Next Generation Americans

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It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.Henry James

Over the course my lifetime, there have been many changes to my homeland. America has been built on the diversity of its people, yet sometimes I feel as if I no longer see the values this country was built upon. I expect the conundrum between progress and tradition but, I struggle with the fact that the good ole U.S.A. is vastly different than the country of my youth.

I can’t help but look at these pictures and worry whether wearing red, white and blue and stars and stripes will someday be banned in the U.S.A. forever. After all, it seems a crime to hang an American flag on one’s own property, on American soil. What’s up with that?

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donkey and girl 4th

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Young boy (4-5) wearing red white and blue sailor hat, smiling, portrait

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What will our country look like for the next generation of American children? I’m airing just a bit of what I have been pondering this week. It’s an appropriate subject to consider on All Things Fulfilling during a month when we celebrate independence and American patriotism.

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, award-winning author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected and short stories Lessons of Heart & Soul.

 

Importance of Decorating Life

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If the family were a boat, it would be a canoe that makes no progress unless everyone paddles.~ Letty Cottin Pogrebin

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This week we  celebrate Independence Day, so I’ve been thinking about how when I was growing up holiday traditions were a big deal. My mother made each one very special. Even on those days that were of lesser importance she often made memories by the little things she did to commemorate and celebrate life. Thank you Mom, you will always be very fondly remembered for that, not only by your children but also by your eight grandchildren.

I recently came across an article on a website called The Art of Manliness that describes why traditions are valuable to the family unit. I was happy to see such an article on a blog for men because the male population can get in on the action of helping to establish traditions too!

Dads, perhaps you can become remembered for being the “grill master”, or the one who takes the children out for Sunday drives in the country, or the one who says “Grace” at the table before meals. Perhaps you are the guy who makes pancakes on Saturday mornings so Mother can sleep in.

These little things are what children remember from their childhood and they make deep, lasting impressions. The bonds of family are established through traditions. They give us a connectedness and a sense that it’s the small things in life that are important. What can you do to show your loved ones that family ties matter?

memoriesThis blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, award-winning author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected and short stories Lessons of Heart & Soul.

Once within a House & Yard

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Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action. ~ Mother Teresa

Grandmothers house 2802 Fleetwood AvenueOnce upon a time all it took was a quick glance from the sidewalk and the heart and soul of this place could be felt in an instant. An American flag flew proud and tall on a big pole in the yard. A couple of rocking chairs sat on the small front porch and small pots of flowers crowded the ledge around it. The voices of neighborhood children walking by cheerily yelled out “Hi Baba!” It was a daily occurrence. The woman who lived there was a grandmother of everyone’s dreams.

A huge tall oak tree once grew on the left side. It canopied the property as if it embraced the residents living within the bungalow-style house.  Both front and backyard were carefully and lovingly tended by a bald, kind-hearted man who was called Pop by his grandchildren. He was as equally fine and gentile as his wife.

In the backyard grew lilacs, wisteria and the hugest magnolia tree I’d ever witnessed. So tall that as a young child, I couldn’t even see up to the tippy top. The tree went on forever – all the way on up to heaven. An outdoor brick fireplace in the gorgeously landscaped backyard cooked many a hotdog! Goldfish circled the waters of a four foot cement pond.The sounds of fun and laughter could be heard frequently of a wonderful couple who especially adored the days when their four grandchildren came to visit.

Smells of fresh peach cake, “smoked neck” with potatoes and green beans, yeast rolls and other lovingly cooked food and baked goods wafted outside through the screen door of the tiny galley kitchen. The aromas settled on pots of colorful pansies and petunias and on rows of dinner plate dahlias and gladiolas that lined the perimeter of the yard.

The house still stands, but when I look at this picture, I don’t see any evidence of the life that once graced the place. The tender loving care put  into the house and the children and grandchildren who visited remains only in my memories. This place once made my heartbeat warmly every time I entered in the door.

So what’s the good news on this Thirsty Thursday?  I can still hear the voice of my Grandmother….”Susie Annie, is that you, hon? Want a nice tall glass of ice cold sweet tea? I just loaded up the candy dishes on the buffet in the dining room. Help yourself. There are nonpareils, jelly candies, butter mints, anything you want. The Chiclets are in the top drawer of the buffet on the left.”

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, the award-winning author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected. Click here for more information on Sue Batton Leonard’s publications.

 

Brightening the Spirit with Color

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“Kodachrome, they give us those nice bright colors

They give us the greens of summers

Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah.”

~ Paul Simon

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We are living in a visual world and scientists have been studying the effects color has on our psyche. Indeed, there is validity to the psychological properties of color.

I have had my own long standing argument with wearing the color black. Sometimes I feel as if I want to put it on because it looks sophisticated and more formal than many other colors. So, I think “Okay, this occasion calls for my little black dress.” I put it on, and off it comes. I can’t stand what it makes me feel like. Don’t get me wrong, people   look terrific in their little black dresses. But, its just not me unless paired with some loud contrast.

