Hope is the Bird That Sings

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul—and sings the tunes without words and never stops at all.”
— Emily Dickinson

Hope if the thing - when the bird sings
Image by: ryk-naves-b_-KVgWg_YM-unsplash

I was twenty-one years old and freshly arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, from the United States.

For the next 18 months I wasn’t going to see my family or friends––,we would communicate via letter only, except for a phone call home on Christmas and Mother’s Day. I’d chosen to come to this far-flung place as a missionary, but reality was setting in. Jet-lagged and homesick, I opted for a nap.

I was roused from my slumber sooner than I would’ve liked to discover something wonderful was happening outside my bedroom window. Birds were chirping—not just one or two, but dozens—a grand welcoming chorus. I’d left winter at home; in Uruguay it was spring.

“Hope is the thing…that perches in the soul.”

Over the past few months, I’ve had to make choices. We’re all having to make choices about what future world we want to build out of the rubble of the present.

Will we choose to give up, give in to existential despair, or will we choose hope that in the end all will be well. That spring will come again?

To be clear, there are different kinds of hope. And some ‘hopes’, we would do well to relinquish. Hope that present circumstances would suddenly be different, that bad things that have happened hadn’t happened. These are really wishes, and unfulfillable. As Beverly Flanigan said, “Forgiveness is giving up hope of ever having a better past.” 

The past can’t be changed, only our perspective of it. And some of our proximate hopes, things we anticipated rolling our way in the near future, need to be abandoned as well, in favor of longer term, ultimate hopes.

Because as much as we need hope, we don’t need false hope. Which is the subject of this week’s podcast, an interview with Kelly Goldsmith (yes, daughter of one of my wonderful mentors!). I find the conclusions of her research refreshing and helpful during a time of limited resources, and pronounced feelings of scarcity.

Kelly suggests that scarcity itself isn’t the issue, but the absence of hope. When we know that something is truly gone—the boyfriend isn’t coming back, the money is lost, life as we’ve known it has permanently changed—we can mourn the loss and then lean into the constraint that has been created to grow in a different direction. Ironically, it’s when we’re still clinging to unrealizable hopes, uncertain, that we feel scarcity and those feelings become problematic.

People crave certainty, which is hard to come by, but if it’s certain that something is gone and not coming back, it’s better to face it. That’s loss, not scarcity, and when we know something is truly lost we can move on, rather than compensating in ultimately self-defeating ways. If there is hope, let people feel hope. If there isn’t, don’t string people along, inadvertently creating scarcity, thinking it’s kinder. It’s not.

Are you allowing people to feel hope about something that you shouldn’t?

Are you trapped in futile hope for a better past that you need to free yourself from?

What are you willing/able to choose to do to help build a more hopeful future?

Maybe it’s continuing to social (physical) distance when you’ve grown weary of distancing. Or thinking about not only the financial implications, but the long-term public health implications of the virus? Is it extending yourself, providing work for others, when you’d rather save your money for you and yours? Or even finding ways to serve, not necessarily where you want to serve, but where you’re needed?

Then there are the small things you can do. The delicate, little live things. Picking mint from the garden, putting it in a Mason jar with water and lots of ice. Washing dishes with your family after a home-cooked meal. Pushing open the window to listen to the birdsong. Whenever I hear the song of a bird, my heart sings with hope.

In your moments when you want to give up—even just a little—what can you do to rekindle hope? What gives you hope?

This is a beautiful message that I wanted to share with alll of you. (Reprinted with permission from Whitney Johnson – WLJAdvisors.)

How are you dealing with social distancing?

Social Distancing - Stay Home Sign
Image by Logan Weaver @Unsplash

I am not looking forward to another month of social distancing (quarantine), or even another day.

How about you? How are you doing?

Are you sad, worried, afraid, or all of that, and more?

The whole idea of social distancing goes against human nature. We are wired to be touched from birth until the day we die. There is even a condition known as touch deprivation that can have serious and long-lasting negative effects on health.

But . . . for now . . .  we must practice social distancing to protect ourselves and others from the virus, regardless of how much we hate it .

