Makes Me Happy Monday : Starlings

One day, I hope to see a murmuration of starlings like THIS!!

But, for now … I am simply happy to come across a flock of birds
dining together,
traveling together,
perching together.

I’m not sure if these birds are starlings, grackles or black birds. 
I wasn’t close enough to be able to figure them out.
What I do know, is I love to watch flocks of birds interact with each other.

#birdsonawire Starlings

I love how they perch on wires with the majority of the birds equidistant apart.
They’re much like people, I guess.
They have a comfort bubble when it comes to personal space?


#birdsonawire Starlings

I relish spring when Robins flock together
and when Canada Geese return
flying in a V across crisp blue skies.

And I enjoy watching flocks of birds in the fall
as they rest together
in preparation for flight.

#birdsonawire Starlings

Flocks of birds
and approaching fall bring me joy
as we close out the month of August.

What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Being Remembered

I love lichen.
In fact, I have a Pinterest board (here) dedicated specifically to lichen and mushrooms.

I often wonder w.h.y I love something …
or w.h.y someone else loves something.

What is it that draws me to this? What intrigues you about that?
What makes you turn away? What rattles the cage of my soul?
And most importantly, w.h.y?

lichen on mailboxesWhen I’m out and about
hiking or camping … or just living my everyday life …
I often stop to take photos of lichen.
lichen on a mailboxBecause lichen is often found on rocks or bricks, I’ve always had in my head that it grows slowly. Maybe that’s the draw for me. I’m a slow processor, slow thinker, slow runner and slow reader. I do most things slowly. I find, if I move with too much speed, I end up making a mess …
or worse, I miss the enjoyment of doing what I’m doing
because I’m rushing to finish.
When I was young and move into “hurry-mode,” my dad would tell me “SLOW down.”
I still hear his voice when I let myself become rushed.
IMG_4580

It seems like speed is good in emergency situations involving fire and blood,
but most other times, I choose to take the longer, more ambling rate of speed.

lichen on moss

Yet, I’m thinking my idea of “slow growth” doesn’t hold much credibility
since lichen can be found on young pinecones …
lichen on pinecones

and new branches of a tree.
lichen on limbsI do know there is credibility to the fact that lichen thrive in moisture.
Maybe that’s why I love them. My skin is so dry that I love humid weather.
Summers in the south are my favorite – yes, all the way up in the 90’s and near 100’s –
because the humidity keeps my skin happy and a little more supple.

lichen on bricks of cemetery wall on the property

My kids know me well. They know of my adoration of
rocks and trees, lichen and mushrooms.
But having someone know you isn’t quite the same as
having someone share with you that you were remembered.

Not so many months ago, Glory went over to St. Helena Island (SC) to visit a friend.
They stayed on ancient property on the edge of marsh and beach
where the wind blows salty, humid
and the trees offer songs of cicadas in the sweltering summer sun.
As she walked this property with tremendous, sturdy boughs
of behemoth muscular oaks draped in heavy Spanish moss,
she snapped a photo of the old wooden clothesline frame
that wears lichen like an antique cotton bathrobe, worn and comfortable.

Clothesline draped in lichen, St. Helena Island, SC

By the time the image loaded fully on my phone, tears had welled up in my eyes. That beautiful, sturdy center brace on the clothesline stood strong after years of weather. The rich green in the lichen dappled in sunlight said the elderly arms on these braces had held tons of clean laundry to whip dry in the brackish air.

They spoke to me
of an earlier time
when people found value in face to face conversations
on the front porch on weekend evenings
and took timely care of one another
when sickness or frailty made daily responsibilities more difficult.
They spoke to me of being known throughout the county
because people built a life and constructed a home
and stayed in one place for decades.

Lichen on a clothesline at St. Helena Island, SC

As much as the lichen spoke as it held onto that bare wood,
the images on my screen also spoke …
of being seen, known and understood.
They said, “You are remembered.”
They said, “I know you well enough
that I am reminded of you
in my coming and my going … in my living my life.”

