“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.” ― Louisa May Alcott
A few years ago I was working in Pittsburgh. There were certain times of the year that my job became very heavy with responsibilities. I was thankful that I was occasionally able to leave on my lunch hour and have a change of scenery. At least once a week I tried to get out and meet a friend. If that didn’t work, I fell back on plan #2. I looked for things of beauty.
This was easy to do because I worked near Schenley Park. There was Flagstaff Hill, the Schenley Plaza, and Phipps Conservatory. A few times I took thirty minutes and walked through the displays of the Conservatory. Talk about rejuvenation.
Lately, I look for the beauty in every day life. It’s easy to find if you train yourself. While you are driving, glance at the sky once in a while. Look at the beautiful autumn scenery if you have it (it’s gorgeous here right now!). Are there flowers blooming near you? Is there wildlife? Are there children playing?
Don’t forget to take a break and live life. It’s really important. Here’s a few beautiful things I’ve found lately.
How is it possible to find comfort in a winter that seems to never end?
Here in the Northeast, as in other parts of the country, we have been bombarded by snow, snow, snow and freezing temperatures. We woke up to freezing rain and snow this morning yet again, and it’s only the beginning of February!
As optimistic as I try to be, I can get down in the dumps about all this cold weather. But I do have some secret weapons that help me through a long winter. Here are some of my best strategies:
First, I use pops of color to keep me motivated. I have a set of bright beaded bracelets I bought from a sweet bunch of young girls who were selling them to raise money. I think it was the Girl Scouts. So I bought a handful of them and sport them on bleak dreary days. I also have some bright sweaters- red!- and cheery scarves just perfect for a pick me up.
Second, I made an indoor winter tree. Since I didn’t have the heart to completely dismantle my holiday tree, I adapted it. I put away the obvious Christmas ornaments and left the winter ones on. I have a small pair of mittens, a miniature ice skate, frosted cranberry branches and other red and white decorations amid golden twinkle lights. I admit to lighting this glowing tree every morning while I drink my first coffee of the day and do my spiritual readings. I love the glow and the light infuses hope into my heart and soul.
Third, I spend time with my friends. We go to lunch, hit the mall or my favorite consignment shop. I put on my warmest boots and coat and push myself to get out, as long as the roads are good. Lunch with Amy is one of my favorite things and we went to a place recently with a crackling fire. I love fires!
Fourth, I drink a lot of hot cocoa! I bought some candy cane cocoa at holiday’s end and I’ve been enjoying a mug almost daily. Yes, it is indulgent but tough times call for strategic measures! Cocoa is a must in winter weather and marshmallows make it all the better.
Finally, I try new recipes. I made a delicious navy bean soup twice in the last few weeks. Making my own chicken broth and using a leftover holiday ham bone cranked up the volume on this heart warming soup! Check out the recipe HERE if you’re a bean soup fan!
Don’t you feel warmer and cozier already? Please share your winter weather strategy measures. I’d love to hear from you and I’m sure others would as well!
It was an exciting moment. We were all gathered together. The occasion? The yearly gifting of our word of the year.
After the coffee was poured and Amy’s pizzelles were delightfully sampled, Nicole passed around her pretty basket filled with handmade bookmarks. On each of those treasures was a quotation reflective of the word.
Here was my quote: “We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castaneda
Well, what can I say? The quote was perfect for me. The holidays always spark excitement as well as exhaustion for me, as I try and cover all those responsibility bases. I had been feeling a bit overwhelmed and at that moment, I gave myself permission. I breathed in deeply and said, just enjoy it.
I turned the bookmark over and lucky me, there were actually two words. Self- care and Happiness. Wow, I couldn’t have said it any better.
My friends and I are always of the feeling that we get the word we are supposed to for a reason. Now I have had some unexplainable words given to me over the years but it has been uncanny how they easily become my theme for the year.
So here’s to self care and happiness in 2014. Not surprisingly, I received an email shortly after given this word and received my first client of the new year! A wedding to be held in June of 2014!
So here’s your challenge. Pick a word for yourself that can be your word of the year. Keep that word in the back of your mind and read about it. Study it just a bit. Make it part of your mantra. You will be surprised how it will keep you motivated!
My friend over at Sunday’s Child wrote a great post about her word of the year! For more inspiration click HERE.
I wish you a happy and healthy new year in 2014! Blessings!
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
― Josh Billings
I put a jacket on the other day and there it was. Golden yellow flecks of dog hair.
I put a pair of black pants on to go to a special event- there it was again, more dog hair.
Everything I own has alittle bit of doghair on it.
Do I say with this impatience, aggravation or anger? No. As a matter of fact, I have complete and total acceptance of dog hair.
Our yellow lab Jordan is a member of our family. We have had her now for eight years and it seems like she has been with us always. I try and remember life without her and it just doesn’t seem the same.
My daughter found Jordan (or Jordan found her) when she went to pick up her son one day at his father’s house. Michelene said when she came back out to the car, Jordan was sitting next to the car wheel smiling as if to say “Here I am! What are we doing next!?”
Thank goodness Michelene had the nerve to go to Jordan’s house of origin and ask if she was available for adoption. The family said “Hold on a minute” and came back and said “You can take her.”
I fell instantly in love when I saw Jordan. Lab pups are too cute and the bond between Jordan and us was immediate. We had a border collie at that time too. I don’t think Lucky was initally excited about another competitor in the house. Thankfully he got used to it and they played like brother and sister.
Jordan is outside most of the day and is our official “protector of the chickens.” That is, we have a coop with twelve chickens and she protects them from hawks and wildlife. In the late afternoon we let the chicks out to roam. Jordan is ever watchful, ever vigilant. For her devotion, she gets a fresh egg reward.
To watch Jordan eat an egg is like being a witness to a spiritual experience. She handles it like glass. Gently taking it in her mouth, she lays it down on the ground. How she cracks it open so perfectly I don’t know. When she licks the egg out you know she is savoring it. Finally, she eats the shell and finishes the treat.
If anyone raises their voice at our house alittle too loudly, Jordan walks over and nudges them. She is uncomfortable with upset people, us or guests, and she has become an emotional baromater for our household. Get alittle too excited and Jordan will gently touch you and make you calm the heck down.
Are you worried about something? Jordan will come and look at you with her big eyes, silently requesting a head scratch or belly rub. By the time you are done, your problem will not seem so big.
I consider Jordan one of the most precious gifts in my life. She keeps me company when Jim works a long shift. It is just me and her some nights. I am fine with that.
I was working at the Jewish temple when I first saw the words. “The highest form of wisdom is kindness” was a quote from the Talmud. Later, I found those same words, artistically drawn on a plaque no less, at a common home goods store. I purchased it and it is hanging in my mudroom at this very moment.
Why does this quote mean so much to me?
Because it reminds me that though others may not be right about something, it is not always necessary for me to point this out to them.
For instance, Jim and I miscommunicated last week over a small matter. I knew I was right (of course) and he did the quick two step to try and cover up his own bad memory. On the spot, I decided it would do no good to hammer him about it or rub it in, so instead I decided to try a little humility. I said “Wow, I guess I completely forgot I said that to you”, thereby diffusing a tense situation and practicing kindness in the act.
And Jim, ever the good example of humankind said “Well Jo, that’s probably just how I remembered it.”
Now I know you’re going to say that some things are just worth arguing about and I agree. But there are times when I ask myself truly, is it worth it? Maybe I make a great argument for a point about something and rub my ego shiny in the process. But then what do I do with that? I am the fluffed up rooster, crowing my accomplishments and I forget about what’s really important.
What’s really important is that I treat everyone as if they are a child of God.
So this means I am respectful. I am kind. I try and look at another person’s perspective and if theirs doesn’t agree with mine, that’s ok. I will love them anyway. If another person’s bad behavior affects me, I can set some decent boundaries. But I never want to not be kind about it.
My recovery friends like to say Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? It’s basically the same thing as the Talmud but I do love this more simplified version. It’s worth it sometimes to give in just a little, for a center full of happiness.
“You can either practice being right or practice being kind.”
― Anne Lamott
How do you feel about kindness? Who do you practice kindness towards?
I have been reading faith based books lately and occasionally watching ministry programs on tv. In my quest for spiritual self-discovery, I like to explore faith via one of my favorite slogans- Take what you like and leave the rest. I don’t have to try anything that doesn’t feel right and it’s good to just listen and learn.
So yesterday morning, before work, I was watching Joyce Meyer. She is I think, a mega star and boy, she preaches to some large audiences. Years ago I used to reject these types of ministries as ridiculous, so it’s a big step for me to sit and listen to her.
Joyce was talking about “complaining”. She basically said we will get no where if all we do is complain about our life.Prayer is the answer, says Joyce. Also, having gratitude for the life we do have and thanksgiving for all our blessings is what gives us greater happiness.
Well Joyce (I think of her as my friend now, I’m calling her by her first name) I know this is true. Gratitude is one of my favorite things to post on and I’m a big believer in it. And even though Joyce is a Christian bible teacher and author, I’m sure many other religious and non-religious doctrines believe in gratitude over complaining any day.
One of the things I heard Joyce say that morning was when we bring the light into our life, we can become the light for others. When she said that I immediately thought of a lighthouse, standing with its beacon to bring others into shore safely. I think Joyce is right; people who don’t complain and show daily gratitude become the beacon for others to navigate by.
Do you know someone who is a beacon? I know a couple of beacons. When I am feeling down or can’t get my grip, I want to be in their light. I call them and ask if we can meet for coffee. Or I just call them. Then I say How are you? When they start to talk I feel their light coming through, even over the phone.
Do you have a beacon or someone who brings light and joy into your life? Tell me about him or her!
Every afternoon when I leave work, my boss says “Bye! Thank you!”
When I make dinner for my grandson Gavin, he says “Thank you Nana!”
My husband Jim loves to open his sock drawer and find it filled with clean socks. He says “Thank you!”
It sounds like such a little thing but really when you think about it, it’s not. How many times a day do you say “Thank you”? I try and say it all day. Honestly, I say it to strangers in the supermarket, customer service people on the phone, the receptionist at the dentist office. I bet those are people who don’t hear “Thank you” much.
My favorite way to hear “Thank you!” is when Amy’s granddaughter, Willow, will say Grace before a meal. It was her third birthday last week and I was there to share in the special occasion.
When we sat down at the table, we all held hands. Amy asked Willow if she would say the prayer. Willow’s face lit up and she said “Thank you!” with a big smile. It was a joy filled moment!
Many of my dear friends say that gratitude is the way to live a more peaceful life. I agree. I try and be grateful every day and I want to share that feeling with others. By saying “Thank you”, I appreciate what others do for me and I keep gratitude front and center. It may be hard to believe, but saying it in a heartfelt way and with a smile can change someone’s bad day to good.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I’d like to start a world wide movement to say “Thank You” more. I’m going to start right now by saying “Thank You!” to all my blogger friends, email subscribers, Twitter and Facebook fans who read my stories on a regular basis. You have no idea how much your comments, “Likes”, private emails and personal comments (when I get to see you!) mean to me. I love writing stories and I appreciate all your heartfelt support.
I think “Thank you” can be a pathway to peace of mind and a happy heart. Give lots of “Thank you’s” away and just watch how it changes your life!
Are you with me? Say “Thank you!” a whole bunch today!
I walked Jordan, my yellow lab, outside for her morning stroll. The sun was just coming up over the horizon. Soft gray streaks of cloud streamed between glimpses of sunlight, a promise of the day to come.
There was an autumn chill in the air. Fall colored leaves were on the grass, the trees, everywhere. Our chickens were already up, walking about as if they too were ready for the new day.
I had a sudden appreciation for where I live. My home is at the end of a closed lane, surrounded by a natural woods, but with an acre or so of real back yard.
There is much grass to mow in the summer here and many leaves to gather in the fall. The driveway is long and currently needs some patch work. The trees are large and sometimes, we have to figure out how to chop them down when they get too old.
But, I love where I live. There was a time, years ago, when I did not. I wanted a bigger house, more rooms, more opportunities for livable space, a showplace of sorts where I could entertain and decorate.
What I have is a small ranch. We added a dining room and mudroom a few years ago so it’s a bit bigger now. But as I get older, I realize this is a great house for Jim and I to grow old in. Everything we need is on the first floor. Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living and dining rooms. Only the laundry room is downstairs and someday, we can bring the washer and dryer upstairs to the mudroom. And I certainly can decorate, and do, in the country style that has come naturally to me after all these years.
What I really thank God for is my natural surroundings. As I get older, I more and more appreciate that I have a view of trees and great sky everyday. When I was a young girl, I loved nature, loved riding my bike, loved pretending I was a campfire girl. Maybe this yard is one of the things that drew me to my husband….the thought of marrying into this yard.
There is a pavilion on top of the hill from my house. Jim’s grandfather and uncles built it ages ago but it still stands. The brothers all got together a few years ago and fixed up the roof, made the poles alittle sturdier. When we once bought the property adjacent to ours (now belonging to my sister in law), the surveyors knocked on my door. They said, Is it possible that the pavilion straddles two separate pieces of property? I said, with a smile, Yes. No one in the family cared about divisions of property back then. It still doesn’t matter.
Because, we are all family around here. We live, surrounded by kin, and that is ok with us. If you want to be alone, you will be left alone. If you need help, the cavalry will show up at your door, probably bearing soup and whatever else you may need.
The point of this is to be happy where you are, with what you have. This doesn’t mean not to dream, not to create goals. But sometimes, in chasing the dream, you realize it is right in your own back yard.
The key to happiness is to appreciate what you have. What are you grateful for today?