Summer’s Bliss…

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Well, I’m back! I left for two weeks in Europe and fell off the wagon, so to speak. Let me explain. I’m going to be super transparent, so hopefully you’ll appreciate my search for happiness, here, in this world we all live in. I have lupus. It was no big deal for years. I could do as I pleased until two summers ago at the beach. I sat under my umbrella, with 50 SPF coating my limbs, but that ocean called to me, as she always does, and I, unable to elude her allure, waded in. For hours. Dumb me. I spent the rest of vacation in bed, joints screaming in pain, with my body reacting wildly to the sun.

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Since that last beach vacation, I have been managing my new life with this strange illness. See, I’m very affected by sun. On those blissfully sunny days when I choose to run errands, in short sleeves (hey, it’s 90 out there!), even with sun block the sun reaches my hair, my face, and toes and it’s back to bed for me. So I haven’t felt like writing about finding happiness. Why read about a woman who’s dealing with things that get in her way to happiness? And then it made sense. After three months of flailing around, I think I can get us there. To my happy place. And to yours…

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I went to Munich in April so I could stroll around in a jacket, in coolish weather, with no fear of beach sunshine, and it worked. That river above is in Munich. Beautiful, right? Munich mesmerized me.  I had a Starbucks right across the street from our hotel, and we walked miles each day, soaking in the city’s vibe. When I came home, some people asked about every sight in London and Munich, clucking their tongue in disbelief when I relayed, that, no, we did not run around ticking sights off a tourist’s list. We discovered the city at our pace. We took our time. And that made all the difference in the world. It made me happy.

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When I came home I brought out my plants and pillows for the summer, and I found ways to love the long days. Under the shade of my maple, I can read or work and still glimpse that sunny sky. I love to wander out in the evenings. I need to look up at the sky to see how she’s feeling. Do you notice the light and how it changes  from week to week? I forget to feel sick when I’m looking up.

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I’m learning to love the rainy days. I didn’t much, growing up in Syracuse. But a day like the one above gave me the chance to roam around with my daughter. We took her dogs along for a very long walk, and we talked about everything and nothing at all. People like that make me happy. The ones who are easy to be with. The happy people in our lives.

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Warm summer rain is a pleasure. As a child I would run out to play in the puddles and little streams forming in my yard.  The rain felt like little warm kisses. Take a walk in a warm rain and see if you like it. Feel it. Raise your head to the sky.  Revel in a summer’s rainy day. (This is the other pond at our farm. The North Pond.)

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Summer is here! You can find the beauty everywhere in this season of plenty. I’m learning new ways. I look out of many open windows these days. I have to. If you’re blessed enough to revel in the sunshine, do it. Go outside. Walk. Sit outdoors and enjoy a chilled white wine. Or tea. 🙂 Find happiness in these effortlessly sunny days. Open your door and find a slice of happiness. I might be inside if the sun is bright, but at night, I’ll join you. We have fireflies to catch. And smiles to share with the people we love.

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wading deeper…

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How was your week? Your weekend? Hopefully, you’re up to your elbows in contentment. I’ve been thinking about different ways to experience contentment and peace, wherever we are in life. Happiness is wonderful, but if we can nudge our way over to peace, that’s saying something. We all have different approaches, and as long as we aren’t hurting ourselves or others, there is a beauty in our paths. I enjoy watching people who seems genuinely pleased, happy or enjoying some peace (and quiet, perhaps?). I think that’s why we like sitting outside at a café in Paris, watching the world go on, while we sip our espresso or slowly drink some wine.

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I’m looking forward to a full week of Harry Potter trivia nights at a small bar my daughter frequents. I’ve been reading the books and actually studying them, earmarking relevant pages, because my kids just watched the movies, so they’ll enjoy some beverages, while their mom tackles the questions. What are you looking forward to? Do you spice up your week with dinners out? Maybe catch a movie?

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Adding a bit of sweetness to your day is wonderful. I admire my vegan daughter, as she discovers ways to feel better. I loved how I felt after a five mile run. I found peace, pounding out the miles, one by one. No headphones, no music, except the sound of my breath and that of other people living; mowing, walking, gardening, eating dinner outside, and dogs barking. Do you have a way to serenity? Happiness? Peace?

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As we walk hand in hand through spring, let’s celebrate most days. I know some are too busy, but try to remember these days. The ones where you work longer than anyone else, and dinner is a cup of ramen noodles. But there are days filled with potential. I knew a couple who set a beautiful table on their second story porch. For breakfast. They woke early so they could have a relaxed and enjoyable morning. I like that. When I’m going through my days, with a long list of to-do’s, I stop and savor a chocolate. Yesterday I ate a whole bar of chocolate in the afternoon, and I savored every bite. Let’s savor these lengthening days. Let’s wade in a bit deeper.

