Monday, December 9, 2019

Sunday Selfie - Smile

People tell a friend of mine to "Smile." all the time. He hates it. I agree with him for disliking it, because it's disrespectful to order someone else to change their facial expression. This friend has an absolutely awesome smile. When I see him smiling at someone, it brightens my heart. His resting expression is serious and he prefers that people keep their opinion of that to themselves.

"Smile" is actually good advice, though. Studies have determined that if you smile - not that fake grimace we gave during school pictures, but an actual smile - the act of smiling alerts your brain that your mood is in the process of lifting. Keep smiling and eventually your mood does lift. Muscles and memory work together to help you feel better.

The other night I went to a club meeting where people got up to share stories. I love these events and I usually sit there with a smile on my lips. Or I lean forward in concern when the teller is relaying something sad or exciting.

I looked around and noticed that hardly anyone else was smiling. I wonder why. Were they just waiting their turn? Do they, like my friend, have serious resting expressions? Do they equate listening to a live performance to vegging in front of the TV? (THAT is a subject for a whole other post.) Later when people shared their impressions and thoughts about the stories, hardly anyone smiled. Again, I wonder why.

I admit that when I walked away from that meeting I had neutral to concerned feelings about the people there. The ones who smiled as they talked - appropriately to the content of their stories or statements, of course - I felt positive towards. I wondered if the others were sad, tired or even angry. When we go THERE, the next step is to wonder if they were angry with me.

See? Now possible friendships became fraught with obstacles because people did not smile.

Don't smile because it makes me more comfortable, though. Smile because it will help you through tough times.

When someone tells me I look worried, as I often do, it reminds me to smile, even to laugh. When I do, the worrisome things fall into their rightful place in my life. and I feel less stress.

Advice for the day is twofold:
Don't tell other people to "Smile."

BUT, remind yourself to smile. It will make you feel better in most situations.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sunday Selfie - why #savethanksgiving

Here's the story of why I post memes on social media about saving Thanksgiving.

I walked into the local drug store - which is actually more like a mini mart that concetrates on make up, vitamins and greeting cards - the day after Halloween and there was nary a turkey or pilgrim in sight. Now, I can understand not having pilgrims because of how they reacted to hospitality when they came here. But no turkeys?

There was a small segment of Thanksgiving cards in the greeting card aisle - shoehorned in between the graduation cards - ??? - and half price Halloween cards and alongside a special display of - yeah - Holiday cards, mostly Christmas.

That was November 1st. The Christmas stuff started moving into the stores in September after the back to school sales ended.

Being thankful is not all that good for the bottom line.

It is not a new phenomenon. As our lives become more insulated by cars, screens, work and responsibilities, we can't see what we can be thankful for.

Acquisition has become our most universal pursuit. We are a nation of consumers. Our economy depends on increasing purchases of everything.

This creates an even wider divide and accentuates income inequality. If acquisition is a measure of your worth and you can't acquire as much as other people - how does that make you feel?

If the entire culture is about the "20 Most Amazing Gadgets You Can Buy on A@@z Today" or Buy a Lexus for Christmas (!!!???), then people who can't afford those items feel cast out.

You know what happens to people who are cast out, made to feel "less than"? They become depressed and angry or just plain angry?

When people are angry they acquire things that are not good for them because no one has the right to tell them what to acquire.  Hmm, I am feeling a little angry right now. See? A downward spiral can lead to a lot of the meanness we see in today's news.

What would happen if we could reverse that feeling in ourselves? Turning away from acquisition, taking time to find things to be grateful for, makes us feel better about ourselves. Yeah and then we spiral upwards instead of into helpless rage and violence.

So, your life might really suck. No, really. You might be dying. But you are still here. You can see the people you love. You can hear songs that please you. Just one thing, that is all I am asking you to find, just one thing that makes you glad to have lived.

If you are reading this, you are "more than".  You are wonderful. It's true.

Sit back. Close your eyes. Remember one thing that makes or made you happy. Conjure up one beautiful sight or sound or feeling. Hold that in your mind.

Give thanks.

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Grateful Post - #savethanksgiving

Today, I had errands to run. I don't often go out in my car alone to do stuff. I let the Hub drive or I squire my Mom around. During those rides we listen to the radio or talk about happenings.

Today, they both had other things to do so off I went. I found so many things that made me feel grateful.

1. The smiling postal worker who sent off my packages is deaf. She had a sign to tell you this and she used her hands effectively to indicate what I needed to do. She even had a lovely little sign printed up to thank me for using the USPS. Fastest, most pleasant trip to the Post Office ever.

2. The trees are holding onto their leaves a little longer this year. The colors are bright and filled me with happiness.

