Gifts just because…

Just because….

you mean the world to me

it has your name written all over it

I’m so thrilled I found something I KNOW you’ll love

you support me

I love you

you’d never get it for yourself

it made me think of you


You know what it’s like to find the perfect gift for somebody? Filled with excitement, you just can’t wait to give it! You may give it early, just because you cannot wait one more day. You also know that if you’re looking for the perfect gift, you’ll never find it right when you need it. Furthermore, you know that trying to find the perfect gift at the perfect time can lead to disappointment. You sometimes settle just so you’ll have something, anything to put in that gift bag. Buying the gift bag – that’s the easiest part.

A number of years ago, several of my friends (and a few family members) made a loving pact: No gift giving on birthdays. Difficult for some, nevertheless we all agreed. But, you know what? It’s a relief not to do the frenzied walk up and down aisles or a wild, late night internet search with a deadline looming.  Side note: Those late nights on the internet lead to midnight snacking, and for me, that means devouring an excess amount of chocolate laced with peanut butter.

I’d never suggest we stop giving gifts. To remove the joy we feel when giving isn’t the point! How about giving up the pressure for a specific gift giving event and give “just because” gifts?

IMG_3900Here are a few just because gifts I’ve received that continue to brighten my day!

Let us also remember many “gifts” aren’t tangible. Thinking of you texts or even better a phone call, spending unhurried time together, a handwritten letter, assuming a friend’s recess duty (teachers you know this one!) all qualify as some of the most kind and thoughtful gifts.

I’m not sure how this will work in your world with your friends and family and for what types of events you’re willing to forgo traditional gift giving, but just thought I’d throw the idea out there.

Slainte! Susan

Just wondering…1) Do you give just because gifts? 2) What are some intangible gifts you enjoy giving?


Something new I’m loving… Touchnote post cards. Download the app. All via your phone, send a postcard with any picture you’ve taken, include a message and your recipient’s address. Addresses are saved for later use. Done. While it’s not handwritten, it’s super simple to send and oh-so fun to receive. Cost is $2 per postcard (when you put $10 on an account).  The final product is high quality and arrives to your recipient in about 5 days. Check it out here!!

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Gardenias and a Birthday

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Just a couple of years back, I started my own little personal tradition…to celebrate my folks on my birthday. After all, without them I would not celebrate any of these days, which by the way seem to come around at an alarming rate. Today, I’m remembering my mom with gardenias.

Raised in a modest three bedroom home, there was Mom, Dad, my older often bratty brother, and me. ONE bathroom. There was just one simple bathroom rule: When Dad needs in, you get out. The price of the home was under ten grand, and the mortgage was $99. At the time, even that felt like a stretch for my folks. Hard for us to imagine in today’s world! In our simple, not-too large, yard, there were several gardenia bushes. And each year when the white, fragrant blooms arrived, people would stop to ask my mother for her gardenia growing secrets.  “No secrets,” Mom would say as people shared sad tales of gardenia growing failures.

As an adult, in my own yard, there is one gardenia bush. It came with the house, and blooms for just a bit each summer. Certainly it’s not overflowing like the ones in my childhood home. I’ve even Googled “how to help gardenias thrive,” none of ideas have given great gardenia success, and I am 100% certain my mom didn’t add any organic matter to hers. Nor did she maintain airflow, measure the acidity of the soil, or add sulphur to help the PH level.

This year, my own plant produced enough to make a small bouquet, which I delivered to my mom and dad in their final resting place. It’s so clear to me that my mom is smiling at me as I attempt to help my gardenias thrive while she do so effortlessly.

Today, in my personal tradition, I celebrate, with gardenias, my mom and dad.

Slainte! Susan

P.S. As I just now glanced outside at my now bare gardenia plant, I notice a butterfly landing right at the top. A message from Mom!

Scotland: Words fail, again

I find joy in words. Attempts to pull up the most precise word to describe a situation, engages my brain. You know, famished rather than hungry-which, it seems, is often the case for me, sigh.  I find entertainment watching new words join the dictionary (conlang, an invented language, and face-palm, to cover one’s face with the hand when embarrassed) to name a few.  (Click here for more newly added words.)  2015 was a surprise when the Oxford Dictionary publishers announced the word of the year wasn’t a word at all, it was the tears of joy emoji.  I didn’t have a word to describe how I felt about this announcement. Maybe I didn’t need a word to describe the word of the year since it wasn’t a word at all, or whatever!  Words fail me, time and time again.

Again, lack of a precise word or words was glaring on a holiday in Scotland. How do you describe such a XYZ country? Replace XYZ with any synonym for beautiful.  Here, I’ll help: glorious, breath-taking, awesome, magical, majestic, moody, inviting, pleasant, green, pink, blue…The list continues, but there isn’t a way to wrap it up with one exact word. Karen, my dear friend and travel-mate on this trip decided to describe Scotland in colors.

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When I reflected back on Scotland’s colors, I kept seeing colored-pencils representing the prominent landscape features.

