The Rising Cost of Everything

Inflated Dollar Bill, Retrieved on June 6, 2023 from

Everywhere you look, prices are rising. It seems that everything you buy keeps going up in cost. How is the consumer supposed to keep up with all of the rising costs? I jokingly ask colleagues what we need to do to try to get ahead, even though I am very serious about it. Do we need to sell our souls to make money? On an ethical and moral level, I definitely cannot do that and be able to sleep at night. Therefore, how can the average Joe or Jane get ahead in today’s economy? These are definitely challenging questions and even more difficult to answer.

When I look around, and in my everyday experience, I read about inflation, rising prices, increasing interest rates, etc., etc. Reports are that inflation keeps holding steady, but I don’t really see that. It seems to me that – in my area – it keeps rising. It is not holding steady and it is definitely not decreasing. When I go to Kohl’s to buy a plain old T-shirt that should not sell for more than $5 and is not even worth $3, but the price is marked $9.99, that is inflation. When I go to WalMart and price a party bag of chocolates that used to sell for $9.98, and is now marked at $13.98, that is inflation. When a customer service agent with AT&T tells me that my Internet price will remain steady at $69.99, but then, one month later, another $5 gets tagged on, that is inflation. Inflation is not holding steady.

I have also seen the rise in prices for services. In the past six months, I have experienced price hikes in several different services. My dog groomer’s price went up by $5; my son’s college math tutor’s rate increased by $5; and my hair salon is now charging $5 more for a haircut. My favorite Chinese restaurant is charging about $2.50 more per meal, making my previous bill for two increase from $20 to $25. What about health-related services? My dentist’s charge for an oral evaluation of my teeth increased by about $25 this year. And, my health insurance company did away with the plan that I liked, and replaced it with a plan requiring both a higher co-pay and deductible. And, these are only a few of the services that I have experienced an increase in pricing. Where will it end? When will it stop? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘never.’

I remember when my parents used to talk about going out to the ice cream parlor and soda fountain in their youth and paying 25 cents for an ice cream cone, and maybe a little bit more for a banana split. Today, you can’t go to Dairy Queen or Bruster’s and get out of there without paying at least $5 for a Blizzard or waffle cone. The last time I took my son out for ice cream, I told him that we could’ve bought two pails of ice cream at Kroger’s for what I had just paid for two cones. And, as I write this, I wonder how people can go to places like Starbucks, daily, for coffee that tastes great, but is super expensive.

The concern about the rising cost of everything doesn’t even begin to address the decreased quality of everything, as well. The cute Bob’s doggie sneakers that I bought from Rack Room Shoes last year already have holes in the sides where they came apart from the soles. I don’t overwear them and I don’t abuse them – they just came apart. It is not worth taking them to the shoe repair or upholstery shop to fix them because it will likely cost just as much to sew them up as to buy another pair of shoes. Normally, I wouldn’t buy the same kind of item again, especially after a similar item came apart, but because they are so cute, I gave in and put down another $40 for a new pair. Each sneaker is a piece of canvas sewn onto a piece of rubber; they aren’t even worth $40 at all.

On a different scale, during the winter, I was house-hunting for a high-quality home that would’ve been smaller than my current residence. I searched approximately 300 homes in my area – either online or in-person – and didn’t find one that I was satisfied with – not one! This relates back to the lesser quality of things, not to mention the high prices. Around the Atlanta area, I searched for homes up to and including those that were priced at half a million bucks, and found that the quality of my own home surpassed all of them! And so, I took my home off the market and have decided to stay put for now. I am thrilled with my home, but wish I could find others of similar or higher quality out there that I would be happy with.

Thankfully, to help pay for the rising cost of everything, my teaching salary increased by about $2,000 this year, and will go up by about the same amount next year – and I have a job! Obviously, that is the most important thing. But, just when I think I’m catching up, all it takes is for my 20 year old car to break down and I’m back in the hole again, paying for repairs that typically cost $1,500 to $3,500 each time. Of course, this is easier to take than making payments on a new vehicle, but there also comes a limit on how much to keep pouring into an older vehicle and wonder if it is still worthwhile.

That brings me back to asking how is the average person supposed to make it in today’s challenging financial environment? You know you’re alive when you have bills to pay. But, I am not rich. I have to work. Sometimes, I feel like I will have to work until I die and will never be able to retire. Even if I do retire, I wonder how much of an impact the retirement money I have saved will support me when the rising costs of everything keep going up and continue eating it away. I think, therefore, that one must spend less and save more. However, I wonder how many people can truly do that in today’s world where it is so difficult to get ahead.


