The Greatest of These is Love

           “The most important thing in the world is family and love.”—John Wooden

 

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These hearts were found on a set of abandoned steps that must have one time led from a bayside house to a private dock.

 

           As I sat seaside, this past week in Naples, Florida, I watched the tide’s water flow one direction and pull back in opposition; wash in over one child’s sand sculpture, and soon another was built; gush forward over one set of footprints, roll back and a new set of imprints were created. I part-heard/part-felt the cacophony that is the shoreline–equal parts of water resonant, birdcall, breeze, and the tinny of playful, relaxed voices. Clear, bright blue waters melted into vivid green. Vibrant circles of color, as if part of an artist’s palette, dotted sparkling sand.  Dappled areas of bare sand, except for the wooden stakes surrounded by yellow tape, were interspersed throughout the colorful landscape–protected turtle nests.

 

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Protected sea turtle nests dot the shoreline of Naples, FL. Here is one such example.

 

           On June 17, 1989, I married my husband, John.  I was a mere 23 years old, but viewed myself as MUCH older; and, John, at age 27, was positively pushing the needle towards the “old” mark!  Feelings of elation and excitement regarding our future coursed through my soul’s veins. Looking deeply into John’s eyes during our ceremony, I saw an ocean of love in those blue green orbs, and I was overwhelmed with my own reciprocal feelings as we publicly proclaimed our vows.  I tried to clasp the moment . . .

 

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  John and I on June 14, 1989.

 

           Back in Naples, I scooped up water along the shoreline and tried to hold it in my hands.  I tightly sealed my fingers, and still, the water flowed—much like thirty years. 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992 . . .and on the years streamed over smooth, sandy bars of happiness and rough, rocky outcroppings of life challenges.  One house rented was soon left for a mortgage and a new address. One degree earned, was followed by another, followed by still more schooling. Tides of life rolled in as one event followed the outward flow of another.

 

 

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           Ebb and flow.  Inhale and exhale. Sunrise and sunset.  

 

           Soon it was the end of September 1998; something felt different. Habitual morning coffee suddenly became nauseating.  Strong scents, once easily ignored, were now sending me scrambling to find the nearest restroom. Emotions surfaced with more frequency and greater intensity.  What treasure was the tide rolling in our way . . .?

 

 

           Once more, in Naples, I clasped another scoopful of water.  Again, I pressed my fingers firmly together, determined to savor the warmth of the water and not allow it to seep away–similar to the way in which I tried to cling tightly to both pregnancy and our soon-to-be-born daughter, Madelyn.  

          

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           The end of September flowed into the fall of October and November, followed by the winter months, and on into spring. May came and went, and in spite of doctor’s best predictions, the tides of life had not yet revealed the small, sweet person growing within my womb.

           Much in the manner of a sea shell seeker scouring the beach, serenely waiting for the tides to reveal its hidden treasure, so too were John and I instructed to remain patient, potentially for up to two more weeks.  June 1, June 2, June 3 . . . and on the days continued to stream.

 

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Me, June 13, 1999.

 

 

 

           Ebb and flow.  Inhale and exhale.  Sunrise and Sunset.

  

         June 14, 1999.  Sweat drips. My hand entrusted into John’s.  Those eyes, those same eyes from ten years prior, still filled with an endless ocean of love, gaze strongly into mine, sending currents of strength.  Whispered words of encouragement. Clasping onto to those loving words . . .

          Dusk fades into dawn, which gives way to day. One hour followed by another . . .

           Her eyes, alert and curious, met mine for the first time and locked on.  I gazed up at John and back to her. Love at first sight. Unbelievable joy.  A precious baby girl was placed upon my chest as my arms carefully cradled around her.  

 

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This ribbon proudly hung from our hospital door June 14, 1999.

 

           Baby cries and coos part ways for songs and words.  Crib evolved into a toddler bed, which became a double bed.  Board books and storybooks are soon replaced by novels. Bright, primary colored toys give way to dolls and outside play.  Childhood calls as the back door slams. Trees climbed. Flowers picked. Tears and boo-boo kisses. Giggles and laughs. Snuggles and hugs.  Puzzles and games. Creative art corner ever expanding. Textbooks and paper. Prom dresses followed by cap and gown.

 

 

 

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           Ebb and flow.  Inhale and Exhale.  Sunrise and sunset.

           In Naples, turtle nests are protected. Eventually, these eggs will hatch, and the newly born turtles will attempt to make their way to the sea. Many of the turtles will not make it to the water—due to predators, dehydration, and other obstacles.  Those that do make it to sea are not guaranteed survival. From birds to sharks, or other big fish, and from ingesting tar balls to ingesting plastic, only one out of 1,000 baby turtles survive into adulthood. And yet, these nests are ceremoniously protected—to at least give the hatchlings a fighting chance.  

           Truth-be-told, we are all navigating this ocean called life–through smooth, placid waters, to large waves of storms; and from predator-free, wide open currents, to dangers lurking within each undercurrent and sandy shoreline. Just as the sea turtles cannot clasp and remain still in safe waters, neither can we.  Ceremonies, traditions, and rituals often buffer early stages of relationships and families, but these do not guarantee survival. Genuine effort, thought, patience, dialogue, plus a good dose of humor—in addition to love—are just a few of the many tools, humans must employ in order for family relationships to survive.

 

 

         In spite of my best efforts at the beaches of Naples, I was never able to hold onto the seawater for very long.  Similarly, our sweet baby girl and beautiful daughter will no longer be a teenager when these words are read, and she now spends more time away from John and me than with us.  Meanwhile, wrinkles line both John’s and my eyes. Gray incessantly sprouts along my temples and part-line; and John’s hair, once curly and dark, is mostly missing.

 

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           Ebb and flow.  Inhale and exhale.  Sunrise and sunset.

           I still seek, find comfort, and see much love in John’s eyes—those same eyes into which I gazed in June of 1989.  I love those eyes, and the person behind them, even more now. Equally, I am filled with abundant love for my brilliant, beautiful daughter whose eyes locked into mine and overflowed my heart with joy twenty years ago.

           Happy Anniversary, John!  Happy Birthday, Maddie! I love you, both . . .to the moon and back.

             Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.—1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

           

           

           

 

Don’t Quit: A Story of Scaffolding.

           “Be alert. Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.”  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

           “Achievement builds character.  People striving, being knocked down and coming back . . .this is what builds character . . .. In Romans, Paul says that adversity brings on endurance, endurance brings on character, and character brings on hope.”—Tom Landry

           Recently, I was talking with my students about the “scaffolding” they bring to the stories they read.  We were discussing a short story, “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson, that the students had just read. As is often the case with students upon reading this story for the first time, there was great confusion.  In their mind, the word, “Lottery” has a positive connotation. What’s not to love about winning money? However, in Jackson’s story, the students soon come to realize that the word, “lottery,” doesn’t necessarily mean winning money.