Here’s our color-attempt-

Green: hills, mountains, grass, meadows, numerous shades, everywhere

Yellow: the sun would often highlight one specific area where we were to focus

Gray: rocks, granite, mountains everywhere. Scotland has ancient volcanoes!

Pink: wildflowers galore

Blue: lochs, ocean, firths, rivers, and sometimes water shooting out from the side of a hill and of course, the sky

White: enormous billowy clouds and sheep who wander the one-lane roads

In reality…

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“Non-pictures” became my invented word for the hundreds of pictures I took. These pictures simply don’t do justice to the landscape. So, non-pictures. Not one captures the gloriousness, magic, majesty, or moodiness.

Research by nature writer Robert Macfarlane sadly discovered the Oxford Junior Dictionary publishers removed words no longer pertinent to our kids. Farewell to words such as dandelion, fern, acorn, ash, mistletoe, willow, ivy, lark, and pasture.  Not wanting holes in the dictionary – chatroom, cut-and-paste, and a few other tech related words were welcomed in.  No! We can’t remove nature related words. There already aren’t a sufficient amount for us to pull from.

For now, I’ve captures the images in my mind’s eye and of course in my heart! If you’re looking for an XYZ  (insert any word for beautiful here) destination, perhaps you hear Scotland calling.

Slainte! Susan

P.S. If you know me, you know of my love for Ireland which has not been diminished by a Scottish holiday. Wherever Scotland is written here, I can most certainly insert Ireland. In fairness, Sunshinewithwaves was born well after I left a big piece of my heart in Ireland.

To ponder…What are some places you have in your mind’s eye that can’t be captured on film (okay, your iPhone) or with our language?

 

Little Library Open for Business

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Creations take time, energy, and resources. Our neighborhood has all of that and more! Many creative minds and hands were involved. Alas, our Little Free Library is open. This project embodies the true spirit of a neighborhood. Many neighbors* stepped up to share their expertise and talents: two builders, one artist, one steel company, one powder coating company, one installer, and tons of supporters. Step-by-step and with no Little Library experience, we made it happen.

I will share La Loma’s Little Library happenings with you along the way!  A few thoughts since we’ve opened: I’ve met so many neighbors. I mean, actually talked with people, not just the neighborly, obligatory, wave. I know their names. I know their dogs’ names, too. Kids books go quickly. One day I met a three year old girl and her grandfather sitting on the curb, reading. My heart was full. Seeing books come and go is gratifying. Books I predict will be gone quickly, don’t move, and vice versa.  I am more connected to my neighbors who are committed to making positive changes in our neighborhood and community. I now belong to “Little Free Library Stewards” and have received welcomes from across the United States and Canada. What an encouraging group of “librarians” out there supporting each other.

Our library brings me back to the love of reading my mom fostered when I was growing up. Trips to the library and occasionally the book store are warm memories. I know she’s smiling down. And, if she were here, I can only imagine she’d find a way to shower our Little Library with books often.

Some of the stats show adults don’t read much, whether in print or electronically. Me, I can’t imagine a life without reading. So, from this day forward, instead of asking people the same ol’, same ol’ “How are you?” I want to ask, “What are you reading?”

Come on by! Take a book! Leave a book!

Slainte!

Susan

*Shout out to the Little Free Library team: Ceres Metal and Pipe (Doug Highiet), ColorCoat Powder Coating (Norman Van Spronsen), Lola Bell Art Studios (artist Bill Russell), John Frailing and Billie (builders), Ross Redding (installer), Deborah Steinberg (La Loma Neighborhood Association president), the Murphy Family (book donation box creators), and so many others.

Lessons from Ducks

What a joy to be back on a college campus. What a privilege to watch a bright and beautiful young lady graduate, with honors from University of Oregon. I may be a bit partial since Taylor and I both have an undergraduate degree in psychology.

 

 

There were two ceremonies; all graduates in one humongous stadium in the morning and a more intimate one for specific majors in the evening. As I listened to all the speakers-graduates, keynotes, deans, and the president, two sentiments reoccured.

Two ideas that apply to all of us, not only recent graduates:

  • A tremendous sense of pride
  • Failure leads to greater and deeper learning

Pride: These students have such pride for their university. Every student speaker talked warmly about what it means to be a Duck. Once a Duck always a Duck. Over and over, students and family put their hands together to make the famous capital “O” (see Taylor above). The sense of collegiality made an impression on me. And, I wondered how this sense of “we are all in this together,” could be transferred to the communities where we live, the schools our younger children attend, and the places we work. It’s out there, yes, though I’ve never seen pride run so deep in so many people.

Failure: From graduates to the University of Oregon president, the message of failure and how it’s part of the growing process was mentioned enough times for me to still be thinking about it a week later.  How many times have I (or you) avoided a risk because it might not be a success? I am inspired that these Ducks learned a valuable lesson, outside of a textbook!

JK Rowling was quoted, “It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you lives so cautiously that you might as well not lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

I don’t have all the answers for creating an amazing sense of camaraderie in my neighborhood, at my job, or even in my classroom. I do have a longing to try.  As for failure, I know I can learn a thing or two from JK Rowling. How about you?

Congrats to all 2016 graduates. The world is already better by having you in it.

Slainte!

Susan

 

 

 

 

 

Sunshine in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park, in all its splendor, is 83 miles from my front door, and yet I just experienced it for the first time. 

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I’ve been to Yosemite on one other occasion, to eat lunch. It’s 90 minutes from home, a mere 83 miles, and I’ve not experienced Yosemite until now. I’ve already berated myself for letting this happen. I’ve forgiven myself, and now, moving on.

A week ago, an unlikely group of hikers, in the range of 11 years old to the very young at heart, joined Jerel, our personal tour guide, for an expertly guided hike through this majestic place. Born in Wisconsin, and inspired by a National Geographic article he read as a lad, Jerel volunteers here for a month at a time.  The idea of this trip was born during a run where we were passing the long training mileage with a myriad of topics. Jerel shared his Yosemite experiences with us, and soon a trip was planned.

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I need to go through the “tour” again to remember all the details Jerel shared! This year, the welcomed wet season allows the falls to create a spectacular show!

While hiking, I had several reoccurring thoughts.

  1. How come I have not experienced this before?
  2. The many falls are so powerful.
  3. Pictures? No way will they show the grandeur.
  4. The word awesome is overused. We use awesome to describe meals, days, books, cars, shoes, and the like. So, what word do we use when something is truly awesome, awe-inspiring, like powerful waterfalls and sunshine that creates multiple rainbows on the water?

I’m guilty of not making time to visit “awesome” places right here in California, all within a day’s drive. Working on this…

Visit Yosemite now! The falls are magnificent. Peak run-off is May and June, and the National Parks are celebrating their 100th birthday.  See more about Yosemite and the National Parks birthday here.

Have an awesome(!) day.

Slainte! Susan

Happiness is always homemade

Once in a while I watch those shows where houses are completely transformed. Everything old is new again. Every room is redecorated in the most creative ways. Each picture is part of the grand theme. Every nook is filled with something beautiful and perfect, and freshly baked scones are on an antique pedestal for the home unveiling, where the lucky teary-eyed owners will ohhhh and ahhhh as they slowly float from kitchen to bedroom to the en suite. I’ve dreamed about what it would be like to have my home completely transformed like this, right down to the perfectly placed vase on a night table.

I look around my home. It wouldn’t meet HGTVs standards.  There’s the obstinate red wine stain on the carpet from a family gathering, and the scratch on the wall from moving the dresser down the hallway, the very one I was bought at a yard sale and painted (not-so-perfectly) myself.

A home is made by its occupants and their stories (for better or worse). Every home has those cherished items and each a story to tell. They weren’t placed expertly at this angle or on this shelf by an interior decorator (though I have had one, on two separate occasions), but they are well-loved, sometimes well-worn,  perhaps transported home from a vacation, or if fortunate enough, handmade by a skilled friend or two.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a craftsman, Jerel. He creates furniture (as a hobby). I wanted a table with specific measurements. I’d had no success finding what I wanted (of course!). After several conversations and emails, I have an expertly crafted table, signed by Jerel in my living room!

Transporting the table involved a trip to the craftsman’s home where we enjoyed “2:30 break time” with Jerel and his lovely wife, Jane along with beer and popcorn. The conversations were interesting ,and the time we spent there went entirely too quickly. We left with the history of IPA, freshly picked snap peas (Jerel insisted I pick them myself), the promise of a Yosemite tour, and a handcrafted piece of furniture. My living room isn’t perfect. The table is! It’s far more valuable to me than any item I could have purchased, even from a place that makes my heart skip a beat, Pottery Barn.

Jerel

Summer vacation is coming. This is the time of year I consider home projects that won’t get done any other time of the year. Since I’m developing my book, my recent attention has been on my home office. While on the topic of pieces that make a house a home, I must mention another artist I’m fortunate to know. I proudly own several of his unique pieces. I call my office “my nest.” And I’m looking toward making it a cozier space that inspires me to dream and create (and hopefully be productive).  It’s already filled with two  handmade items from this local artist who creates items under the name Lola Bell, his dear mother’s name. Many people know him as Bill. My creations from his collection are the foundation for my nest and hold warm memories as they were created just for me!  The sun and peace symbol are forever pieces filled with so many details that I can get lost looking and always find something I didn’t see before. The creativity of Lola Bell inspires me each time I walk into my nest.

Lola Bell

 

Not every item in a home can have a special story, and darn. Most of us can’t come home to a fully decorated home courtesy of HGTV and your bank account. I’m not sure I’d want to anyway. We can look around and find creative ways to have pieces that are inspiring and make our houses, warm and inviting homes.

Slainte!

Susan