Watermelon Replenisher

“The USDA has found that watermelon actually stimulates the release of excel perspiration, so heat stroke will not be on your radar so long as you have a cold one in your hands.”11 Foods That Help Prevent Heat Stroke | Eat This Not That

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It’s that time of year, back to school.  With the start of school comes all of the fall team sports’ practices in the August heat and humidity.  From band camp to preseason soccer practice and all other sports in between, it is the sweaty time of year!  With all that sweat comes the risk of dehydration.  Despite coaches’ best efforts to encourage kids to drink, athletes often leave August practices depleted of essential fluids, salts, and electrolytes.

In fact, according to the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietician Association, the average athlete loses about 1-3 liters of sweat per hour of intense physical activity. With that loss of sweat is also salt, specifically, depending upon the size of the athlete, anywhere from 1,380 to 5,520 mg of salt per hour. Along with water and salt, the athlete is also losing significant amounts of chloride and potassium as well as smaller amounts of magnesium and calcium. 

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What’s more, losing as little as two percent of body weight in sweat can impede an athlete’s performance. Therefore, it is important for athletes to remember to hydrate before, during, and after practice.  Maintaining electrolyte balance throughout the day is especially crucial when an athlete participates in two-per-day practices, which are often popular during the month of August. 

Of course, electrolytes can be found in a wide variety of prepackaged sports drinks, but they can also be found in whole food sources. Salt is particularly easy to find by simply adding salt to foods and beverages; however, it can also be found in nuts/trail mixes, pretzels, and crackers.  Meanwhile, broccoli, almonds, yogurt, and milk products are good sources of calcium, while peanut butter, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and beans (legumes) are high in magnesium. Potassium can be found in peaches, potatoes, kiwi, banana, dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, and watermelon! 

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Recently, my daughter, Maddie, came home red-face and sweat-soaked after an intense out-of-doors workout session.  While she’s more than old enough to take care of herself, I couldn’t help but feel concerned about her level of hydration and asked what she thought about watermelon slushie.  I asked this because I knew she loved watermelon, and I suspected it would be a refreshing way to rehydrate.  She liked the idea, so we talked about what a watermelon slushie could include, and together we came up with a recipe.

Obviously, the main ingredient had to be watermelon. But what else, if anything, should be added?  Maddie suggested collagen powder because it is a great source of protein and would not detract away from the taste-star of the show, watermelon.  Of course, if it was going to be a slushie, we both knew it would also need ice. Then, she suggested lime juice–not too much, just a hint of it, and she further suggested sweetening it up a bit with a teaspoon of sugar combined with a packet of her favorite stevia brand.  We threw it all together in a blender and hoped for the best!

It turned out better than we had hoped! We have since made it three more times and have found, the sweeter and riper the watermelon, the better the slushie. However, we did learn a couple of taste notes. First, if you are not a salt with watermelon person, don’t add the salt.  Secondly, too much lime can overwhelm the slushie, especially if you are not particularly fond of the flavor of lime.

On the nutritional side, it is worth noting that watermelon is nearly 92 percent water! In addition to being high in potassium, it is also a good source of magnesium and calcium. It contains l-citrulline which may help alleviate muscle soreness associated with intense exercise.  Furthermore, watermelon is a good source of a multitude of vitamins and antioxidants making it a fantastic exercise recovery fuel! 

Here’s to all those summer athletes of ALL ages.  No matter what age, if you’re exercising or working out-of-doors in the August heat, then you’re sure to be sweating! So rehydrate with the sweetheart of summer fruits:  watermelon.  And, if you’re feeling a little frisky, you could also make this recipe and add in a splash or two of your favorite adult spirits for a cool, light-hearted, and refreshing cocktail hour on the home patio or deck.  

Regardless of the variation you choose to make, stay safe and hydrated during these dog days of summer.  

A beautiful flower arrangement by and from my daughter alongside her Watermelon Replenisher.

Maddie’s Watermelon Replenisher

Ingredients:

4 cups cubed, seedless–or seeds removed– watermelon

2 servings favorite collagen powder (can substitute vegan version or scoop unflavored protein powder)

2-4 packets of Stevia or other favorite sweetener (can substitute 2-4 teaspoons of sugar or use a combination of the two, which is what we do)

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon lime juice–depending upon taste preference

Dash of salt, if you’re a “salt on watermelon” person

2-3 cups of ice

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in blender until slushy consistency.

Divide into two large glasses.

Garnish with lime slice or mint leaves if desired.

Makes 2 large or 4 small slushies

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Raven Rock Nature Preserve–A Great Place to Hike in Southeastern Ohio

With its dramatic overlook, Raven Rock has long been an attraction for area residents and visitors. Its history is legendary, with some stories placing, at various moments in time, Daniel Boone and Tecumseh at its edge, 500 feet above the Ohio River.”–Andrew Lee Feight, Ph.D. 

He asked me, but if my answer surprised him, he didn’t show it. 

Our 33rd wedding anniversary was fast approaching, and John, my husband, asked what I wanted to do in honor of it.  Go hiking, of course!  I know, not the most logical, or necessarily romantic choice, but it is something special we typically do out-of-town.  If we love hiking at destination locations, why not also start hiking more often closer to home? After all, after 33 years together, as the saying goes, “We’re not getting any younger!”  

John was able hike, in spite of the meniscectomy, with the help of this hand carved hiking sticking, a gift from a beloved student.

The more we talked about it, the more we embraced the idea.  Within an hour to two drive of our home, there are an abundance of trails that we have not explored.  Why not take more frequent mini-staycations and enjoy the great outdoors together?   While there is definitely some cost in gas, especially given the current prices, hiking closer to home is an overall more cost effective experience when compared to traveling hundreds of miles. 

Once owned by Charles Brown, this 98 acre preserve was donated to the state of Ohio in the early 1990s.

Our destination?  Raven Rock State Nature Preserve.  This was a trail I had previously hiked a few years ago with my dad as seen here  Ravens Rock Trail, Portsmouth, OH – Steph Simply. The thing I remembered most about it was the rewarding spectacular view at the top of this trail after a strong uphill effort.  If I remember correctly, Dad and I walked to the edge of the rock, collectively inhaled, and exclaimed, “Wow!”  I hoped John would have that kind of experience too. 

Rumors abound that the now closed former trail was a gut-wrenching, vomit inducing, path that challenged even the most experienced hikers.

