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The Happiness Factor – Get your Hygge On!

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My silly husband

Not only is today the first day of spring, it is recognized as Happiness Day around the world. What makes you happy?

For me, it’s

  • Long time friendships
  • Walks on the beach
  • Scubadiving, and chance dolphin encounters
  • Smiles, cuddles and purrs from my fur babies
  • The aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans
  • The taste of dark chocolate, so smooth and luscious
  • A waterfall rushing over my skin
  • The day I married outside my husband on the grounds of a beautiful mansion, the sunset, and the smells of a spring day.

This past weekend, CBS Sunday Morning televised a segment on the world’s happiest countries.

Apparently, Denmark has topped the charts for years. Their happiness factor stems from a state of mind called ‘hygge’ (pronounced hooga). Hygge, according to the Huffington Post is “drama-free togetherness time”. Danes believe that hygge is “we time, not me time”.

Some look at hygge as a barrier from the outside world – no conversations about politics, family issues, no complaining, no negativity, and no bragging. It’s a light-hearted interaction where people enjoy each other’s company over a meal or time together. It’s often considered shelter from the outside world.

But what would happen if we shut out social media for one day? We could compare our experience to being on a desolate island or a cabin in the woods, with no contact to the outside world.

My ‘hygge’ is evident in the list I shared above.

Here are five rules for hygge, taken from the Jessica Alexander’s, Huffington Post article “The Secret to Danish Happiness”.

  1. Come as you are.
  2. Forget the controversy.
  3. Think of yourself as a team member.
  4. See hygge as a shelter from the outside.
  5. Remember it is time limited.

Hygge is “a moment in time where everyone takes off their masks and leaves difficulties at the door, in order to appreciate the power of presence with others”.

My ‘hygge’ this weekend was spent with my husband strolling the halls of the Edgar Degas exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum in quiet solitude, savoring A butterscotch and hot fudge sundae at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, eating Mexican food, and sipping a Kaldi’s mocha cappuccino.

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And with my pooches, meandering our three acres, discovering the sights, the sounds, and the smells of nature.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you do, and what you say, are in harmony.”

~ Mahatma Gandi

Now go have a good day and spread the love!

Peace out,

Sheree

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The Four Trees of Christmas…..

DSC_1030 animals tree copryAs hubby and I stared at the boxes stacked on the shelves in our basement storage closet, he looked at me asking, “Which tree do you want to put up? The 7-footer or the 4- footer?”

“Neither.”

Somehow, putting up a big tree this year, didn’t seem that important.

A small green tree, about 2 feet high, partially decorated, rested on a storage box, with names of our fur babies. It needed some tender loving care. I carefully removed the tree, and set it outside the closet.

A 2 ½ foot tall white, snowy-covered pine tree (more trunk than branches) stood on the floor, decorated with red garland, next to a foot-high pine tree with burlap-sack covered base. I smiled gazing at the trees, and placed the two outside the closet.

On my favorite glass coffee table in the basement sat a mostly-brown, prelit tree with tiny cylindral-like lights at the branches tips. I lifted the tree, and placed it next to the other three trees.

Hubby assisted by carrying the boxes filled with ornaments to the dining room on the main floor.

The first tree, or ‘fur baby tree’, was missing some names of pets, past and present. Light aqua, pink and red ornaments caught my eye. I wrote the pet’s names in metallic permanent marker on the shiny glass balls until all fur babies were accounted for. I hung snowflake ornaments on the branches, and draped hot pink ribbons on the tree, which rested on a stark white window bench in my office.

The second tree – or marine life tree – was just for hubby and me. Although there begged too many ocean-themed ornaments to pick from, I carefully selected momentos such as the scuba diving ones – bees, reindeer, and people; glass fish ornaments given to me by friends and family; a handcrafted stained glass scallop shell made in Charleston, and a couple ships in a bottle. This bright, happy tree rested on the modern Danish buffet table in the dining room.

DSC_1037 sea life tree crop copryI draped a red tablecloth dotted with a black tree pattern, on a small round glass table situated near the French doors in the kitchen. The location was perfect overlooking our backyard, trees, and the field beyond.

On this table, I placed the skinny white snow-covered and meek burlap-based trees next to each other. At the base of the white tree, I leaned a ‘nativity’ matchbox scene, gifted to my husband by a friend at Starbucks. In front of the tiny nativity scene, I placed the Willow Tree angel nativity scene – Joseph, Mary with baby Jesus, a shepherd holding a sheep, and the ox and two lamb. These trees were for Jesus.

DSC_1038 jesus tree cropAnd although we didn’t have a huge artificial masterpiece with treetop touching the ceiling, the simplicity of the four trees became meaningful – each in their own way.

