Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Endings and Beginnings

So when you feel all the endings coming...begin looking for all the beginnings. –Ann Voskamp

Tomorrow I will go up to my cabin in the mountains to spend the last days of the year reflecting on the year that is ending and anticipating the year about to begin.

I look forward to my New Year's Eve ritual. I build a fire in the fireplace. In the last hours of the year, I write a letter to the old year. I reflect on the year, on what I learned and experienced, on the themes of the year, on what I think I will remember. I thank the year for all the blessings it has brought.

Then I write a letter to the new year. I welcome the new year and share my hopes and intentions. I invite the new year in like a new friend, curious, eager to get acquainted, excited about possibilities.

I hold both letters as I say a prayer, once more thanking the departing year and welcoming the new year. Then I burn both letters in the fireplace as an offering.

In the final minutes of New Year's Eve, I pick a word for the following year. It is always a verb. It is not a resolution. My word is a focus word, a gentle reminder, a guide. I write the word on little cards that I place where my gaze is sure to light – by my computer, the bathroom mirror, the car dash. Throughout the year, my word is there, wherever I look. As the months go by, it becomes a part of me.

How do I choose my word? Sometimes I am pretty sure I know before New Year's Eve, but more often I don't. As the year comes to a close, I open my mind and heart. The word comes to me, like a whisper in my soul.

My word for 2011 has been "Yield." In a year full of surprises and life changing events, it was a perfect word. It helped me accept with at least some serenity the things I could not control. It counseled me to pick my battles. It reminded me to open my heart and listen for my inner guidance. It shifted my attention from my ego to God. My word this year has been a teacher and a guide, and sometimes a lifesaver. I have come to cherish it, and I’m so grateful for the gift of its wisdom this year.

I’m eager to find out what my 2012 word will be. When I get back from the cabin on the 1st, I’ll write a post and let you know. If you pick a word for yourself, I hope you’ll share it, too.

As part of my thanks to the departing year, I would like to say thank you to you. I started this blog in February 2010, not at all sure what I was doing (still don’t know), and with no idea where it would lead (still don’t know that either). But I do know this. I have been so deeply touched and humbled by the support and encouragement I’ve gotten from so many people. Through you and your blogs, I have received so much wisdom, inspiration, challenge, information, and lots of great fun. And as we all know, fun is good. (As the Cat in the Hat said, “It is fun to have fun!”) I am so blessed to be part of this network of people. You are such a gift. Thank you.

Best wishes for a blessed end of 2011, and a new beginning with unlimited possibilities in 2012.

[One of my favorite things about the cabin is that I am away from phone, cable, and internet, so I will be “unplugged” from Wednesday till Sunday. I hope you know by now that your comments are valuable and valued, so please leave a comment, and I will publish it as soon as I get back.]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Spiders

[This is reposted from last year because it is my favorite Christmas memory. Merry Christmas to all!]

When James was three, he helped me decorate the Christmas tree one evening. The next day while he was at preschool, I realized that we had forgotten the tinsel that we draped over the branches to make it look like icicles. (This was back in the days before we knew that this was not an environmentally friendly decoration.) I quickly tossed a couple of packages of tinsel on the tree and called it good.

When James came home that afternoon, he went about his business, not really paying attention to the tree. But that evening when he walked into the dark room after I had turned on the blazing, multi-colored tree lights, he froze and stared in wide-eyed amazement at the long silvery streamers glittering in the soft air currents. “Shh. The Christmas spiders have been here,” he whispered.

That is a happy memory. This morning I was reminded of it when I encountered several spiders of the summer variety. They seem to be everywhere these days. When I woke up, there was one suspended from the ceiling in the middle of my room, floating like a levitating yogi in the air. I got a cup from downstairs and gently scooped it up and carried it outside to the garden.

When I opened the car door, there was a perfect web stretching from the steering wheel to the driver’s seat. The builder was sitting in the center, ever hopeful in the locked up car. I found a piece of paper and with some regret, destroyed the magnificent creation and carried the spider to the bushes where I thought it would have better luck.

I drove off and had only gone a few blocks when I noticed another web connecting the driver’s side rearview mirror with the car door. The web was already battered by the wind, and the poor little spider was holding on like a bull rider at the rodeo as the web remnants violently vibrated . I tried to ignore it, but after a few more blocks, I sighed and pulled over. I found another scrap of paper in the car, onto which the traumatized little cowboy gratefully clambered. I carried it to the curb and eased it onto a lovely rosebush.

I was briefly annoyed at all the interruptions in my morning, but then I remembered the Christmas spiders. Sometimes when I think back over James’s childhood, my heart sinks with memories of all the challenges his autism presented. I forget that there were also magic times of childhood wonder and delight.

Shh. The angel spiders have been here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Wonder

As you can see, I changed the background for the blog to a winter scene. Summer greenery just wasn’t working for me. I like this scene because it looks still and quiet, and that’s how I’m feeling these days. After the major changes and events of this year – retiring, watching grandbabies being born, leading a retreat, and getting my black belt – I’m ready for some down time.

The last of the big events of the year was my black belt test in early November. After months of intense training, during which these other events took place, it was over. I woke up the next morning and the world felt different to me. I didn’t have any more major happenings on the horizon (at least any that I knew about). It was a cold, crisp morning with winter in the air. As I walked to church, I looked around and realized that it seemed like the first day of my retirement, even though I had been officially retired since May.

I felt tired, tired in a good way. Tired like after a hard day’s work, running across the finish line, reaching the top of the mountain. Exhausted and exhilarated. Happy and content. Ready for a rest. The increasing darkness, the chill in the air, the new supply of firewood in the garage, all made me think of bears shuffling towards their dens for a long winter’s sleep. Yawn, sounded good.

Nature moves through seasons, and so do we. I’m entering a new season of my life – not working after a fulfilling decades-long career, welcoming a new generation in my family. It’s okay, I think, to pause and take stock. To listen to the stillness, to curl up in the long night blanketing the northern half of the earth.

“Winter is when the earth is pregnant,” a friend of mine once said. A fitting metaphor for my life right now, feeling the first stirrings of new life deep in the darkness, quietly and eagerly waiting to see what will emerge. (And a fitting metaphor for a year that began last winter with two announcements of pregnancies!)

So I’m waiting. And resting. And enjoying. Yes, and blogging, too, but at a more relaxed pace. It’s all good.

May the peace of winter fill your soul with promise.

[To my readers in the southern hemisphere, you can save this post for June!]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So Soon?

Where did this year go?! I’m starting to see end of the year reflections popping up on blogs. My first reaction was to think it was like seeing Christmas decorations in the mall right after Halloween. Really? And then it hit me. This is mid-December. Yikes! So I thought I would add my two cents to the pot. I have already reflected on the major points of this year in Reflection on the Journey, so I won’t revisit that. Instead, I will repost what I wrote at this time last year. It seems as relevant this year as last, and it is a reminder to myself to spend the rest of this year mindfully.

Finish Well

New Year’s Eve is two weeks away. Some of us are looking back at the year with some regret. There were so many things we meant to do, but didn’t. Resolutions that were abandoned before the new year champagne had gone flat. Hopes that didn’t manifest, dreams that died on the vine. Losses we didn’t see coming or weren’t prepared for.

Some of us have turned our attention away from this year, shrugging it off as a lost cause, too late to redeem (sort of like my football team). We are already looking ahead at the new year, excited about a fresh start, renewing the resolutions that we will surely keep this time, eager to do better, be better.

But go back to the first sentence. We have two weeks left in this year. In horse racing, it doesn’t matter if you are first out of the gate. It doesn’t matter if you trail behind or cruise along in the middle of the pack. What matters is how you finish. The finish line is everything.

I realized this morning that I was throwing away two precious weeks, a lifetime by some measures. I have two weeks to live well, do well, be well. I have two weeks to count all the blessings of this year, to be grateful for the abundance of grace that has poured over my life. I have two weeks to feel good about what I have accomplished instead of berating myself for what I didn’t. I have two weeks to be a good friend, to listen more, to help someone. I have two weeks to love my children, to appreciate my family and friends. I have two weeks of present moments, holy instants, to savor.

It doesn’t matter if you read this post today or Dec. 31. Whatever time is left in this year, two weeks or two minutes, is ours to do with as we choose. No matter what has happened this year, we can choose to finish well.

[I will be away from my computer Thursday and Friday, so if there is a delay in publishing your comment, please know that your thoughts are very important and will get published as soon as possible.]

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Good Old Days

Were they? Good, I mean. Our minister this morning spoke of nostalgia at holiday time. A longing for a simpler, happier time. But when were those days? Were they the Ozzie and Harriet days of the 40s and 50s? Well, not if you were African American in those days, especially in the segregated South. Not if you were a single mother whose career opportunities were pretty much limited to being a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. Not if you lived in a part of the world still reeling from the devastation of war, the lingering effects of nuclear fallout, the hunger of famine, the terror of politically motivated genocide.

Right now, while some folks are yearning for a return to what they recall as a happier time, others are celebrating these days as the good days. Luck changes, tides ebb and flow, fortunes are made and lost. In my Shambhala meditation training, our current contemplation topic is “Everything is impermanent.” That is true of nothing more than it is of the past.

We think the past is set in stone, but how many times has history been rewritten? Not just world or national history, even our own history. I wrote before of spending the evening listening to my mother entertain my friends with tales of a childhood I couldn’t even begin to recognize as mine. And I myself have viewed my past differently with the passage of time.

A Course in Miracles teaches, “The only wholly true thought we can hold about the past is that it is not here.” And yet we spend so much time there, in the past – remembering, reliving, regretting, rewriting, reminiscing. Whether it is a pleasant place to visit or a place of sorrow, we still go there, living in a dream that is gone.

Meanwhile, we’re missing the only life we really have, this life, right now. We have all read about or known people who have had a brush with death, or who are nearing the end of their lives. What we hear from these people over and over is to treasure this moment, the gift of this breath, the miracle of this instant. And this one.

Does that mean we should never enjoy our memories? Of course not. The memory of a stunning sunset, the tender touch of a loved one no longer here, a child’s first steps – all these bring a smile to our face and warmth to our hearts. But when a stroll down memory lane becomes a permanent residence, we are no longer present for our lives and for those who love us and need us now.

So how do we break the grip the past has on us? Gently. By noticing when we are lost in the past, whether in pleasant reverie or painful remorse. By reminding ourselves that our past is a story we tell ourselves, a story we can change or simply drop. By bringing our attention back to the present. Again and again. By practicing until it becomes a habit. By practicing, as Pema Chodron says, “like our hair was on fire.”

Good old days or bad old days are not today days. So if you do visit your stories of the past, remember to come home soon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mushroom Experience

[Jesus said] For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. ... Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
–Matthew 25:35-40

Do you know what the largest living thing on the planet is? It’s not a whale. It’s not a giant redwood tree. It’s a mushroom!

I know, I was surprised, too. No, more than surprised. Amazed! And I was even more than amazed to find out that this humongous mushroom grows in the United States, in Oregon, the state I call home.

When I heard this incredible information, I started scanning the horizon, wondering if I could see in the distance something like a nuclear mushroom cloud that was in fact a mushroom, the mushroom that ate Oregon. But no, you can’t see it. The mushroom fungus grows underground, spreading out along a network of filaments. What we enjoy in our omelets and spaghetti sauce, what we think of as a mushroom, is actually the fruit of the mushroom fungus.

This particular gargantuan fungus covers over 2,200 acres (about 9 square kilometers) in eastern Oregon. I could pick a tiny mushroom in the forest and someone could pick a tiny mushroom 3.5 miles away, and both could be part of the same organism.

The more I’ve learned about this mushroom fungus, the more I’ve thought about people. Perhaps we are like that fungus, appearing to be separate, but all connected below our visual or perceptual range. We talk about oneness at a deep spiritual level. Perhaps we are a single spiritual organism, nestled safely in the dark, fertile soil of the divine, popping up here and there as individual fruits.

Perhaps when Jesus said that our actions to the “least of these” were actions “to him,” he meant exactly what he said. He didn’t say it was “like” or “as if” we were doing things to him. He said that what we do to others we do to him. Perhaps what we do to another we do to all, including ourselves, because we are all one after all.

You might have heard the expression that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Perhaps we are a fungus having a mushroom experience.

Related posts: That Man Might Be Jesus; It’s Oneness, Beloved

Sunday, December 4, 2011

From Victim to Victor

[This article appears in the December issue of The Life Skills Magazine.]

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
–A Course in Miracles

I once watched a nervous young lawyer make his case in an appellate courtroom before a panel of three judges. The lawyer clearly had the superior legal position and the judges kept interrupting him to assure him that they understood his argument. What they really meant was, “It’s almost lunchtime and we’re hungry. You’ve already won, so just stop.” But the lawyer was inexperienced and did not get the hints. So when he inadvertently made a misstep, the now grumpy judges pounced. They began to challenge him until he painted himself into a corner. Finally, one judge took pity and said, “Counselor, don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Words. Our words are powerful and send out energy that calls back to us matching energy. Like an echo. A tragic example are the horrific deaths of Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, who were killed in Alaska while studying bears. An audio recorder that was left running revealed that one morning a bear attacked Timothy and killed him as Amie screamed and continued screaming even after the bear left. Soon after, the bear returned and killed her, too.

Experts speculated that Amie’s high pitched squeals were eerily like predator calls, devices used by hunters to lure predators out into the open. The predator calls mimic the sounds of an injured animal.

Of course, no one knows for sure whether she actually “called” the bear back to her, but we do know that our voice is an awesome gift, to be used for good or ill. We are all familiar with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy. While we might not be calling man-eating predators out of the shadows, we sometimes use our words, intentionally or carelessly, to send out harmful energy, which will then be reflected back to us.

You might immediately think about manipulative lies or malicious gossip or angry attacks. But what about veiled criticism or insensitive remarks? We don’t always hear ourselves or realize how our words sound to others. Sometimes my daughter will just blurt out whatever pops into her head, including things that hurt. When I react, she defends herself with, “But that’s not what I meant,” or, “I wasn’t thinking.” Too late.

We are even less likely to recognize the harm in voicing negative thoughts about ourselves, especially if we see the comments as funny or self-deprecating. There was a thankfully short-lived teen response to making a mistake – “Oh, I’m stupid.” When any of my kids would flippantly say this, I would cringe.

We often think of words like that as harmless, or even desirable. At a women’s retreat I led in October, I was struck by how difficult it was for some women to use positive words to describe themselves. When asked to describe themselves the way they would be described by the person who loved them more than anything in the universe (this could be a parent, dearest friend, God, their dog, anyone), there was a palpable discomfort in the room. Describing themselves in glowing terms seemed not only unfamiliar, but even wrong, smacking of pride and arrogance. Much better, they thought, to minimize their gifts, to deny their talents, to put themselves down.

But false modesty is just that – false. Legendary martial artist Bruce Lee was once asked if he was really “that good.” He replied, “If I say yes, you will think I am arrogant. But if I say no, you will know I’m lying.”

The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Far from feeling arrogant or prideful, I am brought to my knees in humility and gratitude when contemplating this precious gift of human life, a gift that is not mine alone, but is generously bestowed on each of us, binding us together in our shared magnificence. I want my thoughts and words to reflect that light of glory. The energy that we send out with shining words is indeed powerful beyond measure.

Okay, but what about the times when we really do feel stupid, incompetent, ineffective, unattractive, unsuccessful, unlovable, or unloving? We all have thoughts like that sometimes. But we don’t have to give those thoughts power by voicing them. On the contrary, we can voice the opposite. We can speak the thoughts that will express and therefore attract what we want for ourselves.

As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “Fake it till you make it.” When I suggested this in a workshop, someone objected to the concept, saying that it wasn’t authentic or honest. Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says that’s true only if we are deceiving ourselves. Rather, even “though we know exactly what we feel, we make the aspirations in order to move beyond what now seems possible.”

We can choose with our words to be a victim or a victor. We can speak our greatest destiny. We can shine like stars.

Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. ... And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
–Marianne Williamson

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spiritual Simplicity

The way that can be told is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.

–Tao Te Ching

When people come to the United States, they are often overwhelmed by our mega supermarkets. And the most overwhelming aisle is the cereal aisle. Heck, I grew up here and I get heart palpitations just thinking about it. I did a quick search to see how many kinds of cereal there are. Would you believe that I found a list that named almost 100 ... just under the letter C?!

Simplicity is a buzzword these days....

[Please click here to read the rest of this article at The Bridge Maker]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Plan B Family

My most influential spiritual teachers have been, without a doubt, my children. I have three adopted children and two foster children. All my children, for various reasons, did not end up with their birth families. Being raised by your birth parents is what I would call Plan A. When that doesn’t work, then you have to go to Plan B. I am a Plan B parent.

People say to me, Oh, what a wonderful thing you have done for these children. No, I am the lucky one. My children have been God’s greatest gift to me. Each one has given me a gift like no other. On Mother’s Day several years ago, I wrote a letter thanking each one. What I said to each child is private, but I will share the gifts.

James gave me the gift of motherhood. The night before I got James I kept thinking, This will be the last night of my life that I am not a mother. The next day I would become a mother and I would be a mother for the rest of my life. Being a mother broke open my heart.

Mia gave me the gift of connection. Before her arrival, I lived a very isolated life. But Mia never met a stranger. A trip to the grocery store became a social event. Through her, I became connected to the world around me.

Dan gave me the gift of acceptance. Dan joined our family as a 14 year old autistic teenager. I had to accept him just the way he was. Because of Dan, I learned to accept James’s autism as well. And to accept other people, too, just as they are.

Grace gave me the gift of ... grace. Grace is God’s invitation to us to experience His unconditional love. To receive God’s gift of grace, we must have faith. Faith that God loves us even when others don’t or when we can’t love ourselves. Faith that God’s angels hold us in the light when all we see is darkness. Grace taught me to trust God.

Lily gave me the gift of peace. Her presence radiates serenity and calms the air she moves through. Because she is my last child, my heart feels full and complete. Through Lily, I have learned to rest in God.

To others, my family might appear, well, complicated. When my adopted daughter and my foster daughter both had babies this year, a friend asked me who I was to these babies. Was I their grandmother? At first I was angry at the question, which seemed at best insensitive (especially with respect to an adopted child, as any adoptive parent can appreciate). Of course I am their grandmother. And yet, I have to admit that the relationships in our family are not always so easy to identify.

For example, my foster son Dan joined our family after his parents died. Although he has been part of our family for almost twelve years, I have never tried to replace his mother and he has never called me mom. But I claim him as my own and he and James are brothers.

Although I rarely use the labels “adopted” or “foster,” or even think of them, sometimes I do when it seems important to explain the various connections, as I have in this post. The kids do the same. For example, Grace will sometimes call me her mom, but other times her foster mom if she is distinguishing me from her birth family with whom she is still connected. The labels are fluid and used when useful.

But sitting around the table at Thanksgiving, there were no labels. My heart was full as I looked at all of us – all five kids and two grandkids, plus Mia’s boyfriend, and Grace’s dad and two little half-sisters. We all came from different families of origin, different ethnicities, even different countries. Yet here we were, a family, not made by blood but by God, bound not by genes but by love.

Thank you, God, for blessing me with my Plan B family.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Who's the Turkey?

Since several readers enjoyed learning something about the Thai language in the last post, I thought I would repost this story about my first Thanksgiving in Thailand.

I had the good fortune to live and work in Bangkok many years ago. I was the only American in my office, and of course Thanksgiving is not a Thai holiday, so when Thanksgiving came, I took the afternoon off to go have dinner with other Americans.

That morning at the office, I was chatting with some colleagues. In an attempt to bridge cultures, I joked, “Even though this is an American holiday, we can all take a moment to think about all the things we have to be grateful for. For example, you can be thankful that the pilgrims didn’t land in Thailand!”

Everyone laughed politely and I was congratulating myself on the success of my cross-cultural humor, when several people asked at once, “What’s a pilgrim?”

I knew then I had a lot to learn!

No matter where you are in the world, count your blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011


I’ve heard that the native peoples who live in Arctic have many words for snow. Whereas I would have to describe snow as powdery, slushy, icy, and so on, they would have a distinct word for each of these. This makes sense. If you live in an environment where snow plays a central role, your vocabulary would reflect that so that you could communicate more fully about what was important to you.

When I lived in Thailand, I learned enough Thai to carry on a simple conversation. One thing that struck me about the Thai language was how many words they have for feelings, many more words than we have in English. I might say I feel annoyed, but in Thai, there could be different words for the annoyance you feel when someone is late, when your cable service is interrupted during a key play in the game, or when a mosquito is buzzing around your ear.

The key role played by feelings is reflected in the typical Thai greeting, Sabaay dii mai kha? Loosely translated, this means, Are you comfortable? But the word sabaay means more than physical comfort. It includes the more subtle level of emotional comfort or well being. There is no adequate translation in English.

This concept of sabaay permeates everything and is central to communication. In a language that has no word for a simple, blunt “No,” Thai communication is geared to creating and maintaining an environment of sabaay. This can lead to some misunderstanding with Westerners such as myself, who value directness and depend on the technical precision of words, without regard to, or even awareness of, the subtle levels of emotional communication going on beneath the words.

I carry many treasured memories of my years in Thailand. If you came to my house, you would see my love for that country reflected in the artwork and furniture. But nothing I brought with me is more valuable that what I learned about paying attention to sabaay. In English, we might think in terms of courtesy, empathy, compassion.

If we take sabaay into account in our words and interactions with others, we will surely create a more open space for connection and genuine communication.

May your day be filled with good sabaay.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grace Did It!

I stared at the red paint stain on the pale carpet. I knew how it got there. I had asked Dan over and over not to paint in his room. I had done more than ask. I made it a rule – spread newspaper on the table in the dining room and paint there. Only there. Dan does well with clear rules. They speak to his autistic brain. But apparently not to his artistic brain. How interesting that these two words are so similar. But I digress.

Dan creates beautiful pictures by painting the background and then gluing on intricate origami figures. For example, he might paint a landscape background and glue on flowers and birds. But I digress again. Back to the paint stain.

I called Dan over and pointed to the floor. “Dan, how do you think that paint stain got there?” Dan looked at the stain. I waited. Then he looked me in the eye.

“Grace did it,” he boldly announced.

I tried not to laugh. Dan had chosen a poor target since Grace didn’t live with us anymore. Even so, I was secretly pleased that Dan was able to mentally process the situation and divert blame with a lie, a sophisticated maneuver that many autistic people could not master. Still, it was a lie.

“No, Dan, I don’t think Grace did this.” Dan paused for a moment. “James did it.”

No, not James either. Dan persisted until he had named everyone in the family, including the dog.

Finally, I said, “Dan, I think you did this.” Dan looked at his feet. “Dan did it,” he confessed.

How strong is the urge to shift responsibility away from ourselves, whether it’s for something we have done wrong, or for something that seems burdensome or scary to us.

Grace had a hard time graduating from high school. At the end of her senior year, she had one paper left to complete in her English class. In spite of numerous extensions from the teacher, she continued to stall. After many frustrating and perplexing conversations, Grace admitted to herself and to me her fear about graduating. If she graduated, she cried, she would have to grow up and be responsible for her life.

Somehow we have developed a society (in the United States anyway – I won’t speak for other countries) in which responsibility has become a bad word, at least when it applies to ourselves. “You are responsible” or the more generic “They are responsible” is enormously more appealing than “I am responsible.”

But what price do we pay for abdication? Nothing less than our freedom. The phrase “freedom from responsibility” is an oxymoron because if we are not responsible, then we can be sure someone else is. We give our power away and then become dependent on whoever has it. That is not freedom.

A more accurate phrase is, I think, “freedom of responsibility.” In my own life, learning to take responsibility for myself was liberating. Scary sometimes, yes. Burdensome sometimes, yes. But infinitely freeing and full of joy.

In our family, “Grace did it!” has become the catch phrase for those times when we recognize the temptation to shift blame, to abdicate responsibility, to avoid our own power. Even Grace uses it!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. –A Course in Miracles

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The 11th Step

I began this blog in February 2010. Through that first year, I posted randomly on the 10 Steps (and on anything else that caught my fancy). Towards the end of the year, I realized that if we really want to change our habitual patterns, it would be better to focus on one Step at a time. So this year I highlighted one Step a month, beginning with Step 1 in January and ending with Step 10 in October.

So now what? After reflecting in the last post on my journey through the 10 Steps this year, I have been contemplating this question, waiting for clarity. Clarity does not seem to be a happening thing right now, which has resulted in a few anxious moments. But mostly, I’ve decided to see this as an opportunity to practice being, in the words of Pema Chodron, comfortable with uncertainty.

This pause has given me a chance to reflect not only on my journey through the 10 Steps, but also on my journey through blogging. Two years ago I didn’t even know what a blog was. I had a concept, which was captured in a title about 10 Steps, but no plan about what to do with it. Write a book? Teach it?

Someone suggested I start a blog. A what? A friend showed me how to get started. And soon I was hooked. I remember the first follower I got who was not a friend or family member. I was fascinated – how did she know about my blog and why did she want to follow it? It was all so mysterious. Like magic. And I remember the first time I realized that someone from another country was reading my blog. I reveled in being part on an international community once again, albeit a virtual one, something I’ve missed since my years as an expatriate.

Meanwhile, I was of course meeting other bloggers on their blogs, finding a cornucopia of information, wisdom, inspiration, and humor.

There inevitably came a time, which I think happens to many of us, when I had to make some choices. To advertise or use other marketing methods? To add Facebook, Twitter, and other connections I still don’t even know about? I had to look deeply at my motivations – what was driven by true passion and what was driven by ego? And more importantly, was I living my life, or living to blog? I found a balance that was right for me and kept it fun.

That seems like a good guiding principle as I move forward in directions yet to be determined. Fun. Because, as we all know, fun is good.

PS – Thanks to Irving at Han of Harmony for inspiring the post title!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reflection on the Journey

It isn’t the end of the year yet, but today seems like a good time to reflect. The end of October marked the end of our focus on one Step per month. 10 months, 10 Steps. Before deciding where to go from here, I thought we might look back to see where we’ve been. Each of us has had our own journey. Here are a few thoughts about mine.

January – Step 1 – Give yourself permission to be happy.

January, the beginning of the year, a year I thought would be highlighted by my retirement. A quiet year of reading and writing, spending time at my cabin, sitting in my back yard, training for my black belt test. Then, mid-month, my daughter Mia blindsided me with the news she was pregnant. She moved back home. Everything changed. I did a lot of belly breathing! The focus that month on shadow beliefs and counter beliefs helped me stay grounded, recognizing that I was responsible for how this news affected my life. I had the power to choose.

February – Step 2 – Decide if you want to be right or happy.

