Changing the world

blogDSCN7929Working for a non-profit organization can be one of the most rewarding of jobs as well as discouraging at times.  I know because I’m employed by one.

Rewards flow abundantly when I witness first-hand how we make a difference in the lives of others.  But days of discouragement can also reign when I wonder if we’re truly gaining any ground.

I imagine that most of us who labor in the non-profit world do so not because of any personal gain but because we want to make the world a better place.  I know my fellow co-workers diligently strive to make such a change, to follow our passion for righting a wrong, to serve others, and introduce them to a more positive path for life.

When it comes to personality types, some of us non-profit employees are Doers, some of us are Relaters, and some of us are Influencers.  We may go about our work in diverse ways, but we have one thing in common.  We endeavor to actually accomplish our goals, we don’t just spout rhetoric.

“The world is blessed the most by men who do things, and not by those who merely talk about them.” ~ James Oliver

At times, our efforts seem overwhelming, even futile, and we need re-charged and refreshed to continue our tasks.  That’s exactly what occurred a short while ago at my place of employment.

Our Executive Director announced at weekly staff meeting one day that we should arrive at work on a particular Monday attired in comfortable clothes for a Staff Retreat Day.  She refused to give us details just reassured us that we would be treated to a surprise.  Our organization has undergone several major changes in the last two years, and as change sometimes can prove stressful and challenging, she and our Board of Directors wanted to thank us all for “hanging in there.”

On a crisp, sunny morning we gathered at the office and were whisked off to a lovely country house owned by a friend of our organization.  We settled down in her welcoming home and were served our choice of hot tea, special coffees, hot chocolate, or hot apple cider with several types of mini-muffins to munch on and of course, lots of chocolate candy.  While we sipped and unwound, a Board of Directors member encouraged us with an inspirational message and prayer.  A time of sharing insights about our co-workers’ strengths followed.

Our hostess, who definitely has the gift of hospitality, called us to her dining room where a beautifully decorated table greeted us and we enjoyed a delicious lunch.   But our retreat day wasn’t over yet!  Another friend of our organization, a professional massage therapist, joined us for our afternoon surprise.   Each staff member received a warm soak in a foot spa machine followed by a foot massage, then a back and neck massage, and finally a paraffin wax treatment for our hands.

And as the info-mercials say, “But wait, that’s not all!”  Savoring a delectable chocolate dessert and another hot beverage completed our day of pampering.  Our hostess with the ‘mostess’ presented us with a parting gift – a beautiful red apple sitting atop a small carton of caramel dip all dressed up in a pretty package.  As she randomly passed the treats out to us, she asked us to read a message tied to each one.   Somehow, each message, though different, fit each recipient.

I found my message, “You can change the world!”  interesting and apt, because that is what I attempt to do with the young people I’m privileged to see in schools….change their perspective, change their behavior, change their futures, change their lives in a positive way, one person at a time.

It’s the 29th page in Chapter 9 in my book of Opportunity today.  This book (the year 2011) only has a few more chapters to go, then it will be finished and a new book will begin.   So today, I’ve been seriously contemplating that message I received on our day of pampered blessing and how it meshes with my year of opportunity.

I don’t want to be one of those people who just sits around talking about and waiting for the world to change.  God planted a desire in me to actively help transform people’s lives, which is exactly what I’ve done the last 10 years at my non-profit job.  But lately, I’ve wondered if it was time for me to move on to something else.  Now though, I’m sensing that the Lord doesn’t want me to stop just yet.

And I believe God doesn’t want me to stop sharing my faith journey with my readers.   Daniel 2:20-22 says: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.  He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things;  He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.”

Only He can make a real change in me and you.   All we have to do is ask Him.   And then He equips us to go out and really change the world.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Never fully dressed without a smile

pexels-photo-736842.jpegThere’s nothing as contagious as a smile.  “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing,”  Mother Teresa once said.

Today I made a little boy smile and that brought joy to not just me but to other children also.  And that made my heart happy.

My work for a non-profit takes me into schools, both public and private.  Usually, however, I perform my job in high schools, seldom do I visit with children younger than sixth grade.

So today was unusual.  My colleague and I were talking to teenagers at a health fair about making good choices for a healthy future.  In between chats with teens, elementary students also started making rounds at the fair.

My co-worker, a young man with no children, looked panicked for a brief moment at the thought of having to interact with little people instead of cool teenagers.   But the Mom in this empty nest Mama came out at the sight of those little ones.

