Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Deliberate Acts of Kindness - Book Notes

Recently I read Deliberate Acts of Kindness by Meredith Gould. 

The author examined how service is a spiritual practice. Below are some points from the book that I found interesting: 

Eight Degrees of Tzedakah

1. To give grudgingly, reluctantly, or wit hregret;

2. To give less than one should, but with grace;

3. To give what one should, but only after being asked;

4. To give before one is asked;

5. To give without knowing who will receive it, although the recipient knows the identity of the giver;

6. To give without making known one's identity;

7. To give so that neither giver nor receiver knows the identity of the others;

8. To help another to become self-supporting, by means of a gift, a loan, or by finding employment for the one in need.

"Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead," wrote James in an epistle to members of the early church.

Buddhists...practice generosity, morality, renunciation, patience, truthfulness, determination, loving-kindness, and evenmindedness.

List what you think are totally perfect ways for you to serve, letting reason and logic dictate your choices. 

Ask yourself: "What sort of person would I like to become?"

"Fill yourselves first and then only will you be able to give to others." St. Augustine

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

- LEVEL 1 - Physiological Needs - air, water, food, clothing, shelter, sleep

- LEVEL 2 - Safety and Security Needs - order, stability, certainty, routine, familiarity, protection from fear and disease, physical safety, economic security, freedom from threat

- LEVEL 3 - Social Needs - love, acceptance, belonging, affection

- LEVEL 4 - Esteem Needs - respect and recognition from others, self-respect, a sense of prestige

- LEVEL 5 - Self-Actualization Needs - peak experiences, fulfilling a sense of self and calling, opportunities for learning and creating at higher levels

Grant us ears to hear,
Eyes to see,
Wills to obey,
Hearts to love; 
Then declare what you will, 
Reveal what you will, 
Command what you will,
Demand what you will. 
- Christina Rossetti

While it may seem only logical to serve the homeless if you've been homeless, counsel battered women if you've been one, or to do hospice work if you've watched a loved one die without dignity, you may not be emotionally ready to serve in these ways.

As you behold evidence of tragedy, waste, abuse, and simple ignorance in people's lives get into the habit of asking yourself: What would make a difference? How could I make a difference? 

Combine service work for others with R&R for yourself by looking into volunteer gigs at museums, theaters, concert halls, nature preserves, or community playgrounds. 

"The way you begin to change the world is through service." Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Gig is Right for You If...

- You not only respect but like people in charge - their values, dedication, and human decency.

- You feel immediately at home with other volunteers, sensing they're exactly the kind of folk with whom you want to spend time. 

- You experience a sense of satisfaction despite whatever frustrations and disappointments quickly - or gradually - emerge. 

The Gig is Wrong for You If...

- You feel entirely too overwhelmed by the enormity of what needs to be done. 

- You can't help but notice that everyone is a heck of a lot nicer to those being served than they are to anyone on the volunteer staff. 

- You not only start dreading the prospect of showing up, but you unconsciously - or consciously - act out by arriving late or calling in sick or too busy.

"Charity begins at home." - Terence

Agree to serve on a trial basis. Establish a mutually acceptable period of time to check out the setting, staff, and other volunteers. Committing to at least one month and preferably three will give you - and them - an opportunity to experience the match. 

Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can, 
all the times you can, 
to all the people you can, 
as long as you can.
- John Wesley

Start a prayer journal when you begin a new type or place of service. Note what you're being called upon to do and record any thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that emerge as a result. 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love, 
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy. 
O divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek 
To be consoled, as to console, 
To be understood, as to understand, 
To be loved, as to love, 
For it is in giving that we receive; 
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 
- St. Francis of Assisi

"Compassion is the only source of energy that is useful and safe." Thich Nhat Hanh 

Model loving self-care by canceling your appearance and staying home when you have a splitting headache, drippy nose, moist cough, or fever. One of your gifts to the world should not be your germs. Showing up sick is not heroic, it's inconsiderate. 

If you can't seem to arrive on time, something else - like resistance - is going on. Maybe you're in the wrong environment entirely. 

