Wisps of whispers…

cotton candy pink sails in a sea of blue…


Can you feel it on certain days? Spring inches ever closer, and I can’t think of many who don’t welcome her balmy embrace. The snowdrops have their green stems poking out of the soil, asking if it’s time to show up. I told them to sleep a bit longer; a freeze was coming our way. They aren’t listening. Spring’s impatience tugs at them and me.

Spring and love seem to go together, and Valentine’s Day is making her rounds, so I heard. The local grocer has so many floral arrangements, I feel like I’m in a summer garden, lush and fragrant, and since the flowers perch next to a Starbucks, I am in heaven every time I need a tea. So this begs the question. What to do on the day of love?

real flowers gracing a rough wooden table…

If you’re lucky enough to have love in your life, then the answers are easy. Send cards, give flowers, buy candy and catch the kisses cast in the air by those who love you back. But what if you’re tethered to a love who doesn’t think about flowers and candy? Talk about the upcoming holiday. Will we go out to eat? Yes? Will we spend a bunch of money on presents to show our affection? Not for me. Flowers and chocolate (and ice cold teas, please) are tokens of love. If you want something romantic, ask. Tell your love what you love. And give your love back, freely.

simply beautiful…

If you want something, sometimes you have to ask. Be specific. If you want a certain bottle of bourbon, ask. Hopefully, they just want to give you love wrapped in a box, tied with strings that might be attached, but then, those are the best kind. Don’t you want a string luring you toward your love? One Valentine’s Day, so very long ago, I brought six red and pink frosted cupcakes to a boyfriend’s apartment. He did not acknowledge my gift at all, rather he stood in his kitchen washing dishes. I had classes to attend, but he didn’t take my frugal (in college, on a tight budget) present. He didn’t tell me he loved me. I emotionally ate my way through two cupcakes.

a lovely new painting we bought recently, see, winter is beautiful (if you’re looking at it and not living in it:)…

And rather than make him notice me, I left the rest of the cupcakes and left him. That afternoon, another guy I had met and had been studying with since we had the same classes and major, sent me a beautiful arrangement of flowers! I found him and thanked him, and the man I married, has never forgotten a Valentine’s Day since that first one, and he still romances me with flowers and chocolate. And much more.

I decided the guy who paid attention to me, made me feel valuable, loved, and liked and appreciated was the man to go through this life with. What does this mean for you? The people or person who makes you feel valuable and important is the one. Love them. The good guy who loves you? And you think he’s beautiful? Him. Choose him. Choose love. Choose laughter, love and life.

aren’t real fires cozy? the warmth, the crackling logs are a part of our winter nights…

On Valentine’s Day, or anyway this week, if you want flowers and aren’t in a relationship at the moment, buy them for you. Pick out the candy you like and enjoy it. Light a candle and enjoy the beauty of being able to buy flowers in winter, and buying sweets. We are lucky. We are blessed. Wrap a blanket around you and enjoy your company. But the icing on the cake would be to make the day sweet for another human. Bake brownies. Send a card that you made with a note inside. We all want to be noticed and not ignored. It took years and that one Valentine’s Day for me to figure that out. I hope you have a week full of laughs, love and beauty. I have to finish my iced tea before the Grammy’s end! Until next Sunday…

light snow will be rain tomorrow…I’m not complaining one bit…

a beautiful soul…

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While wandering back roads searching for the perfect autumn tree in Wisconsin, I had to stop and stare at the cornstalks restlessly shifting in the rising winds. Warm days up north are a wonder and want to be savored slowly, so we did. And while I looked for the beauty, I almost missed the most beautiful thing in my life, save one.

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I almost forgot the beauty in my husband. Almost. And while I’ve always thought him to be the most handsome guy I have ever seen, and I’ll readily admit to falling in love with his eyes long before I formally met him in college, it is the beauty in his soul that has drawn me towards him. On our trip, he revealed that a former girlfriend of his had been in contact with him, and while I asked questions, I caught my love in a new light.

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He has long assured me he is the lucky one, and while I’m not one to argue (please laugh here), I know it is I who am blessed. On the night we really met one another, we stayed up all night and talked until the sun made a bleary-eyed appearance through the curtains. And the next date? Even though he had heaped the one armchair with clothes, shoes and a basketball, knowing I’d be forced this time to sit next to him, I managed to find a few inches of space and perched on the chair. (My mom told me to never to sit on a bed with a guy. So I listened this once because I so wanted to impress this man.) And we talked all night. Again. I kissed him on the cheek and left with bright sunlight escorting me home.

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The next time we did a bit more than talk, but my point is we connected. We were so evenly matched in so many ways, and when we compared our timelines we discovered how many times we had been together, except we didn’t know it then. I sat next to him in our college classes since we had the same major and our last names bumped up against each other. All…the…time…

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This funny, self-deprecating, outdoors loving, athletic guy kept me on my toes in so many ways. Do you know he is in my college graduation picture? I’m shaking hands happily with the college president while over my shoulder is my boyfriend (husband) grinning as he accepts his diploma. Once seated I whispered to him, “I graduated first,” and smiled. The next week we had finals. In our last final exam ever, I sat up front, painstakingly poring over my paper, and the moment I stood up to turn in the test I heard a commotion behind me, and a blur flew down the steps in the exam hall. My boyfriend slapped his test down on the table while I placidly walked over and turned in my test too. When we were both in the hallway, he leaned over, grinning broadly, and said, “I finished college first.” Yes, he had. How could I not love him?

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So while I show you pics from our stay near Lake Michigan, I admit I didn’t see him in a new way. Until he told me about meeting an old girlfriend. And while I wasn’t super excited to know he had met her, I did see by the way my husband treated me, that he loved me. Wanted my best. Thought of me first, so often, ahead of himself. And I’m realizing, with our nest empty (but a grandchild due in two months!), he and I have so much good going on.

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We have time for each other. Finally! We could have drifted apart aways without noticing much, but thankfully we both felt wide awake to the possibilities open to us; to being able to intentionally plan on being together. I had started to let my daughters claim my time, and I only have so much energy to place into each day. I want to be with that beautiful soul I fell for so long ago. And just in case you wondered if I was hearing God correctly, I have one last, tiny story, so you’ll know, just as I did.

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We were finally sitting for the dreaded CPA exam. Your eyes must be on the test at all times and many proctors watch for cheating. Guess who had assigned seating right next to me? Him. The boyfriend. Now husband. I thumbed through the test pages to better allocate my time, and while I always listened to when the first (show-offs!) paper flippers started making those familiar rustlings, the boyfriend next to me started flipping to page two waaay before I had even solved half of page one! I couldn’t look, only listen, and I panicked, during the most important exam ever. I kept working, doggedly hoping to catch up to him when suddenly he had turned to page three. That meant I was now a whole page behind him! Utter panic. Mercifully the bell rang and pencils down. He decided turning the pages early would throw me into terrors and it did. The guy knew me better than I did. We both laughed more when he explained the effort he put into turning the pages back so quietly that I wouldn’t catch on.

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I’m back home. Ready to spend time with my one true love. The boy who makes me laugh so much. Who made me a mother to three great kids. Who brings me Starbucks on bad days. I’m grateful for realizing I have beauty next to me. Well, not literally. He’s sleeping and I am writing to this to you, quite late. Find beautiful people. Kind people. Beauty is there, if only you’ll look for it.

Until next time…

 

brownies, cookies and two sweet ladies…

Another beautiful September night in my perfectly suburban subdivision life, and I wish you were next to me. The windows are open, of course, and the crickets continue their night’s songs. They won’t be silenced until the first frost, and even then, I’m amazed by the number of crickets who stay warm enough to sing to me until the middle of November. The other night’s noisemakers diminish week-by-week, and I’ll know Thanksgiving draws near when the nights finally become completely silent.

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Finding beauty can be easy some days. Others? If I showed you the tough days, you would see a mountain of laundry, bathrooms that need attention and very old veggies in the fridge because I wanted to cut up that cucumber and place it in a glass pitcher of water, just the way a spa does. But my life intruded, just as yours does. Endless lists and jobs and work and school get in the way too. For me? I have a body that has decided to not feel okay since I noticed something was very wrong in the days before I turned seventeen. Years later (so many years, lol) and my health never returned.

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I tried therapy, eating so many interesting diets that helped with weight loss but not health gains, running, Pilates, not running, going to top name clinics etc. Why do I share this? Because we all have different challenges in life and if we’re going to get through this life somewhat happily, contentedly and with a sense of humor too, we have to find our beauty. Okay, not the kind in the mirror. No. We’re too vain as a society, and selfies kill people each year. Not kidding. Look it up.

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The beauty we’re meant to find is around us. At work, in the fluorescent glow of the lights, can you prop up one picture of your happy place? I have a friend who has never taken a proper vacation, and her dream is to fly to Fiji. Pictures of white beaches and blue waters might make her feel calm. I like to walk in the evenings just as everyone’s homes light up. I used to get decorating ideas for my 1920’s bungalow that way. And now? I enjoy seeing lights on in rooms. Is someone studying up there? Is my neighbor playing his piano while his wife knits? (Oh, I love them so much!) And if your neighborhood doesn’t feel safe, go to a place where you can walk safely and look at beauty.

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Autumn is filled with beauty. The colors of the trees are finally revealed! Pumpkins of all colors surround us. Go drink some fresh apple cider! I look up at the cirrus clouds, so whispy, and I know winter’s grim, grey days aren’t too far away. But wait! We’re on a beauty hunt. So grab some acorns, snip a small branch or two from a maple or an oak tree and bring them home. Make your home, large or small, a place filled with beauty. Your kind of beauty.

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Maybe a thrill runs through you when you finish a quilt. When you have just enough pretty pillows surrounding you. Is it the music floating on the air? The scent of your newborn baby? That’s a treasured scent. Even when you’re going on three hours of sleep. Maybe it’s baking completely from scratch brownies and sharing them with neighbors. Do that! It matters and you’ll make a difference.

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When I was a newlywed and lived in a four apartment building, two kind old sisters lived above me. They didn’t get out much, if at all, and they loved it when I walked upstairs to offer them butterscotch cookies. I certainly didn’t need all of those calories staring back at me, and they didn’t seem to have much fresh food, so I baked. For them and for me. I love baking. Adore it. And now I have no flight of stairs to walk up and no one to share my pumpkin bread. Wherever you in life, try to treasure it…

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You have gifts to share. Do that! Give away your time, your love, your cakes, your ability to read well, sing, to listen to someone’s story. That’s beauty. The Sephora stuff we buy to look beautiful can’t cover up a sour person. Someone with true happiness spilling over is lovely! Why do we like looking at brides so much? Because they glimmer, gleam and beam. They shine with love, and we all enjoy it. Go for that beauty today. The kind inside you, that no one can ever take away. Even if you’re sick. Dying. Divorcing. Even then…

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You are beautiful. Make a small space in your room beautiful too. Light a candle. Drink some soothing tea…or go to Starbucks (I love the happy baristas there, seriously!). Bring pretty pictures to your space. Books, incense, jewelry. Make it yours. Make it pretty. And enjoy being you for a little bit tonight. Until next time…

IMG_E7203(I’m slowly switching out summer’s flowers, but look! The rosemary survives…)

 

 

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…