Why Bother To Anticipate?

Why Bother To Anticipate?

None of us can predict our futures. And though we anticipate good things ahead for our lives, sometimes we are taken aback by how long we have to wait for those good plans to come to fruition. Our delayed ambitions are not easy to live with. They make us restless and hopeful, impatient and patient, all at the same time. To anticipate the future and wait for it at the same time is to live in a healthy tension, one that keeps us alert, attentive and ready, all at the same time.

  Good Plans

Growing up, I did not have any specific career plans, but once I was an adult, I fell in love and married. Parenting became my full-time job until my sons were grown and on their own, then I knew it was time for me to step into the workforce.  With my limited work experience, and a husband who supported my ideas even when they seemed only half baked, I decided finishing my education to be the first step of business. Returning to school as an older student had its benefits; I was not easily distracted. My focus was to complete my bachelor’s as quickly as possible. The two years were well spent and I crossed the stage with the rest of my classmates to recieve my diploma. With a four year degree under my belt, job opportunities were a little more abundant. I interviewed with the school district and became a paraprofessional, otherwise known as a teacher’s aid, at the junior high. 

Though I have friends who find great satisfaction as parapros, I knew after a short amount of time that I would not find contentment in the work. Working one-on-one or with small groups of students was not challenging enough for me and I found it boring. I knew I needed to be in charge of a classroom if I wanted to be happy in the workforce. So, I returned once again to school and two years later, walked across the stage, this time to receive my teaching certificate. 

Paraprofessional jobs were easier to find than teaching positions and for another year I remained a teacher’s aide and substitute, sometimes even doubting my choice to become  a teacher. At my age, I wondered if I even had a chance at a teaching job. Finally though, I got a call for an interview. It was not in my district, but I was willing to travel if it meant having my own classroom. 

For four years, I commuted out of district to a rural middle school and taught 6th grade English Language Arts. Those four years of traveling sixty miles a day were a practice in waiting. Every year, I applied for jobs in my district, and waited with patience. Though I enjoyed my job and my own classroom, I knew I did not want to make the commute for the rest of my career. Then finally, after my fourth year of teaching out of district, I had an interview with a rural school in my district and landed the job.

I had anticipated working in my district someday and that day finally arrived. Having the new job ended my sixty miles a day commute. Having the job I’d always anticipated ended my period of waiting. 

Why bother to anticipate? It is worth it to anticipate what it is we are waiting for. Though we do not know how long our wait will be, our patience has the opportunity to grow in the interim.

Why Bother Letting Go of Grudges?

Why Bother Letting Go of Grudges?

What is invisible, weighty, and clouds our perception of others. If left alone, this does not go away, and instead, only grows more toxic and infect us with bitterness. Though some of us know how to let these invisible, and weighty things go sooner than others, none of us are exempt from grabbing hold of grudges. Sooner or later, in one or more of our relationships, we will encounter someone who intentionally or unintentionally hurts our feelings. And what we do or don’t do with our hurt, will result in whether or not we will carry a grudge against the person or if we can let things go. 

The Heavy Weight of a Grudge

We learn much in our relationships with each other. Though some people claim they would prefer to live isolated lives, we are interdependent creatures. We rely on each other in more ways than we can count. People validate our feelings, offer advice, listen to our fears, share their friendship and companionship. Our personal defeats or sorrows are easier to bear when we bear them with someone who understands and knows us. Our victories are sweeter and felt more deeply when celebrated with someone besides us. But sometimes, even in the best of situations, a relationship goes awry. A misunderstanding, a careless word, or thoughtless action leads to an emotional hurt. Like a stubbed toe, the emotional wounding  may start out small and insignificant, but left unexamined, the injury may grow more painful spreading beyond the toe to the foot, and up the whole leg. What started out as something minor becomes something major.

We may not be fully aware of when we hold a grudge, which is all the more reason to take a look at how we are feeling after our encounters with certain people. Sometimes an encounter with a person may leave us feeling as though we’d just been stung instead of encouraged. We might be left with confusion rather than clarity, feel misjudged and misunderstood. We may have wanted to say something, but it went unsaid instead. We may have wanted to defend ourselves, but wondered if we really had to. If we answer yes to any of these questions, we may need to take a step back toward the person with the good intentions of clearing things up. But if we think we can brush the misunderstanding aside because it doesn’t really matter, then we can try that too. If we discover that we are attaching that person’s name to the raise we did not get, the unsuccessful job interview or that our life would be much happier if not for them, then we could safely say we are carrying a grudge against them. 

