Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up (Book Notes)

Many years ago, I read The Out-of-Sync Child to better understand Sensory Processing Disorder (aka Sensory Integration Dysfunction) since both Olivia and Sophia have it. There was a companion book, The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, which had many ideas for doing engaging and fun activities with children who have SPD.

As the girls became older children and teens, the activities weren't as age appropriate. So, when I saw The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up by Carol Stock Kranowitz I knew I needed to read it so I could learn more about how to help the girls as they went through their teenage and adult years.

The book is a combination of information about SPD, strategies for dealing with different elements of SPD, and essays by teens and parents of teens who have SPD. This blend of perspectives was very insightful and provided good information and ideas for moving forward with the girls. Many of the strategies we already use. However, there were some new ideas that we can try as well as reassurance that the girls aren't the only ones experiencing these challenges. 

Some things that stood out that I want to remember:
- Certain boys and girls respond to unremarkable experiences in remarkably unusual ways. They may resist going places and being with other people. They may reject huge...or crave them constantly. They may go, go, go...of lack get-up-and-go. They may dress sloppily, eat only pasta, drop and break everything, whimper or rage over "nothing" for no apparent reason, insist on doing things their way, and act immaturely for their age, even as they grow. With their late and slow, or rapid and intense, or otherwise "off" responses, they seem out of sync with other people and the world.
- SPD occurs in the central nervous system when one's brain can't react typically to sensory messages, coming from one's body and environment, in order to function smoothly in daily life.
- "I was 11 when I finally learned to ride a bike because of my balance issues and 18 when I learned to drive because I had trouble with space and where the car was on the road and especially with parking."

Sophia's first bike ride of the year.
(April 5, 2011)

- "I was notoriously messy. My room looked like a tornado ran through it..."
- "As you get older, you'll be more aware and in tune with your body....I have learned to control how I respond to sensory challenges."
- "I tolerate irritants, like having my teeth cleaned, because I know they will go away."

Sophia pulling out Olivia's wiggly tooth.
(April 23, 2014)

- Auditory-language skills, based on the auditory sense, enable a person not just to hear sounds and words but to understand and respond to them. Activities dependent on good auditory-language skills include:
     => Listening to the teacher, remembering and following directions
     => Articulating speech sounds clearly enough to be understood
     => Engaging in conversations, answering questions, and making apt comments
     => Using language for verbal and written self-expression
     => Using auditory feedback to self-monitor voice volume
- Imagine extreme examples of what things feel like. Imagine wearing scratchy sandpaper clothes that make you itch all over, all day. Imagine washing your face in a buck of perfume. Imagine feeling as if you're going to fall off a cliff when you walk a few steps. Imagine sitting right near the stage, next to a rock band's amplifier.
- The goal is to help all children and adults manage their sensory challenges so they can lead satisfying, productive lives.
- A subtype of Sensory Modulation Disorder is sensory over-responsivity - causing the person is a "sensory avoider" to shrink from stimuli (e.g., malodorous, spicy, jolting and prickly stimuli, but also mild everyday stimuli can quickly make the sensory avoider irritated...very irritated...or angry and thoroughly miserable."
     => Light, unexpected touch can be bothersome. Being kissed or caressed makes them uncomfortable.

Olivia wearing a fireman's hat at the 
annual fire department's open house.
This was a challenging experience wearing
the hat and something over her face.
(October 9, 2007)

- For sensory cravers, there's the interoceptive subtype. Someone can eat a whole pizza or a gallon of ice cream, and then some more, to get the sensation of being full.
- For Sensory Discrimination Disorder, there's a vestibular subtype. An example would be never learning to ride a bike because of poor coordination and balance.
- There's a visual subtype. An example is learning how to drive. A teen could have difficulty knowing where the car is on the road, where other cars are in relationship to hers, and especially how to parallel park.

