Year of Inspiration

This is it! The end of the year review. How incredible, to be completing my fourth year of daily blog posts, and a phenomenal year that focused on two things: making life a little more tender and art a little more robust.

I began this year with the light bulb as my symbol, and inspiration as my word. Instead of a song, I had a quote, from the late Alan Rickman. “If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.” I took Alan’s words to heart. Not a day passed that I didn’t think about that quote. It became my inspiration and my daily activities were guided by those two invitations.

With my creativity on overdrive, I thought I would have many more art more robust posts, than life more tender. However, that was not the case. When I checked today, I had used the Art a Little More Robust byline 169 times…and Life a Little More Tender, 170. When my blog shifted to a travel blog, I created a third category that I posted in 26 times. I could not have pre-planned that if I had tried. This year has shown me, once again, what happens when I keep my heart open, let go of outcomes, and stay in the Flow, as guided by the Divine.

Here are highlights from this most beautiful of years:

I did, indeed, express my creativity in myriad ways. I enjoyed gardening projects, writing, repurposing old items into new ones, creating vignettes, cooking…and I sketched more than I have in years. I love creative play, and my daily question, to the Divine, was How shall we play today?

I was always given an answer, although it was often an answer or an activity that I would not have dreamed up myself. Those unexpected invitations to play in bigger ways grew my faith and trust, increased my artistic abilities, and enlarged my life.

Making life a little more tender took many forms as well. It was easy for me to celebrate my family members, and engage my grandchildren in fun and crazy activities. The awareness of creating tenderness in the lives of people beyond my close circle of family and friends greatly enlarged my territory and my ability to impact others in a positive way.

I took part in organized events such as Red Nose Day, Giving Tuesday, Random Acts of Kindness Week, Together Rising, and letter writing campaigns that offered encouragement to others. There were opportunities for me to walk alongside people, to go above and beyond with clients, to listen when someone needed a sympathetic ear, or to share from my heart, when the hurting needed to hear that they mattered, and that they were appreciated, and loved.

A crucial part of making life more tender this year was caring for myself as I continued my healing journey. There were creative elements as well, as I tried new recipes and came up with ways to playfully challenge myself, as with the 30 Day Walking Challenge.

Embracing a plant based lifestyle is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I have healed from years of chronic pain and a host of other disorders, increased my energy, vitality and overall wellbeing, and found another platform from which to share and encourage others.

When my left knee twisted on me, shortening my 30 Day Walking Challenge to 27 days, and throwing me back into pain, I had the opportunity to practice the greatest of self care and self love. I had to call upon all that I knew, health wise, and be patient. I had to forgive my knee, release my fears that I would not heal, and trust. I did heal. And my trust in the Divine and myself deepened greatly.

My greatest adventures in 2017 involved travel. My bohemian spirit exulted in the freedom to explore other counties and experience new places, people and cultures.

My grandson Dayan, daughter Elissa and I traveled to Italy at the end of May. This trip was my grandson’s graduation present. Italy was his chosen destination. His mom and I are so grateful that we got to experience this country with him.

Italy was beautiful, full of old world charm, and medieval villages, and incredible art. The Italians were just as beautiful and charming. I fell in love with Italy and her people. This was an adventure I will never forget. And it created within me a hunger for more travel experiences.

So I took a second big trip in late August, traveling this time to Ireland, Scotland and England with my mom, sisters and niece.

These travel experiences deserved a category all their own, causing me to merge my subtitles together to create a new one…Life a Little More Robust. What fun adventures I had with my family, exploring Dublin, Ireland, the whole country of Scotland, and London, England.

We have roots in these countries. Our ancestors lived and worked and died in these villages and castles and farms. There was such a sense of going home, and reconnection, even while we met new people and rode the double decker tour buses and tried new foods.

I am smitten with traveling. I can’t wait to see where I will journey to next.

This has been such an amazing year that I am reluctant tonight, as the minutes tick away, to let it go. My life has shifted these past four years, increasingly so as I began to write about my experiences. This year will go down in my memory as one of the best of my life.