Unfortunately, John had a meniscectomy in August, so I knew his knee would be fragile on this trail.  I wasn’t sure if he would feel up to it, but he gladly agreed to the hike as long as he could take as many breaks as his knee demanded.  Breaks, schmakes, I don’t mind those when I get to hang out with Mother Nature!  

A few images of Mother Nature along the way.

That said, the trail involves several switchbacks with anywhere from an 8% grade to a 28% grade in some parts of the heavily forested trail. In fact, according to Natural Ohio Adventures, Raven Rock trail may be the only trail in Ohio that has an elevation gain similar to a Rocky Mountain trail. The same website also states that no other known Ohio overlook is more elevated than Raven Rock.

Here’s one arch!

Depending upon the source, there are a couple of different reasons as to why Raven Rock was named as such.  One account, according to an article by Andrew Lee Feight, Ph.D., describes the romantic tale that a long ago native warrior, named Raven, once jumped to his death from the rock ledge, rather than surrender to enemy hands.  However, most sources note that when looking at the rock from above, the central overhanging rock looks like that of a raven’s head and beak while the rest of the rock appears to be its outstretched wings.

You’ll find this faded sign at the top of the trail explaining the Raven Rock’s past.

Historically speaking, there seems to be general consensus that Raven Rock would have been an overlook used by native people, such as the Cherokee and Shawnee.  As the faded marker at the top of the trail indicates, there must have been countless natives who observed European settlers traveling on the river encroaching upon their original lands.  What must these unknown original people have felt?  Did they, in fact, use that overlook as a place for planning attacks in an attempt to prevent these strangers from taking land that rightfully belonged to them?  One can only speculate.

Hello in there!

Raven Rock, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, is composed of Missisiipian age sandstone. The weathering of the sandstone over the years has created three naturally occurring rock arches. The largest arch, Raven Rock Arch, is over ten feet long.  

Mother Nature is an artist.

Raven Rock preserve is home to the rare and potentially threatened Blackjack Oak tree (Quercus Marilandica) and a state endangered plant, Small-flowered Scorpionweed – Phacelia dubia.   Therefore, this trail, and the land around it, is considered quite fragile.  Ohio requests that hikers obtain a permit before exploring the trail which can be completed online in advance. I did read that hikers can also obtain permits at Shawnee State Park, but I am not sure about this point. 

We made it to the top! 500 feet above the confluence of the Ohio and Scioto River.

As John and I headed up the trail, the skies were bluebird clear, and the temperatures were pleasant. There had been strong thunderstorms that had moved through the area the night before, which had fortunately broken a heat wave, but had unfortunately left thick, muddy sections along the path.  Those slippery, mucky spots, however, were few and far between, mostly located near the bottom of the trail.

It’s all uphill to get to the top with varying grades of inclines.

We both hiked with walking stick/pole for the first time, and we found them to be quite helpful for balance in several of the more rocky and steep areas.  They were also helpful both moving uphill and downhill as well as for creating an awareness of the edge of the trail/cliff.   

The trail can be quite narrow and rocky in places.

There were no trail markers that we could see, aside from the entrance sign, but the trail was easy enough to follow as it was a well-worn path.  A couple sections of the trail, we noticed, were beginning to wash away, but there were no confusing portions leaving us wondering which way to go.  Even though the trail is steep, it does seem to alternate between segments that are less steep and more steep, giving hikers ample time to catch your breath on the 1.25 mile ascent. 

Check out this view.

The view was as spectacular as I remembered it!  Overlooking the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio Rivers, as well as all the surrounding hills, farmland, and community, the panoramic view was spectacular, especially on this clear day.  John and I discussed how gorgeous the precipice must be in full autumn colors or even in the winter, once the leaves have fallen.  

And another view

One safety point:  There is no guard rail, so hikers must be careful walking the edge of Raven Rock.  Nonetheless, you can stand or sit at a safe distance from the edge and take in miles of landscape and riverview.  However, for those with a healthy fear of heights, there is a bench, at a safe distance, on which you can sit and take in most of the vantage point. 

Don’t want to get on the rock? Have no fear, a bench is here!

If you like to hike and appreciate a scenic perspective, then Raven Rock Nature Preserve is a trail John and I recommend you explore.  According to two respected hiking sites, the trail is rated as an intermediate or moderate level due to its inclines.  While we do agree with that assessment, we also believe it would be doable for any level of hikers as long as you take breaks as needed and definitely bring a bottle of water–uphill hiking makes you very thirsty!  

Here’s to the wonders of the trail and Mother Nature!

Another perspective from the top
In this photo, you can clearly see the edge of Raven Rock as we look out over the land and rivers below.
When you look up and feel the Divine Source of all creation.
Standing of Raven’s Rock!
Playing around along the path.

The Power of Whitespace

Whitespace should not be considered merely “blank” space — it is the element of design that enables the objects on the page to exist.–The Segue Creative Team 

As a middle school Reading/Language Arts teacher for grades 6-8, I spend a good portion of my time teaching various writing techniques.  Currently, in my 7th grade classes, we are focused on writing various styles of poetry with the emphasis on exploring various elements of figurative language techniques and literary devices.  Of particular importance to writing poetry, I believe, is to draw the reader into an image/story/feeling in the way a good song has the power to  draw in the listener and attach a particular feeling/image to it. 

Part of the skill in writing a relatable poem is not only using specific words, figurative devices, and imagery, but also incorporating the power of white space.  In the same way my grandmother taught me that our eyes eat food before we taste it, a poem should likewise draw readers’ eyes into the arrangement of the piece first.  In order to do that, writers must learn to use the white space.

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Whitespace 

Creates

Balance and  Style

Although it is often called “negative” space, there is nothing negative about appropriate use of white space.  In fact, when duly used, white space increases readability–up to 25% according to some sources.  White space provides breathing room for the reader, a purposeful pause, or point of emphasis. It can create a sense of balance, harmony, and style.  The eye has time to “catch its breath” and focus on the meaning of each line, word, phrase.  A sense of play, intense emotion, or serious tone can also be emphasized and enhanced through the appropriate use of white space–adding power and emphasis to select words.  By giving students permission to incorporate white space, they are more focused on words that are specific and succinct.  This is an important and transferable skill when switching to more formal writing styles that require a clear, concise, and compelling writing style. 