Sophia is driving the Jeep so she can bring in a load of pumpkins.
She's 10 years old in this photo.
She's driving from the field and through the pasture. 
She opted not to drive through the backyard and to the driveway.
(October 16, 2011)

- The auditory (hearing) subtype means that someone could have difficulty understanding jokes and puns, a teacher's verbal instructions, or what a friend just told her.
- The gustatory (taste) subtype means that they can't discriminate when she has a bad taste in her mouth and should brush her teeth.
- Self-blame abounds. Teenagers with SPD may feel week and inadequate. They may wonder, "If other people can tolerate noise, odors, escalators, and wool mittens, if other people can keep calm in stimulating situations, if other people can do this and that, why can't I?"
- Some teens attempt to cope by turning away from other people and becoming loners.
- "If someone with SPD says something's bothering them, take it seriously. If it isn't fixed, it will get worse and worse."
- "We're just like everyone else, except more sensitive to sound, sight, touch, smell, everything in our environment."
- "If I say I need a minute or two, give me time and do not rush me. Don't punish me for needing a break."

The girls resting with some of the pets on the bed.
They would alternate between homeschooling and resting.
(April 2, 2013)

- Strategy for sensory demands that give a person trouble: Break it down into its sensory components. For example, with toothbrushing: Does the toothbrush hurt your gums? Does the taste or smell of the minty toothpaste with artificial sweeteners gross you out? Figure out what type of toothbrush works best and what type of toothpaste is palatable.
- For shaving: use a shaving cream with a texture and scent you like to help with desensitizing the skin. You can also use deep pressure to massage on the shaving cream.
- Challenges with clothing: "I don't like the tag's feel against my skin....It's too tight."
- Some teens with sensory challenges like their clothing loose; others like it tight. Some like it hot, preferring layers; other like it cold, wearing shorts, t-shirts, and sandals in the winter.

Girls wearing loose dresses. 
These were the most comfortable for them 
since they were tight against their skin.
(March 23, 2008)

- "I would scratch so hard because the pain of cuts felt better than what the clothes felt like on my skin."
- "I would take burning hot baths until my skin would turn red." (This is being under-responsive to temperatures.)
- Buy clothes a side too large; they will give you less skin friction. Or, if snug clothes are more comfortable, wear bodysuit shapewear underneath.
- Look for tagless shirts to avoid the irritation and stinging.
- At home, go barefoot or just wear socks.

Sophia cutting fabric. She wears socks in indoors.
Olivia prefers to go barefoot indoors and 
not wear socks - even when wearing shoes or boots.
(July 20, 2009)

- Consider buying "preconditioned" clothing from a consignment or thrift shop.
- In the house during the winter, use a humidifier to keep humidity in the range of 40-60 percent to reduce static and prevent dry, itchy skin.
- Find activities involving deep pressure that desensitize your skin and feel good, such as having someone push against you, being rolled over and under a big therapy ball, and relaxing under a weighted blanket.
- Always put some food on the table that the choosy eater finds acceptable.

Olivia helping make homemade pickles.
Pickles are one thing that she enjoys eating.
Lunches and dinners often times include pickles.
(September 1, 2010)

- Driving: avoid busy streets, because there may be too much going on to process the movements, noises, lights, and so on. Practice a long time on easy roads before going out on highways and more traffic.
- Do hatha yoga.
- "I became aware that I can't understand what the person next to me is saying because there is so much noise."
- When the going gets tough, sit down and pull over - and breathe. Don't push yourself past your breaking point.
- Use the time you spend traveling from place to place to learn new things. Listen to soothing music if you must concentrate on driving. Listen to audiobooks and interesting interviews if you are traveling on the bus, train, or airplane.

Music we've checked out of the library.
(Taken on June 28, 2013)

- Drape a "lap buddy" (pillow or tube sock filled with beans or fish-tank  gravel) on your thighs or shoulders to provide calming weight.
- Fidget with handheld items that are appropriate for the place (Chinese therapy balls at home, squeezable gadgets in public places).
- Advocate for yourself in a school setting and let instructors know if certain things bother you or if you need extra time and a quiet room for exams.
- Spend lots of time outdoors, ideally in the country or woods. Looking, listening, and moving outdoors will enrich your understanding not only of the subject you're studying, but also of biology and earth science.

Girls enjoying being outdoors.
They are exploring the pond in the west pasture.
(Taken on March 30, 2011.)

