My #OLW for 2017 is Light

My #OLW for 2017 is Light

I have chosen Light as my One Little Word for 2017 because this word is comforting and inspirational. Light has so many different meanings that I immediately felt better for thinking about this choice. I have so many fears about 2017 that I need something to give me hope and inspiration.

That is the beauty of light. Light is the candle that lights our way in the darkness. I can hope that we will all find the light at the end of the tunnel in 2017. But we can also think of this word as something that lifts as in lifting our spirits or lightening our load. A lighter can be a device that causes a flame to light or it can be a form of transport. The love of light is deeply ingrained in our being. No matter how dark the night the first light of dawn always offer a lift in spirit and hope. Light not only inspires hope, but it represents it. Lights and light bulbs represent genius and ingenuity. This is something I hope for all of us, because I believe our world needs more of this. Lights are our guides as well as beacons of hope. Light warns us off dangerous shoals and when to pause and to exercise caution. Light shows us the way if we pay attention. Light is celebration, but also a reminder that life, like light, is fleeting. We must embrace the beauty and joy of each moment and search for the beautiful in the mundane.

I think my One Little Word offers me both hope and guidance for the coming year and I hope you find the #OLW that can do as much for you. I hope that I can be a lighter for others whether they need someone to ignite their flame or lighten their load. Check out the path I used to select my #OLW for 2017 and choose your own One Little Word. Check out my brief video about Light to inspire you on your journey.

Mommy Truth

Mommy Truth

No

You can’t have the last cookie

It’s been a rough day, week, year

That oreo is all that stands

Between Momma and losing her fingernail grip on sanity

Do

You want to risk life as you know it

It’s been a rough day, week, year

There isn’t any wine in the fridge

But there is a stack of bills on the table and not enough money

So

You are right about hugs

It’s been a rough day, week, year

The day will come when I have lots of time and money

Give me another hug then go ahead and eat the cookie

Love

Love

Love is a carved wooden goblet

Wood darkened by age and use

Base sprawling wide, solid, unshakable

Stem spiraling upward

The generous curve of the goblet whispers stories once carved deep

now erased by the caress of countless touches

While the lip of the cup runs round endless and smooth to the mouth

The well of the cup dwells deep and dark

waiting to be completed with something rich and filling

Love is a carved wooden goblet

 

This poem was inspired by Liz Prather’s A Walk Through the Forest prompt

Artwork by Lesley Shepherd

Empathy is Always the Answer

Empathy is Always the Answer

I believe empathy is always the answer. Hate seems to dominate the news and social media. This hurts my heart. I don’t understand how anyone can spend so much priceless life energy on hate. I turned 50 this year and the one lesson I have learned is that hate never solved anything. Love is the opposite of hate, but for love to stand a chance against hate we must first have empathy. I envision empathy as the roots of a tree. While the first roots may be small and tender, eventually they delve deeply into the earth to both feed and support the tree. The deeper and stronger the roots grow then the stronger and taller the tree. In my metaphor, the roots of the tree are empathy and the tree itself is our humanity. Empathy is essential to our humanity, because without it we cannot love. Empathy is the beginning of understanding and understanding cures hate. Empathy helps us see other people as human and builds connections between us that make it harder to sustain hate. Once we have seen that others are like us we can no longer see “others” as something frightening, alien, and less than human – less than us.

My first Ph.D. class was online. A few weeks into classes, my grandfather died. The timing of the arrangements combined with my work schedule put me on a plane during our scheduled weekly class. The next week we experienced severe thunderstorms which knocked our power out – moments before class was due to start. Missing two classes in a row is a pretty big deal for graduate classes. When I contacted my instructor to explain myself, again, all I could think about was the many students who have shared similar versions of back-to-back catastrophes and my frequent skepticism (the grandparent death toll at midterms and finals is alarming). I was sure he wouldn’t believe my explanations, I would fail the class, be kicked out of the program, and so on. None of those things happened. He graciously accepted that sometimes life happens and we discussed how I would make up what I missed. I did the work and we moved on. I aced the class, stayed in the program, and earned my Ph.D.

I have often thought about this experience. Life happens to students and sometimes those students have made mistakes and bad choices. Now that I’ve been on the other side of the desk it is easier for me to give students the benefit of the doubt. I know life really does happen. I strive to apply this lesson outside the classroom as well. There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This is a very ancient saying I’ve heard attributed to many cultures, but it is a universal truth. Until we share someone’s experience we cannot understand them. While we certainly don’t want to truly experience the difficulties and tragedies of others, and most people wouldn’t wish us to, we can all benefit from imagining ourselves in others’ shoes. I wonder how much tragedy could be averted if we did this more?

Write your own This I Believe essay and learn more about the NPR program, companion book, and web site.

Artwork by Picography on Pixabay

Because You Asked About the Line Between Religion and Faith

Because You Asked About the Line Between Religion and Faith

Books walls rules structure

Music poetry prayer

Bulwark and support

Minefields and cracked foundations

Blood and ashes on our lips

 

In ancient mountains

Touch comforting newborn cry

Rain soothing dry earth

Nurturing bloom and fruit for

Nourishing spirt and flesh

 

Religion a tool

Gripped to protect or destroy

Faith benevolence

A gift to lighten our load

Without faith religion fails

 

Interested in creating your own “Line Between” poem? Check out the the Line Between prompt that inspired me and #JustWrite.

I Am From

I Am From

I am from orchards and soccer balls, windmills and beaches where it is too dangerous to swim;

I am from hillsides of waving white and pink blossoms and truckloads of dark-faced strangers to reap their fruit;

I am from secret hideaways earned by battle-scarred arms and legs and hair torn out by the roots yet filled with sweetness and laughter;

I am from the pine trees are a home run and the power pole marks home plate;

I am from woodsmoke-scented nights huddled on the hill beneath a blanket, cradling a thermos filled with stew, the imprint of a soccer ball still stinging on my frozen thigh;

I am from snow forts that last all winter and “better use the garage door, it’s the only one not blocked”;

I am from shoveling the farm pond and begging Santa for ice skates, toboggans and runner sleds, hot chocolate and cookies, and hand-knit hats, scarves, and mittens;

I am from hot afternoons playing kick the can and late nights playing flashlight tag, “don’t swim there because of the undertow” and “didn’t you hear a kid drowned there,” and bet you can’t swim out to the raft without drowning;

I am from popup trailers, mountain pies, campfires, and climbing a new mountain every year;

I am from chocolate molds and elaborate easter bunnies, cherry cokes, and french-fries paid for with berry picking money;

I am from the War of 1812 and the Underground Railroad, lake freighters, and Great Lakes captains.

I created a more interactive version of this poem using ThingLink. Learn more about how to write your own “Where I’m From” poem modeled on George Ella Lyon’s famous work as well as other ways to explore your origin story in writing and #JustWrite.