(workin’ on) an attitude of gratitude

As Americans scurry to make preparations for Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday, it’s good for all of us to take a few minutes to give thanks.

In this case more is better (vs. less is more) because once we start our thankful for lists it’s easier to let a full-fledged attitude of gratitude take over our hearts.

When challenges surround us (even seemingly insurmountable ones) it’s a discipline to give thanks for what lies betwixt and between the bad stuff. It’s not necessary to thank God for the bad stuff, but for packages of grace in the bad stuff.

Some packages are easier to identify than others – love, beauty, family, friends, provisions of grace, strength to endure (minute by minute), God’s peace, joy and…chocolate.

(Chocolate may not take challenges away, but certainly helps this chocoholic cope.)

An attitude of gratitude is not something to put on just one day of the year (ie, Thanksgiving) but is something that can add meaning to each and every day. Feeling grumpy in the morning? Try being grateful for one thing…then another.

(Counteracting morning grumps can also be chased with post haste indulgence in your beverage of choice, in my case, hot tea.)

If we let gratitude infiltrate our interactions with others, it lifts them (and us) up, too.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder… When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”  G.K. Chesterton

grace, peace & gratitude attitudes

Virginia : )

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For friends from other countries (& here, too) these last few weeks the U.S. midterm elections have swallowed our national media’s attention for the big showdown Tuesday, November 6th. Usually not as many Americans vote in midterms (the 2-year interval between our Presidential elections) but this year early voting and absentee ballots have seen record numbers around the country.

In our midterms we elect senators and congressional representatives (from local districts) to represent us in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives respectively. Some states also have gubernatorial races along with statewide ‘yes or no’ issues to decide.

Here in Virginia (the state of) we are electing representatives from our local districts and have one Senate seat open. Once again amidst angry mudslinging there is a distinct need for more civility (as I wrote here during the last election: CIVILITY PLEASE .)

As a university student I was on the executive board of a collegiate partisan group. With over 1,000 members we busily engaged in myriad activities during elections: phone banks, door to door canvassing, mobilizing voters, painting our university bridge (a UVA thing.) But I also hung out socially with the other political group on campus (they had fewer members, but were loads of fun to be friends with!) At times we engaged in spirited debates but were unified in our desire to get more people involved in the process.

Because that’s the point – to be involved. With many challenges facing our country, the first step is basic: VOTE. No matter what party you support, get out there and vote!

It may not be just about following political party lines, but issues that are important to you. Look at the candidates’ stands on those issues and choose accordingly.

This year a local newspaper has endorsed a split ticket in our area. Looking at the issues, I am voting accordingly because I believe the two candidates (from different parties) have done (and will continue to do) a good job getting things done in D.C. despite the nasty shenanigans going on there.

We need voices of light and reason in our political discourse – let’s hope more than a few get elected tomorrow who can build bridges of hope and understanding (not hate and fear.)

Here’s a song for today (tomorrow & every day) from one of my all-time favorite musicians, James Taylor. I was blessed to see him four times in concert as a student in Charlottesville.

Shed A Little Light…

“Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King and recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the Earth. Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood, that we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong. We are bound together by the task that stands before us and the road that lies ahead. We are bound and we are bound.”

James Taylor, Country Road Music, INC.

The Road that lies ahead…(hopefully brighter!)


grace, peace & elections

Virginia : )

“Winning or losing the election is less important than strengthening the country.” Indira Gandhi

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Tree of Life: Sorrow, Horror & Prayer(s)

“All that is left to us is our being horrified at the loss of our sense of horror.” Rabbi Abraham Heschel

My heart and prayers are with the victims and families of the mass shooting that took place on Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Hearing of such reckless hate that killed mainly elderly members of the congregation, I could not help but think of my precious parents and how it would feel if they had died in such a manner.

Senseless. Horrifying. Because this act of hatred is horrifying.

These last years we Americans have faced multiple mass shootings: 20 children and 6 teachers killed @ Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut; 17 students and teachers @ Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida; 32 college students at Virginia Tech; the killing of 9 African Americans @ Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, SC; 49 members of the LBGTQ community gunned down @ the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL; 58 killed in Las Vegas, 26 killed in Sutherland Springs, TX  — and unfortunately the list goes on.

Such deaths may dull our sense of what constitutes horror – is it the number killed, or the manner in which they are killed?

But that’s the point of Rabbi Heschel’s teaching: each and every act of violence should be a wake up call to the horror of hate.

Rabbi Heschel (1907-1972) knew all about hate as one of the few members of his family to survive the Holocaust, yet he did all he could to build bridges of understanding and prayer. As an activist during the Civil Rights era he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.

“When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

My challenge to friends and readers of this blog here and all around the world: do not let acts of senseless violence dull the reality of hate’s horror. Instead, let our feet pray with acts of kindness, courage, and love.

Jefferson National Forest, VA

On Friday my sister Shere & I zoomed 9 hours to Ohio for a short visit with our brother Dean and his wife, Lynn. In the aftermath of what happened in Pittsburgh, I took this picture on the return trip in the mountains of Virginia (just over the West Virginia state line.)

May we all plants seeds of love wherever we are so they may grow into trees of peace and understanding – Trees of Life and prayers that unite us.

grace, peace & prayers


“Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.

Prayer begins where our power ends.”  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

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Movie Roundup: Lots to Contemplate

After a month of not seeing one movie in the theater, it’s been a bonanza two-movie week. Last Tuesday night (our local Regal Theater hosts 1/2 price movies on Tuesdays) my brother and I saw “First Man” about Neil Armstrong’s journey to the moon, then on Monday I zoomed down to Newport News (our nearest big city) to see “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.”

Two different yet sobering movies that offered lots to contemplate.

As NASA groupies, my brother and I plotted months ago to see “First Man” after watching the preview. It wasn’t quite what I expected – definitely not a get-up-and-cheer NASA movie like one of my favorites “Hidden Figures.” Instead, it’s a sobering snapshot of the cost of getting to the moon: in lives, determination, dedication, sacrifice(s), plus the psychological and physical tolls on astronauts and their families.

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong has come a long way since “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock. (Although he was hilarious in that and I’m a huge Sandra Bullock groupie.) Both he and Claire Foy, who plays Neil’s wife Janet, deliver moving performances of emotional depth.

“But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? …We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”   President John F. Kennedy

Awhile back I heard Ellen Stofan as NASA’s Chief Scientist give a talk to alumni at The College of William & Mary (where I went to graduate school.) She said that NASA’s extraordinary achievement reaching the moon in the 1960s motivated a host of innovators who subsequently made advancements across multiple medical and technological fields. (It’s humbling to note that the small chips in our cellphones now hold more computing power than those early NASA rockets.)

As was then – the sacrifices Neil Armstrong, his wife and family made plus those of fellow astronauts to reach the moon – so, too, now the going may be hard facing the seemingly insurmountable challenges in our country and world today.

My movie takeaway: In doing great things there is sacrifice. What are we personally willing to sacrifice to achieve our goals individually and collectively?

Now I must say I’m not usually one to watch FBI thriller movies about serial killers. Last week after reading Caralyn’s blog post about it over at BeautyBeyondBones, the fact that most media blocked this movie got my dander up.

I’m ornery that way, so went to see it (despite misgivings about the potential gore factor.)

Just like during the case and trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell who was convicted of multiple murders in 2013, no one wants to deal with (or talk about) the fact that he was an abortion doctor. Thus what he did went on unabated until an FBI drug raid on his clinic revealed – well, go see the movie to find out.

This movie could have been so gory. It’s not. After reading Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan books and watching Bones, this movie is like a mild Bones episode. (Must say a few Bones episodes were a bit too much for me!)

I do have views on abortion that I’ve written about previously (click here to read them) but I also have friends and colleagues who have differing views.

I respect them and their views.

But one challenge this movie highlights is what happens when no one speaks up – when rigidly held views cover up crimes?

This movie is about truth – difficult truths – and how we face them.

It’s also about courage. Joanne Pescatore, the Assistant D.A. who prosecuted the case, was pro-choice but could not deny the facts as more was revealed. An investigative blogger Molly (a composite character based on one journalist and one blogger who covered the trial when no one else did) courageously tweets and shames the media into eventually paying attention to the trial.

Even with piles of evidence, the trial would have been lost if not for the courage of a young staff member from Dr. Gosnell’s clinic.

Who took a picture.

A difficult truth.

If you have a chance, go see this movie. It’s actually a well done film with good actors stretching a small budget (as big Hollywood movies go) mostly focused on the trial (using actual transcripts.) Think Law & Order on a big screen.

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer

Making a beeline to the restroom after the movie (my Mama always said, “tea in, tea out”) I saw another lady doing the same.

I said, “I don’t think I want to see that photograph.” (As the credits rolled, there was a website address listed to view it.)

She replied, “I think everyone should see it.”

That challenged me, Bones gory-index notwithstanding, how many things do we look away from. Avoid?

Not just this issue, but any issue that might rock the boat of our comfortable securities and views? That might make us think for a minute (or two) differently?

