November Thankfulness

I had so much fun doing this on Facebook I decided to make a blog post of the month, week by week… hope it activates some thankfulness ideas for my readers!

November 1, 2012. The Thankfulness project.  I am posting daily on Facebook, a public thank you note for all the things, people and ideas that have made my life what it is.  I will start the day by saying how very thankful I am to be alive in the 21st century. Beware the Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times!”  (a saying actually invented by the British, but what the heck…)  I know my parents were awed by the changes of the 20th century – telephones, cars, airplanes, computers, the dawning of the space age.  Now, only 12 years into the new century we see so much change, much of it scary, but all of it interesting! I am thankful that I can be alive, and take part, in the changes of the new age!

November 2nd. I am grateful for a car that functions, despite its 215,000 miles – in fact, it gets 35 miles to the gallon. I am grateful to Joan who gave us the car 6 years ago. I am grateful for a husband who loves to drive, (even though I have a license) so I don’t have to. And I am grateful for social security income, which allows us to live a quiet gentle life.

November 3. Today I am grateful for a terrific landlord who pays attention to tenants’ needs and wants. VERY rare these days! He put a stackable washer and dryer in our cottage, and provided outdoor storage for us too. We have lived here a year now, and are so lucky to have an adorable home and great neighbors!

Day 4 – November 4 – The Gratefulness Path to Thanksgiving… Today, I am grateful for Facebook. I live a quiet, mostly isolated life, by choice. Facebook keeps me in touch with the news, with politics, religion (and, yup, sometimes sex!) I can connect with my bestie, Laura Hodge who lives in Tucson, with new friends, like Rhys McInnes and Gabriela Mira Williams that I have never met in person. I can talk to feminist buddies, old friends, distant friends (Jo Haddad in Canada!) and play scrabble with family members, some of whom I haven’t seen in 40/50 years! I talk to friends who share my love of books, writing, reviewing; those who love homesteading, crafts, baking and more. Yes, Facebook is time-consuming if you let it be; it can be frustrating and irritating and flakey. But it is my connective-tissue to the world. And I am glad!

Day 5, Thankfulness countdown: Today, I am so grateful for my parents, who taught me so much. Most of my skills do not come from my education, but come from the love and life lessons of my parents. My daddy has been gone for 34 years, and my mother for 7. Not a day goes by when I don’t remember a recipe, a homesteading tip, a political ethics thought, a religious concept or a family memory that connects me to my wonderful parents, Earl Ray Strathman and Miriam Ellen (Kline) Strathman!

November 6. I would like to say I am thankful for living in a society that allows its citizens to vote. But I can’t truly say that because of all the trickery and BS with robocalls, polling places, software scams etc. SO instead, I will say I am grateful for the many opportunities my life has provided me. Whether or not I availed myself of those many opportunities, I could go to college, move wherever I wanted, follow my personal interests, and enrich my life, and that of others’ with such opportunities. Tomorrow, I hope will feel less trepidatious about the future, and more pleased about what that future will bring – to me, to my family and to all of us!

November 7th on the roll call of Thankfulness: Today I wanted to express my gratitude to some of my most precious belongings – my books. I have read for 55 years. My books, past, present, and probably future, have educated me, entertained me, enlightened me and enriched me. They have brightened my decor, made me smile, just in the reading of their titles, and given me vast resources for conversation, opinions, and even laughter and meditation opportunities.

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If You’re Happy and You Know It…

Book Review of A New Language for Life: Happy No Matter What!

There is a light-hearted song that young children sing:

If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap) If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap) If you’re happy and you know it then your face (pointer fingers on either side of mouth, lifting lips into a smile) will surely show it, If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap)

Recently, I was privileged to receive a copy of Dr. Louis Koster’s newly published book, explaining his philosophy; A New Language for Life: Happy No Matter What! As part of a group of professional reviewers and bloggers, I am one of the first in a volley of reviews, interviews, and giveaways with Dr. Koster, presented by publicist Stephanie Barko, ( To fully experience the blog tour, please check Dr. Koster’s itinerary – found at: Lous Koster Virtual Tour

As adults, we constantly try to gauge our happiness, depending on others to either tell us when we are happy, or to actually give us our happiness. Dr. Louis Koster understands this well. Right at the beginning he unequivocally states:

“I believe the reason people are unhappy is because they have forgotten how to trust themselves.”

