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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Loosening My Load and Christmas

Journeyers, it’s been a busy week filled with holiday preparations and putting the last touches on our #BestTeachersGifts Giveaway!
I made a surprise presentation to the fourth grade classes at a Groton Elementary School, to an educator who definitely understands the pay-it-forward phenomenon…
He’s going to share the items with the other two fourth grade classes!
One of our mentors declined the package as she’s not able to use the supplies the person who nominated her said she uses. That makes me a little bit sad, BUT, I’m happy that there are so many other deserving mentors who would greatly benefit from this project.
I have a couple of inquiries out with some out of town friends, but if they aren’t able to secure a home, I’ll reopen nominations for a teacher in grades six through twelve.                                                                                                                                     
I’m afraid I haven’t taken many photos, but nonetheless, I have been making sure to pay homage to those moments that make me smile, that cause me to pause and appreciate the simple and glorious miracles our earth offers us each and every day.
I had a nice discussion on healing grief with Lynda and Angie over at Each week they host a guest speaker with all topics geared toward coping with grief, and all shows are archived. I’ll post the link to our show once it has been processed and posted.
Music is always at the top of my list and this month I’ve been fondly remembering my time with Mannheim Steamroller lastDecember!
This week I put several lyric lines into my phone notes: The Eagles’ “Running down the road trying to loosen my load…got a world of trouble on my mind…take it easy” was the first to catch my attention.
I love that tune, but let’s just say I hope there aren’t people out there who want to stone me!
I had to smile when I thought about loosening my load. One: I can’t wait for our holiday break from school! And two: the sad truth is that about the only thing I’m loosening these days is my waistband. Thanking the fashion industry for giving us “Super Stretch!”
Though I am coming down the homestretch of the final edits of the book proposal I’m submitting to Hay House! Please, please, please keep sending out that positive energy for me and my next little book. J
Other happy moments included The Voice…down to the final four!
Traveling to DC to watch Fave at a competition where he took three gold medals, one best male for the event, and set three new personal records! So happy for my boy!
He's getting ready to put that load over his head!

After the event, we enjoyed one of the most fabulous Italian meals I’ve ever had.
If you’re ever in Washington DC, Bucca di Beppo has the freshest food to be found and I think they must have the largest meatballs on the planet!
The other half of this beast is already on someone's plate!
Christmas music and Christmas movies!
Christmas shopping…
Christmas lights…
And this, a man who whistled while he walked up to the cash register…
The tune?
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer…
What about you, Journeyer, what moment(s) made you laugh or smile or feel a sense of peace this past week? Loosen up and share one or two with us!
Until next time, yours in hope, healing, and happiness,


Monday, December 8, 2014

Hay + House = Happiness

Well, Journeyer, it’s going to be a light post this week…
But joy still reigns!
I’ve been busy working on the final touches for my book proposal that I’m submitting to the Hay House contest!
It was on that trip that I found the quote most moving, which I attached to the photo I took on my long drive to the airport.
My soul has been writing this book about my dream of becoming a published author for more than three decades now…
Not that I’m unhappy with the self-publishing experience, that has been good, too, and people are continuing to purchase copies, but I would be even more delighted to be picked up by a publishing house, so I don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel…
To be picked up by a group like Hay House, people who specialize in the type of books I want to write, well, now, that would make me downright giddy!
Even if I don’t win, though, I’m still filled with joy because I’m living with passion and practicing the art I love!
That said, won’t you join me in an abundance of positive thinking? Please send this out into the universe:
Pssst, Hay House, you’re going to love Annah Elizabeth’s Little Book of Healing
Without further adieu, here are two of the moments that brought me joy this week!
I took myself and my old guy, Thunder, for several walks.
He doesn’t move along nearly as quickly as he used to, and this thick bedding of hay…

 …okay, it’s straw, but you know, artistic liberties to make it fit… ;)…
That thick bed of “hay” helps his tired and arthritic thirteen-year-old joints.
And then, half of my house is decorated for the holidays.
Warren helped me decorate the door this year, and I must it looks so inviting and fun lit up by the spotlight I put out this year!

My reading room and part of our living room still look like they threw up Christmas decorations, but that’s okay, there’s a Nor’easter coming and they’re predicting a day off!
Which gives me extra time to work on that book proposal and possibly take care of a few stray items.
What about you, Journeyer? What moments brought a smile to your face or a bit of comfort to your soul this past week? We’d all love to read about a happy time or two! Won’t you share?
Until we meet again, yours in hope, healing, and happiness,


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Giving Thanks & Finding Gratitude with Buddha

Well, Journeyer, another week, another dollar, as the saying goes…
Even though I shop all year long, I do sometimes find myself beginning to feel the pressure of all that has to be done during the holidays.
When I hear that chatter in my head, I know…
I know it is time to slow down, pause, and reflect on the simple fact that The Season, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are not about commercialism…
…they are about love and sharing and kindness and gratitude…
Gratitude for our many, many blessings, even our ever-present, albeit random strokes of luck, that exist in every single experience in every single day of our existence…
Sometimes simple, sometimes obscure, sometimes omnipresent, and sometimes colossally present, they are moments that are ours to seize…
…and even when we aren’t able to recognize them and grab them by that proverbial horn, they are there, silently working their magic in the backdrop of our lives…
Here are a few of those moments that brought joy and peace to the chaotic life that was my past week:
I remembered that I’m not Wonder Woman.
With all of the new and great events I’ll be participating in soon, I knew that I had to give something up because I could not possibly give everything I’d committed to doing the attention it would take to do each job well.
Here’s what I did, despite that chatter in my brain that said, People are going to call you a quitterShe did quit the last Project Graduation committee, you know…”
I announced my good and bad news: That I suddenly found myself with many new and exciting undertakings with my work, and that I was going to have to relinquish my role as secretary because I couldn’t not do justice to all of these things. I would retain the role of corresponding secretary (I LOVE handwriting notes) because the timing of those correspondences was more flexible.
That’s how we spell RELIEF, Journeyer, doing whatever we need to make our lives less hectic or stressful.
More importantly, it’s the fact that we give ourselves permission to acknowledge that we are not, nor do we have to act Super Human.
Beauty wore this t-shirt to her surgery appointment and allowed me to capture this sentiment by promising not to include her face.

Finding those moments, more so tuning into them when they happen and giving the Happy the same attention we give the proverbial Shit is the very essence of this Happy Happens column.
Thank you Buddha, for sharing this message with your masses…
Wish we had millions more like you…or, rather, millions more who could captivate such followings…
Speaking of positive…
This sign in a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru reminded me of the reasons I close each and every post with Soon.

Though I miss not being able to spend many holidays with my parents and kin, I am grateful that we have Warren’s family nearby…
I thoroughly enjoy the two partial days I spend in the kitchen, prepping, cooking, and pulling out my favorite holiday pieces.
This year, as the smell of apple and pumpkin pie wafted through the house, I watched this magnificent site unfold outside.

Two days after Thanksgiving I was able to spread out in the kitchen and make my first batches of breads and goodies, which I turned into care packages for family, friends, and neighbors.

My niece prepared this adorable hors d’oeuvre platter for our holiday meal.

Beauty set this gorgeous table for me.

...The place where my mom's corn souffle continues to be a big hit at our holiday meals...and I smile every single time I read her instructions, notice her handwriting, and recall how much these simple little pieces of our heritage lasts a lifetime...

Speaking of my daughter, the orthoscopic surgery on Beauty’s knee was much less invasive than the ACL repair last year, so we were able to keep our family tradition of cutting down our own Christmas tree.

…followed by what I call the magic of decorating…

And last but certainly not least was finishing up boxing all of the Best Teacher’s Gifts giveaway packages…

…being so enthusiastically received by the many building principals I contacted to share the good news and to enlist their help in surprise and special presentations to the teachers.
I can hardly stand waiting to share the photos and feedback with you!!
Chicken of the Sea’s pay-it-forward spirit just kept growing and growing and I am humbled beyond measure to have a tiny role in the lasting beauty that is a good deed…
What about you, Journeyer? Can you connect any of your past week’s moments to Buddha’s message?
Until next time, yours in hope, healing, and happiness,

Oh, yes, and one final note…I finally mastered Level 417! Phew!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It's All About That Base

Every winter for the past several years, Warren and I spend Monday and Tuesday evenings watching The Voice.
There are many talented singers in this year’s competition, but of all the many songs that have moved me and brought me goose bumps, the one I can’t get out of my head is Anita Antoinette’s rendition of
It’s all about that base.
Blonde to the core, Warren had to explain that the base was, indeed, the hips; “so what does treble have to do with hips?”
Smile with me, Journeyer!
I’ve had many chuckles this week, because I definitely have that wide base the song celebrates.
I’ve finished shorting and began packaging the Best Teacher’s Gifts giveaway packages!
While I was packing them, I began to dream about ways to continue the good deeds energy that Chicken of the Sea began…
With each item I handpicked for the nominated teachers, ideas came to me…
In last week’s post I asked for shipping sponsors, and you showed up!
We have only two packages left that need a delivery partner and I am just humbled and honored to  and in awe of the spirit of generosity.
I also made the first presentation this week! The administrators asked me to join them for a monthly assembly, at which I presented the educator with her gift.

“It was just an ordinary Thursday,” she said to me as we walked out of the gymnasium.
Beauty arrived home for the Thanksgiving holiday and just like old times she tossed a few things on the kitchen table.
One of the items was a baggie of peanut butter cookies, or at least a few remaining pieces from the dozen I’d sent for her and her roommate.

I snatched one from the bag, popped it into my mouth and immediately began gagging.
It tasted a bit like the time Mom washed my mouth out with soap!
Beauty and I laughed and laughed as I spat and spat the chewed up treat into the trash.
“I thought they tasted weird,” my daughter said, “no wonder my roomie only ate one.”
Though a part of me is horrified, there’s another side that keeps reminding me that what we have is one of those family stories that will live on for years to come.
Happy memories…and a new lesson to make sure that my cookie sheets are rinsed thoroughly before putting away.
The work saga is slowly making its way to some form of resolution.
We had a family night out for dinner to support a school fundraiser.
Beauty and I made a quick road trip to meet Fave’s girlfriend who happened to be in New York for a few days.
She brought along her best friend and her family, which included two adorable children!
We met for lunch and then walked a nearby mall so an active three-year-old could stretch her legs a bit.
We found the most incredible artist who creates these solid wood ornaments, a few of which found their way into my possession.

One of the holiday booths sold infant and toddler t-shirts of various themes.

Look at the resemblance between the six-month old son and this sale item!

Little Cadence had a blast coloring Christmas pages and I have to say I’ve never seen one her age color within the lines like she did!

Who can resist the thrill of sending off Santa’s letter; it’s magic!

Beauty and I stopped for a little treat on the way home.

I checked off a bunch of paperwork items yesterday and even spent more time working on that book proposal for the Hay House contest.
Today I prepared a double batch of this delicious chicken and rice casserole dish, which I split between us, my widowed neighbor, and a couple of friends who own a Christmas shop and are no doubt swamped these days. More than anything, it was a little surprise that I hope will come in handy one day this week.

Oh, and three final, delightful and thrilling details: I’m confirmed to speak on the Grief Diaries radio show on December 9th; I’ve been asked to speak at an event in February, and I signed up to exhibit at the first National Grief Convention in April.
Hopefully my spreading work base will appeal to the staff at Hay House!
Regardless, little by little I am growing and learning and continuing to live my best life, even in the face of those proverbial lemons that sometimes seem to stand in our way of what makes us truly happy.
What about you, Journeyer, what Moment(s) formed a base for your happiness this week? We’d love to have you share them here!
Until next time, yours in hope, healing, and happiness,

Sunday, November 16, 2014

PB & U

Journeyer, so much to report from this past week!
The work issue still stinks and two different law firms have said that, though what my supervisor did wasn’t legal, there’s not really anything they can do to help…
So, guess what I decided to do?
I’m going back to my union for their recommendation, which will likely entail a meeting with our superintendent to apprise administration of what’s going on, and then I’m going to LET. IT. GO.
I refuse to let the smarmy ways of another person dictate my mood; besides, the reason my boss blocked me from going anywhere was because my building is very happy with my work and according to them “they don’t want to lose me.”
Not exactly my kind of pat on the back, but, hey, it IS a sort of feather in my cap, now isn’t it?
I realized midweek that my morning ritual was consumed with a steady stream of the discussions I’ve had on this subject and that the chatter was making me tense and uptight.
Here’s what I did to combat that negative energy.

I put this sticker on my steering wheel, because that idle time driving seems to be when the mind stuff surfaces the most.
“BP” stands for Book Proposal, the very document I’m super excited about and have been working on to submit to the Hay House contest opportunity that came with the workshop I attended.
In other happy news, I had another appointment with the Spiritual Guru of last week’s Hypnotic Happy, this time for my first ever Reiki session.

This postal box at the elevator on the bottom floor caught my attention.

But realizing that the drop tube ran the entire length of this eight-story historic building made me feel downright nostalgic and curious about the occupants of long ago.

This time I also took a picture of that magnificent artwork I wrote about.

