Me in the Middle of Being Grateful 2017

November Grid

A Dozen Gratitudes for 2017

  1.  For the cup of hot coffee I’m holding in hand while I ponder about this year and how quickly it’s flown by.  Grateful for still being here!

  2. For the ability to distance myself from the noise and drama of this year’s political events.

  3. For the hope that still swells up in my heart with a belief in the goodness and kindness of most people.

  4. For a safe dwelling and a supportive community that recognizes the needs of those of us who are aging.  I’m grateful to those who have filled a need for me this past year. 

  5. For my ‘young-at-heart’ mind that continues to love being creative in my retirement years.  Here’s to more watercolor sketching and creative writing.

  6. For our ‘genius’ system of government which continues to weather through all sorts of abuses yet, hopefully, continues to survive and thrive.  “The presidency is bigger than one man.” ~ President G. W Bush

  7. For the knowledge that my life on this earth is drawing to a close and I’m leaving behind five children, and their families, who strive to make this a better world.

  8. For a stronger sense of resilience and knowledge that I have it within me to face anything that comes my way with strength and grace.  No one is going to rescue me.

  9. For lessons learned this past year about myself, about where some people deserve to be in my life and setting healthy boundaries.     

  10. For the present moment because it is truly a precious gift.  Be aware!  Know what works for you in keeping you grounded and seeking the middle ground.

  11. For the higher power, whatever each person sees that to be, that holds me in unconditional Love through it all.  “You’ve always had the power, my dear.” ~ Glinda (Wizard of Oz)

  12. For the courage I’ve found this year to hold on to my convictions and beliefs in a very complex culture and society.  Trust your intuition.  You’re the best friend you’ll ever have.

Watercolor sketch © Mary Lou

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Me in the Middle of An Ordinary Day ~ JFK

An Ordinary Day ~ JFK

~ Creative Writing 3rd Person ~

It was November and an ordinary week day with not much planned except for household chores and planning for the upcoming holidays.  Nora’s husband had left for work leaving her with a pile of ironing to do.  She liked to set up the ironing board in the living room, facing the large bay window, so she could look out on the neighborhood.  It had been a quiet morning where she took things easy considering her pregnancy was drawing to an end and she was slowed down quite a bit.

Waiting wasn’t easy!  Over the past year she had had two miscarriages and this was her 3rd pregnancy.  All seemed to be progressing well and 22-year-old Nora could feel the lively kicks and bumps in this last stage before birth.  Her doctor wasn’t sure of an exact delivery date.  He told her to have her bag packed and ready for a trip to the hospital sometime during the holidays.

Her mind was preoccupied with these thoughts when her attention was abruptly drawn to the TV in the corner of the room.  The monotonous conversations of the scheduled show were suddenly interrupted by a brief, alarming announcement. 

“Here is a bulletin from CBS News.  In Dallas, Texas three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas.  The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.”

The announcement came and went so quickly that it almost seemed inconceivable that what Nora heard really happened.  She continued with the ironing and reflected on the memories she had of JFK over the past three years.  Her first stirrings of political awareness showed up when she went to a campaign rally at the Teaneck Armory in NJ for John F. Kennedy, who was running for President against Richard M. Nixon.  Standing outside in the massive crowd waiting for him to arrive, she and her sister came up with a chant:   “Jack be nimble. Jack be quick.  Jack’s the one who’s gonna beat Dick.”  Her family was proud of the Democratic Party that was going to work towards electing the first Catholic President.

She felt like she knew Jackie Kennedy personally when they both went through the heartaches of miscarriages and loss.  Jackie was her inspiration and JFK gave her hope.  Jackie gave her hope that one day she too would become a mother, just as her husband gave her hope that we as a country could overcome our divisions and adversities, and become greater still.

Did she really hear what she thought she heard?  The report said seriously wounded’ A feeling of dread washed over her as she thought of the possibility that the president would die.  And then it came up on the screen:

“From Dallas, Texas ~ The flash apparently official ~ President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time (2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time), some 28 minutes ago.”

Suddenly she felt very much alone and needed to reach out to someone.  Nora hurried down the stairs of their 2nd floor apartment to the landlady’s apartment below.  Relieved that she found her at home, she began to cry and, for the first time, said the words she couldn’t believe. ~

“President Kennedy’s dead!  He was shot!”

Her landlady, who was expecting her third child, tried to calm her down.  “You’ve got to think of your baby right now.  It’s important that you stay calm.”  She counseled her.  This brought Nora’s thoughts back to where she was in this moment and what she had to do next.

Two days later, she watched a live report of the Dallas Police bringing Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, through the garage of the police station on the way to a more secure county facility.  There was a lot of confusion and shouting as they walked through the crowd of reporters.  Suddenly she saw a man quickly approach Oswald and immediately saw a pained expression appear on Oswald’s face.  It happened so quickly there was no way to prevent it.  Nora was watching real life unfold realizing that she was watching the murder of a man for the first time.  Another urgent announcement followed that Oswald had been shot and killed by a local business man in Texas, Jack Ruby. 

Life changed for many in America on November 22nd, 1963 and when she stood in stunned silence watching the news unfold over the following days, Nora saw images of Jackie Kennedy, her daughter Caroline and her small son, John-John, standing by the roadside as the fallen president’s casket passed by.  An ordinary day became a tragedy.  The whole world mourned the death of our president.

The weeks passed by and the country began to take steps to bring order and safety as more information was released.  The grieving and healing would begin across the country and the world. 

So too, the weeks passed by with no sign of the beginnings of labor indicating the arrival of their first born.  Christmas 1963 and New Year’s Day 1964 came and went.  The doctor reassured her that all was well and not to worry.  The previous miscarriage had made it impossible to pinpoint a due date, and the baby’s weight and progress were on target for an eminent birth.  They continued to wait ~ one day at a time ~.  And then on January 22nd, 1964, exactly two months to the day of JFK’s assassination, a baby boy arrived healthy and welcomed into the family.  An ordinary day in the lives of so many others yet a cherished one for Nora.

And now, years have passed by filled with historic moments that have impacted the people of America in many ways.  That one ordinary day, 54 years ago, continues to haunt us as a reminder of our vulnerability.  Just as 9/11 sliced into the heart and soul of the country, so to 11/22/63 will remain a reminder that the perfect idealism of ‘Camelot’ can be shattered within one ordinary day.  

11-22-63 (4)

Creative writing and art image © Mary Lou

Me in the Middle of Creative Writing ~ 3rd Person (Critique and Revise)

This Fall I’m taking another OLLI  (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UVA) class ~ Creative Writing for Dabblers.  There are twelve of us and we read our work to each other and offer critique.  This is the first time I’ve done this and I’m getting a lot of value out of it.

Last Friday I posted what I wrote for reading to the class and this week I’m posting the changes I’ve made based on what the other writers in the group suggested.  This is the link to the original post ~ The Ocean ~ Creative Writing Class

The new post, with the changes I made since last Friday, is below:

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              Undertow       

The surf pounded with a roaring intensity and the huge waves rolled in one after another.  They all stood together; Nora, her father and her two brothers.  Standing there, with the water waist high, she could feel the sand travel through her toes as it ebbed and flowed with the undertow.  Her brothers were leaping over each wave and fearlessly plunging into the larger ones that rolled towards them.  They were having fun ~ and she was frightened!  She struggled to maintain her balance and held tightly to her father’s hand

I want to go back to the beach!”  She yelled …. over the roaring surf.

No!” “Stay here!”  “You’ll be fine!”  He shouted back.

Nora hesitantly pulled her hand out of his and let go.  As she started heading back to the beach where her mother was, she heard her father call to her.  “Go ahead then!  You’ll have to make it back on your own.”

The waves and the undercurrent were stronger than she anticipated and she found herself being knocked off balance.  It was too late to turn back and she was determined to get back to the safety of the beach.

Suddenly she plunged into a deep hole that had been created by the undertow.  Instantly, she lost her footing and couldn’t find the ocean floor to stand back up again.  She thrashed about, feeling a sense of panic.  It was hard for her to tell where the top of the water was.  When she opened her eyes all that she could see was the murky salt water and the long pieces of her hair floating around her.

It seemed like she floated there for a while and she didn’t fight it.  A strange sense of calm came over her.

Then, in an instant, she was scooped out of the water by strong arms.  It was her father and he took her by the hand to lead her over to the blanket on the beach.  He seemed upset with her as she gasped and cried.  “Here!” he said to her mother, “Keep her here with you!” 

Shaking and shivering as her mother put a towel around her, Nora was relieved that she was safe again.  Once she had dried her off, her mother gave her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and lead her over to a towel that was laid out on the sand.  There she sat eating and thinking about what had just happened to her in the ocean.  

As she gazed out at the vastness of the sea and the power that she had just experienced, four-year-old Nora began to put her fears to the back of her mind where she would always remember what the ocean taught her that day.  Yes, ‘Nora’ now loves the ocean and is humbled by the power and force behind it.  The ocean taught her about the ebb and flow of life and finding your balance in the middle ground.

Me in the Middle of Creative Writing~3rd Person

The Ocean

The surf pounded with a roaring intensity and the huge waves rolled in one after another.  They all stood together; Nora, her father and her two brothers.  Standing there, with the water waist high, she could feel the sand travel through her toes as it ebbed and flowed with the undertow.  Her brothers were leaping over each wave and fearlessly plunging into the larger ones that rolled towards them.  They were having fun ~ and she was frightened!  

“I want to go back to the beach!”  She yelled …. over the roaring surf.

She struggled to maintain her balance and held tightly to her father’s hand.

 “No!”  He said.  “You’ll be fine!”  He shouted back.

Nora hesitantly pulled her hand out of his and let go.  As she started heading back to the beach where her mother was, she heard her father call to her.  “Go ahead then!  You’ll have to make it back on your own.”

The waves and the undercurrent were stronger than she anticipated and she found herself being knocked off balance.  It was too late to turn back and she was determined to get back to the safety of the beach.

Suddenly she plunged into a deep hole that had been created by the undertow.  Instantly, she lost her footing and couldn’t find the ocean floor to stand back up again.  It was hard to tell where the top of the water was.  When she opened her eyes all that she could see was the murky salt water and the long pieces of her hair floating around her.

It seemed like she floated there for a while and she didn’t fight it.  A strange sense of calm came over her.

Then, in an instant, she was scooped out of the water by strong arms.  It was her father and he took her by the hand to lead her over to the blanket on the beach.  He seemed angry at her as she gasped and cried.  “Here!” he said to her mother, “Keep her here with you!” 

Shaking and shivering as her mother put a towel around her, Nora was relieved that she was safe again.  Her mother gave her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and led her over to a towel that was laid out on the sand.  There she sat eating her P&B sandwich and thinking about what had just happened to her in the ocean.  As she gazed out at the vastness of the sea and the power that she had just experienced, four-year-old Nora thought about the important lesson she learned that day.          

Me in the Middle of Leadership Part III (Reblog)

free-leader-3

Pixabay

 The past ten months of the presidency under the current administration has left many exasperated and alarmed about where we’re heading as a country.  Last year, when I decided to do this Leadership series, I was getting increasingly alarmed as the campaign for Election 2016 was drawing to a close.  What kind of Leadership does the United States of America need during these critical times?  Each of the three posts are long yet provocative and inspiring.  (You can read the comments on the original post 10/2016 Part III HERE

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 This is the third post on what qualities make a good Leader  The first ~ What Kind of Leadership is Needed for Our Time by Heather Plett ~ looked at Leaders as Host rather than Leaders as Heroes.  The second ~ Are We Winners or Losers by Arthur Rashap ~ looked at winning and losing and how to play life’s infinite game. 

My good intentions have been not to get political on this blog.  I hope to explore these qualities without picking a particular candidate or bashing a particular candidate.  It seems the campaign season here in America has gotten way off track.  It’s become almost impossible to explore what Leadership means much less what kind of Leadership America needs at this time.
Today I’ve chosen a post by Andrea Schulman @ www.raiseyourvibrationtoday.com.   I’d love to hear what you think about Andrea’s thoughts on Ego and the qualities to look for in our Leaders.
“To the ego mind, there is no connection. There are only winners and losers, and the ego desperately wants to win.”
“Put your ego in the passenger seat to enjoy the ride of life, but let your higher perspective do the driving. Everything is going to be just fine in the end.”

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9 Ways to Check Your Ego When It’s Out of Control

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By Andrea Schulman | Raise Your Vibration Today 

Do you worry that you may be ego-driven? It happens to most of us at some point, so you aren’t alone!

To understand if you are ego-driven, it can help to understand what your ego is. The ego isn’t who you are, but rather it is just a fragment of your consciousness.

What is the ego?

See, there are several aspects that make up who you are as a conscious being.  One, is the loving light that makes up your soul. This is the part of you that is strongly connected to the divine (and therefore connected to every other being as well).

The other, is your ego, or the mask you wear that tells you that you are different from others.  Your ego is your self-image in this physical reality. Because the ego observes your separation from others, it is often the part of you that seeks to protect you from others, rather than connect you with them.

The ego isn’t a “bad” thing, and it isn’t something you should try to get rid of. In fact, your ego does serve a very powerful purpose. It allows you to perceive the world from a unique, differentiated perspective. Without the ego, it would probably be pretty hard to root down into this physical world, and have this experience as a separate, human consciousness.

When an ego is out of control.

With that being said, sometimes the ego does a lot more of the driving in life than is useful. An ego-driven person frequently pushes down the higher, loving aspect of him or herself and allows the ego to take primary control.

The ego-driven person usually measures his or herself from a competitive viewpoint.  For this reason, ego-driven people are often in hot pursuit of being ” “stronger than,” “smarter than,” “richer than” or some other element of “better than” other people. 

This is born out of the desire to protect the self, but left unchecked the ego-self can become a tyrant. An out-of-control ego forgets entirely about the importance of unity, love and our ability to connect with others in meaningful and fulfilling ways.

To the ego mind, there is no connection. There are only winners and losers, and the ego desperately wants to win.

How to check your ego when it’s out of control.

So, what do you do when you feel your competitive ego taking more control over your life than you’d like? How do you check your ego, and allow more of your love and kindness to shine through?

Here are 9 easy ways to check your ego. Next time you find yourself caught up in the rat race of “winners and losers” try one of them out!

1. Remember, we’re not all perfect.

The ego is quick to point out other people’s mistakes and missteps. When you find yourself judging the actions of others, understand that is the ego at play. Step back into the loving aspect of yourself by remembering that you make mistakes too, and you appreciate it when people love you in spite of them.

2. Remind yourself that people often act out when they are hurting.

There’s nothing more annoying to an ego-driven person than another ego-driven person! However, it’s possible to check your ego even in the presence of someone else who is fully ego-driven. Just remember that those who are ego-driven are often acting out of fear or pain. Their competitive natures are typically driven by the threats they perceive from the outside world. When people are hurting or scared, they often step into the ego-self for protection.

3. List out the things that are most important to you in life.

Think about what you want to look back on when you are on your deathbed. The achievements and experiences you ultimately wish to have will likely resonate much more strongly with your higher self than with your ego.

4. Practice gratitude for the things you already have.

The ego is more concerned with what he or she doesn’t have, as again, the ego is very worried about coming up short. Gratitude reminds you of all of the ways you are supported and abundant, and therefore have no reason to worry about losing.

5. Think back on a time someone showed you they really loved you.

Looking back on loving memories is an excellent way to connect back into your higher self. Just thinking about being connected in love is often enough to tap you in to your higher knowing.

6. Help someone less fortunate than yourself.

Helping those less fortunate than yourself reminds you that you really don’t like for people to lose in life. The loving aspect of yourself wants everyone to win. When one of us loses, we all lose!

7. Give someone a long hug.

The simple act of connecting with another person in a loving manner can help bring you back into resonance with the loving aspects of yourself.

8. Meditate, to center back into the loving part of yourself.

The ego thrives on mental clutter and fearful, worrisome thoughts. Clear out the mental clutter with meditation.

9. Play devil’s advocate for the people you are arguing with or competing against.

Why might they be right? Why might it be good for them to “win” instead of you? Playing devil’s advocate allows you to connect with another person’s perspective, rather than separate from it.

Keep your perspective as high as possible, but respect your ego too!

Remember, we all have an ego, and that’s ok. You aren’t supposed to be without an ego, and it does serve a very powerful and important purpose. Without an ego, it’s unlikely that we would have a separate sense of self in this human experience.

The ego makes the game of life a lot more exciting and interesting. An ego allows you  to view reality like a movie, with you getting to be one of the characters.

With that being said, a life driven entirely by the ego can be a very sad and unfortunate one. Our ability to connect, to love, and to laugh together is what makes this human experience so wonderful and enjoyable. When we allow our egos to take control in life, we disconnect from the most satisfying elements of life. It’s like we forget it’s all just a movie, and we take things much more seriously than we need to.

A life driven entirely by the ego is one filled with pain, anger and frustration.

You are infinite and eternal, and everything is going to be ok.

Ultimately, we are connected to every being on the planet, and beyond. We are all connected to an infinite source consciousness. In fact we all ultimately ARE infinite source consciousness.

This means, in the end, there is nothing to fear, and nothing we need protection from. Everything that makes up this universe is us, and we it.

This reality is simply a platform we’ve created to play around in and experience. The threats our ego perceive exist only in the illusion that is this physical reality.  All of the struggle, and all of the pain is just a part of the ride. It isn’t anything we really need protection from, in the end, as it is our own creation.

Again, it’s just like watching a movie. There’s a lot more going on when the show’s over! See yourself as a character in the movie, enjoying the ride, but keep that inner knowing that you are connected to something far greater than this individual life experience. 

Remember, we’re all in this together. We are all one, therefore we are all actually safe as infinite, eternal beings. Your ego will try to get you to forget this, but your higher perspective knows this well.

Put your ego in the passenger seat to enjoy the ride of life, but let your higher perspective do the driving. Everything is going to be just fine in the end.

XO, Andrea

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Steve Winwood ~ Higher Love