The lucky ones are people with families who have each other to fill the need for human touch, but many are alone and isolated. I happen to be one of those.

I’m surviving, but forced isolation is not fun!

I’m stuck on an emotional roller coaster ride from which I cannot escape. The uncertainty of how long the isolation will last intensifies my anxiety.

Sometimes I’m OK and can accept that this is a situation over which I have no control. I use my time productively to research and write; then, suddenly – I’m not OK. The walls close in and I wander through a quagmire of fear and doubt, wishing this would all go away. I question if I will make it through unscathed and worry about catching the virus and dying alone.

It’s a relief when I can shake the depression, pull myself together, and become productive again but, I know it’s only a matter of time until I fall into the worry pit for the umpteenth time.

Up and down – up and down – It is not a fun ride.

Have You Discovered the Gift?

During these long, uncertain days and possibly weeks or months ahead, I hope that all of you who are lucky enough to be confined with loved ones will realize that you have been given a wonderful gift – extended time with the most important people in your life.

I encourage you to use the time wisely.

It is the perfect opportunity to do things together that make everyone smile, to get to know each other in ways that your previously busy lives didn’t allow,  to enjoy long quiet talks about hopes and dreams, to hold them close, and to let them know how grateful you are that you are together.

What About the Not so Fortunate?

Let’s get out of our heads by helping people who are alone. They may be family members (mom/dad, grandmother/grandfather, aunt/uncle, cousin), friend or work colleague, or neighbor.

Social Distancing - Older Man at Door
Image by Andre Ouellet@unsplash

We can’t visit physically, so it will require some creativity to findways to lessen their feelings of being cut off from the world. One thing we can do is to check-in every few days; let them know we are thinking about them.

Texting is better than no contact but, let’s be more personal – use facetime, or have a group gathering via ZOOM or SKYPE. Spend quality virtual time. Talk about anything and everything – laugh and have fun.

If they are on the same emotional roller coaster I am on, knowing that someone is there for them can be a critical factor in how they deal with this horrific challenge.

Social Distancing Is Not New!

As I thought about what to say in this post, it occurred to me that we have been practicing social distancing for some time without realizing it. The busyness epidemic, our obsession with technology, and the practice of communicating primarily through texting have separated us by choice. We have lost sight of the fact that we need human touch to remain mentally and physically at our best. Man (or woman) was not meant to be alone.

Realizing the deep-seated need for regular human connection and physical contact may be the silver lining in this terrible dark cloud that has descended on the world. It is a chance to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to each other again – to reach out physically – to hug and hold those we love – to get back in the habit of talking face-to-face with family, friends, and neighbors – to be kind, caring, and respectful toward others, and to come out of this darkness into a better world.

We can start today by holding close the loved ones in our homes and supporting those who are alone.

Social distancing may be required, but emotional distancing is not!

We have the power to make a difference in many lives by holding each other close.

Be safe – stay well!

Nancy

Quote of the Day

Don’t Be Rude When You Can Be Kind!

What happened to common courtesy and dood manners?

They used to be the norm – but, are now practically non-existent.

When I observe simple acts of kindness and respectful behavior it is almost startling because it is such a rare experience.

The anonymity of social media seems to have created a breeding pool for poor behavior that is spilling over into daily actions for the majority.

Being on the receiving end of rude behavior is extremely unpleasant – so, let’s not be guilty of the ones who are being rude.

It’s Time to Dust Off Your Manners

Don't be rude - Good manners show respect

There is no excuse for being rude and disrespectful. It is selfish and immature behavior that reflects a complete lack of concern for anyone except yourself.

My theory is that rude behavior begins at home. When children are allowed to be rude and disrespectful to family members (including their parents), it becomes a way of life when dealing with people in any situation. It’s the only behavior they know.

It’s time to change!

Unfortunately, we cannot control others’ behavior, but we can control our own.

You and I can choose to be kind and courteous to others – family, friends, associates, colleagues, clerks, service agents, and strangers. YES, I’m talking about EVERYONE.

Being polite and showing respect for others will never go out of style (maybe buried under a pile of “you know what”) – but never lost unless people accept perpetual rudeness as a way of life.

