Thanksgiving is only a few days away and there is still time to show gratitude to those who have helped us throughout this complicated year. My family has been very grateful to the group of kind and caring nurses, care partners and managers that have worked diligently to care for our Dad who is in an assisted living and memory care residence. The staff has followed guidelines all year to protect themselves and our loved one from the coronavirus.
I truly enjoy giving little gifts from the heart, but this year my full-time job has really consumed a lot of my time and energy (so grateful for my job); and slightly exhausted my usual thoughtfulness that seems to come in small bursts these days. I realized I hadn’t formed a plan as of yet, for the little gifts I wanted to give the staff – so when the weekend arrived I hit the stores in search of “a little something” to say thanks.
First I had to reach out to one of the managers to get a head count to prepare for. She told me there were 12 including herself (and I later found out this did’t include the 5 nurses that I later had to make another trip for). Make sure you ask questions to get all of the information you need. I certainty didn’t want to leave anyone out.
I was in Homegoods and found these Christmas Tree scented candles that really do smell like a fresh cut tree. The refreshing, familiar scent brought the feelings of Christmas straight to my heart. Now as you know if you’re a Homegoods shopper, the digging and searching began praying the entire time that I would find three boxes of four that could easily make into 12 individual gifts. I was so excited (and grateful) when I found the three boxes I needed.
I didn’t want the packaging to look too “Christmasy” and while I was in line browsing through what I affectionately call the “booby trap” area, I found two sets of six bags in a simple black and white pattern with elegant green velvet ribbons. The pattern looked familiar to me, and I left the line to go back to the wrapping paper area where I found the matching tags.
Back home, I pulled out some gray tissue paper from my stash, and repurposing the ribbon on the box of candles (I folded in half and cut and then folded the two pieces in half again and cut to form 4 pieces of ribbon); I tied the gray tissue paper over each of the votives and placed them inside of one of the bags.
I then wrote a small note, creating two columns and sizing so that when cut I could use a glue stick to attach the note on the back of each card and tuck it into the bags. It took a little time, but I then carefully placed all 12 into a cardboard box and sealed it shut and was off to the Sr. Living Residence.
When I arrived, the manager that had given me the number of her staff happened to be at the front desk. I waved her over to the door, and asked her if she could please assist my Dad to distribute the little gifts during the week. It makes him happy to give little gifts to others. So she said she’ll be back on Tuesday, and she’ll get him ready in his mobile chair and guide him around the building to say Thank you and give his gifts of gratitude.
A true gift is one that comes from the heart and lets someone know how much you appreciate them. Another is allowing a beautiful elderly gentlemen enjoy the thrill of giving.
Nearly everyone we know is experiencing some form of stress in 2020, from health concerns of a family member, to financial restraints, home schooling children, and more. Here in the South alone, our anxiety level has been on edge as we have waited out multiple hurricanes and tropical storms. As we try to slowly and carefully gather with small groups of friends once again, I extended an invitation to three of my neighbors for a late afternoon autumn lunch.
One of the ladies has been taking care of an ailing family member for a long time, and I thought she could use a day out of the house; another recently put her house up for sale and will be moving away within a month; and the third organized a neighborhood bunco group several years ago that brought us all together and has been one of my closest friends for nearly seven years. While my work life has been extremely stressful and busy, I find my joy in spoiling others. So this, my second Autumn luncheon was scheduled more than 14 days since the fondue and was limited to three guests.
A French Country theme works well in the Fall, and I prepared a Fall inspired menu that was partially prepared by me and partially purchased. I made the roasted carrot ginger soup a day ahead (most dishes taste even better the next day) , the poached pears and palmier I prepare the morning of the lunch; and I purchased the Autumn salad at a local cafe’.
The Autumnal salad was a new item on the menu that I had tried the weekend before, filled with roasted beets and sweet potatoes, red quinoa, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, golden raisins, spring greens and frisee, green apples, small broccoli florets, radicchio and topped with alpha sprouts. Tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette, it couldn’t be more perfect. There were so many ingredients that it was just more feasible to purchase two salads that I split four ways.
Apple Pie Wine
Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup with Crème Fraîche, Gremolata and Fried Shallots
2 lb bag of carrots (peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces)
2 macintosh apples (peeled and cubed same size as carrots)
fresh ginger (1 tablespoon grated)
1 lemon zest the entire lemon ( juice see below)
salt and pepper
1 garlic bulb sliced in half horizontally
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1 quart vegetable stock
1 large yellow onion (thinly sliced)
Juice of 1/2 of the lemon)
1 small fresno pepper chopped
2 large shallots (thinly sliced on a mandolin)
1 cup of canola or vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a baking sheet with about 1 tbsp. olive oil. Place cubed carrots and apples, grated ginger, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper into a large bowl. Drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil and then stir or toss with hands until everything is coated evenly. Pour onto the oiled baking sheet and spread into on even layer. Nestle in the halved garlic bulb and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the the oven and toss with a spatula (turning carrots and apples over). Return to the oven and bake another 20 to 30 minutes until carrots are tender.
Meanwhile, add the thinly sliced onion and place is a small non-stick pan. Over medium heat slowly saute’. Add small amounts of water as they begin to dry or stick to the pan. Watch carefully until golden brown making sure not to burn. May take up to 20 minutes or more. Set aside.
Remove carrot tray from the oven. Let cool for about 15 minutes.
Carefully squeeze the softened garlic over the cooked carrots and dispose of all of the husks. Deseed and finely chop the fresno pepper (a 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes is an option). Depending on the size of your food processor, you may be able to puree everything at one time or you may have to divide the ingredients into small portions and puree in batches. If making in batches try to use equal parts of carrot, apple, caramelized onions and fresno pepper. Add 1/2 cup of vegetable stock and puree. Continue to add stock 1/2 cup at a time until you reach the consistency that you prefer. Pour each batch into a medium saucepan to reheat. When all of the batches are complete and transferred to the pot, add the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 cup of coconut milk to add a little richness. You may of course add as little or as much as you would like according to your taste. Just remember to taste as you add. Salt and pepper to taste.
Gremolata (optional) – this is a mixture of herbs (parsley, cilantro, thyme, sage) finely chopped, finely grated parmesan, toasted chopped nuts, and lemon zest. I even used some of the carrot tops (greens). Nut options can be pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts or other nuts can be added. A gremolata adds a little color and herbaceous freshness to the top of the soup.
Lastly, slice two large shallots on a mandolin (or slice very thinly with a sharp knife.) Place 1 cup of canola or vegetable oil to a medium saucepan and heat. Add the shallots and cook with an occasional stir until golden brown and crispy. Place fried shallots into a sieve or strainer to drain the oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
To serve place the heated carrot soup in a bowl, either swirl a small amount of creme fraiche (or sour cream or greek yogurt) over the surface. I placed my creme fraiche into a condiment squirt bottle, but you can use the tip of a spoon or even a zip bag and make a small cut in the bottom corner to apply the cream. Top with gremolata and then fried shallots.
The table was also dressed with a couple of pumpkins and a crock vase filled with sunflowers and hydrangeas. The napkins wrapped with twine and a crocosmia stem in bright orange.
I always have some kind of little take home favor for my guests. I found these miniature mums that were wrapped in Halloween paper that had a plastic coating. I removed one of the wraps and used it as a template to shape some gift wrap I had to recover each. I used a small tube of glue, to attache bot together, re-wrapped the little pot and tied with black gingham. I then cut out one of the gold bees and glued it over the ribbon knot. Trimmed the ribbon edges and placed one at each place setting. I also make pumpkin bread loaves that I wrapped and sent everyone home with.
A few hours later, we had enjoyed an afternoon of sharing the year’s experiences, offering support for each other’s future and a satisfying meal.
I have several friend between my wine club, book club and mother’s tea groups. So in few weeks I’ll be hosting yet another small luncheon for another 2 or 3. See you soon!
For the most part, I’m a bit of a homebody and love to piddle around my house with little projects, but the recent restrictions imposed that involve closings (school) or limited access to many places we often visit on a regular basis can be unsettling to our routine and begin to affect the moods of everyone. We don’t like our freedoms to be taken away from us, even when it’s for our own good. In difficult times, we are challenged to find new ways to be productive and continue to develop and occupy our minds with healthy thoughts and processes. I like to think that as these old routines are suspended, an opportunity has opened to form new and improved routines.
Our world is going through a uniquely challenging and uncertain time, where less socializing is encouraged for the safety of ourselves, our loved ones and all of our communities, Spring is coaxing us to shed our sweaters and hibernation period to venture out into the warmer sunny days as relief from the many cold, gray, gloomy days we have already invested “indoors”.
While this time may seem unreasonable, stressful and unpredictable – and it is all of those things, I’d rather be safe than sorry. So I choose to see this period of time as “an opportunity.”
Let’s think about some of the things we often say we never have time for….
The weekdays now have longer daylight hours. Are the kids’ after school activities being suspended for several weeks? – Sounds like a great opportunity to invest in quality time as a family or couple, strengthen our relationships and ease the stresses associated with the ongoing reports of this coronavirus. Below are some ideas to inspire you….
1.) Prepare a home cooked meal together as a couple or family giving each child a job and gather “together” around the dinner table with discussion activities; Say grace and pray together – teach your children to care and pray for the safety and well being of their loved ones and others in the world. Help them engage in a positive way with what is happening and help them feel there is something they can contribute to making things better.
Take advantage of the warm sunny weather and get some fresh air by cooking on the grill and enjoying meals on the back patio or a blanket for a back yard picnic. Afterwards, play a game of crochet, badminton or take turns jumping on the trampoline as a family. Look around the house and see what you have to create activities as a family to free the minds of worry and relieve boredom as so often is the challenges with children.
2.) Create flash cards with questions or topics of conversation that expand knowledge and discussion; (turn off the TV, phones and Ipads and limit the time spent on these items); couples can learn more about each other with topic questions and you can easily create topics for children that make the discussion fun, such as – If you could be an animal, what kind of animal would you be and why?; What skill would you like to learn that you haven’t yet? (Skating, bowling, painting, play the guitar, etc) – you may learn something about your child that you didn’t know; questions that teach about the solar system, or other countries on the globe and so on. Just one each evening will do – and keeps everyones’ minds on positive thoughts and creative thinking. Some of the questions may be to test your kids on what they know about each of their parents with a game of two truths and a lie. The topics of discussion are endless.