And yet…let it go I must. I cannot walk into my future, and all the goodness and richness that it holds, while gazing back at the past. I am tremendously thankful for those who have walked beside me this year…my ever adventurous family members, my friends, new acquaintances, and the inspirational Mr. Rickman. I am grateful for the Divine, and the playful guidance I received through synchronicities, signs, wonders and gentle whispers.

My heart overflows with love and gratitude.

In a few hours I will bid 2017 goodbye. I may shed a tear as I sing Auld Lang Syne. It won’t be sorrow that brings the tears, but deep appreciation for all that I learned this year and great joy for my life and my journey.

And then, as a new year dawns, I will open wide my arms and my heart, and welcome 2018 with eager anticipation and excitement.

A new adventure begins…

Vibrant Joy

As I sat this evening, sipping hot tea, I considered what to write about. I have projects and stories in the unfolding process. I am not ready to post about those. Possibilities came to mind, and as I did an inward check about each one, I glanced down into my cup of tea…and there I found my inspiration.

The cup I most frequently use for hot tea was a gift to me from my daughter Adriel. The glass mug has three butterflies etched on its sides. As I stared into the depths of my tea, the image of a butterfly appeared on the surface, shimmering amid ripples of reflected light.

I was enchanted. This is the second time I’ve seen a butterfly “floating” in my tea. The first time it happened, I was in the garden and the sun shining through the glass cast a shadow. Tonight I am snuggled beneath a soft blanket, with my cat Angel stretched out on my lap. It is very cold outside, and quite dark. The light from the overhead fixture is creating this dancing image and the accompanying sparkles of light.

Smiling over the simple beauty captured within my cup of rose hips tea, the word that rose within was Joy. After allowing myself several minutes to experience that joy, I checked inward for confirmation that this was my topic for tonight’s blog post. My smile broadened. It was.

Always one for going deeper into the moment, I checked the symbolism for butterflies. I know the winged beauties represent transformation and change. Was there a connection between the butterfly and joy?

Looking up butterfly symbolism, I was delighted to find that there is. I found that butterflies are considered magical. They represent spiritual rebirth and transformation, as I knew, and creativity, endless potential, vibrant joy, and the ability to experience the wonder of life. Butterflies also signify the presence of the Divine.

Another site mentioned that the Celtic people consider the butterfly a symbol of prosperity, honor, joy, and good fortune. To the Celts, they represent the soul. As one with very strong Celtic roots, this resonated deeply with me.

The information that I looked up confirmed what I “heard” in my mind as I stared at the butterfly shimmering in my tea…Joy. Vibrant joy, indeed.

And what about the kind of herbal tea I was drinking? Was there anything symbolic about the rose hips tea that was cradling my butterfly of joy? Roses typically represent love and relationships. However, I felt inspired to look up rose hips in my Life Changing Foods book, by Anthony William. Rose hips contain the most bioavailable form of vitamin C in existence. The vitamin C in rose hips is more anti-inflammatory than from any other source. It helps to boost the immune system and fights all types of infections. This is good! I have been drinking rose hips tea for about ten days now, enjoying a cup every afternoon or evening.

However, it was the section in the chapter on rose hips, under the header Spiritual Lesson, that touched my heart, and made my scalp and face tingle, Spirit’s signal to me that I am on the right track. Anthony writes,

“The fleeting beauty of roses gets a lot of attention. What about when the petals drop away? It isn’t cause for melancholy, or reflection on how we’re at the mercy of time- it’s cause for celebration. That big, showy fragrant blossom was just the invitation; the party really gets started once the rose fades and the flower’s fruit, the rose hip, begins to ripen. The same is true of people. Getting older isn’t a reason to mourn – our younger years are just the beginning. As we age and our experience grows, we gain our real value: fruitful wisdom that we can share and use to nourish each other. What else in your life are you writing off as an end, when really, it’s a beginning?”

I am undone by those words. In ten days I will have a milestone birthday. I will enter a new decade, one I used to consider the doorway to “old age”. Truthfully, I am okay with turning 60. I am healthy, and active, and full of vibrant joy. How amazing, though, and encouraging, to read this paragraph tonight and know that I am entering a fruitful stage of life, where I can share and nourish others.

What beautiful messages this evening, that began with looking into my cup of tea. I laughed as I considered that fortune tellers used to look into an empty cup and read tea leaves. No leaves in my cup, just rose hips tea and a dancing butterfly…and a sweet message that reminded me that this party, my celebration, is just getting started. How vibrantly joyful is that?

