Sunshine on my Shoulders

Did you read the title and immediately think of John Denver’s classic song?

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy

Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry

Sunshine on the water looks so lovely

Sunshine almost always makes me high”

It’s a song we love because it shares a sentiment we all feel… sunshine is GREAT!

My neighbour was telling me about her terrible day… she accidentally flooded the entire house. (There was no need to put the word ‘accidentally’ in there because NO ONE in their right mind deliberately floods their house but she kept telling me how she didn’t mean to do it.) She went on to say that the only thing that kept her going that day was the sunshine. We’ve had so much grey and rain lately, then on the first sunny day she has this catastrophe. How thankful she was for the sunshine on her shoulders!

I get that! I, too, added ‘grateful for the sun’ to my list this week, and then noticed an Arabic proverb at the top of the page that said ‘All sunshine makes a desert’. What?!

I guess its actually true. Even the things we love the most, like sunshine, can become a negative if there’s too much of it. Maybe not necessarily a negative but it does change the whole landscape, doesn’t it… makes a new norm. We need all things in balance. Living here in NZ, we have a pretty good 50/50 mix of wet/grey days and then sunshine days. However, when we lived in the tropics we had a dry season which was gorgeous, clear blue sunny skies day after day, but then came the rainy season and that gorgeous sun was no where to be seen for, what seemed like, forever. The desert would be even more extreme.

I painted a still life of an apple this week and couldn’t work out why it looked so flat. Eventually it dawned on me that I had put in the deep shadows but had forgotten the highlights. Until I had equal balance it was all wrong. Even a painting needs both. I put the highlights in and voila! The painting popped!

So basically, too much of even a great thing that we are so thankful for, can be a bad thing. Balance is key. Don’t begrudge the grey days. Celebrate them too. But when the sunshine is on your shoulders, when it’s in your eyes and making them water, when the light is sparkling across the water, fly high. Enjoy the moment πŸ™‚ It’s the grey day that makes the sunshine day pop!

#Grateful for long cuddles with Maya enjoying all her snuffles and her little baby feet.
Mt. Ruapehu
Mt. Ngauruhoe & Mt. Tongariro
#Grateful for a day at the mountains indulging in the beauty. How blessed to live so close!

Oh, Romeo & Juliet, What If…?

Don’t we all love to celebrate our mothers on Mother’s Day? Whether with a phone call or flowers, brunch or a gift, it doesn’t matter except the opportunity to acknowledge the great gift they have given and are in our lives. My family are the same. This year two decided months ago to take me to a ballet production by the Royal New Zealand Ballet of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ that coincided perfectly with Mother’s Day weekend here in NZ. And so from there it snowballed into a Mother’s Day roadtrip where I visited all of them and had special time with each in their environments. What a wonderful gift!

Being welcomed into their worlds is a special honour and I wanted to enjoy every minute of it, thus the idea was conceived to draw my time with them in 5-minute sketches. There are 5 of them after all…well, there used to be before adding a son-in-law and grandbaby to the mix. This was also a way to leave the studio without actually leaving, focusing on speed drawing. Five minutes allows for no fussing over details. Of course, you need to have a tight rein on your inner talk because you can do some real doozies when moving so quickly. So, armed and eager, I kissed Hubby goodbye and set off on my journey.

I got to spend time with new Mama and cuddle that gorgeous grandbaby. It was my first time as a ‘Mummy-in-Law’ and we had a few laughs along the way. Then on to Auckland where youngest son took me for a sedate mother’s walk (not one of his normal ‘ascend the mountain’ jobs) through the bush. It had just rained heavily and the waterfalls were flowing large while the wet bush smell was intoxicating. Such a treat! There was food a-plenty all weekend both home-cooked treats and eating out, all served with lots of laughing and friendly banter. Variety was the name of the game. I kept pulling my pencils out keeping my visual diary flowing. They, used to me, waited patiently enabling my objectives.

Then came the ballet, and obviously, with the theatre in darkness there’s not a lot of opportunity to draw, but I did get a quick sketch in while we waited for it to start. A good exercise in perspective to get the feeling of depth. And then, amidst all the sumptuous period costumes, scintillating music from the live orchestra, and spectacular story-telling as the characters danced their way across the stage, I had a really random thought. “What if either Romeo or Juliet had had a different mindset?” How would the story have ended then? Perhaps even the parents/families mindset? Could any one of them have changed the whole storyline?

Shakespeare didn’t come up with the plot all by himself. According to Britannica his principal source was ‘The Tragicall Historue of Romeus and Juliet (1562), a long narrative poem by the English poet Arthur Brooke, who had based his poem on a French translation of a tale by the Italian Matteo Bandello.’ We love the tragedy of it all. We write plays, poems, theatre, musicals, ballets, you name it and we have a rendition of it, as we wallow in the sorrow and feelings. I know, I know… it’s all about unrequited love, something that we have all experienced at some time or other, but we grew through the experience, right?

As I played out differing mindsets for them all in my head, I realised it was like one of those neat books where, by turning to different pages, you get to choose the story, the journey, and ultimately the ending. And most of us, like Shakespeare, Brooke or Mandello and the thousands of other authors like them, just go along with the storyline we’ve been given. And if perchance, someone does change something in the story that creates a different ending, the audience is up in arms and causing mayhem till it’s returned to the tragedy they know and love. But what if?

What if in our own lives we took a different mindset? Sometimes I like to do just that… take a situation I am presently in and roll it round in my head, looking at it from differing perspectives. Obviously, I need to keep checking in with myself while doing this as my head can create some pretty lifelike scenarios and my body is then flooded with the adrenalin, etc, that I do not need or want. But what if? Does the situation have to be such a tragedy? Could I write a totally different storyline with an alteration in my thinking? Where would I like it to end up? What if I started by writing down the things I am grateful for to get a better handle on where things are really at? What if? What if? What if?

After three hours of magic, the performance ended with clapping and loads of applause. It was a brilliant production. The audience was happy. No throwing rotten tomatoes and demanding a re-write here. And like-wise I get to look back on my sketches and give loud praise to my family for such an enjoyable time with them all. They are all high on my grateful list. Now, to get home and do ‘show and tell’ with Hubby.

#2 daughter sorting baby clothes
Precious time
Maya’s new toy with every bell and whistle!
Fed and sleeping happily … perfect model!
Slow-cooked lamb stew was a BIG win πŸ™‚
the view while I waited for Israeli Chicken Pita to arrive for lunch… so good!
Nikau Palm catching the light at the beginning of our walk
Remnants of the Kauri milling tracks on the trail
Karamatura River
Playing electronic games always makes them a great model
That gorgeous #2 son
My #1 daughter
Strong #3 son
and charming #1 son
‘Romeo & Juliet’ performed by Royal NZ Ballet @Aotea Centre

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

As you grow up you get to observe, both consciously and unconsciously, the mindset of your parents and caregivers. They are, after all, the most prominent people in your life from whom you learn how this world works. My experience was no different to any other and I got to watch my dad and his determination to have a positive mindset no matter what life threw at him. And it definitely threw him some curveballs. Yet he would whistle while he shaved in the morning, no matter what was going on, and challenge you that ‘this was a good day, wasn’t it?’. A day full of possibilities just waiting to be explored.

I was not quite so positive in my outlook (insert direct opposite of positive) and would often be perplexed by his optimism. I admired it, wanted it, but struggled with the ‘reality’ of how I saw things. My singing of hymns was more to comfort my aching heart rather than the hymns he whistled, as he thought about God’s goodness to him and his excitement about what the world had to offer today.

