This morning I met up with a dear friend for coffee. Returning to our favorite coffee shop felt almost surreal. It was truly a blast from the past. Honestly, I have been super cautious and uncomfortable about dining indoors since restrictions were lifted. We were able to find seating at a good distance from other patrons which helped me relax. I ordered both for eating there and for some take out. Just like I used to do. Our time there was so enjoyable, so normal, so like old times, and so good for our mental health. In these challenging times how important it is to savor and cherish these moments that can increase our well-being.
“Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but all together perfume the air.” - Georges Bernanos
Comments are welcome.
Things change. Sometimes permanently. Sometimes temporarily. Either way, things always change. So will this blog on a temporary basis. I’m teaching a couple of classes for the next 6 weeks. They will be consuming my time and attention. I did not want to put a pause on the blog, so I’ve opted for a change that will keep things going. When my time is compressed I will post thoughtful, positive or smile inducing words. Who knows? I may even find some moments to speak for myself.
I’d also like to wish a very Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all those celebrating today. Many blessings to you.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. John F. Kennedy, Jr.”
Comments are welcomed.
Truth be told, I’ve been struggling more recently with post COVID stuff than during the restricted times. Crazy, right? I am fortunate that it takes very little to lift my spirits. A friend, who had just returned from a trip to Switzerland, came over. She had remembered something I told her awhile ago about a teaching assistant I once had. He would bring me champagne truffles for a treat. They are my absolute favorites. My friend had taken note and brought me back a small box of Swiss champagne truffles. I was over the moon. The day got even better. We went out to do some errands and I experienced another happiness booster.
Pre-pandemic when I was out in the afternoon, I would occasionally get a Starbuck’s Chai Latte. This is something I’d even forgotten about during our confinement. After completing the errands we went to a Starbuck’s and I got a Chai Latte. It may have been the best Chai Latte ever.
Those 2 inconsequential moments in the greater scheme of life turned my entire outlook around. I started to think about all the little things that bring joy and happiness and gratitude. It truly is the little things. Following are a few of those little things for me.
A Starbuck’s Chai Latte
Time with my daughter’s dog (and my daughter, of course)
Doing Wordle and crossword puzzles with a friend
The crunching sound when walking through fallen leaves in Autumn
The opportunity to do a kindness for someone
The smell of Linden flowers
A 64 pack of Crayola crayons
Roasted chestnuts from a vendor
Holiday snow globes
My list could go on. Let us just say that happiness is anyone and anything that is loved by you.
Comments are welcomed.
When you read this, the day will have passed. I wrote this on September 21 which is World Gratitude Day.
I’ve written a few blogs on gratitude so this is not new. It is more of a renewal in honor of the day. When things go awry or we are not feeling well for any reason, it is easy for our attention and focus to be on the immediate situation rather than gratitude and appreciation. That is not a bad thing. It is just a part of being human. Yet, if we had some cue to remind us that there is likely many things to be grateful for as we navigate the difficulties, it could make a big difference. Getting in touch with those things and people for whom we are grateful, can actually lighten our burdens.
Practising daily gratitude gives us a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us. Research has shown that exercising gratitude regularly can enhance our moods, strengthen social bonds and improve physical health. There are many exercises we can do to lift us into a state of appreciation. Here are just a few for starters. You may certainly have a number of your own that work for you.
STOP, BREATHE, TAKE NOTICE OF THE PRESENT. ENJOY AND SAVOR THE LITTLE THINGS. CULTIVATE TINY MOMENTS OF JOY, AND NOTICE THOSE TIMES WHEN THEY SPONTANEOUSLY HAPPEN.
PLAY MUSIC. LISTENING TO MUSIC CAN MAKE US FEEL MORE ALIVE. WHEN YOU PLAY MUSIC THAT RESONATES WITH YOU, IT HEIGHTENS YOUR SENSES AND GIVES A GREATER FEELING OF AWE AND REVERENCE FOR LIFE.
FALL ASLEEP TO GRATITUDE. In a journal, write down what you feel thankful for each day. Capture specifics and small details. Make this the last activity before falling asleep. This puts your mind in a thankful and positive place before you drift off.
Make a resilience list. WRITE DOWN FIVE TOUGH TIMES AND HOW YOU MADE IT THROUGH. WE ALL NEED REMINDERS THAT WE ARE STRONGER THAN WE THINK .
DO SOMETHING NICE FOR SOMEONE THAT IS TOTALLY UNEXPECTED. A SURE WAY TO LIFT OURSELVES IS TO LIFT SOMEONE ELSE.
Comments are welcome.