Remember and Honor on Memorial Day

Remembering and honoring all who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice with their lives on this Memorial Day. Importantly, it is more appropriate to say “Remembering” and/or “Honoring” vs. “Happy Memorial Day” because Memorial Day is not a happy occasion for families and friends who have lost those who served. Talk to anyone who has lost someone in the line of duty, and they will tell you it is not “Happy Memorial Day.” Be sensitive. Words matter.

Trust in the Lord

I don’t often write about issues related to God, faith, religion, or spirituality, but those are of utmost importance in my life. I am a person who is accepting of others, including in the realms of faith and spirituality. I accept and respect what anyone believes or does not believe, even if I may not understand it or if it may be contrary to my own beliefs. I have my own strong faith and opinions, and I am able to accept and respect the beliefs of others without forcing my own beliefs onto them. My counseling training and experience have helped me to accomplish this. This is just one area in which my counseling training and experience have helped me to personally grow and develop.

I recently read a book written by a colleague and friend which was a fairly concise autobiography and which included many references to her faith journey. Her story is one of mistakes and unwise decisions in a life where she felt unwanted and unloved, until she allowed God to work in her life. I have honestly never read a story quite so extremely personal, and I let my friend know that to pen her life story was very brave and inspiring. There were instances in her life that I could relate to, especially in regard to intimate relationships (or the lack thereof), and we have also spoken about this in the past, as well. What was most inspiring to me about her life story were the many Biblical references she included that have helped to shape and mold her, and that show God’s love of her.

In my own counseling work, I often ask people if they could go back into the past and change one thing about themselves or their lives, what would it be? When I ask the question, I try to leave it very open-ended so people are not tied to having to choose one particular thing. Every so often – but rarely – someone says they would not change anything because they would not be the person whom they are today. While most people answer my question with something they would change or improve, a few people respond that everything in their lives would be different if they went back and changed something. This is extremely true and insightful, and I encourage people to explore that, understand it, and appreciate it. My friend who wrote her book also answered this question to herself in the same way, and she has explored it, much to her benefit.

I also often encourage people to find something positive even in the worst and/or most traumatic experiences in our lives. Sometimes, people are unable to do this in the moment of crisis – which is understandable – but on the road to healing and recovery (from whatever it is), it is important for us to find even that one tiny thing that is positive in a terrible experience to help us learn, grow, and stay sane. I find that people who are mentally resistant to this continue to experience their own roadblocks and setbacks; people who are open and willing to view something in a different light generally have a more healthy attitude and positive outlook. In this way, they have helped themselves, and they may even be able to assist and/or support others who have experienced the same or similar situations.

In my own life, as a Catholic and a Christian, I am a lover of God. God is truly paramount in my life. Even though I am no longer able to regularly attend church, I am a person of faith, trust, spirituality, belief, and prayer. In my mid-30s, I questioned whether or not my faith was the best one for me. I went on a faith journey of exploring whether or not it was, and ultimately, I found that it was, despite some of what it did not provide for me. I did not want to be that person who was just raised in a faith without having a choice of what to believe or not believe. I explored and searched many different faiths and denominations. While Catholicism doesn’t have “all” that I seek, neither does any other faith or denomination that I explored. The next closest thing to what I believe is Episcopalianism, but that also does not provide all that I seek in a faith. Therefore, I have had to bring to my faith my own aspects of spirituality that help me continue to believe.

This also brings me to talk about life’s ways of testing and/or tempting us to do things that are not good, beneficial, or desirable for us. I like to think of these things more as tests or challenges rather than temptations. When we encounter such tests and we remain steadfast in our values and beliefs, we are demonstrating strength, courage, patience, trust, faith, and endurance in God, and ultimately, in ourselves. We are constantly surrounded by so many things that can sway our values and beliefs, but reliance on God and His love and support – as well as good people that He places in our lives to help and support us in our decisions – see us through. We experience what we do as a result of life, just the life process itself. God does not “prevent” things from happening to us, but provides us with all variety of life experiences. It is our choice whether or not we want to take those experiences (from the best to the worst) to help us grow and/or to support others. Faith and trust in God and His love can help us make the “right” and “best” choices for us.