If done well, restoring ourselves to grudge less individuals is not complicated. Approaching the person with words such as, “I know you probably did not mean to hurt me, but when you said ….It made me feel.” Letting go of the grudge begins with being honest with ourselves and with the other person.

Why bother letting go of grudges? Learning to let go of grudges is worth it since it  steers us back on course to good relationships. 

Why Bother To Pause?

Why Bother To Pause?

Some religious people believe firmly that Saturday is the Sabbath, while others believe the official day of rest is Sunday. In the 1600s, the blue laws were written down establishing laws that the Puritans enacted to control morality. The sale of alcohol was prohibited on Sunday and  most labor on that one day ceased. Though the blue laws were difficult to enforce, the law ensured at least one day of rest from labor everyone. Later on, those same blue laws also gave recess to retailers. Grocery stores, gas stations and drug stores locked their doors from consumers.  For one day of the week, store owners were unconcerned with one day of loss from sales. Rest, not profit, was the bigger commodity.

How exactly, did abstaining from making any purchases one day out of the week lead to morality? And though the blue laws are extinct, are they worth reinstating even just for ourselves?

         Delayed Gratification

To buy what I need when I need it is convenient, to wait is to delay gratification. Back in the 1960s there was a famous marshmallow experiment performed with 5-6 year-old children at Stanford University.  The experiment began by bringing each child into a private room, sitting them down in a chair, and placing a marshmallow on the table in front of them. Then the researcher made a deal with the child. If they could leave the marshmallow alone for fifteen minutes, then the child would be given a second marshmallow. If however the child decided to eat the first marshmallow before the researcher came back, then they would not get a second marshmallow. A simple choice any child could understand: one treat right now or two treats later.

The experiment did not end there. Instead, these children were followed for more than forty years. The ones who delayed their gratification and waited for that second marshmallow grew into adults who ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures. This simple little experiment with a marshmallow and a six-year-old child proved that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success later in life.

These days we don’t have to wait. The blue laws are extinct. Stores are open seven days a week and even if my local food store closes at 10:00 p.m. I can still shop online and have my goods delivered the next day. Yet, I am wondering how many of us might benefit from delaying our own gratification. What would it be like for us to postpone our purchases? Could we set aside one day a week and press the pause button? If we choose to abstain for just one day then what would the benefit be? 

Self discipline is a virtue we are all capable of practicing and the pay off leads to success whether we are setting goals for getting out of debt, losing a few extra pounds or furthering our education.  

Why bother to press the pause button? It is worth ceasing from consuming goods, even just for a day. In doing so, we practice delayed gratification and grow stronger in self-discipline.

Why Bother With True Grit?

Why Bother With True Grit?

I admire the character Mattie, in the book and the movie, True Grit. When her father is murdered, she sets out to avenge his death. First she hires a gunman, Rooster Cogburn. Then, a Texan Ranger, LaBoeuf, also offers his services in the hunt for Chaney, the murder. Cogburn and LaBoeuf do not expect Mattie, who is only fourteen, to go along with them as they head out on their horses, but she will not be left behind. Although Mattie has no idea of the dangers awaiting her on this journey, she mounts her horse with more grit than either Cogburn or LaBoeuf. 

Tenacious Commitment

The story takes place in 1870, when women were generally recognized as more tender than tough, and whose role mainly involved running a house on a homestead, not using a gun to revenge a murder. But Mattie was determined to do what she believed she needed to do, in spite of the opinions of others. Mattie’s greatest virtue was her grit, or the resolution of follow through. She butted up against attitudes of patronizing men, the raw hatred of outlaws and near death experiences. Yet, she did not back down. By the time her journey ended, Chaney was dead and she was still alive. 

Though I have never needed to avenge anyone’s death and women are no longer viewed within the narrow confines of the 1800s, grit is still a necessary virtue in anyone’s life. People still make commitments and our pledges, either to ourselves or to another, will be tested. If we do not believe in what we are doing, or if we do not trust our decision, we will not have the staunchness it takes to complete what we have begun. Self doubt is worse than the meanest gunslinger. 

 Mattie’s success did not depend entirely on her talents. She could not shoot straight, and riding a horse did not come naturally. The only thing she had going for her was her passion for the mission. She knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was her job, and no one else’s, to avenge her father’s death. Knowing this truth about herself, gave her the dauntlessness she needed for her success. Understanding what she had to do gave her focused confidence and supplied the fearlessness she needed to keep going even when circumstances loomed against her. In her quest, Mattie faced the naysayers; outlaws and condescending men. She also stared down the dangers found in nature. And she won.

