With the constant barrage of negative news, it’s important to remind ourselves that our world is filled with decent people doing remarkable things every day…JUST BECAUSE.
With the constant barrage of negative news, it’s important to remind ourselves that our world is filled with decent people doing remarkable things every day…JUST BECAUSE.
Last January I placed an empty square glass vase on a side table in our living room. Next to it I stacked a small pile of colorful note cards and a pen. Then, after taking a deep breath and hoping not to sound too corny, I announced to my husband and daughter, “This is our happiness jar.”
“Our what?” my daughter asked, head cocked.
“Our happiness jar,” I repeated as if everybody had one.
My husband and daughter looked at each other with raised eyebrows and said, “OoooKaaay,” as if trying to appease a mentally unstable person.
I laughed at their response, but continued with resolve, Continue reading
“Oh my god”…find out how cinematographer, Louie Schwartzberg, defines those three words in his stunning nine minute TED Talk video, Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. You’ll see why over two million people have been wow’ed by this project.
“You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today…It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.” ~Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast
Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning cinematographer, director and producer who captures breathtaking images that celebrate life — revealing connections, universal rhythms, patterns and beauty.
Cork Millner, my writing mentor, whom many of you know I adored, passed away recently. I say “my” writing mentor because I felt a close connection to him, but clearly he was not just mine. His memorial service earlier this week was a testament to that.
Dozens of friends, family members, colleagues and former writing students all came to pay tribute to him.
Cork touched each of us in different ways, but it was clear we all shared one thing in common: gratitude for having had him in our lives.
The day of Cork’s memorial service couldn’t have been more spectacular. The sun arose with aplomb, casting a blaze of color across Santa Barbara’s morning sky, perfectly symbolizing the richness Cork added to our lives with his charm and colorful personality.
As we gathered for his service inside the cemetery’s intimate chapel, we were wrapped in Celtic harp music, then reminded by Reverend Miriam Lindbeck, Cork’s lovely, long-time friend and former writing student, of all the things we loved about Cork.
He was “old school stoic,” strong and private, yet sensitive and open. He loved fine wine, fine cars and fine writing. He was charming and dapper, and appreciative of humor–especially his own, which was wry and occasionally acerbic. He was confident, hard-working and fiercely proud of his family and his military service, which included 850 aircraft carrier landings.
And then, of course, there was his name. Continue reading
It’s my birthday week, and the simple act of adding another candle to my cake always stirs a reflective and celebratory cocktail of emotions for me. While many people loathe adding another candle to the top of their cake, I say, “Bring it on!” After all, celebrating another year aways beats the alternative, as far as I’m concerned.
Last year I shared my favorite music with you on my birthday and reflected on the impact it has on one’s life (click here if you missed it and care to take a peek).
This year I thought I’d share one of my favorite gifts, which I think you might appreciate as much as I do. It’s one I received a couple years ago from my dear friend, Kimberly Reeder-Riechel.
This seemingly delicate, yet nearly indestructible bird’s nest, sits in my office in a place of honor near my computer, and it knocks my socks off every time I look at it–especially when accompanied by Kimberly’s hand-written note: “A bundle of sticks can’t be broken.”
This gift reminds me not only of how much I appreciate Kimberly’s friendship and all the strong qualities that make up my fabulous friend, but it also reminds me that no matter how challenging life gets, I will always feel loved and supported by the many caring, talented and diverse “sticks” in my bundle of life.
This proverb, while simple, is a great reminder that as humans we are infinitely more powerful when we band together to support one another than when we try to navigate through life as individual “twigs.” After all, it’s a snap to break a single twig in half, but nearly impossible to break a sturdy bundle. Just try it and see what I mean.
Somehow this notion seems especially poignant this year as I delve into a particularly fiery social issue (click here to read more) and also push once again to finish my book in the midst of all life’s daily pulls. Knowing that my “sticks” are there to support me gives me a sense of calm and strength, and even patience.
This proverb also makes me think of others around me like my friends who are still trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy and those who are dealing with debilitating illnesses. It also makes me think of those who have lost parents recently or who are struggling to handle parenting issues of their own, all the while trying keep their humor and sanity. And of course, it makes me think of my writing and artist friends who continually try to keep the creative fires burning, who put themselves out there, who yearn to start or complete projects which have simultaneously inspired and tortured their creative souls.
