Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thank You. by Patresa Hartman

On the day before the year turns, I feel wise and strong, sensing divine purpose in where I've been and alight looking forward. The 365 days before become a collection of lessons; the days ahead streak ready acres of limitless possibility. Possibility kicks ass (Many apologies to my mother for using the word "ass" in a public forum.).

I came to YOG late, invited to round out a shifting Gratitude Team. What an opportunity for big soul work! Thank you, Ms. Kat, for inviting me. And thank you, Ms. Barb and Ms. Angie, for welcoming me so warmly. High fives all around.

There are two key things I believe I have learned in this process: 1) Gratitude is a choice; and 2) Gratitude opens you to peace and joy. Peace and joy also kick ass.

I like math and think numbers are chronically underestimated. They are interesting and expose dynamic layers of the universe when tapped. I like that a -5 and a +5 are equal distances from zero; the concept implies that every number contains two parallel frequencies. Likewise, I think of each moment of my life as a point, a distance from zero, and therefore containing equal opportunities for negativity or positivity. With this acknowledgment, I can no longer believe that life is a series of events that happen to me. I can choose: wallow in the negative frequency; or celebrate the positive. I am learning there is joy everywhere -- in every moment -- if I only choose to look.

My friend, Mary, introduced me this year to a mantra inspired by Morrnah Simeona's teachings of an ancient Hawaiian healing system, Ho'oponopono. Simeona taught that we are all connected and therefore all responsible for one another. The external world is a projection of our internal world, and so the more peace we feel, the more peace there will be. (And the more peace there will be, the more peace we will feel.) The mantra, explained in Joe Vitale and Hew Len's Zero Limits, goes like this:

I love you.
Please forgive me.
I'm sorry.
Thank you.

I find it appropriate that the last line is "Thank you." There is a particular openness and peace that is communicated via gratitude. It is acceptance and surrender to something bigger than our immediate understanding. This concept is alive in every spiritual walk. Saying thank you for everything -- the bad and the good -- is an important acknowledgement that we are part of the universe, not separate, that the universe is ultimately good, and it is providing what it must. (I think it works just as well to say "God" instead of "universe.") I feel a lot of my own personal turmoil comes from resistance. There are things in the world I do not like, people I do not like, things about myself I do not like. When I do not accept these elements, I close myself not only to them, but everything else -- including love and joy. When I am closed, I feel isolated and angry, even superior.

Even in times of sadness, when I sense and accept my rightfully small place in the natural world, I feel open and connected. There is peace in this tiny shift, and sadness reconfigures. It hops frequencies and becomes joy.

So for 2009, I wish for you:

to choose joy
to choose peace
to choose gratitude
...in response to all things.

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year's End by Angie Ledbetter

I'm sad in a way that our Year of Gratitude has come to an end, but happy I've had this opportunity to express the good, bad and ugly of daily life with a huge dollop of gratefulness on top of each "dish" served up to me this past year.

By spending so much time writing/thinking about, and steeped in being grateful, I hope the attitude has become an ingrained habit that will rest on my shoulders like a soft beautiful shawl for life. No matter what comes (and especially if it's bad, hurtful or sad), I think the lessons I've learned will continue to take away some of the chill. I hope I have added to the uplifting perspectives and interesting views of my fellow YOGgers.

I'll leave you with these thoughts, as I once and for the last time publicly, count blessings brought about by a year of focusing on being grateful:

  • Above all, I've realized life is all about how you choose to see things.
  • Rain will inevitably spoil the parade now and then, but grateful, joyful thinking makes one heck of an umbrella.
  • Gratitude is contagious.
  • Gratefulness is not only a state of mind, but a way of living.
  • When things are at their worst, a dose of gratitude can change things around, or at least assure you that tomorrow is definitely a new day.
  • Gratitude begets more gratitude.
  • Focusing on the goodness of life increases joy and health.
  • Thankfulness can bring people who have nothing (or very little) in common together.
  • It is just as easy to be glad as sad.
  • Perspective is an awesome and powerful thing.

I will always remember 2008 as the Year of My Gratitude. Thank you, Barb, Kathryn, Patresa and Nannette, for sharing your company and thoughts with me.

May all we've learned by concentrating on gratitude never be far from our hearts and minds.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Saying Goodbye to the Old Year and to YOG by Kat Magendie

I went back to read my very first YOG, just to see what I’d written, how I’d written it, and how I was grateful in that moment. So very tempting to place that same gratitude post here again. The message is the same. I am still that woman; mostly, except I am a year older and have a year’s worth of experiences that can’t help but affect one in ways both subtle and profound. How appropriate here at this year’s end I received gifts that will change my new year. Ones that will change the way I see the world, and maybe how the world sees me. Receiving what you asked for is both thrilling and terrifying. I am up for the challenge. I am ready. I am strong. But mostly, I am filled with hopeful gratitude.

Looking back over the past year, it both seems as if it flew by and seems as if it is a distant dream. There were constants in my life, and this YOG is one of them. Days the words spilled and then gathered on the YOG page; and then, the days where I struggled to find words to fill a post. Like now. Now that the time has come for my last YOG post, for me to say “Goodbye” to this year of gratitude within this forum, I am at a loss for the perfect words. Oh, how I wanted this last post to be perfect.

I leave you with a bit of my words from a year ago. I think I said it best then, and it still applies almost three-hundred and sixty-five days later.

Simply by the act of saying, “Thank you,” I am released from old demons. I am unchained from fear and worry. From the comfort of my couch where I am snuggled under a throw while the wild wind rushes over and across the mountain ridge, whips the bare branches, pushes against my log house, from this place of security I sigh as if an old dog on a porch and breathe out, “Thank you.” Does it matter who or what I give thanks to? No, it is only important that I breathe in the air and breathe out the gratitude.

Thank you all, readers. Thank you for visiting and reading and commenting and for just being. This is it. My last YOG post. Here's to whatever comes next.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

One Last YOG by Barbara Quinn

My last gratitude post. Oh my.

It’s hard to believe we’ve gone through a year expressing our gratitude on a daily basis, but here it is the end of December with a new year on the way.

I’m grateful that we were able to finish out this project. Life had its ups and downs this past year, but we kept on being grateful through it all. What a help it was to turn to this gratitude blog each day. I learned much from the ladies of the Yog, and because of their words it has become easier to be grateful. Like practicing an instrument or a language, the more I studied their posts, and wrote my own, the more gratitude I was able to express. The more gratitude I expressed, the better I felt, the more I wanted to be grateful. It’s more than a win-win situation, it's an avalanche of gratitude, a gratitude addiction.

We’re going to leave this gratitude blog and journal of the past year up for others to find. That’s one of the nice things about the net. Once something is out here in the ether, it can stay for a long, long, time and be found by new people who need a daily shot of inspiration.

Thank you Yoggers, readers, posters, and lurkers. We’re grateful! And I hope to continue being grateful for as long as I can.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Don't write on her face. by Patresa Hartman

I love my family. I know that I hit some kind of jackpot when I was born, and I am grateful. I have two older sisters, and together with my parents, they are a clever crew with sensible priorities and level heads. There is no drama when we get together...which is not to say there is never conflict. But even when we butt heads, we do it directly and compassionately -- not tiptoeing around one another, not slinging character attacks. And we always always laugh about it later.

My family has taught me humility (repeatedly) and to regard myself lightly. We see humor in small things, and poking fun at one another is a sign of affection -- a celebration of quirks and imperfections:


--> Our mother is stubbornly naive and/or gullible about many things (forcing us at times to explain our jokes), sings harmony with rock songs, and snaps and claps in rhythm with music that isn't playing anywhere but in her head.


--> Our father has at least two of everything, compulsively buys us books we'll never read (at least 3 covering the same topic that none of us have expressed any interest in -- like marketing trends), and gives ordinary items strange names (Mustard becomes "banana juice;" a small water bottle becomes a "bucket.").


--> My oldest sister, Paula, never ever stops talking (Never. I cannot emphasize this enough.), makes odd and alarming noises when she gasps or sneezes, and has absolutely no immediate, regional, national, or international awareness of geographical properties.


--> Our middle sister, Pam, is stoic and reserved, is the world's most standoffish hugger, and spends ridiculous amounts of time researching everything she can think to research (juicers, online radio stations, fish oil vs. cod liver oil, the healing properties of cayenne pepper...).


--> The youngest, I require copious amounts of alone time, am egregiously grumpy at times for no apparent reason (which are my sisters' favorite times to deliberately do things that annoy me), and hate the telephone to an almost pathological extent.


We like this about us, although the endearment of it may not be readily noted by outsiders. We are the funniest people we know without even meaning to be. This brings me to my favorite moment across the entire span of Christmas celebrations this year: the moment I witnessed Paula giving a wordy lecture to her 7-year-old, Katherine, about taking care of her new American Girl doll.

Paula concluded her long, stern lecture with this very serious command:

"Don't write on her face."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Day After by Angie Ledbetter


It's the day after the Big Day. Christmas is over, and the only ones left with huge sacks to haul are the garbagemen coming to take away the trashed remnants. Out go the pretty wrapping all scrunched up; the torn boxes, ripped open in excitement; the boxes that held nifty kitchen gadgets, electronics or kids' toys; curled ribbons and remains from the feast.
My small family has a tradition of eating brunch out on Christmas, as we've spent the Eve enjoying the big family gathering, gag gift exchange, and eating a delicious potluck. We patiently waited for a table at the Waffle House, enjoying rehashing fresh memories of this year's holiday celebration with laughter.
Then a strange thing happened after we were seated. It was truly a sight to behold. There at the door of the breakfast restaurant stood a shirtless elderly man with long white hair and matching beard. He looked all the world like a day-after Santa. As most of the other diners snickered and pointed, I asked my husband to go to our vehicle and see if he had an extra shirt or jacket for the man who'd merely stuck his head in the door and asked, "Can y'all please fix me $4 worth of waffles? I'll wait out here."
Soon, my husband and the bedraggled Santa returned, the latter decked out in a brand new hooded sweat jacket with a few more bills in his pocket. I wish I could share the smile I had on my face and in my heart. My husband, not usually a demonstrative person, had gotten the opportunity to share. My teenagers, I'm proud to say, suggested we also pick up the man's tab for breakfast, and asked our waitress to tell him to order whatever he wanted. They had never once laughed at the unfortunate soul.
The other patrons went back to their conversations, and our "Santa" was treated with dignity by the hardworking staff who'd given up their Christmas morning to serve others.
At the table behind us, our Santa smiled and said, "God bless you," before returning to his babbling behind the menu to himself. I imagine he is a homeless veteran, someone who has no warm place to spend Christmas or any other day with loved ones.
Our Waffle House visit with "Santa" will be remembered long after I've forgotten what gifts I unwrapped this year. And the smile on the tired waitress's face when she saw her huge tip. And the pride I felt for my family around a cramped table eating brunch.
I am truly blessed and filled with gratitude. May you receive the same kind of gifts, long after the material ones have faded from memory, throughout the coming year and always.
{Photo by Angie Ledbetter}

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, by Kat Magendie

I'm writing this on Christmas Eve. Actually, Christmas Eve is my favorite time. Of course, as a child, Christmas Eve seemed to last forever, and I remember the sleepless nights of excitement: what was under the tree? what would I get for Christmas? will it ever GET HERE! Even when we didn't have much money, there were always gifts under the tree. We kids never felt as if there wasn't a "Christmas," for somehow our mother pulled it off, even in the leanest of times. For years I thought Christmas stockings were supposed to be paper lunch sacks with our names written in a fancy script. Inside those "stockings" were fruits, nuts, and sometimes a little candy. As the years progressed, the candy became more present. We were allowed to skip breakfast Christmas morning if we wanted to and eat whatever treats we had in those sacks. Ah. I miss those lunch sacks of goodies. I have stockings now, but they just don't feel the same.

As an adult, Christmas Eve takes on the special feelings of anticipation that differ from those as a child who wonders what she will get Christmas Day. Instead, she wonders at what she already has, and what she has given: me that is, grateful for what I have and what I have been able to give to someone else for Christmas.

Christmas Eve is that pause between. For I know once Christmas Day is here (as it is now, just as you are reading this and I will be eating a Christmas Breakfast and drinking Deep Creek Blend and opening a few gifts and smiling and wondering at others opening their gifts and imagining children's laughter...), it quickly slides away and then soon the new year is here and all the glitter and sparkle of Christmas quickly fades away, the tree begins to lose its needles, the gifts tucked away, the memories caught in snapshots of mouths wide in laughter and surprise. But don't let's go that far. Let's take this moment, this day, and stretch it out far and wide as a Smoky Mountain Sky.

On Christmas Eve, I like to stay up as late as I can, and all afternoon and into the evening I watch certain Christmas movies: Alistair Sims's "A Christmas Carol," "It's A Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and the halarious but heartwarming "Christmas Story."

When the last movie fades away, if I have been able to stay awake before a fire, tucked under a quilt on my couch, I stay there just a bit longer (and I also sneak in a gift or two into Roger's stocking - just as I used to sneak my son's gifts into his stocking and place his gifts under the tree) and just enjoy the quiet, the solitude, the last remaining moments of Christmas Eve--which most times does turn into very very early Christmas Morning.

Oh! Christmas Day! Oh! Joyous Day! Oh! Wonderful Beautiful Day!

I will snuggle in and remember Christmases that have come and gone. I will embrace the one that is here. I will not yet look ahead to the next days coming.

Christmas is here. At last, Christmas is here. Ding, Dong; Ding, Dong; Christmas bells are ringing... And so...