Whitespace is THE fundamental building block of good design . . .  provides visual breathing room for the eye.–The Segue Creative Team

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On a recent long Saturday morning run, it occurred to me that the notion of white space, as a mental construct, is underused and undervalued in our daily lives.  It is one of the things I most appreciate about my longer weekend runs is the fact that it gives me permission–and time–to let my mind wander.  Many, if not most, of my weekday runs are completed on a treadmill before I do a few strengthening exercises.  During these workouts, I typically wear headphones to listen to music, podcasts, or audible books–depending upon the workout and my mood/interest.  However, when I run outside, I rarely wear headphones; and thereby, I experience the freedom of mental whitespace.

Much of our daily life is consumed with some form of media content consumption.  From the time we get up and, quite often, until we go to bed, many of us are continually interacting and engaging with screens.  Emails, social media, work, news, even cooking, project-building, and other how-to content require some form of on-screen encounter. From content that is audible, to content that is visual, to an interplay of both, much of human interaction is now completed on-line.  As a result, our mind has become trained to repeatedly and frequently seek points of what I call distracted-focus.  Furthermore, it has never been easier to do this at any time, day or night.

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As society’s utilization of technology changes, shifts, and evolves, our minds have been forced to adapt.  Our phones wake us up, and while I can never do this for fear of falling back to sleep, I am told that many people remain in bed for several minutes, and upwards to an hour, upon waking, scrolling through media content that happened during those hours devoted to sleep. While we drive our kids to school, they are busy with screens, and we are engaged in handsfree calling or texting.  Once at work, many of us, myself included, utilize multiple devices at once as our eyes and minds shift back and forth from screen to screen, and, depending upon your career, from person to person.  At day’s end, despite eye fatigue and even brain drain, our minds still desire to scroll through social media and news outlets as the brain, like a tired toddler, still craves even more stimulation to keep going.  In a sense, our minds have become the proverbial “Energizer bunny,” continually banging on the drums of our consciousness for more, more, more.

Whitespace not only creates harmony, balance, and helps to brand a design. . . .–The Segue Creative Team

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Personally, I need breathing space, and I honestly believe that most of us do.  Time away from screens, schedules, and scintillating images/demands.  Unplugging from the visual and auditory distractions of our devices, provides our brain with whitespace–the space to pause and breathe.  I liken it to opening the door and letting a child, or even a pet, go outside to run off steam at the end of the work/school day. When you unplug, it frees the mind to mentally roam or simply be still.  By unplugging, you begin to notice the sounds of nature or even household appliances.  Unplug, and you might see things through new eyes–eyes that are fully focused, rather than distracted.  Unplug, and your senses have permission to roam–noticing the way air caresses your face, the aromas of your surroundings, the full flavor of your coffee, or other favorite beverage, as it dances over your taste buds.  Unplug, and you can breathe deeply and luxuriously as if you have all of the time in the world. Even your ability to think creatively and/or problem-solve increases more when you unplug.

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In the same way white space creates harmony and balance to the design of a web page, book, or even a 7th grade poem, creating “white space” moments in life, allows us to also feel more harmonious, balanced, and perhaps even, peaceful.  As a deep breath or sigh is gratifying to the lungs, and bring calmness to a tough moment, time unplugged offers the mind moments to rest, refresh, and recharge, providing you with more clarity and the ability to focus on what’s really important as well as give you permission to see the extraneous for the distractions they actually are. 

 It doesn’t matter if you take a break from screens inside the comfort of your own home, or outside in fresh air, unplugging and not-doing, is never a waste of time, or well, waste of space.  I especially enjoy unplugging when I am outside for a run, walk, or hike, but I also have found white space moments in the quietude of a car with all distractions turned off, including radio, or in the quiet moments of my home when others are still sleeping or momentarily out.  The ability to unplug may not occur every day, but white space of the mind, be it vacations, exercise, hobbies, or other down-time moments, judiciously scattered throughout the week and/or even month, offers innumerable benefits and is certainly worth prioritizing.  

In the same way white space creates harmony and balance to the design of a book or web site, creating "white space" moments in life, allows us to feel more harmonious, balanced, and perhaps even more peaceful.
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Gluten-free, Chocolate Donuts with Glaze: make your house smell like a bakery outlet

And the donut stood there with a glazed expression.–Unknown

Honestly, I am not what I would call a “donut” person.  Even before I knew I had celiac disease, I never, per se, craved donuts.  However, when I was quite young, my grandparents would occasionally drive about an hour away from their home to a Dolly Madison bakery outlet.  They would buy treats that would normally never be in my own childhood home.  Oatmeal cream pies, twinkies, fruit pies, zingers, and bags of donut gems. I can recall the childlike appeal of those colorful, catchy items on my grandparents’ kitchen table.

I never really understood why they made this trip because my grandmother was an excellent cook and an exceptionally tasty baker of desserts.  Up until the day my grandfather went to a nursing home, it seemed as if Grandmother always had some freshly baked dessert on-hand.  Maybe they made this trip because they came of age during the depression and never had much during those lean years.  Then again, it could have had more to do with the fact that they had once owned and operated a grocery store and simply enjoyed having packaged products. 

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Regardless of the reason, the grandkids were often able to reap the benefits of these bakery outlet trips.  While we were certainly limited in the amount of sweets we were permitted to eat, my grandparents were always more lenient.  In particular, I fondly recall those donut gems that came in the white bag with a cellophane center allowing purchasers to see those orbs of processed confectionery–ready to spike blood sugar levels of consumers far and wide, especially the small bodies of children.  

In the end, I am not sure if those memories have inspired my latest obsession with donut baking, but I do find baking these treats once per month to be a sweet, creative outlet in a world often filled with bitter headlines.  However, I do try to find ways to bake these donuts a bit more healthily–although let’s be honest, they’re still donuts.  Nonetheless, this recipe is gluten-free that can be made free from animal products, if desired, and it is less sugary than those rings of gems from that long ago bakery outlet. 

Why not set aside less than an hour of time to bake up a pleasant headline in your own home? They are easy to make and a cinch to glaze.  You don’t even have to own a donut pan. Most of all, your house will be smelling like a bakery outlet without the two-hour round trip drive! 

These donuts are ready to be eaten or glazed.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Donuts with optional Glaze

Donut Ingredients:

1 egg OR 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds + 3 tablespoons water*

1¼  cup oat or all-purpose (gluten-free) flour**

⅓ cup dutched cocoa powder ***

⅓ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vinegar

¾ cup milk

3 melted tablespoons of favorite nut-butter, butter, or applesauce****

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze Ingredients:

½ cup gluten-free chocolate chips

1-2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  • If using flaxseed, combine flaxseed + 3 tablespoons of water, set in the fridge to “gel” for 10-20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare a donut pan(s) with a light coating of nonstick cooking spray, OR if you do not have a donut pan, do the same with a muffin pan and plan on filling with batter ½ way full.
  • Combine dry ingredients until well blended.
  • Mix in the remainder of wet ingredients including flaxseed/egg with a large wooden spoon.
  • Divide batter among 8-10 donut spots of donut pan.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before flipping onto the rack to cool 10-15 more minutes. Serve immediately or add glaze. Makes 8-10 donuts.
Look at this yummy glaze, ready for donut dipping.

To make glaze:

  •  Lightly spray a microwave-safe bowl with non-stick cooking spray.  
  • Add in chocolate chips and milk. Heat for 30-45 seconds until slightly melted.
  • Stir gently, and once well mixed, add in maple syrup and vanilla extract
  • While glaze is still warm, individually dip one side of each donut into glaze, and place back on the cooling rack to firm up. Repeat for each donut.  Feel free to add sprinkles, sparkling baking sugar, or shaved bits of chocolate for a more festive look. 

Recipe Notes:

*Choosing between the egg or flaxseed is personal preference, but it is worth noting that

  flaxseed is plant-based. 

**I have celiac disease, so I cannot bake with wheat-based flours.  However, if you do

 do not have a gluten allergy, feel free to use all-purpose flour instead.

***I prefer dutched cocoa powder over regular cocoa powder due to its mellow, smooth

 flavor that I find to be less bitter than regular cocoa powder.  Plus, it makes baked goods

 dark and rich looking.  However, IF using REGULAR cocoa powder, reduce baking

 powder to ½ teaspoon and baking soda to ¼ teaspoon.

****Nut-butters, including tahini, offer a richer flavor and consistency; whereas, butter offers a lighter flavor and can be dairy or plant-based.  Applesauce is a no-oil choice. 

Enjoy!!

Welcome to the Fifth-Decade-of-Life-Club, a Tale of Sibling Warfare and Love

            “Everyone knows that if you’ve got a brother, you’re going to fight.”—Liam Gallagher

 

            “Nothing can stop me from loving my brother.”—Brandy Norwood

 

img_4581-1
Me, and baby brother, Scott at his 50th birthday celebration at La Famiglia, Huntington, WV.

 

“My back has been bothering me.  I’m not for sure why,” he reveals to me during a phone conversation.

 

“I know what you mean.   I put ice on my back most mornings,” I reply.

 

“Those foods used to never bother me, but now . . .” he later bemoans.

 

“Me too!” I declare in affirmative.

 

“I love you,” he states as he hangs up the phone.

 

“I love you, too.”

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Left to Right, my sister, Traci; my brother, Scott; me; and my sister, Rachel. This was our annual night before Christmas picture, one of the few times we weren’t fighting about something.

 

Is this really the same person with whom I used to debate over whose turn it was to wash versus dry the dishes after supper?  Is this the same person with whom I became so enraged that I actually pelted him in the belly with a plastic baseball bat?  Was this the same person who, in my young mind, used run straight to Mom to reveal my misdeeds, and infuriate me enough to plot his death, or, at the very least contemplate all of the ways I could cause him equivalent injury?

 

Of course, this is also the same person whose baby crib and my twin bed once occupied the same space, leaving me to feel like his guardian.  He is the same person to whom I would read storybook after storybook once I learned how to read.  As a teen, whenever I heard the newest alternative music, I couldn’t wait to tell him all about it.  Furthermore, we shared a love of cooking the classic, “Chef Boyardee Pizza kit,” all the while “doctoring it up” (aka adding extra toppings to it that weren’t in the kit.)   Plus, we both loved to come home from junior high and high school, flip on the TV, and watch the newest After School Special, a made for TV movie based upon a currently popular teen book; old TV reruns, such as Bewitched or Bonanza; or, later, when I was in my first year of college at the local branch of Ohio University, our favorite soap opera, Santa Barbara.

 

 

I felt as if I was my brother’s guardian.

 

It all began one day in May 1968.  Up until that point, I was special.  I was the only one; and in my mind, the entire world centered on me.  Then, my solo career came crashing to a sudden and irreversible halt!  One day I was sent to stay with my grandparents; and, low and behold, several days later, I went home to find, of all things, a baby—a boy, at that, who would monopolize what was once my spotlight! Little did I know, this unknown baby was only the first addition with whom I needed to adjust—I would eventually have to share the limelight with two more babies, but at least they were girls!

 

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Up until May of 1968, I was in rocking’ in the limelight of my parents’ love and attention.

 

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Then, in May of 1968, I was sent to stay with my grandparents for a few days. Pictured here with my grandparents’ during an Old Fashioned days celebration.

 

 

 

By the time I was three, I had lost my center-stage status and was forced to share the stage with other siblings, the first of which was my brother, Scott.

 

As the childhood years passed, my brother, Scott, would become both friend and foe.  I had a temper, and he knew how to set it off.  Heaven help me, when he and our middle sister, Traci, would pair up together against our baby sister, Rachel, or me.

 

One of the more funny examples of this occurred when Rachel was quite young—no more than two years of age.  Scott and Traci devised a plan to trick her into climbing inside a toy box in their bedroom to look for a “lost” item. Once she was within the box, they promptly shut the lid and sat on top of it.  I was horrified, and of course, angry.  I began yelling at them from my bedroom to, “Let her go,” while they laughed at me.  Running in a rage towards them, I tried hitting and kicking them.  Of course, mom quickly entered the room; and in the end, I was trouble because, “I was the oldest and should have got her rather than taking business into my own hands.”  I declare, where’s the justice in that?

 

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Scott, Traci, Rachel, and me on the morning of Christmas. By this point, I shared a bedroom with Rachel; and, Scott and Traci shared a bedroom.

 

No matter how annoyed I could become with Scott, I was the first person to rise in his defense any time I perceived another person outside of our family picking on him.  If any of the neighborhood or school boys we knew, said a cross word to Scott, my black and white saddle oxford shoes instantly turned into kicking weapons as I simultaneously gave those so-called-baddies the greatest tongue-lashing I could create.

