Moving On

Good Riddance Day

December 29, 2009

On the Today show this morning, I learned that yesterday was the third annual Good Riddance Day, organized by the Times Square Alliance in New York City. From 12 to 1 p.m. a large industrial shredder was set up and more than 200 New Yorkers and tourists participated, according to www.nypost.com. A dumpster and a sledgehammer were also provided for unshreddable items.

What a great idea! Take your bad memories, your troubles and difficulties, the sadnesses and frustrations of 2009 and just…annihilate them.

But what about those of us who don’t live in New York? (For that matter, what about those of us who heard about Good Riddance Day the day AFTER it occurred?) Have your own Good Riddance Day right where you live. If there’s something from 2009 you’d like to put behind you, find a picture of it or write it down and SHRED it. Or tear it into itty bitty pieces by hand. Or burn it (safely, of course).

Sometimes it’s good to have a ceremony to rid ourselves of unwanted baggage. Sometimes we can’t move forward because our past mistakes, or the wrongs done to us, are clinging to our ankles like lead weights. Sometimes we need to do a little personal shredding in order to move on with life.

I plan to make a little visit to my shredder tonight. How about you?

Holidays

Merry and Bright

December 24, 2009

Help me

The family is here visiting. My mother-in-law is in the kitchen making pecan pie and I’m about to run out to the store to pick up last minute items.

My people are crazy

This morning instead of cranberry orange scone with my coffee, I enjoyed homemade almond biscotti, brought to us by my visiting sister- and brother-in-law. It’s beautifully sunny and not too hot—a perfect day!

Do I LOOK like a reindeer?!?

Wishing you a perfect Christmas, whatever that may mean for you.


Fantasy

Sweet Escapes

December 21, 2009

Some women are addicted to Facebook or online shopping…or reading blogs (ahem). Thanks to the magic of the internet, here are three of my favorite ways to brighten a boring day with a little G-rated online escapism.

When I was looking for my horse a few years ago, I had a list of Web sites I trolled daily looking for an appropriate mount. I spent hours on Horsequest.com and Dreamhorse.com, where I ultimately found Tank. My guilty little secret (don’t tell Tank) is that I still periodically peruse horse classified ad Web sites. I don’t need or want another horse, but I still like to look.

Dreamhorse Tank
'Round about August (and sometimes December when it’s still 85 degrees and humid), I fantasize about moving. But where? Twenty-acre horse farm in NC? Ocean view home on the Olympic peninsula? Colorado mountain home? Thanks to real estate Web sites like washingtonwaterfronts.com, I can see pictures of beautiful homes and dream.

And speaking of dreaming, did you know that you can rent a historic cottage in the Cotswolds from the National Trust in England? You can also rent an apartment in New York City through Craigslist or a timeshare week someplace exotic through redweek.com. Vacation rental Web sites have given me many a happy hour of harmless fantasizing.

Craigslist rental, NYC


So now you know what I’m doing (sometimes) when I should be checking my e-mail or folding the laundry or…. Just hang on a minute while I check out this villa for rent on the Amalfi coast…

Simple pleasures

I Hear It's Winter Somewhere

December 18, 2009


Sometimes it’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it’s 85 degrees and humid—it's felt more like June than December this past week. (Bah, humbug!) But this morning when I went out to walk the dog, it was raining. Behind this rain, they say, is a cold front, my two favorite weather words here in Florida. Much better than “hurricane watch,” for sure.

In the meantime, I use my snowman mug (snow woman, really) for my morning coffee, and decorate my house with little things that remind me that it is, somewhere, winter. Sure, I’m grateful that I don’t have to shovel snow, or de-ice my car. But right about now I’m real tired of wearing shorts and sweating every time I set foot outside my house. I’m ready for some winter weather, for a chance to wear jeans and my one jacket comfortably. To make soup for dinner and have a fire in the fireplace—all the cozy, autumn/winter things that mark the changing of the seasons.

Embracing the transitions of life—whether it’s something as simple as the changing seasons, or something more weighty, like a new job or a new relationship—can be one of life’s simple pleasures. Take things slowly. Enjoy the moment. Watch life unfold in all its mystery and beauty. I’m as guilty as anyone of rushing through my life without noticing what’s happening. And I'm also not a big fan of change!  In the coming year, I’m going to make an effort to stop that—to enjoy my life and its transitions and changes, even when we move back from winter to summer, when my son grows ever taller and my parents grow older. Each stage has its own value. It’s up to me to find it.

