Author Archives: maisymak

Happy Good Friday

I love watching this girl sing. She’s been on Ellen DeGeneres and Steve Harvey, and goodness, have you seen her sing with her Dad? It will make your day!

While Easter Sunday is what we ultimately celebrate, I came across this quote that made me pause and consider this day, Good Friday: “We must never forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer, who gave his life that all men might live . . . This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha’s lonely summit. We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us.”  -Gordan B. Hinckley

Really loving mormon.org this week. So many sad, happy, redeeming, and powerful stories and videos on life and the need for a Savior.

Happy Good Friday, friends! Today’s heartache is what makes the rising so good.

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Lent. And Taking Yourself to the Challenge. Part II

Take yourself to the challenge. If you don’t, the challenge will come to you. It always does. The challenge will WRECK the unprepared.

The girl can run the hills

Do you celebrate lent? In 2014 I first wrote about my lenten experience. I was trying it 40 days before I flew to the base of the Rocky Mountains to run a marathon. Glad that’s over.

This year my brother, Patrick, and I are accountability buddies. There are no marathons in sight. He gave up caffeine: “the first week was rough but I’m feeling better now.” At the moment he’s…struggling. I refuse to accept his defeat. Get back on that Lenten train, buddy!

I gave up some of my addictive technology practices: I can only check phone/email/computer at four specific times a day. Sound easy? Well, it’s not! I’m a chronic user abuser. I get so much email! To stay on top of it, I check when I’m bored, when I’m not bored, when I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, when it’s been over an hour, when I’m waiting for a play to start, etc etc. Since I like to BE PRODUCTIVE ALL THE TIME I feel antsy just sitting. So, this has been a great challenge.

Well.

It’s been life-changing, she said dramatically. YES IT HAS. Now. I check email once in the morning before awaking children, once at lunch time, sometimes after dinner, and once after I put the kids to bed. Writing this feels ridiculous because it’s still A LOT. But it’s working. My mind is less frazzled. I feel calmer. I’m getting more important writing done. I’m actually cleaning more. Hallelujah, her husband said.

I even daydream more. I no longer keep my phone by my bed so I can’t reach over and check it when I can’t sleep or want a dopamine hit right before sleeping. I feel like I have so much more time! It’s also led to me deleting emails and unsubscribing to newsletter I just don’t have time to read, leaving only the most important. It’s a really, really good feeling.

I’ve experienced some physical withdrawal symptoms. Where at first my brain was anxious and antsy, feeling the need for a phone hit, only to BE DENIED, I’m now a little more whatever. It can wait.

Thanks to KJ’s advice (of NYT Motherlode column), I installed the app Moment, which tracks the amount of time I’m on my phone (the kids also installed!) and RescueTime on my laptop. Both are free and have completely revolutionized my thinking, time, and productivity.

All because of lent!

Sometimes I’m tempted to cheat – I remember I have to write a really important email RIGHT NOW. So I do something else: I write it down on paper. And on my next tech moment, I write the email. The sky has not fallen yet.

I thought lent it was a Catholic holiday, but actually, it’s a Christian tradition that many different religions practice. I know this because I Googled, “Lent for Dummies.”

I love the idea of lent, of how it can be a holy period that leads up to Easter.

In the Christian tradition, after the great party of Mardi Gras, where everyone sins and has their riotous fun, there is to be 40 days of prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and periods of fasting.

Well, I think we’ve had some riotous fun, and wouldn’t it be nice – and doesn’t the world need – some time for the holy? My heart is breaking for Syria and the people of Allepo. The images of children…aside from donating money, what can I do? I pray mightily. There is great power in prayer. Miracles, even. I have felt them in my own life.

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. – Doctrine & Covenants 8

Lent’s significance is supposed to be heightened during the Holy Week leading up to Easter, marking the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

In our house we always celebrate Easter, but I sometimes fear that all my children will remember about Easter are addictive, sugary, pink marshmellow bunnies. Yuck.

