Experimenting with Hope

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Some authors embark on year-long experiments like A.J. Jacobs’ “The Year of Living Biblically” where he took on the task of literally living some of the Bible’s tenets like those that concern the clothing one wears or how to handle adulterers, among others.  In another experiment he spent some time outsourcing his life – including arguing with his wife and reading bedtime stories to his son with some help from some folks in Bangalore.  He is funny and interesting as is evidenced by his quote, “I am Jewish in the same way The Olive Garden is Italian.”

Then there’s Julie Powell’s “Julie and Julia,” an experiment in which the author decided  during a rough patch in her life to cook her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.  Good food, who can’t get behind that idea?!

There’s one of my personal favorites is “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. The author realized one day that she was living a pretty blessed life, and yet, she was feeling as though she was not appreciative or grateful enough for those blessings.  So she decided to embark on a year-long experiment to become more appreciative and grateful by way of her favorite device – the habit.  This was the first in a series of books (and a terrific podcast) that she has under her belt.

So many of her approaches resonated for me – her love of words and tags and categorizing – making the steps to embrace these things measurable and achievable, not to mention if one didn’t work she was very open about it.

This brings us to how I started blogging more regularly again.  I had my own little epiphany.  Well, it wasn’t just one moment.  To be honest, I’ve been wrestling with what my “project” is for quite some time now.  But, I’ve been drawn to hospice and writing and have been looking for a match.

On a walk one day with the dog my phone died – I hadn’t fully charged the battery before heading out.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, I had time to think, contemplate, create, perhaps hear divine inspiration whisper a word to me…HOPE.

Hope? I thought.

Yes, Hope.

Hmmm… I thought.

Well, actually, I had been known to think and even mention to a few folks that the word HOPE appears within the word HOsPicE.

Coincidence? I think not.

So, I figured maybe I would embark on a journey to figure out how Hope figures in others’ lives and how we can all cultivate a bit more of it.  Who couldn’t use more, right?!

How do you invite hope into your day?

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Cranky with a side of hope

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Have you ever felt like you had run out of hope? Where everything just irritated you? Where cranky was a constant state of mind? Yeah, me neither.  But, if you had, how would you have gotten yourself out of the rut?

Some subscribe to the “It’s Better to Give than Receive” school of thought.  Some say giving has its own rewards.  Still others would tell me to sit down and be quiet.

But, having read about someone who had this happen to them, once, I thought it might be something that at least one other soul has dealt with.

My guess is helping someone else with a somewhat mundane task, say, stacking wood or cooking someone a meal (a new parent or someone who has a sick member of their family, for example), writing someone a note to let them know you’re thinking of them after a hard time or in advance of a surgery might benefit both parties.  These are just some possible choices for helping to bring about a change in the atmosphere.

In glancing down my Facebook feed I note one of several tones: rabid fear and vitriol at the thought of our new state of affairs (coming to an Inauguration near you, this Friday), a giddy jubilation at the thought of the new regime or a blatant “la la la, I can’t hear you and refuse to comment in any way shape or form political” frame of mind.

It makes me think of a quote I read that said, “Father in heaven, please help us to remember that anything that frightens us comes with an invitation to find the strength of knowing and trusting You.”

Now isn’t that the truth? Faith doesn’t equal understanding or even agreement.  It is the knowledge that God has got this.

One of the thoughts that got me through some of the more uncomfortable military situations we found ourselves in was, “Love it or loathe it, this too shall pass.”

So, how do you keep on keeping on when you just don’t feel like it (i.e. in say, January and February)?

Snow and Hope both have 4 letters…

 

…coincidence? I think not.
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Today is a snow day.  Yes, yes.  I know it’s a Saturday and that flies in the face of the whole concept of snow days, but the fact that we shoveled and swept and walked in snow makes it a snow day.  The plow drivers will tell you it’s a snow day.  They are out in full force.  Gotta love the overtime!

It all began a few days ago when a school filled with children heard that snow was in the forecast for Friday (very early) morning.  Their teachers, including the substitutes were telling them all the tips of the trade in how to bring about a successful snow day.  Some were told to flush ice cubes down the toilet (with the amount of cubes equaling the amount of inches you were requesting), others were instructed to sleep with a spoon under their pillow (don’t ask me, I just work here), and still others were putting their pajamas on inside AND backwards.  Heck, hypothetically, a librarian I might know, even wore hers that way Thursday night when she turned in for bed!

However, Friday morning came and went without even the littlest snowflake falling here.  This morning, however, we had a different story.  It started with a little covering on the table on the patio out back.  The green grass still showed through.  Then, I was paying attention to something on my phone and happened to glance up when there were nearly whiteout conditions outside (okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I’m here with a couple of creatures who love snow, so… cut me some slack, ok?!).

We ended up with a couple of inches of powder (not great for snowballs, but good for what ails you.

My point is, the kids were hopeful, the adults were hopeful, that there would be a snow day filled with that wonderfully clean, pure stuff that promises fun and frolicking and then hot chocolate in front of a fire afterward.  Simple pleasures, right? And hope doesn’t have to be for something monumental or Earth-shattering, it can be a simple sled ride followed by some marshmallows in hot chocolate!

I hope your day is filled with little opportunities for hope all around.

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A Journey…

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This idea has been percolating in my head for a bit now and I’ve even been outlining.  Can you imagine? A pantser like myself actually outlining and mind-mapping?  It was fun, in fact.  It’s always been about the process.  Surveys done in social science classes, experiments and research…now you’re talkin’!

So, here goes.  We, dear reader, you and I, are embarking on our very own journey starting right here, right now (insert earworm here, never mind…I did it for you).

It is my wish that together we will help one another find hope in daily moments.  There are so many opportunities to not be humble or optimistic or purposeful or energetic.  Then again, there are so many little, everyday moments to find in the most obscure, random, downright surprising spots that I have been inspired to share them with you and ask you to share, too.

Do you have an unusual experience or nugget or story that seems to defy all reason, but still inspires you (and others) to not lose faith? Please share it here.

One of the places that seems to have sparked this journey for me is hospice.

My dad was put on hospice following a surgery gone wrong.  It allowed him to go home and be with family when he passed.  Fast forward several years and my mother was also put on hospice, but in a facility as her dementia had progressed to a point where she needed more care than she could get at home.  However, she was put on not because of some horrendous diagnosis, but because of a factor called “negative caloric intake”.  In other words what she was able to eat wasn’t doing her any good nutritionally.  Therefore, the powers that be thought she was “not long for this world” at that rate of speed.  She fooled them.  She ramped up her eating again and did something I didn’t even know was possible. She “graduated” from hospice.  And, in fact, when she did finally pass away, she was not on hospice.

So, both of those instances involved examples of hope.  Dad’s allowed him to be at home with loved ones in an environment he’d helped to create taking some of the powerlessness out of it for him and preparing him for the next step in his journey.

Mother’s was educating me (at least) that this was something that could also be overcome and was not a done deal or a “given”.  God still had the reins here, not us.  Humbling, to say the least and hopeful that she would get stronger and healthier (which she did for a bit).

Since then, I have begun volunteering with hospice myself and it is amazingly rewarding and hope-filled.  The wonderful folks I have had the privilege to meet are veterans who have, in some capacity, served our nation in the armed forces and we are now getting a chance to thank them for their service and sacrifice.  There have been veterans who served in World War II and some much younger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Some are at home and just look frail, not truly “sick”.  Some who are fully aware and others I have heard of who seem to not hear a thing.  The one thing throughout that resonates is that the word HOPE is within the word HOsPicE.  It came to me one day by Divine Intervention no doubt, but just stood out in vast relief and has stuck ever since.  And I feel so lucky to be able to volunteer with such a terrific organization. It has the element of the military which I have such a place in my heart for (being a military spouse will do that to you) and being the beneficiary of hospice (by way of both parents) that it seemed like a perfect fit.  Couple that with a terrific angel of a volunteer coordinator and you’ve got yourself a winner!

What sorts of experiences have you had that were wrapped in Hope when it seemed like that would be the last emotion to be present?

I hope you have enjoyed this session of our journey and I look forward to our next leg.

 

Where’d you go, Joe DiMaggio?

 

I shared this blog with some folks recently and sheepishly told them that it has been “a while” since I had written.  Wow, I didn’t realize it is coming up on a year since I have posted here.  Yikes!

I have been writing elsewhere, but this is something I don’t want to lose.  Lots has changed in the past year.  Our little one (who is not so little) started attending our local school, my husband ended one career and began a second, I have started doing some varied and sundry volunteering and we are house hunting…a lot!

I never knew how all-encompassing house hunting could become.  It actually makes me hearken back to when we were trying to start our family (which started the day we got married, of course, but we were looking to add to the team’s numbers, if you will).  It was so enveloping that it almost soaked you through and through with its completeness.  Everything was related to trying to conceive (and I’m speaking for myself only now).  Every thought and action had something relating to pregnancy or conception or babies interwoven through it.  It was somewhat exhausting, but also laden with adrenaline.  There was a sort of excitement at having that focus.

These days I look at tile and cabinets and storage and outlets in a whole new way.  I look for ideas on how to organize things and I try to glean the best solutions for our family when it comes to yard and configuration of rooms and neighborhoods.  It’s funny how times change and so, too, does our focus.

 
A cottage

I wonder what the “next big thing” will be?!

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Now, Dear Reader, It’s your turn — What sorts of life changes have you experienced and what words of wisdom would you share with someone going through something similar?

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Things to do in a Heat Wave

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  1. Visit your local library to pick out some great books, movies, tools, knitting needles, bakeware, who knows what else!?!  It’s a great way to get out of the heat and expand one’s mind.
  2. Hit the local pool.  Don’t belong to a pool?  Many will let you try them out if you’re thinking of joining.  Is your pool all filled?  Try a neighborhood pool a few blocks away.  Here in Northern Virginia there are neighborhoods overflowing (like the pun there?!) with members and others are just thirsting (again!) for new ones.
  3. Hit a movie.  You could go to the latest release (during the day prices are cheaper) or you could go to a theater near a university and see an older flick, but pay pennies on the dollar of what you’d pay at the newer sparkly multiplex.
  4. Build a fort indoors.  C’mon, you all remember building forts with blankets and chairs and the couch.
  5. Make some sort of cool refreshing treat.  Smoothies are a fun way to cook without heating up the kitchen.  And kids love getting involved.
  6. Make something from your garden (if you have one, or your farmer’s market if you don’t).  We made some delicious guacamole and salsa last night to keep the house cool.  That with a bit of chili and some chips, lettuce and sour cream and we were feasting!
  7. Settle into a good book.  Whether you prefer reading on paper or an e-reader or if you’d prefer to be read to via an audio book launch yourself into a wonderful story and escape the everyday heat and humidity (Perhaps some “White Fang” or “The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe”   with their cooler scenes to help you beat the heat.) with a free trial on audible.com 
  8. Clean out and donate some items in your home.  The flowchart found here will help.  Then, here are some of the places suggested for donations.   Win, win!
  9. Practice some of those stretches and exercises you’ve put off trying.  Or work on some new hairstyles.
  10. Write…a short story, a play, a letter, a novel, an epitaph.  Whatever you feel to write at the time.  Go here for inspiration and great tips!

“You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means…”

Princess Bride

Dear Mainstream Media (and the general public of Planet Earth):

To quote the wise Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”  The word to which I am referring is bravery.  You keep using it in reference to Bruce Jenner.  I admit, it must be confounding and confusing to feel uncomfortable in your own skin (we’ve all been a teenager, so on some minute level we can be empathic).  It must be terrifying to not understand your purpose here on Earth (heck, just browse the aisles of Barnes and Noble and you’ll see the word purpose all over the stacks — it’s a universal issue).

But, to say that this Olympian has exhibited bravery or courage is false.  Some state it better than I.  But, with over 2,500 American casualties from Operation Enduring Freedom (not to mention other countries and other battles), Calabasas,  CA is not the place to be cheering on the brave and courageous.

Bravery is giving up the comforts of a job and home and life to go to a foreign land to protect the rights of people you have never even met.  Being willing to give up your life for others, for the greater good…THAT is bravery.  That is courage.

Bravery

Sincerely,

Sarah

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* Princess Bride photo courtesy of http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/you-keep-using-that-word-i-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means .

* Bravery photo courtesy of http://bookandbiscuit.com/2014/05/16/quote-me-on-that-divergent-and-bravery/.