The Black Sage Toothbrush

While speaking with a childhood friend yesterday and reminiscing about school days, I realized that I couldn’t remember all of the details that surrounded some of the activities we did in school. This got me thinking of experiences that I’d like to share with my children and grandchildren (I hope to be gifted with some grand-kids later in life). Since I haven’t limited my blog to any particular theme, this is a good vehicle for documenting stories and experiences.

Here in the USA, the basic tool for brushing your teeth is the toothbrush and so my children find it “crazy” that we often used the stem of a plant to clean our teeth in rural Guyana. Yes, we had toothbrushes, but when they were not available, we broke off a stem from the Black Sage shrub, pounded or chewed on one of the ends until it got some bristles, applied some toothpaste, and brushed our teeth. If there was no toothpaste, we simply put some salt on that homemade toothbrush and carried on.

When was a toothbrush not available?  If I spent the night at my aunt’s home or if my toothbrush broke, I won’t have had one. Generally, folks did not have extra toothbrushes in their cupboards – simply a matter of not being able to afford such luxuries. Some families, because of the pressures of poverty, did not have toothbrushes at all.

What is this Black Sage? The scientific name for this shrub is Cordia Curassavica. It has small white flowers and tiny red berries that grow in a cluster at the end of the branches.

Below is a photo of the Black Sage. Credit goes to: https://www.inaturalist.org

Black Sage

An Act of Honesty and Integrity

If you were to ask me to share my recent encounter that showed the goodness of the human soul, I would share this heart-warming story with you…

On Monday, April 4, I left my school right after dismissal to pick up a bale of 400 grocery bags at the neighborhood Publix grocery store for an Earth Day project. I took my phone, driver’s license, and debit card with me – no handbag. While I was waiting for the manager to bring the bags from the stockroom, I decided to buy a mango key lime pie and get $75 cash back with my purchase. When I received my cash, I wrapped the receipt around it and placed it in my pocket. As I was putting the money in my pocket, I said to the cashier, “my pocket is too shallow for cash”, but proceeded to do so anyway.

On my way back to school, I called the office for a dolly to transport the bags to my classroom. I arrived in the front of the school, only to find that there was no dolly, so I went to the office to see what was happening. As I was speaking with my colleague, I reached into my pocket and…guess what? There was no money! I retraced my steps to the car, looked around, but no cash. How was I feeling? Disappointed. I knew that my pocket was too shallow for cash, yet I did not pay attention that fact.

I decided to call Publix because in my heart I felt that if someone found the money, he or she will turn it in. Here is how part of the conversation went:

Me: “Hi, this is Elaine. I just picked up some grocery bags at your store.”

Cashier: “Yes, I remember you.”

Me: “Do you recall that I told you that my pocket is too shallow for cash I got when I bought the key lime pie?”

Cashier: “Yes, I remember. I have your money. A customer turned it in.”

Me: “I am so happy. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I will be there soon.”

When I hung up the phone, I gave thanks for the person who returned my money and drove back to Publix with smiles on my face and gratitude in my heart.

The person who found my cash could have kept it for himself, but he chose to return it to the store. He demonstrated his honesty and integrity in a very tangible way. What a model of good citizenship!  His actions warmed my heart and reiterated that I am truly blessed. Although I couldn’t give him a tangible reward, I know that he will be rewarded for his act of care and love. I am grateful for this gentleman who showed us the goodness of his soul.

cash back

My Gratitude Jar

flowers -joyHabits, whether good or bad, start off as thin as a single strand of hair – easy to snap. However, if we continue with the behavior, that same strand-like habit will grow to be strong and sturdy like chain links – difficult to break. Having an attitude of gratitude is a habit. This is a habit that I am constantly working toward; it is not easy. It takes work. It requires reflecting, sifting through life experiences, and being aware that there is value in all my interactions.  It is not easy to be in gratitude when negativity steps in, when there is illness, death, or when bad news comes our way. However, I know if I search within, there is always something for which I can be grateful.