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas(song lyrics removed - just in case...but, you can sing it along with me....make up the words if you do not know them...)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Traditions by Barbara Quinn

There are so many traditions that surround my family at this time of year. Since I was a child, I’ve been making an Italian pastry we affectionately call Ceci, otherwise known as Strufoli, a small fried doughnut doused in honey, but it’s not like any regular doughnut. Ceci translates as garbanzo bean and this pastry is small and round, the same shape as garbanzo beans, though unlike them it is fried and doused in honey. It’s a simple recipe, notable for its appearance in Italian bakeries at this time of year, mounded high on platters and doused in colored sprinkles.

Much of the joy of this treat is in its creation. I still use the recipe I wrote out when I was 8 or 9 years old. My mother smiled at me with my notebook watching her every move and putting it into my child’s scrawl. I wanted to remember it, wanted to remember to make it the way I saw her easily making it each year since I was born. The year I wrote out the recipe, she had to stop to measure the ingredients. She didn’t normally measure. Like most of her dishes, she’d learned to make the treat from her mother, and neither of them used any sort of measuring cup or spoon. But I stopped her each step of the way and she tolerated my inquisitiveness. I helped her make a well in the flour on a wooden board, and put in the egg, milk, oil, sugar, vanilla, then blended it all together with my hands, enjoying the squishy feeling as the dough formed. Once it was kneaded and shiny, we broke off pieces and rolled the dough into long snakes that we cut up. My father manned the kettle with its two inches of oil and soon the strufoli were golden and ready to be coated with honey.

After that year, my mother used my measurements. We hauled out the piece of paper and followed them. I still measure the ingredients with that recipe. My husband man's the kettle. The result is sublime.

And with the first bite, I taste childhood again.

The joy, the anticipation of the holiday. It’s all there in a bowl of freshly fried and honeyed strufoli.

For that I am grateful.

Have a merry…..

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Joy in Valley Junction. by Patresa Hartman

I have five nieces and one nephew, and they are outrageous lunatics. I am so grateful for them and their ridiculousness that I can barely stand it. If they ever turn normal, I think the earth will turn sad sad sad. And so, every Christmas I try to find gifts that will encourage them to be weird. A great place to do this is at your local theater shop.

I discovered the treasures of a theater shop last Christmas when I wandered in grumpy and then lost myself in rock star wigs and glittery microphones. I bought a set for each, plus crazy Elton John glasses, and left the theater shop absolutely giddy and convinced I had found the secret to remaining joyful during stressful holidays. Yesterday, I returned to the theater shop and came out with top hats, moustaches, and magic wands. I giggled all the way down the street.

I learned something else yesterday...about shopping locally. Having worked earlier this year at a locally owned bookstore that had to close, I already understood the importance of supporting the little guys. But yesterday my body absorbed and noted a whole different energy in the small shops.

In Des Moines, we have the historic Valley Junction. I do not know why it's historic; but the signs say it is. It sits off railroad tracks by an old train depot in an old part of town. Small local businesses occupy a mixture of typical storefronts and old houses with large front porches. There are at least two antique stores on each block, a few coffee shops, a Mexican grocer, and three bead shops.

One of my favorites is the Fair World Gallery, which sells goods made by people in refugee camps all over the world. My nieces are receiving friendship beads made by a group of women who have moved to Des Moines from a Burundi refugee camp. Another favorite is a shop called Porch Light, where you can find a mix of new and antique household items. My coffee cup currently sits on a Hercules orange crate found in Porch Light's mix.

After a quiet and charming afternoon wandering through small, thoughtfully themed shops, I went to Target, and the mood shifted.

I like Target, typically. But I did not like it yesterday. Loud. Industrial. Crowded. I felt like a cog in a factory. I squinted through the flourescence, grabbed what I needed, waited in line with the other frowny pants, and then left as quickly as I could, hiking to my parking spot in the very back of a cornfield-sized lot.

The moral of this story is: I am grateful for the weirdness of my nieces and nephew, and I am grateful for the small shop owners who help me navigate Christmas shopping peacefully and joyfully.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Finding Peace by Angie Ledbetter

By doze id stopped up add I catt top steezing. I've ude up two boxes of tittue alweady. *honk*

Okay, enough of my sad talking-with-a-bad-cold voice. It's been years since I've been sick, so I guess it was bound to happen. I mean, I did get out for a bit (finally) to do some Christmas shopping, and the germs were probably all waiting to pounce on me. I'll live, and when I fully recover my senses, I know I'm going to appreciate being able to breathe, taste, smell and hear again.

Along with my little waltz with Mr. Cold, I've also had to face some mightily unpleasant personal stuff in the last few days. I'm not sharing details, just take it from me -- it was worse than a triple cold with a trip to the dentist on top. It hasn't been a pleasant few days.

In spite of all that, I went to my "happy place," which happens to be located within my favorite church. There I prayed earnestly for help with the issue, and also in thanksgiving for a prayer request answered for a friend. I closed my watery eyes, blew my nose quietly and let the sanctified environment seep into my inner temple of turmoil. Within mere minutes, a warm glowing peace descended. As cliched as it sounds even to me who experienced it, I knew all would be well. I knew. And I was/am grateful.

However you seek your peace, serenity and comfort in bad situations, may it never allude you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, Kathryn, there really is a Santy Claus by Kathryn Magendie

Days ago, I wrote a yog post about my Grinch’s heart. Who knew that these words really would be slipping from my fingers, when I wrote: “And perhaps by Christmas, somehow, someway, some magic will have happened...and I will write, ‘It happened...it really happened...’”

For my Christmas miracle seems to have arrived. No unwrapping pretty paper. No big red bow. But, amazing all the same. My good friend said, “Ha! Told you your Christmas magic would happen; but it isn’t magic, it’s the Baby Jesus! Told you I’d send out word.” I laughed. I said, “Baby Jesus, huh?” Last night I went outside to an almost silent, beautiful starry night. There were so many stars I could never count them in this lifetime or the next. The creek was rushing as it should from our recent rains (another gift?), and the air was crisp but not too cold. I stared up at the sky and said, “Thank you…” I thought, “How do I know where gifts come from? Who am I to question the source?” We search for answers, and sometimes those answers just will not be forthcoming. Sometimes the mysteries of the universe are just that.

And here, days before Christmas, I have a gift I have wanted for so long. One that I’ve worked so hard for. One that I have dreamed about and wished for and called out to the universe (and my friend has called out to Baby Jesus). What is the gift, you may be asking? I was going to say the gift is a publisher offering me a contract for my Virginia Kate novel—that is what all this is about and I am stunned with happiness and in love with Bellebooks; but then I realized suddenly that though that is the gift, the miracle comes from the feelings brought forth by the gift. Everything lined up just as it was supposed to for this to happen. What I did in the moments and days I did them was exactly what I was supposed to do—and it’s not just a “hindsight is 20-20” moment. It’s as if Santy Claus (or my friend’s Baby Jesus) is twinkling his eye right now, having set into motion the very things needed to bring me right where I am right now. Four days until Christmas. And I am feeling the spirit. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away

Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold,
ding dong ding
that is their song
with joyful ring
all caroling…

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Comfort and Joy by Barbara Quinn

Tidings of Comfort and Joy. That line from the old Christmas carol, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, has a lot to be said for it. This time of year has me reflecting on the meaning of those words.

