The Grateful List

On Monday, I went to a virtual conference on personal development and motivation. It was called Unstoppable and you can probably find portions of it on YouTube. It was fantastic! There were so many great speakers like Jamie Kern Lima, Victoria Osteen, Robin Roberts, Tony Robbins, Mel Robbins, Ed Mylett, Jay Shetty, Brendan Burchard, Sara Blakely, Lia Valencia-Key, etc. etc. The conference was great and I really felt energized afterwards by all the new ideas and perspectives. I’ve been trying to build on that momentum from the conference the past few days. My husband is away on a business trip, so I’ve had some time for introspection as well as some time to just focus on the kids and doing a few fun things with them. Last night, we rented the new FNAF Willy Wonderland movie together and they liked it.

A portion of the conference was about gratitude. There was a motivational speaker named Trent Shelton who is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Rehab Time. He is also a former football wide receiver. Trent said something that kinda stuck in my head and I wrote it down. He said, “Don’t let the 1% bad ruin the 99% good.” He was talking about attitude determines altitude and not letting one thing negative in your day ruin all the good stuff that happened to you along the way.

So I spent some time tonight writing out a short list of the things I’m grateful for. I thought this was something I could keep by my bed and kinda scan over in the morning. That’s another thing they really advocated. Several speakers suggested establishing a good morning routine that gives you some time for meditation or reflection or just prayer and such.

Anyways, here’s my list. I didn’t edit it much. It’s just directly what came first to mind. This could help you, if you don’t have a gratitude list already and need some ideas to get started with it.

Things I’m Grateful For:

  • My kids who inspire me and listen to me and encourage me.
  • My husband who makes me smile, laugh, and love.
  • My pets who offer continuous amusement and friendship.
  • My home that protects me.
  • The weather that makes me happy. Heat in the Summer.  Cool breeze in the Fall.  Snow in the Winter and perfection in Spring. 
  • The big blue sky filled with so many white clouds.
  • The warmth of the sunlight on my face.
  • My big oak trees that are beautiful and tall.
  • My birds outside my house that sing.
  • My squirrels that nibble on acorns and bounce around with big fluffy tails.
  • My gardens that bring me peace.
  • My lawn that is green and lush most of the year.
  • My outdoor patios that are inviting for BBQs.
  • The way my house is decorated cozy, eccentric, and just for me.
  • The utilities in my home: the clean water, the electricity, the gas, the flushable toilets, the hot showers, the trash collection.
  • My big fluffy couches that make me fall asleep every time.
  • My closet of quirky clothes I picked out.
  • My bedroom that is my place of rest and safety.
  • My kitchen that is a gathering place for friends and a place to explore cooking/baking.
  • My health that is good.  I am still alive and not suffering daily.
  • My vision so I can see.
  • My heart so I can feel.
  • My head so I can think.
  • My hands so I can build.
  • The tips of my fingers so I can touch softly. 
  • My legs so I can walk.
  • My arms so I can hug.
  • My ears so I can listen to all genres of music.
  • My nose so I can’t smell my dogs’ farts.  I’ve gone noseblind.  It is a blessing.  Trust me.
  • My cars that can drive me around town.
  • My community that is safe, secure, and non-threatening.
  • The people who work for the community:  the firefighters, the policemen, the utility workers, the librarians, the parks and rec, etc. 
  • My neighbors who bless me daily with their waves and smiles.
  • The crosswalk lady at the elementary school who always is kind to me. 
  • My church that is welcoming and so calming to my soul. 
  • My parents who guided me as a child and continue to help me and my children today. 
  • My religion that taught me to sustain and thrive.
  • My job that brings me small daily goals, hard work that makes me feel proud, and a paycheck at the end of the week that helps feed my family.
  • My doctors who take care of me. 
  • My grocery store and other stores around the town that give me daily adventures to find new things. 
  • My television/radio/computer/game consoles that connect me to the world and to new ideas or new people.

My life is little, but it is a good one. I didn’t realize how many great things I took for granted until I wrote this down.

You Cannot Break Love

Love does not come from the heart.

Rather, the heart comes from love. 

The heart may break but the origin of the heart is eternity.

When you understand this,

You understand love. 

For love flows through all things and all times. 

It permeates everything…

The raindrop, the ant, the mountain, the tree.

Why do you cry, silly girl?

Why do you hang your head low? 

Do you think you have lost love?

Do you seek it?

Do you ask yourself when will you find it?

Love is within you.

