Inspirational

Waiting

I’m sitting in the silence, and I’m waiting.

For what?

For an answer?

What’s the question?

I’m watching the darkness, and I’m waiting.

For what?

The lifting, the light? Will I embrace the fog?

I juggle fear with peace.

I desire one but cannot release the other, and I’m waiting.

For what?

My dreams? An outcome?

What dreams? What outcome?

I relax.

I fight to own sleep, and I’m waiting.

For what?

Do I know? Can I guess?

Will I know when the wait is over?

Will I recognize/accept the answer?

I grasp then release trust, and I am waiting.

For what?

I am accomplished in  many areas.

But I do not wait well.

Why? Do I know? Can I guess?

Do I stand in hell, heaven, in between?

Perhaps I’m in a classroom, and I’m waiting.

For what?

An insight? A lesson? A new season? The end of this one?

Is waiting in fact the insight, lesson, beginning of a new season, the end of this one?

I don’t know.

Is not knowing the same as knowing?

I breathe, pray, hold space, and I’m waiting.

I am waiting.

 

For JL

 

Copyright February 26, 2018
Laura L. Padgett
Lakewood, Colorado

Connect with me on Twitter @lauraleepadgett  or Facebook Author Page

Check out my first book, “Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and all major online retailers.

See my Publications tab on this website for books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Xulon Press, “Letters to America”.

 

 

Silver and Gold

goldSunlight streamed through the holes in the tent roof. It bathed the gold medal I held, making it appear almost liquid in my sweating palm. I earned the medal for performing the hornpipe, a difficult solo step, at an Irish Step Dance competition. The sun rays warmed my body on that cold September day in Estes Park, Colorado. There was no need, however, of an external heating source for my soul. The happiness and pride I felt at this accomplishment flowed from my heart to the corners of my mouth and produced a grin that easily could have been on the face of a small child unwrapping Christmas presents.

I wanted to enjoy the moment. I wanted to remember it forever. I also was determined to never forget what it took to get there and the odds against a fifty-year-old woman taking this trophy. Even though I was delighted, I could not help replaying the unkind words and laughter some of my friends delivered when I told them of my dream, several years earlier, to learn this art form. Their words initially stung. Once I judged their opinions invalid, I assigned their voices to a category of challenge. I was determined to meet and overcome that challenge. It was as if they had thrown down a gauntlet. I chose to pick up that gauntlet and run, actually dance, with it.

When I discovered my passion for Irish Dance, in my mid-forties, I sought out resources for learning everything I could about it. I took classes, practiced every day, paid for private lessons from a personal coach, went to workshops, and listened to music for competitions and shows constantly. Frankly, I never liked competitions. But, they forced me to practice and elevate technical merit. Over the years, I accumulated a few silver and bronze medals. And that day, I held the gold.

For the most part, medals were a source of pride; they validated the hard work. But on this particular occasion, winning a medal provided an avenue for learning a valuable lesson about art and heart.

At the end of the competition, while I stood in the dancer tent admiring my medal, a pair of Irish dance shoes went flying past my head. The shoes were not intentionally aimed in my direction. But the words of an angry fellow competitor were.

“You have no right to that medal, Padgett. You are way too old to be dancing, competing or even thinking about performing an art this demanding and athletic. Even if you were of an appropriate age to enter this level of competition, I should have won. I am so much better at technique, timing, and all around dancing than you will ever be,” she yelled before exiting the tent.

I did not know what to say. I felt all the words of those who did not believe in or support my little dream were resurrected and flung at me through an invisible, high-powered sound system. While trying to regain my emotional balance, in the face of the insult, I felt a hand rest gently on my shoulder. An unfamiliar voice asked, “Do you believe her?”

I turned to face the judge who moments ago had awarded me the gold.

“Yes ma’am. She has better technique and sense of musical timing.  She is just all around better than me,” I admitted.

“No, she isn’t,” the adjudicator told me. “Do you know the difference between the silver and gold?  Do you know why you were awarded this medal today?” she asked.

I dropped my gaze from hers and shook my head.

She lifted my chin, looked into my teary eyes and said, “You reflected hours of practice and honing of your craft, just like many others. You managed to keep the beat and execute a difficult step, like many others. Your posture was straight, and you demonstrated ability to remember the intricacies required. You were up against some tough competition out there today, and you gave a flawless performance. From a judge’s point of view, it can be difficult to select one dancer over another when awarding medals.

“But, if mechanics and technical merit are equal, the decision will fall to the one who dances her heart. Some do the dance; others are the dance. Today, you were the dance. And that, my friend, is gold.”

That was my last Irish Dance competition, not because I feared decapitation as the result of airborne footwear. It was because the calendar does not lie. My years of hard, competitive Irish dancing were over. I entered the contest carrying that reality before me.

I am not prone to melancholy over things out of my control – like the passage of time that brings aging of body and mind. And I honestly cannot say I spend a lot of time looking at dance medals accumulated over the years. Truthfully, there are not many uses for my little treasures beyond evoking smiles from a face that carries wrinkles fashioned by determination.

Nonetheless, the medals do come in handy once in a while. For example when someone tells me they cannot realize a dream because of age, perceived inabilities or opinions of critics, I extend this invitation, “Would you come to my house for tea, please? I want to show you something.”

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Connect with me on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or
My Facebook Author Page at https://www.facebook.com/LauraLPadgettAuthorSpeakerDancer?ref=bookmarks

We Came to Play

Bring on those smiles

Bring on those smiles

The flatbed truck was lined with hay bales for riders (including several of my friends and I) to sit or stand upon so we could greet crowds lining the downtown streets of Golden, Colorado. The vehicle crawled along Main Street as part of a celebratory parade announcing the arrival of the Christmas Season. The truck occasionally stopped and allowed photo ops for, and with, the gathered spectators.

This is a lively event that thousands of people look forward to every year at the beginning of December. It is full of music, food, and entertainment. I unashamedly admit I love being part of the excitement. It may seem odd to some but you see, my friends and I – well, we’re elves. Yes, you read it correctly – elves.

The elf troupe has been blessed to be part of the holiday celebrations in Golden and the surrounding area for over five years. Our job description is varied but primarily consists of playing with the crowd, waving from floats, taking pictures with willing kids and their family members, as well as spreading all around playful cheerfulness.

We have been at the center of these crowds on many occasions. And for the most part, I am at home in the performance arena while hanging out with thousands of strangers. But this year was different. Our country had broken out in an epidemic of violent attacks on innocent citizens, mostly in crowds of some sort. The nightly news was littered with stories, one after another, of shooters walking into crowds or buildings to deliver death and destruction.

To say I was a little nervous on that elevated flatbed would be like Noah coming off the arc and calling his experience the result of a minor rain shower. I did not want to alarm my elf mates and so kept up the smiles and waving while I diligently watched the crowd for any possible perceived threat. More than once I breathed a sigh of relief upon spying a uniformed law enforcement person.

In all my years as an elf, I could not remember feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable ushering in sights and sounds of a season typically associated with cheer and good will. I found myself wondering why I had gathered my friends and neighbors, dressed them in these crazy outfits, and marched them into what could be considered harm’s way. I suppose I was mentally bringing my pointy-shod feet up to my velvet-clad backside and delivering a good thrashing for being so careless with the safety of others.

To make things worse, I was reminded of the words of a friend who said he no longer felt safe enough in public to visit restaurants with any amount of frequency. He said we are becoming a nation of people afraid to be around strangers and be in strange situations.

I was pulled out of my guilt-ridden musings by a familiar voice in my right ear, barely audible above the noisy crowd. The voice belonged to a lady I have been honored to share the spotlight with in previous Golden Christmas Parades. As she spoke I am sure my face registered surprise – not at her voice, but her words. It was almost as if she read my thoughts.

She said, “You know, this is exactly what we needed today.” Then she went back to waving holiday greetings to the happy onlookers.

I am pretty sure no one else on the truck heard her words, but I know I did. And she was right. We needed to restore our sense of play and joy for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

My attention was momentarily diverted by three of the elves belting out a Christmas carol in their best imitation of Super Bowl halftime entertainment. Their antics were met with laughter and cheers.

I looked at the crowd through a new lens and realized there were thousands of people refusing to be confined and restricted by the threat of terrorism. I saw children and adults gathered to be part of a small-town tradition despite the potential harm others may choose to inflict on them. Now as I gazed on the people gathered below, I released my perceived need to comb the onlookers for uniforms. Instead I soaked in the smiles on upturned, rosy-cheeked faces of my neighbors, young and old. I rested in my appreciation of faces reflecting a quiet rebellion against being held hostage in chains of fear.

I felt my elf heart burst with happiness at being part of their party that day. I was proud to live in a community that chose to collectively resist the oppression of  “what if’s” that can keep us hiding in our basements while handing over our freedom and lives to others.

Then I turned to the lady on my right and said, “Yes ma’am, Mayor. This is exactly what we needed. And today, we came to play.”

Copyright March, 2016
Laura L. Padgett
Lakewood, Colorado

Follow me on Twitter @lauraleepadgett
or check out my first book, “Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and all major online retailers.

See my Publications tab on this website for other books I am featured in, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books.

Would love to connect with you on my Author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/LauraLPadgettAuthorSpeakerDancer

 

Lysol in my hair

The last thing I do before I leave my house for any activity, is apply hairspray on my unruly locks in an attempt to make them behave. This is vital when you consider I live in a state where wind gusts can be over 50 mph, making my hair look like a concoction from a food processor. Although I do not spend a great deal of time on makeup and hair each day (ten minutes is my max), I try to honor my mother’s request that her girls never leave the house without looking “put together.”

Because I have a very busy schedule, I often use my grooming time to mentally inventory the day’s tasks. Yesterday’s primping routine was no exception. This Christmas Season, it seems like I have more obligations on my plate than could be considered manageable. It has become easy for me to lose my peace and create such a hectic situation that I am literally running in circles. I have falsely believed that if I mentally organize every little detail, I can prevent being derailed by unexpected inconveniences.

In an effort to reduce my stress, I am trying to purposefully slow my body down and manage time so I am not trying to beat an Olympic record for forward progress. Many days I am successful, physically. But slowing my mind to less than warp speed is proving to be more difficult.

As I put myself “together” yesterday, prior to leaving for a book signing event, I noticed the scent of bathroom air freshener was particularly strong.  The antiseptic fragrance followed me into the kitchen.

While grabbing my handbag, I complained to my husband that our current air freshener is overpowering and we will have to change brands. To my horror, he sniffed in my direction and smiled. My eyes popped wide open in surprise as I realized what he was not saying.

I quickly moved to the bathroom, jerked open the vanity cupboard door and stared at the air freshener sitting right next to the hairspray. Apparently I had, in fact, sprayed my black and silver crown with Lysol™ instead of hairspray.

I moaned out loud, “Oh that’s all I need. I have no time to wash my hair and fix this. Here I was trying to keep calm, get ready without a rush, and look what I’ve done.”

As I performed a sort of mental foot stomping, I was suddenly overtaken with laughter. I stopped my moaning and just let the humor of the situation roll over me. Oh what a great lesson God gave me in the art of truly pacing myself.

It is not enough to slow my body down. I must pay attention to the pace of the little grey cells too. Distractions are part of life, and I am not going to pretend I will in future be a poster child for intentional mindfulness.But I couldn’t help admitting that the busier I let myself get,the more potential I have for making mistakes.

I will say, the Lysol™ made my grey hair shine. And no doubt I was protected from any germ that dared venture into Jefferson County. But sporting air freshener to a public event is not my first grooming choice. I guess I could blame the incident on getting older (more forgetful), or on putting the hairspray and Lysol™ too close together in the cupboard. But after having a good laugh, I realized the truth. I need to slow down, relax, and take things a little easier all around.

Keith and I processed the incident and decided we are just caught up in the rush, rush, rush that represents our world in general and the holidays in particular. I offered God a prayer of thanksgiving for the lesson I learned about being distanced from the here and now. I resolved to make this Christmas Season one where I intentionally notice what is going on around me, adjust my pace on all levels, and make room for His blessings to flow in my life.

I wish the same thing for all of you. May you have a peaceful, moderately paced season full of wonderful memory making. May you be blessed with less hectic schedules, obligations, and demands. I pray you will take in the sights and sounds of a season that reminds us of the true gift given to humankind through Jesus Christ. Mostly, with all my heart, I wish you Lysol™-free hair.

Copyright December, 2015
Laura L. Padgett
Lakewood, Colorado

Follow me on Twitter @lauraleepadgett
or check out my first book, “Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and all major online retailers.

See my Publications tab on this website for other books I am featured in

Would love to connect with you on my Author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/LauraLPadgettAuthorSpeakerDancer

 

 

Sisters, all are we

We are all beautiful

We are all beautiful

“Oh, I am so jealous,” the lady in the Starbucks parking lot said to my sister, Mary, and me. “My sister lives in Seattle and we see each other very seldom. She is my only sibling.”

This proclamation came from a woman Mary and I almost bumped into as we were making our way into the store for our morning coffee. We excused ourselves in unison which made the stranger laugh. We rather do resemble munchkins, (being only 5 feet tall), and when we answered together, it really was funny. We joined her in the laughter.

She then asked if we were sisters and we told her we were. She asked if we got to spend a lot of time together. We told her we are together as much as possible. Tears welled up in her eyes and she made the above statement.

Without thinking, although Mary and I do tend to think almost identical thoughts from time to time, we each took one side of her in a group hug and said, “You can be our sister too if you want.”

Sister and I assured her there was plenty of room in our sisterhood circle and she was most welcome. I did tell her she would have to darken her hair a little, for the continuity of the family photo and all. She told us it was a small price to pay and she would get back to us on that. She went to her car and we went to meet our pumpkin spice lattes.

As we parted company she looked over her shoulder and called, “Have a nice day, sisters.”

We responded, “Nice day to you too, sister.”

As we enjoyed our coffee, Mary grinned at me and said, “That was fun. I think we cheered her up.”

“Yep,” I said, “one more for Christmas Dinner.” Sister winked.

Now, I may never see that lady again but here is the deal friends. There is no need to be competitive, compare ourselves to, or envy each other. Our job is to build each other up, however that may look. That day my sis and I helped a lady who was missing her only sibling. And she gave us a wonderful gift too. She reminded us how lucky we are to have each other and time to spend together.

Our beautiful Savior demonstrated loving others as we travel this ole world. Maybe there is a dear one in your life who needs to feel the love of another woman and know she is always in kinship. Perhaps there is a stranger who has been put in your path because she needs to belong. Help her darlings. Because see in the end, sisters all are we. Okay?

Have a great day sisters.

Copyright September 2015
Laura L. Padgett, Author, Speaker and Dancer

Follow me on Twitter @lauraleepadgett
or my Facebook Author Page at https://www.facebook.com/LauraLPadgettAuthorSpeakerDancer

Check out my book “Dolores, Like the River,” about beauty in aging and appreciating all our women friends and family
available at Westbow Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all major book retailers on line

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Keeping Colorado Beautiful

Breathtaking handiwork of the Lord

Breathtaking handiwork of the Lord

My husband, Keith, and I have traveled to many places in this astonishingly beautiful and diverse country/world we live in. I love to travel and am hard-pressed to say what I like best about it. But in all honesty, I have two very distinct parts of traveling I find enriching. The first is meeting people from around the world, celebrating our differences and embracing our sameness. The second is flying into DIA and seeing the western mountain ranges that announce we are indeed home.

No matter where we travel, we consistently hear people describe our home state as “beautiful” when they learn we are from Colorado. Without exception, people tell us they have been here and found it breathtaking or they would like to visit because someone they know has described Colorado as one of the most beautiful places on earth.

When using the adjective “beautiful” to describe this state, I think it safe to say most people refer to God’s architecture from the wheat fields on the eastern plains to high country mountain ranges and the deserts on the Western Slope. However, I have a different take on this descriptive term that goes deeper than what is evident to human senses.

When I think of the beauty of Colorado, in addition to the landscape, I think of the western spirit that resides in the friendly, neighborly people here. This year in particular I was blessed to see, and feel, this spirit from friends and strangers alike.

Several years ago, my husband and I chose not to participate in the frenzied shopping, gift-giving, cooking, partying and plan-making that have become traditional Christmas for many Americans. Instead we decided to intentionally walk through the season looking for opportunities to talk to, and even briefly share the lives of, strangers in our community of Lakewood/Golden.

The blessings for us multiplied as we shared ourselves and encouraged others to share themselves with us this season. We were touched by stories of children and adults who are struggling with health issues, finances and divorce. We have felt cared for and held in tenderness by those who offered support through sincere inquiries into some of our personal family struggles. In all of this, we were reminded that although we each have different paths, joys, and difficulties, we are knitted together with the bond of frail humanity and that bond is strengthened by sincere concern for each other.

I do not exaggerate when I say I feel this warmth and comradery stronger in my Colorado homeland than anywhere I have ever been. It is part of the spirit of our western heritage. It is what makes Colorado beautiful – inside and out.

We live in a time of violence, fear and division in our world right now. On a community level we certainly can, and do, make attempts to reach out and negotiate political, racial, religious and economic differences. But none of that happens unless we reach into ourselves to find, and share, a home-grown light of genuine concern for our neighbors and communities. It is my belief that no matter how long you have lived here, feeling “Colorado-grown” becomes part of your personal make-up, if you let it.

As 2014 winds down, I find myself grateful for more things than I can mention here. But I am especially thankful for where I come from and what I have learned by living in this glorious state. It is my sincere hope that personally and on community as well as state-wide levels, we will all strive to keep Colorado beautiful.

Copyright December 2014
Laura L. Padgett
Lakewood, CO

Lessons from the River – Part III

This Ain’t Staying in Vegas

Me and my mates

Me and my mates

We’ve all heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” right? Well, not necessarily.

There are few places I honestly can say I don’t like. Las Vegas is one. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m just expressing a personal preference.

So this year I was less than enthused when I learned our clogging team was going to Vegas for a national competition. Don’t get me wrong. I love my teammates. These ladies are good friends and I’ve been blessed to dance with some of them, on and off, for almost twenty years. Truly I could be in no better company, no matter where my little dancing feet take me.

The few months prior to the competition were not as smooth as I would have liked. I pulled a hamstring months before and had a hard time catching up to the level of dance needed for such an event. It’s rare I say that I am too old for something. But let’s face it, friends, the calendar doesn’t lie. Injuries are harder to recover from now days. Still, I practiced and trained (I laid out a fortune for chiropractic care and massage too). Did I mention how much I love these ladies? Then the big week arrived.

I remember asking, “Lord what am I doing here?” I wasn’t sure I was up to it, and didn’t want to cost the team a medal they so richly deserved. And then the final day came – hours before show time, and one of my teammates, Miss Stephanie, asked, “Laura would you be my stage mom?”

What this means is I was agreeing to help Stephanie out of one costume and into another, complete with all necessary accessories, hair adjustment and makeup check. I was thrilled. Of course I would be there for her. I said to myself, “Oh perhaps this is what I’m doing here. I’m here to help my friend.”

Right before we were called to dance, our director, Miss Colette, gathered us in a circle and told us how proud she was of us, how we had worked hard, and she had nothing but confidence in us. I cried as she spoke and we clustered together, listening to the coach and holding each other up, figuratively and literally. I said, “Oh this is why I’m here – to be part of a group I admire and love and to take the stage with my mates in what is likely my last national competition.”

When we were on stage, the lights went up and the music started. The game was on. There was no worry about forgetting steps/patterns or not being worthy to stand on that stage because of age or injury. There was a belonging and the knowledge that I am part of something I love and people I love dearly. There truly is something stimulating about flood lights, house lights and a room full of young and old alike (not just our families) rocking, clapping, and jumping around because we are dancing our little hearts and souls out for them.

When your peripheral vision shows young kids (competitors) cheering you on and hopping around, there is a joyful feeding of the soul that is inexplicable. The experience was made sweeter by the sight of judges coming out of their chairs with hands clapping over their bobbing heads. And I said, “Oh, this is why I’m here – to offer others the bliss of the dance that I feel every time I move.”

There are so many blessings listed here, but perhaps one of the best ones came after our performance. A young, (maybe thirteen years old), beauty from Honduras came up to me and said, “Tu eres muy bonita, Senora (you are so beautiful). Cuantos años…” She stopped short of asking the question, which in all cultures is considered rude and disrespectful. “How old are you?”

I took her beautiful young hands in mine and said, “I am sixty-three years old my dear. And I want to tell you that you can do this for the rest of your life if you take care of yourself, honor your body and never allow anyone to take your dream. Ok?”

She smiled at me and said, “That is what my grandmother says.”

“I am a grandmother too my dear,” I told her, “and we are always right.”

She ran off with her friends, then turned to wave at me. I smiled and mouthed, “Good luck.” I winked, and she winked back.

I looked up to thank God for all my dancing friends and experiences over the years and around the country. Dancers ran by me, stage moms and teachers issued orders, and my stomach growled in annoyance at being denied. But I stood amidst the chaos, excitement and craziness saying out loud, “Oh this is why I’m here – to encourage a young person to be her best, treat herself well, and hold onto her dreams. Thank you, Father.”

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t tell you we won a platinum award for that dance (one level better than gold). I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I had the time of my life with my mates (dancing and just hanging out). I won’t insult you by trying to make you believe I’m not tickled to know, “there is a dance in this old dame yet.” And I’m sure it’s not hard for my readers to imagine I shall always treasure the conversation I had with a young dancer about age, dancing, and dreams.

But most important of all, beloveds, I want you to know that what this grateful little dancer learned in Vegas this summer, will not just stay in Vegas.

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For me, the river is a special place I go with God, to learn, heal, rejoice, question and praise Him. It is there I can more easily remember who I am, and whose I am. The lessons I take away every time I sit in His presence, especially at the water’s edge, are precious to me as are all of you.

If you missed the previous entry about what I learned from meeting two beautiful women in Silverthorne, Co this summer please read Lessons from the River – Part II “Leaving the Door Open or How We Met the Nancies”

Copyright November 2014
Laura L. Padgett
Lakewood, Colorado