I share my bundle of sticks with all of you to remind you that you are not alone, that we are all in this great big crazy world together; and to remind you that anything is possible with hard work and the support of those who care.
I also share my bundle of sticks to encourage you to be kind to yourself if you feel the need to ask for support. Asking for advice or help once in a while does not make you weak, but rather wise and strong. It shows that you are passionate about what you are doing and have the guts to reach out to make it happen.
The beauty of each of our bundles is that it continually grows and changes, getting stronger with each year and each new person who enters into our lives. I didn’t know my friend Kimberly when I was in third grade nor even college. In fact, I only met Kimberly a handful of years ago, when our daughters went to preschool together. I never could have imagined that such an important friendship could have develop in such a short time.
The same holds true with many of my writing and blogging friends. I may have only gotten to know some of you over the past year or so, but your words and personalities have added nothing but dazzling, colorful sticks to my ever-growing bundle.
On this day that I celebrate another candle, more importantly, I celebrate you, dear peeps, all the beautiful “sticks” in my life (you know who you are). Thank you for making my bundle impossibly strong and abundantly memorable and meaningful.
You may have noticed that I fell off the face of the blogosphere for a while. I didn’t leap off gracefully like so many talented bloggers who leave clues as to what they’ll be up to and when they’ll be back. I simply disappeared.
For that I apologize, especially to those of you who worried that something terrible happened.
LIfe has just been brimming full of…well…”stuff.” Good stuff. Bad stuff. Regular stuff. Ridiculous stuff. Magical stuff. Mundane stuff. Maybe you can relate.
But this post isn’t to talk about stuff.
This post is to say hello again and to thank you for making 2012 so memorable. One of the highlights of the year for me has been all the conversations we’ve had here on my blog (and yours). Your comments and your lives have inspired and dazzled me in ways you may never know.
For that I am grateful. And I’m grateful for all the connections, virtual and otherwise, blogging has created. It is a gift I do not take for granted.
As 2013 fast approaches, I hope you’ll think about swinging back by on New Year’s Day. Many of you know I LOVE the start of each new year. Woohoo! This year is no different. Except, well, one thing is decidedly different…
I wrote this post a year ago, but it makes me happy to share it again, especially knowing I was able to add even more to my list this year. I hope you’ll share your list with me.
• • •
This post started out simply enough; in the spirit of Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday), I thought I’d share the top ten things that make me happy and grateful. Within a matter of minutes though, my list became enormous, quickly growing from 10 to 110, then, well…you can see what happened.
My peeps, of course, are what pack my heart most with gratitude…as do my dear friends and the fact that I’m healthy and still relatively fit. Most of all though, I’m grateful that I’m still grateful; that life still feels like an outrageous gift that is meant to be celebrated each day. Here are a few more things that make me happy and grateful:
My husband’s cooking
Dining al fresco
Laughing until I cry
The view out my window
The way I feel after a long run
The smell of freshly ground coffee
The feel and smell of a new book
Sand between my toes and hours at the beach
Learning to say, “What the hell, you only live once!” at a very early age
Random acts of kindness
Being surrounded by talented people
Books, books, and more books
Small world moments
People who work hard at making a difference
The smell of eucalyptus trees
My daughter’s hugs
Knowing I can always stand on my own two feet
My three brothers
The blogging community
Writers whose words swirl into magic
Finding something I’m passionate about and diving in head first
Reading in bed on a Sunday morning
When the right words come to mind at the right time
The sound of rain
Sun streaming through my window when I write
Finding a perfect moment in each day
Quotes that inspire me
A fire in the fireplace
Airplanes that take me on new adventures
Discovering–new places, ideas, cultures, books, music
My daughter’s art
People with nice manners
When my husband brings me coffee in bed
Long meandering conversations with my BFF
Wrap around porches
Learning something new
Real deal lemonade
The smell of Coppertone
Freshly baked bread
The power of our imaginations
Getting smarter as I get older
Her heart flitted and fluttered, and her skin prickled with excitement as she remembered all the things she loved about the pursuit of excellence.
Her unbridled enthusiasm inspired a river of words to flow from this writer’s fingertips.
Then just as suddenly as Muse’s inspiration took hold, Muse quickly and purposely flitted away.
She didn’t disappear without a flourish though.
No. No. No.
In classic Olympic form, she leaped onto the balance beam, glided across, arms gracefully extended, toes pointed. Then she carried out several impossible flips and dips before finally sailing through the air in an eye-popping dismount.
As she landed she shot me a knowing smile and whispered, “Balance, my friend. Balance. Remember there’s more to life than writing.”
Huh? Wait a minute. Isn’t she supposed to inspire me to produce my most creative work and encourage me to write, write, and then write some more?
“Step away from your computer,” she continued, “and savor these delicious weeks of summer with your friends and family.”
Why is she telling me to relax and focus on savoring summer?
Muse clearly knows me better than I know myself.
She’s been watching the ridiculous pace I’ve been keeping this summer, trying to squeeze in way too many events and activities in far too few hours, all the while trying to consistently produce fresh ideas for my blog every few days.
She has seen how in the midst of my blaze of daily activities that I’m often more focused on the end result rather than the journey. More than once she has cringed when she has seen me pay little attention to life’s gorgeous brushstrokes, and even less to its rich details.
Muse has also noticed the crown of hypocrisy I’ve been wearing. While I continually tell my daughter to slow down and enjoy what she is doing while she is doing it, rather than always focusing on what’s next, I continue to blaze on in perpetual motion, always thinking about what I should be doing next.
All of this has made Muse dizzy and cranky, especially as she has watched my mind spin like a hamster wheel. Knowing that blogging only perpetuates my need to be in constant mental motion, she has grown fussy and tired of trying to keep pace.
“If you’re not writing a post, you’re thinking about a post,” she has complained. “If you’re not thinking about a post, you’re worrying about when and what you should post next.”
I tried to ignore her annoying complaints, but Muse finally decided to put her foot down once and for all, the only way she knew how–by simply flitting away and wrapping me in a snug blanket of writer’s block.
Muse did not utter another word. She didn’t need to; her silence was clear: “Creativity needs time to percolate while living life, not just while writing about it. Turn off your computer and follow the advice you always give your daughter. Walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.”
So now you know why I haven’t been writing this past month. I’ve been living large—taking the advice of my wise and silent muse—savoring summer with my friends and family—enjoying life one slow tick on the clock at a time, and reveling in the richness of its myriad details.
Stepping away from my computer has allowed me to…
“Hey guys, how were oceans made?”
When one of our daughter’s classic, epic questions swirled from the back seat of the car to the front, then danced around our heads, I could do little more than smile, take a deep breath, and hope with every ounce of my being that it would land squarely on the shoulders of my husband.
Being sleep-deprived from our puppy’s middle-of-the-night antics, I could barely muster up enough energy to go get coffee, let alone have a deep, philosophical conversation about the universe. I had the patience of a flea.
I sat there waiting, and silently willing my husband to come up with a brilliant answer, so I wouldn’t have to. When he finally began, “Well sweetie, that is one of life’s great questions…” then launched into an exquisite dissertation about philosophy, religion and scientific theory, my eyes brimmed with tears.
Those words spilling from his mouth reminded me once again why I love this man so much, and why he is the epitome of a rock star father and husband.
It also made me appreciate just how “present” Jeffrey is in our daughter’s life. I don’t remember ever having a deep, philosophical conversation with my dad—at least nothing more profound than, “Rocky road or vanilla?” In fact, my dad never did any of the things Jeffrey does with our daughter. He never helped me with my homework, read to me, organized play dates, or took me on bike rides. Nor did he cook meals, help plan birthday parties, do artwork with me, set up lemonade stands, or take me on special dates. And the thought of him being a room parent or a chaperone on a school field trip? That makes me laugh out loud. I don’t think he even knew my teachers’ names.
But here’s the thing: I have nothing but fond memories of my dad and my childhood. Even though he was far from perfect and far from uber involved, I felt loved and nurtured by him. I don’t know if that’s the magic of a father or if that’s how I choose to remember him. Whatever the case, on this Father’s Day, I send a big shout out to my dad, the first man in my life who made me feel strong, smart and special.
I celebrate not only who he was and how hard he worked, but the impact he made on my life. Not only did he always treat me like an equal to my three older brothers, but he instilled in me a work ethic that has stayed with me my whole life. Most importantly, he believed in me—no matter what crazy idea I chased after—like figuring out how to get myself through college, even though he knew he wouldn’t be around to help me pay for it.
The last five words he uttered to me before he died summed up his style and our relationship best. He simply smiled through the pain and morphine and said, “You are a tough bird,” which translated to: “I love you, be strong, and carry on. I know you will be fine without me.”
I’ve leaned on those simple five words many times over the years, and because of them I’ve always known I could stand on my own two feet and take on life’s adventures without being afraid.
A father’s words can be profoundly powerful. I can only imagine the strength our daughter is soaking up from Jeffrey. She may not fully understand or appreciate all that her daddy-o does or says quite yet, but I have no doubt it’s all sinking into the right places, slowly building a foundation that will support her throughout her life.
So here’s to you, my rock star husband. Thank you for being the person you are and for making fatherhood a priority. Thank you for answering the tough questions when I haven’t had my coffee, and thank you for always making our daughter feel strong, smart and special.
I know the world is your canvas. The fact that you have chosen to create your most meaningful art right here at home means everything.
Happy Father’s Day.
If there were one word to best describe the blogging community, it would have to be “SUPPORTIVE.” In the short time I’ve been blogging, I’ve been bowled over time and time again by the extreme kindness, generosity, and unwavering support of fellow bloggers.
And now I’ve been knocked over once again–this time with awards from several writers whom I enjoy and respect immensely. Each brings brightness and creativity to the web, and makes blogging not only uplifting, but infinitely fascinating.
Deborah Batterman at The Things She Thinks About has nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award. Deborah is not only a talented blogger, but the author of a wonderful collection of short stories, entitled, Shoes, Hair, Nails. She is perhaps the most generous author/blogger/social media whiz I’ve met–continually creating exceptional content for her own site and also sharing relevant, entertaining and just plain cool stuff with us via Facebook, Twitter and SheWrites. I have no idea where she finds the time to do all this, but it’s definitely worth seeing what Deborah is up to. Click on the links above or follow her on Twitter: @DEBatterman.
Melissa at Play 101 has nominated me for the Candle Lighter Award.
“The Candle Lighter Award is an award for a post or blog that is positive and brings light into the world.
The Candle Lighter Award belongs to those who believe, who always survive the day and who never stop dreaming, who do not quit but keep trying.”
It is a tremendous honor to receive this from Melissa because she exemplifies this award. Melissa is an extraordinary writer (former journalist, news anchor, all around smarty pants—in the best sense). She writes about life and children, and always leaves you wanting more. Not only is her blog filled with thoughtful content, but the comments she leaves on other blogs makes you yearn to write (and think) as eloquently as she does.
Arindam at Being Arindam has nominated me for the HUG Award (Hope Unites Globally). Arindam is a blogger who lives in India and shares his universal views on love and life through his words and pictures. His posts are always heart-felt, adding a glimmer of insight and hope about the broader world. I’m honored to receive this award from him.
The HUG Award© is for people with an expectant desire for the world, for which they: Hope for Love; Hope for Freedom; Hope for Peace; Hope for Equality; Hope for Unity; Hope for Joy and Happiness; Hope for Compassion and Mercy; Hope for Faith; Hope for Wholeness and Wellness; Hope for Prosperity; Hope for Ecological Preservation; Hope for Oneness.
“People do not have to give up or compromise their own religious, spiritual, or political beliefs to qualify for the Hope Unites Globally HUG Award©. They qualify for the HUG Award© when, without bias or prejudice, they use their resources and gifts to make the world a better place for everyone.” (see this link for all the information regarding this award: HUG).
The Kreativ Blogger Award asks that I share seven things about myself with you that you don’t already know. This link tells about as much as anybody could ever possibly want to know about me: A Bazillion Things That Make Me Happy and Grateful (click on it if you’re interested).
The best part of receiving these awards is nominating others and paying it forward–sending a virtual hug and a high-five to fellow bloggers. Please check out their blogs and see why I’m thrilled to be nominating each of them.
I AM NOMINATING THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE FOR CANDLE LIGHTER AWARD:
Tracey Baptiste at Knitting with Pencils
Brenda Moquez at Passionate Pursuits
Jessica Winters Mireles at Allegro non Tanto
I AM NOMINATING THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE FOR THE KREATIV BLOGGER AWARD:
Amber Dusick at Crappy Pictures
Harper Faulkner at All Write
Cindy Brown at Everyday Underwear
I AM NOMINATING THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE FOR THE HUG AWARD:
Nancy MacMillan at Blog of a Vet’s Wife
Tina Barbour at Bringing Along OCD