This is Me

I love movie soundtracks. They are one of my favorite music genres. If a film captures my heart, then the musical score accompanying that movie has the power to instantly transport me back into the story. For that reason, I have a tendency to play a soundtrack over…and over…and over, just as I watch a compelling movie multiple times.

Often there is a song within that soundtrack that arrests me for reasons of its own. Beyond taking me back into the film, it usually has a powerful message that resonates with me or cracks open my heart. That song, within the amazing The Greatest Showman soundtrack, is This is Me.

Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, this song is performed by Keala Settle, who portrays Lettie Lutz in the movie. Lettie is considered an oddity by her family and work colleagues. She has a full, luxurious beard. The term “bearded lady” doesn’t cut it at all in describing this amazing woman. She has an incredible voice, and she uses it for more than singing. Lettie becomes the spokesperson for P.T. Barnum’s group of unique performers. She is nurturing. She is brave. She is beautiful. In the course of this film, she comes into her power and glory, fully.

The lyrics to This is Me reflect Lettie’s journey.

This is Me

[Verse 1]

I am not a stranger to the dark

Hide away, they say

‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts.

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars.

Run away, they say

No one’ll love you as you are.


But I won’t let them break me down to dust.

I know that there’s a place for us.

For we are glorious.


When the sharpest words wanna cut me down. I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.

Look out ’cause here I come.

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum.

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.

[Verse 2]

Another round of bullets hits my skin.

Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in.

We are bursting through the barricades.

And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)

Yeah, that’s what we’ve become.


Won’t let them break me down to dust.

I know that there’s a place for us.

For we are glorious.


When the sharpest words wanna cut me down. Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.

Look out ’cause here I come.

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum.

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.


And I know that I deserve your love.

There’s nothing I’m not worthy of.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down. I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

This is brave, this is proof

This is who I’m meant to be, this is me.


Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come).

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum. (marching on, marching, marching on)

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.

Lettie’s song is the song we all long to sing. None of us are strangers to the dark. We’ve all hidden who we really are, because we fear ridicule or misunderstanding or not being accepted and loved. Even the most perfect, seemingly, among us has something about themselves that they dislike, some flaw that is glaring to them.

And some of us are so unique, so different, in appearance or thought or ability, that those differences are all that are seen. We feel shame. We feel outcast. We feel bruised.

How beautiful is this song’s reminder that differences are to be appreciated and celebrated. We can be exactly who we are and be seen, be glorious, be loved. Lettie’s journey is the journey we are all on, becoming real, becoming who we are, allowing others to do the same.

I have already listened to this song many times. It is currently my heart’s cry. Please take a moment, and listen to This is Me HERE.

What if we all celebrated our own uniqueness and each other’s too? What if we refused to hide, to be afraid, to fear others? What if this song began in our hearts and became our voice and our battle cry and our anthem, uniting us in our glorious differences?

Sing it with me…

“And I’m marching on to the beat I drum.

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.”

Thank You, Alan

Incredibly, I am three days away from the end of my Year of Inspiration, and from completing my fourth year of daily blog posts. I’ll be writing a year end review on Sunday. And, I couldn’t let these last days slip away without acknowledging the person whose quote inspired this year of making art a little more robust, and life a little more tender.

I came across the quote that would become the foundation for 2017, shortly after actor Alan Rickman passed away on January 14, 2016.

“If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust.” Alan Rickman

I felt such a sense of loss when Alan died. I had never met this genuine and talented man, and yet a light winked out in the world with his passing, and I was very aware of it. His words resonated with me, and eventually became the basis for this year’s theme. My word for 2017 has been Inspiration. My symbol was the lightbulb. Instead of a song to inspire me, I had Alan’s beautiful words.

I have thought of Alan, and his words, every day. The blog posts divided easily between two natural categories. As I typed those phrases…Life a Little More Tender…Art a Little More Robust…Alan would pop into my awareness and I would send him gratitude for his inspiration and his life.

I have long been a fan of the actor, watching his movies that began with Die Hard, back in 1988. But what about the man? Who was Alan? As this year progressed, I took to heart another quote of his that helped me to see beyond his legendary acting career.