And being known makes me happy.
I no longer need to be understood by all …
but like most, I want to be known – to be remembered – by at least a few.

I have a goal to begin to write letters again. I used to write them often.
But, the last few years have been so absorbed
with caring for and repairing my home
and then culling and packing twenty-five years worth of life
that letter writing has taken a back-burner.
By year’s end, I hope to move back to
card stock, patterned paper and words scribed on ivory
that speak of knowing, remembering and loving. Card design credit goes to Julie Ebersole Lichen
and being remembered
make me happy today.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Painted Boots – I’m ready for Fall!

Back a year and a half ago when Glory was downsizing and cleaning things out, she let me pull a wallet out of her Goodwill donation pile. I wanted to try my hand at painting patterns on leather.

Click over here and you can see the finished product on my Instagram feed.

I’ve been really pleased with how well the leather has held the paint …
sooooo … I wanted to try my hand at a pair of boots.

You can click over here to see this awesome pair of boots that I picked up back a few months ago. They’re Bedstu brand so they should last forever and a day. I bought them with the intention of following through on my paint challenge.

I wanted to show you these because I’m so excited!
BedStu handpainted boots

Like most of my pattern projects, I wanted a different pattern and color combination on each area.

BedStu handpainted boots

So, colors are similar but patterns don’t repeat anywhere.

BedStu handpainted boots BedStu handpainted boots

I love the little flowers that are hiding on the boot tongue. BedStu handpainted boots - detail

I think I’ll polish them often to protect the paint. I’m hoping they’ll hold up well!

BedStu handpainted boots

I’ve  made some major wardrobe changes this year and now only wear my browns and autumn colors in the fall and winter. Finishing these boots makes me look forward to the change from my black and white summer clothes to autumn!!


BedStu handpainted boots

I used basic acrylic paint like I use on painting any canvas. I applied the paint to a clean surface. And I just freehanded the patterns as I moved around the boots.

BedStu handpainted boots

I don’t mind telling you I’m pretty excited about these!

Have you ever tried painting on leather? Do you have any suggestions to offer?

Thanks for reading!

Makes Me Happy Monday : Gifts of Encouragement

I made a young, new friend last weekend. I found myself helping clean her house as she moved things from her parent’s home to her new home. Watching her interact with her mama made me think of my relationship Glory. She was so excited to show her mom her new house with hardwood flooring and ancient lighting. She bounced from room to room. “Mom, look at this!” “Don’t you just love that!”  “This reminds me of the cabin in the mountains!!” “Look! That looks like the chandelier at grandma’s house!” Owl Mug

The house was built around the same time that our Montclair house was built. Being there made me remember how much I miss it. I miss the halls that are wide and the floors that are beautifully worn. I miss walls that can be painted and ceilings that are high. I miss the quality craftsmanship of a home built before the 70’s housing boom where quality building material and attention to detail became expendable rather than expected. Owl Mug Ann’s parents are divorcing. I saw the awkward in the family as they interacted … tense and careful.  All the children are going in different directions. Everybody is moving out at the same time as they sell the 6000 sq ft home that they shared.

And again, I thought of Glory.

The only tears that were shed when we moved from our home of ten years – the only home we owned in her life time – came from her. She was living in Dallas and came home often. In our old house, there was plenty of room for her. She brought her cat, because we had space to spare. She brought friends from time to time. There was always space for one more. I never turned down a visitor.

Things are different now. I moved into a home with two bedrooms; one for me and one for my youngest. Anybody else who sleeps here, has to sleep on the floor. If my kids get married and come from out-of-town for a visit, there will be no place for them. When there are grandchildren, there will be no welcoming spot at Grandma’s house. I have to admit that this is the hardest part of my downsize.
But, it is what I had to do …
and it is what it is.

And Glory knew this would be the case. As we spoke on the phone the day I explained that I had to move, she got still and quiet. I could hear the sniffles. I asked, “Are you okay?”  She responded, “It’s just hard … because I’ll be homeless.” I knew exactly what she meant. She was not talking about literally having no place to sleep at night that was hers. She had her own apartment in Dallas. She was talking more about a magnet that I gave her when she moved away. It says, “Home is where your mom is.”

I would be in a place that couldn’t embrace her the way I always had. She would have no welcoming family home where everybody could gather … a place to bring friends that was spacious and welcoming.

Owl Mug

As Ann unpacked her belongings, she plopped a basket on the kitchen counter that had the cutest little owl kitchen towel and oven mitt. She mentioned that she loved owls as she hung the towel over the oven door bar and then scurried away to keep unloading.

So, when I was out shopping over the weekend for a gift for a friend, I came across this precious mug.
I threw it in my basket for Ann.

Growing up is hard work. Divorce is devastating. Moving is exhausting.
If I can spend a few dollars to bring a ray of sunshine into the life of a friend
who is going through a lot,
I want to do it.

I’ll wash and spiff this mug,
(I just had to try it out!!)
add a little cheerful tag
and leave it on her doorstep tomorrow when I am in town.

It makes me happy
and brings me great joy
to know that I can offer a little something to encourage a new friend.
What about you?  What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?
Owl Mug

Makes Me Happy Monday : Skin Comfort & Lace Socks

The first time I wore my lace socks with a dress, I was apprehensive. I knew it was a little bit out of the ordinary for a fifty year old woman … but I wanted to wear them any way.

I’ll have to admit I was a little bit uncomfortable that day …
NOT because I didn’t like the look …
but because I knew other people might not like it.

Lace socks and lace-up boots

Fast forward three years, I wear my socks and boots at least once a week.
I wear them with skirts, dresses and shorts.

And they make me so happy. My lace socks & bootsThey make me happy, in part,
because of what they represent.
They represent a sloughing away of
people pleasing. 

Sometimes I think, “Damn, this took a long time.”
I mean, uhm ….. I’m over fifty years old, for heaven’s sake!
Should it really take THIS long to get comfortable with yourself and be emotionally healthy?

We are all built different. Depending on our personality type, we struggle in different areas. I am highly empathetic, I care about other people’s feelings, motivations and desires .. and so, I care if they are mad at me, don’t like me or are hurt by me. The problem with this character trait is it causes us to put others feelings, motivations and desires above our own to a point that, we lose ourselves in trying to keep everybody around us comfortable. #disaster

Praise God, I’m not longer in an co-dependent, enabling relationship that keeps me fettered, smothered and witholding. I am learning to create healthy boundaries and not allow myself to be bullied or influenced in ways that are unhealthy for me.

"I was looking for someone to inspire me, motivate me, support me, keep me focused; someone who would effectively love me, cherish me, make me happy. Then I realized that all along I was looking for myself. ~ Alex " (Seen on @oceana_bze this morning.) Ya know, we all have a void and an emptiness that too many of us try to fill with people. We try to please our spouse, our parents, our friends, our lover, our boss, our children, our bully, our hater. But no two people have the same expectations. In pleasing people, we lose ourselves. Stop the pleasing. Look to God to fill our void and just be yourself. (You don't even have to perform to "earn" His love. He created you. He knows your messes. He loves when you're your genuine self …. and amazingly even when you wear a mask ) Be real. Be honest. Be authentic. Whoever you are, be that! Love yourself for who you were created to be RATHER THAN who you THINK someone else wants you to be. Be yourself and in doing that, you'll be grand. People that are grand are very easy to love.

A photo posted by @karen_lee_cason on

My fun lacy socks, my awesome leather boots and my learning to love myself
make me so happy today!
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Wild Flowers

Planned, tended gardens are beautiful.
But, there is something so lovely about the surprise of wildflowers.
When you least expect it, you round a bend of a meandering path
and find the surprise of blooming joy.