3.) Is your child usually signing up to play on a softball and baseball team this time of year? Pick an evening to practice batting and catching the ball so they are ready to go when they can get back to the park to play.
4.) Other after dinner activities- play a round of UNO or a board game together; go for a family walk or bike ride in your neighborhood; plant a garden together, and together weed and water it in the evenings – watching it grow; find a Zumba class on YouTube and Zumba together for exercise; have one child each week read a book or a couple of chapters of a book to the rest of the family. Find creative healthy ways to spend time together laughing and playing to keep everyone’s spirits up.
Self care: Whether you are single and live alone….or not – an opportunity to take better care of yourself.
As you know from my blog, I have a bookclub and love to read. I have a mentally stressful job that sometimes follows me to bed and the best way I have found to clear my mind and get a good night’s sleep, is to take a hot lavender scented bath and then settle into bed somewhere between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., nestled against a few fluffy pillows to sit me up and a pool of soft sheets and blankets surrounding me, while I read a few chapters of a good book. My mind shifts to the lives of the characters in the story and I’m freed of the worries of my work day until morning and enjoy a restful sleep.
When that alone doesn’t work, I play the Meditation Radio or Spa Radio stations on Pandora at a low volume on my phone on the bedside table and within minutes, I’m out. Lavender essential oils in defusers, roll on perfume bottles and linen sprays are also calming and help for soothing and sleep.
In mid-February I learned about this 30 day yoga series on YouTube – “Home – 30 day yoga with Adriene” and began starting my weekday mornings with an episode that is usually less than 30 minutes. It’s free and helps melt away stress and anxiety. Adriene is a gentle instructor with an unexpected new experience each day. It’s quite lovely, and if you are having trouble sleeping, this is also a great thing to do at the end of your day.
Lastly, another wonderful way to relax and decompress is to meditate. Deepak Chopra and Oprah have several 21 day meditations the are offered for free every couple of months. I have no doubt that they will be offering another one soon during this difficult time. You can sample some of the past meditations on Youtube. My favorite has always been the one focused on gratitude. https://chopracentermeditation.com/
Weekends at home….
What to do to fill your weekend? Well, Spring cleaning comes to mind! Here’s an opportunity to “tidy up”. Watch Marie Kondo’s series on Netflix for motivation and tackle one closet and bureau at a time. As each area is “tidied” up with items no longer loved removed and her special folding methods applied to beautifully organize the items in your bureau, you just feel so much better!
Then you can move on to your pantry – check out my “Lagniappe” category for other Weekend Projects. Other organization inspiration can be found on instagram @thehomeedit.
While the weather is beautifully mild, you will need time outdoors. Whether you have a patio or balcony for a few potted plants or a yard for a small flower bed, herb or vegetable garden, this is a great time to get planting before the heat is on. It’s time for pulling weeds (that are always the first to grow); and weed and feed turf builder time.
Then there’s always the garage and detailing the car…..ah how the list goes on, but just think how great it will feel for everything to be clean, organized and cleared of clutter!
It’s also an opportunity to try a new skill, such as becoming a better baker or cook, sewing, knitting, crocheting, painting, drawing, building something out of wood or learning a foreign language. There are multiple videos on YouTube that will teach you almost anything,
This is also an opportunity to go back to having actual phone conversations instead of text messages to visit with family and friends that we can’t spend as much time in person with. This is an opportunity to strengthen relationships, invest in self care and refresh our homes. Don’t miss the opportunity to press the restart button. As we all know, things happen for a reason. While I don’t want in any way to dismiss or ignore the hardships that are going on out there, with job uncertainty or loss, illness and death – when life is difficult I personally always try to see the opportunity that these changes may offer or bring. I hope you will too.
Let’s all pray for each other, be kind and compassionate; reach out to and check on those who live alone and the one thing we can be certain of, is that one day this experience will all be behind us and we can express gratitude for the opportunity to slow our roll and invest time and attention into the most important parts of our lives. God Bless Everyone! I appreciate you and I pray for all of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Today I attended a bridal shower of the soon to be daughter-in-law of my friend of almost four decades. Her youngest is soon to be married, and while visiting with her daughter Alyson I told her about this journal entry I had written about her wedding in 2017. I searched for it not realizing I had never published it.
We are fast approaching the 2020 wedding season, and I decided now was the time to share this story of a growing family and love.
May 20th, 2017
Last night I attended the wedding ceremony and reception for the youngest daughter of my friend of nearly 35 years, who over time has become my sister from another mother. She and her very loving husband have and always will be family.
The ceremony was brief, but lovely and surprisingly entertaining, since the minister continually called the bride “Ashley” throughout the service instead of her name -Alyson. The guests shared restrained giggles and smiles in the warm humid breeze while keeping a protective eye on the bright but cloudy sky, threatening to rain at any moment as the bride and groom stood before an organic arch of green foliage and flowers along the edge of lush green golf course.
Alyson wore a nervous smile from ear to ear; simply beautiful in her knee length dress and netted veil cap reminiscent of the 1940’s, jittering with nervous energy that she relieved with multiple deep breaths and a little wiggle dance of her hips as the vows were being read. When the groom proclaimed his “I do” her expression changed suddenly to “surprise” and the nervousness reappeared as she realized it was her turn; but she quickly regained her composure. When the minister said, “Ashley” she immediately corrected him- stating that her name is Alyson. After all, if she was to make a vow, it was going to be in her true name! Safe to say they made it through, free of rain, and shared a kiss that always signifies the ceremony’s end. The small intimate ceremony was free of stuffiness or pretentiousness, simply focused on the couple that couldn’t keep their eyes off of one another and filled with love.
As a long time friend of her parents, I’ve known that “family “ above anything else, has always been the most important thing to both of them. So much so that they have woven a unique tapestry of members they call “family”. To most their family network may seem odd or unconventional, but to them it’s just the people they love and I’m grateful at times that I am considered one of their members.Their generous hearts extend a hand out to help just about anyone that needs it. I’ve never witnessed their saying “I can’t”, or “no” to anyone.A passion or calling that they have wholeheartedly committed their time and attention to.
Over the years and most recently, some of their treasured family members are now deceased, slowly chipping away at the number of living members. It was comforting to witness a night devoted to commitment that would now further extend the size of their family.
My sister friend walked over and sat beside me for a while, to have a small bite of food and something to drink, when just minutes afterward, the song “Lady in Red” began to play. I watched as her oldest daughter was being escorted to the dance floor by her husband and suddenly my sister friend quickly excused herself to dash into the crowd of guests. Shortly afterwards, the dance floor was filled with dancers, and among them I spotted her dancing with husband.
Throughout the night I observed her family, especially her two daughters and grown son with is girlfriend, and wondered if they (she and her husband) realized that their children had all found the one thing a parent can never give them.
Later when she returned to sit next to me I told her, “Your son-in-law (to her oldest daughter) really loves your daughter.” She looked out into the crowd and looked around like she didn’t understand, so I told her again. While sometimes as parents or simply human beings we may see flaws in one another, as an outsider looking in, I could see without a doubt by the way her son-in-law treats her oldest daughter and looks at her –having two small children running around beside them – that he truly loves and respects her. I’m not sure if my friend ever stopped and really looked at them in that way.
The same was obvious between her son and his girlfriend and as I said before during the ceremony of her youngest daughter and her groom.
While the group she calls family may currently be slightly smaller than what they are used to, I see the beginnings of a new generation forming. Those of us who were once “the young” will become “the old” and this new pairing of lives will weave and create the new tapestry of my sister friend and her husband’s ever changing evolved family, whose foundation is formed purely from the love they all share.
NOTE: THE PHOTOS IN THIS POST WERE TAKEN AT A DIFFERENT WEDDING OF A FAMILY FRIEND.
If you were to read the pages of my personal journal for 2019, you might think the entries you found there are a collection of fictional stories filled with faith, hope, love and optimism. My year was not fictional. My year was filled with surprising and remarkable moments shared with family and friends; new experiences and new beginnings I could never have imagined -served like colorful sprinkles throughout the year.
While my blog for the most part is about entertaining, my passions include decorating, cooking, reading, writing and traveling. What my followers may not know, is that my full-time day job is working as a mortgage loan underwriter. My role is stressful, requires a lot focus and concentration, knowledge of ever-changing guidelines, independent decision making and patience. While it is a rewarding field that enables many to realize the pride of home ownership, the majority of responsibility of what constitutes an approval, falls on the underwriter. Someone once said, an underwriter wears the combined hats of an accountant, an attorney and a psychologist all at once. So forty hours or more per week I’m required to work quickly, intensively focus and accurately.
The industry has had it’s ups and downs, and for most of my career I have been fortunate to simply coast through the rough spots without being part of cutbacks; but in November of 2018 I was part of a workforce reduction and found myself unemployed for the second time in a four year period. Yes, it hurt and yes I was a little worried about how long it would take to find another position, but financially prepared and with the help of current and previous work colleagues, my resume’ was being circulated and until the time was right I could only pray and trust that the Lord would take over the situation and use my resources to lead me to where He wanted me to be . During the wait rather than sulk, I tried to use the free time I was given to be productive in ways I usually lacked time for.
A passion is something you can do everyday for hours, forgetting to eat or noticing how much time has gone by. Writing and creating has always had that affect on me. As a young teenager I wanted to be a writer, spending hours alone in my bedroom writing poetry and short stories. As with most of us, life’s responsibilities forced me to abandon my passion for a “real job”. For years I’ve wanted to create, write and share what I’ve learned with others, and recently I realized that a blog would provide the perfect platform to do so. Both limited time and fear of how to create a blog were holding me back from this dream for a long time.
I have been hosting parties for several years, some in the distance past, while more recent efforts have helped me to gradually excel in my efforts with some surprising results. Creating a blog would provide an outlet to share my ideas and write my stories. In preparation, I had written articles to accompany my party pictures (that over time I’ve put more effort into) and saved them to eventually insert into posts of my “one day” blog.
My knowledge of technology is limited and I feared the unknown. I didn’t have a clue of how to begin such a venture. I reached out for help, but the time was never convenient. One morning I woke up and decided I had to face my fears and prove to myself I could accomplish this and doing it on my own would make it all the more rewarding.
With nothing but time to figure the process out and the internet as my teacher, I watched multiple YouTube videos of how to start a blog. The information was more about content than how to actually step by step design a blog site, but I finally found the courage to create a domain and my first blog webpage. A year later with over 60 published posts, it seems like an old routine that I’ve been practicing for decades and challenges me to continue to create content for my followers and joyful memories for those who share in the parties and events I plan.
I remember the feeling of pride and confidence when it finally materialized before my eyes. It took a couple of days – days I would not have had if I had not lost my job. I decided that the job loss was actually meant to give me time. Time to dedicate directly toward personal things in my life that I would usually not be able to, because of my limited time off from my job.
Over the next five months my daughter, who lives in another State with her husband and my three grandchildren needed my help on two occasions while her husband had to go out of town for long periods of time for his job. I was free to visit just before Christmas for a week and be with both my daughter and youngest grandson for their birthdays. I then spent another the three weeks with them while her husband was away over the months I was unemployed. Having spent four weeks with them over a five month period in addition to they’re coming into town for a family wedding in March, I’ve enjoyed more time this year than I have in the past four years with my daughter’s family.
Over those months, other family members had brief health issues that I was able to step in and help them through, again time I would have fretted over due to limited paid time off while working. I also read several great books and I planned a lovely Seamstress themed Mother’s Tea and a fun Derby themed wine party for my friends.
While I was truly enjoying life (and a mini-retirement), the months were ticking away and finally in April I received a call to work as a contract employee for my previous employer. It wasn’t a full-time position, but a stepping stone that generated an income and a sign that business was improving. Two months later I was offered two full-time positions on the same day and started with my new employer in early July.
When I started my new job, I was so grateful to a past co-worker (the Lord using my resources from over 20 years ago) who recommended me for the position that’s benefits exceeded my expectations. It’s been a very hard acclimation, but only four months into the position, I’ve grown to feel like part of the current team.
As my contract resignation period came to an end, the week between positions contained a holiday – so I took that week off. I spent the week reorganizing and cleaning the house. During that process I found a blank poster board and had a stack of magazines to dispose of. As covered in my previous post “Creating a Vision Board”, I’ve kept a vision board for years and have done my best to imagine my life evolving into the pictures I had chosen. So much of those images have materialized at some point or another. I was drawn to look over the images on my current vision board – and focused in on the areas that have not yet manifested into my life.
My board is so filled with images, that I decided there were two areas that I very much wanted to manifest sooner rather than later, and that maybe I should create a new board focused solely on those two areas. One was to meet someone to share my life with and the other was to travel after having a decade long sabbatical from both.
It has always been my dream to go to Paris and search through culinary stores, flea markets and eat my way through all of the delicious cuisine while also soaking in the art, museums and culture. For various reasons, my last real vacation took place many years ago, but it was a beautiful tour of Rome, Florence and Venice. France and England were higher on my wish list, but I hoped to travel to many parts of Europe over time.
I briefly considered flying to Boston, the week I had off between jobs to see the Downton Abbey Exhibit, but it was the 4th of July week and I knew it would be pricey and crowded. But I did find an image of the Exhibit in one of my magazines that I glued to the board. As I flipped the pages of a travel magazine, I found individual black and white images of several European countries that I cut out and randomly glued to the board under the word “Travel”.
While making my benefits elections for my new job, I was advised to enter the date of Dec. 31, 2019 into the vacation calculator to determine what my accumulated time would be by the year’s end. I was then advised I needed to schedule the time off before the year ended. I discovered I had a little more than a week of time to use and a spontaneous idea was sparked!
A friend of mine was currently house sitting in England. She at some point was moving on to another sitting position at a house in Germany. I knew nothing about where or when, but I asked her if I could fly over and spend a week with her. Within days, I discovered another of our friends (from the wine club) was going to meet her and I scheduled a flight to arrive a day later than her arrival (based on the time I could get approved for time off.) The house was located in Southern Germany very near the borders of Switzerland and France. If you take a look at the images of countries I randomly glued to my new board, can you see any resemblance to what I just wrote -to the vision board above??? Seriously??? Front and center – Germany, Switzerland and France!
The lovely 300 hundred year old part time home we occupied during my visit in Germany.
I’m usually someone who plans months and weeks in advance, having a neatly prepared itinerary, and hours of research to create an informative understanding of where I’m going and what I’m going to do or see. With only an airline ticket and packed luggage in hand – spontaneity I’m not known for, a brave face and churning stomach, I boarded the plane for a 9 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany.
Traveling to a foreign country with a language I didn’t understand, alone was terrifying, but the unexpected kindnesses I experienced along the way got me through. A couple was seated across from me at the airport in Atlanta (our connection flight to Frankfurt). A polite smile was exchanged, but it didn’t take long to realize they were German. When the boarding process began, we both stood in the same area to wait our turn and I noticed they had a shopping bag from California. To open a little dialog I asked them where in California they were coming from. We chatted for a while with their limited English and then boarded the plane. I had told them I was very nervous and this was my first time flying to Germany. They told me most of the people spoke English and I shouldn’t be concerned. Later on the plane I noticed they were seated in the middle section of the plane just a couple of rows back from me.
At the end of the flight, I made my way through immigration and found my bags. From there I asked for help to get to the train the would bring me to my final destination. I had boarded the shuttle bus that I was directed to that would bring me to the train station and within seconds the German couple jumped on to the bus just before it was about to leave. My hand rose to my heart when I saw them. I was so happy to see them because I needed help with the whole train situation.