This brings me right back to having trust and faith in the Lord. God is always there for us, regardless of the circumstances. My counseling training has also helped me overcome “Catholic Guilt.” I am truly thankful for this since I know and can accept myself as being “human,” and not feeling guilty or shameful simply for being human. Further, reading my friend’s book helped remind me how much God loves us, and inspired me to write this blog post. It also reminded me that one of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 23 which states,

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Another favorite Biblical passage is 1 Corinthians 13:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Regardless of what one may believe or not believe, I hope that all have strong support in their lives to assist them with their life journey, as well as with holding healthy beliefs and values and with making positive and beneficial choices. Life is all about choices. Hopefully, we all have those strengths and supports in our lives to help keep us on the right path.

Happy Mom’s Day!

Flowers for Moms, Retrieved on May 14, 2023 from

Happy Mom’s Day to all mothers out there! I actually almost didn’t post today, but I thought, why not? Certainly, before I became a mom, I definitely felt left out of the whole “Mother’s Day” tribute thing. But, there are lots of things that I’ve been left out of in my life or that I have been denied in my life, so I never let that stop me from enjoying the good that life has to offer.

I must say that the happiest day of my life was the day my son was born. I love being a mom! I am that type of person who believes that if one is going to have children, then by golly, do your best and be your best at it. It is a lifelong commitment, and one that I am blessed, thankful, and grateful for. I often tell my son how blessed and thankful that I am that he is my son. I thank God for giving me such a wonderful son; of course I am biased, but to me, he is the best son any mother could have.

My son gives me so much meaning and purpose in my life. On those rare occasions when I would rather stay in bed in the morning rather than get up, I think of my son. Indirectly, he is my main motivator. I often tell him that I don’t know where I’d be without him in my life. Of course, I wish I could also say that being a devoted wife and having a loving husband provide me with meaning, purpose, and motivation, as well. But, I don’t have that, so I have found meaning elsewhere.

So that brings me back to being a mom. I get so much satisfaction and reward from being a mom. I often tell people that my son gets the love of three people. I have done my best to invest in him all of the quality time and experiences that I possibly can. When one is a single parent, it is challenging for moms to be both the mom and the dad, but it can be done. I wish it was different. I wish it was better. But, we have to make the best with what we have; that is what I have done, and I have no regrets about that. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade as the saying goes. I know that those of you out there who are single moms understand what I’m talking about. We have no choice but to put one foot in front of the other, do whatever we can to survive, and help our children thrive.

Happy Mother’s Day!

How about some Meat Loaf?

My meat loaf, May 13, 2023

I wanted to write about something today, but I didn’t really know what to write about. And since I was cooking today, I thought it might be appropriate to post about what I made. I hadn’t made meat loaf in awhile, so I thought that would be something good to have for a change. It’s tasty, and my son and I both like it. I make my meat loaf from my mom’s recipe, which I will also share to follow. In the above picture, you can see the finished product, and although it is a little bit overdone, it hasn’t caused a negative effect. It still tastes just great!

My meat loaf before baking, May 13, 2023

In the above picture, here, this is how my meat loaf looked before placing it in the oven. I know it doesn’t really look that appetizing, and in fact, it may actually look somewhat disgusting, but I tell you, it is delish.

Off the top of my head, the recipe is as follows:


1.5-2 lbs. ground beef, preferably 90+% lean

2-3 slices of bread, in small pieces

small onion or half of large onion, chopped or cut into small pieces

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup ketchup

2 eggs

Note: No salt needed

I just combine everything by tossing it into a bowl and stirring it up well. It will create a nice pasty, mushy mess, but is oh so good when you eat it. Bake at 350-375 degrees F for about 45 minutes. Take a look at my dinner plate below, along with my mashed potatoes and cucumber/tomato salad.

My dinner, May 13, 2023

So there you have it. I had time to cook today and made a nice tasty dinner. I didn’t use my fancy fine china today because I didn’t feel like having to be careful with it, so I just used the cheap plates. Oh, and of course, you can also add more ketchup to the meat loaf once it’s done if you like; it’s good either way, but adding more ketchup just seems to drown out the yummy taste. Enjoy!

