Giving Thanks After Thanksgiving

An attitude of gratitude often seems to be seasonal. Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and some other happenings are thanks giving days. In between, we often live a life of entitlement; good things happen and we forget to be thankful. Not so good things happen, and we complain and forget completely what we have to be thankful for.

 We just take things for granted.

I have talked about taking my gratitude walk to the end of the driveway as a reminder to be grateful. It helps, but it is not nearly enough. Having an attitude of gratitude every moment of every day is the real goal. When I maintain that attitude, my day is filled with accomplishment; everything and every moment has meaning and worth.

The morning shower feels more soothing to body and soul. The aroma of the freshly ground and brewed coffee is more inviting.  With an attitude of gratitude, I notice what is in my refrigerator and remember when I was young and didn’t have a refrigerator. I am thankful for the food that I have, not what I don’t have. The rainbows on my living room ceiling are more vivid and beautiful when I am grateful for the promise they bring. When I venture outside for the first time of the day, the sky is more beautiful as the blue of the California sky becomes the magnificent palette for the wispy clouds floating overhead. The breeze is more gentle in the palms, the songs of the birds are a symphony, the blossoms on my elephant foot palms are new to me and very interesting. The jade bushes are in full bloom and striking as they declare their ability to bloom in the winter. The air is fresh after the recent rain.

Oh, my goodness!!!  And to think that I would miss all of these wonderful blessings and gifts if I took them all for granted, if I were not grateful  for my incredible fortune, each day a gift from my Creator.

An attitude of gratitude pays huge dividends. I highly recommend it as a great investment.





Rainbows on My Ceiling

           What a joy it is to walk out of my bedroom in the morning expecting the sun to shine and the gentle breezes to blow when I open my door to a California morning, and I am treated to rainbows on the ceiling in my living and dining room.  I have a crystal cross in my east windown and also a little hanging ornament of crystal snow flakes. As the sun rises to greet me, it shines on these beautiful crystal pieces and the array of rainbows on my ceilings is beautiful.

          As I stand in the hallway and gaze and smile at what greets me, I marvel at the message. Every facet of the crystal cross sends its message in God’s promise of the rainbow. The storm is over; look with joy on the landscape. Be grateful for the promise. There is a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow. I know that’s just an old wive’s tale; but if you could see my ceiling filled with those many messages of hope and gaith, you would agree. There is a pot of gold, of joy, of beauty in each little rainbow. I could take a quick look and miss the gold. I could think it’s pretty and miss the message. We tell one another to stop and smell the roses. I would say, stop and collect the gold at the end of your rainbows.



The Nationall Charity League–My Perspective on Senior Present

         Tuesday night I saw a beauty pageant, an event that wasn’t called a beauty pageant, but I am calling it that because I saw eleven beautiful, young women who allowed you to look inside for their beauty. The beauty, poise, and grace we saw on the runway was just an added feature. It’s an event called “Senior Present.” Most of the time was spent in recognizing the service the girls gave to their community with their mothers. They took the time to recognize the hours of service of all girls from grade seven and up. The total numbers were staggering. These girls are learning at a young age to fit volunteering into their busy schedules. They are learning over a period of time to serve and help others. Yes, the runway walks were important and impressive. It was a part of the preparation of the senior girls to show how ready they are to step out and be comfortable in places they want to go. To introduce us to the last of each young lady’s four runway walks, we were prepared  with a video of her life. Memories and highlights. Tears of joy as family and friends remembered. And then the young lady dressed in a white gown and on the arm of her father, walked with confidence toward the stage as if it were her future. Her walk was accompanied with her recorded voice. This was her time to be grateful and gracious, to remember those who journeyed with her, and to look forward to all the places she will go. That was the theme, “Oh, The Places You Can Go.” 
            Yes, Tuesday night was a highlight moment event, an .  event that chronicled the journeys of eleven beautiful young women who are graduating from high school this spring. This audacious group of NCL seniors and their mothers served their community together. NCL is “Mothers and Daughters serving their community.” The night was long as it  focused the spotlight on service awards–hundreds and hundreds of hours of service in shelters, the food pantry, playing bingo with seniors, and so many other places.