Life is a gift to be treasured in equal measure – the lives of every one of us, of every color, orientation, gender, status, age, religion, wealth, of refugees, immigrants, children in cages at our border, the abused, and those killed brutally around the world.

Life is a gift.

Back to Virginia’s movie roundup. Two movies with different yet similar messages relevant for today: the daily sacrificial cost and challenges of achievement, the need for compassionate courage, and how we face difficult truths (especially when they conflict with our views.)

grace, peace & inspirational movies


“I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work.”  Neil Armstrong

p.s. It took two days but I finally looked up the photograph, thanks to the lady in the Newport News theater for challenging me. It is horrifying (& I have viewed some relatively tough stuff, including mass graves in Kosovo.) A very difficult truth.

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Lullabies for Insomniacs : )

Blogger Virginia’s wisdom is all tapped out, what with all she shared last week(!) Plus she’s a tad wiped out from a misbehaving thyroid that occasionally makes a full night of sleep an elusive endeavor. (Sporadic sleep a well-rested blogger does not make.)

This morning while blasting out Paul Simon to get today’s grooves going (after yet again too few hours sleep) suddenly the words from one of his songs permeated Virginia’s droopy consciousness.

“Oh Lord, don’t keep me up all night
With questions I can’t understand
While I wrestle my fears
The sound in my ears
Is the music that’s sweeping the land
The Insomniac’s Lullaby…”   (Paul Simon)

Looked over at the iTouch to catch the song title: “Insomniac’s Lullaby.”

Appropriate for can’t sleep Virginia (and possibly others living in our whacked world with questions we can’t quite understand? Fears, ditto?)

It’s a great song with powerful lyrics, so here it is for all of you via a YouTube video. (Email readers, you know the drill – click in to the Roses website to view the video.)

Another fav song on this ‘Stranger to Stranger’ compilation is entitled Wristband. If you’d like some foot tapping action, click here to view a fun 4 minute VEVO video of Paul Simon and his band performing it. https://youtu.be/9lJHVpH5v8Q

Hopefully tonight we will all sleep side by side with the moon (not awake with the moon!)

grace, peace & insomniacs’ lullabies

Virginia : )

p.s. As a longtime Paul Simon groupie, I have enjoyed many of his compilations. ‘Stranger to Stranger’ is one of his newer ones, but my favorites are still ‘Graceland’ & ‘The Rhythm of the Saints.’

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Life Advice: (keep on) Wearing Sunscreen

In 2017 Virginia passed the 30-year marker since her undergraduate university graduation, which means twenty years of added experience after the commencement advice whipped up for the Class of 1997 (as shared here last week.)

Twenty years for Virginia (the person, not to be confused with the state) that included more time in the Middle East, studying hard for (& earning) a graduate degree, a short stint in the relief context of war torn Kosovo, a globetrotting job managing a safe-water initiative for 14 countries, 4 years working in Tanzania, and a (much longer than expected) care-giving gig looking after her bedfast quadriplegic Papa and arthritic wheelchair riding Mama.

With the opportunity to impart life advice from the standpoint of an older (hopefully wiser) Virginia, here (as promised last week) are a few more tidbits to add to the 1997 list.

Wearing sunscreen is still important (especially for red heads schlepping suitcases full of it to Africa where the sun burned even brighter than the Middle East!)

Virginia’s Advice to the Class of 2017

(& learners of all ages today)

What you do is important, but how you do it (not trampling others in the process) matters more in the Heavenly scheme of things.

You only have one set of parents: honor them.

You may be battered and bruised by life, but you are a valuable diamond of God’s delight – and diamonds are hard to crush.

Respect yourself. Respect others (& maybe others will more readily respect you.)

Pain is part and parcel of life; misery, however, is a choice.

Joy is a choice: choose joy.

Peace is a choice: choose peace.

Love is a choice: choose love.

Healing is a journey of discovery, recovery and new beginnings. It can take a long time (& loads of effort.)

Take time to be mesmerized by God’s heavenly paintbrushes busy in creation all around you – and within you.

Music enhances our life grooves, the soundtrack of our lives. It’s OK to turn up the volume.

Put God first, then figuring out the rest is not such an ordeal.

Keep trying new things, learning new things. It’s never too late to learn something new.

Small acts of kindness make a difference (& big acts, too.)

Make laughter a regular part of your schedule.

Presents are good, but the gift of your compassionate presence means even more (especially in tough times.)

God’s will is like an oriental carpet woven a little haphazardly on one side, but beautifully patterned on the other side (especially from the distance of time) for all to see.

