Sunday, May 4, 2014

Superhero Sunday

Superman Billy with my grandson, Xander
I have declared it "Superhero Sunday."  Yesterday one of my friends posted this picture of my grandson being carried away by "Superman" at his Auntie's wedding last April and the thought that crossed my mind was how wonderful it would be if every child had a superhero in their life. And today, Google is honoring Audrey Hepburn and her many accomplishements in life on what would have been her 85th birthday (born the same year as my own superhero, Richard Wyant).

Of course, Audrey Hepburn is remembered for her talent on Broadway and in films as well as for her unique beauty but she was also a superhero to so many children. She dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina, survived World War II and helped the resistence by carrying messages in her ballet shoes.

During Holland's notorious "Hunger Winter" in the fall of 1945, she experienced real hunger and she carried that memory forward as she accepted what she considered her greatest role as a UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador.

For five years, she traveled to over 20 countries as a witness and advocate for children who were struggling to survive.
Today, her dedication to bringing help and hope to children around the world continues through the work of her foundation, the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund.

Audrey began her artistic career in the role of an airline stewardess and ended it by playing an angel in 1989 which seems very appropriate when considering the big picture of her life.  She has been described as humble, unassuming, charming, gracious, dignified, but perhaps above all, kind - something that seems to be missing in so much of our world today. Perhaps she used her voice best when speaking for those who otherwise had no voice.

"I feel so strongly that's where it all starts, with kindness.  
What a different world this could be if everyone lived by that."

"I have been given the privilege of speaking for children who cannot speak for themselves, 
and my task is an easy one, because children have no political enemies.
To save a child is a blessing: to save a million is a God-given opportunity." 
~ Audrey Hepburn 

Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) - wise, wise words

On a lighter note and in the spirit of fun . . .what woman today doesn't owe Audrey a word of thanks for giving us "the little black dress." We always have something appropriate in our closet thanks to Audrey and the black Givenchy dress she made famous in 1962. 

The little black dress (aka LBD) is cited as one of the most iconic items of clothing in the history of the twentieth century.  Reserved for mourning in the 1920's, changed at the will of Coco Chanel, and declared elegant and classic by Audrey in the 60's, there's now one for every occasion. I must own 20 of them and I just keep buying them!

Honoring all superheros of children today and I think I'll watch some Audrey movies as well.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Certifiably Crazy Urban Squirrels

I know that my most recent post was about choosing JOY and being on the lookout for everyday things that can give us joy, but today I'm having a little problem with urban squirrels and that seems to be having a negative effect on my joy factor.

We have this amazing porch off of our bedroom that I love to live on.  It's my morning porch and to me, it's one of the best places in my house.  The morning sun peeks up over the rooftops and floods onto the porch and through our bedroom windows.  It's the closest thing I have to a treehouse but the problem is, I have to share it with urban squirrels. 

So can someone please explain urban squirrels to me? Two years ago, I went on a trip with my 8th graders to NYC and after traveling all night on a bus with wide-awake teens, I decided to catch up on the sleep I had lost by snoozing on my morning porch. The varmints had literally taken over in the four days that I had been gone and they were obviously unhappy that I was back on their playground.  

All I wanted to do was sleep and my z-z-z-s were continually interrupted by a gang of squeaking, chattering, chit-chatty, ADHD squirrels that were playing a game of "take back our hood."  This gang of fuzzy-tailed thugs kept sneaking up to my chair, surrounding me and then cursed in their squirrel chatter to each other as if to say, "What the #?!* is wrong with this human?  Do we have to stuff her in our jaws and store her away for winter to get her to leave?" 

Repetitive shooing was futile.  Within minutes, they returned.  Eventually, one of them decided to go all postal on me and he jumped down from the eve of the roof within inches of my chair shreeking in his crazy squirrel language.  What kind of nuts do urban squirrels eat that make them so aggressive and obnoxious? It's like a squirrel mafia with definite boundary issues! A few years ago, one of these urban squirrels was gutsy enough to stop a White Sox game. Check this short video out:

                    Crazy Urban Squirrel takes over Baseball Game

Fast forward. These crazy possessed squirrels with personality disorders continue to be a constant issue on our beloved morning porch. One morning this winter, Amélie woke me up to look at a squirrel that had his little squirrel nose smashed up against the bedroom window as he peered in with his beady little eyes. Amélie shouted as she shook me, "Nonna, that squirrel just tried to jump through the window and he looks like he's really mad. I think he has an anger problem." Sure enough, the thump that had initially startled me from sleep had been this crazed squirrel, perhaps the leader of the squirrel gang that had accosted me on that May morning two years ago. Was I now to believe that the morning porch and their trees were suddenly not adequate housing for these crazy rats with furry tails? Was the plan now to take over our entire house? 

Back to why my joy factor has been negatively affected today . . first really nice day of the season....70 degrees. . . sunny . . . perfect morning porch weather. Dewinterizing the morning porch is the first task.  And this is what I found.  $200 worth of canvas covers for the porch furniture that has been destroyed by unionized urban squirrels who evidently think the world is their oyster and they will take whatever they want.

Where are Rocky and Bullwinkle when you need them? I'm sure they could handle these squirrel bullies.

Looking for the joy here and laughing at myself! 

Moral of the story: when a mean and angry squirrel who is tired of living in the elements throws himself into your window as an expression of his squirrel misery, take him seriously or he will dine on your canvas and punish you for your inhospitable attitude and lack of compassion for his lot in life. Next year, the porch furniture goes into the garage and I really think the squirrels should retire to the country. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

35 Things that Make Me Joyful

My daughter bought me a new journal called “God’s Promises for a Mother’s Heart”  for my birthday and sure enough, as I opened it up this morning to begin writing in it, the first page encourages me to “look for reasons to be joyous and to celebrate.”  Journals to me are like iPods; I believe they somehow know intuitively what message to send you just at the right time.

Admittedly, this is frequently difficult because it seems that there are so many people around me who are genuinely hurting and going through downright difficult times.  My mom, however, taught me to be an optimist. She is the original Dale Carnegie/Norman Vincent Peale quote queen so I have always tried to be a good daughter and make a concentrated effort each day to look for the joy and solutions rather than the sadness and problems. 

That’s still a big mission though and one that sometimes is ridden with failure for me. Easter weekend is a great reminder for us all that even in the midst of great suffering and turmoil, joy comes in the morning.  Like the women in the garden on that first Easter morning, we have to be willing to live among the sadness sometimes and wait it out so that we can see the joy in the morning.  Faith means being open to recognizing joy when it comes, even if it doesn’t look the way we expected it to look.

Of course, not everyday is overflowing with joy and celebration, but there truly are moments in each day that can cause our hearts to burst with joy if we are simply on the lookout.  

These are some of the humdrum things that are joyful to me. Maybe you'll relate to some of them.

  1. The sun popping up over the rooftops and sneaking into my bedroom window through the leafless trees
  2. The quiet crispness of winter (even though right now I’m sick of it)
  3. The green and warmth of spring and the birds waking me up with their chirping
  4. In the heat of summer, swinging on the porch swing that my dad and Uncle Doyle built for me 
  5. Hearing the crunch that comes with walking on autumn leaves that have dropped to the ground
  6. Hearing my husband say thank you for a home cooked meal ( I guess I could grab this joy a little more often if I would cook more!)
  7. Seeing my kids (or anyone for that matter) in loving and healthy relationships that make them smile and beam from ear to ear
  8. A picnic – anytime, anywhere
  9. Watching my kids teach my grandkids about God’s love and the joy that faith brings
  10. Music, music, music, music . . . listening to it, playing it, singing it
  11. Watching my grandkids learn and discover the world and voice their own opinions and ideas as if they were the first people in the world to ever discover this knowledge
  12. Hearing my granddaughter, Amélie, say “this is the best day ever” – nearly every single day
  13. Seeing a really big body of water everyday that constantly reminds me of just how small I am and how great God is
  14. Trees - Trees with leaves or trees without leaves – can never decide which is more beautiful
  15. Any sunrise, a winter sunset
  16. A full moon shining on the lake or peering through my window
  17. The memory of running through a field of sunflowers in Spain with my husband
  18. Making a meal for my mom and dad
  19. My day-in, day-out, through thick-and-thin girlfriends and remembering all the times we’ve laughed so hard we’ve cried and all the times we’ve just plain cried
  20. Kittens and puppies who belong to someone else
  21. The smell of Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil - only Hawaiian Tropic  
  22. Seeing my grandkids and kids praying in church
  23. A beautifully set table that makes my guests realize they are “china worthy” 
  24. Old family pictures and creating memories that will be new family pictures
  25. Cooking with my kids in the kitchen
  26. Spring cleaning and throwing things away
  27. Discovering a new favorite book
  28. Being around a joyful child regardless of who they are the child of
  29. Sand between my toes
  30. The special warmth on my skin that comes from a spring or summer sun
  31. The noise and messiness of a happy and busy family and the quiet and orderliness that eventually comes
  32. Hearing my father sing, “This is the day that the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it”
  33. Watching my daughters (by birth and marriage) be mothers and my son be a father
  34. Watching a flower pierce through the ground toward the warm spring sun
  35. Kneeling in church, praying in church, crying in church, smiling in church, singing in church and never getting enough of the sun coming through those stained glass windows

What makes you joyful?  Joy comes. It comes in the morning.  It comes in the middle of the day and it comes in the night. And most of the time, it’s free for the taking if you are dedicated to being a “joy catcher” regardless of your circumstances.

“Happy people . . . enjoy the fundamental, often very simple things of life . . .They savor the moment, glad to be alive, enjoying their work, their families, the good things around them. They are adaptable; they can bend with the wind, adjust to the changes in their times, enjoy the contest of life . . . . Their eyes are turned outward; they are aware, compassionate.  They have the capacity to love.”  ~Jane Canfield

I'm thinking about a few special people in my life as I write this who are going through trials and tribulations.  I'm praying and hoping that you will feel the joy that's there for you this Easter morning and every morning because I love you to the moon and back.