Monday, July 29, 2013

Gratitude Journal #198

Today, I am grateful for yesterday's worship experience. Blessings overflow!

Today, I am grateful for cooler cool we've turned off the air conditioner and enjoyed a fire pit night Saturday. Our back yard is such a refuge of cool breeze, wood smoke, peace, bird calls and frog chirps, and firefly strobe lights.

Today, I am grateful that Daisy's wound is healing nicely and she seems fully recovered from whatever bug she picked up at the kennel. She no longer wears the cone of shame, and she must be grateful for that.

Today, I am grateful for the laughter Daisy brings into our lives.

Today, I am grateful that Nick's maturing into a very nice young man...who needs to shave about every two weeks already. Grateful, and a little sad, too.

Today, I am grateful for USAA's quick response to our account getting hacked. We've been members of USAA since before George went on active duty (meaning decades) and really, they are the best.

Today, I am grateful for those of you who have been reading this blog for the past five years. You've stuck with me through thick and thin, good and bad, frequent and sparse posting. Thank you so very much.

What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Strange Adventures in the US Air Force: Belonging, Part 2

For Part 1 of this pair of posts, go here.

Belonging is important. We humans are social creatures, and feeling a sense of belonging increases our resilience to life's traumas, increases our happiness, and helps us live longer. Science confirms these benefits.

But our very mobile modern lives can sometimes make finding and keeping social groups difficult. Even if we ourselves don't move, our friends and family do. Some people have no problems moving, making new friends, or adjusting to a new situation. Others struggle, feel lonely, and quietly and painfully endure isolation.

When George and I found ourselves ostracized during his Air Liaison Tour with the Army Rangers, we found ways to make that two years as rich and meaningful as possible...without all the friends and support system we'd had when he was assigned to an Air Force squadron. Here are a few ideas you might be able to adapt if you find yourself in similar circumstances.

1. Meet your neighbors. I welcomed new neighbors to our apartment complex with brownies and made a few friends in the process. One of those neighbors, Mary, was married to the manager of the Columbus Country Club. She invited me to the monthly Christian Women's Club meetings there, and I even debuted as a wedding gown model in the country club's annual bridal show. Spiritual enrichment, fun social events, and girly dress-up all helped build a healthier sense of community and connection. You just never know where meeting a new person will take you!

2. Learn something new. George needed to get a masters degree for career advancement, and our lack of social life made this easier for him. He took night classes at a university where I taught, so we would meet for dinner before classes, and it was a wonderful way for us to connect. On weekends, we sat in our study working for hours, he on homework and I on grading and lesson plans. It was lovely to spend time together even though we were working hard. He actually enjoyed many of his graduate classes.

3. Commit fully to whatever you're doing. I was fresh out of graduate school at Wichita State University when we arrived in Columbus. Getting work teaching wasn't a problem...there was a shortage of college English instructors in Georgia and Alabama, and I ended up turning down job offers in both states. How wonderful!

In working at three different colleges, I taught lots of classes I had never taught before (remedial phonics and pronunciation, world literature, business writing, etc.), and even the class I had lots of experience with had different texts and requirements depending on the school. I networked with other instructors and professors, and spent countless hours learning more about teaching by actually teaching than I ever learned in my graduate teaching class.

I also accepted additional academic duties when they came my way...which for adjunct faculty isn't very often. Because I spent so much time on the campuses and knew the full-time faculty, I had opportunities to serve as a judge on a panel for scholarships and to teach summer school...things that rarely came up for adjunct faculty at the time.

Because of my extended office hours, I had time to work with students who needed extra help. This commitment to teaching was deeply enriching and soul-satisfying, not to mention helpful for my students, many of whom were older, worked to support families, or had disabilities. My flexibility made me more available for them, and they appreciated that. When one student's work schedule changed mid-quarter, he and I were able to meet a few hours a week at the library to cover instruction time and go over his work. Instead of having to drop the class, he finished with a B+.

The greatest blessing of my commitment to my students came in the form of a life-long friend and prayer partner named Lally. She was my student for two semesters, and when the teacher/student relationship was over, Lally made sure that George and I both felt a home away from home. She made food for us when we were stressed, she invited us for dinner, she prayed for and with us, and she helped us run errands when we were moving.

In other words, actively seeking growth and satisfaction in your work can make up for lack in social life. Eventually, you'll develop a social life from that enthusiasm.

4. Change your attitude. Sometimes, we get into negative thought patterns that trap us in negative situations. If you're feeling isolated, ostracized, or excluded in a situation where you have little control, you can change the way you think about it.

George and I couldn't control what the Rangers thought of us, but we could control our attitude toward the Rangers. Instead of resenting them or dwelling on our feelings of exclusion, we accepted that the Rangers and their families are an amazing group of people whose training and commitment to serving our nation are valuable and important. We were never going to belong with them, so we simply quit trying. We exercised good manners and healthy respect, but we stopped focusing on the fact they would never accept us.

Instead, we found ways to use our time constructively doing things that enriched our marriage and careers. In the process, we made real friends and grew as individuals. Martha Washington once said, "I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."

Our circumstances may be beyond our control, but we can control our attitude. And if we have a good attitude, we'll find someplace to belong.


Please share your tips for belonging in the comments!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Gratitude Journal #197

Today, I am grateful for a week away to visit family, and I am grateful to be safely home.

Today, I am grateful for my new car, which performed spectacularly well on a very long road trip.

Today, I am grateful for birds. On the trip, we saw loons, bald eagles, an osprey, several varieties of duck, and an African grey parrot. The last was in a cage on an elevator but nevertheless cool to see.

Today, I am grateful for our comfortable home with air conditioning.

Today, I am grateful for light.

What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Gratitude Journal #196

Today, I am grateful for lakes, resorts, log cabins, kayaks, and red wine.

Today, I am grateful for a wonderful celebration of a wonderful life well lived. The memorial service at Our Savior's Lutheran Church was beautiful.

Today, I am grateful for electric fans and ceiling fans. Dang, it's hot in northern Minnesota.

Today, I am grateful for time with family.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gratitude Journal #195

Today, I am grateful for the fact that we are finished spreading 7.5 yards of mulch and I am still capable of moving.

Today, I am grateful to be blessed with a family to love. I am ever so grateful they love me, too.

Today, I am grateful to have wielded the PowerPoint slide-show clicker through church service without screwing it up once!

Today, I am grateful for travelling mercies for friends and family.

Today, I am grateful to be alive and awake, drinking coffee in a quiet house, hearing birdsong outside my window, and knowing that I will be useful today.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, July 5, 2013

In Memory of Our Furry Boy

Today, July 5, is the three-year anniversary of Hoover's death. What a terrible day in our family, for George especially, but before that, we had 13 years of Tigger living with us. Yes, he definitely should have been named Tigger. He was flouncy, jouncy, bouncy, pouncy fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!

In his memory, I'm linking to a blog post he wrote for me not long before he was diagnosed with cancer. He was a good dog (mostly!) and leaped his way into our hearts. Those hearts broke when he had to be put to sleep.

After he died, Hoover sent Daisy to us for healing. She didn't replace him and has a different personality that makes her very, um, special, and she did heal us with her own unique sort of golden craziness combined with a sweetness that we needed. Hoover knew what he was doing when he bullied the angels into sending her to us.

I hope you enjoy reading Hoover's story in his own words. He reminds me that we're not supposed to cry because it's over but laugh because it happened at all.

Guest Blogger: Hoover

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day

I finally hung a flag on our front porch ('bout time!), and of course today it's raining, so I can't fly it. My grandfather would haunt me if I did.

My grandfather flew bombers and heavy cargo planes in World War II, and for the rest of his life, he flew a flag outside his house, putting it out every morning and taking it in every evening, making sure in his careful, deliberate way that it didn't get wet or touch the ground. My grandmother frequently sang You're a Grand Ol' Flag for us grandchildren.

Respect for the flag and what it represented was expected in my family.

After Papa died, my grandmother continued the tradition of flying the flag each day until, one day, her flag was stolen. I remember her bewilderment that anyone would steal a flag. Why would anyone do that?

The American flag stands for freedom, sacrifice, and democracy...all values of the founding fathers who risked life itself to sign the Declaration of Independence. It stands for a bunch of different entities standing as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

And that is something to celebrate.

Happy Independence Day!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pinterest Win

Long-time readers know how much I enjoy Pinterest, that time-sucking web site of indescribable coolness that can be practical on occasion but really just distracts us from being productive.

Earlier this week, I received an automated email from Pinterest informing me that the site had deleted one of my pins. After assuring me that I had done nothing wrong, the email explained that the owner of the copyright for that particular photo objected to its being pinned, which was her right, of course, and Pinterest respected that, although the email also explained that most holders of copyright images appreciated having them pinned, presumably as a form of advertising.

First of all, thank you, Pinterest, for having someone who knows how to use words write your automated notification. The email was well-written and clear and emphasized all the right things.

Second, thank you, Pinterest, for respecting artists' opinions and rights while still providing an epic web site. Of course you didn't have a legal leg to stand on given copyright law, but still...way to make lemonade out of a lemon.

Third, to the artist, I understand your point of view. You have amazing talent, and your photo of the barred owl spoke to me. But now I can't find your web site, and I has a sad.

These recent additions to my boards are still available for my perusal, and I share them with you today because I hope you will laugh and enjoy them, too.

Every blessed morning.


It's a mystery.

Yay, Gandalf!

Okay, I had to add one serious quotation.

Too true.

But the sponges come in wonderful colors these days.

I've laughed this laugh my whole life.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Gratitude Journal #194, Edited

Today, I am grateful for living in America, founded on the idea of freedom. I am grateful for the men who drafted and signed the document that started it all. I am grateful for the courage, sacrifice, and wisdom that brought us to where we are today.


Today, I am grateful for coffee on Friday with my friend Barbara. Just being with her cheers me up and blesses me!

Today, I am grateful for a trip to the movies with my firstborn. We saw Man of Steel, which was pretty good! I am also grateful that George and Jack had fun at the pool, eating ice cream, and walking Daisy while Nick and I were at the cinema.

Today, I am grateful for great food and domestic bliss with my honey.

Today, I am grateful for libraries and librarians.


What are you grateful for today?

Edited to add: I just read about the 19 firefighters who lost their lives in Arizona. My heart hurts for their families and friends. I am so very grateful for their dedication and sacrifice, for their families who supported them, and for all who reach out with comfort and care for the grieving at this time and in the months and years to come.