Things to Do in May:
Brush up on Metamorphosis in Nature!
My granddaughters and their classmates are watching tadpoles develop into frogs in a tank in their kindergarten classes. Maybe it's too late in your area of the country to observe the metamorphosis of tadpoles, but perhaps you can still observe this fascinating practice with caterpillars. You may never again take the appearance of a butterfly for granted!
Visit a National Park! Spring is a wonderful time of year to visit National Parks, as we can often beat the vacationing crowds, and the weather continues to improve. Getting outdoors can lift your spirits and help you sleep like a baby. And speaking of babies, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife babies!
Sustain Your 5S efforts! The fifth step in Lean 5S is to establish an auditing practice so that you hold your 5S gains. Do a nightly review of your progress in the first four steps. Use your review to uncover areas where you are falling away from your intentions and good progress. Gently lead yourself back into your new habits. If you need help, find someone who is trying to improve their
life also and become accountability partners for each other.
Take in a Festival!
In many parts of the country there all sorts of festivals taking place this month. From arts and crafts, to fiber and wool, to church and community festivals or fund raisers, there are fun festivals for your enjoyment. Find one that you and your family would enjoy. Have a lemonade and some kettle corn for me!
Grow Some Vegetables! It doesn't take a lot of time or effort. You can plant directly in the ground or in a tubs or buckets on a porch or deck. Try something very simple, like one tomato or strawberry plant. Or try a few herbs on a sunny windowsill. And don't be surprised if your new hobby becomes addictive!
Best Books on Living:
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Living Simply in an Anxious World
Robert J Wicks
Eat to Live
A Return to Love:
A Course in Miracles Workshop
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I think spring has finally wrestled old man winter to the ground here in New England. When you step outside now, it is still a bit chilly, but whenever the sun shines you can smell the earth beginning to warm and come alive again. I'm watching with the interest as my perennials begin to poke their little noses out of the ground. And it seems more of a miracle to watch nature return to life here in Maine than it ever did when I lived in Florida or the DC Metro area. The spring peepers, one of my favorite sounds of spring, are so loud this year that by bedtime I'm almost tempted to ask them to hush. My daughter's sister in law, Kat, has five new baby lambs and the entire family, especially my little granddaughters, have been enthralled with their first wobbly steps and all the other details of their first weeks of life. The new life emerging all around me has put me in the mood to talk about the marvels, heartbreaks and mystery of living. I think that most of you will agree that there are days when we are head over heels in love with our lives and days when we just shake our heads in disgust. On those days when we are less than enchanted, I think it is important for us to manage our own expectations and realize that every life has a mixture of sun and shadow. We were never promised anything else. It is only our egos that demand that life be perfect. I have to admit, with not an insignificant amount of reluctance, that my greatest periods of personal growth have occurred during the bleakest of times.
If you are going through those shadows yourself right now, take heart, and remember that famous and fictional little girl named Annie, who once said "the sun will come out tomorrow!" It always does, and often just when we need it the most.
As a young girl growing up in a Catholic community in New York (and in an Italian family to boot), my
life was filled with traditions.
Every season of the year was marked by its own set of customs and traditions and some of my very favorite occurred in the spring. Catholic families
were very fond of decorating their yards with statues of the various saints, sometimes with flower beds or birdbaths, and my mom had one such bed in the front yard and one in the back. Each spring, I was assigned the task of carrying the statues out from the garage, cleaning and repainting them, and installing them back into the garden beds. I would then replant the geraniums that we over-wintered inside
and fill in the flower beds with other flowers and annuals.
The love of planting flowers in spring is still with me, even if the practice of surrounding them with statues of saints has fallen away. When I think about it, my plantings these days are more an affirmation of life renewing itself. It's probably still an act of worship, perhaps not to any one saint, but to the creator of life. In any case, it's a tradition that is happily being handed down through the generations, as you will read below!
As comforting and joyful as traditions can be, they can also box us in and stifle our own creativity. The trick to a
lived is to learn when to honor a tradition and when it is time to create your own.
I've said it before and I'm sure I will say it again, but two of my greatest teachers in this game of
life are my darling granddaughters, Hazel and Ruby.
One of the many lessons that they've taught me is that it is okay to sometimes break rules. That its okay to alter and change traditions. Since they were very, very young, they've ignored anyone's sense of fashion and "norms" in dressing, being perfectly comfortable in their own choices. Once I was able to break the free of those conventional rules of "this goes with that" I've been able to enjoy their sense of style. And I've realized that
is too short to conform to rules that really don't make a whole lot of sense and aren't all that important. And this realization has served me in a countless number of ways, far beyond clothing choices. It's been the pathway to authenticity and personal satisfaction.
Another hilarious example of their ability to honor their own instincts is how they go about starting their spring plants. Two months ago they were told by the local gardening experts that they shouldn't be starting marigolds, zinnias and morning glories yet. That it was too early to start these because it would be months before all danger of frost was past and these annuals could be set outside. They listened politely and planted anyway. We now have all three blooming indoors. And why not?
I think we can all use this example to take stock of areas in our own life where we're living some else's truth. What would your life look like if you honored your own instincts a bit more often? Why not find out?
Finding God In Life and Loss
I wrote at length in my first
Leap Years book about my efforts over the years to cope with the loss of my family members. Recently I was called upon to counsel several friends who have experienced a loss of a loved one. I also came across this quote and it resonated so much that I haven't been able to stop thinking of it. It has caused me to consider the times in my own life when I most strongly felt the presence of God.
It occurred to me that the first time I strongly felt the presence of God was the night my daughter Christy was born. When I look back, it was as if the room was bathed in a soft light and God was standing at my shoulder. At the time I thought perhaps He was present to introduce me to my little miracle. But when I peered into that sweet little face, she was completely familiar to me and I honestly felt as if I had always known her.
The next occasion was the day my cousin Junior passed away. I had lost my own father and brother when I was a teenager, and over the next thirty years my cousin, who was twenty years older than me, was the person I went to with any problem, great or small. I can tell you that I simply adored him, but pretty much everyone who knew him loved him. He was just that kind of guy. He wasn't tall in stature, but to his family he was a giant of a man. He had a wonderful sense of humor, tons of common sense and he was as honest as they come. We were all certain that his untimely passing was going to leave our family reeling. Just as he took his last breath, the room again filled with that same soft light and I again felt God standing beside me. I was sure then that He was there to help me say goodbye to the face that I had loved all my life. But in the years since my cousin has been gone I've found that I can easily call him to me whenever I need his advice or comfort. I can clearly see his face, hear his voice, see the very twinkle in his eyes. In any given situation when I stop and think about it, I feel sure of how he would advise me. Along with my other family members who have left this earth, my cousin
lives and breathes within me. So much so that these days I'm convinced that God does exist in the breath within our breath, and so does every person that we love: past, present and to come. I offer this thought to anyone still grieving a loved one, in the fervent hopes that it comforts you as much as it comforts me.
I'm so excited to share with you still more evidence that practicing gratitude has tangible benefits!
A growing number of researchers are proving that a regular gratitude practice can improve health and happiness, increase self-esteem and resiliency, deepen relationships, and increase longevity.
Here are some new facts about the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal:
- Organ recipients who kept gratitude journals scored better on measures of mental health and general well-being than those who only kept routine notes about their days (University of California, Davis and Mississippi University for Women).
- Patients with asymptomatic heart failure who journaled experienced better mood, better sleep, less fatigue, and less inflammation (University of California, San Diego). "It seems that a more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart, and that gratitude journaling is an easy way to support cardiac health," said lead author Paul J. Mills, Ph.D.
- Couples who recorded their feelings of appreciation for their partner's actions boosted happiness, romance, and satisfaction in their relationships (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles).
Here are a few suggestions for tapping into this powerful habit:
- Devote at least a few minutes each day to reflect and write about what you are thankful for.
- Write in your journal any time of day. If you have sleep issues, do it right before you go to bed, because studies show it can actually help you sleep better. Keep your journal on your nightstand or pillow.
- Simply list five things you are grateful for. If a journal isn't for you, keep your slips of paper in a clear jar or bowl. Then notice what shows up for you!
Is Your Mind Dressed for Success?