The little things...
There I was, first Saturday of the holiday season, "resting". Normally, I would be decorating with glee. When my sweetheart suggested that we pick up some hamburgers and eat at a nearby park, I was thrilled.
For one thing, I love hamburgers. Well, more precisely, I love the french fries that often accompany hamburgers. Of course, my favorite are hand-cut fries of the fresh, not frozen variety. But as a connoisseur (wink, wink), I also find most fast-food establishments' fries perfectly acceptable.
But more than burgers and even more than fries, I love parks. The one where we took our lunch is ordinary in the extreme. There's a stocked pond that succeeds in attracting waterfowl and a little hill that was probably created from the soil excavated for the pond. A gazebo sits on the top of the hill, overlooking the pond and water fountain. A path/exercise trail follows along the perimeter, passing playground equipment and open areas to play ball.
And I love it. A little bit of nature is certainly better than none at all. I like the grasses at the water's edge; they surely provide habitat. I love the trees -- both the few, deliberately planted ones and the scrubby brush beyond. And I appreciate the community feel of the space.
We sat in our car, windows down, laps covered in napkins, and enjoyed our fast-food lunch while watching people and birds. The weather was cool and breezy and a bit overcast. But the sun kept peeking out, breaking the grey. What more could I ask for? But when an egret landed at the water's edge, I did ask for something more. Please, a photo? And so Joseph walked stealthily down towards the water's edge and snapped a few for me.
"You'll be surprised," he said when he handed my phone back to me.
And I was.
I am religious. Did you know? If not, that is my fault and more's the pity. It's actually a big part of who I am. I am not loud about it. I don't think I need to be. I'm not a preacher. But sometimes I am a little too private.
The thing is -- the main thing -- is that I am so religious that I would wish anyone else the same right, the same privilege. Mutual respect requires -- yes -- mutual respect. That is, so long as the beliefs don't harm others.
I don't generally go around announcing, "I am religious." But when it has come up in conversation and I say just that, I've surprised an interesting variety of responses. More than once, someone has commented, more or less, "I hope you are referring to your faith and not just religion."
Well, yes and no. I happen to love my religion. There is no perfect religious institution on earth. My chosen one is Catholicism. I am a Catholic Christian. But that's not really addressing their concern. By that comment, they are expressing the worry that I might be more interested in rules/laws/traditions than about loving God and being a good person.
Of course, I am not. God is my foundation. I am Catholic. Christ is my light, my teacher, my hope.
So many have given up on faith. People struggle through their days and lives without giving God a passing thought. It is inconceivably sad.
In my faith tradition/religion/belief system, I find love, peace, guidance, and goodness. I find joy and hope.
I wish everyone as much.
Why am I telling you this? So that you know me better -- and just in case you need to consider it for yourself. Prayer, meditation...even just a thought to begin. The times are trying, and faith is a wonderful gift, a miraculous comfort.
Wishing you joy and peace.
Hooray! It’s here! September is finally here! Recently, I’ve noticed lots of references to “the ‘ber’ months”. I can’t help but laugh, but I must also admit, I love them.
And guess what! Much as I respect the astrological calendar, I am ready to embrace the meteorological calendar for autumn’s sake.
Do you know the difference? I just got it straight in my head.
The astrological calendar divvies up the seasons according to equinoxes and solstices which, in turn, are based upon the Earth’s tilt. This year, the fall equinox begins September 22, at 8:04 p.m., CDT. The date/time varies from year to year, but only by a little.
The meteorological calendar is based upon annual average temps and never changes. Accordingly, fall is September 1 through November 30. Winter is December through February. Shall I continue? Why not? Spring is March through May and Summer, June through August.
Makes sense to me!
So… Happy Autumn! Yahoo!
For me, both September and Autumn mean gardening, travel, and holidays. The weather is great – neither too cold nor too hot. Tourist destinations are less crowded because school is in session. Colors are brilliant in both hemispheres. And then of course there’s pumpkin spice, soul-warming stews, soups, and chilis, new Hallmark movies, and so much more.
My birthday is also in the fall, which gives me a great excuse to request trips large and/or small. I’m not really a terrible brat, and I don’t think I worry too much about my birthday, but, well, if it works… I just want to go someplace with cool, crisp air and gorgeous colors and my birthday month just happens to mean high autumn in lots of places. This year, my husband and I have an exciting trip booked, but I won’t talk details yet. It’s too soon.
For now, for September, I’ll enjoy the ever-so-slightly-less-hot days, sow a fall garden, and begin switching things out around the house and garden to reflect a new season. And I just might daydream about our fall trip.
Wishing you a beautiful September!
Happy August 9, Book Lovers! The day is ours!
I do love books. It's a strangely emotional attachment. We've moved a lot and replaced possessions many time over. We even got rid of a piano once, only to buy another later on. But I am loathe to let my books go. In fact, I've mentioned to Joseph several times that if we do ever move again, wherever we go and however much we might downsize, I would want to take my books with me.
And I've noticed that our elder son Bashir, while leaving almost everything behind in his various moves across the country, has also held onto his book collection. And he's remarked upon it -- that he just can't let go of his books.
And I'm so very proud that our younger son Raji and daughter-in-heart Julia have books all over their home and that their little ones -- our dear little grands -- are great readers.
God bless them. You see? Emotional... In wishing our children and grandchildren well, I wish them an enjoyment of books and I'm thankful that they appreciate them.
If you know me, you know that I love ebooks and audiobooks just as much as hard and softcovers. There's room enough in my heart for all.
I'm not one to wax poetic about the smell of books, the tactile pleasures of holding a book in your hands, turning pages... In fact, I prefer an ereader under a wide variety of circumstances. But not only is there more to a book than its cover or even its content. They can remind us of loved ones, of good times, of weathered storms, and that we can always learn. And always hope.
I'm a big fan of coffee table books, especially well-written ones. I enjoy gifting them when I find one that focuses on a loved one's hobby or passion. For myself, books are amongst my favorite souvenirs, which goes back to reminding me of a happy time.
There are some types of books that are just better as soft or hardbacks. Cookbooks, for example -- oh, there are so many gorgeous cookbooks. I prefer them to online sources, although I certainly appreciate both. Books with beautiful illustrations, travel and gardening books, certain how-to books -- I prefer these as hard/softcover volumes. I also like to have very important books like the Bible in hardback.
Prayerbooks, so personal to me... I like to have favorites in both ebook and bound.
We have plenty of bound volumes.
But there is a lot to be said for ebooks. I absolutely love them. I appreciate that they can be stored on multiple, connected devices. I can carry my library of around 1000 ebooks times two in my purse with ease -- one library in my kindle and the other on my phone. To be clear, I do understand that the library is on "a cloud" somewhere -- and that's even better. It's safeguarded.
As I've already mentioned, I'm not very sentimental about the tangible attractions of hardbacks, although I have to admit that my bookshelves would look pretty empty without them. But my point here is that I find it easier to read a novel on my kindle, especially in bed or by the pool or at the beach. A kindle is also much more convenient for travel, especially when I hope to read more than one book on a trip, which is often.
And the access to more, more, more and instantly is wonderful! And then there are so many free ebooks introducing me to great, new-to-me authors. It's fabulous!
And allow me to confirm for you -- audiobooks are books! Yes, they are. And listening to an audiobook equals reading a book. It's not the same as watching a movie based on a book. Whether you are reading or someone is reading to you, you are still getting and interpreting the words from printed matter. It's not a short or altered version of the author's words. It's ALL the words and if you don't know some of them, you'll have to learn them.
If I'm not working at my computer, or eating, or sleeping, I am probably not sitting down. I am so glad to be able to listen -- and I listen to a lot. I guarantee that I know those books just as well through listening as those who read them themselves.
This brings me to an important point, more than all the rest of my philosophizing. Those who might not have the best eyesight or leisure time to sit down and read a book but take the time and/or effort to listen have effectively read those books. The words -- from the printed material -- resonate all the same. And you can get distracted either reading or listening, so don't bother going there.
It offends me that anyone should think themselves so superior as to deny a book lover the satisfaction of declaring they've read and loved a book just because they chose a narrated version.
Whoops! Getting angry over here! And I shouldn't. It's National Book Lovers Day, after all. Enjoy your books, you lovers, and let everyone else enjoy theirs!
I love the mountains. Seriously, I looooove the mountains. I also dream of rural-living.
But we live in Suburbia.
In the peace and quiet of mid-morning... I have to stop here to note that it was mid-morning and still peaceful and quiet -- I enjoyed a wonderful walk. It was really a small challenge to myself, a walk/run, and my first since I had Covid about three weeks ago. There were some people about -- exercising, walking dogs, and a few landscapers getting ready to work -- but it was surprisingly placid. I was able to think, pray, ponder.
We live in a neighborhood where others of our family reside. For most of our life together, my husband, children, and I have lived in the same city as our relatives, but the Houston area is gigantic. In the past several years, we've all lived much closer than before, just minutes away from each other. It makes life wonderfully fun and pleasant.
I can be an ungrateful brat sometimes. And no, one is never too old.
I've known a lot of immigrants in my lifetime. I grew up with them. More than twenty years ago, one of our family friends told me that it's not the place that counts, but the people. He was older, gruff, and not a man much given to sentiment. But he looked so sad when he gave that advice. I've never forgotten it and even incorporated it in one of my books. And of course he was right.
Now... would I have appreciated my grandparents settling somewhere with gentler weather than southeast Texas? Yes! But it was here I met my husband and so many wonderful friends. It's where our family is.
And our suburban community -- vast, yet supremely convenient and well-maintained.
And I've made some very nice friends.
And there are lots of green spaces.
And I do have a garden.
We all have our needs and preferences. Some people truly need quiet and wide-open spaces to feel free. I understand that. Every once in a while, that's me.
Maybe you miss your family. Maybe you would love to have that option. You might be overwhelmed by your social calendar or you might be lonely -- or both. Maybe you're in the countryside yearning for the city or in the mountains yearning for the sea. Perhaps your heart is torn between two countries, new and old.
And sometimes you just don't feel well or happy or grateful at all. That's okay -- for a short while. We can't always help how we feel, but wallowing won't get you very far.
To be clear, I'm not talking about life-threatening challenges. I would not presume to preach.
But in la vie quotidienne, the daily grind, it's good to look for the good.
I hope I'm always grateful in my heart. I truly think I am. But today, I'm also grateful in my head.
Thanks be to God.
Happy New Year!
Before diving into the new, it's not a bad idea to review the last. I'm not saying to dwell on the past, but to just take stock, make notes, cry a few tears if needs must, and hopefully enjoy a few smiles.
Last year, our house was hit hard by the historic deep freeze and subsequent bursting of pipes. But it also got renovated and we love the improvements. And during the renovation period, we enjoyed bonus time with our children and grandchildren.
There were a few other things that didn't go our way, to say nothing of the precarious world situation and politics. We had cause to worry about some of our loved ones -- still do -- particularly my beloved, elderly father-in-law. But there's a beautiful new baby in our extended family, and we are more grateful than we could ever express that everyone made it through the year without serious illness.
Travel was limited, but we did get away. New Mexico's mountains were beautiful last summer. We visited Turkey's Mediterranean coast and paraglided in Oludeniz.
We watched our grandson play baseball. We saw our granddaughter bloom as a young artist.
I signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press.
For me, looking back has reminded me that things can change very fast and made me realize that last year wasn't all bad. Not at all.
So, what of this year? I have so many ideas! Remember that I said some things didn't go our way? Einstein's quote has lodged itself into my imagination.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
I've resolved to do things differently this year. I always make resolutions and review at the end of the year. I didn't do badly last year, but my resolutions were too broad for them to be truly effective.
This year, they're more specific.
I'd like to mention one because I think you will be interested. I hope to read at least 12 self-development books and share about them with you.
I wasn't going to sign up for any reading challenge but Goodreads. I weakened and signed up for Cruisin' the Cozies again because that was just fun and I'd like to read 40 more cozies this year. As for my Goodreads' Challenge, my goal is 130 books. That's approximately two and a half books a week. I hope to more than meet that goal. Working with that number, I've created my own subdivisions, one being 12 self-development/personal growth books. I'm excited!
In the few quiet times during the last days of December, I listened to Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. I liked it so much that I want to study it further, memorize a bit, so I've ordered a hard copy. This week, I will be reading that and listening to Oliver Burkeman's Four Thousand Weeks, Time Management for Mortals. I will review, update, and generally keep you posted.
I have a new day planner and wall calendar. I trust them more than my phone app, although it certainly has its uses. I have new hopes and plans and dreams.
Is there anything that you'd like to share?
All the best in 2022!
We returned from vacation and hit the ground running. I had known that we needed the break. I wasn’t even in denial as to how much. And when we got back, that realization was doubly-confirmed. And that’s okay. Life is good. Life is hectic. Life is full. Thank you, God.
I’ve sort of fallen in love with short road trips – especially if the destination is the mountains. I’m not sure how keen I would be to drive cross-country anymore. We did that a lot when our boys were small. But a day’s drive, even a long one, gives us more control over our trip and it’s just a lot easier to toss everything into the car and go.
I didn’t post much while on vacation. For one thing, we had no internet at our mountain cabin. We couldn’t even watch tv because the setup depended on streaming and the line had been spliced. It wasn’t repaired during our stay. We were a bit alarmed initially because Joseph had a little work to finish up, but it all worked out. We had one or two bars near certain windows and usually we were too tired from hiking to want to go online, anyway. We sat outside, cooked some great meals together, and relaxed.
But now I’m home. I have internet. 😊 I can share thoughts, photos. How about this sunset?
Wishing you a wonderful weekend.
Lucas van Valckenborch (1535-1597)
Do you like grocery shopping? If you don’t, you might think I’m being a little, um, let’s just say… a little dramatic.
Where do you buy your food? I realize that in many parts of the world, even here in the states, groceries can be and usually are purchased from small shops and markets, not gargantuan grocery stores/supermarkets. I’ve often thought how much I would enjoy shopping that way, buying high quality goods from local merchants, enjoying a chat, picking up a bouquet of fresh flowers on my way home.
We have farmers markets in the greater Houston area, but not that many. Most aren’t near our neighborhood and the few that are aren’t open daily. On the other hand, our closest grocery store is really close and at least it carries some fresh, Texas produce.
I’m not a fan of shopping, but I’ve always appreciated grocery stores. Does that sound odd? Who doesn’t, you might ask? But I think my view of them is not so common. I sort of see them as modern versions of medieval markets. Food is a necessity. We all have to obtain it from someplace. We always have. Holidays and seasons add fun and interest. The people working there also often add fun and interest. Something’s always going on. Supermarkets are dynamic and necessary.
Super markets. Markets. Yes, they are markets and the people who work there are merchants, just like in medieval times, just like in many towns even today. And I, at least, am a villager, ambling down the aisles in lieu of a winding, village street, often seeing people I know, sometimes exchanging a few words with some of the store’s employees. A lot of them have worked there ever since I’ve shopped there, several years now. It’s where they earn their livelihood.
It’s all just so human. Things change over time, but not all things change completely. There’s a timeless aspect to selling and procuring food and dry goods. I like to be aware of the timelessness, to embrace the humanity, and be in the present.
So, am I way overthinking grocery shopping? Perhaps. But it’s not really all about the groceries.
So, there I was, pleased as punch that I'd consolidated my blogs. I'd feel more free to write about everything, share my interests, bare my soul.
But I have very specific interests. It didn't work at all. I'd had a garden blog for over a decade. I have a garden memoir on the back burner. But every time I wanted to write a gardening post, I stopped myself. I can't only write gardening posts on a multi-topic blog.
And how many gardeners love romance? Probably a great many, if I know romance writers -- and I do. But certainly not all.
So I've decided to keep Grains of Sand as a more personal blog, with book reviews, even a few interviews, for topics.
It's going to be fun! Rubbing my hands together...
Thank you for your patience! More soon!
I honestly haven’t dropped off the planet, but it’s true that my world has changed these past few weeks.
This month, repairs and renovations have finally gotten underway at our house, damaged a few months back during Texas “historic deep freeze”, one among thousands. Despite all our precautions, pipes burst. I’d never realized how much damage water could do to ceilings, walls, and floors.
In the meantime, we’re staying with our sweet children and having so much fun. What a spectacular bonus, not to mention a balm to my soul. I’m sure that I’ll have withdrawal symptoms, especially from our little grands, once we move the several blocks back to our own house.
In fact, I’ve gotten to spend more time with all my dear loved ones. We’re a close family, anyway (for which I am very thankful), but I always struggled with my daily routine. Now, I don’t have one. I LOVE IT. My brother is surely pleased because he can tease us all in one visit! And I’ve grown even closer to my sister-in-law, who is a natural with colors and decorating. My husband and I are not great (= terrible) at deciphering colors from those little squares at the paint store, nor would we be prone to paint samples on the walls. But Mich is dauntless, not to mention tireless, when it comes to paint, tiles, everything to do with homes and décor. She is also patient. I would have killed me by now.
It’s funny. Ever since we moved to our current, suburban home from a gorgeous, rural neighborhood, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it. Worse, I’ve felt guilty about my attitude and rightly so. But I experienced sorrow at its devastation, which made me realize that I actually do like my house more than I thought.
And I’ve always thought of myself as uncomplicated!
In the midst of all this, my book Tremors was picked up by The Wild Rose Press. It really is a dream come true and my experience with them so far has only reinforced the dreamy feeling. Everyone I’ve interacted with has been warm, encouraging, and professional all at once. I am thrilled.
Under my new contract, I’ve had to pull Tremors from Amazon. It will be published under a new name and with a new cover. For now, edits have begun.
Strangely enough, I feel more like myself than I have in years. This last decade has been a tumultuous one in our lives. But now, with all sorts of work ahead, I feel calm and relaxed. My zen has returned.
That might change once we return to our house, layered as it is with construction dust, and our garden was the focus of improvements well before the freeze. But I don’t think so. I’m not sure if I’ve been revived or reinvented -- probably a little of both -- but it feels too good to give it up.
And that, my friends, is the proverbial silver lining.
A Little of This, a Little of That
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran
From me to you with a smile.
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