On Being Thankful

Thankful Squirrel – Photo by M.A.D.

As I sit here, I think about the upcoming Thanksgiving Day and what this holiday means. For some, it is an opportunity to share a big meal with family and friends. For other people, a “turkey day” of fun, while others look at it as the official start of the Holiday Season. For many, it is all of the above and a day for reflection, for counting and recounting all the blessings that the Lord has given and be grateful to Him for those. For other people, the day comes and goes just like another ordinary day, due to different circumstances.

There is so much to be thankful for, from the moment one opens the eyes to receive another day, another opportunity unique to each person to do better than the day before. No one is perfect, but to each one of us another day is given to do as we may, as we should, and ultimately as we want, with it the gift of free will, another precious gift to be grateful for.

On Thanksgiving Day, here in the USA, people will be eating and celebrating with family and friends, knowing or unknowingly aware of the deeper meaning and significance of this day. As many seconds the day has, each second is a reason to be thankful, but knowing that the seconds before then counted as well, and hoping that the seconds after will be unnumbered and plenty, because these can never be unlimited. Each second of life, a second of gratitude. Tomorrow comes and goes, and what remains are memories of that day, and when the memories fade over time, a grateful heart lives on forever.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all who celebrate the day, and many blessings to all of you.

Maria Antonia Diaz

Disconnecting From the Story

Photo by M.A.D.

Call it writer’s block, a dry spell, or anything else, it happens to many writers. It is the dreaded ailment of the pen, the disheartenment of a writer’s soul, without notice, unexpectedly and untimely. It is that break in the connection with the story, like a broken bridge that is hard to repair. Whatever prompts the disruption is unique to the writer, as it is the healing process, the timing when writer and story will be in communion once more.

Writer’s block might feel as falling out of love with the story, or not finding the right angle to continue writing. It might come in the form of disillusion with the story or even the craft, a broken heart of sorts that refuses to pump ink. Waiting and longing for the magic moment only seems to make this disease of the inkwell more acute and prolonged. Ironically, its only cure seems to be time. Drip, drip, drip … the ink flows again.

An Unusual Partnership

2021- Falcon hanging out with Crow friends Photo by M.A.D.

Last year, I shared this picture of a falcon that seemed to be friends with the crows. On occasion, I saw the bird hanging around with the crows, and none of them seemed to be afraid. This year, a falcon has been hanging around with the crows. I don’t think it is the same one; the colors of its plumage seem a bit different. I looked it up and it seems to be a Common Kestrel, a type of falcon, but I am not sure. This seems to be an unusual and unexpected partnership, and none of the crows seem to be afraid of the falcon. Here are the photos I took the other day.

Photo by M.A.D.

Birds of a feather flock together?

Mind and Fun

Herbert presents The Sherlock Holmes Puzzle Collection – The Lost Cases

I was looking for some winter entertainment, specifically mind puzzles that where not the usual word games, numbers … and came across The Sherlock Holmes Puzzle Collection. This volume picked my interest, and I decided to try it. There are other books in the collection, but The Lost Cases seemed to be interesting enough for me to check it out. I have to say that I am not disappointed. This hardcover is just art in itself, with beautiful illustrations, typography, and section presentation. The overall presentation is gorgeous. The book is divided into cases (140 puzzles) that go from relatively easy to more difficult. However, the easy ones can be tricky. It is written in the voice of John Watson, Holmes’ assistant. I am enjoying this book so far and might try others in the collection. If you are looking for something a bit different to exercise your brain, this one is a good choice.

Farmhouse Project Update – That Old Tree

As usual, there are plenty of things to do around here. Yesterday, my husband finished clearing up the mess from a previous storm, tons of branches that have been around for a while. Then, he decided to tackle the old tree that fell during the same time. We had estimates done, but he decided to do it himself, especially during this economy. He tackled the job in a couple of weekends. We will save the money for the trees that are too large and require professional handling. In the meantime, we will stop all projects until next year, because you never know. As for the veggie garden, it is done for the season. I picked the last of the tomatoes yesterday. The garden is starting to prepare for a deep sleep during winter. All the work from now on will be clean ups, mostly, not new projects.

The old tree and brush from a previous storm.

The old tree when it fell.
Debris and branches left from a storm.

The wood from the large tree is good wood that we gave to someone. It will be picked up sometime this week to be used as heat for the winter. Especially now that a cord of wood has gone up in price, I think in the range of $300, and many people are installing wood stoves because electricity will go up more, most likely, hence it will probably go up more with demand. We are happy that the tree will be used in a good way. Eventually, we will install a small wood stove in the kitchen.

Plenty of wood for heat.

Many critters that used to perch on that fallen tree will certainly miss it, and I will miss looking at them.

Nature recycles itself; maybe we should learn from it.

Holiday Selection

Herbert presents The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (Photo by M.A.D.)

I try to select a special book that I can enjoy during the holiday season. This year’s selection is The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. I did not own this particular book but has been on my list for some time, so I decided to treat myself this year. I always try to buy a vintage or antique copy (when possible) of a book that I know I will have for many years. This time, it was a bit challenging because of the many variations online of this particular book, many publications, range in price, and condition. I knew I wanted a hardcopy, and after many moments of indecision between so many tempting years of publication, I ended up with this one, called The Oxford Illustrated Dickens by the Oxford University Press, 1966. I was torn between this one and a much older publication of this book, early 1900’s, also a hardcopy. I decided on this one mainly because of the excellent condition, including the jacket, and that it included the original illustrations throughout the book, 76 early engravings. I especially loved the cover presentation. Am I still thinking about that older copy? You bet I am. I hope to finish Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales soon, so I can indulge on this lovely book.

The Old Curiosity Shop was first published in two volumes (1840-41). This particular edition includes both, which is something I like. However, if you would like to find separate vintage volumes, they are available online, either separate or as a set, which was something I struggled with when making my final decision. The works of Dickens are widely known. His life had a rough start, and sadly, he died in 1870 at the age of 58 before he could finish his last work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. For those of you who are fond of older books and would like to own this particular story, the good news is that there is plenty to choose from online, and at a variety of prices, from the most expensive and rare to the most humble and recent publications. There is truly a generous selection.

The story is about Little Nell and her grandfather being pursued by an evil dwarf, and they end up meeting a series of interesting characters. That’s the short version, 555 pages. I have to admit that I am in for a treat because I have not read this story of Dickens, so I am now wanting to finish Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales in order to enjoy this book.

Columbus Day No More ?

Yesterday, I happened to glance at the calendar in the kitchen and I saw it marked Indigenous Peoples Day. I was a bit confused for a moment, until I realized I had a woke calendar. Apparently, this is the right way to call it now because Columbus Day is offensive. It doesn’t matter anymore that the poor devil made the dangerous trip to America and put it in the map. Some say he was trying to find a new route; others say that he had other endeavors looking for riches, and lately, it is believed that he was a protector of the Jews living in the border between France and Spain, and might have been of the Jewish faith himself, which he hid, according to new letters revealing hidden symbolism. In Basque country, during that time, Basques, Jews, and Muslins lived in peace, until they were invaded by Spain. He was trying to find a safe place for his people, according to this new theory. No one will ever know for sure, I guess.

I also guess that we “old farts” should forget everything we learned at school long time ago and embrace the new ways of calling things (at the time of this writing, they are proposing to rename many military bases) because we might offend without intention a fragile soul, if we use an old concept/name. I always thought that the day celebrated or made a point of the discovery of the new world. I understand that with it, came genocide and slavery, a very sad and dark part of our history, and something we should never forget. Yesterday, we celebrated the indigenous peoples, which should have been celebrated long time ago, and not as a byproduct of wokeness.

I don’t like that in the name of being woke we are sweeping history under the rug, ignoring it, and practically erasing it. Erasing history is where the danger hides. A society that forgets where it has come from is doomed to end there one day. As for me, I will keep calling it Columbus Day, not because I like the old explorer, but because for me, it represented the day a new world was discovered, the one in which I live, and love.

One day, the world I grew up in will disappear, and things will not be called the same. Will I be deemed confused, disoriented or a candidate for senile dementia by some woke health practitioner? I can see an entire generation being misdiagnosed in their late years – “Patient does not know what day it is, makes up names for holidays, and becomes argumentative when questioned; might become combative at times, when corrected and reoriented.”

Assessing Your Strength and Building a Stronghold

Photo by M.A.D.

I wrote this blogpost as a second part to the previous post.

After a devastating life event, how do you come back to living?

A devastating event will be different for every person, as well as its lasting effects, physically, emotionally and psychologically, as well as materially. When your life has been uprooted and turned upside down and around, how do you recover? During a life storm, everything is taken out of place, including your center, your sense of self and well-being, especially, your sense of self in relation to your Creator.

The recovery and healing process and timeline, assuming that you want it, will be different for everyone, but there are key steps that you can take to start and continue on your way up.

  • First, acknowledge the situation, what has happened, how it happened, but don’t linger on the why looking for blame. Just acknowledge it for what it is at the moment. Know that stagnation or the present condition are not forever unless you decide so.
  • Decide that you want your life back. You want to own your life again, and not be a victim of the circumstances.
  • Acknowledge that you need help, and that help doesn’t equal weakness or handouts. Help can come in many forms: as faith in a higher power, help from above, from a friend or family, from community resources or private resources …
  • Assess your strength. What is good right now? What do you have that is an asset to your healing and recovery? Whether it is in character, spirituality, people, or material resources, make a list of each blessing and look at it. You are not alone. You will feel better.
  • Start visualizing your stronghold, your safe place; it is unique to you. See it in your mind, but also in your heart, no matter how impossible or far away it may seem right now.
  • Start building your stronghold one brick at a time.
    • Brick 1 – Faith, in God and yourself. You need to strengthen it because this block will be the foundation to build over it.
    • Brick 2 – Velocity. Take it one step at a time. Learn to manage the little things first. When you are hurt and vulnerable, anything seems like a huge crisis, unsurmountable, and sometimes it is; however, when in pain, smaller issues are magnified.
    • Brick 3 – Strive for balance. When the weight is out of place, it is easy to feel off balance. Know that a sense of balance will come back as you start managing smaller issues and details one by one. It will strengthen you to keep on going and feel equilibrium. During this time, talk to God; He listens.
    • Brick 4 – Live with intention. By now, you feel a new sense of purpose and desire, even if that is only to come back to the living. Make your days count for you and your loved ones. Live intentionally each day. After all, each brand-new day is a gift the second you open your eyes. Do the best you can with what you have.
    • Brick 5 – Use any resources available to you wisely and carefully. Plan the application of these resources in your life. Don’t waste or overuse these. Develop a sense of responsibility in their inception.
    • Brick 6 – Become selective. Choose carefully the things and people you will give your full attention. This might seem common sense, however, how many times have we placed our attention on things and issues that will not benefit us, whether it relates to time management, frivolous pursuits, unfruitful projects, toxic people, toxic behavior or habits, unhealthy thoughts … Actively choose what enters your space, your sanctuary, your new stronghold. But also, what you will go after from now on, your pursuits.
    • Brick 7 – Build your financial security. This starts with an honest appreciation of your everyday blessings, whether material or immaterial. Be grateful for what you have now and learn to manage it well. Not until that will you be able to define financial health (or any other type of security) for you. However, during that time, you should be working on a few simple skills.
      • Keeping your expenses as low as you can so you can do as much as you can with what you have.
      • Managing your money/resources better. Budgeting.
      • Being intentional with every purchase and on/or below budget.
      • Eliminating your debt one step at a time. It will take time. Stay away from new debt.
      • Building savings slowly. Set an amount, even if low, to start. Savings never stop.
      • Defining your standard of living according to the needs of the stronghold you set out to build. That is why your definition of financial health is important. It will help you discard anything that does not fit in your safe stronghold, whether expensive habits, behavior, or unnecessary purchases. You cannot build a new stronghold while living in an old one that crumbled.
    • Brick 8 – Don’t focus on other people’s strongholds, mind your own. Their blessing is their blessing, yours is yours. It is easy to become distracted by other people’s wants and achievements. It is good to celebrate those and admire, even having someone successful as a mentor. However, when you take your eyes off your stronghold for too long, you will end up neglecting it and even devaluating it. Focus on continuing to build your safe place. Admire others, dream, but don’t neglect your own. This ties back to gratitude.
    • Brick 9 – Realize that stuff and money do not make you rich or more valuable, and it certainly does not make you secure. You do and are with the help of God. When you realize where your true sense of security comes from, that is when you will have built your stronghold. You might have started building it from the outside, in the material, little by little, one small step at a time, one small achievement at a time, however, you will continue to build and improve it on the inside, inside of you, and that is a lifetime’s endeavor.

You are your stronghold and in it reside God’s strength, love, and blessings, because you placed Brick 1 as the foundation.

Disclaimer: I know because I’ve been there.

Falling Up While Looking Down

Photo by MAD

The title of this blogpost may seem a contradiction, however, it is not. This blogpost is about when one experiences a life changing event, a sort of “life crash” that changes not only your life, but everything around it. A life crash might be different for every person. It is that event that touches your core, your inner being, and it can make you or destroy you. It usually comes in the form of a loss, whether of health, possessions, relationships, finances … It turns your world upside down.

In the midst of mourning your loss, and while you are still falling, it is then when you will make the most important decision. On that defining moment, when you feel that you have reached rock bottom, you will decide whether you will continue to fall up while looking down or you will stay down and never look up. If you decide to mourn your loss on your way up, you will still feel the fall and hurt, but you will be on your way to regain your balance, and later on your strong footing. With every small and unrushed decision that you make, your stance will become stronger, even when you are still hurting from that fall.

During that time of healing and recovery, faith will surely provide a foothold and a stronghold; however, still looking down on your way up is not easy but requires trust in other than yourself because you are broken down and vulnerable. Faith in a higher power and force will be the bridge that will make a big difference in recovery. Recovery of what, when your world is broken and upside down? Recovery of your self-esteem, your “feeling again,” your courage, your values, your determination, your self-knowledge, your humanity, and ultimately, your heart and soul.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King

“I shall walk in a wide space, for I have sought your precepts.”

Psalm 119:45