June 2011


Click here to view information about Mr P’s Penguins

SF MR P’s Penguins flyer

Click here to view the video of an amazing little boy born without arms, please go to my other blog site, A Simple Life.   You won’t be disappointed.

My daughter-in-law, Ae Howard

My daughter-in-law, Ae Howard

Yesterday, I spent 9 hours at DisneyWorld’s Magic Kingdom with my son and daughter-in-law.  The thermometer was set at 100 degrees by early morning but the shops and rides were air-conditioned.  A 7PM rain storm cooled everything down for the evening.

While others were doing their thrill rides, I sat and “people watched. ” As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by people who boldly travel with children or adults with disabilities.  Because we didn’t arrive until 3pm, there were fewer parents with children in wheelchairs but the Brave Endurers were there, wiping brows through the heat and dodging the drops of rain.

These parents and their adolescents are seldom grumpy and irritated.  The accompanying adults continue their normal caregiving routines in the middle of bustling children and whining adults.  They wipe faces and hands with the care and precision practiced and perfected in their tiny apartments or spacious homes, while keenly observing the world that whirls around them. The parents laugh with amusement and try to comfort.

Within the disability community there is a soothing pulse of normalcy when everything about their lives seems to shout the abnormal has careened madly out of control.

Perhaps that is the wonder and beauty which so easily and firmly captures the hearts of those of us who dare to live and learn within the mentally challenged/disability community.  It’s not the need to be caregivers–but the arresting marvel of personally knowing these self-less wipers of hands and faces.  It’s not the pitiful state of a broken or warped body; but the overbearing  beauty of a human spirit that valiantly radiates beyond the brokenness into the heart of those who will dare to stop and examine.

Of course the Jungle Ride was great.  Fireworks lit up the skies with beauty beyond my imagination.  The Electric Parade passed with precision and grace.  But it was the small boy in a chair whose rhythmic, constant and spastic movements kept his chair pulsing, who smiled at his mom as she touched his cheek that sent a thrill up my spine.  It was the caregiver who frantically pushed a young lady out of the rain who touched my heart.

But my greatest joy-filled moment was watching two giggling girls tease each other.  The able-bodied  friend rushed for shelter, leaving her wheelchair-bound companion soaking in the rain.  Because of their shared laughter, the young woman in the chair could not push herself  hard enough to keep from getting drenched by the pelting drops.  I marveled at the young woman who stood safely under the shelter loving her friend enough to tease her in the same way she would her able-bodied friends.

I thank God for these valiant men, women and children who embrace their adventures at Disney.  Yet, I praise the Lord even more for the people who look beyond the difficulties of their disabilities to enjoy their unique journey of life.

Sense of Humor? Get one

There may be nothing that is as potent in leadership than a sense of humor, especially when you allow yourself to become the joke.

I’ve watched gifted leaders turn some of their greatest blunders into a time of learning for everyone.   Here are some helpful hints that I’ve gleaned from these men and women.

  1. Taking yourself too seriously is deadly for a leader.
  2. Begin to examine your attitudes and actions with a critical eye which searches for what others may find humorous.
  3. Dispel anger by openly letting others know that you get the joke.
  4. Allow your co-workers and volunteers to become part of this humorous experience.
  5. Don’t ever laugh at the person who may criticize you.  But actively laugh at yourself when criticism is leveled at you.

Each year, Special Gathering takes 200 or more people on a retreat.  We are responsible for the safety and health of our members who are mentally challenged.  Most of them have an additional, secondary physical disability.  Tensions run high during the times we are transporting these people and setting up the retreat.

About five years ago, our executive director began to break down some of the tension by laughing at himself.  Those of us in leadership positions took up his banner by finding humor in our mistakes and stern attitude.  Our most valued volunteers and staff pushed the theme.  It has changed the sternness of this tense time into a much more relaxed atmosphere for everyone.

Finding the things at which others can laugh enhances–rather than diminishes–your leadership skills. If you don’t have a sense of humor, get one.

Photo by LadyBugPhotography
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/2011/06/leadership-sense-of-humor-get-one.html#ixzz1Pv3QGftr

Several times each week, I would take one or all of my children on foot, crossing the busy five-lane A1A Highway to the ocean.  Each time, I would instruct them.  “Stop.  Look both ways.  Listen.   And do not EVER run across a busy highway.”

Once we had gotten through the traffic; and we were safely on the other side, I would explain.  “If you run, you may fall.  If you fall, you will not be able get up; and a car will hit you.  Before you begin to cross the highway, always be certain that there is enough room between the cars that you don’t have to run.”

These were the same instructions my mother and father had given to my sister, brother and me when we had to navigate across the bustling Dorchester Road in Charleston Heights, SC.  My parents owned an ice cream parlor in a small strip mall; and we often had to walk to their work.  Mother’s instructions echoed in our minds so accurately that when we were old enough to walk with my older sister and without our parents, we would tell each other how to cross before we stepped off the curb onto the buzzing street.

Now, many decades later, it was such good advice that I’m still giving myself the same instructions about many areas in my life.  In more detail, here are steps you can take to eliminate many stressful situations.

  1. Stop!  Take a break.  Whether you are pressing too hard to complete a garden project, preparing to host a social event or trying to meet a pending deadline, taking a break will enhance your productivity and increase your ability to concentrate.  Thereby, your stress level will be reduced.
  2. Look far beyond the immediate situation.  Continually look at your life and at your goals.  To cross a bustling highway, you must understand the patterns of traffic.  This takes times of examination.  To understand what God has planned for you.  Daily evaluation and observations is essential.
  3. Listen!  Observing the flow of traffic for a highway and in your life takes all your senses.  Listen to the Lord, your critics and your friends.
  4. Don’t run.  Only people who are insecure about their ability to cross a busy highway attempt to run across the street.  Running dramatically elevates your chance of failure.  You increase your stress level–not lower it–when you are in a hurry.  Be sure that you have the time needed to complete tasks.  Then and only then, proceed.  Tripping and falling in the middle of a project spells disaster and increases the strain on your body and mind.
Years ago when I was learning to hear the voice of the Lord, a respected teacher and older friend told me, “Linda, God has an eternity to accomplish His good work in you.  He doesn’t push us.  If I feel extreme inner pressure, I stop.  Then I seek God to truly hear from Him.  God isn’t in a hurry.”  That day my stress level decreased sustantially.  Each time I remember her wisdom, I’m blessed by lower stress levels and God’s peace.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach called music, “Recreation of the mind.”  Modern scientific research tell us that your mother was right–again. Learning to play a musical instrument as a child and continuing to practice into adulthood sharpens your mind and keeps your thinking clear for decades.

Music is one of the best stress relievers that God has given to us.  Shower singing remains a time-honored and valued national pass time.  It is accompanied by rolling up the windows of your car, turning on the A/C and conducting a private sing-along with your favorite CD or the radio.

The beat of the music has long been known to relieve tension.  Mothers from the dawn on time have known that singing to a restless infant or toddler calms and soothes their bodies and minds.

Vocalizing allows your brain to go on a mini-vacation free from the stress of your daily concerns.  In Central Florida, we have two of the best Christian radio stations in the US.  No matter what my mood, desires or worries, I have an easy, readily available answer to stress and worry.

I can immediately take a break from the day and relax. By simply singing a Christ-honoring song, I glorify God, reinforce Christian principles in my heart and destroy harmful stress-building chemicals in my brain and body.

Some of my best memories were singing with my mother as a child.  Doing the dishes with Mother was always a joy because we would sing together.  Her last years, she lost her ability to speak and she could not longer sing; but her smiles grew large and vibrant when she was sitting in the presence of music.  

Many people say, “I can’t sing.”  That is a misnomer.  Not everyone can sing well.    However, unless there is a physical disability, everyone can sing.

Want to relieve the stress of everyday life?  Want to take a break from the concerns of the day?  It costs nothing to sing a song and the benefits are monumental.

When I first began writing to meet a deadline, I found that I could sit at the computer for only a limited number of hours.  Every 15 minutes or so, I would walk around the house or yard.  I might get a glass of iced tea or stroll through the yard.  After a couple of hours, I had to completely stop and take a walk.  Armed with my 30 to 40 sheets of manuscript and a sharp pencil, I would slowly meander through our neighborhood while rereading and re-editing the document I’d just written.

I learned from this experience that taking a walk is different from other exercises.  Walking is a low impact, uncomplicated pathway to greater health.  As simple as it is, taking a walk can be an amazing stress reliever.  Stress is a fact of life.  No matter what your occupation or avocation, you are hit with harmful stress if you don’t watch your step.  Some of the most beneficial steps are taken while you walk.

Walking relieves stress levels because it increases our levels of endorphins.  These are the hormones which medical professionals tell us make us happy.  One reason is that endorphins help you to feel good about yourself.

Of course, you can get the endorphin jolt from ordinary exercise.  So why walk instead?

Walking allows you to slow down enough to enjoy the wonders of your natural surroundings.  It’s almost impossible to walk and not find something that is fascinating and interesting.

Wild flowers inching between the cracks in the sidewalk, a bug scurrying away to feed her young, your neighbor’s willow tree swinging in the wind can become moment of exquisite pleasure.   By alerting your mind to become involved in the adventure, you can experience a delightful, stress-defeating break.

The best walks happen along the shore of a lake, river or ocean.  The rhythmic sounds of moving water adds additional stress relieving benefits.  However, for many people, this isn’t possible.  Nevertheless, if you are one of the fortunate folks who can walk near a body of water, this excursion produces a significant calming affect.

If you have a raincoat and an umbrella, don’t be afraid to walk in the rain.   Take off your shoes and socks.  Roll up your pant legs. Splash in the puddles.  Take pleasure and benefit from the textures and coolness of the water.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus and his disciples walked continually.  In fact, in those days, everyone walked several miles a day.  Times have changed.  Modern transportation can easily take us thousands of miles in one day.  However, some of the greatest stress-relieving benefits can be found through the healthy and simple exercise of walking.

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