A troupe of kindergartners came by our table en route to a more child-friendly table and were thrilled to pluck silly bands out of the plastic bag of animal shapes we offered them.  After spending so much time with 7-12th grade students, I thought these little ones were so darn cute.

Another class marched single file past us and stood in line for the game next door.  So  after offering them their silly bands, I asked the children what grade they were in.  “Second grade!” came the jubilant reply from two or three of them.  But the little boy directly in front of me did not answer, just looked at me and frowned.

“Second grade?!”  I exclaimed.  “You’re getting so old!”  I made an exaggerated face.  And they all laughed.  Except frowny boy.  He scowled at me.

Aha, a challenge.  So I eyed him up and said, “You don’t look happy to be here like your friends do.”  He scowled a little deeper.  The sweet little girl next to him said, “Oh, he’s always like that, he NEVER smiles!”

“Never?”  I peered at him as his frown grew worse.  “Ever?”  I asked as I got down on his level and looked right into his cute little face.  He knitted his brow, pursed his lips and his frown turned into a really grumpy one.

So I, of course, made a grumpy face back at him.  He answered my grimace with an even sterner look which I then matched and used my hands to pull my frown down even more.  His classmates giggled and giggled.  And I saw a fleeting glimpse of a smile start at the edge of his mouth which he promptly turned into an even greater frowny face.

“Oh no!!!” I said pulling my own frowny face down more,  “I think we’ll have to start crying now!”  And all of a sudden, he couldn’t maintain the grouchy grumps any longer.  His lips started to move, he tried so hard not to, but he burst into not just a smile, but a little laugh out loud.

“You made him smile!!” his classmates yelled.  “No one ever makes him smile!”  And they laughed, and he laughed and I laughed.  And then he put his grumpy Gus face right back on his cute little face.

Inspirational writer Mary H. Waldrip said, “A laugh is a smile that bursts.”  And for one brief moment, when that little guy’s smile burst into a laugh, I made his heart glad and he did wonders for mine on Page 15, Chapter 4 in my book called Opportunity.

“It takes a lot of work from the face to let out a smile, but just think what good smiling can bring to the most important muscle of the body… the heart.”  ~ Author Unknown

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The good, the bad and the yummy

people-woman-coffee-meeting.jpgI thought perhaps opportunity really was knocking at my door today on Page 24, Chapter 3, in my book of Opportunity.

Turns out the opportunity I thought I might find didn’t materialize, but another one appeared in its place.

The long and short of it can be described in three ways:

  • The Good: I got to spend the entire day with three of my favorite co-workers at a job related meeting in the city.  It was fun traveling with them and we had a great idea for lunch at a restaurant two of us had never eaten at before.   There were some great snacks at the meeting including the roasted red pepper hummus with pita chips and fresh strawberries we brought.
  • The Bad:   For me, the meeting was a bust.  I thought I would learn something new and different there that I could use in my work, something to jazz things up a little or at least a new resource.  But no, that opportunity did not happen.  It was just business as usual, nothing to get excited about or even want to take home.    Plus sitting on a folding chair for a good three hours without a break made me squirm uncomfortably in my seat while my back let me know it was not a happy camper!
  • The Yummy:  Even though we saw the eatery we wanted to visit, and drove right past it, parking in that area of the city is at a premium.  We couldn’t find a place to park and ended up on a route taking us out of the city – the wrong way.  But we stopped at a familiar place that serves sandwiches famous to our city.  I don’t know if it was because it was so late in the afternoon and I was starving or whether the sandwich was just that good, but I ate the entire thing! Usually, I take half of it home to eat at a later time.

Two out of three.  Not bad.  The opportunity to spend the day with friends and a yummy lunch to boot – priceless.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A reward that’s better than a pony

pexels-photo-297201.jpegI wonder if some of the most famous American innovators ever spun their wheels.

I imagine Thomas Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park, diligently working away in his laboratory devising various mechanisms to see what worked best at bringing his inventions to reality.  I can’t really imagine him just toodling around his workshop idling meandering from one thing to another and not completing a darn thing.

I think about people like Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford and countless other famous inventors.   As they tinkered, designed, contemplated and planned, I wonder how they handled days when they didn’t accomplish much.   They surely must have had “one of those days” when they didn’t achieve what they set out to do that day.

Great minds like theirs must have been sharply focused.  How else could they bring their ideas to fruition?  Alexander Graham Bell once stated, “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Focus wasn’t one of my strong points today.  I just spent several hours at my job and I felt like a whirling dervish – spinning around and around but not really accomplishing much.  Days like today really grate on my nerves.  I’m one of those task-driven individuals.   I like lists and I really like crossing things off the lists.

