Monday, May 23, 2016

"Put On a Happy Face!"

Years ago when I was a sophomore in high school, two senior girls approached me as I was grabbing books from my locker.

"You are always smiling," one of them stated.

Uncertain where this was going, I smiled and nodded.

"See, she's smiling," the same girl said.

The other girl nodded in agreement. "I'll bet you can't go five minutes without smiling," she said, challenging me.

Forcing a frown, I assured both girls that I could avoid smiling for that long. I lost the bet about 3 minutes later. I can't remember now what inspired the smile, but I do remember that I couldn't help it. It just bubbled out.

"Ha, I knew it," the first girl accused. Laughing, she and her friend went on their merry way, leaving me feeling a bit confused. Was it a bad thing to be cheerful? Shrugging, I decided not to worry about it. Those two girls didn't know me. They didn't understand the tough year I had been enduring, nor the challenges I had faced. Things were far from good at home--my father had developed some health problems and he was often irrational about silly things. It was also the year that I gained my testimony and there had been some overwhelming trials as I had journeyed down that path. I had learned along the way that I much preferred laughter over tears, and tried to surround myself with inspiring quotes, pictures, and music.

I'm still that way. I love surrounding myself with items that inspire or make me smile. Home is indeed my sanctuary--a place to recharge my batteries when life has been less than pleasant. Here I can relax and unwind, and smile. ;)

Numerous birds hang out in our trees, and I enjoy hearing them sing throughout the day. Colorful finches nibble at the seeds in our bird-feeder. Hummingbirds frequent our flowers and a special liquid feeder we've hung up just for them.

On my walls are pictures of family members and friends. Varied keepsakes line the top of my piano. Inspiring and whimsical plaques are wonderful reminders of what is important.

In short, these items bring comfort and perspective. They remind me who I am, and who I'm trying to be. And most of them inspire smiles. 

About 3-4 years ago, my husband and I met up with two of my closest friends from my high school days. We met inside what used to be the drugstore that my dad had managed in the small town of Ashton. It has since been remodeled into a charming pizzeria/sandwich shop, and the old-fashioned soda fountain has been maintained, complete with the tasty treats I used to make for customers years ago--shakes, malts, floats, etc.

We had a wonderful visit as my friends and I reminisced about our adventures years ago. What impressed my husband the most was how much we laughed as we talked. We had all been through some tough things, but we could find the humor in those experiences, and tried to focus on the positive, rather than dwell on the negative.

I suspect that is one of the great challenges of our current time--focusing on the positive things that are taking place. It's easy to get caught up in the negativity that surrounds us. Watching the news is often less than inspiring these days. I find that I have to watch an old silly comedy before I go to bed at night to shake off the gloom. I also take comfort in reading the scriptures before winding down for the night.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that it's okay to smile! It's a great thing if you can find a reason to laugh in the midst of hardship.

When we were young, my siblings and I often endured watching a silly show entitled, "Hee Haw." Our father loved it and he was trying to share his enthusiasm. It wasn't my favorite, but there were some golden moments, like this set of lyrics that we often sang later on when life was less than fun. They are as follows:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression,  excessive misery
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me!
(written by: Buck Owens & Roy Clark)

As my siblings and I made fun of this song, it always made us smile. I'm sure our exaggerated performances were inspiring. Regardless, it was a great way to snap out of feeling sorry for ourselves. ;)

So, on days when you find yourself feeling a little down, find those things that make you smile. Realize it's better than okay to be cheerful. Be the bright spot in someone else's day. It will make all the difference in this troubled world.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Surviving Life's Storms

It has been a while since I composed a blog post. Life seemed to pick up speed with company coming, helping relatives move, and a little thing known as trigger finger. I've endured that last challenge before, and ended up having surgery on my left thumb to repair things. This time it's my right thumb that has been acting up, and since I'm right-handed, it has been less than pleasant. I've been wearing a special brace that is helping, and the swelling is diminishing, as is the tendency for the joint to lock in place. We're hoping to avoid surgery this time around--guess we'll see. Joys of diabetes combined with rheumatoid arthritis. Character building moments. ;) And all of these interesting spring storms aren't helping.