 

In fact, I recall one hot August day, while on a break during high school band camp, throwing my nearly five feet self in front of a pack of football players who were making fun of my brother. I dared a single one of them to pass in front of me and say another word to him.  I stood my ground, craning my head, in order to look directly into each of their eyes as I set my chin firm and determined. They, quite miraculously, walked away and quit bothering him—at least for the rest of that day. Afterwards, once I realized how dangerous and quite stupid my actions were, I ran to hide inside the instrument closet of the band room and cried, but never told my brother, well, until now—assuming he reads this.

 

 

During our teen years, my siblings could be my best friend one moment, and my mortal enemy the next–at least temporarily.

 

Now that Scott is joining me in the fifth-decade-of-life club, I can see that through good times, and some rather ugly times, our deep connection and love has remained.  Scott is witty, articulate, and intelligent.  He loves Broadway musicals, good food/drinks, dogs, and music—especially danceable tunes.  My brother served in the Air Force, has experienced a wide-ranging, successful career-life, has three beautiful kids, and one adorable grandchild.  Plus, he is married to a person who truly loves him.  I am proud to be his big sister.

 

 

 

Happy Belated Birthday, Scott!! May you continue to celebrate and dance through the rest of your life!

 

P.S.  Thank you La Famiglia for the wonderful venue in which to celebrate and thank you Selena Urbaez for the delicious gluten-free, melt-in-your mouth, lemon cake as well as the decadent, uber-rich, gluten-free chocolate cupcakes!!  Wow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gluten-free, Cauliflower Protein Pancakes

            “The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.”  W.C. Fields

 

One of my more fond childhood memories were Saturday morning pancakes.  I was the oldest of four kids, and my parents simultaneously raised us while both of them managed to work and earn their degrees.  Thus, I do not mean to imply we had pancakes every Saturday; but, boy, when we did—it was a real treat for all of us.  Pass the syrup, the butter, and hand those pancakes over!

 

Mom would make them, and stack one on top of the other covering them over with a towel to keep them warm until all of the batter was cooked.  She usually called us kids into the kitchen about mid-way through her flapping.  Then, when she was down to the last little bit of batter, she would pour it all into the skillet and make one large pancake.  Sadly, it was always my brother who got that one!

 

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Gathering ingredients for my latest twist on pancakes.

 

All those years ago and I can still recall the feelings of resentment watching her place it on his plate!  Why couldn’t I have it?  Was it because he was the only boy?  Was it because he was capable of drinking a gallon of milk a day by himself? Was it because he usually ate the most food out of all of us kids?  Hmmm . . .this large pancake serving still remains a mystery.

 

Now that I am capable of making my own pancakes, I make my own big pancake—thank you very much!  No more little pancakes for me.  No more worries of using too much syrup or butter because I choose not use those items. Instead, I load-up my over-sized pancake with healthful toppings such as fresh fruit, thinned out almond butter or powered peanut butter, or sometimes, even a few not-quite-as-healthy mini-chocolate chips.  Plus, my pancakes are gluten-free and loaded up with a full serving of veggies!

 

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Making a “flour” by grinding up old-fashioned oats.

 

Wait, what?  Yes, that’s right! My pancakes recipe has a vegetable in it, but you would never know it by its taste.  Using my blender, I mix up my gluten-free, protein-rich batter right along with a full cup of riced cauliflower.

 

I was inspired by the idea when I started blending riced cauliflower in my morning smoothie.  (Another recipe I’ll share at a later date!)  It was delicious, easy, and a creamy way to start my day with a serving of vegetables and never even taste it—not that I don’t like the taste of cauliflower, I do.  Since this experiment went so smoothly, (Ha! Did you see what I did there?) I began to wonder if with a few tweaks, my smoothie recipe could be converted to a pancake?

 

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Dry ingredients mixed in a bowl.

 

Sure enough, with a bit of experimentation, and a whole lot of luck, I came up with the following recipe.  It is easy, and does not take much time to create. Best of all, it makes one large, delicious pancake that you can eat all by yourself without blowing your nutrition for the day!  Treat yourself to this healthy recipe the next time you get a hankering for a sweet breakfast treat!

 

From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, homemade meals.

 

 

 

Gluten-free Protein Cauliflower Pancake

Serves 1, but could be doubled

 Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oats

½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

½ serving of your favorite vanilla protein powder

1/8-teaspoon baking powder

1 cup (100 grams) riced cauliflower (I actually used frozen, and set it out on counter about thirty minutes before mixing.)

¼ cup egg whites or Vegan egg replacement**See recipe below

½ teaspoon vanilla

Optional Toppings

 

Directions:

In a blender, pulse oats until it forms flour. (I use the blender cup of my Ninja.)

Place in mixing bowl.

Stir in cinnamon, protein powder, and baking powder.

Place cauliflower, egg whites, and vanilla in blender; then, mix until smooth.  If needed, adding a tablespoon or two of water if seems too thick, but don’t make it too thin.

Add in dry ingredients and blend until fully combined.

Meanwhile, coat skillet with nonstick cooking spray and preheat over medium heat.

Spread (it doesn’t really pour) batter into prepared skillet.  Cover and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the edges appear firm and batter looks set.

Flip with large spatula and cook uncovered for two more minutes.

Remove and serve immediately with desire toppings.

 

**Vegan Egg Replacements

1-tablespoon chia seed (or flax)

3 tablespoons of water

 

Mix thoroughly in a small bowl, and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.  Use this in lieu of egg.  Can doubled if needed.

This recipe works well for any baking recipe that requires only 1-2 eggs.

 

 

 

  The Power of the Pause

           “Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10,

        “Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”—Kim Collins

        I was reading through a book when I ran across the line, “pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.”  While this phrase was directed towards how to teach yoga, the words jumped out at me. I looked away from my book and closed my eyes, internalizing the phrase, “pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.”  There was something more to this than teaching yoga.

        Looking out my family room window, I noticed the willow trees with their new brightly green leaves still not fully developed.  I took in my neighbor’s ornamental pear trees, dotted with emerging pinkish, white blossoms. The grass covering both of our yards, though still filled with brown patches, was noticeably more green— so vivid and brilliant.

 

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The brown patches are still visible from the seasonal pause, but the grass is beginning to green up–thanks to the pause.

 

        Next, I heard the robins trilling in celebration of the cessation of several days of steady spring rain.  Their celebratory songs were layered with enthusiasm and optimism. Listening to their calming vocalizations, I glanced towards our weeping mulberry tree.

