Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is just for Z

Why couldn't I just be into zombies like everyone else? That would make this post so much easier to write. Zombie books! Zombie films! Zombie slang! However, I am looking forward to reading other bloggers today to see if I can get a glimpse into the appeal of Zombies. I don't get it.

I will leave you on this final day of the 2013 A to Z Blog Challenge with a video of my beloved U2 singing Zooropa on the 360 Tour. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yesterday

In honor of days gone by when children's literature and simple poetry were  part of every single day. Light and easy, today, folks, light and easy.


I found my box of rubber bands.
I’d lost them yesterday.
I’d moved them from a place I thought
I’d like for them to stay.

I found my missing bumbershoot.
My hair got wet with rain.
The sun came out, my hair was dry,
Before ‘twas found again.

I found my missing batteries,
My radio had died.
I missed the ballgame broadcast time
I sat right down and cried.

I found my other shoe. Oh boy,
My toes got cold without.
Just wearing socks and socks and socks
and socks to Hop about.

I found my keys, oh yes I did.
I feel so sheepish though.
I left them in the car you see,
And now poor car won’t go.

I found my brand new day today.
I thought it was all gone.
Huzzah! A new one everyday
Arising with the dawn.

With love,

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

AtoZ Blog Challenge: This Week in Review . . . S, T, U, V, W, and X

Week four of the blog challenge brought with it a little fatigue to go with the challenges of letter like U, W, and X. Getting to know all these bloggers and seeing how much creativity is in this little corner of the internet is enough to keep me going to finish up on Monday and Tuesday with Y and Z.
This week, I started out with some Storytelling about my sledding accident of 1974. I met some wonderful new people in the comments on this post.

Tuesday, to fulfill a promise I had made to my personal trainer, I compared Personal Training and ActivTrax, two methods of having supervised workouts at our YMCA. My trainer said it made his day.

Owing to having been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award by my blogger friend, Ida Chiavaro of Reflex Reactions, Wednesday's topic was U is for an Unexpected Honor.

Wednesday also found me rather low. I was supposed to fly to California, and instead went to the doctor and found out I had pneumonia. I was glad to have pre-written and scheduled my Wednesday post.

Thursday, I reflected about Viktor Frankl, author of the a wonderful book, Man's Search for Meaning.

W was for Wondrous, a lovely word that encapsulates how I see life.

I finished up this week with my post, X is for Xmas.

One of my most wondrous discoveries this week is the Finnish folk group, Värttinä. Enjoy the video that introduced me to this beautiful music:

Finally, a little shout-out to my son, who turns 19 today. Happy Birthday, J!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xmas.

But first, a brief, though affeXionate Xplanation about the perhaps less than Xceptional quality of this Xample of my Xpression. Dr. Pat Xplained on Wednesday that my Xcellent immune system had an unXpected encounter with some Xsisting pneumonia germs and I've been busy with the blitzkrieg to banish them. Now, on to X . . .

I remember hearing worried adults pontificating that using the word Xmas was an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas. Well, worry no more, ladies and gents. X is actually a substitute for the word Christ, as it derives from the first Greek letter of Christ, chi, which looks similar to the roman letter x.

Much ado about nothing, I say.

There was a time in the history of my Christmases that no one gave a second thought to the origins of the Christmas tree, or worried that belief in Santa Claus might undermine a child's faith in God (!), or freaked out about whether to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, or saw that discussion as an attack on one's beliefs. Oy vey, Xmas has gotten complicated.

While I'm not going to head out and pick up Merry Xmas cards, it is an awfully handy abbreviation for texting and quick notes and signs. Never mind that Xmas has even gone pretty much by the wayside these days for the more inclusive term Holidays. 

Whatever you celebrate, whenever you celebrate it, whatever you call it, make it meaningful and wondrous. 

What is your take on the word Xmas?

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Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Wondrous

Inspiring a feeling of wonder or delight; marvelous.
Marvelously; wonderfully.
wonderful - marvelous - marvellous - miraculous

I love the word wondrous. I associate it with the most marvelous experiences of my life, as well as a lot of things that might be considered to be fairly mundane. And it's one thing I really like about myself, the fact that I often have experiences where I am filled with wonder. 

