Daily Joys and Simple Pleasures

Daily Joys and Simple Pleasures

“Can YOU Believe it?”

It’s a common question after reading the headlines or listening to the news. Piece after personal piece of information regarding the lives of our elected officials and out of office celebrities. The media is abuzz with news of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child, Maria Shriver’s succinct and personal plea to respect the privacy of her and her family as they work through the trauma and tangle of their family issues.

The Reverend Bill Graham has thankfully been released from the hospital and is at home recovering from the impact of his bout with pneumonia.  It is a  balancing element that I remember something he said when headlines were again evoking a “can you BELIEVE it” response.  Rev. Graham has been a treasured advisor to many a public figure, including numbers of Presidents.  And in the midst of the news, speculation and judgements about President Nixon, Billy Graham gently reminded, “Everybody has a little bit of Watergate in him.”


Just this morning a friend of mine who lives in Iowa was expressing a lesson she is in her fifth decade of trying to learn…overtly passing judgement on the path of another hardly ever leads to a positive end.  Learn.  Take a lesson.  Use the news to become more responsible and reflective about the specific and immediate events of your life.  Recognize the tenants and guiding principles that direct the path of your own life – and celebrate them.  And in all this, amidst the buzz of the latest news flash, hear the grace that Rev. Graham was able to express.  We all carry challenge, burden and the results of less than stellar decisions.  Every human faces their humanity in the mirror, daily.  And some humans, those who live with the companion of international celebrity, look in that mirror with thousands of others looking over their shoulders.


For me, in this day, I am being circumspect in my assessments toward the lives of others.  It is not my place to join the fray and cast my stones against the back of another.  Today, I will choose to look in the mirror of my own choices, with grace and forgiveness…knowing that my road is my own.  Compassion in my own mirror allows for a little more compassion as I glance at the lives of others.

If a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do.  Think up something appropriate and do it.  – Edgar Watson Howe –

If a man wants to be of the greatest possible value to his fellow-creatures, let him begin the long, solitary task of perfecting himself.  – Robertson Davies –


Though familiarity may not breed contempt, it takes off the edge of admiration.  – William Hazlitt –

Fame is the sum of the misunderstanding that gathers about a new name.  – Rainer Maria Rilke –

The world, like an accomplished hostess, pays the most attention to those whom it will soonest forget. – John Churton Collins –


National High Blood Pressure and Stroke Awareness Month

Thirty nine years ago today my mother died. I was thirteen years old. I heard things around the house like, “The doctor said I needed to take a higher dose of my blood pressure medication.” I had no real concept of what high blood pressure actually was. I knew enough to associate it with limited patience and a short temper. That’s about it.

The last year of my mother’s life a family friend cared enough to alert me to the signs of a stroke. I remember I was supposed to look for a crooked smile.  Perhaps if, at thirteen, I’d been near the “information highway” I would have known the acronym FAST –

Face:  Ask the person to smile. Is one side dropping? (Crooked smile)

Arms:  Ask the person to raise both arms…is one arm drifting downward?


Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase.  Are the words difficult to understand?

Time:  Is of the utmost importance…if any of these signs are present, call 9-1-1. Immediately.

The heart is a complex and amazing instrument.  It does so many crucial functions in our system and, of course, there are so many things that could go wrong.  I was on the look out for the signs of a stroke…but not the signs of a heart attack.  In the 39 years since my Mother’s death I’ve learned that heart attack symptoms can appear very differently in women than men.  And, just as my mother did, many women discount their symptoms of pain and discomfort and march on – assuming they will just get through it.  Those signs are less apparent than the signs of a stroke…


  • shortness of breath
  • weakness
  • unusual fatigue

Women also have these symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Lower chest discomfort
  • Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort that may feel like indigestion
  • Back pain

An author whose work I follow posted an experience that has haunted me.  She had to cancel some of her appearances because she was hospitalized.  She thought she was having a heart attack.  Turns out she wasn’t!  Good news.  But the part of her story that has stayed with me is this…she was very proud of the fact that before she went to the hospital she took a shower and put on clean underwear.  She delightedly reported that she thought her mother would be especially proud of the clean underwear part.  In treating issues related to our one and only heart, TIME is of the essence.  Time, TIME is far more significant than clean underwear.  Am I being bossy on this?  Yes.  I am.


In the month ( a whole month) set aside to paying attention to two traumatic maladies, high blood pressure and strokes, let me underscore the whole notion of Self Care.  Every day we each invest in the legacy of our health by the choices we make on behalf of our bodies.  Paying attention to the signs our bodies provide is an important element.  Too often we over ride the clear and purposeful signals our bodies are sending.  This is a great day to pause, observe and ask yourself, “What might my body be telling me about my own health matters this moment?”