- Listening to instrumental music when your work involves reading and writing; and music with lyrics when work is manual - like painting or raking.
- Get at least 30 minutes of whole-body exercise preferably outdoors, every day and at least three hours before you go to bed.
- For two hours before going to sleep, avoid electronics that can interfere with relaxation and suppress the release of melatonin, which brings on drowsiness.
- Relax with a calming activity: rock in a rocking chair; take a warm bath; read a real book or magazine.

Olivia reading to Montague.
(Taken on December 3, 2012.)

- Block out house or street sounds with a fan or white noise machine.
- Ways to create a sense of belonging: Do activities together such as preparing food, walking the dog, doing errands, watching a movie, playing board games, organizing photographs, or designing scrapbooks.
- Become "compassionate collectors." A socially-active enterprise has innumerable benefits for the family and community. Not only does this work encourage mindfulness of others, but it also nourishes the sensory systems and develops praxis. Examples: grow and/or prepare food to bring to a shelter for homeless people. Collect clothes, toiletries, and cosmetics or food; and then sorting, boxing, lifting, and carrying the items to a shelter.

Sophia and Olivia with some of the books they collected
to create the first-ever library in Lesotho, Africa.
(Taken on May 30, 2012.)

- "My inability to pick up on social cues, coupled with my mental and emotional dysfunction...skewed my thought process. My extracurriculars were nonexistent."
- "I developed an addiction to the internet. When I wasn't in class, I was on the computer....I never went to parties, never drank, and never did drugs. I didn't go to parties...because I felt like I needed a direct invitation."
- "I rarely had contact with other members outside of group events....I still feel like I need permission to join in with others."
- "Accumulated sensory input, especially noise, can be way too much to handle, which is why I often isolate myself in my room with the door shut."
- "Those of us with SPD spend more time with our families than with peers, especially if family members are caring and accepting and try not to push our buttons."

The girls' First Communion.
Olivia was almost 7 years old and
Sophia just turned 9 years old.
(Taken on January 10, 2010.)

- "While our self-confidence may not grow as quickly, and we may not be as well prepared for adulthood, we still benefit greatly from having tight-knit family bonds."

The girls with my mom and me.
A rare three-generation photo.
(Taken on February 9, 2014)

One of the mothers of a daughter with SPD said, "Raising my daughter has been one of my most joyful and rewarding challenges." I couldn't agree more!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Something That Made Me Happy - June (Dandelion Cottage)

Although there were many things that made me happy during June, one of the things that didn't have to do with family was reading the  book Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin.

Originally, I heard about this book in a homeschooling magazine. The focus of the article was on reading it aloud to one's children and then discussing the character qualities of the main characters and bringing elements of the book alive.

It ended up that by the time the local library was able to order it from another library in Minnesota, it was June. Sophia was heading into three weeks of back-to-back camp programs and Olivia was deep into preparing her 4-H projects for the fair.

So, I read the book myself. As I got into it, I realized that it would have been a delightful book to read to the girls when they were much younger. At 17 and 15 years old now, they are a bit too "old" for the book.

Olivia and Sophia at the Lions Community Breakfast.
(Taken in December 2017 when the girls were 14 and 16 year old.)

That being said, as I read the book and got deeper into the story, I found myself wishing to go back in time when things were much simpler and families were significantly more resourceful.

The book was published in 1904; and the author originally wrote it for her own children. The book focuses on four young girls who negotiate the use of a derelict cottage that belongs to a church for use as a playhouse. They are able to use the cottage because they pulled dandelions for the senior warden of the church, Mr. Black.

Sophia and Olivia with Gretel in a dandelion field.
(Taken on May 21, 2008 when the girls were 7 and 5 years old.)

They promise Mr. Black a home-cooked meal, and the girls find ways to earn money to pay for a proper meal. They sell lemonade made with a lemon, sugar, and water (not a powdered mix or frozen juice like nowadays); and take in a young female boarder who stays at the cottage for three weeks.

The girls, their siblings, and the border (Miss Blossom) all do things to improve the house and make it more sound and cozy. One of their brothers used tin from a can that was snipped and unrolled to make shingles and keep the rain out. The girls placed pictures all of the walls to hide damaged areas and holes.

This book made me happy in that for a period of time each day I treated myself to reading a story written more than 100 years ago. It was clear that - although things were financially challenging for families - there also were a lot of positive things about life back then.

As I read the book and thought about the playhouse the girls created from a shabby cottage that wasn't suitable to be rented, I thought of my sister and I playing as children in the nearby woods. We would make "houses" from sticks and limbs that had fallen to the ground. We created bedrooms and kitchens for our homes. There was so much imaginative play that we did...and we could lose track of time because we were having so much fun.

My sister and I sitting on the couch that 
was covered with a sheet.
(Taken in 1969.)

Thinking about these types of things makes me happy. My childhood was one that mirrored some aspects of the girls portrayed in Dandelion Cottage. They, too, played with dolls; enjoyed decorating their rooms and play space; did gardening; enjoyed cooking; and had tea parties.

Sophia and Olivia having a tea party with 
Hungarian food we made.
(Taken on October 29, 2008.)

These are all things I did as a child, so as I read the book it brought back happy memories of my childhood.

After reading the book, I found out that Mr. Black is based on a real-life person: Peter White. The original Dandelion Cottage still exists and is at 440 East Arch in Marquette, Michigan. It makes me want to visit there some day to see what the story was based upon.

Dandelion Cottage.

So, Dandelion Cottage was something that made me very happy this month. It brought back so many wonderful memories of my childhood...and of my sister, brother, and parents; and of a time when things were infinitely more simple - yet meaningful.

My Favorite Photos of the Month - June 2018

During June, there were many photos that stood out for me...not because they are high-quality photos, but rather because they remind me of something fun or meaningful that we did; or were examples of beauty in chaos.

We are still recovering from the fire at our farm that happened on May 5th. In fact, there wasn't too much done with that project except the fill that was brought in to build up the area where the garage will be.

Just when we thought we had enough challenges this year, our walls leading to the cellar began to cave in more and let mud slide in and fill the drain tiling in one spot. Needless to say, that project had to be undertaken in order to protect our drain tiling and provide a safe entrance to the cellar. More on that later.

The month started out well. On June 1st, the girls and I went to Osceola, Wisconsin, for the annual Rhubarb Days picnic at the local bank. Afterwards, we stopped at Dairy Queen and got a treat, and then went for a walk to Cascade Falls. There's over 100 steps down and then back up to reach the waterfall.

On June 7th, I went around the farm to see what was blooming. The chives were doing well. They come up each year.

The bearded irises that were from my mom and dad's home bloomed this year! I'm so happy that I dug them up and transplanted them here after they died and we had to sell the house. The new owners wouldn't have appreciated their meaning as much as we do.

On June 8th, Sophia played the harp at the humane society. There were two puppies that we all had a great time playing with while Sophia was playing music and afterwards.

On June 13th, Sophia and I packaged up five boxes of items we collected through her organization, Give Life...Give Hope; and shipped them to Pine Ridge Reservation. The items will be given to the foster care system there for children who have been removed from their homes and are living with foster families.

On June 15th, the hibiscus tree that Olivia and I got at an Amish greenhouse was blooming again. Almost every day there is at least one, if not multiple, flowers of different colors.

On June 16th, the girls and I went to St. Cloud to see a quilt show. While we were there, we went to the rose gardens. Below is a rose that stood out among the other roses. It's name is Fruity Petals.

It was raining while we walked around the rose garden. Sophia carried an umbrella and we held it over the head of whoever was taking photos so the camera wouldn't get wet.

We spent two days looking at the quilts at the quilt show. Sophia entered her quilt in the youth category and received a big, colorful ribbon. Both the girls want to enter quilts in next year's show.

On June 18th, work on the garage began. Fourteen dump trucks brought in fill that built up the area where the garage will be. It's packed down now and is waiting for concrete to be poured.

On June 20th, while Sophia was at First Step Institute at St. Kate's, Olivia and I did a mini-One Stop Donation Drop at the farmers market. Below, she and Mary are looking at a broad-winged hawk from the Wildlife Science Center. We collected a variety of items to donate to organizations and people around town; throughout Minnesota and the U.S.; and globally.