This was the month of truly understanding how much I don’t know. My daughter Grace stunned me with the news that she was pregnant, too. Good grief. And grief was the word. I grieved over disappointed expectations and lost dreams. I begged the cosmos to help me learn whatever I needed to learn before my third daughter, Lily, brought home similar news. (She didn’t, and she became known as “the one who’s not pregnant.”) Dan and James, my two sons who both have autism, reacted in their own way. James had a hard time grasping that these were not MY babies. He kept saying I was HIS mother. Dan, who has a more mature understanding of the ways of the world, but no self-censorship, announced to everyone, “Mia had sex.” I let it all go and decided to be happy.

March – Step 3 – Give up the delusion of control.

By March, you can guess that I didn’t have many delusions of control. Even so, I still made some feeble efforts to direct Mia’s and Grace’s choices as they looked toward the future. By the end of the month, I gave that up, too. And it was good.

April – Step 4 – Feel your feelings.

I had plenty of feelings. Have you ever noticed that when certain feelings are evoked, they churn up memories of previous times that evoked those same feelings? So I was awash that month with feelings new and old. The focus on Step 4 helped me befriend my feelings, cradling them and looking beneath for the underlying beliefs. I gave thought to which wolf I was going to feed. I practiced transforming feelings that did not serve my well being. I made peace.

May – Step 5 – Make haste to be kind.

May was my last month at work before I retired. A career of thirty years, twenty of them at the same place, was coming to a close. It was a month of transition, many goodbyes, laughing over shared memories. It was a month of receiving kindness from others, expressions of appreciation, gifts of gratitude. It was an opportunity to acknowledge those who made my years there so successful – the skillful secretaries, the maintenance angels, the computer geniuses, the people in various administrative positions who always responded quickly to make things happen, my hero at the coffee cart who knew exactly what I wanted, colleagues who have become friends, and of course, the students who enriched my life more than they will ever know.

It was also a month to realize that how I handled this year in my family would set the tone for years to come. Kindness was the guiding principle. It’s as simple as the golden rule, treating others as I would want to be treated.

June – Step 6 – Judge not.

Judging was a theme this year as I watched my daughters grapple with the judgments of others. That was hard. I spent a lot of time in June reflecting on all the ways we judge ourselves and others, and the damage we cause by the resulting separation. I looked more closely at hurts I still held onto, grudges I still nursed, vengeance I still secretly longed for. What violence we do to ourselves with our judging. I saw a reflection of myself in every judgment I aimed towards others.

We also judge our circumstances. I renewed my efforts to be complaint free, recognizing that subtle shifts in perception would brighten my world.

July – Step 7 – Practice compassion.

Compassion was the balm poured out to soothe the raw wounds of judgment from the month before. For every judgment aimed at my daughters, there were many more outpourings of compassion. I found myself full of compassion, too, as I remembered my own youth, and later my early years of parenting.

I found guidance and perspective in the teachings of A Course in Miracles, which characterizes everything we do or say or think as either a call for love or an expression of love.

And I realized that the person most often in need of my own compassion is me.

August – Step 8 – Forgive everyone.

Forgiveness is the most challenging Step for many of us, even though most of us, I think, would agree that it’s a good thing. I was struck by the quote that unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison hoping the rat will die. Reflecting on those judgments I still clung to in June, I saw that forgiveness had very little to do with the unforgiven, and everything to do with me. The key that helped unlock the chains of unforgiveness for me was shifting my focus away from being a victim. Moving towards an even more radical perspective, I began to see the spiritual gifts of many of the wrongs I harbored resentment over.

As with compassion, I realized that the person most often in need of my own forgiveness is me.

And I saw that forgiveness is rarely a one time event, but often requires repetition.

September – Step 9 – Develop an attitude of gratitude.

What a relief to get to this Step after some challenging months. There are so many ways to focus on gratitude, and they are all fun! Gratitude lists, games, and quotes kept this practice in my awareness through the month. And how timely, since Mia’s baby boy was born mid-month. After all the months beginning with my shock and dismay in January, I saw that he was indeed a blessing of incomparable value, and brought joy beyond measure with his every breath.

Gratitude is a humbling gift.

October – Step 10 – Be here now.

The journey brings us back to where we started, where we never left, in the present moment. Grace’s baby girl was born mid-month, and once again I was there, watching a new life begin, awed by the mystery, overwhelmed by the beauty and perfection of, well, everything. More than ever, I appreciate the eternity present in this, and every, holy instant.

When I sat down to write a post for today, I didn’t know that this was what I would write. In fact, I had something entirely different in mind. But as I looked back over the Steps and over this year, each Step seemed to speak a lesson to me, a gift. So I wrote what came to me. Whether you have been reading all year or just a short time, I hope that you have found something of value to your lives in the ideas we have all shared here. If there is something that stands out for you, any reflection or idea or memory, I hope you will leave a comment.

I am going to take a few days to sit with these reflections as I discern where we go from here. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

Most of all, thank you for your support, your encouragement, your honesty, your kindness, and your perseverance!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The M Word

As we bring this month of focusing on Step 10 – Be here now, to a close, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one more method of being in the present moment (hence the second post today). That’s right. The M word. Meditation. I hesitate because for the most part I like to talk about things we can incorporate into our everyday lives without having to find more time in our schedule or add one more thing to our already too long to do lists.

If you already have a meditation practice, then great. If not, don’t be scared off too quickly. If you have been trying any of the techniques we’ve already discussed this month, like belly breathing or doing a sensory survey, you are already doing a form of meditation. If you do yoga or tai chi or any other movement that requires your attention in the present, you are doing a form of meditation.

Personally, I do have a formal sitting-on-a-cushion meditation practice, but I also consider my taekwondo practice to be a form of meditation. I have recently started learning tai chi. And for several years I was part of a contemplative prayer group.

If you are interested in exploring meditation, there are many books and websites and classes available. Meditation can be part of your faith life, or it can be completely secular. Or it can be something to file away for the future. Or not. Rest assured you can still be in the present moment if you do not meditate. However, if this catches your attention, then I hope you will check into it.

As we wrap up our focus on this topic, I would like to say thanks for all your great contributions to the discussion this month and invite you to share any other ideas or methods you use to help you stay present.


You Are Here

I love maps. I especially love maps that have a little red arrow pointing to a spot that says “You are here.” You can see maps like that in the mall, on a hiking trail, on a college campus, or even on the back of your hotel room door.

If you look at a map of your life, you will see a little red arrow pointing to the present moment. You are here. Right now. There is no place else you can possibly be. And yet how much effort and energy do we spend trying to be somewhere else? (If you are like me, a lot.) We spend time in the past, longing for better times or imagining endless do-overs of our regrets. However, as A Course in Miracles reminds us, the “only wholly true thought one can hold about the past is that it is not here.”

I took my mother out to dinner when she visited me years ago when I was living in Paris. I invited some friends whose company I thought she would enjoy, and we went to a very chichi restaurant with a huge window framing the nearby Eiffel Tower. Through the entire meal, as we dined on pigeon (which sounds much fancier in french – I couldn’t help wondering if the chef had snatched a few off the windowsill), my mother regaled everyone with tales of my childhood. And while it was an entertaining story (my friends would say hilarious), I kept staring out the window at the dazzlingly illuminated landmark and all I could think was, “Whose childhood was that?!” Certainly not the childhood I remembered, but I could see that she believed every word she was saying. I realized that there was not an objective past, but rather two pasts, hers and mine, each vividly real to the one remembering. Let it go. It is not here.

If we are not drifting in the past, we are often anxiously rehearsing the future. Have you ever gotten mad at someone in anticipation of something that you think that person might do or say? I have written in earlier posts about my habit of casting into the future with my “what if” lure. I can spin out scenarios faster than the speed of light. My brain races from one to the next, churning up emotions in reaction to events that have not happened and may never happen. It’s exhausting!

I am reading a book right now timely titled You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam. In it, he describes a practice called “stopping and deep looking.” He suggests that we can use a stop sign as a reminder – very practical! We can stop anytime and anywhere, and bring our attention back to the present moment, the only time that is real, the only time we can be truly alive. We can take a deep belly breath and simply be aware of where we are. At least for a nanosecond. I am lucky that I live in a neighborhood with so many stop signs.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sit! Stay! Heal!

Southwest Airlines ran a series of TV commercials featuring some unfortunate person getting himself or herself into a mortifyingly embarrassing situation and then freezing as the background voice said, “Want to get away?”

Many of us can relate to that desperate desire to be most anywhere but where you are. Perhaps, like the character in the commercial, you feel foolish or you dread the anticipated consequences of a mistake or a bad choice. Maybe you have suffered a devastating loss. Maybe you feel defensive or vulnerable. One time I actually accepted a job halfway around the world to get away from an emotionally painful situation. I guess I thought my emotions didn’t have a passport.

If we can’t physically distance ourselves from whatever is causing us distress, we might try to escape by denying or repressing our feelings, or by distracting ourselves with, well, most anything. I’ve done all that, too. I just had a vision of Sarah Palin leaning into the microphone and smirking, “So how is that escape-y thing workin’ for ya?”

Hmm, not so great.

As the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Bummer, you might think. But personally, I have found truth in the title of Pema Chodron’s book The Wisdom of No Escape. After trying every other possible means of avoiding my problems except being in the present moment, I finally sat down, literally and figuratively, in defeat. To my surprise, staying put was the key to freedom from the demons that so relentlessly pursued me through repeating patterns of self-destructive choices and behaviors.

So I stayed some more. Scary? Yes. But thank goodness I was just too exhausted to go anywhere. Now the present moment is more like home. A place of safety and beauty, comfort and joy. A place of healing.

[As much as I would like to take credit for the post title, I read about a Buddhist teacher receiving a card with this printed message.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Love Your Death

“Hokahey! Today is a good day to die!” Crazy Horse exhorted his warriors with this cry as they went into battle. (Hokahey means something like “Let’s do it!” or “Let’s roll!”) Were they suicidal? I don’t think so.

The Tao Te Ching says, “He who knows how to live can walk abroad without fear ... because he has no place for death to enter.” I don’t think the Sioux warriors were seeking death. But they were not afraid of it, either. By living without fear of death, they lived fully. Sure, they died. We all do. But they didn’t die in advance, if you know what I mean. Death had no place to enter into their time of living.

Several years ago my word for the year was Prepare. The word came to me as I was going through my usual New Year’s Eve ritual at my cabin. It was getting close to midnight and I still didn’t have a word. As I was listening to the sound of the creek outside, I heard the word Death. Hmm, that was not a very happy word, and besides, my word is always a verb. Moments later I heard Prepare. Well, okay, that was a verb, but not exactly what I was hoping for. How about Enjoy, Relax, or Nap? But I knew with an inner recognition that Prepare was my word. As ominous as is sounds, I didn’t get the sense that this was any sort of premonition or threat. It seemed more like loving advice. Not a death knell, but rather a wake up call.

In her last months, as my mom was dying of cancer, we had some wonderful conversations. I asked her questions about her life, like what were her happiest memories, what was she most proud of, what did she regret. Her answers were not the answers I would have predicted, so I discovered things about her that I treasure still. I asked her how she felt about dying and she responded that she was curious. Curious. Like the French philosopher Rabelais, who reportedly said on his deathbed, “Je vais chercher un grand peut-etre.” I go to seek a great perhaps.

Mom was not afraid to die. She was like the monk who stood calmly before the sword brandishing samurai warrior. The warrior bellowed, “I can run you through without blinking an eye.” When the monk replied quietly, “And I can be run through without blinking an eye,” the samurai dropped his sword and fell at the feet of the monk, acknowledging his superior power. Mom’s ease put me at ease, with death and with her death.

I was sitting by the creek during the summer of the year when my word was Prepare. Everything was lush and green. The birds were chirping. Everywhere was life abundant. As the sun’s warm rays sparkled on the dancing water, I heard the message “Love your death.” And I understood. Preparing for and loving my death release me from fear. I am free to love my life, to rejoice in the precious gift of each moment.

Every day is a good day to die. Hokahey.

[Today's post is revised from the archives because I've been in the present moment with my newest grandchild, a baby girl born on Saturday. Two grandchildren in five weeks!]

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Common Senses

We’ve had a few days now to watch our minds and see where they go when they don’t know we’re looking. Have you tried it? Were you surprised by anything?

Now let’s think about how we can train our minds to come back to the present moment. To continue the analogy to puppy training, this is like the command “Come.”

What we need are techniques we can incorporate into our daily lives. Belly breathing is one we’ve already discussed. Here is another simple one.

Most of our sensory input comes through our eyes. We rely on vision without really thinking about it, while our minds are off doing what they do when left to their own devices. We can disengage our automatic pilot and bring our awareness back to the present by focusing on other senses.

Try this. Close your eyes and do a quick survey of what your other senses are telling you about the present moment. What do you hear? Listen for a moment. I hear the football game on TV. I hear one of the birds chirping in the kitchen. I hear a humming; maybe that’s the refrigerator. I hear the tapping of the computer keys.

What do you smell? I smell my dog lying next to me, in need of a bath. I smell the usual smell of my house, which is hardly noticeable because I am accustomed to it. I don’t smell dinner cooking yet.

Taste? My mouth tastes a bit funky since I didn’t brush after lunch. There is also a lingering sweetness from the donut my daughter brought home for me.

Touch? I feel the weight of my body on the couch. My heel is uncomfortably propped up on the coffee table. My fuzzy socks are soft. My upper body is warm because I’m wearing my favorite sweatshirt. I can feel the weight of the laptop on my legs and the smooth plastic of the computer keys with the little ridges on F and J. The air is a pleasant temperature on my skin.

Having checked in with my other senses, I can now open my eyes and be aware of what they are seeing. (Okay, I peeked earlier when I was recording my other sensory data.) My eyes see the computer screen, the dog, the game on TV, the trees outside, the family photos on the mantel, the dog food kibbles on the carpet where Sadie dropped them.

A sensory survey can take less than a minute. It’s easy to do while you are at a red light or standing in the check out line. Don’t worry about how many times you do it. Every time you do, whether it’s one time or a gazillion times, you are connecting to the present moment and that’s a good thing. Every time you do it, you are reinforcing the command “Come,” and you should give your mind a treat!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Be the Change

Be the change you want to see in the world. –Gandhi

I saw the most amazing thing yesterday. I was trying to cross a very busy four lane street. Traffic was zipping by very fast. Although I was standing at a pedestrian crosswalk, there were no lights and the signs were partly obscured by trees. Cars and trucks flashed by without even slowing down.

For those of you who do not live in pedestrian friendly places, the law here says that traffic must stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. And for the most part, drivers here are very courteous and careful about yielding to pedestrians. However, the street I was trying to cross has few pedestrians, and it is in a business/light industrial area with long stretches of no traffic lights and lots of big trucks in a hurry. It looked like I was in for a long wait.

Then, lo and behold, a small blue car in the lane closest to me, slowed down and stopped. A few cars in the next lane sped by, but then a driver saw the blue car and stopped, too. I waved a thank you and stepped into the street, but cars and trucks going the opposite direction were still streaming by. I paused and started to step back on the sidewalk. Then a driver of a huge semi barreling along in the other direction hit the brakes. I watched in awe as the monstrous truck shuddered to a loud stop inches into the crosswalk. I waved nervously and felt very tiny as I stepped in front of its menacing grill. I peered around the far side of the truck to be sure that the cars in the furthest lane had stopped, too. They had. I scampered to the sidewalk and breathed a sigh of relief as I heard the traffic resume behind me.

All this because the driver of a small blue car saw what was happening and did the right thing. One driver on a street with hundreds of drivers zooming by in disregard of a pedestrian at a crosswalk, stopped. And waited quietly...until other drivers saw and followed his good example. Even the driver of the enormous semi, a truck on the move with a mission and momentum, a truck very difficult to stop, stopped. And waited for a single pedestrian to cross the street.

I thought about this all afternoon. Isn’t that exactly what Gandhi was talking about? One person, any one of us, by doing the right thing, even when no one else is, can make a difference.

Bishop Desmond Tutu told the story of a woman who wrote him a letter during the dark days before apartheid ended in South Africa. She said she wished she could do more to help, but all she could do was pray. She knew her little prayer didn’t mean much, but she just wanted him to know of her support. He wrote her back, saying who knows, maybe her prayer would be the very one that ended apartheid.

Maybe it was.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Hidden Life of Minds

I read a book awhile back called The Hidden Life of Dogs. The author followed her dog around the neighborhood for some months as he went about his doggie business, sniffing, marking, and impregnating. Nowadays you can buy a little digital camera that you can put on your dog’s or cat’s collar and sit in the comfort of your living room watching Fido and Fluffy do what they do. The idea is that by watching them, we can gain some insight into their lives. We can understand them better.

We can do the same with our minds. My mind seems to be busy all the time, but I spend little time really paying attention to what it’s up to. So I followed it around for awhile – my version of reality TV. This is what I observed.

Mostly, I couldn’t keep up. In a very short period of time, I caught my mind rehearsing, reliving, planning, judging, complaining, criticizing, worrying, regretting, thinking, anticipating, wishing, hoping, missing, enjoying, caring. And feeling anxious, content, happy, tired, angry, sad, excited, lonely, resentful, loving.

After this brief exercise, I came to some conclusions. My mind wastes a lot of time and energy. It does not know how to rest. Harnessing it to focus is understandably challenging. It is like a wild horse. In fact, it is very much like a young horse I once trained. Instead of training the filly to accept a halter and lead when she was very small, we waited until she was an adolescent and very strong, and not at all keen to being directed by anyone else.

I have made reference before to training our minds like we train a puppy – with gentle repetition and time for play and rest. I wonder what the Dalai Lama’s mind is like. His mind has been trained since he was a toddler. He meditates for hours at a time. What must it be like to have a mind as powerfully focus-able as that? See, there I go again, wandering off.

My mind is long past the puppy stage, and long past the adolescent horse stage, but I am nevertheless motivated to make some effort to train it. In fact, I have been working on this for awhile now, and I’m convinced that old dogs can learn new tricks!

If you are so inclined, attach a little video camera to your mind, sit back, and see where it goes when it doesn’t know you’re watching. Remember not to judge – be a neutral observer. You might be surprised. We did this exercise in my monthly discussion group last week, and we were all surprised by how different our minds were. It was very clear, for example, that an artist’s mind goes to different places than a lawyer’s mind. We had lots of fun, so if you have a chance, try this with some other people.

In the next posts, we’ll talk more about the training part. For now, just get to know your mind a little better. Relax and make friends.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breathing Like a Baby

One of my favorite things to do these days is hold my almost one month old grandson. I like to look at him, cuddle him, smell him, and just watch him. Being with him is an easy way for me to stay in the present moment. Who knew that just watching someone breathe could be so fascinating?!

He is already very wise. He knows how to belly breathe. Babies breathe into their bellies. They all do (which of course makes them all wise). Belly breathing. That means breathing into the lower part of your lungs. This will push your belly out. We’re all born breathing that way. Animals breathe that way.

Somewhere along the way many of us become chest breathers, breathing only into the top part of our lungs. Why do we do that? Maybe because we want to keep our tummies flat. Maybe because of stress. Stress causes us to hold our breath. Holding our breath tells our brains that we are in danger and that triggers the release of fight or flight chemicals, very handy if we are actually being attacked, but very damaging over time. Chronic shallow breathing feeds a loop of stress response, actually creating more stress.

Just as shallow breathing contributes to stress, belly breathing promotes relaxation. It tells our brains that we are safe and releases seritonin and endorphins. Deep breathing pumps more oxygen into our blood, which in turn nourishes our muscles and our brains. I’ve read that deep breathing can alleviate pain, anxiety, sleep problems, and depression. It helps us remove toxins and improves the immune system. Belly breathing is linked to higher brain function. Higher brain function relates to our attention span, judgment, empathy, learning, forethought, optimism, and self-awareness.

In other words, belly breathing will help us quickly get back to the present moment and will help us stay in our happy place. I didn’t read this anywhere, but I’m hoping it will also help me remember where I left the car keys or why I walked into the kitchen.

So how do we change a habit as basic as how we breathe? Here are some techniques I’ve started using. I’ve added 10 belly breaths to my wake up routine to get my brain turbo charged with oxygen. I begin my morning meditation with a few deep breaths. I also take 10 belly breaths when I go to bed to help me relax and get ready for sleep. I already have my phone set to vibrate at 10am, 2pm, and 6pm as a reminder to say a quick prayer, so it’s easy to take a few deep breaths then as well. And of course any other time when I become aware of shallow breathing, I can shift to belly breathing.

The key is to avoid making this an added stressor! Don’t worry about the times you forget. Give yourself credit for the times you remember. Your body and mind will thank you for every belly breath!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

You Have to be Present to Win

Be where you are or you will miss your life. –Buddha

Several people I know died last year. People my age. People who were busy making other plans that did not include dying. So besides missing them, I’ve had my own mortality in my face, up close and personal. And if I didn’t realize it before, I certainly realize now that life is short. While I’m worrying about all the things that might happen in some future I might not even live to see, I’m missing my life right now.

Woody Allen said that 80% of success is just showing up. It’s like that contest rule, “You have to be present to win.” There is nothing like spending time with a dying friend to remind you about priorities, about living each day like the precious gift that it is, about not wasting time, about showing up, about being present to win.

I remember an afternoon I spent with my friend Greg the week before he died. He was not up and about too much, so we just lay on the bed and chatted. Thanks to the miracle of morphine, he was not in a lot of pain. He thanked me for stopping by, but it was I who was grateful for the time with him, to laugh, to remember life, to ponder death, to appreciate our friendship, to rest in the present moment together.

My friends gave me many gifts during their lifetimes, but with their deaths they gave me the gift of an intense appreciation for the preciousness of every day.

In his book You Are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Our appointment with life takes place in the present moment.” We miss so much of our lives because we just don’t show up. My conversation with Greg reminded me to show up for my appointment with life. On time. Every day. With joy.

Life is short, and we have but little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this way with us. Oh, be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. –Henri Frederic Amiel

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


As I was sitting here working on a new blog post, I popped over to Sandra Pawula's blog Always Well Within. Her most recent post is the most perfect blend of Step 10, Be here now, and Step 9, Develop an attitude of gratitude. Please click here to go to her blog and watch this beautiful video. It's almost 10 minutes long, so fix a cup of tea, get comfortable, and be amazed!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Be Amazed!

When I was in graduate school, one of my professors was visiting from Eastern Europe. He had an often unexpected way of using English. Once in class he instructed us to turn to a certain page “and be amazed!” I don’t remember what was on that page or if I was amazed, but I loved the instruction and it stayed with me. There is always something new to learn or simply to notice, and it is amazing.

Sometimes I use the instruction on myself. It’s a good reminder to look for and see the miracles that are happening all around me all the time. The sun came up this morning. Be amazed. Water came out of the shower head when I turned the handle. Be amazed. It was hot. Be amazed.

It’s okay to be amazed with ourselves. I made my bed this morning. Be amazed. I’m testing for my black belt in taekwondo this month. Be very amazed.

Even God amazed himself on occasion. Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not see it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. –Isaiah 43:19. I love this verse. Like a child delighting in a new accomplishment, God was saying, “Look at what I can do. This is cool!” (I’m no Bible scholar, but I like to think that’s what he was saying.)

So let’s go forth today and be amazed, with ourselves and with the world around us. Have an amazing day!

(I am leading a women’s retreat this weekend, so I will be away from my computer until tomorrow night. Your comments are important and I will publish them as soon as I get back. I can’t wait to read them and be amazed!)

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Here is my favorite story about Buddha.

One day, soon after Buddha’s enlightenment, a man saw Buddha walking toward him. The man had not heard of Buddha, but he could see that there was something different about the man who was approaching, so he was moved to ask, “Are you a god?”

Buddha answered, “No.”

“You’re a magician, then? A sorcerer? A wizard?”


“Are you some kind of celestial being? An angel, perhaps?”


“Well, then what are you?”

The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

Every year I pick a word for the year. It’s not a resolution; it’s more of a guide word, a reminder word. Last year my word was “Awake!” Not the adjective, the verb, as in “Wake up!” I put the word on little post it notes everywhere – by my computer, on the bathroom mirror, on the dashboard of my car, on the refrigerator.

Everywhere I looked, my word reminded me to come back from wherever I was and see the world as it really is, as it is right now. I spent decades of my life not seeing the world as it is. Instead, I saw what I wanted to see. I was the diva of denial, the mistress of magical thinking. My life was not real. It was made up, because I was afraid to look at truth. I was living in a dream.

I am here to tell you that living in a dream is exhausting. It takes a lot of effort to maintain illusion. You have to be constantly vigilant, on eternal alert to spot and crush any green seedling of truth pushing through the cracks in the concrete. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Some of you might know exactly what I’m saying. The good news, and it is good news, is that eventually we wear out. The strength it takes to hold on to the dream will give out, and we will let go. We will all see the world as it really is, right now. We will, as the Bible promises, know the truth, and the truth will set us free. Even though it might first, as Gloria Steinem promises, piss us off.

May we all be awake!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Falling into Now

Welcome to October and to Step 10–Be Here Now. Even though I’ve told this story before, some of you might not have read it, and it seems like a good way to start our discussion about being in the present moment.

Some years ago, I went to my cabin in the mountains for some quality alone time – no phone, no TV, no kids. Just me and the dog. While I was there I decided that I needed to clean all the pine needles and debris off the roof. I dismissed any hesitance I felt about doing this task when I was alone. I used an extension ladder and a long rake. I was cleaning the very last section of the roof when I felt the ladder slip. I frantically clutched at the roof but there was nothing to hold onto. I knew I was going to fall.

So far it sounds like any bad accident someone who has no business being on a ladder when no one is around might have. But here is where it got interesting. The instant I knew I was going to fall, I let go. I released the fear. Or rather it released me, since I clearly was not doing it deliberately. (At this point, I was not doing anything deliberately.) I was immediately filled with a sense of blissful well-being. Blissful doesn’t even begin to describe it. I don’t know words in any language to describe it. It was like being cradled in the arms of angels. Rapture. Perfection.

I was conscious as I tumbled. I felt my body bounce off the ladder on the way down. I felt my back hit the edge of the deck, and then I flipped off the deck to the ground below and tumbled down the hill to a stop. But all the way down, I was absolutely certain that everything was exactly the way it should be. I knew that my body might be hurt. I expected that at the least something would be broken. Maybe I would be paralyzed or even die. No problem. I was in heaven.

When I came to a stop, I lay there without moving for awhile. The thought crossed my mind that if I tried to move, I might find out that I couldn’t. I felt no pain – maybe a bad sign. I wasn’t in heaven anymore. I was lying on the side of a hill with my dog. I love my dog but she is no hero, and I knew I was on my own if I needed help. Finally, I started trying to see what would move. Fingers, toes, arms, legs. I slowly got to my feet, marveling that everything seemed to be intact and functioning (although I was scratched up and bruised and sore for days after).

I gingerly climbed back up the hill and sat on the deck. My mind started to go to all the scary what if places. But I stopped. I had been given an exquisite gift. Two gifts, really. First, the experience itself. Second, the memory of it.

I haven’t had an experience quite like that since, and I have wisely stayed off ladders. But the memory reminds me that now is always here. And that now is perfect. Now is the holy instant, the doorway to our ultimate happy place. And while I don’t suggest that anyone go flying off a roof to find it, we can pause at any time and take a deep breath to enter the gate.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I Love My Life!

Focusing on gratitude this month has been such a blessing. For an entire month, I have thought about gratitude, looked for it, written about it, discussed it, read about it, investigated it, explored it, and found it over and over. As I have been living and breathing gratitude these last weeks, an amazing thing has happened. I have fallen in love with my life.

Sometimes I will just be going through my day, doing nothing special, and all of a sudden this feeling of almost giddy pleasure washes over me. I think, and sometimes even say out loud, “I love my life!” Sometimes I just shake my head in disbelief at the overwhelming abundance of blessings I have been graced with. My heart swells with such humbling gratitude that I think it might burst wide open like a pinata, and flowers and butterflies will pour forth until the world is covered in them.

Anne Lamott says that the two best prayers are “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I wonder if we would need the first prayer so much if we started with the second prayer and prayed it more often. Just a thought.

As some of you know, I lead a monthly discussion group on the 10 Steps. We have been focusing on one Step a month, as I have been on the blog. After our discussion earlier this month on gratitude, I received an email from someone in the group. I am quoting part of it here, with her permission.

Thursday I went downtown to have lunch with my daughter, and to take a package of hers home from her office in my car since she travels by bicycle. It was so crazy on the streets with construction etc., that I parked in a garage and we stopped by my car to drop off her package on our way to the food carts. In the parking garage I tripped on a curb and fell face first. I have a broken foot, in a cast, and an abraded face that scabbed up impressively after all the bleeding stopped. The punch line is, the first thing I said was (after "ow!") "I am so grateful that all of my teeth are intact, and that my glasses weren't damaged!"

It was a reflexive statement rather than considered, and then it took a couple days before I realized that I had been practicing the very thing we discussed in our group this month! Some staff at urgent care commented on my positive perspective, which was nice, but the real payoff has been that even though this is painful and very inconvenient, it has not stolen my happiness. So three cheers for our 10 steps to happiness and how to keep it!... This is my testimonial to show that #9 really does work in the face of adversity.

I was so pleased to hear that she was keeping her spirits up in spite of a painful and debilitating accident, and for me, it confirmed my own experience this month of having gratitude permeate my perspective on life.

So I would like to end this month with an exercise we did in our discussion group. We came up with a list of ways to remind ourselves to be grateful. Here are some of the ideas.

1. For one minute list things you are grateful for.
2. Set your screen on your phone or computer to show a gratitude reminder.
3. Set your phone to vibrate at set times as a reminder to be grateful.
4. Keep a picture of your kids (dog, boat, significant other, whatever works) where you can see it.
5. Use post it note reminders.
6. Meet regularly with a friend or a group to focus on gratitude.
7. Keep a running gratitude list that you add to every morning or every evening.
8. Notice things to be grateful for as you go through your day.
9. Share your gratitude with someone – tell someone what you are grateful for.
10. Say thank you to clerks, cashiers, servers, all the people who help you during your day.
11. Be generous with compliments.
12. Express gratitude and appreciation to children for their kind acts.
13. Say please and thank you.
14. Mention good service to a supervisor.
15. Recognize that it’s never too late to say thank you to someone, perhaps with an apology if appropriate.
16. Use a gratitude reminder as a password.
17. Give thanks before meals and before bedtime.
18. Look for ways to bring gratitude into conversation with others.
19. Keep a gratitude journal.
20. Put a small dry erase board on the fridge and jot down things you are grateful for. (The whole family can participate in this one.)

Would any of these be helpful to you? Do you have other ideas to add to the list?

This month would not be complete if I did not take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of you. I do so enjoy our interaction through reading each other’s blogs and comments. We might connect only through cyberspace, but the connection is real and meaningful to me. You enrich my life and I am grateful.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

One of my favorite bloggers is Sandra Pawula at Always Well Within. She very generously and graciously nominated me to participate in the My 7 Links blog post project, created by the Tripbase travel blog.

The goal of the My 7 Links project is to “unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long ago but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.”

Tripbase shares the best posts from participating bloggers on their blog and every day on Facebook and Twitter at #My7Links.

We are asked to choose one post in each of seven categories to link back to. I have to say that this was an interesting task because I myself have forgotten much of what I’ve written. And even though I’m not sure any of it warrants seeing the light of day again, I enjoyed going back and remembering, like going through old photo albums.

Anyway, here are my 7 links.

Most beautiful – The Joy of Sadness, the Sadness of Joy

Most popular – Calling for Love

Most controversial – Who is a Terrorist? (It was a toss up between this one and the one about whether the toilet paper should roll over the top or from underneath.)

Most helpful – Fun is Good!

Surprise success – Night of the Skunk

Overlooked – My Plan B Family

Most proud of – There is No Them

Part of the pleasure of receiving this nomination is that I can then nominate five more bloggers to participate. I call it a pleasure but it is also a challenge, because there are certainly more than five I would like to nominate. So I tried to choose a variety of blogs. I hope you will visit them, as well as Sandra’s blog.

dreaming of open seas

Everyday Gyaan

Meant to be Happy

Invisible Mikey

Writing as Loud as I Can

Monday, September 26, 2011

Our Treasurest Place

My two autistic sons live in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. It is a modest home by anyone’s standards, funded primarily by the clients’ government benefits. They do not have lives of privilege or abundance in material things.

I was taking them home once after a family dinner. As I pulled into their driveway, James said wistfully, “This is the treasurest place on earth.” When I asked him what he meant, he paused and nodded thoughtfully, “I have everything I want.”

I have been reflecting on James’s words this month as we focus on Step 9–Develop an attitude of gratitude. One might not expect profound wisdom from the mouth of a young adult with autism, which just proves that we need to be open to truth from any source.

Notice that James didn’t just say he has everything he needs. He went further to say that he has everything he wants. How many of us can say that? How many of us do say it?

Make no mistake, James does want things. A new DVD, a hamburger and fries with root beer, a trip to the library. So what did he mean? I think he meant that he has everything he wants in order to be happy. I think he recognized that his happiness was complete whether he has certain “things” or not. His statement was one of utter contentment and appreciation.

May we all live in our treasurest place and have everything we want.

He who knows enough is enough will always have enough. –Tao Te Ching

(revised from archives)

Friday, September 23, 2011

For Today, Newly Bright

I have a watercolor painting in my bedroom of a tiny sparrow sitting in some tall grasses and flowers as the sun’s yellow rays brighten the retreating gray of early morning. The painting is entitled “For Today, Newly Bright.”

The painting reminds me every morning that today is a new day. A fresh start. A new beginning. A day of possibilities. What will I do with them?

A few days ago, I read a wonderful interview involving two of my favorite bloggers. Tess at The Bold Life interviewed Sibyl Chavis, who writes The Possibility of Today. In the interview, Sibyl quoted this wonderful suggestion from the Dalai Lama.

Every day, think as you wake up, Today I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others. I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.

The first part focuses on gratitude. A simple thank you for our lives, an appreciation of the gift we have been given. The second part focuses on aspirations for the day. You could make whatever aspirations you want.

Pema Chodron describes this aspiration practice as “one at the beginning, and one at the end.” In the morning, she makes an aspiration for the day. For example, “May I not speak or act out of anger.” Keep it simple. Then, in the evening, she reviews the day. If you are like me, then you might not have a perfect aspiration track record for the day. Chodron anticipates that (must be common!) by encouraging us to rejoice if we remember our aspiration even once during the day. And if we forgot it completely, then we can rejoice that we have the capacity to be aware of that!

Thich Nhat Hanh describes the Buddhist practice of “beginning anew.” Beginning anew is a determination not to repeat the mistakes of the past, a commitment to living in mindfulness. It reminds me of the Christian concept of reconciliation, or the Jewish concept of atonement. Honestly acknowledging our past frees us to begin anew. Each time we make this vow to ourselves, transformation occurs immediately. We can renew this intention as often as we feel the need to unburden our hearts and start fresh.

I like the theme of rejoicing in our effort rather than scolding ourselves for our imperfection. What a pleasant way to begin and end the day, with gratitude. And to anticipate tomorrow. Full of promise. Newly bright.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm a Grandmother...and I'm Grateful!

Here is my gratitude list for today.

433. I’m a grandmother.
434. My grandson was born a few days ago.
435. My daughter was a champion.
436. We made it to the hospital in time.
437. He wasn’t born on the living room floor.
438. Her boyfriend was an awesome coach.
439. He took it in stride when she temporarily threw him out of the delivery room.
440. She was glad when he came back.
441. I got to see the birth.
442. Everyone is healthy.
443. My daughter is a better new mom at 19 than I was at 35.
444. Her boyfriend is the best new dad I have ever seen.
445. They have magically transformed in the past months from irresponsible teenagers to mature, compassionate, informed, and loving parents.
446. Being a grandmother is lots of fun.

Related post: 1000 Gifts

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What is Enlightenment?

I was pleased to be asked by Corinne at Everyday Gyaan to write a guest post on this topic. Although I possess no special qualifications to answer such a question, I humbly offer a few thoughts.

I spent some time looking up dictionary definitions. My favorite one was simply “freedom from ignorance.” When Buddha was asked if he was a god or an angel, he answered no. The questioner persisted, “Then what are you?” Buddha replied, “I am awake.” When we are awake in this sense, we are free from ignorance.

Read the rest here...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thank Someone Today

I just called my accountant and said thanks.

If you pay estimated tax in the US, today is tax day. My accountant sends me the all-filled-out form I need to submit, detailed instructions on what to write on the check, and an already addressed envelope. All I need to do is write the check, put it in the envelope with the form, and put a stamp on it.

As I was going through this process this morning, I realized how easy it was because of all the hours he put into knowing the rules, computing my taxes, and sending me such clear instructions. So I called him and said thanks. He said he didn’t get many calls like that and he appreciated it.

Is there someone who makes your life easier on a regular basis? Or maybe someone who did something nice for you a long time ago? Or someone who might do something nice for you today?

You could write a note to that teacher who supported you during times of teenage angst. You could thank your kid who does a chore today without being asked. You could speak to the supervisor of the person who helps you in the store or on the phone. Thank a firefighter or a police officer if you see one today. Or a military service person. Or even a lawyer. (As a retired lawyer/professor, I had to add that one!) Give your dog or cat an extra pat. Mention something you appreciate about a family member. Thank a farmer. Thank someone who helped you along the way in your career, or with your blog. Thank the person who refills your water glass or your coffee cup in the restaurant. Thank a neighbor who lent a helping hand. Thank your dentist and your doctor and your pharmacist. Thank your minister or whoever gives you spiritual guidance. Thank your readers. (THANK YOU!!)

I could list so many more, and I’m sure you can, too. We can’t thank everyone in one day, but what if we said thank you to at least one person every day?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Change Your Life in One Minute

Grab a pen and paper and a timer. Okay, for one minute list all the things you are grateful for. Ready, set, go!

Stop! How many did you list? If you can think of that many things in one minute, how many other things could you list in a longer period?

More importantly, how did you feel for that one minute when you were making your list? Were you angry? Whiny? Probably not. Maybe you were even smiling. Gratitude will soften anger, counter complaining, comfort sadness, and lift our spirits.

Now that the minute is over and you are looking at your list, how do you feel? Still grateful? That’s the gratitude afterglow.

This is an easy technique to use anywhere and anytime. I used it most recently when I was stuck in a situation I was eager to get out of. I was starting to get fidgety and grumpy. I looked at the clock and for one minute I mentally listed things I was grateful for. At the end of the minute, I had relaxed, and if I was still not enthusiastic, I was at least pleasantly and comfortably resigned to being patient with a good attitude!

One minute is a small investment in what could be a major shift in your perspective. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Prayer for Dreams

Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together. –Eugene Ionesco

Ten years ago, the French newspaper Le Monde declared “Nous sommes tous americains.” We are all Americans. In the decade since 9/11, we have seen the world community come together in the wake of disaster and crisis. The tsunami in Southeast Asia, the miners in Chile, the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. Ionesco was right about anguish.

And yet still, and perhaps even more so, in the absence of catastrophe, we remain divided by fear. A Newsweek article asks, “Did Osama win?” If the goal of 9/11 was to provoke an civilizational war, then watch the news and draw your own conclusion. Ionesco was right about ideologies.

My prayer for the coming decade is that Ionesco was right about dreams.

Friday, September 9, 2011

An Ordinary Day

“What’s up?” “Not much. What’s up with you?” “Not much.”

For most of my adult life, this is not a conversation I could have had. There was always some aspect of my life in upheaval, in crisis, in dramatic transition. Not all of it was bad. Some of the transitions were sought after. But much of it was hard. Kids with special needs, relationships ending badly, foster kids in crisis, moving often, loved ones dying, injuries and illness.

Much of what was hard was hard because I made hard things harder, by trying to control events and people, by trying to make things other than what they were, by never asking for or accepting help, by magical thinking and massive denial, by debilitating guilt and shame.

I used to wish for an ordinary day. A day like any other, when nothing major happened, when there was no crisis to handle. A day that was unremarkable, with no surprises, a day easy to forget.

I have days like that now. That’s partly because my life has settled down a lot in recent years. And it’s partly because I have learned to roll along with life a bit more smoothly than before.

When I have an ordinary day, I savor every moment. Sometimes I stop in the middle of errands or chores or just reading or watching TV, and think to myself “I love my life so much.” I want to run up to people and shake them and say, “Are you having an ordinary day? Do you know how lucky you are?”

I try to remember to say a prayer for all the millions of people who are having a day like the ones that used to be the norm for me. And for the many more who are having a day much worse than the worst of mine. (On my worst day I had so much to be grateful for if I had only looked at things differently.)

If you are having an ordinary day today, then consider yourself blessed. And please send some good thoughts to those who are struggling today.

What’s up? Not much. Thank God.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How We See Ourselves

My favorite bagger at the grocery store is David. David is a man with some sort of developmental disability, although he functions with a high degree of independence. He is unfailingly friendly and we always chat while he is bagging the groceries. We often talk football, and he especially enjoys teasing me about my team, which is currently, well, underperforming, while his, of course, is not.

My two adult sons, James and Dan, have autism. They are not able to live independently. They are both verbal but have limited communication skills and pretty much no social sensitivity. Neither of them would be able to hold down David’s job.

I was in the store not long ago with James and Dan. While we were at the checkout stand, Dan picked up on something different about David. In his usual direct way, Dan asked him, “Are you disability?” Meaning, of course, are you disabled? I suppressed a gasp and glanced at Tina, the cashier. David, looking like a deer in the headlights, stammered, “What?” Dan, bless his heart (you gotta love him), didn’t miss a beat and asked him again.

David, embarrassed, stammered yes. Tina and I quickly changed the subject and we moved through the awkward moment with a shrug and a laugh. When I was back in the car with Dan and James, I explained to Dan that it was not polite to ask someone if they are disabled. Dan said, as he usually does when corrected, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Then, out of curiosity and in clear violation of what I had just said (!), I asked Dan if he was disabled. Without hesitation, he answered confidently, “No!”

Well, there you go, I thought. Aren’t we all like that? I chuckled and patted Dan on the knee and home we went.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Look Out...It's Contagious!

When I got home from the cabin yesterday, I was so overwhelmed and excited by all the comments waiting for me. I was excited because, well, people commented. That’s always nice. And I was overwhelmed by the pouring forth of gratitude expressed in the comments. I found that as I was reading them, my own heart filled up with gratitude.

That made me pause. I wasn’t really focused on my own gratitude when I started reading the comments, but reading them triggered gratitude in my own spirit. By the time I finished reading them, I was filled to overflowing with humble gratitude for my life and all its blessings.

We’re onto something here, I think. It seems that by sharing our gratitude we spark gratitude in others. That might seem obvious to you, but I had not made that connection until I experienced it when reading your comments. Expressing our gratitude not only increases our own happiness, but it will awaken gratitude in others and thereby increase their happiness as well. Wow.

One way to express our gratitude is to say thank you. When people comment I do try to respond and thank everyone individually in my response. But I can’t remember the last time I said thank you to all y’all for reading my blog. Not everyone comments or emails, but every reader is appreciated and welcome.

We are all busy and there are many wonderful ways we can spend our time. That you would take some of your valuable time to spend reading my blog is a gift to me. I am humbly pleased and honored and grateful.

And thank you for the value you bring to my life with your own blogs. I don’t always comment, but I gain so much from you. You inspire me, challenge me, entertain me, and teach me.

So...thank you.


Friday, September 2, 2011

1000 Gifts

Studies show that grateful people are happier and healthier. So let’s see if we can end this month even more grateful than we are now. One quick and easy way to develop an attitude of gratitude is to count your blessings. There are many ways to do this, and they’re all good. One idea I’ve read about on several blogs is to start a gratitude list and add to it until you have listed 1000 gifts. You can do this any way you like, but as you might guess, the more regular your practice, the greater the benefit.

I started my list awhile back. Here are the things I just added to my list.

421. Gorgeous late summer weather
422. Flowers still blooming in the garden
423. A good mystery novel to read this weekend
424. Spending the weekend at my cabin...
425. With my old dog who is slowing down fast but is still with me
426. Being able to take some time for me before grandbabies start arriving soon
427. Looking forward to meeting my grandchildren
428. Focusing on gratitude for a whole month on my blog
429. Friends who stop by for tea
430. Good blog friends

Do you have a list already? If not, would you like to start one? One caution. If you start a list, then have fun with it. Don’t make it one more thing you have to do on your already too long to do list. I am not very regular in adding to mine, but every time I visit it to add more, I’m reminded that no matter how many blessings are on my list, there are countless more to add!

As you can see from the list, I’ll be at my cabin this weekend, where I am without phone or internet service. Oh, yes...

431. No phone or internet service at the cabin

I hope you will still leave comments, knowing that I am grateful for each one and will publish them as soon as I get back. Oh, yes...

432. Comments on my blog

Have a wonderful weekend (a holiday weekend here in the US).