Heartwings Love Notes 1087: The Virtue of Doing

Heartwings says, “The virtue of doing may cause one dismay.”

Those of us Yankees raised in the traditional way of our ancestors, may well have inherited their ethic: To be busy, to be doing what is useful and good, to keep our hands occupied, is our watchword. There is even a saying that goes something like, “the devil finds work for idle hands.” This means, I expect, that if we don’t keep busy, we’ll get into mischief of some sort.

Perhaps because I had a mother raised in Germany, or perhaps because I had a Yankee father, I was always urged to be doing something, even if it was reading a book. My chief daily chore was taking care of our chickens. They lived in a hen house with a yard fenced in with chicken wire. I had to carry their mash from the barn and in the spring, summer, and fall, fill their water container from the faucet by the henhouse. For this I was paid the princely sum of fifty cents a week. In the winter I had to lug the water from the house, which was much more difficult.

Nowadays, fortunately I have no chickens to feed, only two human beings that need three meals a day, and our pitcher with the filtered water needs only to be carried from the sink to the table. Until fairly recently my life seemed relatively tranquil and most of what I needed to do could be done easily within my available time span. Then along came Parkinson’s Disease: a collection of symptoms clustered around the nerves and their connection to the brain.

My chief symptom is slowness. It takes me much longer to get things done than I am accustomed to, even though I have had two years or so to get used to it. This is made more difficult due to my childhood programming vis a vis the virtue of doing. For instance, I have to deal with my dismay at taking more than an hour to fix a meal when it used to take so much less time. My kind husband would say, “Don’t worry about it, take all the time you need.” That doesn’t silence the little voice that tells me I am too slow, or even that I am lazy.

Dealing with the frustration is a daily chore I wish I could eliminate, yet so far, I haven’t been able to. The voice of conscience seems to have no mercy on the hands that fumble when I work at cutting vegetables, or the feet that I must walk slowly and mindfully with lest I stumble. I know I do just fine, yet when the dinner isn’t ready in a timely manner, it says I ought to have begun sooner, and that’s no help.

I don’t mean to complain, only to share in case someone else who shares my dilemma might feel comforted to know she or he is not alone. 

May you make peace in your heart wish any disability you may have.

Blessings and Best Regards, Tasha Halpert

P If you have a story to share or some issue to discuss I’d love to hear from you. Your correspondence is precious to me. Please write me at tashahal@gmail.com

Heartwings Love Notes 1086 The Wisdom of a Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear

Heartwings says, “Gently ignoring a situation can help soothe troubled waters.”

In the interests of peace, it is often advisable to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to some of the unimportant yet annoying sources of conflict in a relationship. For instance, my mother resented it that my father did not want her to ever wear black. His mother, after the fashion of her day, wore black for seven years after my grandfather died of the terrible flu that ravaged the American soldiers and many others who were overseas at the end of World War One. Young at the time, my father had grown to intensely dislike black attire. Perhaps it reminded him of the loss of his father; I do not know and never asked him.

My mother was patient about this, as well as many other things that were not agreeable to her in their life together. To turn a blind eye is to avoid seeing, a deaf ear to avoid hearing what might otherwise be a source of irritation. However, doing this may also build resentment toward the perpetrators. It is sometimes difficult to walk the line between giving too little attention and giving too much. One must ask, is this situation important enough to make a fuss about or is it something that can be overlooked?

Here it might be good to take note of one’s feelings and to pay attention to them. It must be decided whether the annoyance is strong enough to prompt a response or not. If not, one can let it slide. If so, one can speak up. Sometimes the unaddressed feelings can build up and cause a problem or an argument. Sometimes which is worse, they create a ‘blowback,’ causing resentment that turns into anger and even sabotage. When one is trying to be nice, it might be all too easy to ignore the very real feelings of dismay that will turn into something worse when treated with a blind eye or a deaf ear. It seems important to allow one’s feelings about something uncomfortable to be mentioned rather than ignored, when there is danger of a buildup to the point of explosion.

For instance, I remember many years ago when I was a teenager, chiding my parents about their prejudicial language. They had grown up with it and to them using the ‘N’ word, for instance was perfectly normal. They did not take kindly to my efforts to correct them. Still, it was important to me to do so because I felt strongly about it.

Honesty is indeed the best policy; however, you need not be blunt nor simply complaining about something insignificant. The secret to success in speaking up is to not play the blame game, but to be truthful about your feelings. When you feel strongly, when your feelings are authentic, and when you phrase them in such a way as to convey this, your rate of success will be much improved.

The Fear Factor

Heartwings says, “When our opinions influence us, we may act without thinking.”

What if? When you hear that as the beginning of a sentence, do you anticipate a negative or a positive to follow? It is good to know what passes through one’s mind, i.e. to listen to yourself. Doing so can be very enlightening. What do you focus on? Do you look for optimistic outcomes? These and other rhetorical questions can help you to understand how to be happier, even though circumstances might conspire to make you think otherwise.

There is a story from an anthropologist, as I recall being told, that on a certain island in the tropics the monkeys began to wash their food. They were the first to do so. As time went on, it was observed that other monkeys on other islands, without any contact with the first monkeys, began to do the same. How? Perhaps there is an influence working that is generated without effort but simply by a flow of energy.

Along those lines, I recently heard a remarkable Ted Talk that was entitled, “You are Contagious.” I highly recommend looking it up—probably Google will help. What this essentially boils down to, at least to me, is that if we work at it, and enough of us get going at it, we can begin to change the world for the better. This will take time, but if we start where we are and keep it up, it can spread.

Right now, all too many people are driven by fear. Statistically I am told there are four guns for every person in this country. Many of them are automatic, shooting many bullets quickly. We have a gun lobby so powerful that gun laws designed to help often do not get passed. Sadly too, the laws we do have get broken anyway. In this climate of violence, fear and paranoia flourish.

We hear of these tragedies, and it is more and more frustrating because there is nothing we can do, or so we feel. But wait, there’s more! There is something we can do. We can manifest some positive energy to spread an antidote to the fear factor. I’d suggest beginning with gratitude. When you hear of the next awful sadness, turn your thoughts in another direction. Think how grateful you are for or about something in your life.  Express thanks, either silently or aloud, with your next breath. It is not that we don’t sympathize or feel sad about it, it’s that we don’t need to dwell on that sadness. It does not help.

We are all contagious. It is as though each of us is an island in an ocean of being, all connected. Perhaps the water the monkeys used to wash their food somehow carried the message to the monkeys on other islands. No one can say. By living with as much optimism and gratitude as we can, who knows how much influence we can manifest? It would be wonderful to try. Nothing is ever accomplished with endless mourning, nor will peace be bought with a sword.

May you find much to be grateful for and stay optimistic.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS If you have stories, questions, comments, or information for me. Please drop me a note at tashahal@gmail.com. I so like to hear from readers and am enormously grateful.

Heartwings Love Noes 1072: Time to Smell the Roses

Heartwings says, “It’s vital to take time to appreciate the present moment.”

One of my great pleasures in June is driving in the country when the wild roses are in bloom. If I am fortunate, I can have the car windows open and the scent of these small white single petaled blossoms pervades the air and drifts into my car. It’s enough to make me wish to stop, just sit there, and breathe it in.

It’s true that the vines that bear these flowers are invasive. When we owned our home on Sartell, I planted some by the swimming pool enclosure and while to begin with they were lovely to enjoy, they soon began to overpower their space and spread. In the end, the lovely scent was not enough of an inducement to keep them. But where they can grow wild it doesn’t matter.

There are some near my porch here, however last year they did not blossom. I fear they may have been overcome by other wildlings in the vicinity. I hope they have survived to bloom this year. The roses you find in the markets often do not have much scent, though there may be special ones that do. I remember the roses my father and my grandmother grew, they smelled wonderful.

Taking the time to smell the roses has to me become an important part of my life. At eighty-seven how many years do I have to continue to enjoy doing this? As the bottom of the hourglass fills, every grain becomes precious. The pleasure of any moment is to be savored. I thought of this as I opened an envelope of a fragrant loose-leaf tea this morning, inhaling the delightful mixture of spices and herbs it contained.

These small and simple enjoyments of life take on a greater importance as the years dwindle—at least they have for me. The sense of smell is I believe one of our first to develop and the last to go. The infant finds its mother’s breast by the scent. It’s an important aid to survival. So is the smell of something burning. On the other hand, the sense of smell is an important part of the pleasure of eating, as well as other parts of life, such as embracing loved ones or just cooking with favorite foods. I do love to cook, as much for the good smells as anything. I even have a fond memory of someone saying as they came into the room, “This must be Tasha’s kitchen because it smells so good.”

It’s easy to get caught up in one’s busy-ness and forget to stop and smell the roses. It’s important, however, to remember to do that, regardless what else there is to be done. Life has many small and simple pleasures to offer and when we take advantage of them, when we notice them and murmur a small prayer of thanks for them, life is immeasurably improved. Try this for yourself and see if you don’t experience a lift to your spirits and a warmth in your heart.

May you have many pleasant present moments.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. Do you have any stories to share, or comments to make? I so enjoy hearing from readers. Please write to me at Tashahal@gmail.com. My website, for more Love Notes is www.heartwingsandfriends.com

Heartwings Love Notes 1079 Easter Customs Make the Celebration

Heartwings says, ” Colorful Easter echoes with spring.”

Like Christmas, Easter has accumulated a number of customs, and it has its roots in a more diverse past than that embraced by religious Christians. The first official celebrations by Christians began with the Council of Nicaea, in 325 when the date of Easter was established as being set for the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Equinox. It is called a “moveable feast,” as opposed to Christmas or Halloween that are fixed, on the same day every year.

Many of our Easter customs, like many of our Christmas ones, come from the people of Germany and their traditions. Colored Easter eggs, for instance have been found in burial sites there that date back to the bronze age. The Germans who settled in Pennsylvania brought their Easter and Spring customs with them to this country and they spread from there. One of these was that the Easter Hare (aka for us rabbit) both laid and hid the colored eggs that the children hunted for on Easter morning or found in the nests they made for them in their hats and bonnets.

The Easter bunny, originally a hare, is an integral part of the holiday. Chocolate bunnies begin to appear right after Valentine’s Day, both in food markets and drugstores. The fertile rabbit is a fitting symbol for a springtime celebration. Easter named for the Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre, is part of the collection of lore around the season. Like winter, the solstice and Christmas, Easter, Spring, and the Vernal Equinox associated with it, have been celebrated long before the advent of Christianity. Our bunny rabbit has a similar association.

The hare, a cousin of the bunny rabbit, is the original animal associated with spring.  It is associated with and sacred to the moon. Hares are larger than rabbits and fiercer, known for engaging in fights and, unlike rabbits, who live and give birth in underground burrows, are born in nests above the ground. Born in the spring, they emerge with their eyes open, able to fend for themselves very soon. The gentle rabbit is far more appropriate as a pet, because the hare is not easily domesticated. They are a food source as well and are often hunted or trapped for that purpose.

The wearing of new clothes for Easter is another symbolic act. It speaks to the custom of seeing spring as a new beginning; new clothes are a part of that. There is a superstition that it is good luck to have at least three new items to be worn for the celebration of Easter. The Easter parade of song and story, is still a tradition as well. Best clothes are worn and animals are even dressed up and wheeled or walked in New York City and other places that hold an Easter parade.

Easter is a delightful time to enjoy and affirm the advent of spring, a fine opportunity for all to gather in celebration.

“May your celebrations be joyous no matter when they are held.”

Blessings and Best Regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. Do you have any Easter memories to share? I so enjoy your emails and comments. Please write to me at tashahal@gmail.com with any thoughts, stories or suggestions.

Heartwings Love Notes 1077: Duty, Obligation, and Love

Heartwings says, “Small acts of love sustain a relationship over time.”

Stephen and I have been together for more than 45 years and this year in July we will have been married for 43. If you were to ask me what keeps us together, I could give you several answers, and they would all be correct. However, in my opinion there is one that stands out above any other: we do our best to be kind to each other. Of course, there are times when one or the other of us, in an attempt to be kind, metaphorically steps on the other’s toes. However, all is quickly forgiven when the one with the stepped-on toes informs the stepper of the error and a discussion ensues.

The codicil of this kindness is a dedication to honesty and truthfulness about feelings. We’ve learned it’s all right to say “ouch” when necessary, and usually to do it tactfully. “You made me…” is not a good way to begin any kind of conversation featuring a complaint. Neither is “Why did you do that to me?” Owning up to one’s feelings is vital. To say “You made me angry when you…” is not helpful. What is, is rather, “I felt angry when you…”.  This is fair and honest. It is important to allow oneself the luxury of being vulnerable enough to admit to being hurt, while not being accusatory and making the other feel uncomfortable.

Kindness in small ways is important. Stephen washes the dishes as a gift to me for doing the cooking. I appreciate this, especially since I know he doesn’t really like doing it. Sometimes I ask him if he would mind if I did them, and he may say yes, or no depending upon how he is feeling. I actually don’t mind doing them, and I even find it soothing to have my hands in warm, running water, however I appreciate his doing them as a loving gift. When I tidy the bed in the morning, opening the covers I’ve straightened to air the bed, I make it easier to make later. This is a gift of love I give Stephen because he makes the bed.

These little daily acts of love between us are not extraordinary or big hearted, but they are part of how we express our love for one another. Small gifts he finds here and there from his forays into thrift shops, thoughtful gestures like holding the door for me, or handing me my cane, are other simple offerings of love and caring that keep love in the forefront of our relationship. Asking each other if one or the other is happy several times a day demonstrates this as well. We live in close proximity, in a small apartment, and it would be easy to get irritated with each other, however we don’t because we are tender with one another, as well as honest. I am grateful to him for his caring, as he is grateful to me. We express this often. It also helps keep us both in love.

May you find happy ways to express your love to your dear ones.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

P. S. Your comments, dear reader, are always welcome, as well as any tidbits from your own experiences. Your correspondence makes me so happy, so please, do write when you can.

A Report on a Very Special Book

Heartwings says, “Reading a good book is a pleasure and a joy.”.

When I was in school, I always enjoyed writing book reports. Ever since I learned to do it, reading has always been especially enjoyable for me. Book reports were never a chore because I liked to share stories or information that pleased me. To this day I often recommend what I am reading to a friend who I think might also enjoy it.

Recently, I joined a library book club and the chosen book for the past month was one called Wintering, by Katherine May. Once I began to read it, I was hooked. Now, having finished it I feel so enthusiastic about this book, I am recommending it not just to my friends and family but also to my readers. Perhaps this “book report” will encourage some of them to at least get Wintering from the library, if not buy a copy.

Because the amount of time I have to read has for several reasons diminished, I normally read for entertainment only. My genre of choice is urban fantasy fiction. Wintering is neither fantasy nor fiction, it is a thoughtful, beautifully written book about the times in one’s life that resemble winter: dark, difficult cold, difficult, even painful.

Writing from her own ordinary experiences, May has brought to light what we all have to live through at times. The periods she terms winter are those bleak weeks or months or more when nothing seems to be working, when we feel sad, lonely, incompetent, perhaps even depressed, and more.

That may not sound like an enticing theme. However, it might surprise you. May shares the way she has learned to move through these times with grit and grace. She speaks with frank truthfulness about her feelings and how she deals with her ups and downs, her triumphs, and tragedies. The reader is carried along with May in this compelling book about how she copes and also even how she can’t.

The author is British, and the places she speaks of have unfamiliar names, but the circumstances she has to deal with do not. Illness, dismay, disappointment, and failure fill these pages, and then they are overcome by fortitude, energetic coping, and the author’s special, ultimate courage–whether she succeeds or fails in whatever life has handed her. Sometimes overcoming one’s feelings of inadequacy after a failure, provides a different kind of success.

Along the way she also shares stories of others, and there is interesting information as well, tucked in here and there. Most importantly, this book is not preachy or “New Age” in its philosophy. May is a serious professional whose writing has been widely published. She doesn’t offer anything trite or shallow by way of solutions to difficulties. Instead, she shows us by example how she dealt with her issues, and what that was like for her. This is an inspiring, authentic book written from the heart, presented in beautiful, clear, sometimes poetic prose.

May you enjoy learning both from books and from experience.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS If you do acquire this book, please tell me how you enjoyed it, I always treasure your responses and will always write you back.

Heartwings Love Notes 1074 A Little Rain is Good for the Garden

Heartwings says, “The acronym for fear spells false evidence appearing real.”

Recently I had a small series of bumps in the road of life. Taken individually, none was particularly serious. Taken as a whole they were a reminder to me to be grateful for what I ordinarily might take for granted. For instance, when I run the water in the sink I expect it to go down the drain, don’t you? Yet when it is reluctant to do so, something must be done. And I did all the things I could think of to do: plunging, pipe clearing liquid, more plunging, hot water, waiting patiently, more pipe clearing liquid, etc. When nothing did any good I opted for the plumber. He took care of it nicely and that was that–until the refrigerator refused to be cold.

A series of attempts to make it run properly failed and another repair person was summoned. Now I have a guarantee I have paid for that lasts a full year, and although I hope the refrigerator will continue to provide cold, at least I feel secure about further repairs should they be needed. It is so easy to take things like the refrigerator for granted. Naturally I expect the washing machine, the dryer, and the vacuum to function efficiently and when needed. However, these little glitches in my everyday life have alerted me to the fact that I do need to remember to be thankful for what I might otherwise take for granted.

Then there was the little popup that kept appearing on my computer screen. It reminded me that I needed to renew my virus protection. “Your computer may be at risk,” it proclaimed. Ought I to tremble in my shoes? I reminded myself to be careful not to download anything potentially hazardous and waited patiently until my computer friend was able to remedy that difficulty. The popup too reminded me to be grateful for my remarkable computer and its gifts to me.

When I was growing up, I would read stories about robots and the marvels they could perform. Somehow, they always walked on two legs and had arms and fingers. Mostly made of metal, like the tin man they had a kind of brain and could speak. Unlike the tin man they performed a multitude of tasks and cared for their owners. Today I am surrounded by “robots.” They don’t walk around or have conversations with me yet they can be programmed to do what I want them to do when I want them to do it and indeed, they do take care of me. They may not physically resemble the robots of the science fiction I once read, yet they fulfill many of the same functions.

I am grateful for my mechanical servants. I appreciate the stove, the washer, the dryer and the vacuum. Having read once in an article on the Feng Shui of India that suggested it, I have even given them all names. I praise them when they do my laundry and cook my food. Most of all I am grateful to them for the hard work they save me from. Truly I am grateful for the little bit of “rain” that fell on the garden of my daily life, it has been good for the garden and even better for the gardener.

May you handle your rain with grace and strength.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

How do you handle your rain? Can you avoid getting wet or find good ways to stay dry? I do love it when readers share their stories. Write to me at Tashahal@gmail.com and make my day.

Heartwings Love Notes 1073 Small Economies for Big Savings

Heartwings says, “Paying attention to the truth behind advertising really helps.”

Newenglanders have a reputation for thrift.  “Use it up, make do, or do without” is one example of the thrifty frame of mind. Prices for everyday items like food, gas, and medicine rise every time payment comes due—or so it seems. These days thrifty habits are a necessity. A mindset that puts thrift at the forefront is extremely helpful to the budget.

I can remember my grandmother taking her foot off the gas to coast down hills. My mother found a way to use up every scrap of leftover food. I employed my old-fashioned meat grinder to grind up leftover lamb or beef for pot pies or casseroles. I have always made my own applesauce. Not only is it cheaper, it is more nutritious because I do not peel the apples before I cook them—putting them through a food mill once they have been the slow cooker overnight. I also use half cider, half water to simmer them but never any sugar.

Soup does come in cans, but the only kind I buy are the clam chowder we like. While I am reluctant to cook anything too labor intensive these days, I am happy to make my own soups with lentils or split peas. Leftovers, often combined in good ways, are used up creatively.

 Normally nothing in my kitchen goes to waste. I’ve even discovered that fruit that seems overripe or to be going bad can be cooked up instead, sweetened, and used as syrup for pancakes, waffles, or plain cake. See if you can find a recipe for Cottage Pudding and bake up this inexpensive plain muffin style cake to serve with any sauce for an economical dessert. Email me if you can’t find one and I will give you my recipe from Fanny Farmer’s. That has many good, inexpensive, and helpful recipes and ways to sav

I get annoyed by the advertisements that want you to save money by spending it. It’s false economy to buy something on sale unless you really do need it. No matter how tempting the “sale” may be, if you don’t need it or are tempted to use it to replace something adequate that you already have, it’s no bargain. Spending to save is ridiculous. So is getting something “free” that will get more expensive later. Reading the small print is very important.

Once it was fashionable to be chubby. It meant you had plenty of money for food. Now it is fashionable to drive expensive cars, carry a trendy pocketbook or wear certain name brands of shoes. This is how people get corralled into running up credit cards that have exorbitant interest. I can say I get tempted too, yet I know how to resist. Being grateful for what I already have is my secret to keeping myself free of the urge to buy more. Of course, thrift stores are another way go, Think thrifty and save.

May you discover wonderful ways to economize that cause you no pain.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. What’s your secret to saving? Write to me at reply on WordPress or at tashahal@gmail.com It’s a real treat to hear from readers, and I always answer. 

Valentine’s Day Thoughts

Heartwings Love notes 1071 Valentine’s Day Thoughts

Heartwings says, “Love can be expressed in many ways; what is important is to express it. “

Until recently, whenever I could, since I was a small child, I crafted my Valentine’s Day cards. It gave me great pleasure. I had and still have a few lacey paper hearts, stickers with cupids and similar valentine symbols, and other appropriate decorations. I’d fold plain paper in quarters and glue these down, arranging them in fun patterns and writing humorous or sentimental words inside. Alas, I no longer have the time or energy to do this. I do, however have access to a wonderful card program that I enjoy using, so I still have a good resource.

As a young child I looked forward to Valentines’ Day at school. Cookies in the form of hearts were often served and the big red and white crepe paper covered box to be filled with simple cards was placed prominently on the teacher’s desk. Later on, when I had my own children, I helped them make their cards and mail them to grandmothers and aunts, as well as prepare cards for classmates.

The sentimentality of Valentine’s Day has of course been commercialized like other holidays, yet somehow for me that does not detract from it as the excess around Christmas can. I enjoy the displays of hearts and candy, and I’m happy I don’t have to endure endless Valentine carols. It is interesting to note that Valentine’s Day has a long history of celebration behind it.

During this month in pre-Christian times the Greeks honored Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty on the 6th, as well as Hygeia, goddess of health and healing on February 26th. Artemis, creatrix, midwife and protector of the young was honored from the 7th to the 9th, and Diana had a Roman festival on the 12th day of the month. Februata, the Roman Goddess of love for whom the month is named, signifies the fever of love. Our Valentine’s Day celebration is a modern dedication to love compiled from customs taken from the original celebrations of these times, filtered through the attempts of the Roman Catholic Church to Christianize them.

Traditional says St. Valentine (apparently there were several of them and no one is quite sure which one is referred to by this story) began the making of Valentines by sending around heart shaped leaves with messages on them. Prior to this the Romans celebrated a holiday where young men and women would draw names to see who might pair with whom for the festival they were celebrating. The Roman Catholic Church tried to take over this custom by substituting the names of saints for partners, however, their version never really caught on.

 Valentine cards began being made and sent in the eighteen hundreds and Valentine postcards arose in the early part of the twentieth century and were extremely popular as well. Many of these are now collectors’ items, fetching high prices on Ebay. Whether you make or buy your Valentine cards, you are continuing a tradition that has spread joy and happiness for many years.

May you celebrate the day with those you love, whether near or far, and do it with joy.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you or have you made cards as a child? Do write and tell me what you do for the day to celebrate love, I so enjoy hearing from readers. You can write to me by hitting reply or at Tashahal@gmail.com.