I don’t know who said “A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it” but I wholeheartedly agree.  That’s why days when I get easily distracted or sidetracked leave me feeling irritated.  I don’t like aiming at nothing.  I want to place the target in my cross-hairs and blast the thing.  Boom.  Done.  Finished.  That’s how I roll.

My aim on my target was off today.  Too many distractions, too many interruptions, too much activity going on in my office, too much to accomplish.  I’m not sure on which to hang the blame for my inability to focus today.

Motivational speaker and writer Denis Waitley says, “Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”  That seems like sound advice to me.

I’m pretty certain my husband is working on that theory at the present time, moving forward trying to find an answer.  He says he’s still looking for his pony.  If that statement totally confuses you, I’m not surprised.  Allow me to enlighten you.

My husband once met the late Ronald Reagan, two-term President of the United States.  A picture of them shaking hands graces a wall in my husband’s office.  So, according to something my hubby recently read, the pony idea comes from a story Reagan loved to tell.

Peter Robinson, Reagan’s speechwriter, wrote a book entitled, How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life.  The following is an excerpt from his book:

The Pony In the Dung Heap:  When Life Buries You, Dig – Journal Entry, June 2002.  Over lunch today I asked Ed Meese about one of Reagan’s favorite jokes. “The pony joke?” Meese replied. “Sure I remember it. If I heard him tell it once, I heard him tell it a thousand times.”

The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities — one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist — their parents took them to a psychiatrist.

First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys.  But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. “What’s the matter?” the psychiatrist asked, baffled. “Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?” “Yes,” the little boy bawled, “but if I did I’d only break them.”

Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. “What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. “With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”

“Reagan told the joke so often,” Meese said, chuckling, “that it got to be kind of a joke with the rest of us. Whenever something would go wrong, somebody on the staff would be sure to say, ‘There must be a pony in here somewhere.'”

No doubt, Ronald Reagan loved to tell this story because he was such an optimist.  I think it’s a great story to personify focus as well.  When life hands us manure as it often does, we’ve got to keep looking for the pony – the very thing that makes going through the manure worth the effort.  That must be our focus.

And that thought reminds me of scripture.  So today as I near the end of Chapter One in my book of Opportunity, on this 27th page,  God reminds me:  “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13-15 (New International Version)

Even if I feel like I might be just spinning in circles, when my focus is on God, He has a better reward than a pony.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Just a box of rocks

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Have you ever just wanted to smack yourself silly because you couldn’t figure out something?

I encountered that this week while I was working on some statistical end-of-the year reports and I just couldn’t get my numbers to jibe.  Turns out I had made a dumb, small error that threw everything out of sync.

When that happens, a few phrases always come to my mind.  Quirky little sayings like “Couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag.”

Some funny descriptive expressions exist to paint a picture of myself doing something stupid or when I think someone else is being truly dumb.  I’ve uttered those locutions on more than one occasion, (ok, I can be honest and admit it) especially while driving or when people don’t do their jobs correctly.

I started thinking about these expressions and could name quite a few because after all, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck!  Here’s a sampling of those I could recall:

  • A few bricks shy of a load.
  • Her elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.
  • Not playing with a full deck.
  • A few french fries short of a happy meal.
  • Not the brightest bulb on the tree.
  • The lights are on but nobody’s home.
  • Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
  • One taco short of a combination plate.
  • A few sandwiches short of a picnic.
  • Not the sharpest pencil in the box.
  • The wheel is turning but the hamster is dead.

And my all-time personal favorite – “The gate is down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn’t coming!”   Yep, sometimes people just seem “dumber than a box of rocks.”

My oldest daughter, a scientist who is definitely not dumber than a box of rocks, used to keep a box of rocks.  When she was younger, she would pick up stones wherever we roamed and find something that appealed to her about them, enough to want to squirrel them away.

She stashed them in a box in her closet, and that box always accompanied us on our moves cross country.  Matter of fact, I suspect that it still takes up residence with some of her other girlhood mementos on that closet shelf.  (Note to oldest daughter:  You forgot to go through your “too much stuff” when you were home.  Just a reminder from here:   https://mamasemptynest.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/391/)

Some of the rocks were shiny, polished and even brightly colored, ones that she purchased with her souvenir money on our vacation trips.  Others were rough and ordinary looking, but in her eyes they must have been treasures.  I often wondered why she was so fascinated with those pebbles and stones.  Of course, to me they were just a box of rocks, and a heavy one to boot.

