Friday, May 24, 2024

"Make Something You Can Give Away"




"Make something you can give away."
SUSAN BRANCH


There is something delightsome about making something you can give away. Do you find it so? Whether it's baking muffins, writing a little note and decorating the envelope, crocheting a little ornament to hang on a door knob, designing handmade cards, sketching a quick scene, creating haiku poems, making tiny posies from spring flowers in the garden, we do whatever strikes our fancy, because the child inside still loves making things with her hands. 

I first saw that little quote of Susan Branch's early in the new year. It was included in a short hand-painted list which described little things a person could do to make life sweet. I don't recall what else was on the list, but I do remember the suggestion to make something you can give away. I liked the creative element of it. I wrote it down in my journal, underlining it several times. It was something I wanted to focus on in 2024. I used to do this a lot but kind of lost the habit... and here it's nearly June and I haven't done much to change it.

Before I go further, I must tell you that over the years, I have come to recognize little nudges—like taps on a shoulder—that come when something or Someone is trying to get my attention. For me, so often these nudges will come in threes. I think it takes me that long to realize something is up. Thankfully the One who is nudging extends much grace in giving me many hints. On the first go around, something catches my attention but it often flits by like a feather thought; it scarcely registers sometimes, it's like seeing it from the corner of your eye. Then the same thought or idea will show up elsewhere and I think, oh, I just saw that. When it crosses my path a third or fourth time, that's when the penny drops, as the saying goes, and I realize I should pay attention to this idea. Maybe I'm supposed to do something with it.

Often at the start of a new year, many of us look for something new for our lives. A new affirmation, a new project, a new word. So when I ran into Susan's quote in January, I wasn't surprised to see the same idea showing up in other places. I think this was going to be my new thing for the new year.

Let me share how it came to me:
 
1. Little Women was the first book I read in January. I found myself especially drawn to young Beth March. You will recall she got gravely ill, recovered somewhat, but languished until there was nothing more to be done to make her well. In the midst of this suffering time, Beth continued to be sweet as was her nature and, as much as she could, she continued to make little things for others. Instead of turning her eyes inward to her own suffering, she turned her eyes outward to others—I came to love and appreciate that gift in her: 
". . . even while preparing to leave life, she tried to make it happier for those who should remain behind. The feeble fingers were never idle, and one of her pleasures was to make little things for the school children daily passing to and fro. To drop a pair of mittens from her window for a pair of purple hands, a needle-book for some small mother of many dolls, pen-wipers for young penmen, toiling through forests of pot-hooks, scrap-books for picture-loving eyes, and all manner of pleasant devices, till the reluctant climbers up the ladder of learning found their way strewn with flowers, as it were, and came to regard the gentle giver as a sort of fairy god-mother, who set above there, and showered down gifts miraculously suited to their tastes and needs." Chapter 40, The Valley of the Shadow, p. 391
2. I found the second example in the Winter 2023 issue of Where Women Create. One article was by Carmen Daumer, an amazing creator from Colorado, who spends nearly every waking moment creating new things in her workshop. Her mind is always dreaming up new ideas, so much so that she began to feel she needed to share these 'overflow' ideas with others. I was fascinated by this and by this woman's generosity of spirit. She wrote, "Four years ago, I was praying, and I felt strongly that I wanted to give back for all the blessings, ideas, inspiration and energy to accomplish the projects I dream up. God has given me a mind that can look at something and see 20 things I could do with it. If I didn't share it with others, why would he give me more ideas?" (p. 92). As I see it, Carmen took to heart words that Jesus once spoke, as recorded in Matthew, "Freely you have received, freely give."

3. In March I wrote about Emily Dickinson, a literary hero (post link HERE). She was certainly someone who made something and gave it away. I thought of how Emily often baked cookies and sent down basketsful from the upper window to the neighbourhood children below. She also made little handmade books in which she wrote her poems out for her friends. 


I haven't done a lot of creating with my hands lately; other needful things pressed in. But I keep remembering how young Beth and these creative women have demonstrated such a generous way to live life more beautifully. I'm glad for their examples crossing my path at the start of the new year reminding me to 'make something to give away'. In writing this post, I intend to pick this up and bring it with me into the next half of the year.
 
 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend,
Brenda


Photo credit:
Top Image by eniast from pixabay






Friday, May 17, 2024

Five on Friday: Exploring 5 Random Questions




"Fill your life with experiences.
Not things. Have stories to tell,
not stuff to show."
UNKNOWN


In my travels through social media, sometimes I come across interesting questions people ask their readers. I have taken the liberty of gathering a handful of such questions for today's Five on Friday post. It's been a lot of fun turning my answers into tiny stories to tell you. Hope you enjoy.


One. If someone offered you a box containing everything you ever lost, what would you look for first? An old coin—with a hole in the middle—that I think once belonged to my grandpa. It was a Chinese coin. My little sister and I both got one, and we'd look at them often. One day I brought my little treasure to school, probably for Show and Tell. I was in Grade 4. And at recess I took it outside with me. To my utter dismay, it slipped through my fingers and went straight down the skinny space between the school wall and concrete steps. My heart lurched as I tried to grab it. Too late. I mourned that coin. After all these years, if it was possible, I would like that coin back. And, after all these years, I still wonder what possessed my nine-year-old self to take it from the safety of her desk to the great outdoors. I never told a soul. 

Two. What do you still remember of the first day of your first job? I don't remember much of the actual day anymore. I was around age 14 or 15. It was the early 1970s, and I remember the flutter of excitement of working at the same small town grocery store where my mom once enjoyed working before she married my dad. I never had to apply for the job. Eddy, the store proprietor, approached Mom and asked if she thought I'd be interested. Oh yes. I worked Saturdays, the busiest day of the week, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (or until the last customer was served), with two coffee breaks and an hour for lunch. That first day I think I began learning the art of packing groceries—tomatoes are never placed on the bottom of the bag with heavy stuff on top and loaves of bread are handled carefully like a baby—and maybe learning to reface shelves, i.e., pulling the cans from the back to the front to fill empty spaces.

What I do vividly recall was how tired my feet were at the end of the long day standing on a concrete floor. And I certainly remember when Dorothy, Eddy's wife, opened the cash box and handed me my wages for the day. A single ten-dollar bill ($1.25/hr). I was thrilled. I'm pretty sure I spent some of it right away on treats to enjoy with my family watching TV that evening. To give you a comparison, one 16 oz. bag of potato chips at that time cost around 89 cents.

 Three. What's your biggest pet peeve? Without going into a tirade, it's people who don't obey the rules of the road and who show no courtesy in letting others merge into line. Makes me owl-y.

 4. What was your worst date? I never had a 'worst' date. Some were duds but never awful. To answer the question, perhaps it was with the fellow who invited me to go for dinner (it was nice) and then took me to the Canadian Finals Rodeo. He seemed a lovely fellow and shared the same name as my dad. But going to an event where people wore cowboy boots (eww), rode wild bulls, and roped poor calves to the ground... well, I knew at the end of that evening, I didn't want to pursue this any further and told him so. In truth, my dream date was to be invited to a nice dinner and a movie or concert, something I considered more 'cultured'. As it turns out, twenty years later I married a man who enjoys concerts as much as I do. Neither of us have ever been super sports enthusiasts, although we'll cheer for the home town for sure. I always hoped that the other fellow found his soulmate who loved what he loved. 

 Five. What is your favourite movie, and why? This is a hard choice - I have so many forever favourites. But, inching to the top for today's discussion, I choose Chariots of Fire, a British historical drama filmWhen it first came out in the theatres in 1981, my friend and I went to see it about five times. We couldn't get enough of the movie (both loving the movie itself and both being crazy for all things British). I haven't seen it in recent years, but I still remember some scenes vividly; some lines are forever etched on my mind. (Oh oh, oh...we must interrupt, because can you believe it, as I'm typing the movie title above, the theme music for the movie started playing on Classic FM radio. Synchronicity at play!)

So, why is this a favourite?
1. From the first moment, I loved the theme music by Vangelis. It gives me goosebumps to this day. (You can listen to the composer play HERE.)

2. Chariots of Fire is a period film giving viewers a glimpse of life in Great Britain in the 1920s, post WW I. I loved the feel of this movie, set in a place I hoped to visit one day.

3. I've enjoyed watching the Olympics, so this movie was up my alley. It's based on the true story of two British athletes who ran for England in Paris during the 1924 Olympics. They were both strong characters—I loved their depth as well as the splendid acting by the key actors. I also loved the character, Sybil Gordon, played by actress Alice Krige. She had some fine lines that I loved; her costumes were gorgeous. Though Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams ran for different reasons, they both had drive and determination to spur them on. "Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice." Wikepedia.com  
4. In one scene Eric Liddell speaks to his sister, Jenny, who is fretting because she thinks Eric is spending too much time training and is ignoring his calling from God. He replies, "Jenny, Jenny, I believe God made me for a purpose, for China. He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."
The words burst on my heart like a shooting star as I sat in that dark movie theatre. I determined to go back to see this movie again just for that line. I think it was my first real glimpse into recognizing that God takes pleasure in us when we're pursuing what we're good at - making use of the gift he's given to us. I'd picked up that sacrificing my life (doing what I might not want or like) for him was what pleased him. It broadened my understanding. Years later, I would take those words for myself when I first began to write. I'd say, I believe God made me for a purpose. He gave me this writing ability. And when I write I feel his pleasure. And I do feel his pleasure. Right here when I write on this blog for you. (That one-minute scene with Eric and Jenny is HERE.)

5. After the film came out (receiving numerous awards), the producers released a commentary on the movie. So many talented, skilled people came together to make this film—people who really cared about creative inspiration, getting the right story, doing their best work, working as a team, and not worrying about whether it would become a blockbuster. They poured their hearts and souls into creating something beautiful and meaningful.
And that's why this movie stars as 'best loved' in my heart.


I'd be most interested to hear how you'd answer these questions.
Care to share in the comments? Or write your own post?


Wishing you a beautiful day,
Brenda
Photo credit:
Top Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay




 

Friday, May 10, 2024

Friday: Little Delights



"If one daffodil is worth a thousand
pleasures, then one is too few."
attributed to WILLIAM WORDSWORTH


Happy Friday! It feels like Spring today. A real beauty. Skies are blue with wispy clouds, tulips and daffodils are coming into bloom. Trees are finally greening out. Borrowing a leafy idea from a lovely blogging friend, Debbie, I'm sharing a list of what delights me this week:

❧ Morning sunshine streaming through the living room filling the room with light.
❧ The soothing warmth of the sun on my face without sharp north winds mixed in.
❧ Detail cleaning the inside of my car. A perfect chore to celebrate this spring day by removing the vestiges of winter's crud.
❧ A simple iceberg lettuce salad with a Basil Buttermilk Dressing. It's the unexpected burst of basil in a salad that doesn't include the usual tomatoes with basil that makes this dressing satisfying and delicious. Have no idea where I first found the recipe - it's a scribbled note in my recipe binder. Here it is should you wish to try it:
Basil Buttermilk Salad Dressing
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 small garlic, mashed with a sprinkle of salt
2 Tbsps. fresh chopped basil (and, yes, save the recipe for when you can use fresh)

Whisk buttermilk and mayonnaise. Add mashed garlic, sprinkle of salt, and chopped basil. Chill in refrigerator for an hour. Pour over iceberg lettuce and serve. 
❧ A small slice of Sour Cherry Lattice Pie from Duchess Bakery with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream from Marble Slab Creamery. Yum.
❧ Reading through the eight books in the Anne of Green Gables Series. I'm currently on book four Anne of Windy Poplars. This is usually a favourite to read in the autumn, but I wanted to read the series in chronological order. The stories are as charming as ever, but I find myself paying closer attention to the details and descriptions that set the stories in their precise era. One mention of a character traveling to Alberta means the story took place after 1905, the year Alberta became a province in the Dominion of Canada (as it was then known). I also found it interesting when the author mentioned a telephone wire wrecking Anne's view from her college bedroom window—another clue of the era (history lessons).
❧ A real letter in the mailbox amidst a pile of advertising brochures. It came all the way from Oregon from a dear blogging friend. Thanks, Sharon, it arrived safely.
❧ Coffee on the front step this morning to the welcome chorus of robins and chickadees and a few finches.
'Tete a Tete'

❧ A single small patch of dwarf Narcissus 'Tete a Tete' daffodils blooming in the garden. I have often wondered why these little blooms wear this name. According to my bit of research online, 'Tete a Tete' means 'head to head'. It's a French expression that means 'an intimate conversation'. Peer closely, and you'll see the nodding heads seem to be telling stories and whispering secrets. I feel the delight of this bit of info.

And that's what's delighting my soul this Friday. On that note,
I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend,
Brenda

Photo credits:
Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life





Sunday, May 05, 2024

One Sunday in May: A Little This and That




"She could always be counted on
to notice and share small instances of beauty."
from Homecoming by Kate Morton, p. 118


Happy Sunday! It's grey and windy here today. I'm coming to you a little tired this morning as I start this post - it's been a busy week. Alas, I've no idea what to chat about today, but I'll let my mind wonder a bit and see if anything comes of it.

