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Archive for the ‘Self Help’ Category

Farewell to July! (*sob*)

via Getty

via Getty

Farewell to July!

If ever a poem were written called “Farewell to July,” I haven’t yet heard it.  But I can pretty much guarantee the lyrics are written in the heart of every teacher and every mom and every student.  Because no matter how much you love learning, love structure, and love kids—this song is no rhapsody.

Are you tired of wet towels rumpled around the back door?  Tired of half-eaten popsicles and ant stings and really, really long car rides?  Flip flops that flip but don’t flop?  Setting the alarm for 4 AM so you can wake everyone up to catch the plane that will keep you strapped to your seat for 5 hours?  (And that’s what we call a vacation)

“Why is it,” I asked my daughter, “that when I move over the calendar for a glimpse of August, my adrenaline surges like it’s the 9th month of pregnancy?”  My whole summer to-do list shoots before my eyes like the booming bright fireworks I watched  3 weeks ago.  There’s that one last closet to organize, and that wilting flower bed that’s nowhere near the vision I thought it would be.  I haven’t yet lost those last ten pounds, sent those friendly cards in the mail, or returned that borrowed platter with chocolate chip cookies.

“Maybe,” said my daughter, who had her second baby 5 months ago and freshly remembers the near-panic nesting stage,  “you’re remembering how every school year you promise yourself you’re going to stay on top of things and about 3 weeks into it you realize you’ve lost every ounce of free time.”

“Yes,” was my reply.

That would be it exactly.

Now I’m not about to complain.  I’m not sad it’s over—I’m happy it happened!  Remember that spontaneous swim with all our clothes on, just because we didn’t want to bother changing?   And how hard we laughed when the grandkids exhaled into their loopy straws and bubbled their milk all over the table?  Remember the gas station dinners (a chili cheese dog and black licorice, mind you) that felt ridiculously indulgent?  Sunrise at the beach?  Horses in the meadow?  Fresh raspberry ice cream?  Midnight runs to Redbox?

Why, I even talked my husband into getting a pedicure with me!  Sans the polish.

So I braved Wal-Mart today, because pencil boxes were a dollar each and I had to buy 25 of them.  And you know what?  Those Back To School banners weren’t as awful as I thought they’d be!  I lived, I breathed, I was joyfully consumed in my summer vacation. So what?  No regrets!

And when school begins in another few weeks, I will immerse myself just as richly as I did in June and July.  Because life is good, no matter the season.  And everything brings with it a unique sense of adventure.

Now, I’ve just got to find that last little bit of entertainment on my summer bucket list—I’m just craving a ride on a roller coaster!


Have You Kissed a Clam Today?

Life's Beautiful Moments via Getty Image

Life’s Beautiful Moments
via Getty Image


Spectacular summer moments of June!  Would you like to hear about one of them?

First—can I just say I love being home? At my house. “Beautiful view, near city lights without city hassles, sunny weather, swimming pool, with all the conveniences of home.” I read that on a vacation brochure and thought, ‘Well, they just described my very own place!”

And I think about that each morning that I wake up WITHOUT an alarm clock sending me off to school. I have issues with alarm clocks. Who doesn’t?? I try to wake up before it rings so I don’t have to hear it. But…who cares? During June, I just wake up whenever!!


So I took my parents out to visit my sister in San Diego. And I adore her. The visit was definitely a spectacular summer moment. Not only because her house is resort-like (seriously) but because I kissed a clam.

The beach was soft, soft and warm, deep with healing sand that envelops the soles of your feet and spans for miles. No people. How did that miracle happen? Just a half dozen birds hopping around making tracks.

And I just get breathless when I see the ocean! It’s like I’m seeing God or something—so powerful and mysterious and inviting and cosmic. And whenever my toes touch the waves I am transformed into the liquid universe of all the shores the Pacific touches. And I am immersed in all the world, past or present; what has been and what will be.

And my dad said, “I feel ready to get knocked down by a few waves.” So we walked slowly out, slowly and deliciously, into the grayish blue, skin tingling and shivery.   Waist-deep,  we steadied ourselves, anticipating the approach of each rolling, foaming swell., “Awwww, here comes a good one!”  we’d holler.  And our legs would teeter and quiver at first but not for long. We braced ourselves against the ocean’s force, securing our feet into the indescribable sand beneath the waves.

Then my right foot touched something hard. And round and smooth. I registered a few questions in my head like, ‘Ummm….what do stingrays feel like?’ And ‘There’s not a single stone on this whole beach, how did my foot find one?” So as the wave receded, I bent down so low that my face got wet, and pulled out the most magnificent golden clam you could ever imagine!

