Showing posts from November, 2014

Gratitude Day 28: Great Aunt

I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from two of my nephews, their wives, and two of my great-nieces today. We had several hours together, just hanging out and talking. Well, you know me, that would be talking and taking pictures of the kids. I love all my nieces and nephews. Being an aunt is the greatest thing ever. Nothing brings me more joy than "auntie time." I'm grateful for wonderful nieces and nephews who generously share their lives and families with me so I have lots of family too. I am so blessed!

Gratitude Day 27: Family photos

I was digging around in the corners of bookcases, old files, and boxes last night in hope of locating my favorite cheesecake recipe. I did not find the recipe but I located many other "lost" things, including a sizable stash of family photos. I had removed these photos from their acid-laden toxic albums, protected them with archival papers, and slipped them into protective sleeves for safe-keeping. I promptly forgot where they were, but they were "safe."

When mother passed away in August I was encouraged to gather photos for a video to be shown during the viewing. Knowing my mother wouldn't like such a display and not having the time nor energy to locate the photos, scan the slides, and give them to the funeral director in a few short days, I didn't do it. I had a few weeks more to gather images to be turned into a photobook, a part of the "package" they assured me, but I just couldn't deal with it. The old photos remained in their scattered…

Gratitude Day 26: Family

Today was a special treat, an opportunity to spend a little time with Jordan (wife of my nephew, Tyler), Sarah (wife of my nephew, Matthew) and two of my great-nieces -- Alina and Isabella. There's nothing I love more than seeing these beautiful young ladies and the girls. All my nephews knocked it out of the park when they fell in love and got married. I love these girls like their were my very own daughters. I don't have to tell you how much I love the kids. Yeah, it's pretty obvious.

Daddy was so pleased to be able to spend time with his great-granddaughters. Really, the greats and grands are his delight and joy. They are what he lives for. He thinks about them all them time, prays for them, and wants only the best for his extended family. Visits don't happen often given the long distances and busy lives we all have, but when family gets together it's very special.

I'm grateful to have so many wonderful people in my extended family. I treasure them all!

Gratitude Day 25: Tenderness

I am a tender-hearted soul. There's no getting around it, my feelings live very close to the surface and I have only a limited ability to keep them in check. I am not, by nature, an angry person so when my feelings come bubbling up at inconvenient times they usually aren't harmful, they just spill out and make it hard to function for a little while. I wish I had better self-control of these things, but I do not.

Since my mother's death last summer my tender soul has shed a lot of tears, many of them at inopportune moments or in places where I'd rather maintain my composure. This afternoon was one of those times. Earlier today I received a phone call from a member of mortuary staff informing me that mother's crypt plate and vase were now in place. I was pleased to get the news, but knew the time had come for me to go back to the cemetery with holiday flowers for mom and Stephanie. Mom and I often went together to choose flowers for Stephanie. Now the task is mine t…

Gratitude Day 24: The Word of God

Today is the "International Day of the Bible," a multifaith celebration of the Holy Bible. I love the Bible because it testifies of Jesus Christ, who atoned for the sins of all and died that we might each have the opportunity to live forever with Him and our Father in Heaven. This is God's greatest gift to us, the gift I am most grateful for in this time of thanksgiving. I also grateful for the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Together these books guide my life, offer insight and understanding to challenging life problems, and help me to know what God wants me to do. I feel very blessed to have the word of God in my life!

Gratitude Day 23: Answered Prayers

I've had this weekend circled on my calendar for many months. It was Stake Conference for the Knoxville Stake, a regional cluster of 10 congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in and around Knoxville, TN. It was my responsibility to arrange for music for several large meetings. It takes time, much thought, networking, and a lot of prayer to make the music happen but in previous conferences I was able to do what was needed to without huge issues. I can't say the same this time around, mostly because I have been so overwhelmed with personal & family issues that I haven't had the energy to devote to long-term planning for conference music.

When I'm in a tight spot and need things to get done and done well, I turn to trusted friends. I also smile, beg, and even whine a little. I know -- no whining but I'm pretty sure I've done more than my share lately. The whining increased as my anxiety levels increased and the circled dates drew nea…

Gratitude Day 22: Every Blessing

I got home from a late church meeting tonight feeling very tired and sort of brain-dead. I remembered I had not yet written my daily gratitude posts but, in the moment, couldn't think of anything to acknowledge feeling grateful for. It's not that I'm not grateful for lots of stuff, I am, but sometimes I'm just too tired to think. I reflected back on the evening and could only seem to think about how stressed I was over the music and everything I needed to get done. In the middle of the meeting I had to give myself permission to relax and breathe. I took such a deep breath I'm sure I disturbed my friends in the surrounding pews. Seriously.

Part way through the talks there was a piano solo by Lynette James of the YSA Branch. I had asked Lynette to play this specific number, her own arrangement of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, because I had heard her play it before and loved it. Once she started playing, I finally let go of enough tension to feel the spirit. The …

Gratitude Day 21: God's Timing

For the last couple of days I've been trying to lower my stress level and relax a just bit. Normally I go to the Smokies when I need to de-stress but that just wasn't possible this week. Instead, I opted to go back through some of the photos I've taken in the Smokies over the last year or two, re-edit a few using some new skills I've developed, and reflect on my life then and now. This image is great inspiration for reflection. First off, I took this at the end of June this year, when my life was good and I was just having a pleasant day doing photography in Cades Cove as a park volunteer. It was my favorite kind of weather -- low humidity, blue sky, big white puffy clouds. Pretty. Peaceful. I had no idea that my personal peace would be thrown into utter turmoil just a few short weeks later. No idea at all.

I love the golden grasses in this image. They shimmered in the brilliant mid-day light and begged to be photographed. The park staff are letting the grasses grow a…

Gratitude Day 20: Nature's Inspiration

I've been a nature lover for most of my life. When I need a break from whatever stresses life is dishing out at the moment, I grab my camera, maps and guidebooks, fill a cooler with drinks and snacks, and head to the lake or mountains for a little solace and inspiration. My escapes rarely fail to renew my spirit. They help me find the strength to weather the storm and carry on. They provide a peaceful respite where I can pray, listen to the Spirit, and receive guidance.
Sometimes that guidance is found in the beautiful scenes I find myself in. The scenes are simple and often symbolic of what I need to know in the moment. This image from the Chimneys Picnic Area is one of those simple scenes. I could sit on a rock in a river in the Smokies and listen to the water crash all day. In this location on the West Prong the rocks are large and look like they've been in the same location for centuries. Some probably have, while others have been shifted downstream or broken apart in fre…

Gratitude Day 19: Lifetime Learning

One of the things I love most about life is the never-ending opportunity to learn new things. I'm a naturally curious person and am interested in learning about a ridiculously diverse number of things. Yes, the kind of stuff one learns in school, but even better, the stuff one learns simply because it's there and you see it. In knitting it's about combining stitches and manipulating yarn to create something beautiful, or useful, or both! In nature it's about the earth, the critters, the sky, and the water.

For me its started when I was a kid and wanted to understand rock formations and geology. After college it was wildflowers, an obsession to this day. Not only do I want to know what the common name(s) of the wildflower is, I've learned that common names aren't precise or clear enough so I need to know the scientific names too. Yeah, strange Latin words for flowers -- I know a lot of them these days. If I couldn't figure it out from a basic book in the fi…

Growth and Affirmation

Heavenly Father's plan for us, His children, includes time where we can learn, grow, and develop into the men and women He designed us to become. Growth is an essential part of the plan. I can look back on my life and see the times when I have learned and grown a lot. Other times I have been less aware of how I have changed and needed others to thoughtfully share their insights with me. Kind, loving affirmation of growth is one of the greatest gifts a person can give or receive. Let's face it, we all like to be told we've done a good job on things we've worked hard at. It's encouraging to have valued others tell us they are pleased with what we've accomplished.

Atta-boy moments are awesome, in part, because they are uncommon. In the real world you hear a lot more about what you messed up that what you did well. Sometimes people are nice enough to not criticize, but you know you failed by their utter silence. Deafening silence. It's not that we always need …

Gratitude Day 17: Knitting

I was just a kid, 9 or 10 years old, when my mother taught me the basics of knitting. Having been raised in Germany and the Netherlands where almost all women  knit, my mother could whip out warm woolly things with stunning speed. I was OK at knitting but preferred crocheting because it was easier for me and I could produced finished items much faster with a crochet hook than with knitting needles. By the time I went to graduate school at Vanderbilt, I was firmly entrenched as a crocheter. That is until my dearest friend in school, a passionate knitter, made it her personal mission to convert me to the other side. She took me to my first real yarn store and helped me find a sweater pattern and suitable yarn to knit it. I knit my way through the stress of a Master's degree, producing several sweaters and other small items.

I moved to Utah after graduate school and continued to knit and crochet, though my crocheting was far superior to my knitting. When I moved back to Tennessee I …

Gratitude Day 16: No Tears Today

Sundays are always very hectic for me in late fall. It's what happens when you are a church musician who is given the added responsibility of organizing programs for large regional meetings and Christmas. Most of us love Christmas music but making those musical events happen is a huge challenge. Given the changes in my life the last few months I haven't been as effective in meeting those challenges as I would like. I see everything that either needs to be done or that I haven't done well and feel, um, discouraged. I keep giving myself the guilty "should" lecture, listing everything I should have done but haven't. Add Sunday night fatigue to the mix and the results aren't good.

Tonight, just as I was about to cave and have a very nice, personal pity party I got a text from a friend I haven't seen or talked with in months. The last time I saw Carol we found each other, quite by accident, on Hyatt Lane in Cades Cove following a rain storm. It was anothe…

Gratitude Day 15: Polarfleece, Wool, and Longjohns

I was not born loving the wintry season. Darkness, cold, and snow were my sworn enemies all the years I lived in Salt Lake City. Bundling up to go outside is what you did when absolutely necessary. Rejoicing in frigid weather conditions is a new thing for me. Blame Clingmans Dome. Blame my photography addiction. Blame getting older and losing part of my senses. Blame technology which turns used plastic Coke bottles into soft, insulating fuzzy things to wear. Blame knitting, where woolly socks, hats, and scarves are inevitable. Never in a million years did I think I would ever wear longjohns (aka microfiber cuddle-duds) let alone be grateful for them, and polarfleece, and woolly socks, mitts, and hats. But as I was hiking to the top of Clingmans Dome yesterday or stopping to snap photos of cool things like sunrays bursting through rime ice-covered trees I was grateful for everything I was wearing to keep toasty warm. I've even learned to be grateful for snow and long as i…

Gratitude Day 14: Perspective

“Sometimes all it takes is a tiny shift of perspective to see something familiar in a totally new light.”  Dan BrownThe Lost Symbol
I learned a great deal about weather during the years I lived in Salt Lake City. In particular, I learned about temperature inversions -- a situation when atmospheric conditions keep clouds (and smog and pollution and germs) trapped in the valley between mountain ranges and clear, blue skies aloft. It's the one time when it's colder down in the valley than it is at the top of the mountain. After listening to local weather reports, I knew yesterday would be a perfect set-up for an inversion and blue skies at Clingmans Dome. 
Most days the valley fog rises up, swallows the Dome, then lifts to reveal everything below. Even on the clearest days of early spring and autumn, from the observation tower atop Clingmans Dome I can see all the peaks and valleys of the Smokies and Blue Ridge. Yesterday was different. This image was taken late in the afternoon…

Gratitude Day 13: It Goes On

Some days it's all I can do simply to hope that tomorrow won't be a repeat of today. Of course that doesn't always happen, some things by their very nature are repetitive. We never mind when nice things repeat themselves, but it's those not-so-nice things that we'd rather not experience over and over again. Today was about staying home and doing those repetitive chores that I dislike -- laundry, dishes, mopping floors, more laundry, sorting through piles of stuff and tossing out what is unnecessary, hauling trash out to the dumpster, more laundry. Just when I thought I had a task completed something would happen and I'd end up redoing part of what I had just completed. Grumble, grumble, sigh. It can't be helped, I know, but I still sigh.

In my weariness and frustration I was trying to decide what I should express gratitude for tonight. Then the words of my favorite poet, Robert Frost, came to mind: "In three words I can sum up everything I've lear…

Gratitude Day 12: Sacred Places

Through my work in phenomenological research I have become more aware of the significance of place to a person's experience of everyday living. Ask someone to tell you about their childhood and they are likely to talk about not only family and friends but the places where meaningful things happened in their life. They may tell you about the house they lived in, the school they attended, or the place where the family went on vacations. As human beings we find connection in special places.

I have many special places, but more importantly, I have a few sacred places that hold great meaning for me. As a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I choose to spend time learning and serving in temples. Not only are all temples beautiful, but they are very peaceful places where I feel the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and receive guidance from the Lord. I happily drive almost 3 hours each way to the temple in Nashville just so I can have the opportunity to serve,…

Gratitude Day 11: University of Tennessee College of Nursing

The fall leaves on Circle Park at the heart of the University of Tennessee called my name after I finished attending Dr. Thomas' phenomenology group this afternoon. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to grab my camera on my way out of the house and had what I needed when I saw the perfect light and perfect colors. It provided an wonderful opportunity to reflect back on all the years I've spent in this building, the College of Nursing. After many years of blood, sweat, and tears I walked away with not just one, but two degrees from this place. The BSN and PhD experiences were different to be sure, mostly because I was very different. They were equally challenging, though, and much more difficult that my MSN from Vanderbilt. Maybe it's because of that challenge that I love this place and the people I've met there so much. I'm very blessed to have the education I have and the opportunity to use what I've learned to bless others. I'm grateful to be a Tennes…

Gratitude Day 10: Trees

TreesBYJOYCE KILMER I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.
I was blessed with the opportunity to escape to the Smokies today. I had a meeting in Pigeon Forge at 2 PM so it made perfect sense to take a leisurely drive along the Little River on my way. I was impressed with the amount of colorful leaves that still remain, mostly on the hillsides, but also some along the river. The sky was a brilliant blue and the trees were varying hues of red, rust, and orange. It was magical!
I know every curve of this road by heart, every bend in the river, and where the light hits at what time of day. I have watched the first hints of leaves peek out in Marc…

Gratitude Day 9: Sunday Angels

For the last few months I have found myself dragging out the door to church on Sunday mornings, sliding into the pew physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. By the time I sit down, often a few minutes late,  my "tank" is on empty. Two hymns into the service I can't stop the tears. The Spirit, and my need to feel the Spirit, are that strong. I've discovered angels are working during and after the service. They offer hugs, kind words of consolation and encouragement, and prayers. Lots of prayers. I love those angelic acts of service.

Today the angels must have known of my silent desperation as I struggle to prepare music for upcoming regional church meetings ("Stake Conference") and a Christmas Devotional program. I'm way behind on my planning agenda and running into the usual obstacles, this time without my usual resiliency. I had a full day of meetings and networking planned on top of choir rehearsals, but with almost no energy to carry out…

Gratitude Day 8: Laundry

No, I'm not really grateful for mounds of dirty, stinky laundry that pile up really, really fast. Surely no one is grateful for dirty laundry. Instead I am grateful for a modern washer and dryer that both work and make the chore of doing laundry much easier than it might be otherwise. Just think, the mountain women had to haul in water and do laundry by streams such as this one in the Smokies. I waded into thigh-high water for this shot a few months ago. The weather was warm and the water felt good. Doing laundry here in January would not feel quite so good.

Laundry has another positive -- clean sheets. I just finished putting clean sheets on my bed. Falling asleep on soft, smooth, freshly laundered sheets is amazing. Soft, clean clothes are pretty wonderful too, especially if they aren't wrinkled so I don't feel compelled to iron them. I did a bunch of laundry today and folded more towels and washcloths than I can count, but I can see down to the coverlet on the guest be…

Gratitude Day 7: Isaiah

Some days are just hard. There's no way around it, hard things stare me down and I have to face them. I don't think I'm alone in saying I don't like dealing with hard things I didn't choose. Challenges I choose are fine, those I didn't choose are, well, not fine. But life is about hard things and I am trying to gracefully accept that. I'm pretty sure my grace fell a bit short today.

This afternoon I resumed the task of sorting through mother's things in order to give them new homes. Many of my friends from church are involved in a rummage and bake sale to help raise funds for a Young Single Adult Branch member who was diagnosed with cancer, is undergoing expensive and debilitating treatments which leave her unable to go to school, work, or pay the mounting medical bills. As soon as I heard about the rummage sale I knew it was the perfect opportunity to donate some of mother's things so they could bless the life of someone else. It's what my Mom…

Gratitude Day 6: Banana Bread, Knitting and Knitting Friends

Today wasn't the greatest day for me. A weather front pushed through, my fibromyalgia acted up, I had too much to do and no energy to do it. It's a recipe for a bad mood. So I did the best I could to take care of daddy, procrastinated everything non-essential, and accomplished two things: banana bread and knitting. The banana bread was not because I was feeling inspired to bake, rather I didn't have the heart to waste overripe bananas. I didn't have one key ingredient to make my old standard recipe so I tried a new one. It was excellent! Daddy loved it so that was good.

Today is Thursday and I look forward to Thursday nights all week because it's time to knit with friends at The Yarn Haven. I love to knit, though I don't get as much done as I did a few years ago. I love my knitting friends even more. These women have been my cheerleaders as I crawled my way out of near total disability with fibromyalgia, battled my demons, and slowly reclaimed an active life. …

Gratitude Day 5: Transportation

I admit it. I hate the hassle of taking my car in for servicing. I hate having car trouble more so I try very hard to do the routine things to keep my car running well. That meant sitting in the waiting area at the car dealer this afternoon while they changed the oil and other tasks. As I waited I engaged in an attitude improvement exercise of thinking about what my life would be like if I didn't have a nice, safe car to drive. I couldn't drive to the grocery store or church, or take Daddy to doctor's appointments or out to eat. I couldn't go to the university or to the Smokies. I would be stuck at home -- horrors!

I drove a family car in high school and college, but bought all my own cars after that. A few years ago when my old car started needing one costly repair after another to keep it running safely, my parents started to worry. It wasn't so much about fixing the radiator or the air conditioner, but about what would happen to me if I was stuck with a broken-…

Gratitude Day 4: Freedom

I believe most Americans do not go about their daily lives mindfully aware of the blessings we have living in a free and democratic nation. We just live, and work, and spend time with friends and family, and do what we want most of the time. Oh, we complain about stuff like taxes and gas prices and the way schools are managed, but we don't really think about what it would be like if America weren't free. But when tragedy strikes, such as happened on 9/11, or when the beloved son or daughter of a friend is killed while serving our country in the armed forces, then we think again. And on days like today when we have the opportunity to freely choose who we would like to represent us in government affairs, we are also reminded that living in America is different than in many other places. I haven't felt well most of the day today and I really didn't want to go anywhere, but I shoved myself out the door to my local polling place to make my voice heard. It's a privilege…

Gratitude Day 3: Fabulous Friends

In the Christmas movie classic It's a Wonderful Life, Clarence, the angel, tells George Bailey (aka Jimmy Stewart) that "no man is a failure that has friends." When life gets hard you find out who your real friends are. You know the ones -- the people who call or text you just to see how you are doing, the ones who just show up with loving words and generous hugs, the ones who are happy when you call them at 11 PM or 6 AM because you're life is falling apart and you need someone to reassure you that things will be OK, and the ones that take you away from your troubles for a morning and surround you with love and laughter. I'm very grateful to have such friends, including the lovely women who took me hiking in the Smokies today. Thank you all so much!

Gratitude Day 2: Glorious

I was doing my gospel study this morning and thinking about what the apostles and prophets, ancient and modern, had to say about gratitude. No surprise there was plenty to be found, from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Book of Mormon all the way to very recent discourses from LDS General Conference. I found myself feeling grateful I have so much scripture to turn to in times of need. 

My journey took me to the Doctrine and Covenants, a canonized book of scripture in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comprised of modern-day revelations given to prophets, primarily Joseph Smith. In the 78th Section the Lord is instructing church leaders to carry out a challenging task, one I'm sure a few individuals had their doubts about. Like all of us who wonder if we are up to a daunting challenge, the Lord encourages them:
17 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and pr…