The garden is still abloom in spots with the earliest spring bulbs I wrote about last time. Even with cooler temperatures, those hardy souls in the garden continue to add colour to a still brownish landscape. Leaves on trees are, at last, beginning to hint of lavish greens to come. Tulips are, in turn, forming their buds, and in a couple of weeks they should start opening. I'm sad to say that a number of perennials and shrubs in our garden did not survive the winter. I lament them. But, looking at it on the bright side, this loss opens new doors, rather new spaces, to introduce something fresh in the garden.

Happily, we're off this afternoon to a Baroque concert that features Handel's Water Music. It's one of my favourite pieces of music—I'm reminded of summer days every time I listen to itIn case you aren't familiar with this music, you might find it interesting to know the piece was composed by Georg Frederick Handel for King George I of England. Written to be performed on the water, it was first performed on July 17, 1717 at 8:00 pm on a barge going up the River Thames. It was reported that the King enjoyed the music so much, he commanded the musicians to play it a couple more times that day. There won't be any meandering up the Thames for us today, although our imagination can take us there while we listen. Wouldn't that be a splendid way to spend a warm summer evening? It must have been quite something for the folks who heard it back then. 

This past week I worked on a large-ish proofreading project. It took up most of my week as I carefully read a 236-page anthology being published by the writing fellowship, InScribe, to which I belong and sometimes guest post on their blog. The book is titled Creativity & Chaos: Artistic Endeavours for Trying Times. As it turns out, I really enjoy the art of proofreading, and although it's a lot of effort and brain work, it fits my nature to do this kind of detailing and bringing order out of things not quite yet in order. There's a certain satisfaction in reading a document to ensure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed, making sure formats and styles are consistent, authors' names are spelled right, ensuring the usual suspects of spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc., is in hand. 

I'm delighted to report that my own submission was accepted for publication in it. It's a Reflection about my own experiences creatively-speaking during the early days of the pandemic. My piece is titled A Kaleidoscope of Creativity. The anthology is scheduled to come out in September. I'll post more about it then and how you can get your own copy, if you wish one. (We'll have to have a giveaway, too!)

I must tell you quickly about two magazines that came home with me the other day. Yes, they beckoned from the shelf. One is the May/June issue of Victoria magazine, in which the current Writer-in-Residence, Jennifer L. Scott, shared about lessons she learned as a student living in France years ago. Her writing resonated with me as it reminded me of myself at that age when I, too, began to discover how I could live life more gracefully, more beautifully. Author Alexandra Stoddard had been my mentor then. In Jennifer's case, it was her French host mother who became her mentor. She described how, while learning to make a simple strawberry tart for a weeknight family dinner, she came to learn the value of details and aesthetics, "realizing that any task I undertook could be looked at as art." (p. 14). It was a transformational moment for her, and I delighted reading her account of it. I won't share more here since the magazine is out in stores now. I was also pleased to learn she writes books, and two caught my eye: one is the memoir in which she chronicled her adventures from that time in France: Lessons from Madam Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris. And the other is At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life. Both are now on my wish list.

The other magazine that I've been enjoying is called In Her Studio by Stampington & Company. It's a magazine filled with 'spaces and stories of creative women'. Lots of inspiring tales of how women create space in their lives for creative work, with pages of great photos of those spaces in which they work and play. What fun to see women creating 'rooms of their own'. The front cover beguiles me with pots and jugs of dried florals. You just know something wonderful is about to happen in that space.

❥ ❦ ❥

It's now evening and, for not having had anything to say earlier, surprisingly I found a few paragraphs to jot down. By the way, the concert was sublime - it was quite enchanting to hear Handel's Water Music in real time played by musicians you can see in real life. Tomorrow beckons with plans for a luncheon gathering with family to fete a beloved niece and nephew who have traveled from afar to spend time with family here in the west.

Did I mention that I've been reading Anne of Green Gables? It's spring, and I wanted to immerse myself in those delightful descriptions where young Anne is surrounded by the bowers of springtime's apple and cherry blossoms.

The evening sun is streaming in through my study window... clouds have parted long enough to see the sun at day's end. And the robins are singing...oh my! On that note...



I'm wishing you a beautiful week ahead,
Brenda

Photo credit:
Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life