        Earlier in the day, my husband, John, had observed one of two old nests in the tree had been knocked out.  In it’s a place, a mockingbird was building a new nest. I paused for a moment watching the bird dart to and fro from tree to ground, bits of branches and yard detritus dangling from its mouth.  Then, it would pause; cock its head from one side to the next, then echo back to the robins’ song.

 

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The mockingbird nest in our weeping mulberry tree–still visible due to the tree’s seasonal rest.

       

     Pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.

        As I took in the signals of spring revival, I could not help but recall how bare this same view had been during the winter season.  Nature seemed to pause during December, January, and most of February. Yet during this hiatus, trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plant life, were, in actuality, taking time to renew from the inside—all the while maintaining incessant respiration–breath.  Their intention was to root down a little deeper in order to prepare for new growth; and so should we.

 

In spite of all of the bare ground, branches, and shrubs, internal renewal, linked to continual respiration, is still occurring.       

      Our lives are full of busyness.  Calendars booked. Workdays overscheduled.   From early morning to late evening, and from weekday to weekend, our tendency is to go, go, go.  And if we are not busy, we often fail to appreciate the gift we have been given. Instead, we complain, “I’m bored;” “I don’t know what to do with myself;” or, “I feel guilty, lazy, or afraid I have forgotten something,” to name a few.   Free time, it seems, does not match society’s image of the, “perfect multi-tasker.”

 

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Our daughter, Madelyn, taking a pause out of her busy college schedule.      

      

       Pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.

        Does constant busyness truly reflect God’s intention for us?  If Divine Providence provides built-in rest time for the natural world, my guess is that humans need this time too.  After all, even God rested as described in the book of Exodus; and thereby, we were likewise commanded to also rest on the Sabbath. However, what about day-to-day life?  What would happen if we brought a bit of the Sabbath day pause/reflection into our daily routine?

 

We can pause, feel, reflect and renew with our dog, while sitting outside, or even before a meal.  Regardless of where we choose to “pause,” the point is improvement not perfection.     

         

          Years ago, I was part of a women’s book study group.  One of the books we read had an entire chapter devoted to the notion of a daily practice of breath prayer.  Its intention was a short prayer or petition that is whispered throughout the day as a way of praying without ceasing.

        Breathing in, we were instructed to say one phrase; and, breathing out, we were to say another phrase—all of which was tied to a personal/spiritual goal(s).  Examples include: Breathing In: “Be still. Breathing Out: “And know I am God;” or, Breathing In: “Guide me” Breathing Out: “to a greater purpose.” There are certainly endless combinations and possibilities.  While I found it impossible to pray in this manner all day, I did benefit from the practice of starting my day with five or so minutes of a breath prayer, and then, throughout the day intentionally coming back to that same prayer.

 

Looking at this tree from afar, it appears to have no new growth.  However, when you get a closer look, the internal growth from the seasonal pause of rooting into its source, is slowly emerging–and, so it is when we pause regularly and turn inwardly.       

         

          Pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.

        Similarly, during a yoga class, participants are often encouraged at the beginning of class to close their eyes, focus on their breath, and set an intention.  This is considered the anchor of the practice. The teachers I have experienced periodically remind students to return to their breath and intention as the class progresses.  In fact, if a movement or pose becomes too difficult or challenging, students are typically instructed to pause, notice their feelings; and if needed, rest on their knees, head down, eyes closed, while focusing on their breath and personal intention until they feel ready to join back in.  Additionally, at the end of class, participants are once again asked to pause, close their eyes, feel, reflect, and renew their intention before leaving class. Like the breath prayer, most yoga classes unite a purposeful pause with an intentional reflection, and link it to the act of respiration.

        Therefore, why not take time each day to incorporate a purposeful pause that links focused breathing to a prayer or personal intention?  In fact, why not attempt to incorporate it two, or more, times, per day, such as, at the end of the workday, and again at bedtime, or in correlation with each meal eaten?  What benefits might be reaped from the simple act of pausing?

 

       

          Pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.

         May we allow the surrounding spring renewal, beauty, and bird song to remind us of the importance of taking time to pause, feel and root down into our faith, reflect on the gift of life we have been given, and renew our intention to be more mindful of what God is calling us to do.  While we may never perfectly master this, we can make progress just as the trees and plants outside my window did during those winter months.

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As seen on Instagram @studio8wv

      

       

       

       

 

Ambiguity and Prayer: A Lesson in Tapas

“ I should not make any promises right now,

But I know if you

Pray

Somewhere in this world—

Something good will happen.”—Hafiz

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As seen on Instagram at meditation.quotes

 

            “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”—Isaiah 41:10

 

Ambiguity. I stare at the black and white print.   Within the word I see small words: “am,” “big,” “’u’, also known as, ‘you’.” I arrange the words. Play with them. “You are big.” “I am big.” “Big, you are.” “Big, I am.” Big, big, big . . ..

 

Problems feel big. Illness feels big. Crisis feels big. Parenting feels big. Aging feels big. Financial struggles feel big. Education feels big. Currents news feels big. Violence feels big. Sadness feels big.  Depression feels big.  Big, big, big . . .translates into hard, hard, hard.

 

“You are big.” “I am big.”

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As seen on Instagram at spiritual movement

 

One part of my yoga teacher training homework for this month states, “Tapas” (Which literally means “heat,” but also translates into discipline and commitment–as best I understand it.) “’Just feel it!’ Use discipline to stay committed to the path, and use tapas to direct your anger in positive ways.”   Anger often feels hot. Discipline can feel hot too, but also soothing.

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As seen on Instagram at spiritualist_within

 

Tina, one of my yoga instructors, recently stated, “I believe you must pray daily and often. Meditation is important, but so is prayer.” I am paraphrasing, but basically she added that prayer is not about a wish list, but more about gratitude and an attitude of, “Thy will be done.” Sometimes gratitude, and the ambiguity of “Thy will be done,” is hard.

 

Tapas. Heat. Discipline.

 

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Recently, I shared with my husband, John, a personal struggle I was experiencing with an acquaintance.   I explained that I could sense her negative energy, and even anger, when she was around me. “I want to apologize for whatever wrong I have caused her, but I honestly don’t know what I did.”

 

John’s reply was simple and direct, “Pray for her.”

 

And so I did.

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As seen on heartcenteredrebalancing

 

One month later, this same acquaintance was seemingly happier, lighter, and more at ease. She even approached me to thank me. Unbeknownst to me, she overheard me giving one of her close friends the same advice John had given me. This friend asked me about how to handle a person who was set in their ways and would seemingly never embrace the faith-filled path she was now embodying. I shared with her what John had told with me, “Pray for that person.” Adding, “it might not change that person, but perhaps it might change the way in which you view and relate to him or her.”

