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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

Acrylic paining by Barbie Dallmann

It’s Magic! (acrylic painting by Barbie Dallmann)

 

For nearly three months I’ve been practicing magic. I’ve been saying the magic words and intentionally engaging in magical practices. I have even been facilitating a magic group on Monday nights at Unity of Kanawha Valley. I can say with certainty, THE MAGIC has made a huge difference in my life.

You know the magic words. You learned them from your parents. You taught them to your children. We all say them often, usually without thinking about their power. I’m referring to the magical practice of gratitude and those sorcerous words: Thank you!

The most powerful insight for me has been the discovery of the chasm that lies between simply saying thank you and actually BEING wholeheartedly grateful. When I say thank you, I smile and feel a twinge of happiness. When I am engaged in wholehearted gratitude, I get a tingling that starts in my heart and moves out through my limbs. Sometimes I feel a chill and get goose bumps; other times, I sense waves of heat moving through me. Always, my body seems too small to hold the love surging through my cells. Often the joy leaks from my eyes.

At that level of gratitude, fear loses its stronghold. I am sufficient; I lack nothing. Every space of my being is filled by love, joy, and a sense of purpose. At those times, I am living the essence of “All is well.” It is magic! And it takes practice.

The MagicOne of the daily practices I learned from this book is listing ten things for which I am grateful and WHY I am grateful for each. I sanctify each entry with the words, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” When the list is finished, I read it aloud and allow myself to feel profoundly grateful. I literally breathe the gratitude into my lungs, feel it entering my bloodstream, and imagine it traveling into my heart and circulating throughout my body.

Even Facebook has become a gratitude extravaganza for me. When I see a post that makes me smile, I take a moment to think of the friend who posted it. I close my eyes, and give thanks for the ways in which that person has enriched my life. I imagine giving him or her a warm hug and whispering, “Thank you, thank you, thank you … for being YOU. My life is richer with you in it.” Then I open my eyes and click LIKE. When I see those who have “liked” one of my posts, I do the same thing, sending love and gratitude to each one. Facebook is no longer a waste of time nor a source of irritation; it has become an uplifting spiritual practice.

As Thanksgiving arrives and the countdown to Christmas begins, I will be choosing gratitude instead of stress, savoring the richness of the season instead of complaining about the traffic, and staking my claim to peace on earth, good will to men. Now that’s MAGICAL!

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Painting

Watercolor … “Inspiration” by Barbie Dallmann

I was halfway through the morning dog walk, a little less than a mile from home, when I heard it. Subtle. In the distance. A faint fluttering of leaves in the treetops. I hoped the breeze would make it to the ground. It was a muggy morning, with intermittent sunshine coaxing wispy bits of fog from the low-lying grasses.

Then I heard it again. The sound was a little louder this time. No, not the sound of wind rustling leaves. This was a sound I never heard growing up in the treeless prairies of Nebraska. It is the sound raindrops make when they hit leaves. The tiniest splat. So tiny it can only be detected when there are millions of raindrops hitting millions of leaves.

“I hear the rain coming,” I told the dogs. “Let’s get home!”

I quickened my pace and dismissed the idea of running. Two dogs, hiking shoes, and no bra. If ever there were reasons not to run, I had plenty. As the sound intensified, I knew what was coming. The words “torrential downpour” popped into my head. I looked behind us and could see a sheet of water in the distance. There was no escape. This was going to be really bad.

A burst of wind, and my muscles tightened in anticipation. One huge drop hit my head, then two, then twenty all at once. This was not the gentle shower of a watering can, but the splash of water pouring from a bucket. Oh, my goodness! So loud, and so much water! My thoughts were racing, expecting a lightning strike or to be washed away by flood waters. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Get home!

And then, within 15 seconds, the rain stopped. I waited for a second wave, but that was it. I marveled as the tiny, yet powerful storm moved on. The dogs shook themselves, and I laughed, swiping the dripping hair out of my face. It felt more like getting hit with a water balloon than a rain storm.

Before we got to our driveway, the sun was out again, and I saw something sparkle on the ground. A quarter and a nickel. Wow! Thirty times more money than I usually find on a morning walk. This feels like my lucky day.

 

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ReadAloudYesterday I finished my third year as a ReadAloud Volunteer in a grade school classroom of approximately 25. Next Thursday I’m going back to celebrate the penultimate day of school with a class pizza party and an opportunity to say good-bye to a very special group of people.

Reflecting on this past year’s experience induces a tearful sense of gratitude. Where do I begin to describe what it’s been like for me? Somehow the books, the kids, the teacher, the questions, and the laughter (lots of laughter) have come together to create an idyllic situation, one I have found myself eagerly anticipating each week. I enjoy practicing the reading as I try to get the voices of the characters just right. I anticipate questions that might arise and do a little research, hoping to be prepared.

This hasn’t been an experience of simply “reading books to children.” Yes, I do read books, but not to “children.” I read to lively, funny, inquisitive, and tremendously smart young people, complete human beings in every way. We’ve engaged in some of the most intriguing discussions, ranging from life on Alcatraz Island in the 1930s, to autism, inflation, Elliott Ness, ice boxes, and tooth powder. We’ve talked about the stock market, summer jobs, and even debated the pros and cons of kissing and marriage. This class has kept me on my toes all year, and I have loved every minute of the hour spent with them each week.

And so, to Mrs. Burdette’s Fourth Grade Class at Overbrook Elementary School, I say a big THANK YOU! Thank you for the smiles, for the laughter, and for the applause. Thank you for inspiring me to expect more from young people. Your ability to listen, to learn, to grow, and to share has warmed my heart. I hope you’ll always remember the fun we had with books this year and that reading will forever be an important part of your lives. I feel blessed to have been a part of your fourth grade experience.

 

 

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Watercolor by Barbie Dallmann, "Rooted in Farm Country"

Watercolor by Barbie Dallmann, “Rooted in Farm Country”

I know it’s been a while since I last blogged, and looking back now, I can see the demarcation so very clearly. I last posted on January 29, the day before two YouTube videos crashed into my awareness, changing my life forever.

The first one–and it still brings tears to my eyes–is the 2014 Budweiser Superbowl Commercial, “Puppy Love.” If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself to this link: Puppy Love

The second one came via Facebook, a Wake County SPCA promotional piece on pet adoption. I can tell you from personal experience, watching both videos on the same day can cause erratic behavior. Proceed with caution! ABBA Goes to the Dogs

Later that same afternoon, in the middle of the workday no less, I found myself driving my husband to the local animal shelter to “just take a quick look at the puppies.” Within two hours, we welcomed a nine-week-old lab-mix into our home as a beloved member of our family. And that’s when the fun began.

You see, I have no experience with puppies. Well, I take that back. When I was little, my parents raised toy poodles for a while. I watched puppies being born, and I played with puppies. But as with all things in life, the fun-to-work ratio changes a bit when you grow up. Did you know that puppies are a lot of work? No time to blog! No time to answer e-mail! No time to turn around! It’s like having a baby in the house, except I didn’t have to take the baby outdoors in the middle of the freezing, snowy night to change his diaper! Good thing this one pees on command. I didn’t say she ONLY pees on command, but she’s learning.

And she’s growing, too. On February 2, she was a mere 6.6 pounds, a little over a pound heavier than our son’s birth weight. Now, she’s tipping the scales at 10.8. How is it possible her weight has increased 63% in just 11 days?!? She better learn to descend the stairs to the yard soon because in another 11 days, I may not have the strength to carry her.

I hope you’ll understand if my blogging is a little less frequent as I adjust to this new endeavor. It’s an adventure already filled with outdoor walks, ball chasing, and cuddling by the fireplace. We are learning, growing, and bonding. What a GREAT way to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2014: LIVING and LOVING with our hearts wide open. A puppy will do that to you!

Introducing Adventure Barbie’s Faithful Sidekick: Ika Rose (the Wonder Dog)…

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Houseplants

Poinsettias stay long past Christmas at our house!

It’s -5° this morning, and I’m feeling warmer than one might imagine because I know what it’s like to live without central heating. The furnace quit working last Saturday, and repair parts weren’t available until Monday. As the temperatures plunged, Adventure Barbie was called up for active duty once again.

The task wasn’t merely to keep ourselves warm but to protect my husband’s extensive collection of tropical plants, or as I like to call them, “The Window Hogs.” We don’t need curtains; we have plants! We can’t even use one of the sliding glass doors, so surrounded is it with greenery.

The plants are varied, huge, and longstanding residents of our home; many have been with us for more than 30 years; some came from Nebraska. In freezing February 1978, we made the 1,000 mile move, navigating a 24′ U-Haul with all our worldly belongings except the plants. For the seasonally sensitive flora we found temporary homes and then drove all the way back in the spring, rented a trailer just for the plants, and brought them to West Virginia. Are you getting an idea of the status “houseplants” hold in our family?

Keeping the home fires burning

Keeping the home fires burning

So there we were, in plant preservation mode, setting up heaters and building a fire in the fireplace. We closed off three rooms, cleverly constructing a double-decker curtain reaching to the cathedral ceiling, and we used a fan to circulate warm air from the fireplace. Dannie chopped, split, and carried wood. He also regularly scooped ashes from the fireplace. I slept on the couch with the kitchen timer chirping every 90 minutes so I could add more wood to the fire. Laboring together, we kept the home fires burning and achieved a balmy 60° in our three-room botanical garden, while the rest of the house dipped below 40°.

Double-decker curtains

Double-decker curtains

As happened during the “water crisis,” I found myself appreciatively connected to those of another time and place. My mother never had central heat nor running water in the Indiana farmhouse where she grew up. Every morning, year round, the first order of business was to get the fire going–for heat, for cooking, for washing. Even in the summer when the heat was a problem, the fire was essential.

In those days every member of the family was engaged in the chores of keeping a home operating: pumping water, chopping wood, collecting eggs, feeding livestock, cooking, cleaning, farming. So much work! So much hard work! Yet through it all, each person had an opportunity to feel a deep sense of contribution and usefulness. I got a small taste of that as I lovingly stoked the fire throughout the long night.

And more plants

Now, with our furnace restored, I settle back into my routine, employing my mind far more than my physical stamina and feeling just a little less essential to the operation of the household. Certainly each age has its challenges, not the least of which has always been to accept gratefully the challenges of life and to engage wholeheartedly in the Experience of Being Human.

Adventure Barbie Rides Again!

And More Plants!

More plants

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Water in tub

This is what 16 gallons of rain water looks like in the bathtub. See my Facebook page if you’d like to see a video of the trip from the house to the rain barrel.

Five days ago a chemical spill contaminated drinking water in a nine-county area of West Virginia. We were the number two story on national news, right behind the Target credit card debacle.

Warned to neither drink nor touch the water, I had no problem keeping my distance as just the fumes were enough to give me a headache. While many shifted into panic mode, fighting over the limited supplies of bottled water on grocery store shelves, I donned a familiar persona: Adventure Barbie. I instantly shifted into problem solving mode, dipping rainwater from bird baths to heat on the stove for a Friday morning sponge bath. I inventoried the containers of water we had on hand and was thrilled to discover five gallons in the storage room, left over from the Y2K scare. My friend Elizabeth Heiser called it “Vintage,” which made the 14-year-old water seem even more precious.

With warming temperatures and rain in the forecast, we awakened the rain barrels from winter hibernation. We enacted home-wide water conservation procedures, and Dannie, as well as all affected employees, received a case of drinking water from The Home Depot before they sold the rest to the public.

Sunday found me foregoing my usual treadmill workout in favor of toting rainwater from the cottage to the house. I made eight trips, carrying two gallons (16 pounds) each time. I covered 1.7 miles in just under an hour. It was quite a workout, including two flights of steps each trip to get to the third floor bathtub. I’ll never look at a full bathtub the same, that’s for sure.

Sunday night we traveled 15 miles to St. Albans, where our friends Linda and Matt Higgs allowed us to use their shower. They also generously offered glasses of wine, some wonderful conversation, and fresh water for our empty containers.

Yesterday I contemplated how two-thirds of the people in the world do not have running water. Many spend hours every single day locating and carrying water for their families. Each time I walked the cottage path to the rain barrel, I sent love and compassion around the world, feeling connected in a way I never had before. I also lifted up enormous amounts of gratitude for my many blessings.

A couple of hours ago I received a call from the water company notifying me that our zone had been cleared. It took about 30 minutes to perform the pipe flushing procedures, and now life can return to normal.

Even as I acknowledge the many who suffered tremendous financial loss as a result of this water crisis, I send appreciation to my Adventurous Problem Solving Self for eschewing victim mode, adopting a good attitude, and keeping myself and our dishes clean.

Long Live Adventure Barbie!!! I think I need a red cape … but first, a hot shower!

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Gift Card

I’ve heard a lot of people comment that gift cards are “just so impersonal”! Last week I received one from the fourth grade class where I’m a ReadAloud volunteer on Thursday mornings.

It reminds me of when my grandma would slip five dollars into my birthday card. Mom urged me to buy “something special,” something that Grandma herself might buy if she lived closer. After the purchase, I wrote a thank-you note. (Remember those?) I not only said thank you, but I told Grandma specifically how I spent the money as well as the pleasure I received from my gift.

The first year I received a check for Christmas from my dad, I was a little disappointed. He had always been a thoughtful gift giver, and I enjoyed the presents he chose. As he slowed with age, though, it was easier for him to just send a check. He slipped in a note telling me to buy myself something special. So, I began a tradition of carefully choosing a gift I could imagine him buying. That year, I picked out a beautiful pair of gold earrings, and I placed the wrapped present under the tree with a tag that read, “To: Barb … From: Dad.”

On Christmas Eve, I “forgot” what the box contained and opened it with great anticipation. A few days later I sent a thank you note: “Dear Dad, I adore the beautiful gold hoop earrings you sent! I have been wearing them every day since I opened the gift. Thank you so much. I Love You! Barb.”

After his initial confusion over that first thank-you note, Dad came to look forward to finding out what he bought me for Christmas via the thank you notes. And, even now, more than 20 years later, when someone admires those earrings, I say, “Thank you. They were a Christmas gift from my dad.”

Yesterday I used the gift card from the students to buy two books. The thank-you note says, “Thank you so much for the Christmas gift card. Because I enjoy reading to you so much, I used it to buy two books for myself. One is a travel guide to the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m going there this summer, and I want to get the most from my trip by reading about it before I go. The second book is a journal I’m using to write all my ideas about–and wishes for–the trip. Please know I’ll be thinking of you all when I celebrate my 60th Birthday bicycling through Volcanoes National Park on August 14! Books help big dreams come true!! Thanks again for your magical gift. Keep Dreaming! Keep Reading! Love, Ms. Dallmann”

On the inside flap of the books, I have written: “Merry Christmas 2013 from Mrs. Burdette’s Fourth Grade Class at Overbrook Elementary.”

Impersonal? I think not!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas 2013

Making Memories

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