Respectful behavior that is fueled by kindness is the foundation of a good life and a joyful society.

. . . and it starts with you and me dusting off our manners and displaying common courtesy even single day.

To pique your memory, I have compiled a list of common courteous behaviors from years past. They are not difficult to perform, but if they are not currently part of your behavioral patterns, it may take time and practice for them to become automatic, as they should be.

  • Get in the habit of saying please and thank you!
  • Say hello and goodbye when entering and leaving a room or group of people.
  • Stop swearing in public.
  • Say, “I’m sorry” when you bump into someone.
  • When meeting someone for the first time, smile and introduce yourself.
  • Give an elderly or handicapped person, or pregnant lady your seat on the bus or subway.
  • Cover your mouth when you yawn, sneeze, cough, burp, etc. and say, “Excuse me.”
  • Put your phone away in public! Don’t text or scroll through messages while walking, driving, or during a face-to-face conversation with someone. Phones should be used when you are sitting/standing alone and you will not disturb anyone else.
  • Hold the door open for those behind you or for anyone who may need help.

Let the other person enter the building, the room or the elevator first.

  • Promptly R.S.V.P to any invitation.
  • Send thank-you notes (preferably handwritten) for dinner parties, gifts, etc.
  • Acknowledge and accept differences of opinions (even on social media) – acknowledgment is not agreement.

Introductions

Don't be rude - say hello politely
Credit-phototechno-iStock

  • Always introduce people to each other.
  • Make introductions immediately
  • When you are being introduced, listen carefully and remember names.
  • Respond – “It’s nice to meet you.”
  • Ask a question to let them know you are interested in who they are.
  • When leaving, say, “It’s nice to have met you.”

Polite Conversation

  • When someone says hello – smile and say hello back (or be the first to say it)
  • Listen attentively without interrupting – let the other person finish before you speak.
  • Be kind and respectful in your response to others.
  • Consider all opinions – you don’t have to agree, but be willing to listen.
  • Respond to questions with kindness and respect.

These are only a sampling of good manners. There is so much more but these are a good place to start.

Model the behavior you would like to see in your children and would enjoy when in the company of others.

We usually get back what we put out into the world. Let’s start putting out kindness and respect! That is today’s challenge! 

Are you up for it? I hope so.

Related Posts:

From the Reader’s Digest –  50 Little Etiquette Rules You Should Always Practice

Want to Change the BUSY Habit? Saying No is the First Step

Are you crazy busy all the time?

Do you often feel that you don’t even have time to breathe?

Being busy to a point can be a good thing, but being “too busy” all the time is not!

Why are you so busy?  That is the question!

The answer may be as simple as – you are not saying NO enough.  You may be trying too hard to please others, to get them to like you, to fit in, to fulfill a sense of obligation or responsibility,  or maybe being busy has become a badge of honor that signifies your importance in the world.

Whatever the reason . . . it’s time to change!

Just Say No carved on Tree Trunk

When every minute of the day is focused on doing what others want you to do that there is little or no time for things that matter to you – you are putting your mental and physical health at risk.

James Altucher states in his book The Power of No,

When you say yes to something you don’t want to do, here is the result: you hate what you are doing, you resent the person who asked you, and you hurt yourself. Click To Tweet

Saying NO Can Be Difficult – but Necessary

You can’t do everything – choices must be made. If you are caught in the YES trap because you cannot bring yourself to say NO, your life will be controlled by everyone around you. You are living for others, not for yourself.

Your daily habits define your life. What you do repeatedly day-in and day-out is what you become good at doing.  If you want to change a behavior, you must destroy the root of the problem.

If you are too busy, the root of the problem is probably your inability to so NO.

NO is an incredibly powerful word! Learning to say it can change your life.

Think about the impact of saying no to foods you shouldn’t eat, to things you don’t want or shouldn’t do,  to taking on others’ responsibilities, to people who make unreasonable demands on you, to toxic relationships and just because it is your choice to say no

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

One bite at a time, of course.

How do you stop saying yes?  With one NO at a time!

If you have been a habitual YES person most of your life, this change will not happen overnight – but you can make the change. Slay this particularly dangerous dragon one battle at a time. Small steps will deliver amazing results.

