Pittsburgh and Propelle: Where Fun and Family Meet

I came to Pittsburgh this week for two reasons: to spend some good face-to-face time with my daughter Kate and to get some help with my 2015 planning.

Kate at her work station in the co-working space on the first floor

Kate at her work station in the co-working space on the first floor

Yesterday was a “work” day for my four-day visit. We launched the work day at Whole Foods and then returned to the “sunny urban” AirBnB unit on the second floor.

I purchased two hours of time from Kate and her business partner Emily who are co-founders of a company called Propelle. They gave me the VIP treatment.

Kate prepared lunch, using her signature style -- sunny colors -- as snow fell outside.

Kate prepared lunch, using her signature style -- sunny colors -- as snow fell outside.

We looked at the long list of weekly activities I am now doing. Emily and Kate responded with some great suggestions to my request that we find a way to simplify website, newsletter, blog, and social media presence to give me more time for that project I announced way back in September 2014 — the box in the basement.

We talked for two hours, reviewing options. I was awed by the enthusiasm and quick minds and fingers of these two young women as they whizzed through the analytics on WordPress and MailChimp and explained how easy it would be to do XY and Z.

 

Emily and Kate, ready to serve up the challenges and suggest solutions.

Emily and Kate, ready to serve up the challenges and suggest solutions.

I picked their brains for two hours. Then we enjoyed a lovely lunch.

Later that same day, I got a summary of the suggestions. Now all I have to do is put them in practice. More about that in future posts.

In the meantime, I’m back to hanging out with just Kate.

Lucky me.

Kate in relaxed mode. She saw this pic and said, "I look like a mermaid!"

Kate in relaxed mode. Chillin' like a pink mermaid.

Does your weekly to-do list have too much on it? Have you ever hired a family member to help you? How did that go for you?

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A Week in Sarasota: The Bittersweet Disruption of Cars

As you read these words, I am heading back north from Sarasota, Florida.

Sunrise on the wing of the airplane on the way to the South.

Sunrise on the wing of the airplane on the way to the south.

I leave behind the palm trees, Gulf breezes, white sands, delicious fresh sea food, key lime pie, beach sunrises and sunsets, — and some wonderful surprises!

Photo by Janet Oberholtzer. I enjoyed speaking to her book club. I met nine new readers of BLUSH and felt like all of them were old friends.

Photo by Janet Oberholtzer. I enjoyed speaking to her book club. I met nine new readers of BLUSH and felt like all of them were old friends.

Two of the surprises had to do with cars.

A 1975 Olds 88 convertible. Friends gave us a memorable ride on Stuart's birthday.

A 1975 Olds 88 convertible. Friends gave us a memorable ride on Stuart's birthday. We didn't even know this beautiful vintage car existed until we took the trip.

 

Tesla Motors Showroom in Sarasota

Tesla Motors Showroom in Sarasota. Meeting a new vision of the future. We'll take this vision home and ponder it.

Just last week I described my approach to 2015 as “planning more and planning less.”

This week Stuart and I practiced what I preached last week.

We didn’t know we would be visiting a Tesla showroom. We had heard of Tesla, both the original inventor and the car named after him, so when one of our friends mentioned the fact that the new mall included a showroom, we decided to head over there. We were met by an “evangelist.”

If you want to get the flavor of the excitement on the floor, watch this video about the visionary CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk:

When we planned the trip months ago, we had five or six known appointments. Some were book talks. Some were related to Stuart’s work. We knew we would enjoy the weather and reunions with many friends.

What we didn’t know were the “bonuses,” all the sweeter because they were not planned.

There was sadness also. While we were enjoying beautiful cars in Florida, Uncle Ken passed away in Pennsylvania.

If you read Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World, you remember that he and Daddy were best friends and that both of them loved cars. Our joy of discovery became bittersweet with the news of Uncle Ken’s death.

Uncle Ken (left) and Daddy (right) 1946. They shared a love of cars and farming. They were best friends until Daddy's death in 1980.

Uncle Ken (left) and Daddy (right) 1946. They shared a love of cars and farming. They were best friends until Daddy's death in 1980.

What bonuses popped into your life this week? Did any of them have to do with cars? Have you encountered bitter-sweetness in any of your discoveries?

