Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Take a Minute

 

Some of the most persuasive people I know are the quiet ones.

Quiet people are a stabilizing influence in a world jangling with noise.

A Spanish proverb says it like this:

abre la boca solo si lo que vas a decir es más hermoso que el silencio

(“Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than the silence.”)

Silence helps us understand ourselves. We can be fully present and connect with others.

When we are stuck or confused, silence brings us little epiphanies.

Silence can be a life-long friend. But we need to pay attention to it.

For some of us, solitude is water to a parched soul; we must have it.

For others, solitude is too deep, too sad, too isolating.

But it can be a shared place for hunkering down and listening.

“Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence.”

RACHEL NAOMI REMEN, author



Silence is a patient friend. Waiting always, watching over your comings and your goings, hoping you will join the hush and wonder.

Here’s what happens during just one minute while you remain quiet:

>> 255 babies will be born

>> Your Heart will pump 83 Gallons Of Blood

>> A hummingbird will flap its wings 4,000 times

>> 31,600 tons of water will flow over Niagara Falls

>> 1,800 stars will explode

>> 4,500 McDonald’s burgers will be eaten

>> UPS will deliver 11,319 packages

>> 243,000 photos will be uploaded to Facebook

>> Americans will Eat 21,000 Slices of Pizza

>> 4,310 people will visit Amazon

>> Twitter users will send 347,222 tweets

>> Uber passengers will take 694 rides

**Research from Pawan Patar

www.https://artplusmarketing.com/

 

If this much happens inside the space of 60-seconds, then maybe you can take a little break.


It’s pretty obvious the world will keep churning if you step away from it.

 

Take a pause for you.

Notice your own breathing.

Consider the hummingbird, who flaps and grabs the nectar.

We, too, can join that dance.

We, too, can taste the wonder and the sweetness and come back for more.

 

We, too, can rest a minute and enjoy the quiet.



Photo credits to Claudia Ricci  mystorylives.blogspot.com


This blog supports https://booksforbondinghearts.com/

Please visit the link to join my book launch tour, Will You Hold My Story? - a story about listening, for kids of all ages.

https://booksforbondinghearts.com/book-launch-tours/



 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Bidet Shopping for Dummies

On a bright winter Saturday, I got in my car and headed to Lowe's. I welcomed the prospect of shopping in a real store versus online. A freshly laundered mask gave me a little boost of confidence. The sun was shining and it was the weekend. Possibilities seemed endless.

I was on a mission to find a bidet and install it myself. In less than ten minutes, like the website promised. "A luxury you can afford!" the ad said. "Try the Tushy Classic" advised another consumer blurb.

I'd just celebrated a 60-something birthday and wanted to mark the occasion with a toilet accessory. I'd been mildly curious about the virtues of the bidet and now I wanted to unravel the mystery. 

It was time.

Today was The Day.

What I didn't bargain for, though, was the ordeal I would have finding the doggone gadget. 

Head for Plumbing, I reasoned, steering my cart like I actually knew my way around the big box store of All Things Hardware.

Finding the toilets and all the accoutrements, I felt sure I could locate the bidet section. The hunt, however, proved elusive. 

I'd have to ask for help.

Discreetly.

Before I could go searching for a red-vested associate, a red-vested associate approached me. A bearded one, with a helpful smile and a booming voice: "May I help you, ma'am?" he thundered. 

I wanted to disappear. 

How could I tell a man I was shopping for a bidet?

I hadn't figured in the plethora of red-vested men for my plumbing safari.

"Just browsing, thanks!" I breezily replied.

Oh, great.

I'd need a woman for this. A woman would understand these things.

Steering my cart through the aisle with a million PVC pipes, I persevered until I saw the Customer Service Desk. I waited in line, standing dutifully on the six-feet-apart-X, rehearsing what I would say.

"Where do you keep the bidets?" I'd say. Like I was asking for cabinet knobs, or area rugs. I'd say it calmly, casually.

Finally it was my turn at the counter and thankfully, a woman greeted me behind the Covid-issue plastic.

"Where do you keep the bidets?" I asked. Only, through the cloth mask I wore, it sounded more like, "Whar do you sheep the Big A's".

"WHAT?" she said through the muffle of her mask, "The filets?"

I hadn't counted on this.  My plans to casually whisper were thwarted. 

WHERE DO YOU KEEP THE BIDETS? I repeated. DO YOU HAVE BIDETS? I shouted through my mask, through the plastic barrier, to the Entire Universe.

"Oh," she said. 

And then, turning to another female associate, she hollered, "WHERE DO WE KEEP THE BIDETS!"

This was going downhill fast. I considered disappearing through the floor. Instead, I felt my ears turning red, burning with shame and regret.

Before I could plan my escape, I heard the female associate tap-tap-tapping her computer screen, determined to hook me up with my very own toilet seat attachment.

"Aisle 40-B, look for the end cap. We have a couple of different styles."

Great. 

Pushing my cart through a ridiculous amount of light switches and dimmers, I felt my shopping savvy ebbing away. Now everybody knew why I was there. 

When I finally located my quarry, it was a disappointing selection of hand-held sprayers. I wanted a button system, preferably with temperature control. 

They didn't have the one I wanted.

Defeated and deflated, I pulled my mask down for a quick breath of air. Inhaling a combo of sawdust, oil, paint and testosterone, I headed for the garden department. I just wanted to leave the store with some of my dignity intact.

I selected a small succulent for my desk at the office.

At the checkout, I noticed the irony of my huge red cart with just one small plant in the child seat. 

Walking to my car, I promised myself all future bidet-hunting would take place online. 

Thank you very much and have a nice Bid-Day.


This blog supports https://booksforbondinghearts.com/

Please visit the link to see my latest book launch, Will You Hold My Story? - a book for reading out loud for kids of all ages. 







Thursday, January 7, 2021

Coffee Rings and Comfort Zones

 “Your living room is arranged exactly the way you like it. Now suppose a guest drops in, moves your favorite chair, sits in it, and puts a damp glass on your favorite wooden table without even bothering to use a coaster. You might be taken aback, even though you had invited your friend to make himself at home.

A similar thing can happen in conversation. Your precious notions are moved across the room. Someone carelessly leaves a ring on your wooden beliefs. You find this maddening, even though a conversation is an invitation to rearrange one’s mental furniture. If a home is perfectly arranged with no blemish and nothing out of place, it’s probably a show home. No one lives there.”

Beryl Barclay, Daily Scoldings, copyright 2010



I discovered this salty little book of gentle chastisements at a friend’s house and immediately went out to buy one for myself. If you can take the occasional pang of uncomfortable truth, it’s great for your bedside table. Or maybe a conversation starter, on display in your living room.

Now isn’t this a revealing glance into our internal dialogue? We have a schematic view of how the room should look. Of whom should believe what, and why. Of where everybody should stand. Of how we insist on the most attractive pairing of color and texture; the exchange of surface pleasantries, no discord and thank-you-very-much-for-stopping-in.

When that visitor leaves, the room looks quite the same. How much more interesting would it be then, if we invited wild polka dots into a beige living room? How disarming if we allowed shabby chic throw pillows against a palette of unwrinkled monotony?

It’s possible – someone may leave a coffee ring on your polished opinions. 


Let that be an invitation to an honest conversation.

Listen now. Rearrange later.

Bring the cream, stir, and relax.

Or you may decide to keep the room in its more cluttered state -- the look is more lived-in, and the welcome is real. Shoes are kicked off; feet are propped comfortably on the sofa.

How many of us have tip-toed into an immaculate house, unsure of where to put our things or how best to vanish into the woodwork?

We want to avoid rearranging the space with our messy ideas, our unique impressions of life. We become beige, conforming to what’s already in the room.

We depart unchallenged and unheard, blending into the vanilla-flavored world outside. Conversations are safe but brittle. Predictable but dull. Pleasant but sadly lacking in spice and flavor.

Recently I enjoyed the generous hospitality of friends around a table of plenty. By “plenty” I mean tasty food, thoughtful discussion and raucous laughter. Our words blended and spilled, mixing themselves into affirmations of life: what we think matters and what we say is worthy of hearing.

Instead of comparing this boisterous exchange to my ultra-quiet life in my tiny apartment, I choose something else: I will opt into hosting more, holing up less. I choose hospitality over perfection, invitations over hesitation, spontaneity over well-executed planning. The menu will be simple, and I hope our blended words will be the tastiest of morsels.

In this new year of blank pages waiting to be filled, I hope I will color outside the lines.

I hope you will, too.

Trust your tribe – your pod – your friends. They already welcome you with open arms. Speak your truth.

In less familiar situations and more structured rooms, try scooting the furniture around a bit. The results will be refreshing.

Coffee with Kathy

Inspired by Messy, Meaningful Conversation

https://myfreebookgift.com/558/will_you_hold_my_story_landing_page/index.html

This blog supports https://booksforbondinghearts.com/

Please visit the link to see my latest book launch, Will You Hold My Story? - a book for reading out loud for kids of all ages. 









Monday, November 2, 2020

The Trouble with Dogs

The gift of connection is fraught with the grief of separation.

Simply put, we outlive our dogs, and it’s just not fair.

When I met my dog for the first time and knew she would become my companion, there was an element of loss in the joyful mix; I did not feel it, could not have identified it at the time. But there was a wiggly layer of sadness inside our first meeting, and that niggling thread would follow us through the five years I had her.

The grief would grow more insistent the day the vet told me my girl had Canine Degenerative Myelopathy, a condition which would cause some pain and possible paralysis in her hindquarters.

The sting of losing her this way, in slow dribbles, tracked us like a cold shadow. Our walks became shorter. She accepted my help getting into the car, out of the car, up the steps, into the apartment.

Many things were the same, but even the familiar rituals felt short-lived, more precious.

Brief walks along the lakeshore, lurching along like a couple of mellowed oldsters, just sniffing the breeze and hoping for polished beach glass along the way.

Lots of treats. More than necessary.

Head pats, ear scratches, belly rubs. Little luxuries to ease the pain.

Small affirmations whispered into a world of

gifts and goodbyes,

homecomings and heartaches,

rescuing and relinquishing,

mending and mourning.

I lost her in February.

In March, the world shut down.

The emptiness in my apartment became a thundering silence; a constant reminder of she’s-not-here-anymore.

The sequester was deeply solitary for me.

It’s been good to return to the office. The place is far from “normal days”, but still there are ripples of laughter. There is kindness. A sense of endurance, of pulling together.

It’s been a strange journey this year. I’m doubly sorry I’ve had to traverse it without my sweet girl, Reina.


“Reina”

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Rx for Rest

 


Harvests are mostly gathered and stored for winter by now. Unbelievably, Thanksgiving will be here soon.

We will celebrate Abundance and gather in the fruits of our farming community’s labors.

Our tables will stagger under the weight of Plenty; traditions will keep us grounded during the niggling uncertainty that is Covid.

What gets lost in the thrill of costumes, bags of sweets, traditions, then the whipping of Thanksgiving spuds and cranberry sauce, is the season of rest to follow.

I didn’t really want to mention it, but Winter is coming – this season of slumbering bears and soft flannel; an interval of climbing in and hunkering down.

Dormant crops will pause beneath the frozen earth.

It’s a time for rest, a well-deserved respite for planters, reapers and gatherers.

Symbolically, we’re all in the business of planting, reaping and gathering.


Seems logical, then, that we should plan for rest, and lean into it like a comfy quilt.

But we don’t.

Rest, in our industrious, git ‘er done culture, is the Last Stop on a Fast Track.

In some ways, the year 2020 has forced many of us to rest from something, open our hands, wear some masks, separate from all the parties and associations of labor, and receive something very new. Some new growth.

 New perspective.

New value.

New understanding.

Rest is too often frowned upon, equated with “lazy”.

That’s just sad. I know a woman who never tells her mother that she has been reading for hours, or drawing, or quietly designing something.  This would be frowned upon.

What’s worse is, we often feel guilty for getting some downtime when there’s so much yet to cross off the daunting To-Do List.

People who own their own company rarely get to just shut down and go to the beach for a week. Others feel their vacation time must be spent with family when they would rather explore a mountain retreat alone. Is that kind of vacation commitment more productive?

Give yourself permission to relax. Schedule downtime and honor that impulse to shut all the clamoring needs out. As a colleague is fond of saying, “You’re not lazy – you’re spent!”

She’s right — we’re operating on two cylinders and still hoping to put more miles on before bedtime.

We.

Are.

Spent.

No judgement here.

You can’t serve from an empty vessel.


This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com/shop, timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see my seasonal books, the "Breath of Joy! series. Breath of Joy! Ah, Autumn celebrates the robust season of fall and Breath of Joy! Winter Whispers throws a memory quilt over your grateful shoulders!




Sunday, October 4, 2020

Buddy and the Last Great Chase

"I think I'm dying," I confided to my editor.

"What?! Why?" she wanted to know.

"Because I'm having a really productive writing season. This might be my last gasp."

She wasn't having it. Not any of it. 

"Please let me explain," I said. 

And I told her about Buddy the cat.

Buddy, an orange tabby, became my parents' house cat after a hardscrabble start in a litter behind the barn. 

Buddy grew into a well-fed member of the household, but he kept his hunting prowess intact, occasionally depositing a dead chipmunk at the back door for all to admire.

For the most part, though, Buddy was domesticated. Pampered. Neither affectionate nor mean, Buddy just blended in. Other than a chin scratch now and then, he kept to himself, alternately sleeping and staring out the front window.

He did develop a fondness for Morgan, my great-niece, and the two of them were pals through all the years and seasons.

When Buddy grew quite elderly and thin, Morgan began to grieve. 

That's when he surprised us all with a final hunting tour that netted dozens of chipmunks.

Buddy would hunker down in the back yard and wait patiently, pouncing with precision and skill. Those critters thought they could outsmart Buddy, but they didn't stand a chance.

Not that summer.

His last summer.

One day he stopped eating. He became weaker. My folks noticed he would drink water, but he was not interested in food. His singular mission, day after day, was to vanquish the chipmunk population in the entire county. Hell bent and spring-loaded, Buddy piled up the chippies like little trophies, there on the back porch.

It was weird; that cat was enjoying his most productive season as a hunter. He was wasting away physically, but he had the stamina of a young feline on the prowl. 

It was a good run. Another chippie, another victory lap.

This went on for most of that summer.

And then he died.

Morgan was beside herself - it was hard to watch her mourn, after seeing the two of them grow up together.

"So this is why I think maybe I'm dying," I explained, after I told the story of Buddy the cat.

"I'm somehow cranking out a blog a day for my work."

"Basically I'm bringing chipmunks to the back door and it's been a really good run.

I must be at the end," I lamented.

There was laughter on the other end of the phone line.

Laughter!

She thought the analogy was a real stretch. When she came up for air, she said, "When you write something, it should not be viewed as an ending. It's an arrival. Just keep going on that journey."

I'm not at the end, I'm at the threshold.

I'm not Buddy-the-chipmunk-slayer. 

I'm Kathy, the word-chaser.

I chase after words and I carry them to the door, hoping upon hope I can write them down and give them to a reader who needs them.

Poor sweet old Buddy. He had a job to do and he did it like a champion. Even at an age when nobody thought he had it in him.

I think I'll learn from his blazing exit, and from my editor's sage advice: Keep showing up. Find the words; wait for them and pounce with precision and skill.

Write them down.

Wake up tomorrow. And do it all over again.



Kathy Joy, wordsmith, event speaker

https://booksforbondinghearts.com/



Monday, August 31, 2020

Why Am I So Angry?

Has anybody else noticed it? The anger?

I thought I had my emotions in check until some guy cut me off in traffic. That did it. Within minutes, along the same road, a grown adult bicyclist swerved into my lane. I swung wide to avoid hitting him. Has everybody on wheels lost their driving skills? What is happening!

There’s an edge of irritation creeping into our voices.

There’s a thinner layer between civility and rage.

But why now – after all these months of adapting, merging, learning, accepting and forging ahead?

                              Unsplash photo by Katie Moum

Maybe that’s just it: we’ve been twisting ourselves into the uncomfortable seasons of Covid and it feels like a long road into an uncertain future.

 

Profound Uncertainty

There’s a new term floating around these days: Profound Uncertainty.

          We are trying to plan our days, yet we are measuring what we don’t know.

It’s annoying.

We try to be nice.

Being kind, doing good, is usually not that hard – but it’s really difficult in a hostile world.

I had a meltdown in the Aldi’s parking lot, when I realized my container of fresh mozzarella cheese was sliced open. Water was dripping everywhere, onto my flip-flopped feet, into my car.

I became angry at everything. The normal way of exchanging a product was now complicated further by putting on the mask, going back in and waiting in a line dotted by 6-foot gaps.

But really, the anger didn’t come from a broken package of cheese – it sprung up and erupted from the sleeping volcano inside – the hot lava had reached the out-spout and out-it-spouted.

Thing is…

the

world

was

uncertain

before Covid.

Still, what we’re now experiencing is deeper and more ambiguous, with no visible end.


Photo by Mark Timberlake

Is there a way to manage our irritation?

“Think of the positive things,” my mom is always saying. This helps, but only until we spill the cheese-water.

Maybe, just maybe -- we need to stop pushing down the negative emotions. Start running toward our feelings, not away from them. Quit pretending we have it all together. Start accepting that we feel messed up.

It’s time to be REAL. In those scary, uncovered moments, we can sit in a huddle and say, “me too!” and float each other lots of grace.

“You get a free pass!” the mechanic said to me, after my inspection sticker had long-since expired. It was as though he’d handed me a gift: a free pass for procrastination, for forgetfulness, for being stuck in a weird time-loop; he floated me some grace.

Let’s be authentic and let the hot lava gush out.

Once released, there’s more room for joy; for adapting; for doing the next uncomfortable thing.

“It’s good to do uncomfortable thingsIt’s weight training for life.” >>Anne Lamott


This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com/shop, timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see my seasonal books, the "Breath of Joy! series. Breath of Joy! Ah, Autumn celebrates the robust season of fall.