Friday, December 28, 2012

Yesterday, I spent some seven hours either sitting on high school bleachers or feeding wrestlers. I will do the same again today. When I thought of motherhood, this was not an image that even remotely came to me. But I am there because my son wants me there; it is important to him that I am there even in those long minutes when he is not wrestling. And that is enough for me. 

As we travel though life, we sometimes lose track of the blessings, especially the small ones. Often times, our greatest blessings are not what we receive but what we do for others.

So when that road you travel gets particularly long or rocky or that wooden bench gets very hard, think beyond that moment. There is something or someone worth enduring those moments of hardship. That something or someone is your blessing. Cherish them. And then, share your blessings!

♥ Jackie

Friday, September 28, 2012

decisions, decisions

When all the extras are stripped away, what is left of this life is the choices we've made.  Let me qualify that, at least somewhat.  I may not be able to control everything that has happened to me. But what I do control is how I respond to that or what my attitude is. In other words, when times are hard, I can choose to be the victor or the victim.  In good times, I can choose to be cheap or charitable.

Every morning, you are given a blank canvas. You have the choice to paint it with bright colors even on a rainy day. Or, find your black and gray paint pots empty from overuse. You may notice within your friends on any social media these habits.  Some friends, you love to read what fun or interesting thing they are doing now, even though they may be suffering financially or have some health issue. And others, while their circumstances are more favorable, post only gloom and doom.

In one of my darkest times: single mother of three, no child support and newly diagnosed with breast cancer, it may have been the easiest choice to wallow in self-pity. And, in fact, I did feel sorry for myself. But that is not where I allowed myself to stay. My children still needed me, I still needed to put a roof over our heads, there was still a classroom of children with autism that still needed teaching and I still needed to defeat the disease that had assailed my body.  I did not accomplish anything great, but on this side of cancer, I'm grateful that I had three kids to keep me strong.

You have a choice about how you view your life. You have a choice to be strong. You have a choice to make things better. That road might be slow. It might be painful. But you still have the choice to take it.  You are living the blessing of this life you have been given. The ability to choose is a blessing, choose wisely.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Old Friends

Last weekend I traveled to my home town in what is called the Midwest.  No matter how long I live away from the city where I was born and have no intention on moving back there, when I'm driving there, I always think about home. 

I spent an evening with my friend Karen. We've known each other for more than half our lives. And while I'm not ancient, neither am I a young woman. Karen and I have known each other a long time.  Next to my husband, I consider her my best friend.

Karen and I have shared countless laughs and many, many tears. We hold each other's secrets and love each other unconditionally. Growing up in a house full of boys, I've never related to another woman like I have her.  In fact, I consider her a sister rather than a friend.

Karen's health has been fragile for the last few years. In fact, at one point, doctors baffled by her illness, predicted she would die.  And while I prayed, I otherwise felt so utterly useless; wanting a plan of action to make that new reality to go away. The myriad tears I cried were purposeless.

Due to Karen's unrelenting need to conquer her illness, she found new doctors. She was diagnosed with Lyme disease. However, for Lyme to be treated easily, it must be diagnosed quickly. That never happened here. The parasites that invaded her body have stolen bits and pieces of my friend, at times speech, or clear thinking or energy.

 I never needed Karen to contract a dibilitating disease to realize what a blessing she was to me. But it has meant the moments we've had together are all the more precious.

Love your family and cherish your friends as they are one of life's greatest gifts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


After a summer of frightening heat and too little rain, I sit here on a September morning with the windows open enjoying the cooler temperatures. Not yet fall, but thinking about what a blessing Autumn brings. Autumn means change.

Yes, with Autumn, we get cooler temperatures. Daylight hours get shorter. We are not quite as active. Leaves change colors and fall off the trees. Animals migrate or scurry around preparing for winter. 

There was a time when I was more likely to enjoy hayrides despite my allergies, roast hot dogs and make s'mores. There is something extraordinary about huddling in front of a fire on a chilly night. Friends gather and share laughter. Practicing the fine art of marshmallow toasting, or do you prefer charred?  

Tug on a big comfortable sweater, don a colorful scarf and you are prepared for the day. In the evening, curl up under a blanket with a good book next to someone you love and the day has a perfect ending.  

Autumn is about the harvest, the gathering together. The season of growing is over and truly it is time to reap the rewards of your labor. There is dust over the fields and the crops are taken in. It is a time of fulfillment.

There is some irony that autumnal colors are those from the warm palette as each day the temperatures get cooler.  But the beauty of the fall landscape is worth any irony. A few years ago, I was privileged to chaperone a fall youth retreat. While the kids were in lessons on Saturday, I was able to sit beside the lake with the fall colors mirrored in the lakes waters. It was a double delight and one I could not help but capture in writing.

One other fall activity I used to love was going to a pumpkin farm and riding the wagon out into the fields and finding pumpkins for each of the kids. I think pumpkins have their own personalities and often I could not help but buy those bumpy pumpkins that others ignored. Something in their imperfection spoke to me and I could not help but bring them home.

Breathe in the crisp fall air and look for your blessings this fall.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

something in the air

Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.                          ~Oliver Wendell Holmes  

Like our other senses, smell blesses our lives. It serves to bring beauty into our world, relax us, warn us, tie us to our beloved, enhance our other senses, and serve as a time transporter.

There is more than one reason that we love to have bouquets of flowers grace our homes. Not only to they add beauty for our eyes, but their fragrance too, add to their allure. A trip through a botanical gardens or the woods brings delight to the eyes but is magnified when we breathe in the heady scent of our surroundings.

Essential oils or scented candles fill the air. We can close our eyes and sit back or lose ourselves in a good book. Relax in a warm bath or curl up under a comfortable blanket. There once was a time that I'd climb into a hot bath, good book, candles and a glass of wine close by.  It has been a long time since I've allowed myself that luxury. Perhaps it is time to bless myself again.

Long before we might hear the pop and crackle or see the licking tongue of flames, we smell fire. Certain medical issues can be detected by odor.  Smell warns us of a dangerous gas leak. Smell is also what leads us to rotten food.  

When we care about someone, we also incorporate their scent into our senses of what we love about them. That is why when my husband is on a business trip, I wrap my arms around his pillow.  Widow and widowers sniff the clothes of their lost spouse.  Whether we are aware of it or not, our scent binds us to those we love. 

Without our sense of smell?  Well, that steak would be flavorless. Our mouths would not be watering in anticipation of the bread baking in the oven. We would lose about 80% of what we taste. That would be a great heartache.

But lastly, smell makes us time travelers. When I smell that strong, pungent odor of skunk, I am again twelve years old lying in bed with my cousin in Tennessee. Even for a girl who went camping most weekends in summer, I had never smelled it before.  The smell of cigar, so often thought unpleasant, reminds me of my grandfather and days spent with him and my grandmother.  And the scent of rain on red clay? Then I am transported to Tennessee where I was the youngest granddaughter and my moniker of sissy was a title of love. 

That odor? Well, it's a blessing that you call smell from a mile away!

Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.                           ~Vladimir Nabokov


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

more Little Red Riding Hood?

"what big teeth lolling tongue you have"

No, that's not exactly how the dialogue went in Little Red Riding Hood, but I couldn't help continuing that train of thought when thinking of how the sense of taste is a blessing.  The tongue is an amazing organ. How else to we enjoy the banquet of food that is ours to create and explore?

Bitter, sweet, sour, salty.  While I'm not a big fan, one of my husband's favorite sayings is, "mmmm, coffee, coffee good!"  But give me a cup of tea, mint, blackberry, yerba mate and I'm happy.  But why stop there, breakfast of a western omelet with peppers, onion, mushrooms and cheese. Toasted whole wheat bread spread with mascarpone.

One of my favorite foods is cheese, I love to find new cheeses to try.  Some of the latest are a sour cherry goat cheese, a Scandinavian baked cheese, and an English sharp cheddar.  Yes, cheese is one of my favorite items because there are so many varieties to explore.

As my husband and I move toward a healthier, vegetarian lifestyle, there are many spices, vegetables to create new taste experiences. I've never had parsnips before.  One of my favorite recipes is Roasted root vegetables. That's where the parsnips was used along with turnips and potatoes and carrots. I've substituted cauliflower for potatoes for mashed potatoes.

I must admit, I love the whole experience of eating.  Experiencing new tastes, the smells, the textures. So yes, taste? It's a blessing not to ignore. Go out today and bless those taste buds today. Not just with something you know you love, find a new favorite.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

what big ears you have

"the better to hear you with, my dear"     ~the Big Bad Wolf

Seek the lofty by reading, hearing and seeing great work at some moment every day. ~Thornton Wilder

the lilting notes of a lullaby, the soft patter of rain upon the roof, the contagious laughter of a child, the words "I love you": if you treat them as mundane, then they become mundane.  Thornton Wilder was on to something.  We should be on a journey to seek something lofty. But I caution that we should not get so caught up in the search that we cannot see, or hear, what is right in front of us.

Our sense of hearing is a great blessing. If the music you are listening to does not evoke emotion, then why listen?  Music can move me to tears. The sound of rain on my roof can lull me to sleep. And the laughter of children can cause me to laugh without even understanding why they are laughing. Hearing is powerful. It is one vehicle that delivers the beauty of the world to us.

Hearing is a tool the warns us when danger is near. The buzzing of a bee, the sound of a speeding car, a tornado siren move us to action. Often long before we see the peril, we that the tool to prevent the disaster.

As a writer, I've been asked to share my poetry.  Looking out over my audience, I've seen people crying, brought to tears from hearing my words. Others with their eyes closed, absorbing the imagery of what they heard.

Now hear this! Whether lofty or mundane, be thankful for your sense of hearing. It brings you news of this world, for safety, for enjoyment, for learning, for love. Cherish it!