Category Archives: A to Z Blog Challenge

M is for Maintenance




My A to Z blog post theme this year is Acceptance. I am exploring topics which I have come to accept over the course of my life. Thus far, I have written about being wrong, compassion and children, determination, enlightenment, feast or famine, giving advice, humanism, intuition, karma, and literal thinking.

I’ve just finished reading a book called Romancing Opiates, by Theodore Dalrymple. In part, his book is about problems of addiction that arise because

“… [users] do not have actions toward which they might actually work in a constructive fashion, but daydreams, in which everything is solved at once in a magical way, daydreams from which the emergence into reality is always painful.”

The vast majority of humans have mundane tasks of a maintenance nature, toward which we “might actually work in a constructive fashion.” Think of laundry, paperwork, parenting, cleaning, vehicles, taxes. We wash and dry and fold the same clothes, week in and week out. Some of us probably have servants to do the laundry for us, but I do not.

I spent a fair bit of time telling the story that I’m just not good at maintenance, to explain why the clothes tend to wait a skosh longer than they otherwise might to get washed, dried, folded, and put away.

Tony Robbins taught me that there are six basic human needs:

The Six Human Needs

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure

2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli

3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed

4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something

5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding

6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others

For a long time, I overemphasized my need for variety and allowed myself to abandon tasks and projects that required a great deal of maintenance. Finally, I accepted that taking care of myself and my things in a routine, sometimes mundane, manner is part of life, and can be just as satisfying as anything else, depending on my attitude. As a matter of fact, accepting and even embracing maintenance leads to quiet satisfaction in a job well done. 

The Buddha Doodles illustration at the top is by the wonderful artist Molly Hahn. Molly creates a beautiful, life-affirming gift every day with her doodles.  

Literal Thinking and Lateral Thinking

Early in April, I posted a poem about how I welcome being wrong and mistaken after starting out thinking I had to be and always was right.

I don’t know if it’s just a brain-wiring thing or a temperament or a habit, but I tend to think VERY literally, taking things at face value. I have to work pretty hard to remember that taking things too literally is one of the ways I end up misunderstanding someone.

Just as I have realized my strong tendency toward literal thinking, I have also begun to learn to practice lateral thinking. Wikipedia tells me . . .

Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.

Seems like Albert Einstein was onto this idea way before Mr. Edward deBono coined the term lateral thinking, when he said, ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Just today, I had a disappointing experience of literal thinking going awry. Someone I love is headed to jail tomorrow for a five-day stay. I had googled “how to prepare for jail.” One site said inmates are not permitted to take books into the jail, as they can be a place to hide drugs, but that books can be shipped from Amazon. With that, I spent quite a bit of time looking for books that he might like, and then I reserved like 87 books at the library, toted them home, and he went through them and chose five that I was going to buy and ship to the jail. Once I had them in my Amazon cart, I decided to double check the website for the rules and regs. Well. This particular jail does not allow books to be sent to inmates.

Coming to accept my natural way of thinking as being quite literal has allowed me to move beyond it into new methods of solving problems, asking questions, finding solutions, and communicating. That is, as long as I catch the fact of the literal thinking in time! I don’t criticize myself anymore for this; I just understand it’s the way my brain works. And if there’s one thing I’m all about, it’s being creative in my life.

Are you more of a literal thinker or a lateral thinker? Or something else?

Acceptance (A is for)

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You are cordially invited to join me this month as I explore the idea of Acceptance and its powerful effects on our lives.

What is Acceptance?

I’d heard of Lamaze childbirth classes, but I wanted “Husband-Coached Natural Childbirth.” I first learned about acceptance in our classes. We focused on learning to breathe into the pain, to accept it and ride through the wave of the contraction.

This method was in stark contrast to Lamaze, which taught you to focus on something else and get through the pain. One says yes to the pain of the contraction and relaxes through it. The other just hangs on, trying to get through it as soon as possible.

Although “accept” encompasses coming to believe that an opinion or explanation is valid or correct, for me it deals directly with validity, and not correctness. Acceptance is all about embracing the unwanted, allowing it to be just as it is, without my judgment, my approval or my consent.

I think acceptance is, at least in part, a developmental stage we reach at different times in life.

So What?

Do you have any challenges in your life? I think most of us do. And you may have noticed how little control we actually have over the how and when and what. However, we do have at least some control over how we respond to the challenges. Acceptance is a key part of successfully navigating the challenges, and seeing them as opportunities.

Now What?

Acceptance takes intention and persistence and courage and all the good stuff inside me. Acceptance comes through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. It’s a journey, not a destination. It’s an ongoing decision for us humans.

To paraphrase an old song; What the World Needs Now is Acceptance, Sweet Acceptance.

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The theme of my blogs for the Blogging A to Z challenge this month is Acceptance, following the  reflection practice of asking these three questions: What?  So What? Now What? At least, unless I change my mind, which I did about tomorrow’s post. 

Y is for Yesterday

In honor of days gone by when children’s literature and simple poetry were  part of every single day. Light and easy, today, folks, light and easy.


I found my box of rubber bands.
I’d lost them yesterday.
I’d moved them from a place I thought
I’d like for them to stay.
I found my missing bumbershoot.
My hair got wet with rain.
The sun came out, my hair was dry,
Before ‘twas found again.
I found my missing batteries,
My radio had died.
I missed the ballgame broadcast time
I sat right down and cried.
I found my other shoe. Oh boy,
My toes got cold without.
Just wearing socks and socks and socks
and socks to Hop about.
I found my keys, oh yes I did.
I feel so sheepish though.
I left them in the car you see,
And now poor car won’t go.
I found my brand new day today.
I thought it was all gone.
Huzzah! A new one everyday
Arising with the dawn.

With love,

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AtoZ Blog Challenge: This Week in Review . . . S, T, U, V, W, and X

Week four of the blog challenge brought with it a little fatigue to go with the challenges of letter like U, W, and X. Getting to know all these bloggers and seeing how much creativity is in this little corner of the internet is enough to keep me going to finish up on Monday and Tuesday with Y and Z.
This week, I started out with some Storytelling about my sledding accident of 1974. I met some wonderful new people in the comments on this post.

Tuesday, to fulfill a promise I had made to my personal trainer, I compared Personal Training and ActivTrax, two methods of having supervised workouts at our YMCA. My trainer said it made his day.

Owing to having been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award by my blogger friend, Ida Chiavaro of Reflex Reactions, Wednesday’s topic was U is for an Unexpected Honor.

Wednesday also found me rather low. I was supposed to fly to California, and instead went to the doctor and found out I had pneumonia. I was glad to have pre-written and scheduled my Wednesday post.

Thursday, I reflected about Viktor Frankl, author of the a wonderful book, Man’s Search for Meaning.

W was for Wondrous, a lovely word that encapsulates how I see life.

I finished up this week with my post, X is for Xmas.

One of my most wondrous discoveries this week is the Finnish folk group, Värttinä. Enjoy the video that introduced me to this beautiful music:

Finally, a little shout-out to my son, who turns 19 today. Happy Birthday, J!

X is for Xmas.

But first, a brief, though affeXionate Xplanation about the perhaps less than Xceptional quality of this Xample of my Xpression. Dr. Pat Xplained on Wednesday that my Xcellent immune system had an unXpected encounter with some Xsisting pneumonia germs and I’ve been busy with the blitzkrieg to banish them. Now, on to X . . .


I remember hearing worried adults pontificating that using the word Xmas was an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas. Well, worry no more, ladies and gents. X is actually a substitute for the word Christ, as it derives from the first Greek letter of Christ, chi, which looks similar to the roman letter x.

Much ado about nothing, I say.

There was a time in the history of my Christmases that no one gave a second thought to the origins of the Christmas tree, or worried that belief in Santa Claus might undermine a child’s faith in God (!), or freaked out about whether to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, or saw that discussion as an attack on one’s beliefs. Oy vey, Xmas has gotten complicated.

While I’m not going to head out and pick up Merry Xmas cards, it is an awfully handy abbreviation for texting and quick notes and signs. Never mind that Xmas has even gone pretty much by the wayside these days for the more inclusive term Holidays. 
Whatever you celebrate, whenever you celebrate it, whatever you call it, make it meaningful and wondrous. 
What is your take on the word Xmas?

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W is for Wondrous


Inspiring a feeling of wonder or delight; marvelous.
Marvelously; wonderfully.
wonderful – marvelous – marvellous – miraculous
I love the word wondrous. I associate it with the most marvelous experiences of my life, as well as a lot of things that might be considered to be fairly mundane. And it’s one thing I really like about myself, the fact that I often have experiences where I am filled with wonder. 
For me, even though life has definitely had its exhausting moments and seasons, life is simply a wondrous experience.

Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson associates it with wisdom, another great W word. 

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

And Ms. Alice Walker demonstrates her wisdom about wonder in this beautiful quote:

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.” ― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple

How’s your wonder quotient these days?

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V is for Viktor Frankl, one seriously badass dude

During one of the watershed experiences of my life, I read Man’s Search for Meaning. An unassuming little paperback, the content was dynamite. This man managed to find meaning in his existence in a Nazi concentration camp, and formulate a philosophy that says we have the bottom line opportunity in every situation in our lives to make a choice how we will respond. As he marched barefoot through the snow, he saw himself as having a choice whether or not he was going to do so. I think “We have no choice” is one of my least favorite phrases in the English language. Of course we have a choice.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. p104, Man’s Search for Meaning

What do you think about having the freedom to choose?

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U is for an Unexpected Honor: The Liebster Blog Award

Little did I know when I began this AtoZ Blog Challenge that I would meet such wonderful people. Ida Chiavaro, blogger at Reflex Reactions, is one of those people. Not only does she write a wonderfully thought-provoking blog, but she graciously nominated me for my first ever blog award, the liebster blog award.

Answer 15 questions from my nominator

1. What is the nicest thing anyone ever said to me? When I asked Bono if I could get a photo with him, he said, “Of course.”

2. Something my parents taught me: Laughter is the best medicine.

3. Have I ever dreamed of celebrities or famous people? Yes, U2 have been in my dreams a few times.

4. Do I have any quirks, rituals or superstitions? I like to look for my first name in the credits of movies. If it’s a movie I like and my name is there, I take that as a good sign. If it’s a movie I didn’t like, and my name is there, I pretend like there’s nothing to it!

5. What’s the most amazing thing I have seen in the sky? Hands down, Northern Lights.

6. What’s the craziest thing I have done with my hair? On a total whim my senior year in high school, I went and got a perm that well-and-truly gave me an afro.

7. Have I ever seen a baby being born? Yes and no. I’ve been awake and unmedicated for my own five births, but was too scared to actually LOOK at the moment of birth, not to mention too busy.

8. Have I ever been with someone when they died? I was with my sisters at my dad’s bedside when he died.

9. Have I ever had a strange experience that I just can’t explain? At the first college I went to which shall forever remain unnamed, I was lonely and homesick. Coming out of the campus post office one day when my post office box was just as empty as could be, I had a sense that I was receiving an actual hug from someone who I could not see. I could feel the hug.

10. Am I an excellent speller, bad speller, or thought I was good but use spell check a lot? I used to be an excellent speller (well, except for façade — see below), but years of looking at misspellings and misuse of words on the internet has eroded my skills somewhat.

11. Do I have/have I had any pet(s)? Pick a favourite. I have no pets at this time. I learned from my father that animals were mostly pests, and I’m still looking forward to the day when I have a pet that I truly, deeply, madly love.

12. Where is question 12? There was no question 12. 🙂

13. What was the last thing I said out loud? “I think Dad is going to do something with you.”

14. Where am I sitting while I write this? I am sitting in my office at my desk, which is in a room I share with Kepler as his bedroom.

15. What does/do my name/names mean? Susan means “lily” in Hebrew. Depending on where you look, my name refers to motherhood, and to innocence. I was named after my father’s great-aunt Sue, who filled in as a mother to dad’s cousin. I never met her.

11 Facts about Myself

1. I was responsible for little black footprints on my parents’ sidewalk because I ran across the just-refinished driveway (age 3). The footprints stayed for many, many years.

2. After winning the school spelling bee in 8th grade, I went to the next round — the all-city written test. Having never heard the word façade pronounced aloud, I spelled it “pissade” because I couldn’t figure out what in the world they were saying. (I did not move on to the next round!)

3. I once drove a combine during wheat harvest, but only for a few minutes. I felt pretty powerful!

4. My 3rd grade teacher sent me to stand in the hall because I suggested that “Little Red Hen” was a story for babies. Oh, she did not have patience for much of anything. I always wondered what was up with her.

5. I was a glorious flop on the diving team, although I had been “recruited” because of my notable diving.

6. One of my nicknames is “Tech Support @ Home” because I help my husband with all manner of technical issues, but mostly with his phone.

7. I was accused of shoplifting once. This is hilarious because I would be the last person in the world to steal something. The store gave me a $250 gift certificate in apology.

8. Caramel, not butterscotch, is my most favorite flavor.

9. I eat pie as an excuse to have real whipped cream.

10. I don’t smoke, because the one time I tried it in high school, it made me nauseous, and that’s all it took to put me off cigs permanently.

11. Mild-mannered me once went to a bowling alley where my sister was participating in a “lock-in” program and YELLED at the doorman to let me have my sister. Amazingly, he did.

11.2 Questions for my nominees:

1. What’s one thing you have done that most people haven’t?

2. What are three of your most treasured items?

3. What is one of your favorite lines from a movie?

4. What is your favorite food to eat with chopsticks?

5. Does fashion matter to you? In what way(s)?

6. What is one thing you are sure of?

7. What do you think of inside/outside the box thinking?

8. Where in your life do you value simplicity?

9. Where in your life do you value luxury?

10. Do you have any quirks, rituals, or superstitions?

11. If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

Finally, my 11 nominees for a Liebster Blog Award:
1. Lottie Nevin at Her photographic blog about her life in Indonesia is breathtaking.
2. Anne Mackle at Is Anyone There. She has tackled “Staying Fabulous and Fit after 50” for this blog challenge. Well done!
3. Cynthia Reed at Reed Writes. The last AtoZ post she published was “M” but I love her writing and her stories.
4. The Mom Chef at Taking on Magazines one Recipe at a Time. The Mom Chef isn’t participating in the #AtoZChallenge, but her writing is so friendly and personal, it’s like she’s writing to each reader individually. And the recipes are amazing, too!
5. Philip Stasyszen at Peaceably Sown. Philip has a wonderfully honest writing style with a lot of heart.
6. Kate at I Heart Suburbia. Kate’s writing and life are both honest and inspiring.
7. Jennifer at Infant Intelligentsia. Jennifer’s writing inspires me, as a mother, as an advocate of Down syndrome, and as a woman.
8. Shelly at Life on the Wild Side. I love reading about Shelly’s life as a wife, mother, blogger, and teacher.
9. Bharani at One Side Paper. Extremely creative original sketches of animals doing yoga poses.
10. Joanne at In which We Start Anew. Gorgeous design and very welcoming.
11. Lynda at Lynda Grace An Hour Away. I found Lynda through the #AtoZBlog Challenge and very quickly came to love her writing and her style.

The nominations are freely given, with no strings attached. It is up to the individual blogger whether or not to accept and participate. I just wanted these eleven people to know I appreciate their blogs and their style. And, thanks again to Ida for including me in this very fun experience!

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Training, of the Personal Kind

Our YMCA has a program called ActivTrax, (we can call him AT) which is a computer-generated workout, supposedly tailor-made for the individual, based on data entered as a baseline. I always found the weights to be too light, and I was forever upping the weights. Dear AT worried about this, and always asked me during data entry if I knew I had exceeded the recommended weight and was I aware that this would affect future workouts? I loved the idea of AT; the reality was another story.

I opted for ActivTrax (AT) because I know personal trainers are a whole lot more per hour than a free computer-generated printout. But, isn’t it the truth that you get what you pay for.

After AT and I parted ways, I checked into personal training at my Y, and was introduced to my trainer, James. I have worked with trainers before, so I have an idea of the reasons I like to work with actual trainers.

1. The camaraderie with my trainer. He notices if I do a great job on a set; he laughs with me; he shares a little about himself. I never did learn whether AT was single or in a relationship.

2. The ability of the trainer to adjust the workout to my energy today. He hears the energy in my voice, listens to my comments about the last few days, and can either ramp things up, or slightly tone things down to compensate for what he’s observing. AT basically was set in his ways and did NOT adjust.

3. The encouragement that a personal trainer gives. James celebrates when I keep my balance on a tough set of kettlebell toe raises while standing on the bosu ball. He gives me “style” points for form that goes a little above and beyond. He notices and affirms my physical strength. AT was all, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

4. The adherence that an appointment encourages. Old AT, he’d be there anytime, whether or not I showed up. James and I make a plan for a certain time, and I show up at that time. That kind of accountability is great in a fitness situation.

5. The knowledge that a trainer has. The computer can show you a video on how to do a bicep curl, but a trainer actually helps you make adjustments in your technique, which enhances the effectiveness of the exercises.

6. The taking me beyond where I think I can go. “10 more seconds!” “You can do it!” “You’re almost there!” Those kind of comments keep my focus on the goal, on the success, and off of the tiredness and fatigue. AT was always conspicuously silent.

7. The value I believe I receive when I pay for this service and see the results which come from sticking with it. Things cost money. We pay for things we value.

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