3. It looks like someone swept a paintbrush of white paint across the sky today - a streak of thinning white against a blue canvas.

4. I found lovely Thanksgiving items on drastic discount at the store.  Whoo- hoo!

5. I had to stop for a train on the way home. Watching the freight cars trundle by, reminded me of waiting with small boys in the car. We counted out loud as the cars passed. We named the cars. Thanks to Donald Crews book, "Freight Train" , we knew most of the train car types.

I remembered hearing the train whistle in the night and the creak and crash as the cars rounded a bend.

My heart rose to see that this mode of moving cargo is still being used. We find affection for all kinds of things - the railroad tracks we walk along, the flashing of the lights.

6. I had no reason to hurry. And that, alone, made me glad.

A little blast from the past - one of my lightbulb turkeys.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Five Books You MIght Want to Read!


The reading continues - along with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) - which should be followed with InNoWriMo and GaNoWriMo and IntgNoWriMo. (International Novel, Galactic Novel and Intergalactic Novel Writing Month).

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day.  This started with a dog. Although Edie's mother is Native American, she was adopted by white parents. At a local PowWow, Edie meets a friendly homeless dog.  The dog fascinates her but her parents drag her home and leave the dog behind. That dog - just remember it.

At home, the summer project that Edie and her best friends have planned hits a bump when one friend wants to change everything. I put the book down for a day or two. Changing friendships, sigh.

The three friends find a mystery in Edie's closet and off we go on a "What haven't my parents told me?" tangent. Because parent's sometimes make awkward decisions. Edie finally confronts her Mom and learns a family history that is painful and enriching.

The adoption of Native American children was/is(?) rife with abuses until the Indian Children Welfare Act was enacted in 1978. That is the foundation for this book.

Our children are vulnerable. Protect them.

35535480. sy475 The Usual Suspects by Maurice Broaddus 
OK. This book came with high praise and kudos from my favorite book blogger, Betsy Bird.  So I had to read it.
It is a fabulous book. Truly. But the jacket calls it "hilarious" and it made me cry.

A gun is found on the playground, right next to the school - not on the school playground, but frighteningly close.  Thelonius MItchell and his friends are the denizens of THAT classroom, the one with the kids who are hard to teach. So, immediately, they fall under suspicion.
The politics of the upper grades in this school are populated by some very crafty and dog-eat-dog students. As "T" tries to clear the names of himself and his friends, he runs afoul of the Queen Bee with painful results.
His solution to proving the innocence of the usual suspects is balanced on a razor thin line. Is it fair? Is it true? You decide. Funny episodes aside, this book just underscores the point of the previous review.

Our children are vulnerable. Protect ALL of them.

Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord   This book is about a bunny and the cover is blue so it was an easy sell for me.39983483

Here's what I said on Goodreads.
"Adorable middle grade new-kid-in-school story with low profile loving parents, and a found rabbit.

Animals! Finding friends! Being oneself! Accepting differences! This one hits a lot of great notes and even lends itself to discussion.

Wide appeal."

That says it all.

YAY! In this one the children are not the vulnerable ones.

43269502Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. PĂ©rez.   Ofelia, Aster and Cat all receive mysterious invitations from Lane.  Their meeting is not filled with lifelong friendship on sight. But they continue to meet and they get involved in an attempt to end an environmentally unfriendly custom.

The Floras, a generations long "scout" type organization for girls in this Florida town, is central to the book, as well as the evolving relationships among its members.

Expect cloak and dagger-ish shenanigans, excellent research skills and family conflict.  Just like the rabbit book, this story hinges on love of nature and crafting friendships.  "Wide appeal!"

YAY again!  These kids have grown-ups who know their jobs.

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker with illustrations by Kelly Murphy.    Set in 1981, this book follows Olympia, a young artist living on Greene Street in New York City. Her father and his business partner, Apollo, clean and restore antique artworks. Ollie's mother is a sculptor, creating soaring works in their loft apartment.

 Then Ollie's father disappears - in the middle of the night -* leaving behind a note - just for Ollie.  My review on Goodreads is short and to the point. It tells you very little of what made this such a good book but why re-create the wheel?

"This was a read-right-through novel. Olympia's father disappears in the middle of the night, right before her mother takes to her bed. Assumptions are made. Art is destroyed and created. Mysterious men appear in the hallway. Good friends have Olympia's back.

My unreviewerly review is. I liked it. It is a good book. Nice characters, a bit of mystery, a screen free existence. Yeah."

Ollie was vulnerable but, thankfully, Ollie's friends looked out for her.  It could have been horrible. 
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* If you must disappear, I suggest doing it in the middle of the night.  Just saying. 



Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sunday Selfie - Self care or self indulgence?