But the spirit of lent is something I’m familiar with.

In the Mormon religion, each first Sunday of the month is designated as “Fast Sunday.” This is a time of prayer, scripture, and going without food and water for 24 hours (as health and circumstance permits.) It’s voluntary and, for a society that really likes food – really hard.

I find it most interesting that it is during these hard, hungry days, that clarity often comes.

Why, I wonder, must we suffer to come closer to the divine? All I know, is that as we descend, we are somehow lifted. It just works.

This year the calendar says that lent began on Ash Wednesday, March 1 and ends on Thursday,

April 13. I know this because The Idiot’s Guide to Lent told me.
In my 2014 post, my friend, Julia wrote in the comments:

I am Catholic, and I must say you covered the bases pretty well. We fast so that we can make more room for God in our lives. In my house, we always give up sweets/desserts for Lent. I call it detox. Now that the kids are older, they are feeling the sacrifice more. (Example: 12 year old daughter gets into van after school yesterday and says, “Sebastian brought cupcakes to school for his birthday.” Glare. “And for pi day on Friday (celebrating that wonderful mathematical construct) everyone is bringing in pies.” Another, more venomous, glare.
I smile. “It’s not supposed to be easy,” I say. This sacrifice is supposed to turn our dependence back to God and away from worldly things, or worse, our own sense of accomplishment. It should bring challenges that will make us better people. I hope. The Catholic Church also encourages Christians to use this time for increased prayer and works of charity- anything that will increase the amount of love in the world. Goodness knows we need it!
I’m also trying to fast from worry. Pretty hard for this mama.

Just love this.

We give up something good for something better. This is the true meaning of sacrifice. And in a world that hates to be uncomfortable and has become increasingly more self-centered, we could use a bit more sacrifice. For our family, our marriages, our neighbors. Ironically, it ultimately benefits our own selves.

So. Have you taken yourself to the challenge? My daffodils have:

Daffodils are insistent

Are you practicing lent? Do tell!

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Recent Book Reads, Favorite Shows, and Music Recommendations!

Good books, a fantastic medical drama, and a singer who has me swooning – read on for inspiration!

Since we are still in the thick of winter here in New Hampshire, I like to think it gives me more of an excuse to read. Which I don’t. Which I should. An hour every afternoon sounds dreamy, no?

Here are my recent reads (all of which I liked…I toss books aside when I don’t feel like reading them. Who has time for meh?)

What I Read: 

  1. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald. Oh my, what a delightful classic. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is now my standard for all things parenting. Funny and delightful, I’ll be reading more!

2. Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Middle grade, especially recommended for the kids (and adults) who love anthropomorphic animal stories (which I don’t normally gravitate towards.)

3. Eloise Wilkin Stories. Oh, the hand-drawn and painted baby faces, the chubby hands, cheeks, and legs. Simply exquisite. I snatched this at a children’s book exchange…for myself. My admiration for Wilkin was cemented after reading her children’s tribute to their mother. Their love is palpable as they wrote of their enormously talented and creative mother.

4. On Living, by Kerry Egan. Nonfiction. Really, really good. As a hospice chaplain, Egan writes of the “spiritual work of dying.” Sound depressing? It’s not at all! So much wisdom here.

5. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. Nonfiction. That Capote character is an intriguing chap. Capote was Harper Lee’s childhood friend (he was who “Dill” was based off of). Jealous of Lee’s success and her “little bird book,” he was a great writer in his own right. And so very very odd. Here’s a look at his rural Alabama upbringing. It’s good! 

6. Still Life by Louise Penny. An adult mystery. I realized about 3/4 of the way through I’d already read it. The writing is good, but was easy for me to put down.

7. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. The Professor looooved this. I liked it. The year is 1968. Lynnie is developmentally slow and therefore deemed “undesirable.” Locked away in an institution, she falls in love with Homan, an African American deaf man. This is their love story. Some of our American history is so appalling.

