Earth Day was on April 22, and there were many activities and celebrations designed to make us think about how we are treating the earth. Maybe this year on May 8, Mother’s Day, we can continue the conversations and actions to save Mother Earth. Climate change is real, and pollution is an issue we can’t put off any longer. Fires are raging in the droughts of the southwest and west. Blizzards keep popping up even at this time of year in the north. There are more tornados than there have ever been, and heavy rains and flooding are ravaging many parts of our country.

The whole country feels unsettled and wondering what will happen next. But still we carry on as usual, hoping it will all go away. Well, it’s not going to, not on its own without major changes on all our parts. We must find a way to save our planet and ourselves in the process. Some people don’t think climate change has anything to do with our human activities, even though the science shows differently. I wonder what it will take for people to realize the truth and take action to slow the progress of the destruction of the world.

What can we do? We can drive less, combine our daily errands into a single trip out; recycle everything that is recyclable; support the use of readily available energy sources, like wind and solar; conserve the natural resources we have, especially water. Contact your representatives in Congress asking them to support the current agenda for slowing climate change. We must do even the small things that can become larger things if more people are participating.

This poem came to me after I saw a picture of a polar bear starving on an ice floe.

Polar Bare

The Polar Bear’s full white coat is shaggy now,
and hangs loose on his shriveling body.
He paces on the thin strip of ice
that has broken loose from the main
and is floating free.
He has nothing to eat and nowhere to go.
He will die soon,
as will many others.
I can’t look at the picture any longer,
but it is too late;
the image is imprinted on my brain,
and I carry it with me.

Write about your feelings on climate change and how you think you can help change the course of our current lives to slow its damage.

What do you do now that positively affects the damage being done to our planet?

And, not to forget mothers, write about your mother and how she has impacted your life. (This could be about Mother Earth, too!)

We’ve already had the first day of Spring in March, but now it’s really beginning to show. Although, the sunshine and warmth have been welcome, here in Southwest Missouri those days have been interspersed with some cold, rainy, gloomy days. Up and down the temperatures free flow, and we never know what to expect when we get up in the morning. One thing the rain has done is green up my grass, planted in the fall, and now bursting forth brilliantly. I have high hopes of having a nice lawn this year.

But there’s a dark cloud hovering over this Spring, an invasion by Russia into the land of its neighbor, Ukraine. Russia is bombing and sending missiles into Ukraine without rest, and millions of people, mostly women and children, have fled to neighboring countries, particularly Poland, which have taken them in without question. Others are trapped, unable to leave because of the attacks all around them. Many are being killed, including children. It’s a terrible situation that doesn’t look to end soon.

It follows me in the news, and I don’t want to get away from it, actually. I need to know, want to know, how the brave people of Ukraine are faring, how they are giving up their lives to protect their country. And I want to hear the stories of how people are helping the Ukrainians in so many ways. It’s inspiring and tragic at the same time. This poem came to me as I watched and thought about the terrible war going on in that ravaged country.

Ukrainian Resistance

They flee,
women taking their children to safety,
terrified,
bombs following them
to the edge of their world.
They have lost everything,
except themselves.

They have to hold on
for the sake of those left behind
fighting with their lives and hearts
to save their country,
now being devastated
by an unprovoked war.

As I welcome spring into my world,
it is with a perpetual cloud over it.
I can’t help but be a little afraid
of what we are becoming,
what is happening to all of us.

We must, somehow, hold on to hope
and reach out to those who need us
in whatever ways we can,
their bravery our inspiration,
their hearts, ours.

Write what’s in your heart about our world, whether positive or negative. Let the words spill onto the page without forethought or judgment. After you’ve come to the end of your write, reread it and reflect on what you’ve written either in writing or in your thoughts.

March is upon us, the month that ends the first quarter of the year. What are we going to do with this month? What will it bring? Two things: spring and daylight savings time. But what kind of attitude will it bring? Or perspective? Will there be a shift inside us that may take us down a different path?

