Cool As A Cucumber…

I’m getting older…

Women shy about their age. But I don’t care a stitch. I’m turning 40 in September…

Maybe because, I look to both my grandmothers. And they’ve always been so beautiful.

I know, from a lifetime of knowing them, just how beautiful they are. My Grandma Ina’s red hair, infectious laughter, bright intelligence, and endless curiosity. My Grandma Novak’s silver head, confident grace, cleverness, and dedicated nature.

Let’s just say, if I’m following in the light of their way, it’s a lovely path…

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I like my age. I think being young was hard. A thousand lessons learned that I’m very glad to have behind me. And, though I can’t claim to be wise, I am wiser. And that’s a good place to be.

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I thought about this earlier today. I left half day early from work to go to the dentist. I go to Smileworks in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, worth the drive into the maze of congested city neighborhoods (seems traffic is right back up to where it used to be) because they are amazing.

{Michelle’s Self-Wisdom Insert #1: When you find a doctor, dentist, stylist, hypoallergenic-not-going-to-make-me-get-hives-and-an-asthma-attack-body-product, etc….stick with it.}

But as I was driving home, taking it easy on this hot and beehive streets sort of day, a vehicle started honking aggressively behind me. I hadn’t stalled to take my left turn, but a woman appeared instantly enraged at my not hitting the petal and burning some rubber…

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After my left turn was complete, with two lanes now available in my direction, I actually did slow down to let this other vehicle pass. I don’t need that stress. Let’s let the woman-on-fire pass me by.

But what did she do? Pulled into the lane next to me, slowed down to drive beside me, unrolled her window, screamed expletives that were downright nasty, eventually to speed off. I glanced at my speedometer, finding that even paused down, I was going the speed limit.

{Michelle’s Self-Wisdom Insert #2 (also straight from the mouths of my folks): Don’t let anyone on the road make you react. You just take your time. It’s not worth your safety.

Amazingly, and I credit my age and experience on this one, I remained as cool as a cucumber…

[Cucumbers on my salad and on my sandwich! So summer! So refreshing!]

Truthfully, that woman was doing herself harm by getting so upset. That couldn’t have been good for her blood pressure. Or her soul. My word.

{Michelle’s Self-Wisdom Insert # 3: Find empathy. Even when it’s difficult. And forgive quickly.}

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I decided to forgive the woman instantly in my mind.

If you’d seen it, I know it was road-rageous. Truly. Pulling up beside someone to honk, scream, and profane (it was yikes), borders on threatening behavior. It’s not right. However…do I remember ever getting over-the-top-upset on the road? Sure. I blush at all of the impatience I’ve had in my life. Life is stressful. It can make you bubble.

But nowadays I think…that car in front of you? Maybe that person just lost their loved one. Maybe they feel nervous on the road. Maybe they are a new driver. Maybe they are driving home from the dentist. Maybe they are overworked. Maybe they’re getting on in years.

Maybe, it doesn’t matter. Maybe…we should just be kinder to one another, through our impatience.

Maybe…it’s just me.

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{Michelle’s Self-Wisdom Insert #4: Eat lots of cookies after visiting the dentist. Didn’t have a cavity this go around? Time to live a little more on the wild side!}

I must confess however, I have been harboring a secret impatience lately. You may have guessed from these photos, but how tempted I’ve been to cut off all my own hair!!!

My head is a wild mess (you can’t see the terrible tangles…but they are there). I swear, faeries dance on my head when I sleep every night. And oooohhh, that makes me mighty aggitated! And no. It’s not because I do, and always will, refuse to brush my hair. It’s faeries. Sometimes they leave glitter, and twigs, and feathers and stuff.

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Do you believe me?

This brush my Mama bought me ages ago (I gather she was hinting at something), is still in the packaging. We should have a blog giveaway! I mean, I’m not going to use that contraption.

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I guess where stubbornness resides, wisdom still won’t grow with age.

But don’t worry…I made an appointment. My hair will be cut by a professional. This time.

Stay cool. Don’t stress. Eat your veggies. Don’t honk and curse on the road. Don’t squash a faerie if you find one dancing on your head. They’re endangered.

Grow in wisdom. Grow in patience.

Stay Inspired.

A Man Pulled Up On The Side Of The Road…

Welcome All. I hope this message finds you full with good health, safety, love and light today…

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I am well. Though, it has been another few unusual and tense weeks. There is civil stress, both locally, and throughout the nation. And there is Covid. It hasn’t gone anywhere. As with everyone else, it’s just one day at a time.

God, please bless, heal, and keep us in your hands.

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As some of you readers are already aware, being revelers, vendors, and employees at Bristol, the Bristol Renaissance Faire (and my book shop The Quill and Brush) will remain closed for the 2020 season. It was announced earlier this week. In my view, it was most certainly the right decision, for the health of all…

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Of course, there is disappointment in it, for many. Bristol is a beautiful, magical outlet. The festival (and all of the hundreds of other canceled events around the nation) are also basic income, for thousands. As I packed my costumes away yesterday, and simply sat with all that has happened these last months, this closure was harder to swallow than I’d anticipated.

My Mom mailed me masks, which she made, and which I make use of every day. I am thankful. My Dad mails me books, which in reading, have been a recent escape. I am thankful. I am thankful to have family that think of me. It is a reminder to pay it forward, with small gestures that uplift others, when I have the opportunity…

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Yet today, I want to share something personal that happened this week. For whatever reason, I normally wouldn’t. I try after all, to keep things light here on Inspired By Venice. But I feel compelled. Perhaps because what I am going to say, may be important to even one reader here, someday, somehow. God works in mysterious ways…

A man pulled up on the side of the road, as I was walking with my groceries on the sidewalk, a few evenings ago. He offered me a ride home in his car. A stranger. I said no. He encouraged. I said no.

I need not offer more detail on the happening, but this…

It quickened my heart, the way a deer must feel when it knows it needs to run the other direction. I watched nervously when the car drove away, until I could not see it anymore, and then I wove through an alleyway home, to be sure I wasn’t being watched for where I lived.

This is not the first time. And maybe it won’t be the last. I’ve a few stories that will turn the hairs up on your neck. Was this individual a bad person with bad intentions? I don’t know. But what I know is, a stranger has no business offering me a ride in their car.

I shared this to say, when your instinct alerts you, listen. This may apply, in many other ways, than this. But if your gut is telling you something, listen. And carry yourself, the other direction.

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Have I mentioned I’m eating Chuckles for stress management?

Love one another, lift one another. Love and take care of yourself.

Stay Inspired.

It’s Never Too Late To Grow…

Hello Friends! I hope the sun is shining for you today!

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It isn’t shining here in Evanston. We’re in for thunderstorms, and then rain for some days more. That cold wet chill has also returned. But our springs seem always to cling to winter’s hand until the bitter end!

This just means, I’ll have to make my own sunshine!

Fortunately, I’ve a knack for stirring up my own mirth and entertainment. Probably because I was an only child. Today I’m working on something fun that I’ll share with you soon…

 

For now, please excuse my piercing kissing noises in this video, but when this baby squirrel plunked his head down like he was pouting (I think he was trying to get a nap in), it was just a little too cute!

 

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And to the spider that popped out of my Kleenex box early one morning when I needed a tissue, scaring the wits out of me before I’d had any coffee

That’s not nice. I like spiders and all, but please don’t test my nerves.

Another nature sighting, a beautiful mother rabbit and her three babies…

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That’s my car. I had to move it the other day for street cleaning.

Are cities still ticketing if residents are supposed to be keeping to their houses? I wasn’t taking any chances.

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As I pulled up, I saw three itty-bitty-baby-bunnies pressing up against a street utility box. I thought, what a precarious place for a nest of bunnies. But as it turned out, there was a ground nest just beside the street. The babies were spending a little time outside the nest. Mama came back, and all the babies went to her and started nursing…

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Sweetest little things God ever made. I was glad I parked there. I don’t move my car much, so maybe it will give them a little block from the road traffic.

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I digress, but isn’t my mama’s painting so pretty. I wish I could paint whimsical little scenes like this…

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[Make your radishes swim in cold water in the fridge to keep them crisp and fresh.]

I further digress, but I think radishes are one of the most delicious things that grow in the dirt. I’m nuts for radishes. What’s your favorite veggie?

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I roam even further, but if you want the easiest supper ever, and like me, you enjoy a lot of green on your plate, do try avocado toast…

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Simple and made in minutes. I like to top mine with arugula, sea salt and ground pepper. Finish the meal with cookies, of course

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My best friend Jessy sent me a gift in the mail this week. A miniature library to construct and personalize myself! I’m going to have a field day with this one. Some of my own books might appear in miniature in this little library!

Don’t ya’ just love best buds?

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And then there’s my little indoor potted herbs. I’m disappointed to report that the cilantro is beginning to fail. Of the 4 variety herbs I potted, only cilantro and basil grew, and now I fear I’ll just have the basil left…

It’s for the best anyhow; I have a cilantro allergy. You know, it isn’t as easy as one would figure, trying to keep indoor plants alive!

I have a philosophy about that though. Plants weren’t really meant to be indoors. Outside, bugs visit, plant matter decomposes in the soil and brings nutrients, the rain adds its own magic elements I’m sure. Inside, a plant is just stagnant. That’s not right.

Sounds a little like all of us! We all need a bit of sun and fresh air ourselves these days, and visits with others, don’t we? People weren’t meant to be stagnant either

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Nonetheless, as I glanced over my basil the other day, I said a little prayer.

Bless my basil!

Wouldn’t it be glorious if I could get it to flourish?

And about that tiny prayer…

No matter how trivial or dire, small or great, He hears you…just sayin’.

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And here’s something, also so small indeed, but I thought it was special…

See the far left basil sprout? When it popped up, the hard seed shell and dirt never fell away, so that it could not grow. Only the stem stood. One day, I thought I could try to pluck it off with tweezers, hoping I wouldn’t pluck the whole sprout out. I did this ever so carefully, with success. But as I looked at it, I supposed it still wouldn’t grow. It was too late for this sprout.

But you know what? I was wrong. It spread two little leaves, and is now growing out more between.

I was inspired to think…given the chance, it’s never too late to grow.

Stay Inspired.

A Love So Great…

Greetings, my dear friends…

I hope this message finds you in the very best of health and comfort, in spite of every challenge there is right now. May the sun shine serenity on your life…

I myself, sweetly lament today. But let me assure you, it isn’t with a heavy heart, but rather with a love so great

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My Grandpa Ron passed this week, whom I loved, very very much. My Grandma Ina and Grandpa Ron had a great influence on my upbringing, and on the person I am. They loved and cared for me, so absolutely and selflessly. I will always be so thankful for them.

I love you, Grandpa Ron. Thank you for being so good to me.

And also to those before, forever beloved…

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[Annette, smiling with her husband David, and children Amber and David Jr.]

Your beautiful smile, sweet spirit, and infectious laughter, were the brightest light in our family…

Love you always and always, Aunt Annette.

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[Brian with wife Lisa, and granddaughter Macy]

Thank you for being a part of our rambunctious clan! And for all the love, care, and laughter you brought to it…

Eternal goodness, light, and love to you, Uncle Brian.

 

[Family friend Steve Randahl singing and playing the lap guitar]

Thank you for the friendship, fellowship, and music you gave to my family.

Keep on Rockin’ on, Steve.

 

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And to my baby Tiddo…

Catch all the mousies, feathers, and strings, and wait for me in Heaven…

Mama loves you forever and ever

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.

2 Corinthians 2:4 KJV

And to all you readers out there…

Love each other, love yourself, stay inspired.

Michelle’s Musings…

Hello dearest Friends, Family, and Readers! I hope with all my heart that this message finds each and every one of you well. I know it’s hard right now. I know.

God bless you.

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I figure we’re in for a longer post today since it’s been a few weeks. Just some Michelle musings, with no particular order or theme, and which will no doubt be eclectic. As always, I only wish a smile, a chuckle, a “that’s curious”, or an Amen! in it for you

Here we go…

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As you may remember, I started a teeny-tiny kitchen herb garden weeks ago. I have since been daily brooding over my little pots like a nervous mother hen. Cluck-cluck-cluck! Do they need more sun? Less sun? More water? Was that too much water? Oh geez…

Truly, I’ve no green thumb. However, I was born with my toes in the dirt. Where was that hospital? I’m delighted by anything in nature. So, when my first sprout peeked out, I was brimming with excitement…

I’ve got cilantro and basil growing at a snail’s pace…

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But no chives or parsley. I tried to keep the faith a little while, but I don’t think those are coming…

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I’m tickled by how the cilantro is sprouting these itty-bitty leaves. How tempted I am to clip one and take a nibble. I hope the basil grows full and strong. I’ll replant it and let it get out of control. I’m bonkers for basil

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[Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay]

Michelle fun fact: I have an allergy to cilantro. This is unfortunate, because I really like the herb. In general, I’ve already bad allergies. I sniffle all day long, medicine or no medicine. I’ll blow my nose in my sleeve at this point, in drapery or table linen, anything made of cloth or paper really. I don’t care. I’m so over allergies. I’ve got that respiratory system that screams No Ma’am! with great clout, the moment I so much as toe near something to which I’m allergic…

Oh that delicious, emerald-green, bright, fresh, cilantro! Sniffles, congestion, and itches! I get so itchy! The more I eat in one sitting, the louder the No Ma’am! Once, my palms itched so bad after eating a healthy portion of cilantro, that for at least half an hour, I thought I’d go crazy!

True story. Except the part about linens and drapery. I use tissue…mostly.

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Ok, I have a mystery for you!

But first, I must digress to say…look at those little flower paintings my mother Lita did! Aren’t they so pretty! They were just so cheerful, I propped them on my writing desk to celebrate spring. Love you Mama!

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Ok, back to the mystery…

Do you know what sea glass is? I honestly didn’t until recently. See, I grew up around small bodies of water, and I don’t remember ever seeing any, or it ever being introduced to my vocabulary. So, as an adult, I’ve discovered the joy of searching for this on the beach…

At first, I think I genuinely thought they were some sort of stone. Natural. Yes, go ahead, feel free to have a giggle on me! I was just ignorant of what they were. But now I know that it is actual glass, tumbled around in the water, for a long, long time. When it washes up on shore, it’s lovely.

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So, living a few blocks from Lake Michigan, let’s just say I’ve now added this to my list of mini-hobbies. And, as I’ve just learned, sea glass is only from salt water, beach glass is what we have here.

So what’s the mystery? Well according to Wikipedia, it can take many decades for these to form. I might be collecting pretty-bitties that have been tumbling around for 100 years for all I know. So, imagine how curious it was to find this one…

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Of all the billions of stones and shells and grains of sand along our shore…I found this oddity. A piece of frosty-white beach glass, etched. Now, from this photo, it may look like XXI. But I think it may have been XXX, with the right-most part of the etching fading away. I’m not entirely certain.

Roman numerals? The symbolic X’s of kissesAnd this etching isn’t new. It is worn. I can’t say how old it is, or who etched it, or simply how. But, believe me…my imagination could come up with a few stories. Perhaps I’ll write a short book of tales one day, each a possibility stemming from this one piece of glass.

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Another recent and curious mini-hobby I’ve picked up…quite literally…pennies.

You know, my step-dad Charlie always had this knack for finding money on the sidewalk, in parking lots, anywhere really. That’s always made me smile. “Look! I found a dollar!”

Well, with recent stress (to which we are all enduring), I’ve tried tricking myself into being distracted. Small amusements. I still walk to and from work, and am during this time, considered an ‘essential worker’. I have for some weeks, worked almost entirely alone. At first, this was kind of eerie (I’ve been playing a lot of classical music in my cozy little nest of an office – I helps me feel calm and focused). But now, I’ve adapted, just as each of you has had to do in one way or other…

In any case, I always delight in noticing birds, or budding flowers, along my walk. But then, I all of a sudden, started to feel both distracted and amused, by searching for pennies along my route! Instead of fretting about uncertainty, I began making a game of spotting coins. And, don’t they say to find a penny is good luck?

I’m now collecting a jar of good luck. And, I’m going to buy something special with them someday! Probably cookies…

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In other news, wearing a mask took some adapting to as well. In Evanston, it is not only suggested, but now mandatory for essential workers to do so. I don’t have to all day (thank goodness – I’d quickly become claustrophobic – God bless our medical workers) as my interactions are few. But, I wear them around others.

This specific mask with flowers on it…was left on the doorknob of my office. A gift, made by a colleague’s wife. That really touched my heart. How sweet are small gifts. Sometimes from those who know us, and sometimes from someone we hardly even know. I am so humbled by that. It reminds me to be kind to others, even in little ways, whenever I can…

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I even wear it out for walks when I am treading the urban sidewalks. Who says your mask can’t be pretty?

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With that said, I’m going to try and make one for myself. I’ve some fabric from a dress that never fit right. I’ve needle and thread. I’ve a hot iron for ironing. Yes, you read that right. I don’t own an iron. I embrace my wrinkles. So, let’s just see if my hair straightening iron can’t do the trick for this small craft? I’ll let you know! Don’t they say that necessity is the mother of invention?

I may be tempted to sew some loose pearls on it. Too bad I don’t have any spare sparkles around. Hmmm….

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As for other DIY projects, I repaired my vintage medicine cabinet door with a glue gun. A glue gun I pulled out of a box from my younger, more craftier moments. Cause I love my classic medicine cabinet. I’d use bubble gum to keep it together if I had to!

Once, I made a pair of angel wings for myself, glue-gunning every feather. It was, crazy. The very best crazy.

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[Image by congerdesign from Pixabay]

Another time, when really young, I left a glue gun plugged in on a holiday. I realized this, while on a family visit, away from the empty house where said glue gun was oozing fiery glue…

There is no worse fear for a youngster, than believing you may have just burnt the house down, while away eating mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie at a family gathering. I snuck into my aunt’s bedroom to dial my house several times. Because, you know, in a child’s innocent mind, this must mean my house was still there. I never said a word to my Mom, and was terribly anxious to get home again. When she smelled the house as we entered, that very distinct smell of burning glue and metal that can only come from a glue gun (which had miraculously caused no damage), she knew who the culprit was. The glue gun disappeared for a little while. Probably a few years…and then there were angel wings – 1996 Romeo and Juliet style baby!

In other news. God’s been good to me. Tea and cookies good…

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Fresh fruit and green juice good…

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Fill my belly good…

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Fine health, and a soft bed to rest my head, good.

What more could I need?

If you’re reading, say hello friend! Leave a comment! Share a few lines of your DIY, a beach-glass mystery, a blessing you’re thankful for, a funny story, or your favorite tea-time treat! What’s blooming in your garden? Love it!

And wherever you are in the world, I wish you ever well. Hang in there! All things have a season. From out of hardship and gloom, there is always rebirth and renewal.

So I say again, and always will…

Stay Inspired!

 

You’ve plenty of grit, you’ll see…

Hello Friends. I hope this message finds you, above all, healthy. I also wish you a calm spirit, and enduring strength, as all the world’s fortitude is being tested…

I know that for many, life is very strange, strained, and scary right now. And I’ve of course, no more wisdom that anyone on how to find those moments of tranquility, which seem so very fleeting. However, for me, there are a few things that bring a snatch of daily peace…

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[Cheerful blooms I bought myself last year…just love the smell of fresh roses.]

Thankfulness. Thinking on those people in my life that I am grateful for. Remembering all the ways that I am blessed. Being content with small things, and thankful that I have them at all…

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[Ahhh…nut butter and jam! Bringing back those shelf-stable old friends.]

Remembering that ‘It is well with my soul’. I find personal peace in my beliefs, believing that through faith, prayer, and patience, we can endure anything. And at the end of the day, no matter what happens, I rest easier undoubting that my life is in God’s hands…

[New Apostolic Church Orchestra and Choir: Silvertown, South Africa]

Memories. Looking at all the beautiful parts of my life, and believing that it won’t be long before some normalcy returns, even if things look a little different for a while. That brings me happiness…

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[Milwaukee shoreline on Lake Michigan last summer]

Just pretend like you’re camping. Okay, this one’s from my Mama. I don’t know how many times she’s said that in my life. Maybe she doesn’t even realize she’s said that a whole bunch…

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[Image by jplumb from Pixabay]

See, we used to go camping when I was younger. Loved it! There’s nothing cozier than a campfire, and no better a night’s sleep than in the fresh air of the outdoors, and nothing more awe-inspiring than a starry sky…

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[Image by skeeze from Pixabay]

But why has my Mama said that since? Maybe because sometimes in life you have to go without, and have a little less. And, you know, when you’re camping, you may run out of toilet paper and have to use leaves. Or eat beans and marshmallows for supper, instead of what you’d usually have…

This is certainly not to belittle hardship, nor the need for vital necessities. But, for so many of you who are staying in, and perhaps running out of the items you’re used to having, try to shrug your shoulders and pretend like you’re camping. Making a game of things in your mind sometimes softens the strangeness of a situation…

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[Photo by 631372 from Pixabay]

Humour. I’ve a story for you. Taking notice that one of their cats were acting oddly at the basement window the other evening, and assuming it to be another neighborhood feline on the prowl, my folks found to their complete bafflement, a wild turkey pecking at the window. What? At length, it strolled off into a neighboring yard. Though such wild fowl aren’t unknown in the surrounding farm country, certainly that was the first turkey in decades to be on such an adventure. Wish I could have seen that! No wonder the cat was acting a little strange. Never seen a bird like that before! The wildlife really is coming out while the towns are quiet…

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[Lovely pink peonies snipped from one colleague, and a piece of fruit from another, last spring. The smallest gifts can bring such joy to the heart.]

My little offering to say, I hope serenity for you today, in whatever ways are personal. And, I wish you all the grit there is as we wind through the seriousness of these current days.

You’ve enough, I promise you. You’ll see…

Stay Inspired.

Lord, Hear My Voice…

Taking a peaceful moment today, I started a little kitchen herb garden. It will be a delight as the days go by, to watch it grow…

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1: 11-12: KJV

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They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Psalms 126: 5: KJV

In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.

Psalms 120: 1: KJV

Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

Psalms 130: 2: KJV

Pray for one another. Lift up one another. Take care of yourself. Keep faith and an inspired heart.

I Wish Above All Things…

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

3 John 2: KJV

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[Image by Aleksey Kutsar from Pixabay]

When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, Oh Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.

Psalms 94: 18-19: KJV

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[Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay]

For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

Isaiah 41: 13: KJV

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[Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay]

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Isaiah 41: 10: KJV

Sing Like The Red Finch…

Good Morning Dear Friends! How are you doing this blustery, sunny, February morning? Did you enjoy your Valentine’s? Did you eat lots of decadent delights, stuff yourselves with fancy bonbons, and flutter rose petals into the sky with romantic abandon as you skipped down the street with your beloved?

I did none of the above, although I might have devoured half a package of crunchy-dark-chocolate-chip-cookies in bed like they were my last. Crumbs in the covers. Where would my life be without cookies?

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Yes, we’ve a bit of sun and blue sky here in Evanston, which feels like a miracle. Sunshine makes a big difference for staying inspired, so I find!

But apart from sunshine, I also spotted another precious miracle this week…

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[Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay]

We had one very cold day this week. And as I walk to work, I bundled up a bit especially. I don’t know how I can still find this amazing, having lived in North America all my life, but I can’t believe how instantly some fingers can feel on the verge of irreversible frostbite! Sometimes, it’s like, a minute…

 I like to eat my morning muffin as I walk, which means at least one hand isn’t wearing a glove. That poor hand. Yet, musteatmuffin.

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[Image by MH Rhee from Pixabay]

Along my way, there is this particular house, of which I always purposefully travel past their backyard. They have some habitat signs up, and in the warmer months, that backyard is a veritable little jungle.

I have noted, almost each day that I pass it, all year round, that the birds are going just bonkers for that yard. There is some fruity compost out on the ground, and bird feeders, and clearly the types of plants growing that yield what the chirpers enjoy eating the most…

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[Image by aekadtke from Pixabay]

As I went by on this particular morning, freezing my own feathers, there was this singular birdsong. Beautiful, beautiful warbling. Oh, my, heavens. And though I was already running minutes behind, I stopped in my tracks nonetheless. I figured some very unique bird was passing through, and I had to see it. Here in Evanston, I’ve chanced to spy some wonderfully out of place birds migrating through…

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[Image by aekadtke from Pixabay]

I discovered the creature. So pretty a soft red, and not the crimson Cardinal (which are very active and thriving right now). It was so precious. Oh my word. Having its little song on that glacial, albeit sunny, morning. As cheerful as ever…

And as I marveled, I literally thought, I want to be her. The one who’s singing. The one who, even during the coldest day, when all the other birds are so hushed by the season, is still singing. I will be her.

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[According to my Birds of North America book, it was a red finch, though I am not absolutely certain which one. A House Finch, I believe.]

How joyful, that such a tiny creature can bring such lightness to the day. She offered me a more inspired heart, a brighter smile, and a sunnier step, in just seconds. If a little bird can do that, then what can I bring to others, just by offering a more positive spirit?

Sing like the red finch, my friends…

Welcome 2020! And Some Musings…

Good morning friends! It’s 2020! Here in Chicago, it’s cold, but there is a layer of beautiful snow on the ground along with a sunny bright blue sky! I’m thinking of taking a bit of a walk later to take in the air, on this, the first day of the new year. I’ll have to bundle up!

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[I’m presently reading Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman. The copy was courtesy of my dad (we snail mail each other books because we have similar reading interests). My dad nailed it. I don’t want to put the book down. An incredible, page-turning, true adventure!]

How did I bring in the new year? In my pajamas. I was chiding myself for not being asleep at that hour. I have a bedtime and all, which the holiday season has quite disrupted. 9 p.m. these days. 9:30 when I’m apparently feeling spunky…

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[My town of Evanston, on a sunny winter morning just before Christmas. The cold is nothing I find, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, and the crimson cardinals are merry about the trees.]

So midnight, yikes! But I thought since I was already up so late, might as well take in the moment! I was snacking on salty nuts and chocolates (which I am certain assisted in making my dreams especially erratic last night…I have a ‘no-eating-chocolate-before-bed’ policy too…which I’ve hurled out the window for the holidays)…

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[Is there anything better than tea, cookies, and a book, on a cold winter’s day? Can’t every day just be tea, cookies, and books? Can I please earn a salary sitting around with tea, cookies, and books? And maybe some coffee, and cats?]

And just as the 12 o’clock hour was about to strike, I closed my eyes and began a prayer, feeling that that was a nice way to bring in this new decade. I thanked God for everything I have, and welcomed whatever was meant for me in the coming years, and asked for blessings for my loved ones and friends, and for peace for all…

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[Want to know something quirky about me (besides everything)? Each morning before I leave my house, I look in the bathroom mirror, and smile. I swear. For quite some time now I’ve been doing this. A little self-encouragement? Starting out the day with a positive expression, no matter what the day may bring? A smile, to stay inspired.]

And then it was promptly lights out! Midnight had come and gone, to sleep I went!

Now, I don’t make resolutions. But if I were to form thoughts for what I want for myself in this new year, and new decade, they would revolve around…

  • New adventures: Whether near or far, I love new experiences. Let’s add more!
  • Being brave to change: Because the new that awaits me, can enrich my life.
  • Maintaining good health choices: Because that is the best expression of self-love.

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[I digress but, I noticed these itty paw prints cemented in the sidewalk when I was out for a winter walk. Do you see those adorable little nail prints on that left claw? Was it a raccoon? Bet he didn’t like that cement on his little toes! I find the most delightful things, when I keep my eyes open…]

Well, I’m going to spend part of today writing, so I better hop to it. But, I just wanted to wish you all, the very Happiest New Year, and all of the peace, health, and joy in the world. Welcome 2020!

Stay Inspired!

Merry, Merry Christmas To You All!

On this beautiful Christmas morning, I wish each and every one of you…

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…all of the peace, love, health, and happiness in the world.

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Merry Christmas to you all! May your hearts be filled with good cheer!

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 KJV

A Robin’s Sweet Song…

Living in an urban environment, I walk around town all year long. When I toe out my door each day, I leave the car right where it’s parked…on the city street. I power-step to work, I stroll for groceries, I hike to the post office. If I don’t have to drive, I prefer not to…

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And I love walking, so I’ll go out for an amble just because, as often as I can. I enjoy the fresh air, the lakeside, scenes of nature wherever they are found, and I also enjoy a little bit of city bustle too. It’s specifically lovely when like today, the sun is shining and the biting temperatures have eased up…

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As I was going about my way, I heard the slightest, prettiest little song, and gazed up to see where it was coming from….

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It was an American robin, ever so gently caroling amidst the berries up in a tree. It seemed to be singing just to itself, which I found so very special and sweet…

I believe they were enjoying the sunshine and temperate weather, just as much as I was! I’m very glad that I paused a spell, to listen to this robin’s sweet song.

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord. 

Psalms 104:33-34 KJV

Ancient is Here! Enjoy the Adventure!

Hello All! Here’s wishing each and every one of you good health and happiness today! I wanted to share something very special today. After an almost two-year writing journey on this project, my newest novel Ancient, is finally here!

When I woke up this morning, one of first things I did was go to my computer to peek and see if Ancient was live, available to all. When I saw that it was, an instant little cry burst forth, tears spontaneously pooling. A total sneak attack cry that I wasn’t expecting. But it only took me a few seconds to understand the sudden emotion…

Writing Ancient felt a little different to me than my other books. Where before, I felt something like a puppeteer, moving my characters where I would, looking at them from above, or like a narrator, this time I felt like I’d taken the journey with my character. And this morning, when seeing that the story was now no longer just mine, I felt like I was letting go. Waving to Hem in the desert, as she disappeared like a mirage, out into a vast landscape of sand. Very bittersweet…

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For everyone who reads Ancient, it is a wonderful adventure, with a delicious pinch of romance, and many thought-provoking twists of the spiritual. Hem, a nomad in the wilderness of ancient Egypt, loses everything, her family and her life, and is left dangerously and desperately alone. This is her journey from out of darkness, and back into the light. I was with her every step…

Ancient can be purchased here in the U.S., and is available in Europe through Amazon.

When reading Ancient, remember to take along your water bottle and sunscreen, and do beware the asps and scorpions. Maybe don’t wear sandals. Just saying…

And as ever, my dear, dear friends…stay inspired.

Looking Back…

I’ve had a mind for some time to go through my old photographs, most of them taken before the advent of digital cameras and smart phones. I thought I might select a handful to share with you, for a few of the travel adventures, costumes, special stories and sparks of inspiration they might contain. But also, for I am considering digitizing my photos and purging the actual bulky box they fill. Of course, some hard copies I will always keep, the most special of these slipped between the pages of my Bible, a safe place where I keep some of my treasures…

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[My baptism at the age of 12. I was very happy.]

Now, please don’t frown when you read this, for it is actually funny. If you were witness, it would make you chuckle. There are two things that make me cry on cue in this world…

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The first of these is Christian music. You could actually test this like a science experiment, and the result would be the same every time. Come sit in the car with me, for example, and switch the music to the Christian station. I’ll start blubbering in about 15 to 30 seconds. Why? I dunno. Fond memories of singing hymns in church on a sunny Sunday morning? Moved by the Holy Spirit? A feeling of hope and a vision of eternal light? Whatever it is, pass me the Kleenex…oh heavens!

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The second thing that makes me cry on cue? Christian movies. For real. Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea? Noah and the Ark?

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Me: “RUN MOSES! Hurry! Lead the people to safety! Sob, sob, sob, squeal. Noah! Collect all the animals!! Hurry! The rains are coming! Get your family to the Ark! Blubber, blubber, blubber. Oh, for goodness sake…

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Well, now there seems to be a new item to add to this quirky list of what makes me cry on cue. Perhaps it is because I am getting older and beginning to understand the idea of nostalgia…but my old photos now make me reach for a tissue box…oh geez!

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Here is one taken on the drive of my grandparents’ home, certainly just returning from school on the bus. I am guessing it is autumn, I in my little sweater, carrying my itty-bitty pink jacket and my red school bag. Was this where it all began? My love for school? Where my insatiable curiosity, and elation over the smell of old books and pencil erasers began? Gimme’ a handkerchief somebody! What, nobody carries a cotton hankie anymore? Snifflesniffle

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And here, a photo with my Mama at a family Christmas gathering. My beautiful mother. My hands up to my mouth with the surprise felt in opening a special present. I love you Mama! I love you the most!

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And here. Do you see the awe in my face sitting in a diner, anticipating that dinner plate?! That’s the same look I still get every time I go to a restaurant to this day! Anyone who knows me can attest that this is true…

More fun blasts from my past to come! And also, release of my newest novel Ancient not afar off! Stay tuned friends, but most importantly…Stay Inspired!

Keep Your Chin Up! Welcome 2019!

Hello Friends! Happy, Happy New Year!

How did I spend my New Year’s Eve this year? Let’s just say my 2019 came in with a terrible sneeze! LOL! A whole week later and I’ve finally mentally surfaced from the murky fog of one dreary head cold. I usually don’t get more than one cold a year, so let’s just say I got mine out of the way for 2019 nice and early. I pride myself on being an overachiever!

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Now that I’ve got my ability back to coherently write a sentence, I wanted to send out a special message to all of you to start out this new year…

I must say, something has been on my heart these last few months. I’m hearing that many folks are struggling. So many seem to be saying that 2018 was not a good year for them. I’m hearing about a lot of pain, heartache, and worry. Each story seems worse than the next. Though I myself had one of the happiest summers of my life, the rest of the year was full of lessons in bravery! I’ve had to rally to overcome a few shake-ups and not-so-nice-surprises, and let me tell ya’…I’ve got some steel flowing through these veins now! Bring it on 2019!

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Of course, this message may not so much apply to you. Perhaps you had the best 2018 ever, and are smiling as you pass into your new year! Bless your heart! Bask in the sunshine of your good season, and count your blessings. But if you’re struggling friend, I just want to say this to you…

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Your life is a gift, and so is everyone in it. You are stronger than you think. In this journey, you will be given good seasons, and sometimes very difficult seasons. Every difficult season has a reason; perhaps they make us stronger to face future challenges, perhaps they make us more empathetic and caring of others. You keep your chin up. God loves you.

Love yourself. Love one another. Everything will be ok.

Right now, I’m turning up the volume to I Just Need U by TobyMac. Random dance in my living room?! Heck yea! There’s a song to lift your spirits and remind you of courage!

I wish you all the very best of health and happiness in 2019! And of course, I wish so very much, that you will stay inspired!

The Angel In Your Midst

My newest novel (I’ll be releasing the cover and title soon), is a romantic odyssey that takes place in ancient days. I’ve been enjoying the research more than I can say. Research is truly one of my greatest joys and I’m having a blast learning what life was like while the ancient Egyptians were building their pyramids…

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I hadn’t a clue that this would happen, but the novel inexplicably began to saturate some Biblical stories into the weave. It just felt right. Now, I’m certainly no Biblical scholar, but I have read the Bible through several times (completely through…even every verse of ‘who begat who’ which I thought would go on forever and ever)…

In any case, my mind is now buzzing with both the ancient past, and a sprinkling of Bible passages that have left me both awed and haunted…

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Consider for a moment, angels. There’s a verse that has made my eyes grow wide with wonder every time I think of it, for some years past. I think with the holidays in full swing, and all the goodwill that it is about, this verse is quite applicable to the current season…

[KJV: Hebrews 13:1-2]  Let Brotherly Love Continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Think about that for a second…

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A few years back, I participated in a Sunday morning Bible study that spoke on this verse particularly. The main question posed, was whether it was safe to entertain strangers in these times? Just being charitable to a stranger in public on the street, can sometimes feel dangerous. I understand these feelings, though I absolutely believe that Biblical times and our current times are equally scary in their ways. For instance…

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Let us pretend for a moment that it is long, long ago. A wayfarer knocks on your door in the middle of the night, a stranger calling out in need. You quickly light an oil lamp, your family scurries behind you in confusion and trepidation as you consider what to do. Could you admit entrance to a stranger into your humble dwelling, to eat amongst your loved ones, to partake of your meager staples with those ever looming threats of plunder or worse, that were so frequent? Man, you had to be pretty brave (or be housing a brood of burly sons with fast and sharp daggers)!

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I haven’t the answer to ‘entertaining strangers’, whether now or then, except that I believe we must all remain charitable, while doing our best to remain safe.

But let us consider that part about angels. While writing this week, I deeply pondered these words from Hebrews. I find them both fascinating and terrifying. Could you imagine such a powerful creature of God sitting before you in a soup kitchen, while you helped to prepare and serve a meal for them? They all the while, appearing as a downtrodden, regular person?!

My brain just broke…

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My first thought is that I’m quite humbled by God’s reminder to be charitable, for I don’t consider myself charitable enough. Further, would I fail such a test if God sent an angel in disguise before my path? This verse challenges my bravery, my willingness to give, and my personal judgements about my fellow man. Humbled, humbled, humbled am I…

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Second, the angels in the Bible aren’t quite like those cute chubby cherubs or prettily robed ladies in white that might come to mind. If I’d later discovered that the man asking for a dollar on the street had been an angel in disguise, I’d certainly fall to my knees in trembles, cry my eyes out, and potentially go mute for a month. Angels are mighty creatures that serve God, and I have to admit that I’d be mighty terrified to have been in the midst of one…just saying…

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Now it is not exactly comparable (particularly owing to the spiritual component of angels), but it might feel a little like the reaction you’d experience if aliens landed on earth tomorrow, and one approached you in your backyard. My guess would be that anyone would be quite terrified. Encountering a being not of this earth would likely challenge your ability to remain standing…

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But all of this to say (and whether or not you yourself believe in angels or aliens), this verse inspired my writing and excited my thoughts. How would my ancient characters react to the presence of an angel? How can I be more charitable today? What if I have been in the presence of an angel before, and didn’t even know it!? Just a little fun for thought! Every time I spy an angel topper at the height of a Christmas tree this season, I’ll be cautiously glancing around me for secret angels in my midst…

Stay charitable folks! Happy holidays, love yourself, love your neighbors, stay inspired!

Holy Chapel of Paris: Sainte-Chapelle

As most European cities are, Paris is filled with breathtaking churches; mind-boggling, Gothic-architecture behemoths built from stone. One such venerated place that I entered on a solitary wandering, was Sainte-Chapelle, meaning Holy Chapel…

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From the outside, patterns can be made out in the window panels, but the beauty of the stained glass from within the chapel are yet to surprise you…

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Religious figures and chiseled-out arches, grace its aging facade…

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And if you look carefully enough, you’ll catch glimpses of the gargoyles that are peering down at you from above…

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While the fleur-de-lis and castles that decorate the stone, are powerful markers of the history of this particular house of worship…

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Markers that continue inside of the church, painted in gold upon the ancient red and blue pillars. I gasped at such a display of color, which I was not expecting…

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Sainte-Chapelle began construction in the year 1242 and was completed in 1248, making this glorious building just about 774 years old! Folks who live abroad may not find this uncommon, but coming from the U.S., we consider a building or church that is just several hundred years old as being historically important. Therefore, I was absolutely in awe as I toed about this holy place built in the High-Middle Ages…

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Once making a slow entrance into its absolutely magnificent chapel, I heard angels singing. A whole choir of them. This was all in my head of course, for the place was so reverently quiet that you could have heard a mouse sneeze…

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It was a breathtaking moment. The sun glowing through the stained glass, the candlelight, the woodwork, the vaulted ceilings, the decorative alter…

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All I can say is, oh heavens! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!…

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And then I got closer to sneak a peek at the stories in the glasswork and my brain just broke. In the year 1248…how?! How did they do it? It’s…just…amazing…

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Some who visited the church plunked down in reverie to view the scene. I wouldn’t doubt if folks stayed for hours to do so. The hundreds of stories and patterns in glass could keep anyone mesmerized. And to think, many if not most of these scenes in glass must have a meaning, some background to them. Whether a political rendering, or a story from the Bible, how many narratives the glass holds…

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Sainte-Chapelle was built by Louis IX, King of France from 1226-1270. When he became a king, he was but 12 years old. He constructed this church in a courtyard where his palace stood in Paris, for the purpose of housing religious relics (including one crown of thorns alleged to be the very one Jesus wore at his crucifixion, and which is now housed in Notre Dame)…

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At this time in the High Middle-Ages, there was both great population and economic growth in Europe (with a blossoming of urban life). It was a period posed after centuries of barbaric invasions, but set just before the Black Death (which potentially took up to 200 million European lives in the mid-1300’s, up to 60% of the peoples)…

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Sainte-Chapelle housed just more than 30 religious relics acquired by Louis IX, items that would have caused absolute fervor in the devout. But even without the relics, if any common citizen could have gained access to such one chapel of a king (not likely), the view alone would have brought them to their knees. For that time period, the innards of a building like this would have been something hardly imaginable, a sight of unfathomable splendor…

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Alas, as I finally walked down an ancient stair to leave the church and gain access once more to the rest of Paris, perhaps I passed the ghost of King Louis’s wife Margaret of Provence as she glided up in the opposite direction, heading into the chapel to say her prayers under the rainbows of the stained glass. Only my imagination of course, but how I wish I could catch but some small glimpses back in time while visiting such ancient places…

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And as I walked back out into the light, the windows hardly giving away the colorful views that were within, I looked up to the gargoyles and said goodbye while angel song flitted up and away into the blue sky. What a place of beauty, is Paris’s Sainte-Chapelle!