“Dad! Dad, look!” It was surprisingly heavy, about a foot across, and I had to hold onto it with both hands. The left side had a little slip of flesh hanging from it, but other than that it was tightly closed. It felt solid and cold, but warm too. And I had the most amazing feeling that The Clam knew it was safe with me.

Dad was impressed. As the waves continued their rhythmic pounding, I held the clam overhead, high as my two hands could reach. My arms stretched into the sky and I just held them there for a bit.

“You gonna see what’s inside it?”

“No Dad,” I smiled, recognizing that the little girl he’d known in me over the decades would have done exactly that. The clam was not a curiosity for me. I knew what was inside it. Something alive, that’s what. I pressed my lips to it.   Silly, I know. But the decades of my life have taught me exquisite things, and this moment was something to celebrate. It was the best way I knew how to say thank you.

Then, I reached back down through the salty water, the movement of my long hair flowing back and forth beneath the surface. My fingers scraped aside a little sand and I tucked the clam into its home, burying it the best I could into the cold ocean floor.

And I walked back with my dad toward shore, both of us slightly off balance each time a wave slammed us from behind.

“Have you kissed a clam today?” my dad chuckled, stepping onto dry ground. I helped him wrap a towel around his shoulders.

“Somehow, Dad, I’m gonna make sure I kiss a clam every day.”  Dry sand clung to our ankles as we made our way back.  “Every single day.”

ARGH! It’s a Real Word

Copy of Copy of IMG_20150606_234349_215ARGH!

It’s a Real Word

Language says a lot about a culture.

My sister and I were talking about this the other day.

“Did you know there are over a hundred Norwegian words for ’snow?’” We searched Google to make sure the rumor is true. Sure enough, it was all right there in a huge list. Some examples:

Tine (it’s melting)

Slatter (it’s wet)

Fana (it’s heavy)

And that’s where we noticed Scotland’s enormous list of ‘rain’ words, such as:

Spindrift (spraying rain)


Smue (thick drizzle)

Our observation?  They spend a LOT of time analyzing the weather!

And what about the English language?  Emotions!  Incredibly, there are over 3000 English words to describe how a person is feeling. Think we spend a lot of time trying to feel understood??

You’d assume these words would be evenly distributed! Half for negative emotions and half for positive emotions.   But there’s no 50-50 here:


Negative words 2000                                                Positive words   1000

The math isn’t hard. Two-thirds of our words for emotions are DOWNERS.

That’s a majority, folks.  It appears most of our conversations focus on the LOW moods.

Ya think?? You know how it is…We sit around talking to our friends and co-workers. What’s going wrong, what we’d change if we could but feel powerless to do so. What (and who) gets on our last nerve. Usually we share a laugh or two about it. Then we walk away feeling connected, normalized, validated.

And dialogue finished, the chatter remains in our heads. Ruminating on our negative feelings, our brains want to scan for the precise combination. We’ll feel better when we get a handle on it.

“Frustrated and confused.”

“Restless and lost.”

“Ignored, isolated, alone.”

Man, just writing those words made me depressed!

Of course we need to talk about this stuff.  So, it’s all well and good. How can we process it if we don’t lean into it??   But in all fairness to the Health and Sanity Department (I just made that up) shouldn’t we also give some  focus to our celebrations and joys?

At least half the time, anyway…

That’s when my sister and I got laughing about a nice short word that perfectly describes a negative emotion—


Such a rich word, isn’t it?  In one quick burst of sound, one can express the precise feeling, knowing that everyone understands somehow.

“I feel so….argh!”

We noticed this in comic books. It’s a well-used word! Comic characters don’t spend a lot of time mulling over their inner feelings. They just say “Argh!” and get it out all at once.  They have a way of getting right to the point.  Like that guy who gushes steam from his ears. No explanation necessary. You just know he’s mad!!

Like a giant purge.

“Argh” has versatile spellings, too. Stretched out with lots of rrrr’s and ggg’s and hhh’s, it can be hollered out loud or softly muttered. It all depends on the degree of exasperation.

Like this:   “Arrrggghhh!”

So here are some real-life situations that didn’t seem so funny at the time, where this wonderful word comes in handy:

  • After three gloriously uninterrupted shopping hours at The Mall, you emerge into the parking lot to a sea of shining vehicles. Your car is among them. You’re pretty sure.
  •  You pour Lean Kashi into your cereal bowl, feeling rather proud to have passed on the Cinnamon Toast Crunch. That’s when you discover there’s no milk in the refrigerator. But there’s donuts.
  • Approaching airport security, hoping the rumor is true that Shoe Removal is no longer mandatory, you spot your brand new 3.6 oz bottle of Hazelnut Hand Lotion lying inside your handbag.
  • Sitting in the car waiting for the stop SIGN to turn green.