           After explaining the notion of scaffolding to my students, as it pertains to reading and writing, I attempted to invite them to see how each person brings to a story their own unique reading and life experiences. If, for example, they had never before heard the word, lottery, used as a negative, then the brain is left to scramble-around trying to make connections of understanding to from their prior experiences to other parts of the story.

 

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

 

           Leading the discussion further, I probed their minds for examples.

           “Have you ever read a story and been reminded of a similar situation, or a similar character, or a similar setting?”

           Heads nodded around the room, and sidebar discussions ensued.

           “At the end of “The Lottery”, it reminded me of the premise of The Hunger Games books and movies.”

           “Yeah, well, that woman’s youngest son made be think about my brother in kindergarten.”

           “Oh, yeah. Totally.  That women who was stoned made me think of that story in the Bible about the woman about to be stoned, and Jesus saves her. . .”

           It occurred to me later, as I was in a conversation with my brother, Scott, how this same notion of scaffolding is true for life.  With each new situation, experience, and/or person we encounter, we bring our own life experiences—even baggage– and make certain assumptions about what will occur. More often than not, these assumptions are often wrong, or at the very least, off-target; and, if we truly pay attention and maintain an open mind, our scaffolding—our understanding—shifts and even expands.  However, if we avoid new situations, new people, new skills, and/or avoid trying new things, then our scaffolding, like those attached to work sites, remain fixed and rigid.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

           I am reminded of the scaffolding along the multi-storied federal building in Huntington, WV, the town in which I work. Several years ago it was renovated for security purposes.  Local traffic along 5th Ave and 8th streets was often altered due to the ever-changing scaffolding. With each phase of the renovation, the shape of the scaffolding and the space it filled varied, changed, and, at times, grew.  It rarely stayed one shape or one level for long. The same is true for us when we try new things, meet new people, or dive into new experiences. Nonetheless, this does not occur without some risk for negative experiences.

           The scaffolding used today in construction looks and is made differently than when high-rise buildings were first built. Accidents, falls, and tragically, even deaths, informed engineers on how to design stronger, safer, more durable, and more reliable scaffolding. The same is true for life.  

 

 

           Does heartbreak hurt? Does injury create pain? Do failures, break-ups, accidents and so forth create misery and/or heart ache? Yes. Yes. Yes.  And yet, it is these very events that teach us the lessons we need in order to grow stronger, more durable, and perhaps even, more dependable, creating greater empathy/understanding, and perhaps even. increase one’s capacity for love.

           A month, or so ago, a friend sent me a devotional-style story that focused on Tom Landry, arguably one of the most successful professional football coaches.  As I read the story, it talked of Landry’s experience with adversity. It described the way in which Landry was treated when he first arrived at Dallas, and the team was not winning.  He was much maligned, vilified, and disparaged for his team’s lackluster performance. However, when his team began to experience success, Landry became the hero in this same public’s eye.  

           The author’s lesson was that Landry was the same person.  He had not changed. Landry had courageously stood firm in his convictions and loved his work, regardless of what others said or thought. While I wholeheartedly agree with that take away, I also think the author skipped another point:  adversity increases personal perseverance, which increases one’s character. Landry knew this; and though the author of the devotional story did not state this, I later read an interview in which Landry made this very point to a reporter.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

           The tendency of human beings, including me, is to resist change, resist pain, and discomfort as well as avoid challenges. And yet, no matter how much we resist and avoid these negative experiences, life still has a way of forcing us to experience these.  Heartache, physical and emotional pain, as well as loss, are all a valid, and important, parts of life. Without them, not only do we lack opportunities to increase our stamina/perseverance, but we lack understanding, empathy, and compassion. Like those first attempts at high-rise construction scaffolding, we are weak, inflexible, and lack strength.  When Landry and his players experienced loss, criticism, and failures, they grew stronger as individuals and as a team. It was from those negative life experiences, that they grew as individuals and as a collective. The same is true for all of us.

           We do not have to be a professional football coach to experience adversity, criticism, and challenges.  These are all part of the human experience. However, we can have faith that if we remain strong in our convictions, act with courage in the face of difficulties, work and interact with others with great love/passion for what is right, our ability (endurance) to withstand difficulties strengthens–expanding our character and increasing our hope.  After all, isn’t hope one of the biggest driving forces throughout history as well as through our own personal story, your personal scaffolding? As the old Japanese proverb says, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

 

Whatever you are going through, Dear Reader, don’t quit.  Don’t. Quit.

           

Students from St. Joseph Catholic Middle School, grades 6-8, recently at an end-of-the-year neon-themed dance.  With each new experience, including this dance, students are developing their scaffolding, understanding, of life.

Mother’s Day Musings 2019

           “In my daughter’s eyes/ I can see the future . . .and though she’ll grow and someday leave . . . When I’m gone I hope you’ll see/ How happy she made/for I’ll be there/ in my daughter’s eyes.”–James T. Slater as sang by Martina McBride

           Driving home from Ashland Brown Dog Yoga on Saturday morning.  I had just finished teaching two classes, and the upbeat attitudes of the participants never fail to enthuse and infuse me with positive vibes. Therefore, I was floating on good energy during my 30-minute traverse along OH243, mentally creating my checklist for when I arrived home.

           Quick bath. Add toiletries to overnight bag. Grab lunch from fridge to eat while John drives.  Gather towels to wash Sunday upon return home. Refill water bottle. Set dishwasher to run after midnight.  Unplug . . .Oh, man, I should call Mom. She had a couple of doctor’s appointments this week . . .

 

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My mom, Dolores Scherer, and my daughter, Madelyn together taken in January of this year.

 

           Talking hand-free to my mom as I continued my drive, we flitted in and out of multiple topics, meandering away from one subject, but then circumnavigating back to other unfinished subjects as if each topic was a colorful strand of a woven tapestry—typical of our mom-daughter conversation style. It occurred to me as we talked, how she and I communicate much in the same manner as my daughter, Madelyn and me.  In fact, I had just talked to Maddie only moments earlier upon exiting BDY.

           “Okay, Mom, I just want to update you on the plans for today and tomorrow.  I’ve already talked to Dad; and, oh, before I forget, did you know . . .”

 

Pictures from the early days/experiences with Maddie at Bethany college.