They stayed with me to assist with buying my round trip ticket. Afterwards there was an hour before the train would arrive, so we visited over coffee and tea at a Starbucks in the station and then they helped me to the gate where I needed to board the train which was further up than their gate. My gratitude for this lovely couple is beyond anything I can express, but they were not the only kind people I fell into the care of. At every point of concern of how I would manage to get further, someone would materialize from out of nowhere and help me carry my bags up steps, or direct me to the right area to find what I was looking for or had to go to. We even had other travelers from other countries give us Swiss Francs to put into a parking meter when we only had Euros. Each experience restored my belief that people of the world can be amazingly kind.
Even now it still feels like this last minute- spontaneous trip was all a dream. In fact the entire year has been a bit of a dream, all started with the loss of a job and followed by so many joyful gifts. When something shocking or unexpected happens in your life, it will be scary, it will be stressful, and you may not know how you’re going to work things out. Give your fears to God; lean in and be open; try to see it as an opportunity to discover something new in your life; rely on your resources; reach out to people who know the hard worker you are, reignite a talent you’ve been suppressing for years, and trust that your new beginning was meant to lift you higher and give you more.
In this New Year -resolve to be open to whatever is coming with love and gratitude. Tell the universe “I trust you! Surprise me!” It’s incredible what amazing blessings can enter into your life when you invite them in. Usually the year feels like it passes more quickly year after year, but this year my life was so full, I accomplished so much that makes my heart happy, that it felt like more time has passed than what actually did. It felt like it’s been two years rather than one. Maybe when you fill your life with everything you love and open up to new unexpected experiences – life is simply fuller.
My intention when I started my blog was to share ideas that would bring people together. Resolve in this new year to be kinder, to practice random acts of kindness and thoughtfulness; resolve to regularly gather with family and friends, resolve to try new things and share what you learn with others, to open yourself to what’s coming instead of fearing it! Cheers to new beginnings! Wishing all of my followers a very Happy and Fulfilling New Year!!!
Jesus Calling: December 21
My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you are traveling seems blocked or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when time is right, the way before you suddenly clears — through no effort of your own. What you have longed for and worked for I present to you freely, as pure gift. You feel awed by the ease with which I operate in the world, and you glimpse My Power and My Glory. Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles — and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. Living by faith, rather than sight, enables you to see My Glory.
Psalm 63:2 English Standard Version So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
2 Corinthians 5:7 English Standard Version for we walk by faith, not by sight.
John 11:40 English Standard Version Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
Brilliant rays spreading across the sky have always been my God wink. As I raised my blinds to the morning light the delicate pearls of dew tracing the edges of the leaves on my rose bush caught my eye. I struggled from different angles to capture its beauty. The window was smudged, so I had to step outside. I tried several times to hold my phone between the window and bush, snapping, but unsuccessfully capturing the pearls of dew. Once I was satisfied that I had finally achieved the image I wanted, I set my phone aside to move on with my day without further thought.
Today, after I sat in prayer and gratitude as I do each morning, I opened the picture I had taken and realized those brilliant rays were directed right toward my rose bush. It’s as if the bush had been prepared to catch my attention and draw me out to be near it. Those beams that are usually reaching out across the sky, were reaching out to touch me. If I hadn’t struggled to take the picture, I would have missed my God wink.
I posted this story and photo on Facebook and a friend all the way across the country in California sent me a note that in the back by the fence, there were images that looked like angels.
This Easter season, whatever may be heavy on your heart, evidence of His presence is right in front of you. Just pause for a moment to see and look more closely. Whatever your God wink is, a 🌈 rainbow, a specific colored bird, a butterfly 🦋… watch for Him. He is always there.
The Dandelion… “Wish flower”, I can’t remember before yesterday, the last time I saw one. The sky was crystal clear, the sun beamed bright and a, cool, comforting breeze soothed away any heat that thought of resting. It was so beautiful that I coaxed my Dad from his bed and drove him to Madisonville to sit on a bench by the water and breathe in some fresh air. The concept of just sitting in gratitude and enjoying nature is foreign to my Dad, but he agreed to cooperate. “Just soak in the sun and fresh air and pray”, I told him.
The hum of cars crossing on the little draw bridge competed with the occasional gusts of wind that blew through the Spanish moss draped from the large branches of the trees. His eyes wondered to the family further down the riverside taking a walk and the kids running in circles with their hair blowing in the wind. Eventually he commented about the very large houses along the river and “fancy” boats to match.
We finally got up from our bench after some time has passed. As I held Dad’s arm to steady him for the walk back to the car, a little girl named Riley and her mother, Lori suddenly approached us. They had to have been nearby, but somehow we hadn’t noticed them before. Riley reached out and handed Dad a dandelion. “Wow!” I said, “She brought you a wish to make!” Riley looked puzzled and I learned she lives in Las Vegas where flowers do not grow wild in the ground. So she didn’t know it was a wish flower.
Dad loves children and he was more interested in looking at her than making a wish, but I held the dandelion before him and said, “Make a wish before it blows away.” Without saying a word only smiling at the little girl, he took the dandelion in his hand and closed his eyes for a few moments. He then expelled three quick breaths to blow its little seeds into the wind while Riley simply observed. As we prepared to leave, we thanked Riley for the flower and wished her well hoping she would now find another to make her own wish.
I don’t know what he wished for, but I’m positive it had something to do with my Mom, and the little girl’s gesture offered a perfect moment to our little time in the sun.
Saturday morning…. A voracious rain, hail and wind storm passed through before daylight waking me a few times. A smiley face text from my granddaughter woke me just before 8 a.m. I decided to get up although my body protested for more rest.
Last night I watched a few episodes of Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Netflix. I’ll blame the multiple images of poured coffee as the subliminal seed that caused me to brew a small pot of coffee this morning in lieu of my usual cup of tea. There really is nothing better than the aroma and gurgling tune of coffee brewing to announce “its morning!” There’s something very comforting about the fragrance permeating the house like a hypnotic melody.
With the shades now lifted and a cup in my hand, I settled on the couch to enjoy the view. While it’s not the view of my fantasies (like the house Diane Keaton’s character in ‘Something’s Got to Give offers’); the windows facing out to my back yard offer me a lovely view of the ever- changing sky, lush green tree tops swaying in the distance, and flocks of birds rising into the air in perfectly formed kite shapes that quickly vanish into the horizon. I always wonder about the one in the front point. How do they all know their places? Do they practice like marching bands until they’ve perfected their form or are they born with an assigned location? Ah the wonder of nature. Over time I hope to design a back yard with a view to appreciate and complement what nature has already provided.
Sitting in the quiet of morning, sipping my coffee and watching the heartbeat of nature from my window fills me with gratitude. The sun is peeking from beyond the tree tops and gently stretches its brilliant streaks of colored light across the sleepy blue-gray sky. Morning has broken as the Cat Stevens song says.
The sun has now fully risen, with only glistening drops of rain clinging to the petals and leaves of the rose bushes and trees as evidence of the storm earlier today. I started my morning mediation and prayers, but was distracted by the loveliness of Spring outside of my window. It as if God knew I needed to just take a breath. For today this is my meditation, to clear my mind of any thoughts and simply be still. Isn’t that what Spring feels like anyway? A chance to stop and breathe in the beauty of everything coming back to life.
I stepped outside to take a look at my garden. My rose bushes are abundant with velvety red buds and blossoms, the drake elm my Mom graphed from her tree for me before she passed away is almost as tall as me now (although I’m considered short). I’m relieved to see it survived the bitter winter we had this year. The fig tree I bought a couple of years ago had all but died from the excessive summer heat last year. I planted the remaining healthy -looking stick in a pot and it has grown to about 4 feet and is full of beautiful healthy leaves that I can already imagine lining my cheese platters for wine club with. A cherry tomato plant of the same height is dotted with small yellow blooms and I’ve found 2 tiny tomatoes forming.
My mother so loved her fig tree (below) and would get so excited when its leaves began to expand from the branches and the green buds of fruit began to form.. She stuck a Fall scarecrow from a craft store into its center to ward off birds eager to grab the fruit in their beaks, but evidence of their theft can still be seen here and there. Every year its limbs are heavy with green buds that swell and eventually ripen to a golden magenta brown. We always share its bounty with others to eat , use both the fruit and large green leaves on cheeseboards or stew into a delicious preserve. I hope my fig tree will look as abundant as hers did one day.
The herbs I planted along the side wall of the breakfast room (a bucket list item for years) have formed into healthy fragrant mounds with flowers about to bloom that I so enjoy garnishing my dishes with when I entertain.
Mediation is about taking time to be aware. Sitting in gratitude at nature’s beauty and it’s quite calming to just take time to access the progress of the things I’ve planted and appreciate the fruits they yield. There’s a certain pride that comes from growing things. Overall, meditative – my heart filled with gratitude ready to face the day!
For as long as I can remember I have always loved a hot, fragrant bath at the end of the day. After a long, stress filled day at work, followed by a long drive in traffic, the first thing I look forward to when I walk through the door of my home is a hot bath. Somehow, before starting dinner, going through the mail, and checking the news, I need to wash the day away in order to feel refreshed and relaxed for the rest of my evening.
Lavender has always been my fragrance of choice. It is known for is soothing properties and I enjoy the many different products that contain its pure fragrance, from body and essential oils, to scented epsom salts, foaming bubble bath, and bar or liquid soaps. My bedding is sprayed with lavender linen spray, I defuse the essential oil or dab a small amount on the wrists to help me sleep and my house is filled with the fragrance of lavender-peach plug-ins. I am so associated with the fragrance that my friends and family know it’s a safe go to when searching for a gift.
A while back, my daughter, her husband and my grandchildren were in town visiting. One morning the kids woke and searched the house for me. ( I had gone outside to water some plants so they couldn’t find me. ) When I opened the door to go back into the house, my daughter told me that the kids had been looking everywhere for me. They told her, “We can smell her, but we can’t find her.” We all laughed – my grandchildren are always telling me my house smells so good – so to them- I smell like lavender.
Cleopatra was known for her fragrant milk baths and elegant bath houses. When time permits, an extended bath is a luxury and is made more tranquil with candles, spa or meditation music on a bluetooth speaker or Alexa Echo, a glass of wine and thick luscious foamy bubbles. Even the busiest of Moms should be rewarded with a little time to refuel.
If you’ve had a rough day, or simply love to bathe like me. Grab a thick luxurious towel, close the tub stopper, open the tap and let the warm soothing water flow.
Years ago, I was introduced to “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne and the idea of vision boards from various guests that appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. I sorely miss all of the valuable resources that Oprah and her producers sought to share on her show and I’m forever grateful for all of the knowledge I gained there. Much in the way Oprah enjoyed sharing the information she discovered as instrumental in building her best life with others, I also enthusiastically wish to share the things I’ve learned with those in mine. There is such joy felt in passing it on.
Not long ago while shopping, I bumped into a work colleague from the past as I was about to leave the store. We embraced and visited for a few minutes to briefly catch up on the changes in our lives since last seeing one another. At one point she paused in our conversation to tell me that she never forgot a conversation we had years ago that lead me to ask her what she wanted in her life. I remember she had no idea what she wanted and really didn’t know how to figure out what she wanted. She reminded me that I had encouraged her to create a vision board, with images and words that represented what she wanted to do and experience in her life. She, like so many others I’ve encouraged to make vision boards, confessed while she had never forgotten my encouragement, she had never made a board. My response, “How will you ever know you’ve gotten what you wanted, if you don’t know what you want?”
I realize that maybe the idea of a vision board may just be overwhelming for some. If you’re not a dreamer like me, this process may seem daunting. It doesn’t mean that you have to want to be a rocket scientist or find the cure for diabetes. The compiled images should be of things that give you joy. Experiences and circumstances that make you smile and want to be part of. Think in terms of the Marie Kondo practice of “Tidying Up” – what brings you joy?
To begin, find a collection of decor, health, travel, cooking, art, organizing or sports magazines and simply search for images and phrases that make you smile and feel joyful. (Some libraries place the back issues of magazines by the door to take for free or try Good Will stores or ask friends for old magazines.) Sit alone and quietly or with very soft “meditative music” to clear your mind and focus all of your energy to your heart as you prepare to look through the photos. You may want to try the Kondo method and tap the magazines to wake them up as she suggests before opening the pages.
As you find images that inspire you, tear out the pages and put them into categoric stacks such as physical fitness, spirituality/faith, family & friends, relationships, travel, entertaining, hobbies, music or dancing. Maybe you want to quit smoking, but there’s no photo for that. See if you can find the words in bold print QUIT and SMOKING or something similar like SMOKE FREE and use this in lieu of a photo. You could even place a picture of a trophy or something you will reward yourself with – signifying when you’ve won the battle. Be creative. The categories for you will be different from mine or anyone else’s. You have to establish what you gravitate toward.
A poster board can be purchased at a local dollar, drug or craft store for as little as $1.00. Cut out the images and phrases you’ve chosen and begin to organize them in sections of interest on your board; areas of your life that you’d like to focus on improving, expanding or experiencing. Everyone wants meaningful relationships and quality time with family and friends, or a life partner.
In the beginning you may not have enough images to completely fill your board like mine. That’s not important, you may never fill it completely. This will take time, especially if you are not as clear as I was about what gives you joy. Don’t expect to accomplish the entire exercise in one sitting. What’s important is to get started, committing the time to let your heart speak to your mind and over time you may begin to realize things you want that you just had not set the time aside to dream about. Notice that I have multiple images of the same topic that for me strengthens my focus on that desire. Once you’ve started the process and glued down your images into categories, whenever you see another magazine look through it. You may find another image to add and gradually you may or may not fill the board. All that matters are those images you found that remind you of what you’re going to focus on to bring greater joy into your life.
Do you love to cook, entertain, travel? Have you ever wanted to paint or draw? Find the images and text of where you would like to travel to. Here I have images of travel, dining out, cooking, entertaining friends or family and baking with grandchildren of which all have manifested at some point in my life with the desire to continue in all of these areas.
Do you love to dance, but aren’t getting to dance often enough? Is there an instrument you want to learn to play? Are there musicians and vocal artists that you would love to see in concert? If so find images of people dancing or the names and photos of the vocal artists you want to see perform.
Is there a fear you want to overcome? Run a marathon? Do you want to research your family tree? Learn to ride a motorcycle or man a sail boat? Find images and create a section of things you want to accomplish.
Is there a car you’ve had your eye on for years? Does your bedroom, kitchen, living room look the way you want it to? Create a section with an image of the car you want; pictures of the bedroom or other room you would like to recreate. Concentrate on the colors in pictures that make you feel comfortable. Little by little, seek out similar items from those images and purchase them until over time you have created the room in the image that gave you joy! It may be a picture frame on the table, or a lamp; a throw pillow or rug. Each room in my home took a couple of years for me to find the items I wanted at an affordable price, in the right style or color.
Another way to create a vision board without searching for magazines and photos would be make a virtual version on Pinterest. When you can’t find the images you’re looking for in old magazines, you may find them there. This is how I found inspiration for decorating the rooms in my house. You also have the option of making private boards that no one else can see. However a virtual vision board is harder to look at frequently when it’s not on a wall that you pass daily, so that you can feel yourself having and doing the activities in your chosen images. Of course you could also printout the images from Pinterest to place directly on your board.
Highly successful people use vision boards, listen in on how they have manifested the lives they have from vision boards and actions. There are numerous testimonies out there. Steve Harvey has talked about his image board on his talk show and in this interview with Oprah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJNed-owcP8