 

The acquaintance who was confessing to overhearing my comments explained that a light bulb went off in her mind. She described a bit of her own personal struggles; and added, “So I just said a prayer, and went for a walk. When I came back, I had a long awaited text on my phone.”

 

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As seen on Instagram at positivenergyalways

 

Then, she thanked me, and spent the next few minutes describing to me in great detail, all of the ambiguity surrounding her due to an upcoming major procedure and potential life change. “I just turned it over to my Higher Power, and you helped me get there. Thank you.”

 

By turning over my anxiety and false assumptions regarding this person to my faith, I released the notion that somehow I was in control of her actions, her feelings. While I had been indeed, sensing negative energy in this person, it had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the ambiguity of the situation into which she was being thrown—one of life’s unexpected curveballs. When I focused less on the ambiguity I thought was surrounding her, and disciplined my mind and heart to direct my energy, instead, to the great, “I am,” the ambiguity still remained, but we were both released to feel, accept, and allow our faith to embrace us.

 

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As seen on Instagram at bodymovejoy

 

When I was young, my prayers were often the selfish prayers of a personal wish-list; such, “Please let me pass this test. Please let me get a job. Please keep my car running . . ..” As I have aged, I have certainly offered more prayers of gratitude, but my wish list is still present—only now, I convince myself it isn’t selfish because my prayers are most often my wish list for others.

 

“Please give Maddie (my daughter) both mental and physical strength;” or, “Please watch over my parents, my husband, my siblings, my loved ones,” and so forth. I am not saying these are “bad” prayers, but it is still my attempt to control. “Hey God, let me tell you how it should be, because I am pretty good at taking charge; and, in case you haven’t noticed, I have the perfect plan for you to follow.”

 

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The bigness, the vastness of God, the Great “I Am” is even bigger and warmer than spring sunshine.

 

As I stared at that word, “ambiguity,” it all came together, then hit me like a strong, blustery March wind. Tapas is faith in a nutshell—embracing the heat of the unknown, the uncertainty, the unexplained—and our prayers are the disciplined connection to our Creator, a Higher Power that is so big, so vast, and beyond what we can conceive. Therefore, even when our prayers are a wish list, it is still okay as we are brought into communion with that that is so big. “I am big. I, too, am ambiguous, but I am omnipresent and all-pervading, enveloping you in my palms that are so big, so big . . .they contain you, your struggles, and all that is and ever will be.”

 

Life can feel like the messiness of a bird’s nest, but just as this nest is still able to envelope the baby birds and mama bird, so too can the vastness of God support us.

 

Most of life events are ambiguous. We think we are in control of time and space, but life events are God’s way of reminding us, “I am big. Have faith in my bigness.” The heat of life, really, is a way of demanding tapas, the discipline to pray more as well as rely on faith more. In turn, the discipline of faith and prayer taps into the greatness of, “I am.”

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As seen on Instagram at positiveaffirmations101

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circle of Pain vs. the Kingdom of God: Lessons in santosha aka contentment

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            “Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not– As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.”—Thomas Obediah Chisholm

 

I have recently been wrestling with the notion of contentment—more to the point—having faith that turn-of-events and/or daily circumstances are occurring as they should be; and simply leaning in to say, “Yes,” to all experience, rather than resist or attempt to change/modify it. In fact, in addition to numerous readings and other assignments for this month, one part of my yoga teacher training homework is to practice santosha, which is Sanskrit for contentment. I have been asked to: notice when I feel content; find small spaces of contentment in the busyness of life; and contemplate on how this feels.

 

This is a challenging concept for me because, as I most recently shared, I like to attach to “The Story of How Life Should Occur” as written by the great-all-knowing Stephanie Hill. Examples of these sure-to-be best selling titles include, but are not limited to: My own child should not have suffered as she did all through her senior year of high school. My mother-in-law should not have suffered an excruciating end-of-life. My parents should not have to face the painful issues that come from aging; and, as a matter of fact, neither should my husband and I. Friends, co-workers, and loved ones should not have to experience painful events. My students should not have to struggle with learning new concepts. The world should not be filled with violent rhetoric and actions. Honestly, how can any of us experience contentment when life is often filled with much pain and suffering?

 

Children should not grow up so quickly, becoming a grandparent should not occur too quickly, and my parents should have to deal with the aches and pains of aging–for that matter neither should my husband and I!

 

“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.”

 

I was exiting the school in which I teach on a recent cloudy, rainy afternoon while mulling over this notion of contentment.   As I happened to be exiting the building at 5:00 pm, a set of church bells began chiming an old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I smiled instinctively because I have always loved that song.

 

“How fortunate it is to work at a school near an old church that still plays these great hymns like the church bells to which I once listened in Raceland, KY so many years ago whenever I stayed with my grandparents.”

 

I drifted into a brief moment of reverie harkening to all the beautiful moments when at 8:00 am, noon, and 5:00 pm those Raceland church bells would chime in the background of my childhood through young adult days. Scenes, scents, and sounds flashed through my mind’s eye before it occurred to me, “Was this a moment of contentment?” I paused in the middle of the parking lot, rain drip-dropping around me, and focused on the melody until the last note was played. Then, I peacefully sighed and entered my car for the ride home.

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My grandparents’ home in which I spent over 30 years listening to hymns chimed by nearby church bells at daily, regular intervals.

 

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”

 

Later that week, I was struggling through an incredibly long day. I was tired, physically and mentally, and fighting through some pain—that also happened to be both mental and physical. Driving home in the dark of the same evening, I turned on an audible book and just happened to hear a story about a woman who went to her priest weeping profusely as she unloaded all her worries and sorrows. When she was finally spent, he took one of her hands and drew a circle in the center of her palm with his finger. He told her that the circle represented the place where she was currently living with all of her very real pain and suffering. He explained that it could not be avoided, and she must let it be. Then, he covered her hands with his, asking her to remember there is a greatness and a wholeness in the Kingdom God; and, in this merciful space, her immediate life could unfold.

 

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When experiencing pain and/or suffering, we must surrender into God’s mercy as it hold us and wraps around us much in the way this blanket is comforting and supporting my cat, Tippi Tail.

 

“This pain,” he added, as he touched the center of her palm, “is held always in God’s love.”

He added that as she began to know both the pain and the love, she would heal.

