Slow Down, My Friend, and Gather Some Blossoms

“You can go slow.  Allow your dreams and goals to change, but live an intentional life.”–Kumail Nanjiani

 

“You’re only here for a short visit.  Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”–Walter Hagen

 

 

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“Feather your nest,” states the soothing baritone voice emanating from my ipad as I settle down on the floor with my legs bent back under me and my bum resting on a yoga block.  I take a long, slow inhalation pause at the top and then sigh out the exhale. I try to simultaneously melt my shoulders away from ears in an attempt to bring relaxation to my body while also attempting to focus on the next deep belly inhalation.  Parting my lips once more, I sigh out the exhale, and then gently close my lips in preparation for the remainder of practice. Inhale . . .

 

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More consistent morning meditation has been one off-shoot from working from home.  After the first rough week trying to wrap my head around not only how to convey what typically transpires in my 6th-8th grade Reading/Language Arts class–the conventions and intricacies of writing, the interpretations and methodology of literary devices, and the motivation and encouragement for the not-so-simple task of reading a novel–but also, determining the best ways to finesse, manage, and deliver various educational platforms and content to students, I quickly deduced that if I don’t calm my inner dialogue down, abate the pressure I put on myself, and relax my mind, I was going to quickly spiral into a dark, dank inner hole of depression, self-loathing, and burnout.  Thus, enter, my morning meditation practice before my work day at home begins.

 

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My personality type tends to sense and judge.  Both of these skills in and of themselves are not, per se, bad things.  I can often sense others’ emotions and moods. Thus, in a classroom, I can typically discern, fairly quickly, when a lesson and/or my instruction is or isn’t working as I had thought it would.  Knowing when to downshift, upshift, or make a hard turn in instructional delivery is not a skill that universities taught me. For sure, my higher education has provided me excellent foundational knowledge; however, by and large, it is my inner compass, informed by over 30 years of experience, as well as my intrinsic desire to learn and improve that are the pillars rising up from that long ago laid foundation upon which I most rely.  But, now, the walls of my classroom, the students that fill it, and the staff that surround me are all physically gone. G. O. N. E. Therefore, my inner-compass was spinning during that first week of virtual school.

 

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BOOM!  Like high tide rolling in while boogie boarding on the surf of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I know, as the waves begin to grow in size and strength, that there is a strong chance that a big one will come along and knock me off the board into the notoriously strong undertow, sucking me further downshore.  That was COVID-19 for me. It began at low tide as the storm clouds ploddingly gathered far off on the other side of the globe. The storm, it appeared, was over-there-somewhere, but as the days and weeks passed, the skies grew darker, more menacing, more determined, and most of all, closer. Like the domino trains I once made as a kid on my grandparents table, the domino fall continued its winding path.  Then, when the governor of Ohio closed schools and universities, a shock wave went through my school setting. I knew it was only a matter of time. Clink, clink, the domino that was WV schools and universities fell in the line.

 

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After that intense and stressful first week of virtual education for students, parents, and staff, spring break blessedly arrived the following week.  Of course, everyone was home, but we could all hit the pause button, take time to reflect, evaluate, and make adjustments accordingly. The realization that COVID-19 is a process, with regard to nearly everything, became crystal clear to many, especially me.  Like the rapid fire of a machine gun, life lessons were exploding all around, and there was no running for cover.  This. Was. (and is) For. Real.

 

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And yet . . .

 

And yet, the blossoms of spring are abounding.  There is time to savor their scents–some sweet, some delicate, and others pungent or even spicy. Traffic has slowed, and at times, nearly stopped outside the state route near our home, allowing birdsong to be heard more clearly as well as the peck, peck, pecking of the wood-pecker, and making the imitating calls of the mockingbird more noticeable.  The steady hum of the flight of fat and fuzzy bumble bees are noticeably more, well, loud. Time is more available to pull those weeds, instead of sighing as I rush past them on my way to hither and thither. Dinner is being cooked more slowly, and conversations with loved ones are occurring with more frequency.  

 

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Still, in the background is the ever-present disquietude of worry, concern, and even hand-wringing moments when I think about family, loved ones, friends, neighbors, co-workers, students, and so forth.  Will they all remain healthy? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Already, we have friends who have been exposed. Will they recover? We can only pray and hope. Meanwhile, there are friends and acquaintances in the medical field or who work to provide essential services who are out in the public every single day.  Will they remain safe? And let’s not forget the ever present search for toilet paper, (who knew?) disinfectant wipes/cleaner, masks, medical equipment . . .  

 

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We can’t hug our loved ones not living in our own home, shake a friend’s hand, or console an acquaintance with a pat on the back.  Must. Stay. Six. Feet. Apart.

 

What can we do?  What can I do?

 

We can slow down. We can adjust our goals, our ways of working, our way of thinking, and our ways of demonstrating love, care, and concern.  We can live with new found intentions. We can pray, meditate, and practice gratitude for all of our blessings. We can try to worry less; and instead, rely on our faith.  We can go outside and soak up the natural world. We can stop, smell, and savor the flowers as well as all good moments. In fact, I believe we should soak up every positive event, moment, and thought as if we were camels preparing for a journey through the desert.  

 

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In the end, life is sweet but short, like the colors of spring unfolding around us now.  Therefore, in the infamous words of a poem my parents have often quoted, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may . . .”.  May you, Dear Reader, and may I, take time today to gather some rosebuds and to give some rosebuds. Afterall, “ . . . Old Time is still a-flying . . .”.

 

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Gluten-free Chocolate Banana Bread

Like many others quarantined at home, I have been cooking and baking quite a bit more than I usually do.  Additionally, John, my husband, and I are exploring more plant-based recipes. (I don’t eat meat, but John will order a meat based dish on the two nights per week we order take-out in order to support local restaurants during this COVID-19 outbreak–although I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to grill up some meaty morsel at some point.)  What we are finding is that we enjoy what we consider more fun-based and/or comfort based type foods. Examples would include pasta, based dishes, Mexican-inspired variations (tacos, enchiladas, nachos and so forth), and a weekly baked sweet treat. Nothing fancy, mind you, just good ol’ homemade goodness.

 

On a recent grocery order, I thought I ordered two bananas, but when my groceries arrived at my car, I had an entire bunch.  Rather than make a fuss with the poor overworked grocery staffer (God bless them for working during this crisis–seriously.), I just kept the entire bunch of bananas knowing that in the worst case scenario, if they didn’t all get eaten, I could either freeze them or bake-up something with them.  

 

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Photo by Juan Salamanca on Pexels.com

 

Sure enough, I ended up with 3 large ripe bananas.  I started to freeze them, but then thought about the banana bread I used to make with mini-chocolate chips.  As I began looking through my past recipes, the thought hit me. I wonder if there are recipes out there for chocolate, chocolate-chip banana bread?  Hmm . . .

