Posts Tagged With: Gratitude

Like A Ride on the Vomit Comet, But Not

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for gravity.

Something felt off before I ever opened my eyes. A light-headed sensation perhaps? Awake but still dreaming maybe? Or, dang it, not again.

This last weekend I woke up to a raging case of vertigo. That isn’t terribly uncommon, but it’s been a few years since the house rocked and rolled and pitched like that.

For those of you personally unexperienced with this particular malady from the *book “Weird Things Your Body Does To You Just To Mess With Your Head” you can read up on vertigo at your leisure.

A little known tidbit: I woke up with vertigo on my wedding day. (Sorry, no one gets to hear that story today.) I think in my case vertigo also comes on when I’m under extreme stress. But that’s just a guess based on certain undisclosed files hidden in a closet somewhere.

Whoa, Nelly er… Kami

In the past when vertigo has hit, I’ve often seen it as God’s way of telling me to slow down and get some much-needed rest. I’ve come to that conclusion because when vertigo happens nothing else in my life happens, no matter how important. Everything comes to a dead stop, especially your body. Any movement, no matter how slight sets the world spinning again and this time my stomach joined the game.

Oh sure drugs exist that I could take. They’re usually named some weird word that ends in “-ine” which translates into an extremely buzzed and sleepy me. The result turns out the same. I get nothing done that day except either sleep or lying around trying not to move.

Is It Like Insanity in that You Get It From Your Kids?

My dad recently started experiencing frequent bouts of vertigo. The doctor he saw recommended head manipulation therapy a newer idea in treatment options. Now, anytime he feels vertigo coming on he simply goes through these exercises and his dizziness problem dissipates quickly.

Image By marcello from potenza, italy (Dizzy thorns)

Image By marcello from potenza, italy (Dizzy thorns)

You see, vertigo happens because…all sorts of complicated details…but basically the mechanism that keeps you balanced gets out of whack. The current very sound (pun not intended) medical theory says moving your head in very specific ways and sequences resets or removes problems in that mechanism.

They taught Dad some home remedy treatments, movements and exercises to do when he feels the onset of the dizziness. Now he’s in control of his equilibrium again. Pretty cool stuff!

Trained Professional, Do Not Attempt

Knowing this, when I woke up on Saturday with my world spinning, I Googled “how to do head manipulations to self-treat vertigo.” (Yay for Siri and YouTube, because reading wasn’t happening with all that whirling and spinning.)

Too many videos to choose from! I wanted fast results since I had a full day ahead of me and I felt lousy! In my hurry I kind of skipped over one very important detail and took a shortcut I shouldn’t have.

Don’t Shake the Soda Bottle

Photo by Michael Murphy (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

Photo by Michael Murphy

The most critical part in doing one particular exercise, I learned the hard way, is knowing which ear is unbalanced. (You tend to feel dizzier while laying down on one side or the other.) Obviously I guessed wrong on which side needed resetting. When I finished the exercises my results were similar to what happens when you shake a bottle of Coke and then open the lid.  I immediately started puking my guts out all over a handy-dandy i.e. washable, throw rug.

That’s not the results my dad gets when he treats his vertigo.

I’d never had any dizziness this bad!

When I finally recovered enough to pull myself off the floor I moaned for MSH. He helped me get settled in to where I didn’t have to move my head or body. He placed himself at my every whim all day. What a sainted husband I have. He even stood by as I puked what was left of my insides into a garbage can.

I Would Make a Lousy Astronaut

Does NOT look fun to me! (Nasa File Photo)

Does NOT look fun to me! (Nasa File Photo)

After a day of doing nothing but sleeping and eating the occasional saltine cracker, and a few Otter Pops, my world began to stop spinning in multiple directions. The nausea stuck around another eighteen hours as a reminder of what I’d just gone through.

There’s good reason they call that plane NASA uses for anti-gravity training and experiments “the vomit comet.” I have newfound respect for what those people go through.

I decided later that day I would make a lousy astronaut. I definitely need gravity and my inner ear working in tandem to keep my balance recognizing up from down and left from right. Not to mention to keep my lunch where it belongs.

Thank goodness the world spins the way it’s supposed to, creating that magical thing called gravity, so that I can keep my two feet solidly planted and my head on straight.

~~~~~

* not an actual book, but makes for a catchy title don’t you think?

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s Missing?

I wrote this post on Tuesday. Specifically for Gratituesday. And then I couldn’t make myself finish it, or push the publish button. I suppose because it’s the kind of irritating writing I don’t like to read, especially when my day-to-day life seems composed of nothing but uphill struggles and crap to muck through.

Let’s be honest here, shall we?

It’s not always easy to see past difficulties and troubles in life and count blessings or feel grateful. Why is that? Lack of perspective? Lack of sleep? Lack of understanding?

The inability to feel gratitude, to notice and appreciate the good and great things about my life occasionally overtakes me and then I feel miserable.

Sometimes, on Tuesdays I feel almost like I’m bragging, although I don’t mean to. Sometimes on Tuesdays I feel embarrassed by the abundance I have in my life.

And then sometimes on Tuesdays I struggle to find something I feel grateful for. And then I feel ashamed that I could feel that way.

Just one tiny spot on the planet where poverty thrives.

One tiny spot on the planet where poverty thrives.

By any measure, particularly on a global scale, my life is one of riches, comfort, ease, wonders and glorious blessings. Even the poorest person in my city is better off than most of the world. Compared to eighty percent of the people on this planet I am a wealthy person.

Maybe I need to convince myself when I’m having a bad day, when the bills pile up, when the troubles I face feel extra daunting. If that’s the case maybe I should look at what’s missing and what’s not missing in my life.

Missing:

  • I’m not homeless.
  • I’m not hungry.
  • I don’t wonder about fuel to cook with or light at night.
  • I don’t fear reprisals if I voice my opinions or disagree with authority.
  • The air I breathe isn’t contaminated or polluted or making me ill.
  • Little restricts me if I choose to travel.
  • No major disease riddles my body or challenges my health or life.
  • Access to all sorts of information isn’t restricted or filtered.
  • I’m not persecuted for my religious beliefs.

Not Missing:

  •  I have food in the pantry.
  • Clothing choices abound, as do shoes.
  • Clean running water comes into my house with ease.
  • I’m safe in my neighborhood and in my city.
  • A variety of transportation is readily available.
  • If I really need medical care I can find a way to get it.
  • I’m able to communicate with extended family easily and quickly.
  • I can read and write, and so can my children.
  • Growing up I had two parents and siblings and everything I needed.
Not my neighborhood.

Not my neighborhood.

All of that reads like fairly basic, and almost silly stuff that just seems commonplace and ordinary. It’s only basic in some limited parts of the world, and even then only in some parts of some cities. The whole world isn’t like where I live and work and play and write. Hardly. I live in a utopia, a wonderland, a bubble.

I’ve heard people say things like, “Oh, real poverty could never happen here in America, not now, not anymore.”

I cringe when I hear such isolated and naïve talk.

To those who think such thoughts I say this:

Drop by a food pantry sometime. Volunteer for a day or two. Talk to a few of the people who come in for help. Open your eyes.

Google this term: “Countries at War.” Enjoy that reading. Or look up “Global Poverty” then look around you. Want a more realistic comparison? Then just ask your search engine to look at  “Poverty in the U.S.”

Sometimes we just don’t see the gloriously green forest all around us because the tree we’re banging our sad little head on gets in the way of our view. I’m one of those most guilty of such behavior.

Blessed beyond measure. That’s me!

Grateful for it all? You’re dang right!

I hope your view turns out as spectacular or better than mine.

~~~~~

“May our effort, confidence and concern for others be the altar from which we pray for personal abundance.” ~Laura Teresa Marquez

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Where My Heart Is

It’s Gratituesday!  I’m feeling grateful that I have a roof over my head, particularly with the looming remnants of yet another hurricane threatening a second deluge in the desert.

Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz whispered, “There’s no place like home.” And Pliny the Elder said, “Home is where the heart is.” If you combine those two ideas you could say, “There’s no place like where your heart is.”

photo-25 copy 8

It’s a tiny quilt. eight inches by sixteen inches or so.

I made this miniature wall quilt a while ago. I like to think that it symbolizes all my different homes.

No, I don’t own multiple homes. Let me explain.

The Home I Grew Up In

At seven years old our family moved from a two bedroom house into a much bigger home. I consider both of them as my childhood homes where so many memories happened. About a decade ago Dad and Mom built a house in the town Dad grew up in. I found out it isn’t the place, but the people who make it home.

“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.” ~Maya Angelou

The “After I Left Home” Home

I had three or four different spots I called home after leaving my childhood home. Those all felt temporary, and I never really made those places homelike. Dorms and student apartments don’t have many homey touches, yet each still served as home. I hung my “hat” there, I slept there. Nearly everything I owned in the world fit into that tiny space. When they tore down one of those buildings years later I felt a twinge of melancholy, but nothing devastating.

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.” ~Robin Hobb

The “I’ve Lost Count of All the Moves We’ve Made” Homes

photo-24 copy 33

Is there an ideal home?

I’ve had more than a few addresses since marrying MSH. I’ve known some people who can’t wait to unpack after a move, feeling unsettled until they’re surrounded by their “stuff.” I always hesitated to unpack it all, wishing instead for a fresh start, for less stuff surrounding me, requiring attention, needing dusting, cleaning and maintenance.

We’ve lived in tiny and big places, in between places, hot and cold places, weird places, new and old places, remodeled and mobile places. We’ve also had a couple of spells where we didn’t have an address, semi-homeless, staying with a variety of relatives while the dust settled and life sorted itself out.

I do wonder what it’d be like to stay in one place for twenty or thirty years. Would I get restless? Would I wish for a change? Would I feel content or would I find a need to remodel every so often? Or would I be completely and totally delighted and settled?

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” ~Sarah Dessen

The Home I Carry With Me

I suppose that’s why my favorite home is the one I carry with me. I sometimes think of my body as the real home and the me inside it as its resident. I’m the one whose brain and heart feel twenty-ish years old, while the me everyone sees, this outer shell that looks and moves like someone much, much older, is just a house. I’m the turtle and this body is my shell.

Does that sound silly? Maybe it is. But it works for me. This home could probably use a new paint job, a bit of foundation work, and my plumbing isn’t always up to code. It definitely has some creaks and odd nuances. But it’s the house I’ve been blessed with and most of the time it doesn’t leak. So I think I’ll stick around in it and see what happens over the next few decades. The me that lives inside of it will always feel young and snarky.  At least, I hope so.

“Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” ~ Tad Williams

The Nicest Word

The word Home feels warm and comfy, welcoming and wonderful. I feel lucky, blessed really, to have lived in so many places and enjoyed multiple sorts of lives in and around them. I’m a lucky woman. After all, “there’s no place like home.”

 

The Oz series talk of silver not ruby slippers, (which show up better on film.)

The Oz series of books talk of silver not ruby slippers, (which happen to show up better on film.)

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

The Stories I Tell Myself

“Two old friends met by chance on the street. After chatting for some time, one said to the other, “I’m terribly sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name. You’ll need to tell me.” The other stared at him thoughtfully for a long time, then replied, “How soon do you need to know?”

It’s Gratituesday! Today’s gratitude is brought to you courtesy of the word “Memories.”

Memory morphs. It changes. It softens and fades. Certain aspects take on larger dimensions while other seemingly significant details diminish.

I love how I can close my eyes and be in a moment that occurred weeks or months or years ago. I also love how I don’t even have to close my eyes for a memory to play itself out in my head, tiny detail by tiny detail.

Sometimes I don’t love it so much. Not all memories carry pleasant and soothing gift wrapped packages. Nope, some carry regret, sorrow, heartache, stupidity, shame. The potential hazards of a ride down memory lane can trip a person up and send them reeling.

Who I Am

Either way, happy or sad, delightful or melancholy, ridiculous or sublime, memory feels like part of who I am. Memory makes up the marrow in my bones. It keeps my heart beating. It gives meaning to every single thing I do, every choice I make.

I can’t imagine losing memories, like a person with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Huntington’s, or any number of other disorders or diseases.  I’d be no one anymore. I’d not be me at least, without my memories. So much of my joy in life comes from my ability at will to conjure visions of holding my babies, or remembered dances in the moonlight, or crazy things I’ve done like belting out an early morning wakeup song in the middle of nowhere.

"While we live, let us live."

“While we live, let us live.”

As life can often weigh me down with gradually sneaking age and circumstance, having a memory to recall an adventurous few years of climbing cliffs as the world falls away below me reminds me I am not just this aching back, this tired woman, this struggling human. Recalling my years as a young mother when I feel all a bit lost among those with vibrant families remind me I’m more than I appear to others. Chance encounters with my past in fleeting thoughts often brighten a day heavy with worry. Memories remind me that I consist of all that I’ve done and experienced. I’m so much more than what I see in the mirror.

