Each morning as I check turkeys, I am amazed at how much they have grown and how their looks change from one day to the next. The funny thing about turkeys is the older they get the prouder they are of their looks. As their plush, yellow fluff is replaced with fine, white feathers, the birds make it their business to hold their heads higher when they pass by. When their fully white plumage is in place, turkeys seem to spend all their time admiring and admonishing their tails and wings, and flaring their feathers as they strut around. Pride in their maturity seems to be the opposite of what we humans do. We lose confidence in our appearance as we age. This loss of self-esteem is tough emotionally and isn’t very attractive. So while turkeys are definitely not the most beautiful of creatures, I think we need to be more like them.
As we begin this new 365-day trip around the sun, many of us are focusing attention on our appearance. The most common New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight or exercise more. So while, many of us are counting our calories and watching our weight, I want to encourage you to fluff your good stuff. Don’t let love handles or belly rolls be what you purposefully draw attention to. Single out your best qualities and draw attention to what makes you feel good about yourself.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of a personal quality or physical trait. There is tremendous benefit to knowing what you are good at or what makes you beautiful and unique. So, if you’ve got it, fluff it!
“Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” – Arianna Huffington
It’s very rare to find someone who masters a skill with only one attempt. In fact, the attempts that we remember are usually the ones where we seemed to fail the greatest. While I haven’t had any huge failures to report as of late, I do have some pretty spectacular ones from the past and they have all helped me to find success in new ways.
One particular failure that came to mind was when I was first given the chore of mowing our lawn. I was 9 years old and my parents got a brand new Snapper riding mower. My dad showed me how to start the engine and the blades, turn the steering handles, and proudly set me off to mow down our unruly front yard. The one lesson that didn’t sink in was how to stop. On my first pass, I ran that mower right up the woven wire fence in our side yard. Fortunately, I was not injured, and the mower was okay (I think it gave up when I bailed from the seat.)
My dad came running and asked what the heck I was doing.
“Mowing the yard,” I screeched back through adrenaline and embarrassment. He pulled the mower off the fence, turned it around, and told me to get back on. We then practiced how to start and stop the machine before I was let loose on the lawn again.
I can’t say I never had another incident with a mower, but I can say that I became much more aware of what I did and did NOT know about a piece of equipment before I accepted the job of working with it. Now I know exactly what questions to ask before Dad or Hubby put me to work with a new tractor, truck, mower, rake, or baler. I know that to be successful with those implements, I have to possess working knowledge of they start and stop. It makes for a much more productive day on the farm.
“Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” – Arianna Huffington
Mom-guilt is the WORST guilt. After a recent bought with illness, I had to wrestle this most worrisome of self-reproaches. Mom-guilt crept up often as I tried to get rest, let the kids cook, and not let the chaos of my unkempt home get to me.
I was sick enough that an outer space alien could have easily taken up residence and claimed our home for his base, and I would not have felt the impact, so forgiveness is an alien entity I’m going to have to let in.
Climbing my way out of the chaos and regaining my strength, I’m finding that I need to be nice to myself or I’m never going to feel better. (Maybe not “never”, but it’s going to take a while.)
As we tackle the challenges of giving our families the “perfect” Christmas and making all of our relationships as meaningful as possible, I encourage you to accept that most alien of notions, the notion of self-forgiveness.
I recently had the opportunity to be a substitute teacher for a 1st grade class. (I was probably a bottom-of-the-barrel substitute selection, but that didn’t stop my enthusiasm.) As the library lady at school, I get the distinct privilege of sharing a book with the students once a week, but that Friday I was given two opportunities to read books of my choosing to the class. The only problem was I couldn’t abandon my newly acquired class to run up to the library for reading materials, and the junior high classes were using the space so I couldn’t take the 1st graders to the library. I had to tap into the resources at my disposal and pick books from the numerous reading tubs available in the classroom. That is how I stumbled upon Six Crows by Leo Lionni and the powerful statement, “Words can do magic.”
The Six Crows fable is one where a wise old owl witnesses the great lengths that a farmer and six crows go to in order to protect or steal the farmer’s wheat. After reflecting on the situation, the wise owl couldn’t decide who was being sillier, so she stepped in to help. The owl advised both the farmer and the crows to speak to the other and work out their problem instead of allowing the wheat to die because the two parties were so busy trying to scare the other away. The scare tactics included terrible scarecrows and giant bird puppets; both of which prevented the wheat from being tended or eaten.
There are two scenarios for this holiday season that come to mind when I think of what’s worthy of effort.
Scenario 1: Putting up Christmas decorations, particularly outdoor lights, is a tough job. It requires precarious positioning of one’s self while attempting to securely attach, mount, or hang the lights in a way that is both esthetically pleasing and able to withstand potential blizzards. Once the lights are in place and any necessary medical attention has been sought, the display of glowing Christmas spirit can warm even the coldest of Grinch hearts. Was it easy to get those eight pre-lit reindeer with Santa’s sleigh AND the inflatable Snoopy snow globe on the roof? No. Could you ever imagine the amount of time it would take to assemble your Made-in-China nativity using words that baby Jesus should never have heard? No. But you do it anyway, and it’s worth every watt of energy and effort because you are letting ALL your Christmas lights shine.
