just breathe…

 

 

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Well, the Christmas crazies have hit. I love it. Always have. I think the more celebrations we have in the dead of winter, the better. We need more than one and a half weeks of frivolity! That magical time from December 23rd (I like the build-up) until January 2nd when my tired tree is unadorned, is beautiful, frenzied, silent, exuberant, exciting, hushed, alone, together, and ours to make the way we choose.

 

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Are you wondering what I’m saying? Make your peace with this season and find your happiness. Craft and carve it out so that Christmas Eve is the way you like. And Christmas Day and why not throw in Boxing Day, which is family game day at our home, and then New Year’s Eve Day, the Eve itself culminating in New Year’s Day. Spend some time with family or friends, and the rest of it is yours. Spend some time with you. Doing what you like. And the rest can be given to your family or friends and the people who want you with them. Give them a rested, happy you. That’s the best gift. And for you?

 

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If you want a cozy fire, with classic Christmas carols playing softly in the background, cuddled in a warm blanket, glass of wine in hand with an engrossing book, plan it. If you go to church like we do, plan for that special time. Meditate on what happened on Christmas Day. I look at our creche and sing the songs long known by heart, and I do feel it. My peace on earth, come down from heaven.

 

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Yours might look different. Santa and cookies left by the tree. Or skiing all day and enjoying eggnog at night. We all Christmas differently. If you want to change something to suit you better, try it. Remember that this is the season of giving, but it’s the little things, the smallest gifts that mean the most. A cup of chai tea latte hand delivered. A candle made by your hands. Finding a new song to love and share. Laughing over funny memes. Sharing a slice of cheesecake. Baking cookies and sending them off to neighbors.

 

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Give? Letting that car merge. Giving up a parking space. Opening the door for another human. Most aren’t aware as they wander in an unknown hypnotic state, trying to finish in time. Let’s make sure we walk through the next three weeks aware, awake and able to give, with the wisdom to stop when we feel out energy depleting. Then it’s time to mindlessly play a video game, watch a Christmas movie, or sleep.

 

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I like to look at my trees and look at the ornaments. The family’s favorite tree is the one I named the “family tree” because it has every ornament ever crafted and cobbled together by my children, by me when I was just five and all the “ugly” ornaments from the 1970’s that my mom gave me. We love that tree, more than the stately one full of glass ornaments. Precious, fresh, fragrant and perfect. We choose the imperfections. That brings up armloads of happiness, much laughter and happy memories.

 

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Make the next three weeks fun and restful, exciting and calm. Give a little and save some for yourself. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. And it will be if we make it that way, but it’s all a choice. Grab it. Your happiness. Peace. Warmth.

 

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

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…)

 

 

comfy chairs and old cupboards…

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I wish you could sit down and visit over tea or espresso or a gin and tonic. I have a spot all ready for you and the sun is shining on the pillows and I’m sure the room is warm enough. But…I know you have grocery shopping to do (by the way, it is crazy out there) or a full Thanksgiving dinner to plan. Maybe you’ll be traveling? Plotting out your Black Friday shopping strategy? Me? I’m looking for slivers of happiness everywhere I look and I’m storing them up for you.

The last of the leaves changed this week. Well, I do have one recalcitrant flowering pear tree that simply won’t budge and remains green. That way I can rake leaves while I put up the Christmas lights. But do you see that gorgeous maple with the pale blue of November hiding behind it? I so love every season. Maybe you can look up at the sky in wonder this week. Take some time for you.

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See? I have a chair waiting for you. We can swap funny Thanksgiving stories or chat about the latest movies. I went to a comedy with my daughter last night and couldn’t stop laughing. And I am a die hard, this has to be a drama or action movie please. But I went to the one she really wanted to see and after the bad week she had, I couldn’t say no. Add that to ways to be happy… Do something with family or friends that means a lot to them. So you don’t want to play a game after stuffing yourself with turkey and green bean casserole? Try it! Play the game. Take a walk under the temperamental trees that might be singing with howling winds. Your hair will be a mess, but you won’t be.

It really is the little things that make us happy. Turning the thermostat higher. Piling blankets on top of your bed and then getting in and waiting for the sheets to warm up and when they do…so toasty and warm. Or making pies from scratch? I don’t love cooking but baking? Oh my, yes! I once lived in an apartment and two sisters in their ’70’s lived above me, and when I baked, I took my slices of cake or pans of triple chocolate brownies up to them. They seemed happy with my offerings. Those old ladies might have tossed my gifts in the trash for all I know, but we spent some time chatting since they were unable to get out much. They were hungrier for words than for blueberry muffins. Gifts given and time spent on others is wonderful.

Taking time for ourselves is a gift. Get a massage. Pedicure. Shop for you. Do yoga.

Maybe we can find a balance. I know it will be difficult but you can do it. When I had babies at home and started feeling trapped, my husband would watch the kiddos and I ventured out into the evening. Just taking 30 minutes to do that? Wow! A gift. I came home smelling vaguely of wood smoke, dead leaves and fresh night air, and I felt new again and not quite as drained. I also peeked into gardens and houses and got ideas on how to decorate. We didn’t have Pinterest or Insta or much back then. And that makes me happy too. Unplugging. Please try to keep your phone away this Thursday. Even if it’s just for dinner. You will LOVE it. Unless you’re supposed to pick up Uncle Harvey from the airport. Then the whole unplugged thing won’t work.

 

I wish you could be here, next to this antique corner cupboard that we transformed into a bar area. And now that we have a farm, aka The Rustic Country Cottage, my husband took up drinking bourbon. It’s not like it’s his new job, but he decided to learn how to enjoy the stuff. Me? One taste and I was back drinking my gin. Or Starbucks, but they don’t have that within 40 minutes of our farm.

Surrounding myself with furniture that is a bit older than I am makes me happy. I wonder who made this cupboard and how did they use it. Maybe they stored up moonshine in it during prohibition? Maybe it was meant for pies and vanilla cakes with sugar frosting?

Well, evening is here and even though my Thanksgiving grocery shopping is finished, I still have a few things to do. That periwinkle blue sky is telling me to light the candles and maybe set a fire in the fireplace. And I think I’m going to sip my tea while I work on my other projects.

I hope your soul is filled to the brim with good stuff. Try to enjoy Thanksgiving and don’t rush off to shop unless that’s your thing (I am waiting until midnight, so then it’s not technically Thanksgiving). Get your mom to tell you some stories. Or your kids! Mine remember the funniest and most awful things about me. Well, we take the good with the bad, don’t we? And after Thanksgiving, let’s take our time decorating. I know. I have 6 trees that I put up every year and a real one too. But, if we maybe only put up one tree? Maybe we’ll have more time to bake, and then give away the cookies that actually made it into the oven.

Enjoy this week. Savor the food. Buy yourself a bunch of flowers. Instant happiness.

Why do I remember the stories at the end? I saw Bad Mom’s Christmas with my grown up daughter and we laughed so hard. And then I confessed that I would go out and buy myself some Christmas gifts that I really liked and knew no one would ever get me. I have about 40 candles, but I want more! And the same thing with my coffee beans. So under the tree, I had small gifts from me, to me. And my girl wondered about that all these years and the movie pretty much covered why I did that kind of thing. My husband loves buying me jewelry, sweet man! But if I want sweater or a candle, it has to come from me. Mama was happy every Christmas morning, even if it was 7:00 am.

Well, let’s focus on this week. This holiday. Enjoy it. Knee deep in gravy and sweet potato casserole with pecans and marshmallows.

Happy Thanksgiving sweet friend!

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