Holiday Greetings: Ringing in the Last Month of 2015

Ringing in the Last Month of the Year: Happy Holidays 2015

Greetings of the season, Stumbler readers! I stopped by to change the seasonal colors — naturally, I forgot how that is done, so had some fiddling around to do…not positive this is the one that will stay. I really like this one, but it comes up way too much blue:

© debra valentino

snowy tree branches

I thought while I was here I should at least wish you a happy month of crazy. How are your festivities going, if you are one who celebrates Christmas?

For starters, I decorated our mantel for our grand baby the way I used to when the kids were small.  I thought it would be a good idea because it’s so child-friendly, but then I realized the style is looking sorely out of date…even if the garland does light up. This was just a quick job to get some of the decorations out of their boxes, but still…I think it needs a little sprucing up; perhaps a new banner (which will one day become outdated as well). Still, I would love to find the time to craft one:

mantel decorations

 

I always loved those blocks that spell out “Merry Christmas.” My goodness, they are a year or two older than my oldest child! The doll on the top reminds me so much of my mother. She loved Christmasy dolls. The nutcrackers always make me think of my son–except that this year when I asked my daughter if she wanted any of my old Christmas decorations, she surprised me by saying, “Maybe just the nutcrackers.” The Bambi in the back was my son’s, and he loved the nose on that little thing. Each of those stuffed toys has memories. Of course, we move the stuffed animals before we light the fire!

I used to put the whole collection of stuffed animals in one big basket, but in all the rush to move to help with my mother before she passed away, I now have no idea whether I even still have that basket. I got a lot of use out of that Moses-style basket, but for the life of me cannot recall where its origin. I think that is one of those facts I lost with my head injury–I used to know every minor thing, it seemed. I do remember, fortunately, that before that basket (the one that’s not even pictured in the photo above) was the stuffed animal house, it was an Advent Book Basket. That is because, long before Pinterest was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, I came up with a Christmas idea for my children: I wrapped new books for them and allowed them to open one each day after school during the season of Advent. They were so young they were enchanted simply by the idea alone that each book was “a gift.” They enjoyed unwrapping the colorful papers. Then, they were anxious to explore the book of the day, and easily became enchanted by the story. It was a great way to get them reading.

To this day, one of my most favorite Christmas memories is the quiet that fell over this very family room, as both kids and the hubby sat reading silently. It was truly beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, I took a photo today while I was walking the dog. I tried editing it with a new app on my phone, and this is what it rendered:

© debra valentino, all rights reserved

photo taken on walk, December 2, 2015

I think it’s a spectacular image. It was a really gray, dreary day today, and the branches on this tree seemed like some sort of crescendo to the wind, which seemed colder than I expected. I walked cautiously, as the news of yet another mass shooting was unfolding, this one in San Bernardino, California. It seemed the school children were dismissed early, and I started paying attention to parents pulling up in a way I never have before, thinking what I would do if someone opened fire the way they were doing in California today.  Then, when returned home and I saw the heart shape in this image centered in the clouds above, it felt like some loving spirit had been present, perhaps weeping over the tragedy of the lives lost. I guess we have to try to make meaning when so many random acts of violence go unexplained. This picture is already so special to me, and I just shot it this afternoon. I hate what happened in San Bernardino, but as art often does, this photograph brings me comfort and joy. I love in it the contours of color and the contrasts of shape and texture.

~~

Well, I guess after 61 days of writing here I got so used to writing that I just had to return. I’m hosting a cookie baking party next weekend, and maybe I’ll return to blog about that. There is so much to do and to document in the month of December, as you likely understand. Last year, our Christmas holiday was a somewhat quiet one. This year, our Thanksgiving holiday was quiet–but super wonderful–just hubby and me. He was recovering from hernia surgery, so we stayed home alone and listened to some great music, and just ate a small turkey meal with all the fixings by candlelight. At first we were depressed about not seeing the kids or any friends or family, but it turned out so lovely that in the end we were sort of rejoicing. We had peace and quiet, not a lot of cleanup, and we got to rest completely commotion free, which was what my husband especially needed. He’s still not 100%, but sleeping soundly as I write. I know he will be so happy in the morning when he receives the notification that I’ve posted to the blog. He is always so supportive of my writing. I love that about him.

As for you, dear readers, I hope you will be able to go with the flow as much as possible this holiday season. *It’s not about how much you do!* It’s about how it feels. I guess that is why I came back to write. Writing makes me happy. It’s only been a few days, and I already missed it and everyone here. We should never underestimate the good fortune of being able to read, or (as I know too well) of being able to write.

Happy December 2015!

**HOWEVER**: It’s not about how much you do…HOWEVER…if you would like a wee bit of help organizing your holiday tasks, here is a link to some free planning pages: FREE HOLIDAY PLANNING LINK

Enjoy!

~~

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

 

The Great Halleluia: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 30

http://boardofwisdom.com/togo/Quotes/ShowQuote?msgid=607898#.VlwInrQ-Cb8

Day 30:  I am grateful for endings.

I am grateful for endings. You know, the great “Halleluia!” that comes when something is accomplished, or work has been a labor in progress. Some endings are a golden relief. There is the ending of the school year, for example, or the ending of the work week…the ending of a healthy pregnancy and a successful labor. The ending of a root canal. The ending of a bad movie. The ending of a mortgage…generally rare, but always something to celebrate.

