Thursday, May 29, 2014
With Summer nearing I began to think of activities to do during this time of year. In the May Texas Monthly magazine they had a section on 13 great getaways in Texas. The focused in on El Paso, Palo Duran Canyon, Dallas and other areas some out of state places near Texas as well. Then in the May issue of San Antonio Magazine they listed 101 fun things to do in Summer in the San Antonio area. From eating, sports, music and museums they showcase ideas for everyone’s taste whether family or individual. There were plenty of ideas just from those two magazines.
Then a few days ago I was talking, (Yes some people still talk on the phone-- I prefer real verbalizing over texting), with an old childhood friend from Ohio and he mentioned for Summer time travels he was going to take his mother around to a few of the small towns in Ohio. Growing up in Ohio his thought reminded me of the many wonderful small towns in Ohio such as Sugarcreek and Coshocton. Texas is a much larger state and it is full of quaint small towns as well so I decided that will be one item on our Summer Dream list to visit a few small towns in Texas this year.
So if you are looking for things to do this Summer check out any state magazines that will give you ideas. As well most urban cities in each state often have a related magazine that lists what to do and see in the metro area as I mentioned in my local bookstore and grocery stores they carry the Texas Monthly and the San Antonio Magazine. Also websites for cities will show activities you can take advantage of in the metro areas. There is no reason to say there is nothing to do as if you search you can find a multitude of things to do. Like I mentioned at the beginning, 101 fun things to do in the San Antonio region from their magazine.
Don’t rule out exploring small towns in your state or a nearby state for a short weekend trip. Often within a state you can turn it into a one day visit if staying overnight in not in your budget. Even staying overnight for a weekend visit is a cost saver over a lengthy long distance vacation. Small towns have a different feel than visiting an urban area. The pace of strolling through a small town is more relaxed. You can enjoy their parks and scenery as a break from the area where you live. To choose a town simply do a search on the internet for visiting small towns in your state. You will see a variety of websites pop up. Look around for the website that gives you the towns and helpful information about the towns. Here are a couple of examples of websites I found for Texas and Ohio:
This website gives an alphabetical list of towns in Texas with links to more information on the towns.
This website gives a varied list of towns in Ohio and at the bottom of the page you can search by region of Ohio.
I lived a number of years in Chicago so I thought I would include a link to sights in Illinois. This website of Roadside America has a search engine so you can search for your state as well.
If you have never traveled through small town America within your state do a little searching on the web or state travel magazines. This may provide a new refreshing angle on how you spend your weekends in the Summer or do a longer within state vacation going from small town to small town.
Enjoy Your Summer!
Reflection: Explore a website on small towns in your state. Read over information on a variety of the towns and pick a few that you would like to visit.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
I’ve heard people say, “Words are just words; they don’t mean anything.” It is often said by those shrugging off cutting words that have hurt someone as a way to make excuses for talking in demeaning ways. Words have power. Power to hurt, destroy, bring pain. Also words have power to bring hope, life and joy. Many who struggle with negative self-talk that destroys their inner being learned those negative scripts from dark demeaning words from others towards them when they were young. Over the years they took those negative words to heart and believed them.
We need to understand the words we say can have a powerful effect for bad or for good. I want us to think about the words we say by considering a song by Toby Mac which reminds us of the power of words. Listen to the song and reflect over the words of the lyrics:
Speak Life by Toby Mac (click on the title to hear the song video)
Some days, life feels perfect. Other days it just ain’t workin. The good, the bad, the right, the wrong And everything in between. It’s crazy, amazing We can turn a heart with the words we say. Mountains crumble with every syllable. Hope can live or die
So speak Life, speak Life To the deadest darkest night. Speak life, speak Life. When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why. Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted; Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope, You speak love, you speak... You speak Life,(oh oh oh oh oh oh) You speak Life. (oh oh oh oh oh oh)
Some days the tongue gets twisted; Other days my thoughts just fall apart. I do, I don’t, I will, I won’t, It’s like I’m drowning in the deep. Well it crazy to imagine, Words from our lips as the arms of compassion, Mountains crumble with every syllable. Hope can live or die.
