Seeking Joy (Who’s in?)

And in the end, I found my tribe…and strength…and joy.

My Canadian blogger friend Dave left me the message above on my post last week, and I found myself Googling James 1:2.

Dave would know a thing or two about trials, having undergone two kidney transplants. I wondered, but didn’t ask, if his group experiment happened as he waited for that second kidney earlier this year. I copied and pasted the scripture into my iPhone notes and replied:

And he responded once more:

Oh dang! So now I can’t keep the joy to myself, Dave? You mean, I have to seek it and share it with others and coerce them to do the same? I mean, that takes some vulnerability, Dave!

Of course, I didn’t say any of that. Instead, I took Dave’s challenge and texted my like-minded, elementary-school besties: Pamela, Starla, and Denise, my friends for forty-plus years, whom I voted most likely to play along. Their words in turn conveyed varying degrees of enthusiasm in no particular order:

“It’s going to be a hard month, but I will do it with you.”

“I thought that was why God made wine? To find joy in the struggles.”

“Count it all Joy! Oh boy…this is tough. I will write it on a sticky on my desk.”

And in the end with some arm twisting, I found my tribe…and strength…and JOY. Ya’ll, my life is not without problems. Am I seeking joy? Um, yeah. Do I intentionally surround myself with good energy? Absolutely.

Paul from Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill shared these four minutes of pure JOY:

By the way a recent survey has named Belgium the happiest country in the EU.

Life is not trial free, and our struggles strengthen us. May you seek and find JOY in your challenges.

How’s Your Day?

It’s Monday again, and this past week I just couldn’t shake last Monday’s lunch conversation. As I sat down with my leftovers, a young and adorable first-year teacher asked me and another twenty-something in his fifth year, “How’s your day?”

“Good,” I said, nodding my head up and down, no details to offer.

“Great!” said our other co-worker at the table. “Monday’s my jam. It’s my second favorite day of the week.”

Young and adorable laughed out loud, and so did I. “Why?” she asked.

“Well, Friday is my favorite obviously, and the weekends don’t count. Monday is a brand new beginning.”

“I love that. I’ve never thought of it that way before,” she said.

“Right? So many people hate Mondays,” I chimed in.

“Thursday is the pre-Friday,” he continued justifying the goodness of the other days. “And Wednesday, you’re halfway there. The only one I have a beef with is Tuesday.”

“My dad always said, ‘You can choose your attitude.’ I believe you’re onto something, Mr. B. I’m going to spread the word.”

Anyway, that’s it—I’m spreading the word. Monday, any day, life. It’s all a matter of perspective, and I’m thankful for my co-workers and their good energy. How’s your day?

A Legacy of Good and Kind

The day began with a rainbow. Kody and I chased it down the highway headed to OKC for my aunt’s memorial service. I noted the message on hope.

With the rainbow overhead, we sped past the Carol Rose Quarter Horse Ranch on our right. The ranch, the rainbow, all confirmations of my aunt’s presence. Her name is Carol Rose.

In high school, my aunt’s classmates voted her “Miss Hello,” the friendliest girl in her senior class. Two year’s older than my mom, one of my favorite stories is how Aunt Carol went to work after graduating from high school and bought my mother’s prom dress. It was white with scallops around the bottom and across the strapless top. There were still six mouths to feed at home. Dresses could be borrowed. Carol Rose is the epitome of good and kind. The whole family was. Was. Is. Time passes on. I hope the goodness does, too.

Speaking of rainbows, meet the Rainbow Bread Family. From left to right, my mother Sharon, Carol, my grandmother Catherine, Johnny, Joed, and Jimmy. I’m sure my grandpa was working.

Golden sunlight danced in the treetops as my cousin Marcus swept the fallen leaves from my grandparents’ gravestone nearby. “The epitome of good and kind,” I thought as I snapped a photo and contemplated the family tree…how the leaves fall one at a time…how new branches grow…new buds…new life. Ed and Catherine Savage, Christians in the truest sense of the word. No preaching. No judgement. A legacy of good and kind.

Introducing Me to Myself

Even at age almost 50, I’m still trying to understand myself. A few days ago, I clicked into Dr. Andrea Dinardo’s post “Saying No Is Not a One Size Fits All.” A college professor, published author, TEDx speaker, and retired psychologist, Dr. Dinardo dedicates her entire site to thriving under pressure, psychology workshops, and stress resilience. She hooked me with, “Do you have a difficult time saying no? While others in your life say no without a second thought.” Why, yes, Dr. D, as a matter of fact, I do.

She explains the difference between thinkers and feelers (I’m a feeler) and that thinkers have fewer issues saying no and that the safer we feel in a relationship, the easier it is to say no. From Dr. D.’s page, I clicked the hyperlink to a Myers Briggs Personality Profile site. Sometimes seeing and hearing people throw these letters around, I’m sure I’ve taken this test before, but I couldn’t have told you what any of it meant. The test explores introversion vs. extroversion, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving. Maybe I’m still trying to make up the D that I made in psychology during my freshman year of college. Studying some now explains much about me to me.

I believe I’m ISFP (Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving), also known at the artist, the composer, and the adventurer. Verywellmind.com led me to an ISFP page with spot-on descriptions of my strengths and weaknesses. 5-10% of the population has this personality type. So there you go. I’m different than most and not completely proud of all my traits, but we’re all human, right? At least I see the potential for growth. As an ISFP…

  • I like to keep my options open and delay making decisions.
  • I’m kind and friendly, sensitive and quiet.
  • I need my alone time.
  • I’m peaceful and easy-going, caring and considerate, and tend to accept people as they are.
  • I dislike conflict.
  • I’m a doer rather than a dreamer.
  • I care more about personal concerns than objective, logical information.
  • I’m not good at expressing my feelings.
  • I’m in tune with the world around me, appreciative of nature, animals, and the arts.
  • I often develop “gut feelings” about situations.
  • I prefer spending time with a close group of family and friends.
  • I often defer to the needs or demands of others.
  • I’m not concerned with trying to convince others to share my point of view.
  • Teaching is a popular ISFP career.

Thanks so much, Dr. Dinardo! And dear readers, if you have a spare moment, click here to check out her site. I would love to be in her class, and I’m grateful to have the tools at my fingertips to learn from her anyway. By the way, do you know your Myers Briggs personality profile? Does knowing change anything for you?

Thirty Years in the Blink of an Eye

It was Friday, September 29, 1989. I remember the twang of the B-52’s on the radio that morning: “If you see a faded sign at the side of the road that says ‘15 miles to the Love Shack.’ Love Shack, yeah, yeah….” Except I wasn’t headed down the Atlanta highway or headed for a love getaway. Nope. Not this day. On this day, I got in my Honda. I was big as a whale. Nine months earlier, I had spent my time at the Love Shack. On this particular day, I headed down Highway 51, having contractions along the way to the hospital in Stillwater.

Twelve hours later…

It was 11:56 PM. The doctor said, “Do you want to have this baby on September 29th or the 30th?” 9/29/89 had a ring to it, so I plucked up strength enough and gave another push.

Those big brown eyes.

And with this little baby Andrew Riley, 8 lbs. 8 oz., came a love and joy and pride I never knew.

Those curls and that laugh.
There was baseball and football, basketball and soccer.
Good-looking and just plain good.
And we totally grew up together.
Our cellist. As his Nana likes to say, the maestro.

Looking back over thirty years, I remember so many moments of greatness, and I realize how often you have to keep plucking up strength enough and giving yet another push.

And today Happy 30th Birthday to my love and joy and pride, my courageous and strong son Andrew!

The First Time I Fell in Love

The first time I fell in love, I was five—and I fell in love with a monster. The Monster at the End of This Book starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover. The illustrated Grover would read the title page, and when I turned the page, he would freak out in all caps:

“WHAT DID THAT SAY? On the first page what did that say? Did that say there will be a Monster at the end of this book??? IT DID? Oh, I am so scared of Monsters!!!”

Overcome with fear, Grover would muster the strength to politely ask me not to turn the page, which of course, I did. I knew Grover’s words by heart, and in my five-year-old mind, my impersonation of his Sesame Street voice was spot-on. I flipped pages as he tied them together with rope, nailed one page to the next, built a brick wall, and BEGGED me to stop turning pages. In the end Grover finds himself at the end of the book. He. Is. The Monster. And this Little Golden Book taught me some important life lessons.

Lessons from Grover: Labels lead to misunderstandings, and even monsters can be furry and lovable. Fear can be crippling, and more often than not, outcomes don’t turn out as bad as the build-up in your head.

Photo courtesy of listal.com, The Monster at the End of This Book was written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin.

I suppose my love of a good story started here with Grover, and I suppose that same love compelled me back to school to become an English teacher. I suppose this love is why I’ve spent the last twenty years in the classroom, and I suppose it compels me now to write stories of my own. And most of all, I suppose I owe the lovable, furry old Grover a huge debt of gratitude for forever changing my life.

Where I’m From

For so many years, my students have studied and discussed George Ella Lyons poem, “Where I’m From” and then written their own.

So many years later, I wrote mine.

Where I’m From

I am from wide open spaces,
from endless horizons and Oklahoma skies.
I am from dancing lessons on Main Street.
(Pirouettes and plies
and a shuffle ball change,
it felt like Broadway.)
I am from faith and gratitude, peace and hope.

I’m from banana bread and books,
from Sharon and David.
I’m from “Treat people how you want to be treated”
and “Participate.”
I’m from “I can do all things
through Christ who strengthens me” and
“When you know better,
you do better.”

I’m from Ada and George, Catherine and Ed,
many more books and second-hand shopping.
From lifelong friendships
and hometown happenings,
hard work and hellos.
From mistakes and heartaches
and forgiveness.

Turned pages of my history
bookmarked to guide me
through the next chapters of
my unwritten future.