Category Archives: Gratitude

From rosebud to rose hip: aging gracefully

“Perimenopausal women can be likened to the full-blown rose of the summer and fall, as it begins to transform itself into a bright, juicy rose hip—the part of the rose that contains the seeds from which hundreds of other potential roses can grow.” —Christiane Northrup from The Wisdom of Menopause

Photo by Raye Smith

Photo by Raye Smith

Today is my birthday, and the number attached to this birthday fits with the quote above. The rosebud stage of my life is long past; I am the full-blown rose of late summer.

Because our culture in the west tends to worship the “rosebud” stage of development—the lithe and agile, and the wrinkle-free—some people don’t like to celebrate birthdays at this stage of life. Out of fear, they deny the passing of the years.

Not I.

I shout to the mountain tops. I jump up and down. I smile and celebrate with joy the many gifts that my fifty-plus years have presented to me. I look to the future with curiosity. What other fun things are going to happen to me?

“. . .  any attempt to remain in the rosebud stage tends to look desperate and ridiculous. It’s like trying to reglue the autumn leaves back onto the tree and them paint them green to simulate the spring. It simply doesn’t work. Instead, our task is to come to appreciate the beauty and power of the season we are in, instead of longing for what can no longer be.” —Christiane Northrup from The Wisdom of Menopause

When we worship only the beauty of youth, we miss the beauty found in later years. As Christiane Northrup points out, attempts to “reglue the autumn leaves back onto the tree” doesn’t work, and usually looks sad and ridiculous.

It is our task—my task—to own the beauty of the full-blown late summer rose and to nurture seeds of potential for others.


The difference between happy and glowing: Giving

This past week I had the privilege of writing an article about a woman from my church. Jean volunteers for a long list of organizations, giving to others in different ways. As she bakes, delivers meals to seniors, quilts, and tackles her many other labours of love, she glows with energy and good spirit. When I asked her why she does all she does, she said, “It makes me feel good. I get back so much more than I give.”

Another friend of mine volunteers for Canadian Red Cross. He supports people in need in his own community, and he travels to countries in crisis around the globe. When he speaks of this work, he glows. “I get back so much more than I give,” he says.

I have heard that refrain over and over in my life, from people aglow with the joy of hands-on giving.

After my conversation with Jean, I thought about other people I know who have stable jobs and who probably give to charity, but who don’t give of themselves in a close contact way. They golf every Saturday, or they enjoy fine dining, or they spend most weekends at their cottage.

I would never say these people aren’t happy. If I were to ask them if they are happy, they would say yes. What is the difference then?

The difference is the glow: The merely happy people pass through life content; the others glow with a giving contact high.

The question then: Do I want to be merely happy, or do I want to glow?

Mud-splattered and glowing in Bolivia

Arlene – Mud-splattered and glowing on a Habitat for Humanity build in Bolivia



Thinking greater than we feel

happy-endingSuccessful people achieve their goals by never accepting that things are going to stay the same way they are now.

When I read biographies or autobiographies of people I admire, I find that as a consistent theme. Every person I now see as special, or heroic, or powerful was ordinary. The people who now get the best seats in restaurants or invites to celebrity parties used to walk down streets unnoticed, were once fired from jobs or rejected from sports teams. Every one of those people, at some point in their lives, was made to feel “not good enough.”

They didn’t buy it.

In their mind’s eye, they saw their lives as greater than what they were at the time. Oprah Winfrey, a poor, black abused child, always felt that a special destiny lay before her. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school, but he persevered with the image he had of himself as a film director. Elvis Presley was told he should go back to driving a truck.

In Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New OneDr. Joe Dispenza writes: “. . . if we cannot think greater than how we feel, we can never change. To change is to think greater than how we feel. To change is to act greater than the familiar feelings of the memorized self.”

Many of us get stuck in accepting what is and what other people tells us should be. It’s just easier that way.

But if “what is” or “what other people tell us what should be” doesn’t fulfill us, then something needs to change. If we persist with harmful habits or lazy approaches, we don’t serve our best interests. Dispenza adds:  “And when you really see what you’ve been doing to yourself, you have to look at that mess and say, This is no longer serving my best interests. This is no longer serving me. This has never been loving to myself. Then you can make a decision to be free.”

What do you want to be, where do you want to be, or what do you want to be doing a year from now?

Form that image in your mind, think greater than what is now, and today start one new habit that serves your best interests.




