The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn is Just to Love and Be Loved in Return

The first tape I ever bought was Nat King Cole’s Greatest Hits. Natalie Cole had just released the song with her father called Unforgettable.  It was my favorite song at the moment.  I liked love songs back then. I liked old AMC movies about love. Especially the black and white movies like Roman Holiday or any of the kodachrome Elvis movies or anything with Cary Grant. I liked everything to do with love. I was a typical young girl full of heart and dreams. So, I went to the store when I was maybe 12 in 7th grade and I bought Nat King Cole’s tape.  I still can recall that day at the mall store.    

I learned every love song on that tape, laying on my bed with my Walkman and listening to the songs with my eyes closed and smiling.  His songs were so happy and promising and full of optimism. I played the tape over and over and over again.  I wore that tape out.  His voice was amazing.  The songs I loved the best were Walking My Baby Back Home and L-O-V-E.  A lot of people today reference Nat King Cole and probably don’t even realize it.  The phrase “to love and be loved” comes from a little known song from Nat King Cole called Nature Boy.  It actually goes like this…. “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”  This song is also in the movie, Moulin Rouge. 

There’s an urban legend story about Nat King Cole’s wife.  Some say it is true.  Some say it is not.  Here is the story, irregardless.  This woulda been in the year 1965:

“An African-American woman is stranded on an Alabama Highway in a rain storm. She flags down a motorist who turns out to be a white man who takes her to where she can get a cab. She’s in a big hurry, writes down his address, and leaves. A week later, there is a knock at the man’s door. It’s the delivery of a giant console color television with a note from the woman he had helped on the rainy highway. She thanks him and says that because of his kindness, she was able to make it to her dying husband’s bedside. It is signed Mrs. Nat King Cole.”

There are other firsts in my life for different types of music playing.  The first 8-track tape I ever remember hearing when I was a little girl in the 80s dancing at my grandma’s house with my cousins was the Beegees.  I remember dancing to Stayin’ Alive.  It was a very happy moment. I must have been four or five.

My mother had a record player and to this day it is in her attic.  We only had three records we would play over and over again.  They were Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll, and then Olivia Newton John.  I can’t remember the specific album from Olivia Newton John but I remember her singing I Honestly Love You. My mother liked her a lot.

My first CD, well, that was Wrecks n Effect or maybe Guns n Roses Appetite for Destruction.  To this day, Sweet Child of Mine is still one of my favorites. 

Once streaming came on board, it was pretty easy to access all sorts of songs and I honestly can’t remember what were my first ones then.  But I remember the tape of Nat King Cole the most of all. 

How about you?  What are your fondest memories of music?  What was your first 8-track or your first tape or CD?  What songs meant the most to you as a kid? 

Rejection is Just Redirection

Have you ever experienced an online troll?  What about a “hater” or even a “group of haters”? 

(By the way, this is a great song about the whole “haters gon’ hate” vibe.  To go off on a short tangent, I really love this song.)

What about someone in your environment who, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get them to treat you right?  Or maybe just someone or something that leaves you drained?    

Here’s some simple tips:

  1.  Take time out for you and practice self-care/self-love. 
  2. Be wise to the negative behaviors of others but hold yourself to a higher standard and do not stoop to that level. 

“I am sending you out as sheep among wolves, so be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Matthew 10:16.

  • “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”  Matthew 7:6.  This is not to say that other people are necessarily bad.  Perhaps they are not at a point in their lives that they are willing and able to receive you with love and respect.  If this is so, do not waste your energy and time trying to prove your worth to them.  Life is short and precious, it should not be wasted continually trying to be perfect for someone else’s expectations of you.  Make your own expectations.  Meet your own goals.  Dress the way you want.  Think the way you want.   You are not unworthy.  You are enough.  They just fail to see the treasure that you are, even if you may appear to be a diamond in the rough.  Remember, in this life, we do not know who God treasures either.  Some people would be the least you would expect.  Treat people fairly and stand up for yourself when you feel in your heart that you are not being treated fairly by others. 
  • Let go of bitterness and get your spirit back.  Bounce back from hardship like you’re Walter Payton.  This is extremely hard.  First, learn to take the L.  Second, learn to forgive.  Third, vow to not let the pattern repeat itself.  Respect yourself enough not to allow it to happen again.  Fourth, understand that what others meant for your harm, God may have intended for your good.  This is called providence.  It was providence that made Joseph a powerful influence in Egypt to prevent the famines despite all he went through.  Providence worked in his life and it works in your life too.  It’s just hard to see when you’re in the trenches.   You just got to believe.  Sometimes, though, we pray and pray and pray on something and it still doesn’t happen.  That’s another life lesson right there.  The failure, the rejection, the divorce, the bad grades, the whatever is going on in your life…..it is teaching you to first lean not on your own understanding of things but on a spirituality, and second, it is teaching you to love yourself.  The full and total rejection moment will teach you to find value in you, to regain your self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth.  Remember as Rocky says in this short motivational speech, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.  It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.  You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.  But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit.   It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

 Keep moving forward towards your goals.  If you have to, start very small.  Work on your hygiene first.  Work on the way you dress.  Work on your hair, make-up, style, etc.  Go back to the gym or church or wherever you find positive vibes and happiness from meeting goals.  Don’t let others tell you not to do these things.  Do them because you need to do them to improve your self-esteem.   Raise that bar first and then move out from there to your surroundings and your interactions with others.  Begin, at the same time, to strip away that which does not serve you.  Are there behaviors or traits you have taken on that are not good?  Substance abuse problems?  Addictions?  Unhealthy habits?  What about people you interact with that wear you down?  Begin to set boundaries not just with certain people but with things you do throughout the day.  Ask yourself, do I really want to do this thing or is this something I am doing because so-and-so wants me to do it?  Once again, this comes back to self-love and self-respect.  It is not selfish to say no.  It is awareness that you need to raise the bar on your self-esteem/self-worth.  Likewise, choosing to not date certain people or hang out with certain folks that bring you down…..that is not arrogance but self-awareness that you need to protect your energy.  Your energy is vital to your overall health and success.  So start small.  Take the baby steps which can turn in to bigger steps down the road. 

These are the things I am telling myself now.  I too have faced a personal setback and I am re-learning this now.  It is a thing I have to continually re-learn painfully.  You would think I would get it the first time but no, I keep having to re-hash it over and over as I believe a lot of people do.  One thing that really helps me is YouTube.  Here’s some video advice from folks way, way, way smarter than me about how to do it.  The first three videos are about self-love.  The fourth is Maya Angelou reciting, And Still I Rise.  The two other videos are inspirational pastor sermons.  These are my two favorite sermons of all time that I must admit, I have to go back to again and again when “my chips are low” and I feel myself entering that defeated mindset mode.  I highly, highly recommend watching these sermons!  However, they are each long but packed with valuable info.  I hope that you like these videos too (please share with me as well, any videos you think would help me) and remember that whatever I am going through and whatever you are going through, we are in this together and you are enough, you are valuable, you are worthy.  Think like Walter Payton and bounce yourself back up.  Let’s get to it!    

Phenomenal

I read that Maya Angelou will appear on the U.S. quarter. That’s pretty cool. This is my favorite poem by her. I think I read it first in my 20s. It is called Phenomenal Woman and talks about an alluring woman verses a physically beautiful woman. Here is the full poem at the Poetry Foundation. A good and introspective read for young women:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48985/phenomenal-woman

Another great one is the poem And Still I Rise. It has a universal quality, referencing the human condition and tenacity of spirit.

https://poets.org/poem/still-i-rise?gclid=Cj0KCQiA8vSOBhCkARIsAGdp6RQLUwmra2CFqmqFVp-VWGU8HX03J8QeF3VrissVOVTsr3pX1M-CdCQaAqo3EALw_wcB

Choose Faith or Choose Fear

It’s a cold, cold night. The winter storm is coming. Tomorrow is supposed to be -35 degrees. I am warm inside the house. I let my dogs out for 5 minutes and then bring them back inside. They whimper because the ice is frigid. It hurts their paws.