 

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Thus, began my research into the recipe idea. There were literally hundreds of recipe ideas, so I narrowed my search down further to plant-based ideas.  Again, I found hundreds of these variations as well–some with cocoa, others with melted chocolate, some with nuts and/or nut butter, and some with oil . . . well, the list went on.  Therefore, I read recipe reviews and taste notes and began cobbling together my own recipe variation.

 

 

First of all, the batter itself is thick, rich, and fun to lick up!  (I always think of my Grandmother Helen when I lick a spoon at the end, stating, “Here’s to you Helen!”  It’s a family thing.) Secondly, the redolent scent of sweet bread baking in the oven is sinfully delightful and highly recommended on a rainy or chilly day when you won’t have your windows open.  Lastly, the taste and texture only gets better with time–just like a good banana bread should. That said, you do need to refrigerate this in order to make it stay fresh for a week, but it will still get more moist and more sweet with each passing day.

 

 

My husband and daughter served this warmed with redi-whip on top as a dessert or snack.  I ate it out of the fridge for a quick and easy grab and go (well, go to work virtually) no-fuss, little-clean-up breakfast.  I especially loved to smear it with peanut butter or PB2–it was like eating a Reese’s cup for breakfast!

 

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Slice it up and eat plain, or top it with a wide variety of sweet or savory toppings.

 

Why don’t you give it a try the next time you end up with a few overripe bananas?  In fact, if you’re willing to go into the grocery store, you could buy overripe bananas from the produce clearance bin for next to nothing.  Not only does it make a great dessert, snack, or breakfast, it can also be frozen for up to a month or so!

 

From my home to yours, I wish you happy, healthy, and homemade meals and sweet treats!

Fresh out of the oven goodness!

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Look at that moist center of melted chocolate chip gooeyness!

 

 

Gluten-free, Chocolate Banana Bread 

(Plant-based, no-oil option)

Ingredients:

2 cups over-ripe mashed banana (about 3 large ripe bananas)

2 ½  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar

2-4 tablespoons of favorite nut butter (peanut, cashew, almond, sunflower) or 2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil (I split the difference and went with 3 tablespoons of almond butter.)

⅔ cup date syrup (or maple syrup, honey or agave)

1 ¾ cup all-purpose baking flour or gluten-free variation

½ cup unsweetened pure cocoa powder + 2 more tablespoons dutch cocoa powder, if have on hand, but regular cocoa powder is fine

¼ cup sugar or stevia

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate morsels

½ cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate mini-morsels

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line 9×9 loaf pan with parchment paper, so that the paper overhangs sides.

Mash bananas and measure.

Then, add bananas and next four ingredients into large blender cup

Blend until smooth and creamy and pour into a medium mixing bowl.

In a small mixing bowl, blend all dry ingredients EXCEPT chocolate morsels.

Mix dry ingredients with a fork until no white powder remains.

Gradually fold in dry ingredients into wet, scraping down the side.

Gently stir in ½ cup semi-sweet or dark morsels

Carefully pour in batter and smooth over top of batter.

Sprinkle with remaining mini-morsels and gently press into batter.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Turn off the oven and leave in the oven an additional ten minutes.

Remove from the oven, lift bread out of the pan holding on to parchment paper, and set on the cooling rack to cool.

**Store in the refrigerator.  

**It’s also easier to slice once stored in the fridge. My daughter and I were eager to taste this bread once baked because the aroma that filled our house while baking left our mouths watering.  However, I sliced off both heels (She doesn’t like them, but they don’t bother me!) set in the fridge for several hours, keeping it on the parchment paper, but moving it to a plate.  

Then, when I removed it from the fridge, I found it MUCH easier to slice and store it in a sturdy bread container, but keeping it in the fridge.

Stores in the refrigerator for up to five days or so.

Makes ten average-size slices.

 

Pollinate Our Present with Positivity

“If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof.  If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.”–Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

There is an old country adage that states not every hole has a snake.  In other words, just because you saw a snake disappear into a hole doesn’t mean that every snake lives in a hole.  Nor, does it mean that every recess in the ground will be home to a snake. This simple proverb is a warning guarding against stereotypes and preconceived beliefs/judgements.

 

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As a resident of Ohio who works in WV, I have often heard my students and coworkers make fun of Ohio drivers.  

 

“Ms. Hill, my mom was so mad this morning because this car was driving so slow in the passing lane. And, guess where the car was from? (Insert dramatic pause here.) Ohio! Of course!”

 

Likewise, when I worked in Ohio, there were numerous jokes about Kentucky drivers, and when I worked in Kentucky, there were jokes about both Ohio and WV drivers, depending upon a person’s leanings. The point is there are always going to be both good and bad drivers in any given state–it all depends upon what you train your eye to see. 

 

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Not far from where I live, there is a group of pay-fishing lakes that lay on the outside of a curvy section of the county road in which I often travel.  Between two of these lakes, beside one of the deepest parts of the biggest bend, is a tall, but dead and decaying tree. Quite often, congregating at the top of this inky dark rangy tree, is a venue of  buzzards. 

 

This past week, my college-age daughter, Madelyn, and I were driving along this twisty road on our way to a local walking path when I slowed the car to a halt in order to allow a buzzard to cross the road in front of me.  It ambled as if it were on Sunday stroll and heading back to the ground entry floor to its treetop apartment. Its beady eyes seemed to look at our car, then peck at something in the road, and finally made its way to the grassy curb, so we could continue.

 

Madelyn made some sort of comment about how cute the bird was, and she followed this comment up with a not-so-serious question as to whether or not we could take the bird home.  Being my ever-sarcastic self, I merely rolled my eyes at her query and continued driving. However, this was not the end of it.

 

Madelyn continued commenting on the cuteness of the bird.  Eventually I reminded her that this so-called cute bird was a buzzard.  She persisted to cling to her admiration.

 

“Don’t you see them nearly every day you drive by this tree?” I dryly asked.

 

“Yes, but I’ve never seen one up close. That makes it different.”  

 

Then, a song from her childhood began to echo throughout our vehicle, and Maddie switched from talking about the buzzard to singing a line from the song before regaling me with an anecdote about this once childhood TV star turned singer.

 

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Part of the “beauty” of COVID-19 is spending more time with my artsy and analytical daughter, Madelyn, as well as our two cats, LJ, in Maddie’s arms, and Tippi-tail, beside her.

 

It would be days later as I watched my daughter “arting,” as she calls it, that I recalled her observations of the buzzard.   After two years of taking nothing but science courses–enough to already earn her a chemistry minor–Madelyn is now an art major–previously, her chosen minor.  Thus, her mind can switch back and forth with a fair amount of ease from the analytic to the creative. It’s kinda like being ambidextrous–only mentally.

 

I share this because now that she is back living at home in order to pursue art at the local university, Marshall, she has opened my eyes to a number of my “vision flaws.” For example, buzzards, Maddie would point out serve a very real and valuable purpose for the world–ridding the natural world of dead and decaying animals flesh.  “It’s all how you look at it, Mom.” While this is quite true, I began to see a lesson forming regarding the buzzard, but not in the same way Maddie was seeing it.

 

One of the very things I admire about buzzards is how high they soar and fly.  In fact, watching them circle and glide on the air over the hills surrounding my home is like observing an aeronautical ballet.  With all the height of their heavenly soarings, however, they still choose to look down in order to pick, peck, and probe dead flesh, yet with each flight, they nearly touch the face of God.

 

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Buzzards fly so high, they nearly touch the face of God, and yet, they keep their gaze focus downward in order to feed upon fallen prey.

 

Meanwhile, the compact hummingbird possesses a likewise graceful flight pattern.  However, rather than setting its sights high, this aerodynamic creature flies closer to ground seeking blossoming sources of nectar (sweetness)–all the while pollinating flowering plants.  Hummingbirds’ vision focuses on the Divinely created colorful beauty of this world. Buzzards, on the other hand, ascend celestially, but ultimately, dive to dine on the deceased. Both birds are useful to the balance of the world, and yet, I think there is a lesson for those of us living in the new world of COVID-19.

 

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We can choose to be like the buzzards, soaring close to the heavens, but choosing to continuously look down to feed upon fallen prey; or, we can choose to humbly fly closer to earth, not always visible to others, but nonetheless peacefully pollinating the earth with granules of positivity and hope.  In fact, the hummingbird’s present moment flight promotes a continuation of flowering plants for not only unknown passersby to enjoy, but also it creates additional food sources for future hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. 

 

Dear Reader, let us not be like the buzzard, soaring high on the wings of sanctimony, looking down in order to feed upon the geography of misfortune of others who may have experienced and/or unintentionally spread this illness.  Rather, may we fly humbly like the hummingbird, spreading hope like a hummingbird spreads the pollen of the spring flowers surrounding us. May our time at home be used as an opportunity to clear our vision, plant seeds of love through simple acts such as regularly checking in with family and friends via phone call, facetime, or texts.  Furthermore, may we acknowledge the sacrifice and labor of health-care providers and those employees of businesses who must continue to work in the public realm in order to provide us with provisions of food, supplies, and basic medicine needs. 

 

In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.”  May we take care of this present moment as if we were touching the very face of the heavens from our own earth-bound homes.

 

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Take care of the present moment as if touching the face of the heavens.

 

Where Flowers Bloom So Does Hope

“Blossom by blossom the spring begins.”–Algernon Charles Swinburne

 

“I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils; beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”–William Wordsworth

 

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A co-worker had joked about it in the previous week’s Friday staff meeting.

 

“Get ready!  Next week, there’s a full moon and it ends with Friday the 13th!”

 

We all laughed good-naturedly as there is something about full moons that, anecdotally, seems to bring out, well, the “high-spirited” side of students.  Of course, I’ve been in the education world long enough to know that all student behavior is cyclical, developmental, and dependent upon multiple variables, rather than the size of the moon. Still, we had no idea the real foreboding that my co-worker’s good-natured joke held  . . .

 

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I was only minorly concerned, but throughout the weekend, as the evidence and data continued to mount, so did my concern.  By the beginning of the week, more and more states were affected by something called, COVID-19. What had once seemed like an other-worldly concern was unfolding into a harsh reality. Day-by-day, as this past week progressed, like dominoes in a line, more and more closings, including colleges, began to occur.  By Wednesday, when Marshall University decided to close for a minimum of three weeks, the pulse of Hungtington, WV, was palpable, especially at our school, one block away from MU. Thursday’s new reality became a, “Not an if, but when we close” scenario; and by Friday, with a decision from WV Governor Justice, plans began to swiftly be created for our school’s students, and the majority of staff, beginning the following Monday, to remain at home “indefinitely” as instruction would become virtual.  Life with COVID-19 was now part of the Tri-State area.

 

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Simultaneously, while all the news outlets were filled with stories of COVID-19’s proliferation, spring was silently and nonchalantly populating the landscape.  Daffodils displayed their buttery bonnet capped blossoms. Willow tree branches, that were already gradually unveiling their green, were now fully encumbered with vividly green leaves.  Long and lithe brambles of delicate, golden forsythia waved hello in the shifting winds of the week. Throughout town and countryside alike, seemingly snow-capped trees expanded their blossomy branches.  Furthermore, spring’s chorus could be heard through the cheerful morning birdsong and the goodnight tune of the spring peepers. Meanwhile the dipping and darting return flight of the brilliant blue birds added another harmonious line in spring’s song.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Those with whom I shared conversations about spring’s renewal seemed to concur that spring’s annual showing was early for the Tri-State area.  I thought about this as I walked outside this past Saturday, taking in the surrounding spring sights. I wondered if there was a lesson in this seemingly premature unfolding of nature’s glory.  Clearly, trees, flowers, shrubs, and even animals do not adhere to a calendar, much less a specific schedule. These heavenly creations only sense when the conditions are right. With winter’s mild temperatures, the large quantities of rain throughout the winter months, and the increasing amount of sunlight, nature took its cue to raise the curtain for spring’s first act.  And so it is with COVID-19 . . . 

 

 

The conditions have been right and the evolution of a new way of living and talking continues expanding its reach like the brambly branches of forsythia, blowing in the ever-shifting direction of the spring winds. One blossom, so to speak, begets another, and another, and soon enough, just as the forsythia began to reveal its blossoms one branch at time, COVID-19 has begun to send out branches of a virus around the world, blooming into pandemic proportions.  Hand-washing, social distancing, quarentines, and even toilet paper are now words worthy of near-like worship and focus.  

 

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Meanwhile spring keeps on shining–continuing to beautify the world at a time when chaos, stress, tension, and concern seem to overburgeon our lives like those spring blossoms seem to over-burgeon trees.  Sweet spring, be it ever-so-early, is signaling us to blossom into our fullest potential in the midst of this crisis–becoming the best versions of ourselves. We cannot fall into an, “us vs them” mentality, rather like spring, we must use these conditions to unite us to navigate together.  

 

It is the fullness of the spring orchestra–the flowers, the trees, the shrubs, the grass, the birds, the peepers, and so forth–that dresses-up nature, marking the end of gray winter months.  Thus, it must be with the fullness of our humanity, our compassion, our ingenuity, our hardiness, and well, a good dose of patience and humor that must likewise band together for the symphony of survival.  

 

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I sincerely believe that each of us is a creation of God, filled with a Divine light.  Let us shine those inner lights and unite them as one large flame of hope. Let us take our cue from Mother Nature using these conditions to bloom, allowing us to spring into action together with each person playing her or his harmonious part for the renewal of all.

 

Lady Bird Johnson had it right when she said, “Where flowers bloom so does hope.”  May hope bloom in your heart today. 

 

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Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

A Prayer of Light

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”–Ben Sweetland     

“Be the reason someone smiles.  Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people.”–Roy T. Bennett

 

It took a moment to register.  How long it took, I am unsure. I suspect it was a gradual awareness, albeit, a confused recognition clouded by sleep. 

 

Light.  Why was it so bright?  Who turned the light on? What is going on? Where is the light coming from?  I gradually forced my eyelids slightly apart. The source of the cheerful brightness seemed to be coming from my right.  I closed my eyes again. Tried to drift back into that blissful blanket of sleep, but the radiance would not be ignored.

 

Gradually, another modest moment of awareness, pried my resistant eyes marginally apart.  Turning to the right with heavy-headed effort, I blinked back the boldness of the intruder to realize it was nearly a full moon.  Bathing the bedroom with its silvery, bold shine, alertness remained with me long enough to take in the preciseness with which its light penetrated the darkness, chasing away the shadows.  As sleep drew me back into her comforting arms, I sensed my mind nudging me to recognize the moonlit depiction was important.

 

Upon waking, the image of the nocturnal illumination continued to gnaw at the edges of my brain as I made my way through my morning rituals.  Coffee in hand, I sat down with my laptop, shivering off the morning chill, and clicked open a document titled, “Writing ideas.” Reading through the snippets of phrases, I mentally touched each one as if I were a child walking down the plush animal aisle at a toy store.  Metaphorically, I gave a squeeze here, a rub there, a brushing back and forth of the velveteen on another. Then, I read two quotes, and I knew their words were working together with the middle of the night spotlight to offer me a lesson that needed written.

 

The day of the moonlight wake-up call was also the same date for the March run/walk of the Ashland, KY wear blue: run to remember community, held the first Saturday of each month at 8:00 am in Central Park.  For months, I had not been able to participate in this worthy cause due to other commitments, so I was grateful for the opportunity to once more have the time to support this group.  This local chapter is part of a national nonprofit that, according to their website, “honors the service and sacrifice of the American military . . . creating a living memorial, ‘For the fallen. ‘For the fighting,’ and ‘For the families.’”. 

 

As we circled up to read the names of 24 soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice on this same weekend date since 2000, I shivered.  Yes, it was a reaction to the 30 degree temperatures, but it was also a visceral sensation upon hearing and reading the names of men and women, who, if still alive, would most likely be younger than me and are now absent from the lives of countless moms, wives, daughters, sisters, and other family members.  Shuttering as I read the names I was given, I wondered if they knew we still remembered them. I further pondered what their families would think if they knew we honored their loved one by name . . .

 

 

With those names etched in our hearts and before setting off, each person in our small group encouraged one another to reach their personal goal for the day.  Throughout the three laps, runners and walkers alike, continued to uplift one another. In fact, even local bystanders, out for their own morning exercise, also volunteered smiles, kind words, and even a joke or two . . .

 

“You better run harder, she might catch you.”

 

“Keep it up.”

 

“I see you’re still at it.  That’s the way.”

 

“We’ve almost got this.”

 

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While the words, in and of themselves, were nothing special.  It was the way in which they were spoken and the smile that was proffered with each audible emission that made a positive impact. I felt heartened and part of something greater than myself as I thought of those names.

 

Driving to Ashland, I was full of doubt, self-deprecating thoughts, and mentally listing every reason why I should not and would not be able to complete the three laps around the park.  How could my small effort even compare to the sacrifice of the men and women whose lives we were honoring. However, once there, I felt a small flicker; and though that spark was not big enough to completely rid my brain of self-doubt, those motivating smiles, words, and most of all, the names of those fallen men and women, brightened the path helping to overcome the shadows of self-defeating thought.   

 

 

 

To come full circle in conclusion . . .

 

I now understand that my mind used the image of the bold moonlight to serve as a reminder of the need to offer light to others.  May we shine through with our thoughts, words, and actions. May we overlook the ugliness that all too often permeates our own thoughts, vies for our attention in the media, and sometimes fills our conversations. Instead, may our smiles be given freely. May we believe in the innate goodness of humanity. May we offer love, gentleness, and kindness to all with whom we come into contact– even to those who seem the most unlovable.   

 

And, finally, Dear God, may I continue to grow and learn, so that one day, perhaps, I, too, might light the way for another fellow traveler struggling in the darkness.

 

Winter Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Prayer

“If you want to see sunshine, you have to weather the storm,”–Frank Lane

 

“O sunlight!  The most precious gold to be found on earth.”–Roman Payne

 

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“How do people live in Seattle?” I asked one of my co-workers?

 

“Or, Portland?” she added.

 

“No wonder our kids are so sick,” added another co-worker, referring to the large number of students that continue to be absent due to illness.

 

“We need a good frost, a solid freezing to kill off things, but we just haven’t had it this winter,” the first added in response.

 

We all made our way down the short school hallway, each exiting into our own classroom before the arrival of our students. 

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Walking into mine, I made my way to my desk, and clicked on school email.  There, in my in-box, were numerous emails from sick students or parents of ill students asking for missed assignments, requesting clarification, or submitting make-up work.  I was struggling to keep up with the daily correspondence as well as keep up with all the other behind-the-scenes work and preparation as well as maintain the demands of the daily schedule.  Sighing, I turned to look out my classroom windows that ran almost the entire length of one wall. Light snow was blustering about, but it was expected to return to the rain that we had seen throughout the week.  Another day of gray and gloom. With one more audible sigh, I turned, and began setting up for the day.

 

Surprisingly, towards the end of the school day, a bit of milky sunlight began to break through the pervasive dullness. In fact, the following day, Saturday, abundant sunshine filled the heavens; and despite strong wind gusts and frosty temperatures, I could feel the positive effects of the sun’s rays.  The metaphorical cloud of despair that seemed to permeate my outlook for the past few weeks, began to–momentarily, at least–thaw.

 

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“Not again,” I bemoaned to my husband, John, later that same day. “Another week with mostly rainy weather!” 

 

John and I were on our way to dinner to celebrate his birthday.  I had just clicked off the weather app on my phone to check out the forecast for the following week as the day’s dousing of sunshine made me hopeful, and perhaps a bit greedy, for more sunshine in the following week.

 

“It’s supposed to be heavy at times too.  Another chance of flooding,” he added with a voice full of disappointment.

 

I let his words sink in feeling the weight of disappointment clutching at my chest.   

 

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Sunshine, sweet cheery friend, why are you so fickle this season?  

 

Seasonal affective disorder has never felt so real to me as it has this winter.  Is it my age? Is it in my head, and like the pains of childbirth, I have simply forgotten how I felt last winter?  Surely, I cannot not be the only one feeling this way as February winds down? Based on conversations I’ve been sharing with co-workers, I don’t think so, but maybe we’re more sensitive souls as we work with hormonal middle school students.  And yet, I have participated in countless conversations with others outside of the confines of our school building who share similar thoughts. Still . . . 

 

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Where are you sunshine?  You tease me with a day or two of golden joy, only to hide for days, even weeks, at a time.  Please come back to me and stay. Have I been taking you for granted? Have I not admired you enough? Have I not given enough appreciation for your satisfying solar sensations?

 

Then, it hit me. I have abandoned specific routines that typically nourish my soul.  However, my morning meditation and prayer practice has fallen by the wayside. I have further abandoned  my morning moment of daily devotional reading. Daily yoga practice has likewise been forsaken. These morning rituals have been supplanted by “to do” lists and hitting the snooze button, one too many times, and/or setting a later morning alarm because I am so desperate for more sleep.  While I do need sleep, and I never seem to get enough of it, my overall need for rest is not going to be solved by getting 15-20 more minutes of sleep. Thus, perhaps it is connecting with the Divine through my spiritual practices that I am truly missing–my inner source of sunshine. Insert face into palm!

 

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The day before writing this piece,  I encountered a woman at a local grocery store.  I was departing the store through the designated “exit,” and an unknown woman was attempting to enter through it.  I stepped aside to allow her to come in, and I encouraged her step in out of the sharp wind. She smiled and apologized.  

 

“I know I shouldn’t come in through the exit.”  

 

 I smiled at her in reply, confessing that I often do the same thing.  It occurred to me then that the store doesn’t mind how you get inside their premises as long as you keep coming back when you run low or out of their products. Hmm . . .  

 

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How similar is that to our own faith habits?  God doesn’t mind the way in which we enter our faith walk, we just have to keep returning for the love and the lessons that are offered.  Otherwise, we will always run low, or in my case, run on fumes–nearly depleted of all inner joy. In fact, Divine Providence, I continue to observe, has a way of continuously placing the same lessons in my life until I am finally ready to learn.  While I am not by any means stating that the dismal weather was purposely put into our local winter weather system solely for me to learn this lesson, I do realize now that it was/is my perception of this season, created by my depleted tank and lack of faith habits, that was/is the main source for my personal cloud of suffering, rather than the actual weather.  

 

Winter weather must be endured, or spring would not smell so sweet.  However, by returning to my faith routine, the ones that I know nurture my soul, I can begin to, well, weather the downpours of life’s seasonal and metaphorical changes.  I believe I see a forecast for the return of earlier starts to my day with morning peaks of devotional reading, prayer/meditation, and perhaps even five minutes of yoga.  May they return me to the Ultimate Source of personal sunshine.

 

grayscale photography of man sitting on grass field
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Breakfast, or Brunch, Vegetable Stir-fry

I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I am inconsistent with breakfast during my work week.  Most days, I do eat something, even if it’s part (or all) of a protein bar and/or some fruit.  Other days, especially if I’ve taken time to food-prep on Sunday afternoon, I have containers of pre-made smoothies, smoothie “bowls,” or overnight oats lined up in the fridge–ready for grab-and-go convenience.  However, once I arrive at the school in which I work, I find I’m trying to quickly gulp down my food before my students arrive, or saving my prepared breakfast food for lunch (why not?) and either skipping breakfast all together, or falling back to eating a bit of the ever-present protein bar or fruit that are always in my lunchbox. Thus, during the work-week, there’s very little food enjoyment for me with regards to breakfast–and often lunch too–(see later paragraph) which makes me sad as I really do prefer to enjoy my food. 

 

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Still, I continue to love food, especially when I have enough time to sit, savor, and enjoy each yummy bite.  However, I fully recognize that the foods I prefer, and most enjoy, are often considered different as others have so kindly pointed out to me.  In fact, I have been told on multiple occasions that my food, “looks disgusting.”  While I try to laugh off the insult and weakly attempt to defend my food choices, “It’s only oats with blueberries, chia seeds, a bit of banana, and maple extract,” it has certainly caused me to reassess when and what I eat, especially in front of others!  

 

At one time in my life, I was especially fond of breakfast foods!  However, since being diagnosed with celiac disease nearly ten years ago, around the same time I decided to commit to eating a more plant based diet, dining out for breakfast, or it’s more gluttonous cousin, brunch, is seldom easy, much less fun, for me–at least in my immediate geographic area–as gluten-free, plant based eateries are a bit of a rarity.  If I am lucky, the menu will offer that so-called “disgusting” oatmeal; and, if I’m super fortunate, a restaurant might offer tofu and allow me to order it prepared,“naked” (not dipped in batter, so it remains gluten-free).

 

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While my weekends during the school year tend to be busy, whenever I do get some extra weekend time, I take great delight in making a big ol’ breakfast away from critical eyes, and one that holds me through until time for dinner..  I particularly find pleasure in serving these breakfasts with gluten-free bread and/or some fresh fruit. Thus, when creating this recipe (and my forthcoming recipe), I cobbled together ideas from several plant based recipe sites, but also tried to make it carnivore-friendly if desired.  This is because I believe that how each person chooses to eat is highly personal. I try not to proselytize a one-size-fits-all diet, or for that matter publicly criticize one’s diet choices. While I know a gluten-free, plant-based diet works for me, I’d rather create recipes that offer flexibility, nutritional benefits, and still taste good for all types of eaters.

 

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While my original creation was designed to somewhat look and mimic the flavor of eggs, it doesn’t have to focus on that. Feel free to play with and change up the ingredients. Consider adding in other colorful vegetables of your liking, including diced yukon gold or sweet potatoes.  Remove and replace any vegetable you don’t like with vegetables you do enjoy, and feel free to increase or decrease vegetable amounts. (I chose cauliflower as a base because it is so mild and tends to take on the flavors of the other ingredients, however, chopped potatoes make an excellent base too.) Remove and/or change up the seasonings, along with their amounts! Additionally, play with toppings!  Consider lively and colorful toppings, such as chopped/sliced scallions, chopped avocado, sliced olives, roasted red peppers, salsa, and so forth. Don’t be afraid to think outside the traditional breakfast box and play! Food should be fun and tasty!  

 

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May this recipe inspire you to get creative in the privacy of your kitchen!  Feel free to send me pics and comments about how you chose to prepare it! I’d love to see your pics and share them on my website!  

 

From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, homemade, and, hopefully, not-so-disgusting meals!

 

 

 

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Breakfast Vegetable Stir-fry

(Feel free to double or triple ingredients.)

Ingredients:

½ tsp minced garlic

¼-½ cup, or more as needed liquid, water or vegetable broth *If not cooking oil-free, 1-2 tablespoons of a mild-flavored oil can be used instead. 

¼ cup chopped onions

¼ cup chopped peppers (I prefer a mix of colors.)

1 cup roughly chopped cauliflower (I prefer to use one cup prepared riced cauliflower to save the mess and time.)

½ cup sliced portabella mushrooms (or other mushroom variety)

3 ounces **tempeh sliced thin and cut into small pieces **Instead of tempeh, you can use tofu, 2-3 beaten eggs or egg whites, or 3-4 ounces of precooked meat of your choice

½-1 tsp liquid aminos, coconut aminos, or soy sauce

½ tsp turmeric (optional)

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to taste

Salt and black pepper to taste

***Kala Namak (Black salt) to taste ***Only use this seasoning if keeping it egg and meat-free as it adds a flavor and aroma similar to that of eggs.

Directions:

Preheat pan over medium. (You’ll know it’s hot enough when a drop of water skitters across the bottom of the pan.)

While the pan is preheating, gather and prepare vegetables.

Once the pan is preheated, add garlic.

When garlic begins to soften and turn golden, add in onions and peppers.

Stir in ¼ cup of vegetable broth or water, if not using oil. (If using oil, add in the desired amount.)

Stir constantly.  If you notice vegetables sticking, stir-in liquid, 1-2 tablespoons at a time.

Add cauliflower and continue stirring.

Add green peppers and onion, stir, and then add sliced mushrooms. 

Again, if at any time, vegetables begin sticking, add in more liquid, 1-2 tablespoons at a time.

Stir in desired protein (tempeh, tofu, beaten eggs, or precooked meat).

Continue stirring and tossing over medium heat until protein is cooked through.

Reduce heat to low and stir-in desired amount of aminos (or soy sauce) and rest of seasonings.

Once seasoning is thoroughly mixed into food, remove from heat, cover, and allow flavors to meld for 2-3 minutes.

Then, serve immediately.

Makes one generous serving.

Store leftovers in the fridge–makes a great breakfast or lunch for the next day!  

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Politeness is the Flower of Humanity

 

“Politeness is the flower of humanity.” – Joseph Joubert

 

“In the Spirit which draws us into honest engagement with one another, including those who may be very different from us in various ways, God calls us to wake up and learn how to love and respect one another, period.”–Carter Heyward

 

There is a woman with whom I work. Her genuine smile rarely ceases.  Even when she is expressing disagreement, frustration, and anger, she is able to articulate it in a way that is both respectful and without a hint of anger in her voice.  Whenever I am feeling particularly moody, I chastisingly ask myself why I can’t be more like her.

 

While I like to think of myself as an overall kind and polite person, I fully recognize I have a long way to go in the thoughtfulness department.  Perhaps, that is one of my drivers for writing regularly–my own quest for greater understanding and personal growth. One thing I know for certain, on those days when I feel less than my best self–I see my co-worker’s smile, and I feel inspired to dig a little deeper to shake off whatever annoyance or struggle upon which I have focused.  And, perhaps, that is the key: focus.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

There is an old saying that states, that which we focus upon we become. Thus, maybe I need to ask myself on those days, where is my focus, and what can I change?  How can I begin to cultivate more inner joy like my co-worker seems to possess? As fate would have it, the Universe kindly provided me with a lesson.

 

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Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

 

John, my husband, suggested that we take advantage of an upcoming three day weekend and head out of town for a couple of nights.  Sometimes just a change of scenery can reset and rejuvenate our spirits. Besides, John knows me all too well, when I am home, I typically focus on work.  Therefore, my only request, upon his suggestion was that we not travel too far in order to return home with enough time for me to–yes, you guessed it– get caught up on my weekly weekend chores, so I didn’t have to start the next week feeling frantic and rushed.

After a bit of price comparisons on various travel sites, we ultimately settled on returning to Charleston,WV and the Four Points Hotel.  We have personally found the staff at this hotel to be exceptionally friendly and helpful. Furthermore, we love the location along the Kanawha River within walking distance to the downtown Charleston Historic District.  

 

 

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Due to an extreme drop in temperatures, we decided to remain within the hotel grounds for dinner that evening.  While the hotel does have its own restaurant, it also has another eatery on the opposite side, Recovery Sports Grille.  Many of the hotel staff members had recommended this spot on previous trips, but we had never before tried it. Therefore, with temperatures hovering in the teens, we gladly walked the short distance to the restaurant, using it as an opportunity to view the beautiful local artwork and photographs displayed along the warm interior route.

 

 

Once seated in Recovery, we met Britney Stamper, our waitress/bartender, for the evening.  John and I learned years ago that sitting at the bar often renders the best service, plus it typically gives us insight into the areas in which we are visiting.  While we didn’t, per se, gain additional insight into the Charleston area, we did learn a great deal about Charlotte, NC, an area in which Britney had lived for several years with her family.  By the end of the evening, we gained a greater awareness of another town we now plan to visit, ate fantastic food, and thoroughly enjoyed connecting, if only for a couple of hours, with another human whose varied life experiences expanded and enhanced our own. 

 

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Britney Stamper, at Recovery Sports Grille

 

 

Throughout the rest of the weekend, we were able to meet other people from all walks of life.  For example, while browsing in the Historic District, I wandered into The Consignment Shop. While I had discovered this store on a previous visit, I had not met the owner. However, on this visit I was able to meet her.   We shared a lovely conversation through the process of checking out, bonding over aging, being a woman, and other life experiences. I exited the shop smiling at the sense of connection.

 

 

Later that weekend, John and I met two engaging young people at Pies and Pints, a favorite dining establishment.  While dining there, we could not help but find ourselves drawn into their conversation as one employee celebrated and congratulated the other’s acceptance into nursing school.  Again, their short life experiences were certainly different from ours, but that did not hinder us in our conversations as we were able to find common ground.

 

 

Additionally, during breakfast, both mornings, we learned about Bruce, who may (or may not) be the morning manager of the hotel restaurant.  (We are uncertain of his exact title.) What John and I do know is that Bruce has been part of the Four Points staff during each of our visits, and he is the friendly face with whom we chat during our late morning meals.  It is easy to talk with Bruce, and it is clear from our conversations that he is kind, thoughtful, and devoted to his girlfriend and family.   

 

 

As we said our good-byes to Bruce, he confessed that he usually doesn’t talk much to his customers, “But, I really do like talking to you guys,” he added with a crooked smile, and I found myself smiling in return.

His comment remained with me throughout that day, and it later occured to me the lesson within his comment.  Perhaps, inner joy comes when we focus on others. Reflecting on my co-worker, she possesses a strong focus on others’ needs as well as a genuine and sincere curiosity.  I began to realize that I had spent so much time trying to measure up to what I perceived was “wrong” with me and “right” with her, that I had forgotten she has also talked privately about her own inner battles and demons.   However, in spite of any inward struggles she may be experiencing, when she comes to school, her light is on, open, and ready to engage, much in the same way John and I were engaging during our weekend away. Hmm . . .

In the final assessment, I fully recognize I still have many shortcomings, and there remain numerous areas in my life in which I still need to  improve. That recognition, in and of itself, may not be a bad thing. Perhaps, if I thought I had “arrived,” or had no more ways to improve, maybe that would be a bigger problem.  Instead, I will humbly accept that I have more inner work to do, need to focus on others’ needs more, and must continue to remain open to the lessons and sources of inspiration Divine Providence keeps providing me.

 

“Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

It’s What You Leave

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”–Jennifer Niven

 

“The thing I realize is, that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.”–Jennifer Niven

 

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Chester “Check” Arlen Slater, aka Papaw

 

There he was, in my mind’s eye, intently gazing at me with those merriment-filled blue eyes, that, though dimmed by age, still had the ability to communicate to the person with whom he spoke, “No one but you matters at this moment.”  

 

“Stethie,” he would say as he steadfastly clasped my hands, “Get your education.  Go as far as you can. Don’t be like your dumb ol’ Papaw.”  

 

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Papaw and me when I was around two years old in his backyard in front of his garden.

 

Chester “Check” Arlen Slater was my maternal grandfather, but my siblings, my Kentucky cousins, and I called him, “Papaw,” while our “Texas cousins” called him “Poppie-Check.”  On one hand, I was closest to “Grandmother,” his wife, in spite of our continued clashes–unfortunately, I was as strong willed as she; however, as my mother talked to me in a recent conversation, I realized, it was Papaw who tended to inject me with doses of conviction and self-reliance as if giving me a vaccination of inner-strength against the challenges of the world.

 

Grandmother and Papaw through the years.  In later years, they tried to color coordinate their outfits .

 

To be clear, Papaw was a complicated man.  As I understand it, based upon stories I recall my grandmother, my mom, and other various family members telling me, he possessed quite a bit of wanderlust and a roving eye when he was early married to Grandmother.  In fact, he was known to leave my grandmother for months at time to go “hobo-ing,” hopping from one train for another. Furthermore, I was told years later, he would lock himself upstairs for days at a time once he and my Grandmother settled into a home they had built after my mother was born.  Regrettably, I was never brave enough to ask him about any of those events. I sensed it would have embarrassed him.

 

 

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Papaw could been seen at his desk every Sunday between church services, working on various items for the church he and Grandmother faithfully attended.

 

I do know that he often described in great detail how he never did well in school.  He told tales of a teacher putting a “dunce” hat on him and putting him in the corner of the classroom.  Then, there were the stories of how the teacher would tie a string from her finger to his, “because I was her favorite pupil.”  His educational career was short-lived as he only made it to the 5th grade.

 

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Papaw with his motorcycle 1929.

 

He loved to play football when the game was in its infancy and did not require much in the way of safety gear.  I can imagine him as a strong, swift athlete, full of swagger. Papaw was even once described to me as a spoiled and indulged child.   He owned one of the first motorcycles, if not the first, in the town of Raceland, KY, and was known to perform “wheelies” and other daring feats on the town’s streets–sending bystanders swarming to the sidewalks.

 

His sister, Gladys, whom he dearly loved, and for whom felt immense pride–although it likewise seemed to create personal shame–was educated at Morehead State University at a time when women of Eastern Kentucky were rarely educated beyond the 5-8th grade.  She became a teacher, married a veterinarian, and they lived in a town not far outside of Lexington, KY. 

 

Papaw often held up Great-Aunt Gladys to me as the gold standard for how I should aspire to live my life. She had a master’s degree, a career, and a successful marriage/family.  Her husband was soft-spoken and kind, and Gladys possessed a quiet strength and grace that never failed to impress me during the few times I recall meeting her.

 

 

Somehow, I think Papaw felt inwardly like failure due to his lack of education, especially when in comparison to that of his sister.  However, as a lifelong educator whose university studies focused on the needs of special education, I recognize that Papaw most likely had a learning disability accompanied with what would now be identified as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).  I further suspect he was both an auditory and kinesthetic (tactile) learner, and he probably best learned through some form of movement while listening. I am further inclined to think he may have battled depression that may have been tied to this same learning issue.

 

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Grandmother and Papaw at his mother’s house in 1932.

 

In spite of his struggles, Papaw had the ability to quip numerous adages, a few poems, random science facts, bits of trivia, geographic information, and oh-so-many stories.  He “read” the daily local newspaper, National Geographic, American Heritage, Guidepost, and various other magazines. His bookshelves were lined with these periodicals as well as World Book Encyclopedia with its annual updates. Although truth be told, I suspect, as I reflect on his reading behavior, he mostly looked at the pictures, read the captions below, and focused on reading headlines, titles, and bold faced words.  Nonetheless, his thirst for knowledge and understanding of the world, his desire to make real human connections, and his even greater eagerness to be the center of attention were all real sides of this complex man.

 

 

I share all of this to lend context to the following. All of these images, and more, hit me as mom and I talked on that Saturday.  

The ebb and flow of our conversation led me to share with her a beautiful quote from a young adult book my daughter had recommended to me: “The thing I realize is, that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.”

 

 

“Like the ‘Bridge Builder’ poem Dad used to recite?” mom queried with an eyebrow raising. “Dad used to recite it all of the time.”

 

In my mind, I tried to scrape, claw, and dig my way to a memory of this, but I kept coming up empty.  

 

 

At home, later that day, I looked it up.   There it was, the very lesson Papaw was trying to convey to me all those years ago. He wanted me to be a “bridge builder” because that is how he saw his sister.  He failed to recognize that he, himself, was a bridge builder to hundreds of members of the local Boy Scout troops he led, to the local church he loved, to the C & O railroad employees with whom he worked, to the hundreds of missionaries he either visited or hosted at his home, and to me, along with all of his eight other grandchildren who listened, learned, and loved this conflicted, but well-intended, man of heart. 

 

And so, Dear Reader, I say to you, no matter what your career, position, job title, and so forth–none of that matters.  Life is neither what you take from it, nor is it the money you make; rather, life is about the moments you create and the bridges you build for the next generation. 

