Moments of Joy: May 2015

The moment of joy I related last month was a fun one — seeing the smiles and looks of confusion on my loved-ones’ faces after a hard-fought battle to present them with a secret surprise.  This month was a hectic, emotional roller coaster.  Instead of telling one story, I’d like to mention a few simple pleasures that brought a smile to my face over the last four busy weeks.

photo collage of young pullet chicks in the grass

The tiny baby chickens we bought this spring are adorably feathered-out and testing their new wings.  The twinkle in my daughter’s eyes and the giggle on her lips makes me smile as I watch the chicks fly up and down from the ground to her lap and shoulders.  Their antics are comical as they stretch up and flap their wings, run in excitement with their heads near the ground like tiny race cars, and chase each other in circles to steal whatever worm or treat one of them finds.

black letters shaped like people that spell the word friendship on a colorful background

There is a lady I’ve known for years, and though I have tried many different approaches, I have never been able to develop a real friendship with her.  I have made deeper connections with her sister and a couple of other family members, but had resigned myself to the fact that she would always keep me at arm’s length.  I guess some people never “click” as friends.

Well, this seemingly-shy lady has begun to step out of her comfort zone to reach out and make connections with more people.  After soliciting help from myself and a few other ladies, she has even organized us into having a monthly get-together in order to spend more time together and become closer friends.  Our first meeting is later this week, and I’m looking forward to learning more about these great women.  There’s always room for a few more friends to bring joy to my life.

photo collage of sugar snap peas and strawberries growing in a garden

The cool of the morning feels refreshing on my skin as I step onto the back steps early in the morning.  I look up to see clouds floating gently by.  Robins, cardinals, sparrows, and mocking birds make background music as they feed their first sets of fledglings for this year.

I tiptoe across the grass and step over the short fence which surrounds my garden, while the thick layer of wood mulch keeps me from sinking into the sodden clay soil.  What a wet spring we have had this year!  While others watch from a distance as their berries rot beyond the soggy, tilled soil, I patter around the mulched paths of my no-till garden enjoying a tasty breakfast of fresh strawberries and sugar snap peas.  This is such a pleasant way to start the day!

school textbooks and binders lying int the green grass

On a day when the ground is (almost) dry enough (for a change), I break out the riding mower to manage our growing jungle of a yard before it gets tall enough to require a crew with a bush hog and hay bailer.  Round after round the grass is slowly beaten down to a manageable height (I say “beaten” because the blades are too dull at the moment to actually cut anything).

As I approach the large trees in the middle of our backyard, I cast a longing glance toward my hammock that I have not had time to enjoy so far this year.  Refocusing my attention, I carefully steer across a section of the 200 foot ditch I dug through our yard several years ago in a desperate attempt to turn half an acre of part-time pond into a usable lawn.

Suddenly I realize I am no longer moving, but am sitting in the middle of the ditch tilted over to one side!  After a second of shock, I remember to turn off the blade and assess the situation.  There in the ditch, lying peacefully under my beloved hammock, is the front wheel of the lawnmower.

“What?!”  I think to myself.  “Lawn mower wheels don’t just fall off!  This is something that happens in cartoons; this doesn’t happen in real life!”

I go into the house to gather tools; and after a loud wrestling match involving a wooden board, a crowbar, a heavy jack, and the much heavier riding mower machine, I manage to securely reattach the wheel.  All the while, I’m trying to be very careful not to re-injure my back that I hurt two weeks earlier when I fell on the concrete steps to our back door.

As I’m packing up the tools and equipment, my neighbor calls across the fence to ask if I’m having trouble.  Though he’s in his 70s, he also has never heard of a riding mower wheel deciding to leap off its axle and take a break.

I tell him the unusual things I did to get the wheel back on without hurting my back and how he had missed the great show I had put on for the neighbors when I bounced down the back steps and then shuffled around in slow motion for over a week.  He told me to call him first next time so he would not miss out on the entertainment.  Aah, my sweet, sympathetic neighbors.  Lol  We have amused them a lot over the years with the crazy things that go on in our yard.

To sum up this growing story…I finish mowing the lawn and go inside the house to enjoy a cool glass of water.  When I step into the living room, there’s my daughter with books spread all over the couch, taking notes from her science book in preparation for her upcoming test.

It warms my heart to have a trustworthy child who will work independently.  She can tell that I’m going to be outside for hours, but she continues to work without me checking on her.  She knows exactly where the answer keys to her tests are in the filing cabinet in the other room, but she never touches them because she realizes that what’s important to me is the process of learning, not just grades.

I smile at her and praise her efforts as I think to myself, “Next week, I think it will be her turn to mow the grass…”

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Aside

To the Point: The Time Is Now

I just received a message that a friend of mine’s mother passed away this morning.  He already lost his wife and children in a tragic car wreck years ago.

Saturday I’m going to a candlelight memorial for a young couple who were killed while riding a motorcycle last year.  They were on their way home from a bible study about marriage and were excitedly making plans for their upcoming wedding.

We often live like life is guaranteed…but it isn’t.  We waste time, we ignore loved ones, we stay busy with things that aren’t truly most important to us because we plan to do all those important things “later.”

Here’s the point I’d like you to consider:

If you knew for a fact that you were going to die tomorrow, how would you change the way you live today?  Those changes reveal where your priorities should be.

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Mammoth Mushrooms and Magical Movies

I photographed possibly the biggest mushrooms the I’ve ever seen sitting on top of a hill, and I just had to share!   The thick green shrubbery kept me from getting any closer, but my zoom lens captured them pretty well, I think.  😉

giant mushrooms on a fern-covered knoll

Ok, ok, you know I’m just being silly.  Here’s the actual size of these mighty mushrooms:

tiny mushrooms on a clump of moss next to a quarter to show the actual size

Earlier this spring I was given a small truckload of a hay and horse manure mixture to put on my garden (you can see it as the dark areas in the photo at the end of this post).

What was the result?  Hopefully, nutrients are feeding the soil for this year’s seedlings.  Most noticeably, millions of little weeds are growing!  Having a garden buried in wood chip mulch usually means almost zero weeding, but not this spring!

While engaging in my new hobby of endless weeding, I was about to toss this particular weed onto the lawn and noticed a miniature nature scene in my hand.  Photo op!  I grabbed a clump of moss from the yard and a trash can lid from the shed and practiced my macro shooting.

weed and tiny mushrooms

I also played around (for much too long) with the Pixlr and PicMonkey photo editors to clean up the background of the photo.  Here is the original photo:

weed and tiny mushrooms original

I am amazed by the way I can easily alter photos with these free editors.  It makes me wonder how we can believe any images we see.

Then while I was typing this blog post, my daughter stumbled across some funny videos by Zach King, which makes me wonder how we can believe any videos we see, either.  I may search for a free video editor I could try out; it looks like fun.

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Roadblocks to Joy: Jealousy & Envy

Iago:
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on

~ Shakespeare in Othello, 1604

Jealousy and envy are similar concepts.  I’ve heard the terms distinguished in this way:

  • Jealousy is wanting something so badly that you can’t be satisfied without it, and you may even be willing to harm others to get it.
  • Envy is not so much wanting to get something you don’t have; instead, the focus is on not wanting others to have it, either.

I think the “green-eyed monster” is a fitting description for both situations.

Jealousy is the malign feeling which is often had toward a rival, or possible rival, for the possession of that which we greatly desire, as in love or ambition. Envy is a similar feeling toward one, whether rival or not, who already possesses that which we greatly desire.

Jealousy is enmity prompted by fear; envy is enmity prompted by covetousness.

Century Dictionary by William Dwight Whitney, 1889

one tiny eye of the

Do you gripe and complain about your “tiny” house and drool over the homes across town with the pool houses and big back yards?

one tiny eye of the Do you work overtime every week, to the neglect of spending time with your family, because you are saving up for that new model truck or boat?

one tiny eye of the Do you daydream of ways to besmirch the reputation of a coworker so that you’ll have a better chance at getting the promotion you are desperate to have?

one tiny eye of the Were you glad to live in your double-wide trailer until your “rich” cousins moved into their new three-story brick house on the lake?

one tiny eye of the Were you happy to drive your older vehicle until one of your friends pulled up in their shiny new one?

one tiny eye of the Were you glad to be able to financially “keep your head above water” until you found out that a coworker receives a much larger paycheck than you do?

If so, the green-eyed monster has you in its grips and is slowly (or quickly?) choking the joy out of your life.

These insidious attitude problems do not always involve tangible items, either — lives have been brought to ruin due to jealousy/envy for love, attention, prestige…on and on the list goes.

When will we learn to enjoy what we have without being discontent for more and without weighing our blessings on a scale against our neighbor’s blessings?  That’s when our levels of happiness can soar to new heights.

Like Water Off a Duck’s Back

water off a duck's back, mallard splashing in water

photo by Toby

 

Are you a sensitive soul?

I have to admit that I can be. More than once I have been labeled as “a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.”

Let me tell you a quick story from a few months ago:

I’m teaching a handful of kids ranging from first to third grade.  There’s definitely a variety of personalities and skill levels in this group.

One boisterous girl whacks her brother on his shoulder and starts shouting at him after he makes a silly comment about her.  

Across the table, a young boy’s eyes pop wide open when he hears her outburst.  He waves his arm eagerly to get her attention and asks the girl her name.

Glaring at him, she shoots back “Nunya!” (meaning “None of your business!”)

In an earnest voice, he replies,  “Um, Nunya, um, hey, Nunya, we don’t say ‘shut up.'”

This makes me chuckle inside as I remember the days when my daughter was very small and thought that saying “shut up” was cursing.

The girl immediately denies saying any such thing, which I also find amusing since everyone in the room heard her. 

The boy, undaunted, tries to reiterate his point as I redirect the class to the lesson topic.  I have to appreciate his tenacity.

I realize that in this case the boy did not perceive the rudeness directed at him.  But that kept things simpler, didn’t it?  Not acknowledging the verbal barb kept the boy’s focus on communication rather than a two-way battle of egos.

Upon reflection later that evening, I thought if more people could let offenses slide by, without feeling like they had to prove themselves, tense conversations could diffuse more quickly.  If we each could check our egos at the door and remember that we are all unique and imperfect beings, we could bypass the spiteful bravado and try to understand each other — to actually communicate.

Does it have to be a big deal if someone purposefully tries to offend or belittle me?  Their clever (or not so clever) barbs do not change who I really am…unless I allow them to.  I can choose to respond without retaliation.

There are many people who rarely make that choice, however.  So…knowing that this post will not go viral and change the world this weekend, how can I work toward true communication with all the self-absorbed “haters” who challenge me?

I suppose I’ll have to continue to hone my self-control and let hateful comments roll past me the way the title of this post suggests: “like water off a duck’s back.”  I’ll have to remind myself that happiness is not the result of “getting all your ducks in a row;” it can exist despite the imperfections in and around me.

three brown ducks swimming in a row toward the camera

photo by Duck Lover

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Blogging Difficulties: A New Kind of Writer’s Block

Blogging can be an interesting and rewarding pursuit, but it has it’s problems, as does anything in this world.

For example, I learned today that writer’s block can go beyond the typical mental challenge to actually become a physical problem.  Lol

black and white three-week-old Barred Rock chick walking on a laptop keyboard

My daughter’s favorite chick is an escape artist!

~~~~~UPDATE  6/24/15~~~~~

My daughter brought “Peepers” the chick back into the house to recreate this moment and show you how much the young pullet grew in a mere six weeks.

black and white nine-week-old Barred Rock chick walking on a laptop keyboard

There’s quite a size difference between a three-week-old chick and a nine-week-old chick.