Books

More Book Talk

December 14, 2009

Time for more book discussion! After the Publishers Weekly flap, I revisited the list of books I read this year. Most of them weren’t published in 2009, though they were written by women. I’m not a book reviewer; I read for my own enjoyment and enlightenment. If you’re a reader too, what follows is a list of a few of the books I read this year that I found the most interesting/inspirational/enjoyable, etc. You might like them too.

This Is Not How I Thought It Would Be. Kristin Maschka tackles the issues that surround combining parenting (not just mothering) and work. I’ve read quite a few books on this subject, and this one summed up the issues involved very well, and offers suggestions for how mothers and fathers can make things better.

What the Dead Know. Laura Lippman’s stand-alone suspense novel kept me turning pages all the way to the end.

The Wishing Year. Noelle Oxenhandler chronicles a year of determining whether or not wishing has any real power, as she wishes for a man, a house of her own, and spiritual healing.

A Broom of One’s Own. Nancy Peacock’s delightful essays about her experiences as a writer/house cleaner. This is how some writers who aren’t Dan Brown get by.

War Within and Without. I’ve read all of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s collections of diaries and letters, and feel a great affinity for her. The struggles she had combining motherhood, marriage to a famous (and rather demanding) husband and her own creative work speak to all women who want to be there for their families, but also use their creative talents.

Anne of Green Gables books—by L.M. Montgomery. They were written for children, but they are comfort reading for me when I’m feeling down or overwhelmed.

Die for You. Lisa Unger is a new author for me, and I loved this novel. I’m now reading Beautiful Lies.

Excuses Begone! Not Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s best book, in my opinion, but one I needed to read. I’m a champion excuse maker.

Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher. Hello, “Scanner” personality! This book put a name to how I act, and showed me some ways to direct myself so that I accomplish more and don’t get so frustrated and scattered.

I love to read, and this list could easily be 30 books long, but I took pity on you. I’d love to hear about your favorite books of the year. Please share! And happy reading!

Holidays

Sniffle...Cough...

December 10, 2009


Here in the Land of Good Timing, our son has seen fit to share his cold with me and I am trying NOT to share it with my husband. This is, of course, the very BEST time of year to be sick, what with the decorating and baking and shopping and wrapping that should be taking place. Never you mind. It will all get done eventually, hopefully without a festive Kleenex bow incorporated into someone’s gift wrapping. I can write Christmas cards and admire the tree from my spot in the recliner, with the dog on my lap and the tissues handy. The pine-scented candles glow on the mantel, my attempt to replace that fresh tree smell. (We haven’t had a “real” tree since the year the cat knocked ours over on the new carpet.) I can be grateful that I don’t have to shovel snow in the morning, though I do wish it would be cool enough to wear jeans without sweating. (Ahh…December in Florida.)


Holiday cheer to you all. (And if you get a Christmas card from us, wash your hands after opening. I’m just saying.)

blogs

I'd Like to Thank...

December 07, 2009


My friend Laure from the Painted Thoughts blog (http://paintedthoughtsblog.blogspot.com/) was kind enough to pass on to me the “Over the Top” award pictured above. (Thanks, Laure!) The rules are: Pass this award on to five people, and answer a list of questions in ONE word. (One? Really? OK, I’ll try…)

So here we go:
1. Where is your cell phone? Purse.
2. Your hair? Troublesome.
3. Your mother? Loving.
4. Your father? Feisty.
5. Your favorite food? Dessert.
6. Your dream last night? Don’t remember.
7. Your favorite drink? Coffee.
8. Your dream/goal? Illustrated journaling.
9. What room are you in? Family room.
10. Your hobby? Horseback riding.
11. Your fear? Economic collapse.
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Elsewhere.
13. Where were you last night? Home.
14. Something that you aren’t? Bored.
15. Muffins? Sure!
16. Wish list item? Travel.
17. Where did you grow up? California.
18. Last thing you did? Emailed.
19. What are you wearing? Cotton (you said one word!)
20. Your TV? Sharp.
21. Your Pets? Wonderful.
22. Friends? Necessary.
23. Your life? Full.
24. Your mood? Mellow.
25. Missing Someone? Several.
26. Vehicle? Green.
27. Something you're not wearing? Shoes.
28. Your favorite store? Bookstore.
29. Your favorite colour? Purple.
30. When was the last time you laughed? Today.
31. Last time you cried? Tuesday.
32. Your best friend? Kerri.
33. One place that I go to over and over? Library.
34. Facebook? No.
35. Favorite place to eat? Seasons 52.

I'm new to blogging, and I don't really "know" many bloggers yet, but the blogs below are ones I enjoy visiting, and you might also:

1. Kelly Riccetti at Red and the Peanut, a lovely blog about birds.

2. Elizabeth Patch’s More to Love Sketchbook blog. Her blog focuses on positive self-image, and her charming illustrations complement her writing.

3. Alicia Paulson’s blog, Posie Gets Cozy. Cozy is the perfect description.

4. “The Expatresse” writes about life in Moscow in “The Beet Goes On”, a blog I discovered through SheWrites.com.

5. Crazyauntpurl.com—This blog’s combination of humor and introspection blow me away. And the cute kitty photos don’t hurt.

Enjoy!

Poetry

The Pleasure of a Poem

December 02, 2009

Poetry. Do you like it? I do. I wish I could say I have a deep understanding of all poetry, but I admit I like poems that are readily understandable, that resonate with me emotionally. I find that to understand even a simple poem, you have to slow down. Read each word and savor it, turning it over in your mind like you’d roll a smooth stone in your hand. Poetry enriches language, helps reader and writer forge an emotional connection, even if only for a moment.

I can’t remember how I discovered American Life in Poetry http://www.americanlifeinpoetry.org/, but it’s one way I add beauty and pleasure to my daily life. Every week, ALP emails subscribers a poem. Each poem has a short introduction by wonderful (and understandable) poet Ted Kooser, who was American Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. Check it out—it’s a good way to dip your toes into the ocean of poetry out there. (Subscribing is free.)

Here is a recent poem I enjoyed, and Mr. Kooser’s introduction (quoted with permission):

American Life in Poetry: Column 244

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Love predated the invention of language, but love poetry got its start as soon as we had words through which to express our feelings. Here’s a lovely example of a contemporary poem of love and longing by George Bilgere, who lives in Ohio.

Night Flight

I am doing laps at night, alone
In the indoor pool. Outside
It is snowing, but I am warm
And weightless, suspended and out
Of time like a fly in amber.

She is thousands of miles
From here, and miles above me,
Ghosting the stratosphere,
Heading from New York to London.
Though it is late, even
At that height, I know her light
Is on, her window a square
Of gold as she reads mysteries
Above the Atlantic. I watch

The line of black tile on the pool’s
Floor, leading me down the lane.
If she looks down by moonlight,
Under a clear sky, she will see
Black water. She will see me
Swimming distantly, moving far
From shore, suspended with her
In flight through the wide gulf
As we swim toward land together.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by George Bilgere, whose most recent book of poems is Haywire, Utah State University Press, 2006. Reprinted by permission of George Bilgere. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

On Your Mark, Get Set...

November 30, 2009

This week marks the lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations. I’m enjoying the cooler weather we’re having (it’s not unusual here to be wearing shorts on Thanksgiving—sometimes even on Christmas!) and planning to make some potato cheese soup this week. Soon, we’ll take down our fall decorations in preparation for putting up our Christmas decorations. The Christmas cards and wrapping paper will get pulled out and evaluated. We will have houseguests over the holidays, so menus and activities must be planned. Any gifts we want to order and have shipped should be taken care of while we won’t have to pay extra for shipping. I’ll buy some poinsettias, decide which cookies to make for our wonderful neighbors and put the holiday collar on the dog. The pace of life will speed up, as I remember someone I should have a small gift for, or my son will suddenly grow three inches and require new jeans right now.

But for now, it’s enough to remember the turkey was juicy, the champagne was cold, and we had warm beds, and a fire, and each other to keep us warm. Hope your Thanksgiving was just as lovely.

gratitude

Thankful for the Little Things

November 25, 2009

There’s lots of cooking and cleaning going on at the Johnsons as we prepare for Thanksgiving. (Mmmmm, pie…) In between being thankful for the big things (good health, my family and friends, etc.), I’m thankful for the little things—those simple pleasures and everyday adventures that make up the details of my life. Here are five little things I’m thankful for this year:


Cranberry orange scones from my favorite grocery store’s bakery. I discovered these this year and I’m totally addicted. I break off a little piece to eat with my coffee every morning. Kind of makes waking up bearable.


