Friday, November 30, 2018

30 Days of Gratitude Wraps Up, Part 2


Fear not November's challenge bold– 
We've books and friends,
And hearths that never can grow cold;
These make amends!

–Alexander L. Fraser (1870 - 1954), "November" c. 1918

How can it be the last day of November already? They say time flies when you're having fun. Yes, we did have fun this month, especially participating in a 30 Days of Gratitude challenge on my Facebook page. It turned out that taking time every morning to consider the day's prompt was a most enriching exercise. Sometimes I paid attention to the 'stream of consciousness' first response that bubbled up and wrote that down. Sometimes I had to really think about it to be sure it resonated in my heart and wasn't just a pat answer. I always hoped to share something that my FB friends would find interesting, thoughtful-provoking, and alive to the moment ... something fun too.

Today I'm delighted to share the last half of the month's prompts and responses here on my blog. Perhaps with a new month about to begin, this is something you might want to take up yourself. As many of us prepare for our favourite season of the year, there really is so much to be thankful for. If you are interested, you can find the 30 Days of Gratitude chart here. And, if you missed my earlier post with the first half of the month's prompts, you'll find it here. 


The subject of gratitude is a topic that is often talked about these days. People recognize how having a thankful, grateful attitude impacts the well-being of our souls. I recognize that for myself. Rabbi Harold Kushner once said, “If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”

How many times I have needed and relied on the words from others to resuscitate hope, inspiration, and gratitude. We need not be ashamed to admit this short falling; it's the common human experience of living in this upside down world. We can't always pull ourselves up by our own boot straps -- sometimes we need a little help from our friends. Albert Schweitzer was to have said, “At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” How true.

Focusing on this challenge over the past 30 days has causes my heart to overflow with gratefulness for all the good gifts in my life. I feel rekindled. Inspired. And hopeful. Cheered and happy too. Today, if there is a word or phrase or quote in this post that lifts up one person, then I will have passed along something priceless. I will have done my work today.

"They might not need me; but they might.
I'll let my head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity."

― Emily Dickenson

Emily's verse really speaks to me. Too often I have had to shake off the lie that what I have to share, to offer, won't be desired or needed by anyone. But, I catch myself as Emily caught herself -- maybe she shook her head as I do -- as we recognize our small smile might be 'precisely their necessity'. 


As I mentioned there are a lot of people who have had something to say about gratitude and how it makes our lives richer. Here are a few 'kindling' sparks that speak so beautifully to the topic of living our lives more gratefully.

“The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.”
 – Mary Davis

Oh yes, when I kept a gratitude journal many years ago, it changed everything for me. Because as I wrote down the one thing I was grateful for, I became so much more aware of my world around me and how beautiful it really was/is -- suddenly I'd be noticing five more things to add to the growing list of gifts in my life.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not,
but rejoices for those which he has.”
– Epictetus

In our world, it can be easy to look around and see what everyone else has and think we're missing out. And yes, we might be, it's true. But at the same time, while we're looking out there, we're prone to miss seeing what we do have already going for us. I want to be the wise woman and not grieve for what I don't have, but to keep focusing on and rejoicing about what I do have right now.

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.
The more you express gratitude for what you have,
the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
 – Zig Ziglar

I know this to be true in my own life. The more I express gratitude for what I have, the more I find to be grateful for. Every tiny gift ... the twitter of a bird on a bleak morning, the way the sun glints on the neighbour's window just so, the dime I find in the parking lot, the smell of bacon frying ... it goes on and on and on.

Image may contain: text that says '30 days of gratitude'
Click for POST with Days 1 to 16

And so, here are the rest of the prompts from my challenge on Facebook. I hope you enjoy.

November 17. What KNOWLEDGE are you grateful for? I'm so glad that I know in my own heart that God loves me. I don't know how I know it, but I do. Sometimes when I'm snuggling down to go to sleep at night, I giggle to myself as I cherish the thought that He is with me all the time. ♥️

November 18. What PIECE OF ART are you grateful for? This is a hard choice. Should I select something from our own lovely art pieces in our home? Shall I think about the famous works of arts in museums and art galleries and pick a favourite? In the end, I decide to share my latest acquisition. A little painting with chickadees in a seasonal setting from one of our local artists. It was at the Christmas Market yesterday. I spotted it first thing, and as you see, it came home with me. I'm pleased. Also grateful for the many folks who create wonderful art treasures for us to enjoy.

November 19. What TOUCH are you grateful for today? Hugs from people I love. Kisses. A loving touch on the arm, shoulder, or cheek. Out-of-the-blue hugs from my sweetheart and walking arm in arm, holding hands. And, I always appreciate a touch of the funny, witty, and silly.

November 20. Who are you GRATEFUL for today? Today I'm grateful for the birds who come every day to the feeders and add so much pleasure to my life. For the neighbour's Orange Kitty who comes to visit for her pets and ear scritches. For my Facebook and blog friends who carry on the gentle work of making our world a kinder, more beautiful place. For my mom and all my dear family who love me regardless. For near and special friends who make good companions on life's journey. For my kind, funny husband who is the best companion ever. Truly... the list is endless but that's a start.

November 21. What SONG are you most grateful for? Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. I remember hearing it the very first time when I was a little girl. As it started playing, the audience rose to their feet. That moment was electric and I was in complete awe. I've never stopped loving that piece of music.

