Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fresh Beginnings

"The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring."
-- Bern Williams
     This has been a week of new experiences and fresh beginnings for me and my family. Interestingly enough, my last entry was about the value of older, more experienced individuals and their contributions and right now my thoughts are on youth and their potential. My mind centered on this topic as I drove home Friday after having a conversation with two of my co-workers after school. After a couple days of bike riding over the weekend (another first this week after ceasing longer rides in November) with time to mull things over, I finally feel inspired to write my first entry in this blog since October.
     Spring waved a wand of transformation over our area this past week. Temperatures rose, flowers sprang open in the sun, and pollen covered everything like pale green snow. To top it all off, some frog eggs my kids and I had collected from a local pond hatched and filled our fish bowl with wriggling tadpoles. We have now moved them into a bigger aquarium since we have estimated that about thirty of the little creatures are in residence in our house. It's hard to get an exact count- they are very active and hungry. They have been eating with great gusto from the chopped lettuce and algae we placed in the tank. This is our first time seeing tadpoles hatch and develop up close and personal and I am just as excited as the kids. I am amazed by God's creation and the cycle of life.
     All these new buds opening and tadpoles growing this week have brought to my mind how important the beginning of life is. With the right environment and proper care and nurturing, living things bloom and blossom into strong adults. Without these things, finding this strength and success is much more difficult, though not impossible. I feel invigorated by this thought, determined to rededicate my efforts toward encouraging not only my own children, but the children I teach, to find the hope within them, the talent, the future, and to bring it forth into full, astonishing bloom.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

True Colors

"As you are now, so once was I, "
As I am now, so you must be."
-Origin unknown
     I was on my Saturday bike ride again this morning, enjoying the crisp air and the early sunlight filtering through the trees around me. I began to notice many bright splashes of color here and there on the trail and I stopped occasionally to take photos. All of this got me thinking. Many plants were putting on their most brilliant appearance at this point in the year when everything is waning or about to wane and succumb to the bite of frosty nights. It made me think about how youth compares to experience and age. It brought to mind people like Grandma Moses, who was painting beautiful pictures at age 100. I did a little research when I got home from my ride and found many more marvelous feats of elderly people who did not let their age become a barrier to achieving their goals- too many to list here.
     I feel inspired by these folks who continued to strive to fulfill their dreams, even when others might have written them off as depleted and waiting for death. It makes me realize that it is never too late to reach for the longings within our hearts, to maneuver around the obstacles that might block our paths. We can learn so much from our elders who have countless experiences and skills to contribute, share, and teach. I hope I will never lose this spark, this desire to grow and reach out to those around me as I grow older. I hope my colors will shine as bright as those I saw today when I reach the autumn of my years.

Proverbs 20:29 (NIV)

“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.”







Saturday, September 22, 2012

"The Circle Game"

"Through the crisp, swirling launch of our recall
Memories smile at yesterday's replay
September guides us gently into Fall
When woods begin to hear chill winter's call."
M. Jo Taylor, Autumn Poems

     As I was taking my Saturday morning bike ride today and enjoying the beautiful weather on the first day of fall, the song in the link below kept stealing back into my mind over and over again. The changing of the seasons always puts me in a contemplative mood, but fall in particular brings on a melancholy feeling tempered by comforting memories of past autumns. I love this season- the sights, the smells, the sounds, the tastes, the cooling temperatures. It is a delight to the senses. My children's reactions to autumn each year have reawakened reminiscences within me of my own childhood as I watch them relish the season, too.
    I have always loved Joni Mitchell's song as well, and now as a mother, it means so much more to me than it did earlier in my life. My children are growing up so swiftly, season to season. People always told me to enjoy the moments, even the trying ones, because time slips away all too fast and children grow up in the blink of an eye. I am trying hard to be mindful of this, for I know it to be all too true in my own experience. I am spending time remembering these years of growth as I look through old photographs lately. My son even stopped long enough in his play to sit on my lap as we watched the video clip of "The Circle Game" below. He said, "that was a good song, Mom. I liked that the boy was being hugged by his own little boy at the end." That is the key right there- passing on the love to the next generation. We may be "captives on the carousel of time" as it says in the song, but the love goes on, passed from each beloved child to his or her own children. Love your family today- life is not perfect, but in the end, there is love and that is enough.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