A couple of nights ago, we survived a particularly intense storm in our area. The wind picked up speed and blew in dark clouds. Rain descended in a frantic fury. It came down so hard, I was kind of glad I haven't been able to plant anything yet like flowers, garden, etc. I wasn't sure anything would've survived the impact. Suddenly the sky lit up as the storm morphed into a lightening show, complete with booming thunder. One blast hit so close, it seemed as though our entire house shook. Needless to say, I didn't fall asleep very early that night--the storm held my rapt attention.

Is it me, or have there been more than the usual amount of storms occurring lately? Watching the weather channel is transfixing these days. I'm not sure I've ever seen so many varying natural disasters compliments of Mother Nature take place in such a short period of time. It seems to go along with what is happening in our personal lives. People are being hit from every direction with all kinds of challenging moments.

It made me think of another time--a year when everything seemed to hit the fan at the same time. It was 1983, the year my first son was born. In that one year, I was placed on insulin permanently--I developed blood clots in the main vein of my left leg--and just as I was literally getting back on my feet, my father committed suicide. Although a wonderful event had occurred with the birth of our son, in many ways, it was a terrible year--one major emotional storm after another until I felt like I was drowning.

One of the things that helped me through was writing out everything I was feeling. On the nights I couldn't sleep, I filled page after page with inner pain, shredding these pages into the garbage when I was finished. I didn't realize it, but I was doing my own form of therapy. And in time, I was hooked on writing. I felt better when I wrote things out. I just wish I would've kept some of what was written. For nearly 2 years of my life, there is no written record of any kind--but maybe it's better that way.

Two years later, I began writing a story. It was in essence my story, but I changed some of the circumstances to make it easier to read and write. That was the first manuscript I ever put together. It was entitled, "Still Water Runs Deep," my first attempt at writing a novel. Eight years later my sixth attempt at composing a manuscript was published by Covenant Communications, the book that would eventually be known as "Kate's Turn."

Something good and positive came out of a situation that was devastating. It's a lesson I've tried to remember: good things can come out of difficult times. I know I was strengthened in many ways.For instance, I learned to rely on my Father in heaven as night after sleepless night I poured out my heart to Him. He alone understood the pain in my heart. Actually, there was Someone Else who understood what I was going through, my Savior, Jesus Christ. He truly has endured every pain any one of us will ever suffer. (See Alma 7:11)

But there were days when some of the self pity stuff would surface. I remember one day I was feeling quite blue about losing my dad. I picked up my guitar and began composing what I thought would be a sad song, something to express what I was feeling. To my annoyance, it morphed into an upbeat ditty about hanging in there during challenging times. (Yes, I believe our Heavenly Father possesses a sense of humor.) Regardless, that particular song became quite popular in our area. I performed it on several programs, and was later asked to record it on a cassette tape the high school music teacher put together that year with a lot of the local talent. They used the title of my song as the title of the cassette since it was the only original song performed, and we didn't have to worry about copyright adventures. ;) Ironically, it was about surviving life storms. I'll conclude this post by sharing the words to that song. And when storms descend in our lives, remember, there is always hope, no matter how dark the skies may seem:

Colors of the Rainbow

1st  Ev’ry so often, storms will come our way
Sometimes they’ll stay forever, sometimes for just a day
And when the wind is howling and the clouds block out the sun
And the crackling sound of lightening, strikes fear in ev’ry one
Hold on tight together as the rain starts pouring down
For the colors of the rainbow will soon come, shining ‘round.

2nd Ev’ry so often, trials will come our way
Sometimes they’ll stay forever, sometimes for just a day
And when your heart is breaking and the pain blocks out life’s light
And the hope for a new tomorrow, never seems in sight
Hold on to one another as the rain starts pouring down
For the colors of the rainbow will soon come, shining ‘round
(Repeat 1st verse)

Cheri J. Crane