Leap forward many years and lots of learnings and I have a much more positive outlook. Not perfect by any means but definitely way more on the positive side of the scale than it used to be. I have learnt that my ‘reality’ is not really reality at all, but just my perception of things. I have learned that there are, indeed, many many things to be thankful for if I set my mind to the seeing of them. The power of choice is mine over what I think and ponder on. These lessons are not a ‘once done and over’ class, but rather a continuing lesson that rolls round and round, and probably will do so for the entirety of my time here on earth. While my brain continues to function and think, I will have choices to make every day about what I am dwelling on and on how I view things.

My mind seems to be the stage on which my life is determined. The realization that I am stage director/script writer/conductor of my own story has been very empowering and pivotal. But still there are continuing lessons, like this week… I am baking and need apples. I go the fridge and discover we have run out. Being already halfway through making the pie, I decide to brave one of the remaining apple trees that haven’t been harvested yet. I didn’t harvest them because last year they had been full of coddling moth due to a couple of very mature apple trees in a neighbouring section that are riddled with it. Despite my best efforts of spraying and laying traps the apples were still loaded with Coddling Moth activity. This season I had used Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) spray instead but had only got to do it a couple of times. This left me ASSUMING that this year’s crop would be even worse. As I have been super busy with family activities I figured I didn’t have time to waste on taking out all the coddling decay for very little return. And so I left the apples on the trees and had told myself I would deal with that later.Now I needed to get the apples, despite the work involved.

Pleasantly surprised is an understatement as I peeled and quartered each apple finding beautiful clean apples, with no sign at all of Coddling Moth in the entire tree bar one apple in a small section. I had nearly lost and wasted an entire tree of apples due to my mindset. The way I had thought had not been challenged. I had not checked. And this mindset was causing me great loss. If my mindset had not been challenged how would I have gone into next season? Would I have decided to not spray at all, like what’s the use? Or saying that ACV spraying didn’t work? Extreme results might have been, in time, to rip out the tree and try planting something else instead.

Who knows exactly where it might have ended… how the story might have played out, but I was reminded yet again to choose carefully because I am writing my own story, little adventures one at a time. I get to choose the ending. And quite frankly, I would like to be an apple that hasn’t fallen too far from the tree.

I haven’t stopped

It may have been ages since I have been posting on this platform, but, rest assured my need for being grateful has not diminished at all. In fact, with all the busy happenings in our world, I have actually been more reliant than ever on taking the time to fill out my ‘grateful list’ each day.

While all the activity that has had me running in circles has challenged my comfy day-to-day status quo, I have been pleasantly surprised at how I have coped amidst all the stress … not always my strong point … and I have put it down to Father’s grace and being more disciplined at actually putting my gratefulness down on paper. Well, pseudo paper. Daughter showed me her ‘Daylio’ app and I was hooked, paid the monies and installed it immediately on my phone. Talk about super easy. Can be filled in once a day or lots of small visits as the day unfolds, can be customised to suit each person and each of the departments in their lives, or help you track your way to better habits.

For me, it’s been a game-changer at helping me check in, not just every day but multiple times a day. Quickly.It’s kind of like a fancy star-chart. We know how motivating those can be for kids. Well, I guess this is a big kids version.

As one of its features there are templates that you can customise and fill in each day. Obviously, there is one for the ‘Things I am Grateful For”, but there is another called ‘Self Reflection’. Stopping to think about these questions, to stop in with myself for just a moment, has made all the difference. “What am I feeling right now?” What makes me hopeful? What makes me worried? What can I accept that I cannot Change? What does Father say about this? (My customised question as that is who I want to build my life around)

So amidst all the craziness and adventure, I’ve found myself remaining positive and focused. Able to concentrate on the good each day, address my emotions and not let those anxious little foxes in to steal my joy. No mean feat and for that I am very grateful!

Do you record your ‘grateful list’? Do you like to write it down on paper or do you have an app? Love to hear what you do… share in the comments.

Gardening of a Different Kind

“Make a list of the jobs you’d like some help with and I will give you four days over Easter to get as many as possible done”. What a gift!