On June 21st, we attended the graduation ceremony for the First Step Institute. All the girls are in 10th or 11th grade, interested in attending college, and are young women of color. It was clearly an empowering and fun week for the young ladies.

On June 28th, both Sophia and Olivia gave presentations through 4-H. The county is doing the demonstrations, informational presentations, and performing arts presentations a few weeks before the county fair. In that way, youth don't have to bring instruments and computers to the fair and have them sit outdoors in the heat and humidity.

Both the girls did very well with their presentation; enjoyed meeting with the judge; and received a blue ribbon. That means that they both get to take their informational presentation to the State Fair in late-August.

On June 29th, my 52nd birthday, my sister brought over a slide projector and many slides that my parents took. We set up a little area to watch the slides and projected them on the wall.

I saw photos that I don't ever remember seeing. The photo below shows my mom (in the pink dress) and dad (in the white shirt) with my godmother and godfather on my baptism day.

We saw photos of my mom and me by a rose bush that I ate roses from when we visited my grandparents. Actually, it may have been just my grandpa at the time because my grandma had died six weeks after I was born and I don't think he remarried quite yet when this photo was taken.

There's my dad and grandpa with me. My dad is holding a rose and my grandpa is holding a painted wooden duck. They knew what I liked - or helped shape what I liked - flowers, nature, and wildlife!

There were photos from past Christmases. The stocking I'm holding is one that my grandma (who died) had made for me even before I was born.

The fire at our farm destroyed the stocking. I didn't know if a photo had ever been taken of the stocking. Sure enough, there was! It was a bittersweet birthday gift; and I am so grateful that there is at least a photo of it.

On June 30th, the work commenced on the steps and walls leading to the cellar. This is the view from kitchen....Olivia is looking out the window as the excavator was breaking the concrete and destroying the steps. He took the concrete and dirt and piled it up to the side of the excavator. It looks like we have a miniature volcano in the backyard.

Also on the 30th, Sophia's half birthday, she donated platelets through the American Red Cross. She done that now five times.

In the afternoon, we visited Paige's stepfather and had dinner at the restaurant at his assisted living facility. Needless to say, it's a rather upscale facility. The food is phenomenal and changes every couple of weeks.

We had a nice conversation before, during, and after dinner. We learned that he was the one who did the research on the logo for Minnegasco many decades ago. This was before the internet, so he had to search in other ways to make sure that the logo infringe on any other logos throughout the United States.

The month closed out with a trip to a local greenhouse that was having a 50% sale on perennials. I bought quite a few to plant in our backyard in a garden that has been neglected for many years. I have wanted to get it back to the way it used to be in the early 2000s when I had a farm and art camp right here at our farm.

The camp counselors and volunteers would come in and do the weeding, garden maintenance, and mow the lawn. It looked beautiful then. When the camp ended, I wasn't able to maintain everything - it was just too much. Weeds took over.

This year, is the second-to-the-last summer that Sophia will be here before she heads off to college. I want the yard and home to look the way it once did...though even better. Some of the flowers I'm picking have special significance - like the purple lupines pictured above.

When we used to take the girls up north to Grand Marais we would see colorful lupines in the ditches along the road. They were so beautiful! Then, we found a book called Miss Rumphius that told the story of a lady who traveled the world, and wherever she traveled she spread lupine seeds. The seeds would grow into beautiful flowers that changed the landscape thanks to Miss Rumphius.

Anyway...I found a Pasque flower - a unique and rare wildflower that grows in Minnesota. This is a flower we studied about when doing the 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl. There was Yarrow, which was a favorite plant of Paige's mother; and Blue Phlox that was something that my grandma grew in her backyard.

So, in some ways, I'm creating a memory garden with flowers that represent people we have loved - and love - in our life.

There were quite a few photos this month that were my favorites. It's too difficult for me to choose just one since there are memories and experiences I want to remember by doing this monthly posts.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Spiritual Practices A to Z: Kindness

The next spiritual practice in the alphabetical series is Kindness. There are many great insights and ideas from Spirituality and Practice that are below. 

