Let’s Make Lists: Seven Bits of Wisdom from Seven Favorite Books

“Lavender in Old Book,” Photo by Ekaterina Antonova

If you haven’t been around long enough to notice, I love, love, love books and, therefore, words and quotes. When people ask “What’s your favorite book?,” I hand them a 10-page list of books (slight exaggeration). And quotes? Who can select a single favorite? “Not I,” said the rabbit [the rabbit is me].

“Old Books,” Photo by Oksana Nazarchuk

So, for today’s list—and #WednesdayWisdom—I’m sharing seven life-changing quotes from seven of my favorite books. The selection is limited and random and in no way represents a privileging or prioritizing of other works over others. If I were to list all the quotes and all the books, this blog would be about books and quotes, not pics and posts.

So here’s my list of quotes. Maybe, they’ll change your life too.

“The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection.’  Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet on High Places

There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.―Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart

“The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting.”Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

“Literary Paris,” from Obvious State

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care, nor your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.  Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’ – or else not. C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

books1

Like any other list, it would be easy for me to go waaaaaay overboard, but I’m trying to practice what I preach to my students. Sometimes, less is more.

What’s your favorite quote? Are any of these a new fav?


About the Images: Each postcard in this post was for bookish swaps on swap-bot. Aren’t they fabulous?

100 Things That Bring Me Joy

Joy

Hello, my bloggy friends! I hope you didn’t miss me too much during my break.

While I was on “blog vacation,” I realized I didn’t need a break from my blog at all. I needed a break from some other things in life. In fact, work has been all-consuming. A few days ago, I was speaking with my colleague Ramona about our desperate need for seven consecutive days of not thinking about work. She replied that we need 10 days of doing the things that give us joy.

Wow! That’s a beautiful thought.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the whole world slowed down and took 10 days for joy? I know…I know…not realistic at all.

There was a time not so long ago when I made a point to do something “joyful” every day. These days…that’s a struggle, so the occasional afternoon nap is the best I can do. Lately, however, I’ve been wondering why it’s so difficult to muster the energy for things that bring joy. There’s still a month standing between me and an actual vacation, so I figured to save my sanity I must make a conscientious effort to take a joy break each day.

To jumpstart my return to joy, I pulled out the very long list, “100 ‘Things’ That Bring Me Joy,” I wrote seven years ago. I made some minor updates, and I’m sharing it with you as the first post of “10 Days of Joy.”

The list is pretty long, so you might want to grab a cup of your favorite warm beverage before you get started. 😉

First on my list are the basics, the foundation, so to speak.  Nothing else would matter without these entities and individuals who bring not only joy but meaning and purpose to my life:

  • God the Father in whose will I try to walk, who knows me intimately but still loves me, who pursues me relentlessly
  • God the Son who sacrificed His life for me and who loves me like no other
  • God the Holy Spirit who chides me when I’m heading in the wrong direction, who comforts me, and makes sense of my woe and pain
  • My hubby to whom I’ve been married for almost 27 years, who shares this world and this lifetime with me
  • My now 15-year-old son who from the time he was born has been teaching me what true joy looks like and how to focus on what really matters
  • My parents who have been supporting me all my life, for the love and loyalty evident in their 63-year marriage, for their integrity, and perseverance
  • My sisters who are my forever and dearest friends. Each is a reminder of different aspects of my personality and character; looking at all of them at once is like holding up a mirror. We miss Karlette and Lori like crazy, but their hearts still beat in us
  • My brothers, who stand strong and firm and exhibit the positive values of manhood taught to them by my father
  • My close friends—my angels on earth. They each add something unique to my life and they have held me up and sat in dark corners with me more times than I can count

Then, there are the little whispers…the things that leave impressions and carry a touch of joy that sustains me and keeps me pushing through the day(s)—

  • God’s love enveloping me
  • Random daily hugs from my not-so-little one
  • The dawning of new knowledge on my students’ faces
  • An unexpected compliment on a day when I don’t look or feel my best
  • Good times with colleagues. We actually like each other 🙂
  • Hearing one of my favorite hymns beautifully sung: “It is Well With My Soul” or “Come Thou Fount” or “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (I’ll stop before this becomes its own list)
  • Doing something for others without recognition or reward
  • Meeting someone with a beautiful spirit
  • Rainy days with a good book
  • Beautiful words/quotes
  • Baby smiles and giggles
  • Stumbling upon breath-taking beauty in nature

Of course, the natural world offers so many moments of joy.

  • Cloud formations
  • The ocean because of its vastness, beauty, and the salty air surrounding it
  • Bodies of water in general…something so peaceful about them and they seem to make me a little giddy
  • A mountainous landscape—mountains add such majesty to a place
  • The view from my office @ work because of all the gorgeous trees
  • Beautiful, colorful flowers! If you check out my Instagram page, you’ll see that I can’t resist snapping photos of them!
  • The view from my home office because of the beautiful clouds and the visits from my feathered friends.
  • TREES!
  • A cool and breezy summer day—rare here in the South, but it happens
  • Autumn for all that autumn means: cooler temperatures, changing colors, pumpkin everything, beautiful clothes and sweaters (Not sure this should be under nature)
  • The moon!
  • Falling leaves
  • Red leaves
  • Spotting a deer, rabbit or other animal in its natural habitat
  • SUNFLOWERS!
  • Morning dew
  • The pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof
  • Frolicking squirrels
  • Spring revival, especially the short but sweet awakening of cherry blossoms and dogwoods
  • Birdsongs in the early morning
  • Butterflies fluttering from flower to flower
  • Long walks/hikes in nature
  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • Found hearts!
  • My favorite colors in nature—purple, red, and pink

Then, there are those things that help my spirit recall joy

  • Quiet mornings of prayer and meditation
  • Meaningful conversation
  • A good church service (good music, connection, and cerebral sermons)
  • A good day’s work
  • Singing my heart out
  • Listening to good music with meaningful lyrics
  • Writing in my journal
  • Poetry—reading it and writing it
  • Reading my favorite scriptures
  • Getting so absorbed in well-written fiction that I can’t put the book down till I finish
  • My son’s reading list–an opportunity to revisit great literature, read something I missed, or catch the newer writers
  • Looking through old photos and photo albums
  • A finished blog post  🙂
  • Museums
  • Children’s art
  • Illustrations in children’s books
  • Making lists
  • A finished “to do” list—a very rare thing indeed!
  • A spotless and well-organized house
  • A piping hot cup of herbal tea
  • A guilt-free afternoon nap
  • A boxful of Bath and Body Works products
  • Tree walks
  • Good falafels
  • Publix brand Chocolate Almond ice cream

The things others do (or did) for me…

  • My son’s poems, stories, and essays. He’s been telling stories and writing all his life and doesn’t yet realize he is indeed a writer
  • My hubby taking care of things around the house that I normally take care of
  • Little surprises from my hubby
  • My son’s artwork
  • Gifts from my sisters, especially those with a “sister” theme
  • Teddy Bear bookends my mom gave me years ago. There’s a story behind the bookends and that makes them extra special.
  • Teddy Bear gifts—including Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington
  • Bookstore gift cards
  • Gift boxes from my bestie
  • Sunflower mail!
  • The “sister spirit” sun-catchers my sister Karlette made

Sometimes, just looking at pretty, artsy things brings me joy, especially when I can use those things to do something for others:

  • Colorful stickers
  • Nice pens–ink or gel and Sharpies of all kinds!
  • Craft scissors
  • Craft punches, including corner rounders (they make everything elegant)
  • ATC blanks, sketchpads, and art journals
  • Rubber or acrylic stamps
  • Postcards
  • Photo apps
  • Pretty stationery, journals, and notebooks
  • Fine art, including photography
  • Handmade envelopes and cards
  • Washi tape!
  • Scrapbook materials, including Project Life and digital/printables
  • A good mail day, especially unexpected letters from friends
  • Apple products (phone, tablet, laptop, desktop—all things Apple)
  • Martha Stewart Scorer and Envelope Maker
  • Cricut—cutting is so relaxing!
  • My camera, of course!

My social media indulgences:

  • Pics and Posts!
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Flickr

Revisiting this list (of slightly more than 100) certainly offered today’s joy moment. I’m going to make a concerted effort to take time for joy each day–beyond morning prayer and meditation. Would you like to join me in taking (at least) a 5- or 10-minute joy break every day for the next 10 days?

Let’s see the difference joy makes!

Five [Make that Six] Simple Things

I used all my blogpost-writing energy responding to a student and justifying why we’re examining a text she finds objectionable. I probably should submit the response for publication.

A-ny-way, since that exercise zapped all my energy and I need a feel-good moment, I’m sharing “5 Simple Things to Remember” from a Blue Mountain Arts magnet card that is posted on my file cabinet.

      1. Love is why we are here.
      2. The most important day is today.
      3. If you always do your best, you will not have regrets.
      4. Sometimes a wrong turn will bring you to exactly the right place.
      5. For all your accomplishments, nothing will bring you more happiness than the love you find.

Trite, but true.

The cute postcard above was made by my Love Notes 32 partner, Stephanie T.  She added another “simple thing to remember” on the back of the card:

Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.  –Christine Caine

I hope you took good notes! Happy Week!

Coping with the Madness of 2020: List It

I woke up this morning with thoughts of an eight-year-old boy, the nephew of one of my kindest friends. He woke up this morning for the first time without his mother’s embrace. She passed yesterday after a very lengthy battle with cancer. Though I didn’t know her or her little boy, I felt myself spiraling for my friend, for her family, and especially for the little one.

As if the out-of-the-ordinary madness of 2020 isn’t enough, unfortunately we also have to deal with dreaded realities like illness and death. The everyday concerns and these hardships  combined with the abnormalities of this year can create a perfect stew of unmanageable anxiety and grief.

So how do I cope when life feels impossible and the emotions are too big to manage?  In addition to prayer (which we’ll save for another day), I make lists.

Lists, you ask? Not a typical task list but a lists of things I can’t control alongside a list of things I can control.

I can’t bring back the little boy’s mom. I can’t stop the hurt or grief, but I can pray and offer support.

I can’t singlehandedly eradicate the coronavirus, but I can do my part to stop the spread and protect my family and myself by wearing masks and avoiding situations in which social distancing is challenged.

I can’t control how the vote goes tomorrow, but I can control how I participate in the democratic process by exercising my hard-won right and responsibility to vote.

I can’t take away the abuse a friend suffered as a child that continues to hurt and traumatize so many decades later, but I can listen, affirm, pray, and hug.

I can’t make people not be racist, but I can educate and choose to operate from a place of love regardless.

When I was a teen, I encountered the “Serenity Prayer” on the front of a church bulletin, and the first part has been a mantra ever since:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. –Reinhold Niebuhr

The lists help me confront the big scary things in black and white, and then, determine my response to them. More often than not, serenity is the welcomed outcome.


About the Images: The images in this post are the full color versions of the grainy black and white photos in the previous post. I’d mentioned in my latest #treelove post that for Creative Auto shots the camera shoots an original color photo AND processes the “creative photo” at the same time. I don’t like these as much, but this is what happens when I don’t remember where I put the images I’d planned for today’s post. :-/

13 Life Lessons from My [Now] 13-Year-Old

Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

Today is my son’s birthday, and “just like that,” there’s a teenager in our home!

If I weren’t living it, I would not believe how swiftly time flew to get us to this moment. Wasn’t it only yesterday that I was rushed to the hospital for a child who could not wait to enter the world? Wasn’t it only yesterday that I left the hospital longing for the day to bring my preemie home? Only yesterday for so many milestones, minor setbacks, and victories?

I can fill a book with all the things I learned through motherhood and my son. With his quick wit and acumen as I journey through, my son has been by far my most persistent life coach. So…in honor of my-not-so little one’s induction into “teendom,”  I’m sharing 13 “random” lessons from my now-teen. I’m not prioritizing because there are many, many valuable lessons and what follows are the first 13 “off the top of my head.”

    1. There is an unbelievable storehouse of strength inside to get through some of the toughest challenges life tosses my way.
    2. Paper, paint, and markers are the absolute best tools to chase the blues away. Humming while creating chases them even faster.
    3. Real intelligence is being able to explain the most abstract or complex concepts in the simplest terms.
    4. I set the standard for myself.  Other people’s opinions [of me] really don’t matter.
    5. There are way more important things than work. Taking time to play is a right and a responsibility.
    6. Sometimes a good cry and a nap make the world a whole lot better.
    7. The sweetest /most valuable things in life cost nothing.
    8. If I don’t like the story, I can rewrite it, recast it, and make myself the hero!
    9. Sometimes, I am the only sane one in the bunch.
    10. Reading the Holy Writ for hours at a time is never a waste of time.
    11. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
    12. There’s a theory for everything.
    13. Look up. There’s still so much wonder in the clouds.

I cherish every moment of my son’s growth from one phase in life to the next. I’m glad I held him in my arms as much as I could and adjusted my life and schedule to spend more time with him. I’m “in my feelings” a bit over how quickly time flies, but I’ll just rest in these moments and not worry that in the next “blink of my eyes” he’ll be off to college.

Butterflies and Pebbles | Things to Know This Week

As I was avoiding taking a break from grading and perusing Instagram a few moments ago, I ran across a beautiful list of reminders to carry into the week written by S.C. Lourie, Butterflies and Pebbles on Instagram.