The ratio of good to bad memories isn’t balanced. I’m not sure where the ratio falls. My answer depends on what day you ask me. Today the scale tips heaviest on the abrasive side of things, the hard roads, the thorns, the losses, the mistakes. But give me a few days with a few night’s full sleep and I may say just the opposite. I try not to whitewash things, but I also don’t want to muck about in negativity and regret. Maybe that’s where fiction first found its birth. Hmmm.

Maybe That’s Why

I suppose that’s part of what drives me to write. I write my memories, both good stuff and bad, along with my changing view of those memories, as a way to re-acquaint myself with me. It would be a shame to let all those years of work and learning and experience just slip away as I inevitably fade away.

Hopefully, writing the memories down in various forms will let me live a little longer, but not just as a legacy or in a personal history.

As I write my memories, I relive them and in that living, love again and laugh again.

 

~~~~~

The title for today’s post grew out of this quote: “How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.” ~Julian Barnes

 

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“Sleep…the Best Meditation”

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”

 ~ Anthony Burgess ~

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for sleep.

Sometimes sleep eludes me. My body weary and eyes bleary, my brain an emotional maze of nonsense, and yet that gentle slide into oblivion simply refuses to happen.

At other times I just don’t manage to squeeze in enough sleep to fully rest my frazzled nerves and the frayed edges of ache and age.

In fact, I recently summed up my life since age twenty in four words:

I need more sleep.

Original art by Adolph Menzel - http://www.villa-grisebach.de/

Original art by Adolph Menzel – http://www.villa-grisebach.de/

Years, no decades, of my journal entries lay peppered with the phrase, “I’m so tired,” or “I’m so exhausted,” and, “If I could just get a nap.” What boring journals.

Some of that I lay at the feet of parenting babies and toddlers and teens. It’s a given, for parenting requires our all. But sadly, some of the constant fatigue I can lay at the feet of depression and its insidious energy sucking vortex of gloom and misery. No amount of sleep cures that kind of tired.

Lately, though, I’ve waged a daily battle against exhaustion –  emotional, spiritual and physical. When my head meets the pillow I feel such incredible gratitude to be horizontal, to be resting, to have sleep waiting to take me somewhere far away.

Exhausted Beyond All Reason

Last night I called it done at 7:45 p.m. Astounding! Normally it’s eleven or midnight.

No I didn’t drag myself around the house doing this and that. You know that wasted time of “getting ready for bed” that takes an eternity? Nope. I felt such lassitude I don’t really even remember pulling my pajamas over my head or pulling the chain on my bedside lamp. I do know the clock hadn’t yet rolled over to eight when I set my alarm and pulled the covers up around my chin.

photo 2.PNG

Every morning, except Sunday!

Six hours later, at two a.m. my body woke up. Not for any noise or nightmare. No. Six hours equals how much sleep I normally get and my body knows it, so it woke up. Calmly I reassured my brain and body that it could rest another three hours. Three more hours!!! Imagine a snooze button that does that!

I woke still groggy but rested and thrilled, yes thrilled, at having gotten so much sleep. The pace of my morning walk surprised me, less strolling and more actual forward momentum. Surprising what a little (fifty percent more) sleep will do for a person.

There’s a solution to that…

I know I should go to bed earlier. And I’ve literally been telling myself that every single day for years, “Tonight, I am going to bed early.” And nada. Nope. I get sidetracked, waylaid, pulled in, tricked by a series of just-one-more-things.

I wish sleep didn’t feel like such a luxury.

Naps fall in that decadence category, too, don’t they? And yet, twenty minutes with my eyes closed mid-afternoon can make the difference between a moody unproductive evening and a cheerful, pleasant one. That’s not decadence, that’s survival!

Everything seems more manageable after some decent sleep. Doesn’t it? Yes. Yes, it does.

This sums it up nicely:

“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” ~ John Steinbeck

Yes. Today I’m particularly grateful for sleep and its restorative, sanity-keeping, energizing, blissful escape. I’m guessing you are too.

~~~~~

The title of today’s post comes from a quote by the Dalai Lama, “Sleep is the best meditation.”

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Discovering Paradise

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~ Cicero

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for libraries.

Elementary school provided my first introduction to a library. Ours resided on the stage attached to the gymnasium. We entered via stairs on one side and exited via the stairs on the other. I recall waist-high shelves, closely stacked and poor lighting. Books all grouped together in one room made me feel kind of giddy, even back then.

Empty space on the shelf? Say it isn't so!

Empty space on the shelf? Say it isn’t so!

An old house served as a community library in the town next-door.What once served as bedrooms, a kitchen, a family room, transformed into meandering corridors of books. The open hours posted seemed almost random and hardly long enough to wander, pick some books and check them out. By then Mom knew enough to screen what books I picked, ten and eleven is a bit young for Clockwork Orange, don’t you think?

A few years later I discovered the city library. (How long had that been there? And why wasn’t I told about it sooner?) A proper building, several stories, iconic, white stone and temple-like, complete with hushed tones inside. Stepping inside I felt worshipful and closer to the reading Gods if there exists such a thing. Every book I’ve read since then that has a library as a character/place, I picture as this edifice, this homage to the written word.

This quote captures how I began to feel about libraries:

“I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book.” ~Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

At University I stood in awe before a complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary. I knew I’d arrived at the mecca of knowledge and wisdom. Endless stacks ran maze-like and beckoned me to lose myself in there. An entirely separate building housed the law library, the place a serious student wanting no distractions whatsoever would retire to for study and contemplation.

Because proper reading requires feet up.

Because proper reading requires feet up.

Now we live less than a mile away from our town library, an architecturally beautiful building that dwarfs the books and shelves they live on. Huge windows look out on my beloved Riparian Preserve, instilling a sense of sanctuary in this noisy and echoing chamber. Seldom does quiet reside there. Libraries now serve more as community gathering places, media centers, toddler racetracks, an escape from home, a place to come in out of the heat. Books seem almost an afterthought. Maybe the librarians simply want to draw people in with a kind of “if you build it they will come,” idea. Offer all sorts of tempting tidbits mixed in with the m eat and potatoes of books and hopefully reading and learning will occur and keep the world sane.

Maybe that’s what T.S. Eliot meant on saying:

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”

I seldom wander the stacks, choosing instead to “place my order” online for books I want that get shipped in from libraries around the valley for my convenience.

Occasionally I’ll grab a couple of current months magazines and sit, my feet propped on the lovely log footrests to relax, perusing gardening tips, recipes and travel suggestions. But I get restless, the stack of books I reserved whisper my name, anxious to become acquainted in stolen moments, late night hours of lost sleep, waiting in lines, when other pressing matters linger.

Today's hopeful pile.

Today’s hopeful pile.

Today I did browse and picked up a volume of poetry and a second Alice Munroe volume. I have three weeks, and three weeks more, up to five renewals unless someone requests one of them. I’d like to think I’ll read two or three a week, it’s been such a drought of reading these past few months. But I have one book from our personal shelves I started, one online book I promised to proof months ago, and a few gifted tomes I’d also like to delve into.

Such a decadent life I lead, surrounded by my own books, stories swirled throughout my childhood, novels seasoning every month and year, libraries making words available for free. FOR FREE!!! Amazing!

Grateful doesn’t begin to describe the feeling for today. Graced, blessed, rich beyond compare, for I have libraries in my life.

 ~~~~~

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ~Jorge Luis Borges

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

Categories: Books, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ain’t No Sunshine

It’s Gratituesday! Variety and consistency. Yup. That’s what I’m grateful for today. I know those two things seem to contradict each other but you’ll get over it and so will I.

I love knowing that if I get myself out the door before sunrise everything else will work out somehow.

I keep telling myself I’ll change where I go walking, but I crave the solitude and the surroundings. I take different paths, from different directions, I change it up in small ways and that’s all it takes.

sunshineThe predictability of the sun coming up each day keeps the world on track. The unpredictability of the colors, the clouds, the angle of light, the shift in shadow all make each morning a pallet of infinite variety. A paradox of consistency and change all in one for you to ponder every twenty-four hours.

Studies show that predictability and consistency contribute to productivity and contentment. But we also know that such things contribute to boredom and dissatisfaction.

And then other studies show that happiness more often manifests itself when change is a constant. What? Not major change, just variety, tiny differences make all the difference in happiness levels.

Some days, weeks and months in my life at least, it feels as if nothing is consistent or predictable except change. I can tell you from my own completely unscientific experience that such situations lead to feelings of high anxiety and unhealthy levels of stress.

I’m trying to embrace the variety and unpredictable state of my life. I’ve worked at that for a while now. Hence my daily gratitude journaling and weekly Gratituesday posts.

I’m also rather desperately trying to incorporate consistency and a regular schedule and other nice things like that into a chaotic life.

I’m having more luck embracing change than instilling predictability.

Balance seems the key word. And the most elusive quality. Gratitude sounds elusive today as well.

Let me take a different angle.

cloudy

Cloudy.

The sun shines here a zillion days a year. Okay, something like 287 days out of 365. That, my friends, adds up to a heckuva lotta sunlight. A glorious thing in the winter if you don’t like the cold. An unending series of boredom and heat in the summer if you don’t find some variety.

Sure we desert dwellers love the rain for its moisture and life-giving sustenance, but we also love it for the sheer difference in weather. Not sunny equals a nice change.

I’ve also lived in the Northwest where clouds and rain sang the same song every single day. Or so it seemed. Unending blue sky and sunlight, when it rarely occurred, felt heavenly for the sheer change in melody.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and ordered the same thing you got last time because you know you’ll like it? Of course! But that can get so boring! Try something new next time and appreciate the difference even if you like the same old thing better.

A PBJ for lunch every single day might give you a sense of security, of all’s right with the world, but that, dear reader, is an illusion.

Or maybe that’s just my life.

Maybe your life consists of predictable, on time, on schedule, knowing what’s ahead for the next year wonderfulness. I’m incredibly jealous happy for you. If that’s the case this whole post must come off as the strangest bunch of rambling you’ve ever read in your life and it’s a wonder that you’re even still reading. The following statement won’t even register on your reality meter.

Change is inevitable.

Change is the only constant. We’ve had this conversation before, I’m sure of it.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

I’m glad and grateful for differences, variety, something new, unpredictability, the wonder of what’s around the corner. Really I am. Really.

I’m also ready for some stability, some unmoving earth beneath my feet, a calendar with a schedule I can count on, a checkbook with reasonable numbers, a sun I know will rise in the east every single morning.

I just got done texting my cousin the following message: “Variety is the spice of life, or so I’ve heard. Unless variety is all you ever have.”

I’m just aiming for a little balance. Call me crazy. Call me nuts. Call me weird. I don’t care.

I’m still grateful for the whole mixed up mess of it all.

Not buying it huh? Well, then just listen to this song. Enjoy a classic.

~~~~~

Here’s Bill Withers from way back in 1971 totally getting it and giving it. His song says more in two minutes than anything I’ve managed to write today.

 

“Variety may be the spice of life, but consistency pays the bills.” ~ Doug Cooper

 

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Happiness | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Best Thing Ever to Cross Your Lips

“All sorrows are less with bread. ” ~ Miquel de Cervantes Saavedra 

It’s Gratituesday! Today I obsess about and express thanks for and praise the powers that be for the miraculous marvel called bread.

I’m not talking Wonder here either.

This morning I’m enjoying the delightful stylings of a new recipe I’d never tried until now; English Muffin Bread. It’s what you’d imagine given the name. Nooks and crannies, slightly chewy but crisp where the toaster has caressed it. Real butter, some grape jelly and the day can’t get much better.

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” ~ James Beard

Well, the day could get better if I bake my standard bread loaves, a white bread recipe I’ve modified some by tossing in some fresh ground wheat. Mmmm. A slice of that stuff not ten minutes out of the oven atones for most anything I may have gotten wrong throughout the past twenty-four hours.

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” ~M.F.K. Fisher (Author of “The Art of Eating”)

A braided loaf, from flour to finished only takes two hours, and disappears in less than ten minutes when family flocks around.

Other favorites? Oh, let me name a few.

  • Orange bow knots
  • Parker house rolls
  • A cinnamon bagel
  • Donuts, almost any kind
  • Artisan bread
  • Sour dough
  • Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing
  • French bread
  • Challah
  • Pita with hummus
  • Garlic Naan
  • Scones
  • Biscuits – with sausage gravy
  • Corn bread
  • Banana bread
  • Indian Fry bread
  • Breadsticks
  • Rye
  • Sopapillas
  • Waffles
  • Tortillas
  • Pretzels – the big soft ones
  • Focaccia
  • Hush puppies
  • Pancakes
  • Croissant
  • Muffins
  • Ciabatta

No. I don’t personally bake all of those, although I’m happy to imbibe. You could almost call my love and adoration of bread an addiction, but we won’t go that far. I will say a meal seems most complete when bread hums a melody alongside the vegetables and meat.

I consider far too many meals complete with bread alone, unaccompanied by any other food, except perhaps butter or some honey. The bread-only meal provides most satisfaction when it’s warm and filling the place with the scent of heaven.

Is it any wonder that the last meal many people partake of is bread? Not to me.

“I’ve heard it said that when you die you enter a room of bright light, and that you can smell bread baking just around the corner.” ~ Rick Bass

I’ve always envisioned the manna spoken of in the Bible as bread. Freshly baked by angels in bakers hats, to sustain and lift the bodies and souls of the children of Israel. That’s just my spin on it. I couldn’t quote scripture on it. Hardly so. But it’s a nice thought. What else could you eat day in and day out for so long without getting tired of it?

My Dad has Celiac’s disease, which means, among a bunch of other not so thrilling things, he can’t eat regular bread. If I end up with that malady just put me out to pasture and let me go the way of all the earth. Oh, sure, he’s adjusted his diet to avoid gluten, but it’s just not the same thing as the breads I know and adore.

I shouldn’t be choosy though. I’m filled with gratitude as I eat each morsel and crumb. I recognize the beauty and the bounty of my life and try desperately not to take it for granted that bread will always grace my table.

 “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

That quote takes my breath away. Makes me want to put on the habit of a missionary and distribute bread wherever I can.

Bread for everyone, please.

Bread for everyone, please.

When we were dating my not-quite-yet-sweet husband planned a picnic that surely sealed the deal and made me fall in love just a little more. French bread, butter, summer sausage, cheese, complete with glass wine goblets and some bubbly. Not your ordinary picnic faire. But then, this man fell way outside the ordinary spectrum. Impressive. Delicious. Delectable. 

“For less than the cost of a Big Mac, fries and a Coke, you can buy a loaf of fresh bread and some good cheese or roast beef, which you will enjoy much more.” ~Steve Albini

It’s true. Sure, it isn’t quick. It’ll require that you get out of your car and walk into a store or a deli, but it’s worth a try just this once. Stop in at the deli counter, get a few slices of a cheese that sound interesting and if you must, a few slices of ham or roast or pastrami. Then look at the lovely loaves sitting in their paper wrappers or tucked behind the counter. You can’t go wrong with any one of them. And to make the meal completely decadent, swing by the dairy case and put real butter in your basket. You’ll have a meal you don’t want to eat while watching the evening news or perusing Facebook or email.

No, you’ll want to give your full attention to the bread.

You’ll thank me. Really. You will.

You’re welcome.

Categories: Food, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Morning Gifts

It’s Gratituesday! On Monday morning I wrote up this little missive and decided to wait and share it with you today. It sums up my gratitude for this week quite nicely.

I forgot to set my alarm last night, but my brain knew when time to wake up arrived and rousted me from dreaming anyway. Good thing, too.

It stormed a bit overnight, so the humidity soared and the desert heat cooled somewhat. Remnants of clouds still hung out on the horizon in every direction. I got some picturesque shots of the sun and sky dancing like they do some mornings. Corals, golds, a touch of silver with an azure backdrop.

A nearly perfect sunrise.

A nearly perfect sunrise, wouldn’t you agree?

Besides capturing sunrise photos, I keep my eyes alert hoping to sight an elusive family or two of Quail, or perhaps my favorite bird the Night Heron. The Hummingbirds have been extra active lately zipping about catching insects. It’s a typical morning walk for me.

Until it isn’t anymore.

Off to the right in a small pond, stood my friend the coyote. I see him about once or twice a week in different spots throughout the Preserve. He was standing half in and half out of the water, looking intently into the bushes to the north. It would make a nice photo, so I stopped to line up a shot.

The coyote bounded like a rabbit toward the bushes, playful and boisterous. I’d never seen him do that before. Suddenly he raced back toward the pond edge. Then he wagged his tail and pounced forward again. His head and shoulders clearly searching the brush for a glimpse of something. A leap, a tail wag, and more bouncing. Then he kept his hind quarters up and leaned his front end to the ground, like a pup ready to chase a stick. He was playing a game with something in the bushes.

Oh, for a better zoom on my tiny camera.

Oh, for a better zoom on my tiny camera.

I stood there mesmerized watching this coyote revel in a game he’d made up. Then, suddenly he pulled his tail between his legs and raced back to the water. Then he ran east, as if the game had come to an abrupt end. He wandered toward the back side of the bushes he’d been so interested in, when another coyote appeared. Larger, and looking somewhat menacing, ears back, body low to the ground and moving lower, as if ready to launch at some prey.

Uh oh. I thought. The younger coyote’s ears perked up, his tail wagged, he ran back and forth not ten feet away from the larger one’s attack stance. Then the ears perked up on the bigger coyote, the pup raced in large circles, jumping and dancing, prodding the other to play.

Mother and child. That’s what this was.

The younger coyote raced and raced, tail wagging, delight in every movement, until the older one slunk back into the bushes. They fell out of sight, momentarily emerging to race into the water briefly, then they were gone.

What a gift to see such wild abandon not a mile from my front door.

The rest of my ninety minute walk hummed with the joy of what I’d experienced. Sure, sweat dripped off my head and hair, ran down my back, soaked my clothes. And yet, a breeze blew down the path occasionally, working with the damp on my body to create a miniature swamp cooler bringing temporary relief from the morning’s desert heat. I welcomed every patch of shade offered, lost count of the rabbits and crossed paths with very few humans. I hesitated to end my walk even as the temperature rose and fatigue increased.

I didn’t want to let go of what I’d felt, what I’d seen in those rare and, yes, sacred moments between mother and child.

Nothing compares to that ephemeral time shortly before and just after the sun rises. The earth transforms from dark night to a brief otherworldly dimension of surprise and wonder.

Such a morning makes any shortage of sleep a very minor inconvenience and fills me with a sense of gratitude that ought to last a very long time.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Story of a Lifetime?

“Eyes may be the window of the soul…but hands tell the story of a lifetime.”

It’s Gratituesday! Have you ever given much consideration to what your hands do in a day? I got thinking about that this morning as I tied the laces on my walking shoes. The more I thought, the more my gratitude grew.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Brushing a finger lightly across a small child’s brow and around their eyes can lull them past their resistance to sleep. Tickling under a chin, applying a band-aid, wiping a nose and best of all, holding a tiny hand in my bigger hand all fall under some of the most important things and fleeting things my hands have done.

The delicate but firm grasp of fingers holding a needle and thread as I secure a hem brings a singular satisfaction. Likewise slipping buttons through buttonholes while dressing, or grasping a zipper and pulling up, scratching an itch, all provide a sense of self-reliance.

An acquaintance of mine had a massive stroke a month or so ago and now she can’t use her hands at all, for anything. She’s completely and utterly dependent on others for the most basic of tasks. Knowing such possibilities loom for any of us makes me all the more grateful as I hold a hose to add fresh water to the bird bath, or pull a weed, or trim a low hanging branch from my tree, or set a table, hold a fork, turn a knob, or brush my hair.

Cutting an onion, stirring a simmering pan on the stove, washing dishes, scooping ice cream all give pleasure and provoke thankfulness. Kneading bread on the counter, slowly working flour into dough until it gives way with just the right amount of resistance reminds me of the mixed strength and softness my hands possess.

I love that I can put my hands on a piano or organ keyboard and produce music. Equally surprising, a tap from my fingers on a screen that grabs tunes from midair and plays music.

I love even more the feel of a pen in my hand as it writes words on paper. I’m still amazed at how my fingers move across a computer keyboard, automatically knowing where each key is, how hard to press, how to combine two keys for a capital letter, all with barely thinking the words. Who knew hands had memory? But they most certainly perform many tasks repeatedly and with little thought.

hang ten

Hands even speak…

Folding towels, pressing a wrinkle from a collar, wiping fingerprints from a window, pressing a doorbell, turning a key, pushing a stroller, holding a grass trimmer, picking up a penny off the floor. Every movement of my hands so common, so phenomenal, so blessed.

My hands have callouses, short nails, wrinkles, freckles, big knuckles, funny outward curving middle fingers, an occasional slight twitch in the right thumb and rough skin. They also have muscles and strength, a gentle touch, sensitivity to heat and cold, softness and sharpness. They lift, carry, push, pull, hold, caress, smooth, wash, ease, point, repair, plant, perform, clap, rub, press, write, draw, mend, work and bless. And so much more.

Kind of handy, wouldn’t you say?

 

 

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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