Flickr
Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Blog Index
Navigation
Friday
Jan272017

Balancing Life with Books


Those of you who know me well, know how much I love Christmas.  I love everything about it.  The lights, the tree with all those tiny, sparkling lights, with branches full of ornaments from all all the world that we carefully hand carried home from our visits.  The smells, oh the smells of the past.  My Mom's peanut butter bars and my Nannies lemon bread...all reminders of Christmas pasts.  I love the company and I most especially love the boys who now bring the belief of magic and wonder back into our Christmas mornings...Oh how I love all of those things...I also love gifts...both given and received.  I love when I find the perfect gift for someone.  Each year I strive to get it right.  We are big in this family on homemade gifts and time-spent gifts.  It's amazing what turns up each year in my can.  The other gift that I cherish each year is the gift that keeps on giving...and that comes in the form of books.  Again, those of you who really know me, know that technically I could be called a hoarder of books.  That does not stop me from wanting more though and this year was a banner year for books.  They fill me up, they take me away, they make me a better writer, they teach me life lessons and I make new friends in them.  I am never alone as long as I have books.  So I thought you might like to see where and what I will be doing if I'm not visiting you as often this year...presenting my 2017 book list, as of now...

My son and I share a passion for books.  We can get lost in book shops for hours, as we often do.  We love new book stores and we especially love a good used book store.  We read a lot of the same types of books but he is always introducing me to new themes and new authors.  He does not forget my favorite people though...The books above were in his his book bag to me this year...Who doesn't love Mary Oliver and I still have more to collect of hers.  This year I got Long Life..essays and other writings.  I can't wait to get into that on. I'm also getting more serious about my meditation and Thich Nhat Hahn is one of my new favorite authors so Chris gifted me At Home in the World, stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk's Life.  Sounds so interesting.  Last in this wonderful bag is a new author to me, Margot Livesey.  Mercury is the name of this novel. Doesn't this description sound so juicy..."The midlife crisis takes many forms, some familiar, some wildly unexpected. In her riveting novel, Mercury, portrays a couple in their season of crisis. Patiently, precisely, she unfolds the layers of their drama, at once quiet and extreme.  She'll make you wonder how well you know your spouse.  

My second book bag from Chris was so much fun.  Honestly, I read each books back cover while wrapping paper was flying through the air...kids and dogs going wild, laughter and conversations all around me, but still I sat with my tea and this most lovely, themed bag.  The tag is a keeper..."To Mom, a books about books, book bag.. Got it"..Love Chris."  I have to admit, I had to read it several times before I really did get it.  All of these books are about bookstores and the books.  How cool is that.  I have already read..Time Was Soft There and I give it 5 stars. It is about a bookstore in Paris that I need to get to on my next trip over, called Shakespeare and Co., which is also a book about that store. The owner of Shakespear and Company is George and oh my the surprise when I read early on in the book that he was from Salem, Massachusetts, which is my home town.  I highly recommend both and they are both non-fiction...The other book store books will speak for themselves...until I get to read them.  Of this group, the one that speaks to my heart though is Howards End is On The Landing by Susan Hill.  A year of reading from home.  I think Chris is trying to tell me something with this one..."A passionate reminder of the importance of reading and a revealing glimpse of a writer's life.  Observer.  The basis for this Non-fiction is that Susan Hill discovered one day all the beautiful books that she had on her shelves and decided, that for a year, she would re-acquaint herself with her own book shelves.  I so need to do this and i want to do it.  So I'm going to give it a try also.  I can say right now that I won't make it but what I will try really hard to do, is only by books that I absolutely must have.  Not just everything that looks good or interesting.  I have such great books on my shelves..I'll let you know how this goes as we move through the year...

Of course, not to be left out is a wonderful photography book entitled "Hearing with the Eye." by John Daido Loori...this needs a quiet Sunday afternoon, with the fire crackling and a brandy snifter of Rum Charta...Thank you Chris for the fine books...that will bring many days of pleasure to me.  I know this is a gift from the heart...and I'm so grateful.

