Blog Archives

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 334

June 5Today is June 5.

For most people, that date doesn’t mean much. But for some reason, it remains significant to me. It is not a birthday or an anniversary.

It marks the day I graduated from high school 29 years ago, and  I’ve remembered it for the past 28 years.

Remembering always makes me smile.

Day 334: Significant Dates in Our Lives

Day 333: Rocking Chairs  Day 332: Lemonade from Fresh Lemons Day 331: Feeling at Peace  Day 330:  Not Letting Age Slow You Down  Day 329: Raindrops on Roses Day 328: Old Newspapers  Day 327: When My Pets Get Attention  Day 326:  Odd Little Distractions from Every Day Life  Day 325: Wearing White before Memorial Day Day 324:  Avoiding a Poison Ivy Rash  Day 323: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  Day 322: Breezes Blowing Through my Kitchen Window  Day 321: Iris Gardens  Day 320: Ginger’s Ridiculous Wardrobe  Day 319: Wildlife in My Midst  Day 318: Teamwork  Day 317: The Golden Rule   Day 316: When Weather Cooperates  Day 315:  When Humans Respect Nature  Day 314: Books We Pass on to Our Children Day 313: Wildflowers Day 312:  The Right to Vote Day 311: Staying True to Your BeliefDay 310: Doris Day and “Que Sera Sera” Day 309: Lessons Learned from Motherhood  Day 308: When a Difficult Problem is Solved Day 307:  Living Near Hills and Mountains  Day 306: Recognizing How Far Women Have Come Day 305: Creative House and Yard Decorations Day 304:  The Power to Forgive Day 303: Marrying Someone Who Always Knows How to Make Me Smile  Day 302: People Who Sport the Breaking Bad Car Magnet Day 301:  The song of the whippoorwill  Day 300: Coming Home Day 299: Clean Water Day 298: Blue Bells Day 297: Listening to Books When Driving Long Distances Day 296: Walking in the Woods Day 295: The Warm Sun on My Face Day 294: Turning Loud Shoes into a Conversation Item  Day 293: Seeing Something New in the Every Day  Day 292: Dreams Day 291:  “What a Wonderful World”  Day 290: Softly Falling Petals During Spring Day 289: Home king with Love Day 288: Coloring Easter Eggs  Day 287: The View From Above Day 286:  The Wisdom of Mr. RogerDay 285: The Princess Bride    Day 284: All Creatures Great and Small  Day 283: The Legend of the Dogwood  Day 282: Sleeping with the Windows Open  Day 281: Four Significant Birthdays in One Year Day 280: Discovering Great Music Day 279: Funny Names for Wi-Fi connections  Day 278: Sad Cat Diary Day 277:  The Smiling Cow  Day 276: Celebrating 16 years of motherhood  Day 275: Seeing Potential in Our Children  Day 274: Stained Glass Day 273: Naturalization Ceremonies Day 272: “Let It Be” by the Beatles Day 271: Sharing Meals with Great Friends Day 270: Daffodils  Day 269:  April Fool’s Day Day 268: Acoustic Music  Day 267: Country Roads  Day 266: Sunsets on Pamlico Sound  Day 265: The Sound and Smell of the Ocean  Day 264: Crossing the Bonner Bridge Day 263: Mark Twain Quotes Day 262: Old-fashion Fun Day 261: The Far Side Cartoons by Gary Larson Day 260:  Nostalgic Theme Songs  Day 259:  Appreciating Life’s Rewards  Day 258: Awkward Conversations With Strangers  Day 257:  The arrival of Spring  Day 256:  Being Saved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer  Day 255:  Thoughtful Husbands Day 254:  The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean  Day 252: Conversations in Cars  Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day  Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm  Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep  Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter  ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.”  Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty  Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect PhrasDay 243:  Little Girls With AttitudeDay 242: The Soup Nazi  Day 241: Contagious Smiles  Day 240: Oklahoma  Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence  Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check  Day 237: Only 28 days  in February  Day 236: Genuine Signatures  Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234:  The Words “Happy Birthday”  Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents  Day 232:  “Morning Has Broken”Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty  Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter  Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys   Day 228: Having a DreamDay 227: Mispronunciations  Day 226: Awkward Animal MomentsDay 225: Shaking Hands With Scott HamiltonDay 224:  Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature  Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges  Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer  Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self    Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted  Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane  Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated  Day 212: “The Soul” Quote   Day 211: Rubber Ducky  Day 210: Tracks in the Snow   Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners  Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days  Day 206:  Dogs Playing in the Snow  Day 205:  Descriptive Phrases  Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace  Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency  Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help  Day 200: Boys and Their Toys  Day 199: The Most Important Person  Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right  Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children  Day 196: Being Told I’m Young  Day 195: Good News  Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact   Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be  Day 191:  Matt Groening  Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy  Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

