Helping Out Friends and Neighbors

grandmothers 6 cake

 

My father, my grandmother and even my great aunt did a lot of volunteer work. I remember my grandmother telling me about rolling bandages during World War II. My great aunt was a Girl Scout leader. My father volunteered his services to the radio for the blind as well as serving as treasurer to some of the organizations to which he belonged. My mother taught small children in her studio when she lived in the Cayman Islands. Volunteering comes naturally when you grow up with it. Many of us do what we can to be of help.

Some years ago a friend of mine and her mother began making pillowslip dresses for young ladies in third world countries. Made from two lengths of material sewn together and tied at the shoulders, these simple inexpensively produced dresses, have supplied a great many girls and young women with modest colorful clothing. Since then the mother and daughter have had many other people join them in their efforts. It brings all who participate a sense of joy as well as the sense of satisfaction that comes from being of help to others.

There are countless ways to share effort. Most churches, senior organizations and even listserves offer opportunities. Giving rides, doing errands, bringing meals, or just being a friendly person to the aged and housebound is one simple, easily found one. Most soup kitchens welcome your help as often as you can manage. Many organizations look for volunteers to assist staff. Helping out a young mother in your neighborhood with child minding while she goes grocery shopping can be a boon. Even the small act of holding the door for the person coming along behind you can bring a smile to that person.

“It is in giving we receive,” said St. Francis of Assisi in his famous prayer for peace. From the time most of are small we are taught to share, to think of others, perhaps to put them first, and to avoid taking the biggest piece of cake or the last cookie. Because it comes when we are very young, this guidance often becomes part of us. We may thrive on the opportunity to do so. However, if I rely solely on the good feeling I get from helping others and neglect to take care of my own needs, I am apt to feel resentment or even neglect when I do not receive what feels like sufficient gratitude for my help

It is vital not to make sacrifices that I cannot afford, however, I need not expect thanks, nor feel neglected when I remember to acknowledge my own efforts to myself.  I need not depend on anyone else’s gratefulness, because I can feel inner gratitude to have been able to help. The act of giving brings with it a natural source of uplift to the heart. This fountain of joy flows freely when we look into ourselves for the acknowledgement we deserve for our efforts. It is lovely to be thanked, and I try to remember to do it often. It is also good when we feel that as an echo of our own inner sense of gratitude.

 

Small Blessings Bring Joy

Dandelion and pebblesKittens grow up and become cats. They learn to use their claws on the furniture, and then they reach a point where if we do not pay attention, they may produce more kittens. Snow falls, gets turned by snowmen by eager, mittened fingers, and then when the sun comes out and the cold retreats, they melt. I wash the dishes, polish up the burners on the stove and sigh, remembering that there will soon be more dishes to wash and something will fall on the cooking surface and smell of burning if I don’t notice it before I begin to cook again.

It is important to me to take notice of how nice it is to have an empty sink and a clean stove. If all I do is think about doing it over again I will miss the feeling of how nice it is to have done with my small tasks. They can become routine, done without thinking, and without appreciation for the effort as well as for the result. When I take the time to notice, I feel better about myself and about my life in general.

When spring comes and the first bluebells and crocuses poke up through the thawed ground, how wonderful it is. We say, “Spring is here.” And it is. Yet spring turns to summer. Then we rejoice in the longer days and firefly strewn nights, until the hours of daylight begin to shorten again. Fall’s bounty of color comes and then goes.  It is good to appreciate what we have while we have it because as a wise teacher of mine used to say, the only constant is change.

It’s easy to take for granted small blessings that pass quickly. We do it all the time without thinking. We’re actually more likely to take notice of what is wrong than what is right. I’ve read that our brains are wired that way for self-preservation. It’s important to make note of the danger lurking nearby—is that a wild beast? Or see the car coming a little too fast as we are about to cross the street. However, our built in warning system can override our joy.

Just recently the wild roses bloomed. Their sweet smell permeated the air by my back porch. I made sure to take time to enjoy their scent. Now the petals have turned brown and I have to wait until next year to enjoy them again. Still, I do have the memory, and although it does not have an actual scent, it can still bring back the pleasure of what I enjoyed when the petals were fresh.

If I am focused on regret because the roses have passed, it is more difficult for me to remember the joy they brought me. As well, I might not be able to take advantage of some new and pleasant experience that could await my notice. Small blessings do not announce their presence with a shout but rather with a whisper. The bright dandelion by the side of a building might go unseen and unappreciated if I am not aware of its gift. If I am only looking at the trash around it, I might not see it all. Small blessings bring joy.

Remembering to be Thankful

Laura Dove A         While at Thanksgiving we are reminded to be grateful, that is surely not the only time to do so. it is vital to remember to be thankful frequently each and every day of our lives. For some time now I have begun and ended each day with this little prayer: “Thank you for this day and for all my days.” As often as possible each and every day I remind myself to acknowledge my gratitude for any good experience and even those that might not have been so good, because of the knowledge gained.

Recently we were saddened to hear of a friend who died suddenly and unexpectedly just as she was starting a new life with her spouse. Within the past few weeks we have heard news of other friends who are ill or whose lives have been disturbed or changed for the worse. Each time I hear such things, while I say a prayer for those affected, I am also reminded to be grateful for my relatively tranquil, happy life. In this present moment I have so much to be thankful for. When I survey my daily life, even with all its ups and downs, I am reminded to express that gratitude.

My late newspaper editor used to say, “Health is wealth.” How right he was. What are a few aches and pains compared to long term, probably painful illness or worse, an approaching end to life? What’s a broken washer compared to the loss of a parent or of a dear friend? It is so easy to take one’s blessings for granted, to think of them as ordinary or just a part of life. There is an old saying, “I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” While I am thankful for what I have, I am also grateful for what I do not have to endure.

There is such joy to be had in a tasty breakfast of a Sunday morning shared with one’s partner. Were this scene to end suddenly and abruptly I would deeply regret having lost even a moment of our time together through inattention . There is no way to know ahead when one’s end will come, when all of a sudden there will be no more time. I have read of a Native American tradition to greet each day with the phrase, “This is a good day to die.” Some might think this is a morbid attitude. To me it says, “Pay attention, live fully in this and every moment.”

Quite simply, though we don’t like to think about it, we begin to die the day we are born. With the increase in medical knowledge the life span of human beings has been greatly extended, still one day life will end for us all. One of the benefits of mindfulness meditation is that when it is practiced, it becomes easier to pay attention. I am grateful for this practice and to the teacher that taught it to me. It behooves us all to remember that every moment we have whether uncomfortable or comfortable, sad or happy, sour or sweet is a precious gift to treasure and to be thankful for.

A Recipe for making life’s lemons into lemonade

Tasha and Lemons 2  The perspective I bring to my everyday life influences the way I understand what is happening, and how I respond to what seems to me to be going on. When I look with compassion on how life has evolved for someone, I also feel differently about how they act toward me or anyone else. I may then see the gift they may bring me. Gratitude and compassion are closely intertwined. Both are necessary for a truly happy life.

The gift of a difficult person or experience may simply be one of patience practice. Compassion helps me to be grateful for that. I wasn’t raised to be compassionate. My parents were highly critical of others. As I realized I needed to change and worked on developing compassion, I found it easier to respond to life and its lemons with gratitude. Being grateful for life’s lemons is a good way to make that lemonade as well to sweeten life. I have found it takes much practice to learn to respond automatically with an attitude reflecting gratitude.

Gratitude as a first response to whatever life hands to you is an important ingredient to build into one’s lifestyle. However as with the deliberate incorporation of any habit, time and effort are required. As I worked to develop my attitude of gratitude, I began by taking small steps. Over time I worked my way up to larger ones. Now it is easier than it used to be to remember to be grateful, regardless of the reasons or circumstances.

Right now I am extremely grateful that my new book, Up To My Neck In Lemons has been published. It is a collection of ways to use lemons both in recipes and in life. It contains my relevant poetry and most importantly some of my experiences in life that have helped me make the proverbial lemonade from the lemons I have encountered. It is my hope to help others with this book, and I am very thankful to those wonderful friends who have helped me to make my hope a reality.

Here is a recipe from my new book: Lemon Sauce for many uses.

This recipe makes a cup and an eighth of sauce. It is easy to make, keeps well and can be used to make any dessert very special.

 Ingredients: 1/2 cup sugar 3/4 cup water, divided, 1/4 cup lemon juice, Grated peel of a lemon, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons cornstarch.

Method: In a sturdy pot mix together 1/2 cup water, sugar, and butter. Boil for several minutes. Add juice and rind of lemon. Stir well, cook on low for five minutes. Mix cornstarch and 1/4 cup water. Add, stir into lemon mixture and cook until nicely thickened. This has a good flavor and can be used over angel cake or muffins, plain cake or even a combination of fruit.

My book is available on Amazon and of course if you want a signed copy you can write to me at tashahal@gmail.com and let me know.

Expressing Thanks for Daily Blessings

          “Take nothing for granted.” The complete stranger who spoke these words looked into my eyes; the elderly woman’s expression was earnest. She told me several more things and then vanished into the crowd waiting in the vestibule of the Cathedral of St. John in New York. I was there to see a pageant I was to take part in at another time. Her words made a strong impression on me and some forty plus years later still have. I didn’t make the connection then, but later I understood its application to the practice of gratitude.

It’s easy to acknowledge generous gifts with thanks. Gratitude for the larger things in life–good health, sufficient income, a happy family is more common. Most of us take much for granted, especially those things we rely on and use each day. Our small creature comforts too are easily ignored or remain unnoticed because we are busy or mentally preoccupied.

It is more difficult then to remember to express thanks for those small, even relatively insignificant daily gifts common to our ordinary lives. When I step into my shower, I feel appreciative of the stream of warm water, and I am reminded of my friend who lived with cold showers for months until her electricity was restored. As I get into my comfortable cozy bed and slide under my clean sheets and feather quilt I am grateful, and I do say so in my heart.

I rejoice over small blessings—a kind conversation with my daughter, the neighbor who offers to help me carry my groceries up the stairs or shovel the snow from my car, finding a book in the library by  a favorite author. Most are so preoccupied these days, it’s difficult to stop and take time to remember how fortunate they are. In my many years of life I have learned to be glad for these small gifts and others that thread my daily life with comfort and joy.

I learned this from a friend almost thirty years ago. I overheard him saying “Thank you little (memory fails me as to what it was) and continuing to express his gratitude to several more objects. Now I thank my car for bringing me safely both to my destination and back home. I thank my computer for bringing me my email and functioning as my writing tool. Can seemingly “dumb” machines hear and appreciate? I don’t know, yet I like to voice my appreciation and to treat my mechanical servants as nicely as if they were flesh and blood. It only seems fair.

People who live in countries where the only water available must be carried from a well in the center of the village would be unbelievably grateful to be able to turn on a tap. Not so long ago anyone wanting a bath had to have the water heated on a stove or over a fire and hauled to a tub. Imagine having to hitch your horse to a wagon to go into town for groceries or walk miles carrying them home.  At this season we are reminded to be thankful. It is well to remember that gratitude needs to be an everyday practice.

Garlic, a Miraculous Medicinal Food

 

Pictures downloaded from my camera 2. 128

Being at home with five children to be cared for, I began looking around for something to fill whatever time I wasn’t actually busy with them yet had to be home. I also needed something to put my mind to besides housewifery. Herbs and herbal healing became my go-to occupational therapy. As I studied and learned, I discovered recipes as well. Cooking has always been one of my favorite pastimes. I even like to read cookbooks and peruse the aisles of unfamiliar grocery stores just for fun.

It wasn’t until I began doing research on herbs I realized there was all kinds of medicine in my kitchen. As I did more reading, I discovered many foods could be used to address various physical complaints, as well as prevent my family and me from getting sick. Of all the various foods I studied, garlic seemed the most effective and easily available medicinal substance of all.

Regular consumption of garlic is a great help in keeping us healthy. Sadly, the odor garlic produces in those who consume it has often kept people from making use of it. This is too bad. Garlic is a remarkable healer and raw garlic, while pungent, has amazing healing properties. Antibiotic as well as antiviral in its raw form, it can kill a virus or bacteria on contact. If you want to keep your breath fresh, chew up a few sprigs of parsley and you won’t have to worry about offending anyone. Also, if you have a pimple, anoint it with a piece of cut garlic several times a day. In a couple of days it will be gone. Also, if your young child or grandchild has a cold, try rubbing their feet with a piece of cut garlic.

I once had a dreadful sinus infection and for several weeks couldn’t breathe through my nose. In desperation, I tried these Garlic Nose Drops. Squeeze 1 or 2 garlic cloves into a small cup. Cover with about three teaspoons of warm water. Stir and let it settle. Fill a dropper using only the clear liquid on top. Put your head back and drop about 10 drops in each nostril. Sniff. Pinch your nose closed. You might feel as though the top of your head was going to explode. It is not so much painful but intense. If you do this twice a day for three days your sinuses will most likely clear and you will be able to breathe again. Though I haven’t had to use it for some time it worked for me every time.

Here is a healthy, tasty recipe that is also good for preventing colds.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized cauliflower

6 or more cloves garlic, minced

½ cup celery chopped very small or minced

2 Tbs. good olive oil

2 cups rich chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups water

½ teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

1/3 or more cup freshly chopped parsley

 

Method: Cut up cauliflower center stalk and break flowerets into pieces. Cook cauliflower in a small amount of water until tender. In large saucepan, put olive oil, celery and garlic, sauté briefly. Add chicken broth, parsley and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for ten minutes or so. Add cooked cauliflower and the water it cooked in. Put several ladlefuls of soup into blender and puree. Add back into soup and cook on low for another 10 or 15 minutes or store for later use. If you prefer your soup chunkier, simply mash the cauliflower with a potato masher.

The Beauty and Bounty of Fall

 

Autumn Blaze

One house we lived in had a window in the upstairs bathroom with a view of trees and fields. Each year in August I would look out this window in anticipation of the bright red patch that always appeared in an otherwise green expanse of a maple tree. It seemed that much brighter for being surrounded by the remaining green leaves. Later the rest of the tree would turn red, yet there was something very special for me about that first splash of color.

Perhaps that is because it heralded my favorite time of year. I cherish the first tinges of red and yellow beginning to blossom in the trees by the roadside. It is truly said that the strong colors of fall echo the pastel shades of spring except that they are strong and vivid. I have also noticed that in the weeks before the autumn colors emerge, the green of tree leaves takes on a grayish look that hints at the ageing of the leaves, preparing them for their ultimate brilliance. The other colors are present in the leaves all along. When the cooler weather comes, the green disappears and the red and yellow take over.

Fall colors are lovely and bright. Pumpkins, squash, chrysanthemums, apples, and fiery leaves are all part of its panorama. Highway vistas of hills plumped up with pillows of brilliant hue are a delight to drivers and passengers alike. As spring is a time of tentative melodies and pastel colors so fall is loud and strident, its colors are bold, its thunders vibrate around us. Farmstands open up and share their bounty with passers by. In more rural areas little collections of garden produce appear by the side of the road with prices and trustful boxes for payment.

When I was a child I delighted in scuffing through the rustling leaves. I loved the sounds and the tastes of fall. The sweet concord grapes that grew on the fence around my great aunt Alice’s garden tasted so wonderful. I was equally happy to breathe the slightly sharp air of fall that held a tinge of the frosts to come. I didn’t care much for raking the leaves, however I got paid to do it and that helped. I never tended my parents’ gardens, nor was I asked to. Later when I had a garden of my own, as fall emerged I hurried to pick the last tomatoes as well as the remaining marigolds. However I paid someone to rake the leaves.

Busy squirrels scurry around storing up food for the winter. Some alas are harvested by swiftly traveling automobiles. These provide a feast for the crows, so nothing is wasted. Autumn is a time for all of us to store food. My mother busily canned and later froze her garden produce. When I had a large freezer I did too. I loved the feeling of providing for my family. Now I can’t store much food for the future, however I can take advantage of the seasonal plenty. I got out my old Fanny Farmer’s cookbook and looked up apple recipes. We had Apple Brown Betty for supper. Yummy! Fall is my favorite time of year and I rejoice in its bounty as well as its beauty.