This not one of these jolly, self-serving, fix-yourself type books.  Instead, with great care and infinite understanding, Koster sets forth to explain and encourage. Some of his viewpoints are so glaringly reasonable that you feel like the vegetable juice ad, wanting to thump yourself on the forehead for not ‘getting it’ sooner!

We were brought up from infancy with what Koster calls our “birth language.” He is not speaking merely of our native tongue, the language we grow up hearing and learning, but of the messages in those words. Whether they are cultural, religious, familial or educational, language reaches out and embraces (and sometimes blinds) us, giving us a set of biases and beliefs that shape who we become, and what we feel about our self-worth.

There is a selection of thought-provoking preludes which include:

Forward (Ewald Einoder, MD)

Introduction and Koster’s personal story and thoughts to get you on the right path

Being True to Yourself – a way to look at the book, and appreciate how you got where you are, and how to construct your own forever-happiness.

After that, the book segues to Part Two, which holds the nuggets of the book.

Dr. Louis Koster
Humanitarian, Doctor and Author

Koster has a key set of words that he uses to interpret and define the process to understanding how happiness works, and why it is well within our individual grasp to be truly happy. One of these words is (The) Choice. We have to stop giving away our happiness, instead, choosing to be responsible for our own happiness, and in firm control of our life circumstances; or rather, in control of HOW we react and interact with our life choices.

After giving us Choice, Koster moves on to (The) Insight. That is the insight I have mentioned elsewhere in this review: We have the Choice, and when your ah-ha moment arrives, your Insight, you will be well on the way to appreciating yourself, your life and your place in your own world. Other sections of the Insight chapter give you focus and direction on “getting a reality-based perspective” by aligning ourselves to acknowledging who we really are.  From these two pivotal words, (Choice, Insight) Koster’s “new language” moves into transforming and transcending your current “reality.”

An excellent appendix rounds off this satisfying read – a list to help you Shift your Language,  a written portrait of what your life might look like once the new language is in place (A Person who Lives a New Language for Life is…) and the Manifesto of a New Language for Life. All eminently readable, helping us create for ourselves a vision of our personal happiness that is internal, absolute and eternal. It really isn’t complicated; particularly the way Koster sets it before us, a cornucopia of ideas that will help shift your choices, your insights, and the way you will want to move forward to claim your own happiness!

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What I Believe

An interesting discussion with my best friend and one of her FB friends today prompted this post!

It is not so much WHAT I believe, but how I chose to disseminate that set of beliefs. Is my goal to change others’ minds, by expressing my own beliefs, or is there a narrower/broader focus here? Therefore, I decided I would write, in a disgorging purge, what it is I believe.

“I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows” Oh. Sorry. Wrong train of thought…

I believe that each of us has a purpose in being here. Our job is to find out what that purpose is, and be true to that purpose.

I believe my purpose is to share my love of learning with others

I believe that the ultimate goal in any life should be to enhance the lives of others.

We do this by practicing kindness, paying it forward, acting without bias or prejudice, treating others with love and consideration

I believe that all religions and faiths have the same roots. I believe in One God/Goddess.

The three main religions of humanity share Mohammed based roots. “They are related by a common belief in God and the constant battle between good and evil.”

I believe in Hope.

Hope fuels our days and nights. Inherent in all  humans is the belief that tomorrow, and the future, will be brighter.

I believe in family.

 There is nothing more important than family. They give us roots and wings. No  matter how we get along on a day-to-day basis, we need family to give us strength. It may be a biological family, or it may be the extended family of friendships we develop in our lifetimes.

