Archive for the ‘Dog Journal’ Category

A Thing Called Hope

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

feathdwnThanks to the Internet, holiday travels took us off the beaten path, discovering yesterday a small organic farm on the outskirts of Phoenix: The Farm At South Mountain.

There, expecting the usual scented soap and candles, I bumped into a treasure: a pile of vintage “postcards,” each with a saying capable of capturing someone’s heart.

I learned long ago that where quotations are concerned, the significance lies not so much in the words themselves but in which particular ones tug at the heart.

My personal tug came from Emily Dickinson, who was moved to write the following few lines more than a century ago:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune – without the words,
And never stops at all.

I don’t know what prompted Emily to write these words, or what pulled me to read them over and over. But I pass them on to anyone who can use a bit of hope to propel you through the end of one year and into the beginning of the next.

Like hope, they are timeless.

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Beware of Just Say No

Monday, December 14th, 2009
O'Neil House foyer

O'Neil House foyer

I’m the first to say it’s important to learn to say no.  After all, if we agree to do everything that’s proposed, we can find ourselves drowning in meaningless obligations.

But getting in a “just-say-no” habit can be a problem, too.  I almost  said no this past week with what turned out to be a delightful adventure: an overnight stay at The O’Neil House, a restored Akron mansion-turned-B&B.

The B&B stay was inspired by a low-cost continuing legal ed class that started early Friday morning in downtown Akron.  It sounded more intriguing when I booked it, along with dinner with an old friend.  When Thursday rolled around, the prospect of driving north in 18-degree weather and sitting through seven hours of class  the next day seemed too much.    “Just say no,” I whispered to myself, relishing nearly two days of found time.

Lured more by the dinner than the class, I said yes instead and enjoyed not only a fun reunion with a former Beacon Journal colleague but also an amazing mansion dressed to the nines with live poinsettias and lit Christmas trees – including one in my bedroom. The B&B owner, Gayle Johnson, also turned out to be an inspiration.  She told me that 20 years ago, she retired from 30 years of teaching to save the mansion, which was headed for the wrecking ball.  Ever since, she’s booked it with parties, including an elegant one on Thursday night, and has cooked up gourmet breakfasts for her guests.  She loves what she does, and it shows.

No question, prioritizing has its place, and sometimes it’s good to just say no.  But plunging in has its rewards.  If you don’t believe me, ask Gayle Johnson.

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Remembering Diane Summers Clarke

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

diane cropped (Changed)Recently, at a training for certified laughter leaders, I sat across from a sparkly-eyed woman from Phoenix, Arizona, and did an exercise called “relational laughter.” We simply sat facing each other with instructions to laugh. Some folks had trouble with this, but somehow this Arizona woman and I just clicked – laughing till it hurt, stopping for a minute, then with one quick look, starting all over again.

“I think it’s because you remind me of my childhood friend,” I said, and told her about my first best friend, Diane Summers, who had lived next door from age 5 and who without any formal training had become an instant relational laughter partner. Thanks to our well-honed skills at relational laughter, Diane and I managed to spend some time in the hall outside Mr. Coleman’s fifth-grade science class and numerous time-outs from the Brownie troop where my mother, unfortunately, was the leader. “I can’t wait to tell Diane there’s training for this now,” I said.

Sadly, I didn’t get the chance. Unbeknownst to me, my first laughter partner, who in time became a South Carolina school teacher, Diane Summers Clarke, had just lost an 11-year battle with ovarian cancer. The longevity of her fight was rare, as was her spirit. When we spoke during those years, she was always up. She maintained her easy laugh. She urged me to keep sending her my humor columns “because keeping a sense of humor is so important.” Diane’s long and productive life after her diagnosis is all the proof I need that laughter has healing powers.

By the time my new friend and I were doing our relational laughter exercise, Diane was already gone. But I’m pretty sure her spirit was there in the room that day and will be checking in every once in awhile, to remind me how important it is to laugh. I don’t plan to disappoint her.

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