Lesson from Braden

Although only 7 years old, my oldest grandson can teach older and wiser(?) folks a lesson or two about gratitude.

I love little Olivia Jayne. She’s so little and fresh and pure. Her beautiful blue eyes just “pop,” and her chubby little cheeks invite kisses galore. She’s the youngest of my grandchildren. Braden’s the oldest, and I sure love that little fellow too. It seems unreal that seven years have passed since he was Olivia’s age and size.

Every time I see Braden, he surprises me with some new behavior or change. It might be that his hair is getting darker and thicker, or then again, it might be that his body is getting longer and leaner. At other times, it’s his actual behavior and personality development that delight me. Here’s an example. This past week, I heard him say several times, “you should be grateful….” whenever someone complained about something. For instance, when his mother was fussing about changing a particularly malodorous diaper of Colton’s, Braden said, “You should be thankful that you have a baby.” Carrie kind of chuckled and said, “You’re right.”

When I  remarked on Braden’s attitude, his mom said that she didn’t know whether he was just naturally that way or whether her persistent reminders about gratitude had finally taken root. Braden is just like other children (and adults) in that he wants things, and when he gets them, then he wants something else. Aren’t you like that? You might think that if only you had an iPad, you’d be happy. Or maybe if you had a Kindle with a Kate Spade cover, you’d be in heaven. Or if you could just have a new car, a steak, a new house, an exciting job, or a chic outfit, you’d be content. But would you? Not for long.

What I think is that being happy is related more to our attitudes than to our possessions. I used to drive a certain friend of mine crazy whenever I’d say, “It could be worse,” and she’d always remind me that it could be a lot better too. She was right, but then, why go on and on and on about how dire things are when you either can’t or won’t change them (at least not right away)? Another friend once asked me if my nickname was Pollyanna as a child because of my irritating (?) tendency to look for the silver lining. But honestly, of what benefit is it to whine and wail about our misfortunes? Okay, complain once or twice, but then either do something about it or keep it to yourself.

Or here’s a better idea. Follow Braden’s example and try to find some redeeming quality in every situation. When I see him again, I’m going to treat him to a big serving of ice cream. He loves the stuff! And even it’s not completely to his liking, he’ll probably eat it anyway and inform me that there are children in the world who’ve never even tasted the stuff. Yep, that’s my grandson! We don’t look alike, but we sure think alike on this issue.

In case anyone is wondering, YES, I struggle with this issue everyday. At the same time, if you have the audacity to complain about how much higher your taxes are on your lake house than your town house, don’t expect any sympathy from me. When someone mentioned that to me yesterday, I immediately got an image of a man I glimpsed from the window of a tour bus in New York City recently. It was about 35 degrees, and he was propped up against a building with his head down, brown paper bag beside him. Jeanita, Connie, Linda, Tilara, Mary, and I had all complained about the frigid temps that day, and we had coats, hats, gloves, and warm beds to sleep in that night.  The contrast between his plight and ours was stark.

 Lake house taxes, huh?

Galloping and Prancing Along

Had you rather look at the neighborhood mums and pampas grass or walk on the beach and look at hundreds of beautiful prancing, trotting, galloping horses? You never know what awesome sights you’ll behold if you don’t get outside and “just do it!”

Quick post about the wisdom behind “Just do it!” I went to the beach this past weekend, primarily because I wanted to attend a baby shower of a friend’s daughter. Plus, my better half was “in the woods” on the hunt for that elusive deer, and I think he’s happier when I’m engaged in something fun. Less guilt on his part, less nagging on mine.

I woke up Saturday morning with tons of things to do before the shower at one. The event was in Shallotte, NC, and I hadn’t even bought a gift yet. It was chilly outside, and I thought, “I think I’ll skip walking this morning and aim for this afternoon. “  Who was I kidding?? I knew good and well that if I didn’t put the miles in that morning, then I wouldn’t be doing it that day. I had plans with one of my lovely daughters that afternoon, and they didn’t include walking.

“Okay,” I thought. “I’ll just walk around the neighborhood. It won’t be that bad (boring), and I can always get landscaping ideas.”  While lacing up my shoes, I had change of heart and decided to go to the beach. It’s only couple of miles from my front door. How could I justify letting such an opportunity pass?

Folks, I’ve been going to Myrtle Beach for decades, and I have NEVER seen the sights I saw Saturday, at Myrtle or any other beach.  At first, I saw three horses and their riders and thought of how cool and unusual that was. Then a couple more passed me. Looking into the distance, I could see perhaps a dozen more trotting towards me.  Before the hour was over, I had seen hundreds of them. I’m not too good at estimating numbers, but trust me when I say HUNDREDS. Some were galloping, some were prancing, and others were just sauntering along. Some liked the surf and ran right through it; others were more skittish and raised a ruckus when their riders tried to steer them in that direction.

Not only were the horses an enjoyable sight to behold but so were their owners. All were smiling and reveling in the sheer beauty of the morning and of the opportunity to be on the strand. I responded “Good morning” to dozens and dozens of greetings. I began to wonder if perhaps there was a certain personality type (extraverted and friendly) that gravitated towards horseback riding, but when I asked a horse owner at church yesterday, she said, “No, they were just all happy to be allowed to ride on the beach.” Sadly, she missed that ride but will be there with her hat and boots on next year.

Apparently, Myrtle Beach allows horses to be on the beach one day per year, and Saturday was that day. It was an awesome sight, one that I would’ve missed if I’d walked around the neighborhood admiring mums and pampas grass. Just do it! You never know what you’ll see right outside your door.

Lunch, Scrabble, and a Poem

I’m wondering if making a conscientious effort to look for the good stuff has made a difference in my attitude of gratitude.

Yesterday was a stupendous day. Actually, I’ve had a lot of those days lately, but yesterday was exceptional. Maybe I’m just a tad more observant because we are, after all, about to enter the month of Thanksgiving. Then too there’s the fact that I love love love this time of the year. My parents got married in November, and since I was born nine months later, I like to think of it as the month I actually began my life. Oh, and two of my children were born in November too.

Here are the events of yesterday for which I am quite grateful:

  • Waking up at least semi-rested. While I like to get at least seven hours of sleep, I can rock and roll on six.
  • Working all day on the Kershaw campus without having to drive to another location.
  • Eating lunch with some friends. While we were munching on our chips and salsa and discussing family idiosyncrasies, a couple we knew from church came in, and we chatted with them for a moment or two. When we went to the front to pay our bill, we discovered that the mutual church friends had taken care of it for us! Isn’t that amazing? Not to mention generous. Did I mention that while we were eating we got to look at the life-giving rain falling gently outside?
  • After lunch, I worked on online courses some more and chatted with Lisa and Lach, some colleagues whose conversation I always enjoy.
  • After work, I delivered some mums and visited briefly with the flower loving ladies.
  • When I left my mother-in-law’s house, it was with a big container of homemade vegetable soup for dinner.
  • I walked 50 minutes and enjoyed the changing autumn landscape of the neighborhood.  I even picked up a few hickory nuts and acorns with thoughts of using them in some fall craft or table decoration.
  • Speaking of autumn, I read and reread a beautiful Robert Frost poem (October) that Martha posted on FB.
  • I dined with my hubby, an enjoyable activity until he began reading the newspaper.
  • I checked Face Book and relooked at some pictures of Carrie, Amanda, and sweet baby Olivia. It makes me happy to think about the three of them spending some time together Saturday at Time Out for Women in Atlanta, especially when I consider the uplifting and inspirational messages they received.
  • Only one negative event occurred. Someone forgot to turn off the burner under the soup pot, and as I was doing my Susie Homemaker thing in the kitchen, I put a plastic container right on top of the burner. Later, I kept smelling something pretty awful, and when I walked into the kitchen, flames were engulfing the plastic container and its contents. Now we have a permanently damaged stove top and only three useable burners. I’m wondering if it’s time for a new stove. This one’s about 20 years old and doesn’t go with the updated kitchen.
  • At bedtime, I still had a slight edge in FB Scrabble.

Today’s been great too. So was the weekend. I’m wondering if making a conscientious effort to look for the good stuff has made a difference in my attitude of gratitude.

Sunshine and Shadow

There’ll always be elements of sunshine and shadow in our lives, and it’s our perceptions of each that make us happy or miserable.

This morning while walking a few miles at Scott Park, I was again struck with the contrast of sunshine and shadow, just like our lives. Even when you’re walking in the light, there are some things going on that you could notice and complain about. Some people do, loudly and frequently. “It’s hot as heck,” they say, “and my eyes hurt.”  Then you’re in the shadow. It’s good too, but sometimes you’re so busy feeling sorry for yourself that you don’t notice the slight temperature change or the slight breeze that cools your skin.   