You were led to the perfect place to doing as well as being, and now you're deep into wondering: "Is it still God's grace if I hate it?" What happened? This divinely inspired service gig is not the slightest bit illuminating, it's more heart-hardening than opening, and for sure you are not having fun. Unfortunately, you're also beginning to love watching lots of incredibly stupid TV because it takes your mind off the nonsense that goes on in the name of serving others. You're feeling lousy physically, never fully able to share the dull headache...Welcome to the shadow side of service. 

Every six months, take the time to reassess what you are doing and where.

Boundaries are the limitations you set on what you perceive as insensitive behavior coming from others. The more firm the boundary, the greater your protection.

Establish a healthy separation between private and public worlds by creating a ritual to mark your entrance into and departure from service situations. 

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world." Gandhi

Do not underestimate the stress of being around a lot of noise from people, equipment, traffic, and natural disasters. The best antidote to noise is silence. Make sure you eliminate or at least significantly reduce all aural stimulation as soon as you can. Listen to soothing music on your way home. Once home, turn the phone, television, and other noise off. You need a period of silent "down time" to calm body, soul, and spirit after a tough day of giving. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Photo Scavenger Hunt

On Swap-Bot, there is a Photo Scavenger Hunt that I thought sounded fun. There was a list of ten items from which participants could choose five that they wanted to photograph. (I chose eight items since I had images for them.) 

In addition to the photograph, a little bit of information (e.g., where did I take it, is it part of a series of photos) should be included.

Black and White Photo

This photo is of firefighters from two local fire departments doing a waterball competition at our community festival a couple of weeks ago. There are three firefighters on each team and they are trying to move a metal ball past a mark on the opposing side. If they do, they score a point. 

It is very challenging for the firefighters to see where the metal ball is because of the water that is spraying in all different directions around them. There was a large crowd around the rink cheering the team. It was a lot of fun to watch. 

Something Yellow

This is one of many Maximillian sunflowers that are growing in the butterfly garden in the backyard. The pollinators - especially bumblebees - love these sunflowers. As the days and evenings get cooler, I'm noticing the bumblees' bodies slower down...almost as if they are sleeping in the center of the flower. 

Someone Working

This is my team of volunteers who were marking the booth space for one of the vendors at Taco Daze - the major fundraiser/community event for our Lions club earlier this month. 

There was a little break in the rain, so we worked quickly to get as much as we could marked. Thankfully, just as we were finishing up with marking the last vendor space, it began to rain. 

A Plate of Food

This was the first dinner that we had when we went to London. It was semi-fast-food Mexican dinner that was quite tasty. 

Although this was a good meal, what I enjoyed more while in London were the Indian meals. They were so flavorful and unlike anything that I can find near where I live.

A Wild Animal

We have been seeing anywhere from one to three deer almost every day during September. The deer walk basically the same path from east to west across our front yard. Our Ring doorbell catches the images of the deer walking the path during the day and night. They eat the grass, pears, and apples in our front yard.

This deer is under our pear tree. She stayed around it for quite a while and I enjoyed watching her find and eat food. She slowly walked away under the tall pine trees that are to her left and in front of her. 

A Reflection

This is one of my favorite pictures of Stillwater - a city about 25 minutes from where we live. 

It was a very calm day, so the St. Croix River was still. This made it a perfect day to capture a reflection of the north part of town in the river.

A Statue or Sculpture

This is a sculpture at Franconia Sculpture Park in Chisago County, Minnesota. I loved the wirework of this huge sculpture and how the sky and clouds could be seen through the wires. 

There are some permanent installations at Franconia Sculpture Park and others that change. So, no matter how often a person visits the park, there is always something new to see.

Extreme Weather

These were storm clouds that were moving in from the west in May 2008. This was a serious storm that did a lot of damage to the land (especially trees) as well as to homes, barns, and outbuildings. Although we have had strong storms since then, nothing compares to this storm. 

