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Archive for November, 2012

Watercolor painting by Barbie Dallmann

“Creation” a watercolor by Barbie Dallmann

November is Gratitude Month at Unity, and for the last several weeks, I have focused on things I appreciate about myself and my life. I surprised myself by how inspired I felt after making a list of things I was grateful for learning.

A couple of years ago, I found the courage to start art lessons. After half a century of believing I had no artistic talent whatsoever, I have learned to paint (see above).

I also learned to cook. Mom wasn’t very good at it. Dad was better, but he didn’t have the patience to teach me. So, over the years, I taught myself, watching friends, reading books, listening to TV shows. Heck, I even paid attention during seventh grade Home Ec. class! I like the fact that on most days I’d rather eat at home than go out. My home-cooked meals are better in every way (except for the cleaning-up part).

When I was in seventh grade, I learned to type on a manual typewriter with blank keys. I went to school an hour early most days to practice. After an entire year, my speed was barely 50 words per minute. I kept at it, though, thinking the skill would come in handy if I never made it to college. Come in handy, it did! Eventually averaging 120 wpm, I typed my own papers and made money typing for others. In 1984 I started my own secretarial service, which I’ve been successfully operating ever since. I’m so glad that my seventh grade self was willing to get up early to practice. What a great kid she was!

There’s another important skill I learned early in life, one I’ve taken for granted for a long, long time. As I was making this list, I remembered how much I struggled to learn to read, especially to read aloud. There were times I wanted to give up because I was bad at it, and I was embarrassed by my repeated failures. Thank you, six-year-old Barbie for sticking with it! My life is so incredibly rich because of all the billions of words I have read over the decades.

Of course, there are lots more things I’m grateful for learning, including how to take pictures, write blogs, and negotiate the Internet.

What about you? Are there things you’d like to thank yourself for right now? Where would you be without your own determination and tenacity? And where might you be tomorrow because today you took the time to be uplifted by your own, heartfelt acknowledgment and appreciation?

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Book Cover - The Return of the Indian The concept of time travel has always fascinated me. I’m not sure, but I think it started some time in grade school, probably from watching The Twilight Zone. One of the first short stories I ever wrote had a time travel twist.  Now, I go to time travel movies; I read time travel books; I watch time travel television shows. Currently I’m reading The Return of the Indian to a fourth grade classroom (I volunteer for Read Aloud West Virginia) and I just last night watched the first two episodes of season four of Quantum Leap. (Thanks to my generous neighbor Ann who owns the complete DVD collection of that show. Yum!)
Quantum Leap - Season Four Cover

Several years ago I was visiting my hometown while reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. There are several scenes in that book where the time traveler interacts with himself at various ages. Being in Lincoln in the neighborhood where I grew up got me to thinking, what if I went for a walk and bumped into my 15-year old self … what would I say to her?

Would I warn her to not get married at 19? Would I tell her to buy stock in Microsoft? Would I beg her to finish college? It seemed like there were so many things I could let her in on that would ultimately result in my life being … being what? Less marred with error? Richer? Happier? Better?
Book Cover - The Time Traveler's Wife

But maybe not. Maybe it would just be different. Maybe not better at all!

There were important lessons I learned from all the choices I made–good and bad. They were lessons I could never learn any way but by living my life. No one could tell me those things, not even my older self! I wouldn’t have believed me, anyway. I know me. I’m skeptical, wary, and slow to trust a stranger, even one who looks just like … uh … my mother and my father blended and then aged. Hmmmm. I’m pretty sure I would have quizzed such a being long and hard before listening.

But if I had somehow convinced her, what would I have said? The best I could come up with was to simply tell her that she was smarter, stronger, and more courageous than she realized. I suppose my 99-year-old self would be telling me that now, too!

So, what would you tell your teenage self if you met her on the street?

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A couple of months ago a friend of mine left her car in my care while she accepted an extended overseas work assignment. I promised to drive it at least once a week to keep it from doing whatever it is cars do when they sit for long periods of time without being driven.

As you can see from the slide show, this is no ordinary car. And driving it has been no ordinary experience. I’ve discovered that everyone has an opinion about it. Generally, the car finds favor with those who are young (everyone under 10 loves it), easy-going, and female, not that it doesn’t have plenty of male admirers. The most disapproving stares have come from middle-aged men and young rednecks, complete with exaggerated frowns and wagging heads.

At first, I thought it was me. While on the go, I would totally forget WHAT I was driving and just notice that people were pointing, laughing, waving, or frowning. Once, while waiting at a stop sign, a mature gentleman crouched down and stared a hole right through me. I said aloud (although not so he could hear), “What are you lookin’ at, Buddy!?” Even before I finished, I remembered, Oh, yea, you’re lookin’ at the car.

What I realize is that what people think about the car tells me a lot more about THEM than it does about the car. But isn’t that the way it is about everything? Some people like us; some people don’t. Some people smile; some people frown. Each person simply gives a hint about his or her preferences and true nature.

I would do well to remember: “It’s NOT about the car!”

And as much as my ego hates to admit it, it’s probably not about ME either!

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I Overslept!

Barbie with sun shining on her face

Morning Moments

Oh! I slept too late!

Now, as I write this, the sun is shining very brightly and directly into my eyes. It is moving upward very quickly, though. In fact, already it is shining on my forehead more than in my eyes.

I tilt my head back and close my eyes in order to take in the full sensation: The sun being absorbed through my eyelids and skin, breathed into my lungs, bonded with my blood and circulated throughout the whole of me.

I adore being bathed in this radiance. I feel as though I am becoming shiny new and utterly amazing!

I am in the spotlight! All eyes are on me. What is she going to do???? What is she going to do!?!

Slowly she drinks her coffee and pretends she has nothing better to do.

But I’m not pretending . . . .

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