It wasn’t hard to think of them. If I can chip away at something and do it myself, I will, but there are some jobs that I just don’t have the muscle power or height or whatever for. So, an offer like this is pure gold to me. A real love gift, because I am pretty sure that even though he really enjoys what I create in our garden, if he was left to himself he would find other ways to occupy himself on a precious long weekend off work.

True to his word, he gave me four days. We put up curtain rails in the studio and then hung the curtains. Neighbour’s hedges were trimmed and mulched. Piles of sods left over from previous excavations were removed.The list was long and with each one completed I felt such a joy to finally cross these things off my ‘to-do’ list. #grateful

On day four as we began to clean up from all our activities, he stopped and said, ” Why don’t you go and pick some flowers for inside before the rain comes. I’ll do the clean up.” Wow! What a gem of a guy! #grateful again!

I’ve looked at those flowers on the dining room table all week and seen, not just their beauty, but, also, someone’s very thoughtful gift to me. They’ve reminded me of the fun time we had doing four days of cleanup projects together. The being outside in the sun, stopping for a cuppa, dump runs… together. The laughter, conversations, building memories. They let me feel the love all over again.

“Let us be grateful to people

who make us happy; they are

the charming gardeners who

make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust (1871-1922) French Novelist

Writing this in appreciation of his wonderful gift to me, it makes me stop and think about how I have the responsibility and joy to be the ‘charming gardener’ who make his soul blossom as well. What parts of ‘me’ would make him happy? Am I sharing them? Am I giving gifts of love? And not just to him but to all the people in my world. Loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself, is what the whole law and commandments are about, right?!

It’s good to take a stocktake every now and again. Are their new gifts I could give? Things I could do? If I want my fruit trees to blossom big I need to feed and water them big. Little feeding gets little blossom… sad, but true. But when the blossom comes we ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ as we appreciate their beauty and have all the feels of satisfaction for our efforts. We do it because we like that kind of fruit and so we chose and planted it. We entered into a relationship with that fruit tree. The ‘hard work’ is now just beginning. Now we need to tend it. It’s the tending that gives us the fruit we desire.

So, I am off to have a cuppa and do a little pondering. I want to feel the fruit of love in my relationships. See what I need to add to my ‘to-do’ list, that he so kindly emptied for me. It’s just gardening of a different kind. πŸ™‚

Joy Sparkles

It’s not been a week of great events. Nothing out of the ordinary has really happened. Yet, I’ve found so much joy in seemingly insignificant things. The warm sun on my hand while driving. Autumn leaves swirling in the wind. The quiet.

In noticing it, I’ve begun to wonder if, when big events happen, our vision is overwhelmed by them and we miss out entirely on seeing the little things that colour our world. A bit like when an elephant is sitting on your lawn, you would be forgiven for not seeing the lawn daisies.

When the elephant is not there, you would be very normal to miss the elephant, wish the elephant was back, even pine for the wonder of the elephant. But in the process of having your mind consumed with the elephant you would be missing out on all the smaller, yet just as beautiful, joys. Like the wide open space or the daisies in the lawn.

Well, it’s been a week like that here. Space to breath a bit amidst the diaries activities. Less humans in the house for a few days. Time to just chill a bit. And in the quiet, which, in itself, is a HUGE joy in my books, I’ve found myself noticing all of these little things that have been real ‘stop you in your tracks’ moments with the wonder of them.

The wonder of the wind in the leaves kind of gets my insides all excited. It’s fascinating. And I am left with a ‘high’ almost, of joy sparkles. The light and warmth from the sun when it reaches my hand on a chilly morning. The kind deeds from those who didn’t have to but thought of helping you. Knowing that your boys and your darling dearest are having a wonderful time just enjoying each other’s company. Hearing that one of the highlights of their trip was buying a couple of pizza and going to the lake to skip stones together as the sun set.