Being Alone vs. Being Lonely

I read an article today about loneliness in which Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warns about its risks, and I wanted to share some thoughts. The article is here: It is very important to heed the warning, and to find positive ways to cope with being alone. If you are someone who lives alone, a good way to think about it is to be conscious of it in a positive manner. I tend to find that thinking about it in terms of “being alone” vs. “being lonely” is a much healthier mindset.

Many people are alone. Some people choose to be alone, some do not have much choice, and some isolate. People are gregarious. It is in our nature, biologically, to be around other people. In the article linked earlier, Surgeon General Murthy basically stated that loneliness can be similar to hunger or thirst with the body crying out for something that it needs to be satisifed. This is so true! People have many needs that are satisifed by interacting, in-person, with others – and I’m talking about positive, healthy interaction. It’s not necessary that I list or identify all of those needs here – I’m sure everyone can make up their own list. So, when that interpersonal interaction is missing at a high level, it can cause the feeling of craving connection, being “hungry” for companionship, and the need to fill a feeling of void or emptiness. And, I’m not necessarily even talking about intimate companionship, but simply interacting with others, in-person, in healthy and positive ways.

Surgeon General Murthy has called loneliness in the United States an epidemic. That is pretty serious. But, it’s also one thing to talk about it, and quite another thing to do something about it. How many communities out there offer inclusive groups for people to join that offer interesting activities? Some communities have groups for seniors, groups for people who play sports, and so on. But, what if you work and you can’t meet with a group during the times that are offered? Or, what if there are age restrictions in some of the groups that exclude you? As a result, people may seek other opportunities for in-person interactions with others. Many people look to churches or faith groups. Sometimes, however, they do not offer the types of groups one may be interested in, they may be quite exclusive, and/or they may not be “enough” of what someone wants. Sometimes, people are limited by location, and may be interested in groups or activities, but who wants to drive one or two hours each way to participate?

What I’m saying is that if “loneliness” is such an epidemic, people need to take it more seriously and do more to positively address it. If people are alone and/or feeling lonely, do something about it. If you are not finding what you are seeking out in your community or society, you have to take charge and fix it for yourself. Don’t wait. Don’t sit around. Don’t expect someone else to fix it for you. Find more enjoyable activities to occupy yourself, outside of working or other necessary responsibilities.

If you are too plugged in to technology, check out of it for awhile. Give your brain a break from it and do something else. Get in touch with yourself. Do more for yourself. Take a walk outside, take yourself out to eat, to the movies, to a concert, shopping, working out, vacationing, traveling, journaling, listening to music, etc. Call a friend, reach out to people, write to someone. You don’t know what will happen unless you try. Find and be active in hobbies that you enjoy, like writing, photography, playing an instrument, hiking, swimming, bird watching, star gazing, scrapbooking, baking, cooking, sewing, playing sports, you name it. What is stopping you? How many excuses do you have? Don’t let excuses stop you.

Also, you can’t allow what other people “think” about you or what you do or don’t do to influence your decisions. The reason I say this is because I’ve heard people tell me (particularly women, but also men) they didn’t do something because of what others or “society” would think about it. So what! I do things, myself, all the time. I think it’s just part of my internal wiring. I was raised to be independent and self-sufficient. It was prized in my family, growing up, to be able to “do” things yourself, so that’s what I did. I do so many things, myself, that I don’t even hesitate to think about what “society” thinks I should or shouldn’t do. If I always lived by societal expectations, I wouldn’t be where I am now and I would be so much more limited.

Probably the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life – transitioning my dad from medical care to comfort and complete home hospice care, I made myself. I’ve gone traveling half-way around the world through two dozen different countries by myself. I’ve lived and worked in a huge city – New York City – by myself. For a long time, I held and watched the growth of certain stocks – and made money on my investments, myself. I’ve changed the oil in my car, by myself. I’ve gone up on my house roof and done repairs, by myself. I’ve bought and sold my own personal vehicles, myself. Heck, I’ve even used a chainsaw, myself. You name it, I can pretty much do it myself – or I can hire someone to do it for me. You can’t be afraid of what the “world” will think of you. If you do, you are just limiting yourself and denying yourself experiences and opportunities. Admittedly, there have been a couple of periods in my life, however, when I was “stuck” and had difficulty making decisions, and others either directly or indirectly influenced me to get back on track, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

Ultimately, being lonely is no fun for many people. It can cause depression, anxiety, isolation, and other mental as well as physical health issues. Don’t let it. Be aware of yourself and love yourself because you deserve better. Don’t allow the world to beat you up. My Polish grandmother basically said, “Do not beat yourself up because the world will do that for you.” This is something that I often remember and share with others. Don’t let others, the world, or your circumstances steal your joy! It is not worth it. Life is too short not to enjoy it as much as possible.

