Friday, April 16, 2021

Spring Almost Ready to Burst Out



" Spring work is going on
with joyful enthusiasm. "
JOHN MUIR 


We're on tenterhooks for Spring to green out around here. There is no sign of daffodils or tulips yet—that photo above is from last spring. The days and nights are thankfully warming up, and with it begins the much longed for transformation of brown lawns into shades of grass green.

This morning my friend Carrie who lives in Wales remarked, as she posted a glorious photo of her roses from last summer: "I’ve been prodding our garden along all this very chilly & sometimes snowy spring... It’s that point in the gardening year right now, when you wonder if it will ever look like this again."

Oh yes, for that is exactly how it feels around here. Looking at my own garden photos from last year, I too wonder if it will ever look like that again. We hold hope in our hearts and, of course, experience reminds us that the miracle of transformation will happen. The garden will blossom out, trees will bud, and with it our hearts burst open to receive the glorious promise of new life, beauty, and colour.




" And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover,
Blossom by blossom the spring begins. "
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE


These blue pretties just opened in the back garden where sunshine melts the snow first. Let the tiny celebrations of Spring begin in earnest.

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Monday, April 12, 2021

Guest Blogging Elsewhere




"A name is the blueprint of the thing we call character.
You ask, What's in a name?
I answer, Just about everything you do." 
MORRIS MANDEL



Today I am guest posting on InScribe Writers Online. Our assignment this month has been to write to the theme "What's in Your Name?", exploring our relationship with our names: what our names mean, how our parents came to choose them, and any implications they have had in our growth of faith and writing.

This has been a fun post to write. So I hope you'll come for a visit....the link is HERE.


* * *


Now for something completely unrelated. I thought you should have at least something to take along with you from this post when you click on the LINK to my guest post. It's a quote I found yesterday in an old journal from my youthful days.

"I've learned that if you leave clothes in the ironing pile long enough
you'll outgrow them and you can sell them in a yard sale."
UNKNOWN

Ha! That obviously tickled me for I didn't much like ironing clothes as a young person. There was often a basket with items waiting for their date with a hot iron. However, I got immense pleasure from pressing out tea towels and pillow slips. I loved their simplicity—no shoulder corners to twist around or pant leg creases to mess line up. I found it both relaxing and satisfying to see cotton wrinkles disappear with a swish and neatly folded piles in their place.  

* * *


Wishing you a beautiful day!

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Friday, April 09, 2021

Five on Friday: Craving Colour



" The craving for colour is a natural necessity
just as for water and fire. Colour is a raw material
indispensable to life. At every era of (her) existence and
(her) history, the human being has associated colour
with (her) joys, (her) actions and (her) pleasures. "
FERNAND LÉGER


I am craving colour these days. My corner of the world is still achingly dull brown. Although Spring is officially here, the nights are still cold. It is normal for these parts, but the wait seems interminable. The grass sports its coat of old winter sepia and barely hints new growth along the south-facing fence line. Crocuses are beginning to poke up from beneath dead leaves. That's hopeful.

So I needs must take my colour fix where I can find it.... today I'm sharing some eye drinking photos with quotes I either found entertaining or thought-provoking this week. Enjoy!



ONE

"All things are difficult before they are easy."
THOMAS FULLER

* * *


TWO

As seen on Twitter...

" If life feels diminished right now,
as it does for so many, please stay
open to the gift of new life. It may
take time, but it will come. "
AUTHOR UNKNOWN

* * *


THREE

As seen on my sister's Facebook page...

Things that can be equally true:

You are resilient -and- need a break.
You gave your all -and- need to back out.
You are independent -and- still need others.
You were sure -and- things changed.
You are kind -and- have boundaries.
Others have it worse -and- your pain is valid.
You did your best -and- now you know more.

@FINDYOURSHINETHERAPY

* * *

'Great Wheat Fields, Auvers'
VINCENT VAN GOGH

FOUR

" Listen in silence because
if your heart is full of other
things you cannot hear 
the voice of God. "
BODMIN HERMIT, on Twitter

* * *


FIVE

" I prefer living in colour. "
DAVID HOCKNEY

* * *


There! That feels better. Colour always lifts my spirits.
Do you find it so for yourself?

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Top: Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
One: Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay 
Two: Image by Urszula Mazurkiewicz from Pixabay
Three: Image by Sarajuggernaut from Pixabay
Four: National Gallery of Art, with permission
Five: Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash 



Monday, April 05, 2021

Simple Woman's Daybook: Spring Edition



" One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song,
read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible,
to speak a few reasonable words. "
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE


It has been a while since I've written a Simple Woman's Daybook post. On this sunny first Monday of April, it seems a good time to pick up the thread again. Yesterday Easter Sunday was cold and blustery on the outside, but on the inside, my spray of pink double tulips (above) made my heart lurch every time I caught sight of them on the kitchen table. 

Today I join Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook, I hope to share 'a few reasonable words' in this post and make you glad you stopped in for a wee visit. Please know I'm always glad for your company.




FOR TODAY

" Documenting little details of your everyday life
becomes a celebration of who you are. "
CAROLYN V. HAMILTON


Outside my window... The sun makes me feel like Spring, even though the temperature lags too near the freezing mark most nights. The birds remain the most hopeful of creatures, as they continue to sing and now search for nest material in spite of the teaser weather. Migrating birds are still coming in, we watch eagerly for them.




I am thinking... about our simple Easter celebration yesterday with just the two of us. Our day was quiet and without fanfare—no family gatherings for us yet—but it was pleasant and our hearts bubbled with joy because "He is alive".


I am thankful... for the Covid vaccine and that it's almost my turn for the jab. I was awake before the crack of dawn because it opened up today online for my age group to book our first appointments. Woohoo! Who would have thought a vaccine would be such cause for celebration, but I do feel liking hooping it up. And I know so many of you feel that way as well.


One of my favourite things... is the colour seashell pink. Next to the French style manicure (white tips), I love shell pink nail polish. For some reason, the colour immediately makes me think of old fashioned weddings. So soft and feminine.




I am wearing... a new tulip-pink tee-shirt, black skinny jeans, fragrance, and lipstick. I'm slowly switching my wardrobe out to a smaller size as my weight drops ounce by ounce. Yes, I do notice the ounces as it seems to take forever for even one of them to melt away. I celebrate them too. I find myself doing the hands on hip model's twist and turn in front of the mirror to marvel that I am at last seeing a less bulgy and more svelte self. I might show a pic one day when I reach a certain goal.  


I once created... An Autocorrect moment. You've no doubt experienced such moments yourself,  because sometimes Autocorrect can be so irritating. But there are occasions when it outdoes itself in creativity, even hilarity. Like the time a couple of years ago, I texted my sister and happened to mention that I was eating a fudgesicle. Autocorrect was certain I didn't want to say 'fudgesicle' and replaced it with the phrase 'fudges uncle'. Seriously? It thinks that's a word? My sister and I laughed to see such nonsense. The phrase stuck, however, and is now part of our family lingo. 


I watched... a beautiful reading of the Gospel of John yesterday which was presented by Sir David Suchet (Poirot) for yesterday's Easter Sunday celebration at Westminster Abbey in London, England. Suchet made those ancient words come alive, and I felt so enriched to celebrate Easter in this way. The nearly two and a half hour video is presently available on Youtube; you can find the link HERE




I am reading... one of my thrift store book gems Cobwebs and Cream Teas. It's a lovely anecdotal tale about the life and work that goes on behind the scenes of the National Trust estate, Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk, England. Author Mary Mackie's husband was the Administrator at the time, so her tales are first-hand.

This book, and its sequel Dry Rot and Daffodils, are both entertaining—and informing—reads. They are perfect for this time of year when so many of us are eager for our own gardens to get underway. If you are interested in knowing more about the house and its national treasures, you can visit the website HERE

Although we didn't get to see this particular place during our trip to England a few years ago, we had the lovely opportunity to visit other National Trust spots, including Chartwell and Sissinghurst Castle Garden. Our tours to both places were most enjoyable. I truly never imagined just how much work goes on off-season and behind the scenes to maintain and preserve these places for the benefit of their many visitors. And how important it is to keep your hands to yourself and not touch fragile objects. 


I am listening to... the finches singing in the trees. How they lift my heart in that sweet squeeze. I am still waiting to hear my first robin of the season. Should be any day now.  


I am hoping... for some gentle spring rains to green up our grass. I am hoping for nights that don't go below freezing. I am hoping for weather that gives me a warm reason to stop wearing my winter jacket.


I am learning... that wee afternoon naps really help make us more brilliant while playing Scrabble.