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One night in college on our mile hike back from the bars to our house, my roommates and I noticed the town’s only water fountain (think big here, not the one your drink from) was foaming and frothing over with bubbles. I immediately jumped in and started laughing and singing. I remember how much fun my girlfriends and I had that night at that moment. A fountain full of bubbles! at midnight! Never mind that my hair was a matted mess when I woke the following morning.

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I literally waded in a fountain. Of happiness, if you ask me. That’s how I remember it. Even the bathtub can be an incredibly soothing escape. Light your candles, drink a glass of champagne and float away on bath bubbles. We all have our thing.

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There’s another way I have found my way to peace, and that’s reading the bible. I know it might be a turn-of for some, but it’s never failed me in twenty-eight years. I find peace in the words, the psalms soothe my mind, the words of Jesus calm my soul. What do you turn to when you’re looking for a pice of peace? We all have our ways. I used to take some medicine to calm myself. I know some people prefer a glass of wine or beer with a side of buttered popcorn in the evenings. Or a long, steamy shower for ten minutes or more. Draw a bath, light a candle and drift away.

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Swaddle yourself in a beautiful blanket, light the fire or fire pit, listen to some awesome music, and if you come across a chance for a night out, and you have’t been with your friends for a while, do it! Then wade deep in contentment. Even in that cramped apartment. Or that dream home you’ve just moved into. You know why? Because you will look back at these years as some of your best. You will laugh, later, and have fantastic stories to tell. Be happy now.

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Choose happiness.

Until next time…

 

beautiful embrace…

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We’re looking for the beauty in the everyday, right? What if I told you that I’m sitting in my favorite spot in this house, listening to the thunder, and since it’s still daylight, I’m watching the clouds for the peculiar green they become when bad weather is on the way.  I wish I could have a storm almost everyday of the year. Last night I stayed up long into the night working on my computer, when I suddenly spied lightning, and I eventually decided to put down my work and picked up a book I’ve long been in the middle of. I enjoyed every flash of light in the sky (and the gentle rumblings of far off thunder) and it continued for hours. But storms in our lives, figuratively? Umm…

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We’re supposed to have another line of storms run through here later tonight, and while I’m looking forward to another night of lightning, I’m not looking forward to the storms in my life. I’d much rather have a life of sunny days, except the storms in life make us look at things we need to see. Bad behaviors, bad habits, bad relationships or a string of accidents, these things make us feel like a tornado ran right though our lives. But these storms can be beautiful, if only we look for it.

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One of the reasons I waited to write was due to a storm I’m going through, and I just didn’t feel like I could write about happiness when I was feeling anything except that. A few days out and I’m smiling again. And though I lost my appetite I still breathed in the scent of my hyacinths. I ate peanut butter cups and called that protein (I know!) I can write about storms even while I’m hearing the deep bass booming of thunder rumbling in. Sometimes it seems like the tempest will never end, but it does. It will.

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Those storms in our life are necessary but not always wanted. And some storms are much larger, bringing a tornado into our lives, and we wonder when we’ll have all the debris picked up. Will we ever? Yes. We will. Look for the beauty where you can find it, while we’re picking up the debris laden life that’s ours. I’m not trying to be all sunshine and happiness, but rainbows are real. After the rain clears out enough, I look for them. Do you still have your dog to cuddle with? Are most of your kids okay (I swear there always seems to be one in need…or maybe that’s just me), then celebrate with them all but console the one who hurts. Go look at the pictures of you from way back. Maybe you need to look at your wedding pictures again to remind yourself why you married in the first place. Look at all that beauty.

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Keep your head up, beautiful one. (Because you are!) If you’re cleaning up the debris from a storm, like I am, vow to change one thing and move forward. Mine is reading every. single. day. What would yours be? And the next thing is to love your own company. Unless you are an incredible extrovert who feeds off being around others constantly (I’m applauding you right now), then go find your people! Oh, below are some tag sale finds. No more than ten dollars. That’s a bunch of beauty for a song. So maybe retail therapy really works, as long as it’s small and not too often, right?

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I have a daughter who needs to always have people around, so when my introvert went off to college this past fall and didn’t like it right off, she told him to take the hammock she gave him and string it up between the trees where some random people are hanging out. Extrovert daughter informed my introvert son that she met people doing that very thing. And she loved talking to strangers. (She’s still learning stranger danger…) The introvert found friends quietly and not in a hammock. My point? What works for one does not work for all. Look at yourself and decide to love you. Decide to find something beautiful this week. Decide to make one small change. And you don’t have to sit in a hammock and talk to strangers. But maybe listen to the thunder and look for the rainbow.

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I’m now listening to the birdsong that signals the end of day. I’m lucky enough to have a nest just outside my bedroom window, and I am being serenaded so beautifully. Bruno Mars has nothing on this guy outside my window! I hope you have a beautiful week. And yes, I will be back on Saturday.

Until next time…

 

Breathless Wonder…

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I’ve been waiting weeks for today. The first day of spring. Not calendar spring, but that undeniable mist of green covering every bush, ready to burst forth with tender leaves, and daffodils nodding their pretty yellow heads that, yes, it’s here. My daffodils are trusty and stood up in defiance of an early spring snowfall, whereas my magnolia tree? She waited and now those creamy white blooms reach out heavenward and I know it. I’m in love with the world again.