 

           John, my husband and Maddie’s father, and I would be heading to Bethany College about thirty minutes outside of Wheeling, WV as soon as I arrived home and was ready.  Maddie is winding down her second year of college; and, with the approach of finals, we were making the four-hour drive to gather most of her dorm room supplies to bring home.  This would allow her to bring the last little bit of her belongings home in her compact car once she completed her finals during the middle of our workweek.

 

 

           Maddie and I had spoken several times throughout the past week figuring out how to best coordinate with her schedule as she had several events to attend at her sorority house over the weekend as well as the fact she needed to study for two finals occurring on Monday.  As is often the case, John and I have learned with the whole college experience, it best to not attach to one plan as these are often fluid every changing/ever moving. Kind like parenting . . . Kind of like the conversations I have with my mother . . .with my daughter . . .like I used to have with my grandmother . . .

 

         Eating at El Paso Mexican Grille the night before we packed most of Maddie’s things for John and I to bring home while she stayed on and finished finals.   Pictured:  John and me; Jillian (Maddie’s room mate) and Maddie; me and Maddie getting silly.

 

Moving day on Sunday morning: Jillian, Gigs, and Maddie at the ready to load up John’s truck.

           Listening to mom’s story about her last doctor appointment of the week.  She talked of losing her family doctor, the same one she has had since she married, Jim, my stepdad.  It was nothing personal, in fact, the doctor had expressed to mom her deep sorrow for leaving Jim and mom, but she needed to move on to another position in order to improve her work-life balance.  

 

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My mom, Dolores Scherer, and her husband, my stepdad, Jim Scherer taken a year or two earlier.

 

           “Who can blame her?” mom said.  “I remember being in my 50s and juggling multiple jobs.  After a while . . .” mom’s voice trailed off. Soon she veered into a seemingly unrelated story about her doctor and her daughter’s fondness for the musical, Wicked  . . .

           “Leaving her office,” Mom said, “I put my hand on her shoulder and said, ‘Because I knew you. . .’”

           Tears filled my eyes as I understood the reference.  Mom, Maddie, and I had seen Wicked a couple of years ago in Cincinnati.   One of the most beautiful songs, and our favorite, in the musical is entitled, “For Good.”  

           “Let me say before we part/So much of me/Is made of what I learned from you/You’ll be with me now/Like a handprint on my heart/And now whatever way our stories end/I know you have rewritten mine . . .”

 

         Maddie, my mom, Dolores Scherer, and me saw Wicked in the fall of 2017 in Cincinnati.

  

         We talked some more, reflecting of her numerous trips with my Dad to pick me up from Ohio University in Athens, and that led me to briefly flash back to my two years after college living my grandparents. Refocused, we talked more about her doctor’s parting recommendations. Yes, she had already spoken to Mom’s new doctor.  Mom was assured Jim and she would be in good hands. “Handprint on my heart. . . .”

 

    Recent photos of my mom with Maddie, my younger sister, Rachel, and one of my nieces, Naomi.

 

           Her words led my mind to quickly wander back to an earlier moment of that morning.  I had looked down at my hands during the course of teaching yoga as the lyrics of, “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” began to fill the studio’s sound system from the songs of my class playlist, and in that moment, my eyes had also filled with tears at the significance this song once held, and still holds, in my own life.

 

           “In my daughter’s eyes . . .I know no fear/But the truth is plain to see/She was sent to rescue me/I see who I want to be /In my daughter’s eyes . . .”

 

           For my mom, there is no mom to call; and, yet, when I look at my mom, I see my Grandmother’s eyes there.  No they are not as milky as Grandmother’s were in the end, but it’s in the way Mom’s eyes light up at the sight of her family, her kids, her grandkids . . .the way I hope mine do when I see my daughter; and Maddie says, “Aw, mom, you’re not going to cry, are you?’

 

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My mom’s mom, “Grandmother,” my sister, Traci, me, and my Mom taken many years ago.

 

          I am forever changed by these remarkable women.  Their voices, forever a resident in my heart: Grandmother Helen’s, “Stethie, I’ll let you go get that for me at the store” . . ..  Mom’s, “Stephanie Rene, have you finished straightening your bedroom yet? What are you still doing in that closet looking at those books?” . . . . Madelyn’s, “Hey, mom, I’ve just got to vent for a moment. Listen to this . . .”

“I love you, Grandmother” . . .”I love you, Mom” . . .”I love you, Maddie” . . . .

         “ . . .It’s hanging on when your heart has had enough/ It’s giving more when you feel like giving up/I’ve seen the light/ It’s in my daughter’s eyes.”

“. . . You’ll be with me/ Like a handprint on my heart . . .”

           Happy Mother’s Day to all.

 

 

           

           

 

Encouragement is a verb

           “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encouraging one another; especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”  Hebrew 10:24-25 (NLT)

           “One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.”—Simone De Beauvoir

           They have arrived, via text, nearly daily for two weeks.  Daily devotionals sent my way courtesy of a family friend.  Some of the readings are better than others, but all brighten my day simply because this person is trying to offer a bit of positivity and inspiration into my day.  However, there are times, due to their length, that I cannot read them at the time they are sent because my schedule varies significantly from his. Therefore, I often do not read get to read the devotional until bedtime.  I figure, regardless of the time of day, it is still a worthwhile task.

 

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           Task: job, chore, responsibility, undertaking . . . My day is filled with mental and written lists of things to do.  In fact, I start my day by looking over the post-it note of goals for the day and week listed the prior afternoon/evening before leaving work. Even still, driving to work, my mind is already scrolling through thoughts of what I will do when I first arrive, followed by what I will do next, followed by the next task, and so on.  The same is true for my planning period without students, my time after school, my time driving home. However, the one so-called responsibility that I most value is that of encouraging.

 

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           To that end, however, there are times; I am so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paperwork, computer tasks of documentation and communication, and the constraints of deadlines and times, that I misplace my priorities.  Thus, one recent night, as I rested in bed before turning off the light, finally reading the daily devotional sent to me, I came to face-to-face with what I love to preach, but allow the noise of the must-dos to hypnotize me into forgetting: encourage is a verb.

 

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           Reading the words from Hebrews 10: 24-25, there was my reminder in black and white.  “Let us think of ways to motivate one another . . ..”  Boy does the world need that now, more than ever.  Distractions abound all around. From the dings of texts to the bleeps of another email filling the inbox; from a screen flash of a calendar reminder of an upcoming event to another job-related task/deadline added to the reminder app; and, from rushing off to fulfill another commitment/appointment to bustling away from the work desk in order to acquire at least some time to maintain certain living rituals, it seems everyday life often creates both outer and inner noise that fill, and sometimes even, numbs us to the value of a kind word, a gentle pat/hug/embrace, or even a genuine smile that truly offers a moment of encouragement.