So Christmas isn’t about the ‘stuff’, it’s about what’s deep down in your hearts.

It’s about thanking God for everything he’s done for us, and giving up his SON for our sins.

It’s not about US.

It’s about paying it forward to others – in the form of a cup of coffee, opening a door for someone, helping them out with their medical bills, saying a kind word – whatever you can manage.

There’s a poem I discovered online called “The True Meaning of Christmas” by M. S. Lowndes. I’d like to share it with you. Please enjoy.

Jesus Christ was born this day
So many years before
He came a servant to the lost,

Though he was Lord of Lords
We celebrate this joyous time,
Reflecting on His birth
Not born in a mansion, but a stable
As if He had no worth
He came so He could identify
With the human heart of man
And gave His life as a sacrifice,
Offering a better plan
A plan that reconciles us back
To our loving Father God,
Bringing hope and redemption from
Sins ruling, iron rod
For this is the only reason that we
Should celebrate this day,
To become focused on anything else,
Would take the meaning away
So let’s arise with joy in our hearts
And share it with everyone
The meaning of Christmas will always be
The birth of Jesus – God’s son

“A Sudden Light” Garth Stein STL booksigning, and some heart and soul

The same night my favorite fiction author and NYT bestseller, Garth Stein, was hosting a booksigning at the St. Louis County Library, I was one of 65 authors hosting a multi-author booksigning at a local library.

DSC_1014 Garth crop copyrCall it it a ‘gut feeling’, call it what you may, but I was been tugged in the direction of the Garth Stein event. My heart and soul wanted me there.

I told few friends about the Garth Stein event.

One such friend, Diana, met me at the library. Diana’s love of authors (in general) amazes me. It probably far surpasses mine, since I’m zoned in to certain genres. Not Diana. She’s like a cat, wide-eyed, adventurous and eager to learn about all. I’d thought she’d appreciate this booksigning.

As we settled into our seats with our new purchase, A Sudden Light, we anxiously awaited Garth’s arrival.  As I spun around, I eyed probably at least a 100 people or more.

DSC_1017 Garth smiling crop copyrAs Garth entered and took the microphone, the room became quiet.  As he spoke, I was captivated by his quick wit, and charming personality.

He mentioned how his first 2 books won awards.  In spite of the accolades, he didn’t sell many copies.  His next manuscript was told from the perspective of a dog (smarter than humans, of course) which was soon nixed by his literary agent.

Garth fired him over the phone.

By coincidence, Garth found another agent through an author friend at a networking event. This agent believed in Garth and loved the book’s concept. The Art of Racing in the Rain went on to sell more than 4 million copies, and stayed on the NYT bestsellers list for over 3 years. Garth took time to properly market the book, traveling and speaking about the book’s message and purpose.

In his new release, A Sudden Light, Garth promised this book to be even better than The Art of Racing in the Rain.

When the opportunity presented itself to ask questions of Garth, I jumped at the chance.

“Why did it take so long between books?”

DSC_1019 Garth crop copyrGarth explained that he tried to write the book where the protagonist flashes back to different time periods, and it just wasn’t working. His wife — his best editor and critic, suggested he write the book in chronological order.

Garth went on to pen more than 100,000 words, which took more than 2.5 years. Those years were spent in character development and history — basically the family tree of A Sudden Light.  After this undertaking was complete, then and only then, could he begin the actual story.

Wow. I was blown away. Now that’s an author that stands above the rest in my mind! Not worried about the almighty dollar, not worried about what others think. Just following his heart to know what he feels to be right. He’s also cofounder of Seattle7Writers, a non-profit dedicated to getting books to those in need.

I supposed that’s why I enjoyed The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s my favorite fiction read.

Garth said, “If just one person is touched by what he reads, then I’m happy and I’ve done a good job.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it!”

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After his talk, Garth autographed books, and exchanged words with his fans.

Diana and I headed to a local restaurant for dinner, and chatted about the fun evening. During dinner, I opened my copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain and turned to the page Garth signed.

I smiled as I read the words, “Sheree, somewhere the zebra is dancing.”

That he is, Garth, that he is….

 

 

Sorry I’ve been away for so long…..some quotes on love

I just looked at my blog posts, and it occurred to me I’ve been neglecting my readers and followers.

Sorry I’ve been away for so long.  Life has been challenging lately.

So rather than ramble on for countless paragraphs, I’ll keep it short today and leave you with some quotes on love.

Love in Relationships –

There’s one sad truth in life I’ve found
While journeying east and west –
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.”
~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

In the end, who among us does not choose to be a little less right to be a little less lonely.” ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com

As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn’t supposed to ever let you down probably will. You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it’s harder every time. You’ll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken. You’ll fight with your best friend. You’ll blame a new love for things an old one did. You’ll cry because time is passing too fast, and you’ll eventually lose someone you love. “~Author Unknown

Love in Marriage –

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person”. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966

A dress that zips up the back will bring a husband and wife together. ” ~James H. Boren

“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” ~Phyllis Diller, Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints, 1966

Love in Families –

“Families are like fudge — mostly sweet with a few nuts.”  ~Author Unknown

“In a household of toddlers and pets, we discover this rule of thumb about happy families — that they are least two-thirds incontinent.”  ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com

And finally

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”  ~Mother Teresa

Now go have a good day!

Love and Hugs,

Sheree

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When a White Dove Crosses Your Path

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After a wonderful afternoon strolling Main Street St. Charles with hubby, Russell, and our two canine children, we made the trek home in our SUV on I-70.  Russell cast his eyes to the sky and a perfect white dove flew overhead.  The dove, immediately in our line of sight, crossed paths at the specific moment we were traveling down the highway.

Coincidence.  Maybe?  Or Maybe not.

This stirred up memories of a service at O’Fallon Christian Church many years ago.  I’d been searching for a church for several months – one my husband and I could attend together.  The service was uplifting with joyful music.  Listening to the song, “I Surrender”, the Holy Spirit filled me with an unexplained emotion and vulnerability.  I was baptized shortly after.

Over the last few days, a series of events happened – my husband lost his aunt due to a heart attack, it was suggested I get a biopsy for a recently diagnosed medical condition, and the stress of working on my book caught up with me.

After seeing the dove, I felt calmness throughout my body, and peace.  God was telling everything was going to be just fine.

Wikianswers gives this explanation:

“A white dove in your path is not by coincidence. Your awareness of its presence, calmness and beauty is also a gift. You were meant to see this dove to remind you to focus on the peace you have in your heart and that is always present all around you, and in your life.”

Wikipedia says,  “In Christian Iconography, a dove also symbolizes the Holy Spirit, in reference to Matthew 3:16 and Luke 3:22 where the Holy Spirit is compared to a dove at the Baptism of Jesus. The early Christians in Rome incorporated into their funerary art the image of a dove carrying an olive branch, often accompanied by the word “Peace”. It seems that they derived this image from the simile in the Gospels, combining it with the symbol of the olive branch, which had been used to represent peace by the Greeks and Romans. The dove and olive branch also appeared in Christian images of Noah’s ark…”

So no matter what the explanation, my thoughts turned to God at the sight of the dove, and that’s what’s important.

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and all your soul.   Proverbs 3:5

A Strange Morning

I awake to the beeping sound blasting from my alarm clock, and with peepers still closed, my hand smacks the snooze button with as much force as a contestant on the game show Jeopardy.

Laying in the fetal position, my right eye opens slowly.  I find a three-legged cat perched atop my pillowcase, staring at me.  The pooch whines and nudges the palm of my hand to stroke her silky fur as front paws inch closer to me on the mattress.   Lifting the other eyelid, I notice a fat black cat using the crest of my left hip like Mt. Everest, which she has flagged and conquered.  “Meow” she regales demanding her food.

Closing both eyes, I refuse to recognize the angelic creatures requiring my attention.  My Aussie sees this as an opportunity for affection.

“Dog Germs!” I yell out in Lucy Van Pelt fashion, as a warm wet tongue licks the inside of my mouth.  Visions of Snoopy dance in my head.  Charles Schultz would be proud.

Jumping up, I head to the bathroom and search for some Scope to sterilize, but this action is pre-empted by fishing a small unrecognizable (dead) bug out the aforementioned orifice.  Gross (I think to myself).

While glowering at the woman’s face staring back at me in the mirror, I recall the dream I had last night.

In the dream, Cory, a Wentzville Starbucks barista, was brilliant as the activity director of a popular ocean liner cruising the Caribbean.  Cory ensured our time spent on and off the ship was fun and entertaining.   On a day excursion, four couples, including my husband and I, sunbathed and picnicked on a deserted island.  The ship’s dinghy was three hours late on the return trip – so I guess you could say we were stranded – for a little while.

I record this information in my subconscious and remember to share this with Cory the next time I see him at Starbucks.

Much closer to the mirror now, I examine the facial lines and wrinkles and remove traces of balled-up mascara from the corners of my eyes.

Lowering my derriere, I straddle the porcelain commode.  My curious canine approaches and sniffs, then with precision agility, backs away.

I can’t help but think it’s been a strange morning and I wonder…what the heck did I eat last night?