Why bother with true grit? It is worth finding our true grit so that we can face our naysayers, whoever they might be and move out on our journey with resolve like Mattie’s. 

 

 

Why Bother Noticing Autumn?

Why Bother Noticing Autumn?

Summer is now officially over and Fall, my favorite season, has begun. The sky turns a deeper shade of blue, the heat from the sun mellows and the deciduous trees begin to show hints of red, and yellow. Although I know Autumn is the prelude to winter, I do not think too far ahead. Instead, I savor this particular season for all its glorious beauty. 

        What Autumn Offers?

Autumn begins on September 22 and ends on December 21, when winter equinox begins. Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving are some of the memorable holidays we get to celebrate along the way. 

The sun takes longer to rise and now a harvest moon or headlamp lights up my early morning jogging path. I’ve exchanged my running shorts and t-shirt for warmer layers and condensation from the chilly air collects on my fleece. The smell of cold damp air replaces the scent of warm asphalt.

I no longer walk around outside in bare feet or sandals. Instead, I crave the warmth of socks and shoes for my toes. Our summer diet of grilled fish and white wine dinners at our picnic table in the backyard change too. Now I cook heartier foods like spaghetti, and chicken soup. A glass Cabernet Sauvignon replaces the chilled chardonnay and we sit inside, where it is warm.  

The hummingbird feeder is stored away until next summer and the empty space at our window is instead filled with the color from our next door neighbor’s maple tree. Like a fall bouquet of color, I get to enjoy it until its leaves fall to the ground. 

Summer is behind us with its long luxurious days of sunshine. Now there are only brief moments of warmth in a twenty-four hour period. Though I want to capture some of these sunny September moments and bring them out again in January, I know I can’t. So instead, I am motivated to drink in all that I can of what Autumn offers me right now. 

Why bother noticing Autumn? It is worth noticing the obvious beauty of Fall and storing up its images in our minds because soon enough it will be replaced by the harshness of the winter season.

Why Bother Remembering Our Constitution?

 

Why Bother Remembering Our Constitution?

Every September 17, on Constitution Day, I am required, as a public school teacher, to present a lesson to my fourth grade students about this important document. By the time most students reach the fourth grade, they already know a few things about American history. They understand we have a president, as opposed to a king. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Donald Trump are the presidents’ names they recall most easily.  

They know something about the Civil War, WWII, and Vietnam, but not necessarily in that order. When I ask them what they know about the constitution one of them tells me, “It is a list of rules that tell us how to be nice to each other.”

Executive Judicial Legislative

I began my lesson by reading a story, A More Perfect Union, by Betsy Maestro. The book tells about our new republic’s journey and how the people established the document that became the Constitution. Next, I displayed a slide show showing them the three branches of the government and the duties each branch carries. The words executive, judicial and legislative are not easy for any nine or ten year old to pronounce, so during our lesson, they practiced repeating the three words over and over again. 

I wanted them to have something to take home to “ show and tell” their parents, so we created a booklet. It required cutting, folding and stapling paper. Even these tasks prove difficult for fourth graders to coordinate. Their booklet consisted of four rectangles. The first one was their cover page; Three branches of the Government. The next three pages were titled; Executive Branch, Judicial Branch and Legislative Branch. Using the slide display, they copied down the duties each section of our government is responsible for and repeated the important words; executive, judicial, legislative.

Then it was lunch time. While they were in the cafeteria, I looked at their work. It wasn’t pretty. Half their words were misspelled, and they had stapled their pages out of order. This would not be a product for them to “show and tell” their parents. So, I made cheat sheets that listed the duties of each branch of government and when they returned from lunch, we began the project all over again. They cut out their pages more neatly this time, stapled them in order and used the cheat sheets to spell words correctly. I was feeling better about this project and so were they.

At the end of the day, I always tell my students; “In order for you to leave you have to tell me….” That day I asked them to recall the three branches of our government. One by one, they stumbled over the new words they had learned to pronounce. Finally, my last student stood in front of me. “What are the three branches of our government?” I asked him. 

His brown eyes looked up into mine as he said, “Executive, judicial and laxative.” 

It is never easy to keep a straight face when correcting a student, but I refrained from laughing until after he left the room. 