 

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         Two days later, after mulling over this devotion, I was seated in a yoga class, that I was teaching, sharing the following words before beginning the practice:  “You are not there.  You are here. Be here.  Be all here.”  As I saw the words sink-in and resonate with the students around me, I began to shift inwardly as my own inner ear perked up. Hmm . . .I hate it when my own words teach me as the weight of what I was sharing wrapped around my heart like my favorite warm, softly fuzzy sweatshirt. Be.  All. Here. And, how does that fit into encouragement as a verb?

 

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           As that day progressed, and really, into the next day, the words kept returning like the peal of the 5:00 pm church bells along 5th Ave in Huntington, WV.  Family, and a couple of my daughter’s friends, was gathering at my home that evening. Be. All. Here. Encouragement.

           I would like to write a picture perfect ending stating that I spent the rest of the weekend in perfect presence with all who were visiting my house.  Additionally, I would like to say that I floated about my home offering wise words of wisdom and encouragement to all. Cue the rousing and heart-wrenching music, but that would NOT be true.

 

           Still, I was keenly aware of the sweet sensation of an arm around a waist, the warmth of an embrace, the way smiles and laughter are contagious, and the special buzzing sensation that comes with conversation among and between people who are genuinely interested in supporting and uplifting one another.  By the last good-bye around noon on Sunday, as John smiled broadly, wrapped me up in his arms, and said, “Ah, Steph, this was a good weekend,” it felt full-circle-good.

 

 

          We had done nothing great, nothing fancy, and offered no great life-changing words.  Instead, we opened our home, we offered our hearts, we shared a simple meal or two, and swapped a gaggle of stories and laughter. That is the magic dust for forming memories.  My stack of ungraded papers never changed. This piece I am now writing, had yet to be written. Several loads of laundry were still in need of tackling. Weeds still needed pulled. Dust and dirt weren’t disappearing.  And, somehow, none of it mattered . . ..

           Ok, so, yes, as I write this, I am already worried, anxious, and a bit stressed about the to-dos, but I would not change a thing.  Not. One. Thing.

           

          

           

 

Stolen Identity: A Divine Inspired Lesson

           “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”—1 John 3:1 NIV

 

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As seen on Instagram at oneminddharma.

 

          They are in my house again.  The two men with nasty sneers and malevolent eyes are ordering John and me to do things against our will. Both of us have been struck repeatedly.  John has blood trickling from his nose, and blood has filled my mouth from my banged-up bottom lip, still smarting from the latest smack I received when I screeched for them to quit.

            “Stop it! Stop it, now! You’re hurting him.”

           These thugs smell vile as if they have bathed in alcohol, tobacco, and body odor.  John is trying to resist their orders because he knows it is wrong. The one with the shaved head is wearing a black t-shirt with a red face emoji that has xxxx in the place of a mouth. He is the one who slapped me, and his coarse hands are now pushing me out of the room and into the bedroom away from John and the man with long, dark greasy ponytail.  I’ve got to get back to John some way. I’ve got to figure out how to get away from this man. His touch reviles me. His smell makes me want to vomit, but it is his negative, dark energy, emanating off him like the stream of dribbles left on the street by garbage trucks in the summertime, that most fills me with terror. Must. Figure. Something. Out.

 

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

 

           I hear John scream from our dining room. What has happened to him? Must. Get. To. Him. Now!  I open my mouth to scream, but I have no voice. No voice. Nothing comes out—not even a squeak. I am as voiceless as the emoji face on the evil man’s shirt. Meanwhile the stinky, rotten man laughs menacingly . . .

           Once more I try to shout, then my cat, Tippi Tail begins to walk on my legs, adjusting to get comfortable, and I am awake, soaked in my own sweat.  My heart is racing; my hands are tightly gripped.

           “Wake up, Steph,” I think reflexively.  Crawling out of bed, I grab a drink of water from my nightstand, and walk to the bathroom. It is the same basic nightmare I have repeatedly experienced for weeks.  Each occurrence has its own twist, but all end in me trying to scream, but I have no voice. How deeply symbolic.

 

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Photo by Rafael Guajardo on Pexels.com

 

           A month or so ago, many of our accounts were hacked.  From Facebook to Instagram, from Netflix to Amazon, and even one of our bank cards—all essentially stolen.  Porn was posted on my husband’s social media accounts. Netflix went from three users to five, all of whom required Spanish-speaking shows.  Numerous attempted purchases appeared on our Amazon and bank accounts. Thank heavens for our local, Chesapeake, Ohio, PNC bank branch in which Tammy, and all of the other employees, take great care of our family.

           Even with all of the great help/support from PNC, my husband has not yet returned to social media; and, we still cannot get Amazon completely corrected because trying to get an actual person who cares enough to truly help you at this big corporation is nearly an impossible task, we are finding.  The days and weeks that followed have left of us filled with much stress, worry, and many sleepless nights as we continue into week four of trying to get Amazon fully corrected.

 

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Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

 

           Stolen Identity.  While I am not sure if this is the exact title that would most accurately describe what happened to us, something was stolen nonetheless.  Life has been different since then—filled with a series of actions, follow through steps, waiting, hoping, and praying that everything will just return to normal.  And yet, the reality is that time has never, nor will ever, return to the-way-things-were. Life is in a constant state of flux. So why do we often think in terms of I-just-want-things-to-go-back-to-normal?

         Life, as illustrated in these pictures, is in constant change.

 

           This concept of stolen identity led me down the proverbial rabbit hole of thought.  What about other forms of stolen identity? For example, I am reminded of my Grandfather, whose personality, mind, and even bodily functions, were gradually overtaken by Alzheimer’s. In a similar vein, I have considered all of the athletes, both amateur and professional, whose lives are turned upside down and forever changed by injury.  Who are they if they are no longer an athlete? For that matter, what about the person who simply retires from a given career path? Who are they without their job?

           I am reminded of the few people I know who have experienced traumatic brain injury.  Often, they never return to their former self. Then, there are the numbers of people I have known who battled, or are battling, cancer.  I would conjecture that life with, and even after cancer, must be a forever-changing experience. The same must be true for those battling with multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, and so forth.  I guess the point is, we are all one injury, one diagnosis, or even one event away from experiencing a so-called thief stealing our identity.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

           All of these thoughts have been swirling around my mind and heart for weeks.  I think that is why I continue to have the recurring night terror. Then, this past weekend, my heart was quite literally and figuratively filled with a reminder.

           It came at the closing of a yoga class that I was teaching on Saturday morning in Ashland, KY at Brown Dog Yoga.  At the end of class, with eyes closed, I asked the students to place one of their hands on top of their heart. I shared with them the story of how I learned, during yoga teacher training, that each individual’s heartbeat is unique. Every person creates a signature ECG, and much like one’s fingerprint, no two ECGs are exactly alike.  

