Posts Tagged ‘attitude’

Newport, Oregon, Nye Beach We sit in the comfy chairs on the third floor of the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, gazing out at the gray sky and the rolling white caps. It’s our 36th anniversary, and we came to celebrate in this wonderful book-filled hotel. But my mouth hurts from the tooth that had to be extracted yesterday, and husband is coughing from the cold he caught recently. In our younger days, this might have ruined our special day.Sylvia Beach Hotel

However 36 years give one a little perspective. Seagulls soar past the windows, pushed by the wind. The sun peeks out briefly to light up the waves. Husband sketches a beach scene; I write these words. The ocean beats a constant rhythm into our souls. We are at peace.

Life needn’t be perfect to be good. So many times our expectations prevent us from enjoying the blessings we receive. We want the perfect job, the perfect wedding, the perfect spouse, house, and kids. But life has more glitches than a new computer system, and perfection is a rare commodity here on earth.

Newport, OR beach with gullsMy husband’s uncle had a stroke. While Uncle John partially recovered, he remained weak on one side and had difficulty speaking. A former outdoorsman, he took up painting with his good hand. He made the most of what he had. And whenever he was asked how he was—or many other questions for that matter—his answer was always “Good enough.”

And what’s so wrong with “good enough?” We all have things that keep our lives from being perfect—whether health issues, money problems, disagreements with family or neighbors, job hassles, whatever. We can spend our days bemoaning our problems, or we can accept what we are given and make the most of it. We can enjoy the blessings we are given.dark clouds at beach

The waves keep pounding onto the sand, an ever-changing, but ever-the-same pattern. Dark clouds promise rain. We sit side-by-side, staring out the window, sharing the beauty of the moment. Thirty-six years. Years filled with smiles and tears, joys and frustrations. Not perfect years, but definitely “good enough.”

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Springwater Trail, Boring, OregonInertia. Back in school I learned that inertia is the tendency of a body at rest to stay at rest and the tendency of a body in motion to stay in motion. Inertia explains why you are pushed back into your seat when the car or bus moves suddenly forward—and why the car won’t stop immediately when you hit the brakes. It’s a good principle to know.

Inertia applies in other ways, too. Like to my exercise program. During the Christmas holidays I didn’t get out running much. After the holidays ended, I caught a nasty bug that was going around and didn’t have the energy to exercise for two weeks. And then work got really busy, and I was spending too many hours on my rear in front of the computer. When a day finally came that I was able to get out and run, I really didn’t want to. I knew I needed to, but I did not want to. Inertia wanted to keep this body at rest.Sun through clouds

Once I pushed myself—with help from hubby—to get out and move, it wasn’t so bad. I did two miles and felt good about it.

 … At this point, I intended to turn inspirational and tell you all how I kept at my running program, and it just got better and better. Inertia keeping my body in motion and all that. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Work and bad weather kept me inside for a while longer. The next time I got out to run, I tried to do my usual three miles. It was a disaster. My legs tired quickly, and I think the pace of my walk breaks was faster than that of my running. The next day my legs ached, and my right knee kept giving out. I skipped a couple more days of running, and my next outing was not fun at all. Apparently inertia is not so easily overcome.

Maya, our black labIt takes a force to overcome inertia; the greater the mass, the greater the force required. Can that be why it’s easier to get our dog to move than me? Hmmm. Might be some other principles involved there, too. Still, it can be done. We ran on the Springwater Trail yesterday—just 2.5 miles, so as not to overdo it. Trees were beginning to leaf out, flower buds were swelling, signs of spring everywhere. Beauty can be a force, too, at least for me. It makes the effort to keep those legs moving worthwhile.opening leaves of Indian plum

How about you? Where in your life is inertia keeping you from moving? And what force will it take to break inertia’s hold?

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Sunrise, 10-30-2013The dark gray haze of early morning is beginning to brighten, but the grass is still covered with frost.

“Time to go!” husband cheerfully cries. I look out the window and sigh.

The chill air makes me shiver as I step onto the porch.

“Didn’t we run later in the day last fall?” I ask, zipping my fleece as high as it will go.

“Maybe, but I like to get it done first thing in the day.” Husband is already jogging in place, patiently waiting for me to get warmed up. I take quick walking steps, easing into the run. Why was it I wanted to run anyway? And so early, when day has barely arrived?Mt. Hood and sunrise

Then I look up. Ah, sunrise. I had forgotten about sunrise. We run a bit, then I whip out my phone and take a picture. Further on, I stop again. Mt. Hood silhouetted by brilliant golden clouds. Yes, this is why early morning is the time to be out. Husband patiently waits. (See a pattern here?) I move on, inspired and beginning to warm up. And I keep watching the sky as the colors change and fade into streams of sunshine. A glorious fall day!

Morning sunlightFunny how life always seems better when you look up.

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Dad 2011Treasures come in many forms, sometimes quite unexpected. But an old pack of cigarettes?

My father died a couple of months ago, and so I am spending time at his house sorting papers and cleaning out cupboards and drawers, in preparation for an estate sale. The process brings back many memories, as I unearth old photo albums, wall hangings I remember from childhood, and other memorabilia. It can be a bittersweet time.

Yesterday was another day of interesting finds as I began going through his desk. An envelope containing half a dozen two dollar bills. Hmm. Wonder what those are worth today? A drawer full of those address labels that charities send out, hoping you will donate. If Dad had lived another hundred years, he couldn’t have used all of the labels he had there.Galatians 5:1

Then I pulled out something different. An old pack of cigarettes that looked like someone had started to open it and then stopped. Odd. My dad used to smoke. He had tried many times to quit, but never quite succeeded. Until my mother died of lung cancer. Actually it was the kind of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure, rather than cigarettes, but there was some speculation that secondhand smoke could have played a part. I never saw my father with a cigarette after that.

Now here was this old, yellowed pack of cigarettes. But there was something different about this package. Securely taped to both sides of the pack were Bible verses. On one side: “Galatians 5:7: For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.” And on the other side: “John 8:32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32This must have been the last pack of cigarettes my dad ever purchased. I could imagine him picking it up when he felt the urge to smoke, reading the verses, and then placing it back in the desk, gaining strength to resist one more time. How telling of my dad’s character that when he became determined to quit, he turned not to hypnosis or a patch, but to God. And he found what he needed to win the battle.

Treasures come in many forms, but I never expected to find one in an old pack of cigarettes.

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Family is one of the most important things in life. I’ve heard that many times, and I really believe it. But often I get so busy that family gets ignored, particularly family that doesn’t live in the same house. I intend to call or visit, but time flies, while I crawl along, loaded with the chores of everyday.

Last weekend I spent time with family. My brothers, husband, sister-in-law, and I took our father to the beach for two nights to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday. It was the first time I’d been to the beach with my brothers since we were kids. And it was wonderful!

We spent a lot of time remembering adventures—and misadventures—we’d had when we were little. “You know,” one brother said. “I can’t blame any problems I have on my childhood.” So true! We had a good childhood. Our parents weren’t perfect (although they didn’t make any more mistakes than I did with my kids!), but we always knew we were loved, and that they would be there for us anytime we needed them. That sense of security made childhood a safe place to explore and learn and grow.

We walked on the beach once the sun cleared out some of the clouds—at least all of us did except for my dad. Legs no longer steady enough for beach walking, he sat by the picture window, content to watch the crashing waves and kaleidoscope sky.

If any man fits Paul’s description in Philippians 4:12, it is my dad: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” He has been widowed twice, survived four types of cancer, been on three-times-a-week dialysis for years, and yet I rarely hear a word of complaint. “The secret to happiness is not feeling sorry for yourself,” he told me.

