Kindness Begins With Me

A check list

From Sweatpants and Coffee.  There’s a lot of great wisdom there.

If you’re anything like me, you’re completely  fed up with the downright ugliness of social media.  To me, what it boils down to is this:

Who I voted for (or who you think I voted for)  does not make it okay for you to insult me. Or anyone else either.  If you disagree with me?  Again, it’s not okay to insult my intelligence, my integrity, or my compassion for others.  If asked for an opinion and I give it?  Let’s just say that STFU is not an appropriate response.  Yes, I’m a woman, but please don’t tell me what I should think just because I am a woman.

There’s a serious lack of filters out there these days and I hate it.  Part of it is social media widens our “circle” to see comments, attitudes, and opinions of perfect strangers who are nothing more than a tiny little box beside their name. For the most part, I think many of these strangers are far too comfortable being rude and insulting to people that they don’t know.  I ask myself this question all the time:  If this conversation happened in line at the coffee shop, would they say this to my face?  Or do they gather their boldness from the anonymity of the on-line arena?  I think it’s probably the latter.  The Pollyanna in me likes to find the good in people but lately that’s been difficult.  And it’s not just with respect to politics that I see the sad decline of civility.  Even on forums dedicated to something as wonderful as sharing the love for our pets, a disagreement over  advice to seek veterinary care often ends up with name calling and nasty comments about the poster’s appearance. (I know.  It’s crazy, right?  And mean.  It’s just mean.)  I bite my tongue on a daily basis rather than get involved in the ugly mess.  When I’m not successful and have lapse in judgment and think maybe my opinion does matter, well, there’s usually someone who comes along to set me straight.  In the end, I’m just not offering up my thoughts publicly all that often anymore.  There’s a lot of toxic comments and as a result, toxic emotions.  Hate is strong word, but there’s an awful lot of it out there these days.  And I have to ask, whatever happened to the Golden Rule?  (And guess what??  It’s not just a Christian thing either.)  This blogger has a great post about it and she is spot on when she says, “Stop for a moment and just imagine the impact it would have if every single one of us throughout the world took the spirit of these guidelines to heart and put them into practice in our day-to-day lives.

Finally, I know that there’s not a lot that I can do about it.  Except this:  I can be kind; kindness begins with me.  And hopefully more people, discouraged by the hate and incivility around us, will eventually opt to be the change they want to see as well.  I fear that without it, we’re sunk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lists. Lists. Lists.

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We all make them.  Or at least many of us do.  The grocery list (which I always leave at home).  The Christmas list.  The weekly meal plan list.  The “honey do” list.  The list goes on and on.  Pun intended.

A.S. Byatt is quoted as saying, “Lists are a form of power.”

I confess that I am a list maker.  I also have a love of blank notebooks and journals.  Not because I’m dedicated to writing down my innermost thoughts, but rather because I write things down that I wan’t to remember.

Quotes.  Books to read.  Books read.  Yarns to try.  Places to visit.  Wines I like.  Gifts to buy.  Brilliant ideas (at least to me).  And all these tidbits are scattered around in various journals.

So it was only natural that about 6 months ago while I was trolling on Pinterest and started to see these journals in my feed, that they caught my eye in a big way.  Lovely, beautiful, filled with doodles, journals that were more like agendas and art all rolled into one.  In case you’ve never heard of it, the phenomenon is called a Bullet Journal, or BuJo for short.  It’s the brainchild of Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer from New York.  I encourage you to look at his website and watch his videos.

THEN go to Pinterest and see what the artsy crowd have done with it. Holy Moly!  That’s what snagged my attention.  I’m a doodler:  I like to play with markers, watercolor pencils, and washi tape.  I admit, that it was a  little overwhelming at first so I started small.  I tiny little notebook that bought at Barnes and Noble.   It’s American-made  (which is a plus) by Gallery Leather in Maine.  I love this little book for its portability.  I used it mainly as a daily log of activities.  Each day I set up the next day’s to-do list and worked from there.  I also added events and such as they happened and played around with some artwork.  It was a small investment to see how I like the BuJo concept.  The only drawback on this one was the pages were lined.