These little things are often overlooked as things to be grateful for. But the gratitude and wonder for the smalls of life brings a world full of joy and sparkles that would be such a pity to miss out on. we are definitely richer for them. What are some of your favourite joy sparkles?

‘To My Dear and Loving Husband’

This week I heard about a mid-seventeenth century poet called Ann Bradstreet. Ann lived in the new world (now the United States of America) and was the first, not just woman but person, to have a book of poems published there.

In her book was a poem entitled ‘To my Dear and Loving Husband’.

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me, ye women, if you can.

I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.

Thy love is such I can no way repay;

The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.

Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,

That when we live no more, we may live ever.

I had to read this poem a few times, slowly line by line to let her meaning sink in. Part of it was probably the different rhythm and order of words, not to mention the quite flowery imagery. As one ponders each line an image I can grasp comes to light. She really loved and appreciated her husband. I am sure that living in those times life was not at all easy and having someone she could trust and admire to do life with must have been such a blessing to her. and here she is using her talent for words to show him her gratitude.

I don’t have her gift for being such a noteworthy wordsmith but I do share her deep gratitude for a wonderful partner. Sometimes in the daily living of life my gratitude is not found front and centre but reading a poem like this brings it back and makes me remember that I too have a dear and loving husband to do life with. I really am most blessed and most grateful.

She gets it right when she says that there is no way to ever repay his love. Getting the gift of love from someone else is a real treasure, and even more so when we know that they know all our warts and faults. When they still give us love that’s priceless. Abundant blessing from heaven is her request for him.

My ‘dear and loving husband’ flies home today. I have missed him. Perhaps that is why this poem is hitting the spot for me today and making all this gratefulness well up for the one I get to do life with. Do you ever get these overwhelming floods of appreciation for your partner and the gift they give you? For the life you get to build together, not necessarily perfect but unique and quirky to you two? Well, that’s me today loving and appreciating him. Looking forward to his return. And being incredibly grateful for the love we have. Safe travels home, my Love.

Horrified!

Yep, I was horrified when I looked back to see when my last blog post was.

September 2021!

Eeekkk! 6 months! Scary to see how much time has flown by.

Our world has been in a state of flux for some of that time with two kids coming home unexpectedly for a while between their adventures. Clearing out bedrooms to make space for all of their belongings to be added in. Even my precious studio has had the big rearrange so that son can have a space to continue working from home.

I now share my studio space with two VERRRY disciplined people. If I am being honest I would have to say that I stopped doing canvas work about the time of my last blog post due to sharing my space and not being very good at it. Although I like it tidy and organised, I do like to paint with music and noise humming away in the background. If the music grabs me you are just as likely to find me throwing down the brushes and picking up my viola for a play-a-long and dance session. ‘Whenever’ is a PERFECT time to get creative, whereas…

…I married my opposite , we produced another opposite and now both of those opposites have come to share my creative space. Don’t know if you can see any problem with that arrangement but from my perspective, it’s been a BIG challenge to learn to play nicely. Sometimes, I admit, I have just refused to play at all. Sometimes, I have thrown my toys out of the cot and let them know. Yes, you would be horrified! Eventually, though I have had to learn some hard truths about myself (like, I am who I am and He made me this way for a reason) and LEARN … yes, it’s a process which never ends … that I could be myself AND play nicely.

I am even having some thoughts float through my brain about learning from them. They are only with me for a season, right? Hubby will retire, son will move on to his next adventure, so for however long this season is, I might be able to learn a little of their diligence, discipline, and any other D-words that I have found daunting and distasteful in the past .

So, to that end, here I am again sharing my grateful drawings from this week (I have kept up diligently with those) and you may get some canvas work coming soon too. Just got to dust off the brushes and work on that discipline. So, adieu until next week …

Abundance

Abundance is “an amount that is more than enough” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Enough is ” as much as is necessary; in the amount or to the degree needed’. Wikipedia joins in and says that need is ‘something that is necessary for an organism to live a healthy life. Needs are distinguished from wants’. Can I have abundance despite my need?