8. Waiting for Augusta by Jessica Lawson. I LOVED this book. Favorite middle grade read in a long time. I’ve enjoyed all of Jessica’s books, but this one especially. The voice is pitch perfect, making me laugh out loud, and also want to cry (my perfect combo.) I envy her use of language and found myself dog-earring pages to study a turn of phrase. It begins: “Eleven-year-old Benjamin Putter has a lump in his throat, and he’s certain it’s a golf ball…?” With a subplot of race relations, it’s tells the story of one boy’s journey to find his father’s love.

9. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. As a lover of all thing Jodi Picoult, this ranks as a favorite. It hurt my heart, made me cry, feel ashamed, offended, offensive, uncomfortable, happy, and sad. A page-turner of a book about race in America. Destined to become a book club favorite. Read it. And may we all do better.

10. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D.  A spiritual and medical memoir, Alexander, a neurosurgeon, writes of his near death experience after an ecoli bacteria strains attacks his brain and leaves him for dead. His recovery was miraculous and baffling to an entire medical team. Fascinating from a scientific point of view, Alexander makes the case for heaven.

Are you participating in the Goodreads Challenge? It’s fun! My goal is 50 books this year and I’m on track, baby!

What I’m Watching:

1. Mercy Street. LOVE it. This series is so well-made and written, it’s got me reading about typhoid in the civil war HERE, and a Behind the Lens HERE. Mercy Street is a civil war medical drama, and it’s got it all – love, loss, betrayal, redemption, jealousy, historical complexities, race, war, amputations (we’ve come so far in the medical field). There’s blood and some seriously realistic surgeries, but it’s so clean and SO GOOD. PBS, can you do no wrong? I think not. (Free on Amazon Prime.)

2. Other shows that got me through the winter: Poldark, Turn: Washington’s Spies (though unnecessarily racy), Scandal (I had to stop but Olivia Pope is on point), Victoria, The Crown, This is Us.

What I’m Listening to:

1. Ed Sheerhan’s new album, Divide. What a great album! My favorites (on repeat and downloaded for my recent running race): Perfect, Galway Girl, Dive, Happier, Supermarket Flowers (sob!), Nancy Mulligan.

And now, do tell – what are you reading, watching, and listening to these days?

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What Goes On: Storm Stella, Chinese Food, and Kids Growing Up

  1. We are stuck in a cozy Comfort Inn in Vermont after trying to make it home in Winter Storm Stella. I love it. The Professor looked around our room and said, “we really know how to to explode into a hotel room.”
  2. Our room smells like Chinese food and socks.
  3. I finished reading, SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult. It’s an unputdownable story about race in America. Really important stuff that many of us have the luxury of not thinking about. We need to think about it.
  4. We are now watching, Thor. It’s so bad. Or is that just me?
  5. We went to a water park and had loads of fun. I’m trying not to think, “this will be the last time we have a get-away before Cope is in college.” Again, trying not to think!
  6. Our friendly little basketball game turned into underwater wrestling, elbows, and a headlock. We’re not competitive or anything.
  7. We enjoyed a lazy river while the blizzard raged outside.
  8. We are enjoying two new games: “Oh, Snap!” and “Taboo” (thanks, Kim!)
  9. Our dear friend, Eric, passed away today after a three-year battle with ALS. It’s a terrible disease, but he and his family battled with such optimism and dignity. There were so many times I thought, “there is no way I could let someone help me the way he is letting me help him.” Eric was always so patient with me and everyone else, whether it was helping him use the bathroom or suctioning out his mouth so he could swallow. There have been many many tears, and yet I am grateful that I was allowed to be part of the pain. The pain now is because of all the love we feel for a remarkable family. Eric never shied away from talking about the hard stuff. He knew he was going to die. He helped all of us look it right in the eye and then that great storm Stella came calling for him. The last thing I said to him was, “I’ll see you on the other side,” and he said, “Yep.” And I believe that’s true.
  10. We are all growing up, aren’t we? The kids are getting older. Life is going by so fast, and yet “Life is long for those who know how to use it.” – Seneca. Trying to use it well. To be happy with the time we have.
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The Famous NY Times No-Knead Bread

This is one of the most popular recipes ever published by the New York Times, courtesy of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, who designed this bread as a minimalist technique for anyone who wants to bake a fantastic loaf of bread.

Let me tell you – it’s fantastic. And works every single time.

It is SO good and SO easy to make that I’ve made enough loaves to open a small bakery. Except we gobble it up too quickly to sell.

Three ingredients + water and stirred with a spoon. After that? TIME to let the magic (science, really) happen: The secret to great bread? Let time do the work.

I like to do this in the morning or at night and than leave it alone for a day or two. Takes 5-10 minutes.

 This recipe guarantees: soft and airy on the inside and chewy delicious on the outside.

 Three ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. Stir.

That’s it. The dough will be wet and shaggy. Cover with plastic wrap for12-18 hours. Here is where the science comes in. Your dough needs to rest for a long time to allow the gluten to become long elastic molecules – the reason for no kneading.

You’re going to bake using a covered dutch oven (or cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic.)

A covered dutch oven? Yes, this crust needs a lid to bake. The Professor gifted me with this beauty and I absolutely adore it. You can cook soups and stew on the stove and bake puffed pancakes and bread in the oven; it’s my most favorite kitchen item!

 Unlike the New York Times recipe, I use parchment paper. The advantage is you simply lift up the paper (with the bread on it) and place in pre-heated dutch oven.

Baby loaves. Which cook more like a four-leaf clover.   Package it up all pretty if you like. Deliver warm. And you’ll have friends for life.

The New York Times No-Knead Bread*

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/4  teaspoons salt
  • 1 5/8 cups water (5/8 is just barely shy of 2/3 cup!)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (warm or cold,) and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  2. Dough is ready when doubled and bubbly. Heat oven to 450. Place dutch oven in the oven.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface or parchment paper. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your fingers, work dough into a ball and onto the floured surface. Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Let rest about 30 minutes (OR longer – NYT lets it rest for 2 hours!) When dough is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. Remove hot pot from oven. Carefully pick up parchment paper and place in heated dutch oven. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 10ish minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
  5. Eat and realize that life is beautiful because of warm bread.

*tweaks from astackofdishes

Enjoy!

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

  1. “I’ve learned how to be patient and now I’m done being patient!”

  2. “Sometimes when I miss you I go into your room and smell your perfume.”

  3. “When I’m a mom we will never use plastic – feel guilty!”

  4. “You didn’t make a snowman with me like you said and I want you to think about what you’ve done and how you’ve taken a bite out of my soul!”

  5. “Our family is so weird! Who listens to this music in the car???”

  6. “I could not be mute! I would negotiate something else with Ursula.”

  7. “I learned a new way to strangle someone today.”

  8. “Can you please not die before my wedding?”

  9. “Thank you for being my mommy!”

  10. “Mother, this is not dinner. This is a wee nibble.”

  11.  “You were meant to have wavy hair, Mama. None of that straight stuff.” *

More Real Quotes From Real Kids HERE

*a husband quote!

I’d like it to be known that I made a snowman with Paige and was not the one responsible for taking a bite out of her soul.

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What is On the Walls of Your Home?

I’m becoming more intentional about what goes on the walls of our home. Of all the sensory receptors in the body, 70% are in the eyes. Fascinating, no? We see a lot of images everyday, and what we see stays with us.

We didn’t have a lot of extra for decorating when I was a kid, but my mother made a real effort to put up interesting art. I remember eating breakfast as a little girl and staring up at a poster of the urinary system 🙂 My mom put up anatomy posters, Monet, ancestors, and framed Minerva Tiechert. I am so appreciative of that now.