Lately, I have been doing a little merchandising at a thrift store called Lift Up. It’s creatively challenging because all items are donations, display space is limited and I have to use the resources we’ve got on hand. But that is what makes it so much fun.

I’ve been taking pictures of some of the displays I have been creating. I had to laugh at myself the other day as I went through them. Notice the  arrangement of the colors on this multi-level bookcase and what i put unintentionally on the bottom shelf.  I need to raise it’s status!

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Sometimes, it is good to face what’s been dark places in our lives. I found that out when I wrote my memoir “Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected. As it’s been said, if it wasn’t for darkness, there’d be no light. There is another book related to darkness and light of spirit that you might want to add to your reading list.

Wouldn’t you agree a spectrum of colors is illuminated more beautifully when it’s been placed up against the dark?That’s the reason why after a cold dreary winter, we appreciate colorful flowers that burst forth every spring and summer.

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Enjoy spring and the coming of the bright season of summer! I know I will.

This blog is brought to you by award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard.

Hats Off, Hats On

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“Building art is a synthesis of life in materialized form. We should try to bring in under the same hat not a splintered way of thinking, but all in harmony together.” ~ Alvar Aalto

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about hats because it was recently Easter and because I’ve been wearing many different hats lately. When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s no Easter outfit was complete unless it was topped off with a new spring coat and a matching headpiece. It tickles me silly when I think of some of the hats my mother wore to church. She had a yellow one that was shaped like a bees hive, and there was even a little fuzzy bee that was glued to the mesh that surrounded the hat.

hat etiquetteIn my childhood days it was not a rare occurrence  to see men and women as well as boys and girls wearing hats on occasions that called for dressing up like going to church. It was all part of Sunday morning tradition.

Teaching children manners were of utmost importance when I was a kid and that included making sure kids were well versed in the etiquette of hat wearing. It’s been said by writer Alexander McCall Smith that “manners are the basic building blocks of a civil society.”

Do you think we are better off being a more relaxed society or would you like to see a return to some of the niceties that were present several decades ago?

Please take this one second poll on All Things Fulfilling. I’d love to know your response.

This blog is brought to you by award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard.

 

 

For this Child

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On April 10,  1988, a week after Easter, my husband and I had our son baptized in the church where I grew up. That day started an awakening of sorts for me. I stood on the altar in front of the baptismal font, promising to raise our son as a Christian.

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I also began to realize the awesome responsibility I had to my son to raise him the best way that I possibly knew how with my husband. That included a desire to share my beliefs with him as he grew up. I knew that adorable little infant would face a complicated journey called life, and having a foundation of faith, I felt would be important.

Several times over recent years I have blogged about how our society has changed since the decades of my growing up. In my opinion, there seems to be a lack of accountability to a “higher being.” One wonders whether this fundamental has changed our American culture.

I am curious. If you are a parent, did having children change your faith in small or big ways? Please post your comment.

This blog is brought to you by the author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected and Short Stories: Lessons of Heart & Soul.

Stories in Music

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conducive-to-happiness[5]Every spring and fall the Yampa Valley Choral Society holds a community concert at the United Methodist Church in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This past weekend a group of 41 men and women and 10 young girls presented “I’ve Been Everywhere: It‘s the Journey That Counts.”

This year, the sound of young choral voices added to the concert. Ten young girls sang a few songs taken from film scores and musical theatre productions. Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head (from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and two memorable selections from Annie – Tomorrow and It’s a Hard Knock Life (from Annie) were  included.

As usual, the arrangement of musical compositions sung by the forty-one adults were thoughtfully chosen and diverse. Spirituals included Set Me as A Seal which was paraphrased from the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament and How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place by Johannes Brahms. Words from Psalm 84 of the King James Bible were incorporated in the verses of this composition.

Karl Jenkins composition Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary was not familiar to me, however it was sweet sounding and harmonious.  Jenkins, is a Welsh composer whose album is unintended for words, rather the voices of the chorus made instrument-like noises.

Two songs had nautical backstories to them. Over the Sea to Skye tells of Charles Stuarts escape from Scotland in 1745 via ship, along with Flora MacDonald, who traveled incognito, posing as his maid. His exile took him to France where he spent the rest of his lifetime.

Dry Your Tears, Afrika,  one of my favorite tunes of the afternoon, was taken from the 1997 movie Armistad. The story is about 53 Africans who were transported by ship from Sierra Leone to be sold as slaves. They changed their destiny when they took hold of the ship and navigated it to Long Island. The events of their journey became the subject of a Supreme Court case. If you have not seen the movie, it’s powerful.

You haven’t been anywhere unless you’ve traveled across America. Songs from past Pop Hit Charts included Homeward Bound, Surfin’ USA, I’ve Been Everywhere, and I’ll Fly Away were incorporated into the concert, as well as America from West Side Story.

I never fail to learn something from the interesting backstories of the compositions that the Yampa Valley Choral Society choses to focus the themes of their concerts around. The program notes as well as the choir Director’s commentary help tell the story of each song’s rich history and their composers.

Thank you Yampa Valley Choral Society for yet another delightful hour of music. Look forward to your fall concert.

This blog is brought to you by award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard.