After two months of choral practice and hours at the sewing machine, let the festivities begin! Our four part harmonies are awesome and the mayor of Baltimore has invited us to sing at one of the city's events - pictures to follow.
Last year my heart wasn't in participating since the songs reminded of singing with my brother who had passed in early November. Time helped heal the wounds. This year my Christmas spirit has returned and I'm feeling blessed to be in two choral groups.
Yesterday i made my Mrs. Santa Claus hat. The faux fur pompom and trim were much too stark white to go with my ivory cape so I removed and tea stained them and cut a new hat out of the red velvet I used to make my skirt and top. I decorated with fabric roses, stars, feathers and a Christmas ball. The hat is light weight and has a hidden velcro closing in the back to ensure a good fit.
My last post, "Before you notice, you will have settled", raised questions on one level and resonated on another. Cabrera mentions Tuesday evenings at the library, and ironically, Mycala and I have been going to the library on Tuesdays. Last evening Zippy joined us and then we enjoyed gazpacho with guacamole at an outdoor cafe. New dish, favorite restaurant. If we are truly grateful for our experiences, that seems to the antithesis of settling, even if they are routine! On the other hand, I'm the first to admit at times I settle. And yes, as rich and full as my life is, it could be much more vibrant if I would move from automatic pilot to a greater awareness and appreciation of the present moment.
Habits create a valuable structure for accomplishing more in less time. My mornings are spent journaling, meditating, and creating a to do list highlighting the three most important things to accomplish based on my values. Creativity is a value I actively weave into projects, problem solving and time with family and friends. The last habitual morning task is walking Zippy. If I took time to decide daily if I really wanted to do those things, it would take much more time and effort than moving quickly through the steps on automatic pilot!
Yet Isabella Cabrera raises an excellent point - could there be more? Are there areas where we are settling? Could we be happier? Undoubtedly.
When I was in junior high a girl in the class ahead of me won an essay contest with a composition called Variety is the Spice of Life. I never read the actual paper but the title, which I had heard before (in William Cowper's quote, "Variety is the spice of life, that gives it all it's flavor") captured my attention in a new way!
Years later I was reminded of the essay during a speech about making memorable moments by using a variety of senses. The speaker shared stories about surprising loved ones with creative gift giving from small tokens to grand gestures, all based on incorporating imagination and variety.
In both approaches, creativity is the key. Erin, from the award winning blog Daisies and Bruises, credits SARK for the quote "The opposite of depression is expression." That may seem simplistic, and there have been times I've been depressed in the midst of expressing, but ultimately we are all here to share our gifts. There is satisfaction and value when we are expressing our life's purpose; as close as we'll get to Dharma.
Day to day, there are questions we can ask that can lead us away from settling. These are some of mine, framed around my values, and hopefully they will inspire you to consider your own.
1. Are there ways to enhance the way I exercise? Ballet or belly dancing instead of calisthenics? Finding new places to walk Zippy?
2. Can nutrition be more interesting? Could I create a stained glass mandala fruit salad or a vegetable pin wheel? Make my own vinaigrettes and marinades to have on hand to give my daily intake of raw fruits and vegetables more vibrance and flavor without the artificial colors, syrups, sugars and preservatives in commercial brands?
3.Relationships. Am I surrounding myself with caring, positive, compassionate people who share my values? Do they have warmth and empathy for people from all cultures, education and socio-economic backgrounds Do they solve problems instead of blaming people? Are they joyful and do we laugh together often? Do they share some of my interests in art, music, travel, education, nature, sports? Are we open to learning from each other? Do the people in my life understand that thoughts become things and give their attention to assets rather than deficits? Compassion instead judgement? One of the best gauges for relationships it our energy level. If your energy is depleted, ask why.
4. Creativity - Do I weave creativity in all aspects of my daily life from how i garnish a plate, wrap a present, arrange an herbal bouquet, write a blog or sympathy card or solve a problem? Am I actively seeking ways inspiration? Making artist's dates to refill the well?
5. Learning/Education - Am I always taking at least one on line course? Do I have an ongoing list of topics that truly excite me that I'd like to take or research to teach? Do I keep pen and paper with me to capture ideas and inspiration that will slip away if not captured? Do I do further research on things that interest me? Am I capturing ideas in my illustrated journals?
6. Beauty/Order - We have long known that beauty soothes the soul, through nature, music, art, architecture, for example.Thomas Moore's book Care of the Soul is an eloquent testimonial. Clutter, lack of order, and tarnish can detract. Hoarding represents a lack of faith. Do I have enough space around things I love to highlight them? Do I see cleaning and polishing a gift?
Asking questions can lead us in the right direction. There are so many ways to add gratitude, variety and memorable moments as antidotes to settling.
What a marvelously creative unexpected combination - history and candy!
Mycala recently brought me the most delightful package of candy from True Treats, a store in Fredericksburg, MD that sells historical candy! Their slogan is "History never tasted so sweet!" They have selections that the Native American Indians used, Civil War Candy, the Industrial Revolution, and much more.
Love the concept of using candy to add another dimension to history! It's almost too pretty to eat. Some is more a novelty than a delicious treat, but others are scrumptious! All are a fascinating part of our history and a wonderful way to step back in time!
One of my most powerful lessons on creative thinking was my aha! when I realized that half of eight was O!
I was in an arithmetic class in elementary school and as I looked at the number 8, I realized that "half of eight equals 4" wasn't the only right answer! This discovery thrilled me and I immediately raised my hand to share this with my teacher and the rest of the class. The teacher was neither impressed nor pleased. She was visibly annoyed.
By the time I got home, my dad, a calculus professor at an engineering school, had received a call. He sat me down at the dining room table to have a conversation. His face was expressionless (my dad had made a considerable amount of money in the Korean War playing Black Jack and unlike me, had an enviable poker face).
He told me that my teacher had called and given her perspective, quite negative, on my discovery, and he asked me to explain mine.
"Well, I just realized that half of eight can be zero," I said quietly, my head down.
"Can you prove it?" he asked, and I saw a grin cross his face. He knew I could!
So I drew an eight, and covered the top. 0!
My dad was not angry. He was pleased! And as I looked at the 8 I realize it could be an E or a 3! And if I turned it on its side, it could be an m or a w!
It was then that I realized being creative in school might not be well received. Over the years, many teachers wanted me to memorize and regurgitate. Thankfully my dad, a Calculus professor, wanted me to think.
My life would have been very different if he has scolded or reprimanded me as my teacher had. I have often wondered over the years as I've worked with young people, how many times their creative ideas and potential contributions have been squelched. Seeing things in new and different ways adds such joy to life.
Just this morning my daughter Mycala came up with an idea that i could see changing everything in her life, and have a humorous and joyful impact on others! I've been smiling since and thinking of how blessed I was to have support in my life for looking for more than one right answer!
Yesterday was the last day of our Infinite Possibilities course and one of the participants shared this tea towel her mother gave her!
Aww! Reaction to today's treasure from a friend on Facebook -
"How do you do it MW? The truly amazing part is how you make me feel positive as soon I notice your posts. That is a very special gift. TY for being you. God Bless!"
I'll be smiling all day! See! There's been a miracle already!
Mabon, the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, is a time to give thanks for the many blessings of harvest. I'm preparing for my third session on Enhancing Your Life with Herbs. We've learned numerous ways to use herbs. Some are obvious including cooking, healing, dyes, cosmetics, decorating with herbal bouquets, wreaths and swags. Others are less obvious, such as prediction, protection, prophecy, fertility, attraction, and discouraging ghosts and witches from creating havoc! There are still more!
Make ink! Poke berries are ripe and ready right now to make ink! There is a jar in my 'fridge labeled POISON because the juice is a luscious magenta color, clove scented to preserve it. It could be very tempting! This is the ink that was rumored to have been used to write the Declaration of Independence. Further research indicates that is was used for the draft, but the actual document was written with iron gall ink made from ferrous sulfate and ink extracted from the oak galls.
In the spring, the immature leaves of the poke plant, said to be similar to turnip, collard or mustard greens, are cooked with bay leaves, Cajun spices, and a ham bone. Unlike the other greens, poke is considered to be poisonous until 'thoroughly cooked", a process that requires boiling it for at least five minutes for three times and throwing out the water to replace it with new, uncontaminated water each time. After the final boiling, the instructions are to wring as much water out of the plant as humanly possible. Because the plant is poisonous, so you have to cook it. A lot.
I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and knew people of considerable age (note - I was 12 at the time - anyone over 40 was of 'considerable age' in my perception) who ate poke regularly and annually, praising it for it's role in reducing or eliminating joint inflammation, arthritis, and numerous types of cancer.
Personally, I'm reluctant to cook plants that have been declared poisonous. I can go to the grocery store or farmer's market and buy plants that are safe . . . and edible.
NOTE: As I was "poking" - pun intended - fun at poke today, one of my participants mentioned that she grew up eating poke and they simply gathered and cooked the young plants in early spring. She has convinced me to give it a try, but Gil has asked that I wait until my class is over! Love this class!!!
There are other ways to use poke. If anyone has put a hex on you, use hydrangea and poke to remove it. Call me. I'm not getting into all of that here.
Another way to enhance your life with herbs is to write a song about them, as Tony Joe White did in 1969. He wrote Polk Salad Annie. He did a fabulous job and I adore his version, but I'm featuring Elvis because his use of crib notes is truly hilarious, and after all, he is the KING! So I apologize to your Tony, but I'm opening my session with Elvis. Enjoy!
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
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