What’s on our walls? Here are a few amateur shots from around the house:

 Flowers painted by great grandmother, Alice Fogg Family photos Love is spoken in our home at all times, day and night. there is never any fighting 🙂 This Christ print is by Greg Olson, one of my favorite painters. We received this for our wedding (almost 20 years ago!) We see it every time we enter or leave the house, and every time we enter the living room. Poor Jesus has been through a lot in our house. The glass was shattered after Nelson kicked a soccer ball into it, the frame cracked after a dry winter, it’s been tipped over by careless dusters, and often gets covered in black soot from the fire. Nevertheless, after replacements and loving care, the print is going strong.This hard-workin’ laundry mama reminds me how I adore washing and folding multiple loads of laundry a day. She and I always have a smile on our face while performing this service for our family (just ask the kids! 🙂 )

I like to use inspiring pages from a youth Christian magazine, The New Era (’cause Cosmo hasn’t really led us toward the light). Love, love, love their monthly message. I tape these up onto the bathroom mirror. We ponder goodness while brushing teeth.

But besides this, and my children’s artwork, I’ve been longing for meaningful art  to ponder and get lost in.

This past summer, when my heart was heavy, I gravitated toward paintings of strong women.

When I saw this, I HAD TO HAVE it:

She Will Find What is Lost by Brian Kershisnik now hangs in our living room. What has she lost? A person? Hope? Faith? She’s lost something that has impacted her happiness. But all is not lost. Heavenly angels surround her, strengthening and reminding her that she is not alone. I think the beauty is not that she has lost something, but that “she will find what is lost.” Read more HERE, by artist.

She Became Herself With Tears by Caitlin Connolly. Cope says this is a depressing piece, but oh, I love it so much. The colors, the title, everything. I stalked artist Caitlin Connolly on instagram for a full month, waiting for a holiday sale, snagging print #2 of a limited edition of 30. It really felt like the first significant piece of artwork on our wall.

Mothers Teaching by Caitlin Connolly. I love this one, too, which now hangs in my bedroom. I want so many of her prints, but must exercise restraint. Her paintings of strong women really speak to me.

Artists I’m really loving right now…(I even know some of them!)

Molly and Corbett Leith, David FlemingJen Fleming, Brian Andreas, Ruth Chou Simons, and James Christensen (just to name a few – there are so many!)

Good artwork, especially original, isn’t easy. But is shouldn’t be, right? The time it takes to find the right mat and frame and hanger easily overwhelms me. And if you want someone else to frame it, well that’s time and effort and money, too.

But. I’m upping my game, vowing to do better. Art is an important investment for a family and home. It makes homes more interesting, less stale, more beautiful. It’s a conversation starter, it supports our artists, and makes our hearts pitter patter with happiness over that special, unique, carefully chosen piece.

As the chaos of the world swirls around us, I’ve felt a greater need to make home a refuge – and you certainly don’t need great artwork on the walls to do that – but I do want us to be surrounded by beauty and color and inspired artists who seem to have an eye and heart and paintbrush turned toward heaven. Bring the heaven in.

Read this: 13 Reasons Why Original Art In the Home is As Important As a Bed! 

“Do a visual tour of your home with spiritual eyes. Is there love? Is your family room a place to gather as a family? Regardless of circumstances, home should be where family wants to be.” -nestingwithgrace

What’s on your walls? Any favorite artists?

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Ten Favorite Valentines

Let’s start with the treats, shall we?

1. Dark decadent homemade chocolate. With only three all-natural ingredients!

hearts3

2. The Valentine Fruit Heartfruit-heart

3. A Valentine Breakfastpuffpancakes

4. Oreo Truffles and Chocolate Covered Strawberries DSC_0096

5. My Favorite Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookie  (thick, soft, and delicious!)DSC_0070-1024x680

6. German Chocolate Cake (and a Love Story)unnamed-2

Valentine Projects this year:

7. Ipod Valentines (comes with a free printable!) Yes, ironic given my technology rants 🙂

IMG_0292

8. Window hanging: Iron crayon shavings into between sheets of waxed paper & cut outIMG_0326

9. Wreath: crumble up tissue paper and glue gun them onto a cardboard wreath.IMG_0338

10. My favorite Valentine tradition: the annual heart attack! Valentine’s get stuck all over the house and we laugh for days (unless they’re making fun of the multiple shades of my hair 🙂 )

paige1 mom

Enjoy! And may all your days be filled with light and love…and especially kisses!