Today has been one of those days when I needed me some Winnie the Poohisms. After looking through A.A. Milne quotes, I selected several that gave me soothing smiles. A quote from Milne further explains this blog: “[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business."
“A hug is always the right size.”
“A little consideration, a little thought for others makes all the difference.”
“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today," said Pooh.
"There there," said Piglet. "I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude."
"Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?"
“How do you spell 'love'?" - Piglet
"You don't spell it...you feel it." - Pooh”
"When you do the things you can do, you will find a way."
"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, "What about lunch?"
"People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day."
"One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries."
"Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem."
"Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo."
"To the uneducated an A is just three sticks."
"Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything."
“Some have brains and some haven’t…and there it is.”
Levi and Rosalee reside in my neighborhood. They are located just around the corner from where I live. Nicely convenient when I want to visit them. This morning, in fact, I had a short but pleasant visit with Levi. This pair is service oriented. They are a big help in keeping the streets clean. The environment is such a massive concern, that any small contribution can be of great measure.
My morning walk around the block and back takes me past their location. I don’t always stop for a visit, but can easily wave as I walk by. I am rather grateful to have them there. There is very little I can do outside of my apartment without a sighted guide. Being able to locate Levi and Rosalee means a lot to me. This is especially gratifying when I can donate some items to their collections in keeping our neighborhood clean.
Levi does a lot of the heavy lifting so to speak. Rosalee contributes equally by dealing with volume. They make a good team. NO doubt other neighbors appreciate their presence and ecological efforts. The reason I am so appreciative of their presence is that their cousins, Louie and Renata, who reside a few doors from me became unavailable from July 5 through November 1. This is a major inconvenience and does affect other residents on my block.
I look forward to Louie’s and Renata’s return in November. As winter rolls in and the snows come it will not be easy for me to visit Levi and Rosalee. I will be grateful to have Louie and Renata back and open for business, so to speak.
BTW. Did I mention that Levi, Rosalee, Louie and Renata are the neighborhood litter and recycle containers?
Comments are welcomed.
Last week I had the pleasure of going out to brunch with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. K, my granddaughter, is 15and1/2. Her parents are teaching her the rudiments of driving. When she turns 16 in the Spring she will be taking the driving course. We had a fun conversation about K becoming a licensed driver and her dream car. She happily said she would drive me around anytime, anywhere.
K’s dream car is a bubble gum pink Punch Buggy. Those words conjured up the most delightful image. We designed the interior decor. Then we discussed wearing appropriate outfits that would create a total ambience of chic, maybe even sassy. All of this painted the backdrop for K and Lillian’s great road adventure. Date TBD. Stay tuned.
I added an historical note to our conversation. When K and I spent time together, one of her favorite things was for me to tell her stories from my youth and early adulthood. One memoir never surfaced as it was not noteworthy until today. Years ago when I was teaching school in Vermont, I rode to work every day with my friend in her Classic Red Bug. VW Beetles were rather commonplace back then. Punch Buggies are now very cool. Once again, what’s old is new.
Just in case you are unfamiliar with the term, Punch Buggy, it is a car game. The simplest form is passengers watch for VW beetles on the road. If someone sees one they say “Punch Buggy. No punch backs,” as they gently (you hope) punch the other person in the arm. It is important to say, “No punch backs,” or they risk getting a return punch. Believe it or not, there are several ways to play this game with all sorts of rules. You’d can go on line to learn more if you were at all interested or just curious.
What I loved about our conversation was a reminder of how much fun and joy imagining, creating and playfulness infused with whimsy can elicit.
Why not make cheerfulness, outrageousness, playfulness a new priority for yourself? Make feeling good your expectation. You don't have to have a reason to feel good - you're alive; you can feel good for no reason at all! Tony Robbins
Every year at this time I start thinking there’s something about August. Especially late August. The air is cooler . At least it used to be. The sun sets a little earlier. Gardens are being harvested. Summer vacations are drawing to a close. Kids are returning home from camps. Fair season has begun. Back to school is lurking around the corner. There is also a sudden feeling that the first small step into autumn was taken.
Over the years I have relished the good feeling that has gone along with this particular snippet in time. This year seems to be different and I am not liking the difference. First, let me say that I have always been a big fan of Autumn. Autumn and Spring are 1 and 1a for my favorite seasons. As much as I thrive on the cooler weather, something is not feeling quite right. In fact, I am aware of a low level of anxiety or dread about the inevitable winter. After pondering the situation, I think I have come up with why. It’s kind of a P.T.S.D. scenario.
About mid-January of this year there was a monster snow storm. I recall being quite disturbed by additional limitations to the ones I already had. I became less independent than I already was. The discomfort didn’t get a chance to ease much as another unfortunate episode happened in March. I had a form of vertigo that affected my well-being into June. What I realized is that I’ve been feeling the retention of the memory of those difficult months. That memory had me dreading a repeat this coming winter.
As I acknowledged that anxiety about something that, in actuality, may never happen, my attitude began to shift. I also believed that some COVID crazy exacerbated my worries. So many of us have experienced unusual effects from the pandemic.
Seeing thoughts and unfounded expectations through a lens of truth and reality, allows me to once again look forward to what I love about Autumn.
There are 2 morals to this story:
One: We should not believe everything we think.
Two: Stressing over impossible to predict tomorrows, robs today of it’s joy and wonder.
Comments are welcome.
After last week’s confession about this blog business, I did consider calling it quits. I have an easy exit if I choose to use it. My M.O. is to agonize over such things. For now, the decision is to take it one week at a time and see what happens.
They say that things come in 3’s. Over the past week or two, my appliances may have been attacked by gremlins or some other mischievous being that spooked them and me. This was most disturbing as I am very grateful for my appliances and even have the occasional appliance appreciation day. That basically is being intentionally grateful for the services they provide. The tendency is to take some of the basics for granted until something goes awry. You know – the stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer. My AC tops my gratitude list due to the horrifically hot summer. Coming in next are the devices such as my computer, TV, phones. Doing without any of these is unthinkable. Ironically, many of us grew up without any of those except for a land line phone and one day the advent of a black and white TV. How things have changed. How we and our expectations have changed.
What seemed like a small matter until things escalated began with the AC. The AC people who had originally installed the units came to service it’s entirety. A good thing, right? Essentially it was, with a small glitch. After they left, it took 2 days to get the AC working again in the manner to which I was accustomed. Of course, it was brutally hot during those 2 days. After that all was well and I was grateful.
The next thing that happened was weird and inexplicable. This time it was my computer. I had been out for a couple of hours. Upon my return, the computer was malfunctioning. It was a panic and anxiety filled situation as the one person who could help me was away. I did the usual fix which was to shut down and restart. That did not work. Being blind, I had no idea if there was a message on the screen since my screen reader was not working either. I phoned my son-in-law, who is not a tech person, but might have a clue. He, my daughter and their dog came over. There were messages on the screen which were like a foreign language to us.
I phoned Microsoft Disabilities, the tech service to those with a disability. They were not much help since they could not remotely connect to my computer. The tech did say to try to back up everything in case the worst happened. Fortunately, we were able to do that. My son-in-law tried a few things hoping to decipher the screen messages. Finally, he turned the computer off.
My anxiety level was climbing as I had a class to teach in a couple of days and everything I needed was on the computer. I was so glad the dog was with us as he is my therapy dog. He is cuddly and helped temper my anxiety. After a few minutes S started the computer to see what would happen. Miraculously, it began doing normal computer things, my screen reader returned asking for the password. I typed it in. Lo and behold, everything was back up and running. Relieved and beyond grateful. I can only hope and pray all will be well for a long time
Then along came number 3. Fortunately, what at first seemed like having to buy a new TV, got resolved fairly quickly. After the morning news I turned the TV off and went on with my day. When I later turned it on again, nada. NO sound. Of course, I could not know if there was anything on the screen. No one was around to help me. Before hitting the panic button, I went through a check list. First, I turned my other TV on to see if it was a service provider outage. The second TV was working. Next, I did a reboot. Nada. Then I changed the batteries in the remote. Nada. Next, I turned the volume up in case it was somehow muted. Nada. I turned off the TV and figured I would phone my son-in-law after work to once again come to the rescue. Meanwhile I go to the worst case scenario – having to buy a new TV. That thought prompted me to phone my daughter to see if she had some time to come by and check it out. I told her everything I had done so far. She asked if I changed the channel in case it was one of those channels that sometimes go out. Duh! Don’t know why I never thought of that. I turned the TV on and changed the channel. Voila!
There are 2 morals to this story:
One: Almost everything will work again if we unplug it for a few minutes, including us.
Two: The way we see the problem is the problem.
Comments are welcome.
I was so crazed about zucchini that I overlooked last Monday, August 8. It wasn’t just National Zucchini Day. It was the fifth anniversary of this blog. That may not mean much to anyone other than me. In fact, it is a really big deal for me. Here’s why.
The reason is all about this business of blogging. A couple of years ago I was searching for some kind of a creative endeavor. The one thing that was available to me was the one thing I was trying to avoid. Isn’t that the way? The things we do our best to avoid have a way of jumping up and biting us. That’s what happened. Ouch!
As part of my avoidance plan I considered learning a new musical instrument. For years I was intrigued with the dulcimer. A friend had one which he leant me. I took some lessons from Maestro Google, but soon lost interest. I tried to revive my piano skills. Piano lessons were the bane of my childhood, but I thought what the heck? I even went so far as to purchase a small keyboard. It resides in a cozy nook, sporting a lovely dust cover, going unnoticed most of the time.
There I was, once again faced with the unavoidable – writing. Ugh. The idea of a blog was put before me. There are so many reasons this was a bad idea. Long story short, a lengthy, neurotic internal dialogue ensued. Finally, coming up with a psychologically acceptable exit strategy, gave me the impetus to go for it. Somehow, I managed to go 5 full years without missing a single week.
The main reason I have never missed a week is that I know if I skip one week, I will not pick it up again. Yet, there were several times I considered invoking my exit strategy including right now. There were a few occasions I did take a break, but still put out short notices saying so. Again, if I hadn’t at least done that much, it would have been the end.
Given all that, I decided to celebrate this accomplishment. This all tells me that I do have perseverance, creativity, the ability to keep commitments.
As I sit here typing all this, I really want to call the whole thing off. However, something inside me says keep going. Well, we’ll see. Meanwhile I will celebrate going 5 years without missing one week. Guess that’s pretty good.
My apologies. I just can’t help myself. I seem to have a thing about zucchini. A few years ago I wrote about my forgettable introduction to growing those quasi cucumbers. Today being National Zucchini Day, I was compelled to revisit a horticultural horror. What gardener does not have a zucchini story? Here’s mine.
Full disclosure, the closest I had ever come to gardening was buying fruits and vegetables from a farmer’s market. Consequently, during my first bona fide gardening experience, I learned, the hard way, the zucchini principle: Never plant more than one zucchini seed, ever ever ever. Of course, in my exuberant ignorance, I planted the entire packet. There was a song from the 50’s or 60’s about the eggplant that ate Chicago. Then there was some grade B sci-fi movie about killer tomatoes. We had the zucchini that swarmed Centerville. Zucchini vines traversed the entire garden menacing all the other vegetables. They wound their way down an incline leading away from the garden, under the clothesline nearly reaching the main road ravaging everything in their path. The zucchini regenerated as quickly as they were picked. The more you picked them, the more prolific they became. Why keep picking them, you ask? If you don’t they just grow larger until they reach the size of torpedoes or small ballistic missiles. Then you need a forklift (or the military) to clear them out. I was in a real pickle. Gosh, I had never thought to make zucchini pickles. Probably a good thing.
There are numerous recipes calling for zucchini and a myriad of ways to disguise them in other foods. We ate as much as was humanly possible. When the eating became humanly impossible, we tried giving them away. Of course, no one in their right mind (or left mind) would take any. When I tried to slip some to the pig. She looked at me grunting. Her grunts sounded like, “Are you insane? What, do you think I am bereft of a discerning palate? Get real.”
It was time for Plan B. Okay, I didn’t have a Plan B. Before long, I got the brilliant idea to stack a cord of zucchini in amongst the wood pile. They seemed to blend in very nicely . Hopefully, no one would notice. Ultimately, the beneficiary was the compost, which before long gave the impression of Vermont’s fifth mountain range being formed
FYI. It’s been said that if you are driving through Vermont in the summer, be sure to keep your windows closed. If you don’t, people will throw zucchinis into your car as you drive by.”
Call it time out, out to lunch, gone fishing or whatever metaphor works. I’m calling it a brain break. For so many reasons (or excuses) I am taking a thinking pause. My creative juices seemed to be in dry dock. Temporarily, of course. Rather than try to force the issue I am disappearing this week. Hope you all have a safe, healthy, enjoyable week. See you next Monday.
The other day I was with a friend when our conversation came around to my 8 years from He** living on a farm. I shared a few nightmare experiences. I must confess this current heat wave has muddled my brain, so I thought why not reshare one of those episodes. Here it is:
It was the most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, very forgettable farm folly.
It all began when I was informed there was a goat on the hill behind our house. Said goat, named Hermione Gingold, would need to have a bucket of water hauled up to her daily. Guess who was the designated water hauler? You are right. Not long after Hermione’s arrival a metaphysical phenomenon occurred. Before you could say feta cheese, that lonely goat turned into 21 of the bearded, cloven-hoofed critters. These goats didn’t just mill about, grazing and occasionally bleating. Nope. They were prolific milk producers. Thank goodness I never had to milk them.
Nevertheless, something had to be done with a seemingly endless supply of goat milk. As if I had nothing better to do than take care of a toddler, can all manner of fruits and vegetables and, oh yes, hold down a teaching job, I became the designated disposer of the milk. Some of it went to families whose children were allergic to cow’s milk. The pigs were given as much milk as possible before it crossed the line of cruelty to animals. . The rest filled up our bath tub.
Drastic action had to be taken PDQ.
Predictably, I was the one assigned to make - wait for it – goat cheese! My initial response was *^#>%*!!! While continually muttering under my breath, I gathered up the necessary equipment, which included a book on how to make goat cheese, a large kettle, a thermometer, rennet, cheese cloth and a bottle of banana brandy. Banana brandy? So glad you asked.
Truth be told, I was never much of an imbiber, except for an occasional glass of wine with dinner. Banana brandy materialized when I was charged with the task of planting 8 rows of potatoes on a plot of land the size of an NBA basketball court. No exaggeration. That insane story is for another day.
What I discovered from the great potato caper was banana brandy had mystical powers. Consequently, I kept some around for potential crisis management. Making goat cheese was definitely a crisis in need of management. The brandy doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome. (Would have been great if it did.) It gets you through the process which is what matters.
At the end of the day there was cheese. Lots of cheese. Sadly, it was unfit for human, or inhuman consumption even for those with the least discerning palates or the fewest possible number of functioning taste buds.
The aftermath of this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience was that for more years then I care to specify, I have not been able to get within 10 feet of anything that comes from a goat.
Comments are welcomed.
It is the middle of July, yet there is already talk of a glut of zucchini. Is there not always a glut of zucchini? You know there is, especially when you spy people sneaking zucchini onto neighbors' porches in the dark of night. I have written a couple of times about my nightmare encounters with zucchini in the past, but I just can’t help myself. I have to add my 2 cents yet again.
There is a surprising lot of info on the problems and best growing conditions. Really? I am convinced these squashes gone skinny do very well left to their own devices. In fact, if left to their own devices they could likely envelop the entire planet. Despite my disrelish for , zucchini, I did find a couple of interesting items I will share.
First, zucchini doesn’t even come from the homeland of all other squashes, that homeland being the Americas. Instead, it is a hybrid, created by Italians near Milan in the late 19th century. They named their new squash ‘little squash’ (zucca squash, ino little) and its syntax has been corrupted so that the plural form, zucchini, is now singular in our countries.
Second, you are going to love this, especially if you are running out of ideas for use or disposal. Most people harvest zucchini when they are about eight inches long, but if you leave them alone you can grow a formidable weapon of about three feet long and of a baseball bat’s circumference. In Montana a few years ago, a woman actually fought off a bear with a foot-long zucchini, giving it a hefty wallop on the nose which sent the bear howling. Who needs bear spray when you have zucchini !
In case you wondered about the caveat to beware of the 8th of August, here is the reason. August 8 is National Zucchini Day. You now have 3 weeks to barricade your property or take whatever precautions you deem necessary to fend off forays from generous zucchini growers. Good luck.
Comments are welcomed.
In the wee hours of the morning all of the cell service, internet, phone and some cable service went out. This massive outage affected customers across all of Canada and even those overseas with roaming service. Businesses, ATM’s and air travellers were affected as well. How does this happen with Rogers, one of the largest tech companies and digital providers with tentacles reaching into other businesses and continual price hikes? Over 12 hours later most of the services were restored, but they still don’t know the cause. I can hardly wait to hear what they come up with. Should be interesting. Maybe even scary.
I must say I intentionally divvied up my internet, TV, cable and phone services among 3 different providers in case of such a possibility. Extremely grateful to have done so as it was all systems go for me.
What this brings to mind is life in the pre-digital age. Perhaps you may recall that era, too. Makes one wonder how we managed so beautifully with only one land line per household. I was most fortunate to be allowed to have an extension phone in my room during my teen years. It got me through some hard times. The one downside was having a bratty younger brother who would occasionally pick up the main phone and try to listen to my conversations.
Of course, there are upsides and downsides to both eras. What I miss most is the more face to face communication and connection from pre-digital times. While we can cherish the memories of and appreciate what was good for us in the past, life is still all about change; how adaptable and flexible we are, how we can embrace the upsides and move away from the downsides when they come along. Perhaps the next time technology tanks, we might find a friend, go for a coffee, take a walk together, etc. and simply enjoy connecting.
Above all, hold tight to your sense of humor. After all, a sense of humor gives us the ability to shift perspective and be flexible. Flexibility is the ability to not get bent out of shape.
Comments are welcome.