Category Archives: Quotes

“Truths and roses have thorns about them” – Thoreau

As I write, two roses adorn my workspace. Having this little bit of nature at my desk helps pass the long days of COVID quarantine work. But there is also deeper meaning from these blooms, aptly named “Secret”.

These two roses came from my yard – my little piece of the planet. Three new rose bushes sit atop a hill in my yard.  They were planted this May after my first surgery for breast cancer.  I wanted to find a way to honor the loss of part of my body and it seemed fitting to add a plant to my yard to remind me of the growth that has come through this experience (credit goes to my sister who suggested the idea of a plant or tree).  The night before my surgery, I got some finger-paint and made prints of my breasts (I know this sounds strange, but hear me out).  I wanted to have some tangible reminder of this physical part of my being that nourished my children and was a part of my physical identity as a woman. 

New rose bushes in the front yard planted along the walkway.

A few weeks after surgery, I went to a local nursery and found three rose bushes.  One was called “Secret” which is described as having “perfume worth bragging about”.  The blooms were a cream color brushed with rich pink on the tips.  New growth is set off by mahogany-red new foliage. The next was called “Pink Traviata”, named for a mutation of a variety called Traviata.  The bloom is a deep pink old fashioned flower with overlapping petals.  The final rose “Sweet Mademoiselle” has double blooms with color that varies.  In the heat, they are a lighter pink.  When first brought home, they were a vibrant pink.  Getting the roses into the car, two of the “Sweet Mademoiselle” roses broke off, one fully bloomed and another in the bud stage.  I was very sad about it, but decided it was somewhat symbolic given that my cancer had been fully formed on my right side (leading to the mastectomy) and there was a small sign that something “of concern” was on the left (leading to the double mastectomy).  It turns out, the left side showed cancer, DCIS, in the left, so it was a good decision.  When the roses were planted, one of the prints was placed into the soil around the plants. 

Sweet Mademoiselle and Pink Traviata roses with oak leaf hydrangea.

Throughout my recovery, the blooms have continued.  I look out the window on a regular basis to see if I can spot a touch of color indicating a new bloom is ready.  I’ve brought many inside keeping them at my desk and the side of my bed.  As I leave my house (only occasionally due to COVID) for medical appointments, I can keep track of the roses on a more regular interval.  They get a morning drink of water and, just this past week, they got some extra nutrients for the soil.  The roses have been a source of encouragement and symbolic meaning.

Pink Traviata
Pink Traviata, a double bloom of deep pink.
Though the leaf was chewed beyond recognition, the rose still bloomed.

Over the past few weeks as temperatures climbed into the 90s every day, the roses sent out new foliage. I am reminded that the main job of a leaf is to make food for a plant, using sunlight for energy and to take water from the ground and carbon dioxide from the air. The rose has struggled with unwelcome insects chewing the new leaves, blooms, and stems.  Each morning during watering, the rose is given a shower with specific focus on getting rid of the unwanted pests.  Sometimes this takes surgical precision with the delicate stream from organic insecticidal soap. It isn’t lost on me how similar this is to my recent surgery experience. The part of my body removed was designed to provide nourishment, just like the rose’s leaves. Like my rose bushes, there are unwanted pests and other challenges. Sometimes those must be removed. With the skilled radiologists seeing what needed to be removed and surgeons trained to remove it, I am able to have the unwanted part of me removed.  Also symbolic, in order to cut the rose, I must also contend with the thorns. Henry David Thoreau once said, “Truths and roses have thorns about them”.

This morning, the bushes were filled with blooms.  I marveled at how beautiful the blooms were.  It seems the insects had left some of the blooms alone to fully bloom.  The leaves; however, did have some large bites out of them, but I can make peace with that given that the rose isn’t diminished by the loss of a few leaves.  Making peace with pests and invasion, of all sorts, seems to be one of my jobs these days.

“Take time to smell the roses” – Proverb

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Stay Inside Your Own Hula Hoop

Stay Inside Your Own Hula Hoop

I love synchronicity. This past week I was treated to a series of synchronistic events. It got my attention.

A week ago, a wise woman I know was sharing a story about a challenge in her life and she remarked, “I need to remember to stay inside my own hula hoop”. The image conjured up in me fond memories of myself as a young girl with a bright pink hula hoop with white stripes. I could hula hoop FOR-E-VER. Sometimes, I would hula hoop while watching “The Love Boat” on Saturday evenings in our family room in St. Louis, Missouri – for the entire episode. If I saw a hula hoop at someone else’s house, I couldn’t help but give it a try. I had not tried using a hula hoop for many years.

Stay inside your own hula hoop….

The image of staying within my hula hoop has been with me since I heard my friend share the idea. I’ve thought about it in my family. As a Mom, I’ve been called a “helecopter parent” and even joked that I was a proud one at that. But, as my children have grown older and wiser, I realize that often it is better for me to let their ideas shine through rather than adding my own advice. Staying in my hula hoop as a Mom means, to me, giving my children room to be themselves and to allow their best selves to emerge. I am often struck by their thoughtfulness and the care with which they make decisions. No two people can share a hula hoop – it doesn’t work. As a Mom, staying in my own hula hoop also reminds me to take care of myself so that I can be there for them when they need me (and not be a burden on them in the future). As a daughter, I know it is important to respect my parent’s space, choices, independence, and lives. My mother has health problems and I am often told by her caregivers, “You need to tell her to do such-and-such (take it easy, don’t do something, etc.)” or they will talk to me with her sitting right there. I take great pains to remind them that she is the patient and gets to decide what is best for her. And so it goes. The hula hoop analogy is helpful to think about in my role as mother, daughter, wife, and friend.

At my work, staying in my hula hoop means to me respecting the hierarchy of my workplace. I work in higher education where there are many layers of leadership. Each person in the chain has an important role and needs to feel both informed and also in charge. It is my nature to want to be informed and to want to know what is going on. Most of the time, it either isn’t my business or isn’t something I need to worry about. Staying in my hula hoop – my lane – my chain of command – my job title – my building – always goes better than letting the hula hoop fall and stepping out of it. There is plenty to do within my own job and role as well. When I step back, people step forward and often better outcomes result.

Photo credit: Drawception.com

Earlier this week, I had a particularly challenging day. I felt anxious and uncertain about the future. I had people around me all wanting different things for me, disappointed in me, etc. I felt I’d let important people down. I felt misunderstood. I decided to take a walk with my dog, Beckham, to think and to settle myself down. It was a Thursday, trash day. As I walked through the neighborhood, I began to settle down. My breathing settled. My heart rate lowered. I began to think more constructively about my situation. I reflected on how long some of my neighbors had been in our community. My next door neighbor has lived in the same home since I was in high school. I’ve watched children being brought home from the hospital, walked in strollers, walking their dog, and walking a graduation stage. I was reminded of taking the long view. Taking one day at a time. Not trying to solve everything at once. Thinking for myself versus thinking through what I perceived as everyone’s expectations of me. As we turned down the street to my house, a glint of light caught my eye. As we came closer, I noticed a stack of colorful hula hoops sitting in my neighbor’s driveway along with their trash cans. I laughed out loud. OF COURSE the hula hoop message was JUST PERFECT for my situation. If I focused on myself, what I could control, and not try to control others, I could at least pare down what was making me anxious into smaller pieces. I looped about five hula hoops over my arm and decided I would put them to good use.

At work, I brought a pink hula hoop and leaned it against my whiteboard. inside the hoop, I wrote, “Stay inside your own hula hoop”. At home, I put a hula hoop in the planter between my garage doors. It is the first thing I see when backing down the driveway in the morning and the last thing I see when I pull into my parking spot at night. In my office at home, I leaned a hula hoop under the wall where I empty my purse at night. In my bedroom, there is a hula hoop peeking out from behind the headboard of my bed. While these may seem strange to those who see them, to me they are a simple reminder of a powerful way of being.

