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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

There were many things that got stalled or pushed to the back in the last year. For many of us, reading was not one of them. In fact, a good book was often a saving grace.

I thought to share with you some of the best fiction I read, often historical, starting back from the end of 2019. These books came from several sources – the library; some I purchased online; books purchased at past annual county library book sales; and my own collection.

Here is the best of what I read from late 2019 to present:

Whistling Past the Graveyard – Susan Crandall. This is certainly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Told in first person by a sassy, red-headed nine year old, Starla Claudelle, it takes place in 1963 Mississippi at the height of segregation. Being raised by her overly strict grandmother while her father works out on the oil rigs, Starla wants nothing more than to find her mother in Nashville, whom she believes left to become famous and then reunite her family. Upset by a turn of events, Starla decides to run away to Nashville on her own. She is offered a ride by an older black woman, traveling with a white infant, unaware of the dangerous implications of this situation. Whistling Past the Graveyard is a story with deeply felt characters set against the backdrop of the Deep South at a time in history that Starla only begins to understand for what it is, as well as what family can really mean.

One page in, and I was totally hooked.

Shutter Island and Mystic River – Dennis Lehane. If you want two stories you can’t put down … Shutter Island was a book sale pick, and in it I discovered a writer with an excellent capacity for writing tense, fast moving prose with twists and turns at every corner. This story takes place in 1954 when a detective and his partner come to Shutter Island, home for the criminally insane, to investigate a patient’s disappearance, and where we soon discover nothing is as it seems. Later in the year, I read Mystic River, a psychological thriller about three boys growing up as friends, approached one day by a man in a car. One boy gets in; the others do not. And something – never fully articulated – terrible happens. Fast forward to adulthood, and this plays out in a harrowing series of events. (p.s. the movie is also excellent.)

Lehane is a terrific writer who keeps you on the edge of your seat, no matter the subject of the book. There is no doubt that I will pick up another of his novels in the future.

The Alice Network – Kate Quinn. Historical fiction taking place in the times of both World War I and World War II, The Alice Network is based on the true story of a group of women spies of the same name who, at tremendous risk, infiltrated the Germans to save lives in the most daring and heroic of ways. This is Goodreads’ initial description of the book, and as apt as I could write, “In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.” Please read the full review and you’ll know why this was a book I could not put down. It’s truly exceptional.

Had I not borrowed it from the library, it would be sitting in my bookcase of books that I would read again some day.

Forever – Pete Hamill. This is a masterful book — on the one hand, a magnificent love letter to New York City and all it’s history; on the other, the story of a young man in 1700’s Ireland, Cormac O’Connor, whose parents were killed by a wealthy lord. Added to the mix, we have some magic of the old religion, which allowed Cormac to live forever if he never left the island of Manhattan and successfully avenged his parents’ deaths. This is not a casual, lightly read book, but one that spans centuries as we follow Cormac’s life from childhood to an America at the moment of its birth. From the slaves in the ship’s hold that he saves and befriends through the politics, greed, and buried secrets of New York right through to 9/11, this is a story of great knowledge and depth. Pete Hamill has written Forever with such compassion. It was a long read, but I was sorry when it ended.

The Giver of Stars – Jojo Moyes. More engrossing historical fiction set in the Depression era in Kentucky. A small group of women who, for different reasons, join together, following the exhortation of Eleanor Roosevelt and her traveling library campaign to bring books to people who had no access to them, but who wanted to read or learn to read. Alice Wright, disillusioned in her new marriage to a distant husband and dealing with a controlling father-in-law, joins with Margery, founder of the group. Margery is strong, outspoken, and independent, and is soon joined by three other women, forming The Pack Horse Library of Kentucky (the real name of the library). The women repeatedly faced danger traversing the rugged landscape by mule and horseback, sometimes from the people who lived there, as well as from men in their lives who would control them. Their loyalty and friendship, finding true love, and always following their mission of bringing books to people in remote areas makes for a rich and rewarding read. An unforgettable story.

Nemesis and the Swan – Lindsay Bandy. This is mature and sophisticated YA, taking place in the French Revolution. Helene d’Aubign, an aristocrat of 19 years old, writes from her cell in a Paris prison. Her diary alternates with her story of being influenced as a young girl by her governess to become a revolutionary and to seek true love at a time when girls were only allowed arranged marriages. Forced to flee Paris as violence breaks out, Helene searches to find the answers to an intricate family mystery involving love and murder, somehow tied together by two unique, painted pins of eyes surrounded by gilt and pearls. She longs to return to her home and the jeweler’s apprentice she’s fallen in love with. When, in disguise, she finally does return to Paris, she finds everything she knows is changed or destroyed. But to make matters far worse, she is being sought – and is soon arrested – by those who suspect her true identity, which will sentence her to the guillotine.

With a richly articulated backdrop of the French Revolution, and the characters enmeshed in a family mystery, you couldn’t help but hope for Helene’s survival and an ending that seemed impossible.

The Mermaid Chair – Sue Monk Kidd. If you have read The Secret Life of Bees, you know Kidd writes with a truly exquisite use of the English language. The Mermaid Chair brings to life the setting of Egret Island off South Carolina where Jessie Sullivan has gone to tend to her mother, now suspected of severe mental instability after severing her finger. But the story is Jessie’s – she is returning to her childhood home of marshes and sea salt, egrets and a monastery where resides the Mermaid Chair. It is a story of love and disillusionment in her marriage, love and awakening with a monk questioning his own commitment, but most importantly, the search for her own self, lost over the years. Interlaced with the loyalty of longtime friends, a mystery surrounding her beloved father’s death, and the idyllic quality of Egret Island, Jessie’s story is stirring and engrossing. This is my own book which I’ve read in the past, and couldn’t wait to return to each evening.

Other notable books – I can’t review them all, but I can mention some other books that stand out from the many I’ve read in the past year+.

The Long Way, A Great Reckoning, Glass Houses, – all by Louise Penny. This is the first series of novels I have ever read as an adult, and I love them. I began at the beginning, and am working my way through the series, always drawn in by Penny’s style, wonderful characters and mysteries, all set in her beloved Canada.

Twigs in My HairCynthia Reyes, friend and fellow blogger here on WordPress

Good Hope Road – Lisa Wingate

The Last Letter from Your Lover – Jojo Moyes

Flower Net and The Interior – Lisa See

With the hope that I’ve inspired a future selection or two, I wish you Happy Reading!

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It was only about a week and a half ago that I went out walking … the earth was still slumbering, content in its dried weeds, quiet soil, bare trees. But the warmth in the air, the sun, spoke of a greener time to come.

The river was high and moving swiftly towards the bay at the southern part of the state. Although turbulent and muddy-looking from this view, it was still beautiful.

I walked past what is probably the neighborhood eyesore. It’s a long, low red building, at the end of which are a loading platform and garage doors, awaiting a shipment that has long since failed to arrive. I love the chair sitting there, keeping the faith that someday the neglected warehouse might live again. The red checkerboards above the garage doors tell me that this may have once been a Purina distributor, perhaps for large animal feed, serving the farmers who are just a few miles away. In a tonier town, this would have long since been demolished. We all seem to just take it for granted.

A bed of purple crocus had pushed its way through the dirt edging the road, no grass yet in, looking rather alone, barren, and brave.

Across the street a stream of bright golden grasses filled the space between the old train rails, brilliant in the sun, and threw shadows on what was once a second set of tracks.

A small bunch of snowdrops struggled to announce an impending Spring among dried grasses and old walkway weeds. I couldn’t help but imagine them surrounded by a bed of rich grass or maybe even some mulch, just something more complimentary to their delicate, pioneering spirit.

An old building on the walk to the bridge. I’m sure it’s the same age as some of the other stone buildings I’ve photographed, but I am always puzzled by the doors stacked above one another. Perhaps there was once a stairway down the front, like a fire escape, but there are no clues in the stone or cement. I’ve been told it has housed, and still does, floors of antiques and collectibles. As long as I’ve lived here, someone (I suspect the owner) always places one item in the doorway, there for the taking by whoever passes by.

An old-fashioned doll rests in the corner today.

The Delaware looks stunning as always, its racing south not as immediately apparent as in the earlier view. Here it better reflects the cloudless blue sky, and wears an aura of peacefulness.

At last … the first sheen of green! That sly, subtle wash of the palest green creeping into the grassy areas, letting us know that in maybe as little as a week’s time there will be more of Spring poking its head through the ground – daffodils, more crocus and snowdrops, the blush of yellow on the forsythia.

It’s been a long winter, a long year. We’ve survived and carried with us a great weariness and a need for the promise that a greener season brings. Soon … more hope, more sun, more people about. The simple things that make our hearts grateful that we’re still here and can lift our faces to the warmth.

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As much as I like the moon photo I took below, it just isn’t clicking with how I’m feeling now … that there actually may be a Spring around the corner. So until I have the time to be out and about taking photos, I thought I would share two thoughts with you. They are timely in the respect that both were from March from past day-to-day calendars by Wayne Dyer.

They are timely always as reminders that we are more special than we often think, and that we often lose much valuable time in our lives worrying about things that won’t happen.

I took photos of these two pages because they were – and are – important reminders to me on my own personal path. But I know so many who struggle with these same issues, that perhaps they would be a touch of enlightenment or comfort to some of you, too.

We are all unique and wonderful beings on this planet. We do well in trusting that things are going exactly the way they are supposed to be going, even if it doesn’t always feel like it or we’d like it otherwise. Happy soon-to-be-Spring.

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Taking a photograph towards the end of the day is likely to be the last thing on my mind. Until I looked out the window …

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There was a time, somewhere in my past, when that term referred to winter clothing – white woolen slacks or a white sweater or blazer. I’d say a long time ago. Right now, winter white is the color of the sky, the ice, the snow, the everything. But a lot of white sky. That and grey.

A few weeks ago, in my part of the state, we had between a foot and a half to two feet of snow. Pretty, but more than anyone would ever want. Just looking outside made me want to run for the covers. And digging out is, of course, in between work. Or maybe work was in between digging out. It was exhausting and that was even with a neighbor clearing my driveway with his snow blower. I suspect, without him, my driveway would still look like this.

Inside in the evening, things were much calmer. I’d been gifted a Crate and Barrel flameless candle for Christmas and it looks so lovely in this lantern. You can forget – at least until the next morning – that this is what’s waiting outside …

Icicles. Yes, long dagger-y icicles that dare you to walk beneath them. There was just enough warmth and/or blunted sun to have them start breaking, and as I sat at my desk working, or journaling in the morning, you could hear them occasionally crashing to the ground below. When my oil delivery fellow came, I went outside to tell him to stay flush against the house, pointing up. He did …  and flattened himself. But being young, he then skated across the ice on the ground, yelling “Wheeeeee!” as he slid to the driveway and went back to his truck. I could only smile.

These, may I mention, are equal-opportunity icicles – they’re on every side of the house, and on just about everyone’s house in town, and beyond, I’m sure. They are quite beautiful, but do make it advisable to consider which entry to the house is the safest.

The last few weeks have had an unexpected perk. My neighbor next door has been experimenting making challah bread, trying different numbers of braids, and more recently, a different type of flour, too. I’ve had the occasional text alerts on my phone asking first if I liked challah, and on a few subsequent occasions, if I’d like some. You bet! Above, it made great challah French toast. I decided to make a marble cheesecake, a large hunk of which was gratefully received by these neighbors.

An unseasonably warm day yesterday and a boatload of sunshine today – finally! – has much of the snow on the rooftops melting and receding. Just in time for another snowstorm starting tomorrow morning. Oh boy! But at least for tomorrow, they’re only predicting 5-8″, After the previous storm, that almost sounds like a coating.

But the sky was glorious, and though it was quite chilly out, the day was a brilliant respite to the many, many white and grey days we’ve had for the last few weeks.

I had thought to post something for Valentine’s Day, but didn’t get to it. Here is what I wanted to say:

Love yourself. Through thick and thin, we are who we live with. Loving ourselves, contrary to what I was taught growing up, is the essence of being able to love others, to give to others, and at the end of the day, however grey or white, knowing that everything is really okay. This is my Valentine to you – to all of you who stop by, who write, who love, who persevere in these difficult times, and who believe in a better world. Be good to yourself.

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Or at least, that’s what they say. The news has been nothing to write home about (sorry, just filled with clichés here), for quite some time. However, I have never tuned in to the news more than I have starting with the run-up to this November’s election in my life that I can recall. Or at least not in recent memory. It’s been something we all have experienced – like a car accident we pass by – we know we shouldn’t look, yet we can’t turn away. Has it helped me any? Hard to say.

I am a firm believer in not watching – or absorbing in any manner – the news before going to bed. By and large, the news is filled with negativity and violence, and we risk taking it into our dream state. Our dreams have the very important job of helping us process our day’s events, and throwing in a dose of craziness at the last minute can’t help. I also don’t tend to watch news on TV as the snippets presented don’t begin to cover what the issues really are about, though some stations are better than others, and have less bias than some others. So yes, by and large, I read.

When I first got my iPhone, I took it with me to my morning journaling spot, along with Jazzy, my journaling companion pictured here. It was handy, and I was getting used to the idea of having it with me now that I had forsaken my cordless. Soon I discovered that I could quickly check the weather – reported from just miles away from where I live – and know how to dress for the day without booting up the Mac, or hoping that the “local weather” I heard on morning radio might also apply to me, weather recorded who knows how many miles away. And of course, I could keep my eye on the time. Here’s what I was relying on before that.

Then I realized I could tune in to my favorite calming music channels on YouTube while I journaled. Oh boy, this was just getting better and better.

Then the black day came when I realized (I knew it, but had been avoiding it) that I could also catch the news on my phone while I sat there. That was a dark day because the whole reason I journal every morning is to get crap out of my head before I embark upon my day, and now I was looking at taking in an even greater amount of crap. What’s a poor girl to do?

It’s been a challenge. There were days when I told myself I could scroll through real quick and read only the most pressing stories; days when I told myself I could do that after I was done journaling. (How counter-productive is that?) Days when I told myself I could scroll down and pick only one story. It was getting crazy – like bargaining with the devil.

Finally I had to get really no-nonsense with myself. If I couldn’t control myself from being sucked in by the news, I would have to bring the dragon back, start the music, and leave my phone on the other side of the room. I could hear it, but once settled, knew I wouldn’t get up to fetch it.

How’s that working? Pretty well, actually. I mean, no one likes being threatened, especially by your own self.

But here’s the thing I try and hold on to when I feel that compulsive newsy urge in the morning – I have been told by numerous people wiser than I over the years that I will always hear all the news that I am supposed to hear. And I have always found that to be true. And on the days when I can’t get a handle on that? I can always bring the dragon back.

 

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Perhaps more than at any time in recent memory, joy has been pretty hard to come by in this past year. At the moment, I am feeling contemplative.

Christmas, usually a time for excitement, celebration, and sharing, has been very quiet. Not without its bright spots, but quiet.

Advised to stay home, spend time only with immediate family/housemates, many of us have felt isolated, bored, lonely, and hungry for the company of others and the fun that always accompanied the season. But sometimes the bright spots came right to our doors.

In small town New Jersey, Santa Claus still came through our streets, courtesy of our local fire department. It was different this year; traditionally, Santa has come through in the evening accompanied by 5 or 6 fire engines, sirens wailing, lights flashing in the dark, and Santa hopped off the truck to give out candy canes to all the little ones. It may have been a smaller appearance, but it still lit up our hearts and smiles.

We had snow … the wet, heavy kind that’s hard to shovel, but beautiful none the less, especially after the driveways and walkways were cleared. It’s still a bit of a fairyland, if just we put our worries to the side.

We are told in so many ways to forget the past – it’s over – and not to worry about tomorrow – it’s not promised to us – but to find our joy in the moment. 2020 has been one long challenge to that idea. I need not enumerate the global, national, or individual tolls that have been paid this year, and yet, for those of us who continue to write, and for those of us who continue to read each other’s posts, and for so many more around the world, we’re still here.

Maybe worn and frayed about the edges, but we’re still here. Let’s celebrate that.

If we have roofs over our heads, warmth, and enough to eat, let’s celebrate that.

If we have people who care about us – and we are always loved by someone – let’s celebrate that.

Tonight, before the clock strikes 12, I plan to make a list of at least ten truly wonderful moments I’ve known in 2020, no matter how big or small. If I feel like writing more, I will, but at least that, because the way to find the joy in so many moments is to be grateful for them. And I will try to be more conscious of the many gifts that are mine in the moment, right here, right now.

May 2021 bring you many joyous moments of all sizes and kinds. May you know peace within your heart, and know you are always safe.

Cheers.

 

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The last nine/ten months have been incredibly challenging in all parts of the world as we confront an insidious danger, a new virus. Here at home, we can heap on top of the pandemic an election the likes of which we have never seen, and wish we had not. On a personal level, I have lived for one year now with my house for sale, never sure if I will be able to stay in my home, and top it with the cherry of a very intense, seasonal workload. This is just my variation of the theme; so many of you and those you know, and so many more we’ll never meet are struggling with your own form of stress. It’s been an increasingly easy time to feel adrift from our moorings and to be lost in the most immediate problem in front of us.

While shopping on a website for other than books, of course I decided to dip into that section. You know, just looking. What I found was the book I needed, which you see here. Because that is what has happened to me … in the stress, distraction, and exhaustion, one of the things to go was the time put aside for my spiritual self. This book was published in August 2020 and references the onset of the pandemic and the ramping up of the presidential election, so it’s very current. Even having read a small way into the book, I am feeling calmer and reassured of moving into a better direction. So there is that.

On other fronts, because it’s been a while since I’ve posted, I thought to share a few photos, and what’s been happening in this small part of the world.

Produce from the local farm in October – the last of the gorgeous Jersey tomatoes, new potatoes, and a mix of Gala and my very favorite Macoun apples.

It was Halloween. Trees were beginning to shed their leaves, just enough to scuff through for trick or treaters or whoever wanted to enjoy a walk through the neighborhood. This little vignette of fall brought a smile to see the little pumpkins on the fence posts, the mums, and in a time we need to believe in our country, our flag.

While searching for something else, I came across this photo of Claude. Although he is no longer with us, this just reminded me of how calm and Buddah-like he could be at times, in contrast to his being a total goofball the next. He is still very much missed.

Another photo I stumbled upon …  a clearing sky after a winter rain from a second story window, raindrops sparkling the screen. How lucky are we to have so many beautiful skies and sunsets in this part of my state.

In November I attended an online children’s book conference held by Rutgers University. Normally, the conference is several hundred dollars and limited in attendance due to space and the personal nature of the event, but with COVID, it was presented online with Zoom to hundreds of attendees for a pittance. Our keynote speaker, Sayantani Das Gupta writes a New York Times bestselling series of a brave girl named Kiranmala. Sayantani was quite inspiring. One of the quotes she offered in her talk was the above by Toni Morrison, both relevant and a reminder of the heroic writer in all of us.

I also took a screen shot of this quote by Ursula LeGuin because it just hit home. Made me remember that I am no small talent, nor are you. Sometimes we need to be reminded and luckily, someone comes along to tap us on the shoulder from time to time. This was a good tap for me … consider yourself tapped now, too.

As the days get shorter, the nights longer, we look more to light. I frequently have a candle burning, but this gathering of wolves is one of my very favorite pieces, the light so beautifully illuminating their faces. It’s only made of stone, but for me, it brings some deep-stirred memory of woods and the quiet footfalls of our lupine brothers and sisters.

And here we are today. I cleared my porch of fall decor in preparation of other lights of the season. I carried the two small pumpkins that sat at my door to the end of the block, over the grass and tracks, and tossed them onto the plateau of dried grasses below. It won’t take long for some of the local wildlife to discover them and enjoy a small feast.

Perhaps this meandering through photos has reminded me that even when we’re in tough times, there is still always much to be thankful for. For every obstacle or challenge, there is another way to look at it, a way to learn something we need to know. These, indeed, are gifts and my heart is lightened.

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When I haven’t written in over a month, it usually means at least one thing. In this case, it means I have been deluged with holiday fundraisers and projects from my clients. It has been non-stop, and while I think of things to write here – I even take photos – and I want to catch up with those I follow, my creative energy is directed towards these projects and the time to actually focus on my own writing has been non-existent. It’s frustrating.  But enough whining.

As a new and different Thanksgiving approaches, many, including myself, are already shopping extensively online for Christmas and holiday gifts. To that end, I am going to take a moment to shamelessly promote myself and the lovely French Bulldog items I have created for my Etsy shop.

If you are looking to send holiday cards, “Stranger in the Snow” is one among several you’ll find in my shop. You can also find a few neat gift ideas such as my “Frenchies Apres Monet” blank notecards which I’d like to think would be appreciated by fans of Monet as well as the French Bulldog. I also have a sweet, handsomely-made Frenchie journal, because we all are writing more these days what with all the stress in our lives. No? And if not you, perhaps you know someone who journals faithfully. (Or maybe just needs a notebook!)

All the original artwork is mine, and I can assure you, the cards are of a beautiful, heavy stock. If inspired, just toddle on over to Etsy at JBalsamFrenchieArt. 

As the intensity of my holiday workload is ever-so-slowly winding down, I am planning on writing again soon, and coming by to see you and what you’ve written, too. Should I not get to the post I have in mind before Thanksgiving, I wish you all a peaceful, happy, and safe holiday, however you may spend it. Take good care and let’s continue to look forward to less stressful days when we can meet with each other again as we have in the past. I am always happy to have you stop by!

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Weatherbug tells me this morning’s chilly temperatures are right on cue for October. But Thursday, it was a warm and sunny 71˙. When I decided to go freelance over a decade ago, one of the reasons was to not only shed my wretched cross-state commute, but also to have the freedom to make my own schedule. And despite my annoying and persistent feeling that I should be at my desk from 9-5 for my clients, Thursday was just too wonderful to stay inside.

And so I walked. One of the interesting things about my little town is that it’s in a valley and doesn’t always have the same weather as the surrounding towns. Or the same seasonal appearances. Just now some trees are turning bronze, some shrubs, yellow. But for the most part, it’s very green in my little part of the world.

Beyond the few scattered leaves on the ground, and some dried weeds, you might think we were in early September. If you were to walk straight in what is almost a path in the photo above, you would come right up on the Delaware River. When I drove out of town last Monday, I was surprised to find that not only had the leaves turned color, but many of the trees were already bare.

Not here. As houses begin to be dressed for Halloween, we are still on dense green lawns surrounded by still-green shrubbery. Our little town has always made a big deal of Halloween. There’s been a parade down the main drag with floats and a couple bands, vendors, food stands, and kids galore in costumes vying for prizes. Needless to say, that will not be happening this year.

But residents are not giving up on the Halloween spirit, even if there aren’t quite as many decorated houses as I’ve seen before. And we neighbors are talking, reading online, about what we can do to make trick-or-treating safe for the kids … and for us. It won’t be the same as having little princesses and Frankensteins running up to our doors yelling “Trick or Treat!” but we are in different times.

This house always goes all out for the holidays. I mean ALL the holidays. This is the kind of decorated house that gets the little ones all excited. I am so glad these people have done what they always do. It keeps some sense of normalcy in our lives.

How wonderful is it that this is “normal” for my town! But what I couldn’t help but notice is how few people there were walking about. I’m sure there were more on the Main Street where the stores are, a walk of just a few blocks further. (It’s a pretty small town.) And where all the scarecrows are. I wanted to keep walking and take pictures of them, too, but I was doing my best to keep in mind that I still had work on my desk.

My walk takes me past this very old garage, which you may recall seeing in some earlier post. I am strongly drawn to this building, though I cannot say why. As often as I walk past it with a camera, today my phone, I will photograph it.

Maybe it’s the doors. The texture, the tone, their slightly ajar position. Or just the very old stone and cement the garage is built from. My town was established in the mid 1700’s, and went through several name changes, the first being when the mill on the river burned down in 1769. The town officially became a borough in 1911, its incorporation confirmed by the state in 1925. The population in 1920 was 656; today, it’s 1,233. 

This is the mill as I know it today. I’ve heard rumors over the years that a special committee formed to preserve it had plans for it becoming condos or an arts center. As long as I’ve been here, it looks like this. The stonework tells me the little garage, may have been built at the same time.

I returned to my work, renewed by the sunshine and fresh air. We need these simple things, and it’s important to remember to give them to ourselves. I have had a hard time writing, blogging, doing creative work, especially these last few weeks. I am deeply unsettled and fear for the future of my country. I feel compelled to keep reading the latest news stories, yet know I need to stop. I am reminded to move my focus away from what I cannot control. I’m trying. I know you’re trying. We all are.

So if a walk through town, taking pictures of my neighborhood Halloween decorations and what is our striving for normalcy amid so much confusion helps, then I’ll take it. Stay safe. Stay positive.

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I read an article the other day – It’s title was Happiness in Hard Times. As might be suggested, it spoke about the importance of trying to maintain some degree of happiness when we are really struggling, as so many of us are in the pandemic. One of the positive points made was that we humans are actually wired for happiness. A researcher studying the genetics of joy has actually located, so far, 304 “happy genes” on our DNA.

It has been found that happiness can create and sustain emotional resilience in difficult times, and that the reverse is true as well. Finding positive meaning in circumstances can also help generate happiness. The article went on to provide concrete ways to navigate our current crisis (as well as any others); one of them is listening to music.

Which brings me to the point that had such an impact on me. Doctors and nurses in hospitals when interviewed all shared the tremendous pressure they were under during the pandemic. A pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City described the relentless work in the critical care areas as a war zone. But Lenox Hill decided to do something about it. Every time a COVID-19 patient was released from the hospital or could breathe well enough to come off a ventilator, the hospital played Here Comes the Sun over the loudspeaker.

One nurse tearfully described hearing that song 20 times in one day, and every time she heard it, she felt a little better … it helped her know that all they were doing was actually making a difference.

It may be a challenge at times, but I think if we can find just one bright spot in each day, and either hold it close to our hearts, or share it with another, we’ll make a difference in these challenging times – and enjoy being what we seem wired to be – happy. Hey … here comes the sun.

 

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In memory of all those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in gratitude and in memory of all those who became heroes in a moment’s notice – fire fighters, rescue workers, canine search and rescue teams from all over the U.S., health workers, and the often unsung heroes – all those responsible for evacuating 500,000 people to safety in the Great Boatlift of 9/11, the largest boatlift in human history. You are not forgotten.

With the towers in flames and everyone running for their lives, it soon became clear that Manhattan was an island and that there weren’t many places to run. But that it’s an island also meant something else. There were boats. This is such an amazing film, made 10 years after 9/11 by Eddie Rosenstein and narrated by Tom Hanks. When the call went out for help, hundreds of  tugboats, ferries, fishing boats, coast guard cutters, party boats and others sped to Manhattan to take as many people as they could for as many trips as they could make. People who could not refuse the call to help – who were honored to assist the thousands of people, standing desperate on the edge of Manhattan – became largely unsung heroes. This video sings their praises and so beautifully.  It’s nearly 12 minutes long but worth every second.

For those of you who follow me, you have seen this before, but I decided to post again for those new people who may stop by, and also, because this video restores my faith in the human race — in the potential for kindness and compassion from one everyday person to another. I hope you watch again.

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