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The Power of a Smile

Me: Knock. Knock. You: Who’s there? Me: Abraham Lincoln. You: Abraham Lincoln who?

Me: Wait! You don’t know who Abraham Lincoln is?!

I hope I made you smile with a bit of Presidents Day humor. Lots of things in life can make us feel powerless or sad. In an effort to cheer you and I both up, I’m following up last week’s post, The Power of a Compliment, with The Power of a Smile. Once again, a little girl at the mall surprised and inspired me. As Dave and I were passing a young mother with her cute-as-a-button toddler, I glanced at the child and exchanged smiles with her mom. Then, the most amazing, joyous smile flashed across the child’s face, one that bordered on laughter, one that delighted both myself and my husband. Like mother, like daughter. 🙂

Here are a few very good reasons to smile.

et the tone. I enjoy reading the Little Golden Book, Little Racoon’s Nighttime Adventure, to the First Graders I visit. Little Racoon is charged with the grown-up duty of bringing home dinner. On his journey, others warn him about The Thing in the Pool and advise that he make a mean face and hold up a stone or stick to show The Thing that he is not afraid. When he does so, Little Racoon sees The Thing acting just as tough. (By now the kid are smiling because they know The Thing is his reflection.)  🙂  When Little Racoon takes his mother’s advice and just smiles, The Thing in the Pool smiles back. And when he laughs, The Thing in the Pool laughs, too! Being friendly wins the day! Little Racoon is no longer afraid and is successful in his quest for crayfish. Our lesson of the day is Winners Walk Tall With a Smile.

An easy lesson that I learned in Respectfully Yours has helped me to set the tone in our home. When my husband arrives home, I make my way to the door and simply greet him by saying hello with a smile. He appreciates the friendly welcome. 

ood improves. While it may seem odd or difficult to smile when feeling sad or upset, finding something to smile about will help. Studies have shown that even forcing a smile improves our mood. (Go ahead and try it now.) 🙂 The action of smiling relieves stress, making it easier to think more positively. The more we smile, the more likely our brains are to create happiness loops, enabling us to overcoming the natural, protective pattern of focusing on negatives and to nurture a more positive outlook.  (I’ve been listening to some cool lectures about the brain from The Great Courses.) 🙂

mmunity boost. Our church bulletin contained an info-graphic about avoiding the flu. You know the drill – Get vaccinated, Wash your hands, Stay home when sick, Eat right, Exercise, Use hand sanitizer, Don’t touch your face, and the surprise –  SMILE, because studies show that it can boost our immune systems. Feeling a bit skeptical, I looked this one up and found another surprise. According to AARP, if you’re feeling happy when you get your flu vaccination, it is more likely to be effective (Remember to smile.) 🙂 One article noted that smiling affects our bodies on a cellular level in a way that can protect us from disease.

ook more attractive. Think about it. Why do we smile for pictures? Are we more attracted to people who look happy or to those who look grumpy? When I try this in the mirror, it seems that I look younger when I smile. Sure, there are some laugh lines showing, but my face gets a lift and my eyes come alive when I smile.

njoy humor. If a smile can do us so much good, imagine what laughter can accomplish!  We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine, but do we take it? I confess that since childhood I have taken life pretty seriously. I can’t deny, however, the value of enjoying time with cheerful people, reading a clever cartoon, or watching a funny movie. My self-prescribed medicine is to learn to laugh at myself. I’m serious. My husband tries to make me laugh every day. It usually works when he is reading a comic strip to me, but there’s no guarantee when he employs a bit of teasing. I will give myself credit, however, for having turned what started out as a self criticism into a running joke between us. And for Valentine’s Day, I surprised him with DVDs of the first two seasons of Northern Exposure  so we can see if the TV show we laughed at in the early 1990s is still funny.

Me: What do you call a very small Valentine?

You: I don’t know. What?

Me: A Valen-tiny.

I think I’ll try that one on the First Graders today 🙂

Another surprise turned up in my blog post preparation. Just as smiling when we don’t yet feel happy is beneficial, simulating laughter can bring health benefits. At least that is what “laughter Yoga” enthusiasts are claiming. Experts advise that we aim for ten to fifteen minutes of laughter each day. I’d be glad to hear your ideas on how to meet that goal!

A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones. Proverbs 17:22

 

 

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The Power of a Compliment

“Try to compliment, not to criticize,” a phrase from the Winners Walk Tall theme song, an instruction that I discussed with First Graders last Thursday, the power of which I personally experienced a few days ago.

The compliment came quite unexpectedly during an ordinary evening mall walk  with my husband. We were about halfway through the mall when he spotted a co-worker and his wife, nice folks with whom I’ve enjoyed a few brief conversations. Their work days finished, they had been out to dinner and were headed for the Hallmark store. We stood with them for a few minutes making small talk, mostly related to work and the weather. As I looked at her, I began doing what women tend to do. I noticed her perfectly styled hair, and even though my hair has become an object lesson for defining “envy” in my Bible study class,  I felt like I had a mop on  my head. Her beautifully made-up face triggered thoughts of the imperfections I see in my own magnifying mirror and of how little make-up I was wearing. Talking, listening, and smiling, I did a quick survey of her layered office wear, complimented by a designer purse and stylish coat, and remembered that I wasn’t wearing a bra underneath my casual clothing and jacket.

I like these people. Yet, here I was, making a negative comparison of myself to her. She made a comment about our walking shoes, one that clued me in that she was doing her own self-evaluation. Having enjoyed a nice dinner with her husband, she felt a bit guilty because we were exercising and she wasn’t.

As we resumed our walk, I silently put away my insecure, somewhat envious thoughts without whining to my husband. Women compare themselves to each other, and I am a woman. I reminded myself that I love my life as a homemaker and volunteer, and that my husband has called me beautiful every day of our nearly 34 years of marriage, even, rather, especially, on the days when I’ve felt rough. After I wrote about my Cold Sore Crisis, I acknowledged to him that I didn’t look that bad in my before make-up and hair picture. His wise words, “It’s not how you look that matters; it’s how you feel,” revealed his understanding of women.  I’m more confident during this stage of life than I’ve ever been. There are just those moments when, in the company of attractive, accomplished people, I feel like a floodlight is illuminating how plain, old, or ordinary I am.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4

Continuing our walk, we rounded a corner and  encountered a group of young girls, talking and moving in dancelike, joyous friendship. As I passed one of the beauties, probably nine or ten years old, she looked me in the eye and said, “Hi! You’re very beautiful,” then carried on with her friends. Before I could brush her words off, I heard Dave telling me, “She’s right, you know.” The power of her spontaneous, sincere compliment was undeniable. I was able to receive her gift of words as what some call a “God wink.” His love, expressed through the child and my husband, encouraged me.

I’ve pondered the series of events in my spirit for days, feeling amazed at the tender love of our Lord Jesus, gaining confidence in the beauty of a gentle, quiet spirit, one that is willing to resist the urge to think or speak negatively about myself,  considering how the tale might encourage you to give and receive compliments.

(I purchased this beautiful artwork from the Etsy shop, Little Emma’s Flowers.)

 

 

 

 

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What’s in a Maiden Name?

Having never been a history buff, I’m suddenly intrigued with the Franco-Prussian War, known in France as The War of 1870. If you read Soup, Snow, and Sentences, you might guess that a lecture from The Great Courses has piqued my interest. It has, but only because of discoveries made in 2012 and 2016.

Prior to a trip to Montreal in 2012, I challenged myself to learn French, a language previously unfamiliar to me, one that held my interest beyond our short trip to Canada.

Same airport food with fancy French names.

Dave with his Cafe au lait avec sucre.

The corner where we enjoyed crepes et vin.

Then, in the summer of 2016, I clicked on an Ancestry.com link on Facebook to find out the history behind my maiden name,

Pfeiffer

Once on the genealogy site, I decided  to try to trace my dad’s family line back to Germany. The site’s Two-Week Free Trial would give me time to find a few names and dates with no cost and little commitment.  I spent many hours during those two weeks clicking on green leaves to learn more about my ancestors. (I may even have neglected other activities and stayed up later than usual, finding the search to be a bit addictive.) When my Free Trial ended, I had, indeed, been able to trace the Pfeiffers back to Europe, but to my surprise, my great-great grandfather and great-great-great grandfather were born in France! I asked a couple of cousins if they knew that, but they  seemed uninformed  about our Family Tree. The two weeks ended, leaving me satisfied with birth, death, and marriage details about several sets of grandparents, but not yet interested in becoming a World Traveler client of Ancestry.com.

Recently, son Eric and his wife Amanda came for a visit, wanting to share the family history information they have unearthed on the internet, helping me trace my mom’s family back a few generations, reigniting my desire to access more information about my French grandfathers.  I found a Great Courses series on genealogy and selected a lecture called Extending Your Family Tree Oversees. The teacher’s enthusiasm about his trip to Europe in search of his roots prompted me to consider his challenge to learn about the history and culture of France. I talked Dave into signing up for a free trial on Ancestry.com and attempted to reach back into the eighteenth century for another set of ancestors. That’s when my family’s HISTORY began to ignite my passion.

I discovered the reason for confusion about whether the Pfeiffers came from Germany or France and, I believe, the reason why my great-great grandfather immigrated from France to America in 1872.  Michael P. Pfeiffer was nineteen years old when France declared war on the German Kingdom of Prussia, attempting to maintain control of the homeland of my ancestors. They were unsuccessful as the Germans mobilized, attacked, and defeated the army of Napoleon III, ending the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Germany then annexed Alsace-Lorraine and forced the citizens to declare French citizenship and leave or become Germans. Records show that twenty-two year old Michael P. Pfeiffer and his cousin Nicholas Wilhelm arrived in New York in 1872. Pfeiffer married my great-great grandmother in Ohio in 1880, and the rest is, well, history.

But, I still have questions. Finding the answers may take me on a long journey, searching out on-line records, visiting genealogy libraries, continuing to learn French… traveling to France? Oh yes, Alsace-Lorraine was regained by France at the end of World War II.

So, what’s in a maiden name? History. People. Story. My hope is no longer just to fill in names on my Pedigree Chart, but to also gather enough information to piece together some life stories about those men and women, my ancestors.

I’m proud that my ancestors kept the original spelling of Pfeiffer, despite our need to spell it often. The Germans pronounced it Fifer, however my branch went with Pifer along the way. Here is what I found when I initially took the bait on Ancestry.com.

Pfeiffer name meaning: German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): from an agent derivative of Middle High German pfif(e), German Pfeife ‘whistle’, ‘pipe’, hence an occupational name for a pipe player.

Well, what do you know about that!

 

 

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