I am following Julia Cameron’s 12-week creativity program. We read her book, The Artist’s Way, write three pages in our journals every morning, do the tasks at the end of each chapter, and take a break in each week for an Artist’s Date, where we go somewhere or do something that gives us pleasure and breaks us out of our routines for a short time. I’ve done pretty well, so far, although I haven’t had a burst of creativity yet. I have written a couple of new poems during this time, though, so maybe creativity is creeping up on me without my recognizing it!

It’s a thought-provoking program, and the tasks can be difficult, but we’re trying to re-awaken what is already inside us, so it’s worth the work, I think. I’m doing it with a small group, and we meet weekly to check in and encourage each other, but it can be done alone, too. Julia gives plenty of encouragement and guidance in the pages of the book.

My sister and I are engaging in an artistic challenge with a new theme every quarter, too. She is an artist, so her challenge will be artwork. Mine is writing. Our theme for the first quarter of 2022 is “Begin Again; Something New!” On a light note, I wrote the following poem:

Something New

What will it be?
Jeans?
Hair style?
A trip to somewhere I haven’t been?
A new attitude?
Being alone most of the time
makes me wonder what I can do
to spice up my life.
And do I want that?
Really?
Maybe a new perspective.
On what?
My life?
Where this country is headed?
Covid-19?
I am restless,
but also comfortable where I am.
Can I be both at the same time?
Something new.
I wonder what it could be
that will capture my attention,
get me moving in another direction.
What might that direction be?
Up?
Not down.
To the right?
Oh no, not that!
What do I want that I don’t already have?
I don’t want to be content.
I want to balance on the edge. . .
without falling.
And I want to risk it anyway,
feel the adrenaline
coursing through my veins,
take a chance.
Yes, obviously this pandemic
has persisted too long! ☺

© 2022 Dorothy A Joslyn

1. What is something new you can pursue this year? Write about what you can do to accomplish it.

2. What are you willing to risk to get out of the doldrums? Give up? Add in?

3. Has the pandemic given you any new perspectives, goals, or plans? Write about them.

4. If only the sky was the limit, what would you do?

Everyone knows that Valentine’s Day, the day of love, is celebrated on February 14, but did you know that it’s also National Donor Day (or National Organ Donor Day)?

The observance focuses on five different types of donations: Organs – Tissues – Marrow – Platelets – Blood. Many nonprofit health organizations sponsor blood and marrow drives and organ/tissue sign-ups across the nation. Approximately every two seconds, there is someone in the U.S. who needs blood, which translates to the need for over 41,000 daily donations, and more than 120,000 people are waiting for life-saving organ donations.

Each type of donation saves lives. While we may be able to donate blood, platelets, tissue, marrow, and some organs at any time, most organs are donated upon death. A single donor can save up to 8 lives and help more than 75 people. A cousin of mine lost her son in a tragic accident many years ago, and she donated some of his organs to two different people. She has kept in touch with those two men throughout the years and finds her relationships with them to be very rewarding.

Some blood donors have been making donations as young as the age of 17. Donors can donate a pint of blood every 53 days. One pint of blood can save up to three people. If you’ve never thought about donation, you’re one of the 17 percent of non-donors. However, only 37 percent of the population of the United States is eligible to donate blood, so every donation is important.

What better way can you celebrate love for others than to become a donor!

HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalDonorDay

If you’ve received the gift of an organ, tissue, marrow, platelets, or blood, share your story.

If you have donated blood write about why you do it and how it makes you feel. If you’re on an organ donor list, write about your process of deciding to donate.

Look into becoming a donor. Visit donatelifenw.org and organdonor.gov for more information on organ donation.

And for Valentine’s Day, write about love of any type: spouse, child(ren), pets, friends, family, favorite activities, or whatever you feel loving toward on this day!

So, what’s new? Isn’t there supposed to be a new beginning at this time of year? The key phrase is “supposed to be.” I try to not suppose anything, because it often just brings grief. We can hope for something new to begin this year, to flush out the old and then work toward the new. Or maybe you’re okay with the status quo. Nothing wrong with that – if you’re happy and satisfied with your life. I’m basically satisfied with my life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hope for something even better. I just don’t know what that is right now.

