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HELP CHILDREN FEEL VALUABLE: THREE LESSONS IN STONES

“Thank you for helping me feel like a shiny stone instead of a plain old worthless rock,” said a third-grade boy in Tucson, Arizona.

An effect and reaction like that is what I hope for when I offer a polished stone to children in classrooms – adults in audiences too – after we discuss the message of The Twelve Gifts of Birth. If you’re familiar with the book, you know that the story, illustrations, and photographs help children of all ages recognize their inner gifts and feel valuable.

To anchor the message and help make the intangible gifts of inner strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith feel more touchable and real, I use a bowl of stones in a show and tell way. You can do this too in a one-on-one way or with any size group.

When speaking with groups, a clear fish bowl is an ideal container. Fill it at least halfway with medium-sized polished stones of all varieties. On top of all the shiny and colorful stones, place a regular, rough rock, the kind you might pick up from a street, sidewalk, or hiking trail. For a one-on-one talk, a handful of polished stones and one rough rock is sufficient.

The bowl of stones does a good job of grabbing attention and stirring curiosity in groups.  I present the bowl after the reading, discussion, and the question, “Who feels valuable in this moment?” All (or nearly all) hands shoot up.

That opens the door for THE THREE LESSONS IN POLISHED STONES.

The plain rough rock is used to acknowledge that we all sometimes feel like that: plain, ordinary, maybe even worthless. The truth is that we are all like the polished stones. Like them we’ve been tumbled. For them it was in a machine. For us it is in life.  The keepsake polished stone is meant to remind us that no matter what we look like on the surface or what we feel like, we have strength, beauty, and other valuable qualities within us always.

The second lesson the stones offer is the beauty of all their various colors, shapes, and sizes. We too come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. No matter. Like the stones, in that way too, we are all valuable.

The third lesson comes from taking a very close look at one or any number of the stones. Upon close examination, we see little cracks, nicks, scratches. While they are indeed beautiful, strong, and valuable, they are not perfect. Neither are we.

And those are three lessons for all of us to remember for ourselves and to share with the children in our lives.

Parents, teachers, counselors, all readers who may use this activity in any way, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m guessing that a collection of colorful stones can carry other meaningful messages. What do you think of the three I described? What other life lessons do you see?

Toward dignity for all,
Charlene

 

 

 

 

LISTENING: SOMETHING WE COULD ALL DO BETTER

“You’ve got to listen to the universe, to life, to God, whatever you want to call it. Because it’s going to speak to you.” ~ Jillian Michaels

Consider the quote above and the ones below. Read each one slowly, with care. Then “listen” for some subtle, or not so subtle, guidance from the voice of wisdom within you. As the day goes on, continue to “listen.”

What you receive may be in the form of a nudge, a memory, a gut feeling, something you overhear, a message on a billboard, a song you hear…the possibilities are almost as numerous as the feathers on a seagull, on all seagulls, all birds.

What you receive may be about listening, but it’s more likely to offer direction for a deeper question you have, a choice you need to make, or a next step toward a dream. Wisdom guides us in many ways, through many forms. 

Let’s listen better to one another too!

“Wisdom will lead you through knowledge to understanding. May you hear its soft voice.” (from The Twelve Gifts of Birth)

“Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply…When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.” (Stephen Covey)

“There are seasons in life. Don’t ever let anyone try to deny you the joy of one season because they believe you should stay in another season… Listen to yourself. Trust your instincts. Keep your perspective.” (Jane Clayson)

“You’ll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart.” (George Michael)

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia)

Feel free to comment, question, or share your experience with this. I’d love to hear from you! 

Listening,
Charlene

 

 

FINDING HUMOR WHEN FACING CANCER

“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.”

                             ~ Dr. Seuss

Everything has the potential to be funny. Even cancer. You may remember Gilda Radner and her book, It’s Always Something. Gilda was great at finding the funny.

When facing cancer – or any illness or life challenge – it helps a lot to tap into our inner strength, to hold hope, and to find the funny. Reba McEntire said it well:

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”

When I shared the news of my breast cancer diagnosis with you last May, I wrote seriously, with backbone strength and wishbone hope about the healing power of love.

I’d like to give my funny bone a try today. With joy, here’s my story continued:

So, with relative grace and ease I had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

During the weeks leading up to surgery, I joked a bit about the silver lining. You know me, always looking for uplifts – uplifting thoughts, uplifting feelings. Without having to pay for elective surgery, I was going to end up with a body “uplift!”

Yes, focusing on the positive, I looked forward to having a younger-looking, more perky chest. And I got it. There were other benefits. I could wear tank tops and skinny-strap sundresses without a bra.

Well, one day about a month ago, I noticed that the left side was way perkier on the top than the right. A closer look showed that the “natural slope” of the implant on the left was upside down. Somehow, it had spun around.

When I learned that happens sometimes if the cavity is a bit large for the implant used, I figured, kind of like “what goes up must come down” that “what spun could spin again.” And maybe I could help it.

So that’s what I did. Or tried. And I did get it to turn. But it got stuck half way. So then I had a whole new look, with the “natural slope” going sideways!

The good news is that, somehow during sleep, the implant found its way into proper positioning.

The bad news is that, after swimming, it had spun again into the upside-down position.

But more good news! If I swam some more, it could spin some more.

So now, when I’m done swimming, I check to see…

Even perkiness? Yes? I grab my towel.
​​​​​​​No? Back in for another lap or two or whatever it takes.

Hey, I just might get in better shape!

You know the song, “I Hope You Dance”?
I hope you do. And laugh, too!
Today and every day.

With hope, love, and laughter,
Charlene

PS – I’ve posted a picture of the younger me, when everything was perkier!

ANOTHER LESSON FROM TURTLE

“After a long, lonesome and scary time…
the people listened and began to hear…
And to see God in one another…
and in the beauty of all the Earth.
Old Turtle smiled.
And so did God.”

~ Douglas Wood

 

Are you familiar with the book, Old Turtle?

I thought of it when I saw sea turtles at Caneel Bay on the island of St. John and when I wrote the previous message.

Here’s the essence of that story.

There was time before humans when all creation could speak and understand one another.

One day the breezes, the stones, the mountains, the fish, the stars, the ants, the antelopes,the trees, the islands, the sun, the waters…everything….started describing God. And they began to argue.

“She is a hunter, roared the lion.
“God is gentle,” chirped the robin.
“He is powerful,” growled the bear.

The arguments grew louder and fiercer.

Finally, Old Turtle spoke.
She said that God is all that they described and more.

“God is indeed deep,
she said to the fish in the sea;          
and much higher than high,
she told the mountains.
He is swift and free as the wind,
and still and solid as a great rock,
she said to the breezes and stones…
God is all that we dream of,
and all that we seek,
all that we come from
and all that we find.
God IS.”

The message is already powerful.
But there’s more.
It’s about the coming of people.

“They will be strong yet tender,
a message of love from God to the Earth,
and a prayer from the earth back to God…

But the people forgot…
they were a message of love
and a prayer from the earth.
They began to argue…
and hurt one another…
And they hurt the earth…
…even the forests
began to die…”

At that crisis time,
all the creatures began to speak
to the people from their ancient wisdom.

“After a long, lonesome and scary time…
the people listened and began to hear…”

May we soon get better
at listening
and hearing
and honoring
how we all see differently.

May we revere the earth
and all creatures too.
And see God in one another
and in the beauty of the earth.

Imagine if we each did that.

Seeing it so,
Charlene

 

ANIMAL WISDOM: LESSON FROM TURTLE

Animals are not only beholders of great beauty, but they are also beholders of ancient wisdom.” 

             ~ Molly Friedenfeld

 
 
 
 
 
 
In Native American and other indigenous cultures, there is a reverent belief that animals perceive reality in ways we don’t yet understand and with a depth of wisdom we don’t yet appreciate.
 

We hear a lot these days about the intelligence and sensitivity of dolphins, whales, elephants, and other animals.  

Perhaps you have heard about animal totems too. The idea is that when an animal shows up in a significant way, perhaps repeatedly or in an unusual setting, either in dreams or waking life, there is guiding life lesson for us from that animal.
 

In the past, I’ve had bears and dogs appear in ways that called for my attention. Oh, a snake too.

At Caneel Bay on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, (where Frank I vacationed two weeks ago) while there were many donkeys, deer, and mongoose to see each day, it was the clearly the sea turtle that carried a message for me. See if that message resonates at all for you.

 
First, about the turtle encounter…  
 
I saw several each day. Each time I did, I felt a sense of awe. But I actually cried out (without making a sound because my face was in the water) when I spotted a particular one while I snorkeled. I then hovered directly over her and watched while she nibbled on sea grasses. She seemed to be smiling. I got even nearer when she swam upward right beside me to surface for air.
 
So what might this mean?
 

In Spirit Animal, Elena Harris writes, “The turtle totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with determination and serenity. Slow moving on earth, yet also incredibly fast and agile in water, those who have the turtle as totem or spirit animal, may be encouraged to take a break in their busy lives and look around or within themselves for more grounded, long-lasting solutions. Traditionally, the turtle is symbolic of the way of peace, whether it’s inviting us to cultivate peace of mind or a peaceful relationship with our environment.”

All of this rings true for me. Might the last part be something we all need to heed?

With reverence,
​​​​​​​Charlene

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers. Praise and prayers for all who have birthed, raised, and guided children into and through adulthood, for all who are just beginning this vital vocation, for all in every stage of nurturing others toward vibrant living and loving.

 

 

 

“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

 

 

 

As I gratefully remember my own mother this Mother’s Day, I expand this tribute to all our mothers and on to all who “mother.”

I know some childless women, and some men too, who mentor, lead, feed, teach, train, heal, counsel…perform any and every kind of service in such a heart-centered and soulful way that it can be characterized as mothering. Most likely you do too. Mother Teresa is a paramount example.

Some may object to this far-reaching tribute, maintaining that this day is designated to honor mothers in a literal way. But I think, by expanding our recognition, we celebrate motherhood in a way that reveres mothers and elevates “mothering” itself. Imagine, if beyond both the surface and the sincerest expressions of venerating mothers, our culture encouraged girls and boys, men and women, children and adults – all of us – to respect, support, cultivate, and practice the ideals and characteristics of mothering. Imagine if we held in higher regard: unconditional love, forgiveness, listening, kindness, compassion, being of service, healing touch, tears, tenderness, and honest expressions of feelings. I think we would become more real, healthy, happy, peaceful and successful.

On this Mother’s Day, may we honor Mother Nature too and “Be kind to everything that lives,” as a matriarchal Native American proverb prescribes.

With love and reverence for all,

Charlene

(from TODAY’S TOUCHSTONE)


 

Small DeerMouse on Beach

THE SOUL OF AMERICA

 

 

“In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet… Love is wise; hatred is foolish.”
                                                      ~  Bertrand Russell

 

Like millions of other people in America and around the world, I am deeply concerned not only about the direction, the health, and the safety of our country, I am concerned about its soul. Our soul.

How did meanness and bullying become acceptable? How did bravado come to be admired? How and why did fear, hate and disrespect erupt and spread like a disease among us?

I’ve heard the theories – perhaps you have too – that hidden dis-ease rising to the surface is a good thing.

Actually, it CAN be a good thing, but it IS NOT automatically a good thing. Continue reading

A LESSON FROM FIVE BLINDFOLDED MEN AND AN ELEPHANT

Baby Elephant Running

 

 

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” ~ Harper Lee

 

 

 

Remember the story about the blindfolded men and an elephant? If not, here’s the gist of it:

Five men examine an elephant by touch. They are trying to determine what it is. But each man is blindfolded.  And each feels only one part: a leg, a side, a tusk, the trunk, and the tail. When each declares what is before him, they begin to argue vehemently, each believing he is “right.”

In a sense, they are all “right” because each is describing his own experience and what he is able to perceive from his limited encounter with the elephant. From another perspective, however, none are right because they are far from understanding the whole, or what an elephant truly is.

Like all good parable stories, this one offers wisdom.

May we remember that, even with our eyes wide open, Elephant Family
none of us has full understanding about elephants
or about anything.
With that wisdom, let’s share our views
and listen to one another with curiosity and respect.
Love and compassion too.

Toward peace,
Charlene

PS – One way to better understand one another when we disagree is to say: “Please tell me your story. I want to understand how you see things and how you have come to hold that opinion.” Or, something to that effect in your own words.

 

THE POWER OF HMMM

Eye to Eye - Heart to Heart

 

 

“It’s not so much knowing when to speak, but when to pause.”

~ Jack Benny

 

Hmmm. There’s wisdom and power in that.

Comedian Benny’s comment was probably about pausing to obtain the best laughter. But pausing before speaking is wise in all types of communication. Consider pausing and saying Hmmm in the midst of conversations you have today. 

Why?

Marriage counselor and author Kathlyn Hendricks recommends pausing and saying Hmmm not only because it can help us make time to respond with care rather than react, but also because saying Hmmm truly helps us to wonder, to consider, and to make room for possibilities.

Saying Hmmm conveys respect to the other person too. It’s as if you are saying, “Let me think about that.”

When we pause and say Hmmm, we are sending a “Let me think about that” message to our own minds as well. Saying Hmmm can help us meet one another heart to heart instead of going head to head.

So whether a discussion is becoming heated, or not, whether it is with a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, or stranger, try pausing and saying Hmmm. 

You might be amazed at what happens.

Blessings to all our conversations and relationships.