November 22. What STORY are you grateful for? Probably the very first story I heard as a child -- the Bible story of the little boy bringing the loaves and fishes to Jesus. For my mom tells me that I wanted to hear the fishes story over and over. Today, I am grateful for that first story my mother told to me, for it was the beginning of what has turned out to be a lifelong love relationship with books and reading and loving Jesus. I still feel a giddy anticipation to just think of those words I used to say, "Read me a story"

photo: it's a beautiful life

November 23. What TRADITION are you grateful for? With the season coming up, I turn my thoughts to the traditions of Christmas. I love Christmas traditions. I love sending out Christmas cards and wrapping gifts and singing carols. I like Christmas baking. I love taking out the decorations and seeing the special things that only come out once a year. I love the Christmas tree and all the lights.

I love eating a traditional turkey dinner with stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce. I love going to carols sings and Handel's Messiah and listening to the Lessons of the Carols. I love pulling out favourite Christmas stories and rereading them each year. I like Advent calendars to mark off the days until Christmas.

I like the idea of traditions. And, of keeping them. As a child there was something reassuring and comforting about being able to say, We always do it this way. I still find that a comfort even now. Maybe more so when times are troubling and unstable. We turn to our traditions as that stabilizer of what's 'normal' when things aren't normal. Today, I am grateful for the beauty and comfort of Christmas traditions.

November 24. What CHALLENGE are you grateful for? My writing buddy and I joined forces in January of this year to take up the challenge to each work on a writing project that had become stalled and was unfinished. We called the challenge Finishing School (based on the book of the same name by Cary Tennis and Danielle Morton).

Without this challenge to work on the project every week for a certain amount of time, and without the encouraging cheering of my writing companion, Joy, I would not have gotten as far as I have. The projects are not done, but Finishing School is still in session. For this challenge and for Joy's online company, I am most grateful today.

November 25. What MOMENT this week are you grateful for? On Monday this past week, I received an email (our weekly check-in) from my writing buddy, Joy. She told me something that I have been holding sweetly in my heart all week. She wrote: "I dreamed I was holding your finished project in my hands last night. It was thrilling."  It was thrilling for me to hear it!

November 26. What FORM OF EXPRESSION are you most grateful for? Art, Music, Literature, Drama, Photography are all forms that often speak to me. But Words are my favourite, favourite form of expression. I'd sooner write it than paint it, sculpt it, play it, dance it, or perform it. While I don't much use these expressions myself, I'm truly grateful for the artists who do paint it, sculpt it, play it, dance it, or perform it. Their expressions are gifts which I utterly enjoy.

Today, I am also grateful for Nature's form of expression ... winds in the willows, creeks rushing in the Spring thaw, fog hovering in low areas, sunlight glimmering through ice crystals, Jack Frost patterns on a window, the northern lights swirling overhead ... to name just a few.

November 27. What SMALL THING that you use daily are you grateful for? My toothbrush. There are people in the world who do not have a toothbrush and must rely on a stick to help clean their teeth. Yes, today I'm very grateful for my little toothbrush.

November 28. What SMALL THING that happened today are you grateful for? Every morning my sweet hubby of 20 years brings me coffee in bed. Today it came with bigger than usual smiles, kisses, and gifts. It is our anniversary.

November 29. What FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBER are you grateful for today? Oh no, that's impossible. How is a person to pick one dear and special person over another? I shall choose Miss Kitty, my pretty tortoise shell, who had to leave us forever the weekend William and Catherine were married in London. In the midst of all the global celebrations, I had the very sad task of saying goodbye in the vet's clinic. I'm not sad anymore, but there are days when I still miss her a lot and remark that we wish she would be meowing and rolling on the carpet with joy when we'd come home from somewhere. Today, I'm grateful for my sweet kitty cat who graced my life with her furry presence.

November 30. What TALENT OR SKILL do you have that you are grateful for? As I sit here ready to type out my response to the last prompt in this challenge, I don't think I've ever truly acknowledged the gift I received when I learned to type that year in Grade 8 on an old-fashioned manual typewriter. And, I'll never forget the day when we finally were given the thrilling chance to practice on the one IBM Selectric typewriter we had in the class.

Little did I realize then that typing would be a key function skill that I would find useful throughout my entire life and in just about every phase of it. I used it in college typing my papers, I used it every day at work and during my newsletter writing days, and now writing on my blog and here on social media.

Today I honour my ability to type. And give thanks for the very useful skill I learned so many years ago.

* * *

It's a wrap. My heart is full. My life is rich. I'm grateful for each of you. I'll be back on Monday, December 3rd, to kick off the month with a Christmas Giveaway. In the meantime, here's wishing you a beautiful weekend...


PS. It's the last day of November, which brings to mind that it is the birth date of one of my favourite authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery. A few years ago, I wrote a tribute to her, and since I'm writing about gratitude today, I wanted to include it here today. I'm so grateful for this beautiful author and woman, a fellow Canadian, who changed my life is so many ways. Here's the link.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Coffee and A Little Chat


"Gratitude can transform common days into
thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change
ordinary opportunities into blessings."