In the Shadow of the Neuse

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
-Matthew 6:27
“Begin doing what you want to do now.
We are not living in eternity.
We have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand
and melting like a snowflake.”
~ Marie Beyon Ray

     I have had several ideas rattling around in the recesses of my brain all summer and have been meaning to sit down and express them here several times. To be honest, it has been such a busy and fun summer that I haven't been able to entice myself to sit still long enough to get the job done. But, I have convinced myself, that is absolutely acceptable. As stated in the quote above, this precious season has melted away and I have been in the moment during this span of time more thoroughly than I have in a very long time.
     Earlier this spring, I went through a difficult trial in the form of the possibility of a diagnosis of uterine cancer. There were a lot of doctor visits, a lot of invasive procedures, a lot of waiting to hear results, a lot of stress, a lot of prayers. In the end, everything came up benign. It was the best news I could have heard and I am still feeling so grateful to God for this reprieve. So many friends and family members reached out to support me, lifting me up in prayer and finally rejoicing with me after my last visit to the doctor.
     Not too long ago, I was driving back from the bike trail on the Neuse River that I have been riding on so much this summer. On the local country station, I heard the song I will post below. Some might think it cliched, but it expressed a lot of what I had been feeling after going through several months of stressful anticipation. Tears rolled down my face as I listened to it. I had heard it before, but this was the first time I had really paid close attention to the words.
     I will never forget this summer as one in which I truly lived. I made a point of getting healthy: exercising and strengthening my weakened body that I had neglected for far too long, making healthy changes in my diet and the diet of my family, and rejuvenating my mind with positive, encouraging thoughts and prayers. I have made a point of spending time with my family, really listening, really being there. I have spent far too much time in my life concerning myself with what comes tomorrow or next year instead of being here now.
     As I begin another school year, my goal is to continue in this line of thinking and behavior. I want to be intentional in the way I live, helping myself to stay strong and in doing so, making myself much more capable of caring for those around me in the way they deserve and the way I desire. As the song says, I intend to live like I am dying, savoring every moment, and loving those around me to the best of my ability.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bathing in the Forest

     "We can never have enough of nature." -Henry David Thoreau

     I have read several articles recently about the value of being in nature. I didn't need to read these articles to know what I have learned from my own experience- being outside makes you feel better. When I spend time walking or biking in the woods or weeding or watering my garden, I feel my stress decrease, my thoughts calm and clarify, and my overall feeling of well-being increase.
     A good example is the time I have spent on my bike on the greenway recently. I have only been biking for two weeks now and I feel so much better. It is not just the exercise that is strengthening me, it is also being immersed in the woods, seeing the wildlife, hearing the birds. My body is beginning to crave and anticipate this time, making it all the more easy to get out there and continue the activity. As I ride, the rhythmic pedaling of my feet puts me into a peaceful state of mind. The soft sounds of nature around me cause my mind to slow its spiraling, stressful thoughts, opening up a new path of thinking. I just read an article earlier today in Health magazine about finding the bliss in your life that described this exact state. The author called it "flow," defining it as being so involved in an activity that you lose track of time. I felt that way as I rode this morning; I was almost surprised when I came back to the place where we had parked the car. I could have kept on going from that point. I actually have come quite a way in just two weeks of riding. My first ride two weeks ago was challenging, with a lot of huffing and puffing to get to the end. I am getting now to the point where I can ride with less effort and spend more time with my thoughts- good for getting more ideas for my blog!
    Another article I read described being in nature as "forest bathing." (See links below.) I really appreciate that imagery. It makes me think of being immersed in the forest just as you would be immersed in water in the bathtub. You come out of both activities feeling clean, refreshed, and relaxed. I believe I'll take another dip in the forest tomorrow.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rediscovering a Childhood Joy

"I feel that I am entitled to my share of lightheartedness and there is nothing wrong with enjoying one's self simply, like a boy." ~ Leo Tolstoy (In response to criticism for learning to ride a bicycle at age 67.)