 

 Be a bridge builder; I fervently pray that I am. 

 

The Bridge Builder

By   Will Allen Dromgoole

 

An old man, going a lone a highway, 

Came, at the evening cold and gray, 

To a chasm vast and deep and wide. 

The old man crossed in the twilight dim, 

The sullen stream had no fear for him; 

But he turned when safe on the other side 

And built a bridge to span the tide.

 

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near, 

“You are wasting your strength with building here; 

Your journey will end with the ending day,

You never again will pass this way; 

You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide, 

Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

 

The builder lifted his old gray head; 

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, 

“There followeth after me to-day, 

A youth whose feet must pass this way. 

This chasm that has been as naught to me 

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be; 

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

 

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A poem that I wrote for Grandmother and Papaw for their 50th wedding anniversary. (I was only 17 years old, so while it is not the best quality, the message still rings true!)

 

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Papaw Slater and me one Christmas.  I would have been in high school, and he was most likely in his 70s at this point, or at least, close to 70.  

Spring Grasses

“You could cover the whole earth with asphalt, but sooner or later green grass would break through.”–Ilya Ehrenburg

 

“Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’”–The Talmud

 

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The largest part of my childhood was spent in a tiny cul-de-sac built into the valley of U-shaped hills.  A creek ran down the back of one side of the neighborhood, and behind it were steep, rocky hills. Along the rear of the opposite side of the neighborhood–the side on which my family and I lived–was a low hill with a gravel road running along its flattened top with tall wooded hills soldiering alongside this.

 

During the summers, my mom ran a fairly tight ship with my three siblings and me, even during the times she wasn’t home.  While we were permitted to sleep-in within reason, we typically had a list of chores to complete, limits on the time we could watch the family TV, and we were, most of all, encouraged–aka ordered–to spend most of our days outside.  Ironically, however, she preferred us to stay in our own yard.

 

Mom told us to get out outside and play!
Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

 

As a parent, I now understand why she enforced this rule, but as a kid, it certainly seemed, “not fair.” Looking back, it seems to me that she wanted to be able to look out one of the windows in our small, ranch-style house and be able to see us. However, there were soft edges to her boundaries that we eventually discovered because–as children do, especially me–we tested those edges for firmness.

 

Typically, we could climb up the moderate hill in our backyard and play on the portion of the “backroad”–as we called it– that was within view of the kitchen window.  It was, in actuality, an extended driveway to a family farm just beyond our neighborhood; thus, the only traffic on this road, as best as I can remember, were those traveling to and from this home.  

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Likewise, we could also play in the street in front of our home.  Again, we needed to be visibly seen from the house–this time from the picture window in the living room–as the only traffic flow was from neighbors traveling to and from the four houses around the top of “the circle,” as we called it, one of which was my own childhood home. 

 

Our summer play varied from year to year as our ages often determined the type of play in which we participated.  During my youngest years, it seems to me that play centered around the yard–often around the larger of the two trees in the front yard, the area around and on our small front porch, or in the backyard where the shady area would expand in the afternoons. These younger years, it seems to me, were filled with mostly imaginative play as we kids played “house,” “school,” and role-played popular shows and/or concepts on TV, such as “war” and “cowboys and Indians,” and other similar ideas.  Afterall, this was the seventies.

 

 During my older years,  it seems that our play occurred often in and alongside the top part of “the street” and “the circle,” especially alongside the front of a split rail fence belonging to one of our neighbors, the Allen’s, that lined their front yard.  These were the summers of riding our bikes up and down the road, as well as playing more organized games; such as, wiffle ball, red light green light, dodgeball, monkey in the middle, football, and the ever-popular kickball. Tempers flared, egos grew quickly–and were just as swiftly deflated–swear words were uttered by the most daring, and time seemed endless. 

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Time seemed endless.

 

Depending upon the year, but especially so during the summer months, once grassy areas would be worn down to flat brown earthen patches due to the heavy foot traffic of kids.  Most years, there was a brown, semi-oval shaped edge to our front yard that rarely held any grass. Likewise, in our backyard, there were bare patches alongside of our house as well as in parts of the backyard that recieved the heaviest footfall and/or wear and tear, such as under and around the swings of our swing set.  On the back road, irregular grassy sprouts would grow in the middle of the road and alongside it, but the path for the tire tracks would be worn smooth except for the gravely rocks. Meanwhile, the Allen’s poor fence line would begin missing patches of grass from the “teams” taking turns standing, sitting, or leaning on their fence, waiting for a turn to “at bat” or to kick.  

 

 

Once school resumed, fall became winter, and less foot traffic stressed yards. Come spring, the grass–albeit sometimes crabgrass–would begin to threaten to fill in those brown patches.  Then, our feet would trod down those areas once more. Eventually, as kids grew, leaving for other locations, I can imagine, as if viewing a time lapse video, the grass triumphed again and again–even with a new generation of kids.  Some areas may have required a bit more TLC, save for back road–assuming it is still used– but nature’s green carpet was sure to have returned; and so will you, Dear Reader. 

 

Eventually, nature’s green carpet would soon return, and so will you, Dear Reader!

 

Throughout one’s life seasons, wear and tear occurs.  There are times in which life can absolutely wear a person down. This can be manifested physically, mentally, and even spiritually.  Moreover, these wearing-down time periods often affect more than one aspect of a person’s being. Fatigue sets in, weariness abounds, and the proverbial grass from the past, in the future, or even the proverbial yards of others’ lives, seem greener and more lush–leaving us clasping and wishing for better, less downtrodden, times.  However, like those brown patches of earth from my childhood, eventually, with time, growth will occur–and that is the fact upon which to focus.

 

According to an old adage, it takes a fire to grow grass around a hydrant.  Likewise, it takes time to bounce back after an abrasive and inflamed time period in life.  Afterwards, you are often not the same person you once were, as you are more informed about life and your own inner strength/resolve. 

 

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Furthermore, it’s worth remembering that there are angels in your life, encouraging you to grow–even at your most worn-down time.  Sometimes these so-called angels can been seen, known, and identified as friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and sometimes, even strangers..  However, there may be other times when you may not realize that so-called angels are guiding, prompting, praying, and nudging you towards regrowth.  

 

You, like each blade of grass, were planted on Earth by The Divine Creator, to grow, change, and bloom into a unique creation.  Like each blade of grass, you are continually transformed by life’s seasonal modifications; but you can, and will, rise–face shining in the sun again.  As a matter of fact, in life’s ultimate conclusion, you will also rise, and angels will still surround you.

 

Don’t give up, Dear Friend, don’t give up.  Angels are everywhere, and new grasses are already sprouting their roots within you. 

green grass
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