Saturday, January 20, 2018

Clear Off Your Desk And Other Stuff

Source: Arnel Hasanovic | Unsplash 


I woke up the other day finally ready for the New Year. I have to admit the first couple of weeks were a wash. After days of being so busy with Christmas at our house, when it was all over we collapsed in a heap. Slept in. Read books. Watched movies. Drank tea. Put puzzles together. Napped. All the while grazing our way through treats left over from the holidays -- Purdy's chocolates, coconut marshmallow roll, fruitcake, and one partially full supersize bag of Lay's Plain Potato Chips. It's been like couch potato boot camp!

With the arrival of this new year, I did not make any resolutions (a habit now of many years), didn't make any intentions or really think about possible projects. I didn't even think about finding a new inspirational word or wrapping up any thoughts about the old year -- I sort of left its threads hanging in mid-air, much like an abandoned stitching project. I neither felt like looking forward nor backward. But, with the treats eaten and decorations put away at last, I'm getting more eager to get back to normal again.

Although one part of me doesn't want the holiday feeling to end, the other part of me looks forward to picking up my routines again. There's a sort of comfort in it, I think. Leisure and holidays wouldn't be nearly as much fun if we had them every day; it would get boring pretty quick. Most of us eventually want to sink our teeth into projects and to getting jobs done, creating new art or books or developing new inventions, dreaming up new ways to help others or eradicating things like disease and poverty. It's what we're made for.


Earlier this month, on my new daily desk calendar by illustrator/artist Sandra Boynton, she had her fun-loving cartoon bear celebrating "Clear Off Your Desk" day ... whereby he lifted one end of the desk and let it all slide off the top into a heap on the floor. Too bad we couldn't do that, clearing off the extraneous from an expired year and wipe the slate clean, all in one fell swoop. It would be an easy way to start fresh. Instead, here I am going through the accumulated bits and pieces, sorting them in case something important is mixed in with the nonsense. I'm such a paper keeper, even in this digital age.

When I was just a little girl, I remember the days when my mom would clean my bedroom, straightening out the toys, making the bed, and cleaning out the one or two drawers designated for small toys, crayons, and books. Although a little nervous about what she might consider not worth keeping (I was a little magpie for paper treasures even then), when she was finished I still remember the thrill of walking into my tidy and swept clean room. It made playing with my toys and treasures all fun again. I liked the sense of order, the cleanliness, and the now clear space in which to start new colouring projects. To this day I still experience that little throb of joy, except now I have to do the cleaning first myself.


Something else I loved as a girl was getting new books at Christmas. I don't suppose I'm the only one. As the festive season wound down and all the turkey dinners were finally eaten, then we could settle into our Christmas school holidays to play with our new toys, begin new craft projects, and spend hours like Jo March in Little Women, whiling away winter afternoons with our noses in a good book.  

Decades later, not much has changed. I still get excited about receiving books for Christmas, and gift cards from favourite book stores these days are just as thrilling. Here's what I got this year; consider it a little whetting of the appetite in case you still have gift cards to use up...

Creative Thursday
Everyday Inspiration to Grow Your Creative Practice
by Marisa Anne

"be free, be happy, be true--
be creative every day, especially Thursdays!"

"Whether you're just beginning to trust your artistic voice or you've been refining it for years, Marisa Anne is the loving guide and caring mentor you need to help you commit to moving through resistance, stepping outside of your comfort zone and making creativity a regular part of your life." from the back cover

What first caught my eye when I saw this book was the distinctive, childlike artwork of the author. It spoke to the child in me and made me want to play. The book is filled with Marisa's artwork, photography, and inspiring essays about the creative process. What started out as a way to be more creative while working a 9-to-5 job, took her on a journey that changed her life. I found the book inspiring, motivating, and just plain fun.

To Be Where You Are
by Jan Karon

This is Jan Karon's fourteenth novel in her famous Mitford series. The story "weaves together the richly comic and compelling lives of two Kavanagh families, and a cast of characters that readers around the world now love like kin." It's true, these characters really are like family to me. The first book At Home in Mitford was published in 1994. I read it for the first time in 1998 and wondered why it took me so long to find it. I was hooked and have read every book since, most of them several times. Her last book is an enjoyable read which seems to wind up a lot of loose ends, which is how I think a good book, or series, should finish.

The Remarkable Ordinary
How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life
by Frederick Buechner

This well known inspirational author's latest book is based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures, and reveals how to stop, look, and listen to your life. It's definitely a book for pondering and mulling. Here is an excerpt from Frederick Buechner's intro...
"I am haunted now as I never was before by the sense that we all of us have the mark of God's thumb upon us. We have the image of God within us. We have a holy place within us that gets messed up in a million ways. But it's there, and more and more I find myself turning inward toward that and trying to learn how to be quiet. Someone once gave me a book called Creative Silence, and I thought, Oh, that's just what I need.

So I'm writing, I suppose, hoping to get another few steps in that direction, toward turning off the eternal chatter, the endless dialogue that goes on inside most of us ... to stop those words and just to exist somehow in the fullness ... and to let whatever is down in the holy place drift up."

The sun and her flowers
by rupi kaur

This is the author's second collection of poetry. I haven't read her first book, but now I want to find it. For I was very drawn to her poems. This volume is divided into five main chapters and is adorned with simple illustrations by Ms. Kaur. Her writing is poignant and moving. She writes of life as a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming.

In my copy of the book I have pencil-lined a few spots that speak to me. Here is one: "healing is everyday work".

It's true, sometimes we think we should get healed in our bodies or minds or hearts and then all will be well, we hope, forever. But every day we can get bruised or wounded or sick, and so the author's words 'healing is everyday work' is very meaningful to me. I think of the words from the Lord's Prayer, give us this day our daily bread, and I think we ought to pray the same for our wellness, give us this day our daily portion of healing we need today. 

Here is another poem that I starred in the book... something I don't want to forget:
you have so much
but are always hungry for more
stop looking up at everything you don't have
and look around at everything you do


I recently borrowed a copy of Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten from the library. You know, I don't think I ever read his book when it first came out in 1986. I heard all about it but never felt compelled to read it. Funny thing, that is. But, even though I'm late to ride on the swirl of international bestseller fever, I have to say I've thoroughly enjoyed this quarter century classic. To laugh, to ponder, to wonder as he writes his little tales. What I found most refreshing was that feeling I got as I read something that had been written before computers and the Internet. To me, there is a marked difference in mindset and outlook. I felt a little homesick for that time in our lives which seems so very far away now, maybe even lost forever. Yet, when I hear the little ping on my iPhone, I remember I'm also a 21st century girl now. And am happy about it too.

When doldrums hit in the midst of lingering winter grayness and frigid nights, when the news media is filled with dismaying stories about what some people do to other people, what do you do to revive your soul's dismay and distress?

Dear Mr. Robert Fulghum says he listens to Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; it reminds him about the goodness in life in spite of life's chaos and hardships. Beethoven was nearly deaf when he wrote that magnificent piece, and for Fulghum, that piece of music testifies to him that there is something that transcends the hard things in life and trumpets out hope to us and our world.

I thought I would go listen to this piece of music as these thoughts ruminate in my mind. I found a wonderful performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by well known Ricardo Muti on YouTube... you can find it HERE. And, in case you are wondering, the gorgeous Ode to Joy that many of us know and love comes from the Ninth.

* * * * *

And, so there's a glimpse into my life as the new year begins. We started out rather slow but the momentum is gathering, and I look forward to the weeks and months ahead with their promise of possibility. We've got books to write, people to see, places to visit. Maybe you've got kitties to pet and grandbaby cheeks to kiss, and together we can dream of new ventures unfolding as mornings bring us new days filled with mercy and grace. Some of our projects may take all year to finish. But that's okay, it gives us a very good reason to wake up in the morning.

On that note, I'm wishing you
glimpses of heaven in unexpected places
and a very Happy New Year!

With love,


  1. What a refreshing look at the new year, without the burden of resolutions. I am the same I don't make them. However, I do plan my blog topics & schedule and which manuscripts I will revise.

  2. I like the start of the new year.For me it is a time to rethink what I've done last year and try to do better this year.I also like getting back into routines after the holidays.For some reason routines are comforting to me.

  3. good to hear from you again, i'm finding i only write about once a week on my blog after 10 years guess that's ok as i do facebook almost daily and several other blogs also.

  4. Lovely thoughts for the new year! "Clear off your desk day" made me chuckle, I occasionally feel the need of that myself:) I always enjoy seeing what others are reading, there's usually a title or two that piques my interest. Grace for all your projects this year.

  5. I didn't know Jan had a new Mitford book out! I will have to get it. I don't just want to clear off my desk, I want to paint it. Probably a project for February. Happy New Year!

  6. Oh must order that Mitford book. Today. As soon as I tell you that I enjoyed your post and I am glad you popped up because it had been too long. I sometimes find myself wishing that someone would take my messes on as a project as you described your mother doing. Oh and I laughed to read that your after Christmas days were like “couch potato boot camp.” Sounds so lovely... Happy New Year!

