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Ilenya Marrin, DSS

Sparkle Juice

9.7.2019 | 19:16

I seldom make frozen orange juice but I wanted a cup of it last week for a recipe.  I had lots left over! How to use it up? One reason I do not make it often is I find it too sweet to drink.

I froze some in two ice cube trays, so I am ready for another recipe as needed.  But I still had three cups left. I found recipes for baked goods, but my husband and I are both aiming to start a diet  . . .  soon! Err, baking not a good idea right now.

I mixed a little OJ with iced tea. Pretty good!

I poured the rest into a jar for storage in the fridge and have been making Sparkle Juice. This is not a new idea, but simple, tasty and refreshing. As of this morning, the jar is in the dishwasher. Yay! I love using leftovers and not wasting food.

Sparkle Juice
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups sparkling water

Mix and enjoy!

This will work with most any juice. Vary the amounts to suit your taste.

Love and Light for a beautiful day!

 

 

Kansas Good: Melissa Dixon

5.7.2019 | 19:49

 

A Mover and Shaker in Hays
Melissa Dixon plunges into her passion for creative connections every day as Executive Director for the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) in Hays, Kansas.

Dixon started with a degree in Fine Arts specializing in Graphic Design, and spent over fifteen years helping small businesses with marketing needs in Phoenix, Arizona and Starkville, Mississippi.  When her husband Grady Dixon, PhD, landed a job at Fort Hays State University a few years ago, she sold her interest in her marketing agency to move cross country.

“That was one of the hardest things I have ever done,” she says. “That business was my baby. I had to keep telling myself I could not run it long distance.”

Initially, Dixon took a newly created job as Social Media Coordinator at Fort Hays State, making some simple changes and significantly increasing mobile traffic for the University. About two years ago, the CVB hired her as Executive Director.

Watching her at work in the Bureau, it is obvious that Dixon has found a strong match for her talents and vision.  She has developed connections with key players in this vibrant community, helping them engage with each other for mutual advancement and making Hays more prominent on the tourism map of Kansas, one event at a time.

Prime Teamwork
Dixon sings the praises of her staff: Brandon Cooley, the marketing manager and in-house video specialist; Janet Kuhn, Convention Sales Manager with 15 years in the hospitality industry, Annette Barber, part time receptionist and former school teacher; Bobbi Pfeifer, Administrative Assistant in the position for over ten years. “Bobbi really showed me the ropes as far as figuring out how our office and city administration is run!” The team also includes two FHSU student interns.  Dixon says, “We’re using our talents to help the city let people know Hays is a cool tourist destination!”


Good in Kansas

I met Dixon because I drove to Hays for one of my day trips, exploring small towns and rural Kansas from my home base in Wichita. After touring Historic Fort Hays, I asked Tammy Younger if she could recommend someone to interview for a series of blog posts I am beginning on “good people doing good stuff” in Kansas.

Younger instantly said, “Melissa Dixon!” and gave me directions to the CVB.  Dixon graciously worked me into her schedule on short notice.

Focused Enthusiasm
Dixon is vivacious and enthusiastic but also thoughtful and focused. I had said I hoped to talk about more of her personal outlook and journey, not just her current work, but with our limited time, we kept circling back to the work which defines much of her life now!

Family
When she and her husband decided to move to Hays, they sold their home in Mississippi in one day and her business building in about a month. “I guess this is what we’re supposed to be doing,” she laughs. Their daughter Delia, 11, and son Brooks, 8, made the move pretty easily and enjoy Hays.

Her husband started as Chair of the Geosciences Department and now serves as Interim Dean of the College of Science, Technology and Mathematics at Fort Hays State. Specializing in atmospheric sciences, he was familiar with Kansas long before they moved here.

“He is a storm chaser,” Dixon explains, but she does not worry about danger in the field.  Dr. Dixon periodically takes a whole class of students on ten-day trips to observe weather patterns for academic credit, and safety is a top priority!

Dixon no longer finds much time for her original artistic focus of painting, but she likes to run and finds a creative outlet in cooking. “I love to create something from nothing” in the kitchen, she admits.

Nurturing Hays
The CVB is funded by the Transient Guest Tax or hotel tax, and works closely with the Chamber of Commerce, housed in the same building. Dixon sees a big part of her mission as educating locals to sell Hays, which has an enviable number of free and low cost entertainment events year round. Dixon’s greatest satisfaction comes when people stop CVB staff around town to say, “I see what you are doing. Great job!”

As an example of behind the scenes activity by the CVB and community groups, Dixon described how Hays recently rallied to host 800 bicyclists who needed to overnight here in their Biking Across Kansas tour.

Creative planning discussions led to a solution. The high school waived its use fee and let cyclists camp there, indoors and out. The CVB set up a shuttle service to take small groups to town for laundry or other errands.  A downtown restaurant opened on a Monday when normally closed, to serve the group. Church ladies cooked mountains of breakfast burritos. CVB staff showed up to serve hungry cyclists at five a.m. “We really wanted to treat these people well so they would want to come back!”

Communicate, Communicate
Dixon says one of her biggest challenges is when communications break down.  Sometimes it can be hard to get different groups to talk to each other. As a newcomer to Hays, she brings fresh eyes. “I am naive enough and don’t know their drama or history, so I get them to a meeting and they end up talking and helping each other.”

Recently, focusing on summer activities, she connected the dots for the unlikely pairing of the Sternberg Museum and municipal swimming pool. A plan is emerging for each to offer attendees a flyer for activities of the other.

Advice
When I asked what advice she would give to someone wanting to help their own town, Dixon reflected before answering. “Get your local movers and shakers together and see what the community needs.”

She cited an example of Hays community members taking initiative to raise money to create its first dog park. And a local mom spearheaded fundraising for a park and playground for all, including equipment accessible for disabled children. With half a million in the bank, this group is now applying for a matching funds grant.

Servant Leader
As Dixon makes growth of Hays’ tourism her mission, she communicates her love of its people and how they work together.  She presents herself as a team player, a servant leader. Hays residents and tourists are clearly the winners.

 

 

 

 

A Greyt Heart Moving On

16.5.2019 | 18:38

Disguised as Ordinary

Disguised as an ordinary woman, in a pleasant home on a normal street in unpretentious Derby, Kansas, Pat Bozeman has changed the lives of at least 11 greyhounds, and her volunteer work has touched hundreds of two-legged friends. Her dancing eyes are the first clue that all is not as it appears.

Pat Bozeman shares good works with greyhounds and humans

“If you want to do something, just go do it,” she says. From her childhood as a military daughter and early days as a military wife, moving frequently within the United States, she learned to rely on her own abilities and follow her heart. Bringing up two children, pursuing multiple hobbies, and caring for greyhounds and other pets, she has brought sunshine to many beings in many places.

Moving Is No Big Deal

Pat’s down to earth humor and goodwill radiate powerfully even as she prepares to move to Tucson after 34 years in her current home. She is set to leave Derby on June 9. As she ruthlessly eliminates possessions in preparation for a lovely smaller home, she explains that a history of military moves helps her remain at ease with this one.  “It’s a lot of work, but no big deal.”

Family and Friends

She will miss daughter Liesel Sargent, who alternates working for Spirit and as an x-ray technician, and who with her husband has a cattle farm in Douglass. But in Tucson, Pat’s son Doug, a physical therapist and talented artist, will not only be nearby, he will be her landlord.

Pat expects to make new friends in Tucson and has already connected with another greyhound mom there. Although she was shy as a child, Pat found she could make friends and find her niche anywhere.  “I can’t imagine my life without friends,” she says. Now, most of her closest friends are fellow greyhound owners.

Hobbies and Helping

Pat claims to have tried just about every crafting hobby available. Her consistent favorites are quilting, knitting, spinning and weaving. Quilting always tops the list. Pat has donated several quilts to auction for greyhounds, through Race the Wind and at the annual gathering in Abilene. One quilt sold for a thousand dollars. Proceeds now go to help Halfway Home for Greyhounds, Teddy Palmer’s shelter near Tulsa.

Pat has served in leadership positions in several organizations such as the 600-member Prairie Quilt Guild of Wichita and led or participated in making a number of quilts for charity including one hanging at Exploration Place and one at the Red Cross. She has transformed pieces of a prized wedding dress into multiple quilts for her son’s friend who was dying of ALS and wanted to leave precious memories with her daughters.

Son Doug wanted a quilt with a pattern of earth as seen from space. Pat taught him to quilt so he could make it himself! Already a skilled artist in several media including stained glass, Doug has created and donated many beautiful, original quilts to charity or to friends. Pat and Doug have worked on many quilts together.

Pat has served as unofficial treasurer for Heartland Greyhound Circle of Friends for about 11 years. She often steps up when something needs to be done. Her spirited can-do attitude makes it look easy.

The Greyt Influence

Pat and husband, Air Force Major Jerry Bozeman, moved to Wichita for the second time in 1978, after several three year posts around the states. (Jerry passed away in 2006.) Much later, daughter Liesel introduced her parents to greyhounds at a Race the Wind meet and greet, where they met Blaze.

Shelby, Blaze and Callie

Blaze joined the Bozeman household in 1997 as a seven-year old and got along fine with their Doberman, Shelby. Over the years, Pat also adopted greyhounds Callie, Lady, Mr. Baby, Sarah Lee, GiGi, Heaven, Spice, Tivvy, Rodney, Gabby and Smokey.

Prior to meeting Blaze, Pat would never have expected to fall in love with greyhounds. “They’re the best kept secret in the dog world,” Pat says. “Some pick you. You pick others. Some fall into your lap. Several came to me through my vet.”

Mr. Baby

Her all time favorite was Mr. Baby. Jerry wanted a gray greyhound, and Baby fit. They adopted him sight unseen despite the “flaky” reputation of gray greyhounds.