     My husband has gotten into bicycling recently and with his encouragement, we ordered a hybrid bicycle for me so that I could join him on his rides. I came home from work this past Tuesday to find him ensconced in the garage, putting my new bike together for me so that I could try it out. I was pretty rusty at first but got the hang of it quickly and took some short rides through the neighborhood over the next few days.
     One of my best childhood memories is riding my bike. I had several different ones and did a lot of riding when I was younger. My brother, sister, and I used to ride together in the summer down to the convenience store to buy bubblegum or candy with money we earned from chores. It was a long ride and we kept an eye on each other, reminding each other to get over when we heard cars approaching. My brother was in charge since he was the oldest. It was always exciting to reach our destination and then carry our treasure back home. Those rides were always an adventure.
     As I got older (but not old enough to drive), my bicycle came in handy for a variety of tasks. I used to babysit for a neighbor that lived several miles away. My mom would drop me off at this job on her way to work in the morning, hauling my bike along in her trunk. I would babysit until around noon each day and then ride my bike home. There were some glorious hills on that route. I still remember the feel of the wind of my passing as I tore down them, thrilling to the speed and the blur of the passing scenery- farmland, woods, wild meadows.
     This morning, these memories came to my mind as I rode with my husband on the newly opened Sam's Branch Greenway (see link below) for the first time. He had already ridden on it several times before this trip and was familiar with the course. It begins close to our home- the drive there takes about ten minutes. We have been wishing for quite some time for something like this to be built near where we live and now that wish has come true. The greenway is not yet complete. We have been watching the progress of the construction of a piece that is even closer to our house than this piece. It will all be connected when it is done. I am so excited to see this kind of project happening. When I first noticed the work beginning, I assumed it would be just another subdivision, something we have too many of in our area as far as I'm concerned.
     I was thrilled this morning to see what a beautiful job had been done to create a place where nature is on all sides and wildlife abounds. A wide variety of birds flitted about in the trees on either side as I rode, some even swooping across the path around me. Squirrels, rabbits, and even deer made appearances in the underbrush and woods. There were lovely views of the Neuse River, especially from a bridge that you ride right over the river. I felt increasingly peaceful as I rode, my mind drifting to a variety of topics and memories. By the time I returned to our car, my legs were tired, my backside was sore, but I felt happy, carrying the treasure of my memories of the ride back to my home. I'm ready to go again!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Remembering a Faithful Friend

"There is honor in being a dog." -Aristotle

     I am returning finally to my blog after not posting anything since last October. I just spent some time reading back through my past entries and remembered that I had written several times about mortality and the fact that none of us knows how much time we have to live in this world. I lost a good friend last December 8th and have attempted several times to write this post but have been unable to move forward with it until this evening.
     My sweet Mindy died in the wee hours of the morning after a sudden, mysterious illness that caused her lungs to fill with fluid and her body to shut down. She was only four years old and had always been playful and energetic. She truly loved our family and was happiest when she was hanging out with us, especially on camping trips. Her death devastated me. Even now, I feel guilt over having to make the decision to end her suffering. I still sometimes half expect her to come padding into a room, claws clicking, tail wagging in greeting. She used to sleep on a comfy dog pillow on the floor next to my side of the bed. I thought I had put all of her things away up in the attic but just last weekend, I found her beloved stuffed duck under the edge of the bed, unnoticed all this time. I am finally at the point now where this discovery first made me smile before I felt the familiar swelling of grief inside.
     I have been around dogs all my life and am always amazed at their love and loyalty for us faulty humans. They don't care what we look like, what kind of material goods we have, what we can do for them- they just love us. I am grateful for the time we had with Mindy. We all worked together to bury her in our backyard where she loved to romp and I still go out there and talk to her every now and again. I plan to plant some flowers there soon as a memorial to her. I still miss her and am fighting back my tears right now as I write this. God certainly knew what He was doing when He brought dogs and people together as companions. Our lives have been made that much richer with the brief time we had with Mindy and we will always remember her as a faithful and honorable friend.