When life fills up with commitments, self care goes out the window.  Promises to eat more healthfully, to move more, to take time to relax or to be still, get broken.

One reason for this is that time is not, as physicists want us to believe, flexible - at least, not for us non-physicists. Minutes tick by while we wait for an elderly relative to get cleaned up so we can visit with her. Hours disappear when we must prepare for a presentation. Suddenly, it is late. We are stressed. OK, I am stressed. The idea of a trip to the gym, or even 30 minutes of stretching feels like a punishment after a long day.

Since I have never been a "routine" person, preferring to control my own destiny (HA!), rather than to follow a strict schedule, it feels easier for me to just push through the things I must do for others and neglect to do things that are good for me.

Part of this is cultural. Self care feels like self indulgence. Taking care of others' needs seems more productive than walking for an hour. During that walk, nothing is cleaned. No errands are run. No words are written. An unselfish person would use that time to take care of someone, volunteer somewhere, make a difference somehow.

Forget just sitting. I love just sitting. It recharges me at a cellular level. If I want to just sit, I need to look like I am doing something - crochet a few rows, play a mindless game. My fingers or my hands or my body must be busy because, as we all learned when we were young, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop."  NOT!  So very not.

Look at self care this way. Refusing to take care of ourselves is an insult to the Divine. Our selves are our greatest gift and our best tool with which to do God's work. When we opt for another commitment, or choose not to stretch because we have so much to do today, we are mistreating God's blessings - our beings.

When we are exhausted and scatterbrained because our diets do not fuel our needs, or because we neglect to rest, we can not be a service to others. It's like putting on your own oxygen mask in a flight emergency BEFORE assisting others.  If you don't, you might pass out before you can help someone who depends on you. Then you both suffer or die. This is a bad thing. Just saying.

Self care is not just eating right, exercising, getting enough rest, staying hydrated. Those are all good things. Self care includes making time for things that feed our souls - crafting arts, listening to music, reading, sitting, hobbies, playing sports, spending time with friends.

For the rebels among us, be even more rebellious. Say "no", and gift yourself with time.  If you prefer routine, schedule in that ME time. You are worth it. The world deserves your best self.

Take care of your selves.


Friday, October 25, 2019

I'll be Back!

I have been busy.  And since I know all 6 of you are desperate for an update here are some stats from my life.

Books Read since my last post: 7 - most are middle grade and most of those are realistic.  I am soooo tired of books about friends who grow apart in 6th or 7th grade. I just am. On the other hand, most of these books are worthy of attention.  Loved "Strange Birds", for instance.  I promise you will get a full update.

Weird Story created with a very-close-to-eight-year old.  "Unicorn Poop". We took turns moving the action along.  Totally not as bad as the title suggests.

Days Off from School or Early Dismissals in the last three weeks.
and next week is another early dismissal and there's a day off in the NEXT week and they all seem to fall on Nana and Gramps days.

Stories read to Stuffies - a quad thousand or maybe only 100.
I have to find scary stories to share with the Halloween Scary Story listeners.  Stuffies are a great first audience.

Number of Craft events that I and a handful of Friends are coordinating tomorrow - 1.  I wonder if I will sleep tonight. 4116 Bath Pike, Bethlehem, PA 18017 - Lehigh Valley Quakers - 10 to 2.

Trick or Treaters that I and the above mentioned not-quite-eight-year old handed candy to tonight.- 80. 

Halloween Events  that I will take part in as a story teller next week - 3.  
Catasauqua Public Library - Monday, October  28th at 6 pm. Families welcome.
Godfrey Daniels - Wednesday, October 30th at 7 pm. ADULTS ONLY.
Emmaus Public Library - Thursday, October 31st  at 7:30 pm.

I plan to sleep until 10 am on Friday, November 1st - the day that above mentioned not-quite-eight-year old turns EIGHT!! 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sunday Selfie - a day late

Today, I picked up my mother (93) and my Aunt  Mary (96) from their volunteer work counting the Sunday collection at their church. I drove around the block to my aunt's house.

"Don't get out!" Aunt Mary insisted. "Your mother can help me to the door."

I listen to my elders. I stayed in the car. I watched as my mother supported her big sister, step by step, up the walk. Two old women, gray and slow, side by side, walked together, as I imagine they have walked their entire lives.

I feel privileged to have seen the abiding sisterly love between them. It's unspoken.

Then, having delivered her sister safely to her home, my mother made her way, more quickly and surely back to the car. I drove her to her home where we wrestled empty recycling bins back into their places in the carport.

It is Fall.  We notice the empty places in our garden. We anticipate shorter days, colder nights and darkness. We look forward to loss and if we can stretch our imagination, to the growth that covers the bare spaces.

 Still, today is a good day because, for now, I still can watch these two sisters walk together.