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How can anyone feel ill on such a beautiful day, I once asked myself, about a hundred years ago. Because I was. I thought twenty year olds stayed healthy until old age dawned. You know, like, around age forty at least. I smile at my younger self. I can laugh at her too. Especially on days when happiness is the creek running fast, gurgling songs that make you pay attention to her. And did I mention the bluebirds I’ve seen in my yard?

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How can you not feel gloriously happy when bluebirds show up at your bird feeder? The gentle spring rains are adding their music to my day, while I sit here in the quiet and listen to the pattering on the roof, snug underneath, thick socks still keeping toes cozy. Don’t days like this feel wonderful? Happiness, like love, is so much easier when hope blooms. And it is. Some of you have already thrown open your windows to catch the warm whispers of spring breezes, while others wait patiently for old man winter to finally move out for good.

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Happiness looks you in the mirror in the mornings, because that sun is starting to shine so brightly, that even wrinkles look good. Yes, I am that enthralled by spring. Aren’t we all lured outdoors to bear witness to the dawn, and the gold-hued world she offers on sun drenched mornings? I’m called out in the evenings, the colors feel more muted and soothing, and I love holding tea in my hands, while drinking in the purples, chasing the pinks, that follow the orange in the sky.

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Even if you’re sick, in body or heart, take time to be outside in the freshness of this spring. You need time out for you, and ten minutes of sitting on your front step is pouring life and love back into your body. Share the moment with others and add to your happiness. I like to pick out the evening star and remember the night my father taught me the basic constellations. If you can get away from city lights, look into the night sky and be filled with stars and planets.

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On a late spring evening when I lived farther south, I stood under the whisperings of a willow tree with several friends, ready to head home. My best friend’s brother reached out to my thirteen year old self, to catch my attention, and I’ll always remember him saying with a measure of wonder in his voice,”Your skin feels so soft.” It caught me off guard. Was that a good thing? Soft skin? Because a thirteen year old girl back then didn’t know if she was pretty or pretty enough. At least, I didn’t. I wanted dark hair and dark skin, but had been handed very light hair with almost blonde skin, so I didn’t know if what I saw looking at me in the mirror was okay. When the guy I secretly liked said that to me, I felt beautiful and light, as though I had drunk a glass of wine.

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Why do I bring that up? Because most of us are lucky enough to have had springs of discovery, where we found our footing in a precarious world. We only have a handful of springs before responsibility calls our name and we enter the race. Busyness claims us, one by one. But don’t let the cares of this world keep you from feeling love, wonder, happiness and hope. We were made for these days. May wide-eyed wonder fill your days (and evenings) this week.

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Until next time…

If we only knew…

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Isn’t this candle wonderful? For us, I mean. Since we’re on a happiness journey, it’s fun to  find little treasures to grace our days. I decided to give this sweet candle away. There really is such a thing as too much of a good thing, which, in my case, means I am candled out. But the message is perfect. Be happy today. I think the “be” is particularly poignant, since someone close to me is hurting and I’m not feeling the “be” right now.

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Let me explain. Someone I love dearly was completely blindsided by the love of their life (thus far) telling them they were no longer loved or at least, not loved as much. I feel their pain. It’s hard to sit on the sidelines and watch someone you love swim through the deep end of murky, unknown waters. Rejection is never fun, but going through a tough time helps us learn more about ourselves. And we discover resilience. Eventually, moments of sunlight give way to days of sun washed happiness. We find our way.

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I’ve always wondered about (and envied) the people who find love the first time they dip their toes in the dating waters. They stay together, marry, and still stay together. They didn’t muck through the mud of rejection. Are they as happy as I am, since I loved a few people on my way to the guy I really fell for. And married. Has your heart been burned? Frozen on a frigid night? Have you thought happiness would never run through your veins again? That the laughter spilling from your soul was quenched? And you thought it would last forever?

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The person I gave this sweet candle to just wandered in from several months of realizing the one she thought she was settling down with, meant she was settling for a lot of bad. (I didn’t know until right before their break-up.) She can light that candle tonight and smile with true happiness again. It’s back, but it seemed as though night claimed her heart forever. Have you been there, ever?  I wonder if there isn’t something necessary about the process. About feeling sad, left out and alone. Finding our way through tough times just might lead us to a much better place; a place filled with a sense of happiness and contentment. And peace.

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Our souls are fragile. To be in love feels heady, warm and wonderful. To have loved over many, many years is bottled happiness. I would “be” happy today if it weren’t for one close to me being rocked to the core. Because I know what that feels like. Actually, add in a summer’s worth of girls on the side, and that’s what I faced. Long ago, when I wore the body of a college girl, tanned from a summer of sun, I eagerly returned to college to find a cheat where I once knew a kind, sweet boy. You too? Huh. And if not that, maybe you’ve felt the sting of rejection at the hands of friends. Maybe your family. Where is the happiness in those days? I’ll tell you.