So speak Life, speak Life. To the deadest darkest night. Speak life, speak Life. When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why. Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted; Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope, You speak love, you speak... You speak Life,(oh oh oh oh oh oh) You speak Life. (oh oh oh oh oh oh)
Lift your head a little higher, Spread the love like fire, Hope will fall like rain, When you speak life with the words you say. Raise your thoughts a little higher, Use your words to inspire, Joy will fall like rain, When you speak life with the things you say. Lift your head a little higher, Spread the love like fire, Hope will fall like rain, When you speak life with the words you say.
So speak Life, speak Life. To the deadest darkest night. Speak life, speak Life. When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why. Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted; Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope, You speak love, you speak... You speak Life,(oh oh oh oh oh oh) You speak Life. (oh oh oh oh oh oh) Some days life feels perfect.
We all face differing environmental factors everyday of our life. We have good days and bad days. Sometimes the bad days are full of darkness. The song makes me think of what kind of words are coming out of me as I face each day whether it is dark or a sunny day? First of all am I speaking life to myself? Am I speaking words that inspire and bring hope? If I am dealing with negative self-talk I need to change the scripts and speak positive life changing. The late Dr. William Glasser spoke of the Quality World we build in our minds. Those are formed by are thoughts which are made up of words. Words then are important driving forces of our choices and behaviors.
Toby Mac is also telling us to move beyond ourselves to consider how our words can bring hope and compassion to those around us. If we are having a bad day know others around us may be in the same boat. As we revive new life into our day with the words we tell ourselves we in turn can help others around us come alive with hope-filled and loving words. As you go through this week think through the power of your words.
Reflection: Consider the words you use during the day. Do your words bring hope and love into your life and the lives of those around you? What is one way you can speak life to someone today?
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
There are different reasons to read such as enjoyment, relaxing, and education. A book that has been out for a number of years, Reading to Heal, by Jacqueline Stanley adds to the reasons by showing how reading can help us in overcoming personal problems and inner healing. She rightly points out that bibliotherapy is not for everyone and in various cases should be overseen by a professional counselor.
In her Forward she is open about her love of books from her early childhood. She proceeded to bring out how some of the reading she did was for her personal growth before she ever heard of the word “Bibliotherapy”. As I read the book I assumed she was a professional writer or a librarian or possibly a English professor. I was surprised to find she is an attorney in North Carolina. She has made use of her writing skills in a number of books on legal issues.
I can see how a counselor can gain insight into bibliotherapy by reading over her book suggestions to help their clients. Yet when I look at her overall purpose it is to look at what she calls the art side of bibliotherapy. She wants to help readers to be their own therapists by understanding the positives of reading that can build up and improve their lives. This is seen in her stating the many ways that reading helps us:
Reading builds up a feeling of accomplishment
Reading builds up feelings that you are not alone in your problem
Reading builds up a bulwark against boredom
Reading builds up an outward focus in understanding others
Reading builds up our critical thinking skills to overcome problems
Reading can build up personal self-worth
An important thought about bibliotherapy reading versus reading for mere pleasure, is that bibliotherapy reading is more reflective. For the most part you will be reading the book in short segments to give you time to let the ideas sink in. I have had several people who have read my book, Living More Than OK, state they went through it slowly. That is also why I recommend in my book to make use of a journal or diary in reading through it to write down personal reflection thoughts. Jacqueline Stanley reminds her readers to ask questions as they read through books they are using for bibliotherapy. Writing notes in the book is another helpful idea she provides.
One of the best parts of the book is her reading plan idea. I won’t give it fully away so as to encourage you to find her book at a library or on line and read it yourself. The idea is to start with a short book on a topic and divide the page numbers by 21. For example let’s say you find a book with 200 pages and divide that by 21. You would have a little over 9 pages to read a day. That is very doable. Then in 21 days you have the book read. She gives a wide variety of book suggestions on topics such as Simplify, Chronic Illness, Family Matters, Stress, and other topics. Or simply go to your local public library and use the catalog to search for topics on growth areas you wish to read to improve your life.
Now as we are in Spring and moving towards Summer think of reading as enjoyment of course. Know as well that there is healing and growth to be had in the pages of books. You just need to dedicate a portion of your time each week to reap rewards of personal growth in the areas you desire to grow into for living a more than ok life!
“All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.” Thomas Carlyle
Reflection -- What is one growth area of your life that you would like to improve through reading? Search online or at your local library for books in that particular growth area.
Monday, May 5, 2014
Over the past month my wife and I have taken several weekend drives throughout different areas of the Texas Hill Country to enjoy the Spring wildflowers. My wife’s favorites are the Texas Bluebonnets. Spring is a refreshing time of year due to the dynamic colors of the flowers breaking out from the drab brown of Winter dormancy of the plants and trees. Recently I have seen a few pictures come up on friends’ Facebook pages of flowers and plants coming alive again up in Ohio and Illinois. They need the refreshing renewal of Spring even more than those of us here in Texas; as they had one of the coldest Winters in a long time. (Makes one wonder about the global warming theorists?? I will leave it at that- think about it).
Flowers call for attention. You can rush by the flowers and miss them and many people do. I feel those who rush by miss out on one of life’s savoring pleasures. On our drives we took country roads around where websites had sightings of bluebonnets. We took our time driving along to spot the flowers and if someone behind was in a hurry we simply pulled off to let them go and kept enjoying our wildflower drive. Where we found open fields of flowers we would stop and take time to meander around in the fields with our cameras taking pictures. The pictures this week come from our flower excursions.
With wildflowers and any flowers there is first of all the big picture enjoyment of gazing at the big picture of the total landscape. Seeing the array of colors mixed with green against the backdrop of the blue skies is an awesome reminder for me personally of the great God artist behind nature. Then I move from the big picture to focusing in on the individual flowers. I am amazed at the intensity of color and the delicate makeup of the flower itself. These close observations make me wonder why is there such a variety of flowers? We went primarily looking for bluebonnets and this year was a great year to find them. At the same time we also enjoyed a variety of yellow, orange, pick and purple flowers along the drive. The variety again drives my mind back to thinking about a Creator God behind the diverse colors and variety of flowers. Of course that thought stems from my belief system. I simply feel the most reasonable explanation for such awesome beauty, complexity and diversity is found in positing a God behind nature. The atheist I guess in their belief, can stand and wonder at the infinitesimal probabilities of random chance chaos popping these flowers into existence out of nothing. So no matter what your belief system is you can still be amazed at the innate beauty of wildflowers in nature.
Taking the time to break out of our busy life to drive around was a relaxing way to de-stress from the stressors of life. We came home rested with a renewed inner joy from seeing the beauty of creation. Maybe you have never taken time to do country drives or going out to nature parks in the Springtime. If you are looking for a new way to break out of the rut of your same old, same old ok life give it a try. Simply check on the internet for parks in your area to visit. Do a search for what wildflowers are natural to your state and area and see where there have seen sightings. Then take a weekend morning or afternoon drive to savor the wildflowers of your areas.
Here are a few websites on wildflowers to explore. The first is the section of the U.S. Forest service website on wildflowers. Then of course being here in Texas I list two websites about wildflowers here in Texas. We live in large diverse country so the Forest Service website showcases information on wildflowers in each geographic area.
U.S. Forest Service - http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers
Texas Wild Flowers - http://texas.wildflowersightings.org
Texas Blue Bonnets - http://www.bluebonnetlove.com
Reflection: Do you take time to notice the Springtime flowers? Do you find yourself too busy for that? Maybe that is a sign you are too busy. Slow down and take time to smell the roses and be awed by the natural beauty of the flowers in your local area.