Over the years, I’ve attempted to keep a gratitude journal, but after a short period, the journaling of my thoughts became a dormant idea. Some time ago, I heard about the gratitude jar and I promised myself that I would start one. I don’t need a journal or a jar to express my gratefulness, but this tangible means of reflecting helps me to recognize my blessings and joys.

The birth of my Gratitude Jar was on January 12, 2016.  See photos at the end of this post.

My first note of gratitude:

This evening I spent some time with Rosh as she worked on her “bottle this feeling” jars. Her “About” page on her website talks about how being grateful contributes to your happiness – what a beautiful reminder for me as I bottle 101 thoughts in my head. I am grateful to my daughter for reminding me to live with an attitude of gratitude.

Here is another note from January 16th

I’m in gratitude for…

  • Kind, caring, listening ears
  • The gift of time
  • The gift of friendship
  • Knowing when to speak softly and quietly
  • Lessons in time management
  • Being honored with trust
  • Prayers and positive energy

I have decided to grow the habit of being in gratitude today and every day. I find that being grateful brings me joy. Although I do not write gratitude notes with pen and paper daily, I write them with my reflections and actions.

 Today, among other things, I am grateful for your friendship, my health, and the peace, joy, and positive energy that surround me.

 Thank you for visiting my blog!

 With gratitude,

 Elaine

 

A life Lesson from Sand Mandalas

Dear Readers,

I’ve been away from my blog and your blogs for several months now. A few life events kept me away and even zapped my motivation and discipline to post here and visit with you. Today, I feel ready to recommit my energy to blogging. It will take some time for me to catch up with your posts, but my intention is to visit your blogs as soon as possible.

This evening, I’m reflecting on an experience I had in 2010 which I posted here.

In 2010, I had the wonderful opportunity of witnessing the monks at the Buddhist temple in Miami create extraordinary, intricate, and immensely beautiful sand mandalas. As I observed their patience, skill, and mindfulness of their art, I felt a sense of peace within me. It was hard for me to understand how their dedication, love, and skill to the beautiful art they created will disintegrate after a few days; it will all be swept away and they knew it.

Now, years later, looking back at those moments, I can truly see how anything we create or build, no matter the work, skill, beauty, love, time, and talent we put into it, can all be undone and swept away. We just have to accept, embrace, and be in gratitude for the value and all that the creation brought us.  Life is filled with dual experiences and we learn and grow from each one of those experiences.

I’m glad that you’re visiting my blog!

With gratitude,

Elaine

A Lesson for the Teacher

The Daily Prompt asks this question: When was the last time you were embarrassed? I haven’t had a recent embarrassing moment, but I’ve had scores and scores of embarrassing moments that are not so recent. I’m too embarrassed to write about some of those moments on a public forum! Since the new school year is right around the corner, I’ll share a conversation that caused me to turn red.

When: Several years ago, on the first day of school, in a first grade class

Before the red face:  I greeted students and parents at the door, we got on with our first day procedures, we looked at supplies, and then I went to a student to talk about his missing supplies.

What I said: Can you please tell your grandma to send in a folder by the end of the week?

Student’s response: My grandma?

Me: Yes. Your grandma brought you to school, right?

Student: She is NOT my grandma. She is my mom.

I was so mortified with my horrible error that I was speechless for a few seconds. You can imagine how apologetic I was when I caught my voice! Needless to say, I’ve never made that kind of mistake again. I learned a fine lesson on that first day of school!

In the Back

In one of Dan’s posts, he talked about asking the sales girl  in the clothing department to “check in the back” for an item he wanted. Well, Dan got me thinking about the times I’ve also asked the sales person to check in the back for me…here is success story.

A few months ago, I went shopping for new shoes. Well, I didn’t really leave my home with the intention of buying shoes, but many women will agree with me that if you go to the department store, you MUST visit the shoe department. In my case, without fail, the shoes ALWAYS beckon me over, and being a very obedient lover of shoes, I ALWAYS comply. What can I do? I have very little resistance…sighing here, just thinking that I ought to cultivate some discipline.