The ending of a good meal is followed by dessert. What we love about endings is what follows–or, if not what follows, then well, what ends: a vigorous exercise workout, an arduous hike, a long swim…the bibliography of a research paper, final exams, a trade-in of an old vehicle for a new. Not all endings are happy, but most are necessary.

When I taught, I told students that a paper is finished when the due date arrives; that writing can be only confined by its deadline. Otherwise, I explained, writing might continue indefinitely, at the very least in terms of polishing and editing. Few texts are perfect as is, but at some point the writer must release them, that point being when they are out of time. The deadline or due date always arrives, and usually sooner than the text is perfect. Writing doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be nearly so–on its way to being perfect.

In some cases, however, the deadline can’t come soon enough; the writer is ready to stop writing–at least on that piece or project. I know this feeling well, and I am celebrating it today…

As today is Day 30, this is the last post of a series that I have written focusing on the topic of gratitude for November 2015. These thirty days of blogging gratitudes have been very interesting, but they also turned out to be a much bigger commitment than I envisioned. The writing was the most fun, but the formatting on wordpress is slow, and slower still depending on my location. When the internet wifi is plodding, I waste hours trying to reformat and polish, because the electronic changes all take anywhere from one to five minutes a piece. It was a major time suck. But I got to share with many new readers, and that really did make it worth the time.

Once tomorrow hits and I no longer have a gratitude post to process, I imagine it will feel something like daylight savings time, where I gain not just one but several hours each day.

I am looking forward to that change.

I’m also looking forward to more sleep, since often I was up writing long past my husband had gone to bed. AND I get to start our Christmas…lots of fun plans already in the making for that for our family, which I may find time to blog about.

I hope you have enjoyed following these 30 days of gratitude. I am grateful every day, but I do not imagine I will be blogging another 30 Days of Gratitude next year. I am considering making this set into a book to give to one of my loved ones as a gift. It will be interesting to see how it turns out, if I do that.

I guess in some ways the true test of what a daily gratitude practice renders is about to be answered.

I am grateful to be writing, and I am grateful to be completing yet another writing project.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thanks for reading Stumbler.

~~~

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved, www.firstlightofevening.com

Friends: 30 Days of Gratitude: Day 29

@ debra valentino, all rights reserved

Sweet 16 and cracking each other up with our own impromptu comedy skit.

Day 29: I am grateful for friends.

Friends often represent much of the best in life–fun, adventure, laughter, loyalty. It’s interesting how we choose friends, and what they tell us about ourselves. Have you ever given much thought to the kinds of people you call friends? Years ago, when I was more extroverted than I am today, I mused over what it would be like to have all of my friends in one room together. With the diversity of friends I was drawn to, I couldn’t imagine it being a comfortable place for some.

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/o/oliverwend391092.html

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Nearly all of the friends I chose as a child and as a teenager had one specific trait in common; they were all funny. I found this to be an intriguing fact, since I don’t recall consciously choosing people as friends primarily because of their wit or good humor. I guess it was just what I was drawn to. In the end, it made me feel fortunate, because long after I had seen them, thoughts of my old friends always drew instant smiles and even laughter. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “There’s no friend like an old friend,” and as George Herbert said, “the best mirror is an old friend.” Indeed, I was once a happy girl who smiled readily and mostly loved to laugh.

Then I morphed into a more serious, contemplative, politically concerned young adult. The friendships I was drawn to became more intense, with many characteristically deep, philosophic ponderings. I didn’t have much interest in anything superficial, particularly small talk. Some of my friends were able to bridge the gap between intellect and humor, and those of course became my favorite friends–or at least the ones I spent the longest hours conversing with. Some of my friends, however, were not as funny as they were just plain good. Not that they weren’t funny, they were just extraordinarily good…soulful, kind, supportive, encouraging and loyal friends.

http://www.celebrateboston.com/oliver-wendell-holmes/no-time-like-old-time.htm

Oliver Wendell Holmes poem

~

I have been so blessed to know my share of this high caliber of people. These are the friends you can pick up with wherever you left off, and no matter how many decades have passed, feel that almost nothing has changed. These are the friends you still want to call, write or email, and the ones that will find you when you’re not that easy to locate. These are the friends that give you the best memories to draw on, no strife or almost none, just plain, pure good times. They are the treasure of your life, as precious almost as your own children–true gifts.

This past Thanksgiving I heard unexpectedly from one of these really good friends, and naturally it made my day…because it is always a day maker to hear from a friend like this. When we were just fourteen years old, more than four whole decades ago, we rode our bikes to the park and hung out with friends under a tree. We called ourselves “the tree birds,” because we thought that was clever and on some level meaningful–a naturalistic, environmental one, no doubt.

Steve was a boy everyone liked, freckle-faced with Christmas in his eyes, a big floppy head of curly hair like my own, the best heart, a soaring spirit, and musically talented to boot. He never seemed like a love interest to me, but that was what made him even more special. He was too good to be a boyfriend. You inherently felt you could trust him, and like he’d be around forever. We all know, boyfriends come and go–he just didn’t qualify on that level–at least not to me…or to him. Which is good…and which is not at all to say that he was without his charms. He always had girlfriends, I just wasn’t one of them. Years later, in fact, we discovered a whole cadre of women who laid claim to being the girl he chose to serenade. Oh, the stories flew. Steve played his guitar and sang to this person at this location on this date; it was wild…and he says mostly inflated.

Truth be told, he just brought his guitar and played wherever he was, for not just anyone who would listen, but kinda. Of course, we all listened. It was the early seventies, and the Carol King song “You Got A Friend” was a hit song. This boy, our friend Steve Wells, was so smart and so gifted that he already figured out how to play this song on his guitar, and of course sing it well, too. I honestly cannot recall his playing any other song, but I’m sure he did–oh yes, I believe he could also play “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago. But “You Got a Friend”–that was Steve’s signature song…and many many years later, he confirmed it was my song–because in his mind I was the friend who most came to mind whenever he heard it.

We had lots of fun over the years determining who Steve’s true muse is or was, and many laughs along the way, but when he sent me a promo video accompanying his Thanksgiving email, I was struck truly by how old we have gotten. Of course, it has been 45 years…and of course, I enjoyed the music in the promo video and his and his band’s talent, but

It just doesn’t feel like we could both be this–um–old?

@ debra valentino, all rights reserved

My friend Steve and me, 45 years down the road.

Alas the years go by.

As they say, it is better than the alternative, and…

All the more reason to get in touch with those old friends we love and cherish, and truly are privileged to know. At our 40th high school reunion, Steve not only played an emotional round of “You Got A Friend,” he also dedicated the Van Morrison hit of our day “Brown-eyed Girl” to me, which broke out the crowd into chants of “‘Debbie!’ ‘Debbie!’ ‘Debbie!'” (that would be me). So, some new wild memories, thanks to an old, old friend. Not that old, though–he can still play his guitar and still run for miles, and he has all sorts of energy. Maybe I’m just the old granny in our little duo.

We survived, and that is what counts.

Here, with his permission, are video clips of my friend Steve (the white haired man on the left) playing some tunes with one of his bands.

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0BybHrZEEuY8uNVA4UmdoeVRiM00&usp=sharing

Ahh, so fun! As Ricky Nelson said, “To reminisce with my old friends, a chance to share some memories, and play our songs again.” Those were the days. Here are two of “our songs,” which may or may not be exclusive to Steve and me, but it’s all good, because good songs are universal, and good friendships are forever anyway.

~~

 

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Receive my daily gratitude posts by subscribing with your email address to Stumbler on this page at the upper right corner. _______________________________________//

You can locate all gratitude posts on this blog by searching under the category at the right: GRATITUDES November 2015 ———————>>>.

You can also follow my daily gratitude posts on Facebook at Stumbler:

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Follow me on Instagram:

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On this Pinterest board:

In Praise and Thanksgiving 2015

If you have any questions or you want to share your gratitudes, you may post them in the comments, or email me at:

stumblerblog@gmail.com

