Resolutions? Not Today.

Saguaro — cc photo by J. Delp

Wait? Is today the day we are supposed to start working on resolutions and new goals?

I’ve decided that I am giving myself permission not to start anything ambitious today, or probably even tomorrow. You don’t need it, but I’ll give you permission too. Put off whatever you might have planned, consider a new resolution “start date,” or just resolve to be a little kinder to yourself (and others) this new year. You’re probably already dealing with quite a bit.

There are certainly things I want to learn/do/accomplish in the coming days. I have way too much stuff and could use a good decluttering. I’d like to become better at photography and maybe pick up a new creative outlet. I need to eat healthier foods and it would be nice to do more hiking. Writing frequently is also on my list of things to do.

So, I do have some ambitions, I’m just not all that concerned about starting today — as in January 1, 2021. I feel like my plate is already pretty full, and I just have a few more days of vacation.

I used to get caught up in the “new year’s” resolutions thing, but I’ve never been very successful at it. If it works for you, I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with it. However, just remember that you can decide to make positive changes, take up a new hobby, take better care of yourself — or anything else, for that matter — any day of the year. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month. Just start when you are ready.

Jefferson Bethke — in his book, To Hell With The Hustle, writes:

We as humans are the summation of our repeated practices and rituals. Humans aren’t made. We are formed.

Who are we becoming through the practices we are doing? And, can we create or point ourselves in toward certain practices that make use the fuller, richer, more anchored humans we are meant to be.

Jefferson Bethke, To Hell With The Hustle

I like this idea. It’s not about having a concrete end point, but doing the things that lead you down the path to where you want to be. In my case, it’s about becoming the type of person who…

…owns less stuff.

…takes better pictures.

…eats healthier.

…writes frequently.

…goes hiking.

John Spencer recently posted a couple of articles about what he calls process goals (A Different Way to Set Goals for the New Year), and maintenance goals (A Different Type of New Year’s Resolution). I found both to be very helpful as I think about what I want to accomplish in the days ahead. So, if you are like me, and having a hard time getting started, take time to read through them and watch the videos he created.

However, just remember, it doesn’t have to be today.

When you are ready.

I give you permission.

A Few of My Favorite Pics – 2020

The words are not coming today, so instead I am posting a few of my favorite pictures from 2020.

I’ve selected some photos because I think they are good and others because they elicit positive or powerful memories. Reminders of…

  • Family.
  • The natural beauty of our world.
  • Early mornings at my coffee shop — writing and enjoying an Espresso Tonic before the pandemic.
  • Chandler High School Swim.
  • Community.
  • Adventures.
  • The little things.

In spite of all of the challenges there is still a lot for which to be thankful.

May 2021 bring hope, healing, peace, and prosperity to all.

A Path of Hope

cc photo by J. Delp

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Dr. Martin Luther King

We’ve nearly made it.

In a few days we will all be celebrating.

I certainly understand the anticipation of a new year, but when the clock strikes midnight early Friday morning, it will not only be the end of 2020, it will be … another day.

It will be Friday. Probably not altogether different than today, or Thursday, or any other day of the week.

I know this probably is not what you want to hear.

It is unlikely our challenges will disappear as we enter the new year. We still have to navigate what is hopefully the final stretch of a pandemic. We have all experienced loss — some minor inconvenience, some significant life interruptions, and some life-altering tragedies. We still need time to grieve those losses and to come to grips with how this pandemic has altered every day life. This process will take time and a return to something that resembles normal would certainly be helpful.

It is my prayer that we have those opportunities for reflection and healing in 2021.

We know our problems will not disappear, but we need the hope that a new year brings. I tweeted this earlier today.

While a new year won’t be the solution to our problems, we can choose to be hopeful.