A Movie Moment

Life is comprised of millions of moments.Cardinals  Win

Some are significant, and some aren’t. Some have a long-lasting impact on us, and some don’t. And some are memorable, and some are easily forgotten.

The moments that make headlines either tell us about events that will affect us or are intended to engage or entertain us.

But the moments that help shape who we are and who we are becoming are often less dramatic or public. But sometimes they are, and in those rare occasions, they might get a brief nod in the back pages of a newspaper.

Such were the events of last Friday night.

Anyone who attended the Spring Mills High School football on Friday night probably recognized the events had everything a good Hollywood script requires, including an ordinary beginning.

Students, parents and community members trickled into the stadium to the sounds of rock music. The football team, cheerleaders and band warmed up. And the announcers checked the sound system.

The only thing outwardly unusual about this Friday night was the biting cold and the students who came dressed in costumes.

“It’s the last football game before Halloween,’ the younger sibling of one student told me. “Of course they are going to dress in costume.” She then puffed up a bit. “My sister is the one in the poodle skirt.”

Almost on cue, the night became magical.

When the band played the national anthem, the whole stadium was unusually silent. Even the younger students who are generally unruly, paid tribute. Later, when a boy didn’t have enough money to buy a hot chocolate at the concession stand, an adult offered him change. The boy looked at him in awe and said, “thank you, sir,” at least three times.

And then there was the game itself.

Spring Mills High School, which has no senior class and, until Friday, had never won a football game, scored 14 points in the first half.

The other team didn’t score anything.

For the first time since August, our team had hope.

During the third quarter, the other team tied the score, and that hope began to diminish until Spring Mills scored another touchdown.

As the final seconds of the game ticked down, the energy in the frigid stadium went up. When the final buzzer sounded, the student body rushed the football field and celebrated for a long, long time.

Some students may have been celebrating a win for the sake of winning. Others may have been celebrating the football team’s history making moment. And others were celebrating the individual successes of all the young men who had persevered.

One by one, the students left the field. Then the football team left the field. And then, finally, the band members left the field.

The band, like the football team, is new this year, and it, like the football team, is smaller than those of other high schools.

But, for the first time ever, as it marched off the field after a football game, the band played in celebration. The band parents in the concession stand stopped what we were doing and started clapping and cheering and crying.

The moment was movie perfect until the young girl, who hours before had bragged her sister was wearing a poodle skirt, came back. In child-like innocence she said, “Did you see the other team? The looked so sad when they left the field, Their heads were hanging down.”

For an instance, I felt guilty about all the jubilation.

But then, I realized we weren’t really celebrating our defeat of another team or the points on the scoreboard. We were celebrating the community we are becoming. For the first time, we had collectively experienced a memory that will stay with us the rest of our lives.

There were no reporters and television crews at the game, and the victory received only a brief mention in the local newspaper.

But for those of us who were there, the script for that evening unfolded in a way usually reserved only for movies, and we will all carry that perfect movie moment with us forever.

Small Moments, Big Reminders

gift wrappedIn the grand scheme of life, this past week was rather uneventful. Yet, small reminders of how to live were wrapped up in my mundane, everyday activities.

On Saturday, I was the local grocery store when I thought I passed someone I knew. Instead of turning around, I glanced into the side view mirror of my shopping cart.

I know . . . shopping carts don’t have side view mirrors, rear view mirrors or any other mirrors. But, I’ve been spending a lot of time on my bike recently, and I’m constantly checking for cars in the side mirror attached to my handlebars. Apparently, the muscle memory of steering a bike is similar to pushing a grocery cart.

My action was ridiculous, and even though no one else would have even noticed the quick glance into nothing, my behavior kept me from actually turning around to see the person. Instead, I put my head down and hurriedly pushed the cart forward.

Saturday’s reminder: Never be so focused on moving away from our mistakes or missteps that we fail to turn around and face the current situation.

Sunday during church, the choir sang a particularly uplifting song, and as members finished singing, a little boy in the pew behind us started clapping. This was followed by his father’s hushed but angry voice saying “you don’t clap in church!”

The father’s reaction to his son’s joy and celebration reminded me how often we let society dictate how we express our feelings. I wish I had turned around and said, “What better place is there to clap than in church?” But I didn’t.

Sunday’s reminder: Don’t let anyone prevent you from expressing joy and happiness.

I was sitting at my desk at work on Monday, when my cell phone rang. Even though I didn’t recognize the number, I answered anyway. The call was from a former neighbor currently living in the Ukraine. As she recited all the countries her children have visited as part of their education and all the trips she is constantly making, I started feeling as though my life is dull and unremarkable. Then she told me her family is coming home after two years, and she was looking for advice regarding  schools.

Since I rarely go through a day when someone doesn’t ask me for advice, I didn’t initially think much about her questions. But later, I realized she had given me a compliment.

Monday’s reminder: Being asked for an opinion is a sign of trust, and having someone’s trust is a remarkable gift.

Last month, my colleagues and I moved from our offices to a building that had previously served as a doctors’ office. Despite the large sign out front that says “research center” and the paper sign we put on the front door with the doctors’ new address, patients still come through our doors.

On Tuesday, a woman came walking down the hall yelling loudly, “Where’s my cancer doctor?” I politely told her the doctor had moved and that the address was posted on our front door. The look she gave me indicated she needed more instruction, so I walked her to the door and read her the sign. She repeated the address as she walked to her car.

Tuesday’s reminder: Being able to read is something many of us take for granted, and making assumptions that everyone can get the message through the written word is presumptuous.

My daughter just got braces, and she isn’t bothered at all by them. In fact, she loves the color (aqua) and the attention she’s getting. On Wednesday, she took her customary place in the passenger seat of my Jeep, pulled down the visor, flipped open the mirror and admired her mouth. Then she turned to me and said, “You know, I’m not the one who has to get used to the braces, since I don’t look at myself all the time. Everyone else has to get used to them.”

Wednesdays reminder: Perspective really is everything.

Thursday after work I hurried home so I could get in a bike ride before I had to transport my daughter to evening activities. One of my older neighbors was outside with her dog, so I stopped to talk. Oak catkins were spread all over her lawn and driveway, and she apologized for the mess. Since I was focused on her and her dog, I hadn’t even noticed until she drew attention to them.

Thursday’s reminder: Don’t apologize to others for living your life the way you want. If people judge how you spend your time, they aren’t worth making time for.

On Friday, I was riding my bike on the bridge over the interstate near my house. I could see that traffic on the exit was backed up almost to the highway, and my first reaction was that there must have been another accident on Interstate 81. (Such accidents have become almost daily events.) But traffic on the interstate was moving smoothly.

As I rode through the light at the exit, I noticed the first vehicle in line was about a car’s length back from the white line that distinguishes the exit from the road. It also marks a trigger linked to the stop light. Despite the long line of cars and the red light that wasn’t changing, the first vehicle didn’t move. I imagine eventually something prompted the driver to move forward, but I was glad I wasn’t stuck behind him.

Friday’s reminder: Sometimes we can’t wait for something to happen, we have to make it happen ourselves.

This may not have been a week of earth shattering events or life-changing moments, but it was definitely a week to remember.

All Good Superheroes Ask Questions, Don’t They?

questionAccording to some people, I suffer from a very bad habit, and, if I knew what was good for me, I’d have given it up for Lent.

But I didn’t and I probably never will, so my friends and family are forced to deal with my habitual need to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. About anything and everything.

My husband and kids call me “The Interrogator.”

I’d like to think that means they consider me a superhero who unveils misdeeds, liars and unacceptable behavior by eventually asking so many questions the truth is revealed.

Unfortunately, they aren’t paying me a compliment and instead are simply letting me know they find my all questions annoying. I’ve also been told that people who ask a lot of questions are subconsciously trying to take control of a situation.

There’s probably some truth to that, but I’d rather be annoying than to sit back and just allow people and organizations to get away with actions that affect and sometimes hurt others.

(UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)

(UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)

I also like to think that, as an inquisitor, I’m in good company.

This week, at her first Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned bank regulators about why they hadn’t  prosecuted a bank since the financial crisis. Her question seemed simple enough, “Tell me,” she requested “about the last few times you’ve taken the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street to trial. Anybody?”

Instead of simply responding “never,” the regulators tried to explain why there was no need to prosecute.

As with anything political, there are those who agree with Senator Warren and those who don’t.

But her actions, to me, were bigger than pointing out the double standard for big corporations versus average citizens or about ensuring that bank executives don’t continue to pass the repercussions of their behaviors onto the general public. Her actions were about her willingness to ask the tough questions and to not back down. Her actions were about repeating the same question over and over again until someone is forced to answer.  And, to be honest, her actions were about validating my own behavior.

I’m not even close to being in Elizabeth Warren’s league much the less in the Justice League, but I do believe heroes have to ask the hard questions. If they don’t, silence persists, and nothing ever changes.

So even though my family insists on calling me “The Interrogator” to try to shut me up, it’s not working. Instead, I’m thinking of getting one of those t-shirts with a big question mark on the front. It may not be the fashion statement superheroes make when wearing their capes, but it just might be a start.

Because if no one questions the status quo, then nothing ever changes or improves. So, far all the

How I’d Shake Up the Presidential Debates

This Wednesday, when President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney square off in the first in a series of three debates, I’ll be watching for entertainment purposes only.

Despite all the hype, I have absolutely no expectation that anything either candidate says will sway my opinion. They will both be so scripted, so practiced and so focused on performing that their potential to impact my life will seem irrelevant. And even after they stop talking, the pundits will step in to add their spin.

The debates, like so many other events that used to be newsworthy, have become staged productions with limited genuine content.

What I need is honesty. I don’t need platitudes or great sound bites. I need heartfelt discussion and genuine opinions.

If only I were in charge of the debates.

If I were, both candidates would be injected with truth serum before they could answer even one question. I’d also be asking my own questions. I already have a list:

1. If your household income were $50,502 (the median household income in the United States in 2011), describe how you would budget your money to pay for housing and health care, ensure your children received an excellence education and save for emergencies.

2. Describe a situation when you “pulled yourself up by your bootstraps” when the odds were against you, if anyone helped you and what resources you used.

3. Who really influences your political decisions?

4. Do you think there are deserving and undeserving people? If you think there are undeserving people, who are they?

5. What is the biggest lie you or your party has told about the other candidate?

6. What do you think are the biggest differences between men and women? (The ability to give birth doesn’t count.)

7.  How would you ensure that every child in America actually received a comparable education?

8. Describe what’s wrong with Congress and how you would attempt to fix it.

9. Describe your understanding of a typical week for an average American.

10. Why do you really want to be President of the United States?

I realize that my questions aren’t particularly politically savvy or intellectually stimulating, but when answered truthfully, they would definitely shine light on which candidate could best lead America.