Sunday, August 7, 2016

The wisdom in Proverbs

Somedays – and maybe even most days lately – happiness has felt elusive. Things that are out of my control have controlled my happiness. I have allowed illnesses, children’s choices, broken cars and broken dreams to break down my joy and destroy my peace. 

Perhaps, the wisdom, the understanding, and the empathy gained in each of these situations is the way to happiness. Life will never be free of heartache, but as we come to see the wisdom of how God has taught us to find joy in the things, the lessons, the understanding He provides, and we allow His peace to be in our lives, we can and will be happy. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Miracle of a Seed

Almost without thinking, this morning, I bowed my head as I placed my cantaloupe and eggs before me and asked God to help them nourish and strengthen my body. I wouldn’t even categorize my words as a prayer or a blessing. I offered one of those vain repetitions the scriptures caution us to avoid, and I knew better. Obtaining, eating, and enjoying foods that nourish my body has never been a problem, so why do I use those words. It used to be ignorance. But now, I simply allow old habits and laziness to invade my prayers. Yes, my mother – as most moms have done – told me to eat all of my vegetables because there were starving children in Africa. Now, when I take the time to pause and pray over my food, I think about those children, and I realize how blessed I am for not only the abundance of food, but also the variety available and the ease in which it is obtained. So, instead of asking for heath and strength, I think about how I can use that strength to bless others, I express gratitude that I have never experienced real hunger and the food I eat provides nourishment, I think about all the farmers and workers who labor long hours to make my food possible, and I contemplate the beauty of rain, the wonder of the sun, and the miracle of a seed. Perhaps, in a few days, old habits will creep back into my prayers again, but the seed of gratitude has been planted, and I know if nourish it, it will continue to grow. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Making it count

I’m not sure when exactly the adventure began, but it came to an end last night. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, perhaps because, in my mind, it simply became an undertaking I was not going to give up on. I had started it two previous times, and this time, I was determined to finish.  After 1,243 pages and 117 chapters, I can check the unabridged classic The Count of Monte Cristo off my bucket list.

Quite possibly I began reading it sometime in June because a journal entry on August 14, 2015 at 11:25pm reads “Still reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I’m on page 586 – only 657 pages to go. Maybe I’ll have it finished by the end of the year.”  And that became my goal. Check.

As I was reading, I kept thinking about all of the other books I could be holding in my hands while I was drudging through this one, and sadly, now that I am done, I wish I would have enjoyed it more. Isn’t that how life is sometimes? We have moments and opportunities to savor, and so often, we are caught looking ahead, making a list of what we don’t have, and not appreciating what we do.

Along with the reminder to enjoy the present, here is a list of some insights from reading this book:

Sometimes watching the movie only confuses one when reading the book of the same title.
The premise is mostly the same, but the subtle differences had me rereading some parts of the book because I thought I had missed something. As in the movie, Fernand does betray Edmond in order to marry Mercedes, and Albert is born to this union, but in the book, Fernand is not Edmond’s best friend, Mercedes waits many years before marrying Fernand, and Albert is not Edmond’s son. The happy ending of the movie is sweet. But just don’t expect the book to end the same.

I know L stands for 50 and C equals 100.
When confronted with Roman Numerals – with an apology to my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Dugmore – I must admit I often forget what comes after X. But after reading CXVII chapters labelled with a V, C, or L, or a combination of those letters, this numeric system has sunk into my brain.

Reading 1,243 pages is worth it when you find a quote you love.
“Maternal love is such a great virtue and powerful impulse that it can excuse many things.”

I understand the pleasure one might find in retribution, but I believe true happiness is found when one seeks to forgive.
Edmond Dantes uses his fortune and freedom to punish those responsible for his incarceration, and his vengeance consumes him. I thought it sad, just sad. And maybe that is what one should learn. When we seek revenge, we give more of our life to one who does not deserve any of our thoughts, our energy, or our time. For me, Alexandre Dumas epic tale of suffering is not about the pleasure of retribution, but about the need to forgive. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

If laughter really is the best medicine . . .

Lately, for so many reasons, my heart has been heavy. Maybe you feel like I do, and you need a reason to smile. If you're tired of all the things on social media and your news feed that bring you down, here is a little piece of something light for today.

A Confusing Sestina

He said he would send the flower, its homophone
Flour is what we requested. I hoped his confusion
was a simple misunderstanding.
A blossom is not what I wanted, the synonym
Of grain is what I kneaded. Language!
Oops! Needed is the write word.

To write is done with a pencil. The word
Right is concerned with proper selection. A homophone
Can cause frustration with language.
Two, too, and to also cause confusion,
Two is a number, to is towards, and too is the synonym
Of many. I hope they’re is no misunderstanding.

If one simply separates they’re into they are. No misunderstanding
With their or there wood be made. Wood is a word
That refers to an oak or a maple. Would is the synonym
Of will do. Do is the homophone
Of dew. And dew should not be confused
With due. It means payable in are language.

Are and our are interchanged too frequently in language.
Each mite cause some misunderstanding.
Shoot! Mite is a creature. Confusion
Comes when one does knot use the word
Might. Yikes! Knot is a homophone
Of not. And to tie is it’s synonym.

It’s would not be its synonym,
Another frequent blunder in language.
Because it’s and its sound the same, a homophone
Is what they are. To avoid misunderstanding
It’s is a contraction of it is, and its is a word
That implies possession. Sew much confusion!

Sew is to stitch. So means therefore. More and moor confusion!
Moor is a swampy grassland, while a synonym
Of more is extra. One must bee careful what word
Is used. Be means to exist in the English language.
Bee is an insect oar a bug. Another misunderstanding!
Oar is a paddle. Ore is a metal. And or is not their synonym.

A synonym is a word that has a similar meaning. A homophone
Is a word with a different definition but sounds the same. Language
Not clear can cause confusion. I hope this will dismiss all misunderstanding.

And if you have never heard of a sestina before, here is a little background on this poetry style. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Just a smile

I believe I was called an idiot yesterday. Well, the words were never verbalized, but I’m sure that was the intent. Idiot! It rang loud in my head. She thought she needed to explain to me how to use a doorstop. A doorstop. Yes, that little triangular piece of wood that one puts in a door to hold the door open. “I NEED you to take the doorstop OUT of the door before you close the door.” Idiot! I believe the name itself details the reason it would need to be removed. Doesn’t the stop part of doorstop infer the door cannot be moved or closed with it still in the door? Idiot! She was a customer, so I just smiled. The idiotic part of this interaction is that I let it ruin my day. I gave her a good 24 hours of stewing about it.  When I could have been conquering “The Count of Monte Cristo” (and that’s a whole other story for another day), my evening was spent mulling over witty retorts to her insinuation of my idiocy. And why? I will see her again; she will be gruff, irritable, and condescending, and I will be stunned by her remarks, and having no clever comeback, I will likely just smile. I don’t know. Perhaps, she needs a smile.

Maybe, her husband is dying of cancer.  Or he recently left her for another woman. Possibly her son is a drug addict and stealing from her, and she doesn’t know how to stop either. Her snippy words could be caused by pain, of the emotional or physical type. I’d like to think she is simply not mean for the sake of being mean. Yet, the alternative is she is dealing with heartache. Neither option makes me feel better. So, I guess I’ll not let her unkind words steal anymore of my happy moments, and I’ll be grateful I have them. Next time she calls me an idiot, I’ll forgo the idea of adding to her unhappiness, and I’ll gladly offer just a smile. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A little inconvenience?

Upon noticing my change of mood last Saturday evening, my husband asked what had happened. “I hate grocery shopping! And I am not a fan of doing it late at night either.” It had been a while since I wandered around my neighborhood Harmon’s. Bananas – a staple in my home – had not been seen on my counter for days. The last apple and yogurt had been consumed the day before. The few slices of bread in my cupboard were moldy. And that morning my son had drained the last bit of our milk. We had powdered milk available, but now that we were down to one child in the home and drinking the real stuff, I just couldn’t stomach that again. I love whole milk. I had to go to the store.

As I fought the fellow shoppers on each isle, couldn’t find all the items I wanted, and waited in line at the checkout stand, my disdain for this process grew. After lugging it all into the house and putting it away, I was convinced I would be happy if I never went grocery shopping again.

Yet, before I was even done ranting to my husband about the inconveniences of grocery shopping, I realized how ridiculous I must sound. I was whining because I despised battling my cart around other shoppers at the store. Waa waaa waaah!

I couldn’t believe how quickly I had forgotten the lessons of the previous day. Just a mere thirty hours before my "aggravating" grocery shopping experience, I was sitting – rather comfortably and with a completely full stomach – in an air-conditioned classroom listening to an international aid worker’s devastating story of a Mozambican grandmother.  Because of civil wars and the AIDS epidemic in her country, all of her children had died, and she was raising her fifteen grandchildren. Along with many in her country, they were starving. (And not the “I haven’t eaten in six hours” kind of starving that we experience.)That grandmother would have been ecstatic to feed her grandchildren the moldy bread in my cupboard or the powdered milk I found distasteful. She would have gratefully been inconvenienced, irritated, and annoyed just to have the opportunity to walk around a store and put food in a cart. She probably would have even welcomed her fellow countrymen to block her in the isles and cause her to wait at the checkout stand.

I am out of milk . . . 

Thankfully, I have the opportunity to be inconvenienced at the grocery store again today. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy Birthday?

“Tomorrow is your special day. I can’t believe you’ll be 28.” I say it a little giddy, possibly to annoy him. I know he is indifferent to birthdays. He’s like his dad.

“Whoa Mom! I’m only going to be 27.” I guess he cares about the number, but not the day.

“Really? Hmm . . . I guess you’re right.” I reply, admitting that one of us is getting old.

Yes, today is my son’s 27th birthday, but don’t bother texting him. He won’t respond. And writing on his wall is not possible. He’s not on Facebook. And even if he was, his birthday would be purposely omitted from his profile. He doesn’t want 250 of his closest friends acknowledging his birthday simply because Facebook reminded them to do it. I must admit I’m with him on that. “Alison has a birthday today” is not a message my Facebook friends will receive on a certain day in March.

I imagine “Happy Birthday” will be said to him numerous times today, even if he prefers otherwise. (Well, I’m guessing my husband will forgo the greeting.) It’s not that he’s against having a happy day. He just doesn’t see the big deal. It could possibly be the attention he dislikes, or more likely, he hates being treated differently simply because the calendar tells one to do it. He doesn’t think Hallmark should dictate how we live our lives.

Sometimes, I believe my son has it right. He is never disappointed on his birthday. He has no expectations. And for those of us who assume bliss, gifts, and scrumptious chocolate cake – without calories – will be part of our special day, we will most likely be frustrated and discouraged.

So, who creates the “happy” in our birthdays? And who is responsible for our expectations? Is that funny looking Chuck E. Cheese the culprit?

After a depressing forty-something birthday, when my husband was in meetings all night and two of my children asked if I was making dinner, I decided no one would have the ability to make my birthday happy or sad. I would determine its outcome. Yes, I love it when a friend remembers, or a loved one calls, but those are bonuses.

Happiness. It is the wish of birthdays, and really, it’s the desire for every day. Happiness. Sometimes it is hard to find, but it can happen. Mostly it depends on where we are seeking it. I just know it won’t be found in a Hallmark card.