25 Silver Nuggets: Pursue the Ever After

My hubby and I have been married for 25 years today! I’m asking “where did the time go?” like I did a week ago when my son turned 13.

People have many ideas about marriage and a whole lot to say about how we should do this or that to make a marriage “successful.” I’m certainly no marriage specialist, but I’m back with another random list of nuggets picked up in the 25 years my hubby and I have been married. Each item could easily be its own blog post, but I’d rather spare you a 25-part, month-long series on marriage. 😀

  1. The wedding is not the culmination of love. It’s barely the beginning.
  2. If you can live with his snakes, you must really love him. Or her. [We’ll just allow “snakes” to serve as a metaphor for that one thing your spouse loves that you do not love so much].
  3. Men really are from Mars, and women really are from Venus. And that’s perfectly okay.
  4. The phrase “two become one” does not mean surrendering your individuality, so hold on to your voice and your identity.
  5. You’re not half a person. No other human can complete you.
  6. Be your spouse’s greatest supporter.
  7. Words matter, so it is better to be silent through anger than speak words that linger long after the argument is over.
  8. Hard times eventually pass, so push through them together. Such grit in marriage strengthens the bonds of love and trust.
  9. You never have to “go it alone.” There is someone walking with you through the scariest, darkest moments.
  10. Laughter really is the best medicine.
  11. Flexibility is strength.
  12. Humility is strength.
  13. God in everything. Absolutely.
  14. No one’s “in charge.” Be the boss of you.
  15. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  16. We’re all weird.
  17. Sing and dance together…often.
  18. At the end of the day…love.
  19. Apologize.
  20. Forgive quickly.
  21. It’s okay to be weak and let your spouse carry the “whole load” at times.
  22. Say “I love you” often.
  23. Say “please” and “thank you.”
  24. There’s profound security in knowing there is at least one person in the whole world [besides your parents]–who has seen you at your best and at your worst, who’s seen you after the masks have been removed and the performance has ended–who loves you anyway.
  25. The part of the fairytale everyone loves is “happily ever after.” Fairytale plots are unrealistic, but pursue the “ever after.” That part is real.

Marriage is work, but it’s good work–the kind that expands and firms up your soul.

My hubby is brilliant, funny, gifted, compassionate, committed, and so many other wonderful things. We determined before marriage that heaven is one common goal we will not compromise. I can’t imagine navigating the madness of life without him and I’m grateful for our continuing march into the “ever after” together. 

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.

Lessons From Dad

In my Mother’s Day post, I mentioned I had a Love Notes postcard earmarked for Father’s Day.

We learn just as much from our fathers as we do from our mothers. Sometimes, the lessons are the same, sometimes very different.

My penfriend Eileen V. wrote a list of 10 things her father taught her on the back of a postcard featuring a beautiful lavender field.

“Look for a quiet place and take your time and space to grow your own dreams.” –Zen Wisdom

She writes:

My father taught me:

  1. to enjoy traveling and enjoy nice food
  2. to learn languages
  3. to take up conversation with strangers and foreigners
  4. to listen well
  5. to play tennis
  6. to go sailing
  7. to read lots of books and play Lego
  8. how to tie a bow
  9. to enjoy and cherish silence/quietness/tranquility/solitude
  10. to respect life, animals and nature

You may have already read about my awesome dad in a tribute I wrote a couple of years ago, but in case you need a reminder, here’s a succinct list of some of the things I learned from my father.

  • You have a “right” to your own truth. Speak it.
  • Don’t quit. Stick it out. Finish what you start.
  • Get a formal education and never stop learning.
  • In any way you can, be there for family and friends.
  • Question everything.
  • Take care of your things.
  • Argue your point, but don’t lose friends over it.
  • Celebrate life and accomplishments.
  • Take time for music. Don’t just dance or sing along; listen to it
  • Be a good, honest person and look for the good in others.
  • Know your worth and accept nothing less.
  • When the going gets tough, get tougher.
  • Relax the rules sometimes. A donut for breakfast every once in a while won’t hurt. 😉

So many essential lessons, and that isn’t all, of course!  What have you learned from your father?

