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Even Clouds Have Silver Linings

There is no doubt that COVID-19 is a cloud that continues to hover over our world. For some the virus brought catastrophe—a lost loved one, lost business, lost job. For others, the impact has been less severe but, nevertheless, COVID has impacted all of us in some negative way.

But, as with all clouds, there are silver linings—needed rain, cooler temperatures, rainbows.  

My COVID silver linings have been time to write a new book and publish the book I’d spent three years writing. I’ve also become friends via email with my next door neighbor (a lovely lady from England) and a weekly opportunity to learn in a Zoom class taught by my editor, Elena, who lives in Washington state.

My granddaughter’s silver lining was the opportunity to teach herself to play the guitar. Some have planted gardens, read more books, reconnected with old friends, learned to cook new recipes. 

Affirmation: I believe in silver linings.

Coaching questions: What silver linings have you had in the last eight months? What have they meant to you?

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

Fill A Bucket

An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly. Unknown

Last year, I sent a children’s book entitled, Fill a Bucket by Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin, to some of my Greats and Grands. The book’s message is that we all have an invisible bucket which holds good thoughts and feelings about ourselves. When someone does something nice for you, you do something nice for them, or you do something nice for yourself, you fill your bucket and visa versa. 

I’ve used the bucket analogy as a Life Coach for years. I’d notice my client’s bucket was empty by how she sounded or what she said. I’d ask her, “What will you do this week to fill your bucket?” 

As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to deplete our own buckets while working hard to fill the buckets of others. This month, keep tabs on your bucket, notice when it’s getting low and either fill it yourself (a nap, a call to a friend, a bath, a walk) or ask someone to fill it (please clean up the kitchen, take me to dinner, drop this off at the post office). As we fill the buckets of others, our joy increases but we need to watch the balance. 

Affirmation: I have a full bucket.

Coaching questions: How’s your bucket doing? Is it full or empty? What can you do this week to fill up your bucket while adding to another’s?

Photo by Samur Isma on Unsplash

When Our “Sandcastles” Are Erased

Have you ever walked along a shoreline, only to have your footprints washed away? That’s what Alzheimer’s is like. The waves erase the marks we leave behind, all the sand castles. Pat Summitt, American women’s college basketball head coach

Every sixty-six seconds a new brain develops Alzheimer’s. Two-thirds of them belong to women. In addition, women make up two-thirds of all the caregivers caring for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s crisis. That’s why we must be at the heart of the solution. 

Much attention is given to the support of cancer and heart disease research which is necessary and important. We need to add Alzheimer’s to our list. If you’re a woman over sixty, you are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than you are breast cancer. Support the cause and support caregivers. It takes a community to stand up to this devastating disease.

Affirmation: I support Alzheimer’s research.

Coaching request:  If you’ve swept Alzheimer’s and other dementias under the rug, take another look. Become informed, support research and caregivers.

24/7 helpline – 1-800-272-3900

www.alz.org

Watch for your local walk

What Makes You Laugh?

When our mind is full of the warmth of humor, we are in touch with the best of ourselves. Quote from Welcoming the Unwelcome by Pema Chodron

I definitely agree with Chodron’s quote but, since I don’t think of myself as funny, humor is a difficult topic for me to write about. In today’s world, however, I’m grateful for anything that makes me laugh. I’m craving a big, out-loud laugh. I know how good it feels.

I just went through my Facebook feed to find something funny for inspiration. Alas, nada. That’s not always true but laugh-out-loud humor, that isn’t at the expense of someone, is rare these days. Yet, it’s so vital to getting in touch with “the best of ourselves.”

Affirmation: I like to laugh.

Coaching questions and request: Where do you find humor? What makes you laugh out loud? How do you feel when you do? Please share something funny. I need a good laugh.

Photo by Stormy All on Unsplash

Take Time to Thank a Farmer

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted. Ecclesiastes 3:2, The Bible

I grew up in Nebraska and I’m a Nebraska girl at heart. Although my ancestors were country doctors, boot makers, lumberyard owners, my Nebraska roots gave me a deep love and respect for the land and farmers.

Prior to moving to Florida, we lived in the midst of Illinois farmland where I felt a part of the planting, sprouting, growing, harvesting seasons and appreciated the farmers I saw working the fields into the night at harvest time.  

Tomorrow is National Farmer’s Day and an opportunity to pay tribute to farmers throughout history. I have the utmost respect for our farmers in today’s highly technical, yet labor intensive and unforgiving industry.

Affirmation: I thank farmers who put food on my table.

Coaching request: Take a moment to consider the food in your pantry and refrigerator. Think about what it takes to plant, grow, and harvest the wheat to make your bread. Consider the birthing of calves, gathering of eggs, or feeding of chickens. Consider the back breaking job of picking your lettuce or broccoli. Then, show gratitude. 

Photo by Gregory Hayes on Unsplash

The Gesture That Says a Thousand Words

Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart. Washington Irving, author

In some ways, all friends are “distant friends” in today’s world. Before COVID-19, my best friend and I always ended our in-person visits with a hug. Now that we can only see each other on Zoom or from a distance, she has invented a virtual hug for us. We each put our hand over our heart as a way to acknowledge our caring for one another. 

Now, even on Zoom, we demonstrate our love by patting our own hearts.

I recently read that we are, scientifically, on to something. Kristin Neff, PhD, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, writes, “Putting your hand on your heart has been shown to create a sense of compassion and empathy. Your mammalian system kicks in immediately when you place your hand on your heart. You begin to use a warmer, gentler tone with yourself and with others.”

Our physiology appears hardwired to recognize this gesture as self-soothing. It also creates a sense of compassion and empathy—something we all need right now. 

Affirmation: I “hand on heart” you.

Coaching questions: How have you adapted to our new reality? What are you missing in your life right now?

One Positive Outcome From the Pandemic

I passionately believe home cooking has vast benefit to individuals, families, community, environment and animal welfare, but in today’s busy society it is often the first thing we outsource. While some may argue this makes economic sense, the cost and benefit of doing so cannot be measured in dollars alone. Alyce Alexandra, author

I think one positive outcome of recent months, among others, has been the return to home cooking.

People in lockdown began to cook again out of necessity. Even now, with restaurants opening, many vulnerable people are staying home and cooking like never before in recent times. The family meal—long threatened—has partially returned. 

“So what’s good about all this?” asks the beleaguered home cook. Our health, for one thing. Home cooking generally means healthier meals with more fruits and vegetables, less fats, starches, and chemicals. 

I believe that magic happens when families sit down to eat a home cooked meal together. Conversations, relaxation, appreciation. I hope we don’t return to our Grab ’n Go eating style of the past. I hope this is one change that sticks around.

Affirmation: I believe in the home cooked family meal.

Coaching questions: What does mealtime look like at your house? If home cooked family meals are important to you, what will you do to move in this direction?

Because family mealtime is so rare, I had difficulty finding a photo.
This is from the American Cancer Society.

A Story of Grace–God’s Best Idea

Grace is God’s best idea. Of all his wondrous works, grace, in my estimation, is the magnum opus. Friendship is next. Friends become couriers of grace, conduits of heaven’s grace. Max Lucado, pastor and author

In my book, Mom’s Gone, Now What? I tell Vicki’s mother loss story. Vicki lost her 89 year old mother to Alzheimer’s several years ago. She told me about her mother’s life as author and missionary, along with her husband, in China and India. At the end of our interview, Vicki related this grace-filled moment.

Vicki said, “My mom was very passive and hadn’t spoken for about two years. However, one day while I was visiting her—just sitting with her really—she turned, looked straight at me and said, ‘I love you, Vicki.’ I was stunned for a moment. Then I realized she had given me a precious good-bye gift.”

I believe Vicki’s experience was an example of God’s grace—Vicki receiving an unsolicited, perhaps undeserved, gift from God with her beloved mother as conduit.

Affirmation: I believe in grace.

Coaching questions: What grace moments have you experienced? Who is a conduit for grace in your life?

Vicki’s mother, Myra Scovel

How We Respond to Our Experience of Loss Matters

Grief is the reminder of the depth of our love. Gordon Wheeler, psychologist

In one of my all-time favorite books, The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama says, “Sadness and grief are, of course, natural human responses to loss, but if your focus remains on the loved one you have just lost, the experience is less likely to lead to despair.

In contrast, if your focus while grieving remains mostly on yourself–‘What am I going to do now? How can I cope?’–then there is a greater danger of going down the path of despair and depression. So much depends on how we respond to our experience of loss and sadness.”

The motherless daughters I interviewed for my book, Mom’s Gone, Now What? who seemed to have made the adjustment to their loss, more frequently talked about what their mothers gave them, even if their time with her was short, rather than all they had lost because of her death. 

Both conversations are appropriate, of course, but focusing on the former seems to lead to more joy and less long term depression and grief.

By her death, my mother gave me a greater sense of independence, the heart-felt knowledge that death is a part of life, and the ability to show empathy to those who have experienced loss.

Affirmation: I focus on the person I lost

Coaching questions: What is your response to loss? Is it working for you? What will help you focus more on the lost loved one and less on yourself?

My mom, Winnifred Martyn Horn, circa 1939

On Discovering Mother Figures

Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown. In my heart it don’t mean a thing. Toni Morrison, author

I’m using my “stay at home” time to write a new book. This one is historical fiction. The main characters are my great grandparents, Elizabeth and Charles Horn (shown in photo), pioneers who originally lived in a sod house on the Nebraska prairie in the Loup River Valley. 

Lately, I’ve wondered why I’m finding so much joy in writing this story. One idea that came to mind was that I’m getting to know and making friends with my great grandmother. Although she is only fifteen at the beginning of my story, it’s like having a new mother-figure in my life. To me, she is very real and part of who I am. One never knows where they’ll find a mother figure.

Affirmation: I have found a new mother figure.

Coaching questions: Where have mother figures popped up in your life? What difference did they make?