Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Tuesday Thoughts With A Large Cup of Tea

photo: pixabay.com

Can you believe it? It's been snowing and we woke to winter ... again. Not just a sprinkling, but about three to four inches. Our autumnal decorations look oddly out of place. And, the migrating juncos seem a little confused as they half-heartedly poke around in the snowfall. The chickadees aren't fazed as they dee-dee-dee from tree tops -- they know the ropes as does the cute downy woodpecker who heads straight for the suet hanger. A flock of house sparrows are having a huge choral sing in the mock orange shrubbery. What's a little snow to them.

I was going to say we are not amused -- it's far too early for snow -- even in northerly Canada. Still, my eyes that are ever on the lookout for something beautiful to light upon sees that it's all so very pretty, even if it is early October. I’ve half a mind to turn the calendar and just imagine it's November already. My brother in Ontario says it's +28C (82F) today where he lives. I don't think he was rubbing it, but I do wonder if we are living in the same country!

"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places
where other people see nothing."

~ Camille Pissarro

* * * 

For days I've been mulling about what to share in this new post. I couldn't seem to get myself out of the way so that I could hear the voice of my heart. You see, I've been feeling the woes of the world pressing in. Most days, I can shuck it off, but there are days when the darkishness seems to settle in on the inside. I'm not sad for anything in my own life as life is good and things are fine -- I laugh, I sing, I enjoy my food and the books I'm reading. It's just some days all the 'out there' stuff blares so loud and obnoxious from every news channel and social media outlet (even though I keep those to a minimum), it's hard to look beyond and remember that everything is not going to hell in a hand basket.

I've learned over the years that it's okay to let ourselves feel that way sometimes. We don't always need to jolly ourselves out of an emotion. If that's how we feel on a day, let's feel it. Pay attention to it. Sometimes we do need to feel the woes of others, otherwise we might lose our empathy and compassion. And sometimes we need to mourn what we feel is being lost in a world gone mad (at least as we see it) or when we see something that truly is not right or decent.

But then comes a moment when we know we must leave it. We must leave the care of it, the stress of it. For me, that often comes after I say a little prayer for grace for whoever needs that extra tenderness and strength. Then, I let peace settle, as I look with hope and anticipation that all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. I also go in search of a little beauty. And, ever since I first read this quote by Blaise Pascal on Sandra's blog, I remind myself of it often: "In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart." Oh yes, that helps ... very much.

And, when I go to bed at night as I'm settling down, I whisper a good night prayer and try to remember this line by William Lyon Phelps: "Let the walls of your mind be filled with many beautiful pictures...".

* * *

In a recent chat with my sister, we decided that what we need is an antidote for the 'crap' that spreads. I looked up the definition in Merriam-Webster to clarify...
ANTIDOTE, noun 1. a remedy to counteract the effects of poison, as in she needed the antidote for the snake's venom. 2. something that relieves, prevents, or counteracts, as in reading can be an antidote to boredom.
My focus zoomed to that second definition, in particularly the first phrase: something that relieves. I don't know what to do about counteracting the effects of the big ugly stuff that's let loose in our world. I'm grateful there are many people are out there who are doing things that will counteract, alleviate, prevent. Yet, I feel small in my own offerings to the world, so that phrase 'something that relieves' gives me hope that there is something I can do.

I can help relieve the sorrow -- allow people a reprieve from the things that push them down. Maybe it's just a small window in time that lets in a tiny ray of light in a dark moment. A kind gesture, a friendly smile, a helping hand, a few thoughtful words that say you're not alone. Because we hear those ideas said so often, we can feel jaded, maybe even bored by them, but in truth they still are worthy gestures, no matter how clichéd or small they feel. They are the signs that remind us nice ordinary goodness goes on around us every day. And we can be a part of it in our own way.

I took in a writers' panel at the local library a couple of weekends ago, and the discussion was on Writing Truth. A favourite author and poet Shawna Lemay, one of the panelists, said something that really stood out for me. As writers it's our responsibility to tell the truth and to tell our own truth in our own way and our own time. She referred to herself as being a white, middle-class woman, privileged in so many ways. Even so, she recognized that, like anyone else, she must own her own life and write from that place she lives in.

As she spoke those words, I realized that I had been holding my breath, for I have often felt that and have wondered what I had to share from my life as a woman who has always had more than enough of life's good gifts -- food, shelter, warmth, friends, love, good jobs, good bosses, freedom and choices, opportunities. I've never had to crawl back up from the bottom of my life or personally experience life threatening disaster or illness. Can I still write about my own life and offer it as a gift to a hurting world ... as a reprieve, a momentary relief, an antidote for someone's hardship?

