Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

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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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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Today I’m heading home after a week-long cultural exchange experience. My muscles are sore, and I’m tired. But it’s a good tired, the kind one feels after finishing a long race in record time.

You may know that I have a very small family, no siblings, no parents, no aunts or uncles. I have a husband, a son, and a cousin, but not just any cousin. Kate is a sister-cousin, a “twin cousin.” We are 14 months apart in age and have never had fewer than 450 miles separating our homes, but our spirits have always intertwined such that intervals of time and space do not exist for us. We have always been together.

When her oldest daughter announced her engagement, I made plans to attend the wedding. Before long an idea emerged, an opportunity to immerse myself in a foreign culture. I volunteered for the Bridal Mission Trip. I would become one of the family for the five days leading up to the big event. And when I say big, I mean BIG … eight bride’s maids and a maid of honor … eight groomsmen and two best men … five flower girls … three ring security boys … and let’s not forget the bride and groom!

Since wishes were lofty and budgets limited, Can-Do Kate wore (and generously shared with me) many hats: Wedding Planner, Florist, Rehearsal Dinner Caterer, Reception Party Decorator (which included borrowing, laundering, and ironing linens for 18  huge tables). The morning of the wedding, still in our pajamas, Kate and I assembled 10 beautiful bouquets with white roses, poms, greenery, and tiny purple and blue orchid blossoms. I wired at least 70 of those delicate flowers, a skill I learned via You Tube video a mere ten minutes into my morning coffee.


Some of the Bouquets

The week was full of so many women working long days together to make it all happen. Kate’s home was Wedding Central, with every horizontal surface piled high with vases, flowers, ribbons, photos, tulle, wires, scissors, pens, paints, pliers, knives, candles, and shoes … so many shoes! I cooked and cleaned and did dishes, mountains of dishes. I designed and created the wedding programs while busily preparing a rehearsal dinner for 40. The rest of the details are a blur.

The take-aways, though, are crystal clear. I learned what Instagram is, installed it and posted my first photo. I learned about spray tans, eyelash extensions, and bustling a wedding dress train. I learned about submersible electric candles, floating candles, and acrylic paint pens that write on wine glasses. And I learned about the joys of service, offering my skills, energy, and love to make the dreams of some very special people come true. For an entire week, I was part of a female contingency that demonstrated unconditional love at a grassroots level. This past week, I felt the presence of Divine Spirit, Divine Love, and Divine Connection. Now I know the true meaning of the phrase, “God is in the Details.”

I am overflowing with gratitude for this unique, family-centered opportunity and my heart is singing with joy from the experience.


Beautiful Bride Robyn


Table Decorations


Congratulations and Best Wishes to Jimmy & Robyn Cnota

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Traditional Thanksgiving Picture

The Idea of Thanksgiving Appeals to Me

I love the idea of Thanksgiving.

In the abstract, it feels all warm and loving, full of togetherness, joy, and gratitude. Thanksgiving in America these days, however, requires excavation with heavy equipment to unearth those essential elements.

How many references to Black Friday must I chop my way through to find a single relic of heartfelt gratitude? I find it nearly impossible to embrace a deep sense of contentment for my many blessings while simultaneously making plans to buy, Buy, BUY … more, More, MORE! From all indications, Black Friday has become the holiday, and Thanksgiving is merely the feeding frenzy before “the biggest shopping event of a lifetime, you won’t want to miss!”

I love a bargain as much as the next guy (possibly more!), but this year I’m feeling a bit nauseated at the mere thought of the holiday season. There is nothing about Black Friday that appeals to me … not the excitement of getting up at 3 a.m. … not the opportunity to compete for one of a “limited number available” … not even the adrenaline rush of getting the lowest price imaginable on something I can’t live without. Oh, okay. I’ll admit that last one does appeal to me a little. But I don’t want to pay the spiritual price for that kind of bargain.

So this year, instead of just complaining, I’m going to take self-loving action. I hereby give myself permission to make Thanksgiving 2013 a two-day affair. So, since Black Friday will fall on a “sacred holiday” this year, I will turn a blind eye to it. I will delete every email, skip over every print reference. I will not be shopping online or in the stores that day.

Instead, I will fill the day with activities that honor my family, my home, and my values. I might paint, listen to music, or write. One thing for certain, I’ll be sleeping in and smiling my way through the day.

It will be a REAL holiday … the kind where you get the freedom to do whatever you feel like. Do you know that feeling? It’s the one I got when I was six years old and school was cancelled because there was two feet of snow on the ground. The whole day was suddenly filled with endless opportunities for fun: sledding, snow ball fights, building snowmen and snow forts, and drinking hot chocolate. It was self-indulgence at its best. It was as if every bit of the routine had been swept away to make time for UNBRIDLED PLAY. I want some of THAT.

So this year, when I see the words Black Friday, I’ll assume a conspiratorial smile as I envision the words buried in a snowdrift. No matter what the weather is this year, for me November 29, 2013, is gonna be a SNOW DAY!


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Lately I’ve found myself in a circular pattern. When I find an idea to blog about, my schedule is full, and I don’t have time to write. But when I schedule time for writing, I can’t seem to find the ideas or the words.

One or two of these deadends would have been okay, but it’s been over two weeks! Two weeks is too long to go without writing!

Oh, Mom would love that sentence! I used all three forms of two-too-to. You see, when I was little this sort of sentence was a nightly ritual of ours. She loved to teach homophones and challenge me to use them in sentences (spelling each one, of course).

You’ll love our yule log!
The sail boat is on sale.
You’re going to write about your days of yore, right?

I put this memory in my book. Did I mention I’ve been writing a book? No, I didn’t think so. Actually, I thought I had finished writing a book. I scheduled time last December to complete the typesetting and get it printed. Then I got sick … for weeks … and then Debbie Ford died … and then Dannie started his cancer treatments . . . . Things got busy at work, and somehow, I let the book slip away.

But I started writing again a couple of weeks ago as a way to infuse my stressful days with a dose of joy. I designed the book cover and became clearer than ever about why I want to complete this project: Because the exercises I’m creating in this workbook shift me into a place of gratitude. Answering the questions and concentrating on the projects has become a supportive practice, an affirmation of all the good in my life.

As Marianne Williamson said, “Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”

One of the proposed designs for the book cover

One of the proposed book cover designs

In the midst of challenges, if one is to find the strength to keep going, it’s essential to take time each day for that simple recognition.

So, I’ll share with you today’s entry in Creating a Life You Love …:

Exercise #69:

  1. List a minimum of five memories about rainstorms that warm your heart and leave you smiling.
  2. Share one of your happy memories with someone else and then really listen as that person shares a happy memory with you.
  3. Finally, choose your favorite “feeling” from all the memories you’ve recalled and decide how you can create just a bit of that feeling for yourself today, tonight, tomorrow . . . .

That’s it. Rainstorm Memories! I can’t wait to hear what comes up for you. Leave a Comment!

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