A fire in the fireplace. Yes, in Florida. Now that it’s not 900 degrees outside, we WILL have a fire on Thanksgiving (even if we have to run our air conditioning at the same time).


Glider Rockers. There’s something so soothing about the rocking motion of a rocking chair—and gliders are the smoothest. We just refinished the one on our front porch and I’m looking forward to spending some time in it.


Water brushes. Laure Ferlita of the Painted Thoughts blog introduced me to these little wonders. Using them is like a hybrid of painting and drawing, and so much fun! I’m practicing with them so that I can take one of Laure’s Imaginary Trips next year.


My iPod nano. My husband gave it to me for Christmas several years ago, and I love it! My car is so old it only has a cassette player, so I use a cassette adaptor for my iPod to listen to music while I drive. (And I admit, I sing along. Sometimes loudly.)

Wishing you all a pleasure-filled, Happy Thanksgiving! And pie.  Lots of pie.

Horses

Horse Therapy

November 21, 2009

Dr. Tank, Horse Therapist
I indulged in some horse therapy yesterday. I spent several hours with my dream-come-true horse, Tank, and took a riding lesson where we made several small breakthroughs on things we’ve been working on. (Canter leads and cantering through cavaletti with no reins for any of you who are horse people.)

Tank greets me with a whinny when I come to take him from his paddock—and my spirits lift immediately. Horses don’t seem to have the same type of emotions or express love the way dogs do, but they do know who “their people” are. I think Tank greets me because he knows something nice is going to happen: he’s going to get carrots and a good grooming, or we’re going to do something interesting, like go for a ride, learn something new, or find a juicy patch of grass to graze on—sometimes all of those things. For my part, it gives me a lot of pleasure simply to look at him, inhale his scent, or lean my head on his shoulder. It does me good to be around him!

I hope you all have something you can do that cheers you up when you feel a little down. What do you love to do, what always lifts your spirits? Is it painting therapy? Reading therapy? Take-a-walk-in-nature therapy? Whatever it is, I wish you time to indulge today.

Chocolate

A Time for Chocolate

November 18, 2009


Today, my "catching happiness" philosophy is being tested. Today I received a rejection for a personal essay I submitted to a local newspaper two months ago. Today, this piece that I love, that I worked hard on and revised and optimistically sent out into the world came back to me--with a form email telling me "it does not meet our needs at this time."


Sadly, rejection for writers in general, and for me in particular, is nothing new. It's a heartbreaking profession.  My writer friends and I try to encourage each other, try to share any good news we get, and also try to find ways to gauge our "success" in ways other than pieces sold.  I have a file folder full of completed manuscripts to remind myself that I am producing work, whether it sells or not, and that is better than producing nothing at all.  Surprisingly, you can't become a better writer unless you write.  I keep all my rejections in another folder.  (And not because I plan to send anonymous hate mail to the rejecting editors.  Really.)

So how will I soothe my ruffled ego and regain a positive attitude?  Aside from initially questioning why on earth I think I can write anything, I'll remember that this is one piece rejected by one market.  I'll remember that even though I've been writing for a long time, the personal essay format is new to me.  I'm still learning.  Eventually, I'll look at the rejected piece again, maybe revise it and find someplace else to send it.  Because that's what you do when you pursue happiness.  You don't sit around and wait for it to come to you.

But first I think I'll eat some chocolate.

Pets

Happiness in a Blanket

November 16, 2009



Meet Scout, the happiest member of the household.  She's relaxing in her bed on her favorite blanket.  This is where she spends her time when she's not keeping the yard safe from squirrels and lizards--and the occasional snake.  Ah, life is good!

Books

Best Books?

November 13, 2009

Today on the SheWrites.com blog, members are debating Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2009 and the marked lack of female writers on the list (none in the top 10, and only about 30% of the total). Are men really better writers than women? The SheWrites members who have taken the time to post on this subject ask many interesting questions, and make some good points. In response to this list, today, Nov. 13, SheWrites is encouraging its members to buy books written by women and post which book(s) they’ve bought and why. “As the Publishers Weekly article proves, men are still taken more seriously. Their books are seen as better, more valid, and about more universal (not girly) topics.” writes Lea Beresford, in “Ask an Editor: Men, Women, Books.”

I’m not sure what to think about this. I find it hard to believe that male authors’ books are really that superior to female authors’. I would be interested to know how many books written by men vs. women are published each year, as well as more details of how the “best” books were chosen. But lists like this are important to authors, because they give them needed exposure. As a consumer, I’m more likely to pick up a book that I’ve heard of somewhere, on some type of recommended list or in a book review.

I read a lot, but the gender of the author is not a factor in my choice of reading material. I choose books that sound interesting to me, or that are recommended by someone I respect, or books that I feel I should read that are related to my work with Mothers & More. Since I keep a record of what I read each year (I know, that’s how compulsive I am), I thought I’d go back and see how many male authors vs. female authors were on my list. Much to my surprise, female authors outnumbered male authors two to one. I’ve read books by women more than twice as often as I’ve read books by men! I didn’t set out to do this. The titles, very few of which were published in 2009, include classics, murder mysteries, biographies, nonfiction, self-help and essays. My top 10 favorite books of the year (so far) would include seven books by women and three by men.

What about you? What do you think about the Publishers Weekly list? Why do you think no female authors appear in the top 10 and does that make any difference? What are your favorite books of 2009 and why?

Failure

Falling Down

November 12, 2009

“I think he just likes to fall down,” commented the other mother with a laugh. We were watching our kids play a recreation league flag football game, and my son had just hit the dirt clutching his opponent’s bright orange flag belt. I had to agree with her. Since early childhood, my son has never been afraid to fall—whether it was off a bike, from the top rung of the money bars, or on his behind while learning to inline skate. Falling down, for him, is just part of the deal when you’re exploring or learning something new.

My son pretty much applies this principle in many areas of his life. He has no hesitation in trying something new, even if the risk of falling—sometimes literally—is great.

He does not get this from me.

I have spent much of my life afraid of trying new things because of the ever-present risk of failure—no, not even of failure—of simply looking ridiculous. But as I’ve gotten older, I find that I am overcoming this fear, little by little. I’m becoming less interested in staying safe on the sidelines, and more interested in seeking out new and challenging experiences.

This change really began around my 40th birthday. I have loved horses all my life and always wanted one of my own, despite having little actual experience with them. I started small, by taking some riding lessons at a low-key barn. I learned what was really involved in horse care—and decided I wanted my own horse anyway. I was willing to risk failure because I wanted the experience so much. I didn’t care if I looked ridiculous.

I don’t have any special gift or great natural ability to ride. What I have is a great love for horses and a desire to learn and improve at something challenging. Yes, I have fallen, literally, from the back of my horse. And, yes, it hurts—but only for a little while. What would hurt more would be walking away from a lifetime dream.

A second new activity for me has been taking a watercolor class. I have little or no art training, so I admit that my expectations for myself weren’t that high. I didn’t expect to “fail,” but I also rather expected to look ridiculous, at least for a while. I’ve definitely had “failures,” if you want to call them that, in watercolor class. Pictures—many of them—that don’t look the way I want them to. But they’re not really failures, because I’ve learned something in painting them.

And perhaps the real success had already been achieved. When I walked in the door of the art room, and when I set foot on the barn property, I was taking the chance of “falling down,” risking failure by trying something new and challenging. While I can’t say I like falling down, I now believe that the real “failure” would be not to try at all.

The Pursuit of Happiness

November 11, 2009

Welcome to Catching Happiness! The Benjamin Franklin quote at left kind of sums things up for me. We may have the right to pursue happiness, but whether or not we catch it is up to us. I’ve had (and still have) the opportunity to pursue happiness—and catch it—and I’d like to share those experiences with others, and encourage them to catch some happiness themselves! Catching happiness doesn’t have to be complicated or hard or expensive. For me, it mostly involves simple pleasures and everyday adventures.

On this blog, I don’t plan to write about controversial issues and modern problems. There are plenty of other people who can do that much better than I. What I hope to do is add a little to the world’s store of positive things: information, beauty, entertainment. (Probably there are people who can do that much better, too, but I’m not going to let that stop me from trying!) I’ll try to balance posts that will help you get to know me, with posts that (hopefully) help you learn something new, make you smile or say, “I didn’t know that.” (You can read more about me in the, fittingly enough, “About Me” section. And please feel free to email me and tell me about you.)

So I invite you to join me on this everyday adventure, pursuing happiness, and, sometimes, catching it.


Look for my travel writing here