There are those plants that spring from seeds
that find a way to spread their roots into the impossible …
the rocky, solid and difficult to penetrate
and they bloom bold color and vivid greenery.
They defy what looks natural
by offering joy in the most unlikely of places.
Wildflower

I love their surprise and adaptability.
I love their haphazard presence … a few here ….
and then several hundred there.

Wildflower
The roadside near my campsite this weekend was fully peppered with spots of yellow.
Dozens of blooms buzzed with insects and blew in the gentle evening breeze.

Wild flowers at Victoria Bryant State Park

I was so happy to see them …
these stems and petals, stamens and pistils, blossoms and buds
reminding me of the beauty of life
available for us to soak in
when we slow down enough to see it.
We must look for it. Hunt for it.
Make time for it. A little Black eyed Susan?
There is such great peace found in wild simplicity ….
allowing yourself to become rooted even when it takes a little extra effort.
There is great joy that comes from doing what you’re born to do.
Like the wildflower, we have a Great Husbandman who will tend us and care for us
like no other can do.
The beauty of being alone is relying on Him
to be our caretaker and provider.

Remembering the gorgeous wildflowers from my weekend
makes me so very happy today.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

 

Makes Me Happy Monday : Still Water

I’ve really struggled over the past few years. I’ve been very still and very hidden.
If I don’t move, I won’t be noticed.
If I don’t speak, no one will argue with me.
If I don’t write/photograph/share/blog, I cannot be attacked.

N.o.n.e of those tactics proved to be effective, but I continued try to make them work.

During this time, I had a completely, devastating realization about relationships. One small remark (that I mentioned here)  really changed my perspective of how I see others and gave me an unwanted realization of how others see me.
The words were simple and quick …
but they completely, fully and totally pulled the rug out from under my life.
The person who spoke them has no idea that they literally changed my life.

Before the move from my mortgaged, large home of ten years to a smaller home I am renting, the stress of being in charge of everything was daunting. Knowing that I was fully responsible for anything that broke, cracked or failed in the house and that I had absolutely no buffer of money and limited repair skills kept me tense.

I am finally covered with medical insurance. I have been covered my entire life … but my divorce meant a severing of that protection. With my new policy has come the ability to have a recent CT scan to compare to the one I had last year while hospitalized. It that showed that the undiagnosable sack on my lung … has not grown over the last year. WHAT a relief.
It is not gone. But, it has not grown.

And watching my sweet, beautiful van slowly become feeble kept me from traveling. In the past three years,  I’ve taken just a few trips. None of those were in my vehicle.  I have made some wonderful memories, but I have had no “camping therapy” at all … because I couldn’t drive more than thirty minutes from home.

I’m working through the friendship devastation.
I have moved from the house.
I am covered medically. If I have a catastrophic illness, I am covered.
And I have a new-to-me vehicle. Clarks Hill / Lake Thurmond morning

As these things have changed, I am feeling the relief.
I have felt the calm within my soul during the storm
as my Savior kept my boat steady, but the waters were tumultuous
and the wind blew wildly fierce.
Without warning, the gale would change direction
or a new obstacle would arise.
It has been hard, but graciously strengthening.

But of late, I am feeling slightly better.
With the changes in life’s situation have come this wisp of energy
to adventure out farther, reach out just a little and explore.

Saturday was spent at a picnic with some church friends. We shared fried chicken, pasta salads and all sorts of fresh fruit. We watched six beautiful souls step into the lake and be “buried with Christ”  and arise soaked from head to toe, praising God for the symbol of new life, Holy Spirit power and renewal through baptism.

After the baptisms, I walked the edge of the lake to find solitude and treasures.

Feather amongst the rocks

I came across beautiful sticks that drew my admiration, but I had no way to collect them.  When a friend mentioned he was going back to the lake to fish Sunday morning, I asked if I could tag along and forage for wood while he spent time casting his reel.

Lake Thurmond / Clarks Hill Lake We arrived before sun up and got the boat on the water just in time to watch orange ripple on the water.
The water was slick like glass
and clear enough to see the sandy topography below.
It was wonderful. It was soothing, therapeutic and cleansing.
And the memory will go with me through the week
of soft ripples, cool water, good conversation and a renewed interest in traversing.

Sometimes we adventure, explore and fellowship.
Sometimes we sit still, gather our thoughts and process.
No matter where you are in your walk through this life,
embrace the place.

I embraced my time of retreat while life felt out-of-control stormy
and I am thankful to be transitioning to a place with more ease of spirit.
I am so happy to have started my week with a morning
paddling about on calm, still water.
Enjoy the beauty while it is present. Bask in serenity when it is available.
Because … we truly never know what storm may  be around the corner.

Still water makes me happy.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Growth

wild fern

Sunday morning
a few weeks ago
I took a walk around the property where I am now living.
I set out early … just after the sun rose.

The weekend that we made the bedroom-furniture transfer
from the old house to the new one
is the weekend that we topped the hill above our property
to find several fire trucks battling a fire
that had jumped the fire pit and was raging through the pines.
Even though the fire was legal with a burn permit,
sometimes nature has mind of its own.
Such was the case that morning.
A quick response from the fire team
and the fact that the fire pit is far from inhabited buildings
allowed the fire to be extinguished without much harm.

charred woods

And the beauty that has sprung up since that morning
awes me.

If you look closely, you can see the tiny sprigs of green new life below.
wild fern after the fireWhen I look back on that morning that I wandered in worship,
I remember that I didn’t wonder about the classification of those wisps of life
stretching from the charred earth.
I didn’t even wonder “What are those little plants?”

In retrospect, that strikes me as odd.
I always wonder … and question.
I guess I was so taken by all the beauty … I just accepted it and soaked it all in without questioning.

I even photographed a few of the curls of vegetation.

Unfurling

This week, I had a chance to visit with my sweet landlord as she tended the fire pit
overseeing a month’s worth of brush turn to ash.

We sat for a good hour and chatted children and grandchildren,
spouses and exes,
gardening, investments and poor customer service skills.

Before heading back home,
she drew my attention to the patch of ferns that had sprung up
amongst the pines. wild fern

HOW had I missed them?
All of those curls of green
were ferns, now tall and full.

The green was striking against the background of blackened trees
and the amber carpet of pine straw.

As I walked home,
I thought about how life is so cyclic …
death and rebirth
injury and healing
winter and spring
questioning and answering.

Sometimes we have to sit in the tough places for longer than we would like.
Sometimes we walk through grief for longer than others understand.
Sometimes the distance between injury and healing feels endless.

But, be encouraged.
Today is a new day.
Rebirth is coming.
Healing is near.
Spring is beginning.
Answers can be found.
Even when we don’t stop to wonder and question,
answers will come.
In time.

Your walk through struggle and grief is yours.
Nobody gets to tell you “Get over it,”
“Move on” or “Forget about it.”
This is YOUR life. These are YOUR experiences.
If it takes you a little longer than other people to process and work through your pains,
that’s okay.
Other people want to rush you because they know they can’t “fix” it for you
and it makes them uncomfortable.
Or they know they’ve caused the pain and they feel guilt.
Or they don’t deal with their own messes so they don’t want to watch you deal with yours.
Well, you don’t have to hide your pain
in order to make other people comfortable.
You take your time. Walk through it. Look at it. Work it out.
Like the fern pushing through the blackened earth
unfurling towards the light,
there is a newness and a freshness coming.
You take as long as you need.
I encourage you to give yourself that permission.

Because it is better to walk through it
than look the other way
and act as if the pain is not there at all.

This morning and every morning, growth makes me happy.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

– Makes Me Happy Monday : Mistletoe

Oak out my kitchen window
There is a wonderful, stately oak tree in the backyard at the old house.  You could see him out the kitchen window. He has HUGE, strong limbs that held up well against the blustery spring days of the past and the weight of a layer of ice in last year’s storm.

Mistletoe in the oak

In the spring, I would often go outside and lie down on the driveway for a few moments
when the intense warmth from the sun on my face felt like a stranger
and the chill of the pavement on my back offered great contrast.
I would look up through those beautiful branches
and find myself squinting … my eyes surprised by the intensity of light
after a long, dark winter.
How quickly clouds would roll past.
How unfamiliar was the crisp, blueness of the sky.

And at least once a winter,
the oak would offer me a substantial cutting of mistletoe
placed in my walking path
right there on the ground so I couldn’t miss it.

Careful not to dislodge the waxy, pearl berries,
I would gently bring it into the house
find a “Christmas vase”
and call it an arrangement.

Mistletoe in a "vase"

Mistletoe has always reminded me of south Georgia.
The pecan trees hide the orbs of green through the lush summer,
but Oh, Fall!
Those parasitic plants are revealed
when the trees become bare.

Wiki says that mistletoe is not native to America. And it explains that mistletoe requires a host plant.  It buries roots into the limbs of a host plant and then draws nutrients and water from the tree or shrub. And in some cases, the limb upon which it plants itself can eventually lose circulation and die.  So, in more ways than one, it is an uninvited invader to our area and to the plant it thrives upon.

And yet it is beautiful  … at least in my eyes.

The balls of life dot the tree canopies across thousands of acres during those cold months when most life that bears a bark overcoat is barren and slumbering. They cling tight in the frigid, blustery air of winter and offer fresh berries to birds and other foragers. And they remind me of the symbol of Christmas festivity – to offer a kiss when you stand beneath a sprig.

Not far from our new home,
I spied a tree full of mistletoe.

My heart sighed with joy.
God knows how I love mistletoe.
And like a gateway tree welcoming us to our new home,
I drove past this tree time and again
when we first visited
and later began to move our belongings
just around the corner.

Mistletoe

These two photos were taken less than two weeks apart during mid March.

Mistletoe

And as I drove past this morning with the sun barely over the horizon?
The mistletoe is nearly completely hidden.
The tree’s new leaves are a fresh, spring green … just moving past wildly iridescent …
while the parasitic plant is a deep, saturated jungle green.
The tree is filling in with leaves on every branch and limb.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....  I thought about how there are times when life is so full of growth
that we no longer notice the parasite who has the potential to cause damage.

He is covered, disguised and hidden.
He lingers there nourishing and growing
while we hardly notice his presence.

Wiki also points out that mistletoe has long been considered harmful to its host plant, but recent studies have revealed that it offers many benefits. Many animals eat the berries, shoots and leaves of the mistletoe plant. Their orbs provide protection for some animals during winter and others nest in them. Some animals that are drawn to the plant, become covered in pollen from the host. Later, these animals carry that pollen to other host plants, so the mistletoe actually encourages pollination of his host.

I am so reminded how our pains and discomfort can bring good.
When someone comes into our life that puts down roots
and steals what we feel is OUR nourishment,
they may simultaneously be beneficial to our lives
in ways that we might not expect.
In the end, we may feel like we have “lost a limb” because of their presence,
but searching can show us ways that we have benefitted from their stay
or that others have grown and reproduced via their intrusion.

It isn’t always pretty
when we are used as a host,
but if we search
we can find ways to see
how our loss
can also be the channel used
for gain, good and glory.

And, to be truthful,
in the end
we may find that
the “loss of a limb”
was a small price to pay
for the good that came
and also a small price to pay
to have them finally out of our lives.

I love mistletoe!
Mistletoe brings me joy.
What about you?
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?