You know that poster that hangs in the guest bathroom? The one with all the little bits of wisdom to make for a happier life like “Call your Mom,” and “Sing in the Shower”? Life’s Little Instructions. Yup, that one.
I think I’d add a few of my own.
I could do it…
Laugh some every day
Give at least one hug daily
Cry like you mean it, don’t hold back
Write it down so you’ll remember
Naps are okay, encouraged even
Get outside and do something
Remember childhood Happies
Make new Happies
Have some quiet time daily
Get rowdy at least twice a month
Crank those tunes
Ditch the to-do list sometimes
Put yourself in time-out and enjoy it
Sleep somewhere odd
Be a tourist in the state you live
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Smile more than not
Wink at little kids
Roll down a grassy hill when you can
That’s all stuff I ought to remind myself of, often. Maybe I can get your dad to play along with some of them. Not sure I can picture him rolling down a hill, unless it’s unintentional while skiing. Ouch.
And of course, everyone has their own definition of rowdy. Let’s just all keep it legal. (Wink.)
I hope you laugh! And sing and dance and love life!
Love you tons,
p.s. I could make this into a cute meme if I wanted to spend the time and understood computers better, but I don’t. So here’s a drawing I made of myself instead. Way faster than creating a meme.
Sending lots of love!
p.p.s. It seems like a long list. Probably because it is. If I thought about it for a few days I could narrow it down some. But, it’s Friday and I wanted to get this letter out to you today. 🙂
Have you ever wished you could talk with someone who has died? How do you picture something like that coming about? An ethereal mist with somewhat human form? A tangible person appearing from nowhere? Simply hearing a voice? How about just a feeling?
A couple of times my friend Kathy has “spoken” to me, but only in a kind of “I know what she’d say in this situation if she were here” sort of way. Like the first time I got a diet Cherry Coke from Sonic without her in the seat beside me. The thought came to me that she’d say, “Girl! Open the sunroof, crank the tunes and enjoy that diet Coke!”
Nah, I didn’t hear her voice at all. Just the memory of her in my head.
Then there’s the times I’ve had a conversation and said something really negative or pessimistic. “Kathy would get after me for saying that,” I think to myself.
Photo by Wle2 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]
Still, not what I’ve wanted, or hoped for or thought I needed. I’m pretty sure she said all she needed to say to me while she still lived and breathed. But this month I’m finding myself reliving and reviewing last December, since it was Kathy’s last month of this life. I can’t not do that.
So what does all that have to do with my Gratituesday today?
Kathy finally spoke to me, indirectly, but as directly as she could. Consider this quote before you read on: “If it weren’t for music, I would think that love is mortal.” ~Mark Helprin
Kathy’s husband woke in the middle of the night a month or so ago with the thought that “Kami needs to go to this Christmas concert I’m singing in.” He tried to ignore the thought and go back to sleep, but the it persisted. So he messaged me and then, a few weeks later, gifted me these tickets.
Saturday night MSH and I attended the concert. I tried not to have high expectations. It’s just a big two hundred and fifty member choir and an orchestra. Nothing professional. And I didn’t want to be disappointed by, I don’t know, Kathy not walking across the stage and waving hello to me or some such ridiculous incarnation like that.
And yet, life can surprise you.
The Christmas song Stille Nacht (ca. 1860) by Franz Xaver Gruber (1787–1863).
The title of the concert? “Heavenly Peace.”
From the first note my heart opened up and tears dripped from my eyes like a faucet left on. Why? Because the music communicated peace right to the middle of me. I felt cradled and comforted by the harmonies. Oddly, the lyrics didn’t matter as much as the warmth that radiated through sound waves swirling around me.
Songs of delight and child-like frivolity also danced across my heart. A sweet preschool choir communicated the innocence and excitement of the holidays. A tonal poem of one word repeated drew a colored sound picture so exquisite.
Photo by nosyme (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]
The final number, though, gave new meaning to the word breathtaking. Bagpipes and dancers, chimes, singers in the balconies, singers overflowing the stage, every single participant pouring their everything in to each note! I literally had to catch my breath multiple times to keep my emotions in check. The sheer joy of the Christmas season with generosity and fun, lights and song, focus and tradition, shot through my heart like lasers swooshing about the room. I felt lifted and renewed and saturated with incredible hope.
I felt Kathy communicating, “Feel that? That’s how I feel now! I feel relief and joy and freedom and incomprehensible love.”
I’m thankful today for music’s power to transcend ordinary communication. I’m grateful for musical artists who give with such abandon to their craft. I’m indebted to people who pay attention and respond promptly to nudges and thoughts and then follow through with generosity and love. I thank Kathy for getting through to me and showering down blessings from heaven. I’m overwhelmed with the joy of this Christmas season.
Thank you to any and all who had a part in this singularly magnificent Christmas gift.
“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Being a fan of words I look for and read them everywhere. I think it all started ages ago while reading the backs of cereal boxes. Now I read everything: signs, plaques, memorials, directions, chalkboards, menus, whiteboards, magnets, carvings, raised metal, blocks, imprints, impressions, sidewalk chalk, train graffiti, book spines, air fresheners, notices, refrigerators, headlines. Even the occasional book.
Words hang out everywhere and in some surprising places. Some even smell good.
Here’s a few words I’ve run into lately:
The good and the bad.
“There are places I remember all my life, Though some have changed, Some forever, not for better, Some have gone and some remain.” ~ From the Beatles”In My Life.”
Such a tiny word…
“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” ~Khalil Gibran
Life began here.
“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” ~Bill Mollison
Don’t ask me to choose just one kind.
“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” ~ David Mamet
A concrete idea.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” ~ Michelangelo
Wings, roots, reasons.
“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.” ~ Dalai Lama
Such a big word.
“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder
I can’t believe I didn’t post a Gratituesday yesterday. I can’t even come up with a decent reason. Busy. Life. Sidetracked.
Well, maybe on occasion I get grumpy and forget how decadent a life I lead compared to ninety percent of the rest of the world. Shame on me when I do that.
I recognize abundance every day but don’t necessarily mention it online. My journal hears about it. The interior of my car hears my comments and catches glimpses of car dancing and singing I might do when I’m feeling particularly blessed while I’m out and about.
There’s something about putting my gratitude out there for all the world to see that makes it bigger, better, and more real. Almost gives it life, if that’s possible. And so I’ve clung to the idea of Gratituesday since my sister posted one three years ago on Facebook. Tuesday has been like my extra little Hallelujah day.
Six-month old’s first selfie.
So, this Wednesday, a day late, but better than ignoring it altogether, I’ve built a list from this past week.
seeing a six-month old becoming mobile, rolling, stretching, reaching, becoming less dependent every day
joy clearly visible in the eyes of a physically challenged older adult when music plays and people sing
tiny purple wildflowers mixed in among the orange and golds
a chorus of birdsong to wake me every single morning
the dogs down the street who howl with the fire engine sirens, as if they know some sorrow has occurred
an orange eaten fresh from the backyard tree, juice running down my chin, fingers sticky with delight
a reliable, decent looking vehicle, new to me since December
opportunities to help in a different way than I’m used to or comfortable with
warm, clean water pouring out from the faucet at the mere twist of a handle
time with my children talking, laughing, texting, sharing
a zillion book choices for reading, mental traveling, learning, wondering
a red valentine balloon, droopy and deflated, but filled with love of the purest kind
a refrigerator full of food, cupboards stocked, every need supplied
friends and hugs, support and encouragement
wonderful memories to fill empty spaces
And that isn’t even half of the amazement that rocked my world.
I found another rock gift! Cool, isn’t it?
Oh, I know to anyone looking in on my life it would seem ordinary and boring. Maybe it is. But noticing and acknowledging the blessedness of it all makes it extraordinary in my eyes. And that’s all that really counts, isn’t it?
As is my wish every Tuesday, I hope you find happinesses in your life as well.
So apparently there’s no texting allowed in heaven or I’d have heard from you by now. Dang it.
I figured maybe, just maybe, you’d get a split second or two to do some reading, since you love to read. So I thought if I wrote out some thoughts I’d had lately, you’d get the message somehow. Call me naïve, or silly or weird, I don’t care.
Also, you’ve been on my mind more than ever, imagine that. I find myself thinking of things I need to tell you about, and then remember you aren’t close by to just drop in and have a chat with. So I’ve been kind of keeping a mental list of things to talk with you about. Maybe you won’t mind if I drop you a letter once in a while to sort of make sure I’m staying connected with you somehow.
For my first letter to you I’ve come up with a list.
It’s a list of just some of the things I’ve missed about you since you left almost a month ago:
How insistent you are about being on time, and others being on time, too. Like a contract, you always say.
Seeing your face light up when you think about, talk about or get a text or a call from your husband.
How you always say, “love you” when I leave, and how I know you mean it.
Hearing about your wild and crazy daycare adventures.
Being completely comfortable in my skin with I’m with you. No need to weigh my words, or be careful about what I say or do.
Finding you sitting in “your spot” on the third floor at the Mayo, when I wander up from parking the van. That smile I get when you see me finally come around the corner.
How you don’t like it when we end up wearing the same color shirt to go somewhere together.
Getting a text from you asking “what ya doing?” and knowing it means I get to spend time with you.
Talking about books and movies and kids and husbands and life and death and religion and politics.
How you watch the clock for Sonic Happy Hour to roll around.
Eating pita bread and hummus while we talk nonstop, then being too full to eat our Fatoosh salad or Kabob.
Picking up a conversation with no glitches or strangeness after two or three or even four weeks of not seeing each other.
How you aren’t afraid or hesitant to ask for what you need or for what you want.
Finally being over a cough or cold so I cold come hang out again.
Having you help me make sense of the latest weird development in my strange life and how you say it makes your life seem normal by comparison.
Taking photos of your blooming bushes or my wildflowers to show you, or having you point out the cactus in bloom when we drive.
Feeling at home in THE CHAIR in your room and talking about nothing and everything.
Getting fries from McDonald’s and a Frosty from Wendy’s.
How vigilant you are when babysitting your daughter’s stuffed animals and dolls.
Saying it like you see it, no sugar added.
Just being together whenever and wherever.
Feeling like one of the cool “in” people when I’m with you.
Knowing I have someone who totally gets me without having to lay it out in detail.
So that’s all I can think of at the moment to tell you about. Except, I’m feeling pretty lucky to have you for a friend. You’re one of a kind, in case I forgot to tell you. Oh, and I love you and miss you like you can’t believe.
I’m guessing you’re busy being all angelic and stuff. I get that. So don’t worry about trying to get in touch.
Mostly I feel like you’re right here in my heart anyway. I can hear your voice in my head, telling me to crank the tunes, open the sunroof and enjoy my Diet Coke. I’m trying to do just that, cuz you’d want me to. But, it’s not just the same without you in the passenger seat.
My cool cousin introduced me to this song. It’s pretty kicky. (Ha, notice the pun? Shoes-kicky?) I dare you not to feel like dancing while this song plays.
Some things in life elicit an automatic response. No thought required.
For me, a new pair of comfy shoes makes me want to dance.
Something fun to look forward to can kickstart my endorphins.
Breathing the scent of mountain air relaxes me all the way to the molecular level.
Those smile wrinkles at the edges of MSH’s eyes melt my heart.
Happy laughter makes me want to join in and laugh along.
Of course, not all automatic responses are good feelings.
a cop running into a store I’m just walking out of makes me want to run to my car
a baby crying makes my heart flip-flop
feeling cold and not able to warm up sets my nerves on edge
hearing someone yell at someone else skyrockets my blood pressure and discomfort level
a near miss in traffic instantly triples my heart rate
the phone ringing late at night or early in the morning sets off the panic system in me
Neither of those lists begin to touch the depth and breadth of possible autonomic responses we humans come programmed with.
What I don’t get is why some people purposely expose themselves to those triggers. Haunted houses, for one small example. Why is the Sam Hill would anyone want to feel terrified for an extended length of time? I don’t get it.
Or jumping out of an airplane? Never, ever, not even for a million bucks. No way. I’d die of a heart attack on the way down if not the instant I leaned out of the plane. Can’t, won’t.
I’m glad some people can overcome natural responses. Firefighters for one. Police officers for another. Doctors, nurses, teachers. (Okay, maybe I exaggerate with the teachers, but only a little. Have you been in a classroom lately?) Military people.
I suppose some people don’t have a reaction to the sight of blood and such. And some love the sound of shelling and gunfire. And it’s possible that danger just feels great, like a new pair of shoes maybe, to others. I can’t imagine it, but it’s possible, right? How else to explain people who take on risky, scary, nauseating, crazy jobs.
My new Naturalizers! Mmm, so comfy!
I just meant to write about how great my new shoes feel on my feet. Like a little hug, supportive, warm, snug, protective.
Who knew I’d end up being grateful for people who are okay with the uncomfortable, cold, lonely, not-so-safe, daring pairs of shoes or boots.
Well, why not? If you’re one of those people who make sure I’m safe and can walk around protected in this crazy world, this “THANK YOU” is for you!
Hey! It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m having a hard time coming up with a gratituesday. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got blessing out the wazoo. Narrowing down the gratitude to one thing befuddles me today.
Here’s some words I’ve encountered lately that have taken on added meaning. Most of them capture my current state of mind. The words themselves seem ordinary, but the heft and weight behind the words carries me through.
Here’s one my of favorite happy words. I’ve been lucky in this area. Three brothers who’ve gone through some rough times and have emerged like rock stars! Parents who’ve persevered and continued to love. A husband, children, grands. It’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
I’ve seen recent examples of this word in my siblings, my dad, my mom, my children.
This word captures how I feel when I’m around my family, or friends. Or when I’m writing. Lack of a weight to carry or illumination, either definition of Light fits my mood.
The meat of the thing, the center, the prime motivator, the engine, the strength, where love symbolically lives.
Got plenty of these in a variety of forms, shapes and sizes. I’m especially thankful for the three sweet “littles” in my life. Got a brand new one I get to hold in just a few hours.
I have three of these. Each one as different as possible from the other. And yet, we find common ground in so many places. They’ve been a source of strength to me. They’ve been an example of selflessness and service over a long stretch. They keep the boat they’re on moving through whatever weather the seas and wind blow their way.
I think this word says enough all by itself.
What it’s all about, right? Got a ton of it in my life. Probably more than my fair share. Hoping I’m giving it as well as I’m getting it.
More the center of things than the heart, the word mother encapsulates all that is good and beautiful and healthy in my life. I owe her everything. I’m grateful that she’s okay and getting better every day.
Yeah, I know I started with this word. Everything would seem kind of pointless without this. So I’m extra grateful today for this one.
And here’s someone else’s words to summarize today’s gratitude.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”— Melody Beattie
Feasting today on a full plate and a cup overflowing!
How many times have you sung along to a song, not completely certain of the lyrics? A few hundred at least? Yeah, me too. When you do find out the actual lyrics it sometimes changes how you feel about the song. Or it just makes the song make more sense.
Three and a half weeks after those first ominous days of uncertainty after her stroke, I watched my Mom sit down at a grand piano in a quiet wing of the hospital cafeteria. Her occupational therapist sat nearby as she put both hands on the black and white keys and played a simplified version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Surely orchestrated by some angel in charge of perfectly timed moments, for me that brief experience felt like serendipity! That song played within an hour of arriving at the hospital, captured my emotions at finally, blessedly being with Mom after so many weeks of enduring the tug and pull of needing to be in her physical presence.
Page 12 (right) of Ludwig van Beethoven’s original Ninth Symphony manuscript. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Every time I’ve heard “Ode to Joy,” especially the final movement when the chorus joins the symphony and raises the roof with Schiller’s German poem put to music, my heart has soared.
Imagine how my heart felt then, hearing my Mother, a pianist all her life, play the piano again, albeit, hesitantly. Relief, at her ability to read music and have it translate from eye to brain to hand to ivory, flooded through me. Surely as more healing takes place, as more therapy trains and retrains synapses and connections, she’ll be able to sit down and enjoy playing the piano with ease and confidence again.
I’ve never known the translation of the German lyrics. I only knew that my head and heart responded to the music with a sense of exultation and energy.
Surely, I thought, as I watched Mom struggle through some other simplified piano music, the lyrics to “Ode to Joy” must be very powerful to lend themselves so strongly to the impact of the music. Of course, I looked up the translation and wasn’t surprised.
Sorry to say it wasn’t a poem about the joy of a mother and daughter reunited. But it’s not far off. It’s a song of brotherhood, of relationships, of the joy that can occur because of those connections.
Honestly, the whole of humankind is a family. The potential for joy astounds when looked at that way. But of course, we personalize and take things in small bites. We learn how to interact in family groups and then let that translate out into the world.
That’s just my take on the music and lyrics.
But don’t take my word for it. I’ve included the English translation below. And I also want you to be able to feel the joy in this music, so, of course, I’ve included a phenomenal flashmob link for you to click on. I recommend having tissues nearby.
Now that I know what the lyrics are, it changes how I feel about the music. From here on out it will remind me of my mother, of my family, of those most important of connections. Those permanent bonds of love and caring bring more joy than anything I know.
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join in our song of praise ;
But any who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.
All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift ;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can fell contentment,
And the cherub stands before God !
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses
Through the splendour of the firmament ;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
As a hero going to conquest.
You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world !
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions ?
World, do you know your Creator ?
Seek Him in the heavens !
Above the stars must He dwell.