Start saying no in one particular area of your life.  Say no . . .

  • When your child or spouse asks you to do something they could (and should) do for themselves.
  • When a friend wants you to do something that holds zero interest for you.
  • When you are tempted to eat the second piece of candy (rather than stopping at one).
  • When your significant other asks you to have dinner with friends you do not want to be around.

You get the idea!

When your comfort level with saying no in that situation increases, choose another. Slowly, it will become easier and easier to say no when it is in your best interests.

A Daily Challenge

Challenge yourself to say a “difficult” NO at least once a day. Keep a record of your successes. Use an app on your phone (i.e. BEAR for IPhones or NOTEBOOK)  or keep a small notepad handy for quick recording when it happens.

Don’t worry when you falter and say yes instead of no.  Changing a deeply ingrained habit takes time. So, be patient with yourself and keep on keeping on.

Why Saying NO Is Important

  1. It is essential for your mental and physical well-being.
  2. You have a greater sense of control over your life.
  3. You have more time to do what you want to do.
  4. You will have more fun engaging in activities of your choice.
  5. People will respect you more.
  6. It establishes healthy boundaries in relationships.
  7. It sets clear expectations about what others can expect from you.
  8. And . . . many other reasons.

Keep in mind the words of Tim Harford, “Every time we say yes to a request, we are also saying no to anything else we might accomplish with the time.” Click To Tweet

 And . . .  time is your most important asset.  Pedro Sorrentino warns us, “If you don’t guard your time, people will steal it from you.” Click To Tweet

It’s time to stop being crazy busy by learning to say NO, and using your time in ways that will create the life you want to live.

 Related Post:  10 Crucial Practices for a Healthy Life

 A related article I highly recommend:  How to Say NO: 10 Powerful Tips

 

 

Don’t Forget Chicken – the Most Versatile and Healthy Protein

Baked Marinated Chicken

Our bodies need protein and if you enjoy meat in your diet, chicken is an excellent choice. You may enjoy red meat as much as I do, but chicken is an equally good source of protein,  easier to digest, much lower in fat and calories, and typically has a short preparation time.

When you add in its versatility, you have a winner. There are so many main course dishes based on chicken, you will always have new ways to serve healthy, delicious meals to your family.

As an important part of your chicken cooking repertoire, we recommend the following methods to keep the calories at a minimum and contribute to a healthy heart.

Five Healthy Cooking Methods

Steamed Chicken                                         

You can have a flavorful, tender dinner in 20 minutes or less when you choose steaming. The prep time for this method is minimal and each serving is much lower in calories and fat because oil is not required.

White or dark meat? That is the question. White is healthier (and my favorite) with less fat and fewer calories, but many people prefer the richer, more moist dark meat. Whichever you choose, we recommend you use skinless, boneless pieces.

The secret to amazing flavors when steaming is seasoning.

You can layer the chicken with herbs and citrus slices for a tasty, tender meal. The acidity of citrus (lemons, limes, or oranges) will tenderize the chicken as it cooks.

Salt and pepper both sides of 2 medium chicken breasts, lay them in the steamer and sprinkle with 2 cloves minced garlic and a light dusting of chili flakes (optional). Top with the zest of a large lemon. Add the leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and steam until chicken is tender.

A mixture of paprika, crushed red pepper, and chili powder sprinkled over the chicken works wonders for those who enjoy spicy dishes.

Steaming chicken retains all the nutrients, so adding your favorite vegetables to the cooker creates a lovely nutritious meal.

NOTE: Be sure to use fresh, young chicken. Don’t skimp on cost and buy less than prime or your result may be tough and not-so-delectable.

Boiled Chicken

Boiled Chicken SaladThis is one of my favorite ways to cook chicken because it makes fall-off-the-bone chicken that can be used in so many ways – chicken salad, chicken tacos, nachos, quesadillas, chicken-topped pizza, sliced chicken sandwiches, shredded chicken sandwiches, and many other possibilities.

Use boneless or bone-in – white or dark meat, they all work. Place the children in a Dutch oven or heavy pot, add one onion (sliced), a large celery stalk with leaves (cut in 2” chunks), one bay leaf, salt and pepper, and a large garlic clove. (These are my choices – you will find your favorites when you realize how easy this is.)

Add just enough water to cover the chicken (this is critical), bring the water to a boil, cover, drop to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, just until chicken is tender. Most of the water will be absorbed into the chicken and vegetables.

Remove, drain, slice, and serve with a side of vegetables and a small portion of whole grain pasta (or shred and use in any way you choose).

AND . . . Don’t throw away the broth, it is perfect for chicken soup, which cures all ails.

Baked Chicken

This is one of the easiest ways to prepare chicken and can be extremely tasty.

It is best to use boneless/skinless equally-sized chicken breasts – but dark meat can also be used if you prefer. Place the chicken in a lightly-greased oven-proof baking pan, season with your favorite seasonings and bake at 375° F. until chicken is tender and no longer pink in the center (~15 to 20 minutes).

When done, it’s best to remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Small potatoes and carrot sticks placed around the chicken during baking will absorb all the juices and make a complete meal when served with a crisp green salad.

Experiment with marinating the chicken overnight to add wonderful flavors to the meat – see the information below  – Learn to Marinate.

Grilled Chicken

Grilling is a delicious, low-calorie traditional American method of Grilled Chickencooking chicken – especially during the summer months. It can be grilled in the oven (under the broiler) or on a BBQ grill on the back patio.

Brush lightly with melted butter (optional), sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, a light dusting of paprika and the juice of one lemon. Voila! You have a lovely meal when served with grilled potatoes and fresh asparagus. Don’t overcook.

little more preparation but is worth it. I use chicken tenders and cut them into small pieces, so they cook quickly. (Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like it hot)

Stir-Fried Chicken

This method takes a little more preparation but is worth it. I use chicken tenders and cut them into small pieces, so they cook quickly. (Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like it hot)

You will need a large cast-iron skillet, Dutch oven, or wok with a small amount of oil.

Cut up the chicken and vegetables of choice (broccoli, zucchini, green peppers, diced carrots, garlic, onions, etc.)

Add all the pieces to the hot cooking pan, season to taste – stir and cook until meat is no longer pink and veggies are tender. (Do not overcook!)

Serve immediately with steamed brown Basmati rice.

Learn to Marinate

Good marinade tenderizers the chicken, keeps it moist when cooking, and adds wonderful flavor without excess fat.

Tips for Marinating

  1. To keep the dish as low in calories as possible, use skinless chicken breasts – dark meat is higher in fat and calories.
  2. The skin adds 20% more fat. If you prefer the added flavor of cooking with the skin, remove it before eating.
  3. Marinating for suggested times below allows the juices to be fully absorbed and makes the chicken tender. Over-marinating can result in a less-then-desired outcome.

Time Chart for Marinating Chicken

  Source: https://www.eatbydate.com/long-marinate-chicken/ 

  1. Always discard the marinade once you have removed the chicken. DO NOT use it for anything else or you risk salmonella poisoning.

Tasty Marinades

    • Teriyaki Chicken Marinade: a simple sesame-ginger marinade
    • Chicken Enchilada Marinade: a no-cook version of my favorite enchilada sauce
    • Tandoori Chicken Marinade: a simple curry marinade that is big on flavor
    • Honey Mustard Marinade: always a classic for you mustard-lovers
    • Pesto Chicken Marinade: pesto sauce works just as well as a marinade!

After trying some of the above recipes or others that you can find on the internet, tap you’re your creativity and experiment – create your own recipes. There are many combinations of ingredients that make healthy, delicious chicken dishes.

Check out this article, How to Make Your Own Marinades from TheSpruceEats.com.

If you are pushed for time, use one of the gourmet bottled marinades from your local grocery store – read the labels carefully and avoid those filled with unnecessary additives.

Read this article in Prevention Magazine, Marinades: Your Meal’s Healthiest Friend for healthy bottled choices.

Happy Eating!

 

Related Articles: 

Chicken Salad – Cool and  Healthy

Eat Well – Be Well – Live Well

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