  7. Happy New Year, Brenda. I had two glorious weeks off from work during the holidays and it was tough to return to the office routine after "couch potato boot camp." For me, the real new year is my birthday, which is pretty close to the new year, anyway.

    I'll have to look for "The Remarkable Ordinary". I also liked the poem about have "you have so much." As a collector, I can relate to that "hunger for more." I'm trying to apply that to my tea and china collection. It's Day 21 and I haven't brought any new teas or teacups or teapots home with me...although I did buy a cute tea towel the other day. Just couldn't resist!

  8. Outside, the rain is pelting against the windows; inside it's cozy by the fire and perfect weather for this visit with you. Such a delightful post! The first two books are going on my wishlist, for certain, and how I love Buechner's thoughts on life. There have been no intentions or goals set here this year, and very little reflection. Couch potato boot camp sounds just lovely! I'm glad you started this year in such a sweetly indulgent way.
    Happy New Year!

  9. I felt blessed reading these words! I would like to read All I need to know I learned in kindergarten.Sounds like a fun book to read.

  10. I too loved the clearing-of-the-desk idea from Sandra Boynton's calendar--so much so that I'd consider doing this, except I know I have a picture with a glass cover sitting on one corner of my pile-laden bureau. Maybe I'll have to do this job more slowly and carefully. Thanks for this lovely post that inspires me to listen to Beethoven's Ninth while cleaning off my desk that has gathered dust and too many pieces of paper and notepads. Now, for action before those ideas vanish like vapour.

  11. Ah, Brenda. I can always count on you for wonderful book reviews. I especially would like to read, "The Remarkable Ordinary." My reading list seems to be growing, perhaps this will be my year to read and read some more. I do know you are busy with your writing and do know how I always enjoy seeing a new blog post. I am always late to comment, but I wait until I can actually read the wonderful and inspirational words you write.
    Happy New Year to you and all those you love.

    1. Sandra, I hope the books meets your expectation. I really like his writings. I catch some of them on his FB page, in case you are interested. B

  12. What a great post Brenda. I can so relate to all of this, from the super lazy start to the new year, to the cleaning off of my desk. Have set a timer for the past two days, and am beginning the long process. It's amazing what I've gotten done in two 1/2 hour segments. Motivates me to continue. Thank you for the book reviews. Winter just calls for book reading and thinking. I have at least eight books in my stack besides my book club books. xo Deborah

    1. Those short stints are amazing at what we can get done in them. I use 20-minutes stints for myself, but 30 is excellent. xo

  13. Wonderful post, Bren...and it did my heart good to find out that I'm not the only one getting off to a slow start into 2018! No resolutions or turning over a so-called new leaf is happening here yet...BUT, I've got to snap to it! I have a house I need to prepare to sell this spring. The fact that I'm putting things off gives me the hint that I know it's going to be hard to leave here after 25+ years. I think I need to try Deborah's idea about the timer! HUGS!

    1. I hear you, Debby; that's going to be tearing up of long roots. I wish you grace for the days ahead, and I hope the timer idea works for you too!

  14. Happy New Year, Brenda! I can also relate to starting the new year off slowly and discarding the notion of resolutions. I never stick to them anyway, and who needs all that self-disappointment! It's always so nice to read your thoughts and memories - you are always so imaginative, entertaining and inspiring. The books look so interesting, too. I have not read any of the Mitford books, but I have always wanted to. I haven't had any cross my path......but I will make more of an effort to find them. When I am feeling overwhelmed by the world at large, I get out my crochet hook, start a sewing project or read a book. It keeps my mind occupied with happy thoughts and gives me such a sense of accomplishment when I am done. Your desk space is lovely and it must be a joy to work there. I think I need to make a pretty space like that! Hope you find some sunshine out your window this week! Hugs xo Karen

  15. Dearest Brenda - such a beautiful post. Your books that you featured are going on my list to read this year. Many moons ago I read "All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"...Robert has a wonderful and funny way of writing. So glad you enjoyed this book. I can identify with your slow start to the new year - I have had the same type this year. Maybe once February arrives and we get more sunshine and less gray days I will find my list of projects that I want to do in 2018. For now though I am enjoying the slow start and savoring curling up with a good book. Take care and have a blessed day. Hugs!

  16. Such a lovely way to welcome a new year, Brenda, I enjoyed your thoughts, your clear desk, pile of books and long gone treats. I'm enjoying the new year as well, with its long evenings, so perfect for crafting and reading, I hope its a good one.

  17. I wished we lived closer to each other, so we could DREAM together.
    I like your style!
    "As an author, I've never forgotten how to daydream." Neil Gaiman


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo