Doing Good for Graham 3/21 Day

Today is March 21st -3-21 Also know as Down Syndrome Acceptance Day.

I knew little about DS until our family was blessed with Graham. Graham is my cousin’s son, and even though he is small, so many are better for knowing him. His smile and the way he hugs or looks in your eyes, I just feel closer to God when with him.

Each year, we get a cute postcard of Graham with information about Downs and with the explanation that we celebrate through random acts of kindness. This could be buying coffee for strangers or sending flowers to someone who makes a difference in big or small ways.

3/21 has become a holiday I anticipate and plan at least a few weeks in advance. I can’t wait to see the faces tomorrow! I hope they will pass on the love!

Thank you, Graham, for helping me do some good I know I should, but otherwise would not take the time to do!

Capturing Chaos

I do not know the ‘schedule’ or possibly the lack thereof for our church directory, but the time has come again.

We last took photos in the fall of 2015 – my how my boys have grown.

As we waited our turn, trying to keep busy with hand tricks and then word games on the phone, the boys gave some of their ‘best face’s! My husband and I went from bribes to threats for just a single photo that could be used. I said a prayer for the photographer, who knew not what waiting behind his door.

When our time came, there were stools and blocks and lights and flashes. With a little help from some potty humor – boys love the farting and poop jokes- we got some smiles and were soon finished.

As we reviewed the photos, it seemed each one had someone not at their best. My oldest asked if we could try again, but our time had passed. We settled on a not so smiley middle son and kind of a clueless look on Dad’s face, for the best little smile on my youngest son’s face. I figured I may have many photos to come to capture a better smile, but that little boy grin may soon be gone . . . along with the chaos. And for now, the challenge is to remember to enjoy them both because this is the moment which will soon be the memory.

Tired . . . Oh so tired.

I am not sure what is more exhausting: going on vacation or coming home?

I know I do this to myself, with too much to get done before I ‘feel good’ to leave – again my mom’s voice about leaving dirty dishes or laundry plays in my head. And that is just at home.

Striving to get ahead in work projects, even though the trip is a work trip, so that I am not swamped when I get home, I am tired before I started.

Then the trip is to a different time zone. It involves some late night fun and some early morning meetings. I have to live up to my ag teacher upbringing: if you hoot with the owls, you must still fly with the eagles in the morning!

Then there is the mental exhaustion of the ideas and all you are striving to take in. Who knew thinking could be so enervating.

Then the push to get checked out on time and to the airport. Then wait and then rush on the plane. Repeat.

Now, I have wearied myself with complaining.

Chapter two tomorrow!

Until We Meet Again NYC

I had a college speech teacher who I did not really care for, but whose words I remember and still use today – If you do not have a personal experience with a person or situation, you would refrain from having an opinion about it. This has been true for me and NYC.

As I leave NYC, I think about what I was scared or worried of when I came and am forced to confront my own biases and stereotypes I continue to have, consciously or unconsciously, about people and places.

  • I never once felt scared or threatened to be ‘mugged’. While I am sure this happens and I was possibly in safer parts of town, I really assumed I would feel times when I felt unsafe. There was a single instance when we went the wrong direction and ended up outside of a park where a van was providing something to a long line of homeless people. Was I feeling unsafe or just uncomfortable? There was also a drunk man on the subway, but he was a happy drunk and well supervised by his brother and only asked us to sing along to “My Girl”.
  • The people of NYC will be rude. While they do like their car horns, we was treated with the up most respect and courtesy everywhere we went. The city should be proud of its hospitality and tourist industries. Along with all of the security people, these are the true stars of NYC.
  • I was really amazed at the huge differences in wealth that is obvious in this city. I did not truly understand that a matter of blocks or a bridge will quite obviously separate the millionaires from those with not enough to get by.
  • NYC is a dirty city. I rarely saw trash, except for at the end of the day when it was obviously being collected for disposal. I rarely came across foul smelling areas or areas that made me think of a dirty city. Overall, there seem to be programs in place to recycle and for street clean-ups. Even after the huge St. Pat’s parade, when you would think there would be trash, the city only had litter that evening and even then, not much. All signs were gone by the next morning. And we walked over 30 miles across this city, so we were provided with plenty of opportunity.
  • I would never want to live in a city like NYC. Even though I don’t think I would want to give up my open view from my own front porch, after visiting this city, I see its allure. The variety of food, activities, and people would keep you supplied always with something new to try or see.

Overall, this has been a wonderful trip full of formal and informal learning. I definitely need to plan another adventure that challenges me to be real about my predetermined opinions.

Nerding Out: Meeting One of My Favorite Authors!

About five years ago, I read, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In this book, Gretchen (I am fairly certain she would be fine with me calling her by her first name!) takes a different habit each month in an area she strives to change to improve her happiness.

As I prepared for my trip to NYC and knowing I would have the chance to meet her, I thought about a variety of mindsets that I gained from this book and how much they have changed my life. From the first chapter alone, I busted some of my clutter (still difficult with young boys) and learned to do a one minute tidy-up, act energetically – especially when I don’t feel like it, and to go to sleep earlier. I know these are small habits, but small habits can really impact your happiness.

Try it this weekend. If you have a messy cabinet or island countertop, set a timer for just 1 minute (5 if it looks like mine!) and get all the clutter put in its place or in the trashcan. It is amazing how great you can feel with cleaned off counters!

Back to my encounter. So Gretchen was our keynote speaker. She spoke about the Four Tendencies, which is a book I brought with me for the plane ride home. It was a fantastic presentation. When we better understand ourselves and our tendencies and better understand others’ tendencies, we can communicate much better and be much more efficient in our work together. These are ideas for our work and personal lives. And Gretchen is funny!

Later in the day, it was time for the meet and greet book signing. As I waited in line, I thought about what I should say. Should I tell her I know we would be friends if we lived closer together? Should I invite her to the Lake the next time she was visiting her parents in Kansas City? Should I tell her that I love the book group of women/authors that she is a part of (Brene Brown, Rachel Hollis, Laura Vanderkam, Daniel Pink, Heath Brothers, Seth Godin) of which I know I will fit with incredibly, WHEN I write my best seller?

As I cumbersomely, pull out all five, yes it was FIVE, books for her to sign, I realized that she might call for security if I started down the crazy train of what I really wanted to say. Instead we chatted about how much the Happiness Project changed my daily habits. Then I asked about her talk and about the questioner tendency (that’s me) and how irritating it can be when I have done the research (a questioner tendency) but then the group still needs ‘something more’ or ‘buy-in’ to make their decision or to come to a consensus. It was a great conversation. Then I walked away, but remembered I wanted to ask about the page-a-day calendar. In 2018, I had the 2018 Happiness Project Page-a-Day calendar. I had to go back.

I was glad I did. I learned that the page-a-day calendar was something her family did, each having something different and often sharing – something my family does as well (Mom saves us the best Maxine jokes). She said it was a lot of work and not a lot of income, but that it was really popular. I don’t know if it is for sure on for 2020, but here’s hoping. And she was glad for the feedback.

From this experience I learned:

  • I need to be careful not to seem like a crazy person! Most people at this conference had not even heard of Gretchen Rubin, let alone read her books and had a page-a-day calendar. Did I mention I am a fan?
  • Reading about someone’s life makes us feel connected to them, but that connection is only one way.
  • I may need to read more fiction.
  • I am not sure exactly what my book will be about, but I will certainly quote Gretchen Rubin somewhere in it and strive to have her provide an endorsement

I would love to read in your comments who you would nerd out with? In other words, who is an author you would pack your suitcase with their books to get them all signed?

Tell Me How I am Supposed to Feel

I am reflecting on my past few days visiting the memorials and museum dedicated to the lives lost and to the heroes who came to help during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Alan Jackson’s song asks, “where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?”

I will never forget my drive to school that day. I lived in a farm house out of town and commuted about 20 minutes to campus. As I got on the interstate, there was an alert on the local radio station that I only noticed because it interrupted the music. A plane had crashed into a building in New York City. I found it strange and horrible for the people involved, but did not really understand why that was such news in the Midwest.

I parked and walked to class, but knew something was not right, even before I went into a building. Campus was not its normal buzz. I would soon see why. Everyone was circled around whatever television could be found. I watched in horror as the second plane hit. Our professors did not know what to do, so they sent us all home. I called work – I tutored for the athletic department – and was told not to come in, but to go home.

As I walked back to my car, I just wanted to talk to my mom. As we tried to sort out what was happening and what she heard on the larger Kansas City news, that is when I was really scared. My mom said that my little brother, who was 8 at the time, often saw war torn countries on the news. He would ask if that would ever happen here? To us? I will never forget my mom saying, “I don’t know what I am going to tell him tonight.”

Visiting the memorials and the museum today, I was reminded of how so many, many people’s lives changed on that day. How many moms and dads, sisters and brothers, and grandpas and grandmas never came home from work that day? How many heroes were created as firefighters, EMTs, and police officers were just doing what they do – serving and protecting? And how many regular people did all they could to help others get to safety, only to lose their lives trying to get one more from the wreckage?

September 11th is day we will never forget. Our students today celebrate it as Patriots Day, honoring those who serve our country and communities. We must all do what we can to educate our youth in what happened on this day, how it changed our lives, and why we cannot forget the price that continues to be paid for our freedom.

And on my return trip home, I will thank each TSA worker for the job they do continuing to keep us safe. The next time I stand in a line waiting to go through security, I remember 9/11 and what we now know, the evil that is in the world, upclose and personally, and that knowledge changes everything.


Do you ever think about your baggage?

How difficult it is to tote around? Always moving it from place to place.

And flooring like carpet or craters in the sidewalk make you wish you were a minimalist!

Why do I feel the need for all the baggage?

Can I blame it on my mother with all her warnings to be careful and take extra underwear?

Do I blame it on the fact that it is my first time on this kind of trip and am striving to be prepared for anything?

Do I take the blame myself knowing I cannot stand to be unprepared and really don’t like not knowing or being in control of what is coming?

Do I blame it on my past and not being able to let go of events which impacted my life?

Will I ever have an argument with my husband and not worry that it will lead to a divorce just like my parents?

Will I ever be able to take a compliment and not wonder what people really think that they won’t tell me?

Will I ever really let go of the fear of failure in order to try the unknown that could be my actual path to my happiest and most successful self?

No matter if it too much luggage or a backpack filled too full or if it is my heart and mind filled with the baggage of my past, it is time to get rid of my baggage. 

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Finding the Beauty Where You Are

Today I found beauty in so many unexpected places:

In the man making sushi. He placed the various ingredients with such care and used his tools with precision. His art was a lunch for others to enjoy.

In the Statue of Liberty. I have always loved the idea of Lady Liberty, knowing my great-great grandparents immigrated from Germany. Today, I learned all of her history and that her beauty is so much more then her carefully sculpted copper skin. That she was a gift to signify friendship is amazing. Then there were so many ways that ‘the people’ made the pedestal and really brought her to the harbor. People working together truly is beautiful.

In the stories told from the bus guide. His heart for his city and the catch in his voice as he told his memories of 9/11. Passing by the memorial pools, tragedy has been turned to beauty.

In the perfect dish with handcrafted gnocchi and watching chefs craft the best food. And I am fairly certain my face was beautiful eating it!

It was the tile of the subway stop and the many incredible churches. Beauty is truly all around us if we just take a moment to enjoy it.

This Little Light of Mine

They realize bright lights don’t need spotlights.

This line from Bob Goff’s book,  Everybody Always, is just the latest line from this book that caused me to stop and think.

When we are focused on others’ opinions of us and striving to impress others through our good deeds or high accomplishments, we, more often than not, miss the point.

When we are really shining –  performing work that is meaningful, spending time with family and friends, or simply taking time to let someone else know you care – it won’t matter who is watching because it was never about those on the outside.

We forget to worry about who the credit will go to and just get the job done.

We stop spending all of our time in the office striving to make our boss proud and instead show up for those who are proud just to know you. 

We take the time to do what is right even if no one is looking.

This line makes even more sense as I sit in a NYC apartment overlooking the Hudson River with the lights of New York providing a magnificent twinkle. If each of those likes had a spotlight on it, it would just be obnoxious, and I would close the blinds.

Who needs to just experience your twinkle this week? Know that your light is enough even if you are the only one who knows it is shining today.

Life is just not fair . . .

I have heard this phrase from others or thought this phrase myself so many times. . . .

When benching a player whose attitude was more detrimental to the team then her talent was useful.

When one son perceives his brother is receiving some special treatment or item that he is not getting at that same moment.

When I have 10 loads of laundry to do, and I haven’t even been home the previous week.

When a friend can’t get pregnant, and is one of the best moms I know.

When I see so many kids who are not treated well or are abused by their parents.

When I have to call the police because a child has not been picked up after our afterschool program and not a single person on the contact list can be reached.

When I have to tell a child that she won’t be going home, but that someone safe is coming to pick her up.

When the child blames herself for the trouble her mom is in.

When she says she doesn’t want to go back into foster care.

That she even understands the crazy system of foster care at her age.

Life is not fair.