Yes, it’s true. It’s my life!!

Now if my readers think I’m advocating changing human anguish into comic strip efficiency (or worse, pirate lingo), I’ve given the wrong impression. We need thousands of words to describe our complexity! It’s vital that we process our feelings, to identify and discuss and ponder the troublesome and disturbing. It just seems like we could all help each other intensify The Happy Times, too. Maybe we could start asking each other, “What’s going right in your world today?”

Maybe our own culture could use a little change. Not snow or rain.  Just a few more positive words.

And for those occasions when you or someone else needs a shoulder to cry on?   Check this out:


R eal

G enuine

H uman

is having a moment!    Go ahead and embrace it.

3 Life Lessons I Learned from Lawns

IMG_20150524_212053_654                                 3  Life Lessons I Learned from Lawns

                                                     Call me crazy.

Ever noticed how Mother Nature smacks of parallels with human nature?

For starters, I’m no lawn care guru.  Not even close.  I just kind of admire lawns from afar.  Driving past a gorgeous yard, I’m in the “Look-at-that-beautiful-lawn-dear” category.

My hubby’s in the “Don’t-get-your-hopes-up-dear” category.

Which is what led me to attend a two-hour class called “Best Practices of Lawn Maintenance.”  The room was filled mostly with men, apparently assigned by their employers to learn the fine art of yard care.  Judging by their slumped over sitting positions, none were very enthusiastic.  Come to think of it, they were pretty grass-stained and sweaty looking.  I know the guy next to me took one look at my poised Sharpie and tuned me out on-the-spot.

“I have a hard time,” the presenter began, “convincing my customers of a few facts.  Maybe you all can help me get the word spread around.  For one thing,” he continued, “people seem to want their lawn growing right up next to the tree trunks in their yards.  They have no idea how tough it is for tiny white grass roots to compete with giant tree roots.”

“So what should we do, besides charge extra?” asked one of the scruffier men amid laughter.

“It CAN be done,” smiled the speaker.  “But on top of the problem of the grass struggling for a share of water and nutrients, you’ll have to use a different grass seed that grows in shade.”

My mind went racing in another direction.  I was envisioning tender white grass roots in a never-ending battle with tree roots a thousand times bigger.  Note to self:  If I’m ever a grass root, know when to stand my ground and know when to bow out and let nature take its course. Work harder or just give up?  I don’t have to be everywhere.

“Next,” said the man with the microphone, “you could explain to your customers the importance of keeping air beneath the grass.  Compacted soil is not conducive to a healthy lawn.  About 25% of lawn soil should be plain old air.”

“We’re all just like that!” I voiced for the first time.  “We all need our space.”

“Very true,” said the speaker, peering at me curiously from over the top of his glasses. He went on. “The third item we’ll be talking about today is crabgrass.  Crabgrass cannot take root among healthy grass blades. It won’t even germinate!  It’s got to have some bare ground to get started.”

“So if the lawn is growing in thickly, it keeps out the crabgrass?” someone wanted to know.

“If it looks like a carpet of green, you’re in good shape.  But you need to emphasize to your customer how important that is.  A single crabgrass plant can generate 50,000 seeds. Don’t let it get started!”

Again, my brain went adrift.  What a fascinating parallel to real life!  Emptiness will always fill up with something.  Nature hates a vacuum.  I can do better, I reflected, to fill my mind with higher thoughts; a lush carpet of green so I can avoid being negative and, well…crabby.

The guy sitting next to me watched my hand as I recorded my ideas.  “You’re taking a lot of notes!” he observed.  “You going into the lawn care business?”

“Not really,” I answered, wondering if everyone was noticing the same life connections I was.  Taking advantage of a quick break, I whispered, “But can I ask you a question?  It’s more like…an experiment!”

I took his shrug as affirmative and launched in.  “Whatever you do,” I said, “do NOT think about that one thing that you hate to think about.  Whatever it is!  Avoid it!  Don’t go there!”

“Lady, you’re crazy,” said the man, but he kind of smiled.

“See what I mean?  50,000 crabgrass seeds just infested your head!”

The speaker adjusted his microphone and returned to our presentation. By now I was happily thinking of the many things I’d already learned that day.  I thought, maybe I’ll have a nicer lawn, and maybe not.  But here’s what I really learned:  Respect the laws of nature, know my place, stay grounded, choose my battles carefully, prioritize, know when to fight to the finish and when to surrender, give myself space, give other people space, keep positive thoughts in my head… My mind was a million miles away!  I looked up at the guy I’d just been talking to. That’s when I noticed he’d scooted off about a million miles away, too,

Don’t you just LOVE human nature??