For me, even though life has definitely had its exhausting moments and seasons, life is simply a wondrous experience.

Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson associates it with wisdom, another great W word. 

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
And Ms. Alice Walker demonstrates her wisdom about wonder in this beautiful quote:

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.” ― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple
How's your wonder quotient these days?

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Viktor Frankl, one seriously badass dude

During one of the watershed experiences of my life, I read Man's Search for Meaning. An unassuming little paperback, the content was dynamite. This man managed to find meaning in his existence in a Nazi concentration camp, and formulate a philosophy that says we have the bottom line opportunity in every situation in our lives to make a choice how we will respond. As he marched barefoot through the snow, he saw himself as having a choice whether or not he was going to do so. I think "We have no choice" is one of my least favorite phrases in the English language. Of course we have a choice.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. p104, Man's Search for Meaning

What do you think about having the freedom to choose?

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for an Unexpected Honor: The Liebster Blog Award

Little did I know when I began this AtoZ Blog Challenge that I would meet such wonderful people. Ida Chiavaro, blogger at Reflex Reactions, is one of those people. Not only does she write a wonderfully thought-provoking blog, but she graciously nominated me for my first ever blog award, the liebster blog award.

Answer 15 questions from my nominator

1. What is the nicest thing anyone ever said to me? When I asked Bono if I could get a photo with him, he said, "Of course."

2. Something my parents taught me: Laughter is the best medicine.

3. Have I ever dreamed of celebrities or famous people? Yes, U2 have been in my dreams a few times.

4. Do I have any quirks, rituals or superstitions? I like to look for my first name in the credits of movies. If it's a movie I like and my name is there, I take that as a good sign. If it's a movie I didn't like, and my name is there, I pretend like there's nothing to it!

5. What's the most amazing thing I have seen in the sky? Hands down, Northern Lights.

6. What's the craziest thing I have done with my hair? On a total whim my senior year in high school, I went and got a perm that well-and-truly gave me an afro.

7. Have I ever seen a baby being born? Yes and no. I've been awake and unmedicated for my own five births, but was too scared to actually LOOK at the moment of birth, not to mention too busy.

8. Have I ever been with someone when they died? I was with my sisters at my dad's bedside when he died.

9. Have I ever had a strange experience that I just can't explain? At the first college I went to which shall forever remain unnamed, I was lonely and homesick. Coming out of the campus post office one day when my post office box was just as empty as could be, I had a sense that I was receiving an actual hug from someone who I could not see. I could feel the hug.

10. Am I an excellent speller, bad speller, or thought I was good but use spell check a lot? I used to be an excellent speller (well, except for façade -- see below), but years of looking at misspellings and misuse of words on the internet has eroded my skills somewhat.

11. Do I have/have I had any pet(s)? Pick a favourite. I have no pets at this time. I learned from my father that animals were mostly pests, and I'm still looking forward to the day when I have a pet that I truly, deeply, madly love.

12. Where is question 12? There was no question 12. :-)

13. What was the last thing I said out loud? "I think Dad is going to do something with you."

14. Where am I sitting while I write this? I am sitting in my office at my desk, which is in a room I share with Kepler as his bedroom.

15. What does/do my name/names mean? Susan means "lily" in Hebrew. Depending on where you look, my name refers to motherhood, and to innocence. I was named after my father's great-aunt Sue, who filled in as a mother to dad's cousin. I never met her.

11 Facts about Myself

1. I was responsible for little black footprints on my parents' sidewalk because I ran across the just-refinished driveway (age 3). The footprints stayed for many, many years.

2. After winning the school spelling bee in 8th grade, I went to the next round -- the all-city written test. Having never heard the word façade pronounced aloud, I spelled it "pissade" because I couldn't figure out what in the world they were saying. (I did not move on to the next round!)

3. I once drove a combine during wheat harvest, but only for a few minutes. I felt pretty powerful!

4. My 3rd grade teacher sent me to stand in the hall because I suggested that "Little Red Hen" was a story for babies. Oh, she did not have patience for much of anything. I always wondered what was up with her.

5. I was a glorious flop on the diving team, although I had been "recruited" because of my notable diving.

6. One of my nicknames is "Tech Support @ Home" because I help my husband with all manner of technical issues, but mostly with his phone.

7. I was accused of shoplifting once. This is hilarious because I would be the last person in the world to steal something. The store gave me a $250 gift certificate in apology.

8. Caramel, not butterscotch, is my most favorite flavor.

9. I eat pie as an excuse to have real whipped cream.

10. I don't smoke, because the one time I tried it in high school, it made me nauseous, and that's all it took to put me off cigs permanently.

11. Mild-mannered me once went to a bowling alley where my sister was participating in a "lock-in" program and YELLED at the doorman to let me have my sister. Amazingly, he did.

11.2 Questions for my nominees:

1. What's one thing you have done that most people haven't?

2. What are three of your most treasured items?

3. What is one of your favorite lines from a movie?

4. What is your favorite food to eat with chopsticks?

5. Does fashion matter to you? In what way(s)?

6. What is one thing you are sure of?

7. What do you think of inside/outside the box thinking?

8. Where in your life do you value simplicity?

9. Where in your life do you value luxury?

10. Do you have any quirks, rituals, or superstitions?

11. If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

Finally, my 11 nominees for a Liebster Blog Award:
1. Lottie Nevin at LottieNevin.com. Her photographic blog about her life in Indonesia is breathtaking.
2. Anne Mackle at Is Anyone There. She has tackled "Staying Fabulous and Fit after 50" for this blog challenge. Well done!
3. Cynthia Reed at Reed Writes. The last AtoZ post she published was "M" but I love her writing and her stories.
4. The Mom Chef at Taking on Magazines one Recipe at a Time. The Mom Chef isn't participating in the #AtoZChallenge, but her writing is so friendly and personal, it's like she's writing to each reader individually. And the recipes are amazing, too!
5. Philip Stasyszen at Peaceably Sown. Philip has a wonderfully honest writing style with a lot of heart.
6. Kate at I Heart Suburbia. Kate's writing and life are both honest and inspiring.
7. Jennifer at Infant Intelligentsia. Jennifer's writing inspires me, as a mother, as an advocate of Down syndrome, and as a woman.
8. Shelly at Life on the Wild Side. I love reading about Shelly's life as a wife, mother, blogger, and teacher.
9. Bharani at One Side Paper. Extremely creative original sketches of animals doing yoga poses.
10. Joanne at In which We Start Anew. Gorgeous design and very welcoming.
11. Lynda at Lynda Grace An Hour Away. I found Lynda through the #AtoZBlog Challenge and very quickly came to love her writing and her style.

The nominations are freely given, with no strings attached. It is up to the individual blogger whether or not to accept and participate. I just wanted these eleven people to know I appreciate their blogs and their style. And, thanks again to Ida for including me in this very fun experience!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Training, of the Personal Kind

Our YMCA has a program called ActivTrax, (we can call him AT) which is a computer-generated workout, supposedly tailor-made for the individual, based on data entered as a baseline. I always found the weights to be too light, and I was forever upping the weights. Dear AT worried about this, and always asked me during data entry if I knew I had exceeded the recommended weight and was I aware that this would affect future workouts? I loved the idea of AT; the reality was another story.

I opted for ActivTrax (AT) because I know personal trainers are a whole lot more per hour than a free computer-generated printout. But, isn't it the truth that you get what you pay for.

After AT and I parted ways, I checked into personal training at my Y, and was introduced to my trainer, James. I have worked with trainers before, so I have an idea of the reasons I like to work with actual trainers.

1. The camaraderie with my trainer. He notices if I do a great job on a set; he laughs with me; he shares a little about himself. I never did learn whether AT was single or in a relationship.

2. The ability of the trainer to adjust the workout to my energy today. He hears the energy in my voice, listens to my comments about the last few days, and can either ramp things up, or slightly tone things down to compensate for what he's observing. AT basically was set in his ways and did NOT adjust.

3. The encouragement that a personal trainer gives. James celebrates when I keep my balance on a tough set of kettlebell toe raises while standing on the bosu ball. He gives me "style" points for form that goes a little above and beyond. He notices and affirms my physical strength. AT was all, "Just the facts, ma'am."

4. The adherence that an appointment encourages. Old AT, he'd be there anytime, whether or not I showed up. James and I make a plan for a certain time, and I show up at that time. That kind of accountability is great in a fitness situation.

5. The knowledge that a trainer has. The computer can show you a video on how to do a bicep curl, but a trainer actually helps you make adjustments in your technique, which enhances the effectiveness of the exercises.

6. The taking me beyond where I think I can go. "10 more seconds!" "You can do it!" "You're almost there!" Those kind of comments keep my focus on the goal, on the success, and off of the tiredness and fatigue. AT was always conspicuously silent.

7. The value I believe I receive when I pay for this service and see the results which come from sticking with it. Things cost money. We pay for things we value.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Storytelling: A Sled, A Spleen, and Siouxsie

With only two days left before Christmas vacation, the snow began falling early, but not early enough to score a snow day. We all focused on the snow even as the teachers asked us to focus on the blackboard.

After school, Linda and I completed our chores, put on our snowpants and mittens, and met outside in her front yard with our sleds and our excitement. We knew Judi's yard had the best sledding on the street, and we were more than ready to ride joyfully down the hill after a year of memories and anticipation.

While Linda stood contemplating the hill, I noticed there was a little bit of an extra hill behind us so I suggested we start from the tippy-top to enjoy the extra speed that would surely result from such a daring start.

Gallantly, I offered Linda first dibs. Her face clouded up. No, she said, I'm too scared. Overly bold, I declared I wasn't scared, and hopped into her sled (it was cooler than mine).

All of the kids on the street had been down this hill a thousand times, but this was the first time this year. Eagerly, I started down the hill. Just as my descent began, the back corner of my sled bumped the corner of the sandbox and altered my course just enough so that I knew immediately that I was on a collision course with the tree.

In this "artist's re-enactment" you see many trees. But in reality, the tree I was headed for was one of only three on the hill. And there was plenty of space between them.

In an attempt to miss the tree, I rolled partway to my right, and then a little more, and just a teensy bit more, effectively stretching out the skin on the left side of my abdomen just as taut as could be, and

 BAM, hit the tree.

I knew I was hurt. All I knew was I needed to get home. I jumped up, and ran full-tilt all the way down the street to my house, thereby inadvertently allowing the internal bleeding to ramp up to a fast flow.

Once home, we settled into our normal injury/medical routine: wait to see if it gets better on its own. Judging by the stabbing pains I experienced all night long (due to internal bleeding), it would be safe to say it wasn't going to get better all on its own. However, I was still alive in the morning! Barely able to walk; weak as a newborn kitten; unable to keep even a sip of water in my stomach. "I ... want ... to ... go ... to ... school ... ... please. Can't ...... break ... perfect ... attendance ... streak." Mom decided that perhaps these symptoms were suggesting a trip to the doctor, rather than the preservation of my perfect attendance streak, so off we went to see Dr. Blatt.

In about ten seconds, he had me diagnosed: ruptured spleen, need surgery NOW.  I didn't really care at this point. Thankfully, it wasn't up to me to get it done!

Back before hospitals and health care were so strictly monitored, one was admitted and kept for quite some time for such a procedure. I was in the ward for two weeks, which constituted my entire Christmas break. My two sisters bravely agreed to postpone Christmas until I could be there with my family.

What remains:

  • This lovely scar, eight inches across. 
  • The opportunity to write on a million health forms, Splenectomy 1974, and to answer the consequent questions about what happened. 
  • An amused recognition that all I really needed to do was roll out of the sled and I would have missed the tree completely!
  • A complete set of non-perfect-attendance records in my school days. 
  • A boss immune system which picked up the slack resulting from losing my spleen.
  • A precious memory of playing Boggle for the first time with my dad that Christmas and finding the word SPLEEN. (I didn't ever think to ask if he had stacked the cubes!) 
  • Gratitude that my body did what it was designed to do, stopping the bleeding on its own, and getting me through the night and through the surgery.
And a lovely quote from Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee (highly recommend!):

“On the girl's brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” 
― Chris CleaveLittle Bee

A scar means I survived. 

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

AtoZ Blog Challenge: This Week in Review: M, N, O, P, Q, R

I started this week by celebrating passing by the popcorn counter at the movies:

Managing an Appetite with Aplomb

Tuesday, I looked at the word and gesture, Namaste, which I receive as a gift:

N is for Namaste

Although Wednesday's post was Optimal, the lack of comments mirrored the low energy I had at this point in the week. (I still like the post, though!)

Optimal: The Optimus Prime of Health

Thursday, I was speaking to myself about persevering with a number of things, and the concept resonated with others, especially writers who find it important to persevere with their writing projects.

P is for Perseverance

Friday, I tackled one of my favorite subjects, Questions. I neglected to give credit for that quote -- it's from Rainer Maria Rilke.

Q is for Questions

And, finally, Saturday I addressed the topic of Religion and what's happening in my life in that area.

R is for Religion

Thanks for joining me for any or all of them and I invite you to check out any you missed. Stay tuned for more AtoZ posts this coming week!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Religion

Religion. A very contentious topic these days. Discussions about religious beliefs can escalate quickly into polarizing viewpoints. Ironic that many religions have peace as a central tenet, and yet so many adherents are unable to find true peace within themselves, or with a difficult neighbor, or with someone of a different faith. Of course, many believers do find peace through their beliefs and their faith.

Me? Not so much. The religious upbringing I had, (and I bless the hearts of those who gave of themselves in the process), taught me way too much about shame and guilt and being defective, and I tried to work with that for a really long time. Finally, I decided that I had had enough shame and guilt and feelings of being defective. And, as the boys of REM sang (with a slightly different meaning), I'm losing my religion. In place of it, I am finding peace.

For years I've thought that if you put these two tenets of Christianity together:
1. Man is created in the image of God, and
2. Jesus came to pay the price for the sins of mankind, thereby restoring us to God,
then voila, we could see ourselves as magnificent, beautiful, sufficient.

Strangely enough, I never heard that idea shared in any of the, what, 50 churches I've been in, or the multiple camp settings, or the hundreds of Bible studies and groups and meetings. The main message I heard in every one of those places was "YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH." If it wasn't that we weren't praying enough, then we weren't giving enough, or we weren't humble enough, or possibly we weren't grateful enough, not generous enough. Not enough prayer. Not enough.

I'm leaving behind the guilt and shame, and gaining accepting myself, seeing myself as enough, focusing on what IS working instead of what isn't working.

I'm leaving behind the either/or, and I'm gaining both/and with more enthusiasm, which in turn empowers me to genuinely accept others, and be open to all kinds of people and ideas.

I'm leaving behind the us/them mentality, and I'm gaining a great big YES to all kinds of people with all kinds of beliefs.

I'm leaving behind the Thou Shalt Nots, and I'm gaining a peace and freedom in acting in integrity with my beliefs.

photo credit: Lottie Nevin

Most of all I'm leaving behind the idea that I am not enough, and I'm gaining the most marvelous gracious compassion which naturally flows both inward and outward.

What about your experience? What do you think about the phrase, "I am enough?"

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Questions

When my dad starting affectionately calling me "The County Persecutor" sometime in junior high school, I got the feeling he thought I asked too many questions. Well, what can I say? I had a lot of questions, and I still do. As a matter of fact, I love questions.

The difference from then to now is that I used to be looking for the answer. Now, questions are the catalyst to creative thinking about challenges that are facing me.

Questions that are looking for the answer, and are thus focused on the problem and the past, usually begin with Why, When, Who, and How. (Why did I eat that much at dinner?? Who's brilliant idea was it to leave this undone?) Questions that are looking for A SOLUTION, and thus are focused on A SOLUTION and THE FUTURE, usually begin with the wonderful word, WHAT. (What do I want? What can I do to make this situation better?)

A little book by John G. Miller, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, discusses this idea in the context of personal accountability, and suggests Making better choices in the moment by asking better questions. He suggests that each question we ask contain an "I" because asking What can I do is a very different question than Who got us into this mess

What is your attitude toward having unanswered questions in your life? What do you want from your day today? 

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