365 Grateful: for little birds in the winter

365 - 01-29-2016

Walking into work the other morning, just as the sun paints the sky, twittering stops me. Sparrows are tucked in among the dense branches of a small tree along the entry, protected as much as a bare tree can protect against an icy cold January night. They sing. In the midst of harshness, they sing. Co-workers stride past me, intent on the beckoning warmth of the building, bundled against the weather, their ears stoppered to the cheery twittering on this glorious morning. I am grateful for these tiny birds, who, in the midst of cold, dark winter, remind me to carry summer in my heart.

365 Grateful: lighting the way back


caks 2I bought some really cool shoelaces yesterday. Actually, I bought four pairs – three neon sets for the younger members of my family and one fairly sedate, if Mardis Gras can be considered sedate, for myself.

These laces are very special. They’re made to honor the life of Charles Austin Kreinik, a young man from my hometown who took his life this past year at age 28. As the packaging for C.A.K.S. (Charles Austin Kreinik Shoelaces) says:

“In the end, Charles was affected by physical pain, alcoholism, and depression, but in brighter days he was a gifted person of quirky humor and generous spirit.”

I did not know Charles, but I do know his parents, Doug and Myla Kreinik. Doug graduated from high school with my sister; I met Myla serving on the Artsbridge Board. My heart aches for them as it would for any parent, child, sibling, spouse or friend who suffers such a loss. In a perfect world, no one should feel as if suicide is the answer, and no one should have to deal with suicide, for it is a long road back through grief, and it’s a different path for everyone.

But ours is not a perfect world, nor is that what this blog is really about. It’s about what Doug and Myla have done with their grief, fresh as it is. When I stopped by to get my laces, Doug told me how this project developed.

I. Love. This. Story.

In the face of everything, it’s about hope and the future, living, and lighting the way. I’d like to share that story with you.

Doug operates Kreinik Manufacturing, a small business known worldwide for its exquisite metallic thread. If you are a needle worker, you’ve run across at least one pattern (more likely hundreds), calling for one shade or another.

Many long mornings after his son’s death, Doug awoke with a lingering dream in his mind and on his heart. In this dream his son had said to him, “Shoelaces, Dad.” Not too long after that wisp in his subconscious, a friend was helping gather and straighten up some of Charles’ things. Out slipped some shoelaces.

Ah, once is curious, but twice is quantum flirt territory. It made Doug think of a dusty shoelace-making machine at his factory, one that had waited patiently for 30 years to be of use. As Doug says, he didn’t know how to use it and hadn’t taken the time to really learn it. But then here was his son saying, “Shoelaces, Dad,” followed shortly by shoelaces dropping serendipitously out of his son’s belongings.

Some things simply won’t be ignored. So with the glimmer of an idea, Myla and Doug went to work, figuring out the intricacies of making shoelaces with their glorious metallic thread. Today, they’ve produced Designer Shoelaces for a Cause – from multi-colored to neon-bright to customized colorways. The Kreiniks are launching this project because, while suicide may have dimmed their son’s light, they want others to keep their lights shining brightly.

Profits from C.A.K.S. (Charles Austin Kreinik Shoelaces) will fund suicide prevention, addiction counseling, and grief support programs. As the Kreiniks say,

“Lace up your shoes, put one foot in front of the other, and keep on going—or dancing! Your purchase helps others, supports grieving families, and makes the world a little brighter.”

I am grateful, today, not so much for my new sparkly laces, but because I walked away humbled and yet so uplifted by how these two parents are slowly, surely transforming their grief into purposeful action. I have no doubt those glittery, glowing laces will keep Charles Austin’s light shining in the world as a ray of hope for others who may also be struggling. What a tribute.

If you are interested in supporting their causes – and I hope you are – or even just interested in really cool shoelaces, I encourage you to check them out. For just $10, they will be available at http://www.kreinik.com/. You can also find the company on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kreinik.Manufacturing.Company. Expect to see packages of C.A.K.S. in select local stores (Parkersburg, WV) very soon.

Of course, if you just can’t wait (they will make nice gifts for your holiday of choice), here’s Kreinik’s contact information:

Kreinik Mfg. Co.
P.O. Box 1966,
Parkersburg, WV 26102

365 Grateful: humor and love

365 - 11-22-2015

So, I had much in common with my dad: my mouth, my brown eyes, my dark hair that whitened early … but what I recall the most is how neither one of us liked to wear shoes. First thing off in the evening after work? Shoes. Maybe we liked the feel of earth beneath our feet, that connection with a living force. I don’t know. He was (usually) good about picking up his shoes. Me? Not so much. Every once in while I’d be suddenly bereft of shoes and have to make my way to the basement. There, I would find them all, scattered among the dirty clothes in the big wooden laundry bin where they’d come to rest after a quick trip down the laundry chute.

Today, what I’m sure of is that old habits die hard. I generally have to search the entire house for shoes, and more often than not, they can be found in the computer room, the first space you encounter when arriving via the garage. Sometimes, you can find ALL of my shoes there, plus a few in the living room and, yes, the less popular ones in the closet. Maybe.

I’m also pretty sure that my husband Charlie is a smart-ass. Because I woke up today, stumbled out to the computer room to check the weather, flipped on the light, and there, leading the way to my desk, were my shoes, well some of them, anyway. The ones that were living in the computer room.

They led the way like sentinels — like guardrails or berms. I laughed out loud for a long while, all alone in the early morning. And you wonder why I love this man? That’s why. Grateful.

365 Grateful: a cookie is a berry is a truffle is a blade of grass

365 - 11-14-2015So, a friend on Facebook recently posted an observation that caught my eye:

When my husband brings me milk with breakfast I drink it because it is so kind of him and because research says it is good for us, but have you ever considered that humans are the only animal in the kingdom that continues to drink milk into adulthood?

A friend of hers replied:

Yes but as I read somewhere, we are the only ones that have cookies!

I laugh. It makes me wonder if humans invented the cookie just as a way to justify drinking milk. I love that thought because, well, cookies.

But who’s to say that other creatures don’t have cookies, too? It seems to me that something another species considers a delicacy or a treat is just another way of translating cookie. To a cedar waxwing bird, the ripe, luscious berries from my Mulberry tree surely translate as “cookies” in its brain. A pig, unearthing a truffle in the forest, surely feels as though it’s finally broken into the cookie jar for a delectable treat. For my dog, I suspect cookies are none other than fragrant, fresh, delicate green grass, among other interesting things.

We humans don’t actually get that, with the possible exception of the truffles, but then we’re probably not supposed to. For many of us, our cookies have chocolate chips or icing and taste sweet and yummy. They go well dipped into a tall glass of cold milk.  (Of course, there are those among us who eschew the sugary cookies for fresh fruit or other healthful alternatives. I think they probably qualify as cookies, too.)

For all the species that share our planet, cookies may carry the same meaning but differ vastly according to each perspective. A snake’s cookie (which may look like an egg to us) is no less a cookie than a freshly baked sugar cookie (with icing) is to us.

So I’m grateful for this fun exchange in the early morning. It broadens my awareness to how we humans bring the world into compliance with our awfully narrow perspectives – how we think and operate and exist. The truth is, we’re just one of many species that live here, and we each have our own viewpoints and definitions of such things as cookies. Sadly, as humans, we even subdivide our own species – by race, by religion, by nationality – and a cookie to one is not necessarily a cookie to another.

Thanks for this early morning Facebook reminder to co-exist with other species – animal, mineral, vegetable (and cookie) – on this green and white ball that’s hurtling through space. And in light of the recent events in Paris, Syria, and countless other places across the globe, may we learn to extend that co-existence to our fellow humans, too.

365 Grateful: of moonlight and clouds


365 - 11-01-2015Right now I’m slipping through three times zones on a flight from Ohio to Seattle. It’s still pitch black out there – my flight ascended at 6 a.m. I swear time’s standing still because it’s still 6, and I’ve already come a long way.

I stare out the window and think that it’s much too early for serious cognitive activity following a restless night spent waiting for the chirp of a phone alarm. My sleep-deprived eyes prove it; they’re slow to recognize the vivid tundra of puffy white clouds out there. Not much wonder, though. This morning I’m gazing down at them, which is nothing like my everyday earth-bound view.

Eventually my brain fires. Ah, these clouds are otherworldly lit, with texture and shadow, light and dark, all glowing and ethereal. I crane my neck and there it is: the Full Hunter’s Moon silvering out the clouds all around us. Ironic, too, for this moon is also the Travel Moon and I, of course, am traveling.

Oh, I wish I could capture that view with all the nuances my eyes see, but plane windows and cameras are not so compatible. Still, I can’t help but think that this moment cups the promise of a different perspective on life.

From our ground-level tunnel-vision perspective, clouds just block the sky, don’t they? They hide the sun. They bring rain – necessary, yet at all the wrong times, it seems. They depress spirits and spoil best-laid plans. When we say something clouds our vision or our judgment, we really mean our thinking’s skewed, occluded: We can’t see clearly.

But here, awash in the soft light of the full October moon so high above the ground, a different perspective emerges – one where silver linings are real, not imagined, and clouds seen from above offer the hope of new insight. Earthbound, we catch glimpses of it in the clouds, but only when the light of the sun or a brilliant moon illuminates.

Grateful for the reminder at this eternal 6 a.m. moment that clouds in any form — in the sky or in our lives — may at times obscure but, if we expand our vision and really look, also hold perspectives to help us uncover an Aha or two. And that’s something worth exploring.

365 Grateful: clouds, sun, and sky

365 - 10-14-2015I stepped out into the middle of a conspiracy the other day: the sun and the sky and the clouds all conspired to create a breath-taking sunrise.

As I stood there just soaking in the view, I realized something …….

Without each of these three entities, there would be no achingly beautiful vision to start the day. That view required the cooperation of those heavy, dark clouds to serve as a foil to the radiance of the sun’s rays. And without the rich blue backdrop of the sky, there could be no canvas across which the sun might spread its rays into the world.

Life’s a little bit like that, don’t you think? The glow of our spirits is never so apparent as when we overcome roiling clouds of adversity and setback, trouble and vexation. Even so, the culminating piece is the backdrop — the living of our lives — that provides the canvas upon which we can see what makes us human, and makes us glorious.

Grateful today for nature’s reminder that what we make of ourselves depends so very much on how we overcome whatever clouds life orders up for us. And that it’s not until we view it across the the span of our lifetime that we truly can appreciate the stunning beauty that emerges.

Grateful for the lessons found in everyday moments.