Well, I avoided the mention of Covid in the first paragraph, but it really can’t be eliminated from the conversation entirely. It’s still with us, and we all hope it will die out, or at least die down, in the coming year. We can all do our part to make that hope a reality: get vaccinated, wear masks, stay away from crowds, enjoy life at home.

That last suggestion, enjoy life at home, is one I’d like to explore. I love my home and being in it. It’s where I feel the safest, the most comfortable, the happiest. It’s where I rejuvenate. As an introvert, it’s a necessity for me to spend time alone at home. Then I can go out in the world and enjoy interacting with others sometimes.

But others may feel trapped, or bored, or just lonely if they stay at home much. That’s a difficult situation to remedy, but maybe there are ways to enjoy being at home more. First, think about what you do for fun. Is there a way to adapt it to home life? If it’s being with people, maybe you can invite one or two friends to your home for an afternoon of tea and conversation. If it’s shopping, can online shopping work for you? You can still go out for walks, get fresh air, enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. If you have hobbies, break them out now and give them some attention. Play music, watch movies, clean out a closet. Oh, oh, I’m getting into dangerous territory now! But, yes, there are almost always tasks that get shut inside that closet, and maybe now is the time to find out what’s there and spend some time working on it. It will kill time and have the benefit of satisfying that nagging voice that’s been bugging you for a long time to get it done.

No matter what we do, our lives have changed, and there’s probably no going back. So, there’s only moving forward, finding a new way of living and being in what has become a new world. What we can do to begin this new year is: accept, adjust, adapt, but also be a force for changes that need to occur. Create in yourself an interest in exploring newness and difference. It will make you happier, I’m sure of it!

Writing Prompts:

How have the world changes affected you? Give it some serious thought, and write about it.

What is your “new normal,” if you have one. Write about the pros and cons and how you’re adapting – or not.

Make a list of things that you can do at home. Be sure some of them are just for fun. Then do them.

Another year is almost over, and we’re still grappling with Covid-19. Whether or not you got the vaccine, it’s still a little scary wondering if you will get the virus. I’m still wearing my mask in indoor public places, even though so many are not. I wonder how this holiday season will go with many people deciding to celebrate as they have in the past, traveling and partying and spending a lot of time indoors with small to large crowds. It remains to be seen what the numbers will reflect when it’s all over.

Meanwhile, the December holidays are spread throughout the calendar, and some of us are looking forward to them, while others will just be glad when they’re over. I’ll be with my mother, and my sister will be with us for a few days before she goes home to spend Christmas with her family. I expect it to be a quiet time for reflection and gratitude for the many good things that have graced my life.

My family celebrates Christmas, so that’s the only tradition I know much about. There are two other cultural holidays in this month that many people celebrate: Hanukkah is the Jewish eight-day “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, and Kwanzaa, a holiday that celebrates African heritage and identity. Various, lesser-known holidays are sprinkled throughout the month, too. It’s good to have these celebrations in the darkest, coldest part of the year. I like seeing all the lights that people decorate their homes with; they brighten the nights that sometimes seem intermitable.

The winter solstice is this month, too, the shortest period of daylight of the year. Here is a poem that spoke to me with a few writing prompts you can use to reflect on this time of year:

Winter Solstice Prayer by Edward Hays

The dark shadow of space leans over us…
We are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred
also lengthens its shadow over our small planet Earth.
As our ancestors feared death and evil and all the dark powers of winter,
we fear that the darkness of war, discrimination, and selfishness
may doom us and our planet to an eternal winter.
May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night,
hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and justice
that spans the world.
In the heart of every person on this Earth
burns the spark of luminous goodness;
in no heart is there total darkness.
May we who have celebrated this winter solstice,
by our lives and service, by our prayers and love,
call forth from one another the light and the love
that is hidden in every heart.

How does the lack of daylight culminating with “the shortest day of the year” affect you? What can you do to counteract any feelings of depression or anxiousness that may bubble up during this time?

Write about the goodness of people. It’s easy to complain about the negativity in the world, but write here about something positive that lightens your mood.