The storm is coming.

I could worry about everything. Will my car start? Will I make it through the snow and ice? What about the storms at work? What if someone else gets Covid? What will we do? What about this? What about that?

What if…What if…What if…

2022 is not starting out well. We are stuck in a bad, bad approaching storm. Think about the economy, think about Covid, think about the supply chain shortages, think about this, think about that…..think about all the bad stuff on the news…….get all filled up with anxiety and fear. Get all angry and frustrated and all worked up.

Or…..

choose to stay calm. Choose faith. Not the crazy blinding stupid faith that totally ignores the potential dangers. No the kind of faith that informs the serenity prayer.

Lord, help us to accept the things we cannot change and give us the courage to know the difference between what we can and what we cannot do.

I went to Galilee when I was 21. It was a study abroad for a summer. We took a rickety old metal bus up to the Golan Heights for the day and then on the way back, we stopped at an outside cafe. We got the wild notion to swim in the Sea with our clothes on. I still remember the joy of that moment swimming in the Sea with friends.

It really wasn’t that big, the Sea of Galilee. You could see the other side….much like a big Missouri lake. I wondered then what the disciples were so afraid of when the storms tossed their boat around and the waves threatened to come over the sides. Why did they panic? Jesus was asleep in the boat and they came to him and asked him to save them. Now, I realize that they probably didn’t know how to swim. That would be scary for sure.

Anyway, he got up and told them to have faith and then he calmed the waters to ease their minds.

We’re all kinda stuck in a Galilee boat and we don’t know what to do and we’re worried that this dang disease is gonna drown us. But remember what JFK said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Fear causes anxiety and procrastination and arguing and in-fighting and endless stupid drama which only serves to compound our problems. It causes the blame game and finger pointing. People stop fixing things and looking for solutions. Instead, they just throw shade and throw each other under the bus in an attempt to save their own hide. Every man for himself like we’re on the Titanic and there’s only one lifeboat left.

Admit it. You’ve done this. I’ve done it too. But this time…

Relax. Stay calm. Stay the course.

We’ll get out of this.

The man who wrote the song Amazing Grace was once in a storm too off the coast of England. He tied himself to the boat and he asked for mercy. He came through the storm and gave up his profession of slave trading. He went on to become a prolific preacher and hymn writer and we still sing his songs to this day.

It’s getting colder and colder outside. I could sit here and worry myself to death about the endless possibilities of what could go wrong. Or I could sit here and write something encouraging.

I choose to write.

The Opportunity to Help Heroes

I just work HR. It’s not very glamorous. All day long I help the company process paperwork. Today, I did 3 leave forms, payroll, helped with tuition reimbursement for 2 nurses, put in schedules for traveler nurses, and filled out lots of forms for helping medical staff with work comp in case of Covid quarantining. I help to ensure they get paid and get their benefits to support their families. Sometimes I screw up. But sometimes I am glad I am there to help.

All across America and the world, the medical staff are getting hit hard by the pandemic. It is not just the disease. It is the long hours, the double shifts, the struggles between work and family. It’s working extra to make sure the patients are okay. It’s holding hands. It’s not just meeting medical needs but psychological needs and basic needs like feeding and hygiene for the people they care for. It is wearisome to say the least.

I see it everyday. I see the exhaustion. I see the burnout and frustration. But I also see how hard they are working. I see how much extra they do with no thanks. I see the risks they take every day. I see them gowning up and getting N95 masks on that are really uncomfortable to wear. I see them working together to keep patients safe and bringing food trays to rooms and locking down facilities and screening visitors endlessly to try to keep the covid out. I see them getting through the winter snow to work. I see them playing music for the patients to cheer them up or doing all sorts of activities to keep the patients happy.

It’s not the big things. It’s the little things. It’s the little choices they make every day that make the medical personnel and medical admin heroes. It is getting up in the dark in the morning and getting scrubs on even though you want to call in. It’s showing up and clocking in and going through all the testing requirements from upper management. It’s showing care and compassion when they could easily turn a blind eye because they are overwhelmed. It’s a thousand little decisions made over and over day after day after day after endless day to stick it out for better or in this case, worse and worse and far worse.

