Thursday, December 30, 2010

Critter lessons

How often have you heard someone talk about how they'd like to simplify their life but don't know how?

These must be people who don't live with pets of any sort. If you have pets or livestock in your life, lessons in simplicity abound.

For a cat like Halo, daily life is simple - eat, sleep, play with the dog and snuggle with the people. That's it. No more. Her life wasn't always like that. She was a stray burdened with litters of kittens at a young age and struggled to provide for herself and her broods until she found her way to the local cat rescue - Paws and Whiskers. When she joined our family six years ago, she worked for a living - mousing in the barn - for a few short weeks. Then, as winter approached, she graduated to the heated garage where hubby built her a number of cozy, warm and soft retreats to choose from for her multiple naps.

Last year we sold the farm and moved. Of course Halo came with us and once again elevated her status - this time to house cat. Now she enjoys having her meals prepared and served in clean dishes twice a day, her litter box attended to on a daily basis, and an unlimited number of potential warm and soft resting places varying from my lap to the pillows on our bed - and all soft surfaces in between.

Life can be that simple for us, too, if we put things into perspective. A lot of the pressure people put on themselves revolves around wanting 'more'. That 'more' means you have to have more money, work harder or longer, and consequently have less time to actually enjoy the 'more'. If we can be content to learn to enjoy 'less', then we might really enjoy life more. Just my passing thought.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Temperature dropping - new year approaching

After a wild, wet and windy introduction to winter, Christmas blew by in what seemed like mere moments.

Now, for a little while at least, the skies have cleared and the temperatures are dropping. There's something about clear, crisp air that engenders clear, crisp thinking as another new year approaches.

A friend asked me if I had any resolutions in mind and I responded quickly that I gave up creating resolutions many years ago. I always felt that the pressure they exerted backfired into defeat of whatever I was trying to accomplish. So instead I try to take some time during the hiatus between Christmas and the New Year to create a plan for the coming months - something that is more concisely defined, achievable and measurable so I will know where I stand at any given moment.

Occasionally it's important to think about not just what one wants, but also what one does not want, in life. Right now I'm making that list that will evolve into my 2011 plan.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a Happy New Year, success and prosperity, however you define it, in 2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Silent Night, Holy Night

Christmas is an emotional time of year for everyone. We are bombarded, through the media, with a plethora of messages about home, hearth, family, togetherness, feasts and, of course, gifts.

It is so easy to forget both the religious significance of Christmas to Christians around the world and those for whom families are scattered or non-existent, and those who can not afford to indulge in the rampant consumerism and will be lucky to have any meal, never mind a feast.

Through the many messages we hear and see, great expectations are created. For many, it creates great disappointment.

So, to have a truly Merry Christmas, focus on those you love, remember those you've lost, revel in the wonder in a child's eyes, enjoy what you have, pat your dog, listen to the cat purr, take a deep breath, sigh and know, at least for a little while, all is right with the world.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Families are fun

Last week-end I had the best time shooting a lovely family of five... with my camera of course! The children are adorable and their parents are a terrific couple to work with.

With Christmas arriving shortly I enjoyed spending a few hours with my "surrogate grandchildren".

Merry Christmas to all....

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's beginning to...

OK, so I'm listening to, and singing, far too many schmaltzy Christmas tunes - but hey, that's part of what the season is for, right? This morning I woke early and was out in the yard, at 5 a.m., with Hoover enjoying the absolute silence of a cold, crisp and clear pre-winter morning. With no wind (and thankfully, no rain) it was gorgeous out there looking up at the stars.

My deepest sympathies go to the families in Charlotte County whose lives have been so disrupted by this week's unbelievable floods. The situation is bad enough any time, but 10 days before Christmas is a lot to ask anyone to bear. According to this morning's newspaper, aid is arriving from donations from generous and caring individuals and companies - to whom I say "a tip of the hat". We can all do something to help these folks through a difficult time - and hopefully they won't be forgotten as the rest of us enjoy our Christmas with family and friends.

Christmas can also bring out the melancholy in people, especially those who have lost family members or whose sons and daughters and grandchildren live far, far away. And this is despite the constant admonishments that this is "the season to be jolly". Sometimes it is ok to shed a tear for what we don't have - as long as we turn around and greatly appreciate what we DO have - no matter how big or small.

So, to my friends, relatives, clients and students - I wish you a truly Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Give a book - support a writer

A friend of mine forwarded the following email to me and I thought it was worth sharing far and wide.


ONE:  When you give someone a book, you create a way to share an experience that will continue long after the holidays. Months later, you can ask: "What did you think of the part where he left her?", and the book might mean the world to both of you.  Unlikely when the altnerative question is: "What did you think of the linen spritzer?"

TWO: Have YOU ever tried to wrap a Round Cocotte? Well forget about it!

THREE: JK Rowling needs the money. No, wait: Nora Roberts needs the money. No, wait: Any writer not famous enough to be mentioned in this list needs the money! (And more than the money, they need a little bit of love for all those years of labor.)  

(FYI: Jeff Bezos does not need the money. He is building a personal space-port in West Texas. Please consider an independent bookstore. )

FOUR: Books are the best deal there is. The National Book Award-winning author Marilynne Robinson, for example, spends years on her novels, sometimes decades. And she writes sentences like this:

"Imagine a Carthage sown with salt, and all the sowers gone, and the seeds lain however long in the earth, till there rose finally in vegetable profusion leaves and trees of rime and brine. What flowering would there be in such a garden? Light would force each salt calyx to open in prisms, and to fruit heavily with bright globes of water--peaches and grapes are little more than that, and where the world was salt there would be greater need of slaking. For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires."

You can get "Housekeeping" in paperback for $11.20. That is $1.21 more than a Mr. Bill Plush Pet Toy.

FIVE: Most people who aren't nine would rather fall asleep with a book by their pillow than with this year's number one bestselling toy (so far): the Pillow Pet.
Though we must confess a soft spot for Miss Sassy Cat.

SIX: Books don't break until you love them so much their spines collapse.  And even after that happens they don't get shorter.

SEVEN: Books don't get lost. If you read a book it's yours forever, no matter what happens to the pages its written on.

EIGHT: Books don't come in the wrong size, or in the wrong color, or with batteries not included. (That's your eReader -- not the book!)

NINE: Books don't judge their readers. But books invite the kind of judgment that elevates the discourse, and that sometimes changes the course of things altogether.

TEN: A lot of presents say more about you than they do about the person you give them to.  But a book speaks for itself."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Health care costs

There was an article in the newspaper today about the rising costs of health care and it caused me to consider some of the things I've seen people do that no doubt contribute to abuse of the system.

For the last week I've endured a miserable cold. You know the type - headache, sore eyes, sore throat, slight fever (max. 101F), a few aches and pains, plugged sinuses, runny nose. In other words - general misery. For once I exercised personal restraint and gave in to it.

I stayed home, venturing out only of necessity to let the dog out, drank plenty of fluids, stayed warm, slept a lot and rested between naps. Basic aspirin or ibuprofen for the headache and fever. Vicks Vaporub on the chest for congestion. Lots, and LOTS, of tissues. Frequent and thorough hand washing.

Low and behold, I lived and have recovered. Today there's no fever and only a residual runny nose. Hmm.

And my point (besides hoping for sympathy from friends)? I did NOT go to out patients at the local hospital. I did NOT call or visit my doctor. I simply exercised old fashioned common sense and let the cold run its normal 5-8 day course. Had there been a drastic change in my symptoms I might have sought medical help, but as long as things remained a simple cold - I dealt with it at NO COST to the health care system.

How many people would have spent countless hours parked in a hospital or doctor's waiting room for the same thing - and only to be told to go home, take aspirin/ibuprofen, drink plenty of fluids, stay warm and rest? Huh?

The older I get the less patience I have in general and I don't suffer fools well at all. If you're seriously ill of course seek out medical help. But a cold? Get real.

Now, I'm feeling fine. Thanks for asking.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Buy local

It seems 'weird' to no longer be obliged to blog daily - but that's a good thing. It will keep me going.

With Christmas almost upon us, the annual gift buying frenzy has begun. I decided this year to "buy local" as much as possible, including supporting some of my fellow Maritime writers by buying their books as gifts for friends and relatives. In addition, I am haunting local craft and gifts shops looking for hand made goodies, toys etc. that are representative of this area - especially for my son and his family way out on the west coast. It is harder than you'd think - especially for things for young children. But, I am determined.

Now, to just get rid of this wretched cold and get on with it so things can go into the mail for delivery before Christmas.