Monday, June 14, 2010

Born with a Silver Spoon in his Mouth!

Have you ever heard people say, "He's so lucky! He had so many breaks given to him along the way to success!"? Or, "He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had everything given to him." You know the type of thoughts I'm referring to -- those thoughts that are the negative, self-defeating thoughts.

Nobody in this world who is successful has ever had "easy breaks", "everything given to him" or "every door opened just at the right time" without working hard and staying focused! Easy Street just doesn't exist UNLESS you call having a plan, staying focused, and persevering no matter what "easy"! And, really, following the success plan works and is a lot easier than floundering around having no plan at all! Have a plan; stay focused, and never quit!

Consider this: "He failed in business in '31. He was defeated for state legislator in '32. He tried another business and it failed in '33. He had a nervous breakdown in '36. In '43 he ran for Congress and was defeated in '48 and was defeated again. He tried running for Senate in '55. He lost. The next year he ran for Vice President and lost. In '59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated. In 1860, the man who signed his name A. Lincoln, was elected the 16th President of the United States. The difference between history's boldest accomplishments and its most staggering failures is often, simply, the diligent will to persevere."

What are your goals? Do you live them, breathe them, sleep them? Are you willing to persevere in the face of seeming failure? Abraham Lincoln did and look what happened! You can do it! FOCUS and PERSEVERE and you'll win! Today is the day to keep on keeping on!

PS Okay, so once in a while it's fun just to experiment the feeling of having a silver spoon dangling from your mouth!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oh, the Things My Kitchen Clutter Taught Me about Myself!

Today I decided to do it! Just dive right in and clean out that nasty kitchen cupboard that has been bothering me for a long time. WOW! What a job! Even more than the work involved in cleaning out that space, I sure did go through a mind-boggling process of learning a lot about "me" in the process!

For years, I've been my own worst nag about keeping clutter cleaned up. Now mind you, I will take all credit for personally birthing eleven -- yes, your heard it right -- eleven kids, and I gave birth in succession similar to a machine gun. One right after the other! No breaks long enough to even catch my breath, let alone clean the clutter that came with each new child.

Fast forward to the point where I am in my life right now. I'm down to one child living at home. Life today is nothing in comparison to the days back when the washing machine was my closest love and companion. When the washing machine broke down, so did I!

As I'm tackling cleaning each and every space in my home now that the kids have cleared out, my eyes are enlightened more and more about who I am. I'm not a hoarder in the sense of keeping things so cluttered that you can't move. But, I've been a saver of things. Many of my saved things have emotional attachment such as kids' report cards, letters they've written to me, some articles of clothing. Actually, I'm finding I'm no different than any other parent in that respect.

Until.......I hit the kitchen! Today, I think I came across at least ten thousand pieces of plastic serving pieces! Yes, you read correctly. Those little plastic knives, forks, and spoons that you use when you don't want to use your "good silverware" (of which I have none). Why? Why have I saved so much of that plastic stuff? Add to that at least two hundred fifty plastic food containers, most of them without lids. What was I thinking? Why didn't I at least stuff some fun things into that cupboard space like cookie tins and funny mugs and stuff that would at least have made me smile? Plasticware? You've got to be kidding!!!

After two hours of sorting through the "keep" pile and the "throw away" pile, I finally figured it out. My kids were forever fighting over food. Food was not a staple while they were growing up. Food was something that they fought for! There was only so much to go around and if the cooked food didn't make it to your plate, you were out of luck. You were the one that got peanut butter, a piece of bread and some watered-down powdered milk.

Suddenly, as I was looking at those thousands of plastic forks, a light went on! I saved all of that plastic stuff because I was a good mom. No, I take that back. I was an AWESOME mom! I wanted to give my kids a fair shake at getting their portion of food. I'd lay out the plastic stuff, we'd always take the time to say a prayer of thanks, and then they'd grab their utensils and run for the food! See? I was helping them get a good start in the food line. I never wanted to run out of the necessary items! I wanted to give each kid equality in the food line!

Ahhh...I'm so glad to have solved that mystery today or that would have plagued me for years to come!

Clara , the very good mom
PS The truth of the matter is that my brain was so fried from having all of those kids that I forgot what I bought, and just kept on stashing the things I knew we'd need so I didn't have to separate kids from extra fist fights, hear any more outlandish crying, or see blood pouring out on the food because somebody didn't get a fork. Eh...any way you look at it, maybe I was an okay mom.

Anybody need some extra plastic stuff? I've got tons!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Do You See What I See?

What do you see when strolling along the streets in South Side downtown Pittsburgh on a rainy day? Do you see the many different storefronts decorated in everything from 50's to modern day memorabilia? Do you see the cars jammed bumper to bumper on the streets? Do you see the faces of the people passing you by? Do you see the colors of the coats and hats that people are wearing? What do you see? I'll bet one thing. I'll bet you don't see what I see!

We are each so individual in our thoughts and levels of creativity that no two of us are alike. We are unique in our personalities and daily activities. Our likes and dislikes are often worlds apart. You like homemade ice cream on a snowy day to remind you of summertime. I like homemade soup to take away the chills of the winter. You like modern art. I like folk art. You like the ballet. I like the modern dance. See what I'm saying? All of these things add to what we see. We see what we like to see. We see what we're programmed to see. We see the things that we're used to seeing. Is that good or bad? Hmmm......let's see.

I'm what I call a universal see-er. I very rarely can tell you the details of anything. I know when the sky is blue, but I can't recall details like what kind of clouds that were in the sky, the shade of blue, the size of the clouds, if they were clustered, if there was a rainbow, or if the sky had streaks of blue or was solid blue. I can't tell you those details, but I can tell you how I feel when I see something.

Some people are detailed see-ers. (I think I just invented a new word!) They can tell you things such as the sky was aqua blue at noon, sea green blue at one, cobalt blue, cyan blue, steel blue, tiffany blue, and dark blue at the end of the day. They can tell you when the clouds appeared, what they were called, when they disappeared. They can even tell you the approximate size of the clouds in the sky on any given day! And, they no doubt can also tell you how seeing each of those details made them feel. Interesting stuff, isn't it?

What do you see? Do you see what I see? I took the picture in this blog of my son and daughter for the sole purpose of documenting our fun day spent in Pittsburgh. I wan't interested in any of the details at that moment other than capturing two of my children that I love in this photo. Now that I'm studying it more closely, though, I can see all kinds of details like the traffic light, the size of the pavement blocks, the kinds of cars people are driving, the color of the umbrella Alex is holding, the lawn chairs on the sidewalk, the manhole, and even the sprinkling of rain falling on the umbrella. WOW! There's no end to what I can see when I really look!

So, what's all of this mean? Well, do you see what I see? I sure hope not! You see what is meaningful and special to you just as I see what is meaningful and special to me. And, that is the beauty of life! We each have the ability to see a million and one different shades of a rose. We each have the gift of seeing countless levels of beauty in a piece of artwork. We each have the wonderful blessing of seeing unending details of love in the soul of a person. The possibilities of what we see in any one object, person, or event are never-ending!

Life is exciting! What we see each and every day is exciting! We should never find ourselves bored or feeling like a day has been wasted. Every day is a new and exciting package of miracles just waiting to be opened and viewed by me and you! Let's do it! Do you see what I see? Well, I do see one thing in this picture......I see a coat that I wish I had bought for myself rather than for Alex! I really like that color of blue!

Here's to seeing your day in a beautiful way! Don't allow one day to slip past you wtihout seeing the countless blessings given to us! Life is beautiful from any vantage point -- if only we take the time to see!



Monday, June 7, 2010

The Setting of the Sicilian Sun

A few months ago, I had the most terrific trip of a lifetime! I got to visit my homeland of Italy! While there, many nights were spent watching the sunset over the crystal blue sea, and what a magnificent sight that was! The sun shedding its bright rays of light over the water looked almost like what you'd describe as a heavenly scene. All that was lacking were the angels!

The sky turned from bright blue, to strawberry pink, to a blazing orange right before my very eyes. I stood with awe as I took in all of the beauty and began to imagine what was beyond the sunset. The land of Italy seemed so big while watching the sunset, yet I knew that in comparison to the world and all that lies beyond, it's only a tiny speck in this big, wide, wonderful universe. It's easy to get lost in this world and feel like we don't matter. It's so easy to feel as though we're only a tiny speck the size of an ant in a land that is bigger than our minds can imagine. And, yet..........

There, under the Sicilian sun was a boat gliding along the beautiful sea. I kept my eye on that boat for almost two hours as the sun took its time setting. The boat began it's slow journey in one corner of the water and gently swayed to and fro with the calm, white breakers. I assume the two people in the boat were fishing. Or, maybe they were two people who just decided to take out the boat on a warm spring evening to soak up the beauty of nature in a place where they would have none of the earthly distractions that seem to invade our over-burdened minds.

As I watched the boat and the sun drifting out beyond the sunset, I became a bit envious. I kept thinking about how lucky the people in the boat were to be in that particular spot out at sea watching the sun disappearing beyond the horizon. They were up close and personal with so much of nature, and I only had a bird's eye view standing on the sidelines.

Then, it dawned on me almost as if I got hit on the head with a brick! I have that very same opportunity as the boaters. In fact, I was enjoying that very same sunset! I had the same breathtaking view, the same lovely sky, the same warm beams of sunlight touching my face as those people in the boat. Why did I think my experience would be any less peaceful? Why did I think their view was any more beautiful?

Aren't we all like that sometimes? We don't see the beauty right in front of us because we're too busy watching other people and thinking that they have it so much better than we do! What an untruth! What a disservice we do to ourselves when we have little, pint-sized thinking! What a shame that we often miss out on the blessings of the moment because we're wistfully thinking that there's a better world beyond the sunset -- a world that we can't see.

I continued to click and shoot with my little little pocket Sony and got some of the most amazing photos ever! I watched the setting sun until there was no more sun to see. I kept my eyes on the floating boat as it continued on its journey even after the sun had quietly closed the curtains on this day. My heart felt full and complete and joyful as I discovered that my setting sun is available to me 365 days a year if I take the time to view it. I am surrounded by beauty, by nature, and by all of creation. It's a gift that has been freely given. All I am asked to do is take the time to enjoy it! And, enjoy it is exactly what I did!



PS I'd still like to see the setting sun boat side. Do I have any takers?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Memory of Bijou, My Dog and My Best Friend!

When visiting Brook Green Gardens in South Carolina I came across a tombstone that read, "In Memory of dear Bijou, who died at Magnolia Beach, Aged About 13 years." The tombstone is a marker in memory of a dog, man's best friend. This marker is large -- much, much larger than many people have, and it fascinated me that so much thought and money went into this memorial for a dog.

But, wait a minute! I sat under an old oak tree and thought about this for a minute. I've always had a dog. In fact, my earliest memory of myself as a kid is of me with Big Red, my German Shepherd who had a fascination for chasing our mailman all through the streets of Egg Harbor City while latched onto his tan pants leg! Gosh, how I loved Red!

I also loved Blackie, Midnight, Reuben, Raphael, Laddie, Lassie, Lady, Luigi, Furry, Spike, Missy, Batler, Bella, Poochie, and now my little furry Oscar. But, I never had a marker made for any of them, and now I wish that I had at least carved out an etching in a rock to leave as an everlasting memorial for each one of them for the love that they gave to me. I knew that I could count on them for a good morning kiss, a good night kiss, and lots of fun and playful times no matter what. The weather never mattered to them -- cold or hot they still loved me. My mood never altered their love for me. It didn't make a difference if I had a dime or a dollar in my pocket. They each loved me the same. In fact, I got showered with slobbery kisses, wagging tails, and lots of attention even when I wasn't very nice returning the same affection. Dogs have such amazing hearts. No wonder a dog has been rightly labeled as "man's best friend"!

I'm sure that's how it was with Bijou, too. Bijou's owner obviously had a deep love for him, so much so that a special gravesite was prepared and a big stone marker was engraved with words to remember the life of Bijou.

Did you ever think about what you want engraved forever on your marker? Did you ever give any thought as to how you want to be remembered? "She was a funny lady who never stopped talking! She had a cackle when she laughed that sounded like a rooster ready to go to slaughter. She was good at slamming cupboard doors right off the hinges when she got that hot Italian temper flaring! She never had a gray hair 'cause she colored every hair clear up until the day she died!"

Okay, how do I really want to be remembered? Just like the owner of Bijou remembered him. She was kind. She showered me with affection. She was a true and faithful friend. She loved her family. She loved God. She loved me through the thick and thin of life. She gave food out of her cupboards even when she didn't have it to give. And, best of all......"She died in the 'Ville aged about a hundred years." Gotta love Bijou's owner...."aged about 13 years." The years weren't the important part. The important part was that somebody cared enough to put thought, blood, sweat, and tears into remembering Bijou. Yes, I'd be mighty happy with be remembered with fondness and kindness that is as fitting as Bijou's!

Live with gusto! Live with laughter! Live for God! And, most of all live the way you want to be remembered! Your legacy counts! Who knows? You might even rate a tombstone in a garden surrounded by flowers and trees and everlasting love just like Bijou's!

PS The memories we leave behind come from the memories we make today. Live like a dog, and you'll get it right every time! They understand the unconditional love thing better than most humans!