Sunday, January 31, 2016

Valentine's Tree

Valentine's Day is a day for love, especially romantic love. The day can be tricky for new couples, trying to feel out each other's expectations.  I've known of pragmatic, completely unsentimental women who feel cheated at anything less than a romantic campaign worthy of Napoleon, including flowers, candy, expensive dinners, and jewelry. Worse, from their boyfriend's point of view, they expect to be surprised. Some romantics are thrilled to tears over a simple card. Still others refuse to let the calendar dictate the level of romance in their lives, and find the whole idea pushy and annoying. Seldom are both halves of a new couple in the same camp.

Valentine’s is easier for those of us lucky enough to have been married forever. I can’t speak for other long-married couples, but our celebration is usually low-key. I'll probably make something special for dinner, with a decedent dessert most likely involving dark chocolate. We'll exchange cards and small gifts, maybe watch a cute movie on television, and go from there.

But this year, we're doing something new for the season. (Did you know there was a Valentine’s season?) My husband decided that, instead of taking down the Christmas tree, we should just change the theme and make it a Valentine's tree. I don't think it's that he loves hearts and flowers as much as it is that he hates to see the tree come down. We must not be the only ones doing this, because I found pretty heart ornaments at Hobby Lobby and tinsel garlands and red roses in a dollar store. We also picked up a package of foam hearts and made a garland of family photos.

It was fun to decorate, and a nice way to get over the after-Christmas blahs.  Most importantly, it makes us smile, and I think making your loved one smile is what love is all about.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Creating a Happy Home

I saw this article from Good Housekeeping listing some items that create a happy environment in the home, and we can all use some extra happiness, right? So I decided to take inventory. 

1. Green or yellow walls - Check. Not bright yellow, but I think that brownish yellow counts. It's actually yellower than it looks in the photo.
2. Fresh flowers - Not at the moment, although I'm a big fan and I'm sure I'll be bringing home a primrose or bunch of daffodils soon. In the meantime, I have fake ones, as well as a pretty floral pattern on the shower curtain. Does that count?

3. and 4. Sentimental photos and vanilla candles - Check. 

5. A journal - That would be this blog, and I agree that reading over old posts and comments does make me happy.

6. Furry friends - Check. She's definitely a day-brightener, even if she does think squeaky toys exist only for the purpose of being dissected and destroyed.

7. Floral scents - Nope. Not a fan of heavy scents in general. However I do have a pinon pine just outside the window that smells wonderful after a rain, and it certainly makes me happy.

8. A made bed - Yes, I agree. I do feel better when the bed is made.

9. Lack of clutter - Not so much. I'm getting better, and some areas of the house are pretty good, but the desk area isn't one of them. Maybe someday I'll get it all organized.

One happiness trigger they left out, maybe because it's out of our control, is sunshine. Early this month we temporarily relocated from Alaska to Arizona, and nothing brightens my day like a pool of sunshine creeping across the living room floor, especially after a month of darkness. By the time we return in March, the sun will be back in Anchorage,too, and the bulbs will be starting to wake up under the snow. Maybe that's why yellow walls cheer us up; they remind us of sunshine. 

How do these things affect you? Does it matter to your happiness whether your walls are yellow or gray, or if your bed is made? Are fresh flowers a waste of money or a necessity? What do you think?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's the Little Things

This is a sampler my husband’s ninety-eight-year-old grandmother made us for Christmas. Isn’t it pretty? I loved it as soon as we unwrapped it, but it took a little while before the message sunk in.

I've made some vague attempts to eat better and exercise, but I’m more than two weeks late with official New Year’s resolutions. (Confession: Stop procrastinating may have been a former year’s resolution, but that’s water under the bridge.) Anyway, I read a New Year’s blog talking about picking a word for the year instead of making resolutions. I’d been playing with the idea but no particular word had yet resonated with me. Then I walked by the sampler and realized the lesson I need is right there in front of me.

It really is the small things. For example, I love my husband. I love him enough that I’d give him a kidney, take care of him if her were very ill, even die for him. But do I love him enough to really listen when he explains every detail of some project he’s planning? Or to remember to screw the top tight on the pickle jar because he picks up jars by the lids? Or to serve Brussels sprouts with the pork chops because he likes them, even though I’d rather have spinach? Life has a few big moments, but mostly it’s made up of small things.

I can apply this lesson every day, and not just with my husband. I can check in with my mother more often and send little messages to my brothers and sister and kids so they know I’m thinking of them. I can let the mom with the fussy baby go ahead of me in the checkout line, and be patient with the man blocking the grocery store aisle. I can smile more.

The funny thing is that, in general, these little sacrifices don’t cost me much, but they make people happy. And making people happy makes me happy. So that’s my motto for the year. I’m sure I’ll slip up and be impatient, distracted, or selfish sometimes, but I’m going to try to show more love in the small things. That’s my plan for 2016.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Resolutions and Mailboxes

A neighbor of mine has an ongoing problem. He lives on a curve at the end of a long straightway, and when the road gets icy, at least one car will inevitably take the corner too fast and slide. As a result, he’s been through a lot of mailboxes.

He tried bigger, sturdier posts, but they were still no match for a two-ton truck sliding on the ice. At least once every winter the mailbox would go, and he’d have to prop up the broken pole in a bucket and wait until the ground thawed to try again.

Finally, he hit upon the solution: bend instead of break. He rigged up this sawhorse support for his mailbox. When a car sends it flying, he simply has to unfold it, anchor it with a couple of big rocks, and set it up again. Genius.

This time of year, I tend to make these promises to myself to lose weight, get organized, and be more productive everyday, and yet somehow, it doesn’t happen. Something comes sliding in off the ice and wipes out my good intentions. This year, I’m trying to think of resolutions like my neighbor’s mailbox support; they’re not broken, just knocked over. Pick them up, fold out the legs, and carry on.

Maybe it will even work. We’ll see. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Brand New Day

It's that in-between time. Christmas is over but the new year hasn't yet started. Here in Anchorage, it's dark. Today we only have five hours and thirty-three minutes of daylight, and the sky is overcast so even that daylight is gray and flat. On top of that, we're having a Chinook, a warm wind that blows down the mountains and is melting our meager covering of snow, so once the sun goes down, parking lots will be ice rinks and the night will be that much darker.

But things are looking up. We have almost ten minutes more of daylight than we did on winter solstice a week ago. The new year is coming, along with resolutions and goals and a chance for new beginnings. Summer will come again, and the world will be green.

And, as a consolation for the nasty wind, just look at this morning's sunrise behind the Chugach mountains. 

A new day begins ...

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

What does Christmas smell like?

The scent of a fresh evergreen tree has to be the loveliest smell of Christmas.
Unless it's baking cookies. 
Or peppermint candy canes. 
Cloves and cinnamon sticks in spiced tea? 
Sage and roasting turkey?
Wood smoke from neighbor's chimneys?

Whatever your favorite Christmas smells like, I hope yours was perfect, and that  all your Christmas Wishes came true.

Merry Christmas and wishing the Happiest New Year to you and yours.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Reads

It’s that time of the year when my reading preferences, which tend toward to sentimental anyway, veer into what some would call sappy. I love a good Christmas story, with tears and laughter, redemption and happily ever after. Cold dark nights, a warm cup of tea, and a dog to curl up beside me on the couch make this the perfect time of the year to settle in for a read. Yes, traditionally, the dog would be at my feet, but Roxy insists if she's under my blanket, we'll both be warmer.

There are a few stories I visit almost every year, like favorite relatives. First is the classic, Charles Dicken’s A Christmas CarolThe ultimate story of redemption, Ebeneezer Scrooge becomes a new man overnight after seeing ghostly visitors. What may be my all time favorite, Winter Solstice by Rosemunde Pilcher, is the story of a man who’s lost everything and the people, especially one amazing woman, who bring joy back into his life. Recently I finished a wonderful collection,  A Heartwarming Christmas, twelve interconnected stories of love and family, set in the lovely fictional town of Christmas Town, Maine. 

I have a whole shelf of Christmas mysteries I occasional reread. Mary Higgins Clark wrote some great ones. Just today I downloaded a Sherlock Homes short story set at Christmas, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Can't wait to find out what a carbuncle is.

In between decorating, baking, and writing cards, I'll be spending some time with old favorites and meeting new ones. Do you have some favorite Christmas stories I should try?

Hope your holidays are filled with warmth and magic and heartwarming tales. Merry Christmas.