I believe in enjoyment.    

We need to appreciate and enjoy our lives. They are precious, a gift, and there is no sin in enjoyment.

I believe in learning.

EVERY day is a new opportunity to learn.  We learn about others, ourselves and the world around us.

I believe in a democratic (small d) society, with overtones of socialism (small s)

socialism: a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

democracy: government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

I believe everyone has a point of view – not everyone can express or explain theirs, though

To encourage dialog, debate, and discussion between those of differing opinions is a GOOD thing. Battle the beliefs, not the persons expressing them.

I believe change is good.

Change is our means of creating a practical, usable system, whether it is our personal lives, or what is going on politically within our country.

I believe hatred, prejudice and cruelty to others has no place in an enlightened society

AND I believe that a lack of education is the root of all of these. Learning allows expression, openness, honesty and understanding.

I believe in simplicity, sustainability and self-control.    

We need enough to be comfortable, and enjoy life.  No more, no less. We should encourage and help others reach this status as well.

                Simplicity: absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament

 Sustainability: the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.

Self-control:  the ability to exercise restraint or control over one’s feelings, emotions, reactions.

I believe doing good is much, much better than having done well (in economic terms) Or, in other words, having a good life means much more than money.

It should be the natural goal of every person – to create a world, a planet, in which each person works at doing good for all.

Lastly, I believe in words.

Words are powerful. Nevertheless, their basic purpose is to express meaning, and in doing so, we define our purpose, our values, our beliefs and ourselves.

My challenge to you – create your own list of what you believe. Print it out. Believe in it, practice it, change it, enjoy it, and learn from it!

Posted in Personal Ramblings, ~ Renew ~ | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments


I lost a friend yesterday. And in that loss, I became painfully aware of the nuances of our language. “Lost” sounds like I set my friend down, like recalcitrant keys, and forgot where I put her. “Friend” implies a deeper intimacy than “acquaintance;” we were not intimate, yet so much more than mere head-nodding-as-you-pass-by women. My friend, Gloria died. By her own hand. I can tell you some interesting things about her; she was a divorced Catholic with eight grown children. She was retired from many years as a grocery checker. She loved yard sales and flea markets. She shared my love of books, particularly well-crafted mysteries. She loved her significant other, Bob, with whom she had shared 15 years. Bob’s constant memories of his deceased wife had been a third-party in their relationship since the beginning. Yet SHE was lost. Somewhere, in her life, was an inner struggle that I didn’t look deeply enough to see. I truly regret that. What went on in those last bitter, lonely hours, before she made the decision to leave her loved ones behind, who are now struggling with guilt and grief? What horrors in her life made her go against her religion, which believes suicide to be a sin, and to take her own life? I don’t know. I will never know.


Borrowed from

I have lost another friend recently as well, when my best friend of 45 years, without discussion or response from me, decided that our friendship no longer served a purpose. Again, the nuances flutter in my face like angry butterflies and echo in my head with devastating repeats of past conversations. Friend? For 45 years we experienced our lives together. Boyfriends, the senior prom, marriages, childbirth, divorces, remarriages. Parental deaths. Laughing, crying, arguing about books, religion, politics, family, hobbies. I felt we had such a deep root in our friendship, our sisterhood, that it would never die, but would always be there, sometimes in the background, more often in the forefront, a strong presence to rely on, to share with and to enjoy. Where did I miss the signs? What happened to make her so determined to destroy what we had spent decades building and nourishing? I don’t know. I will never know.