In the kitchen...  I noticed the oddly placed finger marks as I wiped down the refrigerator door yet again. They were nowhere near the handles, which can be expected, but alongside the hinges on the other side. How do we get fingermarks over there, I pondered aloud to Rick one day. He said that's because you touch the frig whenever you go into the pantry. Surely not, I wanted to deny, but decided to watch for myself. Sure enough, the next time I had to search the pantry cupboard for cereal or crackers, there was my left hand resting on the frig. Jeepers. I wonder how many other things I do that I am utterly oblivious to in my life.




In the garden... Nothing is really stirring as yet in the garden, except for the master gardener who is slowly beginning the task of shaking off the winter debris, trimming shrubs, gathering up leaves and dead grass.
 

A favourite quote... Comes courtesy of an excerpt I just read from Mary Oliver's poem The Sunflowers. You can read the complete poem HERE. I love the last lines. For, yes, it is a long work, that of coming to see that our very lives and breath are worth celebrating every single day. Have you found it so?


"... Come with me
                         to visit the sunflowers,
                they are shy

                   but want to be friends;  . . .

                        each of them, though it stands
                 in a crowd of many,
                                like a separate universe,

               is lonely, the long work
                   of turning their lives
                       into a celebration
                              is not easy.  . . .  " 





A moment from my weekend... Easter Brunch for two - French Toast with maple syrup, fruit, and breakfast sausages. Yum!


Closing notes... As I sit here typing, I think of Carol Burnett: "I'm so glad we've had this time together. Just to have a laugh, or sing a song. Seems we just get started and before you know it comes the time we have to say so long." 

* * *

I hope you have a great week.
Wishing you beauty and heart's ease,

Hugs,
Brenda
xox





Monday, March 29, 2021

A Spring Visit to the Bookshop



" So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me,
and reminded me that there are good things in the world. "
VINCENT VAN GOGH


One beautiful morning last week, an email landed in my inbox to say the library book I had on hold was ready for pickup. Splendid. While out, I decided to stop in at the bookstore across the street. After all, I could use some new notebooks, and maybe a scan through the magazine section would reveal something inspiring to celebrate Spring. With face masked and fingers freshly glistening with hand sanitizer, I was ready for a quick browse.

When I was a girl, I remember coming home from shopping trips. I'd empty the bags on the bed and settle in for a gleeful inspection of all my new purchases. It was such fun. Although I don't plop myself on the bed anymore, I still get great enjoyment from unpacking everything, setting it out, and duly anticipating the delight each purchase promised.

Do you, like me, also find pleasure in showing your purchases to someone else when you get home? Of course, it has to be someone who truly appreciates the snoop even if it's not her stuff. I felt quite certain you'd be interested, so here is a peek. Because most of my shopping is done online these days, a physical bag filled with items in my hand in real time becomes a true moment of deep satisfaction - it was my treat of the week, as my SIL is wont to say!

I chose three magazines: Victoria, Bella Grace, and The Creativity Notebook - I could have stocked up on a dozen more, each boasting inviting covers. I found a set of three notebooks and a journal, all with a lovely exposed spine binding. And, I happily snapped up the pretty box of floral notecards nestled on the sale table.



I was very focused - no snoops through the book section;
they weren't on the agenda that day. After all, I had books from the library to read.


A zip past the sale table revealed these delightful notecards ...
Got home to realize they were thank you cards. I would have preferred blank;
perhaps it's a sign to send thank you's to people touching my life these days.


The Spring edition of the 150+ page gorgeous Bella Grace Magazine ...
with a peek inside below!


* * *


The March/April issue of Victoria Magazine...
Although I admit to still feeling disappointed, even after all these years,
in how few articles there are in the current magazines,
the pages of luscious photography always more than make up for it.


* * *


The Creativity Notebook ...
with a peek at the Table of Contents below.
It's a hands-on, interactive magazine with prompts and exercises
to spur your creativity and imagination. 


A quote found in The Creative Notebook...

" To practice any art, no matter how well or badly,
is a way to make your soul grow. "
KURT VONNEGUT

* * *


A journal and three notebooks ...


Don't you just love the scalloped edges? 


The exposed spine allows the pages to lay flat when open ...
which makes the notebooks quite lovely to write in.