Pinterest.com

If you hold a hula hoop out in front of you, it creates a frame for whatever you gaze upon. I decided to put the hula hoops in places important to me as a reminder of this perspective. I also saw another “message” in the hula hoop. The letter “C” repeats itself at the left, top, bottom, and right. There are many words that start with the letter “C” that relate to this “stay inside your hula hoop” mantra. The word “CAUSE” is one of them. I could ask myself to remember that I did not cause the situation that is troubling me. Or, if I did, to do what I could to apologize or get out of the way. Another “C” word is “COMPLAIN”. If I complain about a situation, it is not likely to get any better and, more likely, it will get worse. Another “C” word is “CONTROL”. Remembering that I am not in control, that I shouldn’t over-control, and that by trying to control a situation I am likely going to make it worse. A “C” word to avoid is “CAN’T”. Most of the time, I can’t control a situation, but when I can do something about it, saying “I CAN” is better than “I Can’t”.

The three (or more) Cs: I can’t CONTROL the situation, COMPLAINING doesn’t help, I didn’t CAUSE the situation (or if I did, do something about it), and avoid CRITICIZING.

This morning, I shared my story about finding the hula hoops with a group of friends. Several asked me if they might have one of the hula hoops I had found. At the end of the gathering, one of the members walked back into the room with a stack of colorful hula hoops on his arm. He explained that he and his wife had gone to Baltimore the previous day and he thought he would take some hula hoops from his garage with him in case he saw children that might like to have them. He never saw any children. But when he heard my story and the fact that several people wanted to have one, he thought, “Synchronicity is often a sign that something special is going on”. He went out to his car and brought in the hula hoops to share with our group. The reaction was priceless. Each person got to choose the color and pattern that most appealed to them. It was such an adorable scene: Smiles all around, people asking for particular colors, and people trying their hula hoops. I will long remember the sight of our group walking out to their cars with hula hoops in hand.

The situation that led to my feeling anxious earlier this week is still present, but how I am thinking about it has lightened a bit. While my hula hoops may look like a misplaced piece of plastic and glitter, they are also a portal through which I can see myself and those I love in a fresh way.

Synchronicity is often a sign that something special is going on…

Stay inside your hula hoop – it is a whole lot more fun that way. Photo credit: Vogue June/July 1971

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Message in a Shadow….

Geneva:  Inspiration along a street....
Geneva: Inspiration along a street….

Walking down a street in Geneva, Switzerland is a visual treat.  So much beauty is packed into the architecture, landscaping, sculpture and, in this case, a closed jewelry store.

Lit from above, the twisted metal casts a shadow onto the wall behind.  The metal glints like the jewelry in the cases below it.

I want to be part of what is to come.

What an inspiring quote for 2015.  What an inspiring thing to say to another person – a loved one.

What will expand – or contract – in 2015?

What roles in life will change?  I know that all of these roles are important to me:  Wife, Mother, Daughter, Friend, Cousin.  Some of my roles, while important, may not be as expressed as I might like them to be (not a topic to blog about out of respect for those impacted).

My work role is undergoing change.  I do want to be part of what I have created and what is to come as a result of a special gift I helped bring about (thanks to a very generous donor).  The next three years pull me forward with a new building to come out of the ground.

Among the many things I love about my husband, he always has something special planned in the wet cement of the future – what is to come.  I know I want to be part of that.  Travel is always on the list.

This quote also invites me to contemplate futures I don’t want.  But that’s for another post.

What do YOU want to be part of that is to come?

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole”
C.G. Jung

Aside:  After doing some homework with various word searches on Google, I believe I can properly credit the wire artist as Fred Eerdekens from Hasselt, Belgium.  To see more of his amazing artwork, you can google his name.  Truly amazing.

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