I want to bring glad tidings of comfort and joy. How can I do that?

I can hug the ones I love. I like hugs. They tend to make me feel better, make me feel all warm and soft inside. Who can't benefit from a hug? I’m going to make a special effort to hug for a beat longer when I greet my friends and relatives this season.

I will try to notice people, really see them. What color are their eyes? The rush rush of the season makes it easy to try to get through a task instead of embracing it, makes it easy to not see a sales clerk, a soldier home on leave, a waitress, a cashier. I can easily wish them season's greetings, the best of the season, and mean it. Perhaps for an instant that will bring them joy.

Where do I find comfort? Certainly in the arms of my loved ones. Sometimes in a piece of rich dark chocolate. But I find it in many other places and it is out there ready and waiting for even the most desperate of us. I have found comfort in the words of a good book, in the touch of a friend, in the roof over my head, and the food on my table. I have found it in my belief that the future can hold goodness and light and that can carry me through the darkness.

I count myself lucky to have known the joy of comforting a small child, and of sharing good times with family and friends.

I am grateful for simple things that give me joy and peace such as for the fact that even after over 35 years my husband is my partner, and he is willing to be leaned on. Joy is that little lighthearted feeling that spreads through my chest, so fleeting but so real I want to grab it and hold it forever. But like dance, it must be experienced, and cannot be captured. It can be found in a job well done, in a smile well-sent, in a dance of the spirit.

May you comfort someone in need, and may you in turn be comforted when you are in need. May your joys be many. May you dance.

Comfort and joy. To you.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Safe Travels. by Patresa Hartman

Ice fell on Iowa last night. It's the fitted bed sheet under a blanket of lovely white snow. Corporate Des Moines has issued a two-hour delay for profit making. It takes quite an event for Corporate Anywhere to voluntarily delay profit making. Already, the mood of downtown has lifted.

Yet, the newspaper was right on time. And I am sure the mail will arrive right on time. I don't know what the hiring process looks like for mail and paper delivery, but it must include a very rigorous physical assessment -- testing candidates' ability to withstand rotating sheets of wind and hail and rain and ice. I am grateful for their willingness to risk life and limb to deliver my Christmas cards and crossword puzzles. Thank you, Delivery Soldiers.

I hear the neighbors' snowblower and know that whomever loses a childish game of rock, paper, scissors, either my husband or I will join. But I am grateful for that snowblower. Until this year, we have been Shovel City. My father donated his old John Deere blower, which is large and bulky and makes my forearms ache after I have finished the whole driveway. But I'll take sore forearms after 30 minutes of snowblowing over the complete body decay that occurs after two hours of shoveling. Thanks, Dad.

I am softening toward this Iowa weather. I used to say I hated the winter, that I belonged someplace warm and unfrozen year round, but I am changing my mind. Storms of snow and ice unite our communities. When weather becomes the story, we have full conversations with total strangers. We gather around windows like children to watch the sky spill its white; we wish each other safe travels when we leave. I like this. It makes me feel connected; and it brings out the kindness in people. For that, I am grateful.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bad Chore Ahead by Angie Ledbetter

I have dental phobia brought on by years of dentists not believing I am anesthesia resistant. Even after 14 shots once, I could still feel the heart-stopping pain of drill biting into nerve. The same thing happened with the epidurals I was given during the births of my three children. Not one of them worked, so it was natural childbirth for me.

Having finally found a dentist who believes me, and who has concocted a cocktail of three different medications to numb my mouth for at least 20 minutes, I am eternally grateful.

Today while I sit sweating and shaking in the dentist's chair for a regular check-up, I'll call up all my reserves to keep myself calm. Among the most prominent weapons in my arsenal will be listing and re-listing the many things for which I am grateful. And when it's all over and I'm back in my car on the way home, I will truly feel gratitude for my good dentist and that the dreaded appointment is over.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I accept: Words and Music by Kat Magendie

"All I see with Christmas is just One More Thing I have to do," I say to my husband. He looks almost wounded, as if I'd struck him. For, after all, the holidays from Thanksgiving to Christmas have always been my favorite time of the year and I've always reveled in it. Giddy and happy.

I take the lights from the box and unravel them, a scowl squinching my face into folds of ugliness. I've always put the lights on the tree - for years, even before Roger. It's just become "my thing," and I do it because I want to. Until now.

Roger says, "Why don't you do that later?"

I spit out, "Later? When later? It's now or never."

He walks away. I begin throwing lights on the tree. But then I remember I haven't checked to make sure they will light. I plug in. Nothing. I tear the lights from the tree in a fury. I plug in another string. Nothing. Another. Nothing. No lights are working. The outlet is malfuctioned. Stomping into the little log house, I growl, "Lights. Won't. Work. That's. Just. Great." I feel just like I'm on the Fa la la la Lifetime Christmas Specials - the one where the woman is pissed off at everyone and is disallusioned and sad and angry and then something happens to make her Feel the Spirit of Christmas (see my previous Yog Post below somewhere). Except this is real life. This isn't the movies.

I come to my computer and splot my butt down into my chair and see an email from someone whom I do now know all that well. My first thought is, "Oh geez. Not another chain letter or joke or cartoon or..." I open the email and begin reading...it's religious in nature, but the very cadence of it begins to relax me. I all of a sudden do not care that I am no longer "religious." I suddenly do not care that I do not know what I believe. It is all about the words, the melody of them, the beauty, the old remembrance of what I have left behind not by design but by some force within myself that I do not understand (anymore than I really ever understood the religions).

I feel the rush of tears, and hold them back, as I have done for as long as I remember. What? Strong me cry? Ha! About that time, Roger puts on a holiday cd by Jim Brickman, with beautiful piano music. The music enters me and drifts languidly through my bloodstream, mixing with the beautiful words I've just read. I get up, walk into my living room, and pick up a gift my Louisiana friend has sent me -- a nativity scene. When did I stop believing? The nativity scene is lovely, heartbreaking. I place the scene gently down, beside my bed, as if a talisman for my coming sleep.

A calm overcomes me. I let it. I walk to Roger and give him a hug, say, "Sorry I'm a big grump."

He smiles, says, "I know you're really tired right now."

I say, "I'll string those lights tomorrow." He nods.

The words. The music. A simple gift from a friend. An understanding husband. All conspired to take away my angst and stress. Gifts come unexpectedly. Gifts that one can accept or turn away. I accept, with gratitude.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Gratitude Diet by Barbara Quinn

About this time, many of us start thinking about growing a little heavier from all those parties and holiday treats. I recommend going on a gratitude diet. It won't make the scale move, but it will allow you to feel lighter.