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I used this notebook for just shy of 6 months.  And somewhere along the line I just stopped.  Not sure why or how it happened.  But a few weeks ago I came to the realization that I really was more productive when I had that little book in use.  I decided to give it another whirl:  this time with the “holy grail” of BuJo’s, a Leuchtturm 1917.  It’s a very well made sewn book from Germany that comes in a lot of colors and sizes. And it has lay-flat pages!   I decided to take the plunge and bought the A5 size (dotted pages) in lime green.  It’s a beauty.

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I will start using this journal on daily basis next week.  I’ve only got March set up for now.  I will say that deciding how I wanted to organize it took me quite a while.  Once I’d done a few weekly pages like the one above, they went pretty quickly.

I’m sure as I go along I will find what works for me and what doesn’t work and make some adjustments.   That’s the beauty of a custom notebook.  It’s all YOU.  I saw a somewhat critical reply to a friend on Facebook as she brought up the idea of a BuJo.  Critics will say it’s costly to do, takes too much time, etc.  But for me, like others who enjoy it, the process of making it is part of the pleasure.  As for cost, I only bought the notebook and a couple of rolls of washi tape so I have less than $25 in it.   I had everything else that I’ve used so far.  The pens are a favorite of mine from Staedtler that you can usually pick up at Michaels or Hobby Lobby.  The brush pen I grabbed at Dick Blick in Chicago.  There are few types to choose from online.  And of course, if you check out the website of the creator, his wasn’t artsy at all.  Just functional and tailored to his needs: all he needed was a journal and pen.

And besides keeping you organized. . .journaling has other benefits as well.  Try it!  You might find it’s just what you need.

 

 

 

The Drop

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The Broken Vase (Harry W. Watrous, circa 1900)

The glass slipped from her hand, hit the floor and broke into a  thousand shards.  For a moment all she could do was stare.  The unbidden memories washed over her.

Another broken glass, but this one a jelly jar.  Spilled milk as a child, and the gentle admonishment that it wasn’t a big deal.  A hug.  A kiss.  And a cookie to go with a fresh glass of milk.

Dropping the silver-framed hand mirror as she tried to look at the back of her dress for the dance.  The fractured image an omen of bad luck to come?  Or maybe all school dances are destined to be disappointments?

The unmistakable sound of a window removed from its frame by a stray baseball, and then the sound of running children after the silent aftershock. These rookies knowing that for weeks the team would be missing its first baseman.

The crunch of headlights yielding to the bumper of another car.  The sinking feeling that comes with the realization that this particular  broken glass will also dent the bank account.

Joy and celebration as the groom crushes the glass under his heel.  A likely reminder of the fragility of life and love?  Or blessings as numerous as the many shards?

As she gathered up the pieces of what had been a lovely heirloom bud vase of her late grandmother’s, tears came to her eyes.   Curtains fluttered in the breeze and wafted the sugary scent of sweet peas around the kitchen.   More memories.

Sweet peas growing on the fence row.  Cool summer evenings.  Sheets fresh from the line.  Black cattle grazing in the front pasture.  Garden tomatoes still warm from the sun.  Farm kittens rolling in the grass.  Picking flowers and vegetables with her grandmother.

Dropping the remains of the vase into the trash, she sadly pondered her loss, thankful that memories are more durable than the delicate glass of the vase.  It was a fleeting sadness though – chased away by the fragrant blossoms that graced her window sill  now-but far more humbly in a jelly jar.

What are you afraid of?

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Fear.  We all have fears.

Psychologist tell us that all fears can be categorized as one of five basic fears.

  1.  Extinction.  Simple.  This is basically a fear of death or ceasing to exist.
  2. Mutilation.  This one is a little more complex.  It the fear of losing a part of our body, or losing a function of our body, or having its boundaries invades.  They say that many types of anxiety about animals, such as spiders and snakes, fall into this category.
  3. Loss of Autonomy.  Think about a fear of situations that we can’t control.  Being imprisoned, smothered, paralyzed, overwhelmed, or restricted.  Claustrophobia is a classic example but it can also manifest itself in personal relationships as a fear of commitment.
  4. Separation.  Fears of abandonment and not being wanted, respected, loved, or valued  can be devastating to a person.
  5. Ego-death.  Humiliation, shame, and self-disapproval:  the loss of worthiness.  This might manifest itself as a fear of public speaking.  Or perhaps the feeling that your blog might not be worth reading?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  All fears invoke pretty much the same kind of biological reactions: sweaty palms, goosebumps, pounding heart, rapid breathing, etc. Fear is your survival response – the “flight or fight” thing you learned about in high school biology.

Some people actually enjoy being frightened.  Say what??  Horror flicks and Halloween “haunted houses” have never been my thing.  Ditto for scary amusement park rides.  But I will read a scary book.  Does that even make sense?   Hey, they’re MY fears, they don’t have to make sense.

With that in mind, what do I fear?

  1.  Spiders.  (Big or small they are all evil to me.  It’s not a completely irrational fear as I was bitten and had a pretty nasty reaction as a child.)
  2. Car accidents.
  3. Losing someone I love.
  4. Ladders. And heights to a certain degree.
  5. Not being able to scream when I may need to.

And while not a fear really, I really dislike crowds where people I don’t know might bump into me.  It doesn’t scare me – it is rather more of an dislike that irritates the heck out of me.

So what are you afraid of?

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Found Do Not Open

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I found it lying next to the park bench among the fallen leaves, its worn black leather cover barely visible under autumn’s orange and yellow carpet.  I might not have noticed it at all if I hadn’t dropped my keys.  A very nondescript book showing years of use.  Unassuming except for the white words painted on the cover:  If Found Do Not Open.

I glanced around me wondering if anyone had seen me pick up the book.  Was it a test?  Was someone watching to see if I followed directions?    Maybe I was being filmed for one of those “What Would You Do?” shows.  Or maybe it is just what it seems: a lost book.

I thumbed the pages and contemplated the cover.

What might be found in those pages?  A diary of tantalizing bits about love affairs, petty crime, or family secrets?  Or maybe just a pouring out of one’s heart:  of past pains or dreams for the future?  Maybe it’s a useful book of grocery lists, contact numbers, recipes, and personal reminders? Perhaps it’s filled with artist sketches?  Or the musings of a poet?  Or maybe it’s the book version of Pandora’s box?  Opening it seems like a small thing, an innocent action, but what of the consequences?

I watched the afternoon sun dip below the trees as I walked toward home, only glancing back once to see the book where I left it on the bench.  Unopened.

Alphabet Advice

 

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Ask questions.

Be kind.

Create.  A poem, a garden, a quilt: create what makes you happy.

Doodle often and let your mind wander.

Explore the world around you.

Find happiness.

Go for a run.

Hug your kid often.

Inspire others to be their best.

Jump life’s puddles.

Keep it real.

Love well.

Make a joyful noise.

Never say never.

Open your eyes.

Pick your friends carefully.

Quit whining.

Read a book.  Read MANY books!

Slow down.  Breathe.  Create calm.

Think before you speak.

Use a napkin.

Vanquish negativity.

Write letters – the real kind.  Use a stamp!

X-marks the spot.  Find a place that makes you happy.

Yield when necessary.

Zigzag.  Take time to wander off the path.

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Writing. . . sort of.

 

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Photo taken from: http://centrum..org/programs/writing/

 

Many times in my life I have wished that I had the creativity and skills to write a book.  Specifically a children’s book.  Or a fun book.  That’s never happened.  I’m a “science person” so writing a text book would probably actually be much easier for me.  I write reflectively somewhat regularly, but never any “creative writing” aside from random poetry that pops into my head, usually when I am driving, and never ever makes it onto paper.  A few weeks ago, I began receiving a daily writing prompt email.  Most I ignore. But one sort of sparked my imagination.   What would betrayal taste like?   Hmmmm. Think about that.  Would it be bitter?  Or might it taste like something totally unexpected? I did my first “creative writing”  since I probably had to write a short story in high school.  (Does 778 words even count as a short story?) And putting it out here for anyone to read is – well a lot of things – scary being the biggest.

The Taste of Betrayal

Claire missed the signs.  They were all there in plain sight.  Well mostly, if she had only taken the time to see them.  She just missed the elevator as she headed home for the day, its door closing silently while its occupants avoided eye contact.  Deciding to splurge on a cab in honor of the occasion, she made a beeline towards the curb only to have her cab snatched away by a hurried man in a suit just as she approached.  Another car sped past creating a drenching spray of rainwater and city grime.  Claire found herself in a “Bridget Jones” moment.  Resigned, Claire popped up her umbrella and began the thirteen block walk to her apartment, her mind on the evening ahead.

Claire met Alex over a tray of appetizers at a party eighteen months ago, their attraction immediate and mutual.  The last year and a half had flown by as they got to know each other.  They spent quiet nights at home, long weekends out of town, Sunday walks through the park, lazy mornings in bed with coffee and the newspaper.  It didn’t matter what they did, they enjoyed doing it together.  Theirs was a relationship that made their friends green with envy.

Shaking the water off her umbrella, Claire stepped into her small apartment.  The gloomy fall afternoon light cast shadows over her small living room.  Snapping on the vintage lamp on her end table, a great thrift store find from one of her adventures with Alex, she rifled through the mail stopping at the pink envelope.  Real mail!  Not email.  Not a text message.  Not a rushed voicemail.  It was an honest, old-fashioned bit of correspondence, a birthday card from her favorite aunt.   “Claire, Do something fabulous on your birthday!  Much love, Aunt Martha.”

Today is Claire’s 30th birthday.  A milestone in life where, according to most people, she should have found herself in a house in the suburbs, married with a fabulous career, and 2.5 children.   Instead she lived in a small third-story walk up in the lower east side and worked as a receptionist for a small magazine.  But she had Alex.  She truly loved her job.  She had possibilities.

The last month had been challenging.  Alex’s corporate job often took him out of town for a few days at a time, but lately there had been even more travel, leaving a little Claire adrift.   But tonight Alex would be home and things could get back to normal.   Claire busied herself and changed into her favorite  black dress, a fitted illusion-sleeve bodice covered with whimsical dots and a gathered-at-the-waist flared skirt.  Beautiful, flirty, and classic all in one dress.  At the time, it was a big Nordstrom purchase on her small, overly-stretched budget.  But tonight, it seemed to perfect for the occasion:  a quiet dinner with Alex at one of her favorite restaurants.   Claire made a last minute check of her hair and makeup, grabbed her purse, and headed out to hail a taxi.

Arriving at the quaint bistro ahead of schedule, Claire was surprised to find Alex already there and seated at their favorite table. A bottle of untouched wine waited on the table while Alex checked messages on his phone.  Catching a glimpse of Claire, Alex rose and brushed her cheek with a kiss as she settled herself into her chair. These plans made two months ago, she’d been looking forward to this all day.  They chatted casually through dinner, the conversation of two people comfortable with each other:  work things, crazy wet fall weather, catch-up about friends.

But it was the mention of one particular friend over desert that caused the atmosphere to shift from comfortable and casual to something else entirely.  For a moment, Claire’s world shifted, a small tilt on its axis that caused her to stop, pause, and assess that tiny flip in her gut and those red flags starting to wave.  Alex avoided eye contact, was clearly nervous and fidgeted with his napkin.  The silence at the table uncomfortable as Alex shrugged off the waiter’s attention.  Finally, after several long moments, Alex spoke and attempted to explain himself, his words coming out in a rush, Claire only catching bits of the jumble.

“I never meant for it to happen.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Please understand. . . “

And the worst words of all,  “I’m in love with her.”

Claire gathered her belongings and calmly walked to the door, only rushing when she was sure he couldn’t see her.  In the taxi on the way home, as tears silently rolled down her cheeks, Claire realized that, forever after, betrayal would taste like lemon cake.

Run and Be Happy

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Rabbit.  Rabbit.  Rabbit.

Here it is February 1st already.  And I’m still staying true to my resolutions.  I have actually increased my yoga home practice as well as added some beginning Pilates.  But there’s one thing I haven’t addressed yet.   Running.

I ran track in high school.  I was a slightly above average “half-miler”.  We still called it the 880 then – that’s how old I am.  I trained more with the distance girls than the sprinters and occasionally ran a leg of the mile relay.  I was so NOT a sprinter!!! I have to admit that I loved the training for track but hated the races.  I wanted to quit almost every day of my sophomore year but it wasn’t allowed.  I had to stick it out.  I’m glad there was the no quitting rule at our house.  Today I am glad.  At the time I was miserable.

In college I ran for “fun”.  I know that some people think that’s laughable.  Or a lot crazy. Maybe both.  But I did find that when I was angry or troubled lacing up the shoes and hitting the road were really helpful.  I’m not sure it ever solved any problems but for that time I was running the issues weren’t issues at all.  And there was something quite peaceful about an empty track at night.

Fast-forward a few years and I was a young, working mother with no time to run.  I gave it a few shots but just found it really hard to work into a busy schedule.  When my son was in 6th grade he joined the junior high cross country team.  And that’s when my running “career” took off again.  It was a necessity.  Anyone who has ever been to a cross country meet knows that the only way to see your child run is to run yourself around the course to different vantage points.  After a few weeks of huffing and puffing, I knew it was time to make a change.  I was still teaching, but I committed to making it work.  In the years I’d taken off, a wonderful thing called the Couch to 5K had come about and it was just what I needed.  It’s evolved from just a plan to  a podcast to an app.  It’s my go-to app for starting up again after a few months off.

Once I left the classroom and had more time, I took my exercise much more seriously. I’ve never really been one for classes.  I’ve tried a few over the years.  Zumba was a disaster!  I learned to love running again.  And then on Halloween 2014 I had an accident that changed everything.  I crushed a vertebra, fractured my sternum, and broke a rib.  Doctors thought I’d been in a car accident and wasn’t telling the truth.  Nope.  I went down a slide.  A big, fast, curvy slide on a playground with a crash and burn landing at the bottom.  I know that I’m so very fortunate that I am walking and doing pretty much what I want. Initially I was told I couldn’t run for 6 months.  You know how when someone tells you that you can’t do something and then that’s all you want to do?  That was me.

The six month marker rolled around and I even then I knew I wasn’t really ready.  It was the middle of summer and I’ve never run much in the hottest of months anyway because of my asthma.  So I cooled my heels until September when I gave it a shot.  The first week went well.  So well that I was really quite thrilled.  The second week was hell.  EVERY SINGLE STEP hurt my back. I felt crushed.  That wasn’t helped by the unpleasant conversations with my doctor who told me  to “get used to the pain” and that my “life has changed”.  That’s when I turned to my surgeon and PT back in Germany and started making some changes.  (Yoga has been the biggest.)  But I hadn’t run again.  Let me tell you, fear really does suck!

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So today I woke up and started thinking about my day and what I was going to do. And I was tired.  And it was cold.  (Can you hear the whining?)  But I decided to give it another try because if I waited for the perfect time . . .  well that probably never happens, right?

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It went well.  I started with week 2.   But ran an extra 4 minutes at the end.  It was cold, but not too cold. I’ve always been more of a cold weather runner and that has it’s own advantages:

  1.  There’s just not many people out on the streets and sidewalks.  This morning I saw one other runner.  One walker and another walking her dog.   And since school is in session and I went after the start time, there’s not much car traffic either.  Avoiding the indoor treadmill at the gym means less exposure to those nasty winter  cold and flu “bugs”. (Treadmills have always hurt my back – even before surgery so I avoid them all year.)  I used to love running in snow but the fear of falling made me wait until our recent snow was gone.  But who know, maybe I’ll get brave and try it again some day.
  2. Cold weather running is far less stressful on your body than hot, humid weather and can improve your endurance plus you can burn more calories since your body is working more to keep your temperature elevated.  That’s a win-win situation.
  3. Running releases “feel good” endorphines that help elevate mood during the cold winter months so it’s a cure for those “winter blues”.  Plus you get your daily dose of vitamin D.
  4. It helps to trick your body’s metabolism to prevent the seasonal slow down that happens during the winter months, as well as fighting the winter weight weight gain that plagues so many people, myself included.

So there you have it.  Running “post-accident” part two.

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26 Books to Read in 2016

Reading Challenge

I came across this idea last year and thought it was a smashing idea…so I’ve crafted a list that makes me happy.

  1. A book with water on the cover:  The Lake House by Kate Morton
  2. A book set on a school campus:  The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
  3. A book with a murder or mystery:  The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
  4. A book about siblings:  The Frozen Lake by Elizabeth Edmondson
  5. A book with a great first line:
  6. A classic:
  7. A book you started by never finished:
  8. A book that will help you: Back Care Basics (A Doctor’s Gentle Yoga Program for Back and Neck Pain Relief) by Mary Pullig Schatz, M.D.
  9. A book you should have read in school but didn’t:
  10. A banned book:
  11. A book that will make you smarter:
  12. A book you loved – read it again:
  13. A book based on historical events: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
  14. A book you’ve been meaning to read:
  15. A book set somewhere you’d like to visit: 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helen Bertino.  It’s set in Philadelphia.
  16. A book you read with a friend: Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
  17. An autobiography or memoir:
  18. A book set in your home state:
  19. A book you own but haven’t read:
  20. A book over 400 pages:
  21. A book you picked solely for the cover:
  22. A book of poetry:
  23. A book at the bottom of your “to read” pile:
  24. A book based on a true story:
  25. A book that will make you laugh:
  26. A favorite book from your childhood:

And I’m not off to a bad start…check back for updates.  What’s on your list to read in 2106?

 

It’s in the cards.

I dropped my little Doxie girl at the vet today for a dental and possible some tooth extractions.  I decided a little “girl time” was in order to keep my mind off worrying about her and I headed to my favorite local coffee shop in the hopes that some friends were there.  What a great way to start the morning – a hug from a friend, great coffee, and a card reading.  I know.  I know.  It sounds so weird to most people.  Even to me – since I hadn’t actually ever done it before. But that said, I did love it.  And it’s not all strange “voodoo” – weird – or “witchy” – or any other preconceived notions that some might have. (I suppose that’s possible, but it certainly wasn’t my experience.)

The deck itself was called the Spirit of the Wheel Meditation Deck.  The cards were covered with beautiful illustrations based on the Native American medicine wheel.  Medicine in the Native American culture isn’t a pill to cure what ails you, rather it refers to a force or power that is inherent in nature.  The wheel itself is many things on many levels.

According to Native American tradition it can be a sacred space, an altar, a centering device for one’s consciousness, a protector, a framework in which to honor the forces of nature, and as an aid to meditation.  If the medicine wheel is new to you, I encourage you to check it out.  There are many ways it can be represented using drawings, totems, stones, etc.  It’s often depicted in art and jewelry.  Used in  some ways it’s a bit similar to walking a labyrinth.  Another cool thing to look up if you haven’t before.

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I shuffled the cards and drew out 6.  Those six cards then refer back to a reading from a booklet that explains that card.

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Isn’t that a pretty card??  So what did I learn?  Some cards validated things that I already know about myself. . . that I’m gifted with instincts about others and that I’m an educator at heart.  Three of the cards I pulled illustrated the attributes of learning, sharing, and teaching.  I spent 25 years in the classroom so I found it interesting that three of the six readings focused on those ideas.  Another touched on honesty and emotion with a caution to slow down before speaking.  One card suggested that I had recently conquered something in my life.  I feel that way about my recovery after breaking my back at the end of 2014.  I’m still getting better, but I do feel quite accomplished and have a sort of “look at me NOW” attitude especially where exercise is concerned.  Other ideas were just nice points to ponder and put to use:  to assist elders with compassion, to share my gifts with others,  to nurture my strengths, and look beyond fears to venture into the new and untried.  Aren’t those lessons we can all take something from?

So my first experience with having my cards read was quite fun and interesting.  And as I told my friend afterwards, I found it to be “food for thought” and  a pathway to self improvement and awareness.  And there’s nothing weird about that at all!