Celebrate the winter solstice this year by lighting a candle to illuminate the dark and then list some of the things for which you are grateful as this year ends.

It’s sunny today, but cold and breezy. I will probably walk later when it’s a little warmer, but for now I’m looking at the bright day from my window. The trees have turned! It is beautiful here in Southwest Missouri. I am grateful for everything I can see out my window.

This is a month especially for gratitude. Thanksgiving is on the 25th this year, and the first thing I am thankful for is that my sister and brother-in-law will be at my house for the week. There are so many more things I am thankful for, some of them I have come to realize are the basic things some people do not have: a warm, comfortable home; fresh food to eat; transportation that I can take to anywhere I want to go; resources to buy things that make me comfortable, happy and safe; and on and on.

I have been sitting in on a community task force meeting monthly that works tirelessly for homeless youth. I am trying to find a niche where I can fit in to participate in their work. Because of the pandemic I was reluctant to volunteer for some of their activities, but I hope to find something I can do to serve this community of often ignored young people. No one should have to be homeless, but children, especially, should have a safe place to live and resources to thrive and have hope for the future.

There is a daytime facility in Springfield call the Rare Breed, where young people can find shelter and meals and help with other needs. Unfortunately, it is not an overnight shelter. I helped with a group of others a couple of times in providing dinner for the youth who frequent this shelter. It was heartbreaking, but so satisfying, too.

I sat at a table with a young woman, maybe 16, with a child and pregnant again. I think I’d feel crushed and hopeless, but this young woman was upbeat and friendly. She has remained in my heart and mind ever since, and I wrote a poem about her:

Rare Breed

She sits at the table beside her young child,
with another one on the way,
and feeds him the donated food
we brought for this one night’s meal
in this place of temporary sanctuary,
and I wonder how she got here.

“There were too many drugs at my house,
too many people coming and going.
My mom and dad didn’t even know if I was there
most of the time, and didn’t care.
I knew they wouldn’t miss me,
so I ran.”

Her voice is steady and matter of fact;
it’s just the way it is for her.
I want to weep for her,
her children and her future.
How will she get past the barriers
blocking her path:

a child herself with two young children,
little education, nowhere to go,
never knowing where she will sleep
or when she will eat
or what comes next.
She has had no childhood.

I watch her laugh with the others
around the table,
all young teens, homeless,
hanging strong, holding back,
giving nothing away that might hurt
or shatter the walls around them.

I will find my place at some point in part of the solution for homeless youth; I’m not sure how or when, but somehow it will happen.

What is a charitable passion of yours that you want to give, or already are giving, yourself to? Write about it and some ways you are or want to serve that passion.

Make a list of things you are thankful for. Choose one to explore in depth: what makes you thankful for it, describe how it makes you feel, how it makes you act.

How can you make a difference in the world, even in small ways, that make it a better place to live?

I am posting this early so you can get prepared for World Smile Day on Friday, October 1.

The first Friday of October every year is World Smile Day. What a wonderful idea that originated with the yellow smiley face icon created by Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Massachusetts, who designed it for a State Mutual Life Insurance company advertising campaign in 1963.

His original intent was that it would spread goodwill and cheer throughout the world. When he became concerned that it was becoming too commercialized, he declared the first Friday of October World Smile Day, a day dedicated to smiles. After he died in 2001, the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation was founded and serves as the official sponsor of the happy observance.

Of course, since then the smiley face has become ubiquitous and has evolved into many forms and designs and uses. Who hasn’t used this emoji or its spinoffs in their correspondence with friends and family and even work colleagues. It can soften a message, make someone laugh and help say what you really want to say.

The benefits of smiling are many, such as:
• Improves mood
• Lowers blood pressure
• Relieves stress
• Betters relationships
• Boosts the immune system
• Relieves pain
• Increases life expectancy

There are many ways to celebrate World Smile Day:
• Do a random act of kindness for someone.
• Use a smiley face emoji on every text you send.
• Spread cheer by handing out smiley face stickers.
• Give a smile to everyone you come across.
• Tell someone a funny joke.
• Play happy songs like “Happy” by Pharrell Williams or “Don’t Worry
Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.
• Take a selfie of your own smile and share it on social media.