I honestly believe that these two sessions with her are playing a big part in letting go of the tension and angst surrounding this work stuff.
The timing of this more relaxed mood was brilliant, too, because Beauty came home for a few days and I was able to enjoy every nanosecond of our time together.

Those of U with children who've flown the nest and all you total empty nesters can appreciate the heartwarming feeling of finding your not-so-little-anymore child partaking in a little respite on your sofa.
Continuing backward through the week, I met with my chiropractor who took care of a sticking vertebrae and put my neck, spine, and hips back into proper alignment.

Warren and I had a busy therapy session, one that exposed some other areas that we can work toward bringing a little more parallel.
And though I’ve noticed this poster every time we entered the office, the images seemed most poignant.

That is one of the qualities that unite Warren and me: we both recognize the importance of being able to simply be one’s self.
Our area had its first dusting of snow and I was thankful that I had my long leather coat cleaned and conditioned during the summer months.
As I was taking the photo of the pumpkin, a flock of geese in the midst of changing formation flew overhead.

I smiled as I thought about the teamwork that goes into the long treks these birds make twice a year. Taking care of each other always makes me smile.
I had a nice long chat with Fave, who is going to sponsor the delivery of the #BestTeachersGifts award going to Charlotte! Shortly into our conversation, my boy said, “Hey, I’ll have to call ya right back.” Usually that means he’s receiving a call from someone else. But this time, when he phoned back he said, “Sorry, I’m cooking dinner and the smoke alarm went off. It’s happened several times and I had to shut it off before the people came.”
“Like mother, like son, huh?” I said, which caused both of us to chuckle.
U see, when the kids were little, I was notorious for setting off the alarm in our kitchen. Three hungry kids would always come running downstairs, “Is dinner ready?” This happened so frequently that we deemed the smoke detector, “the dinner bell.”

I captured this glorious sunrise at a stoplight one morning and half a mile past this intersection saw a deer and two fawns meandering through a stream that reflected back the sky’s colors and the natural beauty of wildlife and flora.

I had the most fabulous hair cut with a new stylist; two-and-a-half hours kind of magnificent. I met him at a recent TEDx event and thoroughly enjoyed hearing a little more of his story.
While I was there, I purchased some curling cream, which came in this bag.

Put together the first letter of each word… PB…
That night we celebrated Warren’s birthday. We’ve been so incredibly busy that he suggested we have everyone meet us at one of his favorite Chinese restaurants so that we didn’t have to cook. He loves coconut crème pie and lemon meringue, which Beauty and/or I usually make from scratch for him. Since we were keeping it simple, I settled on this magnificent looking Italian crème cake from Sam’s Club.

After dinner we walked the mall, where we found this gift for our friends’ son’s birthday and discovered these shocking and funny ugly sweater contenders.

They actually have miniature lights sewn into the material…
Yesterday I found a note I’d written about possibly contacting Balboa Press, which is Hay House’s self publishing division…and those two letters stood out… BP
I’ve no idea what all of the symbolism of this alphabetic combination means, but I’m excited to see where it goes. Who knows, maybe one of U with those initials will end up contributing to the special project we’re wrapping up right now!
This I do know, however, PB & J go together like Sonny & Cher or Donny & Marie or Oreos & milk…
In that same regard, this #BestTeachersGifts project wouldn’t be nearly as grand without the U…the Chicken of the Sea U, the Stephanie Weaver of Recipe Renovator U, the U who nominated educators nationwide, the Staples and Walmart U’s, and U who will sponsor the delivery of one of the six remaining out-of-state deliveries. YEP! We had so much product we were able to help twelve teachers!!

I'm including a list of the mentors that will be surprised with nearly two-hundred dollars in school supplies. YEP! We were able to turn Chicken of the Sea’s $250 pay-it-forward award into $2,000 in supplies with the help of other U’s like Staples and Walmart.

We’ll be hand-delivering packages to these New York cities: Groton, Elmira, Spencer-VanEtten, and Brooklyn.

I hope U’ll consider choosing one from the list below and help us get the shipment out the door and the packages into the hands of these deserving mentors!
Elverta, CA -  4th grade teacher
Mabank, TX - First-year teacher! 4th grade & early elementary Reading/Writing
Gwinn, MI – High School English teacher
Walla Walla, WA – Special Education long-term substitute nominated by the regular teacher!
Hartland, WI – High School English teacher
Florence, SC – 4th grade teacher
Box weights range from about 30-55 pounds. If you or someone you know would like to sponsor a delivery, please contact us at The Five Facets.
AND, here’s hoping U paused briefly to reflect on or capture in some small way those fleeting moments that made U laugh or smile or brought U some measure of peace.
Until next time, yours in hope, healing, and happiness…

Oh…and there was music…always music… America’s Sister Golden Hair, John Legend’s raw and beautiful All of Me plus many, many others… J

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Katie, a Kid's Teacher Needs You!

Dear Katie,
Maya Angelou once said, “When you learn, teach. At our best, we’re all teachers.”

I say, “We can learn something new every day, if our minds are open to it.” That means that day in and day out we are all students and we are all teachers…
I woke at 6:30 this morning, made breakfast for my daughter and husband who were headed out for one of their annual bonding events, and then I began a very special project of my own.

Those piles of supplies in the photo above began with this blog post, which turned into a dream project: to help teachers distribute materials to students who do not have the means to provide their own.
My vision became a reality much faster than I’d imagined, thanks to a pay-it-forward spirit that begins with Chicken of the Sea and a blogger named Stephanie Weaver, and spreads out from there…
You can read about both those posts here and here.
My plan was simple: Begin a nationwide search for nominations. Pick ten lucky teachers whose needs match the supplies I have, pack and ship boxes of pay-it-forward love and joy.
Fortunately for me, my website didn’t crash due to thousands of submissions.
Because every entry moved me in some special way and I would have had an even harder time choosing...
Parents nominating teachers.
Teachers nominating other teachers.
Teachers nominating themselves.
One teacher’s poignant entry moved me beyond measure. You can read what she wrote here.
But the greatest and I do mean THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST submission came from a student, the very subject for which this dream began.
A STUDENT, Katie! I can’t say it enough and I just can’t stop thinking about that relevance to this entire pay-it-forward endeavor, and the sheer volumes that are spoken in this young adult’s letter.
The student wrote AN ENTIRE PAGE, AN ENTIRE PAGE that sums up what every loving teacher hopes to accomplish at least once in his or her career.
It just gives me goosebumps…
All of these educators will be surprised when their packages show up to school with their names on them. I'm contacting administrators in each of the buildings, in the hopes that they will be able to do some sort of public presentation and spread the power of the pay-of-forward phenomenon.
I’m going to personally deliver the five bundles selected from my state and am seeking people who are willing to sponsor the shipments to the five schools that are spread out across the country.
But I can’t stop thinking about this one teacher and the past-student who nominated her.
Firstly, this student didn’t identity his/herself, so I’m working with the school to see if they can somehow find this nominator. If at all possible, I’d like that person included in the surprise presentation. But I want it to be so much more. I’ll be looking into having local media on hand to recognize the work of this incredible teacher and the enthusiasm and gratitude of her scholar. We need to shine a spotlight on some of Maya Angelou’s lifelong “learners.”
Can you think of anything more positive to headline the news?
As I worked on sorting these materials this morning, I just couldn't stop thinking that this one needs to be even more special.
That’s where you come in, Katie!
You see, this winner lives halfway across the country from me and as much as I’d like to be there in person, I just don’t see how I can.

But you can, Katie. You and your staff and your World 3.0 teams have the means to move those proverbial mountains, and to get there. You have the tools and the resources to capture the very essence of what teaching represents, to document a bond between student and teacher that will never be broken.
This student’s one page letter represents a link that will forever weave what education represents at its very core: threads that become imbedded into our hopes and dreams and desires and into our very purpose, those things that entwine student and teacher and education into a spark of passion that forever lies somewhere within us.
You are all about recognizing people who are changing the world through ideas. This teacher, an English teacher, changed the life of this one student with just that: Ideas.
Her ideas sparked in one child a love for learning and a desire to be the best self one can possibly be.
I would be honored if you’d partner with Stephanie Weaver, Chicken of the Sea, Staples, and The Five Facets to help us continue this pay-it-forward program!
Journeyer, YOU, no matter your name, are the missing link to bring this endeavor to a close and to help us bring a little Christmas cheer and some of the absolute best teacher’s gifts to five lucky mentors…
If you’d like to sponsor the delivery of one of these packages, or if you know someone who can, or if you have an way to make these presentations even more special, please reach out and let us know! Please send your interest and request to The Five Facets.
We have five packages to ship from central New York, going to CA, MI, WA, WI, and NC!
And thank you, Journeyer, thank you in advance from the bottom of my heart for being here and for anything you might be able to do to help!!
Until next time, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…