The last member of my mother’s immediate family died recently, at 95. As I lost this last Uncle, and reminisced with his sons about our parents, I became achingly aware that in this loss, an official torch had been passed. I am now the senior generation. My parents are both gone, lost to me in the physical sense, but always present in my mind, a kaleidoscope of memories that often bring a sharp burning to my throat and eyes. Did I appreciate them enough when they were alive? Did we ever really understand one another? My Uncle was not a friend, in that I knew almost nothing about him except that he loved ice cream and women. Not necessarily in that order. And although he was “family” he was not an intimate part of my life, as were my parents, as are my sisters and my children. Will I ever be able to wrap my head around being, what seems to be suddenly, a senior citizen, the one family comes to, (or groans over) for family stories, pictures, reminiscences and tall tales? I don’t know. I will never know.


my mother Miriam (1914-2005) and her brother, my Uncle Bill (1917-2012)

Why is it, I wonder, do we become so introspective as we age? Why is it, at around age 40, we begin to search for self, for meaning, for a solid grasp on the nebulous thoughts of spirituality, religion, friendship, loss and family? Why does it matter so much, as we age, that we understand these things, express our beliefs, share our lives, explain our viewpoints, cherish our loves? Why do the delicate, tremulous nuances of our language both tempt and repel me as I attempt once again to express my thoughts and feelings?


I don’t know, and perhaps I will never know. And, guess what? That’s okay.

Posted in Life is What Happens..., Womenkind | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Fellow Travelers

I travel (metaphorically speaking) with a remarkable group of women. These women, for the most part, are writers, bloggers, seekers and the go-to women when you want something done. So today, I am going to list some fantastic blogs and sites for you to visit, for inspiration, encouragement and, if you are anything like me, a dose of humility at the talent out there!

Story Circle Book Reviews is one of the many sources of “womenkind” for me. I started with this group as a reviewer, in which I still take part, as well as working as an editor,  book-requester and behind the scenes help-where-needed gal. These are some of the women who have created blogs, and worlds, that I long to inhabit – and feel honored to visit.

Susan Wittig Albert is my favorite author – a woman of remarkable and varied skills. The series which sucked me into her orbit is the China Bayle’s herbal mystery series. In the years I have read Susan’s work, she has had at least 3 other series, going concurrently with China. Confession time – I am an insomniac of life-long suffering. When I have a really bad night, I lie there with the lights off, and write my own make-believe story, about a woman named Shanghai Bailey. Corny huh? China and Susan are not really flip sides of the same person, but they share a love of herbs with me! Her non-fiction works also grace my shelves, and help me along my path of self-exploration… Susan’s websites (yes, plural!) can be found at:

I am very proud to say that I consider Susan a friend – a wonderful mentor!

Next up on my palette of women I want to be when I grow up is the uniquely beautiful Susan J. Tweit. Another multi-talented woman, her haikus, photography, and moving blogs about her husband’s recent passing due to brain cancer have totally amazed me. She does reviews for SCBR as well. Her books are best sellers, and today’s blog, sort of a listing of all she is doing in 2012, including remaking her late husband’s 110 year old studio at their home in Colorado, is amazing.  Susan J. Tweit – Mindful Living. Be sure to further explore her blog after you read this particular post.

A new acquaintance, via SCBR is the oh-so-fascinating Khadijah Lacina (aka Yemeni Journey.) Born in the American heartland, she embraced Islam (well before 9/11) and lived with her husband and eight (yes, 8) children in Yemen for nine years. She has recently returned stateside. She is a writer, reader, reviewer, herbalist, fabric artist  and translator. Her blog, is full of wonder and grace. Her perspectives on religion, family life, living in Yemen versus the United States and her path as a Muslim woman are so enriching and educational.

Outside of my SCBR world, I have “met” bloggers whose stories enchant me, teach me, and  embolden me on my own paths to wisdom and discovery. First in that list is Ashley of Lil Blue Boo. An artist, DIYer, Crafter, Clothing Designer, Blogger and cancer patient, this young mother is absolutely phenomenal. Her attitude in today’s blog personifies her outlook on life. “Every day is a good day. Some days are just better than others!” She could be bummed at her constant chemo, her complicated regimen for knocking out the cancer which has invaded several parts of her body. But she isn’t. She has bracelets (those ubiquitous rubbery-stretch ones) that say “Choose Joy.” and that is her philosophy. I intend to buy a package (20 for only $15, postpaid) and share them, to encourage others to choose joy in their lives. Do check out her crafts, her line of children’s clothing, and great patterns.

Another “online” friend is from the part of my world that I consider my “hippie” persona. We met on Facebook, and I wear a Worldwide Hippies wristband that she sent me. Diana Carson-MayWaldman is yet another inspiring woman in my life. With her encouragement, I submitted my poem, Cancer Dancer, to a collection of poetry that was just published. Hip Poetry was edited by Diana, her husband Mitchell Waldman and Joe McEvoy, Founder of Worldwide Hippies. Di has fierce likes and dislikes, and I adore her enthusiasm for life and the hippie mantra (“People Who seek Peace, Justice, Love, Harmony – Promote Basic Human Rights and Positive Change in the world!”) She and Mitch also run Blue Lake Review, an online magazine with Diana as poetry editor. She is such a strong advocate for women and children, and her work, and words, keep me going on bad days…I am blessed to know her!

Perhaps friendships and discoveries made online are not “real” in some ways, but for me, these women have touched me, and I look forward to corresponding with them, reading their blogs and reviews, and learning from them as I continue on the adventure known as life. I hope you’ll join me in discovering their blogs and the beauty they encourage in all of us.

Posted in Notes of interest, Womenkind, ~ Renew ~, ~ Review ~ | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Just One Look

Today is our 38th wedding anniversary, my husband Ed and me. We met at the end of August, 1973. We got engaged on September 13th, three weeks later. We married on Groundhog’s Day 1974. And we have belonged to each other, heart and soul, ever since. Good times and bad, we have tried (and sometimes struggled) with our handwritten wedding vows. I deliberately left out any mention of God when writing those vows, not because of my beliefs, but to honor my husband’s agnostic ones. But my father, whose sense of humor I inherited,  decided to insert God into the portion of the ceremony where he read his wishes for us. A special memory. We were married by a minister, nonetheless, a dear family friend, the Reverend Bob DeWolfe.  Our wedding was held at the Red Castle Inn, on one of the hills overlooking the river which once flowed through Nevada City, CA. There is a freeway there now.

It was my second marriage. The first one, what they call now a ‘starter marriage’ broke almost before it began. Ed and I met, almost accidentally, and I know that people say that someone was “meant to be” right from the start, but all I really know is that I saw him standing outside my sister’s apartment door, raising his eyebrow at me, and I was struck dumb. If you know me, you’ll know that isn’t a typical occurrence! He was different from the other boys (oh, sorry, wrong plot line…) tall, dark and yes, handsome. I had always liked athletic blonds before, stocky monkey arms…ah well. that was before.

I was 21. He was 29.



I consider myself part of an unusual marriage; one in which we have both learned and grew in wisdom, understanding and love for one another. He has accepted the changes in my personality – increased feminism and temperamental moodiness – and I have embraced the changes in him – increased need for quiet and peace, and an isolationist personality.  The road is not always smooth, but we managed to have two children together, raise them in love and with the intent to make them and our marriage part of a unique family unit. Our kids are grown up now, and we have grandsons, but we have never stopped looking at each other with smiles, laughing at the absurdities of life, and loving what we have made together.

Neither of us has enjoyed good health, but somehow the illnesses brought us closer together, understanding the fragility of the human body, and the limitations that time puts on us as we continue to tread the one-way path to the future, whatever happens. When asked what the “secret” of our marriage has been, I always say, our ability to laugh at ourselves, and with one another, and a deep, abiding friendship with one another. I have made lots of bad choices in my lifetime – marrying Ed was definitely NOT one of them!