Now as if that weren't enough books...others in my family know me well...

My new Rumi collection from a friend of Chris's.  I did not have either of these so this willl be fun to go through and the photo's are fabulous in The Illuminated Rumi...

Finally, comes the book bag from Jim.  I think his intent is to keep me reading so that I have very little time for the News shows in the next four years...This might work.  We are both readers and not really  people so this is what we do at night, when the sound of the clicking keys from our computers go silent.  Then we love nothing more than to turn on the electric blanket and head to bed to read. This year we even bought a new mattress that goes up and down at the head and the foot of the bed.  So brilliant for reading.  This bag is a very diversified bag...but I have my eye on Lilac Girls for the near future.  I have been wanting that one for awhile..Maybe it's just the title, it sounds so lovely and the girls on the cover just look so inviting...I know, I know, never judge a book by it's cover but you know, sometimes I do and this is one of those... Another Brooklyn.  Brooklyn, the 70's, coming of age...delicious.  Herman Hesse, now there is a blast from the past. I have not read Siddhartha but I'm sure it is timeless.  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers.  So many awards and great book reviews.  It's non-fiction with a bit of fiction tossed in.  I'm not quite sure...but it does sound interesting.  Finally, from this wonderful collection of books from one who knows my heart so well is...Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.  Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It was written in 1999 and is a collection of short stories which is great for me.  I need to read more short stories because I essentially write essays and it might be good to move along a bit. Jim's bag was also themed. Except for Lilac Girls and Another Brooklyn, the other three books were from the list of 100 books to read in a lifetime. Jim's addition to my photography collection is "It's Not About the F-Stop..by Jay Maisel.  So you see I will be busy and I can't wait to find my books a home here on the shelves.  A bit of sorting is in order to make that happen...

Strangely enough, Jenna and I also share books.  We do the mysteries and girly books.  Cookbooks and magazines...we have favorties that we pass along to each other.  It's truly a book loving family. Although I didn't get a book bag from Jenna this year, she did give me a beautiful Burbury scarf to wrap myself up in as I read.  She is my girly, girl.  So much to love there. The boys, well they have their favorite books also. Liam has just started to love early Reader books, his favorite being Bisquit. Now he is reading to us. Jaxson loves books also and his very favorite from nap days in the big bed, which he still loves is How Do I Love You.  I read that to him each day he came..and when the book was over we would find other ways to say "how do I love you"...it is still his favorite book.  

So books, they make the world go round.  They ground us in times of trouble.  They sooth us when we are sick. They make a bad weather day sunny in there presence.  They brighten up a coffee table, even if they are never read. Mostly though, they keep us connected to each other through discussions and sharing.  They also sometimes surprise and amaze you in a gift that you could not even imagine...

This book was written by my high school friend.  It is the last book in this series.  Terri and I became friends again on Facebook and she told me how much she enjoys Jaxsons...stories and photo's.  Now imagine my surprise and graditude when I opened her book Unraveling The Pieces and found this on the fly page:

Acknowledgment..to Liam, Jaxon and me...you know what that makes this book, right?  A keeper.  Thank you Terri for your books, your words and for this gift...as I was following you, you were also following me. How sweet is that...

So at the end of the day...you never know what your gift to world will be.  I might never write a book, actually, I'm pretty sure I won't but I do hope that my blog counts, my photo's count, books count and words spoken or written count.  Use them for good out in the world and for your own pleasure.  You never know whose reading or listening...grab someone and snuggle, with a good book.

Here's to books and an entire new year to challenge yourself...

"Books are the comfort food without the calories."  Elizabeth Berg...

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” Charles Dickens.. 

The above quotes are from two of my favorite authors...they never disappoint.


 

Tuesday
Jan172017

The Peace of Mindfulness

This past Saturday I attended my first, half day mindfulness retreat.  It was a combination of sitting and walking meditation, along with some instructions and teachings of the Buddha.  My son, was the teacher for this day of meditation.  I had some reservations about going as I have never sat for that long and it was also a silent retreat, so I wasn't sure I could stay quiet for three and a half hours..

I arrived a bit frazzled and stressed...I was a tad late and the ride into the meditation center was quite far into the woods, on a curvy, narrow road. By the time I arrived I had a headache and my mind was all over the place. I was the last to arrive and so I just took a chair in the last row..and so we began, twenty four students learning to be in the moment, all at different levels in our journey.  I'm at the point now where I know the language pretty good and I can easily sit for 45 minutes.  This program consisted of sitting for three 45 minute sessions and two sessions of walking meditation. During the walking meditation you could go wherever you want, get a cup of tea, use the bathrooms.  It all had to be done in silence.  The grounds are so beautiful, deep in the woods with lots of Buddha's and nature to help keep you grounded.

My son is a wonderful teacher, soft spoken, gentle in his words and compassionate of peoples feelings and comfort while they are in this space.  He offers guidance, which I like, it helps to get me back to where my mind belongs when I tend to wander, which is quite natural in meditation.  The warmth of the sun streaming in the windows fills you with such a sense of calm.  It took me the entire first 45 minutes to get myself settled down and relax into my chair.  As I moved through the rest of the retreat I came away without my headache, I think I left it somewhere during my walking tea time, and such a sense of well being and goodness.  It is my intention to return for another retreat to this wonderful Center...I have come a long way in my meditation practice and it has served me well in stressful times.  I love the sitting now and the bells and the smell of that wonderful, earthy, incense...it all bring me right into the present moment..

 

"I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wonderous earth.  In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.  People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.  But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eye of a child-our own two eyes.  All is a miracle."   Thich Nhat Hahn...From the Miracle of Mindfulness.

Chris left on Sunday for his own retreat in Burma, studing with the Masters...today in the mail, I got two books from him...the one I quoted above and Peace in Every Step both by Thich Nhat Hahn, whom I love. I was surprised and delighted that he sent these to me right before he left.  He is with me still, even from the other side of the world...walking his own path...

 

Wednesday
Jan112017

Step Out and Take A Chance

Dreams deferred are most often dreams that never happen. Sometimes we just have to step out, take a risk, without letting anything stop us.  How will we ever know what we are capable of if we don't at least try. How will we ever know what our true passions are if we don't challenge ourselves and most importantly, how will we live a life of  commitment, dedication and authenticity to our creative side,  if we never take that first step.  The simple answer is, we won't. 

These are the ideals and idea's that Liam is helping me work through these past few years.  At seven years old he is already my hero for trying new things and for not letting obstacles get in his way.  He is brave and he challenges himself in many ways...through sports and through the arts.

For a long time now he has been asking me for Irish Step Dancing lessons.  It was a gift that I really wanted to give him but we couldn't find a place close enough to where we lived to do this for him.  So for awhile, he would forget about it.  Not for long though.  Each time we would go to a pub or see a show that had step dancing as part of the entertainment he would start on me again.  Each time I told him that as soon as we could find a place, we would send him.  This year my daughter told me of a dance company coming to her work out center and they were offering Irish Step Dancing...I called and in fact they were coming, just in time for his birthday..I signed him up.  There was one caveat though that I thought would throw a monkey wrench into his desire to try this dream of his.. THERE WERE NO BOYS IN THE CLASS.

So, on Liam's birthday, we gifted him the lessons. He was very excited.  I did not tell him about the all girl class.  On his first day, we went.  Upon entering the studio he looked around and stood in the back.  The girls were already dancing..three little ones.  Before he knew what was happening his very lovely, Irish teacher, Miss Jackie, called Liam in like he had been going to this school for years.  I swear he didn't know what hit him but jump in he did.  I sort of slinked away so he couldn't see me and ask to leave.  In the end, I was the one who was surprised, not Liam.  At the end of this very first class he told me that he loved it and would be going back.  Then I asked him about all the girls...he said, no problem.

After only three weeks of lessons for all of these sweet children, they did a little recital for a local Long Term Nursing Center. The girls were so cute in their tutus and Liam was so smart in his velvet pants, white shirt and red tie. For that special occasions his Mom got him his first pair of step dancing shoes, which he now wears each week for his lessons. Come now, with me, as we revisit that wonderful day for all these little ones who so proudly showed off their new found talent.

Not one to be left out..Jaxson sneaking in for a photo opt.

Miss Jackie...full of motion.

The holidays are now over and Liam, once again, is back to dancing.  I think of him often when I'm deciding an issue, especially if it's a challenge for me.  I think of his tenacity, his perseverance in never giving up until he finds a way to make things happen.  Mostly I love that he is so willing to try, to accomplish dreams that most kids don't even seek.  He doesn't always go on to continue year after year on one of his endeavors but he always gives it a fair shot.  He took horse back riding lessons for over two years and although he doesn't ride anymore because of sports, it's still a love of his.  The seed has been planted.  Maybe someday he will ride again with no fear of it.  The point is, he tries. 

I feel like this year I want to try different things to challenge myself.  Take a few different classes, work on my web-site, learning how to make changes to it, finding the light more often even if it means getting up earlier or staying out later. Writing more with passion. A craft I so love doing and of course reading is always top on my list but this year, more technical books. I'm not setting huge limits for myself...but I am opening myself up to new possibilities...I did tell you that is my word for the year, right?  Some things will work and perhaps some won't but it won't be because I don't step over that line and try...

I'm going to keep following Liam's lead.  He is so good for my spirit and he's also good for finding adventures. 

Do you have anything you'd like to try this year?  Something new and exciting...if so, make it happen...

Having the courage to take the steps we want to take is the only way we will know where we want to be...trust in yourself.

 

 

Thursday
Jan052017

Finding the Light

"You have to find what sparks a light 

in you so that you

in your own way,

can illuminate the whole world."

                           - Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday
Jan032017

Happy Birthday Papa

First thing this morning Facetime rings...it's Jaxson..."Happy Birthday Papa " so that sets the tone for the day..Jaxson and Papa have a date today, just the two of them.  Liam and Papa had their day yesterday...and all they have to do is call and Papa is putty in their hands.

I could write all kinds of wonderful things about Jim here for his birthday...we've been together a very long time but what I see now as the big love of his life is these two little guys, who think the sun shines and the moon rises because of this most generous man.  He is the keeper of all their batteries, for all there toys.  He is their number one fix it man.  When there is a problem of any kind, they call Papa and guess what, Papa always has the answer.  He plays and builds with them.  He swims and walks in the park with them.  They check out bugs, spiders and all kinds of creepy crawlies that give me the willies.  In truth, they are best buddies...

Sometimes though they get in trouble..They are not suppose to go to McDonalds but sometimes he takes them...so they can get the latest toy in the Happy Meal box.  Sometimes they stay down in the workshop so long they are late for getting to where they need to be...but nothing is cooler than building in the workshop with Papa.  They even gave Papa a new apron for the workshop for Christmas this year. The other thing that Papa lets them do is each week after swimming he lets them get real junk food from the vending machine..I think that's part of the reason they go to swim..it's all good though in the end.

The best part though for Papa is to get kisses and I love you's..everytime they are here.  Jaxson declares him "the best"...and Liam is his best game buddy.  He has walked with them since their first steps, he still carries Jaxson in the house when he falls asleep in the car.  They have ridden on his shoulder countless times and they have driven his boat better than him and he lets them.. He is strong for them, teaching them all the lessons little boys need to know as they grow. He's already taught them how to shave...LOL   It's a wonderful relationship that these three have.

So onward Papa, for another year.  Where you walk they will follow, what you do they will copy. What you teach them they will believe.  Wishing you a very happy birthday today...and I hope Jaxson isn't beating the pants off you at the Castle...Papa your the very best...the boys told me so...

This little quote discribes you perfectly:

"Grandpa has ears that truly listen, arms that always hold, love that’s never ending and a heart that’s made of gold."

 

 

 

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 55 Next 5 Entries »