* * *

Thanks for letting me chat about my purchases. Hope you enjoyed the peek.
Sending my best wishes for a beautiful week ahead.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox


Top tulip photo: Image by Rondell Melling from Pixabay
All other photos are mine


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Books: The flower can always be changing



" I love when familiar words are
used in surprising ways... "
CASS MORRIS, as seen on Twitter


It's a year ago this week since I started the series 'Pressing My Books Into Service'. It was in response to the world-wide pandemic lockdowns. With people all over the globe stuck in their own homes, folks everywhere began offering their own versions of pleasant and useful distractions: sublime photos, poses of their pets, comforting home life scenes, hints to stay sane, hobbies, encouragement, poetry readings, music lessons, concerts, entertaining videos, you name it. I 'met' so many creative and lovely people over these past months—it was social media at its best.

At the time, I looked around my own life and wondered what I could possibly offer by way of helping to create community in isolation. My books sat there in silent reproach: You have us, we can help, press us into service. As you know, I did just that, browsing my shelves with you in mind, picking out a few favourites, and then sharing excerpts from each. You can find the 2020 series HERE.
 
The weeks passed and I found it hard to keep a daily post going; the series lapsed. During my recent hiatus away from It's A Beautiful Life, I thought about my blog a lot and came to see that the book series could be the makings for a permanent category. After all, most of us love to share what we read and enjoy.

While spring cleaning my book shelves, I was surprised that I'd missed including one of my favourite books last year. Tucked between all those larger books, no wonder the slender spine all but vanished from view. It was like meeting a dear friend. So, today on this anniversary week, I'm putting that to rights. I am delighted to give The flower can always be changing by local author Shawna Lemay its day in the sunshine.



by Shawna Lemay

I went to the bookstore one summer day a few years ago hungry for something seasonal to delve into. Then I spotted the tiny book, not much larger than a birthday card, tucked in alongside all the other volumes of inspiration and poetry. The gorgeous cover of pink poppies and coneflowers promised something wonderful on the inside. I was immediately drawn into a book of delightful essays by a new to me local author.  

To this day I still find new lines and phrases that need starring and remembering. The book itself is a flower in bloom—tightly furled thoughts blossoming out with something fresh to see with each encounter. Through her essays, Ms Lemay encourages her readers to ‘align with the poetry of the everyday’.

The following excerpts from Shawna's book resonate in my own writer's heart. I hope they give you a glimpse of the loveliness found in this thoughtful book.

" As a poet I've believed part of my task is to be an instrument of peace. "
〰 
" I think of myself as an artist of the everyday, someone who looks for what is bright in our tired and at times shabby days. I want others to realize that this type of seeking is available to them as well, no matter where they are and what situation they happen to be in.

What I want in my quiet life is to be a persistent witness to splendor. "

 〰 

" Having a summer reading list means I will also have to make a winter reading list and so I begin by worrying about which books will keep me warm and which ones will cool me off. ... some of the books will be bad and I'll have to abandon them half way through. Some of them will be less bad than boring ... Other books will be immediately fantastic and captivating and I'll want to tell my friends about them even before I finish the first chapter. Some of the books will be astonishingly good and might change my life and some might inspire me to write. The worst books are the ones so exquisite they will make me feel like I should quit writing my own books. These are also the best books. I dream of the season where I read nothing but this last sort of book. ... "  

* * *

Wishing you beauty and heart's ease.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Top photo credit: Image by Henryk Niestroj by Pixabay



Monday, February 22, 2021

Monday: Miscellany of Musings


"You’ve got to live this life with joy, I’ve learned.
You’ve got to transform the ugly stuff into love."
SHAWNA LEMAY


Do you ever wake up in the morning to find your thoughts going in a half dozen different directions? I often try to capture these motley fragments in my journal; they are the Liquorice Allsorts mix in words. Many bloggers would aim to select one as a theme and create a post around it. But, let's just say, I'm not quite normal on that front. I'm more of a letter writer kind of blogger—several paragraphs of this and a few lines of that, newsy chatter and various quotes, all wrapped up with an affectionate sign off. I don't much write real pop-in-the-mailbox letters anymore, I think, because I basically pour out my heart and creative energy here, there's not much left for paper versions. I still write cards and notes, just not those long Jane Austen chronicles anymore.

So, in my usual fashion, I've brought together an 'allsorts' collection for you on this Monday morning. I always have the hope that, amongst the assortment, you'll find your own favourite soft morsel for the day, thus making your visit worthwhile.



ONE: Lassitude (n): a state of physical or mental weariness; lack of energy

I came across this word lassitude while reading from my poetry stash the other day. Having only a vague idea of its meaning and to better understand the poet, I looked up the definition. I was amazed to find the word perfectly described my state of being this past week: physical or mental weariness; lack of energy. Yes, that's how it felt, more mental than physical, although not sleeping through a few nights didn't help.

So I spent time in the company of books. I read a lot and tried to fill my thoughts with good vibes, beautiful imagery, and cheerful messages. With the weather much warmer, I resumed my walks around the neighbourhood which made me feel more alive. So, when I woke the other morning and noted the weary presence had lifted from my shoulders, I was happy, to say the least.

I have said on numerous occasions that in my own world, my own life continues to unfold gently and pleasantly, even in the midst of dipsy-doodles we must navigate during the pandemic. Because there are so many sad things going on around us, I do sometimes wonder if being happy going about my own business is being too thoughtless of others. In my defense, I do care and will often whisper prayers for the pain others are going through, hoping things will get better for them. These words by @Iconawrites on Twitter confirm to me why we must keep as cheerful as we can:
"Being joyful is not the same as being naïve or frivolous. It does not mean you are not aware the world is burning (or freezing). It means refusing to let the darkness consume you until you are too weary to fight back. It means steadfastly choosing hope.
Smart girl. With my heart refilled, I get up, dust the lassitude remnants from my shoulders, steadfastly choose hope, and once again pick up my reason for being, in the words of author Shawna Lemay, to transform ugly stuff into love. I always hope that my pink frosting cheerfulness trickles out and makes someone feel a little less overwhelmed.



TWO: Longing, Longing, Longing

I'm longing to see my mom again in person, face to face, to hold her hand and hug, hug, hug her. It's been almost a year now since I've visited Mom in her home. Talking on the phone is all fine but it's not the same, is it? I'm missing all my family, as many of us are these days.

I'm longing to meet with dear friends, to enjoy a cup of tea at the kitchen table or over a hamburger at the local eatery, where we laugh and share a chat, and not worry about masks and social distancing. 

I'm longing to enjoy some 'wild fun' again, by which I mean having a proper visit to our lovely library and not just pick up the book on hold and scoot away quickly—when we can browse book shelves at our leisure, share space at a library table with fellow book nerds, flip through piles of magazines, and breathe in that bookish library smell.



THREE: Links I'm Enjoying

Sometimes I want something deep and moving to listen to or watch. Other times I just want something light and easy on the mind. This past week I bumped into these YouTube videos and I enjoyed their gentle rhythm so much, I had to share.
 
1. Arne & Carlos from Norway. They are Scandinavian textile designers and authors. What really caught my eye was their video on making a simple crazy quilt patch square. I do love crazy quilts; they made it look so easy, it almost tempts me to get out some scraps and ribbons and play. From the handful of videos I've seen so far, already I feel a part of their quiet and gently creative world. They also chat about knitting, books, their life in Norway.

2. From there I connected to Kate at The Last Homely House. I slipped into her online world watching her make a Scrappy Log Cabin Pillow in its gorgeous colour scheme. In just an hour, she had a finished pillow to give to a friend. I'm not a quilter, but I had great fun watching her do what she loves. She and her beautiful kitty live somewhere in north England. Click HERE for Kate's intro video.

3. Jacque Pépin American Masters video series. I love his French accent as he shows folks how to make some lovely recipes, I believe, from his own kitchen. In this video he makes his famous crepes. Quick and simple with his own tips, I always feel inspired and hungry after watching him.
  


FOUR: A Good Reason To Read Fiction  

Looking out at the world around us, I feel sad there seem to be so many folks who have little or no compassion or empathy for the pain of others, merrily pushing their way with nary a thought for the plight of fellow citizens, as long as their own needs are met. We can't solve that problem outright but maybe there is a solution in a round about way. They should read more to enlarge their inner horizons, because I do believe @Iconawrites when she says:
"Reading fiction is not a just form of entertainment. It builds empathy by exposing you to the inner life of someone else, and to experiences outside of your own. It drills into you - page by page - that other people are every bit as human as you are."
There... if you have ever felt a little guilty about indulging in your love for fiction novels, now you have a very good reason...so silence any nagging thoughts and read on, best beloved.💜📚

* * *

Note: I'm going to take some time away from my blog. I want to focus these next few weeks or so on some projects I need to get done here at home. Time's a fleeting and I haven't made great strides on my winter projects yet. Yikes! It's much easier to focus when I don't have to split my time here and there—alas, I cannot multitask the way I once could. If I get too homesick for you all, I'll be back sooner than later. I'll work hard. In the meantime, be well and keep safe. 

* * *

Wishing you beauty and heart's ease.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox


Credits: All photos are from Pixabay.com




Thursday, February 11, 2021

On This Fresh Morning, A Little Mary Oliver


"it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world."
MARY OLIVER, Red Bird


I woke in the wee hours last night to a pall of pandemic gloom in the air around me. I wasn't fretting or even thinking about it when I fell asleep, maybe I'd been dreaming about it, for the strictures loomed from the shadows when I woke. Struggling to get back to sleep, I finally gave up and came to my study where, sitting in the lamp's pool of cozy soft light, I felt an immediate lift in spirits. I wrote out a birthday card to a dear friend, selecting one of those gorgeous Papyrus cards I love, all floral pink and glittery—you'll see it further down.

Then I read lines from Mary Oliver's book of poetry Devotions and felt their lovely imagery soothe my mind. On these frightfully frigid days that dip near the -40°C/F mark with the wind chill, I've chosen not to go on my daily walks in the neighbourhood. Exposed skin freezes in minutes, so these past few days I've been madly pedaling indoors, not as much fun, but oh well! Thankfully, when I can't get out to embrace a bit of earthy nature, delving into Mary's poetry certainly helps. Her words almost make me feel like I'm right there with her, for her love and wonder of the physical world shimmers in every line. The book is my current go-to respite when I need a few minutes to escape from the craziness of our weirdly tilting world.



"Hello, sun in my face,
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety—"
MARY OLIVER, Why I Wake Early

These lines from Mary's poem offers a glad hint of the season to come, although my world looks a lot more like the wintry photo above. I giggled at the idea of the sun shining generously even on the miserable and the crotchety. Grace even for them, er, us (wink).



"I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time
when something wonderful has touched us..."
MARY OLIVER, New and Selected Poems, Vol 2



"Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."
MARY OLIVER,  Wild Geese



"Love yourself. Then forget it.
Then, love the world."
MARY OLIVER, Evidence: Poems



"Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us."
MARY OLIVER, Devotions

* * *
"I learned from Mary Oliver how attention is a kind of love, how shining your mind’s light on a thing — a grasshopper, a bird, a tree — is a way of showing gratitude. I learned that poems do not need to be “difficult” to be intelligent, that poems can be both inspirational and investigative, that poems can be tender without being soft. I learned from her to own my wonder and to stay open to uncertainty." Maggie Smith, The Washington Post, January 18, 2019

If I had not been awake in the night, chances are I would not have found those graceful beautiful lines by Mary Oliver, or this lovely thought about her by Maggie Smith in The Washington Post. And, there certainly would be no post for you either. So, even for sleepless nights, I am grateful. Stay warm. Stay safe.  
 

* * *

With love, I'm wishing you beauty and heart's ease,

Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Photo Credits: All photos, except the birthday card photo
which is mine, came courtesy of Pixabay.com






Saturday, February 06, 2021

Six Life Lessons: I Shall Never Forget the Day



"The greatest discovery of my lifetime is that
by changing my attitude, I can change my life."
MARY KAY ASH


I have been sorting through cupboards and old files this past week. Found all manner of kitchenware and items I haven't used in ages, which are now neatly packed in boxes headed to the thrift store when the weather warms up. I've also been culling my bourgeoning file of blog drafts—over 200, if you want to know. Some drafts were easy to delete, their 'best before' date long expired. But others, the ones where my finger hesitates over the delete key because there are nuggets worth keeping, these cling like Saran Wrap, unwilling to be discarded, gently urging me to do something with them, like maybe you should finish and post them, girlie.

In one of those clingy drafts, I once made notes for myself—a little list of aha moments that, when I looked back, had been life changers for me. Like Mary Kay Ash in the quote above, I'd come to see that when I changed my attitudes, made different choices, my life changed for the better, into something softer and more graceful. Today I offer you this once languishing draft, now spruced up into a new post, and I hope that you will find it has been worth saving.


One
'I choose happy'


I shall never forgot the day when... as a young woman, I sat enraptured listening to Miss America 1980, Cheryl Prewitt-Salem, as she spoke at a women's conference. She was our keynote speaker that weekend, and she shared in one session about how we as women have the ability to choose to be happy—to be happy any time, any place, and in any situation. Yes, even on PMS days and when things didn't turn out as we wanted.

The idea startled me. I went home empowered. Until that point I'd basically allowed the moods and their swings to run things in my life. I didn't know I could take charge of how I felt on any given day, that melancholy was not boss of me, that I didn't have to wait for a mood to pass before I felt happier. As I established this new habit, it was a struggle at first, but whenever I remembered I could choose how I felt, I always chose happy. It became the pattern of my life.


Two 
'I'm not indulging in Blue Mondays'


I shall never forget the day when... I stood mindlessly waiting my turn in the cafeteria lunch line at work, when it suddenly came to me that indulging in a Blue Monday—a day that was depressing or especially trying because we had to return to work and routine after a nice weekend—was a complete waste of energy. I didn't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that buying into that socially accepted gloom around the proverbial water cooler, I was wasting one seventh of my precious life.

My mom once shared with me that she used to loved Mondays when she was raising her family. After the busy weekend, she'd send her kids off to school and her husband off to work, and she looked forward to the day ahead where she could just get busy with her own work. Ha ! It really is all a matter of perspective.


Three 
'Freedom to choose'


I shall never forget the day when... I discovered these mind altering words in Viktor E. Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."

Frankl endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps during World War II. Through his own suffering and watching hundreds of people being defiled, demoralized, and tortured, he came to see that, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

Those words blew my mind. They changed my life. If this man, in those circumstances, could still recognize and hold onto that last of the human freedoms—the ability to choose one's own attitude—surely I could, in my own little world, make such a choice too. How many times since that long ago day have I remembered the tiny space in which I have freedom to decide how I shall respond.


Four 
'Gratitude changes everything'


I shall never forget the day when... I first learned how to keep a gratitude journal from Sarah Ban Breathnach. In her book Simple Abundance, which I happily discovered back in the 1990s, Sarah shared how she started a daily notebook and wrote down each evening five things she was grateful about that day. Taken with the idea of keeping such a record, I found a pretty notebook and tuned in to the world around me, much the way an artist might observe her world, so I could have something interesting to write down.

Everything around me took on a whole new meaning. I began to pay closer attention to things I had been taking for granted. I began to see how rich I truly was. Although I never kept specific gratitude journals after that season, the exercise forever changed my life. I am thankful to Sarah for introducing me to this grace of walking in gratitude.


Five
'Self pity is no party'


I shall never forget the day when... as a young woman, I'd watch my friends and siblings getting married, happy for them, but coming home to my single girl's bedroom feeling sad and sorry for myself. I'd mope around. Around that time I had been working on my attitudes. I used to imagine what heaven must be like in all its beauty, happiness, and perfection. It hit me one day. Heaven would not be a place where people had pity parties. Well, if it wasn't in heaven, I did not want any part of it in my life here on earth. (Based on the prayer of Jesus, 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven')

Self pity had been a buddy of mine. She used to come and sob with me, keep me company, but she wasn't helpful at all. As someone said, when you feel sorry for yourself, you exaggerate your misfortune, you experience a sense of hopelessness and victimhood. The day I slammed the door of my heart on it, declaring I would never host a pity party again, changed my life. Self-pity is addictive, and I remember it trying to come back in those early days, I had to be vigilant, to keep saying no. Eventually, with Divine help from within, I was free. I think I'm bearing truth when I say, I've never entertained a pity party since. If it ever showed its face, I'd just say no and it'd disappear. It's now been more than thirty years.


Six
'With vitality and good humour'


I shall never forget the day when... my sister shared a little story she had read about Julia Child's mother. Julia described her mom as someone who lived her life with vitality and good humour. Oh, how I liked that, those words resonated, for that's how I wished to live my own life—with that sense of aliveness to whatever life brought and to face it with a cheerful, amiable disposition.

It was a habit I had to learn.

There was a time years ago when I used to remind myself at bedtime that I wanted to wake up with vitality and good humour. It was during a dark season. The words must have hovered in the air overnight, for they were waiting when I woke up—reminding me not to get up on the wrong side of the bed. To this day, I bring out those words on occasion, especially when I find myself heading to a gloomier frame of mind. I still feel their strength in my soul as I ready myself for a new day.
 

* * *

"Last weekend a young man asked me how I remain so positive.
'It seems all the negativity in the world doesn't affect you,' he said.
I had no more than a minute with the young man so I offered this:
It's all about where you choose to put your attention,
and I choose to be happy."
JASON MRAZ 

It's not about ignoring the hard, ugly stuff going on around us; it's just that in order for me to get on with my day with any semblance of grace and with a sense of beauty—for that is what most inspires me to get out of bed in the mornings—I must be selective about where I keep my attention. And like Jason Mraz, I choose to be happy. I choose to cast all my cares upon the Lord of the Universe and then get on with my day.

* * *

On that note, I hope you enjoyed.
Wishing you a pleasant weekend.

Heart hugs,
Brenda
xox



Photos Credits: All photos from Pixabay.com




Saturday, January 30, 2021

In My Small World, It's Still A Beautiful Life



"You may not control all the events that happen to you,
but you can decide not to be reduced by them."
MAYA ANGELOU


No matter how small my own world shrinks in the midst of this global pandemic, I am always on the lookout for something to open my eyes to wonder and gratitude. Now more than ever, it remains up to me to discover my beautiful life as I determine, in Maya Angelou's words, not to be reduced by the events happening around me. Saturday morning and it is another day in the middle of winter, in the middle of Covid-19, and here in our household where life is normally quieter and simpler than many households, our days have now been reduced to one day pretty much looking like another. Weeks melt into months and lines blur between weekdays and weekends. And I am glad there's no one to question my mental abilities, because some days I really do have to ask myself, so what day is it today, Wednesday, Saturday? Is it still January? 

Like many around the globe, the pair of us have been in semi-isolation for months because of government mandates and recommendations. As our personal world has shrunk, so too have our daily activities, outings, and in-person social connections. Rather than outside pursuits and social events filling our days, we have found ourselves needing to search for what gives us meaning closer to home, within our own four walls, from within our own minds. And, from our social media platforms, of course (wink).

Thankfully, I am reminded of those wonderful lines Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in his book Letters to a Young Poet. They once caused me to sit up and take notice when I read them as a young woman, and now they challenge me again:


"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself,
tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for
to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place."
RAINER MARIA RILKE  


As humans, we have a need for variety in our spaces, projects, foods we eat, people we see, places we visit. We get bored easily, and maybe now more so than ever. Without this variety, our memories easily melt into waxy globs at the bottom of our candlesticks. But for many of us, our usual former ways are not available at present. Rilke challenges the poet in all of us to search for new and different ways to enrich our own daily lives with substance and meaning.

Many of us, I believe, share a kindred similarity in how we fill in those quiet spaces: nature, sacred texts, beautiful poetry and comforting books, going for walks, taking photos, baking, writing, reveling in gorgeous pieces of music—for me often it's Mozart or Bach or Debussy, along with those rhythmic new-old sea shanties going round these days.

The following reminders help me to face mostly uneventful days with anticipation and cheer:
✧ Meet each new day as it comes—and as much as possible with humour and gratitude.

✧ Be silent—let silence make space to listen, and to hear.

✧ Listen to music with intention, not just as background to mask the silence.

✧ Watch for tiny gifts in nature that make you feel alive. Keep a list, write a haiku poem.

✧ Select one or two from the dozens of lovely images, stories, and quotes you mindlessly flip through on social media. Dozens become a blur—savour the one or two. 

✧ Keep some semblance of routine, e.g., if waffles and bacon have been your usual weekend treat, sure jog it up and have it as a surprise on a Wednesday on occasion, but mostly keep it as the treat that signals it's the weekend. 

✧ Go for a drive or a bus ride 'just because'. Watch the clouds, watch the people, enjoy the sparkling snow on evergreen branches and rooftops and fields. 

I mused to Rick the other morning that I now appreciate how dogs must feel when they hear the welcome words, Let's go for a car ride. When he tells me he's off to run an errand and do I want to come along for the ride, I almost feel my plumy tail wagging as a grin spreads across my face. Of course, I want to come with you, I say. It's the big event in our small world these days. And it's okay, even in the minutiae, life is still full of the good and the beautiful.
 

"...look carefully; record what you see.
Find a way to make beauty necessary.
Find a way to make necessity beautiful."
MAYA ANGELOU

* * *

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Keep safe.
Here's wishing you beauty and heart's ease.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox


Top Photo:
"At the Breakfast Table with the Morning Newspaper"
Danish Artist Laurits Andersen Ring (1854-1933)
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons