Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Path to Peace

On April 29 - I consider the life of a man struggling with countless complicated issues. My brother, Mike, took his life two years ago today. Many may still wonder how this could happen and why. What I will say is this: In the end, every corner of his life seemed to be failing. So let us not just consider his life, but take note of his death. This was his choice, and I honestly feel a great relief for him. His struggle is over and he is now on a path to the peace he had long searched for.

If Mike had died of a heart attack or cancer, we would not be asking why, we would not be contemplating the what-ifs. There are no do-overs in this, and there are no what-ifs. It is up to us, the living, to accept Mike’s choice, send love his way, and move forward. His family and friends have different memories of him, the best of these we should hold near our heart.

While I know Mike has found his peace, I am not so sure some of those who loved him have. So I offer you my favorite prayer by St. Francis of Assisi, in the hopes you may find your path to peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

On this day, my thirty seventh wedding anniversary, I continue to light a pathway of peace for Michael.

Pretty lights photo courtesy of ANDR3W A

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Resetting the Highs and Lows

My grandparents were orchardists, and weather was a vital part of their livelihood. In order to track weather trends, Grandpa Leo would head outside to his thermometer hutch every morning and evening to record the high and low temperatures for the day. He had a U-shaped maximum-minimum style mercury thermometer with two magnets that would move along as the temperatures went up or down. After resetting his thermometer, he would note the temperatures in a little black notebook he kept in the hutch.

When I was little girl, staying at their home, Grandpa Leo and I would head out to reset the thermometer together. He would pick me up so I could reach the stylus magnet and move the internal temperature magnets to the current temperature. This needed to be done in order to guarantee a proper maximum-minimum reading. As I grew older, he and I would sit underneath the big, gnarly apricot tree on summer evenings and talk about the weather – how he could smell the rain coming, what the wind direction indicated, what the color of the morning or evening sky might mean, and what the various cloud formations suggested. To this day, first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, I check the outside temperature readings. Grandpa would have loved my weather station because I can track not only highs and lows, but also rain accumulation, wind direction and speed, and an assortment of other weather related data.

Being a gardener, I follow weather trends closely. As if I have a crystal ball, people are always asking me what my weather forecast may be for the week ahead or a particular season. Years ago, weather seemed to be more predictable. In recent years, though, forecasting has become a bit more difficult. With record setting temperatures, rainfall, and snowfall, or lack thereof, my forecasting is not as reliable. But still, I watch the trends, keep an eye on the color of the sky and those cloud formations, take note of the wind direction and how it feels, stick my nose in the air and take in the smell of moisture heading my way, while always tracking those highs and lows. All in all, I do a pretty good job, and I think grandpa would think so, too.

My forecasting isn’t always sun filled days, but swings in temperatures, storms ahead, and everything in between. I’ve learned that weather, as well as the ups and downs of life, can sometimes be predictable; but like most things, out of my control. In order to weather the storms ahead, it is up to each one of us to take note of the trends, keep an eye on what's going on around us, and stick our noses in the air to sense what may be heading our way. But most importantly, we must never forget to reset our highs and our lows on a daily basis. After all, tomorrow is a new day and the forecast ahead is always changing. As I look into my crystal ball, I predict winds of change for all in the days to come.

Max, min and reset button photo courtesy of florriebassingbourn

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do the Right Thing

Thinking about Bucky Beaver in my last post, and continuing to stroll down the memory lane of a young girl, I am reminded about the time I adopted a rather awkward cousin.

Once I learned the basics of swimming, I was a regular at our local swim pool. Joe, one of the lifeguards, was a tall, gawky guy. He wore heavy lensed black framed glasses, had large ears, massive puffy lips, and a very interesting way of moving those long legs of his as he walked the deck around the pool area. He was someone the kids were always snickering about. Having been taunted by the Bucky Beaver moniker, I made sure to not go along with what the other kids were saying, but I had not stood up for him either. One day, I had had it with the funny things they were saying about him, and the who’s this mockery. When they started in, as they usually did when he was on deck, I spoke up and said, “That’s not nice, and by the way, Joe’s my cousin!” They all looked at me, then turned to him and yelled, “She says she’s your cousin.” I looked right at him with a little nodding of my head, and he replied, “Michelle? Of course she is, who didn’t know that?” Those pool kids never made fun of him again. Afterwards, Joe and I always called each other cousin.

When shy me spoke up, I remember my heart beating rapidly, my breath slowing down, and my ears throbbing, as I worked up the courage to speak my mind. I had thought about the moment and knew it could backfire, but I didn’t care anymore. Once I said my peace, I felt an enormous amount of happiness flood through my body like a burst of sunshine. I knew I had done the right thing.

As I grew older, when my friends would make fun of someone, I would not hesitate to say, “Hey, that’s my cousin!” They would turn to the kid, ask them if I was their cousin, and whoever it was always smiled and said, “Yes!” It stopped the taunters dead in their tracks, and stopped the taunting. Back then, I was known to have many cousins.

What did I get out of all of this? Well, for one, Bucky Beaver was fighting back with one little victory at a time, and the other thing I could see happening was a moment of shameful insight realized by those who did the taunting. Perhaps it was a lesson learned going forward in life for some of those kids, I will never know. What I do know is this, doing the right thing always outshines anything else. You can feel it light you up from the inside-out. How cool is that?
The sun shines on everyone photo courtesy of lee

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bucky Beaver

Through adversity, we can become our best selves.

When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers would roll in a TV on an elevated cart once a week so we could watch the Bucky Beaver show. I don’t remember much about the show except that it was in black and white, Bucky was a puppet, and we were learning about Lewis and Clark. But Bucky and I have some serious history. You see, about that time, my adult teeth were growing at a much faster, larger rate than the rest of my face. I also had an overbite, otherwise known as bucked-teeth. So, once Bucky showed up in our classroom, I was given the lovely nickname Bucky Beaver. 

While there were a lot of hurtful childhood nicknames that would be thrown my way from time to time, Bucky Beaver really hurt. I was already self-conscious of my teeth, and this nickname made them feel much larger than they actually were. I was a rather shy child, and I did not care for this kind of attention at all. When provoked, I learned it was in my best interest to not react, so as not to lend more fuel to the proverbial fire. My parents told me things like, kids will be kids, and they are just jealous, but that doesn’t really make you feel any better when taunted by, Bucky Beaver, Bucky Beaver!

As I observed the various nicknames and taunting going on in this social stew of elementary school, I made it a point to not include myself in this type of hurtful behavior. We all knew who the bullies were, and I could see they were the one’s with the problem. They were just deflecting their own insecurities. I wouldn’t have been able to put it in those words back then, but I began to see what was actually going on. While they were deflecting, I was doing my best to ignore them, something else my parents suggested. By choosing to ignore, I became the one in control of the situation.

Bucky helped me realize I was better than the sum of the words directed my way. He helped me move beyond the taunting and show those bullies just how great I could be. I excelled in my studies, playground activities, sports, and whatever else I put my mind to. Bucky Beaver, Bucky Beaver, fell to the wayside, as I was no longer someone fun to intimidate.

I may not be a kid now, but I can still see who the bullies are. Young or old, they are out there deflecting their insecurities. The only thing the rest of us can do is to be better than they are. I didn’t know at the time, but good old Bucky Beaver started me off on a course of life lessons learned. Thanks Bucky!
Smiley photo courtesy of Clark family archives