…”Find and Trust Your Own Precious Voice”

Dear Reader:

There is something about living in a world of uncertainty that forces us stop long enough to look around. Then one day, for no particular reason, the wonderful realization dawns upon us that we have been given a gift…”When nothing is certain, anything is possible.

My favorite Irish poet, John O’Donohue, explains it better in his introduction to his book of blessings…To Bless the Space Between Us. (excerpt)

“There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself, though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life. Without this subtle quickening our days would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon would ever awaken our longing. 

Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us that is wedded to the energy and excitement of life. This shy inner light is what enables us to recognize and receive our very presence here as blessing. We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs to a harvest of memory, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us and will now enfold, nourish, and sustain us. The gift of the world is our first blessing.”

When I hear the word blessing…it evokes in me a sense of belonging…that I am not alone in this journey called life and that there is nothing that can take away my soul, “my inner light of providence.”

In my personal cancer (“little c” detour) journey I have long ago come to the realization that cancer can “never touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it, certainly, cannot touch my soul.” In fact, if anything, my inner light glows stronger with each passing day.

Another “aha” moment has come along (like the Clinque Bonus package I just signed up for) with the realization that it has only been since I found my voice and started the blog, back in 2010, and lay claim to it, that I have been able to the hear “the true song of another.”

To become a part of the universe, we must be able to connect with all the other voices that surround us…because we are never alone…together we are all one mighty voice that seeks harmony and healing in this old world.


Some of you might remember this book by Elizabeth Lesser who addresses the issues of change and transition during difficult times….asking “Will we be broken down and defeated, or broken open and transformed.”

Life is how we respond to the challenges that confront us…not the challenges themselves. Lesser sees new opportunities and possibilities ( to see the world through different lenses) as the Clinque Bonus Promotion we get for walking the line while still staying open to the loving support of those around us.

So until tomorrow:

“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” (Elizabeth Lesser)

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

Happy “Official” Birthday to Ben and Vikki today! It was a good day for all of us when you each appeared in to our lives!

*I am hanging with Eva Cate today while Mandy takes care of some medical appointments before school starts back. Eva Cate drew the state symbols- the palmetto tree and a crescent. 

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“Still Life” as It Applies to Our Lives

Dear Reader:

Most of us who have ever taken a basic art class in school or college or perhaps gone to a painting/wine class where everyone emerges (at the end of the evening) with the same painting (made better in appearance by the amount of wine consumed) most likely painted a “still life.”

Still Life is paintings of inanimate objects (no animals or people) using common, everyday “subjects” like plates, cups, saucers,chairs, tables, food, flowers,  fruit, etc. Even though the “subject” is inanimate great artists are able to convey strong emotion to observers of the painting.

I chose this Van Gogh Still Life (for the title painting) because of the strong colors, but mostly because of the use and contrast of light, darkness, and reflection. When I looked at it, I immediately liked it…it spoke to me on different levels…some more explainable than others.

I just finished the first detective 

novel in the series and I spent as

much time looking for clues for

the title and its connection to the

murderer as I did searching for

clues to the “whodunnit” fictional

character in the book.

The clues were there…very subtle hints throughout the dialogue (being brilliantly observed by Chief Inspector Armande Gamache)…such as:

“Life is change. If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead. Most of these people are very immature. They lead “still” lives, waiting.”

“Life is choice. All day, everyday. Who we talk to, where we sit, what we say, how we say it. And our lives become defined by our choices. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. So when I’m observing that’s what I’m watching for… the choices people make.”

“I think many people love their problems. Gives them all sorts of excuses for not growing up and getting on with life.”

“They waited for life to happen to them. They waited for someone to save them. Or heal them. They did nothing for themselves.”

Haven’t we all met people or we, ourselves, experienced a time in our lives when we stopped growing and did little or nothing to help ourselves out of the fix. In a sense we became an object in a Still Life…not bad or good…just there…just existing…inanimate… but no longer really living.

In the Still Life detective novel…Chief Inspector Gamache begins to look for someone whose status in life depicts a man or woman who is no longer growing in his/her life…but more importantly someone who has stopped growing UP. Someone who wants everything for nothing. Someone who has become a “still life.”

Life is hard to define but one thing we can all agree on is the basic understanding that life, itself, is definitely NOT a Still Life. Wrong metaphor there.  Life is never still. Life is constant…like a waterfall flowing over a mountain.

And..for better or worse, at the age we all are now…we are the products of the choices we have made in the past leading to where we are at present. This doesn’t mean that we still can’t change and become the person we want to be or God expects us to be…but it does require making better choices to detour onto the right path.

So until tomorrow…Let us take advantage of the choices we can still make to reach the goal we know will define us as the person by whom we want to be remembered. Let it be an “Active Life” painting of ourselves and not a “Still Life.”

