Sunday, September 23, 2018

     As a foreign language teacher, I’ve had students say to me, “I am just not good at foreign language learning.” That means a couple of things to me:  The student is too lazy to practice the necessary rules to learn, or the student doesn’t see a practical use for the skill so he or she is not motivated to learn. 

    Language learning requires focus, repetitive practice and a reason for learning. If you’re going to France for six months, your motivation is very different than if you’re scheduled to take a business trip to Montreal for two days. But let’s consider English as a foreign language.

Consider the following:

  1. Why is dough pronounced with a long O sound and tough pronounced like huff?
2.    What does overwhelm mean? Why is there no such word as “whelm?” And how do you get over it?
3.    What are there two different ways to spell the same word? but? butt? and what’s a yeah-but? 
4.    What’s the difference between a “dear” and a “deer?” Which one is the animal, or does it depend on which husband is speaking?
5.    Why do they call a hairpiece a “rug?” Can you walk on it? 
6.    What’s the difference between a “pane” and a “pain?” Why are the two words of spelling something that mean two different things?
7.     Who invented punctuation? Why do some people not use it, and others go berserk if you misuse it? How can you miss a “use?” 

     I have too much time on my hands. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

     Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, my thoughts are scattered like leaves blowing in the wind. There are some perfectly beautiful ones with now perfect edges just sailing gently above my head; others are falling slowly on top of each other, still others just seem to disappear into space. When I try to reach for any of them, they are just slightly behind my grasp, so I can’t place them into my hands to sort them or hold them up for scrutiny. The beautiful red one way up there gives me joy, but the crusty brown ones needs to be wiped off and stuck in a dictionary to flatten them. 

     Most of my thoughts this morning are positive, although there are some nagging unfinished (crusty) ones that need my attention. Which one to tackle first? Am I centered and ready to do some “flattening?” Not sure.

     Enter caffeine. Ahhh. . . . Ok, here they come, one by one, single file lining up in my brain ready for morning role call. I say, “Attention!” just like some Marine sergeant. They have learned to put themselves into categories (units) so that I may address one species at a time. 

WORKOUT - check
PRACTICE - check
CLEAN       - check
PEDICURE - check
RESEARCH - check

     This is exhausting. I’m going back to bed.



Friday, September 21, 2018

     “Boy, what a voice!” Have you ever said that about someone who’s music has brought chills? I’m sure we could all think of several in our lifetimes whose talent has touched us. I think of such people as Barbara Streisand, Josh Groban, Luciano Pavarotti, Aretha Franklin, Nat King Cole, RenĂ©e Fleming. This morning, however, I think about “voice” in another context.

     Who has a voice in our world today? Do you? Do you feel like your opinion matters? To whom? Who teaches us to use our voices in positive ways to improve the world? 

     Martin Luther King said something about silent voices being worse than negative voices. 

     When did you first feel like you really had a “voice?” How were you using it that made you feel that way?

    To me, having a voice means that people will listen to what I have to say because I have earned their respect. They value my opinion, and they will take what I say and consider it.When we think of the people whose voices we listen to, why do we listen? I will listen to those who speak softly, sincerely, honestly and with life experiences that have taught them things I may not know. I listen to those who are in the arena, wherever that may be, and who have been knocked down and gotten back up. I will listen to those who have been wounded and healed, to those who have had to endure great hardship and come out shining. I will listen to those who have suffered illness and are still smiling. I will listen to those who live with handicaps, who have lost loved ones, who have been rejected many times and have found success.

     If you could look back on your life, what experiences have given you your voice? If you could use your voice to utter one sentence to better the world, what would you say?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

     Most motivational speakers ask us to open our eyes to new possibilities, look carefully at how we can make changes for self-improvement, enrich our lives. This morning, I ask you to do the opposite. Yes, close your eyes. Do you realize how rich an experience can be when our eyes are closed?

     Over the past year or two, I have begun closing my eyes at concerts, while eating my food, and while sitting quietly in the middle of my day.

     When attending our local symphony concerts regularly for several years, I remember thinking maybe the orchestra members should wear different colors instead of all black. Of course, this is intentional so we focus on the music. One evening, during a beautiful piece, I closed my eyes. Amazing the result: there was no distraction from what was before me. I saw nothing so the music was even more enjoyable. I lost myself in the melody instead of looking at how different the shoes were on each player. My mind did not wander when they turned pages, as I didn’t see them. Now there is the danger of falling into a sweet slumber if the music is slow and melancholy, but that didn’t happen. 

     As a Weight Watcher for many years, we were told not to do anything else while eating, especially such things as watching television or reading. The danger is over-eating because we are not really tasting our food. My favorite meal, breakfast, is when I allow myself to close my eyes and let the peanut butter melt on my tongue. I savor every sip of my morning coffee and try not to think of anything but how wonderful it tastes. 

     Meditation is the most natural way to close one’s eyes when not attempting to sleep. I must admit I have a hard time not falling asleep when I  sit down to quiet my mind. Some of us have only two speeds:  full-stream ahead and off. I am one of these, but I am learning to quiet my thoughts and allow my body to slow and breathe. Sometimes I can see sunsets and peaceful ponds in my head when I meditate, but the purpose is to not think or visualize; it’s to go to blank. For those of you who are experts at this, I don’t have to tell you how energizing this quiet time can be. My goal is to try to get good enough that I can transfer this skill to my performing and block out my anxiety.

     Yes, ladies and gentlemen, closing our eyes can be a good thing. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how much more you enjoy things we take for granted. It will also remind you how fortunate you are that when you open your eyes, you can see.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

     Where do we learn to judge? Did our parents take us aside when we were three and say, “Now, when you meet people, look them up and down, listen to their first few sentences, and then decide whether they’re cool or not.”

     If you attend religious services, most will preach not to judge others. 

    Common sense says, “Who are you to judge others?” 

    And yet, we continue to judge each other. Sometimes we do so silently, but some feel it necessary to verbalize or put their judgments on social media for others to imitate. 

      A quote from one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements, clarifies:

       “We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. That is the way the human mind works.”

     I have a couple of friends around whom I am very careful to weigh my words. The way they talk about themselves and others tells me that if they feel that way about themselves and people in their circles, how must they feel about me if I am worse at whatever they’re describing than they are? 

     Some of us learned as children to compare ourselves to others. This is natural for humans, but taken to the extreme, especially if the bar is set at “perfect,” comparison invites judgment, and that judgment can be self-destructive, not to mention alienating for others.

     When I write something, I am not asking for approval or for judgment. I am simply expressing myself. If you choose to criticize, judge or compare, that is your opinion, that is not fact. When you do this publicly, you are saying, “I know best, and you are inferior.” To me, that is judgment, and it is rude and disrespectful. 

    When I tell you that I’ve decided to take a trip somewhere that you’ve been and didn’t like, comments like, “Oh, we did that, and it was awful!” say, “if you do that, you are stupid.” Think before you pass judgment and give personal opinions about how they might resonate with the person to whom you are speaking. 

     Judging others negatively says much more about you than it does about them. People who need to judge are needy. They need to feel superior, to prove to themselves that their opinions are gospel. Well, maybe they need to go back to church and listen to the gospel. Just be sensitive and be kind. It’s not really that hard.



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

                             STRONG WOMEN

One day, we will be sitting in a circle
All of us dressed in long white robes
Celestial music will play gently as we ride the clouds
Our skin as soft as silk
Our voices singing the wisdom of our age

We will look at each other with admiration and love
We will recognize the contributions we have made to the universe
At peace, we will laugh softly about funny moments we have shared through the years

We will glance toward the earth, and we will smile as we watch the tears of our daughters spilling onto the pages of their destinies

by Sandra Moulin

One day, they will each sit on a cloud and revel in the strength of their own circle.