Like dieting, being grateful is not easy and sometimes it’s really hard to stick with it. I am not the most awake, focused or ready to talk in the mornings. But at the start of the day, when I visit this site, the words here help me adjust my attitude of gratitude. Those words, and a strong cup of tea, get me going in the morning, and suddenly I make the decision to be happy, to be grateful. My whole body feels lighter.

I learned that it is worth the fight to have a steady diet of gratitude. I am a better, healthier person when I am ingesting doses of gratitude. If I am giving thanks, I am thinking about all that I have, about all the good that does surround me. That brings me into the present moment. Gratitude is a welcome vitamin for the soul. It calms the fear of what might be. Most of the time what might be does not come to pass, and when it does, there isn’t much I can do about it. In addition, by dispensing doses of gratitude to others, I find I can stay in the ever calming present. And when I am present I feel lighter.

Part of the gratitude diet involves exercise. Like working out, it takes effort to work up a sweat of gratitude, takes effort to bring a positive attitude to the worst of situations. I grieve, and suffer loss, but I can help myself to to heal by doing good deeds, by reminding myself of all for which I am grateful, by stepping back and expressing gratitude in the midst of an angry conversation. I feel lighter.The diet is working.

Good luck with your gratitude diets. The tastiest parts of mine include being grateful for the people who listen and help me through. And a special treat is being grateful for all my fellow yoggers. They have been dedicated to this project and I’ve benefited from their delcious words, and for their indulgence in my half-baked ramblings. By penning these gratitude posts, and working with my fellow Yoggers, my life has been immeasurably enriched and lightened. I’m also grateful for the authors who have taken the time to dispense doses of gratitude in these pages. And most of all, I’m grateful for you readers who are touched by end enjoy our words. We thank you! Good luck with your efforts to grow lighter!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The introvert. by Patresa Hartman

Today's late post is brought to you by:

Complete Mental Scattering...

which is brought to you by:

End of Semester.

***********

A long while ago, I read an article about introverted children. Specifically, children who are extroverts are energized by social interaction; children who are introverts are drained by it. The researchers' advice to parents of introverted children was to:

a) Understand the irritability their sons and daughters demonstrate after prolonged social interaction for what it is -- drained energy and a cry for solitude; and

b) Give them that solitude, because they need it in order to re-energize. They don't just want it; they need it in the same way our bodies need food and sleep.

When I read that article I felt an enormous sense of validation. I was an introverted child who came home from school and parties "talked out." I wasn't a mean, uncaring child, but when I was depleted, I became very irritable and could not hold a conversation without snapping and sneering. I hated that I snapped and sneered but couldn't stop myself from doing it. It was a frustrating dichotomy, and it was constant.

I am now an introverted adult with more or less the same issue. I call it my "social meter" and can feel when it expires. I still get irritable when it runs out and find conversation painful. The difference as an adult is that I understand where it comes from and can communicate what I need more constructively. The fact that I can communicate my need (not just want) for solitude means friends and family are more willing to give it to me. My relationships are healthier for it.

And so as I sit here on a Monday morning with an expired social meter, on the heels of weekend visits from two of my very closest friends and dinner parties with my family, I am thankful for a life full of people who love me even when I am a bear. My close friends forgive my quirks and crankiness; my family has endured a lifetime of expired social meters; and I married a man who has come to understand me enough not to take it personally when I can't speak.

Thank you, Good People.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Choice by Angie Ledbetter


Happiness, joy and gratitude really are states of mind. And like all states we wrap around ourselves to enjoy (whether positive or negative), they are sometimes hard to shed once we get comfortable with them. Today, I choose to swath myself in light and good things, even if I'm tempted to long for a heavy grey shroud. It's simply a matter of my own choosing.

To help me in this pursuit, I've printed out and began my morning reading uplifting quotes from famous folks on the subject:

"If you want to be happy, be." ~Leo Tolstoy

"Happiness is never stopping to think if you are." ~ Palmer Sondreal

"Most people would rather be certain they're miserable, than risk being happy." ~ Robert Anthony

"The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up."~ Mark Twain

"Nobody really cares if you're miserable, so you might as well be happy." ~ Cynthia Nelms

Saturday, December 13, 2008

When Your Cup’s Half Full, You Don’t Thirst by Marta Stephens

Is it me or has time zipped past me again? It seems it was only yesterday that ...

January 2008: Property taxes doubled this year with no cap in site. My mother-in-law moved in with us—it was time. The kids are back in college. The sum of 2007 was spent rewriting the second book in my series, “The Devil Can Wait.” The novel is on my publisher’s desk. I’m more grateful for my crit partners than they’ll ever know.

February 2008: Edits begin. Daughter broke up with fiancĂ©. She and her miniature Daschund moved back home. She’s not doing well--glad she’s home. Her younger brother helped with the move. Our two Boston Bull dogs are glad to see the mini weenie again. Boxes and clothes all over the place. I’m grateful we have a large home -- back to the edits.

March 2008: Glitch in edits. Two chapters need major revisions. I call a friend and vent. Daughter is still upset—friends in and out of our house. She adopted two more mini Daschunds, Candy and Moo. We call them “the girls.” Sweet as can be. Famous last words, “They’re house-broken, mom.” I’m grateful to own a carpet shampooer.

April 2008: Some of my tulips are in bloom, delighted to have warmer weather. Rewrites on my novel are coming along. Two critical e-mails to my editor disappeared in cyber space. Translation: lost two weeks of edits.

May 2008: Daughter moved out and into my in-law’s empty house. Glad she’s ready to start fresh. The contract I signed and mailed to my publisher never arrived. I’m watching the dates--I’m nervous--she assures me all will be fine. Thank God one of us is calm and collected. I shampoo the carpets again.

June 2008: The nursing home called to say that my 93-year old father who has Alzheimer’s needs to be moved to another facility. It seems he’s learned how to open the outer doors. Interesting. I’m grateful to quickly find another qualified, secure facility. They’ve handled the move and all the paper work. The contract still hasn’t reached my publisher. Finger drumming has left dents on my desk. I decide to plant a vegetable garden.

July 2008: I give up and scan my copy of the contract and e-mail it to my publisher. Three artists seemed interested in doing the cover, none follows through. Glad to know we have other options. I’ve started to make a list of potential reviewers. Too nice to stay indoors, think I’ll go out and water my peppers and tomatoes.

August 2008: It’s technically fall since daughter and son are back in college. Dogs still at home as is hubby and mother-in-law. Plants are drying in the August sun but my concord grapes will soon be ready to pick.

September 2008: I have a freezer full of harvested vegetables and I processed a bushel for grapes and froze the juice. Began final proofreading of novel. Dang, how did I miss all those typos? Found another artist. This one wants to do the book cover and it’s looking great. Received launch date. I’m thrilled, still losing sleep.

October 2008: Crap, found out I miscalculated my son’s financial aid. I’m grateful we’re able to cover the difference. The proofreading is going well. I’m driving my publisher nuts with all the edits, but she’ll love me for this one of these days. The ARCs are in the mail.