To know him better, I simply needed to watch his work. During these last twelve months, I have filled in the gaps in my knowledge about Alan Rickman by watching all of his movies. There were quite a few that I had missed, including independent and artistic films such Close My Eyes and Snow Cake, and dramatic shorts such Song of Lunch and Dust.

From Sense & Sensibility

From A Little Chaos, a historical film that Alan starred in and directed.

Beyond his many films, I watched clips from his theater performances. I am sad that I never got to see Alan on stage. His acting career began with live performances, and it was this format that he loved dearly, playing to a responsive audience. I’ve been able to see much of the play, Private Lives, thanks to YouTube, and only a bit of of the 2011 Broadway production, Seminar, for which he was nominated for a Drama League Award.

Alan and Helen Mirren in the play, Antony & Cleopatra.

From the Broadway play, Seminar.

Perhaps I have learned the most about Alan by watching the interviews he gave, on talk shows in the UK and US, at red carpet movie premieres and during stage door appearances. Alan spoke eloquently and honestly about his career and his life. And, I discovered, he does not suffer fools gladly! I cringed more than once over crudely worded questions from interviewers hoping for an inside scoop or a tasty bit of gossip. Deservedly so, those people would get a short, clipped response and a long, steely look from the man who initially built his career upon playing the villain. Alan would arch an eyebrow and purse those lips, effectively silencing stupidity!

Outside of his extraordinary body of work, Alan was a man of passion and compassion, an encourager and supporter of many, a brother and a husband. He was in a long relationship with his partner, Rima Horton. They married in 2012, after 50 years together. Private, and willing to let her husband command the limelight, Rima nevertheless held Alan’s heart. His final days, here on earth, were spent taking care of Rima’s future life without him, and saying goodbye to as many of his friends as he could.

Alan and Rima.

One of Alan’s dearest friends, Emma Thompson

This year, I have come to know better a man I never had the pleasure of actually meeting. Perhaps because of his guidance, with his words and actions, I feel a strong connection to him. As I traveled this year, I realized that the places I explored were some of Alan’s favorite destinations in the world. He loved Tuscany and Venice, in Italy. He often walked the streets of Dublin, Ireland, and he was a frequent visitor to Edinburgh, Scotland…my favorite city in all the world.

I felt Alan’s presence, his artistic spirit, most strongly in London, England. This magnificent city was Alan’s hometown. He lived in the theater district. I could feel the pull of his larger than life personality every time the London Tube sped by his neighborhood. If we had spent another day there, I would have enjoyed exiting the Tube and walking quietly in the art district.

Alan in the garden of his London home.

This has been an amazing year for me. I have expressed my creativity in many ways. And I have endeavored to make life a little more tender in myriad ways as well. I owe much to Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman. I feel a hint of sadness that this Year of Inspiration is drawing to a close. However, I will continue to carry Alan’s words in my heart, seeking tenderness in life, making robust art. I do it to honor him. I do it to expand my soul and enlarge my life.

“Alan deplored injustice, inequality and hypocrisy. He loved the industry he worked in, and the potential of art for everyone. His celebrity status was irrelevant, except as a tool to help give light to all the things he believed in. That light still shines.” Ian Rickson

I came across that last quote, unexpectedly, a couple of nights ago. I had intended to write this thanks to Alan that day, and yet I was held off, told to wait. It was not the right time. I needed to read those words, by a good friend of his. I needed to know that Alan’s light is not extinguished from this world, after all. It is still shining brightly, illuminating dark places and warming hearts. That light has touched my life.

Thank you, Alan.

Movie Review: The Greatest Showman

I have looked forward to seeing this movie since viewing a trailer for it this past summer. The Greatest Showman, based on the extraordinary and imaginative life of P.T. Barnum, is a musical. The 11 featured songs were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of one of my favorite films from last year, La La Land. With such musical talent on board, I knew before the opening number that I was going to love this movie.

Daughter Elissa and grandson Dayan met me tonight at the theater, braving cold temps in order to be entertained. And entertained, we were.

The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, Keala Settle and Sam Humphrey. This musical drama, directed by Michael Gracey, carries a PG rating and has a run time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Phineas Barnum (Jackman) comes from a poor family. As a young adult, having struggled to survive, much less thrive, he marries his childhood sweetheart, Charity (Williams). Phin doesn’t have much materially, but he has big dreams. He doesn’t just want to find his place in the world, he wants to create his own world.

When he loses his job, Phin comes up with a creative plan, fresh from his imagination. With the support and encouragement of his wife and two young daughters, Caroline (Johnson) and Helen (Seely), Barnum secures a loan to purchase a somewhat seedy museum of curiosities and oddities.

Ticket sales are not what the dreamer had envisioned, or needs to pay his bills, until he begins to put together a troupe of real life curiosities. His cast of performers includes the bearded woman, Lettie (Settle), who has a beautiful voice and a just as beautiful heart, Tom Thumb (Humphrey), the little General who is 25 inches tall, and the amazing trapeze artist, Anne (Zendaya).

Phin’s show, dubbed a circus by New York’s top journalist, becomes a success as people flock to see these unusual performers. Far from being ridiculed, or disdained, the members of the diverse group find themselves being applauded, cheered, and appreciated, for the first time in their lives.

Encouraged by his growing fame, Barnum hires an apprentice, Phillip Carlyle (Efron). A playwright from a wealthy family, Carlyle has connections to New York’s elite. Barnum hopes to attract a higher paying audience.

Barnum perhaps takes his plans to create the Greatest Show on Earth too far when he brings Jenny Lind (Ferguson) to the US. Touted as the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny is considered the greatest singer Europe has known. Barnum convinces her to join him on a tour across the United States, bringing both of them greater fame and riches.

But at what cost do all of P.T. Barnum’s dreams come true? As he becomes the Greatest Showman, what affect does that have on his personal life, his family and his dedicated group of unique performers, left under the direction of Carlyle?

This was a fun film, with an exceptional musical score. The choreography was amazing as well. I smiled at the opening song and dance, and that smile remained on my face throughout the musical.

The movie was inspired by P.T. Barnum’s incredible imagination, and isn’t considered historical, although many of the characters represent actual people associated with the showman. The music is contemporary and uplifting, intended to convey how ahead of his time Barnum was.

A photo of the real P.T. Barnum and one of his performers, Tom Thumb.

What I loved about this film, beyond the songs and the dance routines, was the underlying message that all humanity matters. Barnum created a family when he brought together his diverse troupe. He showcased the best about people, not just their peculiarities, celebrating their unique qualities.

We enjoyed The Greatest Showman. Elissa turned to Dayan and me as the credits rolled and wondered why I didn’t make her take singing and dancing lessons, as a child. I could relate! I left the theater happy and feeling like I could dance my way across the parking lot. I didn’t. But oh, I wanted to! Perhaps it’s not too late for any of us to incorporate more singing, more dancing, more creating out of our imaginations, into our lives.

Series Review: The Crown

I recently began watching the lavish Netflix original series, The Crown. I’m three quarters of the way through the first season, which premiered in November of 2016. Season two just released last month. The series has a projected run of six years. I’m glad. Being a history enthusiast, and one with a long time interest in the royalty of Europe, I am enchanted by this well done show.

The Crown stars Claire Foy, Matt Smith, John Lithgow, Victoria Hamilton, Vanessa Kirby, Jared Harris and Jeremy Northam. The historical drama, directed by Philip Martin and several others, is based upon the award winning play “The Audience” by showrunner Peter Morgan. It carries a Mature Audience rating, and has a weekly run time of 58 minutes.

The Crown chronicles the ascent to the throne of Elizabeth II (Foy) at age 25, after the death of her father, King George VI (Harris), and her life from the 1940s to current times. The king, who was more ill than his family realized, died unexpectedly, deeply affecting his wife, Queen Elizabeth I (Hamilton) and his daughters, the future queen and his younger child, Margaret (Kirby).

Elizabeth II has a young family with her husband, Philip Mountbatten (Smith), the Duke of Edinburgh, a naval officer whose career is on the rise. She expected to have years living a somewhat normal life with her growing family before she would be required to wear the crown. The first season covers the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and the intrigues and challenges of the monarchy, along with the political rivalries between an aging Winston Churchill (Lithgow) and prime minister hopeful Anthony Eden (Northam).

The focus of the series is on the relationship between the young Queen and her husband, the Prince. They must learn to live in this new world they find themselves in. Philip gives up his naval career, his last name and the home he shares with Elizabeth and their children, to become the Queen’s consort.

Elizabeth is in the important role of queen, which must take precedent over that of wife. She must adapt, and quickly, as the needs of the monarchy never cease.

I am not only enjoying this beautiful production, my perspectives about England’s royal family is shifting. The casting is excellent. Matt Smith embodies Prince Philip. I read he was given one piece of advice from Prince William, about playing the role. William described his father as “legendary “.

I feel strong sympathy toward Prince Philip. He knew he was marrying the future Queen of England. However, the ascension to the throne happened earlier than they dreamed possible. Philip finds himself in a role he doesn’t quite yet know how to play. He will never be king, and yet he is a pillar of quiet strength beside his wife.

Matt Smith and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Claire Foy and Queen Elizabeth II.

The newly crowned Queen draws my earnest respect. She was so young when she took the throne. And yet she shouldered the heavy and demanding responsibilities well, learning quickly, making decisions that oft times were contrary to tradition or against the wishes of the Queen Mother or her husband. I find her life fascinating, and I am already seeing the royal family as so much more than figureheads with a celebrity type status.

There were, and still are, many political decisions to sort through and masses of people to care for and a country to represent, all while living in one of the most elaborate glass houses in the world. This family is under constant scrutiny, and I can’t imagine living day to day under that kind of pressure.

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill.

I look forward to furthering my education about this powerful woman, and her stalwart Prince, who have, in reality, been married for 70 years. That is a lifetime together. I appreciate The Crown, and the peek I am getting into that extraordinary life.

Christmas 2017

A brief, and pictorial, blog post tonight, at the conclusion of a joy filled Christmas day spent with family. Greg and I joined daughters Adriel and Elissa, sons-in-law Nate and Josh, and grandsons Dayan and Jonathan, for a fun afternoon of cooking together and chatting, laughing and snapping photos in front of the tree. My mom stopped by to visit and see Dayan, who is home from the University of Missouri on holiday break. Son Nate and daughter-in-law Megan and their three children spent the day in Arkansas with Megan’s family. We missed them, however I know they had a fun day!

I love this time of year. Christmas Day is the culmination of weeks of buying and making gifts, planning and prepping food, and anticipating gathering with family. We had a casual, smorgasbord type meal today, with everyone contributing to the meal.

Nate prepared his family’s traditional sloppy Joe recipe, one that his grandmother Dorothy created. I was told that the sloppy Joes were wonderful! What a special tribute to Grandma Dorothy.

Elissa recently discovered an app called Yummly. She tried two recipes from it for the first time…scalloped potatoes and maple glazed carrots. I was so impressed with her recipes that I downloaded the app, which can be customized for my plant based diet.

Here are our fun pics in front of Adriel and Nate’s festive Christmas Tree…

Our outfits were festive too!

Nate and pup Frances in holiday finery as well!

Greg with Elissa, Adriel and Nate.

The family group shot!

With grandsons Dayan and Jonathan.

Mimi with two of her granddaughters.

Jonathan playing Super Mario Odyssey on his new Nintendo Switch. This boy intuitively plays these games! It would take me months to learn a new game.

Coney and Willow insisted on snuggling with Dayan.

We had such a sweet and precious day. The food was plentiful, delicious and healthy. And the company I kept? Well, that was the true gift of the day, spending time with my family. There is no greater blessing in my life than my family members. How incredible it is, that I get to journey through life with these beautiful, amazing people. How miraculous, to hug them and kiss them, and receive their love in return.

Christmas 2017 is almost a memory now. Dayan just left my house. We watched the Doctor Who Christmas special together, a yearly tradition for us. Candles are lit throughout my home, one of the last times this season that I will enjoy their soft glow.

I will spend the last two hours of Christmas 2017 in a contemplative space as I allow my heart to fill and then overflow with love, joy, peace and gratitude.

Merry Christmas, blessed Christmas, joy and peace within me, joy and peace to the world.