We felt very fortunate that the damage wasn't worse than it was. Although we needed a new roof and siding, we could have lost our entire home like many people did just 10-15 miles southwest of our home.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

September Scavenger Hunt

On Swap-bot there's a September Scavenger Hunt which I thought sounded fun. There are five items to photograph: Something unexpected, something monochromatic, something battery-powered, something made by a child, and a newspaper headline. Below are the photos I took that show these items.

Something Unexpected

On September 1st, this bald eagle flew right past the pontoon boat I was on. It was amazing to see the eagle in flight so close. No matter how many times I see an eagle, the wingspan still amazes me. It can range from 5.9-7.5 feet.  

Something Monochromatic

In the 4-H Building at the Minnesota State Fair, there was a drawing that was done by a youth in black and white. The pattern as well as the shading gives this image such an intriguing multi-dimensional look. 

Something Battery-Powered

Nothing exciting...just the remote to the t.v. and cable. Living in the country, we need to have cable in order to see the local stations. 

Something Made by a Child

This was a quilt at the Minnesota State Fair in the 4-H building that was done by a youth under the age of 18 years old. 

It caught my eye because the frogs are three-dimensional and are made from fabric.

Even the center of the fabric flowers are somehow folded and attached to the flower petals.

There was another quilt in the Creative Activities building that also had three-dimensional elements to it. It has piqued my interest in wanting to create something like this. 

A Newspaper Headline

At the Minnesota State Fair, there's a newspaper museum in the same building as 4-H. There are many different types of letterpress printing machines there that are operated by volunteers to give visitors a feel of a 1930's newspaper office. It is operated by the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation. 

"The Maynard News" is type set and then printed by volunteers. They also print free items - like bookmarks, posters, postcards, and notepads. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

My Favorite Photos - August 2022

 August was a time of transition for all of us. It seems like such a long time ago that I saw this sunset.

Same thing with Olivia and I when we visited one of the community gardens she oversaw the designing, planting, and maintenance of a couple years ago. It is filled with native wildflowers, shrubs, and a tree - all of which are doing well. This was a 4-H leadership project she did.

At the beginning of the month, I entered many projects in the county fair. I got a blue ribbon - first place - on a photo I entered.

I wonder if next year's photo might be this one for the "animals at the fair" category.

On the 4th, I arranged for a group of seniors from the Lions Club to go on a pontoon boat ride on the St. Croix River through Let's Go Fishing. We saw lots of eagles - including this one.

Also saw the swing bridge - over a hundred years old - that rotates on a platform so that boats can get through on the river. When a train needs to use the tracks and bridge, the person in the little house on the bridge will move the bridge so the tracks lock in place and the train can cross the bridge. 

Also saw a lot of ospreys. 

The St. Croix Crossing is a bridge linking Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

Underneath is a walkway for maintenance workers so they can safely access the bridge. 

Saw another eagle.

This is a cormorant that is standing on a log or rock in the St. Croix River. 

Aspen, one of our dogs, loves to go under the covering on the couch. The covering is there to protect the sofa from getting dog fur all over it. So much for that purpose.

The prairie onions are in full bloom. The bees love them.

The swallowtails are loving the ironweed that is growing in the west pasture and in the backyard garden.

The monarchs enjoy the swamp milkweed which also is in full bloom.

Seeing monarchs never gets old for me. 

The hibiscus tree is blooming a lot. It likes the hot, humid weather.

Saw this for the first time in Olivia's garden. I think it's a hollyhock.

Saw a monarch caterpillar. This is the first one of the season.

I pulled out a flower holder that belonged to my parents. There are about 10-15 holes in the top that little flowers can be placed in. The body of the turtle is filled with water.

I walked around the yard and pasture and picked some flowers that were in bloom. There are a lot of different types and colors of flowers this year!

My friend, Karen, and I went to a Quilt Shop Hop. Near one of the quilt shops, there was a large hibiscus plant with huge flowers. This is one of them.

I think the ends of the hibiscus look like little trumpets.

Paige, Olivia, and I explored a new hiking path that had a waterfall on it. This is one section of the waterfall.

This is the waterfall...the main part.

On the right side of the photo there is rope. Someone put this rope at the top and bottom of the cliff. It was SO beneficial to have the rope going up and down the cliff. There would have been no way to do it otherwise. As I was descending the cliff, my larger lens fell out of my pocket and tumbled down the hill. Thankfully, it landed just at the edge of the water and wasn't damaged. Olivia put my lens in her backpack on the way back up the cliff.

At the last Tang Soo Do lesson, Olivia tested to see if she could move to the next level. One part of the testing is breaking a board. This is what she is doing in this picture.

Olivia was promoted to the next level in Tang Soo Do.

Towards the end of the month, the monarchs were still making daily appearances at our home. 

The Black-eyed Susans were in full bloom.

The mushrooms had come up - mainly under the trees in the forest. 

This is another mushroom.

The Great Horned Owls made their appearances known a few times during August. This is in late-August. This particular owl didn't seem humored that I could see it and was watching it. 

He (or she) did put on a show for me when s/he scratched his head. Look at those talons!

The Sneezeweed is blooming. 

On the night before Olivia left for college, Aspen came in to spend some time with her. 

On August 24th, we moved Olivia to college. It was a bittersweet experience. 

What I love is that both the girls - Olivia and Sophia - attend the same college!

At the welcome week picnic for freshmen and their parents, we enjoyed some cookies served by Sophia's suitemate, Nessa.

Sophia was working the corn station - dipping the roasted cobs of corn into cilantro butter.

There was a special program on Thursday evening of Welcome Week. The worship team played a couple of songs to open and close out the program.

On Friday, there was another day of programming. We enjoyed lunch in the dining center. Sophia was at the pizza station, topping the pizza with pepperoni.

Nessa was working the sandwich bar and tossing some lettuce there.

Olivia enjoyed a chocolate ice cream cone after dinner.

Back at her dorm, I took a picture of her by her favorite mural - a lion. When she was growing up, she would wear a lion costume the majority of the time. It was as if it made her more powerful and confident.

After doing a Target run, we visited Sophia who was done with her shift. There Sophia and Olivia are on the right hand side of the table.

I've been using up food in the refrigerator. Made an apple pie with a bunch of apples I had on hand. The pie crust is my grandma's recipe.

The monarchs are still migrating the last week of the month. I'll need to plant some more of the rough blazing stars next year. They are a HUGE favorite of the monarchs. 

The monarchs also like the cup plant flowers. There are lots of these bright yellow flowers at the top of the cup plants (which are native plants to Minnesota).

Check this out! There are five monarchs on this plant. This has been a typical sight during August. I've never seen anything like it!

 Aspen is missing both Sophia and Olivia. Here she is outside waiting patiently while I take photos.

Scooby is getting older. I think both his vision and hearing are going. He has tumbled down the last few steps in the house a few time. Other than that, he's doing fine. Scooby is about 15 years old now. He's the oldest dog we have had. The next oldest was 14 years old.

Danny is about 11 years old now. Despite getting up there in years, he is still energetic and full of life.

The ruby-throated hummingbirds are drinking a lot of sugar water as they prepare for the long migration south. I'll miss seeing the hummingbirds during the winter. 

The Pink Honeysuckle is still blooming. I love the unusual flowers on this plant.

I despise the thistle that seems to have overtaken some areas of the pasture and Olivia's garden. I've got to get rid of this stuff before it spreads even more. The goldfinches like this plant for the downy fluff that they use for their nests. They also eat the thistleseeds.

Something I've never seen before are butterflies roosting in the trees at night, primarily the ash tree in the backyard. There are groups of 2-3 butterflies that will sleep or rest next to one another starting at around dusk.

Cooper is listening and watching the pasture to the west. There has been a deer that has been walking through our front yard each morning around 5 a.m. It also spends time in the pasture during the day. We heard some rustling and he immediately became interested in what was out in pasture....perhaps another deer? 

That wraps up August. This is only a fraction of the photos I took. It is so hard for me to narrow down what my favorites one are, mainly because each one brings me joy when I look at...or is attached to a memory which I value.