Friday, September 11, 2009

School of Thought: What Was She Thinking?

We become what we think about.

Fifty years from now our faces will reveal our secrets.







What do you think about? I got an email one day from a woman who reads my blog. She said she was raised on lemons instead of lemonade, and asked, "Can you learn to be optimistic, or do you have to inherit it?" In answer I wrote this post called:


I both learned and inherited optimism from my dad. He was consistently positive and hopeful, and he looked for the good in others. I always felt like I was smart, talented and unique because he told me I was. His faith in my abilities kept my self-esteem healthy. Dad had a pep talk for every occasion and I learned them all by heart. By the time I was an adult, being optimistic was a natural part of my personality. It's a trait I've needed often.

Dee and I started out with nothing but hope. A vital part of our relationship is to buoy each other up—we count our blessings and reflect on great memories—when troubles come. Balancing on the teeter-totter of reality requires one of us to be up when the other is down, and we can tell when it's our turn. All seven of our kids are upbeat, cheerful and confident: it's part of our heritage to see the glass as 3/4 full and find the good in every situation.

I know I was lucky to grow up in an atmosphere of optimism. My dad reminded me often that faith (in myself, and in God's willingness to help me) would achieve miracles. He taught me that faith and fear cannot coexist, and that fear, doubt and worry were to be banished. Although he had his personal fears, they were overcome by his faith. He took risks, thrived on challenge, and lived positively.

Dad taught himself to be this way; early struggles haunted him. He grew up poor. His beloved older brother was always sick, and died at 18. The strain sapped all the joy from his parents for years. One of dad's favorite stories was how excited he was the day the store repossessed all their furniture and the kids skated in their socks through the empty rooms. But he always remembered how his mom sat on the porch steps and cried as her lovely possessions were hauled away. Eventually they lost their home and had to move in with another family for a while during the depression.

Dad (in the glasses) and his brothers, about 1933.

Dad served in WWII and came home seriously ill. It took him three months in a hospital to recover. When he'd joined the army, he had neglected to officially drop out of the university. After the war he started school again with a whole semester of failed classes on his transcript. To qualify for Optometry school earned straight A's for three years to raise his GPA to the required level. Born with cataracts which impaired his vision most of his life, he decided life would be better if he viewed it through rose-colored glasses.

When I was seven Dad almost died of pneumonia. My mom prepared mustard plasters and tried to keep us quiet, while he laid in bed for weeks worrying about our future. That's when he first read the book Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. Knowing my dad, I'm sure he was thinking in literal terms when he saw the title. But the concepts he learned made him wealthy in another way that became my most treasured inheritance. He discovered the secret of positive thinking.

Everybody who knew my dad remembers him preaching this good news. Assimilating it into his character was the goal of his lifetime. He changed his attitude and it changed his world.

Dad, at his best!

It is absolutely possible to learn optimism.
It's also possible to inherit it.
And from my viewpoint,
it is positively essential to have it.

Sheri Dew said, "Ultimately we become what we give our hearts to. We are shaped by what we desire and seek after. Fifty years from now we shouldn't be too surprised at what we have become. Our desires are what motivate us and we become what we set our hearts on. Our face will reflect who we are."

The Great Stone Face, a story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, tells about a village overlooked by a massive stone cliff that resembled a man's face. An old legend said that "someone will be born hereabouts who will look just like the Great Stone Face, and he will be the noblest person of his time."

A little boy in the village named Ernest was especially attracted to the Old Stone Face. He studied it with boyish admiration while he walked to school each day, and saw intelligence and goodness as he wondered when the man would come.

A famous philanthropist came to town, and Ernest thought he might be the champion, since he was so generous, but he looked nothing like the stone face. Then an important politician visited and Ernest thought that surely this honorable leader was the hero. But he didn't bear a resemblance to the craggy mountain either.

Ernest watched the faces of returning soldiers and scholars for signs of the courage and wisdom seen in the face. Meanwhile, he worked hard on his farm and was respected by his neighbors for his honesty and decency.

Years passed and though Ernest became an old man, he never ceased to study the Old Stone Face. But no one ever came to the village bearing its image. One evening when he was sitting with a neighbor on the porch, the neighbor looked to the distant mountain and then fixed his gaze upon his old friend as he sat in his rocking chair. "Ernest," said the neighbor, "You are the Old Stone Face!"