In these days and times, a simple thing such as a smile can change the entire atmosphere around the smiler and cause others to smile, too. It is something that takes little effort but can have a huge impact. Let’s celebrate World Smile Day together!

The information in this article was taken from the following website:
https://nationaldaycalendar.com/world-smile-day-first-friday-in-october/

What are some other ways you think a smile may benefit someone or yourself?

What are some other things you can do on October 1 (this year) to spread goodwill and cheer?

Do one activity on World Smile Day and write about the results.

. . . and have a happy day!

Most of us are celebrating and honoring those first responders to Covid-19 and other major health and disaster issues especially in this month of Labor Day. We’ve taken them for granted in the past, but recently we have been putting them up front and center recognizing their tireless work in these, “the worst of times.” They represent some of the traits in people that are good about our country: bravery, resilience, compassion, dedication, and respect for those they help. Thank you first responders; we’re behind you all the way!

I have written a poem about one of the groups of first responders whom I think need to be remembered, recognized, and honored each day:

Nurses

They stand in the midst of chaos
ignoring the din around them,
working feverishly and efficiently,
hoping for positive outcomes,
reaching out to those who stream in
more than one at a time,
moving from one to the next
to the next and the next.
They may not know their names
or where they are from;
they only know they must work quickly
to comfort them – save them.
Though the fatigue threatens to overwhelm them,
they work on through the day
into the night
and into the next day.
They weep for those they lose,
silently and alone,
but move to those who may be saved,
again and again.
Life is fragile here,
and they handle it with care,
with love, with determination.
They will not give up or give in
until it is over, but they wonder
when will that be?

© Dorothy A Joslyn 2021

Think about a first responder you may know or have heard about, and write a tribute to that person, or just write about first responders generally or a specific group. Maybe a poem?

What are you doing now in this upsurge of the virus that you thought you wouldn’t have to do again? How do you feel about that?

Write about when the worst of Covid-19 is over what you will do first.

As I write this I have just returned from the grocery store with quite a few bags of food. I don’t have to think about what I can buy or how much, but there are those in our city and country who can’t even go to the grocery store let alone buy sufficient food for themselves or their families. In this rich country of plenty, no one should have to go hungry, but there are many who do.

In this month, gardening is at its peak, and people are harvesting all sorts of vegetables and berries and fruits. Fresh produce is available everywhere, but many people don’t have access to or can’t afford the healthy food they need to survive. Individuals, families and seniors suffer. I especially worry about the children who are not getting the nourishment they need to thrive. And many people who are hungry are homeless.

Homelessness is another thing I think of when I come home to a house that I own and in which I feel safe and comfortable with heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. I can store my freshly purchased food in my pantry and refrigerator to be available whenever I want or need it. I am blessed and very lucky.

Springfield is a generous and caring community, and so many of our citizens and organizations are working, often behind the scenes, to provide food and housing for those who aren’t as lucky as I am. It’s a never-ending task, and the dedication of those who serve our most vulnerable citizens is admirable. I am especially humbled and awed by the Community Partnership of the Ozarks and Ozarks Food Harvest, only two of the many organizations that serve our community working to eradicate hunger and homelessness.

What can we do to support these efforts to make our community a better place? We can make financial donations. We can volunteer. We can educate ourselves about the issues that face our community and that affect all of us, whether or not we are aware of it. All communities have these same issues and those who serve to make them better places. Wherever you are, there are plenty of opportunities and work to do.

Write about your thoughts and feelings regarding hunger and/or homelessness. Then think about some of the things you can do to help relieve these two issues for people who suffer from them.

Explore the internet for charitable organizations working to eradicate hunger and homelessness. Then write about one or more of them and how you might join them in their missions.

Do some volunteer work for an organization that helps hungry or homeless people if you are able. If you can’t, contribute what you can to a worthwhile organization. Keep a journal of your activities so you can remember your work and to help you feel grateful for what you have.