~~~

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

Ballpoint Pens: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 28

http://www.pentel.com/store/pentel-rsvp-ballpoint-pen-config

a stash of my R.S.V.P. Pentel pens

Day 28: I am grateful for good pens.

Small things matter, and one of my favorite things in life is a good pen. Pens are important to writers like me, who don’t just write with keyboards, but also do gobs of longhand writing. I have always written a lot of everything–notes, memos, letters, journals, doodles, lists, cards, you name it. As a teacher, I used pens even more often, most particularly to grade and comment on student essays and projects. Suffice it to say that with all the words I have placed on paper, I have had oodles of longhand writing experience, and plenty enough to know which writing instruments are the best–or, at least, that is, the best for me. And I might mention that when it comes to pens, I’m as picky as a fashion model is with lipstick.

For years, my favorite pen of choice has been the fine point Pentel R.S.V.P. pen. Dubbed the “mastermind” of all ballpoint pens, the R.S.V.P. stands up to the hard work of a writer, and is equally tough in practice for them as is accepting some invitations (hence, the RSVP designation).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSVP_(invitations)

definition of R.S.V.P.

As the following diagram shows, the pen has a durable steel tip, along with a latex-free comfort grip, which make the pen both durable and comfortable. Did I mention affordable? As described in Pentel’s product information:

Quality-crafted, economical ballpoint pen with an ergonomic barrel design and Latex-free Comfort Zone™ grip for writing comfort and control. Writes expressive medium lines with vivid black ink. Crystal-clear barrel is complemented by a variety of bright grip and trim colors.

http://www.pentel.com/rsvp

Pentel pen features

You can purchase this pen in medium or fine points, but I personally have never even tried the medium tip. I prefer the fine point  in most pens, unless I’m writing something that needs to stand out, such as an envelope. I might also add that it is specifically and particularly the RSVP pen that I favor even over other Pentels (although I’ve never tried the pricier variety).

This disposable and/or refillable fine point pen gives a clear and visible mark without ever leaking or blotching–which is really my favorite thing about this pen–along with its sleek design. Some people prefer clickable pens so they don’t have to worry about misplacing the top, but I don’t mind that it has to be capped, because I always nearly always place the pen top on the end of the pen as shown, so I have rarely ever lost one.

http://www.pentel.com/store/pentel-rsvp-ballpoint-pen-config

Pentel R.S.V.P. capped ballpoint pen.

I also like the color selections available for this pen, although I have never seen one of the sky blue varieties.

pentel ink colors

http://www.pentel.com/rsvp

I use the violet purple ink nearly as much as the black and the blue color, with black probably being my favorite, but black and blue being the two I run out of most often. However, I’ve probably used as many purple Pentels as both the blue and the black put together. Because I often write cards, letters or journal in the purple ink, I have gone through a lot of purple ink, while the black and blue are reserved usually for more formal correspondence or envelope writing.

www.pentel.com

Pentel pen pack

I usually buy these packs for just over a dollar a pen. Recently I found the refills online, but up until now have not recycled as well as I hope to going forward. These pens are great and something I feel I can depend on, but you don’t have to just take my word for it, you can also read this article here.