To all the fathers reading this–

[the only way you’ll find “me” cutting grass–in a bitmoji] 😀

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]

My Mother Taught Me…

If you were paying really close attention, you probably noticed (and then quickly forgot) that I hadn’t posted the postcards I received for Love Notes 22 prompt 3. At first, I hesitated because I wanted to include my partner’s last response in the blog post, but then, I decided the post should wait for Mother’s Day, a perfect time to share responses to the prompt, “My mother taught me…”

Based on postings in the group, the last prompt had many of the participants contemplating deeply the role(s) their mothers played in their lives. For some, this was a painful exercise–because of mothers who were absent, abusive, or deceased. But even then, they acknowledged that they learned something positive from their mothers.

I received four postcards from Love Notes friends in response to the prompt–Christine B, Litsa L., Lisa C., and Eileen V. Eileen’s is earmarked for Father’s Day, but here are the others:

Cape Blanco Light, Port Orford, Oregon

Christine’s mother taught her “to be loving, supportive, and compassionate.” Christine writes, “She’s still teaching me to be positive; that’s been a hard lesson.”

Telephone Booth

When Litsa asked her daughter what she learned from her, her daughter told she taught her “to be kind.” Litsa learned that from her own mother and adds that her mother also taught her resilience: “Just carry on. What else is there to do?”

“Love,” Photo Postcard By Lisa C.

Lisa C’s mother taught her:

There’s only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.

It’s interesting how all three postcards depict images that serve as metaphors for mothers–a light guiding us safely home; just a phone call way; regal in her role as mother doling out love generously.

I  enjoyed this prompt because–in case you haven’t figured out by now–I love talking about my parents. I sent a list letter of ten (plus one) things my mother taught me:

  • Be kind. If you can help a person, do so—no questions asked.
  • Don’t judge. Love people for who they are and don’t expect them to “be like you.”
  • Let it go. Life is too short, so don’t hold a grudge and don’t waste energy on trifles.
  • Hold your head high. You are somebody in this world. Know your worth, even if others don’t.
  • Take it to God. Don’t unload your burdens on mere humans who can’t handle the load.
  • Take time daily for prayer, meditation and scripture.
  • Keep a clean house.  (I’m still working on this one).
  • Always feed the children. Have food, snacks, and treats available for all children who visit.
  • Have your own bank account.
  • Celebrate every birthday.
  • Bonus: There is incredible strength in silence.

It was hard not to write 100 things!

What have you learned from your mother? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Three Things…

I am one day away from spring break, but I’m hanging on by the thinnest thread. Before the madness of catch-up begins in a few moments, I’m taking a break to look at the pretty postcards I received for Love Notes 22.2 (Round 22, Prompt 2).

Prompt 2 was as stimulating as prompt 1: Three things I want you to know. I received inspiring and encouraging lists from each sender.

Debbie L, my assigned partner, sent another pattern postcard:

William Morris: Arts and Crafts Designs. “Orchard Pattern” William Morris and Co., Ltd. London, England, before 1917. Wallpaper sample book. Brooklyn Museum.

Debbie wants me to know:

  1. Laughter can fill our heart with smiles. Sharing it will give smiles to those around you.
  2. Openness will lead to unexpected journeys.
  3. Optimism will help drive you to the next step even when you think you can’t.

An ibis graced my mailbox carrying the three things Christine B wants me know:

“Ibis Crossing,” Photo by Christine B.

  1. I love your art and words.
  2. I admire your dedication to family, friends, students, and your work.
  3. Love is there for the taking.

Signed with peace and a green star. 😉

From Lori W, a wintry Wisconsin scene:

“Wintry Wisconsin,” Photo by Lori W.

She wants me to know:

  1. Kindness is like snow. It beautifies everything it covers.
  2. The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
  3. Sometimes in the waves of change, we find our true direction.

Eileen V sent a brilliant waterfall postcard brimming with wisdom and encouragement:

“Waterfall.” Photo from Image Bank/A. Edwards

  1. Believe good things will happen and they will!
  2. Kindness matters.
  3. Feel life!

Life is full of happiness; be strong and have faith.  –Kareena Kapoor Khan

Litsa L sent a postcard from my favorite woman-centered collection, Women in Science:

Mae Jemison, Astronaut, Educator and Doctor

As you can see, it took quite a beating as it traveled, but the counsel on written on the back was left  unblemished:

  1. You know you best, so trust your own wisdom.
  2. Within fear lies great courage. We need to be gentle with both.
  3. Even when you are at your busiest, take a moment to hug your loved ones.

Kindness, laughter, and love seem to be the common threads. Since I can’t carry a thousand postcards around with me, I reprinted the lists and placed them as one list in my planner. Whenever I need a little love, kindness, or encouragement, I can just open my planner.