            I have been to some pretty interesting events all over the world in my nearly 93 years. I have heard girls and mothers talk about NCL. I have watched my granddaughter for the last four years, and I have heard so often, “I have an NCL meeting, or I am volunteering this weekend, today, or whenever. Often it seemed it was on top of two varsity sports, AP classes, or a voluminous amount of other work. I’m certain many of the Ticktocker hours were served when a beach trip might have been an alternative.

I applaud NCL, their purpose, and their results. It was a wonderful night. When you see these young women and hear of their accomplishments, you want to engage them incineration and hear more about their dreams, their aspirations, and the places they can go.  

God’s Marvelous Creations

            What a beautiful day. The walk to the end of the driveway is always an adventure. It is one I take everyday in my trek around the house. While it is the same driveway, the walk is always different. The blossoms are at a different state in their journey. The birds and their songs are different at different hours; their flight patterns vary with the tasks of the hour. The palm fronds are greeting the sky in different ways as they meet the morning breezes. The sun greets me at a different angle. The shadows cast their magic with the path of the sun. The breezes say hello with a gentle brush across my face.

            The sky is its own study each morning. This morning it is a blue dome with white, fleecy clouds covering it like a white lace covering a blue tablecloth. Yesterday it was a beautiful, clear, blue dome. The silhouette of the palm fronds against the blue is an impressive piece of nature’s artistry. The mountains across the valley stand majestically as they lend their beauty to the horizon.

            The yellow iris proudly present themselves as they add their beauty to the scene; it seems each is proclaiming it is the perfect blossom. The  bronze day lilies vie for attention as they stand among the iris. Nature mixes in the red, pink, and rose colors of the geraniums that trail along the driveway and sometimes climb the palm trees. God’s artistry creates amazing pieces of art in nature.

            As I proceed around the house, I can smell the last vestiges of the perfume of the orange blossoms; they are rapidly pursuing their journey. In a few days there will be little green nubbins, the first sign of the next piece of their destiny. They, too, will soon mirror the mature fruit left on the trees. An orange tree, like so much of nature, is a beauty to behold. And how magical when you can see the evolution day by day. How can one not be grateful?

            I never cease to be amazed as I turn the corner. I leave the fragrance of the orange blossoms; I know in just a few feet the roses will start  to share their varied perfumes. They have to share their beauty with the vastness of the view across the valley. As I look across the valley, the avocado trees in the foreground add the incredible greenness of their foliage to the scene. But in a few more steps, the roses send out their calling cards. A rose is something special. And each of the many that I have sends its individual greeting card. The beauty of the buds, the fullness of the blossom, the attempt of each petal to last as long as possible–all magic. The colors an variety are unbelievable.

            And that’s just some of the plants. Now add the glory of a hawk, the pride pace of a road-runner, the scamper of a ground squirrel. or the tail of a rabbit scurrying away. The sound of the music from the many birds that love their nests in my palm trees, add the symphony to the scene. Even the crows add their base notes to the sound.

                 How could I not be grateful enough to understand that tomorrow my walk will be looking at another artistic rendering of God’s magnificent creations? I hope your grateful walk today was as beautiful as mine.



Proud to Be a Veteran

 Every one is a veteran of something because you have done it for some time, but being a Veteran because  you have raised your right hand to serve your country, uphold its Constitution, and protect it from enemies from within and without, is quite a different matter. You are allowed to wear that uniform that sets you apart and requires much of you.

        Military service was not on my planned life’s journey itinerary. That is, until a young female naval officer came to talk to the girls in her former high school in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Those girls just happened to be in my physical education and biology classes. These kids were among those I taught in my first teaching job.

        I was a mere 21. She talked of the War, the Navy, the opportunity, but most of all the duty. It was early 1943; Pearl Harbor was still a raw subject. The War in the Pacific was horrific. The War in Europe was difficult. The young naval officer was not a recruiter; she was just a citizen turned patriot. She was going to do whatever she could to help those brave men aboard the ships, the planes, and the landing barges that carried the men to islands in the Pacific that became infamous and those that sometimes weren’t even named on the maps of the world.