Things to know this week:

    • You will grow from whatever the world throws at you.
    • Your precious life is a gift.
    • You are allowed to do life at your own pace.
    • Your time is sacred. Don’t waste it on whatever makes you unhappy.
    • You are changing and expanding.
    • You are loved and needed. That’s why you are here.
    • You are going to be okay.

The card above came from Betsy N, a Love Notes pal who lives “just down the street” from me in Tennessee. Sent for International Women’s Day, it is a perfect fit for Lourie’s words.

May you hold each of these statements close this week. May you remember them when you hit the rough and tumble spots, the insane moments, the not-so-pleasant unexpected. May you grasp them when assaulted by the time-wasters and naysayers. May you know through all the ups and downs “you are changing and expanding […] loved and needed […] and you are going to be okay.”

Autumn: Brilliant Leaves, Happy Mail, and Seven Reasons Why

Last week the temperatures finally dipped into the 50’s and this morning we woke up to 30’s and a freeze warning. I am excited that autumn has finally made an appearance–in terms of temperature at least. [Note: I live in the South, so temperatures may well be in the upper 80’s or even lower 90’s by the end of the week].

I searched for signs of autumn while taking a short walk last week. There was little indication of the season’s change, but I was elated to find autumn leaves on a favorite Dogwood.

It is delightful watching this tree transition over the months, and though I look forward to the blossoms in spring, its autumn leaves beautifully illustrate why I love the season.

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My penfriend/love notes pal Andrea recently sent a bit of autumn-inspired pocket mail. In the one of the pockets she enclosed a list of six reasons why she loves autumn.  [Click an image for a closer look].

Andrea ended her list by inviting “me” to share why I love the season. Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me to extol the virtues of autumn, so here are [my not necessarily top] seven reasons why autumn is my favorite season:

  1. Changing colors of the trees and foliage–especially now that I live in a place where I can see the brilliance of the season
  2. Milder temperatures–long-awaited relief from the oppressive southern summer and a short break from budget-busting utilities bills
  3. Boots and sweaters
  4. Hot chocolate/cocoa and popcorn [yum!]
  5. October–the best month of all!
  6. My new favorite throw [a birthday gift from a new friend]–chocolate brown, leaf embossed, plush–perfect for movie nights
  7. Pumpkin everything–except I’m not too impressed with Krispy Kreme’s pumpkin cake donut. It would be soooo much better if they’d lose the sugar/glaze on top

How about you? What do you love about autumn?


[Also, linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge]

Seven Keys for a Productive and Fulfilling Life

Even though they are spoken directly to graduates, I love the motivational and inspirational graduation speeches. I certainly felt inspired Saturday night as I listened to actor and producer Darryl Bell, of A Different World fame, address the graduates at my alma mater–which is also my employer. 😀

Bell delivered a succinct, timely, and power-packed list speech that resonated with me and reminded me of some basic principles for navigating life. Here are his tips and what I remember of his commentary on each one.

  1.  Use the gifts that call you.  Choose a vocation because of your compulsion toward it, your passion, not simply because you’re competent in an area. Your being good at what you do but hating it leads to a miserable life.  Pay attention to the thing that keeps calling you, the thing you can’t help but do. “Your gifts have been calling you. Answer them.”
  2. Remember the four-year-old.  Four-year-olds are confident that they can do anything.  A few years later, kids begin to learn their strengths and their limits, and begin to doubt themselves. Be like four-year-olds and do not put limits on what is possible. Use all of your abilities and gifts, empowered by your education, to solve the world’s problems.
  3. See the world. Travel beyond your state, beyond your country. Experience other places and cultures. Those interactions will open you up to other ways of seeing and being. If you only know America, you can’t be competitive in a global economy. Travel changes your perspective on life and everything you do.
  4. Pick somebody else.  Sometimes you won’t hear extraordinary advice given because you hear the same voice so often that you automatically tune it out.  Pick someone else. Always ask another person; get another opinion. It affirms and confirms. Sometimes you have to hear [the extraordinary advice] from someone else.
  5. Ask for help.  No one accomplishes anything without the help of others. Life is worse than hard. You’ll have times when you’ll face bone-crushing, soul-crushing defeat, where you’ll feel like “it” isn’t even possible. Interestingly, when you are going through these moments, when you most need help, contrary to what is logical and instinctive, you are least likely to ask for help.  You must fight through your vulnerability and through your shame and ask for help. You’ll be surprised by the people who exceed your expectations in providing what you need to turn the situation around. Be prepared to ask for help.
  6. Be kind. Kindness goes a long way and is long remembered.
  7. Embrace the fear. You experience fear when you try to accomplish something big and you are afraid to fail. “Everything that I accomplished that was worth something scared me and I learned to run toward it, to embrace it.” Fear tells you this is something worth doing. Embrace it! Run toward it! Grab it! Now, go change the world!