Spiritual Practices: Kindness
Enhances: Generosity
Balances/Counters: Selfishness

The Basic Practice

Kindness is the first of the three great treasures advocated by Lao Tzu. The Buddha taught that generosity is a primary quality of an awakened mind. Jewish and Christian ethics are built upon deeds of kindness, as are the daily interactions of people of primal traditions.

The spiritual practice of kindness encompasses a range of small acts and habits that we know as old-fashioned good manners — saying "please" and "thank you," lending a helping hand, cheering someone up with a smile, or waiting your turn. It applies not just to your relationships with other people. Etiquette in the spiritual life extends to animals, plants, things, and the Earth.

Spreading kindness at the library.
(Taken on June 14, 2014.)

This practice also means being generous with your presence, time, and  money. Give freely without expecting anything in return. Kindness is never a quid pro quo endeavor.

Why This Practice May Be For You

Few people would describe themselves as unkind, cruel, or nasty, yet we often miss the mark on this spiritual practice. Simply remember the many times you have been hurt by someone not doing something: the call that didn't come when you were feeling low, the thank you note that never appeared, the missed appointment. Now, consider how often you have neglected to act in similar circumstances. Kindness is very susceptible to the sin of omission.

Still, acknowledging that we have missed another's kindness can make us want to be kind more consistently ourselves. This is one of those situations when a negative experience has a positive outcome.

Sophia and Olivia packing up pillows to 
donate to a homeless shelter.
(January 27, 2011.)

Of course, sometimes we are simply too self-absorbed to notice that we are not being kind. Selfishness quickly undermines manners. Generosity, as well, is difficult for both the miser and the glutton.


If the earth does grow inhospitable toward human presence, it is primarily because we have lost our sense of courtesy toward the earth and its inhabitants.
— Thomas Berry quoted in Rummaging for God by Melannie Svoboda

Appreciative words are the most powerful force for good on the earth.
— George W. Crane quoted in Full Esteem Ahead by Diane Loomans

Kindness trumps greed: it asks for sharing. Kindness trumps fear: it calls forth gratefulness and love. Kindness trumps even stupidity, for with sharing and love, one learns.
— Marc Estrin quoted in Prayers for a Thousand Years edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon

Taking a tour of a food shelf and learning ways to help.
(Taken on March 19, 2012)

Be kind to people whether they deserve your kindness or not. If your kindness reaches the deserving, good for you; if your kindness reaches the undeserving, take joy in your compassion.
— James Fadiman and Robert Frager in Essential Sufism

The kindnesses of others fertilize our soul, they become a part of who we are, and we carry them and their love. We feel this when people die, how their gifts remain alive in us.
— Wayne Muller in How, Then, Shall We Live?

If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.
— William Penn quoted in Lent by Megan McKenna


I read the book How We Behave at the Feast by Dwight Currie which is essentially a book of weekly reflections. Although it is set up like this, I read it in a couple of days instead. These are things I want to remember:
- "...he comes as a guest to the feast of existence, and knows that what matters is not how much he inherits, but how he behaves at the feast, and what people remember and love him for" (from an essay by Boris Pasternak in which he voiced his hope for the youth of the post World War II era).
-  "Where there is too much, something is missing" (an old Jewish saying).
- "The hope of the world lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself." (James Baldwin)
- "Mothers are the peacemakers who, by their example, teach us that compromise doesn't mean that we have failed. Mothers are the providers who, by their own sacrifice, show us that sharing doesn't mean we'll have less. And mothers are the judges, far wiser than Solomon, who cannot love one child more than the others but can still bless all children with a love of their own."

Mom sewing a communion dress for one of the girls.
(Taken on November 18, 2009.)

- On going to have picnics at a gravesite: "Often they cried, but just as often they would laugh. Most of their memories were good ones. They felt very comfortable there, and, consequently, so did I. It was a nice place for a picnic."

My dad and mom's grave. This is my dad's side.
(Taken on May 28, 2018.)