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Secret of Happiness: Send a Surprise Gift

Want to be happier? Send a surprise gift.

The last few months I’ve been the recipient of a few surprise gifts. I’m still marveling at their impact on my life.

unnamed-11. The window candles.

I was at church one morning last month and my body language must have indicated I was having a bad day. True. I was really sad. Denise found me and gave me a hug. I started rambling on about window candles. Why could I never seem to get them to work? After my mother-in-law’s death, I had inherited her window candles and was so excited to finally be that quintessential New England home with the December candles in the windows. I drove all the way to the store (here that’s saying something,) bought batteries, plugged them all in, and two days later they were tipped over, and all the batteries were dead. Dark windows. #fail

WHY? What was so hard about window candles?  Frustrated, I threw them all away. And was sad and mad.

Whatever. Unimportant. How are you?

“I might have some you can have,” Denise said. “I’m downsizing.” So nice, but oh dear. This would require something from me. They wouldn’t work and I’d have to find the right size bulb, and blah blah blah adding to more stress and stuff. Thank you, anyway 🙂

A few days later I received a present. Inside were six, brand new Christmas candles. No batteries required. All the lightbulbs worked. They light up automatically when the sun goes down and go to sleep when the sun comes up. They stay upright. And every night, for the past month, when I pull into the driveway, there are candles lighting up my dark windows in the middle of the dark winter in New Hampshire.

It’s a small thing. But Denise made this happen for me. And it makes me so so happy.

unnamed-2 2. A handwritten card from my sister, Andrea.

Even now, weeks later, I read this over and over. She wrote, “Thank you for being such a good friend…you wrote on your blog that optimism is your best trait. I disagree. I think your best trait is helping the people in your life feel loved…thank you, Amy, for loving me.”

It makes me cry every time I read it and I will cherish it forever, (especially when I’m crabby and not making anyone feel loved). A small thing. And makes me so so happy.

unnamed 3. Paintbrushes from a master artist.

I was completely overwhelmed when I received these paint brushes, some sample paper, and a letter in the mail a few weeks ago from Leanne. “You must simply start painting with watercolor because your eye is flawless.” Huh? Me? It’s true that I’ve secretly wanted to become Monet for a long time, but…you know. I pretty much assumed that if I hadn’t started by now it was too late. But Leanne said, “you must simply start!” This EXCEPTIONAL watercolorist was telling me I should paint. And so I obeyed! Brynne and I have been putting paint on paper, and artist Jill has invited me to come to her class, and I’m discovering this great art form and loving it so much.

Yesterday I painted a bird 🙂 A small thing. It makes me so happy.

DSC_03464. The gift of the rhubarb.

This past summer I was missing people. One day Tamar called and said, “I have a present for you but I have to give it to you in person.” She showed up with a rhubarb plant.

Oh dear. I had to plant something and not kill it.

“You won’t be able to kill it.” She said this stubborn rhubarb was weaving in and under her porch, reaping all sorts of destruction. She went to work on it, but was dismayed to see that she had unintentionally killed the whole thing!

“I was so sad. Every day this summer I came out to see if my rhubarb was growing back and every day there was nothing but dirt. Heather was dead and my rhubarb was dead and I was so so sad. Day after day. Well one day I came out and there was this tiny green shoot poking out of the ground! And I swear I heard Heather behind me. It was like she was right there and you know what she said? She said, ‘See! LIFE GOES ON!'”

