Thursday, December 3, 2015

Calling it even

“Come Friday, we’re even.”
I had called the man years ago looking for a job. The man had worked for years and years at his job, and though the hours were often long (well over 40 hours) and the pay was not good, he continued to pick up his pay check each Friday and considered his account even.

Paid in full.

No matter how difficult the task had been, in his mind, the check he received at the end of the week covered the debt. Each week, he marked the account paid in full and moved on.

Do you?
Or, do you, like me at times, look at your compensation for a job well done and complain that it isn’t enough, complain that you aren’t appreciated more, complain that the task was more than expected, complain that the glory doesn’t equal the effort?

To make matter worse, each week we keep carrying that balance forward, adding a little more to the “what’s owed us” column.

We will never be paid what we think we’re worth. We can never be appreciated to the extent we think we should. Friends will never be as loving as we think they should. Traffic will never go as fast as we think it needs to.

Peace of mind can only come when we change what we think . . .
. . . when we get to the end of the week and mark it even;
. . . when we get to the end of the day and balance the books with our friends and family;  
. . . when we realize that give and take sometimes means giving more and taking less.

And when you’re okay with that, you’re finally okay with everything.

PHOTO: so why Jenny Mae? Because I don't know anyone who lives this philosophy more than she does. This is a photo of her after the Chicago Marathon... 26.2 miles and still smiling, regardless the finish, regardless the time. Every day she accepts what life gives her and calls it even. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

I am who I am, and that's enough

“Do you swear you are the person you attest to be?”
I read the question on the application again.

“Do you swear you are the person you attest to be?” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and was tempted to write, “Who else could I possibly be but me?” or “Who do you think I am?,” but I really needed a copy of my college transcript and I doubted anyone in the transcript office at the university was in the mood for humor.

I am who I am.
You are who you are.
Yet, how often we pretend to be someone else!

We pretend we’re happy when we’re not. We pretend to be healthy when we’re not. We pretend everything’s okay when it’s not. We’re afraid someone will talk about us if they really knew us. We’re afraid we wouldn’t be liked or wouldn’t be admired if “only they knew the truth.”

So we hide.
We create lives we show the outside world which hide who we really are. Only problem is, that pretend life never does fit as comfortably as real life. We feel the drain of carrying this other life around with us all the time.

It’s okay to just be you.
You don’t have to be the best housekeeper in town or the bravest lady on the block. You don’t have to be drop-dead beautiful or pretend to have more money than everyone else.

It’s okay to just be you.
It’s okay to get scared when you’re home alone. It’s okay to be lonely when you lose someone close to you. It’s okay to have a problem you don’t know how to fix.

Never be afraid to just be you.
I hope that if I have taught my children nothing else, I have at least inspired this belief in them, penned by Pablo Casals: “Every second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and never will be again. And what do we teach our children instead? We teach them that two and two make four and that Paris is the capital of France. We should say to each of them ‘Do you know who you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In the millions of years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. "
And, it’s okay to just be you.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When we really want something ... and we don't get it

It was a cold. It was windy. Did I mention it was cold and windy? And, it was the Illinois 4-H State Shooting Sports contest which would determine Illinois' national team. Scattered around the Brittany Park Shooting Sports Park were a hundred kids who really wanted it, really wanted this day to be their day.

Did I mention it was cold and windy?
As I took photos of the top finishers at the end of the day, there were obvious tears of disappointments. They just couldn't help it. They really, really wanted something, and they didn't get it. Did I mention it was cold and windy?

I thought back to other days, days15 years ago, when it was another girl who really wanted something, who tasted victory and wanted each and every time to feast on that the bountiful meal. Relive it with me ...

On Monday, Jenny broke the middle school’s 25-year-old long jump record with a leap of 15 feet—3 1/2 inches. On Wednesday, she couldn’t clear 14 feet. I could see her face from the bleachers when they announced her third-place finish. It wasn’t a look of anger or disappointment; it was pure embarrassment.

“How could I jump so well Monday and so badly Wednesday?” she questioned. Well, sweetheart, not every day is going to be a record-breaking day.

Much of life feels like a Wednesday.

Many days we try hard, put in lots of effort and give it our best just to come in third. Third is a hard pill to swallow for any of us. We want to be first. We want our name in the record books. We want to be known for something. 

But life is not a smooth road. It is full of bends and twists and hills and valleys. Some days are just cold and windy.

There’s nothing like that feeling on those days when it all comes together. Those record-setting days stand out in our memory forever. It’s where we go when we need inspiration, when we need reassurance that we’re okay, when we need comfort for our trouble hearts.

On Friday, Jenny broke the school’s high jump record with a jump of 4 feet—10 inches. On Saturday, I woke her up gently, “Good morning track queen . . . it’s time to do laundry.”

“No one lives on the top of the mountain. It’s fine to go there occasionally —for inspiration, for new perspectives. But you have to come down. Life is lived in the valleys. That’s where the farms and gardens and orchards are, and where the plowing and the work is done. That’s where you apply the visions you may have glimpsed from the peaks.”
—Arthur Gordon in A Touch of Wonder

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Things to remember when I’m too old to remind you

I like baths. Hot baths. Pay the extra money to have someone put me in a bathtub versus just giving me a sponge bath. Spend money on things you can enjoy. Enjoy life.

When it doesn’t seem that I remember you, I really do. Believe that.

When I’m gone, physically move closer to each other. You’ll be all each other have. Drop what you’re doing whenever the other needs something. And, don’t wait to be asked to help. Assume they need it. Pride kept me from asking for help way too much. Help others.

When you go on cool vacations, take some of my ashes and scatter them where you’ve been. By the time your life is over, all my ashes should be gone and I will have had a great time. Live boldly.

Don’t let fear ever stop you from trying, even if you’ll look stupid from failing. Be brave.

Don’t rethink decisions. Every time I didn’t go with my gut instinct, I regretted it. The world will tell you differently. Ignore them.

It’s okay to cry. I do it all the time. And, then I feel better without anything else changing except me. Crying isn’t about being weak; it’s about knowing there’s something better out there and wanting to have it. Cry, then make a plan and go get it. Go get some.

Jenny, quit working so much; Wil, work a little more. And, when the pendulum swings, go the opposite direction. Life isn’t so much about balance as it is balancing in the extremes. Walk tall.


It all seems impossible at first glance. Look past your nose. Figure out a way. The answer is there. Look again.

When God doesn’t seem anywhere, He’s everywhere. Close your eyes and listen.

I was always proud of you, even when you didn’t think you deserved it. I never wanted perfection. I just wanted you to be happy, and we’re all happiest when we’re exceeding past that point where we thought we couldn’t go. Believe in yourself.