It is an endless battle with an invisible enemy that keeps morphing over and over again and again. It would be easy to give up hope….and so many have. But I see in my own workplace, folks that just keep going and keep hoping and keep scheduling and keep administering and keep nursing and keep feeding patients and keep watching over them at night.

In Batman, the Dawn of Justice, there is a scene when Batman runs towards trouble while everyone around him is fleeing. You can watch it here if you want. I think medical people are like that but on a grander scale, a longer time scale. There is no fantastic explosion. Instead, it is decision after decision after decision to treat and maintain and prevent.

The choice to be a medical hero is not that simple. Watching it from the sidelines, it’s way harder than I had any idea of.

It’s countless endless decisions to not give up even through Delta, even through Omicron, even through this new Florina. It’s the internal decision to soldier on. It’s the decision to stay positive amidst adversity, as one of my colleagues said to simply, “Take one day at a time.” He said the key is to not look at the big picture but just focus on the day, getting through the day. That is the best advice I’ve gotten since working this job.

I’m honored to help them. I know I make mistakes sometimes with the paperwork and sometimes the procedures and processes can frustrate or seeing the medical staff burdened can make you feel god awful. But overall, I am glad I took this job.

I work with heroes. Real heroes. Not the kind that wear spandex and capes. And that’s not just rhetoric. It’s true. These are the real kind. I wonder what stories we will tell of them many years from now if we all make it through this pandemic.

Tonight, if you just google hospitals, you will read countless articles about the hospitals and other nursing facilities under siege. My own cousin came down with Covid in Kansas. All the hospitals were full up and they were considering life-flighting him all the way to New Mexico to a hospital there. That is how bad it is for the medical facilities right now.

If there was any time the medical staff in America could use your thoughts and prayers, it’s now.

Heroes run towards trouble even when others run the opposite direction. It’s a gut decision, a split second decision. They just do it. That’s how you know someone is a hero.

As they say in the St. Jude’s hospital commercial, “Hope is when you never give up.”

Remember, the stars shine brightest only on the darkest of nights.

A Frosty Christmas

We drove to Manchester airport to pick up Mom and Dad for Christmas. We drove northwest through the White Mountains in the thick snow and ice. 2 interstates were closed nearby but we continued slowly onward. Nonetheless, we took the road less traveled to Franconia and the snowy path led uphill to Robert Frost’s home.

Robert Frost is considered the quintessential American bard or poet. He lived from 1874 to 1963. Right before his passing in Boston, he delivered the inaugural poem for JFK.

Robert Frost won 4 Pulitizer Prizes and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was born in San Francisco but moved alot. He lived primarily in New Hampshire and England where he was influenced by Ezra Pound, Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. Frost went to Dartmouth and Harvard. He first published in 1915. He published 2 books called North of Boston and A Boy’s Will. His poetry quickly amassed a great following and by 1920, he was known all over America and beyond.

2 Writing Publishing Opportunities

There is a new climate change-focused website that is publishing prose and poetry. It is called XR Creative and can be found at https://www.xrcreative.org. I got a message from the Joplin Writers’ Guild about the new site so I submitted a story called Golden Child about a young boy during the climate crisis. If you want to submit prose or poetry, they are accepting entries. Check it out! Great stories and great opportunity to get published and share your ideas.

Also, I submitted 2 stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Remember these fantastic books in the 90s? I had several of them and I still have the Mother edition today. Love these books. I wrote a story about Christmas and one about dogs. The submission deadline for most of the Chicken Soup books is around March or May 2022. The website is super easy to use. Check it out at http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story.

Be Like Christmas

By J. Speer

Have hope like Ralphie,

Be a friend like Snoopy and Woodstock,

Be wild at heart like the Yeti,

And larger than life like the Abominable Snowman,

Be as persistent as the Nutcracker,

Be as perennial as Frosty,

Protect your family like a Polar Bear,

Ring true like Silver Bells,

Be loyal as a St. Bernard mountain rescue dog,

Get your angel wings by helping others like Clarence Odbody,

Never give up like Susan Walker,

Think fast like Kevin McCallister,

Be a blessing like Tiny Tim,

Dance like a Sugar Plum Fairy,

Be a guardian like Jack Frost,

Be mysterious like Kris Kringle,

Dream like Anna,

Sing boldly like Elsa,

Be brave like Olaf,

Be sweet like Cindy Lou Who,

Bake cookies like Mrs. Claus,

Make everyone smile like Cousin Eddy,

Work hard like Buddy the Elf,

Believe like Scrooge,

Forgive like the Grinch,

Shine like the Christmas Star,

Be generous like Santa,

Give what you can like the Little Drummer Boy,

Lead the way like Rudolph,

and love with your whole heart like Jesus.

A Motivational Group

Since June 2021, a new online business has been helping men and women to excel. It is a regular weekly Zoom meeting with folks from all over the country. It is Wednesday nights at 8:00 pm Central Time. It is $20 a month through this link here:

https://possibilityjunction.org/ampy

Every week, the group members encourage each other in our various projects or life issues to tackle. The instructor is a psychologist as well and teaches things like how to identify and replace negative thoughts, how to focus on contentment and gratitude, and how to build confidence in yourself. It is the best and most affordable group therapy as well as group encouragement you will find out there.

There are members from Washington and Alaska and Kansas and Vermont so far. It is beginning to grow as well as there are plans for a retreat focused on meditation, yoga, and writing. This is a fairly new group focused on progress, self-love, self-motivation.

I encourage you to join. It is worth 20 bucks a month in the friendships you make and the communal advice you receive. It also comes with a daily Facebook Messenger group with daily aspirations and positive duscussion. The class welcomes people from around the world too through the use of Zoom. If you are from Germany or India or Israel or Nigeria, you are welcome. The instruction language is in English, however, but the group is very welcoming.

Give it a try. I am glad I did.

After my class last Wednesday, I felt better so I wrote a story on climate change and a little boy. I submitted it to a publishing group and they agreed to publish it. Sometimes the little push of group encouragement is all you need for personal growth and to keep an optimistic perspective. As Mel Robbins says, we have a prehistoric conditioning in our brains to be seen, heard, and celebrated by the herd or group. This is a group that makes you feel visible and part of a team.

Attitude Determines Altitude

Positive people manifest their future. They are not just lucky. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings and positive behaviors which can lead to positive outcomes.

In the book Who Moved My Cheese, a scientist studies lab mice going through a maze. The scientist discovered that there were some mice that persisted in going through the maze no matter how many times their cheese was moved. Then, the scientist found that there were other mice that would get stuck in the maze when their cheese got moved. The scientist determined that the magnitude of success was determined by how much time a mouse sat and dwelled on the missing cheese.

What’s the point?

Thoughts determine feelings which lead to behaviors which lead to outcomes. Don’t dwell too much in thoughts and don’t dwell on the negative for too long.

I’ve been reading through my old blog posts and realized there was a strong positivity when I first started writing in 2019 compared to writing in 2021. Three years have come and gone and my writing goals or “cheese” have been moved a lot in that time. It’s probably the same for you.

I guess it’s time for a refresher. It’s time to get back to the basics and remember the reasons we start writing cause that can get lost in the journey as pessimism and comparison can set in.

Early on, my daughter shared this song with me. It’s called You Can Be Anything. I guess it’s a good reminder for bloggers/writers out there to stay on the lighter, more positive and hopeful side of things. Replace the I can’t do this with I can do this. Replace this will never be successful with so what if it isn’t? Most artists and writers are not successful in their lifetime but posthumously. It didn’t stop them from trying to create and it shouldn’t stop you either.

Consider for a moment that one of the most successful artists of all time, Vincent Van Gogh, who’s paintings are worth hundreds of millions now……he was not a successful painter in his lifetime and he was misunderstood and mistreated and died in misfortune. But now look at Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The world is a lot better place with his paintings…..don’t you think?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRYuV2JAj00