And Tamar thought – AMY! She dug up the rhubarb plant, put it in a pot, drove all the way to my house, and told me the rhubarb story. “See! LIFE GOES ON!” And in my head I could see Heather standing behind me, pointing at the rhubarb in her strong, matter-of-fact voice. “SEE! LIFE GOES ON!”

My friends, none of these women had to bring me a gift. But for some reason, they thought of me, and then they ACTED ON THAT THOUGHT. They were busy with long to-do gifts and they stopped a moment to bring or send me a surprise gift.

They made me so so happy.

Funny the way gifts work. Friends and a sister put gifts in my lap and in the mail. They gave to me. But when I said thank you, I could see that they felt that same joy, too.

The best thing about a surprise gift is that it’s so unexpected. We expect gifts on our birthdays, at Christmas, and yankee swaps. But when a gift lands in  your lap and is so out of the blue, oh my goodness, it’s SO FUN! And it’s so entirely delightful to see the look on the recipient’s face. No wonder Ellen loves her talk show so much – she unexpectedly gives gives gives. Her guests cry and jump up and down, and we, her audience – WE LOVE IT!

If you think that making the world a better place is out of your control, you’re mistaken. Our circle of influence is our most powerful weapon for good. Start there and you’ll see – happiness has a ripple effect and continues far and wide.

Secret of Happiness: send a surprise gift. You’ll see it, you’ll feel it…happy.

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Happy Monday {when it seems the world is falling apart}

When I told my friend about “signs” and feeling like God gave me little gifts to keep me going, he shook his head. He thought the signs were always there – we were just too busy to see them.

Hmm, maybe he’s right. Do we make our own reality because of how we want to see the world or are there gifts being sent all the time? I think it’s a little of both. But I think Friend has a point: there is great beauty all around us, if we will only SEE.

I read this quote this weekend (and didn’t think it a coincidence:):

“The more often we see things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things – the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

There is an awful lot of doom and gloom these days. We are upset about politics, taxes, healthcare. There are really sad and horrible things happening that we have no control over. For instance, I’m driving myself mad this evening thinking about how much of teen culture is.so.BAD. Will the kids really be okay?

But I must take deep breaths and think about that another day.

This post is about seeing the sunshine and butterflies.

Anyway, has there ever been a period of time when people on earth felt perfectly content or unafraid?

So. I read this this week, too:

“I am asking that we stop seeing out the storms and enjoy more full the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we ‘accentuate the positive.’ I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.

I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course.

What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears.” –Gordon B. Hinckley #lovethisman

I saw this faith and optimism play out over the weekend as we laid my cousin, Andrew, to rest. Andrew was born with many heart defects and Down Syndrome. But the love his family had for him was a great love story. Andrew was a joy, but also…difficult. I don’t know how his parents and sister could turn every broken toilet into a hilarious story, (he had a fascination with flushing things) but they did!

Even his obituary made me laugh. A small piece: “Ever the prankster, Andrew enjoyed breaking household items, hiding things, and telling jokes about setting people’s hair on fire.”

Before he passed away he hid all of his mother’s pants. They are still looking for them. On several occasions I thought, “bless them, I could never do it.”

But they did. So very well.

His father, Ray, said at his funeral: “Happiness is a choice.”

In a prayer, Andrew’s mother said, “Thank you for the great honor of allowing us to raise Andrew.” She didn’t talk about how hard it was, only the great honor.

I’m thinking about this today, on a cold, grey January day when there are many many worries on my mind. I’m looking out the window {’cause it’s not on my phone} and really trying to see it.

Some seasons of life are better than others. And I just thought I’d share this belief of mine, that our lives have meaning. That there are good things all around us if we want to see them. That happiness is a choice.

And like Olivia Pope says, “ALL PROBLEMS HAVE SOLUTIONS!” 🙂

Okay?

Hold on. If you can’t see the light right now, believe. It’s there.

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Happy Monday, friends.

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