So, obedient me walked around and walked around until I spotted a pair of shoes that called to me by name, “Elaine, Elaine, come and try me”. Of course, I rushed over and tried them on. They were perfect for me to wear to work! To top it off, they were on sale. My lucky day, won’t you agree? As I was trying them on, the sales person came over to me and we started chatting about the “bargain” for such a nice brand of shoes and in our conversation, she said, “we sometimes have Clarks on sale too”. Well, shoe lovers know that Clarks are great shoes for folks who stand almost all day and my ears just perked up and triggered a question.

Without hesitation, I asked the sales lady, “Do you happen to have any Clarks on sale”? To my delight, she said that they did have a few pairs. She then added a “but”, “but you may not like them”. I was curious as to why I won’t like them and asked her for the reason. The shoes came with shoe laces! Well, I tie shoe laces for others several times a day, it won’t hurt to tie my own 🙂  I asked her to take me over to the Clarks with shoe laces that I might not like and she said she’ll have to bring them to me. Why? The reason she gave me: They were “in the back”. Although I was puzzled as to why the shoes were in the back, I didn’t ask inquire. I know when to zip my lips. You and I know that she could easily go to the back and return with a “sincere” apology.

My Shoe Angel must have been with me that day because the sales lady came back with a lovely pair of Clarks that was at a clearance price for $9.99. The original price was $80.00. What a bargain!  The shoes were perfect for me; the second pair of perfection for the day. With shoes secured in hand, I asked the burning question. “Why do you have these Clarks in the back room”? Her response stunned me. “The customers don’t take care of the shoes, so we keep them in the back”. Hmmm…that didn’t make sense at all, at least to me. If the customers don’t see the shoes, how would they buy them? I didn’t say any of this out loud; I was thrilled with my two pairs of shoes.

Do you have any “in the back” experiences?

clarks shoes

Discipline: My Wish for 2015

Yippie! This is my first post for 2015 and I hope that I will cultivate the discipline, like so many other bloggers to get down to posting more often. The few of you who stop by to comment know that I am not gone from the blogsphere, I do pop in to visit and comment on your posts. I am still around 🙂 What shall I write about today? Ok, let me begin by wishing all of you a fabulous 2015! I know it is not too late to extend these greetings. After all, good wishes are never too late. Thanks to my friend Jill who asked her readers about their wish for 2015. She inspired this post!

A wish I have for myself this year is to be more disciplined.

Credit: Google Images

Credit: Google Images

Last June, when I did my annual blood work, the results were startling. I was classified as “pre-diabetic”. It scared me and continues to scare me because both of my parents have diabetes. Since the results came back just before my summer trip, I decided to take a serious look at the way I eat upon my return. I did just that in July.

I made a few changes such as reducing the amount of carbohydrates I eat, especially in the evening and the quantity of sweets I consume daily. I have a terrible sweet tooth, so that was a bit tough. Those dark chocolate covered almonds satisfied my sweet cravings. I was surprised that the changes I made did not make me feel “deprived”. The healthy choices paid off! In October, I repeated my blood work and I was no longer in that “pre-diabetic” status. Yippie for healthful choices!

November came around and I over-indulged with all the lovely pies and delicious “carb-laden” foods. December came along and I submit that I went overboard. January is here and I am challenging myself to get back on track. I am not going to let the abundance of healthy choices available to me go to the wayside. I choose to bring more disciplined healthy eating habits into my life.

Tomorrow, I will begin a workout program with some of my colleagues at work. We have a personal trainer two days a week. I am excited about this group exercise. I know that my colleagues will encourage that discipline that I want to see in 2015.

What is something you wish to have in your life this year?

 

Fast Facts on Diabetes from CDC – the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014 (All ages, 2012)

29.1 million people or 9.3% of the U.S. population have diabetes.

Diagnosed: 21.0 million people

Undiagnosed: 8.1 million people

(27.8% of people with diabetes are undiagnosed)

Face the fear?

Credit: Google Images

Credit: Google Images

You’ve got to face your fear! I’ve heard this many, many times and yet I cannot face my fear. I’m limited by this terrible fear I have of dogs. I say it’s a phobia. My children tell me all the time that I need therapy. I agree. My friend, Pauline, over at The Contented Crafter, recently wrote about her cute and adorable pet puppy, Siddy and I am having fun with him from afar, but I know in my heart if we ever meet, I will close my eyes and cower behind Pauline or anyone or anything that would offer some measure of protection.

I’m often asked if I was bitten by a dog as a child. No. I was chased a few times and that scared me half to death. I don’t enjoy walking in the parks when owners have their dogs without a leash. If I’m invited to someone’s home, one of the first questions I ask, “Do you have a dog”? Hosts usually put their dog away when I visit, but I’m consumed with guilt the entire time and I want to leave as quickly as possible. Not a good way to have fun.

Many years ago, when my son was a baby, I pulled up on my driveway and as I got out of the car a little puppy came up to me. It startled me so much that I climbed on the roof of my car and waited there until a jogger passed by and took the puppy away. Thankfully, it was just about a minute, however, that minute felt like hours.

Another time, when I was a cashier, a customer’s dog (pets were not allowed in the store) came into my cashier register area and scared me so badly that I jumped over the grocery slide. I was ignited by fear.

The only time I was not scared of a dog was about six years ago when someone close to me was in a threatening situation and I was entirely focused on her safety.

I want to be able to pet a dog. I want to be able to have a puppy sit with me. I want to erase my fear of dogs!

Do you have an intense fear of anything?

Longer than a School Day

I walked my endurance event in seven hours, 13 minutes, and 24 seconds. However, those afflicted with incurable illnesses are the true examples of endurance. I lift my hat off to them!

This week’s photo challenge is about endurance. Here is my finish line photo of my marathon (June 6, 2010) and an excerpt from my marathon training documentation. Saturday, May 15, 2010.

finish line photo

It felt as if I had just gone to bed when I was startled out of my sleep with the noise of the radio at 3:06 A.M! I quickly sat up, rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, and sprung into action. My clothes for today’s training were already laid out since Thursday night. Yes, Thursday night. Hey, it was my first 20 miles of walking (at one shot) ever in my life. Armed with my bag with all my gear, peanut butter sandwich, and my coffee, I left home for Kennedy Park (Coconut Grove, FL).

The 20 miles training was a character building experience for me. It took me 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 54 seconds to complete the distance. This time included: bathroom stops, water stops, stretching, shaking tiny grains out of my shoes, and rubbing my covered cheek with biofreeze. Oh my goodness, I didn’t know that someone’s behind could experience such intense pain.

At about mile 14, my left cheek started to hurt so I began massaging it- yes, in public. We stopped. My coach showed me a stretch which I did on the bench at a bus stop. We walked on some more but the pain just won’t stop. I stretched myself out on the sidewalk and did the “glute stretch” that I know works. It didn’t. I applied the biofreeze on my cheek while someone gave me cover. The biofreeze cooled the cheek, but the pain still radiated down the hamstring. The only thing that stopped/eased that pain was a light jog.

Although the sun was hot and it felt like 125 degrees, I did not give up nor did I think about how much longer I had to walk. I simply put one foot in front of the other. It was when I saw the “Montys” sign I knew that I was almost there. Strange, I didn’t feel tired at that time. I was on a “total high”. My cheeks (the exposed ones) were toasted, the sweat washed off my hair color (just kidding), I smelled like a goat, but I did it. Yes, I did! I now know in my heart, for I have experienced it, that training for a marathon is more mental than physical. I truly have to let my body travel along with my mind.

For those who are afflicted with blood cancers, my 20 miles of training pales significantly when compared to their daily battle.