33rd Christmas Carol

Although many of my holiday traditions have shifted over the years, one of my most cherished is also the oldest. Since childhood, I have watched a variety of films during the holiday season, depicting Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol. The George C Scott version, released as a TV movie in 1984, is my all time favorite adaptation and has been my preferred Christmas Carol for 33 years.

Daughter Adriel and son-in-law Nate hosted this year’s viewing. We were joined by Greg, Elissa and Dayan. We settled in the living room, lit by the glow of Christmas tree lights and a crackling fire in the fireplace, with cups of hot apple cider and freshly made peanut butter no bake cookies.

I never tire of watching the story of Ebenezer Scrooge unfold. A Christmas Carol is my favorite type of movie, one that has the power to impact lives through the transformative journey of the main character. As I watched the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future visit Scrooge, with the intention of changing the course of his life, I noticed a couple of things that I had not before, in spite of a lifetime of familiarity with this story.

Ebenezer connects with the boy Tiny Tim, experiencing feelings of compassion and tenderness. These are traits not evident in any other area of Scrooge’s life. It is, in fact, Tiny Tim’s uncertain future that breaks open Scrooge’s heart, which has long been barricaded from feeling anything.

I realized tonight why Scrooge first connects with this child. He identifies with him, understands him. As a boy, Ebenezer was sent away to a boarding school. His friends were imaginary characters from his beloved books. He didn’t join the adventures that his classmates had, spending time alone instead. Tiny Tim is not able to join in with the other children his age, due to his frail body and poor health. Although he has a large family, and people who love him, he is an observer of life, more than a participant, much as the boy Ebenezer was. They both live on the fringes, learning to make do. Seeing Tiny Tim allows Ebenezer to see himself again as a lonely child, more clearly and with more empathy than the memories that the ghost of Christmas past summoned.

My heart always feels very tender toward young Ebenezer Scrooge. Seeing his awakening compassion towards Bob Cratchit’s son, with fresh eyes and new insight, deepened my understanding of the hardships that shaped Ebenezer’s personality and his future.

My second new aha tonight came near the end of the movie, as the ghost of Christmas present leaves Scrooge alone in a dark part of town. Ebenezer has just had his eyes opened to the plight of the poor. His words about people going to the poor houses, or worse, dying to deplete the surplus population, suddenly seem harsh and unsettling to his own ears. In this new state of awareness, he finds himself on his own, far from home. “What have I done, to be abandoned like this?” Ebenezer asks aloud.

This scene has always bothered me, because surely the older man knows he has done many things that have caused people to dislike him. But it is not the older Scrooge who is wondering why he has been abandoned. Tonight I connected the question back to the young boy, who was alone in the boarding school. Left there by his father, who blamed Ebenezer for the death of his wife, the boy must have repeatedly asked that very same question, “What have I done, to be abandoned like this?” The question has haunted Scrooge his whole life. As a result, he closed his heart down, to protect it, and learned to take care of himself by becoming an excellent, albeit harsh, businessman.

Ebenezer teaches me that childhood experiences are powerful and vows made during those formative years shape who we become. Scrooge shows me that it is never too late to let go of those experiences and undo those vows and allow the heart to open again. His transformation at the end of the movie is my favorite part of the story. I feel Ebenezer’s joy when he realizes he has a second chance, to live with the spirit of Christmas striving in his heart and active in his life. I celebrate who he becomes.

I am grateful for another viewing of A Christmas Carol, and the impact this film has had on my life throughout the years. And I am thankful for my family. They see the value in this movie as well. I know that my mom watched A Christmas Carol tonight also, as did my son and his wife. What an incredible tradition, one that spans the years, and the generations. I look forward to many more viewings of Dickens’ beloved tale, and many more ahas.

Vegan Egg Nog

Two years ago, I became reacquainted with a traditional holiday drink, egg nog. During the Christmas season, I enjoyed a nightly cup of the store purchased variety, with a splash of rum added. However, last year, adhering to a plant based lifestyle, I didn’t want to drink egg nog, at least not the sugar laden dairy version with eggs in it. I searched everywhere for a non dairy, sugar free product in the stores, without success. I looked for a recipe online, so I could make it myself, but my search didn’t turn up a good, plant based one.