Amy 1976

In youth our face reveals our genetics.

Someone at 60

With age we get the face we deserve.

Homework: Choose any or all, or be inspired.

~Think about an old person you love or admire. Write a detailed description of the character and experience reflected in their face. Use a thesaurus if necessary to find the most precise words. (Ideas: conviction, spunk, wit.) What do you hope to look like when you're old?

~List your five biggest worries. Now imagine how each could become a blessing in disguise.

~Has your attitude been changed by your experiences or has it been the other way around? Write a paragraph that starts: "My outlook is more_____than______ (insert lemon and lemonade.) I grew up in a house filled with______."

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, link it back to TravelinOma. And please leave a comment here with a link to your blog as part of our class discussion. I'll be keeping track, and spot checking your work, giving points for participation. You can grade your own work, based on your individual progress. (A for Accomplishment, B for Basic Effort, C for Class Comments, D for thinking this post is Dumb, and F for Failure to Communicate.)

P.S. The class discussion yesterday was unbelievable! Thank you all for your input!


gab said...

Thanks for teaching me to make lemonade! And limeade!


Wonderful pictures. They are the lesson, aren't they?

Christie said...

Oma, I have tears in my eyes from reading this - you amaze me. You are ever the optimist and I need to learn to be like that. Your writing is brilliant and just speaks to my soul. I am loving this series of posts.

Sarah N said...

beautiful pictures of beautiful women, each with their story to tell, eh?

Sassy Lewis said...

Okay, all 4 assignments for this week are here.

Alana said...

Oma, thanks so much again for these amazing posts! You really have inspired me much!

Diane L said...

Oma, I read your post and the assignments. Then I think about both, and decide which assignment I want to do. I mull it over, and begin to compose in my mind. Then I sit down to write - and look again at your post, and wonder "where is the assignment that I did? Did she change her mind and take it out?"

So, I guess some of my assignments are "inspired" as you say...

week 2 assignment 5

Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

This was actually really hard to write. I put it off all day. Finally made myself sit down and do it. Here ya go.

Link to assignment

Katy said...

love you oma!!!!!

Tiffany said...

Your optimism is contagious, even through the Internet! I love it!

audrey said...

This was a really good one. It was interesting to think about all day today.

Here is my offering.

diane said...

I will use my current post as homework. It was written earlier this week but it fits. It was totally inspired by these classes.

You serve up strawberry lemonade on a daily basis. Delightful.

~Kristina said...

I didn't play nice today. I played on my own. I'm ok with it. I hope you are, too.
Thanks Oma! I feel a warm wash as I work through your School Day posts. You make me think...and I love to think.

kenju said...

What wonderful posts you write. I don't have the time to write from your prompt, but I'm going to think about it.

Allison said...

I loved, loved, loved this post. Sorry my own is so late, but life has a way of doing that...


polly said...

your post inspired me to blog about grama Lundgren! thanks for reminding me of how people can make a difference.

Jolyn said...

what a great post....i'll try to remember to always smile...don't want a grouchy face!!!

crissy said...

A bit late, yes. I've been busy (and a little lazy), but I have been thinking about this since I read your post yesterday morning.
I realized that there was an experience I wanted to write down which fit perfectly with this assignment. (Imagine that!)
Here is my work.

Misty said...

And it turned out to be a lot different than what I had originally intended it to be. Weird.
Thank you!

Mrs. Organic said...

I love your father's story.It's true that you are (or become) what you think about. He sounds like a wonderful example of how to live.

I was going to write about my angelic grandmother who practically radiates love and whose pure white skin convinces you she must be an earthly angel, but I'm saving that entry for my journal. Here's my homework.

~j. said...

Maybe not exactly the assignment, but I had to.

dalene said...

better late than never?

Beck said...

Pretty easy to list my worries, not so much on the "blessing in disguise" part.

La Yen said...

Slow and steady wins the race, right?
my assignment

Katie H said...

I wrote a super duper long one. You don't have to read it. :)

It was actually difficult to write, but cathartic too. So thanks.

Greek Goddess said...

A month late, but here you go!

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