Free flowers and bourbon…

 

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December descended upon me and the first flakes of snow surprised my upturned face, and I began to hope for a very snow-filled holiday. While spending time over some very good bourbon with my husband, we began deciding where to travel next, but for now I’m happily tucked away at home, buzzing with energy and happiness. Is it the hot coffee I cradle each morning or the excitement of the season? Do you feel caught up in the fun? Are you merrily preparing for Christmas or Hanukkah?

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I’m back on a happiness hunt and finding it so many places my head spins round. I found these gorgeous flowers at the store and half of them were thrust in a shopping cart labeled “free”, and I grabbed the gift. It’s not about presents but about being fully present in the moments that make our days happy. My daughter came over and made a gingerbread house while I played with my free flowers.

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Have you noticed it’s the small things that bring us happiness? I love Snoopy and always have, and after the dog decided to ravage him last year, I replaced him and he sits, lovably, with all my bears. Small thing, discovering this Snoopy at the grocery store. (I know! My grocery store sells the most interesting things and I love it.) I’m creating a teddy bears’ picnic under one tree and sweet Snoopy crashed their party. I’m happy fussing with my trees and their themes. So…what’s your small bit of happiness today?

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These pretty pillows add to the Christmassy feeling. I know one of the guys in our family is going to comment on the impracticality of a pillow with jewels attached, but I’m on a tartan plaid hunt, and the reds are luscious. Everyone on my list is getting tartan flannel pajamas, and the reds turned my head. Red feels warm and this cold weather has me reaching for anything that brings warmth and beauty and comfort.

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These flowers look beautiful. And I have a few more secrets to share…

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This luxurious Advent calendar sits under my “main” tree and every day, after I’ve spent time reading and sipping hot coffee, I open another day and find a pretty treat. I’ll take these little treasures on trips since they’re perfect for packing on a flight. It’s a small bit of happiness, I know. But sometimes that’s all we need.

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I’m trying to enjoy each day. My cat thinks the “kids” Christmas tree is his personal play land and climbs the branches, batting at the “toys” hanging so deliciously. For him (or so he believes). I know it’s not his tree, really. But watching him enjoy Christmas makes me think how we need to find happiness today. Grab a book and head for a quiet spot. Watch those Hallmark movies. Head outside and embrace that cold and the skies that are the color of snow.  Ice skate again. Hike. Sit indoors with a little bit of bourbon and watch Netflix.

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Make this your happiest holiday ever. I’m wishing you skies full of snow and a basket of free flowers for the taking. Until next time…

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…

 

Arms wide open…

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Let’s sit and catch our breath. I wanted to write before it all happened yesterday and I can’t get over it. Can you? The kids, at school, who will never come home from school ever again…    I’m going to purposefully turn to what I can control right now, because, we, the lucky ones, have lives that go on, thankfully, mercifully, wonderfully. (And if not, look at my last post.) I’m changing gears here. To the happiness we find where we are. Even in tough weeks we can grab it. Touch it. Feel it.

Today I decided spring is here no matter what, and so I started switching the season in my Ohio house. Notice the lighter pillows? The cranberry ones went away until cranberry season.

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What make me supremely happy are these warm, wistful days that you can’t hold onto. You can try to hang on, but all you get at first is a snippet of an afternoon to grab your iced tea, open a window or three and feel the freshness of the day wash over you.

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Do you see my cat, Willie Nelson, looking out at the seventy degree day? He’s as happy as I am today. We watched the robins tussling with the cardinals and sparrows over the seed I placed out there this morning. Rain did meander her way across the skies, but I dodged the raindrops and enjoyed running errands.

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Oooh. Right now I hear the faraway call of the night train on her way to somewhere. Anywhere.  The whistle makes me feel cozy and happy, and I revel in the freedom of following my heart to other cities. I could get up, head out and go. (I won’t.) But doesn’t the mere thought that you could, right now, just get up and leave, somehow make you feel lighter and happier? We both could do that. Just dreaming about it is fun.

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The call of the train is so loud tonight, that I even hear the low rumble, and I hardly ever manage to hear that.

Do you feel cooped up and penned in sometimes? Like tomorrow is another wintery day where you get up in the dark, brush your teeth, go to work, or school, or watch the kids? Then home to a hastily made dinner or hockey or soccer practice? Piano? Watch the same show on tv again. Mindlessly numbing? Then back into bed. Escape in your dreams. Ah, but dreams come true. Wait for it. Plan for that dream of yours. That trip on that night train, so to speak.

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That’s why the train’s call gives me shivers. You and I could go. Somewhere. A place that is warmer, drier, higher, by the sea, by that river, in the country. Anywhere but here. But… we can be happy where we are. Why? How? Bad things happen to good people. How do we even?

Because we know we’ll focus on what we can change, do our best to the people around us and find ways to enjoy the time given to us. And that’s where my pillows come in. And my flowers. And the open windows.

 

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Today I decided to revel in spring. We might have six more weeks of snow, sleet and ice but I’m calling it. Spring! I even took a walk looking for (desperately hoping for) crocuses, but I didn’t see any yet… So I brought home these pretty pink tulips that smile at me all day long. And the white roses? From my love, of course. I love the greenery he added, himself. Pure white love in a vase of sweet roses.

When I brought out the pillows that aren’t a perfect match for the front room, I decided to like those spring-y pillows anyway. Because you and I know some secrets that younger ones have yet to discover.

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We can take a drizzley day in the middle of February, when we feel fat from too many chocolates and champagne, or steak and chardonnay, and we turn it into the best day. Warmth? Yup, I’m in. It could be fifty-five degrees and the window would still be open because I decided I’m done with Old Man Winter and, besides, the robins are here. Springtime! It is on! And seventy degrees is blissful. Revel in what you have. No snowdrops in your garden? Roses in the house are magic. But really, we don’t need flowers or pillows to make this a happy day. We need our minds. They take us everywhere.

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That train I hear calling goodbye goes all the way West. Want to go? We can plan for that day. I want to head out and see DeSmet, South Dakota. Because my favorite author lived there and wrote all about it. I still haven’t been there, but just tonight I asked my love if he would go with me, and I got a great, big, “Yes!”. So, someday, even if I’m eighty, I’ll go. And knowing that makes my heart sing with happiness.

 

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Oh, please find your things that make you happy. On days when the news is bad and you want to crawl back in bed until sunny days bring better tidings, you need something to look forward to. To pull you through.

Develop your interests. Don’t be bored. Not ever. Find the things you love to do, and pretty soon you’ll have a bunch of people deciding they want to go to DeSmet, South Dakota with you. They might not know why, except you’re super excited about it, and happiness spreads. Your happiness will spill over. Today. Tonight. When you hear the call of the train, miles from home. When you open your windows and throw back the curtains. When you delve into your passions, your dreams, your hopes. Be happy. Today, tonight. Tomorrow…

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Until next time…

 

Christmas, pizza and two cats…

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If you do nothing else this week, bring out one piece of Christmas or winter decoration and display it. And if the ensuing weeks bring you no closer to decorating, that’s okay, because you already did. The wreath went up the second my autumn pumpkins left and even though our calendar still claims it’s November, we know better. It is winter to us. We make it that way, and I like how it feels to own winter, so to speak. I claim it rather than winter dragging me into doldrums and thinking grey thoughts.

And while I try to find my voice, and whether I write about the sad that often accompanies our moments or days of happiness (and if you have a string of days of happiness then please share with me your secrets) I’ll continue to write about the good. I have things going on that do weigh me down, and I am watching other people walk through valleys of sadness and mourning and I can’t help them. I cannot kiss the hurt away, the way I kissed the scrapes and bruises of childhood away. Or thought I did. My kids each suffered bullying and often did not tell me, because what could I do? Make the girl in the group who shared pizza with the whole table except my daughter because she didn’t like her that day, share with her? Because my daughter was the one girl. With no pizza. Could I make that girl be nice? Where is the happiness there? Do I share this real stuff with you?

I think the sad times make the happy ones sweeter. We savor those moments of happiness, don’t we? And we find ways to punctuate the regular days of life with celebrations. Thanksgiving! Christmas! Total solar eclipse!

Let’s celebrate the sunrise. Look at it. (You can do that for me and tell me all about it.) I prefer the sunsets. Always have. The muted colors of evening. And winter has stunning evenings. Hold that cup of whatever warms your heart close to you. Sit outside and watch the sun win the sky over. Just the way I watch the blues chase the orange and pinks away, and I love it. Even with sadness, knowing we made it through another day is something. And you know me, I love my candles. And I light them to ward off the dark and the chill. Figuratively speaking. The lights and scents cheer me up!

And I love Christmas. Always have. And while I make a game out of seeing just how many Christmas trees I can stuff in this house (I am up to six full trees with the real one making it seven, but the real is waiting to be purchased), you might be happily buying gifts or making candies and cookies. I like the thought of cutting down a tree, but so many years I have gone to a lot to pick out a tree, and one year I decided to run out to my grocery store at 6 a.m. and get the pick of their fir trees. I happily chose the right one and even put it in my car. But three days later, after too many needles emptied themselves onto my floor, I took the tree back.

Yup. Took off the ornaments, and ever since my mom brought over a U Haul filled with ornaments and trees, I have too much on my trees. The lights came off too. When the cashier took back my Christmas tree, she couldn’t find it in the system. That’s because I bought it at 6:00 a.m. when I was not properly awake, and I drove off with a tree I had not paid for! Do not buy your Christmas tree at six in the morning, right? Since then, I have paid for my trees. And buying them at the local store makes me sane and happy. No felling a tree in the cold woods for me. I’m too busy trying to figure out what to do with all the trees and ornaments! And I’m so deliriously happy with that.

What I’m trying to say is do what you love this season. You can’t do it all. So do some things really well and let the other stuff go. See the tree right above? Well I forgot I bought it last January and placed it in the wrong room and so late last night I had to switch two trees because my son and his girlfriend were laughing about the pathetically small tree standing sentinel in the front windows! I had a mammoth tree in the dining room. I know. Tree madness. But I love it and if I don’t put up ornaments on some of the trees, I’m happy with that. In January, when I take almost everything down, I’m even happier.

So let’s enjoy each day left to us this year. Try to find moments of peace. Read a snowy book. I read beach books in the summer. And right now I’m only reading books that take place in winter. No great reason, except it feels right to me. Just like we expect pumpkin spice to show up in September, I look for the breezy December books come late November. What do you like? Time to enjoy movies and tv that you normally wouldn’t watch in summer? Do it. Watch all the Christmas movies if you like. Me? I was watching Harry Potter until I sat down to write.

Winter is coming if it’s not already here. Enjoy it! Get your heart ready for Christmas. Sit in the chair with a new pillow. And see that vintage sign? My late mom in law displayed it for the thirty two years I knew her, and with her passing, I inherited her Merry Christmas. I miss her. But I’m lucky enough to have some of her things to treasure. I’m even luckier to have a husband with four sisters and they are all marvelous! Kind and giving.

I know not everyone is as lucky. But be with good people. Be a good person. Don’t be the one who keeps the pizza for herself and the “friends” she chooses on that day. Share as much as you can. That incessant bell ringer at the stores right now? A kind word and a dollar or a quarter is all we need to give. Look at them. Share what you have. Give your kid a U Haul full of love. Though I thought my husband was going to pass out when he saw all the Christmas stuff my mother decided should go to me! My mom shared with me. I love that! She shared what meant a lot to her. I get my love of creating a Christmas forest in my house from her. So yeah, I know you hear it everywhere, but give.

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You might not be a cat person, but I have two cats, and see both of them curled up on top of the Christmas tree? They’re happy. Content. Which is better than happy any day. I didn’t get to put up that tree and they decided to enjoy the tree this way. I pictured them hanging out under one of the other trees but they decided to be good with this. I like that. Make your own kind of happiness.

Christmas is coming. If you can’t get everything done, hang out around the Christmas tree box. Okay, maybe not. But the idea is almost right. Let’s be happy with what we have. Share what we have. No overspending. But please pay for your Christmas tree before you take it home.

Happy end of November sweet friend.