- As long as we remember and celebrate the lives of those who are gone, our feast is in no way diminished. We will not dine with an empty chair if we choose instead to have a picnic with our memories."
- "The great not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another." (George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion)
- The next time you find yourself dining on someone's reputation, snacking on someone's feelings, or enjoying a steady diet of nothing except stories about yourself, remember you are talking with your mouth full."
- If you need to say you are sorry, say it - then accept the forgiveness that is given. If you need to end a relationship or to recover from a lost love, then do it with honesty, compassion, and grace. If your dreams are dashed, close your eyes and pray for new visions. At the same time, you must wait and watch for the next invitation. One will always come. The trouble is, you won't know you've received it if you're still mired in regrets and remorse.
- When you write a letter, it is an act of faith that there is a friend out there, a confirmation that you are never alone. A letter is always welcome. Not even e-mail or faxes (though decidedly faster and more immediate) are as satisfying and rewarding as finding a letter in your mailbox - the stationery, the hand-addressed envelope. A tangible object was created only for you, it has traveled the miles to overcome time and space, and it is now in your hand. It is a letter from a friend.
- Names are given to children at birth. The gift of a name comes with all the love and all the hope that new life inspires. Names have beginnings.

My mom, dad, and godmother coming out of 
St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Minneapolis 
on my baptismal day. 
(Taken in Summer 1966.)

- To know people's names is to acknowledge their humanity, to listen to their stories, and to share in their future.
- "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Jesus)
- We must take responsibility for our own mistakes and misdeed just as we take delight in our success and achievements.
- Charity derives from the same Latin word as cherish, caress, and care. And care rhymes with share. So, when you think of charity, you should think of what it means to care enough to share what you can spare of your cherished fare.
- We all have our quirks. And our quirks become habits, and our habits become routines, and our routines turn into the rituals that become as sacred as religious traditions. It's how we deal with the passage of time.
- Our habits save time. Our routines preserve time. Our rituals re-create time. Our traditions honor time.

Christmas has always involved having a manger set up, 
Christmas stockings hung by the fireplace, 
a decorated tree, and presents. 
This is me on my first Christmas - almost six months old.
(Taken on December 25, 1966.)

- Rituals get us started and traditions show us the way.
- We need to honor and respect all the ruts, routines, and rituals that people employ as they travel down the road of life. The ruts give them comfort, the routines keep them young, and the rituals remind them that they are not alone.
- The Ark Project is a crusade to save those savory foods that definitely take longer to prepare than they do to consume. You have to create an Ark Project all your own. You have to savor all the old family recipes that will feed and nourish you for a lifetime. The joy, the caring, and the love is in the preparation. Do good by eating - and living - well.

My 52nd birthday dinner made on the grill:
steak with onions and mushrooms; and Brussels sprouts.
(Taken on June 29, 2018.)

- The second book that I read, Heart, was written by Gail Godwin. The book takes us on a journey of  ideas, stories, and anecdotes about the heart beginning with the oldest artistic representation of the heart on a Spanish cave wall in 10,000 B.C. to the most recent books on the subject by the Dalai Lama, Thomas Keating, and Paul Pearsall.


Babe: Pig in the City is a movie that focuses on kindness through an animal that herds sheep by practicing courtesy and empathy. Now Babe again comes across as a great exemplar of kindness. He is generous and self-sacrificing.


The song Get Together by Chet Powers, was made famous by The Youngbloods. I didn't know the name of this song even though I've heard it many times. The minute I heard it, it brought back good memories of simpler times. Happy times. As Spirituality and Practice said, this song "gives us the key to kindness — smiling on our brothers and trying to love one another right now."

 In Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel, the singer goes even further. As Spirituality and Practice said, "He promises to always be there, like a bridge over troubled water, when you are weary, feeling small, down and out, on the street, and even when your time has come to shine. Here kindness is easing the mind."

When you're weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all (all)
I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

This is kind of a sad/comforting song to listen to - more like one that you would hear if you were going through a very challenging time in your life or if someone died.

Both of these songs were written during the hippie era. Maybe that's why I like them. Simple messages. Comforting. Insightful. Songs I could listen to again and again.


Mexican artist Diego Rivera shows the oppression and nobility of the poor through his paintings. In The Flower Carrier, a kneeling man is burdened by a large basket of flowers on his back. A woman lends support, adjusting the balance of the load. Although it is a small act, it is both helpful and kind.

It reminds me of some of the men and women on the street in China carrying heavy or large loads on their backs or bikes. Having someone to lighten one's load, to provide that support - even in the smallest ways - can make such a tremendous difference for the person who is struggling.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

I haven't done these cues or reminders. However, I want to keep them here because I may use them in the future:

• Watering my houseplants is a cue for me to expand my practice of kindness to animals and inanimate beings.

Cooper looking out the window at the backyard.
Lots of plants and fresh-canned strawberry jam are on the counter.
(Taken on June 26, 2014.)

• Watching someone give up their seat to an elderly person is a reminder for me to make the little kind gestures.

• Knowing how nice it is to receive compliments, I vow to praise someone as an act of kindness today.

Practice of the Day

The Buddha taught lay people the virtue of making the "seven offerings that cost nothing": . . . a compassionate eye, a smiling face, loving words, physical service, a warm heart, a seat, and lodging.
— Jiko Kohno in Right View, Right Life

To Practice This Thought: Make one of the seven offerings that cost nothing.

Olivia on horseback doing therapeutic horseback riding.
(Taken on August 21, 2007.)

Journal Exercises

This is an interesting idea that I would like to start doing at some point:

Write a portrait of "The Kindest Person I Know," including specific examples of this person's kind deeds.

Tristine Rainer in The New Diary makes an interesting observation about the value of writing portraits, especially of someone you admire: "By writing diary portraits of people who intrigue you, you enter their qualities in your book, in your space, and begin the process of recognizing and taking possession of those qualities."

Discussion Questions, Storytelling, Sharing

• Giving to others is one part of the spiritual practice of kindness. Another is being able to receive graciously the gifts of others. Which are you better at? Why?

Without going into a lot of detail, I would say that I am much better at giving to others and being kind. I enjoy thinking of ways that I can be of service and be helpful.

Receiving gifts - although always welcomed and appreciated - is, for me, harder to do. I feel like I am imposing on others.

The sensory and memory quilt I made for my dad 
after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.
(Taken on December 21, 2009.)

• Who has taught you the most about generosity and kindness? Do you think they are given enough attention in our society? Explain your views.

My parents, by far, taught me most about generosity and kindness. Their entire life revolved around hospitality, service, volunteering, and being generous with their time, experience, and skills. The way they lived their lives was inspiring, and definitely had a huge impact on the way that I have led my life and the way that I have carried on their legacy by teaching Sophia and Olivia the importance of giving of oneself to help others.

I don't think people like my parents were or are recognized enough in our society. More attention is focused on physical beauty, wealth, athletic ability, and other traits that truly don't make the positive impact on others that generosity or kindness do.

Household, Group, and Community Projects

Donate blood through local hospitals and other programs. Help organize a blood drive at your place of work or worship.

I helped call over 70 prospective blood donors for a blood drive that was held by our local Lions club in mid-June. I'm also helping call over 80 prospective blood donors for a blood drive that my daughter is coordinating on July 11th.

I've also helped Sophia with the blood drives she's hosted; and provided volunteer support for her as needed. I'll be doing the same on July 11th.

Sophia working on the blood drive that 
she hosted in March 2018.
(Taken on March 3, 2018.)

I haven't done these projects yet, though I want to list them so I can do them at some point:

Reframe household responsibilities as acts of kindness. For example, emptying the litter box is being kind to the cat. Dusting is being kind to furniture (in the sense that it is being taken care of and not neglected). Hanging up your clothes is being kind to them (I'm guessing here that Spirituality and Practice means that you are caring for your clothes and making them last longer).

Draw up a list of etiquette practices toward members of your household, pets, the place where you reside, the natural world, neighbors, etc.

Keep a bank or box in your home and deposit loose change in it. Every time you go out to dinner, you might put money to pay for another meal in the box. Hold a household council to decide how to distribute your generosity fund.

• Rabbi David Cooper points out that in the Jewish tradition it is considered a high level of charity to help people become more self-sufficient by enabling them to educate and train themselves or to start their own business. As a group, begin a Scholarship or an Entrepreneur's Fund.