Love is near, ever present surrounding you

In the winds, the foods, the waters, the books you read, the poems you write, the thoughts you think. 

Love is in all that you do and all that has been done before or will be done in the future. 

Love is life.

Love is reality. 

Love is the past.

Love is the present.

Love is the future. 

Love exists through creation, destruction, and renewal.

Love was there in your first breath and will be there for your last.

Love was there for your ancestors and will be there for your descendants. 

All creations of love will return to the source and then flow out again. 

You cannot lose that which is never lost, never broken, never entirely destroyed. 

Dry your tears. 

Stop dwelling on sadness.

Don’t expect another to provide you this love.

Open your eyes and see love for what it truly is…immortal.    

Connect to that source that flows through you

And no man shall break you anymore.      

The Pig Farmer Who Became Rich

I was born in 1978. In the early 80s, I remember being a little girl and going out to western Kansas to visit my uncle and his family on the farm. It was a small farm. I’m not sure what kind of farm it was. I think he might have been a pig farmer. A year or so later, we learned that my uncle had sold the farm. He had cashed in everything to start a business. He said it was a “water filtration business.” He called it the wave of the future.

I remember folks being a little doubtful about this new business idea. After all, it was the 1980s and everyone drank water out of the tap. We reasoned why would someone pay extra money for more expensive water when they could get it practically free out of the tap?

He started the business operation anyway. As the years went by, we would go to visit their family from time to time and I remember seeing his business offices and setup. He had these bizarre looking things he called “water coolers.” He would fill them with blue jugs of water he filtered. He sold them to area businesses for their employees to drink out of. I was a kid. I didn’t pay much more attention to the business other than that.

There were quite a few naysayers as the years progressed and people that thought his business would fail. He kept at it though, year after year, and the small business slowly grew. He added another side to the business of setting up water softeners in people’s homes too. I remember my mom and dad got one he installed. I remember the first shower I had with the softened water and realizing it made my hair so soft.

It was about 1990 when the first bottles of filtered water started showing up at the local convenient stores. I remember looking at them with my friends when I was a kid. We all said, “Nobody is going to buy that!” Why would you buy that when you can just drink out of the tap!”

Fast forward now to 2020 and practically everyone around the world drinks filtered water and the convenient stores are stocked high with filtered water bottles. And my uncle, the one that a lot of people doubted and said wouldn’t make it…….

Well, he’s the wealthiest man I know.

Morale of the story: If you got a vision or idea…don’t listen to the naysayers or doubters. Keep trying. Maybe you got an invention, or a business idea, or a piece of art, or music, or writing……maybe you got a film idea, etc. Keep trying.

Who knows…..your idea might change the world.

You might succeed or you might fall flat on your face and fail miserably. But, at least you were brave enough to dare. Brave enough to try. And there are a whole lot of people out there that cannot say they even tried. People who live with regrets.

Try. Just try.

You Have the Right to be Here

Perhaps I’ve told you this story before. I have told it so often. But, it does bear repeating I suppose….

There are certain moments in our lives that have a significant impact and will forever shape our destinies like perhaps the birth of your first child, the achievement of a college degree, or the attainment of an important goal. Some of these moments may even appear out of the blue on days which seem quite inconsequential to our existence. This is the story of one of those moments in my own life. It is a true story.

I am not a great writer. However, if I am able to effectively convey this positive message to you, the reader, then it will be worth all the effort.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. It occurred nearly 20 years ago when I was in my mid-20s. America was at war in the Middle East. I was a military spouse and my husband was deployed to Iraq. Also, through some great fortune or twist of fate, I had landed a Department of Defense Government Service Level 7 job south of Washington D.C. Although the title sounds quite auspicious, I assure you that I was merely a secretary. However, I worked for two important people.

They were military Colonels and engineers, highly intelligent and dedicated to their roles. My tasks were simple really. Once or twice a week, they would travel to the Pentagon to report their management of military building projects at bases all over the world. I would arrange their travel plans. Also, I was responsible for maintaining accurately their reports on these construction plans. One large and detailed report I worked on daily was called the War report.

One day, I royally screwed up the War report. We had a meeting and it was noted. I was publicly reprimanded. After all, I worked for the military. Admittedly, I fully deserved the reprimand considering the importance of the document. I endured the discipline in silence but my cheeks got real flush and later, I broke out in hives. It was the first and only time in my life that I broke out in hives.

The next couple of days, I worked diligently at my desk and tried not to mess up again. But, I was pretty quiet and feeling bad. On top of that, I was itchy and I was considering leaving the job.

The other Colonel called me in to his office politely. I rose from my desk and walked over there. He asked me to shut the door to his office and to “Please take a seat.” He remained seated at his desk and I sat down across from him and well,… kept my eyes down a bit.

He didn’t say anything at first. Perhaps he was looking for the right way to approach a conversation. I had assumed he wanted to talk about travel arrangements. He was leaving the very next day for D.C.

We didn’t share much in common, him and I, except our work perhaps. He was much older. He was male. I was female. He was African-American and I was Caucasian. The list of differences could probably go on and on.

Eventually, he motioned to the wall to his left and I looked over at the wall. On the wall were many military decorations that had been awarded to him through his 20+ years of service to the country. Some of them were quite large and prestigious looking. He waited for a moment, then he pointed to a small white piece of paper, handwritten, and framed under glass with just a plain small gold frame around it. It was placed at the center of the wall and seemed unimportant compared to the other items. In fact, I had sorta skipped over it as I had looked at the other awards.

He said, “That one is the most important.” He remained pointing at the little framed paper.

Then he motioned for me to go and look at the item. I got up from my chair and wandered over to the wall. It was a poem, a little poem copied down. The title read The Desiderata and it said it was written by some guy named Max Ehrmann, some guy I had never heard of.

He told me, “Read it.” That’s all he simply said. I stood there at that wall for a while and really read the poem, word for word. When, I finished the last portion of the poem where it read, you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here.

Well, I felt better and as I finished up the final section, I admit I got a little teary-eyed.

I sat back down across from him. We both looked at each other. He was a man of few words and he only really spoke when he had something important to say.

He said, “Go back and just do the best you can. That’s all you can do.”

In hindsight, that was probably about one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me whether he realized his impact or not. He didn’t have to help me but he did in his own unique and wise way. Perhaps this small story seems unimportant to you but it would go on to influence my future.

This poem has a special place in my heart because of that moment. Years later, I would buy a copy of it and I gave it to my children. I read it to them. Years later, I would tell someone here or there about the story. Years later, whenever I was down and out…I would read this poem and feel comforted and hopeful. Whenever I felt unworthy or not valued by others, I would remember the line about the child of the universe.

You have a right to be here.

And years later, today, I write this story to you with the intention that it will inspire you as well. The last few words of the poem are “Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” This is something as I grow older, that I firmly do believe in regarding attitude determining altitude.

I encourage you to take a moment and read The Desiderata. This world, despite all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, is still a beautiful place.

Positive Vibes

Hi guys! Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been working on developing two writing projects and they are taking up a lot of my inner daydreams. Thinking about plots and characters and such.

I wonder how many of us have been taking a break from the heavy stuff. The news just makes me sad sometimes and I have to step away for a while, especially the back and forth comments on social media. I feel for the family of George Floyd. I couldn’t even watch that video all the way. It was horrible.

I’m hoping and praying for y’all that life gets better for everyone and things become more inclusive and kind. For all its drudgery and despair, this world is still a beautiful place. I’m sending positive vibes your way tonight.

Unity, peace, love, understanding….these are things I admire and wish for you all.

As the coronavirus ravages and the peaceful protests hit the streets…I’ll be here in my little corner of the world while working my garden, hanging out with my family and pets, and pouring my energies into creative writing.

It’s not much but maybe if we all collectively work on these little things in our lives, it will have a ripple effect of positivity. Focus on building and maybe it will counter the things separating us from our common human connection.

“When it is raining, look for rainbows. When it is night time, look for stars.” Find the silver lining. Keep your face to the sun like a sunflower. Nurture. Grow.

It reminds me of a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony I went to once. The monks spent an entire week building a beautiful, intricate sand design. At the end of the week, the sand was all blown away. Thus is life. But even knowing this reality did not stop the monks from building. And neither should it stop you or me.

Life goes on. We get older. Things fall apart. All is just dust in the wind. What we do now may matter very little in the long run as things we were, things we did, things we tried to accomplish fade away to memories and then become forgotten.

But build we must for what is the purpose of existence if not this. Hope lives through our building efforts and continues through our children. And civilization continues through them and their descendants.

Unity, peace, love, understanding…strive to build these and the world of tomorrow can prosper.

Prayers vs. Pandemic

Here are some great and easy YouTube videos to follow to assist you in praying for loved ones during the pandemic. DailyEffectivePrayer has many short and easy-to-follow prayers that you can use. They are usually about 4 minutes long each. These are just a few of the collection. Consider your own loved ones. Does one of these categories fit that loved one? Then click on the link below and just listen and follow along with the words.

At this time, I also like these 3 prayers. The first is Psalm 91, a protection prayer against pestilence that is the exact opposite number of COVID-19. According to some videos regarding Psalm 91, the words in Hebrew have many symbols over the tops of the letters. This is supposed to mean this is a very strong spiritual warfare prayer for your family. The second video is a short hedge of protection prayer. In the biblical story of Job, a special hedge of protection surrounded Job and kept him from harm. The third video is a longer prayer but talks about pleading the blood of the lamb over your family during the pandemic. It draws from the Passover story of the Israelites.

Amazing Grace

Do you know the story of the man behind the gospel song, Amazing Grace? He was a slave trader. His name was John Newton and he lived from 1725 to 1807. John Newton was a slaver, a captain of slave ships. But in 1748, he was on a ship off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. The ship was hit by a massive and terrifying storm. It was said that night, that John Newton experienced a Christian conversion when he prayed amidst the winds and rain and tossing of the ocean waves. He prayed for deliverance.

He later gave up the slave trade and became a vocal advocate for abolition in England. He became a very charismatic Anglican clergyman and produced many speeches and a book of hymns. Amazing Grace is one of his hymns.

Here is a really beautiful version of Amazing Grace by BYU Noteworthy:

At this time, when our world is facing the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to bring you some encouraging and hopeful songs as well as prayers you can use for your loved ones. Here are some great songs. I will include the prayers in my next post. Please enjoy these songs and I pray you and your loved ones are safe and well.

A Twist of Fate

I was having a really bad day.

I felt about as bad as Alexander….

It got pretty bad.

So I did something I don’t do enough. I talked to God and asked why he wasn’t helping me. I said, “This is too much, God. I just can’t carry this burden by myself. Could you please help me?”

It wasn’t much of a prayer but it was heartfelt, exhausted, and true. I’ll admit, I’m not much for religion anymore. I’ve seen my fair share of judgement from others and unkindness. It has left me quite bitter at times. But still, when push comes to shove and when my chips are down, I ask God for help.

I went back to work and it continued to be a terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad day. Plus it was raining.

But then something happened. I got to clock out and go home to my family. My husband informed me that some commissions from his sales would be coming in soon. Not much, but enough for us to cover Christmas presents for family in December. I also learned that my publishing company was almost done with my royalties report for the book Searching for Fire and they had direct deposited the amount owed from their website already. It made me feel better.

Next, I went to dinner with my husband and children and fortunately, through some good luck, we were put to the front of the line of folks waiting at the steakhouse. We had a nice meal and did a little Christmas shopping at Books A Million and Game Stop with the children and life seemed better.

Thank you, God for listening. Sorry I get frustrated and try to manage and control it all myself and then get overwhelmed and make a mess of things and end up begging for help again. Like a loyal friend, you come through time and time again. I so easily forget that I need to trust in you, God.

Anyways, I suppose I won’t move to Australia after all.

Chutzpah

In her blog article titled “Watch One, Do One, Teach One” by Carolyn Roy-Bornstein, the author writes that it is a very good to read lots of books, to write a book, and to teach others about writing. In doing this method, she writes that you will increase your abilities. She also remarks on the need for a writer to be self-assurant and self-motivated. She says a writer must have “chutzpah.” I admit I had to look up the definition of this word. It means “shameless audacity” or “supreme self-confidence.” This is a word I like very much like Demi Lovato singing the song “Confident.” It’s just got that pizzazz to it. Chutzpah.

I am reminded of the story my husband told me of Stephen King. Now this is a story and I am not sure word for word that it is factually correct but he told me that when Stephen King first started out writing, he wrote a small story and sent it to a publisher. The publisher rejected him. He threw the story in the trash. His wife came along, found the story, fished it out of the trash, and sent it to one more publisher where it was accepted. Thankfully, his wife had some chutzpah. And, that story is Carrie.

Another great story I learned about from Facebook of all places, is the story of Sylvester Stallone writing a screenplay. According to the story, Sylvester was down on his luck and almost destitute. He poured all his effort into writing this screenplay and then took it to pitch to the production companies. They liked the story but refused to make him the main actor in the movie. Sylvester would not budge. He apparently said that they could not have the screenplay unless they cast him in the leading role. Have you guessed the story yet, one of the most motivational and inspiring stories in contemporary times? That story was Rocky.