Pat knitted the snood on Mr. Baby

“He turned out to be my heart dog,” Pat says. She did not anticipate coming to love one dog more than the others, but he captured her at a deep level. “He was a great sleeping partner, and loved to jump on the bed, body slam me, then roll over and put his feet in my face!”

At a meet and greet at PetCo, a man offered to buy Baby, probably thinking to race him and make money. He raised the offer to $1500 but Pat refused to sell for any amount.

Heaven

The most, er, entertaining hound was Heaven.

Heaven Sent, always innocent

Pat and Jerry stored all recent grocery purchases except for a five pound bag of flour on the counter, then went out again.  “Someone got the bag of flour, opened it on the dog bed in the hall, tracked it upstairs into the quilt room and dragged it all over the house. All the dogs had dough balls on their whiskers so we only suspected who started it.”

Heaven provided plenty of whudunnit moments!

Jerry asked Pat, “Why are you taking pictures of this mess?” Pat said, “Because I’ll laugh about this some day!”

At a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Wichita, Pat’s dogs were in her car next to the car she was decorating. In preparation for the party later, she had left a large box of cookies in the front seat, protected by strapping tape all around.  Completing the decorating, she found tape still in place but all the cookies gone. Pat took Heaven Houdini home and “did the peroxide thing” to get her to throw up. They missed the parade that year.

Fashionable Hounds

Pat loves sewing for greyhounds and has made many coats and other garments, some of which went to the Galgos in Spain. She has also knitted uncountable snoods for auctions. Below are some of her hounds, styling.

Smokey and Gabby

Smokey and Gabby are the current Greyt family members. They seem distressed by preparations for the move and Pat is especially concerned about Gabby’s ability to make the trip to Tucson.

Pat with Smokey and Gabby.

Smokey came through Jan and Dean Tuinstra. A mutual acquaintance needed to re-home Smokey and Pat feels lucky to have him. “He is very personable and loves everybody.”

Jan Tuinstra picked up a greyhound in Abilene and dubbed her Gabby because she talked all the way to Wichita. Pat collected her new foster dog, but by the time she cruised into her home driveway knew she would keep both hound and name.

It’s a Family Thing

Pat comes by her love of animals honestly. Her grandmother frequently rescued animals, including a small dog named Baby, whom she took to the Dairy Queen weekly for ice cream. Every phone call to Grandma included getting Baby on the line.

Pat’s daughter Liesel often brought home strays. A teen friend asked if this was really okay. “Sure,” said Liesel. “If I have a name for it, it’s fine.” Liesel now has multiple farm dogs but no greyhounds.

New Beginnings

Gabby has a few tricks too

Gabby has a few tricks to share too

Pat Bozeman’s curiosity and sense of adventure continue to propel her forward. Moving to Tucson begins another act in her life script, which she writes as she goes along. She suggests, “Don’t let anything hold you back,” and follows her own advice, embracing this next episode with enthusiasm. Certainly her new experiences will include  greyhounds, quilting and friends!

Putting Away My Cell Phone

20.4.2019 | 21:02

My husband has been irritated by cell phones for years, has one but seldom carries it, and earlier today sent me
 https://getpocket.com/explore/item/smartphones-are-the-new-cigarettes?utm_source=pocket-newtab this link. I read it and agree in general with the writer.

Especially when he says,
“I’ve noticed that as the years go on, it’s becoming harder for me to sit down and write an article like this than it was three or four years ago. And it’s not just that the amount of available distractions have compounded over the years, it’s that my ability to resist those distractions seems to have worn down to the point where I often don’t feel in control of my own attention anymore.

“And this kind of freaks me out. It’s not that I resent the woman at the gym who can’t go 10 minutes without checking her messages. I resent that I am becoming that person at the gym who can’t go 10 minutes without checking his messages.”

So I am putting my phone away.

I am challenging myself to do something different.

I have already been cutting back, and get reports from my phone that my usage is down. I see this as a way to take care of myself, to nurture myself, to let myself be available to be present in the moment for things I am doing in real time with real people.

What This Means

What this means is I will not be texting encouraging messages to you. I will only respond to emails about once a day, from my computer.

I will check phone messages once or twice a day, but unless we have previously agreed on a call at a certain time, I will not have the ringer turned on. I will not call you while I am driving, “to save time,” or take a call while driving. If we are going to meet up at a large event, let’s make a plan for a landmark and a time, like we used to do.

I will go back to MapQuest or the like for directions to new places. Or rely on my inner navigation system, like I used to.

Not Quite Cold Turkey

Two uses I am unwilling to give up are the phone and its ability to get help in an urgent need, call home if I am late, or call AAA while traveling, and the camera.

As a woman who often travels solo, I value being able to connect with help. Yes, even with GPS directions is I get myself lost.

And I love capturing quick and easy photos while I am out and about. Or catching our three greyhounds in unbearably cute or compromising positions. The iPhone camera is much easier and more powerful than the small Instamatic type I used to carry, and much easier than my DSLR.