Why bother remembering our constitution? It is worth remembering the most important document of our country since it is the foundation on which we stand. Remembering how to pronounce the words associated it, is important too

Why Bother Baking Cookies?

 

Why Bother Baking Cookies?

I grew up on my grandma’s cookies. Even when we moved far away from her home in Nebraska, to South Dakota and Colorado, she sent her cookies to us through the mail. When a three pound coffee can wrapped in brown paper arrived at our house, we knew it was from Grandma. The one who discovered it first was the lucky one. They got to cut away the tape holding the plastic lid firmly to the can and be the first to inhale the sweet fragrance of Grandma’s cookies. 

Grandma wrapped them individually in waxed paper, filling the container with at least a dozen delicious, perfect morsels. Sometimes she sent her gumdrop cookies, other times my favorite, cowboy cookies. Biting into one always took me back to Grandma’s warm and sunny kitchen. I envisioned sitting at her small table, the air filled with the aroma of sweet dough baking in the oven close by and her smiling face leaning toward mine as she told a funny story about her childhood. 

Eating one of her cookies, whether from a coffee can or in the comfort of her kitchen, was more than just enjoying the flavor and texture of something delicious. Grandma’s cookies invited you to remember the heart and hands of the one who made something pleasing, just for you.

    Feeding More than Just the Belly

It wasn’t until after I was married that I tried my hand at baking cookies from one of Grandma’s recipes. Newly married, we lived an alternative lifestyle, out in the boondocks without running water or electricity. I wanted my husband to partake in the same pleasantries as I had with Grandma and her cookies. But, baking cookies meant learning how to regulate the wood cook stove. I failed more than succeeded and as a result, threw many burnt cookies away. When it comes to cookies, it is not the thought that counts, but the actual finished product. 

When we finally had modern conveniences, regulating the oven was now the least of my issues and following a recipe was minor. Finding how to mix the dough to the right consistency became the trick. Too much flour meant stiff cookies resembling hockey pucks, not enough flour, the cookies melted and stuck onto the cookie sheet as flat, crunchy saucers. Finally, about the time our eldest learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, I perfected the art of making Grandma’s cookies.

For the next several years, every Saturday or Sunday,  I baked a batch of cowboy cookies that morphed into my version of chocolate chip cookies. They were a hit. Milk and cookies around the kitchen after school or a sports practice became the common meeting ground for conversations with my sons. And after they grew up, I sent small boxes of the delicious morsels through the mail. When they came home for visits, they went straight to the refrigerator where their hand found cookies in individual baggies stored in a sack. Now my grandkids know where to find those pleasant sweets made especially for them. 

Why bother baking cookies? A home baked cookie might just invite someone to remember the heart and hands of the one who made something pleasing, just for them.

Why Bother Trusting Again?

Why Bother Trusting Again?

When a relationship you once trusted tears apart, it makes it difficult to think you will ever trust someone again. When our sense of security dissolves after a long term union, being vulnerable with anyone again feels impossible. When we count on someone to be reliable and they are not, our thinking shifts. We no longer believe anyone is trustworthy, we convince ourselves no one is reliable and we tell ourselves to trust no one. Broken trust breaks our hearts, raises defenses, and steels us in such a way that keeps other people away. Yet, the very thing that reinstates us to experiencing faith in others is the very thing we resist: trusting once again.

Broken Trust

Most of us start out early in life relying on some adult in our lives. Mom or Dad made sure we were fed. An older sibling changes our diapers and someone makes sure to cover us up with a blanket when we are cold. Unable to take care of ourselves, someone else does it for us. Then something happens and everything changes. Maybe it was the divorce of our parents, the death of one of them, physical abuse or neglect. What had once felt like a reliable world to live and grow up in, suddenly becomes a chaotic and confusing place. Kids do find a way to survive such things, but when they grow into adults, they are more wary of relying on anyone but themselves.  

Distrust, unlike a physical defect, is something disguisable. It can be covered over with busyness, appearing perfect or an air of self assurance. A hard protective shell covers our mistrust in others. But just below this veneer is a heart longing to believe in someone we can count on. We wish for a helping hand, a wise word of advice or intimacy, but letting down our guard is too scary. 

To trust again means we could get hurt again. It is a risk and we have to decide if the gamble is worth taking. Yet, remaining a distrustful person has its disadvantages too. There is the problem of loneliness, isolation, self-medicating, one way conversations, unresolved anger and depression. 

When we are hurt by someone whom we thought trustworthy, we don’t have to throw out the rest of humanity. Not everyone is a suspect. To allow others back into our lives we will have to take baby steps of courage. And baby steps of courage can lead to having confidence once again in another human being. 

Why bother trusting again? It is worth trusting again when we consider the alternative of distrust and its pathway to loneliness.

Why Bother To Contemplate?

Why Bother To Contemplate?

My personality does not lend itself to sitting still. Though I am enthralled by nature and its beauty, you won’t find me lingering too long in its loveliness, instead, I move through it. Sometimes the colors of a sunset are astounding, a moon rise incredible and misty mornings mesmerizing. But I don’t stop and stare too long at the scene. I am too busy. I can say though, I am getting better at noticing, pausing, and appreciating the beauty presented in front of me and when I do, I am rewarded. 

Pressing Pause

It is difficult not to notice the loveliness of where I live. I am surrounded by mountains, trees, plenty of unobstructed sky and animal life. Commuting to or from work, my eyes often scan the panoramic view of the lake or gaze up into the sky to spot an eagle. Yet, to really drink in, fill up and find nourishment from nature and its beauty I have to begin with my eyes closed. 

Some years ago, I was dissatisfied with my way of praying. It was as though I was speaking into dead space. I wanted answers, but Nobody was giving me any. When my prayers left my lips, my heart still felt burdened. In essence, I was having one way conversations with myself and unable to give myself any solutions. 

Then, a friend invited me to a contemplative retreat at a monastery and I accepted. I did not know anything about monasteries or contemplation, yet her invitation resonated with my need and I went. Contemplative prayer is not the same as navel gazing, nor is it the impossible practice of emptying one’s mind of all thoughts. The simplest form of contemplation is to be still and know that God is God. It may seem simple, but give it a try and you will find it hard. Just when you settle into sitting still, you will think of the things you should be doing. Just when you think that God is God, you begin rehearsing the conversation you think you need to have with someone. To be still, to know beyond any doubts God is God is not something that comes natural to any of us. But when we practice, we are rewarded. We become a little more tuned into receiving. 

When I begin my day with my eyes closed sitting still even briefly, while reminding myself that God is God, then I can drink in, fill up, receive, appreciate, and accept the beauty surrounding me. 

Why bother to contemplate? It is worth taking a few moments everyday to remind ourselves that we are not in charge. When we do, our load leaves us and we are open to the beauty around us. 

Why Bother Blogging?

Why Bother Blogging?

Blogging was not my idea. Though I enjoy writing, when I thought about putting my writing out there for all to read, my stomach churned, my hands dampened with sweat and doubts swirled inside my head. Yet here I am writing another blog to post. How and why did I end up here?

How Blogging Began

The word blog is a shortened version of weblog, neither of which are found in My New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1989 edition. In 1989, blogging did not yet exist. Not until 1994 did the first online diary or personal pages, as blog posts were first named, appeared on the internet.  A student by the name of Justin Hall wanted a place to publish his writing. He set up his own site on the internet and began posting his thoughts to the rest of the world. Ever since then, millions of people have created their own blogging sites and write about every imaginable topic. 

I began writing posts November 1, 2020. As of yet, I do not yet have a year behind me, but I am close. I post every other day or three times each week. I keep my words limited, 500-600. I aim to encourage, and inspire as well as stir up a new way of thinking about the common, ordinary things we think about. My ideas for topics usually hatch inside my brain the day I know I need to post a blog and never any sooner. It reminds me of how God provided manna for the Israelites while they were in the desert; one day at a time.  

My editor is the one who suggested that I blog. As an unknown writer writing a book, gaining an audience via the internet is paramount. She assured me that blogging builds an audience and when you put your book out there for sale, people will be more inclined to buy your book and publishers will be more inclined to publish your book because you are known. 

Though I do not aim to be as well known as the two authors who inspire me, I want to write as truthfully as Paul Harvey and as consistently as Erma Bombeck. 

I do not usually insert any links into my blogs, but I am inserting one today. If you choose to click this link, it will take you to an article I wrote for Epoch Times and reading it will only make you smile. https://www.theepochtimes.com/the-family-table-a-grandmothers-legacy-of-love-home-cooking-and-coffee-cake-mornings_3962926.html

Why bother blogging? As a writer, it is worth blogging to gain an audience who likes to read your writing. If you are a reader, I hope I make it worth your while to read my posts.