We can view each day as an opportunity to heal ourselves and demonstrate care for others. We can choose a path of empathy, kindness, and gratitude. We can treat people with dignity and respect, maintain an attitude of thankfulness for what we have, and demonstrate appreciation and empathy for what others have lost. We can choose to walk alongside others — for our sake, and for their’s.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Mahatma Gandhi

If done right, it will be the collective and caring actions of our society that will provide hope. Not a date on the calendar.

As the new year approaches, choose to walk a path of hope and bring others with you.

A Lighter Burden

Luminaria – cc photo by J. Delp

Do you know who we haven’t heard enough from during the pandemic?

Doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, respiratory therapists, hospital staff and countless other front line health workers.

It’s probably because they are struggling to stay afloat in a system that is overwhelmed with the current crisis. And when they have spoken, we haven’t done a very good job listening, or amplifying their voices.

It’s a bit dated, but I ran across this tweet from Alberta Health Services with a picture of Dr. Simon Demers-Marcil calling the family of a patient who was lost to COVID. The picture speaks volumes. The anguish and fatigue (physical and emotional) of Dr. Demers-Marcil is palpable. Unfortunately, there are thousands of these phone calls being made every day. Difficult positions made even more challenging.

I have an aunt who spent her entire career as an emergency room nurse. This is a mentally, physically, and emotionally draining job in the best of circumstances. These are not the best of circumstances.

I have heard from many who have had family members in the hospital during the pandemic who extol the dedication of hospital staff in their efforts to provide comfort and care to their loved whiles, while doing their best to provide opportunities for communication and updates. I know this has been a challenging year for many, but I can only imagine the toll the health crisis has taken on front-line workers and their families (not to mention the sacrifices they have made). I don’t think it would be unfair to say that for many, this has been analogous to a year spent in a war zone.

I also think our gratitude must extend to anyone who participates in keeping our hospital and healthcare systems running — regardless of their position.

I hope you will join me in keeping all of our doctors, nurses, first responders, health care workers, hospital staff and their patients in your daily prayers. My hope is that we will listen to the pleas of those on the front lines about how we can best support their efforts, and be willing to make small sacrifices for the greater good.

We have the ability to lighten their burden. They deserve the best we can give.

Missing Home

Near St. John, Kansas – cc photo by J. Delp

Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.

Kansas, Dust in the Wind

Today, I am missing home.

Missing Kansas.

Some of you might be tempted to say, “What is there to miss?”

Nothing.

But, a lot.

Stark, but overpowering beauty. Gently rolling sand hills, pastures and a lonesome aging Cottonwood. Fields of corn stalks and bright green winter wheat peeking through a dusting of snow (if you are lucky). I can feel the chill in the air and hear the rustling of the prairie grass. The air is cold and clean and the nights are unbelievable clear. Millions of glittering stars in a brilliant sky.

I can breathe in Kansas. There are wide open spaces, small towns, country roads, and places to fish. A neighbor is someone who lives two miles away. People greet you with a slight wave of the hand as you pass on the highway — whether you know them or not.

Time doesn’t seem as critical. Things slow down. A fireplace feels good. Naps feel better when it’s cold outside. It’s okay to just sit. To visit. To read.

Kansas is a place where they play high school basketball. Real basketball. In real gymnasiums. With real community. I can smell the popcorn and hardwood floors. I miss that.

Kansas is family. It’s spending time together. Fishing in our favorite places. Going for drives on dirt roads we have never driven before. Doing the dumb things we’ve been doing since we were kids and have been lucky enough to have not learned our lesson — yet.

This year, Kansas has been taken away. But not forever. Just long enough to be certain it is appreciated.

Ad Astra per Aspera. To the stars through difficulties.

This Pandemic is for the Birds

cc photo by J. Delp

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.

Langston Hughes

Birds have been helping me navigate the pandemic.

As a kid, I was always intrigued with birds. I think my fascination began through a shared interest with my Great Grandmother Donley who regularly fed the birds in her Beloit, Kansas yard. I think I remember that the little nuthatch was one of her favorites. Mine too.

In March, me and my dog Kosmo began spending a lot of time on the back patio and we decided we could use some company. Walter, our cat, also needed something to watch during the day. So, I started with a hummingbird feeder (pictured). It was visited by hummingbirds, of course, but also house finches, and a very persistent (and loud) Gila Woodpecker.

After noticing some small birds in a backyard bed of wildflowers, I added several thistle seed feeds and Lesser Goldfinches arrived in droves. Seed cake and suet feeders appealed to the woodpecker, Abert’s Towhee, the Curved-Bill Thrush, and a flock of Rosy-Cheeked Lovebirds who assume the role of backyard bird feeder bullies. As you might imagine, these parrots are not native to Arizona (you can read more about them here). The other day I counted eight different species of birds in our backyard within about thirty minutes.

The birds have been a good reminder that in spite of the challenges and struggles of this year, there are things we can count on being normal. They don’t take away pain, eliminate the virus, or even alleviate sorry. They do serve as a healthy distraction. Nature has a way of doing that, and in the process, acting as a healing salve.

The birds don’t understand there is a pandemic going on. They don’t care about our politics, or our disagreements. They are too busy being birds. Being normal.

And, for me, their vibrant colors, frenetic pace, and pursuit of life represent hope that things will get better. They are a reminder to hold fast to dreams.

Be hopeful. Be safe.

As an aside, if you have any interest in learning more about birds, I have been using the free Merlin Bird ID app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is awesome.

This Place…This Hour

cc photo by J. Delp – Waters Edge, Hassayampa River Preserve

Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.

Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman

Yesterday was my birthday.

I wanted to be in Kansas, but 2020.

Instead, I went with my girls to a beautiful place. A place with running water. Vibrant colors. Peace and quiet.

I’ve found many of these places in my lifetime, but I often take them for granted. Too busy looking ahead to the next moment, seeking what lies around the bend, or worried about things that may never come to fruition. Not allowing myself to enjoy the specific space, or moment in time.

The times and places that provide peace and happiness look different and they are everywhere — not just in nature.

Even in 2020.

I recognize that I have been so busy trying to “get through” this year that I have missed many subtle moments of happiness along the way. They have been there — even in this most difficult of years. I say this will all due respect and empathy for those of who have suffered immeasurable loss during 2020.

Just this morning, I was driving through the neighborhood around my work when a rooster strutted into the middle of the narrow street on which I was traveling. I slowed my truck to a stop as the rooster defiantly and stood proudly in my path with utter disregard for any inconvenience he might be causing. He was beautiful, with brilliant plumage in vibrant shades of red. He was proud, perhaps a bit arrogant, and he was absolutely unconcerned with my schedule.

I thought about honking. But, where did I need to be?

This place — facing off with a rooster in the middle of a city street — was fine. This moment was what it was supposed to be. It was beautiful. Unusual. Funny.

I smiled — and I loved the neighborhood just a little more.

This place. This hour. Happiness.

Photos for a Cause

I need a distraction from work right now, so I’ve decided to sell some of my photos and donate all of the proceeds to a worthy organization. I have one 5×7 print of each of the photos above in hand. I can order more if needed, it will just take a little longer. All photos will include matting (no frame). I am selling each for $20 (includes shipping).

Matted 5×7 Photos

This month, ALL proceeds ($20 minus shipping) will be donated to the Chandler Care Center. This is a school-based community resource center that serves the families in my school’s community.

If you are interested in purchasing a photo, send me an email and let me know which picture you want — row # and column #. I’ll confirm and prep your order to ship. In order to take pressure off of me, you pay (PayPal, Venmo, check, or cash) upon receipt of the photo.

Mornings on the Patio

Quiet mornings are saving me right now.

The coronavirus pandemic has humbled me. It has made it evident that “I am not in control.” It has caused me to reexamine a lot of things in my life including some bad habits.

One habit I am currently re-working is my inclination to “hit the ground running” the moment I wake. In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote,

“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.”

I love the imagery. I am able to clearly envision the tigers (emails), elephants (angry people), snakes (meetings and commitments), lions (to-do items), and the buffalo herd (worries) bearing down on me as I begin my day. These “wild animals” can cause me to go from sleeping to “fight or flight” mode in seconds. It is not a comfortable, or healthy, way to begin the day. My inclination — especially during the pandemic — is to immediately beginning fighting off the aggressors.

Thankfully, Mr. Lewis provided a suggestion for those of us who are so inclined.

“And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”

So, for the past several weeks I have committed to the “quieter life” to start my day. I’m still up early (and I can see those “wild animals” lurking), but I grab my cold-brewed coffee, and take a seat on the patio with Kosmo (my dog). We share a Jumbo Blueberry Donette.

I read.

Practice a little Spanish.

Pray.

Watch the birds.

Shove those animals back.

In the few weeks I have been doing this, I have noticed a marked difference. The tigers, elephants, snakes, lions, and buffalo still show up, but they aren’t as menacing. My quiet morning allows me to maintain perspective.

It prepares me for the chaos of the day by priming my soul with peace.

In case you are wondering, a “Jumbo Donette” is slightly smaller than an average donut. They aren’t terrible, and Kosmo loves them. I receive no compensation from Hostess.

Injustice by Zip Code

athletics blue ground lanes
Photo by Mateusz Dach on Pexels.com

This evening I am frustrated.

Every week during the school closure (and every other week during the summer) our school has distributed food and supply boxes to support our families on the margins. This is truly a community endeavor. We receive donations from staff members, our own families, district employees, local residents, area businesses, and churches. We have a phenomenal parent liaison who goes above and beyond to communicate with each of our families, assess needs, and arrange a specific time for pick-up. Staff and community members show up, even in one-hundred-plus degree weather, to help hand out supplies.

Tonight was a designated night for box distribution. There are always a few families who need their materials delivered, so tonight I took a few boxes to one particular family. I chose to take the boxes because when our parent liaison called to arrange a pick-up, a family member indicated that there were three likely cases of COVID in the household — a parent, a grandparent, and one of our students. The parent and grandparent were really struggling with viral symptoms. In addition to the food boxes, the family needed disinfectant, hand sanitizer, Tylenol, Gatorade for hydration, and cough drops.

As I drove through the neighborhood I passed by very crowded low-income housing and I was struck by how easily the virus would spread in such close quarters. As with the family on my delivery route, I know that MANY of these families struggle for adequate access to the food, medicine, supplies, and health care needed for prevention or care if COVID is contracted.

I immediately thought of this tweet from Garrett Archer, who analyzes data for ABC 15, Arizona.

At the time (June 10), I checked our school’s zip code and calculated that we were number fifteen on the list. I recently followed up with Garrett to see if he had updated information and to ask about our zip code. Here was his response (received on Monday): “Hi, I haven’t checked in a bit, but I don’t think there has been much movement in the top ten. 8#### (our zip code) has 513 cases. Growth rate of 204% since April.”

None of this is necessarily surprising, but it is shameful. Add COVID to the litany of things we can predict based on zip code. There are many reasons for this, but there is no excuse. It does not have to be this way. It should not be this way.

This is also why we have to watch out for one another. Many of the family members in our neighborhood work in essential services. They come into contact with others daily because they don’t have a choice. If we are cavalier with our decisions and fail to take appropriate precautions we potentially expose them to the virus. Many will go home to multi-generational families, where they may spread it to someone who is high-risk. Again, this is predictable.

This virus is bigger than any one individual. We are in this together, and in my opinion, the only way out is together. It is going to require sacrifice for the collective good. Most of us would say we care about our neighbors — our fellow human beings — but are we willing to walk the talk. Time will tell.

There is no ‘them’ and ‘us.’ There is only us. – Father Greg Boyle

P.S. Thanks to our community the family received the supplies, medicine, and food needed, and it was delivered safely — placed at the front door, without contact. I am grateful for the care and support our school has received. We are blessed.