I was reminded of this yesterday while I was fighting with my column of numbers.  During my frustration, I glanced at the inspirational flip calendar on my desk.  In Chapter One, Page 5 (January 5th) of my book of Opportunity this was written:

“Rough treatment gives souls, as well as stones, their luster.  The more the diamond is cut the brighter it sparkles; and in what seems hard dealing, there God has no end in view but to perfect His people.” ~Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, writer/philosopher

When we encounter rough patches in our lives, we may think that we are dumber than a box of rocks, but God sees a diamond in the rough when He looks at us.  Often we have to endure the hard times because they give us the opportunity to really shine.

And I think my oldest daughter must have known this as a very little girl.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

New catalog delivered every morning

pexels-photo-53874.jpegNewness.  Most people love new items.  A child unwraps a package to find a new toy.  Fun!  A young man purchases a new car.  Excitement!  A young mother delivers a new baby.  Joy!

New shoes.  New jobs.  New friends.  The arrival of fresh acquisitions, discoveries, experiences or just something different often makes us overwhelmingly happy.   Some people love the idea of newness to such a degree that they will try to replicate the experience. That’s why an air freshener called “new car smell” exists.  It’s as if smelling that odor again will recreate that feeling of driving a spanking brand new vehicle off the car lot.

This morning, on Page 4 of my Chapter One (January 4th) in my book of Opportunity (2011), excitement permeated the air at my office.  Our non-profit has been planning a new initiative for a very long time.  Dreaming, discussing, praying, preparing, arranging and fundraising have been in the works for years and now the dream is finally becoming reality.  Now that’s exhilarating!

A vital component for this new initiative arrived this morning.  Our staff and a couple of volunteers were on hand to greet the arrival.  We couldn’t wait until it got there.  We watched the door.  We didn’t want to miss a thing!

We even took pictures and I’m quite certain the delivery men thought we were nuts.  So we took pictures of them too!  Someone watching us would no doubt have been very amused to see grown women get so animated over a delivery.  But that’s how new things affect us.

I admit I’m a little quirky and some of the things that float my boat would make another person yawn.  One odd category of items that excites me is new office products.  Yes, you just read that correctly…office products.

As long as I can remember, I have loved all of those gizmos and gadgets that make an office run smoothly.  No doubt, this unique affection came from my days as a little girl playing “office” with my dad’s leftover assortment of office forms and items from his job.

At one of my former jobs, nothing made my day like a trip to the office supply closet.  I would stand there surveying those shelves of goodies like a hungry kid in a candy shop.  I was especially enamored with a product called “tacky finger,” which we used to make our way through pages and pages of documents, and these cute, little colored clips we used to mark pages that needed corrected.

Shopping excursions to stores like Staples and Office Max send me into outer orbit.  I literally drool as I wander up and down the aisles of such treasures.  I’m particularly a sucker for anything new boldly displayed in front of me.  When my husband worked as a sales rep for an office supply company, I would almost jump up and down with glee every time he came home from a trade show with bags of “goodies.”

New pens of many colors, ohhh so nice.  Notebooks of various sizes and shapes, oooo.  Highlighters,  staplers, paper clip dispensers, rulers, sticky notes, cute colored paper clips, labels, folders….you name it, I love it!  I still have a secret stash of pens that no one but me is allowed to use.

So today our office manager handed me a treat.  To her, it was an ordinary catalog which arrived in our mailbox, and one that she almost chucked into the trash can!  But at the last minute, she asked me, “Do you by any chance want this catalog?”

All it took was one look at the thick office products offering in her hands and I was deliriously happy.  As I turned the pages, I oohed and aahed (but not out loud!) at the items in that book.  Perusing all of those new office supplies gave me such joy.

And that’s when it occurred to me.  God gives us a new catalog every morning, but He asks us to take the opportunity to fill it with things worthy of making Him smile, things to give glory and praise to Him.  It reminds me of a verse and chorus of an old but meaningful song, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

New mercy poured out on me and you morning after morning.  Now that’s something to really get excited about, don’t you think?

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Such a pain in the angst

pexels-photo-326603.jpegI’ll never forget him.

Situated in the back of the classroom, his enthusiasm for class bubbled over every day.  He was a little taller than the average 8th grade student and sported a mop of curly hair on his head that actually bounced when he walked.

Cute as a button, he had a broad, impish smile that lit up his cherubic face, accented his dimples, and could warm the coldest of hearts.  He could be a bit of a goof-off,  yet I noticed that he was very intelligent and possessed a maturity level beyond his teenage years.

My work for a non-profit takes me into schools, community organizations, and churches where I communicate with teens about making wise life decisions.  I will never forget the teen boy I described above because while we as a class were discussing problems and difficulties teenagers sometimes experience, he uttered this response, “Oh, you mean teenage angst!”

Other students seemed dumbfounded and asked, “Huh?”  “What did he say?”  “What is THAT?”

I allowed him to explain what he meant, and he did quite well, ending with another phrase most teenagers totally understand. “It’s being emo,” he explained and the classroom all seemed to say “Oh!” at the same time.

Teenage angst.  The word angst comes from the German language and it is defined as “a feeling of anxiety, or apprehension, often accompanied by depression” or “a feeling of dread, anguish, or insecurity.”   Coupled with the word teenage, when angst looks at itself in a mirror, it would see teenage and think it was its own reflection – same image.

What teenager do you know who has never felt moments of angst?  Most of us can remember all too well those emotions from our own teenage years, even if it was back in the dark ages.  I’m certain that puberty, when our hormones kick into high acceleration, fuels most of those feelings of apprehension and insecurity.  When a youngster is in the middle of turmoil, it’s difficult for them to believe that eventually the things that seem so important to them now won’t matter in the future.

Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time and warn my own teenage self that some issues just are not worth the worrying, crying yourself to sleep over, or wasting so much time and energy on.  If I could save my teenage self from all those wasted feelings of angst, here is what I’d say:

  • Not getting official “Monkee” boots, or go-go boots, or a genuine leather jumper doesn’t make you a loser.  Someday you will develop your own sense of style and not want to dress just like everyone else.
  • Don’t give your heart away to the first boy who acts like he likes you because chances are he likes five other girls besides you.  (And he’s not good husband material, anyway!)
  • No matter how much you think you love him and daydream about him, you will not meet and marry Davy Jones of The Monkees!  But that’s okay, because the man you do marry is soooooo much better.
  • That hair cut, no matter how bad it seems, will grow out.  As for beauty tips, stop wearing blue eye shadow and white lipstick.  Neither one looks good on you.
  • Not making the drill team is not the end of the world.  When you are in your 20’s and enjoying your career, no one will care whether you were a pom-pom girl or not.
  • Don’t believe all the stories other teenage girls tell you especially when there is a boy involved.  Girls can be devious, so if Roseanne tells you Johnny likes you and wants to meet you at the dance, don’t run after Johnny.   Instead be available when Sam comes looking for you because Roseanne found out Sam was interested in you and she wanted Sam all for herself.  (And she convinced Johnny to “like” you for just one week, so Sam gave up and started liking her!)
  • Not having rich parents and having to earn your own money is not a detrimental thing.  You will know the value of a dollar, make and spend your money wisely, and appreciate the lesson your parents taught you.
  • Stop whining about the fact that your dad won’t let you “car date” until you’re over 16.  He knows what he’s doing.
  • Don’t go out with the first boy to ask you just because you think you need a boyfriend.  Get to know him first, see if you even have anything in common, and consider what kind of person he is.  (And again, he’s not really good husband material!)
  • Never, never, never like a boy who tells you he will break up with his long-time girlfriend for you.  No matter what he says, he will always go back to her and you will end up with a broken heart.  (Another one who’s not husband material!)
  • Unfortunately, you will not always be a size 5, so enjoy it while you can and don’t worry that you are too skinny because the day will come when you worry that you’re too fat.
  • When you really aren’t compatible with your boyfriend, don’t keep dating him just so you can attend your Senior Prom.  Proms can be highly over-rated and not fun at all when you fight with him all night.
  • Make sure you come home before your curfew.  If you don’t, be assured your dad WILL be waiting up for you.
  • If the guy you date lies to you, cheats on you, and demonstrates extreme jealousy, don’t believe for one second that he is going to change.  You will just prolong the drama by not breaking up with him immediately. (And he REALLY is not husband material!)
  • Be thankful for your circle of girlfriends.  When you’re 50, it won’t matter that you were not in the popular clique.  Some of your school friends are going to be your best friends for life.   Cherish them and stay connected to them.
  • Cut your mother some slack!  She does not hate you; she’s just in the throes of menopause.  Someday, you’ll be just as cranky, irritable, and sleep-deprived as she seems, probably worse.
  • Try to understand that your parents are concerned for your safety and well-being, that’s why they don’t want you getting into cars with people they don’t know,  they want to know where you’re going and with whom, and they’re not crazy about that guy with the motorcycle either.  You will have three teenagers of your own and you’ll finally understand why your parents were so “over-protective.”
  • Learn how to study well and efficiently.  Those good grades you take for granted in high school despite not studying won’t get you through college, where you learn you have to work and study hard for that degree.
  • Be assured that as an adult you will marry a wonderful man, give birth to three amazing children, and have a very fulfilling life.  You will do things you never dreamed of doing, see things you never thought you’d experience, and you will not pine for high school days whatsoever.  The best years are yet to come!

Finally, I would tell my teenage self what I tell the teenagers I interact with today.  “Take good care of your future because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.” ~ Unknown

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Wrap up your gratitude

blogDSCN7208My notebook of quotes often supplies me with just the right thought for my blog entry.

Today’s words of wisdom from my handy-dandy notebook:  “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a gift and not giving it.”

I’m not sure who first uttered this proverb, but it personifies my thoughts extremely well today.  Here’s a peek at what is inside my gift of gratitude on this day.

Yesterday was a gloriously sunny day with temperatures in the mid to high 60’s; the sun graced us with its presence, which made a lovely Indian summer kind of day.  The weather was perfect for our non-profit’s fund-raising event, for which I am so grateful.

We held both a luncheon and banquet at a golf club in our area, which is located at the summit of a hill.  The view from there is so lovely.  Enjoying the mild weather was a gracious gift because one year very cold, windy, icy weather prevented some guests from attending our event and also threatened our safety as several attendees skidded off the long, downhill drive from the venue.  No mishaps like that this year, thank goodness.

I am also thankful that our event was well-attended (20 tables of eight people) at the luncheon and 47 tables at the dinner).  The entire day was tiring for those of us on staff, yet  delightful at the same time.

Our guest speaker brought smiles to our faces and laughter to our hearts, yet reminded our guests how vital our work is and that we cannot continue our life-saving endeavors without their investment.   For him and his service, I am grateful.  And I howled at his jokes too, so I’m thankful for how laughter makes our hearts merry.

I’m appreciative of those who shared their talents, whether it was singing, decorating, running the sound equipment, or emceeing, and their time to help us promote our cause.  I’m grateful to our Almighty God who brought a troubled client to our door, equipped us to save her life, her sanity, and lead her to salvation, and planted the desire and courage in her heart to share her testimony in person with our guests.

My heart is filled with gladness for the opportunity to visit with friends old and new as we shared fellowship and good food yesterday.  I am amazed how God used us to bless others, whether it was the golf club’s management, catering and wait staff, or the baker who baked and decorated almost 70 cakes (dessert was the table centerpiece),  and how they in turn blessed us.

My mind is in awe of the direction and vision our youthful Executive Director and supportive Board of Directors is taking our organization.  We are launching into exciting and new territory as God leads us, and I am grateful for the privilege of being a staff member and witnessing first hand how His hand is guiding us.

My gift of gratitude is overflowing today and there is much more I could convey, but I will share one more item of thankfulness.  My husband could not join me as a table co-host last night as we planned.  His car broke down as he drove home from work, making him not just late, but unable to drive to the event.

Even though I was disappointed that he could not attend the fund-raiser and we found out today that it is going to cost a small fortune to repair the car, I am so grateful he wasn’t stranded, that he made it home safely and was not injured.

And here’s my thought for today – life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan;  there are always glitches, some minor, some major.  But there’s also always something we can wrap up in our gift of gratitude, present to God in thanksgiving, and bestow on others if we choose to do so.

So my gift of gratitude is bedecked in exquisite wrapping paper today, all tied up with a fluffy, brightly colored ribbon.  I want to present this gift to you, my reader, in hopes that today you will take a moment to step off the treadmill of life and reflect on the blessings you have this day.  Wrap up your own gratitude gift, say a prayer of thanksgiving,  and pass it on to those for whom you are thankful.

“Life is an echo — what you send out comes back.” ~ unknown

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Apology please?

I’m sorry, so sorry.  Please accept my apology.  Why are those words so difficult to say?

pet-kitten-cat-lying.jpgBefore you read any further, just let me say I apologize for the following entry.  If you checked in today to read something uplifting, I’m sorry, you will not find that here.  If you thought my blog would give you a good laugh, or an encouraging word, or a thought to ponder, forgive me please, not today.

This week is busy, I’m tired and a little cranky, add in a few occurrences that raised my dander, and the result is I’m subjecting you to a rant.  If you want to leave now, I don’t blame you.  I’ll never know you clicked on that red square with a white X on it and left my blog site early.  I won’t hold it against you if you check out now.

But if you’re still reading, I truly want to know what you think.  Hang in there with me, read what happened, and then please let me know your thoughts.

I have an upcoming event that I must attend.  I work part-time for a non-profit organization and every year we must fund-raise to sustain our yearly budget.  One of our major events is a fancy fund-raising banquet.  My problem is a typical female problem – I have nothing to wear!

This year we are also holding a fund-raising luncheon on the same day, so it will be a long, tiring day and wearing high heels is not going to be an option as I will be on my feet a lot.  So I stopped by a shoe store today to look for a nice pair of black but cute flats to wear.

The store wasn’t very busy, only a couple of customers besides me.  I was there maybe 10 or 15 minutes, found a pair of shoes, and proceeded to the counter to pay for them.  I was not prepared for what assaulted my ears and my propriety next.  The sales person without even looking up dropped the f-bomb on me.  Her comment was “I’m not going to get any #@#$*/#  sleep this week.”

I literally just stared at her when she finally looked up.  She opened her mouth and eyes and said, “Ohhhhh.”  And then she said she was embarrassed and thought I was the other sales clerk, who then appeared and asked what happened.  The second clerk laughed and said, “You’ll have to excuse her, she’s tired and works two jobs.”

I know she didn’t purposely say the word to me but you know what? I didn’t want to excuse her.  I didn’t say “that’s ok” because really I don’t think it is okay.  And I didn’t laugh with them.

So when did working two jobs excuse you to drop expletives on your customers?  And why did she feel it was appropriate to use foul language in a place of business anyway?  I might add that there were children in the store as well.  A few years ago, she would have been fired for using that word in front of a customer.

I wanted to say to both of them, “Excuse me? Do you really feel it’s appropriate to laugh that off?”  That’s probably not the best attitude on my part, but I am extremely fed up with being affronted by obscenity and profanity every where I go.  I’ve had it!  I get just as weary, angry, or frustrated as any other human being, but I do not blast foul language on anyone who happens my way.  To me, it’s a matter of respect, decency, and politeness.

So I just looked at both of them and kept waiting for it…..an apology, at least.   It didn’t come.  I thought of just walking out of the store, if I hadn’t needed the shoes so badly.

The clerk just kept mumbling that she was embarrassed, but obviously not enough to apologize for using profanity in front of a customer.  Instead of apologizing, she tried to sell me shoe care products, which I politely declined.

The other clerk decided to add a story about the time she also used a nasty word and hadn’t realized she had said it.  I still didn’t laugh.  I just said, “I hope you have a better day tomorrow” as I paid for my shoes.  Finally, as she handed me my bag, she mumbled almost inaudibly “sorry.”

My questions to you:

  • Was I wrong for how I handled it?  Was I wrong to expect an apology?
  • How do you respond when someone uses profane language in front of you?
  • Are you as tired of hearing it as I am?  Or am I just an old cranky fuddy-duddy?

Thanks for reading my rant.  I’m sorry, I had to get it off my chest.  But at least you can be happy for me because I do have new cute shoes.

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Time may change me, but I can’t change time

blogIMG_3498Time has changed something significantly.  And I think it’s me.

When I was younger, the day designated as “fall back day” (at least that’s how I grew up remembering the time changes in Daylight Savings Time – “fall back and spring forward”)  never seemed to affect me much. 

Who wouldn’t want an extra hour to sleep in on a Sunday morning??  That meant you could stay out later on Saturday night!

But the older I get, the more my sleep rhythm (or sometimes lack of one) doesn’t want anyone messing it up, whether we’re saving an hour or not.  Saturday night I had difficulty getting to nighty-night land, but chocked it up to the reality that when I turned in at 11:45 p.m., my internal clock said it was 10:45 p.m.  So no wonder, my mind told me, you’re not really sleepy yet.  Well, a few tosses this way, a few turns that way, and I probably didn’t nod off until well after 1 a.m. (which my brain said was midnight).

It was relaxing and restful to wake up Sunday morning and realize I could take my own sweet time getting ready for church.  No hustling and bustling, in and out of the shower in a flash, trying to straighten the hair when it’s still a little damp, grabbing a bowl of cereal and a few sips of hot tea, and rushing out the door to arrive at worship on time.  Instead we had so much extra time that hubby and I ate a hot, cooked breakfast, something we haven’t done in awhile and we arrived at church with minutes to spare.

All day though, I felt like I couldn’t stay still; I wasn’t content to stay home like usual on a Sunday afternoon, reading the paper and working a crossword puzzle, maybe watching a little football with hubby.  I didn’t even want to sit still long enough to write an entry for this blog!

Instead, my body and mind wanted to launch into hyper-drive. Go to the grocery store and have a shopping marathon there, yes!  Put all the groceries away and want to climb back in the car to go somewhere else?  Yes!  So hubby and I headed to a local mall, where we thought we’d grab a bite to eat for dinner and use a gift card we’d been given for Olive Garden.  However, waiting for a table was involved.

Did we want to clutch that vibrating device that informs you that you are next to be seated?  No!  We didn’t want to wait.  I can’t explain why, I just felt like I was stuck in fifth gear – overdrive – for some reason, which meant no waiting!

At another restaurant, we were seated immediately and ordered from the menu in no time flat.  An hour later, we possessed full bellies and satisfied appetites, but I still wasn’t ready to head home.  Instead, we did a bit of Christmas shopping.  Kids, wait until you see the suprises in your Christmas stockings this year!

Spinning my wheels all day like a hamster on his exercise spinner,  I thought I’d be tired and definitely ready for the comfort of my bed.  Hubby, who never has problems falling asleep, started nodding off on the couch long before bedtime, most likely due to the fact I ran his legs off all day.

He actually turned in early.  Sometimes I really envy his ability to fall asleep so easily.  I stayed up, watched TV, checked out the news, and then decided I really should try to catch some zzz’s myself.

Didn’t happen, at least not for a while.  More tossing and turning ensued.  I stared at my clock, and realized it did not display the correct time.  Got up, changed it, then accidently hit the button that turns on the radio, scared hubby who mumbled, blinked at me, then rolled over, and promptly returned to dreamland. I think I may have finally succumbed to the Sandman around 2 a.m.

Of course, I had to work today, so I needed to arise early.  My morning was screwy.  A series of mishaps occurred to threaten my arriving at work on time.  There was spilling of liquids, wrinkled shirt to be pressed, dropping of lunch items, flat iron that got plugged in but not turned on.  Just stupid little but highly irritating things.

As I scurried into my office, I tripped and almost fell on the concrete walkway, and of course, that meant spilling my travel mug of hot tea.  When I placed my lunch in our office refrigerator, I dropped it (again!) and knocked over several things already on the shelf – made enough noise that my boss probably wondered what the heck I was doing in the kitchen.

Walking to my desk, I noticed my wall clock needed the hour turned back, and of course, as I stretched to reach and take it off the wall, the picture hanger, which holds the clock in place, fell off the wall and behind my desk, back in the no-man’s land where the convolution of computer, printer, telephone, and electrical cords all weave in and out in a huge mess of cable.

Couldn’t reach it, so I crawled on my hands and knees and tried to inch it out with my ruler (no pun intended).  I did have the presence of mind to lock the door which I was crawling in front of because I had visions of my co-worker arriving and smacking me silly with the door as she opened it.

So here’s the deal.  When the time changes, so do I.  I become a little off-kilter, out of balance, and it takes a few days for my body and mind to right itself.  I blame this on aging and not being able to adjust to changes as easily as I once did with a younger body and mind.

As I was bemoaning to myself and getting cranky, this thought occurred to me:  no matter how bad your day is, someone else out there in that huge, wide world is having a worse day than you.  My days of feeling “a little off” are nothing compared to the sufferings others have.

My “bad day” today was like a quote I once read, “You know it’s a bad day when you put your bra on backwards and it fits better.”   A little odd, funny even, but not earth-shattering.

I don’t pay too much attention to motivational speakers, but one of them wrote this: “The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.” (Dennis S. Brown)  Well, Mr. Brown, I do agree with you.  I realized this morning after I loudly said “I quit!” and my boss looked at me with shock (I meant I surrendered hopes of having a good day) that I needed an attitude adjustment.

And shortly after giving myself an attitude check, I received an email from a young friend who works with me.  He was a couple blocks from home on his way to meet with me at work, when another driver ran a red light and plowed into him.  Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt, but his car was; he had to walk home.  It’s safe to say my friend was having a bad day, but that’s life, no matter how old or young you are.

“There are good days and there are bad days, and this is one of them.” — Lawrence Welk, Musician and Television Host

And tomorrow, God willing, will be another “one of those days.”

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com