Maybe my little gains in wisdom or victories over struggles are too small to share. Shawna's words settled something in my heart. Yes, I have something to offer. She said on her blog recently, "You might think that your own truth is too small, but we need all the truths. All of our truths are connected. And there is room for all of them."

No, we might not be able to 'do' anything to make the bad stuff or the mean-spirited people go away. But we can continue to stand in our places and speak truth, beauty, kindness ... We can continue to say and do things that for a moment's reprieve add cheer and push away darkness.

My sister kindly said that she sees my writing here on this blog as an antidote. When ugly tries to take over out there, she says It's A Beautiful Life stays the course and keeps reminding readers to find the beauty and think on these things. I'm grateful for her kind words -- and the kind words of others who also speak into my life -- it gives me the courage to reach out from my corner of the world. 

Peace Rose giving her summer farewell with one last blossom

"There are souls in this world which have the gift
of finding joy everywhere -- and of
leaving it behind them when they go."

~ Frederick Wm. Faber

* * *

Which brings to me to something else, which if you'll give me a moment, I'll make the connection. My sister and I had the dee-light-full opportunity to see Paul McCartney in concert when he was in Edmonton, Alberta last weekend. What a thrill it was to be in the same place, along with over 17,000 other fans, where this well-loved musician performed old familiar songs as well as new ones from his latest album. It was so much fun to join in when he invited us to sing along -- Hey Jude, we know the words, the melodies, and have hummed them many times over the years. Na,na,na,na,na,na,na What a feeling of connection and togetherness as our voices raised to the roof. In those moments, that's when I realized so many of those wonderful songs that we have sung or hummed for decades are just as relevant and hopeful today as they ever were. What a legacy!

Since the concert, Sis and I have been listening to some of his music from other concerts and sharing links to interviews on YouTube, just trying to hold onto the magic a little while longer.

There's so much about the man I don't know, as I haven't closely followed him throughout his career although I liked him, especially as one of the Beatles. It was when I watched the Carpool Karaoke YouTube that went viral during the summer that I knew I had to be at his concert.

Paul told the story of how Let It Be came about. You've probably heard it, but it was new to me. His mom had passed away when he was young and years later he had a dream where she came to him. He was kinda worrying about things and in the dream his mom said it would be okay and to just let it be. I was so touched by that. In another interview, he said that he felt it was like a miracle to experience that dream. He never forgot his mother's words to him ... "let it be, speaking words of wisdom, let it be."

For all his fame, Sir Paul seems such a humble man, a man who continues to share his love of music with people around the world. And in the end, I realize Paul, doing what he loves best, is bringing his own gift of the antidote to the uglies of the world, teaching us how to take a sad song and make it better. Thanks, Paul!

* * *

Guess what! I don't feel that heaviness anymore. Writing about it here knowing you are going to read this has relieved that pressure. And, even though it's still winter outside my window, I feel the joy bubbling up. Which means I think I've done my job today. On that sweet note ...

I wish you a beautiful, beautiful day,

With love,

Friday, September 28, 2018

Food And Happy Spouses

photo: pixabay.com

I came across an article I wrote some years ago as a Guest Blogger for a friend who was doing a series on "Happy Spouses". I always meant to post it here at some point, but as I found it lingering in my draft file, I assume I never did. So, rather than let it linger any longer, today's the day it gets another chance to shine. I hope you enjoy it.

Here's wishing you a wonderful weekend,

* * *


Kissing don't last! Cookery do.
~ George Meredith

Do you know what makes your partner's eyes light up when it comes to food? What causes those wonderful laugh lines around his eyes to show up because he's grinning so wide? For my husband, it's not salmon or roast beef or turkey dinner. Sure, he really enjoys those dishes, but his hands down favourite meal is pasta. Every time. Any time. I don’t think I know anyone else who loves spaghetti as much as he does, and I don't think he’s ever met a pasta dish he didn’t like.

But it took me a while after we were married to recognize that it wasn't just a favourite, but the preferred choice most often, which meant for me, I really didn't have to wrack my brain trying to dream up other kinds of menus -- online pasta recipes seemed endless. How easy it would be to make my hubby happy if we had pasta on a regular basis.

Growing up in my family, we didn't know it as pasta -- we knew it as macaroni or spaghetti. We also knew the emergency boxes of Kraft Dinner; those were a family treat, at least for us kids. But, it was more of a standby meal when the larder got low or a quick meal was needed. My dad, along with all the men I knew in our farming community, was a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so I assumed my dear hubbs was the same. 

That's why, when a discussion came up about favourite meals, I was taken aback to learn that for Rick a great pasta meal with a homemade sauce that had simmered for hours even upstaged Christmas turkey dinner, my own personal favourite. In fact, he told me not long after we were married that he used to make himself pasta several times a week – not as a cop-out for cooking something more elaborate, but because he really, really, really liked it. That was a light bulb day for me. Pasta became a more regular part of our menu planning, but it was still something I had to consciously remember to include more often. Even to this day. Yes, I like pasta. I love some of the recipes we've had over the years. But it's never been, and probably never will be, my top favourite meal.

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way
we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing
and devote our attention to eating."
~ Luciano Pavarotti

The summer I wrote this article, we had a fine crop of cherry tomatoes. Picked early in September to avoid being frozen on their stems like Popsicles, dozens of tiny red and yellow orbs had been ripening in a big paper box in the garage. One day I peered in to find not just a handful but dozens ready for eating. There was no way we could consume that many in a salad or bruschetta for two, so we Googled recipes on what to do with cherry tomatoes.

One recipe said to roast them on cookie sheets with garlic, basil, and olive oil, and use them later in pasta sauce. So, that's what we did. Imagine it. That September day, I had just pulled the pans from the oven. Rick came into the kitchen which smelled heavenly -- we both felt transported to Italy right then and there. He bent his face and breathed in the garlic-y, tomato-y fragrance and uttered a happy "YUUUU-MEE!"

Suddenly I caught a glimpse of the eager little lad he must have been a long time ago in his own mother's kitchen. Who knows, I never asked him, maybe he used to wander in when she was preparing supper and lift the lids from pots, giving an appreciative sniff, often reaching for the wooden spoon to give things a stir, just as he does today. A little hands-on anticipation. 

I saw something else that day we roasted those tomatoes. Rick's spontaneous 'yummy' really was a clue to one thing that truly makes him happy. And, if I paid closer attention to those little clues that seem to arrive so airily that they're easy to miss, I had the opportunity and privilege to show this dear man I loved him and wanted him to be happy ... and I could do it one pasta dish at a time.

"People who love to eat are always the best people."
~ Julia Child

* * *

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Offerings of This and That

The week flew by and the time I meant to spend creating a new post was used elsewhere -- now it's Friday morning and my draft sits empty of words. I'm sorry for it, but at the same time, I am happy to say that spots in the garden are tidied up after that unexpected snow we had last week, my house is clean and ready for guests arriving on the weekend, and the refrigerator is standing by with a big pot of homemade beef and barley soup for lunch when they arrive. It feels good.

An empty draft means at this moment I having nothing to offer you. Which makes me feel a little sad. But as I stop to consider that an empty space can be open to all sorts of possibilities, I feel a glimmer of excitement instead. Just a glimmer, mind you. It's a little like when unexpected company arrives at your house. As the hostess, you frantically thinks about what you might have in your nearly empty pantry or freezer that could turn a dining table into something warm and welcoming. My youngest sister confided recently that she actually enjoys those unexpected occasions, where she has learned to turn those first moments of panic into the challenge of looking around to see what she can make from the little she may have on hand. She's amazed at how creative she becomes: A tin of this and a plate of that, along with a quick recipe of biscuits or muffins, and suddenly a simple bite to eat becomes a feast.

None of us really minds what's set in front of us at times like that -- it's about being in the company of others, whether friends, family, neighbours, even complete strangers. The spur of the moment creates a sense of release from expectation -- we must take it as it is. We can probably all relate to the giddy relief of offering what we have and not fretting about what we don't have.   

So, I look around this morning to see what little things I might have at the ready that might make a satisfying repast -- a little of this and a little of that to create something nice for you to read and, hopefully, make you glad you stopped by.

Let's start with the photo above. I took it a few days ago when I rearranged the nook in the bay window. I no longer have my little fig tree with the twinkle lights to brighten a dull day, and I wondered how to make it feel cozy as the days start to grow shorter and darker. I love how it creates an ambience of peacefulness, comfort, and cheer. I love to know it's there waiting for me when I come into the room. It'll be perfect for the season ahead.

