Nature’s Usual Pose | Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

The Life of Less

Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.” ~ Henry Van Dyke

The Climb

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

It's a Bug's Life

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow them.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

Aspire

Man cannot aspire if he looks down. If he rise, he must look up.” ~ Samuel Smiles

The Sign of Heaven

I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Heaven's Promise“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” ~ G. K. Chesterton
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Here are other interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme of “Up”.

Defining Moments | Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

DSC_3496

“Wherever you are, be all there.” ~ Jim Elliot

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Lost in the Details”. And what a challenge it is. Don’t we get utterly lost in the details of life? Opportunities missed, lost windows of time—to show kindness or listen, to be all there. What about those that consume, order, and demand, leaving us so distracted we miss the wonder and joy of other moments?

The Observer

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” ~ William Morris

And then there are those moments that shake us … or rather, shape us. We come to full attention. They are usually spun by a variety of events—some good, some not so good. Whatever their source, I find they can be a birthplace of goodness or newness. They are, in essence, whatever I choose them to be.

Autumn Hydrangea
“After all, it is those who have a deep and real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.” ~ Evelyn Underhill

These moments serve to keep us in check or bring a new awareness of vulnerability or strength, moments to discover what we are made of. Are we flexible to receive honest criticism and ready to change? Or if we have done right can we have peace within and stand firm, even when we are misunderstood? Either way, are we ready to forgive—to let go—to forget, to move on, knowing we can’t fix everything?

“All the details of life and the quirks and the friendships can be laid out for us, but the mystery of their writing remains.No amount of documentation, however fascinating, can take us there.” ~V.S. Naipaul

Whatever moment you are in today, whether joy or pain—never dismiss that moment, for the only moment that truly exists is the one you are in right now. Some moments are times to embrace and absorb joy. For the difficult moments we need to receive love from sane, safe friends and family. It’s okay to not always be the giver or to have all the answers or to have everything together. Cherish the good moments, learn from the difficult. I found the following drawing and thought it details the true reality of life. May it bring a smile to your face as it did mine. I hope it increases your joy as you trek your own crooked path.
Peace,
Alexandria
SuccessDrawing
“If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” ~ Maria Edgeworth
See the Weekly Photo Challenge for other interpretations.

Drawing credit: Unknown
All photography by Alexandria Sage, except the first one, which is by S. Michael
(aka—my dear son)

A Tale of Agony {Or Whatever Happened to Winning?}


I’m not sure when it happened, but some time during the last thirty years our culture forgot how to celebrate success. We forgot how to be proud of achievement and became more concerned about the feelings of the loser than the accomplishment of the victor. It’s happened in almost all areas of life, but is most easily noted on the athletic field, in the classroom, and now has crept into the business and financial world.

I first noted the change on the athletic field when my kids were small, participating in league sports. When I was a kid, there were winners and losers. Trophies were awarded to the champion and perhaps the runner-up. But for my kids, everyone took home a trophy or a medal. Even the kids that came in last got to take home a medal. Somewhere we lost “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Instead we became a culture that celebrates the “thrill of participation.”

I learned a lot in athletics but a key lesson was this—I learned more from losing than winning. But even beyond, the most important lesson I learned was that I didn’t like losing! This extreme dislike made me work harder to improve, perfect, and finally accomplish.

From that spawned another lesson—I liked success. The entire crux of the matter found its summation in the most crucial lesson of all—between the reward for success and the negative feelings of failure, it didn’t take me long to realize the extra effort was worth it. Failure spurred me into high gear. No one can achieve perfection but failure drove me to deeply look at how to do things different. In this quagmire of self-examination, success begins. If the self-examination of failure is removed, accomplishment declines.

The classroom is another place I noticed this. Academically, we started celebrating mediocrity. The best example of this is the change of the bumper stickers given out to kids in school. First, we had the bumper stickers that said “My Child is an Honor Roll Student at Fiddle Faddle Middle School” but this obviously offended the non-Honor Roll student so soon the signs changed to “My Child showed Good Character at Fiddle Faddle Middle School.” I’m not knocking integrity but anyone can show good character with very little effort.

Kids that work hard today get passed over, snubbed, even dismissed because we have to lift up those that “showed up.” This is ultimately discouraging for those trying to achieve. Why do we not celebrate their success and achievement anymore?  Extra effort that leads to success was the foundation for the greatness of American achievement, but is a time-tested truth for any society that aspires to greatness. We did not succeed by celebrating mediocrity in any arena.

(Please note—I believe celebrating the Honor Roll Student is correct, but the parents should teach humility by placing the bumper sticker on the refrigerator and not on the car. That way the child has their success celebrated and is also taught the importance of caring about other’s feelings.)

Now, about the financially successful, most have worked extremely hard. They worked harder in school than most, some continued their education, and they work more hours than those who don’t succeed. Certainly we can point to other reasons for their success but largely, we make excuses for it. “They are smarter, they had more opportunities, they had a good home life.”  The real truth is we don’t like to admit someone else worked harder that we did.

But perhaps this honesty can cause us to return to the principle of hard work, learn the lessons of failure, empower our abilities, and celebrate the success of others. Let’s not settle for mediocrity. Let’s relish success and achievement. Every time I meet one of the successful I look at them with the joy of knowing with some hard work I have the same opportunity.

So where did we screw up? I think we simply forgot how to celebrate the success of others and the important lesson failure teaches. It is truly okay to have winners and losers. We are not all created equal and have different talents. But there is no denying we are each called to use our talents to the best of our ability. And this usually comes with a healthy combination of desire for success and fear of failure.

Thoughtfully,
Steve

Weekly Photo Challenge: Create | Portraits of Success

Children have an insatiable desire to create, to dream. What better way to adorn a front porch than with these beautiful child drawings? Don’t children provide a continual delight with constant surprises of the creative urge? We smile, we laugh, we delight. We are captivated, enchanted.

But there is deep within us a simultaneous lament, an angst that pains the delight. We look bare-faced at ourselves. Life progressed and the weight of the world gradually nudged out the child—and the dreams, drowned in the cares of life, swirled in a whirlpool down the drain. The child within seemed to disappear. Then we become bearers of children and begin a quest, and cultivate to make it different for them.

But should we do no less for ourselves?  Should we not reclaim the artist, the child within? For the artist within leads to one of our Creator’s intentions for us—joy. Sheer joy.

A twenty-something picks up a brush for the first time and discovers something wonderful

The insatiable desire to create was given by the Creator to feed our dreams throughout life and create, create, create into adulthood—to keep us, in the words of Steve Jobs—”hungry and foolish”—and become all we were intended to be. And we can find our “adult work” through nourishing the artist within. Our work will not seem like work. In a sense, it can even seem like play. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Children are risky and lavish as they create. They are not gripped with insecurity, fear, and hesitation that bounds we adults.

A great-grandpa stays a child and builds something wondrous—Thomas the Train!

As grown-ups we must practice the art of creation and reclaim our childlike wonder. We must be intentional this time because we have lost our natural inclination to do so. Keep creating, keep looking, keep finding. After all, our Creator has the same insatiable desire. Look at the intricate beauty He presents to us everyday, everywhere—touches of heaven. Let us mimic Him.

Chalk is a great place to start!

Thoughts on this, please?
Peace,
Alexandria

Other thoughts on this:

http://simplysage.org/2012/01/22/nourish-joy/

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14 NKJV)

“To laugh often and much—to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children—to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends—to appreciate beauty—to find the best in others—to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition—to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beauty Secret

“That which is striking and beautiful is not always good,

but that which is good is always beautiful.”

~ Ninon de l’Enclos

Protected: A Bright Idea

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Story Challenge: Letter “M” | A Beautiful Mind

“Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” ~ Aristotle

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” ~ George Washington Carver

As one who always encourages further education I would have to say my “M” Word Challenge is to emphasize the “mind”.

I know there are a lot of ways to be educated. Some require attendance to a school of learning, some require online learning, and some require “hands-on” to possibly learn a new skill. Abraham Lincoln was completely self-educated before he attended college.

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” ~ Victor Hugo

Education to work with your hands or your mind is honorable. And striving to always learn and develop your mind should be a goal of
every human being. If the mind becomes dull and stagnant it is because a person has ceased to learn. And if a person ceases to learn, they cease to grow. And if there is no personal growth, there is no joy in living.

Along that thread I thought I’d share some of the quotes I ran across with this theme. There are many more but I hope you gain something from the few I’ve shared.

“In the face of any disaster you will need three things: a faith life to support you in the midst of the storm, money in the bank (hay in your barn) to keep your family alive in the immediate aftermath, and an education to help you rebuild.” ~ Stephen Deal

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.”~ Edward Everett

Ultimately, I hope you never cease to educate yourself, whether through formal education, hands-on learning of a new skill, or self-education through reading. In doing so you will never cease to grow, as the last quote says. And there is the joy of learning something
new. You will have pride in your accomplishment.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow. ” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

Never cease to develop who you are. Always strive to learn, to stretch, to grow.

Peace, Alexandria

You might enjoy:
http://simplysage.org/2012/08/04/my-thoughts-remember-make-hay-when-the-sun-shines/
http://simplysage.org/2012/08/15/weekly-photo-challenge-growth/

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