― William Arthur Ward

It's Monday morning and I've had my coffee and toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas; alas, no fruit bread as indicated in the lovely photo above. The sun is up but it's not enthusiastic in the least this morning -- the dimmer switch is definitely turned to low. Even the birds are quiet.

I'm laying out my plans for the week as I sit here at my desk. Of course, I want to finish this post, which should have been up already. I want to work away on another few pages in my blog's 10th anniversary magazine (earlier post HERE). It's coming along, but slowly. Rick and I are making a second batch of Light Christmas Cake this afternoon (recipe HERE). We decided we're quite the team; we could match baking wits with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in Best British Baking Masterclasses. Well, almost.  

Plus ... I'm in the mood to start getting the house ready for the holidays. Some tidying and deep dusting must happen first before I haul out the decor and greenery. Dust bunnies are having conferences in the corners -- it's the one chore I seem to do the least often around here.

But even before the dust mops get underway, I'm in the middle of microwave shopping this morning. Online. Ours gave up the ghost last night in the middle of baking our russet potato for supper. I quickly popped the potato into my regular oven and finished baking it, making it all crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. I love that I can do the 'legwork' online, i.e., checking out models, features, prices, etc. on my desk top or iPhone and then just going to the local appliance store and showing them the model, saying "This is the one I want." Makes life easier and helps local economy.

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Hubby, who doesn't want to hear Christmas music until deep into December, went off to the gym early this morning. And, on the heels of his departure, we who enjoy listening to seasonal music much earlier than December 24th, popped a CD -- Downton Abbey style -- into the disc player. Ahhhhh...lovely. Now everything, including my tasks, are sweetened by these melodies old and familiar.

Here's a question that comes up: Do you still buy CDs when you shop for music, or do you shop iTunes and other places and download them to your device?

My first response is that I still look for the physical CDs. On Amazon now. I know, I feel archaic in this regard. Some things I have adjusted to 21st century and other things I'm still back there in the 20th. Feet firmly planted in two centuries. When my sister and I went to the Paul McCartney concert in September (happy blurb about it HERE) we had gone with the full intention of buying souvenirs. And, in the kiosks set up everywhere, there wasn't a CD to be had. Lots of t-shirts, posters, and other paraphernalia. I guess they just assume people buy their music online. So, we came home with other loot, but no music. Just the tunes rolling round in our heads for days after, which we loved.

* * *

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So, what are you reading these days? Here are two books I've been enjoying:

I just finished the last page of the enthralling mystery Dead Cold by Louise Penny. That's the British title, and I understand it's also published under A Fatal Grace in America. Either way, it's the second in the Chief Inspector Gamache series.

I decided to reread this episode because it fits this time of year, what with the cool temperatures outside and Christmas around the corner. It's a great story, filled with well developed characters that I have grown to care about. The novel is set in the village of Three Pines, and villagers are celebrating the holidays when a murder happens right in the middle of the festivities. No one cares for the woman or that she died -- she is no Miss Congeniality and is known to be particularly mean and nasty. It's amazing how many people become suspects as the story unfolds.

Here's a little quote from the novel. Chief Inspector Gamache is trying to bring a measure of hope to the dead woman's young daughter:

“He tried to let her know it would be all right. Eventually.
Life wouldn't always be this painful.
The world wouldn't always be this brutal.
Give it time, little one. Give it another chance. Come back.”

― Louise Penny, Dead Cold

If you aren't aware of this wonderful series, think traditional English cozy mystery and move it to the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines. Then, imagine a thoughtful and intelligent Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec who, along with his team, solves the crimes. The story lines often leaves the reader agape at how it wraps up, and the main characters become more like family and friends with each book you read. There are thirteen in the series and ....

I'm excited that Louise's latest, book 14, Kingdom of the Blind will finally be in book stores TOMORROW. It's definitely on my Christmas wish list, so here's hoping Santa is taking notes over my shoulder. I mention her books in an earlier post HERE.

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And, I'm currently reading Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life. First published in 2001, it was republished this year and now includes a Reader's Guide, which to me is worth the price of admission. If you love Madeleine L'Engle's writing, e.g. A Wrinkle in Time, Walking on Water, A Circle of Quiet, and if, perchance, you ever wished you could attend one of her writing retreats but never did, this book compiled by Carole F. Chase might in some small way make up for that.

The book is filled with over 360 pages of selected passages from Ms. L'Engle's writings and audio recordings from old workshops, retreat sessions, lectures, and interviews. They offer wonderful doses of inspiration, wisdom, and insight. Ms. Chase had the wonderful experience of being an attendee at many of Ms. L'Engle's writing workshops and so has an inside knowledge of the style and methods that she used in her sessions.

As Lindsay Lackey, the creator of the Reader's Guide, says in her introduction, "Though the world lost the person of Madeleine L'Engle in 2007, her wisdom, humor, and insight continue to inspire and teach so many. ... Though much of L'Engle's advice on writing is actually advice on the creative life in general and is undoubtedly useful to an artist of any type, the prompts are specifically crafted for writers. However, the discussion questions are for anyone who has chosen a creative existence."

Here's one passage from the book:
"I listen to my stories; they are given to me, but they don't come without a price. We do have to pay, with hours of work that ends up in the wastepaper basket, with intense loneliness, with a vulnerability that often causes us to be hurt. And I'm not sure that it's a choice. If we're given a gift -- and the size of the gift, small or great, does not matter -- then we are required to serve it, like it or not, ready or not. Most of us, that is, because I have seen people of great talent who have done nothing with their talent who mutter about "when there's time . . . ," or who bury their talent because it's too risky to use.
Yes, it is risky. We may not hear the story well. We may be like faulty radios, transmitting only static and words out of context. But I believe that it is a risk we have to take. And it is worth it, because the story knows more than the artist knows."
― from The Rock That Is Higher, Madeleine L'Engle

I am bolstered by this passage both as a writer working to get down her own stories and as a blogger who sometimes wonders if the ordinary things she writes about makes any difference in the world in which we live. And, though I know in my heart the answer is yes, yet still Ms L'Engle's words give me the inspiration to carry on as well as the reason to be courageous. To be willing to pay the price and take the risk. To be responsible to the gift I've been given, however small, and put it out there.

* * *

A last thought before I sign off, I asked myself what I wished I could be doing this week. And, without thinking, I knew if I could, I'd fly off to Oxford, England. My friend Carrie on Twitter told us that Oxford is alive with Christmas bells and concerts this week. Soon the students will be on their Christmas hols (holidays) and so the whole college is alive with festivities and celebrations right now. Carrie says it's really the best time of the year to live there. As you may recall, Rick and I went there for my birthday in 2017 (post here) to catch the daffodils in Spring. Now on my bucket list would be to go there for these great concerts and celebrations.

I lift my eyes unto the backyard and see that the light bulb sunshine has gone entirely dim. Though in the summer it would still be 'high' afternoon, sunset is no longer that far away. It sets tonight at 4:20 pm MST.

I've been to the store and back -- the new microwave is settled in. The Christmas cake is cooling as we speak. The kitchen is so fragrant. I'm ready for a cup of tea and my L'Engle book. Supper is only to heat up from last night (Salisbury Steak with gravy, mushrooms and lots of onions). At this stage, and don't tell anyone, I won't tackle the dusting today. There's always tomorrow, right?

"Grace is available for each of us every day -- our spiritual daily bread --
but we've got to remember to ask for it with a grateful
heart and not worry about whether there
will be enough for tomorrow.

― Sarah Ban Breathnach

Here's wishing you a beautiful day and a great week ahead.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Chortling Over Childhood Memories

"Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love,
the things you are, the things you never want to lose."

~ Kevin Arnold

A few years ago, I bought a do-it-yourself memoir book. The Book of Me is designed as a fill-in-the-blank and is made from acid free archival paper. Although meant for writing in and keeping for posterity, I didn't want to write in it, I only wanted it as a reference -- to use the prompts to jostle old memories and help me remember forgotten aspects of my younger self. Since my 60th, I've been working away on gathering my memories, going through old journals, photos, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia. This book has proved its worth and has given much opportunity for gentle musing as well as a good deal of mirth in the remembering of long ago incidents.

I now see that this exercise has provided some great fodder for blogging. So, let me tell you what's been floating up as a result of the prompt "Did You Ever...". I offer them as a little light entertainment to start off your week. And, of course, you are welcome to join the fun. Share a memory here, or use the prompt to write your own post.

"We do not remember days;
we remember moments."

~ Cesare Pavese, Poems about Life


"In some ways, siblings, and especially sisters, are more influential
in your childhood than your parents."

~ Deborah Tannen 


Make something that flopped? Oh yes. When we were girls, my sister and I looked forward to afternoons when Mom was away for a couple of hours. Not to get into trouble exactly, but that's when we'd whip out the recipe books and try our hand at making candy or fudge. Not having a candy thermometer never deterred us; we assumed we could figure it out by the rate of bubbling going on in the pot. That's what the recipes told us, anyways.

We tried to make sponge toffee once, and I probably don't need to mention that it was a disaster. Not only did we not get the sweet treat we were anticipating, but we wrecked mom's good pot into the bargain. We scraped the burnt concoction into the garbage barrel outside and then gave that pot the best scrubbing it ever had. Putting it back in the cupboard, with fingers crossed, we hoped Mom wouldn't notice the permanent weird stains all over the bottom and sides.

Except mothers have eyes in the back of their heads, right? She told us years later about coming out to burn garbage one day and wondered what that disgusting mess was in the barrel. She recognized a baking disaster when she saw one and chuckled to herself. She never said a word. We certainly ventured no confessions.

* * *

Leave out a key ingredient? Sis and I were going to bake a cake one afternoon. Mom was going to see a neighbour for little while. She said we could bake something for dessert for supper. We opted to make a family favourite, Aunty Julia's Raisin Cake.

We must have been fairly new to baking, because we didn't clue in that flour is a staple ingredient in any baking venture. Maybe we were denser than some kids, but we took all recipes at face value. We creamed the butter and sugar, we added the milk, spices, and raisins. It didn't look the way a batter should look, we mused, peering into the bowl with anxious eyes. We went over the ingredient list again, and yes, we had added everything it said, so, alright then, into the oven it went. Fingers crossed, hoping for a 'miracle' in there.

Thirty minutes later the pan, now out of the oven, was filled with something most uncake-like. A hard sugary mess sprinkled liberally with plump burned raisins. We called Grandma -- she would know what went wrong. She asked me to read off the ingredients.

"You didn't add any flour."

We wailed, "But the recipe didn't say."

That's the day we learned that cakes need flour, whether the handwritten recipe says so or not. That incident is now a part of our family folklore, and we've had many a good laugh over it. Sister thinks we fed the charred mess to the chickens, and Grandma no doubt enjoyed a chuckle when she got off the phone that day. The recipe for this old-fashioned raisin cake is HERE.


Doodle on the wall? That long bare wall in the hallway right outside our little bedroom looked so inviting. To a small child, it was a huge chalkboard. Empty, and waiting. Until, one day my little self could not resist the temptation to use her pencils and crayons to fill in that lovely blank space. There was such a feeling of freedom. Eventually Mom came along and the wall was scrubbed clean, but I never forgot that moment of expansiveness and space for creative work. It was a high but brief moment of exhilaration.

* * *

Jump on the bed? Oh yes, we were professionals at it. Up and down, challenging each other to see who could jump the highest. We did that only when Mom was outside, doing chores or working in the garden.

But the day of reckoning came. She brought the two of us into our room and asked us to look up at wall. Apparently there were dark patches with fingerprints all over. We couldn't imagine how they got up there, our hands weren't that dirty. With sleeves rolled up, a pail with warm soapy water between us, and a cleaning rag each, we were set to washing the wall as high as we could reach. We both recall feeling quite huffy over the whole exercise -- how could those be our fingerprints up there? We certainly could relate to Tom Sawyer at how long it would take when he saw that fence that needed whitewashing.

* * *

Put something in your ears or nose? Oh yes... we never seemed to learn our lesson. Same Sis and I used to see if bean seeds would fit. Not to mention beads used to make necklaces, oh, and puffed wheat. We would have contests to see how far we could snort them out. The beans and beads worked fine, the puffed wheat not so much as it kind of disintegrated.

Then came the day when my sister got a larger bead stuck in her nostril and it would not be snorted out. We got a little worried -- we'd have to tell Mom and the less she knew about our shenanigans, the better for us. Funny, how children work together to find their own solutions and avoid all adult interventions. We both remember me going for a toothpick to see if poking in there would help. All it did was push the bead farther. Now we were getting scared. Sister remembers eventually it just dropped out with much snorting -- our hearts surely lept with relief. Needless to say that ended our nose snorting contests forever. We think apple spitting contests took its place, a much safer activity. Except Mom used to wonder what made that sticky mess on the floor. We never volunteered any ideas.


Well, that's quite the list of memories for one little prompt, and believe you me, there's more surfacing. But that's for another day. Time is fleeting and laundry awaits. And hubby thinks lunch should be included.

On that note, I'm wishing you a wonderful week ahead. To all our American friends and neighbours, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. And to those still dealing with fires and other disasters, we wish you loving friends to help you through this time. We remember.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Days of Gratitude, Part 1


At the beginning of November my Facebook friend, Linda, posted a list of gratitude journal prompts (courtesy of for anyone interested in marking the month this way. I felt drawn to using the prompts to focus on some specific topics and to write those first thoughts that surface. Sometimes I surprised myself at what popped up.

Years ago, I kept a couple of gratitude journals for myself and always found the exercise inspiring. I first heard about doing this from Sarah van Breathnach when I read about it in her Simple Abundance book back in 1996. It was so much fun to start the day wondering what five things I would find to write down at the end of it. Once I started recording these, everything around me took on a whole new meaning. I began to pay attention to things I had taken for granted, and I began to see from the pages in my notebook how rich I was in every way. I felt truly blessed.

Willie Nelson once said that when he started counting his blessings, his whole life turned around. Oh yes, it was the same for me. Even though I never kept journals after that season to mark down moments of gratitude, it set me on a new path and forever changed how I saw my world. I've never stopped feeling grateful for the thousands of gifts that have come into my life. And to think, there's still so much more to notice and give thanks for with each new day.

I've gathered my Facebook November entries to date as I wanted to share them with you here ...  and so end the week on a high. I hope your heart will soar as you stop to notice the deep richness of your own life and all the good gifts that have come your way. Being grateful for the smallest treats to the largest gifts surely opens the door to living our lives more beautifully.

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a
great deal more than we give, and that it is only
with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer


While I'm at it, I want to tell you how grateful I am for each one of you. Your presence here, your footprint in my comment box always adds so much beauty and delight to my life. And for that, I am most grateful.

Wishing you a beautiful day and a cozy weekend --
I hear it's snowing all over the place today so be safe too. 


November 1. What SMELL are you grateful for today? Autumn leaves on the ground and frost in the air.
November 2. What TECHNOLOGY are you grateful for? I’m grateful for my very smart iPhone camera.
November 3. What COLOUR are you grateful for? I’m grateful for the toasty brown on freshly baked bread. 
November 4. What FOOD are you most grateful for? Some days, the food that's been prepared by someone else is a gift for which I am most grateful.
November 5. What SOUND are you grateful for today? Mozart's music is giving me great joy these days. His music makes me feel happy and always gives me a sense of well-being.
November 6. What in NATURE are you grateful for? I went out for my walk earlier. It was cold and calm, snowing a little. I was enjoying that quietness that comes over the neighbourhood when the snowfall dulls the roar of traffic and bus horns. All I could hear were chickadees and a lone nuthatch. And I felt grateful.
November 7. What MEMORY are you grateful for? My friend the other day confided that she has lost some of her short-term memory as a result of radiation treatment on her brain. She talked about how difficult this has been for her, learning to adjust to knowing that she probably won't remember our conversation the following day.
I felt the jolt of this in my own soul and ached for her. So thinking about this today, I'm not taking for granted that my faculties still function today and that my long-term and short-term memories are still retrievable and doing what they should be doing. For that, I am grateful.
November 8. What BOOK are you most grateful for? I would have to say it's my tattered old bible with words and verses marked, and underscored, and underscored again. Through the years it has been my faithful friend. It's given me courage, comfort, inspiration, guidance. Its beautiful message has challenged me to live a better, kinder life. To love God and my neighbour as I would myself. To walk in the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control.
November 9. What PLACE are you most grateful for? Today I am very grateful for my country, Canada, and for the tiny spot on the map I get to call home.

November 10. What TASTE are you grateful for today? Freshly brewed coffee and hot buttered toast with raspberry jam.

November 11. What HOLIDAY are you grateful for today? Today I'm grateful for Remembrance Day -- a day set apart to remember and honour those who 'fought the good fight' for freedom and peace, and who gave their lives for it. For those who continue to carry on the fight in this day and age. We bless them and say thank you today.

November 12. What TEXTURE are you grateful for today? The smooth creamy center of a Purdy's chocolate truffle.

November 13. What ABILITIES are you grateful for today? I'm grateful today for the learned ability to find joy in the smallest gifts. Paying attention to the small treats that have come my way has afforded me thousands of happy moments in my life.
For Iris Murdoch was spot on when she said, "One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats."

November 14. What SIGHT are you grateful for today? I came home from a friend's late yesterday afternoon just as the dusk was settling in. I caught sight of two neighbours who had turned on their Christmas lights for the first time this year -- one had their outside house lights on, and the other had her Christmas tree all aglow in her front window.
I grinned to myself. Yes, it's time.

November 15. What SEASON are you grateful for? Although I love each season when it comes, Autumn has always been my most favourite for all the colours, crisp cooler air, the feeling of new beginnings in keeping with new school years.
But, today I'm thinking not so much about Nature's season, but about the season of my life -- this season of being in my sixties. Since my 60th birthday I've been gathering the memories of my lifetime and writing about them, and I've seen that something has been shifting in me as a result.
When I get the memories out of my head and down on paper, I now find myself feeling freer to explore new things, to consider matters I never had time for or interest in when I was young and busy living my life. I find my mind and soul surging with the desire to learn about new subjects, read new authors, listen to others, find out more about my world and how I fit in it.
It's as if wrapping up the old things and putting them to rest has opened the way for new experiences to emerge. I find that exciting.
With a few health things sorted out, and having more time for self-care, I feel better physically too.
So, yes, this season, right now, I'd guess I'd call it the Autumn of my life, is the one I'm most grateful for today.
November 16. Something about your BODY that makes you grateful. So grateful for my feet and legs that take me everywhere I need to go, including my walks for exercise.
A lovely friend, Matty, left a note on my Facebook page this morning in response to this prompt. I found it so precious that I had to share her comment with you:
"Definitely my body. I helped God make another human being. I held hands with those going home to God. I’ve kissed sad and happy faces. And, I am able to enjoy this wonderful world with all my senses. Pretty amazing!!"
* * * 

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Moment For Comfort On A Monday

anita austvika |

Grant me, Oh Lord, a sunny mind—

~Emily Dickinson
a line from her poem, Besides the Autumn Poets Sing

When I listen to the news of these past few days, clouds threaten to cover any sunny spots I might have in my mind. Fires, shootings, even a homemade bomb going off in our local library parkade this past week -- strange goings on seem to be everywhere. It's a world gone mad, and we wonder how to carry on, and our hearts ache for those whose lives are devastated and changed forever.

For today, I am well. My family is well. We are all reasonably happy and at peace going about the business of living our lives. Sometimes I think to myself, selfishly, what if I could just enclose myself in my own little world and shut myself off from the pain out there. Then maybe we'd get through it. But, of course, we can't disappear down our own rabbit holes and hope for things to go away -- we need each other to help share the load. Sometimes we're the ones with the bad stuff, other times it's happening to someone else. It makes me glad we're not alone -- as humans, we are in it together, and together, we can garner some measure of comfort.

"To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there
and say, 'You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry
the burden. Don't be afraid. I am here.' That is consolation.
We all need to give it as well as to receive it."

~ Henri Nouwen


So, what do we do on a Monday morning? For many of us, including myself, life carries on with the usual routines, including various pleasant pursuits even. I sit here at my desk where I hear the chatter of the birds and am so glad that they keep singing regardless of what is going on. Maybe they are God's little messengers of hope that all is not lost.

Did you happen to see that poignant recording that came out over Remembrance Day weekend? They reveal that moment where the guns were stilled on November 11, 1918 and WWI was over. In that moment of silence after the deafening roar of guns and bombs, near the end of that beautiful sixty seconds of silence came a sweet, sweet sound -- the birds started singing. Amazing. Marvellous. I played it over and over just to hear that last bit again.

So we must keep the faith. We must share the light and pass along the antidote (other antidote thoughts in an earlier POST). Who knows, perhaps in some future decade or century someone will be reading the comforting words you have composed today for someone in a note, blog post, or book. And, there in that future place a woman will sit with that book or 'famous' quote in her lap, reading it aloud so her heart can hear the words, ever grateful they were preserved over the decades and could bring fresh comfort to her then and there.

I get a shiver up and down my spine to even imagine it!

annie spratt |

While thinking about what I wanted to share today, I realized that, first of all, I wanted to invite you to visit Sandra @ Where Inspiration Blooms, to take joy in one particular POST from a few weeks ago. Sandra is a very special online friend, a light in a dark world, and she offers her posts each week with the hope that her words will cheer, console, and gently challenge readers to keep looking for the good and beautiful in this world. I've been cheered more than once from her gracious writing.

If you do find yourself fretting or looking at this coming week with any anxiousness, let me share a word that I have often found a comfort in troubled times. These words that have come down through the centuries offer the same solace they offered past generations. It's encouraging to me, personally, to hear about people who lived through their own dark times and are still able to write down such hopeful thoughts. Surely then it's also possible for me, for us, in our world today to take heart ... and carry on.
"Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or God will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."
~ St. Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622)

Recently my dear niece was feeling the pressure of her studies at college -- it all seemed overwhelming. Even though my own college days are ancient history now, I vividly remember that angst of studies and homework piling up, wondering how on God's green earth I was ever going to get through it all. Thinking about what I could offer that might give her courage, I was suddenly reminded of something attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt (she'd certainly gone through her share of hardships). It's a quote that has been pinned to my bulletin board for decades now. I quickly texted Becca the words, and a moment later I heard the familiar ping, her reply telling me that those words meant more to her than I'd ever know...
"Every time you meet a situation, though you think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you were before."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt, former US First Lady

There are those who are grieving for something. A loss of a loved one or something precious to them, like their home or job or health. I am always drawn to these words that were spoken to the grieving widower, Oscar Blundell, in Rosamunde Pilcher's well-loved novel Winter Solstice. Sometimes words aren't enough to help someone through the grief, but once in a while they make it bearable for the moment. That's exactly what Oscar found when his friend tried to comfort him with these words:
"Life is sweet. Beyond the pain, life continues to be sweet. The basics are still there. Beauty, food, and friendship, reservoirs of love and understanding. Later, possibly not yet, you are going to need others who will encourage you to make new beginnings. Welcome them. They will help you move on, to cherish happy memories and confront the painful ones with more than bitterness and anger."

paola nicolello |

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.
Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever,
even if your whole world seems upset.
St. Francis de Sales

I'm leaving you with these last words, also by St. Francis de Sales. It's my heart prayer that you will experience a peace of mind and heart no matter what's going on this week. I'm also wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. And don't forget to listen for the birds.

With love and a gentle kiss atop thy head,

Monday, November 05, 2018

Four Books And A Feast

"When life has difficult times,
fight back with normal life."
~ Unknown

Today I have four favourite books on my desk -- put them together and they are a reading feast. As we come into the season of drawing nearer the cozy corners in our own homes and maybe dusting off books we haven't thought of in a while, I'm delighted to share these titles with you. Three are memoirs, the fourth is a novel, and they each have a common element where food plays a supportive role in each of these gorgeously crafted and courageous stories.

In our upside-down world, we look around for those things that can help give us some measure of normalcy and comfort -- simple things like chopping vegetables for a hearty soup, setting a pot on the stove to boil pasta, or turning on the kettle for tea and then sharing it with others. Even taking solace in the normal routine of washing up the plates and cups later in hot, sudsy water -- these are essential ingredients that go a long way to making our lives feel less shaky, more normal. After all, we must eat in good times, and we still need to eat when it's not so good. Our souls, not only our bodies, continue to draw sustenance from the eating and sharing of food.

And, even when all is well in our lives? I ask you, who amongst us doesn't cherish and enjoy our creature comforts? As C.S. Lewis once said, "Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably." So I offer these four beautiful books that have food as a main character, or should I say, main ingredient, and whatever you are in the middle of this week, I hope they provide a feast for you.

Keeping the Feast (Memoir)
One Couple's Story of Love, Food, and Healing
by Paula Butturini, 2010

This is one of my favourite books. I took it out of the library so many times when I first found it that I finally went in search of my own copy. It's a beautifully written story of food and love, trauma and depression, healing and hope.

It's the story of Paula Butturini and her husband, John, who were both journalists during the chaotic uprisings against Communism in the late 1980s. John had been shot and nearly killed in Romania, which led to months of recovery and eventually a debilitating depression. Paula, faced with taking care of John during this time, began to see how the daily routines of shopping, preparing, and sharing food for the two of them became not just a physical nourishment, but a sustaining comfort during that difficult season.

Opening Lines:  "Two ghosts. That was how a friend later described us when we returned to Rome in 1992. John and I had been away five years, and though neither of us knew it at the time, we returned, I think, because Rome seemed the most likely place to recuperate and cast out the demons we had picked up in our absence.

We moved into a small apartment near the Tiber on one of those golden October days so perfect that you could never imagine willingly leaving the city again. Every morning I would walk down our narrow street toward the hubbub of Campo dei Fiori, where the flower sellers, the fruit vendors, the vegetable sellers, the fishmongers, the mushroom lady, the bread shop, the lamb and chicken lady...the olive and herb vendors, the newspaper kiosk, the housewares stand, and the roving garlic salesmen...were always open for business no matter how early I awakened."

by Erica Bauermeister, 2009

The author once said that she always wanted to write and when she read Tillie Olsen's I Stand Here Ironing, she finally knew she wanted to "write books that took what many considered to be unimportant bits of life and gave them beauty, shone light upon their meaning." Oh yes, I totally understood that. I could see this author was kindred spirit -- someone who also loved to find the beauty in life, even in ordinary rituals, like eating and cooking.

I loved, loved this novel from the first page to the last. It was so rich with sensory details that I was right there inside the story, living it as it unfolded. When I finished the last page, I turned around and started it all over again, this time reading it aloud to my hubby who also loved it. It was so evocative and sensual to read out loud -- to hear words that somehow created a deep, rich, satisfying savour inside our souls.

The story, in a nutshell, is about a young woman, Lillian, who teaches a cooking class once a month at her restaurant. The students come to learn about cooking 'soulful' dishes, but in truth they each come looking for something beyond the kitchen. Little did they realize that meeting Lillian and taking her class would be a turning point in their lives. 

Opening Lines: "Lillian loved best the moment before she turned on the lights. She would stand in the restaurant kitchen doorway, rain-soaked air behind her, and let the smells come to her -- ripe sourdough yeast, sweet-dirt coffee, and garlic, mellowing as it lingered. Under them, more elusive, stirred the faint essence of fresh meat, raw tomatoes, cantaloupe, water on lettuce. Lillian breathed in, feeling the smells move about and through her, even as she searched out those that might suggest a rotting orange at the bottom of a pile, or whether the new assistant chef was still doubling-dosing the curry dishes. ..."

If you've never read the book, run and find it, I guarantee you will be so glad you did. Here's a quote from the book I think need pondering: "Sometimes, Nina, our greatest gifts grow from what we are not given."

Making Toast (Memoir)
A Family Story
by Roger Rosenblatt, 2010

I found this book at the library book sale some years ago now. I was drawn to it because it was a story of loss and a family trying to find their way through this awful, strange period. I remember when my dad passed away and how odd it all felt, how huge the loss of his presence in our family's life. I was interested to know how, or if, this family got through it. 

This painfully beautiful story is a tribute to the author's daughter Amy -- a gifted doctor, mother, and wife -- who collapsed and died from an asymptomatic heart condition. It's a story of how people die out of order, and grandparents are suddenly parents again. It's about trying to help a family heal through the day-to-day routines as life goes on. 

Lines from Page 16-17:  "I wake up earlier than the others, usually around 5 a.m. to perform the one household duty I have mastered...I prepare toast. I take out the butter to allow it to soften, and put three slices of Pepperidge Farm Hearty White in the toaster oven. Bubbies (one-year-old grandson) and I like plain buttered toast; Sammy prefers it with cinnamon, with the crusts cut off. When the bell rings, I shift the slices from the toaster to plates, and butter them."

Maman's Homesick Pie (Memoir)
A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen
by Donia Bijan, 2011

This is a wonderfully written memoir. It's both beautiful and heartbreaking, emotional and entertaining, all the while giving the reader a rich glimpse of the author's former life in Iran and her new life in the United States.

The author, a chef, tells her heartfelt family story 'through the prism of food'. Her family fled to California when the revolution in Iran threatened their safety in 1978. Looking back, she sees how the 'familiar flavors of her mother's cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind'. Years later, Donia Bijan studied at Le Cordon Blue in Paris and came back to the US where she opened her own celebrated bistro. This book is peppered with delicious-sounding recipes and anecdotes of how they came about and why they are meaningful to the author, e.g. Roast Duck Legs with Dates and Warm Lentil Salad, Purple Plum Skillet Tart, Madame's Cocoa Pound Cake, Orange Cardamom Cookies, Cinnamon Date Bars, to name a few). I had the pleasure of making the Orange Cardamom Cookies -- oh my, they were lovely. You will find the recipe HERE.

Opening Lines: "My mother had been dead eight days when I showed up in her kitchen. There I was, on a gray January afternoon, with empty boxes and grocery bags, determined to cope with my colossal loss by salvaging a head of lettuce, a quart of milk, a pint of plain yogurt, and jar after jar of homemade pickle vegetables.

Walking down the hallway to her front door, I was no longer greeted by the familiar aroma of sweet Persian spices, nor could I hear the faint notes of the classical music station my mother tuned in to from morning until the evening news. I half expected her to open the door and pull me to her chest--Here you are, darling, here you are--and tell me it had been a huge mistake...that the mangled body we buried just a few days ago was not her. Not her."

* * *

I have taken comfort and joy from these stories, because in our troubled times, where rough stuff happens, it really comes back to remembering some of the simple ingredients of life: love, family, food ... not to forget, the books and words of wise people who remind us to hope and not to give up.  

Can you recommend a book you've enjoyed reading where food plays a key role in the story?

Wishing you a week of goodness, kindness, and beauty.