"And all at once summer collapsed into fall."
~ Oscar Wilde

It was storybook autumn yesterday. I went for my walk in the neighbourhood. It was so gorgeous. Cool crispness to the air. Leaves falling overhead. Squirrels chattering in the trees. Streets strewn with leaves that were just so much fun to crunch through. My friend said he caught the nuthatches yesterday stuffing seeds into the brick siding of his house. What fun!

I live in the middle of the city, but there is a tiny corner patch of woods just up the street. It creates a feeling of being out in nature's wilderness -- that patch of trees in the left photo was taken while I was standing on the city sidewalk. I'm so blessed to have such beauty so close at hand.  

"Winter is fighting to hang on to its first grip of the season.
Yet you can see the beauty of summer struggling to hold on.
Life in its fullness!"
~ Cindy W., Facebook friend

Then, there was this. I woke up early this morning to find a storybook winter wonderland. Except it's not winter and so it didn't really feel fairy tale. In our yard it's still very much summer. Although autumn is definitely in the air and many trees in the neighbourhood have been turning red and gold, ours are still green, full, and leafy. The weight of the heavy snows weighs on my own shoulders as I fret that tree boughs will break if it keeps this up before the leaves have a chance to drop.

The weather is acting strangely, but we remind ourselves that we've had snow in September other years, with Autumn often returning. I do remember, though, as a girl the very first time I experienced snow arriving in September. A queer oddity. My young dad hadn't even harvested the crops off the fields. It felt troublesome to my young heart. What a sight to see the unharvested swathes laying like bodies under the snow in the fields. That year winter set in with a vengeance and we missed autumn entirely.

This afternoon, we drove past a school yard just as kids were getting out of school. Such a flurry of activity. You should have seen the snow balls flying. It was perfect for snowmen and kids were having great fun on their way home. It made me smile for the joy of it.

Photo: ben white | unsplash.com
Have you heard? The long awaited Downton Abbey movie is being filmed at Highclere Castle, and now there are actual release dates: September 2019 . . . first in UK cinemas and then in USA. And, no, it won't be on television but it's coming out in the theatres. You can read more HERE. I'm sure hoping it shows in Canada.

Photo: nordwood themes | unsplash.com

My favourite quote this week

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough."
~ as seen on Sew Me Something Good

* * * * *

My Christmas book wish list is growing. Several books haven't been released yet -- they will be coming out this fall. As you are probably wondering what's on my list, here it is so far:

by Sarah McCoy (novel)
To be released October 23, 2018

"... an entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness."  I'm definitely interested.

by Louise Penny (novel)
To be released November 27, 2018

"When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder. ..."

by Sarah Clarkson
Was released in September 2018

"Books were always Sarah Clarkson’s delight. Raised in the company of the lively Anne of Green Gables, the brave Pevensie children of Narnia, and the wise Austen heroines, she discovered reading early on as a daily gift, a way of encountering the world in all its wonder. But what she came to realize as an adult was just how powerfully books had shaped her as a woman to live a story within that world, to be a lifelong learner, to grasp hope in struggle, and to create and act with courage."

Any true book girl is going to want to read this book. Maybe this book girl won't be able to wait till Christmas to get a copy.

by Lucy Worsley
To be released November 6, 2018

"As well as a queen, Victoria was a daughter, a wife, a mother and a widow, and at each of these steps along life's journey she was expected to conform to what society demanded of a woman. On the face of it, she was deeply conservative. But if you look at her actions rather than her words, she was in fact tearing up the rule book for how to be female. // By looking at the detail of twenty-four days of her life, through diaries, letters and more, we can see Victoria up close and personal. Examining her face-to-face, as she lived hour to hour, allows us to see, and to celebrate, the contradictions at the heart of British history's most recognisable woman."

I really enjoy Lucy Worsley as a presenter of history programs for the BBC. She's a lot of fun to listen to as she shares her wealth of knowledge. She is the Chief Curator at the charity Historic Royal Palaces. I'm looking forward to reading this new book of hers. 

by Atticus (poems)
Was released September 2018

"From the internationally bestselling author of Love Her Wild comes The Dark Between Stars, a new illustrated collection of heartfelt, whimsical, and romantic poems from Instagram poetry sensation, Atticus."

I loved his book Love Her Wild. Although he is a 20-something author and I'm someone who hasn't seen the backside of 20 for several decades now, there was something in his writing that made me vividly remember being 20 again. He put into poetry some things I haven't thought of in years. As a writer of memoir, I was amazed at how vivid they were. I look forward to his new book.

* * * * *

I hope you enjoyed your visit. Let the weekend begin.
Wishing you grace and mercy for all that you need these days.

Blowing a kiss,