up!”

“I deserve more respect!”

“They can’t do that to me!”

“My boss doesn’t appreciate all the work that I do!”

I guess I’m telling myself that I need to stop, step back. Life is a divine appointment and there is a plan for me, and that plan is unfolding each and every day. And so, I have made a new entry into my gratitude journal. I made a list of all the things that upset, frustrate, or sadden me. Then I have begun thinking about ways to turn them into an opportunity for thanksgiving and gratitude. For example, I hate that I am overweight. However, I realized that I should be grateful that over my 46 years in education, my weight has provided many children a soft place to land in times of trauma. I really, really hate to pay bills. I put it off as long as I can before they are past due. This month, I gathered the bills in my lap and took a moment to reflect on how lucky I am to have a life style that creates bills. You know, I didn’t mind paying the bills nearly as much.
How many grumpy thoughts can you transform into grateful ones?

In my Father’s Footsteps

From Generation to Generation:

My father loved to cook. I remember him standing in the kitchen over a hot stove with a cold beer in hand. He spent many an evening pouring over his collection of cookbooks and foodie magazines looking for new recipes to try. And try them he would. Today my parents have passed away and I am living in their home and each time I walk out into the kitchen I can see him standing there chopping, dicing, or stirring. I miss him. 

My father invited my son to join him in the kitchen. They stood side by side while performing culinary tricks and today that passion for cooking has been passed along to a new generation of chefs. I find great pleasure in watching him stand in his kitchen looking so much like my dad. Not only does he like to cook, but he’s very good at it! 

One of the things I like to do occasionally is pull out one of my father’s recipes and recreate it. We all sit around enjoying the food and our precious memories. Here is one of his favorites. I made it recently, and it is just delicious.  Here in Coastal Georgia we have access to wonderful wild caught local shrimp. Give it a try!
Shrimp with Tequila Dipping Sauce
Shrimp:
Lay 1-2 pounds of medium to large shrimp out on a roasting pan. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees until the shrimp have just turned pink. Watch them carefully. If you overcook them, they get tough. Cool them and arrange them on a platter. You may peel them for your guests or leave them in the shell. If you peel them, leave them in the shell until just before you serve them so they won’t dry out.

Dipping sauce:

1 large whole egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable oil (canola is good)

1 7 oz. jar of pimentos, drained

¼ cup tequila

¼ cup bottled chili sauce

1 dash of Worcestershire sauce

1 dash of bitters

1 dash of hot sauce

In your Vitamix, blender, or food processor with the steel blade, blend the egg and the extra egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, and salt. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream. It is important to pour slowly so the mixture emulsifies and thickens, almost like a mayonnaise. Add pimentos, tequila, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bitters, and hot sauce. Blend until well combined. Chill until ready to serve. 
Put the sauce in a bowl and top with a pretty sprig of parsley and a few lemon wedges. Surround the bowl of sauce with the shrimp. Your guests will love it! 

In Loving Memory

Manley Woodward Clark

1913 – 1997

Happy New Year?

celebrate!The Happy New Year that Wasn’t…

I was looking at my FaceBook memories they share each day and it got me thinking about what it means in our lives to look ahead and look back.  I found a jubilant post I shared out at about 11:45 p.m. on December 31, 2013.  In it I shared pictures of highlights from the year. “Join me as I bid farewell to 2013 and eagerly welcome 2014. Each of you has enriched my life and I am so thankful to be sharing this time and space with you. Let’s take time to look back on the year past and reflect on what was…learn and grow from those experiences. Now let’s look ahead to all the adventures awaiting us. May 2014 be a wonderful year filled with friends, family, and fun!”

I was so happy that night sitting beside my husband of 43 years, sipping champagne, and toasting the new year. At midnight I called my sister and spoke with her and my mom just as we had done every year.  I didn’t know at that moment that I would lose both my mother and my husband that year.  Yet, in the space of 12 weeks, they were both gone. So, 2014 turned out to be a most difficult, sad, and challenging year.

None of us know what awaits us. Yes, we have control over much of what happens in our lives, but most pivotal events are orchestrated by God’s hand, not ours. I have always believed that not knowing protects us from fear and sadness.  I suspect that if I had known what was in my future, I would have been frozen, awaiting the inevitable, rather than living a life filled with laughter and giggles.

Today I am in a new place.  I miss my mother, but losing her has helped me realize that even though my child is an adult, I can continue to be the best mother possible.  I miss my husband and will always hold him in my heart, but I have found joy again in a new and loving relationship. This relationship is stronger because of what I have been through. Tragedy forced me to examine who I am and how to move forward. I had to get tough – pump my own gas, eat alone at the sushi bar, overcome my fear of heights and climb the ladder to change the lightbulb, balance the checkbook, wander through the maze of Social Security…the list goes on. Today, the woman I bring to all my relationships is changed, more confident, more resilient, more balanced because of the struggle brought about by loss.

So, knowing what I know now, would I change the post from 2013? Come midnight on December 31, 2017, will I still look ahead with joyful anticipation? The answer is unequivocally YES! I will treasure each moment, each person, each relationship, each adventure.

I encourage you to stop for a moment and flip through the pages of your life. Look at your mental snapshots of the places, the family, the friends, even the pets who surround you. You and I, we are richly blessed!

 

 

 

 

Within each of us, greatness resides

IMG_1032If you are one of the 25 million or so who have viewed the YouTube video of Susan Boyle’s amazing performance on the show Britain’s Got Talent, you know that she is living proof of this. When this unassuming, slightly frumpy, and somewhat quirky middle-aged woman from a village in Scotland walked out onto the stage, she walked into the hearts of viewers all over the world. We all assumed we were in for a terrible joke of a performance. Yet, when she opened her mouth and sang, we all got goosebumps. Her choice of song was so perfect – I Have a Dream – from Les Miserables.

So, today my question is, how do I recognize and tap into the talent, gifts, promises that have been given me? Oprah (she doesn’t even need a last name, does she?) and I have a lot in common; we are close in age, we’re both female, both spiritually curious, love to read, enjoy talking, like to figure out what makes people tick. Yet, look at how different we are! Hmmm…

I believe that God did not plan for me to live my life as an ordinary, plain, generic version of myself. I also believe that within me resides something greater, but I’m not even sure where to begin looking. I was in high school and college in the sixties. The Vietnam War was at its peak and the world was in upheaval. Many of my “hippie” friends dropped out to “find themselves”. Well, one thing I know for sure is that I don’t have to look far… where ever I  go, there I am.  And yet, I was telling a friend the other day that “just being me” is a huge challenge, because I am constantly struggling to define who “me” is!

Just like our one-of-a-kind appearance, each of us has been gifted with unique abilities and talents. There are folks out there making a fortune writing psychology books and self-help blogs for people like me. Millions of us are spending countless hours trying to develop our spirituality…that essence of who we are that connects us to God and the Universe.

Is there a “one size fits all” formula for this? No. I think one thing that makes the difference is an unwaivering belief in self. Greatness doesn’t just happen – it is cultivated. People who have successfully tapped into their gifts will tell you that they never doubted themselves. They totally believed that they would win, achieve, succeed, invent, become. Recently I watched a biography of Oprah. One scene stands out in my mind. She often talks about her grandmother. She recalled how her grandmother was attempting to show her how to wash clothes. My “aha” moment came when Oprah said she wasn’t paying any attention because somehow, deep within herself, even at the age of four, she knew she would not need to know that.

So there’s the rub. It begins with belief. I have spent a lifetime doubting myself. I doubt my intelligence, my worthiness, my appearance, my skill. I have been a chameleon – being and doing what others expect of me. My challenge now is not to develop my talent, but to believe that it is already there.

Turn that frown upside down…Smile!

Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” I blogged about faces yesterday, and have continued to think about the power of our expressions. So, today I want to explore a bit more…

Don’t you just love it when someone smiles at you? Smiles are like the bubbles in a soda – they make your face sparkle! When someone smiles at me, I just automatically smile back. And then, as I walk away, that happy feeling follows me. 

One of the first things a baby learns to do is to recognize the important faces in their lives – momma, daddy, grandma or grandpa, brother, sister. Remember the first time your baby smiled up at you and you knew they recognized you?  That is such a special memory, isn’t it?  Smiles never lose their value; they are important to you and to your child.

Now, let’s do a reality check.  You work all day and afternoons are terrible for working moms. I remember when my son was little, I referred to the time between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. as “Arsenic Hours”. There were days when taking poison seemed like a good alternative…kids crying, homework battles, dinner burning on the stove, phone ringing, toys all over the floor.  You know the drill. Looking back, I got so caught up in “getting things done”, I forgot to stop and enjoy my time with my child.  Before I could really relax, it was bath and bedtime and a new round of arguing began.  I mean, how many times do you really have to remind your child to use soap?

So, what is my message today?  I guess it is that I want to encourage you to welcome your child home each day with a genuine “I’m so glad to see you!” smile.  Focus on the positive.  The toys won’t be littering the floor forever; and I promise there are days when I can’t wait to have a grandchild so I can spend time stepping over toys again.

I was watching TV one afternoon and heard Dr. Phil say that we teach others how to treat us.  In other words, we create the atmosphere we live in.   Smiling makes that atmosphere so much more pleasant.  When we smile, people smile back.  We can’t resist; it’s human nature.  Maya Angelou said, “If you only have one smile in you, give it to the people you love.” So promise me you’ll take a second to give your child a big grin and see what happens.