I’m so glad we could all spend the weekend together. It’s good to be with people who know and love me just the way I am. Not all families are like that, I hear. I feel so blessed!

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My husband and I returned recently from a two week trip to Japan, where we visited our son and saw some new places. I will have to do a post on Kamikochi soon; it was an amazingly beautiful place! However, today I want to talk about some of the people we met over there and the kindness shown to a couple of sometimes-confused Americans.

Police let children sit on their motocycles at the Karuizawa Half-Marathon

While my husband has been studying Japanese and can speak a bit, I know little beyond “Konnichiwa” and a sentence asking the location of a certain necessary room. However, everywhere we went, people were overwhelming gracious and helpful. I will mention just a few of those encounters here.

Matsumoto Castle

When we visited Matsumoto Castle, we noticed a group advertising free English-speaking tours. Our volunteer guide, Horoshi, led us on a wonderful tour, explaining the history and purpose of the castle and its various parts. He used our camera to take pictures of the two of us at different points in the tour. At the end, it was lunchtime, so we asked if he could recommend a nearby restaurant. Instead of giving directions, Horoshi led us several blocks to his favorite soba noodle café. When we offered to donate some money to his organization, he refused, although he did laughingly suggest that if we had a million dollars, we could donate that!

Bus Travel

Another time we needed to take a bus to the hotel near Kamikochi where we had reservations. We apparently looked confused at the station, as two different workers came out to tell us where to wait and which bus to take. When it arrived, they put our luggage aboard and talked to the driver. Later we realized that they had told the driver our destination—and that we had luggage to unload. The driver looked back and smiled at us when we arrived at our stop, as well as making sure we got our bags. The worker at the stop pointed out our hotel to us. And always, whether or not they spoke English, they offered help with a smile.

Tokyo train station

There were many other instances of kindness: Toshiro, an associate professor of civil engineering whom I met on the train, who offered to give us a ride from his stop to our destination a few miles away; the restaurant workers who patiently explained the menu to us as best they could, given their lack of English; those who pointed out where to wait for a train or where to find an elevator before we even asked; the friendly elderly couple who tried to talk with us as we all waited for the bus; the three giggly junior high girls who thought it was exciting—and apparently funny—to talk with visitors from America.

Power rangers at Karuizawa Half-Marathon

All of these people helped to make our trip to Japan a very pleasant memory.

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or If at First You Don’t Succeed

The squirrel came bounding across the yard and hopped up into the dogwood tree. There two choices awaited it. Should it go for the suet feeder, close to the trunk and easy to hold onto? Or would it be sunflower seeds today? That would involve a little more work, some gymnastics, and perhaps, a bit of luck.

The squirrel sat there on the branch, seemingly deep in thought. Then it pattered out on the branch holding the seed feeder. Another stop to think. A junco watched as the squirrel started down the wire to the feeder, then pulled back up. Was it worth it? For a moment, it pondered strategy. Then it tried again, slipping down the wire, back feet tightly grasping the branch above, hanging upside down next to the feeder. It carefully slid down the wire until the back feet held onto the top of the feeder.

Finally it could reach the seeds. Front paws grabbed the feeder, picking out little black nuggets. It ate a couple, reached back for more. Oops! Back feet slipped, and down went the squirrel. It plopped to the ground, dignity injured, but otherwise apparently unhurt. Okay, maybe it would just eat seeds off the ground for a bit, take the safe route.

But keeping a squirrel out of a tree is like keeping politicians off the stage. Not going to happen. Soon, confidence recovered, the furry guy was up there again, plotting its way to dinner.

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I love to watch the birds at the feeders outside my window. Each species has its own personality. The Steller’s jays sweep grandly in and dominate—until a flicker shows up and chases the jays from the feeder. The starlings come in noisy hordes, the bushtits in friendly little flocks.

The chickadees are especially friendly and easy-going. The chestnut-backed seem a bit friendlier than the black-capped, but neither is particularly shy. They can get a bit demanding when I don’t keep up with my feeding chores. But when the feeder is filled with good, black oil sunflowers, the chickadees flit about in the dogwood tree where the feeder hangs. One will zip in, grab a seed, and fly to a perch nearby to eat it. Then another swoops in. They patiently take turns, each picking up a single seed and eating it before coming back for more. Occasionally two or three will land on the feeder at the same time, but no one gets pushy.

The juncos aren’t quite so obliging. They don’t like to share the feeder, particularly with other species. They flap their wings at interlopers and seemed annoyed that others would want to move in while they are eating. Still they are models of courtesy compared to starlings. Starlings will share if they have to, but you can’t make them like it. They squawk and flap about on the suet feeder, greedily grabbing big mouthfuls of food.

However, for a true show of dominance, the squirrel is definitely tops. He’ll hang by his tail over the seed feeder, gobbling down as much as he can before he loses his grip on the branch above and has to drop off. Or curl his well-fed body around the suet feeder so no bird has a chance of sneaking in.

And meanwhile the polite little chickadees eat their seeds one at a time, cheerfully sharing and enjoying life, one moment at a time.

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Oases are places of rest and refreshment in the middle of the desert.Western Oregon lacks deserts, and therefore, also lacks oases—at least in the literal sense. However, two weeks ago I heard a sermon about oases, given by Dr. Lou Foltz, and the ideas have been simmering in my brain ever since.

 The message was, basically, that the church is an oasis of sorts, where we find spiritual refreshment. However, we can’t live in the oasis. We have to go back out into the desert to live, work, and help others, bringing them also to the oasis.

 That made me think about the oases in my life. Certainly, for me at least, the church is an oasis. I feel revived when I leave Sunday services, inspired to be a better person, and encouraged in my sometimes feeble attempts to serve. But church is not my only oasis. Home is another. When my children were small, home could be a chaotic place, but it was still a place where I could be myself. Now the nest has emptied, and home is a relaxing place, where I think and write, or put on loud music and dance, should the mood strike me.

 Natural places are also oases for me. I love getting out in the woods, walking on the beach, watching the sun set over a lake. The singing of birds and the rustling of leaves in the breeze fill me with peace. I learned long ago that I need my woods time to survive emotionally—and perhaps spiritually, as well.

 But then there’s the second part of the sermon. We can’t live in the oasis. I might like to be a hermit at times, but that’s not what I’m here for. I believe I’m here to help others—through encouragement, through practical gestures such as bringing food to a neighbor, through my writing, through the whole way I live my life. And so I must remember that those oases are not my goal, but simply way stations where I can renew my strength to continue the journey—even when that journey leads me through dry and dusty places.

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Late winter, and deciduous trees stand naked against the sky. In a month or so, buds will open and green leaves reach for the clouds. Pink and white blossoms will burst open on some of those trees, brightening rainy spring days. But now they stand stripped of decoration, bare branches spreading out.

With leaves gone, the form of the tree beneath can be seen. Some trees are pleasingly symmetrical with shapely limbs. My photographer’s eye relishes the beauty of their design. Others show ragged edges and broken branches; they have not weathered the storms as well. Each has a story to tell.

Life’s storms batter me, too. Most of the time I can hide my wounds under the leaves of activity, the blossoms of a smile. Nobody sees my pain, and I don’t see the hurts of those around me. We go about our lives with the breeze gently ruffling our days, appearing happy and fulfilled to anyone who glances our way.

But sometimes life strips away our defenses. A job is lost, a spouse dies, cancer strikes. We can no longer keep up the façade that all is well. Instead we find our innermost self exposed for all to see, our lives naked against the sky. When that happens, what pattern will I reveal? Will it be a broken form with stubby branches, or will people be inspired by the beauty that is within?

Lord, may my roots always be in You, so that my branches may grow strong.

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