For starters, if you are alone, think in a positive mindset that you are “alone” vs. that you are “lonely.” I can almost guarantee that this slight change in cognition will help lift the feeling of burden that is caused by loneliness. It truly is much healthier and more positive to have the perspective of being alone rather than being lonely. And, if you are feeling cravings like hunger from being alone, find positive outlets to satisfy that hunger. I don’t necessarily mean just finding one or two outlets, find and be active in multiple positive outlets, daily. Sometimes, we cannot change some of the cards that life has dealt us, but we can find positive ways to love, help, and support ourselves, whatever our status.

My Piano

My piano. Ah yes, my piano. This is not my piano, pictured, however it represents a beautiful piano. I have had a piano for almost 45 years. I learned to play piano when I was a girl from my teacher, Mr. Paul Jerome Miller. He was a well-known pianist and organist in the Buffalo, New York area. I took lessons from him for many years until his death. He was a kind and disciplined man, and I remember him as being good and grandfatherly. I was devastated when he died because I was so attached to him, taking lessons from him every week for many years. He was a perfectionist, he was exacting, and he pushed people to reach and exceed their potentials. This, along with his kindness and compassion, is what made him so great.

I love playing my piano. For the past 14 years, my piano has been in the finished portion of the basement of my home. At the time, that is where there was space for it. But, being in the basement meant out-of-sight, out-of-mind, so it was often forgotten. I have forgotten it no longer. Just over a week ago, I hired movers to bring my piano to my main floor, along with some large antiques that are family heirlooms, so I can enjoy them!

I have been thrilled and excited that I can now fully enjoy all of the antiques that have been passed down to me in my family, and to play and enjoy my piano! Just in the past week alone, I have sat at my piano, playing and playing away. Before I know it, already an hour or more has passed. It has been wonderful. Of course, the first couple of times I sat down to play, I was quite rusty and played the same songs, repetitively, many times, along with playing one hand alone in order to get the notes and keys down. Now that I have played for four days in the past week, I am already getting back to my old self with my “expertise.”

Certainly, I am no Rachmaninoff, but it is really wonderful to have my piano so readily available to me that I can sit down any time and play in a comfortable and enjoyable environment. I have really missed that. I have enjoyed playing so many songs recently, including “Paganini Variations” for the strong hands and arms; “Fur Elise” for the delicate touch; “The Beautiful Blue Danube” to feel like you’re dancing; and “Ave Maria” for spirituality and to give thanks.

Mr. Miller had me to memorize “Paganini Variations” almost 40 years ago. It is a powerful song, and he selected it for me to play in a recital – one of many in which I played – because he recognized my strong hands and arms. When I think back on it, I always find it funny because I wanted to play the dainty, delicate song, “Fur Elise,” but Mr. Miller wanted me to project my strength and power with “Paganini.” I must say that he knew me well because that has to be my all-time favorite song; I love the power that I can portray and project in playing that song – it is definitely mighty!

In elementary school, Mr. Miller recommended that I play clarinet in the school bands since it was similar to piano, and so I did. I played all throughout school and university. In high school, I also had a wonderful clarinet teacher, Mr. Donald Bollinger, who took me to the top, being the best I could be. I participated in All-County Band for many years, and in my senior year, I was Principal Chair of the First Clarinets. It was quite an accomplishment, especially with all of the gazillion other things I always did. Mr. Bollinger pushed me beyond limits – into a realm that I hadn’t even known existed. He knew I had the potential to be magnificent, and that is what he made me. Even during our lessons and practicing when I got tired and wanted to stop, he kept pushing me on and on. He truly must’ve seen in me what I could not see, and he brought it out. I’m so grateful for that.

It was a lot of hard work and a lot of practicing to be the best at clarient. My fingers were usually fine from all of the practicing, but my cheeks would get tired for constantly having to have the correct mouth position. The highest level to be played was Level 6, and that was my level. Looking back on it now, it was absolutely insane and I don’t know how I did it, but I think, after awhile, one just becomes mechanical and automatic – the mouth and fingers just know what to do without even thinking about it. My only disappointment with playing clarinet is that I was never invited to play in All-State Band. I’m sure there were likely a lot of politics involved in that type of decision, and my family and school were not that political.