Bell punctuated his list with (mostly) entertaining anecdotes from his life that kept us all riveted. He offered keys for a productive and fulfilling life. There are other keys, of course, but I think the graduates found the most important one in the school’s motto–“God first!”

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.   –Matthew 6:33 AMP

Until next time…

[Note: Photo from Pixabay.com]

To Do: Fall Free Into Reckless

Photo by Emma Matthews. Unsplash.com

After reading my “Three Things” blog post last week, one of my friends, Cy,  added three more things to my list. I receive the first two items on her list with humility and gratitude:

  • You are very talented.
  • I am the #2 fan of your photo art.

It’s the third item on her list that I’m working to embrace:

  • It’s really okay to have a vacation and never, ever complete a task on the to-do list that you think is “life or death.” Just say you forgot about it or you can no longer do it. Fall free into reckless.

I’m convinced professors don’t take time off. We’re always working–grading, reading, planning, thinking, writing. We look forward to breaks, not because we can hit the road and head to the nearest beach, but because we can work (almost) uninterrupted.  My to-do list for the  mere nine days off (including weekends) is long. Significantly. I’m tempted to heed Cy’s advice, burn the list, and “fall free into reckless.”

The question is–can I “fall” with no regrets?

Seven Ways to Beat the Summer Heat

Postcard from Love Noter Angela C.

I’ll admit it. I’m not a fan of summer as a season. You won’t find me outdoors much between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. It’s just too hot for me!

Do you–like me–avoid the higher temperatures?  This doesn’t mean you have to stay “cooped up” in your house or bored until the heat lessens. If you’re looking for some ways to enjoy summer and stay really cool, here are a some “tried and true” ways to get out of the house and beat the heat:

Head Out to the Air Conditioning

  • Read at the mall. Grab a book, toss it in your bag, and head out the house to a bench in the air-conditioned mall. When your eyes need a brief rest from reading, you can people-watch or window-shop. If the mall is too far away or not the kind of place you like to hang out, a coffee shop is a great alternative.
  • Hang out at the Public Library. My baby sister and I were just talking about all the wonderful opportunities for growth and entertainment libraries offer. Her local library offers free painting and crafting classes, piano lessons, and so much more. There is always something at the public library here in Huntsville–readings, lectures, crafting, film viewings, book clubs, author signings, discovery centers, special exhibits, and so much more. There is literally something for everyone. In fact, there’s so much to do it’s a wonder we don’t leech off the library’s AC every day.
  • Journal at the Pool. Kids love pools, so what better way to give your kid what he or she wants and get what you want without compromising. Public indoor pools offer the perfect opportunity for you to do a little art journaling or writing. The lifeguards make sure your kid is safe, so you can take “me-time” with your kid in view. Be sure to bring along your favorite pens, pencils, stickers, and washi tape. 😉

Just Outside Your Home, but Close Enough to Air Conditioning

  • Plan an Iced Tea Party. Host an iced tea party for two or three of your friends. You can do this outdoors under a large tree or on your patio. Serve a variety of cold teas and your favorite cold salads, chilled fruit, and raw veggies. I love tea, but I’m not likely to sip hot tea during the scorching days of summer.
  • Step Outdoors. Open your eyes to the “cool” things just outside your door. Spend some time watching from your patio or from your porch. You’ll observe birds, squirrels, bunnies, even foxes, deer and coyotes, depending on where you live. Even the cloud formations can keep you engaged for a really long time. There’s so much to see just outside our front (and back) doors.

Rainy Day (or Indoor Fun)

  • Create a Vision Journal. You’re familiar with vision boards. A vision journal is the same thing, but created in a notebook instead of on a board. Go through old magazines and cut out pictures that represent what you really want in life for your home, career, vacation, health, spiritual development, self-care, etc. Create collages on the journal pages. Refer to the book from time to time and imagine yourself with your dreams fulfilled. Now, of course, you want to do more than create colorful collages of a beautiful life; you also want to make plans for achieving the dream.
  • Private Concert. Your phone, tablet, and/or computer are filled with music, some you haven’t listened to in a long time, if at all. Create a list of your favorites from the past (or present). Turn down the lights, turn up the music, and host your own concert. If your family members want to join in, let them! The more the merrier. (Tip: If you don’t feel like searching through your extensive music archive, you can find a lot of your favorites on YouTube. Create a playlist there and it’s always available for you).

Summer will be over before we know it, so stay indoors and have some summer fun!