        The Navy needed physical education instructors to work with the physical fitness of the WAVES, the women in the Navy, she said. I could do that; I could serve my country. After I enlisted, I was sent to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for my physical. During my interview, the officer suggested that I was too young to be an officer. In my youth, I became enraged and gave a lecture to her on the lack of relationship between age and maturity. She was not pleased, decided to rid herself of the upstart, and sent me to take the physical. Having been blessed with good health coupled with my attention to my fitness, the physical was a breeze.

I raised my right hand, repeated the words of the oath, and I was in the Navy. I thought that I would be able to finish out the school year, but that was not to be. I was called to my first duty base in May, 1943.

        Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, was like a foreign country to this small town girl from Iowa and the pheasant filled prairies of South Dakota. It is a beautiful and elite women’s college. The town was definitely a cultural adventure for me. We ate at the famous Inn in the city. I came to understand that the food was extraordinary. But then I only knew lobsters existed because I studied Biology in college. I came to relish the new things to explore. It did not take long to appreciate the fine cuisine at the Inn.

        I came also to understand the uniqueness of the women with whom I served. I was one of very few with just a bachelors degree; most had masters and doctorates. It was amazing to learn what people had left to raise their right hand. So many left very prestigious positions. It truly was an interesting, diverse mix of women who had accomplished much in their civilian lives; I did not truly understand how much until after the War when I came to understand fully the glass ceiling.

        As the training came to a close, we all eagerly awaited our “orders.” Mine took me to the Naval Air Technical Training Center at Millington, Tennessee, not far from Memphis. It was a huge base with a Naval Air Station across the street and a Naval Hospital just down the street. The military during the War was a great melting pot and equalizer. The uniform of the United States Navy or Marine Corps was the same for celebrity, teacher, farmer, business executive, movie star, football coaches and football stars, famous chefs and photographers, holders of gold medals, the college grad, or the kid who dropped out of school. Insignia told you what they were doing, but most certainly not where they were from. But we all took the same oath.

Yes, I am proud to be a veteran. I have been able to speak of my pride when folks express surprise that I was in the Navy. Some seem to think that women in the armed services were quite different from those that I knew. My children know that I am proud; I know they are, too. My grandchildren know that I am proud; I know they are, too. My friends know, my colleagues know, and any shipmates I meet certainly know. The sports guy who wants to stop playing the national anthem at sports events will never know or understand my pride. Too bad. His loss.

       America, feel my pride.   I am just one among so many. But I am ONE. As long as I have voice and pen, I will tell you about my  pride.  Do not ignore those who would silence the pride of those who know it. And above all, preserve the voice of those who served and paid the price of the silent voice. They rest with pride; we must be their voice, too.


Labor Day 2013–The Lessons of Hard Work

Labor Day each year brings many memories, but it also comes with many questions. The conversations and programs often are confusing. Are they speaking of labor, the noun, or are they discussing labor, the verb? There are a lot of synonyms for each. This day I prefer to speak of the labor that creates, that gives birth to something special, that is difficult, joyous, fulfilling, exhausting, exhilarating, and full of anticipation, expectation, wonderment, and even fear and pain. All of these can co-exist in the planting of a garden and even more so in the labor of birth.

Whatever synonym one chooses, it  seems to be tied to the word “work.”    We even tie the education of our children and youth to the word. “Honey, just remember you’re going to work just like mommy and daddy,” we say. And so they go off to “work” in this place called school. They labor in a place that should be filled with enchantment and joy, but is often filled with tedium, repetition, being told what to do all day, and often filled with few opportunities for choice and real problem solving. Monopolies breed these attitudes, and public schools are monopolies.

While the children labor in the vineyard of the school, the adults labor in the “workplace.” My first one was my home. I can’t remember when I didn’t have chores. Neither can I remember any time in my life when I wasn’t tagging someone around trying to learn how to do something. When would I be big enough to run the tractor? When could I knead the bread? I could dry the dishes if I stood on a chair, or feed the chickens if mother carried the feed.

I was fascinated with how things worked–the windmill, the incubator, water in its various states, and the diversity of the snowflakes. Examination was not a test in my life, it was an opportunity to examine, to observe, and to ask the questions that filled my environment. My unpaid workplaces fit the old Confucius saying: Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.

My first paid job was working for my eighth grade teacher cleaning her apartment. What faith she had in giving an eleven year old kid a job. But I was grateful for the fifteen cents an hour I earned. Opportunity knocked early on my door. And it’s been knocking regularly since then. I ushered in the little theater in town; that allowed me to see movies.

At about this same time, my grandfather, the master of thrift, hard work, and personal responsibility,  was also the master teacher. He would never give us (I had many cousins) money, but he would always provide opportunities for us to earn it. He provided the seed potatoes, the plot of ground ready to plant, and taught us how to do the rest by his example. I planted those potatoes, I hoed those potatoes in the hot Iowa sun, and learned how to look to nature for the rain and occasional cloudy day when I could abandon that straw hat he insisted I wear. I was so proud of that paycheck when I sold those potatoes.

But the lessons were the priceless parts of the process. Maya Angelou has said it well: Nothing will work unless you do. I found out in that potato field the truth in the statement of Thomas Edison: Opportunity is often missed by most people because it is dressed up in overalls and looks like work.

Grandpa offered the same opportunity to all, but others saw only opportunity dressed up in overalls and looking like work. I could only learn the lessons of hard work by working hard. Margaret Mead knew this. Even the home-spun advice of Ann Landers informed us: Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work so most people don’t recognize them. I am thankful for the early lessons of recognition.


When I Was a Little Girl…

I walked to school in snow that was occasionally quite deep. When I got to school my feet were cold, my mittens were wet, and my hands were very cold. The schoolhouse was nice and warm, heated by the pot-bellied stove that the teacher had started a fire in much earlier. I don’t know what time the teacher had to get there.

Now, when I was your age or when I was a little girl are statements that can produce the closing of the ear passages. The words can bring a sigh or at least non-verbal behavior that indicates disinterest. Or it might even bring the statement, “Well, would you like to go back to those horse-and-buggy days?”

No, I don’t want to go back to freezing hands and feet. And I don’t want my grandchildren to have to walk in deep snow to school, or run behind a horse-drawn bus to keep warm, or sit on the cold wood seat with a bag of salt or a hot brick to moderate the cold just a wee bit.

However, I wouldn’t mind going back to some other things I learned.

I appreciated the heat because I knew the cold. I appreciated the snow and the warm summer days because I knew both. I appreciated the teacher who went early to light the fires for her kids; I never heard her say it wasn’t in her contract or that her day started fifteen minutes before the kids arrived. I never heard one of my teachers say she had to go home when I wanted to stay and read a book; she knew I didn’t have books at home. She would just put more wood in the stove.

I learned character from my family and from the great stories with a message in my readers. I wasn’t separated from the concepts of our Founders that have made a great nation because of the “establishment clause.”  I read about our history as it really happened. I learned about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They were there to guarantee the freedoms that people fought and died for. It was presented as the lasting document that it must remain if we are to survive as a republic. No one suggested modernization to “fit the culture and the times.”  I learned from the writings of the Founders that they sought Divine Guidance in their work.

Yes, I learned to appreciate, to be grateful for the opportunities, to love my country and understand what has made it great. And I didn’t expect anyone to shovel a path in the snow to make my trek easier. In the process of it all, I learned to serve, to shovel paths that make it easier for those who follow.


At the End of the Driveway–The Figures in he Clouds

The end of the driveway is the first leg of my grateful walk. I always stop for a few minutes to make certain that I remember how very fortunate I am. I find a little patch of shade where the gentle breeze will cool the air a bit. As I view the beautiful California sky, it’s easy to be a little girl in Iowa again.

The clouds that grace the blue sky are perfect for me to recognize shapes and figures. The clouds are so accommodating; the lion gradually morphs into a giraffe that becomes a ship with sails.   And I can travel to far places where the animals live.  Clouds are wonderful reminders that they move and change and follow the path they were created to follow. I’m so glad I haven’t forgotten how to see more in the clouds than people tried to teach me to see. Just think, if I could remember only what I learned in science about clouds, how much less I would enjoy my skies.

As I see my hawks, hummingbirds, the white heron, and all the others, I’m so glad I believe they are like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. They are all seeking to be the most that they were created to be. Jonathan was never happy with the scraps on the beach; he could see the horizon and the ships. He would risk the wrath of those who tried to make him just like all the other seagulls to fly toward the horizon.

And so it is with me as I sit at the end of the driveway. I have another day to become all I was created to be. I have been so blessed to have so many who have helped me on my journey. They have allowed me to grow. They have challenged me. They have questioned my path and sometimes suggested detours. Yes, there were those who tried to tell me that they knew more about my path than I did. But there was always that third ear, that sound of the silent soul, the still small voice of self, and the rudder of faith to guide me. I would even risk the wrath of those who tried to keep me on the beach eating scraps.  

I have never been satisfied with the scraps on the beach. I can still see the horizon and the ships in the clouds to get me there. I hope I never lose my capacity to see what I could see as a little girl in Iowa, born with everything that she needed to become all that she could be.

That’s why I take a grateful walk everyday. I cannot appreciate the next step until I am grateful for the one that I have just taken. I cannot see the horizon if I do not look in that direction. I want my grandchildren (and all children) to see me looking toward the horizon each day that God gives me breath. Go Colin, Kera, Hailey, and Cassidy. You have everything that you need to be all that you can be.

The Raspberry Bush, The Hawk, Moscow, Family, and Other Things

I took my grateful walk this morning; as usual, I stopped at the end of the driveway to contemplate my blessings. The breeze was blowing gently and the palms responded, swaying with gentle precision to the commands of the breeze. The shadows appeared and disappeared as expected. I was struck with the beauty of it all and the calm and natural way the things happened.

I looked through the gate at the mammoth blackberry bush just outside, sprawling and spreading itself at will. This volunteer blackberry plant, the gift of my bird family, apparently knows more about itself than I do. You see, I planted several blackberry vines in another “appropriate place” only to find them never quite happy there. But this vine, now eight or ten feet in diameter, has carved out its own destiny. The berries are almost ready.

I have told you about my red-tailed hawk that has made its home in the palm at the end of the driveway. It comes to visit occasionally. The most amazing visit was a few nights ago when I was sitting on my patio with a friend having a wonderful chat. All of a sudden we were both silent, staring at each other with a look that comes only with special wonderment about an event, sight, or sound.

A red-tailed hawk swooped down to the top of the umbrella pole at the table where we were sitting, picked up its prey and was gone with unimaginable swiftness. What poor rodent, at least my friend said it had a tail like a rat, made the mistake of hiding in the top of the umbrella, we’re not certain.   But the stunning silence of the approach and the quickness of the snatch completely astonished us. It came and went with its prey clutched tightly and we never heard a sound. We both agreed we had never experienced such an amazingly successful hunting expedition. I am stunned daily as I watch them  hunt, soar, and glide across my sky, But as I thought about it at the end of my driveway this morning, I was hoping the hawk would do a fly-over so I could thank it for the untold joy it brings. My friend and I will always be saying to each other,  “Remember the evening that the hawk…”

About Moscow. While I was sitting at the end of the driveway, my mind wandered back to the discussion on the news about where Mr. Snowden, the young man who absconded with three computers filled with our top secret stuff, is. I smiled as I thought about the news I heard. “Mr. Snowden is in the transient lounge in Moscow; he’s not officially in Russia,” is the report from the authorities.  I think he knows he’s in Russia. I can tell you I knew I was in the Soviet Union (when I visited many years ago) long before I was in the lounge. You know before you ever get off the plane. Mr. Snowden knows he is in Russia, believe me. I wonder how he is enjoying his travels.

Then I looked a little to the left at the home of my son and his family. I had dinner with them last night. We sat in the cool of the evening on their patio and talked of many things. The report cards of my two amazing granddaughters, Hailey and Cassidy, had just come in the mail. Totally amazing girls, these two. But the report was not news to them; they live in he digital age. They are very good friends with the computer and smart phones.

And then came the vote; who’s going to do the dishes? Bob lost. That meant Hailey would take me home. Seemed like an opportunity to spend a little time with this wonderful, busy young lady. A senior in high school next year, makes the choice of college a frequent topic of conversation in her world. She will have choice because she has worked hard to have choice. I think she understands that the best way to be free is to have the power to choose. We talked about several colleges; I shared some of the things that I learned over the many years I spent in universities as a student and as an employee. You would have enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, and I hope she did. This young woman is my granddaughter, but I wish you could know her as I do. Some university will be really lucky if she chooses it. Go Hailey!