“By surrendering to your pain, you are surrendering to the mercy of an ever-loving God. The more you let go, the more you are held by the Infinite compassion of God.” I audibly sighed. Was this, yet, another moment of contentment?

 

 

That same long, grueling day, our school discovered unexpected disturbance to our playground:  a tree had been blown over by a storm the previous night, crushing part of the playground fence.  Of course, that “should” not have happened.

 

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!”

 

The next day, I talked at length by phone with my daughter, now in her second semester at Bethany College.

“Mom, I never realized how miserable I was last year,” she emphatically stated.

Our conversation continued, and I added that I had often wondered if she would have been better served with early entry into college after her second or third year of high school.

“No, Mom. As much as I hated that last year of school, I had to go through it in order to appreciate how much I love Bethany and the whole college experience.”

 

In other words, she, too, had to learn to let the pain be, and rely on Divine Providence, in order to heal and grow into a greater understanding.

 

My daughter, pictured in the floral dress, is positively glowing as she appreciates with greater clarity moments of joy.

 

Learning to say, “Yes,” to each of life’s moments: be it pain, sadness, impatience, depression, disappointment, injury/illness, loss, and so forth; or likewise, times of happiness, patience, joy, successes, wellness, and abundance is still a skill for which I think I must continue to work. In part, contentment means I must fall in love, not only with my life, but also with the Divine Mercy that carries each of us through the wide expanse of the human experience. Each day of life, I must remember, is complete–no matter what form it takes—and for each experience of life, I must be grateful.  And, perhaps, that is the key to contentment: gratitude.  Gratitude for each moment–irrespective to the life script I have written.

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Let us step away from media, and thankfully spend time in the here and now

            “For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies

             For the love which from our birth over and around us lies,

            Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”—Folliott S.

Pierpoint

 

“Stop worrying, Mom. It’s Thanksgiving week. You’re supposed to be thankful!” Madelyn, my daughter, home from Bethany College for a week of rest, chided me with a teasing voice and an ornery look on her face.

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I had chosen to rise somewhat early on Saturday in order to go to the gym, run a couple of errands, and return home to complete a few household tasks. This would allow me to be available to talk with Maddie once she was awake. I’ve learned, as she has grown older, that it is more important to be available during time periods she is most likely to be home before she takes off to be with friends.

 

Near 4:00 pm, as she was getting ready to head out the door to spend the evening with friends, it occurred to me I had not completed any writing. I often try to begin writing on Saturday morning, but on this morning, I was so focused on spending time with Maddie, I had completely forgotten about my side-gig!

 

            “Oh, no! I completely forgot to do any writing!” I said more to myself than my daughter. That is when I received her admonishment to be thankful. Which led my mind down the rabbit hole of thoughts . . .

 

            In an evolving, rapidly changing world in which the media, world leaders, and businesses vie for headlines, tweets, and other forms of attention; and, in which citizens strive for “likes,” “followers,” and “friends,” it is all too easy to allow these images, and they are that, mere images—not necessarily reality—to enter our psyche and plant tendrils of thought-control. The more of these images our brains take in, the more the vines and wisps of social imagery subconsciously subvert our minds until we forget to fully focus on the here, the now, and the visceral reality of our own life.

 

Appreciation, gratitude, love, and joy for our life, and all of the Divinely created earthly resources, are often forgotten—or sometimes viewed as a prop for a media-driven image. My daughter was right to call me out. I had spent time with her rather than writing. If I didn’t make my self-imposed blog deadline or the newspaper deadline, life would not end. What was the motive behind my worry for not writing? Furthermore, what is my intent for the writing in which I do—create an image, or increase genuine good will. It was worth exploring, reflecting, and self-checking.

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           “For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night

            Hill and vale and tree and flow’r, sun and moon and stars of light,

            Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

            I do possess a passion for writing. I discovered it during the angst of my teen years. Writing gave voice to the thoughts, words, and phrases stuffed into my head and heart; words that I could not, would not verbally express. During those developmental years, I did not (and often still don’t) clearly articulate my words, especially if there was a perceived negative emotion attached to them. Often, I unintentionally offended people, or “made them mad,” as my immature mind thought of it, when I spoke.

 

Furthermore, when faced with another person’s strong emotion, I am intrinsically wired to feel their emotion. While this is a good thing with regards to teaching students, as a youth, I could not separate (and still often struggle) another person’s emotions from feelings of my own. As a teen, I tried to speak, but as I simultaneously experienced both the other person’s feelings and my own gut emotions, my words became jumbled and never came out the way I intended. After several negative experiences of saying, “the wrong thing,” the fear of my own spoken words greatly magnified. Thus, words, words, and more words began to jam my soul like the traffic on I-95 attempting to evacuate Florida during a hurricane.

 

Writing became my safety net; but as I entered young adulthood, I honed my writing skill for the benefit of my education, not self-expression.   Once I was finished with formal education in my early thirties, I abandoned my writing for many years. Still, the words continued jamming, jamming, jamming and damming my heart and soul like the Greenup County Lock and Dam holds back the Ohio River.   It wasn’t until my mid-forties that a dear friend suggested I write again.

 

“Not only would it help you, but you might also be able to help others,” she had insisted.

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I have written weekly ever since, and I am grateful to that friend for helping me reconnect with my writing voice. Writing allows me to work past emotions of self and others–leading me to important life lessons and revelations that I may not have otherwise learned; and, it is my hope that these reflections, that I so publically share, help others too. However, I must ask myself, am I attached to the image of my writing or to the lessons I continue to learn and experience?

 

My daughter was right to call me out.   If I am to write, I should do it with a heart of gratitude and the humble intention of allowing Divine Providence to lead me to the lesson, the heart, and purpose of my words, rather than the need to meet superficial deadlines, images, or other worldly imposed standards.

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It is Thanksgiving week. My writing should give voice to gratitude, gratefulness, and appreciation for the tangible and intangible alike—from the beautiful rolling tree-covered hills surrounding us, to dear family, friends, co-workers, and students; from the God that created our beloved Earth and our dear loved ones, to the sweet joy felt during an embrace, kiss, or handshake, there is much for which to be thankful. Furthermore, I encourage all, including myself, to step away from social media, the headlines, and all the other hullabaloo surrounding us; and instead, on this day of Thanksgiving, make time to appreciate, love, and savor the here and now—the reality, rather than the image.

“For the joy of human love; brother, sister, parent, child.

Friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild,

Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

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