Is abundance determined by how much money we have in the bank or how many clothes in our closet? Is it determined by the quality of food on our table? Is abundance determined by society?

The story goes that a young man was made redundant and after having paid all his bills had just $5 left with a wife and three little children to feed. He came home having spent the precious $5 on a bunch of flowers for his beloved. She, understandably, wasn’t too happy. I was one of those children and watched my dad have an attitude of abundance even in the midst of need. I saw something that day worth my admiration.

Eckhart Tolle said,

‘Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.’

What do you think? Perhaps abundance comes because our mind is transformed by the acknowledging. Reality /what is may not change at all, but our perspective changes. Our perspective is what makes all the difference. We begin to see the world through a different lens… a lens of good, of positivity, of openness, of abundance. Perhaps it is this attitude that gives us the platform from which to see the good in our lives?

Glass half empty or glass half full?

Joyful in Sorrow

While chatting she asked the question, ‘Can you be both sad and grateful at the same time?’.It’s been percolating on the back burner ever since. Can I be sad and grateful together? Can I be joyful in sorrow? They seem diametrically opposed, but are they?

Once upon a time I would have said a definite ‘no’, but life happens and we learn lots. I wonder now if there is a case to be sad and grateful at the same time. Could I not be sad that something had/was/ was going to happen, but grateful at the same time for the future outcome that would come through this? You would have to have practiced this art of being grateful so that it was a part of your brain functioning. You would have to be able to see beyond your sad emotion. Not all of us are good at not letting our emotions be all encompassing. It’s an art, for sure, especially for the more feeling driven ones amongst us (my peeps). But is it a possibility?

Our Friday Sabbath meal saw me pouring the grape juice into the crystal goblets when, BAM! I was overcome with emotion. (Just to say, this is NOT my norm where communion is concerned, but that’s a whole ‘nother story) Such sadness welled up at seeing the deep red juice flowing freely. Quite different to being handed a little cup already poured or taking a sip from a common cup. This was flowing. This was large. Life-like. How much blood would he really have lost? Not just a little sip worth. How much sadness and grief did He have that his blood separated into blood and water? How much pleading with Father the night before to let this cup pass from me? And yet…

“For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2)

Had He come to the Garden of Gethsemane with thanksgiving first? The Jewish faith is full of thanksgiving and blessings. He knew the psalms well, that talked about coming into His presence with thanksgiving and a joyful noise. Had He learnt this art of gratefulness well enough to enable Himself to see past the imminent pain of death to His mortal body. I wonder how He prayed? I wonder if there’s a time when, even when the sorrow is all encompassing and overwhelming, that God can see that we are looking to Him as our hope.

But wasn’t that Jesus cry ? “Eli. Eli. Lama Sabachthani?” “My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?” Was His hope gone? And yet the book of Hebrews tell us there must have been some joy that was set before Him. ‘For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross”.

Interestingly, the word Eucharist, which many parts of Christendom use for the partaking of bread and wine, comes from the Greek word ‘Eucharisteo’ meaning ‘thanksgiving’. That’s an interesting twist with our joy coming from His sorrow. Other names such as ‘The Lord’s Supper’, “Breaking of Bread’, or ‘Table of the Lord’ are easy to understand. The name ‘Communion’ comes from the word ‘communis’ or ‘common’. Common to all of us who are a part of the body of Christ. Those who share in accepting the redemption of our sins through Jesus’ sacrifice. My sins make me sorrowful. They make a wedge between me and Father. So, once again “For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross”. Was my joy part of what He saw?.

I do not pretend to know the answer to these ponderings. But in answer to her question, it would appear that yes, you can have joy and sorrow at the same time. You can be grateful in your sadness. You can train yourself to have a grateful outlook. You can move ahead in joy despite the grief assailing.

I see more lessons still to be learnt.