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Plan More, Plan Less: Continuing the Search for Simplicity and Legacy By Reviewing 2014 and Sharing Goals for 2015

Last year at this time, I had a plan for 2014. I even wrote about it.  I heard back from many readers about my plan to CONNECT (my word for the year) and to continue the search for simplicity and legacy by creating goals centered on my mission: to prepare for the hour of my death by living one good day at a time.

Notes from 2014 planning. These are always on my right as I write.

Notes from 2014 planning. These stayed up all year and are always on my right as I write.

The process of end-of-year reflection is one I look forward to each year.

First, here are my three 2014 goals:

  • daily rituals that remind me of my mission: to prepare for the hour of my death by living one good day at a time, and to help others do the same.
  • travel to at least eight places (plans so far include Laurelville and Lancaster, PA; Mexico; Kansas City and other Kansas towns; Elkhart County, IN; Holland, MI). I would love to do a West Coast trip, a Canada trip. I am planning my travel for the year now, so please let me know if you would like me to speak in a location near you or have a venue in mind for a book talk. Have book, will travel. :-)
  • a possible new e-book using the best of Magical Memoir Moments to help inspire other people to remember stories from their past and build a legacy. If you have signed up in the right-hand corner, you get these weekly photos and short prompts from me. Would you value having the best of them in one e-book at a low price (likely between .99 – and 2.99)?

Grading my goals: (Once a teacher, always a teacher).

I give myself a B- on being faithful in daily rituals. The days that felt the best were ones that included silence, inspirational reading, prayer or meditation, exercise, and good conversation. Travel often disrupted the plan. I had to learn to simplify and shorten the ritual.

I give myself an A+ on travel and book talks.  2014 was a great year to CONNECT about the subject of story and memoir. So many ordinary lives are really extraordinary. Instead of focusing only on my own childhood memoir, Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World my talks were about the sacred nature of story itself. After reading Blush, many readers poured their hearts out to me. I was touched to read and hear their sacred stories.

I am convinced there is no such thing as an unimportant life.

 

Letters, notes, and emails illustrate the power of story.

Letters, notes, and emails illustrate the power of story.

As for that third possible goal? It gets an F. I found myself uninspired to do the work of figuring out how to turn Magical Memoir Moments into a book. The biggest barrier is technical. I don’t know how to locate the photos, in the right size, organize them and transfer them into a book. I don’t fret about leaving behind a goal that didn’t capture my imagination.

My friend Sherrey describes the need to stay flexible while making goals. And Elaine, the grief of no longer having plans after the death of a spouse. They illustrate the futility of thinking we are in control, especially in control of our health and our penultimate foe, death.

My friend Laurie, has a solution to this problem in how she approaches the subject of planning this year. Her word for the year is FLOW.

I determine to plan and to not be a slave of planning.

If I should die before I wake, I pray for grace.

I want to focus, therefore, on waking. On being as alive as I can be.

I have a daily partner to help me with that goal. A book, Wide Awake. Every Day, by an online friend Starla. From the short passage I read today, here is some advice I could use myself and share with you.

Plan more. Plan less.

—Starla King

A red book on a red chair.

A red book on a red chair.

 

So, today I will plan more by naming three goals for 2015.

1. Continue seeking simplicity and legacy by sitting in the red chair, thanking God for a new day, reading, and praying.

2. Continue to travel when called, visiting family often, and responding to invitations to speak with both generosity and appropriate boundaries.

3. Try to find time for The Box in the Basement. (I am amazed at how little I have done so far.) Try to consolidate social media efforts to preserve more time for memorabilia research and possible next memoir vignettes.

My word for the year, as I seek to be awake, is NOTICE.

To prepare for 2015, I’ll listen to two of my favorite people, Krista Tippett and Seth Godin, in this wonderful On Being podcast: The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating.

Now, your turn. Do you have a word to help you focus this year? Have you evaluated last year’s goals? How can we help you in this year’s goals?

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Eves-dropping: A Good Way to End 2014

Mother before the 39 family members showed up for the Hershey family gathering.

Mother before 39 family members showed up for the Hershey family gathering.

I created a new word today: “eves-dropping.”

Meaning?

To prepare a blog post on the eve of a holiday and then drop it on your readers.

Since Christmas and New Years this year fall on Thursdays, and this blog goes live regularly on Wednesdays, you get eves-drops.

As a way of celebrating the year-end of a great year, I send you a few holiday photos. Knowing you are busy, I’ll make the post short. Hope you enjoy seeing a few visual highlights of our last week.

The great grandchildren actually voted to let Great Grandma open her presents first. They helped!

The great grandchildren actually voted to let Great Grandma open her presents first. They helped her open them!

Last Sunday we had a lot of fun at Landis Homes which has a great community center for family events like ours.

After the party, we drove from Pennsylvania to Virginia with our son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren.

Stuart with his favorite audience.

Stuart with his favorite audience.

We extended Christmas two more days by going on walks, reading books, consuming homemade paella, and having more adventures in the car.

Harrisonburg has a great Children’s Museum. It was full of three-generation families, lots of our friends were enjoying family time there.

Owen and Julia loved the Green Room and practiced their make-up skills on me.

Owen and Julia loved the Green Room and practiced their make-up skills on me.

These are some eves-drops from Harrisonburg. How about adding some of yours? Can you name a holiday highlight to share with us?

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Christmas Eve: In the Bleak Midwinter

It’s a very quiet Christmas Eve at our house.

Fog covers the mountains.

Bleak Midwinter in the Shenandoah Valley

Bleak Midwinter in the Shenandoah Valley

We didn’t decorate a tree. No sound of children’s voices.

Quiet.

Our family had festive days together in November and will have more this weekend. Tomorrow there will be brunch in the home of friends.

But today it’s just us. And time.

Time for reviewing the year, mug in hand, wrapped in an afghan made by loving hands long ago.

Time for prayer for our troubled world. Black lives that matter. Police lives that matter too. Endless wars.

Christina Rosetti focused on bleakness at Christmas, turning away from tinsel and sleigh bells and snowmen who sing.

In 1872 she responded to a Scribner’s Monthly request for a Christmas poem with “In the Bleak Midwinter.” The poem appeared in her collected works, was set to music by the composer Gustav Holst, and published in the English Hymnal in 1906.

I invite you to get your own mug and afghan and listen and watch.

The bleak midwinter is calling me to celebrate Christmas quietly this year, to open no presents, just to give the babe my heart.

I immerse myself in bleakness and ask what it has to teach.

Have you been called by bleakness this holiday season? I’d love to hear how.

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Do You Say, “Have a Nice Day”? If Not, Why Not?

When you part from someone, do you have a favorite farewell blessing to utter?

Wikipedia CC image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Have_a_nice_day#mediaviewer/File:Smile_have_a_nice_day_sign.jpg

Wikipedia CC image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Have_a_nice_day#mediaviewer/File:Smile_have_a_nice_day_sign.jpg

Other languages, French, German, and Spanish, for example, have much more graceful words than the English “Good-Bye” or “So long!”

Witness this song written for English speakers about a famous multi-lingual Austrian family:

In America, in the decade that followed The Sound of Music, a new phrase came into popular parlance: “Have a nice day.”

I remember when the president of Eastern Mennonite College began ending his chapel talks in the late 1960′s with that phrase. I rather liked it. It seemed to personalize his magisterial presence in the pulpit.

But then came the backlash. Social critics found it easy to bash the superficiality of what became the ubiquitous end of a clerk-customer exchange in stores.

George Carlin became famous for his anti- “Have a Nice Day” routine laced with four-letter words. Just Google his name and the phrase and you can hear him.

Wikipedia has an amazingly detailed entry on this phrase, including arguments pro and con.

Why am I writing about this phrase today?

This will be my last post in the seven-part series about A Good Day. I’ve decided on an action step based on all this reflection and conversation at the end of 2014. I will look for ways to use this phrase, “Have a GOOD day” when it seems appropriate. I further resolve not to use the phrase flippantly, to look the other person in the eye, and to make a real Presence connection when I do so.

I’d love your thoughts. What is your history with this phrase? Hate it? Use it sparingly. Love it? When you switch from “nice” to “good” what difference does that make? Even if you don’t comment, I hope you have a GOOD day. :-)

P. S. This just in from my publisher Herald Press. It applies to all their books, not just BLUSH. Click on the link and look around: “On orders placed and shipped December 14–20, we are offering free shipping on items shipped via USPS priority, UPS delivery, or other standard shipping options within the continental United States. This offer does not include expedited shipping options (next day or second day) or guaranteed delivery by Christmas. The ‘Free Freight’ option will show under “Shipping Method” during check-out.” http://store.mennomedia.org/

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A Good Day is a Gutsy Day: How You Can Win a Free Book or Download a Bargain

It’s a good day today.

In no spectacular way.

It’s good just by waking up, alive, in a “warm” house (I’m grateful for the afghan made by my mother-in-law and a prayer shawl give to me by Mennonite women this fall). Then there was coffee, and breakfast with Stuart, who made the steel-cut oats.

Lots of time to look at the mountains, dramatic today with clouds of many colors hovering over them. Then more coffee. Any day with a book and a cuppa is good. Right?

My Gutsy Story Anthology, volume 2

And not just any book! A book about courage, My Gutsy Story Anthology: Inspirational Short Stories About Taking Chances and Changing Your Life (Volume 2) featuring many of my writing friends. I choose to make this a Good Day, a Gutsier Day, by inviting you to make friends with these writers also.

I read many stories in this wonderful anthology this morning.  I’ll give you a chance to do the same. Read on to find out how you can win a free copy of this anthology. In the meantime, I want you to meet  a few of the writers featured in the book with links that take you right to their websites.

Sonia Marsh

Sonia has created the Gutsy brand, first with Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island and now with a My Gutsy Story website that leads to edited books such as the one above. Below are six authors I did not know three years ago, but who now make up the tapestry of my everyday life because I continue reading their stories. The title of their individual stories in the Gutsy anthology follows their name, along with other ways you can become acquainted.

Janet Givens, “Leaving a Life I Loved”

Janet joined the Peace Corps at the age of 55 and wrote a gripping memoir about the experience: At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir.  She blogs about “oh no moments” that make us gasp, negotiating boundaries, making connections, and embracing transitions at her website.

Marian Longenecker Beaman, “Gutsy in Ukraine”

Marian blogs at Plain and Fancy Girl. Anyone who has read my memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World will love the amazingly creative and well-researched posts Marian publishes. She brings all of her wisdom from her “plain” heritage into the wider world of “fancy” professional life and draws all of these influences together into beautiful essays. She’s working on her own memoir, and I can’t wait to read it.

Laurie Buchanan, “From GED to Ph.D.”

Laurie’s philosophy as a transformative life coach is “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.” Every Tuesday she delights, surprises, or challenges me with her short essays combining one picture with her unique slant on the visual and inner worlds. She’s the kind of friend who reads about a book tour and drives all the way from Boise to attend a book talk in Seattle. I’ll never forget that gesture of kindness. Get on Laurie’s list. You will thank me.

Leanne Dyck, “Rising Above Expectations”

Leanne Dyck was told as a child that she was uneducable. She has proved the teachers and social workers wrong and has become a published author, overcoming the challenges of dyslexia. Leanne interviewed me on her blog. I was delighted to find her inspiring story among the many other Gutsy stories in this anthology.

Victoria Noe, “I’m Not Gutsy, But You Are”

Victoria and I connected briefly at Book Expo America this year. We didn’t have enough time to get to know each other well, but today I got to know her better by reading her unique take on the meaning of “gutsy.” She’s had an amazing series of careers in theater, nonprofit organization leadership, activism, and now writing. She has written several books about friend grief and has been published in the Chicago Tribune and the Huffington Post. You can reach Viki , her blog, and her books, here.

Angela Marie Carter, “Poetry Saved My Life”

I’m particularly happy to end my list of friend’s Gutsy essays with Angela’s. In the words of Langston Hughes, life for her has “been no crystal stair,” but Angela has wrestled with the demons of child sexual abuse, parental alcoholism, and many other challenges by pouring her sorrows into language. It was a pleasure to share the podium with Angela this summer at a talk at our local public library and to exchange ideas over lunch a few times before and after her beautiful book of poetry Memory Chose a Woman’s Body. One of her poems in that volume has been nominated for a Pushcart prize. I will not be surprised to hear it has won. You can find Angela at her website.

Finally, I need to mention one other writer friend,

Joan Z. Rough

She doesn’t have an essay in this particular anthology, but she nominated me for a Lovely Blog Award a few weeks ago. I have not been able to respond until now. Joan lives just “across the mountain” from me in Charlottesville. Stuart and I have enjoyed getting to know Joan and her husband Bill. We don’t see enough of each other but enjoy every encounter. Joan is hard at work on her memoir called Me, Myself, and Mom: A Journey Through Love, Hate, and Healing. Coming soon! You can read the first chapter here.

Now, as promised, here is the offer. I have three My Gutsy Story Anthologies, Volume Two, to give away to those who comment below. Just answer this question “What is gutsy in your ordinary life today?

I’m also bursting to tell all my readers that Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World (Kindle edition) is on sale this week only. Tomorrow it will be the featured memoir on Bookbub. But you can jump to the head of the line and buy it for .99. Now! At this price you might want to add an e-copy even if you own the paperback. Thanks in advance for your support. And if you are interested, I’ll describe the BookBub experience after it’s over. Which leaves my with one more person to thank: Carol Bodensteiner, author and marketer extraordinaire. Check out both her books and blog too! Carol told me about BookBub.

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Recovering Joy in A Good Day: The Woman in the Photograph

What if the only clue you had to your mother’s past was a photo taken before you were born — when she was young, carefree, and beautiful? What if it looked like this:The Woman in the PhotographHow would you feel, upon waking up in the morning, if the day stretched out before you had no clear architecture from the past?

That question is hard for me to imagine. My ancestry is so foundational to who I am today. I had to begin my own memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World with three generations of the nine that preceded me in America.

I’m constantly fascinated by difference. And by good storytelling. You are in for a treat in the guest post that follows. And if you aren’t having a good day yet, I think it will cheer you on.

Mani Feniger

Mani Feniger

Mani Feniger is a therapist and writer who lives in the SF Bay Area with her husband Michael and dog Gigi. She is the author of two books, “Journey from Anxiety to Freedom” and “The Woman in the Photograph,” winner of the 2013 BEST MEMOIR Award from Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. She is available to speak at book clubs as well as community and professional organizations, and offers individual counseling and memoir writing classes. Learn more at her website and blog. Purchase her book by clicking here: The Woman in the Photograph: The Search for My Mother’s Past.

 

A Good Day

By Mani Feniger.

Sometime in your life you will go on a journey. It will be the longest journey you have ever taken. It is the journey to find yourself.

                                    –Katherine Sharp

For me, a good day does not require special events. Its essence is that I am open, optimistic and curious about whatever happens. This view may seem normal to you, but it took an unexpected turn of history for me to realize that I had unconsciously adopted a family attitude that life was hard, and it was dangerous to harbor dreams and aspirations because they would inevitably be dashed and whatever you accomplished would be lost.

Harsh advice, but it made perfect sense to my parents who escaped from Nazi Germany. They were extremely “lucky” to get out early, but beyond that, I knew none of the details of their persecution, nor of other relatives that must have once existed, or the exciting lives they each had led before their exile.

I was very close to my mother. This was especially true after my dad died when I was eight. But our house became a place of silence, cloaked in shadows I couldn’t name. Seeking direction, I carefully observed my mother’s facial expressions, her tone of voice, her body language and random comments, often as fragmentary as

“I kiss the ground we walk on”

with no explanation to follow. I was not aware of how deeply her outlook infiltrated my own beliefs about life or that I had absorbed the imprint of her traumas and disappointments.

Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Though my mother had passed away by then, a door to her buried past swung open. A flow of documents issued by the newly unified German Republic informed me that I might be the rightful heir of a family property stolen by the Nazis under “Aryanization.” Soon after, I got a startling glimpse into a significant part of my mother’s prior life. It came in the form of a photograph, buried in a box of papers and documents my brother had carted off to his garage when we cleaned out her apartment.

 

As I said in the introduction to The Woman in the Photograph

The picture of two women seated close together on a loveseat transported me back to a lost era of my mother’s life. Suspended in time, my mother and her sister gaze into each other’s eyes. They seem unaware that outside their private world, the Nazi party is gathering momentum to sweep away the life they have known.

            I was stunned by the image of my mother Alice in a white evening gown…. The woman in this photo is not my mother, I thought. I recognized her proud profile. Otherwise she bore little resemblance to the woman I had known all my life….

            The image ignited a spark inside me, an urgency to know more about the person who had such a profound effect on my life… Long after her passing, the omissions in her story still haunt me. What happened to her? Why didn’t she tell me? Who is the woman in the photograph?

The journey of unraveling her story took me nearly twenty years with twists and turns I could not have imagined. But the really important shift was that I began to understand the roots of her silence and the impact of her losses.

I discovered that she had withheld not just her pain, but also the most glorious adventures of her youth, which I observed later in a photo album she had secreted away. I sensed that I had denied myself the permission to be lighthearted, not on purpose, but as an almost primal expression of loyalty to my mother. Have you ever struggled with the beliefs and values that mattered to your parents but might not be appropriate for your own life or your own time in history?

Joy-filled sisters Alice and Erica

Joy-filled sisters Alice and Erika

I have faced many real challenges. But I approach situations differently than before I knew my mother’s true story. Now a good day means my heart is open and I no longer confuse my mother’s experience with my own. I look up at the clouds shifting through a blue sky, and am grateful that I have a lightness of spirit that I didn’t feel when I was growing up. Even when things are not as I might wish, I savor the happy moments and bring compassion to myself when I am afraid or sad or angry. And though I am almost seventy, some days I turn up the music and dance around the house as I did when I was seven, and know it’s a very good day.


This story makes me want to cry, and then dance too. It has enhanced my understanding of the meaning of a good day in a profound way. Do you know the connection between pain and joy?  Is there a photo in your life that has unlocked a mystery?

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Always Returning: Prairie Wisdom for Breathing in a Good Day Every Day

So what if the day you are having doesn’t seem like A Good Day? No day can be Good all the time!

I’ve learned much Prairie Wisdom from my friend Daisy Hickman, author of Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place. I have her book on my table TBR (to be read) soon! I hope you’ll check it out by clicking on the link.
I asked Daisy to reflect on what she’s learned about A Good Day from her spiritual journey into place as an author.

I offer Daisy’s essay below as a Pre-Thanksgiving Meditation sent to you from a place special to me — Montclair, NJ — where our whole family has gathered to celebrate and be grateful together.

Just breathing, as the snow falls outside the window, brings me joy. Each out-breath sends joy to you!

 

Not Quite There Yet

By Daisy A. Hickman

Indeed, it is the perfect time of year to consider gratitude, a good day, and their convergence.

In fact, according to many spiritual teachers, we should feel grateful for each breath without trying to decide if it is a “happy moment” or an “unhappy moment.” The ability to do this must be the mark of true spiritual enlightenment, because I’m not quite there yet.

But I sense movement in that direction, and for that, I’m deeply grateful.

There is a time for evaluation; there is a time for simply breathing in the moment. As I wrote in my book about wisdom: less is more. And certainly less evaluation (judgment, analysis, reaction) is “more” in this context.

Always Returning Book Cover

Always Returning Book Cover

In terms of what comprises a “good day” for me—while I wrote this book, the first edition (William Morrow) in 1998; the second edition, just this year—

I believe that every day, on a spiritual level, is a good day.

Not necessarily in largely personal terms, because when I encounter extremely difficult days, I, like you, am reluctant to call them “good.”

But whenever I’m writing, I feel blissfully connected to something that feels timeless, complete, and knowing. Something beyond designations of “good”:

The sights in front of me are in continual flux, but the secret is to look into them to unearth their deeper truths.

–(Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place, 2014).

I grew up in a place (remote prairie lands) that inspired me deeply, and with time’s passage, I realized every place can prompt us to look within – and if we are lucky and intentional, we are always returning to that place.

That is where wisdom resides, not somewhere far-removed from our own realities. But, often, we fail to feel the roots below our feet, because we are so certain what we “need” is somewhere else.

 I seriously doubt it.

The lessons of life are more simple than we choose to believe, but we have to stand still long enough, breathe deeply enough, to understand this.

Daisy's Cabin

Daisy's Cabin

Good is now. Good is everywhere, tucked within each sunrise, each sunset. Every smile, every sigh. Good is even part of tragedy and loss and missing people no longer with us on days we label as “special.” Days like Thanksgiving.

When we finally discover the true depth of each day, however, they are ALL special. No need to differentiate, no need to evaluate and consider and decide. And definitely no need to “wish” for something else.

View from Daisy's Cabin.
View from Daisy’s Cabin.

 As I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing. ~ T. S. Eliot

And although I’m not quite there yet, still growing, like all of us, a certain amount of equanimity graces each moment of my day when I’m able to look beyond rules, expectations, popularized values and beliefs, matters of the ego, and anything else that clouds my inner vision.

Thank you so much, Shirley, for inviting me to share a few words here. May we all come to sense the profound “goodness” of each breath, each day –the challenge of a lifetime.

You can find Daisy at her delightful, highly recommended, website Sunny Room Studio. You can thank her for sharing these thoughts about the good day by leaving a comment below. In what way are you “not quite there yet” in your understandings of any of the following: the meaning of a good day, the wisdom of place, or what it means to be grateful as a daily practice of Thanksgiving?

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The Quiet, Productive, Connected Very Good Day: Tina Fariss Barbour’s Wise Words

Last week I broke one of the basic rules of good writing. I got a little carried away with adjectives, writing about the Amazing, Excellent, Superb, Splendid Very Good Day. I’ll blame my infatuation with my grandchildren.

But sometimes breaking the rules leads to new opportunities, as it did today. One of my readers has wisely slowed down the pace and today champions the value of another kind of good day.

Meet Tina Fariss Barbour.

Tina Fariss Barbour where she loves to walk.

Tina Fariss Barbour where she loves to walk.

A Good Day

By

Tina Fariss Barbour

 

A good day is not the one where the exciting things happen.

A good day for me is a quiet one, with some work, some reading. My husband is doing his own good things, but we come together for a meal and a walk, and always, talk.

I used to wait for the good days to happen. I have long been challenged by depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I thought I couldn’t have a good day until all the depression was gone, all the obsessions were out of my head, all the compulsions were done and laid to rest.

However, part of the healing process for me has been learning that the good days are to be enjoyed when I can make them—or allow them—to happen. In the midst of a dark time, in the midst of unrelenting anxiety, what can be cherished are the good days.

Another challenge is the work I do as a newspaper reporter for a weekly newspaper. About two years ago, I reduced my hours to have more time for my own writing and editing.

But at least four days a week are spent dealing with deadlines and stress. A goal for me is to find a way to work the characteristics of a good day into the newspaper workday.

So, until then, a good day for me looks something like this.

I get up early enough to take a walk in the neighborhood before many other people are stirring. Before I go, I whisper to Larry where I’m going, and he nods and goes back to sleep.

I take my phone along so I can take photographs of the things that catch my eye: the look of the sun through the trees, a particularly lovely shade of gold in the leaves.

Fallen leaves along the path.

Fallen leaves along the path.

When I return home, I stretch and drink water and feel physically strong. I eat a cup of Greek yogurt.

I write in my journal, a page or two.

After Larry goes out to his shop to work on one of his projects, I start on my own projects. I open my computer and spend some time on my editing work, or blogging, or a research project. I make progress.

Our cat Chase Bird wanders through the room, his face full of late morning sleepiness. But he’s open for a back scratch, a belly rub, and a treat or two. Then he’s back to his daytime sleeping havens.

Chase Bird Barbour

Chase Bird Barbour

Then I take a shower and read while Larry takes his. We go out to lunch at a local café that has the best four-bean chili. I enjoy a bowl with a toasted peanut butter sandwich.

If it’s a pretty day, a walk in the park along the Staunton River is called for. I bring my camera.

Back at home, we separate again to our own corners, me with a book, usually, him with his own research or work project. A nap, maybe with Chase Bird. A quiet supper at home.

A quiet day. A productive day. A day connected to my husband and my cat. A good day.

***

Bio: Tina Fariss Barbour lives in Altavista, a small town in south-central Virginia, with her husband, Larry, and their cat, Chase Bird. She is a newspaper reporter, a freelance editor, a mental health advocate, an animal lover, and a writer striving to live a life of connection. She blogs here. You can find her on Twitter at @TinaFBarbour.

Can you identify with Tina’s version of A Good Day? What elements of her day do you want to add to yours today? What wisdom can you commend?

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© Copyright Shirley Hershey Showalter
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