Be True to Your Ambition…Don’t Foul Out

“What are you doing?” the blinking cursor on the white screen questioned me. “What are you hoping to accomplish with this writing stuff?”

At lightning speed, I bit my lip and tapped out my defiant response in Times New Roman:

“I don’t know, but I’m not going to quit.”

The slim black line of the cursor waited patiently next to the last period. Time was of no importance to it. It could blink all day and all night, waiting. I stared at my foolish sentence, feeling my bravado weakening. Nothing was happening. No words would come forth. I’ve been learning this often happens to writers. I wonder if they call it “writer’s block” to compare it to a block of ice, frozen and unyielding.

I could stop. No one would know if I didn’t write today. My eyes squinted with determination, and a memory of a day in 8th grade announced itself in my mind. A day I’ve regretted for decades.

Thinking back, I could see my 13-year-old self sitting on the bleachers in a school gym that smelled like a mixture of sweat and old basketballs. Every open door teamed up in silent resolve to get the stink out. Even though it was Fall, the Central Valley summer heat hadn’t left yet, which didn’t help matters.

The boys were in motion on the court, and the unfamiliar chorus of squeaky tennis shoes scraping against the gym floor was intimidating. Would I be able to move quick enough to make that sound with my Reeboks? I sat among a large group of girls while we waited for the boys to finish their turn. We were all there to try out for the junior high volleyball teams.

“Hey, Josh wanted me to give this to you.”

I looked up, surprised. A blond girl I didn’t know yet was walking toward me wearing the same P.E. clothes the rest of us had on—gray shorts and a cobalt blue T-shirt with the school’s name in bright yellow letters. Somehow an outfit that made me look frumpy turned out really cute on her. A matching ribbon was tied around her ponytail. It bounced up and down with each step. Her bright green gum peeked through her teeth as she smiled. Her blue eyes held excited secrets.

She held a tiny white bundle in her hand. I looked closer and saw it was lined notebook paper that had been folded a billion times over until it formed a small, thick triangle. It was the standard structure for passing notes in class. My heart sped up a bit.

By the time my eyes left the note in her hand to look up at her face again, she had already moved on to the girl sitting a few feet away from me. The beautiful one who had the long straight hair and the perfect shiny lip gloss. She was in my science class. I envied her Esprit backpack and the way she got along with all the boys so effortlessly. Back then, I was an expert at having crushes on boys from a distance, but I didn’t have a clue how to talk to them. Looking in the other direction, I pretended I never once thought that note was for me.

Trying not to be obvious, I pulled at the hem of my shorts, hoping to hide another inch or two of my chubbiness. Hoping to hide entirely. I was sure I’d never be like them. What was I doing here? I wasn’t very active. It took all my energy just to walk the two blocks to school each day. In the short time I’d been there, I’d seen these two girls all over the track working hard every day to train and stay fit. It took me sixteen minutes to run the mile last week. That was nearly twice the time they could run it. But I really enjoyed when we played volleyball in P.E. There was a certain satisfaction in serving the ball and watching it soar over the net.

If I made this team, it wouldn’t be like soccer in second grade…when I quit the team after the third practice because I hurt my ankle (which recovered in a week). And nobody in this town would know about my sixth grade year at my old school when I was written up in the newspaper as “the losing pitcher” for the softball team. I didn’t have to mention that we didn’t win a single game that season…did I? I mean, softball…volleyball….totally different, right?

An extra gaggle of girls entered the gym as the boys left for the locker room. Scores of girls. All there for try-outs. In that moment, I decided it was over. I didn’t stand a chance against all of them. Resigned, I stood up when the coach asked us to gather around and followed the crowd. But when it came time to play for a spot on the team, my effort was little to none. My ambition was put on the shelf. And not among the trophies.

At the end of the next day, when the new team list was posted in the locker room, I wasn’t surprised at all when my name wasn’t on it. Beneath my lashes, I watched the two girls from the day before jump up and down in a victorious hug, hair ribbons celebrating, too. The walk home was slow and full of sighs as I clutched my science books to my chest thinking of what went wrong. I was too this, too that. I was sure I wasn’t good enough, and well, technically, I wasn’t. I never tried out for any sport again.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized what went wrong.

  1. I didn’t prepare.
  2. I didn’t practice.
  3. I gave up before I even started because I compared myself to others.

When it came to ambition, I fouled out. I just went in there on a whim, hoping to succeed without putting in the hard work. Those girls made the team, but they deserved it. They didn’t make it because of their pretty looks and their cute style. Now that I’m older, I realize they weren’t perfect–because none of us are–but the difference between them and myself was this: they worked for it.

Yeah, maybe they had opportunities I didn’t have. Maybe they had older siblings to help them learn or maybe they had lessons to improve. Maybe they played volleyball on the beach every summer on family vacations. But my adult self knows this: where there is a will to learn, there is a way to make it happen. It might not look the same as everyone else, but it’s possible in some form. Our choices are everything. It takes courage and some cleverness to figure out the way there. It’s also important to not compare ourselves with other people who are (or who have been) on the same path. Each of us is unique in great and small ways.

So now, my ambition is simply to keep writing. I don’t really know where it will take me. I don’t necessarily need to write a book. But my main goal is to improve as a writer and connect with others through writing. It takes a lot of courage for most writers to show up each day and write what’s on their heart…to write about pieces of their lives. Or to overcome the perfectionist in them that shouts, “This isn’t good enough!”. There have been times when I’m tempted to throw in the towel. But that memory of those volleyball tryouts often crowds in when I’m so close to logging out of my blog or my Google Drive without getting words on the page. In this, I choose to not foul out on my ambition.

I’m thankful to have that tough memory to cheer me on. Because this time around, for however long it takes I hope to do what I can to prepare, practice, and not give up before I even begin. Now, if only I could transition this will power into my exercise and nutrition lifestyle, that would be fantastic. 😉

What are you hoping to achieve? Whatever it is, I truly wish you all the best. For so many of us, it’s not always easy to stick with it…but I believe with my whole heart that if you put your mind to it you will get there. We will get there.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by Nathan Shively on Unsplash

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Phillipians 4:13

Let’s Keep Looking Up

I should eat, I thought. I’ll regret it if I don’t. So I pulled out the eggs, the friendly spinach, and some easy oatmeal and got to work. Well, I did stop for just a minute to turn on the music. Nothing much gets done without the music. The raw green spinach leaves jumped into the warm pan to cozy up with a little rosemary and garlic olive oil.

As I stirred the greens, my ears caught the story of the song. The singer sang of love and how their memories were kept in a photograph, a place where hearts were ”never broken” and where time stays frozen. My smile started small at the idea of it, then grew in salute to the fellow encourager. And I say encourager because to label us idealists might break my heart. An encourager can see potential in what others may see as impossible.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if love could save the world right now amidst all of the pain, chaos, and uncertainty?

I find myself searching for answers, so lately I’ve been up to my ears in books. Books about writing. Books about teaching. Recipe books—because my cooking still needs some help. Books about becoming a better me. Books about anti-racism. Of course, there are the books that take my mind away from all of the above, even if just for a little while….the fiction, the make-believe. It’s been a season of books.

I sat down to eat my breakfast, squinting a bit against the morning sunlight through the open window. Looking out, I laughed out loud as I noticed a small grey and white striped cat with a big swashbuckling tail arguing with a pesky bird who kept swooping down at it from a low place in the sky. They were both squawking and hopping in the middle of the otherwise quiet cul-de-sac. That cat must’ve got into the bird’s business again. I wondered if maybe they could learn to be friends. I’m sure it’s possible. Anything is possible, right? With love…

When I finished eating, I got up and rinsed off my plate. The water was as mild as the summer morning, and a new song came on. The tune was catchy, and one I’d never heard before. As I processed the words in my mind, I smiled again. It must be one of those mornings when everything is lining up. All this love stuff. Just the other day on Facebook live I listened to a conversation with Dr. Clarence Jones, who played a role in some pretty amazing history, speak about events going on today and the thing he kept coming back to was…love. Redemptive love. Soul love. I stared out the window above the sink and focused on the new song.

“Love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?” Ed Sheeran sings from my little speaker propped up on the kitchen counter. From his heart to my house. Isn’t it amazing how songs can travel from so far? Yet we connect with them as if they were born right here in our hearts. I get it…I mean, really, what do I know?

Leaving the music on, I turned and walked into the room where I like to write. With a day free from work, I sorted through the pile of books I could read today. I thought about how lucky I was to have a pile of books. The libraries must be so lonely right now. I picked up one book and then another. Hmm…this one? No. That one? Maybe.

Still undecided, I turned toward my favorite reading chair. It waited for me beneath the window. Golden sunlight would be my lamp. On the wide, curved arm I spied a rather large and familiar book which I knew held 1,809 pages. The spine was terribly damaged from being read over and over for thirty years, even though I’ve been careful. Last night, I set it on my chair to remind myself to revisit it again soon…because it had been awhile. With a Facebook check, a Zoom workshop, taking care of the dog, and breakfast, I’d already forgotten about it this morning. It’s easy for me to forget. Because you know, we fill life up with all these things we feel like we have to do. In order to pay the bills. Or to improve. Or to distract ourselves.

Looking at the big book on my chair, I remembered that it’s the best book I’ve got. It’s got it all in one place. Personal development, action, drama, comedy, and best of all…love. Man, I did have love on the brain. Seriously, though, when my mind does the swirly thing and starts spinning with the what-ifs and what-abouts, there really is no other book than this one that squashes all that. Every time, it guides me back to the truth and the reason for everything. The last time I opened it, I had begun reading about a king from history named Solomon. He’s known for his wisdom. I could use some of that right now. Okay, always.

The greatest love story is all throughout the pages of that great book. Love for me and love for you. It also talks about loving everyone, even those we disagree with. Even loving those who don’t like us. That’s not easy, as we well know. Not easy, but not impossible. That’s why I’m not giving up on this love stuff. It’s the real deal. It can heal. Let’s give it and receive it now more than ever. Just like the One who loves us.

I sat down, ran my hand slowly over the cover and then made that my first choice for today’s reading—the Bible. I wanted to be reminded of the Love. It’s not fleeting. It’s eternal. Sometimes it’s a process that we wait on with patient urgency. Sometimes it’s a call to immediate action. Love will meet you when you’re ready for it; sometimes it will find you when you think you’re not. I may forget again and read something else tomorrow, but one thing is for sure: it will always be there, waiting tenderly…calling on my heart.

The songs in the kitchen have been moving along as I write this. I can’t help but appreciate the words I hear right now as they drift down the hallway and reach my ears. “Love is more precious than gold,” Chris Stapleton’s voice croons confidently, “…I got love enough to spare. That makes me a millionaire.”

May you be rich in Love, friends.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

“…Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” -Colossians 3:12-15

Love Is No Small Thing

A few Wednesdays ago, joy came out of nowhere and surprised me. I was at an outdoor yoga class with my friend. It was just after sunrise. I hadn’t yet heard about George Floyd. Our mats lay on a grassy space above still, sleepy vineyards. We began to move. I lifted my arms, reaching up as far as I could, all the way to my fingertips. A row of young olive trees behind us also stretched toward the brilliant blue sky. A pair of long-necked geese honked “Good morning!” over our heads as they crossed high above the rows of grape vines. I looked upward and watched in contented silence as they continued their flight past the husky golden rays of the newborn sun. 

Twice I nearly burst out laughing, the bubbles of happiness rising inside of me. My hopeful heart ached to dance and play with nature. The sun comforted me with its gentle warmth. I breathed in deeply then pushed all the air out as hard as I could. Whoosh! I felt the frustration of the last three months leave my lungs. With each inhale and exhale, my blood awakened in my veins as it traveled from head to toe.  The glorious simplicity of the rhythm of life amazed me in that moment.

On that morning, I had a hard time staying within the speed limit while driving home from class. The joy in my heart was inspiring, and I hoped to write about it before starting the work day so I could share it with you. Maybe I could try to rebuild the scene so that you might be able to experience the joy, too. My favorite snuggly chair was waiting for me, so I sat and placed my Chromebook on my lap. I decided to check the news first.

Honestly, I rarely check the news. Mostly because I don’t like biased news sources that I feel have hidden—or not so hidden—agendas. Whether it’s the left or the right, they blatantly air their opinions and persuasions. No matter what my political party is, I want news without interjection. But the world cannot be ignored. So it was two days late on that Wednesday morning that I learned about George Floyd, and saw his horrific death on the screen before me. In a heartbeat, all of my giddiness left. As it should. I still can’t get the image out of my mind.

When it was time for yoga a few days later, I was still troubled as I drove up the hill.

“I’m sad today…I was up all night…” I texted my friend before I left the house to meet her for our class. “Just wanted to give you a heads up if I’m quieter than usual. Feeling reflective and prayerful this morning.” I knew she’d understand. When I arrived, the sun wasn’t shining. All around us was a distant, gray fog. The birdsong was oddly quiet, muffled, and it was unusually cold for late May. As if the earth knew and mourned with us.

I lay my forehead on my yoga mat and began the deep slow breaths, thinking of George Floyd who could breathe no more. I didn’t know the circumstances, but it just didn’t seem right. The whole scene flashed again in my mind of that man’s knee on his neck. The officer’s intentional, slow movements… Closing my eyes, a quiet guttural sound escaped from my throat as I grieved the life of a stranger that was so casually taken away. Over what? It didn’t look at all like self-defense. It certainly didn’t look like a humane way to detain someone. I was filled with indignation.

The majority of police officers in our country surely would not condone what happened to George Floyd, and I’ve seen responses to confirm that. The officers I know stood ready to protect my students on our campus several years ago while an armed criminal hid in the nearby neighborhood. What would’ve happened if they weren’t there to call? I thought of the police officers over in Gilroy last summer who ran toward a shooter while the patrons of the Garlic Festival fled from the bullets. How much more death would there have been had those officers not been there to risk their lives for the people?

My own heart, it still aches now. For all of it. For everyone. Cities destroyed, people hurt and killed. Obviously, we need to work toward a solution to this too-old problem and at the same time realize that it will take time. But it shouldn’t take so much time!

The time that has passed between now and that Wednesday has been…I don’t even have the words to explain well enough all that has been on my mind. I have failed in coming here to this space because my thoughts have been such a whirlwind. A dozen blog post drafts have been started and abandoned in the last two weeks or so. I’ve been trying to put off my own thoughts for awhile, and instead listen and learn.

The roller coaster of emotion has been at full speed. Sadness one day, anger the next. Confusion. Love. Resolve. Love. Heartbreak. Love. It all keeps coming back to love. I want the world to know more of it. I want the world to feel all of the love from anyone who is willing to give it. I know it is out there. It just needs to be found and cultivated…nurtured. In some cases, it needs to be taught, the love. It’s not a naive thing, love. It’s a powerful thing.

Love is not just holding hands and singing songs. Love is action, and it can be in many forms. Love is being respectful to all people. Love is educating ourselves and celebrating our cultural differences. Love is registering to vote in the country you live in so that you can be part of change for the better. Love is teaching your children that no one race is better than the other. Love is listening. Love is giving a consequence for crimes against humanity. Love is peacefully protesting what is unjust. Love is casting aside fear to stand up for what is right. Love is creating something healing for those who are hurting. She’s a tough one, love is. Love requires forward motion, courage, and hope—not destruction and chaos.

We need connection. With everyone. To continue walking in love and learning each other’s hearts. To be brave and reach out. To listen and acknowledge. To maintain our integrity, not bypass justice, and lift up respect. To communicate and follow what is right. But most of all, to love one another as we were meant to do…in whatever way we each feel called to show it. I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. meant what he said in the video below, that “hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.” Love is no small thing. It’s a powerful thing. And we have that power within us.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by JESHOOTS from Pexels

We, Who Think “Too Much”

I’ve been thinking about overthinking. Over and over…because I’m an overthinker, too.

Yes, we feel like concrete statues stuck in our thinking while the swarm of immediate action-takers buzz on by us.

But the thing is, not every body and every mind was designed to be the same. You are you. I am me. That’s the beauty of our existence. Uniquely able to take action on a dream at our own pace and no one else’s.

So, hey, let’s think on this:

Our time is the right time when it’s God’s time.

There’s nothing wrong with a lot of thinking… unless it keeps us from the doing. And that won’t do at all. Keep on thinking, but lock up those doubts and worries and then throw away the key.

That dream is knocking loudly on your heart for a reason, my friend. Did you give up on it? I hope not. It’s time to get back in the groove. I’m rooting for you. And for me, too.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by Dick Scholten from Pexels

Let Go of Worrying About What Others Think of You

Our thoughts are strong and powerful. More than we even realize. We don’t often enough give them credit. I’ve been told I think too deeply. That can be good and bad, depending on the thoughts. I love much, and I worry much.

I’m working on the worrying, and I have to say I’ve improved…but still it creeps in now and then when I least suspect it. Used to be, I’d worry about my health. To the point of distraction.

These days, I’ve been worrying too much about what people think. Always trying to predict how they’ll react…from every angle.

So it made me wonder how you are. Do you worry about what others think of you? Of your actions, words, decisions…I could go on and on.

I’m not up to writing today because I’m feeling under the weather, but I was thinking on this worrying what other people think thing and when I opened my medicine cabinet tonight a note I had taped inside caught my eye.

It seemed just the thing to share with you, in case you spend too much time worrying about what others think of you, too. Let’s not let that rob our joy. There are too many other good things to think on, too many spectacular wonders and life-giving thoughts we could focus on.

So from my little medicine cabinet to your heart, here is a list of reminders I wrote down a few years ago after listening to a podcast of Trish Blackwell’s. Her podcast is called The Confidence Podcast, and her book Insecurity Detox is one of my favorite books. My notes here are from her podcast episode #262: 5 Simple Ways to Stop Caring What Other People Think.

The statements below from the show are what I wrote down to tape inside my medicine cabinet to remind myself of how important it is to remember that I need to focus on knowing my worth for who I am, instead of trying to base it on who I think I should be in order to please everyone else. For a list in it’s entirety and to listen to the podcast, you can click here.

  • I am loved and I have value.
  • It’s okay for people to disagree with me or not like me…
  • God made me as I am, and has given me a story…
  • People liking me or not liking me has nothing to do with my value…
  • I choose to spend my emotional and mental energy on things that bring me joy….

Simple, yet profound. If you find yourself stuck in that worry cycle, too, I hope this is helpful for you to remember, as well.

While I continue to rest now, I’ll be spending my energy on dreaming of the glorious lavender fields under a pink sky in the Cotswolds of England. Because that is one of many things that will bring me joy. What do you think on that brings you joy?

Sweet dreams to you.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by David Bartus from Pexels

Keep Going

You. The one who keeps trying, even when things get hard? This one’s for you.

Totally impressed am I when you keep showing up and persevering. When so many other people are convinced they can’t, you say,  “Well, hang on a minute…maybe I can.”

When I was in high school, my grades were not what my mom wanted them to be. One evening after she came home from work, she came into my room with a box and said, “This is what you’re doing this weekend. And you’re taking notes.”

A feeling of dread washed over me as I glanced from her face, tight with determination, to the box that lay on my bed. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what was inside.

“Notes?” I stammered. I couldn’t be bothered with those back then. When I sat in the classroom each day, my mind was filled with daydreams of the New Kids on the Block. Who had time for notes?

I took my headphones off and set my Walkman on the mauve and forest green floral bedspread. Lifting the brown cardboard flaps, I peered cautiously into the box.

When I looked back up, eyes like steel were waiting for my reaction. Stifling my groan, I knew better than to argue. So I sighed and agreed that in the morning I would start watching the entire VHS series of Where There’s a Will There’s an “A”…a seminar on how to take notes and get good grades.

Good grief. 

That series wasn’t a miracle in the making. I’m not sure my mom got a good return on her investment. Okay, wait, I need to be nice to myself. I did complete college…eventually. 

The one thing I do remember about that punishment is the title on those tapes. That alone ended up being very valuable to me because, even now, while there might not always be an “A” in the outcome of things, I do believe that, as the old saying goes, where there’s a will there will often be a way. A way through that difficult thing. The first step is to try. And the next step is to keep trying. Until it gets done.

That weekend in high school wasn’t my only experience of not being allowed to quit trying my best. I’ve had to pick myself up and keep going many times, even while dealing with parts of my life that were just. plain. hard. Things haven’t always been roses and fairy tales. I wasn’t allowed to give up, so I get a little peeved sometimes when others do.

Of course, there are always exceptions, and I have no idea what it is like to live someone else’s life.

On the flip side, I can’t stand if someone judges me when they haven’t walked in my shoes. Everyone has a different level of tolerance, a different history, and a different set of capabilities. I am not unsympathetic to that. There are still times when I give up, too.

There are those of us who have also had to work really hard to change our beliefs about ourselves, so that we can move forward and persevere to the best of our ability. None of us are perfect, nor will we ever be. Once we realize that, the trying gets easier.

So tonight, before I go to bed and dream of New Kids on the Block the vacation my husband and I will get to take once the COVID-19 quarantine has been lifted, I just want to say to those of you who see tough things to tackle yet you don’t back down from them…Bravo. 🙂

Seriously. I am so inspired by you. By all of you who might be shakin’ in your boots and want to throw up your hands and say, “Forget. This.”, but you keep going. It might be pain you have to deal with, it might be low confidence, it might be trying to understand or do something you have never done before. Yet….you get it done.

Rest is good. Reviewing our options is great. Reconsidering our negative thoughts is even better.

At the end of the day, if we’ve tried our best and have done all we can, we can go to sleep with a sense of pride and accomplishment which is worth putting one foot in front of the other every single time.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

 

Make Room for Joy

I know you had a rough day today. You’ve been trying so hard to stay positive, and that takes a lot of energy. Sometimes we get determined, though, to retreat our little turtle heads inside of our little turtle shells, and no matter how much knocking goes on to try to get us to come out, we just. don’t. want to—-Right? I’ve had days like that, too.

But I can’t to go to sleep tonight until I share with you this…

It will pass, that heavy thing. Some way, somehow…it will.

That great big world out there is waiting patiently for you to discover its brilliance once again. Those cotton candy clouds and that radiant shining sun that you loved to watch? They’ll be there for you when you’re ready.

Sometimes we feel imprisoned by what we feel we can’t do, but we are not prisoners. We have so much to be thankful for…a roof, water, heat, technology, books, memories…the ability to breathe. Even for those who may not have a backyard or a window to open, even for those who may not be able to go for a walk…nothing can incarcerate the imagination…nothing can snatch hope away…unless we let it.

Don’t let it. 

Create! Innovate! Choose to look for the good. You have a mind that can be original and smart, so use it. Look around and see all that is there for you. Look, and see the gifts you’ve been given. Give in to gratitude, and hang on tightly to hope.

Hope does not disappoint.

Unless you let it disappoint you.

Don’t let  it. 

You are stronger than that. You can do hard things. We can have our moments of sadness, and we will have journeys with grief riding along in our pockets. There’s room for that. But Joy is where the power lies, so let’s make even more room for that.

Hold on.

And I’m going to knock on that shell just one more time to say…watch Some Good News. 🙂 It just might help turn that frown upside down.

 

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Let’s Take the Time to Say Thank You

How do you feel when someone tells you thank you? Usually, you feel good, right? A warm glow blossoms inside of you, and you’re pleased that you were able to help someone. Some of us are humble and feel funny when we’re told thank you, but don’t let that stop you from doing the right thing. People need your kindness, so keep at it. 🙂

On the flip side, the world needs the thankers, too. I realized this today when the pest control service technician stopped by our house for his regular service call. My crazy, yellow lab puppy was loose in the house and trying like a wild monkey to get out the front door when I opened it. Because of the shelter in place and social distancing that is in effect, the technician stood a safe distance away, but because of the dog I held the door open a crack and talked through two inches of space. I didn’t even see his face.

He was very polite and friendly, as always. Because of the unusual times, I got to thinking as I closed the door that his day must be pretty lonely. I imagined him driving from house to house, not encountering many friendly smiles (or any faces at all) as people are likely not even opening their doors during this time.

At one point during his service call, I saw out the window that this young man, who looked like he was just starting out in the working world, stopped for a moment on our ghost town of a street and made an effort to greet a little gray and white striped neighborhood cat. She is always making her rounds in our court, looking for a warm car to hide under or a black bird to chase. I’m not sure who she belongs to, but she looks like she could use a friend.

The cat stopped and faced him, and when he spoke to her she swished her long tail back and forth, a friendly little flag that seemed to say, “Good morning to you, too”. The tech took a few more steps forward and knelt down and leaned his arm out a bit. I watched as the cat inched forward cautiously, and then she moved just a little bit closer until they finally connected. She let him pet her, and he took his time doing so. It seemed this little act brought him some joy and even a little peace. You know how you can just tell sometimes? I could just tell, even from a distance.

When they finally parted, she sashayed over to another house and the technician finished up his job then left on his way to another house, as well. I was glad that little cat was able to give him some connection today, a little something to put a smile on his face in these strange and lonely weeks.

After he left, I recalled how many years we’ve had pest control service from this company, and how each technician we’ve had over the years has always been very polite, professional, and friendly. I was so glad for their sake that they have the kind of job that would allow them to keep working during the COVID-19 pandemic. And I thought about how, in typical times before the shelter in place, I would be so hurried that I would barely say hello or often missed their service call altogether because of my own work hours or crazy busy schedule.

So I picked up my phone and sent an email to the company, mentioning the technician’s name and telling them he did a great job and that I just wanted to say thank you. It took maybe three minutes. Three minutes that I couldn’t seem to spare in the last fourteen years.

Later in the day, I received an email back from a customer service representative. They were over the moon and thrilled that they received some kind words today. They couldn’t wait to forward my email to their supervisors and to the technician so that he would get the credit he deserved. Can you imagine, working in customer service? I bet it is a department that gets nothing but complaints and requests and little thanks is probably given. I think, in the future, I will take the three minutes it takes to send a nice email once in awhile, even after we are done sheltering in place.

People need to be recognized. They need to know they matter. We have the power to help our fellow human beings by recognizing them, applauding them, and thanking them whenever it’s due. I know many of you already do this. It was good for me to be reminded of it today.

I tell this story not to applaud myself for doing something kind, but to hopefully encourage anyone who is reading this (including myself) to take a little extra time to think of who might be out there doing something good or doing something right who could be thanked…and maybe hasn’t been thanked in awhile.

There are a lot of essential workers being thanked right now. They are amazing, and have always been essential. It’s nice to see that they are no longer being taken for granted. Many heartfelt thanks to all of them. If you, like me, are also looking for someone to thank, that’d be a good place for us to start.

Thank you for your time today.

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10 Things to Do to Pass the Time

I’m so excited! I have gifts for you today—some links to things that will help you pass the time while you’re sheltering in place. I don’t know about you, but we’re in Week 4 of staying at home and it’s time to change the scenery here a bit.

It’s raining today, so most of us are staying inside. We’re supposed to be inside anyway, but I believe it’s still important to get out and take a walk or a drive to nowhere to get out of the walls of your home at least once a day. A walk around the neighborhood while being mindful of keeping your distance from others is good for the body and for the soul.

When it rains, however, our outdoor time is dashed. So what do you do when the clouds are releasing their burdens? It can be especially quiet around the house if you are an empty nester or don’t have children, like me. Also, I’m typically working from home now during the day, but we are currently on Spring Break.

Scrolling through Facebook for a limited time is good for connecting with others, but it’s probably not a good idea to stay on it all day long. Certainly, it’s nice turn off the TV now and then, too. I rarely turn that box on at all.

There are lots of things you can do without leaving your home. The thing is, you just might need to be brave and try something new. So here’s my list, just for you:

10 Things You Can Do At Home To Pass the Time

  1. Read a book—My all time number one fave thing to do. No explanation needed. 🙂 Click here for a current list of the New York Times Best Sellers. Most of my reading time this year has been devoted to children’s books. Therefore, my current read (technically reread) is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, which is a gem of a book. I am sad to say I have not read any of the Top 5 in any of the categories on The NY Times Best Seller list YET, except for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Teacher life. *Sigh*.
  2. Work on a puzzle—This is not one of my favorite things to do, but I thought I’d list it because I’m seeing a lot of my friends’ finished puzzles pop up on their news feeds, and they are beautiful. Trivia is more my thing, and recently I discovered Trivia Plaza which has tons of online trivia questions with a lot of different categories. That’s another option if you don’t have a puzzle handy. Riddles are fun, too. In fact, I’ve been working out a riddle on Facebook recently. Trying to find connections with mystery is fun. Playbuzz has a page with 13 fun riddles that aren’t too hard, yet will still make you think.
  3. Reorganize something in your home—Last week, I created some office space of my own in the guest room since I’ll be working from home for the next several weeks. It was fun to get creative and find some things in the garage that I could use for my home office since I couldn’t go purchase a small desk. That is, until the little table I was typing on yesterday collapsed and caused my head to ram into the wall. But that’s another story. Stay safe in your house, friends! Or get LifeAlert. I might need that, myself. Anyway, if you don’t need some office space, maybe cleaning out your closet is just the thing (I love StitchFix, by the way…and no I’m not getting paid to say that). Or reorganize your garage or pantry.
  4. Call someone—At least every few days I like to make some phone calls or texts and check in on some people to make sure they are doing okay. It’s nice to hear their voice. The human connection is truly important, and unless you’re involved in a battle with someone, talking with someone always lifts your spirits and reminds you that you’re not alone in this strange event. If you make each other laugh, you get bonus points. If you’re kind of shy when on the phone, click here for 3 Ways to Make Your Phone Call Less Awkward. This has always been a struggle for me. Again, you’re not alone!
  5. Sing along to karaoke songs on YouTube—Did you know that you can search for pretty much any song title on YouTube and add the word “karaoke” after it to find a sing along version of the song? One of my current favorites to sing to is Memories by Maroon 5…the melody reminds me of a fast relative of Pachelbel’s Canon in D.
  6. Dance…it’s exercise!—-Speaking of music, turn your living room or kitchen into a dance studio. Push back the furniture, turn up the volume, and shake it. Meghan Trainor’s I’m A Lady always gets my feet moving.
  7. Play solitaire—If you have a deck of cards and you’re by yourself, solitaire is a great game to play. It will really help the time pass by. Never played before? For the rules of the game, click here. Or you can play a digital version here if you don’t have cards at home.
  8. Write a letter—If you’ve been too busy before to sit down and write a letter like back in the old days, now’s the time. Grab a pen and paper and surprise someone with snail mail. My best friend from college, Rosie, did this for me just a couple of weeks ago. She used to write me when I studied abroad in England, and said she thought she’d surprise me for old time’s sake. It really brightened my day.
  9. Try a new recipe—-Well, because we were out of it and I want to avoid the store as much as possible, I found a recipe to make my own BBQ sauce for our pulled pork nachos tonight. It was fab! Loved it so much, I don’t think I’ll ever buy bottled BBQ sauce again (although the sugar content is quite high). And it was super easy. For the recipe, click here.
  10. Write your story—Last, but not least, having extra time is a blessing for writing. Is there a story on your mind you’ve been wanting to put onto paper? Is there a time in your life you’d love to share with readers? Have you always wanted to document your life and the many lessons you’ve learned along the way? Any struggles that have turned into triumph? Or maybe you want to teach people how to do or make something. The words are your oyster. Hee hee. Seriously, though, to quote other writers out there, “your story matters”. Connect with others through writing yours.

BONUS ACTIVITY—-Think of something kind you can do for someone. Here’s a list of 58 Random Acts of Kindness, many of which you and I could still do even during the shelter in place.

Have fun, and please drop a comment if there is something you love from the list, OR if there is something that is not on the list that you’d like to share.

Stay safe and have a great week!

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Struggling

This encourager needs some encouragement.

Keeping my mind preoccupied from the very shaky state that the world is in right now has been my priority today.

So I rearranged some space to create an office at home, since it will be a longer time than we hoped for. The creativity of that brought me some joy.

Overall, I’m content…but it’s mixed in with one part stress, one part frustration, and many parts sympathy. So when I do turn on the news, my heart hurts for others and my fear returns a bit. It’s a struggle, that.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. But I also wish I could just ignore the news.

But you know, it’s got to be expected. The down days.

Everyone has down days.

And that’s why I’ll continue to pray and remember to count on the sunrise. And Jesus.

Tomorrow will be a new day, with a new beginning, and another opportunity to keep our eyes fixed on what we can be thankful for.

Just wait and see.

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