Poetry or Promises

I am so happy to learn that the great elucidator, Billy Graham, has returned home after his stay in the hospital and his waltz with pneumonia. I wish him continued strength and solid recovery. These were my thoughts as I headed out the door to walk to the post office.

Walk rather than ride? Driving the car is a time saver. Walking is an earth-saver. “It’s not raining. I should walk. I have so much to do today, I should drive. Walk/drive/walk/drive?”
The earth and the walk won out.

After I finish feeling joyful for Rev. Graham’s good news, I reflect on something I wrote a few months ago. WE HAVE TO MOVE OVER A LITTLE TO MAKE ROOM ON THE ROAD FOR POETRY.

I start looking around. I slow my pace. There’s my favorite neighborhood dog. His stalwart red nose peeks out from his rain-proof dog igloo. “How civil,” I muse. “He keeps to himself to the civil hour of lunch.” A glance to my left informs my sight. Something I zoom by all the time…an overgrown garden. It just looks messy when I’m zooming by in a car. On foot, with eyes open, it looks like a promise trying to keep itself. A tilting gate, swung slightly open. A tentative invitation. An overgrown path leading to little hide-away spots.
Who imagined this and first made it? How did it get left behind? Who wanders in the wonder now?


“Wouldn’t you figure?” the sarcastic voice that had earlier advocated the use of the car asked at the postal counter. Today I received a 42 pound box. My postmistress is amused as I tuck my book (yes, I walk with a book) in the back of my pants…we laugh. “If the t.v. cops can put a gun there, I can probably manage a book!”

I shoulder the box and head home. As I near the hill climb to my home, my thoughts are not on the poetry around me but rather my posture appropriately supporting this weight.

A driver whoooshes past me, turns around and pulls alongside me. I’ve never seen her before and our introduction confirms that we’ve never met. “That looks mighty heavy, do you want a lift?”

There’s the poetry. The big dog in the back is eager for my company and I am happy for the kindness of a stranger. As I let myself into my home I smile, realizing I moved over and made room on the road for poetry.



Perhaps you have heard that the Rev. Billy Graham is struggling with pneumonia and has been hospitalized. The man who’s faith and stories have impacted the lives of millions of people, around the globe, is facing a difficult road. And while he is surrounded by people who love and respect him, for a few years now, he’s been walking this road without his precious wife, Ruth Bell Graham.

When I think of Rev. Graham I must also think of Ruth. They go together in my memory and thoughts. Ruth penned a beautiful book called, SITTING BY MY LAUGHING FIRE which was a snapshot, in poetry, of her life of home and faith.

So often when a public figure faces terminal or dire illness, the focus goes to that individual. It’s natural. I’ve been the one, quite ill, and I’ve been the caretaker of one very ill. I sat with my own papa several times through the icy grip of pneumonia.   In my own experience I’ve yet to define which is the more difficult role.


Ruth’s life ended almost four years ago.  In that, she is not facing this long walk that Rev. Graham is now on.  Caring for one so very ill is a burden and a joy.  It is heartbreaking and rewarding.  In it a person discovers the full spectrum of human experience from the less stellar but truly human feelings of bitterness and resentment to the compassionate understanding and acceptance of the circumstances -just as they are.  Ruth Bell Graham understood and forgave herself the one side of the spectrum and always aspired to the other side: grace, calm acceptance and faith in all things.

My wishes for Billy Graham today are that he is as pain free as he can be, that he is comfortable, that he rests sweetly in the palm of the hands of the angels that surely are ministering to him and take his core strength from his standing with his Creator.  And I have one more wish for him.  That some time in the day, while he is resting but somewhat awake, the brush of a hand on top of his reminds him of his precious, equal partner,  Ruth.  And in that, may he sense that she is with him, as always, sitting by her laughing fire.


“Is the tree that’s pruned
preoccupied with pain?
–standing with its wound
in the wind and rain;
shrouded in cool mist,
kissed by the dew,
chosen for a nest
by a bird or two;
enveloped by fragrance
of rainwahsed air,
bloodroots and violets
clustered round it there…”


and some of Ruth’s thoughts on prayer

“Men of God, whose prayers are recorded for us in the Bible, never read a book on prayer, never went to a seminar on prayer, never heard a sermon on prayer. They just prayed.”

“Start praying where you are, as you are, about whatever concerns you, about whatever is lying most heavily on your heart, about whatever is irritating or frustrating you at present.”

“Be pointed. Be persistent. Be patient. But pray.”

If you would like to learn more about the life of Rev. Billy Graham, this is an excellent resource:


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