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

           Adding the following words, “This means you are infinitely and beautifully inscribed as a child of God.  You are special. Only you can bless the world in the way God created you to do.” My own words, no doubt, Divinely inspired, provided a powerful reminder for me, and I hope for you too, Dear Reader.  

           No matter what changes life is throwing at you as you are reading this, please remember the following. Each of us is a singular, divinely created being.  There is no one like Y-O-U. And throughout all of life’s changes, something doesn’t change, and that is the fact that you are a uniquely crafted soul created and cared for by a Supreme Being.  No one else can be you. No one else can bring to the table of life what you, and your experience brings. So use those changes, use your Supremely created self to find your own way to bless the world.  Heaven knows, the world sure could use a blessing or two.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

           

           

Life is in a state of constant change, but in spite of all the changes, something doesn’t change, and that is the fact each of us is a Divinely inspired and unique creation.

 

Birdsong: A Tune of Spring Renewal

           “The Sun after the rain is much beautiful than the Sun before the rain.”—Mehmet Murat IIdan

           “Give food to the birds, you will then be surrounded by the wings of love, you will be encompassed by the joys of little silent heart!”—Mehmet Murat IIdan

           “There’s the robins,” my husband said recently in a singsong voice typically reserved for animals.  It is such a simple phrase that hearkens back to my childhood; and yet, plants me in the here and now.

 

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As seen on TrekOhio.com

 

           Before meeting John, there were two men in my life who introduced me to nature, my Papaw, as I called him, and my Dad.  As a child, I spent quite a bit of time with my grandparents. Papaw loved to watch the birds. He usually kept a bird feeder year round in his backyard, just outside the kitchen window.  During the winter months, he was often known to go outside and chase away the blue jays.

 

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As seen on All About Birds

 

           “The meanest bird there ever was,” he was fond of explaining.

           Ah, but the arrival of the robins got Papaw jazzed.

           “Stethie,” as he called me, “spring’s not too far off when the robins come back.”

           He would linger over the draining rack as he dried dishes that my grandmother washed.  Steam would be rising over the chilled window panes of glass as his eyes twinkled watching the robins.   

           “Lookie how red the breast is on that one.”

           “Notice how they sing even though it is still cold.”

           “Notice, look, lookie-here . . .”

           My Dad was also fond of birds, but he would sometimes take my siblings and me “on the hill,” as we called it, for Sunday afternoon walks especially in the spring and fall.  He would encourage us to notice the trees—their leaf shape, their bark texture; notice the moss—where it grew, how it felt, the different ways it could look; pick up and examine the seeds and nuts that were tossed pell-mell; notice the early spring flowers poking through the detritus of the forest floor . . .

 

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           “Did you hear the woodpecker?” Dad would ask us.  “Let’s see if we can find it,” as our eyes scanned the tree arms above.

 

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As seen in Ohio on FeederWatch

 

           Therefore, on a recent night this past mid-March week, as John, my husband, and I sat on the front porch enjoying the warmth, the sunshine, and the birds, my mind drifted to those feathered friends of Papaw and the hilltop hikes with my dad.

           “Listen to the robins sing, Steph.”

            “Look at those two robins in the grass fighting for mating rites.”

           I sighed, taking it all in.

 

 

           The multi-layered, billowy clouds above; the willows’ early greenings; the skeleton appendages of the other trees, full of dark buds just waiting to burst through; the bite of the breeze that caused John and me to shiver; it was all so glorious and grounding during the midst of a difficult week.

           “Look!” I exclaimed to John.

           “There’s a bluebird couple!”

           “No wait, there’s four blue birds on the line!”

 

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You have to look closely. Three of the four bluebirds are in this image. We always look forward to their return.

 

           As I crept from one end of the porch to the other, in order to capture a picture of them, I happened to see another bird couple, house finches, in our lilac bush. I motioned for John to come look, but he didn’t notice.  

           Therefore, I tried to gain his attention with a whispered, “Psst!”

           While it did gain John’s attention, it was too much noise.  A flash of both bright and dull cobalt blue fluttered into flight; followed in suit by a flicker of pinkish red and gray, one more vibrantly colored than the other.  

 

House finches, can be seen, if you look closely, singing in our lilac bush.

 

           Returning to my chair, John said, “Look, Steph, aren’t those gold finches with the dipping and darting flight you like so well?”

           Our conversation and observations continued until the growling of stomach told me, we needed to eat the dinner already prepared and staying warm in the kitchen.  John lingered a bit longer as I reluctantly, and yet, joyfully, parted from my porch perch. My soul felt grounded and renewed from those 30 or so minutes of observing, noticing, and listening—and, all those other verbs of nature-love Papaw and Dad taught.

 

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           Walking into the entrance of my home, I shook my head. Oh, how both Papaw, now in his eternal spring; and Dad, wintering in the Florida sunshine, would have enjoyed such natural theater of that evening. How very marvelous and precious the season of spring has become!  What a gift of time John and I shared on that rare March evening surrounded by hints of spring. Such a metaphor for life . . ..

           “God, make me brave for life: oh, braver than this.  Let me straighten after pain, As a tree straightens after the rain, shining and lovely again.  

           God, make me brave for life; much braver than this.  As the grass lifts, let me rise From sorrow with quiet eyes, knowing Thy way is wise.

           God, make me brave, life brings Such blinding things.  Help me to keep my sight; Help me to see aright That out of dark come light.”—Grace Noll Crowell

 

            

           

           

 

Come Back to Your Breath: A Return to Meditation

           “Breathing in, I am aware of my body. Breathing out, I release the tension in my body.”—Thich Nhat Hanh

           “Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives.  You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life.”—Thich Nhat Hanh

 

           “Come back to your breath.”

           It was a simple direction, but powerful nonetheless.  I was in the middle of a fairly intense yoga class. Could the instructor read my mind because I had wandered into thoughts; and thinking, for me, can be a source of positivity or, as is more often the case, a source of negativity and defeat.  

 

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As seen on Instagram at thichnhathanh.bot

 

          I often give a similar instruction when I am teaching yoga.

           “Focus on your breath.  If thoughts enter your mind, brush them away as if they are food crumbs on the table of your mind.”  

           And yet, how very often do I practice this? How often do I ruminate on lists of things to do for school and other work, for home, for my daughter, for my husband, for when-I-get-home, for when-the-weekend-gets-here  . . . On and on the mental post-it notes stick in my mind in the same way they adorn my work desk, my notebooks, and sometimes throughout my home. Must do, gotta remember, can’t forget . . .Oh, those lists; and I haven’t even made it to the lists of worries; the lists of things for which I should feel guilty; the lists of oh-I-wish-I-would-have-thought-to-do . . .. All this mental inventory and babble!  

 

Like the lists that adorn my notebooks, kitchen counters, and work desk, my mind is often filled with post-it notes of mental lists.

 

          Of all people, I should know better! After all, I spent a large portion of 2018 in yoga teacher training (YTT), which had a huge emphasis on mindfulness and meditation.   In fact, during this time period, I was an avid meditator with a daily practice emphasizing breath work. As a matter of fact, I had a couple of years of meditation under my belt before starting YTT, and yet, here I was standing in a yoga class with my monkey mind as it dashed, darted, and dipped.  

 

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As seen on Instagram at thichnhathanh.bot

 

           Momentarily, my racing mind, as if it were a bird in flight alighting upon a tree limb, landed on a phrase by Thich Nhat Hanh, the author of hundreds of books on mindfulness and meditation.  In fact, at the end of my YTT training, each student, in our group of 20, received a mini-book with excerpts from his numerous books.

           “This is an in-breath.  This is an out-breath.”

 

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Both the book and the heart were gifts from my instructors at the end of YTT training at Brown Dog Yoga. They are on my work desk as a reminder of what I had not been doing for nearly 3 months.

 

           As I repeated those words, my awareness shifted its focus to my breath.  So simple, yet so energy shifting. Without realizing it, I lost the words as I continued to follow the breath—which of course is the point. Lose the words along with the chattering thoughts. Albeit, it was brief, because my mind is so addicted to its thoughts, worries, and fears.  However, with the brevity came the recognition that in order to be of service to others, as well as myself, I needed to return to a regular mindfulness practice–one that included more meditation.

 

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As seen on Instagram at thichnhathanh.bot

 

          Yes, I had a whole routine of prayers, petitions, and points of focus that I did daily each time I drove first thing in the morning.  I mean, I even turn the radio off for heaven’s sake to ensure my mind is not distracted, so I can fully concentrated on my murmurings.  Plus, each week at mass, I also wholly devote myself to prayers and meditations—ok, ok, semi-wholly . . . ok, more like, well, like the squirrels that scamper throughout our school’s grounds skittering around from one thought to the next. Truth be told, I had been lying to myself for several month as guilt washed over me.  Great, another point to add to list of things for which to feel guilty!

 

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As seen on Instagram at thichnhathanh.bot

 

           Time to get back on the proverbial wagon. After honest reflection, I realized I could not make meditation-time another item on my many running post-it lists of things-to-do-for-the-day.  It would then run the risk of becoming a daily point of pressure for which to create an excuse for not doing—I don’t have time for twenty minutes, so why bother at all? What could I do then?

           “Come back to your breath.”

           Wait, could it really be that simple? What if I set a timer for five minutes in the morning before showering?  Then, for five minutes sit and focus on breathing-in and breathing-out; and, actually practice what I preach. If  . . .I mean, when, because I do know my mind . . .when thoughts enter my mind, I push them away as if they are food crumbs on the mind of my table—just for five minutes; or three minutes, if need be.  

 

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Could I set a time for five minutes and meditate?

 

           As I write this, I am three days in to this practice.  Ironically, I ended up sitting all three days for 10-15 minutes focusing on the breath and pushing away those pesky mental post-it notes of thoughts. Afterwards, I have felt more grounded, focused, and less anxious.  Oh-to-be-certain, all those lists were still there! However, for the time that I focused on the in-breath and the out-breath, they did not exist. And, that, for now, is good enough. That said, I fully recognize that there will be days when five minutes will be all that I manage, but this is how one returns to a habit that has been lost—at least how I know I can realistically.

 

There are numerous apps and youtube videos on meditations that can be of great assistance. . .if I would actually use them!

 

           In fact, this simple practice of focusing on breathing in and breathing can be accomplished anywhere, even at those dang-blasted red lights that prevent me from getting home quickly after a long day away.   As Hanh points out, “The in-breath can be a celebration of the fact that you are alive, so it can be very joyful.” And, while there are numerous other benefits from a regular meditation practice supported by science that can be found with a quick click of computer keys, I’ll start with a bit more joy!

 

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As seen on Instagram at thichnhathanh.bot

           

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An image my daughter, Madelyn, painted for me several years ago when she was just starting to explore painting–which is a form of mindfulness–and, when I first began to dabble in meditation.

 

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An OM, given to me by a dear friend, adorns my kitchen, and it serves as a reminder of the importance of meditation on the mind, heart, and soul.

Life, Like Lightening, Strikes Quickly

              “Here hyacinths of heavenly blue, shook their rich tresses to the morn.”—James Montgomery

              “Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”—Marcus Aurelius

              Tuesday morning.  It was John’s birthday—my husband of nearly thirty years.  We had celebrated his sister, Jacki’s, and his birthdays earlier in the week, but as I wished him a “Happy Birthday” that morning, I was struck by the number of birthdays we had celebrated together in our marriage.  Later, that same day at school, when one of our much younger co-workers asked if John was 49 years old and holding, the look of amazement in her eyes when he stated he was 57, struck me as ironic. John and I were once the young staff members; now we are the veterans. The realization of this notion did not fully sink in . . .yet.

 

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Mike McCabe, left; John, center; and Steve McCabe, right pictured together at their annual get-together always right around John’s birthday. They have all been friends since high school.

 

              Thursday afternoon.  As I was waiting for a fitness class to start at Brown Down Yoga, I looked around the room.  There were women of all ages present, but I was struck by a pair of younger women who were clearly, based upon their conversation, teachers.  My eyes kept being drawn to how very young they looked. Surely, they were not old enough to have a college degree, much less already be current educators. Then, from a deep cavity of personal recollections, I inwardly smiled as I recalled the fact the fact that I had been like them at one time in my life. In fact, during my first year as a teacher at a local high school, many staff members, who did not know me, would ask for my hall pass. What a memory!

 

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A picture of me from my third or fourth of year of teaching.

              

              Friday morning. Our priest, Monsignor Dean, walked behind the pulpit to speak.  The school had surprised him with a gift after our weekly mass (church service) in honor of his 67th birthday. He spoke with a clear voice, but his face was unmistakably caught in a reverie.  His words were full of sentiment and wistfulness.

              Monsignor described celebrating his first birthday in Huntington.  He had been in third grade, and was home sick with the mumps—quite a disappointment for a young lad on such a highly anticipated event.  His dad gave him a hyacinth that year. With great emotion, he described how on his walk over to the church that morning he passed a hyacinth, newly sprouting from the ground and was reminded of his dad as well as the bittersweet taste of the passage of time.  I swallowed hard as I felt the powerful implication of this words when he added, “It seems like that was only yesterday when Dad gave me that flower.”

 

 

               After mass, I found a hyacinth outside one of the church doors.     

 

             Saturday morning.  I held and read the three names I was given: Hospitalman Luke Emch, KIA 03/02/20017; Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder, KIA 03/03/2006; and, Sergeant Joshua V. Youmans, KIA 03/01/2006.  I listened as other voices took turns reading 33 more names of women and men killed in action on March 1-3 since 2011 in the circle of remembrance. We were all preparing, in some way, to participate in an over 3-½-mile run/walk of the wear blue: run to remember Ashland community monthly outing. These names would be carried in our hearts as we took purposeful steps in honor and remembrance of their ultimate sacrifice.  Once more I felt the constriction of my throat as I fought back the emotion.

 

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wear blue: run to remember Ashland community for March: Front Row–Sandy Mers, Carrie Kyne, Kathy Dingess-Akers with Gus; Back Row–Debbie Davis, Melissa Colyer, Josh Skeens, Valerie Carson, me, Mark Gaffney, & Peyton Gaffney

 

              Who was I to complain about the quick passage of time?  Their families would give nearly anything to have more time to spend with their fallen loved one, no matter how many gray hairs or wrinkles acquired along the way.  How fortunate I was to be alive; to be present in that moment; to have spent nearly 30 years of marriage with my husband; to have both of my parents and step-parents alive; to have all of my siblings still alive; to have a beautiful daughter in college; to be able to work and contribute to society and my local community in a meaningful way . . .how very fortunate, indeed.

 

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Me with my daughter, Madelyn, on her most recent visit home from college.

 

              A couple of hours later.  Driving home from Ashland on US 52 I was struck by the number of times I had traversed this route over the years from age four until now—nearly fifty years of traveling this road.  Memories of driving to and from holiday and birthday celebrations in order to be with grandparents and extended family; church events; numerous visits to our pediatrician when I was a kid; years of driving to and from Ohio University; anticipating my latest haircut as I drove to Ironton; dates between my now husband and me . . . .how many more miles will I travel this route until it is my last?

 

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              Then, the song came on.  “Lightning Crashes,” by Live—the haunting imagery; its striking lyrics; the emotional voice . . . and, that is when the tears could no longer be held back.  It was a song from oh-so-long-ago. A song I often played when I first started writing in my forties to begin to crawl out of the deep despair of depression into which I had fallen after the death of one of my precious kindergarten students—the exact same age as my daughter.  I thought of his final trip down this highway. My mind raced to the final mile of the men and women whose names I had read just hours ago. What was their final mile? Was there an angel with each of them as they crossed over, calming their fear? I would like to believe this is true.

              I thought of the loved ones I have already lost in this life.  My dear grandparents and sweet mother-in-law, uncles, aunts, neighbors, friends . . . Do they know I still think of them?  Do they know they mattered? And, in the end, will my life have mattered?

              Tears flowed. The miles rolled.  Life streams through my clasping hands.

                             “Oh now feel it, comin’ back again/ Like a rollin’, thunder chasing the wind/Forces pullin’ from/The center of the earth again/I can feel it.”—Lyrical excerpt from “Lightning Crashes” as performed by Live

 

More images from the wear blue: run to remember Ashland community March event

 

              

              

 

Play Shuffle, Life

           “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.  One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

           Remember when the IPod was introduced, and the way we consumed music was forever transformed.  Years of listening to the radio, or even an album, where another person controlled the sequence and timing of songs without, per se, personal input, was revolutionized.  The consumer could now choose songs for download, create personal playlists for any occasion, and if desired, could even shuffle all those songs, those playlists, those genres into a Golden Corral of sorts, where all types of music could be sampled, and if the appetite was big enough, voraciously devoured. And, like a buffet, one could simply skip over any song nugget that did not fit one’s current craving with the push of a button.

 

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          Along a similar path, I recall the days of typing papers.  Ugh! Even my master’s degree was completed with an electric typewriter.  Personally, I spent hours, taking random notes/facts and writing them on individual note cards with sources listed on the back as my long-ago high school English teacher, Mr. Wheeler, taught me to do. Then, I’d lay them all out on the floor, or dining room table, and begin the process of arranging, rearranging, and grouping these cards into potential sections of the paper. Next, I’d label each stack, and arrange them into what seemed like a logical order.  Finally, I’d used stacks of notebook paper to write out some semblance of a rough draft long hand style—and, yes, arrange and rearrange those pages. All of this before even sitting down to type! And, oh, heaven help my typing skills (Sorry, Tana Lewis, you tried to force my fingers to type 45-65 words per minute without an error in your Typing 1 class, but, alas, I am still an over-thinking-lack-of-confidence-error-ridden typist!)

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

           The digital age has changed life in dramatic ways as I reflect over all of the rapid change I have witnessed over five decades.   I can now pay, or use a “free-version” (with, of course, commercial ads), of various music services, if I desire, rather than downloading individual songs or albums.   These services will even suggest songs I might like—allowing me, like that Golden Corral buffet, to sample a bit of this album or a morsel of that genre without increasing my cost.

 

 

           Furthermore, when writing and/or researching, I can copy, cut, paste, delete, and rearrange to my heart’s delight.  Multiple sources filled with facts, data, and anecdotal evidence can be easily and quickly be found, validated, and bookmarked.  No longer do I have to buy nearly a forest-worth of paper, note cards, and notebooks. I just click a key, touch a screen, or scroll with my finger, and voila, information in less than a second!  Why, it almost tempts me to go back to school just to research and write papers. Hmm . . . Stephanie Musick, Hill, PhD, does have a ring to it . . .wait a minute . . .nah . . . I think I’ll shuffle on to a different life tune.

 

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           My current rabbit-hole of thoughts regarding shuffling, cutting, pasting, and even buffets, led to me to a recent lesson—a lesson I am still struggling to learn:  l-i-f-e. Those playlists and even writing projects, such as this, can be carefully controlled. Click—add a song; click—no, delete it, and put it here; or likewise, click—change the word; click—find a quote; click—no, there has to be a better way to say it; click, click, click, click—delete the phrase; click, click click—ah, that sounds better this way.

 

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Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

 

           Life is not so easily arranged, manipulated, and/or controlled.  Sure, as humans, we like to think we are in control. We believe we can arrange our schedules, our goals, our days, and our lives into precisely sequenced time-slots of events. However, like the shuffle option on our favorite way to consume music, life is full of randomness.  Sometimes, we are lulled by days, months, or even years (if we’re lucky) of sweet sounding summer-like tunes like time spent with gentle surf, warm sunshine, and not-too-hot sand. Yet, even that ideal beach shoreline, continuously changes due to storms, rough water, high tides, strong winds, and pollution; and still, tourist go back year after year.

 

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As seen on Instagram by positiveenergyalways

 

           Like the beach of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s eloquent quote, we must remain open to the possibilities.  Grasping and attaching to “the story of life” as arranged by our mind, often leads to suffering, anxiety, and even fear–especially of the unknown.  And, while the sea of life, can certainly shuffle-in storms, debris, high-waters, and random pieces of trash, it can also offer up beautiful shells of memories for collecting, calm water moments for soaking, and the soothing sounds of comfort.

 

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          While we cannot create and sequence the so-called perfect a playlist or word-document of life, we can be open to the shuffle of it, the buffet of its opportunities, the ebb and flow of its waters; and in that openness, we can find songs of joy, words of praise, and a uniquely crafted, tension-filled story of adventure with its own dynamic soundtrack penned by the Ultimate Divine Hand of Creation offered to us with love.  

 

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As seen on Instagram @ postiveaffirmations101

 

           Life is unfolding and, well, shuffling, as it should.   I often forget this, but I know in my core, this is true.  And while I may never attain perfection in remembering this, I can work towards progress—progress of learning to accept, nibble, and even savor all the varied and unpredictable tastes life offers up.

 

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As seen on Instagram @ postiveenergyalways

A community to remember and honor

        “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”—Lao Tzu

        “wear blue: run to remember is a national nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military. wear blue: run to remember creates a support network for military members and their families; it bridges the gap between military and civilian communities and it creates a living memorial for our country’s fallen military members. wear blue: run to remember exists for the fallen, for the fighting and for the families.”—excerpt from wearblueruntoremember.org

 

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       Aw . . .January . . .the month where many people begin or renew health and wellness goals.  Gyms, yoga studios, health clubs, and outdoor running/walking/biking paths are often overflowing with the vigor and excitement of New Year’s resolutions.  The gluttony of holidays is now replaced with better, healthier habits and goals.

 

 

 

 

        Personally, while I rarely, per se, establish New Year’s resolutions, I do find I have increased motivation and renewed excitement for my own personal health goals.  Additionally, I use the start of the New Year as a time to reflect upon my current habits and look for ways to refine, improve, and if needed, change/adjust current practices for physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.

        

        At one point in my adult life, running was part of my fitness regime, including running a local marathon to celebrate turning 50.  I loved that most races in which I participated benefitted a local charity, so that my training/running felt as if it served a purpose greater than my own personal gain. However, a back injury brought running to a quick and unforeseen hiatus.  While I dream of one day returning to the world of running, I fully recognize that most forms of movement, including walking, offer numerous benefits to the body, mind, and soul. Thus, I have learned to accept my current physical state and fully recognize that I still have the gift of life.  A back injury is a minor life setback compared to other more life-altering experiences. Still, I remember the challenge and the sense of accomplishment that followed the obligatory, once-per-week “long run,” that was part of any training plan/goal.

 

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Mindi Church Newell (left) smiles at sister-in-law, friend, and “cheerleader”, Sandy Mers, Coordinator of Ashland wear blue community, during the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington D.C.this past fall–a true long run.

 

        Thus, when Sandy Mers, friend and Coordinator of the Ashland wear blue community, shared a video with me from TedxTacoma of Lisa Hallett, Executive Director & Co-Founder of wear blue: run to remember,I was reminded of those once-upon-a-time “long runs”. As Hallett described the back-story that ultimately forged the foundation of her group, I was moved to tears. She passionately portrayed the way in which running, in particular, her once-per-week long training runs with her community of friends, provided her with much needed support as well as a healthy outlet for her grief following the loss of her husband/ best friend/ father of their three children (one whom he never met), CPT John Hallett, “who was killed when his Stryker was attacked with an improvised explosive device in South Afghanistan” on August 25, 2009.   It is from these friend/community-supported runs that the wear blue running community evolved.  Yet, from what I can tell, it is so much more than running . . .

 

www.youtube.com/watch

 

https://www.armytimes.com/video/2018/12/27/who-will-remember/#.XDIPRoZZz0g.email

 

        In fact, Mers emphasized the importance of all participants, whether running or otherwise, in the group’s first local event held this past Saturday at Central Park in Ashland, KY.  12 people, according to Mers, convened 8:00 am at the 17th street entrance. Then, at 8:15, participants gathered in a celebration circle where they took turns reading the names of 51 military personnel killed in action during the dates of January 4-6 from 2001 to present.  Then, some participants ran, some walk/ran, others solely walked, and still others remained at finish line to cheer for each participant as he or she reached their goal destination. Despite the fact it is called a run, each participant, emphasized Mers, offered “a purposeful step” for the wear blue community.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Participants gather in a celebration circle for the inaugural wear blue: run to remember of the Ashland community.

 

        The Ashland community of wear blue established a distance of one mile for this inaugural event.  However, the goal for community members participating in the February “run” is two miles, and the goal for March is three miles—at which they plan to remain for future events, although Mers is not ruling out hosting longer events.   Of course, participants can always choose to do more, depending upon their training needs.

 

 

 

 

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        Sadly, I missed out on the opportunity to participate in this first event.  That said, as I read about this movement, I found myself yearning to once more get out there on a running path, even if it means walking; and what better motivator than supporting, honoring, and remembering those who have served and sacrificed while in our American military. As the wear blue website states, the  “wear blue is an all-inclusive organization that actively strives to bridge the gap between the military and the community.”

 

 

 

 

        Therefore, I have joined the wear blue: run to remember Ashland community, which can be found on Facebook.  It is a public group that is open to all. Each “run” occurs on the first Saturday of each month at 8:00 am at Ashland Central Park, 17th street entrance with the celebration circle beginning at 8:15.  The next event will occur February 2. For more information/inquiries, outside of the Facebook page, email: Ashland.community@wearblueruntoremember.org

 

 

 

Images of Mindi Church Newell from the Marine Corp Marathon held annually in Washington DC.  Newell ran in honor and remembrance of her late husband, “Tuc” Church who was killed in action in May of 2007.

 

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         In the meantime, won’t you consider participating in February and/or other future events? There is absolutely no cost; and, best of all, your effort, whether walking, running, a combination of both, or cheering pays tribute to those service members who have given the ultimate sacrifice.  Plus, as icing on the cake, you’ll reap physical, mental, and perhaps spiritual benefits. I hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From the Facebook page of one survivor.