Loving these pens the way I do, I had an idea for Christmas this year.

I might suggest for the family gift exchange that we each bring something inexpensive to share with one another, with the caveat that this something must qualify as one of our favorite things. If the items are small enough, they can be placed in a stocking, but I might do something original like us a wrapped box, a designated table or a pillowcase to gather each person’s stash of gifting favorites. By receiving a small favorite item such as a Pentel pen, we can all learn a little more about each other and about gratitude, and also receive something that comes well recommended.

I’m so glad I discovered a pen I can always count on. This year, as in many before, I remain grateful for the Pentel R.S.V.P. ballpoint pen.

~~~

Receive my daily gratitude posts by subscribing with your email address to Stumbler on this page at the upper right corner. _______________________________________//

You can locate all gratitude posts on this blog by searching under the category at the right: GRATITUDES November 2015 ———————>>>.

You can also follow my daily gratitude posts on Facebook at Stumbler:

https://www.facebook.com/stumblerblog/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Follow me on Instagram:

https://instagram.com/firstlightofevening/

On this Pinterest board:

In Praise and Thanksgiving 2015

If you have any questions or you want to share your gratitudes, you may post them in the comments, or email me at:

stumblerblog@gmail.com

~~~

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

Art: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 27

Day 27: I am grateful for the arts.

the Art Institute of Chicago

woman painting a painting

Today I am grateful for all the arts. Literature, poetry, photography, sculpture and painting are just some examples of arts that enrich our lives in inexplicable ways. All of these have played meaningful and important roles throughout my life and in some ways have made me the person I am. I am a person who loves artful things; perhaps you are as well.

Painting is its own complex art that reaches back centuries, and also something I enjoy studying in all its forms. Painting is certainly not something I am accomplished at, but we do not have to master a thing in order to appreciate it. I am grateful for all the richness painting brings into our lives, and for all it teaches us about history, thought, place, and even values such as religion. When I first observed Renaissance painting at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, I unexpectedly stood before one painting for nearly an hour. Its artistry was so powerful it felt almost overwhelming–a painting! It felt somewhat similar to watching a film, fluid in its movement and intrigue. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of my favorite places to visit. I have also been to the Smithsonian and to the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece, and am hoping one day to visit the Louvre.

Here is a link to the National Geographic’s top ten list of art museums and galleries:

Here are some famous paintings that I have viewed:

painting

Monet, Claude, French-Impressionism, The-Regatta-at-Saint-Adresse, 1867, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

 

http-::www.italian-renaissance-art.com:Primavera.html

Botticelli, Sandro. Primavera (a.k.a., Allegory of Spring). ca. 1482. Italian Renaissance, tempera panel painting, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

 

Seurat, Georges-Pierre. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. 1884. French, Pointillism, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Seurat, Georges-Pierre. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. 1884. French, Pointillism, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

 

Renoir painting

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste. Two Sisters (On the Terrace). 1881. French, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

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Click here for a Facebook page to enjoy daily posts about art.

For an interesting article in The New York Times about a famous painting, click here.

The report of the top selling Modigliani, the second-highest price painting ever sold at auction, here, and almost twice the cost, the highest ever priced Gaugin, here.

Here is a list of top ten artists of all time.

~~

Some questions for reflection:

Do you enjoy art?

Which arts do you most enjoy: painting, photography, poetry, literature, sculpture, or something else?

What museums or galleries have you visited or contributed to?

What famous paintings have you viewed?

How has art enriched your life?

~~~

See other gratitudes listed on the link on the top of this page, marked November Gratitudes 2015.

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved.

Thanksgiving: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 26

Thanksgiving 2015

In Praise and Thanksgiving, 30 Days of Gratitude

Day 26: I am thankful for the tradition of Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for the tradition of Thanksgiving, for all its customs and wonderful memories. A time with family, a time with friends, for me usually a time of cooking, which I enjoy. For all of us, a time to reflect and be grateful for all our blessings. This year I am grateful for the resiliency of our human bodies. Our physical beings endure so much, yet heal well. I am grateful for the opportunity to write this blog, and for the many people who have reached out to tell me they enjoy reading it. As you celebrate this Thanksgiving, I hope you will consider the small things that bring your heart joy. Life isn’t always easy, but whenever we can delight in that which is small or simple, we know we can always be saved from despair.

~~

What small, simple things will you delight in today?

pumpkins

May your heart overflow with goodness and joy. May your heart be blessed! Happy Thanksgiving 2015! Thanks for reading Stumbler.

 

With gratitude, I give you the gift of this short film to enjoy:

http://

~~~

© Debra Valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved.

Healers: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 25

Healing Hands

The gift of touch. Offering healing to another by one’s presence and caring.

Day 25: I am grateful for those who heal others.

People are suffering untold varieties of illnesses in every town and every city, all over the world. When there is physical pain, if there is medical care available, people may experience relief and some improvement, but when there is psychological and even mental pain and anguish, there is rarely enough that can be done to create or restore a person to wholeness. There are certainly no quick fixes.

