Friends of the Heart

If you read this soon after publication, I am on my journey somewhere between the far South of New Zealand and the East Coast of the USA to spend ten days with four other WordPress Bloggers.  During this time there will be opportunities to meet up with other bloggers who will travel shorter distances to spend some time with us.

It’s very exciting, more than a little amazing and somewhat magical!

Before I go I just wanted to say thank you and to share a few thoughts – which for some reason, I feel are important to say at this time.

Thank you to all of you who have left messages and shared in the fun and enormity of this short, unexpected and totally spectacular adventure I am about to undertake.  None of us have said much about it – but this is a trip that has been gifted to me by the incredible generosity of a group of fellow bloggers.

The word ‘lucky’ is often offered up to me these days.  It is not a word I choose to use very often.  I prefer the word ‘fortunate’.  I have come to see that I live a most fortunate life!

Here is what is in my heart to say:

I live my life very simply and quietly these days.  I’ve been there, done that, in terms of making my mark on the world, from needing to prove I am worthy of the air I breathe to more latterly, wanting to make a difference just because I can.   Those of you who read the first installment of my memoir back in September 2013 know I’ve travelled a route from hardship, anger, frustration and blame to one of acceptance, responsibility, forgiveness and love.  I work hard at it!  I struggle, I fall down, I get it wrong again and again – then I get back up and stumble on….   I have been gifted a life that allows me to understand that life is what I make of it and that there is more depth and magic to all our lives than the modern western world would have us believe.

My life has taught me many things – these are some of them:  I believe that as we sow, so we reap.  I believe life is a circle and that life is also a classroom.  I believe all life is connected from the particles of the big bang, to the silent creative energy that preceded it that we collectively know as God or the Void or Nothingness or the Inversion  –  or whatever other shape, description or scientific term [or sci-fi term] you prefer; to the commonality of our basic needs and feelings and talents.  I believe we are here to learn the dynamics of being a soul living a physical existence and it is not easy.  A sense of humour is necessary!  I believe we need each other to know who we truly are and who we can truly become.

Collage 2

I also believe it is imperative that we not try to make any body else think, feel or see the way we think, feel and see.  We all walk a different path.  We come from different cultures who raise us with different values, different spiritual beliefs, different religions.  We have different life influences gifted genetically, environmentally and socially.  It makes the world a wonderfully vibrant and exciting place.  None of it is wrong – it is just different.  We should cease judging people based on age, gender, preference, religion, culture, appearance, education and perceived ability.  We should walk a mile in another’s shoes – or bare feet!  We should travel and meet these other people in other cultures and experience their life styles.  We should stop thinking we are best, better or superior to any body else – or any animal for that matter.   It simply isn’t true.  We are just different.

[And I should stop saying ‘should’!]

As the French say say so eloquently “Vive la difference!”  [Please put on your best French accent for that quote to atone for my lack of written accentuation.]

I learn slowly. I learn by examining my feelings, reactions and behaviour at the end of every day.  I take responsibility for the good and the bad events of my daily life.  I sigh and forgive myself for the million blunders I made, the judgments that were too quickly and harshly made and the words that were unkind.  I know I will have better days practising these skills.  I know hard times will pass and I know easy times will also pass.  I look for the joy and try to be grateful for every day and if not everything in it, at least something!  I know life is not about pursuing or finding ‘happiness’.  I know happiness is already here if I remember where to look for it.  It is all about CHOICE ~ about choosing to be happy, right here right now, no matter what.  I know that the voices in my head, those things we refer to as ‘our thoughts’, often lie to me.  They have the power to make me unhappy, sad, angry, fearful or depressed if I do not challenge the message they put out.  I know that when I turned down the volume and challenged the messages sent by the ceaseless blither in my head I found peace and a quiet joy.  And the more peace and joy I felt, the more of it life has sent me.

It’s all about changing the firing patterns of your brain – nurturing those neurons – which ones are you building more of, the angry ones the fearful ones or the happy ones?  ‘Use it or lose it’ applies here!  

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This is the big secret that folk are seeking.  It’s not about garnering wealth, power and material goods.  You truly won’t be any happier at a deep, fundamental level when you have that new car, new husband, new job.  Studies have shown that within a short amount of time happiness levels return to where they were before the material event that granted your wish occurred.

Basically we have two feelings coursing through our systems – fear and love.  Anger, hatred, bigotry, control, nervousness, just to name a few, are all fear based.  Serenity, peace, forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance, empathy, to name a few more, are all love based.  We have the choice where to base our attention, which to feel.

It’s really about choosing  to be happy with what is and who we are, right here, right now.  In any given moment our lives are just fine, if we do not feel okay, it is only our thoughts that make it less than perfect.  Being regretful or angry about the past or fearful of the future stops us experiencing how great Now is, or how great we are, coping with a less than delightful Now.  And then we miss the opportunities to know ourselves better, learning and growing through our experiences in life, walking our paths to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Sometimes we suffer really awful things – the loss of loved ones, attacks on our bodies or souls, things that make us question the purpose of life.  It is hard to see any joy in that right?  For myself I know that though it can take many years, and be a long and pain filled process, I will eventually find myself again, richer for having survived, endured and grown through the experience.  My empathy factor is deepened and I can, at the very least, be there for someone else.  And I am often grateful for that!

This is why I say that our experiences – the good and the bad –  are opportunities for growth. Sometimes bad stuff happens to release something for us so we can move to the next level – ‘there is always a silver lining’.  Sometimes it takes a while to find it.

When we understand that we move into trust.  And living in trust that everything will work out the way it is meant to work out just makes everything so darn easy!

Here is a recent example from my life:  I get in a blither when having to travel alone.  It doesn’t matter how short the journey, I am uncomfortable and the level of my discomfort rises according to the length of the journey.  I know where the fear comes from, but that doesn’t seem to help.  It seeps upwards slowly but surely and begins to tinge the adventure with a sour hue.  The fear is often voiceless, but when I dig a bit and uncover it, it is all about ‘what if’ and ‘back when’, ‘look out’ and ‘don’t trust’.  When I hear that last one ‘Don’t trust’ there is an enormous shift in me.  Fear evaporates and a sort of peace descends once more.  Because ‘don’t trust’ is anathema to me.  That is the path to insanity.  I acknowledge the past and it’s many hard adventures in trust and know I have moved on.  No need to go back.  Whatever happens will happen whether I go fearfully or confidently.  I have the power to call in the experience I will have and the manner in which I will deal with it.  I’d rather follow the advice Nanette gave me in the comments of the previous post and look up and out, prepare myself, ask for help as required and trust that this part of my journey will be just as wonderful as the parts where there are friends travelling with me.

I’ll let you know how I do on that!

But really, where I am going with all this is that I have been surprised by the extent to which blogging has corroborated my life choices and beliefs.

The world is full of wonderful people and many of them blog!  I have met so many amazing folk.  In many ways when we share  bits of our lives, our thoughts, our feelings and experiences it is like sitting down with a good friend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and doing what women are really good at – sharing!  It doesn’t matter all that much that it is done virtually.  Back in the ‘good old days’ we did it via letter writing with the responses taking weeks to make it across the miles, be read and the next missive written, mailed, received and read …..It was called having ‘pen pals’.

Here in our speedier modern world we ‘blog’.  For me it has widened my quiet world out again and brought in your amazing personalities to brighten my life, make me smile, frown, think, empathise, sympathise, reach out, condole, laugh, share my thoughts, opinions and feelings and begin to uncover you – the real you.  Getting to know you is a very real joy for me.  Friends of my heart.  You all have encouraged me in my journey as an artist, the encouraging words, the patronage, the enthusiasm have been wonderful gifts to me.  I have blossomed and bloomed beneath your kindness and eloquence.  You have encouraged me to return to old crafts and pick up new skills.  I have read books you recommend and listened to music you sent my way.  I follow your adventures and misadventures with interest and applaud when you arrive somewhere wonderful……..  I am so grateful to be getting to know every one of you!

And now I’m off to meet up with a small selection of my special friends and to have whole days when we can just be together and drink coffee and tea and maybe a wine or two and enjoy each others company, pick up on some of our on-going conversations and deepen our understanding of each other and share whatever is in our hearts.   Magic!

It is my first trip to the USA, my first time living amongst American accents – my travel agent warned me some would not be understand my broad, flat Kiwi twang.  I am practising trying to remember to speak higher in my throat and with a bit of a lilt and quite a lot slower than I normally do.  I’m rather afraid I sound a little like Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara  🙂

There are cultural differences and social differences and language differences.   I’m looking forward to exploring them all with these women who are so dear to my heart!

And again and again I ask myself, how does it get any better than this?

Here, to finish, are my beloved babies, my little fellas, my boys.  Wrapped in warmth and love and trustingly placed into the loving care of my equally beloved YD while I swan off on my latest adventure.

pets collage

Forgive me if you don’t receive an immediate response to your comment or if you don’t see me on your blog posts for a couple of weeks.  Normal service will resume soon.  🙂

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

 

On This & That – and Mitten Winners

Once again the weeks slip by and my good intentions of getting a blog post written and published keep getting postponed until tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow!  Elaine sends me an email ‘…. I’m looking for your latest post …..’  Oh dear.  ‘It’s coming.’  I reply.  Four days later and here it is.  What is it they say – ‘Good things take time’  🙂

Here is Orlando suffering his morning smooch from Siddy

Morning Smooch

“Finished smooching now.  Breakfast please mumma!”

Breakfast?Even though I am very busy, I have absolutely nothing to show you.  I am not painting, everything in that department is on hold for another month.  I am crocheting and getting myself organised to take part in a most fab KAL [‘Knit Along’ for the uninitiated] over at Mollie and Claire  [Claire’s the knitter, Mollie is the beautiful black lab.]  [Claire is also beautiful 🙂 ]   I am making my own version of this – this is Claire’s ‘Lace leaf Shawl’ isn’t it gorgeous!

Lace Leaf KAL

This is my ‘yarn in use’ basket, a laundry hamper really.  I will not disclose how much other yarn is tucked away in bags and drawers and boxes for fear it may incriminate me as a yarn hoarder ….

Yarn Stash 3 15

Despite that pile of yarn, I have ordered some more gorgeous silk yarn from Silk India – I wasn’t going to and then I thought why go to so much trouble to make a beautiful shawl and not do it in the most gorgeous silk yarn ever?

Silk Indian SIN 05 Beaded silk yarn

If you are a knitter, come join us.  It won’t take long …….   Needles hit yarn on April 1st, but I won’t be starting until I get back from the US in mid April.

I was thinking the hours spent in airport layovers on my upcoming trip could be profitably whiled away by plying my knitting needles – then I remembered that no needles are allowed any more as I might decide to use one as a weapon on some poor pilot and end the flight importunately……. so I shall just have to spend those hours doing nothing crafty – and there are as many hours waiting for planes as there are actually flying!  I’m sure withdrawals will set in.  Such a waste of potential knitting time!

The suitcase is out of storage and I am sorting through clothes  – trying to decide the minimum amount to meet the changeable spring conditions of DC and Virginia and yet not look too shabby while at it……  and trying to fit a few secret extras in without hitting the overweight mark on the suitcase scale!

My suitcase has been decorated in honour of the northern Spring

Suitcase 3 15Thank you to all the folk who took the poll in my last post – it was so good to get your thoughts and opinions!

I even forgot to make the draw for the mittens and in the end read all the comments and, abiding by my own rules, decided that all the folk who indicated they would like a pair for themselves or a little relative would get a pair!*

*Provided they had commented by the time I made that decision on March 15th.

Here is the winners list:

Jenny – 2 pairs for your nieces

Claire – 2 pairs one each for Jessie and Megan

Fran – 1 green pair

Jem – 1 blue & white pair

Lisa – 1 green pair

Kerry – 1 fancy flounced pair

Sharon – 1 orange pair

If you will all bear with me the gloves will arrive on your doorsteps in due course.  I thought I would send the Southern Hemisphere ones first seeing as how winter is knocking gently on our doors and send the northern climes ones off slowly over the next three months or so.  No postage required, but addresses are if you have never received anything from me before.  My email address can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page.

If you would like yours sooner please just let me know.

Lisa I will personally hand deliver yours 🙂

Here is my daughter ‘modelling’ her new mittens and matching infinity scarf, made for her birthday.

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Here is Siddy looking all ‘Bad to the Bone’ in his new winter jacket – especially for Jill

Badtothe Bone1Back View – he did not understand a photo pose that did not have his smiling face in it

BadtotheBone3

 

So we have this also

Siddylaughs

Here is the latest picking from my tomato crop – another two bowls like this and we will be done for the year.  Not a bug or a mildew or a mark to be seen on any of them.  So proud!  Companion planting and wicked water tubs rock!   Thanks Fran and Robbie!

tomatoes 3 15

If I’m not always visiting your blog, or not commenting as much as usual, please forgive me – I am a tad over committed at the moment and just trying to keep on top.  Normal service will be resumed soon.

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

Mimi’s Mittens

I love opera!

Maybe I should qualify that – I love Italian opera…….

But please, don’t hold this against me – I just discovered at an impressionable age that opera has the ability to be ‘more than’.  Take any emotion you can think of: falling in love, falling out of love – pain, hurt, jealousy, broken heart, lost love, betrayal, death – and then multiply it by ten and you have the heights and depths of emotion the operatic aria can take you to.  It will wash you clean if you listen at just the right time in your life!

Of course you have to suspend any association with real life.  Very often when the voice is mature enough to sing the role, the singer is past the first flush of youth and most operatic leading characters are young and nubile …..  I remember seeing Pavarotti at his heaviest playing the the mighty Egyptian soldier Radames in Aida.  He stood stock still, centre stage, like a rotund statue while the entire cast moved about him.  But oh that voice!

In this day of filmed operatic singing it is hard to stay in the moment when chests are heaving and mouths are working overtime to get those notes out.  You have to so admire opera singers, they have to sing and emote at the same time.  It works much better when it is on the stage. The lighting, set and costumes – the vivid colour and acoustically perfect orchestra and soaring voices take over and the distance between you and the on-stage performance allows for the suspension of belief – one can be quite transported by the event.

Because of course the other thing about operas is the sets and costumes.  One should never simply listen to an opera – it is a feast for all the senses.  Rich in colour and grandeur and theatrical presence.  The orchestra and voices soar and mingle with the colour and movement – it is a sensory explosion.

Not everything about operas is good.  Many of the stories are just plain rubbish really. Sometimes the music misses the spot.  But, just like modern musicals, every opera has at least one ‘hit tune’.  And when aria and the emotion collide it is indeed a spectacular thing!

Even if you have never seen an opera and even if you have and say it’s not for you, I’m sure you will be familiar with these wonderful pieces.  Have a listen as you read on.

This is one of my favourites, a chorus from Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ – even if you know nothing about the story, you cannot help but be taken into the tragic denouement.

The Hebrew Slaves Chorus from Verdi’s ‘Nabucco’.  Can you hear the hopeless exhaustion throughout this hymn of loss for their beloved homeland?  From the opening ‘Va pensiero’ I am always caught, no matter who is singing.  I recommend biggifying this, and just enjoy –  it is great example of staging and emoting while singing……..

One of the most popular operas today is also, in many ways, [and purely in my opinion, you understand  – feel free to disagree] one of the worst operas of all time.  It’s another Puccini opera, ‘La Boheme’ and it is in part, truly terrible!  The plot is all over the place and some of the music is less than memorable.  But there is a lovely romantic story running through it and it has to be admitted, I love a good romantic tragedy!

The real story is about Rinaldo, the writer and Mimi, the delicate embroiderer who lives above him.  All the rest just tends to get in the way.  This is one of the versions I have on DVD……..

La Boheme 1

In much abbreviated form it is the story of some young students –  an artist a writer, a philosopher and a musician – all living in poverty in their garret quarters, hiding from the landlord because they can’t pay their rent.  It is Christmas Eve.  [Which reminds me, the modern musical ‘Rent’ is based on this opera.]

La Boheme 4

There is a knock on the door and Mimi enters.  Mimi is a neighbour living in the upstairs attic, a poor girl who embroiders flowers for a living.  Her candle has blown out and she has come seeking a light.  Subsequently she loses her key to her door. Rinaldo, the writer, goes with her to look for the lost key.  The sneaky beggars finds it and pockets it without Mimi seeing.  Moment later he is declaring his undying love.

La Boheme Villazon&Netrebko

They get together, then he ditches her claiming he can’t stand her cloying jealousy but confides in his friend he thinks their poor living conditions are making Mimi ill. [Why he thinks kicking her out will make her better is beyond me and just another hole in the story.]  Many scenes are out in the snow to ensure you get the ‘frozen’ message.  Mimi coughs dramatically whilst singing beautifully and with her last remaining strength comes to find her lover again.  She dies in his arms.  Despite all my cynicism I always shed a tear!

La Boheme 3

Now the upshot of all of this is that even though I dislike the story – just between you and me, I feel I could have written a much better version ……. when the music is good, it is very good – in fact touchingly beautiful.  This is why it is one of the most popular operas after all.   And I admit it is the romance, the bohemian lifestyle, the starving artist in a garret syndrome that has me in its thrall.  I am such a sucker for romance!  Did I say that already?  And bohemian artists in garrets …… sigh!

Here’s quite a good version of ‘La Boheme’ if you want to watch it

So when I had the opportunity to rescue some black fingerless gloves from the landfill because they were imperfectly finished or had minor faults and began to play around with them of course the very first thing that came to me was this aria from La Boheme ‘Che Gelida Manina’ loosely translated as ‘your tiny hand is frozen’ which Rinaldo sings to Mimi right off the bat!

I played around with colour and made Mimi many mittens so her hands would be forever warm.  To accompany the theme there are little darned patches in some of the gloves, whether the mitten needed it for real or not.  These are true bohemian mittens, colourful, different and ever so slightly well worn looking.

Pizap Mimi

pizap La Boheme

Mimi Handwarmers have flowers on the back.

La Boheme do not have flowers, they have a fancy ridge instead.

While the black gloves are made using acrylic yarn the additions are made with New Zealand wool or kid mohair.  Every pair is different because I make it up as I go along.

I am enjoying making them and enjoying knowing something has been saved from the landfill and given the chance of an appreciated and fun life on someones hand.  I am giving these mittens away.  There are six pairs of handwarmers.  However, I’m sorry to say, you do have to pay postage if you want to win a pair – my funds won’t run that far.

*New Zealand people postage is $NZ4.50

*The Rest of The World postage is $NZ10.00

*  If I find I can get it sent to you for less I shall reimburse the difference.

Here’s how it works:  If you wish to go in the draw you must be a follower of this blog and you must leave a comment.  And I would really like it if you would take the poll – please, take the poll….. [I’ve been blogging for two years, I just had my anniversary last week and this is my first poll and I would love your feedback!]

Also mention your first and second colour and style preferences in your comment.

Even if you don’t want a pair of fabulous Mimi Mittens you can still leave a comment – you know I love to hear from you –  I know bohemian isn’t everyone’s style!

At the end of the week I will draw names and publish the winners.  You will then have to contact me via the address on my ‘Contact Me’ page to make arrangements for the payment of your postage and to give me your address.

Here’s the poll:

I hope you enjoyed listening to some of the music on offer – Orlando is asking me to turn it off – he votes for Bruce Springsteen, he’s not a fan of opera and he loves the late, great Clarence’s sax – we usually have a bit of a dance ……

YGM6

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

Don’t Put Off Til Tomorrow ….

This was to be a post about an opera and some mittens – instead it will be a brief cautionary tale involving thoughts and irons and puppies and Emergency Rooms……..

You know how sometimes a day just starts off wrong?  Something is amiss, something escapes you, something is askew within your psyche…….?  My day started like that yesterday.  I was just a little grumpy, a little out of sorts, vaguely irritated with life.  No reason to be so, no idea why and seemingly no way to step out of it.  I went into the ‘just accept that today is an off day’ mode and watched the cricket, which even though the Black Caps won and We Beat the Aussies didn’t quite dispel the malaise.  And I worked a number of rows on the third incarnation of my crochet jacket [the tale of which is a whole other story] and finally toddled off to bed saying all will be well in the morning!

It was well-er in the morning, but not quite on top of my game I ignored the ironing board still sitting up in my workroom with several lightly steamed mittens laid out drying on its towelled surface.  I looked at the iron and thought, I should put that away and went on to the next thing.

The next thing was to have my shower, wash my hair and return to my workroom to begin the routine of light yoga stretches I had begun [again] to do each morning a couple or several weeks ago and had so far managed three consecutive mornings on. I lay on the floor beside the ironing board and began the alternate leg raising scenarios while puppy thumped me on the head with his latest ‘fetch’ toy.  Being ignored he gave up and skipped happily across my stomach to go sit on his chair.

Siddy had his haircut last week in a #1, he is ready for the army!

Siddy had his haircut last week in a #1, he is ready for the army!

After I finished jerking and moaning with pain from the hefty leaps of the careless puppy, I took a moment to straighten my spine out, stretch myself to my full 5′ 31/2″ and do some slow, deep breathing.  As I relaxed and centred myself Siddy jumped from his chair and something cold and very heavy, reminiscent of a brick, landed just to the left of my left eye.

For a moment I was completely stunned, then I am ashamed to say, I roared something rather akin to “Cheeses Crisp!” as I clutched at my eye to see if it was still there.  The pain was blinding and my hand did not recognise what it fell upon – something hard and cold and heavy.  I pulled it off my face with my right hand and saw it was the iron I had failed to put away.  My left hand was cupping the pain in that eye and when I pulled it back I saw it red with blood.

I don’t do blood!

Luckily there was the towel that had been wrapped about my wet hair and I used that to mop up the red stuff.

Eventually I staggered up to my feet and found a mirror to peer into.  Blood was smeared all about the top of my eye and was still oozing out of a jagged cut that would have, on any pirate, looked rather daring-do!  However on a somewhat tousled, stunned looking upper-middle-aged woman – well, it just lacked that certain debonair charm.

Feeling a tad off my game, which hadn’t been that great to start with you may recall, I sent a text off to my daughter who was on her early shift crying out for help.  My youngest daughter is terribly practical and very clever at fixing things and finding solutions to problems and is my go-to when my brain has shut down.  Which it had.

Within moments she was with me – and within more moments we were in the doors of the Accident and Emergency Dept of Dunedin Hospital where we spent the next half hour waiting to be seen and eventually I was adopted by a lovely nurse, poked with a particularly nasty biting needle, cleaned up, stitched where possible and glued in the other bits and finally eye examined for subterranean problems by a charming resident.  Eventually I was pronounced almost as good as a new one because I would likely now and forever after sport a dashing scar by my eye and sent on my way with dire warnings about wetting, touching or otherwise unduly disturbing the unstitched part of the wound for five days and a tube of antibiotic cream which I must on no account use as it would likely wet, touch or unduly disturb the unstitched part of the wound……..  so I left it in my daughters car.

So here I sit, slightly head-achy, a little the worse for wear – and my dears I am at an age when one needs all the help one can get in terms of ‘wear’ – but with no-one to blame but myself!

What I find really hilarious is that on reading a post from one of my lovely blogger friends early this morning, and still in a slightly irascible frame of mind, I had written a comment that had stated my desire that the world and her husband get their acts together and take responsibility for their choices and decisions.

Now that I have finished roaring with laughter at myself and acknowledged wryly that Karma is indeed a bitch – yes. I should have put the iron away and my morning would have been way more productive and you would now be coming to the end of a lovely post all about opera and mittens and, my friends – freebies!

I still have to write that one and if you would like to come by again to read it and find out about another giveaway, that would indeed be grand!

teal on hand

Until then – thanks for coming by today today, I love that you did!