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Time. It heals. The love of others sustained me, too. Roommates, determined to see my smile, made me laugh. In spite of the cold center in my heart. Frost had touched it, and I never thought it would feel warmth again. But it did. Oh please, know your breaking heart, for whatever reason is going to come out whole, will feel love, will thaw and seem light as the air on a warm and breezy May evening. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve walked that road with each of my children now too.

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Be happy today? Did you also receive a handful or a heartful of sadness today? Hang on through this ride, because you will find your way to blissed out, singing at the top of your lungs in the shower kind of day soon. You’ll weather the storm. Even if someone just told you they don’t love you…anymore. Or as much. Or that they found another love. Or someone told you how wrong you are, when you meant well. Are you wandering through waves of misunderstanding? Are you being shunned? Does it feel like that?

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I so want you to find your happiness today. Be happy. Tonight too. But if you only want to huddle under a blanket and eat Oreo’s until midnight, go ahead. I think chocolate is a part of a well-balanced diet. Because I know this…

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You will have days and nights where you will feel drunk with happiness. Love you enough to find kind hearts to surround you and make you laugh in spite of yourself. Take those runs. Walks. Do jazzercise like my 77 year old dad. Then find a small treat and bring it home. One red rose. A sweet tea (I had two today! with less sugar, yesss!). A dance party in the kitchen while listening to great music that you have to sing with. Even if your nose is stuffy from crying. Because you will find your way back to happy.

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I have to admit my heart still hurts tonight. Writing about finding happiness doesn’t mean I feel super happy every moment of the day. But this will pass. Happy days will be here again. By the time May runs into me, I hope to be taking pics of sun laced days where being happy isn’t something to aspire to. I’ll just fall into it, languidly. I hope you will too. We’ll look out for each other along the way. So try to be happy today. Be happy today. Find it. It’s out there, waiting for you. I promise.

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Until next time…

 

 

Make a beautiful day…

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A lovely book, its pages begging for words, and a simple, pure, white candle waiting for a spark. Finding the beauty on some days feels easy, doesn’t it? You step outside on a bright, sunshine filled, blue sky day, and the world beckons you. So many possibilities, so few limitations, and off you go. Whether that day ends as beautifully is occasionally up to us, but most of the time, the power rests in others, in circumstances, or in our perception of that day.

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Right now for me? Most days don’t start out super sunny, bright and wonderful, but I am continually learning to change my perception of what a beautiful day looks like. Time does that to each of us. Here I sit, in Chicago, for a fun weekend, that has been wonderful. I had no idea St. Patrick’s Day was such a huge holiday in Chicago. We’re here for a basketball game, but the rest of Chicago seems to be wearing bright shamrock green, filled to the brim with beer, or Irish whiskey, and I’ve encountered many oversized leprechauns. Did I mention the Chicago River? As green as the clovers on my cups in these pictures.

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I love the enthusiasm of today. If some people have had a wee bit too much of liquid happiness, I overlooked that. Mostly, I witnessed grins on a cold day, laughter among friends and strangers alike on a mercifully sunny day, and acts of kindness many times over. So why am I sitting outside my hotel room to tell you this? My perception. My eleven o’clock at night take on the day. I told someone a truth that I didn’t know how to soften. Nothing major, except, I could have placed the truth on a better day. A Monday? Just starting out the week, let’s get back to business and by the way, let me add to your rainy Monday kind of feeling? Yes, that would have been better. I’m learning. Still.

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I want everyone to feel loved, cherished and special everyday, but perception plays a part in our time together, our lives and our dreams. I’ve had days where I think I’m just every kind of fabulous and been side-swiped by the realization that I’m not. Not super wonderful, and that someone caught more than a fleeting glance of my flaws and addressed them. So what do we do when that happens to us? Feeling hurt is valid. Taking an hour to nurse a wound might be okay, even. But to let a night fester with silence and brooding? Why would we? When it is within our grasp to let it go.

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Before I burst into song here about letting some things go, maybe lots of things, I want you to know I try to find the beauty in many things. I can’t go in the sun anymore? Who needs it! Loving the beach, the feel of ocean waves carrying me along, well, I hear London and Seattle are places to explore and decidedly not sun soaked. Perception. While at the spa earlier this evening, the workers described their loathing of this drunken day. I thought most of the people were lovely, fun-loving and really, seriously, not drunk. (I may be oblivious here.) Perception. What if talking to the green people resulted in a friendship, a romance or a beautiful conversation?

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And I took this lovely day, filled with green rivers and bagpipers and made someone sad. The way my stomach feels, way up in my throat, heart pounding and decidedly wrung out, over truths that hurt, is that a perception I can change. Can we all do that? Can we take a rain pouring in our face day and twist it into beauty? Yes. Dwell on the good that happened, is happening or could possibly occur. Perception is the path, the key, and the way. If we look for the drunks, we’ll see just them. If we look for sadness, it’s out there, around the corners. Don’t go there. Look for someone beautiful. Something pretty awesome. You.

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I’m even smiling, out here in the hallway, because my attempt at Easter decorating is making my front hall table look like a deranged bunny king rules the entryway. Back to beauty, happiness and kindness. We all have tough days, filled with hard truths and someone informing us we are not terribly wonderful. Right? But if we think we’re doing our best to bring grace, love and truth spoken in love, and if we try to get better at this living our lives this way, isn’t that good? Doesn’t that make you all kinds of wonderful?

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We can find something beautiful. Even on the worst day. When I take walks, I always look up. Clouds and the colors of the sky fascinate me. I ran one night into an oncoming lightning storm and could not look down. I’ve twisted ankles because of this. And one daughter loves looking at the ground when we walk. And she pulls up the most perfect four-leafed clovers I’ve ever seen. She does this on most walks. Perception. I would rather go a lifetime without a lucky clover and never miss the clouds amassed in the sky right before a storm. And she? Would rather find the diamond in the rough by the side of the road.

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Even on the happiest days, some sadness seeps in. But let’s get through this week, together, willing our eyes and minds to find the beauty. Alter our perception. When a truth must be told, be as kind as you can. Kindness is cultivated through hours of practice. And be kind to you. You deserve love, goodness, and kindness too. I’m heading back into my room now. My perception has changed. And the hotel is slowing growing quieter. Did I mention that my daughter found a diamond lying on the side of a road. Just a small chip. But her perception during our strolls led her to that beautiful chip of diamond perfection. So look at the world only the way you can. In your way, because you know what?

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Hey, this sign says it all. I didn’t place it there. Some kind soul out there did that. And those people? They are diamonds in the rough, ready to be discovered. Enjoy beauty this week. Especially when you look at yourself. You are amazing, you know.

Until next week…

 

 

Within our grasp…

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How is March going for you? I think those of us who live in the warmer parts of the nation are feeling spring tugging at their sleeves, begging them to take off that jacket and enjoy the warm sunshine. Those of us farther north are gritting out teeth while we look for snowdrops and crocuses to push up through the brown ground, or through the endless slush of grey snows. I live in the middle, so the grass is greening up (and I heard someone close by mowing their lawn this week, and no! it’s way to early to begin that) and my daffodils are blooming. But we had snow last night at the farm. This is a month of waiting.

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Waiting requires patience and that’s difficult. I even broke open my St. Patrick’s Day candy a bit early. Green looks so good after months of brown, taupe, and grey. Those grey days pull me down sometimes. You? Can you march right through a string of grey days, armed with inner fortitude? I think we all have ways of dealing with endless grey days, whether they be outside or in our heart. A cup of steaming coffee, espresso or tea in the morning helps. Coming home to a glass of Chardonnay or two fingers of bourbon is something to look forward to for others. Me? My espresso when the morning is rough, followed by copious amounts of sweet tea. And yes, sugar is bad for me, but it is my vice. Okay, yes, chocolate is my vice too. I know. I should gnaw on a carrot stick rather than savor that dark chocolate, but I don’t. How about you?

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If you’re going to tell me a five mile run followed by a green shake (not a Shamrock shake) is your pick-me-up, I will act impressed. But. I can’t do that right now. Maybe never. And if you’re in the same boat as I am, what do we do, while we wait for sun soaked days filled with lilac scented breezes?

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Several things come to mind. Bringing spring inside helps. Some prefer escaping into a book, their video games, meeting up with someone. I was on Facebook last night and a young man messaged me. He went to school with my daughter, and basically he said he felt very lonely. I wasn’t going to bring up loneliness this week, but this conversation  happened. I tried to make suggestions for him, but it’s tough for introverts to get out there. Just stepping through the door of a new place sends shivers down their backs. I think we all need to cultivate a couple of friendships.

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Making the effort to join a group where you’ll find friends is vital. Join something. Yoga, soccer, book groups, running groups or just about anything you dream up is out there. Walk out your door and join. And if you’re connected, fabulous! Can you look for the people on the side? Not talking to anyone? Just watching? While your laughing away with your besties, can you look for a new friend to pull into your circle? Can we all be more inclusive? What is that old saying?

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Step outside your comfort zone. That’s what we’re told. Do something new, and grab someone kind of new to go along. I just went with a new friend to construct a rustic sign for my farmhouse/cabin. I felt like I was back in shop class, and as intimidated as I am by drills and hammers, I persevered and the sign looks okay. Nice, even. But the best part? Getting to know a new friend better and laughing our way through the event.

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Tonight I’m going to a play with one of my kids. They know one of the actors, which I think is way cool. Last night, though? I stayed in all day. In my sweats. I worked on my book, with plenty of breaks spaced between chapters. I was alone. By myself. Part of me liked it and another part didn’t so much. It really is a balance, isn’t it? Time alone and time together. Ready for a story? Then, I’m done, promise.

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When my kids were little, my mom and dad organized and paid for (thank you!) a vacation at Disneyland. We stayed in a house about 45 minutes away from the Magic Kingdom, because my dad is thrifty. He woke us up every morning at 6:00 a.m. and my brother and sister helped me get the kids dressed, fed and ready for a day of happiness. We were in the van by 7:00, parked, walked, and stood in line for early access. Then it was five hours of rides, ice cream and running after my kids. My dad drove us all back for nap time around 2:00. (I think it was his nap time to be honest.) I played in the pool with my two older kids for a few hours, and then up! and back! on the long drive to Disneyland. From 5:00 until 10:00 p.m. Long drive home. Then some relatives would visit once we got back to the house, and my father slipped up to bed, while my brother and I yawned and did everything we could to indicate visiting hours were over. In bed at midnight. Up at 6:00. To get to the “happiest place in the world”.

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I thought it was just me, feeling tired, just wishing we could spend a day at the house by the pool, when my brother whispered to me, “I need a vacation from this vacation.” Oh, thank goodness. It wasn’t just me! I adore my dad. He has the energy of a twenty-five year old on five Red Bulls. And a few espressos also. I do not. And, I need and crave time in my woman cave. Alone. Especially when three kids are with you constantly. And relatives that you love, but not at midnight. What I learned is balance. That vacation taught me a lot. Time alone. Time together. Let’s find that balance while we revel in the end of winter. Eat your chocolate or that cookie, and let’s see if we can find a bit of happiness along the way.

Until next time…

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Turning in the wind…

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Writing is a lonely business and I never was an introvert. Having lupus has made me one, but you can see I managed to host a dinner last weekend. I didn’t feel lonely all this week, remembering the deep conversations around candlelight, flowers and food, while I had the windows open and we listened to the rain fall. Cozy, right? But I’ve had my share of loneliness. You? I think it might be a common thread among more of us than we think.

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Social media has a way of making me feel lonely. How? Well, I don’t like playing the game of “look at the wonderful things I’m doing…I’m busy, important and having a ton of fun”. I feel like my life isn’t as wonderful. I compare. I have FOMO. Hey, if you’re having a ton of fun, enjoy it live. Let me explain. Once this dinner began with guests arriving, I no longer thought about taking pictures. I was in the moment. And I’ve always preferred experiencing the actual moment rather than taking a picture of that moment. If you don’t post every experience you’re having, I’m sure you’re fine posting a great moment in your life. Just not the perpetual posters. On Insta, Snap, FB…

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Social media is something I did initially with enthusiasm, until I saw the kids on the side, not picked. Not playing. Not at the “neighborhood” party. Not at the card game all their friends were at. Not chosen. Not included. Not.

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It’s like playing dodgeball in gym and getting picked last. Not fun. And if you think I’m trying to stay off social media for that reason, you’re right. Because on my sick days, I will always cheer for the new babies, engagements and birthdays, but I choose not to see two things. The perennial whiners. And the constant posers, enjoying life at every turn. Because I don’t buy it. Nothing is that fabulous. Life has its ups and downs. But I’m not here to just talk social media (except the more you engage with it, the lonelier you feel…truth…studies have attested to it).

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I’m here to address a lonely world. We live in it. Do I know lonely? Try being bullied in fifth and sixth grade so badly that I switched schools in October of seventh grade. Loved the new school. New kid? Who cared! I was happy with the bigger school and made friends who didn’t mock me. Lonely? Moving before sophomore year and not having anyone to each lunch with, so I played piano in an empty practice room. Because no one wanted to eat with the new girl. Lonely? My kid sat and watched all her friends eat pizza brought in by one parent, only to be told by her “friend” group that she wasn’t included in the birthday pizza party, and it wasn’t a question of money. Not this school.

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And while I show you the pics of this week that made my heart sing… back to loneliness. I can’t address bullies this time. But they are out there. If you are one, stop it. Just stop. If you’re being bullied, stay OFF social media. And find new friends. Or play piano until you do find the real cool people. Because your people, the ones who are like you, who get your humor, who’ve got your back, are cool.

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There are so many ways around loneliness. Why do you think I go to Starbucks? I want to go to a place where I can have a quick but meaningful encounter with another human, and get my drink. And Starbucks is closest, and now I know people at Starbucks all over this city, because of promotions and moves etc. Before lupus, pilates class was my meaningful encounter. It can be an hour of pain or five minutes of bliss, pick your moment. You? Join a book club. Bike group. Take a class. If you work, that might be about all you want to do, except the world doesn’t get the honor of knowing you the way they could…if you went into a coffee place with a smile. Or even the grocery store.

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(Doesn’t match, I know, but I did ivory chair thing and they wound up not so ivory.) Back to letting the world see you and love you. If you bring something positive to the table almost every time you go somewhere, you will have a very lovely life. I told you I go through the stores with a slight smile on my face (I might look like a lunatic, but at least I’m happy, people might say), and people smile at me! Lots of people! Young ladies, go meet the man of your dreams in the frozen food aisle, because they’re there. And if you smile, they will see you! Back to belonging…to being in this life.