At dinner tonight I saw a young adult male leave the restaurant he entered with his mother to stand outside pacing, his hands full of tremors, his gaze locked, not well. He sucked on his pipe as if to draw sustenance, hope, renewal, strength…pacing as he smoked, never looking up or away. I wondered about his birth story. I worried about his mother’s health, her worries. My husband said it was good that she was making an effort to feed her son. I knew, despite the irony, that the boy and the mother were lucky to have each other.

It is hard to eat one’s meal knowing the mental anguish many suffer–so many people–through absolutely no fault of their own. These people who were born this way, in this world that covets success where, by definition, they are foreign, outcasts, and often seen as failures. When we take these positions, we add to the problem; we don’t solve it. We all can be healers in small ways, if not big. One way is align oneself with those who care about those who are less fortunate.

We do not know enough about the brain and its functions, about personality and anxiety disorders or any mental illness. What we know is generalized, often eclipsed by stigma, stereotype, anger, ignorance, and fear. In the name of prevention, even with our best intentions, we often experience more mistakes than we do successes. Some of these mistakes turn into tragedies that dismantle even the strongest of psyches. If you have ever known a mother who lost a son to suicide, you understand something of what I mean.

Spiritual healers and religious leaders offer comfort, prayer and hope, along with social workers and psychologists, psychiatrists, grief counselors, and even supportive friends and organizations. But this is never enough when someone suffers the consequences of true mental illness, or when families suffer the loss of a loved one from suicide. We long for answers of how we can help, what we can do, and always we remain baffled and defeated. We need to understand, or someone needs to teach us how to heal, how to offer healing. We need real solutions that make long overdue sense and progress.

Many of us have the love, yet still we need so much more enlightenment. Somehow, we need to conjure the illumination necessary–the brilliance it will take, to serve and to heal our mentally ill.

brilliant healing light

One thing we can do is to be witness to these neurological maladies. If you know someone who suffers, do not panic. Stay calm, and be present. Do not make assumptions. Hold loving thoughts of hope and healing. Live a life of peaceful meditation, and pray for miracles. Even if you don’t believe in either prayers or miracles, it is certainly not going to hurt anything to hope for them. If you can take action, make sure it is a simple gentle gesture, such as an “Hello;” but above all, always be kind and always be loving. You don’t have to say or do anything; you must, however, begin by at least caring and not judging.

Today, I am grateful for all those who offer healing to anyone who suffers.

~~

Who are the healers in your life?

How can you be a source of healing for others?

~~~

Receive my daily gratitude posts by subscribing with your email address to Stumbler on this page at the upper right corner. _______________________________________//

You can locate all gratitude posts on this blog by searching under the category at the right: GRATITUDES November 2015 ———————>>>.

You can also follow my daily gratitude posts on Facebook at Stumbler:

https://www.facebook.com/stumblerblog/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Follow me on Instagram:

https://instagram.com/firstlightofevening/

On this Pinterest board:

In Praise and Thanksgiving 2015

If you have any questions or you want to share your gratitudes, you may post them in the comments, or email me at:

stumblerblog@gmail.com

~~~

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

Mentors: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 24

Reading a poem when I was a student, on an outing with my friend Macrina.

Day 24: I am grateful for mentors.

Today I am grateful for teachers and mentors.

In my life, I have been blessed with wonderful mentors who believed in me long before I believed in myself. My first mentor was my sixth grade teacher, who had interests in science, which is one of my favorite subjects. My sixth grade teacher was also my homeroom teacher, and even though we had a separate teacher for Language Arts, my homeroom teacher reinforced language arts with additional class work in reading and writing.

In our 6th grade class, we had a specialized reading program (the one where I first learned the word “vista,” which I wrote about here), as well as a weekly hour dedicated to Creative Writing, where our teacher gave us a prompt on which to write longhand for 30-40 minutes. It was those early creative writing papers, and more specifically my teacher’s feedback on those papers, that cemented my academic leanings toward English and writing. My teacher, Mr. Wharton, who became my first mentor, encouraged my writing both in his written responses and in after school conferences. Not only did he tell me how well I had written, but he also on occasion discussed with me the ideas expressed in my writing. His positive confirmation and enthusiasm helped me to see writing as its own endeavor, and to focus on the necessary learning that all writers need to embrace to become better writers. I have always appreciated my sixth grade teacher’s positive input, as well as his treating me like a person with a brain, and not just another student to be dismissed.

Although my 6th grade teacher became a lifelong friend (today happens to be his birthday: Happy Birthday, if you are reading this, Don!), not all of my mentors are still accessible. My favorite university professor, also coincidentally named Bob Wharton, also encouraged me as a thinker and as a writer. Above all, Dr. Wharton inspired my love of literature, as he was the consummate teacher and scholar. Under his tutelage, I studied the great literary masters and works, and he too always had a kind, if not thought-provoking and inspiring word for my writing. When I applied to graduate school, unbeknown to me until decades later, Dr. Wharton also made laudatory reference to one of my essays in his letter of recommendation, which helped me to win acceptance into the program. Dr. Wharton became the dearest of friends, and I visited him at his bedside when he was dying of Alzheimer’s disease. I feel he is still connected to me to this day, cheering me on, encouraging me even as I work toward my own golden years.