When you’re tired, rest. When you’re tired of, take a break, rest (and pray.)

Burnout happens. Let go of yourself for awhile. Do something different (or do nothing at all) until you find the joy of doing again.

Friends matter.

Chocolate comes in vegan varieties. It’s still good.

Bitterness is a poison best spit out, not swallowed over and over again.

Regret something, but get over wallowing in it.

Take initiative. Why not try?

Be thankful. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way when the chips are down.

Failures happen. They can be opportunities to learn, stepping stones into the new you (& something new.)

Celebrate your uniqueness and the diverse uniqueness of others.

Conformity is overrated. Be yourself.

Agree to disagree: value friends and others with differing opinions.

Honey works (most times) better than vinegar. Doesn’t mean there aren’t times for acerbic accountability (bees sting when threatened.)

Read. Read to learn. Read to remember. Read for fun. Read to enlarge your world. Read to understand. Read to grow. Read until your eyes can’t see words on the page (& then get better glasses.)

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but wisdom.

Despair is everywhere. You never know when a smile, joke or kind interaction could be a spark of light in the despondence of another person.

Check your facts. Forwarding lies about other people means you are participating in those lies.

You can’t take it with you (really.)  Don’t let your possessions possess you.

Giving is a joy (vs. a duty.) How you give, whatever you give, matters.

Time is a gift. Spend it wisely.

Keep in touch, make that call. No one is an island. Relationships take effort.

Take time to smell the roses. (If you’re allergic, at least enjoy admiring them from afar.)

Roses on Valentine’s Day are worth it (even if you give them to yourself.)

A mate does not define who you are – you are who you are as you.

Quality vs. quantity: would you rather have one nice skirt that lasts ten years, or ten that last a few months?

Faith is not about rationality but Love. Hope. Mercy. Grace. Belief.

Be courageous.

‘What ifs?’ Don’t go there. Now is today’s opportunity to be the best me I can be.

Life is a gift. (However painful & challenging, it is still a gift.)

Wearing sunscreen, as we get older, is still good advice.

Very good advice.

Oh, and one last thing. When our whacked out world crashes our peace of mind —


grace, peace & (non-panicking) life advice

Virginia : )

p.s. A shout out to Theresa Ollice for her encouragement to share this second list from older (& hopefully wiser) Virginia. Thank you, Theresa, for being an inspiration to me – may God continue to bless you in all you do!

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15 October: Saint Teresa of Ávila!!

“The Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything we do as at the love with which we do it.”  –Saint Teresa of Ávila

Today is the feast day of one of my favorite saints, Teresa of Ávila, or as she is also affectionately known, Saint Teresa of Jesus. I am a huge groupie of this amazing woman  who lived a long time ago (1515-1582), but who continues 500+ years later to impact people all around the world through her writings, life of dynamic faith, dedicated courage & passionate love of Jesus Christ.

She loved Jesus with her whole being, everything of hers was His. She put her trust (and her life) in His keeping during tense times of the Inquisition, whilst writing when she was under rigorous scrutiny (one investigator priest consulted a huge stack of deep theological books “to understand an hour with Teresa”), and as she pushed for reform of her contemplative order when challenges stacked up against her.

Reading Saint Teresa of Ávila’s books, “The Interior Castle” and “My Life” in my early 20s strengthened and deepened my faith in new ways. Teresa’s images of long ago are still relevant today as she likens our faith journey to a castle we enter level by level (dealing with internal clutter & tough debris along the way.) Her “Way of Perfection is also excellent, and anything else of hers you can let your mind and heart read to contemplate. Her words have a way of jumping off the page, edging their way through difficult doors to sweep interior rooms of our hearts open for Christ and His love for us, and for all.

Saint Teresa’s strong sense of humor helped infuse joy in joyless times, like making a formal street procession with musical instruments after a lice infestation to mock the unwelcome critters out of her nun sisters’ hair!

Teresa of Ávila had a tough go of it as a woman in times when women did not have much recourse to realize their dreams and initiatives. Her father didn’t want her to be a nun, but she managed to become a nun anyway. She served as spiritual director for Saint John of the Cross – totally radical for that time. Today, Teresa of Ávila is a Doctor of the Church – the first woman so named, and one of only four (with St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Therese of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen.)

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

Saint Teresa of Ávila  

grace, peace & inspirational saints

Virginia : )

p.s.  For all of you whipping up meals and pulling kitchen duty, take to heart St. Teresa’s admonishment to her contemplative sisters who had to leave prayer stations for food prep:

“Know that if it is in the kitchen, the Lord walks among the pots and pans.”

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