            And there are so many more things at the end of my driveway besides the blackberry bush, the hawk, and Moscow. The most important things that are always in my gratitude walk are my family, especially my incredible four grandchildren, (Colin, Kera, Hailey, and Cassidy), my faith, my friends, and my love of my country that I fight every day to preserve for those I love.

Each Day a Gift

Many things have been written and said about the gift of a day and how we  live that gift. What if it were the last, some ask? Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow… What if you had a week, a month, a year to live? How would you use the gift(s)? And on. No one knows the day or the hour; we only know it is always in the future until the last breath, or the heart beats for the last time. All of this is a part of the great freedom we have been given at our birth to be all that we were created to be. That is the gift. Freedom to choose what we do in the minutes, hours, days, and months in our life bank.

This day is the gift. Certainly the days after Easter are good days to think again of new life. The great gift of the resurrection should only remind us to look at the opportunities around us to begin anew, to think positively, and to live each day with the gratitude, zeal and service it deserves.

As I walk to the end of the driveway, I encounter the effort of the iris blossoms now opening a little more each moment. It is as if they are trying so hard to open before my eyes. They push against the enfolding petals to open to the glorious color they are intended to be. What a lesson for me. Each moment requires my best effort to know that I was created no less than the iris to push against the things that would keep me from all that I can be, from enfolding to the beauty intended.

Some daffodils and narcissus are trying to stay just a little longer; then they will center their attention on increasing the size of their dormant stage, the bulb, only to be twice as big for next spring. They will not forget. Nor will I. As I walk to the end of the driveway next spring, I will look for them, and I will smile back at the first daffodil that opens its smiling face for me.

As I continue my walk, I stop to see the giant patch of nasturtiums extending their vines to claim more territory for more gorgeous orange and yellow blossoms.

Around the corner, the orange trees are loaded with beautiful white blossoms;  the air is fragrant with their perfume. It is such an elegant fragrance. Some blossoms have already dropped to the driveway. One could be sad, but the departure of the blossoms heralds the presence of little green bumps where the blossoms were. These little bumps will soon grow to be the elegant oranges against their beautiful green dense foliage. Orange trees with blossoms or oranges are equally beautiful. They will become what they were created to be unless things that hinder their development interfere–bugs, disease, a trimming shears, or an entity has decided otherwise.

As I proceed to the south side of the house, I enter rose territory. The foliage is so red it is hard to see red rose buds competing with the dark foliage. Those first rose buds seem so perfect; they are spirited in their message: see I am being all I was intended to be. And I know when I walk by the many different rose bushes, each will be its destined self. Yellows will be yellow, pinks will be pink, whites will be white, and so on. Do I not owe my Creator as much effort to become all that I can be?

The next discovery is a little hummingbird nest resting on the edge of the driveway. Shall I be sad with the thought that some unfriendly neighbor in the air harmed the inhabitants and knocked the nest down? Or perhaps the little former inhabitants have finished with it and the wind blew it down. One thing I know: the tiny little high-speed-flight machines will be true to their destiny; the little marvels will be tasting the nectar in my flowers with their specially designed long beaks.

My daily walks take me out to the end of the driveway the second time as I finish the trek. As I sit at the end of the driveway for a moment, I note that the sky is absolutely clear and blue. It’s like a message to say that nothing can obscure the gift of the day. What you see around you, it says, is confirmation that each day should hold its special efforts, desire, and commitment to be all you were created to be. It must be my covenant with each day. How fortunate I am to be born in my beloved country, the shining city  on the hill. How fortunate I am that I was taught early to be self-reliant, diligent, independent in thought and deed by a mother and a father that modeled hard-work, ethical behavior, pride, and cleanliness. Respect, dignity, honesty, and integrity were lived. Money was not the object of goals, nor was it ever an excuse for not achieving goals. The American Dream was open to become my dream because America was created to assure the freedom to dream my own dreams.

Freedom!!! That’s the gift for each of us for each day. We must cherish it, protect it, fight for it, live it, and never allow anyone to distort the two freedoms that come to us each day–the freedom from our Creator to become all we were created to be, and the freedom assured us by our Founders in our founding documents.