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. 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?

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.

Welcome to Houston!

The morning of August 27 began with two feet of water inside and out of my house. That was two years ago, but the memory is unforgettable. (You can read my first ever blog post about our Hurricane Harvey evacuation by clicking here.)

When I meet Houston locals and reveal my fairly recent relocation, the conversation usually goes something like, “How do you like Houston?”

“Well, we made it here just in time to flood and lived in a La Quinta for ten months.”

“Oh, Man! I’m sorry to hear that. Welcome to Houston!”

I always exhale that monosyllabic Ha! “I know, right? Thank you. It’s okay. Other than that, I really like Houston, except I do miss my friends. We were in Dallas for over twenty years.”

Anyway, if I’ve ever given Houston a bad rap, today I count my blessings. Welcome to Houston!

Silence by Moriah Alise

While living in the La Quinta, Kody and I dined out for almost every meal, often eating at restaurant bars, making friends, and changing up the conversation. In this way we met Moriah Alise, an up-and-coming, young local artist/former high school art teacher with the drive and determination to open her own District Art Gallery. Moriah invited us to her gallery opening, and her artwork Silence spoke to us. I needed the calm, and I feel blessed to know Moriah and share this piece of her [he]art. Did I say we brought it home? (Well, technically many months later when we finally moved home again).

While returning to District Art Gallery, we’ve enjoyed getting to know another top nationally-known emerging artist, Shawn Artis. All of his pieces have stories, he’s a storyteller, and the one above spoke to me.

Elevation 80 ft., Houston is the most populous city in the state of Texas and the fourth largest in the United States. We have a large and growing international population, a Chinatown, a Mahatma Gandhi district, and an estimated 1.1 million residents born outside of the USA. Houston is a cosmopolitan destination with world-class shopping and award-winning dining at every turn, and there’s always something to do, even for free (Wikipedia and me).

This is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. I probably stumbled across a photo on Instagram one day and then Googled with intrigue. For followers of Hinduism, the Mandir is a place of worship and prayer and a house of God. No matter your views, you will feel His LOVE and ACCEPTANCE, PEACE and HOPE in this place.

McGovern Centennial Gardens, Hermann Park, Photo Cred Texas Monthly

Welcome to Hermann Park Conservancy, Houston’s 445-acre urban park, situated at the end of the Museum District. This past spring, I chaperoned around 400 high school students here for a day of freedom and a break from school at the park. You might think that would be a problem, but everyone made it back to the busses on time and unscathed. Our kids explored the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The Hermann Park Golf Course is right there, too. Then there’s a reflection pool and a recreational lake with pedal boat rentals and a train and picnic areas and statues and walkways and gardens galore. You can kill a whole day here, no problem (Wikipedia and me).

Then there was that time when my Alma Mater’s symphony came to Houston. I’m a sucker for the symphony, a blessing indeed.

And there was that time when the Indigo Girls came to town and the Houston Symphony accompanied. Um, WOW, and I may or may not have almost been kicked out for not-so-covert, banned recordings.

And speaking of concerts, we attended a couple of more this year. Matt Heckler is a banjo/fiddle-playing genius, who opened for the Lost Dog Street Band in an intimate, standing room only venue upstairs at White Oak Music Hall on Mother’s Day. We returned to the White Oak lawn for Texas songwriter Shakey Graves just a few nights ago, and what a performance! If you don’t know these guys, give them a Google or click here for Matt and here for Shakey.

Then there’s the theatre: high school, college, or professional musical theatre. So many performances, so little time.

So I love the arts. One of my all time favorite outings here in H-town includes feeding my soul at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. ProTip: Thursdays are free. (Oh, and photo cred to Wikipedia for museum façade below).

My friend Misti accompanied me to Van Gogh earlier this summer, and it was amazing, but crowded as the exhibition was grinding to a halt. Now I know. Don’t wait. Go early. Besides Misti and I had a mini-road trip planned to Galveston, just an hour from Houston for beaches, relaxation, more feeding of the soul, and Mexican food for our stomachs.

Then there are professional sports, which I don’t really do, but we have the Astros and Texans and Rockets and Dynamo. And there’s the rodeo, which is sort of a big deal with big name concerts every night for the month of March. Tickets are already on sale for 2020. And there’s NASA, maybe I’ll check that out one day.

It’s the morning of August 27, and today I’m thankful for so much. Welcome to Houston!

“Security!”

I’m not a frequent flyer. Sometimes I forget the rules. As I approached the security checkpoint, I removed all items from my pockets, placed my carry-on items into a bin which I left on the conveyor belt, then waited my turn in line. When the Transportation Security Administration agent called me forward, I stood on the designated foot outlines and struck my pose, hands above my head, inside the imaging portal. The electromagnetic waves detected a potential threat.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Ma’am,” the TSA officer addressed me, “I need you to see what we see on the screen.” She pointed to the digital image and a non-descript mass on my lower abdomen. “I’m going to have to pat you down. Would you prefer a private screening?” She gestured to a partitioned screening area.

“No, this is fine,” I responded, having never received an authoritative pat-down in my life.

She advised me of the procedure and then traced a gloved hand up each inner thigh ending quite intimately into my groin.

I exhaled a squeal of exaggerated delight, due I suppose, to not knowing what else to say or perhaps attempting to defuse the awkward situation or maybe just trying to be funny.

She held back her laugh as she held up her gloved hand. “Now I’m going to search the inside of your waistband,” and she proceeded with two fingers around my entire perimeter to find nothing.

“Whew! That’s the most lovin’ I’ve had in a while,” I said—fully acting, feeling on a roll.

My intuition told me the officer secretly appreciated my attempt to make light of the situation that most despise, or maybe it was her hand over her mouth concealing her laugh and smile. “Ma’am…”

I don’t remember her exact words, but I felt a slight admonishment for joking about airport security. I realized a little too late that the TEA is serious. More serious than me. And I appreciate the extra security measures. I really do. But sometimes I forget the rules.

***

As I walked away from my near incarceration somewhat perplexed, another realization dawned. My jeans, when I bought them, sold me with the phrase “miracle tummy tuck control.” My jeans, made with built-in flattening power, had transformed not only my tummy, but me—from the most non-threatening person on earth into a potential security risk. Note to self: Wear something else on my return and all subsequent flights. Note to the ladies: beware of body shaping garments. (You’re welcome!)

Body shapers secure fat, right?