Just In Case
So I will have my phone in the bottom of my purse. In its case. Just in case. Keeping the phone handy for these two purposes may make temptation for other uses strong. But I am unwilling at this point to go “cold turkey.”

I will report back in a month and let you know how I am doing!

Joy Journal

8.4.2019 | 00:20

Joy Check
If you are allergic to joy, please click away from this post immediately, for I am aiming to share mine. The following words may trigger various emotions if you are susceptible!  If you can handle gentle and good feelings, read on!

Finding My Joy Theme
For months I have been wanting to blog more but have been unsure of the best theme as I expand from promoting my Nurture Yourself First book and earlier e-book, The Power of Personal Peace.  I also wanted to move beyond coaching and counseling approaches to a more personal and authentic sharing of myself.

But my interests are wide ranging and I could not settle on a theme. Personal growth with a different twist? Recipes since I adore cooking? Household tips since I love sharing how-to information that works for me? Spiritual reflections? Psychological insights? Interviews with my fascinating friends who also own fabulous greyhounds? Comments from amazing folks all over Kansas as I make day trips to out of the way spots? Faces of living love? Awesome non-profit staff and volunteers I have met? Vignettes from my life story?

One third of a major reason I am slow with completing posts. Two buckets of water later, I could let digger Hazel indoors. And then there are Mac and Cathi…..

I have fretted and asked inwardly for months, what to do next to use my gifts and talents, hopefully as a writer.  This morning I got it.  The theme for my blog will be my Joy Journal.  Simple, umbrella-like. Whatever brings me joy is fair game here.

Actually quite often, I find a quiet joy, a fulfilling satisfaction, a contentment, in most everything I do, from spreading up the bed and setting my royal red comforter in its spot on my side, to dunking my hands in warm sudsy water to finish dishes in the evening.  Well, maybe not in vacuuming.  Until I am happy it is done for another month!

How come a red blanket makes me smile over and over?

Share Your Joys with Me
Come along for the ride! Share your joys with me! In this time on our planet, focusing on joy can help us stay balanced.  And if our joys are a little crazy, they can keep us from going insane! Add a comment and have a conversation.

Back to today.

Today’s Joy: A Planned Adventure 
Today, my joy time was all day, marked on my calendar for a self-nurturing getaway. I set out on another jaunt across rural Kansas, heading southwest from Wichita, aiming for Clark County, almost three hours out Highway 54.

Lost in Fog
As soon as I turned west, fog enveloped the landscape. I could see about 100 yards, just enough to be safe. Crossing two branches of the Ninnescah River, I noted dense, scraggly trees not yet dressed for summer, wrapped snugly in heavy grey mist.  Distant woods, their top branches lost in fog, teased my imagination. What creatures hid there? What squirrels, deer, raccoons, foxes, or coyotes slunk or scurried or ambled amongst these woods at dawn and dusk?

No horizon beckoned. Barely discernible budding tree tops smudged my distant view. Spreading branches blended with the foggy sky. Peace descended with the blanket of mist. I drove in a bubble defined by my vision, mainly the next hundred yards of pavement. The water-logged air muted colors, resized my perceptions, and snuggled my travel into a soft cocoon of wait-a-minute, slow down, nothing really going on here now.

It was a good beginning.

After an hour, patches of sun infiltrated the fog, warming, lightening, clearing. Suddenly undulating hills surrounded me and the fog gave way to glorious sun! The soft swoosh of my wheels on the highway, the smooth sounds of the engine continued as usual, but my world burst open!

Detour in Greensburg
Noting several small but colorful signs for Greensburg, Home of the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well, I watched for said well while I cruised through this hamlet. An official brown marker pointed left, Largest Well, Three Blocks.  I could detour for that!

Greensburg Largest Hand Dug Well

I found a lovely new museum housing the well.  After a short chat with the receptionist, I paid $6 and went in to see for myself. The well, dug in 1887 to serve the whole town, is 32 feet across and 109 feet deep, lined with massive stones from a quarry 12 miles south.  It turned into a tourist attraction in 1927 when authorities banned open wells. I did not climb down the 109 stairs into the well, since I do well to manage 76 stairs at Century II in Wichita. But I snapped one photo from the top.

Then I read the walls.  History, cool. Laborers with picks and shovels paid fifty cents a day. Yeah, yeah. Neat stuff.  Then there was 2007.

In May, 2007, a tornado blitzed the entire town. Demolished it. Wiped it out. Homes of 1000 people nothing but rubble. Cars looked jackhammered. Twelve people died. About 500 left, never to return.

Rebuilding
The rest rebuilt. They pulled together. They helped one another. They thought carefully about how to create a new Greensburg. They chose to make it a green town, purposefully incorporating sustainable energy and water use. Greensburg is now a model city, a small but vital prototype for using at least thirty percent less energy in buildings. The new town is appealing and attractive, from the graceful city buildings to the simple up to date homes.

I talked again with the receptionist.  She and her son survived the tornado huddled in the hall of a two bedroom house. They thought they would lose their lives that day. Now they talk about Before and After 2007.

When I left, tears flooded up, so I had to pull to the curb by the new City Hall. Deeply touched by the hope and purpose of the residents of Greensburg, I spoke several prayers for this amazing town and its people. What a story. My joy came watered with tears of gratitude for the resilience and thoughtful persistence of the people of Greensburg.

Peace, Joy and Wind
Finally, I reached my destination, the Big Basin Prairie Preserve, home to a bunch of buffalo. I wanted to see some buffalo!  Thankful for my reliable Honda CRV, I drove over a mile on a one-lane gravel road to a point overlooking the basin.

I stopped a few times to snap buffalo in the distance – way in the distance.  If I enlarge my pictures to the max, I can tell the critters are eating and resting. Ah, well. This means I will need to come back. Or stop at a farm two miles from home and ask to photograph their bison up close.

And then I found St. Jacob’s Well, which reportedly never runs dry. I peered down the cliff and contemplated the walk down. I have dealt with heart issues recently, so since I was alone except for distant bison, I did not climb down the primitive trail to the well.

Path to St. Jacob’s Well, 50 feet down and 50 yards away from my viewing point.


I enjoyed the peace, the tawny colors of spring not yet sprung, the creak and turning of an old fashioned windmill. Sun warmed my face, wind reminded me of winter just past. And the wind never stopped shshshushing past my ears.

Joy of Being Alive
Prairie winds taught me the meaning of alive. The cattle guard at entry and exit moaned with each gust. High on the overlook to the ancient basin, three foot high red prairie grasses leaned low with the wind. Opening my car door against the wind was an effort. Then that hefty prairie wind buffeted me, shaking my cell phone every half-second. If photos are blurry, that is why. I learned why so many prairie ranches boast mature cedar windbreaks on all sides of the homestead. I felt invigorated, enthused, alive. Happy to be out here. Quietly, triumphantly joyful.

I made a few short stops on the way home, but most of my thoughts and notes were about the novel I am birthing. Perhaps I will say more about that later.  Not yet!

More day trips to come. Kansas is full of rich but little known treasures. I anticipate more quietly joyful explorations.

How a $29 Mouthguard Increased My Inner Peace

15.3.2019 | 01:19

A Life of Neck and Shoulder Pain
Ever since fifth grade I have struggled with neck and shoulder tension, with burning, aching sensations and rock hard muscles. I have seen chiropractors regularly since my thirties, have had massages, done yoga, meditated, used an inversion bed, a foam roller, a theracane, and made numerous attempts to relax those neck and shoulder muscles. Nothing worked.

Clenched Jaw, Grinding Teeth
Dentists have told me for maybe twenty years that I was grinding my teeth. I didn’t believe them. I did wake up with clenched jaws quite often, but no, not me, not grinding! I had zero awareness of grinding, therefore it could not be true!

About four years ago, I noted that my lower front teeth had worn away to reveal an underlayer behind sharp, slanted edges. I reluctantly acknowledged that maybe I was grinding my teeth in my sleep after all.

But I didn’t want to spend a few hundred dollars for a mouthguard fitted by the dentist. My off-again, on-again frugality struck here.

Bite-Wing Mouthguard
Gingerly experimenting, I bought a bite-wing version of a mouthguard at Walmart for about $29. I didn’t have to bite into hot plastic, just insert the small device and go to sleep.

Wow! After three nights, I woke with my neck and shoulders more relaxed than in years. Not perfect, but so much better.

Cervical Pillow
Over the years, several chiropractors had suggested that I sleep with a neck roll pillow, or even a rolled up towel, under my neck, to improve the curvature of my cervical spine. I tried a few times, but found the lump of pillow under my neck much too uncomfortable and quickly gave it up.

After a few months of using the bite-wings and savoring morning relaxation, I remembered the suggestion for a cervial pillow. Maybe I was relaxed enough to tolerate it now.

I put a small roll-shaped pillow under my neck and slept comfortably. I have used it ever since. I wake up a little more relaxed. My chiropractor says the curve of my neck has improved and he can do better adjustments.

Inner Peace
What does this have to do with inner peace?

I already meditated or did spiritual exercises daily. For forty years. I used positive affirmations, prayer, and many other techniques to support health and well-being on all levels. I had a pretty good level of personal peace going.

Control: The Master Addiction
But the body-mind connection is powerful. Once I added the bite-wing mouthguard, more strategies became possible. As I implemented the neck pillow and professional mouthguard, the level of letting go increased.

I see that when I let go the clenched jaw, I also let go of some of my very human control issues. My dear friend John-Roger used to say that control is the master addiction.

I still deal with control issues. But overall, I am more accepting of just how things are — with myself, my husband, various friends, our chaotic world. I experience more inner peace every day. I also give myself more freedom to be authentic and speak my truth in an easy flow.

Alignment of Consciousness
Consistently relaxing my jaw helped create better alignment of my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels of consciousness. The inner peace that I have quested for and cultivated for so many years now has room to manifest in my body as well as my mind.

Relaxation of the body makes it easier to stay present, relaxed and peaceful in my mind. My mind and body match and there is more room for spiritual inner awareness. I find it easier to maintain my inner peace.

Your Clenched Jaw and Control Tendencies

  1. Do you clench your jaw? Notice when and where. Day? Night? Grinding teeth might also be a symptom. Aching tight jaws are another.
  2. Do you experience extreme or persistent neck and shoulder tension not relieved by chiropractic care or physical therapy? This may or may not be related to jaw tension.
  3. Do you long for more inner peace? Are you continually struggling with tension and stress?
  4. Do you struggle with letting go of being “in control”? Are you even aware that you have control issues? We all do. We very much want things our own way but have learned (hopefully) to compromise and work things out in most cases. But there can be a toll in stress which shows up in the body, including as a clenched jaw or tight neck and shoulders.

Five Options to Release Tension and Control
Your clenched jaw or neck and shoulder tension might be part of a pattern that keeps you holding onto control and slipping out of your inner peace. If you have these symptoms, you might experiment with one of the following approaches as I did. Always check with your doctor or health practitioner before starting a new regime like this.

  1. Try a mouthguard, over the counter or from your dentist. There are several types available. My dental hygienist first alerted me to the possibility of an over-the-counter version, so you could ask your dentist or hygienist for advice.
  2. Try a cervical pillow under your neck. My favorite at present is a cotton knit poncho, rolled up, rubber banded and tucked into a small pillow case that I made from an old sheet. It is firmer than a pillow stuffed with batting. It fits under my neck for back sleeping and supports my head if I sleep on my side. Most commercial cervical pillows are too big for my comfort.
  3. Explore gentle neck and jaw stretching exercises. I am now do gentle and restorative yoga classes and repeat neck stretching at home while doing affirmations. You can do these in your favorite chair, while watching TV, at stop lights, etc.
  4. For more inner peace, explore earlier articles on this site about meditation, stress relief, and personal peace.
  5. To release control issues on all levels, discover your true Self, your spiritual self or Soul, and do your best to live from that place inside. Observe situations and choose the most loving response to make. Let your body, mind and spirit come into alignment and attunement with the peace of your Soul. Practice self-forgiveness, self-nurturing, and self-acceptance. Give that same level of acceptance to others. This is a lifetime commitment, so be gentle with yourself in the process. Read my book, Nurture Yourself First: Gentle Steps for Personal and Planetary Transformation for many more techniques for a more balanced and fulfilling life.

A Life Well-Lived

8.2.2019 | 03:21

Visiting a 98 year old friend who was my mom’s best friend for many years brought back memories and emotions. And immense admiration for Mildred Kitchens. She is in her sixth assisted living facility, counting one for rehab after surgery and one after a more recent problem with a fall. This one locates her closer to her only surviving son.

Bringing Cheer to Others
Mildred now relies on a wheelchair to get around her facility. She still — after a lifetime in the helping professions — strives to bring cheer and goodwill to others, at her table, in the hallways, in each encounter.

She let a fellow try driving her Jazzy chair, which she will sell because it is too big for the dining tables here. She got our table laughing and sharing anecdotes at lunch on Saturday. She pokes gentle fun at herself while being amazingly honest. She accepts what is but maintains humor and good will.

Inspired by her presence, I wrote two poems. I only gave her this first one. The other is a reminder for me, about all people who are aging in their own last stops.

Well-Lived

A life well-lived?

Soul unfolding, whole,

Gratitude for a perfect grey feather on the lawn,

A golden pendant, anniversary token,

A grubby fist of dandelions,

And your own speedy prayers:

Jesus, help me!

A life well-lived . . .

Knowing you did your best,

Brought love and intelligence to the game,

Moved your markers, collected prizes,

Sat stalemate, blocked, overlooked,

Or sailed with ease and grace,

Always to a safe place.

A life well-lived . . .

Sometimes you were misunderstood

But kept going,

Did what you could with what you had just then,

Rose to the occasion

Every time,

Laughed at yourself,

Looked for the good in all,

In all.

Spoke kind words.

Waited, impatiently patient.

Wondered

What is after a life well-lived?

Universes await, swirling lights and your sweet Lord,

All

So

Much

Vaster

Than ever imagined,

From streets of a New Jerusalem to all the Cosmos,

And that which holds the universes

Spiraling

Inward and outward

On God’s breath.

There is no death,

Only

A life

Well-lived.

Reflections on a Last Stop
This second poem is more for me, using a few of Mildred’s words, bits and pieces from our conversation, stated as facts. That’s the way it is. She and her colleagues here discuss, if they are still able, the way it is. Living at the last stop is not easy. Waiting to go is not easy. As my mom told me a couple of years before she transitioned, “Mildred and I agree: Getting old is getting old.”


My mom, Kathleen Griffith, passed away peacefully on April 1, 2017, at 97. Mildred is glad her dear friend Kathleen did not have the old folks home experience.

Last Stop

Last stop on the line,

Last ring on the merry-go-round.

Last chance for a clearance price.

Last call for a double down.

Waiting

Shut in our apartments

Till it is our time to go.

Waiting.

Kids put us here to keep us safe

Till it is our time to go.

Waiting

For someone to come.

Napping

Because that’s what old people do.

Waiting for the hairdresser,

Waiting for the bath,

Waiting for the nightly call.

Someone cares after all

Till it is our time to go.

Last stop, last stop,

On the line,

Last stop, last stop,

Until it is our time.

Ordinary Good, the Magic of Words and Journaling

14.4.2018 | 21:36

 

Ordinary Good

My dear friend John-Roger used to say “Ordinariness is next to godliness.” I did not know quite what that meant, but it resonated and stuck in my consciousness. Now, it gives me hope, since my life has never seemed dramatic or unusual, but certainly full of ordinary moments of grace. Here is my rumination about the value of capturing our moments of awareness and learning, small miracles, simple truths — in writing, in a journal or blog of some sort.

I see so many “ordinary” people sharing their wisdom, or extending unconditional loving through their kind words. Buying dog food a few minutes ago, I walked in on a conversation in which another customer was offering solace to the person behind the counter. I made my purchase and left quickly so they could continue their discussion.

So I have decided one theme for this blog will be ordinary good. I will include musings on the goodness or God-ness in ordinary life. For I have found, the more I surrender to just what is present in ordinary life, the better my life works. The more I find the good in the ordinary moments, the more I am able to nurture myself and the happier I am.

It seems to be all about where I choose to focus.

Pencils, Pens and Keyboards

For instance, what are some of the most important objects in my life? Pencils and pens. And keyboards. These little sticks and buttons we manipulate with fingers are magic.

When I was barely five, Daddy taught me to print my name. On a yellow legal pad that he used for work, I laboriously printed Patty a few times. (I didn’t add Ilenya to my name until much later!) Telling me to fill the page, he rejoined friends who were over for dinner.

After a while, I proudly brought my page to show him. Uh-oh. He burst out laughing and pointed out that I had, by leaving off one vertical line, written Potty down the second half of the page. Four tall people chuckled at my mistake. I suffered a five-year old’s shame.

Magic Strokes

But another part of me felt astonished, amazed, that one stroke, one little line, could make such a difference. Words were magic! And now I knew how to write two words.

Wisely, Daddy sent me back to practice my name properly with that extra line which made so much difference. My first ordinary magic tool was a fat lead pencil.

We still have yellow pencils!

By age six or seven, I was up to a number two pencil and my own small pencil sharpener. I regularly filled two or three pages on a Big Chief tablet with stories and plays. I created Fairyland and made up dialogue and action to solve the problems of ordinary life. Through the adventures of the fairy Paranibou and her friends, I gave myself some good advice.

Kids learn from what is in front of us. (I am still a kid at heart and still learning every day!) My family always had two colorful magazines at hand: Saturday Evening Post, and Life. In 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II. Beautiful, elegant photo spreads decorated our coffee table. I co-opted those magazines to read and reread. Queen Elizabeth II became to me what Lana Turner was to many girls, or Babe Ruth to my brother.

The Big Deal Book Report

In sixth grade, I read The Little Princesses about Elizabeth and her sister Margaret, written by their nanny. I kept this library book for the allotted two weeks as I read parts of it more than once.  One thing I most admired was how, even a young girl, Lilibet always tried to fulfill her duty.

Mrs. Everett instructed us to write a book report from memory in class. Naturally, I chose The Little Princesses. I leaned over my pages, smelling the varnished wood of desktop and floor, and the ever present chalk dust. I could hear the soft scratching of pencils on lined notebook pages and my fellow students breathing. My fingers easily grasped that yellow pencil. I wrote and wrote and wrote, pouring out the entire life story of young Elizabeth as told by her nanny. I got words like abdication and ascension correct. I didn’t need to erase because I knew so much and had it all in my heart. My thoughts flowed clearly onto the page.

Mrs. Everett made a Big Deal of my book report. She called my mom in to see it. She showed it to other teachers. She kept it for several weeks before giving it back to me. I suddenly saw how my words touched others, when I put my heart into my words. So ordinary, so magical.

Still Scratching

I still use a scratching stick many times daily, usually a Bic mechanical pencil, or a roller ball pen. For years, I have kept a notebook and pen under my pillow to capture midnight thoughts. My scribbles range from dreams and spiritual reflections to ideas for books, blog posts or potential projects, down to my To Do list and meeting notes. I copy keepers to a permanent journal or type up notes for publication.

Goes everywhere with me, even to bed!

Most days, I also write free-form morning pages, dumping my plans and prayers for the day onto three notebook pages, priming the pump to nurture more creative expression. By the time I reach my computer, I may have material to type from notes, or I may let my thoughts flow through my fingers to the keys and onto the screen.

Both forms of journaling yield illuminating results. My permanent journals provide a rich history of my inner life. My ideas and projects stay at least somewhat organized as I take time to update my lists and carry out next steps.  Ordinary good in action!

Pencils and keyboards illustrate amazing contrasts. Yet with both, I still marvel at the magical ability of small marks on a page to convey wisdom of the heart, the universal life lessons, so often hard-won. The ordinary things that uplift and teach us who we are and who we can become.

Capture Your Own Ordinary Good

So from my heart to yours, write it down. Capture your own ordinary good, your memories, reflections and dreams, with the magic of words as touchstones for your growth and upliftment. Mark your learning moments, your noticing of the good. Leave a trail of words through the forest of life, to help you find your way back home.

Treasure and preserve your moments of ordinary goodness, God-ness, clarity and gratitude. Keep the magic of ordinary good alive!

The Joy Quotient

6.1.2018 | 22:24

 

 

Do What Brings You Joy
Since I have been hearing this advice inwardly for several months now, one of my intentions for this year is to do what brings me joy. I am asking myself each evening, “What brought me joy today?” Here are my lightly edited answers so far.

Loving, Listening, Laughing
1/1/18 Looking across our dining table and loving Alf with such gratitude and contentment.  Though he is kind and generous and funny, I was not thinking of any particular qualities, just feeling the warmth of deep loving, welling up from some central place in my being.

Thirty years together is a joy!

Sharing with my beloved spiritual sisters in our book club call. Listening. Prizing. Encouraging. Reframing. Delighting in the intimacy and vulnerability as well as the blossoming of each one of us.

Laughing at the ice-breaker comments at a party this afternoon.  Connecting briefly with two old friends and a new one with great delight.  Soul sisters all.  And listening to Alf read his heartfelt prayer to be of service.

The Ordinary and the Divine
1/2/18 This morning early, waking to an indescribable moment of spiritual inner awareness.

Getting out in the sunshine, with temps from 15-25 F, and running errands.  Easy adjustments of my spine. Talking with Alf at dinner about having people over for conversation, heartfelt discussion to bridge polarities, and feeling his support.

Ordinary and Divine Moments of Joy

Under Cover Moments
1/3/18 Communing in Spirit in the early morning hours.  Then, snuggled under the covers, hoping for a few more moments of rest, hearing Alf on the phone, observing how he made himself available to assist a young friend and the profound caring and wisdom he offered her.

Tears and Satisfaction
1/4/18  Talking with Alf at Los Compadres and seeing with humor and compassion his watery eyes and red face when he bit the really hot jalapeno. He made jokes while he was hurting. I loved his never-say-die attitude!

Reading a collection of the best articles from 2017 in a supplement to the New York Times.  Several brought tears of compassion, others wry thoughts.  The joy comes from sharing deeply felt stories of others.

Handling my budget and bills, knowing where I stand, brings satisfaction and quiet joy within.

Maybe the joy is always present and I am talking about what makes me feel happy.  Or how I choose to experience happiness.  I will observe this further.

Friends
1/5/18  Having my old friend and former colleague call!  (She got my every-few-years belated Christmas letter.) I drove around and around on quiet residential streets charging my phone as we talked.  I felt so happy to share my life, to hear about her life and set an intention to talk more often. Later, more joy in sending an email encouraging her art, and one to another friend on possibilities for helping a child.

Joy Like a River
My conclusion thus far is that joy is not random. Joy like a river runs through my days. I am capturing highlights in hopes of discovering where to focus my energy and activity on this oh-so-human level of shared reality on Planet Earth.  More observations to come when I feel like it!  Yours in joy,

Ilenya

Faces of Living Love # 2

10.8.2017 | 00:03

My photography class made an excursion to Keeper of the Plains, a scenic plaza at the junction of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers near downtown Wichita.  Rich rewards emerged in the following photos and brief stories.  Each of my subjects radiated love and caring!  These are street portraits, with the knowledge and agreement of the subjects.

Ed Partridge, 85, served in Korea just after the war there ended. He walks most nights with his neighbor Joy and bubbles with optimism.

 

Joy shared her life story as well as her elaborate tatoos. She grew up with an abusive father, who taught the children to hate. Much later in life, she says, “I had to learn to love.” She enjoys walks with her older neighbor Ed.

Mohammed, an electrical engineering student at WSU, helps his younger sisters with photos at Keeper of the Plains. All but Zainab speak excellent English.  They studied for a while in the Detroit area before coming to Wichita.

The eldest, and first to arrive at WSU, Mohammed takes guarding his sisters seriously. He learned English in his native Saudi Arabia.

Wadeah, the middle of three sisters, pursues a degree in biomedical engineering with her sister Fatimah.

Fatimah, the eldest girl, enjoys biomedical engineering classes. Eventually, she will make artificial, computer enabled limbs for amputees.

Zainab, the youngest, just graduated from high school in Saudi Arabia and is visiting her siblings in Wichita,

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