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

I can definitely tell you someone who is not a “Still Life” and that is Honey Burrell. I texted Honey over the weekend and asked her if she remembered the name of the company that makes these wonderful “tomato” knives (we always got ours together at the St. Andrews Tea Room in the spring)…perfect for cutting a tomato as thin as you want.

I forgot and put mine in the dishwasher and the end got bent and out of whack…it also lost its sharpness. So I just wanted to order another one. I didn’t get the name of the company back from Honey, instead she sent me another brand new tomato knife, along with other fun goodies.

Honey will never be a “Still Life”…but a Miss “Amazing Life.” 

 

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The Gift of Gathering

Dear Reader:

Family birthdays become more significant and more special as time goes by. We realize as we pose for pictures each year that the gift of gathering…the gift of life…is the most precious thing in the world. We also realize the importance of family…they will always be there for us when sometimes the world turns away.

…And this was a bench mark birthday for Ben and Vikki…Ben turned seventy and this was Vikki’s first birthday where she had an extra present…Rhodes…truly the gift that keeps on giving.

“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.” Alice Waters

Some of the family gathered for brunch at the Old Village Post House and then carried the party over to John and Mandy’s house. *The area around the restaurant in the “Old Village” section of Mt. Pleasant is so cute…you just want to put a bow around it.

Family gatherings make us realize that our most valuable possessions are our shared experiences. Tradition can bind a certain magic, spirit, or texture to our everyday lives.

A Quick Collage of sights to remember:

 

So until tomorrow:  (“For Celebration”: John O’Donohue) To Bless the Space Between Us.

” Now is the time to free the heart, Let all intentions and worries stop, Free the joy inside the self, Awaken to the wonder of your life.” 

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

 

 

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“There There…Everything is Going to Be All Right”

 

Dear Reader:

As I was finishing the mystery novel I told you about yesterday a phrase (that I had not heard in a long time) inadvertently came rushing back with childhood memories and loving feelings  intact.

The expression was “There, there.”

A fictional character in the novel loses a close friend and elderly neighbor, who had seen her through some rough times. So now when she gets the news of her passing…she immediately feels homesick, lost, and needs her neighbor to come back and pat her hand… and tell her “There, there.”

After reading these lines…suddenly I was five or six years old again and I was sitting in my grandmother’s lap. She had been shelling peas on the front porch, but she put the bowl down and pulled me over to her, patted my hand and said “It’s all right, shhhh now, it’s all right.” And to the rhythm of the old rocker she whispered in my ear over and over “There, there…it’s all right…there, there…it’s all right.”

It was the summer we lived with grandmother following daddy’s unexpected death at 31 and mother’s left hand amputation (bone cancer) only months later. I have no recollection of what specific event had caused me to be upset and crying…(small children sense when things aren’t right ) …all I remember is how wonderful it felt to rock with grandmother while she patted my hand and kept repeating “There, there.” I needed security and she gave it to me with a whisper and a rocking chair. No further words were needed.

So now when I see pictures from that sad time in my family’s history…I don’t see a depressed child, a little shy and insecure perhaps, but overall the frame has already been built to house a happy personality. This “miracle” was performed by my family and extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) who made sure my brothers and I still felt an integral part of the whole family unit and understood its strength in unity. They taught me how to fly!

Honey knows how much I love learning new words so she sent me a post from some friends of hers in the mountains and what a wonderful word they discovered and shared. We need to all learn it .

(Here is  an excerpt from their blog on the word EUDAIMONIA!)

“Eudaimonia! Huh?”

Eudaimonia is a new word stemming from Greek philosophy. It refers to a special state of contentment felt by taking the right action.

“It means achieving the best conditions possible for yourself in every sense, not only happiness, but also virtue, morality, and a meaningful life.”

Bob and Fran go on to explain how our inner spirit rises when we perform good deeds and/or helping someone else. This feeling of inner happiness strengthens our health, vitality, and prosperity. It is easy to achieve, regardless of age or station in life…we just have to start.

One suggestion they gave was to write the word on a sticky note and put it on the bathroom mirror. So I did just that!

After all…”Who wouldn’t want to live with a consistent ‘feel good’ spirit?

Today our family will definitely have the feel good spirit going in high gear. We are celebrating Ben and Vikki’s birthdays (July 26) with a Sunday brunch at the Old Village Post House in Mt. Pleasant. We will have an additional member to join us this year for this special occasion…little Rhodes…Lee and Vikki’s 10 month old son.

I love it when the family keeps growing and growing…and soon we will have even another addition…a granddaughter…life is so good!

After the brunch John and Mandy are having everyone over for a pool party and to eat some birthday cake…a fun day in the making!

So until tomorrow:

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

What a wonderful surprise last night! I looked out my window and on the tip top of the trellis was the first moon flower bloom of the summer season. I was so thrilled!  I just kept jumping up and down and then ran outside and gave it some extra water for the outstanding performance!

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Finding Our Way

Dear Reader:

As I was watering all the flowers by the fence early yesterday morning…I felt like a proud parent…without even any lessons the morning glories knew how to intuitively start to climb the fence and when they had reached the top…to begin, then, exploring other possibilities for growth around them.

The mandevilla, on the other hand, seemed to have the intuition right but just couldn’t quite grasp the fence on their own tendrils without a little help. (So I bought a small trellis to help them achieve their goals and now they are on their way.)

I couldn’t help but compare the two flowering plants and think how similar their plights are to real life. Haven’t we all, at different stages in our lives, felt like both plants? Sometimes life just seems to come easier…for awhile everything falls into place and we have a clear vision for our future and our expansion.

Then, suddenly, things change…sometimes slowly without our awareness, or quickly leaving us puzzled, bewildered, and lost in the process.

I don’t know who invented the roller coaster, but I sure am glad they did…because it is the best metaphor for life. Every time we get secure (perhaps even a little smug) about the direction our life is taking… the roller coaster begins its sharp descent into sheer, white-knuckle holding terror. We can always count on this part of the ride. (Or put another way…the proverbial rug gets pulled out from under us.)

Like the mandevilla, we find ourselves, not as self-sufficient as we imagined; we need help. This thought connects me to a mystery book I am currently reading:


Still Life is the first book in a series of detective mystery novels by Louise Penny. They are all set in the fictional town of Three Pines in the Quebec province of Canada. (She was interviewed on the CBS Sunday Morning Show recently and I immediately ordered the first book. I am completely absorbed in the story.

 

  Penny is a gifted character writer and her favorite character, in the series,  is the fictional Chief Inspector Armande Gamache. He is a natural mentor to his young agents and teaches them the four rules to wisdom in their professional and personal lives. (Obviously they apply to all of us readers too) They come in the form of four sentences or simple statements.

*“I’m sorry.”

*I don’t know.”

*“I need help.”

*“I was wrong.

The more I thought about these statements…the more powerful they became. As a race we are connected together and there is a reason for that…we are to help each other along our individual journey through life.

When we are able to “come clean” and admit to another, or others, that we don’t know everything, we aren’t always right,  we do know we messed up, we are sorry, and now we need help…the universe responds gladly and openly to our needs.

My grandmother taught us grandchildren this lesson with ‘talkings to’ like “I think it’s time for you (pointing to the grandchild in question) to come down a notch, cause you’re getting a little too big for yer britches. Now go tell (so and so) you’re sorry and you were wrong… then I just bet they might help you out of this fix you have gotten yourself into… “

So until tomorrow:

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

Look what was blooming in a neighbor’s yard in our neighborhood as I was going past yesterday afternoon..I had to do a double-take. I found out it is a Texas Star Hisbiscus and the bloom is as big as Texas. I had to order one to plant this fall…it is just too gorgeous.

 

 

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Painting Stories…the Chicken Man

Dear Reader:

Isn’t it strange how we can become so accustomed to the sights around us (even in our own homes) that we soon neglect to really see what is there?

That is what happened with this painting from the famous “Chicken Man” …folk art painter from Columbia, South Carolina. Since Libby and Jackson live in Columbia they were the first ones to introduce Brooke and myself to this delightful artist several years ago.

We loved his works so much we decided to give each Ya a painting for her birthday so we would all have a memento of the fun times when we met Ernest and shared lots of laughs .

For those of you who don’t know anything about the “Chicken Man” here is a newspaper paragraph on him (Columbia City newspaper) to introduce you.

“Ernest Lee…the Chicken Man”

Folk artist Ernest Lee is best known as “The Chicken Man.” He describes his unique brand of folk art as a process that “I do [paint] from my heart, not from pictures.” “Be what you are, don’t be what you ain’t. Because if you be what you ain’t, then you ain’t what you are.” – Ernest Lee.

A native of Edgefield, South Carolina, Ernest Lee has been drawing since he was 5 years old and painting since he was 12. While considered an “outsider artist” Ernest has studied art at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art in Alexandria, VA., and the Rose Hill Art Center in Aiken, SC. A prolific artist he is currently best known for his dancing chicken paintings though he also paints dogs, cats, flamingos, and celebrities.

Ernest is well known in Columbia, SC, where for many years he maintained an outdoor street corner gallery with his van and trailer. Ernest’s work has been exhibited in such places as the South Carolina State Museum, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in Washington, DC.

Unfortunately it is harder to find the “Chicken Man” now because of the tremendous growth of USC and the race to find more land for student housing…Ernest Lee has been driven from his once favorite haunts that made him an easy and dependable find for those seeking his artworks.

When it came time to surprise me for my birthday (that year)…the Ya’s took a piece of paper and gave Ernest information about me like… the number of family members at the time and objects that gave special meaning to me…benchmarks of my life.. The result: Amazing!….

For easier viewing…I took my Iphone and divided the figures and objects up to get a closer shot of each one….here we go. (From left to right)

The chicken figures (from L to R) are John, Mandy (Eva Cate in pink) Mollie (expecting with Rutledge) Walsh and Tommy. This picture was painted almost five years ago. (Lots of “little chickens” have been added since then plus another beautiful female chicken named Kaitlyn.)

I am the chicken sitting on the rock above them beside a slab that says 1002. This was when I had just beat Scheherazade and her 1001 Arabian Nights stories…by telling 1002 stories to break her record in a fun blog contest. (See blog cover page…on the upper right column for the story behind this contest)

  The bumblebee above me stands for the symbol of mother who raised three children as a single parent with a single hand. The connection is the anecdote that reads: “The Bumblebee Can Not Fly”

According to recognized and aerotechnical tests, the bumblebee can not fly because of the shape and weight of his body in relation to the total wing area. But…the bumblebee doesn’t know this, so she goes ahead and flies anyway.”

Mom didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to be able to raise three small children with one hand either…but she did and what a job she did! Love you mom!

And finally the flying dolphin…a reminder of my encounter with a jumping dolphin early one foggy morning on the beach at Edisto…I have never forgotten this incredible encounter and the message I sensed from this beautiful creature of the universe: ” Don’t worry…Everything is just the way it should be …you are good…go live your life.”

Ernest Lee let the winking sun be my “God Wink.”

He concluded the painting with the little chapel in the mountains..in the woods…St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope that provided me with the courage and hope to start a blog and tell my story.

So until tomorrow….Thank you Ya’s for this amazing commemorative painting of my life since first walking into the chapel in July of 2010…seven years ago! What an amazing journey we have all been on together.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

Lachlan and Rutledge came to visit Boo last evening…some friends of Mollie and Walsh were in Summerville and they got together. It was good to see my boys.

Eva Cate and Jakie got their teeth cleaned at the dentist and got to go to the park as their reward.

Little Caleb (Brooke’s grandson) climbed his first tree. The first of many such adventures!

 

 

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A Pause to Celebrate

Dear Reader:

Something very special happened yesterday. The number of views hit a rather magical number: 100,000!

After the rain shower late yesterday afternoon I was walking around the front yard a little after eight and suddenly the sun broke through the earlier storm clouds as if to say good-night before the darkness descended.

The old oak tree in Luke and Chelsey’s home across the street lit up like a Christmas tree as the setting sun also set it ablaze with light. I took a picture of it and a few minutes later came in the house.

But something kept nagging at me or was it a lingering doubt…something I had forgotten to do perhaps?  Finally I got up from the comfy lounge chair in the den and decided to add the beautiful picture of the oak tree to today’s post…when something caught my peripheral vision…the view count was at 99,999 at 9:39. You’ve got to be kidding me…I thought…so close!

My eyes were glued on the blog stats…as minutes ticked by (that felt like hours)… finally I decided if I quit staring something would happen…the ‘old waiting for the pot to boil trick‘(leave!)…I got involved in watching the HGTV Property Brothers do-over show and watched it till the end…by the time I got back to the computer room and clicked on again…it was 10:03 and the number staring back at me was….

*I half-expected confetti to fall from the ceiling but to tell you the truth just seeing those zeroes on top of zeroes made my day, made my night…made me so happy! I actually did my happy dance…and I am so glad there was no one here to record it. (I make Elaine’s dance in Seinfeld look good!)

In the big scheme of blog writing this number pales beside other mega-posts where numbers like this accrue in seconds and minutes. But for me, in my little world, it has accrued since November of 2014… since starting over from the earlier archives of the original Chapel of Hope stories.

So today I am going to pause and savor the moment. I am going to take time to reflect on how this important part of my life came to be and the significance of this moment on so many levels. Blogging has been a life-altering experience for me.

My pause includes taking time to thank you dear readers for your loyalty, encouragement, and love. It has been YOU, your presence, that has brought much meaning to my life. Thank you beyond measure.

Terry Hershey, in The Power of Pause, perhaps sums it up best:

“While waiting for perfect, we pass on ordinary. While waiting for better, we don’t give our best effort to good. While waiting for new and improved, we leach the joy right out of the old and reliable. We need to pause more often and notice the ordinary moment, for within it lies the morsels of hidden joy.”

Thank you readers for my hidden joy. Have a wonderful day filled with ordinary moments… and I will see you tomorrow.

Until tomorrow:

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

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