Are You Merrily Rowing Downstream?

I’m sure you all remember this song we learned as children: “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.  Life is but a dream.”  It was fun to sing, particularly if you had people around to begin singing it along with you at various intervals.  It sort of went on and on and on, and I remember being practically delirious all those years ago with the delight of multiple children’s voices mindlessly making music together.  And the words were so simple.  

Two weeks ago, my minister asked his congregation to take a closer look.

What do the words mean?  Really?  Row your boat merrily gently downstream.   If you go “gently” downstream and row as if rowing mattered, life is but a dream.  Do you think the writer of the ditty meant something more than we as children interpreted it?  Or is it  another case of someone interpreting too deeply and spoiling all the fun?

In my book, Skipping Stones, my character Sam writes a note of encouragement to Jess, who has finally (and fearfully) decided to break her silence about the abuse going on in her home and free herself and her children to live without fear.   In the note, he includes a quote that I found a while ago:  “I stand, I reach, I yearn, I bellow, and finally I live.  What do you do?”  Notice the sequence of the words.  He was telling Jess, and I was encouraging all women in abusive situations, to take a stand, to dare to dream, to cry and to get angry and yell out – to bellow, in fact.  But to finally be what she was meant to be.  And truly live.

What does Sam’s message to Jess have to do with the song about rowing downstream and being merry about it?  A lot.  Because if we float along, pretending that we’re not being carried along by the tide, and even assume merriment along the way,we’re dreaming.  We’re not really living.  “Life is but a dream.”

The two messages, and, I dare say, mine, is that being simply safe is never good enough.

I sign off with one more quote:  “It is never too late to be the person you were meant to be.”  George Eliot

Be the Gull!

One of my favorite books is Jonathon Livingston Seagull. In it, Jonathon risks family, friends, and his own safety to reach his full potential in order to realize his dream to fly higher, to see the world in a different perspective, and to encourage others to do the same. In my book, Skipping Stones, after reading about Jonathon, Josh, Ben and Katie vow to “Be the Gull!” and whisper their own individual dreams to each other outside their home on New Year’s Eve. The statement becomes their mantra and motivates them to begin their journey to break out of their lethargy and to escape from the violence they endure inside their home. They dare to dream, and their intent to pursue their goals encourages Jess to find her voice and to finally communicate to the people she loves and trusts how she and her children live.

The story of Jonathon is inspirational for all of us and reminds us that each of us is unique and has particular gifts to offer to the world. We have the right – the responsibility – to use our gifts and to pursue our dreams, however simple or lofty they might be. When that right is taken away, we are lost.

Today Is Here;Use It

A long time ago, right after reading my first book, Bottled Butterfly, a friend emailed me a section from a book entitled Eternal Echoes by John Donahue that says, essentially, that the human heart is never still, that the sense of self is never fixed, and that, in ways, our inner lives are nomadic. He quotes Hegel, who wrote that “Longing is the deepest and most ancient voice in the human soul. It is the secret source of all presence, and the driving force of all creativity and imagination.” Both suggest that if we stop dreaming, if we stop searching for whatever it is that we long for, we stop living in a sense and suggest that “maybe we would be as good as dead.”

My Nellie, in Bottled Butterfly, had a dream that no one but she could believe in, and she struggled throughout her childhood and young adult years against incredible adversity – poverty, illiteracy, prejudice – to accomplish her goals. Josh, in Skipping Stones, did the same, under entirely different circumstances, and risked everything important to him to help his aunt and cousins believe in possibilities and free themselves from the cruelty in their home.

Without dreams, we merely exist; without hope, we are lost. Now go out there and, as Josh says, “grab the tail of the wind and go for the gusto.”
Today is here. Use it.

Dancers in the Rain

I’ll never forget a book club presentation I made in Naples, Florida, two years ago. There were around thirty very well-read, sophisticated, involved women discussing with me all of the trials and tribulations Nellie, the protagonist in Bottled Butterfly, had endured and why she had not only survived it all, but had actually thrived. One quite beautiful and elegant woman raised her hand and quietly summarized our thoughts for us, quoting a saying that she had come across a long time ago and that she tried to remember every single day since: “Life isn’t about weathering the storm; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

After our discussion, several of the lady’s friends came to me and discreetly told me that she had had a very tragic life, but she had never given up. She had laughed, listened, shared, encouraged. She had become a role model for every woman she met. She saw the glass half-full, not half empty. She had presence, dignity, a sense of humor, and quiet wisdom.

I’m sure that you’ve met women like the bookclub lady. I know that I have, and I hope to emulate them when it comes my turn to determine what kind of person I’ll strive to be when faced with pain.

I hope that your day and all of your tomorrows will be bright ones. And if they are not, I hope you’ll remember my Nellie and the lady who had done more than just weather the storm. I hope that you’ll becomee dancers in the rain.

I want to share with you some words that popped into my head this morning as I began to prepare for the day: “It’s never too late to be the person you’ve always wanted to be.” I don’t remember if someone sent me these inspiring words or if I read them in a book or magazine, but I’ve obviously never forgotten them. They are a constant reminder to me to keep pushing myself, to continue to try my darndest to keep growing, and to never become stagnant. I think we all have thoughts, from time to time, about just how well we’re doing each day, and sometimes we feel as though we’re coming up a little short. During those times, I hope that you’ll remember this quote and keep in mind that it’s never too late to try something new or to rev up our efforts to achieve our dreams. As a great friend of mine said, “Life is a journey; not a destination. Keep the dream alive!

Have a delicious day.

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Living Thoughtfully, One Day at a Time

Remember the old saying, “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks”?  Well, I’ve learned that that particular adage is simply not true.  Here I am, shortly before 5:00 am, writing my very first blog, putting myself out there, finally taking the “big step” in all this social media stuff, not entirely sure that I even know how to post this.  Of course, I’ve had a lot of help along the way from Your Friendly Geeks and a considerable amount of encouragement from my husband; but now it’s up to me.  And here I am, not so patiently awaiting the publishing of my second book, Skippiing Stones.  And maybe, just maybe, if I challenge my mind and stay alert to the world around me and keep believing, I’ll write at least one more (the key to being taken seriously) and realize my dream of becoming a writer, not simply an author. Some would say I’m an old dog, but I’m out to prove that I can learn new tricks and that this “old dog” isn’t done yet.

If you stay with me, you’ll realize that following your dreams, refusing to just stumble along in life and being strong in the face of adversity are themes that run throughout what I’ve written and intend to write.  My beloved Nellie, in my first novel, Bottled Butterfly, overcame poverty, a dysfunctional family, no education, a cheating husband and countless other heartaches, standing tall and proud and eventually finding the courage to break away and follow her dreams.  So did Jess in Skipping StonesBeautiful, educated and wealthy, with two bright and thoughtful children, Jess seemingly has it all. But just beneath her exterior is tremendous suffering: she married the man she believed in – her prince, her knight in shining armor – only to discover that her prince is an abuser.  On the surface, Nellie and Jess seem very different from one another, but they really aren’t.  Both had dreams shattered; both found inner strength and ways to heal.  In the end, both followed their dreams.

I can see that the sun is beginning to rise, and I don’t want to miss the event (yes, it’s taken me that long to write this).  So I’ll sign off with one final thought that I read several months ago on a wall in a hamburger joint:  What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?  I have no idea who put those words together, but I love it.  Let’s all remember that the possibilities for all of us – regardless of our ages or circumstances – are endless if we chisel away at our fears.  I hope your day is excellent.