November 2008: The launch date is here. Several great reviews have arrived. I’m relieved. My event calendar is filling up fast—bookstores and libraries are calling me. Who’da thunk? I just received word that I’ll be doing a virtual book tour next month. I’m humbled by the many generous-hearted friends I’ve met along the way and grateful for my family’s support. It’s Thanksgiving morning and the dishwasher decides to die. Twelve people for dinner today. Words can’t express the joy.

December 2008: New dishwasher looks great. The book is doing remarkably well and now that the tour articles are done, I’m happy to keep up with the readers’ comments and e-mails. It’s cold, but just a light dusting of snow so far. I’m ready to put up the tree. Started my shopping and Christmas card lists—I’ll do them tomorrow. Aside from the head colds, we’re healthy and, yes, still gainfully employed. Good news; the dogs finally figured out the “let’s go out” deal. Our property taxes were cut in half and gas prices are down to $1.40 a gallon. I’m breathing again. Maybe I’ll make some grape jelly this weekend.

We had our share of ups and downs this year, but that’s okay. They are to life what chilies are to salsa—spice! I’m grateful for strong family ties, laughs shared with my friends, the lessons from trials and errors, a host of new challenges and opportunities, and the many blessings that came our way. Good bye, 2008!

© Marta Stephens 2008 all rights reserved
* * * *

Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK).THE DEVIL CAN WAIT – (2008), SILENCED CRY (2007)Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)http://www.martastephens-author.com/.http://mstephens-musings.blogspot.com/http://murderby4.blogspot.com/

Rain Rain Don't Go Away by Kat Magendie

This is a simple yog. Simple and to the point. A simple thankfulness for what Father Sky gives to Mother Earth. Gives to this cove. Gives to Western North Carolina.

It is raining outside. A good rain. A rain that has been steady since sometime late last night.

I'd been watching the sky since yesterday morning. Watching fat black bloated clouds hover, blanketing my cove at Killian Knob. Watched the trees bend from the wind. Listened to the howl as that wind raced over the mountain ridges and down into the coves and hollows and valley.

But, nothing. No rain. Threatening, threatening. No rain. The day passed. I waited. I hoped.

Then, last night I woke to the sound of rain hitting the roof of my little log house. Oh! That sound! I've been waiting for it for so long. The darkling clouds had finally opened and let loose their contents in a nice downpour. Not a simple sprinkle. Not a fast quick rain and then gone. A good soaking rain.



And now the rain still falls. There is a white mist over the valley, hiding what I know is there. The cove feels even more secret. I am content.
This simple yog of thanks for rain. The ground soaking it up. The creek filling. I have need of nothing else this morning.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Play Those 88's by Barbara Quinn

My mother turned 88 a few days ago and a small group of her family and friends celebrated by going out to brunch with her at a favorite spot. She was particularly happy that everyone could have unlimited Champagne, Mimosas, and Bloody Mary’s, and she loved the fact that there were so many choices so that everyone found something they liked to eat. In typical Mom fashion she insisted on treating the group as her birthday present. What a wonderful thing it was to see her family and friends gathered around her. The restaurant made a fuss over her, and at the end of the meal made a special dessert plate with chocolate and raspberry syrup hearts around an individual tira misu. Everyone in the packed place sang Happy Birthday. Mom had no trouble eating it all up and she also enjoyed several glasses of champagne, insisting on everyone at the table clinking everyone else's glass. That led to much laughter and confusion over who hadn't clinked glasses with whom.

I’m grateful that she was happy on this day. It hasn’t been easy for her since my dad died a couple of years ago. After 60 years of marriage, her days definitely are lonely and without their center. But she’s finally moving on and is able to find a little joy in watching her family grow and change, in spending time in the company of those who share this journey of life with her.

Happy Birthday, Mom! May we all clink glasses and get a little tipsy together next year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Pointillist. by Patresa Hartman

i've been reading eckhart tolle
Power of Now
and i have been trying to lose track of time.

i have been severing the ties between
self and mind, because
i am not my thoughts.
i am not my emotions.
i am not my sleepy eyes or
my bad taste in pop music.
i am not my preferences
or my tendencies to analyze.
i am not my elbows or my skin.
i am not my sour mood.

it's hard, this new commitment to suspension.
it is difficult to take what was once a linear plane of events
stacked together on a continuum, and instead
see that they are points.
there is now.
and now.
and now there is now.
here is another now.
and another.

now is a new now.

there is no longer then, except for a little residue
left on my tongue.
but more importantly there is no upcoming.
and that is where i have my problem (life situation).
too much horizon gazing, and i miss where i am standing.
hours, i am in my head (which is not me.) accepting accolades, receiving
international acknowledgment of my most certain (elusive) genius.

and so in this now,
-- and this one, too --
i am going to honor the perfection of
fine, super fine points.
there is wine,
my favorite TV show,
my dog,
and cupcakes.

it is a fine moment,
and it doesn't matter what came before or
what comes next.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Whew! by Angie Ledbetter

I'm tired and worn out right now. Feel like I've been running three ways from Sunday, or so the expression I grew up with says.

Doesn't it seem like this time of year just goes into hyper speed and the faster you run to accomplish chores and check off lists, the further behind you get? It can be stressful...if you let it.

I refuse to fall into a pit of angst. What gets done, gets done. If not, oh well and shrug. I'm happy to pass glittery Christmas lights dotting houses and landscapes. It makes me slow down and really look. I'm grateful my house isn't as filthy as it could be, given my lack of daily attention. And truthfully, I'm happy to be tired, my eyes so heavy I can hardly keep them open to type. Know why? Because I know I'm going to sleep deep and well tonight. No tossing and turning for me. No thoughts and worrying pinging around in my head as I try to relax for sleep.

Now, if only the chainsaw otherwise known as my husband doesn't make too much noise, I'm going to enjoy a good 8 hours or so of blessed rest. Ahh. Goodnight.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Grinch's Heart by Kathryn Magendie

I fear I am turning into the Grinch. You know, scowling about Christmas and all the Who’s in Whoville’s noise getting on my nerves. What’s happened to me? When Christmas was always the most perfect, most wonderful time of the year? Somewhere along the way, I’ve let some kind of magic go, some kind of beauty of the season. I want it back. Can you help me get it back? How?, you ask. Well…I’m open to suggestions. Send me Christmassy comments that enlighten and lighten? Email me cute Christmas cards? Post wonderful holiday thoughts on blogs and twitters and facebooks, oh my, and send me the link?

Saturday we were going to go buy our tree, but something else came up. I hated the feeling of momentary relief…where did that come from? I had been excited, hadn’t I? The decorations are stacked in boxes, ready for the tree we will get, maybe tomorrow. I want to look forward to decorating it.

Maybe part of it, too, is my friends and family are far from me.

What do I want for Christmas this year? I want that spirit back. I want that old feeling back. I can’t force it, so I’m asking you all, to help me find that Christmas-Holiday Gratitude. I know it’s somewhere. I must have just misplaced it in a corner, under a pile of sweaters, in the sock drawer, in the hollowed out tree, behind the dresser, under the couch, in the refrigerator (where we all open it and stare inside and think, "what was I looking for?")…somewhere, it’s here somewhere.

Right now as I'm writing this on Sunday, there are oodles of Fa La La La Lifetime Christmas specials. Where these women are living disallusioned lives at Christmas and yada yada the same old; but, every now and then I tear up, as if I am seeing parts of myself in these women. Thing is, at the end of the movie, I know they'll have found what is missing—will I find it along with her? Gee, I hope so.

I’ll fly like the hawk over a jeweled city of holiday shine and there I will find what I need, yes. Yes.



I’ll keep searching those little corners and places for that old feeling. It rises up and quickly flies away just out of my grasp. Maybe you’ve seen it? Floating around, my Holiday Spirit. If you do see it, grab hold of it and bring it back to me, and for that, I’ll be filled with gratitude. And perhaps by Christmas, somehow, someway, some magic will have happened...and I will write, "It happened...it really happened..." And what will have happened will be because of you and you and you and you...I'm already smiling, thinking about what magic may happen, all because I just reached out and asked.

Monday, December 8, 2008

O Tannenbaum by Barbara Quinn

I spent the past few days decorating my house for the holidays. I’m having a crowd for Christmas and am looking forward to spending time with everyone. The more I can get done now, the less stress there will be when the holiday arrives. Busy, busy, busy. And so I finished trimming the Christmas tree last night. Then I took a deep breath and slowed down. What a joy it was to step back, turn on the lights, and take in the glorious decorated boughs.

My eyes ran over the branches and I sighed. There are felt ornaments I sewed when I was a child. There is one my son made from a cardboard eggshell carton son and another he made in nursery school. The cross he made in high school sits beside the sequined bell my Aunt made for us as newlyweds. My best friend’s Mom knitted us dozens. There are special glass ones that were handed down by my grandmother to my mom and then to me, and many more that my husband and I bought together: the ballerina, the skier, the huntsman. They all dangle and delight the way they have for many years. There are the ones I bought with my son at the post Christmas sales. It’s a hodgepodge of love on that tree. It made me smile to see all those years strung across the branches. It wouldn’t make it into any designer magazines, but it’s the prettiest thing in the room and now each time I pass it I find myself in a better mood.

Last year I shipped a bunch of ornaments to my son and his wife to seed their collection for their tree. Their dog devoured a few but there are still plenty of memories left for their branches. That gave me an excuse to pick up a few more ornaments at a craft fair this year for them. I went for the blowfish turned into a bird with a hat, and one that reads “Baby’s First Christmas”. Ah, I’m grateful for so many years spent with so much love. Shine on, tree!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

31 Things That Are Awesome. by Patresa Hartman

1. Well, You, of course. But also:

2. Cake.
3. The smell of my dog's feet.
4. The smell of my dog's head.
5. My dog in general.
6. The tree in the front yard, which appears to be dancing.
7. The possibility of a Christmas tree this afternoon.

And I do, if I may break momentarily before 8, recall with considerable fondness, the warmth of my Holly Hobbie sleeping bag when spending the night, as a child, under the glowing Christmas tree.

8. Christmas lights.
9. Childhood -- not just mine but others'. I wish everyone got one.
10. Conversations with my cat.
11. The bedroom door.

(Because I shut it this morning at 5:45 to keep my husband's cat out -- my husband's cat, who knocks things off dressers in order to get me out of bed to feed him. And it is delicious how much longer I can sleep when my jewelry and brassieres are not flying around the room.)

12. Discovering new tunes for my I-Pod workout mixes.
13. My body's willingness to change its shape when I move it on a regular basis.
14. New hair colors.
15. Old hair colors.
16. New glasses.
17. Old glasses.
18. Newness.
19. Oldness.
20. Snow days.
21. Finals week, and the way it so efficiently precedes The Big Relax.
22. The Big Relax, which really deserves its own line, and so:

The Big Relax

23. Days to do nothing.
24. Wandering
25. Meandering
26. Singing along with the radio.
27. Car dancing even when people are watching.
28. The neighbors who leave their lights on and curtains open past dark, so I can admire their wall colorings and furniture arrangements.
29. Massages.
30. Knowing all the words to cool songs, which are often times Alanis Morissette songs.

But mostly:

31. Well, You, of course.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What Glitters by Angie Ledbetter


This afternoon started out with a gray cloud hanging over me. The husband was off hunting again, youngest son was with the band at an away football game, middle son was working until close, and my daughter (the eldest) was with friends enjoying her Friday night. I looked at the tons of Christmas decoration boxes and sat down in a chair. What is it about the prospect of decorating a tree and making the house all festive when you're most likely the only one who's going to enjoy or probably even notice it? I wondered if all the work was really worth it, and contemplated not bothering.

But visiting my parents today, I noticed they had a simple gold metal tree set up. Its lights cast a warming glow throughout the whole living room and it was nice to look at. As my mom is very ill, I was glad to see Dad had gone to the trouble of putting up the decoration for the holidays. He'd also bought and wrapped his "Advent angels" to give to all the women/girls of the family and certain close friends once again, even though it must've been hard for him to get to a store while someone stayed with Mom.

Couldn't I be of similar spirit? I had much to be grateful for; especially good health and a strong body. If my parents could maintain and carry on the important traditions, why couldn't I? All these thoughts whirled around in my head as I begrudgingly started to work on my Christmas tree. Before I'd gotten started good, my daughter bounced into the room and said she'd decided not to hang out with friends because she wanted to decorate with me.

As she dug through the boxes of ornaments to cull out the pink ones for this year's tree, I looked down at my hands, already shiny with glitter from the ribbons I'd been curling. Sometimes, depending on our outlook, things that glitter really are gold. As my own living room is aglow with the lights from my angel-topped tree, I'm grateful I went ahead with decorating plans, even though I didn't "feel like it," and for parents who've always led by example.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

World of Color by Kat Magendie



I awake with the colors of hovering just above my face, twisting and turning and shifting and waiting for me to pull them into myself where they mix with my blood, swift through my veins, and out they’ll come, through my fingertips, from deep inside of me, mixed with my own juices the colors are both yours and mine and the universe’s. I arise, full of color, full to the spilling point, full to the overrunning waters point, full and bloated with color, and I float to my writer’s room and spill the colors out for you to see, right onto the page I pour myself out to you.

As I write, my synapses fire off, pulse alive with energy in reds, pinks, yellows, oranges, all the colors of a blazing sunrise against an appearing blue sky, all the colors of the universe bend towards me in fractured kaleidoscopic beauty. My world in images compose the five senses—all explode about me in shattered prisms of dark and light, words drip and ooze, deep mysterious endless as a heavenly black hole where things are lost, and then hope-to-be found again by the bright intense white that rip my retinas with intensity, brilliant as any distant star flaring alive.

A meal is in front of me set on a white plate—alabaster yogurt piled high with delicate fresh raspberries and crunchy brown walnuts, along with black Deep Creek Blend coffee poured into a sea-green mug pitted with the potter’s fingerprints. I love the taste of color—round fat blueberries, strawberries bursting juice and tiny seed, crunchy peppery radishes, silky dark chocolate, sour limes, and the blackberries I pick on my mountain until my fingers are stained purple-black. I taste the colors; the shades coat my tongue and recall the hues of salty, tangy, sour, the bitter and the sweet.

I lift my head from the writing. Why, the evening is arriving! I’ve spent this day opening my veins and spilling colors. The sunset shouts into the sky, the seeming coming end, as all is fading to what is perceived as the absence of color—to black. Yet, the dark holds the colors within, as a backdrop for the swollen moon white and gray, the stars bright changling angels. In the dark, the day’s less apparent shine. But, I am ahead of myself, first the sunset amber, garnet, amethyst, coral blaze fire across the sky. The circle of life-colors, beginning with the sunrise and ending with the sunset. This is gratitude’s day; the color of life.

"Senza Sale" by Barbara Quinn

The Italian’s have a phrase “senza sale” that they use for many things. It means without salt, and it applies to far more than food. My father would don a dismissive look, wave his hand, and utter “senza sale”. To be without salt was unthinkable, a signifier of a life wasted, of a soul-less person lacking the ability to take a stand or protect loved ones. Like pasta that has been cooked in salt-less water, a person who brings nothing positive to the table of life is “senza sale”.

Without salt, pasta is an abomination of blandness. Without salty people, life would be a drag. You can’t correct the situation by adding salt to your pasta after you boil it. You have to take the time to add the salt at the right time. People have to become properly seasoned too, to become desirable salty souls. (Those who need a salt-free diet, will have to rely on salt substitutes or other spices!)

Certainly there can be too much salt. No one wants a meal that tastes like the Great Salt Lake. You’ll be up all night trying to crave your thirst if you have too much salt. But that perfect balance of salt can bring out the flavor of food and enhance the meal. You can also add a few grains of salt to a glass of wine that you think is too flat. Try it sometime and you’ll be amazed at how that little bit of salt creates a tasty glassful. We can learn much from this little grainy chemical compound.

Last spring I toured a sea salt facility in, Trapani, Sicily. What a treat that was to see the way the salt is harvested with windmills and evaporation. I brought some home and have been enjoying the mild taste reminiscent of the sea. I’ve acquired a whole range of salts: Morton’s Iodized, David’s Kosher, Italian coarse Sea Salt, French Fleur de Sel, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.

I’m grateful for salt, grateful for the salts of the earth that show us the way. May you literally and figuratively never be “senza sale”!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unexpected Gifts by Angie Ledbetter


Have you ever noticed how when you're really really down in the dumps or past worn out, that if something or someone comes along to lift you up, even if unintentionally, it makes all the difference in your attitude and outlook? It can be something as simple as a store clerk being extra helpful, a friend with whom you've grown apart who suddenly contacts you and says he/she misses you, a gorgeous burst of color from a tree changing its leaves from fall to winter foliage, a family member giving you a spontaneous hug, a stranger offering directions or picking up a package you've dropped on the floor, a bad drive in traffic offset by a glorious rainbow's appearance.

There's something so sweet about these incidents; a gift from an unexpected source or a cosmic pat on the back made sweeter because you didn't expect it or even know it was coming your way.

I'm exceptionally grateful today for these gifts offered by nature; for the people who extend a hand or kind words (knowingly or not); for those things which plump up your faith in human nature and reassure you God is looking on. Without them, life would be filled with a lot more black and white one dimensional pictures instead of an album of masterful works of art.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Snow Falling Morning by Kat Magendie

I'm never at a loss for words when it comes to my mountain, but sometimes you just have to be there. And since you cannot be there, I am sharing one part of my mountain walk. This little trickle of runoff you can see and hear, in the video below, during a fine morning snow, used to flow more than it does here, but we are in drought conditions and that is how it is--still beautiful.
If you could see the other short videos I took, all you would hear is wind against the trees, a bird chirping, and my breath. It is that silent here at Killian Knob. You'd also see, in between the trees, at glances here and there, development out and beyond - silent development, as it has all come to a standstill, and I cannot help but be glad. I'd be more glad if it had not been developed as it had at all, for Developers seem not to have a sense of the mountain and only of lining their pockets.

What you see and hear below, and what you cannot see and hear on the other videos, but you may have read from my posts before, is what I wish I could preserve forever. I live in fear that someone will take it away, or take more of it away than they already have. People ask, "What would you do if you had a million dollars?" and I know the answer to that: I'd begin buying up this mountain land and stop all development, preserve the mountain land. It is a dream of mine that I can never imagine happening without so much more money than I can dream of, but there are always desires and wishes and hopes.

I live in gratitude for this land, for these beautiful mountains, for the silence of a snow falling morning. I forget the fear of Developers as I walk the old logging trails, listening to the trickle of water, to the bird's call, to the sound of swaying branches, the snow crystals landing on my jacket. It is too lovely to bear. It is too beautiful to lose. I do not know how to protect it in the face of another's greed; I can only hope and dream and wish, and in the meantime, appreciate.


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video

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Buck Stops Here by Barbara Quinn

There was a young buck in my backyard yesterday. What a gorgeous creature. I counted six budding points on his rack. Off in the woods behind him, was a female deer who was probably his mate. This is the time of year that the deer often venture into my yard. There’s a large doe that also comes to the bottom of the feeder. Sometimes she sleeps there at night. I’ve also woken up to see a red fox sitting on the hill back there. I guess they all sense that my yard is safe and a good source of food.

There isn’t much out there in my area for them to feed on, and my shrubs and plantings make the perfect deer buffet. The young buck was munching at the bottom of the bird feeder on the spilled birdseed. My back yard is a large open space and I really don’t think he should get used to being out in the open that way. When he heard my husband open the garage door, he raised his beautiful head and stared at him. Then his gaze followed Tom when Tom returned to the kitchen, and the two of them stared at one another through the large glass window, my gray-haired husband and this young, curious creature. The buck was glorious when he raised his head. What perfect musculature across his chest, what gorgeous coloring, and what a downy coating on those antlers. For a moment I held my breath at the beauty. And then I realized this creature could be shot if he looked at a hunter that way. I wanted to run out and clap my hands to scare him off. Tom moved away and the buck froze. Behind him the female watched the scene cautiously, her head raised. There I was doing the same, watching from behind my own mate. Pretty funny how similar we are. Soon Tom’s car rolled out of the driveway and at the sight and sound the two deer moved back into the woods, but not quickly enough for my liking. At least they had a little fear. It’s so hard to keep them wild when they are so beautiful and near. A part of me wants to befriend them, but I know I must stay away.

I am grateful for their presence not only in my yard, but in the world. I am glad I can provide them with a haven. It’s the least I can do for I receive so much joy from being the beneficiary of magical scenes like this. I am humbled by their beautiful unassuming presence.

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