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Show up to life and smile at it. I have been in such pain from the age of nineteen, that I can have a migraine and not bat an eyelash. Have one right now. Can’t wait to go read Harry Potter again. Try not to whine. Try to be a happy person. It is a choice. Yes! This week I went in to my Starbucks and smiled as I approached one of “my people” there and she was shaking like a leaf and said, “Thank God, it’s you.” She quivered. A customer had tore into the store, yelling (the oldest person working was like 21), because someone in the drive-through had paid for his order. He demanded they throw away his first order and he would pay for his own (put in lots of swear words at a scream and you have the idea). This girl, paid very little, bore the brunt of someone’s very misplaced anger, because someone did him a kindness. Can you imagine being upset at someone being nice to you?

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Be kind. And if someone is kind to you, accept it…graciously. Be kind, good, gentle, and graceful. Go find people. It’s what I did in 10th grade after too many piano sessions alone. Host dinner at your house. You want to know how I made friends here in Cincinnati? I hosted a coffee for my neighbors. Yup. Had them over and made all sorts of great friends. And in Waukesha (try saying it!) when I moved there as an adult? I saw two ladies walking by with their kids and I tore out of my house, six months pregnant, just breathlessly yelling at them to come on over. One of them is my best friend to this day.

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Go out there and make the world a better place. One person at a time. This world needs you. You can carry your loneliness, but drop it at the door and run after someone…wait, no, I wouldn’t do that. Could get you into trouble. Start small. Join a group of people, doing something. Or just smile, while you walk through that grocery store. Have a very smiley week…

Until next time…

 

A slice of peace…

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How have you been doing with your life? Hanging on just waiting for spring? Do you feel what I’ve been feeling lately? I feel like we’re all anxious, busy, crazy busy at that and not getting much rest these days. No peace and quiet. Because we check our news feed every hour. Or I go on Facebook and see a party I was not invited to. Do you do that? All these postings on social media leave me breathless, sad and forlorn. And…like the world is falling in. Sometimes. Okay, more often than not these days. Is it just me?

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I’m worried about you. About all of us. It seems like running underneath all of us is a baseline anxiety, a nervousness. Like, hey? Where are we headed? Is this a good world we’re living in? How do I find peace? Grab contentment?  Some drink, get high, maybe gamble to deal with this life. I used to run until I couldn’t. Yeah. I know. You have your issues too. Bills, health, kids, family and then the big ticket items. Is this world getting better? And it doesn’t always feel like it, does it?

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While I post the pics of my bedroom, in my favorite color, a calming blue, hoping it will be a soothing oasis of calm, I wanted to say that I think we all will be touched by sadness. Bad things. They enter our life and we are left trying to deal. With death. Loss of job. Flooding. Fire. Losing your family to drugs. Losing yourself. But we’re going to be okay. Several reasons, and I’ll be quick.

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If you can find a place away from things. Away from the hustle of family, bosses, timelines, and life. Go there. Use it. It can be a corner of the house. Mine is actually one chair in my room that you’ll never see because it’s golden green from 1981 and it’s so comfortable that when I can’t sleep, I go there. It’s comfort and rest and peace. For me. So you need to find yours. That corner of a room that’s yours. Put your drink there. A soft blanket.

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This world needs softness. If you read an inspirational book, put that there too. They say keeping away from our computers and phones helps us to sleep, and boy do we need sleep. Rest. We award ourselves for being busy, and you know what? We’re not in a competition. It feels like we are, but step out of the race for a while. Rest. Catch up on your sleep, if you can. You parents of small children, your time will come. Not now, but you still can have the baby sleep and you go to that place away from everything. Let your little ones draw quietly. I used to impose one hour of quiet time a day. We all should have an hour to be quiet. Every day.

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And while I know a good night’s sleep or a nap or an hour of rest isn’t going to change the world, it will change your perspective and how you feel. And that’s been on my mind. Do you take time out? Please try. I feel the anxiety of the world that seems to run underneath us, and it doesn’t feel like it’s going away, so find your spot. And…

Find some inspiration. Mine? I do have a book I go to for peace, strength and calm. You might feel happy discovering a book of inspiration to read for a bit. Not the steamy romance novels! They aren’t real life and won’t help us. (Okay, maybe it will for some.) But take time out today. Right now. To be you. At rest. Calm. And no peeking at the news on your phone. It can wait. Your boss might need you right now, but when you get home, please take a time out. I always thought grown ups needed time outs more than children.

 

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Find some peace and quiet. We all need a break, don’t we? I hope you find a measure of happiness tonight. Today. Whenever you read this.

Until next time…

 

 

Basketball, cell phones and Kentucky…

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Last weekend my husband and I headed to our farm in Kentucky. One night is what we planned on, coming home in time to work on various projects and run errands But guess what happened? When we walked into our cold cabin, lit a flickering fire, turned on the hot water and stocked the fridge, we decided to stay all weekend. No tea from my local café, but good, strong, hot coffee. And a wi-fi that’s temperamental, but loads of movies on dvd. Action movies, mainly. The Crown waits for a weeknight.

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Everything back home could wait, and we had plenty in the pantry to see us through. We really are quite far from a store. No pizza delivery. No deliveries at all. Contrast that with our other life in the suburbs and farm time is special. I know how lucky we are to have two places. When we started out together, we had a tiny starter home in an area rife with crime. I could safely run in only one direction. West. And we dreamed of the day when we could run in all directions and not worry much.

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Why am I telling you this? I guess I’m afraid of sounding like I have it all. Or maybe that we don’t deserve this. And you know what? As hard working as my husband has been throughout our marriage, we still feel like we do live a dream life. But it didn’t fall into our laps. No. Years of working, saving and waiting paid off for us.

 

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I’m amazed at where God brought us. So many years we worried about paying for doctor’s bills and groceries. And what does that all have to do with your happiness? Well, I’ve been thinking of how we made it here and how you will too. It involves goals, working, and not giving up on yourself. Years later here we are in a nice home with good schools. Old cars for the kids. Heck, phones for the kids, which seems more necessary some days than cars. And that brings me to a funny story.

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My oldest was sixteen and phoneless. I didn’t see why she needed a cell phone yet, except her new driver status meant she might run into an emergency. So the time had arrived for her to join the world. (This was over eleven years ago and cell phones weren’t nearly as prevalent.) A phone for her made sense and also for child #2, who spent countless hours at different fields and courts and required rides everywhere. So I decided to have a little fun with the whole cell phone bit.

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Daughter #2 is athletic. She played basketball and in her sixth grade year she played awesome defense, but I wanted her to score more than four points a game for a fun change. So I promised kid #2 that if she made ten points in this game, today, she would earn herself and her sister a cell phone. Each. Two cell phones. (I was running three kids in three separate directions while my husband worked 75 miles away, so the phones would help us all so much.)

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The parents on the sidelines knew about my promise. The coach did not. My husband, the assistant coach, knew nothing, thank goodness. As the game entered the fourth quarter (each child played equal amounts of time, generally), my daughter sat at six points. She had come so close! I felt bad for her and waited for the end of the game to arrive, so I could tell her how wonderfully she played. Except some parent on my side had told the coach to let her play until she made ten points. That’s all he knew. I was oblivious to the plan. The coach kept her in. The game. And yes, she was fouled. Bam! Two free throws. Two points.

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Oh wow! Daughter #2 now sat a mere two points away from her goal. And yes, she made a shot, and hit her ten points! My four points a game princess did it. And even though the game hadn’t ended, every parent on our team stood up and screamed! She had done it! The other team looked at us as if we were insane. Why cheer with two minutes left in a very close game? Because she had earned it. A cell phone. Two actually. As her teammates laughed and the parents patted me on the back, a smile grew larger on my face. I happily joined in the happy celebration! She had earned it, and everyone celebrated. We shared kid #2’s happiness. Yes! Yesss!

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I explained to both daughters how achieving a certain goal had earned them cell phone bliss. Having goals for yourself, reasonable ones, and pie-in-the-sky goals too, is necessary. It keeps us working long past our breaking point. We don’t give up. We push onward. Because we know if we work at it, we will get better and get our cell phone. That Kentucky farm. A trip to Colorado. Whatever you long for and wish for.

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It’s good to really work your way through something. Have goals. Ambition. Stay at work long into the evening. Hitting and then smashing past our benchmarks, brings us happiness. It does! Hard work yields so much in this world! And the other funny thing? My husband who really did work eighty hour weeks for years on end, lost his access to country land when his dad died. He’s a country boy. And for over twelve years in Ohio, he depended on the invitations of friends to get in some rural time. Until, I found a slice of country heaven five years ago and we snapped it up.

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Knowing how much he wanted some land to putter on, farm, and enjoy, I decided I would rather have land in Kentucky than travel and see the world. We bought the farm and built a cabin, and happiness secret #2 came alive. Making someone else’s dream come true is fun, wonderful and it brings us happiness! It does! Out of his happiness, I have found bliss and delight. We both enjoy the farm so much, that staying the whole weekend is wonderfully fun and relaxing.

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Maybe your goal is to save up money to buy a slice of land somewhere safe. Keep at it! You can do this. And the other way to happiness is to bring some of that to another person. Give away your happiness for theirs.

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Happiness given away is happiness earned. Just ask my eldest. She remembers finding out her little sis had won a phone for her, and her happiness spread out. We all enjoyed their excitement. The cell phones I bought the very next day? The girls used them, and nowadays they text one another and snapchat and connect.

See? Happiness can be given and taken. Earned and spent.

I hope you have a lapful of contentment this week. Moments of bliss in the middle of hard work. And let’s spread some happiness around this week…

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Until next time…