Today, without any effort on my part, I found a vegan egg nog recipe, posted on a Medical Medium Support Facebook page. I knew it was completely compatible with my chosen diet, and I couldn’t wait to try it. After a busy day, tonight I created my first dairy, egg, sugar and alcohol free egg nog. My daughters teased me, when I mentioned during a group text that I was excited to try this drink, asking me what it was, exactly, since this egg nog doesn’t contain any of the traditional ingredients. It’s more properly a faux egg nog. Or a non nog!

I already had all of the ingredients on hand. Here is the simple recipe, from Incredible Smoothies.

I used unsweetened coconut almond milk. Any non dairy milk would be fine. I have whole cloves so I broke one in two and tossed half into the blender. I purchase very ripe bananas on sale at the grocery store, chop them up, and keep them in the freezer for smoothies and making banana ice cream. I had frozen bananas ready to use.

My new Ninja Blender quickly turned the assembled ingredients into a thick, cold, creamy drink. The frozen bananas sweetened the nog naturally and gave it some body. I added an additional sprinkle of cinnamon across the top, and took my first sip.

This non nog was so good! I preferred to keep it alcohol free as well, however a splash of rum could be added. The cinnamon, nutmeg and clove piece gave it that classic egg nog taste. I could enjoy it without concern about foods on my “no” list.

I am grateful that the plant based egg nog recipe I was searching for last year, found me. In the past 12 months I have come to appreciate a variety of wonderful, health boosting drinks that I can sip on in the evenings. Perhaps because of that, I had not felt compelled to hunt for a healthy egg nog this year. I’m glad for the recipe however. It is a tasty addition to my night time drink choices.

Cheers! And Merry Christmas!

The Shortest of Stories

Tonight’s post celebrates pure fun, bordering on silliness. It became the perfect activity for the end of a busy and joy filled day. The Inspiration Starter that I drew appeared at first to be daunting. I selected:

I have a couple of short stories in my creative brain, just waiting for me to free them. However, today was not the day for that. Those stories require time and thought, crafting and editing. Instead, an idea came to mind to try something that I have wanted to do, just for fun.

Most smart phones have a feature that suggests words for you as you type. My phone has three boxes above the keyboard with word choices. Here is a screenshot that shows the suggested next word as I type:

This feature can be helpful in that it can save time and provide the proper spelling of a word. Granted, the predictive word feature has caused me embarrassment in the past, when my phone automatically supplied the word it thought I wanted. (Ask my son about the text I sent him asking if he wanted to go to a party together…except my phone substituted the word “orgy”, and I hit SEND without catching it!)

What if…I wondered…what if I used the predictive feature to write a short story? A quote from Stephen King popped into my head…

I love that quote! Allowing my phone to shape a short story seemed to carry an element of surprise, much as a kiss in the dark by a stranger would! I was willing to try, and see what happened.

I began the first attempt with the opening word “During…”, and let my phone take it from there. I simply added punctuation when the sentences seemed complete.

I smiled at the result. And it is evident my phone has a memory and has picked up the repetitive use of the word Christmas. It amused me that there were a couple of sentences that referenced grandsons!

Encouraged by that snippet of a story, I tried again, except this time, I let my phone choose the first word. This story made me, literally, laugh out loud. In fact, I chuckle every time I read it. It’s a humorous story.

I noticed that I must use positively charged words a lot…words like wonderful, journey, grateful, blessings and family. My favorite sentence is The first two weeks in my journey I was a little too excited, followed closely by The only problem is that I am not sure if I have a problem. I have been accused of being too happy sometimes!

The part that makes me laugh the most though is the section, The new things for the kids are the grandkids. And…Thank goodness for the kids. The new one is so awesome!

In that shortest of stories, the phrase I am grateful shows up four times. I say and write those words often and my phone knows it. Gratitude is a core belief for me. And the phrase used twice, Yes, it sounds good, comes across like an amen or a so be it. I like that. It is a phrase I type often when responding to people. Seeing the words that popped up in these micro stories gives insight into my own story.

This was a fun little experiment in short story writing. There is nothing publishable here. But I laughed. And I let creativity guide me. And I got a glimpse into my own heart and mind. All good things, tucked into a seemingly random method of creating a story.

In keeping with my experiment, I’ll let predictive text finish up my blog post, typed below in italics.

Thank goodness for new things.