Have you got anything good going on right now? Can you walk? Can you see? Did you sleep in a bed last night instead of on the street somewhere? Will you have lunch later today? Sunday morning before going to church, I spent some time watering my plants and flowers. I was lamenting the fact that I’d spent a small fortune on them, and despite my frequent attention, many were dying. Plus, it was almost unbearably hot, and I just wanted to get it over with and scoot inside to the air conditioned comfort. I was also thinking about a lesson I had to teach in a couple of hours, one that I felt a little anxious about. Although I’d spent hours reading and preparing, I still felt inadequate to adequately cover the topic.

Did you see a few good things going on in the above paragraph? There were several. I have an air conditioned home that has some pretty flowers and plants around it. I have running water that enables me to stand and water the petunias and ferns.  I don’t have to go to a well to get it. I have eyes to see not only my yard but all of Mother Nature’s handiwork. I have the opportunity to worship at a church of my choice…and to teach. I don’t live in a country where women’s voices are stifled. Here’s what happened to wake me up from my pouty, self-centeredness. I looked up. That’s it. I looked up and saw the treetops gently moving with the breeze, and beyond them was the bluest sky I’d seen lately…or at least that I’d taken note of. I gulped at the magnificence of the sight and wondered how many just like it I’d missed because I’d been too busy grumbling or looking down.

Hours later and several degrees hotter, I remind myself that I live in the American South, the land of magnolia trees, grits, and beautiful beaches. Hmmm. Makes me want to reread To Kill a Mockingbird.

What’s a Raghead?

How can anyone who’s parading around as a Christian have such narrow-minded and prejudiced attitudes?

 

The next person who calls Nikki Haley a raghead within my earshot needs to be prepared for a verbal assault. On second thought, I probably wouldn’t bombard you with a barrage of terms letting you know just how prejudiced and uncalled-for your comments are. That would be unbecoming, wouldn’t it?

Seriously though, I don’t understand how someone who purports to be following the basic guideline of “love one another” can continue to make disparaging remarks about Indians, Muslims, Mexicans, Lebanese, Chinese, Buddhists, Mormons,  Nigerians, or any other group who looks, act, or speaks a little differently.  If the world is to be a better one, we need to realize that it’s US, not us and THEM. 

When you call someone a raghead, what do you mean? Does that person not have hopes and dreams and aspirations just like you do? Is she somehow inferior to you because her family came from another country? Even if you were born in America, were your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents born here too? Or do you even know your country of origin? And even if your forefathers jumped right off the boat at Plymouth Rock, does that mean you descended from royalty? Were these people the aristocracy of England?

Nary a day passes that I don’t hear some snide remark about Mexicans living in the USA. I know some are illegal, but many are United States citizens just like you are. They work, pay taxes, and spend money to keep our economy running. Most don’t have as much money as you do because they’re out doing jobs that you don’t want to do, jobs that require tons of physical effort but don’t pay much. And yes, I know some of you are annoyed that they don’t speak English. I’ve heard, “If you’re going to live in America, you need to speak English!” about a million times. I agree with my friend Jim who says that they’d probably love to learn our language; however, they’re so busy maintaining our lawns and constructing our buildings to take classes. And speaking of classes, even if they had time to take ESL classes, who’s going to teach them? You?

In case anyone is curious, my personal feeling about speaking and writing English is that those are essential skills for anyone who hopes to be even halfway successful in this great country of ours. Unfortunately, I can probably count on one hand the number of students with Hispanic surnames that I’ve had in my classroom in a teaching career that spans over 30 years. I’ve had the privilege of teaching students from Poland, Nigeria, France, Germany, Vietnam, China, and a few other countries, but so far, the Latino/Latina student is a rarity. I’m puzzled by it. They have to know that not speaking English is a huge deterrent to their success. Sometimes I wonder if their ignorance of the language is an advantage to the employers, apartment owners, and shopkeepers who take advantage of them.

Back to Nikki Haley, maybe you should trace your ancestry before you attack hers. And maybe you should examine your track record before you say something about hers.  What exactly have you done lately to make the world a better place? And besides, aren’t there several scriptural references in the Old Testament about how to treat strangers/aliens?  

Okay, I’m climbing down from my soapbox now. I might be taking all of these comments far too seriously. My son spent a couple of years in Mexico and found the Mexican people to be some of the warmest, friendliest people he’d ever met. He was a stranger in their land for two years, and despite the fact that he looked very different from them, he was never treated as abominably as many here in our country treat those who are “different.”