I guess my next step is to dig out my beautiful clarinet and breathe some life back into it. My parents gave me many tangible gifts, including the gifts of music, song, and lessons. Now, I can sit down and more fully enjoy those gifts for myself. I can fill my house with beautiful music for myself. When I have nothing else to do, my piano is right there, calling my name – and I answer. It is lovely to get carried away by my piano – my friend that has been there throughout my life, through thick and thin, through happiness and sorrow, to uplift me with all beautiful and amazing melodies and memories.

The Road not Taken

Two Roads Diverging in a Yellow Wood, Retrieved March 8, 2023 from

I’m going to try this again. This will be my third post related to this topic. The other two posts, I deleted, but I will try to stick with this one. I’m posting about Robert Frost’s (1915) famous poem, “The Road not Taken,” (republished to follow from The Poetry Foundation at

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

I love this poem. It is so real. It is so applicable. It is so palpable. Robert Frost hit the nail on the head with this poem since it so exquisitely relates to many real life experiences. I often share with my son, students, and others that life is all about choices. Frost’s poem is not only about choices, but also about potentially making the “right” choice. Sometimes we know the difference between right and wrong, but we may need some guidance in selecting and/or staying on the right road.

I am so thankful that I have been blessed with a great friend who has helped me more than once to choose and remain on the right path. Sometimes, when you feel you’re getting older and life is passing you by, you wonder what things would be like if life was different, but you must always be honest, responsible, and accountable; keep a clear head and conscience; make the right choices; and follow the road less traveled. My friend reminded me of that and has helped me to stay on the “right” road. What my friend said is extremely important to me, and I will always value it.

Therefore, that brings me to the final thought about my post: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – And it truly has made all the difference. I am so blessed and thankful!

Happy Easter!

Crucifix with Pisanki Polish Easter Eggs and Pink Hydrangeas, Michele Babcock-Nice, April 9, 2023

Here it is already Easter after welcoming Spring about three weeks ago! Can you believe it? Time always goes by much too fast.

This week, I had some time to organize and rearrange some things at home, and I came across my pisanki Polish Easter eggs and got those out to view and enjoy. These are pisanki wooden Easter eggs from Poland, gifted to me by my Great Aunt Marianna Drewin, when she visited my family more than 35 years ago from Kielce’, Poland. I also still have the original leather-crafted box she brought them in, also shown here. My brother and I have since shared the eggs we received, and the ones I have are shown in my picture above. Pisanki is a tradition in Poland – as well as other countries such as Ukraine – of hand-painting Easter eggs. Pisanki comes from the older Polish version of the verb, pisac’, meaning “to paint.” Today, it more closely means “to write.” Eggs symbolize life and new life, and are always traditional when thinking of Easter. While my pisanki Easter eggs are nothing fancy, they are traditional Polish Easter eggs that remind me of my Polish ancestors, family, and heritage from the Old Country.

Happy Easter to all of you who celebrate Easter!

What is Success?

Success, Retrieved March 6, 2023 from

I have some time this week and was trying to think of something good to write about. I started thinking about success. What is success? What does it really mean? What makes someone successful? I understand that, obviously, there are different definitions of success, and the definition may vary from person to person. The definition of success may vary among genders, ages, backgrounds, faiths, and cultures. However, there may be certain elements of the definition that are universally applicable, and I would like to explore that.

There are different areas that success can apply to – success in life, success in one’s self, success in family, success in work, success in school, success in many things. Does success include love, compassion, and sensitivity? Does it mean being understanding? Does it include doing one’s best or being one’s best? Does it include helping others and giving back to society? Does it mean being a good leader, role model, or example for others? Does it mean “being there” for others? Does it mean encouraging others to be their best and do their best? Does it mean picking others up when they fall and being forgiving? Does it mean helping to prevent others from falling and helping them to proceed on the “right” path? Does success mean being thankful, grateful, and humble?

Success means all of these things. One cannot just determine “success” to be one thing. Success encompasses so much and has many different interpretations. If one has only financial success, but is not successful in other areas, such as being a good leader and being genuinely kind to others, then to me, that person is not a “success.” I have had friends in the past who are extremely wealthy and powerful, and that wealth and power may be a pedestal on which they stand, but to me, a bigger determiner of success is how they treat others and I cannot always speak highly of that. If someone has “success” through money, power, and influence who is also cut-throat and two-faced, that person is not a success, but has only used and thrown away others as stepping stones to get where they are today.