Things I don’t like that I’m supposed to like

I am away for a few days at the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! conference. To give myself some time away to refill my creative well, I pre-scheduled a post with a lighter tone.


Things I don’t like that I’m supposed to like

Thick towels

I like the idea of thick towels. I like looking at thick towels. I even like holding a thick towel as a comfort. But when it comes to drying off after a bath or a swim, thick towels just don’t work as well. I know I’m supposed to like them, but I don’t.

Your cookies are safe from me.

Your cookies are safe with me.


I often decline dessert because I really don’t want it. I prefer salty or savoury foods to sweet. People don’t believe me though. They always say, “Well, aren’t you being good?” or “I wish I had your willpower.” I am not “being good” and it has nothing to do with willpower. I know I’m supposed to want to eat dessert first, but I don’t.

World Cup Soccer

I am a sports fan, and I’ve tried to love World Cup, but I can’t summon even a scintilla of interest in World Cup Soccer. The field is so big, the goal is so big, the back and forth is so constant, the goals so elusive and the officiating so plainly ridiculous. If Canada ever makes it, maybe I’ll try harder, but right now even though I’m supposed to go crazy about World Cup Soccer, I don’t.


Is there an activity more soul-sapping and patience-testing than shopping? Not for me. I feel my brain atrophy second by second as I stroll through the racks. The energy seeps from my body through the soles of my shoes and dissipates into the ether until I drag myself out of the mall. I know it’s supposed to be some feminine genetic trait to crave shopping, but I don’t.


I don’t require a soundtrack for every activity in my life. I like the sounds of reality, thank you. When I walk I think many interesting and amazing thoughts; my thoughts are darned entertaining. And when I meet people on the street, I hear when they speak to me because I don’t have buds in my ear. I respect other people’s desire to use them, and I know I’m supposed to want one, but I don’t.

What you see during most motorboat rides.

What you see during most motorboat rides.

Motorboat rides

My idea of a pleasant boat ride: The craft glides into the water with barely a ripple and calmly meanders along the shore line. I enjoy the view of the homes or cottages, I say “Hello, ducks!” to the waterfowl bobbing gently on the waves beside us, and I reach a hand over the side to touch the delicate white flower of a water lily.

What usually happens: The boat accelerates at such a rate that the back of the boat sinks and the nose juts straight up into the air. I clutch my hat before it flies away out of the back of the boat. I hang on to the side for dear life. The scenery passes in a blur as the boat whooomp, whooomp, whooomps its way across the waves. Ducks squawk and flap away in fright. We never get anywhere near a water lily.

I know I’m supposed to be excited when people say “Let’s go for a boat ride!” but I’m not.

Coach bags, or any designer handbag that costs way too much money for no good reason

Seriously? $500 for a handbag? No. No. No.

Just no.


This is a big disappointment to my husband, the car freak. Who doesn’t like convertibles, right? I don’t. Why you would want to ride anywhere in a vehicle with the thundering roar of wind and whipping strands of hair pelting the face? Convertibles are too cold on cold days and too hot on hot days. I know I am supposed to want to let my hair down in convertible style, but I don’t.

That’s my list (so far). How about you? What things do other people rave about but leave you cold?

Socks in the hozone: Sniglet

According to comedian Rich Hall, a sniglet is “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary but should.”

He created the word hozone to describe “the place where one sock in every laundry load disappears to.”

Here’s a picture of the leftovers after my most recent laundry day:


The hozone at our house has super suction.

Oh, hozone, won’t you please send my other socks home? Their lonely partners whimper in the night.

Four-leaf clover: What are the odds?

Yesterday my daughter and a friend took her dog for a walk. They strolled along a path beside the Ottawa River, and my daughter spotted a large patch of clover. Being a fun-loving and spontaneous type, she declared, “I’m going to look for a four-leaf clover!”

Her friend had doubts. She said, “Do you even know what the chances of that are?”

Undaunted, my daughter walked over, bent down and, without even having to search, held up a four-leaf clover. “I found one!” she said.


Life’s like that, right?

Sometimes we try, and struggle, and work to find something or to achieve a goal, but we don’t manage it. (Almost always someone nearby tells us not to waste our time because the odds stack high against us.)  And then sometimes good fortune shows up right in front of our noses when we haven’t even put forth any effort at all.

There’s no explaining it. All we can do is keep the faith that odds-defying fortune can find us, and be ready to celebrate when it does.