Choosing the Good Thoughts

I’m so glad it’s Saturday. I’m sitting here enjoying the quiet start of a day. The windows are wide open and I hear the hum of crickets and tweeting of the morning birds outside. The sun has risen in a hazy sky, so the air is still cool and comfortable. Lucy and I went for our run a little while ago and saw places where the ground was blanketed in fog. So peaceful and pretty. It did me good to get out and run on a morning like this.

The past week was one of those where there never seemed to be enough hours in a day. The pace at work seems to grow more hectic every week as our current business grows and new possibilities abound. I have my hands in a little bit of everything, from account management to technology to the creative to exploring our ability to dive into new avenues.  And I like it that way. And just when I was beginning to feel slightly overwhelmed and slightly frustrated, there was this response to a project I’m involved in.

20140730 Brilliant b

The project lead’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect with this comment. I was feeling a little put upon because I’d been asked to draft some content for a web page. Writing isn’t one of the things I get paid to do, although I did plenty of it before we recently hired an official writer. I was just to the point this week of wondering why I’m still writing when they’re paying someone else to do it full-time. I have plenty enough other things to do that constitute my “real” job, I’m struggling to get it all done as it is, and nowhere in my job description does it say “writing.” This particular bit of feedback came after the project lead had a look at my words along with our graphic designer’s artistic talents.

Her comment was like a knock on the head. HELLO! I love to write! Why am I complaining about being asked to do it? Shouldn’t I instead be grateful to be given the opportunity now and then? And when I stopped to think about it, I was asked to draft the initial version, because I have knowledge. I know what information needs to be conveyed on this page, thanks to my years of experience with the company. The fact that I was asked to contribute speaks volumes about others’ faith in my abilities. The “official” writer will take my stuff and polish it up with his easy and fun tone, but it’s my ideas that will sit behind his work. Why was I griping about having to be involved? Oh yeah. Because I was letting myself get overwhelmed.

I’m really working to learn not to do that so much – being overwhelmed and anxious. I know it’s not a new concept – that having a peaceful mind is within my own control. I’ve always just assumed that it took a certain personality to put it into action and live that way. And I didn’t think I had that personality. I was hard-wired to be high-strung. But all of a sudden – whether it’s age or life experience – I suddenly get it. I’m slowly learning to reign in my focus. Instead of worrying what tomorrow will be like, or next week, next month, next year… I’m trying to just keep my sights on what I’m in control of right now.

I’m learning that not worrying, stressing and being full of anxiety doesn’t have to mean that I don’t care what happens in the future. It just means that I accept the fact that I ‘m not in control of it. Because of this new mindset, in the past few weeks, I feel lighter, not just emotionally calmer, but physically better as well. It’s like a whole new world has opened up to me. Instead of waking up every day feeling like “same old, same old,” I feel more like, “Bring it on!”

Of course it’s all new to me and I’m reminded that making a habit of staying centered is going to take time. I realized this after falling back into my old ways for a couple of days. I woke up yesterday morning with my stomach in knots and an ache in my head behind my eye. Could have been what I had for dinner the night before, but I like to think it could have had something to do with where my thoughts had been living, and that I’d forgotten for a while that I have the ability to change how I feel, for the better.

I signed up a while ago to receive these daily email messages, recommended by several friends at work. They’re a source of daily encouragement and inspiration. You can think of them as messages from God or the universe or just the guy behind a keyboard who comes up with awesome words to propel readers into their day with a can-do attitude. But I love them and they do my heart and mind good. I know each morning that my daily message is sitting in my inbox waiting for me and I look forward to that point in the morning when I let myself go see what waits for me that day. And no matter what the daily message is, it always ends with these same words:

Thoughts become things… choose the good ones!

It’s so true! I’m learning to choose the good ones, and it’s amazing how different, how much more inviting the world looks when I do.

Grateful for Summer

Twice this past week, I’ve heard someone complain about the summer we’re having. I guess it’s not measuring up to expectations. In fact, just yesterday, my friend and coworker said, “We’ve been cheated out of summer.”

I thought, “We have? No we haven’t!”

It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. My friend has a cabin on a lake up north where she and her husband spend their time every other weekend. It seems that while we may have had some beautiful, sunny, warm days, they haven’t typically happened on the weekends. Since I haven’t spent much time on a lake these past couple of months, I guess I haven’t noticed.

What I’ve noticed is that I don’t have a chill in my bones. I don’t have to put on extra layers before going outside the house. I don’t have to warm up my car before I’m willing to get in and drive it. In fact, I really love the wave of heat that hits me when I get in the car after work, a welcome change of temperature from the chill of the office air conditioning.

I can let Lucy run around the back yard for as long as she likes without worrying that her paws will get frostbite. I can take her for runs out on the path behind our house. Instead of worrying about the cold, I need to be careful not to take her out when the heat may be too much for her. Between her morning run and chasing squirrels in the back yard, she often wears herself out by the end of the day.

Sleepy Lucy

During lunch breaks at work, every day unless it’s raining, I go outside with a few coworkers. There’s a pretty, peaceful pond right outside our doors and it’s surrounded by an asphalt path. We walk the mile around it, sometimes twice, and get to breathe the fresh air, share space with Monarch butterflies, watch little mice and toads scurry in and out of the tall grass that borders the path. We see turtles sunning themselves on logs in the water and watch flocks of geese float lazily around the middle of the pond. We are graced with the beauty of pretty wildflowers, dragonflies and bumble bees. We blow off steam, laugh, and have serious conversations beginning with questions like, “I wonder if there’s an online poop translator.” (A large poo was seen on our path for two days in a row. We debated whether it was left by an irresponsible dog owner, or something wild.)

I don’t think we’ve been cheated out of summer. No, we haven’t had long stretches of ninety degree days. If we did, someone would be complaining about that too. We’ve had a steady pattern of rain, enough to make it so we don’t have to run sprinklers to keep the grass alive. The trees are lush and flowers gardens are full and colorful.

See these?

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Those are my sunflowers, planted from seed as an afterthought in a back corner of our gardens, next to the shed and our back fence. They’re growing so tall, they’ve risen above the roof of the shed. So I would guess they are somewhere around ten feet tall? Look at how they’re all reaching for the sun! (They’re so tall, and in such a position that I can’t quite get a picture of one of the flowers head-on. Maybe when the flowers get a little bigger and heavier, they’ll drop their faces low enough for me to see them.)

Here’s a look at one from last night, facing west, as the sun was getting ready to go down. Do these seem like sunflowers that have been cheated out of summer? I don’t think so.

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While we may not have had great “water weather” so far, the past winter is still way too vivid in my mind. I’ll take this kind of summer over that any day of the week! I am not complaining!

Logan Next Door

The house next door to us has been sold several times in the twenty-six years we’ve lived in ours. It’s a two-bedroom, split-level house, oddly laid out and not ideal for a growing family. They’ve all been growing families and this is why, I think, no one has stayed for too many years. Unless of course, it’s us… ?

NAH!

We’ve been lucky to have great neighbors all along. But once any of them realized that they needed room for more than one child, they’d look for a bigger place to live. Tears were shed on both sides of the fence each time a family moved on, but we’ve always been fortunate to find friendship with the next family to come along. And all along, there have been little ones next door to keep us entertained.

When the last neighbors left, we were very sad to see them go and we particularly missed little Ethan. He called me “Tee” and always wanted to “drive” my car. (I let him sit behind the wheel one day and play driving. From that day on, when I’d pull into the drive way, Ethan would come running, clasp his little hands together and look at me hopefully. “Drive Tee cah?” he’d ask. I could never resist.)

The new neighbors moved in not long after Ethan’s family left. The new neighbors had a baby, Logan. Fall came and winter passed, and as usually happens during the colder months, our interaction with the neighbors was minimal. When spring came, Logan had grown considerably and was learning to walk. But oh, was he a shy little boy. He wanted nothing to do with any of us.

Another winter came and went and Logan grew some more. By this spring, he was still shy, but much more curious about us. And he could run and throw balls and put landscaping rocks in my water fountain, just like Ethan used to do. He really likes Mark, because Mark is goofy. Little kids like goofy people. Whenever Mark comes home, if Logan is out in his yard, Mark will call out to him in a big, exaggerated soprano voice. “Hiiiiiiiiii LOGAN!” Logan loves that!

If Logan is out back on his family’s deck, and we are out on ours, he will call across to us. He says, “Hi,” but it sounds more like, “Heeee! Heeee!”

When Jake drives up in his big truck, Logan points and exclaims, “Dehr Jake!”

And he’s very coy with Kacey, always calling out for her attention and then playing shy and tucking his chin when she responds.

Last week, Mark came home from work in the mid-afternoon. It was one of those days when no one had been home at our house all day, and poor Lucy was starved for attention. Mark could hear Lucy barking as he stepped out of his truck. He called out a quick hello to Logan as he played in his front yard, but then went inside to calm Lucy and spend some time with her. Logan was so offended that Mark hadn’t come to see him that he began to wail and cry to his mom, “Mahk! Mahk!”

Mark could hear Logan crying and had to go outside and pay some attention to him too before he’d quit crying.

Now Logan calls me Tee, just like Ethan used to do. Last Friday, we were all sitting around in the driveway. Logan was playing with a tennis ball. He threw it down the driveway a few times just to watch his dad have to run after it and keep it from rolling all the way down the street. This made Logan giggle uncontrollably! Finally Logan’s dad told him if he threw the ball down the driveway again, he would take it away. So Logan decided he’d prefer to keep his ball and would play catch with someone instead of annoying his dad.

Mark asked Logan to throw him the ball, but Logan looked at him and said, “No. I pway Tee.” And he whipped that ball straight at my forehead as I sat in a lawn chair. He’s got a good arm! Good thing I had quick reflexes!

I love the summer months when all the neighbors are outside and we stop frequently to socialize. Logan has grown so comfortable with us that he now considers our yard an extension of his. When my windows are open, I often hear the whine of his motorized tractor as he drives circles around our pine tree.

Farmer Logan

Farmer Logan

Now he races me – me on foot, him behind the wheel. Somehow he always wins! And he loves to pretend he’s going to run over my bare toes and he gets this devilish little grin when he cuts it a little close and I jump out of his way.

I’m hoping Logan’s family stays for a good long while. Logan’s dad has an eighteen year-old from a previous marriage and I suspect there might not be any younger siblings for Logan. We sure do enjoy having him around and would love the chance to see him grow up.

Weather or Not

Over the winter months when I’m dreaming of summer, I always imagine a nearly cloudless sky, rays of sun that brown the skin and sidewalks too hot to walk barefoot on. I think of how good it feels to come into an air-conditioned house after sweating in the sweltering heat.

We haven’t really had a lot of that kind of summer yet, although according to the local weather girl, those days are just around the corner. I am ready to welcome them with open arms (she says as she enjoys a cool breeze through the living room windows and the sounds of little Logan next door giggling and squealing in his yard.)

We’ve had a lot of rain so far this summer and days that are cooler than normal. Whenever the subject of weather comes up, we talk about it as if anything other than beach weather has no business being here. It’s SUMMER, for crying out loud! When we spent the last few days up north at the lake, we were a little disappointed that it was too cool for swimming and tubing, too windy to fish at times, and that there was downpour in the middle of one of “our” days. Sitting in the cabin playing Scrabble, wearing sweatshirts, watching movies and napping was not what we’d had in mind for our mini vacation.

Then again, when we stopped to think about it, what exactly was wrong with lounging around together and enjoying some new flicks and some old favorites? Nothing! It’s not often we find time to watch one movie, much less several of them. What was wrong with a wicked competitive game of scrabble, with Connor trying to make up words with his most valuable letters? Nothing! (We laughed so much! And I won!) What was wrong with falling asleep in the middle of the day, with dogs cuddled up against us while the rain poured outside? Absolutely nothing! Sure, it would have been way fun to be floating around in the lake with the sun beating down on our shoulders, but we were still having fun, making memories, all that good stuff.

If we count the “good” days only by the weather they bring, we’ll end up missing some really great moments.

Besides, it’s been really good for the garden!

Happier

These past few weeks, something has changed in me.

I’m happier.

Maybe happier isn’t entirely the right word for it. Happier, yes. But moreso, significantly less anxious. About everything. There’s a level of calm I don’t remember ever experiencing. Which in turn translates to happier. 

It would be hard for anyone else to appreciate the enormity of this change unless you had any idea how uptight I tend to feel at any given time. Uptight is just a part of me and I’m used to it. I don’t know exactly when I started to feel as if I just worried enough, that I could have some control over any problem. It was probably always there to some extent. I see it within my extended family in varying degrees. But I have a feeling it seriously escalated when I became a mother. And even though I never had a chance of knowing or controlling the future, over the years, I’d developed a habit of holding on too tightly. Such unrealistic expectations inevitably lead either to relief that things turned out the way I’d hoped – or to disappointment and bitterness.  Really, I didn’t even understand how much I normally allow things to brew inside of me and how often I think and worry and rethink any situation. Until something changed for the better.

And the irony of it all, is that this ability to start letting go came when normally, I would have been least able to cope. Without getting into too much detail, this shift happened just after I learned that some of my loved ones are going through a really rough patch. (No one is sick or dying, and in the grand scheme of things, it is the kind of thing that happens, and life goes on, one way or another. But it’s hitting close to home right now and it’s really hard.) I spent a few days crying here and there. There were days when every hour brought an aching over the fact that there was not a single thing I could do to steer things in the direction I want them to go. It took me a few days to realize that with or without my painful emotions, the situation is going to play itself out as it will.

I mentioned recently that I’d been reading a particular book that had stirred a significantly positive shift in ideas that had been cemented in my mind for years. My goal in wanting to read this book was to ease my guilt over my church-going habits, or more accurately, the lack thereof.

I’d started reading Jesus>Religion with only a mild curiosity about what the author had to say. After all, in comparison to me, the guy’s just a kid. What could he know? But he’d made an impression on the friend who loaned me the book. I wanted to see what she was all fired up about. And the impact on me? Ended up being profound!

I’d had a somewhat strict religious upbringing and in all my years of practicing the faith, I’d always felt out of sync. I just didn’t get it and never felt like I quite fit the mold. I couldn’t find the peace and connection I thought I was supposed to feel as a Christian. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and why it was so easy for others, but always seemingly just out of my grasp. My struggle as an adult was that I’d quit practicing my faith, but wanted to find the place where I belonged, either with a church or just within myself. But going to a church of a different faith, or getting comfortable with not belonging to one at all meant going against the teachings of my upbringing, which incurred tremendous guilt. Even though I’m a well-seasoned adult, I know how disappointing it would be for me to acknowledge any of this to my dad. So I tried for a while to get myself right without finding my place, and now I’ve done almost nothing for years, always with the thought that I’ll figure it out eventually or get comfortable with going back to where I started. How? I didn’t know. Not surprisingly, I spent a long time going nowhere and doing nothing where my faith was concerned.

The book fell into my lap. The ideas in it filled in so many gaps in my mind. I was flooded with a sense of relief so big that I wanted to share it with others. But I didn’t know how to describe what exactly had happened. I’d read a book. So what? But something was different. I couldn’t quite put it in words just yet. The book felt like a launch pad in my life to something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

So I was in the midst of this book, and very pleasantly surprised at the fact that I was absorbing something that felt good and important when I came to know that certain someones I love were really struggling. I couldn’t fix it and I found myself frequently distracted from my daily routine. Tears were coming often while I reminded myself that this situation might play out happily in the long run, or it might not. And nothing I could do or say could fix it. And normally, something like this would make me angry and sullen inside at the unfairness of life. Not that anyone outside of my immediate family might know this. I can put on a pretty good face for the world when I have to. But I knew what to expect in the face of a tough situation like this and I wasn’t looking forward to it.

The thing is, those dark feelings with which I’m pretty familiar didn’t continue to overshadow every minute of every day as I’d expected. Something was different, and ironically, in the midst of a situation I was certain would continue to pull me down until it righted itself. Some people are naturally glass-half-full kind of people. I’m just not. I recognize this and have worked hard to deal with it for years, and I guess I’d let myself get comfortable with this aspect of my personality. Acknowledging it seemed the best way to combat it, so why not?

But I’d read that book. And while doing so and since finishing it, I’ve noticed a huge shift. I was thinking differently than I used to and recognizing that my thoughts have power. I always knew they had more power than I wished they did when it came to negativity. Suddenly, the idea began to sink in that they might have power in a good way. I know there are others who have always firmly believed in the power of positive thoughts. I did too, as long as my mood was right. If it wasn’t, well then it was all just a nice idea but not very realistic. This world is an ugly place sometimes.

Now though, something’s different. I don’t feel like I’m enduring this alone and I don’t feel like I have to fix it. I’m still sad about not being able to fix it. And although I wish I could pray and obsess over it enough to influence the outcome so that everyone is happy, I know that’s impossible. I now see that it might work out as I hope and it might not. If it does, maybe it was a learning experience meant to make those involved stronger. If it doesn’t, maybe it was meant to be a gateway to a new road for all involved. And I no longer feel so impossibly tightly wound over the fact that I am not in control. This is such an unfamiliar feeling for me. For the first time, I recognize that crap can be going on all around me, but that I don’t have to dissolve inside into a total emotional puddle because of it.

Ultimately, I am a person who wants God in my life, but I’d had these preconceived notions of how I was supposed to know him. And since doing it that way didn’t seem to work for me, and doing it some other way was “wrong,” I was stuck. Suddenly, something began to click and I realized I was free to seek God wherever and however I could find him. The trickle-down effect was that I didn’t have to try to know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t have to tie myself in knots until everything works out as it’s going to. And if I’m not finding God in the place where I’m “supposed” to find him, then maybe I should just be open to him wherever he finds me. And everything is just a little bit … actually a lot easier.

My 21 year-old daughter seems to have a much stronger handle on all of this than I ever did. I was telling her yesterday how as a mom… even as a mom of adult kids, I always want to protect them from hurting. I wish so much sometimes that they never had to feel sad.

She sort of laughed at me (in a gentle way.) “Mom,” she said. “I get that as a mom, you wish you could control this stuff. But sadness is a part of life and we have to deal with it sometimes. We can handle it.”

I wanted to hug her, but I was driving.

I feel like this is the tip of the iceberg, that it took something that really shook me up to make me recognize that there’s a better way to face and embrace life. (Also? Feeling a little silly that it took me this long to get here.) I realize that the old me used to think the only way to empathize with someone was to really embrace the sadness and hurt until I was aching inside myself. And how much this all held me back from really embracing everything else the world has to offer! How did I not see this?

Weirdly, I wake up each morning lately with a new ambition. Not because I’ve distanced myself from difficulties and not because I think everything is going to be all sunshine and roses now that I’ve learned a new way of handling problems. It’s because I’m anxious to keep strengthening this new attitude. I want to test it out (but hopefully just a little bit at a time!) and see how the new me deals with challenges. There are some that I know will continue to challenge me. That’s okay. If not, how else will I learn what I’m supposed to learn from it all?

It feels a little bit strange to share something so personal as this and I’ve been debating it for days.  I got this email a few days back – one from a daily subscription to which I’ve begun to pay closer attention. I kept going back and rereading this particular message which said:

What if, Terri, happiness didn’t have anything to do with what you had, where you’ve been, or who you were, and arose entirely from what you chose to think about, yet nobody knew this?

And what if changing your thoughts, so that you could feel happier more often, would entirely change what you had, who you were, and where you’re headed, yet nobody knew this either?

Do you think if we told them they’d choose to think differently?

The part of me that said “its weird” to share this thing lost out to the part of me that believes that message was right and I was supposed to do something with all of this.

So there you have it.

 

The Color Run – SO MUCH FUN!

Sunday morning arrived, the day of the Color Run. I was excited in a way I can’t remember feeling in… well, forever! I was surprised at my level of enthusiasm, partly because when Kacey asked me to sign up with her, I was less than enthusiastic. I had given running a try a while ago, but seemed only to meet with frustration and failure. Eventually, I decided there just wasn’t a runner in me. But my daughter wanted to do the Color Run with me and she was excited about it. So I agreed and decided to do my best to get in running shape, at least enough to succeed in this fun run.

I ran my usual three miles on Saturday morning, the day before the run. The air was heavy and it was harder to breathe than usual. I felt like I was struggling through most of my run and I arrived home dripping in sweat. I worried that Sunday would arrive with more of the same. But all Saturday afternoon it rained off and on. And when Sunday dawned, the air was lighter, the sun was bright and the temperature was a near perfect seventy-ish.

Color Run 1

Starting out clean!

I was awake early and enjoyed my morning coffee in the quiet house before getting ready to go. Soon Kacey was awake too and we got dressed in our shorts and white tees, pinned on our numbers and decorated ourselves with a few complimentary Color Run tattoos.

John and Shelby came to pick us up and we headed off to the state fairgrounds where the run would take place. We all chattered excitedly as we drove and John made it clear several times that he does not consider running to be enjoyable and that he would likely hold us all up with his slow pace. I told him I was relieved to hear that. I didn’t have the greatest confidence in my own ability. But any doubts I had about succeeding in this run were erased when we arrived and saw all of the other runners and walkers heading for the starting line.

It was a total party atmosphere and there were people of all ages, shapes and sizes getting ready for the big event. I relaxed and just decided to soak it all in. I couldn’t seem to stop smiling as we made our way into the crowd of people. It was such a beautiful day and Kacey kept telling me how glad she was that I was there with her.

Kacey, me, John and Shelby... ready to run!

Kacey, me, John and Shelby… ready to run!

As we waited our turn to start running, music was pumping through the air and a young emcee was busy tossing out Color Run goodies and keeping the crowd pumped up. Our countdown began and we were off.

I soon found out the true meaning behind the words “fun run.” There were both runners and walkers. No pressure! People were dressed in crazy clothing with colorful tutus and crazy socks. One woman ran in a wedding dress!

The route itself was actually much easier than my usual route, which has a lot of incline. I was able to run it easily and even found myself conversing with John and the girls as we ran. The color stations were crazy and we did our best to get our shirts as colorful as possible as we ran through each one. I was having the time of my life!

Color Run 3After the finish, we made our way to the big party. We received our own packets of colored powder and joined the huge crowd in the grandstand area of the fairgrounds. Music was blasting, we were dancing and laughing and took our turn volleying the huge beach balls bouncing around above the heads of the crowd. And when it was time to toss our colors up into the air, we did our duty, whooping and laughing along with the rest of the crowd. If there was any part of my body not covered in color before the big toss, it was sure covered afterwards!

Now that we were tasting and sneezing colored powder, we were ready to head back home. All the way back, we all kept saying how much fun it was. I think John and I were both really surprised how much we had enjoyed it and we told the girls we would definitely do it again next year! Heck, I want to do another run well before next year!

My HAPPY tattoo!

My HAPPY tattoo!

As soon as we were back home, Kacey and I packed up the car and headed up to the cabin to join Mark, Brad and Connor for a few days of fun. We were anxious to get there, so we skipped showering and just tossed some towels over our seats to keep the car as clean as possible. When we arrived a couple of hours later, Mark couldn’t believe how covered in color we were! Yep, we were definitely not as clean as we’d started out, but we’d had such a great time!

Color Run 6

Nothing a nice shower and a good scrub wouldn’t take care of!

Color Run 4

Okay, maybe two showers! (I discovered after my first shower that my armpits were still a little blue!)

I am so totally doing this again next year. And probably the best part of it all? I discovered that there is a runner inside of me. And now I just want to push her harder and see what more I can do! Nobody is more surprised than me!

Color Me Happy

It’s Color Run day and I’m ready!

Months ago, Kacey asked me to sign up for the Color Run with her. And although I had long ago decided that I was not a runner, I agreed to do it, if for no other reason than my favorite girl wanted me to. We’ll be joining Kacey’s friend and former softball teammate, Shelby and her dad, John who is the girls’ former softball coach.

Color Run 2014

Early in the year, I thought, “Well. I should start getting ready for this thing.” But I didn’t. January, February, March all went by and I didn’t run. Then the cold weather, snow and slush finally subsided. The sun started coming up earlier and the temperatures grew warmer. The thought of running outside as opposed to in they gym gave me the motivation I needed.

Lucy Pie was more than happy to help me get back into a running groove. If not for her habit of practically dragging me along each day, often helping me to keep running when I might otherwise have stopped, I don’t know that I would have gotten back into it. Gosh, I hope I can do it without her.

005bI’m ready for some fun! Wish us luck today!