A similar perspective may also apply to people in the area of faith. In faith, a person is successful who can love, accept, welcome, and understand others. Sometimes, this is difficult to do, but with God’s help, it is easy. As a person of faith, I also remember that people who are leaders in the faith are people – they are not perfect, they do not have all of the answers, and sometimes, they may actually not be the “best” leaders – they are works in progress. To increase “success” in the area of faith would be for faiths to recognize flaws and weaknesses, and work to correct, strengthen, and/or improve upon them. Such success would also potentially carry over to believers and would be a better benefit for all.

Success in family can also mean different things for different people. Success in family relationships may mean being loving, caring, and supportive. It may also include being appropriately disciplining and structuring, providing opportunities for family members to be themselves, but also to be willing to be positively-guided by others in the family. While the circumstances of life have caused me to be a single parent for many years, I have consistently invested love, care, support, and quality time into my son. I have wanted for him to have the very best of what I could offer and provide to him in that area of success by just “being there” in a positive and supportive fashion.

Many years ago, one of the first students I taught as a full-time teacher in Stone Mountain, Georgia was a 6th grade gang member. Myself and the school resource (police) officer were his mentors. He was being raised in a family where both of his parents were addicts, and he therefore took to the streets to find his “family.” Sadly, there was never enough that my colleague and I could do or say for him to reassess his choices. This is obviously an extreme example of family relationships, but it shows the importance of “being there” for your kids and making the “right” choices.

And, what about success in one’s work? Again, people can view this in different ways. For some, work success may mean being the leader in your field – being the absolute best. For others, it may mean doing one’s best in what one simply loves to do without a need for being at the top. For others, work success may even mean earning enough to support one’s self or one’s family, or simply holding a job. We must also remember that being a good homemaker and/or invested full-time parent is also a round-the-clock job, as well; these days, that never gets enough credit.

What I have described are just some areas of what might be considered when we think about what success means and what it involves. To me, at this stage in my life, the biggest elements of success include loving myself and being truly happy with myself; loving and “being there” for my son; being happy in my work; and having good, positive relationships with others. That is true success for me right now. I owe it to God, myself, and others for having reached this point in my life. I feel I have nothing to prove. I am who I am. No one can take that away. I am happy within myself, and that is a great gift to have – one of the elements of success, for me.

We must also remember that mistakes and failures also help contribute to success. Sometimes, we can be down on ourselves and emotionally beat ourselves up over mistakes and failures. However, to view them more positively and realistically, we must see them as opportunities to improve, to do better, and to learn. Hopefully, we learn the “better” way of saying, doing, or thinking about something, and put that into practice. I see many people in my work and day-to-day life who appear to be on a repetitious cycle of failure because they do not learn from their mistakes, and do not use their strengths to help themselves improve. Sometimes, it is difficult and challenging to observe because we cannot change people – people have to be willing to change themselves. Other times, people take heed, and listen and learn, improving and bettering themselves; this is obviously wonderful to see and experience. But, with those folks who don’t believe they have it within themselves to do better, you can talk until you are blue in the face, and nothing will change.

Overall, a saying that I recently found, written by Barbara J. Burrow, captures some of the essence of personal success that I am thinking about and trying to describe here. The only things I would add or change would be that we sometimes cannot live life to the fullest, but we can live it in the best and most “right” way possible; and to obviously add in the importance of loving one’s self. And, when loving one’s self, I am talking about being kind, caring, accepting, forgiving, and supportive of one’s self, and not love in a selfish or narcissistic way.

That woman is a success…

who loves life,

and lives it to the fullest,

who has discovered and shared

the strengths and talents

that are uniquely her own;

who puts her best into each task

and leaves each situation

better than she found it,

who seeks and finds

that which is beautiful

in all people…in all things;

whose heart is full of love

and warm with compassion;

who has found joy in living

and peace within herself.

Therefore, to end, I must ask, what does success mean to you? What does success look like for you? How are you a success? And, if you do not believe that you have success or are a success, what can you do to change that and have a more positive outlook? These are some good questions to think about. Sometimes, only one person in someone’s life can help create a positive impact or be an important influence for success. It might mean the world to them, and I challenge you to be that person!