Posted in Personal Ramblings, ~ Reminisce ~ | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments

What’s Size Got to do with it, Got to do with it…

For some reason Tina has occupied my head lately. What’s Love Got to do With it is a catchy song, although the lyrics are a bit mixed up…( But when I started meditating on the topic of size, while making chocolate chip cookies, I could hear my revised version, sung A Capella, echoing in my ears. (It could be my tinnitus, I admit… it often takes on the sound and shape of different things!) ANYWAY, my mother used to always tell me not to make cookies too big, because if someone was gonna take two cookies they would take two cookies, whatever their size was. She also taught me to use only 1/2 of a 12 ounce package of chips in a batch of cookies. Two batches from one bag! Hey, she was raised, and a newlywed, in the depression era of the 1930s! And since times are hard all over again, it could be that these are lessons to take to heart, all over again.

I live in a tiny house. I have written about my house before, so won’t wander off the topic now, just to say that I read an article in Better Homes & Gardens where they talked about this couple struggling with a little house – about three pages into the article they mentioned that the house was 1800 square feet. Little? Whoa Nellie!

We live in super-sized times. New houses are huge, set on tiny little lots where you can hear your neighbors gargling in the morning, or fighting when they get home from work. No yard to worry about though! Only room for a lap pool, if that. Meals at restaurants are often so large that they could easily feed a family of four, unless of course you are at a trendy restaurant that serves cuisine nouvelle, with tiny portions elegantly served, with the only big thing about it being the tab.

The economy is forcing many into smaller, more economic cars – yet I am bumfuzzled by the number of SUVs trolling around the streets in metropolitan areas. Gas-guzzlers, hard to park, expensive to insure, they hardly seem worth the cost and daily expense, unless you live in mud or snow year-round! I always smile when I see a Smart Car zip past – looking so tiny and efficient, yet leaving a feeling of “where is the rest of it” when it has gone past.

Houses, Cars, Meals – bigger is better. Or is it? This seems to be a new wrinkle on keeping up with the Jones’ – we can flash our money, our status, and our value by super-sizing our lives. We are an obese society as well – making me think back to Fiddler on the Roof – when the wife bemoans that they don’t have enough money so she can cultivate a “proper double chin.” Schools no longer routinely offer Physical Education, and the evolution of home gaming, and game systems makes it even harder to get kids out to exercise and play. I truly do remember leaving my house in the morning after breakfast in the summertime and only coming back for meals – rolling in around 5 after a full day of rough and tumble playing with the neighborhood kids.

A salt shaker the boys found - still with salt inside

I know some nostalgia is creeping in here, despite my best efforts to the contrary. Recently, when we had our grandsons for 5 days, they spent the whole day, everyday, prowling around our 10 acres. They found a “dump” site from the previous (Victorian Farmhouse) place here, and wallowed in great joy amongst old pieces of china, wood and mysterious metal gizmos. (And, yes, I did vet the place first – and in fact, as a crafter, insisted on purloining some of their finds for future projects!) They came in when I hollered, and fell happily to sleep at night, no game systems, and only a movie or two to entertain them inside!

I think super-sizing is a choice. A bad one, but still, a choice we each have to make. I have lived in large houses, and small ones, and found ways to enjoy them both. Right now I relish the simplicity of the small house. Easy to clean, inexpensive to heat/cool, and friendlier and cozier somehow. I am getting that way about my meals too, small in portion, simple in ingredients, and providing an intimacy and charm that a big meal doesn’t give. Don’t get me wrong, I love a honkin’ big Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, but somehow our lifestyles today negate the value of the “occasional” big meal. And a homemade meal.

How can you start to back out of the mega-sized society we live in? Take a look at this wonderful list on Mother Nature Network. Think before making big purchases. Don’t stockpile things anymore. I mean, the money some families have tied up in garbage bags (600? Really!) or batteries is often ridiculous. Shop carefully for big-ticket items. The only place I intend to grow is in my knowledge of myself and in contributing to the small-is-better movement! How about you?

Posted in Notes of interest, Uncategorized, ~ Rant ~, ~ Reminisce ~ | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments