Friday, 8 November 2013

Do you have a BAD attitude or a GLAD attitude???

You have two feet and one mouth. Dance more. Moan less.

Welcome to November. Welcome to falling leaves, wet sloppy weather, plunging temperatures. Some people’s idea of sheer heaven.

Remember that when you’re freezing your outer & inner & nether regions to bits….remember that to some people this is BLISS. Also remember that as yucky as November is, it’s NOT February.

Even though I’m an ex-pat, even though I’ve lived in the land of spotted dick and dodgy coalition governments for 22 years, I still revere Thanksgiving as my favourite childhood holiday (after my own birthday of course!). Starting today, in honour of all things turkey & family & comforting, I am doing a daily gratitude blog to remind myself and anyone who cares to join in, that there are MILLIONS of things to be grateful for.

I am grateful for TECHNOLOGY!
1.      I have Multiple Sclerosis & find it really hard to hand write more than 30 or so words before it becomes painful and illegible.
2.      My family & many friends live in the USA, I live in the UK…skype, Facebook, e-mail….total Godsends. Total.
3.      I am a writer (no duh!) and the process is so much quicker/cheaper/easier now that submissions & researching & networking are widely available online!!
4.      Diagnosis and care of my MS has leapt into the stratosphere with technological advances.
5.      Downloading music online..***sigh*** …YouTube …yay!! and and and…you get it.
6.      Kindle. I am a reading addict & have a verrrrrrry small house. I still prefer hard copy, but what a blessing.
7.      Paperless society??? Well, not quite. Still, it’s getting better all the time.

Are you grateful for technology? Why?

I am grateful for TEACHERS!

1.      I love to read. Love to read. LOVE to read. I learned HOW in school. I learned the WHY in school & at the feet of my dad.
2.      History & other cultures are fascinating & I learned to love them in AP European History in year 12. My teacher was a dapper little man called Mr Gullo who used to be a Jesuit Priest & spoke several languages. He would put his shiny little shoes on the desk and read PRAVDA to us when we were 17 yrs old. He opened my eyes to a world outside of my tiny, tiny rural upstate NY town.
3.      Ted Spooner was my English Teacher when I was 14. One day he shut all the blinds, turned out all the lights, and crawled under a thick blanket. Then he proceeded to read Ray Bradbury’s Kaleidoscope. It made me shiver, made me feel claustrophobic, made me want to cry. But more importantly, it made me WANT TO BE A WRITER. That's a great teacher.(does anyone have any idea where he is btw?)
4.      My children go to a great high school. The teachers are positive, fun, engaging. They make me wish I could do it all again and go to THAT school.
5.      I have a few family members and friends that are teachers. Think about your kids on their WORST DAY. WORST, WORST, WORST day. Multiply that by at least 20 kids. Every day. Interspersed by pockets of willingness, engaged brains, delightful imagination. Just enough to make it worthwhile. Now halve your pay. Halve your resources. Multiply your hours by half or a third. Go.

Be grateful for teachers!!!

I’m grateful for BOOKS!

1.      I literally could not tell you how much I love to read. In an alternate universe I spend all day & night reading & writing.  Getting lost in the worlds created by someone else’s imagination is such a great pleasure. Being enlightened to new cultures and histories wakes up your brains, your heart, your empathy.
2.      Reading teaches us to think, builds new neural pathways in our brains, makes us wonder:  WHAT IF? HOW’S THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? WHAT WOULD I DO IF THAT WAS ME? HOW WOULD I DO IT DIFFERENTLY? WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH THOSE PEOPLE? Or even better: WOW! HOW BLOODY COOL WERE THOSE PEOPLE? All those thoughts are the beginnings of something called CRITICAL THINKING. It’s needed in all areas of life, allows us to evaluate and assess events and information and informs our ability to make decisions. And you thought you were just reading about vampires…or spies….or real life famous shipwrecks (look up,  her upcoming book about Victorian shipwrecks off the Scottish coast will astound you. I have learned so much, honestly it opened my eyes to matters of history covering class differences, sexism, health & safety…loads of things!!)

3.      This year I have discovered two authors that have become fast  favourites: Patrick Ness and Erin Morgenstern. I read Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go & its follow ups, The Ask and The Answer & Monsters of Men early this year. I have badgered just about everyone I know to read them and the rest of his catalog. The books are thoughtful, powerful, the best of YA writing. I kind of love him quite a bit. Then,  just a few months ago my friend Zoe, who is the absolute best judge of books to share, loaned me The Night Circus. I’ve read hundreds of books, people, several of them debuts. Erin Morgenstern’s first book blew me away completely. Her command of language is lyrical, to say the least. The book is magical, layered with lush descriptions, mysterious characters, beautiful mystical settings. I could read it over and over again. You should read it at least once. I almost cried when I contacted her on Twitter and was informed that it would be ages before I could expect anything more. But she has a pretty awesome blog as well…

 READ people. PLEASE read, it will make so much of your life better. I promise.


Today I’m grateful for CREATIVITY!

I feel really blessed by my own creativity, but even more by the creativity of others. Art in almost any form. Beautiful architecture makes me weak at the knees. Sculpture, paintings, music, landscape gardening, fashion designs, writing, dance, engineering…it’s all art. It’s all creativity. It lifts me and it lifts others. It inspires me, makes me wonder all sorts of things. How did they think of that? Why did they use that particular form/material/word/colour?  What were they thinking when they created it? What did they think that I would think?

But most of all I love it when I see, hear, touch or read something and I think…OMG I really want to meet this person. I want to learn at their feet. I want to hang out with them. I want to bake banana bread for them. I want to be their friend.  You know why? Because they made me FEEL something.

That’s what creativity is all about.


Ooooh what are we grateful for today? LANGUAGE!

I am a word weirdo….I love the way they sound, the way they feel in my mouth when I say them.
Squish, squelch, pummel.
Amanuensis (no I’m not telling you, look it up)
And on and on and on…..

Try it. Open up a dictionary. Find words you don’t know. Roll them around in your mouth, shout them around the house a few times.
Play with them. Words are soooooo fun. I promise. They are. Go on, try it.
You’ll be glad you did.


Plants, baby. Today I am grooving on the wonder and variety, beauty and usefulness of plants. Plants feed us, they are a feast for our eyes, noses and fingers (have you ever felt a Lamb’s Ear Plant? It’s a weenie little comfort blanket in pale green. When I was a kid I sat on our front lawn gently rubbing it’s leaves between my fingers in unashamed joy). They heal us through our eating of them as well as their medicinal benefits (seriously, eat better and you’ll be shocked what it does for your body.) Plants were here long before pharmaceuticals and they were the way your grannie’s grannie treated her sick animals and her sick children.

This TEDtalk discusses the surprising health benefits of introducing plants into a work environment. In what was deemed a ‘sick building’ due to overall employee health and days off work sick, scientists introduced 3 readily available house plants throughout the space and reaped astonishing results.
If it can do that to an office building, just think about your home, your family’s brains, their health.

Scientific studies will tell you that a daily half an hour walking outside in nature will go a long way to curing depression, in addition to the fact that added oxygen levels improve thought processes, and the exercise will improve your health. The beauty of a stand of woods, spring flowers, your neighbours vegetable garden…all of it is a treat for the eyes and the soul.

Go feed your soul. Breathe some healthy air. Appreciate the free beauty all around you.


Today I’m appreciating Architecture!!!!
It all started with Mrs Nixon’s house when I was growing up. She lived five houses away from us in what I always thought of as the ‘mini-White House’.  Her name wasn’t really Mrs Nixon, but I remember when we used to go trick or treat to her house, on a stand in her hallway there was a picture of her deceased husband shaking hands with Richard Nixon, so that’s how I remember her. Her house had a sweeping porch, white pillars, was set way off the road with Chesnut trees in the yard. Every year my mom had to crawl under our front porch and dig baby chesnut trees out of the ground as we gathered up garbage bags full of conkers in the Fall and threw them under the stairs. I adored her house, at ten years old I coveted it in a major way. I used to dream about the bedrooms, the sweeping stairways, wonder what her back yard looked like.

The house I grew up in had 2 living rooms, a small library, a huge dining room, and beautiful, fluted dark wood pillars separating the wide, open plan doorways.  A carved, fruit and bird laden fireplace surround, bay windows, white hydrangeas all down the side of the porch, lilac bushes lining the drive. It was a gem. I still dream about it even though it was torn down years ago to make way for a parking lot at the doctor’s office.

In Rochester, our nearest city, I nearly bust a vessel seeing the huge beautiful homes on and near East Avenue, The George Eastman House, houses near Harley Allendale school. The Mushroom House at Powder Mill park….I was an addict & spent hours driving around getting lost on purpose just to find another gem.

In college, I wanted to be an architect but had a fatal relationship with math, so I studied Interior Design instead. I went to Chicago and toured every single Frank Lloyd Wright building possible. I drooled. I coveted. Now I look online at his Pennsylvania house, Falling Water repeatedly. In an alternate reality I am an architect, and I’ve built a whole universe full of fantastic houses. Ask me, I’ll let you stay in one if you like.  (take off your shoes first)

Nearly 40 years later, I still feel my pulse race when I see a beautiful building, old architecture or new, I appreciate it all. I fantasize about building my own home someday. The play of light spilling down a stairwell, piercing a canopy of trees just outside the living room window. A little nook where a clever book case is built. An enormous expanse of windows that look out over a storm swept lake. I watch Grand Designs.

I dream.

I’m glad I’m not a cave woman.

Thus endeth week one! Join me next Friday for week two!!!

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