Scenario 2: The second scenario of the season is a bit tougher. As our world continues to battle the COVID crisis, I encourage you to envision a holiday where you loosen your hold on what tradition says we MUST do to make Christmas happen.
“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.”
Holding in the things that bother us and keeping big problems to ourselves can be detrimental to our health and relationships. A constant spewing of our issues can also cause others to be desensitized to our downfalls. On the other hand, shedding light on what makes us shine brightens the world around us. Tooting our own horns is a healthy way to say “Woohoo!” when we do something great, but can make us come across as cocky. We have to find a balance between what makes us rant and what makes us rave.
As we enter a holiday season unlike any we’ve experienced, let’s take stock of all that is good and worthy of appreciation. Celebrate the talents and skills that make us successful and unique. Set our weaknesses and shortcomings aside. (You are probably the only one who notices these anyway.) Quit throwing pity parties and start throwing “I’m a Bad Ass”bashes.
Discipline – the classic struggle between what we want right now and what we want most.
Abraham Lincoln was an expert on making tough choices based on what he wanted most. He built a career and defined a nation by working for what he knew was necessary to unite our peoples and continue to establish America as a world power. After all how could a nation divided be the most powerful country in the world?
Discipline is something that many feel is a violation of their rights. They believe that if they want to do something, go somewhere, buy something, or say anything, it’s not “fair” to have to work for it or take into consideration the impacts their impulses will have on the big picture for their lives and what they want beyond that moment in time. The demand for instant gratification and knee-jerk reactions to the work and words of others has cast an ugly shadow over what we really need and want as a society.
Refillable, as in the ability to be replenished, has to be one of the most optimistic words I can think of.
When the coffee has all been chugged, the ice cream has all be inhaled, or the treats have all been taken, it may be a downer. You may feel depleted, but that doesn’t mean you are defeated. It means you have an opportunity to scavenge for something sweeter, saltier, or just a bit more savory.
Let me give an example of how easy it is to tap into some positive purpose when your energy cup is empty.
My 7 year-old son has started reading chapter books and it is ROUGH. He struggles with phonetics and may have a hole in his attention span reservoir. He loves the book we are reading (Ready Freddy!: Shark Tooth Tale By: Abby Klien), but EVERY.SINGLE.NIGHT. we struggle, cry, throw fits, and read in a slow, robotic cadence through the chapters. Last night was no exception. The enthusiasm was not flowing for my boy, but once he read the next chapter title things turned around.
Chapter 4 – “If You Have Lemons, Make Lemonade” was all about Freddy finding ways to make money to buy a fossilized megalodon tooth (My son is obsessed with megalodons and lemonade stands.) Freddy’s elderly neighbor Mrs. Golden had broken her ankle but still had a friendly dog that needed walking. Her situation was a bummer, but my son started understanding that even sad situations can lead to happy opportunities. Freddy was able to help Mrs. Golden care for her dog AND earn money towards the purchase of that precious megalodon tooth.
When it comes to being far from perfect, I’ve got imperfection in the spades. I often beat myself up for having so many flaws and petty insecurities. It’s tough being human. (Do you ever get down on yourself for being less than perfect?)
In his homily this past Sunday, Fr. Tony addressed the challenge that is posed to us by All Saints Day. With tremendous understanding and the right amount of humor, Fr. Tony reminded us that the canonized saints were human too. They struggled with jealousy, anger, fear, and weakness (among other things). In his narrative, Fr. Tony dared us to be like the saints. His All Saints Day challenge is to live with love, compassion, and faith at the center of our thoughts and actions in spite of our struggles.
Nobody is born a saint, but we all have the power to be saintly in our words and works. In the bulletin “Message from Fr. Tony,” he thoughtfully stated, “The simple but reassuring fact is that nobody was born a saint. It’s something we have to strive to become… All Saints Day calls us to something beautiful. It reminds us of our great potential – the promise that lies within each of us. The promise of holiness.”
We are all familiar with the “If you can’t say something nice…” adage, but how often to we put effort into leaving our lousy thoughts out of what we say?
Last week I was angry. Angry at someone I care a great deal about. Angry at the choices they had been making. Those choices felt unfairly selfish to me. When I voiced my anger to my friend Emily, she helped put things into perspective. Emily reminded me that the person I was mad at wasn’t necessarily being selfish; they were being human. Each decision they made was done so because they thought it was the appropriate choice for them.
Of course, Emily was right and I needed to quit being so judgmental.
This week, as I was taking a drive with my friend Chelsea, she was lamenting the overly critical nature of one of her family members. The nature of their hypercritical haptics was exhausting her. We came up with the brilliant idea that people should quarantine their fault finding fascination. The quarantine of unfair judgment and social criticism would be a great way to cure the world with kindness and understanding.