Until tomorrow…

List Journaling: What Makes 4th Graders Happy?

I really, really don’t have time to write a blog post, but I must interrupt my unplanned blogging hiatus to share with you how I thoroughly enjoyed the brief time I had with a group of fourth graders earlier today (my little one’s class). We talked about and played with some of the things that bring me joy–writing, list journaling, stickers, and washi tape!

The kids must have been as excited as I was: One of the parents sent me a text message thanking me for taking time out to do something special with and for the kids.  I joked that the kids are really my captive audience–since very few of my adult friends want to play with stickers and make lists just for the fun of it.

I spoke with the kids about list journaling, showed them a “100 Things That Give Me Joy” list I wrote a little over a year ago, and challenged them as a class to write 100 things that make them happy.  I figured, if everyone worked toward writing 10 each, maybe, we’d get to 100 collectively.IMG_5593

They had a blast selecting stickers and washi tape and decorating their new journals. In fact, some of them spent a lot more time on decorating than they did on writing!

If you’ve ever wondered what makes kids happy, here’s a list–in their own words:

  1. God/Jesus
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Animals
  5. Robots
  6. Writing
  7. Playing
  8. Singing
  9. Dancing
  10. L.A.R.P.ing (If you guessed that my child wrote this one, you are absolutely right! Just in case you don’t know, LARP is an acronym for “Live Action Role Play”)
  11. Owls
  12. Reading
  13. School
  14. Bunnies
  15. Lions
  16. Tigers (and bears, oh my!–I added that part for dramatic effect.  Did it work?)
  17. The Philippine eagle (very specific!)
  18. Owls
  19. Panthers
  20. Falcons
  21. Basketball
  22. Soccer
  23. A great view
  24. Drawing smiling faces
  25. Singing happy songs
  26. Rollerskating
  27. Watching television
  28. Physical Education (PE)
  29. Resting
  30. Swimming
  31. Dressing up
  32. Doing hair
  33. Sleep (Yes!)
  34. Going to restaurants
  35. Movies
  36. Reading the Bible
  37. Eating
  38. Love (Hugs for this one)
  39. Brother
  40. Mom (Of course!)
  41. Flowers
  42. Ice cream (Surprisingly, I saw this only on one list)
  43. My pet
  44. This journal (Aww…)
  45. My toys
  46. When people play with me
  47. When my parents buy things for me
  48. Acting
  49. Taking care of animals
  50. Drawing
  51. Watching the flags outside the school
  52. Swimming during the hot summer
  53. Working out at the gym near home (This child is inspiring! How many nine-year-olds work out?)
  54. Watching stars in the sky
  55. Superman movies
  56. Football
  57. Iceskating
  58. Sleepovers
  59. Zoos
  60. Candy
  61. Flowers
  62. Stars
  63. Cake
  64. America
  65. Sewing
  66. Quilting
  67. The color pink
  68. Emojis
  69. Space

IMG_5595We fell a bit short of the 100-mark, but most of the kids wrote at least 10 things. It just so happens that many of the same things make them happy.  As a whole, they seem to value and find joy in things that really matter–God, family, and friends were on almost every list. I like that they take pleasure in participating instead of passively watching.

Their lists did not reflect the materialism that is so much a part of our cultures.They proved the point that no matter how much they whine, beg, and “barter,” electronics, clothes, and the latest “things” don’t really make kids happy.

We ended our short time together with their making a commitment to continue working on the lists and writing in their journals.  That was the goal–to get them writing for pleasure on a regular basis.

Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for sharing your class time with me!

Just in case you have no idea what I mean by “list journaling,” it is simply journaling via list, usually based on a prompt. Although it is an easier way to approach journaling, it is amazing how much we can learn about ourselves through listing.

If you’re interested, there are many wonderful list journal “communities.”  My favorites are:IMG_5597

  • The Reset Girl’s #ListersGottaList–provides monthly list journaling prompts for adults and children
  • Kam and Amy’s 30 Days of List–provides journal prompts for three months out the year.  A small fee is required.

You can go all the way out and embellish your journal with stickers, stamps, washi tape, art, etc. or you can keep it simple and just make lists. It’s all up to you!

That’s it for now.  Be sure to “tune in” again soon. I plan to share with you artwork by the same group of fourth graders! Children’s art–one of the things that give me joy!