Thursday, August 31, 2017


[My last couple of weeks have been stress-builders, so I'm doing a repeat of a post from last year. After I read it through, I knew it was just right for me, and anybody else, who's let the stress accumulate. Hope you enjoy it this time around.]

1. the treatment of disease or disorders, as by some remedial, rehabilitative, or curative process: speech therapy.
2. psychotherapy.
3. a curative power or quality.
4. any act, task, program, etc., that relieves tension.

Before we go further, this is not a medical advice article. If you need professional help, you should search for it. My intention today is to offer some thoughts on #4 above--relieving tension, bringing back a feeling of well-being. 

If you’ve lived this long beyond the beginning of the 21st Century, you’ve seen a proliferation of therapies available.

If you have had surgery or are waiting for surgery to replace/repair some body part, you may have had Physical Therapy both before and after.

If you’ve been inactive for a time, you may need Occupational Therapy to help you become independent again.

Most of us have had antibiotic therapy at one time.

And if your needs are emotional or spiritual, there are therapies to help you rebound: music, art, crafts; outdoor activities; writing, especially journaling; working with youth, or the aged, or the handicapped, or the illiterate.

Many years ago one of the most active elder women in my church shared her secret to continued good health and commitment. When her husband died, her family doctor said, “Get involved in something.” He wasn’t telling her not to grieve—he was telling her to work through her grief in a positive activity. She had been an elementary school teacher before retirement, so she began to work in areas of the church that involved teaching. The last position she held before she went to live with her daughters was working with adults who were training to be lay ministers who assisted with all manner of needs in the congregation.

A friend of mine is going through a time of grief for a recently deceased family member. Her usual beloved activities are sewing and writing; she now feels as if she’s “going through the motions.” But she’s still doing them.

A family member has a degenerative illness that could have resulted in “retirement from life” but she’s chosen to continue with her normal activities as long and as well as possible.

My own experience with those times I want to crawl into my cave and pull the hole in after me have made me look for what I love about my life and focus on that for a time.

Here are some thoughts on therapies we may have hanging around the house:

Music – If you play an instrument, do that. Who cares if you can’t hit the right notes? It’s for yourself you’re playing. Or, sing—talk about not hitting the notes! That’s one I struggle with but I do continue to find joy in making a joyful noise.

Don’t sing or play? Put on a CD or turn on a radio or TV show or find tunes in your phone resources or check out YouTube on your computer. Music is literally everywhere. Let it wash over you. Feel it. Dance, if your feet tell you to. (It’s okay to listen to your feet from time to time.)

Art – Art isn’t just the visual arts—Art comprises painting, sculpture, writing (also music, but that’s a separate category today). My painting looks pretty bad—though if I were 6 years old it might be pretty good. Clay isn’t my medium. Writing is my thing. . . I write in my journal every day. I write emails. I write letters (the old-fashioned kind on paper that go in envelopes and have to have stamps and addresses and get dropped into boxes outside the post office). I’ve been known to write poetry. And if all my handwritten lists had been preserved through the decades, I’d have a tremendous body of work—not publishable, but definitely voluminous. 

Remember, we’re not looking for a letter grade here—we’re achieving something outside any grading system.

I can’t claim all my writing is art, but it functions in the same way—it allows me to explore things I’ve experienced, what I’ve felt, any meaning I can glean from it; and it rids my physical body of the effects of negative feelings simply by writing those things down on paper. (This is why many therapists—the professional kind with framed certificates on their walls—include journaling in their advice to people going through rough times.) You don't need to take a class to write a journal; just get some paper or a notebook, your favorite writing stick, and...well, start.

I am ready to try a new thing: coloring! If you haven’t seen the wide variety of coloring books/journals/calendars, you’ve been shopping in the wrong department, because these are all over the store: with the books, in office supplies, and on end caps near nothing related. These art coloring books feature intricate designs. All you need is the book (or whatever) and some colored pencils. Some include pencils so you buy a ready-made kit. Adult coloring has been popular for a few years. (I’m always slow to get into the act.) I’m told it’s a great stress-buster. Sounds good to me.

Crafts – You don’t have to be a basket weaver to experience the joys and satisfactions that come from making something with your own hands. My dad was a carpenter; he built houses, but he loved best the finish work that made the house look complete. His satisfaction came from the precision needed to make a house with good proportions (he designed from scratch on the backs of old envelopes), walls that were plumb, windows and doors of the right size for the house and placed in the proper places for the space they occupied.

My son also likes to build and has made a number of items, large and small (a quilting frame for me and miniature furniture for Christmas tree ornaments, to name a couple); he can sew a dress for his granddaughter or a pirate costume for his grandson; and he’s a creative cook. Plus he has a day job.

Sewing and other fiber arts seem to run in our family—I make quilts and knit; all my children can knit, though a couple of them have given it up in favor of other pursuits; two of them make quilts; one loves to decorate; one crochets. We get a sense of accomplishment from our work, yes; but there’s more to it than that. While we work on our project, we focus outside ourselves, and our thoughts and good wishes run to the person who will receive the gift we are making. Getting outside ourselves is probably the best gift we can give anyone, including ourselves.

Origami frogs
Cooking—and creating a new recipe—can be a drudge, or it can be exciting. Take your favorite old recipe and give it a new twist. If you’re bored with your current recipe box, look online for something different to make. There are more cooking blogs than you can shake a wooden spoon at.

If your ideas run in different paths, take up stained glass or origami. Then teach it to someone else.

Outdoor Life – I’m not a gardener, and my birdwatching is limited to whoever comes to my feeders. But I do walk. Formerly I walked outdoors, early in the morning, in residential neighborhoods—my day was brightened by the changing seasons and the beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees I saw. My spirits were lifted by the knowledge that people cared enough to take good care of their little patch of Planet Earth. Best of all, I had all the joy and none of the scratches, mosquito bites, or aching back pains.

I’m told, though, that gardening is one of the greatest activities for losing yourself. Kneeling on the ground to weed a bed of annuals can make time seem to stop. There’s nothing but the flower bed, the trowel, and you.

Helping Out – So many opportunities abound that there’s no excuse for not helping someone, somewhere. Schools in my neck of the woods welcome volunteers (many are retirees) to read to the children—or, perhaps, have the children read to the volunteer. If you’re not up for that, you can help out wherever you’re needed—make copies for the teachers, move stuff that needs moving, sort books and magazines, ask the librarian what you can do for him/her.

One of the local churches used to have a literacy program to help adults who can’t read. Reading is not only a skill, it’s a confidence builder. If a person can read the job applications they fill out, they feel more able to fill the position.

Another type of literacy program uses readers to record books on tape (nowadays they’re books on CD, but the old name sticks).

The hospital needs volunteer docents to show people where the various departments are (yes, there are signs, but if you’re in bad shape or grieving, you may not even notice there’s a sign; tunnel vision applies here). Other docents take folks from one place to another in wheelchairs. Or they serve at volunteer desks to sign patients in and point them to the next available clerk to register the patient.

My own helping out is done in my home—and sometimes at my fabric-and-craft store (buying trips)—when I cut out kits for blankets and pillow cases, or sew them myself. I prefer to work alone; it’s my time for meditation and for giving thanks. Once a week I work with my sewing/knitting group at church and my focus expands to each of the members and her life. I will not miss my Friday morning time with the sewing ladies. It’s a life-enhancing group. What better way to get out of my own way and celebrate the good things of life?

The above is not a comprehensive list of possible ways to help yourself out of a blue funk or lessen the toll grief takes on you. You will have your own ways to deal with life as you live it. Just keep celebrating the good things.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


What is it about quotations and words of wisdom and sayings that intrigues us?

Here are some to entertain you - possibly give you a nudge - even make you smile in agreement.


Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway.
            -- John Wayne

We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can.
            -- Will Rogers

Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.
            -- Tallulah Bankhead

Never miss a chance to keep your mouth shut.
            -- Robert Newton Peck

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
            -- Mark Twain


It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older, one climbs with surprising strides.
            -- George Sand

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
            -- William James

You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.
            -- Evan Esar

This thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down.
            -- Mary Pickford

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.
            -- Mother Teresa

We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.
            -- Helen Keller


Have a blessed week!

Thursday, August 17, 2017


If you're in need of an uplift today, you might want to change your dial to another blog. As August segues into the shorter days of autumn, I find myself meandering around in deeper thoughts, such as:

- Sometimes . . . you don't need to leap out of bed just because the alarm rang.
What would happen if you hit the SNOOZE button and gave yourself 10 more minutes to prepare to meet the day? [The danger here is that you can hit SNOOZE time after time.]

- Sometimes . . . your greatest need is your own health.
Pushing yourself again and again beyond your normal limits may not be a good thing. Is the committee meeting going to fail because you aren't there? Will the office shut down because you need a mental health day? [We're not talking excuses here--we're looking at our own health.]

- Sometimes . . . another person's need is greater than yours.
Ah, there's the rub. How do I assess someone else's need? Is it a 10 today? Or merely a 4? Perhaps only a 2. Forget the numbers. Look at what's being asked of you--a few minutes on the phone; a cup of coffee at the shop where you can talk without being interrupted; a helping hand because nobody else will do it; or a request for prayer.

- Sometimes . . . life is totally unfair--day after day.
You have arthritis. Your hearing is rapidly declining. Your appetite up and left you and you're losing weight your doctor is unhappy about. Your dog has to be put down. Your neighbor makes racket long after your normal bedtime (say, 10 PM). Or your family members are so wrapped up in their own problems they don't call/email/text. And if they do, they vent. [Hard to see a ray of sunshine in this scenario, isn't it? This is when I scrounge around for one thing--just one!--to be grateful for.]

- Sometimes . . . you just need to listen--seriously listen.
Not every appeal for help requires you to do something specific about it. Listening, really taking it in, is doing something. [You're not even required to remember what you heard. Just be an ear.]

- Sometimes . . . all you can do is cry.
When it all gets to be too much, have a good weep. Letting the valves open can be a great cleansing of overloaded emotions. Or if the hurt and grief are too deep for tears, write about it--talk to yourself or the person you grieve for or to God--put it on paper. Later you can shred the pages, because they've done their part in allowing you a place to pour out your feelings.

- Sometimes . . . all you can do is laugh.
When it's too much for a good cry, laugh! There are still some things in my life that haven't got to the laughing stage, but a great many have. [You may recall the hard-boiled eggs on the kitchen ceiling episode. I can laugh, now.]

- Sometimes . . . all you can do is walk away. You can't fix it. Maybe nobody can but God.
This is probably the hardest of all. We need courage to admit that we can't "fix" something--that the only thing we can do is express our caring, if that's possible, and pray for relief.

You were warned--this isn't a feel-good post. But then, Life isn't always a feel-good place to live, is it? Sometimes . . . we just have to grit our teeth and get on with things.

Have a blessed week.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Every month is a gift. We didn't plan for it. We didn't shop for it. We didn't even, perhaps, know we wanted it. But it arrived anyway. 

August is a gift that brings even more gifts with it. 

A quick scan of my neighborhood reveals surprise lilies in every other yard. Mine appeared on August 2nd. Surprised me! 

Another beauty is the hibiscus--pinks of every shade from delicate to intense--flowers as big as a dinner plate.

And everywhere in my town I see snowball bushes. Mine, alas, was old and got itself involved with bad company (a lilac and some poison ivy); all three had to go, and that was years ago. But I've never forgotten the snowball bush and its tight-packed white blooms the size of a small soccer ball.

Besides visual delights, I'm enjoying cool nights--in the 50s most weeks--that we always called "good sleeping weather." My a/c still runs to keep the humidity at bay, but by morning the fan is off and I leave for the Y with a sweatshirt on.

A couple of days ago my Ohio daughter gifted me with some of her garden produce--just-picked cucumbers (baby size, just right for a salad), colorful little tomatoes, and early yellow summer squashes. Yesterday I passed the Farmer's Market, already busily shifting the good stuff from farm to town.

My friends and relatives with school-age kids report that football has started. Seems a tad warm for sports, but then school starts earlier than back in my day. Before long, though, we'll be enjoying bonfires and fire pits, parades, marching bands down the main street and around the court house square.

My favorite gift of August is the love I have from friends and family, and special people in my life. Birthdays this month are writer friend Liz Flaherty, great-grandson Bayne (the 6-month baby I wrote about last year who will soon be one year old!), and my confirmation mentor at church, Anita. Each one blesses my life in ways I never anticipated. Thank you!

August has never been my favorite month, except that when it arrived I knew I had to endure only one more month before school started. Now that I'm far removed from the school year influence, I value August for other reasons.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, August 3, 2017


[Something happened to remind me that I'd written about Friendship last year . . . and when I reread last year's post, I liked it so well that I wanted to share it with you again in 2017. Hope you enjoy it the second time around.]

I should wait a week to write about friendship—August 7 is friendship day. [There are several dates celebrated in various countries.]

But the subject has been on my mind and heart lately and I want to explore some definitions and thoughts on what friendship is, and what it is to have—or to be—a friend.

The most elemental definition I’ve ever seen is the title of Joan Walsh Anglund’s book, A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You. It was published in 1958 for children 4 to 7 years old. A friend is…someone who likes you. Simple. Direct. Easy to understand.

But as we all know, we grow older, and life takes twists and turns, our experiences cause us to make leaps and bounds. Or go backward. Or fall on our prats. Sometimes what we go through is, well, less than joyful. Here are some thoughts to keep your hearts and minds engaged in friendly paths as you find your way through the jungle.

* * * * *
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.   --C. S. Lewis (1898-1967)

Who among us has not had a friend who kept us sane, even for a little while? Or who held our hand in a dark time? Who talked us down from a scary place—real or metaphorical—to continue living?

* * * * *
Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.   --Octavia Butler (1947-2006)

If you have a friend, then you, yourself, are a friend. It’s a reciprocal relationship, not one-sided, but a meeting of equals. So if you are a friend, you know what it means to remain silent when they “hurl themselves into their own destiny.” Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But we know we can’t live other people’s lives for them, no matter how much we care, how much more experience we have, how clearly we can see the pitfalls they will face. We can “prepare to pick up the pieces,” and I would add, resist the temptation to say I told you so. Even if you never said it in the first place.

* * * * *
One more idea:

We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.  -- Joseph Roux (French surgeon, 1780-1854)

Ignore the out-of-date pronouns and focus on the thought.

No one wants to lose a friend. Friends are more precious than silver and gold, than perfect gems, than all the possessions we can ever amass.

Yet, sometimes a friend is lost. To death, yes; but that is not the harshest loss. The loss that stabs our hearts and wrenches tears from our souls is the loss we have caused—or have been unable to prevent—for whatever reason.

John Donne (1572-1631) wrote, “Any man’s death diminishes me.” I would add, “Each friend’s loss takes a valuable part of me, and I’ll never regain it.”

* * * * *
To send you off with a happier thought:

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.  --George MacDonald (1824-1905)

Celebrate your friendships. They may not number in the hundreds or thousands, they may not be virtual friends you’ve never seen. True friends are the ones who know you, warts and all . . . .