Texas Independence Day

“ I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. it is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feelings that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a high cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section in America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans.” ~John Steinbeck, 1962

Saturday, March 2, was Texas Independence Day. On that date in 1836, the Declaration of Independence from Mexico was signed, officially separating Mexican Texas from Mexican rule, creating The Republic of Texas. Yes, the story Michael told me about Texas being the only state that was once an independent country is really true.

Last Friday, my friend Judi and I attended an author meet and greet at our local library. Judi is from Nebraska and I’m from Iowa so we both know we have a lot to learn when it comes to Texas. We try but it’s a long process. Even after years of living and learning “Texas,” we both experience moments when complete strangers walk up to us, looks us up and down, shake their heads, and makes the loud proclamation, “You ain’t from around here, are ‘ya?”

Time flew by as we listened to the stories shared by W.F. Strong from his book, Stories From Texas. His presentation was a mixture of history class, personal memoir, and stand up comedy. He impressed us both enough we waited in line to get our very own signed copy.

Along with the quote from Mr. Steinbeck, let me share a few others that are Mr. Strong’s favorites:

  • Davy Crockett: “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” Crockett said this angrily after losing his Tennessee bid for U.S. Congress. (I think he said, “Y’all can go to hell,” but grammatical purity likely corrupted the original transcription.)
  • Conrad Hilton: “There’s a vastness here, and I believe that the people who are born here breathe that vastness into their soul. They dream big dreams and think big thoughts, because there is nothing to hem them in.” Hilton launched his empire in Texas with his very first hotel in Cisco in 1919, going on to open Hiltons in Dallas, Abilene, Waco, and El Paso before expanding beyond the state.
  • Larry McMurtry: “What my whole body of work says…is that Texas spent so long getting past the frontier experience because that experience is so overwhelmingly powerful. Imagine yourself as a small hopeful immigrant family, alone in the Staked Plains, with the Comanche and the Kiowa still on the loose. The power of such experience will not sift out of the descendants of that venturer in one generation and produce Middletown. Elements of that primal venturing will surely inform several generations.” McMurtry wrote this in an essay for the Texas Monthly several years ago. In more accessible language, he also famously said: “Only a rank degenerate would drive 1500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken-fried steak.” 
  • George W. Gush, reflecting poignantly on his years in West Texas: “Those were comfortable, carefree years. The word I’d use now is idyllic. On Friday nights, we cheered on the Bulldogs of Midland High. On Sunday mornings, we went to church. Nobody locked their doors. Years later, when I would speak about the American Dream, it was Midland I had in mind.”

Okay, y’all, on that note, I’m fixin’ to head out and pour myself some wine.

I am…

B…simply being.   

~Peace~

 

 

Self Work

The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss—an arm, a leg, money, a wife, etc.—is sure to be noticed. 

-Soren Kierkegaard

I’ve been doing what I call “self work” for most of my adult life. I’ve been fortunate to find the right teachers at the right time. Not only have I had excellent teachers, I had the added benefit of traveling with like-minded seekers who are now some of  my closest friends.

Looking back, some of these connections seem miraculous. From a last-minute decision to attend a non-credit class to reconnecting with old friends via Facebook to finding an obscure book standing upright on the shelf at the small local library, I am learning more about myself as the stream of teachers flow in.

That little obscure book has been sitting beside me for days now–I’ve delayed opening it–I’m not sure why. Maybe the title was a trigger: Unworthy, How to Stop Hating Yourself, by Anneli Rufus.

I began reading it today. That little uneasiness I felt was warranted. This author has much to share with me and I bet she has some insight for you as well.

Below are some of the notes I made today.  The words “self hate” may sound strong to you–as Ms. Rufus says, “Maybe I no longer hate myself–I just don’t like myself much.” Whatever terminology feels best to you, Anneli speaks honestly to those of us who feel or who have ever felt unworthy.

“We the afflicted, we who hate ourselves, need to know that thinking, actions, and feeling come easily to those with self-respect; that these seemingly simple processes–thinking, acting, and feeling, thus including hope and love–are monumentally different for us, requiring twice as much effort on our part as other as others have to expand. For us, even a simple task–dressing, ordering food in restaurants–means thinking, over thinking, unthinking, striding through thick waves of shame, dread and fear. That sound ludicrously like an act of courage.”

“For more than forty years I believed that I was not all there. For more than forty years I did not understand that I WAS there but someone else had made me believe I was not all there.” 

“Start here: You are astounding just for being human, merely for belonging to this species that is capable of language, laughter, creativity, and love. With just one hand you can soothe a child, play a tune, or stitch a wound. With just one eye, you could signal warning or friendship, read the entire contents of a library, or find your way out of the woods. And your brain is the Universe’s greatest creation.”

I hope these snippets stir up your curiosity about what I will share tomorrow and what we can learn together.

“The only way to make a spoilt machine work again is to break it down, work on its inner system and fix it again. Screw out the bolts of your life, examine and work on yourself, fix your life again and get going.” 

Israelmore Ayivor

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace be with you~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Teacher

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I found a new teacher today–by way of a new book.

I’ve Been Thinking…, by Maria Shriver.

Maria was on The Today Show this morning talking about her latest book. She described it as a book for anyone going through a transition in their lives.

Well…that sounded like a pretty good description of me. Before the morning was over, I’d ordered a sample and headed to the office.

I have to tell you, Maria had me by the end of the introduction. As I read those first few pages, the discussion felt so personal because she talked about some of the same things I’ve been saying in my own daily pages and blogs. She shared how thinking and writing helped her get “above the noise of daily life.” As I read, her story seemed to mirror my own when she stated her writing comes from a place deep in her heart and helps her to clear her mind and find peace.

Each chapter begins with a favorite quote and ends it with a prayer–similar to how I write my blog. As I noticed this, I felt as though this was a subtle Godwink of encouragement and validation for my own work.

Even though I’ve read just a small part of this book, I think I’ve found a new teacher–I’m ready.

As all the chapters do, the introduction ends with a prayer as well–a version of St. Teresa’s Prayer. I hope Maria won’t mind my sharing.

Morning Prayer

May today there be peace within
May your trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith
May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you
May you be content knowing that you are a child of God
Let this presence settle into your bones and allow your should the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love
It is there for each and every one of us.
~St. Teresa of Avila~

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace~

Many thanks to my friend, Judith Weitzel Wilmer, for allowing me to use her wonderful photo today. It certainly is a new way to share a glass of wine! Thanks, Judi! Love you. 

 

Rising Up

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. 

Theodore Roosevelt, “Man in the Arena”

 

I was reading Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong, when I realized my blog is my arena. This is the place I show up and risk being seen. I agree with Brene when she said we all want to show up and be seen in our lives. But, there is a catch. In order to do that, we will all struggle and fail–meaning we will be brave and be broken-hearted. It is by getting back up on our feet–rising up–we learn who we are.

This book will not be a fast read for me. So much of what Brene says validates the struggles I am going through right now in my life. It is another example of the teacher showing up when the student is ready. Yes, Brene Brown, I am ready, and I’ll share a little with y’all.

Brene talks about “wholeheartedness.” She describes wholeheartedness as “cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up and say, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. At night saying, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, and sometimes afraid, but that does not change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

She continues by telling us we must show up and be seen “even if that means we are risking failure, hurt, shame, and heartbreak. Doing otherwise is killing us–killing our spirits, our hopes, our potential, our creativity, our ability to lead, our love our faith, our joy…when we own our stories, we avoid being trapped as characters in stories someone else is telling.”

The timing of this seemed especially poignant to me after a week filled with many people coming forward to share their experiences with sexual harassment.

“There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed.”

“…We more need people who are willing to demonstrate what it looks like to risk and endure failure, disappointment, and regret–people willing to feel their own hurt instead of working it out on other people, people willing to own their own stories, live their values, and keep showing up.”

I found a real treasure today. Thanks, Brene Brown.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you and wish you all a wonderful weekend.

Peace

 

 

 

You Are Important

It’s Friday.

Even being part of the retired work force, it is still good to be looking into the beginning of the weekend.

Friday has become book review day. I have two books to talk about today–one very old, one new.

The first, the old one, is a little paperback that has been in my stack of very important things since I was young. You are Important, by Roy L. Smith, copyright, 1952. This book sat on my Mom’s bedside table while she battled her cancer–I suspect it had been part of her reading material for some time before that.

This is one of the few things I have of my Mom’s. The fact that I still have it is another miracle to me. It survived a lot of things over the years–long distance moves being the least of them.

Every now and then, I’d wonder why she had this book?

Did she not feel important?

I’ve tried to read it many times. It is not an easy assignment. The phrasing is wordy and cumbersome. The prayers are filled with words like thee, thou, didst,  and hadst.

Now, because I search for answers to questions I have about my life, what the author says is secondary to me. What has become important–what makes each dive into this book so intriguing and almost mysterious–are the passages highlighted by Mom.

One of the first highlighted passages is this one from Lessons on You, Lesson 6, titled, You are Not Peculiar:

The grief of a young mother is always very touching. Any grief is, for that matter. And we always do all in our power to soften the blows. But there are some disasters in this life which cannot be avoided, and there are some blows which cannot be softened. They come sooner or later to each of us. 

I have no way of knowing when she read and noted these words. My heart tells me she was searching for comfort after losing her newborn son and was grieving.

Each chapter ends with a short prayer. I’ve read the prayer at the end of this chapter several times over the years. I have yet to find much comfort in the words.

I wasn’t going to share it because it really bothered me. Then, I thought, if I was reading this I would want to see what I’d judged so critically. Here is that prayer:

Here is that prayer:

Lord Jesus, I am ashamed of the way I have rebelled against thee in the hour of my distress, thinking that thou hadst singled me out for unjust treatment. As I catch a glimpse of thee upon thy cross, which thou didst not deserve, I confess that many of the blows which have fallen upon me have been no more than my just deserts. Forgive me this day for whining.

The next book is one I just started and it seems to be almost the counterbalance for the very old book I just discussed.

Option B, written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. This book is the work Sheryl and Adam did together after the sudden death of Sheryl’s husband, Dave.

What is makes this book stand out for me is the fact it addresses death and grieving by someone who just went through the experience. It addresses something we will all go through over the course of our lives–we will all lose someone we love. Regardless of who we are or what we do, there is no avoiding that.

It was comforting to me to know others struggle with grief as much as I.  It was helpful to read that Sheryl also struggled with the everyday stuff after her loss. To read how people avoided her because they did not know what to say to her or if they did say something, how unhelpful their words were to her. It’s another book that is taking me a long time to read. I am learning so much from all experiences and stories she shares.

I am..

B…simply being…

My wishes to you all for a very happy and safe weekend.

Stay aware and kind.

Love and peace, Y’all.

 

Musical Memories

It’s Friday. I may be retired, but being retired does not take the “specialness” away from Fridays.

Friday is one of our water aerobic days. I love being able to exercise again without feeling like I am destroying my body. Today was special because of some of the music.

I’m always surprised by the emotions music can stir–even while working to get your heart rate up and stay somewhat coordinated–a feat that often eludes me.

Today, one of the first songs spurring me on was, “I’m Henry the Eighth I am”, the original one, by Herman’s Hermits. Oh, my heavens. I don’t think I have heard that song for decades.  As I listened, I was transported back to 8th grade. I could see all my former North Tama classmates climbing onto the buses which would take us to the school house in Dinsdale, Iowa, the site for our junior high. The trip was a fairly short and one we made regardless of the weather.

We would often sing as we rode down Highway 63. At least that is what I remember–the singing, talking and planning for the day ahead. As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but wonder how different that whole experience would have been if we were taking that same ride today. Would we even be talking to each other? Or would we all be in our own little spaces looking at our cell phones?

The other song that made me smile played shortly after that. As it began, I recognized it right away. I wanted to run over and turn it up. “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang. As this played out over the pool I saw an entirely different time in my life. I had “grown up” but I still had a lot of growing up to do. I had a precious group of friends who were also mostly co-workers. I was and am very lucky. This is something else that does not happen in today’s world. We worked and partied hard. Whenever we were together, this song playing often. As it played I would often declare it to be the song playing if I ever got married again.

Two very different songs that helped me remember two very special times in my life. I am grateful.

Because it’s Friday I am sharing my latest book. Setting Free The Kites, by Alex George.  It’s a story of two teenage boys, Robert Carter and Nathan Tilly. They meet on their first day of school in 1976. Their friendship is formed quickly by two tragic events.

What made this book important to me was one of the story lines. Robert’s brother, Liam, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Working in medical imaging, I had several patients over the years with muscular dystrophy. Reading about Liam, his bravery as he battled his disease, and the effects it had on his family was well done, enlightening, and heartbreaking.

Because the book impressed me, I want to share some snippets. With the nature of Liam’s disease, I don’t feel that I’m giving anything away.

Oh, Liam,” she whispered. “You were the best boy there ever was.” She kissed his cheek, breathing him in, baptizing him with her tears. But no matter how tightly she squeezed, how fiercely she clung, she could not hold on to him. 

Some time after that, we stumbled out into the rest of our lives. 

…On the window shelf was a half-drunk bottle of Gatorade and a paperback of The Great Gatsby…He had only made it halfway through. I wondered whether he had given up on it or if he’d been planning to finish it when he returned home from the hospital. 

There were unfinished stores everywhere.

For me, the book was perfect because I have been doing so much reflecting on my own childhood. The book is serious but also very funny and always entertaining. The characters in this book reminded me of many people from my own childhood. Grab it and travel back to the 70’s.

I am…

B…simply being…

Have a safe and restful weekend.

Love and peace, Y’all.

 

Happy Friday

I feel I’ve been very serious this week so it’s time to change it up a little bit. Here’s what I found to help start off the weekend.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite books and here is another: The Lonely Hearts Hotel, by Heather O’Neill. This is a wonderfully written book. The subject matter is not my usual choice and there were times when I thought I could not/would not finish it. I am very glad I did. I must warn you, note the emphasis used here, there are parts of the book that may be upsetting and plain out-and-out offensive to some readers. My advice, give it time. Let it set in your head for a while. I did. I found I needed to let the story evolve and I needed to evolve along with it. It’s a detailed and involved story, taking place in Canada during the depression. Ms. O’Neill introduces her list of characters to us as they age, expanding and developing each characters individual and unique story. These people–characters in the truest sense of the word, are all interwoven together in ways that reminded me of an O’Henry short story. Her word choice and phrasing are so refreshingly original I found myself caught off guard at times. Some sentences I had to re-read and roll the words around in my head for a few minutes so I could fully appreciate the imagery and the simple power of them all.

You know by now that I usually have examples, so here are a few lines:

“…what happens when an unwanted child has an unwanted child?”

“Every day the average person will witness six miracles. But it isn’t that we don’t believe in miracles–we just don’t believe that miracles are miracles. There are so many miracles all around us.”

“He didn’t want to read the newspaper or listen to the radio anymore. He didn’t want to be a grown up. There are some people who are just no good at it.”

Have a great weekend. Take some time for yourself while staying safe and cool.

I am.

B…simply being…

I love you.

Peace