Most of my mentors have been writers, thinkers, scholars, teachers, or poets. I also worked with the renowned Carolyn Forche‘ in poetry workshop, and she was wonderfully encouraging and supportive in every way. I feel to this day that I let her down by not becoming a poet a fraction as prolific as she, but I know she would understand the way my life broke down, tearing me away from the writing we both so loved. As she still contributes regularly, she inspires me never to give up–that poetry, word, thought and the love of language remain ageless and available. I don’t think Carolyn would say that you have to publish your work in order for it to matter, although I do think she meant to inspire more in me the courage to share. Here is a famous work of Carolyn’s that she autographed to me while I was her student:

Carolyn Forche'

Forché, Carolyn, Gathering the Tribes, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1976

Other mentors I am grateful to, particularly for inspiring my writing and interest in language, are teachers and poet Miller Williams, rhetoricians Dr. Jenefer Giannasi and Jasper Neel, along with close friends monastic nun Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, my husband Rich Arment, and several former students who are waiting in line for me to finally publish a book. My husband Rich’s contribution is perhaps the greatest of all, as he provides daily for me a safe environment in which to focus and to flourish, where I can write all day every day as often as I choose. He gives me the kind of support and freedom every writer needs to do what they love. I am forever grateful to my dear partner and husband, and to all of these valuable people who have encouraged and appreciated my work over the years.

~~~

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~~~

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

Architecture: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 23

Day 23: I am grateful for architecture.

Here are just a few of the many wonders of man-made creations, which exist throughout the world.

ancient Roman aqueduct

The Towers Bridge of Spoleto, Italia

Rome, Italy

Vatican City, Roma, Italia

Roman architecture

Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Roma, Italia

Florence, Italy

Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze

http://www.unibo.it/en/university/who-we-are/our-history/bologna-art-and-history

Università di Bologna

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

Renaissance arches

ancient Greek architecture

the theater of Dionysus in Athens, Greece

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

The Gateway Arch of the West, St. Louis, MO, USA

 

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

Chicago River, Chicago, IL, USA

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

Chicago, IL, USA

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

Trump Tower, Chicago, IL, USA

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

Marina Towers, Chicago, IL, USA

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John Hancock Building in Chicago, IL, USA

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

street level at the Willis Tower, Chicago, IL, USA

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

side entrance of The Art Institute of Chicago

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

Chicago skyline, Chicago, IL, USA

 

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

The Tower Bridge in London, UK

Do you also enjoy viewing large structures in new cities and countries,

or even familiar ones in your own city or hometown?

~~

In the comments below, I would love to hear your suggestions of great places to see.

Thanks for reading Stumbler.

* Bring instant joy to every day by being grateful. *

~~~

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You can locate all gratitude posts on this blog by searching under the category at the right: GRATITUDES November 2015 ———————>>>.

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~~~

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

original photos; copyright Debra Valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com

My Doggy Dog: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 22

the first snowfall of 2015

the first snowfall of 2015

Day 22: I am grateful for my dog.

I rescued my dog from an animal shelter twelve years ago. He was very ill as a puppy, having been fed rat poison, and abandoned in a shopping mall parking lot. He was hemophiliac and needed much medical attention, including eye surgery for glaucoma, which left him one-eyed. When he was small, he was very afraid of traffic; you couldn’t bring him anywhere near a roadway. He overcame his fear in time, and now is very well adjusted and unafraid. He has such a serene nature, we often refer to him as our “Buddha dog.”

Most people love their dogs. Many would say that they have the best dog in the world. The truth is that I love my dog, and I really do have the best dog in the world.

Our dog doesn’t bark. He loves people and people love him. Of all the ways I have been lucky, I have been luckiest when it comes to rescuing the best dog. The shelter said he is a Swiss Bernese Mountain Mix, and that he was abandoned because he wasn’t a full breed. Although I do not know for certain, I think his mix is what makes him perfect. Some people say he looks like a Border Collie. We say, whatever he is, he is forever our sweet Romeo.

I love my dog, and I am so grateful for him every single day!

dog

Hanging out, just enjoying the day with one of the neighborhood kids.

 

kids and dogs

Everyone loves to visit Romeo. He is popular.

 

Romeo on a walk...dogs and kids.

Taking Romeo on a walk means children running over, asking if they can pet him.

 

dog

More children loving on Romeo.

dog, baby

Romeo is very gentle, and babies are completely safe petting him.

dog

Romeo running into his friend Daisy on their walks.

dog

Romeo lost an eye to glaucoma, just weeks after I rescued him. His eye swelled to the size of a softball, and had to be surgically removed.

dog

I love to watch Romeo look and look and look. He does this for hours.

dog

Romeo smiles all the time, even as he pants from a brisk autumn walk.

___

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

original photos; may only be shared with credit

Dreams: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 21

Anne Bronte

“I love the silent hour of night, / For blissful dreams may then arise, / Revealing to my charmed sight / What may not bless my waking eyes.” — Anne Bronte

Day 21:  I am grateful for dreams.

I am grateful for dreams, both varieties–the kind while we sleep and those that look forward with hope and planning and desire. Dreams while we sleep can be so funny and quirky, so entertaining…and occasionally illuminating. Dreams tell us we are alive, even as we sleep. I imagine that dying is something like dreaming while sleeping…that the images float by, have meaning, engage us while we do not speak nor move. In a way, dreaming is only thinking…and our thinking, in itself, is one of life’s richest, most powerful gifts.

I love the wackiness of dreams, and am grateful for those I can remember when I awaken. Last night I dreamed a lot about my son, who in my dream was being his present adult self. Usually when I dream of my son, he is a baby again. Once I dreamed that I was driving the mountains in California with my boy in the car. We came to a cliff, and were about to go over! In my dream, I made our car fly so that we landed safely across the precipice, on the next mountain road, continuing our journey. My son and I were safe! This is an example, I believe, of lucid dreaming…where we are aware we are dreaming, but we impose life- like strategies to change the outcome of the dream. In this case, a nightmare became a good dream. I was able to solve a problem–falling off a cliff in an automobile–and save our “lives.” I always remember the relief of that dream…the love and protection I felt for my small child, who in the dream was only three years old.

W.B. Yeats

“But I being poor, have only my dreams; / I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.” — W.B. Yeats

Last night I dreamed a really wild dream.

Last night I dreamed a really wild dream. My friend came to visit me with her “new boyfriend.” This was very odd, because my friend has enjoyed a long, loving marriage with a good husband. They have many grandchildren all to whom they are very devoted. Yet in this dream, my friend was happy with her new (and youngish!) boyfriend. They came to my office at the university, where I haven’t worked since retiring from teaching. They were sitting across the desk from me chatting, when I noticed the youngish boyfriend awkwardly observing my back end, which happened to be bare! YIKES! Dreams are embarrassing!

I know what happened. I was mixing reality with my dream, as in my sleep I had kicked off my flannel pajamas, which had become too hot. I excused myself, saying,”Oh, I’m sorry, I do have some pants here,”(which instantly appeared as I glanced sideward). “If you will just give me a moment and look away, I will put them on.” As I struggled to put on my jeans–which were of course too tight from just being laundered, I woke to my embarrassment…

Now you can read all sorts of things into this dream, but for me it is just funny–the friend with a new, younger man, me back at my job…and pantless, trying to struggle to get some old jeans on: too funny, and so dream-like!

Anais Nin

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” — Anais Nin

When I was recovering from head injury, I did not dream much, because I rarely slept. It seemed I was in a state of non-sleep for hours on top of days on top of weeks on top of months. It is confirmed that head injury causes sleep disturbances. When I had the first dream I could recall having during my convalescence, it was such a gift to experience: “I dreamed! I dreamed! I had a dream!” It felt like being reborn. You do not realize how much you miss dreams until they cease to happen.

I love my dream life. Sometimes I create whole stories or poems or even songs. In my dreams I can do some things well that I cannot do in life, like sing! That is both a real dream and a sleep dream. I have always wished I could sing well. In dreams, I solve problems and sometimes find answers to life’s mysteries. I don’t know what we would be without the dimension our dreams bring.

Before I was injured, my dream was to be the healthiest I could possibly be in mind, body, soul and spirit. This for me, was the key to happiness. I worked hard to develop all these areas of my life. I loved the feeling of good health more than anything I could imagine. Then my health was taken, completely and unabashedly. I had to live with dreams dashed, crushed, taken and forsaken. But I did not give up the fight to live or to regain what I lost. That could not happen–I was just hurt, badly hurt, fighting for life, but not dead. Dreams saved me. Dreams are great and powerful things.

Langston Hughes, American poet

“Hold fast to dreams, / For if dreams die / Life is a broken-winged bird / That cannot fly.” — Langston Hughes

As I was writing this, a real dream happened–my niece got engaged to be married. My Button, the sweet little girl I held who was born the same month and year as my own daughter. I am so happy for her…and because she LOVES her dog, happy too that the occasion was also marked with a new puppy.  Talk about dreams coming true! A real “dream within a dream,” as without earlier knowledge of the proposal, dreams happen to be my gratitude topic today…

My niece’s boyfriend proposed this morning!

A new puppy sealed the proposal.

A new puppy sealed the proposal.

As they say today, he put a ring on it.

So sweet.

~~

From the bard himself, through Prospero in THE TEMPEST, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”

~~~

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You can locate all gratitude posts on this blog by searching under the category at the right: GRATITUDES November 2015 ———————>>>.

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In Praise and Thanksgiving 2015

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~~~

©debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

Kayaking, Sailing, etc: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 20

kayaking Chicago, IL

Kayaking on the Chicago River, Chicago, IL, USA

Day 20: I am grateful for water sports.

I am grateful for all water sports, which bring so much fun and exercise.

Water sports such as kayaking and canoeing also give us time in nature, which is probably the biggest favorite of all. When a person who loves the outdoors becomes too ill to enjoy water activities, it is a difficult loss. Since I suffered trauma to the head, my reflexes are not as good and my muscles not nearly as strong as they once were. But nothing stops me from trying and desiring. Even in a city, we can kayak on guided tours through the expansive Chicago River, for example. In the featured photo, I am paddling my kayak six years post-concussion. Even after being injured and having so much time convalescing, my boating skills were better than a lot of the other kayakers, who kept ramming into my boat and others, unable to control their vessel. Kayaking is usually a more solo than group activity, but however one kayaks, it is always something to look forward to.

sailing Puerta Vallarta

Sailing on the Pacific Ocean near Puerta Vallarta, Mexico

I am grateful for sailing.

I am grateful for sailing…
for all the fair winds and good,
for how the boat moves
through the waves,
rocks those white caps:
the wind in my face
the sun, always warming, ever wonderful,
the fresh air that cleanses
the heart, the mind,
my soul.
Sometimes sailing is hard work, but always sailing is re-
invigorating. Ah, sailing,
you bring it all back,
you
bring
it
back.

~~~

The photo above was taken above a boat we chartered in Mexico long after I lost my bikini figure due to spending several years in bed convalescing from traumatic brain injury. Sailing always, however, reminds me of healthier days when I used to compete on a small monohull one design sailboat. So many memories have remained, despite the few I lost. I am so grateful for the active life I once had, and I long to be as active some day in the future. Writing is helping me to get there, I believe. One day I will be sailing again.

~~~

Which water sports have you enjoyed?

~~~

Below is a photo taken on our family vacation of family members white water rafting in Idaho Springs, CO.

Clear Creek in Idaho Springs, Colorado

Photo Credit: Clear Creek Rafting Company in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

~~~

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~~~

©debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

Happy Mail: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 19

Day 19: I am grateful for the United States Postal Service.  I am grateful for HAPPY mail! 

postcards

joyful, thoughtful US mail greetings from my pals

We all get too much junk mail and plenty of bills, but there is never too much happy mail! Happy mail makes every day a better day. I am grateful for all the thoughtful mail I receive from friends and loved ones far and wide. I love all the creative touches a person can give a handwritten note and even an envelope.

Except for the long lines, increasing costs, and occasional slip ups, I am grateful for our postal system.

I hope this lovely piece arrives to its destination, well, in one piece!

Handmade envelope by Ericia Lau

Handmade envelope by Ericia Lau

~~~

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You can locate all gratitude posts on this blog by searching under the category at the right: GRATITUDES November 2015 ———————>>>.

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~~~

©debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

Health Care: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 18

Day 18: I am ever grateful for good health care.

physician care

Every day, great doctors treat many patients with care, concern, wisdom, and good judgment.

Today I am ever grateful for good health care, provided by doctors who care about their patients. I am also grateful for science, technology, research, and state of the art facilities that enable physicians to do their jobs with accuracy and confidence.

I used to be thankful for good health insurance, but the insurance industry has nearly ruined health care in the United States, and its costs have become exorbitant. I know our government is trying to initiate a sensible solution. I hold out hope in their efforts for the best result possible in the near future. We need to stop bickering and start working together. Our bodies are basically the same. No one wants to spend a fortune on adequate health care or medication.

Still, I am grateful to all the doctors who over the years have both generously and expertly treated my loved ones and me with kindness and good will. Our doctors have made us feel that they care about us as individuals and as a family; they have made us feel that our lives matter, that we are not just a number waiting to see them; our doctors have done everything they could to get us and keep us healthy; they have given us useful advice and listened carefully to our thoughts as well. I feel in debt to each and every one of them. In many ways, our doctors are heroes. Of course, one has to choose carefully. We have been lucky. We are also lucky in that we continue to receive outstanding medical care. I am grateful for the laughs and the smiles given by health care professionals and their staff, even during times of fear and worry.

I am grateful for the friendships formed with various health care professionals.

I love a good number of my doctors, who have become friends by helping me through the toughest health challenges of my lifetime. I also thank my mostly careful and compassionately comforting surgeons who have operated on me more times than I ever imagined would be my fate. My gratitude extends to the knowledgeable and helpful anesthesiologists, who always faced a challenge with me, who has a low tolerance for all narcotics and even prescription medicines. The good work of these physicians has me here today–alive, and doing something I always longed to have the time to do–to write to my heart’s content.

I am also grateful to every nurse and every attending assistant who has made and continues to make a welcomed difference to so many people suffering so many various ailments and conditions.

Let’s not forget the nurses and respiratory therapists, and even the social workers who stop in hospital rooms to offer cheer and support. These affiliates are also valuable when we accompany our sick and dying loved ones. In some cases, they do a better job than the doctors at offering us concern and kindness, simply because they have the time to offer the little extras like conversation, encouragement, and a helping hand.

To the research labs, to the hospitals, to the doctors’ offices and everyone connected,

I bow to you and say:

 THANK YOU!

Brava! Bravo! Bravi!

❤️

Do you have a doctor you can thank today?

~~~

Fun fact: I was named after my mother’s doctor’s wife! Her doctor saved my mother’s life while she was enduring her third and finally c-section (when surgery was still rather primitive). She said in her gratitude she couldn’t exactly name me Ruben after the doctor (which coincidentally means “behold a son” in Hebrew), so she named me “Debra,” after his wife. Even though we weren’t Jewish!

‘Crazy story, if you ask me.

~~~

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You can locate all gratitude posts on this blog by searching under the category at the right: GRATITUDES November 2015 ———————>>>.

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In Praise and Thanksgiving 2015

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~~~

©debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

Writing: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 17

fot writing

Day 17: I am grateful for writing.

Words surprise us! Writing is my lifelong love and something I’ve returned to after unexpectedly deciding to retire early. Writing keeps me busy, active, engaged, and happy. The activity of writing is exceptionally useful for cognitive repair, development and even celebration. Writing keeps us connected. For all the joys it has brought me–and there have been many–I shall be eternally grateful. Writing is fun!

“When I am writing, my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.” — Roger Ebert, American film critic and author

Questions for Consideration

What does your writing life look like today?

If you had more time, would you like to write more often?

What kinds of things have you written?

What kinds of things will you write?

Is there any writer whose work you especially enjoy?

If you were in search of a writing course, what would you hope to study or learn?

~~~

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In Praise and Thanksgiving 2015

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~~~

©debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved